The sun's summer rays were beating down upon me as I made my way down the crowded street. My small Michigan town was now packed with tourists who wanted a slice of our summer heaven. I smiled to myself regardless. I cherished my morning walks to my mother's little art supply store. Although we lived about a half a mile away, I never took a car. There was something so wistful about walking the streets of my youth again. It was almost as though I was that wide-eyed teenager with an overactive imagination and larger than life dreams again.
But this time, instead of plotting my escape, I was happy just to stay here. It was such a foreign concept to me, but the fresh air was just the thing I needed. My own little hideaway from my real life. I know it seems crazy, but I was at peace. Within the past three months, I was already being to heal over. All of the loose ends in my life were being tied up so neatly, and the organization was now back. I could wake up in the morning and not have to worry about what was to come. The routine may have been mundane, but it was exactly what I needed.
At first, my mom was skeptical. She was so sure that I was making a huge mistake by walking away from all that I'd worked so hard for, but when she saw the smile on my face she stopped asking questions. I was happy, and that was all she cared about. Of course, I still see the worry in her face when she looks at me when she thinks I'm not watching. She has come around though, accepting what I want.
Sometimes I wonder if this was all meant to happen in the first place. It seems to me that life is so random. What if I had never gone to Miami? What would have happened? I push away the first thought that comes into my head. He is always present no matter what. I don't have time to fret on it though. After all, it has been a while. He must have moved on by now.
Then again, I wouldn't have fallen in love if I wasn't there. So it's a give and take. I may not want to think about it or focus on it, but it is the truth. The whole reason I'm here doesn't have to do solely with him, but it lies within me. I needed to learn who I really was, who I was before all of this.
And where better than my home? I was getting closer with each day that I stayed here. The little parts of my past that I blocked out were slowly beginning to bubble to the surface.
I sighed and the shop came into sight. There were already people milling around ready to see what we had to offer. I shook my head as I spied my mom setting things up for these tourists. Usually I beat her here, but she must have made an early trip. Her long brown hair fell around her like a fan, and for a moment it was like I was looking into a mirror. The similarities were undeniable, and I never ceased to hear it from everyone.
Could this be my future?
"Well good morning there Lauren," Mr. Bridge, the man who owned the antique shop next to ours, said.
His greeting interrupted the thought that was running through my head and I smiled quickly. "Morning! Some crowd today isn't it?" I blocked the sun from my eyes as I looked over them again.
He nodded. "Yes it is. I'm not about to complain though."
I laughed at his dry humor and he winked at me.
"You better get to work before that mother of your's comes out here," He nodded in her direction where she was watching our conversation. "I would hate to get you in trouble."
I raised my eyebrows. "Now that would be the day."
He chuckled and returned to sweeping the sand away from his stoop. "Yeah yeah."
I waved and made my way to help my mom with her set up. She looked up at me for a moment and then returned back to moving paintings onto stands. We worked in silence for a little while before she finally spoke up.
"So what did that old man have to say today?"
I rolled my eyes. "The usual, I think he forgets that was have the same conversation every morning."
"Well," She replied looking up at me. "It's good of you to humor him. I think you're what he lives for nowadays. If you heard how he talks about you…"
"Really?" I came from around the counter and began dusting. "That's sweet."
She laughed. "He asked me the other day if you were going to be taking over the shop someday. Can you believe that?"
I froze for a moment and tried to recover quickly. "No."
My pause was too long, she caught on quickly. "Are you alright?"
My mouth was dry and my palms were sweaty, but I smiled at her anyway. "Yeah, I'm fine."
"It was just a joke hunny," She came over to where I was standing. "I don't expect you to stay here forever."
I nodded, still shocked with the idea. "I just had a thought like that earlier that's all."
"Like what?" She questioned. "You staying here? I think we both know that won't happen."
I looked up at her unsure.
"That itch you had as a child to leave will come back, don't worry," She smiled trying to reassure me.
I don't know if it helped though. I was still frightened by the thought of being here forever. Is that what I really wanted?
Instead of focusing on that, I threw myself into work. Once we opened, the flood of people kept me to busy to fret on it. My mind was so focused on art figures and trying to get people to stop haggling with me. Once it hit noon, I could feel the day already wearing on me. Business was great today, but the humidity was not helping anything. My mom was over the moon because she had already sold two originals, and she was in a celebrating mood.
"Lets go to lunch," She proclaimed suddenly.
I checked my watch again and saw that it was a good time to take a break. "Alright, but I get to pick."
"Fine with me," She smiled. "As long as it's not Chinese."
I rolled my eyes and ignored her as I flipped over the break sign on our door. "Let's go."
We chatted about nothing in particular as we made our way down the street to my favorite diner. This was the one thing that I had really missed about home, the food. There is nothing like one of Russ' famous sandwiches.
"How did I know this was what you were going to pick?" Jan said to me as we sat down.
"Because I am so utterly predictable?" I replied.
She nodded. "And also the fact that I gave birth to you."
