“Of course we can,” I snapped, surprising even myself with the slight harshness of my tone.
Ever since she left my apartment this morning I couldn’t relax, or concentrate on anything except her. Every time my mobile phone rang, I would jump to answer it and hoped it was her on the other end. Now, hearing her voice calmed my nerves a bit, but it did little to hide the fact that I was still upset with her.
I took a moment to settle down before I continued. “Gail, you know you can always talk to me,” I reassured her softly.
I didn’t know what her nightmare was about. I wish she stayed so we could talk about it. I wanted to understand why she was having nightmares and what would cause her to run like she did. I knew that whatever she dreamt about really scared her. I will never forget the pained look on her face.
“I…I don’t know where to start Holly. I’m a horrible person,” she sobbed.
“Gail, you are not horrible. Why do you think that?” I asked her.
“Because…I ran away…again. And, because…I hurt you.” I heard her inhale sharply as the thunder rumbled in the background.
“Where are you, honey?” I asked. She continued to sob as more thunder blared through the air. “Are you at home?”
“No,” she admitted.
“Where are you?” I asked again with concern after a few seconds of silence.
“I’m near your apartment.”
“Why don’t you come over and we can talk here,” I offered.
“Really?” she said quietly as I heard metal rattle in the background. I tried to figure out where she could be. The thunder and the rain sounded like she was outside. “Holly? Can you stay on the phone until I’m at your place?” she asked softly.
“Of course,” I told her. “I won’t hang up until you arrive here.”
After a short while, I heard a knock on my door. When I opened it, Gail was standing in front of me with her arms crossed, shivering and completely soaked. Her hooded leather jacket did nothing to keep her dry, as her wet hair clung to her forehead. “Hi,” she said nervously.
I shook my head and smiled tightly at her. “Hi,” I replied. It sounded more like a question than a greeting. “C’mon, let’s get you into some dry clothes.” I stepped back to let her in my apartment.
Before I could say any more, Gail lunged towards me and swung her arms around my neck in a bone crushing hug. She took me by surprise, and for a moment I stood there with my arms wide open, staring at her. As I moved to hug her back, she pulled away and looked at me with a shocked expression on her face. “Uh, I’m sorry…for hugging you.” She stared at me in my now damp clothes. “I’m soaked,” she said shyly.
“No need to be sorry. How about you go take a hot shower, then we can talk, ok?”
“Okay.” She nodded and padded slowly pass me towards the bathroom.
“I’ll grab some comfortable clothes for you,” I said, as she walked down the hallway, leaving small puddles of water in her path. “You want something warm to drink? Some tea or hot chocolate?”
“Anything is fine,” she said, turning back briefly to look at me, before closing the bathroom door. I heard the metal of Gail’s belt rattle just before the water started running.
I decided to make hot chocolate because Gail loved drinking it on rainy days. I walked over to the kitchen island and warmed up some milk for our drinks. After a few minutes, the timer announced that the milk was ready. I filled our mugs and took them over to the coffee table. I settled on the couch and waited for Gail to join me. It was a relief to finally know that she was fine. I contemplated on what I wanted to say to her. We really needed to talk about what happened today, and she had to know that whatever was troubling her affected me too. I knew she needed time to herself to sort things out, and I was more than willing to give her space. But not hearing from her for an entire day after she disappeared in the early morning really scared me.
I heard the bathroom door open. “Gail, I’m in the living room,” I called out to her.
Her pale skin shimmered red from her hot shower, and her hair was brushed and pulled back in a ponytail. I motioned for her to sit down on the couch next to me. As she sat down, Gail grabbed the blanket I kept on the couch, and pulled it around her to snuggle into. She picked up the mug and took a small sip of the hot drink. “Mmm…I love hot chocolate,” she said as she closed her eye and smiled.
“I know,” I said softly.
Gail sat back and looked down at the mug she cradled in her hands. “I'm so sorry, Holly,” she started. She raised her head until our eyes met. “I’m sorry for hurting you, and for running away, and for not answering or returning your calls, and causing you to worry. I’m sorry for everything I did wrong today.” Gail looked down at her hands. “I screwed up,” she mumbled.
“Gail, you’re here and that’s the most important thing, if you ask me. I just want to understand what happened in your dream. What made you leave without saying more than a few words?” I asked. I saw a flash of panic in her eyes and knew it must be something intense.
