Chapter 11

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The sharp and nauseating pain that had appeared deep in the pits of her abdomen while Frank was out searching for Manny and JJ was a sensation Anya was all too familiar with. The sight of Frank leading Manny and JJ into the warm kitchen, puppy in hand and covered in snow, had brought relief in an instant.

But a dull residual pain still lingered after the reunion had played itself out. It gnawed at Anya's insides for the rest of the afternoon and she used work to keep focused as memory after memory kept bombarding her.

The pain was constant from the minute Anya received the call from Eve that her grandfather had passed. Anya kept it together while still on the phone but broke down as soon as Eve rang off, promising to catch the first train north.

The sight of the luggage already packed and ready to go set her off. Her brain couldn't think about the two remaining exams before she was due to depart the following afternoon. She called a cab and rode to Penn Station with tears falling down her cheeks.

She kept it together enough to help Eve with the funeral arrangements, Eve herself barely able to stand upright. Anya took to sleeping in the same room as her grandmother as she could hear her muffled sobs through the wall they shared.

Anya let herself cry once the funeral was over and all those distance relatives had left. She had only a week to mourn as Christmas guests were due to arrive soon.

Once the reality of her grandfather's death settled in, Anya found a life she recognized waiting for her. It was only at Gloria's suggestion that she remembered she had left a life on pause down in Manhattan. And it was only with Gloria's generous offer that Anya finally found a reason to return to the city for the rest of her things and officially drop-out of school.

There was a full-time position that needed filling at the Inn as Eve could not run the place on her own, especially during the holidays and after her dear husband's death.

There was no question in Anya's mind what she needed to do. School was knocked down several pegs on her priorities list. She was going to receive a degree that would help her do exactly what Eve needed her to do, run the Inn.

That particular Christmas was the hardest Anya had ever had to face. Not only was she running up a steep learning curve head-on with very little experience, but she also had her own grief to bear as well as her grandmother's. And through it all, Manny's face kept haunting her as she tried to work and keep from crying.

It was the first holiday season Anya had spent back at the Inn since going away to school and the long six weeks dragged on as ghosts from the past kept jumping out at her from every corner. She saw her grandfather everywhere she went and Manny's insufferable enthusiasm showed up just as often.

Anya's heart broke all over again when she heard the sound of an ax chopping wood out behind the kitchen and turned to find Frank taking over her grandfather's favorite responsibility. She nearly threw up when a laugh came from the main lounge, ringing over a conversation between guests, it's tone and pitch almost identical to Manny's.

She preferred to think more about the passing of her grandfather rather than on the last time she had seen Manny, the memories with her grandfather having more positive associations.

One of the millions of little jobs that suddenly needed to be done, things Christopher did without thinking of them, was going through the mail. Anya took up the position and stood every afternoon behind the front desk sorting through the mountain of letters they received.

One afternoon her eyes froze at the sight of a postcard. It took an extra-long second for her hands to grab it from among the rest of the mail, the sight a beautiful tropical setting capturing her attention completely.

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