Emma knew that she had created a mess for Howie when she broke up with Nick and she wasn’t sure if he had fully forgiven her. She knew he would never be able to forget it but she hoped that she could be around everybody without causing a world war. AJ, Kevin and Brian would all be at the party with their families and Nick, after much cajoling and threatening from Kevin, had agreed to be there as well. He was furious that Emma was staying with the couple and he wanted nothing to do with her but he knew that Kevin would never let him be if he skipped an annual tradition just because she was there.
The next day dawned and the weather was absolutely perfect, there was a beautiful breeze and a crystal clear sky. It wasn’t unbearably hot and Emma was glad that all the work she and Addie put in had paid off. The pool was clear and warm, the patio chairs and furniture shined and the mini canopies they had put up were all still standing. Emma had convinced Addie and Howie that it would be better if she handled all of the food and inside things; she told them it was because they had to entertain guests and take care of the baby. She said that it would be too much for them to do and it wouldn’t be enjoyable for the two and their friends. What she didn’t tell them was that if she was stuck in the kitchen, there would be very limited interaction between her and Nick.
It hadn’t been brought up outright but Emma knew all the friction and anger between her and Nick was taking its toll on everyone. There were pained expressions, mad dashes out of a room and plenty of tension any time that Nick and she crossed paths; she was as tired as everyone else and didn’t want the party to be ruined. AJ and Rochelle figured it out after about five minutes and, with Rochelle being pregnant and unable to stand too much heat, they decided to stay in and help Emma.
The party went off without a hitch and the sun had begun to set; Emma knew that everyone would be getting ready to see the fireworks in an hour or so. She helped Addie with some last minute things and made her way out to the patio. Nick had made an exit down to the beach about ten minutes before so she figured it was safe for her to go out and mingle for a bit. She had just sunk down into a lounger when AJ approached her; she smiled as he sat down and pretended to be faint from all the hard work he had put in.
“There was no way you and Ro would have ever been able to handle all of that by yourselves. You’re so lucky I had no other plans.”
“Don’t let your wife hear you say that,” Emma laughed, “because pregnant or not, she’ll kick your butt!”
“Don’t I know it!”
AJ chuckled and settled back in the chair; he had really come out to keep an eye on Emma and make sure there were no blow-ups from Nick. As he sat there, he noticed her gaze sweep across the horizon until it landed on Nick. As much as they had been through, she knew deep down that she still loved Nick; he may not feel the same way but there was no way for her to shut her feelings off. Like Kenny Rogers said, you can’t un-love someone no matter what happened between the two people.
“You should try to talk to him.” AJ said impulsively, ignoring the voice in his head telling him it was a bad idea. “Maybe you can get through to him.”
“Are you crazy?” Emma looked at him as though he had ten heads. “After all of the hostility over the last few days, you think it’s a good idea to actually try to say something?”
AJ had to admit that it was definitely not one of his better ideas and he had every feeling that it had the potential for complete disaster. Honestly though, he knew that Emma was just as tired of the unspoken fighting as everyone else was and she just wanted peace between everyone. He knew that there was no other way of smoothing things over, or at least diminishing the hostility if no one stepped up to the plate; someone had to take the first step and knowing Nick, AJ had to admit that there was no way he was going to do it.
“Can it really get any worse?”
“I don’t know,” Emma said after a pause, “is it possible?”
“I think you need to give it a try.”
Emma sat there for a few moments and thought about AJ’s suggestion; there was no way that Nick would be the bigger person and start any conversation with her. Knowing that this might not work but that it was the only option at the moment, she stood and made her way across the lawn towards the beach. AJ watched her walk down and follow the path Nick had taken; he was so focused on her that he didn’t see his wife coming until she pushed him over on the lounger.
“What’s she doing?” Rochelle asked as she lay down beside her husband. “Isn’t that the way Nick went?”
“Why on Earth would she follow him?”
“Because I told her too.” AJ answered her hesitantly.
“Why the hell would you do that?!?” Rochelle yelped, causing others to look in their direction. “Are you out of your mind?”
AJ truly hoped he wasn’t.
Emma had to walk a ways down the beach before she saw where Nick was sitting. Every bit of her body was telling her to turn around but she knew if she did, nothing would ever get resolved and their friends would spend the next twenty years keeping the peace. If it meant that she could put a damper on the anger and uncomfortableness, she had to at least try to get along.
She had just made it within two feet of him when he turned around; he obviously had been expecting someone else and when he saw her standing in front of him, the anger was palatable. He stood up and turned to walk further down the beach but, instead of just standing there, Emma fell in step next to him.
He managed to keep his anger in check when he initially saw her but now she was following him down the damn beach. They had only walked a few steps before he turned to face her.
“What the hell do you want? Can’t you tell I’m trying to get away from you?”
Emma shrank back a little when she saw how angry he was; his eyes flashed with a darkness she had never seen.
“I wanted to say I’m sorry.”
As much as he was pissed, Nick actually laughed out loud.
“You’re sorry? You’re sorry? You think you can actually get me to talk to you by saying you’re sorry?”
“I’m trying Nick, I know I can’t make up for…”
“You’re fucking right about that!” Nick yelled. “There is nothing you can say that will fix any of this. In fact, there is nothing you have to say that interests me in the least. Leave me the fuck alone.”
Emma watched as he turned back towards the house, his rage fueling his every step. She didn’t make a move to follow him this time because she knew that the only thing that would accomplish was a bigger explosion than the last one. Not knowing what else to do, she sank onto the sand and put her head in her lap; she was cried out and there was no point in crying any way, nothing was going to change. It took a while but AJ finally came looking for her; he had seen how livid Nick had been when he came back and he could only assume that his bright idea didn’t work. Emma turned to face him when he sat next to her.
“Nothing could be worse huh?”