© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved


Chapter 6


The audience cheered as Skyler came out onto the stage and joined Jay Leno. He shook his hand and took a seat next to the desk. Jay looked at the crowd before heading back behind his desk, but they just kept screaming. Skyler waived at them, and they screamed louder. He couldn't believe it. He was astounded by their reaction. What surprised him was that though he was uncomfortable he wasn't ready to bolt from the stage and hide.

"I think they like you," chuckled Jay when the crowd quieted down.

"I love them," Skyler said, and the crowd started to scream again. He could feel the heat on his face as he smiled so he knew that he was blushing.

"So," said Jay, clearing his throat, "what's it like to have such a whirlwind success?"

"It's amazing, Jay," said Skyler. "I still can't believe it most of the time. If it weren't for being so busy all of the time I'd think it was a fantasy."

"Well you are one of the most successful men in show business right now with a hit television series, a platinum CD and more fans than you know what to do with," said Jay. "How does it feel?"

"It feels incredible, Jay," said Skyler seriously. "I have to admit that it's a bit overwhelming at times and I want to hide sometimes, but I love it."

"I've read that you grew up in Detroit," said Jay. "Did you come from a musical family?"

"No," laughed Skyler. "I'm the only star in the family so far, Jay."

"You never mention much about your family," said Jay, probing. "Why is that?"

"Well I talk about my little brother and sister all of the time," said Skyler, worrying about where this was going to go. "They're a great pair, and I'm very proud of them."

"I bet they're proud of you, too," said Jay with a smile. "But what about your folks? You never mention them."

"I'd rather not talk about them," said Skyler a little quicker than he should have. He hoped that Jay would leave it alone. He really didn't want to say anything about his mother, step-father or father at this point. He had nothing nice to say about any of them.

"OK, let's talk about the CD," said Jay, taking the hint. "Platinum in one day! That's got to be exciting for you."

"Oh I was blown away when I heard about it," he replied, sighing inwardly. He was going to have to get Laura to make sure that no one asked about his parents again. "I still can't believe how fast its selling."

"You've got two singles out right now, and I hear that both of them are doing very well," said Jay. "'Dizzy' is currently at number one, and 'Alone' is at number three. How does that make you feel?"

"I'm thrilled about it," he said with a chuckle. "I'm still a little surprised by 'Dizzy'. I really didn't want to record the song, but my manager twisted my arm."

"It's a great song," said Jay. "Any plans to tour?"

"We're still talking about that," said Skyler. "I'm not sure when we'll know anything about it."

"You opted not to sing for us tonight," said Jay. "Why was that?"

"Well to be honest, I didn't know what to expect when I got here, and I'm a little too nervous to sing," he laughed. "I'm afraid my voice would shake."

"Oh come on," said Jay. "You? You're always calm and collected as far as I can tell."

"Yeah well your heart isn't the one racing like a car in Indy, Jay," he said, smiling.

The show had gone fine, and Skyler was only a little upset over the question about his parents. Laura assured him that she would talk to the Letterman people before he had to face any more questions, but she said that his evasion would only make the press dig. She said that the press would believe that there was a story buried in Detroit, because Skyler refused to talk about his family. Skyler sighed when she said that, but he still wasn't ready to talk about them.

He wanted desperately to go to LA since they were in Burbank, but there simply wasn't time according to Laura. She said that they had to leave the morning after the show and they'd arrived the day of the show. Skyler told her that he wanted time set aside to visit with his friends in LA, and she promised that she'd arrange it but at that time, Skyler was just too busy. He couldn't get out of anything that was already scheduled.

In the space of three weeks Skyler was a guest on "The Tonight Show", "Late Night With David Letterman", "Today", "Good Morning America" and "Live With Regis and Kathy Lee". He refused to sing for any of them, and Laura made sure that no questions were asked about his parents. It had been difficult, and each host had wanted Skyler to sing but they got through each appearance.

Skyler was exhausted by the time they were finished, and he took a week off from doing anything to rest. He wanted to fly to LA for that week, but the last thing he wanted to do was be on a plane. In the end he spent the time in his apartment with Zack. He knew that while he was resting Barry would be talking with Maverick about the tour, but he tried not to think about it. He'd put off singing in front of an audience so far, but he knew he wouldn't get away with it much longer.

Every talk show host had asked about a tour and Skyler had continued to say that he didn't know the specifics, but a tour was being planned. The fact was he was scared to tour. He simply didn't know if he could actually get on a stage and sing. Every time he thought about it his stomach threatened to expel its contents, his knees shook and his palms grew sweaty. He really didn't think he could do it.

Then he got a call from his younger brother that brought him to tears. Chad said that Peter Durante, a friend of Skyler's from school and a boy that he'd had a huge crush on, had killed himself. He said that he had shot himself, and his parents found him in his bedroom on the floor. Skyler was very shaken up by the suicide, and no one could comfort him.

Peter and Skyler had been friendly throughout high school. Skyler had been instantly attracted to Peter and, though it was difficult at times, hung out with him as much as he could. Peter had played on the basketball team, and Skyler actually went to most of the home games even though he didn't like basketball. Skyler cried himself to sleep the night Chad told him that Peter had killed himself.

