A noise caught his attention causing him to look up. Standing in the door of his office, Lawrence looked somber.
Lawrence walked into the office, setting down a six pack of beer on the desk. “From the sound of your call, I thought it best to pick this up on the way.”
“I don’t want to get drunk,” Noah told him. Well, maybe he did. But, that wouldn’t help anything.
“Noah, there isn’t enough to get drunk,” he said as he popped the top off a bottle and handed it to him.
Noah reached for it and gestured for Lawrence to sit.
After taking a big swallow, Noah began. “I don’t know any other way to start this. I’m sorry and thank you.”
After taking his own swig of beer, Lawrence slowly lowered the bottle from his mouth and looked at Noah confused. “Come again?”
“I’m sorry for accusing you of having an affair with my wife. I’m sorry I didn’t respect our friendship enough to notice what Lorraine was doing. I’m sorry I’m an idiot.”
“Okay,” Lawrence smiled. Of the two men, Lawrence was more easy-going. “And, you’re thanking me for…”
“Being there for Eden.”
“’Scuse me?” Lawrence asked, honestly confused.
Noah handed him the notebook. All Lawrence had to see was the first line on the page. I lost the baby today.
Lawrence stood, paced and raked his fingers through his hair. Now he was regretting not buying enough beer to get drunk.
“Oh man, Noah don’t.”
Noah stood, walked around to the front of his desk and leaned on its front.
“Lawrence, I need to know what happened.”
Lawrence turned and looked Noah in the eye. “Noah, it’s all in the past,” he sighed.
“Lawrence! That was the beginning of the end of my marriage! Don’t tell me to let it go!”
“Noah, I tried. Dammit I tried like hell!” Lawrence shouted back.
“Tried what?” Noah demanded.
“Tried everything!” he yelled, pacing more. “Tried to convince her to tell you! Tried to talk her out of getting those shots! Tried to just be there for her, y’know?” he said calmer.
“Lawrence, please. How did you know to go to the house?”
Noah watched Lawrence pace nervously. Deep breaths. Lawrence couldn’t look at Noah. He didn’t want to see the pain there. The same pain he’d seen Eden go through. She’d been hard enough.
“I overheard Lorraine on the phone,” Lawrence finally told him. “Eden couldn’t reach your cell, so she called here. Lorraine said she’d try to get to you.”
Lawrence paced, looking at the ceiling, reliving the nightmare he didn’t want to.
He looked at Noah. “Eden never called here without a reason. Lorraine blew her off. Once she hung up, she went back to paperwork or whatever. She never tried to get to you Noah.”
Noah swallowed the lump in his throat. “No,” Noah’s emotions were beginning to build. “Tell me Lorraine didn’t know about the baby.”
“She didn’t,” Lawrence confessed. “Eden was gonna tell you that day.”
Noah rubbed at his temples.
“When I got to the house, Eden was a mess,” Lawrence began replaying that day. “She was in so much pain. When she opened the door, she just looked at me and said ‘help me’.”
“Why didn’t you call me?” Noah asked calmly.
“I tried man, but your cell phone went straight to voicemail. Noah, c’mon, I couldn’t leave you a message like that. And, from the looks of Eden,” he paused, his own emotions building. “I didn’t have time, Noah. She was bleeding. In pain. I had no idea what was going on. I just picked her up and got her to the hospital.
“When I finally figured out what was going on, I didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to be left alone in the room. She begged me not to call you. Noah, I’ve never seen someone in so much pain. I just sat there. Holding her hand. I didn’t know what else to do. I swear.”
Noah looked down to the floor. “I believe you.” A moment of silence filled the room. “Dammit, I should have been there.”
“Noah, there’s nothing you could have done to save the …”
“I should have been there for my wife!” he lashed out at Lawrence. Raw pain flowing through his veins.
“Noah, I’m sorry,” Lawrence said low.
“Why didn’t you tell me after?” Noah demanded.
