Nicole had gotten less than an hour of sleep that night. She had thought it was the best time to go through all of her storage boxes that were in her closet. She came across various mementos, photos going all the way back to when she was a child and different journals she had written in. In particular she had found a journal that she had written in when she had been seeing Ryan and her heart fluttered slightly in her chest. She smiled as her journal entries took her back to when she was 19 and falling in love with him. Part of her wished that she could go back to those days, but she knew that it wouldn’t be right to lose herself too much in those memories.
She had been sitting on her floor going through all those memories since 1:30 in the morning. She lifted her head from a journal she was looking through when she heard a door open. It was 5:30 now and like clockwork her bedroom door opened and in walked her little sleepy three year old.
“What doing on the foor?” he asked as he looked at her through groggy eyes, “Why no sleepin?”
Nicole couldn’t help but smile as she patted her lap and held out her arms to Hudson. He toddled over to her and snuggled into her lap and gave her a little kiss on the cheek.
“Mommy couldn’t sleep baby,” she replied quietly, “But mommy did find this cute picture of when you were just a baby.”
She held the picture up for Hudson and he reached out for it and looked closely at it. He turned and looked at her and broke into a huge smile.
“Me?” he asked as he pointed at the picture, “Can I have it?”
“Of course you can baby,” Nicole replied before kissing his forehead softly, “Go put it in your room and then I will come and help you get dressed. We have to go to grandmas early today.”
He nodded his head, struggled to get off Nicole’s lap and went running down the hall to his bedroom. She smiled to herself as she began throwing what hadn’t been sorted back into the box. She couldn’t believe that it was possible to love a human being as much as she loved Hudson. If it wasn’t for that little boy, she probably would have given up the moment she found out about Chad’s affair. She had to keep telling herself that it wasn’t just about her and Chad but that it was about Hudson and how he needed his parents.
She disappeared into the walk-in closet and picked out her outfit for the day and then she walked down the hallway to Hudson’s bedroom. He stood in the middle of his bedroom floor with a big smile on his face as he looked down at the clothes on the floor. There were a pair of black jeans and a Lightning McQueen t-shirt set out. It was the first time he had picked out his own outfit.
“I helped mommy,” he cheered as he pointed at the clothes, “I wear this!”
Nicole laughed quietly as she moved towards him and knelt down in front of him. She looked into his eyes and ran her hand through his hair as she smiled at him. If for some reason things didn’t work out with her and Chad, she knew that her and Hudson would be just fine on their own. She never doubted Chad’s love for their son and she knew that he would be faithful to being the best father he could to Hudson, no matter what happened.
“Let’s get you dressed,” Nicole said quietly, not wanting to wake up Chad, “Then mommy has to get ready for work.”
A little while later once Nicole had dropped Hudson off at her parents’ she pulled up to Beth’s house and waited. She had texted her friend and colleague and offered to take her to work that day and she had happily accepted. They hadn’t really had an opportunity to talk since everything happened on the weekend and Nicole had really missed her friend.
“Hey there beautiful,” Beth said happily as she hopped into the car, “Thanks for the pickup.”
“You are more than welcome,” Nicole replied, “I know it’s early but I have some paper work to catch up on before my first patient and I have a counselling appointment at 4:00. Lots of stuff to do today.”
Beth turned her head and looked over at Nicole with her eyebrow raised.
“Counselling appointment?” Beth questioned, “Is this a solo act or are you and Chad going together?”
“Together,” Nicole replied with an eye roll, “Did you know they were together for a year? How could I be so blind to this? They were together in our home...A very large part of me wants to give up Beth...”
Nicole noticed the look that Beth gave her. It was a look of sadness and disbelief and anger. Beth reached over and grabbed Nicole’s hand and squeezed it as Nicole pulled away from the curb. Neither one of them said a word as she drove out of Beth’s neighbourhood and down the street to the highway.
“I didn’t think that Anna was capable of something like this Nicole,” Beth said quietly, “I honestly thought I knew her better than that. I’m sorry this is happening to you, but I really do hope you can work this out with Chad.”
Nicole reached down into her bag as she kept her eyes on the road, pulled out the journal that she found earlier that morning and handed it to Beth. Beth looked over at Nicole and then took the book from her.
“What’s this?” Beth asked curiously as she opened the front cover.
“It’s my journal from my first year with Ryan,” Nicole mumbled, “I found it this morning when I was going through a whole bunch of boxes in my closet.”
“Oh...” Beth replied, her eyes going wide in response, “You haven’t talked about Ryan in years. What made you bring him up?”
“I ran into him yesterday...” Nicole said reluctantly, “I didn’t know whether I should say anything, but thought you would want to know.”
Again, another silence took over and neither one of them knew what to say. Nicole did a shoulder check before she merged onto the freeway and wondered what was going through Beth’s head at that moment.
“Well, you know what I thought about Ryan,” Beth said quietly after a little while.
