Chapter 124

A week after the funeral Emily was ready to go home.

“Are you sure? You can stay as long as you want.” AJ said.

Emily nodded. “I’m sure. I can’t dwell over this forever and Mom’s decided to take a vacation next week anyway. I need to get on with my life.”

“Ok. I’ll go make arrangements for a flight out tomorrow.”

“Thank you. For everything.” She said, kissing him on the lips.

“You don’t need to thank me.” He said. “I wanted to be there for you. I was just happy that I could do something to make this easier for you.”

Emily cleared her throat. “AJ, there’s one more thing that I need to do before we leave.”

“What’s that?”

“I need to visit Payton.”

AJ looked stunned. “Are you sure?”

Emily nodded. “I’ve been away for too long. I think it’ll give me that last bit of closure I’ve been looking for. “

He nodded. “When do you want to go?”

“Actually, right now. We still have some daylight left and I think if I don’t do it now I might chicken out later.”

“Lead the way.” AJ said, grabbing is keys to their rental car.

“It’s not far. Just about ten minutes from here.”

Soon after, AJ was driving slowly down the gravel road in St. Mary’s Cemetery.

“There.” Emily said, pointing. “Under that big oak tree.”

AJ pulled the car over and turned off the ignition. Emily didn’t move.

“Are you sure about this?” he asked softly, turning to face her.

Emily nodded. “Positive. Just give me a minute.”

Emily sat in the car remembering the last and only time she’d ever been here. She hadn’t returned since the day of the funeral. Suddenly she felt like the worst mother in the world for never once visiting her son. Such a cowardly thing to do. But she was here now and she knew she was ready to do this. Finally, she opened the car door and stepped out. AJ quickly followed her and grabbed her hand as they walked over to the grave. Emily’s hands were trembling so much that she didn’t even notice the tremble in AJ’s hands.

In a way, this was the moment AJ had been waiting for. He couldn’t say he’d been looking forward to it but to him it was a sign that maybe Emily really was finally allowing herself to heal and try and move on and that she was ready to do that with him. They had certainly had their share of ups and downs and he really felt that he was ready to just be with her. His only concern was if she would ever really let him be with her or if she had just suffered too much damage. He wasn’t sure how much he was willing to accept as far as her not letting him in and he was terrified of the day that he might ever have to make that decision. He took this day as a sign that perhaps he’d never have to after all.

Emily stopped at Payton’s grave and just stood staring at it. AJ took in the site. He hadn’t expected it to impact him as much. He thought he was pretty prepared and hadn’t expected himself to feel so emotional over just the sight of it. To him it represented not only the loss of an innocent baby but also all the pain that Emily had felt. Still felt. And because he loved her so much, it became his pain as well.

Emily sat down in the grass. It seemed as though she were silently talking to Payton. AJ felt like maybe he was intruding a little on a private moment and stepped back a bit to give her some space. He went and stood by the oak tree and leaned against the trunk as he watched her.

Emily sat there and even though she wasn’t speaking out loud, she said a lot of things that she’d been keeping bottled up for a long time. How sorry she was for running away from her grief. How sorry she was that he had to suffer the way he did. How sorry she was for blaming herself and everyone else. And finally, how sorry she was that she couldn’t seem to let go. She could feel AJ watching her. At that moment, she knew that if she didn’t let go of all of this, she would lose him. He had gone so far for her but a man could only go so far. She took a deep breath. It’s now or never. It was time to say goodbye and go live the rest of her life. It was time to allow herself to be happy. And being happy meant being with AJ. Payton would always be with her. She would never forget him and she would never want to. But she also knew that he was up there being her own guardian angel and he would want her to be happy.

She walked back to AJ and wrapped her arms around him, burying her face in his chest. As he held her tightly to him, she finally let it out. She cried for her son, she cried for her brother, she cried for herself. When she was finished, she simply looked up into his eyes and smiled.

“I love you.” She said.

AJ kissed her forehead. “I love you too.”

