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Author's Chapter Notes:

Nick and Alyssa wind up spending an unexpected afternoon together.

Chapter 7- So Far From Where We’ve Been

“So I was completely shit faced and for some reason I decided that it would be a good idea to try hitting on Teri. Now you know how Teri is. She found the whole situation hilarious, so she proceeds to purposely flirt back just to make me look like a bigger fool than I already looked like. So she was all over me on purpose just to be a tease and make me look like a bigger asshole than I already seemed. To everyone else it was apparently really funny, but unfortunately for me Howie didn’t see things that way. Naturally he completely misinterpreted the situation thinking I was trying to take his woman from him and next thing I know he’s going all Puerto Rican on my ass and he just decked me. I swear I didn’t even see it coming! But the most embarrassing part was that he actually left quite the nasty bruise on my temple. We had to lie and tell everyone that I was attacked by a group of rabid fans. Then I felt horrible once I found out that fans were getting upset with each other thinking that I was pretty much mauled by a pack of screaming girls. The rest of the guys will never let me live that one down!”

“Howie hit you? Sweet, mild mannered, peaceful, little Howie?” Alyssa asked in disbelief, trying her hardest not to laugh. Her and Nick were in the midst of eating their lunch at a popular diner in downtown LA. Since they’d arrived conversation had flowed surprisingly well between the former couple with Nick doing most of the talking, retelling some of his most recent outrageous experiences like the story he had just finished. Alyssa had to admit that she was relieved for the relaxed atmosphere and the lighthearted conversation. It was almost starting to feel like nothing had changed between the two of them, all romantic feelings put aside.

“I swear to God!” Nick insisted, crossing his heart. “I’ve seen him so pissed in my life. It’s true what they say about those Latin tempers. I’m just thankful that he didn’t try to knife me!”

Just the image of Howie wielding a switchblade in Nick’s direction was enough to make Alyssa completely lose control of her laughter. She gasped for breath as she tried to quiet her giggles. “I think I’m going to have to ask Howie about this one because I still think you’re pulling my leg. I know how you love to make up stories.”

Nick just shrugged and pretended to look hurt. “Fine. Don’t believe me,” he sniffed. “But it did happen!” He paused for a moment and then turned serious. “Anyway I’ve done enough talking. It’s your turn now. You usually have some pretty interesting stories about the children you work with.”

“I don’t know Nick… That last story was a pretty tough act to follow. I just don’t know if I have anything that competes with Howie kicking your ass.”

“Hey he did not kick my ass!” he corrected. “And c’mon you have to have something. It’s been a while since I’ve heard a good puke story.”

Alyssa bit her lip a smirk already forming on her lips. “Well, I could tell you about the time that one of my fourth grade girls got her period for the first time during class and had no idea what has happening to her. I had to pull her aside and have a talk that I really had hoped I wouldn’t have had to have until much later on in life with my own kids. But I’m sure that’s not exactly what you were looking for, huh?”

She watched in delight as a disgusted look washed over Nick’s face as he inched his plate away from him. “Eww… Yea I definitely just lost my appetite. You have to give me something better than that. What about any really bad date stories? You had to have had a few before you met Sean right?”

“Well… I did sort of do the whole internet dating site thing when I first moved to North Carolina,” she admitted. “I was alone in a new state and I didn’t know anyone, so I had to start somewhere. And that was pretty interesting… Met some very uhm unique men and that’s putting it nicely.”

“Now we’re talking.” Nick rubbed his hands together, looking eager to hear more.

“Hmm… “Alyssa looked thoughtful. “Well, first there was the professional peer bong player.”

“You mean it’s actually like an official sport? I thought it was just some lame drinking game played at college frat parties.”

Alyssa just nodded. “Apparently there is actually an American Beer Pong Association out there somewhere complete with their own annual World Series of Beer Pong held where else but Sin City itself, Las Vegas. I only know this because this guy happened to be in training for this very prestigious event.”

“Training?” Nick almost laughed out loud. “How the hell do you train for beer pong?”

“He’d enter all these tournaments at local bars to practice,” she explained. “Every night of the week he had a different bar he’d go to. He told me that he could easily make five hundred a week just from playing beer pong, but I didn’t buy it. Nor did I buy him offering to take me back to his apartment after our first date to ‘teach me how to play’.”

