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Author's Chapter Notes:

Alyssa recieves a surprising invitation.


Chapter 46 - Hot and Cold


            Over the next couple of days Alyssa carefully observed Sean's behavior and the more time she spent with him the more she realized that she barely even recognized him anymore. Something definitely had changed in him. He continued to sleep downstairs on the pull out and continued to have nightmares. Alyssa only knew this because out of curiosity she would peek downstairs to check on him whenever she woke up in the middle night to use the bathroom. During the day he was restless and irritable. Sometimes he would snap at her for some of the most insignificant things such as picking up the wrong cereal at the grocery store or not having done a load of laundry. He'd never been much of a drinker, but since he'd been home from Iraq he'd been gulping down beers like they were water. The more changes she observed in him, the more worried she became. She'd done just as Callie had suggested and googled some information on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Sean seemed to be meeting the criteria. The few times when she tried to get him to talk to her about his experiences either avoid the subject or refuse to comment. In fact, he hadn't mentioned a word about Iraq since that first night he returned home.


            His new behavior of course made what Alyssa had to tell him about her and Nick extremely hard. She was now almost afraid to be honest with him. She'd read online that some people with PTSD were known have trouble managing their anger. Sean had never been the violent type, but he'd also never been one to have a short temper, which was beginning to show itself more and more lately. She was just beginning to get a little afraid that when she did finally tell him he might go off on a violent rampage and seriously hurt her. There were always stories in the news about men killing their wives in a fit of rage. She doubted Sean was capable of that, but you just never knew.


            Of course delaying the inevitable wasn't a very realistic option. She knew that Nick was impatiently waiting for her to make the next move like she had promised. She'd been purposely dodging his calls to give herself more time to weigh out her options. She knew that Nick wasn't going to be happy when she told him that she needed more time with Sean. That conversation was not something that she was looking forward to. She seemed intent on putting it off for as long as she possibly could.


            But she could only ignore Nick for so long until he caught her off guard. Alyssa fell into the very same conversation that she was dreading by picking up a phone call from a restricted number. She wanted to curse herself once she realized how careless she had been when she heard Nick's voice on the other end of the phone. "Wow... So you haven't fallen off the face of planet earth after all."


            Alyssa's face immediately reddened when she heard Nick's sarcastic reply. "No, I've been here just been really busy. You know with Sean returning and all," she fumbled. "He's just demanded a lot of my attention."


            "I'm sure he has."


Alyssa frowned, unsure of how she was supposed to interpret that remark. She quickly glanced around and saw that Sean was still sitting in the living room glued to the football game that was playing on the television. Knowing that he was too involved in his game to notice her disappearance, she headed up the stairs for more privacy speaking in a hushed tone. "What is this all about Nick? What do you want?"


"I want to know when exactly you plan on telling Sean about us," he firmly stated. "You promised me that you'd do it the minute he came home and it's been like four days now. What are you waiting for?" The tone of his voice sounded impatient, annoyed, and possibly a little hurt. Alyssa sighed as she ducked into the nursery and shut the door behind her just in case. She knew that Nick wasn't going to like what she was about to say, but it really was for the best.


"Listen Nick... About that... I'm sorry, but I can't drop this on Sean right now. I need more time. It's complicated, but he-"


"You're fucking kidding me, right? This has to be some kind of joke Alyssa," he interrupted. "You can't fucking do this to me! We made plans... I thought we had an agreement."


"I know Nick. And we do have an agreement. It's just that you don't understand... Sean's not himself right now. He can't handle me telling him something like this. He's really fucked up from Iraq and-"


"Don't tell me you are falling for that bullshit! The guy walks in with a cane and a slight limp and now all of a sudden you are making excuses for him? Is that all it takes?"


"It's a lot more than that!" she cried, her voice rising. "He just watched his best friend get blown up right in front of his face! He's dealing with a lot of emotional shit right now. How am I supposed to add to all the crap he has to deal with by confessing to him that I cheated on him? Never mind the fact that this baby isn't his. It would push him over the edge right now. He can't handle the news at this point."


"For a woman who claims that she's not in love with him anymore, you sure seem to care an awful lot about hurting him," Nick coldly commented. "Isn't that something you should've thought about before you slept with me?"


"Don't you dare pull that card on me! Don't make it sound as if I was the one who practically forced you to have sex with me! You know that you are just as much as fault, so don't try to pin this all on me." Alyssa's body was practically trembling with anger after her outburst. "And I'm not in love with him," she added. "But I do care about the guy and what happens to him. I wouldn't want to be the one responsible if he decided to do something stupid."


