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Author's Chapter Notes:

Alyssa discusses the topic of cheating with her friends.

Chapter 13 – Survey Says

After her lunch with Teri and Tricia, Alyssa arrived home feeling more confused than ever. Between the afternoon she’d spent with Nick last month, the paparazzi pictures, and him finding the pictures he’d taken of her from a few years ago, things had definitely been a little weird between the two of them. Adding it all up together, Alyssa almost wanted to kick herself for being so blind. Of course she still had feelings for him! Not only was it that little spark she’d felt with the necklace, but looking back Alyssa really began to realize just how much Nick had changed and how close their friendship had grown so quickly. They had been so much more comfortable and relaxed around each other. It was exactly how things should’ve been between them in a perfect world.

But then there was Teri’s opinion too. Was it possible that she was just focusing so much on Nick lately as a way of dodging her problems with Sean? Wasn’t it rather convenient that now that the minute she and Sean began to have difficulties in their relationship all of a sudden she realized she might still have feelings for her ex? Or was it just one big coincidence? Alyssa had to admit though that Teri did have a point. The answer to her and Sean’s problems was definitely not through Nick. That would be taking the easy way out instead of facing those problems head on. Besides, what was happening between her and Sean was probably completely normal under the circumstances. Look at everything they were faced with! While doing some of her research about getting pregnant, Alyssa had stumbled upon more than a few sources warning that in many cases becoming pregnant definitely could take its toll on any relationship; even the healthiest of ones. So what she and Sean were going through was completely normal, right?

Still though, she found herself being throughouly confused about what to do if anything about these newly realized feelings about Nick. On one hand she had one person telling her to go with her gut instinct and live impulsively, while on the other she had someone else telling her that she needed to think things through a lot deeper and take a more calculated approach if she decided to do anything about them. Knowing how it felt to be cheated on, she’d never want to put someone else in that position, but regrettably she had cheated on at least one ex of hers with Nick before. Of course, Dan had been a complete rebound relationship after she’d learned that Nick had married Katie. She’d jumped into things with him rather quickly and although he’d been a very nice guy, she couldn’t say that she had any deep feelings for him. Sean was a completely different animal though. She actually shared a deep connection with him and they were married. Cheating on a husband was a lot more serious than just cheating on a boyfriend. Sean’s words from her dream echoed back at her ominously. Sorry? Sorry doesn’t cut it! You made a vow to me Alyssa! Does that not mean anything to you? Just the memory put a chill through her.

Then there was the fact that Nick was also married, so if anything were to happen between the two of them, they’d be breaking up two marriages. She wasn’t quite certain of the whole situation, but she already knew that there was some tension between Nick and Shayla due to their opposing views on children. Two people, who had strong feelings for each other and were stuck in relationships that left them unsatisfied was a sure recipe for disaster, and it scared Alyssa when she realized how the stage was already beginning to be set. Ultimately, the choice would be hers whether she chose to do the moral thing and stay faithful to her husband, but it was almost too tempting the way that circumstances were setting themselves up.

To some people cheating is the worst thing that you can possibly do, but then you have those people who willingly stay in relationships knowing that their partner is having an affair and they’re completely okay with it, she told herself. How can someone stand that? She never quite understood how people could have affairs and not feel guilty. Obviously cheating was one of those personal topics that everyone seemed to have different opinions on. Suddenly, Alyssa developed a strong interest in polling her friends and family about their feelings on cheating. Maybe their answers would help her sort out her mixed up feelings about the whole issue as well as help her decide exactly what she should do about her situation with Nick.

Surprisingly, Alyssa found the next morning that getting her friends opinions on cheating were actually a lot simpler than she’d anticipated. Almost automatically her first opening was almost handed to her with a hysterical phone call from Izzy.

“I think Tristan is cheating on me,” Izzy announced as soon as Alyssa had answered the phone.

“Whoa! Back that ass up and start from the beginning. What makes you think he’s cheating on you?” she curiously asked. She wasn’t sure what to be more stunned about. The fact that Tristan could be cheating on Izzy or the uncanny fact that Izzy had brought up the one topic that had been obsessing her thought’s lately.

