Fresh Start Ch. 02: 1 Step Forward

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Chapter 2 of Nell and Emma! This is a slow burn. I promise chapter 3 will make it all worth it.

As always please like, comment or send me feedback!

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“Good Morning!” Liz yelled as she crawled on my bed.

“What the hell Liz!” She was wrapped around me by this point. I managed to catch a glimpse at the clock. It wasn’t even 7am yet. “Did you forget how to tell time?” I could barely utter the words. She had her arm over my face.

“I did not. It’s almost 10 o’clock somewhere!”

I groaned, tried to roll her off me. “Liz, I can’t breathe.”

“If you’re talking you’re breathing. I’m not moving until I get all the details from last night.” She wasn’t kidding either.

“You are insane. Can you at least take your arm off my damn face?”

“Say pretty please with sugar on top.”

“Screw off Elizabeth.”

“Close enough.” She rolled over then sat up, I sat up next to her. It was then that she handed me a hot tea.

“Thanks.”

“Of course. I tossed some donuts on the kitchen counter for the heathens. Now spill.”

And I did. I went over every single detail from the night before. It took forever because Liz is a terrible listener. She is like a 3-year-old interrupting me every 30 seconds.

When I had finally finished, all she said was, “well that’s some damn shit Em.”

“That’s all you have to say?” I just shook my head at her. “I’m going to shower.”

“Fine. I’ll go make sure the rug rats are awake.”

I was going through my dresser finding clothes, “Don’t do it Liz! Let them sleep.”

“Why are you always ruining my fun? And please wear matching undergarments, don’t embarrass me when you are trying on dresses today. No granny panties.” She was laughing at her own not so funny joke.

I threw one of my bras at her, “because one of us has to be an adult and apparently that’s never going to be you.”

She put her arm over her face in feigned distress then left. I headed into my bathroom, hoping she wasn’t waking them up. After I got done showering and getting dressed I found my phone and checked it.

Nell- Good morning. Thank you for last night. Let me know what works for you for tomorrow

I read it but didn’t respond. I walked into the kitchen; Liz was sitting at the table on her phone. She didn’t even look up, “Don’t eat, we are going to get breakfast since you insisted I come so early today.”

“I insisted eh. And thank you for letting them sleep.”

“Of course. Let’s go. We have some serious eating and shopping to do. I’m driving.”

2 hours later we arrived at the boutique. We both had two Mimosas with breakfast. That and Bloody Mary’s were about all she let me drink more than one of at a time. We started to enter. One look around and I was already regretting coming. This wasn’t the type of store I shopped at. Wasn’t the type I could even afford to step foot into.

I started to turn around and walk out. Liz grabbed me by the shoulders, “Don’t bother Em. You will not dress like a hobo at your kids 16th birthday party.” She eyed my current outfit as she spoke.

I was in nice jeans and a pale pink top, with knee high tan boots. Her definition of dressing like a hobo and mine differed.

Before long I was being poked and prodded, lifted, tucked and stuffed into dress after dress. Liz found fault in every.single.one.

“Maybe it’s me and not the dresses Liz.”

“Bullshit. You are perfect. I’d kill for that ass.”

The employee who was helping us nodded in agreement. I shook my head. “You can afford to buy yourself one, or even better hike with me and get one the natural way.”

“True, and never going to happen. Outside is too, outdoorsy. There’s one more store I’m willing to try let’s go.”

I put my own clothes back on and followed her out, apologizing to the employee for the mess we left behind.

“Slow the hell down Liz.” She was always in such a hurry.

She stopped and waited for me to catch up. “Why are you always so slow?”

I glared at her. “Why are you always in such a rush?”

She flashed me her smile, put one arm around my shoulders, “Because my love, the faster I move the harder I am to catch.”

“Well I caught you long ago so at least slow down for me?”

She laughed and put her arm around my waist as we continued walking. We arrived at the next store. Soon enough I was being stuffed and tucked into more dresses.

Finally, I heard the words I had been waiting for but had given up on ever hearing. “That one. We will take it.” It was a simple black dress. Basic. Almost plain. Liz came over and grabbed my ass, “yep this is the one. Makes your ass look even better.”

“You do realize this is for my kid’s birthday party Liz, not for going out clubbing.”

“Eh. You are allowed to look fabulous at their party. And you will. So will I. They will survive. I promise”

“I need a drink.” She chuckled at me and told me I knew damn well there would be drinks when we were done.

