It reminded her of the case about the drones in Afganistan. That’s what she felt like, a drone. A senseless piece of metal that was controlled by another person, or maybe not even that, by a computer.
Would she be able to kill on command as well?
Trying to get rid of the morbid thought, she forced herself to pay attention to her surroundings. She felt a hole in her chest where her heart had once pounded and she didn’t even know what she was doing until she was in the apartment, with the real estate agent.
`It`s a little smaller than we discussed.`
The never faltering smile on the woman`s face made Alicia look away. She heard the curiosity in the woman`s voice, but no matter how much she felt like breaking everything in a 3-mile radius, she knew gossip wouldn`t help anything. Luckily her drone-like state helped her to remain unreadable.
`The good news is though, it`s very close to the State`s attorney`s office, and the lease can be signed right away.`
As the woman placed the papers on the bar and continued to talk to her about the apartment`s assets, Alicia felt how she drifted away. The voice of the agent still sounded in the background, like an almost-forgotten lifeline she could use to get back into the world. If she wanted to. But right now? She didn’t.
When Wiley had pointed out the name, -the name Blake had dropped so casually, so many times- and had spoken the words, she had known it was true. Rationally there were many more reasons to believe that it was a set-up, but she simply knew it was true. It had felt like everything fell IN place, and oddly enough at the same moment, OUT of it. How Kalinda had visited Peter in prison, the look she had seen them sometimes exchange. She didn`t know why, but she was certain, and her automatically taken actions spoke of that.
As she, obligatory, engaged in slight small-talk with the agent while she signed the lease, she looked around the empty apartment, wishing she could regain the feeling she had had only a few hours before in the empty office-space.
The last time she had found out that Peter had cheated, she had felt all these… emotions. She had been relieved and devastated at the same time. Anger and fear had done a battle in her heart, both trying to win first place. But now all she felt was… Nothing.
She was empty. Like the office, like this apartment. She was empty.
After she had taken the keys from the other woman, she leaned against the bar, and waited. Simply waited to feel something. Now that she was alone, she had to feel something. But the rush of emotion she had expected, didn`t come. Maybe she had pushed her feelings away for too many times, the past years.
When Peter had been sent to prison, there hadn`t been any time to think about herself. She had had two teenage children to support, to protect, not only from the fact that their father was now considered a criminal, but also from the media circus that their life had become. Then, when they had asked her help to get him out, she had done so with reluctance, but still with the sense to be doing the right thing.
It had been Kalinda who had seen her reluctance and had asked her if she had wanted him home. And then, as she had confirmed, had made it happen.
It was the thought about the investigator that made the sharp pain in her chest appear. For a moment Alicia felt as if she couldn’t breathe. The icy hotness of each inhalation of air cut through her like a knife. Pushing the oxygen out of her longs, Alicia felt her knees buckle and grasped a hold of the cold corner of the bar in front of her. The fresh marble gave her the balance she required to remain upright and she pushed back the tears that had begun to form.
Thinking about Kalinda was too much, she simply couldn’t bear it. Picking up the phone, Alicia scrolled through her contacts until she found the number she needed. Putting the smartphone to her ear, she inhaled, feeling herself slip into the automatic pilot again the moment she heard Peter`s voice.
Kalinda Sharma simply sat. If someone would have been observing her, they would never guess the turmoil that was raging through her. Only moments before she had calmly walked around the abandoned office, but it was not possible to open the windows of the high building. And even the airvent she had considered was surely out of reach.
She knew she should not go through extraordinary measures to get out, he would free her at any moment. And if not him, someone else would find her. It was just that the sensation of being locked up paralyzed her, and she only knew one way to deal with that.
But in the absence of her bag, her phone, a computer or even a piece of paper and a pencil, the investigator found herself thrown back on her most basic database. Her mind.
Shivering in her thin dress, Kalinda had found herself pushing the chair to the corner of the office, the furthest away from the airconditioning, which seemed to be blowing at full speed. And now she just sat there, her mind working steadily. It was the only thing she could do to prevent thinking about the threats, both his and Blake`s, that had been thrown to her lately. The only thing to avoid wondering what would happen when Alicia would find out she had slept with her husband.
Feeling her breathing fasten again, Kalinda wrapped her arms around herself, covering her shoulders in the thin shawl she had brought.
