Howdy everyone. I know, I know, it takes me ages to update, but I'm making it up to you with an extra long chap.
Ps: Immi thanks for helping me see the light and keeping Mojo on a leach.
Ellie, celui là est pour toi, pour te redonner foi en Catherine ;)
"I haven't cut myself in three days," I confess to Adam. "I can't hardly call that progress because I'm still in that place where cutting is a need as opposed to a punctual, effective release."
I've been seeing Adam so much lately that his office could be my second home for all I know.
"Catherine found out about my cutting four weeks ago. I was changing my bandages and she walked in on me."
Honestly I normally wouldn't have been changing my bandages at work, I know better, but the wounds opened a bit when I was on the field and I had to do something about it. I was pissed that she was there, but I think it'd have been worse if someone else had.
"After that day… I smarten up and used my thighs," I admit.
Adam knows that I've been giving into my habit, He has been monitoring me ever since my break down, but he hasn't stopped me. I think he has a good understanding of what it all means, and as long as I'm talking about it openly he tolerates it, at least for now.
"I was livid that she found out. I was mad at her for confronting me about it. So when I got home… it was hard to stop myself that day," I swallow with difficulty. "In a way, her knowing led me to today. I haven't stopped for her, I have been restraining myself because she knows and it's unnerving."
I pass a hand over my tired face. "She's been chaperoning me… discretely," I roll my eyes. "And I've been pretending not to notice."
"So I wouldn't have to talk to her."
There's a long silence, either Adam is waiting so see if I have more to say or carefully choosing his next words.
"I don't want to talk to her…" the words get stuck in my throat. "About…about…" I struggle several seconds, unwilling tears gather at the corners of my eyes. "Reese's death…" I lose it an immediately cover my eyes. "I'm sorry."
Adam doesn't say anything and just gives me the time I need to compose myself again. "It… doesn't concern her… it's between Greg and…" the more I speak the more I get upset, Soon breathing is challenged by uncontrollable sobs.
It's a wonder to me that I still can cry because it seems like it's the only thing I do ever since my big fight with Greg. I cry every time I'm in Adam's office, which means almost everyday. I try to talk to him, I know that denial is no longer an option, but the mere mention of Reese sends me into a whirlwind of anguish, the pain that I manage to numb by distracted myself with work or anything else just comes back tenfold and I start wishing I could die to make this all stop.
Just like he always does, Adam waits patiently, gauging me to know whether we should go on with today's session or if it's enough.
"I'm sorry," I apologize again unnecessarily. I erase my tears and breathe in deeply.
"Do you want to stop for today?" he asks.
I shake my head. "No."
I stand up and start pacing. "I think about it all the time… I think about Reese all the time," I choke slightly but keep my emotions in check. "It's like being stuck in quicksand, because the more I struggle to deal with it and the more I'm sinking to the bottom. How am I supposed to deal with this when the thought of it alone makes me choke?" once again my emotions overwhelm me.
I hear Adam moving around, leaving the room for a moment then coming back. When I look up I see Adam moving the coffee table and pushing his armchair against the wall behind it, now there's a large empty space in front of me. He sits down Indian styles next to a large box. I watch him taking little plastic rectangles out of the box and starting to line them up in a strange pattern.
"You uh…let me know if I'm boring you," I declare flatly. I am flabbergasted at his behaviour, usually he occupies himself before I start to speak but he has never shifted his attention from me like he's doing right now in the middle of a session.
"Do you know what domino day is?" he queries as if I hadn't spoken at all, or as if his behaviour was not out of the ordinary.
I pinch the bridge of my nose as if to stop an incoming migraine. I'm livid, I know I am but my surprise is overriding my anger. Seeing Adam regularly offers me some stability but if even he starts to pulls the rug from under my feet… I'm screwed.
"So?" he speaks again. "Do you know what domino day is?"
"Every year people gather in a big empty warehouse, and people line up dominos for a month or more. Millions of dominos are set to make gigantic fresco around a theme, then on D-day we set them off and watch the pictures coming to life and hoping to beat the record," he explains.
"You're such a dork."
"Are you honestly telling me that this comes as a surprise to you?" he frowns.
I tilt my head but don't respond as I can't argue that point. "Why are we talking about domino day again?"
"Come sit down next to me and give me a hand." I look at him in disbelief. "Can you grab me a bottle of milk in the fridge on your way, please?"
"Are you kidding me?" I snort when I don't get any reply. "Sure, do you want me to bring you something to eat while I'm at it?" my voice is dripping with sarcasm.
"I don't mind some biscuits, there are some in the cupboard next to the fridge," he informs me not taking his eyes away from the dominos he's placing in front of him.
"Unbelievable," I mutter still looking at him. "Freaking unbelievable," I shake my head as I stand and do as told.
Two minutes later I'm sitting cross-legged next to Adam. He gives me silent instruction and we keep positioning dominos. "I have a friend who was working with the organisation committee in Netherland back in 2002, so I was able to participate even though I was not European. We broke the world record. It was quite the head rush," he beams still working on his dominos. "They reward us with beautiful sets at the end."
"Fascinating," I roll my eyes, then silence falls upon us.
Adam is calm, positioning dominos with an expert, steady hand. After an hour or so there are about a hundred dominos on the floor. I have to admit that in an odd way it relaxes me, having to put all my focus on placing the dominos where Adam wants them, at the same time being careful that I don't knock the ones that are already standing.
