They went out into the city and, much to Gail’s disappointment, her father and his girlfriend decided to tag along. Haley managed to quell Gail’s nerves on the issue and the two of them kept away from Gail’s dad for the most part. Thankfully his girlfriend was the understanding type and she managed to keep him away from Gail for the most part.
Everything was going smoothly until they decided to go find somewhere to eat. Of course the four of them would have to sit and eat together which meant they would have to talk with each other, but the main issue appeared when Ivan showed up.
“Gail, Haley, wait up!” He made his way toward them as they were heading toward the mall exit and he grinned at them. “You should have told me you guys were going out today, I could have joined you sooner.”
“Yeah, we would have,” Haley started hesitantly, glancing over her shoulder toward the other two, “but Gail’s dad came over unexpectedly.”
“Oh.” Ivan turned and looked at Gail’s father and his girlfriend and he seemed to grow a bit shy. “Uh, hello, Mr. Wellers.”
Don Wellers smiled at Ivan and held his hand out to him. “Hello there. Who might you be, Gail’s boyfriend?”
Gail bristled and quickly cut in, “No he’s definitely not. We’re just friends who hang out sometimes.”
A slightly hurt expression came over Ivan’s face but he didn’t say anything to challenge Gail. “Yeah, right. We’re friends. Um, anyway I was gonna ask if you guys wanted to get lunch together but maybe I shouldn’t impose.”
“Oh, it’s no trouble at all,” Don said. “I’d love to get to know Gail’s friends some more. Please feel free to join us.”
Gail and Haley exchanged looks, then Haley cleared her throat and smiled. “No, it’d be great. Let’s go though, I’m starving.”
“Alright, thanks,” Ivan said with a grin.
Gail sighed and took the lead with Haley again, muttering to her, “This day is just getting worse, you know.”
“It’ll be fine,” Haley said. “Don’t worry about it. I doubt Ivan’s going to… say anything.” There was an uncertain tone to her voice and she shrugged her shoulders a little. “Come on, let’s just go get some food. It’ll make us all feel better I think.”
They had planned on just going to a small little restaurant but before they could get inside, Don decided differently. “No, I think we should go somewhere a bit nicer, my treat. Think of it as my apology for coming without invitation.”
Gail wanted to protest but in the end she found she couldn’t say no to a good free meal. With a reluctant sigh she let her father pick where they were going to eat and it ended up being one of the nicer restaurants that she always loved but hardly ever went to due to the prices.
“Oh, this is where Janae and I come a lot,” Haley said with a somewhat dreamy sigh. “We always buy a dessert to share and it’s just the best thing ever. I’ve never come here for lunch before though.”
“Who would this Janae be?” Don asked in a rather prodding manner. Gail glared daggers at him from across the table and muttered something sourly under her breath.
“I don’t see why it’s your business.”
Haley tilted her head at Gail for a moment then cleared her throat. “Oh, she’s one of my classmates. We spend a lot of time together when I’m not with Gail.”
“I see.” There was a rather judgmental tone to Don’s voice but he didn’t push the issue any further, of which Gail was eternally grateful. “So, Gail, how are you coming in your studies?” he asked.
“Fine,” Gail said shortly.
“You know I’ve told Delilah here all about what your plans for after college are. I’ve shown her some of your pictures too. She said she’d be interested in seeing the rest of your portfolio.”
“Yes, I would!” Delilah chimed in with a smile. “From what I’ve seen of your work you really have a unique artistic style. It doesn’t just look like everything else I’ve ever seen and I admire that.”
Gail sighed and shook her head. “Yeah, well… thanks, maybe I can show you later.” She would have preferred that the two of them just left immediately once Gail and Haley went home, but since Delilah was being so nice and actually taking an interest in her, Gail couldn’t find it in herself to push Delilah away, as much as that fact annoyed her.
For the most part Delilah and Don were talking to Haley and Ivan and leaving Gail alone which she appreciated, though a few of her father’s comments toward her friends set her on edge. Haley and Ivan were able to handle themselves. The biggest problem was her father’s insistent questions about whether or not Ivan and her were possibly dating.
“I mean, we’re close friends,” Ivan said. “We’re not officially dating or anything but I do care for your daughter a lot. I want to make sure she’s happy.”
