I miss you. With every waking moment of every passing day. But Monday mornings have been nothing short of impossible to get through. I wake up, I swallow down the pain and put on a face that says I’m fine. When really, I’m not. Sunday was our day and has been for so long that each one that’s passed since you were taken away is increasingly impossible to face. I could put the exact number of them here but what good would that do other than to give me a numerical reminder of how many days included along with those Sundays it’s been since I’ve heard your voice? Or held a letter that smelled faintly like the oils you wore or the candles you burnt in the apartment you were holed up in so long because you were so afraid to venture out?
I should have done more. You’d asked me so many times to not go to them. That what we had was between us and I agreed and I was greedy and I wanted a life that existed for you and me outside the horrible things I see every day. And we had that. Our own secret place where we went to on the end of telephone lines and beautifully scrawled handwriting on letters I still keep in a drawer beside my bed. Because even though the books all went back on the shelves and the letters had gone there too? The books remained. But the box of notes was opened up and they were put where I’d always kept them before..
Before they stopped coming.
Did you know..okay..sorry.. Of course you knew. That one week after you died, the letter you’d sent me came in the mail? I’d never told anyone that. I locked myself away by then and read those last words not once, not twice, but eighty four times before I couldn’t take it anymore and placed it in with the rest.
Please don’t get me wrong. There are times that I laugh now and I mean it. The shadows can only last so long before they become split apart by little beams of light. Right? Can’t keep the curtains closed forever. JJ told me that when she’d come over with the rest of the team to tidy up the apartment I’d let fall to tatters that I would have been so ashamed to let you see.
I joke sometimes –no one gets them for the most part but that will never change. And I smile and it’s not fake. Because I know you’d want me to and I’m sorry that I still get like this sometimes but I can’t help it. My mind never forgets anything. Details. Scents. Sounds. It’s all there and when it gets quiet, like tonight, it comes back and here I am..
We still have each other. In my dreams. Your new safe place and mine. The first night you were there when I closed my eyes and the second soon blurred into a repetition that’s had us sitting in libraries or standing in places I only have read about. Like Paris or Rome and we’re there while I sleep and it’s so real that I barely know the difference for the first few minutes that I wake up. Funny how instead of doing that, I’m sitting at a computer screen typing this because writing down on a piece of paper was for you not me.
I should go but I wanted to tell you that I love you. I love you more than I could ever imagine and I hope to see you as soon as the tiredness kicks in and I drift off. Let’s make this Sunday one where you’re here and we spend it together in another place I’ll never go in person. I’ll see you soon.
Sitting on the train to work. Five more stops and I’ll be there. I decided to go in early today to attempt to get some work done before the others show up. I’ve been looking into a couple more cases I’d like to show Rossi. He’s usually the first one to the office in the morning. That should give us some time to talk.
Who Can View? Only Me<<
Honestly, I haven’t been to sleep yet. What I need to talk with him about is probably not going to happen, so a back up plan of potential cases is tucked neatly inside my bag for a quick ‘out’ if I need one. The fear came back two nights ago. I told him I was afraid that if I let go and touched or danced with her that I wouldn’t come back. Now, I'm scared that might be true. Three nights in a row after the first dream, I couldn’t wait to go home, go to bed and try to have her with me again . Each time she’s been there. She is in my arms and I am holding her and we were together again. I can smell her perfume, bury my face against her neck, feel her sweater on my fingers and her body pressed against mine while I hold her. Maeve whispers in my ear, telling me she loves me and I tell it to her back. Every time. Words that I never got to say when she was with me for those brief minutes in that building. In those moments it’s like I am alive and can breathe again for the first time since I saw her fall to the floor with her blood everywhere.
All I want to do is sleep and wait for her because I know she will, eventually, come to find me and she always has. I know this is supposed to be healing and it’s supposed to be a way of me letting go. That is what is expected, right? Rossi said so. Why does it feel like it’s having the opposite effect? Because now I have a way to get to her. Even if it is a version of her I am making up in my head. One created out of the words carefully written on a piece of paper, her voice in my ear on the phone and the heartbreakingly beautiful face I only got to see for less time than it takes for this train to get from my apartment to work. It doesn’t feel like that when it happens. Not at all. Actually, it feels real. It’s her. It’s Maeve. My Maeve. I can have her if I drift off. That’s all it takes. I’m not sure I can even describe how tempting that is. To stay there as long as I possibly can with my her in my arms and my hands in her hair or keeping her so close to me that I don’t think a piece of paper could fit between us.
Is this what happened to my mother? Does she go through life half-dreaming of a time when her life made sense and there was no blood on her hands from an attempt to save me? When she goes catatonic, is that what she sees? A reality so much better than the one she was left with when I was only a kid? Where she has me and a husband who loved her? Is she happier there than she is with me here? I know in her moments of clarity she wants to keep herself grounded, tell herself that the real world is where she belongs because it’s the sane place to be. But what if that is too painful and her dream world is where she can feel free from all the guilt and depression she has waiting for her here? I think that is what scares me the most. Because I can sympathize with that now and if I am not careful, I’m afraid that I’ll sympathize a bit too much.
