Nicole let the tears fall down her face as she stood in a corner of the elevator and waited for it to approach the ground floor. She was so overwhelmed and she didn’t think that it was possible for her heart to break any more than it already was. Nicole looked down at her phone and pushed the button to turn it on. A picture of her, Chad and Hudson huddled together and smiling at the camera stared back up at her which only made her heart hurt more.
The door to the elevator finally opened and as Nicole rushed out of the elevator, still crying, she ran right into someone who was waiting to get on the elevator. Her eyes were clouded over with tears and she couldn’t tell by the muscular chest she was staring at, whose hands were resting on her shoulders.
“Nicky, what’s wrong?” she heard a voice ask.
Jesus, she thought as she hung her head down and tried to get the tears to stop falling down her face, why did she have to run into him again. She had completely forgotten that Ryan was in the building. She was too consumed with her life and didn’t think for a moment that he would be the one she ran into as she flew off the elevator.
“Nothing, I’m fine Ryan,” Nicole said quickly before wiping her face with the back of her hand.
“That’s bull shit,” Ryan alleged as he grabbed her wrist gently and pulled her into a corner, “I know I haven’t seen you in 13 years and things didn’t end great for us, but you and Beth have got to stop lying to me. I am truly concerned about what is going on with you Nicky.”
She pulled her wrist away from him and glared up at him, but what she saw wiped the glare right off her face. She looked into those dark brown eyes and all she saw was a man that she used to love more than 13 years ago. She saw a man, a gorgeous man that clearly was concerned about what was going on in her life and she could feel her guard go down almost immediately. But she couldn’t let herself get too lost in the moment.
“My husband has been having an affair for the last year,” Nicole replied sadly, “I am struggling horribly with the fact that I have to do what is right and try to fix my marriage. So I am sorry, but I can’t be here with you right now. It is confusing me more than you know, that you should start appearing back in my life right as this horrible turn of events has occurred. I have to go now, I have an appointment to get to.”
Nicole gave him a sad smile before she turned away from him and made her way outside without waiting for him to speak. If she stood there and waited for him to speak, it would only make it more difficult for her to walk away from him. She already didn’t want to leave him, but deep down she knew that it was the right thing for the time being.
Ryan stood there and watched her walk out of the building. He wasn’t expecting that news. He couldn’t believe that Chad would cheat on the beautiful woman that just walked away from him. She was beautiful and if she was anything like the woman he had been in love with so many years ago, that was not a woman you cheated on. She was the type of woman that you wanted to love and cherish, that you would give your life for, and make sacrifices for. She was the type of woman, that if you were ever lucky enough to have one in your life, you would be a fool to ever let her go.
A fool was exactly what he was. He was that fool that let Nicole go all those years ago. He did not really have a good explanation for letting her go, although back then, his decision to call it off with her had made all the sense in the world. But now looking back on it, it was the biggest mistake he had made.
13 Years Ago
“Hey baby,” Nicole called out as she let herself into Ryan’s apartment, “Where are you? We should celebrate! I just finished a practical test on the human brain...and I rocked it!”
Ryan had taken the day off and still hadn’t bothered to get dressed. He walked out of his bedroom where he had been doing a lot of thinking and into the living room where Nicole was taking off her runners. Her beauty, even after three years still took his breath away.
He stood in the archway to the living room and watched her every move before she stood up and turned toward him. She smiled at him and it made every nerve ending in his body start on fire.
“Did you hear me?” She asked, still smiling, “I aced my practical today!”
“That’s great baby,” Ryan murmured, his heart sinking, “I’m sorry, my mind has been elsewhere.”
Nicole walked up to him and seductively ran a finger down his bare chest before leaning in and standing on her tip toes to press her lips against his. He instinctively pressed his lips against hers and kissed her back. He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and held her close as he reveled in her warmth and in her embrace, but his whole heart was no longer in it.
“Ryan...what’s wrong?” Nicole questioned quietly as she stepped away from him, “You seem like you are somewhere else right now.”
Ryan had done a lot of thinking that morning while she was at school and even though everything was going great for them right now, he knew that it was time to set her free. He adored the woman standing in front of him right now, but it was selfish for him to keep her for himself when there was someone else out there that could give her exactly what she needed.
He reached for her hand and led her to the couch where he sat down and Nicole followed suit reluctantly. Nicole held onto his hand and looked deep into his eyes. He felt incredibly uncomfortable because he knew she could read him like a book and she knew him better than anyone.
