© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 9

The concert video for "Over And Over" played on a screen behind one hundred young men and woman who danced in front of the camera. Skyler stood on a platform with Deanna Rivera, the VJ for MuchMusic. This was Skyler's first time ever leaving the US, and he'd been welcomed by fans cheering for him at The Grand Hotel in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

After a great night's sleep and a day of photo shoots, a meet and greet and tour updates over dinner with Debbie, Skyler waited while the dancing guests danced to the video on the screen. He was amazed by the video, because he hadn't been told about its release until Madonna mentioned it at his birthday party in February. Now he watched while one hundred people danced to it.

"So tell us, Skyler," said Deanna when the video ended. "How is life on the road treating you?"

"It's been amazing, Deanna," he replied, smiling. "Fans all over America, and here in Toronto have made all of the long hours of travel well worth it. I can't tell you what it feels like to stand on stage and hear them screaming for me."

"You've had so much success in such a short amount of time," she said. "How does that make you feel?"

"I can't even describe the feeling I get when I think about how fast all of this happened," he replied. "Last year at this time I was a college student who'd never even dreamed that any of this was in my future. Now I'm just blown away by all that's happened."

"Your tour has been said to be one of the most successful tours on the venue," she said. "You're selling out shows everywhere you go, and fans are lining up in record stores everywhere to buy your CD and singles. I understand that your duet with Madonna has been nominated for an Academy Award. How does that make you feel?"

"I just heard about the nomination this morning," he replied. "I'm still in awe of even being nominated. Madonna called me to tell me the news, and we're both excited."

He was exhausted when he got back to the hotel, but he still called Brian Littrell just as he promised he would. He and Brian had been talking on the telephone just about every night. They were getting really close, and Skyler looked forward to their phone calls. The only nights that they didn't talk were the nights were one of them was performing. Brian was on tour now too, so seeing each other in person was going to be difficult.

"I saw the show," said Brian. "You did great."

"Thanks," said Skyler. "I couldn't believe how much they all liked that video. I just wish that someone would have told me that they were going to release it."

"Yeah that was strange that you didn't hear about it before it aired on MTV," said Brian. "Maybe it's time you had a talk with your people."

"That's what Madonna said," Skyler replied. "I'm going to as soon as the tour is over. Maverick wants me in the studio to record the new album, and I'm going to have a chat with them, Barry and Laura the day I get home."

"Have you told them about the songs you've written?" asked Brian.

"Not yet," he said. "I'm going to tell them about those when I see them too. I want to start writing more of my own songs."

"I'll be looking forward to hearing your new stuff," said Brian. "We're going into the studio as soon as we get off the road again too I think."

"I'm hoping that they'll give me a little break before releasing anything new," said Skyler. "I want to be home for at least more than a week before I have to go back on the road to promote anything."

"Tell them that," suggested Brian. "You don't have to get right back into the studio when you get home, Sky. You can take a breather. It isn't like you'll be breaking contract or anything."

"Yeah," said Skyler with a yawn.

"You're tired," said Brian. "Why don't we talk when you get to Detroit?"

"Sounds good," said Skyler. "I'll call you when we get there if it isn't too late."

"Call anyway," laughed Brian. "I'll be awake."

"All right," said Skyler. "Night, Brian."

"Night, Sky," replied Brian.

Skyler went to sleep that night with thoughts of Brian in his head. He was trying so hard not to read anything into their growing friendship, but Brian had no idea what kind of effect he was having on Skyler. All of the telephone calls, words of commiseration and just plain being there to listen when Skyler needed to talk were having an effect on Skyler in a very big way. He was feeling things for Brian that he'd never felt for anyone in his life. It scared him because he knew that Brian was straight.

Brian hadn't come right out and said those words, and Skyler hadn't told Brian that he was gay. Brian talked about his life in Kentucky and how much he loved going to church with his family. That alone was enough to tell Skyler that Brian was not only straight, but he probably wouldn't accept Skyler's orientation at all. Telling him that he couldn't wait to have a family of his own told Skyler more than anything else that Brian Littrell was completely straight.

That didn't stop him from thinking about Brian though. He thought of him throughout the day, and he even thought of him when he was on stage the next night. He had to get a hold of himself and stop what he knew was happening. He couldn't let himself fall in love with Brian Littrell. He didn't think he could stand it if he fell for him and got hurt.

