Title: Slow Dancing In A Burning Room
Author: Beth Pryor
Summary: Christie Dunbar examines her life and tries to decide where she goes from here.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything, and I'm not receiving any sort of compensation for this activity.
Slow Dancing In A Burning Room
"What are you doing?" Detective Jim Dunbar asked his wife as he watched her throw clothes into a suitcase in the bedroom of their plush apartment.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" she shot back at him.
"Don't do this." He wasn't asking or commanding, he just said it.
"You don't get to tell me what to do." She didn't turn to look at him but continued throwing her things into bags that she had piled on the bed.
"Christie," he began but stopped. "Never mind." He turned his back and walked out the bedroom door. He collected his briefcase, gun and badge from the counter. Without another word he slammed the door behind him and was gone.
Christine Sullivan-Dunbar had long resigned herself to the fact that her husband was not perfect, but the first time she saw him in his uniform in the city on the 4th of July, she was hooked. The "bad boy" swagger was intoxicating, too. He'd gotten out of the military not long after that but decided on the police academy. She took a job at a publishing firm and quickly climbed the corporate ladder. Four years to the day after they first met, he proposed. Neither of them would describe the other as sentimental, but both got a little misty-eyed as he pulled the ring, a much larger ring than he could really afford, from his pocket and asked her to be his wife.
Right away, there had been a trillion things to get used to. Both of them had lived very different, separate lives as single people. Merging the two wasn't an easy task. They had not only come from two different worlds, hers of country clubs and polo matches and his of tenements and stickball, but they still existed in two different worlds. Her days consisted of power lunches, wooing clients at swanky evening events and out of town conferences. His spent his days walking a beat and then in anti-crime before eventually earning his gold shield as a homicide detective.
It was sometime after their first anniversary that she realized that the marriage wasn't exactly what she had imagined. She suspected that he was seeing someone else, but her pride wouldn't let her confront him. Over the next few years she guessed that there had been half a dozen women at least, maybe more, but their existences had never been confirmed. So, she'd been able to let it go. Life wasn't perfect, but really, who expected it to be. She had a handsome, successful, well-respected husband. They lived comfortably in a nice apartment. She tried to ignore the fact that he didn't touch her anymore or look in her eyes. Again, her pride wouldn't admit failure in anything, especially her marriage. That was until the day that she took out of town clients for an authentic New York City lunch. She'd taken them to a little place that she remembered finding with Jimmy some years previous. She wasn't sure why that little bistro came into her mind, but it did. It had been ages since she'd discussed her plans for the day with Jim, why should she have started that day?
It turns out that Jim had also made plans that day for lunch. At the same little spot that they both had enjoyed. But not with her. The woman was younger than Christine, probably in her late twenties, with stylishly coiffed brunette hair. She wore a police uniform, so at first glance they could have been innocent, but Christine knew better. She felt like the room was closing around her, like right before you pass out when your vision tunnels and all you hear is a loud whooshing sound. His eyes caught hers and he knew that she knew. She quickly regained her composure and directed her clients to a table in the opposite corner of the restaurant. Jim and the brunette finished a few minutes later and awkwardly parted. He lingered behind as though he wanted to explain, but every attempt he made to catch her eye was rebuffed. Finally, he left and she finished her client lunch, landing an extremely profitable account for the magazine.
That night he was waiting in the lobby of her office's building with flowers. She walked right by him without so much as a look acknowledging his presence. There wasn't enough time to get the locks changed, as he'd followed her directly home, so she had to put up with him for the rest of the evening. Oh joy. She closed and locked the bedroom door as soon as she got into the house. He had another thought coming if he thought he was sleeping anywhere near the bed. Or her. Hard to tell what kind of crap he'd picked up on the street and passed on to her already. She made a mental note to call her GYN in the morning for a complete check-up and tests.
He gave her time enough to take a shower and change into her pyjamas before he began knocking on the door and wheedling her to come out so he could explain. She was sure the explanation would be as lame as his dick had been of late. No matter how well she dressed him or instructed him on proper behavior in society, he always managed to look like a bull in a China shop. A handsome bull, mind you, but one very much out of place in the China shop. What made her cringe even more than the day's lunchtime extravaganza was the fact that she had to accept that her father had been right about Jimmy all along. Christine, "Christie" to everyone who'd met her since Jimmy entered the picture had nearly cut off all ties with her father the first night he met Jim, all dressed up in one of the outfits "Christie" had dolled him up in when they all met in the city for a Christmas production of the Nutcracker. Jim was as nervous as hell and had been sweating the meeting for over a week. The tux looked exquisite on him, but he fidgeted through the entire evening and even made a very inappropriate joke pertaining to a Nutcracker, and he wasn't referring to the one from the ballet.
