17 Years Ago
It was a rainy day at the end of June in Vancouver. The skies were gray, the rain hadn’t stopped for two days and this was also the time that most drivers forgot how to drive. These were the days that Nicole hated the most. She didn’t think that it was so difficult to just slow down and be more cautious when the rain began to fall, but clearly it was.
Nicole was 18, she had just graduated from high school and she was beginning her new job as a receptionist in a high end law firm in downtown Vancouver. Nicole and her best friend Beth had just moved into an apartment together the week before and so far she was loving her new life.
She was driving slowly down Main Street taking in the sights as she did when she noticed the black Lincoln SUV come to a sudden stop in front of her. She slammed on her breaks, but she was unable to stop in time and smashed into the back end of the vehicle. The air bag in her steering wheel deployed and smashed into her face with such force that she heard a crack. She wasn’t sure what broke, but she knew that something had happened.
“Shit,” Nicole groaned as she slowly managed to undo her seatbelt and push her door open, “Perfect...just perfect.”
Nicole stumbled out of her car and walked to the front where her car was pinned under the SUV. Her car was totalled and she was pretty sure that the insurance company would declare it as a write off.
“Shit,” she heard someone behind her say, “Are you ok?”
Nicole felt someone put their hand on her shoulder and turn her around. She looked up at the person who was standing in front of her and all of a sudden a wave of dizziness consumed her.
“Woah,” the guy said as he caught her in his arms, “Let’s sit you down and get you checked out. Are you ok?”
Nicole was having a hard time getting her bearings and she felt disoriented. Nicole shook her head in response as he took out a Kleenex from his pocket and wiped her face.
“I am so sorry,” he said quietly as he pushed her hair out of her face, “I was driving too fast and the stop was unexpected.”
“I’m sorry, I should have stopped sooner,” Nicole mumbled, “I didn’t see...I feel so dizzy...Are you ok?”
“I’m fine, don’t worry about me,” he replied, “Once we talk to the police I’ll take you to the hospital and get you checked out. Were you on your way somewhere? Can I call someone for you?”
“New job...it’s my first day,” Nicole replied slowly, “Perfect first impression if you ask me.”
“Where? I’ll call them and let them know what happened,” the man offered as he knelt in front of her.
“Thomas Patterson,” Nicole replied, “It’s a law firm on Georgia Street. I’m the new receptionist. They said they might even be able to give me an assistant job sooner as one of their articling students’ needs an assistant. I guess that won’t happen now...”
“You’re Nicole?” the man asked.
Nicole looked up at the man kneeling in front of her and for the first time she actually noticed him. He was beautiful, the most gorgeous man she had ever seen and he knew who she was. His eyes were a dark brown and they glistened as he looked down at her with concern. His hair was spiky and dark brown and he was about 6′2". She was captivated by him and for the first time in a long time, Nicole Buchanan was speechless.
“How do you know me?” she asked after a moment.
“I’m Ryan Wilson, the articling student that needs an assistant,” he replied with a grin, “I guess I made just as good of a first impression eh?”
Nicole giggled and then winced as the pain shot through her whole head. She leaned her head against the side of her car and closed her eyes praying desperately that the pain would subside quickly.
“Please don’t fire me before I even start,” Nicole mumbled, “I need a job for the summer and part time once I start school in the fall.”
“I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen,” Ryan replied with a smile, “I’m sure they will understand.”
Nicole smiled at the memory of when she first met Ryan as she helped Hudson out of the bathtub and dried him off later that evening. She had remembered that day like it was only yesterday. Ryan had called the office and explained the situation before he took her to the hospital. She had a broken nose and a fairly significant concussion and for that reason the emergency doctor had thought it would be best to keep her there overnight for observation. Ryan had stayed with her the whole day and did a little work while he was with her, but for the most part he just sat with her and they talked about everything.
“Momma,” Hudson squealed bringing her back to the present, “Cold!”
“Of course baby,” Nicole replied as she wrapped him up in his towel and carried him to his bedroom, “Let’s get your pyjamas on.”
She sat her little boy on his big boy race car bed and rummaged through his drawer for his favorite NASCAR pyjamas. When she found them she turned around and smiled at Hudson who was struggling to put on his pull-ups.
“Do you want mommy’s help?” she asked him with a small smile on her face amazed at how fast time flew.
“No...I do it,” he replied as he finally got both legs in the holes and pulled up his pants, “I big boy!”
“Yes you are sweetheart!” Nicole exclaimed happily, “I’m so proud of you. Now come here, let mommy put your pj’s on.”