“Nicky, I love you, you know that right?” Ryan asked quietly, his voice cracking slightly.
She nodded her head slightly in response but didn’t say anything else.
“I have thought a lot about this...actually it has been haunting me for weeks,” Ryan continued, all the while never breaking eye contact with her, “I know what you want for your future, I know you want to get married, sooner rather than later, and I know you want children once you graduate from medical school. All of these things I want you to have, but I don’t know if I can give you these things. I know that I am nowhere ready to get married, despite how much I love you. That’s not fair to you...”
“You have decided this all on your own?” she asked quietly, her hand shaking slightly in his, “I think this is a decision we should both make together...”
“I knew you would fight me on it,” Ryan mumbled, “There is someone out there that can give you everything you want without question. It’s selfish for me to keep you all to myself, when there is someone out there that can make you happier than I can.”
“I think you should let me decide...” Nicole began to argue before he cut her off.
“I’ve made up my mind about this,” Ryan snapped as he pulled away from her and stood up, “Don’t make this harder than it has to be ok? It’s for the best. It may not make sense right now, but it will one day...”
Even to this day, his decision to let her go never made one single ounce of sense. He wished in that moment that he could rewind back 13 years to that day and instead of calling it quits, getting down on one knee and making her his forever. He may have been a good lawyer, even back then, but he was never good at love. He was significantly flawed and he let all the good ones go, actually Nicole was the only good one and he regretted it all the time, but there was nothing he could do about it now.
He still loved her and it broke him that Chad Sanders could take Nicole’s already fragile heart and break it in a way that would take quite some time to repair.
He wished that he could be the one to repair her heart and make her trust again, but he knew he couldn’t. And he understood why Nicole had to give Chad a fair chance at making things right between them. After all, Chad was her husband.
Nicole sat beside Chad on the couch waiting patiently for Dr. Mason to arrive. Chad had tried talking to her when they first got there, but she was unable to talk to him, actually, she was barely able to look at him. Her run in with Ryan had really shook her up, seeing the concern and love in his eyes. He still loved her, she could see that, and it confused her.
The door opened and in walked a beautiful 50 something woman. She greeted them with a smile as she sat down in her chair across from them.
“Thank you for waiting, I’m running a little bit behind today. I’m Dr. Mason,” she said professionally, “You two must be Chad and Nicole Sanders.”
“Yes,” Chad said with a nod, “Thank you for seeing us on such short notice.”
“Well, Holly and Fred Buchanan are good friends and former patients of mine,” Dr. Mason replied as she patted the note pad on her lap, “I will do anything that I can to help you and their daughter.”
“Thank you,” Nicole mumbled half-heartedly.
“Now what brings you two here?” Dr. Mason asked, wanting to get down to business.
“He had an affair...” Nicole blurted, “I want to know why.”
“Ok, let’s start from the beginning,” Dr. Mason said, “Chad, when did the affair start and why did it start?”
“It started a little over a year ago after a party that Nicole and I had at our place,” Chad started as he looked down at his hands, “Nicole had asked me to give Anna a ride home after the party because she had had too much to drink. I agreed and when I got her home she made a move on me in the car. It threw me for a loop and I quickly pushed her away. I told her that what she did was a bad move and that she should go inside. Once she left I drove away with every intention of going home, but the temptation was too strong. I turned around and went back to her. I don’t know why I did it...”
“That’s why you didn’t get home until 5:00 a.m.?” Nicole snapped, “Because you were screwing my best friend’s sister? You told me you had car trouble you lying cheat!”
Nicole clenched her fists and willed the angry tears away before they could fall. She wouldn’t let him have the satisfaction of seeing how much this destroyed her.
“I’m sorry Dr. Mason, but I can’t do this right now,” Nicole mumbled, “I don’t know if I will ever be able to do this. I never thought he was capable of doing something like this. I can’t be near him or in the same room as him.”
“Nicole, I know this is hard,” Dr. Mason said calmly trying to soothe her, “Maybe it is too soon for you two to sit down and talk about this. The wounds are still very fresh. You mentioned that you just found out about the affair four days ago. Maybe let’s reschedule this appointment for a month from now. Does that sound ok?”
“Yes, that sounds like a better idea,” Nicole replied as she stood up and looked down at her husband, “Until then Chad, I want you out.”
Nicole grabbed her coat and her purse and walked out. It was the first time in four days that she felt like she did something right, even if she did act rashly.