Chapter 67

Emily and AJ stared at each other for a few minutes trying to process everything.

What do we...I mean how do we....” Emily stammered

I don't even know.” AJ said, rubbing the back of his neck.

Emily...” Leighanne sobbed. “You have to know it wasn't the way it seems.....”

Emily snapped out of it and rushed over to Leighanne's side. She pulled a chair next to her and gave her a big hug.

I'm sure there is a lot more to the story.” Emily said, looking at AJ and motioning for him to sit down. “Why don't you tell us what happened?”

AJ handed her a napkin to wipe her face with as she took a deep breath.

Even before we got married, Brian and I had always planned on having kids right away. He said he wanted to have one as soon as possible. At first I was the one who wanted to wait and he begged me and reasoned with me and convinced me that we could do it early. Then we got married and it was the same thing. So a few months after the wedding, we began to actively try. But then he got cold feet. I mean he actually came out and admitted that it was still something he wanted but he was just too scared at the time to try. He asked me to wait just a few more months. Six months later he was still saying the same things. Yes he wanted a baby but he just wasn't sure he was completely ready, he would be soon. I kept saying things like how you're never completely ready and he even agreed. I really couldn't figure out what his deal was. He asked me to stay on the pill just one more month. And I did, I really did. But when that month was up and he still wasn't ready, I stopped. I'd held up to my bargain and gave him yet another month. I was starting to think he was never going to feel ready, maybe he just needed to be pushed into it. Maybe we just needed to leave it in God's hands for a change. And he didn't flat out ask me to stay on it, so I didn't. I just didn't tell him I'd stopped taking it. And I didn't trick him into anything beyond that. I didn't go out of my way to seduce him. He came to me. There were only three times that month and each time he came to me!” Leighanne said, her anger starting to come to the surface. “And that's how it happened. That is the honest to God truth about it. I really believed he was just scared and if he felt like it wasn't up to him he would be more at peace with it.”

Emily looked up at AJ and found him studying Leighanne's face intently. He seemed like he believed her. Emily felt fairly certain she was telling the truth as well but she certainly wanted the chance to hear Brian's side of this.

I felt so guilty after it happened. I could tell he wasn't as happy about it as he was acting and I knew it was all my fault. I pushed him because I thought it was what he needed and I was having some serious regrets about doing it. So I told Kristin. She's the only person I ever told about it. She told me it was done and I couldn't change it so it was better to just leave it be and move on. Which is what I did. Until today. What should I do? Should I go find him and explain?”

I'm sorry.” Emily said. “Look, we know more than anyone how these kinds of things go.” she looked up at AJ. “I think Brian's going to need some time first. I doubt he'd be ready to listen to you right now. When he's ready to listen, he'll find you. Just give him some space. And have faith in him.” she said.

Have faith in what? You heard what Kevin said, he doesn't even love me anymore!”

I don't think Kevin was telling the whole story of that, either.” AJ spoke up. “Brian loves you.”

You don't know that!” Leighanne shot back.

I think I do.” AJ said. “I can't explain it to you how I do, it's just something I know.”

Why don't you take Sleepy over there to the couch and go check on the others?” Emily gestured to Kevin, who was still passed out on the table.

AJ got up and walked over to Kevin and shook him gently. “Come on, Kev. Wake up!”

Kevin groaned, turned his head the other way and went back to sleep.

AJ sighed and shook him a little harder. “You just have to walk to the couch and then you can go right back to sleep, I promise.”

Kevin peeked an eye open and slowly sat up, looking confused. No one was really in the mood to deal with him after the scene he'd caused. AJ helped stand him up and then put am arm around his waist and walked him over to the couch where Kevin basically fell over onto it and went right back to sleep. AJ was kind enough to cover him with a blanket before grabbing a candle and going off in search of Brian and Kristin.

Emily did her best to keep Leighanne distracted as they cleaned up the dinner mess and then stood at the window, watching the amazing storm outside and talking some more about what had happened. She felt a strange sense of deja-vous as she remembered the night AJ had found out about the baby and her affair with Randy. Leighanne had been there for her through that, and now was her time to repay her.

Kristin was feeling a multitude of emotions at the moment. She'd left the table in a hurry and locked herself in her room. She'd heard someone else come upstairs and slam a door but other than that, she didn't know what was going on. She was unbelievably angry with Kevin for what he'd done. He had no right to tell Brian what she'd said. But she also felt very guilty. If she'd never told Kevin in the first place, they'd have never fought about it, he never would have gotten drunk and dinner would have been very different.

She was trying to keep herself from being too angry with Leighanne for telling everyone she'd slept with a stage hand just days before Kevin proposed to her. She knew Leighanne was hurt and she also knew she probably deserved it. She just wasn't sure if Kevin would let her explain. Or if she even wanted to explain it to him because apparently he had some secrets of his own involving a stripper with pink tassels!