“Thank you.” She said, softly.

“You’re welcome.” He said.

“I’m ready to go now.”

“Are you sure?”

Emily smiled again and looked up at the beautiful sunset. “Yeah, I’m sure. It’s time to move on.”


“Do you have something for me?”

“Boy do I! You’re never going to believe this.” The man said, handing over a stack of photos and an envelope of records.

Kent took a moment to flip through what he had been given and choked on his coffee as he did so.

“Is this for real?” he asked.

The man nodded. “I verified it myself.”

Kent smiled. “Good work.”


AJ accompanied Emily home to Atlanta where he stayed with her for the next week.

“AJ, I’m fine! You don’t need to stay here and baby-sit me!!”

“I know you’re fine! I just wanted to be with you, is that ok?”

Emily rolled her eyes. “Look, I love you. I love that you’re very protective of me. What I don’t love is you putting your life on hold for me!”

AJ sighed. “Ok. Well listen, I’ve already cleared everything for the next week. I promise, after that I’ll get back to work. Is that ok with you?”

Emily smiled. “Thank you!”

To tell the truth, as much as she loved having him around, she was starting to feel a little suffocated. Between him, Brian and Leighanne she felt like she was under constant surveillance. It was like they were all waiting for her to fall apart or something. She had her moments and AJ was there for all of them but she was feeling better and just really needed a sense of normalcy to her life. They were even limiting the amount of time they left Baylee in her care which made her feel useless.

“Brian, I told you I can take him with me to my meeting!” Emily overheard Leighanne say as she walked past the office.

“Well I don’t want him to bother you. He can come to the studio with me, I’ll just get one of the interns to watch him this time.” Brian replied.

Emily sighed. She’d had enough.

She knocked on the door. “Excuse me guys, I’m sorry to bother you. Are you by any chance interested in hiring a nanny?”

“What are you talking about?” Leighanne asked.

“Well from what I can hear you seem to need someone to watch Baylee while you two go off to work.”

They looked at her like she’d gone crazy.

“You’re not quitting, are you?” Brian asked.

“No.” Emily replied.

“Then what are you talking about? You’re our nanny.”

“Exactly.” Emily smiled at them. “So why don’t you just let me do my job and leave Baylee here with me like you’re supposed to. We will be fine. Promise.”

Brian and Leighanne looked at each other.

“You’re right. We were just trying to give you a break.” Brian said.

“And I appreciate that, I really do, but I need things to get back to normal. I can not just sit around here all day while you guys scurry around trying to figure out what to do with him each day. Besides, my keeper AJ will still be here for another week.”

Leighanne smiled. “Ok Emily. He’s all yours tomorrow.” She said, looking rather relieved to not have to take him with her to her meetings.

AJ and Emily spent the next day with Baylee. To Emily, it felt unbelievably good to be back to her job. All AJ could think about was how great it would be to have a family with Emily. Being with Emily and Baylee was like a wake up call. Watching them laugh together as they beat him at Go Fish made him realize this is what it would be like when they had kids of their own someday.

He’d known for a while that he wanted to spend his life with her, that was nothing new. But this picture clear vision of them together with their kids was jolting. Suddenly, he wanted it more than ever before. He wanted that picture perfect family with the white picket fence and as many kids as Emily wanted to give him. He imagined coming home from a long day in the studio and being greeted by his kids in his wonderful house in a nice suburb somewhere.

The thing was, he’d always known he wanted a wife. He never realized how badly he wanted to have children. Correction: Emily’s children. They’d be beautiful. That much he was sure of.

“Earth to AJ!” Emily said as Baylee giggled. “It’s your turn!”

“Oh!” AJ said, shaking his head. “Sorry! Guess I zoned out for a second.”

“You sure did! Everything ok?”

He smiled at her. “Everything is perfect.”

Little did AJ know, things would not remain perfect for that much longer.

Chapter 125

Emily woke up at 2 AM to the sound of the house phone ringing.

