------------ 11 -----------
About two and a half weeks later
The sky is black and blue, like a giant bruise upon the horizon. Light paints the clouds in white and blinding yellow, and I chance a quick glance out the passenger window to watch the thunder begin opening up the clouds with soft rain.
I sigh and turn up the radio, trying to drown out the sounds of an approaching storm.
‘She’s got a way… about her…’
I tap the steering wheel and hum, realizing that my voice is probably not as good as Billy Joel’s. I think I used to take chorus once upon a time when I was in elementary school, but I could never get the high notes out and the girls were all snobs anyways. They’d probably cringe if they could hear me now.
‘I don’t know what it is…’
The road falls ahead of me, long and straight and practically empty even though it’s rush hour. That’s odd, I think. Maybe they’re just trying to wait out the storm, make sure it’s safe. I stare up at the sky again. That’s what I should have done too, probably. But when have I ever done things the easy way?
It’s gray and dark out, practically black which is strange for this time of year, if I think about it. It usually doesn’t rain during this part of the afternoon---not till July, at least.
‘But I know that I can’t live without her… anyway…’
The sound of soft vocals and piano is lulling and comforting, even though I have to turn it all the way up to drown out the echoing peals of thunder. I make it louder again and focus harder upon the road. This song’s one of my favorites, ironically enough, even though I think about Fox nowadays every time I play it. I think about how he’d like this song, maybe even play it for Hope or listen to it and think of her. Of Scully. He probably thinks about her as much as I think about him. And how horrible is THAT, I wonder, to spend 90 percent of your time dreaming about a man whose heart beats for someone else?
I hate it. It’s idiotic and the ultimate kicker is that I’m no idiot.
He and I are never going to ride off into the sunset. I know that. I do. For Christ sakes, we can’t even agree on what to eat for lunch half the time, let alone tolerate each other in personal surroundings for more than a few hours.
That’s not to say that we don’t get along, because we do. We get along just fine. We get along better than we have in months, actually. And as a matter of fact, after he told me that story—the one of him and his Scully---he started treating me differently. As if he was still weary of me, but at least now he trusted me---or he wanted to. He’d call me up to tell me about his cases---before he left on his own. He took me over to see the gunmen on my birthday and he even got me a card—which surprised me, because I never thought he knew when it was.
He started laughing more, smiling more, even though it was infrequent and inconsistent. It was uncanny. He’d find a Knicks game or a Yankees game and start watching it, going into long speils about miserable defense and missing shots. Sometimes, we’d even make wagers. He owes me five dollars and lunch, by the way. He started becoming the man he once was again, as if telling his story were a burden he needed to lift, and now that he had done that, he could move on. He could try and pick up the pieces. He’s still brooding and unhappy, but at least I feel more a part of him now. It’s only been a two and a half weeks, but I feel better about this partnership than I have in months. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but I feel like I know him—at least part of him---today.
And that gives me hope.
Speaking of which, I am ten minutes late picking the little girl up, which I’m sure won’t go over well with Mrs. Scully. Fox had mentioned something about her going out to dinner with her son, and I have a feeling that she’s going to give me a stern ‘talking to’ as soon as I get there. I can’t help it, but I’m usually late getting to her house---it’s an hour from the building, not to mention off the freeway another fifteen minutes, and I work, what can I say?
Some days, I don’t think it matters to her what I say. She doesn’t particularly like me, I can tell, but she lets me pick Hope up on the days that Fox works late, and I can tell that she grudgingly trusts me. She trusts me because he has, for the past week, assured her that I am ok and on their side. She’s scrutinized me though, sized me up against her daughter, and I think the only reason she even lets me near her home is because she knows that Fox doesn’t trust ANYONE. She knows that he would never put Hope in the custody of anyone he didn’t trust, and if he trusts me… well, then so be it, right?
Sure. Whatever. It still makes me uneasy.
‘She lifts me up when I’m feeling down, inspires me…”
I sigh and grip the wheel harder, my eyes peeled on the road. Storms make me nervous, paranoid, and I hate not knowing when or where the sky’s going to open up on me. I hate hearing the thunder while I’m in my car, knowing that soon it’s going to pour and I’m going to have to drive through it. I have a feeling that I’m going to be later than usual picking Hope up, and Mrs. Scully’s going to be none too pleased. I shudder to think what soft spoken lecture she’s going to give me this time. Fox thinks she’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, but she’s got a vicious underbelly when it comes to protecting her family. It makes me wonder what her daughter was like…
With one eye still on the road, I reach over to grab my black leather purse, straining for the strap on the passenger seat. I yank it towards me and shoot my gaze from it to the road, alternately watching the zipper and the passing scenery. My right hand pulls towards the steering wheel----trying to pull the top compartment open without veering off the shoulder. It’s stuck though, and I curse under my breath as the thunder gets louder, the lightning brighter. I tug harder, more insistently, and groan, knowing that I’ll never get to my cell phone unless this zipper comes open. Damn it.
