© 2005-2010 Julien Gregg
All Rights Reserved
The very sight of Skyler on the television made Cassie want to cry. She wished that she was there with him now and that they hadn't fought before he'd left. The fighting had been her fault. She'd tried to push him just he way he hated to be pushed. She'd known it when she was doing it but that hadn't stopped her. As she watched the live footage of a rehearsal in Houston, she was miserable.
MTV kept her well informed about what was happening with the tour. They had daily updates on Skyler with footage of different events connected to the tour at every stop. So far she'd seen him all over Japan. She wished she was there with him. It seemed so odd to her being away from him while he was on tour. It seemed like she was out of the loop or something.
"Why don't you call him?" Kristy Swanson asked as she watched the anguished look on Cassie's face. "I'm sure he'd love to hear from you, Cassie."
"I call Kaleb every night," she sighed, staring at her brother on the television screen.
"That's not the same thing, Cassie," Kristy replied. "Skyler probably really needs to hear your voice. You shouldn't just let this lie."
"I know that," said Cassie. She thought of seeing him unconscious in the hospital and all of the things she'd wanted to say to him. She remembered praying to God to wake him up so that she could tell him that she loved him one more time. Now she wasn't speaking to him and what if something happened? Could she live with herself if something happened and the last time they'd spoken to each other had been in anger? She knew she couldn't. She wasn't ready to just call him and apologize either. She believed that she'd been right about asking him to put the start of the tour off for a while.
"You two can both be so damned stubborn," sighed Kristy, getting up from the sofa and leaving the room.
Cassie was left to feel miserable. She knew she should call him but she didn't even know what to say to him. Damn it she had been right. If only she could have made Skyler see that. Looking at him on television didn't make her feel so righteous though. He seemed fine and he'd been on the road for a while now. Maybe she'd been wrong.
* * *
Skyler was lying on his back on his hotel bed with Preston asleep on his chest. These were the times that he lived for lately. Holding Preston was like a thin slice of heaven. He only wished that Jeff could be there with them. He knew that Jeff had commitments and responsibilities to take care of. That was just another part of a celebrity relationship.
In a way he was glad that Jeff wasn't there. His head had been throbbing non stop since the taping of the rehearsal. Jeff never said anything about it, but Skyler could tell that he worried. He hated making him worry. His head was going to hurt off and on for the rest of his life. The doctor had told him so. It was nothing to worry about. Yet Jeff worried. Skyler loved him for it, but he hated to worry him. He decided to think about all of that later. He looked down at his sleeping son and began to sing to him quietly.
"I was never alive till the day I was blessed with you," he sang. "When I hold you late at night I know what I was put here to do. I turn off the world and listen to you sigh, and I will sing my angel's lullaby.
"Know I'm forever near; the one you can always call. Right now all you know to fear are the shadows on your wall. I'm here close enough to kiss the tears you cry, and I will sing my angel's lullaby.
"And when the world seems cold and you feel that all of your strength is gone, there may be one tiny voice, your reason to carry on. And when I'm not close enough to kiss the tears you cry, you will sing your angel's lullaby. Let this be our angel's lullaby."
"That was awesome, Sky," said Chip Dodds from the doorway of the bedroom, startling Skyler.
"I didn't know you were here, Chip," Skyler replied softly.
"Didn't mean to intrude or anything . . ."
"Of course not," Skyler interrupted. "Don't worry about it."
"I really did like the song, Skyler," said Chip as he came into the room. "Sounded like a hit single to me."
"Nope," said Skyler. "That one's just for PJ."
"They are great at his age," said Chip with a fond smile on his face. "They grow so quickly though. Believe me."
"I love watching him discover new things and grow," said Skyler.
"Oh, I loved watching Justin grow and learn, too," replied Chip. "I just don't know where the years have gone. It seems like only yesterday I was holding him on my chest the way you're holding Preston."
"Well I hope that time doesn't pass that quickly for me and PJ," said Skyler, slowly easing his son off his chest and onto the bed so that he could get up. "What brought you up here?"
"Oh, I was sent to tell you that they're ready for you," said Chip. "They have the fans all gathered in the banquet hall."
"All right," sighed Skyler. "Let me just change real quick."
"Sure thing," said Chip. "And Skyler, it really is a great song."
"Thanks," replied Skyler with a smile.
