“What are you doing? Let go of me, I need to see what’s happening.” I yelled at him. Then I twisted my arm around trying to break free from his grip, but it was hopeless. The detective was much stronger than he appeared under his denim jacket and all of my strugglings was useless. I was no more able to break free from his grip than a five-year-old from a father who was scolding her for having a temper tantrum.
“April.” He said to me calmly and quietly. “There is nothing that you can do for him. It’s best that you stay out of the Dr.’s way and let him do what he knows how to do, better than you. Here, let’s just go back down the hall, away from the commotion and wait.” He said releasing his hold and gesturing towards the blue plastic chair that I’d knocked over during my hurried attempt to get to Stefens bed side. My attention was steadfast on the hospital rooms door way, hoping that one of the nurses would emerge and fill me in on his condition. My feet were planted firmly and they refused to move.
“April.” He said again, this time gently pulling at my shoulder, so that I would face him. “Please, this way.” He pleaded, then stretched out his arm in the opposite direction of the room I so desperately wanted to be in. Defeated and saddened I slowly lowered my head and gradually made me way back to the chair that was still resting on its side, but instead of turning it right side up, I chose to sit on the floor with my back against the wall. I then wrapped my arms around my folded knees that I held tightly against my chest. My eyes blurred out of focus as I continued my stare down the hall, watching and waiting for someone to come out of Stefens room. The thought of him never waking up was overwhelming and begun to take its toll on me.
“What if he doesn’t make it through this?” I asked looking up at the detective, who had now started flipping through his notebook. I wasn’t expecting an answer, and I didn’t need or want a response, I only wanted to acknowledge him. As much as I regretted the way detective Rodgers came into my life, it was still comforting to have someone be a witness to my devastations. The two of us clash in many ways, I can be outspoken and to the point, where he’s more reserved. But, I still looked up to him because of the knowledge and information that he carried around about Melody in his tiny notepad. He never answered my question, nor did he take the time to glance down at me, and that was probably for the best. The two of us sat in silence, my mind wandered from Stefen and how I would tell him that Melody is still missing, then to India and how I’d like to get to know her better. I couldn’t understand why it was taking so long inside of Stefens hospital room, someone should have come out by now to update me on his condition. Just as I stood up from the cold hard hospital floor, Dr. Carter stepped out of the room. He glanced in the opposite direction of where the Detective and I were waiting, then turned towards us hanging his stethoscope around his neck and I could see him take in a deep breath. His expression uttered, that something had gone terribly wrong. Dr. Carter wore defeat and exhaustion deep in the lines of his middle-aged face. He began walking towards us, and a few of the nurses did the same, while a couple of them looked at me with remorseful eyes, the others walked with their heads down avoiding to make eye contact with me period. The light-skinned Dr. kept his snail pace until he reached within an arm’s length of me. His expression and the wringing of his hands told me exactly what had happened.
“Miss April, I am truly sorry.” He started to say, when my legs collapsed from under me and my body fell into his and Detective Rodgers arms.
“No!” I screamed. Carrying out the ‘O’ sound and filling the vacant hall with my shriek. Uncontainable sobs exploded from inside of me, my gasps were loud and convulsive as I wailed from agony and heartbreak. “Why?” I yelled out. My bawling intensified as I wrapped my arms tightly around my stomach heaving for air as streams of grief stricken tears poured down my cheeks. I could feel hands rubbing and patting my back with soft sounding voices calling my name. I stood up and scrambled away from them. “How could you let this happen? You were supposed to help him!” I shrieked as I lunged at the Dr. But, he kept me away from him by grasping my shoulders. I flailed my arms desperately trying to reach him, I wanted to hurt him, and I wanted him to feel every ounce of my agony. Stefen was vital in my life, he was more than a special friend to me, he was my brother. Not by blood, but by bond.
In our life time, we come in contact with people who impact us in different ways. Some come and go like a revolving door, and some we call our best friends. But even if some of those we care about dropped off from the face of the earth it would be okay, because we could continue to live without them. Our repeated day to day routine of life that we’d adapted ourselves to wouldn’t change. Others are placed in our lives for a deeper purpose. They give us the aspiration of living life. But not living because the sun and alarm clock wakes us, but because we realize that every day is a gift, and we want to treat that gift to be as precious as the next. Stefen was that person for me. He wasn’t only my friend, he was my saving grace.
