Nick and my parents got along famously, almost as if they’ve known each other forever but were waiting to be reunited. Rachel fit in well also, acting as the little sister I’ve always known her to be: bubbly, and ready to fly out the door or sneak out and do her own thing, and be with her group. She had met Nick briefly before, but now it was like the ice thawed and everyone was completely normal, and completely true to who they are. We had a great meal together and laughed as a family, truly enjoying each other’s presence for every moment possible before we had to go to the airport again.
“Mama, Dad,” I smiled, “I’m going to miss you guys.” Their eyes filled with tears as I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. Nick and Rachel each took one of my hands, and one of my parents, as we all comforted each other. “My only wish is that I had brought Nick home sooner, because he’s who I’ve been seeing all week. I would love for more moments like these, but I don’t wanna wait another year again,” I smiled, wiping at my eyes. “I think I’m gonna move back home, Mama. I mean, Nick and I will have our own place, but I really don’t know what I was thinking, moving an entire country away, thinking I would be okay without my parents!” Mom blew her nose into a napkin next to her, then rushed around the table to pull me into a long, tight hug.
“You can always come home to us, baby, we love you!” She beamed down at me as she wiped my tears gently. “If you decide you do want to come back here and don’t have a place to stay lined up yet, you can always stay here until you get back on your feet and find a place of your own again. You, and you,” she smiled, looking at Nick, “You are both always welcome here, no matter the day or time. It’s home here, just come on in and make yourselves comfortable.” I gave hugs to my whole family, kissed all their cheeks, and Nick and I slowly walked back to the car with our giant suitcases.
“Are you okay, Di? We don’t have to go back today.” He squeezed my hand gently as I clicked the seat belt. I turned to look at him with a half smile.
“It’s okay,” I sighed. “It’s hard leaving every time, but even if we didn’t go back today, we would have to eventually go home. All of my things are in San Diego and I would at least need to go back and pick it up,” I paused. Nick thought aloud with me.
“What if we went back to pick everything up, and came back in a week or so?” he asked excitedly. “I mean, if you don’t want to that’s totally okay, but wherever you go is where I’ll go, too.” He smiled and squeezed my hand again.
“I think I do want to move back home, Nick,” I smiled, “But I do need to go back to San Diego and get some things squared away. It might take awhile, but when everything is done and ready, we can move back here, where we first kissed, and we went on our first date to that bar super late,” I giggled as he mirrored my ear to ear grin.
“As long as I’m with you, I’m okay with anything,” he leaned over and kissed me gently, igniting the fire at my core, leaving my face hot. It was over too soon, as he started the car and drove us away to the airport, where we would fly across the country, to my second home.
The flight was uneventful, no turbulence, and no oddball passengers. We had a couple hours to hang out during our layover in Chicago, giving us some time to grab some coffee and find a book to read during our remaining time and the next flight home. In the gift shop, I saw my favorite Nicholas Sparks novel sitting on the shelf, and decided it would be enough entertainment for the day. Nick settled in next to me and read a book about business and success, while I lost myself in the romantic world written before me. During the flight, I looked over at Nick, and couldn’t help but notice how truly sexy he looked wearing his glasses, reading… Stop it, Di, you’re in public!
I didn’t turn my face away fast enough, because Nick looked up and caught me chewing on my lip as I stared at him, with a tomato red face. He winked at me, and definitely didn’t forget that he caught me staring, because when we got home, as soon as I was done giving him an official tour of my tiny, one bedroom apartment, he cornered me in the bedroom and teased me. “It’s so hard to resist you anyway, Di, but in public, it was driving me absolutely mad,” he growled against my neck. “It drove me insane, in the best way possible, and I’m going to show you that tonight. We’re going to break in this apartment, no matter how long you’ve been here.” He nipped at my neck, and with every touch, he seared away all of the memories of any other guy I had brought home, any other guy I had slept with in general. The first time we had in the hotel was great, but this time was incredible; I’d never had an experience with a man in this way before. By the end, though we breathed heavily, neither of us wanted to let go, and after that, we couldn’t keep our hands off of each other.
