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Snapshot from Another Life

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            If Andy had to tape close another box, he was pretty sure that he was going to tear his hair out.  After sealing the flaps shut, he stood up and stretched his back, wincing as his muscles popped from being stooped to long. He looked around Sharon’s bedroom, just to make sure he hadn’t left any boxes unattended.  He swept his gaze over the now empty room, remembering some of the memories these walls housed.

            Sharon’s condo had been where it all started in all honesty; they had seen many difficulties and changes in their relationship here.  The weeks he had stayed here when he was injured, testing the very beginning of their fledgling relationship. They barely knew each other in the intimate sense; there they were sharing a living space, combining households for a time. So much had changed since then and it made him smile to think about how far they had come and where they were now.

            Rusty had come to them a few months ago, and he had decided that it was time for him to spread his wings.  He moved into his own apartment, near them and Gus of course, not yet ready to share that type of intimacy with his boyfriend.  Sharon was hesitant, but gave Rusty her blessing anyway, she would miss him but she also understood his need for independence.

            The weeks following were a blur.  Many different locations later, he had found the perfect loft to suit his needs and that was of course Mother approved.  Then came the shopping.  Andy was used to Sharon, he knew exactly how much she loved to shop, and it was almost a sport to her.  Although Rusty’s enthusiasm came as a shock, but he suspected the young man was too excited to care if his endeavors were out of character or not.

            After her son was settled, Sharon began to become more introspective.  She started talking to Andy about selling the condo, how their lives were ever changing and perhaps someday they would need more room.   A nice house with a pool and enough rooms for when his or her children visited…all of this over dinner in one of their favorite cafés.  To say he astonished was an understatement, he had nearly choked on his salad.  Her only response was to smile at him sweetly, her eyes gleaming in the overhead lights.

            So here they were now, packing what remained of Sharon’s condo, they had finished his bungalow yesterday, in preparation to collect the keys for the house they had bought together.  He shook his head…he still couldn’t quite believe it. 

            It was then that he saw something barely peeking over the threshold of, what he once thought, the brunette’s empty closet. Curiously he walked toward it, bending down to scoop up the small rectangular box, his eyes scrutinizing the outside surface.  Andy looked around to see if Sharon was within hearing distance, but found no trace of her. He gently raised the lid of the box and peered inside.

            What he saw definitely wasn’t what he was expecting. There were a few photos on top that he gently moved to the side, and underneath were folded pieces of paper. He took one gingerly out of the box, careful of the worn creases so as not to tear the delicate paper.  The handwriting that greeted him was one he recognized instantly; he had on seen it on reports and the whiteboard in the murder room for years.  He knew he shouldn’t finish reading the letter, that these were obviously Sharon’s private things so he skipped to the bottom and found the familiar name in flowing script.

            He was dumbfounded, he never would have even thought it possible that this was what was going on.  Although as he flipped quickly through the photos on top of the letters, he couldn’t deny the truth.  The first thing he noticed was how at peace and happy she looked in the photos; sure he had seen Sharon happy plenty of times but this seemed to be something more.  This was the carefree smile he saw whenever he made her laugh or she appreciated something he had done for her, this was the real Sharon.  The other person in the photos only seemed to support the evidence he had gathered from the letter. 

            The Chief looked serene…she looked like she had found the peace she had been searching for in the years that Andy had known her. Her curls were down and wild, her smile bright and alluring.  In the first photo she was kissing Sharon on the cheek, her eyes closed as the brunette leaned into her touch.  The second photo was of Sharon laughing, head thrown back with abandon, and Brenda smiling at her, the dimples deep in her cheeks.  The last one was the most surprising of all.  It was a side view of Sharon, sitting in what looked like a nook in a bay window.  Her hair was tied up in a messy bun on top of her head; glasses perched on her nose as she gazed out the window.  She was wrapped in some sort of a red throw blanket, the light from the window making her hair shine and her skin glow. 

            Andy felt like he was intruding upon something, that he didn’t deserve to see what he saw.  The last picture wasn’t racy or inappropriate, but it was taken by someone who loved Sharon dearly…someone who loved her like he did.  He felt remorse for the Chief then and began to wonder what had happened to this relationship.  How did it end?

            “That was the only trip we took together,” her voice from outside the closet door made him jump.

            He looked like a dear in the headlights, looking from the box to her face.  It was controlled, a mask he assumed to keep her emotions in check.  She walked slowly through the doorway and gently took the photo he held in hand.  When she looked at the photo, Sharon visibly tried to swallow before speaking again.

            “We had gone to Monterey for the weekend,” she continued, voice soft, “she had never been and I couldn’t believe it.”

            She picked up the other two photos just as carefully, and then Andy noticed the shops and far off beach in their backgrounds.

            She shook he head, “I’m sorry Andy.”

            He was stunned, why was she apologizing?

            “For what babe?”

            When she looked back up to his face, her eyes were trying to hold back the tears that desperately wanted to fall.

            “I should have told you,” she whispered, shifting her weight slightly.

            The guilty expression on her face finally registered with Andy; she felt that she had been in the wrong by not telling him.

            “Its ok,” he promised, “I don’t need to know ever detail of your life, Sharon.”

            She nodded her agreement, “However, it was a important part of my life and something I’m not ashamed of.”

            He eyes connected with his once more, green to brown. She wanted so much for him to understand, but in order for him to truly, she would need to explain.  Sharon wasn’t sure, even after the last few years, that she was ready to revisit that again.  He could see the moment where she realized he wouldn’t push her on this and he wouldn’t.  When and if she was every ready to discuss it, well…then they would, but for now she was too raw for anything else.

            Silently he pulled her into his arms, the rectangular box clutched to her chest between them.  He could feel the heat of her tears on his neck, from sadness or relief, he wasn’t sure.