Part 02

A little under two years.

That was all it lasted.

She was still thinking about the past as she stood in front of her closet the day of the party, trying to put together something presentable.

What made her cringe every time she looked back on it, however, was that she’d TOLD him.

She’d admitted the most intense feeling she’d ever felt in her life. She told him she loved him... seconds before it all came to a screeching halt, before the yelling started.

Before they hated each other.

‘Hate,’ Sandra sighed. Another intense feeling.

She was certain he’d felt the same, too. Only now, after over a year of not seeing him, not talking to him, after that day it all ended, she didn’t feel any hatred toward anyone.

Love, however, was another completely different story.

She would have done it differently, she figured as she slipped the simple black dress over her body. She would have tried to salvage that love if she had the chance to do it again... instead of letting her temper take control and rip everything to shreds right in front of her.

Because she loved him.

She still did.

The shrill ring of the telephone interrupted her thoughts, and she suddenly had butterflies in her stomach... thinking of who it COULD be.

After all, he’d called her once already. After so long.. he could do it again.

“Hey San!”

“Nick,” she smiled. “What’s up?”

“Are you almost ready?” he asked her, and the static on the other end told her he was on his cell, somewhere on the way to her house.

“Just about,” she told him, stealing a glance at the full length mirror in front of her. Her black satin dress fell comfortably around her, reaching just above her knees. The spaghetti straps sparkled with tiny rhinestones, and her two inch heels were actually quite comfortable to spend that night in.

“Great. I’m like, half a block from your place, so be prepared.”

“I’m prepared already,” she laughed, running a hand through her layered, shoulder length curls. “You just better not make us late.”

“And when have I made us late before?” he was asking, and she heard the car door slam shut. He was outside her place.

“Gee, where do I start?”

“Funny,” he laughed. “Now open this door.”

She hung up the phone and pulled open the door, revealing Nick, for the first time in a year.

“Wow,” she said, hugging her friend tightly. “You did some growing up, Nick. You look really good.”

“I could say the same about you,” he began. “Only... damn. It wouldn’t even begin to describe this change in you.”

“We were always good at b.s.,” she chuckled. “Seems like some things never do change, huh?”

“Never,” Nick agreed as they headed out the door. “If you only knew the things that haven’t changed...”

“Oh? Like what?”

Nick answered her with a mischievous grin. Nothing else.

“Well, YOU won’t change, as far as being secretive goes.”

“Well, let’s just say Howie won’t be the only one surprised tonight,” he grinned, giving her a sly glance.

“Nick, you’re being stupid. The only thing that’ll surprise me is AJ actually behaving himself tonight.”

“San,” Nick began slowly as they reached their destination. “AJ won’t be able to make it tonight. He had to fly out to New York last night. A last minute thing. He’s stranded out there until tomorrow morning.”

“Oh. I see.”

He’d been right. She WAS surprised.

Somewhere deep inside of her... she’d felt disappointed, too.

---------------------------

“All right everyone! When I get the call, we all hide. This is gonna be good!”

“I’m NOT gonna hide,” Sandra protested. “Nick, I’m wearing a DRESS. I’m not crawling under anything!”

“No one told you to go and grow up, woman. Now you suffer.”

“You leave her alone, Nikolas,” Polly laughed. “Sandra, you can come with me.. we’ll 'hide’ in the kitchen.”

“Thanks Polly,” she grinned.

Howie had been away for the last month, on a business trip to Sweden, and he’d return tonight to a surprise birthday party at the club he’d invested in not too long ago. When he was thinking it was closed off for the evening because of repairs done earlier in the day, his family and friends had all gathered to celebrate his 28th birthday.

All they needed now was the birthday boy.

“Who went to get him, anyway?” Sandra asked Polly as they made their way through the small gathering of Howie’s loved ones.

“My brother John,” she began. “And I think your brother went, too.”

“That would explain why he didn’t answer my call,” Sandra sighed. Trying to contact Mario nowadays seemed next to impossible.

“Hey!” Brian poked his head into the kitchen. “Nick said to stay there and hide. Howie’s outside!”

“And the fun begins,” Sandra said, mockingly rolling her eyes.

“And YOU are just the happiest person in the world, as always,” Brian laughed. "Glad to have you around again, SandRug. We missed ya.”

“Oh, I missed you too,” she grinned. “I miss those pranks, B.”

“Well, if Nicky’s misbehaving, I’ll get you and we can mess with him later on. Sound good?”

“Sounds great. Now go hide. I have a feeling you’re a big part of this surprise.”

“Ohhh, you better believe it!” he exclaimed. “Bye!”

“And what’s good about hiding out here,” Polly told her, hoisting herself up on one of the tall counters. “Is that we don’t have to shut off any lights, or crawl underneath anything, or keep quiet.”

“Hey!” Nick exclaimed, sticking his head through the door. “Keep it quiet in there!”

“Yes SIR!” Sandra said loudly, laughing as Nick sighed in frustration and disappeared once again.

“Okay, so much for the ‘not keeping quiet’ thing,” Polly giggled.

[Part 01 | Story Index | Part 03]