In Pieces – Chapter 20

Ashleigh struggled as she went over the pros and cons in her head. Visiting Nick in Florida would mean that she’d have to lie to Matt. Though, she’d already lied to him quite a bit, what was another? If she went and visited Nick, would he be expecting something more than just a couple of relaxing days on the beach? Is that what she wanted? Was she hoping he would come on to her?

She racked her brain for the rest of the evening trying to decide what would be best. She contemplated calling Joey, but didn’t for fear that her friend would tell her that it wasn’t a good idea.

As much as Ashleigh didn’t want to admit it, she knew she wanted to go to Florida. She felt herself get overly excited every time she imagined herself sitting silently on a beach, leaning against Nick.

She tried to distract herself and clear her head by watching some television. It didn’t work, her mind kept going back to her inner debate. If she did decide to go visit Nick, in one week at this time, she would be there. What would they be doing? Probably something more exciting than sitting inside watching re-runs of old sitcoms.

That night, she tried as best as she could to sleep. She’d ended up tossing and turning for most of the night, occasionally peeking over at Matt. Strangely, Ashleigh didn’t feel all that guilty for all that she was doing. She and Matt had been together for the past three years, and yet Ashleigh didn’t care than in the last two weeks, she’d been nothing but dishonest. She and Matt had never had the perfect relationship, he’d always been very indecisive. They would argue loudly whenever they disagreed, and weren’t ever to solve their problems by a compromise. Rather, someone had to give in.

Like the night of their engagement. What had started out as an innocent conversation about the future and whatnot, had turned into a screaming match about how Ashleigh wanted too much too quickly, and Matt was unable to make a commitment to her after all that time. Ashleigh had ended up at Joey’s place, crying and complaining about how awful she thought Matt was and how she was sick of his passive aggressive attitude. She’d stated time and time again that night that she was going to leave him.

When she went home the next morning, she was ready to kick Matt out of the house that they’d shared for the past year and tell him that she was finished, that they were over. Instead she’d found Matt sitting on the couch, looking as though he hadn’t slept all night. She was just about to open her mouth to tell him to leave when he’d held out a ring and asked her to marry him.

Ashleigh had been too stunned to say anything other than “Yes.” Their fight the night before had been based on the fact that Ashleigh wanted to get married, and he hadn’t been ready for that yet. Now that he was asking her, everything had been solved. Or so she had thought at the time.

The two of them getting engaged hadn’t changed much, it had only made her life more stressful in having to deal with wedding plans. Matt was still busy with work all the time, and treated Ashleigh as though she wasn’t as important as whatever project he was doing that week.

And yet, she was considering leaving Matt for Nick. While Ashleigh and Matt’s relationship had been anything but stable, she and Nick didn’t even have a relationship in the first place. He had used her for sex and treated her like a goddess when she was next to him, but who knows what he had said when she wasn’t around? She’d spent nearly two months with him, and he hadn’t even had the decency to call her and make sure she’d gotten home safely.

Now things were different. This time around they talked on the phone constantly, and they’d only slept together once. Nick had grown up and changed a lot since the last time they’d been together. Ashleigh couldn’t help but wonder if it was all an act, to test himself and see if he had the capability of winning a girl over. She had initially thought that she was just being nice, but now that he’d invited her down to visit him for a weekend, that idea had been cast aside. If he was truly just being a friend, he wouldn’t have done that.

On the surface, neither relationship seemed appealing. She and Matt hardly saw each other, and when they did things were usually sour, or they were acting. She and Nick lives thousands of miles apart and he was usually busy doing his touring.

However, when he’d been touring, Nick had made time to call her.

But Matt hadn’t used her and abandoned her

Ashleigh just didn’t know.

The next morning she awoke to the sun streaming in through the window. She figured she must have drifted off to sleep somewhere between 3 and 4. Grudgingly, she got out of bed and walked down to the kitchen, where Matt was sitting and reading the paper. Quietly sipping coffee, he gave Ashleigh a slight nod as she made her way over to the cupboard, in search of something to eat.

“What was your meeting about last night?” Ashleigh asked, sitting down at the table across from him.

Matt shrugged and didn’t look up from his paper. “Some third quarter wrap up. Nothing you’d be interested in.” He said.

Ashleigh sighed. He never really had anything interesting to say either. She and Nick could talk for what seemed like hours about nothing. “Hey, do you remember that show Saved By The Bell?” She asked, trying to start up some sort of conversation. “They had a marathon of it on last night, I loved that episode where Zach bought those fake class rings. It was hilarious.”

Matt still didn’t look up from his paper. “That’s an old teen drama from the 80’s isn’t it? Doesn’t sound too appealing. Why didn’t you watch that boxset of CSI I bought?”

Ashleigh rolled her eyes. “Because Saved By The Bell is awesome. You never watched that back when you were younger?”

Matt just shook his head. “I did, but some things are meant to stay in the past, you know? I think you get too wrapped up in nostalgia sometimes.” He laughed.