“He actually thought that would work?” This time Nick did little to hide his laughter. “Teach you how to play, my ass! More like how to teach you how to play underneath the sheets.”

Alyssa rolled her eyes. “Exactly the reason why I graciously turned him down and then never called him again. That and the fact that I was kind of looking for a man with a more permanent career in mind.”

“The only game he had in mind involved a completely different set of balls.” Nick smirked not being able to resist the perverted comment the moment he thought of it.

“Nickolas!” Alyssa gasped, pretending to be shocked, but was laughing so hard on the inside that she could feel her face actually begin to redden. “Guess some things never change. I can always depend on your mind to be in the gutter.”

“Well, I didn’t want to disappoint you,” he replied, completely straight faced. “I wouldn’t be me without a dirty mind.”

“Point well taken.” She paused before continuing on. “Then there was the shy guy. Shy guy was actually very nice, but the problem was that he was so shy that he’d only reply in monosyllables. Everything was yes, no, okay, cool, great etc. It made upholding a conversation a real bitch and a half. After coming from our date with a sore throat because I had to do all the talking, I kind of figured there really wasn’t much of a future there.”

“Yea… I could see how that could get to be just a little bit of a problem.”

“Then there was the angry guy who again seemed perfect, but halfway through the date he cursed out our waiter because he bought him French fries instead of a baked potato. We never made it to the movie because he got into it with another guy in the parking lot because the guy stole his parking spot. When I chimed in to remind him that he didn’t have his signal on he turned on me and you know I don’t put up with that shit. I left him there and took a cab home.”

“But the biggest asshole award goes to the guy who actually turned around to me point blank and asked very seriously, ‘Say we’re in a relationship and one night you don’t feel up to having sex. Would you be cool with just blowing me and cuddling afterwards? Or are you the type who only gives it to get it?’ I swear to God Nick, I think my jaw must’ve hit the floor. My only reaction was like what the fuck?”

Even Nick looked shocked by that last story. “Yea really… No wonder this guy is relying on an internet dating service to meet women. It’s probably the only way he gets laid.”

“If he gets laid,” Alyssa corrected. “I don’t know if there’s any woman that would work on.”

“You’d be surprised. Trust me,” Nick responded. “But seriously it’s definitely not the right kind of question to be asking any woman, especially you.”

Alyssa frowned. “What’s that supposed to mean?” she asked in a voice that sounded slightly insulted.

Oh no… Now you’ve done it, Nick chastised himself as soon as the words left her mouth. The comment had seemed innocent enough at first, but the more he thought about it, the more he realized how hurtful Alyssa might view it as. Hadn’t she nearly broken his nose the last time he’d made a comment about what he was hinting at now? He decided that the best course of action would be to play it off like he hadn’t meant it the way it had came out. “Nothing… Nothing at all.”

She looked doubtful. “That’s why you were so quick to answer and you look guilty as sin?”

Nick sighed once he realized that he was not going to be getting out of this one too easily. What a shame when things were going so smoothly, he thought. Leave it to me to fuck things up. Taking a deep breath he blurted out, “It’s just that you aren’t exactly the type to just hand out blowjobs for the hell of it… At least you weren’t.” He grimaced at how badly that had come out and braced himself for what he was certain was going to be a very angry response from Alyssa.

He did not just go there, Alyssa found herself thinking to herself in disbelief. Her first instinct was to tell him off for making such an asshole comment like that. She could already feel the rage beginning to ball up inside of her, but before she could explode and say something she regretted, a voice in her head immediately instructed her to calm down. Nick was probably expecting her to blow up at him. That’s exactly how the Alyssa of a few years ago would’ve reacted. But now that she was a woman, she wasn’t supposed to blow up at dumb things like that. Instead she decided to give him the completely opposite reaction. A slow grin grew over her face. “You’re right,” she answered. “I wasn’t that type of girl. But things can change over time, right?”

She couldn’t help but to grin wider in satisfaction as she saw the unexpected expression on Nick’s face. She almost laughed at the way his mouth actually hung open in shock. Not being able to resist teasing him a little, she playfully thrust a pile of napkins in his direction. “Here. I think you might need these because if you keep your mouth like that you’re going to start drooling in like two seconds.”