“Who the hell would be calling them at this hour?” she mumbled as the ringing stopped. A few minutes later she could hear Brian’s voice. He sounded upset.

“Do you think I should go check on them?” AJ asked.

“I don’t know. Probably not. If it’s something we need to know he’ll come tell us.”

“I just hope nothing’s wrong.” AJ said. He had a bad feeling.

“Brian you don’t really think it’s true, do you?” Leighanne asked, sounding horrified.

Brian sighed. “I don’t know. I don’t want to believe it, but I have to look into it. Ryan said he’s looking into it immediately, he’s got his junior lawyers staying overnight getting all the facts so he can give me an update first thing in the morning.”

“Should we go talk to her about it?” Leighanne asked.

Brian shook his head. “No. If we ask her, she’ll think we believe it. If it’s not true, she’ll be very hurt and offended. Not to mention AJ might just punch my lights out. He’s been so friggin’ protective of her lately that if anyone hurts her he’s likely to blow a fuse.”

“This is serious, Brian.”

“I know that!” he snapped at his wife. Leighanne looked taken aback. “Look I’m sorry. This has us both shaken up. Let’s just try and get some rest and we’ll deal with it when we know something more.” He said.

“Brian I can’t sleep now!” Leighanne said.

Brian sighed. “I know. I probably can’t either. Why don’t we just get into bed and watch some bad late-night tv?”

The phone rang again at 7:30 in the morning. Leighanne jumped as Brian dove to answer it. He listened for a few minutes before thanking his lawyer and hanging up the phone.

“Well?” Leighanne asked.

“It’s true.” He said quietly.

“Are you sure?”

“As sure as they can be.”

“It just can’t be.” Leighanne said, covering her mouth with her hand. “It can’t be.” Her eyes were welling with tears.

“I’ll take care of it, baby.” Brian said, kissing the top of his wife’s head.

Having been woken up by the phone yet again, Emily was having trouble falling back asleep. AJ was still snoring away so she decided to just get up and have a cup of coffee and read the paper before she got dressed.

She was in the middle of pouring her coffee when Brian came in.

“Just who the hell do you think you are?” he said, practically shouting at her.

Emily was so startled by his outburst that she dropped the whole pot of hot coffee on the floor, splashing her legs with the hot liquid.

“Jesus, Brian! What the hell are you doing?” she shouted back, wiping her legs off.

“What the hell am I doing? What the hell are you doing? Did you think we’d never find out?”

“Find out what? Brian, what’s going on?” Emily asked. Brian was so intense and his eyes were blazing as he glared at her. Emily had never been intimidated by him before but now she was downright afraid.

AJ woke up when he heard the shattering glass followed by raised voices. He realized Emily wasn’t in bed and decided he’d better go see what was going on. He bumped into Leighanne at the top of the steps.

“What is it?” he asked, taking in her tear stained face.


AJ took off to find out what was happening, following their voices to the kitchen.

“What’s going on?” he demanded, taking in the scene before him.

No one answered him.

“Do you know who that was on the phone in the middle of the night?” Brian asked, his voice finally lowered.

“No.” Emily said, her voice quivering.

“That was my lawyer calling to inform me that apparently, he received a call from the National Enquirer asking for a comment on the Backstreet Nanny who killed her own son.”

Emily’s face blanched.

“Oh shit.” AJ said.

Leighanne looked at AJ. “Did you know about this?” she asked, softly.

AJ nodded. “It’s not at all what you think.”

Leighanne then looked into his eyes and suddenly knew there was a lot more to this story.

“How did they know about that?” Emily whispered.

“How did they KNOW? So it’s TRUE? You killed your son and you have the nerve to go into someone else’s home and take care of our son? Our SON?” he yelled.

AJ needed to intervene. “Brian, man, you need to calm down.”

“No I will NOT fucking calm down!” he yelled. “I have NEVER been so deceived in my entire life! You belong in jail for the rest of your life where you’ll then spend eternity in hell for what you’ve done.”

