Nathaniel noticed it the minute Zara froze in her seat, her eyes going wide.
“Matt, I’ll call you in a few minutes.”, he said hurriedly into the phone.
Without waiting for a reply, he disconnected the call.
“Zara? Are you alright?”
She didn’t seem to hear him.
Following her gaze, he turned and saw the family she was staring at. A man with his wife and kids.
What was going on?
“Zara?”, he tried again, his hand reaching across the table over hers.
Her fingers were clenched around the edge of the table so hard her knuckles were white. He looked at her and saw that the blood had drained from her face and her expression was as though she had seen a ghost.
“Zara!”, he said more forcefully this time and she jerked in her seat, turning to look at him like she had forgotten he was there.
He was shocked when he saw the light sheen of tears in her eyes. What the hell?!
“Hey, talk to me. What’s going on?”, he murmured as softly as he could, terrified of the sudden change in her demeanor. What had she seen?
She didn’t say anything, looking right through him, goosebumps rising on her skin.
Nathaniel looked back at the family to his right. He scanned all their faces, wondering what-
He stopped cold when he saw the man more clearly the moment he moved forward. He stared at him for a long moment.
Grey eyes. Grey fucking eyes.
He turned back to Zara. Then back to the man.
She had the same cheekbones like him. The same hair texture and colour. The same fucking features.
When he turned back again to Zara, his heart cracked when he saw the single tear trailing down her cheek. Her expression hadn’t changed. She looked like she had gone numb. So it surprised him when she spoke.
“I have to leave.”
Her voice didn’t crack. It didn’t betray a single emotion.
Without waiting for an answer, she pushed her chair back, scraping it against the floor, turned around and began walking toward the door through which they had entered.
Nathaniel jumped up from his seat, ignoring the waiter when he tried to stop him, and rushed after Zara.
Afraid of how she might react if he tried to touch her, he let her leave the restaurant, staying close on her heels.
When she stepped out the door, he picked up pace and planted himself before her, his hands going for her shoulders.
When he touched her, she flinched and it was the worst feeling. He put his hands up, in the front, letting her see them.
“Zara, please. Tell me what’s going on.“, he pleaded, his eyes searching hers, willing her to see him, really see him.
Watching her like this made him feel powerless. He couldn’t stand not knowing how to take away whatever was hurting her.
She stared at him for a whole minute, her chest heaving slightly like she was having trouble breathing.
“There’s nothing to tell. I want to leave.”
The tone of her voice sent a chill down his spine.
She stared at him levelly, looking at him like he was simply a stranger. Cold dread settled in his stomach.
He nodded once and then set about hailing a cab.
When they got inside one, she moved away from him to one end, not looking at him even once throughout the ride.
Once, he reached out to touch her hand but she shivered and drew herself even further, like he had burnt her.
His gut churned. This was fucking bad.
In the corner of his mind that imagined the worst, he wondered for a second if he was going to lose her.
When they reached the apartment, Zara knocked hard on the door, uncaring of the pain that shot up her knuckles with the force.
She had to focus on it.
Or she was going to lose her mind.
The very next second the door opened and Matt stood there. On seeing her face, he instantly became alert.
“Zara, what’s going on?”
Ignoring him, she pushed her way inside, oblivious to Matt pouncing on Nathaniel and demanding his part in whatever had happened to make her look that way.
Her eyes burned with unshed tears. Her heart was breaking into two.
But this time, it was worse than when it had the first time he had walked out on them.
He didn’t have a place in her heart. She wasn’t going to let him live in her head.
He could fucking die for all she cared.
Without bothering to ask whether or not Susan had arrived, she started straight to the bedroom.
Rage was building up inside her. Anger. Hurt. Disbelief. It was a fucking tornado and she wanted to hurl something at the wall. Watch it break like she was breaking inside.
Why had he left them? Why? Were they not good enough for him?
He had another daughter.
Another fucking daughter.
And he had his arm around her.
They were a fucking family.
Her mother had cried for months. Her tears in vain. Hoping, believing, that someday he’d come back. That it was all a mistake. That he loved them.
Was it her? Had she done something to deserve this when she was a child? Had she performed badly in some way? That he left them for another family?
He had told her mother that he had wanted a boy. A goddamn boy.
Is that all what it was about? Or was there more? Had he lied?
The girl she had seen was not little.
She froze at the door of the bedroom.
He already had a family before he had met her mom. It had to be that.
Her fingers gripped the wood of the doorframe.
He had played them all along.
She took one step in. Her vision blurred with the tears swimming in her eyes.
The light from the hall fell on the bed and she stopped in her tracks.
Zara sniffled. She could feel the sob building in her chest.
Amy was still asleep, her angelic face relaxed and beautiful. Sweet little Amy who thought the world of her.
A broken cry left her lips.
She felt hopeless. Undeserving.
Going to the bed, she slipped under the sheets, her body curving around Amy’s small form, her head resting on the pillow.
Even in her sleep, Amy turned toward Zara, her small hand reaching out till she touched her cheek.
The tears finally spilled over.
They ran down the bridge of her nose, seeping into the pillow. Her shoulders trembled, her chest feeling heavy, like she was drowning and there was no one to pull her up.
Curving her arm around Amy, one hand holding her palm against her cheek, Zara let herself cry.
The lump in her throat hurt her as she tried to keep silent, tried not to make a sound.
Out in the living room, she could hear Nathaniel arguing with Matt to let him go see her. But Matt refused, hissing at him to leave her alone.
Just when she thought it was going to escalate, rapid footsteps entered the room and the hair on the back of her neck stood.
She felt Nathaniel right next to her, as he knelt down, his fingers touching her hair.
“Zara, I’m here. Please talk to me. It’s killing me to see you like this.”
Vulnerability bled through his voice but she hardened what was left of her heart against it.
Everyone left sometime or the other. No one stayed. No one was worth it. How long would it be till Nathaniel tired of her? Till he found someone better than her? What would she do when he discarded her and left, leaving her alone like her father did?
She shied from his touch and he took his hand away.
She could feel the hurt radiating off him.
His voice sounded pained.
Her body reacted, and she almost turned to him. Almost let him take her in his arms and soothe her like only he could.
“Zara please, talk to me. Tell me what’s going on.“, he was begging now, his voice closer to her ear.
“Please don’t shut me out.“, it was a whisper, a plea.
She remained still, unmoving.
Her chest hurt when she heard his voice. Guilt racked her on the inside.
Maybe he didn’t deserve to be punished like this.
Then she remembered her father’s face. How he had smiled at his family and the callous way he had ripped open her mother’s heart.
She moved closer to Amy and farther from Nathaniel.
Shutting her eyes, she forced herself to blank out her mind.
She’d deal with the world tomorrow.
A/N:- Hey guys! What do you think about the chapter?!