Chapter 37

Brian’s phone rang early the next morning.

“Hey, AJ! What’s up, man?”

“Not too much, listen I just saw Kent White on Entertainment TV. That man is one fucked up asshole.”

“No kidding. Has our statement been released yet?”

“Yeah, it’s all over the place.” AJ said.

“Good. Maybe he’ll think twice before pulling that kind of shit again.” Brian said, bitterly.

“How’s she doing?” AJ asked, his tone dropping.

“I’m not really sure. She didn’t sleep a wink except for Friday after she talked to you, and then yesterday she slept all day after the social worker left. I woke her up to tell her about Kent’s story and I thought maybe we’d get her to cheer up a bit until her landlord called and evicted her from her apartment. Then she went back to bed and I haven’t seen her since.”

“She got evicted? For what?”

“The media is swarming and causing a disturbance to the other residents. She has to move out this weekend.”

“That’s fucked up. Poor girl. Listen, what if I came up there for a few days?” AJ suggested. He didn’t want to admit it, but the thought of Emily up there feeling so upset was killing him and all he wanted to do was to comfort her.

“Well, I don’t know. She’s really fragile right now, AJ. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to upset her even more.” The last thing Brian wanted was for him to come up here and press her about her feelings. She’d had more than she could handle for the week, hell, for the year.

“So what, you think I’m going to upset her?”

“That’s not what I’m saying. All I mean is, she doesn’t seem to be ready to admit how she feels about you, and she’s about at her emotional limits right now. I don’t think it would be a good time to press her on the issue.”

“Who said anything about pressing her? What makes you think I still feel that way? We’re just friends!” AJ never could tell a lie to save his life.

Brian laughed. “Three dozen roses, AJ?”

“Shut up, man. You’re just mad because I made you look bad in front of your wife.”

“I know. Look, we’d all love to see you, I’m just warning you to be careful. Call it overprotective if you want, but I don’t want to see that girl hurt anymore.”

“Neither do I. I’ll call and let you know when I’m coming. And don’t tell her, I want it to be a surprise.”

“She’ll be surprised all right.” Brian said, not sure how Emily would really feel about AJ’s coming to see her.


Brian soon forgot about AJ’s surprise visit when Baylee woke up feeling sick. Leighanne took a look at him and exclaimed, “Is that a chicken pox on his nose?”

Brian took a look. “Yeah, that looks like a pox alright.”

“Mommy, what’s a chicken box?”

“It’s a pox sweetie, and it’s a little itchy bump.”

Leighanne went and called the doctor who instructed her to give him oatmeal baths and not to let him scratch. Brian kept him company up in his bedroom most of the day, playing video games with him and watching movies.

Emily made an appearance that evening, coming downstairs for something to eat.

“Have you been asleep all day?” Leighanne asked.

“No, I just don’t feel very well so I’ve been laying in bed reading and watching TV.”

Leighanne took a look at her. “Emily, have you had the chicken pox before?”

“When I was a baby, why?”

“I think Baylee’s given you chicken pox! Look, there’s one on your arm.”

Emily looked at her arms and groaned. “I thought you only got it once!”

“I heard some people can get it again if the first time they had it was mild. Are you itchy?”

“Actually, yeah I am. I thought it was just from being in bed all day.”

“Well, young lady, you know the drill. Back to bed and no scratching or I’ll make you sleep with socks on!” Leighanne ordered.

“Can’t I at least have something to eat first?” Emily complained.

“I’ll bring you something and if you’re a good patient, I’ll let you have some ice cream.”

Leighanne sent Emily upstairs and she decided to take a detour to visit Baylee.

“Miss. Emily, I’ve got chicken box!”

Pox Baylee.” Brian corrected him.

“I heard. Guess what?” Emily said.

“What?”

“So do I!”

“Really?” Brian and Baylee said together.

Emily showed them her arms. “Your wife sent me back to bed; she wouldn’t even let me eat!”

“Leighanne means business when it comes to sick people. You’d better get in bed before she finds you in here!” Brian warned.

“That’s right!” Leighanne said, sneaking up on them. “Emily, I brought you some soup and a packet of oatmeal bath.”

“Aw, you didn’t have to do all that!” Emily said, looking at the tray she had arranged with a little daisy on it.

“Southern hospitality!” she replied. “Now get your butt in bed!”


