They think I killed my husband. That’s why they’re here. I knew it long before I saw them. I don’t have to even look, I can sense it.
But I look anyways.
From behind the lace curtain, I watch as the unmarked police car pulls into my driveway. I imagine hearing the hum of the engine die as they pull their keys out the ignition, and flinch from the loud, slamming doors–both of them. They are a team, the two detectives. And they think I’m guilty, which is why they’re back.
The first time, they hadn’t even bothered to come. They broke the news to me over the phone. And it hadn’t taken the two of them. It’d been just the one heavyset cop. Old and wise, he was all they needed because they didn’t think they needed much. As he taps out a tune on the roof of his maroon Crown Vic, looking nonchalant in an ill-fitting gray suit, I know this time they will be looking for much more.
Hence his partner. You don’t send two cops unless you think a witness might withhold evidence or lie. One is supposed to be the advocate while the other applies pressure. From the eager gait of the lean, wiry junior detective I could tell that he reveled in times like this, right before the vice tightens its grip. He would enjoy breaking me down.
But I wasn’t just any witness, I was a suspect. Which is why I wasn’t surprised to see another suited man approach on foot. He probably parked around the corner, afraid that two cop cars in one driveway was too intimidating. It was a sly move that bespoke experience, emphasized by the way the other two came running at the mere nod of his head. He was smooth, I could tell, by his jet black suit–made more for an attorney than cop–and shades, despite the overcast day, that reflected rather than just darkened. He was the one I had to worry about. Because while one and two were questioning me, lucky number three would be searching my house during the time he’s supposed to be in the bathroom.
That’s how they work. I know this for an absolute certainty because he’d told me that hundreds of times. When the blinds were pulled tight, shutting out all sunlight, and with all the doors securely locked, when it was just me and him in the whole entire universe, he’d tell me about it all. Everything.
I was a cop’s wife. Over the years, it’s hard not to pick up stuff. Some things I just had to know.
As such, I understand procedure. Understand that I shouldn’t really hate them for following up on a lead, for doing their job. And I do my best to buy into the rhetoric as wholesomely as I had when we were newlyweds. Because cops can tell things, smell things out.
And I couldn’t get caught in another lie. Not now.
They knock once and I wait five Mississippi’s before answering the door. Hoping to portray the picture of middle-class modesty, I use the time to comb through my short, tying my long grey, knit sweater closed. I can tell immediately that I haven’t fooled them.
“Hello, Mrs. Carson.”
“Hey Ray,” I answer the older one, pulling back from the hug I instinctively wanted to wrap him in.
“You remember my partner, Detective Downey.” On cue, he offers me a curt nod. “And this is Special Investigator Adam Howard.” I turn to face him and see only my tired self. “May we come in?”
“Of course,” I step aside.
They know their way. They’ve been here before on many occasions–for poker nights, pay-per-view boxing on the flat screen, and almost every Super Bowl this millennium. Still, I pretend like their opinion of me matters and insist on playing hostess.
I lead them into the living room, slowly giving their eyes time to peruse the passing rooms as we travel. It’s a waste of space, our living room, full of our best furniture that we never actually sit in, that’s only good for show. I take them here because of all the things I want to show them, the real me isn’t on the list. I don’t want them in my family room, where I’d held my daughter, where I’d held myself, hoping she couldn’t hear. Where memories were as palpable as the furniture–heavy and tattered and unavoidable. No, I’d much rather they see the room I’d neatly prepared for just this occasion.
In this room, he’s everywhere. Newspaper articles highlighting his heroics have been neatly cut out and framed, perched atop tables and book cases. The walls are lined with his medals, work-affiliated and otherwise, and the occasional picture–smiling in dress uniform, cap under an arm, foot up on the hood of his cruiser–of my husband, the cop.
