“Mom, yeah, it’s me. Listen, I need a huge favor from you and dad. Dad has the kids so I didn’t want to call there and potentially wake them up. Could you keep them for a few days? Yeah, I said days. No, I didn’t misspeak. I am also gonna have to miss a few days at work. I am at the airport with Ez, that crazy girl is in line to buy a ticket to who knows where. I cannot change her mind without causing a scene, so I am just gonna go with. No, I do not know where to, but will call you as soon as I know more. Yes, of course will I take care of her, that’s why I am going. You know her. If I took her back home and told her no, she’d wait till I am gone, call a cab and she’d go alone. You know she is too weak for that shit! Line’s moving, talk to you later. Love ya too! Tell dad and grandpa that I am really sorry!” Ethan hung up and ran to Ezzy at the counter.
Ethan was wondering if Esmée’s brain was playing tricks on her. By now they had been on this island for a full 24 hours, long enough for his parents to kill them for certain for sticking them with the kids on zero notice and him missing work for days on even less notice.
As pretty as it was here, he really didn’t have time for a vacation, nor felt like one, especially not without his son!
By now they had walked all over the damn main island.
And of course had Ethan tried to get Ezzy to explain. But she only ever told him to wait and see, that she needed to find something important here, was laser focused and it was useless to grill her. Plus, his curiosity was piqued. Whatever she was looking for, and she was looking for something, it wasn’t some feverish dream.
So far all they had accomplished was to get themselves blisters on the feet, sand in every nook and crevice of their bodies and sunburned farmer’s tans since neither of them was dressed for a beach vacation and neither had a change of clothes with them.
Today they took a boat over to some overgrown island, Ethan just kept his eyes peeled for snakes or whatever hellish creatures would await. After securing the boat, Ezzy had made her way almost out of sight, so he had to run after her.
When he came around the bend, he stopped, feeling like he ran into a wall, paralyzed he watched the impending train wreck about to happen next.
Some hermit looking guy, at first glance one of the islanders, raised up from doing something on the ground, blinking against the sun at Ezzy and him. His stance combative at first, but suddenly Ezzy walked faster and faster until she was running to the man, who just stood there.
When she reached him, she stopped, they looked at each other, neither spoke, when suddenly Ezzy raised her arm and slapped the man with force.
The man’s head flew to the side, he just turned it back to Ezzy without a reaction. Esmée embraced the man and kissed him softly at first then longing and intensely, which the stranger returned, melting into the embrace.
They stood kissing again and again, until the man ended up pressing Ezzy’s tiny frame so hard against himself, Ethan thought he would break her in half.
Suddenly, it all made sense to Ethan.
“Fucking hell! That’s Nick!” he mumbled and began to run towards the couple.
When Nick and Ezzy finally separated, it was Ethan’s turn. He didn’t say anything, just pulled his best friend into a very unmanly embrace. Screw it all! This was his best friend!
“You fucking asshole, you stupid dick, what the fuck were you thinking!?” Ethan yelled into his best friend’s ear with relief, a long time of build-up tension falling off like shackles.
Nick never yelled back, just responded calmly.
“I thought I lost her.” he plainly said, with equal relief.
“You should have come home by now. Ethan is right, you ARE an asshole. If I didn’t want to take you to that ugly hut and make love to you so bad, I would kick your balls into your throat!” Ezzy hissed at him, arms crossed.
“Whoa! And eww. Still here… not something a brother needs or wants to hear…” Ethan frowned.
“I don’t give a shit, Ethan. That is my husband, he royally screwed up and I missed him!”
“I missed you more, but we can’t. I don’t have protection and I do not want to create another one of those … things.”
“Guys! Enough with the bedroom talk! EWWW!” Ethan protested vehemently.
“Ethan, get over it. It’s what we do.”
“It’s what got us into this mess. Because we got pregnant and one of those things nearly killed you!” Nick said, his voice sounded rough like he had not spoken much in the past months or even longer.