I gave up on my efforts to let my aggression out on Dr. Carter. He finally let go of my shoulders and I felt India fold her arms around my waist, and pull me backward into her soft embrace.
“April, I am so sorry for your friend, I know that he meant a lot to you.” She said to me, turning my body towards hers. She gently wiped my tears away with the back of her hand and smoothed my knotted hair from my face “I can assure you that Dr. Carter did all that he could do. Stefens injuries were very severe.”
I could hear all that she was telling me, and in my mind, it made sense, but my heart refused to accept it. He was gone and I blamed the Dr.! Nothing that anyone could say would make me believe otherwise. I was infuriated by the fact that the Dr.’s best wasn’t good enough. I felt Desolate now without him and possibly Melody too. India’s voice began to fade and my attention turned to her smooth skin and round face. Her mysterious black eyes were warm and caring, and I wondered if maybe she understood my heart ache.
“April… April!” India said loudly while shaking my immobile body back into reality. “Did you hear what I Just said?” I blinked my eyes fast, trying to focus. Dr. Carter was now beside her, staring at me with apprehension and attention.
“What?” I asked her. My words came out low and soft, then taking in a deep breath. “Stefen is dead,” I said, without any feeling or emotion. “He’s dead,” I repeated. Confirming it to myself. I looked at Dr. Carter then back to India, while the two of them said nothing and stood completely motionless. On the wall hung a silver cage trapping a square clock inside of it and even its pointy hands were frozen in time. If the world around us was in motion, we were all three unaware of it.
“Can I see him?” I asked India. She looked at Dr. Carter, then back at me, nodding her head “Of course you can.” She wrapped her arm firmly around my shoulder, then held my hand that was between us, and slowly we walked to Stefens hospital room. The large open hall way seemed never ending, and the window at the far end was beginning to show the signs of morning. A cheery sunlight radiated orange and yellow rays, that bounced off of the sleek white floor tiles. India stopped walking, and squeezed my shoulder and hand causing me to stop as well. If she had not been in control, I may have kept walking into the blissful warm lights.
“April, this is Stefens room. Are you sure that you are ready to see him?” India asked. Without answering her, I continued my gaze at the bright sunlit window. “Maybe you should wait a bit.” She said.
A lump filled the inside of my throat, my chest felt weighted down then my lower lip started to quiver. Tears filled my eyes, but none escaped on to my face. I took in a long deep breath hoping to slow my racing heart that was thumping inside of me like a wild animal being held captive and fighting to escape. I didn’t think I could actually look at him now. I wanted to forget the past few months that I watched his body and face transform into feebleness and despair. I wanted to remember him as the vibrant, athletic, and quirky friend that I loved, and would always love. His laughter was infectious, and lit up a room like a bonfire in the middle of a corn field. Stefen was the king of pranks and used me as his target mostly, being that Melody was far too intuitive to be fooled by any of his tricks. I spent a lot of time with the two of them as the third wheel, but neither of them minded. For me to witness his lifeless body now would be far too devastating. It would make his death genuine, and today at this moment, I would have to come face to face with the reality of having to live without him.
The night of my papa’s funeral was a time in my life that I surely will never forget. He was laid to rest inside of a satin lined casket, that was pale blue. The outside of the casket was mahogany with golden prayer hands on the top. Papa was dressed in his Sundays best, a black pinned striped suit, white shirt and a black bowtie. Papa attended church every Sunday morning and at every service he wore the same black suit. ‘Gone but never forgotten’ was engraved onto a silver picture frame that held a faded photo of he and gramma. It sat on a table next to his wooden casket for everyone to see and reminisce about the days that the two of them spent together, healthy and lively. I had wished for that to be the image of papa when I went home that night after his funeral. Instead I was left with his cold and lifeless body stamped into my mind, along with the emptiness and grief.
