Emma paused for a moment to try and figure out what she was going to say; finally, she just decided to be blunt.
“We aren’t in a relationship, Nick; we’re just exes, maybe even friends, but there is nothing that either one of us did wrong that we need to straighten out.”
“You know damn right well we’re not just exes, Emma,” he replied quickly, “exes don’t feel the way we do.”
They sat there for a moment, Nick staring at her while she picked at pieces of the pillow she was holding. They both knew he was right and that just being exes, at this point, was off the table.
“And how do you feel?” Emma asked. “Do you even know? Do you know where this is going and how it’s going to end?”
“No, I don’t but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try and figure it out.”
Emma started to tear up; she felt torn between the way her heart felt and the way her head was telling her how to feel. She knew she still cared for him, that part was clear; what she didn’t know is how it could even work with them being anything but friends. They were only in each other’s lives occasionally and they never really knew when they would see each other again.
What Emma didn’t know was that Nick was thinking the same thing. The only difference was that he wanted to push the issue and truly figure out what was going on. He saw that this could be deeper, and he wanted to try his best to make her see that.
“Emma, look at me.” he requested, and she looked up. “Do you honestly think that we’re just exes? Or just friends? Or do you think there’s something else there?”
Emma started to tear up as she thought about his question. She wanted there to be more but there was no guarantee. Nick kept asking her the tough questions, but he never revealed where he thought they were going. After a few moments, she answered the best way she knew.
“I think we’re just friends. I don’t see how we can more when we hardly see each other. I don’t want to be friends with benefits, and I don’t want to be some woman you sleep with whenever we see each other. My heart can’t handle that and it’s safer if we just put a label on it that clears up all the confusion.”
Nick was stunned to hear her say that and it hurt him that she thought the best thing they could be was friends with benefits.
“I have never thought of us in that way, Emma. You would never be someone I just slept with when we had the time.” He paused for a moment. “Is us being friends how you really feel?”
“Maybe,” she replied, “maybe it’s better to be friends than to screw this up anymore. We’ve already messed things up twice and I don’t know if it would be any better the third time around. Maybe we’re just trying to live through old feelings instead of just dealing with what’s in front of us.”
Looking in his eyes only made Emma cry more, and he pulled her close; she tried to resist because being wrapped in his arms made it so much harder to insist that they were just friends. He gently rubbed her back and kissed the top of her head which only resulted in making her cry harder. The whole situation was so confusing, and she just wanted an end to it that would make it easier.
As Nick was comforting her, Ava had strolled into the room; seeing her aunt and uncle crying, she ran to them with tears in her eyes.
“What’s wrong with mommy?” Ava cried. “Is she and daddy okay?”
Emma wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve and picked up Ava.
“No, nothing is wrong with either of them, or the baby. Uncle Nick was telling me a sad story and it made me cry.”
Nick looked crestfallen and realized that this whole situation was coming to an end; the decision to be just friends had just been made. He watched as she slipped off the couch, picked the little girl up and, with one more look at him, she turned to bring Ava back to bed.
Nick tried to absorb what just happened and his heart was breaking; he loved her so much and to know that this was all they were going to be was like a punch to the gut. Their relationship had been going so well and just one statement had put a sudden halt to everything.
He waited a little while and then made his way to Ava’s room to make sure she was okay. Walking into the room, he found Emma sound asleep on the bed with Ava curled into her side. The tear tracks were still visible on his ex’s cheeks and it made him well up; he grabbed a blanket off the chair next to the bed and laid it across them both. He made his way back to the guest room, fell into bed and cried himself to sleep.
The couple were still quiet the next morning when AJ returned to the house to check on his daughter. He asked Nick about it and just got the response that everything was fine. Looking at Nick’s face, however, was a different story; he could tell something happened the night before and it was not sitting well with his brother.
Looking at Emma’s face, AJ could see that it was not sitting well with her either. She looked like she had been crying for hours and he hated that she was hurting. He tried to get her to open up when Nick left the room to collect their luggage, but she refused to give him any response other than what Nick had said.
Knowing his friends were heading back to Tennessee in a couple of hours, he tried to break the tension by telling them that Ro wasn’t ready to deliver yet but it was going to be soon. He offered to bring them to the airport, but they declined, telling him to go back to his wife and thanking both for allowing their friends to come out and celebrate the holiday,
The taxi pulled up as AJ was helping Nick bring out the last piece of luggage. He asked his brother again what was going on, but Nick shrugged him off and let it be known that the conversation was over. Watching them pull away, he hoped that whatever happened could be straightened up so that it wasn’t hurting the two so badly.