Author's Notes: What can I say? I'm in a mood. Thanks for reading, though.
by Kristen Elizabeth
Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown into flame by another human being. Each of us owes deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this light. - Albert Schwietzer
"Go ahead and take a seat. They'll be bringing her out in a second." The uniformed correctional officer gestured to an empty table. "Just remember that visiting hours are over in half an hour."
Grissom lowered himself into a metal chair. "This won't take very long." He nodded at the man. "Thanks."
When the officer was gone, he drew in a breath and slowly released it. For the first time, he acknowledged his nervousness. His hands were even shaking a bit. Grissom looked down at them, focusing on the gold band around his left ring finger. A smile pulled at his lips.
He heard a buzzer and looked up in time to see the barred door that separated the visiting room from the rest of the prison slide open. A woman stood there, waiting to step inside. She wasn't shackled, but another correctional officer walked just behind her.
As they approached his table, Grissom stood. The polite gesture seemed to surprise her; she eyed him warily as she slipped into the chair opposite of his. The officer with her backed up a few paces, allowing them a modicum of privacy.
"Hello." The word sounded hoarse, so he cleared his throat and tried again. "I'm…"
"I know who you are, Mr. Grissom. She never writes much, but she usually mentions you." The woman folded her arms and studied him. "Never thought I'd get to meet you, though."
He sat back down. "Thanks for agreeing to see me, Mrs. Sidle."
"You can call me Laura. I dropped her father'sname years ago."
At first impression, she resembled her daughter only slightly. Maybe in the shape of her forehead, the slope of her nose. Her hair was streaked through with grey, but it had probably been chestnut at one time. Her eyes were hazel, though.
"I suppose you're wondering why I'm here," Grissom began. "But first, I need to thank you."
"Thank me?" Laura frowned. "For what?"
"For her," he said simply. "Thank you for her."
She looked away. "I can't really take a whole lot of the credit. She kind of raised herself. She kind of had to."
He nodded for a long moment. When he could talk again, his words slipped out calmly and quietly. "Laura…Sara died last month."
Grissom watched the blood drain out of her face. "What?" she whispered. "No." When he lowered his chin, she repeated, "No." He looked up and saw her staring at him in defiant disbelief. "How?" she challenged him.
As he explained the circumstances, her face slowly crumpled as acceptance crushed her under its weight. Her back curved; her forehead touched the metal table.
"My baby," she sobbed. The correctional officer, having been informed of the reason for the visit earlier, reached out to her in a rare display of compassion. Laura shook off the woman's hands. "Leave me alone" she screamed. "My baby is dead!"
All of a sudden, he regretted coming here. He should have called, maybe even just written. Sara's mother's pain was too much, opening up all of his own wounds. His eyes smarted with hot tears and he couldn't swallow a massive lump in his throat. He'd lived with this agony for four weeks, and it was still just as raw as it had been the day she'd slipped away from him.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm so sorry."
Eventually, the woman's cries of anguish died down into low moans, then whimpers. When she lifted her head, her eyes were bloodshot. She used the blue sleeve of her shirt to rub at her puffy cheeks.
"Where was she buried?" Laura finally asked, her throat scratchy.
"She was cremated." Grissom forced out the words. "That's what she wanted."
"That doesn't surprise me." She blinked. "What about the…"
He smiled faintly. "Just fine. Perfect."
Laura covered her mouth with her hand, as if collecting her thoughts. "Did she hate me, Mr. Grissom? I could never tell. And she'd have never answered the question if I'd asked her. But I need to know…did she ever forgive me?"
His fingers twisted his wedding ring round and round. "Just off the top of my head, I think of a dozen men who beat their wives who Sara personally helped put behind bars. I don't think she ever hated you, Laura. And I wouldn't be surprised if she forgave you the night it happened."
Her shoulders visibly relaxed as leftover tears slid down her face. "Sara was my shining star."
Laura hesitated. "She loved you. A lot. At least I knew that much about her life."
Grissom tasted blood inside his mouth. "My entire world changed the moment I met your daughter. She changed me."
A bell rang out and Laura's fist balled up. Visiting hours were over.
The officer approached them again. "It's time, Laura," she gently reminded her.
She threw the woman a look, before returning her attention to Grissom. "She was happy, wasn't she?"
"Yes," he honestly replied. "She was happy."
Laura closed her eyes and nodded, relieved. "Thank you." She stood up. "That's all I ever wanted her to be."
He came out into late-afternoon sunshine. His nervousness had passed, and although the pain was still there…it would never really go away…it was back to a bearable ache.
There was a stretch of grass between the prison and the parking lot. Catherine was waiting there for him.
"You look all right," she said. He could almost see her eyebrow raising behind her sunglasses. "What happened?"
"You're a mother, Catherine. How would you react to losing a child?"
She shuddered. "Don't even go there, Gil."
Grissom got down on his knees in the grass. "Laura's eyes were hazel," he said. "I wonder what color hers will be."
Catherine smiled at the baby girl sound asleep in her carrier. "Does it really matter?"
He reached out and touched his daughter's soft cheek. "I'd really like it if she looked in the mirror someday and saw her mother's face. She deserves at least that much."
"Yeah," Catherine agreed.
"Do you think Sara would want me to take her back here someday to meet her grandmother?"
She thought about this for a minute as a light breeze swept over them. Before she could answer, though, Grissom continued, "These are the things I wish we'd talked about while she was pregnant. We talked so much about names and birthing methods…but never about the really important things." He paused. "Like what to do if there were…complications."
Catherine reached for his hand and squeezed it. "She talked to me about it."
Grissom whipped his head around. "She did?"
Nodding, she went on, "Sara asked me to look after you. And the baby." There was a question in his eyes that he couldn't quite voice. "No," Catherine answered it. "I don't think she knew she was going to die. But she knew it was a difficult pregnancy. And before you say what I know you're thinking, if you had even suggested ending it, she never would have forgiven you. She wanted to be a mother …she wanted you to be a father. And she accepted the risks involved."
"She was always more of a risk-taker than me," he mused. After a moment, Grissom lifted his daughter out of her carrier and settled her against his shoulder. Ava was his last remaining piece of Sara. The personification of the love they'd shared. "I'll bring her back here someday. When she's old enough."
Standing up, Catherine announced, "I'm going to go turn the car's AC on, get it cooled down. And then can we go? I'd like to get back home before dawn. See if Lindsey threw a kegger while I was gone."
Grissom nodded. "I'll be right there."
She headed off and he looked down at the little girl sleeping in his arms. He kissed the whisper of brown that covered her head, and for a moment, his heart stopped hurting.
"Thank you, Sara."