Nicole was curled up in the big arm chair in front of the window in Beth and Alex’s living room. Her head was resting on a big purple pillow and she hadn’t moved since they broke the news to her. She was tired and she didn’t think that her almost obliterated heart could take much more.
She had no idea how long she had been curled up in the chair until she heard someone walk into the living room. She looked up and saw Ryan standing there with his hands in his pockets. It appeared that he had come straight from the courthouse as he was still wearing his suit. The top button of his shirt was unbuttoned and his tie was loosened in an attempt to make himself a little more comfortable.
“Did you want to come and eat dinner?” Ryan asked her quietly, “Alex made lasagna and garlic bread.”
“In a minute,” she whispered as a small smile spread across her face, “I love his lasagna.”
“That’s what Alex said,” Ryan stated, “I’ll leave you alone now. We will be waiting in the kitchen.”
“Ryan,” Nicole called as he turned towards the kitchen, “Wait...”
Ryan turned around and when their eyes made contact, Nicole reached out her hand towards him. He looked at her for a moment and then he made his way to her side and grabbed her hand in his.
“Sit with me?” she asked quietly as she scooted over in the chair to make room for him.
No words were spoken as he sat down beside her in the chair and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. Nicole curled up beside him and rested her head on his chest and wrapped her arms around his waist. She wasn’t looking for anything more than comfort from a friend at that point and she knew that he understood this. Her heart was too fragile and too confused to make many decisions right now about Ryan or even about Chad. She knew that she had let things sink in and process everything before she made a decision or a choice.
“Thank you for being here tonight,” Nicole mumbled as she breathed in his scent, “It really means a lot to me.”
“You are important to me Nic,” Ryan replied, “I want to watch out for you and take care of you like Beth and Alex do. I want to be a friend you can talk to whenever you want. Don’t be scared to call, text or come over. I’ll be there when you need me.”
Nicole lifted her head up to look at him and she smiled at him. He had managed to make her feel calm, not necessarily better or happy, but he instilled a peace and calmness in her that no one else was able to. Ryan smiled back at her before kissing her on the forehead and running a hand through her hair.
“I’ll remember that,” Nicole whispered with a small smile on her face.
Beth and Alex were talking and lost in their own little world a little while later when Ryan and Nicole finally made an appearance. Nicole sat down at the table and Ryan placed her still full wine glass in front of her. Beth’s heart did little somersaults in her chest when Nicole smiled up at Ryan. It was such a simple gesture in the grand scheme of things, but it was the happiest she had seen Nicole in weeks.
“We were wondering when you were going to make an appearance,” Beth stated with a smile.
“Sorry,” Nicole replied quietly, “I’m just at a loss. I don’t know what to do. Do I confront him? Do I just go with the flow and wait for him to come to me? I have no idea...I guess I was absent when they gave out the rule books for marriage and how to deal with your lying, cheating husband.”
Beth bit her lip to keep herself from laughing out loud at Nicole’s remark. It didn’t matter the situation, Nicole always managed to turn difficult situations into jokes, even if some people didn’t like this type of coping mechanism.
“Nicole, you know you don’t have to make a decision right now,” Alex stated, “No one is expecting you to, but it seems pretty obvious that Chad has made up his mind...”
Again, Beth bit her lip, afraid of the reaction that Nicole would have to this remark. She looked over at Nicole who was calmly taking a sip of her wine and looking back at her with a gleam in her eye. Beth knew that Nicole was keeping her cool, but on the inside she was ready to snap.
“You think I’m trying to decide whether I’m going to stay with him?” Nicole questioned, her voice sarcastic, “I already know what I’m doing with respect to that...I can’t put in an effort to save our marriage if he clearly doesn’t give a shit. The question is how do I go about doing it? I’m not worried about doing the parenting thing on my own. I’ve been doing it for the last two months with no problems. I think I’m capable.”
“What are you going to tell your counsellor when you go back in two weeks?” Beth asked her.
