The dripping staccato the sink makes seemed enough to distract her. She should probably get it fixed, it’s been doing that for months. It’s ridiculous now because she perfectly knew the counts and intervals of the dripping. One, two. One, two. Sometimes it can go on until 3 and stop for 2 seconds and go again. It’s so peaceful in her home. Silence had been her company ever since she moved here, the TV somehow always on CNN but turned down to a low volume. White noise. Silence again.
It’s almost reminiscent of the way her ears rang when she got shot. How Olivia’s voice drowned in the background, her hands frantically trying to apply ample enough pressure on Alex’s shoulder—fright in her eyes and the sides of her lips trembling. She tries to get up from where she sat on the carpet but her legs were dead. Prickly now, like an itch waiting to be scratched, she stretched it out.
She instinctively ducks, covers the back of her head and stays still, her heart racing rapidly. Following after the noise was a loud resounding apology, “Sorry, Kyle, your car’s busted!” It was one of her neighbor’s, Vincent, she does not know, probably the car’s muffler. It wasn’t enough to keep her from trembling; fear. She’s back on the cold slab once again, in shock, terrible pain on her shoulder and Olivia putting pressure on it. She’s back as Alex Cabot, terrified Alex Cabot, shot to her death. Voices of reassurance, that she’ll be fine, that she should stay conscious, drowned as she sank further.
The Marshalls intercepted her in the hospital, the first faces she sees when she wakes up (she didn’t think she would). “Alexandra Cabot is officially dead.” It’s some agent that says it to her, she doesn’t remember their faces, she was still out of it, her vision still blurry but it was enough for her to tell she had just died. Albeit not literally, but inside. She lets it happen, she lets herself drown in the voices and the lies and the one she has yet to live.
She gives the breathing exercise she had seen on the TV, or was it on the paper (?), a try; a way to calm down it said. Three seconds interval from each other. Inhale. Exhale. The ringing doesn’t get worse and gradually dissipates. Inhale. Exhale. There’s still the ghost of the bullet on her shoulder and she has to bite her lip to distract herself from it. She’s laying on her carpet now, arms spread out wide, looking at the ceiling, cold sweat on her body.
Fuck flashbacks. She still doesn’t want to see the shrink they wanted her to see.
Wisconsin is quiet. Wisconsin doesn’t smell as bad as New York does. Wisconsin is kind to her, neighbors always greeting her, yelling Emily from across the sidewalk, she chuckles, that was her name now. That’s her now.
Emily is not her. Emily’s from Tulsa, she works at an insurance agency. She’s quiet, she’s nice, always has this smile on her face. She wears the vest per the requirement but always seem to leave an open button at times. Clumsy. She smiles kindly to anyone she passes by. Always seen biting her cheek whenever talking to an unpleasant client. There are times when Alex resurfaces into Emily. The buttons. The cheek biting to avoid a snark remark. The impish smile for the show.
Wisconsin is not home. Wisconsin’s awfully quiet and peaceful. It’s not exhaust fumes she smells when she opens her windows. It’s not car horns and god-awful yelling in 7 am, rush hour, she hears when she’s outside. Not a sound of a glass shattering because someone is out getting hammered early in the morning by some alley. No dead bodies on piles of garbage. No cases to prosecute. No friends to talk to after cases. No cop bars to hang out at. No Alex Cabot fighting for justice.
Her teeth gritted at the thought. She couldn’t stop thinking like a prosecutor. She is—was a prosecutor, the notion picks on the ghost of the bullet on her shoulder, gun aimed at her heart. It’s another quiet night that she spends, curled on the carpet, fists turning white. Frustration wasn’t her brand. Neither was being helpless.
So, she gets up, not picking up after her pieces still from the cold sidewalk but moving forward—always.
She goes to work. 9 to 5. No sudden calls in the middle of the morning for warrants. No urgent messages on her phone. Emily’s life is utterly normal. Boring. Exhaustingly peaceful.
