Joy turns to grief and before I can control it, my emotions just spill over. I open my eyes and bolt up in my bed. I laugh for a second before I burst into tears.
I can hear Dr. Sloan moving. Her steps are coming toward me, cautiously. I don’t care. I’m too tired to care. After so many months of being careful, and hiding every emotion as best I can, and fearing the future, and not knowing what’s going to happen next, and thinking I might die, and fighting for my life, and hating Caleb, and loving him….
For fucksake – I watched a man die!
When Dr. Sloan silently puts her arms around me, I crush her to my body. I hold on to her with all my remaining strength. I cry all over this ridiculous fucking woman.
She doesn’t say a word and I’m grateful. Please, just hold me. Please, just hold me together.
I’m so tired of holding myself together.
She rocks me.
I rather like rocking.
Back and forth we sway for endless minutes while I cry and sob all over Dr. Sloan’s suit jacket. She smells nice. Her scent is light and almost fruity. It is distinctly feminine and therefore, far removed from Caleb. With this feminine scent saturating my nostrils, my brain cannot connect to memories of Caleb and the way he smelled when he held me. It feels nice, being free of the pain of missing him.
Reluctantly, I pull away from her. I am still humming with shame. I don’t know what’s come over me. I wrinkle my brow in confusion and shake my head.
Caleb’s scowling face is staring up at me from the photograph in my lap. I feel a pang of longing. Dr. Sloan pushes my hair from my face and I can’t help but think of it in a sexual way. In another time, I’d have thought nothing of it, but now all my interactions seem tainted by my newfound lust. Caleb trained me well.
“I want to help you, Livvie. Talk to me,” she says, softly. I know she doesn’t want to startle me, but already, I feel the tension creeping back into my shoulders. She’s standing too close and the fact she’s talking to me makes me feel cornered.
She must be able to tell, because she backs up. I relax, just a little.
“I would like to see the charges against you dropped, but you have to talk to someone. Agent Reed is…” she searches for the word she wants to use, “very good at his job, and despite his behavior yesterday, he’s a great guy. However, his first priority is solving his case. My first priority is you. He shouldn’t have pushed you the way he did.”
I look up at her from beneath my lashes. I wish she would hold me again
“I’d like a lawyer,” I whisper.
“Of course. If you’re ready to talk, I’ll find a lawyer for you. But, Livvie, the things you need to talk about go far beyond the legal charges. I’m here to help you with that.”
I nod, but say nothing else.
Dr. Sloan returns to her chair and sits. She looks at me expectantly with her green eyes. She’s pretty, in a very down-played sort of way. With her red hair, the brown suit she is wearing does her no favors. Still, there is something about her, something warm and pleasant.
When it becomes obvious I won’t be the one to keep our little conversation going, she reaches for her knitting and resumes the mindless design.
Dr. Sloan presses her lips together, searching for words.
“Do you want to see your mother?”
I don’t hesitate. “No.”
She stops knitting. “Livvie, the people who love you, accept you for who you truly are. No matter what has happened to you.”
“Well there you go. My mother doesn’t love me, Dr. Sloan. She wants to love me, I think, but…I just don’t think she does.”
She nods, but I can tell she doesn’t believe me. What would she know?
“I think your mother loves you a great deal.”
I stare down at my picture of Caleb. I thought he loved me. Could it be the one person I discounted, loves me more than the one I trusted completely? My heart aches. It’s a question I am not prepared to have answered.
Slowly, I crawl under my covers. I want to go back to sleep. I want to be with Caleb again. In my dreams, there is never a reason to doubt my heart. In my dreams, he is everything I want him to be. He is mine.
As if on cue, Dr. Sloan stops asking me emotionally charged questions and once again regales me with tales of free-form knitting and interpretative taxidermy.
I’m feeling somewhat better today. I still miss Caleb, I don’t think the feeling will ever go away, but I can get through several minutes without wanting to break down and weep for him; it’s progress. Dr. Sloan says one day I’ll make it to an hour…a day – but that’s as far as I let myself hope. The thought of one day not thinking of him at all is just too much for me. It feels like a betrayal to ever hope for such things.
Once again, I am sitting in the dreadfully cheery room they use to interrogate Kindergarteners. This time, I don’t have to do very much talking. I have a lawyer to do it for me. He and Agent Reed have been battling it out for the last hour. David, my lawyer, isn’t much to look at, but he’s very smart and incredibly aggressive. There’s something super hot about watching the two of them argue…or maybe I just like Reed when he’s unsettled.
His hair is somewhat disheveled from where he’s run his fingers through it so many times to keep from punching David in his face. Every now and again, his eyes flick to me and I feel a dark thrill just thinking about what he’d like to do to me if only he could. If he were Caleb, I would assume a spanking is most certainly in order!
“When exactly did you imagine yourself as…? My lover?” My heartbeat vibrated my skull. “Was it the first time I made you come with my mouth? Or one of the many times since, that I’ve put you over my knee? You seem to like that.”
