Alyssa's eyes were transfixed on the front door of Izzy's apartment, where they had remained glued for close to an hour now. Every time she tried to tear her eyes away, she'd find them floating back towards the door again. Izzy was right. He probably changed his mind after all. All the rest of the guys were already there by now and although they insisted that Nick had said that he was going to try to stop by, there was still no sign of him.
"Alyssa!" Izzy groaned. "Is my door that interesting to you?"
"Sorry," she apologized, focusing her gaze back on Izzy. She'd been standing there talking with Izzy and Melanie since the guys arrived, but she couldn't have explained a word of what they had discussed.
"I told you he's not coming, so just forget about it," Izzy chastised. "There's no reason to be gazing longingly at my door."
"You're right," she agreed as she helped herself to some potato chips. "Guess he decided to go out with his friends after all."
Just then the doorbell rang interrupting their conversation. "Maybe not," Melanie told them as soon as she heard it. "That sounds like it could be him now."
"Guess I better answer it," Izzy grudgingly replied as she headed across the room to get the door. Alyssa was glad to see that it was indeed Nick on the other side as Izzy opened the door.
"You're late," she could hear Izzy coldly reply.
"I know. I'm sorry. I had some things to rake care of," he apologized.
"Well, everyone else is here already. They are all scattered about," she told him, emphasizing the fact that he was the last to arrive. "There's food all over, beer in the fridge... Help yourself. I just ask that if you're going to smoke go outside on the balcony and do it because I don't want my furniture reeking of cigarettes."
Wow, could she be any more unfriendly? Alyssa wondered, instantly feeling bad for Nick even though she probably shouldn't. Still Izzy was supposed to be the hostess and she was being anything but hospitable towards him. She continued to watch as Nick muttered an okay and brushed past her towards the sliding glass doors that led out to the balcony.
"You could've been a little nicer to him Iz," Alyssa found herself speaking up as Izzy returned to them.
"Nice? Why should I be nice to him? He walked right past me before with barely a hello and now he shows up an hour late to my party. Can we say disrespectful?" she defensively replied.
"Point is that he came! If he didn't want to be here he would've just blown it off completely. Now he walks in, you treat him like shit, and now he's all alone-"
"AJ's out there too," Izzy interrupted.
"He sees AJ all the time. If he wanted to hang out with AJ he wouldn't have came." Alyssa paused before asking, "Are you just going to ignore him all night?"
Izzy pretended to think about it for a moment. "Yup."
"You're impossible!" she cried as she threw up her hands in surrender. "I give up."
"Why are you so quick to jump to Nick's defense anyway?" Izzy suspiciously asked.
"No reason. I just feel bad for him. You should be trying to put whatever is going on between you two behind and be the bigger person in this situation."
Izzy just smirked in response. "Yea, just like you're doing right? I don't see you out there talking shit over with Nick and truthfully I think that you two have a lot more discuss than me and him do."
Unbelievable. She's turning this whole thing around on me, Alyssa thought angrily to herself. "That's different."
"How?" she demanded
"Because what happened between the two of us happened years ago and it's over and done with," Alyssa firmly stated.
Izzy rolled her eyes. "You could fool me. If you want my opinion I think the both of you could use some closure. If you're so worried about him not having anyone to talk to, why don't you go out there and talk to him?"
Alyssa froze. The question was a good one. Why didn't she go out on that balcony and try to talk to him? Because you're scared, she told herself. You're afraid of what he'll say and how it'll affect you even after almost three years. Of course she would never admit that fact to Izzy.
Izzy immediately picked up on her silence. "What's the matter? Are you scared or something?"
"I'm not scared," Alyssa answered in as strong a voice as she could muster.
"So then do it. I dare you," her friend challenged.
