'My secrets are burning a hole through my heart
And my bones catch a fever
When it cuts you up this deep
It's hard to find a way to breathe.
Your eyes are swallowing me
Mirrors start to whisper
Shadows start to sing
My skin's smothering me
Help me find a way to breathe.'
"Are we all ready?"
Olivia Benson called out while putting on her navy blue blazer which completed her outfit. Olivia had been asked to speak at a conference about rape kits and decided to invite her fellow detectives and ADA Barba as she thought this could be beneficial for them although deep down the main reason was that she wanted support. Many influential figures within the police force were going to be attending and Olivia didn't want to let herself, her colleagues, or the NYPD down. She thought she'd be more comfortable if she had her friends with her. The detectives nodded in unison to Olivia's question.
"Okay then. Fin you take your car. Nick you're with him in the front. Carisi and Barba you can sit in the back together. Rollins and I will take my car."
Barba opened his mouth to protest but then closed it again without saying anything. Fin and Nick were already in the car and Barba turned to Carisi and said:
"If you make that joke about the monkey again I will not be responsible for my actions."
He gave Carisi a slight smile to let him know he was only joking. Carisi then gave his best impression of a monkey just as Barba got into the car. He finally stopped after he realised that I was staring at him.
"What? Not even a laugh, Rollins?"
I rolled my eyes. Carisi and I seemed to have this relationship where the more we irritated each other, the more we got on. We gave each other a smile and then he got into the car. Olivia came back with her car keys. I hadn't even noticed she'd gone. She unlocked her car and we both got in it.
"Do you want to stop somewhere and grab a coffee?"
Olivia asked. We were going across town and with the traffic it would probably take roughly an hour.
We stopped at this coffee bar after 20 minutes of driving.
"I'll be two minutes."
Olivia got out of the car and walked into the shop. I wondered what she drank. Did she prefer coffee or a cappuccino? Why did I suddenly want to know everything about this woman? I looked out of the window and the trees were swaying. It must be cold. Now I was regretting not bringing my jacket. Least I was going to be inside most of the time anyway. I jumped when I heard the click of the door open. Olivia was back carrying two cups. She sat in the driver seat and handed me my drink.
"I didn't know what you wanted and they make these amazing hazelnut lattes here so I thought you'd like one."
I took a sip of the drink and it tasted good.
"I can always go get another drink if you don't like it."
Olivia's face was covered with embarrassment and concern. I couldn't help but smile at her.
"It's good. I'm glad you got me it instead of coffee."
Olivia returned the smile. Olivia took a sip of her drink and then put it in the cup holder. She then placed the key in the ignition and we were back on the road.
"What drink did you get?"
She didn't take her eyes off the road, she was all about safety.
"Just a cappuccino."
So, she was a cappuccino kind of girl.
I hardly knew Olivia yet I was talking to her as if I had known her all my life.
"How are you settling in?"
Manhattan was better than I had expected. The people I had gotten to know were so kind to me and the views were breath-taking. Manhattan was my chance at a better life. I had to take it.
"I really like it here and I hope I make the most of it."
Olivia smiled at that. Her smile made me feel warm. It gave me a sense of security.
"Amanda, you're a great cop and a key part of the team."
Olivia's voice told me she was being serious. I couldn't believe that. I had made so many stupid mistakes. Instead of admitting that, I decided to lighten the mood.
"You're not too bad yourself."
Olivia let out a laugh. She seemed to be completely relaxed. I wanted this to go well for her because she deserved to be trusted to run the precinct. If this speech went well, then it is more likely that the people who will make the decision will have the confidence in her. Olivia deserved to stay, she had to. Without her knowing any of my problems, she managed to help by making me work to the best of my ability. She might have been seeing a therapist but she was my therapy.
We had reached the final ten minutes of the journey. I looked at Olivia. I couldn't stop staring at her.
"Are you nervous? Oh wait, stupid question."
"Not as much as I thought I would be. Thanks for distracting me."
A compliment from Olivia could change my mood completely. It took me a couple of seconds to recompose myself. I grinned at Olivia.
I was too busy trying to gather my surroundings that I couldn't quite hear Olivia. I was sure she said I'll remember that. I hope she did. Was I falling for Olivia? Of course, I wasn't. She was my boss, and she had Noah to look after and she was straight. I didn't love Olivia, I just admired her. I told myself that there was no point in thinking about it because Olivia Benson could never love me and even if she could, I could never love her like she would love me.
"I thought I was meant to be the nervous one."
Olivia broke the silence. Again, I found myself smiling like an idiot.
"Yes, you are. Don't go breaking tradition Liv."
I just called her Liv. I shouldn't have done that. Why did I do that?
