Always Alone

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Chapter Eighteen

SOON AFTER MY conversation with Mom, I find myself at the airport. This is what I love about her, how she's always there for me even miles away, even when she doesn't agree with my decisions. I hope that one day I can be as great of a mother as she's been to me and Jess, with all her failures and triumphs.

My phone vibrates in my pocket and I reach for it.

"Hey, Mom! Where are you?" I ask, standing on my toes and poking my head around the people in front of me to see if I can catch a glimpse of her from here.

"Right behind you," I hear her familiar voice close to my ear and turn around.

Instantly, my shaky arms wrap around her neck as my body begins to quiver.

"I've missed you so much, Mom."

"Shh, shh." She soothes. "Momma's here. I'll fix everything, don't worry."

There's no better medicine than a mother's hug. She hugs me tightly as if she wants to take all of my pain away. Wiping under my glassy eyes, I clean my hands on my shorts, feeling a lot better already.

"Let's get something to eat; I'm starving," she says and walks in front of me, out of the airport. I giggle as her steps falter the closer she gets to the exit.

"This way, Mom." I point to the right where the parking lot is.

As we drive through the streets of Miami, Mom talks about Dad and how much he misses me. He made a frail attempt at making here, but Mom stopped him before he was able to click the purchase button. She mentions Pastor Paul who's asked about me and wants to know the name of the church I'm going to now.

My stomach swells up as guilt seeps through my bones. Ever since I moved, I haven't gone to church and the more time I've spent with Devin, the less and less I've opened my bible let alone pray. My heart sags down as I realize how much I've let go of Him, yet I feel Him every day silently watching the mistakes I continuously make with Devin.

Speaking of him, he hasn't bothered to text me, and I have a feeling this will continue for days as it did last time. I know he doesn't deserve my thoughts, much less my tears and worry, but I can't help but wonder if this is the part he mentioned about pushing me away.

"Can you put the air? It's so hot in here," Mom gushes, fanning herself with the scarf around her neck.

"I told you to come in a dress or shorts, but you're wearing winter clothes in a state that has no winter."

"Well, it's winter in all the other states. I thought it would be a bit breezy here, too."

"De—" I catch myself before the name rolls out of my mouth. "A lot of my coworkers say it's usually summer all year around. No need for winter clothes."

I can feel her eyes narrowing as I take a right onto Collins Avenue, but she doesn't get a chance to ask her prying questions. I press on the gas and reach the valet in no time.

Mom is mesmerized by the beach and asks to be seated on the outside tables to admire the picturesque view. A few minutes later, the waitress brings out our soft drinks and we order our lunch.

Throughout our meal, we dance around our pending conversation and the reason for her trip, neither wanting to bring it up or damper our tranquil mood. I tell her about work, the kids, and Angie, reminding her to tell Dad about how great of a "protector" she's been for the last months I've had her.

She's surprised by Angie's behavior, thinking I'm exaggerating. I tell her all about how she acted on New Year's Eve and that's how the Devin topic seeps into our conversation.

It is then when Mom starts.

"I have lots to apologize for, Genna," she says.

"When Jess passed away, I was not only confused and devastated but scared and held tremendous guilt. You will know what I'm talking about when you have your own children, but for now, try to understand. Your dad and I were trying our best to raise you after losing our daughter in the most horrible way imaginable. When your child takes her own life, you can't help but think, 'Where did I go wrong? This is my fault. If only...'

"The older you got, I could see it in your eyes how suffocated you felt because of us and when you told me about Miami, I couldn't help but wonder if you chose this state to get away from us. Believe me when I tell you, it was never our intention to make you feel like that.

"You don't know what you're capable of doing when you're scared and I was so scared of losing you that I acted as if you were a child even though you weren't. Never once did I ask if you were okay with the changes your dad and I made in your life. I'm terribly sorry for that and I only wish that one day you'll be able to forgive us."