The flirting that occurred in the hotel was mild compared to the constant sexual tension that took over the San Diego apartment. We were always touching, and always finding a new place to, “break in the apartment,” if you will. When we weren’t flirting and groping each other, we were looking at new apartments in my hometown, and were actively job searching. I had a degree in journalism, and I had no luck finding a good writing job in San Diego. Okay, that’s a lie. I hadn’t found any writing jobs in San Diego that would give me a chance, due to lack of experience, so I had to rely on waiting tables or tending bar some nights at a too-crowded bar, flashing my signature, “please give me a healthy tip” smile.
Nick had a business degree, and did have some experience, and more luck than I was having. I had absolutely no calls back, no responses regarding interviewing, where he got call after call, wanting to set up interviews over Skype or just a longer phone interview. Within a couple of weeks, he had gotten two offers, and had accepted one, to start at the beginning of the next month. Time was ticking, and I had yet to find a job, and for us to tour and agree on a place together. There were a few I loved that he wasn’t a fan of, and vice versa, and it was always small things that were the dealbreakers. Nick didn’t want anything too far from work, since traffic is crazy in the city, and I wanted something a little further out, since the city was so loud. I loved the peace and quiet my parents house offered, and I couldn’t imagine living in the city, where it was always loud and crazy. Even my apartment in San Diego was off of a small side road, away from all the noise and junk of the main part of town.
“You know, we might have to stay with my Mom and Pops for a while, at least until we find a place and can settle in,” I grumbled. I was feeling defeated, with Nick getting all of the attention from jobs, and call after call, offering a great job with awesome pay. Why can’t I do that? Why do I have to settle on waiting tables instead of following my dream of writing? I pouted and complained at myself internally, crossing my arms across my chest and flopping backwards on the bed. Nick sighed and shut down the laptop, and slowly made his way over to the bed, flopping down next to me.
“Is someone grumpy?” He taunted, tickling my side. I grunted and turned away from him, obviously pouting. “Oh, my Princess, my little Diana,” he sighed as he kissed my shoulder, “It’s okay to stay with your parents, I thought it’s what we had already planned?” His hands lingered on my waist as my pulse quickened. “Besides,” he whispered against my neck, “It will make sneaking around way more fun, and will make me feel young again.”
I snorted and turned over to face him again. “Young again? We’re only in our mid twenties, it’s not like we’re that old.” I acted shocked, before sarcastically adding, “Ohmygod baby, are we old? We’re totally old!” He laughed and pinned me down to the bed, tickling my stomach and my sides, completely causing me to forget why I was pouting in the first place.
“Babe, why were you pouting?” He asked innocently. I ran my hands through my hair and looked down at my feet, avoiding his gaze. “Baby, is someone jealous I found a job first?” He giggled quietly, then stopped, allowing me to speak.
“I’m not mad at you, don’t get me wrong,” I sighed, “But I am so absolutely envious that you found a job that you love and you’re excited for, where I won’t even get a call. I have no experience and I don’t have the chance to do what I love, I have to settle for waiting tables or working a shitty retail job!” I whined. “I guess I just can’t wait for my chance to write and have an audience, and do something I’ve always loved and am truly passionate about.”
“I have an idea,” Nick’s eyes widened. “Baby, what if you start by just writing a blog? Or posting up something online daily, weekly, or something?” He babbled excitedly, as the gears in my head started to turn. He truly was on to something, and I had considered a blog in the past, but decided against it as I mostly found only moms, health freaks, and travelers used blogs. But maybe I could change that, maybe my blog would be different. What could I write about? I couldn’t post things I had written in the past, nobody would like those. But what if they did? “Di?”
“Hmmm?” I hummed, still brainstorming what to write about. I was totally zoned out, and as Rachel would call it, I was pulling a total space cadet.
“You’re considering it, aren’t you?” Nick smiled. “What’s going on in that beautifully brilliant brain of yours?”
“I really think I could start a blog, baby,” I blurted, “I could write advice columns, or report on the news even. Or, more up my alley, I could post personal, creative writing pieces! I mean, people do that, right?” I worried, “The only thing I’m afraid of is what if-”
“Don’t go there, Di,” Nick warned, “What ifs are what kill people and keep them from pursuing their dreams, and doing what they truly want to do. I believe you could do anything you put your mind to, but the big question is, do you believe you can?” His loving eyes never left mine, smiling as my grin covered my whole face.