            She could practically picture Nick rolling his eyes into the phone. "Oh yea... Because we wouldn't want to have to worry about poor Sean putting a gun to his head all because of you."


            Alyssa almost gasped at the insensitiveness of Nick's remark. She knew that he was angry and frustrated and purposely saying things like this to make her feel bad, but it still stung. Especially coming from him. The way he was talking now was reminding herself more and more of the old Nick. "Nick! You don't realize what you're saying! Sean just returned from a very traumatic experience. War does crazy shit to people. You never know how he might react to something like this! I just want to wait for him to settle back into things a little more before I spring this on him."


            "And how much longer will that take?" he fired back at her. "A few weeks? Months? A year? And then what happens with the baby? She grows up becoming attached to Sean and calling him Daddy?"


            Alyssa just shook her head helplessly, tears already forming in her eyes. "I can't tell you... I don't even know myself. We just have to take it day by day..."


            She heard a loud, exasperated sigh escape Nick's lips. "You know, Angel was right about you. I tried to convince her that you had only my best intentions at heart, but in reality she really had you pegged. You were planning to screw me over like this all along, weren't you?"


            "What?" Alyssa screeched in surprise. "Screw you over? Nick, no... I-"


            "Yes! You never really planned to leave Sean at all, right? You were just telling me what I wanted to hear," he continued. "Every word out of your mouth to me was probably a lie! You just used me to keep your bed warm at night while Sean was away. All I am to you is a glorified sperm donor!"


            Alyssa backed up against the door as if she had been slapped. His ugly words hurt her in a way that she couldn't even describe and by now she couldn't try to disguise the sound of her strangled sobs. How did they get to this point? How did two people who loved each other this much, get caught in a mess such as this? "That's not true Nick... I never lied to you... I love you," she sobbed.


            "Don't..." he warned her. "Look, you may be the one with the baby, so you have the power now, but so help me God, if this baby is born before you tell Sean the truth, I will fight you for custody. I already lost one daughter and I'll be damned if I'm going to lose another..."


            Her heart almost stopped at his threat. "You wouldn't... You value my friendship too much to betray me like that."


            "Friendship? What friendship?" he scoffed. "Friends keep their promises. They don't make excuses about why they can't." He paused. "You have two and a half more months to tell him the truth. If you don't, you will be hearing from my lawyer." Without even saying goodbye Alyssa heard a click and the line went dead.


            Alyssa placed the phone down shakily on the changing table still not even being able to truly believe the conversation she'd just had. Did Nick really threaten to fight her for custody of their daughter? She couldn't let that happen. If that was the case and Nick did get custody she'd lose not only her daughter, but both men as well. Yet, she knew deep down that she couldn't tell Sean just yet. Maybe soon, but she needed to figure out the best approach first.


            How did I get myself into this? she tearfully wondered to herself. All I wanted to do was to keep people from getting hurt.


            It was then she realized that no matter what decision she made, someone was bound to get hurt by her actions. There was no easy way around it. Just like every war had its casualties, she was about to lose somebody that she loved.




            The next day, Alyssa's argument with Nick was still fresh in her mind, but she had to put on a brave front like nothing was wrong even though his threats still shook her to her core. She knew from experience that Nick was notorious for making empty threats just to hurt others, especially when he himself felt hurt, but something like this was different. She had to consider the possibility that he could be very serious about taking her daughter away and she knew that if the truth came out in court about their affair she'd be the one who would look the worst in a judge's eye. Nick definitely could have a shot if he chose to take it to that extreme.


            As if Alyssa wasn't feeling guilty enough, Sean suggested that they stop by Kim's for a little bit that afternoon. Sean had yet to pay his respects to Kim and Kim was finally beginning to reach the point in her grieving process where she welcomed visitors. The visit had been awkward for Alyssa, especially the way that Kim seemed to look at Sean and then back at her as if to challenge her not to mention Nick's name. Alyssa was glad when it came time to leave. She was starting to feel as if Kim was examining her every interaction with Sean under a microscope.


            After they crossed the street back towards their house, Alyssa stopped at the mailbox retrieve their mail for the day. As she and Sean stepped inside she rifled through the mail separating what was addressed to her and what was addressed to Sean into two neat piles.


            "Anything interesting?" Sean asked, peering over her shoulder.