"Mom, please—"

She raises her hand to stop me from interrupting.

"When you first told me about Devin, it felt like Jess all over again and the images kept roaming in my mind. Yet again, I had failed my second daughter when she needed me to give her advice. When you called me yesterday, I saw my opportunity to redeem myself and give you the advice I was never able to give Jess. So, I'm ready to talk about Devin whenever you are."

She turns her eyes to the sea before giving me a sincere smile. I direct my eyes to the ocean, too, breathing its welcoming aroma. It feels good to hear those words come out of Mom's mouth. I'm glad they see that they could have handled the situation better.

Everything she said is the truth, but I won't hold a grudge any longer. We all make mistakes. All we can do is learn from them and try not to make them again. They were doing what they thought was best at the time.

"Mom, there's nothing to apologize for. I know now that you were doing your best. If something, I should be the one saying sorry. I can only hope that one day, I'll be half the mother you've been to me and Jess."

She raises an eyebrow, probing me to get on with it. She's waiting for the salacious gossip. See, just like Angie.

"Oh, um. You want me to talk about Devin?" I look down at my nails. "Well, I'm sure Dad told you about him. His name is Devin, he's a software developer, he's twenty-six. He loves his family and nieces and nephews. He has three sisters. He's Cuban; speaks Spanish..."

"Yep, I know all of that. What I want to know is how he makes you feel right here." She leans forward and places a manicured finger on my heart.

How does he make me feel? Like I'm on a roller-coaster ride. Sometimes we're up, others we're down. Sometimes the tickling sensation in my stomach feels good, but others, it reminds me how close I am to losing him.

"With a simple glance, I can feel the passion he holds for me growing in his heart. His presence elevates me beyond what my eyes can see whenever he's around. But he has so many secrets, Mom."

I sigh.

"What hurts the most is that I don't know if he doesn't want to tell me or if he can't because he's afraid of losing me. Yet, when I'm around his family or even with Alexa and Ernesto, I feel like they all know something I don't. It makes me feel like I'm disposable and I get it. I mean, I sort of am. I can leave and come at any moment, but his family will always be there for him.

"I'm not going anywhere, though. He doesn't understand that. He hasn't given me the chance to show him that no matter how major his secret is, I won't leave him. I find it hard to see our relationship hit that stage where we'll be happy without secrets or drama."

Mom leans back in he chair with a silly smile on her face. "I think my daughter's in love," she sings. "Oh, don't be shy, we've all been in love at least once in our lives. Before I met your dad, I had a few boyfriends here and there, nothing serious.

"With the first one, Bryant, I was walking on air whenever he was around me, but then I met Daniel and I realized that my feelings for Bryant were nothing compared to how I felt about Daniel. I thought for sure I was in love.

"And then one day, I met this leggy man sitting in the last pew at church and from the moment our eyes locked, I just knew he was the man I was supposed to be with. I realized that what I thought was love with Daniel and Bryant was not love, but just feelings.

"Now, I'm not saying that what you have with Devin isn't real, but you have to look at the possibilities that maybe it could not be true love, but lust. You might be in love with him, just like Jess was with Hansel, but just like Hansel was playing with Jess, Devin could be doing the same with you.

"I don't know Devin, and I don't know if your relationship will ever get to the meet-the-parents stage, so I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe he is scared of losing you. Maybe to him you're the one and he's never had to worry about telling other girls about his past because they were just girls, but you might be something else to him.

"About Alexa, I think maybe you should try talking to her or maybe try with Isa or his mom. But don't go around his back when you do, if you do so. You sit down with him first and have a conversation before making rash decisions. You tell him how you feel when it's just you two and how he makes you feel when it's you, him, and his secrets or Alexa lurking around.

"If he's not ready to tell them to you...I mean, Genna, is it really such a big deal? Can't that boy just keep them for a little longer? Perhaps those 'secrets' aren't as big as you think or as big as he's making them seem."

