Chapter 12 -Glimpses of clarity-
As she stood in front of the wooden door, Kalinda blinked and tried to retrace her steps. How had she ended up here? Although in her heart she knew it was the only place that made sense right now, she also knew it was the last place where she should go. Just as she had made up her mind to leave, her eye caught the unusually big plant that stood in the hallway. She smiled and smirked as she pretended to walk away, before reaching behind the leaves and taking the boy by the ear.
' Oh seriously, it doesn't hurt that much.'
As she let go of him, he shook his clothes in a masculine manner and she couldn't help but smile at his antics.
' Trying to sneak back in?'
For a moment the boy contemplated lying, but she saw him come to a different conclusion. It made her wonder what Alicia had been like at his age and a strange yearning to find out took hold of her. She had to suppress the urge to literally shake off the feeling.
' Actually, Grace was supposed to let me back in, I guess she fell asleep, the …'
She looked at him sternly and saw his admiration for her battle with the annoyance he now obviously felt.
' Don't even thing about finishing that sentence! Do your parents know you`re gone?'
At that exact moment a tumult broke loose on the other side of the door and although the words were inaudible, Kalinda clearly heard the panic and anger in Alicia's voice. The boy however, only seemed to hear the latter. Picking up his backpack his eyes moved quickly from left to right, and she knew he was trying to find a way to escape this situation.
' So, I better split until this calms down. I'll see you.'
Taking hold of his backpack and turning him back to her, she smiled, feeling how the facial expression had the desired effect. She waited until he smiled back before she, sweetly, answered him.
' Like hell you are.'
The twinkle in her eye actually made Zack laugh, even though he knew he was in a whole lot of trouble. He hadn't wanted to sneak out, but Becca always seemed to have a way of making him do things, even now that they were just friends.
As Kalinda observed the boy she couldn't help but conclude it was a good kid. He wouldn't be the first teenage boy sneaking out late. She also knew for Alicia, it would be slightly different. Ringing the bell she had moments before tried to ignore, she heard the voices inside quiet. Alicia's expression was exactly how she had expected. Pale, on the verge of tears and her eyes in a rage of worry. Her reaction however, was not. Her eyes went from the boy to Kalinda, still holding onto his backpack to prevent him from doing a last-minute runner. And as they rested on the Indian woman, they filled with gratitude before she pulled her into a hug.
' Thank you'
The words, breathed in her ear, made the hairs on the back of Kalinda's neck stand and she couldn't suppress a shiver. As she felt the boy was being pulled inside, she caught sight of Peter who looked at her with amusement in his eyes. She must have looked like a deer caught in headlights. Alicia's arms, tight around her, her own, aimlessly, next to her body. The delightful sensation of Alicia`s body, pressed so tightly against hers, made her blush with a sense of guilt. If already the situation hadn`t been completely inappropriate, the feelings themselves, rushing through her abdomen, were. She slowly brought up her reluctant arms as she felt tears in her neck and her eyes, still connected with Peter's, grew wider. Not just because of the woman, who clung onto her, but also for the gratitude in his eyes.
What did she miss?
So she got the boy inside, that was hardly worth a Nobel price. As Peter turned to his son, and led him to, what she assumed, was his bedroom, she shortly made eye-contact with the boy. She was again surprised to see how much his look reminded her of his mother's and she felt herself wordlessly communicating with the kid, reassuring him she would put in a good word.
Pressing her face against the curve of Kalinda's neck, Alicia felt as if the weight of the world was lifted from her shoulders. Since the moment she had found out Zack was missing from his bed, the boy had died a 1000 deaths in her mind. Feeling a soft push, Alicia pulled back slightly, almost moaning at the breaking of the connection, but suddenly remembering how Kalinda had responded to earlier physical contact.
But Kalinda wasn't pushing her away, but simply guided her through the door, to the living room couch. Gently encouraging her to sit down, her investigators eye fell on a glass of wine she picked up before sitting down next to her best friend. Pushing the glass into Alicia's hands, urging her to take a sip, Kalinda found her hand slowly caressing the lawyers back, trying to calm her. She hesitated, although Alicia didn't seem to mind. Even though Kalinda knew she wasn`t trying to take advantage of the situation by touching her friend, she was painfully aware what someone, who would know about her feelings for the lawyer, would think of this. Furthermore, it was very un-Kalinda-like to be so touchy-feely… She wondered if she should stop the soft caress, but also sensed it was what the other woman needed. They sat so close, their upper legs and shoulders touching, that Kalinda was almost convinced Alicia could hear the pounding of her heart. She bit her lips, still hesitating, scolding herself that she was thinking of hands and touches while she should be worrying about her friend.