Adam stands up and gets out from my peripheral vision. I'm about to put another domino down when suddenly a ball comes crashing in the center of the dominos creating a chain reaction, destroying everything we've done. The fallen dominos make a yellow smiley face – or at least half of it, with behind it a purple stain as if it had been splashed on.
I turn around and see Adam staring at me with a questioning look. "What the hell is wrong with you?!" I explode, standing up. "Why did you do that for?" I look again at the crash site and throw the domino I was holding with frustration. "Damn it!"
He walks back to my side, ignoring my outburst, his eyes trained on the now fallen dominos. "That's the most beautiful thing about dominos, and incidentally it's the most annoying," he states. "They're all connected. Something big and unexpected happens and everything crumbles down in the blink of an eye. The ball only landed on two dominos, yet look at how many dominos fell as collateral damages."
I stare at him. Of course, I should have known that his twisted mind hadn't been sidetracked.
"Let me guess, Greg and I are the two dominos under the ball, right."
He looks at me with light frown. "This isn't the Matrix, Sara. The dominos are just dominos and the rubber band ball is just a rubber band ball."
I narrow my eyes at him. Right, I'm going to believe that the dominos are absolutely not a metaphor about my life. "If we were in the Matrix the correct reply would have been 'There are no dominos, Sara'," I imitate his voice which earns me a reprobating glare. "Come to think about it, you've just missed a great opportunity to be a smartass."
"No I didn't."
"Yes, you did."
"No I didn't," he insists.
"Yes, you did…"
"I brought up Matrix on my own…"
"You had an awesome reply at your reach and miss…"
"I didn't miss!" we're talking at the same time.
"Come on it was weak, you got me used to better… that was an easy one."
He stares at me, for a split second he looks like he's about to reply pettily but he just sighs. "Can we get back to the dominos?"
"Sure," I shrug.
"When dominos crumble down unexpectedly, what you want to do first is to find the source of the problem," he picks up his rubber band ball and show it to me. "The next thing is damage control, you need to account for all the fallen dominos. It's not just about the dominos that were hit by the ball it's also about the ones that fell indirectly because of it. That's a tedious part because the damages from the ball can go quite far, but you need to keep in mind that it is all connected."
If I follow his logic, then my relationship with Cath has also been corrupted by the loss of my daughter. I've never consider it to be the case, considering that except for Greg and I's respective family no one knows about Reese.
I know I've had a hard time with Greg and even my brothers and sister, but I never considered the rest of the world in my equation.
"Now the question is: how to fix it?" he goes on after a short pause. "Three options. One, you go from the core to the collateral damages; two you work from the collateral damages to the core, or three you work from both end and finish when they meet in the middle. Considering that you can't do one and not the other, the choice of the method isn't that relevant in itself; you already guessed that it'll take time and patience, that there might be a lot of frustration ahead, but then again it's to be expected."
He scrutinizes me as I'm trying to figure out his words. "The hardest thing, here, is to start," he adds before bending down to pick up a domino and offering it to me. "Just start."
I nod absentmindedly. "We are, of course, only talking about dominos."
"Of course," he agrees, his eyes filled with a glint confirming that dominos were never the topic of this discussion.
He has, in essence, told me that the only way to get through Reese's loss, is to get through Reese's loss. I've been in denial for two years, and I need to get things back on track. For that I need to grasp everything that has been affected by that event. As much as it hurts to think about it, to talk about it, there aren't other ways to deal with it, at least no other healthy way. It doesn't matter how I tackle the issue, as long as I takle it.
"I need guidance to… put the dominos back in position," I declare with a weak voice.
"Lucky you, I know my way around dominos."
I sit back down and wait for him to guide me through the process. "You have a twisted mind, you know that right?" I declare after a long silence.
"I take that as a compliment," he smirks and just focuses on the dominos again.
I've been coming to work with a knot in the pit of my stomach ever since I've found out that Sara was cutting herself. I went to Adam, but I don't know if he's done anything about it. I know I've been worrying myself sick, keeping a close eye on Sara, making the silliest excuses to be in the same room, to come work in her lab, or pairing us up.
Actually I didn't make any excuse I've just been planting myself wherever she was, working on my thing not explaining my presence.
Sara's not stupid, I think even her noticed that I was watching over her, but then again she's Sara, so she's taken it all the way she usually does: ignoring everything.
The only, slightly reassuring sign is the fact that she seems to have stopped cutting, because I've notice that she wasn't wearing any bandages anymore. I'm not naïve though, I know that it could also simply mean that she decided to do it somewhere more discreet.
In any case, this forced proximity is not such a bad thing, we are now on cordial terms which is a step toward forward so, I guess it's a bad for a good.
"Can you help me move those boxes to the storage room downstairs?" I ask her.
"Sure," Sara replies, then takes one box and follows me.
We move to the underground floor in silence, like so many times lately I'm consumed with the envy to initiate a conversation, but like every time the words get stuck in my throat. I wish it was as easy as saying 'hello', but it isn't, mostly because I know Sara enough to get the signs. I know when she's open to conversation – that happens so rarely that you tend to take notice of it, and when she's not; right now there's a wall between us, only the bare minimum words pass over it.
We enter the storage room and move in the far back where rows and rows of bookshelves filled with boxes full with evidences are stored by date and case.
"I'll go get the other one," Sara announces, she waits for my nod of acknowledgement before walking away.
I start checking the content of the boxes one last time to make sure everything is in place. I'm surprise to see Sara coming back after barely two minutes, and what's more she's empty-handed.
"Something's wrong?" I ask glancing at her before returning to my checking. When I don't get any answer for a whole minute I look up again with a frown. "Sara?"