I got no more say in the matter. She paid for the dress, and bright red heels. I hate wearing heels. casino oyna I grumbled at her when she put them on the counter. “red. Why?”

“You need a little POP my dear.” I just rolled my eyes at her. I was certain I would never wear them again.

I checked on the kids. They were fine. Jack was off with friends and Ashe was playing video games. I told him Liz and I were going for lunch and we would bring him take out.

We got to the restaurant, sat and she ordered us drinks. They arrived and we ordered food. Liz sat back in the booth and closed her eyes.

I looked at my best friend. If ever I was completely in love with someone, it was her. Not the I wanna fuck you kind of love, the please never leave me you literally complete me kind of love. I know without a doubt I would not have made it to 40 without her. She opened her eyes, saw me staring at her and goofy smiled at me. I laughed. Sometimes it made me sad that very few people knew her, really knew her, but mostly I was just glad I did.

“You okay there Em?”

“Of course.” As I was answering her, our food arrived, “was just thinking about Sean Murray.”

“Oh lord girl. That was a day.” She started belly laughing. I joined in.

As we ate, my phone went off. I figured it was one of the kids. My phone was closer to Liz than me. She had it in her hand before I could blink.

“It’s her. Again. Why didn’t you answer her this morning?” She gave me a typical Liz look, one that said, ‘girl what are you thinking?’.

I put my hand out for my phone. “Liz. I appreciate the push the other day but now I have to navigate this myself.”

She knew I was right. I knew it was hard for her. She hated Dean. Had never really liked him. Now she hated him for hurting me. She didn’t want to see me hurt again. I loved her for that. I didn’t reply to the text.

She gave me a look. “Em.”

“I don’t know what to say to her.” I reluctantly admitted.

She moved to sit next to me, ordered another round of drinks and took my hand. “Okay. Well, let’s talk it out.”

I had never had a problem talking. I wasn’t shy. I was usually articulate. Rarely did anyone intimidate me. I didn’t understand why I had this mental block when it came to her. I told Liz all of this. She listened. She was still holding my hand. She didn’t appreciate the looks we got.

“It’s 2019 people, seriously.” She may have said it too loud, or not loud enough. “So, talk.”

I took a deep breath. Instead of talking I just sat there.

“Okay. We will do this my way then.” Liz’s way was her own version of 20 questions. It usually worked.

“You’re attracted to her correct?”

I nodded my head yes.

“That scares you?”

Another yes.

“You liked kissing and touching her, her touching you?

Another nod yes.

“But that also scares you.”

That time it wasn’t a question. She knew me.

“Her being your professor adds another layer you didn’t really think through right?

A deep nod yes this time.

“Too much, too fast.”

I just sighed.

“Okay then. So, you like her, you said she was easy to talk to. Meet for coffee, tea, whatever and talk. Set boundaries. If she can’t accept them then move on. You are an amazing person Em. And with that amazing ass you won’t stay on the market long.”

I resisted the urge to throw something at her for that last comment. “I’m not ‘on the market’ Liz. It’s only been a few months. I’m not even divorced yet. But after last night.” I trailed off.

“You gave in to some urges last night Em. Cheap booze will often facilitate that. It’s okay, you are, in fact, human after all. If she has any real interest in you, she will accept that you want to slow it down. Just be upfront.”

I mulled it over as I finished what would absolutely be my last drink of the day. We had both gotten waters and had been sitting here entirely too long. I could tell the waitress getting irked over it. I wanted to tell her to relax, Liz was a great tipper, even if sometimes she was a crappy customer.

I picked my phone back up, read the message from her.

Nell- I know you said you were going dress shopping, hope you found something. Let me know if you still want to meet tomorrow

I took a deep breath then flashed my fingers across the keyboard before I lost my nerve.

Me- I did find a dress and I would like to meet again. I would like to get to know you more. Things moved much faster than they should have last night. I can’t do that again.

I clicked send then put my phone away. It wouldn’t stop whatever reply was coming my way, but at least I could pretend for a while. I had almost forgotten food for Asher.

“Why must that boy eat so often?”

I didn’t even bother to acknowledge her. I attempted to pay for his food, “Seriously Emma, stop.”

I tried. I knew it was pointless, but at least I knew I tried. She liked to tell me that I offered her so much support, and a lot of help with writing stuff, while she created and built up the company that anything she did for us now was just retroactive back pay. I fought her on slot oyna it for a long time. I stopped. It was the one thing had ever posed a threat to our relationship and I had decided it was not something that mattered in the long run. She also pulled back a little after a while. It worked for both of us.

