“All I wanted was to live a life where I could be me, and be okay with that. I had no need for material possessions, money or even close friends with me on my journey. I never understood people very well anyway, and they never seemed to understand me very well either. All I wanted was my art and the chance to be the creator of my own world, my own reality. I wanted the open road and new beginnings every day.” ― Charlotte Eriksson
I watch the clip for the fifth time and I feel victorious. Yet, I also have a sinking feeling that this is only the beginning and not the resolution. I watched as Cory, Waylon, Jaxon, and Lennox strolled into the gas station. Their cheeks were sunburnt and full of laughter. I didn’t notice him the first time I watched the video because he blended in with the crowd of people entering the store, but he second time I viewed the clip, it was glaringly obvious that he followed them inside. Worse, was when I watched the parking lot footage and saw a man driving a small white sedan follow them in and then again as they left. It was now apparent that this wasn’t the first sighting and that the perp had already been following Lennox Rose for awhile.
Now I was back to watching the in-store footage. After they all walk in Cory and Waylon immediately took a left towards the coolers full of soda, while Lennox and Jaxon stayed back and spoke briefly to each other. Jaxon nods and the rubs his hand over her back. It’s hard not to notice the alluring way Lennox looks at him. Jaxon then walks towards the slurpie machine and begins to make two drinks. Because I’ve watched this a couple times, I noticed the man watching from behind a display of sunglasses. He looks normal enough, just a guy trying on a few pairs on sunglasses, but once you noticed the way his body is angled and the way his head follows a certain young woman, it is obvious that is is watching her.
Another camera shows Lennox walking towards an isle full of candy. After studying the section she decides on a box of Red Hots and Sweethearts. She is biting her lip, carefree and happy. When she walks away and towards Jaxon, the man is peering over the isle at her, this time it is blatantly obvious that he is watching her. Memorizing her in way that chills me to the bone. What does he want with Lennox Rose?
After writing down all the frame numbers, exact times, and which disks to look at specifically, I walk downstairs to our technicians office.
“Finn, what a pleasant surprise.” Paige, the overnight technician says to me in a greeting.
I smile at her, “Ahh, the lovely Ms. Paige.”
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” She asks peering over her the frame of her hot-pink glasses.
“I was wondering if you could get the a clear image of a man face. I wrote down where to find him. I need as clear of an image you can produce.”
“Say please and I’ll be happy too.” Paige winks.
“Oh Finn, you are always making my job so easy.” Paige says getting to work after minute she says, “I’m sorry to hear about you and Zee. I know it isn’t my place…but I…just wanted you to know that I am sorry and I hate what she did.” Her voice is soft and tentative.
I place my hands over her shoulder and give her a gentle reassuring squeeze. Paige is married to Zee’s brother and for a little while we were part of the same family. It makes since that Paige would know what happened between us but she’ll never know the whole truth. “Thank you.” I finally respond.
We fall silent and the only noise in the room is the clicks of her keyboard and her mouse as she enhances the images. I watch over the top of her head, my hands still on her shoulders. It doesn’t go unnoticed the way Paige’s body suddenly tenses because I can feel her muscles tighten under my hands. My eyes go wide as I peer into the computer screen.
“Is it just me or does he look like…” Paige’s voice is so low I can hardly hear her.
“It’s not just you.” I respond just as quietly and my hands release her shoulders. Locking my fingers I place my entwined hands on my head. I blow out a large breath, unsure of how this is going to go down with Avery.
“Here.” Paige says handing me the printed images. It takes me a minute to take them from her, not wanting the weight of this on my shoulders.
“Fuck.” I cruse under my breath as I grab them. The resemblance is even more clear in the printed photos.
“It’s not actually him though, right?” Paige asks.
“No, but it makes me wonder if it’s a member of his family.” The man in the photograph is too old to be Lieutenant Mac Watson and too young to be Chief Harlem Watson, but the resemble is uncanny.
My eye’s flutter open and the close again. My body feels cold and my head is throbbing as if I rammed myself face first into a pillar of concrete. I tremble and shake, feeling a numbness settle over me. My eyes flutter open again and I notice that the room is darkened except for the few shadows the moon casts through the egress windows lining the basement.
Turning over to my left side I pull Jax’s comforter closer to my chin. Something doesn’t feel right and fear begins to trickle in. The alarm clock on the nightstand beside Jax’s queen bed reads, three thirteen am in bright green. My eyes scan the room from where I am laying and almost immediately they settle on the far corner of the basement. Paralysis sweeps over me as every fiber in my being is now in a state of panic. In the far corner of the room, opposite the stairs leading in, is an old black chair. A chair nobody liked to sit in my because the springs jab you when you sit. Diagonal from the chair is a small loveseat, where Jax is currently draped over, passed out. In front of the loveseat is the coffee table and then the futon, which is laid out in bed form and Cory and Waylon are fast asleep. I swallow because they doubt notice what I notice. They aren’t awake…they are blissfully unaware.
Meanwhile I am laying in the queen bed a couple feet behind loveseat terrified because there is a man sitting in that uncomfortable black chair. Not just any man but The Man. It’s dark but I know his eyes are on me. I want to run, jump, or even fly away if that were possible… but it’s not. Does he have a gun? Will he attack my friends if I move? My breathing is shallow, almost nonexistent, and sweat is now pooling down my forehead and spine. Why is he here? Why is he watching me? Why can’t I say anything?
