** Hi all, just a quick note: these will usually go up Wednesday nights! I know they used to be in the morning, but now instead of a lunch-break read, it can be your bedtime read :) **
I came home from work on Wednesday crumpled and exhausted. The absolute chaos that came with September launch had required me to spend the better part of my day putting out fires instead of getting actual work done for the last three weeks. But today, instead of staying at the office until my usual departure of 9 p.m., I unplugged at 5 o'clock on the dot and took my laptop home so that I could at least work late with my good friends wine and pizza.
The apartment was hot and quiet when I walked in; Ashley didn't usually get home until 7. I was going to allow myself exactly 30 minutes of sprawling out on the couch before taking a peek at what I knew had to be at least 15 emails waiting for my attention just since leaving the office.
As soon as I turned on the TV, I heard his voice even before the screen could catch up to the audio. As the blackness started to register colors, I fumbled with the remote, desperate to turn the channel before I had to endure the inevitable pain. I was too late—and his face filled the screen.
"God dammit Ash," I grumbled aloud. We had a rule in this house and it was absolutely no turning on E! at any time. Ashley must have been watching it when I wasn't home last night, and the TV was still tuned into the gossip channel.
I watched—against the wishes of my brain, which was screaming at me to change the channel—as Nick laughed charmingly alongside Maria Menounos in studio. It was a teaser commercial, highlighting the "exclusive interview" with Nick Murray they were airing that night at 7.
Aside from the odd internet image, which I had trained myself to speedily scroll past, I had managed to avoid seeing that face for nearly three months.
Nick and I had remained hot and heavy through the winter—and as the last snow melted in March I was beginning to think it was the real thing. We still weren't official, which I had told myself was due to his uncertain future with the show. We didn't know what was going to happen, and I was hesitant to jump head first into anything knowing that everything could change in an instant. It was idiotic of me to think that just bypassing the title "boyfriend and girlfriend" would, in any way, protect my heart.
He got a call in April that the show was on, but they wanted to add more aspects to it, open it up a little further. I had no idea what that meant as he sat down to tell me one Thursday night that is forever seared into my memory.
"What does 'open it up a little further' mean?" I had asked, sitting on his couch for what I didn't know at the time, would be the last time.
He took a deep breath, like what he was about to tell me would rob him of air for a while.
"They... they want me to move to LA."
I blinked. "But the whole show is centered around New York," I said, confused.
"Yeah," he replied, running his hands through his sandy locks. He needs a haircut, I remember thinking, as if my brain was refusing to register what he had just told me. "They want to eventually add a spin-off, that takes place in LA. It's hard to shoot here," he gestured with his arms, as if this room was the sprawling city itself, "with the streets being so crowded and the unpredictable weather. Plus the studio is based in LA, and it's cheaper for them to film out there. So they want to send a few of us out there under the pretense that work relocated us."
"So, when do you have to tell them your answer?" I asked, naively.
His gaze fell to the floor, and I knew he already had given them his answer.
So that is how, one month later, just as New York was finally shaking off the last of the bitter cold and giving way to long-awaited spring, Nick had moved across the country. We talked at first, and I made empty promises about visiting him, but I knew in my heart of hearts that I had to let him go. He was moving to Hollywood for christ's sake, to be on reality TV. Clinging to him would inevitably hurt me more than just letting him go.
And now, as his face faded off of the TV, I was overcome with the most outstanding feeling of loss. My stomach dropped to my feet and—even after months of hardly speaking—I wanted nothing more than to cry about it. Instead, I immediately turned off the TV and walked into the kitchen, flinging open my laptop to bury myself in work.
By 7 o'clock, I had created an entire Instagram strategy for holiday, pre-written social media copy through the next week and answered more than 20 emails. I stared at my task list in outlook which was reminding me, in an unnecessarily loud red, that I still had four more things to check off of my to-do list before I could turn my brain off. I leaned back in the rickety (only rickety on account of Ash and I assembled the Ikea chairs with the skill of a drunk 5-year-old) kitchen chair and stretched my arms over my head.
Restlessly, I got up and poured a glass of wine. I should have carried it back to my productive perch at the kitchen counter but instead I found myself in front of the dark TV. I picked up the remote and pointed it at the TV, ashamed at myself for what I was doing. The screen flooded with his voice for the second time that day.
He was wearing a casual white button down, with the top few buttons undone exposing a sliver of golden skin. His strong jaw was dotted with the perfect amount of stubble, which lead my gaze seamlessly to his perfect blue eyes.
"...it's been amazing," Nick said, in response to a question I hadn't heard.
"Well, it certainly seems amazing if you take a look at any magazine cover!" Maria said with a laugh. I had cancelled our US Weekly subscription the first time one had arrived with Nick, shirtless, emerging from the ocean on the cover. Somehow, season 2 had catapulted him into a near Kardashian-level of fame that none of us had anticipated. "So Nick, there have been rumblings of a spin-off for you, anything you want to share?"
Nick gave his signature half-smile, "A spin-off? Who would be interested in watching only me?"
"Humble," I muttered sarcastically.
Maria laughed, tossing her head back for effect. "Well, if not you then they're definitely interested in watching Lacey."
A subtle blush crept up Nick's face, imperceptible, perhaps, to anyone but the people who really know him. I felt a wave of nausea wash over me. Lacey Barnes had been linked to Nick in the small snippets of him that had weaseled their way into my Twitter feed. She was the daughter of a famous actor and from my google searches, her career was comprised mainly of bar hopping and maxing out credit cards.
Nick laughed the question off, and countered by asking Maria which character she watched the show for. They delved into a discussion about the latest newcomer, Nick exuding so much charm that even I was starting to swoon again. It was the sickest form of self-inflicted pain, not moving from this couch.
I finally turned it off around 7:20, realizing I was already in way too deep. I had put up so many walls since April trying to keep Nick out, and now I was binging on him. I turned my back on the TV and poured myself another glass of wine. I sat back down in front of my computer, staring at the red flags and unread emails begging for my attention.
Instead, I picked up my phone. I had deleted Nick's number months ago but the iPhone, ever the bad-decision enabler, allowed his number to freely pop up every time I typed in his name (seriously, WTF is this feature apple?).
I miss you
I hit send.