Nicole smiled at this. Beth absolutely adored Ryan and if she had had it her way, she would have ended up with him instead of her. But when things turned more serious for her and Ryan, Beth was supportive of their relationship and she was happy for them.
“I think you still need to give your marriage a chance Nicole,” Beth continued, “I know how you felt for Ryan and probably still do, but even though you would much rather castrate your husband at the moment, you have to try.”
“So do I Beth,” Nicole replied, “But I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not like running in to him didn’t throw me for a loop.”
When they had gotten to the office Nicole had disappeared into her office to get her paper work done before they opened and Beth decided to step out and pick up coffees for everyone. She waited as the elevator door opened and she walked off lost in her own little world.
“Beth?” someone said as they were about to get on the elevator.
Beth was brought back to reality when she saw the man of the hour. Ryan stood in front of her with his usual beautiful smile on his face and she smiled back at him. Was it “run into Ryan Wilson week” or what?
“Ryan...hi!” Beth said, sounding surprised, “What are you doing here?”
“I have a mediation to get to on the 12th floor,” he replied, “It doesn’t start for an hour but I like to get an early start on preparation. You work here?”
“I run the doctor’s office on the 14th floor with Nicole,” Beth replied hesitantly, “She actually just told me about your run in yesterday. It must’ve been nice to see her hey?”
“Absolutely,” Ryan replied with a small smile, “I heard she is married to Chad Sanders. Is that true?”
“Yeah, they’ve been married for 8 years and together for 12 years,” Beth replied reluctantly, “Why, do you know him?”
“I went to law school with him,” Ryan replied, “Seemed like a good guy. I never really knew him. Nicole seemed somewhat distracted yesterday. Is she doing ok?”
Beth looked up at the man in front of her. He was even more gorgeous than she remembered. His brown hair was shorter and shaved on the sides, he had about three days’ worth of growth on his face which made him incredibly sexier than he was when he was 24. His brown eyes sparkled and he had bulked up a little since the last time she saw him. She had to give her head a shake before he caught her admiring him.
“Not really, no,” Beth replied, knowing in that moment exactly why Nicole had fallen in love with him, “She is having problems with Chad. I don’t know if I am supposed to be saying anything to you about this.”
“What kind of problems?” he questioned, his expression turning to one of concern.
“I don’t think I should say anymore,” Beth replied feeling uncomfortable and looking down at her hands, “I think you should talk to her if you want to know. I have to get going now, but it was really great to see you Ryan.”
She flashed him a quick smile and made a quick exit outside. She knew it was rude to leave him without hardly saying goodbye, but she didn’t think that she had any other choice.
Beth knew exactly what was going to happen in this situation. It may take a while to get there because Beth knew that Nicole wouldn’t give up without giving her marriage a fair fight, but Beth felt strongly that Chad had already made his bed.
17 Years Ago
Nicole had been working at Thomas Patterson for a month now and they had decided to hire her on as the assistant to Ryan Wilson full time instead of having her work as a receptionist. Her and Ryan hit it off at the accident scene and had a great working relationship and became fast friends. She had managed to not be resentful towards him for breaking her nose and giving her a concussion.
To be completely honest, Nicole was quite attracted to Ryan but knew that she would have to keep that little tidbit of information to herself. She wasn’t sure what Thomas Patterson’s policy was for interoffice relationships, but she was pretty sure that they didn’t support it. She often found herself day dreaming about Ryan, about what it would be like if he flirted with her, or ran his fingers through her hair, or touched her skin or even kissed her.
Nicole sighed heavily as she picked up her headphones and put them in her ears. She always enjoyed doing dictations for Ryan. He made her laugh as he dictated a letter or a legal document of some sort. She was still getting the hang of the job, but as each day went on, she was enjoying the job more and more. However, being a legal assistant was never part of her long time goal. During her free time at work and on her lunch breaks, Nicole was busy filling out applications and getting ready for school in the fall. She had every intention of getting into medical school and becoming a doctor, but this was a good side job for her.
She stepped on the dictation pedal and began to listen to his voice.
“Nicole, when you listen to this could you please come and see me,” Ryan’s voice instructed through the headphones, “I have to talk to you. Thank you.”
She slowly took her headphones off. She felt nervous and unsure of what he wanted to talk to her about. Had she done something wrong? Was someone complaining about her? Was he complaining about her? She took a long sip of her coffee before she stood up and slowly made her way down the hall to his office, which was conveniently located at the other end of the building. She took a deep breath and knocked on his door.
“Come on in,” Ryan called from his desk.
Nicole opened the door and walked in. He was writing something down on a notepad and she silently admired him from where she stood. His hair was freshly cut and spiked up, his suit jacket was hanging over the back of his chair, his white work shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and his tie was thrown over his shoulder. He put his pen down and looked up at her with a sweet smile on his face.
“Nicole, hi,” Ryan said, sounding happy to see her, “Come in, close the door behind you if you don’t mind.”
Nicole shyly closed the door behind her and walked to a chair in front of his desk. She took a seat and watched him as he moved around the desk and sat on the edge and shoved his hands in his pockets.