He'd asked Laura to get him a copy of the obituary, but when he'd said he wanted to attend the funeral Laura told him that it wasn't a good idea. She said that Skyler's presence might cause crowds of people to show up at the funeral, and that might not be appropriate when his family was grieving the loss of their son. She got the obituary for him though, and Skyler sent a huge arrangement of flowers to the funeral.

The next day he locked himself in his room with his guitar and the obituary. Through tears he stared at the picture of Peter Durante. It was his senior picture. Skyler had a copy of the picture in his photo album. Peter's blue eyes, even though the picture was black and white in the obituary, were staring at him as he picked up his guitar and began to play without thinking.

He thought about Peter's confident smile in high school, the way his short dark brown hair always seemed to stick up in the back, his famous jump shot on the basketball court and the mirthful laugh that always erupted from him when Skyler told jokes. He couldn't believe that he was gone. Skyler wished that he'd kept in touch with Peter and kept up with what was happening in his life.

He fell asleep leaning against his bed with his guitar in his arms. He dreamed of the last time he'd seen Peter before he'd left for LA. He'd promised to write and call and for a while they'd called each other. He even sent letters for a while, and Peter had always written back. They were friends, and Skyler felt that he'd abandoned his friend. The thought woke him up and fresh tears slid down his cheeks.

Putting the guitar down, he picked up his notebook and started to write random thoughts on the page. He scribbled most of what he wrote out, but when he stopped to read what was left he paused. He put the notebook back on the floor and picked up his guitar again. As he played the same tune that he'd played while looking at Peter's obituary he began to sing the words that were written on the page. They made him cry and before long he was sobbing.

* * *

"Any reason why you've decided to sing for Rosie when you wouldn't for any of the others?" asked Laura when Skyler called her the next day. She'd told him that Rosie O'Donnell had asked if he would be a guest on her show, and Skyler had jumped at the chance. He told Laura that he wanted to sing a song on Rosie's show.

"I just decided to stop being a chicken," he replied. "But I don't want to sing one from the album."

"What do you mean?" she asked quickly.

"I didn't write any of those songs," he sighed. "I want to sing something that I wrote, Laura. If I'm going to do this please let me sing my own song."

"I don't have a problem with it," she said slowly. "But what about Maverick?"

"What about them?" he asked. "It's my song. No one wrote anything on it other than me. They can't claim it if I just want to sing it live."

"We'll have to talk to Barry about this," she said. "I'm sure he'll know what Maverick will say."

"I don't care what Maverick says, Laura," he said firmly. "I'm singing my own song, and no one is going to talk me out of it."

"Calm down, Sky," breathed Laura. "I'm not trying to talk you out of it. I just think that Barry at least might like to hear the song and talk to Maverick before we commit to you singing it on the show."

"No one hears it until the show," he replied quickly. "I'm singing it on the show and that's that."

"All right," she sighed. "Let me call Barry, and I'll call you back."

Laura was dumbfounded when she terminated that call. Skyler sounded strange and he'd never been so adamant about anything. He'd always just gone along with whatever she or Barry had advised, but since the death of his friend from home Skyler had changed. Everyone had noticed it. Zack told her that Skyler rarely talked to anyone anymore. He spent most of his time in his room.

Zack had told her that he could hear him playing his guitar at times, but he never heard him singing. She knew that the walls in that apartment were nearly soundproof, so Zack probably wouldn't have heard Skyler singing unless he was singing very loud. She wondered what this song he'd written was about. She hoped for his sake that it was a good song. If Barry went along with this, and Maverick didn't object, and the song was bad it could haunt him forever. She wished that Skyler would let someone hear the song before the show.

"He says he isn't going to let anyone hear the song before the show, Barry," she said after she'd called and told him what Skyler was planning.

"Well we have to hear it first, Laura," said Barry. "We can't just let him go on stage and sing whatever he wants. The song may need some tweaking."

"You're going to have to talk to him about it," she said. "He snapped at me when I said he should wait."

"Skyler snapped at you?" asked Barry, and she could hear the surprise in his voice.

"Yes he did," she sighed. "Something is wrong, Barry. Since he heard about this Peter Durante dying Skyler has been in a funk, and it's getting worse."

"Well if he won't talk about it what do we do?" asked Barry. "Is he saying anything to Zack? Would Zack tell you?"

"Zack says he doesn't talk to anyone much," replied Laura. "He said he calls Mark in LA just about every day and they talk for hours, but Skyler stays in his room for those calls."

"Laura, who was Peter Durante?" asked Barry.

"All Skyler will say is that he was a friend from high school," she sighed. "I don't know much more."

"Are you sure he wasn't more than a friend?" asked Barry. "I know that Skyler told us that there were no old boyfriends, but did he tell us the truth?"

"I don't know," she said.

Two hours later Laura and Barry were sitting in Skyler's living room. Zack had gone to work, and Skyler sat in the recliner trying hard not to look at his visitors. He knew why Barry had come to the apartment, and he wasn't going to be bullied. He'd let them hear the damned song if they insisted, but he was singing it on the Rosie show or he wasn't doing the damned show.

"You realize that we have to at least hear the song before you go on the show and sing it, right?" asked Barry for the third time.

"Fine," said Skyler. "I'll sing it for you, but I am singing it on the show, Barry. No one is going to stop me."

"Will you let me record it?" asked Barry.

