shadowsMinutes stretched on when Genevieve’s sobs finally subsided and silence filled the room. Neve kept his arms around her shoulders, one hand rubbing soothingly at her back.

She finally released one shuddering sigh against his chest before speaking. “I hate you.”

His hand stilled even though a wry smile crossed his lips. “Why?”

“I hate both you and Ameya for leaving me,” Genevieve asked huskily. “If you two hadn’t gone away, maybe… Maybe…” She sighed again, pushing gently at him.

His arms fell to his sides as he stared bleakly at her.

Genevieve wiped at her face, not meeting his eyes. “It’s not your fault. I know it was her time to go.” She bit her bottom lip and turned her shoulder to shield her from his probing eyes. “I just wish…”

“Wish she could be here instead…”

“Yeah…” Genevieve sniffed. “If only she could be without pain and still stay with me.” Standing to her feet, she tugged at the denim shirt over her black leggings and walked back to the box.

Neve eyed her solemnly, knowing any clichéd phrases would do little to console his friend. He’d never seen her this weak and sullen, and the thought of her never recovering to flash her dancing brown eyes at him jarred him. “What will you do now?” he heard himself ask aloud.

Genevieve shrugged her narrow shoulders, pulling out another blouse and placing it on the bed. “I don’t know. Once I get the house in order…” her lips trembled. “There’s nothing else to do.”

His brow furrowed, realizing the gravity of her words. Ever since Genevieve had graduated from college in the Canary Islands, she’d returned home to take care of her mother who had suffered from a heart attack at the age of fifty, the first sign of her debilitating health. He’d only been a resident doctor at that time but he could easily see the fear shared between mother and daughter. Ever since that day, Genevieve devoted all her time and attention to her mother’s needs, much to the increasing chagrin of her independent mother who had great dreams for her daughter’s future.

Heaving a deep sigh, Genevieve walked over to the window and stared out over the hill. She could see the steeple of the church her mother had often visited. “Who knows where life will lead me now…” she clenched her jaw tightly, hating the self-piteous lilt in her voice.

The bed squeaked as Neve stood to his feet and Genevieve steeled his shoulders as he walked over to stand beside her. “Maybe you could take some time off… and travel. See the world.”

Genevieve scoffed, a tight sound through her lips. “With what money?” she grimaced as a wave of guilt hit her at the bitterness coating her voice. Most of their hard-earned money had gone to paying off her mother’s hospital bills.

“That’s true…” Neve muttered, staring out through the window above the trees at the cerulean blue sky. Although his condo offered a clear view of the Pacific Ocean from his bedroom window on the tenth floor, his body warmed at the sight of this ocean. “What else can you do?”

She remained quiet, biting the inside of her cheeks. Ever since she’d settled back in her childhood home, nothing else had come to her mind except taking care of her mother. What could she do now?

Neve glanced over at her and frowned. “No more crying.”

Genevieve scowled up at him. “Is that something you say to someone grieving?”

“It’s you, that’s why I’m saying it.”

“What, I can’t have a heart?”

Neve rolled his eyes. “You’re being dramatic.”

“And you’re being a selfish cad.”

The two friends settled in silence, both thinking back to the woman who always stood between the two of them whenever they engaged in their verbal battles. Sighing, Neve shifted close to Genevieve and this time she didn’t have the strength to move away. As his left arm draped over her shoulder and tugged her into the crook of his arm, Genevieve couldn’t prevent the sigh from escaping her lips as she leaned her head against his chest and let the tears fall silently down her cheeks.

“No but really, no prospects at all?”

Genevieve choked on the piece of shellfish in her mouth and glared up at Ameya across the table. She rolled her eyes as Jonathan, her husband, averted his face to hide a laugh. How unfortunate that Jonathan knew Creole or she would’ve scolded Ameya in her native tongue. “Tell me when, my dear friend, would I have found the time for any of that?”

Ameya blinked at her. “What are you saying? Your mother always pushed you to find someone. What stopped you from seeing anyone?”

“Come on, Hannah, let her be,” Jonathan said, tucking a smile in his cheek.

“Tell her,” Genevieve shot over the table at Ameya who still looked stunned.

Ameya shook her head. “Is there someone you have feelings for, is that why you’re not—“

“I know why you’re doing this, Ameya, but I’m fine.” Genevieve frowned down at her plate. “Just because Mom isn’t here anymore doesn’t mean I’ll fall apart with loneliness.”

“Gene, that’s not what I’m saying. I’ve been waiting for years for you to settle down.”

“I am settled down,” Genevieve picked up another shell to her mouth, sucking on the salty juice.

“Where’s Neve, by the w—” Ameya paused as her friend coughed on the juice and frowned.

“You okay?” Jonathan peered over at Genevieve who reached for her glass of water.

“Fine,” Genevieve answered curtly, her face firing under her friend’s gaze. She pushed back the image of Neve’s mischievous brown eyes and cleared her throat. “He couldn’t make it. Busy with preparations.” She lowered her eyes to her plate, not wanting to look at their suspicious gazes on her.

<<Part 2 || Part 4>>