For the first time, I wasn’t just mad at myself. I was mad at Harvey Davis too. And that made the guilt seep into my bones and fill my veins, only to make me angrier, beginning this loathing cycle all over again. In my heart I knew this had to be a mistake. It couldn’t have been him, but there was always that “what if” lingering right under my fingers. This “what if” made me feel like I was being pinned down. I knew it wasn’t him doing it but God, I felt like I couldn’t move. Right when I felt the release of his hand- when I thought I was letting go and allowing myself to grow close to someone again, to love them in some capacity and at the very least to love them without fear- his face on my phone screen brought memories back like a wildfire. They were burned into every inch of my brain forever like he’d never left. I hate him for not letting me feel like I can finally breathe. I hate it.
Tears were streaming down my cheeks as I left Jovie behind in the observatory.
“Maeve,” I heard him call, his voice echoing throughout the domed ceiling. “Maeve, what’s wrong?” his voice cracked, but I didn’t hear it as I pushed the door open, the wintery air outside begging to freeze the hot tears onto my cheeks.
Right as I swiped across the screen to answer, my phone locked back like whoever was playing this sick joke had given up and ended the call. My heart stopped as I stared at the screen for a minute. I wiped my cheeks with the sleeve of my turtleneck before opening my phone again and going to my recent calls, clicking on the most recent one: H. I called it again and the line didn’t even ring. The dial tone immediately met my ears followed by an automated voice saying that the number was no longer in use, telling me what I already knew. I wanted to throw my phone on the ground and smash it into a thousand pieces, but what felt like a last link between us kept me gripping it in my hands like it was a priceless artifact. My phone buzzed again:
My heart leapt into my throat again as I swiftly clicked the notification, scared it was going to disappear. I pressed play and sunk into the cold sidewalk underneath me, bracing myself for anything.
“Hi baby,” his warm, honey-like voice filled my head, the thickness of his accent familiar to my ears again. I recognized the voicemail immediately by the way his voice was slightly shaky. It was an old message he’d left, but it was coming through my phone like I’d just received it. He’d left it to me on my last birthday we were together when he had gone out to investigate something and left me at home until late. I remember how angry I’d been at him that day when I’d heard that message, but now, my heart swelled just hearing his voice again. “I wanna say happy birthday. Hopefully, I will see you very soon. Love you. Bye.”
And just like that, the line clicked and I was angry at myself for ever being mad at him. Ever. It was hard to breathe as I leaned my back against the wall and listened to the message over and over again, trying to hold onto every word he spoke. I didn’t notice I was hyperventilating until the door beside me began to slowly open, Jovie carefully peering out. He moved to me in one swift motion, kneeling across from me on the ground.
“Hey, what happened?” his voice was low, like he was trying to calm me without saying those exact words. It almost worked, but the air still felt like shards of glass in my throat as I continued to lose control.
He took my face in his hands, the soft fabric of his sweater caressing my cheek as he carefully wiped tears off my face. I let myself melt into the gentle way he was holding my face, his fingertips lightly tracing patterns on cheekbones until I felt some form of okay again and found a regular breathing pattern in my chest. I took a deep breath and focused on his deep blue eyes, filled with a look of concern and almost a hint of guilt.
“It was like he was calling me,” I cried. “I know it wasn’t him. It couldn’t be him. It must have just been a glitch in my phone, but it seemed so real. I know I sound crazy, but it’s almost like he’s trying to tell me something because things like this keep happening. God, I sound like I’m losing it.”
The hint of guilt took over Jovie’s face as he slowly stood up and turned away from me. He whispered something to himself, but I could’t tell what he said. When he turned around, he looked angry.
“I’m sorry, Maeve,” he pursed his lips together and leaned back against the wall like he was thinking about something.
“It’s okay. I’m okay now. It’s just... I feel like he’s still out there and I know that sounds absolutely insane, but things keep happening and hearing his voice again made me feel like... I don’t know... Maybe I’m right. I know denial is a part of this whole process, but this is different. I’m dreaming of him every night and it’s always the same thing. It’s like he’s just out of my reach and I feel like he’s trying to tell me something...” my voice got quieter as I realized how out of control I must have sounded, drifting away with a harsh wind that was beginning to pick up. I looked up at Jovie, with his fists clenched to his side and regretting saying anything to him. I sighed to myself, “I know what I’m saying doesn’t make any sense and I know it’s just a part of the grief process, but I’m starting feel like this process has just turned into a cycle and I’m getting spun around in it like a broken washing machine.”