Finally I scream. Letting it out as loud as I can, praying the boys wake and call 911 immediately. I keep screaming yet nothing happens. The man doesn’t move and the boys don’t wake…
“Lennox! Wake up!” It’s Jax’s voice coming from some far off place. My body is pushed up involuntarily and legs wrap around me, my back pressed into a chest. I keep screaming and when arms wrap around my torso locking my arms against me, my scream get louder. What is happening? “LB? Come on wake up for me? It’s Jax, wake up.” His words are a soft repetition in my ear — until, finally, my eyes snap open.
The dull yellow light from the lamp on Jax’s nightstand blinds me temporally. My eyes focus on the alarm clock, three-thirty am. They then dart to the chair in the far corner of the room. It is empty. No one is here. I was dreaming.
“It’s ok, it was just a nightmare.” Jax says from where he sits behind me.
“I thought…I thought…” My whole body starts to tremble.
“We know LB, we know.” He whispers while swaying me from side to side.
It takes me a minute to wake up and process the fact the Cory and Waylon are sitting on the edge of the bed concern embedded into there eyes. I rest my head against Jax’s shoulder and try to let out calming breaths. My body is sticky and my head is pounding.
“Fuck, your shaking.” Jax says in his normal tone of voice.
I swallow, “My head hurts.” I say, my throat raw from screaming.
“Come on, lets wash you up.” Cory says taking me into his arms, removing me from Jax’s hold. Cory places an arm under my shaking knees and the other arm around my back. I feel so weak and tired at the moment that it is hard to breathe. Cory carries me to the bathroom beside the bed and sets me on the counter.
“I’ll go get some Advil.” Waylon says from the bathroom doorway.
Jax enters carrying one of his t-shirts and a washcloth.
“Are you ok?” Cory asks peering into my eyes. I give him a nod still trying to collect myself. “Alright, I’ll let Jax take it from here, ok?” He says before leaving the bathroom. I watch him go and then here the click of the bedside lamp, making the basement dark again.
Jax dampens the wash rag and begins to wipe the tears and sweat off my face. I’m still sitting on the counter which makes Jax and I, eye level as he quietly washes me. He stands between my legs, the intimacy of the moment feels foreign and raw.
Waylon clears his throat, “Here, you go.” He says putting the Advil and a glass of water on the counter space opposite me. He leaves without saying anything else. He shuts the door behind him so the bathroom light doesn’t keep him and Cory awake. I don’t blame him for feeling uncomfortable. It is awkward walking in on someone you used to date with someone else, especially if that someone else is a best friend.
Jax put the washcloth down and hands me the pill, I quickly pop it in my mouth and down the water. “I guess this why I shouldn’t drink.” I say softly.
Lifting one side of his mouth, Jax says, “I guess so.” He looks down at my damped shirt, “Let’s get this off you.” Slowly he reaches for the hem of my sweat-ridden shirt and I raise my arms. My shoulder still doesn’t have the best mobility so it is a bit tricky getting that side of my shirt off but soon the shirt is removed, and set to the side. Jax kept his eyes locked on mine as much as he could while he was helping me with my shirt but now he slowly looks down my body. Not is a lustful way but in a way that terrifies me. “Will it fade?” He asks using his index finger to trace the scar running down my chest and back up again.
“Dr. Copper said it would fade a little but it will aways be there.” I answer.
Jax brings his eyes to mine and they are clouded with sadness. His gaze travels to my shoulder, “And this one?”
“Len — I am so sorry you had to go through that. Sorrier that you have to wear these scars for the rest of your life.” Jax says and I see tears brim the surface of his eyes.
“Me too.” A tear slips, runs down my cheek, and drips onto the counter. I see Jax swallow the pain and he closes his eyes to hold back his tears.
Jax tilts his head down, “I miss her.” He whispers and I see a tear drip below his lip.
I reach out and cradle his face in my hands, my thumbs resting below his eyes, catching his tears. “Me too, Jax, me too.” He rests his forehead on my shoulder and wraps his arms around me tightly. My arms squeeze around his neck and I feel him start to shake. We stay like that for awhile, crying together, grieving together, trying to find solace.
Eventually he pulls away and tucks a piece of my hair behind my ear. His eyes look greener now that he has been crying and I know with out looking that my eyes are a lighter shade of blue. I rest my forehead on his, “We will be ok.”
“One day.” He whispers.
I move my face slightly to give him a chaste kiss on his lips before pulling away and giving him a soft smile. I meant for the kiss to provide comfort but the way Jax looks at me after I pull away takes the breath right out of my lungs. I am suddenly very aware that both of us are shirtless and he is standing between my legs. Jax is only wearing a pair of sweats and I’m only in cotton shorts and a sports bra.
Jax strokes my face with his thumb and leans in, eyes never leaving mine. His lips press lightly, taking my top lip between his and I take in his bottom lip. Our lips move like this for awhile, a slow hypnotic rhythm. Slowly I close my eyes and move my hands so that they are holding the back of his head to me. My fingers running through his oatmeal hair. Jax opens his mouth and I follow his lead. Our tongues begin to explore each others mouths as the kiss deepens. His arms tighten around my back as if he can’t hold me close enough so I wrap my legs around his torso. We melt together in wave of grief driven lust. It is one of those moments were you aren’t thinking straight but at the same time you don’t really care. I feel the need to get lost in another person and by the way he presses himself into me I know he needs the comfort as much as I do.