After she calmed herself down, she decided that hiding would not fix anything. She knew she couldn't deal with Kevin until the morning when he'd sobered up but she could try and help Brian and Leighanne as a way to make it up to them. She carefully walked across the dark hall and knocked on their bedroom door. When there was no answer, she slowly opened the door and saw Brian sitting on the bed with his head in his hands, the flickering candles barely showing the anguish on his face.

Brian?” she asked, softly.

Brian hadn't heard her come in and startled at the sound of her voice.

Please go away.” he said.

Look, please let me explain. It really isn't what you think it is!” she tried.

Kristin I don't think there's any other way it could be.” he snapped. “How could you have known all this time and never said anything?”

Well for one it wasn't really my place. And two, what good would it have done? What would you have done if you'd known before Baylee was born? Leave her? Not be a part of his life? No, you would have stuck around anyway, but you both would have been miserable.”

That wasn't for you to decide”! he said, his voice raising.

No, it wasn't!” she snapped back. “Which is why it wasn't my place to tell you!”

How could you have defended what she did?” he asked, standing up and walking over to her.

I never said it was right. All I said was that I could sympathize with her. There's a difference.”

Right.” he huffed.

Brian you're hardly being fair here! You owe it to her to at least listen to what really happened instead of making your own conclusions about her. She isn't a monster.”

No? Is that how you got pregnant? Did you trick Kevin into it?”

What? How dare you!”

That's enough, Brian!” AJ appeared. “Kristin isn't the one you're mad at so save your shit. She doesn't deserve it.”

Brian rolled his eyes and sat back down.

Kristin, why don't you go lie down? I know you want to help but I think it's probably best if you lay low for tonight. Give everyone some time to calm down. I'll come check on you in a little bit, ok?”

Kristin nodded and walked back to her room.

AJ sat down on the bed next to Brian.

Are you ok?” he asked.

Brian shrugged. “No, I don't think I am.”

Do you want to talk about it?”

No.”

Look, Emily and I just talked to Leighanne. I really think you need to hear what she has to say. Give her a chance to explain.”

I don't give a damn what she has to say!” he said, coolly.

AJ knew it was a lost cause at the moment and decided it was best if he let Brian be alone for the night. He would have to try again in the morning.


AJ ran into Emily out in the hallway.

Where's Leigh?” he asked

Laying down in Baylee's room. She just wants to be alone. How are Brian and Kristin?”

Brian won't talk right now.”

Which leaves us Kristin.” Emily said, heading for Kristin's room.

Emily knocked gently before she opened the door. “Kris, are you alright?” she asked, walking in. AJ followed behind her.

Kristin was laying down with her head under the covers.

Everything is a mess and it's all my fault!” she sniffed.

It isn't all your fault. Can you sit up and talk to us?”

Kristin sighed and sat up. “How's Leighanne?”

She's ok.” Emily answered. “She just went to bed.”

Kristin, I just want you to know I'm sure there's more to the story about Kevin and the stripper.” AJ said. “I think you two need to sit down tomorrow morning and talk about all of this.”

I really don't want to talk to Kevin.” she said.

I think you need to.” he said, gently. “And I'm sure you want to explain your story as well...”

Do you want you know my story?”

Only if you feel like talking about it.”

Well you both might as well come sit down.” she said, motioning to the bed. “So what, are you two the new Brian and Leighanne, trying to fix everything?” she attempted to joke.

Well, someone has to step up to the plate! Lord knows where AJ and I would be if it weren't for their meddling.”

AJ chuckled. “Yeah. And plus, how often is it that Emily and I aren't the ones having the fight?”

Kristin laughed. “That's for sure. Because apparently you two have had some big ones lately...not that anyone bothered to tell me about it!”

AJ looked confused. “Believe it or not she and Kevin were not aware of what happened...you know...before.” Emily explained.

Ahhh...really? Huh. I always thought Leighanne was a huge gossip!”

Apparently, that's my job.” Kristin said.

Let's leave that topic alone for a bit. Talk to us about Kevin.” Emily said. “And the stage hand guy.” she added.

Kristin hunched her shoulders. “It happened about three days before we left for our trip to Vermont, where he proposed. He'd been acting kind of strange and a bit distant and things were really stressful like they always are at the end of a tour and we got into a huge fight and I told him I thought maybe we needed some time apart. I'll admit that I was being a little manipulative. I didn't exactly want to do that but I wanted to know if that's what he wanted to do. But I wasn't exactly prepared for him to agree to it, either. I wanted him to fight for us. I wanted him to want me but I felt like I was always the one pushing for us and I was tired of holding his hand through our relationship. He took his stuff and got another room. I'll spare you the details of the stage hand guy. I don't even know his name, because I got really drunk and ran into him in the bar. Hell, I don't even really remember it. The next night Kevin came back. He apologized and said he wasn't giving up on us, he wasn't going to let me walk away. We talked a lot about it and by the time we were in Vermont it was completely behind us. I never mentioned it because I didn't want to hurt him. I couldn't see a point in telling him about it.”