Gail stood up suddenly and announced that she had to go to the bathroom. Haley politely excused herself once Gail had retreated and followed after her. Gail leaned against the wall in the women’s bathroom and sighed heavily, muttering something profane under her breath.
“I can’t believe him,” she hissed.
“Which one? Ivan or your dad?” Haley asked, raising an eyebrow. “They’re both being kind of… horrible, if you ask me.”
Gail sighed and pressed her face into her hands. “I can’t… I can’t do this anymore. What is Ivan’s deal?”
“Did you tell him you’re not interested in him like that?” Haley asked, raising an eyebrow. Gail huffed out a breath and pressed her head back against the wall.
“No, I haven’t, but you heard what he was saying. How am I supposed to say anything after all of that?”
Haley bit her lip and shrugged her shoulder. “I’m not entirely sure. I guess just… say it. Don’t be mean about it of course but you need to tell him eventually. If he gets upset about it, that’s his problem, not yours.”
Gail sighed and nodded her head. “Yes, you’re right. You’re absolutely right, but…” She glanced toward the door a little warily. “I don’t think now is the most appropriate time to say something like that, wouldn’t you agree?”
“No it’s not,” Haley said with a nod. “You should probably be alone with him when you tell him, or if you’re scared to be alone when you do it, I could just be close by.”
Gail smiled and nodded her head. “Thanks, Haley. I know you always have my back.” She let out a deep breath and stood up a little straighter. “Alright, let’s get back out there. Shouldn’t keep them waiting too long.”
Haley smiled and gave Gail’s shoulder a light squeeze, then they went back out to the table together and managed to get through the rest of lunch without anymore strained or awkward conversations like before.
When they had finished with lunch they parted ways with Ivan and he smiled and waved as he said goodbye. Gail was getting ready to say goodbye to her father as well but he had other plans.
“Let’s go back to your apartment first,” Don said. “I have something I want to talk to you about, Gail. Please, it’s important.”
Gail, who had half a mind to tell him to get lost, let out a stiff sigh and shook her head. “Fine. We can talk, just don’t expect anything to come from it.”
“That’s all I ask,” he said with a faint smile.
They returned to the apartment and Haley entertained Delilah with conversation and petting Cecil the kitten. Gail and her father went back into her room and closed the door behind them. Gail sat on the edge of her bed and frowned at him as he took a seat on her desk chair.
“What is it, then?” Gail asked. “What do you need to talk to me about?”
“I think you know,” he said rather solemnly. He glanced slowly around the room until his gaze settled on the guitar case resting against one wall. He stood up and walked over to it slowly, brushing his fingers against it. “So you kept this, did you?”
Gail bristled and jumped to her feet. “Don’t touch that!”
He glanced toward her and sighed, stepping away from the guitar. “Gail, I know his passing was hard on you. It was hard on all of us, but yes, I understand. You were close to your brother. I wanted to help you cope with this but you wouldn’t let me.”
“Stop,” she said. “Please, just stop. I don’t want to talk about this, not with you or anyone else.”
“It hurts still, doesn’t it?” he said. “I know it does. You shouldn’t have to suffer with this alone. I’m here, Abigail. Please just talk to me.”
“I already said I don’t want to,” she huffed. “Why can’t you just leave it at that?”
He gazed at her for a long moment then moved over to her and wrapped his arms around her tightly. Gail stiffened in his embrace but didn’t try to pull away. Her father kissed her on the head and whispered against her hair, “You probably think this is all my fault, don’t you? You’re blaming me for what happened. Well I… I understand that completely and I just…”
His voice started to break and before she knew it he had begun to sob. Gail didn’t know what to do with him so she just held still, hardly daring to breathe. When he was finally able to compose himself once more he pulled away from her a little and muttered an apology.
“I should probably… we should probably leave, shouldn’t we?” he managed to say, wiping his eyes on the back of his sleeve. Gail inhaled and nodded her head.
“Yes. I think that would be for the best.”
“Alright, you win. I’ll go. I would like to see you again at some point, Gail. Please don’t shut me out.”
She stepped over to the door and gripped the handle, mumbling, “I’ll think about it. Just don’t pester me like you have been, okay?”
“Okay,” he said with a nod of his head. She turned the doorknob and opened the door and the two of them stepped out into the living room where Haley and Delilah were sitting. Don cleared his throat and glanced at Delilah. “I think we should be going now. We need to get back, wouldn’t you agree?”
