Jackson was living his life robotically. Sleep, Eat, Work, Repeat. Sometimes, he forgot to eat and most times, he couldn’t sleep. All he could think about was Kallie. He didn’t even know if she was okay, and that was the worst part of it all. If he was sure she wasn’t homeless, or hurt, or worse, then maybe the aching wouldn’t be so bad. But he knew nothing, and wouldn’t know anything unless she reached out first. She knew where he was and knew both his cell phone and his parent’s home phone number. Jack kept his cell phone on him every second of the day, and on the loudest tone possible so he wouldn’t miss her if she called. She hadn’t called. The house in the city had been emptied and sold and the new house was completely finished. Jack had yet to spend one night there because he wanted his first night in the house to be with Kallie. He wanted to enjoy it together, like they were supposed to, before he’d ruined his life.
One evening, Cam came into the police station. He checked in with the elderly secretary at the front desk and made his way to the end of the hall, where Jack’s office was located. Turning the doorknob, he pushed it open slowly and found his brother, nose deep in a desk full of paperwork and without the end in sight.
“Jackson!” Cam said sharply. Jack looked up from his work, rubbing his weary eyes.
“Hey Cam. What brings you here?” Jack asked sullenly. There was a space between the brothers that hadn’t been there before, a space that could only be filled by Kallie’s comfortable presence.
“What brings me here? The fact that it’s 7 o’clock at night and you still haven’t come home. The poor old lady at the front probably wants to go home,” Cam said.
“She can go home whenever she’d like,” Jack said, “I have work to do.”
Cam walked over to the desk and grabbed the stack of papers out of Jack’s hand, annoying him further.
“Cameron, come on! The faster I finish, the faster I can come home.”
“Well, that’s the biggest load of bullshit I’ve heard in weeks. You’ve been here late every single night, and it’s because you don’t want to go home without her. News flash, Jackson, YOU kicked her out. No one else. And now you have to live with the consequences.”
“I’m living with the consequences every damn day. You don’t have to remind me.”
“What you’re doing is not called living. It’s called existing. And you’re not even doing that well; you look like you’re floating away.”
Jack looked at his brother. Cam hated seeing him so sad and vulnerable, and he had looked that way since Kallie left.
“I’m not living. I don’t even know if I’m still existing. I just want her, Cameron. I need Kallie back.”
“I’m sorry, Jackson,” Cam said, because he didn’t know what else to say anymore.
Jack sighed, putting his papers back into a folder and locking it in his desk. He grabbed his briefcase and locked the office door. Jack and Cam said goodnight to the secretary, and the three of them left the station together; Cam walked the secretary safely to her car while Jack waited on the steps. Cam followed his brother home in his own car, making sure that Jack went directly home and didn’t end up at some dive bar along the way, which did happen some nights.
When they got home, Cam made Jack a sandwich and put it on the table in front of him. He sat down across the table and stared at him expectantly. Jack sighed, taking a bite. His brother was so annoying about this whole thing, but he was always there for him.
Sophie walked into the kitchen, still wearing yoga clothes from her and Blair’s daily nighttime yoga training. Jack looked up at her smiling. Sophie smiled back, touching her son’s face.
“How was work today sweetheart?” Sophie asked Jack.
Jack swallowed the bite of food in his mouth. “It was good mom; thanks for asking. The men here are so good at their jobs and caring; it’s so different from the city.”
“That’s a good thing. Those men in the city were poor excuses for human beings. Except for Evan, of course.”
Jack smiled. Evan was the only thing he missed about the city, and he often wished that he were here working with him, like old times. “Has Kallie called today?”
Sophie frowned. “No, Jackson, she hasn’t. Maybe tomorrow,” she said, ever the optimist. Cam and Linc looked at each other, knowing she was wrong.
Jack’s cell phone rang, as if on cue. They all held their breath while Jack checked the caller ID; it was Evan.
“Hey dude, what’s going on? How are you?” Jack asked.
“I’m doing good; how is everything with you?” Evan said. He knew about everything with Kallie, and braced himself to hear good news every time he called.
“I’m alive. I guess that’s all I can say,” Jack said simply.
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, man, but Drew was sentenced today,” Evan told him, and Jack’s ears perked up.
“And?” Jack prompted.
“He got 1-3.”