Emily knew exactly what she was talking about. It had been the same reasons that she hadn't told AJ about Randy or the baby. A combination of protecting herself and not wanting to hurt the person she loved.

Well, sometimes you just to have faith that even though they'll be hurt, it is better to be honest, because these things always come out. Maybe not right away, but eventually, and it is more hurtful to find out this way. If Kevin truly loved you, he would have forgiven you.”

Eventually!” Emily said. “But if she'd told him he probably wouldn't have proposed or he would have broken it off. Not very many relationships are able to recover from that.”

Kristin looked back and forth from Emily to AJ and realized they weren't talking about her and Kevin anymore. Perhaps they weren't quite ready to be the new Brian and Leighanne just yet.

Guys!” she interrupted. “You're both right. That's why it was an impossible situation. But apparently it didn't matter because he was having a little fun on the side of his own.”

We'll get to the bottom of that tomorrow. But give him the benefit of the doubt, just like he needs to with you.” Emily said.

Kristin nodded. “I know. I'm just so....well I'm just fucking pissed at him right now. I can not believe the way he acted today.”

I think we all feel that way right about now.” AJ agreed.

Why don't you get some rest? Are you ok in here by yourself?” Emily asked.

I'll be fine. I'm pretty tired from being up all night last night that I think I'll sleep pretty well considering.”

Ok, well I'm right across the hall if you need me.”

AJ and Emily left Kristin's room and awkwardly looked at each other for a second.

I'm going downstairs to check on Kev and put a trashcan by him.” AJ said. “I'll be up in a minute.”

Ok.”

Emily peeked in on Leighanne and saw that she was curled up asleep on Baylee's bed holding one of his favorite stuffed animals. She went into the bathroom lit by a flickering candle and sat down on the edge of the tub. AJ's comments had her feeling a little uneasy. The way he pointed out that honesty is always better, the way he'd said it, really had her feeling like it had been more directed at her than Kristin. Hell, the past two days had her on edge as she kept waiting for him to let down his guard and get mad at her all over again. Between being around Randy, Kevin's comment at dinner and dealing with the fallout, he'd certainly had enough reminders. Emily buried her face in her hands and allowed herself to cry a little. Not only were they reminders for AJ, they were reminders for her as well. Reminders of how guilty she still felt for everything that had happened.

She heard AJ come back upstairs and go into their room and knew she had to pull it together, she didn't want him to know how she was feeling. After taking a deep breath and wiping her tears with the back of her hand, she splashed some cold water on her face and went to her room.

Are you alright?” he asked.

I'm fine, why?” she asked, forcing a smile.

I'm sorry for what I said.”

You don't have to apologize.” she said, looking away. “It's been a rough few days for you I'm sure.”

And for you too, right?” he asked, walking up to her.

Not compared to you though.” she said, the lump in her throat returning.

Don't.” he said.

What?”

Don't do this. Don't go feeling guilty all over again.” he said, sternly.

But I...”

I know you keep waiting for it all to be too much for me and believe me, I have seen the parallels here but I'm not going to turn around on you, got it? I'm sorry for what I said in Kristin's room. I didn't realize what I was saying until I'd already said it and as soon as I saw the look on your face I realized how it must have seemed. I promise it wasn't aimed at you.”

Emily nodded as another tear escaped her eye.

AJ gently wiped it away with his thumb. “You have to stop blaming yourself.”

Emily buried her face in his chest and inhaled his scent. As he enveloped her in his strong arms, she relaxed. No matter what they'd been through, all he had to do was hold her and she felt safe and loved.

Come on, let's go to bed.” he said.

As Emily got changed and climbed into bed, she once again became aware of the storm outside. Somehow, through all the drama, she'd managed to tune it out. Now, however, she was very aware of the heavy rain and thunder and wind so strong she could literally feel the house shudder every time a strong gust blew.

AJ wrapped his arms around her and held her, once again making her feel safe as he kissed her very softly. He knew the moment Kevin made that comment about her keeping things from him at dinner that she'd be beating herself up all over again. He admitted that it was tough to be repeatedly reminded of the whole situation but he never once felt angry with her about it and he wanted to show her how much he loved her and how much he didn't want her to feel bad about it anymore. Unlike the night before when he was rough with desires, he was slow and gentle as he loved her. He wanted to show her how much he loved her and by the time they were finished, he could tell she was much more relaxed as she curled up against him. As he watched her fall asleep, he smiled and wondered how he managed to be so lucky to have such an incredible woman like Emily as his wife. She was everything he could ever want and more and if anything were to ever happen to her, well, he couldn't even think about it because just the thought made him feel sick. He held her tightly as he fell asleep and thanking his lucky stars that for once, their marriage wasn't the one on the rocks.