The silence was deafening. After a moment of not getting an answer, Noah’s anger kicked in.
“She blames me, doesn’t she?” Noah shouted.
“Dammit Noah! I couldn’t tell you!”
“Why? Because it gave you time with my wife?” Noah’s shout filled the office.
Lawrence looked at Noah, seeing the pain he was going through.
“Noah, she made me promise.”
Noah’s eyes grew wide as they glared at him. “Promises are for kids Lawrence! This wasn’t a school yard incident. Dammit! It…was my…son,” Noah barely choked out the last sentence. His grief hit the surface.
Lawrence went to him and pulled him into a hug. This was the pain Lawrence didn’t want to see again. It had been tough with Eden. Going through it again with Noah made it as fresh as if it had just happened.
They’d been through too much together in their friendship. Lawrence just listened as Noah let go of his grief.
“I should have been there Lawrence,” Noah cried.
“Noah, don’t beat yourself up over this,” Lawrence tried.
After a while, Noah pulled away, paced, composed himself.
“How’d she do it?” Noah asked absently.
“Get through it?” Noah answered.
“It was rough Buddy, trust me.”
“Y’know, I couldn’t understand it. Not then,” Noah said while continuing his pacing. “The fights. Her saying I wasn’t there for her and our son. Always working. The Ark more important. I had no idea…”
“Noah,” Lawrence called.
“And Abby, God when she told me it only took Eden’s accident to finally step up to the plate as a parent. Damn, she knew!”
“I don’t believe Eden told anyone.”
Lawrence knew Noah needed to work through this. Yep, shoulda brought more beer. He sat and let Noah do what he needed to do.
Finally, Noah sat. Looking at the man who’d been there in the worst of times. Taking a breath, he looked at the man who’d been a brother to him for longer than he could remember.
“Lawrence, I need to know. Please.”
Lawrence knew there was no way out of this. As much as he didn’t want to relive that time, he also knew Noah deserved the truth.
Lawrence popped the top on a second beer before going back in time and giving his friend what he needed.
“I told you how I ended up at the house. When we got to the hospital, everything happened so fast. Eden was beside herself. A teenage volunteer took Morgan to a play room on the hospital floor.”
He paused briefly. “After an ultrasound, the doctor told Eden there was nothing they could do. He tried explaining to her the baby hadn’t developed for a week or two. Essentially, the baby had died but Eden’s body didn’t miscarry right away. That’s why she was so sick.”
Lawrence went quiet. Looking to the ceiling trying to keep the memories from taking over.
“Lawrence,” Noah called. “What aren’t you telling me?”
Lawrence swallowed hard before meeting Noah’s eyes.
“Shit Noah, I’ve never heard anyone scream like she did. I’ve never seen anyone in so much emotional pain. I swear, I watched Eden lose her heart then and there. She went into shock or something. Shut down. Just sat there. I offered to find you. Bring you to her. I didn’t even recognize her voice when she said you could never know.”
“Why?” Noah asked. That’s what he didn’t understand. “Did she blame me because I wasn’t there?”
Lawrence stood, taking another swig of beer. “Dammit Noah, she blamed you, she blamed herself…” his voice became emotional. “She blamed God and the world. She was lost man. She … she went inside herself.”
“So, why didn’t you say something to me after?” Noah asked. “You were here in the office.”
Lawrence looked at him for a moment. “Noah, I wanted to. I should have. She didn’t want you to hurt. After seeing what she went through, I thought maybe she was right. What good would it do if both of you …” his voice trailed off. “It doesn’t matter. I didn’t. I’m sorry.”
Noah watched Lawrence finish his beer.
“She got so sick after,” Lawrence started.
Lawrence turned and looked at him again. “Yeah. I went to the house every day. Making sure she ate. She was so pale. Barely able to stand up. She didn’t like it, but I took her to the doctor anyway. He wanted to put her in the hospital, but she refused.”
“She’d lost so much blood. She’d gone anemic. She just said she could handle it herself.”
