"'Morning," he muttered as he stumbled into the kitchen. She was dressed in her clothes from the night before and busying herself with toast and coffee.
"Hey," she said with a weak smile. "Running late..."
He glanced up at the clock. He was surprised to see her so alert this early. Usually when she stayed at his place, it took several hits on the snooze button before Jordan managed to drag herself into the bathroom.
He yawned and smoothed his cowlick. "Sleep okay? You were pretty restless last night."
"Yeah, sure. I'm fine." She was in a mood, he noted with a shrug. It was something he had already learned to roll with this early into their relationship. Life with Jordan Cavanaugh was certainly never dull.
"Dinner tonight? We can hit the town, or, better yet, I can pick something up, and we can stay in." He wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed the back of her neck. She wriggled away.
"Yeah. Whatever you want."
"Hey. Are you okay?"
"Sure. I'm sorry. I've got some stuff on my mind, and I'm supposed to be in court in about a half an hour." She began to rummage frantically through her bag. "Which means, I've got to go back to my place and pick up a suit."
He took a deep breath. "Why don't you just keep some stuff here, Jordan?" He had tried to sound as casual as he had the other ten times he had asked the question. For the tenth time, she ignored him.
"I'm just going to get ready for work, okay?" She went into the bathroom and shut the door quickly behind her.
Yes, it was best in these situations to leave her alone and not to try and cajole or wheedle her out of her humor. He flopped down onto the sofa with the phone book.
"So, what do you want to do for dinner?" he called in to her. There was no response. "You want Chinese? Or are you tired of Chinese? Jordan?" He sat thumbing through the yellow pages. "Why don't I just call China Garden from work and I can pick it up on the way home? I'm kinda off Imperial Palace. That sound all right? Jordan?"
He was aware then that she was standing motionless in front of him. He looked up to see her outstretched hand. There was something in it: a plastic stick. And then it dawned on him with mounting panic that the small clear window in the center of the stick showed two bright pink lines.
"Is that what I think it is?" he whispered.
"Oh, Jesus...." he exhaled. The phone book slid off his lap and he buried his head in his hands. "Jesus."
She sat across from him, perched on the end of the bed with her arms wrapped around her middle.
"What? When? I don't..." He raised his hands, at a loss for words.
"I'm a week late," she said quietly. "So..."
He sat with his head in his hands, feeling as though a punch had been landed square in his middle.
"We were careful, weren't we?" he asked, looking up at her. She nodded.
"I'm sorry, Woody." She began to cry, a short, anxious shower of tears.
"Hey, no. Sssh, it's okay. It's nobody's fault. It's gonna be okay," he said in a litany as if to convince himself. "It's going to be okay." He moved across the floor and pulled her into his arms.
"This is not a good time, you know?" She dabbed at her nose with her sleeve like a hurt child.
"I know, Jordan. But we'll figure this out, okay? Okay?"
She nodded, and he dried her damp cheeks with his thumbs. Then, as suddenly as they had begun, the tears were over, and she was up on her feet.
"Well, hey, look. I'm really late. You wouldn't believe the day I've got ahead of me. I'm gonna be out of the loop until late. Just order me whatever." She gave him a perfunctory peck and slung her bag over her shoulder.
"Jordan..." he said rising from the bed. She turned, one hand on the front doorknob. "I..." Love. You. It was what he wanted to say. She stood, one foot in the hallway, creased forehead, red-rimmed eyes. He wanted to go to her and hold her and tell her everything would be all right, even when he, himself, was not altogether sure it would be. "I'll see you later."
She gave him a wan smile and was gone.
He felt his legs give way and collapsed back onto the bed.
They had gone to the cape the previous month and spent the day sailing. He had never seen her so relaxed. They had watched the sunset together and then had made love on the empty beach. He wondered if that had been when it happened.
On the drive home in darkness, they had fallen into a comfortable silence until he looked over and saw a thin trail of tears on her cheeks.
"Jordan? What is it?"
"I don't know," she said with a crack in her voice. "I'm just so..."
"Happy? It does happen to people, you know, Jordan." She had smiled at him then, and her hand slid across the car seat, her fingers intertwining with his.
The memory was sharp, now.
He stood in the shower for a long while, letting the water whip into him. When had he known that he loved her? Was it when they kissed in California? No, that wasn't quite love. But it was certainly before she first stayed the night with him.
Perhaps it was that night, a week before Christmas just a few months prior. They had been at one of those office holiday gatherings that she had been obliged to attend, and he had tagged along. She was radiant, unutterably lovely that evening, in a black strapless cocktail dress. Her hair was pulled up loosely, with wavy tendrils brushing across her bare shoulders.
It was late in the evening when he found her leaning against a door frame. "My feet are killing me," she laughed. "Whoever invented high heels was a sadist."
"Hey, it's mistletoe!" Someone had said.
"You know what that means!" said someone else.
They looked up to find they were standing beneath a sprig of mistletoe. They both laughed with mild embarrassment. Woody attempted to step out of the doorway, but someone pushed him gently back.
They had both leaned in then. Their lips met. He reached out to steady her, and his fingers brushed against her bare skin. He tried to etch every sense in his mind to preserve it forever: the citrus smell of her perfume, the ripe softness of her mouth on his. The moment seemed to be suspended in time, and then she broke and looked away.
