My eyes were blurry with sleep from having been woken up by a call from the police department about an accident at my parent’s house. My and Vivian’s sleepover was officially disrupted and I could tell that her parents were less than overjoyed having been woken up by us tumbling down the stairs to get into my old red pickup truck and speed to my house. Viv was in the passenger seat spewing out words of comfort.
“Jay, it’s going to be fine. I’m sure it’s nothing.” She smiled soothingly and I nodded in feigned agreement. Blue and red lights lit up the front lawn. Several men in uniform patrolled my family home and the land surrounding it. My eyes found the ambulance and it was as if my heart leaped into my throat. Without turning the truck off, I hopped out onto the gravel driveway and ran to the medical emergency vehicle.
“Oh my god.” I cried out, watching as the paramedic zipped up the body bag, concealing my father’s lifeless face. To afraid that I would scream, I covered my mouth with my hand and sunk into Vivian’s awaiting arms.
“Holy shit.” She whispered under her breath. A sob racked my body, rendering me completely helpless until a thought popped into my head.
“Where’s my mother?” I croaked to the paramedic, tears staining my cheeks raw and red.
“Other ambulance.” He answered as he scribbled sentences down on a clipboard. Viv and I scrambled to the second ambulance where my mother’s body was seizing, her face pale and distorted while her mouth gurgled out a foaming liquid. Paramedics surrounded her body until they finally stabilized her.
“She’s lost a lot of blood, even if we were to make it to the hospital in time, she wouldn’t make it.” The lead paramedic put a hand on my shoulder to console me. “I’m sorry.” I approached my mother’s barely breathing body and I looked down at her trembling hands. Tears flooded my eyes but I quickly wiped them away; I needed to remember my last moments with my mother.
“Mom, I’m here.” I whispered, pushing stray hair away from her face. The mother I had idolized as a child was gone, a ghost left in her absence. The woman in front of me was sickly pale, bloody, eyes glazed over and dead. “Mom, I love you.” I kissed her cold knuckles as I tried to choke out the words. “I’m sorry I wasn’t here. I’m so sorry.” Vivian hugged me from behind as I cried, watching my mother’s chest rise for the last time before she slipped away. There was a tap on my shoulder, but I was too empty, too shocked to care, much less turn around.
“Ms. Kingsley, I am the lead detective assigned to this case, we have apprehended the perpetrator.” I said nothing in response to the Spanish-accented man. “Do you need arrangements for somewhere to stay?”
“No, she can stay with me.” Vivian interjected. I was numb and I was alone.
I stared shell-shocked, tears welling in my eyes. It took me so long to force those thoughts and feelings of that night out of my memory, and in one instant they came swarming back. Vivian was in the kitchen making tea, the two officers sat across from me on the opposite couch of my living room. My hands trembled as Vivian handed me the hot mug of Chamomile and honey, but I forced the liquid down my throat anyway.
“Ms. Kingsley, we’re doing everything in our power to apprehend the perp-”
“Wait.” I interrupted Dax as he spoke. “You.” I pointed at him, the pieces of my memory slowly connected at the sound of his voice. “You were there.” He wouldn’t look at me, his eyes glued to the wall.
“I’m sorry, I’m confused.” Vivian stated as she looked between Dax and me.
“You were there that night, weren’t you?” I whispered, staring blankly at him. He turned his head away to avoid my gaze. “Look at me.” A minute passed and he hadn’t move. “Look at me, Dax.”
“Ms. Kingsley, there’s a lot to this case-” The other officer tried to save Dax.
“Yes, okay? I was the lead on your parent’s case.” Dax interrupted, throwing his hands up.
“That was in Wisconsin, why are you here? Why are you in California?” I shouted, anger crawling over my skin. “Were you following me?”
“Yes.” He replied bluntly, facing me with indifference.
“Why.” I choked out, my heart feeling betrayed and stupid.
“My commanding officer thought it best that I watch over you for a period of time, in case a situation like our current one would arise.” He looked down at the officer beside him. “Let’s go.”
“Don’t you dare leave.” I spat, my fingers now formed into fists. “You owe me answers.”
“I don’t owe you anything, Jane. I was following orders.” Dax said as he turned to leave.
“So that’s all it was; just orders you were following?” I croaked, remembering the moment we had shared in my room last week. “It was all fake?” He stopped, facing away from me before spinning on his heel.
“What do you want from me, Jane? Huh?” He took another step forward, minimizing the space between us by half. “Do you want me to say that I came here on an assignment? Okay, fine. I did. If you’re so committed to Riley, then why the hell are you so hurt that I lied?”
I said nothing.
“What the fuck do you want from me, Jane?” He took another step closer, I could feel his warmth and it soothed me. “Do you want me to tell you everything was a lie?” I looked up at him, his eyes watering. “Because it wasn’t.” He took my hands in his and shook his head. “I may have came here because I was assigned to, but goddammit, Jane, that’s not why I stayed. I could’ve left weeks ago.”
The door opened and slammed closed, Riley appearing behind Dax.
“Babe, I’m so sorry I’m late.” He pushed past Dax to pull me into a tight hug and I watched as Dax’s head fell. Nodding, he sniffled and turned, walking out of the front door.