shackOld Man Jonas bit his tongue to stop the expletive from slipping as he grasped his tattered fishing net with one hand and the other holding the tiny needle that had pierced his finger yet again. Peeking down at the boy sitting cross-legged at his feet, beaming up at him. “Why did you bring him here?” he groused at the woman standing behind him.

Ameya sighed. “Why, don’t you miss him?” she said in half-teasing, bending over Old Man Jonas’ shoulder to ruffle her son’s curly hair. “He sure missed you.”

The old fisherman mumbled something under his breath which Ameya ignored, lifting her head to smile in welcome at two fishermen approaching them. “Bonswa!”

Bonswa!” they beamed openly, their bloodshot eyes lighting up at the sight of Old Man Jonas’ foster daughter. “You came with your son?” they asked, waving at the mute boy sitting at the seasoned fisherman’s feet.

Ameya nodded. “I brought some lunch for Jonas but there’s enough for you. Please come join us.”

The two men exchanged smiles before approaching them, but at the searing glare from Old Man Jonas, they stalled in their steps. Instead, they shook their heads and walked away.

Ameya’s warm smile waned as they muttered something about Old Man Jonas being cranky. She threw a glare at the back of his head. “Really, could you try to be nice for once?”

“What for?” he muttered, facing the conundrum of a tangled fishing net in his hands. “They’re foolish idiots.”

She rolled her eyes when Old Man Jonas peered quickly at Tomas to see if he was listening. The boy obliviously played with the other end of the fishing net, content with himself. “Why do you say that?”

“They never listen to me.”

“Maybe because you’re not being nice to them…” she said in a berating tone, knowing very well how much he hated it. Hiding a smile, Ameya crouched beside Tomas and straightened his shirt.

“They are foolish idiots,” Old Man Jonas muttered, frowning at the tangled net. “I tell them there is a storm coming and they ignore me.”

Ameya’s smile froze and so did her fingers on Tomas’ collar. Her eyes flung to the craggy old man. “What did you say?”

He stiffened instantly, his own fingers hovering above the net. Blinking, Old Man Jonas cleared his throat. “Anyen. Nothing…” He peered down at Tomas and evading the mother’s imploring gaze, he searched over her shoulder at the covered dish situated on the makeshift fisherman’s table. “Mwen grangou… Where’s the food?” he gruffly asked.

Ameya sat in a daze as Old Man Jonas reached for Tomas and pulled him up, leading him to the table for lunch. She could hear her heartbeats echoing loudly in her ears, muffling the lighthearted conversation Old Man Jonas carried on with a mute but animated Tomas who graciously accepted the roasted corn offered by the old man, whose eyes lit up warmly over the boy.

It wasn’t until Old Man Jonas settled back in his seat to pick out the bones from Tomas’ fish, that Ameya cleared her throat to get his attention. “Kisa?” Old Man Jonas muttered gruffly.

“A storm…” Ameya licked her lips, her gaze flickering to Tomas. “…is coming?”

Old Man Jonas paused to look down at her, his own eyes mirroring the anxiety in hers. Without him answering, Ameya shifted her gaze to the clear sky above the gentle waves. How much time would they have before the darkened clouds brought days and nights of terror for her and Tomas?

Preoccupied with the foreboding thought, Ameya almost didn’t catch Marcus’ question when she led the way to a nearby gift shop until she noticed three pairs of eyes gazing down at her.

“Pardon?” she asked, blinking up at Jonathan Harris’s striking grey eyes. Her brow furrowed, noting the concern on both his and Marcus’ faces. “Hmm?”

“How’s your son?” Marcus repeated his question, a patient smile curving his dark lips.

Ameya tilted her head curiously. “He’s fine… Why do you ask?”

“Wasn’t he you went to the hospital for?” Hapta asked, shoving his hands in his pockets.

“Oh right,” Ameya said half-distracted as Jonathan walked around her to study a set of colorful fish souvenirs hanging on a makeshift wall of a vendor’s stand. “No, he’s fine.”

Marcus noticed Ameya’s shift of attention and hid a smile. “Jonathan and his first son are fishermen.”

