In Love with the Memories
Before you read: Semi-biographical vent. Boys fail. When I thought about writing this, Sam and Jules were the first couple to pop into my head. Please review =)
I stand in the dressing room after a back-breaking day (almost literally. Leah and I had to rappel down an office building with thirty nine floors to save a business man who wanted to kill himself after holding his boss hostage). I stare into the mirror directly opposite me, blinking rapidly at my own reflection until my eyes hurt and my face is blurry.
"Still here?" Leah steps out of the shower and grabs her towel, wrapping it around herself.
"Yeah." I nod without looking at her. Just because she's been with Team One for almost three years now, doesn't mean I enjoy having to share my locker room with her. Every time I see her, I have this bitter, irrational desire to punch her in the face. It swells up in my stomach like an out-of-control forest fire, but the closest I ever get to smashing her pretty face in is twitching my fingers, clenched in a fist, trying to remind myself that not only is it "not nice" to hit people (the voice in my head that says that sounds exactly like my dad. Jeez) but I'd probably be suspended from the force and subject to extensive psycho-therapy upon my return.
It's not like she's a bad person; I don't even know what kind of person she is. While the rest of Team One has warmed up to her, welcoming her right into the folds of our family, I prefer to keep a detached, professional relationship with her.
"I thought you would've been gone by now." She stands beside me and rotates in the mirror so that her upper back is visible. Albeit I'm not her BFF, I still cringe when I see the sharp red marks decorating her skin like the claw marks of hell hounds. They look like the ones I have on my back and for a moment we stand there, silently sympathizing with one another. I step back abruptly. I don't want to be sympathizing with her because I kind of hate her.
I step back and grab my runners, which are right next to the door. I lace them up as quickly as possible while she gets dressed.
I straighten up and grab my bag off the bench, slinging it over my shoulder. "Bye Leah." I mumble, simply to give the illusion of courtesy as I walk away. I'm thankful Parker's letting us skip debrief tonight (it's almost midnight, everyone is physically and emotionally exhausted), I want nothing more than to climb into bed and sleep for all eternity.
"Jules," a familiar male voice stops me in my tracks. I turn around and manage a real smile for Spike, who's been there with me since the beginning. "Good job today!" He says cheerily.
"Thanks." Call me selfish or insecure but I'm really happy to be getting my own praise. Something that's directed at me and not both me and Leah.
"Yeah, you girls were great! I was so scared Leah was going to fall when she grabbed Mr. Heinrick from the left."
"Actually," I remind him stiffly, the warmth in my heart evaporating. "Mr. Heinrick's right side was slipping far faster than his left."
"Oh… yeah." He smiles again, clearly not registering- or not wanting to deal with- my feelings of offence. "Well, I'll see you tomorrow, eh?"
"Yeah, see you tomorrow." I give myself a little head shake. I know being rude and uppity about my own accomplishments is only going to push my team mates away from me. To her.
I tell myself to calm down as I aimlessly walk around with my gaze to the floor. The next thing I know I've bumped into something solid.
"Whoa there. You okay?"
That voice… it makes my internal alarm system go off with a troubling medley of sadness, euphoric panic and pure joy. I raise my head, not bothering to fight off the smile on my face.
"Sorry." I apologize to Sam Braddock, who looks so damn good under that cheap fluorescent lighting that I want to leap up and suck his face right off. Or just reach out and tenderly stroke his face like I've been dying to since we broke up. But that was over two years ago, so if I attempted to initiate that kind of physical contact, he'd probably push me away in disgust.
Besides, the little voice in my head sings, he has a new girlfriend now.
I lower my head again and trudge past him, half-hoping I'll get out of there without breaking down and half-hoping he'll stop me and give me a sign that everything we shared- no matter how long ago- still means something to him. I feel his hand on my shoulder and my heart skips about a hundred beats, I'm sure.
I look up with all of the naivety of a teenaged girl in my eyes, but he's not even sparing me the most fleeting of glances. Instead, his eyes are locked on her.
My mouth feels dry so I swallow to stop the barrage of cries begging to be let out. I turn away again with a "See you". I'm not expecting a reply but it still stings when I don't get one.
When I'm out in the parking lot, the frigid January air against my cheeks is a complete contrast to the boiling hot anger simmering inside of me. The two conflicting things make me dizzy and I think I might just pass out.
