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The sound of Nika’s alarm clock jolted her awake, the worst way to wake up in the morning. She groggily rose from her disheveled bed and walked zombie-like to the bathroom. Before reaching it she noticed a big lump on the couch, bigger than a one person lump. She went and hovered over it and made a silent ‘awwww’ sound at Erika and Mick squished together in the spoon position. She also noticed that there was an extra sparkle to Erika’s left ring finger. Nika smiled and continued her journey to get ready for work.

The morning was beautiful. The birds were singing, the sun was shining, people weren’t rude on the road; Nika was in her own little rose-colored world that James had helped put her in. She wasn’t complaining though.

Nika found Terry chatting in the break room.
“It’s only 8:30, how are you already on break?” She asked him.
“Woman hush. This is what happens when you’re at work at 5 AM making things happen.” He said after leaving his other conversation.
“Oh whatever. Anyway, so, James.” She tried not to smile.
“Yes?”
“He is effing amazing! Our date was amazing! Everything is just amazing!” Nika gushed at Terry. “Thank you so much for putting this together.”
“Wow, just one date and you’re crazy.”
“Oh come off it. He texts me just to say good morning. I’m thinking he feels the same.”
“Well good for you. I’m really happy for you. Just don’t let this,” Terry looked behind her, “ruin it please.” Nika turned to see what Terry was talking about, and saw Kyle making his way into the break room.
“Terry don’t leave me, please. I’ll give you five dollars.” She whispered.
“No money can buy me. Be smart.” Terry winked at her before leaving the break room, then nodded at Kyle as they walked past each other. Nika looked for something to do to make her look too preoccupied to talk to him. She failed.
“Hey, what’s up? I haven’t heard from you in a minute.” Kyle said, standing in front of her with his arms crossed.
“I’ve been living.” Nika replied, shortly. She’d been in such a good mood since shaking off her rough wake-up, she really didn’t want it ruined before the morning was over.
“Well, I’ve been missing you. We should hook up tonight.” He attempted to put his hand on Nika’s arm, but she moved out of its way.
“No thanks Kyle. Don’t you have a girlfriend? Speaking of which, I think we should end it. It’s been a…run.” Kyle stepped up to Nika, and he didn’t look happy.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means that this,” Nika motioned to herself and Kyle, “is over.” Kyle gave Nika a sly smile, then roughly grabbed her arm, pressing his fingers deep into her flesh. She tried twisting out of his grasp, but he just dug deeper into her arm.
“You must think you’re funny. Don’t think this is over, because it’s not.” He flung her arm as he walked away. Nika rubbed her sore arm, so frustrated and angry that she wanted to cry. She wasn’t the type to make a scene, and was pissed that she let Kyle get away with putting his hands on her. Needless to say, Nika was fuming. And she fumed all the way back to her cubicle where she was met by Rick.
“Uh, Noble, hey. You got that finished product?”
Before Nika could get more irritated, her stomach dropped. She’d completely forgotten about the article. Stephen’s publicist was supposed to have sent her the articles the day before.
“Shoot Rick, I’ll get it to you in a few.” Rick adjusted himself on his feet.
“Uh, it’s not done?”
“No, it’s done, I’m just waiting on Stephen, I mean, Mr. McDowell’s publicist to give me the okay.”
“Well, uh, you have an hour and a half. I need it on my desk no later than that.”
“Got it.” Nika watched as Rick walked away. She quickly dialed Johnson’s number.

“This Johnson.”
“Hey Johnson, this is Nika Noble.”
“Oh hey Miss Noble.” He said before Nika could to the chase.
“Hi. Just wondering if you were done going over Stephen’s article.” She said.
“Oh, yeah! I’m sorry. It’s been pretty hectic around here. I had no changes for you so you can just go with what you have.”
“Great. Thanks so much.” Nika replied, ready to hang up.
“While I have you on the line, I wanted to let you know that I didn’t give Stephen your letters.”
“What?” Nika was confused.
“Yeah, I read them and I didn’t think they were really appropriate for where his head is right now. I hope you understand.”
“Wait, no! I don’t understand. How could you just read them? They weren’t put there for you to decide whether or not Stephen should read them. Plus, you’re just his publicist, not his life coach!”
“Look, Miss Noble, I did what I felt was right for him right now. I really have to be going. If you need anything, please don’t hesitate to call. Have a great day!”
The line was terminated. Nika lingered with the phone still to glued to her head, trying to understand what exactly had just transpired. She set her phone down on her desk. This couldn’t really be happening. She wanted to slump on the floor, bang her head against the desk and cry. Cry about Kyle, cry about her angel baby, cry about things she hadn’t thought about in years.

Nika emailed her story to Rick, along with a message that said she wasn’t feeling well and that she was going home. Right when she got up to leave, Terry tried blocking her way. As soon as he saw her face, he got out of her way and let her through. She looked to him like she had the world on her shoulders. She felt like she did, too.

