“So what do you think of the party?”
Nick glanced at Stephanie who was smiling, obviously buzzed from the green beer she was having. Smiling, he lied, “It’s great, having a great time.”
She wasn’t fooled. “Liar.”
It was a week later and the pub was the location of Bo and Hope’s 25th anniversary party. Technically their anniversary happened a few months ago, but Bo’s illness kept them from celebrating, and so they finally got around to throwing an informal party at the pub. Of course, Bo wanted there to be green beer for them to drink in; he had gone a bit overboard on this environmental movement shaking Salem. No one had expected Bo Brady to join the parade so enthusiastically, now he was practically leading it. Nick didn’t want to come, but Bo had insisted since the grant was such the talk of the town, much to Nick’s dismay. He had enough pressure from the university trying to get these alternate fuel plans to work; he didn’t need it from his friends either. But he came, apparently with Morgan, who mainly spent most of her time trying to be near Philip. It was okay, Nick felt nothing but friendship for Morgan and he couldn’t imagine crossing that line with her. She was a beautiful girl but every time he looked at her he was reminded of Chelsea. Not that he could forget her, especially while at the party. She and Daniel were making out in the corner like nobody else existed to them. Especially not me, Nick thought briefly, then tried to shake it off. God, could he be any more pathetic?
Stephanie asked Nick to play a game of darts, obviously to distract him from the loving couple but he just shrugged her off. He really wasn’t in the mood at all. He glanced at his beer, having barely taken a sip of it. He too cared about the environment but he didn’t care for green beer. Sure, you weren’t supposed to tell a difference but he swore he could. Making up his mind, Nick turned to Stephanie, “You know what? I think I’m going to go. Tell Morgan I said bye.”
“Wait, Nick, you don’t have to leave,” Stephanie said sadly. She hated to see Nick suffering like this. She remembered what it was like when Max was all about Morgan and what it felt like when social situations forced her to watch them. “You have every right to be here, you know.”
“I know, but she has more of a right. It is her grandmother’s place and a party honoring her father and stepmom. I’m just a visitor.” Nick gave Stephanie a quick kiss on the cheek and waved at Max. Before he could leave though, a noise from the opposite side of the pub drew his attention. Not just one noise but many.
“You BITCH!” Then a slap.
“Why you…” was heard and Nick tried to step around the gathering crowd to see what was going on.
To his, and probably only his, surprise, there were Sami and Nicole going at it like cats and dogs. Well more like cats actually, Nick thought. He shook his head; he hadn’t seen Nicole since last weekend but their night out together would occasionally pop into his mind. He knew she and Sami were less than friends but he couldn’t believe she’d fight with her right here in Sami’s own family’s pub.
“Enough,” EJ said, pulling them apart. “That’s it, Nicole, I said GET OUT.”
Nicole looked surprised, “Me? She started it.” Nick rolled his eyes at that. So did EJ. “It doesn’t matter, get out. Now. No one wants you here.”
Nick heard someone else say, “I don’t even know why she’s here.”
Nicole picked up her purse and headed for the door, trying to hold up her head in spite of the humiliation she must be feeling. As soon as the door slammed, the Bradys and friends went back to what they were doing, while Sami and EJ picked right back up bickering.
Outside, Nicole had decided to pause at the bench and briefly lick her wounds. She hadn’t expected anyone to follow her, so her tough bravado act she was pulling earlier all but disappeared.
“Hey, Nicole,” Nick said.
His voice made her leap out of her skin, he flinched. He hadn’t meant to scare her. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you. You ok?”
Nicole sighed, she didn’t have the energy to deal with Nick Fallon tonight. Wiping the hair out of her eyes, she tried to dismiss him, “Yes, I’m fine. No need to try to cheer me up, Nick. You can go back in there and hang with the Bradys if you want.”
“Cheer you up? I wasn’t going to do that.”
“Oh yeah?” Nicole said absentmindedly. She was checking her heels to make sure they didn’t look like they might break off. The weight of Sami’s push had ruined too many of her good shoes.
“I came out there to ask what you thought you were doing?”
Now that did get Nicole’s attention. “Excuse me?”
“Why would you come to a Brady hosted party and start trouble?”
“Why would I…”
“Are you going to start repeating me again?”
“Look, Professor, it seems I have to repeat myself around you ‘cause you don’t listen. Didn’t you hear me in there? Sami started the fight.”
Nick rolled his eyes, “Please, you expect me to believe you didn’t say anything to provoke her?”
“You know, contrary to popular belief, I don’t live just to make Sami’s life miserable! That’s Kate’s job.”
Nick folded his arms and stared. Again, Nicole became unnerved by him. How did he do that? “I just came here because it was a party and I thought it would be a good time. Obviously I was wrong. Sami was intent on not letting me enjoy myself.”
“How did you expect her to react?”
“How would I expect her…”
Nicole stood up, irritated with this boy who wouldn’t leave her alone. Just because he was nice to Pookie did not mean he could say anything to her. “I came here to help celebrate a couple who SEEMED to like each other. I mean, Bo used to be my stepson at one time. And in the spirit of love, I was looking for a little myself, at least for tonight. And since I knew the Bradys like their environment so much I even dressed up for the occasion. This dress is green!”
Nick’s laughed. “Okay, fine, you win. See you, Nicole.”
Watching him walk away, Nicole felt an overwhelming sense of curiosity so she stopped him. “Nick?”
“Yeah?” He turned around.
“Why are you here?”
Nick hoped she wouldn’t ask him that. He didn’t know what to say, so he just repeated the question. “Why am I here?”
“You’re right, Professor, that is annoying.” Nick’s eyes dropped but didn’t answer. “I just think you would know Chelsea and her hot Doc would be here, why bother coming?”
“I can handle it,” Nick said, but flinched at his voice cracking.
“Oh yeah, you can handle it,” Nicole said, glancing inside where she had a clear shot of Chelsea and Daniel swapping spit. “Seeing them together makes my stomach churn, but mainly ‘cause it looks like he is making out with his daughter. I imagine it’s different for you.”
Nick knew she could see them but he didn’t dare glance over. His gut was already in a mess, he hardly needed to let Nicole see that. His voice was hoarse when he said, “Something like that.”
Seeing the pain on Nick’s face, Nicole took pity on him. “You know, why don’t we go somewhere? You up for it, Professor?”
“Go where?” He had thought about heading home and working on grading papers but that hardly seemed like it would get his mind off of things.
“I don’t know,” Nicole shrugged, heading back to the bench to pick up her purse. “But somewhere where there won’t be any Bradys, for either of us.”
Before Nick could really answer her, Nicole grabbed his arm and yanked him towards the car. “Wow, another Saturday evening with me, Ms. Walker? People will talk.”
He chuckled at her answer, “Damn straight.”