Nevertheless he called Brian as soon as the show reached Detroit, and he was thankful for his ear. Coming back to Detroit for the first time since filing charges against his parents was difficult for Skyler, and Brian listened as Skyler bared his heart. He was in tears by the end of the conversation and shocking him, so was Brian.

"There's nothing new to report right now," Barbara told him when he called her the next morning. "Your step-father has new charges to face, but that doesn't directly involve you or the twins."

"What did Chuck do now?" asked Skyler.

"He assaulted a guard," she replied. "He's being charged with Assault of a Corrections Officer for that, and two days later he was involved in a fight with his cell mate, and he stabbed him. He's being charged with Attempted Murder and Assault With a Deadly Weapon for that incident."

"Wow," said Skyler, shocked. He didn't know why it surprised him though. Chuck had always been a violent man. What should have surprised him was that it had taken so long for him to get into trouble in jail.

"You can rest assured that I will be bringing these charges up in court when we face him," she told Skyler. "I want the judge to hear about everything the man has done. I've been doing some digging, and he has quite a record."

Even though his nerves were frayed, he performed two amazing shows in Detroit. After the second, and last, show Carlos told him that Skyler had danced and sang better in that show than any he'd performed so far. Skyler admitted that he'd tried to focus all of his attention into the show to keep from thinking of the fact that he was in his home town.

Calls back and forth between him and Brian continued, and on March third Skyler called Brian from Columbia, Maryland. The show had just arrived, and it was the first call that Skyler made on his brand new cell phone. He told Brian that he was looking forward to the end of the tour, and he was excited that there was only one week and two days left until he could sleep in without worrying about missing any of his engagements.

"I thought you liked your tour," laughed Brian.

"I do," replied Skyler. "I'm just ready for it to end. I haven't slept more than six hours since the day before my birthday."

"I know the feeling," replied Brian. "We're constantly doing something. There's always a photo shoot, interview or meet and greet we have to get to, and of course we rehears every day too."

"Ugh," moaned Skyler. "Don't get me started on rehearsals. I could complain for hours."

"I hear you," laughed Brian. "So what are you planning to do when your tour is over?"

"Sleep," yawned Skyler. "I want to sleep for at least three days."

"Sleep is something that is scarce on a tour," agreed Brian. "I think I slept for a whole twelve hours the first time we had a free day."

"Free day," sighed Skyler. "That's what I'm supposed to be having, but I don't have any of those left now."

"Yeah your schedule is tight now that you're heading for the home stretch," said Brian. "Heard anything from Maverick?"

"Oh yes," said Skyler sarcastically. "I told them I wanted to have a meeting, and I was told that they have great plans for the new CD. I nearly screamed."

"Put your foot down, Skyler," said Brian. "If you don't like something they want you to sing refuse. What are they going to do about it? You're under a contract. Make them let you write."

"I plan on it," he replied. "I did tell Laura to find me a movie though."

"Well that's good," said Brian. "I don't know anything about acting, but it has to be easier than touring."

"I don't know about movies, but television acting isn't half as hectic as touring," replied Skyler. "I'm hoping to find out what acting in a movie will be like soon."

"Then you won't call me anymore," laughed Brian, but Skyler thought he heard something in his voice.

"I'll call you any time you want, Brian," he said. "Once I'm back in New York, you can always call the apartment to talk to me too."

"When are you moving?" asked Brian.

"Laura says that she has three apartments for me to look at," he replied. "I think I want to buy one though."

"Planning to live in New York permanently?" asked Brian.

"Well no," he admitted. "It's just that I do so much there all of the time, I might as well buy an apartment instead of renting one."

"I can understand that," said Brian. "You can certainly afford one."

"Yeah," laughed Skyler. "Funny how things work. I never expected to be able to buy a place of my own."

"And now you're thinking of buying your first apartment in New York City," laughed Brian.

When the show finally reached New York, Skyler was so happy to be home. He decided that he and the twins would stay in their apartment instead of with the dancers and Utopia at the hotel, and the twins were excited to be home too. They were both ready to move to a new apartment though. Cassie told Skyler that she really wasn't looking forward to sleeping on the couch again.

