My Happy Ending – Chapter 21

The days continued to go by painfully slowly. As more and more time passed, it seemed as though more people found out what was going on and called to offer their condolences. Ashleigh didn’t exactly know how to feel about that. Of course, she was grateful that her friends cared about her, but she also would have much rather been left alone with Nick.

After sheltering themselves in the safety of their home, Nick had finally decided it was time to attempt to go out and face the real world. He hadn’t gone out hardly at all, if only to pick up things from the grocery store and Ashleigh hadn’t stepped outside since they’d arrived home the hospital nearly two weeks prior. It was time for the two of them to go out.

“Hey, Ash?” Nick asked, as the two of them lay silently on their bed that Sunday afternoon.

“Hmm?”

“I was just wondering… I’m kind of sick of making food every night…” He started, unsure of what her reaction would be.

She gave him a slight smile. She had to admit, she felt a little guilty, Nick had been waiting on her hand and foot. “I can make dinner tonight, if you want.”

Nick shook his head. That hadn’t been his intention. “That isn’t what I meant.” He said, and drew in a deep breath. “I mean, did you want to go somewhere for food? If you don’t want to we don’t have to, but I just thought.-”

Ashleigh giggled a little at Nick’s rambling. He was doing everything in his power to make sure that she was comfortable. She found it rather endearing. “Sure.” She said. “Just not Chili’s.” She added with a grin.

Reading the expression on his face, Ashleigh could tell that Nick was elated. “Okay.” He said, jumping off the bed and kissing her. “Get dressed into something nice.” He instructed, and quickly left the room.

Two hours later, he and Ashleigh were sitting in a private booth in a ritzy downtown steakhouse. As Ashleigh flipped through the menu, she found herself constantly looking over her shoulder to make sure that no one was watching them.

Nick just watched as Ashleigh glanced over the menu. Things were definitely different now, no longer did they joke around with each other. Instead they sat in a sad, sombre silence. Nick began to wonder if things would ever go back to how they had been before.

“What do you want to drink?” He asked her, as she continued to stare at the menu, or peek behind herself. Nick noticed she hadn’t even turned a page.

Ashleigh only shrugged. “Just water.”

Nick bit his lip. There really wasn’t much point to this if Ashleigh was only going to be uncomfortable. It was supposed to be helping them, not making things worse. “We can share a milkshake, if you want.”

Ashleigh raised her eyebrow a little. “Do they even have those on the menu?” She asked him.

Nick held up the backside of the menu. “See?” He said, pointing to the list of drinks on the back.

Ashleigh leaned over the table to see what Nick was pointing at. “That’s the dessert menu, Nicky.”

Nick pouted a little. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

Ashleigh just looked back down at her menu. “I’m really fine with water, Nick.”

Nick sighed. She really didn’t seem to be enjoying herself at all. “Well, what did you want to eat?” He asked. “They have this maple glazed salmon stuff, it’s really good. But they also have this almond crusted steak, every time I come here with Brian that’s what he gets.”’

“You and Brian come here a lot?” Ashleigh asked, ignoring Nick’s question about the food. She figured she’d just order whatever he did.

Nick shrugged. “We used to, whenever he’d come down to Florida. We haven’t in a while though.”

Ashleigh nodded. “I like Brian and Leighanne.” She commented. “They’re really nice.”

Nick smiled, at least he’d got Ashleigh to talk to him about something other than their son. “I do too. I used to really not like Leighanne though.”

“How come?”

Nick thought about that for a moment. “I don’t know. Brian and I used to hang out all the time, then he met her and all his free time was spent with her.”

“That sucks.” Ashleigh replied, not really knowing what that would be like. Out of she and Joey, it was always Ashleigh that had the boyfriends.

“Yeah, but I warmed up to her after a while. I guess I couldn’t expect Brian to stay single forever.” Nick said, closing his menu and placing it off to the side. “It was annoying for a bit, when he got married he kept bothering me, asking me when I was going to find a girl and stuff.”