The partners sit on opposite ends of a black, pleather couch. And I nearly crack at the sound of the young one’s slacks sticking to the warm material as he slides forward in his seat, pulling out a small, flip notebook that, I am sure, has directions leading me straight to the gas chamber. But they don’t scare me as much as the third one. He seems to be a mix of the two, not too tall and not too short, fit but not a muscle head, not unconcerned but not convinced I’m innocent.
It’s an act. I know that, which terrifies me even more because I know he’s lying but I believe it anyways. He sits in the lone chair, the one my husband had picked out, and looks too comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. I watch him survey the surroundings, taking mental notes and formulating a plan of action as he nibbles on the tip of his sunglasses. I manage to avoid him, diverting my eyes just before he reaches me. And not a moment too soon, because I know he can see right through me, if I let him.
I won’t. In truth, their open suspicion is nothing more than annoying. Like an itch you can’t reach and that refuses to go away. It’ll eat at you, if you let it. But in the end, it’s harmless. They won’t find anything in here.
After all, my husband was a cop. And he’d been a pretty damn good one. One that people had respected. Up until 48 hours ago, that is, when they’d found him half-naked in a motel room, the kind you pay for by the hour, face down in a pile of coke, a small hole about the size of a dime missing from his right temple, a .32 caliber in his right, cold, limp hand.
They took one look and saw a suicide. Before the good detective was done breaking the news to me, they’d already begun the painstaking process of a cover up. The Omaha Police Department couldn’t afford another scandal, especially not of this sort. If they accidentally kill a criminal, that was one thing, but to be bank rolling the criminals, that was indefensible. It was the type of skeleton that was best left in the closet.
And it would have been but then, as far as I could figure it, Detective Downey decided to take another peek. He probably wondered when my late husband had developed a coke habit. Or, more likely, just couldn’t let something like this stain the reputation of one of their own–“a damn good cop.”
So, still raw with grief, surrounded by half-used tissues, I’d answered all their questions, painting a dark picture of my husband’s last year, of his nonexistent struggle with addiction. And they’d bought it.
But they were here now, which meant they’d found out that I was lying. Maybe they were just being stubborn, or maybe they had real proof. It didn’t matter. Either way, a lie’s a lie and I couldn’t blame them for wanting to know why I would do it.
I’m sure he would tell me, the young one. It’d come out in the midst of their trying to make me confess, which they would. They would insinuate, then let me explain myself, and finally pull out facts I didn’t know they knew until I was sure it was my only option. And, because all they really wanted was the truth, I prepared my lies. Lined them up, practiced them again, inserting dramatic pauses and evasive eyes, a trembling chin every now and then, even the derisive snort, anything to make it sound as it had when it was just me and the mirror.
I might’ve regretted it, too, what I’m about to do. But I don’t anymore when my old friend and future interrogator picks up a photo off the glass table, the one of my dearly departed holding our then four year old daughter as they swing in the park, all smiles and giggles. He shows it off to his partner, and they both shake their head at the audacity of it all–not that my daughter will go the rest of her life without her biological father. No, that they can overlook. They just hate the loss of one of their own, a damn good cop. He sits the wooden frame back down and I make a mental note to burn it. I’ve always hated that picture, wore too much concealer that day.
Smiling, I decide to get the ball rolling with an innocent enough question: “Would you gentlemen like something to drink?”
They all decline my offer, as I knew they would, which leaves me the lone woman out, leaning on the door frame to my least favorite room in the house. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. It gives me a reason to keep my arms crossed, muddying any attempt to read my body language. More than that, it gives me an advantage, to look down on them physically as they attempt to do the same rhetorically. It’ll make it harder for him to slip out and search my house, he’ll have to walk past me. He’ll know I’m in the doorway, that I can see him.
I hope it’s enough. In the corner of my eye, I see him memorizing every little detail about me, looking for tells, and wish I would’ve gotten rid of it all.
“Is everything alright?” Detective Sanders asks.
Inspecting my shoelaces, I hesitate a little longer before looking up. Brushing a nonexistent hair from my eyes, I answer, “My husband’s dead, Ray.”
