“Hey.” she said as she sat down in the chair across from him.
“Hey.” he whispered, his voice cracking.
They sat there for a few minutes before the silence was too much to bear.
“We need to talk.”
Nick nodded but didn’t say anything.
“I need to know what happened.”
“I already told you.”
“No, I want the whole story.”
She gave him a look that he knew meant she was serious. He sighed, and although he hated what he was doing, he told her everything. Her eyes welled up and she had to choke back a sob several times during his explanation. It took everything she had, but she managed to stay silent until he was done.
“Did it mean anything to you?”
“I don’t know Em.”
“When will you know?” she asked harshly. “I asked you at the very beginning of this whether I was the rebound girl and you swore up and down that I wasn’t. Were you lying to me or to yourself?”
“I wasn’t lying at all.” Nick replied quietly. “You were never the rebound girl.”
“Then why do I feel like one?”
“I don’t want you to ever feel like that. I really care about you.”
“But you care about her more.”
“I never said that Em.”
She thought about what to say and chose her next words carefully.
“I want to believe that Nick but the look in your eyes says differently.”
“There’s no look in my eyes Emma.”
“Yes there is. You’re questioning whether you should stay with me.”
“No, I’m not…”
“I want to only be with you and I want you to feel the same way.”
“I do want to be with you Em. It’s …”
“I love you Nick.”
Those words were like a tidal wave. They washed over Nick and left him feeling as though he was fighting a current.
“I love you.” she repeated. “I’ve loved you for a while now. I never told you because I was afraid of how you’d react. I can’t be afraid anymore.”
Nick didn’t know what to say. There were so many thoughts and feelings running through his mind and he was having trouble sorting through them. Emma walked over and took a seat next to him on the couch.
“I don’t need you to tell me you love me back. I’m not looking for a declaration of undying love. I need to know where I stand. I want this relationship to work and I will fight with everything I have to keep us together. But if I’m not the person you can’t live without or the person whose smile you want to wake up to every morning, than I need to know. I want you to tell me if there’s something to fight for because I can’t fight a battle that I’ve already lost.”
Nick’s head was screaming at him to tell her how he felt. Was he so afraid of her breaking his heart that he’d rather lose her instead? She wasn’t going to wait forever and he needed to say something.
She gave him a few minutes before she got up and headed down to the bedroom. He knew he should follow her and tell her exactly how he was feeling, but as much as he willed his body to move, it wouldn’t budge.
Emma returned about five minutes later with a bag and Della.
“I love you Nick.” she whispered as tears rolled down her face.
When he didn’t respond, she headed for the door and he heard it close behind her. A few minutes after she left, his body began to move. He wandered from room to room and couldn’t find a place that he could stand being without having her there. After trying to do something, he wandered out to his studio and came face to face with his painting of her and Della. He reached out and ran his finger down the edge of her face.
“I love you too Em. More than you know.”
Unfortunately, the one person who needed to hear that was no longer there and nothing was going to be the same.