DISCLAIMER: I do not own CSI. I am borrowing the characters and promise
not to damage any outfits with blood. Sweat and tears may occur, but can be
washed out with any good cleaning powder.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Corbeau's Alcove
"Hey Cath!" Nick bellows down the hall at my retreating back.
"Nicky," I turn, smiling widely. It's funny how I'm now genuinely happy, now that I know that I'm off to see Sara. Not the best circumstance obviously but at least there isn't that daily fear that she'll never tell me why she bolted.
"Jesse told me you invited her to our get together," he says a little stunned. I can't blame him there but I see he's mindful not to ask why I did it.
"She works with us doesn't she?" I ask casually, like it was the natural thing for me to do. I'm not sure if I should be hurt that to him, it didn't seem like the 'natural thing' to do.
"Yeah, yeah she is," he says nodding.
"So there you go," I say smiling when he frowns.
"Are you sure?" He asks me quietly like we're sharing a secret.
"Nick are you worried she'll notice you have a little thing for her?" I joke.
His head shoots up and he starts to fidget.
"No, of course not. I don't have a thing for her," he tries to convince me unsuccessfully.
"Sure Nicky." I pat him on the chest and walk away grinning.
"Why did she come so early?" Greg asks as Jesse waves to us from the diner car park.
"What?" Warrick asks looking at his watch. "She's late G."
"No, I meant, she came on her first invite. Sara, well she hardly ever came."
I drape my arm around his shoulders for a second. I want to tell him that she loved these moments where she was with her family as she called them away from work. That it was in those moments that she felt like she had a purpose. But to divulge ... well you see my constant dilemma. I'm not sure why she never told them that though. They really would have appreciated hearing it. Perhaps Sara never really knew her importance in this group. I hoped I could let her know about it soon.
"I mean you have Lindsay so I understand why you only can come once a month," Greg trails off when Jesse comes over to us.
I decide not to prolong the news any longer. I get everyone's attention, winking at Nick as he offers his seat to Cox.
"I'm taking some time off," I say without preamble. "Two weeks."
"What? Is something wrong?" Warrick asks concerned. In our line of work, such a chunk of time off is unusual unless it's mandatory stress leave. I wish I could confide in him.
"Just some personal business," I say smiling, letting him know I appreciate his concern.
"You need anything you just ask," Nick says. I reach across the table and grab his hand for a moment.
"Thanks guys." I say sincerely. I really do love these guys and it pains me that I can't be honest with them.
But this is not my secret to tell and I won't let Sara down.
"I'm sorry I'm leaving you without a team mate," I say.
"You take the time you need Cath, you look after yourself for a change," Warrick says. He kisses my head and I rest in his hug for a moment.
"Hey, can I get one too?" Greg jokes.
"Don't push your luck Greg, I can still hurt you from far away," I tell him smiling.
Jesse Cox has been sitting silently watching our interplay with some interest. I wonder what she thinks of all this. I know we're pretty hard to crack through but that's simply a product of being together for a long time. I still have questions about her but she deserves to prove her worth just as everyone else did.
"I don't want you going through my desk while I'm away," I say pointing at Greg. He feigns being stabbed in the heart.
We all laugh remembering the time Greg was rifling through Grissom's desk trying to find the mock evaluation Nick and Warrick had made talking about his poor performance. It was mean, but Greg was really on a roll that week with his positive comments from Grissom and it was their brotherly way of knocking him down to earth again.
I look over to Cox again and she's smiling, raising her glass to me.
Lindsay asked me if I was going to find Sara. The look of hope in her eyes made me really think about what to say to Sara to get her back to Vegas. Hell, I wasn't even sure she'd really want to come back. Yeah she said she was planning too but then I wondered if she was even sure herself about what she wanted. I decided to tell a half-truth, instead of completely lie to my little girl because I didn't want to see her sad eyes to be the first thing I saw when I got home.
"I'll be back in two weeks okay angel?" I say kissing her before sweeping her up in a huge hug. Telling her it was work related was the best I could so right now.
"Why are you going on this case mom? Is it like when you went to Miami?"
"Yes baby, someone needs my help. Something very bad happened to them."
"They are lucky to have you mom but why can't I come?" Lindsay says pleading.
"Because you have school," I say grinning when her face crinkles at mention of school.
"I can't learn anything new in two weeks anyway," she says hopeful.
"Sorry, school's important," I tell her.
"I wish Sara was here to look after me while you're away," Lindsay says into my top.
"Sara had to go away baby, she is very sorry she had to go without saying goodbye," I say. Is it true? Is she upset she broke the hearts of two Willows women?
"I love her mom, is that bad?"
I pull Lindsay away from me so I can look into her eyes.
"Why would it be bad?" I ask.
"Because I wished she'd be my mom. Not like you but like my other parent."
Oh you sweet thing. I have to take a few deep breaths before I answer her.
"There is nothing wrong with feeling that Linds. Sara loves you too and she would love to hear that from you."
If she comes back.
"She loves you too mom," Lindsay says as I get up from the floor.
I can't turn around because I'm crying. I don't want Lindsay to see that. She saw it too much when Eddie was still around. She's too young to feel like she needs to comfort me.
The knock at my door startles me slightly and I realise I've nodded off on the couch. Rubbing my eyes and trying to untangle myself from the blankets I make my way to the front door.