"Sorry, I was just trying to think of a smooth way to tell you something."
"What's up with you?" the oddity of her statement puts me on the edge, as if bracing myself for an unexpected fight.
"Hum… we are…" she drags her words. "Stuck."
I stare at her blankly, not sure to understand what she had just said. "I beg your pardon?"
"We're stuck," she repeats calmly.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean the door, the only way out of here, won't open," now she acts as if I was intellectually slow.
I shake my head slightly. "Have you tried to pull hard on it?"
"Oh, so that's how a door works!" she says with fake awe. "Thank goodness you're here to teach me those things," her sweet grin disappears.
I just glare at her with irritation not wanting to fight with her right now. "Are you sure?"
This time I can see her make a conscious effort to bite back her reply before walking away again. I sigh and put the evidences back in the box, then follow Sara to the front door.
She leans on the wall next to the door and just watches me. I flash my badge on the electronic lock, the light turn green but try as I might the door doesn't budge.
"Maybe you should try pulling harder on it," Sara provides flatly.
I shoot her a death glare but bite my tongue. I walk to the phone which is attached to the wall opposite from the one Sara's leaning again. The line is strictly intern to the lab, we use it to avoid unnecessary trips to the evidence storage room.
I dial Grissom's extension and wait… wait… by the tenth ring I hang up and reach out for my cell and groan when I notice that I can't get a signal. "Oh come on!"
"I don't have anything either," Sara states.
That shouldn't be surprising since we are one level underground and surrounded by thick concrete walls, but still it's irritating, when you think that we can almost start a fire with our phones nowadays, getting a signal while underground should be a norm by now.
I rub my forehead and grab the phone again dialling another extension. Of course now that we need someone to answer the phone no one is near their line. Sara came next to me in order to help me with the phone extensions and in other circumstances I'd have been quite impressed by the fact that she knows so many, I do know a lot of them myself but it looks like Sara has memorised the every numbers of the lab.
After twenty minutes of search, I try again from the top.
"Gil thanks goodness we're finally getting to someone!" I breathe out in relief and put on the speakerphone so Sara can receive the information the same time I do.
"Yes, Sara and I are stuck in the new storage room."
"What do you mean stuck?"
"We can't get out of here, the door won't open."
"Have tried pulling hard on it?"
Alright, now I can understand why Sara snapped earlier. The questions do sound silly. I look at Sara apologetically and she just replies with a small grin in understanding.
"Yes we did, our badges unlock it but it won't budge. Can you come and see if you can open it from the outside please?"
"I'll be right there."
"Thank you," I add before hanging up.
We don't have to wait long before hearing a beeping sound coming from the other side of the door indicating that someone has flashed their badge. The door shakes as if someone was trying hard to pull on it but it doesn't open.
Oh please, please let it not be…
"Guys?" the muffled voice of Grissom comes to us after five unsuccessful tries. "It seems like you're stuck."
"Yeah, thanks Captain Obvious," Sara mutters with a roll of her eyes.
"What now?" I shout a bit.
"I'm going back up to call for the maintenance service, then I'll let you know."
"Great," I sigh.
It's another twenty minutes before the phone rings, twenty minutes during which Sara and I never exchanged a single word. We went to sort the evidences we had brought but even that was made in silence.
When the phone rings Sara and I practically bounce. "Hello?" I push the speaker phone button again.
"I called maintenance, but they can't do anything. The door and security system are the responsibility of an independent contractor. I called the Society and they can't send anyone before 6 a.m."
There's a pause.
A very long pause.
Sara and I are digesting the information fully, quietly pondering whether or not to lose our temper. "That's more than five hours from now," I breathe out calmly.
My hand is holding the receiver so tightly that it's cutting my blood flow. "Thanks," I force myself to say and hang up before Grissom can say anything more.
"This is a nightmare."
Sara simply goes back to the wall she was leaning against earlier and lets herself slide on the ground, she leans her head back against the wall and closes her eyes, her arms resting over bent legs.
"Months that this freaking door has been acting up, months that we've asked to look at it, but no… and now…" I rant with a barely controlled anger.
"Five hours… fuck me swinging…" I curse. "And of course, of all people I had to be stuck here with you."
"Still not deaf," she informs me, not moving an inch.
"No, I meant… I don't mind being stuck with you…" she looks at me with curiosity.
"You don't mind silence," she raises her eyebrow, not understanding my point. "I do."
She nods then closes her eyes again. This is exactly my point, I'm going to be stuck here with Sara in silence, it feels like a punishment to me. On the other hand I don't know what we could talk about, which is sad really. Back when we were friends, if I had told her that I didn't like silence she'd have started a conversation just to make me feel better, or she'd have sung or done something about it.
I decide to sit down against the wall opposite to her. I mimic her position and will my mind to stop spinning with all those things I wish we could say to one another.
This night is going to be long…
I'm hyper aware of my surrounding, the buzzing of the neon lights, my breathing, the ruffled sound of my clothes when I change position, everything.
As I had anticipated Sara doesn't seem to care about anything that is happening.
"Silence tends to make me feel claustrophobic," I confess after forty minutes silence. Sara's eyes open, she's scrutinizing me. Minutes drag on before she finally speaks.
"Who's your favourite Smurf?"
I feel my jaw drop, it's a chance that I'm already on the floor because I think I'd have literally fallen on my ass with that one. My mouth is working but no sounds come out of it, I'm experiencing the strongest brain fart I ever had.
Sara's staring at me blankly, I have no doubt that for her she's just asked the equivalent of 'what's the weather like?'. After all these years I still forget her ability to be so far out of the box that she'd pull the rug from under anyone's feet.
