Light a Candle for Me
By Donna

October 7, 2000
Harmon Rabb, Jr. pushed back from the table and closed his eyes. The words on the pages in front of him were starting to all blur together. He stretched his arms above his head and opened his eyes, noticing that his partner, Sarah MacKenzie, was still fully engrossed in the book in front of her. He stretched his legs, managing to kick her lightly in the process.

"Hey, Rabb. You want to watch where you put those aircraft carriers you call feet?" she asked.

He grinned at her. "What's the matter? Afraid I'll bruise your delicate Marine skin?"

"Nope. Worried you might break a delicate squid toe or something, and then I'll have to listen to you whine for weeks," she told him, returning the grin.

He gave her comment the derisive snort it deserved as he got up. It was Saturday afternoon, and they had spent most of the day preparing for this case. They went to trial early Monday and neither felt quite ready.

"How about we take a break and get something to eat?" he asked her as he opened the cabinets to see what he had available. "Then we can dive back into this and decide where we stand."

"Actually, I probably need to head out," she told him, starting to gather her things together. "I have somewhere I need to go tonight."

"Big plans, huh? I thought Mic was out of town?"

"He is. This doesn't concern him," she replied, not meeting his inquiring look.

"You want to talk about it?" he probed gently.

"No, not really."

He followed her to the couch where she had dropped her handbag when she came in that morning. "Mac, I know something is on your mind. I noticed when you got here that something was bothering you. You've been...quiet...withdrawn..." he searched for just the right word. "Sad, maybe...all day."

She smiled at him, the same sad, half smile he had seen all day. "You see...that's what I mean," he told her, gently turning her to face the mirror.

"Don't worry about it, Harm. It's nothing."

"Look, Mac," he told her, turning her again so that he could look her in the eyes. "I know I've done some things that have hurt our friendship, but I want you to know that I'm here for you. Anything you need, just ask."

"I know, Harm. If I needed anything, you would be the first person I would ask, but this is something I want to do alone...something I need to do..." she held his gaze, pleading with him to understand.

Finally, he nodded and she breathed a sigh of relief. "Thanks, partner," she told him, squeezing his hand as she reached for the door.

"No problem," he told her. "I'll just be sitting here, worrying about what kind of trouble you're getting yourself into," he told her, his easy grin and teasing tone not quite covering the truth of his statement.

"Harm, there's nothing to worry about," she told him. "I'll be with a whole bunch of other people. Besides," she added, "I manage to get into a lot more trouble with you than I do on my own."

"Hey, you can't blame that all on me," he replied, doing his very best 'you wound me' act.

"Just most of it."

They stood in a comfortable silence for a moment before Mac pulled her keys from her bag and reached for the door.

"I'll be back at 0800 in the morning, and we can get back to the Compton case, if that's all right," she told him. "I'll even bring breakfast."

"Greasy sausage and egg biscuits from the dead cow place? No, thank you. I'll take care of breakfast," he answered.

"Mmmmm...bran...can hardly wait."

"Your arteries will thank me for taking care of them."

She paused outside the door. "You do take good care of me, Harm."

"That's the kind of things friends do, Mac." He reached out and lay a hand on her arm. "Call me later, Mac. It doesn't matter how late it is, I just want to know that you're okay."

With one last smile, Mac turned away from him and headed towards the elevator. He was still watching her as she closed the door and disappeared from sight.

Mac's thoughts were racing as she drove home. Her internal dialogue wasn't providing the answers she wanted, so she found herself talking to Jingo as she changed clothes.

"It's not like he could really understand, after all. I mean, his life has always been so perfect," she explained. Jingo cocked his head as if deep in thought. "Besides, I don't need help to do this. I'm a strong, independent woman, and I don't need anyone."

Jingo whined softly, and Mac laughed.

"Well, okay, maybe I do need my big, fierce puppy to protect me," she admitted as she scratched his head. He closed his eyes in bliss.

"The thing is, even though it would be nice to have some moral support, I don't know if I want him to see me like that. I mean, he's used to the big, tough Marine who's ready to take on the world. I don't want him to know how frightened and vulnerable this makes me feel. I learned a long time ago that letting people see your weaknesses gives them power over you. Believe me, my dad made sure I learned that lesson early on. I couldn't bear for Harm to look at me like that."

She could almost swear that the look Jingo gave her was one of exasperation.

"Well, yeah...I know...he's seen me at my worst...I was pretty useless after I got shot in the mountains that time...and I did go to him for help after Chris's death...and he's even seen me drunk and obnoxious. Not only did he not look at me with complete disgust, he carried me, pushed me, or pulled me as needed...and never mentioned it again. Hell, he's even seen me without makeup and didn't run screaming from the room!"

Jingo licked her face, making her laugh.

"So I guess that means you think I should invite him along, huh?" She hugged him once more before getting up and snapping his leash on. "I suppose it couldn't hurt to ask. The worst that could happen is that he could say 'no'."

With that reassurance, she grabbed her jacket and headed out the door.