Emily wobbled.

“I want you to get the hell out of my house and never come back, do you hear me? If you so much as come near my son so help me God….” Brian said, his fists clenched.

Emily opened her mouth as if to say something but couldn’t find any words to even say. So instead, she ran out of the kitchen and right out the front door.

AJ charged over to Brian. “You have no idea what you’re talking about.” He said, getting about an inch from his face, fists clenched at his sides. “You are way out of line here!”

“Am I? What part have I got wrong? Do you even know what the tabloid is running?”

AJ ran his fingers through his hair. “No.”

“They have actual records, AJ! They have the birth certificate with her named as the mother. And then two months later they have a death certificate which states that the baby died from a terrible brain bleed. Then they have an anonymous doctor who testified that these types of brain bleeds are usually the result of a shaken baby. And if that weren’t enough, there’s a picture of her sitting at his grave!”

“It’s only a picture of her?” AJ asked, surprised.

“Yeah, what’s that got to do with any of this?” Brian asked.

“I took her there last week.”

“You what?! You KNEW about this?” Brian demanded, slamming his fist on the counter.

“Yeah I knew about it. But I’m telling you Bri, you don’t have this at all right.” AJ was so shocked by all of this that he hadn’t even gotten to the point of being angry with Brian yet

“You heard her, she basically admitted to it!”

“Actually Brian, she didn’t admit to anything.” Leighanne said.

“What?! She asked how we knew about it! If that’s not an admittance I don’t know what is!”

“Brian maybe you should listen to AJ.” Leighanne suggested.

“You two have gone nuts. Our lawyer checked it out, Leigh. The birth record, the death record, they’re all there!”

“I still think there’s more to this…”

“This discussion is over!” Brian said, storming into the office and slamming the door.

Leighanne turned and looked at AJ. It was finally starting to sink in what was happening.

“What really happened, AJ?” she asked.

“I’m sorry Leigh, but it’s not my place to tell you.” He said.

“Why not?” Leigh looked taken aback.

“Because I promised Emily I’d never tell anyone and as easy as it might make things, you need to hear this from her, not me. It’s her story to tell and I don’t want to break her trust.”

“Well then I think you’d better go find her. She’s wandering around out there in her pajamas.”

AJ was still in a state of shock that he hadn’t even realized Emily really had gone. He quickly snatched up his keys off the counter and took off to find her.

The sun was barely up and it was hard to see much past the road. He drove all around the neighborhood thinking she couldn’t have gotten far on her feet unless she hitched a ride from someone. He had just driven past the elementary school when he finally spotted her. She was sitting slumped over on a swing out in the playground.

He parked the car and walked over to her, standing in front of her and putting his hands on the chains of the swing. Emily kept her eyes on the ground.

“Are you ok?” he asked.

She shrugged her shoulders.

“Can you look at me?” he asked.

She shook her head.

AJ sighed and knelt down in front of her.

“Brian was way out of line.” He said.

“No he wasn’t.”

“Emily it’s not even true, how can you say that?”

“Because it is true.” She sniffed.


“It’s true. I killed my son. I caused his brain to bleed. I caused his death.”

“Em, the chemo caused it. You didn’t do it!”

“But that’s where you’re wrong. You see, I begged the doctors to give him the experimental drug. Joe wanted to let him go. The doctors wanted to let him go. Then I begged them to give him just one more round. Everyone tried to tell me it was time to let him go but I refused. So really AJ, it was my fault.”

“Em, no…” AJ said, starting to feel choked up. “You can’t blame yourself for this.”

“There’s no one else to blame!” she said loudly, finally looking up at him.

“You were a mother trying to give her son a fighting chance. You can’t blame yourself for trying to save him.”

“Who else should I blame?” she asked, tears streaming down her face.

“This wasn’t anyone’s fault. You have to let this go, Emily! You can’t keep blaming yourself. You need to go back and tell Brian the truth.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“He thinks you shook your son and killed him. That’s what the tabloid is implying.”

