Strangers of the Past: Part XXIII
Posted on 19/01/2013
How he dreaded waking up early on his day off, but with the bustling next door, Neve swallowed a groan and squinted one eye at the bright light peeking from the thin white curtains above his bed. Shifting his gaze to the glowing alarm clock near his bed, Neve frowned deeper as the rustling noise on the other side of his wall persisted. “Dad…” he growled, lifting a heavy arm to shield his eyes from the invasive light.
When the noise paused, Neve smiled gratefully and snuggled under his blanket to continue the rest. Then the front door slammed loudly, and his eyes snapped open. Blinking against the light, Neve shifted his gaze over his shoulder to read the time. It was just six in the morning and on a Saturday at that. Where was his father off to on his day off?
Holding back another groan for his precious sleep being disturbed, Neve closed his eyes to sleep again. His father was old enough to take care of himself. There was no need for him to worry. Except, the image of his father’s shocked expression when he announced that he wanted to marry Ameya popped in his head and Neve quickly sat up in bed. “No way…” he muttered, flinging the blanket off his body.
Faster than he could’ve ever scrubbed for a surgical procedure, Neve threw on a pair of old jeans and shrugged on a faded sweater, and scurried out of the house to the only car sitting outside the house. Chills ran down his spine as he quickly put the car in reverse and followed the weaving slope down the hill to the main square, after his father.
On this Saturday, the streetlights were decorated with garlands and posters were slapped on their posts, announcing the upcoming celebrations. Neve paid it no mind, his gaze darting from left to right, searching for his father’s figure languidly strolling down either side of the main road. In his mind, he hoped he was wrong in his prediction.
Then he saw him. Neve pressed down on the brake, maneuvering the car to one side of the street while watching his father slowly make his way toward a row of decrepit buildings. He swallowed hard, putting the car in park and squinted, his jaw clenched as he watched his father halt in front of a yellow stone building. His eyes lifted to the swaying sign above the door and felt his heart drop to his stomach. Sunrise Tours.
Neve squeezed the steering wheel tightly as his father stepped into the building. “Dad…” he muttered darkly, as resentment replaced anxiety. He turned the ignition key to kill the engine and pushed open the door, stepping out slowly.
His father knew just how he felt about Ameya. Since that first day Old Man Jonas and his father rushed inside the hospital, helping the paramedic on staff push the stretcher carrying an unconscious pregnant woman. His father had witnessed how he’d taken charge immediately, putting the woman under his direct supervision and had seen him spend many nights watching over her. Waiting for her to wake up. Many times before then, his father had harped about him settling down with a good woman, that he’d learn how to care for someone other than himself… and now that he’d found her, what was his father doing?
Clenching his teeth, Neve barely noticed the motorcycle that wove through the crowd, ignoring the bleating horn as the cycle zoomed past him. He stepped onto the other side and followed his father’s path to the Sunrise Tours office building.
The door was propped slightly open and Neve reached for the doorknob.
“You don’t think they’re legitimate?” He heard his father say.
Neve raised a brow, his fingers hovering over the knob.
“They lied about being writers and security men on a mission’s trip, for crying out loud!” Neve heard Warren reply impatiently.
Neve released a breath softly and stepped away from the door. His father was here on police business. Swallowing a derisive snort at his own paranoid behavior, Neve moved away from the building and walked back to his car. “Calm down, Neve…” He grinned widely. “Now that you’ve made up your mind to have her, you will. Be patient.” He pulled the door open and ducked inside.
Suddenly feeling giddy with excitement that his father had accepted his decision, Neve inserted the car key and turned on the engine. His grateful gaze lifted to the yellow building and nodded. Instead of silently thanking his father for being supportive, he would wait and take him out for breakfast. Pleased with himself and the turn of events, Neve leaned his head back against the seat and waited.
Still groggy from sleep, Neve felt his eyelids droop a few minutes of staring at the droning scene before him but he blinked quickly and straightened in his seat. “What’s taking my old man so long?” he asked good-naturedly, confident that nothing in the world could spoil his good mood.
A green cab slowly eased to the sidewalk in front of the building and Neve watched, waiting with his smile frozen on his face. Two unfamiliar men ducked out of the car and stared straight up at the yellow building. Neve glanced once at the door, wondering why his father was taking so long especially if Warren, the tour manager, had business.
As the two men casually approached the building, Neve found himself staring curiously after them. A minute passed and still no sign of his father. Before he knew it, Neve was walking across the street toward the yellow stone building, to the same propped door.
He paused in front of it, catching a glimpse of his father sitting beside Warren and facing the two gentlemen. Frowning at the grave look on both his father’s face and that of Warren’s, Neve squinted and perked his ears to listen.
“Except St. Lucia,” one of the foreign men interjected in a low voice that Neve had to lean forward to catch his words. “Of all the islands, we didn’t even consider St. Lucia,” the man said solemnly.
“It was the last island on the list,” the other man said, his voice notably deeper. Neve could hear the American drawl in their voices and frowned to himself. “You couldn’t have known.”
“Why now?” Neve didn’t have time to decipher his arbitrary deduction of the two men when his father’s grave voice spoke up after a few moments of complete silence. “Eight years of not finding her… Shouldn’t you have moved on?”
Neve raised a brow at his father’s words. Who were these gentlemen referring to and why was his father involved?
“As you see, she has moved on without you. She doesn’t even remember you,” his father said firmly.
In the back of Neve’s mind, he tried to picture what woman his father would know that could be related to these American men and frowned deeply when no such person came to mind.
Then Warren sighed before speaking resolutely. “We connected that your wife Hannah is Ameya.”
Neve’s eyes flung to the door, to Warren’s face. He could feel the breath rush from him as Warren’s words echoed loudly in his ear, and he suddenly couldn’t hear the rest of the words. Your wife… Ameya.
Knees knocking, Neve had to place his trembling hand on the wall near the front door.
Ameya is married…?