“Mrs. Carson,” the young one takes the lead, clearly disapproving of my continued personal references with his partner, “we just had a few…wrinkles…that needed to get ironed out.”
I glance a smile and he continues.
“We’re just trying to get a better understanding of your husband’s habit. If you could, Mrs. Carson, it’d be a great help to us if you could explain some of the things you’ve previously mentioned.
“Last time we were here you informed us of his drug addiction. Any particulars you could recall would be a great help to us as we believe it may point us to his killer. So, I guess, to begin with, what was your husband’s drug of choice?”
I wait two Mississippi’s and in a controlled voice answer: “Coke.”
“And how long had he been using?”
“Years. About a year.”
“Can you be more specific please?”
“I…about a year, I suppose.”
“A year and some change, or are you rounding up?”
“Exactly? He’d been using for 365 days?”
“Give or take a month…”
Stern, now, he explains, “Mrs. Carson, the more specific you can be, the easier that makes our job.”
“What do you want from me, Detective?” I cut him off with a helpless shrug. “A date? The day my husband started using? I don’t…know. It’s not exactly something he shared with me. Nothing to write down in your diary. It’s something you try to forget, the day your life starts falling apart.”
I’m somewhat convincing. I know this because they’re silent, which means my interrogators are recalibrating their approach. Stern isn’t working; it’s too easy for me to use pain to push it back on them. They need to use some finesse. Still, I’d rather they keep bludgeoning me with questions than not say anything at all. In the absence of questions, I can literally hear my nerves firing. Adam’s pretending not to see me, pretending to stare at the wall to my right, all the while not taking his eyes off me. As a tremor creeps over me, I wring my hands, hoping to disguise the tension.
At the behest of his partner, Detective Downey tries a softer approach. “I’m sorry, Mrs. Carson. I know this must be a terrible time for you and your daughter. But really, all we want to do is find your husband’s killer. You do want us to find your husband’s killer, don’t you?”
“And you said he’d been using about a year?”
“Well, the thing is, Mrs. Carson, every officer is subjected to randomized drug tests and nine months ago, your husband passed his.”
I’m not surprised. People who don’t take drugs usually don’t fail drug tests. If they wanted an answer, that would be it–he wasn’t an addict. But they don’t. They already know the answer. Instead, they want an explanation. So I’ll give them one. Because explanations don’t have to tell the truth, instead they tell about feelings and thoughts and emotions, which hardly ever have a basis in fact. Explanations are nothing more than tangents to the truth, or, a suspect’s best friend.
“Eight years we were married,” I pause, staring at the back wall for effect, drawing it out longer than need be, so long that even they chance a look over their shoulders, needing to see what had captured my attention. “Eight. We were high school sweethearts. Homecoming royalty. Voted most likely to stay together. I knew him before he even knew he wanted to be a cop. I used to ride to school on the handlebars of his bike.
“And you think you knew him? Why? Because you worked with him? Had a few beers with him? Split a tab? I shared my life with him. We have a daughter.
“And if he could hide it from me, his own…I thought I knew him—that if anyone knew him, I knew him.” I don’t dare hide the bitterness that comes with relaying even the bare facts of his life. “My husband had sides that caught even him by surprise.”
“Rish,” the experienced detective takes over for his failing partner, “you know we wouldn’t be here unless we had to be. You know that, right?”
“Thing is, Rish, this is news to us. All anyone ever really knew about Carson was that he was a damn good cop. And the more we look, Rish, the more we need answers.” He lowers his voice an octave, leaning in as if to share a secret between friends at a cocktail party, “And I think you know what I’m talking about.”
I shake my arms loose, suddenly aware that I’d been hugging myself, a clearly distraught position, one that I wouldn’t of been able to pull off a week ago but do quite convincingly now.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Another lie, but it’s only a white one. A silly little lie that they can see right through, that they have to in order to call my bluff.
“Rish, we just want the truth.”
