Three hours, three lousy hours. That was all the sleep Nona had gotten the night before. Her mind had been racing, endlessly running through every scenario that could possibly come from CLU’s unwelcome return. What if he came after them? She was terrified and paranoid to the point that she insisted Hendrix sleep with her. So while her mind stayed on high alert, her body was subjected to the nocturnal thrashings of a three and a half year old boy. There was a knock on the frame of her office door. She looked up to find Kurt waiting outside the door with a drawn expression.
“May I come in?” he asked politely, though he looked as if he would have charged in either way. She nodded and he stepped in, closing the door behind him.
“Kurt…” She began but was soundly cut off.
“It happened again last night. She woke up screaming, in a cold sweat! What did you two talk about yesterday?” He was looking less worried and more angry by the minute. Nona met his level gaze and said the very thing she knew he wouldn’t want to hear.
“I can’t tell you. She asked me not to.”
“Seriously?!” Kurt all but exploded from his chair. “You’re not there. You’re not there when she’s terrified, hyperventilating, feeling like she’s trapped under that parking garage again. She was doing so well and it all fell apart after you left. I can’t help her if I don’t know what’s going on.”
“My thoughts exactly.” Nona replied with barely contained anger. “Why didn’t anyone tell me she’s been fainting? Not just fainting but fainting and smacking her head against things to the point of needing stitches?” Now Nona was on her feet leaning over the desk into Kurt’s personal space. She raised her hand to poke him pointedly in the chest with one finger.
“You let me believe her recovery was going so well but she’s still a wreck! So it seems like we’re both telling Jordan’s lies.”
She dropped back down into her office chair with a huff. Kurt seemed unsure of how to react to her accusation so he sat quietly back down staring at his hands through what proved to be an incredibly uncomfortable silence.
“I’m sorry,” he stated quietly. “I shouldn’t have come charging in here without speaking to Jordan first. And I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about her fainting spells. She doesn’t want you to worry about her.”
Nona nodded slowly. She had known her sister most of her life and Jordan refusing help was a common theme. She was always the caregiver, the mentor, and the backbone of their little family. Of course she wouldn’t want Nona to know she was pushing herself too hard. She sighed loudly.
“I’m sorry too. She’s a stubborn one isn’t she?” Kurt gave a small chuckle.
“You’ve been dealing with it longer than I have.” Nona nodded lightly in agreement.
“I understand where you’re coming from Kurt but if she wants you to know, she’ll tell you. When she’s ready.” Nona reached a hand across the desk and placed it over his. “I can’t imagine how hard it must be to see her like that. I know she appreciates all you do for her.”
Kurt gave her hand a small squeeze in return; a gesture neither would have imagined a few months prior. Quite a bit had changed in that time, including the ease with which the future in-laws communicated. The most important transformation, however, belonged to Jordan. Kurt had seen Jordan at her lowest and marveled at her resolve to be better than she was before. His mind was racing through all the possible reasons Jordan would lie to him. He chatted a while longer with Nona before heading to the hospital for his rounds, still fixated on what could possibly have sent his lover into a downward emotional spiral. He resolved to talk to her as soon as he got home. You can trust me love, he thought to himself. Haven’t I proven that?
To say Jordan was feeling off today would have been a colossal understatement. She had barely slept the night before, her slumber peppered with heart-stopping nightmares. When a restful sleep had finally come, she’d ended up over-sleeping! She had rushed from her bedroom with barely enough time to see Taylor off as she was heading to a basketball retreat for the next three days. After that, she had thrown on whatever was close and headed to physical therapy. Bursting into the therapy room, she quickly pulled off her rumpled hoodie and sat at her first machine of the day.
“You’re late.” Her physical therapist Dr. David walked over to the hand bike she was using. She mumbled an apology but failed to meet his gaze. He wasn’t deterred as he placed a hand on top of hers, stopping the bike mid-turn. Jordan was never late. Not ever. “Is everything okay? You seem frazzled.”
