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Nick was parked outside a 7/11 when his mobile rang. It had been almost two hours since he left the hospital and he had only managed to put a mile and half between himself and Cassie. He sat in the car for forty-five minutes, a fierce battle of conscience raging, before he went into the store for a packet of Marlboro Lights. Hannah would freak if she smelled smoke when he got home but, as he had taken a heavy drag on the first cigarette, he knew the soothing nicotine was worth it. Now, with his window down and four cigarette butts on the road beside the car, he stared down at the name flashing onscreen - Alex Home. He knew he had two or three rings left before the call would divert to his voicemail and, if not for the thought that something might be wrong with Jack, he would have been quite happy for that to happen.
“Nick, it‘s me.”
“What’s up? Is Jack okay?”
“He’s fine,” she replied. “Where are you?”
Something in her voice wasn’t right. She was speaking too quietly, too quickly.
“I’m on my way back,” he said, pulling another cigarette from the packet and twirling it between his fingers. “I’ll be about fifteen minutes.”
“Oh... okay.”
“What’s up, Hannah?” Nick asked, the cigarette between his lips as he reached for his lighter.
“Brian and Leighanne are here. I don’t know what to say to them.”
Nick froze and Hannah waited.
“Don’t say anything,” he replied, flinging the lighter onto the passenger’s seat and turning the key in the ignition. “I’ll be right there.”
“Yeah, but... Do I make them coffee or something? I can’t just leave them in the living room.”
“That’s exactly what you do, Hannah,” Nick replied, slamming the car into reverse. “They shouldn’t even be there. Tell Alex to entertain them until I get home.”
“Okay,” Nick confirmed. “I’ll see you soon.”
Closing his phone with a click, he flung it alongside the lighter, turning the wheel with one hand as he pulled out of his parking space.
“You asshole, Brian.”

Nick drove out of the 7/11 parking lot and turned left. His mind was racing and he turned the stereo on, hoping to distract himself from his thoughts. He hadn't expected it to be easy, seeing Cassie for the first time since he filed for divorce. But he hadn't expected to find himself questioning his decision to file the papers in the first place, either. He hadn't expected to feel so many things - and feel them so strongly - as she lay in the bed before him. And now he had Hannah calling him - needing him - when all he wanted to do was turn around and go back to the hospital.
Cursing as he thumped his left hand against the steering wheel, he reached for the volume control with his right. The music faded and he muttered under his breath as he looked sideways at the stereo, moving his finger up to increase the volume. He never saw the semi coming.