Just to be clear, Gena and Mike aren’t married.
So why do they share the same house?
Because he rented the apartment to her so they live together, but in different rooms.
Gena trailed her eyes at the snow globe on a desk next to her, trying not to pull away as Mike curled his fingers in her hand. She didn’t want any more to do with men, after the incident that happened several weeks before.
“Why are you here in San Francisco?”
She still didn’t meet her eyes with him. “May I not take a vacation?”
“Who sent you here?”
“No one did.” He was fading from the truth. Genevieve did not have the heart to tell him that she nearly had been choked to death by her ex-husband weeks ago, for refusing to eat dinner with him. She told Antoine she was busy, which was not a lie. She had work for her boss but was now instead eyeing the beach nearby due to the death of her boss’s sister.
“How was the funeral?” He would not stop with the questions. Nor would he let go of her hand.
“Everything was fine, Michael.” She gave him a peck on the cheek without thinking. She didn’t love him but instead felt sorry for him. Maybe the kiss was to shut him up. She didn’t know.
His eyes went from solemn to surprise. He kissed Gena once more, on the lips. She stumbled back. His breath was orangey and sour.
“I thought you were married?” he asked.
She scowled. “I guess not.”
He nodded as if he understood, but it was clear he didn’t, when he whispered, “Please marry me. We’ll have the best Christmas together, and we’ll spend our whole lives together. Please.”
She stared at him. “My husband almost killed me. I can’t marry anyone anymore.”
His expression stiffened, but he continued. “But I love you.” He took his other hand and clenched it tightly with hers. Mike didn’t ask anything about her husband, nor did he ask if she was feeling okay. “Please marry me, Genevieve.”
Gena pulled away and stood up. “I have to get home.”
“But your flight isn’t until next week.”
She ran and stumbled on her feet, but quickly got up and opened the door hurriedly. His confused expression faded when she was out of sight.
She panicked when she was on the street. Genevieve was still in her purple and blue pajamas and was too tired to sleep in her car. Suddenly, there was a familiar car that stopped in a parking lot. She squinted out in the sun as he waved.
“Genevieve? You need a ride?” He shouted. She was unconvinced, but she glanced behind her. She couldn’t head home.
She raced toward his car and didn’t look back.
“You’re not dressed,” he eyed her body up and down.
“I can’t go back there.”
“That’s alright.” She clasped in her seatbelt and he drove.
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll like it.”
“To your house?”
He parked in a rocky area and she gasped, waking up as he hit a bump on the road.
“Sorry, princess. Didn’t mean to wake you up.”
She almost scowled when he called her ‘princess.’
“Come out, I want to show you something.” She was still groggy and tired but obeyed as the mystical beach view came in awe. The sunset appeared, and the sun reflected against the horizon and the clouds, which were turning into the colors of tangerine and honey.
“Genevieve Arizona Hart, I loved you for a long while. You—”
“I’m in pajamas.”
“You’re still beautiful to me.” He gave her a kiss. Orangey and cider-like. Still sour. “Genevieve, will you marry me?”
It seemed to be a crime to say no in the sunset.
“I’m sorry, Dave. I—”
“No, I just can’t.”
He looked as if a rock hit the back of his head. She felt genuinely sorry for him, and for Mike, but she couldn’t take any more of the drama. Not anymore.
Dave didn’t seem that way. He pushed her to the edge of the rails. She lost her breath, looking behind her. If he pushed her again, she’d fall and drown.
“Why don’t you love me?” he cried. “I thought you loved me.”
“I do. But so much has been going on. I can’t. I’m sorry.”
“I can’t believe it.” He was angry. “Find your way home!”
He shoved back her shoulder, and she stumbled.
“I’m cold,” she whispered to Chase and his brother, Hans, people she really trusted to pick her up. The air was hot and humid, but she was so tired and numb.
“We’ll get you home,” Chase said kindly.
“No. Don’t bring me home.”
“We’ll get you to our house, then.”
Hans was next to her and she leaned her head against him, drifting to sleep.
“Genevieve, I love you. Please marry me. We’ll have a lovely Christmas together.”
“Why don’t you love me? I thought you loved me!”
“No one deserves you more than I do. Please marry me.” Genevieve turned around and saw Chase smiling with open arms. “Marry me, Genevieve.”
“I love you. Will you marry me?” She turned the other direction and found her sister’s boyfriend come up to her. “You are much better than your sister.”
She closed her eyes and let herself fall in a two hundred feet well, crying, but her tears dissolved and replaced them with memories of the past.
She woke up on the couch that day. It was rough and bumpy but she couldn’t get up.
Hand took one look at her face and glared at Chase. “See, I told you we should have put her in the guest room.”
Gena’s eyes widened in fear when Chase came close. “The lady’s awake!” He called when he studied her face.
“Good. Our breakfast was getting cold,” Hans joked.
“Uh, actually, I was wondering if I can eat out.” She sat up. “Alone.”
Chase was silent, but Hans shrugged. “Sure. If you don’t want our famous, juicy, breathtaking, healthy breakfast hamburgers, I guess you can eat out.” When she gave him a grateful expression, he warned, “Come back, though. I heard there’s going to be a storm coming soon.”
“I’m an adult. I don’t need a curfew.”
“It’s to protect you.”
When she stepped outside, Hans followed. She was scared at first, but it was Hans. She trusted him all her life.
“What do you need?” she asked.
“Just wanted to say happy birthday.”
He was the only one who remembered.
“How’d you know?”
He stared at her. “I’ve known you for fifteen years, Gena. I’d know.” Then, he kneeled down. “And for all those fifteen years, I’ve loved you. I’ve loved you more every single year. Will you marry me?”
She wanted to say yes.
“Hans, you know I have a husband,” she tested him.
“No. You divorced him after he choked you. And you can’t trust anyone after what happened, and I understand.”
“You’re not going to marry me, are you?” he asked. “It’s okay. Forget I asked.” He turned around.
She grabbed his shoulder and spun him around, leaning close. She smiled until she was an inch away from him, and then kissed him gently on the lips.