“Baby, I’m gonna follow my dream!” I launched myself into his arms, laughing and squeezing him tight. Nick was absolutely right, I couldn’t let ‘what ifs’ destroy me or keep me from doing what I’ve always wanted. I wouldn’t let my fear keep me from being who I really want to be, the person I lied to Nick about, and originally told him I was. I desperately wanted to be that girl, the successful, well-known author, but, I had never known quite where to start or what to do. But with Nick behind me, motivating me and cheering me on, I truly felt in my heart and soul that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do.
Nick promised he would cheer me on and motivate me, and he stayed true to his word. Not only did he keep his promise, he took it up a notch from there; he inspired me. Soon, all I did was write. My San Diego friends called within a week of not going out, or at least sending a text saying what was up or asking to go out for drinks. In all honesty, I didn’t feel the need to. Any time not spent writing, was time wasted. Nick’s inspiration sparked an inner flame that began at my core, and radiated through my entire body; I was more excited and happier than I had felt in quite a while. Soon, we were packed and ready to move back home with my parents. I was really very excited, but I was so caught up in my writing and packing and job hunting that I completely forgot to tell Nikki, Carrie, Danielle, and Claire that I was leaving them. I felt horrible for how they found out- Nikki had decided I had been holed up in my apartment for too long, and came knocking on my door just before eleven o’clock, and was shocked to see most of my things piled and packed away in boxes behind me. She was upset, and naturally, ran out of the building in tears, and called a BFF meeting so I could break the news to the other girls. Danielle was my best friend in San Diego, and she was devastated to hear I was leaving her behind. The rest were sad per usual, and made me promise to call and Skype, and to come visit soon.
We had packed most of our belongings into a small trailer, and were able to pack the rest in the bed of Nick’s giant silver truck. I went back inside while Nick fiddled with the trailer, to grab the last few things, and the cooler to stick in the backseat, full of snacks and drinks for the journey. Heavy footsteps rang out from the hallway, moving quickly towards the apartment. Danielle hurled herself through the door and into my arms for a final goodbye before I left her behind. “I can’t believe you’re really leaving us,” she bawled, “You’re my best friend and I’m just going to miss you so much, I don’t want you to go!” Danielle cried.
“I know, babe, you’re my best friend, too,” I smiled, trying to swallow the lump in my throat as I wiped her tears. “You know, you’re welcome to come visit me too, and maybe meet my-”
“Di, do you need some help? What can I carry?” Nick stepped into the empty apartment, and as soon as he saw Danielle, he stiffened. Danielle whirled around to face him, and immediately pushed me away, as if I had a contagious skin rash. The anger and tension between Danielle and Nick was thick enough to cut with a knife, and once I read their facial expressions, I had an idea what was going on. Play stupid, Di, make them do the confessing. You confess to nothing. Nick was the one who broke the silence. “Danielle, how are you?” His voice was hard and cold.
Danielle’s was plain harsh, words sharp enough to slice skin. “How am I, Nick? I’m fucking peachy,” she snapped, and whirled around to face me again. “Are you dating him, Diana?” Danielle demanded, eyes wild. I narrowed my eyes at her, staying silent. “Diana, are you seeing him? Please, answer me,” she went from wild eyed to the best friend I had thought I recognized. Her eyes pleaded to talk to her, but I wasn’t going to say another word until they confessed.
“Diana, it’s not what you think,” Nick grumbled as he rubbed his temples. “Right, Danielle?” Nick looked up at me, and immediately recognized the hurt in my eyes. He sucked in a breath to speak again, but Danielle beat him to the punch.
“It is what you think, actually,” Danielle whispered, ashamed. Tears stung my eyes as I nodded, motioning for her to continue. “We slept together a couple months ago, just before you left to go home. Do you remember the guy I told you about, that strung me along and never called me, basically used me and left me, never to be seen again?”
