Chapter 21

The hall was long and vacant as Nick slowly made his way to his hotel room. Key in hand he was impatient to take a long shower and sleep through the day. Too much had happened. Too much had changed. Stepping up to the hotel room he had visions of Ashley kissing his neck. He held the key in the lock, waiting for the red to turn to green as he remembered the way she smelled. The way he now smelled.

Creasing the door open he sluggishly fell into the room and threw his wallet and keys down on the table. He walked as he scratched his scalp, carefully watching his feet. Left. Right. Left. Right.

Raising his gaze to the bed his heart stopped. There, innocently sprawled out was Chelsea sleeping. Her chest rose and fell peacefully, like the slight smile that graced her face. She must have been dreaming. Walking towards her Nick's breath stopped. He chocked on the moment, the sight of her.

Following her body, Nick moved his sight down to her hand. There, on her left hand lied a barren ring finger and immediately Nick knew: she had stopped. She hadn't married John. Tears welded in his eyes as he stood staring at her unadorned finger. Vulnerable she laid there sleeping, dreaming.

Rubbing his temples Nick fought to stay standing. The wind had been knocked out of him and the world from beneath him. She didn't marry John and there she was, waiting for his return. Taking a seat beside her he noticed her soft body starting to shuffle and wake from its pleasant slumber. She fluttered her eyes open and perched up on her elbows staring at him sweetly Chelsea waited for him to speak as he struggled to find anything to say.

"You're back," she finally broke the silence. "Where were you?"

* * * * *

Ashley's apartment was casually situated on the sixth floor of an apartment building with an inconveniently 'out of order' elevator. After stumbling up what felt like a marathon of steps they were both exhausted and short of breath as they pushed inside and onto her couch. Without missing a beat Ashley straddled Nick and leaning down over him placed a firm yet delicate kiss on his lips. With breath that reeked of alcohol the two of them danced their tongues together in a seductive and passionate manner.

Flipping her over Nick took the reins as he moved his hands down her waist and began to lift up her shirt. There was no shame in their actions; it was two people in a moment of need, and intoxication that found each other.

Her skin was soft and succulent. Her body warm and enticing. As she kissed his neck he only wanted her more and more. "You're so sexy," he mumbled as he kissed her stomach, her breasts, and her neck. "Are you comfortable?"

"Yea," she assured grabbing his face and pulling his lips against hers. Aggressively she pulled his body against her as if she couldn't get close enough to him. Reaching down she undid his pants and quickly removed them, following with her own.

"Are you sure?" he asked with an excited smile.

"Yes," she replied and placed his body on top of her. Again they kissed and ran their hands over each others' bodies, aching for each other. Both longed to not feel so alone.

"Hold on," he whispered and searched in his pants for his wallet. Finding it he flipped through till he found his condom. Trailing it in his fingers he kissed her once more and sat up. Looking down at the Trojan in his hand he was struck by his actions. Was he really about to do this?

Pushing back Nick exhaled deeply and ran his hand through his hair. "What's the matter?" Ashley asked, "Is something wrong?"

"I can't," he confessed. "I'm sorry, it's not you. I just--can't."

"Why?" she asked unable to hide the pain of rejection in her voice, "Did I do something wrong?"

"No...Yes," he shook his head. "No. It just wouldn't be fair to you. It's like you said...sometimes people change you for anyone else and...she changed me."

Rising up he put back on his clothes as she watched in stunned silence. Buttoning his pants he looked down at her, "Sorry," he whispered, turned, and walked out the door...unsure what he would do--

* * * * *

Calculating his next move Nick stared blankly into her wanting eyes. She had not gone through with the wedding yet at the same time a mere few hours before she was telling him to leave her, that she wanted to vow her life to John. How could he see past that? This is what he’d wanted—waited for—yet, it all seemed so tainted.

“Nick?” she asked him after his long silence. “Where were you?” she repeated softly as he stared at her with a stunned expression like a deer caught in the headlights.

Biting his lip he looked at her and shook his head, “I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I’m so sorry.”

“What?” she urged him. “Why are you sorry?”

“I was,” he stood up and walked to the opposite side of the room to position himself away from her. “I went to this bar and had a lot of tequila and there was this girl…”

Her face dropped at the sound of a girl and she held up her hand to silence him, “You don’t have to go any further.”

“No,” he continued. “It’s not what you think. I didn’t…I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I mean, I thought I was going to but…when the time came, I just,” he looked over at the window and out to the nighttime sky, “You changed me.”

Hearing his last three words brought a smile to her face and she rose up to her feet, crossing the room to meet him, “I never thought I could.”

“Well you did,” he shrugged down at her, still noticing her empty finger. “And you? What are you doing here? I thought you’d be on your honeymoon by now.”

She turned and looked at him exasperated, “I was going to be. I walked down that aisle and I got through most of the ceremony but then it got to the vows. When I looked out at everyone—everyone was waiting for me to say yes. They were waiting for me to sign my life away to John. Then I looked at John,” she gulped, obviously scared to continue. “All I could think about was your kiss. I felt it. I still feel it.”

