COMPLICATED -- CHAPTER 1
The phone. Loud, jangling.
Jordan's eyes snapped open. 2:17AM. Crap. Work.
In half darkness, she rummaged for the phone on the bedside table. "Cavanaugh," she mumbled and strained to hear the voice on the other end. Multiple homicide. Fast food joint. She shook herself awake and forced herself to process it all. "Yeah. I got it. I'll be right there....Yeah, I know. Give me ten minutes."
She sat up in bed and looked at the figure lying next to her. Dan? Doug? Dick?
"Dave!" She reached out and poked him gingerly in the back like a child poking a dead squirrel with a stick. He grunted once.
"Dave, you gotta wake up." He rolled over and blinked his eyes.
"Hey..." He grinned sleepily and propped himself on one elbow. "Good morning." He traced small circles with his fingertip on her bare thigh.
"No. Not quite morning." Jordan swung her legs over the side of the bed and pulled on the pair of jeans she had left in a heap next to the bed. "Sorry, but you gotta go, Dave." He looked at her blankly. Damn. His name was Dave, wasn't it? "Hey, you reading me, guy?"
"But it's two a.m." His voice was whiny. "You're kicking me out at two a.m. Weren't we having a good time last night at the bar?"
Christ, what had possessed her? She had been minding her own business the night before at a bar where no one knew her, playing a few lazy games of pool when this guy -- Dave--challenged her to a game. Sure smile, great teeth. But today he smelled of too much cologne and what had seemed charmingly cocky to her the night before just seemed greasy the next day.
"Well, now it's closing time. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here."
He huffed something inaudible and hit the floor with a petulant thud. She averted her eyes as he began to dress.
Jeez. Tighty whities. What was I thinking?
The sex? She grinned a bit at the memory as she hurriedly twisted her hair into a messy french knot. Well, any sex is pretty much good sex, isn't it? Not great, but good.
And for awhile, she wasn't alone.
The thought crossed her brain fleetingly as Dave appeared in the mirror behind her.
"Can I call you?"
Damn. Why do they always ask that question?
She turned to face him. "Look. I had a...great time. But I'm just not looking for a relationship right now."
He looked at her, puzzled. Perhaps it was the earliness of the hour, or perhaps he had never been let down so succinctly, but he eventually managed a fuzzy, "Oh, okay."
She supposed if she had been a different kind of girl, the ease with which he accepted her rejection would have hurt, but for Jordan, it was only relief. He scratched his head sleepily and found his way to the door.
She stood, imapssive, until she heard the front door click behind him, bothering only to pop an Altoid in her mouth before she followed him out.
Woody. There he was. Her belly still flipped a little each time she saw him, although she would deny it vigorously. He was standing in the parking lot of the Burger Land, grim faced, arms akimbo, silent and still amid the swarm of uniforms.
"Hey, Woody..." She approached him quietly. He did not move. She touched his arm gently. "Woody?" His face was washed in the red of the flashing lights of the police car, and there was a moment when he seemed not to see or hear her. Then his face broke into a familiar half-smile.
"Jordan. I see you consulted your Dress for Success manual before coming down." She looked down at her just-rolled-out-of-bed ensemble and shrugged.
"You kind of caught me in the middle of something," she muttered sheepishly.
He cocked his head, puzzled, and she watched as the realization came over him that Jordan had not been alone at two o'clock in the morning. "Oh..." he gulped and looked away quickly.
"What do we have?" she said, desparetly wanting to change the subject.
"It ain't pretty," he said and waved her into the restaurant.
No, it wasn't pretty. A bucket of water had been upturned on the floor of the restaurant, forming a sickening-pink pool of blood and soapy water.Two teenage boys --workers--lay dead, one of them still clutching the handle of his mop.
"Robbery. They came in at closing time, three of them. Shot these two workers before they even knew what was happening." He motioned her over behind the counter. A middle-aged woman lay face down on the floor, her blood sprayed in a grotesque splatter on the wall behind her. "Manager. They forced her to open the drawer, cleaned it out, and shot her anyway."
"Wait, how do you know this? Were there witnesses? Survivors?"