"Why don't you just move into Chad's room while we're still here, and he can sleep in my room?" Skyler asked, looking from her to Chad.

"That sounds good," said Chad. "That way you don't have to sleep in the living room."

"Deal," she said.

They spent the first day back in New York at home reveling in the fact that they were home. Skyler called Kristy, Brian and Zack to let them know that he was home, and he made sure that they all had tickets to at least one of the five shows that he would be performing. They each expressed excitement about him being home, and they all had tickets to the final show at Madison Square Garden.

Laura came to the apartment as soon as she heard that he was home. She brought him a script to read for a movie called Anger. It was about a riot in New York City. She seemed excited about the movie, and Skyler promised to read the script as fast as he could. He was ready to take a part without reading the script just to make sure that he didn't have to go anywhere for a while, but the project still didn't have a director.

"So tell me about these apartments you want me to look at," he said, sitting the script on the coffee table.

"Well," she said, reaching into her briefcase and pulling out a stack of pictures and paperwork. "I refined my search once you told me you wanted to buy. There are two available in this building for rent, but the building next to this has four that are available to buy. However I think that you'd be happier in the new building that was just finished last month."

"What size are the apartments in the building?" he asked, picking up the picture of the new building. It looked like a huge tower of glass.

"They have two, three, four and even five bedroom apartments for sale in the building," she said, showing him where it said as much on the papers she put in front of him. "The one I thought you'd like the best is one of the penthouse apartments. It has eight rooms. Three of them are bedrooms, so each of you would have your own. There are three full bathrooms and one half bathroom, a terrace, and the building has on site management, a door man and Concierge."

"When can we look at the apartment?" he asked, glancing over the paperwork. His eyes rested on the price for a moment, but he was sure that he could get a loan to cover it. He thought for a second about how strange it was to be so sure that a bank would loan him a million dollars.

"You can look at it the day after your last show," she said. "I can set an appointment if you want."

"Do that," he said, nodding. "I want to move as soon as possible."

"OK," she said, putting the other papers and pictures back into her briefcase. "What's this meeting about that you're trying to get us all together for?"

"Well," he said, clearing his throat. "A few things happened while I was on tour that I was not happy about. One was the video release from the tour. Madonna wasn't even asked if we could release her song as a video, and I wasn't even told it was going to happen. I don't like that. From now on I want to be asked before they film anything. It would be nice to be notified at the very least."

"I wasn't asked or told about it either," she said. "We've been arguing with Maverick about it since the video aired. Barry . . . "

"That's another thing," he said, cutting her off. "Barry needs to stop telling Maverick that I'll go right into the studio to record just any song they decide might sound good. I've written three songs for the album already, and I will write more. I want to have more power over my own music. I don't appreciate being talked over or having deals made without my knowledge."

"That's something you'll have to talk to Barry about," she said slowly.

"I'll talk to him about it all right," he said seriously. "I'll also be telling Maverick that they can forget what Barry has already agreed to. I want the contract renegotiated, and the album will be left up to me."

"Skyler, you have one CD under your belt, and your about to finish a successful concert tour," she said. "Do you really think that now is the time to make waves with your record company?"

"I already have one of the partners of the company behind me, Laura," he said, thinking of Madonna. "I won't change my mind about any of this. I want these things to be in writing, and I want everyone who works on anything I do to understand that my terms are non negotiable."

"I can understand that you're upset about the video, but Skyler, you're asking for far more than an artist with the little experience in the business that you have is entitled to," she warned.

"Laura, don't try to talk me out of this," he said. "If they won't agree to what I want then I'll record the two CD's left in my contract, and then I'll find another recording company or quit singing entirely. I'm not stupid. I know how much money my music is making for their company. If I stop singing that money goes away, Laura. They'll listen to me, or they'll lose me."

After Laura left it took only two hours for Barry to call Skyler. He screamed at him for bossing his agent around, and Skyler hung up on him. He was in no mood to be screamed at, and he decided that if Laura was going to run to Barry every time he said anything that she didn't agree with he would find another agent. He didn't need all of the stress before a show.

During the sound check for the show Barry stormed onto the stage to yell at Skyler for hanging up on him. The band members all stared at Barry, and the dancers looked embarrassed. Skyler was furious. He couldn't believe that Barry would humiliate him in that way. He wasn't a child, and Barry wasn't his father.