"Oh! You're right!" I said throwing my hands in the air dramatically. "How could I forget that?"
"Sometimes," She said sarcastically. "I just don't know what you are thinking."
The thing I loved most about Russ' was the atmosphere. It was the perfect small town diner, with modern touches of course. The original counter from the 50's was still here, and there was something so retro about the booths. Then, there was the T.V. that was mounted on the wall. It looked so out of place among the rest of the décor, but I loved it. Every time I walked in here it reminded me of a simpler time.
"What are you going to get?" Mom asked me tearing me out of the past. "Not the usual I hope?"
"No, I think I want a Slim Jem," I replied ignoring her sarcasm. "Ham and cheese, you just can't go wrong with that."
"Good choice," She agreed and perused the menu. "I think I want a Reuben."
I snorted. "Shocker."
"It sounds good!" She replied trying to defend herself.
I shook my head and smiled at her. How alike the two of us were. The waitress came over and took our order and I let my attention drift to the drone of the T.V. that was turned to some news channel. I tried to pay attention, but sometimes politics just made me queasy.
"Any good news?" Mom asked me.
"None that I can see," I turned back to her and shrugged. "I wish for once there would be though. It's all death and dying."
"Welcome to the world," She quipped as she added sugar to her coffee.
"Sometimes I'm glad that I'm not a part of all of that anymore," I mused.
"You were never the problem," She pointed out. "You were always getting justice."
"Not always," I replied sadly.
"You know what I mean. It was you speaking for the people who couldn't anymore. You can't sit there and tell me that you don't miss that."
"I didn't say I missed that part," I clarified. "But I am glad I don't have to see it all of the time. It takes a toll on you after a while."
"I know," She smiled. "That's why you are here."
Almost on cue, our food came and I started to devour it. I must have been more hungry than I thought. For some reason, whenever I was here food tasted so much better.
"About earlier, I didn't mean to freak you out."
"Are you talking about the shop?" I replied after taking a huge bite.
"Yes," She nodded. "I don't expect you to take over."
"I just," I sighed. "I'm not even sure what I want. At this point in my life I have no idea. Everything is so up in the air and there are so many directions I could go."
"Let me ask you this then," She narrowed her eyes. "Do you want to be here, in this town, forever?"
"I'm not sure mom."
"Just think about it ok? I would hate to see you make a mistake."
I exhaled. "There is just a lot that could happen and--"
I stopped abruptly and my attention was stolen by an all to familiar image playing on the television screen.
"What?" She turned around to see what I was looking at. "What is it Lauren?"
I was silent.
The red hair was what caught my attention at first, but it took me a moment to realize that I was my former boss. My breathing became shallow and I found it hard to swallow. I stood from my seat and walked over to turn up the volume. The telecast was just starting and they were waiting for a statement from the Miami-Dade police.
Horatio stood behind a podium solemnly, and for some reason I was holding my breath until he started to speak:
"It has been a while since we have had a raid of this scale here in Miami, and I can say that we were successful." He paused for a moment. "Although, it didn't go off without a hitch."
I sighed raggedly and my eyes were glued to him.
"As soon as we reached the location, the targets opened fire upon us. We were expecting this, but they had a lot more men than we had anticipated. One of my CSI's was critically injured and he is in the ICU right now."
"But did you get them?" A reported shouted out.
"We did, but at what cost? Not only is this man injured, we lost three other officers out there. This is a real wake up call to Miami and I am out here to urge anyone with information on Sanchez Martin to step forward and help us put him away."
"And what of the injured CSI? Can you tell us his name and condition?" Someone else shouted.
"I can say no more than what has already been said. Thank you all for your time."
The broadcast ended there and went back to the newsroom where they were breaking this story. I continued to watch as my mind raced a million miles a minute. What happened? Who was the CSI? Was it him?
The anchor spoke again:
"As you know, we broke this story two months ago. Today we have received word that Miami-Dade has brought Sanchez Martin into custody. This is good news for the people of Miami who were all terrorized by this drug lord criminal."
My heart almost leapt into my throat. This was an old story and everything was fine, no one died. I shook my head and tried not to think about it for a moment. Of course I would only hear of it now. Why would I know any sooner? I had no special privileges. I locked eyes with my mom who had her concerned face on.
"Guess I overreacted."
Her mouth turned into a scowl. "I still don't like this."
"You get all worked up whenever something happens in Miami." She said. "Why don't you just call him if you are so worried?"
"I was not worried."
She snorted. "You are a terrible liar Lauren. You turned white as a ghost, and you can't seriously expect that he is going to stay out of harms way. After all, he is in law enforcement."
"I don't want to talk about this anymore." I stood up and walked back over to our table where my purse was sitting. I grabbed some money from my wallet and threw it on the table. This was the last thing that I wanted to deal with. I didn't need her getting on my case about this again.
"I'll see you at home," I said looking over my shoulder as I left. "I'm really not feeling that well."
The bell on the door jingled with a start as I opened it quickly and walked away without looking back again.
