Chase sat on a swing in the park not far from the house. He remembered going here as a child with Nicole and playing before their tree house was built. It still looked the same, although now it was a bit more polished with mulch instead of dirt and steel instead of wood.
So much had happened in the last few weeks. He really didn't know why he had come back when he did. The only answer he had gotten was that he was tired of New York. It was a magnificent city, but not really him anymore. He was more of a sun and surf type of guy anyway.
Annie was a surprise. He felt slightly guilty about condemning his best friend for stealing Nicole away. Ray had never done anything that would have said anything of that sort, but he had jumped to conclusions. For some odd reason, Ray had understood what he was thinking and forgiven him.
He sighed. What exactly was his relationship with Nicole? They seemed to be at least friends, but there was so much he didn't know about her. He had never known that she was a lawyer for environmental organizations till her boss told him that. But the she didn't know that two months ago he had sent in an resume to Time Zone and had become an High school English teacher. Ray and Dave got a kick out of that as he had always corrected other people's grammar when they were in high school.
Things had changed about his friends as well. Dave was happily married with Dee and had a beautiful daughter. Ray, the one person he thought would be the eternal bachelor-type of guy was engaged to marry Misha (even though most believed them to be already married) and he had Leeanne. Of course there was Lana, who had changed drastically. No longer was she the wallflower who loved the head-quarterback. Alicia had grown up a bit and Brad had smartened up and asked Kathy to marry him. It seemed like everything around him was changing, but he wasn't. He was just confused.
"Chase, why are you doing out here this early in the morning?" came a voice. Chase looked up from his shoes to see Ray leaning against the swing-set poles.
"Thinking." Ray just nodded and walked over to the next swing to Chase and started to move back and forth. He was silent for a while, but Chase didn't mind. Thought the years they had known each other they had got accustomed to having silences that seemed normal. Of course there was the year that Ray had his "problem" as Mary Neely called it.
"Chase, what do you think of Misha." Ray said quietly. Chase really didn't know how to respond to this. His true opinion was that Misha wasn't Ray's type but he didn't think Ray would want him to say that.
"I'm just wondering. I'm not sure what I think of her anymore." Ray replied. He looked down at his shoes, no longer moving. "She left Leeanne at school last night and a neighbor brought her home."
"Yeah, someone moved into the Creevy place. Her name is Lana O'Rielly."
"Oh, I know her. She used to go to school with us. She has a kid?"
"Yeah, a daughter named Melissa."
"Why did Misha not pick up Leeanne?"
"I have no idea. That's the problem. I have no clue what she does. She is never home, especially on weekends, and she practically ignores the fact that she has a daughter." Ray stopped and looked at the trees bordering the park. "She's not who I thought she was. I don't know what she is."
"Maybe you should separate for awhile. Maybe that would make things better."
"We are practically doing that now. If I had my way we would have been married 3 years ago when I asked her." Nothing was said for a while. Both were thinking about how their lives were not really what they wanted at all.
Nicole and Dee sat in the kitchen of the former Maris residence, preparing some of the food for the party to be held later that night. Dee stood at one side of the kitchen, making a fruit salad and watching the children while Nicole stood near the sink, preparing the food that would be grilled.
"Do you think I should make Lasagna?"
"No, we already have a ton of grilled food, plus your fruit salad and Chase's friend from his future job, Lana's multiple desserts. Have you ever had any of her Rocky Road Brownies?"
"No since I never meet her, but I am sure they are fine" Dee replied, bringing some star fruit over to the sink to be washed. "I asked Dave about her last night." she continued as she rinsed the fruit. "According to him, she was part of our senior class, but was rather introverted and didn't get out much. Apparently she was also part of the X-files fan group that he belonged to so he knows her somewhat."
"She seems nice."
"I agree. Speaking of which, did Misha ever say wither or not she was coming?" Nicole snorted
"As if. I swear she hates me for some odd reason. She has never come to a party that I have held and has even been more distant since Chase returned. Didn't you notice that she acted a bit odd at our last Girls night out?"
"Yeah. She was getting on Dulce's nerves with her trying to get information about her and Chase. I was afraid I was going to have to step in before a fight broke out between those two. What's up with Misha anyway?"
"Who knows? Ana, don't stand on the table, you know better then that. Her reason for not coming to Chase's birthday party was that she "had a meeting out of town." She's a TV anchor for goodness sake! She sits at a desk and tells the news. It's not like she's a traveling reporter."
"You think she's lying?"
"Personally, yes, but don't tell that to Chase. Chase doesn't think she's that bad."
"Dave's the same way. Honestly I think she is bringing Ray down." Nicole nodded before walking into the attached dinning room to remind her daughter that she was not Donny Thornberry and therefore expected to act like a normal child...and stay away from the hanging light.
When Chase arrived later that day, He found himself being given a surprise birthday party. The majority of his friends were there. Dave, Dee, Ray, Leeann, Nicole, Anna, and Leila were all there of course, but there was also Alicia, Marsha, his parents, Lana, Dulce (who had been doing a conference in Nevada but had flown in for the occasion. Misha wasn't there but that was expected. He didn't really get along with his best Friend's girlfriend-fiancée-wife (or whatever she was at the moment). Ray seemed to have fun more without her then with her, talking with Marsha.
He shook his head. He knew that Nicole and Dee must have been behind it but he really couldn't see his friend with the shy women. Marsha seemed more the type for Principal Rope then for Ray.
Dave had been in charge of the grill, and it had been quite funny to watch him. Obviously he hadn't done much cooking on Nicole's new grill and had nearly caught himself on fire numerous times.
Chase just smiled as Dee rushed to the grill again to check on Dave and settled down into a lawn chair.
A/N: I realize it has been a LONG LONG time but I am still working on it, see? I'm trying to revise the earlier chapters because they really need revision but I did have this chapter to upload. I will be periodically updating my chapters once I get them revised and beta'd. If anyone would like that position, I need one