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Emma woke up early the next morning, confused by last night’s kiss, and tried to be quiet as she crept down the stairs; she could see Nick was still asleep on the couch and assumed everyone else was doing the same upstairs. She made her way to the kitchen and noticed that someone had already made a pot of coffee. Turning her gaze to the back door, she saw AJ smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee; he finally noticed her, nodded towards the pot and then waved her outside.

“Morning Feisty, how did you sleep?” he asked after she was seated across from him.

“Okay.” she replied. “I forgot how exhausting holidays were!”

“Just wait till you have kids, it’s going to wipe you out.”

Emma nodded even though she knew, at that point in her life, that would not be happening any time soon or at all. AJ felt bad that he had mentioned it like that and he attempted to change the subject by asking the question that was on his mind from the day before.

“What was with your face yesterday when you opened up Nick’s gift? Did you not like it?”

Emma didn’t realize that anyone had noticed it and she lied to avoid any further conversation.

“No, it was beautiful.”

“Yeah,” he said, not letting it go, “you said that to everyone yesterday but your face said something different. What gives?”

“Nothing.” Emma replied. “There was no …”

AJ held up a hand to stop her before she said anything else.

“You’re not getting out of this so just tell me what’s going on.”

Emma thought long and hard before she decided to tell AJ what had been going on.

“It’s a beautiful gift but I have no where to use it.”

“Huh?” AJ asked. “Are you having a senior moment? You use it at your job.”

“You mean the one I don’t have anymore?”

Emma paused for the shock of her statement to hit AJ before she began to explain what had happened over the last few weeks.

When she had returned to work after Thanksgiving, Emma’s boss had called her into her office to have, what she said, was a conversation about attendance; what it had really been was her boss’ way of firing her. When Emma had pressed her for a reason why she was being let go, her boss had pulled out an outdated copy of the teacher rules that no one had actually used in years. There was a passage in the fine print that said if a teacher took, what the headmaster or headmistress determined to be, too much time off without advance notice, they could be let go without any other reason.

“That’s bullshit!” AJ hissed. “Isn’t there anything that you can do? That’s just not fair!”

Emma explained that, since there are no unions in private schools, there was nothing she could do about it. Her boss had hated her from the moment she started because she had a good relationship with her co-workers and this woman did not. Even though no one had used the book before, her boss had dug it out to search for ways to get rid of Emma and, unfortunately, she had walked right into it without knowing.

“So because I couldn’t take care of Nick and I needed your help, I cost you your job.”

“No.” Emma replied adamantly. “I could have said no and not done it. She was just looking for a reason and I gave it to her without realizing it. She would have eventually found another way if this hadn’t happened. This isn’t anyone else’s fault, it’s all on her.”

AJ was pissed and wanted to call her boss up just to lay into her, but it wouldn’t help the situation.

“What are you going to do now?”

“I’m not sure.” Emma replied honestly. “Michael and Arthur are moving to New York at the end of January so I can stay in the house until then. After that, I haven’t decided yet.”

“What decision do you have to make?”

Emma explained that her parents, who had previously lived in Florida, moved to England a few years before after taking a month-long trip over there with friends and falling in love with Cornwall. They had opened a small bookstore and attached café not long after moving there and she hadn’t had the time to visit. Since she was now unemployed, they asked her to come over and stay with them for a while. She missed her parents and was seriously contemplating going over and getting some space for a bit.

“So, you’re going to pack up your whole life and move to a different country?”

They both jumped when they heard the sliding door slam and were surprised to find an angry looking Nick standing there.

“You’re moving to another country over my dead body!”