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Again I Go Unnoticed
I watch her from afar. I always do now. It's the only way I'm able to. If she only knew.... well, she'd probably shoot me dead. Some detective she is; can't even tell when she's being watched. But I'm better at this than I ever thought I would be. After the way I've lived for the past few years one would hope I'd know how to stay unnoticed. Yes, that's me, just another unnoticed stranger on the street.
She passed me the other day. Brushed right past me. Her shoulder grazed mine. I felt her freeze for a moment. I felt her turn to excuse herself. But I was already gone; she shrugged it off and continued down the street. I turned back around and continued behind her. She never knew. How I wish she would have realized it was me. Realized it was my body she had touched. Realized it was my perfume that she inhaled. God, I just wish she would realize. But she won't. She can't. I can't let her. It would be too risky. Above all, however, it would be too painful. For she has someone now. Someone who is not me.
In fact, this someone is my polar opposite. She is much taller than me. Her hair is a mass of wild red curls around her beautifully bronzed face. Her eyes are the color of almonds. She is athletic, artistic, loud and slightly obnoxious in an endearing way. But, most of all, she's still alive. Well, technically at least. That is something I cannot compete with still. For I am still in hiding.
Hiding from what or whom I'm still not sure of. It's been....too many years to count since I haven't been in hiding. And it'll be too many more before I am not. When this all will end I still don't know. Just like that cold night so long ago when I just shrugged my shoulders as an answer to "How long?" How I wish I had had an answer then. How I wish I had an answer now. But I do not. I may never.
I shake the "feeling sorry for myself" thoughts out of my head. It's an action I have to physically do. Every morning I allow myself five minutes to feel sorry for myself and my situation. Then I must stop. For I am only in this situation as a result of my own actions. And at least I'm here. Which is more than many of the other people that have been in my situation can claim. At least I'm still breathing.
I stand from my place at my kitchen and cross to the wide window that faces her building. I glance down the two levels to where her apartment is. She's standing in the window with her hair thrown across her face. She looks sweaty. Her white tanktop is sticking to her tanned skin in all the right places. I glance at the clock; it's past her usual workout time. She's usually showered and out the door by now. A moment of worry passes through me, as I know she never breaks her routines. A moment later it's gone as I see the red head make her way up behind her. Red hands her a hammer and as she grabs it from her, I understand. They're setting up house. A shot of pain shoots through my body as the jealousy sets in. That should be me putting up mini-blinds with her. That should be me with my arms around her. That should be me lifting her shirt up and kissing her back. That should be me. But it is not. I watch as she pulls away from the window as their kisses become more frantic. For a moment she pauses and looks out the window towards my place. Does she see me? Does she know she's being watched? She pulls the cord on the newly hung blinds and I see her smile that perfect "I'm yours" smile as they slam down. Again, I go unnoticed.
I return to my window a few hours later, just as she's pulling the shades back up. She loves to have the sun set in on the living room. Her hair is slightly messier before. Her sweaty glisten has been transformed to a full on glow. The red head is nowhere in sight. I wonder if she left her in bed, exhausted, as she always left me. I see her glance out the window towards the ground. I follow her eyes and see red leaving the building. She waves down at her and receives a blown kiss in return. Before she pulls away from the window she glances around towards my building again. Maybe she does know she's being watched. Maybe she can feel me. Maybe I'm just hoping she can.
I flop down into my rocking chair with a book I've tried reading at least a dozen times. I still can't remember the name of it, and I can absolutely never remember where I last left off. I see movement out of the corner of my left eye. I tilt my head forward and look toward her building. The movement is directly across from me. I know it's not her, yet I watch anyway. The shades in the apartment across from me lift slowly and I watch as a tiny old woman approaches the window. I can't help but watch people now. I am exactly the type of person I used to hate. The old woman reaches down to her side and pulls a large piece of cardboard up to the window. It has words painted on it in blue. I stand to face my window, squinting my eyes to read the sign. I jump back as the words explode into my mind.
"I KNOW YOU'RE WATCHING ME---O".