Gail set her mug on the coffee table and turned to look at me. “It was not a dream. It was a nightmare. It’s related to a case I worked on about a year ago. Holly, it was really bad.” Gail leaned back on the couch. “There was this guy who killed several women. I fit the profile of the women he targeted, so I was placed undercover and went on a date with suspect. They were able to detain him during our date and took him back to the station while I stayed back at the hotel bar.”
I remembered that case about those women. A detective died during the investigation, but didn’t know Gail was directly involved with it.
“Later that night, I took a cab back to Andy’s place, where I was staying at the time. Andy was staying with Sam, so I texted Nick to see if he wanted to come over.” Gail stopped and looked at me. “Nick and I were together back then,” she mumbled in the blanket.
I nodded to let her know that I understood, and wanted her to continue.
“Well, when I got to the apartment, I called Nick. There was a knock at the door and I thought it was him, but then…it wasn't Nick. It was Perik. As soon as I opened the door, he knocked me out and shoved the door against me, hitting me pretty hard. When he got a hold of me, he drugged me and the next thing I remember was I waking up in his basement. He blindfolded me and strapped me to a table.”
I remembered how worried I was when I heard about the shooting involving the 15th, but it was nothing compared to how scared I felt for Gail as she talked about her abduction. I knew Gail’s job is very dangerous, but to hear of it firsthand worried me even more. I started to feel the anger rise inside of me. I was so angry at the Perik for all that he did.
"Is that what your dream, I mean nightmare, was about?" I asked, still trying to get the images out of my mind.
She nodded and tears started falling from her eyes.
“You know, in all my nightmares I was the only one in his basement, strapped to a table. But last night, I wasn’t alone.” She swallowed hard. I began to feel a lump forming in my throat.
“You were there too, Holly. He drugged you and strapped you to the table. And he tried to…,” she paused, taking in a breath. “I watched him place the scalpel to your sternum.”
I wasn’t sure what to say to her confession. I looked at her for a few moments. “Gail, thanks for trusting me and telling me what happened. I can’t even imagine how hard it must be to go through all of that."
Gail nodded and snuggled herself in the blanket again. “I'm really sorry for running away. I know I promised to talk to you when something is bothering me, but sometimes...," she trailed off and started to sob again.
“Do you want to talk about it? The basement or him?” I asked her.
“No, not tonight, if it’s okay with you,” she answered while looking at her hands.
“It’s okay with me. I understand if you don’t want to talk about it. But I want you to know that if you ever need to talk, I’m here for you okay?” Gail nodded and reached for her mug.
“I would like to talk about us,” she said as she looked at me.
“Sure, we can talk about us.”
“I need to fix things with you,” she said
“We are not broken, Gail.”
“My nightmare and everything that happed after that nearly broke us.” Gail’s whisper was nearly inaudible.
“No, that nightmare didn’t break us. No matter what you think, he is not that strong.”
“Are you still upset with me,” she asked.
“Honestly, today took a toll on me. I was so upset at you for running out on me, and shutting me out. That wasn’t fair. I was worried about you all day, and it made me wonder …,” my voice trailed off.
Gail looked at me with concern. “Wonder what, Holly?” she asked.
“That you were creating your emergency situation,” I admitted sadly.
Gail shook her head. “Holly, no. Please don’t ever think that, okay?”
“Then what was I supposed to think, Gail? When we first met, you gave me fair warning of you –
the cat in a tree?” I said raising my voice slightly. My emotions started to get the best of me.
Gail took my hand in hers. “It’s not like that, Holly,” she said shaking her head. “Not with you.”
“Gail, you had a nightmare and quickly ran out of here before I could say anything. I tried to call you. I texted you…hell I even went to the station looking for you. And you just disappeared on me; just totally ignored me.”
“I’m very sorry, Holly.”
My emotions got the best of me and I couldn’t contain my feelings anymore. It was the time to tell her that she needed to learn that she’s not alone in this. It’s not a weakness to open up and let others in, to talk about fears. That’s what a partner is there for. “Gail, I need you to talk to me when something like that happens. I want to help, but you have to give me a chance and let me in.”
“I know, I can’t keep running away. I’m just not good at all this, but I want to be for you! I want to be better, because you deserve better. I want to deserve you.”