Hudson ran over to Nicole with a cute little smile on his face and lifted his hands up in the air. She smiled down at him as she slipped the shirt over his head and then ruffled his dark blond hair and looked into his sparkling blue eyes. He had such an innocent soul and she was glad that he was young enough to not understand what was going on with his mommy and daddy. It was because of him and what her and Chad used to have that made her marriage worth fighting for. But seeing Ryan this afternoon struck a chord inside her which made this all the more confusing for her.
Once she was finished dressing Hudson for bed she pulled the covers back and Hudson crawled into bed. He pulled the covers up to his neck and Nicole handed him his favorite teddy bear named Charlie and he gave her a big appreciative smile. She jumped when she heard a knock at the door.
“Daddy!” Hudson cheered happily.
Nicole turned and saw her husband standing in the doorway in a pair of jeans and a black tight fitting t-shirt. His dark blond hair was damp which meant that he had just gotten home from the gym and he greeted them both with a smile. He did his very best to hide the fact that their situation was a serious one.
“Hi,” she said quietly to him, “I’ll let you say goodnight. I’ll meet you downstairs.”
He nodded in response as she walked past him and into their room to get changed. She slipped out of her blue “doctor” dress as her son called it and put on her favorite pair of yoga pants and a tank top, pulled her long brown hair into a messy pony tail and made her way downstairs to get dinner ready.
When she walked into the kitchen she was astonished. The kitchen has been cleaned, there was a beautiful bouquet of flowers on the table, there was a bottle of her favorite red wine sitting on the counter, and dinner had already been started and was in the oven cooking.
She looked around the kitchen, thinking that someone had broken into her house and decided to clean instead of robbing the place when she noticed a pad of paper and some pamphlets on the counter beside the wine. Tears sprung to her eyes and all thoughts of Ryan disappeared just as fast as they had appeared. In that moment it had been very apparent that Chad wanted to fight for their marriage just as much as she did. He had printed out a whole bunch of different information on marriage counsellors in the Vancouver area and a bunch of information on what they can do as a couple to better themselves and better their marriage. She looked through the pamphlets quickly and she was quite impressed with all the work Chad had put into this.
“Hey,” Chad said as he walked into the kitchen making her jump, “I thought I’d help you out with dinner.”
“Thanks,” Nicole replied quietly looking up at him, “Did Hudson go down ok for you?”
“Yeah,” Chad replied with a small smile, “He sure is a talker, that one. He had a whole bunch of stories to tell me…Nicole, I’m sorry that I haven’t been around much over the last month.”
Nicole wasn’t able to respond to this immediately. She began to feel anxious and wondered if his affair had only been going on for a month, or if it had been going on much longer like she had expected it had. She wanted him to tell her everything, but every time she thought about him with her, she wanted to break things. She wanted to scream at him, she wanted to cry. She wanted to hurt him as badly as he had hurt her, but she knew that wasn’t going to solve the problem. But she absolutely had no idea how to solve the problem to begin with. They were never given a marriage manual and she never thought she would be one of those wives.
“I don’t think an “I’m sorry” is going to fix this problem Chad,” Nicole said quietly and calmly as she looked up at him, “If you are serious about wanting to fight for our marriage, we do this my way. I can’t be rushed, you have to talk to me, you have to start being honest with me. You betrayed my trust in the biggest possible way. It’s not going to be easy to fix that. We will go talk to someone together and we will try to repair, together, what you destroyed.”
Nicole knew she sounded like a horrible naggy wife, but she had no choice. She knew that she had to guard her heart more than anything right now. She wasn’t about to let herself get hurt again.
“I understand,” Chad replied as he moved closer to her, “I am completely committed to working on our marriage and repairing the damage that I caused.”
“How long Chad?” Nicole blurted out, instantly regretting the question.
Chad gave her a confused look. By the looks of it, he wasn’t sure what she was asking. She didn’t want to know details, but she did want to know how long they were seeing each other and she wanted to know if they were ever together in this house that the two of them shared together.
“How long were you seeing her Chad?” Nicole asked again, this time specifying what she meant, “And were you ever together in our home? But please spare me the details.”
“I’ve been seeing Anna for one year,” Chad replied quietly as he looked down at his hands, “And we have been here a few times...”
Nicole took a deep breath and held it in for a moment before slowly exhaling. She realized that this might be more difficult than she had expected. Her heart hurt even more when he told her how long they were together and that they had been here, in their home, together. She just couldn’t wrap her head around the information he had just shared with her.
“You know what...” Nicole breathed as calmly as she could, “I can’t do this right now. This is too much for me right now.”
“Nic...Please give me a chance to explain,” Chad pleaded as he reached for her hand, “Don’t give up yet. Give me one chance.”
