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Oh shit ran through Nick’s head as he stood over Emma, waiting for her reply. Why couldn’t he ever think before he opened his mouth?

“One thing’s changed.” she answered as she stared at him. “You’re getting older and your reflexes suck.”

Nick’s jaw dropped as Emma, Howie and Addie cracked up; he didn’t know what to say.

“That’s true Nick.” Howie added as he helped Emma up. “You used to be able to catch her.”

“But, what, I…”

“It’s ok.” Emma interrupted. “You’d just have to give me another piggyback if I sprained the other ankle!”

Nick was so surprised by this change in his ex. She’d given him crap for being back and attempted to avoid him at all costs. Now, here she was, so cheerful and almost flirty; he felt like he was in the Twilight Zone. What the hell was going on?

He stood there while the rest of them finished setting the table and he only snapped out of his thoughts when Howie pushed him over to the table.

“Are you gonna be quiet all night?” Howie whispered.

“I don’t know. I feel like I’m meeting a new Emma. It’s really weird.”

Howie chuckled. “I don’t think it’s a new Emma, I think it was the Emma before you guys started dating.”

“What happened to the other one?”

“There was no other one Nick. She’s been hurt and she’s coming out of a tough place. I know for a fact she’s feels badly about the fight the other night and she wants us all to be able to hang out without any awkwardness. Maybe she’s just trying too hard.”

“I feel more awkward now. I think I’d prefer her fighting with me; I was getting used to it.”

“You want me to tell her to fight with you? Would it make you feel better?”

“No you idiot, I’m just saying…”

Nick stopped talking as the women made their way over to the table. Howie, knowing that Nick needed a moment with Emma, pulled Addie back into the kitchen.

“Hey.” Nick said as she sat down.

“Hey yourself.”

“I need to ask you something.”

“Ok.” Emma said hesitantly.

“I know you promised Addie that you would be more willing for all of us to spend time together but this is just strange. Are you really ok with this whole thing or are you just over trying?”

Emma sighed. “Maybe the joke was a little too much. I’m just trying to find a way to make this better for everyone Nick.”

He nodded. “I get that and I have to say that it’ll be good for Addie and Howie to not have to feel like they have to side with their friends. I just don’t want you to be overly nice just to please them.”

“Would you like me to be mean to you?” Emma asked with her eyebrow raised.

“Not mean but normal.”

“What’s normal for us Nick?”

He thought about that question for a few minutes; nothing had ever been really normal for them. A couple months into meeting, they’d broken up with their exes, moved in together and started a new life with each other. Two months later, they were done and not even on the same side of the country. Two years pass and now they’ve reentered each other’s orbits and it wasn’t a graceful entrance.

“I don’t know.”

“Me either.” Emma paused. “Maybe we should just try to work on making a new normal. I mean, we can’t go back in time and change anything. The future is all we’ve got so let’s make the best of it. We’ll figure it out as we go along.”

Nick nodded and they put the rest of the conversation on hold as Howie and Addie entered the dining room. The couple got settled and everyone was quiet while they served the food.

“How’s that class you’re taking?” Howie asked Emma as they got started on dinner.

“Class?” Nick asked.

“Yeah.” Emma said and rolled her eyes. “It’s another one of those classes that have everyone convinced that they’ll be amazing teachers after completing it.”

“I take it you don’t agree with that.” Nick said with a chuckle.

“She definitely does not.” Addie replied for her. “Everybody in there has no teaching experience and has never really experienced the classroom.”

“How come you have to take it then?”

“It’s one of those classes that we need to renew our licenses. It’s mandatory every few years.”

“Sounds like fun.” Nick said with a grimace. “I’m glad we don’t have to take classes to be in a boy band.”

Howie choked on his water while Addie and Emma burst into laughter.

“Are you afraid you couldn’t pass?” Howie asked after taking a few breaths.

“Dumbass.” Nick said with a laugh.

Any of the tension that had built up quickly dissipated and the rest of dinner flew by. They had dessert and shared a few more stories before Emma started to yawn.

“Someone’s sleepy.” Addie teased.

“I am.” Emma replied. “I’m gonna go start my car and give it a few minutes to warm up before I leave.”

“If you give me your keys, I’ll do it for you.” Nick offered. “It’s really cold out there.”

Emma thought about it for a minute and handed him the keys. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” Nick said with a smile. “Be right back.”

He left and Howie excused himself as his phone rang. Addie slid over to the chair next to Emma and smiled.

“So? How do you think it went?” she asked.

Emma blushed. “I think it was ok. Maybe not the best start but it got better. I have to admit this is a lot better than being mad and arguing all the time.”

“Definitely more enjoyable.” Addie agreed. “For everyone involved.”

“I know and I’m sorry that I was the reason it was pretty miserable before.”

“You don’t need to keep apologizing. It’s the past, let’s just focus on now.”

Emma chuckled. “That’s kind of what I was telling Nick.”

“Telling me what?” Nick asked as he slid into Howie’s vacated chair.

“That the past should stay there and we should focus on the present.”

“I’m all for that.” Howie chimed in as he returned.

The foursome talked for a few minutes before Emma yawned again and announced she was leaving. Nick decided to call it a night and waited for Emma to grab her stuff.

“You don’t have to wait for me.” Emma told him. “It’s a short driveway.”

“I don’t mind.”

“Ok.” She replied and followed Nick out to the cars. “Thanks for warming mine up for me.”

“No problem. Be careful driving and maybe I’ll see you soon?”

“Yes you will.” Emma answered with a grin. “You be careful too.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Nick wanted to give her a small hug but he didn’t want to chance it, so he waved and watched as she got into her car. He waited for her to pull out and he headed back to the beach house. The night had gone so well that he replayed the whole time in his head and it took him forever to fall asleep.