"Yes but it isn't going on any album," said Skyler quickly. "And I don't want Maverick releasing the damned thing unless I say so."

"Calm down, Skyler," said Barry. He was starting to see what Laura had been talking about. This wasn't the Skyler that they knew.

"I'm calm," he replied tightly. "If you want to record the song, let's go to your house and record it. I'm singing it on the show though."

"Maverick wants to hear the song before you appear on the show," Barry informed him carefully.

"Fine," he spat. "Let's go record it."

Barry called Wendy Bartlett from his car as he followed Laura and Skyler to his house. Wendy was a little flustered over what he'd told her about Skyler's insistence that the song wasn't to be released until he was ready, but she said she'd meet them at the house so she could at least hear the song. Barry suspected that Skyler would be upset about Wendy being there, but this was the only way he could think of to let anyone from Maverick hear the song before he sang it on national television.

Wendy Bartlett was a petite woman with shoulder length blond hair kept straight. She looked like a porcelain doll to Skyler with her creamy complexion and big blue eyes. She smiled at him and told him how wonderful she thought the album was. He smiled back and thanked her, but he wondered why she was there. He wasn't about to let her walk out of there with a copy of the song.

"So you've written your first song," she said. "What's the title?"

"I don't have one yet," he said. "I wrote it two days ago, and I just knew that I wanted to sing it live."

"Well why don't we get you in the studio so we can record the song?" asked Barry, smiling at him.

"Fine," said Skyler briskly, "but when I leave here I want the master tape, and no copies. I told you no one is releasing this song until I'm ready, and if that's a problem we can just forget about recording anything."

They were all quiet for a moment after that. Skyler looked at each of them with a determined expression. Wendy looked like she was about to say something, but fortunately, thought Barry, she held her tongue. Laura continued to look worried about Skyler. Barry was a little worried about him too. This was not the Skyler Thomas he was used to dealing with.

When Wendy agreed with his terms Skyler went quietly into the studio with his guitar, and they went to work. The song was better than Barry had hoped, and Skyler sang it with more emotion than anything he'd ever heard him sing if that was even possible. When Barry looked at Wendy there were tears in her eyes.

"It's a great song," she said after a minute. "I'll go along with what he wants though. Give him the tape. We'll wait for him to decide when to release the song. The album is doing too well right now to distract everyone with a new single any way, and if he sings it on the talk show that will just boost his popularity. I say let him do it."

"I'll tell him," said Barry as he removed the tape to give to Skyler.

* * *

"Do you guys know who's here today?" said Rosie, and the audience erupted. "That's right. That's right. Skyler Thomas is here today. And you know what? He says he's going to sing us a song today. Let's get his cute butt out here! Skyler Thomas, ladies and gentlemen."

As Skyler walked onto the stage the audience applauded louder. Girls screamed and whistled. Skyler waved at them, and they screamed louder. He hugged and kissed Rosie before sitting down and took a sip from the cup of water that was sitting in front of him. He smiled at the audience and rubbed his throat, and they cheered again.

"Hi," he said, smiling at Rosie.

"Hi yourself, you cutie patootie," said Rosie. "So I've been waiting for your people for like forever to call and confirm that you'd be on the show."

"Yeah we had a little inner management glitch," said Skyler. "But it all got worked out. I saw you with Madonna the other day in Times Square."

"You saw us?" she asked as he nodded. "Why didn't you come and talk to us? I would have been thrilled."

"I was shy," he said, putting his head down, and the audience "awed" and applauded.

"Shy, he says," she sighed to the audience. "Well you're here now."

"Yes I'm here now," he chuckled. "I'm very happy that you invited me, Rosie."

"Awe," she said, smiling as she turned to the audience. "Isn't he the sweetest?" She turned back to him. "So the album is selling like crazy, and everyone is waiting with baited breath for news on a tour."

"I still don't know anything solid about a tour," he admitted. "We're trying to work it out so I can tour and still be on the set for the show next season."

"So you are returning to the show," she said.

"Oh definitely," he nodded. "I love the show, and Kristy would have my head if I ditched it."

"Kristy Swanson," said Rosie with a mock shudder. "She's a formidable woman."

"You don't know the half of it," laughed Skyler.

"You are so cute," said Rosie.

"I'm not cute," he said, shaking his head. "Kristy's cute."

"She is cute," agreed Rosie.

"Beautiful," he said.

"Yes," she said, smiling. "So you're going to sing us a song?"

"Yeah," he said, and the audience applauded. "I wrote a new one you know?"

"You did?" she asked. "Are you going to sing that one for us? Or will it be one from the album?"

"The new one," he replied. "I fought to be able to sing it for you guys."

"You fought?" she asked, raising her eyebrows.

"Well you probably don't know this, but a friend of mine from high school died recently," said Skyler. "I was pretty shaken up by his death, and I wrote this song."

"I didn't know that," she said. "What happened?"

"It was a suicide, Rosie," said Skyler.

"That's awful," she said sadly. "You wrote a song about it?"

"I wrote a song about the way it made me feel," he replied.

"What's the name of the song?" she asked.

"'How Do You Get That Lonely'," he said.

"Are you releasing the song?" she asked.

"Not yet," he replied. "Maybe I won't release it at all. It's kind of a personal song, but I wanted to share it with you guys."

