Nicole was at the dentist, bright and early, Tuesday morning. The main lobby was practically empty. Besides herself, there was an old man who looked to be somewhere in his 70’s. His arms were crossed, and his head bowed as he started to slowly fall asleep. His head did ‘the jerk’ as he tried to keep himself from falling asleep.
The other was a mother and her young son. The mother looked tired and defeated. The young boy seemed to be a handful as he kept pestering the woman for her cell phone. Nicole watched on as she tried to keep her resolve. It was fruitless. The boy was persistent, and the mother eventually caved and gave him the phone, so she could have a few minutes of peace.
There was quick, bright burst of color seen out of Nicole’s peripheral vision that drew her attention away from people watching. She looked to her left and marveled at all the vivid, beautiful saltwater fish swimming in the large 120-gallon tank. There were Tangs, Hawkfish, Dottybacks, Butterflies, Clownfish, and Seahorses galore. There was an abundance of color reflecting back at Nicole.
One particular Blue Tang swam by her and swam back again. And again. Nicole continued to watch the peculiar fish. She saw the fish swim straight at her. It slowed in its movements. Its big eyes seemingly bulging out and taking water in through its mouth and out, forcing the water over the gill passages. Nicole thought it looked like someone in shock with wide eyes and erratic breathing. She decided to make the fishy face back at the Tang. It seemed to offend the fish as it took off quickly through the tank.
“You’re not anything like Dory,” Nicole muttered under her breath.
Her eyes dropped down briefly letting her gaze drift over the magazine cover on the table beside her. By the time her brain registered what she had seen, her eyes drifted slowly back over the magazine cover. A pair of unforgettable, sparkling, warm hazel eyes stared back at her. The smile that was etched into her mind forever was staring back at her. The shine in her hair was brighter than ever. Nicole knew for a fact that it was not edited in any way.
She slowly reached for the magazine. As the tips of her fingers brushed the cover, the door to the back offices slammed open and her name was called. She jumped back as the sudden movement startled her. She quickly gathered her coat and made her way towards the waiting dental hygienist.
Nicole hadn’t thought of her in quite some time. Sure, she had seen the billboards, the trailers on TV, and the daytime TV interviews. She knew her now as Hollywood’s Golden Girl. Nicole couldn’t remember the last time she thought of her as just a friend. They hadn’t spoken in years. Nicole doubts she would even remember her.
The thoughts were flying a mile a minute through her head. She thought she had moved on from those old thoughts and feelings. She had closed herself off and made herself forget that at one time they both knew each other better than themselves.
Nicole frowned slightly. The one time she had her guard down, she is flooded with emotions and memories of her childhood.
She knew she needed to pull herself together. She couldn’t let this happen. She was hit with the understanding that she needed to build her wall taller and her skin thicker.
The dental hygienist held their arm out towards the chair dedicated for Nicole. She took a seat and before she could get lost going down memory lane, the slew of typical dental hygiene questions began.
Later that night, when the world became silent and still, Nicole’s mind wandered back to her childhood.
She had a normal childhood, for the most part. She had a loving mom and dad. She had plenty of friends, excelled in school, and was an excellent athlete. Until her entire world was turned upside down. At the end of her 6th grade year, she was involved in a car accident that claimed the life of her mom.
Her dad held it together the best he could for her. They had a funeral and a wake. They went through the typical, grieving motions. Until her dad realized that couldn’t fully let go and move on; they needed to start fresh somewhere. That somewhere was Purgatory, Canada.
It was the second saddest day of Nicole Haught’s life. She had lost her mother and now was about to lose everything else she loved. She didn’t understand why her entire life had to be turned upside down. She couldn’t comprehend the heartbreak her father felt at losing his soulmate when her mom had so many more years left in the world. She was too young to understand the adult decisions her dad made for her.
Nicole remembered the large moving van and how loud it was. She remembered watching her home get smaller and smaller until it disappeared from sight in the car’s side mirror.
The memory was so vivid for her that she could almost feel the tears that streamed down her face. She remembered thinking that she was never going to talk to her dad again. He made a bad situation worse. The inner workings of a selfish pre-teen.
As her dad drove cautiously through their new neighborhood, Nicole remembered watching the different color houses blend together. Nothing of any importance was noticeable enough to catch and keep her attention. That is until they passed a two-story light gray house. It had a small covered front porch with enough room for a bistro table and chairs set. There were beautiful white shutters that were paired with every window on the front of the house. There was a newly planted Quaking Aspen sapling placed strategically in the front yard. She remembered the details of the house in future years, but that wasn’t what caught her attention.
In the front yard, there were two small girls. They looked very similar in age; one was maybe a couple of years older. The older girl had on a pair of jean overalls and a yellow and red plaid short sleeved shirt underneath. Her hair was wild and untamed. She was attempting to learn how to skateboard in their driveway. She wasn’t doing very well.