"What are you doing here?"
Jesse Cox stands at my doorway, her outfit changed since I last saw her.
"I just wanted to say something before you left," she says smiling.
I let her walk past me, my mind trying to figure out what she has to say.
"So?" I ask.
She turns to face me, that smile still on her face. I hate being the person in the room who has no idea what's going on.
"Catherine, I can see you're in pain. I know it's tearing you apart inside."
I'm shocked at her comment, but try to pretend I don't know what she's saying.
"I'm fine Cox." I say, lips pressed together.
"Look, I have nothing to lose from being so upfront. The others, well they may worry that you'll snap their heads off. I already know you think very little of me. I just wanted to tell you I've noticed and that I hope everything is okay."
"Why would you care either way?" I ask puzzled.
"Because I think you've had your heart broken," she says advancing on me.
"Yeah? How'd you figure that out?" I ask, keeping my footing.
"I've been there," she says shrugging her shoulders.
"And you're here to impart with some magical advice?" I ask sarcastically.
I don't even know how it happened but suddenly I'm against the wall and Jesse's tongue is in my mouth. I sink into the kiss for a moment, just needing to feel someone but I push her away.
"No, I can't." I say shaking my head.
"You've always been the one we've all lusted after Catherine, let me take some of that pain away just for tonight." Jesse says, flicking her fingers over my lips.
"No, I don't need that." I say firmly. "You need to leave."
"Are you sure?" Jesse says, her thigh hitting my core.
"Yes." I hiss. Damn, it would be so easy to allow her to do it.
Jesse smiles as she moves away from me.
"You must really be in love if you're passing up no strings sex," she jokes. "I heard you liked a bit of fun."
I open my door and wait for her to leave. She goes without complaint but that look in her eyes remains. I knew there was something about her that I didn't like. Had she been making a play for me all this time? While brief, I know this isn't the end, but I don't really want to think about it now.
I look at the clock and see that I have six hours before I need to leave. Staring at the couch for a few seconds I make up my mind; tonight I sleep in my bed. The bed I shared with Sara. The bed I hope to share with her again in the future if we can get past this.
I truly hope that's possible.
Flying. It's not my favourite pastime to be honest. A big tin transporter carrying all these people, luggage and copious amounts of fuel. How does it stay in the air? Of course I'm not unhappy it's up in the air considering I'm on it but it really just emphasizes the progress in technology. It's pretty awe inspiring if not a little terrifying.
About ten minutes ago the food cart was postponed and the stewardess' strapped themselves in. Not a good sign. We're experiencing what the man serving me calming called, "severe turbulence."
What a perfect way to sum up my relationship with Sara.
We landed, safely. I sat back while everyone rushed off the plane. I wasn't terribly anxious. Okay I was anxious but that was why I was waiting. I was afraid. What if Sara wanted nothing to do with me? What if she saw this cross country voyage as a pity trip?
I didn't even know what I was going to say to her when I first saw her. I had a few opening lines but they all sounded so stupid, so planned. Would I hug her? Kiss her? Shake her hand?
Oh it was exhausting and I hadn't even begun to think about what I'd say after that.
"Miss? Are you okay?" The young man who sat across from me asked as he stood.
"Yes, just waiting for the stampede to end," I joke smiling.
"Would you like help with your bag," he asks me as I stretch my limbs.
"It's okay, it's pretty light. Thank you."
"You're welcome. Well, enjoy your stay," he says leaving the cabin.
Let's hope I do.
I had my sister take care of all the traveling details because she knew a man who was able to get discounts. It was going to be expensive booking for a flight so fast but I took some of that cash Sam Braun gave me. I still had Lindsay's put away but the cash I was intending on keeping for a rainy day, well it just seemed like it was meant for this.
After all, my Sara was hurting and I needed to be there for her.
I managed to bend the rules a little when I got Sara's phone number traced. Yes, you'd think I would have learnt my lesson with the DNA test but I was willing to get fired this time around. I couldn't just ask Sara where she was, she wouldn't tell me.
I hailed a cab and he dropped me off at the hotel. I wasn't sure which hotel was the best and I didn't care. I would sleep on the sidewalk if I had to. I was just following my sister's instructions.
I must really thank her for all this. After all, she wasn't Sara's number one fan yet she still really did make such an effort here. I'm truly blessed.
Showered and changed I find my heart is beating faster with every step made towards the door. I'm not sure if I'll survive the trip to the Sara's front door.
Grabbing a cab and rattling off the address, I sit with sweaty hands laying in my lap and a thousand thoughts running amuck in my head. I don't even realise the car has stopped until the man tells me the fare. I give him the money, my hand shaking.
He zooms off and I'm left to stay on the pavement staring up at the Raleigh Marriott. Nancy had asked me if I wanted to stay in the same one as Sara but I declined. I still wanted a little space and I'm sure she would also.
"Hello, welcome." The neatly dressed doorman greets me.
"Main desk?" I ask.
He directs me to the desk and I suddenly wonder if I should be here. I'm not happy with her that's a given but now as I stand ready to ask for her, I wonder if I'll get mad at her right away. Do I deserve to do that, to be mad with her? Which emotion will be the first to fall from my mouth?