Emily looked horrified. “Why on earth would they think that?”

AJ sighed. “They have the cause of death stated on the death certificate as some kind of brain bleed and they have a doctor who was willing to state that those types of bleeds are usually caused in cases of shaken baby syndrome.”

“THAT’S what Brian thinks happened?” Emily asked, suddenly standing up.

“I’m so sorry, sweetie. Come on, let’s go clear this up.”

“I most certainly will not!” she said, crossing her arms.

“Why the hell not?”

“If he can really believe I killed my own son then obviously he never really trusted me or knew me in the slightest. I am not going to go back there just to convince that arrogant son of a bitch that I didn’t murder my son like that!”

“Emily, I am only doing this because I love you. You are going back there and telling them if I have to literally pick you up and carry you back there myself.”

“Then I guess that’s just what you’ll have to do.” Emily said, sitting back down on the swing.

AJ sighed. He didn’t really think she’d call him on that, but he had to do what he thought was best for Emily and what he thought best was forcing her to admit to what really happened. To finally get it off of her chest and to clear her name in the process. If she wasn’t willing to stand up for herself he was just going to have to make her do it. So, he bent down and grabbed her from the swing and threw her over his shoulder.

Emily yelped and squirmed and screamed with all her might but he was a lot stronger than her. He opened the door to the back and all but tossed her on the seat, quickly flipping the child safety locks on the door before he shut it so she wouldn’t be able to open the door (a trick he had learned from Emily herself when loading Baylee into the car the other day).

Emily had given up fighting him and just sat in the middle with her arms crossed, glaring intensely at him as he got in the car and drove back to Brian’s. He hauled her out when they got there and set her down on the front porch before he opened the door.

“You will do this Emily. You need to. I need you to.” He said.

He opened the door and gently pushed her until she walked inside. He guided her into the living room where he found Brian and Leighanne sitting. Emily kept her head down, refusing to look at any of them.

“What the hell is she doing here?” Brian demanded.

“Emily has something to tell you.” AJ said, putting his hand on the small of her back.

“I don’t want to hear it.” Brian said. “Get her out of here.”

Leighanne had had enough. “Brian, will you for once just shut the hell up and listen?”

Brian looked at his wife shocked. She had never spoken to him like that before. He folded his arms and looked up expectantly.

“What is it Emily?” Leighanne asked, gently.

Emily stood there, silently staring at her feet.

“Emily, tell them.” AJ insisted.

Emily didn’t say anything. Brian rolled his eyes.

“It’s not true, is it?” Leighanne asked.

“Of course it’s not true.” AJ scoffed.

Emily looked up. “It is true. I killed my son.”

Brian sprang to his feet.

“But not the way you think.” She said, before he could speak. She took a deep breath and looked into AJ’s eyes. He nodded for her to continue.

She recounted the story with as much detail as she could muster. She told them about her and Joe, about Payton, about how she went through it all alone and finally about how it was her choice to administer the final dose of drug. The dose that proved to be fatal.

“So you see,” she finished, “I did kill him. But I’m not the brutal murderer you thought I was.” She said, finally finding the strength to look Brian in the eye and saw that he was pale and visibly shaken.

“Emily I don’t want to have to tell you this again. You didn’t kill him. You need to face it honey. He would have died anyway. Maybe you spared him more days of suffering as he died from cancer instead of a brain bleed. You have to stop blaming yourself. You have to!” AJ insisted, looking into her eyes and pleading with her.

“Deep down inside I know that AJ. I do. But every once in awhile I’m entitled to a little regret. Especially on days like today.” She said, shooting a look at Brian.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some packing I’d like to do before I leave.”

AJ quickly followed her upstairs to her room.

“Thank you.” He said.

Emily flung her suitcase on her bed. “For what?”

“Thank you for telling them. I just couldn’t bare to have them thinking such terrible things about you, but it wasn’t my place to tell them.”