Nicole quietly laughed to herself.
For some reason she thought falling was one of the funniest things ever, except when someone was really hurt. As the car kept going, her eyes then fell on the younger sister. She was sitting on the porch step with a large book on her lap, keeping a watchful eye on her older sister. Once she saw her sister was alright, her nose was back in the book and didn’t come back up until her sister landed on the ground again. She had on a cute little navy-blue dress. It had a white collar and white buttons and was sleeveless. She had on large, round glasses that reminded Nicole of Harry Potter’s.
As Nicole’s eyes landed on the younger girl, and she looked up and their eyes connected instantaneously. The two girls kept eye contact until they no longer could.
They passed three more houses and Nicole’s dad finally pulled into the new driveway. Nicole got out and stretched her gangly limbs. Her thoughts drifted to the book reading girl. She wondered if she could see her house from the end of her driveway. She walked to the edge of the driveway and peered around the hedge the ran parallel to their driveway.
She found herself inches away from the older girl’s face. Nicole let out a startled scream and took a step backwards but tripped over her untied shoelace. She felt herself fall to the ground. She looked up from the ground at the older girl laughing hysterically. She was bent over with her hands wrapped around her stomach.
Nicole had never heard such a sweet, lyrical voice before. Her attention diverted in the direction the voice came from.
“That’s not how you should treat the new neighbors!!”
The girl, Nona, slowed her laughing. “Aw Waves, you’re no fun!”
“Did you even offer to help her up?”
“Of course not!”
The smaller girl shot a glare towards her sister. She then gave Nicole all her attention.
“Are you okay?”
Nicole could only nod. She wasn’t sure what this weird, swirly feeling was she had in her stomach.
“You’ve scared the only girl my age on this street! Are you happy Nona?”
Nona blew her lips together to make a raspberry. “Psssh, I’m sure its fine Waves. You are the nicest kid around. Didn’t your 6th grade class vote?”
“That’s not the point!”
Nicole watched on as the two sisters bickered back and forth. Suddenly the youngest sister addressed her, “Here take my hand. Since my sister has no manners, I’ll have to make up for them.”
She said those words with the most radiant smile Nicole had ever seen before. She grabbed the outstretched hand. She felt, but ignored, the almost electric feeling pass between them. Their joined hands serving as a conductor.
“So do you have a name or what?” The older girl chimed in.
“Uh yeah. My name is Nicole. Nicole Haught.”
This made the younger girl smile even more. “This pleasant human behind me is my older sister, Wynonna.”
Nicole gave her a small wave with the other hand that wasn’t still joined with the younger girl. She turned her attention back to the girl in front of her.
“And my name is Waverly Earp.”
Nicole was brought out of her recollection of how she met the woman on the cover of the magazine earlier by her phone vibrating in her pocket. She had an odd feeling when she reached for her phone.
When she saw who had texted her, she wasn’t entirely shocked. It had been a while since she had heard from her. They had kept in touch over the years. Nicole slid her phone open, opened the messaging app, and froze. The words that appeared on the screen couldn’t be true. She had no idea how to feel. She reread the line over and over again. The intensity of the emotions Nicole felt became overwhelming.
She set the phone down on the counter and stepped out into the cool evening air.
“She texted you that?” Jeremy exclaimed. “Nothing else?”
Nicole met Jeremy for breakfast the following day at their favorite retro diner. She had met Jeremy about a year after she graduated high school.
“Nope,” Nicole said as she popped the ‘p’. “That was the entirety of the message. I hadn’t heard from Wynonna for almost a year. The suddenly, out of the blue, she sends me this message.”
Jeremy looked at his friend with sympathy in his eyes.
Nicole let out a sigh.
“I don’t know what to do with this information Jeremy. It’s been 8 years. I haven’t heard from Waverly in 8 years. It was like she forgot about me. Like all those years meant nothing. She went off and started her new, glamorous life. She got everything she ever wanted.”
Jeremy was more in the loop than his best friend knew. He also received the same text message that Nicole did. He knew Wynonna had been sending Nicole the occasional text message over the years. Wynonna knew how important Jeremy was to Nicole, so her reasoning was to have someone be there for Nicole when the inevitable happened.
“What are you going to do?”
Nicole stared out the window and thought for a moment about what she should do with the information sent to her.
She turned to her friend, “I have no idea.”
One of Nicole’s greatest loves was music. She was more than happy to take over her dad’s record store when he retired. She had gone to college straight out of high school and majored in business with a minor in music. She completed her rigorous schedule in four years and graduated with honors. Her dad had taken her on as a protégé. She had to earn her position to run his business, which she did handily. The business has been hers for the last three years.
Two years ago, her dad had sadly passed away. He went in for a check-up with no prior health problems and left with the news that he had Stage IV pancreatic cancer. Nicole went into research mode, trying to find everything she could about this disease. She found out that once diagnosed, the person has a five-year survival rate of 1%.