"Thank you very much," she said as the audience applauded again. "I have to go to commercial, but when we come back you're going to sing for us?"

"Sure," he said, smiling at the audience as they applauded.

"You are adorable, Skyler," she said once they were off the air.

"Thanks, Rosie," he said, smiling at her.

"I was very happy to hear that you wanted to sing for my show," she said. "Aren't you afraid that the other talk shows you've done will be upset about this?"

"I wasn't ready to sing for an audience when I did those shows," he explained. "If they get upset, I'll just go back on their shows and sing for them."

"Then I won't feel special," she said, pouting at him.

"Oh I won't sing this song for them," he said quickly. "This one is only for your show for now."

"But you'll release it eventually?" she asked.

"I'm not sure," he said. "Maybe."

"Ok, cutie, they're telling me we're ready to go back on the air," she said. "Why don't you go on over there and get ready."

Skyler walked over to the other side of the stage and sat on the stool. As he put the strap over his shoulder and fastened it to the guitar he did his breathing exercise, and he tried hard not to think about the audience. He focused on Peter to help block them out as he looked at them. Doing that almost brought him to tears, but he willed himself to be calm. He pulled the microphone stand closer to him when they motioned for him to sing. He started to play his music and let his mind go blank.

"It was just another story, written on the second page underneath another football score. It said he was only eighteen, a boy about my age. They found him face down on the bedroom floor," he sang, trying very hard not to cry.

"There'll be services on Friday at the local funeral home. Then out on a lonely highway, they'll lay him beneath a stone," he sang and nearly lost his battle against the tears that threatened to come.

"How do you get that lonely? How do you hurt that bad, to make you make the call, that having no life at all is better than the life that you had? How do you feel so empty, you want to let it all go? How do you get that lonely . . . and nobody know," he sang, trying not to even think about what the song represented.

"Did his girlfriend break up with him, did he buy or steal that gun? Did he lose a fight with drugs or alcohol? Did his Mom and Dad forget to say 'I love you son'? Did no one see the writing on the wall?

"How do you get that lonely? How do you hurt that bad, to make you make the call, that having no life at all is better than the life that you had? How do you get that empty, you want to let it all go? How do you get that lonely, and nobody know?

"I'm not blaming anybody, we all do the best we can. I know hindsight's 20/20, but I still don't understand . . .

"How do you get that lonely? How do you hurt that bad, to make you make the call that having no life at all is better than the life that you had? How do you feel so empty, you want to let it all go? How do you get that lonely . . . and nobody know?" he sang and put his head down as he lost his battle with tears. He played his guitar as he tried to stop crying.

"It was just another story printed on the second page underneath another football score," he sang and then put his head down again as the audience cheered.

"That was wonderful," said Rosie, walking over to him and wiping her eyes with a tissue. She hugged him when she got to him. "I can't stop crying."

"I'm having a little trouble with that myself," he said, hugging her again.

They walked back over to the other end of the stage, and she hugged him again. She was still wiping her eyes when she sat down behind her desk again. She smiled at him as the audience still applauded. She'd known that he was a great entertainer, but she'd had no idea that he was this good. She wondered what Madonna was thinking as she sat backstage watching on the monitors.

"You've got to release that song, Skyler," she said as the audiences applause finally died down.

"We'll see," he said noncommittally.

"What frame of mind were you in when you wrote that song?" she asked, abandoning the list of questions she'd had prepared to ask him.

"I'd just heard about his death," he explained. "I locked myself in my room and cried, and I had his obituary with me. I just started playing my guitar and thinking about all the times we'd laughed together, him playing basketball and all sorts of things. Then I started to write down what I was feeling and thinking in a notebook, and before I knew it the song was written."'

"Well its a fabulous song," she said. "Sad but fabulous. You know your CD has gone double platinum right?"

"Yeah," he said and smiled. For the first time the smile didn't even feel fake. Maybe this was just what he needed. "I'm excited!"

"You have every reason to be," she beamed. "Your face is on the cover of just about every magazine, and I hear you're about to be on the cover of GQ."

"They told me that on the way over here," he replied, laughing. "I have no idea what I'm going to say to their reporter."

"I'm sure you'll think of something," she said. "Now I think your manager said you had a gift for the audience."

"Yeah I do," he said as a handful of men started passing copies of "Dizzy" to the audience. "There's one for you too."

"Awe, you signed it," she beamed.

"I signed all of them," he said. "My hand hurts!"

"He's so sweet," she told the audience.

* * *

"That was interesting," said Madonna when she and Rosie were alone in Rosie's dressing room.

"He made me cry," said Rosie. "It was awful."

"He made me cry," replied Madonna. "He wrote that song?"

"That's what he said," Rosie said as she stared at the CD in her hand. "Have you heard this yet?"

"Oh yes," said Madonna. "The boy can sing."

"He sure can, but I never expected the song he sang today," said Rosie. "Did you see him crying out there?"

"Yeah. I'd heard that something was going on with him, but no one knew what it was," said Madonna. "I guess he's been really upset over the death of his friend."

"Yeah," nodded Rosie. "I'd say he was very upset over his friend's death."

"I want to work with him," said Madonna suddenly. "Niki tells me he's just amazing when he's working, and she says that he records all of his songs in one take!"

