fadingshadowsMuffled echoes of wailing drifted over her head as she leaned against the cold wall of her mother’s empty room, staring listlessly at the black gown draped over the chair. Silent tears fell down her sticky cheeks as she clenched the worn glove in her right hand, her left hand hanging over her folded knee. The fading scent of her mother’s lavender body powder remained under her nose where she’d swiped it above her upper lip. In the bleary daze, she didn’t notice the warm rays of the Caribbean sun caressing her right bare shoulder or the warm breeze that lifted her loosened hair that hung limply around her face.

Nothing was going to be the same. Everything was about to change. Even now things were not how they were a fortnight ago. The tears slid down onto her collarbone and she drew in her lips as the sobs surged up in her throat. Squeezing her eyes closed tightly, Genevieve lifted her hands to cover her face, the worn glove that belonged to her mother pressing against her nose. Faint fragrance of lavender and berries, her mother’s scent, wafted under her nose and a sob escaped her lips.

The door squeaked open and Genevieve stiffened, although she didn’t remove her hands from her face. Hesitant footsteps approached her and Genevieve bit her bottom lip, wanting to scream out for them to leave her alone. She was tired of the questions, the apologies, the sad piteous expressions on their faces as they expressed their regrets for her loss. She didn’t need their sympathy. She wanted her mother back.

“Gene…” the soft voice of her best friend, Ameya, pushed through the despair in her and Genevieve allowed the sobs to take over. “Oh dear…” the woman said as she knelt beside Genevieve and wrapped her arms around her. Genevieve allowed her body to lean against Ameya’s, letting the grief and pain to take control of every part of her. It was all she could do for now.

An hour passed and Genevieve stared over Ameya’s shoulder as her friend buttoned the front of her dress. Her body felt so heavy, her mind muddled, her heart straining and pulsing with sheer pain and emptiness. Ameya didn’t say a word, didn’t whisper any regretful thoughts or sympathy and that was what Genevieve needed right now; just companionable silence to cloak the ever-present loneliness looming over her.

Once she’d pushed Genevieve’s small feet into her polished shoes, Ameya helped her friend to stand to her feet and led her toward the door. She placed her hand on Genevieve’s arm, gently guiding her through the hallway where a few of their neighbors dressed in black waited for her. Shielding her friend from their solemn stares, Ameya quietly steered Genevieve toward the steps and her friend bit her bottom lip when she spotted Ameya’s tall Caucasian husband Jonathan. Even he’d come in her mother’s honor.

The tears fell down her cheeks as Ameya slid into the backseat of the car with her while Jonathan rounded the front to sit in the front. She lowered her gaze to her hand joined with Ameya as the car eased down the sloping street. It was all she could do not to look back at the house she’d shared with her mother for most of her life. Squeezing her eyes against the stinging tears, Genevieve leaned against Ameya.

“She was a strong yet gentle spirit,” the words of one of the middle-aged women beside the open grave drifted over Genevieve’s stiff body as she stood between Ameya and an inconsolable Mrs. Hendi. “Always there to offer a helping hand.” The woman paused to dab at her eyes. “A long time ago before she fell ill, she offered time again to take care of my children.”

Genevieve’s cheeks warmed, recalling her mother’s vivid brown eyes before her illness. The heart disease had taken a toll on her mother’s joy.

“I won’t ever forget her.”

The words continued with each attendant before they would place on top of the grave their white flowers, donated by Mamiku Gardens in honor of the sweet lady who had helped decorate the town with flowers at every festival.

“She’ll always be my little Fefe,” a deep voice filled with remorse sounded like loud echoes in Genevieve’s ears.

She looked up at the familiar nickname that only one man could call her. A sob caught in her throat as she gaped at the man standing beside the grave. His gentle but sad face blurred as the tears flowed freely once again. Biting her bottom lip, Genevieve had to lean against Ameya who had stepped up to steady her from falling.

“May her soul rest in perfect peace,” Neville said gently as he placed his flower on top of the others before rounding the grave to stand before Genevieve. He didn’t even give Ameya a moment to step away before he wrapped his arms around Genevieve whose agonizing sobs sounded above the others weeping around her.