I shake my head. “No you don’t. Trust me, Ray. You don’t want to know the truth.”
“Mrs. Carson…” but his voice trails off.
It’s extremely uncomfortable. Without words, we all notice how hot and stuffy the room is, how stale the air is, how stiff the furniture is–elephants tend to have that affect.
“How long?” the young one asks.
“Why do you care?” They don’t.
“It’s another piece to the puzzle,” he explains. “Please, Mrs. Carson, we need to know.”
I shake my head, slowly, reluctantly, but emphatic at the same time.
Softer now, he repeats the question: “How long?”
“Years,” I whisper.
A shoe drops as Special Investigator Howard abruptly stands, buttoning his suit jacket as he does, “Mrs.–”
“Please,” I wave off his formality, “call me, Rish.”
“Well, Rish,” he begins his approach, sticking a hand in his right pants pocket, jangling a few coins in faux nervousness. It’s too convincing, the slight anxiety he exudes, laying the framework for what’s next. It’s like he’s trying to show me up, teach me by example how to lie, a backhanded way of letting me know he doesn’t for a second believe me. “Is there a restroom I could use?”
“Around the corner, second door on the left. I can show–”
“Not necessary,” he interrupts, sliding past me. “I’m sure I can find it.”
I watch the trail he leaves, knowing it’ll extend far beyond the second door on the left. But I can’t worry about that, the inevitable, right now.
“Mrs. Carson,” the kid picks back up the questioning, “you were saying.”
“You said it’d been years.”
“Oh,” I flash a self-deprecating smile. “That.”
“We need to hear your side of it, Mrs. Carson. We know what we know, but we need to hear it from you.”
“And what exactly do you think you know?”
“We subpoenaed your medical records, Mrs. Carson.” He pauses, wanting me to fill in the blank. We both know what’s in that file and he’s hoping the truth is heavy enough to break me. That I’ll fold under the pressure and admit it all, maybe even be grateful for finally having the load off of my back. But that’s nothing compared to the life that’s currently in my hands. “Either you’re extremely accident prone or…”
I know I shouldn’t. And, truthfully, the last thing I want is for him to think he’s a half-decent cop. But I also know I can’t be too good at this or they’ll be even more suspicious. So I act like an amateur and do what they expect.
“It wasn’t always like this. It didn’t start till after we were married. He didn’t…mean it. But sometimes I would make him so frustrated, and he was sorry. Really sorry. I wouldn’t have stayed with him if I thought he’d do it again. He was a good man, a good husband. It only happened that once.”
“Mrs. Carson,” he pries harder, smelling smoke. “We have your medical records.”
I look up, as if fighting back tears. They’re an invaluable tool, giving me a reason to stop talking, to think, without drawing any suspicion. But silence can kill momentum in a time like this, so most cops will try to fill it. They’ll try to keep the dialogue open in order to keep a witness on the verge of breaking comfortable. It was one of his first lessons: Know your enemy. Use what they have to make your lies seem credible. He’d taught me that, and he’d taught me well. Which is why the young detective was going to tell me just exactly what he knew.
“He shattered your malar, Mrs. Carson.”
“It was an accident.”
“Once, maybe, but it wasn’t just once, was it? Bruised ribs, cracked femur, missing teeth…we know.” I shake my head, as if unable to recall any of the incidents, so he decides to remind me: “He shattered your malar, Mrs. Carson. It takes a helluva lot of force to do that.”
Using both hands, I swipe the tears away from my eyes, first the right, then the left, in constant rotation until, finally, I’m rubbing them at the same time, like, perhaps, a genie might appear and take me away from this hell. But when I open them, it’s the same disappointment. My hands drift down to my mouth, covering it in an attempt to hold back, everything.
I suck in a slow breath, regaining my composure, and exhale loudly before revealing, “He got…bad…after Jordynn was born. She used to…cry. A lot. And, he was working long hours. I mean, you know how demanding police work can be. He needed his sleep.”