Hoyt nodded grimly. "One. Katie Munro. She was cleaning the men's room when the shooting started, and she heard most of what was happening. She came out when she thought they were gone. Problem is, they weren't."
"So, they shot her, too."
Woody's face clouded over. "Yeah...but not before they dragged her into the back room and...worked her over. Then they shot her and left her die. She would have, too, but the manager's husband came to pick up his wife within seconds after those sick bastards took off. She managed to give a statement before they took her into surgery." He shook his head bleakly. "It doesn't look good."
"Poor girl," Jordan managed with a moderate amount of sincerity. She had seen hundreds of Katie Munros in her career, and it was impossible, inadvisable, to get too worked up over their fates. "Well, this looks pretty straightforward," she said, beginning to take in the scene with a professional eye. "I'll get to work and be outta your hair."
There it was again. As she turned back to face him, she saw the same look come over his face. His eyes were dark, the corners of mouth turned down achingly.
"Woody, you OK?"
"Yeah. Sure. I'm fine." He gave her a dismissive wave and turned quickly on his heel. She watched him go until he exited the restaurant, and with a snap of her rubber gloves, she went to work.
Jordan knew she was right -- it would be a straight-forward case. She made quick work of it, and she knew the autopsies would confirm what was tragically obvious. As she watched the bodies being packed into morgue-bound van, she was aware of Woody approaching from behind her.
"Hey, Jordan..." his voice was tired. "All done, I guess?"
"For the moment, yeah."
"So. Can I maybe interest you in a cup of coffee?" With his shoulders hunched and his fists jammed in the pockets of his trenchcoat, he looked like a lost schoolboy. "It's just...I don't really want to go home." He laughed a short, unconvincing laugh and attempted to flash that Kewaunee-boy smile, but his face quickly fell.
"Woody, are you sure you're OK?"
He threw up his hands in frustration. "Yes, I'm sure. Look. Never mind. Forget it. Go. Just go. I'd hate to keep you away from Mr. Right Now."
The last words stung her, but he stalked away and was gone before she had a chance to speak. She thought for a moment she should go after him but seemed rooted to the ground. He had reached out to he. He had displayed emotion, some flicker of pain, and she was paralyzed. There was a brief moment where she felt a hot sting of tears begin to swell, but as always, she steeled herself against them.
The answering machine was blinking when she entered.
"This is Dave." Ah, Dave. His voice was panicky. "Look, you had no idea what I had to do to find your number. I didn't even know your last name. I left my wallet at your place. Can you just drop it off at the bar tomorrow morning? And please don't star 69 me and call me back here. I don't want my girlfriend to know."
She let out a humorless snort and hit "erase."
"Alone again. Naturally," she said in a sing-song voice and was asleep before she hit the pillow.
Jordan willed herself not to look at the calendar as she entered her office, as if not seeing would somehow make it not be September 14th and not rapidly approaching the anniversary of her mother's murder. This was always a hard week for her. Her father seemed more remote, and she missed the presence of her mother more keenly in these waning days of summer every year.
She had slept well after making it back from the Burger Land scene, but her daylight hours since then had been filled with a kind of constant nagging. She thought again of Woody from the night before, troubled and grim. It had seemed so unlike him: the brash, confident, ever-cheerful farmboy-turned-detective. He had reached out to her, and she had been completely frozen by her inability to reach back.
She managed to muddle through the day, somehow. She had to remind herself to force down a bag of potato chips and diet soda for her lunch in the break room. Lily was there eating a salad and talking in her sunny way, and it occurred to Jordan that Lily might be the anti-Jordan. Warm, open, steady, reliable. It was not an altogether pleasant realization.
The rest of the day continued on into a haze until she finally lifted her head and saw that it was past quitting time. No matter, really. No one to go home to.
The unmistakable voice came from behind her. Woody stood in the half-light of the hallway outside her office.
"Woody," she began in surprise, but somehow did not know how to continue.
"Listen," he started tentatively inside. "I just wanted to apologize for that crack I made last night. The one about Mr. Right Now."