"Yes, can I help you?" The woman inquires.
"Hello, I'm Catherine Willows, I'm looking for Sara Sidle."
"I'm sorry, I can't give you that information unless you are on her list of visitors."
Fair enough. I wonder if I can pull rank. I take my identification out smiling.
"Sorry, I thought my secretary called. I'm here on official business. Crime Lab."
She takes my i.d from me frowning.
"Yes, I'm trying to find the missing piece to my case," I say. Not a total lie.
"I'm sorry, I don't think this is allowed," she tells me.
"Okay, I understand," I sigh. Worth a try. I don't want her getting fired. "Can you call her, let her know she has a guest?" I ask hopeful.
"Yes ma'am." She says smiling.
"Can you not tell her who is calling?" I ask.
"Okay," she says looking at me weirdly.
"Thank you," I say sincerely.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.
I'm not getting any younger here Sara, come on.
Sara was rung about fifteen minutes ago. She was hesitant to come down but said she would. I wish we had been given a time on that because I'm pacing the foyer.
I sit in one of the big red couches located near the front doors shifting my body to get the best view of the elevators. The ding sound must have gone off a thousand times since I've been listening for it yet Sara is still not appearing. I'm about to get up and ask for her to be called a second time when I look up to see a few businessmen exit the elevator with their suitcases.
Why aren't I moving towards her? Is she really there?
I finally seem to snap out of my daze but it's too late. The doors close taking Sara with them.
I'm hitting the buttons like a crazed woman hoping that elevator will return to my floor. The other one comes down, the chime goes off. It's empty.
"Shit," I curse. "Come on, come on." I chant, watching the numbers on the top of the elevator. It's going up. I want it down.
"You in a hurry?" A man asks me after observing my near hysteria.
"Sorry? Oh, my friend is in there," I say smiling a little embarrassed.
He smiles and points to the elevator.
"It's coming back down. Obviously that one hundredth hit there did the trick."
I smile at his joke.
My heart starts beating faster again. I don't know why I'm so scared to see Sara. I feel like this is a defining moment in my life yet it's just an elevator.
An elevator carrying Sara.
The chime goes off and the doors open agonizingly slow. At first I think Sara has vanished but as I move to the centre of the elevator I see her. She looks pretty exhausted and I know that it's not just a lack of sleep that's making her look so ragged.
"Catherine?" Sara says for a second time since this whole chasing elevator game started.
Ah that's good, we've established we know each others names.
"Are you getting out ma'am?" The man standing with me asks Sara. It shakes us both out of our trance and she nods. Soon the doors close and Sara is standing next to me.
"What are you doing here?" Sara asks amazed.
"I came to see you."
"How'd you know I was here?"
We've still not made a move to each other and I wonder if she'd happy to see me.
"I traced your call." I admit smiling.
"Does Grissom know?"
"I thought I'd keep it a secret. Can't have him knowing everything," I say realising how it sounds after I say it.
Sara flinches slightly.
"Sorry," she mumbles.
"There will be time for that later. I just want to help you right now. First thing you need a shower. Then a good meal." I say still not moving to touch her.
"I'm fine," Sara grumbles.
"Bullshit. Come on," I say pressing the up button. "What floor are you on?" The Mother Catherine persona comes in handy sometimes.
"Seventeen," she says looking away.
We stand near each other both not sure what to do or say.
The doors open and we enter together but still silently. I want to touch her, just to make sure she's real but when I come closer she backs away. That hurts but I try to brush it aside.
"Sorry," she says for the third time since I've seen her.
"I'm not going to hurt you Sara."
"Why not? I hurt you." Sara says looking into my eyes.
Yes you did but I don't want to discuss that until later.
"Sara I want to take you in my arms and comfort you."
"I can't, not yet." Sara tells me, her eyes pleading for understanding.
I nod letting her know I understand. Do I though? I can't ignore the part of me that is hurt by that.
The doors open and we exit. Sara leads the way, saying nothing. Once we get inside the room she sits on the bed. I decide to sit on the wicker chair near her.
"I watched the video you sent. Sara, baby I don't know what to say."
"There isn't anything to say really. It happened and I have to live with it forever."
Oh my poor Sara. Her voice broke my heart. It was so dejected, so hollow I almost cried. How do I make this better?
"Not on your own," I tell her.
"I was the only one there who could have done something."
"You did all you could. There is no shame in being afraid for your life."
"At least I have one. Ronnie doesn't."
Oh dear. I take a few seconds to reply hoping what I say will help.
"Yes you do Sara and look at the good you do. Your dedication, your care in every case gives vindication to those wronged. I know of no one more dedicated in what they do. My Sara, always healing others. Be proud of that; I am. Everyday I see it in their eyes when they talk to you. You fill them with hope that life will move on. Yes there are memories but your own attack, your own experience has become a valuable tool to help others."
Sara looked up at me the entire time I spoke. It was from the heart, I know she saw that. I spoke with passion because I believed every word of it.
"I'm ashamed." Sara admits, her head falling into her hands.
I can't stand this any longer. I get up out of my chair and pull her to me. She resists, her body locks but I try and try until her sobs become louder. She falls into my body and I rock her gently. I don't care how long I have to sit here, if she needs to cry the entire time I'm here then so be it.