“Don’t you dare lie to her, Danielle,” Nick warned, his voice growing louder. “You were the one that dumped me! We dated, and I was a gentleman to you. I was actually falling in love with you, Danielle, and when I finally decided to sleep with you, you were gone the next morning. You texted me, saying ‘something came up,’ and that we weren’t going to work! And women say men are bad? You broke my heart, and Diana mended it.” Nick looked at the floor, and as I looked up, I saw him wipe tears from his eyes. Danielle didn’t defend herself or deny his claim, and already, I knew my best friend- ex-best friend, is a liar.
I walked over, and laced my fingers through Nick’s, choosing to believe him. “Get out,” I demanded.
Her teary-eyed gaze met mine again. “You don’t believe me, Di? After all we’ve-”
“I said, get out!” I shrieked. “Get out, and don’t you dare contact me or Nick ever again! Do you hear me?” I screamed. “Now, get out!” Danielle covered her mouth, attempting to hide her loud, ugly sobbing as she ran out the apartment door and down the stairs. As soon as she was gone, I dropped Nick’s hand, and focused only on grabbing the few remaining bags to load up in the truck. He blocked the doorway, not allowing me through.
“Diana, talk to me,” he pleaded, “At least look at me. Please, babe.”
I took a deep breath before speaking, willing myself to calm down at least a tiny bit before I lashed out at the wrong person. “Nick, I don’t want to talk about this right now, but after I have calmed down, I will,” I spoke calmly as he nodded, “I just need to gather my thoughts and relax before I wrongly take out my anger on you.” He moved, allowing me through, as he locked the apartment for the last time. He left the keys in an envelope under the mat, and climbed into the truck next to me, completely silent. I turned on the radio and cranked the volume, not allowing him the opportunity to speak up and to me, and not allowing me the same chance, either.
We stayed silent for what felt like hours, but after about an hour on the road, with the music blaring and the blinding sun hitting my eyes, I covered my face with a hat and drifted into sleep. I woke up when the truck came to a slow stop at a gas station. I breathed heavily and sat up, rubbing my sore neck and stretching my legs. Without saying a word to me, Nick got out of the car and filled the tank and wiped down the windows, taking his time. I decided I needed a salty snack and to take my time in the bathroom, so I got out and walked in, wallet in hand. I truly did take my time, spending about ten minutes inside the small convenience store, and when I walked back out to the truck, Nick was waiting patiently as I climbed in, staring at me intensely.
“Nick, I’m not mad at you,” I blurted. “I’m not mad at you, I’m mad at Danielle. The only thing I’m really mad and hurt about is that nobody told me,” I breathed deeply, “All I needed was to know and I wouldn’t have freaked out like that, and made an ass out of myself,” I sighed again. Nick covered my hand with his and squeezed gently, the familiar way we always do.
“I am so glad to hear you say that, babe,” He sounded relieved. “I thought you were seriously mad at me and I didn’t want to break your trust. I would never, and will never sleep with anyone else now that I have you.” He stopped long enough to kiss my hand, and I pulled his face to mine, kissing him gently, and squeezing his hand. “I’m in love with you, Diana Malley,” Nick smiled. “I’m completely in love with you, and this feeling, these feelings I have for you will never fade.” Tears welled up in my eyes as he was talking, and I crawled across the seat of the truck and climbed into his lap, allowing him to hold me tightly. I wiped the tears from my eyes before looking back at him, running my fingers along the side of his face softly.
“I’m in love with you too, Nick,” I smiled. “I love you, and I think that I’ve known it from the first few days we started seeing each other. It’s why I got so hurt about these two girls, and why I felt like I lost my damn mind, and my hope.” I kissed him slowly and passionately, leaving a trail of kisses down his neck, causing him to shiver. We kept kissing until we heard another man wolf whistle at us from the gas pump in front of us, when we burst into an uncontrollable giggling fit. I crawled back across the seat and strapped myself in, ready for the next leg of the journey home.
“Alright, Captain,” I teased, “It’s time for takeoff.”
Nick smiled, and kissed my hand. “Let’s go home.”
“Yes,” I agreed, beaming back at him. “Let’s go home, to our family.”
TO BE CONTINUED…