Until The Sunshine Fades

Forty Two

“I called you to let you know that I was on my way. How are you still not ready?”

Isabella smiled softly to herself as she pulled on her shoes, amused by Marco’s playful complaining. It reminded her of all the times that Gerard had complained in a similar way. He was on her mind. After she had met his parents, she had spent a couple more days in Barcelona before she had returned to Madrid, and in those couple of days, Gerard hadn’t quite been himself. He had tried to be. He had been as playful as normal, joining in with her jokes and grinning at her like he always did, but it hadn’t been hard for Isabella to see that there was something bothering him. He stared at her, when he thought that she wasn’t looking, he watched her with a small, sad smile on his face, but Isabella hadn’t succeeded in getting him to admit it. Whenever she tried, he simply flashed her a grin and batted her concern away, insisting that he was fine.

After tying the laces on her trainers, she moved to collect the cardigan that she had left on her bed before she jogged up the hall, swanning into the living room.

Marco let out a playful scoff. “At last” he quipped.

Isabella shook her head, collecting her phone from its spot on the coffee table. “You and my boyfriend would get along well” she quipped “He’s awfully impatient, too” she added, lifting her head to flash Marco a playful smile.

“Is he impatient, or are you always late?” Marco asked with a knowing grin.

Isabella glared up at him, something which made Marco laugh, holding his hands up innocently. “Sorry” he quipped “I am sure it’s him” he added.

Isabella laughed, but shook her head. “No, it’s me” she quipped “If it wasn’t for Gerard, I would have missed my flight back” she added.

“By how much?” Marco prodded.

“A day” Isabella answered.

Marco tried, and failed, to contain the spluttered laugh he let out.

Isabella rolled her eyes, still smiling slightly, before she pulled her bag onto her shoulder. “Are you done laughing so that we can go?” she asked, feigning impatience.

She liked Marco. He could make her laugh, a lot like Gerard could, and it had helped her to relax around him. She didn’t worry about saying the wrong thing around him like she did around some of her other colleagues. She was still trying to settle. Even after weeks of being in Madrid, and working in her office, she was still trying to find a place that made her comfortable, and spending time with Marco had helped.

Marco let out a couple more little chuckles before he nodded. “I think so” he said “Are we taking a taxi or are you driving?” he asked.

“Taxi” Isabella replied.

Marco nodded his head before he pulled the front door open, allowing Isabella to duck under his arm. “Are we staying out late?” he asked.

“Let’s see where the night takes us” Isabella answered.

“So, how’d you and Gerard get together?”

Isabella let out a small laugh, spluttering on the sip of wine she had just taken. She had been expecting the question. Until a comfortable lull had fallen in their conversation, they had been talking about how Marco had met his ex-girlfriend, but still it made her laugh. It was a memory that made her smile. “That depends” she quipped “Do you want the sweet romantic version, or the one that makes me sound a little bit like an idiot?” she asked.

Marco grinned around the top of his glass. “What do you think?” he quipped.

Isabella shook her head, her fingers gently pushing her hair behind her ear as her smile grew a little softer. “We met a few years ago” she said “I was interning at a magazine, and the guy that I was working with interviewed him. We just hit off, started to spend time together. He became one of my best friends, actually, with surprising ease. You can attest to it not being easy” she added.

Marco shrugged, wordlessly encouraging her to continue.

“Anyway, I did something stupid” Isabella quipped, shaking her head amusedly “After I broke up with my last boyfriend, I didn’t date for a while, but my mother wouldn’t let the subject drop, so I made up a boyfriend and then I got him invited to my parents’ wedding anniversary party. My friend, Lena, she suggested that I take Gerard and then, after a small amount of fumbling awkwardness, we got together. We’ve been together for a little under four months” she added, her cheeks flushing a light shade of pink.

“You made up a boyfriend?” Marco asked, not even attempting to stifle his amused grin.

“You’ve not met my mother” Isabella countered.

Marco laughed. “Is she that bad?” he asked.

Isabella shook her head. “She just wants me and my brothers to be happy” she replied “Besides, it didn’t work out so badly. I am pretty sure that if Gerard and I break up, she’s going to keep him around anyway. I think she might actually prefer him to my brothers” she added.

“Isn’t it a lot of pressure that she likes him so much?” Marco asked.

Isabella’s forehead creased, slightly caught off guard by the change of tone in the conversation, before she shrugged, her fingers fidgeting with the stem of her wineglass. “He’s not going anywhere” she replied “I mean, at least not if I have any say in it. I like that he can fit in with my family” she added.

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t” Marco said “I’m just saying...long distance isn’t easy. If it does get harder, and he’s already integrated in your family...”

“We’re fine, Marco” Isabella cut in.

“I’m not saying you’re not” Marco replied evenly.

Isabella was quiet for a moment, letting the atmosphere grow slightly awkward, before she shook her head and pushed herself up to her feet. “I’m going to the bathroom” she murmured.

Marco thought about trying to stop her, but instead, he just offered her a slightly tight smile. “I won’t let anyone take your seat” he quipped.

Isabella’s lips twitched slightly, but she didn’t say anything before she walked away.

Marco watched after her for a few moments before he heard her phone vibrate against the bar, pulling his attention towards the screen which showed off a picture of Isabella and Gerard pulling silly faces at the camera. Watching it for a moment, he waited for it to go silent before he flipped it over, hiding the screen from view. He knew that eventually Isabella would check the phone, but he hoped that it wouldn’t be for a little while. The last thing she needed was to barrel into a conversation with Gerard when she was upset. Staring at the phone for a beat longer, he reached out and picked it up before he stowed it in her jacket pocket, hoping he could keep her attention away from it.