“I got your dictation,” Nicole said quietly, “Is everything ok?”
He looked at her for moment curiously and it was like he had forgotten about the dictation.
“You told me you had something to talk to me about,” Nicole pointed out.
“Oh right, sorry, I’ve been so busy getting ready for this trial,” Ryan replied as he ran a hand through his hair, “And yes, everything is ok. Everything is more than ok...”
“What did you want to talk to me about?” Nicole prodded, wanting to hear what he had to say, “You kind of got me wondering now...”
“You’re beautiful Nicole,” Ryan stated, getting straight to the point, “I thought so since the moment I saw you standing outside your car holding a Kleenex over your nose.”
Nicole’s eyes widened in surprise and she supressed a giggle as he told her this. Well, she was not expecting that.
He reached for her hand and she placed hers in his and then he pulled her up so she was standing in front of him. He placed his hands gently on her hips and looked into her eyes.
“Maybe I misread the signals,” Ryan said huskily, “But I feel like you have been showing interest. Am I wrong?”
“Yes...,” Nicole blurted out nervously, not really knowing why she had just lied, “...I mean no...I’m interested, but it’s against office policy.”
“I’m willing to take my chances, if you are,” he murmured before he leaned in and pressed his lips against hers softly.
Nicole forgot about everything around her as she closed her eyes and let the moment happen. His hands were warm on her hips and his lips were soft and gentle against his. She couldn’t believe this was happening, this moment was only something she ever day dreamed or fantasized about. She wrapped her arms around his neck as the kiss deepened and he lifted her up in his arms and sat her down on the desk.
“No one has to know,” Ryan whispered as he looked deep into her eyes, “At least not yet...”
Nicole was sitting at the table in the lunch room at work reading her journal. Once she read about their first kiss in his office she had to close it. It reignited feelings in her that she didn’t know she still had and it confused her. She never stopped loving Ryan and she still didn’t really understand why he ended things with her, but that love diminished over time when she met Chad and started a new life with him.
“Guess who I ran into this morning?” Beth sang as she bustled into the lunch room, “You and I have both been so busy that I haven’t had time to talk to you today.”
“Ryan,” Nicole blurted out, pulling a random name out of her head.
Beth turned and looked at Nicole with a raised eyebrow as she placed her microwave dinner in the microwave and then turned and leaned against the counter.
“Lucky guess...how did you know?” Beth asked her.
“I guess it’s just “Run into Ryan” week,” Nicole replied as she laughed quietly, “Where did you see him? What was he doing?”
“In the building,” Nicole replied, “I saw him when I was stepping out to get coffee this morning. He was on his way up to 12 for a mediation. He asked about you. He seemed concerned and said you didn’t seem quite like yourself yesterday when he ran into you. I may or may not have told him that you weren’t ok, but then I left faster than he could blink when he tried to get more information.”
Nicole looked at her for a moment and then wondered to herself if he was still here. Maybe she could catch him before he left.
“Nic, I know what you’re thinking right now,” Beth said pointedly, “Don’t you dare. Don’t see him until you know where things stand with Chad. You’re family comes first and if you go to Ryan...well we all know what would happen. Don’t do it.”
“You’re right,” Nicole said with a sigh, “I’ll be cautious. Now I must get to my last patient before I go and try to fix my mess of marriage.”
Nicole got up and with a heavy sigh she walked out of the lunch room and down the hall. She couldn’t help it, but the more she thought about her marriage, the more negative she felt about the whole thing. She stopped and leaned up against the wall and took a deep breath, unable to control her emotions anymore. She felt overwhelmed and anxious and most of all she was angry that her whole life had been ripped apart.
She sank down to the ground and wrapped her arms around her knees.
“Nicole, are you ok?” Beth said quietly as she sank down beside Nicole and put her arm around her, “What’s going on?”
“I can’t do this,” Nicole replied as she shook her head, “I don’t think I’m strong enough to deal with this. Why is this happening to me?”
Nicole looked at her friend with tears in her eyes. She knew Beth didn’t know what to say to her and she understood.
“You’re a strong woman Nic,” Beth said quietly, pressing her head against Nicole’s, “You do what you think is right. You do what is best for you and Hudson. If you think that what he did is unfixable then that’s the way it is, but if you can see even a tiny light at the end of the tunnel, give it a shot. I know he hurt you so badly and I’m so sorry for that. I think you should take the rest of the week off. Get some proper sleep, go to your counselling, and spend time with Hudson. Take some you time. I’ll take your last appointment.”
Beth stood up and helped Nicole to her feet. She looked at Beth appreciatively and then wrapped her arms around her friend tightly, never wanting to let her go, but knew that she had work to do.
“Thank you,” Nicole whispered, giving her friend a small smile, “I promise I’ll be back next week.”
“I’m not worried,” Beth replied.
Nicole turned around and walked towards her office. She knew that Beth was right, but right now that light at the end of the tunnel was barely a speck.