' You got the message.'
Kalinda's hand stopped moving as those mesmerizing eyes locked with hers.
' I knew you would find him.'
Relieved of having found the source of the mistake, Kalinda sat up straighter to set it right, when she heard a voice from behind her. Her hand dropped.
'I didn't want her to call you… Obviously I was wrong'
Peter's strong baritone had once had a calming effect on Kalinda, but now it was quite the opposite. She stirred, making sure all contact between her and Alicia was broken before facing him.
But before she could respond and set the record straight, she was, again, interrupted.
Alicia's sarcastic and low tone of voice was one Kalinda hadn't heard before. And she, surprised, glanced at the woman, who now reached out to the bottle of wine and the empty glass that Peter had brought from the kitchen. Filling the glass and wordlessly presenting it to Kalinda, she seemed to have a silent battle with her husband. Swifting uncomfortably, the investigator took a sip of the grapey fluid, feeling how it warmed her slightly, before scraping her throat.
Peter, who hadn't sat down, help up his finger in a gesture that Alicia suddenly realized was very similar to Kalinda's way to catch attention. But, now that it was her husband asking to speak, it felt more demanding and it gave her an urge to kick something.
She was sick of it, so sick of it to live her life the way he saw fit, the way his mother saw fit, the way his campaign-manager saw fit.
When they had found out that Zach was missing from his bed, his first thought had seemed to be about his precious campaign. He couldn't use a loose cannon for a kid right now, he needed the well-behaving boy Zach had always been. She knew Peter loved his kids, but the way he had spoken had made her want to allow Grace to get a full-body tattoo and give Zach the package of condoms she had once confiscated. But to Alicia's surprise, his words now, were not meant for her. Although the icy glare certainly was.
' Thank you, Kalinda, I should have known I could count on you. Now, if you'll excuse me. I'll have to talk to my son.'
Alicia saw Kalinda's eyes move from her to Peter and saw the clear discomfort there.
'Don't be too hard on him. Kids… They sneak out. If you're too harsh he might even want to do so more. He's a good kid, Peter.'
Kalinda's voice sounded soft, almost gentle, and Alicia felt a pang of… Something. What was it? Jealousy? Anger? Was it the aftermath of the worry she had felt for her son that now slowly seemed to drift away? It was a turmoil of emotion she felt as she watched Peter walk away and Kalinda turn to her.
' Alicia, I… I have to clear something up.'
The pronunciation of her name, the way only Kalinda could say it, made her shiver, and she quickly took another sip to hide her involuntary movement.
' Where did you find him?'
Alicia's voice sounded sharper and more demanding than she had intended and she smiled to make up for it.
' I am so glad you got my message, I never get your voicemail. What happened?'
Helpless Kalinda struggled to find the right words and moment to bring the news that the events had not occurred the way Alicia seemed to think. But she knew the longer she waited the more awkward it was going to be.
' That's just it Alicia, I… I didn't. I didn't get your message.'
Confused the lawyer leaned back, taking another sip of wine, while Kalinda played with the ridge of her glass. Alicia was momentarily distracted by the gracious movements of the long fingers as the meaning of the words started to sink in.
' What… so… How did you…?'
Kalinda forced herself to use her words, wishing wordless communication would work right now. She felt awful to think about what Alicia must have been through and it prided her heart to know she had called to her for help. But she had not been there…
' I came to see you. The kid was already there. Well, hiding behind a giant fichus but, basically, already there. So, that's not on my account.'
She reached out for Alicia's free hand, that was lying on her knee and placed, shortly her own on top of it. Feeling the jolt the other woman`s touch always evoked in her, she withdrew her hand quickly, looking at the bodypart as if it had betrayed her. And, in a way, it had.
' I'm sorry. I'm sorry I wasn't there for you when you needed me.'
The words she had wanted to utter had been somewhere along the lines of an apology for not getting the message, but they had changed somewhere in the way from her brain to her lips.
Alicia looked at the other woman and, slowly took back the hand Kalinda now had placed on her own lap. She was amazed by the sense of the soft skin, the small, delicate size of the hand that always seemed to be able to catch everything. To catch her. Holding her breath and in a dreamlike state, Alicia let her fingertips to explore the palm of Kalinda`s hand, in the back of her head she thanked whoever was listening that the investigator allowed the lingering touch. The touch she hadn`t known she craved until she had found it. Slowly, as if with sudden movements she would scare Kalinda away, she let her fingers carefully slide in between the other woman`s. Mesmerized by the feeling of connection it gave her, Alicia watched their entwined fingers, feeling as if the answer to everything could be found there.