She arches an eyebrow when I don't reply for three full minutes.
"I don't… I… uh…I've never given it thought enough to have one."
"I like Grouchy Smurf," she has a pout of appreciation. "But I must say that my all time favourite is Weakling Smurf, especially in the album where they organize Olympics to get a kiss from the Smurfette, he was the underdog, no one would team up with him, but he won fair and square. That was kind of epic."
Who would have thought I'd hear Sara talking about the Smurfs like she was talking of quantum physics?
"So, still no favourite?" she keeps on tracks.
"I'll go with Handy Smurf," I shrug. "You know I remember buying an album called 'The Baby Smurf' to Linds, but if they are asexual beings how on Earth did they manage to have a kid, and who got it on with the Smurfette?" I enquire seriously.
"They are asexual. The baby was delivered by a Stork, you know, the old fashion way, straight out of the baby factory," she smirks.
I chortle with a shake of my head. "Figures."
"Besides, the idea of one of them getting it on with the Smurfette is disturbing."
"Jealous much?" I joke.
"Please," she rolls her eyes. "I'm just saying that there's only one of her, and a lot of them…"
"Exactly, it makes the whole thing potentially shady."
"Valid point," I agree. "Oooh I got one, if everyone in the lab was a Smurf, which one would they be?"
"Uh… good question," she nods absentmindedly. I can already hear the cogs in her head working. "Well, there's an easy one, Grissom's Papa Smurf."
I laugh "What about Nick?"
"I think he wavers from Hefty Smurf to Dreamy Smurf."
"I think he's more of a Hefty Smurf," I reply. "Now there should be a Player Smurf to fit Warrick."
She chuckles. "Good one."
"Ok, what about Greg?"
After turning the whole lab into a Smurfs' village, Sara revealed that she was an unconditional fan of Calvin and Hobbes and almost choke when I told her that I had never read an album, she then proceeded to sell the whole thing to me; then we moved onto books and the surprise number two came when we ended up having a detailed, heated discussion over the adventures of a certain wizard with a lightning-shaped scar.
Now after almost two hours we are back to silence again, only this time it's more comfortable than before. It's not long before my thoughts start corroding my euphoria. I still haven't found the rational explanation behind the fact that Sara and I can share great moments, simple and fun like the one we've just shared, and at the same time not being able to maintain this simplicity on a daily basis.
It's sad to realize how great things could be and how crappy we always manage to make them. That train of thoughts brings me to our lost friendship, leading me then to our disastrous relationship; my good mood turn sour, the bitter taste of my anger lingering in my mouth.
I'm starting to appreciate the situation properly. We are stuck here for a few more hours, no escape possible. It might be the best time to actually try to have a real conversation with her, who knows when I'll get the opportunity again.
"I have a serious question that I want to ask," I jump in before talking myself out of it.
I think she knows where I'm going, even though the signs are subtle, I can see her stiffening up. "Shoot."
"Are you still cutting yourself?"
She looks away, that invisible wall that she uses to keep people at bay starts erecting itself once more; I brace myself for disappointment and frustration. Something happens though, she turns her head back to me, holding my gaze and against all odds she gives me an answer.
I gauge her trying to decide if she's saying this just so I can leave it alone or if she's telling me the truth.
"I haven't cut myself in over two weeks," she adds in a tone barely above the whisper, probably sensing that I was questioning her truthfulness.
She frowns. "Why did I stop?"
"No… I meant, why did you start? You were right the other day, saying I didn't get it, I'd like to understand though."
She shrugs; I purse my lips not to let out a curse. She always cracks a door open, lets me see glimpses at the most unexpected times and then she slams the door on my face and…
"Do you remember that trip we had with Adam? The last day he made us screams at the top of our lungs. You know that pent up energy in the pit of your stomach, the powerful sense of release once we let it out?"
I simply nod. Once again she has taken me off guard by opening up instead of retreating in her shell.
"It feels the same… there's this thing building up inside me and then it's like I was stuck in a pressurized chamber. When I run the blade along my skin, it's a tiny crack to let the pressure out, for a second there's tidal wave of release, but the suffocating feeling is still there so I go on until I can't feel anything but the sting of the cuts."
I nod slowly, taking everything in. "It sounds like addiction."
"That I do understand," I sympathize.
Silence fills the room, while I now have a better grasp at her destructive habit, there's something that has been bothering me ever since I cleaned her wounds. I want to ask because I need an answer; her wounds aside, that question is what has been keeping me up, it's the one reason that pushed me to go and raise the alarm to Adam.
I'm holding my tongue though because she has opened up to me and I really don't want to ruin that.
"What?" her brown eyes are calmly boring holes into my skull.
I open my mouth ready to launch my question but then decide against it.
She sighs. "Whatever it is you can ask."
"Why the sudden openness?" I frown. "No offence but getting you to talk is always an ordeal and suddenly you act like it was the simplest thing in the world."
It's true, every time she and I had a deep conversation it was like pulling her teeth out. Right now she's acting so out of character that I can't help but feel put off, I mean what's the catch here?
"Not much point in hiding something you already know."
I take a moment to ponder her answer, something tells me that there's more to it, but I content myself with what she's given me.
"The way you cut yourself that time… I mean the sense of those cuts I tended… I've seen wounds like those before…" damn this is harder to ask than I thought. "I guess I'm asking if you tried to…"
"I don't know," she cuts off my rant. "All I remember is that I couldn't get a release and just wanted to stop feeling the way I did… or I was trying to feel period …" I have to strain my ears to understand her words. "I think… I think part of me knew that I was most likely to cross the limits," she confesses. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. She looks at me but averts her eyes quickly. "Well… I guess… I did then," she rests her head against the wall and closes her eyes one more time.