"And don't you ever hang up on me again, Skyler," yelled Barry, pointing his finger at him.

"Get out of here, Barry," Skyler said, barely holding his temper. "You have no right to stomp around and yell at me. I'm not a child, Barry. You work for me. If you don't like what I say to my agent, then yell at her about it. If you would have done your damned job, I wouldn't have had to find out that they released the damned video from Madonna!"

"What you are is a spoiled brat who's let his fame go to his head," snapped Barry. "If you think you can talk to me like that and get away with it . . ."

"Barry, I asked you to leave," said Skyler icily, cutting him off. "As you can plainly see, I'm in the middle of a sound check, and you aren't letting us finish. I have a show in four hours, and I need to rehears. Now leave."

"You can find yourself a new manager, kid," spat Barry, glaring at Skyler. "I'm done."

"Oh you're right about that, Barry," replied Skyler. "You're done all right. Have you forgotten our contract? I won't sue you if you drop me as a client, Barry, but I will talk."

"Fuck you, Skyler," spat Barry as he turned and walked off the stage.

Skyler stared at his back as he left the stage. He couldn't believe what had just happened. He wanted to go after him and punch him in the face. He'd sworn that once he left Detroit for college, no one would ever make him feel like an ignorant kid again. Barry Graham had just done so, and he'd caused a scene.

"Where were we?" he asked after a long silence, deciding to put thoughts of Barry out of his mind and focus on his job.

Throughout the sound check Skyler did nothing but think of Barry Graham. He snapped at the band and dancers several times, and he hated himself for it. He'd let Barry piss him off, and he was sure the show would suffer. When sound check was over, he apologized to the band and his dancers for his behavior. He silently vowed never to let anyone get under his skin that way again. Everyone accepted his apology and told him that they understood. Skyler was sure they'd talk about what had happened between him and Barry for at least a year.

"Skyler, what have you done?" asked a panicked Laura after the show that night. "Barry called me and told me that he will never represent you again. He said that you were an ass."

"I was an ass?" gasped Skyler. "He's the one who stomped onto the stage, interrupting the sound check to bark at me like I was some out of control child, Laura. I reminded him that he worked for me, and he didn't like it. If I remember correctly, I told him to leave at least once."

"So you're basically telling me that you fired your manager," she said carefully.

"No," he replied, laughing cynically. "He quit. I just let him know that I was happy to see him go."

"What will you do for a manager now, Skyler?" she asked. "Assuming that I'm still your agent, I don't know anything about music."

"Of course you're still my agent, Laura," replied Skyler. "And I'm not worried about a manager right now. I'll find one when I need one."

"What are you worried about right now?" she asked, looking frazzled.

"I'm worried about finishing the last four shows of this tour," he said. "I'm also worried about getting a part in this movie that I'm trying to read a script for."

"So you've decided to take a part in the movie?" she asked, looking excited instead of frazzled.

"Yes," he said. "I assume I have to audition."

"Of course," she replied, dismissively. "They aren't in the casting phase yet though."

"Well just keep me well informed about it," he said. "I intend to be in this movie no matter which role they give me."

After Laura left that night Skyler went around the apartment, locking the door and windows, pulling shades and picking up magazines and glasses left behind by the twins. He was still angry at Barry, and he still wanted to tell him about it. Instead of doing that he went to his room and crawled into his bed. Barry would have to wait.

He was having breakfast with Niki the next morning, and she wanted to hear all about his discussion with Laura. She seemed shocked that Skyler hadn't fired her. He explained that she hadn't really done anything wrong. Sure she'd tried to talk him out of the meeting with Maverick, but she'd claimed to be looking out for his career and best interests. He couldn't fault her for that. He did still plan to meet with Maverick and demand certain amendments to his contract. He would tell them exactly what he told Laura if they decided to pull the same tactic that she had.

"Sky, you'd better come and look at this," said Cassie, standing in the kitchen doorway.

Skyler looked at Niki and they both got up and followed Cassie into the living room. Barry was on television, and Skyler nearly choked on his juice as he heard what Barry was telling the press. He couldn't believe that he'd called a press conference. Skyler thought that he might have to rethink suing Barry over breaking their contract.