“What the hell? For attempted murder?” Jack was furious.
“The lawyers lessoned his charges because he was been such a quote- upstanding citizen thus far- unquote. I was just as mad as you when I heard. Sorry Jack. If it makes you feel any better, the city strippedhim of his gun and badge and fired him.”
Jack sighed. “Not much better, but a little bit, I guess. Thanks for the heads up Evan,” he said, hanging up the phone.
Jack’s family looked at him inquisitively. He threw his phone on the table and sat back in the chair, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Drew was sentenced today. 1-3.”
Cam was angrier than he’d ever been. “With a possible parole after 1, am I right?” he asked.
Jack nodded sullenly. Cam shook his head, disgusted at the justice system.
“I guess it’s a good thing she’s gone,” Jack said, and no one responded, because no one knew what to say to that.
After work on a Saturday night, Kallie, Alexa, Frankie, and a few of the other people from Shantelle’s went out for bowling and drinks. It had been 2 and a half weeks since she left New York; although she wasn’t unhappy in California, she still wasn’t completely happy and was still counting every single second that she wasn’t with Jack. Alexa didn’t know about Jack, but she knew Kallie was laden with unfinished business and never pushed her for information, and Kallie was always grateful. The group of them had pitchers of beer and baskets of French fries spread around their game area. They split themselves into 2 teams and made bets about who would win. Kallie had never been a great bowler but she could definitely hold her on. She was actually having fun tonight, laughing and joking with her co-workers. After bowling her turn, she sat in one of the bucket chairs and took her right shoe off, hooking her foot onto her left knee and giving her foot a mini-massage. Ever since she started her job and was on her feet for hours at a time, her feet were always tender and sore.
Dante, one of the waiters she worked with, came over and sat next to her. “May I?” he asked, pointing to her foot.
“No, that’s okay,” Kallie said, smiling at him, “I’m fine. Thank you though.”
“Don’t be silly. A massage never feels as good as when someone else does it,” Dante said, taking her foot and resting it in his lap. His fingers worked magic in the arch of her foot; Kallie couldn’t help but close her eyes.
“How do you like the restaurant?” he asked while his fingers still did work on her foot.
“I like it a lot. My feet, however, beg to differ,” she said, giggling.
Dante watched her, and the corner of his mouth crooked up. “I’m sure you know this, but you are absolutely beautiful.”
“Thank you,” she said, pulling her foot out of his lap and putting her shoe back on.
“Your eyes though; are they contacts? They are like, the weirdest color grey. They kind of freak me out,” he said, wrinkling his nose in distaste. Dante was trying to sound as if he was joking, but Kallie had heard this all before. People had told her her whole life that her eyes were a weird color and that it made them uncomfortable, but she’d always loved her eye color; it made her different and exotic. Jack loved her grey eyes.
She missed Jack.
Oh so much.
Kallie’s eyes began to well up with tears. “Excuse me, I have to use the restroom,” she said, rushing away from the group to find the ladies room.
Inside, Kallie ran cool water over her hands, face, and neck. She looked at herself in the mirror. Her grey eyes were so clear and bright, but the sadness sat right behind them. It was a surprise that anyone ever wanted to be around her at all; she just looked sad. Kallie decided that she had had enough social activities for the night, and went to find Alexa and tell her that she was tired and was going to walk back to her hotel. Alexa was sitting at a table, a mug of beer in one hand and a French fry in the other. Kallie couldn’t help but become friends with Alexa; she was like that small, bubbly vampire that everyone loved from the latest vampire/love story movie that had come out.
“Lex, I’m kind of tired. I’m going to walk back to my hotel. Thanks for inviting me tonight; I had so much fun with you guys,” Kallie said, hugging Alexa and Frankie and grabbing her light jacket. Dante swooped in for a hug, and Kallie hugged him back, keeping a gap between the two of them when he tried to pull her closer.
As Kallie walked to the hotel, tears began to fall from her eyes, unstoppable. The light breeze dried them quickly, but new ones continued to replace them anyway. She had decided something in the bathroom at the bowling alley; to do something she had vowed she wouldn’t do. She stopped at the payphone outside the Super 8, and, disguising the line’s phone number using *67, she dialed Cam’s cell phone number.
“Hello, Cameron Williams speaking.”
Kallie remained silent, taking a deep breath through her tears.
