In Pieces – Chapter 8

Nick sat on the bed of his hotel room. Silently, he flipped the piece of paper containing Ashleigh’s number through his fingers.

Frankly, he wasn’t sure if he should call her at all. She hadn’t seemed very happy about seeing him at all. Nick wondered why that was; as far as he’d known they’d had a good time while they were together.

He sighed. Looking at the paper yet again. He hadn’t even thought about Ashleigh in the past few years. Truth be told, he’d nearly forgotten all about her. Now here he was, back in Minneapolis and surprise, surprise: she came falling back into his life.

Though it wasn’t entirely her fault. He had sought her out; he could have ignored her presence there. He didn’t have to go and attempt to talk to her.

Or attempt to sleep with, as she had thought.

Those hadn’t been his intentions…had they? Had he only gone to talk to her because he figured it would lead to a companion in his bed that night? Nick didn’t think so, he really had only wanted to talk to her. After having forgotten all about her, he realized that they hadn’t talked in… eight years? Had it already been that long since the Black and Blue tour?

If he called her, she probably would just hang up on him. She hadn’t been keen to talk to him at the concert, why would a phone call change her mind? He didn’t even need her, he could have any girl he wanted.

Yet here he was, alone still. Brian had Leighanne, and now Baylee. AJ had Rachel, Howie had Leigh and Kevin had left the group all together. It was true, he was the only one who was still single.

Nick shook his head. Why was that exactly? Because he seemed to go after the wrong girls all the time. Ashleigh had been fresh, she had been different. She hadn’t been like Mandy, or Paris (who came shortly thereafter). She’d just been… normal.

He looked at the piece of paper again. She already didn’t want to talk to him, if he called her he really had nothing to lose. Flipping open his phone, he began to dial.

Baby, I don’t wanna waste another day
Keepin’ it inside is killing me
Cause all I ever wanted comes right down to you
To you…

“Ash!” Matt called from the kitchen, upon hearing Ashleigh’s cell phone start to ring.

“What?” She called, running downstairs into the kitchen.

“You really need to change that ridiculous ringtone.” He joked, pointing at her phone, which was sitting on the counter. “Backstreet Boys are so 1999.” He laughed.

Ashleigh bit her lip. She had nearly forgotten about the events of the night before. Of course, Nick’s voice sent her right back to those thoughts. The thoughts she wished she didn’t have to deal with. “Yeah.” She replied, grabbing her phone off the counter.

Frowning, she looked at the front. It was a number she didn’t recognize. With an area code she didn’t know. “Hello?” She answered cautiously, stepping out of the kitchen.

“Hey…Ashleigh?”

Ashleigh froze. One would think that she wouldn’t so easily recognize the voice of a man from her past. Especially since it was so long ago. However, she’d been listening to the Backstreet Boys for 10 years now, she could pick out Nick’s voice anywhere.

“Yes…” She replied, still unsure of what to say.

“It’s Nick.” He said, not knowing if her tone was because she didn’t know who was on the phone… or because she did.

“I know.” She replied coldly.

Guess she did.

“How’d you get this number?” She asked, somewhat irritated and confused.

“Joey gave it to me.” Nick replied.

Ashleigh rolled her eyes. She should have figured Joey would do something like that. She made a mental note to phone Joey with a piece of her mind as soon as she was done with Nick. “I don’t have anything to say to you.” She said, trying to remain calm. It wasn’t exactly working, Nick could hear her voice trembling.

“Look, Ash…I just wanted to catch up with you.” He said, still not knowing why she was so against him.

“It took you eight years to call me, Nick. You wanna talk now? It’s a little late.” She said quietly, as to make sure Matt wouldn’t hear her. Though, she still had a harsh tone in her voice.

Nick sighed. He was beginning to understand. “Just let me take you out to dinner. Give me a chance to explain…”

“No!” She said, louder than she had intended. She spun around, Matt hadn’t seemed to hear her. He was still in the kitchen, caught up in whatever he was doing. “Absolutely not.” She continued, quieter this time.

Sighing again, Nick tried a different approach. “Well, I’m in town until tomorrow afternoon. Did my number show up on your phone?” He asked.

“Yes.”

“If you change your mind, give me a call.” He said. “I’ll be waiting.”

And with that, he hung up.

Ashleigh stared blankly at her phone for a minute. “I’ll be waiting.” She muttered sarcastically to herself. Nick didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘waiting’, she scoffed. Infuriated, she ran upstairs and closed her bedroom door.