Her dad barely made it to a year after he was diagnosed.
When he passed, Nicole leaned heavily on Jeremy. She had nobody else. No other family in the area. Wynonna sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers expressing her sympathies. She received sympathies from Waverly through text from Wynonna.
It was that moment where Nicole knew that Waverly had become a victim to the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Nicole was baffled. The girl she used to know was sweet, caring, and kind. For her to not be woman enough to send her own message was callous. It felt impersonal, like Waverly was trying to disconnect herself from conveying any level of emotion.
When she wasn’t hanging out with Jeremy, she was hanging out in the record store. She self-taught herself to play the guitar. Her dad left her the record store as well as his 1950’s Epiphone Les Paul Standard ‘50’s electric guitar. The reds and yellows of the heritage cherry sunburst seemed as bright as they were when the guitar was purchased by her dad. Nicole took great pride in taking care of her dad’s most prized possession.
After Nicole left the diner, she headed towards the record store as if she were on auto pilot. The bells jingled as she opened the door, and heard her employee yell out, “Welcome to Red Bedroom Records!”
Rachel finally caught sight of who entered the store. Her face fell a little bit, “Oh, it’s just you.”
“Wow! What a way to make a girl feel good about herself,” Nicole said with a mocking tone.
“It’s just been so slow today,” Rachel whined.
“Well, I appreciate you looking after the store for me on such short notice.”
“As much as I complain about this store and you, I actually enjoy the atmosphere of the place.”
Nicole let out a little smile. Rachel wasn’t known for showing or expressing her emotions, so this was a big deal! At the beginning of this unlikely friendship, Nicole had no choice but to take Rachel on. She was caught with her friend, Billy, tagging walls behind the gym at the local high school. Rachel had to volunteer her time to work at the record store. After her community service time was up, Nicole decided to offer her a part-time position which Rachel accepted without hesitation.
“I know you do,” Nicole said as she shot Rachel a wink.
The high schooler rolled her eyes at Nicole.
“Anyways, its time I head on home to get my homework done.”
“Alright. Thanks again Rachel. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Nicole listened as the door clanged shut. She once again found herself surrounded by silence. She walked over to the audio system connected throughout the entire store and started playing Chuck Berry. ‘Roll Over Beethoven’ filled the speakers and filled the space with a perfect mixture of rhythm and blues with rock and roll.
She picked up her Les Paul and began to play along. She played the guitar riffs perfectly. Her fingers flew nimbly over the strings. She hit every chord with perfection. As she played, her mind began to wander back to the text message she had received the night before. She thought about what the information meant and how it made her feel.
Waverly wasn’t the only Earp Nicole had developed a close friendship with. Wynonna was Nicole’s partner in crime. Wherever they went, there was sure to be trouble that followed. This lasted all the way through high school, until the day after graduation. That day was when everything changed. Nicole’s world was once again turned upside down.
Her thoughts were running rampant with the past, but in the present her fingers were plucking each note perfectly as Berry’s voice rang out with the recognizable tune of ‘Johnny B. Goode.’ Her rough, calloused fingers glided over her guitar with dexterity. Her eyes closed as she felt the music move through her.
As the song faded out, Nicole was brought back to the present; just in time to hear the ending lyrics.
“Go Johnny go
Go go go Johnny go
Go go go Johnny go
Go go go Johnny go
Her eyes flew open at the imagery that flooded her senses. The lines of the song brought back a memory Nicole had locked away. She had been successful in compartmentalizing certain memories, but somehow they were starting to seep through.
She heard a voice, angry and hurt, in her mind as clear as day.
Go. Go on. Go. Just go Waverly.
She felt every emotion from that day, and it was stifling. She knew she needed to compose herself.
The store was still open, and anyone could walk through the doors.
Nicole put the guitar up and switched the music to something less stimulating and rested her hands on the glass counter. Her head was bowed downwards as she let the calming music relax her.
As much as she tried to lessen the tension in her body, she saw those four words continuously flash through her mind like a news ticker at the bottom of the television screen during the daily news airing.
We are coming home.
Nicole flipped the sign on the door over to read ‘Closed.’ She walked to the counter to finish up her nightly routine before she headed home. It had been a long, slow day, not to mention emotionally draining.
She couldn’t wait to get home to her adorable and ridiculously fluffy cat, Calamity Jane. She wanted to wrap herself up in a blanket, grab a glass of chocolate almond milk, and watch Chicago Fire. With the cliffhanger last week, she had to find out if anything happened with Brett and Casey.
As she finished closing up, she heard the familiar jingle of the door. Without looking up, she called out, “Sorry we’re closed.”
“Even for old friends?”
She stopped what she was doing when she heard a voice she hadn’t heard in eight years. She looked up slowly and was met with piercing blue eyes she wouldn’t ever forget.