Wow, I feel really bad. I promised this chapter a month ago and then things got crazy with college starting and I COMPLETELY forgot about this. The only thing that makes me feel a little better is that, as far as I know, no one was dying in anticipation of this chapter. Again, thanks to my beta for helping me decide where to end this and fixing my mistakes. Enjoy!
Anastasia is still asleep when Josh comes back with a small tray of food and drinks. The house is already beginning to stir, but he decides that it will be best for them to avoid the unusual hustle that is already building. Josh sets the tray down on her dresser and walks to the window, enjoying the sun rise. Everything seems so innocent and perfect in this light; it is hard to believe that the day will be a long and arduous one.
Before long Anastasia begins to stir as the smell of fresh food invades her senses. She keeps her eyes closed for a few seconds, remembering everything that has happened in the past 12 hours. Before she can dwell on her mother's death for too long, her stomach growls. A laugh floats through the air as she opens her eyes and sees Josh walking toward her dresser.
"Josh?" she asks as she sits up and throws the sheet off of her. "What are you doing here?"
"Well," he answers as he grabs the tray and places it on the bed beside her, "I decided to get some food and camp out in here instead of going to my room and possibly getting caught up in everything out there."
She nods in agreement as she grabs a muffin and reaches for a glass of juice he had set on her bedside table. "You think we can stay in here all day?" she asks, half joking and half wishing that it was possible.
Josh shakes his head and answers her between bites. "I don't think so. I should let my mom know what has happened and you probably want to shower and change out of your cover up. Maybe get it washed," he adds as he holds back a laugh.
Anastasia glances down at her dress and laughs as well. The dress gradually changes color as it approaches the bottom. The spotless white fades into a mist of light brown dust at her knees, which then turns to splotches of dark brown mud at the very end of the fabric.
"Mom would freak," Anastasia says as she continues to laugh.
"Why?" Josh asks as he calms down. "You can wash it."
"I don't think she'd like seeing one of her dresses this dirty, even if she did give it to me last week."
"Why did she give you such a long dress though?"
"I don't know, I didn't ask. But I decided to use it as a cover up when I went swimming yesterday. I like how the big sleeves let me dry off while I'm covered."
A silence fell between them as they continued eating, each knowing that another story concerning Anastasia's mother has the potential to send Anastasia back into an uncontrollable sob.
"Alright, I'm going to go to the market and call mom to tell her what's going on," Josh states after they finish the food.
Anastasia nods. "Do you think she'll come back?"
"Yeah, she'll cut her trip early and come back as soon as she can hand off the job to someone else who is already there."
"Okay. Tell her 'hi' for me?" she asks as she stands up.
"Sure. If you want, when I get back we can go for a walk," he suggests, walking to the door.
"It's a date," she replies before they part ways.
After indulging in a hot shower, Anastasia dries off and settles for a pair of shorts and a tank top, knowing the hot summer air will feel worse if she is covered by a regular t-shirt. Josh knocks on her bedroom door soon after she finishes tying her shoes and they climb out her window to avoid the commotion in the halls.
The air is surprisingly cool as the walk the same path Josh took last night. Neither feels the urge to talk, so they walk in companionable silence, occasionally kicking a rock back and forth between them or tossing a branch into the nearby brush. They walk for close to an hour before Josh stops and takes 2 water bottles out of the bag he brought before saying that they need to turn back. They do so, but still do not speak. Each is content to listen to the sounds of nature, allowing their minds to wander to whatever places they want.
They stop to sit on Anastasia's bridge for a break, noting that her mother's lantern has not been taken down yet. The sun continues to rise until it rests high above their heads, signaling that it will soon be lunch time. Though they wish they could stay here longer and just forget what has happened, they know they cannot. Josh is the one who stands up and holds out his hand, offering to pull her up and get her through the next few days.
"Josh?" she asks as they start walking back to the house. "Have I said 'thank you' yet?"
"For taking a walk with you? There's no need."
Anastasia shakes her head. "For last night and this morning."
"There's still no need."
"But still…" she stops walking and tugs on his hand slightly, forcing him to turn around and face her. "Thank you," she says sincerely. Her voice comes out gentle, barely above a whisper, and a small smile graces her face.
Josh sighs and uses the grip she has on his hand to pull her into his arms. "Always Ana," he whispers in her ear as he hugs her tight. He feels her arms wrap tighter around him as she buries her face in his chest. They break apart after several moments pass, but she keeps one arm around his back and he rests his arm on top of her shoulders as they begin to walk once more.
"What would I do without you?" she asks once the house is in view.
Josh laughs. "Absolutely nothing," he jokes. "I'm the brains of this operation. Come to think of it, I'm the brawns too."
"Wanna bet?" Anastasia yells as she shrugs out from under his arm and sprints toward the front door.
"Not fair Ana!" he shouts back as he races forward, knowing that he has already lost. I'll get her back tomorrow, he decides as he hears a shout of victory from up ahead. Definitely tomorrow.
So, this is officially finished now. No epilogue, no taking you through the funeral, nothing. Hope you enjoyed it. I've got a one shot brewing in my head right now centering around another Lady Antebellum song (darn you'll for doing good story songs!) so be on the look out for it if you like my writing.