A wave of sense memory came back to her, the disagreeable smell of Dave's drugstore cologne and the feel of his hot, beery breath against her neck. She wrinkled her nose distastefully.
"Really. It was uncalled for. I was just..."
"It's okay, Woody." She held up her hands in front of her. "Don't worry about it."
"Good. Well. You know. It's really none of my business what you do with your off hours, right?"
She was surprised at the pang of disappoint she suddenly felt. There were a hundred things she wanted to say, but she squared her shoulders and whispered, "Right."
He nodded once with finality and backed out of the office.
"Okay, well..." He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "I just wanted to say that. I guess I'll head out."
Why had he come? He could have managed the apology with a phone call or even an email. Why had he come all the way down here to apologize? She watched him head toward the elevator.
"Hey, Woody!" she heard herself calling after him. He turned expectantly.
"If the offer still stands, I'll take you up on that cup of coffee."
He smiled and let the waiting elevator door shut behind him.
They sat in a charged silence. He ignored his coffee, and she poked with disinterest at a piece of pie, waiting for him to speak. Occasionally his hand would brush accidentally against hers as he reached for the salt shaker, napkin, spoon...anything to fidget with as he searched for words.
"I hate this case, Jordan," he finally began quietly. "I killed a man, and it doesn't bother me as much as this case does."
"You can't get emotionally involved, Woody."
"I know that!" Jordan's fork bounced up and fell with a clatter to the floor as Woody slammed his palm down onto the table. "Don't you think I know that? They drill that into you from day one. It's not bodies, or blood, or brains splattered everywhere, it's facts. Evidence. I've stood over the dead body of a murdered kid and joked with the guys about how the Bo Sox are doing. It's just..." his voice trailed off.
"Katie Munro wasn't murdered," she said softly.
"No," he croaked. "I went to question her this morning."
It had not gone well, he explained. He had paced the hall outside her room endlessly, stopping at the water fountain, fiddling with his badge, anything to avoid crossing the threshold into her room. When the inevitable could be delayed no longer, he took a deep breath and entered her room to where she was lying amid a tangle of wires and tubes.
"Katie Munro?" Her head had turned towards his voice slowly. One eye was beaten shut. "I'm Det. Woody H-H-Hoyt." Oh, Jesus, he was stammering. "I'd like to ask you a few questions."
He had spent the rest of the interview awkwardly shifting his weight from foot to foot and nervously coughing and thumbing through his notebook.
"I couldn't look her in the eye, Jordan. I couldn't even say the word 'rape." I kept using all these euphemisms --attacked, assaulted. None of them even beginning to sum up what happened to that girl. She just wanted me to help her, and I couldn't."
"You're helping her by finding the people that did this to her." She reached over and gave his wrist a squeeze.
"I'm all right with the dead. The living? Not so much." He smiled a rueful smile and there was another silence. It seemed to be the one thing they had in common, to dismiss their pain with humor. Jordan knew the depth of his distress went further than he would let on. She suddenly wanted to slide into the booth next to him and fold him into her arms. Instead she gave his wrist another impersonal squeeze.
"Well, I've had enough brooding for one night. What do you say we take this party somewhere else and grab a few beers?"
She was tired. She had some preliminary autopsy reports to go over, not to mention the fact that the events of the last few days had her wanting to go home and pull the covers over her head, but she found herself saying, "Sounds great..."
Her father's bar was out. She and Max usually steered cleared of each other this time of year. They tended to feed off of each other's moroseness, and Max preferred to avoid his daughter's annual harangue of questions and recriminations. There was a neighborhood place around the corner from Jordan's building, and they found themselves tucked into a back booth with beers and a bowl of too-salty, stale popcorn.
The mood seemed artificially light. After a couple of drinks, it was suggested they play Truth or Dare. In the giddiness of the alcohol, Woody had already been made to sing "I'm a Little Teapot" to the indifferent patrons of the bar.
"Okay. Truth or Dare, Jordan?"
"When did you lose your virginity?" It was a question that would usually not have been asked or answered, but in their state of jolly inebriation, it seemed fair game.
"Fifteen." He raised his eyebrows.
"Wow, Jordan, you started putting notches in the belt pretty early."