"Last night I resigned my position as Skyler Thomas's manager," Barry told reporters on the television screen. "We've had a great time together, but we've developed conflicting artistic opinions. Skyler and I remain friends, and I have very high hopes for his career. I wish him luck."

"Friends?" said Skyler sarcastically. "With friends like him . . ."

"What are you going to do about this?" asked Niki. "You don't have a manager."

"Of course I have a manager, Niki," he said, looking at her like she was crazy. "Debbie hasn't quit."

"Sky, she's managing your tour," Niki said quickly. "She isn't your career manager."

"She might be after I talk to her," said Skyler.

When Skyler got to the music hall, reporters were everywhere. They shouted questions as Skyler's security ushered him through the crowd. Skyler didn't even utter "No comment" as he passed them. He was furious with Barry for creating this mess. He knew he would eventually have to talk to the press, but he didn't want to talk to them until he could tell them that he had a manager. Barry Graham was creating problems for him, and he wouldn't forget it.

He tried hard not to think about Barry or the press as he went through sound check, but it was all he could think about. He couldn't believe that Barry had done any of this. He could understand that Barry was upset over Skyler's decisions, but that gave him no right to storm in and confront him in front of everyone the way he had, and it certainly didn't give him the right to hold a press conference and announce to the world that Skyler Thomas had no manager. His explanation wouldn't hold up with the public. Skyler was sure that the public would believe that Skyler had fired him in some kind of childish fit.

After that night's show the press was waiting for him again. He still didn't comment on anything as he was ushered through the throng of reporters to the waiting limousine. He sighed in relief once the car was moving. Luckily there was no press at the apartment building. He went straight upstairs and slammed his door. Cassie and Chad were sitting in the living room, and they looked at him when he came in.

"Bad show?" asked Chad. They were playing a video game.

"No," he replied with a sigh. "The show went great. I just didn't like the press before and after."

"Mark called," said Cassie. "He said to call him back."

"And I have something to show you when you have a little time," said Chad with a huge smile on his face. Skyler couldn't help smiling back. The twins were a calming influence on him, and he loved them for that.

He promised not to be on the phone long, and then he went to get a bottle of water from the kitchen. He sat in the breakfast nook and picked up the telephone. He'd promised to call Mark at least a dozen times, but he'd been so busy that he'd forgotten lately. Actually the only person that he called faithfully, other than Brian Littrell was Madonna. He had to do better about keeping in touch with his friends. Neglecting them wouldn't keep them as his friends for long.

"You're all over the news again," said Mark while they were talking. "Dianne tapes everything about you."

"This time around though, I'm not happy with what's going on," replied Skyler, sighing. "I wish that Barry would have at least waited until the last show to say anything."

"What happened there?" asked Mark. "He says that you guys are friends, but if your friends then why did he resign?"

"He resigned, because I told him he wasn't my father and he couldn't stomp onto the stage to interrupt my sound check to scream at me in front of everyone," Skyler said hotly. "That's why he resigned, and we're not friends."

"He screamed at you in front of everyone?" asked Mark in a stunned voice. "About what?"

"Well you know about the video fiasco," replied Skyler. "There was that and a few other things concerning my new album. I told Laura that I wasn't recording what Barry wanted, and he got mad."

"What are you going to do now?" he asked, and Skyler had to think for a minute before answering him.

He wasn't completely sure that Debbie would agree to manage his career. She was a tour manager, and she'd managed countless tours in her career but would she manage his career? That would involve so much more than touring. He thought it would help that she was employed by Maverick. That didn't mean that she'd agree to what he wanted though.

"I'm going to ask my tour manager to take over for a while," he said finally. "I don't know what else I can do."

"Didn't you and Barry have a contract or something?" asked Mark. "I mean I don't know anything about how any of that works, but I thought you told me that you had to sign a contract with him when this all started."

"We do have a contract, and I don't know what's going to happen there," said Skyler. "He broke it, but I was happy to see him go."

"I wish there was something I could do or say that would help," said Mark.

"Thanks," replied Skyler. "It's my mess, and I'll have to find a way to clean it up."

"You're still coming to LA for the Oscars, right?" asked Mark, changing the subject.

"I'm planning to," he replied. "I don't know what's going to happen in the coming days and weeks though."

