Nick woke up the next morning not knowing where he was or how he’d got there, the previous night’s events were a bit of a blur. All he knew was that his face hurt like hell and he wasn’t at the base, where he should‘ve been. He took a moment to peruse his surroundings and discovered he was on a sofa in someone’s living room by the look of it. He sat up and groaned, clutched the sides of his pounding head, and took a look around the room. He saw a clock on the fireplace and noticed that it was a little after five o’clock in the morning.
“Shit” he muttered to himself. He was going to be in big trouble for not going back to the base last night, if he was caught that is! Maybe he’d get lucky for a change and get away with it. Or if he was caught, he could try and talk his way out of it, hope someone would take pity on him and not give him too much of a hard time. But what could he say in his defence, he hardly remembered a thing, apart from the fact that Emily was marrying someone else, and he‘d obviously been in a fight with someone.
He stood up and folded the blanket that had been covering him and placed it over the arm of the sofa. He looked around for some sort of clue as to whose house he was in as he had no recollection of getting there, and then he noticed a small cluster of photo frames on a side table and walked over to take a closer look. He picked up a picture; it looked to be quite recent and was of Elena, Juliet and a man in uniform. He quickly realised that he was in Elena’s house.
“Must be her brother William” Nick murmured as he held the framed picture in his hand. Elena had mentioned him briefly, but hadn’t said much. Nick knew it must be a painful topic for her to talk about and so hadn’t asked too many questions. He put the photograph back in its place, and then he let himself out quietly before the rest of the house woke up. He hurriedly made his way back to base.
Luckily for Nick, he managed to get back onto base and escape any questioning about the previous night (thanks to the boys on the gate who knew him and knew they’d get extra goodies if they kept quiet) and got on with his work in the kitchen immediately. He had to put up with a few comments from the guys about his black eye, but managed to make them believe he’d walked into a wall during blackout the previous night. There was no need to divulge the truth to anyone but those who’d been witness to it. It wouldn’t set a very good example to be fighting with anyone but the enemy.
“You alright?” asked Alex when no one else was within hearing distance.
“Yeah, but what happened? It’s all a little fuzzy” Nick admitted.
“I’m not surprised after the amount you drank! You got into a fight with some guy, apparently you were trying to dance with his girl and wouldn’t take no for an answer” explained Alex as Nick shook his head in embarrassment.
“Oh god, what a jerk I must’ve been” groaned Nick
“You said it!” laughed Alex
“And how did I end up at Elena’s?”
“You were in a real mess, and so she offered to clean you up” replied Alex with a casual shrug of his shoulders.
“I don’t remember much of it really, it’s all a bit of a blur. I woke up there this morning and wondered where the hell I was” Nick told him.
“You didn’t…you know…” Alex began, his mind automatically going to the gutter.
“No, before you ask it, no. Oh god I hope I didn’t say or do anything inappropriate. Elena’s a nice girl, I like her, but she has a boyfriend and I’ve just split up with Emily. I’m done with love” Nick announced.
Later that day when he got off duty, Nick headed into town with the purpose of thanking Elena for looking after him the previous night. He walked into the shop where she worked, the little bell above the door ringing as he did so, but she was busy serving customers and so didn’t see him enter. Nick stood off to the side out of the way of paying customers and watched her work. After a little while she noticed him and blushed slightly, then tried to carry on with her customer’s order.
“I’ll finish ringing these items up Elena, you go and talk to Nick” Juliet offered.
“Thanks” said Elena and came out from behind the counter and walked over towards Nick. His face was bruised down one side, especially around his eye, and his lip was still swollen, but Emily still thought he was handsome.
“Hey Elena” Nick smiled as he spoke “I wanted to thank you for last night, I’m so sorry you had to see me like that though”
“It’s alright, anyone would’ve done the same” she replied shyly, lowering her gaze to the floor.
“Well, I’m glad it was you” they both blushed slightly.
Elena didn’t know what to say to that, she wasn‘t used to such talk. Then to make her blush a little more, Nick handed her a box of chocolates, the likes of which you couldn’t buy in those parts due to shortages and rationing.
“Nick, you didn’t have to, but thank you so much” she said as she took the box from his hands, their fingers brushing slightly.
“I hope you like chocolate, I wanted to give you a little something for helping me last night” he explained.
“Like chocolate? I love it!” she exclaimed and wondered whether it would look rude to open the box right there in front of him. She’d not had chocolate for such a long time and they looked so mouth-wateringly tempting.
“You can open them y’know” he laughed “as long as I can have one”
“Would you like to go for a walk?” asked Elena, aware of the customers in the shop looking at them.
“Yes, I’d like that” Nick replied and they left the shop, Elena was due a break anyway and she knew her sister would be able to manage for a short time on her own.
They walked and talked for about a mile, veering off the main road and onto a little dirt track, far away from the few shops in the small town. It was a dry day and so they sat down on the grass and ate chocolates whilst they talked. Nick explained all about the letter from Emily and how he felt about it, how he turned to alcohol as a means to forget it all…letting his feelings pour out. It was very cathartic getting it all off his chest. Elena was a good listener and he felt as if he could tell her anything.
“Nick, she didn’t deserve you” Elena told him, her hand resting on his arm “come on, we’d better get back, Jules will be wondering where I am”
They walked back into town and said goodbye when they reached the shop. Elena watched him walk away before she closed the door.
“You like him don’t you?” asked her sister as she noticed and recognised that far off look in her sister‘s eyes which could only mean one thing.
“Yes, I do like him…as a friend and nothing more. I have Jeremy and he is a good man” replied Elena, feeling slightly guilty for liking another man whilst her boyfriend was away fighting for his country.
“Yes, he is” was all she could reply. Everyone liked Jeremy, he was the boy from next door literally, and had grown up with them, had always had a thing for Elena and so it was just natural that they would end up together. It was expected of them.
A couple of days later Nick was back at the shop, with Alex in tow this time though.
“Hi babe” Alex said whilst scanning the shop to make sure Juliet’s parents weren’t around and then placing a kiss on her lips. They giggled together and talked quietly between themselves.
“Hello Nick” said Elena “you’re looking better today” she blushed.
“I feel better today, thanks” he said and looked down at his hands, wondering why he suddenly felt so awkward.
“Hey guys, we’re going to the movies tonight” said Alex turning around to face Nick and Elena “fancy making it a double date?”
“But…” Elena began.
“Oh come on Elena, it’s only the cinema!” Juliet exclaimed, giving her sister a look as if to say ‘stop being a party pooper’.
“If you like you can ask your friends to come along too…the more the merrier!” Alex grinned.
Elena looked at Nick, and then back to her sister “alright then” she relented. It was only a trip to the cinema after all, and if all of their friends were going to be there too it would hardly make it a date.
“Great, we’ll see you girls later then and don‘t forget to ask the others” said Alex and gave Juliet a kiss before they left the shop. Nick and Elena just smiled at each other.
“She’s into you Carter” Alex told him as they walked along the street.
“She’s just a friend and that’s all. She has a boyfriend and she’s not the type of girl to play around behind his back, she’s not Emily” said Nick, spitting the name Emily out as if it was burning acid.
“No she isn’t, but she does like you” he said knowingly.