Nancy shrieked in surprise. Quickly she clamped a hand over her mouth. Frank's eyes were huge. He'd only heard Nancy shriek like that a few times, and he was just as surprised to see her as she was to see him. "Frank," she managed to breath out, "You nearly scared me to death." Her voice was a ghost of a whisper. She put a hand to her chest. She could feel how rapidly her heart was beating…and it wasn't just from the scare. She hadn't stepped away from him- that is, not further than when she had jumped upon first seeing him. He hadn't stepped back either, and the two were about half a foot apart.
"Uhm…" he looked down at her, "We…we, uh, came early." Aw, he chided himself, How stupid can you be! You couldn't think of anything better than that! He twisted the rag in his hand, "It's good to see you, Nancy." He tried to smile.
"Yeah," she felt drawn to him, "You too, Frank."
"Look," he said quickly, "I…I didn't mean to frighten you. I was just about to take a shower. I-"
"It's fine, Frank," she dropped her head down, smiling.
"I didn't wake you, did I?" he sounded concerned.
She blushed a little at the tone of his voice. She shook her head to affirm that he hadn't. "No, uh, actually I fell out of bed." Frank chuckled. The tension in the air seemed to dissipate, "Um, I'll just go downstairs to uh…" she held up her toothbrush.
"Oh, right. It's good to see you again," he said again. His hushed voice brought an even deeper glow to Nancy's already blooming face.
She had already turned to go, and he started to shut the door, when she called over her shoulder, "Hey, where's Joe?"
"He went to the store for Hannah," Frank called still sounding a little shaky.
Nancy made her way downstairs. Oh my gosh, she kept thinking, oh my gosh! She tried to take steady breaths. She and Frank had always been very good friends- and nothing more- but every now and again there were those moments that just…happened.
Hannah was out in the garden pulling weeds, so the downstairs was empty of people. The young girl went to the downstairs bathroom, brushed her teeth, and hurried upstairs to her room. She nearly ran into George as she bustled through the door, still breathless. She couldn't help but notice how red her cheeks felt. Pull yourself together, Drew!
"Nancy!" George said, taken aback at her friend's rough entrance, "I thought you were going to take a shower?" She shot her a quizzical glance, "Nancy, was that you who yelled out? I thought I had imagined it! What happened?"
Nancy leaned against the back of her door. She took a deep breath in and slowly let it out. "Uhh," she finally mumbled, "You know how last night I said that I had a surprise for you and Bess? Do you remember that? It was right before we all fell asleep."
"I think so," George cautiously stood before her friend. She crossed her arms and portrayed a suspicious air. "So…"
"Well, it's Frank and Joe. They called last night after you both left and…and said that they were coming over."
"Really," George said, still suspicious of something, "And…?"
"Well, um," Nancy panicked again, "George! Oh, George!"
"Nancy! What is it?"
"I just ran right into Frank!"
"What do you mean 'ran right into Frank'?"
"George!" Nancy clutched her face and slid to the floor. "He wasn't wearing a shirt and I literally ran right into him! Like, nose-against-chest into him!"
George looked confused for only a second, "You mean he's here…now?" Then the full realization hit her. She laughed uncontrollably, doubling over. She sat down in front of the freaking out red-head, "Oh, this is rich!"
"George! Come on!" Nancy reddened all over again, "Help me here!"
"Why?" the brunette smiled, "Come on, Nancy, you know you've liked him for some time. Now, you can't deny that you two have always had something special. Bess will so get a kick out of this. Wait 'til I tell her!"
"We've never had anything between us, George, how c-" Nancy stared indignantly at her friend.
"Save it, Nancy!" George smiled, "The only reason you two never got together was because of Ned. You know that. Oh!" she stopped when she saw Nancy's face fall, "Nancy, I didn't mean it like that." Nancy's put her face in her hands. A tear slipped down her cheek and before she knew it she was crying more tears than she could control. George leaned over and hugged her chum. She mumbled comforting words in her ear.
Nancy suddenly sat up, "You know what! Frank and Joe Hardy are in town. I never get to spend time with them unless someone's trying to kill me. I'm not going to let a big-headed jerk spoil it!" her voice wavered when she referred to Ned, "Oh, George, do you think we'll get past this? Do you think maybe…maybe I can…" She remembered the fight that they had had. She self-consciously fingered the cheek that had in fact begun to bruise. She turned to her best friend sitting across from her in a white tank top and dark blue PJ pants with brightly colored music notes scattered everywhere. Suddenly she spoke up, "I could apologize to him! Maybe he would-"
"Don't you even think about such a thing! Nancy!" George scolded, "I'm appalled, Nancy, I won't hear of it! And you can imagine what Bess would say. Nancy!" The other girl looked at her lap. She sat Indian style with her tear covered hands in her lap. "Now, are you going to let those Hardy men see you like this?"
"No," she mumbled sorrowfully.
"I can't hear you," George pressed.
"No!" Nancy's face became stern, but only for a moment. She looked into George's big, loving brown eyes. The hurt in them made George want to hunt Ned down and skin him alive. She felt such remorse and helplessness. There was nothing she could do! Nancy gazed into the soul of her friend. "I loved him," she choked quietly.
"I know," George mouthed back, "I know…"
"I can't believe you guys are actually here!" Bess said for the thousandth time. It was seven o' clock of the night that the Hardy boys had come to Nancy's house. The five were all gathered in the living room. Joe was lounging on the beige couch next to Nancy and Nancy to George. Bess sat on the other side of Joe in one of the two matching beige loungers that sat aside the couch. Frank stood leaning against the door-less doorway. It was an arch-like doorjamb that connected the living room to the kitchen.