Chapter 68

AJ and Emily woke up early the next morning feeling refreshed from having gone to bed so early. AJ opened the blinds to reveal a still gray sky but at least nothing like the day before. The winds had let up significantly and the rain was more of a drizzle.

Wow! Emily, come check out all the mess in Brian's yard!”

Emily looked outside and saw that Brian's back yard was full of papers, leaves, branches and other various garbage items. “I wonder if ours is just as bad?”

AJ shrugged. “We'll get it cleaned up pretty quickly. I'll just use the leaf blower!”

Emily laughed. He'd wanted that leaf blower so bad when they'd bought the house and to her knowledge, he'd only used it once. “So....do we dare leave the bedroom this morning? I almost feel like the inside of the house should look worse than the outside after last night!”

I don't expect we'll see much out of Brian and Leighanne today. Maybe we should get Kristin and Kevin to talk and them bring them over to our house or something, give Brian and Leigh some space.”

Emily nodded. “At least at our house we don't have any booze so Kevin can't get drunk.”

AJ and Emily took a quick shower and got dressed. They peeked in Kristin's room and saw that she was still sound asleep in her clothes. Brian and Leighanne's doors were both still shut and they decided it was probably best to leave them alone.

Hey you want to make some breakfast together?” Emily asked. “I'm starving!”

Sure! I'll start by making the coffee.”

Emily was in the middle of cooking some sausage when they heard Kevin groan in the living room. “I think you'd better go check on sleeping beauty in there.” she said.

AJ abandoned his pancake batter and found Kevin sitting up, his head buried in his hands.

Morning!” he said loudly.

Kevin glared at him. “What is that smell?”

Spicy sausage links. Want some? They're nice and greasy.....”

Oh God....stop it would ya? I don't feel so well.”

Really? I wonder why that could be?”

Kevin looked a little confused. “Are you mad at me?”

AJ was dumbstruck. Apparently, Kevin didn't have a clue what he'd been up to. “What's the last thing you remember?”

Kevin thought for a moment. “I remember you and Brian helping me up the stairs for dinner...” he thought for a moment and then it came back to him. AJ could tell by watching his face that he was replaying the scene at dinner in his head. “Oh Jesus...”

AJ crossed his arms. “You made quite a scene.”

Kevin leaned back against the couch. “Fuck.”

Lucky for you, Emily and I are going to help you clean this up.”

I don't even know where to start.” Kevin grumbled.

AJ sat down next to him. “First, you owe Emily an apology for humiliating her. When I said that it was in the past, I meant it. I don't want to ever hear you bring it up again, got it? She doesn't deserve that, she feels guilty enough all on her own.”

Kevin nodded.

Then you're going to take a shower and get yourself together and you and Kris are going to have a talk. You are going to listen to her and then you're going to explain your own story and you're going to be nice to her. Your pregnant wife doesn't need anything else to upset her this weekend.”

What about Brian and Leighanne?”

I don't know what to do about them yet. Did he really say he didn't love her anymore?”

Not exactly.” Kevin rubbed his eyes. “He got scared that maybe he didn't. Then he realized that he did.”

Well, then you need to tell Leighanne that much. I think we have to let them work the rest of this out on their own. Why don't you and Kris come stay at our house later today?”

I'm sorry, man. I really didn't mean for all this to happen.”

You don't need to apologize to me. You've certainly helped me clean up my share of messes.”

Kevin chuckled.

I have to go finish breakfast. Go get yourself cleaned up.” AJ said.

How is he?” Emily asked as AJ resumed making his pancakes.

More hungover than he's letting on, I think. He's still sweating booze!”

Emily laughed. “So cooking the sausage was a good idea then?”

Seemed to be. Took him awhile to remember what happened last night but once he did, he felt awful. I think he and Kristin will get this hammered out today.”

Brian and Leighanne on the other hand....”

He said that Brian was afraid that maybe he was falling out of love with her but he came to realize that wasn't true, they were just having a bit of a rough spell in their marriage.”

I hope Leighanne believes him.”

I think getting Brian to listen to Leighanne will be a bigger problem.” he said, grimly.

I tell you what, if there's one thing I've learned between last night and our own past, it's that secrets don't keep in a marriage no matter how much you want them to.”

Are you saying that you're glad I found out?” he asked.