Heartbroken by the confession that came a little too late Nick reached out for her hand which she cautiously gave him. He brushed his hand across her cheek and sighed to himself, “I wish I’d known.”

“I understand,” she uncharacteristically assured him.

“No,” he shook his head. “I wish I was here—for you.”

Her eyes lit up a little, “You’re here now.”

“Why?” he asked with a hint of anger in his voice. “Earlier today you were going to marry someone else. Don’t you remember the things you said to me in your dressing room? Now what do you want?”

“I don’t know!” she threw her hands up in the air frustrated. “You know that I love you. You know that I’ve always loved you. You hurt me and I broke down and I wanted to move on and I was happy with John…I was. I just couldn’t see myself spending the rest of my life with him because I’ve always seen the rest of my life with you!”

He took a step back from the last words she spoke. Stunned, Nick didn’t know exactly how to respond. He felt very much the same and yet had a hard time believing that someone could want to marry someone in the morning and then want to be with someone completely different that night. “I don’t know what to say,” he admitted.

“Say that you forgive me,” she asked him and he realized it was the first time she’d ever been the one to ask him for forgiveness.

“Chelsea,” he walked away from her, “You were going to marry someone else! I know I keep saying that but I can’t get past that so easily. Believe me, I am happy that you didn’t. I love you. You know I love you. And I forgive you. You know I forgive you. I’m just having a hard time letting go that I watched you walk down the aisle to him. You were dead set on doing it…I guess until the very last second no matter how many times I urged you not to. How would you feel in my position?”

“I would feel hurt and angry,” she admitted, “And I would probably throw you outside my hotel room and never want to see you again. Maybe after time passed I’d change my mind but I don’t think I’d be able to get over my own pain.”

He sat down on the bed trying to piece together everything that had happened. There was no way he was going to be able to let her go and yet there was still that big white elephant in the room that she was going to marry someone else, that he watched it almost happen. No amount of tequila was ever able to take that vision of her walking down the aisle to John. It was there in his mind the whole night and it still stayed there permeating his thoughts.

Nervously she watched him, fidgeting as she waited for him to say something. He was deep in thought and she didn’t want to mess with his head any more then she already did and yet his silence cut her so deeply.

“Do you want me to leave?” she asked.

He looked up at her and motioned for her to join him on the bed; she obeyed timidly taking a seat behind him. Sitting beside him he looked deep into her eyes. “Of course I don’t want you to leave,” he smiled and she knew right then that things were going to be alright.

“Are you sure?” she asked. “I don’t want you to feel—“

“Shut up,” he stopped her. “Shut up. Don’t say anything else. You being here says it all. Sheesh,” he laughed, “Don’t you ever get sick of talking?”

“No,” she answered and grabbed his hand. “Never.”

“Well let me say something for a change,” he offered. “I love you Chelsea. I love you, and I realize that I can’t expect you to apologize to me for almost marrying some total doofus like John because that’s all because of me. I drove you to that. Yes it drives me absolutely crazy and I think you might be bi-polar or something for changing your mind like this in one day but there’s no way I could ever, ever expect you to be sorry for walking away from me. I get it, I get why.”

“Do you understand why I can’t?” she asked him, looking directly into his crystal blue eyes. “Because you are the one person I can’t get over. I recognized today that no one will ever be able to take my heart because you already have it. I never got it back. Yes, things were screwed up and yes I managed to screw things up by totally screwing with your car, your hair, your life…all that when you moved back in with me. But I totally screwed it up by throwing in the towel and going off with John.”

“No you didn’t,” he closed his eyes. “You didn’t totally screw things up. After all, we’re both here now right?”

“Don’t assure me,” she begged. “I am sorry. You tried so hard to get me back and I don’t know why I was so determined to push you away. It’s not like I didn’t still care for you Nick. I saw that you changed and yet I still pushed and pushed you away from me for someone else--”

“Ok, seriously…stop talking,” Nick interrupted. “Just tell me again that you love me.”

“I love you.”

“Say it again.”

“I love you,” she smiled put her hand to his face. “I love you.”

“Do you know how great that is to hear?” he asked. “After all this time. That’s all I wanted.” He leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Now say it again and kiss me.”

Giving a slight chuckle Chelsea whispered in his ear, “I love you,” and put her hand behind his neck drawing their lips together. There they kissed. “I love you,” she said again as she kissed him. “I love you.”

Pulling away Nick laid back on the bed and reached over to the light, “Tired?”

“You bet.”

“Alright,” he nodded and turned off the light. He pulled for her and she laid gently across his chest wrapped tightly in his arms. “Now we can finally get some rest,” he sighed and kissed her gently atop her forehead.

There they lay together in the hotel with everything and everyone else a world away. After all the pain and all the turmoil that had managed to get in between them there was nothing left but each other and many dreams to come.

Cardboard Boxes Main