"It's not my fault if you zoned out and looked more anxious than me. All joking aside is every thing okay?"
I reassured her I was fine, like I had reassured everybody else.
"Why are you so distracted then?"
Olivia teased. How was I meant to answer? Oh, it's just because I think I might be falling in love with you. Or I could lie like I always do. I'm good at that.
"I've just never been here before, that's all."
Olivia seemed to believe it as she nodded her head. I decided to look out of the window for the last few minutes. It relaxed me, that's what I needed. The streets were busy but it seemed to fit the area well. The place was easy to admire. I took a mental note to take Frannie to the park here one day. She'd like it here. Suddenly I jumped out of my skin. Olivia had touched my knee.
I was lost for words so I just smiled. I could smile at Olivia all day.
Fin's car was already there when we arrived. They were standing there waiting for us. Olivia parked the car next to Fin's. The four of them greeted us as we got out of the car.
"What took you two so long?" Nick asked while looking at his watch.
We all laughed before Olivia showed them the cups which used to hold the hot beverages.
"Thanks for getting us drinks too Liv." Rafael said seriously however he failed to hold back a grin.
We walked closer to the entrance. The building was magnificent. I could see that it had four floors. The conference was being held in a room on the second floor. The building looked just as good on the inside as it did on the outside. We couldn't help but stop for a moment to admire it. We got into the lift with a few other people that I didn't recognise. They were going to the second floor as well. Altogether there was ten of us in the lift and when the lift pinged to let us know it had reached the second floor. Nine of us got off leaving a middle-aged woman whose eyes never left her tablet. The corridor was filled with people heading in the same direction - towards the room where the conference would take place.
"Are you Olivia Benson?"
A voice called out. Olivia turned around to acknowledge the person who had spoken.
"I'm Andrew Knowles from the Bronx. I'm speaking after you. I've heard a lot about your work and I admire it. I was wondering if you wanted to discuss it more over a coffee or something?"
The man's tone was smug and his attitude was over-confident. Olivia did not find this appealing.
"Sorry but I can't. Thanks for the offer though."
He quickly walked away. We all exchanged glances among each other.
"Did that really happen?" Sonny was almost laughing until he looked at Olivia. "Er... Not because of your appearance but because of where we are, obviously."
Now it was Olivia's turn to roll her eyes at Sonny.
"Shut up Carisi."
We were all laughing which was a good sign since Olivia would begin her speech in roughly fifteen minutes. Olivia told us she had to go and get ready for her speech. Rafael told her we'd save her a seat.
The room was already nearly full but we had managed to find a row of seats near the middle of the room. Barba went and sat down first followed by Amaro and then Carisi and then me. There was a spare seat next to mine. That's where Olivia would be sitting after her speech. I just hoped that Olivia's speech would be received well. There she was. Waiting to go on stage. She looked composed, that was a good sign, right? As soon as she stepped onto that stage I was mesmerised. She was strong and confident. When she spoke, her words were so passionate.
"It's time to act now to make sure that this issue never happens again. Thank you."
She had finished her speech. It couldn't have gone any better. Everyone was on their feet applauding, even Andrew Knowles. Olivia walked off the stage smiling. She came over to us and took her seat.
"Well done Liv. That was honestly amazing!" I whispered to her.
Andrew Knowles had already begun his speech so she just mouthed thank you back. His speech wasn't as good as Olivia's but he was determined to make his the longest. Olivia's speech had lasted roughly four minutes - he had been talking for five minutes with no intention of stopping. I decided to quickly go to the bathroom and hope that when I got back he would have finished.
I took my time walking to the bathroom even though it was only across the hall. I didn't expect the bathroom to look the way it did. It had three cubicles with the same amount of wash basins. I didn't expect it to be so big. I could stay here for a few minutes easily. The bathroom had the scent of lavender. I quite liked lavender. I checked my hair and make-up in the mirror. I looked the same as I did every day. I looked at my watch. It had been three minutes. He would have finished his speech by now. I opened the door to hear his voice. I froze.
It was him.
There he was giving a speech acting like he was the greatest thing that the American police force had ever seen. But I knew what he really was. He's the lingering presence in the air that follows you wherever you go. He's the one who haunts your thoughts and brings the almost palpable sensation that he is by your side, watching your every move.
I couldn't listen to his speech. Every time I heard his voice it reminded me of what he said to me. How could I ever forget what he said to me that night? His words were poison. His lips were poison. Every thing about him was poison. He had infected me and I was still trying to find the antidote. However I didn't think that it existed because I had tried to find it over the last few years and I hadn't found anything that resembled something that could help me. Nothing can help me now I thought to myself. If anything, I've just been getting worse and worse. I just can't forget what happened. How was I meant to just forget? I thought I was going to die that night. A part of me wanted to die so that it would all end. I begged for him to kill me but his reply was a sharp, mocking laugh. I don't know which hurt the most - the fact that he let me live or that he laughed at how helpless I was.