“That’s no excuse, Mrs. Carson,” he pushes harder, knowing that where there is smoke, there is fire.
“He didn’t. It wasn’t him, not really. It was like he was possessed. Like the twilight zone, or something. It just didn’t make sense. I was sure…so sure…he didn’t mean it. That he wouldn’t do it again. Not him. Someone else, but not him. I’d be cleaning up in the bathroom and, he’d be back. My husband would…come back. He would cry and hold me and promise never to do it again.
“When I finally realized that it…was going to happen again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and…” I look the young one straight in his sapphire blue eyes. “It was too late. Jordynn was just a baby. I didn’t have a job. It just…”
“Why didn’t you report him?”
“My husband was a damn good cop,” I remind them.
“Rish,” my departed’s friend and colleague confesses, “we didn’t know.”
“How could you?” I grant him clemency. “I was in denial myself.”
“Mrs. Carson, did you ever tell anyone about the abuse?”
Oh, God, no…
“Mrs. Carson, who else knew?”
“Are you sure?” he presses.
Confess. Tell them. Tell them you killed him. Tell them you hated him. Tell them you’re glad he’s dead. Tell them how you danced at the news. Tell them about the best night of sleep you ever had.
“Mrs. Carson, we know your husband was murdered.”
It was too good for him. Too quick. Too easy. He should’ve been tortured, like I was tortured. He should’ve been beat down, little by little, day after day. He should’ve had to look his tormentor in the eye and know it was only going to get worse. He should’ve had to beg for mercy. Like I begged. He should’ve had to crawl looking for an escape that doesn’t exist. He was lucky, so lucky, to be dead.
“And now we know you had a motive.”
Because the lying, abusive sonuva bitch used me as his personal punching bag. His very own stress ball.
Opportunity? He had eight goddamn years to stop. Eight. Long. Goddamn. Years. Eight. Fucking. Years. Full of ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘it’ll never happen again’ and ‘I didn’t mean to.’ And he did it anyways. I told him. Told that rotting piece of shit what would happen if he ever put another hand on me. I warned him. He knew what would happen, and he did it anyways.
“So what I guess we’re asking is: what happened?”
It’d been one of those days. As his hands slid around my waist, I knew it wasn’t going to end well; there was no way it could. Felt my heartbeat kick up a notch as he pulled me closer. Tried to control the tremors as he went in for a kiss, closed my eyes and prayed it wouldn’t happen. Holding my breath as his hands inched up. Instantaneous tears that betrayed me as I flinched from the barest brush of his thumb before he reflexively pushed me away.
“What was different about this time?” he continues to pry. “Is it because it hadn’t happened in a while? Is that it? Is it because you thought he wouldn’t do it again?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Mrs. Carson,” he tells me for the third time, “we have your medical records. And for eight years now, you have a history of bruised, cracked, and broken bones consistent with domestic abuse. Up until about nine months ago, that is.”
“Rish, we can help you,” the good cop takes over. “They have a name for it. It’s called ‘Battered Wife’s Syndrome.’ We can protect you, if you let us. But you have to level with us, Rish. Right here, right now. We need to know the truth.”
Battered Wife’s Syndrome? They had no idea.
“Or, we can take you down to the station,” the bad cop takes over.
“Rish, did he hit you?”
Mike Tyson had nothing on him.
“It’s me, Rish,” Ray scoots forward, as if I need a better look at the balding detective.
“Me. Talk to me, Rish. Let me help you.”
I can tell them yes. I can take the deal. I can take my chances. I can tell them whatever they want to hear but I refuse to tell them the truth.
“Mrs. Carson, we know you’re not telling us the whole truth,” Downey refuses to let it go. “We know he wasn’t an addict. We know he didn’t commit suicide. And we know it would take someone he trusted to get him into that room, to get him to turn his back on them. As we’ve said, he was a damn good cop and could smell a setup a mile away. So why don’t you level with us?”
