Strangers of the Past: Part XVIII
Posted on 05/01/2013
“Just one more day,” Marcus pleaded gently, patting Jonathan’s shoulder as they walked under the arch to the main entrance of the hotel. Ameya had called Marcus’ phone to inform him they would be visiting a historical site and she was on her way. As they stood outside with Hapta, watching for the dusty blue van, Marcus risked a glance at Jonathan’s taut face. The man had barely said a word after last night, having sobbed aloud in front of the two men. Marcus managed a smile when Jonathan’s gaze turned to him and he nodded silently, hoping that would encourage him to wait.
Hapta sighed at the silence between the two men and squinted in the direction of the road ahead. He then let out a relieved laugh as he walked toward the approaching tour van. “I’ve never been more relieved to see that woman and her dusty old van…”
Ameya couldn’t put her finger on it but something about this troupe was different. Uneasy, she shifted in the driver’s seat and glanced once at the rearview mirror. The tall, olive-skinned man sat as quietly as he always did but this time, there was something restrained about the way he sat. He seemed stiffer than usual.
She frowned, shifting her gaze to the man sitting beside him. Even Marcus was solemnly quiet. Hapta tried to keep conversation but even he was a bit stilted in speech. Something wrong had happened. She could feel the thick tension in the van.
Squeezing the steering wheel, she cleared her throat to mask the silence. “Did someone die?”
Marcus turned his eyes to the back of her head and managed a smile. “Sorry?”
Ameya shrugged. “Bad attempt to get your attention. What’s wrong with you guys?” She noticed that Hapta turned his head slightly to face the two men in the back and she frowned deeply. “Did something happen?”
Marcus chuckled but even his laugh was forced. “Not really… Just didn’t sleep too well last night.” He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “So this Church of the Assumption… how did it get its name?”
She raised her brow but chose not to delve further since it was clearly not her business. “Well, the Church of the Assumption is a community, and many other countries have their own communities… The cathedral in Soufriere is one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve seen.” She signaled to the left and glanced at her side mirror to avoid looking at Mr. Harris’ solemn face. “I’m sure you will appreciate it for your research. By the way, how is that going?”
Hapta cleared his throat and Marcus held back a long-suffering sigh. With Jonathan’s abrupt announcement to leave for Houston tomorrow, there was no way they could continue this farce. “It’s okay…” Marcus managed to say, leaning back in his seat.
Almost an hour of silence in the van and even Ameya was more than relieved when she saw the steeple of the quiet cathedral with a mountain to its left and blanket of trees to its right. Maneuvering the clunky van down the narrow street, Ameya looked for an empty spot to park. “It’s often difficult to find a place to park during this time…” she said in barely over a whisper.
“Why’s that?” Hapta asked, peering out the window for an empty parking spot.
“Tourists,” Ameya replied, grinning as she spotted a couple strolling toward a parked rental Mercedes.
She watched a few minutes later as the men quietly filed out of the car and stood by the sidewalk while she deposited coins into a newly-installed meter. Clucking her tongue, Ameya risked a glance in their direction, especially at the brooding man standing beside a solemn-faced Marcus and an antsy-looking Hapta, all three gazing at the cathedral up ahead. She frowned. Something was definitely wrong with them.
Hesitating for only a moment, Ameya rolled her eyes heavenward before heaving a deep sigh. The three men finally looked her way. “Do you want to reschedule?”
Marcus’ thick brows furrowed. “Why?”
“I don’t have time to play Chief Jester for four hours so you three can look uninterested.” Ameya placed her hands on her hips and glared up at them. “So what’s it going to be? Stay here and try to look like you want to be here…” Her eyes moved from Hapta who glanced away quickly, to Marcus who looked half-amused and finally to Jonathan who just stared at her bleakly. Ameya frowned at him, annoyed that he seemed the most ungrateful for her time investment. “You especially, Mr. Harris.”
Jonathan sighed and turned his eyes away.
Ameya’s jaw almost dropped. Did he roll those striking gray eyes at her?
Marcus noticed her flabbergasted expression and stepped forward. “No, we want to be here. Sorry, still trying to wake up.”
“Jet lag,” Hapta suggested with a crooked smile.
Ameya eyed the two men trying to placate her. “Fine… let’s go.” She threw a glare at the brooding Jonathan before stepping onto the sidewalk. The three men fell in line and with her chin hitched up a notch; she led the way toward the grand cathedral doors.
Marcus nudged Jonathan in the side. “Come on, Jon,” he whispered fiercely, one eye on Ameya as they followed her down the narrow path to the cathedral. Tourists and residents alike strolled leisurely about the cathedral square; some lounged on the grass planted on either side of the pathway. “Just give it one more chance… Trust God.”
Jonathan swallowed a snort as they slowed to a stop right in front of the quaint yet magnificent steps of the church building. Even after eight years and a month ago, he blindly trusted God to bring Hannah back to him. Now, he couldn’t even bring himself to trust that she would even want to come back. Still he held his doubts and took the first step into the building.
An imposing statue of St. Michael greeted them as they entered and Hapta instinctively bowed his head in reverence, making the sign of the cross as he entered. Marcus and Jonathan stepped over the threshold, their gazes traveling to the large cross between the tall stained windows. Ameya smiled to herself as she walked to the middle aisle. There was no need for words here.
