loneflowerHe couldn’t stop staring, not daring to remove his gaze from her face. The protective way she held onto a whimpering Tomas, her brow wrinkled in concern as she stared listlessly at the linoleum floor. Neve fingered the edge of his doctor’s coat, feeling helpless as he stood near the row of chairs where mother and son sat. How he wanted to wrap his arms about her bowed shoulders, to smoothen that stubborn wrinkle on her forehead with a kiss and whisper in her soft, shapely right ear that everything would be alright. But alas, there was no room for him.

Just then, Ameya shifted her gaze up to his face and Neve could feel the warmth in his cheeks as if caught in his wandering thoughts. Her dark brows lifted in silent question and he cleared his throat. “She’s fine… Just wanted to tell you that.”

The solemn smile on her curved lips stirred him within and Neve glanced down at the drowsy boy nestled in her arms. “You should go home and rest.”

Ameya nodded wearily and lowered her gaze to her son. Her slim, long fingers trailed along the boy’s cheek and Neve removed his eyes, his body stirring within.

“Do you need help with him?” Neve stepped forward, holding out his arms.

She peeked up at him from lowered lashes, she too as lethargic as her son. “Are you sure?” her voice was husky and tentative.

Neve managed a smile despite his conflicting emotions he held within. “Yeah,” he answered hoarsely and slowly reached for the lithe boy who compliantly entered his arms. He’d asked the nurse to page him once Mrs. Faluna woke and besides Genevieve had asked him, amid her tears, to check on Ameya and Tomas.

Ameya bit her bottom lip, peering over his shoulder at the hallway.

“Don’t worry,” he offered in a gentle voice so as not to wake the boy now nestled against his chest. “She’s stabilized and just needs some rest.” He then gestured toward the exit door and sighed as Ameya hesitantly turned around to walk ahead of him.

It wasn’t until they got to the car that Ameya straightened her shoulders in alarm, her head whipping from left to right. Neve raised a brow at her strange behavior. “What’s the matter?”

Ameya didn’t answer him at first, approaching the car and peering through the window.

“Ameya…?” he asked in concern.

She frowned, glancing over her shoulder to peer out into the parking lot. “Where did they go?”

“Who?” Neve asked, tilting his head curiously at the empty van.

—-

Hapta hitched up his right thumb toward the oncoming traffic, gritting his teeth to hold back complaints. They were more than five miles from the hospital and God knows how far from the hotel. Behind him, Marcus and Jonathan walked at a snail’s pace, their heads bowed in concentration with their own thoughts.

Growling in aggravation, Hapta jerked his thumb forward and peered onto the road at the traffic.

Marcus peeked from the corner of his eye at Jonathan’s contemplative expression before managing a smile. “Changing your mind about leaving?”

“No…”

He raised a brow at Jonathan’s hesitant reply. “Then what?”

Jonathan slowed to a stop and Marcus paused in his step, regarding his brother-in-law who still kept his gaze on the dirt path. “She’s okay, isn’t she?” His voice broke as he spoke.

Marcus frowned. “What do you mean?”

Jonathan raised his head to look directly at Marcus. “Without me, she’s okay, isn’t she?”

“Jonathan…” Marcus started to say but stopped when Jonathan shook his head slowly.

“Even if I’m not around, she’s okay.”

Marcus’ brow furrowed darkly. “You want to give up?”

Jonathan swallowed hard, lowering his gaze back to the dirt road and only silence and cars zipping past them answered what he could not.

Marcus sighed heavily, watching with a broken heart as Jonathan struggled with himself. He couldn’t blame the man though. Hannah had no recollection of who she had been, who she’d loved. Now she lived happily and content as Ameya, a sassy tour guide and single mother, with many people on this sunny island to love and support her. Why would she give this life for something she didn’t know existed?

Then he pictured Tampa back in Houston, dutifully taking care of both their toddler as well as Jonathan’s three children, holding on to the hope that Hannah would be found? Something painful stirred within and Marcus sighed heavily. He missed Tampa desperately, even with her sharp tongue and fiery gaze. Seeing Hannah everyday reminded him of what he’d left behind.

Glancing up at Jonathan’s forlorn expression, Marcus shook his head. They couldn’t give up on Hannah like this. Even if Jonathan was convinced that she wouldn’t want to be found, he had to do it. For Tampa, for Jonathan… For Hannah.

“No,” he heard himself saying just as Hapta successfully managed to stop a car on the side of the road.

Jonathan looked up despondently at the sound of Marcus’ firm reply.

“You’re not going to give up on Hannah. I won’t let you.”

“Hey guys! Come on,” Hapta’s voice called over the bleating traffic around them.

Marcus and Jonathan merely stared at each other, one’s eyes filled with despair and the other blazing with renewed determination.

—-

“Are you sure you don’t want me to come by?” Ameya said in a hushed voice later that evening, sitting near the bay window in Tomas’ bedroom. She peeked over to where he snuggled against the scruffy teddy bear.

“Hmm,” Genevieve said quietly, her voice still hoarse from crying. “I don’t want you to have to move Tomas too much… I’m sorry for scaring you two.”

Ameya shook her head and smiled. “It’s okay. Your mother needed you.”

Genevieve sighed heavily. “I didn’t think I’ve ever been this afraid, this unsure.”

Ameya stared longingly at her sleeping son, her heart echoing Genevieve’s words. The fear that shook her earlier in the day at the thought of her son panicking and suffering was so strong, she could barely stand. Tears filled her eyes as she refrained from reaching to stroke his cheek.

“What if I hadn’t noticed it on time?” Genevieve continued. “What if—” her voice broke in mid speech.

Blinking back the tears, Ameya straightened her back and dragged her gaze back to the window, staring down at the street. “Don’t say that… Your mother is in good hands.”

“Yeah, thank God for Neve…”

Ameya managed a smile, thinking about their mutual friend who had rushed from one hospital room to meet Mrs. Faluna and Genevieve. She could remember that very day she’d been on that hospital bed, waking up to Neve’s warm eyes staring down at her. Cheeks warmed involuntarily as she recalled how kind he was to her those days she first woke up. “Yeah, he’s a great guy.”

There was silence on Genevieve’s end and Ameya blinked the last tear from her eyes. “Gene?”

“Hmm?” her friend said drowsily.

“Go to sleep… Get some rest.”

“Hmm, you too.”

Ameya managed a smile and nodded even though Gene couldn’t see it. “Bonne nuit. I’ll pray for your maman.”

Mesi, my friend… Bonne nuit.”

As Genevieve’s line went dead, Ameya kept the phone propped to her ear as she stared listlessly at the street below, the tears falling silently down her cheeks.

<<Part 18 || Part 20>>

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