8 | Melancholy
idontwannabeyouanymore, Billie Eilish
As the alarm went off, Lizbeth rolled on the bed and turned off the annoying beeping sound. Closing her eyes again, she took a deep breath. Those few seconds where she stood between Morpheus’s and the real world were her favorites, a floating sensation invading her as she was still cocooned inside the comfort of her bed.
It was finally Friday, which made her sigh with contentment. Bitterness had been eating her alive for days, it was exhausting. She had never been like that, and her job should have allowed her to fight that uneasiness and accept it faster, but she was blocked.
It felt as if she had taken a break from her own life while she was still living in Nicolas’s apartment. She had the feeling of just coming out of hibernation, facing all the emotions she had been slipping under the carpet for so long. The break-up and her awful medical discovery were still bothering her, although not as much as fighting against that annoying little voice inside her head trying to distort reality.
Her self-esteem as a woman had decreased a lot after finding out she would hardly ever be a mom. It made her feel like a weird entity with no purpose. She knew it was stupid, a woman shouldn’t be measured by the number of kids she could have, they were a lot more than a uterus, but she couldn’t help it when loneliness and emptiness became her only company.
Maybe she should share all those thoughts with someone, to at least get the burden out of her chest. It would be one thing less to worry about in silence since she couldn’t talk about the case… The fucking serial murder case! It was driving her nuts. She was proud the prosecutor chose her for it, but at the same time it was frustrating and it was starting to sink, making her ask herself about things that had never been under the spotlight in her mind.
Back in San Francisco, she used to work at a psychological health clinic, dealing with all kinds of human struggles, from basic anxiety—basic, to say something, people liked to downplay this condition as if it was nothing when it could cripple you, paralyzing you completely—to PTSD. However, the way the kidnap, the abuse, and torture had crushed Courtney’s soul, the only survivor of that psycho, was beyond imagination.
Lizbeth had never seen that kind of fear in someone’s gaze, that crumbled morale, and desire to disappear. It wasn’t her job anymore, but the despair in her parents’ voices when they asked her to help her… She couldn’t say no. After talking with her a few times to build a stronger accusation, the twenty-two-year-old girl didn’t want to talk with anyone else. She had lost trust and faith in humanity. And who could blame her? Her future had been devastated, turned into a hopeless void.
And even though it was painful to watch the girl slowly fade in front of her eyes, the clarity with which she saw that small part of her still wanting to live, gave Lizbeth more strength. If Courtney was willing to get out of that hole, she would hold her hand all the way out to the light.
Half-asleep, the psychologist walked to the bathroom and opened the hot water tap, getting into the shower as soon as steam came out of it. A sigh rolled off her lips as she enjoyed the blazing liquid touching her skin. It was going to be a busy day.
The first hours of her morning schedule flew talking about Freud, B.F. Skinner, Jean Piaget, Carl Rogers, and other important psychologists during the two classes for her freshman students.
Everyone seemed to think it was very interesting to learn about how the science of the mind had developed over the years since nobody talked unless they wanted to ask a question. But as intriguing as it all was, the behavioral and cognitive approach were her favorites, that was why she enjoyed the third period so much—forensic psychology, the place where the psyche and law collided.
However, focusing that day seemed harder than usual after seeing the pictures her brother had sent to their family group. April and Liam were having so much fun, enjoying their life to the fullest, making plans for the future, moving forward, and what had she achieved after so many years?
She sure had a career and a name in her field, no one could take that away from her. And she was proud of it, but on a personal level?
She felt completely lost for the first time in her life. Having a loving family, the most amazing friends and great co-workers should have been enough…
“What’s on your mind, Child?” the psycholinguistics professor asked, looking at her over her glasses.
“What?” Lizbeth raised her head from the papers spread across her table.
“You’ve been staring at the screen of your phone with a blank look for a while.” The blue-eyed woman commented.
“Uh… nothing. I’m just a bit tired.” She waved her hand, avoiding eye contact with her as she tried to dismiss her worries.
“You know… As you get older, partying during weekdays is the worst,” the blonde noted, a smug smile on her lips. Mrs. Blake had a natural gift to read between the lines of words and non-verbal language—it was annoying.