“What else?” Noah asked, sensing there was more.
Lawrence took in a breath. “It’s when she asked for the shots to start.” Lawrence looked into Noah’s eyes. “I swear, I tried to talk her out of it. She just said she couldn’t go through that again. The Ark was taking off and you’d be gone more than ever.”
Noah bowed his head.
“About two weeks later, I stopped at the house and she was different.”
“I don’t know. She’d cut her hair. She told me I didn’t need to babysit her anymore. She was used to taking care of herself. She’d found something to focus on.”
“Did she say what?”
“Nope. But, she was rarely there when I’d try to stop by after that. If she was home, she had her laptop out and was working on it.”
“You didn’t look at the computer?”
“No. Sorry Noah, I saw she had something that gave her something to smile about. I wasn’t going to question it.”
Noah slumped back in the chair. It was when their fights had calmed down some. He’d still been angry with her birth control decision, but assumed it was only temporary. Slowly, she hired the cleaning service, was rarely home during the day. With Lawrence in the office and at sites with him, there was no way she was having an affair with his friend. Yet, he still started having suspicions. Why?
Noah looked up, brought from his thoughts. “Did you and Eden …”
“Buddy, don’t go there. No. I told you, I never slept with your wife.” He looked intensely at Noah. “But…”
“But what?” Noah asked, standing and walking around to lean on the front of the desk again.
Lawrence gave a heavy sigh. “Eden started noticing things with Lorraine. Looks she’d give you. Things she’d say.”
Noah reflected back. It had been more fighting when she’d say something to him. He’d gone to Lorraine with it, and Lorraine turned it around to Eden and Lawrence.
“Wait a minute,” Noah said. “You and Eden were going to lunch every now and then.”
“Yeah. If she had time. She couldn’t figure out why you were thinking things when you and Lorraine were getting cozy.”
“Cozy? What the hell?”
“Noah, c’mon. Don’t you remember how whenever Lorraine talked to you, she stood close? Touched your arm.”
Noah hadn’t thought about any of that. They’d all been friends. Lorraine was confiding in him that her husband was pulling away just like Eden had with him.
“Basically, Eden assumed you guys were, you know, since you were spending so much time in the office and I was able to work normal hours.”
“I was working more hours because all we did was fight at home,” Noah confided.
“Yeah, I know.”
Noah arched his brows at him.
“Eden told me you didn’t care anymore. You’d fight and you’d both say things that you shouldn’t have. When she’d lie crying in her room, you’d hide somewhere.”
“I thought she needed time alone,” Noah replied.
“Yeah, that worked out for ya,” Lawrence shot back. “Noah, you are such an idiot!” Lawrence chuckled.
“Thanks. I could always count on you for support,” Noah shot back.
“Actually, you could. You decided not to.”
Noah could see that now.
“Are you sure Lorraine didn’t know?” Noah asked.
“I don’t know how she could. I never said anything. And, I know Eden wouldn’t.” Lawrence watched as Noah thought. “Why?”
“She said something. Recently.”
Lawrence sat back and let a sigh go. “What did she say?”
“She said something about you waiting for your chance to be Eden’s white knight. I thought she was crazy for even thinking it, but now that I know what you did…”
“She knew I was there when Eden needed someone. She doesn’t know why.”
Noah simply looked at him, waiting for him to continue.
“I didn’t go straight home that night. I went to a bar. I just couldn’t get what had happened out of my head. What I’d seen Lorraine do by blowing her phone call off.” He took another swig.
“When I did get home, we had the worst fight ever. I told her I knew Eden had called here. I saw her not even bother trying to find you. I honestly didn’t recognize Lorraine anymore. What she’d done was so cold and heartless.”
“And, you’re sure you didn’t tell her,” Noah clarified.
“I’m positive. I did ask her how she’d have felt if something had happened to Morgan. How upset you’d be. All she said was at least I was there for her.”
“Damn! Why didn’t I see any of this with Lorraine?”