I make it to my car without slipping into unconsciousness. I fiddle with my car keys, dropping them to the pavement, they jingle mockingly at me when they hit the ground. I swear freely- it's not like anyone's around to hear me- and scoop to grab them. When my head pops up again, that's when I see them. Leah and Sam by her van. He's thisclose to her, rubbing her back where those awful scratches are. I can't hear because I don't have bionic hearing but I'm willing to bet my life savings that she's purring like a cat. In reference to Shania Twain's song, he's got both the looks and the touch. He leans forward and kisses her forehead tenderly. I think I'm going to die.
I see his lips saying something. A wave of jealousy consumes me, even though we've been over for more than two years, I still feel a deep innate connection to him. I still feel like the 'we' that never quite happened should have and could have, if only we could give it one more try.
But we can't give it another shot because now Leah's here and she's here to stay. Hence the reason why I want to punch her in the face. At least before she came along I still had a chance.
I scramble into my car, slam the door and back out of the parking lot. I don't bother with the radio, my thoughts are making enough noise to distract me for the drive home.
I hate Leah. I hate Sam (even though I love him) and I hate myself. How pathetic is it that after more than two years, I'm still loving him? I'm still hanging onto the hope that our love- he was my first real love- will triumph?
My mind flashes back to what I saw in the parking lot. Sam soothing Leah's scratches with his fingers. I distinctly remember a time, before Leah joined the force and before Sam and I were even an item, when he rubbed my injured back for me. That day- when he moved his hands along my back- that was the beginning of the end.
I was examining my back in the mirror, frowning at the purplish bruises adorning my skin as I twisted the towel around myself. The door to my dressing room clicked open without my notice, but I could see that he was there through the peripheral of my vision. Tall, blonde-haired blue-eyed Sam, standing right within my line of vision, looking adorably troubled over something. When I realized I'd just thought of him as adorable, I almost laughed at myself.
"Hey Jules-" he started. My head swivelled toward him and we both seemed to realize at the same time that he was in my dressing room uninvited, with nothing but a towel cloaking me from his scorching male gaze. His eyes shot downward, understandably embarrassed. I, at least, tried to keep my cool.
"Um, welcome." I greeted him, trying to ignore the sudden rapid palpitations of my heart.
"Sorry I- I knocked." He made a useless backward gesture with his thumb to indicate the door while I affixed the towel more tightly around my chest. I was suddenly very tempted to let it slip down, but I banished the desire and continued to grip it fiercely as if clinging to a lifeline. Still not looking quite at me, Sam's hand reached out and found the curling iron on my vanity table.
"You use a… curling iron?" He chuckled. I wasn't quite sure why that would be funny- in hindsight he was probably just nervous- but I just looked at him, unimpressed.
"Sam." I spoke sharply, asking him (without having to use words) what the hell he was doing in my dressing room. What was so important that he had to seek me out instead of waiting for me to get dressed and ready like the other guys?
"I uh…" he was still holding my seldom-used curling iron, but his eyes were on my face now. "I just wanted to say, nice save out there." He paused. "Didn't know you could fly." He added offhandedly.
Well he may have thought I could fly, but my entire back said otherwise. I just stared at him, knowing that I should say something but not sure what.
"It was a long four seconds before we knew you were okay." He admitted. I knew it right then; he was going to cause me trouble in the future. What he'd just said wasn't a suave pick-up line or a bold declaration of attraction, it was subtle. True. It was the single sweetest thing any male had ever said to me.
And what did I say? Instead of thanking him and smiling modestly at his open expression of feeling… I choked up and reverted to 'default Jules' mode. This is the mode that I go into whenever serious stuff happens- my best friend back in high school was the first one to notice it. She said I put up walls, using sarcasm and/or humour to deflect things I don't want to deal with.
"And I'm okay." There was no gratitude in my voice- I really did appreciate his concern- there was no warmth in my eyes.
"You smashed hard against the side of that tower." He pointed out the obvious. One hand unconsciously went to my back. I smiled for him.
"And I'm okay." I insisted, nodding curtly. I didn't understand much about love or the 'rules' when referring to the opposite sex, but I did know that Sam Braddock was making me feel funny. Funny was never a good thing. He needed to get away from me, now.
"You want a second opinion?" He suggested, seeing the way my hand still absently lingered on my banged-up back.
I should've said 'no' right then and there. That would have stopped the subsequent train wreck of events that was to follow. But since I kind of liked the funny feeling polluting my system and fogging up my mind, I wordlessly turned around so that he could examine my skin. His fingers caressed the bruises gently, like whispers of wind. To stop myself from making some humiliating girly noise, I asked how it looked.
