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The Book of Esther Reimagined

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“Preliminary ballistics came back on the siege of the Labott house,” Olivia said in a tone that immediately halted the chaos whipping around Amanda’s head. Amanda had been so worked up after questioning William Labott, but all of that was gone now. Because Olivia’s tone scared her. She knew Olivia better than she knew herself. Something bad was coming.

“That was fast,” Amanda muttered, unable to think of anything else to say. She was afraid. Did they make a mistake? Did she ruin everything? Was William Labott going to get off? The pause Olivia took seemed eternal.

“You fired the bullet…” No. “…that killed…” No. “Esther Labott.” No. No. No.

Amanda fell into a panic. That couldn’t be. That was impossible. Improbable. That just… couldn’t be. It wasn’t true. Why would Olivia say something like that? How could the world be like that? There were so many bullets. There was so much shooting. All at once. And it was hers. She… she… No. She didn’t. She couldn’t have. She killed Esther Labott.

Olivia stared at her. Amanda wanted to say “No.” She wanted to ask “What?” She wanted to say everything racing across her mind, or at least anything at all. But instead, she broke down.

Amanda started to cry—really cry. She started to cry in a way that she had only let a few people ever see. She hated that it was familiar to Olivia. She hated that Olivia had to see her like this. She hated that she had fired at all. She hated that she couldn’t control herself as she dissolved onto the couch in Olivia’s office.

Amanda hated the way that Olivia’s eyes shifted away from her as she said her name. She hated the fact that Olivia knew she was overwhelmed but decided to touch her anyway. She hated the fact that her brain was screaming about Olivia’s hand on her shoulder; she hated that she wanted to lean into it; she hated that Olivia wouldn’t let go; she hated that she didn’t want her to. She hated that she had to hold herself back from clutching onto Olivia. She hated that she was so close to her yet so far away. If this had been a few months prior, Amanda would’ve taken solace in the fact that she could hold onto Olivia for dear life as she cried, and Olivia would still be there, comforting, at the end of it all. She hated that she took that shot.

She hated that she was sobbing in front of her superior officer. She hated that it was Olivia she was crying in front of. Olivia, who was strong. She hated that she could no longer look to Olivia to be her backbone, her rock, her security. Her reassurance.

“You know the drill.”

Olivia began talking again, giving her instructions. It took everything Amanda had to focus on them, to listen to and comprehend what she had to do next. It was all too soon.

“You’re gonna talk to the force investigative group, and you’re gonna talk to IAB.”

Amanda nodded. She couldn’t speak; she could hardly think; but she could nod. IAB? She couldn’t talk to IAB right then. She couldn’t speak. She couldn’t think. How could she talk to IAB?

“And I am confident that you’re gonna be back on the job in the next few days.” Back on the job? With a gun? With her gun? The one that shot—no. She couldn’t go back out. She couldn’t shoot her gun. She couldn’t think properly. She still couldn’t speak. She kept nodding. She kept nodding because it was the one and only thing she could do.

She wanted to beg Olivia to comfort her. To reassure her. To tell her it was okay. She needed Olivia to slow down. To give her time, to slow down. She wanted to be held. She wanted her brain to slow down before it short-circuited. She couldn’t think. She desperately needed this to all slow down.

She nodded again before looking away from Olivia. She couldn’t handle their proximity, the information, or how Olivia was acting. Olivia knew that Amanda needed time to process things. Olivia knew how Amanda needed to be comforted. And yet, she wasn’t giving her anything.

Amanda couldn’t bring herself to look up, but she saw out of the corner of her eye that Olivia couldn’t even look at her as she whispered “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

While Amanda watched Olivia walk away, her pain intensifying just that much more, she thought to herself that Olivia wasn’t the only sorry one.

Amanda rushed from Olivia’s office, crying on the elevator ride, the cab ride, and the walk up to her apartment. She eventually ended up sitting on her couch, feeling numb, a mostly-full beer in front of her. She hadn’t even noticed that hours had passed until a knock on her door brought her back to the present.

When she looked through the peephole, a wave of tears broke again without warning.
She was crying unapologetically as she opened the door and let Olivia—who was wearing an empathetic smile—into her apartment.

“Oh, Amanda,” Olivia whispered. “I’m sorry.”