“Things? You fool never even had to change a single diaper, so what are you even complaining about?” Ethan told him.
“And how do you speak about our little girl? She is a ‘she’, not a ‘thing’. Besides, she might like a little sibling….” Ezzy winked, smiling.
“It is alive?!” Nick looked horrified.
“It? You mean her, right? Yeah, she’s fine. A happy, healthy little girl. Full of life.”
“You have it – still?”
“Nick, you are cruising for a bruising. Yes, I still have Ally, she is back home, mom and dad are watching her till we get back. And for the last time now, it is ‘she’ not ‘it’, you raisinbrain!!!”
“I cannot go home to … it.”
“Quit saying ‘it’. She is our beautiful baby girl, a little angel, gorgeous. Looks just like you. So smart too. Here, I have pictures on my phone.”
“What do you mean no?!” Ezzy’s tone had switched to combative.
“I mean I can’t … do that. It … she .. I …. can’t…. Ezzy, she took you from me….”
“No, she didn’t, or do I look like a friggin mirage to you?”
Ethan stepped aside, grinning. Yeah, that was his sister, all right, just how she had always been. Nick was about to get a solid reminder. And he was about to just step back, let them work it out and watch that show.
“Ez, I just … I …. I can’t …. I want you … but I can’t …”
“Okay, buddy. If you want me, you are gonna have to want Ally too. We’re a package. And just in case this sounded like you had options, you don’t. Pack your shit, we’re leaving!”
“What did you say? Did you seriously say no?”
“I …. can’t …. please… UGH!”
Nick couldn’t finish his sentence as Ezzy tackled him, sending them both to the ground.
Ethan stood by, shocked, but Nick was significantly stronger and bigger than tiny, skinny Esmée, so he could take it.
Ezzy ended up straddling him, slapping him. Again and again. Ethan wasn’t sure whether to watch or interfere but they seemed …. fine.
“Ezzy, please stop… ouch! What the hell, girl!?”
She kept slapping him, until Nick held on to her hands and flipped them over, ending up atop her, pinning her down.
“Ezzy …” his tone was begging.
“Do not start again or I will really hurt you!” she warned.
“How? If you didn’t notice, I got the upper hand now….” Nick even sounded a lot more like the old Nick now.
“Do you? Looks to me like all I have to do is kick up my leg and you never have to worry about fathering anything again! You will never be able to walk straight!” Ezzy’s eyes were gleaming now.
“Gawd, I missed you!” Nick kissed Ezzy. She let him.
“Gawd, you two are weird.” Ethan shook his head.
“Nick, I need you to be my Nick again. And I need you to be Ally’s daddy …” Ezzy ignored her brother, focused solely on Nick.
“Baby, I’ll do anything you want me to. I never thought I would ever hold you, feel you, smell you ….. kiss you. I’ll do it. Anything. ANYTHING. I’ll shave, I’ll cut my hair… and I will try to be a dad. I will try to learn to love it … her … Ally.” Nick said.
“OK, couple things: you won’t need to try to love Ally, because you won’t be able to help it once you meet her. And – don’t shave or cut your hair. I kinda like your wild side….so raw and unbridled… kinda sexy …”
They ended up making out, so Ethan walked off, frowning.
Yeah, good for them, but he really did not need to see or hear any of THAT.
As their giggles and noises faded, and all that remained was the sounds of the ocean, Ethan closed his eyes.
If they could make it, maybe there was hope for him and Amy.
Ethan sat down in the sand, pulled out his phone and dialed the familiar number.
Holding up the phone to his ear, he smiled a hopeful smile, which suddenly faded when he dropped the phone into the sand, burying his head into his knees, the vibration of his body a telltale sign that he was sobbing.
Next to him the phone repeating over and over again in the same canned voice
“We’re sorry, this number is no longer in service. Please check the number and dial again.”