Ashe’s food arrived and we headed out. We got to my house and I asked her if she was coming in.

“Just for a few, I have a hot date later and need to get ready.”

I made us tea and we climbed on the couch, I was freezing and drew the afghan over us. Asher was done eating and came out to the living-room.

“Thanks Liz.”

“Of course, kid. Can’t have you starving on my watch.” He gave her a hug then said he was going to his friend Iain’s for a few hours. “Don’t be a stupid teenager, you’ll ruin all my party plans if you mess up kid.”

“But I live to be a stupid teenager. Who needs a damn party?” He yelled back. Sometimes I wondered if that one was actually her kid; they shared such a similar sense of humor.

I put my head on her shoulder. She took one hand off her teacup and wrapped it around my shoulders. “At least if things work out with Nell your kids are used to seeing you snuggled up with another woman.”

I groaned at her.

“Have you checked your phone?”

I hadn’t. I got up and went into the kitchen were my bag was. I fished out my phone and brought it back to the couch, got back under the afghan. I had 3 new messages.

Jacklyn- I’ll be home around 3 ok?

I looked at the time, it was 3:15. I didn’t bother to respond, she would be home soon.

The other 2 were from Nell. I inhaled and opened them.

Nell- I’m glad you found a dress

Nell- I would like to get to know you more too. Yes, things moved quick last night, call it a moment of weakness. I’m okay with slower, I have a feeling you are worth it. I’m not usually wrong. Same place tomorrow, for tea and coffee? 11?

Fuck.

“Fuck Em.” Liz had been reading over my shoulder. She squeezed my shoulder. “So?”

Me- sounds good.

I clicked send and smiled. This time Liz wrapped both her arms around me in a hug, which quickly turned into her tickling me. I was about the most ticklish person on the planet and she has loved tormenting me this way since she discovered this fact. Jacklyn and her friend Jenna walked in.

“Hi Girls!” Liz yelled, without stopping her tickling onslaught.

“Of course. Of course, you two can’t just be normal for 5 minutes.” Jack said. Jenna was laughing, I had tears running down my face by this time and this only added to it.

“Normal is boring Jacklyn. Normal is so very boring.” Liz finally stopped tickling me and stood up walking towards Jack, hands posed to tickle her next.

“Hell no.” She turned and headed upstairs away from us. Jenna followed after her laughing. Liz collapsed back on the couch and our laughter started up again.

“My poor kids may be scarred for life.”

Liz got serious suddenly. “They are fine. You were scarred, they have just had an eclectic upbringing with the best crazy ‘aunt’ in the world.” I looked at her, people have always wondered how we are friends. This is the reason. She is the best person I know. Will ever know. We laid there on my couch, my laughter subsided. “You’ve got this Emma. You deserve to try for real happiness. And if she hurts you, I’ll hunt her down.” She got up again. “This time I really do have to leave. Let me know how tomorrow goes okay? And use your gift tonight, it will make tomorrow easier, I promise”

I gave her a hug and kissed her cheek, “I will.”

**

I was up early. Too early. I went to the kitchen and made the kids fresh cinnamon rolls. It was still entirely too early when I put them in the oven, so I made another cup of tea and curled up on the couch with the latest memoir I was reading, ‘Another Bullshit Night in Suck City’. I wasn’t as pulled in by this book as I had been the last few I read.

My phone went off.

Liz- are you still going?

Me- yes

Liz- good. Love you.

Me- love you too. I’ll call you later

Liz- you better.

I took the cinnamon rolls out and made the icing for them. I would let the kids ice them on their own. It was 9am. I went and showered and got dressed. Rose jeans, decent shirt and black boots. The kids were starting to rise, it was 10am.

I decided to have a cinnamon roll. I figured it might be better if I wasn’t hungry as well as nervous. The kids fixed theirs and we ate together.

“I’m meeting a friend for coffee. I’ll probably be gone for a few hours. Do you guys have plans?”

“Um, you don’t drink coffee mom.” Asher looked at me like I had forgotten I didn’t like coffee.

“It’s an expression, dumbass.” Jacklyn retorted.

“Jacklyn!”

“Well come on, he’s almost 16, he should at least attempt to think.”

“Guys. Plans?” Neither had any yet. They started bickering and I was done. I cleaned up my plate and told them both goodbye. It was still too early to get to Barnes and Noble, so I headed to TJMaxx. It was in the same shopping complex canlı casino siteleri as the bookstore.

