After getting the last pie out of the oven, Emma made a dash for the bathroom. She needed two minutes to herself to catch her breath and prepare to meet the other wives. Rochelle had been great but she still had to face Brian and Kevin’s wives. Taking a final deep breath, she straightened her shirt and hair and then headed back to the living room. On her way down, she got a glimpse of Leighanne talking to Kristen in the hall. She ducked into a doorway and listened as they continued their conversation.
“So have you met her yet?”
“No, but Kevin said she’s a really nice girl.”
“She can’t be that nice if she stole someone else’s boyfriend!”
“Lower your voice Leighanne.”
“Why? She’s in the kitchen, she can’t hear me.”
“No but other people can. This is Nick’s house and you don’t want to upset him.”
“Upset him? He should be ashamed of himself. He broke Lauren’s heart and then jumped into bed with that woman two minutes later.”
The women were interrupted by Brian calling them to the table. Emma bolted back into the bathroom and shut the door quietly. Tears were streaming down her face and her cheeks were getting red. She knew this was going to happen; everyone was going to hate her and resent the fact that she had taken Lauren’s place. Someone rapping on the door snapped her back to reality and she turned on the sink to wash her face.
“Em?” Nick called. “You ok?”
“Yeah I’m fine. I just needed to clean something off my shirt. I’ll be out in a minute.”
“Ok. I’m telling everyone that the food’s ready.”
“Are you sure you’re ok?”
“Yup. Go ahead and sit. I promise to only be another minute.”
“Alright.” Nick said and reluctantly went back to the table.
“Is she ok?” Addie asked him quietly.
“She said she is but I don’t believe her.”
“Maybe she just…..”
Howie was cut off by Emma sitting down next to Nick. They could all tell that something was wrong and saw the tear tracks that she had tried so hard to wash away. Thankfully everyone else was talking so they couldn’t hear the exchange between the couple.
“What’s wrong?” Nick asked leaning in to whisper in her ear. “And don’t tell me nothing because you were crying.”
“Don’t lie. What happened?”
“Don’t worry about it Nick, we can talk about it later. It’s not important.”
“It’s important enough for you to cry over.”
Emma just shook her head and looked around the table. She cleared her throat and thanked everyone for coming.
“It really means a lot to Nick, and to me, that all of you were able to come today. I know everyone’s busy and we’re very thankful that we could all be together.”
“It’s not like the whole family’s here.” Leighanne stated rudely.
Brian’s face turned beet red and he kicked her chair violently. Nick’s face was becoming purple and Addie looked like she could have scratched Leighanne’s eyes out. Emma shrank back into the chair and tried to fight back more tears.
“I’m serious. Not everyone…”
“Everyone who should be here is here.” AJ interrupted loudly. “The people sitting around this table are the people that belong here.” He paused to let his comment sink in. “And before I forget, the big, long thing at the end of the hallway is the door and anyone who has a problem with whose here should use it.”
AJ glared at Leighanne almost daring her to make a move. Surprisingly, Leighanne didn’t move at all nor did she open her mouth again. Satisfied that he had made his point crystal clear, he turned to Emma.
“Thank you for having us here. I know this was all your doing because if it had been Nick’s, we’d all be eating take out!”
AJ’s comment relieved some of the tension around the table and everyone changed the subject to the food. Emma wiped her eyes on her napkin and put her hand on AJ’s arm.
“Thank you.” she whispered.
“You don’t need to thank me.” he replied with a smile. “She’s being a bitch and needs to know that. Don’t take anything she says to heart; everyone here loves you and are really happy for you and Nick.”
Emma smiled faintly and turned her attention back to her plate. Nick leaned in and kissed her gently on the cheek.
“You did a beautiful job and don’t doubt for one second that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.”
Emma nodded and put some food on her plate. She had lost her appetite but didn’t want to sit there and sulk; she was determined to do the best she could to get through dinner.
The next few hours passed without any more issues and almost everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. Kevin and his brood left first, followed closely by Brian, Bayley and Leighanne. She was the first one out and didn’t say a word to Nick or Emma. Brian followed, apologizing profusely for his wife’s behavior and telling Emma how much everyone liked her. AJ and the girls were the last to leave and he gave Emma a huge hug.
“Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like you don’t belong here.”
“I won’t.” Emma said with a half-smile. “Thank you again.”
“Anytime. Nobody’s gonna mess with my feisty one!” AJ responded with a laugh. “Take care of her Carter!”
“I will and don’t call her yours!” Nick yelled with a laugh.
Addie and Howie headed out next knowing that Emma and Nick would need some time to talk. She pulled her friend aside so that the boys couldn’t hear what she was going to say.
“I’m not kidding when I say this Emma. You give me the thumbs up and I will track that woman down and…..”
“Calm down Addie, you don’t need to do that.”
“I cannot sit by and tolerate the way she treated you. How dare she say that to you, especially in your own home?”
“It’s Nick’s house…”
“It’s your’s too!”
“It’s ok Addie. I can deal with it.”
“You shouldn’t have to!”
“Forget it ok? Why don’t you and Howie enjoy the rest of your night in peace and I’ll call you tomorrow?”
“Fine.” Addie huffed. “But I’m warning you, if that woman says anything like that again, I swear….”
“I get it, I get it.” Emma said. “I appreciate you always sticking up for me.”
“I’ll always have your back.”
“I know and that means the world to me.”
Addie hugged her and made her way to the car where Howie was waiting. Nick came over and wrapped his arm around Emma’s waist and laid his head on top of hers. They watched their friends drive away and headed back into the house where Della was waiting by the back door.
“I’ll let her out and then I want to talk to you.”
Emma nodded and walked down to her bedroom. She changed her clothes, slid under the covers and pretended to be asleep when Nick came back with the dog. They would have to talk but she just couldn’t handle anything else tonight.