I sat back down next to Olivia. She would help me. She would be the one to save me. I needed to distract myself from his grasp that he had over me but I couldn't. I closed my eyes hoping to imagine myself somewhere else, anywhere but here. I would see myself with Frannie Mae and the sun was shining brightly. It reminded me of a holiday when it was just the two of us - Frannie Mae and me. We would play on the beach all day and it was just truly perfect. I wanted to desperately go back there. The thought of it even made me smile a little. I loved my dog. She was the only good thing in my life right now. My body began to relax and I felt I could get through this. I wasn't going to let him control me anymore. I was going to get my life back. The thought made me begin to feel human again. I was beginning to feel like Amanda again.
I pictured myself in the past and now I was picturing myself in the future. I kept telling myself that I was happy with where my life was going and I was but deep down I wanted more. I wanted to feel happy within myself so then maybe I could settle down with someone and I wanted to be the best cop I could be. I could picture myself earning a promotion and everyone would be congratulating me. They would be happy for me and I would be happy too. I would look at Olivia, Nick, Fin, Sonny and Rafael and their smiles would reflect back onto my face. I felt as if I belonged there. They weren't just my friends, they were my family.
Olivia was like my mother, always doing her best to look after me. Fin was like the protective father who always looked out for you. Nick was the brother who was also your best friend and you could trust him with anything. Sonny was the younger brother who had the potential to annoy you so much but he could also make you laugh more than you ever thought you could. Rafael was the uncle that would protect you but he'd try to act more like your friend. My dreams were being made surrounded by my family. Sergeant Amanda Rollins, how good did that sound?
"Well done Amanda."
He'd appeared in my thoughts to ruin my dreams. Again.
I wasn't going to let him destroy me but here I was, back at the start again. I was worse than I was before. He was even more manipulative in person than he was in memory. To infect all my thoughts all that needed to happen was to see his face. After I had transferred from Atlanta to Manhattan I thought, naively, that I would never see him again. Why did he have to be here? It felt as if I was back there in the hotel room. I took a deep breath hoping it would all go away. I can't go back to the way I was. I just can't. I could picture his face in my mind. It was like he was right in front of me. No, no, no I thought to myself. His face was plastered with a smug grin. It was like it was happening all over again.
I forced my eyes open and let out a small gasp. He was in front of me. Will this pain ever stop? Luckily everybody was too focused on his speech to realise how uncomfortable I was. Although a part of me wishes they could see what he really was but he hid his true colours well.
As he droned on and on about how the police force had become more effective over the last few years when dealing with rape cases our eyes met. They were fixated on me. I wanted to break the hold he had over me but I couldn't. Those eyes brought everything back. I panicked. I had to get away. The bathroom seemed like the only option. I looked down at my shoes. I loved my black heels as they looked so stylish and they were surprisingly comfortable. I realised that I couldn't look at my shoes for the rest of his speech. I told myself to just look up but it wasn't that easy. I knew he was there. Right in front of me. I lifted my head up slowly and found my eyes looking at him, just as his eyes were looking at me. Why was he still looking at me? Out of everyone at the conference he decided that he would focus on me. I decided to match his eyes. Our eyes were locked together.
He was so composed. His voice was strong and confident as it always was and he had this look in his eyes that he had that night. As every second that he looked at me passed, his eyes grew bigger and bigger. Surely someone would notice? He was blatantly staring at me. How wasn't anybody noticing? I couldn't do it anymore. It felt that as he was staring at me he was taking away my strength and gaining it making himself stronger and me weaker.
I turned my head away to try and focus on something else. I just realised how plain the walls were. They were all white. They must have been freshly painted because the smell of fresh paint still lingered in the air. I hated that smell, it always made me feel sick. The anxiety of seeing Patton and the smell of the paint mixed together was unbearable. I tried to distract myself again. I, once again, found myself staring at my shoes. He was probably laughing to himself about me. She can't even look me in the eye. I always knew she weak! I could hear his mocking tone and his piercing laugh. Enough was enough. I couldn't stand being in the same room as him much longer. I had two options - go to the bathroom and compose myself or stay here and have a breakdown. It was an easy choice.
I apologised to Olivia as I had to pass her to get to the bathroom. She gave me a smile in return. How could Olivia be so warm after every thing that she'd been through? I wish I was more like Olivia. She was beautiful and so intelligent. I found myself realising that I had begun to idolise Olivia. However who could blame me, after all she was a fantastic role model.
