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The flight landed at Raleigh-Durham International Airport with no incidents and Nick had held Emma’s hand as they landed to provide some kind of comfort for her. They gathered their things after the plane stopped and the airline allowed her to exit privately with Nick so as not to attract attention. He would have his bags picked up for him and delivered to his car.

“Do you want me to have your bags brought here too?”

Emma smiled and appreciated the gesture. Unfortunately, she had to head in the baggage claim area because that was where Michael had said he would be waiting for her. She was actually disappointed that she had been so prepared and would be leaving Nick as this point. There was no way to tell when they would see each other again and, to both of their surprises, they were sad about that fact.

“Okay.” Nick replied. “Make sure he takes care of you and gets you home with no problems.”

He looked genuinely concerned and her stomach did a small flip when she saw the emotion in his eyes. She had missed being cared about in that way and it made her sadder that she couldn’t go with him. Breaking herself out of those thoughts, she chastised herself for reading too much into it, he was just being nice, and she needed to remember that.

Not sure if he should hug her, he hung back a little bit and allowed some space in between them. She seemed to sense the same thing and just left it alone; she gave him a small wave and turned around. After taking a few steps, she suddenly turned and called out to him.

“Hey Nick?”


“We are having a small party for Labor Day in a couple of weeks. Addie and Howie are coming down with the baby and I thought, if you had no other plans, you could come by.”

“I’m not sure yet what my schedule is, but can I give you a call?”

“Sure,” she replied, disappointed that she didn’t get a yes, “just let me know whenever you figure it out.”

She waved again and turned to head to the baggage claim. Nick watched her leave and was regretting that he hadn’t said yes; he didn’t know why he wouldn’t be able to come and was confused by how he felt. He headed to the area where his bags and rental were, loaded the car and pulled out. Maybe he just needed some time to take a breath and figure out what he wanted to do.


Emma grabbed her bags off the carousel and headed over to the area where Michael said he would be waiting. She saw him and Arthur standing there with a poster board sign welcoming her home; she forgot abut her disappointment about Nick dropping her off and gave her roommate a big hug.

“We missed you Em.” Arthur told her when she turned to hug him. “I think I actually saw this guy shed a few tears when you said you were extending your stay!”

“Whatever.” Michael replied with an eye roll. “There was something in my eye.”

Emma laughed as she watched their interactions and felt lucky to have found friends down here that had become family to her. Having Addie so far away was difficult but Michael, and now Arthur, always made sure they were there for her and included her in a lot of what they did.

There was a little pang of loneliness when she saw them tease each other and when they held hands in the car. Part of her was happy for them but part of her missed having those things herself. She missed being with someone in that way, having them there for the good and bad times and someone she felt butterflies in her stomach with. That was never a feeling she had experienced with Stephen and she only had it briefly with Jesse. The one person in her life who, as evidenced from her interaction with him, could still make her feel that way was Nick.

She had punished herself for hurting him from the moment she made her decision to leave. Unfortunately, she had already put things into motion and didn’t feel as though she had any other choice. Being around Nick for the past few weeks, and now leaving him again, brought those feelings back and they suddenly flooded over her like waves. She bit her lip to keep from crying, but Michael saw the tears well up in the rearview mirror.

They finally pulled into the driveway and Michael quietly pulled Arthur aside as Emma took her things into the house. He knew that they had plans that night, but it was clear that Emma needed someone to talk to.

“You don’t even need to say it.” Arthur told him. “You need to work on getting her smile back.”

“You’re the best.”

“That’s why you’re marrying me!”

Michael watched his fiancé leave and then headed into the house to deal with Emma. Seeing her this way was exactly what he had been afraid of; he didn’t care what anyone, including Emma, said, there was absolutely no way she was over Nick. He had a feeling that being near her ex was going to bring back all the old, painful memories for her and he knew that, if left alone, Emma would build a wall back up. It had taken him months to break down that wall and he was determined not to let that happen again.

Emma found her roommate sitting on her bed when she came out of the shower.

“I thought you had plans with Arthur tonight?”

“We changed our minds, he was feeling tired.”

“Bullshit.” Emma replied. “You don’t need to lie to me and you don’t need to baby sit me either.”

“Well,” Michael said, “the look on your face tells me something different. It’s the same look that I saw for months after you moved here. He got to you, again didn’t he?”

Emma opened her mouth and planned to lie to him but once she saw his face, she broke down in tears. He stood up and hugged her; she had become like a sister and it killed him to see her in so much pain. They took a seat on the bed and Michael held her as she cried; it was a good twenty minutes for her to calm down enough to talk.

“It was that bad huh?”

Emma told him about everything, all the good and the bad moments. She didn’t hold anything back and Michael could tell how much she had been through. Part of him wanted to strangle Nick for being cruel to her and the other half wanted to shake him, and her, and make them realize they still cared for each other. Unfortunately, it wasn’t his place to do that and he held her instead; hopefully, someone would be able to reach them before it was too late to do anything about it.