“It doesn’t matter now. None of us thought she was that calculating.”
They sat a while longer. Wondering why their friendship wasn’t enough to see through this unscathed. Both agreed Lorraine knew how to work both sides against each other. Neither suspecting a thing.
Noah was confused. Lorraine had made him certain there was something going on between them. But, he’d also seen things himself.
Noah looked up at Lawrence. “If you weren’t sleeping with my wife, what the hell was up that night at your house? The night before Eden asked for the divorce.”
Lawrence desperately wanted more beer. Another moment he didn’t want to relive.
“Nothing happened at my house that night. Just a client meeting,” Lawrence answered.
“Bullshit!” Noah shouted at him. “I saw you and Eden in your den.”
“If you saw and heard everything, then you know the answer!”
Noah knew he’d only overheard part of their discussion. At the time, he’d thought it was Eden breaking up with Lawrence. He remembered feeling a weight lifting at the thought he was getting his wife back. Until she’d asked for the divorce the next evening and walked out of his life.
Lawrence took Noah back to that night, filling in the gaps Noah didn’t have…
Noah had refused to host a client meeting at his house. Lorraine wanted the opportunity. She’d always said Eden couldn’t possibly be that good at getting difficult clients.
Jarod Wesley listened to what they could offer but still didn’t go with the quote they offered.
Eden remained at a distance all evening. Lawrence remembered her watching Lorraine and Noah as they talked to Wesley. Lorraine holding onto Noah’s arm whenever they were standing close.
Eden watched as Wesley approached Lorraine. “Mrs. Carrington,” he called to her.
Lorraine turned and smiled at her guest, never correcting him.
Eden lowered her gaze and turned to walk away. Lawrence approached her, taking her arm and guiding her to his den. He hadn’t realized his door hadn’t closed all the way.
“Eden, what’s going on?” he asked her.
Noah had seen them step into the den and stood outside the door.
“It’s not going to work Lawrence.”
“What’s not going to work?”
“This relationship has to end,” Eden said in a resigned voice.
“What are you talking about?” Lawrence demanded. “I don’t understand.”
“It’s just not going to work.”
Noah watched as Lawrence reached for Eden’s hands and held them in his.
“Eden, I love you, you know that. We’ve been through too much. I don’t think you’re thinking clearly. Talk to me. We can work this out.”
She pulled her hands free. “There’s nothing left. It’s gone.”
“I don’t believe that. What’s happened?
“Nothing. I just can’t live this way any more.
Lawrence took her hands and squeezed them a little. “Honey, listen. I’m planning on divorcing Lorraine. I can’t live like this either. Just let me get all that taken care of. Then, I promise, I will be there for you. Just don’t do something right now.”
“Noah,” Lorraine approached him, “Mr. Wesley is looking for you.” She looped her arm around his and pulled him away.
“It’s doesn’t matter,” Eden’s voice soft as she looked down, pulling her hands free.
“Eden, something happened. Don’t tell me no. Talk to me.”
She turned away. “It’s nothing.”
“Honey, I know you. You haven’t said anything like this about you and Noah before. That tells me Lorraine has reared her ugly head again.”
Eden sighed. “It’s my own fault. Really.”
“Then let me help you.”
“Mr. Wesley,” she answered.
“What about him?”
“He thinks Lorraine is me.”
Lawrence chuckled. “I’m sorry Honey, but confusing the two of you is not possible.”
She took in a deep breath and let it go. “He called her Mrs. Carrington and she didn’t correct him.”
Lawrence began pacing. “That bitch.”
“Lawrence, really. It’s my own fault.”
“Lawrence, I killed us years ago. I have no one else to blame but myself.”
Lawrence reached for her hands again. “Honey, it’s not too late for you and Noah. Let me help you.”
“No Lawrence,” she resigned. “Noah deserves to be happy. If Lorraine can do that…”
He reached for her arms and shook her. “Stop! You love Noah. Dammit, stop blaming yourself for something you had no control over two years ago!”