"Well if you do can we all get together again?" asked Mark. "I want to ask you something, but it would be better if I asked in person."

"OK," said Skyler slowly, wondering what was so important that Mark had to ask him in person. "I'll do my very best to be in LA for a few days then."

"Thanks, Sky," replied Mark.

When Skyler got back to the living room the twins were excitedly talking about something. Their conversation stopped short when Skyler came into the room though, and they both looked like they were plotting something. Skyler smiled at them as he sat down on the couch between them. He looked from one to the other and back.

"All right you knuckleheads," he laughed. "What's going on?"

"I want you to listen to something, Sky," said Chad. "I worked really hard on it, and Niki said she loved it."

"What are you talking about?" asked Skyler, wondering why Niki knew whatever it was before he did.

Chad just got up and walked over to the piano. Skyler had purchased the piano for him after he'd begged for hours. Chad had been taking lessons for years, and he argued that he'd forget how to play if he didn't have one to practice on. Skyler hadn't been able to argue with that, so he'd ordered the piano later that day. He hadn't heard Chad playing anything since it had been delivered though. He turned in his seat, so he could look at his brother, and Cassie scooted closer to him as Chad began to play a tune that Skyler had never heard before.

"It was just another day of many. Wasn't supposed to be a big deal. The problems I have are plenty, and my life sometimes feels unreal. That day I sat alone for hours, crying over something that I heard. Rain fell outside like showers, and my tears were for the lesson that I'd learned," sang Chad, and Skyler nearly started crying. He wondered if the song he was singing was about their parents.

"Why'd it have to be this way? You didn't listen to anything I had to say. Why did you just walk away when I had so much more to say that day? Why'd you have to take off that day? Don't you love me anymore?" sang his little brother, and Skyler found that he couldn't keep from crying as he listened to the sorrowful voice of his younger brother.

"Lines were drawn and words were thrown as we fought over petty problems long gone. Insults were slung and heartaches were grown the day you took my heart and tore it apart. Now I sit here and wonder how things got so bad that you forgot how much love we had at the start. You just threw away everything we had," sang Chad in that sorrowful voice, and Skyler cried. He was shocked at how well his brother could sing.

"Where did our love go that day? You didn't listen to anything I had to say. How could you just leave me that way? When all I've ever done is love you every day. Why'd you have to take off that day? Don't you love me anymore?" sang Chad, and Skyler listened to the melancholy tune that his brother played while he tapped his foot on the floor.

"Could I persuade you one last time before we draw the line, to sit and talk this out? There's no reason for us to shout," sang Chad after he'd played for a bit.

"Why'd it have to be this way? You didn't listen to anything I had to say. Why did you just walk away when I had so much more to say that day? Why'd you break my heart that day? Don't you love me anymore?" sang Chad, and Skyler loved it. He sat there, staring at his brother through his tears in stunned silence.

"Don't you love me anymore?" sang Chad, and then he brought the song to a close.

"Chad, that was amazing," said Skyler, wiping his eyes after Chad stopped playing. "Did you write that?"

"Niki helped with the music," replied Chad, smiling. "I wrote the words though. I listened to a bunch of your songs, and then I just started writing the words down for this one."

"Isn't it great?" asked Cassie, smiling at him. "I loved it the first time I heard it, and I kept telling him to play it for you. Niki did too."

"It's amazing," repeated Skyler. "Chad, why didn't you tell me that you wanted to sing? I could have talked to . . ."

He cut off when he thought about Barry. That would have never done now. He didn't even know who was going to manage his career now. He had no one to talk to about Chad. He supposed that he could call Laura, but she would probably turn Chad over to Barry. Skyler didn't know if that would work.

"You were going to say Barry right?" asked Chad.

"Yeah," replied Skyler. "I didn't think."

"That's OK," said Chad. "After the way he treated you, I wouldn't want him working on anything I did."

"Do you want to try to record that song?" asked Skyler.

"Oh yeah," laughed Chad. "I want to be a singer just like you."

"We'll call Laura in the morning," Skyler said, thinking as he spoke. "She'll know someone I'm sure. Just not Barry Graham."

"Don't You Love Me Anymore" is a song by Julien Gregg.

The next chapter will be posted soon.