Nicole quickly pulled her hand away from his and stared at him incredulously. She didn’t want to be in the same room as him right now. She couldn’t bear the thought of trying to fix this after he had already been with Anna for a year. How did she not see this coming?
“I can’t believe you were with her for a year Chad,” Nicole spat back, “And that you were together in our home! I’m not giving up on what we had, but it’s going to take me some time to process this. I need you to leave. I can’t be in the same house as you right now. I’ll leave to give you some time to pack the things you need.”
Nicole looked at him for a moment before she grabbed her purse and left the house. She had no idea where she was going to go, but she knew that she couldn’t be there with him.
After about an hour of driving around her neighbourhood, tempted to drive over to Anna’s place and give her a piece of her mind, she decided that the best thing would be to go and see her mom. She hadn’t told her mother anything yet and she thought it would be best to fill her in before she found out from someone else.
She pulled into her parents’ driveway and pulled her phone out of her purse. There was a text from Chad – I’ve got what I need for now. When you get home I will head over to Trevor’s place. I’m so sorry Nic. Take your time. She quickly texted back – I’ll be home in a bit. At my parents’ house. She turned off her phone and threw it in her purse before she turned off the ignition and slowly began the trek up the driveway to the front door. Sure enough, the door opened before she even knocked. Her mother stood there with an undecipherable look on her face. It was almost like she knew what was coming next.
Holly led Nicole into the kitchen and sat her down at the table. Without asking, Nicole’s mom poured her a glass of orange juice and then sat down at the table across from her. While growing up her mother would always pour her a glass of orange juice when something was wrong. Nicole didn’t know why, but for some reason orange juice always made her feel better.
“Where is Hudson?” Holly asked.
“He is with Chad,” Nicole replied quietly before she took a sip of her juice.
“What’s going on sweetheart?” Holly questioned, “You have been off for a few days now. I’ve been worried about you.”
“My loving husband has been having a scandalous affair with Anna,” Nicole stated faintly, “I don’t know why I never saw it. I never clued in to how traitorous he was being.”
“How did you find out?” Holly inquired as she reached over and grabbed her daughter’s hand.
“He told me on Friday that he wanted a divorce, that he was no longer in love with me. He even told me that he wasn’t having an affair, just that he no longer felt anything for me,” Nicole whimpered, “Which was why I brought Hudson over here that night. I didn’t know how to deal with it. Beth put two and two together and figured out that he was having an affair with her lying two-faced sister.”
“Does he want to fix the damage?” Holly questioned, “Is he willing to fight for your marriage?”
“He is...and so was I until...” Nicole began before she took a deep breath and continued, “...until he told me they had been seeing each other for a year and that they have been together in our home! I don’t know how to deal with this! How am I ever going to trust him again? I kicked him out tonight. He is leaving when I get home.”
Nicole looked up at her mom who looked pained, but was unable to let the tears fall. Holly was a woman who would never let herself appear weak in front of her children, but the moment they left the dam would break and she would cry. But this time was different. The moment they looked into each other’s eyes the emotions overtook both of them. Holly slid her chair next to Nicole’s and wrapped her arms around her little girl. They cried together for what seemed like hours.
After a little while Nicole pulled away from her mother and looked down at her hands. She wanted to tell her the other part, but she wasn’t sure how her mother would deal with it. Her mother never really liked Chad from the moment she met him. She knew that Nicole had fallen for him the moment he walked into her life so she did her best to tolerate him, but when it was just the two of them, Holly never hid her feelings. Ryan, on the other hand, she had loved him from the moment Nicole had introduced them and was devastated when Ryan ended things.
“What’s wrong sweetie?” Holly asked curiously.
“I ran into Ryan today on my lunch break...” Nicole stated like it wasn’t a big deal.
Her mother stopped in her tracks and she locked eyes with Nicole. Nicole knew she was about to get a mouthful from her mother if she didn’t explain.
“Mom, before you start freaking out about this, please know that Ryan saw me at my spot down by the water,” Nicole stated, putting her hand up to stop her mother, “He sought me out to say hello. Nothing else has happened and that’s as far as it has gone.”
“I’m just worried that this might be too much for you too soon Nic,” her mother pointed out, “I know how you felt for Ryan and that’s not a feeling you experience every day. Just be careful sweetheart, that’s all I can say to you. I know that you will do what’s right for you and Hudson.”
Nicole couldn’t come up with a quick response to that statement. She knew her mother was right about this. She had to be careful and she knew she couldn’t focus on what her heart mostly wanted and what she knew was right. She knew she had to fight for her marriage even if her heart had been put back together, even if just for a short moment, when she saw Ryan that day.