I longed for him to be warm and electrifying again, I wanted to remember his loving hugs and gentle forehead kisses. His laughter that would fill my ears with sweet music and his passion for life that could never be replaced. Instead, my last memory of him was bare, and missing all of the things that I wanted most in the world. Life.
“Ya know, India?” I quietly said to her. “Maybe I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to see him.” I let go of her hand and began to walk away from Stefens room, and as I did, I imagined him standing behind me smiling and I felt assured in knowing that this was not the right time to say goodbye to my good friend. Making my way back to the empty blue chair where my world crumpled into chunks of misery and gloom, I noticed that the persistent detective was standing against the wall. While my attention had been taken away from detective Rodgers and the news of Melody, I had almost forgotten that he was updating me on his findings in the investigation. He stood against the white hospital wall, with his arms crossed and head down. If I kept quiet and continued passed him, maybe he wouldn’t notice my presence. I needed time to be alone and to process my feelings and rationalize what had happened.
“Miss April.” He called out.
“Shit,” I mumbled. Not wanting to be told any other shocking, or heartbreaking news. I stood still and faced him, and then felt India creep up behind me and gently take my hand into hers. We barely knew each other, but I welcomed her company. My expression was blank as looked at Detective Rodgers, my weak and torn mind was in no way feeling up to a word battle with this man. I had heard enough of his graphic depiction of the foul and revolting farm house, that he believed Melody had been involved with.
“I’m sorry to hear about your friend, I really am, but we need to finish our discussion of Miss Greene. I really don’t think it should wait.” He said to me.
“Man! You are heartless, do you even know what she is going through right now? You need to back off.” India said to him. She stepped in between us keeping my hand held tightly and resting it on the small of her back. I could barely see over her shoulder but I caught a glimpse of Detective Rodgers’ fury building on his face. As I stood close to India’s back the smell of Vanilla bean filled my nostrils and I took in a deep breath of her scent. My eyes were still wet from crying over Stefen but they managed to roll backwards, fluttering my eyelashes as I inhaled. Her presence had a calming effect on me and I began to fathom the realization that Melody too, could be gone. As much as I loved being so close to India and filling myself with her scent I interrupted anyway.
“It’s okay India, I should hear him out.” I said, letting go of her hand. I stepped towards the detective, who looked weary and had taken off his jean jacket, but still clutched that stupid black notepad. He began frantically flipping the pages, licking the tip of his ring finger to make the pages turn easier. Then I realized what I had just said, and almost changing my mind to insist that Detective Rodgers give me more time before my world completely caved in. Stefen had just lost his life after spending months fighting for it and I had lost a friend that made my life worth living. After listening to the discoveries in Melody’s disappearance, even without hearing all of what was to be revealed, I knew the outcome would be devastation.
“Ah, here we go.” He finally said. Then cleared his throat. The ceiling light above his head began to flicker, which gave off an eerie and gut-wrenching scene made for a horror movie. I stared up at it waiting for it to shatter and rain glass down on the three of us. But, the flickering stopped and Detective Rodgers cleared his throat once more, almost like a School teacher trying to get his students to focus on what he was teaching. The words ‘sorry, but your friend is dead’ echoed inside me and I swayed just enough that India wrapped her arm around my shoulder pulling me closer to her.
“April, you really should wait to hear what he has to say.” She said softly.
“Excuse me Miss, but I think it would be in your best interest if you leave the two of us to talk.”
“I’m not going anywhere.” India fired back. “She has been through enough today; can’t you see that man? Or are you too blind? Or are you just doing your job? Which is it?” “I swear you cops need to study compassion and benevolence. I think it would be in your best interest if you pack up your thoughtless notepad and step off!” She snapped. I could feel heat penetrating through her scrub top and a tremble in her hand that clutched my shoulder even tighter. “Don’t tell me what’s in my best interest.” She mumbled.
I turned toward my new protector and said “I appreciate you looking out for me, I really do. But what I think I really need right now is closure.” I forced a small smile by curling the corner of my lip up and winked at her. “Go on Detective, please tell me your findings.”