I think I'm going to be sick. To have her admitting that yes, she did attempt to her life is terrifying. Her answer brings a new wave of questions. What brought her to that point? How come everyone (including me) failed to notice that she was in a bad place and needed help?
A sudden guilt rises from the pit of my stomach and wraps itself around my ribcage, making it hard to breathe. I ignored the signs.
I walked in on her when she was crying, and I didn't do anything. I chose my ego over my reason and walked away. Granted there are no guaranties that things would have been different had I offer a friendly ear or shoulder, but it was still something. I walked away when I knew something was wrong.
I put the incident in the back of my mind and never reached out after that. I let her sink to the bottom, when I could have made a difference.
I think I'm going to be sick.
Domino effect, it's all about domino effect…
I keep repeating this mantra in my head to justify the fact that I'm talking about things I really don't want to talk about. I figured that being stuck here with Catherine was a good opportunity to pluck up the courage to talk to her about things that should be said between us. I know myself, and if left on my own devices I wouldn't have talked to her any time soon; but Adam's right (once again) it doesn't matter how I proceed to get my life back on track and fix what has been broken, what matter is that I do something.
Unconsciously I think that I've relented to answer her question about my cutting, hoping that maybe she'd take that into account when I finally tell her what I've come to realize after much thinking about dominos and domino effect.
I've come to understand that in my effort to ignore my loss and deny the grieving process, I threw away my friendship with Cath; it made me sick when what I had done and the reason why I had done it finally became clear to me. Sure I can go on never addressing the issue, but in that aspect Adam is right, dealing with Reese's death means dealing with everything connected directly or indirectly to it.
That being said it's not an easy conversation, after all there's no nice way to say 'I've screwed you over'. Yes, because I know now that it's exactly what I did, even though at the time I didn't realize that it was the case then.
"How is it going with your girlfriend?" the words come out of my mouth before I can think about it.
The temperature of the room has dropped in a second, I can feel it, just like I can feel Cath's cold stare burning holes through my eyelids. I open my eyes and stare back at her, sure enough anger is radiating from her like a small aura.
"The day I came back on the night shift, I saw you kissed a woman as I drove away… I figured… well you've been humming…" I tried to explain that I haven't spied on her, just noticed things. "Nevermind."
Loosening her jaw looks quite painful at this instant, the algid tone of her voice is not surprising when she speaks again. "She's fine… she's great even. And things are going extremely great between us."
She's stressing every word, like she was nailing them into my skull with a hammer.
"I want to be with her, and crazier still she really wants to be with me. Funny how the smallest detail can make the hugest difference."
I snort. "A kick in the teeth would have been more subtle."
"And less effective," she shoots me dagger with her eyes and then stands up abruptly.
"Just a statement, not a complain," I make a small pout. "I deserved that"
Well that's a good segue as any, now's the time to bite that bullet.
She lets out a dry chuckle, bitterness colouring her feature.
"I owe you an apology… apologies," I correct myself. "About everything that…"
"We're not having this conversation!" she seethes through her teeth a threatening finger pointed in my direction.
"If not now, when?" I question her calmly. "I'm not ecstatic at the idea of talking about it all, but it needs to be done even I know that, and we both know that avoidance is a gig I'm good at."
"You'll excuse me for not being up for a Sara Sidle pity party."
Her barbs hit home and hard, lucky me I wasn't expecting that moment to taste like cotton candy. "You ask me to talk to you, this is what I'm doing now…"
"No!" she cuts me off again. "No, no. I was talking about your destructive habit."
"It is all connected…" I stand up and close a bit of the space between us.
"You got nerves! You don't get to blame me for that!"
"I'm not blaming you for anything!" I raise my voice, but level it instantly not wanting to antagonize her any more than she already is. "Haven't you learnt anything? We've been through this countless times, fucking things up and moving on never dealing with anything; need I remind you how well that worked?"
She balls her fists tightly but doesn't say anything. "I've fucked up… I'm taking the whole responsibility of what happened between us. All I'm saying is that this issue needs to be addressed, I have to talk to you and you have to listen; unless of course you have something better to do right at this moment."
She's boiling, I'm well aware of it. The simple fact that she's biting her tongue not to say anything means that she knows I'm right, it also goes to show how far we've made it from our old ways.
"You were apologizing," this mumble is the best invitation to continue that I'll get so I don't retort and just launch the dreaded conversation.
"Something happened…" I start with an unsteady voice. "Something that made my whole life crumble down…I can't talk about it but…"
A cold laughter erupts from her throat. "Are you fucking kidding me?" she asks with a rictus of disbelief. "You've just t spent the past five minutes telling me that we need to talk only to say that you can't talk about it?" she frowns. "I mean… wow, you're turning mind screwing into an art."
"Would you please back the fuck off and give me a moment to get it out?" I snap minding the level of my voice.
Anger is her primary defence mechanism, I get it. I also know that I have to stand my ground when facing her wrath if I want to make a point.
I don't think she was expecting my outburst but it has the desired effect, she's speechless.
"I've been in a bad place for quite some time now. And one day I'll be able to tell you all about it, providing that you care, but right now I can't; I can't because just thinking about it," my voice starts to wavers but I clear my throat and allow myself a second or two to compose myself again. "It's hard for me to think about it and it's even more excruciating to voice it all to myself… "
I take a deep breath not to stop. "It is only now that I'm facing all of this, and it led me to understand a few things. One of those things was the fact that I…"
Here comes the bomb.