There was a silence between Jovie and I in which it looked like he was fighting some kind of internal battle. It was like he wanted to say something, but couldn’t- just like Christmas.
“Jo, say something. I’m starting to think you’re going to check me into a hospital after all of that,” I said.
“I just... I wish I could help,” he slowly sat down next to me again, placing his hand on top of mine and giving it a squeeze. “And you’re absolutely not crazy.”
Somehow his hand was warmer than my own, even in the cold. He began to take it away, but I gently pulled it back into my own, selfishly keeping the comfort of it for myself. He looked at me, a little surprised, the guilty look still in his eyes. The conflict he was fighting seemed to go away as he gave a small smile.
“Are you ready to go home?” he asked.
I nodded and he lifted himself off the sidewalk, pulling me up with him. He held my hand the whole way home, not for any other reason but I think he knew I needed it. I needed to not feel alone right now. He walked me into the building and to my door, the heat from inside making my face feel sticky from all of the melted tears. I knew I probably looked like a complete and utter mess.
“Well, I’ll see you later. Let me know if you need anything,” Jovie began to turn away, shoving his hands in his pockets. I watched him get to the end of the hallway before I found myself calling after him.
“Wait,” I spoke. He turned to me, confused. “Could you stay?”
He stopped at the top of the stairs, taken aback, and hesitated, gazing at me through uncertain eyes.
“Y- you don’t have to if you don’t want to,” I began, taking in a breath, “I just... If I’m being honest, I don’t want to be alone tonight.”
“Okay. I’m here,” he said without hesitation, closing the space between us again.
We walked into my apartment and I locked the door behind me before throwing my keys onto the kitchen table. The comfortable warmth of my apartment seeped through my body and my limbs began to recognize their exhaustion.
“We can watch a movie until you fall asleep,” Jovie suggested.
“I won’t fall asleep!” I protested.
“Yeah, sure,” he teased.
I agreed to the movie before washing my face off in the bathroom and changing into my pajamas. I walked back into my small living room to Jovie comfortably leaning back on the couch and I nestled myself next to him as he started something on the television. I don’t even know what we were watching because I immediately gave into the heaviness of my eyelids, just as Jovie predicted, falling asleep next to him with ease.
The morning- or should I say afternoon- came quietly and I only woke up when I felt Jovie shift beside me. I felt his weight leave the couch and began to hear him speaking in hushed tones from the kitchen. I carefully lifted myself, peering over the cushions of the couch to see what he was doing- or who he was talking to. He paced back and forth in the kitchen, looking nervous and agitated as he whisper shouted into the phone.
“Violet, I can’t do this anymore. I can’t put her through this when I know the truth... we could get him out. You don’t see her like I do,” his words harshly cut across the room, the mention of a girl’s name making my heart unexpectedly drop to my stomach. “I know. I know it was my choice,” he said through gritted teeth, his tone getting increasingly heated. “I know you and Ellis warned me and I still did it, but I couldn’t help it and you fucking know that. I tried to have space, but I can’t do it. She just looks at me and fuck I don’t know what else to do.”
Silence fell on the room as the other person spoke to him. I watched his facial expressions react to what she was saying, eyebrows knitted and mouth gaping open like he was about to say something but kept getting interrupted.
“You don’t understand. I have to tell her. She knows he’s trying to contact her. If I don’t tell her, she’s going to find out some other way and I don’t want her to end up stuck there too. We’re living proof that people can get out,” he took a breath as the other person spoke again, the tension in his body leaving just slightly.
I sunk into the couch cushions with a mixture of confusion and fear. What could he possibly be talking about? Did he know something I didn’t? Who the hell was Violet anyway? A million questions flooded my brain as I gripped the blanket covering me between my fingers.
“I’ll be careful, Vi. Hell, she may not even believe me in the first place, but I have to at least offer her the choice. You know I didn’t want it to come to this,” I heard him say, his voice lowering again as he calmed down.
He muttered his goodbyes over the phone and I decided to pretend I was still asleep, curling back into a comfortable position. There was a fear of what he was about to say lingering in the pit of my stomach as he tiptoed back over to me, kneeling in front of my body before shaking my shoulders. I opened my eyes, trying to seem sleepy and not intensely angry, and looked at him.
“Maeve, you might need to pack your bags,” he said. “I have somewhere I think you’ll want to go.”