“Very funny,” Nick responded with a pout finally finding his voice again. He didn’t even have a moment to think about a clever retort before their waitress appeared at their table and dropped their check on the table in front of them. Trying to avoid further embarrassment he reached for it before Alyssa could even offer to pay for her half. It was the least he could do after practically sticking his whole foot in his mouth.

About ten minutes later the former couple found themselves out in the diner parking lot both reluctantly lingering near their vehicles. Lunch was well over by now and there was no reason for either of them to stick around, but still they awkwardly stood there, neither one of them quite wanting to leave just yet. Their meal had gone extraordinarily well and both Nick and Alyssa were a little surprised by the outcome. They’d expected plenty of awkwardness and sheepish apologies on both sides, but it had been just the opposite. In fact there had been no real mention of the past they’d shared period. Just two friends, joking around, and teasing each other.

Nick was the first one to break the awkward silence. “So, do you have anything special planned for later on today?”

Alyssa just shrugged. “Not really… I was just going to go home and relax a little bit. I’m on vacation this week, so I’m trying to enjoy it as much as I can. Sean comes home from work about fiveish, so I’m going to try to spend a little quality time with him. We’ve both been so busy lately that I feel like we barely see each other. What about you?”

Nick nodded, trying not to make a face when Alyssa mentioned the phrase ‘quality time.’ “I’m off to run some errands right now. Shayla’s birthday is coming up next week and I still have to pick up a present for her. I have no clue what to get her. Any suggestions?”

“Hmm…” Alyssa bit her lip, appearing deep in thought. “That’s tough, especially because I don’t know her very well. I’ve only met her like what? Twice maybe?”

“Thanks for the help,” he responded, rolling his eyes.

Alyssa’s eyes twinkled in amusement. “Well, I do know one thing she’d love, but you’re not too keen on the idea in the first place, so I guess we can toss that one out the window.”

Nick’s brow furrowed in confusion for a moment. “What do you mean?” Then it hit him and he realized what Alyssa was hinting at. “Oh no! Although I’m sure that nothing would make Shayla happier than me telling her I changed my mind about the whole baby situation, it would be a complete lie.”

“Haven’t you even been considering it?” she asked curiously.

“Not really,” Nick admitted. “I just can’t picture the two of us raising children together. I like kids and all, but I also like the fact that I can always hand them off to their real parents when I get tired of them. Maybe I’m just not father material.”

Alyssa strongly disagreed with his last statement, but didn’t say anything. She knew Nick well enough to know that the real reason he didn’t want kids was because of his own childhood. His parents had screwed him up so much, that he lived in fear of fucking up his own children in the very same way. Maybe with a stronger woman he’d be able to overcome that fear, but with Shayla who seemed more interested in a career than raising a child, it only added more anxiety to the situation. Still she was curious to play devil’s advocate for a little bit. “What if hypothetically Shayla were to become pregnant down the road? You more than anyone know sometimes these things do happen unplanned.”

Nick just shrugged. “Then I guess I’d just have to deal with it in the same way I dealt with it with Katie. If it’s meant to be then it’ll happen. I just don’t want to plan on it.”

Alyssa just nodded. His theory made sense. As she was learning firsthand, sometimes planning to have a child was way more stressful than just letting it happen naturally. “That’s smart. A lot of times you can’t plan on these things. It’s a lot harder than you’d think.”

For a moment Nick looked at her quizzically, puzzled by her cryptic message. He knew that Alyssa and Sean had supposedly been trying to have a child since January, and so far their efforts seemed to have failed. He began to wonder if maybe perhaps there was a bigger problem going on then what he was aware of. Was this Alyssa’s way of telling him that she maybe couldn’t get pregnant?

He knew from experience though that a topic so personal was not something he could pry out of her. His best bet was to drop it for now and in due time Alyssa would share it with him when she felt comfortable enough to do so. Changing the subject, he refocused the conversation on his dilemma of finding Shayla the perfect birthday gift. “Well, I’m back at square one with this birthday gift idea…” Suddenly a light bulb seemed to go off on his head. “Hey! Since you’re not doing anything this afternoon, would you mind coming with me to help pick something out? I really could use a woman’s opinion.” For extra emphasis he even added a little pout.

Alyssa laughed at his pathetic expression. “How can I say no to a face like that? I guess I could go with you.” She really couldn’t think of any real excuse not to.

“Thank you!” Nick replied. “I was thinking we could take my car and on the way back I’ll swing by here so you can pick up your car. Sound good?”

