More Ways Than One


His hands lifted the hangers slowly off the rack.  His brain wondered back to the moment when he and Nicole had started to share a closet.  He didn’t remember when her stuff began to migrate to his closet, since she had been living in the house with him for a long time before she moved into his bedroom—their bedroom—but now it was looking empty again, this time only hold HER things instead of HIS.

Her approach was silent.  She didn’t even seem to take in a breath of air until she began to speak.  “Lance?”

He turned his head a little and moved across the room to the open suitcase on the bed.  “What Cole?”

“When do you leave for Toronto?” she asked hovering in the doorway.

He only turned for a moment to see her there, but he could feel her behind him as he worked.  “Two days,” his answer was to the point and showed his fatigue.

“Where are you staying until then?” she asked.

He began to pull the shirts off the hangers and tried to fold them a bit to fit in the suitcase.   If it were up to him he’d just have thrown them, hanger and all, into the suitcase and left quickly, but part of him knew that he needed to drag this out for as long as possible so that whatever conversations needed to be taking place between them would happen.  “I’m gonna check into a hotel probably.”

There was a long silence between them.  He'd stopped for a moment to look at her, but continued to pack when she didn't continue the conversation.

“Do you want to stay here?” she asked with a very soft voice. 

He squinted at her.  “Here?” 

“Even though we’ve not been getting along--"  Her hands twirled her hair in circles nervously.  "I’d feel terrible if you had to be in town and be in a hotel.”

"Are you sure?” he asked.  He knew it took a lot of guts for her to ask him to stay and he knew that he should be jumping at the chance to be there with her.  His only fear now was getting tricked into the idea that things might change for the better, but have them end up worse instead.

“I’m not a bitch,” she said, “I at least would like to know that you have a roof over your head at night.”

“Great,” he said with a roll of his eyes.  Not messing with the rest of the hangers he threw the clothes into the bag and shut it, pulling the zippers so hard to get the bag together that they stuck a few times before he finally got them all the way closed.  He grabbed up the bag and walked towards the door.  “Thanks a lot.”

Her hand reached out and caught him as he was walking by.  “Please Lance?”

The desperation in her voice wasn’t at all foreign to him.  His shoulders sagged.  "I don't think it's a good idea," he said, not because he didn't want to be there with her, but because he didn't need the stress of it and neither did she.  "You and I are on this rollercoaster ride right now and I'd rather not go up another hill just to crash to the ground again.  I love you, you know that I do, but I don't think that either of us need to be thinking that we're on the road to happiness just yet--I mean we can't figure out a plan for our future and I'm not sure that me being here is gonna make it any easier."

"Please," she pleaded and began to cry.  "I'm sorry about all this, really I am.  I want this to be easy and for us to be in love and have our baby, but I can't try and pretend that my life is perfect right now.  I need you here with me and you can't be."

"Nicole, I've tried to explain this before.  The movie is being made.  Millions of dollars and about a hundred and fifty people's jobs are laying on my back.  If I could I'd cancel it all in a minute, but I can't.  If I did, I'd get sued, I'd lose everything and you and I'd be on the street tomorrow."

"Can't we pretend for two days that nothing is wrong?" she asked.  "Please.  Just for that long can you just be my husband and me be your wife and enjoy some time together?"  She started to sob.  "I need you to be here and support me on this."

He knew he couldn't leave her here like this.  It was going to be a battle to stay there, but he couldn't abandon her.  He'd taken his vows very seriously and he still remembered that there was a part about supporting one another through good times and bad and this was probbaly one of the bad ones.

"I'll stay downstairs," he said with a short tone.

"Thank you," she said, "I feel better knowing that you're here."

He half smiled.  "I'm gonna get my clothes out of the car and do some laundry."

She watched his back as he left the bedroom.  She'd been home the last few days trying to decide if she'd done the right thing.  She'd talked to Patty on the phone a dozen times and even had called the other girls in the group.  Dani had given her the best advice of course.  She'd said to do whatever would make her life livable.  All the guys had to make decisions on a daily and even minute by minute basis that effected their lives, but that left them without regrets.  She needed to do the same thing.

When he left the room she followed him to the top of the stairs only to freeze up and watch him disappear down them and out of the house.  Dropping into a sitting position at the top of the stairs she covered her face.  She wondered if he'd really stay or if he was going to step out of their house and not come back.