"I used you."
Everything stops completely during the few seconds it takes for my words to fully register. Colours drain from her face and I know right at this moment that I couldn't have hurt her more if I had literally opened her ribcage, grabbed her heart and squeezed.
"I used you," I repeat. "I was in a very bad place, I had just gone through a lot more than I could handle. I unable to face my issue to the point that I deny it was there …" I rush into the explanation.
I pause trying to make as much sense as I can because I know it's only a matter of time before she reacts, and when she does my words will stop registering altogether.
"I didn't use you intentionally. At the time I really thought that I wanted this, I wanted to be with you. Now that I'm finally starting to face my demons I have a perspective and an insight that I didn't have then. I know that I throw myself into our relationship and hung on it for dear life ignoring the warning in the back of my mind that told me that this wasn't healthy and that was I was doing was wrong…"
I can feel bile rising up from my guts, she's looking at me like she was seeing me for the first time. "I truly regret putting you through this, it's despicable and I have no excuse. I swear I had no intention to hurt you. I wasn't ready to be with you, or with anybody for that matter… I fucked up, I fucked up bad… I've come to realize that I wasn't with you to actually be with you; being with you was a way to escape my issue, and I'm truly sorry about everything."
She's heaving slowly, her lips moves several times as if she was about to say something but she stays silent, staring blankly at me.
I suddenly feel my cheek sizzling, it takes me a second to understand that she has slapped me with all her might. She blinks then staggers a bit as she takes a step away from me. Her slap took me aback but her reaction was to be expected, what I hadn't expected was the emotionless laughter escaping her throat right now.
When she looks at me again her face is contorted with hurt. "Just when I thought that you couldn't hurt me any more than you did, you outdo yourself," she snorts. "I don't know why I'm surprised, after all you're Sara Sidle, miss overachiever."
The words hurt but I can't complain, I deserve them. It doesn't matter that I didn't mean to hurt her, the fact is that I was selfish. She was upfront about having feelings for me when we got together and I just did my hardest to ignore the lingering feeling that something was off and that I didn't really want to be with her.
"You enjoy screwing me over," she states more than asks. "I mean you must to do it so often."
"Cath, I'm truly sorry about everything…"
"Like it matters!" she comes back into my face and shoves me hard. "Why did you tell me this? Wasn't it enough to break my heart in the first place, you had to make me feel more miserable?! Why the fuck did you tell me this for?!"
"I'm not enjoying this, I just wanted to be honest with you, I owed you that…"
"No! You didn't have to screw me over once again! I didn't need to hear this!" she groans with frustration and steps away from me. "You never care about anyone's feelings, it's all about you! It's all about your conscience here. What do I give a shit if you don't feel alright about it?! I've taken enough shit from you as it is already! But no, you had to put another layer, how generous of you!"
"Shut up! Just shut up!" she stops me and retreats into a row of shelves.
I go back to the wall and slide down against it once more, I hug my legs to my chest and rest my forehead against my knees.
I'm cursing under my breath, biting on my fist to smother my sob. In all the years I've been working as a CSI there was only one time I let my emotions get the best of me and allowed myself to shed a few tears at work. It was a gruesome case involving children, things I wish I had never seen, or known. It was too much and it had hit too close to home; I cried silently for a few minutes unable to control my emotions. I berated myself afterwards because the lab is the last place I ever want to be vulnerable.
That time I had allowed myself 5 minutes of weakness, even then it felt too much. I'm a woman, de facto I'm considered unfit for this 'tough' job, weakness is a luxury I can't afford, not at work. After that day I promised myself never to let myself go like that.
That was before I met Sara.
I've been sobbing like a baby for at least 10 minutes and I can't seem to control myself anymore. I'm trying to calm down but I can't. I'm back 7 months ago when we broke up, when I couldn't bother getting out of bed, when breathing was hard enough to make me cry, when I cried for days on end thinking I'd never stop.
I hate Sara right now. Literally.
I hate her because…
I hate her because she has hurt me, yet again. And it's more painful than before, when I thought it was impossible to hurt any more than I did then. I was wrong. The hurt is tenfold and it's quite a miracle that I can still breathe right now.
I bite harder on my knuckles almost breaking the skin, the sharp sting finally snaps me out of it. Tears keep rolling silently along my cheeks but from hurt little girl I morph into a furious woman.
I'm not letting her drag me to rock bottom again. She doesn't have the right, I'm not giving her that power.
I erase my tears furiously and compose myself again, letting my anger fill me up completely. I can do anger, I'm good with it, it makes me strong.
I look at my watch and frown, I stand up and go back to the entrance, Sara is sitting against the wall her head resting on her knees; I don't give her much more attention and go to the phone. I push the speaker phone button just so I won't have to relay the info to Sara afterward.
"Either my watch is deceiving me or you forgot that we were trap in a room."
"No this is Santa Claus speaking," I bite. I wish he could react faster than he does. "I fail to hear someone taking a crack at the door. We've been here for hours and I've reached the end of my rope. So use a chainsaw if you have to but for goodness sake send someone!"
"I understand. I hadn't forgotten about you, I've called again and they sent someone, they should be here in thirty minutes, so just be a little more patient."
"I don't have any patience left," I reply before hanging up.
Either it's me or the walls have shrunk a little more because I suddenly feel very oppressed in the confined space; I instinctively retreat to my spot at the far end of the room, any distance with Sara is welcome at the moment.