"I started sneaking out and going to fraternity parties." She shrugged. "I met a Sigma Kappa Epsilon brother one night, and we went up to his room. Not a great experience. So. How about you? Wait, don't tell me. Prom night."
"If you'll recall, my prom date stood me up. No, it was freshman year of college. There was a girl who lived on my floor who was, shall we say, a bit free with her favors, and she offered to de-virginize me for my 18th birthday."
"And you took her up on it?"
"Taught me a few things for which my next girlfriends were eternally grateful." His face broke into a broad grin. It was something she had never really thought about. She had always though of him as attractive in an aesthetic sort of way, with his clear blue eyes and sculpted frame. She would have usually preferred hot needles jabbed into her eyes than to imagine one of her colleagues 'in flagrante delicto,' but for a moment she could picture Woody in the embrace of a woman, his mouth on hers, his fingers tangled in her hair, and then, suddenly, in a fleeting vision she knew the woman was her, and for the first time she saw Woody Hoyt as a man and a potential lover. She shook her head as if to jostle the thought from her brain.
"Hey, I'm really beat. Do you mind if we settle up?"
They found themselves walking silently toward Jordan's building and stopped with an uncomfortable pause at the bottom of the steps. A chill swept through and stirred up a swirl of brittle fallen leaves.
"So..." Her voice trailed off. If he asked to come up, she knew she would probably not stop him. Her heart pounded.
"So." It seemed an eternity before he said, "It's late. I should go."
"Yeah, I guess so." What was it she was feeling? Relief? Disappointment?
He leaned in towards her. Her eyes fluttered closed instinctively, and she waited for the brush of his lips against hers. He kissed her fraternally on the forehead.
When she opened her eyes again, he had already disappeared into the darkness.
Det. Woody Hoyt walked with a spring in his step down the hall toward Katie Munro's hospital room. Summer had not yet left New England, and days later, he could still taste Jordan's salty-sweet skin against his lips. A chill had passed through him when his hand had inadvertently brushed against hers in the diner that night. Later, as they said their goodbyes, the tension between them had been almost unbearable. He could picture her standing there on the bottom step, he on the sidewalk, her almond eyes shut tight as he leaned in toward her. He had wanted to kiss her, but not in the blushing way that they had before in the California desert. He knew if they kissed again, it would not end with the platonic promise to keep the wall between them forever firm.
But thoughts of Jordan were not the lone reason for his renewed energy. The DNA samples taken from Katie Munro's rape kit had identified one of the killers. He had been easy to locate, and after Woody's interrogation, he had quickly confessed and fingered the other two. Jordan was right. He had done his job. He had helped. Today, he would be able to look Katie Munro in the eye and deliver the good news.
He waved cheerfully at the two weary women at the nurses' station as he rounded the corner into Katie's room.
It was empty. The bed had been stripped and the machines and monitors had been turned off and spirited away.
It seemed for a moment that the floor had opened beneath him. He stumbled backward into the hall. The two nurses looked up at him with a detached air. He recognized Katie's doctor leaning over the counter there thumbing with disinterest through a chart.
"Where is she?" His voice came out high and thin. He moved unevenly down the hall.
The doctor sighed and looked up at him over the top of his reading glasses.
"Katie developed some complications in the night. She had to be rushed into surgery to stop the internal bleeding," he began with feigned solemnity.
"So...she's what? In recovery or intensive care, right?"
The doctor pinched his lips and shook his head. He picked absently at a piece of lint on his labcoat. "Katie didn't make it through the surgery."
Woody reached out to steady himself against the wall. "But you said she was going to be okay. You said she was going to be okay."
The doctor shrugged lightly. "I'm sorry, detective." He gave one last look of practiced concern and returned to his chart.
"You said she was going to be okay. YOU SAID SHE WAS GOING TO BE OKAY!"
The three watched him in an embarrassed silence, the only noise the insistent buzz of the fluorescent lights. Further down the hall, the janitor leaned on his mop. A patient shuffled out of his room, and a group of residents on rounds all viewed him with disengaged stares.