Emily thought for a moment. “Now? Yes. Then? No. I mean it is a lot easier to be glad now that it's over and we've worked through it. But at the time, I didn't think I'd ever feel glad. I guess maybe the feeling is more relief. What about you? Are you glad you found out?”

I don't know, I mean I certainly would have been ok never having to go through that, but there is a strange upside to it.”

What's that?”

Well, a lot of my anger at you stemmed from a lot of anger I had at myself. If it had never happened, I'm not sure I ever would have really dealt with all that anger and it would have been a hidden demon inside my mind, threatening to break me down again.”

So...how long do you give us before we have another huge fight?” she teased.

Hmm....well I'd like to say never. But that just isn't realistic, now is it?”

Emily laughed. “I think we've seen the worst we're going to see.”

Me too. I mean things are going to start to get stressful in January when I start having shows and things but I'm sure we'll handle it.”


Kevin took a long and hot shower trying to finish sobering up. He'd bravely peeked in on Kristin and saw that she was still sound asleep. He knew she'd been up the night before so he let her sleep, knowing she needed a little extra rest these days. He went back downstairs and found AJ and Emily eating breakfast together. He didn't really feel like his stomach could handle pancakes so he made himself a few pieces of toast and poured himself a cup of coffee. He leaned against the counter and nibbled his toast.

Hey Kev, you can come sit with us if you want!” AJ called. “Emily's done eating her sausage.”

He heard Emily chuckle and decided to just get it over with. He walked in the dining room and sat down across from Emily.

Shower help much?” AJ asked.

Yeah, a little.”

At least you smell better.”

Kevin set down his toast and looked up at Emily. He could tell she wasn't very happy with him but she was at least trying to look pleasant.

Emily, I'm really sorry for what I said at dinner last night. I didn't mean to embarrass you or hurt you by bringing it up. I know that it's between you and AJ and it was none of my business. I was just really out of control.”

Yes. You were.” Emily said. “But I accept your apology anyways.” her face softened.

Can you do me a favor?” he asked.

Sure, what is it?”

Can you take Kristin up some breakfast? She still gets kind of sick in the mornings if she hasn't eaten for awhile.”

Emily smiled. “Sure.” She got up and fixed Kristin a plate of pancakes and a glass of orange juice and carried it upstairs.

Emily came down about twenty minutes later. “She's fine, she's going to take a shower in a few minutes.” she told Kevin. She joined AJ out in the garage where he was having his after breakfast smoke.

I love you.” she said.

Oh yeah? Well I love you too! Any sign of Brian or Leighanne up there?”

I think I heard Brian moving around in his room but I didn't see either one of them. I'm feeling kind of anxious to leave before they come to blows again.”

I hear you on that one.” he said, stomping out his cigarette. “What do you want to do the rest of the weekend? I think we can still salvage Saturday, looks like the weather keeps getting better.”

I don't know! I was thinking of putting up some decorations and I really think we need to spend some more time in bed together.”

I couldn't agree more.” he said. “Hey if the malls have power tomorrow we should go shopping!”

Ok! And I need to go to Target too.”

What could you possibly need from Target that you don't already have? I thought you finally bought everything they carried!” he teased.

Emily rolled her eyes. “Christmas stuff, duh! Wrapping paper, bows, maybe some new lights and tinsel, who knows?!”

AJ would never admit that he loved shopping at Target during Christmas almost as much as she did, which is why he always gave her a hard time about it.


Kevin gave Kristin some time to get dressed before he went up to find her. When she heard a soft knock on her door, she never expected it to be him as she said to come on in.

Kevin! I...thought you were Emily.”

We need to talk.” he said, sounding nervous.

Yeah. We definitely need to talk.”

In the end, they spent over three hours talking. Kevin explained his story with the stripper and Kristin explained her story with the stage hand guy and while neither one was thrilled, they were each able to understand and forgive, probably because they were both guilty. Then they talked about his actions at dinner and their fight over her defending Leighanne. They kept calm and managed to reach a resolution to it all and agreed that they definitely needed to cut back on the gossiping. It was by no means an easy conversation as their emotions were still high but they had learned long ago how to communicate with each other and, like Emily and AJ, they agreed to leave the past in the past.

When they finally emerged from their room, they found Emily and AJ sitting by the fireplace having a quiet conversation.

Hey guys.” Kristin said.

AJ and Emily turned to look at them. “We were just starting to get worried!” he said.

Everything is fine now.” Kevin said, smiling at his wife. “Thank you for all your help.”

Hey, don't thank us, we're still glad it wasn't us!” Emily laughed.

Any sign of the other two yet?” Kevin asked.

Brian came down a few hours ago and locked himself in his office. We haven't seen Leigh yet.” AJ said.