I only come back when I hear noise by the door, Grissom's thirty minutes turned into yet another hour. Sara has lifted her head up, looking at the door as we hear muffled voices and see it being shaken.
"I told you because I want my friend back."
Sara's voice rings out of the blue. "I was a shitty lover but I was a good friend. I am…" she goes on. "We were good at being friends, I miss it," her eyes never stray from the door as she speaks.
She dares looking at me again "I miss you."
Something gets through my anger, I know it does because I can feel my chest contracting for a second, but my anger doubles and I just chortle bitterly. "Let's be friends, sure…" I nod. "The cheap girl in me can't get enough of being screw over and over again and can't wait for another round."
There's a twisted feeling of joy pulsing through my veins when I see Sara's pained expression. She's about to say something but I cut her off.
"We're not friends anymore. That ship sunk," I elaborate with finality. "I mean, with friends like you who needs enemies?"
The door finally opens. If I wasn't already extremely angry I'd have snapped at Grissom and whoever opened the door. We've waited over six hours for something that barely took 10 minutes to be fixed.
"Freedom!" Grissom exclaims when the door finally swings open. Catherine all but bold out of there like her pants were on fire.
Grissom looks at me with a puzzled expression and I just shrug, not trusting my voice for an answer.
He sighs. "I suppose I should feel contented about the fact that no blood was shed."
I exit the room silently. I just want to go home, I'm itching for a release.
Catherine hates silence. At least she can't stand it when she's in my presence, or with someone who makes her feel vulnerable. If she's come to trust me over time, she never really felt comfortable in my office; case in point, she never stayed more than three minutes without saying something even if it didn't make sense, even if it was irrelevant.
If her habit to rub her hands together in a slow, odd yet regular pattern when she feels particularly exposed hadn't been a clue enough as to what her current state of mind is, the fact that she hasn't said anything for the past 40 minutes sure is.
When we went over the three minutes mark I've briefly wondered if she has lost her voice due to too much screaming; by the 20 minutes mark I supposed that I had somehow crossed some invisible portal to another dimension. So yes, now that we have hit the 40 minutes mark I've started to expect the apocalypse.
"I was stuck in a room with Sara for seven hours," words finally come out of her mouth. "To answer your question, we both made it alive."
No apocalypse then.
Her hands stop moving briefly. "Three things occurred. One, I was comforted in the notion that I wanted our friendship back. Two, she made another chip at my heart and all that led to number three, everything finally hitting home."
She clears her throat. "We've already discussed one, so let's skip to number two. I'll give the main lines of what she said, in essence she didn't want to be in a relationship with me, I was just a convenient escape route from her issues, whatever they were… are."
The rubbing of her hands start again. "That was quite a blow, to say the least," she snorts, hurt still evident on her features.
She falls into silence for a few minutes and just when I'm about to ask her about number three she speaks again. "Once the veil of my anger… and anger is an understatement here, once it thinned, I was able to process what she said. Reflecting on her words led me to number three, which was me realizing that a part of me was well aware of all this."
She sighs and stands up, she doesn't pace, just walks around the room. "I think I was blinded by the way I felt, and too busy contemplating the fact that I finally had what I wanted; so I discarded anything else. There were moments when I could see that she wasn't there with me, but I brushed it off not wanting to lose what we had, even though it wasn't great."
She studies my library for a long moment, most likely gathering her thoughts. "She said that she was in a bad place, I knew that. She had broken up with Greg months prior to my birthday… that's when I first kissed her with feelings. Thinking about it all, I'm pretty sure she was in a bad place when she was still with him. As a matter of fact I can pinpoint the moment I noticed that something was wrong. Whatever it is, it happened when I was away in Montana because when I came back she had changed and not in a good way."
"It's only now that I realize that I might have let her down, as a friend I mean, with that perspective I see that she's been walking on the edge for quite some time and she actually almost jumped."
She plays nervously with her fingers. "Yes, she did break my heart; yes, she did hurt me badly…" she sighs. "But I still intend to go to her place and tell her that I miss my friend too and that I'm ready to work it out again. Of course I'll expose her my terms but the point is that I'm not going to walk away."
She holds still for the first time since she came here, sign that she finally made sense of whatever was bothering her. "You might say I have a thing for people who hurt me, or maybe that I'm doing this because I feel guilty about everything, but it's not that. The truth is that in spite of everything I still lo…"
She purses her lips not to let the word slip any further but we've both heard it loud and clear. "I still care a lot about her," she amends her words. "You taught me that people screw up big time but that as long as I care then I shouldn't give up."
She passes her hands in her hair and lets out a long breath. "Right, I think we're done for today."
With her jacket in hand she stands to go to the door. She has a moment of hesitation before going out and turns to me. "Two words."
Her statement puzzles me a little so I just wait for her to go on. "I think I forgot what your voice sounds like. I hear it in my head mind you, but… I guess the real deal's different. So, yeah, you get the last two words."
I take a moment to choose carefully then decide that I want to close with a bang and on a high note. "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," I articulate the first word. "Dingo."
Catherine stares at me, the way she blinks quickly lets me know that her mind tripped over my choice of words; she fights it for a few second but a grin stretches her lips and finally a light laughter erupts from her throat.
"Oh screw you…" she tries to hold her laughter. "You ruined my dark and deep mood."
I tilt my head with a small pout but she voices my thought before I get the chance. "Yeah, yeah I asked for it… shut up," she replies with a smirk. "I'll see you next time smarty pants," and with that she leaves my office.
