It was nearing midnight when the party had finally died down. AJ was returning to the living room from ushering his final guest out his front door, and Nick, Sandra, and Amanda were picking up the final traces of the unruly guests.
“I am TIRED,” Sandra was saying.
“Why?” AJ raised his eyebrows. “Was your little party game upstairs too strenuous?”
He dodged an empty soda can, but wasn’t quick enough to escape the giant black trash bag.
“Quit runnin’ your mouth, Jerk,” Sandra warned.
“I love you, too, San,” AJ laughed.
“Well, you haven’t changed a bit,” Amanda told her friend. “And AJ, you seem to be exactly like her. I think I got more than I bargained for coming to live here.”
“Yeah, AJ IS a pain in the ass, isn’t he?”
“Don’t be too quick to remark, San,” Amanda laughed. “Or have you forgotten our high school years already?”
Sandra coughed nervously. “I plead the fifth.”
“Wuss,” AJ announced.
“Children!” Nick exclaimed.
“Baby, stay out of it.”
“Ouch,” Nick laughed, turning to Amanda. “See the abuse I endure? Why I’m still with her is beyond me.”
“Because she’s good in the sa-” AJ began, only to be cut off by Sandra’s menacing glare. “I mean, because you love her. Yeah. That’s it.”
They spent the next hour talking amongst themselves as they straightened out the house, Sandra and Amanda catching up on things, and AJ listening intently, getting to know the woman that had captured his entire being in the process. When they were finished, they collapsed, exhausted, in the den. Sandra and Nick curled up in each other’s arms in the plush arm chair near the fireplace, and AJ sharing the loveseat with Amanda across from them.
“Look at that,” AJ groaned, nodding toward the couple in front of him. “That’s disgusting.”
Amanda followed his gaze and smiled. Her best friend sat in Nick’s lap, with his arms wrapped tightly around her. Her head rested in the crook of his neck, and he was stroking her hair gently, sending her into a deep sleep, as he dozed off as well.
“That’s not disgusting,” she told him. “And you know it.”
“I know,” he sighed. “I guess I’m just a little jealous.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Amanda sighed. “And Nick called US the newlyweds.”
When AJ didn’t reply, she didn’t think anything of it. When she felt his gaze burning into her, however, she turned and was greeted with his smoldering gaze and warm smile.
“Huh?” she asked.
“Why not be newlyweds?” he repeated, his eyes sparkling.
It was insane. That she knew right away. It was crazy, absurd, and so spur-of-the-moment that she almost missed the seriousness in his voice. Realizing then that he was serious, however, did nothing to jump start her rational side, the mature, sensible Amanda had seemingly taken the night off, for when she opened her mouth to reply, she said, “Yeah, why not?”
Sandra shifted a little, half asleep, half awake. She felt the steady beat of Nick’s heart against the side of her face and smiled lazily. Her arm reached up from where it rested in her lap and circled around Nick’s neck. He groaned inaudibly, and she smiled again, marveled at how he reacted to her touch even in the deepest state of sleep.
“Baby,” she whispered, kissing the side of his neck softly, then his jaw. “Wake up. We gotta go home.”
“Five more minutes,” he grumbled, not fully awake, and tightened his hold on her.
“Nick,” she laughed softly. “Come on. It’s late, and we’re still on AJ’s couch.”
After a few more kisses and caresses, Nick was coaxed out of his slumber. “Where’d everyone go?”
“Home, silly. AJ’s probably upstairs...” Sandra trailed off as she realized AJ wasn’t the only one in the living room the last time she checked. “But Amanda? I wonder where she is..”
“Probably upstairs,” Nick grinned. “Seeing how they got along SO well..”
“Seriously, Nick,” Sandra yawned. “I doubt that.”
“Wanna bet? Come on,” he grabbed her hand, “Let’s go check.”
They went upstairs and peeked in the guestrooms. “She’s not in any of these,” Nick stated. “That only leaves one other room in the house.”
“Nick, I don’t wanna be scarred for life,” Sandra protested. “I don’t wanna go in there and see something I’m not supposed to.”
“Well, I’ll look first, then tell you if it’s okay.”
Once outside AJ’s bedroom door, Nick turned the knob slowly and peeked in.
“Shit,” he mumbled.
Sandra leaned against the wall. “See something bad?” she asked softly.
“They’re not here.”
“What?” Sandra flew into the bedroom, flipping the lights on. The room was empty.
“Where the hell could they be?!” She asked. “It’s almost three in the morning!”
Nick looked over at her and sighed. This was going to be a long, long night. What was left of it, anyway.
“Come on, Baby,” he told her, reaching to pull her to him. “We’ll crash in the guestroom next door. We can hear when they come back from there.”
[chapter list | chapter four]