“I feel like Grace and I don’t matter much to him anymore. He’s always pushing us aside for his music… You’d think that he was a fucking Grammy winning artist or something! Okay, so maybe his first album did have a pretty decent success. But this new album he’s just released ranks him right back down with some indie artists. I know he’s stressed because his record label is threatening to drop him, but I feel like he’s taking it all out on me!”

Alyssa bit her lip. “Well, I can see how that would cause some problems in your relationship Iz, but I also don’t see any proof of him cheating on you either.”

“I’m getting to that part,” she warned. “He’s been doing all these small club shows and going out practically every night to promote himself. I hardly ever go with him because someone needs to stay home with Grace. He comes home three or four in the morning… sometimes later reeking of some kind of mixture of perfume, alcohol, and cigarettes. There are some days that poor Grace doesn’t even see him and he’s her father! Then I see all these pictures of him with these random girls on his music My Space.”

“I don’t know Iz… I mean I admit that’s pretty shitty of him to devote so much time to his music when he has a daughter that he should be devoting at least half that time too, but you’ve practically grown up in the music industry. You know how crazy groupies can be and you should know firsthand that not every guy gives into the temptations of a scantily clad body. I mean Kevin turned out pretty normal, and I know that he’s definitely had chances.”

Izzy just scoffed. “Yea, Kevin was one story, but then how do you explain Nick? I love him dearly and he’s one of my best friends, but I’ve seen a lot of things concerning him that I really wish that I hadn’t. Face it. He was quite the man whore at one time. I could probably blame him for my paranoia in assuming that Tristan is cheating,” she admitted.

“Hey, if Nick could turn himself around and settle himself down, then I’d say that there’s hope yet for anyone. I think you’re blowing this all out of proportion.”

“Well, there is one more thing that scares me,” she finally admitted. “We’ve been together for how long now?”

“About the same time that Nick and I first got together…” Alyssa paused counting off the years. “So, that would be approximately eight years ago.”

“Correct. And we’ve been living together for six and have had a daughter now for three. Don’t you think it’s about time he thought about just making it official already and putting a damn ring on my finger?”

“Well, uhh… Have you talked about marriage with him?”

“All the time. And every time I bring it up there’s a different excuse. Mostly his music career, but I don’t buy it. What music career? Going to hole in the wall bars to play for a bunch of college students? There’s no way that excuse is going to work on me. Hello, Kevin gave up his career to be a father even before Julian was born. And look at Brian! He manages to have a music career and still be a damn good father and husband. And their careers are much more lucrative than his. It’s just frustrating!” Izzy let out a muffled scream. “I definitely don’t want to think about a future without him, especially because of Grace, but on the other hand I just feel like I’m wasting my time.”

Alyssa couldn’t help, but to feel sympathetic for her friend. A part of her wanted to reassure Izzy that she and Tristan didn’t need a marriage for their relationship to flourish, but she also knew that if she was in Izzy’s shoe’s she’d be desperately waiting for a ring too. “Would you really leave him though? I can’t imagine you and Tristan not being together.”

Izzy just shrugged on the other end of the phone. “If he was cheating on me? In a heartbeat. I’m sorry, but no offense to you because I know you’ve been this situation with Nick, but cheating is unforgivable in my book. Why do you think it took so long for me to even begin to act civil towards Nick again after what he did to you? I have absolutely no respect for cheaters.”

Just from the venomous tone of her voice, Alyssa was already starting to feel guilty and she didn’t even have anything to really feel guilty about yet. “Wow… Those are pretty strong words there,” she remarked.

“I don’t think so,” Izzy icily replied. “I don’t stand for anyone fucking around on me.”

I guess that’s one for the cheating is wrong under any circumstances column, Alyssa noted to herself as she mentally classified Izzy’s opinion.

The next opportunity for Alyssa to raise the great cheating debate was the following afternoon. After work, she and one of her neighbors, Callie headed over to the hospital to visit a mutual friend of their’s Kim, who had just given birth to a baby boy the day before. The two women had become close friends with Alyssa since her and Sean had moved to California and their husbands were also friends with Sean. The three couples often got together for barbeques and poker nights and things like that.

