Noah and Wes's unit was back on duty the next day. They were sitting in the office doing paperwork, and Wes noticed how distracted Noah seemed to be.
"Your head's in the clouds, Marine," Wes commented. Noah snapped back to reality and apologized.
"I guess I'm still catching up on sleep from this weekend." Noah put his pen back to paper and tried to concentrate on the task at hand. The day would have been so much easier if they were at the gun range; not even Ayzlin could distract him when there was a gun in front of him and a target in the field. When he signed on for infantry, he never imagined he would spend so many hours in an office.
Wes moved his chair closer to Noah and tried to get out of hearing distance of the other men. "It's my sister, isn't it?"
Noah leaned back in the chair and ran his hands over his face and then over his short hair. "I'm not going to lie to you, man. I can't get her off my mind."
"What about Mandy?"
"I know this sounds awful, but right now all I can say is, what about her? She's great and there's history but she just doesn't measure up to Ayzlin."
"You've been with Mandy for a long time and Ayzlin was something different when you and Mandy were having a hard time. Give it a few weeks, you know? If you still feel like you can't get her off your mind, I'll give you her number."
Noah nodded and tried his best to concentrate on the papers in front of him. He knew he was going to have to have a long talk with Mandy, and soon.
"Hey, Ayzlin! You've got someone out here who wants to see you!"
Ayzlin rolled out from under the car and threw the wrench down next to her. She had grown up in this garage, and when her grandfather passed, he left everything to her. Working on cars had come naturally to her and to now own a garage, she couldn't have been happier. She was able to fix up the things her grandfather had let go after his health declined and the garage flourished under her management.
"If it's Frank, tell him a transmission on a classic car like that takes more than two days to order in and replace."
Donny, one of the mechanics in the garage, appeared beside her. "It's not Frank. It's David."
Ayzlin opened and closed her mouth a few times before she could think straight. She pushed herself off of the floor creeper and grabbed a rag to wipe the grease off of her hands. She took a deep breath before she rounded the corner that led from the garage to the front desk, letting her confidence build up a little before she faced him.
He was sitting in one of the chairs in the waiting area, looking nervous. Ayzlin cleared her throat, and David looked up, smiling shyly when he saw her. She kept her face stoic, determined to keep her guard up and not let his charms fool her.
"Ayzlin, it's so good to see you."
"What are you doing here?" she asked him. "I'm working."
"I know. I know you are, I just didn't think that you'd take my phone calls or see me if I tried to come to your apartment."
"Well, you were right about that. I'm not wild about seeing you here, either."
"Just hear me out. Please?" His eyes pleaded with her, and she gave in.
"Fine. Let's go in my office."
David followed her into her office and made sure to shut the door behind him. He wasn't really sure how she was going to take what he had to say but he had to try.
"Ayzlin, I miss you. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately and I know I overreacted. You were going through a tough time, and I wasn't there for you like I should've been. You lost your grandfather, and then we lost the baby. I kind of panicked. I know that I was too hard on you, and I'm sorry for that."
"Apology accepted. I'll see you around." She nodded and got up to open the door, but he stood and shut it.
"I want you back. I want to marry you and have a baby with you. I want us back to the way we were before life go so complicated."
She looked from him to the floor and back again, knowing her hesitation stemmed from Noah. Although it had been a month since their weekend together in San Diego, she had thought about him every night before she fell asleep. Still, as far as she knew, he hadn't even tried to contact her. Wes never mentioned anything about Noah when she talked to him. Scolding herself for letting things go beyond the weekend in her mind, she let her guard down for David. She put a hand on his shoulder and gave him a chaste kiss.
"It's good to have you back," she smiled.
Noah was packing some things when Wes came into their room and cursed. He dropped his mobile phone on the nightstand and fell back on the bed, arm over his eyes.
"Wes, man, what's going on? You all right?"
Wes shook his head and sat up to talk to Noah. "I just talked to my dad. Ayzlin got back together with David a month ago and didn't tell me."
