These prison gates won’t open up for me
On these hands and knees I crawl
and oh, I reach for you.
She was there before him and he was too far away to touch her. She surrounded him, frozen in pictures, captured in camera lenses, a thousand reflections cast in a thousand different mirrors. And still he was alone, watched by infinite pairs of expressive azure eyes, unable to grasp her.
His pulse began to race. The blood screamed in his ears. He bared his teeth, growled low, fists clenched. He stared into the computer screen where Samantha stood, immobile, blonde hair sweeping forward, eyes locked on his in an infinite tableau. Caged beauty, a hothouse rose, so frustratingly, achingly close.
He swiveled his chair away from the screen and stood. He prowled the room, a panther pacing out the limitations of its cage. It was a manic day, the kind he had come to dread, when nothing would satisfy but the contact he craved, the presence of Samantha gathered from the shadows, his blood boiling with heated pleasure. His patience was falling away, his carefully crafted plans threatening to tumble down in shards around his feet unless he could retain his control.
Jack grabbed a pillow from the enormous bed and pressed it to his face. He screamed into it until his voice was hoarse and raw, fingers clawing gouges in the fine linen, arms shaking with strain as he grasped the only tangible thing in the room and bellowed out his frustration and pain.
Only Samantha could save him now.
I’m terrified of these four walls.
These iron bars can’t hold my soul in.
All I need is you.
Sam sat in the middle of the living room, out of range of the cameras, and cried. It wasn’t the usual quiet tears that overtook her in waves in the middle of the night– it was shuddering, heaving sobs that threw her entire body into spasm. She doubled over, arms curled protectively around herself, rocking slightly as tears sluiced down her cheeks to patter onto the rug.
There was no reason for this, no cause for the lapse in her own control. It was simply the terror of being alone, of living with the Hieronymous Bosch visions of hell that splattered the inside of her brain pan. Tonight there was no one to distract her from them, no case to keep her mind otherwise occupied, no grieving family to worry about. There was no demanding child or disapproving best friend to keep her mind centered on the mundanities of family life, the recitals, the grocery lists, the TV shows to be taped and library books to be returned. All that was left to her was her own night terrors.
How had she wound up like this, afraid of the dark, afraid of the silence, afraid of the empty rooms in a house locked, shuttered, and barred? When had she become so utterly afraid of her own home, her own mind?
Show me what it’s like
to be the last one standing.
“That’s the third night this week!”
Grace cast her husband an exasperated look. “Morgan, I’m going to work. It’s not like I’m going to the movies or shopping. I have a dead body waiting for me.”
“They can’t do it without you? You don’t have a staff?” His tone was petulant, that of an unhappy three-year-old rather than a forty-seven year old businessman, and it grated on Grace’s already raw nerve endings.
“Dr. Jenner has a five-year-old daughter.”
“And you have a two-year-old son, in case you’d forgotten.”
“No, I haven’t forgotten. But my two-year-old is currently in New York with your parents.”
“And I’m what– expendable? What the hell, Grace? Doesn’t it matter that I want to spend some time with my wife?”
“Of course it matters.” Grace reached for him, started to cup his face in her hands, but he jerked back from her. She rolled her eyes, fed up with the dramatics of it all. “Look, if you’re going to be a child about it–“
”A child? That’s rich.” Morgan snorted and walked away from her into the living room before turning around for another shot. “You know, I’ve put up with as much of this as I can tolerate! You’re always in the morgue, or with the team, or on a scene out of town. I’m doing all the fucking work in this relationship and taking care of Jayson!”
“Oh, and I’m sitting around knitting sweaters? This is my job, Morgan! It pays for Jayson’s daycare and his sitters. It keeps us in health insurance and vacation money. Where the hell do you get off saying you’re the one doing all the work?”
“Jayson sees more of me than he ever does of you. You call that good parenting?”
Grace clenched her fists and took a deep breath, trying to calm down. “Morgan, I don’t know what you want me to say. I really don’t. I’m doing the best I can. If that’s not good enough for you–“
”No, this isn’t good enough, Grace. It really isn’t. You never spend any time with your son, you let the housework go, you–“
”If you wanted some little house-mouse to stay home and raise kids and clean house while you play the big time corporate accountant you should have married someone else, Morgan! You knew what you were getting into when I told you I was an M.E.”
“At least when you were working for the city you had decent hours. Now that you’re with this team I never know whether you’re going to come home at night or not. You’re sacrificing your family for this job!“
It was a low-blow, aimed for the soft, white underbelly of their relationship. Neglecting her family was the one thing Grace fretted about in the dark of night, the silver bullet that Morgan pulled out when he was feeling especially put-upon, which seemed to be more and more frequently. Grace felt herself boiling up with molten anger, hating him for using it on her now.
She spun on her heel and started gathering her things from the hall closet. “I’m not listening to this from you,” she retorted. “Not now. Not when I’ve got people counting on me.”
“And what about me? Don’t I count for something?”
Grace turned to face him, tears building behind her eyes. “You know you do. Dammit, Morgan, you know that you count for everything. But there are people who need my help. I can’t just shirk my responsibility to them. I took an oath, you know– to serve and protect.”
“What about your other oath? To love, honor, and obey?”
“Love and honor, of course.” She gave him her eyes, hoping that he’d see how genuinely she meant it. When his jaw remained firmly stiff and his shoulders squarely set, she knew she hadn’t gotten through. “But if you think I’m going to obey, you don’t know me very well.”
Grace grabbed her scene kit and headed for the door. “I’ll be home by midnight.”
Teach me wrong from right
and I’ll show you what I can be.
Say it for me, say it to me,
and I’ll leave this life behind me.
Say it if it’s worth saving me.
Frances sat on the other side of the closed door, shaking. Out in the house her father was working on his reports and files, his cases and scenes and visions of hell. He was talking on the phone, possibly with Ellen, planning a romantic dinner. He was plotting ways to send his fuck-up of a daughter away, planning to ship her off some place where he’d be free of responsibility for her, free to have his life and relationships and work. Free of Frances.
Her hands trembled as she stared at the pages of the hateful brochure. Glossy and upbeat, with bright pictures and colorful captions, it masked the truth of the place, the fact that it was a prison for people like her, teenagers whose parents have no earthly idea how to deal with their children other than sending them away, out of sight, out of mind.
“I’m not going,” she muttered, swiping at the tears that slid down her cheeks. “I’m not. He can’t send me away. I’m not some dog he can pack off to the kennel whenever he goes off on a trip. He’s my father. He can’t just send me away. I won’t go, I won’t do it.”
She started to cry in earnest, the impact of the brochure finally hitting home. He didn’t want her. Her own father didn’t want her around.
Her father wished he still lived alone and could come and go as he pleased.
Her father resented her.
Her father was scared of her.
Her father hated her.
The thoughts chilled her. She wrapped her arms around her up-drawn legs, buried her face in her jeans. The tears flowed, drying in sticky, salty patches on her throat. Frances cried like she hadn’t in years, rocking, gasping, too cold and miserable to move, too terrified to pull herself together again.
Her father was going to send her away.
“I won’t go,” she gasped between sobs. “I won’t.”
She pulled herself to her feet and quietly opened the door.
The hall was silent. From downstairs came the faint strains of opera. He was in his office.
Frances crept to her father’s bedroom. She lifted his keys from the dresser and crept to the tall oak cabinet.
Quietly, she opened the gun safe.