“No control? Are you serious? I lost…” Her voice broke.
He pulled her to him. “It wasn’t your fault. Forgive yourself. Please.”
She sobbed against his chest. “I can’t.”
He tried comforting her, knowing it was useless.
“It’s over, Lawrence.”
Lawrence stood and began pacing, finishing off his third beer. “Noah, she blamed herself for the miscarriage. All this time, she couldn’t forgive herself.”
Noah ran his hand down his face. “So, that’s why she pulled away? To punish me?”
“She wasn’t punishing you Noah. She was punishing herself. She loved you.”
Noah chuckled. “She loved me,” he repeated. “Funny, she told me otherwise.”
“What better way to convince herself?”
Noah just sat looking at him silently. “Lawrence, trust me, she wasn’t pretending. Whatever we had, died.”
Lawrence shook his head in disbelief. “It only died if you let it. You two have always had something. She pulled away because she couldn’t hurt you and tell you she lost something you wanted.”
“I would have understood.”
“I know that. But, she was so scared of losing another. She knew you wanted more kids and she felt she couldn’t give them to you. Remember how long it took for her to get pregnant with Morgan?”
Noah just looked at him. They’d been married a year before she finally got pregnant. She thought there was something wrong with her until the test finally showed positive. Until she began the shots, they’d never used any birth control.
Lawrence stopped and waited for Noah to look at him. “She loved you enough to push you away.”
Another moment of silence. “Noah, you just gonna sit back and watch it all fall apart?”
Noah sat back in his chair. “What else am I supposed to do? I can’t undo what I’ve said and done. And Eden is, quite simply, not going to fight.”
Lawrence laughed. “Doesn’t mean you can’t. Unless, there isn’t anything for you to fight for.”
“Tell me Lawrence, why’d you do it?”
Noah leaned forward. “Why’d you kiss my wife in my house if you weren’t having an affair?”
“Well,” Lawrence laughed, “for one thing, I’ve wanted to for a long time.”
“Lawrence,” Noah warned.
“Okay, it was a test Noah.”
“A test? For who?”
“All of us, I guess.”
“Lawrence, get to the point.”
“Alright, things were going really well for you guys again. A little jealous I’ll admit, but it was nice to see you two happy. So, I kissed your wife to see what both of you would do. What Lorraine would do. It was the perfect opportunity. All four of us in one place.”
“So, did we pass?” Noah asked sarcastically.
“You didn’t. Lorraine didn’t. But, Eden did.”
Lawrence could see Noah getting riled up again, which really wasn’t his intent.
“Noah, I expected you to defend your wife. I expected you to show Lorraine once and for all how she couldn’t come between you and Eden. I anticipated your right cross. I didn’t expect Eden’s.”
Noah looked at him in shock. “Eden hit you?”
Lawrence rubbed at his left cheek in remembrance. “Oh yeah. You left her to fend for herself. Lorraine saw the whole thing. Eden told her to ’take her husband home.’”
Noah sat back taking this in. He’d wanted her to push Lawrence away. And she had. And Lorraine knew that. He was an idiot for not stopping it himself and more of an idiot to walk away instead of seeing Eden stand up for herself. Where he should have.
“Noah, look at me.”
Noah looked up at him.
“If you have that journal, I’m betting Eden hasn’t read it. That tells me she doesn’t remember the pain either.”
Jake’s words came back to Noah. If you don’t remember what you did the first time around and fix it, she’ll walk out that door again.
“It also means she doesn’t remember I wasn’t there for her,” Noah responded.
“She only knows you were there when she needed,” Lawrence replied.
“Noah, you proved you can be there. When she had her accident, you were there. When she first came home, she came first.” Lawrence chuckled. “Probably drove Lorraine nuts since she was so close to her goal, but you showed her and everyone else how important Eden truly is to you.”
“It’s not the same,” Noah said.