"No, no." Sara says after a few minutes in my embrace. She unwraps herself and pushes away from me.
I still sit on the floor as she stands and backs away from me. She's not sure where she's going, I can tell that as she hits the small table knocking the vase over. The water spills to the floor in a gush, the flowers fall out of the vase and lay in the wet patch now seeping through the linen table cloth.
"I thought I'd feel something if I told you, if I let you in." She says quietly.
"And?" I prompt her gently.
"I just feel dirty. I see pity in your eyes. I never wanted to see that. That's why I kept it from you. I've seen many different emotions reflected in your eyes before. I never wanted to see that one."
"Baby, what you're seeing is pain and a little fear. The pain comes from seeing how you struggled on that tape, how that secret is eating away inside you. I don't feel pity baby."
"Fear of what?" She asks like I said nothing.
"Fear that you'll find this too much and I'd never see you again," I admit.
"I told you I'd come back," she says defensively.
"Even after disclosing what happened to you and Veronica?"
Sara looks at me and I know she sees I have a point. She drops her eyes to the floor and shakes her head.
"I hadn't really thought much out," she says ashamed.
"Not even you Sara, the sharpest mind I know, could plan for this."
"I should. I should pull myself together for Veronica and her mother. She's so strong Catherine and here I am falling apart."
"I'm here Sara," I say standing up. I stop walking to her when I see her flinch.
"Nothing has changed. I'm still a coward and Ronnie's still dead."
"A lot has changed. Look at your work Sara. You help get justice for people like Veronica. You have someone who loves you, team mates who adore you and Lindsay simply can't stop talking about you. You've made a difference Sara."
Her eyes come up to meet mine and I want to cry. They are so bloodshot and full of despair.
"I don't want to talk about it anymore," she sobs.
I nod, knowing I won't get anywhere if I push her. I sit on the bed to collect my thoughts hoping she'll reach out to me soon.
I'm not sure if I should say anything. Sara is now sitting, her arms around her knees against the door. She's no longer crying but a few hitches of breath tell me it wouldn't take much for her to cry again. I can hear the very loud dripping of water onto the carpet. It's annoying me to no end. I have enough and take my frustration out on the poor unsuspecting vase. I pick it up roughly, place the flowers back in and head to the bathroom to fill it back up. Next I grab a dry towel off the side of the bath and attend to the spillage. The whole time I try not to look at Sara yet out of the corner of my eye I can see she's following my every move.
Finally I'm satisfied with my little clean up job and I throw the towel on the back of the chair. I look over to Sara who averts her eyes the second she notices I'm looking at her. I'm trying so hard not to be upset by it and on the outside I think I'm succeeding. Inside, well inside I'm crying a little.
Maybe I shouldn't have come. Maybe Sara sees this as too confrontational.
I start to think like that then I remember her phone calls to me when she promised she'd tell me why she left. She told me she planned on letting me know, why should I feel guilty for coming to see her?
"Thanks, that was getting annoying," Sara says smiling slightly.
My heart does cartwheels over a small smile so tiny others would have missed it.
"That's okay," I say also smiling.
"Would you like something to eat?"
"No, I'm okay. You need to eat though," I say concerned.
"I can't. Nothing stays down," she admits.
"Just something light. Some toast will do."
"Okay," Sara says getting up.
She phones in an order and hangs up. I think she's moving towards me but she's grabbing the wet towel and heading to the bathroom. It's as if I'm not even here.
"I'll uh, be going now I guess." I say uncertain.
Sara stops mid stride to look up at me.
"Back to Las Vegas?" She asks. I think she's a little upset that I may leave but I'm not sure if that's just me being hopeful or not.
"Back to my hotel." I say quickly.
"I'll call you tomorrow." I want to give her my number but I'm not sure where we are right now. At least if I call her she can choose whether to take the call or not.
I turn, hoping Sara will ask me to stay.
She opens her mouth to say something but nothing comes out. I know she's struggling so I just open the door and leave. I have to because I don't want her to see my tears. I close her door and they fall. One after the other like a waterfall the tears fall. I'm hurting for her, I'm hurting for me. I'm not sure if I've ever felt this sad.
I got no sleep after getting back to my hotel. It was as if I had failed, that I wouldn't get another chance. A thousand questions ran through my mind. Had I done the right thing coming to Sara like that? Had I pushed too hard? Would she want to see me again? My heart was so sore I wondered if I had the strength to keep on going.
I tried laying in my bed but all I did was stare at the ceiling. I ordered a chamomile tea with honey but it only served to make me more frustrated when that didn't work either. I hate having to try and get some sleep at a time I'd usually be working.
I unzipped my suitcase and decided to iron. I'm not sure why. All I could really concentrate on was Sara. The way she shied away from my touch, the way she looked so sad. I thought my love would change the way she was feeling like an instant fix but I only served to make myself sad in the process.
I was conflicted between wanting to push her to make her need me and letting her know that I was here when she needed.
"Shit," I hiss as the iron hits my hand. Perhaps ironing isn't a good idea when I'm not focused.
I look at my watch and see it's just gone past midnight. I decide to take a walk, perhaps that will help tire out my overworked senses.
"Ma'am," a boy no more than twenty greets me as I enter the elevator. I smile and let him know I want to go to the lobby.