“I haven’t been partying…” Lizbeth softly laughed. “It’s just… I’ve had trouble sleeping since I moved to my new apartment.”
“Want to talk about it?”
“I need to finish this before the break ends, if not I’ll have to bring all this home with me and I’m not up for working extra hours today. I have a meeting lately—”
“I know you’re just avoiding my questioning, but I’ll let you do your thing. We’ll have this talk over a coffee or a beer one day, anyway.” She shrugged, a humorous expression on her face.
Lizbeth nodded, smiling at her, going back to read after receiving one more knowing look from her colleague. Her eyes had been moving across the pages of one of his Sophomore trainees’ projects, but her brain had barely registered any information. She was really on another planet.
The last part of her day at college was dedicated to the seniors graduating that year in criminology or psychology. They were very keen on getting the best out of her class, absorbing every detail that came out of her mouth. It was very motivating for her.
Walking up the stairs when she got to the apartment’s building felt harder than the previous day. Her whole body felt heavy and sore, the energy slowly draining out of her.
She wasn’t used to being emotionally so out of control, and it had been a long day. After the classes, she had to run to a meeting she had with Mike—the prosecutor—to see how they were going to approach the case in the trial with some of the new information the FBI had sent him. And later, she went to visit Courtney in her house. She had convinced her to go to a psychiatrist so they could prescribe her some meds to help her sleep and keep the anxiety at bay, but most of their meetings were there, the only place where she felt safe.
With all those emotions weighing in her chest, Lizbeth took a deep breath. She was ready to go to bed.
“Hey!” Sawyer said when they passed each other in the hallway.
“Oh, hey!” She snapped out of her stupor.
“Are you okay?” he asked as he stopped in front of her, with his dog.
“Oh my God! You still have her?” Lizbeth kneeled on the floor and petted the dog’s head, exhaustion vanishing away as Noah wagged her tail at her, trying to lick her face.
He had found her in the trash when she was barely two months old. Her ears had been poorly cut and she was nothing but a whining sac of skin, bones, and fleas, all dirty and craving some love.
Sawyer had always been so big-hearted and didn’t doubt for a second what he had to do the day they found her—a few months before Lizbeth decided to put some distance between them. He took her to the vet and nursed her until she reached a normal weight, giving her a home where she grew as a huge, happy puppy.
“Of course!” He chuckled. “She’s the perfect girl. Cute, sweet, adorable, and never complains about anything.”
Lizbeth stood up. “You don’t even deserve her,” she teased.
“Yeah, right…” The firefighter laughed. “Anyway, I didn’t know you worked so many hours.” Concern filled his voice.
The giant dog didn’t understand the moment and tried to walk forward, yanking on the leash. Sawyer didn’t move an inch. “Give me a sec, girl,” he told her. Noah looked at him as if she had understood and sat down, huffing.
“I usually don’t”—she looked at Noah and petted her again—“but today I had to meet the prosecutor of this case... I’m dead.”
“I see...” He paused for a second, his eyes searching hers. “Do you want to come with us for a walk and clear your mind?” He sweetly smiled and her heart skipped a beat.
“Am I that easy to read?” she asked, letting out a soft snicker as she rubbed the back of her head.
“A little.” He grinned. “It’s gonna be a short one,” he said as he walked towards the stairs.
“Okay.” She smiled.
After dinner on Monday, and before going to his parents for two days—which made her feel kind of lonely—he had invited her over to his apartment on Tuesday. She loved getting to know the new him, spending time with someone other than her-annoying-gloomy-self. He was still fun and laid-back, and the warm and honest smile that characterized him hadn’t changed one bit, making her feel like nothing could go wrong. He had always had that kind of power.
As they walked in silence, each one lost in their own thoughts, Lizbeth crossed her arms over her chest and studied him from behind. He definitely looked bigger and stronger than the last time she had seen him, years before. His aura was so different too...
“How was your day?” Sawyer asked when they reached a green area around the condo, bringing her back to the real world. He was crouching down, letting Noah off the leash.