Nika’s car was hot, but she didn’t care. She got in and cried. She didn’t even turn the car on for A/C. She let the tears flow, mixing in with the sweat as they did. She made ugly cry faces, called out to heaven, hit her steering wheel, and sobbed so hard that she had a hard time catching her breath. She was sure that if anyone saw her, they probably thought she was crazy, but she was oblivious to them. She wiped away the moisture from her face with a random napkin she found on her passenger seat. Contemplation became the fill of her mind as she figured out what she was going to do about Stephen. Johnson had no right to keep those letters from Stephen and Nika was absolutely pissed about it. Nika’s phone vibrated and showed the following on her screen:

New Message from James

She opened the message.

Hello beautiful woman.

It read. Nika didn’t know what she did to deserve this guy.

Hey

Even James’ sweet words couldn’t make her feel better.

Something is wrong

Nika didn’t reply. She didn’t want to complain to him.

Am I right?

She caved.

My day has barely started and it’s already not the best. I’m going home :-/

He asked!

If you need company or an ear you can come visit me. I have a knack at making people feel better.

She smiled at her phone. This man was really trying to get and stay on her good side.

I would actually like that a lot, but I’ve got an errand to run first. I’ll let you know when I’m done.

She decided at the last minute to get in touch with Stephen and tell him about the baby and get it over with.

Okay, hit me up when you’re ready.

As soon as she was done talking to James, Nika sent Stephen a message asking him to meet her at an uptown coffee shop if he wasn’t busy. He replied back that he wasn’t and that he’d meet her there in half an hour.

“Nika, hi. What’s going on?” Stephen weaved between the many small tables in the shop to get to Nika and sat down in front of her. Her stomach had been in knots since she decided to meet with him. She had no idea how he would react and hated even having to bring it up, but she really felt that it would provide her some closure.
“I needed to tell you something. I was going to let you know via letter, but now that you’re here I’m thinking that telling you in person is ultimately better.”
“What do you need to tell me?” He looked concerned and confused. Nika inhaled deeply and exhaled even deeper.
“This is so hard for me to say. Part of me is having second thoughts, but…when you me left two years ago, I realized that I hadn’t had my…um…ugh!” Nika regathered herself. “Four days after you left, I found out I was pregnant. Of course there was no way to let you know, but I wrote you letters anyway.”
“Wait,” Stephen interrupted, “we have…a child?” Nika shook her head as she looked down, trying so hard to hold back the tears that she didn’t think Stephen deserved.
“I lost it, almost 2 months after I found out. It was probably the hardest thing I ever had to go through, what with you leaving and then losing the baby, the one thing I had to connect me to you.” Stephen slumped in his seat. He looked devastated, like someone had actually just died. Though she felt bad for thinking it, seeing him look that way did make her feel a little better.
“Nika, I don’t know what to say. ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t cut it this time. What can I do? What can I say? Please, tell me.” He grabbed both of Nika’s hands and brought them close to him. She retracted them back to her body.
“There’s nothing you can do or say, Stephen. What’s done is done. Just…let’s make this the last time we see or speak to each other. Okay?” Nika stood up and took a last look at Stephen’s distraught face. He nodded at her. She turned and left the coffee shop. She left a love that she thought was “it”. She left her past, and walked to her car to drive away and meet her future.

******

“No offense, but you look like you’re having a bad day.” James said and smiled at Nika after he let her in to his expansive loft overlooking the ocean.
“It’s better now that I see you.” She stuck her tongue out at him. She put Stephen out of her mind as best she could do that she could enjoy James’ company.
“I just need to relax. Things have been ridiculous in my life, at work, and somehow now they’re mixing with each other.” Stephen led Nika to a bar stool in his breakfast nook. He asked if she wanted a drink.
“I’m not helping to create this ridiculousness, am I?” He asked as he passed her a bottle of water. She shook her head.
“No, no. If anything you’re helping make it better.”
She took a swig of water, eyeing Stephen. He leaned back against the black granite counter and crossed his arms as he stated at Nika inquisitively.
“Nika, I haven’t met anybody like you before.”
“I know. I’m one of a kind. You can’t put me in the same category as those other girls.” Nika took another drink of water. Stephen chuckled. His face quickly turned from happy to serious and then he stood upright.
“Nika, what happened to your arm?” He walked over to her and gently took her lower arm in his hand. Nika blushed and tried to take her arm back.
“It’s nothing. I got it.”
“This is not ‘nothing’. These are bruises made by fingers…large fingers. Nika, who did this to you?”
Nika shook her head. “James it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
“Now that I’ve seen it I can’t, not, worry about it. Someone put their hands on you and now I’m apart of this.”
“No, you’re not apart of this. Look, I’m just going to go. Thanks for the water.” Nika go up and walked towards the door. James rubbed his forehead, unclear of what to do. He let Nika leave without hassling her. Something was going on that neither of them really knew how to deal with, but Stephen knew that he didn’t want to mess whatever it was he had going with Nika.