“You’re right.” She said. “I should have done it in the first place. I promised myself at the cemetery that I was moving on. And I am.”

“Emily, where are you going?” Leighanne asked, appearing in the door.

“To a hotel.”

“Please…don’t go!” Leighanne said.

“I’m sorry Leighanne, but I have to. I don’t exactly blame you but there’s been way too much damage to the levels of trust here. I simply can’t work for people who would believe that of me.”

“But I didn’t….”

“And I’m sure you didn’t.” Emily said, smiling at her. “But that doesn’t change anything.”

Leighanne stood for a moment, trying to think of what she could say that might make Emily change her mind and stay but she knew things had gone too far and Emily was probably right. She sighed and left the room. Presumably to go yell at Brian.

“I’ll call and get us on a flight out of here tonight.” AJ said.

“To where?” Emily asked.

“Home. To Florida.”

“AJ I don’t want to go to Florida!”

“Why the hell not? What do you have keeping you here?”

“I like it here!”

“What are you going to do?”

Emily shrugged. “Find a new family I guess.”

“Sweetie I don’t think many people will be wanting to hire you after they see that tabloid.” AJ pointed out.

“Well I’ll just be completely up front with them. I can show them the medical records.” Emily said, throwing more clothes into her suitcase.

AJ sighed. “When are you going to stop raising everyone else’s kids and start living your own life? You can’t keep pretending to be a mother for the rest of your life, Emily. Hasn’t it been long enough? You can be a nanny for the rest of your life and you’ll never find what you’ve been looking to replace. That much I can promise you.”

“I’m not trying to replace anything! Maybe I don’t want to have my own kids. Why would I put myself through all of that again?”

“It wouldn’t be like that again, Em. What happened to Payton was a fluke!”

“Or maybe it was nature’s way of telling me I’m not meant to have kids of my own.”

AJ was silent for a minute. “You’re scared.” He said softly.

“I am not!”

“Yes. You are. You are scared to let yourself love like that again, aren’t you?”

“So what if I am? Do you have any idea what that was like for me?”

“No. I don’t. But you can’t let your fears run your life!”

“So I don’t want to have kids, what’s the big deal?”

“The big deal is that maybe I do!” AJ said, his voice suddenly rising.

Emily froze. “You…want to have kids?”

“Yes. I want to have your kids. I want a life with you. I want the nice house with the nice yard and the picket fence. I want to come home to our kids and to you. I want to grow old and wrinkly with you. I want more, Em. I need more.”

“But AJ, I love you. That has to be enough.”

“Well it isn’t.”

And with that, AJ walked out.

Chapter 126

Emily stayed locked up in her hotel room for a week. She never actually saw the tabloid, she didn’t want to this time. She kept her phone with her at all times hoping AJ would call her but he never did. She received several calls from Brian and Leighanne, even a few from Kevin and Kristin but not a single call from the only person she really wanted to talk to. She allowed herself that one week to mourn and pity herself. After that, it was time to put the pieces back together as best as she could.

Her first step was to get an apartment. She didn’t have any furniture. Hers had all been ruined when her apartment had been robbed. It seemed like years ago. Before she and AJ were even together. It was probably for the best, she told herself. She and AJ had more drama in their relationship than most soap operas. Now she had the time to concentrate on herself. She had saved so much money living with Brian that buying all new furniture didn’t even set her back all that much. She even treated herself to one of those memory foam mattresses.

She found an apartment in a complex that actually let you paint your walls as long as you painted them back white when you moved out so after picking out furniture she went to pick out paint colors and spent a week painting and decorating, making her apartment just the way she wanted. A new apartment for a new life.