Ashleigh rolled her eyes a little. “That had to be irritating.”

“You know, I’m pretty sure he was only joking. But yeah, it bugged me. That’s why…” Nick started, and then stopped himself before he dug himself into a hole. The last thing he needed was for Ashleigh to be angry with him.

“That’s why what?” Ashleigh asked, wondering why Nick had trailed off all of a sudden.

“Nothing, nevermind.” Nick quickly said, opening his menu and pretending to read through it once again.

Ashleigh peered at him. What was he talking about? Quickly she did the math in her head, if Brian and Leighanne had gotten married in 2000 that would mean that by the time they released Black and Blue… and that’s when it dawned on her. “That’s why you were with me, wasn’t it?” She asked, gently pulling the menu away from Nick’s face.

“Maybe?” Nick said, cringing. He was dead.

But instead, Ashleigh only laughed. “Did you actually think I’d be mad? God Nick, my reasons for wanting to be with you were no better.”

Nick sighed in relief. He’d half expected Ashleigh to storm out of the restaurant and never speak to him again. “Oh really? And what were those?” He asked with a smirk, though he had a feeling he already knew.

She rolled her eyes. “Obviously you know.”

Nick grinned. “Give me an ego boost.”

“You adorned my walls.” She laughed. “I didn’t go a day without thinking of you? I listened to your cds on repeat? Hell, I made a mix tape where I cut out just your solos from all the songs!” She giggled. “I was utterly, hopelessly in love with you.”

“And now?”

She smiled, putting her hand over his. “Still, utterly and hopelessly in love with you.”

Nick smiled back at her, wondering how it was possible that so much had changed between them and yet, managed to stay the same. “No posters on the walls though.”

She giggled. “Well, that can easily be changed.”

Nick quickly shook his head. “No thanks.” He laughed.

The two of them continued their dinner in much better spirits. This only solidified the fact that once they got out of the house and stopped moping about, things would start to get better.

That evening when they arrived back home, Nick quickly checked the caller display and noticed he’d missed a call from Brian. Sighing, he figured he’d better call Brian back, knowing that it was probably just going to be another questioning period on how he and Ashleigh were holding up.

“Hey.” Nick said, once Brian answered the phone.

“Nick! Hi!” Brian replied. “I was a little worried when you didn’t pick up your phone.”

“You could have called my cell.” Nick replied.

“I know, but I didn’t want to bother you if you’d gone out.” Brian said. “Did you go out?” He asked, knowing that Nick and Ashleigh had been stuck inside the house for quite a while.

“Actually, yeah.” Nick said with a grin. “We went out to dinner. It was really nice. It made us feel a lot better.”

“That’s good.” Brian replied. “Listen, Leigh and I thought you might like to get out of the house for a while, and we really haven’t seen you guys in a long time, so we were wondering if you’d like to come out to Atlanta for a few days?”

Nick pondered that for a moment. Usually he didn’t really like going out to visit Brian in Atlanta and having to live the suburban life for the time that he was there. However, his situation had changed drastically since the last time he’d been out there. “I’ll have to ask Ash…but I think that would be fun.”

“Great!” Brian replied enthusiastically. “Call me back and we’ll work on the details.”

“Sure thing.” Nick said. “Later.” Nick said, before hanging up his phone. He then ran up to the bedroom where he saw Ashleigh laying on the bed. She’d changed out of her dinner clothes and was relaxing on the bed reading a book. “Brian just called.” Nick said, sitting down beside her.

Ashleigh looked up at Nick. “That’s weird, we were just talking about him at dinner.”

“Yeah, I know.” Nick replied. “Anyway, he wanted to know if we wanted to go visit him in Atlanta for a few days. What do you think?”

Ashleigh thought about that. She and Nick had enjoyed themselves at dinner, perhaps going outside of the house and doing other things was key to the healing process. “Yeah, I’d like that.” She agreed.

Nick nodded and pulled out his cell phone to call Brian back. Their lives were definitely starting to fall back into place, bit by bit.

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