"Here on business?" He asks.
"Of sorts," I reply.
"I hope you enjoy your time here," he says smiling.
"You're a little young to be working so late aren't you?" The mother in me asks.
"Traineeship ma'am, I work all the shifts. The hotel likes to start us out on this shift." He says shrugging.
"Poor thing," I say smiling in sympathy.
"It's okay. I've never been big on social events with kids my age so I find I'm not missing anything."
"You should try to do things for yourself, don't become too wrapped up in work," I say, my mind flashing back to the lecture I had once given to Sara along the same lines.
"My girlfriend also works here so we are pretty lucky."
"Well here you go ma'am. Take care out on the streets," the young man tells me.
I smile at his tone and bid him farewell.
"Another ma'am?" The waitress asks me as I finish up my third coffee.
"No thanks, I think I've had enough," I say smiling.
I throw a few bills on the table and decide to head back up to my room. My cell phone rings as leave the cafe.
"Jesse?" I ask confused.
"How are you?" She asks.
This is not a call I want nor need. I feel a tiny bit of arousal flash through my body, a reminder of her little confrontation before I left Vegas. I hate myself for it.
"Do you need anything?" I ask a little harshly.
"I've been debating what to say after I kissed you. I was planning on ignoring it but I have to admit I am ashamed at my behaviour and I wish to apologise. I could clearly see the love you have for your partner in your eyes after you pushed me away. I should have made sure it was something you wanted."
"So I wish to say sorry and hope that this will not affect our working partnership."
"You were out of line Cox but I'm willing to move on if you realise we cannot be more than what we already are." I say softly as if I'm afraid someone is listening.
"Acceptable." She says.
"Well fine then. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go." I say.
"Certainly, best of luck Catherine."
She hangs up but instead of feeling like something had been resolved I feel very uncomfortable.
I need my Sara.
I was being chased by something big. I'm not sure what but it was terrifying me because I could feel the fear, I could taste it on my tongue when I woke. Another nightmare. I'd been having them since Sara left only now the context was different. Before I could always see her face or feel it was her. She was hurting me. Not physically but words, actions, something was hurting me.
Ever since I watched that tape I've felt as though I was Sara. I was watching not Veronica but her being attacked. I was witnessing her murder. This one was different, there were no distinguishing shapes or faces.
Amazing how something so indescribable could be so frightening.
I peer over to my watch. It's just a touch past midday. I want to reach over for the phone but I decide to have something to eat first. I pick out a simple meal, just a croissant and a pot of tea. It comes while I'm undressing for the shower so I throw on my robe and allow the man to wheel the cart in. I pour a cup of tea and sit on the bed. It takes about three minutes before my self resolve cracks.
"Sidle," a tired and sad Sara answers her new cell.
"It's me," I say softly.
Okay, at least she hasn't hung up on me.
"I forgot to tell you I had my cell with me if you needed to chat," I tell her.
"I want to be here for you." I admit.
"I know you do."
"Sara, I don't know what to talk about."
"Neither do I."
I sigh. I should have thought this out a little better instead of rushing.
"Is it possible?" I ask hopeful.
"I'm not sure Catherine, I'm honestly not sure."
I'd like to think in a circumstance so dire she could answer that differently. I often thought when I was with her that I could support her through anything as she could for me if needed. I was so deeply in love with her perhaps it blinded me to a few things. Should I have pushed her harder for details when a rape case would come around?
I had wanted her to say me being her made all the difference. I wanted to hear that so badly.
"Should I go back to Vegas?" I ask.
"You can't do much here or there."
Okay now that one really hurt. I'm crying now and I know she hears it.
"I don't know what to say Catherine," she admits. "Please don't cry."
"I can't help it Sara." I say in-between small hiccups.
"Perhaps you should go back to Vegas. Be with Lindsay."
"I won't abandon you Sara," I say firmly.
"You're not. I know you care. This won't be a failure if you go back."
"It will be to me Sara."
"It shouldn't be."
"I love you Sara. I know this may not be the time to remind you of that, but I do not let those whom I love fight things alone." I say angrily.
"I'll only hurt you," she says.
You already have.
"I'm not here as your lover, I'm here as your friend. I'm here to support you, no strings." Did that sound as muddled aloud as it did in my head?
"But you just told me you loved me." I can see Sara is also confused by my previous remark.
"Yes and I do but you're also my closet friend." Good save Catherine.
"I don't know Catherine, I'm not sure what's the right answer here."
"Have coffee with me. If only so I can say farewell in person." I plead.
"I don't really want to leave my hotel room," she says quietly. I know she's ashamed to admit it so I don't push.
"That's fine sweetie."
"Okay, coffee. In an hour?"
"An hour. Take care Sara," I say hanging up.
I kept thinking the entire trip to Sara's door that I wasn't going to make anything better with my words of support. Sara clearly didn't want it from me. Here I stand, a foolish woman thinking she can solve problems simply by loving someone. How stupid have I been coming clear across the country to a woman who wasn't interested?
Rhetorical question obviously.
"Hi, I already ordered," Sara says as she opens the door.
I stay away from her, choosing to sit on the chair the furthest away. I can't be near her and not want to reach out.
The uncomfortable silence from our previous get together in this room descends upon us once more. This time however I have nothing to say. All the good intentions of the first time were rejected so I'm flying blind.