Woody stumbled blindly toward the elevator and slapped at the call button with a rising panic. They all watched with a mix of discomfort and detached curiosity as he slumped against the wall and the elevator swallowed him.
At the first hint of morning, Jordan's eyes fluttered open, and she knew she had dreamed of Woody. Just a series of vague images, really. Of him standing forlornly in the parking lot of the crime scene. Of the two of them laughing together at the bar. Then a flicker of a memory from their kiss in the desert. She smiled lightly to herself, but then the pleasantness of her mood was lost in the flood of the sudden realization of today's date.
She picked up the phone and called Emmy. Feigning a sore throat, she said she wouldn't be coming in to work. She could have called Garret, but he would recognize the date and call or come over and she was determined to cocoon alone today.
She rolled over again and pulled the covers higher. The pain of her loss was as sharp as ever.
Woody. She knew he had feelings for her, and she had always enjoyed their coy flirtation. He was physically attractive, there was no question about that. She certainly liked his company, and on some level she considered him her closest friend, or as close as Jordan Cavanaugh would let anyone get. Yet, all these qualities were overshadowed by the fact that Woody Hoyt seemed to her as unformed as her dreams of him the night before. He seemed a boy in a man's job, a guileless kid from Kewaunee come to the big city.
But something had changed for her in the last week. She wasn't sure if it had started the night she met him at Burger Land, the way the case had affected him on an emotional level she wasn't aware he had. He suddenly didn't seem the callow young rookie anymore.
Or perhaps it was seeing him in the different light of the bar that night.
She remembered Billy Delgado from the fourth grade who sat next to her in math class. She had never noticed him until he had smiled and said hello to her in just a certain way one morning, when she was suddenly hit with a violent crush.
It was like this with Woody. She had never heard him mention a girlfriend since she had known him. She supposed she had always thought of him as a cute, but slightly asexual, boy. It was just the way he had said it, about losing his virginity--taught me a few things for which my next girlfriends were eternally grateful--and then smiled brazenly. It struck her then that Woody Hoyt was a sexual being with a sexual past. That other women had been with him, and that she was...jealous.
She brooded on that for much of the morning. All the better that she didn't have to think of the anniversary of her mother's murder. One hour blurred into the next until late afternoon, when a fitfulness came over her, and what had seemed comforting to her now seemed claustrophobic.
She showered and dressed hurriedly and hit the street. She wandered aimlessly for a good hour, stopping for coffee, browsing at a bookstore, but nothing seemed to contain her distracted restlessness.
As evening fell, she looked up and found without much surprise that she was standing in front of Woody's building. A woman was struggling with a package at the front door. Jordan swallowed hard.
"Let me help you with that." The woman smiled gratefully and did not protest when Jordan slipped in after her.
When he didn't answer her knock right away, she considered leaving. She had already turned to go when the door opened.
He stood in the doorway, hair ruffled, a day or two's growth of beard, wearing boxer shorts.
"Hi! I was just in your neighborhood. I thought I'd stop in." She groaned inwardly at the artificial perkiness of her voice.
He said nothing but turned and walked back inside. She stood in the hall for a moment, not knowing whether that had been an invitation to enter or if he had just forgotten to close the door.
She went in hesitantly. He was in the center of the room, standing with hands on hips, head down. When he would not speak, she felt compelled to fill the silence with nervous chatter.
"I was just wandering around, really. I didn't want to go anywhere, but I didn't want to stay home either. It's just been a real bad day." She laughed uneasily. Silence. She lowered her eyes. "I just wanted to see if you wanted to...talk."
"Sure. We'll talk." He said without emotion. His voice was rough, she suspected, from drink and lack of sleep. He picked up a pair of jeans that were thrown carelessly over the back of the sofa and pulled them on.
She looked around. There were empty beer bottles on the kitchen counter and a coat over by the window that looked as if he had removed it and dropped it where he stood. She noticed a stiff Sears family portrait of the Hoyt family on the wall. He was a chubby teenager, and she could picture him suddenly with his powder blue tux and wilted corsage waiting for the prom date that would never show. The image didn't quite jibe with the one of the shirtless man standing before her.
