The next day, after Emma left him, Ben decided it was time to find a new place. He needed a fresh start away from all the painful memories. He was browsing houses and apartments to rent when door opened and Nick stormed as if he still lived there.
“What the hell Ben? You’re a piece of work.”
Ben turned around. “What?” he asked, although he knew full well why Nick was pissed.
From the look on Nick’s face he figured he may as well get it over with. It wasn’t his fault anyway. “I saw the ring and said the wrong thing, okay. I’m sorry. But she didn’t even tell me! I thought we were friends and she goes and gets engaged to her rebound lover.”
Nick looked at Ben like he had two heads. “Excuse me? Did you even hear what just came out of your stupid ass mouth? Dude, Rachael said Emma was crying her eyes out when she went back to the apartment. She was afraid to tell you about the engagement because of… Fuck Ben….. Anyway, you probably just lost one of the few people that gave a rat’s ass about you. She’s done and she adores that baby.”
Ben turned back around as his own tears threatened to come at his dead wife’s unsaid name. He felt bad about what he said to Emma. He knew he lost her to Casey a long time ago so it shouldn’t have affected him like it did. But he depended on her so much. She was always there for him and it frightened him that she wouldn’t be anymore. And Nick was fucking right, as usual. As much as he wanted to believe it was her fault, he realized, it wasn’t. It was all his.
Nick took a deep breath. “So, who watched the baby while you made your run?” he asked quietly.
“I took him with me.”
“You did what?” asked Nick as his eyebrows shot up.
“I took him. Then we went to the park and hung out for awhile. It was no big deal.”
“Look at me Ben!” shouted Nick. He waited until Ben finally turned around. Nick ran his hand over his head and took a deep breath. “You need to give this shit up. It was never supposed to be a career. Only a fun hobby to save money. I’m sorry I got you involved in this man.”
Ben couldn’t figure out if Nick was pissed or wanted to help. He went from angry to heartbroken to concerned to guilty in the space of 10 minutes. Ben’s head was spinning. He figured it was time to let Nick off the hook. He was moving anyway. It didn’t matter.
“We are fine Nick. None of this is your fault,” said Ben, “I did it and I’m glad. It’s paying the bills and I’m starting to save money. I should have enough in a couple of months to get out of this damn ratty apartment and into a house. Cole needs to be where he can play with other kids, have a dog, a yard to run around in. Things I never had.”
Nick shook his head. “Not only do you not know what comes out of your mouth, you don’t even see what you are doing. Listen closely Ben….you are putting Cole at risk. It’s no longer a harmless hobby for your personal use. You are supplying dealers. Drug dealers. If you get caught you could go to jail and then who would be around to take care of your four-month-old baby?”
“We will be okay. I’m careful. Besides once I get a house I can start my own business and I won’t have to do this anymore.”
“Really? And just exactly what the hell kind of business are you going to start that requires less than 18 hour days, 7 days a week? How are you going to do that and take care of Cole too? What kind of fucking fantasy world are you living in? You need to sit your ass down and think long and hard about what you just said. About everything you just said because none of that shit made any goddamn sense.
Ben was done. “I’ll figure it out.”
“Dammit Ben! Call your Mom…move to Willow Creek before it’s too late. Let your big ass family help you. Your pride is going to screw up your kid. I know you are in pain dude….” Nick had to stop to get control of his emotions before he could continue, his voice not much more than a whisper. “Think about what Grace would want you to do.”
Ben glared at Nick. Every time he said Grace’s name it was like a stab in the gut. Who the hell was he to judge. He didn’t have to say goodbye to Rachael. He had a loving family to go to while Ben’s was a screwed up mess. He had barely spoken to his mom since she and Leroy left. Nick had no idea what it was like to grow up like he had. Hell yes he was in pain, but Cole was his world now and he would never do anything that would hurt him. He wasn’t going to screw him up.
“Just think about what I said, please. For Cole, for you……and for Grace,” said Nick softly.
That was the last straw. Ben was couldn’t believe the one person he thought would always support him had turned on him too. Screw Nick, Emma, Casey and Rachael too. Finding his voice, he stood up and pointed at Nick. “Get the hell out of my apartment!” he yelled.
Cole started crying, no doubt startled by Ben’s yelling. “Fuck!” said Ben and turned on his heel to go to his little boy. He heard the door close quietly behind him. Good riddance, he thought.