“Fuck,” I mutter, shaking the bag everywhere, the zipper not coming loose. My eyes fall away from the road for a moment and I grit my teeth, yanking, pulling, calling, “Come on… Come ON!”
I shake my head and raise my eyes to the road just as the rain begins, coming down in sheets in front of me. Shit I think, raising my right arm to turn on the wipers, that’s just----
A flash of something creeps into view.
“OH MY GOD!”
I gasp in shock and terror and I hit the brakes, throwing my purse wide so that it hits the passenger window and slides to the floor. Something is wandering out there on the road----not ten feet in front of me. It’s too big to be an animal and too small to be a man, though it’s wandering and blurry, the rain obscuring my vision. The sound of the car skidding to a halt, screeching and struggling fills my ears. My knuckles are white upon the steering wheel, my arms ramrod straight, my foot floored against the brake. Whatever or whoever it is out there freezes, turning to face me, watching the headlights happen upon it like destiny or maybe death, bearing down. I scream and squeeze my eyes shut, listening to the car groan and shudder, and I pray to whatever god is out there that I have not just run over whatever it is that sauntered into the road. Please, I think, horrified, please don’t kill me. Please let me not kill anyone else, either. Please let it be alright.
I open my eyes the second I realize I’m not dead; the minute I recognize I’m in one piece. I breathe long and deeply, my gaze horrified and unblinking, and I struggle with shaking hands to get the door open. It takes me a minute to remember how to lift the handle, to get my head together, but I finally yank it open into the rain and wind that assault me almost immediately. The door flies backwards and bounces against the spring, and I wince against the blinding sheets of water. My hands fly towards my face, shielding me from the storm, and I throw myself out of the car, squeezing my eyes shut to keep the rain out. Thunder crashes somewhere beyond the trees and lightning crackles down into a field beyond my view. I rush around to the front of the car and bend down, my heart beating, my eyes opening, my brain desperately hoping I haven’t killed anyone. I’m lucky that I’m not dead myself.
Rain obscures the figure for a moment, but then a surrendering hand reaches up from the ground and shakes towards me, obviously afraid and weary. I frown and stare at it, noticing the slenderness of it, the size of it against mine. A woman, I realize, suddenly. Then I look closer and push the hand aside, trying to be gentle and wanting not to scare her. There is another blast of thunder and another gust of wind before I can focus on her face.
Her eyes, I notice, are startling blue and terrified, wide and bright with either fever or delusion. Her skin is pale and smooth, her chin and cheeks dripping with water from the rain beating down on us like miniature construction nails. Her hair is red—almost my shade—but brighter and richer and shorter, hanging just above her shoulders as if it had been hastily chopped and cut by someone who barely knew what they were doing. My own eyes widen and my mouth elicits a gasp, my hands reaching down to grab the woman’s shoulders in horror. She winces and there is another clasp of thunder, booming and thrusting more rain into our bodies. My heart starts racing and we stare at each other in horror, both of us trying to understand and size up the other; she in fear, me in intense shock and disbelief. I swallow and try to ignore the storm.
“Scully?” I somehow manage to gasp out, still gripping her like a vice.
Her body stiffens.
She seems to understand this, or at least she recognizes the word, because her eyes change and she starts breathing raggedly. Her head whips around in confusion and her hands shove me away, her arms desperately trying to pull her weak body, clad in a soaked hospital gown, to its feet. She is unsuccessful though, and her legs give out, causing her to fall back to the street in resignation and defeat.
She stares at me in desperation and cries out, “I don’t know what that means!”
Her fists beat hopelessly at the ground as the rain pounds on us, as she screams, “He knows! He knows and I need to find him!”
I stare at her in confusion and creep closer to her. I don’t know where she’s been or what’s happened to her, but I know who she is and I know what I have to do. I don’t want to do this, but I have to. It’s for everyone’s own good. It’s what’s best… It’s what I have to do, and what I was trained to do and instructed to handle… I know I can make the right decision… Oh god, I know I can…
I swallow and watch her, carefully.
“Help me,” she finally sobs, her head collapsing onto her shaking hands. “Help me find him…Please…”