I think I'm going to go talk to her.” Kristin said.

Do you think that's a good idea?” Kevin asked, looking concerned.

I think it'll be fine.” Emily answered.

Kristin went back upstairs and knocked on the door to Baylee's room where Leighanne was hiding. When there was no answer, she slowly opened the door. Leighanne was still laying in bed, facing the wall.

Leigh?”

Leighanne slowly looked over and sat up. “What do you want?”

I wanted to apologize.” Kristin said, walking in and closing the door behind her. “I don't know if you'll ever be able to forgive me, but I hope someday you will.”

I know you didn't do it on purpose.” Leighanne sighed. “But right now I'm mad at a lot of things and it's a little hard to be rational.”

I understand. I just...wanted you to know. Can I get you anything?”

Leighanne shook her head.

Listen, I think we're going to go over to Emily's and stay there. But...if you want to talk or hang out, please don't hesitate, ok?”

You don't have to go...”

Kristin smiled. “You two need your space.”

What's he up to, anyway?”

He's locked in his office. No one's talked to him.”

Leighanne nodded. “I've been too scared to come out of here.”

Well, if you want, you could come stay with us at Emily's....to give him some time to calm down.”

Maybe. I think I should at least try and talk to him first.”

Ok. Well...I hope I see you again before I leave.”

Not long after, the four left the house of doom and drove over to Emily and AJ's. Emily was glad to see her house still standing with no visible damage to the roof or windows. The yard was a bit messy but it was nothing AJ's leaf blower couldn't handle when everything was dry.

Welcome to Casa de McLean!” AJ said as he let them inside.

Emily let the dogs out of the basement, relieved to see that they didn't appear to be traumatized.

Who fed your dogs?” Kristin asked.

Emily grinned. “I bought those fancy automatic dog food dispensers and I trained them to potty on one of those dog litter pad things for emergencies. I owe them a nice play outside though, that's for sure!” she said as she fed them each a few doggie treats. Guapo appeared soon after, purring up a storm as he rubbed against her legs. She opened a can of wet cat food for him and let him go to town before letting the dogs outside and playing with them for a bit while AJ got their guests settled.

It looks a lot different from the last time we were here!” Kevin said, looking around.

Yeah, Emily did a lot of home improvements while I was in rehab.”


After getting settled, the four played a game of Mexican Train dominoes and were very excited when the power came back on early that evening. Kevin made his famous enchiladas for dinner and then went their separate ways as AJ and Emily went to Target and Kevin and Kristin went to see a movie together.

Emily stocked up on wrapping paper and AJ picked out a Santa that he swore he was going to put up on the roof by the chimney. They got home before Kevin and Kristin did and decided to take advantage of being alone in the house.

I feel like taking a bath. Want to join me?” Emily offered.

AJ grinned. He knew there'd been a reason they'd bought a house with a large bathtub. “Sure! What could be better than getting clean and dirty all at the same time?” he winked.


Chapter 69

After hearing everyone leave, Leighanne decided to be brave and try and approach Brian. She assumed he was still in his office as she knocked on the door.

Come in.” he said.

She slowly walked in and then froze, not sure of what she should do. He was sitting in his desk chair staring out the window, his back to her.

Brian....I'm...so sorry.” she said, wringing her hands. “But I really think you should let me explain it to you so you can hear the whole story.”

Is it really the whole story, or is it the story you thought up last night to make what you did seem less bad?” he said, still not looking at her.

You know what? If you can't trust me enough to at least give me an ounce of doubt about this, why bother? If you want out of this marriage just go! I don't want you here if you don't even love me anymore!”

Brian slowly spun his chair around. “Do you really think it would be that simple? What about Baylee?”

Well apparently, you never wanted him in the first place.”

How dare you question how much I love him!” Brian yelled. “You know I love him more than anything!”

Yeah well, I was stupid enough to believe you still loved me so I guess I'm entitled to question how much you love Baylee!”

I never said I didn't love you!”

Oh you didn't? Because Kevin seemed to think that you had!”

Kevin was drunk off his ass! Why would you believe him?”

Leighanne was dumbstruck. “Well you sure had no problems believing what he said about me now, did you?”

That's different!”

How is that any different?”

Because the whole reason he was so drunk was because he and Kristin got into a huge fight about what you did!”

That doesn't mean you heard the whole story!”

I don't want to hear your damn story! I can't even stand to look at you right now. All I see are lies and deceit. I knew I was right to trust my instincts this time around!”

Leighanne's jaw dropped. “Fine. But I'll tell you one thing. If you intend to stay here, you're going to have to put on one hell of a happy face when Baylee comes home tomorrow. I will not have him dragged into the middle of this!” she said, walking out.

Just make sure you don't trick him into anything too!” he yelled after her.