"How's Lindsay?" Sara asked, pouring two cups of coffee. I can see the steam rise as I watch her.
"She misses you." I blurt out.
"I miss her too. I miss a lot about my life in Vegas," she says looking at me in the eyes for what feels like the first time in years.
"It's still there for you," I say hoping we're talking about the same thing. Reading between the lines is frustrating.
"It's never going to be the same," she says shaking her head.
"No it won't but it doesn't have to all turn out badly," I say taking my coffee from her.
"I think my life was destined to be shit," Sara says sitting on the bed.
I want to yell at her to recall all the good times we've had but something holds me back.
"Not everything was bad," I say instead.
"True." She says sipping her coffee. She could always drink it hotter than I could. She'd often joke my drink could have been an iced coffee with the time it took to drink it.
"Good coffee," I say unnecessarily.
If we start talking about the weather I'm going to scream.
"Board decided soon," Sara says ever so softly.
"Do they let you know?" I ask, glad we're talking about it.
"Yeah. I hope he rots in prison."
"What are his chances of release?" I ask.
"He shouldn't have even been eligible for parole," Sara says angrily.
"I agree but you and I know the justice system isn't perfect. Nothing in life is Sara."
"I don't need a lecture," she spits out.
"Sorry," I say looking down into my cup. It's as dark as I feel.
"No, I'm sorry. Shit."
"It's okay," I tell her. And Catherine Willows keeps on lying to protect others.
I look up and see tears falling from her red eyes. I almost drop my coffee onto the carpet not worrying if it stains and bundle her up in a firm embrace.
"Baby let it out. It's okay." I whisper as I feel her wrap her arms around me. I pray she won't pull away this time.
She cries for quite a while but slowly she calms down enough for me to pull away slightly. I wipe her eyes with my jumper not caring that it's one of my favourites. What's a piece of clothing compared to Sara?
"Baby, let me stay," I plead.
Sara says nothing, just falls back into my arms. I decide to remain silent and before long I feel her slump against me. As I move her head I notice she's asleep. She's been so fatigued, this latest round of tears must have completely exhausted her. I lay her down gently and pull the blinds. I contemplate laying next to her but decide it may be too early for that so I simply sit back in the chair and watch her sleep.
I'll still be here when she wakes.
My jaw and pretty much the left side of my face hurts. It was my own fault I guess. Sara was having a nightmare and I went to her. She wasn't really making sense; mumbling and thrashing about. That's when I got injured. Sara's fist connected with my cheek and as I moved away from pure pain, her head and my jaw became acquainted. Rather painfully I might add.
She had a few more of those wordless nightmares throughout the night. I just sat near her whispering words of love. She had a history of them, the first one I ever encountered scared me half to death. I remember telling her about it the next morning, but she pretended like I had dreamt it.
I wonder if they were all because of when I had just learnt. I wonder if all that time she'd been carrying these images in her mind, only releasing them when darkness consumed her.
I hear a slight rustling on the bed, usually an indication that Sara is slowly waking up. The makeshift ice pack that had been covering my cheek is quickly discarded as I stand. I want her to know she's not alone, that I didn't leave her.
"Morning," I say softly.
She looks so much like my Sara for a moment. A small smile spreads across her face and her eyes carry that softness I always see directed to me. Then, before I can capture it it's gone, replaced by a look of pain and total depression.
"Your face?" She asks, covering the sheet over her fully clothed body.
"I was having a shower, kinda slipped," I lie.
"How did you get your face on one side?" Sara asks. I can see the investigative mind ticking over.
"Tried to break my fall but it went wrong," I say smiling.
"It looks like someone hit you Catherine. We've both seen bruises like that on battered women," she says frowning.
"Does it? I've been too scared to look in the mirror," I say hoping she'll take that line for nothing more than pure vanity on my part.
"Yeah baby?" I say before realising my term of endearment slipped out naturally.
"I did that didn't I?" She doesn't look at me. I knew I wouldn't have been able to fool her with my flimsy lie.
"It's okay Sara, you were restless last night," I say wanting to reach out and touch her.
"I'm so sorry. I'm always hurting you." She says softly.
"I chose to be here, to fly across the country to be with you." I say firmly.
"You shouldn't have bothered."
Oh Sara. She's so lost, I don't know how to get her back here in the present with me.
"I want to. You are my life Sara. Forget when I said in the heat of anger, I am here for you because I love you." I say reaching out to place my hand on her leg.
"I'm not sure if I want that Catherine. I think this is a path I need to travel on my own."
What can I say? What is the magical line that will make it all better? Surely I should have that power to help my Sara.
After about ten minutes of persuading her, Sara finally jumped into the shower. She closed the door and locked it which made me a little sad. She obviously didn't trust me. I would never just walk into the bathroom while she was in there but that was just another indication that she wasn't ready to let me in.
I tried to push that aside and order some fruit for her. She was looking so thin, not that she was ever big, but it was scaring me just how badly she was letting things get away from her.
She got out after a long time in the bathroom and saw me sitting on the bed with a coffee. I pointed to hers on the table and she silently reached for it.
"Eat some fruit, it's great." I say in my best mother voice.
She picks up one piece of grapefruit and takes a small bite out of it. I almost rejoice aloud but I pretend I don't even notice.