The words, the apology she had thought she wanted to hear from her husband, still running through her mind. But it was Kalinda, who had spoken them, Kalinda, who understood her, Kalinda, who she needed.
' But you're here now…'
Her mouth dry, Kalinda heard her own hoarse voice answer.
' Yes, I'm here now.'
Alicia watched as Kalinda cleared the table as if she had never done differently. It felt so… comfortable… to be around the other woman. The waters had calmed and Alicia silently praised Kalinda's insight in the situation. If they had made a big deal out of the thing now, Zach would probably rebel even more. She would have to find a quieter moment to talk to him about it. It was strange though. It was more Grace's style to rebel, although she did it in a 'mustard-seed' kind of way. As she heard Peter talk to Kalinda in the kitchen, she felt that strange sense again. It was very close to jealousy.
What was it? Did she think Peter had his eye on Kalinda? It wouldn't surprise her if he 'checked her out', actually, with Kalinda's beauty and the way she knew how to draw attention to her assets by the way she dressed, she would be surprised if he didn't. Hadn't the investigator herself once said her breasts worked better than subpoenas? And it was true, the hint of cleavage Kalinda always showed definitely drew the attention and was distracting at times.
But, she shook her head to clear it of the unwelcome thoughts, Kalinda was not Peter's type.
She had too much substance.
Wait, did that mean she found herself without substance?
Or that she thought she wasn't Peter's type either?
Before she could try to untangle her confusing thoughts, she heard the tapping of Kalinda's heels near her and, this time successfully, pushed them aside. She hardly paid attention to Peter, as he, muttering, wished them goodnight. Pulling her foot under her, turning herself to Kalinda, she leaned towards the other woman, who had sat down at the edge of the seat next to her.
'Why did you come to see me?'
Despite the late hour, Kalinda looked as awake as Alicia felt, and the laywer's trained eye saw something in her friends demeanor that made her think she was up to talking. The question sounded casual and was meant as such. As an introduction to any deeper conversation. You didn't need a psychology degree to see that with Kalinda, things needed a slow introduction. But the moment she had asked the question, she knew she had hit a cord. Somehow maybe, even the core that she was trying to get to. The Indian woman had tensed up, but seemed to relax again. Not out of comfort but out of defeat. Her shoulders lowered as she placed her elbows on her knees, letting her head rest in her hands. Feeling her body respond on own accord, Alicia sat up and moved closer to her friend,letting her body fit against the side of the other woman,trying to ignore how good that felt.
' I'm sorry, I didn't mean…'
Raising her hand, Kalinda motioned her to stop talking, and Alicia was again surprised how different the emotion was this gesture evoked, compared to the quite similar one her husband had shown earlier.
'I… It's Blake.'
Alicia sensed any question, no matter how encouraging, would be counterproductive right now. She just sat very still, as if any movement could cause Kalinda to be scared into silence again.
Kalinda contemplated her next words, but felt herself unable to think. She had been brought up not to speak of her emotions, and found herself at the loss of vocabulary for what she wanted to say. She hated stammering, knowing it made her come across as insecure, but for the first time since she could remember, she felt she was allowed to be just that.
' He was in… He… He came to my apartment.'
Alicia's raged flamed, sharply, and she could almost taste it. She forced herself to relax, to listen and nothing more, but it wasn't easy as she thought about the other investigator invading her friend`s privacy.
'He… He knows things… About me…About…Leela… That… Nobody knows.'
Kalinda glanced to the side, shortly catching sight of her friend, who only looked at her with interest and nodded. She was grateful Alicia didn't interrupt her and sensed how well the other woman understood what it was she needed. Even better than she did so herself.
' I can't… Leela, she is history. I can't go back. It was too… I just, I can't'
The fear Kalinda had felt when Blake had spoken his last words to her, hit again in full force, and the Indian woman found herself having trouble breathing for a moment.
Putting her hand softly on the other woman's forearm, Alicia found herself incapable to hold in her thoughts any longer. She could only hope her conclusions had been the right ones, or she would make a fool out of herself, but if she did make the jump to say it, maybe Kalinda would feel free to talk to her about it.
' But you're not Leela anymore. You are Kalinda. You are Kalinda, a name I had never heard before I met you, I never associated with anyone. But now I only can say… You're Kalinda. You're strong, you're gorgeous, you're frustrating, you're resourceful, you're terrifying. You're Kalinda, and nobody wants you as their enemy. Believe me…'
The fear in Kalinda's eyes seemed to subside with every word that came out of Alicia's mouth. And as the woman smilingly spoke the last 2 words, the investigator found herself smiling back, feeling the pull of their usual banter.
