“Ah…no, thanks. I can’t stay long.” Nayome tried not to let the sinking feeling in her gut reflect in her tone.
“So what brought you by?” Nick asked curiously.
“I…” Nayome hadn’t expected this. Hadn’t even considered that his memories would have been taken…but why was she so surprised? Feeling cold, she cleared her throat and continued. “I felt bad about missing the open house. I should have called, but I was in the neighborhood and just decided to check in.”
Nick smiled distractedly. “I”m glad you did. I was just putting together something for dinner. You’re welcome to stay? I’m sure Cindy will welcome some adult company that isn’t mine.”
Nayome was shaking her head before he finished. She needed to get out of here. But she needed to know they hadn’t been hurt. “How was the open house? Something urgent came up, otherwise I would have been there.”
“It was great. Not too many people made it, but it was good for Abigail to meet some more family and friends.”
Nayome nodded, looking for any indication of stress or strain on Nick’s face as he recalled the day. He just smiled, a bit oddly at her, Nayome realized because she was staring.
“Is everything alright, Nay?”
“Yes. Of course, I’m just distracted coming from work,” Nayome lied. “How about I come back, when it’s better timing. I would love to meet Abigail properly.”
Nick smiled gratefully. “Yeah, she’s not having a great day. It would be great for you to meet her, she’s…well, I can’t believe she came from me.” Nick’s eyes shone with love, his exhaustion fading for a moment.
* * *
Nayome decided to go on foot to the nearest subway station, gulping in the fresh air as she walked briskly down the sidewalk. Her visit with Nick, though short, had been just what she needed to get her head back on straight. Gabe must have manipulated Nick and Cindy’s memories. It explained why Nick had called her a few times after she was taken in, then abruptly stopped reaching out. She had chalked it up to him being busy with a newborn, but…if she had witnessed someone she knew getting taken into federal custody, no amount of busy would eliminate that concern.
She had been so preoccupied with her own drama, she hadn’t even checked to make sure Nick and Cindy were alright. She should have expected Gabe would want to clean everything up, including that scene in Nick’s driveway.
Nick’s street was in a nice, quiet residential area, but a few blocks had her back into a busy sector. The traffic was loud, the people even louder. There was an old man with a long gray beard standing on a rickety looking stool, giving a sermon to anyone who would listen while people rushed by him to cross a bustling intersection. The smell of greasy pizza and beer wafted out of a little hole in the wall joint she stormed past. It almost gave her pause, but she was too agitated to stop. Those were the places where you could get the best slices, the ones that looked like nothing on the outside, and her stomach reminded her she had barely eaten today with an audible growl.
Checking the time on her cell, Nayome groaned. She was going to be late to meet Dani. Picking up the pace, she descended into the white and green tiled underground. It had rained recently, so the air felt dank and humid. A group of people had just stepped off the train, so she had to dodge a human traffic jam moving int he opposite direction as she stepped onto the platform. Nayome started to jog as she heardstand clear of the closing doors, please.
Sliding into a car just as the doors slid shut behind her, she let her head fall back against the glass window, feeling the shuffle of the train as it launched forward into motion.