Every Road Leads Back
Brooke and Giselle hit it off instantly. She and AJ stayed with her for two weeks. Giselle was sad when they moved to their own place, but she was sure AJ had someone who would take care of him and help him through the dark times.
Having AJ back in her life lifted her spirits. She saw him at least twice a week; spoke to him or Brooke on the phone daily. She knew Nick was out of rehab and apparently doing well. He had some kind of interview on a talk show that she skipped watching. Memories of Nick still make her sad, but she's moved on.
When she finds out they are all back in town to record, all but Kevin, she becomes apprehensive. Will Nick show up? How will she handle it? Their relationship was toxic from the word go, but she can't deny the attraction between them. Or the love she felt for him. Trying to dispel all those feelings before seeing him, she finally accepts a date with Mark.
Mark is the manager at a store two doors down from where she works. When he picks her up, he immediately puts her at ease. Dinner with him was surprisingly fun, and when it came to the good night kiss, she was eager to grant his request.
Once alone, she thought about it. Mark, their date, and his kiss. While she had fun...she was strangely unaffected by his romantic overtures. Has it been so long she just doesn't feel it anymore? Doesn't need the touch of a man. His arms to hold her? His hands to caress her?
She gets ready for bed. With her legs curled up under her, she opens a book to read. Barely three pages in, she tosses it aside and gets up to pace. Why is she so restless? So frustrated? The answer shocks her...more than that it scares her. Nick is in town...supposedly clean and sober. She misses him.
She punches her pillow and turns off the light. "NO!" she yells into the darkness. Curling up, she whispers, "I can't go there again. Nick and I are through." Even as she closes her eyes, she knows it's a lie. She's never gotten over Nick. Why think it will happen now?
Mark keeps asking her out. She's running out of excuses to say no. Finally, she's having lunch with him as they both take breaks from work and she says, "Mark, I really like you, but I'm not sure dating is right for us. Not now anyway."
He looks dumbfounded. "What? I thought...well, I assumed you had as much fun as me before."
She sighs deeply. "I did. It was fun. I just think it's not the right time. I'm really sorry."
He mutters something unintelligible. "I have to go back to work."
She watches him leave, feeling desolate. He could have been the one...but she knows he's not. He's just another guy. Who will it take to make her forget Nick?
As time goes by, she becomes more content with her life. She switched jobs only because the boutique closed. Now she's working her way up to management in a locally owned clothing store catering to the teenage crowd. Even though she didn't start in management, the job is good. It's always busy and she regularly works overtime. She doesn't think it will be long before she's tapped for her managerial skills.
As for her love life, there's no change there. Yes, she'd like to fall in love, but if she doesn't, she's ok. She's finally come to accept that sometimes life gives you what you need...even if it's not what you want.
Over the next couple of years, she does in fact go into management in the store and her friendship with AJ, Kendall and Meagan stays as strong as ever. She's still kind of irked Meagan and Brian ran off to Vegas to get married...but when their baby comes along, scarcely eight and a half months later, she understands.
Kendall and Grant tried to have kids, but it never happened. They are now looking at in vitro fertilization. Giselle feels so bad for them. She understands the pain of not having a child better than most.
As her thirty-second birthday approaches, she falls into a funk. She wanted to be married with kids by thirty. As she's mulling over how to escape from her friends and their plans for her birthday, she gets a call. Nick.
When she answers, he says, "Hey, G, how you doing?"
She can't help but smile. "I'm good Nick. How are you?"
Silence meets her question. Then a quiet, "Not so great. I...can we talk?"
Not sure where he's going, she says, "Umm, yeah, I guess. What's going on?"
He snorts. "Not on the phone please. Can I take you out for dinner? I'll be on my best behavior, I promise."
She thinks about it before answering. "Nick, I don't know if it's a good idea."
He sighs. "Please. Just dinner? We'll be in public, I won't even touch you. I promise."
She can't figure out why hearing him say he won't touch her makes her heart ache. "OK. I'll meet you at Giovanni's at 7."
Hesitantly, he asks, "Want me to pick you up?"
As if he can see her, she shakes her head. "NO! I mean...I think it's better if we meet. OK?"
Sighing, he says, "Do I have to say I'm sorry again?"
Tears pool on her lashes. "No, Nick, it's over. I'll see you tonight." She hangs up quickly, wondering what she's getting herself into now.
When she arrives at Giovanni's she's early. They seat her immediately, offering her a drink. She orders a white wine, then contemplates that move, considering Nick's battle with alcohol. She abstains around AJ...should she for Nick?