And there he is – Caleb, in my thoughts, in my blood. I can feel my face getting warmer, my stomach getting tighter and already there is the drumbeat of my arousal pulsing between my legs. I squeeze them together and get so lost in my thoughts it takes me a second to realize Reed is still staring at me. When our eyes finally meet, I blush – hard. I smile when he blushes too.
Agent Reed clears his throat and takes a drink of water. It’s enough to bring back his control. I sigh through my disappointment.
“Agent Reed,” David says, reclaiming Reed’s attention, “my client is being held on ridiculous charges that would never stand up in court. She was living with her mother and attending high school at the time of her kidnapping. Even though she’s eighteen, the U.S. Attorney would be hard pressed to try her as an adult. If she’s considered a minor and involved in a human trafficking case, under Section 107 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, she’s protected from the FBI’s tactics of investigation. There’s no point in us even sitting here. I should be talking to the U.S. Attorney, not you.”
Reed does not look happy, but he doesn’t look beat either. “Your client has two-hundred-fifty-thousand dollars in a foreign bank account. How did it get there? She won’t say. Also, she’s been living with suspected terrorists. She’s admitted to it. Then, there’s the small matter of her knowledge of a meeting between enemies of the United States taking place in less than a week! We need information and her refusal to give it qualifies as an obstruction of justice –”
“What terrorists!?!” I yell at Reed and move to stand, but David calmly pushes me back into my seat.
“Muhammad Rafiq, Jair Baloch, Felipe Villanueva, and of course Caleb,” he says. “Do you or do you not, also have information about Demitri Balk?”
“I never said I knew him!”
“You said you knew where he’d be,” Reed says with a raised eyebrow.
“Miss Ruiz, please stop talking and let me handle this,” David says in an irritated tone.
“By the way,” begins Reed anew, ignoring my lawyer and focused on me, “Balk is suspected of having ties to arms dealing and narcotics trafficking. And until I know how you,” he jabs his finger in my direction, “are involved, you’re a suspect too. You can deal with me or I can let the DEA and Homeland Security in here and when they use Patriot Act against you, don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
“That is enough,” David said firmly, glaring at us both.
“Caleb is not a terrorist. I don’t know about the rest of them, but he’s not a terrorist! And neither am I! And–” A cold wave crashes over me. Felipe. I never said anything about Felipe. Reed knows things he’s not saying.
I can’t breathe; all of the oxygen is suddenly being sucked from the room, from my fucking lungs! I keep taking deep, deep breaths, lots of them, but I can’t get any air.
My heart is racing.
I can’t breathe!
“Olivia?” says Reed and I can hear him shuffling around.
“We’re done here, Agent Reed. I’ll be speaking to your superiors.” David reaches for me and tries to get me to stand. I don’t like his hands on me. I can’t breathe! He’s suffocating me. I need to think. I need to breathe.
“Shut up! Everybody just shut up!” Reed and David go silent and I ignore them as I put my hands on the table in front of me and try to catch my breath.
You fucked up, girl. Don’t make it worse.
I squeeze my eyes shut and will myself to breathe slower, deeper, calmer. My heart starts to slow in degrees until finally I feel only a fraction of my panic. Without looking up, I think about what I need to do.
How does Reed know about Felipe? Does he know more about Caleb? Is he really going to charge me with murder? It was self defense!
I have a feeling Reed would be a lot more amenable if my lawyer weren’t here. Still a prick, but less likely to push this hard. Dr. Sloan said he was a good guy and would do right by me. I don’t have much faith in anything anyone says to me lately, but a glimmer of hope is better than none. I take a sip of water when Reed slides the paper cup beneath my face. I hope he feels guilty, the son of a bitch.
David puts his hand on my shoulder and I shrug it off, “Don’t touch me.”
“I think I should take you back to your room now, Miss Ruiz,” he says.
“I want you to leave,” I whisper with my eyes still fixed on the table.
“Excuse me?” David says, indignantly. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea, Miss Ruiz. I strongly advise you to keep silent and let me do my job.”
“She wants you leave.” Reed says. He knows he’s won this round. He boxed me in a corner and I let him. I realize I should have assumed he knew a lot, not just about me, but other things too. I feel stupid, and angry and scared. But right now, I need time to think and Reed is the devil I know.
They argue for a bit, puffing their chests at each other in some National Geographic display of machismo. In the end David gathers his things and leaves. Reed and I are alone again. I have a feeling it’s what he wanted all along.
He sits quietly, relaxed and patient, unwilling to break the silence. He doesn’t want to lose ground. He wants me to come to him, and I know it’s exactly the way it’s going to play out. I need him on my side. Just the way I once needed Caleb.
My voice is soft on purpose. I need him to see me as fragile again. I need to bring out the alpha male in him. I need him to believe I’m his to protect, even if I already belong to someone else. Caleb would have been proud. I remind myself that I am now my own master. “You wouldn’t really let them take me to jail would you? After everything?” I let the threat of tears simmer beneath the surface of my words.
Reed exhales deeply through his nose and I hear his fingertip tapping softly against the table. “I would never put an innocent person in jail, Miss Ruiz, but I still need you to convince me you’re not guilty.”