“Oh, but Gail never showed me her portfolio,” Delilah said a little sadly.
“Next time, perhaps,” Don said with a faint smile, glancing back at Gail. “I don’t think she’s in the mood for our company, anyway.”
“Took him this long to realize it,” Gail said with a snort. Delilah smiled and stood, holding her hand out to Gail for a friendly shake.
“Well I am sorry that we were intruding on you but I think it was a lovely time anyway. I hope you feel the same way. It’s been good to see you again, Gail, and I hope you do well with your classes.”
“Thank you,” Gail said, trying to muster a smile but not getting anywhere further than a slight quirk of her lips.
The two of them left the apartment and once she was sure they were gone, Gail collapsed onto the couch with a heavy sigh. Haley peered at her and asked rather cautiously, “So what did your dad want to talk to you about?”
“Something personal,” Gail murmured. “I’d rather not talk about it if it’s all the same to you.”
“It’s fine,” Haley said. “That’s between you and him and I have no business snooping.” She leaned over to Gail and set Cecil into her arms and the kitten began purring deeply. “You look like you could use something to snuggle.”
Gail hugged the little kitten close against her with a nod of her head. “I don’t want to do anything else for the rest of the day except lie here.”
“I’m okay with that,” Haley said with a smile. “You deserve a break.”
Sunday afternoon Gail decided to go out and take pictures in the city. Haley was working so it was the perfect time to do it. She would have just been moping around the apartment otherwise.
The quiet clicks of her camera as she took each picture gave her a sense of peace. Life was a series of fleeting moments that often flew away too fast for anyone to notice them at all. She had a chance to capture those moments, or at least pieces of them. That thought always kept her going and moving forward with her photography.
As she was walking through the city near the shopping center a siren caught her attention and she turned to see an ambulance rushing down the street followed by a couple police cars. Her gaze followed the vehicles and she noticed a large crowd was gathering around. Gail made her way to the crowd, wondering what was going on, though she knew it must not be anything good with that ambulance stopping there.
The crowd was huge and loud by the time she got to it and she could barely see or hear any of what was going on. She pushed her way through enough to see someone being loaded into the ambulance on a stretcher. The crowd moved back as the ambulance drove off and everyone sounded confused and panicked.
“She jumped,” Gail heard someone say. “All the way from up there! I can’t believe there’s even a chance she’s still alive. I doubt she’s gonna make it to the hospital.”
Gail’s heart skipped a beat when she heard them saying that. She started finding it difficult to breathe and wanted to get as far away from everyone as possible but now they were all around her, pushing and jostling her. Her stomach was twisting and she felt like she was going to be sick.
The crowd moved away enough for her to see the stain on the ground that was unmistakably blood. Gail sucked in a breath and shoved her way out of the crowd as fast as she could, stumbling away before making it to the side of a building. She couldn’t breathe and she felt like she was going to puke. Her whole body was shaking uncontrollably and there was cold sweat on her forehead.
“Gail. Gail! Gail, come on, get a grip, look at me!”
The voice was distant and for a moment she wasn’t even sure it was real, but then she felt hands gripping her shoulders and snapped her attention forward. Cecil was crouching over her, a worried expression on his face. She realized she was on the ground, her back against the wall of the building.
“Gail, are you alright? You look like you’re about to pass out.”
“I… I… no, I can’t…” Gail shuddered and buried her face in her hands, wanting to push Cecil away but not even able to make herself touch him. Her chest heaved out a shaky breath and all of a sudden sobs were wracking her whole body.
Cecil looked alarmed and gripped Gail’s shoulders a little tighter. “Hey, hey, it’s gonna be okay. Come on, I’m gonna take you back to your car so no one will see you like this.”
It barely registered with her when they were standing in front of her car. She wasn’t sure if he had walked them all the way there while she was unaware or if he had somehow just transported them there in the blink of an eye. Cecil opened the back door of the car for her and helped her inside so she could lay across the back seat.
Gail shuddered and curled up tighter, unable to stop her sobbing now that it had started. Cecil wasn’t touching her anymore. She didn’t see him at all, but it didn’t matter. She was away from the street, away from the bloodstain. Away from that moment.