DISCLAIMER: Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is the property of NBC and Dick Wolf, and being used without permission or intention of profit.
SERIES: Third part of the Desktop Confessionals series following A Plain Morning and The Choice I have Come to Fear the Most.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
We sigh deeply as the moving van pulls away. Her arm finds its way to my shoulders and she squeezes me tight. I snuggle into her warm embrace in an attempt to curb the freezing wind. The snow crunches underneath our boots as we walk back into the house. It's not my house anymore. It's hers. The dog comes bounding up to me, pawing at me to pick him up. I lean down, place a kiss on his head, and turn to her. I want to tell her I will miss this. Her, the house, the dog. I will. I want to tell her I am sorry. I am. She nods her head in understanding and no words seep from my mouth. We know that there really is nothing to say.
She doesn't know the real reason I am leaving, but she understands I need to go. She held me in bed the night I told her the news. She whispered that she understood but didn't ask a single question as to why I was going. She knows I'll be in New York, but she doesn't know which city. She thinks it's because I received a lucrative job offer that I could not refuse. I did receive an offer I could not turn down, but it is not for a job. That night, as she held me against her body, I realized that she loves me more than anyone ever has. Maybe more than you. She's so selfless, to just let me leave without asking questions. She's never asked questions. I think she knows I'd have no answers if she did.
We stand in silence in the house that never felt like a home to me. I see her blinking back tears. The ever strong detective in her is putting on a brave face. I can't imagine what this is like. I can see the pain in her eyes and I hate myself for causing it. I've seen a look similar to that before. I saw it in your eyes. Staring at her, I must admit, she looks more in pain than you did. For a split second I wonder if I've made the right decision. I've doubted myself quite a few times. But only in those split seconds do I wonder. I know what I need to do, I know where I belong.
She holds her arms out to me and I quickly fall into her. I hold her tighter than I ever have trying impossibly to show her how sorry I am. She pulls her head back and places a kiss on my forehead. She understands. After a too short of an amount of time she pulls away from me and glances at her watch. I take a look at the stainless steel clock against the wall and see what she's already noticed: time is up.
We both nod at each other as she grabs one of my bags and I grab the other. I double check my purse to make sure I have my passport before giving her a quick smile. We both feel nauseas I can tell. I break my eye contact with her and turn to the puppy that I adore. He sits patiently and wags his tail. Bending down I pull him into my arms and his still lingering puppy breath hits my face. I feel immediately reassured. There's always been something about puppy breath that makes me feel safe. It's weird. But so is this situation. I scruff his head and pat his back as I whisper into his ear to take care of her. I think I can hear her crying behind me, but by the time I turn around she's got her game face back on.
"He's going to miss you." Her whisper is barely audible. I kiss him again before turning to her.
"I'm going to miss him....I'm going to miss you." I finally say it. She just nods as I pull her into another hug. We both drop the bags in our hands as we grasp onto each other for dear life. I am so thankful for her. She never knew. I never told her.
"Thank you." I weep out as the tears begin to flow freely. She shakes her head as she looks into my eyes.
"Thank you." She emphasizes and places a light kiss to my lips. Our mouths tremble under each others as we start to fight back the sobs. The clock chimes three and we break our embrace. Bags back in hand, I take another long look around before exiting into the bitter winter outside.
We say nothing on the ride to the ferry. There is nothing to say. She pulls into the firelane and switches on her hazard lights as she turns to me. Our eyes meet and hold for longer than I think they ever have. I take her hand in mine and play with her fingers for a moment before pulling them to my lips. I place a gentle kiss on the palm of her hand and she smiles.
"I love it when you kiss me there."
"I know." I kiss her again and open the car door. This is much harder than I believed it would be.
Standing outside the ferry terminal marked for Seattle, we hold each other at arms length, taking in one last look at each other. We both know that as soon as I step foot on that boat we will never see each other again. It just goes without saying. I search her face with my eyes and remember everything she's done for me. She brought me back to civilization and gave me laughter and love when I thought I had nothing. Under different circumstances...I don't want to think about that. The choice has already been made.
I study her features, trying to place an imprint on my mind. I know that no matter how hard I try, in some ways she'll always resemble you in my head. I see her watching me watch her and I see her lips start to part. Before she can say anything I push my fingers to her lips to silence her.
"I love you Ash..." I say for the first time. I realize that I do, in a way, love her. I love her very much. But I am not in love with her like I am with you.
I see her body visibly drop as if a weight has been lifted from her shoulders. As if she's been waiting for me to say those words forever. In way, she has. She pulls me into her as quickly as she can and I place my head on her shoulder, inhaling for the last time the scent of raspberries and vanilla that is unique just to her. We hold each other until the horn for the ferry blows for the last time. She pulls away, my hands still in hers, and we stare at each other. After a moment our lips meet and we share the best kiss of our relationship. For a moment I think about letting the boat pull away without me, but in the end I pull away and say goodbye.
I watch her from the platform of the ferry as we pull into the sound. We wave slightly to each other and she blows me a kiss goodbye. I do the same. I watch her until she is just a speck on the horizon and I watch even when the city disappears behind the fog. I don't know how long I stand on that platform watching the life I've had for so long disappear into a sea of nothingness, but by the time I reach my seat my face is numb and my hands are blue.
Across the aisle from me sits a young girl, about eight years old. She watches me as I pull out a piece of gum and pop it into my mouth. I see her staring at the hot pink pack in my hand and I glance to her mother for approval. I get a nod in response and lean over the aisle to the young blonde.
"You want a piece?" I offer and she turns to her mom for an answer. Upon confirmation she shakes her head and holds out her hand.
"Thank you ma'am." She says politely and I smile at the "ma'am" reference.
"You're welcome." I smile again as I turn back towards the front. Out of the corner of my eye I see her stand and place herself next to me. I turn my head to face her and see her mother shaking her head lovingly.
"Always wants to make friends." The mother announces. I laugh and turn my attention to the girl.
"I'm Julie." She announces and asks for my name and where I'm going. I glance out the window for a moment watching the white caps the boat makes as it speeds across the water. We are surrounded by fog and there is not a thing to be seen but the beautiful clear waves. Behind me I know there is a life I know and a woman that loves me, ahead of me I hope there is the same. I still have a choice. I take a deep breath before turning toward the girl and sticking out my hand. I smile as she accepts it and see that she is waiting for an answer. With another quick look out the window behind me, I shake her hand with a wider smile.
"Nice to meet you Julie...I'm Alex....And I'm going home..."
Sequel The District Sleeps Alone Tonight
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