"You've got that movie thing right?" asked Rosie, looking at her calendar.

"Yeah I haven't even started to write the song for it," she said. "Maybe I'll give Skyler a call."

* * *

"The show was amazing," said Mark when Skyler called him the next day. "That song made us all cry."

"It made me cry," laughed Skyler. "It was hard to sing it."

"How did it feel to sing in front of her audience?" asked Mark. "Were you shaking in your shoes?"

"Actually no," admitted Skyler. "I couldn't think of anything but Peter the whole time. I didn't even consider the audience until they started clapping and cheering."

"Well maybe you can tour then," said Mark. "You know they're going to try to make you."

"I'll tour," he said. "Just as soon as they figure out when I'm going to do it."

"So you're not scared of touring anymore?" asked Mark with a shocked sound in his voice.

"I was never scared of touring," replied Skyler. "I was just worried about it."

"OK," said Mark, clearing not believing him. "Listen I have to get off of here and get to work."

"Later," said Skyler.

When he hung up the telephone he went to his bathroom to shower. He thought about the tour, and he wondered if Barry and Milton had ever come to an agreement on which episodes he would have to tape yet. He was eager to get things moving now that he wasn't so depressed. Doing Rosie's show really had helped to pull him out of the funk he was in. He was even considering releasing the song now. He just wasn't sure about a video for it. He would have to be able to have final say over what was in the video and what wasn't if he made one.

While he was getting dressed he thought about talking to Barry about a video for "How Do You Get That Lonely". Maybe he could get them to do what he wanted. He wasn't sure exactly what he wanted in the video, but maybe he could come up with something before he talked to Barry. He'd have to think about that. But thinking would have to wait because just then,his phone started ringing. He wondered if it was fate, because Barry was the one who was on the phone when he answered it.

"Skyler, what would you think of working on a song with Madonna?" asked Barry, and Skyler could hear the excitement in Barry's voice so he knew it was no joke.

"She wants to record a song with me?" asked Skyler, stunned. Madonna recording a song with him was more than he could have hoped for.

"Not just record one. She wants to write one with you," said Barry. "She was in the studio the day you sang for Rosie, and she loved the song. I just got off the phone with her."

Skyler didn't know what to think about writing a song with Madonna. He'd only written one song in his entire life. Did he think he was good enough to write another one? Even if he did, was he good enough to write one with Madonna?

"She wants to write a song with me?" asked Skyler. "Why?"

"She said that she loves your voice, and she heard 'How Do You Get That Lonely', and she loved it," said Barry. "Now she wants to write a song with you."

"Barry, I was an emotional wreck when I wrote that song," Skyler said nervously. "I don't even know if I can write another song much less a song with Madonna."

"Oh she knows that it was your first attempt at writing," said Barry. "That made her want to write with you even more. Skyler, she said that if you get stuck she'll be there to help you."

"I'd have to sit down and talk to her about it," he said, and his mind reeled at the thought of sitting down to talk to Madonna about anything at all.

"Well yes," laughed Barry. "She wanted me to ask you and if you said yes I'm to call her back and set up a time for the two of you to meet."

"OK, then tell her my answer is yes," said Skyler, but he worried that maybe he was getting in over his head on this one. What would she think if whatever he wrote was horrible?

"I'll call her back," said Barry, and the excitement in his voice was like a beacon.

"Before you hang up I wanted to talk to you about something else," said Skyler before Barry could terminate the call.

"What's on your mind?" he asked.

"Well I'm thinking of releasing the song," said Skyler.

"That's great, Sky," said Barry before Skyler could go on.

"I want to discuss a video with you," said Skyler. "How easy would it be for me to have complete control over the concept and content of the video for this song?"

"You want to direct the video?" asked Barry.

"I don't know the first thing about directing traffic," laughed Skyler. "I just want final say over what makes it in and what doesn't. And I want the director to listen to me when I tell him what I want for the video."

"What do you want for the video?" asked Barry. "If it isn't impossible to get whatever you want in the video I might have a shot at getting you what you want."

"I'm not sure yet," said Skyler. "I'm willing to sit down with you and discuss it though."

"Thank you," Barry replied happily. "When?"

"As soon as possible," replied Skyler. "I'd like to have the video shot before I go to work with Madonna."

"Well let me call her back and explain all of this to her," said Barry. "Why don't I come after you and bring you over here for a while today so we can talk about the video and what you might want to have in it?"

"Sounds good," said Skyler. "Can we stop somewhere and eat though? I'm hungry."

"Sure," laughed Barry. "When aren't you hungry?"

Skyler was still laughing when he got off of the phone. Madonna wanted to write and record a song with him. He thought he had to be dreaming. He couldn't believe it. He wished that Zack was home so he could tell him about it. He wanted to tell someone. Mark was at work so he couldn't call him, and Brian was in Texas for something. Skyler barely remembered the conversation he'd had with Brian before he left. Kristy was in England. Everyone was gone!

While he waited for Barry to get there he sat on the couch with a notebook in his hand and tried to write a new song. This time he wanted something upbeat, a faster song, one you could dance to. He wanted people to get up and dance when they heard it in clubs, on the radio and on their stereos. With that thought in mind he started to write. He wrote an entire page of lyrics and then went back to reform what he'd written and make it into something coherent. What he came up with was more than he expected. He even had the tune in his head when he reread the final lyrics. The doorbell interrupted him, and he smiled when he realized that Barry was there.

