Charlotte is lounging on the couch. There's nothing on TV, as usual, and she's bored, full of thoughts she wishes she didn't have, and overtired. She must have cycled the television guide umpteen million times and nothing caught her interest. Surprise surprise.
She lets out a disgusted grunt, flips off the TV, and tosses the remote onto the pile of paperwork she had been working on earlier that evening.
Cooper isn't home yet. He's been working late all week thanks to his new patient.
She knows how Coop gets once he becomes hooked on a case: all engrossed and passionate and testy and annoyin'. Though she has to admit, she loves that about him- loves that he wont give up on someone and will do anything and everything he can to make things right. It's kind of the reason they're together.
She glances at the clock. 9:33.
She imagines him sitting at his desk, his forehead in his hands, staring intently at the same chart he has been staring at for over an hour as if something will suddenly jump out at him and make complete sense. A smile creeps across her face. She can't help it.
She then reaches for her book on the coffee table and opts to read.
Her eyelids are getting heavy, and for a second she scolds herself for feeling tired this early in the evening. Am I really goin' to go to bed with the chickens?
After recalling her long hours however, she shrugs her shoulders and figures, hey, if Cooper's not home to… ahem.. keep her occupied… then she has every right to call it a night. She could really use the shuteye.
Truth be told, she hasn't been getting much sleep lately. There's been too much going through her head- too many of those certain thoughts she wishes she didn't have. But she isn't going to dwell on that right now.
Back to the book.
She realizes she has been reading the same sentence over and over and it doesn't look like she is going to retain much more than that. A pitiful sigh is released as she lazily shuts the paperback and rests it on her lap so that the back cover is facing up. Simultaneously, she lets her head fall back onto the arm of the sofa and stares at the ceiling until it gets blurred from exhaustion. Her eyes fall shut and for a few precious minutes, she is actually resting peacefully- her mind is actually at ease.
But then she hears a noise, and just like that, the serenity is dead.
She wearily looks around and notices the curtains drifting back and forth, drumming the windowsill as the puffs of wind blow them inward and outward.
It's just the wind.
She slowly closes her eyes and lets out a deep breath.
Get a grip.
Her rapid heartbeat drowns out whatever horrific thoughts previously floated through her paranoid psyche. She's just about calm when suddenly her throat closes up and she swears she went into something that can only be described as cardiac arrest.
The window wasn't open before was it?
She sprouts up and is on her feet faster than she knew was humanly possible. She quickly grabs the closest blunt object, which happens to be the remote control, and cautiously backs up against the wall. Her eyes wander the room from one dark corner to the next. It's empty. You are being ridiculous. Look at yourself… hidin' from the damn wind. She rests her arms at her sides, leans her head back against the wall and realizes that she should probably breathe anytime now. When did I become such a wuss?
Her heart slows and she loosens her grip on the remote control. Color regains in her knuckles.
She remembers her cell phone sitting on the table, tucks a piece of hair behind her ear, and considers calling Cooper. I just need to hear his voice. She examines the room once, ok twice, more. When she is sure the coast is clear, she makes her way to the phone. She quickly grabs it, presses the side button so that it lights up, and a picture of her and Cooper appears on the home screen. She already feels better. She places the remote control under her arm and uses both hands to steady the phone as she begins to dial. For God's sake stop shaking; Stop shaking. It rings. It rings again. It ri-
And then she feels him- her worst nightmare.
She doesn't even have time to scream before one hand covers her mouth and the other wraps around her waist. She drops both the phone and the remote as she tries to pry the giant, sweaty hand off of her face. No luck. Her eyes wander over her shoulder to see who the monster was (as if she didn't already know). Lee McHenry. She screams under his hand and throws her body in the air- kicking her legs, hoping that she will hit any part of him. He throws her on the couch with ease and falls on top of her. His eyes are staring right into hers- there's no fear or vulnerability there like there was the night he came into St. Ambrose with a knife in his chest. No sir. Tonight they were full of lust, power and rage. I should've killed him when I had the chance.
She screams and scratches and pushes- just like she had done before- and just like before, it was useless. She felt his hand wander her body and his mouth suck her neck. From the distance she hears Cooper's voice. He's coming! She looks downward and realizes the voice is coming from the other end of the phone. "Char!" "Sweetie can you hear me?" "Charlotte!" She screams again and shoves Lee's hand away from her arm.
And then she see's it: the wedding ring on his finger.
She knows that ring.
She looks back up and Lee's not there at all. Instead she sees a frantic and worried Cooper staring down at her. She glances at the clock. 10:42.
"Charlotte. Look at me."
Her eyes are still trained on the clock.
"Charlotte," Cooper repeats a bit louder, "you were having… (for lack of a better word) a nightmare."
Her eyes finally meet his. Her breathing is still heavy and her heart still pounding. Even Cooper can hear her pulse and it makes him sick to his stomach.
She opens her mouth, but she can't speak. Instead she explores the room.
The remote is sitting on top of her paperwork inches away from where her cell phone rests on the table.
She looks back at Cooper who still hasn't removed his gaze. She slowly sits up, rests her weight on her elbows, and turns her head toward the window.
She continues to study the room until her eyes have circled the entire area and land back on Cooper. He still hasn't removed his stare and she can't help but notice the shine gleaming from his blue eyes. He's holding back tears.
She takes another deep breath, grabs his hand and squeezes. He squeezes back and it feels both incredibly comforting and exceedingly suffocating.
"There's the rest of the roast in the fridge if you're hungry." Great transition.
Cooper looks confused, but only for a split moment.
"I actually had a vending machine buffet back at the office."
Charlotte lets out a quick chuckle. Thank God he's not goin' to make a big thing out of this. Cooper smiles too and relaxes his grip. Charlotte uses the opportunity to remove her hand, stands up, and heads toward the bedroom- her eyes still searching every nook and cranny for a stranger's shadow. She stops and faces Cooper.
"I'm tired. I think I'm gonna try and get some sleep." Sleep… not likely.
He nods and stands up too.
"I'm going to grab a quick shower and join you."
He's really not gonna say anything.
"So, did ya get anywhere with that patient? Are you comin' home on time tomorrow?" Please say yes.
Cooper knows what she is really asking: 'Are you coming home or leaving me alone another night?'
"Umm yeah. Had a breakthrough actually. That means we can carpool tomorrow."
"I think I work later than you. I have an extra round at the hospital," Charlotte responds while anxiously pounding her fingertips together.
Without hesitation he responds, "I can wait."
Thank you Cooper. Charlotte faintly smiles and nods before turning around and continuing to make her way to the bedroom.
Cooper straightens the pillows and picks Charlotte's book up off the couch.
Without even looking at the title he knows what it is. She's read it more times than he thinks she will ever confess, but he knows it's one of the few things that brings her comfort. He turns it over and traces the title with his finger: To Kill A Mockingbird. Written under that, in a slightly smaller font reads: A Novel By Harper Lee. Cooper's finger stops at the last word.
He now wonders if her favorite book is still such a comfort.
After tossing it on the table, (he notices that he flung it quickly as if the name itself was burning his hand) he walks around and checks all of the doors and windows to be sure they are locked. He checks them once again, and then goes to take a shower. He purposely passes Char on the way and finds her lying in a small ball under the covers. Her eyes are clenched shut- she's trying, a bit to hard, to look asleep and in the corner there is one small tear that escaped the dam. He has the urge to wipe it away, but instead he grabs his sleepwear and heads to the bathroom. He 'accidentally' leaves the door ajar and takes perhaps the shortest shower he has ever taken in his life.
Thank you Cooper.