"Why did you run away?" I asked her after I processed everything she just said.
"Honestly, I'm not quite sure. Seeing you in my dream was just too much. The thought of him hurting you…I didn’t know...," she said softly, shaking her head. “It was me who actually hurt you.” she added.
“Why didn’t you call or text me?” I asked curiously.
“You know, when I realized what I did, I regretted running away from you. But I couldn’t come back here. I wasn’t ready to face you,” she said while she looked at me intently.
I had never seen Gail so vulnerable before. Since we met back at the crime scene, she was always that snarky, bitchy, sarcastic woman. But seeing her now, she was so much more. It was hard to see her like this, with her guard down. It made me wonder what else happened to her in the line of duty that made Gail very guarded and closed off. I wondered what made her think so badly about herself. She let me see behind those thick walls; let me see the real Gail; the soft, vulnerable and insecure side of her. It showed me how much she trusted me, and how much I meant to her.
I looked down at our hands that were laced together and squeezed them.
“I promised to protect the people living in this city,” she suddenly started. “I promised this and then I hurt one of the best ones living here. It freaked me out. Usually, no one pays me any attention when I am upset and closed off. They just let me be and wait for me to come back. I think part of me was just scared of what you thought of me, and how fucked up I was. I thought that you didn’t want to deal with me anymore. If not this time, I’m sure next time I’ll finally send you running for the hills. No one ever put this much effort in me. Not like you do.”
Gail paused and drew a deep breath. “And there’s a bigger part of me that hopes someday you’ll forgive me for all that I’ve done. I don’t want to lose you. I’m not quite sure how you’ll continue to handle me, but I hope you’ll stick around and help me figure things out.”
She eyes dropped to our hands, and then she let go. She reached for her mug and emptied it. She got up and nodded towards my mug. I handed it over to her after I downed the last bit and she carried them over to the sink.
As she stood by the kitchen island she looked at her feet awkwardly.
“Gail? What’s wrong?” I asked her.
“Can I stay here tonight?” she barely whispered.
“Of course. Why would I want you to go?” I asked raising an eyebrow.
She shrugged before lifting her head. “I don’t know, it was kind of a long day, maybe you want to sleep or be alone. You know, think about everything” she admitted.
“Who says I can’t do that with you here?” Immediately a smile appeared on her face.
“So I can stay?” she asked again.
I walked over to her and put my arms around her and placed a kiss on the top of her head, to which I heard her giggle.
“I admit it was a long day. I would like to go to bed soon. I have an early shift tomorrow. What about you?” I asked her after a few moments of silent hugging.
“Me too,” she said and pulled away enough to look me in the eyes.
“Thank you for putting up with me.”
Instead of answering I took her hand and led her over to the bed. We lay down and she snuggled next to me. Her hands traced pattern on my stomach, carefully avoiding the area where she had hit me. Suddenly she lifted her head and looked at me curiously.
“Holly, may I see it?” she asked as she placed her hand on the hem of my shirt.
“You sure you want to? It’s not that bad Gail,” I told her, trying to reassure her. She nodded and I lifted my shirt a bit. Her eyes still fixed on mine she closed her hand around mine and lifted my shirt enough to reveal the bruise. She laid the shirt down and looked down to my stomach.
“Oh my god, what have I done? It looks bad,” she said voice breaking. The bruise was deep blue and black.
“Hey,” I reached for her, and pulled her to me so I could look into her eyes. “For me it’s not that bad. It was worse when you ran away. But now that you are here with me, I know we will work on us, for the better.”
She laid down beside me and pulled the blanket to cover us. Still looking at me, she pulled me closer to her and wrapped her arm tightly around my waist. Her other arm was strapped under my head and I used it as a pillow.
“I’m scared to fall asleep. I know I’ll dream about him again, or worse hurt you again,” she told me after we looked at each other for a while.
“Do you want to be held tonight?” I asked her while I stroke her spine up and down with my index finger.
“No, I want to hold you for a change, to remind myself you are still here,” she said softly. I turned to my side, and Gail pulled me close to her to spoon me from behind. She placed light kisses between my shoulders I shuddered as she kissed the soft spot behind my ear.
Gail pulled slightly. “Sorry,” she muttered and pressed a kiss to my shoulder before she nuzzled her head in my neck.