As Jim was collecting the car from the valet, she came up between her parents and looped her arms around each of theirs. "Well," she whispered, "What do you think?" Her eyes must have been twinkling more brightly than the trees decorated in Rockefeller Center because her mother smiled politely and mumbled something about the two of them making a very striking couple to which her father added:
"But you know Christine, you just can't polish a turd."
Jim had sensed right away the newfound chill toward her father, and he assumed that it had something to do with him, but she never mentioned anything to him, and when the time came, she married him readily. But he never asked her what had happened that night. And eventually they had stopped discussing everything.
So now he was outside the locked bedroom door begging her to allow him to explain, as though there were words that could make anything better. If he'd been thinking with his head, the one three feet above his ass, that is, he'd have just given her time to cool off and maybe it would have blown over. But no, he had to push it, show up with flowers, follow her home, try to explain. There really was no explaining what Christie had seen this afternoon. But he didn't think about that until after he had started explaining.
She opened the doors so she was staring straight into his blue eyes with two icy ones of her own. "Well?" She spewed. "Are you going to tell me all about how she doesn't mean anything or you're just friends or some shit like that?"
He blinked a couple of times, completely in shock that she had even opened the door. He had run the words over in his head about 40 times and about that many more to Terry in the Squad that afternoon, but he hadn't expected her to throw them right back at him. He should have, though. She was too sharp for ridiculous lines like that.
"I, uh, I…" he stammered, trying to regain some sort of composure.
"Shut up, Jim." He closed his mouth and waited. She continued. "I'm going to ask you four questions and if I'm satisfied with the answer, this will be over."
He nodded, not even bothering to think what would happen if she wasn't satisfied with his answers.
"Who is she?"
"Anne Donnelley, she's on patrol out of the one-nine."
"How long has it been going on?"
"A month or two, six tops."
Christie inhaled but continued. "How many others have there been?"
"Chris, don't do this."
"How many, Jim?"
He scrubbed the heel of the hand he wasn't using to support himself against the doorjamb across his face and pulled his fingers through the mop of blonde hair on the top of his head. On the way back down, he wiped his mouth and pulled his lips in to an "o." She was still waiting when he opened his eyes. "Six, I guess."
Christie's gaze never faltered, and if she'd been shocked, she didn't betray her emotions at all. There was one question left, but Jim was pretty sure he'd already failed the test. Still, he waited.
"Did you love them? Do you love her?"
He didn't have the balls to mention that there were two questions there. Instead, he hung his head shamefully and backed away from the door. Christie advanced toward him.
"What about me, Jim? Do you love me?"
He backed even further into the living room. She took two or three more steps and stopped. "Did you ever love me?"
Finally, Jim found his voice. "Come on, Christie, don't do this. I'm sorry, ok?"
Anger boiled in her and before she knew what she had done, she reached forward and slapped him. Her hand stung as is made contact with the stubble on his left cheek. He blinked twice in stunned silence. He didn't have a chance to speak before her hand came toward him again. This time, though, he grabbed her wrist and pushed it down to her side.
"Stop it, Christie. I said I was sorry. What more do you want me to say?" His moment of meek guilt has passed.
She shook her head. "Nothing. What else is there to say?"
Jim rolled his eyes. "Come on. You can't honestly expect me to believe that you never knew."
She walked away from him and sat on the arm of the sofa. Then, as soon as her backside hit the fabric, she was up again, pacing the room. He had a point. She nodded silently.
"I'm sorry you found out like this, Christie. I really am." He walked up beside her and carefully placed his hand on her shoulder.
