Until The Sunshine Fades

Thirty Four

Padding into the almost empty living room, Isabella quirked a soft smile, watching as Gerard stood up and gestured to his watch, rolling his eyes playfully despite the sad smile that he wore. He had given up trying to hide it. After another few days of acting like things weren’t about to change massively, they’d arrived at the night before Isabella’s departure to Madrid, and it made it impossible for him to mask his emotions, even if Isabella had teasingly warned him about making her cry. They only had a few hours left before everything changed.

“Only you could show up late to your own leaving party” Gerard quipped.

Isabella rolled her eyes as she plopped down onto the sofa, pulling on her boots. “Firstly, we’re not late” she said “And secondly, even if we were, I think people would understand. Ninety nine percent of my belongings are in boxes, and it makes getting dressed to go out difficult” she added.

Gerard offered her another dramatic roll of his eyes, something which caused Isabella to glare up at him for a second before a smile broke through. Shaking her head, she zipped up her boots before she stood up, smoothing out the top that she wore. “Are you still going to stay here tonight?” she asked, breaking the silence that had settled.

Gerard nodded slowly. “If you want me to, then I am happy to” he replied “Do you still want me to?” he asked.

Isabella nodded without hesitation, her eyes slightly watery. “Please” she said.

“Then, of course” Gerard quipped with a small reassuring smile “Now, we have to go. I am pretty sure that Elena or your mother would kill me if I kept you to myself all night” he added.

Isabella let out a laugh that, despite her best efforts, already sounded like a sob.

Gerard didn’t comment on it. He just stepped towards her, gently gathering one of her hands into his, before he collected her jacket and keys. Isabella followed him, a soft smile brightening her features when she felt him squeeze her hand softly, before she pushed up onto her toes, kissing his cheek softly, wordlessly thanking him for trying to keep her calm.

“Do you think if you asked, she wouldn’t go?”

Gerard’s lips quirked upwards, his eyes reluctantly moving away from Isabella towards Elena who’d slipped into the seat beside him, her hand holding out another bottle of beer towards him. She wasn’t the first person to breakaway from the rest of the party to check on him. Since they had arrived at her parents’ home, Francesca and Alejandro had both asked how he was doing, and even Alex had tried to subtly check on him, but each time, he had said the same thing. It was what Isabella wanted, and he wanted her to be happy. It wasn’t as simple as that. He was worried that he was losing her, and he worried that they’d ruin all of their good memories with a breakup that, at times, felt inevitable, but he knew that that wasn’t something he could share with her parents or brothers. They wanted to hear that he was as proud of her as they were.

“Don’t you think that if it was that simple, I would have done it by now?” Gerard retorted, plucking the bottle out of her hand.

Elena smiled ruefully. “It was worth a shot” she quipped.

Gerard took a sip of his drink, allowing a brief moment of silence to fall which was broken when Elena spoke again. “She’s asked her parents to keep an eye on you” she announced.

“What?” Gerard spluttered.

“She insisted, actually” Elena said “So don’t be surprised when they drag you over to dinner. They won’t take no for an answer either, take that from someone who knows. I think I still have some of Francesca’s leftovers in my freezer somewhere” she added with a soft smile.

Gerard shook his head amusedly, picking at the label on his bottle. “They barely know me” he quipped.

“Isabella does” Elena said “And she loves you, and she wants you to know that. She’s asking them to help remind you of that when she’s not necessarily around to say it herself” she added.

Gerard picked at the label for a moment before he let out a quiet sigh. “If I tell you I wish she wasn’t going, will you tell her that?” he asked “I know how excited she is, and I am happy that she found something that has made her happy, but I just...I wish we’d had more time. I wish we were surer of us” he added.

Elena’s expression was sympathetic as she gently placed a hand on his shoulder, patting it comfortingly. She didn’t quite know what she could say to him.

Gerard smiled sadly at Elena’s silence. “Sorry” he murmured “I just needed to say it” he added.

Elena shook her head. “It’s fine” she mused “And, for the record, I won’t tell her” she added.

“I don’t think she needs anyone to tell her anyway” Gerard quipped “I am not as subtle as I’d like to think I am” he added.

“Subtle enough that almost no one picked up how you felt about her in all these years” Elena quipped.

Gerard offered her a small smile. “Almost no one?” he asked.

Elena shrugged nonchalantly, a slightly boastful grin on her face. “What can I say?” she quipped “I mean, I saw how stiff you always were when Eli was around. It wasn’t a big leap to think you might have been just a little bit jealous” she added.

“A little might been an understatement” Gerard quipped “He was really boring, and I never saw what she saw in him” he added.

“Between us? Neither did I” Elena mused.

Gerard laughed, something which made Elena pat his shoulder again. “I can’t make any grand promises about how it will work out because you’re so amazing together” she quipped “But, for what it is worth, you are pretty good together, and I am rooting for you. You know how she can be. Isabella is not big on being vulnerable with anyone, but she kind of almost does it with you, and that’s something that can’t be said about a lot of people. I think it says a lot about what she thinks of you, and I think it ought to give you a little hope” she added.

Gerard nodded his head slowly, but before he could reply, Isabella appeared in front of him, her eyes wide and tearful. Without a word, he stood up and wrapped his arms around her, allowing her to cry softly into his shirt. Dipping his head, he pressed a kiss against her hair, but still he didn’t say anything, knowing that if he did, his voice would waver. Pressing his cheek against her head, he listened to her cry for a few moments before he sighed. “Home?” he whispered.

Isabella nodded against his chest, letting out a soft sniffle. “Please” she said.

Gerard nodded, gently prying her away from his chest. “I’ll get a taxi, then” he whispered “Go and hug your mother, Izzy” he encouraged, trying, and failing, to flash her a playful smile.

Isabella nodded before she wiped her cheeks, walking away into Francesca’s waiting arms. Gerard watched her go, but had to look away quickly, knowing that if he didn’t, he’d lose the calm mask he had perfected in an attempt to make things easier for Isabella.