After she had a place to live settled, she went looking for a job. As much as she hated to admit that he was right, he was. When AJ had told her that being a nanny would never replace what she’d lost he was dead on. She didn’t want to admit it at the time but when she thought about it he was so dead on she couldn’t believe it. She had been chasing memories all this time. Now it was time to create some new ones. So she started off at an old favorite, Bath and Body Works. She found a very quiet mall that was looking for an assistant manager. She applied immediately and they hired her on the spot because she had experience at the store and they were desperate. She was told Leighanne gave her a raving review when they called for a reference check. She was trained in a week and worked weekday evenings and Saturday mornings. She also found a fun gig at the Crown Plaza downtown playing background piano music in their upscale bar in the lobby every Friday and Saturday night. She made great tips off of it and had a lot of fun people watching as she played.

AJ never actually told anyone that they’d broken up. Everyone assumed they had because he never spoke of her again but they were all too chicken to ask him about it. He threw himself back into his work, telling himself he was glad not to have any more distractions in his life. The only person he actually admitted the truth to was his mom. Two weeks after he’d left Emily, he couldn’t take it anymore. He needed to tell someone and he knew his mom would be honest with him. So, he went over for dinner one evening and confessed everything.

“Well. I feel like I’ve just watched General Hospital or something.” Denise said when he finished speaking.

“Mom, don’t make jokes.”

“Sorry. It’s just…I had no idea!”

“No one does, really. I haven’t even told anyone we’re not together.”

“Why is that?” she asked.

AJ sighed. “Because I know what they’re going to say.”

“Which would be what, exactly?”

“That I screwed it up again. That I’m stupid for demanding things of her she wasn’t ready to give. That it’s all my fault.”

“I don’t really think that’s true, Alex.” She said softly.

“You don’t?” AJ looked up at her surprised.

“No. You realized it was time for you to take the next step and you couldn’t be with someone who wasn’t willing to jump with you. You can’t stay in a relationship and wait around forever, can you?”

“Well, no but I could have been a little more patient.”

“Perhaps that’s true but Emily has to realize she’s ready and there’s nothing you can say or do for her to figure that out. It’s something she needs to do on her own. Maybe you’re leaving was the push she needed to get her life back.”

“Well I was kind of hoping her life would be with me.”

“And it might still be that way. Give her time. Give yourself time.”

“I don’t think so. I don’t think I can go through all that drama shit again. I think I just need to move on. I just wish things were different, you know?”

“I know. Do what you feel is best, son.”

After his heart-to-heart with his mom AJ went home to think. He was surprised that she didn’t tell him to go running back to her and apologize until she took him back. Maybe things really were over between them. Maybe too much had happened between them and they were beyond repair. He took a deep breath and vowed then and there to move on. He and Emily were over. At least that’s what he tried to tell himself. In his heart he knew that wasn’t true but he wouldn’t allow his mind to consider that possibility.

It had been nearly four months since AJ had left her. In some ways it felt like the time without him had flown by and in other ways it felt like it had been an eternity since they were together. Every day she missed him. She thought about him every night before she went to bed in hopes that she would dream about him in her sleep. If by chance she woke up while dreaming of him she tried to stay in bed and fall asleep in hopes that she could dream of him some more. It got easier as time went on. She switched from working weeknights to working during the day and continued her job at the hotel playing in the bar. The tips were incredible and almost every weekend she had at least one man hit on her. Typically, she laughed it off and told them something like, “Oh I'm sorry, I don't date fans!” But she was starting to wonder if she should at least attempt to start dating again. As much as she missed AJ, he had left her and she wasn't going to be the one to call him. She knew all she'd have to do was to call him and say how sorry she was and that she did in fact want to have a family with him. It wouldn't be a lie. She did want that. But she also knew that she needed to feel like he could be happy enough just to have her. What if something happened and they couldn't have children? He had made her feel like being together for the rest of their lives wasn't good enough and while she also wanted more, she needed to know that if it came down to it, he'd be happy enough just to have her.

Friday night in the hotel bar was more crowded than usual. There had been some kind of conference that day, she didn't know what for but they all seemed to be very glad to be done and many of them came to hang out together in the bar and they were very generous tippers. She finished her set at 10:00 and the place was still hoping.

