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Pushing his front door open, Nick inhaled deeply and tried to imagine he was returning home after a concert tour. The house smelled faintly of apples and Cassie’s favourite perfume and Nick closed his eyes for a long moment, letting the gentle smell wash over him.
“Cassie?” he called, though he knew there would be no response. His words soaked into the walls and the house fell silent.
Nick left his overnight bag at the door and made his way into the living room where the reality of Cassie’s departure became infinitely more apparent. The sofa they had purchased together just weeks after their wedding remained but its two matching armchairs had vanished, leaving behind evenly spaced depressions in the carpet. Nick sank into the sofa with a sigh and surveyed his surroundings. Cassie had obviously thought carefully when deciding what to take - anything they had bought together had been left behind or divided as evenly as possible. He noticed, with a sinking heart, he had been left with each and every photograph. Cassie beamed down at him from the mantelpiece, conveying such happiness Nick found it difficult to comprehend. His own happiness, captured beside Cassie in the picture, paled in comparison to the expression of pure joy on his wife’s face. Their wedding - the day the photo had been taken - seemed a lifetime ago.
Hauling himself reluctantly to his feet, Nick crossed the living room, pulling his mobile phone from his pocket as he went. In the kitchen, he reached for the phonebook kept on the counter and flicked through the pages. Trying to organise his thoughts as he dialled, Nick lowered himself into a seat at the kitchen table. After a few short rings, the phone clicked as the call was collected at the other end of the line.
Nick’s heart leapt into his throat and lodged itself firmly there.
“Hello?” the voice repeated. “Who is this?”
“John… Mr Wilson… Sir…” Nick spluttered. “It’s Nick.”
His words met a wall of silence.
“I just… I want to talk to Cassie. Please. If she’s there,” Nick continued.
“She’s not here,” John Wilson replied evenly.
“Do you know where she is?” Nick asked. “Have you seen her?”
Silence was once again the only response.
“Please, John. I need to talk to her.”
“She doesn’t want to talk to you, Nick. She wants to be alone.”
Nick’s vision clouded as he felt himself beginning to lose control.
“Where is she, John?” he asked. “She’s my wife. I need to talk to her.”
For a brief moment, the sound of a muffled discussion carried down the phone and Nick strained to listen.
“Don’t call here again.”
The call ended with an abrupt click and Nick flipped his phone shut, pushing it angrily away from him. He sat motionless at the table for a moment, his head beginning to throb rhythmically. In one swift movement, he pushed his chair back, barely flinching as it toppled over behind him and reached across to snatch back his mobile. With an angry yell, he launched it across the room and into the wall beside the front door. The phone smashed, its pieces falling to the floor as Nick sank to his knees. Creaking slightly, the door opened slowly and Brian stepped in.
“Have I come at a bad time?” he asked quietly, his concern obvious as his eyes moved over his friend. "Nick? Are you okay?”
Nick lifted his head and his eyes met Brian’s.
“I’ve lost her, Brian. I’ve really lost her.”
Brian crossed the room and knelt beside Nick.
“You’ve only just arrived home. How can you say you’ve lost her when you’ve barely started looking?” he asked.
“She won’t talk to me…”
“I wouldn’t, either,” Brian interjected. “Not right away. She’s just found out you’ve got a son and she’s not his mother. She’s going to need some time to process that, don’t you think?”
Nick nodded silently, staring at the patch of floor in front of him.
“Give her some time then,” Brian finished gently. “She’ll come around, Nick - she loves you. It’s just going to take a while.”
Brian waited as Nick sat quietly, pulling at a thread hanging from the bottom of his jeans.
“You’d better put the coffee on,” Nick mumbled eventually. “I need to catch you up.”