I just want her Maeve with me. Wait, no. I need her here with me. If I can’t have that and this is all I have? Tonight, I’ll go back to dreaming because I don’t want to stay away and I can’t stay awake forever. They’ll start to see it on my face. Besides, even as I write this I feel almost guilty for staying away. Like I’m hurting her by keeping the distance I have. What if she thinks I don’t love her? That she did become a ghost of a memory? How normal is it to feel that way? Maybe in time what Rossi said will happen? Maybe this is how it is supposed to be? Then, slowly, the dream will come less and less often and the happiness I feel for an hour or two after I wake up before I remember that it was only a dream and nothing more will last longer than the hollow feeling that realization leaves behind?
I can think of her and smile now.
A real smile because she brought that out in me again. That’s progress?
My stop is next. I’ll write more later when I sort this all out.
Anon request loosely based on this prompt from otpprompts
Hi Nony! With this prompt in particular, I spent an insane amount of time writing, meticulously editing, and obsessively pondering how this would play out. Sorry for the insane wait! Hope it was worth it!
Everything was gray. The overcast sky turned the bare, skeletal trees gray, matching the gravestones. Spencer hunched in front of her resting place with his fists in his jacket pockets, rereading the words etched in stone:
Maeve Donovan. Beloved daughter and friend. May 18, 1982 - January 16, 2013.
Three years ago to the day. It wasn’t as bad as it used to be. The first year had been the hardest. Since then, he devoted more time to work, spent more time with his team, made more of an effort to go out. And slowly, he got better, proving once again the unfathomable human resilience of those who had experienced the unspeakable.
But on the anniversary, the cemented cracks became noticed, the scar tissue felt an old phantom ache, and Spencer was drawn back into the waves of grief that overtook him three years ago. What was it about anniversary dates that seemed to undo all that time had meticulously healed? Still, he felt it almost a necessity to feel that again; he was discomfited at the thought that one day he may not feel that familiar ache–of sorrow and loss and guilt. The ache of unheard apology.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured to her headstone. His breath hitched and he closed his eyes. He listened to the silence of the cemetery, hoping it would seep into his mind and quiet his raging thoughts, but it seemed to have the opposite effect. It felt like the tumult in his head osmotically dispersed into the graveyard, animating it; leaves flitted and crunched in the lifeless grass, and the wind whispered.
His eyes flew open. He’d heard that voice hundreds of times before, but not in years. It couldn’t be. He turned around toward the call of his name. He froze.
She was there. Maeve. Standing in front of him. Here. Alive.
No. No, it was too good to be true. It wasn’t her. He had seen her die; she was buried in the frozen ground beneath his feet. But he saw her. ‘No!’ he fought internally with himself. This must be it then. A hallucination. An episode. He was having a schizophrenic break. The years of grief, and stress from his job finally proved too much for his mind to handle, so it bent and gave him exactly what he’d wanted. He didn’t care. It didn’t matter if his mind was splitting from reality. It didn’t matter if he was seeing visions or ghosts. All that mattered was that he was seeing her.
Her voice was so clear, so real, more so even than in their phone conversations. ‘Auditory hallucinations,’ a voice in the corner of his mind pondered. ‘Very common’. He wanted to go to her, to touch her, to give in to the hallucination, but his body stayed rooted to the spot. ‘Catatonic, maybe,’ the voice wondered.
She stepped forward. “Are you alright?” She stood inches from him, a look of concern on her face. Funny, his hallucinations were worried about him.
“Spencer, I’m sorry.” She waited for some kind of response, but he just stood there stunned. “Please say something,” she implored.
She reached out and touched his shoulder. Was that part of the hallucination? He blinked, brought out of his momentary paralysis. His breath hitched, and in the same second, Maeve wrapped her arms around him. He hesitated, afraid if he moved, she would vanish like a soap bubble and be gone forever. He gingerly brought his arms around her. This was the first time he had the privilege of touching her. Actually, physically feeling her made it real; he couldn’t deny her presence–this was no hallucination.
Tears welled up in his eyes. “Maeve…”
She let go and looked up at him with a melancholy smile. “Hey, Spence.”
He stared uncomprehendingly at her. Her hair was shorter and her cheeks were flushed from the cold. He watched her breath unfurl out from between her lips, visible in the January air. “You were dead… I watched you die…”
“I got shot in the head. I should have died.”
“No. No, you weren’t supposed to die. I was supposed to go in there and make sure you came out alive. And I didn’t.” His voice got small, and his welled-up tears spilled over. “I thought you were dead,” he sobbed, his chin trembling.