The welcome at the airport as Ezzy and Ethan’s parents picked them up was heartfelt, despite certain warnings by KC to Nick to never pull a stunt like that again.
The excitement was grand when the toddlers loudly proclaimed their excitement to have everybody back home, plus one new person, both of the little ones eyed with interest.
After greeting Ezzy, both toddlers glanced up at Nick.
“You have my hair.” Ally stated bluntly while pointing at Nick.
“That is your daddy, Ally…” Ezzy explained.
The little girl seemed to think for a moment, then demanded from Nick
Nick obliged and lifted her, Ally put her little arms around Nick’s neck and he melted into a puddle of goo
“UP!” echoed it from Blake.
Nick picked up Ethan’s son as well and looked like he had won the lottery.
Smiling, Ezzy and Ethan exchanged quick glances and her eyes said ‘Told ya!’
“Ice cream?” Ally asked Nick.
“YES .. ice cream!” Blake chimed in.
It was obvious that Nick would have taken that little baby to buy her a Ferrari right about now if she asked for it, but it was also clear he was unable to say anything so Ezzy helped out.
“OK, daddy and I will take you to get ice cream. And you too, young man. This is your uncle.” Ezzy said as Nick was putting the kids back on the floor.
“Uncwle?” Blake parroted, apparently weighing that information in his head.
“Yes, like uncle Cole is.” Ethan explained to his son.
“What’s your name?” Blake inquired.
“OK, I like chocolate … and booberry uncwle Nick…” Blake took Nick’s hand and was ready to go.
“I like stawwbewwy, daddy.” Ally took Nick’s other hand.
Nick looked a little overwhelmed by emotions but went along, followed by the others.
The toddlers were chattering away, asking Nick all sorts of questions, all the way through their ice cream.
Eventually the couple and Ally were dropped off at home and left to their own devices. Ezzy had Nick help her get Ally ready for bed, then made him tuck her in, watching from the door.
Fading into slumber as Nick bent down to kiss his her, Ally mumbled drowsily.
“Nighty night …I lovvv you, daddy.”
“Good night, my beautiful baby girl.” he mumbled, his voice choking up.
Ezzy could tell by Nick’s facial expression that his heart had been won by their daughter, whether he wanted to or not. Ezzy had always been convinced that Nick would return, so she had groomed Ally for the reunion all along, by showing pictures and telling many stories about Nick, making sure that little girl knew her daddy and that he loved her very much.
To allow him a minute to get his bearings about him, she went downstairs to the kitchen where he came to find her as soon as he was ready.
“You were right … I can’t help but love her….gawd I have been such an idiot. How could I do this to her for so long. That poor baby! All the time I missed with her.”
“Her, not it, huh?”
“Definitely her. Gawd Ez, all this time …. had I only known… I am so very sorry!”
“Shhhh…. we cannot change the past. Fact is, we have each other back. Ally is still young enough to just get over both of us missing out on her first years. So, it’s all good now. We’ll be all right. All three of us, Nick. And I knew your fatherly instincts would kick in the second you saw her.”
“I thought you had died. Man, I have been so bitter all this time. The doctor told me there was a very high chance – and you were so weak and pale and fragile … I just couldn’t bear it … watching you perish … knowing I killed you….”
“Huh? You wouldn’t have killed me. There were complications. It could have happened to anyone. Nick, baby, this wasn’t you. Or me. A freak accident, basically.”
“I was going crazy …”
“No need to tell me ….”
“Hey, I am being all mushy here … a little compassion maybe…” Nick smirked.
“I patiently waited for you, then traveled far to get you back home, had to LITERALLY beat you into submission… So, no, I am fresh out of compassion. I’ll let you massage my back, that’s my gesture of compassion.”
“I’ll rub anything you want for as long as you want me to. I’ll even carry you upstairs.”
She giggled and squealed as he made good on his word, as they remembered how it felt to be a young couple in love.