Brian knew he'd been too harsh with her, but it was the way she just walked in and expected to be able to say a few things and have it all forgotten, like she didn't understand how serious this really was. If he'd thought he was questioning his marriage before, he definitely knew he was now. He really could not understand how she could have possibly done something like that to him. He'd always thought their marriage was based on honesty. Now he was questioning what else he didn't know about. Apparently every marriage had its lies. AJ lied to Emily about his drinking, Emily lied to AJ about the baby, Kevin lied to Kristin and Kristin lied to Kevin....but he'd never really lied to Leighanne. He didn't think not telling her he was afraid he was falling out of love with her counted as a lie because he'd come to the conclusion that wasn't what it was he was feeling. He just didn't know where to go from here. Part of him really wanted to leave. At least for awhile, to get his thoughts straightened out. But the responsibility he felt as a father to be around for Baylee was stronger. He didn't want Baylee to sense anything or get confused. But if they couldn't manage to keep their cool around each other, he didn't want Baylee around that either.


Leighanne was fuming. She accepted that he had every right to be upset with her but he had no right to treat her that way. To assume that she would just make up a story to try and smooth things over? To imply that she'd somehow trick Baylee too? And what the hell did he mean that he was right about his instincts this time around? Was he actually afraid she'd try and trick him into having a second baby? She decided that if he was going to act this way, he'd have to behave childish on his own. She'd calmly approached him and he didn't want to hear it but she wasn't going to give into temptation and act beneath herself. If he wanted to talk to her, he could come and find her. Otherwise, she would be civil when need be but try her best to stay out of his way for awhile. She was really tempted to move his things into the guest room but she was at least willing to acknowledge that this was her fault in the first place so she moved herself instead. She changed the sheets on what had been AJ and Emily's bed, put fresh towels in the bathroom and then moved a bunch of her clothes and accessories with her. She decided to take extra care not to let Baylee find out they weren't sleeping in the same room anymore so she didn't leave anything out in the open. If he asked she'd just tell him she was storing some things in there to make more space.


Sunday morning AJ and Emily woke up early and went to the eight o'clock Mass together and then stopped at Panera to pick up a box of assorted bagels and pastries for breakfast. Kevin and Kristin came downstairs to the smell of fresh coffee and Emily was nice enough to toast them each a bagel.

How was the movie last night?” she asked.

It was pretty good.” Kristin said. “I love anything with Vince Vaughn in it.”

I just don't get it.” Kevin shook his head. “You are married to a man that thousands of women would die to have a chance at and you're gawking at Vince Vaughn?” he teased.

AJ laughed. “Kevin man, women are never satisfied, you know that!”

Kevin likes to pretend I don't know about his little crush on Angelina.” Kristin said.

AJ who do you have a crush on?” Emily asked.

You.” he said with a straight face.

Emily grinned. “You're such a suck-up. And I love you.”

What about Emily?” Kevin asked.

Oh that's easy...Patrick Dempsey.” AJ said. “And Hugh Grant.”

What did you get at Target?” Kristin asked.

Emily perked up at the mention of her shopping spree and went to retrieve their bags to show off her purchases. “They have some of the cutest baby stuff there! Now I know it isn't all trendy boutique but you should totally still look there!”

Kevin and AJ rolled their eyes at each other as they finished their breakfast. “Hey man, you want to help me clean up the yard a little? The rain stopped overnight.” AJ asked.

Sure! That way they can have their baby stuff and crush talk all to themselves.”


Kevin and Kristin had to leave just after lunch for the airport. Emily decided to call Leighanne and see how she was.

Hello?” she answered, sounding gloomy.

It's Emily, just calling to see how you are.”

I've been better. I'm hiding in the guest room now. At least there's a tv in here.”

Have you talked to him yet?”

I tried to. It didn't go very well. He isn't ready to listen.”

Well, when does Baylee get back, you feel like shopping for a few hours?”

They're not supposed to get here until around ten. I guess I could go out for awhile...” she said, trying to decide if she should leave or not. What if Brian wanted to talk to her?

Honey I think it's going to take him a few days to cool down and talk to you.” Emily said gently.

You're probably right.” Leighanne sighed. “Ok I'll be there in twenty minutes or so.”

She went downstairs and saw that Brian had moved from the office to the living room, watching tv.

She cleared her throat. “I'm uh...going shopping with Emily. I'll be back in a few hours.” she said, awkwardly. She was being civil, and that meant she didn't think she could just leave without telling him where she was going.

Do I really look like I care where you're going?” he said, keeping his eyes on the tv.