“Sure,” Alyssa agreed, not finding any problem with his plan. A few minutes later she found herself sitting in the passenger seat of his Escalade, almost confused as how a simple lunch date between friends had resulted in her going shopping with her ex boyfriend to find his wife a birthday gift.

Unbeknownst to Alyssa, the afternoon was about to get weirder.

Shopping for Shayla’s birthday gift proved to be harder than Alyssa had expected, not because it was weird for her to help Nick buy something for another woman, but because of two simple facts. One was Nick’s obvious obliviousness when it came to women’s fashion and the second was that Shayla was simply overly picky according to Nick.

Every suggestion that Alyssa had made had been shot down for one reason or another. Any kind of clothing was out because Shayla was extremely anal about her clothes and always hated anything that Nick or anyone else besides herself had picked out. Shoes seemed like a good suggestion, but Nick wasn’t sure of her shoe size of the top of his head so that was discarded as well. She had at least a dozen pairs of designer sunglasses according to Nick and enough purses to fit an entire closet. There simply didn’t seem anything that Shayla needed.

By the time the two of them found themselves outside of Tiffany’s, Alyssa was beginning to feel just a little frustrated. She seldom shopped for herself in this part of LA because she simply couldn’t afford it. She found herself a little annoyed that Shayla seemed so picky with so many possibilities in the stores they had visited. Alyssa would have been ecstatic to receive almost anything that expensive, but apparently designer labels were nothing new to Shayla. The only option they hadn’t ruled out yet was jewelry.

“Want to go in and look?” she asked Nick. “There has to be something in Tiffany’s she’d like. What woman doesn’t enjoy blue box?”

“I guess,” Nick answered in a defeated voice. “I just feel like I always wind up getting her jewelry.”

“Well, she doesn’t like anything else apparently.” Alyssa tried to keep the annoyance out of her voice, but failed miserably. If Nick noticed her attitude though, he didn’t comment, and the two of them stepped inside the famous jewelry store.

Nick immediately set off towards one of the glass counters, glancing down at the fine jewelry displayed in them. Alyssa lingered behind him, trying not to appear too awestruck at the glittering diamonds and gold. She’d never exactly been what she’d consider a “jewelry person.” She owned only a few nice pieces of jewelry, mainly past gifts from Nick. Most of her jewelry collection consisted of inexpensive costume jewelry since she had a tendency of losing her more expensive pieces. It was a wonder to her how she hadn’t lost her engagement ring yet. Still though, even she could appreciate the beauty of the rings, necklaces, and bracelets surrounding her. For a moment she secretly wished that Sean had the money to just drop a few thousand on a diamond tennis bracelet like Nick could easily do. As soon as the thought was in her head she immediately felt guilty. She didn’t need expensive jewelry to prove that Sean loved her. Now Nick and Shayla on the other hand… That was a different story.

A saleswoman behind the counter noticed the two of them perusing the display cases and approached them with a wide smile as soon as she recognized Nick. Alyssa wondered if the salespeople were trained to act extra hospitable to celebrity clients. She wouldn’t be surprised. “Good afternoon,” she greeted them. “Is there anything that I can help the two of you with today?”

Before Nick could reply, Alyssa answered for him. “Yes. He’s looking for a birthday gift for his wife.”

The woman’s eyebrows rose a little in surprise at Alyssa’s speaking up for him, but she ignored her and focused her attention on Nick. “All right. Sounds lovely. Did you have anything in mind in particular? Or do you have an idea of what she might like?”

Nick shrugged. “Not really… I’m kind of having a hard time finding her something. She’s very picky, but she’s also very stylish. So I guess I’m looking for something that’s very popular, but of course not too common either.”

“Hmm…” The woman seemed to take a minute to digest the information that had just been shared with her. “I think I might have something you might be interested in.” She walked over to one of the cases a few feet away and pulled out a gold pendant with a row of diamonds that curved in sort of an s shape. “This is one of our newest designs that has been very popular among married couples. The diamonds are supposed to represent the journey of your relationship from the beginning on into the future. We’ve been selling quite a few of them recently.”

Alyssa cocked her head to one side as she examined the pendant more closely. “It’s really pretty,” she told him, tossing in her own two cents. “And it has a pretty special meaning behind it.”