They think I killed my husband. They think they can prove it. They think his fist finally knocked something loose in me and I lost it. They think they know my motive. They can think whatever they want, though, because at the end of the day they still have to prove it.
He taught me that, too.
“Did your husband keep any guns in the house?”
I shift my weight onto the left leg, recrossing my arms in the process.
“Did you have access to his personal weapons?”
I check the cuticles on my right hand.
“Do you know how to use a gun?”
Are you serious, I’m a cop’s wife. Correction, widow.
“Do you know anyone who can account for your whereabouts the night your husband was murdered?”
“Rish, we know your husband–”
“Did not touch me,” I gulp back guilt, leveling my eyes on them, sure that I look decidedly guilty. “And I don’t know why, but to tell you the truth I really don’t give a damn. I really don’t. And do you want to know why?”
Because for eight years he put me through hell. Hell.
“Do you know how it feels to be trapped in your own house? Bedroom? To be cornered? Beat like a damn dog? Hm? Have you ever prayed, I mean really prayed, for someone to die? Have you ever asked God to sin for you because you were too damn scared to do it yourself? Have you?
“Every. Day. I prayed it would stop. And then, one day, nothing. He didn’t want to touch me. He didn’t…yell at me. He didn’t even look at me. It’s like I didn’t exist.
“When someone gives you a gift, Detective, you don’t ask questions. You just say thanks. And I was thankful, so thankful.
Maybe he found someone else to pound on. Maybe he was too busy taking hits of something else to care much about how I made his meal. Or folded his towels. Or, my personal favorite, how someone else looked at me. Maybe it got him killed. I don’t…care. Not anymore.
“My husband died the first time I was hospitalized. The first time I had to look at my daughter through one eye and lie so that she wouldn’t hate him, too. Because the man I married would never do that to me. So do I want you to find my husband’s killer? I suppose. I suppose I’d like to thank him. Shake his hand for saving my life because he did. He really did. But will I lose any sleep over it? No. The exact opposite actually. For the first time in far too long, I’m sleeping just fine.”
“Now if that makes me a murderer, then so be it. Arrest me if you want. Do it, or leave. One or the other, but do it quickly because my daughter will be home any minute.”
The truth of it catches them off guard. They’d been expecting the grieving widow and gotten me. But they know it’s the truth, and that’s what’s important. A guilty person would never admit they’re glad someone died, especially when they know they’re a suspect. And right now I’m their only suspect, I hope.
So I wait for it to happen. For the young one to pull out his handcuffs as my old friend reads me my rights. They look at each other and nod and I know it’s coming. They both stand, and the seasoned detective takes a step toward me.
Before I can apologize, before I break down and admit to it all, beg him for the deal, Ray saves me with a simple, “I’m sorry, Rish. We had no idea.”
He puts a thick hand on my shoulder, squeezing lightly as he slides past me, heading to the door. I don’t know his partner nearly as well, so all he offers is a prolonged, pitiful smile before doing the same. I trail them to the door and watch them let themselves out, not taking my eyes away until their car pulls out of my driveway.
As soon as they’re out of sight I slam the door shut, bracing myself against it as I slide to the floor. Relief escapes as I hyperventilate at the realization that I am still free. Cramming my knees to my chest, I see my home for the first time as I survey the recently vacated premises.
Then, the other shoe drops. My fingers claw against the cold tile as I crawl to the base of the stairs. Finally able to find my feet, I bound up them two and three at a time. Pushing doors open as I go, moving onto the next before they even have a chance to slam against the wall, making sure they’re unoccupied but without really looking as I already know where he’ll be.
My bedroom’s all the way at the end of the hallway and, as I approach, my pace slows. Holding a breath, I take a step in. My heart crashes like an acme anvil in a cartoon. The top dresser drawer is open–he wants me to know he’s found it. I nearly faint as the adrenaline rush retreats, but don’t want to give him the satisfaction. He’s smug, knowing the effect he’s had without looking up. Special Investigator Howard is sitting on the corner of my bed, flipping idly through its pages.