' So… You think I'm gorgeous…'
Much to her surprise, her teasing wasn't reciprocated. The blush that spread quickly on Alicia's cheek made Kalinda's eyebrows rise. Breaking eyecontact, Alicia found herself looking for a question to ask, to break the awkward silence.
' So what, Blake just showed up at your doorstep?'
Kalinda snorted, the shivery feeling of fear had paralyzed her, but Alicia's words had made her regain some confidence and she slowly started to feel herself again.
' Actually, he was already there when I arrived.'
A dark feeling crept up in the lawyer as she felt the meaning of the words she had to confirm.
' You mean… Outside of your door?'
' No, in my apartment'
As the lawyer jumped up in anger and started to pace, Kalinda, startled, followed her.
' Where are you going?'
Confused Alicia looked at the woman who always seemed to understand her but now seemed to have trouble to do so. The instinct was strong, she had to protect what was hers.
' What do you think. I'm calling Will, that guy is SO fired, and after that you're going to tell me exactly where he is and I will send someone over. We will see what a tough guy he is once he meets some of the 'friends' Peter met in prison.'
The smile that appeared on Kalinda's face was incredulous, but took Alicia's breath away, although not as much as the words that followed.
' I lo… I really… Thank you.'
"I love you, you know that?" she had wanted to say, but caught herself before uttering the words she had never spoken in her life. The fact that she had thought them already shook her to the core. And she tried, very heard, not to think about what that implied. At this moment however, she focused on her disbelieve about almost speaking the words out loud. Knowing she should leave it at that, she heard herself, blushing, continue.
' I've never been someone who… talks about feelings. I simply don't express them. But you are a true friend, Alicia, and I am grateful for that.'
Alicia found herself speechless. Her heart pounded in her chest as if the organ was trying to make his way out of there. And maybe it was… trying to get to… HER. Had Kalinda tried to speak those 3 little words that had never meant much to her? Why did she think so? And why did that suddenly make everything so… Clear. But it now only looked like it had been a glimpse of clarity. A lightning bolt that shortly had enlightened the darkness. A darkness that returned as Kalinda kept explaining. When she saw how the other woman uncomfortably started to shift under her stare, she tried to speak, to utter a response, but found herself unable too. Instead, she simply took a step and enveloped the investigator in her arms. Feeling a heaviness in her movements that came very close to sadness, Alicia tried to joke, ruffling up Kalinda's hair in the hug.
' Who would have thought you would ever go all sentimental on me.'
Kalinda laughed, breaking herself free from the embrace, not allowing her heart to feel the urge to linger there, in that safe place, any longer. She was relieved her confession hadn't been full. She had scared herself, but knew that even though the words she had spoken were not the whole truth, they were the closest to it she could offer.
' So can I go call Peter's jail-buddy to beat up Blake?'
Alicia was glad her voice didn't give up on her, but the playfulness she portrayed sounded awfully 'acted'. Truthfully, she wanted nothing more than find a way to hurt the man who had threatened her friend. The strange emotion grabbed hold of her again, as she looked deep into those dark, emotion-filled eyes. Thankfully, Kalinda didn't seem to notice as she sniggered and Alicia had to catch her breath as a twinkle returned in the black orbs she was observing .
' I don't think that will be necessary'
It were not so much the words as the way she had said them that made Alicia's eyes widen.
'What did you do?'
Kalinda was surprised to find Alicia's voice intrigued, but not disgusted.
' Let's say I think he'll need some sick leave.'
Still the way her name was pronounced wasn't with the outrage she had expected, but more with frustration of not being told the whole story. It made her snigger and the vibration of the genuine feeling in her abdomen warmed her from the inside.
' There… Was a bat… It wasn't pretty.'
Alicia snorted, her eyes twinkling with the strange sensation of pride she felt in her gut.
' A bat? A baseball-bat? So you just happened to have a baseball-bat laying around?'
As the lawyer uttered the words, suddenly something fell into place. Kalinda saw something change in Alicia's eyes as the lawyer was making a connection she hadn't made before.
' Of course! That's it! I assumed he would have a bat laying around, being a Cub. But he's the PITCHER? When is the last time he batted?'
' You don't think he owned a bat.'
Kalinda spoke the words as in a dream, realizing Alicia had a good point. Even if the Chicago Cub's pitcher did own a bat, it wouldn't be very likely he had it lying around. Now if he had been beaten unconscious with a glove…
'I don't think he owned a bat.'
Alicia repeated the words, her passion about the case rekindled by this new found clue. This proved to be more complicated than she had thought before, but then again… So did her life.