Visiting Kim in the hospital was a little bittersweet for Alyssa. Naturally, it was painful to have to fake happiness over another woman’s successful birth when Alyssa herself was having problems getting pregnant. Out of the three women, she was the oldest by a few months, but the only one of the three to not yet have any kids of her own. Callie already had two children and this was Kim’s first. Alyssa couldn’t help but to feel a little left out.

When they entered Kim’s hospital room, Alyssa’s lip curled slightly in disgust as she realized that Kim was in the midst of breast feeding. Not seeming phased at all by their entrance she smiled brightly and continued what she was doing, not at all embarrassed. “Hey girls! Come on in! I’m just trying to get the hang of this breast feeding thing down. You don’t mind do you?”

“Not at all,” Callie replied, being the first to enter the room. “Yea, breast feeding is a bitch at first, but after the first few times it just becomes second nature.”

“Good… That makes me feel better. I didn’t think it would be so complicated, but it’s so much healthier for the baby,” she rambled on.

And totally does a number on your boobs, Alyssa thought cynically to herself. Although she was nowhere near being pregnant yet she’d already decided against the idea of breast feeding. She knew all the research about it being healthier and all that, but it just sounded like a bigger pain of the ass than it was worth. She hadn’t been breast fed as a baby and she’d turned out fine. Besides, call it shallow, but she liked her boobs just the way they were.

Picking up on Alyssa’s obvious discomfort, Callie laughed. “I think we’re scaring Alyssa over there.”

“Yea, I think so too,” Kim agreed. “I guess then I probably shouldn’t go into too much detail about how long I was in labor for. She might stop trying to get pregnant altogether.”

“You don’t have to worry about that. I’ve already witnessed my best friend give birth to my Goddaughter and I kid you not, I was with her the whole damn time,” Alyssa pointed out. “So, I’ve pretty much seen it all, although I can imagine it has to be ten times worse when you’re actually the one doing the pushing.”

“Oh, it is! It honestly felt like I was being ripp-“Finally remembering her promise not to go into details, Kim clamped a hand over her mouth. “Sorry Lyss. I forgot.”

“So, do you think that you and Ian are going to want anymore kids in the future?” Alyssa tried to change the subject.

“I think so, although it’s a little too early to tell just yet. We’ll have to see how we do with this one. We both want a big family. At least five or six.”

“Five or six?” Now it was Callie’s turn to pale. “You can so tell that you’re a new Mom. Let, me tell you… Come back in like a month or two and I guarantee you that you’ll change your mind. I used to want a big family too, but now I’m perfectly content with two.”

“Yea… Two seems like a good number,” Alyssa agreed. “Of course I’m having trouble getting pregnant with one, so…”

Both women’s faces softened. “I’m sorry Lyss. I wish there was something I could do to help. It took a little bit for me to get pregnant with Carly, but not this long. Then when Richard came along it happened right away.”

“I got pregnant with Gavin here pretty easily,” Kim chimed in. “I mean we weren’t exactly trying at the time, but we haven’t been married very long either. I guess it also helped that I’m pretty young. Not that you’re old of course. Just older.”

Alyssa just rolled her eyes, not taking offense in the younger woman’s comment. Kim was the youngest of the three of them at twenty-three and the one that Alyssa seemed to bat heads with most. Kim was very opinionated and stubborn as was Alyssa, but Kim sometimes came across as overconfident and at times judgmental. Alyssa assumed that because of her age she lacked experience which led to their differences in opinion, but more than once Callie had to referee the two of them in some heated debate. “Actually, my gynecologist told me that a woman my age has the same chances of getting pregnant as a woman your age Kim. Usually fertility stays pretty consistent between women in their early twenties and women in their late twenties. Although the optimal age to conceive is mid twenties, biologically speaking I still have excellent chances.”

“So, there aren’t any problems fertility-wise?” Callie uncomfortably asked. “She didn’t say that you definitely can’t have children?”

“Only about seven percent of women my age actually have fertility problems that are unrelated to a prior event,” Alyssa firmly reported. The other two women looked at her oddly. “What? I’ve been doing my research. The odds that there’s something wrong with me are extremely low. Yea, I’ve been concerned, but my doctor told me that she doesn’t recommend me going to see a fertility specialist until we’ve been trying for at least a full year.”