Nick nodded. “This one is a possibility, but I think I’d like to see it on someone else first before I decide. I want to see how it hangs.” He looked back over at Alyssa. “Would you mind trying it on for me so that I can get the full effect? That is if that’s ok with the saleswoman.”

“That’s perfectly fine with me. If you’d like I could even help you with the clasp,” the woman offered. Obviously she wasn’t going to tell Nick Carter that he couldn’t do anything he pleased.

Feeling put on the spot Alyssa found that she had no choice but to agree. “Uhh… Sure I guess.” She couldn’t help, but feel just slightly creeped out that she was being asked to model a necklace that was intended to be worn by her ex boyfriend’s wife. The situation seemed completely taboo to her. Relax, she tried to tell herself. You’re reading way too much into this. Nick just wants to get a sense of how it’ll look on a woman’s neck. That’s all. Still she couldn’t help but to feel slightly uneasy.

The saleswoman took the pendant off of the display and held it out towards Alyssa’s neck. “Just pick your hair up for me dear,” she instructed as she reached around her neck to clasp the necklace.

Trying not to wrinkle her nose up at the word “dear,” Alyssa gathered her hair away from her neck in her hands and twisted it up, so it wouldn’t get caught in the clasp. As she did this, Nick caught sight of a stream of brightly colored stars tattooed on the back of the neck. That’s new, he thought as he continued to stare at the bold colors in fascination. “I didn’t know you got another tattoo?” he found himself casually asking.

“What?” Alyssa asked, distracted by the randomness of his question. She released her hold on her hair and it came tumbling back down over her shoulders. Then it hit her that when she’d had her hair up Nick had noticed the new design. “Yea… I got a few new ones actually.”

“A few?” Nick looked surprised. “I remember you were talking about getting another one when you came out to visit me in LA, but not a few. Where are they?”

Alyssa couldn’t help but to smirk at Nick’s sudden interest in her new body art. “They’re there. You just have to know where to look,” she mysteriously replied. She turned towards him with the diamond pendant glittering. “What do you think?”

The chain was just long enough for the pendant to lie perfectly at the top of her breasts, drawing Nick’s gaze to the area. The pendant was simple yet still unique enough to draw attention and he had to admit that it looked dazzling on Alyssa. His mouth went dry for a moment as he struggled to formulate a response. “It’s… it’s beautiful,” he finally replied.

Alyssa looked at her reflection in a mirror. She had to admit that she liked the way it looked around her neck, but quickly reminded herself that it wasn’t a gift for her, but for Shayla instead. “Question is will Shayla like it?”

“As soon as I tell her its one of the most popular new designs she’ll love it. She’s a sucker for things like that. As long as she has whatever is the new ‘hot item’ of the moment she’s overjoyed.” Nick turned to the saleswoman. “We’ll take it.”

“Perfect! I’m glad that we found you something. I’ll just get it boxed up for you.” The woman disappeared for a moment to retrieve a jewelry box for them.

Alyssa reached behind her neck to unclasp the necklace, all of a sudden feeling very uncomfortable with it on. Wearing the necklace that was intended to represent Nick’s love for Shayla felt very wrong to her and she found that she couldn’t wait to get it off. She was so impatient that her fingers fumbled clumsily with the clasp, not being able to manipulate it into opening.

“Here let me help you with that.” Before she could even protest, Nick had stepped behind her and swept her hair over her left shoulder. A slight shiver ran down Alyssa’s spine which she tried her best to ignore. It’s not because it’s Nick and you’re still attracted to him, she told herself firmly. It’s only because you’re not used to this. Still though she couldn’t help but to draw in a sharp breath when she felt his fingertips against the base of her neck. If he noticed anything unusual about her reaction, he chose to ignore it and within moments the clasp came apart easily in his hands.

“T…thanks,” she shakily replied as she handed the necklace back to him. “Shayla is going to love it.”

Nick just smiled. “I have you to thank. Without you I’d still be struggling to come up with some kind of idea.”

Alyssa just smiled back at him, but deep down she knew that the smile was completely forced. All of a sudden she couldn’t wait to get out of the store and head back home to her husband.