Antony was supposed to call her tonight with the results of what had been found in and on the glasses they had found. There had been one in the client`s bedroom and several in the kitchen. He had even, at her strong urging, ordered testing of the package of orange juice and the bottle of vodka she had found in the fridge. She knew it had been a long shot, but hoped it would get her further. What would Antony do if he couldn’t get a hold of her? The mental image of him, barging in the door to rescue her, made her snort sarcastically. Maybe she should be getting that copy of Elizabeth Gilbert`s memoirs after all.
It wasn’t so much HIM she was longing for, though, but freedom. The thought of another person, who could call, creeped in unexpected. One who evoked, -albeit slightly- more emotion. Lana had said, maybe, a case would bring her in Kalinda`s proximity this week. Lana was just complicated enough to be interesting, but, the investigator knew, also smart enough to be a danger. She liked her though, the tough, closeted, game-playing FBI-agent, it felt a little like the tough, closeted, game-playing parts in herself found their match in her. Again, Kalinda found herself wishing she could simply be normal and FEEL something for another human being. Something that was stronger than a peak of interest or amusement. The image that formed itself –of someone she DID care strongly about- in her mind was quickly suppressed by another as she focused once again on the case.
Of course she had taken the opportunity to take a look in the victim`s room which he shared with Alex` mother. Antony had caught her as she, gloved, went through the woman`s clothes. Not entirely sure what she was looking for.
As he had reprimanded her, his eyes twinkling, and taken her by the upper arm to guide her out of the room, she had caught it from the corner of her eye. In the laundry basket. The slip of a blouse, white, with a blue thin stripe.
It kept coming back to her, that image.
That was usually how her investigations happened. Her brain drawing her attention to the links before she could rationally make them. She had learn to trust on that little quirk of her mind. But lately it felt like her brain was working slower to catch up. Like it couldn’t make the connection between the images and the case. She felt like a failure, feeling as if the only thing she had to contribute to… anything, really… was slipping away from her. Even though she knew she had good reason to be distracted, she would not, should not allow herself to be.
She felt her body start to shiver, but did not feel the cold. She knew the state she was in, and, right now, could do nothing else than to prefer it over anything else. An image flashed before her eyes, contradicting that statement. The kind eyes of Alicia, the twinkle in them, begging her nearer. The silky softness of her arms, enveloping her cold shoulders. There something preferable over her dissociated state. To cherish herself in her best friend’s arms, to be taken care of by the woman she was… -Shouldn`t she finally admit it to herself?- In love with. She took the fantasy further than she ever had , consciously, allowed herself to and could feel Alicia’s nails softly grazing the bare skin of her arms, her hands stroking her back, while the woman’s eyes begged her to be nearer, to come closer, to kiss her.
With a violent movement getting out of the chair, Kalinda interrupted her own silly daydream, reprimanding herself harshly. What was she doing to herself? How could she have allowed herself to become this sappy little girl again, living on a fantasy? Even without the current state of affairs, Alicia would never want her like that. So why was she torturing herself?
Or was that it? Did that make it safe for her? She had had crushes before in her life, but none quite as strong as this one. And, if she was honest, she knew that this was more than just a crush.
She was in love, for the first time in her life, without a question in love.
Had she chosen the object of her affection because this love would never be reciprocated? Because that somehow was safer? So she would never have to commit? But she knew, in her gut, that it wasn’t like that. She had tried, multiple times, to just stay away from the woman, knowing she was meddling with a hornet’s nest. But she was, time and again, drawn to her. And, in a strange way, she knew that if Alicia would ever want her, she would commit without an ounce of doubt. She would be scared, more terrified than ever in her life – and in her case that meant something- but she would do it.
The investigator shook her head, trying to get rid of the thoughts, the hope, the wishful thinking. Shivering, she started to focus on her surroundings. How much time had passed since she had started to be in her state of emptiness? She wasn’t wearing a watch, but trusted her instincts. There were still party-sounds outside the door, but they were fading slightly, meaning people were starting to go home. Should she scream? Make a noise? How would she explain her presence? The cold started to get to her, and she hated herself for being so human, so sensitive, so weak.