“No, it’s not. But, I saw the Eden before that fateful day after the accident. If all this stuff with Lorraine hadn’t come up, think where you’d be right now.”
What he wouldn’t give to be back to that place before that night in his house.
“Noah, if Eden doesn’t remember the pain of losing the baby, I’d wish for nothing more than for it to stay that way,” Lawrence said.
“You don’t want Eden to get her memory back?” Noah asked.
“Think about it Noah. She had her suspicions again about Lorraine. She bonded with Morgan again. She even connected with you again.”
“Yeah, until I blew it,” Noah huffed out, disappointed with himself.
“Noah, sometimes I could just slap you upside the head!” Lawrence said frustrated. “What’s done is done. None of us realized all Lorraine was up to. How desperate she was. We can’t change it. Can’t go back in time. None of that. For heaven’s sake man, grieve for your son, but don’t pull Eden into it. She went through hell and I’m telling you right now, if you pull her in again, I’ll fight you on it.”
Noah was taken back by Lawrence’s strong protection of Eden. Something he should have done himself.
Noah remained silent, just looking at Lawrence.
“I mean it, Noah,” Lawrence reiterated. He knew he was being tougher than he probably should, but he wasn’t about to go through all that with Eden again. “Burn that journal, whatever you have to do. And, if she regains her memory, for God’s sake grieve together this time.”
Noah truly respected Lawrence at that moment. Everything he said was right. There was no going back. He knew he’d grieve. But, to inflict that on Eden wouldn’t be fair. In a way, it helped him understand why she’d kept it from him. Not why she pulled away in the process, but wanting to prevent him from the pain she knew would be as great as her own had been. A pain so strong she’d lost her memory to finally make it go away.
“Look, I care about you guys. I really do. And, honestly, I don’t want to see Lorraine win. If you guys split up, she wins. Maybe not the prize she wanted, but she wins just the same.” Lawrence interrupted his thoughts.
“I’m just giving Eden some space. In time, when we’re all cooled off, maybe …”
Lawrence stood and made his way to the door to leave. Just before opening it, he turned and looked at Noah. “Y’know, Eden said something that didn’t work for me, but…”
Noah lifted his eyebrows in question.
“I thought giving Lorraine time and space would clear up this infatuation.”
“Obviously, it didn’t.”
“Nope. But, Eden reminded me. Don’t give a woman too much time or space. She just might come to a conclusion you don’t want her to.”
Lawrence watched as Noah took in the information.
Lawrence thought a moment before saying, “Noah, you know I love Eden. Not the way you accused, but she’s very important to me. She’s like a little sister to me. She’s strong, even when she thinks she isn’t. I’ve seen her pick herself up from the depths of hell. Maybe not the way we’d have liked her to, but she did come back.”
Noah just looked at him. How had he been so blind to the two best friends he’d ever had?
“She isn’t going to sit under that tree forever,” Lawrence told him. “You have to ask yourself, is she worth fighting for Noah?”
“She’s not gonna fall for the falling in front of her routine this time,” Noah said.
“You know how to do it, Noah,” he said adamantly. “If it’s what you want. I can’t save your ass this time.”
The former best friends looked at one another silently a moment before Lawrence opened the office door and left. Leaving Noah in a cloud of confusion. His mind crammed with conflicting thoughts. From Lorraine telling him to give Eden space to Lawrence saying not to. Ah hell, which one did he listen to?
After a couple of hours with Lawrence in his office, Noah now had to do just what his friend had said. Decide what he wanted and how he was going to move forward.
He ripped out the pages of the pregnancy and miscarriage from the notebook. She never wrote of the lost baby after that one entry. Trying to bury the pain, he supposed. He couldn’t destroy the entire journal. In it were happy times Eden would want to read. He just had to figure out how to get the journal back in her possession.
Noah did some serious thinking over the next couple of days. Learning what had happened to begin Eden’s pulling away was a wakeup call. Now, he had to figure out how to accomplish the biggest challenge he faced: getting Eden back.