Chapter 38

Emily was still a prisoner to her bed the next day when AJ arrived.

“Hey AJ! It’s so good to see you!” Leighanne said, hugging him.

“Hi Leigh.” He kissed her check.

“Hey!” Brian came in.

“Hey Brian! How’s it going?”

“It’s been a little crazy in our house. Baylee has the chicken pox. Please tell me you’ve had them before.”

“Yeah, when I was like, 9 years old.”

“Good, because Emily has them too!”

AJ laughed. “Are you kidding?”

“Unfortunately, I’m not! Leighanne’s had her chained to her bed since yesterday.”

Leighanne elbowed Brian.

“Does she know I’m coming?” AJ asked.

“No but I’m not sure she’ll let you see her. She won’t even let Brian in; she’s so embarrassed about her chicken pox. She’s got them really bad.”

“Can I go see her?”

“Go right ahead. She’s in the guest suite. Knock before you go in!” Leighanne ordered.

AJ went upstairs and knocked lightly on the door.

Good Lord, Leighanne you just checked on me ten minutes ago! Emily said to herself. “Come in!”

AJ slowly opened the door. “Surprise!”

Emily squealed and hid under the blanket. “Get out!”

AJ chuckled. “So not the reaction I was hoping for! I hear you have chicken pox.”

“Yes and no one is allowed in here!”

“Oh, come on they can’t be that bad!” AJ sat on the edge of her bed.

“AJ, you’ve already seen me throw up twice, do you really think I want you to see me with chicken pox all over my face?”

“Actually, I’d prefer the pox to the vomit.”

“It’s not funny!”

“Sure it is! Now come out from under there or I’ll come in and get you myself.”

As tempting of a thought that was, she slowly peeked her head out from underneath the blanket.

“Em, it’s not that bad! I still think you’re gorgeous!” he said softly.

“Well, what else are you going to say? Gross? Come on, even you’re smarter than that!”

“It’s too bad the pox didn’t take away your mean sense of humor.” AJ pretended to pout.

“Nothing could take that away from me!” Emily finally gave in and sat up.

“Can I get a hug?” AJ asked.

“At your own risk. If you get sick, it’s not my fault!”

“I think it’s worth the risk.” AJ said, taking her into his arms. He held her there, not wanting to let her go.

Emily sank into him, reveling in the warmth of his arms. “What are you doing here, anyway?”

“I came to see you.” He said, softly.

“Me?” she tilted her head up to look at him. Dammit, he’s looking at me with those eyes again! She thought.

He gazed down at her. “Of course you!”

“But…I…why?” she stammered.

AJ thought she would have known and was taken aback by the question. “I knew you were having a rough time, and I wanted to see for myself that you were ok, and to try and make you feel better about everything.”

“Oh.”

“And….because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since I met you.” He whispered.

Emily was shocked. “AJ…I….”

“Shh…we don’t need to talk about it right now. You just focus on getting well!”

“Now you’re starting to sound like Leighanne!” Emily groaned.

AJ kissed the top of her head. “Can I get you anything?”

“Some sleep. I haven’t been able to sleep because of all the damn itching!”

AJ lay down next to her and held his arms out. “Here. Come lay with me.”

Emily knew she shouldn’t, but he just looked so damn inviting that she couldn’t resist. She curled up next to him and he wrapped his arm around her, gently soothing her to sleep.

AJ lay with her for an hour, watching her sleep, making sure she was comfortable and warm. He would have been content to stay with her longer but he was starving and was worried his growling stomach would wake her up. He slowly and quietly untangled himself from her and climbed out of bed, checking every two seconds to make sure he hadn’t woken her up. He tip-toed out of the room, closing the door behind him.

He heard voices coming from Baylee’s room and decided to pop his head in on the little guy.

“Uncle AJ!” Baylee exclaimed.

“Hey Little Dude! How are you?” AJ said, giving Baylee a big hug.

“I have the chicken box!”

AJ gasped. “Not the chicken box!”

“Yeah, and they itch!”

“That’s terrible!” AJ said, feigning horror.

“Uncle AJ, can you read me my bedtime story?”

“Sure! What are we reading tonight?” AJ said, sitting next to Baylee on the bed.

“The Bearnstein Bears.” Baylee said, handing AJ the book.