She does come back a few seconds later. "Adam?" she waits for me to give her my full attention. "Thank you," she adds before leaving for good.
To say that I'm surprised to find Catherine on the other side of my door would be a huge understatement. After our last talk three days ago I was expecting coldness, I was expecting to be ignored and to have to crawl on glass to try and bargain a place back in her good grace. Instead of all that she's here, what's more, if she's angry it doesn't show at all.
I take a step back to invite her in but she stays outside.
"I was furious and hurt the other day. When I get hurt I fight back to hurt in return; everything I said was emotional talk."
I just nod, I'm expecting this to be a dream and if it's the case I'd like to hear it through.
"I miss you too."
I have to remind myself to breathe at this statement. My heart swells and starts to race, it takes all I have to keep my emotions in check.
"I miss you," she repeats. "I miss us, I miss my friend."
She breaks eye contact for a brief moment and takes a deep breath. "I'm here because I want all that back. However I have conditions because I feel like more often than not I'm always the one holding the shitty end of the stick. I don't want that anymore," she announces firmly. "First, I want to know what that thing you can't talk about is. I'll wait, as long as I have to but I want the guarantee that I'll get the full picture, you owe me that."
She marks a pause, probably expecting me to protest but I don't say anything. "Second, I need the guarantee that you will talk to me when things don't go well. I don't have a crystal ball, so I can't know what you feel, what you think or what's going on unless you let me in. I promise that it'll go both ways, because I'm committing myself to this friendship, to us. I refuse to be shut out, no matter what happened I want you to promise that you'll come and talk to me. We're only good when we communicate."
"Third," she doesn't wait to continue this time. "I know I can't get you to promise that you won't do it again, but I want you to come to me when you feel the need to cut yourself; like I said I hate the idea of you hurting yourself so let me be your safety net."
She frowns, trying to decide if she has forgotten something or not. "I think that's all for now, but we can amend all this as we go," she nods with finality. "Those are my terms, take it or leave it."
I've given Sara an ultimatum, either she accepts my terms with no conditions or we forget about our friendship. I've been reasonable in my terms, I mean we can't work any other way. I won't try it any other way, because our old ways always end up with me hurt, I'm not letting that happening again.
That's the reason why I've decided that if she doesn't accept my terms then no matter what I'll stick to my guns and walk away from this, it's all or nothing.
I'm expecting her to argue, but then I wonder if I need to expect her to surprise me every time from now on, because when she speaks it's nothing that I had anticipated.
"I promise I'll tell you everything, once I'm ready, that will take time but I'll get there," her voice is steady and doesn't show a hint of hesitation. "I promise that I'll talk to you whenever things are wrong… actually that I'll talk to you, period."
She breathes in deeply when she comes to the third term. "I promise that I'll come to you if I feel the urge de cut myself."
I'm amazed and slightly dumbfound, because it's not like her not to put up a fight, it's a bit unsettling to have her agreeing so easily with me; I'm not complaining because it means that we'll get back on track but still, it feels weird.
"I know that most of our fallouts are my fault, because I wouldn't talk or I'd push you away; because I'd take the easy way out thinking that it was my way or the highway. It's hard for me to let people in, and it's silly but it took me time to get my head out of my ass and admit that it was hard for everybody. I'm good at pushing people away, as you surely have noticed. I'm not stupid though, I know that if I keep like this you won't come back and I know how lucky I am to be given yet another chance, so… you know, if you want me to crawl on broken glass, I'll do it because I don't want to lose you. I need you in my life."
There are a few seconds during which I'm questioning whether I'm facing Sara or a clone. For someone who's not good at opening up and talking, she exceeds expectations when she does. She got my heart thundering in my chest, with the way she looks at me and the sincerity dripping from her words.
"The whole crawling on broken glass is a tad overrated," I try to alleviate the tension.
"Whatever it takes," she replies seriously.
"As long as you keep your word, we're good," I assure her and she nods in return. I grab the bag I had to put down and lift it up for her to see. "Breakfast?"
Going slow never gets us anywhere, it has always been a constant between Sara and I. I think the only way to pick up our friendship where we left off, is to dive right back in.
The shadow of a grin tugs at the corner of her lips and she steps back again, this time I come in. I turn around to ask her something but words fail me instantly when I find myself wrapped into an awkward hug. Sara doesn't let go though, once I'm over my initial shock I respond to her embrace.
She has initiated a hug I can count on one hand the times that happened, just when I think that maybe the world started spinning backward without me noticing, I frown when I feel her shake slightly.
Is she crying?
I'm about to ask her if everything is alright but she pulls back and coughs, dashing to the kitchen to cover her emotional state. "Tea, coffee or cocoa?" she asks as if nothing had happened. I decide not to push my luck and pretend not to see her wiping tears of her eyes.
"So what's your actual status on 'Stony Sidle's great adventure?'" I ask out of the blue.
The tale of what she did when she was super high last month is still a hot subject for the windmill, as a matter of fact there's a new version almost every day. It's a common joke now to find out just how crazy the story goes.
"I… believe that I'm running in the corridors in my underwear covered with golden powder," she takes me in stride right away.
"Really?" I frown. "Huh… last time I checked you had your shirt on… no pants but your shirt on."
"I should be naked soon at this rate," she chortles.
"Yeah," I agree with a chuckle of my own. "You know, come to think of it, I'm surprised you lasted this long with your clothes on."
"I know, right?"
We both laugh and slip easily in comfortable conversation.
And that's how it all starts again, with a breakfast and a few jokes.
Thanks for reading