"Mom! Are you kidding me? You're taking his side?"

She gasps, hands covering her mouth and everything. "I would never. I'm just saying if it really doesn't bother you, what's the point of making him tell you something you might not be ready to hear?"

"No, Mom, it doesn't bother me. It infuriates and hurts me to know other people know things about my boyfriend that I don't. And what do you mean I might not be ready to hear?"

"What I'm saying is, maybe he wants to tell you, but he doesn't think you'll understand. At least not yet. Give him time. I'm sure he'll open up."

I'm so scared of falling for him to later realize that who I fell for wasn't the person I thought he was. And the thing is that I'm already falling really, really hard. I don't want to let him go, not yet, but darn it if he doesn't make it hard.

We finish our lunch and Mom and I decide to take a trip down the beach and around the city. I want to introduce her to the Hispanic culture in Miami.

Later that day, I hear a knock on the front door. It's so faint if it weren't for Angie's bark I probably wouldn't have heard it. There's the silhouette of a male dressed in a black hoodie with briny green eyes.

"Genny, please. I know you're there, I just want to hear your voice." His croaky voice slices my heart in two. His forehead connects to the door, making it rattle as his body sags down on the welcome mat.

"I'm so sorry," he pleads one last time just as my stomach twists at his broken form. My fingers rapidly reach for the handle and twist the knob. Before I have a chance to open the door, I hear Alexa come to his rescue, yet again. She picks him up and takes him away.

What was I thinking? Give him time, Mom says. Give him time, Valentina says. All caring about Devin and his feelings, omitting mine. When will someone care about me and the turmoil whirling around my heart?

Mom leaves too soon the following day. It's almost as if the last two days had been a dream or a magic show. One minute she's here, the next she's gone. I have no idea what her secret is or how she does it, but she's given me enough strength to go through whatever it is I'm going through with Devin.

"Tell Dad I love him and to leave you home next time," I joke.

"Funny, Genna, very funny," Mom mocks, seeing no humor in my words.

I hug her again, breathing in her familiar scent of vanilla and warmth.

"I'll miss you, Momma."

The speakers announce the last call for her flight as she gives me one last kiss and says goodbye. "I'll call when I get home, okay?"

I nod, not trusting my emotions to topple over my eyes.

As I drive the rest of the way home, rolling down the window and enduring the sunny weather and soft breeze, the scent of roasted pecans enters my nose and settles in my stomach. I really shouldn't, but my hands twist the wheel to the left and my feet walk forward until I'm in front of the bakery advertising the sweetest homemade pies.

"Um." I lick my lips when I see the baker in the back packing fresh-out-of-the-oven pies. "Can I have a pecan pie?"

"Sure thing," the elderly woman says. "It's a bit warm, you might want to be careful. Anything else?"

"That's it. Thank you." I smile and rush home, hating for the pie to cool before I get a chance to take a drooling bite.

As I am parking the car in our complex, I see Devin's front door slowly open. Despite my apprehension about our unresolved conversation, my lips instantly pull into a smile. As quickly as they turn upwards, the smile slips off my face when Alexa steps out, laughing with Devin behind her.

An unknown seed was planted in me ever since I saw Devin caring for Alexa. That seed was watered and grew roots when asked me to leave his apartment. The stem grew strong enough to hold a bud one day ago, but right now, I can feel the bud blossom into a jealous flower, preventing me from believing nothing less than what my green eyes see.

I slam the car door with a thud, not bothering to look up to see if they see me. Through my anger, I manage to hear a few curse words and feet slapping the stairs. I don't want to talk right now. I don't want to hear any more lies or omissions. I don't even want to eat that stupid pie anymore.

I am done.

Done with Devin.

Done with Alexa.

Done with Camila and her rudeness.

Done with his mood swings.

D-O-N-E!

But apparently, Devin isn't done with me because when I swing my front door closed, he stops it with a hand, and in a swift push, enters my apartment.

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