49. Nick

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It's harder to break the habit than Nick initially thought it would be. He realized that it was his go-to for everything. Upset about Bailey? Sex. Stressed  about a class? Sex. Feeling sorry for yourself? Sex.

He had let himself become dependent on it.

It was simply mind over matter, though. He deleted the app and refused to re-download it, no matter what.

He spent a few sleepless night thinking about another guy in bed with Bailey, making her laugh, and kissing her whenever he wanted to. It hurt, but he survived it.

Now he tries to keep active and busy, so that when it's time to close his eyes at night, he can go to sleep as easily as possible. He's even started running again. It sometimes has the opposite of its intended effect—making him miss Bailey even more. But most of the time it helps him clear his head.

Pete, Candace and him are studying in his room. All three of them have finals tomorrow, and then Winter Break starts. The dorm buildings close during the break, so he can't stay here. He's going to the Rogers'. Ian's mom said she had the guest room ready for him before he even had a chance to ask.

He knows he'll see Bailey, and he's been trying to mentally prepare for that. But as the days are counting down, the anxiety is overwhelming. He can't even begin to guess what he will feel when he sees her again, or what she will say to him.

He looks at his phone when he hears the text alert go off. It's from Bailey. His heart nearly stops beating. This is the first time she's initiated contact. He opens it up and it's a photo from what he is guessing is Game of Thrones.

"Um...Candace, what do you think this means?" He shows her the phone.

She looks up from her book and squints. Then her eyes go the complete opposite and are as wide as saucers. "Oh my God, Nick! Bailey's texting you?!?"

Nick tries to hold his smile in but fails miserably. "Yeah, I guess so. What should I do?"

"Text her back," Pete says, eyes not moving from his computer monitor.

"I don't even know what to say. Is this from Game of Thrones?"

The couple gives each other an exasperated look. "Yes," they say simultaneously.

Candace takes the phone from Nick's hand and begins scrolling through GIFs—he can't believe he actually know what those are now—before handing the phone back to him. "It's a white walker. And seriously, you need to watch the show."

"So I should just send her this?"

"Yes!" Candace says quickly. "Just keep it light. Let's see where she's going with this."

He gets another text a few minutes later of who he assumes is Tyrion Lannister dancing. She writes something also.

Bailey: So I guess this means you've finally watched the show?

He hands the phone to Candace so she can tell him what to say. He feels like a fucking schoolgirl, but he doesn't want to say the wrong thing.

"I think you can handle it from here," Candace says, smiling. "Just don't say anything too...real."

"But what is this even about? She has a boyfriend."

"Maybe she's excited about seeing you over break. Maybe she'll want to meet up." Pete and Candace don't know that Nick actually lives with her. "And maybe she's broken up with him, you never know."

He texts her back. He doesn't want to keep her waiting and second guess this.

Me: I'm afraid not. I need to work on that

Bailey: Yes u do! Are u staying at my house over break?

Me: Ya. I hope that's okay.

Bailey: It is.

There's a pause in the conversation as Nick thinks of how to respond. He's trying not to get his hopes up, but it's hard not to be excited that she's talking to him out of the blue.

Bailey: I think I'm going to bed though. I'm pretty drunk. I didn't want u to think I was ignoring u

Me: I appreciate that. I'm glad you texted me. Goodnight.

Bailey: Goodnight, Nick. See u soon

Nick slept well that night.

He picks Ian up at the airport on his way out of town two days later, and the two of them drive the hour to home.

When they get close, Nick asks, "Are we going to your house?"

"Yeah we can. My parents said they're going to my grandma's, though, for supper. We can go there to eat first."

"Are you sure Bee won't be mad? I haven't seen her in six months, I need to make a good impression."

"Dude, my grandma loves you. She won't care, but I'll call anyway."

Nick listens to Ian on the phone for a few minutes before he hangs up. "Just like I thought. She doesn't care, and she wants to see us. I haven't seen her for four months either, you know."

Nick pulls into Bee's driveway ten minutes later and sees Ian's parents' car parked behind Bee's bright red Volkswagen Beetle. They go into the house without knocking. "We're here!" Ian yells into the hallway.

His mom rushes from the kitchen and pulls him into a tight hug. Nick expects him to brush her off, but he doesn't, he hugs her right back and then hugs his dad and grandma.

His mom comes over to Nick and hugs him next. He's seen her quite a few times over the semester. When he comes to town to meet his brothers, he typically has dinner with her and Mr. Rogers.

"Nick Robinson, don't make an old lady work. Come over here and give me a hug," Bee says from her recliner. Of course, he obeys.

He hears the door open as he is standing upright, and the air in the room changes. His stomach drops when he sees Bailey standing in the doorway. He didn't know she would be here. The look she's giving him reminds him of when she saw him here the day of the infamous hide and seek game.

She didn't know he would be here, either. But unlike him, she doesn't want him here. He thought after their text exchange the other day, maybe she had forgiven him.

As these thoughts are processing, the guy from the skydiving photos walks in behind her, wrapping his arm lightly around her waist. Nick feels likes he's been punched in the stomach.

"Hi, everyone. I'm Evan. It's nice to meet you."

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