Harm was sitting on his couch, trying once again to make sense of Mac's case notes when there was a knock on his door. He crossed the floor, looked out the peephole, and smiled. Quickly undoing the locks, he opened the door to an obviously uncomfortable Mac and an obviously happy Jingo. He bent down to talk to the dog, giving Mac time to gather herself.

"You still interested in going with me?" she finally asked.

He looked up at her. "Just let me grab a jacket and lock up," he replied, following words with actions.

In the car, Mac remained silent, her eyes on the road in front of her. Harm relaxed in the passenger seat, waiting for her to tell him what was going on.

"Aren't you even curious about where we're going?" she asked.

"Yeah, but I figure you'll let me know in your own time. Me and Jingo are just along for the ride."

Mac just shook her head, amazed that life had brought her the miracle of true friendship in the person of Harmon Rabb, Jr.

He reached over and flipped the radio on and the trio continued through the DC streets to the accompaniment of a soft classical piece. As the number came to a close, the DJ came on.

"Thank you for supporting your local public radio. Just a reminder to our caring listeners that October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There are various events going on throughout the course of the month to help raise public awareness of this problem. For those of you who are interested, there is a candlelight vigil going on tonight at the pavilion at Anacostia Park."

Mac reached over and flicked the radio off. There was a moment of silence as Harm gathered his thoughts. He noticed Mac watching him out of the corner of her eye, attempting to gauge his reaction.

He cleared his throat. "So, what kind of events do they have?"

"Well, there are different things in different communities across the country. Some places will have exhibits of artwork by victims or writings by them. Some displays put faces to the numbers. I read about one where they had set up a table with a place setting for each victim in their area. At each place setting, they put an object that told something about the victim...about her interests or her abilities...maybe a craft project she had done. Somewhere else, they put out a pair of shoes for each victim...The candlelight vigils are pretty common. Candles are lit in memory of those who lost their lives to domestic violence. Mainly, it's a way to draw attention to the problem."

"Do you do this every year?" Harm asked.

Mac shifted uncomfortably, putting off answering his question while she looked for a place to park. The gathering had drawn a good crowd and locating and securing a space provided a good distraction. When she finally turned off the ignition, she turned to find Harm staring at her, still waiting for an answer.

"No. At first, I didn't want to come. I didn't want to be reminded of that part of my life. I always found some reason to avoid getting involved."

"So what's changed?" he asked, turning in the seat to face her.

She shrugged, staring out the windshield at the gathering crowd. "I guess I have. Making my peace with my father has helped me to become more...accepting, I suppose...of who I am and of how I got to be where I am. Is this making any sense at all?" she asked as she turned to him.

"Not really, but keep going," he encouraged her. "Help us both to understand."

Mac fought to gather the thoughts and feelings going through her head. "This is something that still scares me, Harm. With other problems, like my alcoholism, I face them head on and defeat them. The abuse...I just ran away from it. I ran away from the source and I never really dealt with it...with how it made me feel."

"And how does it make you feel?"

"Vulnerable...and small...and very alone..." Her eyes were down and her voice very soft as she made this admission.

Harm knew how difficult this was for her to admit. He wished that he knew what to say to her, how to make it better, but he knew that wasn't possible. Instead of saying anything, he simply reached across the small space separating them and took her hand in his. They sat that way in silence until Jingo whined softly from the back, poking his snout between the seats to lick their joined hands.

"Guess that's our cue to get out of this little car and give him some room to stretch his legs," Mac told Harm with a laugh as she opened the door and exited.

Arm in arm, they joined the crowd flowing towards the pavilion.

Harm returned to their conversation. "You said that mainly this is a way to draw attention to the problem."

Mac nodded. "Events like this usually get pretty good news coverage. A whole month of events and activities helps to focus attention on a problem that no one really likes to talk about. It reminds people that domestic violence is a problem that cuts across all racial, social, and economic groups. Teachers and doctors and caregivers are reminded of the sort of things to watch for. Churches and community groups are reminded of the need for counseling and for safe houses. Women...and men...victims...are reminded that there are options other than staying in an abusive situation." As she talked, her voice became stronger and her stride more determined. It was as though she was finally facing down at least some of the inner demons left by her father.

"It's a reminder that there are ways that we can make a difference...we can become involved to make things better...safer...for the Annies and DarLyns and Buds and Mikeys...and Deannes," she told him, adding her mother's name softly.

"And Sarahs," Harm added with an equal softness.

"And Sarahs," she agreed with a smile.

"Don't sound so small and alone to me," he told her.

"I'm getting there," she assured him.

"You certainly are." He draped his arm around her shoulder and squeezed. "Thanks for asking me to come."

She slipped her arm around his waist and returned the hug. "Thank you for coming."

"What are friends for?"

"For reminding us of the blessings we have," she responded softly, looking at the glow of candles and thinking of the lives they represented: lives ended all too soon at the hands of those who claimed to love them. "For reminding me that I survived."

And in his mind, Harm saw Annie Lewis as he had never seen her in life, smiling up at him.

'Light a candle for me.'

The end.