Someone Lost, Something Gained


In a cruel twist of irony, the sun outside is bright, stretching warm fingers over the borough. Veda pulls her jacket more securely around her, but it isn’t the chill in the air that has her so frozen. The cold comes from within, from the icy tendrils that engulf every molecule of her being. She doesn’t know where to go. She has nothing now.

Losing Granddad has cut away the last of her connection to the living world. Sure, the rest of her family is still alive, but they aren’t around. They are family only in blood, not where it counts. Veda swallows thickly at the first feeble stirrings of something deep in her soul, though it flickers from existence as quickly as it appeared. Her heart hammers in her chest, each beat singing you’re alone you’re alone you’re alone. She double-checks that the door is locked then sets off.

Veda doesn’t have a destination in mind. Remaining in the house wasn’t an option, though, not when it is so full of memories but devoid of the one person she loves most. So she lets her feet carry her wherever they decide. A small voice in her brain whispers that she’s just running from her responsibilities, but she can’t run forever. It will all still be there when she stops running.

“I don’t want them,” she mutters to herself, small and powerless in the face of reality. It doesn’t matter what she wants, though. The fact remains that it’s all on her shoulders now.

Not even anger manages to make itself known. Anger that it is all up to her to fulfil Granddad’s wishes, anger that she’s sacrificed so much to care for him while his children and grandchildren did nothing. The only positive that’s come from his diagnosis was that they stopped calling to ask for money. They didn’t want to risk being asked to stop being selfish.

As if Veda would ever consider asking that of them. She didn’t want this particular duty, but she would be damned if she entrusted it to any of them. She hasn’t reached out even for one of them to drive across the city and sit with him while she worked - she hired Patrice for that. The only one she can come close to considering trustworthy is Hattie, and Hattie didn’t deserve to have her life upended.

A sharp breeze rushes past, swirling her honey-blonde hair around her face, and Veda hunches further into herself, raises the hood of her jacket over her head. People push their way around each other as she walks; she can’t help but feel they are all giving her far too much space than necessary. Or maybe it’s the numbness that prevents her from feeling them brush by. She aches to feel something, even the crushing weight of her loss.

Nothing comes.

Cars honk, footsteps march on, and time continues to pass. The borough is alive and bustling. The sunshine hurts against her skin, but Veda relishes it. As much as it contrasts her mood right now, she doesn’t think she could handle if it was raining. She turns her face down when she reaches the corner, avoiding looking at the others, and waits for the signal to change.

Her brain catches up to her surroundings once she’s sat in the hard chair. A bright ribbon of yellow paint splits the blue walls dotted with a rainbow of fish and coral. Toys sprawl across the carpeted floor, bright beacons against bright patterns. A toddler sits by the alphabet poster as his mother points to each of the letters and says them aloud.

A voice comes over the announcement system every so often, paging doctors and nurses and the owner of the green Toyota. Veda inhales unsteadily, shivering and wondering why she’s come here.


Her eyes cut from the child to the man standing in the archway. The concern on his face would cause her to burst into tears if she could feel anything right now. Instead, she absentmindedly picks at the edge of her thumbnail and tries to smile.

Niall doesn’t look reassured. If anything, the frown on his face grows. He glances down the corridor behind him then comes to sit next to her.

“Hey, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she mumbles, the lie scratching and acidic on her tongue.

His blue eyes narrow, and she resists the urge to hide from his scrutiny. She couldn’t bear if he sees how broken she is inside. He reaches out to touch her shoulder. It’s a gentle thing, kind and considerate and offering comfort, but she still flinches away.

“C’mon, let’s go get a coffee, and you can tell me why you’ve come.”

His words remind her that they don’t know each other, not really, and she’s a fool for ever showing up. What did she actually expect of him - to comfort her without question? To know what she needs and give it to her without her saying a word? She can’t believe herself, can’t believe that she’s just appeared at his work. He must think she’s a creep, a stalker...

She blows out a breath and rushes to her feet. Niall calls her name even as she runs down the empty hallway to the lift, slamming her thumb against the button repeatedly. Heat floods through her cheeks, and Veda says a silent prayer that the lift will arrive sooner than Niall.

“Veda, wait!”

Some sort of god must be listening: The doors slide open with a pleasant dinging sound, and Veda shoves her way past the people disembarking. She keeps her gaze on the floor and waits for the doors to shut again. Right before they close, she lifts her head and gets one last look at Niall’s face. The confusion is evident, even from the distance, and it hurts her to see what she’s done to him. But she can’t think of that now.

Leaning against the railing, she closes her eyes. Her breath comes in shallow pants, uneven and burning in her lungs. Her brain, muted and frozen though it is, screams of how stupid his was. She hadn’t even known she remembered the name of the hospital he works at - all she can recall of meeting him on the flight is how soothing his voice was, the steady cadence dragging her from the edge of panic.

But that isn’t even the worst part of her showing up like this. The absolute worst part is that she’d hoped, no matter how subconsciously, that he would be able to help her.

“Fucking idiot,” she growls under her breath, scrubbing a hand over her tired eyes. “What would Granddad say?”

Nothing. He’s dead, remember?

She remembers too well.


Fire in her bones, every inch of her body screaming. Nothing so loud as the shrieking of her heart that begs, pleads, cries for Granddad to come back. Veda doesn’t want to stand, but if she doesn’t, she will never get off this damn subway. There is no grace or apology as she shoves through the people between her seat and the doors.

It’s even worse once she reaches street-level. Everyone is out today, heading home or to work or to the date they’ve been looking forward to in their perfect outfits with their perfect hair and their perfect lives. None of them are struggling with the hours after the death of their most cherished loved one. They push past her as they laugh and talk to each other and on their phones. Veda wants to punch every single one of them in the face for daring to be happy when her entire world has been destroyed.

Veda comes to an abrupt stop halfway down her block, stares blankly at the stoop where some of the neighbours have congregated. When she realises they’ve seen her, she knows she can’t turn and run away. Her nails bite into her palms, hands clenching into fists in her jacket pocket, and she slowly approaches. An older woman peels herself from the group, bustles down the stairs, and cups Veda’s cheeks with gentle hands.

“Oh, piccolina, we are so sorry.” When Veda can’t speak, Nonna Costa’s eyes brim with tears. “If you need anything, please let us know?”

Veda forces herself to nod then steps past the woman who has become the grandmother of the block. The others part, let her climb the stairs to her door, and she leaves the door wide open behind her. She’s been a member of this mourning party before. Someone on the block dies, and the rest gather long enough to drop off ready-to-heat meals and condolences. There is no point in arguing, in turning them away.

Nonna Costa is the last to leave, staring at Veda with big dark eyes that say so much but nothing that Veda wants to hear. Then the woman leaves, pulling the door closed quietly, and the silence left behind is overwhelmingly damning.