"I haven't talked to you in a couple of days," she began again breezily. "I don't think I'll ever see you in the quite the same way, Mr. I'm-a-Little-Teapot." She let out a little flutter of a laugh.
"Katie Munro died last night." He said quietly.
Jordan's mouth shut tight as if to stifle the laugh. "How?"
"In surgery. I went to tell her that we were going to be able to catch the guys that did this to her, but something went wrong last night. She died on the table."
There was silence, thick with pain. She felt very small sitting perched up on the kitchen stool. "I'm sorry, Woody."
He paced the floor for a minute and then fell onto the sofa with resignation. "I always wanted to be a cop. Always wanted to get out of Wisconsin. I thought I could handle it, but maybe I couldn't."
"You're just going through a rough time. It'll be OK."
"Maybe. But maybe I'm not cut out for this."
"We all get emotionally attached, sometimes, but you're great at your job, Woody. It's just one case."
"No, it's not. One of my first homicides was a two-year old whose stepfather beat her to death for spilling grape juice on the living room carpet. I hadn't seen too many dead bodies before, but there she was. You could barely tell she was human. And the mother had just stood by and watched. I still see that picture in my head when I close my eyes at night. I see them all." His voice broke, and he rubbed at his eyes with the heel of his hand. "I learned to shut down. I just couldn't do that this time."
She went and sat beside him on the sofa. His grief seemed palpable, as if it were rising off him in waves. His back was cold and smooth beneath her comforting hand.
"Today is anniversary of my mother's death." He looked up at her.
"I'm sorry, Jordan..."
She smiled a lopsided smile. "I'm not going to lie to you, Woody. Sometimes, the pain doesn't get any easier." It was she who felt the release then. Her eyes welled up, and a red shame crept up her cheeks.
"Hey, no. Don't," he whispered. He wiped at a stray tear on her cheek with his thumb. "Sssh."
She looked at him a moment, her face in his hands. There would be no deliberation, no chaste flirtation. She moved his hand from her face and kissed the center of his palm.
He pulled back for a moment, a confusion of emotions playing over his face. And then he leaned in and took her face in his hands again, his mouth on hers, pulling her in against him insistently.
She yielded. He found her mouth, her neck, and their breath quickened. Everything: her mother, this case, all her doubts receded to a dark corner of her mind. She could think only of this and the feeling of being wrapped in his arms.
She found herself moving across the floor and onto the bed, a tangle of arms, legs, mouths. Their hands trembled, as clothes fell away without the fumbling awkwardness of first-time lovers.
He ran his lips along the curve of her neck and the sweet hollow above her collarbone, down across her soft belly.
"Yes," she said, her eyes shut tight. She ran her fingertips along the coiled muscle of his arms, his back, his thighs. "Yes," as they locked into an embrace, and she felt the pounding of his heart against hers. She took his fingers and laced them with hers. She opened her eyes then and found his gaze as their fever rose to a crescendo. "Yes," as their bodies shuddered together.
He smiled then, and she laughed a deep, throaty laugh of contentment. He brushed a strand of hair from her face and traced the line of her jaw with his finger.
"Yes," he said softly. They lay intertwined as the sun dipped below the horizon.
A September morning chill had rolled in. She had slipped on one of his Boston P.D. t-shirts and sat on a chair by the bed as dawn broke, hugging her knees to her chest. She watched the even rise and fall of his chest as he slept, a picture of contentment.
Sometime in the small hours of the night, she had allowed the doubts to creep back in and breed relentlessly. She had always sworn not to become involved with friends, not to become involved, period. And this had become involved.
"I can be complicated, too," he had said to her once in the early days of their friendship. He was nursing a beer and looking at her with that wounded, wide-eyed innocence, and she had almost laughed. But, yes, he--this--was complicated. Complicated, she did not need.
He woke, one eye at a time. He saw her and a broad smile crossed his face.
"Good morning," he said sleepily and stretched his limbs out to all four corners of the bed.
She pulled her knees closer to herself and said nothing. It was not the greeting he had expected. He sat up suddenly.
"What? What is it?"
She took a deep breath and halfway regretted not fleeing before he woke.