Alyssa’s hopes of returning home to Sean immediately after her and Nick’s awkward moment at Tiffany’s, were squashed from almost the minute they’d stepped outside the store. Nick announced that he had a definite craving for Starbucks after all of their shopping and had asked her if she minded stopping for some coffee. Alyssa gave in since there was a Starbucks only around the corner from where they were.
After ordering their drinks and walking back to Nick’s car sipping them along the way, Nick had one more request. “I know you probably really want to get home, but I actually have to stop at the marina if you don’t mind. I left some crap on my boat last week and I want to pick it up. I figured I could do that now since I’m out this way. The diner is back in the other direction, so I thought that we could head out to my boat first. I’ll only be like five minutes,” he promised.

Alyssa chewed on the straw of her vanilla frap thoughtfully. Truthfully she would prefer to just go straight home. Sean would be arriving home from work soon and she had wanted to set up some sort of romantic evening between the two of them. But Nick’s theory did kind of make sense and she really didn’t want to sound like a bitch by telling him that she really did mind, especially after their afternoon had gone so well outside of that one little awkward moment. “I guess that’ll be okay,” she finally answered.

The two of them were mostly silent on their drive out to the marina which lasted about fifteen minutes. During that time, Alyssa found herself staring out the window wondering what to make of their afternoon together and the weird sensations she felt towards him back in Tiffany’s. Was there a little bit of a spark still there between them? And if so, did it mean anything? Maybe there always would be a bit of chemistry between them, but surely that couldn’t have an effect with her relationship with Sean. Besides did she honestly expect there not to be any awkward patches between her and Nick? As close and comfortable as they were as friends there was no denying that there were still painful reminders of their past together as a couple. Those reminders were bound to flare up every once in awhile. The secret would be to learn to push those feelings aside whenever they did come up. She figured with a little practice it couldn’t be too hard to do. She’d just been caught off guard this time because it had been the first time those feelings had really hit her. Granted she’d loved Nick at one time, but now she was in love with Sean and he was her soul mate, not Nick.

Finally they pulled into the marina and Nick parked his Escalade not far from where his boat was docked. “Why don’t you come up with me for a minute?” he suggested, opening up his door.

“All right,” she agreed as she stepped out of his truck and followed him in the direction of the dock. Once they reached the familiar sight of his boat, Nick took a hold of her hand and helped her up the steps onto the deck. She took in the sight around her realizing not much had changed about the boat that Nick had owned as long as she had known him.

“I’m just going to go inside and get what I need to,” Nick told her as he came up behind her. “You can stay out here if you want. It’s beautiful out.”

Alyssa just nodded and watched him disappear into the cabin. Once he was gone she made her way to the stern of the boat and looked out at the water in front of her. It was heading into early evening by now and the sun was just beginning to set, its rays glittering over the water. Nick had been right. It was beautiful out. The air was a little chilly forcing her to hug her arms around herself for warmth, but otherwise it wasn’t too bad. She smiled a little bit as she thought about the many times she had been out on this boat with Nick while they had been dating. This very deck held a lot of memories for her. She’d come close to losing her virginity on this boat, probably would’ve if it hadn’t been for the fact that Nick was leaving that following morning for Sweden to record.

God, that seems like forever ago, she silently mused to herself and for the first time really beginning to feel old. That had been what? Over eight years ago?
It's hard to remember how it felt before
Now I found the love of my life...
Passes things get more comfortable
Everything is going right

She was jarred out of her thoughts by the sound of footsteps coming up behind her. Whirling her head around, she saw Nick approaching her with a backpack slung over his shoulder and a blanket in his hands. “You look deep in thought,” he noted, coming up beside her.

Alyssa just shrugged. “Not really,” she lied. “I was just thinking that I can’t believe you still have this old thing.”

Nick laughed. “Can’t bear to get rid of it. Too many memories on this baby. It’s followed me all the way from Florida.” He paused for a moment taking in the sight of sun setting on the water. “I had a good time hanging out with you again today.”

“Yea… It was definitely a lot more fun then I thought it would be,” she admitted. “It’s just so amazing, you know.”

“What is?”

And after all the obstacles
It's good to see you now with someone else
And it's such a miracle that you and me are still good friends
After all that we've been through
I know we're cool

Alyssa looked thoughtful for a moment finally feeling free enough to express the thoughts that were at the back of her mind the whole entire day. “If you would’ve told me two or three years ago that there would come a time when we could possibly hang out together after everything that’s happened between us without killing each other, I’d have to say that you were crazy. Then to top it all off that we’d both find happiness with other people and still be able to get along? I think it’s just amazing that we’ve finally gotten to that point with each other. I have to admit that although it’s a little weird, it’s kind of good to see you happy again with Shayla. You and I just weren’t meant to be I guess, but I’m glad that we can at least still be friends. It shows how much we’ve both grown in the last few years.”

