It's Always Darkest Before Dawn

Memory Lane

Emma sat in the front seat, next to her father as her mom sat in the back seat. Emma never got to sit in the front seat before and Ross even let her choose the radio stations, which was something else she never got to do. Normally the 3 hour drive to New York City seemed to fly by, but today, every second seemed like forever to Rachel. And that was just 3 hours to the outskirts of the city and it would be another 1 1/2 hours to West Chester, depending on traffic. New York traffic was the only thing about the city Rachel didn't miss.

"Look Emma", Ross pointed to the New York City skyline, which was just barely visible on the horizon. Emma strained and squinted as she could barely make out the Empire State Building and says "I see it, I see it". As they approached the city, traffic was becoming quite thick and was stop-and-start as they got onto the main expressway. Emma could not take her eyes off of the buildings and thought they were so big and tall, they could reach Heaven itself.

Ross looked back at Rachel and said "You wanna see it"? Rachel immediately knew what Ross was talking about and nodded and said "It's been so long and Emma probably does not remember". "Remember what, mommy", Emma said. Rachel chuckled as she was always so very inquisitive and said "You'll see". Ross got off the expressway and drove to Greenwich Village and finally arrive at a rather desolate and vacant lot. Ross and Rachel got out of the car and Rachel motioned for Emma to get out as well.

"We had a lot of good times here", Rachel sighed as she, Ross and Emma walked around. The fire was massive and burned the building down to the very foundation, and not much was still standing. Ross and Rachel try and visualize where everything was. "Here's where the counter was", Ross said as he pointed to a far corner, and Rachel nodded and said, "And right here is where the couch was. And right here is where we had the best times of our life. We talked, laughed, and cried, right here".

Rachel was starting to get misty eyed, thinking about how Central Perk was gone. "What was this place", Emma asked and Ross informed her this is where Central Perk used to be. "Remember when this place used to be a bar, and Chandler and I would come and shoot pool every Friday night". Rachel laughed and said "Oh God, I had forgotten all about that. And remember when they sold it to Terry and said he was going to convert it to a Coffee House? We were all like "Where are we going to hang out now""

"Remember", Ross said, "When I found out Carol was a lesbian and Phoebe and I almost did it on the pool..." Rachel interrupted by clearing her throat and motioning towards Emma. "What did you and Aunt Phoebe do", Emma asked. Ross stuttered and sputtered "We...uh...we...had Chinese Food". Distant thunder is heard as dark clouds start to move in. "We better get moving before the storm hits and we still have another good hour-and-a-half before arriving at Mon's and Chandler's house.

No sooner as they pull away, it started to sprinkle, as the thunder becomes louder. "Man, it's going to be one hell of a storm", Ross said as ominous looking clouds start to loom overhead. As they got back on the expressway, it was already well into rush hour and traffic was at a virtual standstill as the rain became heavy, and the wind started pounding. Ross called his sister to let them know they would be later than expected, due to traffic.

Meanwhile at the Monica and Chandler's house, Chandler was setting the table while Monica was basting a meat loaf. "Does Emma know", Chandler asked full of concern. Monica shook her head and said "No, and we're not going to mention it. Ross and Rachel want her to look forward to the weekend, without having to think about it". Chandler nodded in agreement as he heard yelling from the kid's room. "It's my turn", Erica said she she took the video game from Jack, who then took it back and said "No. It's MY turn".

Chandler goes into the room and instructs them to quit yelling or he'd take the video game away. He goes back to the kitchen and says "Erica really adores her cousin. This won't be easy on her, either". Monica said this wouldn't be easy on any of them. Erica was standing behind her father and said "What won't be easy for me"? Chandler said he would talk to them later. "Is something wrong", Erica questioned and Monica told her to go back and play the video game.

It was about 2 hours later when Ross and Rachel pull up and Monica goes out and hugs Rachel tightly, who tries not to cry in front of Emma. Chandler helps with their bags and suitcases as they all go inside

-To Be Continued -

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