“That was amazing!” Addie gushed as she spotted Howie and ran to hug him.
“Hey Fiesty.” AJ said to Emma as he pulled her into a hug. “Nice to see you again.”
“Thanks AJ.” Emma responded with a smile. “It’s nice to see you guys too.”
The girls said hello to Brian and Kevin but Nick was nowhere in sight.
“I was thinking that maybe we could all have a late dinner.” Howie said to Addie. “Is that ok with you guys?”
She and Emma nodded and followed the guys out to the parking lot. They were just getting into the SUVs when Nick caught up to them. He climbed in next to AJ and barely said a word on the way to the restaurant. Kevin had called ahead to let them know they were coming and there was a table in the back waiting for them when they arrived. Emma, AJ, Kevin and Brian got settled in and watched as Howie and Addie snuck off for a minute. Nick excused himself to the bathroom and Emma asked the guys about his behavior.
“Is Nick ok?”
AJ sighed. “He’s fine. Lauren was supposed to be coming out to the show tonight and she bailed on him. Again.”
“That sucks. I know he mentioned at the bowling alley that he was really looking forward to her coming out on the road with you guys. He seemed excited.”
“He was but I guess Lauren had more important things to do.”
Addie and Howie rejoined the group and it was Emma’s turn to excuse herself.
“What did we miss?” Howie asked.
“Emma was asking why Nick was so cranky tonight.”
“Did you tell her?”
“Tell her what?” Addie asked.
“Lauren backed out of coming out to the show tonight. Said something important came up and she was going to have to spend time with him at home.”
“I get why that upsets him.” Brian added. “You want to feel like a priority to someone you love, not something that takes second place.”
“Sounds just like someone I know.” Addie mumbled.
“Huh?” AJ asked while the others stared at her. She realized that she had said that out loud and sighed.
“Emma’s boyfriend Jessie is the same way.”
“Emma is not a priority in Jessie’s life. He works and spends almost all his free time playing video games with his friends. I like him but he’s a lousy boyfriend.”
“Sounds like they’re not really that close.” Kevin said.
“They used to be inseparable but not anymore. It’s almost like they’re roommates and not a couple. As awful as this sounds, he probably doesn’t even realize she left the house tonight.”
“That’s awful.” AJ said. “If I ever did that, Ro would have my head.”
“Same here.” Brian added. “Why do they stay together?”
“I have no idea. I’ve tried talking her into breaking things off but it seems like she’s so used to this that it’s normal for her.”
AJ started to say something else when he caught sight of Emma heading back to the table. He motioned for everyone to stop talking about it and they changed the topic of conversation quickly.
“Nick hasn’t come back yet?” Emma asked as she slid into her chair.
“Here he comes now.”
Nick slid into the chair next to Emma and picked up his menu. The waitress came by for their order and Emma leaned over to Nick.
“I’m sorry you’re not feeling good.”
“Sorry.” Nick replied. “I don’t mean to be in a lousy mood especially since you guys are here.”
“Not a big deal.” Emma said with a smile. “It happens to everyone.”
He watched as she pushed some hair behind her ear and turned to face the rest of the group. She really did have a beautiful smile and he couldn’t help himself from grinning when she started telling them funny stories from work. He decided not to let this thing with Lauren ruin his night and joined in on the conversation.
“So I was thinking that I might not fly home with you guys.”
Emma and Addie had gone to the ladies room and Howie decided to bring it up while they were gone.
“Jeez, I wonder why.” AJ teased. “It wouldn’t have something to do with a girl would it?”
“Good for you Howie.” Brian added. “It’ll probably make her day.”
“I hope so. I just wish I wasn’t going to be out here alone.”
“She doesn’t look like the ax murderer type D. I think you’ll be fine.”
Nick’s cellphone rang and he stepped away from the table while the guys finished talking.
“Hi Lauren. What’s up?”
“You know how I told you I would be home when you got back?”
Emma and Addie made their way back to the table which was minus Nick again. AJ pointed to the window and shrugged his shoulders. Emma could tell that Nick was really mad at whoever was calling. He was turning red and his hands were flying as he started to yell into the phone. She hoped it wasn’t too bad.