His hand flew up to stop her. "Don't. Just...don't."
"I'm sorry," she said in a small voice.
"Funny. Because I'm not."
"Come on," she started quietly, pleadingly. "You and I both know this was a mistake."
He shook his head. "Don't speak for me, Jordan."
She looked around the room in search of words. She had rehearsed a speech in her mind during the hour that she had sat silently watching him sleep, but the words failed her now.
"We were both vulnerable last night. We...I was looking for some comfort from someone. Anyone."
"And I was the lucky guy, right?"
She knew that she had misspoken. "No, I didn't mean it like that, Woody, that's not..."
"Don't. Really." He threw the sheet back angrily and pulled his boxers back on. "Everyone warned me about you. Your own father told me you were too much trouble. Your own father, Jordan. What does that tell you about yourself?"
She hadn't known that Woody and her father had spoken of her this way, but Max's warning didn't surprise her. Still, the words stung.
He stood, arms folded across his chest. There was a wide chasm between them. The silence was dreadful.
"We're still friends, right?."
"No." He finally looked up at her. "No. I'm not going to be your booty-call, or your errand boy, or your white knight when it is convenient for you, Jordan. I don't want to see you. And I won't work with you again if I can avoid it."
His jaw was set. "Please leave, Jordan," he said without inflection. "I've got to go to work. You can let yourself out." He swept past her. The bathroom door shut firmly behind him.
She stood for a moment, feeling as if the air had been sucked out of the room. Finally, she pulled on her jeans and ran blindly out of his apartment, still wearing his shirt.
The day passed in a haze. She had thrown herself into her work and made it through her shift without having to see or talk to anyone. It was evening again. The halls were dark and airless. She had made her way up onto the roof. Lily always said it helped her to think more clearly. The sky of the shortening September evening was a brilliant blue, and there was only the distant noise of the street below.
She heard the door shut behind her, and there was Garret, briefcase in hand, coat folded over his arm. He stood wordlessly beside her.
She spoke. "Am I a horrible person?"
"Please tell me that's a rhetorical question." His face wore a wry smile, but his voice was gentle.
"I hurt someone I care about. Only thing is, I didn't realize I cared until it was too late."
"It's never too late."
"Ah, Garret the Cock-eyed Optimist. Now, there's a side of you I don't see very often. I can't say I like it. Sorry, Garret, but I'm not really in the mood for platitudes." It had come out sharper than she had meant it. She thought for a moment that he might leave, but he didn't. "No, really. Please tell me. Am I that awful? How do you see me?"
"You're rude, abrasive, insubordinate, impetuous, difficult..."
"Gee, don't hold back now, Garret. Tell me how you really feel."
He slipped an arm around her shoulder. "You are also a passionate and dedicated professional, and a loyal, sensitive, and generous friend."
"But, see, that's just it! With you, Lily, Bug, Nigel...I feel like I know how to be with you. I'm not afraid to help you. Like when you were having problems with Maggie, why is it that I wasn't afraid to listen to you, but this time..." She threw her hands up in inarticulate exasperation.
"I think you just answered your own question."
She looked over at him questioningly. He turned and slowly slipped his coat on.
"You're one of the most compassionate people I know, Jordan. It motivates you to keep looking for answers when anyone else would give up. You comfort grieving family members with the right words. You'd do anything for anyone of us here. We all know that. But none of that involves revealing any part of yourself. It's all safe as long as no one truly gets a good look at Jordan Cavanaugh. So, this--other person--you couldn't give anything without letting your guard down, so you ran the other way. That's pretty much what you do, isn't it, Jordan?" He said without judgment. Still, she was suddenly ashamed, and she knew she didn't need to confirm what he had said.
"So, what do I do?"
He shrugged. "Stop running."
"It's not that easy, Garret."
"Nothing worth doing ever is."
She stood outside his door in the same spot she had stood 24 hours earlier. She dreaded knocking and seeing his reaction when he opened the door. It wasn't that she was afraid he would hate her: to Jordan, love and hate occupied the same space. As long as he was angry, there was a chance. But indifference...then the distance between them would remain forever uncrossed.