            Alyssa came across a fancy looking envelope addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Sean Robinson." Just by the texture of the envelope and the formal address line she knew that it had to be an invitation of some sorts. "Looks like we've been invited to a party or something," she reported as she placed it on the table.


            Sean grabbed the envelope and impatiently tore into it. "Wonder who it's for? Maybe a wedding?"


            Alyssa shook her head. "No... None of my friends are engaged right now. Teri got married in October." Her brow furrowed in thought. "Oh, wait! One of the teachers in my school is engaged, but I thought she said that she wasn't inviting the people from work."


            She watched as Sean's face darkened and is jaw clench as he read the invitation. "You're wrong. It's your friend Nick. His wife is throwing him a surprise party. He's going to be thirty... Old man huh?"


            Was it just her imagination or did Sean say the word ‘friend' almost condescendingly? And the old man comment? It almost sounded as if he were jealous... But she was probably just reading too much into it out of guilt. She had to admit that she was surprised at the invitation. Shayla made it quite clear that she didn't quite trust her, so why would she invite her to her husband's surprise party? It seemed a little odd, but Alyssa didn't want to question it. She craned her neck to get a better look at the invitation and saw that it was being held at the new nightclub that Howie had just invested in. She recognized his number as the one to RSVP too. He and Teri were probably the ones who thought to invite me, she figured.


            "We're going, right?" she asked. True, she was very pissed at Nick at the moment, but attending his party would mean that she'd get the opportunity to speak with him face to face and she hoped that maybe in person she could reason better with him. She didn't want to leave things like the way she had with him and she wanted to clear things up between them before it got to the point of a vicious custody battle. If she could only talk to him in person, she could hopefully try to get him to hear her out.


            "I don't think so..." Sean looked back down at the invitation. "It's a Thursday night. You have work the next morning."


            "So?" Alyssa shrugged. "I'll just use a personal day for Friday and take a long weekend."


            "No way... You're going to need save up all your extra days to tack on to your maternity leave," he firmly pointed out. "You can't go."


            Alyssa's mouth gaped. If there was one thing that drove her crazy it was her husband telling her that she wasn't allowed to do something. "Excuse me? Who are you? My father? It's my job." She pointed to herself for emphasis. "I think I'm entitled to use my paid time off the way I want to."


            Sean narrowed his eyes at her suspiciously. "I don't understand why it's so important for you to go to this stupid party anyway? I mean you're almost eight months pregnant, Lyss! You are in no condition to go partying at some nightclub like a twenty-one year old."


            "Nick is a very close friend of mine and he's done a lot for me while you were away. I owe it to him to be there," she stubbornly insisted, not entirely sure why she should even be defending him at the moment.


            "Yea, I'm sure he did," she heard Sean mutter under his breath.


            Alyssa's hands dropped to her hips and she stared squarely at him. "What was that?"


            "Listen, you know how I feel about that guy. I think that the only reason he was so helpful to you while I was gone was because he was hoping to get in your pants!" he accused.


            Her jaw dropped. "That's not at all true!" she lied. "Why would you say something like that? He's married for Christ sakes!" Inwardly, Alyssa trembled when she realized just how close to the truth Sean really was.


            "Oh, get off it Alyssa! I've seen the way he looks at you! Even the other night when I first came home and he was here... He's holding some kind of torch for you and you're encouraging him!"


            "How am I encouraging him?" she fearfully asked. She wasn't aware that she had done anything to make Sean suspicious of her, but you never knew.


            "By taking him up every time he offers to do something for you, for one thing." Alyssa opened her mouth to defend herself, but he quickly cut her off. "And don't tell me that you needed a guys help for some things. This base is full of men that I know would help if you really needed anything, and I trust them a lot more than I do Nick. I mean you're extremely over eager to attend this party. It really makes me wonder..."


            "What are you trying to say?" Her stomach turned as she realized just how close to the truth he really was.


            Sean sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'm trying to say that you're not going to this party. End of story. Case closed."


            Alyssa jutted out her chin in a pout. "That's not fair. You can't control me and tell me what I can or can't do. I'm not a child."


            Unexpectedly Sean slammed his fist on the table with so much force that it made Alyssa jump in surprise of the sudden movement. "You're my wife and as my wife it is your duty to respect my wishes and obey them! Now you are not going to the party, so just get over it! Are we clear?"


            "Crystal," Alyssa mumbled in a low voice.




