December 6 was a crazy day. It was a cold, windy Monday. The kids were whiny. And I had a staff meeting that went long. When I got home, all I wanted was some comfort food and some cuddling.
What I found was Nick and a pot of bouef bourguignon. And while Nick is not generally known to be cuddly, that night, he proved himself to be a man of many surprises. Months earlier, Kate and I had given the twins our spare key. It had been given for emergencies. Nick, however, on that particular evening had used to gain access to the house to surprise me with dinner, flowers, and a movie. And yes, I know; if that's not a date, I don't know what is.
He was making bouef bourguignon when I found him in the kitchen. "What are you doing here?" I asked.
"Making dinner," he replied as if it was the most natural thing in the world to go into a house where you did not live and make dinner.
"Uh, why? Couldn't you do that at home?"
"I can make dinner at home, but I can't make it for you. And I wanted to make you dinner."
I smiled. "Well, I appreciate it. It's been a long day. I was planning on fish sticks and popcorn for dinner."
Nick laughed. Apparently, Hugo once ate that for dinner when he was in middle school, and it remained a family joke until there were no more family jokes, only twin jokes. Somehow, the Bertram family has fallen to pieces over the past year, but as the family fell, the twins have united. It strikes me as something that belongs in Greek mythology or in a comic book. One thing died and something else, something more astounding, rises in its place. And the abounding twin love between Hugo and Nick blows me away constantly.
But for me the past part of the resurgence of the Bertram twins is the resurrection of my friendship with Nick. As I've said, we grew closer that fall. And interestingly, as he grew closer to his brother, he and I grew closer. I loved it. I loved Nick. It was a mostly platonic love, but there was moments every now and again when I would look up and see him with different eyes, with eyes that were a more mature and jaded regeneration of my former crush.
I had one of those moments as I took my shoes off that evening. I was exhausted. I was so tired that I could feel in my bones. In fact, halfway through taking off my left boot, I crumpled to the floor. But when I looked up, I saw Nick standing over a pot of chili on the stove, fresh corn muffins on the stove and a bouquet of roses in a vase by the sink, I felt that I could spend the rest of my life like this.
But despite Kate's reassurances and Lauren's implications and hints, I wasn't sure that it was at all a possibility. I didn't know if he was at all interested in me, and I wasn't sure that I could live happily ever after with a man who had hurt me so often in the past.
"I'm going to go get changed," I told Nick. "Can dinner wait a few minutes?"
"Sure thing," he replied. "Go get comfortable. You look exhausted."
"I have a case of the Mondays," I explained with a faint smile.
"You teach elementary school," he said. "You're a saint as far as I'm concerned."
"Nick," I asked as I started for the stairs. "Do you not like the kids?"
He shrugged. "I'm sure I'll like my own, but I've never really known any children well enough to like them or not like them."
"But do you actually want to have kids if you ever get married?"
"Yeah, I think so. Maybe I'd want like one or two. You?"
"I think I'd want like three or four," I replied.
"Interesting," he said. That was all he said. He gave me no indication of whether or not he could ever see himself having more than two children. But then he wasn't, as he admitted, used to children. I, on the other hand, worked with children all the time. I loved children-even when they were driving me nuts.
When I came back downstairs, I was wearing pajama pants and a Hope College sweatshirt. It was a sweatshirt that Kate was continually reminding me was hideous. It wasn't that Kate had anything against Hope College; she just hates the color orange. And I'll admit that it isn't the best color for me. But the sweatshirt was a Christmas present from Mollie during our sophomore year of college and it's big and warm and comfy. And I like it.
"Ready for dinner?" Nick asked when I came into the kitchen.
I nodded. "Dinner and a warm mug of tea, if you don't mind."
He smiled. "Your wish is my command."
"How was your day?" I asked, as I leaned against the counter.
He shrugged. "Calm, the library is a pretty peaceful place on Mondays."
"Lucky," I replied. "I had kindergartners at nine o'clock this morning. That is the farthest thing from peaceful I can think of."
Nick grinned. "And yet, you still keep going back every Monday."
"I love my job. It might sound odd or crazy, but I love my job."
"That's good," he replied. "It's good to love your job."
I looked up, surprised at a tone of unhappiness in his voice. "Nick, do you love your job?"
"I like it," he replied. "It's a good, safe job. It isn't too hard. I get to spend time with books and with people I like."
"But is it what you really want to be doing with your life?"
Nick pursed his lips and stared down into the pot on the stove. "I think so. I mean, there are things about my life that I'd like to change, but I don't think that I want to change my job."
"What do you want to change?"
He took a deep breath and squinted. "Okay, bear with me here. You know how I've said that I regret dating Daisy and all of that?"
I nodded. "Yeah, we've talked about it."
"Okay, so what if I told you that I don't regret it anymore?"
I cocked my head sideways. "I'd be surprised."
"What if I told you that it was because of that experience that I realized some things about my life that I've never really realized before?"
"I can see that as being possible, but I'd like you to explain this in more detail."
Nick smiled. "You're so darling."
"Just explain. And I think dinner is ready too."
As he served the bouef bourguignon, Nick was silent. I knew he was thinking deeply, so I let him be. We took our dinner to the living room and settled ourselves-Nick on the couch, me in my favorite chair. I started to eat, wondering what was going on with Nick. He seemed very pensive, caught up in his own world almost.
When I was halfway through my plate of food and Nick still seemed lost, I looked at him. "Dude, are you all right?"
He looked up at me with the oddest expression on his face. I almost wondered if he was physically ill. And then he said the most amazing thing. "Annie Price, I think I'm in love with you. And I think that I can't live without you. And the only reason that I don't regret being with Daisy or the car accident back in January is that those two events are the reasons that I know that I love you and I need you."
"What?" Sure, Kate and Lauren had suggested the idea to me, but I couldn't believe that this was actually happening. This had to be a dream. This could not be reality.
"I love you," he said. He was speaking as if this was the most basic thing in the entire universe. "I love you. I need you, Annie Price. And while I'm sure that this has already been said in some cheesy chick-flick, I need you and I don't need anyone. But I need you. I need you to spend the rest of your life with me."
"Where is this coming from? Are you sick?"
Nick stared at me. "Are you really surprised that I'm saying this?"
And then it all hit me. Everything that he had been doing for the past three months-flowers, cooking for me, movie nights-it all made sense; Nick was in love with me. All of my dreams were coming true, and now the only question that remained was whether or not I still wanted this.
A/N: I know it's short, but I'm mostly trying to gauge interest in the story. If people are still interested, I will do my best to finish the story. So please let me know if there is still interest in it.