Until The Sunshine Fades

Fifty Four

Sealing the box that sat in front of her, Isabella pushed herself to her feet, moving to add it to the pile of already sealed boxes that had started to form against the far wall. She wasn’t trying to rush. The notice that she had served on her apartment meant that she had a couple of weeks before she needed to have everything out, and with a spare bedroom waiting at her parents’ house, there was no need to hurry, but she couldn’t help herself. She had already lost a couple of weeks. After her visit to Gerard, and the end of their relationship, she had headed back to Madrid, but it had only taken her a couple of days to realise that that wasn’t where she wanted to be.

It felt different. Her apartment, which had always been too quiet, felt emptier than normal without the promise of Gerard’s warm voice filling it, and whilst Isabella knew that moving back to Barcelona wasn’t likely to change the fact that she and Gerard hadn’t spoken since the break up, she knew that it was where she wanted to be. The decision hadn’t been an easy one. She had deliberated on arranging a meeting with David to talk about her resignation for almost a week, but as soon as she had stepped out of his office, she had felt lighter, even more so when he had told her that he had used his contacts to set up a couple of interviews in Barcelona. She had work to do, but the decision felt like the right one, even if things between her and Gerard were broken beyond repair. She only regretted that she had realised it too late.

“Unai found a cafe nearby. He’s gone on a coffee run”

Isabella, who’d been opening up another box, jumped, glaring up at Alex as he swanned into the room. “You scared me” she grumbled.

Alex smiled at her apologetically as he placed the pile of boxes he’d been carrying onto the floor. “Sorry” he quipped “I just thought I’d get that in before you accused him of slacking” he added.

“I wouldn’t do that” Isabella quipped.

Alex arched an eyebrow, something which made Isabella scoff before she settled back onto the floor, reaching for the next pile of her things. “You guys are doing me a favour” she said “I mean, coming here and helping me pack is one thing, but driving back with my stuff is another. I’d have to be the worst sister in the world to grumble at you for going to get coffee” she added, flashing her older brother a soft smile.

Alex shrugged, busying himself with folding up the pile of clothes that Isabella had left on the sofa. “You know that we’re happy to help you, Izzy” he quipped “And even if we weren’t, mama would find a way to get us here. You know how she can be” he added impishly.

Isabella smiled at his joke, but didn’t say anything, allowing the room to fall quiet. Placing more of her things into a box, she moved to seal it up before Alex spoke quietly. “Why are you coming home?” he asked.

“Am I not allowed to?” Isabella quipped, trying to keep the mood light.

Alex just looked at her, his expression concerned.

Isabella held his stare for a moment before she looked away, fiddling with the book that sat in her hands. “It doesn’t feel right here” she admitted “Don’t get me wrong, the job was fine. It was good, actually, and I did make friends eventually, but it just...It wasn’t right for me, and now I want to go back to where it was. It’s not just some whim, Alex” she added.

“So this isn’t just about Gerard?” Alex asked.

Isabella couldn’t stop herself from flinching slightly at the sound of Gerard’s name, but she still shook her head. “I feel alone here” she said “And I know it’s only a short plane ride away, and that everyone’s on the end of the phone if I need them, but it’s not the same. I’ve tried to make myself comfortable here, but it hasn’t happened, and I don’t think it’s the sort of thing I can just wait out. I want to be where I am happy, Alex, whether I am with Gerard or not” she added.

Alex looked at her again, his eyes searching his face, before he offered her a small smile and a nod. “OK” he quipped.

Isabella let out a quiet laugh before she started packing again. After a couple of comfortably quiet minutes, she glanced over at her brother, watching him for a beat before she asked the question that had been burning in her throat since he had walked through her front door. She didn’t want to ask it. She didn’t want to let anyone know that her mind was still stuck on Gerard, that it hadn’t moved away from him in all of the time that they had been apart, but she itched to talk about him. She itched to know if he was still as broken up as she was about the way things had gone between them, if he missed her like she missed him. She wanted to know if she had even crossed his mind. It was a selfish thing to want, just like the texts she had sent him were selfish of her to send, but she couldn’t help herself. The pain of his absence wasn’t easing, and she was desperate to coax any kind of interaction from him. It felt as though he had wiped her and everything they’d been together from his mind without looking back at all.

“Have you spoken to him?” Isabella asked.

Alex’s hands stilled, almost dropping the skirt he’d been folding, before he slowly inclined his head in a tiny nod. “A little” he confirmed.

Isabella’s hand rubbed a spot on her collarbone. “And?” she asked.

Alex wanted to shake his head, to insist that he wasn’t going to talk about Gerard with her, but the look on Isabella’s face stopped him. He doubted that he had ever seen her as vulnerable and upset as she looked in that moment. Letting out a sigh, he pushed a hand back through his hair before he looked down at his feet. “I’ve not seen much of him” he said “And I think I am probably going to start seeing less and less of him, but what I have seen...he’s hurting, Izzy” he added.

Isabella wanted to ask more questions. She wanted to ask if Gerard had said anything about her, but Alex was quick to shake his head, wordlessly telling her that he wasn’t going to say any more. He was stuck in the middle of them, his sister and his friend, and he wanted Isabella to know that he wasn’t going to act as a go between. If they were going to figure things out, if they could figure it out at all, it was going to have to happen between the two of them.

Letting out a shaky breath, Isabella placed a few more things into a box, almost letting out a scream when Unai bustled into the apartment, coffee and snacks in hand. Unai mumbled a quick apology, placing her drink and snack in her hand, before he disappeared into the bedroom, leaving his two older siblings in an awkward silence that lasted until Alex sighed. “Are you going to talk to him?” he asked.

Isabella shrugged sadly. “I think that’s up to him, not me” she said.

Alex opened and closed his mouth a couple of times before he shook his head. “You’ll be back in Barcelona by the time my birthday comes around, won’t you?” he asked.

“I’ll be there at the end of the week at this rate” Isabella’s joke was half hearted at best.

Alex’s smile was more out of pity than amusement as he nodded his head, not quite wanting to get her hopes up by admitting that Gerard had already committed to attending the party that his friends had put together for him. It could have been awful. If he told her, then Isabella would get her hopes up and Gerard’s reaction could have hurt her more, so he chose not to, hoping that if they were at least in the same place, the affection that he’d seen in them both since the breakup would allow them to try and put things back together again.