He thought about what Chip had said while he dressed for the meet 'n greet. He really wished that he had more time to spend with Preston. He knew that Preston was growing. Already the baby was so different than the one Skyler had held in his arms in the hospital in Detroit. He didn't want to miss his growing up. He just didn't know how to take care of that.
Throughout the meet 'n greet he thought about how to make sure that he didn't miss the best years of Preston's childhood. He signed autographs, smiled and posed for pictures while keeping his mind firmly on his son. The fans didn't seem to notice that he was distracted. They were all so excited to actually see him and touch him that they couldn't have cared if he was asleep.
At dinner that night he decided to have a talk with his parents about what was on his mind. Surely they'd be supportive. This wasn't a health problem so they had no reason to argue about it. He just wanted to get his thoughts out there and have them listen.
"It's hard when you're this successful, Skyler," said Ben when Skyler had opened the discussion at the table once they were all seated together. "Babies grow so quickly that you can miss things when you're paying the closest attention."
"But does it have to be this hard?" Skyler asked. "I mean there has to be something that I can do to make sure that I don't miss out on everything in his life."
"Skyler, the very fact that you're worried about it shows that you're a loving father," said Tabitha. "You bringing him along this way is one way to make sure that you don't miss much of anything. What are your plans for after the tour?"
"I haven't really thought about it," he admitted. "Laura is supposed to be bringing me some scripts to look over soon. Time Warner is getting bitchy about my contract, so I guess I'll be doing another movie soon."
"Will you be taking Preston along for the location?" Ben asked.
"Of course," replied Skyler instantly. "I told you all that Preston goes where I go at least until he has to go to school."
"What about tutors?" Tabitha asked. "You had tutors for Chad and Cassie when they were with you on tour. Jason had a tutor last time as well. Why can't Preston have a tutor?"
"Can you have a tutor for preschool?" Skyler asked. He'd thought about tutors when Preston was older but what about the earliest school years? He'd decided when Preston was born that he would give him a choice. He would either tour with him or they would stay home. He knew that would mean ending his career but he didn't care. If Preston wanted to stay home, Skyler would stay home. Period. He hadn't shared that with his family or anyone yet.
"I'm sure you can, Sky," said his father. "It isn't quite time to look into that yet, but we will when the time comes. I promise we'll find a solution."
"Thanks, Dad," he replied, feeling much better about everything. "You always know what to say to calm me down. Thanks for that, too."
"Any time, Kid," laughed Ben. "Just make sure that it's always Preston's decision when the time is right, though."
"I will," he replied. "I have all of that worked out in my head already. Don't worry."
He spent the rest of the evening alone in his suite with Preston. No one bothered him and he was happy for that. He got on the floor in the living room and played with all of the toys that had been bought by so many celebrities for his son. They played for so long that Preston was starting to fall asleep. Skyler changed his diaper and put his pajamas on him before putting him in his crib. Then he took a quick shower, dressed in his lounge pants and a concert t-shirt and settled down on his bed to call Jeff.
"Hey Sexy," Jeff said once the connection was made. "I've been thinking about you all day."
"Have you?" Skyler asked. "I bet that made things difficult for your gig."
"Not really," laughed Jeff. "They were all here to see Nick and Drew. They could've cared less about me and Justin."
"I'm sure you're wrong about that," Skyler replied. "You're just as famous as they are."
"Yeah, but I wanted to be somewhere else," he admitted. "How's the munchkin?"
"He's sleeping," replied Skyler. "I wore him out earlier with his toys. It was so great to just get down in the floor and spend some time with him like that."
"I bet," sighed Jeff. "I missed a lot with mine."
"I've decided that I won't miss more than I have to with Preston," said Skyler. "I'll take him with me everywhere I go until he's old enough to tell me to fuck off."
"That's a plan," said Jeff. "When the time comes I know a great tutor for preschool aged children."
"That's really cool," said Skyler. "We were talking about that at dinner tonight."
"Folks still giving you a hard time?" Jeff asked, and Skyler could hear the worry in his voice.
"Nope, all is well in Camp Thomas for now," he said soothingly. "What about your people?"
"Nick just keeps telling me to be careful," replied Jeff. "You know the drill. Drew thinks its awesome. He's a big fan of yours, you know? Justin hasn't said a word either way."
"They're coming with you to LA right?" Skyler asked.