“I’m fine,” her favorite lie to tell lately. “Just overslept.”
“What?” She whipped her head to look at him, her face mirroring the challenging look on his.
“Since when do you oversleep?”
“It can happen to anyone.” She snapped before trying without luck to move the bike with his steady grip still on it. He grabbed both her hands in his, forcing her to turn and face him.
“Jordan, what’s going on? I haven’t seen you like this since before you started talking to Dr. Buckler.”
Dr. Dorothy Buckler was the therapist Jordan had been seeing the last two months. After a particularly challenging time where she had not eaten or slept in literally three days, David had suggested she see Dr. Buckler to talk about her nightmares. The therapy had definitely helped since there were quite a few thoughts and feelings Jordan had no desire to share with her family.
A part of Jordan wanted desperately to snatch her hands away from David and flee this emotional torment. The more logical part of her brain reasoned that she needed to tell someone what was going on before her head exploded or she did something really, really stupid. She sighed quietly before speaking.
“My sister heard from the police,” she began shakily, in a hushed tone, worried someone might overhear. “They think the man who… hurt me… might still be alive. That he might be targeting me and my family again.”
She barely finished speaking before she was enveloped in a crushing hug. David was more than just a medical professional; he had been a friend of Kurt’s before her injuries. Within just a few sessions, he had become a friend of hers as well. She tried to remain impassive but could feel her hands gripping his polo tightly. Her face felt wet and she realized she had begun crying. When she pulled back from the embrace she could see David’s eyes were shining wet behind his glasses.
“I’m sorry. I can’t imagine how you must feel. What did Kurt say?”
“I haven’t… told him yet. I don’t know if I can…” The fact that she hadn’t been able to tell her fiancée seemed to spur David into action. He pulled her to her feet, one arm wrapped protectively around her shoulders.
“You need to tell someone.” He stated firmly.
“I just told you.” She pointed out rather half-heartedly.
“Not me; someone who can help. You need to talk to Dr. Buckler.”
“No, I can’t. Today she has office hours, she’s not seeing patients.” David turned to look at her, annoyance flashing across his face.
“This is an emergency! She’ll see you. Let’s go.” He dragged Jordan by her good arm from the physical therapy room a few doors down to the office of Dr. Buckler. He knocked rather impatiently and stormed in the moment she answered.
“Yes?” Dr. Buckler looked up from her files with a confused look on her face. “Jordan, I believe our appointment is not until tomorrow?” She addressed her patient in a calm tone, noting the agitation on Jordan’s face. David interjected.
“It’s an emergency. She needs to talk to you now.” He stressed. Dr. Buckler could tell something was obviously very wrong if the normally laid back physical therapist had dragged Jordan to her office during one of his sessions.
“I see…” the doctor began, deciding if she should make an exception to her policy. One look at the younger woman’s face told her that if she turned Jordan away now, there could be dire consequences. “Okay. Jordan, please have a seat. Thank you for bringing her down David.”
She dropped into the armchair opposite the desk looking defeated and relieved all at the same time. David placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder before excusing himself. She tried to give him a smile in return but was sure her face failed to complete the act. He quietly closed the door behind himself to give the women some privacy.
Dr. Buckler sat calmly waiting for Jordan to begin. She reminded the younger woman faintly of her mother: An attractive middle-aged African American woman, pristinely put together, painfully intelligent. It was one of the reasons Jordan was both attracted to and repelled by the thought of beginning therapy with her. Her mother issues were something Jordan had yet to explore but today was not the day to open that can of worms. The doctor’s calm gaze made her uneasy and finally she spoke.
“He’s back,” she began haltingly. The doctor raised an eyebrow as if to say “whom” so she continued. “The police think the man that … hurt me… is back.” She dropped her head to avoid the older woman’s gaze. The doctor seemed genuinely shocked by her admission.
