As I met Neil exiting the empty building with Manuel he locked eyes with me. I offered him a smile but it was more for me.
“Great thanks. I’ll contact my property agent and let him know you’re interested.” Neil shook his hand and Manuel offered me a warm smile before getting back to his little makeshift office of a trailer on the edge of the two sights.
“So. Anything?” Neil waited till we had made it to the shaved ice place before asking.
“I don’t know. I told him I’d leave a light on him.” he took my hand in his and kissed my knuckles as the teen girl handed me my lemon ice. She blushed when Neil stuck three twenties in her tip jar and winked at her. It was easy to assume she was a local based on her style of clothing and hair. She probably had never seen real-life Irish ginger before.
“Have you talked to Alex?” I sighed and shook my head. He would be more than cruel if I told him I thought Howie was alive. He was the one who buried our mom next to dad, then dad, and then our brother. He couldn’t take the turmoil.
“I won’t tell him if that’s what you’re thinking.” he winked at me and made me laugh.
“It’s not but thank you. I was thinking about how painful it would be to tease him with the thought. He buried our parents and one of his siblings. I don’t think he could take it.” Neil ran a thumb over my knuckles as my other hand nervously picked at the ice dessert in front of me.
“I never thought this is what our vacation would have brought us. I’m sorry Neil. I feel like I’ve ruined this.” he narrowed his eyes at me and let my hand go. Great, I hit a nerve again. I was getting good at this. He pulled my chair closer to his by wrapping his foot around each leg and giving it a firm tug.
“You didn’t ruin anything. If I didn’t believe it to be even a tiny bit true we’d be gone by now. But I know how important it is to have the truth in a situation like this, I get it. I want you to see this through, even if it turns out you are in fact wrong.” I had lost my appetite for my lemon ice so I pushed it aside and leaned in to kiss my handsome boyfriend.
A few days passed and I left the light on every night for Howie. Cody. Whoever he was but he never showed. Maybe I had just thought I heard a voice in the shower that night.
Neil ended his phone conversation with Manuel about the property investment and had become genuinely interested in buying it now.
“I have to meet Manuel and his agent in a few hours. Hommoney is coming over, right? You’ll be okay till then?” He pulled on his navy suit coat over his white button-up that he wore without a tie and left a few undone to keep it more casual and island comfortable.
“Yes, I’ll be fine. Go. I know this is something you are interested in settling before we leave next week.” he gave me a short nod before he pulled me in for a long kiss. My knees turned to jello and he decided that was how he’d leave me. Cruel. Just cruel.
The sun had just set and like every night I turned on the light. Maybe forty-five minutes passed before Hommoney sent me a text, apologizing for bailing but she had a hot date that promised to end with a little fun. I gave her a thumbs up and locked my phone. I couldn’t help the disappointment that bubbled up inside me. I really needed a girlfriend. Essie from the office back home had decided she liked chicks all of a sudden so it was like I never saw her anymore.
A soft knock ratted against the wooden door. I wasn’t sure I had heard it so I sat for a moment and waited for another before I sprang up to see who was at the door. But when my feet were just inches from the barrier, I froze. My hands shook and it took swallowing my nerves to get me to even unlock the door.
On the other side of the door was Cody. he was dressed as I had seen him a few times before. Flip Flops, board shorts, and this time he donned a white shirt with a faded surf logo. He held himself up, propping his weight on one hand against my door frame.
“Hi.” My voice so breathless I wasn't sure I had said it. He just stared at me for a moment as if he was still considering what he would say. He took in a deep breath and finally broke the facade.
“Hey Lo.” My heart melted. It exploded. It shattered. It bled. All at once every emotion I had dealt with for the past year and a half. I threw myself into his arms and sobbed. Genuine, burning hot tears poured down my face and soaked his shirt. The roller coaster of emotions doubled just by touching his physical self again.