Two Moments,
One Breath

 

home / season five / episode nine / act II

   

December 28

Sitting cold, tired and unshaven, Jarod contemplated the phone. He was tempted, unbelievably tempted, to pick it up and dial Sydney, who he had always turned to for advice. But the truth of the matter was that he didn’t want Sydney to know. He didn’t want Sydney to know of his failure to save young Trevor Jones. Jarod had failed. He had failed to help this troubled soul. He had ignored the warning signs, Trevor’s unhappiness, his cry for help. Jarod had been selfish, and somebody had died.

Trevor was dead. Wrote a note and hung himself with his own bed linen. And all because Jarod was too late, too slow, to help the despairing man who wanted to "leave it all behind." Too blind to see the devastation in Trevor’s eyes, too insensitive to realize that Trevor was perilously close to the edge.

“I should have helped him,” Jarod told the world out loud. It didn’t answer back. “I should have gotten there quicker,” he told the phone. It sat and silently mocked him. He glared at it.

Jarod drew his knees up to his chest, hugging his arms around them and rocking slightly on the cold hardwood floor. He didn’t have a chair to sit in. Just an empty loft with a bed, a kitchen with two dirty cups and a few old utensils in the drawer. A bathroom that needed cleaning, but he didn’t have the effort to do it himself. And, of course, the DSA case and his own duffel bag, full of a few clothes he had thought to grab and his laptop.

In his mind, Jarod imagined calling Sydney, spilling out the whole sordid story. In his mind, Sydney spoke harsh whispers of accusation, telling Jarod that, as usual, he had not done enough. He shivered. Sydney wouldn’t say such things, but fear overtook common sense.

Jarod picked up the phone and threw it at the wall, satisfied when it shattered.

* * * * * * * * *

“Jarod, wake up.”

Jarod squeezed his eyes shut, clasping his hands over his ears.

“Come on, sleepyhead, I want to play in the snow!”

Jarod moaned, writhing on the bed.

“Need enticement, hmmm?”

Cool hands, cold hands, dead hands.

“How’s this for enticement, Jarod? Get out of bed, you murdering son of a bitch!”

“Trevor?” Jarod asked. Trevor’s dead hands.

“You killed me, Jarod. It’s your fault I’m dead. Why didn’t you save me? You should have saved me! You should have saved both of us!”

Jarod threw back the covers. Zoe and Trevor, holding dead hands.

“You should have saved all of us, Jarod.”

“Kyle?” Jarod whispered. Kyle stepped from the darkness, a hole where his heart should have been.

“You took my heart, Jarod! I was still alive! You could have saved me!”

Jarod began to sob.

“I asked for help, Jarod. You should have helped me!”

“I’m sorry, Trevor!” Jarod cried. Zoe stepped forward. Cold hands.

“It’s your fault, Jarod.”

Jarod screamed. Zoe was gone, replaced by Miss Parker, aiming a gun at him. “Time to pay, genius.”

Three pairs of dead hands pulled the trigger.

“Zoe!”

Jarod fell out of bed. He grimaced at the pain, automatically checking for broken bones. He sighed, sitting up slowly. Then he remembered the dream. Jarod choked on his breath, pressing his fists into his eyes. He shook his head and bit his lip, moaning softly.

It was his fault. Suicidal people often made a cry for help before they attempted the act. And Jarod had ignored it. Jarod crawled over to where the DSA case rested, choosing one disc and sitting back to watch.

* * * * * * * * *

Jarod
For Centre Use Only

“Jarod? Tell me what is going through your mind.”

“I… I’m cold. And I… I’m alone, so very alone.” Jarod squeezed his eyes closed, taking deep breaths. To one side Sydney watched, an expression of concern marring his features.

“Everything hurts, Sydney. It hurts to think, it hurts to breathe. I just want it all to end.” Jarod edged forward on the low construction he was standing on.

“You have a job, Jarod, a beautiful wife and two young children. Isn’t that enough?” Sydney asked, and Jarod shook his head, grazing his palms lightly across the wall behind him. He shuffled forward a bit more.

“It’s not enough. They don’t understand, nobody does. I’m so tired,” Jarod mumbled, tears making slow tracks down his face.

“What tipped the balance, Jarod? Why now, what caused you to go on the ledge today?” Sydney questioned urgently, stepping forward.

“I… I can’t, not any more. I can’t do this, the stupid façade. I’m not all right. I need help!” came a strangled whisper, and Jarod began to sob openly.

“Why haven’t you gotten help, Jarod? Why are you on the ledge?”

“My wife… she called me silly. Nobody understands me! Don’t you see? They’ll say I’m crazy, lock me away! I just… I just want to die,” Jarod whispered with finality.

Then stepped over the edge.

Sydney moved forward, bending over Jarod, where he lay on some soft mats under the small mock up of a building ledge. Jarod opened his eyes. “I’m dead,” He told Sydney, and laughed quietly, bitterly. Sydney straightened up, looking directly into the camera.