I was tempted to look back to see how focused my colleagues were. The bathroom was only across the room but it felt like it took hours to get there when it was under a minute. I felt like I was being watched. Since that night it felt as if my senses had been increased. I turned to the stage where Patton was speaking expecting him to be looking at me. I wanted to meet his eye to know that I wasn't running away and that I wasn't affected by his presence (even though I was). When I turned my head I saw him but he wasn't looking at me. He wasn't even looking at someone female. He was looking at my colleagues from Atlanta. Patton was explaining the rape/murder case of Chloe Donaldson and congratulating the detectives on the case who had worked so hard to find the killer. I still felt that uncomfortable feeling that someone was watching me, so who was it?
I studied the audience quickly to see who was looking at me. Our eyes met. It was Olivia. Her face ached with worry and her eyes wouldn't leave me. I gave her the most believable smile I could master. I wasn't sure whether she believed it or not. Could she see the tears that were building up in my eyes? I wasn't going to get through this. I could still feel her brown eyes watching me as I opened the bathroom door. I wondered if she realised what was making me feel like this. Did she know that something happened to me? No, of course she didn't. She couldn't. I was, as usual, overthinking. That's all. Every thing was under control. I could handle this. I was okay. Nothing was wrong. Apart from every thing.
I quickly rushed to the bathroom. I checked the stalls making sure no one was there before I stared at my reflection in the mirror. What the hell was I doing with my life? I hated what I saw. I hated what I had become. I wasn't Amanda anymore; I was a monster. My eyes had lost their brightness that they once had. Before I knew what was happening I was in floods of tears.
At that moment in time I didn't care if anyone came in and saw me. I collapsed to the floor and took deep breaths. The tears just wouldn't stop falling. I felt as if my skin was suffocating me. Why had I let this happen? I could've stopped it. I could've done something. I could've told someone. But I never did. Why? That question kept going round and round in my head. After five or so minutes I began to calm down after realising that I had to go back soon or if I didn't they might begin to question my absence. I wiped my tears and practiced my smile in the mirror. It never looked the same after that night.
After looking in the mirror I noticed how my mascara had run. I decided to wipe it off as I didn't bring my make-up with me and I couldn't let anyone see me like this. I couldn't let anyone know something was wrong.
"I am okay. Nothing is wrong." I said aloud to try and convince myself however it didn't work as I found myself thinking but nothing is right either. I slowly walked towards the door and I was ready to return to my own personal hell.
He was still talking. I returned to my seat, smiling as I passed Olivia and looked at the others. They didn't question how long I was gone, probably because they were too busy listening. If they knew what had happened would they still listen to his every word? Would they still have respect for him, like they do now? This conference is the last place where he should be, he should be in jail.
He ruined everything I had and what happened to him? Nothing. He's still the Chief in Atlanta. He still has a life. I have nothing left, apart from Frannie, of course. I could feel the burning sensation within my lungs. It had been years and he was still haunting me. I felt the anger go through my veins. It would be so easy to just shoot him and get him out of my life for once and for all. I smiled at the thought.
I startled out of my hatred for the man who had destroyed my life as my name was mentioned. I looked up to see where the words had came from, even though I already knew. His voice was unmistakable. What right did he have to mention my name? He looked directly into my eyes and smiled. He had the nerve to smile at me. I looked down to see my hands were shaking. I quickly tried to pretend that I was fixing my hair. Fin gave me a wary look and I replied with a smile. He probably thinks I'm just embarrassed at being mentioned by my old boss.
Sometimes I wish I could tell Fin what happened, tell him what he did to me. But who would believe some stupid blonde bitch who only cared about herself over an experienced chief, anyway? I tried to focus on something other than him. I needed to. I saw the clock and hoped that the speech would be over soon so I could get the hell out of there. The air was getting so thick I felt like I was being suffocated. That's the affect he has on me. He always has and he always will. I've tried to make him leave my thoughts but all I end up doing is pushing the people I care about away.
Finally his speech was over. It was over. I could leave. I was eyeing the door which would lead me to safety. I just wanted to sprint to it and never look back.
"Amanda?" Nick spoke.
"Amanda? Are you coming?"
I turned round to see that Olivia, Sonny and Fin were already making their way towards the other end of the room where people had gathered to be able to discuss the issues that had been brought up in the speeches that they had just heard. I smiled at Nick and followed him to where the others were standing. They greeted us with a warm smile which was returned by the both of us.
"It's great to see that we're actually making a difference. More and more rape kits are being tested. Hopefully one day we'll be able to say that every rape kit is quickly and efficiently tested." Olivia said.
Everyone nodded their head in agreement. The others started to talk about something - it must have been funny because Carisi started laughing - but I zoned out. He was walking towards us. He was walking towards me.
"Oh hey Chief Patton. Great speech!" Sonny called out.