“Hello?” Cam repeated.
“Hi Cam,” Kallie said softly.
“Kallie! Where are you?” Cam asked frantically.
“I don’t want to say, because I don’t want you to come get me. I’m okay, Cameron; don’t worry about me. I have somewhere to stay and I have a job; I’m doing okay. I just needed to hear your voice.”
“Kallie,” Cam said, softer this time, “Please come home. Everything Danny said was a lie; Jack knows that now.”
Kallie sniffled. “Jack should have known that all along. I wouldn’t lie to him. I love him so much.”
“Still?” Cam asked.
“Still and always. I can’t help it. Lord knows I’ve tried every day I’ve been away,” Kallie said, laughing and crying at the same time.
“Don’t cry sweetheart. Wait, let me go get Jack. I know he’d want to talk to you.”
“No Cam! Don’t get Jack; I really can’t handle talking to him right now. I just wanted to tell you that I miss you like crazy, and I wish things were different. Cam, can you do something for me?”
“Anything honey, you name it,” Cam said, and Kallie could tell he was choking back tears, which made her more upset.
“Please tell Linc and Sophie that the time I spent at their house was the best time of my entire life. And please tell Jack that he could have hit me with a tractor trailer, and I still wouldn’t love him any less. I just hope that one day, he realizes he feels the same way about me.”
“Oh, Kallie, he does. Please, please come home and we can fix all this!” Cam pleaded.
“I’m not sure he does, Cam. I love you, be safe,” she said, hanging up the phone.
The call cut off on Cam’s end before he could beg her again to come back. He rushed out to the media room, where Jack and Linc were watching a basketball game on the projector screen.
“Jackson!” Cam shouted, and Jack turned at the urgency of Cam’s tone. “Kallie just called me!”
“What?! Where is she?”
“She wouldn’t say. I talked to her for all of 30 seconds. “
“Why didn’t you get me?” Jack asked angrily
Cam looked away. “She said she wasn’t ready to hear your voice, Jackson. I’m sorry.”
Jack clenched his fists in frustration. “Did you get the area code from the phone number?”
Cam shook his head. “Blocked.”
“Of course. Smart girl. Another reason I love her so much.”
Cam sat down next to his brother and father. “She wanted me to tell you and mom that being here was the best thing that she’d ever done, and thank you,” Cam said to Linc. “And Jack, she said that she loves you, still and always. Her exact words for you were ‘even if you ran her over with a tracter trailor, she still wouldn’t love you any less’. She also said that she’s not sure you feel the same, and that’s why she won’t come back. Until you realize it.”
Jack looked at his brother with tears in his eyes. “I have never loved anyone as much as I love her.”
“You had a funny way of proving that, Jackson, when you accused her of lying and betrayal. When you asked her to leave.”
“I know,” Jack said, swallowing hard. “I’m such an idiot. And I don’t even have a way of making it up to her.”
“She’ll call again, Jack. If she called once, she’ll call again.”
In California, Kallie lie on her bed. If this was all so hard, why didn’t she just get on a plane right now and go to Jack? She knew the answer to this- because she couldn’t risk Jack letting her go again. It would be way too much. At this point, her only options were to heal and move on, and she was trying- really hard. It was just a lot harder than she would have ever anticipated. She fell asleep restlessly, and when she woke up in the morning, there were still tears on her pillow.
After the call from Kallie and the frustrating feeling that it gave him, Jack wanted to do nothing but work. He spent days on end at the station, even sleeping on the small coach in his office. Cam didn’t even try to bring him home. He visited his brother at work and brought him hot meals from the restaurant; if he hadn’t, Jack would never eat. It seemed to Cam that Jack was taking this harder and harder every day, not getting better like people had said it would.
When Jack had finished paperwork on any given day, he would spend hours investigating Cam’s phone record to try and trace the call from Kallie. So far, it had yielded him exactly zero results. He figured that if he just got a phone number he could call back; even if it was a payphone, he could ask whoever answered where they were. Then he could start searching again from there. But his smart Kallie had left no trail. Jack told himself that he wouldn’t even try to bring her home if he found her; he just wanted to call and talk to her, just hear her voice. And whenever he told himself that, another part of him always laughed at the first because he knew that he would be on the first flight to wherever, throwing himself at her feet and begging for forgiveness.