Daniel sighed, running his fingers through the short blonde hair. He knew the habit made it stick up in the front, but he no longer had the energy to try to stop. He shuffled through the papers on his desk, trying in vain to organize the chaos that had built up over the past year.
He could barely even see the dark maple finish that matched the set of chairs across from him. The pale blue walls were decorated with pictures of him with the Davis’s. They had been the closest thing to family he had ever had. Until Clare, but he couldn’t think of her now.
“Sherriff?” Debby, his receptionist, poked her head in.
Her frizzy gray hair was stacked messily on top of her head and her hazel eyes seemed to smile kindly at him. Debby had been a close friend of Daniel’s aunt. The only one in his aunts group who seemed to care about the shit home life his aunt had provided.
Daniel had often heard Debby fighting with his guardian on his behalf. It had made the world seem less terrible back then. She had also been the one to introduce Daniel to Jesse, and one of the reasons he had ended up on the correct side of the jail bars. He would be forever grateful to her for that.
“Yeah, what’s up?” Daniel asked, sighing with exhaustion.
“Mr. Dobson is here and would like a word with you.” Debby smiled knowingly, concern etched deep in her face.
“Right. Give me five minutes, then you can send him in.” Daniel forced a smile
“Yes, sir.” Debby turned, but snapped her fingers, turning back quickly. “Oh, and Jackie called. She said that Cara is doing great and the transition of babysitters worked out pretty well.”
Daniel nodded, suddenly thinking again. Debby seemed to realize this and left, shutting the door behind her. Daniel’s vision blurred and he bit his lip hard. This was not the time, nor the place, to break down.
At times Daniel still felt as if his grief was crippling him. Growing up he had learned distraction was the only way to numb the internal pain. Then it had been rejection and abandonment, self harm being his distraction. Only Jesse knew about that vice, and Daniel’s best friend was worried sick now.
Now the pain he needed gone was an overwhelming loss and fear. Clare was gone and he was left with their baby girl. He felt as though he was constantly failing his daughter. He had never once thought being a single dad would be so hard.
So he needed a distraction. Something to focus on that he could fix, or at least help. He also needed a nanny, preferably to live in. His schedule was sporadic and he was on call much of the time. Bethany could solve both those problems and help his best friend in the process.
Jesse’s baby sister had changed dramatically since her first year at college. She was insanely secretive, jumpy, nervous, and never stuck to a job long. She wouldn’t talk about it but they worried she had gotten into trouble while away from home.
For a while she had seem to be getting better, then about eighteen months ago thing got worse. She started staying home as much as she could and was more reactive then ever. Neither he nor Jesse had caught onto the change right away; between his fiancé, Emily, having an abusive ex on her trail and Clare being pregnant. They had both been to busy.
He could help her now though. He had to help her. Otherwise he wasn’t worth the air he breathed. He had failed so many people in his life, Clare being most recent, he wouldn’t add Bethany to his list.
Bethany jumped as someone in the apartment parking lot slammed their door. Silently chastising herself for her reaction; she grabbed her bags of groceries. Her anxiety had been on a new high lately. She couldn’t even blame it on the attack she had suffered at her brother’s house. No this was about so much more than that.
She shook her head determined to stay focused. She was going to get upstairs, lock her doors and make some food. She would distract herself with chores, and force herself to function.
After double checking the locks Bethany started browning the meat for some spaghetti. Something simple that wouldn’t be destroyed if she zoned out for a second.
A loud thudding reverberated through her apartment, causing her to jump and turn to the door. Someone was knocking, and they did not sound happy. She continued to reassure herself that the door was locked and dead bolted with a chain guard.
“Bethany!” Jesse’s angry voice caused her to wish she could leave the door locked and walk away. “Why won’t you even consider this?!”
Bethany opened the door letting her oldest brother into her apartment. The already small space seemed to shrink even more. Despite his anger she still felt safer in his presence then she had alone.
“I have a job.” Her excuse was pathetic even to herself.
“This is Danny.” He hissed, his brown eyes burning. “He needs our help right now.”
Bethany knew, and it tore her open to have to say no. Daniel was too close though. She had kept her secret from her family for years, and though Daniel wasn’t technically family he was as close as could be.
Being his live-in nanny would be nearly impossible. How could she keep her anxiety a secret from him? For example; her habit to lock and triple check every window and door before bed. She couldn’t do that at his house. As a police officer he would see things clearly; as a life time friend he would notice everything. If not at first, eventually.
Then there was payment. What if he wouldn’t agree to cash only? She couldn’t have him write a check to her other identity. She could have him write them out to her but never cash them. She knew though, that he would notice that eventually. Maybe not immediately. Having just lost his fiancé in childbirth and left a single father, he had enough to keep him distracted.
Her heart ached with grief and sorrow, but she didn’t see anything she could do. Nothing that would allow her to maintain her own safety.
“I know.” Her voice came out a broken sob. “I really wish I could help, but…”
There was a long silence. It wasn’t the first time she wished she could tell her big brother everything. He would help her, protect her. Looking into his eyes though, she couldn’t help but see the exhaustion in them. Having recently become the father to three young traumatized children, there was rarely a night he wasn’t woken up with screams.
He would never complain. He loved those kids and their mother, and things were getting easier with therapy. However, Bethany couldn’t ask him to shoulder more for her. This was her problem, and she would handle it.
“I’m sorry.” She said sadly.
“I know you’ve been avoiding everyone, including him since you got back. I wish you would just talk to me Bethy.” His voice was low and soothing, as he reached out to her.
Bethany bit back her tears and took a step away. “I’m so so sorry.”
Jesse stayed for another minute but Bethany wouldn’t look up from his shoes. Eventually he sighed and walked out. The door shut with a loud click. Pain washed over her like a tidal wave knocking her to her knees.