Feels Like Forever


Ryder asks every day over the next week and a half about Niall and gets upset when he’s told it isn’t time to see him yet, but somehow they manage to make it through. The alarm goes off at four a.m. on the twelfth, though Emilie is already awake, unable to sleep any longer than an hour or so with the move on her mind - and on the horizon. She makes sure the toddler is still asleep then makes her way to the kitchen to make coffee.

Monica arrives less than twenty minutes later, carrying a box of pastries from the coffeeshop and a shopping bag full of snacks for the drive. “Derek says he’s sorry he can’t be here to see us off, but he wants hourly updates on our location and well-being.”

“How are you getting back?” Emilie asks as she fills a thermos with coffee.

“Plane, duh. I am so not making this drive twice.”

“I’ll pay you back for the ticket.”

“No need. Your man kinda already did.”

“Excuse me?”

“Yeah, I kinda got his number from your phone the other day when you were in the bathroom, texted him and told him I was your bestie along with Derek, and if he hurt you, we’d make him understand why that was a terrible decision. Then I mentioned that we’d be meeting in person because I was coming along so you didn’t die on the drive. He offered to pay for a ticket back. I didn’t ask him!” she says, hands raising in defence. “He offered. I tried telling him no, that I could do it myself, but…”

“He’s a bit stubborn, yeah.” Emilie sighs and checks the time. “Okay. Fine, I’ll have this talk with him when I get there. I’m gonna get Ry ready to go.”

“I’ll start carrying things to your car.”

“You’re amazing, thanks.”

Diapered and changed into a clean pair of pyjamas, Ryder sits in his high-chair as Emilie double-checks that the safe is empty, its contents now in a manila envelope in her laptop bag, and that the diaper-bag is stocked up and ready to be put in the car.

Monica carries the child out to the Explorer while Emilie makes sure the balcony door and the windows are locked and everything is unplugged. The flat still looks the same - the difference is in the bedroom and empty closets - but it feels so much more different, knowing she won’t be coming back to Austin for a long time.

She shakes off the thoughts, grabs her purse and keys, and steps out into the hall. The lock slides into place with a resounding click that echoes with finality.


“I really thought this would be harder,” Monica announces when Emilie arrives back at the car.

They’ve been driving for almost ten hours now, switching off who’s behind the wheel every couple of hours, making sure to stretch their legs whenever they need to refill the fuel tank. Ryder has been unusually quiet in the backseat, and multiple times, the women have checked that he was still breathing. Emilie wonders if this is just a side effect of the instability he’s had to endure in his short life, which opens the door to questioning just what he went through whenever his existence interfered in Danielle’s plans.

“Shut up, you’ll jinx it. Here, grabbed you a coffee.”

Monica grimaces as she swallows down a mouthful. “Fuck, why couldn’t we have brought the coffeeshop with us?”

“Don’t remind me I’ll not be going there any more.” Emilie pouts and leans against the side of the car, ducking down to catch a glimpse of Ryder sleeping in his seat. “Mon, I truly appreciate this.”

Monica grins brightly, reaches out to tug Emilie in for a tight hug. No words are spoken until after they’ve slid back into their seats, and even then it’s just to make sure they’re both ready to be back on the road. Emilie leans back in her seat and pulls out her phone. Deciding it’s far too annoying to text individually for the tenth time, she creates a group chat with Derek, her parents, and - against her better instincts - Niall.

<< Hey, my fav loves everrrrrr. Sorry, I know it’s bound to get a bit hectic but my fingers are too tired to type five separate texts saying the exact same damn thing so hi, be nice to Niall, and Niall, ignore the weirdos, focus on me! I’m the cute one!! Anyway, we’re about ten hours into the drive, my ass is numb, Ryder is happily asleep and being a good kiddo. Just got through Las Cruces and have aboutttttt 11ish hours of driving to go, not including any stops we have to make. I’m gonna try to catch some zzz for a bit, but I’ll update you all as soon as I can! Hugs, kisses, and all that gross stuff xxxxxxxxx

Emilie exhales shakily; she only hopes that she hasn’t fed poor Niall to the wolves by including him in the group message, but she tries to have faith that he’ll be fine. She closes her eyes and lets her mind wander. Between the music on the radio and the mind-numbing boringness of the long drive, it isn’t difficult for her to doze off.