My breathing is shallow. I don't understand. I duck to the ground as I close my eyes. This cannot be happening. I slowly peek my head above my windowsill to look across the street. The old lady is gone. Her shades are shut. Maybe I imagined it all. I take a deep breath as I shake the disconcerted feeling out of my mind. I make my way into the kitchen to pour myself an obviously much need drink. As the cubes of ice tumble into the glass, there is a knock at my door. I jump at the sound. No one, not one person, in the two months I have been here has come to my door. Not even a sneaky salesperson or a kid selling candy bars. I'm torn between what I should and should not do. I know I shouldn't answer the door. I shouldn't even glance to see who is out there. But I need to. I need to know who it is. I pad my way over to the door silently, slowly. I come up on the door from the side. It's a technique I learned in hiding. Never approach a door full on; you never know who's standing behind it with a gun. I glance out the peephole that is attached to the one on the front of the door. I had mirrored ones installed. It's harder to shoot through these ones. There is no one standing in the hall. No one that I can visibly see. Maybe I was hearing things. I take a quiet small step backwards and jump again as another knock occurs. I lean forward to the peephole again. All the air in my body leaves me as I see her standing there. Disheveled hair, tight tank top, and boot cut jeans.... just the way I love her. I cannot move. She has one hand looped through her belt loops while the other is out of my sight. I can only imagine her gun at the end of that long tanned sculpted arm. She pounds the door again, announcing that she's the police and that I better open the door. I take a deep deep breath and flip one of the locks. God, how do I do this? How could I let this happen?
I flip a second lock, then a third. I leave both chains attached and slowly turn the door handle. I feel my body go into autopilot. I am not of myself at this moment. As I pull the door open I keep my body hidden behind the door. She cannot see me, but I have no doubt she's ready to aim that gun at my head. She orders me to open the door completely. To step back from the door. Turn my back toward her. Put my hands in the air. I have five seconds. I take another very long breath and pull the chains away from the door. I hear her gun click into place. I take my three steps away from the threshold and pull my hands to the back of my head. I cannot see her now, but I can feel her. I feel her push the door back slightly, do a quick visual sweep, thrust the door open and push the gun to my head.
She orders me to very slowly turn around. When I don't comply she jams the tip of her gun into my skull. I slowly turn to face her. She stares at me for a moment. Then she demands to know who the fuck I am and why the fuck I have been watching her. I stare at her for a long time. She doesn't recognize me. I have changed, I know. But I didn't think I had changed that much. She pushes me back against a wall and forces her forearm across my throat. She repeats her demands. I gasp for breath before nodding my head softly. She pulls her arm away, takes a step back, yet keeps her gun focused on my face. I slowly reach my hand up to my eyes and watch as a look of confusion crosses her face. I blink away the tears that form as I pull my contacts out and reveal my "real" eyes. She takes another step back and tilts her head to the side. I give her a half-hearted smile as I reach up further and pull the short black wig off my head, allowing the long blonde waves to come cascading down. She takes another step back, but does not remove her gun from my eyeline. In fact, she holds it even more determined. The confusion has set it deeply within her, I can tell. It's the same look she had the last time we saw each other. She wasn't expecting me then either. I'm still pressed against the wall when her whispered "what the fuck?" makes it way past her lips. I stare at her with wide eyes as I let the realization sink in. She slowly, shakily brings her gun to the side, sliding the safety on as she does so. She uncertainly whispers my name and I nod just as uncertain. Cautiously, she brings her arm out and reaches for me. We are just steps apart yet the distance is unbearable. Silently she waves her hand towards herself, urging me to step closer. I swallow hard before closing the distance between us. In an instant I'm in her arms, she's holding me tight. I realize now that I haven't been breathing. I gulp in air through the silent tears we share. She holds me close as the sun fades around us. This is what I've been waiting for. It's all I've wanted since the moment I've left. I tell her all these things. She smiles softly as she places her lips on my forehead. She tells me she loves me and I tighten my grip on her waist. In the moment I forget about my hiding, my dangers, my fears. I forget it all and remember how good it once felt to be in her arms. How good it feels again. How good it will always feel....
And then suddenly I hear a crash as metal hits hardwood. I jump at the sound and fall to the floor. I run my hands across my eyes and glance toward the door. Closed. Locked. Silent. I sigh deeply and look out the window to the building across from me. The old lady's apartment is replaced by a hallway I've always known was there. Two floors below me I see that the blinds have fallen to the floor. The clanging of them can be heard across our empty alley through the open windows. I see her crunch her face in frustration as she wipes her hair from her eyes. I see her look determinedly at the heap of vertical metal on her floor. I watch her eyes turn to anger at the window box that does not hold them up. And I see her as she glances out the window up towards my place before she turns back around and into the arms of the redhead. Again, I wonder if she feels me. Again, I wonder if she knows I'm here. In my mind she can, she does, and she wants me. In my mind it's just a matter of time before I get that knock at the door. Yet, in reality, again, I go unnoticed.
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