She knocked and was surprised when he answered the door quickly. He had just come from work and stood with cuffs of his french blue shirt rolled past his elbows, tie loosened. She couldn't read his face.
"We've got to stop meeting like this," she said in a wretched attempt at lightness.
"What do you want Jordan?" His face was implacable.
"Come on, Woody. Please let me in. For just a second." He stood for a moment, one hand on the knob, the other on the door jamb, as if to block her passage. Finally, he dropped his arm and let her through.
She passed him and entered quickly before he could change his mind.
"So. What are you up to?"
"Again, Jordan. What do you want?"
She held out his t-shirt. She had washed it and folded it neatly. "I wanted to return this. I was wearing it when I left this morning."
He shrugged with slight annoyance and tossed the shirt on the bed. "You could have just kept it. It wasn't worth the trip."
"Well, I just thought..." She stopped. There was nothing else to say, really.
He strode purposefully back to the door and opened it. "You've done what you came to do. If you'll excuse me, I'm in the middle of something."
She didn't move. "Come on. Haven't we been through too much to act this way?"
He slammed the door and stormed back into the center of the room where she stood, raising a finger at her accusingly. "That's exactly why I'm acting this way, Jordan. Because we've been through too much. Way too much. I know what you think of me, that I'm some kind of naive cheesehead. Well, maybe you're right. In spite of all those defenses you put up, I really thought I could get through. I thought there was a beating heart under that hard exterior. But now I'm beginning to think that there's just nothing there but an empty shell." He was inches away from her now. An angry heat rose from him.
"That's not true."
"Isn't it?" She felt tears rise in her eyes. No, she would not let him see her cry.
"You don't know the first thing about me." Her lip was beginning to quiver, and her hand flew up to cover it.
"Well, then please, Jordan. Enlighten me. Tell me all about yourself." His voice was thick with sarcasm.
"I tell you things."
"Like the other night. In the bar."
"Oh, you mean the story about your virginity? Why don't you tell me about your last parking ticket, and we can bond, shall we?"
"Stop! Stop! You don't know anything about it!" He was just a blur now through the pool of tears in her eyes. She tried to turn from him, but he was there in front of her again.
"And that's just the way you want it, isn't it?"
"Please, Woody. I feel..."
"Oh, wait! She feels!" He waved his hands over his head in a mocking gesture. "Hallelujah, she feels!" His palms fell with a slap against his thighs. "You, feel? "he snorted. "Please, Jordan. Have you ever even had an honest emotion?"
"Is that what you think? That I don't feel? You don't get it, do you?" She swatted at him blindly with her open palm. "You know what I tell people if they ask how I lost my virginity? I tell them about the second time I actually had sex...years later, in college." The words spilled out of her now. "What I told you that night, in the bar? God, I don't know why I told you. I've never told anyone. That was the real first time. I was fifteen, and I needed my mother, and she was gone. And I was so...angry. I hated her for leaving me, and I hated myself for feeling like that. So...I did whatever I could not to feel that way. I started sneaking out at night. Drinking, smoking, getting high. It didn't really help. So, one night I went to a frat party and let one of the guys take me up to his room. I was terrified. Terrified. He told me to take my clothes off, and it lasted about fifteen humiliating seconds. Then he got pissed off because I'd bled on his sheets. He told me to clean myself up and get out. When I went back downstairs, they were all pointing and laughing at me. I ran home and cried until I threw up, but not before getting rid of my blood-stained pants so my father wouldn't find them. It was horrible. Humiliating. But for a minute, I felt something other than grief and rage. So, don't tell me I don't feel." She landed a fist in the center of his chest. "Don't you dare tell me I don't feel. Don't you dare..."
The flood of tears stopped her, and she cried with deep, surrendered sobs. She felt him pull her to his chest, and he held her as she sank to the floor.
He stroked her hair, her head in his lap. "I don't know if this is going to work, Jordan. I really don't," he finally said quietly. "But I can't not try."
Her tears subsided, but he held her that way for some time. She was exhausted, as if she had come to the end of a very long race. She began to drift, lulled by the even, steady beat of his heart.