Ryder stops being so easygoing about the long drive around the sixteen-hour mark. Monica grimaces when his screeches grow in volume, and Emilie signals to pull over to the side of the highway. She passes the bag of snacks and a water bottle to her friend once Monica is buckled into the seat next to the toddler. Unfortunately, Monica’s presence does nothing to placate him; Emilie rests her forehead against the steering wheel and tries to stem the frustrated, exhausted tears. She should have known this would happen.

They’ve stopped every three hours, almost on the dot, but there’s still much longer to go. She almost regrets this decision - not the moving in with Niall part, but the “driving the entire way with a literal child in the backseat” part. Monica pats her shoulder comfortingly, assures her everything is going to be okay; worse comes to worst, they’ll get a hotel room for the night. Emilie blows out a breath and starts to put the car in gear when a trooper pulls up behind her. She immediately rolls down the window, puts both hands on the wheel, sits up straight, and waits.

“Ma’am, everything okay?” he asks once he’s approached the window, ducking a bit to peer into the backseat. He winces as Ryder lets out another shriek.

“Yeah, everything’s fine. Just had to pull over so my friend could get back there to calm m-my son down, that’s all.”

“Where you comin’ from?”

“Austin, heading to California.”

“Ooh, long drive. All right, well, drive safe. Remember to stop for the night if you get too tired.”

“I will. Thanks.”

Emilie waits until he’s pulled back onto the highway, blue lights flashing once before he’s gone. She catches Monica’s eye in the rear-view mirror. “I’m surprised he didn’t think I kidnapped Ry with how he’s carrying on back there.”

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, babe, just go.”

Ryder calms down after another hour, slowly growing quiet until that’s left are the smallest of whimpers before he starts snoring. Emilie adjusts the volume on the radio while Monica apologises and clambers over the middle console to drop into the passenger seat. Emilie purses her lips at the unsafe behaviour but doesn’t say anything. Stopping again might have woken Ry, and that is the last thing she wants right now, so she accepts that Monica’s actions might be reckless but it is what it is.

By the time Emilie pulls up behind Mully’s car outside of the fence, she’s been driving for almost seven hours straight, and her entire body aches. She blinks rapidly to clear the dryness from her eyes, though it’s unsuccessful, then reaches over to shake Monica awake.

“Hey, we’re here.”

Monica startles, drawing in a sharp breath as she jerks to full awareness, and her gaze darts across their surroundings. She glares at Emilie when she realises here means their final destination. “Why didn’t you wake me and make me take over?”

“Because I just wanted to get this damn drive over. It’s been almost twenty-seven hours, and I’m exhausted, so I stopped just long enough to get fuel and pee. That’s it. Can you please text my boyfriend and tell him we’re here? I think my body is giving up on me.”

Monica does as asked, and Emilie drops her head forward. She’s pretty sure she might actually have fallen asleep for a few minutes, but she comes back to earth at the sound of doors opening and closing, Ryder giggling, and warm fingers combing gently through her hair. She groans and turns her head, forces her eyes open to see Niall standing there.

“C’mon, love, let’s get you to bed.”

She mumbles something nonsensical - she isn’t even sure what she’s trying to say - but Niall only pushes her back into the seat and leans across her to unbuckle her belt. She leans heavily into his side as he guides her up the walk and into the house. Voices, muffled by her exhaustion, come from all around her, but she focuses on putting one foot in front of the other even as her legs threaten to give out with each step. The world sways around her, and abruptly, the floor slides out from under her feet. She’s enveloped by warmth, sturdiness, and she melts into it, though she can’t place why the scent is all wrong.