Honestly, it’s bland like the coffee she’s drinking alone in the middle of the day. It’s either sunny or thunderstorms in Wisconsin. But today, it seems the sun just would not give up. It casts rays on Alex’s hands, she actually thought it’d go through her—she felt like a ghost, wandering around aimlessly. Rays she deliberately ignored.
She basically had learned the magic of tuning people out, looking at faces but not really looking. It frightens her sometime, that someone in a crowd could be her killer. She supposes she needed someone to talk to about it—but an utterly ridiculous thought passes by her mind, what if her therapist was her shooter? She laughed.
Paranoid and Alexandra Cabot never quite went well in a sentence.
She thinks of New York, and it helps her both calm down and bite the inside of her lips. The awful retching smell of New York. Long lines. Busy streets. Violence—she shakes her head, an attempt to discard the following thoughts. She thinks about New York, but only on the surface, she thinks way too deep and she’s dragged down in the rabbit hole. Again. Even in this state, she knows it’s the worst idea her mind could ever culminate.
She wonders about Manhattan. Thinks how the Manhattan’s DA office is managing without her. It’s not that she’s that important, she actually managed to goad some Marshalls to keep an eye on the office, just so she’d be updated. Hoping someday, she’ll return and prosecute the bastards who stole her life as Alexandra Cabot. Wondering who had been put up as her replacement—
That’s the name she gets from the Marshall agent who was kind enough to keep her up to date, when she asks about her replacement. Branch did listen to her, she was almost glad they had that topic, though at the moment she loathed it. She wanted to fight for the victims for the rest of her lifetime’s work, if she could, she’ll never leave. But Branch took the hypothetical turn, the if path. And as much as she told herself she didn’t think about it, she did and the very first name that came up from her mouth was Casey Novak.
She said she only knew the name by reputation. Not quite the whole truth. She usually sees the redhead striding, passes by her in elevators, acknowledging each other with a nod. She was certain they had talked, if not briefly at a gala and an obligatory photo was taken (She probably had a copy stashed in one of a book she owns somewhere; despite the tipsy mess she was) and perhaps more after that because she distinctly remembers getting into a cab with the redhead. It’s only a walking, blurred out figure she sees when she thinks of how her replacement is in the court room.
The younger ADA’s name had been the talk when she got in the office; she was young—naïve. A bit of crappy office controversy that Alex didn’t partake because it’s a sugarcoat for their awful shit talking in the office. Small talk, they’d say, Alex had overheard one too many times that she snapped, not quite in behalf of Novak but because it was just distasteful and that the other was not around to defend herself. She wondered, if Novak even defended herself.
Her thoughts delve further to the poor soul who had been designated to fill her shoes. Casey Novak. The name makes a jump on her lips and it’s bizarre—like the owner of the name.
The silhouette is kind. Warm. Frankly, when she first saw her, Alex had got the feeling the other was too soft, too innocent. She could be wrong, although it’s a rare chance. Because the warmth had something beneath it, a rage, a fire, a will to fight that could par with hers. White Collar was a disservice to Novak’s skills, she remembered herself saying it to Branch before they came to a conclusion in their conversation. Her conviction rate spoke for itself but Alex made it a point not to just look at the number but how the other approaches her cases. It was the exact opposite of hers but it’s effective, nonetheless. And no, she’s not being overcritical, just a bit curious. How the squad will take to her, after their previous ADA’s death.
This train of thought is fairly better than the previous ones she had for the past few days.
Alex flutters her eyes close. And if she was being honest to herself, she saw Casey Novak’s face like the very first time she’d seen her. The look on Casey’s eyes seemed so meek, distant. That was the very first time. The second had been more pleasant. Then there were so many thirds, interrupted, by phone calls, texts, and work—they basically laughed it off until the gala.
Alex eventually finds herself wondering if she’ll ever get to properly meet her; a chance to get to know, maybe. There’s an instance in her head, and it doesn’t seem like a figment of her imagination—it seemed very real yet also blurry. It’s awfully quiet but at least the storm inside her has calmed down. It’s odd that the chaos inside her has dissipated, even for a moment, at the thought of a person who is a complete stranger to her.
Suddenly, the thought of red suddenly doesn’t seem so frightening now.