Alyssa sighed. She never could turn down a dare and besides this whole argument was beginning to bore her. You feel bad for Nick, so the least you could do is talk to him. You don't even have to bring up the past, she reminded herself. "Fine I will," she accepted as she brushed past Izzy and headed over to the fridge to grab herself a Smirnoff Ice. She couldn't stand the taste of beer, so she preferred to drink Smirnoff's when she was in a situation where mixed drinks weren't being served. After a moment's hesitation she also grabbed a Corona for Nick. Might as well come with a peace offering, she decided. Without another word she left the kitchen and headed towards the balcony.
She noticed that the sliding glass doors were left open about an inch or so, and she could clearly hear Nick and AJ's voices from outside. Flattening her back up against the wall, she paused for a second, eavesdropping on their conversation.
"I can't believe how much of a bitch Izzy is being to me. I don't understand what I've done to piss her off like that," she heard Nick's voice say.
"It's probably just PMS or something. I wouldn't take too much offense in it," AJ told him.
"Yea, we haven't been as close lately, but then why would she invite me over and then totally treat me like crap?"
"Maybe she didn't invite you because she wanted to see you. Maybe she invited you for the benefit of somebody else," AJ suggested.
"Do you mean Alyssa?" Nick asked him. "You think she only wanted me to come because Alyssa is here? That doesn't make sense. Alyssa and I have been over with for over three years now."
Alyssa bit down on her lip, trying not to cry as she heard Nick's words. It was true. They had been over with for some time now, but hearing him admit it, so nonchalantly was almost too much for her to bear. It made her wonder if Nick would ever want her in his life again, even as a friend.
"You've been over, but quite frankly you guys have not fully ended things. I think that there is still some unfinished business between the two of you," she heard AJ continue.
Alyssa's ears perked up as she listened for Nick's response. AJ's analysis of their breakup intrigued her and she was anxious to hear what Nick thought. "I don't think I'm following you. What do you mean by unfinished business?"
She could practically hear AJ rolling his eyes before he answered. "You broke off an engagement with this girl without giving her any solid reason. One minute you guys were doing absolutely great and then out of the blue you break her heart without even fully explaining yourself. Of course she's going to be hurt and confused and she's going to want answers." He paused before continuing. "Look, I talked to her earlier and I can tell that a little part of her still cares about you just from how disappointed she looked when she found out that you weren't backstage before the show. I'm not saying that you should get back together with her at all. I'm sure you had your reasons for doing what you did, but you owe her some sort of explanation. It's the only way that either of you are going to be able to move on. Talk to her Nick. Now is the perfect opportunity."
Alyssa found herself incredibly moved by AJ's speech. He was completely right. She still wasn't over Nick, but maybe if he explained himself, explained what had been going on in his head that afternoon when he had turned her life upside down, maybe then she'd finally gain some closure from the situation and ultimately be able to forgive him. Perhaps AJ was right. Perhaps there was a good reason, buried underneath her painful memories of that awful afternoon that had tore her and Nick apart over three years ago.
After searching for Nick all afternoon, Alyssa finally pulled her car into the parking lot. It was late afternoon on a fall day, so the beach was pretty deserted, and Alyssa was easily able to identify Nick's car in the open area. I should've checked here in the first place, she scolded herself. It's no secret that Nick's favorite place to go when he's upset is the beach.She had no clue what was bothering him, but he had received a phone call that morning that had obviously upset him. Afterwards, he had come downstairs and without further explanation, grabbed his keys and announced that he was going out. That had been almost five hours ago.
When he hadn't returned home after a few hours, Alyssa had tried calling his cell phone, but received no answer. Worried, she called up all the other guys, but no one had heard from him all day. Finally, she decided to go out and search for him herself, sensing that something was seriously wrong.
Taking off her flip flops, Alyssa stepped out onto the sand and began to walk towards the shore searching for Nick as she went. It wasn't long before she noticed a solitary male figure sitting some feet away on the shoreline. As she got closer she realized that it was definitely Nick.