“Sim results are inconclusive. Tom Barrows' suicide remains unexplained. As an observer, my conclusions on the matter lead me to believe that Mr. Barrows was manic depressive, faced with an opportunity to end it all. Sim terminated.”

* * * * * * * * *

Jarod closed the DSA case, staring reflectively at its lid. He had performed the Barrows sim half way through 1985, two months after Tom Barrows, General Manager of a security corporation which had aided and assisted the Centre, committed suicide. He still recalled the pain and overwhelming despair that had consumed him, forced him to take that final step.

From the open window Jarod could hear the filtered noises of the people below. Snow was falling outside, but that didn’t prevent the rest of the world from getting up and going about their business. He could hear children laughing. Three days before the New Year, and everybody was in a good mood. Except him, of course. He felt numb, and tired, very tired. Tired like he wanted to sleep forever. He could have spent all day in bed, sleeping. Or crying.

Jarod was, of course, aware that something was wrong with him. Very wrong. And he was also aware that he should probably seek help. But he was afraid. A completely irrational fear, most unlike him, but a fear nonetheless. He was afraid he would be laughed at. He was afraid that he would be turned away, or worse yet, told that he was right. That it was his fault. Jarod didn’t think he could take that.

Some distant, logical part of his brain told him he had fallen into a state of depression. He had all the signs. Loss of appetite, oversleeping and a case of disassociation. In other words, he hadn’t eaten, he’d slept too much and nothing felt real. The numbness was the worst. The feeling that nothing mattered, because it wasn’t real. Jarod was getting desperate for things to feel real again, instead this hazy state of consciousness he was currently existing in. And then there were the dreams. The painful, frightening dreams, most of them including Trevor. All of them with Zoe.

The day before, Jarod had hit his elbow quite hard on the wall. He’d been climbing out of bed, with the sole intention of lying on the floor, when he’d knocked his arm. Careless of him. But he’d gasped in pain and held his arm for a few moments, letting his breath out in a slow hiss as he waited for the pain to pass. In those few moments, Jarod had held onto a complete clarity of thought. The pain had made it real again. When he’d fallen out of bed, the same clarity. Checking for broken bones, a normal response. Jarod had very little normality left in his life.

Jarod was desperate. He rose from the hard wooden floor he’d been sitting on and walked into the bare kitchen, resting his hands on the Formica bench. He stared at the grubby drawer directly below him. He slid it open slowly, staring at its contents. He rolled up his sleeve, once white but now grey with grime, and ran his fingers over his forearm. Then he picked up a knife.

* * * * * * * * *

December 28

“Laura Trioli, touch that phone and your ass is grass!” Parker shouted. Laura merely smiled, lifting the receiver, flicking her dark curls off her neck. Parker flushed hotly, making a wild leap over the sofa. Laura laughed, a tinkling, musical sound, waving a scrap of paper with Peter Winston’s phone number on it and dodging away.

“You know I can’t make a date with him, I have to study! Daddy will kill me if I don’t pass my mid-terms!” Miss Parker pleaded. Laura giggled again, her black eyes flashing with amusement.

“Mid-terms, schmid-terms. He’s a babe, Parker! Blonde hair and blue eyes…mmm!” Laura cooed enthusiastically.

“I’m sorry, Miss Arts-Major, but I intend to get somewhere in life! I have to pass! If I don’t, you know my father will haul me back to the States!” said Parker defiantly. Laura sighed, dropping the piece of paper onto the nearby kitchen bench.

“Come on Parker, just this once…The four of us will go, Michele, you, me and the babe,” Laura pleaded, her voice lilting with an English accent. Miss Parker smiled, moving to hug her friend.

“All right. But only for a few hours…”

Miss Parker sat up, gasping. She pushed sweat dampened clumps of hair off of her face, listening to the pounding beat of her heart.

“Laura.” Parker whispered mournfully.

Switching on her bedside lamp, Miss Parker rose from her bed, draping a silk wrap over her shoulders and wandering out to the kitchen. Yanking open a cupboard, she pulled out a glass, filling it with amber liquid from the crystal decanter on the sideboard. It got half way to her mouth before she stopped. She checked the time. Six AM. With a low groan Miss Parker tipped the contents of the glass down the sink, setting it down on the bench with a heavy thump.

“I will not go to work drunk today,” she said aloud, then snorted with disgust. Parker rested her forehead flat on the bench, sighing wearily and stretching her arms out on the cool surface. She hadn’t gotten to sleep until after two, only to have dreams filled with Laura.

Filled with intent, Miss Parker pulled herself out of her lethargy and headed back to her bedroom. She dressed quickly in a pale blue power suit, even found some shoes that matched, then sat on the edge of her bed. Tiredly she picked up the photo of her and Tommy, tracing her finger over the outline of his face. She smiled.

“You would have liked Laura,” she told him.

