After landing and picking up her rental car, she began the drive to Addie’s; she knew the route by heart, so it didn’t take long but, when she pulled into the driveway, she found another car that she was not expecting to see. It wasn’t her friend’s or Howie’s and neither of them had mentioned that anyone would be visiting. She knew that Howie’s family was coming but they wouldn’t be there until the next evening. Parking her car next to the mystery vehicle, she grabbed her stuff and headed up the walkway; before she could ring the bell, someone came out and almost knocked her off the stairs.
“Oh my God,” Nick said startled, “I didn’t expect anyone to be here!”
“I can tell.” Emma replied with a laugh. “At least I only swayed and didn’t fall down the steps.”
“I’m so sorry Em, are you sure you’re okay?”
Nick caught her off-guard by using her nickname and she was so taken by the concern she saw in his eyes that he had to ask her several more times before she answered. She assured him that she was fine and then asked what he was doing there.
“Addie and Howie invited me to spend the weekend here.” Nick paused for a minute. “I take it they didn’t tell you that.”
“No, they didn’t mention it.”
“Is it going to be an issue? If it is, I can totally head back…”
“It’s fine Nick,” Emma said, cutting him off. “There’s no reason why you and I can’t both spend time with our friends.”
They stood there for a couple of minutes before Howie finally came to the door to see if Nick had returned with the pizza he left to get. He was surprised to find both of his friends standing on the porch, not speaking, but not looking like they were shocked to see each other.
“Dude,” Howie said with a chuckle, “let the poor girl in and go pick up the damn pizza!”
Nick blushed, stepped aside to let Emma in and then gave Howie an elbow to the stomach.
“Thanks a lot!”
Howie helped Emma with her bag and, once they were in, he brought her stuff up to her bedroom while she headed to the kitchen to see Addie. Her friend enveloped her into a bear hug and told her how happy she was to have her there. Addie wanted her to experience the baby’s firsts because she was the godmother and Addie missed her greatly when she was gone.
“So, I have a confession to make.” Addie told her. “I forgot to tell you…”
“Forgot my ass!” Emma said, giggling. “Let me guess, you invited Nick for the weekend too.”
“How did you…”
“He almost knocked me over on the steps. Good thing he didn’t rush out the door, I’d be lying in your driveway!”
Addie laughed at the mental picture her friend had just given her and was rewarded by a whack in her arm. She was glad that Emma wasn’t furious at her for inviting Nick and that it seemed that she was ok with it.
Nick finally came back with the pizza and the friends enjoyed an evening together. The baby had stayed with them, dozing off as they ate and talked. When everyone decided it was bed time, Emma asked if she could put her goddaughter down for the night since she missed her so much. Addie agreed happily and watched her friend carefully lift the baby and cradle her in her arms.
Addie wasn’t the only one who watched Emma with the baby; Nick noticed her eyes light up when the baby smiled and how gently she held her. He knew that Emma would make a great mother and it made him sad; eventually Emma would find someone to be with, possibly marry and then have children. It stung that it could have been him to have that life with her and he had to learn how to stop what he was feeling. It wouldn’t do anyone any good if they kept getting close and then pulling away. Emma had been worried about the same thing and Nick was starting to wonder if she was right.
The next morning, the friends woke early and prepared for a day of apple picking. They happened to be going to the same farm that Emma had taken Nick to when they first met. The plan was to go apple picking, enjoy some fall food and go on a scenic hayride; there was no way Emma would do the nighttime one after what had happened that night with Nick.
Nick saw how happy Emma was when they got to the farm; she had told him how much she loved the fall and all the things that came with it. Howie and Addie decided to take Caroline to pick out some pumpkins while their friends took on the job of apple picking. Addie wanted them to spend some alone time together and she hoped that they would eventually get closer.
Nick and Emma both had baskets to fill up and he noticed her struggling with hers as the afternoon wore on.
“Do you want me to carry that?”
“No, it’s ok, I can do it.”
Emma knew that was a lie because she had marks on her hand from the strap digging in. She kept up the tough girl routine for a little longer and finally stopped when it got a little fuller.
“Give me that.” Nick said with a chuckle. “You’re going to break your arm if you keep trying to carry it.”
Emma laughed and happily handed her basket off to Nick; she felt bad that he was carrying two baskets, but he assured her that it was ok and he could handle it.
They spent another half hour picking everything that looked good and then joined their friends at the car. The baby wasn’t having a good day and they all decided to forego the hayride. Howie’s family was coming up that evening and the friends would enjoy a couple of kid free days in Salem.
They made the short trip home and Emma decided to make some apple pies and breads for Howie’s family as a thank you for watching the baby and giving the adults a chance to spend time together. Everyone asked her if she needed help, but she declined each time; Addie, however, forced the issue by saying she and Howie were both going to pick up his family at the airport. Nick would be by himself, so Addie insisted that he help Emma. He agreed and did whatever he could to be useful during the quiet time they spend together.
Once the family arrived, everyone was so busy talking and laughing that Nick couldn’t get close to Emma for the rest of the evening. He was surprised how much he missed the time that they spent just the two of them; there was something going on in him that he wasn’t sure he could hold in for much longer.