“That it’s over,” Nicole replied nonchalantly, “At this point, I don’t need him. He doesn’t need or want me, so why bother?”
Beth looked over at Alex, who looked incredibly concerned. This was not at all how they expected Nicole to deal with Chad and his indiscretion. Unfortunately, there was nothing that any of them could do about it. They knew that they would just have to let Nicole deal with this how she saw fit. It was clear, that at this point in the game she had made up her mind.
“Maybe don’t act too rashly,” Ryan stated hesitantly, “Just take some time to think everything through. Wait a couple days for everything to be completely processed before you make any serious decisions...”
Beth watched as Nicole turned in her seat to look at Ryan and in that moment it was like a switch flipped in Nicole’s brain. All of a sudden she was clear minded and her positive and almost heartless attitude disappeared. Nicole looked around at everyone before she put her head on the table and sobbed.
That was quick, Beth thought to herself. Beth knew that Nicole wanted to appear strong, but it was obvious to Beth that with this group of friends, Nicole knew she wasn’t fooling anyone. Beth could feel Nicole’s pain radiate through the table and it broke her heart.
A couple hours later Ryan was sitting in his truck at Nicole’s parent’s place waiting for her to pick up Hudson. Beth had asked him to follow Nicole home and make sure she was ok before he left her. Nicole had told Beth and Ryan that it wasn’t necessary, but in the end Beth had won out.
Ryan watched as Nicole emerged from the house with Hudson in her arms. He appeared to be asleep and she appeared to have been crying and in a second he was out of the truck and making his way towards her. She looked up from doing up Hudson’s car seat and looked Ryan in the eye. Her eyes were wet and she was sad, but no words were spoken.
He watched as Nicole leaned back down and kissed Hudson on the forehead before she put his bag on the floor beneath his feet. She closed the back door and leaned against the car and looked at Ryan.
“I don’t know what to do anymore Ryan,” she stated quietly, her voice cracking with emotion as she pointed at her son, “That perfect little boy is wondering why his daddy doesn’t love him anymore. Ryan, I don’t know what to say to him. I know Chad will always love him, but Hudson has definitely taken a backseat to his new mistress.”
Ryan didn’t know how to respond to this. His first thought was to say he worked with a great lawyer who could give her some advice and lead her in the right direction. His second thought was to pull her into his arms and tell her that he would help her figure this out. His third thought, however, was to go over to Anna’s place and knock some sense into the son of a bitch, but he thought this was a bit invasive and probably not in Ryan’s best interest.
He opted for thought number two. He stepped in front of her and wrapped his arms around her. He was half expecting Nicole to pull away, but to his surprise, she let out a deep sigh, wrapped her arms around his waist and leaned her head against his chest. He ran a hand through her long brown hair and held her close, knowing that this was as close as he would ever get to her unless she told him otherwise.
“I’m here Nicky,” Ryan whispered, “Whatever you need.”
“Thank you for being here Ryan,” Nicole replied quietly, “I don’t think you know how much it means to me that you are back in my life.”
He wasn’t sure, but he was fairly certain of what it meant to him now she was back in his life again. If she would let him, he would show her how sorry he was for leaving her. He would show her how sorry he was over how things had ended up for her. It was never his intention for her to get hurt like she had. He let her go because he wanted her to have everything that, at the time, he couldn’t give her.
“I need to get Hudson home to bed,” Nicole said after a moment and pulling away from him, “If you want to come over for dinner after the trial tomorrow, you are more than welcome. I’m not going to work tomorrow. I need some time to think.”
Ryan ran a quick hand through her hair again and she smiled up at him. His heart flipped. He was happy that she had asked him to come over.
“I understand and you should take as much time as you need,” Ryan replied, smiling back at her, “I’ll be over at your place around 5:30.”
Nicole smiled up at him and then placed a soft and gentle kiss on his lips before walking towards the driver’s side of the car.
“Until tomorrow then,” she said to him as she waved.
He watched as she drove away and then placed a hand over his heavily beating heart. Yes, he thought, until tomorrow.