I jerked awake gasping for air. I felt the satiny sheet cling to my sweat-drenched body. I tugged and wriggled free from the bondage of my bedding and stood straight up as the mattress trembled beneath my feet. I looked around and saw I was back in my room.
“Just another damn dream.” I sighed in relief as I collapsed back onto the bed.
I let the breeze from the slightly open window cool my flesh and sooth my trembling body. I marveled at the streaks of color and prismatic forms cast from the stained-glass nightlight. The colors gave me such comfort.
The clock besides my bed blared out in big red letters: 4:30 am. The scent of fresh brewed coffee tickled my nose. “Four-thirty? I wonder why Shane is up so early.” I muttered to myself.
Like a mime, I created an invisible rod in the air and pulled myself out of bed, reaching for my robe. Still in a dreamlike state I stood there, robe in hand, and stared at it for a moment. It was the same silken robe I had worn in my nightmare. The images were still haunting me even in this semi-awakened state, so for today, I decided to forgo my favorite robe. Yes, Shane has caught glimpses of me in my underwear in the past few years, but today was not the day I wanted him to see me in all my glory. I looked through my closet for something else.
“Ah, yes. You will do just fine” I said as I put on the long black cotton robe I wore at times it was a little on the chilly side. I loosely fastened the belt around my waist and made my way into the kitchen. The way the apartment was set up, I didn’t have to go far.
Living in the pearl district has high rents, even for Portland. Square footage is at a premium. But man, do I enjoy the view of the city from our eighth floor. We have a huge east facing window that gives up a wonderful view. That morning, even though the sun was still sleeping below the cascade mountain range, I watched the sky tinge with red and a small shiver went up my spine. “Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.” I muttered to myself as I moved the rest of the way into the kitchen. I wonder if it’s going to rain.
The rich hazel color of the tile floor, always feels cold beneath my feet. I found myself dancing across the kitchen on my tiptoes until I reach the carpet of the adjoining room. I really needed to invest in a pair of slippers. I pulled out a stool at our gray and blue speckled granite bar that separated the living room from the kitchen as the coffee pot belched out the last of the steaming brew into the pot. The aroma was strong and the magical liquid dark.
I peered at Shane and smiled. He and I have been best friends since our junior year of high school, ever since he stood up for me against Garrett Miller. I watched as he set the cup down in front of me.
“Why so early? Didn’t you get in late?” I asked Shane through a prolonged yawn.
“I stayed late to finish up some paperwork so I could take a personal day today” Shane said.
“Why?” I asked. Then it dawned on me “Are you going with me?”
“Yep. That’s what friends do. We are there for each other during the tough times.” He said. Shane placed a porcelain cup with the Portland Police Department logo in front of me and filled it with coffee. I looked at him with a raised eyebrow. He just smiled and placed a sugar container adorned with a pink and red floral pattern, complete with a mismatched spoon next to me. Then I watched as he placed brown stoneware bowl filled with sugar coated morsels and pastel colored marshmallows as he poured milk topping it off. Sliding it towards me with a spoon he turned to put the milk away pulling out the tub of butter at the same time.
I wrapped my petite hands around the mug till my fingertips were almost touching. I peered at Shane over the cup as I took a sip trying to figure out what was going on this morning.
Shane looked up, as if hearing my thoughts, and smiled as he finished buttering his toast. If I didn’t know any better I would say he is enjoying this far too much. I don’t normally let people wait on me. I’m used to doing things on my own.
He met my eyes for a moment and a smile filled my face. My mind wandered to the day I ran into him after not having seen him for years. Isn’t it funny how life finds a way to throw people together? A sound derailed my train of thought and I came back to reality. Shane smiled at me and then I noticed it, and I couldn’t help but smile.
“Why are your teeth so white?” I asked.
Shane blushed and bobbed his head in embarrassment “I kind of left my whitening strips on too long. You’re only supposed to leave them in for no more than an hour. Thanks to a bet I lost with Jerry, I was up half the night doing his paperwork and I kind of fell asleep with them in.”