"So far," he replied. "Nick might have something to do with Jessica by then though. I can't say for sure."
"Well I hope they come, but Jeff, you're staying in my house with me right?"
"Of course I am," replied Jeff. "I wouldn't stay anywhere else, Sky."
One more indication to Skyler that Jeff was not JC. He'd been worried about what Jeff would say when he'd told him that he and his family would be staying in their houses in Los Angeles while the show was there. He'd wanted Jeff to stay with him but he'd been too afraid to ask him until now. He was happy with the answer though.
"Good," he said. "That's settled then. Your boys can stay, too. The dancers will be staying in hotels. Well, the ones who don't come from LA will be."
"I'm sure the boys would love it, Sky," said Jeff. "But listen, I have to get off this phone and get to work. If Nick comes back in here and catches me on the phone he'll kick my butt."
"Love you, Blue Eyes," Skyler said, smiling softly.
"Love you, too, Blondie," replied Jeff.
The next day, Skyler had little time to spend with his son. There were sound checks, stage rehearsals and meetings to get through that day. The first show in Houston was that night and so many things had to be gone over and checked. He found himself in the tech booth with Chip and his guys just after lunch so that Chip could explain the new concept for the technical side of his show. Chip Dodds was a new friend for Skyler. His tour manager had hired Chip and five of his crew to oversee the computer aspects of the shows. He was in his early thirties with dark hair and eyes. He looked like a model but was easy to talk to and completely down to Earth. The most important thing in his life was his ten year old son, Justin. Skyler had liked him on sight.
"Well what I've done is rewrite the entire software package, Sky," said Chip as they showed him what each program would do to the lights on the stage and the screens. "There wasn't anything wrong with the original program, but I wanted to speed things up on our end a bit so that you could get instant changes on the stage without any worries."
"It looks great, Chip," said Skyler as he watched the lights on the stage changed every time one of the boys in the booth tapped their keyboards. "I have to admit that I don't understand much about this side of the show, but it's very interesting to learn how it all works."
"Any time you want a more detailed explanation just holler at me," Chip said with a smile.
"Thanks," Skyler said. "Right now I have to get downstairs and see what shape the costumes are in. Marty was yelling something about new fittings for some of the dancers. They couldn't have gained or lost that much weight since Japan, so something must have happened."
"Well good luck there, Sky," said Chip. "Just rest assured that the technical side of the show is ready and waiting."
"That's a relief, Chip. Thanks," Skyler said just before he left the both.
When he got down to the fitting rooms he was relieved to find out that it was the speedos that were missing. A few of the dancers had simply not turned them in. Once all of that was straightened out Marty was fine again. Everything was ready. Chip had his end up and running, the band had played amazingly, the sound guys had done their jobs and the sets were up and ready. Everything was ready to go. All they needed to do now was eat dinner and get ready for the show.
The show was a huge success. Everything went just as rehearsed and everyone was perfect. The crowd loved it and they let Skyler know it by the way that they screamed for him. He'd had to return to the stage for three encores. The show was the talk of the dancers all the way to Los Angeles.
That's where the problems began. When Skyler arrived he was met by both fans and mobs of press. The press followed him all over Los Angeles. When he and his family headed for his estate the press set up at the gates. Police had to break them up five different times to allow people in and out of the estate. It was insane. They screamed at Skyler whenever he was visible and they hounded his family and guests.
When Drew and Justin arrived with Jeff that first night they were nearly attacked by the press as they tried to get through the gate. Jeff used his cell phone to call the house and all of the security staff swarmed the gate. The police were called once again.
The shows were almost impossible for Skyler to get through. It was hotter than normal in Los Angeles and he and the dancers suffered through the nightly shows. Skyler's head was throbbing by the time he said the final good night and headed off stage to shower and cool down.
"Skyler we have a problem," said Trent Steadmen just after Skyler's third show in Los Angeles. He'd just come off the stage. He was dripping with sweat and wanted nothing more than a hot shower and dry clothes.
"What problem is that, Trent?" Skyler asked with a sigh.
Trent Steadmen had been a thorn in Skyler's side since they'd arrived in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Sports Arena was about to change it's name and it seemed that other changes were in the process of being made as well. Trent was the thirty-four year old nephew of the owner of the arena. It was clear from their first meeting that Trent had no idea how this side of the business worked. Sure he knew sports stars but headlining entertainers were not what he knew about. It showed in every way he handled them.