As soon as the dog was free, she started running around smelling everything as if that was the first time she was there.
“Like every other day, I don’t know.” Lizbeth shrugged.
“Is that good, or bad?” He arched an eyebrow.
“Frustrating, I guess,” she confessed, looking at Noah. She seemed so happy… Why did human beings make everything so complicated?
“How so?” he asked as he threw Noah a ball.
“I don’t know...” She sighed. “This case I’m working on right now is so horrible, I need that guy to end in prison forever.”
“Yeah, a psycho like that should rot in jail.”
She hadn’t told him much about it, but it wasn’t as if she needed to. It was all over the media. The only thing no one knew about was the awful details of what he did, and it wasn’t as if anyone needed that.
“I have seen mOlivia in people before, you know? But this is so different... I don’t know how the police, FBI, and everyone involved in this kind of shit can deal with it on a daily basis.”
“You get used to it.” He lifted a shoulder, putting his hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. “We’ve dealt with some pyromaniacs and shit of the kind from time to time, and I don’t get it either. But the good thing is that there are also good people out there fighting to make the world a better place.”
“But I know there’s something else bothering you. Spill it.”
Lizbeth tittered. He had seen right through her. “Well...” She tailed off.
“What is it?” He looked at her, a smirk on his face.
She bit one side of her cheek, thinking about how to put her thoughts together. He had always been a great listener, but she didn’t want to open up to him like that, it felt weird after so many years. Their relationship ended in the weirdest way and they had never talked about it. Could she even call him a friend anymore?
Letting out a sigh, she finally spoke, “have you ever had this feeling of being stuck? Like the rest of the world is spinning around fast and you’re just there, paralyzed, watching everything past before your eyes?”
He was silently prompting her to keep going.
“Everyone’s going on with their lives, buying houses, getting married, having babies, and all that while I’m here, stuck in the same place I was when I was twenty-four.” Putting her emotions into words hurt more than she expected.
He bitterly chuckled. “I know what you mean. And yes, I think everyone has been there at least once in their lives. Don’t worry about it.” His dark hazel gaze locked on hers for a second that felt like an eternity, a beautiful and ethereal eternity. Then, he turned to throw the ball to Noah again
“When did this happen to you?” she asked, curious.
“When Madison and I broke up. Well, it was a lot of things together, really.”
Lizbeth stiffened, heart tightening as the darkness shadowed his gorgeous features.
“May I ask—”
“What happened?” He didn’t let her finish her sentence. She just nodded. “We wanted different things.”
“Sorry... I just—”
“It’s fine.” He sighed, glancing at her with a faint smile painted on his face. “It’s not a big deal anymore, I told you.” He stopped to throw Noah the ball again. “I struggled with it for a while, but since Beth died three months after that my perception of what really mattered changed, a lot.”
“I had no idea it all had happened so close in time… Sorry.”
“Stop apologizing.” He seemed to relax a little. “We just made decisions that made us fall apart. And then the universe decided to push it a little more...” He let out a sharp breath through his nose. “But now I have a wonderful life. Maybe it isn’t full of exciting and new things every day, but for me, it’s the small things that make it worth.”
“You’re right...” She mumbled.
“You’re the psychologist; you should know how to deal with that kind of stuff,” he teased, his lips curling up to his signature playful grin.
“I know, right?” She laughed, feeling a bit relieved. “Thanks.”
“No problem,” he said as he squatted to put the leash back on Noah. “Let’s go back.”
They walked back home making small talk, and when they reached their floor, they said good night, eyes lingering on each other longer than needed, as if there was something left to say.
“Well… hmm… I’m gonna go to bed, it’s been a long day.” Lizbeth awkwardly chuckled.
“Sure, yeah. I gotta get up at five to go to work so… night, Liz.”
After hugging him, with her heart feeling lighter, she stepped into her apartment, conflicting emotions invading her, but she didn’t care. Sawyer had never judged her and had always been honest with her when she needed his opinion. He was one of the few people in her life she would have blindly trusted. Years had gone by, but as strange as it was, she loved having him back in her life.