A snicker escaped before I could squash it and I nearly choked on my mouthful of coffee.
“Whitening strips? What, do you need those for?”
I asked in all seriousness then I smiled and looked at Shane teasingly “Oh I see, gotta look good in public huh Shane? Hard to resist arrest when you flash those pearly white gems at your perps” I teased.
I giggled and took another sip of coffee and studied Shane. He stood about 5’11” and was an imposing-looking guy. He had jet black hair, cut short on the sides. It glistened with gel in the kitchen light overhead. His eyes were as blue as the speckles in the granite-blue t-shirt he was wearing. His pecks cut right under the Portland Police Department logo that matched the coffee mug. He looked almost like he was a bouncer, someone you would want to avoid all confrontation with. I remembered how he looked when I met him as a teenager, and I thought he was hot then, but now he is was exquisite. Seeing him shirtless was never a dull site, that’s the benefit of having a male roommate. His abs rippled with a nicely chiseled six-pack that became visible with the tightness of his tshirt. I always wondered why they called it a six-pack.
They always remind me of the little squares of chocolate bars. My cheeks heated at the thought of Shane and chocolate, and I raised my mug to hide it. It really is a wonder he is still single. I’ve thought about it, the idea of him and me, but who would go out with me? Guys don’t look twice at me. If they do, I usually scare them off. I shook the thought out of my head as I watched Shane set a plate of toast down, just barely in my reach. I grabbed a piece and took a bite smiling sweetly at him as I chewed.
“Hey! That was my breakfast!” Shane scowled and pretended to be upset with me.
“You have cereal,” He pointed out. A little smirk played on his lips as I pointed to the toaster.
“You can make another” I said.
“What do you think I am? A short order cook?” he said still trying to fake his irritation and failing miserably.
I just laughed as I watched him put another slice in the toaster. This time he moved the plate to the other counter so I couldn’t snatch another piece. Smart man, I thought.
The amusement was short lived when an ominous silence fell over the kitchen. He turned and looked at me and I felt myself freeze like a deer in the headlights. It was the type of silence your parents would give if they had to inform you your childhood pet died. I swallowed hard as I stared at him, waiting for whatever he was going to say, I knew I wouldn’t like it. The clock ticked loudly on the wall as I licked my lips and met his gaze. He opened his mouth to say something when a noise made us both jump.
The toast popped up. I gave a nervous laugh as Shane turned to grab the toast and cursed he placed it on the plate. I watched butter it. But as he turned back to me, the tension was as thick as molasses. I held my breath.
“Kat,” he said.
“It’s been 10 years since your sister’s disappearance. Ever since you’ve become my roomie, I watched you live a shell of an existence. I’m not telling you to forget about her or stop going to her memorial, I’m just saying, maybe it’s time to put away your top drawer case. It’s time you moved on with your life. You blame yourself for things you couldn’t control Kat, you were sixteen, and there was nothing you could do.” His broad shoulders sagged, as if the weight of everything became too much, and I heard him sigh “Sometimes, all you have to do is look in front of you, and you might find your happiness..”
I couldn’t hold back the tears. They gushed, and he moved closer to me placing his elbow on the counter. His hand cupped under my chin and brought my tear streaked face up to meet his.
“It’s not your fault. It’s time to let it go hun. Ten years ago they found nothing, and it’s a very small chance that you will find anything now. I’m worried about you Kat.” I looked into his eyes, worry and sadness made his eyes turn a shade darker as his stare saw right through me. My gazed dropped to his perfectly shaped mouth, and I thought about how I would love to kiss him. I watched him move around the counter to kneel in front of me. My vision started to blur, as a new wave of tears leaked from my eyes. How could I even think about that? How could I just give her up and live the life she should have had? Even if by some miracle Shane actually thought of me in that way, I would somehow screw it all up like I always do. Then this, this friendship that we have, would all be gone. I’d be alone and have no one. I can’t let him go, no matter what I feel.I groaned inward i’m pathetic. Get a grip on yourself! I pushed the thoughts away and took a deep breath in, stopping the tears. Shane just wrapped me in a hug and held me. “I had this strange feeling you shouldn’t be alone today. So you’re stuck with me, all day.” I took another deep breath, locking the emotions back up in a little box in the back of my mind. That’s when I realized, in that very moment, Shane was the only person I ever really cried in front of and never once did he make me feel weak for it.I would no longer be a burden.