"She's back with David?" Noah asked.
"Yeah. Dad finally told me because Ayzlin refused. I don't know how this happened."
Noah sat on the edge of his bed, trying to let things process through his mind. He still thought about Ayzlin every day, but since he and Mandy had split for good a few weeks before, he hadn't had the nerve to bring the subject back up to Wes and ask for Ayzlin's number or attempt to get in touch with her. It seemed now that it might've been too late. Or was it?
"Hey man, you're taking a couple weeks leave between here and the PCS, right?" Noah asked. Their unit had received orders that they would be relocating to a base in North Carolina, and most of the men were going to take the chance to visit their families before the new duty started.
"Yeah, for about a week and a half. Why?"
Noah shrugged. "This may be out of line, and if it is, I don't mean for it to be. I'm going to go home for a week or so, but what if I came and met up with you for a few days and I'll try to talk to Ayzlin?"
"That's not a bad idea," Wes said. "Do you think you could convince her to leave him?"
"I, uh, actually … Mandy and I broke it off a few weeks ago, Wes, and Ayzlin's still on my mind like I just saw her yesterday. If it's all right with you, I'd like to ask Ayzlin to leave David and be with me."
Wes didn't even have to think. "Who better to be with my sister than my best friend? Hell yeah it's all right with me!"
"Hey babe, do you want me to go with you?" David offered. Ayzlin was getting ready to pick Wes up from the airport and knew that there was a big discussion-and possibly lecture - coming her way.
"I don't think that's a good idea, David. Wes isn't exactly thrilled about you and I being back together," Ayzlin informed him. "I'll call you when we get to my dad's, okay?"
"All right," David replied. He went back to watching television and only broke his attention to kiss her goodbye. Ayzlin thought good and hard the entire way to the airport. She knew Wes was going to drill her about being with David and she didn't want to him to know that she was having her doubts - although that would be virtually impossible with how well Wes knew her. Since she had agreed to get back together with David, things were going well. He was supportive and attentive as ever, and almost overly affectionate. The problem was that their relationship lacked the passion she wanted; it lacked the passion she'd had with Noah.
"Little sister!" Wes grinned as he came down through the security gates. Ayzlin laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck, allowing him to pick her up off the ground.
"I feel like it's been forever since I've seen you," Ayzlin gushed. "Are you ready for Carolina?"
"After being home for a few days, yeah," Wes answered. They waited for his luggage and then made way for the parking lot. Once they were both buckled in and on their way, Wes wasted no time in getting to his point. "All right, talk to me about David."
"What about him? I mean, we were together for six years before everything happened. It's not completely outrageous that we're back together." Ayzlin checked her mirrors and then merged onto the highway.
"Because when it mattered most, he wasn't there for you!"
"And he apologized for that and has done a fantastic job of making it up to me. Since we've been back together, he's been the perfect boyfriend."
"Yeah, now tell me how much you want to just kick him in the ass," Wes snorted. "I see right through you. You're with him because he's safe and now that he's treating you well, you're all pretending to be happy. Maybe you can fool David, and maybe you can fool Dad enough to where he only has his suspicions, but you can't fool me."
Ayzlin kept silent for a few minutes. "Wes, please don't tell anyone."
Wes watched Ayzlin wipe tears away, and his heart went out to her. He took one of her hands in both of his and hugged her as best he could while she was driving.
"I won't tell anyone, but you're not going to be able to keep hiding it forever. If you don't want to be with him, then don't. It's that easy."
She shook her head. "No, Wes, it's not. I don't know how to be with anyone else."
"What about Noah?"
The tears stopped and Ayzlin nearly rear-ended the car in front of her. "What about him?"
Realizing he'd almost ruined the plan he and Noah had hatched, he shrugged it off. "I'm just saying that you did all right being with him. And by that reaction I'm guessing you still think about him a lot."
"I know he's your friend, Wes, but Noah was just a weekend. If he wanted to be with me, he would've called me by now. Has he ever even asked you about me?"
