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Emma shoved the plates back into the cabinet and tried to scurry down the two steps but she didn’t make it. Nick practically leapt across the room and yanked the back of her shirt up as the three of them stared at her. There were a pair of bruises starting to fade at the small of her back and when he touched the outline, she yelped. Grabbing the hem of her shirt, she jerked it down and took off for the bathroom.

Addie raced down behind her and started pounding on the now closed door.

“Emma Alissa Andrews! Get out here right now!”

Howie listened to Addie bang on the door and looked over to where Nick had been standing. He was now pacing back and forth, slamming one fist into the other hand. His face was bright red and Howie knew how angry he was getting.

“Nick.” Howie said quietly. “You’ve got to calm down.”

“I knew something was wrong.” Nick growled. “I should have demanded that she let me stay.”

“Nick, this isn’t your fault. Emma’s a big girl…”

“Don’t give me that Howie! I saw how she was around him and I just wrote it off.”

“No you didn’t. You told us as soon as we got home.”

“Lot of good that did!”

“How do you think I feel?” Howie shouted getting angry. “He’s been under our nose for almost a year and neither one of us said anything.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“I don’t know.” Howie answered honestly. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen anything physically.”

“Well, it’s gonna be the last time.” Nick replied furiously.


“Let me in Emma!”

“Please Addie.”

“Let me in or so help me God, I’m gonna get Nick and Howie and have them break the door down!”

Addie was about to yell for the guys when she heard the door click. Shoving it open, she almost knocked Emma to the floor.

“Jesus Addie.” Emma grumbled.

“What is going on?” her friend demanded.

Emma told a deep breath and perched on the side of their tub. She dreaded having this conversation with anyone, including Addie, and she didn’t know where to start.

“I promise you that I’ll help you Em. How long has this been going on?”

“The other night was the first time.”

“Yeah right.”

“I’m serious Addie. We’ve had our fights and he’s been nasty to me sometimes but this was the first time he got physical.”

“I’m gonna kill him!”

“No, you’re not. The other night was the first and last time it happened.”

“How do you know it’ll be the last?”

“Because I left.” Emma turned pink. “After I kind of threatened him with a frying pan.”

Addie’s jaw dropped. That’s my girl, she thought to herself.

“Yes Addie, I stuck up for myself.”

“It’s about damn time.”

“I know alright. I put up with a lot of crap but I’m not gonna sit there and take anymore.” Emma said as her eyes welled up.

“Why didn’t you ever tell us what was going on?” Addie asked as she sat on the tub and put her arm around her friend.

“I didn’t want you to tell me I told you so.”

“I would never…”

“You may not have said it but you would have meant it. I didn’t want anyone to tell me that I made yet another bad decision.”

“You don’t make bad decisions Emma.”

“I apparently do.” Emma replied and put her head on Addie’s shoulder.

“Maybe only this one.”

“Probably a few more that I can think of.”

The friends sat there for a few minutes before Howie knocked on the door.

“Everything ok?” he asked.

“Yup, be out in a few minutes.” Addie replied and then turned to Emma. “You’re gonna stay right?”

She shook her head no. “I need to leave Addie, I can’t stay.”

“Why not? We’re your friends…”

“No, you are my friend.”

“But Howie…”

“I love Howie but this isn’t something I want to discuss with him. And I definitely don’t want to talk it over with Nick. I don’t want to sit there and see them looking at me like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like I’m broken.”

“They’re not gonna…”

“Yes they are, whether they mean to or not. It’s bad enough that they saw what happened, I don’t need to explain it to them.”

“Why won’t you let us help?”

“Because I can take care of myself. I can get through this but I just need time.”


“Addie if I go back out there, those two guys are gonna stare at me like I’m a child and I need to be protected. I’ve spent enough time feeling weak in this relationship; I’m not going out there to feel it even more. I need to handle this on my own.”


“Can you just go distract them so I can leave?”


“No Addie. I want to go. Please do this for me.”


“How is she?” Howie asked quietly when Addie made her way back to the kitchen.

“How do you expect?”

Nick was about to say something when he heard the front door open and close.

“Did she just leave?” he asked and jumped up from his seat.

Addie grabbed his arm and pulled him back down. “Yes, she did.”

“How could you let her go back to him?”

“She’s not going back Nick. She moved back into the apartment she was living in.”

“But she needs…”

“She needs space.”


“Look Nick, I’m walking a thin line. I want to be there for her but if I force this, she’s gonna shut me out too. I can’t risk that happening.”

“But she needs us…”

“No, I think you were right; you need to stay out of this.”

“What?” he yelled. “You want me involved and then you tell me to butt out?”

“Yes, at least for now. I…”

Nick leapt up and stomped out, slamming the front door when he left; he was not just gonna sit around and do nothing.