Then she called Joey.

“What the hell, Joe?” Ashleigh screeched, after her friend picked up. “Giving Nick my number? Are you insane? I hate him! I thought I made that clear!”

Joey sighed. She knew all right. She’d heard all about it on the car ride home the night before. “Sorry.” She said.

“You’d better be.” Ashleigh spat.

Joey rolled her eyes. Ashleigh had never been one to keep her feelings inside. “Wait… so he called you?” She asked, grinning a little. She hadn’t really expected that.

“Obviously.”

“What’d he say?”

Ashleigh sighed, falling down onto the bed. “What do you think he said? He was all…Nick!”

Joey giggled. “So, he sang cheesy ballads and stretched his hands out towards the camera?” She asked jokingly.

“No!” Ashleigh exclaimed, annoyed that Joey had the nerve to crack jokes at a time like this. “He acted all…nice and stuff. He asked me out to dinner.” She said, beginning to calm down.

“And?”

“And what?” Ashleigh asked, not knowing what else to say. “I told him he could shove it.”

“You did not.” Joey laughed, knowing full well Ashleigh always liked to exaggerate.

Ashleigh sighed. Her friend knew her too well. “I told him I didn’t want to go. And then he’s all like ‘Well, if you change your mind, call me. I’ll be waiting.’ Ergh, can you believe that? The nerve of him!” Ashleigh ranted, getting annoyed all over again.

“Oh yeah.” Joey laughed. “How dare he ask you out to dinner.”

“That’s not the point.” Ashleigh sighed, knowing that Joey couldn’t possibly understand how she was feeling. “He can’t just do this. He can’t just come back into my life like he didn’t totally fuck up.”

“Maybe he doesn’t know he ‘totally fucked up’.” Joey reasoned.

“What?” Ashleigh asked flatly, not fully understanding what Joey meant by that. Of course he Nick knew. Didn’t he?

“Maybe he just…didn’t realize what he was doing.” Joey continued. “Look, you were devastated. You hardly talked to anyone for months.”

“I remember, thanks.” Ashleigh snapped, interrupting Joey.

Not to be defeated, Joey went on. “You’re still not over it.”

“I am so over it.” Ashleigh scoffed.

“Not you aren’t!” Joey exclaimed. “Not if he pisses you off this much. Not if he still makes you this upset. And definitely not if you still buy his cds. How many copies of Unbreakable do you have again?” She asked smugly.

“Excuse me, I didn’t realize there was a deluxe edition. I had to buy a second one to get the other two songs!” Ashleigh rolled her eyes. That was neither here nor there.

“Case in point.” Joey laughed, knowing Ashleigh was probably fuming. “Go to dinner with him. You need closure.” She advised.

Ashleigh thought about that for a moment. Was that really all she’d needed all this time? Closure…that was certainly something Nick hadn’t given her. Perhaps that’s all it was. The end had come, and Ashleigh had been too blind sighted to realize it. Maybe talking to Nick would make her feel better. Maybe she’d finally get the answers she’d been looking for back then.

“Okay.” Ashleigh said meekly. “I’ll call him back.”

After hanging up with Joey, Ashleigh stared at her phone. She was almost afraid of calling him, of giving into him yet again. It was just dinner, wasn’t it?

Of course it was. She would ask him, and he would tell her. And that would be all. Nothing to worry about. After tonight, she would close this chapter of her life and move on.

She and Nick would be over.

Swallowing, she silently pressed send.

“Hey Ash.” Nick answered quickly. He’d picked up after only one ring. Ashleigh wondered if he actually had been sitting there waiting for her to call.

“Hey. I’ll go out with you tonight.” She said quickly.

“Cool. Where? You know the city better than I do.” He said, and Ashleigh blushed. She quickly composed herself, unwilling to allow Nick to have such power over her still.

“Um, Fuji-Ya? Do you like sushi? It’s downtown…on West Lake Street…” She rambled.

“Okay.” Nick replied, smirking. She was just as he remembered her. “Seven?”

“Sure.” Ashleigh said timidly. Mentally she kicked herself. What was she doing, setting up a date while she was engaged? Closure, she reminded herself. That’s all it was.

“All right, I’ll meet you there. Later, Ash.” Nick said.

“Bye.” She replied to the dead line. What exactly was she getting herself into?

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