Leighanne resisted the urge to respond and took a deep breath. “Bye.” she said. She got into her car and couldn't hold back the tears any longer. She whole-heartedly regretted what she'd done but he wouldn't even give her a chance to talk to him about it and he was being so cold to her that she wasn't sure he would ever forgive her of this. She didn't want her marriage to become that way. She refused to stay together simply for Baylee's sake because as much as she was trying to be civil, if this was the way he was going to keep acting, she would run out of civil behavior very quick.

When she rang Emily's doorbell she tried her best to look calm but as soon as Emily saw her, she knew that Leighanne was anything but calm.

Sweetie, are you ok?” she asked as she let her in.

No!”

Did something happen?”

I just....I don't expect him to just let it go and I don't even expect him to be ready to talk to me about it yet but...he's just being so cruel. Earlier, when I tried to talk to him, he said he couldn't even stand to look at me. So I left him alone. I decided that I'd just be civil when I had to interact with him but other than that I'd stay out of his way. So, I told him I was going shopping with you and he asked me if it looked like he cared? He actually said, 'Do I look like I care?' without even looking up. I mean how can I stay civil if this is how I'm going to be treated?”

I'm sorry. Maybe he's just...testing you. To see how serious you are about talking to him or something.”

That doesn't make any sense.”

Sure it does! Maybe he's just pushing your buttons. If you get all defensive then he'll think that you aren't genuine about regretting it. If you roll over and take it, maybe he assumes you really do feel bad.”

That's still mean.”

Yes, you're right. I'm sorry, sweetie. I've been in your shoes. Just hang in there, ok? It can't stay this way forever.”

Leighanne nodded. “Can we just please go shopping?”

Emily laughed. “Of course!”


AJ had been hiding in the kitchen, listening to Emily talk to Leighanne. While he wasn't thrilled with Brian being so mean, he could more than understand. What Leighanne had done was terrible. Inexcusable. So he was certainly not about to stand up to him about it. But he could try and help him, so he called him up to invite him over.

I don't want to talk about it, AJ.” he answered as he picked up the phone.

Good, me neither.”

Then what do you want?”

AJ had underestimated Brian's crankiness. “Emily went out shopping and I thought I'd surprise her by putting up the lights. Feel like giving me a hand? It should only take a few hours. I'll feed you dinner when we're done!”

Brian didn't really feel like it but he decided that getting out of the house would be good for him. AJ was wrapping the bushes with lights when he pulled up.

You're just in time to help me start on the roof!” AJ called.

Brian helped AJ string the lights on the roof and then watched with slight amusement as AJ put his new Santa by the chimney. Then they got the lights wrapped around the tree branches and around the door frames just as she sun had set.

Aren't you going to turn them on?” Brian asked.

I'm going to wait for Emily to come home.” he said. “What do you feel like eating for dinner?” he asked, as they carried the boxes back into the garage.

How about a bucket of chicken?”

Fine by me. You feel like driving?”

Sure.”

Brian drove them to the nearest KFC where they picked up a bucket of chicken, some biscuits, mashed potatoes and gravy, and cole slaw. They took it back to AJ's and went down to their theater room in the basement to watch some ESPN.

AJ sent Emily a text saying that Brian was over and they were in the basement so she probably wouldn't want Leighanne to come inside. Emily got it as they were eating their own dinner at Olive Garden having had a good time shopping and keeping Leighanne distracted.

Brian had to admit that getting out with AJ had been just what he needed. AJ never even hinted at anything, he just kept the mood light. AJ he originally intended to gently remind Brian that he needed to hear her out but seeing his face, he knew that now was not the time. Brian had been dealt a pretty big blow and right now he just needed to get back up on his feet.

Leighanne dropped Emily off, spotting Brian's car in the driveway. “Well at least I won't have to worry about running into him when I get home!” she joked.

Hey, call me tomorrow ok?” Emily said, gathering her bags.

Ok.”

Emily went inside and set her things down by the door. She hollered a hello down into the basement and then sat down to watch tv. Brian left about an hour later looking at least like he'd had a decent time.

How was your day?” she asked as AJ came in the living room.

It was good, I have a surprise for you!” he said.

Really? What is it?”

Come with me.” he said, grabbing her hand and leading her out through the garage and outside. Brian had promised to turn the lights on before he left.

Emily's face broke out into a huge smile as she saw her house all lit up. “I can't believe you did all that while I was gone! I love it!”

I made Brian help me. I figured it's the least I can to for being gone so much during your favorite time of the year.”

Emily hugged him. “Thank you.”

You're welcome.” he said softly.

Emily laughed as she noticed the Santa on the roof.

Now come back inside, because I have about twelve hours before I have to be at the airport and I'd like to spend about half of that making love to you.”



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"Realize" is a work of fiction.
The characters and events portrayed are fictitious.
Any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

Copyright 2008
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No part of this text may be copied or reprinted
without the author's permission.

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