pomegranateAmeya stifled a yawn as she swiftly whisked five eggs in a glass bowl. “I don’t think it’ll be the entire day,” she said to Genevieve who perched on a stool near the counter. “If you’re worried about that.”

Genevieve shook her head and peered over her shoulder to where Tomas quietly fussed with his art kit.

Ameya’s gaze followed hers, falling fondly on her son’s bent head. “He won’t stop playing with it and insists on holding it to sleep… Thank you.”

“You’re most welcome,” Genevieve giggled. “At least that scruffy teddy that Neve gave him can finally rest.”

Ameya could only smile, returning her attention to the frothy eggs.

Genevieve eyed her friend’s downturned face for a moment and then cleared her throat. “Speaking of the cad… Where is he? I thought he was coming over for dinner.”

“He cancelled.”

Genevieve blinked in surprise. Idyo! “Really?”

Ameya shrugged. “Said something about his father feeling left out.”

Genevieve rolled her eyes and folded her arms. “I see.” What a coward.

“Why don’t you bring your mom over for dinner? I’ll make her a nice herbal soup.”

The two friends exchanged smiles and Genevieve nodded. “That works for me.” She scooted off the stool. “Besides, I’m sure Tomas would put her in a better mood.”

“Poor dear,” Ameya sighed, placing the bowl of eggs on the countertop. “What did Neve say?”

Genevieve heaved another sigh. “Nothing I haven’t heard before…” She frowned up at her friend. “I swear, medicine doesn’t do anything to help her. It seems the herbs you gave her are of much benefit than some silly heart pills.”

“Don’t let Neve hear that,” Ameya chuckled, turning around to ignite the fire under the stove. “Well, go get your Ma. I’ll be done with dinner shortly.”

Genevieve didn’t budge, staring at her friend’s back as she recalled the stunned look on Neve’s face. Judging by his absence, he was still shaken from her prodding and by Ameya’s nonchalant response; Genevieve knew the two hadn’t talked about their feelings for each other… or rather Neve’s feelings for Ameya. Even after eight years, the question remained whether Ameya was merely grateful to Neve for saving her from dying and for fostering her son without question. Or whether Ameya reciprocated Neve’s unrequited affection for her.

Ameya glanced over her shoulder and raised an inquisitive brow at Genevieve. “Uh, hello?”

Genevieve straightened quickly. “Uh, right.” With a half giggle, she spun on her heels and hurried out next door to usher her mother for dinner.

 —

“Why on earth is it taking you guys this long?” static muddled Tampa’s whining voice. “It’s been almost two months.”

“A month and a half,” Jonathan droned, staring at the wall in front of him. When Tampa clucked her tongue, Jonathan sighed. “Yeah, it’s my fault… Don’t blame Marcus.”

“Why not? He’s not being held against his own will,” Tampa groused, pausing when a toddler’s cry sounded in the background. “Oh Gayle dear… Hold still.”

“How are the kids?” Jonathan asked, finding it strange that he couldn’t hear any of them except the fussy Gayle, most likely wrestling in her mother’s arms.

“Tyler is at piano practice. Alison is doing homework and Ethan is watching Blue’s Clues.” She sighed. “And you already know what your impish niece is up to.”

“Piano practice?” Jonathan raised a brow, thinking of his opinionated first son who would rather be rough-housing at baseball practice than sit stiffly in front of a grand piano. “Your idea?”

“Nope. Mom’s. But you’re welcome,” Tampa replied. “He’s working hard on the Entertainer.”

“Wow.”

The two fell in silence, Jonathan picturing his three children and felt a stirring in his heart of not seeing them for a month. “I’m sorry, Tampa…”

“For what?”

Jonathan bit the inside of his cheek. For keeping this secret from you…

“Ugh, where’s that no-good husband of mine?”

“Is that Tampa?” Marcus hollered as he stepped out of the bathroom, rubbing his head with a towel.

“Good, let me talk to him,” Tampa muttered just as Jonathan handed his cell phone to Marcus.

“Hey honeycake—” Marcus started to say but paused, his brow furrowing deeply with each moment. No doubt Tampa was exercising her sharp tongue. “Okay, hold on, dear… Let me go somewhere quieter.” He stepped around Jonathan who stared at him with a bleak expression just as Hapta opened the hotel room with a newspaper in his hand.

Hapta scoffed as Marcus shut the door behind him. “And that’s why I got a divorce,” he mumbled, slapping his knee with the newspaper. “Women are craz…” he trailed off when he caught Jonathan’s intense glare. “Hmm, I have a question.”

Jonathan narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

Hapta nodded, taking Jonathan’s charged silence as permission to proceed. “How on earth did you four get together like that? Did Marcus really date your wife first?”

“Why is that important?” Every increasing moment with Hapta was driving Jonathan insane with annoyance.

“It’s just weird,” Hapta chuckled. “Your wife dated your brother-in-law. No wonder she seems more comfort—hey!” he exclaimed as the tall man swiftly closed the gap between them and seized him by the collar. Hapta sputtered, gaping up at the man now imprisoning him by the neck. “Let go of me!”

Marcus ducked back into the room just in time to see Jonathan hold a struggling Hapta by the collar. “Jon!” he rushed over and grabbed his brother-in-law’s arm. “Calm down. Let him go.”

Jonathan seethed in anger, his jaw clenched with pent-up fury as he recalled the open way Hannah stared up at Marcus as if she trusted her brother-in-law instead of her husband.

“It’s not worth it,” Marcus muttered, easing Jonathan’s loosening hold on Hapta’s collar.

Truth be told, he couldn’t blame Hapta for Hannah’s guarded stance to him. After all, she didn’t know either him or Marcus. Still, the truth hurt more than the lie he’d told himself eight years ago, that Hannah was gone forever. Even now, it felt like she would never return to him.

Marcus and Hapta watched carefully, holding their breath as Jonathan stepped away from the two of them and turned his back. Marcus whipped his head to glare down at Hapta. “What happened? What did you say to him?”

“I…” Hapta started to say, still stunned from Jonathan’s unexpected attack.

“It doesn’t matter what he said. He’s right.” He turned around to face Marcus, his face taut and void of emotion. “It’s no use. Let’s go back.”

Marcus’ eyes widened and his lips parted. “What…?”

Jonathan dared not blink or tears would fall unrestrained down his cheeks. “It’s been a month since I last saw my children… It’s irresponsible that I’m here while they’re—” He shook his head. “It’s no use.”

“You’re just going to give up?” Hapta finally spoke up, his voice hoarse but clearly incredulous of Jonathan’s choice.

Marcus groaned. “Will you give up now after eight years of waiting and praying? You’re not thinking clearly. I know it’s hard, Jon—“

“What do you know?” Jonathan spat bitterly, glaring at his brother-in-law, hating his placating tone. “Your wife isn’t staring right through you like you don’t exist.” He paused to take a breath, feeling the tears fall and despising himself for allowing things to be out of control. “It’s no use… I want to go home.”

With Jonathan bending his head in grave submission, the other two men glanced worriedly at each other.

<<Part 16 || Part 18>>

Advertisements