“Not really,” Jonathan muttered, lifting a colorful fish bait hook.

Ameya raised a brow. “How many children do you have?”

Hapta and Marcus glanced once at each other at Ameya’s open curiosity of the tight-lipped man.

Jonathan lifted his gaze to her imploring one. “Three. Two sons, one daughter.” He stepped around the fence to address the vendor.

Before Ameya could caution him of the over-eager vendor who could sniff a good sell from a mile away, she and the other men watched as the vendor convinced Jonathan to check out his other two booths further down the pier.

She clucked her tongue and shook her head incredulously, watching the long-suffering Jonathan Harris being led by the arm across the boardwalk to other booths. “I guess I should’ve warned him…” she mused aloud in mirth, turning to face the other two men. The words hung on her tongue as she caught them staring bemusedly at her. Ameya blinked. “What?”

Marcus grinned openly. “So Ameya… If you don’t mind me asking. Your son, how old is he?”

Ameya raised a brow suspiciously. “Eight.” She watched the smile on Marcus’ face freeze and his brows lifted slightly in surprise. “Why?”

Jonathan chuckled as the animated vendor profusely thanked him while wrapping a small box of souvenirs. “It’s no problem,” he assured the man, grateful that he wouldn’t have to shop too long to find gifts for the children. The souvenirs could help placate at least Alison and Ethan. Perhaps he’d have to buy a autographed baseball bat for Tyler but this would do for now.

“Jon!” he heard someone holler his name up the boardwalk and peered over his shoulder. As he squinted, he noticed Hapta racing toward him.

“Excuse me…” he said gravely to the vendor, noticing the frazzled look on the redhead’s flushed face as the man staggered forward. Jonathan closed the distance between them, his brow furrowed with concern. “What is it?” He glanced over the man’s head for Marcus and Ameya.

“Y-you,” Hapta paused to catch his breath, his forehead beaded with sweat. “Marc… You should come with me now.”

Jonathan’s heart was in his throat at Hapta’s frantic eyes. “What’s going on? Is Hannah okay?”

Hapta shook his head, waving off Jonathan’s inquiry. “It’s not that…” He turned on his heel and started back down the boardwalk. “Come on. We’re leaving.”

Jonathan glanced over his shoulder just as the vendor shuffled forward with a beaming smile and his wrapped box extended. Nodding his thanks, he retrieved the package and turned to follow Hapta back to where Ameya and Marcus were standing.

Ameya eyed Marcus carefully, not sure what to make of his taut features and his evasive gaze. She tilted her head over his shoulder just in time to see Hapta with Jonathan at his heels.

Marcus noticed the direction of her gaze and turned to see both Hapta and Jonathan. He then turned back to Ameya with a forced smile. “Give us a minute, please.” Before Jonathan could reach the vendor’s booth, Marcus faced the confused man and steered him away, leaving Hapta with Ameya.

The nervous Hapta laughed slightly when Ameya dragged her gaze to his face and he shifted his gaze to the empty vendor’s booth. “Ooh, piranha clips…” he exclaimed with forced excitement and ducked away from her to focus his full attention on the manufactured fishing bait hooks.

Ameya stretched her neck to watch both the back of Jonathan and Marcus as they merged into the crowd of tourists. She frowned, suddenly feeling very uneasy.

Jonathan gaped open-mouthedly at his brother-in-law, taking in everything Marcus had just said. His heart refused to slow down, his mouth dry, his face taut.

“I’m not lying to you, do you hear me?” Marcus said firmly, his dark eyes imploring Jonathan’s dazed ones. “Jonathan, her son is EIGHT years old. Going on nine.”

He shook his head against Marcus’ words echoing in his ears, refusing to believe. He couldn’t allow himself to revive the hope he’d fought against all this time. He was too afraid to believe it.

Marcus grabbed Jonathan’s hand and shook him. “Listen to me,” Marcus said, his eyes welling up with tears. “She didn’t move on without you. Jon, she had your child. You have a son!”

<<Part 19 || Part 21>>