"Did you put ice on it?" She asks from near the door.
"Yes, that's probably why it's so visible," I say looking up at her.
"I have to go out soon," she says suddenly.
"Oh okay. Want me to come with you?" I ask full well knowing I'm being pushy.
"I have to see Ronnie's mother."
Sara turns to me, she doesn't come closer.
"Can you wait here for me?"
"I'll go downstairs if you want," I tell her. I don't want to hang around in her space even if it is just a hotel room.
"I may be a while. A few hours. Will you wait that long?" She asks worried.
I'd wait under a tree during a storm if she asked me to.
"Call me and I'll meet you for lunch or just coffee," I tell her smiling.
"Okay." She waves awkwardly and I stand hoping she'll come over and embrace me.
"You'll be okay?" I ask concerned.
"No, but I have to pretend." She admits.
"No you don't Sara." I say softly. My poor baby.
"I do. I don't know how Ronnie's mom can even stand to see me."
Survivors guilt is such a hard thing to comprehend. I can offer advice but I know that Sara's mind won't change. She hates feeling like she'd let someone down. It's one of the things I love about her, the fact that she always tries her hardest to help others. It also breaks my heart because I know that sometimes even her best isn't enough.
"Call me okay?" I say coming over to stand near her. I don't reach out because I'm not sure I can take her flinching away from me.
"Okay. Bye." She says opening the door.
Soon the door closes and I stand in the room alone. I'm not sure she even notices the smallest of movements away from me whenever I'm close but to me they feel like we've standing on two separate corners of the world.
But I can't think about my feelings here, I'm not the one suffering. Well no, that's not entirely true is it?
How many magazines can I read before I go totally insane? All the gossip mags tell me different things about the same star. Britney; on my last count has had liposuction, been on drugs, been on a no carb diet, been arrested, and been seen kissing some other two-bit star. Oh my eyes are bleeding.
I've become one of those people with a really short attention span. I've flicked the television on and off so many times my thumb hurts. I ordered room service yet didn't touch the food. If I look at my watch one more time I'm going to scream.
I grab my jacket and make sure the door's locked. I need some fresh air.
Once I'm outdoors I feel a little better. I don't want to venture too far out just in case Sara calls me so I find a nice little park to just relax for a few minutes.
It's a lovely setting but I just really want to be back in Vegas with Sara by my side. I often would stop and watch her working, amazed that she was with me. She often was so wrapped up in her work she probably wouldn't notice if a wild tiger ran past her but I loved it. Her focus and pure dedication was amazing.
Then she'd look up, catch my eye and I'd see what she was feeling about the case. If she was confident she'd allow herself to smile slightly. If she was mad, I saw it in her eyes. I knew what to do. How to act.
But now I had no idea. I saw the anguish but she wasn't receptive to me at the moment. I'm not sure if it was shame or she simply didn't need me. Sitting here on the bench I had to wonder if coming to find her was such a good idea.
Sara called me a few minutes ago to let me know she was ten minutes away. I knew I had time to compose myself, stop thinking about me and start to focus on her. Sitting in the bar just off to the left of the lobby I ordered a glass of wine. Early in the day perhaps but I felt like I needed a little something stronger than a cup of tea.
I turned to see Sara looking at me with a puzzled look on her face. I felt nervous all of a sudden, like I'd been caught doing something I shouldn't have been.
"Want a drink?" I say standing up.
"I don't think alcohol is a good idea," she says with what I felt was a lecturing tone. I certainly don't want her to think I'm trying to sway her from her great work so far with her AA meetings.
"Coffee Sara, can I get you a coffee?" I say slowly.
"Coffee is fine," she says finally taking a seat opposite me.
I order two coffees as we sit in silence. I take the time to really look her over. She's lost a bit of weight but that's usual for her when she's stressed. I could only imagine just how bad she's feeling with the non verbal emotion she shares with me. Her eyes are overshadowed by huge black marks, a sure sign she's not sleeping.
I could tell even her wardrobe was suffering. The times she was really depressed her clothes showed it. It almost looked like she just picked the first thing she saw, not caring about her presentation. That's not to say other times she was vain but she knew what looked good on her. She wasn't flamboyant in her clothing like I'd often be accused of being but she took simple and made it look damn sexy.
"When do you go back?"
It was as if all the breath in my body had been sucked out. We get sometime to talk and the first question is when am I leaving? I won't show her how much this hurts.
"Let's not talk about that right now." I say.
"I'm sorry about your face," she says looking into her coffee as she speaks.
"It's fine. Honestly."
"I got more sleep last night than I have since I got that letter from the parole board," she admits, still not meeting my eyes.
"All those nights at home, when you thought I was sleeping? I heard you in the kitchen." I say. I know she didn't know that and her sharp lift to see my face proves it even more.
"Why didn't you say anything?" She asks stunned.
"I thought you would come to me when you were ready." I say shrugging. "I often struggled with it Sara, not sure if I should go to you so I just kept my eye on you for any sign it was too much. Then I'd come to you in the little ways, like a gentle hand squeeze or making sure you took a break from work. Just to let you know there was someone who was there for you."
She nods and takes a deep breath.