“Yeah. I guess.” Ashleigh muttered, picking at her muffin. Matt’s disinterest in her only furthered her need to see Nick again.

Two days later, she was still at a loss as to what to do. While she and Matt walked through the mall in search of dishes for their wedding, she thought of nothing but how she needed to make her decision so she could buy a plane ticket for Friday if needed.

“So is that okay with you?” Matt asked, pulling Ashleigh out of her thoughts.

“What?”

“If we go with my Mom on Saturday to look at reception halls, then on Sunday you can come with me to my dinner, and meet most of the guests-”

“No!” Ashleigh blurted out suddenly. She didn’t think she could stand another minute of wedding planning. For someone who hadn’t even wanted to get married in the first place, Matt sure was getting wrapped up in all the preparations. “I mean, I can’t this weekend.”

“Why not?” He asked her, wondering what she could possibly be doing. Ashleigh never did anything but watch television and occasionally go out with Joey.

“I’m going away. To a trade show…I’ll be gone all weekend.” She said slowly, surprising herself. It seemed so simple. Spending her weekend bored to death planning her wedding, or hanging out with Nick in sunny Florida. It shouldn’t have been a tough choice.

Matt raised his eyebrow. “A trade show? You never told me about this before.”

Ashleigh bit her lip. “I did.” She lied. “You were just too busy to listen to me. As usual.” She said, sounding agitated. Secretly, she was pleased with herself. She’d managed to think up a clever lie, and play it off as though he should have already known about it.

Matt sighed. “Well, maybe if you would mention things to me when I have time to talk, instead of saying them as I’m running out the door, I’d remember.”

Ashleigh rolled her eyes, but didn’t reply. She didn’t feel like arguing with him, especially over something that hadn’t actually happened. It didn’t matter, she’d got what she’d wanted – a free pass for the weekend.

As Ashleigh had suspected, Joey wasn’t thrilled with the idea.

“So, let me get this straight. You haven’t told Matt you’re cheating on him-”

“Cheated. Once.” Ashleigh corrected her, as the two girls sat in a far corner of Ashleigh’s store the following afternoon.

Joey sighed. “Whatever. You haven’t told Matt anything, you haven’t told Nick how you feel, and you’re going away to Florida? Ashleigh, do you even know what you want anymore?”

“Obviously I don’t.” Ashleigh replied sarcastically. “Nick invited me. I wanted to go. Is that so horrible? If it doesn’t work out, things will go back to normal.” She shrugged, knowing Joey wouldn’t buy her explanation. She couldn’t blame her, she didn’t really buy it either.

“No, Ash. It’s not horrible. Matt just isn’t the one for you.” Joey said quietly. Ashleigh was always jumping into things without realizing exactly what she was getting herself into.

“And Nick is?” Ashleigh asked partly with hope and party in disbelief.

Joey shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe you need to spend this weekend with him to figure that out. Even if he’s not, you should still break it off with Matt. It’s obvious you’re unhappy, do you really want to spend the rest of your life with this guy?”

“I thought I did.” Ashleigh said sadly.

“Because you were scared you wouldn’t find anyone else?” Joey asked, and Ashleigh shrugged and nodded a little. “You will.”

“I guess.” She mumbled. She hated the entire situation. Never in her life had she thought that relationships could ever get this complicated. All she wanted was to meet someone and fall in love. Now she was learning that it simply wasn’t that easy.

Joey looked down at her watch. “I need to go back to work. Have you told Nick you’re going to visit him yet?”

“No.” Ashleigh said. “He’s been really busy. Their last show was yesterday, and he went out with the other guys to celebrate and stuff. He’s probably back home now.”

Joey stood up and got ready to leave. “Call him and tell him. Then you guys can plan everything you’re going to do. Don’t worry about the rest of this stuff, just worry about having fun with Nick this weekend, okay?” She smiled, and turned to leave.

Ashleigh sighed as she pulled out her cell phone. Dialing Nick’s number, she couldn’t help but feel a bit of excitement. In four days she’d be getting on a plane and meeting him in the airport.

“Hey, Ash. How’s it going?” Nick answered his phone quickly.

“Good. How was your party thing?” She asked.

“It was fun. Kind of sad that the tour’s over, but it’s good to be back home.” Nick replied.

“Is your offer for this weekend still on?” Ashleigh asked him carefully. For a second, she worried that Nick may not have been serious about the invitation.

“Yeah, of course!” Nick said excitedly. He knew now that Ashleigh was planning on visiting him. He had hoped that she would, but the way she’d been acting had started to suggest otherwise.

Ashleigh breathed a sigh of relief. “Great.” She smiled. “My flight gets in at 4:30. Can you meet me at the airport?”

Nick could barely contain his excitement. He was going to win her back, just as he had hoped. “Yeah, no problem.”

Ashleigh grinned. After feeling depressed and uncertain for most of the week, this was certainly a nice change. That coming Friday she’d be back with Nick, and she wouldn’t have to think about Matt or her wedding for the entirety of the long weekend.

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