I must have paced back and forth in my room hundreds of times, but this time I was even more unsure of what to do than I'd ever been. Every now and then, I would stare at the phone and try to fight the urge to just call him. Once, I even dialed half of the number before losing the courage to talk to him.
I sat down on my bed with an audible oomph and leaned my head back onto the headboard. This whole thing made me want to put my head through a wall. For so long, I thought that I was ok with the whole situation, and now I wasn't sure at all. Just seeing that one telecast made me rethink everything.
So much for being healed over.
I thought this trip was supposed to help me clear my head and it was. Just one thing threw me into just as much confusion as I had before.
I stood up quickly and grabbed the phone from where in tossed it into the sheets before. It was only 2:00 pm so he would still be at MDPD. If I just heard his voice for a moment that would be ok wouldn't it? That would take away this feeling right? I sighed and dialed the number and listened to the rings on the other end.
I was nervous. Stupid I know, but I was.
"Miami Dade Police Department," A woman's voice greeted me.
"Yes," I replied clearing my throat. "Can I be transferred to Ryan Wolfe please?" I had some trouble saying his name, and it was very evident.
She paused for a moment as if unsure of what to do. So I waited.
"He isn't here." She said slowly.
"Where is he?"
"You haven't heard?" She seemed shocked, and for the second time today my stomach dropped.
"Haven't heard what?" I nearly shouted.
"Gone," I whispered.
"Thank you," I cut her off and clicked the end button quickly wanting to get the phone as far away from me as possible.
This whole time I was wrong, he wasn't fine. He was gone. I left him there and he was injured and I didn't even know. No one told me that he--he…I couldn't even bring myself to say the words. Tears fell from my eyes and I curled up into a ball trying to get this feeling of pain not to stab me so.
I stayed there like that for hours until my mom came home, and I was hysterical. She held me while I cried and tried to comfort me, but there was no comfort in the world that could help me. He was gone, and I wasn't there.
"He's gone," I whispered over and over through the tears.
And no matter how hard I tried, the pain kept coming.
And no matter how hard I cried, it would not bring him back.
Three broken ribs, a bullet, and near death really changes a man.
After seeing so many people in the same position I was in pull through, I thought that I would too.
Delko must have been superman though.
Every time I tried to go back out into the field after the accident I found myself spooked by the smallest things. Once I even winced in fear when a car backfired.
I'm lucky though, I have the best boss in the world. Horatio saw the condition I was in and understood. The day he pulled me into his office and told me to go on vacation was the best day, and best thing that I could have hoped for. So I took his not so subtle advice and decided to take a leave from the crime lab. After some lighthearted ribbing from Delko, he told me that it was a great decision. Coming from him, I knew that was some kind of off handed good luck.
Today was my farewell party, and there was a cake and everything. I sat down with my co-workers in the break room and we talked about all of the good and not so good times. The reminiscing was nice though. As much as they all annoyed me sometimes, I knew I was going to miss them.
"So where are you going to go Ryan?" Calleigh asked me.
"I honestly don't know," I replied still feeling unsure of what would be good for a time like this. "I have a few options, but I know I want to go somewhere simple and relaxing."
"Cross Mexico off your list then," Delko quipped.
I laughed. "I don't think it was ever on it to begin with."
"Why not somewhere like California?" Natalia asked.
"If he wanted that much sun he could stay here," Calleigh laughed and continued on. "I can't believe you don't know."
"It's a hard decision."
"Why don't you just blindfold yourself and throw a dart at a map," Delko suggested. "There ya go, decision made."
"That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard," Calleigh chastised him.
"I think it's pretty clever," He replied smugly. "I'm going to do that for my next trip."
She ignored him. "Well, there is one place you could go…"
I had a feeling that I knew what she was going to say, and I didn't want her to go there. "Calleigh."
"Seriously," She started again. "It makes so much sense. You know it as much as I do."
"It doesn't make sense," I replied narrowing my eyes. "Not now it doesn't. I'm respecting what she wants."
"Oh," Natalia said suddenly. "You're talking about Lauren."
I stood up. "And the conversation is over."
"I think she has a point though Wolfe," Delko said as he followed me out the door. "It's been a while."
"Which is a while," He said again. "So maybe this is the time to find her again."
"I don't know."
"Ok," He said holding up his hands. "I won't push. Just think about it though."
I said my final goodbyes to everyone and made my way home. What they all said was replaying in my head. Maybe they were all right? I shook away the thoughts and tried to figure out what I wanted to do. Miami is the vacation spot and I wanted to leave. It seemed a little strange to me, but I had to make a decision. So I packed all of my things and listened to what my head and heart were telling me to do.
I was leaving this place behind.
The next morning I made my way through the airport and boarded a plane to Michigan. I wasn't really sure where I was going, but I knew that somehow I had to find her.
Sorry it took so long. I had to make sure that I knew exactly where this would be going, and now I do. This is the first chapter of the sequel yay!! I hope you all enjoy it, please feel free to let me know!