Strolling to the nearest pew, Ameya lowered to her knees and folded her hands on the pew in front. She closed her eyes and bowed her head.
Jonathan was conflicted seeing Ameya kneeling in the pew, her head bowed reverently and her small hands curved in supplication. He was relieved that she still believed in God, that she still knew how to pray and hadn’t forgotten about God. Then a wave of jealousy hit him. She remembered her commitment to God but had forgotten him. Quickly he turned his face from her and swallowed the hardened lump in his throat.
On the way back to the van, Marcus grabbed Hapta’s sleeve and pulled him ahead of Jonathan and Ameya that were walking slowly. “Sit in the back with me…” he said, dragging Hapta down the sidewalk toward the van.
Ameya eyed the two fleeting figures as they briskly walked down the sidewalk, and smirked. That Marcus fellow wasn’t as sly as he’d like to be. At least he was more likeable… She peeked up at the quiet man beside her and shook her head. “If you didn’t want to come out today, you could’ve stayed home.”
Jonathan didn’t respond, merely walking in step beside her. His silence grated her agitated nerves.
“Are you always this moody?” Ameya said in annoyance.
Ameya blinked, having not expected any response from him. She cleared her throat to steady her nerves. “Then are you just having a bad month?”
Jonathan couldn’t help it. The corner of his mouth lifted in a half smirk. More like a bad eight years…
She rolled her eyes when he didn’t respond, not bothering to give him another moment’s notice. “Forget it then,” Ameya groused under her breath and quickened her pace to get away from him. “Impossible.”
An insistent ringing in her slingback purse slowed her steps. She frowned at the familiar tune but reached for the phone, glancing down to see Genevieve’s caller id. Her heart fell. Tomas.
Jonathan raised a brow as Ameya stopped in her tracks and he slowly walked toward her.
“Gene, is everything okay? Is Tomas…” Ameya bit her bottom lip, already expecting the worst.
“Tomas is fine,” Genevieve said, huffing to catch her breath. “But I need you to come back now.”
Ameya blinked in confusion. “W-what’s wrong?”
Jonathan slowed to a stop just right behind Ameya, his ears perked for the one-sided conversation.
“M-my mom. She’s not feeling well. I have to go to the hospital and I-I know you said—“
“Slow down, Gene,” Ameya said firmly, now walking quickly toward the van. “What happened?”
Jonathan frowned at the sudden urgency in both her voice and her steps. He quickly followed her, worried for reasons he couldn’t comprehend.
“Don’t cry,” Ameya pleaded. “Look, just take him with you. Keep him in the waiting room. I’ll be right there.” She quickly disconnected the call just as she pulled open the driver door and climbed in.
Marcus and Hapta watched in stunned silence as Jonathan pushed past them to sit in the front seat beside Ameya. They exchanged quizzical glances before ushering into the back of the van.
“What happened?” Jonathan asked, already buckling his seatbelt as Ameya turned the ignition key to start the car. “Is everything alright?”
Ameya blinked at the urgency in his voice, still trying to catch her breath. “Uh-yeah… I’m sorry but I’ll have to cut this trip short. Something has come up.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Jonathan peered through the side mirror as Ameya pulled out of the parking spot. “Do you want me to drive?”
“No, I’m fine,” Ameya said calmly, maneuvering the car on the narrow road. She could imagine Tomas’ perplexed expression while watching a very frantic Genevieve. What if he had another episode while with Genevieve and her hurting mother?
Marcus glanced from Jonathan to the back of Ameya’s head. “Is your family okay, Ameya?” he asked once they entered the main street and Ameya increased the speed, zooming past other lugging cars.
“Y-yeah… Do you mind if I drop you off first?” She signaled to the leftmost lane, increasing speed.
Jonathan kept his eyes forward, fighting the conflicting emotions within. He was worried, no afraid of whatever was causing this normally serene-looking woman to shake and tremble. He swallowed hard and forced a prayer heavenward.
“Don’t worry about us. We can wait until you get everything settled,” Marcus said gently.
Ameya glanced quickly at the rearview mirror. “Are you sure?” It wasn’t exactly her plan to drag them to the hospital but she had to get to Tomas and Genevieve right away.
Marcus managed a smile. “Don’t worry…”
Ameya swallowed hard against the impending tears as she thought of her terrified son huddled somewhere in the hospital while Genevieve hovered over her sick mother. A pang of guilt stung her for not feeling concern for poor Genevieve but right now, the heavy anguish of worrying for her own son’s welfare overwhelmed her. She pressed harder on the accelerator, unaware of the concerned looks from all three men in the van.
Ameya barely managed to put the van in park before she stumbled out of the van and sprinted for the entrance of the hospital.
Marcus grabbed Jonathan’s arm just as he hurried to step out of the van. “Where are you going?”
At the sound of Marcus’ voice pervading through the thick cloud of frazzled nerves, Jonathan froze.
“You can’t go in there with her…” Marcus said gently, gripping Jonathan’s arm.
Jonathan knew his brother-in-law was right and so he sat in the front seat of the van, staring forlornly at the entrance of the hospital where Ameya had raced inside. He swallowed the hardened lump in his throat, feeling as helpless as he always did around her, except this time it was more painful than before.