By the time she's decided to change her order, he's coming in the door. Her stomach does somersaults. He's changed SO much since she saw him last. He's lost a lot of weight. He's lean, toned, and in a word...breathtaking. She takes a gulp of her wine, once again wishing she had someone in her life. Someone to keep her focus on so she won't lose her head. Nick's the only man she's ever loved. The only man that's ever touched her. Try as she might, she can't dispel the thoughts of how it felt when he held her gently and whispered words of love in her ear. Even though it was lies, she still aches to hear them once again.
He smiles as he walks up to the table, leaning down to give her a lingering kiss on her cheek. So much for not touching. Once he's seated, he says, "You look beautiful, G."
She smiles, trying to tame the swarm of butterflies in her gut. "Thanks Nick. You look...incredible."
He blushes, lowering his head. "Feels good to be in shape. Had to you know? Couldn't keep going the way I was going. It was going to kill me." She looks puzzled by his comment. "You know the deal with my heart? Thank God it seems to be better now, but I'm not taking any more chances."
She shakes her head, shaken. "I...didn't know you had a problem with your heart, Nick. What...was it?"
He seems shocked. "AJ didn't...no, I guess he wouldn't have told you anything about me." Running a hand through his hair, he says, "A while back the doctor's found something wrong with my heart. It was...kind of scary, to put it mildly. They told me if I keep going the way I'm going, I'm gonna end up dead. So...I decided to listen. Lost some weight, stopped drinking, stopped partying...you know, all of it. I feel great now. Last time I was checked, there was no sign of any problems."
She bites her lip, fighting the urge to cry. Finally, she says, "I'm so glad you're ok, Nick."
He smiles. The waiter comes up and offers him a drink. He just says he'll stick with water. He offers a refill to Giselle. She declines, saying, "Water for me too." At Nick's questioning glance, she says, "I have to drive home." He nods, accepting her reason.
After placing their order, he asks about her. How she's been, where she's working. When the plates arrive and small talk is finished, she watches him. He is SO different. SO grown up and, in all honesty, he seems to be everything she wanted him to be twelve years ago. Until he says, "G, the reason I needed to see you. I need your help."
Cautiously, she places her fork on her plate. "Help with what, Nick?"
He sighs. "My girlfriend, Sandy. She's...she thinks I'm still hung up...on you."
OK, she didn't expect that one. Without thinking, she says, "You were never hung up on me at all, Nick."
He pushes his plate back. "I was G. Boy was I. You were the ideal woman, and I wasn't lying when I said I loved you. I just...I couldn't give up everything else and be what you deserved."
That confession hits her hard. Instead of dwelling on it, she says, "So, why do you need my help?"
He says, "Is there...would you talk to Sandy? Tell her we've been over for a long time and that there's nothing like that between us? I was going to propose, but she keeps throwing this up at me. I can't get her to let it go."
Anger boils under the surface. She's ready to explode. Calmly, she says, "You want me to talk to your current girlfriend and tell her I don't love you anymore so you can go down on one knee and propose."
He visibly relaxes. "Yeah, in a nutshell."
She wads her napkin up in her hands before throwing it on the table. Her voice gradually gets louder as she lays into him, pouring all of her emotions out for the whole restaurant to hear. "You want me to tell her I'm over you so you can live happily ever after? Newsflash, Nick Carter, I've never GOTTEN over you! I never had the chance! You took my virginity, you took my heart, you took my love and you stomped all over it! Yet it was all still yours! I can't tell her I got over you because I didn't! I LOST OUR BABY AND YOU DON'T GIVE A SHIT! Oh my God, I can't believe...HOW CAN YOU ASK ME TO DO THIS??"
Blood drains from his face as she runs from the restaurant. He hastily throws money on the table to cover the bill and runs to follow her, but by the time he gets to the parking lot, she's gone.
He lowers his head, not only in shame, but in devastation. He always thought she was over him. Until tonight, he didn't realize the magnitude of what she felt. Or that she still loved him.
Slowly, he makes his way to his car. He can't stop thinking about Giselle. What she said, how she looked. He didn't only break her heart. He broke her spirit. He took everything she had to give and never once imagined what the final cost would be. Putting his head on the steering wheel, he cries. How could he have done that to her? More importantly, how can he ever make it up to her.
Swiping the tears from his face, he starts the car. There's only one person who knows her well enough to know if he can fix this. The one person who knows her better than anyone. It's time for Nick to man up and talk to AJ.