Maeve’s shoulders rose, and she pursed her lips, searching for the right words. “I’m not. Spence…”
His mouth hung open in limp disbelief. That night replayed in his head without permission. He had seen Diane pull the trigger, watched Maeve fall to the floor, stared in shock at the frightening pool of her blood.
Maeve exhaled steadily. “Let’s go sit down.” Spencer nodded woodenly and Maeve took his hand. She led him in between gravestones and they sat on a stone bench bordering the path. Maeve held his hand in both of hers on her lap. Her thumb scaled his bony knuckles and traced the blue veins that shone through his skin. She looked up from their hands into his eyes. “What’s going through your head?”
He opened his mouth to speak but then closed it again. He didn’t know if he could trust what was going on in his head at the moment. “I just…don’t understand. I can’t comprehend… How…?”
“How did I not die?” Maeve prompted. “You can say it.” He didn’t. “Right place at the wrong time, I guess. A centimeter or two in another direction could have been very different.”
Space and time. There had been one day when, in his grief, he drove himself mad solving equation after equation. The volume and mass of the bullet. The speed and velocity it left the gun. The force of the kick back from the shot. The velocity curve that a bullet could travel through one human skull and into another. Would that amount of force to the brain be fatal? It would have been easier, mathematically, to consult the–unbeknownst to him, nonexistent–ME report and see exactly how many centimeters the bullet had lodged itself in her head. But he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Math and physics he understood; their familiarity and rhythmic calculations brought comfort. But no matter how many equations he solved, no matter what variables he changed, he couldn’t get away from the end result.
“Tore through the skin,” Maeve touched her left temple, “cracked the skull. Bruised my brain pretty bad. I have some hearing loss in one ear. They put me in a medically induced coma while the swelling went down. I don’t really remember that, just what I was told.” Her speech was very brusque and matter-of-fact; it seemed that she’d already emotionally sorted out the ordeal, came to terms with it. He was still mentally fumbling with the impossibility of her presence. Then again, she had had three years of reflection and therapy to help her cope, whereas he only became aware that she was alive a mere ten minutes ago. Spencer wondered how much she remembered of that night, if anything. He didn’t ask.
He could see the image she described: Maeve being rushed into emergency surgery, unconscious. The bullet being removed and the pressure on her brain relieved. The hole in her head being sewn back up, the skin pulled together in a seam. Laying in a hospital bed somewhere, tubes and wires coming out of her like roads feeding into a city, delivering sustenance.
Was there anyone waiting at her bedside for her to wake up?
With an airy sigh, she spoke again and he broke out of his reverie, catching every one of her words. “There was a lot of rehabilitation, lot of therapy. Nothing essential was permanently damaged; I’m okay.” Her gaze had drifted to their hands, and she quickly glanced back at him, carefully reading his expression. “Are you okay?”
Was he okay? How was he supposed to answer that? He exhaled steadily through his mouth and swallowed. “I don’t know, Maeve,” he rasped, and his throat felt constricted. “I was getting better; it had become bearable. I was functional; I could go to work without thinking about you, I-I could walk past a pay phone without losing it. But now… I don’t know.”
“Will you be okay?” Maeve amended.
Spencer let out a sigh and a small smile. Maeve was glad to see it. “If I’m not completely insane…yes, I will be okay.” He didn’t much care which it was.
Maeve exhaled, relieved. Her eyes shifted downward, as if considering something, then she looked at him squarely, deliberately. Whatever she had been considering, she had decided. “Can I ask you something.” She wasn’t asking permission, but leading into her point.
“Of course.” The corner of Maeve’s mouth twitched upward nostalgically. It was what he would always say to her when she was debating whether to tell him something, or when she asked something of him, or when she was unsure about venting her fears and insecurities to him. She missed it.
“I know this is weird. I understand if you’ve moved on and you never want to see me again. But if you’re willing, I want to pick up where we left off.”
He couldn’t believe he was having this conversation. He had spent so much time telling himself that she wasn’t coming back, that there was no use imagining what could have been because he would just torture himself over the impossible. But now? He had this unbelievable opportunity to start over, to resume things with Maeve and have another shot at a future together.
Really there was only one answer. “Of course.”
The corners of her mouth stretched into a wide grin, pulling around her teeth, filling her whole face. Spencer had never seen her like that before. He knew the sounds: the slight exhale of breath, the gentle, almost imperceptible friction of skin brushing against skin. But seeing the expression that accompanied that euphony was entirely new.
“I’ve missed you,” she beamed. It was impossible to convey how much she missed him. But she knew that he knew, because it was obvious he felt the same way.
“I’ve missed you, too.”
It was unfathomable. Improbable, but not impossible. As he sat on the stone bench, holding Maeve’s hand, watching her beaming at him, he couldn’t deny that this was the truth. She was back.