She slumped back into the chair, curling up in a ball, her hands shaking. From cold or emotion, she wasn’t sure. Kalinda closed her eyes, hoping Alicia would go home soon so Peter would feel confident enough to let her out of this prison cell.
Or would he?
As she’d told him where she was, he had sounded surprised but interested. Peter knew she had been looking for another place, after a great deal of encouragement from Eli to do so. It had just never occurred to him that she was looking this actively that on the moment of his election she would ask him to view one.
He felt proud, roaring with proud.
This woman that always stood by him, that always gave him the things he needed –because he wasn’t arrogant enough to think he would have won the election without her-, that had forgiven him for his mistakes, this woman was his.
He needed her, he needed his family.
But the words Kalinda had uttered to him before were stuck in his head. Mainly because he wasn’t sure of the answer.
‘ As a person, or as a politician?’
He shook of the uneasy feeling of pending doom, when he knocked the door in the apartment building. It had taken him aback a little that she didn’t want to show him a house, but he was willing to take a look.
Alicia smiled at him when she opened the door, a smile she had practiced since she had asked him to come over. Or maybe a smile she had practiced since the first time she had heard about his cheating. It felt like a mask on her face and she knew the smile did not extend to her eyes. He attempted to hug her, but she pretended to misunderstand and took a step backwards to let him pass. He entered eagerly, looking around, striding to the place as if he already owned it.
‘ And the real-estate agent?’
A wave of nauseating disgust washed over her as she heard him ask about the attractive woman. She prepared herself to suppress the urge to confront him, to hit him, to do something, but she felt eerily calm while she looked at his handsome face.
What had she ever seen in him? When had she fallen out of love? Or had she ever really been in it? The questions tumbled through her head, but, strange enough, did not confuse her. They brought a certain clarity.
It was over. It had been over for a long time.
Not just because he had cheated, or maybe, if she was honest, not at all because of that. She had stopped loving him, the way a wife was supposed to, a long time ago. She’d wanted to try, for her children, for him. But Zach and Grace were older now, they had seen that she had tried, they wouldn’t resent her like she resented her parents. She hoped…
And HE. He was not a child. And he was not hers to look after. She was done. They were done.
‘ I already signed the lease.’
She almost laughed as she saw the look of sheer surprise on his face, as he once again took a sweeping look through the apartment.
‘Are you sure it’s big enough?’
It oddly amused her, his ignorance, his lack of understanding of her.
‘ Yes, I think you’ll find it is. It’s walking distance from the SA’s office. You’ll have to use a cellphone for a while, until they can install the connection, but it won’t be too long.’
He blinked, the sensation of prickling fear he had successfully shaken off before entering the apartment starting to rise again.
‘ You want to move in right away?’
She smiled, again, but this time she saw he noticed how cold the smile really was.
‘ Not me, Peter. Not me and not the kids. You.’
He took a step back as if she had stricken him, and she knew that in a way she had. She just couldn’t do it anymore. Put her life, her feelings, her… everything aside for him. She had become a person in the last year. And that person now needed to choose for herself.
‘So, this had always been your plan?’
He sounded defeated, and suddenly she felt annoyed. How could he make this about him? But hadn’t he with everything? When he had cheated, when he had gone to prison, when he was running for office. And she had let him. She had let him take the reins of their life and she had let him walk all over her. If she had not allowed it, maybe everything would have been different. There was no way of knowing.
So now he was asking if she had always planned to leave him, but just waited for his campaign to be finished. What kind of woman did he think she was, really? That she plotted and schemed, but she waited until he got what he wanted to act? Or maybe she thought he was after the money he would make.
She simply stated the negative answer, without elaborating any further.
‘ The keys are on the bar, I paid the first 3 months of lease for you.’
It surprised her again how little she felt, when he, so clearly, was devastated.
‘ Why are you doing this?’
Peter’s question sounded more like an accusation than an inquiry. The words exited her mouth as if planned, which they absolutely weren’t.
‘ You slept with Kalinda.’
His expression told her all she needed to know and took away the sliver of hope she had still had. But what astonished her the most, was the way her voice broke when she said the other woman’s name. The wave of pain she had been expecting finally broke through. But somewhere deep inside, she knew, the agony she felt was not over losing him.
The man that now stood, speechless, in front of her.
It was over losing HER.