I poked around, found a few new tops I tried on. I picked one out to buy and made my way to the cashier. By the time I was finished and looked at the time it was 10:55. Good thing I had stayed close.

I walked in and spotted her. My stomach fluttered. I had no booze in me this time and had no intention of changing that. She had two drinks in front of her. I got to the table, there was no small hug like the other night, just me sitting down.

She pushed one of the cups my way. “Green tea, cream no sugar.” And smiled at me.

I smiled back. “Thank you.” She had paid attention to my order. Her hair was up today in a messy bun. My mind went back to how her lips felt. I momentarily lost myself in that memory. I pulled myself back to now before I stayed in the past too long.

“How was dress shopping?”

I chuckled, “interesting.” I regaled the day for her, omitting Liz’s take on my ass and my internal struggle with seeing her again.

“After all that you ended up with a simple black dress?” She was laughing right along with me. She had an infectious laugh.

“And heels. I hate heels.”

She laughed some more. “And she’s your best friend?”

“She is. Very much so. If I told her I wasn’t wearing the heels she’d survive. She just has a set way things should look and isn’t easily swayed. And honestly I don’t care. I’m sure once the party starts I’ll be barefoot, and she won’t even notice or care.” I didn’t ever want anyone to think Liz forced me to do anything. She took over and was loud and bossy and over the top, but she would never ‘make’ me do anything if I told her I didn’t want to.

“She sounds great. A little scary but great.”

“Scary is a good word for her.” I smiled huge. Liz would love me telling Nell she was scary.

We talked about books, what we were each reading now. She hadn’t read “Another Bullshit Night’ so I told her she could borrow it when I was done. I was relieved that she was still as easy to talk to as she had been Friday night.

We got talking about school. The semester was over half done. Did I know what classes I was taking in the Spring. I told her the last few I needed to be done with my degree. She offered me some insight on the professors, which would be useful when registering for classes.

“Do you write a lot? “

“For school?”

“In general.”

“Not really. I used to, before the marriage and kids.” I paused. I used to write all the time even when the kids were little. I wasn’t exactly sure when that changed. “I do a lot of thinking about writing when I’m hiking, does that count?” I chuckled. I got thinking about the trails, and that I hadn’t been out on them in a few weeks. “What about you, do you write a lot?”

“Not as much as I’d like to, more than I used to. I spend a lot of time reading what students write, it doesn’t leave me much time for my own. At least during the academic year.”

I shifted my legs, my foot brushed against hers under the table. The same urges I felt Friday night hit me. I inadvertently sucked in a deep breath. I felt myself flush. No way to pass that off as alcohol related this time.

I quickly asked her about her hobbies, aside from reading and writing.

“I love to travel, but rarely get to. Life. I knit when I have the inclination and time.” She went on to tell me the places she had visited. I had been nowhere.

“Another tea?” She asked.

I glanced at my watch it was 12:30. I wasn’t sure where the last 90 minutes went. I was also getting hungry. “Lunch?”

She smiled, “are you sure?”

“Yeah.”

“Then yes, I would love to.”

I took out my phone and texted the kids and told them I would be a few more hours. They didn’t seem to care. We decided on a local place not far from the bookstore. We would meet there. When I got to my car I texted Liz.

Me- Going to lunch…

Liz- Good. Don’t order cheap rum! Cheap any liquor.

Me- I won’t I’ll call you later

I put my phone away and drove.

*

Lunch was great. We spent 2 hours talking and laughing. I hated realizing it was time for me to get home to the kids. I didn’t want to leave. Every time our feet or legs touched under the table I had to suck in air.

“Time to go?” She asked.

“Yeah. I have homework, and I have to sub tomorrow.” I sighed. I was fighting with the side of me that wanted to continue what we had started Friday, and the side of me that knew I had to take things slower.

We paid and walked out together. My car was closer, she stopped when I did. “Thank you for today, I had a really nice time.”

I wanted her to kiss me again. I wanted to feel her. I wanted to not want that.

She moved to give me a hug goodbye. It was the perfect hug. I didn’t want to let go but I did.

“See you in class.”

I smiled. “I hope you message me before that.”

She smiled back, “I will.”

*

The next few days went by as normal. She did message me; we talked a lot. I was nervous about how class would be. I told her that and she assured me it would be no different than it had been the weeks before. I wasn’t so sure it could be. I wondered if she was sure it would be because she had done this before.

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