“I know… It just really sucks because you and Sean don’t have that much more time,” Callie sympathized. Both women were in the same boat as Alyssa when it came to the threat of their husbands being sent over to Iraq, so they were well aware of the pressures that Alyssa was being faced with.

“It’s okay,” she tried to brush the topic off. “It’ll happen. Let’s see what’s on TV.” She grabbed the remote off of Kim’s nightstand, glad to change the subject. She grinned when she saw the beginnings of the Oprah Winfrey show flash across the screen. She was a big Oprah fan and she was even more delighted when the topic of that day’s show was announced.

“All of our women on our show today are different ages, races, body types, and economic levels, but they all share the same deep, dark secret,” Oprah mysteriously began her introduction. “All of these women have admitted to cheating on their husbands and they’re here today to tell their stories. The reasons for their infidelity are different in each of their cases, but they all have one thing in common. They swore that this would never happen to them. So, how does a seemingly happy married woman turn into an adulteress? Today we’re going to see if we can find out.”

Kim grabbed the remote from Alyssa’s hand and flicked the television off. “I don’t want to watch that crap.”

“Afraid it might give you some ideas?” Alyssa teased, secretly happy that the door for the cheating conversation had been opened for her.
“No.”” Kim made a face. “I just don’t want to hear women scramble to make excuses and try to garner sympathy when they were the ones who chose to ruin their marriages in the first place. I mean okay, I admit that most women have fantasized about having an extramarital affair. Even I have dreamt about cheating on Ian with Orlando Bloom, but that’s just it. It’s a fantasy and although it’s completely healthy and normal, there’s also not a snowballs chance in hell of it happening.”

Alyssa thought about what Kim had just said for a moment. Could it just be the fantasy aspect that had her so sure she still had feelings for Nick? So, she’d dreamt about him? As Kim had just pointed out that there was nothing wrong about just thinking about it. It was actually doing it that brought on trouble. Of course in Alyssa’s case, Nick wasn’t just an unattainable celebrity to her. “Okay, but just playing devil’s advocate here… What if the guy you were fantasizing about was actually somebody that you could plausibly hook up with? Not someone you’re probably never going to meet like Orlando Bloom?”

Kim just shrugged. “Can’t say I’ve been in that position really. Yea, every once in a while I’ll see a guy who is pretty hot, but I just don’t have much desire to even risk letting it get that far. I have too much to lose, especially right now. I just had a baby, so I’m more focused on being a Mom right now. Plus, I’m pretty happy and satisfied with Ian. I’d have no real reason to cheat.”

“I agree with Kim,” Callie cut in. “Only I’m probably a lot more adamant about the whole cheating thing. I’d never cheat on Steve. We’ve been together since high school, so that’s almost ten years now. We have too much history just to throw that away for what? One night of hopefully great sex? It’s not worth it. Kim is right. We’ve got too much to lose. Especially with the threat of Steve being sent to Iraq. That would be like a slap in the face to him.”

Alyssa just nodded and mulled the thought over already feeling guilty for even considering cheating on Sean. Callie was right. Doing something like that while he was risking his life for their country was pretty selfish. She couldn’t do that to Sean.

Her thoughts were interrupted by Kim. “What’s your opinion on the whole cheating thing Alyssa?”

Alyssa felt like she was completely being put in the spot, but bit her lip before thoughtfully responding. “It’s tough because I’ve been on both sides of the fence on this one and it’s honestly a horrible feeling to be cheated on. It leaves you wondering what you could have done to prevent it from happening to you. But on the other hand sometimes you just have stronger feelings for someone else and I guess you just can’t help it. You don’t want to hurt the person you’re with by letting them go, but you can’t deny your feelings either.”

She could tell that the other two women didn’t quite agree with her just by the glance they shared. Finally Callie broke the tense silence with question that even Alyssa was unsure of the answer too. “Would you ever cheat on Sean?”

The question shook her and she nervously licked her lips, not sure of how to answer. At this point, she really wasn’t certain. If someone had asked her the same question a few weeks earlier she’d be offended that they’d even ask, but now she had her doubts. Of course, she couldn’t admit those to Callie and Kim. “Of course I wouldn’t. I love Sean.”

She just hoped that she sounded as convincingly as she thought she did.