Once AJ had read to Baylee and put him to bed, he poked his head in on Emily and saw that she was still asleep before going downstairs to find Brian and Emily.

“Thanks for putting Baylee to bed!” Leighanne said.

“No problem!”

“So?” Brian asked.

“So what?” AJ responded, sitting down. He knew what Brian wanted to know, but he was going to have to beg for it.

“So how did it go with Emily? She actually let you in her room?”

“I don’t know if let is the word I would use. I didn’t really give her much of a choice.”

“Did you tell her?” Brian pried.

“Tell her what?”

“What do you mean what? Did you tell her how you feel?”

“A little, I kind of wanted to wait until she was feeling better before we have that talk. Then she went to sleep and I just stayed with her, making sure she got rest.”

Brian raised his eyebrows. “You mean, you were in bed with her and you let her sleep?”

Leighanne jabbed Brian in the side. “Don’t answer that, AJ.” She said.

“Don’t worry; it’ll drive him nuts if I don’t so I’m not going to.”


The three of them relaxed and ended up watching American Idol.

“I’d really like to be a judge on that show.” AJ said. “I think Simon and I would have a great time together.” In a mock British accent he said, “That was a positively dreadful performance! I felt like I was at an ‘N-Sync concert, not a Backstreet Boys concert.”

Brian and Leighanne laughed. “I’ll tell him you’d like to be on.” Brian said.

AJ raised his eyebrows. “You know Simon?”

“Yeah. We met at a party last year. My record label has done a lot of work with him. He’s a great producer.”

“Kick ass!” AJ said. “Can you introduce me?”


Chapter 39

AJ slept in the guest room nearest to Emily’s. He woke up in the middle of the night when he heard her moving around in her room. He threw on a shirt and went to check on her. He knocked lightly on her door but she didn’t hear him over the sound of the bath water she was running. AJ let himself into her room and saw that she was in the bathroom, the door open. He covered his eyes as he went up to the door and knocked on the frame.

“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” he asked.

Emily let out a small shriek. “You scared the pox out of me! What are you doing?”

“I heard you up so I came to check on my patient.”

“Your patient,” Emily said crankily, “Is itchy as all hell and can’t go back to sleep so I’m taking another oatmeal bath. You can uncover your eyes, by the way. I still have my clothes on.”

“Damn.” AJ said as he uncovered his eyes. He thought she looked absolutely adorable sitting there on the edge of the tub, her hair a mess wearing a t-shirt and flannel shorts.

“Sorry, I’ll try and get naked quicker next time.” Emily said, noticing how cute AJ looked standing there in her bathroom wearing nothing but a white t-shirt that hugged every one of his muscles and his boxers, his hair sticking up all over the place.

“I would appreciate that.”

“But for now, if you don’t mind, I’d really like to take my bath now….”

“Would you like some company?” AJ offered.

“In the bath?!?”

“No! I just meant, I could sit out here in your room and talk to you while you’re taking your bath. You know, keep you company. I promise I won’t peek.”

“Right.” Emily muttered.

AJ kept to his word and sat in the chair that was in the corner. He had to admit that it took every ounce of self control he had to not sneak a peek but he kept his eyes away from the bathroom. They made small-talk while she soaked in the tub. He told her some more funny stories about his rambunctious dogs and she shared with him some of Baylee’s cuter moments. An hour later, she emerged from the bathroom wearing a long white robe.

“Feel better?” he asked.

“Much. I might actually be able to go to sleep now.” She climbed back into bed and buried herself underneath the blankets.

“Do you want me to stay until you fall asleep?” he offered.

“That would be nice.” She smiled at him.

AJ sat by her bed, talking to her until she fell asleep. He sat for a few minutes, watching her before he went back to his own bed. He couldn’t fall back asleep. All he could think about was how cute she looked tonight, how beautiful she always seemed to be, and that kind tone in her voice whenever she talked to him. And she had the most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen. Every time she looked at him with those eyes, he felt like his heart would stop. How could she not know what she did to him? He decided to tell her tomorrow how he really felt about everything. He needed her to know and he could only hope that she would return the same feelings.


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"Never Gone" is a work of fiction.
The characters and events portrayed are fictitious.
Any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

Copyright 2006
All Rights Reserved
No part of this text may be copied or reprinted
without the author's permission.

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