After taking the phone call from Gorman and giving in to Genevieve’s insistence that I eat some dinner, I climbed back upstairs and had no trouble falling asleep. Despite the eery quiet of the country, I was out almost the instant my head hit the pillow.
Some time later, my eyes blinked back open.
It must have been the middle of the night. My room—the quaint little guest room with ruffled curtains and a big brass bed—was pitch black.
But something must have woken me. I was still exhausted and every muscle in my body wanted to drift right back to sleep. So why was I awake and staring at the ceiling?
Then I heard it. A sound—I couldn’t tell what, exactly, but it made my chest tighten.
Before I could question my decision, I threw back the soft quilt and headed across the room. Slowly, quietly, I turned the handle and pulled open the door. I waited, listening.
It was quiet so long I decided I must have imagined the sound. Maybe the outback was getting to me. Maybe I was having big city withdrawal and instead of the shakes or panic attacks I was hearing—
I heard it again. This time more distinct. It sounded like… crying.
“Genevieve,” I whispered.
I hurried across the hall, to her door which was opposite mine. I lifted my hand, ready to knock.
I jerked back at the sound of Ty’s voice.
He sat on the floor a few feet down the hall, his back against the wall and his hands draped over his knees. The faint glow of a nightlight illuminated him from the side, casting his features into chiseled relief. He was… beautiful.
Genevieve’s soft whimper broke my trance.
“She cries,” Ty said, his voice soft but full of pain. “Every night.”
I stared at her door. It was hard to reconcile sunny, cheery, matchmaking Genevieve with someone who cried herself to sleep each night. It wasn’t like I knew her, though.
Moving quietly down the hall, I squatted down in front of Ty.
“She seems so happy,” I whispered.
One side of his mouth lifted. “She is. Most of the time.”
“But not at night.”
He shook his head. “Not at night.”
For several long moments we sat in silence, listening to Genevieve’s quiet sobs.
What was I doing? I barely knew these people who had taken me into their home. This felt like an intrusion. I needed to return to my room and leave this family to their personal moments.
But as I stood to go, Ty said, “Her husband died.”
“Oh my God,” I whispered, dropping back to the floor. “I’m so sorry.”
Ty shook his head. “Car accident.” He scrubbed his hands over his head. “Almost five years ago.”
“Some things,” I said, placing my hand on his knee, “take a long time to heal.”
My dad had been gone for more than twenty years, and I still had trouble on Father’s Day and his birthday. When you love someone, it’s hard to let them go.
“I know,” he said. “I wish I could help. Do something more than sitting in the hallway listening to her tears.”
“You—“ I was moved by his pain. I barely knew him—barely knew his sister—but I found myself wanting to make him feel better. “You do. I haven’t known you guys for long, but from the moment we met I could see how happy you make her.”
He shrugged, like he didn’t believe me.
“When my dad died,” I said, revealing more of myself than I usually did, “I was inconsolable for weeks. It was months before I could get through a day without unexpectedly bursting into tears, years before I didn’t feel like there was a lead weight on my chest all the time.”
He looked up, his bright blue eyes full of pain and sympathy.
“I still feel it sometimes. Nights are the worst.” I could have sugar-coated it, but I got the feeling he would rather I was honest. “But it gets better. She’ll get better. And everything you do helps.”
Although he didn’t say anything, he placed his hand on mine and gave me a small smile.
“Hey, can you two chatterboxes keep it down out here?”
Genevieve appeared in the hallway. Though she managed a smile and her words were teasing, I could tell her eyes were red and puffy.
Ty and I both climbed to our feet.
“Sorry, Gen,” Ty said. “I was just…”
“I heard a noise.” I clasped my hands behind my back, like a little girl caught raiding the cookie jar. “It’ll take me a while to get used to the country silence.”
“Try hot tea,” she suggested. “Chamomile is best.” Then, she told her brother, “You can stop worrying about me.”
“You’re my little sister,” he argued. “I’ll always worry about you.”
I fidgeted. “We were trying to be quiet.”
She smiled again, and this time it reached her eyes. “If that was trying, I’d hate to see you two trying to be loud. You probably woke the chickens.”
As if on cue, somewhere outside a rooster crowed.
“Morning’s coming early.” Genevieve yawned. “I’m going back to bed. If you want to keep talking about me, can you do it downstairs?”
With that, she walked back into her room and shut the door.
“I, um…” I gestured across the hall. “I should get some sleep. My muscles are complaining about all that hard work today.”
Ty grinned. “Then wait ’til they see what I have in store for them tomorrow.”
“Great,” I said without enthusiasm.
Well, if nothing else, I could look at my time as a cowgirl as a fitness bootcamp. Not that I ever wanted to do a fitness bootcamp, but I was certainly going to be in the best shape of my life by the time I left.
I was just about to want through my door when Ty called my name.
“Yeah?” I turned back to face him.
He lifted his brows and gave me a half-smile. “Thanks.”
As I crawled back into bed and started sinking back to sleep, my mind kept thinking about that moment when Ty put his hand on mind. For some reason, I had a feeling that moment was really important. Too bad I drifted off to sleep before I could figure out why.
Andy's Playlist #8: No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problems by Kenny Chesney
Tune in tomorrow for the next installment.