“I wish it were as simple as that, Miss April. I wish that after all you have been through in these months, that I could bring you happy news. The truth is.” I gasped and held my breath, knowing what his next words would be. “The truth is.” He repeated himself. “We haven’t identified her body. We only have reasons to believe that she was used in a sacrificial burning by suspects known to be in a demonic cult. You see Miss April, we have found charred remains near the farm house that I mentioned to you earlier.” He paused dropping his head. “Without giving away private information about the other victims, I can only tell you that Miss Greene was one of six.”
“Wait, hold it right there!” India blurted out. “April, this sounds fishy to me. So, you haven’t identified her? But you are sure that she’s one of six bodies?” Are you really taking him seriously? She asked turning towards me. “Where are the other detectives?” India probed. Don’t you guys typically work in pairs?” She asked Detective Rodgers.
“Have you charged anyone yet?” I asked him. I knew that my best friend was gone, and I couldn’t, no matter how much I wanted to, change the fact that she could possibly be dead. My attention would now be to hold the people who are responsible, accountable.
“We have our suspicions, but no one has been brought up on any wrong doing.”
“Suspicions?” India Smirked. “You better have more than just suspicions sir.” She barked.
“It’s Detective, I corrected her.”
“Holy hell, whatever!” India huffed.
“Ma’am, um Miss April.” Detective Rodgers stammered. “Your friend is right, I do normally work with a partner, but I’m here today to privately speak with you. I wanted you to know first, about what was happening in the case. Soon it will be all over the news, newspapers, social media and so on, and I just didn’t want you to find out that way.”
I suddenly felt like he was on my side and possibly a good-hearted person, so I let my guard down and began to listen as he read from the notes in his tiny note pad that was certainly an extension of him. He never laid it down and rarely put it inside of his pocket, he clutched it as if he were afraid someone would take it away. Reminding me of a child holding on to a new toy. When Detective Scott Rodgers first began speaking, my intentions were to listen very carefully to everything that he had to say. The descriptions of every horrible act that was committed to my dear Mel, but soon I lost my focus on his words and only watched him as he flipped through the note pages and occasionally he would stop to scratch his head. India stayed by myside like my own security blanket. She held me tightly against her, keeping her arm around me and gripping my shoulder, sometimes even touching the side of her head to mine. I could feel her empathy and knew that she was heeding every gory detail for me. As we stood in the middle of the hallway that was draped bareness, I could see and hear normal hospital activities and thought it must be visiting hours for those who were still alive on this floor. Dr’s and nurses came in and out view through the corners of my eyes, people carrying flowers or balloons rushing passed us, to see their loved ones. My heart sunk as I knew that I would never see either of my friends again. I’d never hear Melody laugh at Stefens childish jokes or giggle at her struggling to pile her long blonde hair on top of her head before we ran our usual training course. Stefen and his idiosyncratic sense of humor could never be replaced or compared to anyone else. The bond that the three of us had was immeasurable and I would forever hold them close to my heart.
In the next few weeks, I slowly began to function like a human being again. I even took time for a bubble bath and ate a real home cooked meal, thanks to India. A few days after Mel and Stefens funerals, India stayed with me almost around the clock. She started off by calling to check on me, then she would come to my apartment unannounced and finally she spent her first night with me. As surreal as it became, I welcomed her company without any struggle. I needed someone to restore my faith in humanity and to help me heal from the loss of my best friends.
I visited Stefen and Melody’s graves weekly. Often sitting for hours staring in disbelief at the names carved into the marble head stones. The flowers soon wilted in the metal vase attached to the top of the gray stone, the grass began to grow in like an emerald green carpet filling in the dirt that was disturbed to lay their bodies to rest. Autumn soon settled in and the leaves on the trees began turning gold and burnt red, and then slowly they danced and twirled to the ground like petite merry go rounds. Winter followed behind, bringing, it’s blustery winds and frozen grounds. My visits became less frequent and eventually stopped all together. I missed my two friends dearly and would think of them often. Whenever our songs played on the radio, or when my cell phone would chime the annoying tone that Stefen set for me, or when I’d see a pretty young blonde bystander, I’d think “it should have been you, and not my Mel.”.
“Time heals all wounds,” they say. “Well, I say. Time is wasted for those who have lost the ones that make life worth living.”
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