“Look what I found.” Hedging my bets, I tell him, “There’s nothing in there.”
“You’re right, there’s not. Which is why it’s so interesting,” he looks up, smiling. “Tell me, Rish, who rips pages out of their own diary?”
I wait ten whole Mississippi’s before revealing, “I almost confessed.”
“That’s not good.”
“I’ll do it.”
He takes a last look at the diary, tossing it on the bed as he stands. “And why in the world would you confess to a crime you didn’t commit?”
“It’s my fault he’s dead. If I hadn’t flinched–”
“You warned him, didn’t you?” he cuts me off sharply. “He had a choice and he chose to put his hands on you. All I did was keep a promise.”
“I’m scared for you.”
“What if they figure it out?”
“But what if they do?”
“Then I guess I’m going to prison.” He’s joking, but there’s nothing funny about death. “Don’t worry, Rish.”
“They knew things. Things they weren’t supposed to know about.”
“Of course they did. Who do you think pointed them in the right direction?” he playfully chucks my chin up, trying to lighten the mood, failing. “Look, nothing’s going to happen. I’m going to take care of you, just like I promised. You have to trust that.”
“And burn that diary.”
“We’ll make new memories.”
I acquiesce, knowing he’s right: “Okay.”
“That’s my girl,” he winks. It’s his equivalent to good bye, two words he’s never been able to say to me. But I hold my ground, standing in the middle of the doorframe, refusing to let him step by. “They’re waiting for me.”
“Jordynn’ll be home from school any minute now.”
“I can’t,” he explains, and as his fingers weave through my hair he presses a kiss to my forehead. Leaning into him, I refuse to move, locking my arms around his back in an awkward embrace, I feel his body stiffen. “Does it hurt?”
I shake my head. “You don’t know how to hurt me.”
“I felt you flinch, Rish. I barely touched you and—”
“That wasn’t you and you know it,” I tell him, literally speaking the words into his chest as I fit into that space God made specifically for me. I breathe him in as he bends a little, letting my head rest on his shoulder, and I can feel him relax around me, his weight a comfort as it takes me to the one place I’m safe.
“Now I really have to go.”
“So go then.”
I feel him smile and fall all over again. I can’t help it, he has a way with me. Always has. Pulls things out of me I thought were long gone–trust, hope, fight, love.
“I love you.”
He traces my smile and I wish he would kiss me, but I know he won’t. He doesn’t like to unless he has time to enjoy it, otherwise its torture, he says. When there was time, though, when we made it, when the blinds were pulled tight, shutting out all sunlight and with all the doors securely locked, when it was just me and him in the whole entire universe, God was it worth it.
“That’s my girl,” he recognizes the look. Then, he leaves. I still haven’t gotten used to it, the sound of him walking away. From the bottom of the stairs, he makes a final request.
“I will,” I assure him.
I hear the door close and wait a full minute, sixty excruciating seconds, before walking to the window. He taught me how to angle blinds so that I can see out but people can’t see in. It’s useful information, considering our situation.
They’re waiting for him a block and a half away, where he used to park when he came to visit. And I know they’re talking about me.
The school bus pulls up, but they’re too busy to pay it much mind. They’re probably trying to figure out what to do. Will there be a fourth questioning, or will they move onto a new suspect? With any luck they’ll quit looking altogether and let the suicide rap stand.
Light footsteps creep into my consciousness as the stairs creek under Jordynn’s weight.
“Is that my daughter?” I call, alerting her of my location.
“Is that my momma?” she asks, hugging me from behind.
“Well, hello daughter,” I squeeze her back. “I have a surprise for you.”
“A kiss from someone special.”
She climbs on the bed to get a better look. I don’t blame her; don’t even yell at her for not taking off her shoes. Instead, I hug her tight, neither of our eyes leaving the window, loving that we have this in common.
They think I killed my husband, but it’ll take a damn good cop to prove it.