His steel-toed work boots thud against the hallway. She turns her face toward the window, the waning moon casts a sliver of light onto the floor. The stale scent of cigarettes and Jack Daniels hangs in the air.
***My throat constricts against the residual smell of him.
“Sade, are you okay?” Detective Brown asks.
I nod and unscrew the top of my water bottle. The cool liquid sooths my choking.
“What did you see?” The girl’s mom sits opposite me, clinging to the red t-shirt. Her hair hangs loose, silver veins catching the light of the meditation room.
My gaze flicks to the detective, his dark eyes focus on mine. The twitch of his jaw tells me I shouldn’t say. I look back at the mom.
“Please.” Her knuckles are white as she strangles the shirt.
“It’s been a long time, Ms. Sanfrey. Sade can’t always get a read,” he says to her.
“Thanks Zach.” I turn to her once more. “What Detective Brown is saying is sometimes I’m not able to get enough of an impression when so much time has passed.”
Tears make muddy lines in her heavy make-up. “Please, you’re my last hope.”
“It’s been fifteen years.” Zach covers her fisted hands, and she relaxes her grip.
She shakes her head. “I know she’s not alive, that’s not what I’m asking for.”
The truth is, I don’t want to see the horrors that befell this girl. I don’t want to be in her head. The people, like Ms. Sanfrey, don’t know the cost of seeing such things. But when I look at this crumpled woman, perhaps I don’t know the cost of what she’s lost.
“Okay.” I sniff. “I’ll try again.”
“Sade, you don’t—"
“I know, Zach. But she deserves to know what happened. And if you can catch the asshole in the process, it’s worth it. Right?” My hand slides across the table; she wastes no time in giving me the shirt.
The girl’s heart falls in time with his footfalls, beating slower, disengaging. I try to open her eyes, see the room and the man that is most certainly coming this way, but she blocks me. Her spirit is strong and I feel her hand slip down between the covers. The rough cotton string of sweatpants burns against her, my, stomach as she cinches them.
I pray my body isn’t acting this out in front of Zach and Ms. Sanfrey.
He’s closer, his labored breathing is familiar to her and sends whirls of nausea through her gut. The creak of the door echoes through the room.
Open your eyes, let me see him.
He stands beside her bed, but she keeps her eyes sealed tight. Hope rises in her chest, maybe he’s too wasted. Maybe the string will hold.
His boots thump one by one as they come off. The chill of night air touches her skin as he throws off the quilt.
Come on, Sal. Open your eyes!
The springs of the bed echo her inner hate and shame as they wail against the weight of him.
The string does not hold.
I wake in the meditation room, face wet from tears and gasping for air.
“You saw. Where is she?” Ms. Sanfrey snags the shirt, though I gladly relinquish it.
My heart beats out a wild rhythm against my rib cage.
“Sade, did you?”
“No. I… She wouldn’t open her eyes.” There’s no sense in telling anyone. Like all the horrors I’ve seen and felt in the last year, they’re scars I bear alone. Well, almost. Somewhere, Ms. Sanfrey’s daughter bore it.
She shoves the shirt back at me. “Try again.”
“I can’t control where I go. I’m sorry.”
Zach leans in. “Sometimes, with this much time and an item that is less personal—”
“No! She saw something, I know you did.” Her nails scratch the table. “Look again.”
Tension is thick in the small space and I glance at Zach. He shakes his head. So many cases we’ve worked together, so many late nights, he knows better than any that what I see can’t be taken back. Sometimes I think he’s like a father to me, but he’s too young for that.
“Do it,” she screams as Zach begins to pull her to her feet.
“Come on Ms. Sanfrey, she tried. I’m sorry. Very sorry.”
Before I have a chance to say my apology, she throws a yellow bouncy ball at me. The moment I catch it, I’m pulled back. Back into Sal.
It’s cold. Oh God, so cold. I’m, she’s wet, hands tied behind her.
Look Sal. Look.
Her eyes pop open and for the first time I can see. It’s green. Green trees through the window, green car. It’s stopped, and as soon as his shadow darkens her view, she shuts him out.
No. Look. Open them. Please open them.
He mumbles something and the sound of the door opening has her holding her breath.
The pressure of his weight constricts her lungs even more, but nothing dulls out the sting of the rope pressed against her throat. She kicks but doesn’t fight much, he’s kept her weak.
Her spirit lets go. Slipping out of her, me along with it.
Open your eyes, damn it.
When she does, I’m, we’re standing behind him and he pushes himself onto her further. He doesn’t know she’s gone.
The sound of ripping splits the air and I’m not with her anymore. I look around the car and the woods. She’s not here.
Two hard knots, or fists maybe, thrust me forward and I fall through the man and back into Sal.
I can’t feel her pain, but at last, I open her eyes.
(c) 2011, MB
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