"Once," Wes admitted. "Look, we'll talk about this more later, okay? We're almost at Dad's and I don't want any crap for working you up right when I got here. Dad didn't want me making a big deal out of this thing with you and David."
"Fine," Ayzlin agreed. She called David when she got to her father's house and told him that it was better that he didn't come over that night; of course, he agreed without argument and told her he'd see her later.
The week that Wes was home flew by faster than Ayzlin would have thought it would. She saw him every day he was there. Wes figured his sister was using him as an excuse to avoid David while she could, but he couldn't have cared less. Noah was set to be in town soon and then hopefully Ayzlin would get rid of David for good. Noah drove up from his Texas hometown, where he was going to pick up Wes and they would drive to Carolina together, no matter how things went with Ayzlin.
"Hey Wes," Noah greeted. "I think I'm going to be at that hotel in about five minutes."
"Cool, man. I just got off the phone with Ayzlin and she'll be home from the garage in about thirty minutes. That should give you time to check in and get to her place."
"All right. I'll let you know how it goes." Noah flipped the phone shut, his nerves on edge. Wes had told him of his conversation with Ayzlin and he knew that she didn't want to be with David, but that didn't necessarily mean that she wanted to be with him. Through the six hour drive, he had thought of every possible reason they should be together and everything he could say to convince her to just give him a chance. By the time he pulled into her apartment complex, his mind was blank and he felt like he was going to have a heart attack. It's now or never, he told himself. He found her apartment and took a deep breath before knocking on the door.
Ayzlin's face was smudged with car grease, and her hair was pulled back from her face. Her t-shirt had a large oil stain on the front and her jeans looked like they had been washed in a multitude of garage fluids; Noah thought she looked like an angel.
"What are you doing here?" Ayzlin asked, her eyes wide.
"Hey Ayzlin," he said, his voice gruff. Ayzlin's knees nearly buckled, but she managed to keep herself upright. "I came up to meet Wes, but I wanted to see you. To talk to you. I mean, to see you so that I could talk to you."
"Yeah, okay. Do you want to come in?" She stepped back so that he could enter the apartment and then turned to face him. "I'm sorry, I just got off work. I'm kind of a mess right now."
"No, it's okay. You look absolutely beautiful."
Ayzlin blushed. "Thanks. Do you want something to drink? Are you hungry?"
"No, I'm okay. Thanks, though." He took a deep breath and plunged in head first. "Wes said you and David are back together."
"We are. About a month after I came home from San Diego, he came to see me at work, and we had a good talk."
"Wes also said that you weren't happy."
Ayzlin rolled her eyes. "So that's why you're really here? To be Wes's advocate and help convince me to leave David?"
"Yes," Noah answered. "Well, no. Yes and no. I'm here to convince you to leave David, but not necessarily for Wes. I'm just here for me, Ayzlin. I want you to be with me."
Although she had dreamed of this moment since she got on the plane in San Diego, she was only filled with anger. "I haven't heard from you for two months, Noah. You want to come in here and just ask me to drop my life the way it is and be with you?"
"I know I didn't keep in touch with you, but we both had some things to figure out. I didn't hear from you either, remember? And then Wes comes in one day and tells me that you're back with David and everything just crashed."
"All of you men are the same, you know? You only want what you can't have. I'm glad that now that I'm with David again you decide you want to be together."
Noah was finally ready to argue back. "The only reason why you're staying with David is because he's safe. You know that's what it is and don't even try to argue!"
"So what if I want to stay with someone I'm safe with? What's so wrong about that?"
"A simple 'no' would've answered my question just fine, but you got defensive and that's how I know you know being with him is wrong. Do you remember a promise we made not to settle? Well, I kept up my end. I let Mandy go. You don't think you're settling with David?"
"You and I had a great weekend together, Noah, but it was just the weekend. I'm sorry, but there's nothing more for us," Ayzlin told him quietly. "It was good to see you though."
Noah shook his head and left without another word.