Nick slowly nodded his head as he thought about what she was saying. “That is true,” he admitted. “And makes sense. I guess it’s funny how fate works out huh?”

We used to think it was impossible
Now you call me by my new last name
Memories seem like so long ago
Time always kills the pain

“Definitely,” Alyssa answered. “I mean look at me! I purposely moved out to North Carolina to put some distance between us and start over and I wind up meeting Sean, getting married, and moving out here anyway and seeing you again. How’s that for fate? Almost like it was destined to happen.”

“Maybe it was,” he mused. “Maybe he just needed a little bit of time apart to figure things out and make the changes we both needed to make in our lives.”

Alyssa nodded. “I agree one hundred percent. After we broke up I was devastated at first, but it forced me to change the things about myself that hurt our relationship in the first place. Sean helped me work out a lot of things to which I’m sure Shayla helped you with as well. By the time you walked back into my life I was through being hurt and angry anymore. I just had no reason to be. I had Sean and you had Shayla, so it wasn’t like we were going to run off together or anything.” She nervously laughed. “What is that old saying? Time heals all wounds?”

“Something like that.”

Remember Harbor Boulevard
The dreaming days where the mess was made
Look how all the kids have grown
We have changed but we're still the same
After all that we've been through
I know we're cool

All of a sudden Alyssa turned very serious. “Nick… I have a confession to make.”

“Confession?” he asked in a bewildered voice. “About what?”

“Teri and I came back from dress shopping earlier than you probably think. I came inside with her because I wanted to wish Howie congratulations on the engagement,” she started off. “We started to go downstairs not knowing that you were there, but we stopped once we heard you two talking about the song you wrote. What I’m trying to say is that I heard you play the song for him. I heard the whole thing.”

Nick froze for a moment unsure of how to react. It had been a huge enough step sharing the personal piece with Howie. He hadn’t counted on Alyssa hearing it, at least not at this point. Yet, again fate had stepped in and Alyssa had in fact heard the song. Maybe it was meant to be.

“I’m sorry,” she immediately apologized. “I didn’t mean to eavesdrop. I just-“

He held up a hand to silence her and asked the only question he could think of. “What did you think?”

“It was beautiful Nick. I honestly didn’t think that you could put together something as introspective and personal as that.” She bit her lip for a moment trying to muster up the courage to ask the one question that had been plaguing her mind since she had heard the lyrics, earlier that day. “It’s about me, isn’t it?”

“To a certain extent,” he honestly answered. “Obviously you inspired a lot of it. It was my breakup with you that really forced me to look at the person who I’d become and realize that wasn’t who I wanted to be. I didn’t want to be another fucked up musician who crashed and burned in the end, and that was the direction that I was heading in. I’ll always be grateful to you for holding up that mirror for me.”

Alyssa looked back at the ocean in front of her. “That’s another amazing thing. We’ve both changed for the better in so many ways and I think we’re both better people for it in the end. But below the surface we’re still us and hanging out with you today proved that. It was like even though we’ve grown up so much since the last time we really hung out, there are certain things about us that are still the same. It’s kind of relief to be able to see that familiar side come out.”

And I'll be happy for you
If you can be happy for me
Circles and triangles, and now we're hangin' out with your new girlfriend
So far from where we've been
I know we're cool
-Cool by Gwen Stefani

Nick nodded in agreement. “Yea it was kind of comforting in a way. I think this friendship thing might actually work out between us.”

“I had my doubts at first, but hell if I can help you pick out a birthday gift for your wife and survive than I think that says a lot about the friendship that we have with each other,” she pointed out. “I know now that I’m finally in a place where I can not only accept us not working out, but I can feel comfortable around both you and Shayla. In fact, I’d like to get to know her better. I know the last time we met I feel like we kind of got off on the wrong foot and I’d like to give it another chance.”

“I’m sure we can arrange that. I feel like Sean probably didn’t get the best impression of me either. Maybe we can arrange for the four of us to get together some night? Maybe we can invite you over for dinner or something?”