“I see. How does that make you feel?” Jordan’s head snapped up at the obviously ridiculous question.
How the hell was she supposed to feel?! CLU nearly took everything from her: her health, her confidence, and her family. And in their last confrontation, he had quite nearly taken her life. Since that encounter she had struggled endlessly to regain a sense of normalcy, to get back to a place where she felt solid and safe and loved. She realized now that she had never truly reached that point. No matter how many milestones she had achieved since that terrible day, she hadn’t really moved forward. Because of this, because she had been frightfully waiting for the other shoe to drop. In that instant she knew exactly how she felt.
“Relieved.” She stated simply. The doctor again seemed shocked; Jordan was full of surprises today.
“I’m sorry. Care to clarify?”
Jordan stared at her hands trying to organize her thoughts into an understandable argument. She knew what she wanted to say but it was crazy, wasn’t it? This is therapy, she reminded herself, it’s the best possible place to sound crazy. That slightly twisted logic forced the words from her.
“I’m relieved because I don’t have to wonder anymore. He’s alive which means he’ll want to finish what he started and then it’ll be done. I don’t have to keep struggling.” She finished calmly.
The doctor sat back in her chair considering what Jordan had just admitted. She wanted CLU to come for her. She wanted him to finish it because moving forward from the incident was proving too big a burden to bear. The woman sitting across from her appeared so strong and confident and yet here she was admitting that she would rather die than continue on.
“Jordan, do you want to die? Do you want this man to kill you?” Jordan shrugged slightly before answering.
“It would be easier.” She replied without emotion. “For Kurt, for my sister, my father, even my daughter. They all spend so much time worrying about me, my recovery. I’ve become a burden to them. If I was gone, they would be sad for a while but then they could move on. And I would be free.”
It was true, she felt trapped. Trapped by expectation and responsibility, by this in-control persona that hid a frightened little girl. Just once she wanted to think only of herself. Just once she wanted to be selfish. If she let CLU kill her this time then she would get her wish without having to be the one to break her family’s hearts. She had considered it before, when she was in the hospital ravaged by injury and infection, unable to do even the slightest things for herself. She thought about how easy it would be to stash her pain pills until she had a lethal dose. How easy it would be to say goodnight to Kurt, swallow those pills, go to sleep and never wake up.
But then the guilt had set in. How would Kurt feel knowing his proposal, the promise of a life together was not enough to inspire her to live? How would Taylor feel knowing she hadn’t meant enough to Jordan to keep fighting? And Nona.
She couldn’t bear the thought of her baby sister weeping over her body with the knowledge she had taken her own life in a moment of profound weakness. If her life was taken though, even if she let it happen, that was better than suicide wasn’t it? The doctor was watching her closely now, looking more concerned by the moment.
“How would you be free?”
“You said if you let this man kill you, then you would be free. Do you see death as freedom?”
She thought back to her previous line of reasoning. Was that what she had concluded? It sounded right. Dead people had no responsibilities; no one was depending on them to be strong or protective. Yes, she told herself, death would be a welcome break.
“Jordan, are you suicidal?”
She frowned at the question. The tone of the doctor’s voice was suddenly displeasing to her, judgmental even. You can’t judge me! This is therapy. But she had admitted something disturbing hadn’t she? She had admitted she wasn’t well and really it had nothing to do with CLU or her family or even her powers. Something deep inside her was broken, everything else were just symptoms of that initial issue. Emotional aftershocks, as it were. Are you suicidal? She asked herself.
“I don’t know.” She answered honestly. “ I just know I want to be free.”
“I see. Maybe I should call your fiancée to come get you. I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to be alone today.”
“Probably not.” Jordan agreed calmly.
She watched the doctor pick up the phone and dial Kurt’s number, a truly worried look on her face. Jordan felt slightly annoyed by the idea of being placed on a suicide watch. You should have told her no, she chided herself. Yet somewhere deep within, she felt like that might have been a lie.