"Penny for your thoughts?" she asked as she approached him. He was sitting in the sand with his knees drawn up to his chest and the waves washing back and forth over his bare feet. His expression appeared to be completely stone faced underneath the dark sunglasses he wore.
"I knew you'd find me here," he grumbled.
Alyssa sat down beside him, put her arm around his shoulders and planted a kiss on his cheek. "Do you want to talk about whatever is bothering you?"
"Not really," he dully answered as he continued to stare out at the ocean.
"You seemed pretty upset this morning. Whatever that phone call was about it obviously had some kind of effect on you. It might make you feel better to get it out," she tried again.
Nick just shrugged. "I don't think talking about it is going to make the situation any better. It's certainly not going to change anything."
"No it's not," she agreed. "But it helps to vent sometimes."
"You wouldn't be able to understand," he insisted. "No offense."
"I can try. So please, tell me what's bothering you? Who was the call from?"
Nick sighed as he ran a hand through his hair. "It was from my Mom."
Just that explanation alone was almost enough for Alyssa. Whenever Jane Carter called Nick, there was usually some sort of resulting argument between the two. "What did she have to say this time?"
Nick took in a deep breath. "She and my Dad... They've been going through some rough times and they're getting a divorce," he explained as his voice cracked slightly on the word divorce.
"Oh Nick... I'm so sorry," she responded as she took him into her arms and wrapped him in a tight hug as she rubbed his back. "I can just imagine how I would feel if my parents told me that they were getting a divorce."
"Your parents would never get a divorce period," he coldly replied.
He was right. Alyssa's parents fought and her mother would constantly say that she wanted a divorce, but Alyssa knew that deep down that they would never actually go through with it. Her father didn't believe in divorce. He was a firm believer that marriage was a permanent commitment. "I can still only imagine what you are going through," she told him in a slightly hurt voice.
"Can you?" he asked cynically. "Can you really imagine what it's like to discover that your parents, who you have known your entire life, and have been married for years, all of a sudden don't love each other anymore? And what does that say to you about love and marriage in general? You think you're happy and in love and maybe that feeling lasts a number of years, but then eventually it just disappears? Maybe there really isn't any such thing as love. Maybe it's just some illusion created by society to justify your attraction towards another person."
"Don't say that Nick!" Alyssa protested. "There are lots of couples out there that stay together for their whole lives. And about what you say about love, it does exist. I know because I love you. I honestly and truly do. I don't think love is a lie. Your parents... Maybe they just decided to give up to soon, but that doesn't mean that we're going to end up the same way."
Nick just shrugged. "Look at the statistics. More than half of all marriages today end in divorce. Why bother going through the trouble of getting married anymore with those kind of odds?"
Alyssa's eyes narrowed with fear. "What are you trying to say Nick?"
"I don't know what I'm trying to say!" he cried in frustration. I don't know anything anymore." As he slid his sunglasses off of his eyes Alyssa noticed for the first time that his eyes looked puffy as if he had been crying and it nearly broke her heart in two. Then he uttered those words that changed her life. "I don't think I want to get married anymore."
"What?!" she responded. "Nick, just because you're confused and worried doesn't mean that you have to throw away our engagement. There's no reason to doubt us! We've been through so much more worse things together and yet we've still managed to survive. If that's not love then I don't know what is!"
"Alyssa," he said softly as he took her hand. "I'm not ready for marriage. There's too much in my life right now that I need to sort out before I can make that kind of commitment. I guess I just didn't realize that until now and I know its pretty shitty of me-"
"Damn right it is!" she answered, unable to conceal her anger. She knew deep down that she was only making matters worse by getting angry, but she couldn't seem to control her emotions as tears of frustration burned her eyelids. Things were finally going right with them and now this!
"Try to understand," he told her. "I know its hard because I can barely understand it myself, but if we were to get married now it wouldn't last."
"How can you say that?" she asked, not bothering to hide the tears that now freely fell down her cheeks. "You're not even giving us a chance!"