That evening Alyssa received an unexpected phone call from her older sister Megan, in New Jersey. The call had been just what she needed to pull her out of her worried mood that she’d been in when she and Callie had left the hospital earlier that afternoon. She and Meg had been extremely close at one time, but now that they were living on two completely opposite coasts it made keeping up a relationship very hard. Alyssa wished that they could live closer, but Meg had a pretty set life in New Jersey with her husband Scott.

“Meg! It’s great to hear from you!” she answered the phone excitedly. “How are you and Scott?”

“We’re doing great,” her older sister responded. “Actually I’m calling with some pretty good news. Now that I’ve finally gotten a degree and I have a pretty steady job in a bank as a mortgage consultant, Scott and I have finally decided that it’s a good time to start thinking about kids.”

“That’s great news Meg.” Alyssa was genuinely happy for her older sister. Meg was unable to have children as a result of a bout with ovarian cancer in her early twenties. Now officially cancer free, but without both of her ovaries, Meg’s options for children were limited. She and Scott had discussed their choices and last Alyssa had heard were considering adopting. “So are you still looking into adoption?”

“We’ve already met with an agency and we’ve reached a decision. It’s really competitive and expensive to adopt a baby within this country and we kind of want it to happen right away, so we’ve decided to adopt from another country. If all goes according to plan, Scott and I will be spending our summer in China and coming home with a baby girl,” Meg proudly reported.

“Aww… That’s such amazing news! I can’t believe that I’m going to be an Aunt in only a few short weeks!”

“Uh huh! I thought I’d let you know, so you can already start shopping for things to spoil her with. What about you though?” Meg asked. “Last I heard from Mom was that I might be becoming an Aunt pretty soon there myself.”

Alyssa sighed. She knew her Mom was probably tickled pink to finally be becoming a grandmother and was probably waiting just as anxiously as Alyssa was for the announcement of her first biological grandbaby. “Yea well, we’re trying, but so far no luck. It’s kind of frustrating, but we’re hoping. My gynecologist is convinced that I have nothing to worry about, but I don’t know… Today a friend and I went to visit another friend who just had a baby and the two of them had no trouble getting pregnant and seemed really surprised that I was having this much trouble. What if there’s something wrong with me and I can’t have kids?”

“I seriously doubt that Lyss. You’re way too young to be worried about these kinds of problems. And outside of me there isn’t any history of anyone in our family having trouble conceiving. Usually those kinds of things are genetic.”

“Didn’t Aunt Rose have trouble getting pregnant?” Alyssa asked. “She had a lot of miscarriages or something.”

“Aunt Rose went on to have three healthy children,” Meg pointed out. “And besides, she was married into the family, so if there was any genetic problem it wouldn’t have affected you.”

Alyssa bit her lip. “Okay… Didn’t Grandma Elizabeth have a miscarriage? And one still born?”

Meg sighed. “Again Grandma Elizabeth went on to deliver healthy children. Miscarriages have nothing to do with not being able to get pregnant. What makes you think the problem is you anyway? Hell, there could be something wrong with Sean too.”

“I highly doubt that. I’d say it’s mostly my job to get pregnant.”

“Yea, but maybe he’s shooting blanks?” she suggested.

“Meg!” Alyssa found herself laughing at her sister’s bluntness. “The chances of that are so slim.”

“But not completely unlikely. You just never know.”

There was a bit of a silent pause and that’s when Alyssa remembered the cheating debate from the conversation with Callie and Kim earlier that day. She’d be interested to hear her sister’s take on the issue. “Hey Meg… Can I ask you something personal?”

“I think you and I have crossed personal a loooong time ago,” her sister answered with a laugh.

Alyssa just smiled weakly. “I know you’re happily married to Scott, but do you ever look at other guys and wonder if you made a mistake?”

She could practically hear her sister frowning on the other end of the line. “Well, yea I look at other guys from time to time, but I can’t say that I’d rather be married to some stranger than Scott. I’m not sure I understand your question.”

She thought a little harder before rephrasing it. “Okay, let’s say if someone like AJ was to walk back in your life tomorrow and you had the chance to run off with him. Would you leave Scott to go back to him?”