In my 5’2 frame I’m not very imposing, but I am good at my job. I work out with Shane whenever we get a chance. I take self defense classes, and even with the old leg injury I can hold my own. When I was around 20 years old I tried to become a cop. Due to years of abuse, I don’t always react to stressful situations as well as I should. I end up freezing in place, which can be a bad thing. So when I failed the academy, it was only luck that I ran into Shane. He ended up helping me set up my P.I. firm. I won’t be able to be as big of a help if I were a cop, but at least I still get to help people. Plus as a PI, I can’t afford to be seen as emotional. Which can be good in my case. I have to view all my cases I receive with indifference. Most clients are the emotional ones. It wouldn’t help matters if I was too. Or so I tell myself. It really always hits you in the end, especially if it’s not as happy of an ending as we all wish conflict could be.
It’s hard to tell a mother that her 18 year old daughter is a prostitute or ran off with a boyfriend and got knocked up. Or my favorite is when I have to tell a family that their missing child is a junkie on the streets. But at least I find them, and I provide information to help with whatever situation they are in. Rehabs, help lines, as long as the parents try that is all that matters.
I looked at Shane and sighed “you're right, I think it is time. After we pick up flowers and visit her, I need to swing by the office. I have an afternoon appointment with a lady about her missing daughter.”
Shane blinked in surprise “Wait, you're agreeing with me? I had an entire argument in my head to have with you, and you agree with me? I am shocked.” he said teasingly.
I looked up at him, all traces of being sad gone and I said “Yeah Yeah, laugh it up. I know I’m hard to get along with, but when you are right, you are right. I was kind of thinking the same thing last night before I went to bed.”
He smiled his dazzling smile at me and collected the dishes. “I got the kitchen, you go get ready for the day” he said. You can’t argue with that, so I slid off my stool and made my way back to my bedroom.
A couple hours later I came out of my bedroom dressed in my professional look. I had on a pair of black dress slacks and a silky button down blouse. My dress jacket that matched my pants fit perfectly to my figure. I’m an odd size for clothing. I was graced with a little ass and a big chest, so when I go shopping for dress clothes, I have to shop in the juniors or petites. My hair was a dark brown and cut short to frame my face. I think the lady at the salon called it a pixie cut. It was just easier to manage. I don’t wear a lot of makeup, either. When I was a teen I went through the stage where I wore tons of heavy black eyeliner, I still cringe at the photos. So now I put on just enough eyeliner and eyeshadow to bring out the color in my eyes. I stopped in front of the mirror and did one final check. I noticed Shane watching me.
I ran a hand through my hair one final time and turned, only to find Shane standing behind me.
“You look different today Kat” he said. I narrowed my eyes at him. “I mean, not that you didn’t look good before but today you look...different”
“Thank you, I think?” I told him. I paused as I looked away, trying to hide the blush creeping into my cheeks. I returned his gaze “The way I see it, today is a new start. I’ve been living like a hermit, and now it’s time to let the past go and put myself out there. Plus I have a client.” We headed towards the door and Shane grabbed my coat before I could and handed it to me. It wasn’t winter anymore, but spring in Oregon can be just as cold. I took it from him, with a look. As I was putting my coat on Shane wrapped me in a big hug and held me.
“I think you are doing the right thing letting her go, Kat.” He said as he pulled away. He opened the door and as he held it for me as I walked through. “For the record, I think you look beautiful today as well, Kat.” he said as he locked up our front door.
I turned away and mumbled “thanks” before he could see me blush. “On our way out, we need to go pick up the flowers from Mia’s.” I said, changing the subject. I felt him come next to me and we headed out of the building to start our day.