Feels Like Forever



Unfortunately, Emilie didn’t get a chance to talk to Niall that night - she’d tried her damnedest to stay awake but was fast asleep by the time he came home. She spent all of the next day fearing that Mully would tell Niall about their argument, but those worries were unfounded. There’s been no mention of the near-shouting match from Monday night, and the last two days have been relatively uneventful.

Thursday finds her on the back patio, dialling her mother’s number while she watches Ryder play in the twilight sun. Rose answers immediately, as if her psychic Mom powers alerted her to the fact that her infinite wisdom is needed. The first thing out of Emilie’s mouth is:

“He wants to get married.”

Silence echoes damningly down the line, then her mother clears her throat quietly. “He proposed?”

“Not... exactly.” Emilie sighs. “We had a talk the other night, and he wanted to know what our relationship was working towards. He said he wants marriage and stuff.”

“And what do you think?”

“I think I’m confused. I mean, a part of me is saying no, not happening ever, why can’t he be happy with our relationship as it is.”

“But another part of you is thinking maybe it ain’t so bad?”


“Honey, this is something you gotta figure out for yourself. I can sit here and tell you how amazing and terrible my marriage to your father was, and Paige could do the same. So could your daddy. But this decision is yours to make, and that can only happen if you’re honest with yourself. What are you so scared of?”

Emilie stares at Ryder, happily pushing a car across the patio without a care in the world. As much as she wishes her mother would tell her what to do, she knows Rose is right. Swallowing hard, Emilie lets out a slow breath.

“I’m scared that if we do get married and things go back to how it was, I won’t be able to leave.”

Rose hums, the sound achingly familiar from all the times Emilie sought advice when she was younger and first got her heart broken. “Em, you’ve proved you could leave once. Yes, your mama told me. But you did it. You realised you deserved better than how you felt, and you left.”

“But I went back.”

“Yes, you did, and things have been better since, right?”

“I can’t just keep running away to make things better, Mom. I can’t keep waiting for the shoe to drop, leave when it does, and hope it’s enough to change things.”

“Do you think it’s gonna happen again?”

“I didn’t think it would happen the first time,” protests Emilie as she shoves her hand through her hair, pushing to her feet to pace around.


She exhales sharply, rolls her eyes. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Then trust that you left once and you can do it again if it comes to that. Beyond that, though, trust him. Now tell me the plans for Ryder’s birthday this year. I wanna try to come down for it.”

She snorts quietly but admits she’s not even began to plan the party. Her life has been too hectic lately, and it’s only just now started to settle again. Unlike before, though, it isn’t nearly as lonesome, even when Niall isn’t home. They both take time for their relationship, they go to great lengths to make sure it’s worth fighting for.

Once she’s ended the call with her mother, Emilie crouches down next to Ryder, runs her hand over his hair. He grins up at her, and warmth blossoms beneath her ribs. The one thing she has never, ever doubted - not even for a second - is that he’s worth everything she has ever gone through. The sleepless nights and endless days and high fevers and snotty nose… Ryder is worth all of it.

When she wakes Friday morning, it’s to the sound of a toddler crying and calling her name. Emilie rushes out of bed before Niall can do so much as open his eyes, hurries to Ryder’s bedroom, and freezes instantly at the door. Bile creeps up her throat at the sight and smell, but she swallows it down and crosses the room to the bedside.

“Hey, baby, it’s okay. Auntie Em is here.”

“I sick,” he whimpers, holding up filthy hands so she can see.

“I know, honey, I know. And I’m sure it scared you. Let’s get you cleaned up, okay?”

As much as she doesn’t want to, Emilie scoops him up into her arms and carries him to the bathroom. Ryder sniffles as she strips his soiled clothes off of him, tosses them to the side, and she presses her lips to his forehead. His skin is warm but not alarmingly so. She smiles as comfortingly as she can.

“Bath time for sick little boys.”

All he does is nod and raise a hand to scrub at his face. Emilie yelps, tugs his fist away, and his lower lip wobbles. Whispering an apology, she holds him close and reaches for the tap. He sighs heavily, the sour odour of vomit floating in the air between them, and her stomach churns violently.

“What happened?”

She glances up from where she’s sat in the bottom of the tub, Ryder clinging tightly to her, and opens her mouth to answer Niall’s question. Anything that might make this less... odd. All she can do, though, is shrug helplessly.