"Hey, I think I'm going to go grab something for us to munch on. Some kind of snack or something," George stood. They had all eaten an early lunch and had been so busy catching up and hanging out that they hadn't bothered to eat dinner.
"No let me do it," Bess stood, "You'll go get some kind of health junk, and I am not dieting after last night's munch out! My taste buds have arisen from the dead!"
"I was just going to get some pizza from down the street," George rolled her eyes, "You can come with if you like." She walked out.
"Yeah, Bess, she only eats super-healthy when she's got a competition coming up," Nancy countered. She smiled a genuine smile, so Bess didn't say a word, only smiling in return.
"Be back in twenty, Nancy," Bess said.
"Hey! Wait for me!" Joe followed Bess out. The two had been nearly inseparable from the moment they had met up.
Hannah came in just after Joe left, "Where's everyone heading off to?"
"They went to pick up some dinner," Frank answered.
"Oh, well the strawberry-rhubarb pie is sitting on the stove, cooling. I'm going to go stay the night at my mother's. She called and sounded like she needed some company. You'll be alright, won't you, dear?" she looked to Nancy, concern playing in her voice.
"Yeah, I'll be fine. Go on, Hannah, we can handle things here. In fact, why don't you stay with your mother tomorrow? Send my love."
"If you think you won't need me here," Hannah hugged the child. She turned to Frank and hugged him as well, "I'll be back tomorrow night then."
The two chorused their goodbyes. After she left, Frank sat down on the beige recliner closest the window, and Nancy. He still felt concerned for her despite the genuinely happy attitude she had shown to them all day. He had sensed a gloominess that followed her about. They sat in silence for a few minutes. At last they spoke; they chit-chatted about petty things. Frank continued to fight the urge to ask her straight out what was wrong. Finally, his concern for her overcame him, "Nancy, last night you said on the phone that you were fine. I'm going to be frank with you: I don't believe that. Now, please tell me what's wrong."
She burst into laughter at him. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat and decided to try another approach, "I want to respect your wishes, and if you want to keep your distance, I understand. It's just…Nancy!" He ran his fingers through his hair, "Nancy, I'm worried about you. I've never seen you act like this before. You've been fidgety all day. You…you've been- why are you still laughing at me?"
"I'm sorry, Frank, you said 'I'm going to be frank with you'," she attempted to control her laughter. A tear slipped down her cheek, and then another. Her countenance fell and she dropped her head. She couldn't hide from him; she'd never been able to.
"Nancy?" he asked softly, "You know that you can tell me anything. I'm willing to wait until you're ready. I just want you to know that I'm here."
She cried softly. She looked away to hide her tears, but it was to no avail. Frank's heart broke, seeing her like this. He thought about patting her knee or touching her shoulder to comfort her, but something held him back. Instead, he waited patiently for her to speak, and at long last…she did, "Did you love, Callie?"
Frank was taken aback at the question. It was hardly the words he'd expected to hear. He stuttered a reply, "Wha- yes."
Nancy nodded her head. She looked at her hands, "What happened between you two?"
Frank wasn't sure why Nancy was asking about Callie Shaw, his ex-girlfriend, but he thought it best to just follow her, "Well, uh, first she decided that she didn't want to be with me any longer. She wanted to be with Tony…Tony Prito. You remember him, don't you?" Nancy nodded, showing that she did, "but he wouldn't go out with her. So, she tried to seduce him in other ways than that of her slick tongue…Eventually, she just moved out of town. I haven't heard from her in almost two years. Last I did hear, she was trying to hook up with some country star."
Nancy nodded again, satisfied. She didn't speak, leaving the room in an eerie silence. Pulling her legs to her chest, she rested her head on her knees. Her tears had dried. Without facing Frank she whispered, "Ned and I broke up."
Frank was too shocked to say anything at first. She had been so blunt about it, and there had been almost no emotion at all in her voice. He finally uttered a soft, "When?" He knew that the pair had been together for a long time, longer than he had been with Callie. Callie had always been his favorite date, but Ned and Nancy had been together always. It was true that Callie and Frank had gone out for a few years. It had been one of the very few serious relationships that Frank had been in, but nowhere near as strong as Ned and Nancy's was.
"Yesterday," she whispered in answer, blinking back more tears.
Frank paused, "What…happened?"
Nancy stared across the room, her eyes fixed on the curtains blowing gently in the night's breeze. She hadn't told anyone what had happened that night, not even Bess and George, not even Hannah. At long last, the girl turned to her friend. She stared into his eyes much the same as she had George's earlier. But there was something different in his eyes that made her trust him with everything that she had in her. She knew that he wouldn't josh around with her feelings, not that George would have. But she also knew that he wouldn't attempt to make everything right, like both Bess and George would. He would hear her out, silently listening. He wouldn't comment, at least not until the end. So after gazing intently into his warm, chocolaty eyes, she finally gave in and told him exactly what had happened, for she remembered every detail vividly. Just as she knew he would, he remained silent. Only once did he show emotion during her retelling of events, and that was when she reluctantly admitted that Ned had hit her. His eyes went to the purple bruise on her cheek. A glint of rage shot through his eyes and she could see his knuckles turn white as they gripped the arm of his chair, but he refrained from making any comments whatsoever.
When she had finished, he sat back, rubbing his chin. A dark and foreboding look crossed his handsome, eighteen-year-old features. Nancy sat silently anticipating his final response. Before he could give it, however, Bess burst breathlessly into the room.
"Nancy! Nancy!" she yelled, gulping in air, "Nancy, we saw Ned at the Pizza Palace!" George and Joe quickly rushed into the room, but Bess continued, "Nancy, he's married!"