"Do you mind if I take you home, Jordan?" he said after a silence. "I'm beat."
She had chatted breezily on the drive, oblivious to the gloom that had settled over him. He found himself at her door, where he had been rebuffed many times before.
"Well, g'night," she yawned. With a wave of her fingers, she went inside. He stood for a moment, contemplating the drive home to his empty apartment. Then he took a deep breath and knocked.
She opened the door, and he spoke, the words pouring out of him. "Jordan, I can't do this anymore. I can't be your buddy. I can't be your standby wedding date just because I'm tall and you can wear heels with me. I can't watch videos with you on Friday night and let you hold my hand during the scary parts. I can't go hiking or skating or dancing with you anymore. And maybe I've just lost the best friend I've ever had, but I can't do this."
She looked at him, her eyes wide. Her mouth fell open, but no words followed. Deflated, he started to go. He was halfway down the hall when he heard her behind him. She was running to him, one shoe in each hand.
"Woody!" She caught him at the top of the staircase. His heart raced. "I..."
But he stopped her with a kiss, and she wrapped her arms around him. It was long and slow, and when it was done, she took a step back and looked at with him with that unmistakable Jordan Cavanaugh smile.
"Pick me up at eight tomorrow," she said. "Don't be late. And dress nice. You're taking me someplace reeeeaaally fancy." Her cheeks were flush with emotion and perhaps the eggnog, too. He smiled back at her, and yes, now he was sure that this was the moment he knew he loved her.
He knew what their friends and co-workers had thought. No one could blame her for his attraction to her. She was a concoction of equal of parts steel and vulnerability, beauty and fierce intelligence, and she was utterly irresistible. But a relationship?
He had come by the morgue with a bouquet of flowers, over the moon after their first night together. She was not in her office, and he stopped by the break room to find her. They were all there: Lily, Bug, Nigel, Garret. He asked for her; she was in a deposition, Garret said. He stood there, beaming, wanting to share his news. And then the realization came over them that something had changed in Woody and Jordan's relationship, and they traded looks of pity among themselves. He could feel the red heat of embarrassment creep up his cheeks as stumbled away and fled down the hall.
"It'll never work," he could hear Bug say sardonically. And for awhile, Woody suspected he was right. There time together would be precious but brief.
Despite his years in Boston, Woody still was all artless charm and affability, with his tales of ice-fishing and harvest dances and pep rallies.
He still exuded a sturdy, Midwestern optimism that some mistook for naivete. But the truth was, he had killed; he had seen the worst of humanity and still chose to believe that the world was a good place, and it was good to be in it. She had wanted him in spite of their differences, or perhaps because of them. He had made her light and carefree, he suspected, for the first time in her life.
It worked. Yes, it worked. It worked. It was as if it had never dawned on him, that realization as he sat at his desk shuffling papers from one stack to another. He had never dared to think very far into the future. She had made him grow up during these past three years, and he, in turn, had offered her back a part of her childhood. Why couldn't it continue to work?
He loved her, he was sure of it. What had seemed so impossible only the day before seemed inevitable now. This morning's tragedy now seemed a miracle. He and Jordan were going to have a child together. Fleeting images flickered through his brain: her face glowing with the soft roundness of maternity, the delivery room, a Christening, a first day of school. And through it all, he was with her.
His watch said 10:28. Too early for lunch, really. But he pushed back from his desk and threw on his suit jacket.
"Taking an early lunch," he muttered to the cluster of detectives by the water cooler and headed with a purposeful stride to the jewelry store on the corner.
The afternoon crept by until it was, at last, 5:00. He had called China Garden and ordered five different entrees plus soup and egg roll. They would make a celebration of it. Despite the plastic bags of steamed rice and wonton soup hooked over his wrists, he took the stairs up to his apartment two at a time. He would ask, and she would say...yes. He knew it. It had all happened for a reason, and it was all unfolding toward this moment.
He took a breath and pushed the door open. Jordan was inside. She had changed into sweats and sat on the sofa with her feet tucked under her, a box of kleenex on her lap.
"Jordan?" He dropped the food on the counter. "What's wrong? What is it?" He sat uneasily on the sofa next to her.
"There's no baby. At least not anymore. I got my period." She dabbed at her red nose with a kleenex.
There was a brief, empty silence.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Yeah, fine. It was really early. I probably would never have known if I hadn't freaked out and taken the test." She laughed. "So, that was a close one, right?"
He said nothing, but sank back into the sofa.
"Listen, Woody," she began tentatively. "I think this just might be a sign, you know?" she turned away and looked out the window.
"What do you mean?"
"Things have been moving really fast with us. Maybe. Maybe we should put the brakes on for awhile."
All the blood seemed to drain from his head and into his toes. "Is that what you want, Jordan?"
She nodded. "Just for awhile, okay? I need some time to think. It's just temporary."
He nodded back at her. It would, of course, not be temporary. Their moment had passed irrevocably. It had reached its unalterable conclusion, and he had been powerless to stop it. He slid his hand into his coat pocket, and his fingers brushed against the ring box. She slid next to him and put her head against his shoulder.
They sat in silence, their bodies curled close to each other. But the distance between them had already grown as cold as the ring box in his hand.