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AJ, Rochelle, and Elisa’s sister Rochelle watched the news, waiting for an update.
“There was a 911 call made a few minutes ago, but they were cut off by a gunshot so we don’t know if that person is even alive. The police rushed in not long after, and I assume they are looking for survivors but I’ve heard hope around here is not high-Wait, there’s…there’s a survivor! I think …yes! She’s injured but she is alive,” the reporter said, the camera zooming in on a woman.
“Mom we haven’t…I know mom, oh my God, Mom, she’s alive! She’s on TV right now, but she’s hurt. Oh God, but she’s alive,” Rochelle said, crying.
AJ looked closely to make sure it was Elisa before breaking down in his wife’s arms.
“She’s okay, she’s okay,” he wept. “I need to tell Nick.”
Going upstairs, he saw Nick lying on the bed, with no expression on his face.
“Elisa’s okay,” AJ said. “She’s hurt, but she was walking out of the place.”
Nick said nothing.
“Yo, Elisa’s fine, what’s the deal?”
“I don’t want to believe it until I can tell for myself.”

Elisa sat in the hospital bed, looking at her phone. She’d hit ignore on everyone’s call. She didn’t want to talk to anyone.
Her sister, Rochelle, was the first one she answered when she came around to wanting to talk.
“Elisa, we’ve been so worried!” her sister wept as she answered.
“I’m safe,” she said.
“Everyone’s so upset. AJ was crying like a baby when he saw them carrying you out on TV.”
“The guys and I kind of went to Nick’s…it’s a long story. AJ said that someone needed to watch him because he was losing his mind. When he wakes up, we’ll tell him you’re okay.”
Meanwhile Rochelle was lying, because they were all in Nick’s room and the phone was on speakerphone.
“Not sure he’ll care, I treated him like crap” Elisa said sarcastically. Nick shook his head as if to say it wasn’t true, but Rochelle shushed him.
“Cut the crap, Leese. You two love each other. So what, he said you acted like our mother and you called him a rotten drunk. At the time, both of you were right.”
“He compared me to our mother, Chelle. That’s unforgivable.”
“Nothing is. You almost died today, Leese. Get some fucking perspective. And for a while, we all thought you were dead and we were beyond hurting. And while we’re on the subject of Mom, she’s been going crazy here, too. I think she’s had a breakthrough.”
“Really?” Elisa said doubtfully. “We’ll see if that changes when I get home. But look, the foundation wants me home, and is paying for my medical bills and all that. I also should probably up my therapy sessions when I get home, too. Think you can do that for me?”
“Yeah, girl…wait, AJ wants to talk to you.”
“Elisa, you okay?” AJ asked urgently.
“I’m..whatever. I’m not okay, I won’t be for a while. The shit I saw today, AJ, I can’t…sorry.”
“That’s understandable. What’s your damage?” AJ asked.
“Bullet to the shoulder, through and through. I’m looking at a three month recovery.”
“It could have been worse,” AJ said seriously.
“When you get home, I’ll meet you and get you to your place, okay?”
“Thanks, Jay. And whatever happened with…him..thanks for being there.”
“Anytime. I’ll let him know you’re okay.”


Nick waited at the airport with the guys and their families for Rochelle and Elisa to get home.
Elisa’s mother was there with AJ. Nick did not know what was going on there, but he was happy that she was at least there.
Brian sat by Nick.
“You’re not getting your hopes up, are you?” he asked. Nick shook his head.
“No, I fucked this up big time.”
“They’re here!” Bailey said, pointing.
Rochelle came in, holding Elisa’s hand. Elisa had her arm in a sling,and was wearing a hoodie and sunglasses. She gave the group a bleak smile.
Diane, Elisa’s mom, ran up to her and hugged her gently. She was saying something tearfully to her, and Elisa bit her lip and nodded. They hugged again, and Nick could see that Elisa was crying. He kept his eyes on her face the entire time as the others hugged her, and assured themselves that she was in fact okay. Finally, he walked up to her.
“You okay?” he asked, his voice cracking. She nodded, and for once he wished he could look into her eyes.
“I’ll be fine. You?”
“Same. I’m glad you’re safe.”
He touched her face tenderly and walked away. Elisa watched him go, her heart breaking with every step he took.


A week later, Diane showed up to Elisa’s house. It was time they had a serious heart to heart. She had annuled her marriage to Derek, and had started therapy of her own, but she needed to get her relationship with her daughter back on track.
“How you doing?” Diane asked as she walked in.
“I’m hurting. Trying to say off the pain meds.”
“Heating pads. Trust me,” Diane said, sitting next to her. “It’s time we actually talked.”
“Okay, Mom,” Elisa said.
“I wanted to apologize. I blamed you for so much that went wrong in my life. I know now that it was wrong of me, and I am so sorry. I blamed you for a terrible act that happened to you. I should have never done that, and I was a shitty mom. You are so much like your father, sweetheart. I was too much for him, which is why he left. You reminded me so much of him. And then, he died, and still you stayed the kind hearted soul. I was determined to have him out of you so I wouldn’t be reminded but nothing I did worked.
“When I thought….when I thought you had died…Elisa I was so hurt and sorry and every other bad feeling in the world. I love you so much, sweetie. And I need to start acting like it,” Diane said, with tears in her eyes.
“I love you, too, Mom, and I’ll help you with whatever you need. I forgive you for everything. Life is too short,” Elisa said, crying as she hugged her mother.
Finally, they were at peace with each other.


Elisa woke up screaming three weeks later. Rochelle, who had temporarily moved in along with Leah, walked in her room, worried.
“I don’t think therapy is working,” Rochelle said, sitting next to her.
“I know it’s not working, but I don’t know what else will besides drugging myself up. And I refuse to do that,” Elisa snapped.
“I know, Elisa. I just think-“
“No. I am not calling him.”
“Oh why not? Back when all the shit with mom went down, he was the one who made you feel better.”
“Shit’s different now, Chelle. I’m not the same woman I was when I met him. I…can’t be that person anymore.”
“No one is asking you to be that person, Elisa. Bad shit has happened to you, but Nick is there. He showed up to make sure you were okay. When I got to his house the day we found out about the shooting, AJ had to keep calming him down. He was scared out of his fucking mind. He kept saying ‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” and he cried like a baby. I had you on speaker phone that day I called so he could hear your voice, he didn’t believe us when we told him you were fine.
“Nick Carter still loves you. So if you can’t sleep, it’s on you. One phone call and I bet he’d be here right now. But you’re too fucking stubborn to do it. I’m going back to bed.”
Rochelle left, leaving Elisa to sit and think.
Memories of their fight kept replaying but stronger memories came forward. Memories of her talking to Nick about her life. Him hugging her when she needed it. The night Leah was raped. The first time he kissed her. The day she decided to be his girlfriend.
Elisa laid down and hugged her pillow, and cried. She cried for the gunman who lost his life, for the kids she saved and the ones she couldn't, for the parents of the kids who couldn’t see them anymore. She cried for her losses, too. The loss of Nick. The loss of her positivity.
Elisa sobbed into the pillow. She wanted nothing more than for Nick to be here, comforting her, but they both cut each other deeply. She didn’t know how to get it back.