A day had passed since the funeral and Genevieve stared quietly at the half-empty cardboard box containing her mother’s folded clothes. Her brow furrowed as she stepped forward, pulling a silky polka dot blouse out and unfolding it. She could still remember the day her mother had bought the blouse, proudly draping it over her chest and spinning around. Genevieve had been only ten at the time and her mother was celebrating with a new garment for her husband. The blouse held bittersweet memories since her mother had worn it the day her father was supposed to return from a fishing trip, only to pull his lifeless body against her bosom when his fellow colleagues brought him home.

Genevieve buried her nose into the fabric, breathing in the scent of lavender. Her mother had been such a strong woman, even with her debilitating health. Those dancing brown eyes were full of joy despite losing a husband early, or when she had to work late nights just to have enough money for their home and Genevieve’s schooling. A pang of regret forced the tears back to her eyes as she squeezed the fabric. She inhaled sharply when the tears slid onto the blouse and she pulled back, not wanting to soil the material. No she couldn’t put these away.

The door to her mother’s bedroom swung open and Genevieve quickly folded the blouse, placing it on the bed before turning toward the door. Her brow furrowed as her gaze lowered from the sight of Neve standing in the doorway. She hadn’t taken the time to get used to him being here after almost a year. “What do you want?” she mumbled hoarsely from crying throughout the night.

“I knocked a few times but figured you were here…” Neve answered easily, stepping over the threshold into the room. His eyes scanned the empty walls and shook his head. It was too soon, even for him. Lowering his gaze back to Genevieve, he raised a brow. “Why are you doing this by yourself?”

Genevieve sighed, folding her arms across her chest, hating this strange vulnerability she felt around him. “I’m not. Ameya and Jon took a few boxes away. I’m preparing the next set.” She swallowed the hard lump lodged in her throat.

“Why?” He took one step closer to her, noting how she also leaned away from him.

“Because… I have to.” Genevieve frowned as he stepped toward her and she shifted away, perching on her mother’s bed.

Neve stalled, glancing once at the open box before looking back at her. “That can wait. Have you eaten?”

Genevieve let out a humorless laugh. “Does it look like I want to eat right now?”

“It doesn’t matter. Have you eaten?”

“Leave me alone, Neve.”

“Can’t. Have you eaten?”

Her jaw clenched visibly and she glared up at him. “What is it to you if I eat or not? Does it matter?”

Neve merely stared at her and she jerked her eyes away, hating the look on his face. He was just like the others, full of pity and no promises to ease her pain. “Just go away, Neve. I’m not in the mood for company.”

“Remember when you said that to me?”

Genevieve rolled her eyes. “Don’t even try to equate your silly puppy love to what I’m feeling right now.”

“Fair enough.” Neve shrugged as he rounded the bed to sit beside her, noting with chagrin as she shifted away from him. He turned slightly to face her. “I’m asking as a friend who is genuinely concerned. I would bring over a casserole and force you to eat it but you know I can barely fry eggs.”

The corner of her lips lifted. “Thanks for not trying to kill me.” The smile faded quickly and she lowered her eyes, tears dropping on her gray pants.

Neve merely sat beside her with his hands trained at his sides, although his palms itched to wipe her tears and pull her back into his arms. He’d missed her. Missed those taunting brown eyes and her glib tongue. He should’ve known she was facing this trauma when he hadn’t heard from her in weeks. Imagining the pain Mrs. Faluna had faced in her last days and the heartache it’d caused Genevieve made his heart squeeze tightly. Pushing back his protests to stay on his side of the bed, Neve wordlessly draped an arm about her shoulders and pulled her close against him.

Genevieve merely turned and buried her face into the crook of his arm, sobbing openly. Neve looked over her head at the lone portrait of a younger Genevieve and her mother beaming brightly in front of a garden. He could only imagine the loneliness that had grasped hold of Genevieve and inadvertently, he pulled her closer.

<<Part 1 || Part 3>>