            On the Monday before Nick's birthday, Alyssa had just dropped her students off at art class when she plopped down at her desk dreading the mountain of lesson planning she had in front of her. She only had a few more weeks to get everything together for her sub. Hell, she had to find out who her sub was going to be. She kind of hoped that it would be Pamela, the permanent sub in her building. That way she could meet with her before time and explain her whole classroom routine to her.


            She was just about to attack the paperwork in front of her when she heard her cell phone beeping from her purse. Welcoming the distraction, she retrieved it from her bag and saw that she had a new voice message. She quickly dialed her inbox and heard Teri's voice. "Hey Alyssa... It's about ten-thirty on Monday morning. I know that you are probably at work, but I was just calling because I noticed that you haven't yet RSVPed for Nick's party on Thursday night. I just wanted to know if you planned on attending or not, so please give me a call later on today sometime. Bye!"


            Alyssa inwardly groaned. Since her argument with Sean over attending the party, she'd tried to avoid the subject at all costs, which even meant not replying back to Howie and Teri with an answer. As much as she didn't want to get into her reasons why she wouldn't be attending with her friend, plain etiquette told her that the proper thing to do would be to call up to formally decline. With a sigh she dialed Teri's number and waited for her to pick up.


            "Oh, hi Alyssa," Teri answered. "I'm surprised to hear from you so soon. I thought you'd be teaching."


            "I'm on prep right now. My kids are at art, so I have fifty minutes to myself," she explained.


            "Nice... So, I was worried because I haven't received your RSVP. You and Sean are coming, right?"


            Alyssa hesitated as nervously bent a paper clip out of shape. "I'm afraid we're not going to be able to attend after all."


            "What?" Teri asked in a surprised voice. "I thought you two were definites! Why aren't you coming?"


            Alyssa bit her lip and considered for a moment or two lying to her friend and making up a previous commitment, but she knew that Teri knew her too well to buy a lie. She also wasn't sure if she should tell her that Sean had discouraged her from going because of his hatred for Nick. Finally she decided to give the truth in the wittiest way she could think of. "The wicked husband has forbidden me to attend the ball," she dryly replied.


            "What?" she asked for a second time. "You've got to be kidding me? He honestly won't let you go?"


            Alyssa shook her head. "Uh, huh... He thinks Nick and I have this thing going on."


            "Well..." Teri giggled. "You do have a thing going on."


            "Yea, we do, but I haven't told him about it yet. He's been pretty schizo since he's come back from Iraq, and to be honest I'm a little afraid of how he might react," she admitted.


            "Yikes..." her friend sympathized. "How's Nick taking it? Didn't you promise to come clean to Sean as soon as he came home?"


            ‘Yea, I did and Nick isn't taking it well." She sighed. "That's one of the main reasons I wanted to go to the party. I wanted to be able to talk to Nick and set things straight since he kind of flipped out on me pretty badly over the phone when I told him I needed more time." She decided that it was probably best not to reveal all the details of her phone conversation with Nick, especially when she hoped that he really didn't mean most of the things he had said and that they were just out of anger.


            "So? Go anyway! Sean can't fucking stop you! You're almost thirty years old. Hell, you are older than him, so you shouldn't have to listen to him."


            "He'll probably barricade me in my room and like chain me to my bed," she sarcastically replied.


            "Sounds kinky, but somehow it loses its effect when we're talking about Sean," Teri laughed. "But seriously... Like if you need to lie, do it. I mean I know it's pretty unethical, but at this point it can't be too much worse than anything else you've done right?"


            "That's true," Alyssa agreed. "And I really want to go to this party and see Nick... God, I feel like I'm sixteen again and my Dad grounded me and I can't go to the Homecoming Dance."


            Teri laughed again. "So, here's what you do. Come up with a cover story for Sean. Tell him you're helping out one of the neighbors or something. Instead drive over to my house, get ready there, and Howie and I will take you to the party. If you want, and you can think of an excuse you can even spend the night."


            "Hmm..." Alyssa considered the idea for a moment or two. "I guess I could tell Sean that Callie has some kind of benefit she has to attend for work and asked me to stay over to watch her kids. "


            "That could work... So, are you in?"


            Alyssa paused for a moment feeling almost as if she was making a deal with the devil himself. "Yea, count me in," she finally agreed.


            "Awesome! I can't wait! I'll see you Thursday night then. Bye!"


            "Bye," she echoed as she clicked off the phone.


            Little did Alyssa know exactly what she was getting herself into. The night of Nick's birthday was set to be a night that nobody would surely ever forget.