Amanda just shrugged and let out a bitter chuckle as she sat down on the couch again, Olivia following.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Olivia prodded gently.

“No,” Amanda shook her head, eyes down.

There was a pause.

“It might help you feel better,” Olivia suggested.

“Olivia, you and I both know that won’t help me.”

Amanda thought back to the nights when cases would hit her especially hard. Olivia used to curl them both up in bed and let Amanda grip her shirt or shoulders or back and cry in silence. She would cry until she couldn’t anymore, and then she would talk to Olivia about it all. Olivia would always understand, and she would always comfort her. And then, yeah, Amanda would feel better. But not until she cried in Olivia’s hold first.

“It will…eventually,” Olivia said hesitantly, remembering the same thing Amanda was.

Amanda shook her head. She couldn’t talk yet, not without Olivia’s physical comfort.

Some time passed in silence, Amanda looking down at her lap as Olivia’s gaze shifted between Amanda and her own lap.

“Well…” Olivia started, but Amanda quickly interrupted.

“No. Olivia, please,” Amanda’s gaze shot up to meet Olivia’s. “Please stay.”

Olivia paused and looked down, wringing her hands in her lap. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Amanda started to panic again, just like she had in Olivia’s office only a few hours earlier. “You’re… you’re going to leave me right now?”

“I’m sorry,” Olivia said, brow furrowed. “Hang in there, Amanda.”

Amanda’s eyes followed Olivia’s form as she silently excused herself from her apartment. Inside, on the couch, another wave broke.

Amanda spent the night collecting herself, and once she finally got some rest, she really began thinking. Amanda spent the following day home from work, thinking about everything that had happened, from the shooting to Olivia.

Amanda slowly started accepting that Esther’s death wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t intentional. It was random and unpredictable. Eventually, she might even be able to forgive herself for it.

She also thought about the fact that Olivia really hurt her. She shouldn’t have treated her the way she did. But at the same time, maybe it was for the best. What Olivia and Amanda had was in the past, and maybe it was best that Amanda move on. That she finally accept that things will never again be how they once were. Amanda had tried to adjust her thoughts and behavior in the workplace since Olivia broke up with her, but a piece of her still hoped that one day, things would be resolved between them and they would have their own happy ever after. Maybe this was the reality check she needed.

When Amanda returned to work, Olivia called her into her office before she even had the chance to sit down. When Amanda walked in, the door was hardly shut before Olivia was apologizing.

“I’m sorry, Amanda,” Olivia said seriously. “I shouldn’t have acted how I did the other day. Any of it.”

Amanda nodded silently.

“I know how hard that was on you. I understand.”

Amanda nodded again, but she had to get her thoughts out. She couldn’t stand quietly by. This might be the moment of true finality- the end of them sharing anything intimate; this was her chance.

Amanda took a deep breath. “Liv, you need to hear me out right now.”

Olivia nodded, her expression serious. “Of course.”

She took another deep breath. “All I asked for was for you to stay.”

She looked into Olivia’s watery eyes.

“I was grieving, Liv. I was hurt and confused and lost.” She paused. “Not wanting to be with me is one thing, but not even acting like…” Amanda trailed off.

“I’m sorry,” Olivia whispered.

“Liv, you knew how hard that case was on me. The abuse. The religious justification. You’re one of the only people in the world that know about my dysfunctional family, Olivia. And the only that knows how homophobic my community was. The religious justification for it all…”

Olivia looked down. “I know.”

“That poor girl didn’t do anything, Liv. She didn’t deserve any of that.”

“I know,” Olivia nodded.

“She could’ve had a normal life without that abusive family. She had a chance to be free and to live. And I took that away from her.”

“It’s not your fault,” Olivia stared back. “I am so, so sorry Amanda.”

A silence spread across the room.

“I should’ve been there for you. I should’ve stayed.”

Despite that being everything Amanda wanted to hear, she sucked in a deep breath and shrugged.

“It’s okay.” She stuck to her original decision on how to act. “It was really hard, Liv. It was. But I handled it myself. I guess…” She paused. “I don’t need you, Liv.”

Olivia’s face showcased obvious pain, but she seemed to accept what Amanda needed to do. “I understand, Rollins.”

Amanda let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding before nodding and walking out of Olivia’s office. This was the beginning of her journey. She was going to build herself back up to where she was before Esther. And before Olivia.