“What the……” Nick yelped as he tried to fight off whatever was licking his face.
“Della, stop!” Emma yelled.
Suddenly, the licking stopped and he was able to figure out what was going on. Emma had her hand on the collar of a large golden retriever whose tongue was hanging out. The dog looked almost as if she was smiling. Emma let go and reached out her hand to help Nick up.
“I’m really sorry. I thought Jessie would answer the door but I guess he couldn’t be bothered. Usually Della isn’t this bad, but she saw me digging out her leash and got excited.”
Nick, looking a little less frazzled, dusted himself off and followed Emma back into the house.
“Not a big deal, I love dogs.”
As if the dog understood what he was saying, she started nuzzling his hand. It seemed like this was her way of saying she was sorry for knocking him down.
“I’m glad but she still shouldn’t be knocking people down. She just gets so excited when I take her for long walks.”
“I can tell.”
“Let me just tell Jessie I’m leaving and then we’ll go.”
Emma walked over to the basement door and called down to her boyfriend.
“Hey Jessie, I’m leaving.”
“That’s nice.” Nick heard him call back. He wanted to say something about him being so rude but he still didn’t know Emma that well and didn’t want to offend her.
“See you later.”
“The house is burning down.”
Emma shook her head and pulled on her jacket. “Let’s go.”
Nick pulled into the parking lot at the Cape Cod Rail Trail and was pleasantly surprised. He wasn’t sure exactly what he was in for but it was a beautiful site. Emma had been right about the views and the foliage. Walking over to her side, he helped her out and offered to handle Della’s leash.
“I promise not to let go.” Nick answered her unspoken question. “I’ve taken dogs for walks before you know.”
“I know but I’ve seen pictures of your dogs. She’s about 100 times the size of them!”
“I can still handle her. J practically needed a leash for a while and I could handle him.”
Emma laughed and handed it over. “I guess I can trust you then.”
She walked over to the beginning of the trail to get one of the maps for them. Turning around, she motioned for him to join her and they started off. There were a few moments of awkwardness with Emma trying to catch up with Nick’s long legs but after a few minutes they had a good rhythm going.
“So how old is Jessie?” Nick asked, curious about the man who belonged to the voice he heard.
Emma smiled. “Yes, he’s 40 and is still obsessed with playing video games.”
“How come you never put a stop to it? It seems to bother you a lot.”
“I tried tons of times. He’d stop for a while but he did it grudgingly and he made it miserable being around him.”
“Yeah it does. I guess I’m just used to it now.”
“But it still bothers you?”
Emma didn’t say anything.
“Sorry if I’m overstepping my bounds.”
“No, it’s not that. You’re right when you say it still bothers me because it does. I’ve just spent so many years with him; it’s become normal to me.”
“Is he always like that when you leave?”
Emma chuckled sadly. “Most of the time he doesn’t even know when I’m there. He doesn’t make it pass the basement stairs most nights.”
Nick’s mouthed dropped open.
“I know that sounds bad.”
“It sounds awful for you. It sounds like you spend most of your time alone.”
“I have Della. She even sleeps upstairs with me.”
“Doesn’t that make you feel lonely?”
“Sometimes. I mean I like my independence and I don’t need someone to hover around me.”
“Yeah but there's a huge difference between hovering and not ever being around.”
They both got quiet for a minute. Emma was surprised that she was opening up to Nick as much as she was. She barely knew him and she was talking about things she didn’t discuss with anyone but Addie.
“I guess I can understand how you feel.” Nick said trying to take some pressure off. “Lauren works all the time and I feel like I never see her lately.”
“Your situation must be really tough. Both of you away and working a lot.”
Nick nodded. “It’s like we’re never in the same place at the same time anymore. Kind of makes having a relationship hard.”
“Do you ever get to spend time without anyone else around when you’re not on tour?”
“We used to. Now it seems like whenever I’m home, she’s not and vice versa.” Nick paused for a minute. “I don’t think I’ve seen her in three or four months. It seems like forever.”
Emma reached out and put her hand on his arm. “I’m really sorry.”
“Nothing for you to be sorry about. I think your situation is harder than mine. At least I get to be lonely by myself. You’re lonely when you’re in the same house.”
Emma laughed softly. “You sound like that Reba McEntire song.”
“That’s one comparison I’ve never heard!” Nick replied with a chuckle. “Now I’m curious though. What song is that?”
“I don’t know that one. How does it go?”
“You want me to sing it?”
“Sure, why not. I just want to know what I sound like. Plus we’re the only ones right here.”
“Um, I can’t really sing.”
“I don’t buy that.”
Emma’s eyes flashed. “Are you challenging me?”
“Maybe.” Nick answered with a grin.
“Fine, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”