"I think this is the happiest I've seen you in weeks," said Barry as they sat across from each other at Doc's, a restaurant close to Barry's house. "The Madonna thing sure did a number on you huh?"

"Well that and I think I wrote another song while I was waiting for you to get to the apartment," laughed Skyler. "I'm not completely sure about it though."

"Thinking about your next album?" asked Barry with a smile.

"Something like that," he replied.

"That's good," chuckled Barry. "Do you think you want 'How Do You Get That Lonely' on the new album?"

"No," replied Skyler. "I just want that one to be a stand alone single. I think I want to write more songs for the new album though."

"Two hours ago you weren't even sure you could write another song," laughed Barry.

"Well I can try," he said. "If the one I wrote today is any good then I'll write more."

"Save your writing for Madonna, pal," teased Barry.

"OK, what did she say?" asked Skyler. "You called her back right?"

"Of course," said Barry, giving Skyler a stern look but ruining it with a smile. "She said she completely understands that you want to finish the video first. She's working on a new album herself, so she said that it would give her some time to work on it while you worked on the video."

"Does she want this song for her album?" asked Skyler, getting excited.

"She said it's for a movie soundtrack," explained Barry. "She told me that she'd discuss the concept with you when you two meet."

"Sounds good," said Skyler. "Maybe I can get her to work on something with me for the new album."

"You'd have to ask her," laughed Barry. "Didn't you want to work with Jordan Knight?"

"Yes," said Skyler. "I talked to him the other day, and he's still scrambling for material for his album. He told me he'd get back to me."

"Well let's talk about this video," said Barry. "Any ideas?"

"I was thinking that since the song is about Peter the video setting should be a funeral," said Skyler.

"Well that doesn't sound impossible," said Barry. "Anything else?"

"I'm not sure," he replied. "I'm open to suggestions."

"Why don't you just let the video portray the entire song?" he asked. "Take the viewer through each part of the song in steps and end the video with the funeral scene."

"Actually that sounds good," agreed Skyler. "I'll even lip sync it. I don't think I could make it through singing the song for real."

"Well you wouldn't even have to lip sync," said Barry. "You could just be a character in the video."

"I never thought of that," replied Skyler. "For that matter I don't even really have to be in the video at all."

"You don't want to be in your own video?" asked Barry, incredulously.

"Not this one I don't," admitted Skyler. "The song is just too painful."

"You know that they're going to scream for you to sing it everywhere you go," said Barry. "Wendy called me this morning and told me that they've been getting calls asking when it's going to be released."

"Maybe one day I'll be able to sing it without crying," speculated Skyler. "Until then I never want to sing it again."

"Laura told me that Jay Leno is having a fit because you sang it on Rosie's show and not his," laughed Barry.

"Well then I'll tell her to set me up with another appearance on his show, and I'll sing something else," said Skyler.

"I'd wait until the new album comes out," suggested Barry.

Two days later Skyler, Barry and Laura sat and watched the video that Douglas Perry shot "How Do You Get That Lonely". Skyler had ultimately decided to lip sync and actually be in the video. He was happy with the finished product. It started with an actor reading the newspaper. He dropped the paper, and the music started. Then there was another actor banging on a closed door, and then Skyler was on the screen singing. The next scene in the video was in a hospital waiting room where a doctor told the waiting family about the death of their son. Then Skyler was singing on the screen again. The video ended with Skyler standing in a cemetery in front of a fresh grave, singing the end of the song.

Seeing the video made all three of them cry though. For Skyler it reminded him of Peter even more than the song alone did. He hoped that Peter's parents didn't get upset about the video. He was sure that they'd either saw the Rosie show or been told about it. It wouldn't be hard for them to remember that Skyler Thomas had once been a friend of their son. He was sure that Peter had mentioned him at one time or another.

The video aired on MTV, and the single was released the day before Skyler went back to the set of "Secrets Of the Morning" to begin filming the season premier. He still had yet to hear back from Madonna, but she'd told Barry that she'd get back to him. Skyler was excited about the idea of working with her. He knew that she was busy so he was trying to remain patient.

It was strange being back on the set again. Everyone congratulated him on the video, and they all seemed very happy to see him again. He'd only seen Kristy, Brian and Gabrielle since they'd wrapped the previous season and he was surprised that he remembered most of the other actors. They worked for most of the day, but only got half of the premier filmed.

At the party that was thrown that night Skyler and Kristy stuck together like glue. She was so happy to see Skyler again that she didn't let him out of her sight. They talked about the video, and Skyler admitted that it had been very hard to shoot it and even harder to watch it. She told him that she loved the video, but it made her cry.

"Have his parents said anything about it?" she asked when Skyler told her how worried he was over what Peter's parents might think of the video.

"No, but it only aired last night," he reminded. "It might take a while."

"Well I would think that they'd be pleased that you did something in honor of their son," said Kristy. "I would have been."

"Thanks," he said.

When Skyler got home for the party Zack was waiting up for him. He hadn't seen much of Zack in the last few weeks, and it was nice to sit down and talk with him. Zack told him that he loved the video, but like everyone else he said the song was very sad. He asked Skyler if he was all right, and Skyler assured him that he was doing a lot better since he did the show. He said that the show had been therapeutic for him, and the video had helped a lot too, even though he could hardly stand to watch it.