Except, it sounded more like "Howzit look?"
"Like a double bacon cheeseburger." We both laughed at that one. I turned to look at him to find him staring intently back at me.
"Thanks." I said, trying not to use my bedroom voice.
"Anytime." He assured me too quickly. "So we're going to the diner for breakfast. You hungry?" By 'diner' I assumed he meant the one two blocks over. The food was barely edible and the pancakes always tasted like greasy meat, but decent food was the last thing on my mind.
My cell phone rang then, interrupting our "moment".
"You can bring um… what's his name." I felt a pleasant tingle run through me at how crudely he'd just spoken of Scott, the guy who had been trying and failing for three full dates to hold my attention.
"Scott." I offered reluctantly.
"Scott." He repeated, still sounding kind of down. It made me smile internally. "If you want." The phone continued to ring and he stepped away from me. I waited at least two seconds before calling out to him.
"Are you riding with Wordy?" Pleasesayyes.
"Mini-van express." He confirmed.
I breathed in deeply and hitched the towel tighter around me, ignoring my bleating cell phone altogether. "Will you save me a seat?" He nodded. His face was half-shrouded in darkness so I couldn't be sure, but as he exited, I thought I saw him smiling too.
I shake the memory / daydream / moment of utter stupidity from my mind. It was the start of something recklessly, disastrously beautiful. I wouldn't take back a second of it if I had the choice.
But I know the one pivotal moment I would take back in a heartbeat if I could. I replay everything in my head like my favourite movie- one that is conveniently lacking an appropriate ending. The story of me and Sam ends on a horrid note of my own doing.
I'd known that it had to happen and I knew he knew that I would be the one to pull the plug on it. Our relationship, that is. I knew he knew I had to be the one to do it… because he wouldn't have, and if we'd gotten any closer, we would have put the whole team in jeopardy. Or at least, that's what I was telling myself when we sat down at that table.
"So," he said, looking straight at me.
"So," I said, looking down into my lap. "I, uh-"
"Jules, just do it." He cut me off. "We both know you're going to break up with me if you get accepted back onto the team."
"It's not if, it's when I'm gonna go back on the team, Sam." I raised my eyes, tired of averting them. He steepled his fingers and sighed. Of course he knew that- my dedication to the team had been around longer than my devotion to him- I knew it was hurting him. To play second fiddle to a job.
"Okay so, the boss knows." He confirmed my worst fears. I'd been hoping that he might allay the suspicion that Parker was aware of our relationship so that we could continue being together, but no such luck.
"Right, which is exactly why we can't be together if I'm gonna go back. You know that." For a second I wanted him to protest- say that if I really loved him, I wouldn't be going back. But he's never been selfish the way I was. He wouldn't make me choose between two things that I love.
Instead, he sighed, rolled his eyes and sat back. I didn't want to see him in such emotional turmoil, so I soldiered on with my speech, acting like one tough cookie to further convince myself that no man was worth quitting my job for. Not even Sam Braddock.
"I love you Sam, but I've worked my whole life for this job, and the team and… I'm not gonna let getting shot stand in the way of me going back." I shook my head firmly so he'd know I was serious.
"You mean I'm not gonna stand in your way." His voice was husky and my heart broke just a little bit more. I could hear his sadness and it was making me crazy. "Jules, that's the first time you told me you loved me. I didn't think it would be like this." I knew he was right. I knew he'd wanted me to say it attached to a loving sentence. I knew because I wanted the very same from him.
But I guess you can't always get what you want now can you?
"Sam-" I was about to confess that I knew he was right when he interrupted me.
"Look, I get it." He nodded, but his face was colder than it had been a few minutes ago. "I get it, I do." I saw him swallow because his Adam's apple bounced.
I focus on my lap again. "Well there's always the other choice if we wanna stay together." I dare to look at him once more. "Only one of us has to leave the team." Those words were the straw that broke the camels back, I think. We both sat there in silence, staring at each other with melancholy resignation.
Neither of us was ready to leave the team. Neither of us was willing to give up the closest thing we had to family. We were over.
Looking back on it now, I wish a version of my future self could have gone blasting into that restaurant just to smack some sense into my past self. I never wanted to hurt Sam- though I obviously knew he would be- and I'd never intended to hurt this much, but it's been over two years and I'm still bleeding.
I'm in love with memories: the only thing I have left of Sam Braddock to call mine.