"What am I doing?" she asked the silence of the house.  "I mean really what am I doing?"

She heard Lance come back into the house and walk around on the bottom floor.  She loved the sound of him there.  She'd missed that the last few days, knowing and anticipating the sound of him around the house.  She leaned so that she could watch him walk through the walkway towards the living room.

"Why the hell is she doing this?" he mumbled to himself.  He must not have seen her there because he continued to talk to what he probably thought was dead air.  "I love her.  Isn't that enough?  I mean really?"  He stopped and dialed his phone.  "You say your I-do's and all hell breaks lose.  I shouldn't have taken this job in the first place.  I know better than to do this."  He argued with himself.  "I'm freaking going crazy now talking to myself."

"Wendy?" he said a moment later.  "I want you to set me up a flight from Toronto to Orlando for as soon as you can--" He paused.  "--yeah FROM.  I want it for Friday or whenever we'll be done after the first week--"  He paused and listened.  "--I need to come back to--"  He paused again listened as Wendy cut him off.  "--I understand--No.  I know that it's important to be there for all of it--"  He sighed.  "--She's pregnant.  She won't come with me and I can't just leave her here."

Nicole held her breath and scooted into a more comfortable position.  Just as she did Lance shut off his phone and pitched it baseball player style across the room.  He didn't get near to an award winning speed when he threw it, but that didn't seem to matter.  It hit the wall out of her sight.  She knew what it hit and could hear the crystal vase and his phone shatter.

He practically screamed out his anger.  "FUCKING LAWYERS!"

She pushed herself up and looked down the steps, making herself known to him.  "Lance?"

"Sorry," he immediately said, but didn't look up at her.  "Leave it there.  I'll pick it up in a minute or two."  He moved out of her sight and a few moments later she heard a door slam.  It was probably his office, but it could have been the bedroom door.

She found her way down to the kitchen again and stirred her noodle soup.  It had been simmering when she left it to go up to their bedroom, but she found it now at a roiling boil.  She reached to pick it up, but her hands were shaking and she found herself spilling the soup.

Her scream couldn't have been that loud or that horrible sounding, but she found herself with hot soup all over her right hand.  Dropping the pot into the sink she listened to it clatter around as she immediately poured cold water on her fingers.

Moments later two arms came around her and Lance's hands smoothed over hers.  His head was right over her shoulder and his lips began to whisper soothing words into her ear.  Having him hug her was entirely too good, which only reminded her that it had been days since he'd held her in his arms.  In reaction to him being there she leaned against him and whimpered, not due to the pain of her hand, but the pain that knowing that he was only there for her hand and not for other reasons.

"What happened?" he finally asked turning her around to look at him.

"I'm such a dumbass," she said, "I picked up the pot and didn't get a good grip on it."  She looked at her hand.  "I'm sorry if I startled you.  I think I startled myself more than anything."

"You sure?"

"I am a big girl," she said suddenly, "I can take care of myself."

"Nicole stop it."

"Stop what?" she said.  She was this mix of emotions right now and her brain went from zero to sixty in two seconds.  "You better stop trying to figure that you're this savior person that has come down from on high to rescue me."

"Nicole.  Don't act like this."

"How am I supposed to act?" she rambled, "I'm your wife, except you treat me like a child most of the time."

He pressed his lips together and looked at the floor before he made eye contact with her.  "Sometimes I think you need it."

"Fine," she said, "If you're going to treat me like a child, then I'll start acting like one."

She pushed passed him and started back up the stairs.

She heard him call her name, but she ignored it.

For dinner Lance ate alone.  He hadn't heard much from Nicole since she'd stormed out of the kitchen.  He heard her feet upstairs and thought that she might be cleaning or something from the sound of it, but he'd stayed on the bottom floor, did laundry then closed himself into the bottom bedroom.

Right before he went to sleep he opened up the door of the room a little bit.  He didn't know why he did it, but around two in the morning he was glad that he had.  At first he heard the noise and thought it might be a movie or something playing at Chris's house.  He knew that his friend had gotten up in the middle of the night on habit to watch a movie as a sleep-aide.

It wasn't until he realized that he was at home again that he thought he should get up and go check on the noise.  He got all the way to the bottom of the stairs when he realized that the sound he was hearing was crying and the sound was coming from their bedroom.


© 2002 Pit Pat Productions