“Truthfully? No. I mean those few months or whatever I had with AJ were amazing and exciting and full of passion and all that jazz, but in the end, the minute he heard I had cancer he ran like a bat out of hell. And I know everyone told me he was really fucked up back then and just couldn’t deal with something like that, but actions speak louder than words. Even though I met Scott after the whole cancer thing he was always so supportive and I knew that God forbid it came back or if I have any other health scare in the future he’d be right by my side. It’s those things that make a marriage, so no, I couldn’t do that to him after all he’s done for me.”

“Would you at the very least hook up with him if given the chance? Say it was a free pass type thing and Scott would never find out about it?” Alyssa continued to interrogate, this time using the same question that had been posed to her by Teri and Tricia earlier that weekend.

Meg was quiet for a moment. “As much as I do think about it, I don’t think I could. Abandoning me the way he did was unforgivable in my book. But why all the questions? Are you and Sean having problems or something?”

“No, I was just wondering. That’s all,” Alyssa quickly lied.

“Bullshit… Why are you asking about exes and cheating?” Meg gasped as she put two and two together. “Oh no, honey… This is about Nick again, is it?”

Panicking a bit at how well her sister could read her, Alyssa struggled to form a response. She knew that Meg could tell when she was lying, even on the phone and she wasn’t ready to get into a conversation about her true feelings when even she was confused to how true they really were. “You know what Meg? I’d love to sit and talk longer, but I have another phone call on the other line that I really need to take. It’s a parent of one of my students. Can we talk about this another time?”

“Sure I guess. I’ll talk to you later. Just stay out of trouble please,” her sister warned.

“I’ll try. And congratulations again on the adoption. Bye.” Alyssa clicked the end button on the phone and let out a deep breath. She hated lying to her sister, but she knew if she stayed on the line any longer she’d crack and then have to sit through one of her lectures about the thousand and one reasons she should stay far away from Nick Carter.

Just then the phone rang again in her hand, causing her to jump up in shock. “Hello?” she answered, not even bothering to look at the caller ID.

“Hey Alyssa,” a familiar voice came over the end. “It’s me Nick.”

“Oh, Nick! Sorry I’m just a little out of it at the moment,” she apologized, making a face at how retarded she probably sounded although it was a much better response than her saying she was just thinking about him.

“Is everything all right?” His voice was filled with genuine concern.

“Oh, everything is great! I just got off the phone with Meg and evidently she and Scott were approved to adopt a baby girl from China, so I’m becoming an Aunt in a few weeks.” It wasn’t a lie and it seemed like a good excuse.

“Congratulations,” he told her. “That sounds exciting. I’m happy for them.”

“Yea…” Her voice trailed off. “So, what’s new with you? We haven’t talked since you came by with my stuff.”

“Yea, I know. I’ve been really busy for the last week or two. I don’t know if I mentioned it or not before, but the first of my artists just stepped into the studio this week to start on her album, so I’ve been pretty tied up with that. Actually, that’s kind of why I called.”

“Oh?” Alyssa wasn’t sure what one of his artists beginning to record their album had to do with her, but she tried to sound interested anyway.

“I know we were talking about getting together again sometime with Sean and Shayla and I was just wondering… I’m having a dinner party at my house Friday night to celebrate Kina starting her album. It’ll be a few people from the label, Kina, and some of the guys. I was wondering if maybe you and Sean would like to come?”

A dinner party? The last time Sean and Nick had shared a meal, Sean had been anything, but polite. And based upon her current revelations putting the two men in a room together could be extremely awkward. “I don’t know Nick… I’d have to check with Sean.”

“Please do. It would mean a lot to me if you were there.” Alyssa swallowed hard when she heard the obvious plea in his voice.

Just his tone of voice was enough for her to change her mind. If Sean was as serious as he claimed to be in not getting in the way of her friendship with Nick, he could suck it up for one night and attend the dinner party with him. “You know what Nick, Sean probably is free, so don’t worry about it. We’ll be there.”

“Great. I can’t wait to see you.”

“Can’t wait to see you either,” she echoed, trying to ignore the excited chill that ran down her spine. All she knew was she was more confused about him than ever and judging from the way her emotions had been swinging lately; there was no telling how Friday night would go down.