"I don't need to. I've already had one marriage and I'm not even 23 yet. I'm not ready for another one. I thought I was, but I'm not," he confessed.
"That was different," Alyssa argued. "It was a marriage of convenience. You didn't love her."
Nick sighed again. "I'm not marriage material. I need to be free right now. My solo album is coming out, I'm young, and I need to be selfish and enjoy myself now while I still can. I can't do that married."
"Are you trying to tell me that you want to see other people too?" she questioned as she swallowed back her tears.
"I guess so," he reluctantly replied. "Maybe its for the best."
"I don't want to see anyone else. I love you Nick. I want to spend the rest of my life with you," she insisted, giving it one last try.
"If you really loved me you'd respect my decision," he told her. It was a dirty card to play, but the easiest way out that he could manage.
"I can't believe that you're breaking up our engagement just so that you can fuck other girls," Alyssa said in disbelief as she backed away from him.
"Come on Alyssa. I didn't say that," Nick answered as he gazed up at her.
"The intent was definitely there," she defiantly told him as she stood up. She looked down upon her hand at the Tiffany & Co. engagement ring that Nick had given her on the last night of the Black and Blue tour. It really had been the engagement ring of her dreams. Now there was no way that she could stand to keep it as a reminder of what could've been. With a trembling breath, she slipped it off her finger and handed it back to Nick. "I guess I won't be needing this anymore."
Nick smirked as he accepted the ring. "This is the second engagement ring that you're returning to me."
"Well, then maybe you should think a little more carefully before you give them out," she tensely replied.
"Keep it," he insisted as he handed it back to her. "What am I going to do with it?"
"I don't want it either Nick. I think a broken heart is enough of a souvenir from this relationship."
Nick's face flashed with hurt from her comment. He looked back down upon the ring and without another moments hesitation he flung it out into the ocean.
That one simple gesture was the biggest fuck you that Alyssa had ever received.
Even after all this time, Alyssa still could not let go of that vision of Nick throwing the ring out into the water, symbolizing that their relationship was truly over for good this time. She had to grin though when she remembered Izzy's reaction to the act when she had told her about it. "He threw a Tiffany's engagement ring into the ocean?! Does that man not understand the value of blue box?" she had cried. "I mean I know he has the money to throw away, but you don't just throw a Tiffany's ring into the ocean. That's like a sin!"
As she replayed the scene in her head, Alyssa seemed to look at the situation in an entirely different light than previously. Now she could see that the way that she acted was totally childish. She had let her anger overcome and refused to even listen to what Nick was trying to say. Maybe he was trying to explain himself, but I didn't give him the chance, she thought to herself. Also she had almost entirely forgotten that the argument had stemmed from his being upset about his parents divorce. Maybe that had a lot to do with him wanting to break up and I tried to tell him everything would be fine without really listening to him? Maybe the break up had been just as much her fault as his.
Nick's voice interrupted her thoughts. "I guess you're right J. I did have my reasons at the time for ending things with her, but I don't think that I got them across as well as I probably should. We were both emotional and then she got defensive and it was bad. Maybe we should talk now when we're both a lot calmer. I saw her after the show and the conversation was just so awkward because I think we both wanted to talk about that day on the beach, but we couldn't find any comfortable way of bringing it up."
"Well, now's your chance Nick," AJ told him. "I can get her out here somehow and then conveniently leave the two of you alone. It's quiet out here and semi- private, so it's probably the best place for the two of you to talk."
Great, now I definitely can't go out there right now because then it would be a little too suspicious that I've been standing here the whole time, Alyssa told herself. She quickly backed away from the balcony doors and decided to head in the direction of the bathroom to kill some time. She could probably hide for at least a good five minutes before making her entrance on the balcony. By then the conversation should shift and she would be safe.
Meanwhile she had five minutes to figure out what she wanted to say to Nick.