Until The Sunshine Fades

Twenty One

Pressing the doorbell again, Gerard took a small step backwards, frowning as he tried to look through the hazy glass that made up part of Isabella’s front door. He had planned for her to be late. She always was, and it wasn’t something that had changed since they’d started to see one another, but he was surprised that he had been stood outside for as long as he had. It’d only served to intensify the gnawing bad feeling that had been steadily growing since they had spoken that morning. He had sent a couple of texts, playful reminders of the time of their reservation and the fact that the restaurant he’d chosen was a nice one, but Isabella hadn’t replied to them. She hadn’t even read them.

Watching the glass for any sign of Isabella, he pulled his phone out of his pocket before he dialled her number, pressing it against his ear. Shifting his feet a little, he listened to the dial tone until it gave way to the soft croak of Isabella’s voice, something which caused him to let out a muted sigh of relief. “At last” he breathed “I was starting to worry” he added.

Isabella made a noise that, if Gerard didn’t know better, sounded like a sniffle. “Sorry” she said “I lost my phone for a moment. Did you need something?” she asked.

Gerard frowned, letting a slightly bemused laugh fall out of his mouth. “I thought you and that phone were attached?” he asked “You sound a little dazed. I mean, I knew how you planned to spend the day, but I figured you’d at least make an effort to be ready for me getting here. I might have been lying about the time I made the reservation for, but I thought that that would mean you were ready on time” he added.

Isabella was quiet for a long moment before she let out a soft gasp. “Dinner” she spluttered.

“Yeah, dinner” Gerard quipped “We only made plans this morning, Izzy. Don’t tell me you forgot” he added, a nervous laugh falling out of his mouth.

“I...I meant to call you back” Isabella said apologetically “I...I didn’t remember until later that I can’t do tonight. I have a family thing that I can’t get out of” she added.

Gerard’s forehead creased slightly, noticing a slight wobble in her voice, but he didn’t say anything about it. “A family thing” he repeated “Have you left already?” he asked, taking another step back from the front door.

“I have” Isabella confirmed.

“So I look really odd standing outside of your front door?” Gerard asked amusedly.

The laugh that Isabella let out was strange, but Gerard couldn’t place why. It was somewhere between forced and genuine, between bright and sad, and it knocked Gerard off balance for a moment. He doubted that he had ever heard her let out a laugh like it before. “Has your mother asked about me yet?” he quipped, slowly starting the walk back towards his car.

“You’re not the only thing me and my mother talk about, you know” Isabella replied.

“That’s not an answer” Gerard chirped.

Isabella scoffed. “She’s not got around to it yet” she mused “But that’s not to say that you won’t come up. I’m sure either she, or my papa, will ask about you eventually” she added, the eye roll almost audible in her voice.

Gerard laughed. “I can’t help that I won them over, Izzy” he quipped “I mean, there’s a lot about me to like. You know you think so, too” he added impishly.

Isabella let out another strange laugh, causing Gerard to frown. “Hey” he said “Are you alright? You sound a little stressed” he added.

“I’m just a little overtired” Isabella answered “My plans for my day off went up in smoke pretty early on, so I am just a little frazzled, but I am OK. I promise” she added.

Gerard wanted to press a little more, but stopped himself. He knew if Isabella heard the doubt in his voice, then she would close herself off. If she wanted to talk to him, he trusted that she would. “Do you want to rearrange our date?” he asked.

“Can we leave it for a few days?” Isabella asked.

“If you can wait that long to see my lovely face, sure” Gerard retorted impishly.

Isabella huffed out a playful sigh. “It’ll be hard, but I am sure I will cope” she played along.

Gerard snorted out a laugh. “You’re just saying that, aren’t you?” he said.

“What do you think?” Isabella teased.

Gerard smiled to himself, allowing a brief moment of quiet to pass between the two of them. “I’m free Friday” he said “Does that fit into your busy schedule?” he prodded.

“Y...Yeah” Isabella stumbled out “Friday sounds good. I’ll see you then, OK?” she asked.

“I hope so” Gerard said tenderly “Bye, Izzy” he added.

With Gerard’s soft voice lingering in her ears, Isabella slowly pulled her phone away from her ear, settling it down onto the sofa she was curled up on.

“Who was that?”

Isabella blinked, her eyes slowly lifting towards her mother who stood in the doorway, a mug of tea clutched in her hands. “It was just Gerard” she said “We had plans tonight, but I...I wasn’t feeling up to them. I should have called him earlier” she added as she forced herself up, taking the cup as Francesca held it out to her.

Francesca wanted to ask about Gerard, it was written all over her face, but she didn’t. Instead, she gently settled down onto the sofa, coaxing Isabella’s hand into hers. “Did you tell him why you didn’t feel up to your plans?” she asked, her voice soft and tentative.

Isabella shook her head wordlessly. She knew that she should have done. It was a big thing that had happened to her, and if there was one person that she knew would drop everything to try and make her feel better, then it was Gerard, but she hadn’t been able to get the words out of her mouth. She knew he’d want to help. Even if they hadn’t been exploring a romantic relationship, Gerard would have still wanted to be there for her, but she didn’t know that she could handle it. She was reeling, and when she didn’t quite know how she was feeling, she had form for snapping and saying things she didn’t really mean, something she didn’t want to do with Gerard. She didn’t want to hurt him.

“He..He doesn’t need this” Isabella stumbled out “I need to get my head around it first” she added.

Francesca nodded despite the slightly dubious expression on her face. “I understand” she said “But remember that we’re here. Me, your papa, your brothers. Your friends, too” she added.

Isabella squeezed her mother’s hand, letting her head fall onto her shoulder. “I know” she murmured.