It was down to a matter of minutes, Tommy figured in his head, before they’d be bursting through the front door of Andy’s house and face to face with their long lost friend. Just mere minutes. So why did it feel like ions?
Stopping at the last red light before going into their neighborhood, Tommy looked at Andy and found her white as chalk, wringing her hands nervously. She kept her gaze locked on the door of the glove compartment in front of her, and jumped when Tommy put his hand reassuringly on hers.
“Don’t be so scared, Andy,” he told her soothingly. “It’s just Nick.”
“That’s what I’ve been telling myself,” she replied, trying to smile. “But it somehow doesn’t make it better.”
“Look, as soon as this light turns green, we’re seconds away from seeing him again. Once you lay eyes on him, all this bad energy inside you will dissolve. Just fade away.”
Andy looked up at him, feeling better about the situation. If Tommy was so sure of this, then there was no reason she shouldn’t be. After all, it really WAS only just Nick. Nothing to beat herself up over.
“Look,” Tommy said. “The light’s green.”
“So what are you waiting for?!” Andy exclaimed. “We have a reunion to get to!”
Tommy, pulling an uncharacteristically dangerous move, pushed down on the gas pedal as far as it would go and, like he had promised, had them in Andy’s driveway within seconds. The car had come to a screeching halt, and along with that Andy’s shrieks of laughter.
“Well,” Andy said, staring at her front door. “This is it. You ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” Tommy answered. “Now let’s go get that boy!”
Nick and Suzie nearly jumped out of their seats at the table set up in the backyard when they heard the sound of tires screeching to a halt.
“That has to be them,” Suzie told him above the laughter of the others in the yard. “Are you ready?”
“I’ve been ready for years,” he smiled.
He got up from the table and started to cross the yard toward the back door.
Andy opened the door to the living room and found it empty.
“It’s empty,” she said. “No one’s here.”
“But where could they...” Tommy trailed off. Suddenly, it hit him. “The barbecue!”
“The backyard!” they both shouted, racing to the back door.
He was roughly five feet away from the door when it swung open with a force that brought him to a complete halt.
But it wasn’t the force of the door opening as much as what was standing behind it that made him halt.
He saw them, and couldn’t believe his eyes. They stood there, one behind the other, watching him with the same intensity as he was watching them. He had never seen a sight so amazing before in his life.
They were the same, only better. Tommy was roughly his own height, and a complete contrast to his own blond, blue eyed self. His gray eyes bore into him with the intensity that had grown stronger over the years, but was still unmistakable. His black hair fell to his jawbone in slight waves, and his hands were protectively on Andy’s shoulders as he loomed over her like her guardian angel.
Andy. He had never seen a more beautiful woman. She grew up to be a pretty tall girl herself, just a few inches shorter than Tommy was. Her light brown curls cascaded over her shoulders, down her back, to a bit above her waist, and they shined like nothing he had ever seen before. Her warm brown gaze still held the innocence of the child he had left behind, but with a certain maturity now in the place of what used to be childhood insecurity. Everything about her was perfect; he couldn’t have imagined her to be any better than what was standing before him.
Tommy had reached Andy just in time to prevent her from flying out the back door. He held her by the shoulders, being overcome suddenly with an urge to protect. He felt like a fool for having that urge in her own home, but knowing that who was waiting there wasn’t who had left them behind, he wasn’t going to take his chances.
He stared at the unfamiliar figure in front of them with caution. He studied the features, which hadn’t changed much, but were still different. The blond hair was there, in roughly the same cut it had always been. He was taller, too, around his own height. He looked strong, his stance was not one of a superstar, like he had imagined, but of a regular guy. Like he was. He had no arrogant aura about him, and he wasn’t prepared to snub them at all. If anything, Tommy, thought as he studied the blue eyes that observed him and then moved to Andy, he was aching to be here with them, to be with his friends.
Andy was stunned. Never in her wildest dreams would she have expected it to be like this. She stood at the threshold, Tommy’s hands resting on her shoulders, and just stared.
He was exactly the same, yet, at the same time, entirely different. The blond hair was there, the blue eyes were there, but there was something about him Andy couldn’t quite put her finger on right away. He met her gaze and she saw in his eyes a man wary from travel, content to be home. She saw how tired he was, and the hint of sadness in those bright eyes did not go unnoticed, either. Above all that, though, she saw a happiness as great as her own, and as great as the happiness she felt emanating from Tommy.
“Nick,” was all she managed before she raced into his waiting arms. She held him tightly, fearing he might disappear if she ever let go. But he was real, she reminded herself, and he was there. She felt his heart beating wildly, felt his head resting on her shoulder as he lifted her up, and heard his laughter in her ears. He was really there, after all this time.
She didn’t realize she was crying until they pulled apart from the embrace and he had wiped the tears from her face. He smiled warmly at her before looking past her, to where Tommy was standing.
Nick walked a few steps past Andy and stood face to face with his best friend, their tall frames identical in height. They didn’t last a minute, Andy noticed, before the two threw their arms around each other, laughing hysterically. Shedding a fresh batch of tears, she grinned and sniffled her way into their embrace. The three friends formed a tight circle, letting the moment sink in. They remained silent for a while before Nick broke the silence.
“I never forgot,” he told them. “I hope you didn’t think I did.”
“Well,” Tommy confessed. “For a while, we did.”
“More like, for YEARS we did,” Andy giggled, brushing tears off her face. “But we always hoped we were wrong.”
“And we were,” Tommy put in. “And I’ll be damned if it isn’t the first time I’ve been happy to be proven wrong!”
Their laughter rang out, reaching every person in the yard, making them smile at the sight before them. The family was whole once again.
“I love you guys,” And whispered, smiling up at her two friends.
“We know,” Tommy laughed. “And we love you too, squirt.”
“We sure do,” Nick agreed happily. “Now let’s get some food, I’m starving!”
They walked together, Tommy with his arm around Andy and she, in turn, holding Nick’s hand, toward their parents. They had never been happier in their entire lives, and it showed.
[chapter list | chapter seven]