“Good tips tonight!” Larry, the head bartender said as Emily sat down to have a drink as she sometimes did when she was done working.

“No kidding! I wish every weekend was like this!”

“Some pediatrician conference.” Larry said. “A bunch of drunk doctors with money!”

Emily laughed.

“Excuse me, is this seat taken?” a voice beside her asked.

Emily shook her head. “Nope. It's all yours.” She looked over at the man that just sat down and almost choked on her wine. He was absolutely gorgeous.

“What can I get you?” Larry asked, winking at Emily.

“Just a beer please.”

“So were you here for the conference today?” he asked her.

“Me? Oh no. Actually I work here.”

“Really? What do you do?”

“I'm the background music!” Emily said.

He looked a little confused.

“I play the piano every Friday and Saturday night in here.” Emily laughed.

“Oh! That was you? Wow! You were really good!”

“Thanks!” Emily blushed.

There was an awkward pause and they both took a sip of their drinks.

“So....are you a pediatrician then?” she asked.

“Yep. Dr. Randy Brown, MD.” he said, showing her his badge from the conference.

“It's nice to meet you Dr. Randy Brown. I'm Emily.”

“Nice to meet you, Emily.” Randy said, shaking her hand. “Normally when I meet pretty ladies in a bar I offer to buy them a drink but you've already got one..”

Emily smiled. “Well, if you play your cards right I just might talk to you long enough to need a second one.”

Randy nodded. “Ok. So what do you do when you're not playing here?”

“I'm a retail manager.”

“Do you like doing that or is piano playing more up your alley?”

“I like both I suppose. How about you? Do you like working with kids?”

Randy smiled. “I love it! Kids are the only patients who can really tell you how it is! Sometimes the parents bug me a little but overall I love it.”

Emily nodded. “I know what you mean about liking the kids and not the parents! I used to work with kids.”

“Oh yeah? What did you do?”

“I used to be a nanny.”

“Oh wow! That's great! How come you quit?”

“Oh, I don't know, I guess it was just time for a change. I'm kind of transitioning right now, figuring out life's next step.”

Randy nodded. “So...are you single?”

Emily was surprised at his directness. “Yes. I am.”

“Good. Me too!”

“How is it that an attractive and young doctor like yourself is single?” Emily asked.

“I don't know, how is it that an attractive young ex-nanny turned retail manager and piano player like yourself is single?”

Emily sighed. “Well that story has a three drink minimum!”

Randy laughed.

Emily found herself talking to Randy for nearly three hours before he looked at his watch and said he really needed to get going.

“Can I walk you to your car?” he asked.

“Oh you don't have to do that!”

“Why not? I have to walk to my car too, it's not like it's out of the way!”

“Aren't you staying at the hotel?”

“No, I'm local! My practice is on the other side of town. This is the first time one of these things is actually in town. I was kind of bummed that I didn't get to go away for it!”

“Well, alright then!” Emily said, picking up her purse. “Are you in the garage?”

“Sure am!” Randy said, putting his arm around her waist and escorting her out of the bar.

When they reached her car Emily started to feel a bit nervous. What if he kissed her? Part of her really hoped he did and another part of her really hoped he didn't. He was certainly attractive and she was very physically drawn to him but she also knew that kissing him would mean she was moving on from AJ and she wasn't sure yet how she felt about that.

“Can I call you sometime?” he asked.

“I'd love that.” she said. I think. She pulled out a piece of paper from her purse and wrote down her cell number on it.

“Here's my card.” he said, writing his own number on the back. “You can always call me at work and just ask for my voice mail or you can call my cell. Either one is fine.”

“Thanks.” Emily said, taking the card.

“It was really nice meeting you.” he said softly, leaning forward and kissing her on the cheek.

“Yeah, you too.” She smiled at him as she got in the car realizing that she really did wish he had kissed her. She sighed. She could deal with that later. Tonight, she was going to enjoy the butterflies in her stomach and think about the very handsome and hot pediatrician as she fell asleep.

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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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