"You must have been very close to Peter," commented Zack.

"I was as close to Peter as I could be close to anyone at the time," replied Skyler. "I didn't have a lot of friends that I could hang out with. I couldn't bring any of them to my house, so a lot of people just didn't really try to hang out with me for long."

"But Peter did?" asked Zack.

"Peter was different," Skyler said quietly. "He didn't care that I wasn't allowed to have friends over. We would sit in his back yard and just talk about school and what we wanted to do with our lives. I would sneak off to see him play basketball whenever they had a game at home, and I'd hang out with members of the team afterward. It really felt like I was part of something. I had Peter to thank for that."

"Did you keep in touch with him after you went to college?"

"I tried," he said. "We wrote letters back and forth for a while, and I called him several times. We never actually lost touch. The letters and phone calls just got further and further apart. I had no idea that something was wrong in his life. I know that he was upset when he learned that he didn't get a scholarship to go to school, but I didn't think he was that upset about it."

"Sky, why don't you ever talk about your parents?" asked Zack, startling him.

Skyler was silent for a few minutes as he looked back at Zack. Zack thought that he might have gone too far in asking that particular question, but he was curious. He hoped that Skyler wasn't angry with him for that curiosity though. He liked Skyler, and he considered him a close friend. He didn't want to lose that.

"I don't like to talk about them," Skyler said after a few minutes, looking down at the table. "I don't want the world to know what my life was like at home so I rarely even mention my parents in any way."

"You don't have to tell me, Sky," said Zack, thinking that if it was hard for Skyler to talk about he shouldn't push him.

"My father walked out on us when my mother told him she was pregnant with my younger brother and sister," said Skyler as if Zack hadn't spoken. "After he left my mother remarried. Chuck, my step-father, hated me for some reason. I could never do anything good enough for him, and he loved to make me feel like I was nothing. He told me all of the time that I would never amount to anything. He loved to hit or kick me especially if I was already cowering in fear of him."

Slowly and painfully Skyler talked about his life at home in Detroit. He told Zack everything. He talked about the abuse, the fear and how he would love to go to school every morning just to get away from Chuck. His mother had been no better than Chuck. She never hit him, but she loved to take him down verbally whenever he got a good grade or someone praised him for something. He wasn't aware that he was crying as he told Zack the story of his childhood. He just kept talking until every little dirty secret account of abuse or nightmare was revealed. His voice was hollow and distant, and his tear filled eyes were vacant as he talked.

Zack was horrified by the things that Skyler described. He couldn't believe that Skyler had suffered so much as a child, and yet grown up to be the caring, gentle man that he was. He thought he understood where all of the emotion came from when Skyler sang, and he even understood why Skyler liked to act. He had to see it as an escape from the past even more than college had been an escape.

When Skyler went to his room to shower and get ready for bed Zack just sat there in the dining room. He couldn't believe that Skyler's mother had let all of that happen to him. He didn't understand how any mother could let her child be treated so horribly. Sure Skyler had survived, but the damage had been done. Zack had witnessed the evidence of that damage in Skyler's vacant eyes that night. Zack slept fitfully that night, and he kept seeing Skyler's blank eyes in his sleep.

* * *

I saw you on the street with him
Guess that explains the state I'm in
You walked away and left me behind
The words you said just won't leave my mind
I keep playing that day over and over in my head
Remembering the harsh words I said
If I could just take it all back you know I would
I spend nights wishing that I could

Come back to me
Let me show you my heart
Come back to me
I can't stand being apart
Come back to me
Let me give you my love

I see you in passing and my heart breaks every time
If she can't make you happy, bring your heart back to mine
I know the things I said were hurtful
And I tell myself I deserve this pain
Is there nothing I can do to take it all back
Turn back the clock and have you here again before that
You know I still love you, just let me show you again

Come back to me
Help me pick up all the pieces
Come back to me
I just can't believe this
Come back to me
Let me give you my love

Can you feel my heart breaking
With every breath I'm taking
Can't you see that I'm sorry
I can't believe that we're parting

Come back to me
Let me show you heart
Come back to me
I can't stand being apart
Come back to me
Let me take it all back
Come back to me
I just can't deal with things like that
Come back to me
Let me show you that I'm ready
Come back to me
Let me give you my love

If we could only get past this, we could be together again
My heart can't stop breaking every time I see you again

Come back to me
Let this all be a bad dream
Come back to me
Can't you hear me scream
Come back to me
I know you still love me
Come back to me
How sorry can I be
Come back to me
Let me show you my heart
Come back to me
I can't take being apart
Come back to me
Let me give you my love

Come back to me

"It's prefect," declared Madonna after reading Skyler's finishing touches on the lyrics. They'd been working on it for a week. She was staying in New York now, and recording her album. Skyler's work on the set of his show and other engagements had made it difficult for the pair to find time to write the song.

"When do you want to record it?" asked Skyler. "I'm free now that I've fulfilled the contract with NBC."