"When you told me you loved me I felt so ill inside. Not because of what you said but because of the timing. I was concealing this horrible experience and there you were opening yourself with such force. I felt like I had let you down."
"I'm not going to take it back, it's the truth. But I will say that you didn't have to respond with the same. I just wish that you had let me in. I never wanted to change you, make you open up to me like we were on a special couples episode of Doctor Phil." I stop for a moment to compose myself, "but when you conceal something like this it makes me think I wasn't enough for you." I say honestly. I didn't want to say all that but once I opened my mouth it just seemed to flow out.
"I don't want you to think that Catherine. You are my light but I just couldn't darken that with my past."
"But that's what a partnership is baby." I say softly.
"I know I let you and Lindsay down. I can't ever fix that."
"You told me about Veronica. I'll admit that I'd have preferred this all happened differently, but now I know baby, and I want to be there for you."
"I want to be honest with you. I need to be honest with myself first."
"Okay, so I'll go home then. I don't want to be around always pressuring you to make a decision." I say. Where did that come from? It was as if someone else took control of my voice there.
"You'd do that?" Sara asks amazed. To be honest I'm amazed too. I really need to keep my mouth shut. I'm totally disorganized.
"If you asked me right now, I'd do it yes."
She looks away and finally locks eyes with me. My heart is beating faster than it would have if I'd just run a marathon waiting for her answer.
Time has stopped. I'd even hazard a guess that the world has stopped spinning. I really do feel like that awaiting the answer to a question I should never have asked.
"I can't Catherine, I can't." Sara says shaking her head.
"Can't what?" I almost shout. My voice is a little louder than usual.
"I can't make that decision."
Okay so that's good right? She doesn't want me to leave.
Or she doesn't want me to stay but is afraid of my reaction.
"You think I need to?" I ask.
"I can't. I just really can't."
"I think I should wait until you get the call from the parole board. Then I'll go okay?" I say, wanting so desperately to reach out and clasp her hand.
"Okay." She says nodding.
Okay so that wasn't as succinct as I had hoped for but at least I'm not getting a cab back to my hotel and re-packing my bag just yet.
"Do you want to talk to Lindsay later? I have to call her." I say not really wanting to leave her. I asked Nancy to tell Linds when I left just where I was going. I knew it was a cowards way and that Linds would deserve an explanation from me later, in full. I just didn't want to see the light in her eyes, see the anticipation that I was returning with Sara.
"I'm not sure if she'd want to talk to me," Sara says sadly.
"She does. She'll need to hear from you to make herself feel better about all this." I tell her. It's the truth. In our last conversation, I saw just how much my little girl was suffering. I know she didn't have the expectations I had and that would make it easier on Sara.
"But what could I say to her?"
"Whatever you want. Just don't lie to her too much. She doesn't deserve that." What a hypocrite am I.
She looks up at me and I see fear in her eyes.
"Oh no Sara, baby I'm not saying you tell her about what brought you here. If you say you had some personal business she'll take that." I say hoping it's the truth.
We sit in silence again until Sara's cell startles us both.
"Hello? Hi Martha. No that's okay. I can come over now if you want." Sara says softly into the phone. Her tone is so gentle that on instinct, I get jealous.
"No, it's no problem. I told you to call anytime."
I get up and walk over to the bar partly to give her some privacy but mostly so I could hide the anger I am feeling. It's making me feel pretty cruel. Here I am feeling jealous and Sara's going through this immense suffering.
"Cath?" Sara's voice filters towards me and I try to take a composing deep breath.
"Thought I'd give you some privacy," I say coming back over.
I'm about to sit when I feel a tug at my wrist. Looking down I see Sara has grabbed me and is holding on tight.
"It was Ronnie's mother. She wants me to come over again."
My pulse is racing a little faster, surely she could feel what she does to me. I smile and move so we're now holding hands.
"Go, I'll see you tomorrow okay? Just call me."
"No," she says quite firmly and I think I've said something wrong. Which, given the constant precipice I feel like I'm dangling from, wouldn't be hard.
"Okay, so what ..." I'm cut off by her squeezing my hand.
"I want you, I mean would you stay here? I can get you a room."
She looks so small asking me and I waste no time, smiling and kneeling next to her chair.
"I'd sleep on the piano if you asked," I admit, my heart speeding up when I see her smile. Her first genuine smile since I got here.
"I'll get you a room, if you want to get your stuff."
She still looks hesitant.
"Okay. Call me. I don't care what time." I say kissing her hand.
"Are you upset that I didn't ask you to stay with me?"
My impulse response is to say yes but I know she needs me to lie to her. So I do.
"Of course not Sara. I know you need your time."
Her hand runs down my cheek, across my bruise.
"I don't want you getting hurt." She says with such sadness and I can see a little bit of anger flash through her eyes, anger at hurting me. I guess I shouldn't mention the external hurt feels nothing like my insides. Yeah, that wouldn't be a smart idea Catherine.
"Go baby, go see Veronica's mother. We can talk later."
She kisses my cheek and I almost melt at the contact.
"Thank you Red," she says before leaving.
This entire conversation has helped erase so much of the pain it's incredible to think I ever cursed her name. I know it'll diminish but in this moment, in this moment I cherish it.
What else can I do?
I sit back down. I have to call my daughter and I know that conversation won't be an easy one.
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