"There's another event scheduled here the last two nights of your show," he replied. "Now . . ."
"Clay!" cried Skyler, backing away from Trent. He knew that if he stood in front of the six foot black haired man he'd go insane and probably hurt him.
"Skyler, what are you yelling about?" his father asked, rushing over to where they were standing.
"I need to talk to Clay, Dad," Skyler said. "Something stupid has happened and it needs to be dealt with."
"What's going on?" asked his father as he looked from his son to Trent and back.
"It seems that Trent scheduled two events for the same nights," said Skyler. "The last two nights we're supposed to be here."
"Oh shit," sighed Ben.
"Yeah," said Skyler. "I want Clay down here. Now."
"There's no need to get upset about this . . ."
"Mr. Steadmen, I suggest you wait for Mr. Silver before you anger Skyler further," Ben interrupted.
"Look," said Trent. "This was a little mistake."
"Little?" Skyler gasped. "Both nights are sold out. The tickets are in the hands of fans who are expecting to see me perform those two nights, Mr. Steadmen. I don't see how this is a little mistake."
"I need to speak with someone rational," said Trent, turning to walk away.
"Now wait just a damned minute," spat Skyler. "First you schedule two events at the same time for two nights. Then you tell me about it after three shows instead of before we arrived, and you want to speak to someone rational? Mr. Steadmen, I would very much like for you to meet with someone from the legal department of Sky High Entertainment. Perhaps you'll think that discussion is a bit more rational."
"This is getting out of hand here," said Trent, backing away from Skyler now.
"It got out of hand when you began to condescend my son," snapped Ben, pressing his earpiece to listen to what was being said. "Skyler, Clay is on his way down from the tech booth."
"Thanks, Dad," replied Skyler. He looked coldly at Trent. "I'll be in my dressing room. Tell Clay to come talk to me after he talks to Mr. Steadmen."
With that said, Skyler walked away. He wasn't happy about the crowd of dancers who had gathered to listen to the discussion, but he supposed they'd have all found out soon enough any way. What he wanted more than anything was to choke the life out of Trent Steadmen. He was still trying to calm himself down when Clay came into the dressing room twenty minutes later.
"Ok, Skyler," said Clay. "Here's what's happening. We're canceling the last two shows in LA and the arena will pay to refund every ticket. I've put in a call to Trent's uncle, and I've been assured that we'll be paid for the last two shows as if we'd performed them. Carlos, too."
"Clay, I can't believe this!" Skyler sighed, running his fingers through his sweat soaked hair. "What kind of idiot . . ."
"I know, Sky," said Clay. "Believe me we'll never be dealing with Trent Steadmen again. I've issued the threat that this show will never play this arena again."
"There's nothing left to do now?" Skyler asked.
"Nothing," confirmed Clay.
"Then I want to shower and get the hell out of here," he spat. "How soon can Dad's crew tear this shit down?"
"It'll take most of the night, but it has to be done," said Clay. "We're wanted out of here."
"Oh we're leaving," said Skyler coldly. "But they'll hear about it."
And for the next three, now free, days Skyler was in a foul mood. The only time he seemed to be in a good mood was when he was spending time with his son. No one could get him to calm down. Even Jeff was unsuccessful in his nightly phone calls. He'd threatened to come to Los Angeles just to calm him down. His trip to LA had been cut back to a one night stay because of something to do with his management, but he'd threatened to leave on the next flight the night before the show moved on to Oakland.
The three shows in Oakland went off without a hitch, but Skyler's mood didn't change. He was snapping at people and refusing to leave his suite unless something was scheduled that he couldn't miss. He didn't put off fans at all though. He made every meet 'n greet that was scheduled with smiles and a pleasant disposition. It was staff related issues that kept him sour. He was still upset over the way they'd been treated by Trent Steadmen.
The reviews of the shows were awesome. The dancers and staff were all saying that the more pissed off Skyler got the better he performed. What they didn't know was that each of those performances had taken their toll on Skyler. His head was hurting more often than not lately, and his vision was starting to blur half way through each performance. This was another thing that had him on edge. He kept silent about it for fear that his family would freak out and demand that he end the tour.
Angel's Lullaby is a song by Richard Marx.
The next chapter will be posted soon.