“That sounds like a great idea. I think Sean was just a little caught off guard finding out who you really were. I think another chance to get to know you would be a good thing. Besides, he’s going to have to learn to like you if the two of us are going to continue being friends.”

Nick grinned as he threw a friendly arm across her shoulders. “So, are you saying that you and I are like officially cool now?”

Alyssa pretended to think that one over for a minute. “Yea… We’re cool,” she finally agreed.

Later on that evening, Alyssa walked into her front door precariously trying to balance a white cardboard pizza box in her hands. So much for my nice romantic dinner for two, she thought to herself. By the time Nick had dropped her back off at the diner to get her car, she realized that it was too late to really cook anything, so she’d decided to pick up a pizza for her and Sean on her way home.

She set the pizza box on the kitchen counter and looked around. Most of the rooms were dark and Sean appeared to be nowhere in sight although Alyssa knew that he had to be home since his truck was in the driveway. “Sean?” she called out. “I’m home! I got a pizza down here for dinner!”

A few minutes later a sullen looking Sean came down the stairs looking annoyed. “Where were you?” he demanded as soon as he laid eyes on his wife. “You’ve been gone all day.”

“I’m sorry,” Alyssa apologized, reaching over to place a sloppy kiss in his cheek. “I guess I just sort of lost track of time.”

Sean ignored her lame attempt at an apology. “You lost track of time? How long does it take to look at wedding dresses?”

“Well, not long, but then I stopped back at Teri and Howie’s and had lunch and then we did some more shopping and some catching up with each other. You know we haven’t seen each other in nearly forever.” It wasn’t exactly a lie. She had done everything she said she did, but she just neglected to mention the fact that it had all been with Nick. She wasn’t exactly sure what it was that held her back from being completely honest with him. Maybe it was because she could see that he was already obviously upset and she knew that he already wasn’t very fond of Nick. She wanted the two men to hopefully someday get along and if Sean found out she’d spent the entire day with him, she was sure that it would make it that much harder for Sean to accept Nick’s friendship with Alyssa. She hated lying to her husband, but then again it wasn’t lying exactly if she just left out a few details right? “Teri asked me to be one of her bridesmaids,” she announced, trying to shift the conversation away from her.

Her tactic didn’t seem to work because Sean kept on ranting. “I must’ve called our cell about twenty times today. Didn’t you hear it?”

“No,” she answered, looking surprised. She truthfully hadn’t heard her phone ring once all day. Going into her purse she pulled out her phone to check and realized what the problem was. “Oops… My battery must’ve died. You know how bad I am at forgetting to put it on to charge. That could explain why I didn’t get any of your calls.”

“Well, I just wish you would’ve called or something,” he stubbornly replied. “I was worried about you! I got out of work a little early and was hoping that maybe we could go out for a romantic dinner and then snuggle up with a good movie or something.”

Immediately Alyssa felt guilty. He had been sitting at home planning a quiet night for just the two of them, and she’d been out hanging with her ex boyfriend. Some wife she was! “I’m sorry baby,” she pouted. “Maybe I did screw up dinner, but we can make pizza romantic. And we can still rent a movie. It’s not that late.”

Her guilt must have been genuine because Sean’s expression softened. “You’re right. I’m sorry for being an asshole about this. I just miss not being able to spend as much time with you lately.”

“So do I,” Alyssa admitted wrapping her arms around him. “I promise I’ll be better about checking in with you when I’m going to be out late.”

Her resolution seemed a good enough apology to him. “So, action flick or comedy?”

Alyssa dramatically sighed. “I suppose I owe you an action flick although you may have to keep me awake. I always tend to fall asleep during those things.”

“Oh, I don’t think that’ll be much of a problem at all,” Sean promised as he dropped a light kiss on her lips.

The rest of the evening past by uneventfully with Alyssa and Sean camped out on the couch with slices of cheesy pizza on paper plates, a few bottles of beer, and the latest Bruce Willis movie. Alyssa found herself thankful that she’d managed to avoid confessing to Sean who she had really spent her afternoon with. Hopefully he’d never find out the truth and she could slowly begin to warm him up to the idea of getting to know Nick better.

Unfortunately Alyssa had forgotten that she was had been hanging out in LA with not only her ex boyfriend, but her famous married ex boyfriend. And although it appeared that no one had noticed them, people did talk. It would only be a matter of time before some type of word got out.