She stood from the couch and walked back into the bedroom. He followed her. Halfway into the room, she untied her robe and allowed it to slink onto the carpeted floor. In a long step, Jim covered the distance between them. His powerful, rough hands slid beneath the silk camisole of her pyjamas, cupping her breasts and squeezed the erect nipples between his first two fingers. She cried out a soft moan as she lifted her arms and turned into his torso. He ripped the slip over her head, almost tearing the strap in the process. His mouth covered hers, stifling the cries of both pleasure and betrayal that were rising in her throat. Tears streamed down her face as she groped for his trousers and pulled at the button and zipper. Finally, they gave way. She dove into his boxers and grabbed. This time his breath caught. He slid his hands around behind her back and down the outside of her pants, the form of her taut ass filling his palms. He lifted her off the ground and she snaked her long legs around his waist. He flung her back onto the bed and allowed his body to fall on top of her. As she pushed up against him, struggling to remove his shirt, he tugged down the waist of her leggings. She arched her back as the tips of his fingers traveled down her thighs and inside of her. She reached for his hips and pulled them toward her. His hands released her below but then grasped at her back and breasts as he entered her. Her eyes locked his piercing blue ones for the next few moments, but when it was done, she fell to her side away from him. He almost reached for her, but he didn't. Less than five minutes later, he was asleep. Christie heard his breathing fall into the rhythm of sleep before she allowed herself to cry.
The next morning, slamming drawers woke him.
"What are you doing?" he asked her as he watched her dumping the contents of drawers into her suitcases.
"What does it look like I'm doing?" she shot back at him.
"Don't do this." He knew that neither commands nor begging worked with her. He tried to be matter-of-fact.
"You don't get to tell me what to do." She didn't turn to look at him but continued throwing the things she had piled on the bed into bags.
"Christie," he began but stopped. Last night meant no more to her than it had to him. "Never mind." He turned his back and walked out the bedroom door. He collected his briefcase, gun and badge from the counter. Without another word he slammed the door behind him and was gone. He kept a change of clothes at the gym. He'd shower and shave there after his workout.
She worked on packing for several more hours, and it was the early afternoon before she was ready to leave. This was for real, and it was final. She wasn't coming back, so she had to make sure that everything was in order. She stacked the bags by the door and prepared to call her assistant to send a car. Clay had a place where she could stay. He'd mentioned it more than once. And even though he kind of made her skin crawl, she still needed somewhere to go for now. She reached for the phone, but the buzz of the intercom stopped her.
"Chris?" he friend Josie's voice cut into her thoughts. "Buzz me up, okay?"
She reached for the button and sat on the arm of the couch until the other woman rapped on the heavy door, pondering somewhere in the back of her mind why Josie wasn't at work, either. Christine opened it and the other woman breezed in, not even noticing the whirlwind that was the apartment.
"Where's the remote, hun?" Josie asked as she tried to work the TV. "How do you turn this thing on?"
Christine shook her head, trying to think, trying to figure out what was going on. She wasn't sure why Josie was even there. "I don't know, Jo. I don't know where Jimmy keeps it. What's going on?"
Josie clicked the TV to life, the scene at the bank occupying every channel. She walked over to where Christine was sitting again on the couch and took the spot beside her. The reporter was updating the viewers on the situation, now in some sort of resolution. Christine still shook her head.
"I don't understand," she whispered.
Josie took her hand. "It's Jimmy, Chris. He and Terry were first on the scene of a bank robbery. Several officers have been shot. They haven't confirmed which ones."
"Oh," she exhaled. "Do we have to sit here and wait to see who it is?" she asked, coolly, as she stood from the couch.
"Don't you want to know if he's okay?"
Christine motioned to the bags stacked by the door. "I don't think it matters anymore. Although if he's dead, I guess I don't have to move out."
"Christine, you don't mean that, even if you do hate him. You should wait and see what they say."
She agreed to watch a little bit longer, at least until the spokesman from One PP stood behind the podium and stated that although they could confirm that several officers had been shot and at least two had died, they were unable to release names pending notification of family.
The intercom buzzed again. She pressed the call button. This undoubtedly was the pending notification of family. "Yes?"
"Mrs. Dunbar?" the very masculine voice asked. "We're Captain Soarles and Father Murphy from the NYPD. Would it be possible for us to come up?"
"Is he dead?" she asked the disembodied voices below.
The other one took over, "We haven't been given that information, ma'am. We're here to take you to the hospital. Is there someone we can call for you?"
Christine released the button. "I'm not going," she told Josie. "Why should I go?"
Josie, already holding both women's coats and purses, stepped up beside her friend and grabbed her hand. "This is what you signed up for, Chris. You have to see this through, and then you can leave if that's what's best. But right now, you have to go and be his dutiful wife."
Christine accepted her things from Josie and straightened herself before opening the door. She turned to her friend. "Let's get this over with."