Miss you, Dad.
Jordan sighed and dropped heavily into the chair behind her desk, running a hand through her wavy hair to remove the last tangles from her ponytail. She'd just plowed through a double shift without pausing to catch her breath, and for good reason. This was always a hard day. A hard few days, really. Maybe not as bad as the anniversary of the death, but still a constant reminder – a nagging that ate away at her mind and would not give her peace until that day had passed yet again.
Glancing out into the hallway to make sure no one was watching, she used a small key on her key ring to open the bottom drawer of her desk where she kept confidential files and, when she was running too late to stop into the locker room, her purse. But under all of the files and occasional bag was a small envelope that she rarely took out. Today was one of the few circumstances in which she allowed herself to do so.
She lifted up the stack of cases and reached under them to the back of the drawer. The envelope was where it always was, and she slowly pulled it out of confinement. Nothing was written over the front, but she knew the contents all too well. Biting the inside of her cheek, she slid a finder under the folded flap and tilted it over so that a handful of photographs fell out into her hand. They were old and grainy, but they were all she had left; any others had been hidden away by her father, save the one of the three of them that he kept in the living room.
Her mother. This one, the picture on top, was the one she had wanted to see. It was of her mother and father, standing together in a park. A candid shot. Neither of them were looking at the camera, and were lost in conversation. Jordan had long wondered what they'd been talking about, but she had never asked her dad. He didn't even know she had this photograph.
She reached out and gently traced the side of her mother's face. They had the same smile, mother and daughter.
A knock on her door startled her, and the small pile of pictures fell to the floor. She looked up with a frustrated expression to see Woody standing there watching her. "Um, sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
"No," Jordan mumbled, leaning over to gather the photos off of the floor. Woody rushed over to help, but she batted his hands away, not wanting him to know what she had been doing.
"Is this your mom?" he asked, catching a glimpse even as she tried to block his view.
She tried to glare at him, but his earnest face killed her anger before it could even fully flare. Instead, she just nodded silently and slid the pictures back into their envelope. "Today is her birthday," she whispered, surprising them both with her admission. Even Garret didn't know that.
"I'm sorry, Jo," he said softly, covering her hand with his. "I know how rough that must be for you."
The sincerity in his voice stirred her heart, and she found herself blinking back a pool of tears. Woody slowly got back to his feet to close the door to her office, giving them privacy from the growing bustle of the hallway. It was already after eleven in the morning. She gave him a small smile in thanks for his generosity, and he returned it as he sat on the edge of the desk in front of her.
"Would you like to talk about it?"
Jordan just shrugged, the envelope still clutched tightly in her hand. "Not much to talk about. I can hardly remember her – except for my nightmares, and even those are hard to hold on to."
Woody watched her for a moment before gently touching her knuckles. They loosened enough for him to take the folded paper from her and drop it on her desk, not even trying to look at the photographs again. "My mom died when I was four. Cancer."
"Oh, Woody, I'm so sorry. I-I had no idea."
She reached out for his hand again, and he easily twined his fingers with hers. Some kind of connection came to life between them in that moment. Of all the people in her world – of all the people who could have walked in on her looking at those nearly-forgotten memories – he was the one person who truly understood, who knew what that kind of loss was like. She had never realized…
She stared up into his face, searching his eyes and finding only comfort and compassion there. Not the pity she saw so often on others'. "You get it," she stated quietly, her voice almost awed.
"I get it," he affirmed. "I get what it feels like, to have only pictures left."
"To not remember the sound of her voice."
"Or her laugh."
They quieted, and Jordan turned her gaze down to their clasped hands, overwhelmed by his incredible show of companionship. "You're not alone, Jo," he told her. "You never have to be alone with that again."
"Thank you, Woody," she whispered, bringing her tear-rimmed eyes back to his. "It helps, knowing that you understand. Maybe you should have told me before I went off the deep end last year." She tried to chuckle, but it got stuck in her throat and came out as a strangled kind of cough instead. The joke fell flat, and Woody squeezed her fingers.
"It's almost time for lunch. My treat?"
Jordan gave him a thin smile. "Yeah, I'd like that."