“He threw up and is now doing his best impression of a spider monkey. So we’re taking a bath together.”

“You’re -“

“Dressed, yes, I know. As I said, spider monkey.”

“Ni-Ni, I sick.”

“I can see that, bud. How about we let Auntie Emilie go take her own shower, though? She has to go to work today.”

“I was gonna call off,” she says quietly, and Niall frowns.

“I can take care of him.”

“I - Niall, I know this. I trust that you can take care of him. But he’s sick. I hate being away from him when he’s feeling poorly. Besides, Desiree will understand.”

“If you really want to, go ahead.”

Something on his face tells Emilie that Niall isn’t quite so reassured about her faith in him. Her gut lurches sharply, and she swallows down another refusal to go to work. Kissing Ryder’s damp hair, she carefully pries the toddler’s arms from around her neck and sets him down on his feet.

“Be good for Ni-Ni, okay? Auntie Emilie will be back home as soon as she can.”

He whines but lets Niall take over on clean-up duty. Emilie hesitates for a second, just long enough to watch Ryder trying to climb onto Niall, then she heads to the other bathroom for a shower. Thankfully, her body wash does its job of getting the smell of vomit out of her skin.

Unfortunately, her plans of rushing home immediately after her shift is over get derailed by a very exuberant Annie. It takes ten minutes, and an encouraging text from Niall, but Emilie agrees that maybe a night out with her coworkers won’t be such an awful idea. Logan tells her that he and Annie will be at hers to pick her up at eight-thirty, so she better be ready.

“I don’t think I should go.”

Niall doesn’t bother stifling his sigh this time, doesn’t look up from whatever he’s doing on his laptop, and Emilie sticks her tongue out at him. In his defence, she’s waffled between going and staying home since she stepped through the door. Now she’s stood in the middle of their bedroom in only her underwear, rifling through the clothes hanging up and trying to think of a valid reason to say no.

Ryder hasn’t thrown up since this morning, which is one less worry on her mind. But... she has to prove to Niall that she trusts him. One shift away from the two of them isn’t enough. She knows this. She just hates feeling like she’s being selfish.

“Babe -“

“No. I’m not entertaining this argument any more.” Niall finally sets his laptop aside, reaches for her. “You’ve worked at Tiny Tots for six months, and you have never once hung out with your coworkers outside of work. You deserve to have fun, let off steam, and be an individual person.”

“You’re right,” she admits after a long minute, nodding succinctly to convince herself that he’s absolutely correct.

“Of course I am. Now go on, get ready.”

Emilie finds an off-the-shoulder belted dress towards the back of her line of clothes, biting her lip as she stares at it. Will she be too dressed up if she wears it? Grumbling to herself that she should have asked what the others are wearing, she tugs it off the hanger and hurries to get it on.

Now that she’s dressed, her stomach flutters, and her hand start shaking. The only people she has ever gone out to a bar with have been Monica and Derek, and even then, that was after hanging out at each other’s homes multiple times first - and only if she knew without a doubt that Danielle wouldn’t be hounding her for a babysitter. But she doesn’t let herself change her mind again. As nerve-wracking as this is, it’s also the best choice she can make for the night.

It took its toll on her, going between work and home with no socialisation outside of her coworkers, professors, and the people she lives with. It brought about a physical aching in her chest to stare at the same four walls day after day. Feeling so isolated had only exacerbated her unhappiness, so going out tonight can only help. Right?

“I’ll keep my phone turned up,“ she promises as she heads downstairs, tottering slightly in her heels. “Call if there are any problems.”

Niall’s hands are gentle but firm on her shoulders, and he holds her still to press a kiss to her pink-tinted lips. “I just want you to focus on being a gorgeous woman out with her friends and stop worrying about us. Ry and I will be fine.”

“I know. I, uh, I’m not good at this.”

“I noticed. Just... have fun. That’s your only goal for tonight.”

With another kiss, he steers her to the front door, hands her the purse hanging on the hook, and pulls open the door. Annie’s Honda sits out front already, the bass-line of her music thumping quietly. Emilie lets out a soft laugh and assures Niall that she will be home before midnight. He rolls his eyes but doesn’t argue, just watches her go. Annie cheers when Emilie slides into the passenger seat, pulling out onto the street, and Emilie watches her boyfriend and home disappearing from view.