"You never did tell me what happened the other day," she said, turning to look at him. They were sitting in Skyler's dining room. They'd met in that room every day for the last week, and each day Skyler had grown more and more agitated after coming home from the set. The day he'd taped his last contracted episode he'd come home angry. For Skyler that was bad. She'd never seen him like he was that day.

"Well let's just say that I won't be returning to 'Secrets Of the Morning'," he sighed, running his fingers through his hair. "If they want Logan to return to Cutler's Cove they can find another actor to play him. I'm done with the show."

"That bad?" she asked, sipping her water.

"Milton Drake is an ass," sighed Skyler. "Laura won't even go to the studio anymore, and Gabrielle is ready to walk off the set. Kristy and Brian are agitated, and its all because of me."

"What about you?" she asked. "They knew that you'd be leaving the show for a while to tour."

"They knew," he nodded. "But when Barry announced the tour dates Milton went berserk. He started demanding the my contract be rewritten, and he wanted more episodes."

"Sounds sticky," she said. "So you're not returning at all then?"

"No," he said firmly. "I told Laura that I wanted nothing to do with the show after the last episode. They have Logan off searching for his supposedly dead wife now. He can keep searching because I'm not setting foot on another set in that building, unless it's 'Today'."

"When is the first date on your tour?" she asked, leaning forward in her seat.

"I'll be in Seattle January eighth through the tenth," he said. "We head for Portland after that. Beyond that I have no idea."

"I don't understand why you're starting the tour in January," she said. "Does Barry not understand that it snows in most of the country in the winter? Even here we could have a blizzard before your first date on the tour. What does he think he's going to do if you guys get snowed in somewhere?"

"I don't know what he's thinking," replied Skyler. "He says that we'll be fine, but even Laura thinks he's gone insane."

"Niki's going with you right?" asked Madonna.

"Yeah," he smiled. "She's amazing. You should hear the way she talks to Barry. When he told her where and when the tour was going to start she went off."

"I can see her now," laughed Madonna. "How'd Barry react?"

"He just went into the studio and locked the door," laughed Skyler.

"What does Utopia have to say about it?" she asked.

Utopia was a band that neither of them had ever heard of. Madonna said that she thought she'd heard something about them a while back, but she hadn't heard any of their music and she wouldn't know one of the boys if he walked up to her and introduced himself. Barry had said that Utopia had a CD out, but it wasn't doing very well and he hoped that this tour would boost their popularity. Madonna called it a gimmick.

"I still haven't met any of them," he admitted. "But from what Barry says they're just so excited to tour that they wouldn't care if they had to perform in a hurricane."

"You haven't even met them at rehearsals?" asked Madonna shocked. She'd have thought that they would have all rehearsed together.

"All we've done so far is dance rehearsals," sighed Skyler. "This choreographer is a dictator when it comes to rehearsals. He won't even let Zack watch."

Anton Nikolaievna was the man that Barry had hired to choreograph Skyler's show as well as Utopia's. The man spoke with a heavy Russian accent, and he barked orders at the six dancers that had been hired. Skyler didn't know any of them very well yet. He danced with them every morning, but other than their names, he didn't know much more about them at all. He even forgot their names most of the time, and that embarrassed him.

Nikolaievna was very tall with a hard dancer's body. He told them that he'd studied just about every form of dance they could think of. He had very sharp features, close set pale blue eyes, a hooked nose, blunt forehead and very little blond hair. He performed each move at least fifty times before he let the dancers try it, and he was even harder on Skyler.

"Why don't you throw a fit?" asked Madonna. "It's your show, Sky. Tell Barry that you refuse to work with the guy."

"Because he's good," admitted Skyler. "Being rude isn't a good enough reason to get rid of him. The dancers moan about him, but they all respect him. I'm no dancer, so I don't know what's normal for a choreographer."

"Well I guess you have a little more than a month to put up with him before the tour begins," she said, shaking her head. "Are you still planning to go to Detroit for the holidays?"

"Yeah," he said, smiling as he thought of seeing the twins again. "I've already booked my hotel room."

"I told them you'd be calling," she said. "Hopefully they'll put us close together. If you need to talk I won't be far."

He'd told her all about his home life. Something about her made Skyler feel comfortable and open. She'd been understanding and even hugged him when he'd cried over the abuse. She was very understanding of his fear for his siblings, and she even offered to go to the house with him for dinner. He couldn't believe how she always treated him like he had been one of her friends for years. So many people had warned him of her temper, but so far he hadn't seen a temper. He'd only seen the friend that she was.

"When are you heading for Detroit?" he asked.

"I have a tribute for Gianni Versace the eighth," she said. "I'm flying to England the next day, and I'll be back on the nineteenth. I was planning to head for Detroit then. What about you?"

"I have rehearsals every day until the twentieth," he sighed. "I leave that morning."

"I'll have to try and sit in on one of your rehearsals and see just how tuff this choreographer is," she said thoughtfully. "You're covering 'Over And Over' on the tour, so I can say that I want to see how you're treating my song."

"That might work," he said doubtfully. "Be prepared though. Anton's a nightmare when he's angry."

"Well he hasn't met me yet," she said with a wicked grin.


"How Do You Get That Lonely" is by Blaine Larson. I took the liberty, in the story, of changing the lyrics slightly and saying that Skyler wrote the song. "Come Back To Me" is by Eric Draven.

The Next Chapter Will Be Posted Soon.


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