Miss Parker replaced the photo and pulled out the bottom drawer of her bedside table, rummaging through the collection of papers and photographs. Triumphantly she pulled out an envelope. Postmarked Rome, the edges were crumpled and the paper was thin with age. Parker pulled out the contents, catching a photograph that threatened to slip. She turned it over and studied the smiling faces. Laura, Michele and her, from their college days. On the back was Laura’s scribbled writing, giving a small caption. For old time's sake, it read. Miss Parker smiled, then flicked to the page accompanying it. A wedding invitation, Laura’s wedding invitation. She’d been happy, gushing on the phone when what's-his-name had finally proposed, spilling all her happiness over a transatlantic phone call. To Parker it had felt like a knife in the gut.

Parker ran her fingers over the page gently. She turned it over, where there was a barely decipherable message. I know you’ll come. Love, Laura. Five years ago now. Maybe six. Laura had been married in a small church in Rome during Spring, beaming for the camera and laughing happily. Miss Parker had not attended. She had called Laura and made up some pathetic excuse about her father being sick, but Laura had known. Laura always knew. Laura had known the first time Miss Parker had put off her annual trip to Italy. Laura had known the last time she had ever invited Miss Parker.

Laura had always sent a deluge of letters and photos, which over the years had shrunk to a slow trickle. Invitations to Christmas and New Year parties had gradually faded away, and Laura’s visits to the States were spent in hotels, ‘doing lunch’ instead of shacked up with Miss Parker, doing girl stuff. Miss Parker had not been invited to Laura’s first child’s baptism. Nor her second’s. In fact, Miss Parker had seen Laura only once during the last four years, and then only in passing. The chase for Jarod had consumed everything.

Miss Parker sighed, setting aside the envelope and its contents aside and standing, preparing to go to work. She headed into the bathroom, but found her hands were shaking too much for her to apply her make-up with any efficiency. Miss Parker bit her lip, squeezing her eyes tightly closed.

“Laura,” she whispered. But Laura didn’t answer back.

* * * * * * * * *

Piedemonty's Groceries

Piedemonty’s Groceries was a well established grocery store that had upheld traditions for over a century, located in the bottom floor of a graceful old five story building. It was a generously sized store on a nice street, which still sold mince pies, fresh made everyday, and had liquorice stick stuffed in a great glass jar next to the counter.

Jarod, however, didn’t give a damn. On another day, he would have thought it quaint, and explored the thick black ropes of liquorice in further detail. Instead he wandered in a daze through the widely spaced aisles, fighting wave after wave of dizziness. He had not eaten in two days. He was cold, despite the heavy coat he wore, and confused. Had he been in a position to understand all this, Jarod would have instantly diagnosed himself as suffering from shock.

Instead, Jarod examined shelves full of candy. It had always cheered him up before. Several other patrons were shopping, and Jarod was conscious of the fact some were staring at him. He drew his jacket about himself tighter, wincing when he knocked his arm. He wondered if the blood had seeped through the sleeve of his shirt yet.

“Jarod,” a voice behind him whispered. Jarod closed his eyes tightly.

“He’s not taking the break-up real well,” the voice murmured. For a moment Jarod was back in the ’67 Ford, the sun shining and Zoe driving, and Jarod was confused and a bit excited by the turn of events…

Jarod opened his eyes. He stared blankly at the shelves in front of him. Then he turned around and strode out of the store.

* * * * * * * * *

Seattle City Mission
Counseling services
Seattle

Dr. Lily Nixon closed her appointment book with a sense of finality. She’d had to see two clients that day, even though it was the holiday season, and was now looking forward to nothing more than going home and curling up in front of the fire with a good book. First, she decided, a cup of tea to soothe her hectic nerves.

Lily gathered up a few files and her appointment book, tucking them neatly inside her briefcase. Striding through the nearly empty corridors of the mission, she sighed. Around the holiday she always felt nostalgic, remembering happier years. Idly she rubbed her ring finger, thinking of the time, four years ago in a divorce court, when she had taken off her wedding band for the last time.

“Hey, Lily,” a voice said as she entered the staff lounge, and looked up, smiling warmly. Dr. Jason Fairfield had been her good friend for many years, and even put in the good word for her when she had applied at the mission for a job.

“Hey Jase, how are you?” She sighed, grabbing her cup and setting the jug to boil.

“Not so bad. Been better,” Jason replied, almost in a grimace. Lily smiled, while Jason watched her speculatively.

“You finished for the day?” he asked. Lily nodded, smiling, while Jason kept watching her. The implications of his question set in and she raised her hands, backing away.

“Oh no you don’t, Jason Fairfield. I’m going home!” she protested. Jason stayed silent. Lily noted that he looked unusually tired, and sighed in resignation.

“I can’t believe this!” she muttered. Jason shrugged.

“I wouldn’t ask, but I’m full up all week… he seems desperate, Lily,” he said finally. Lily nodded, adding sugar and cream to her tea and stirring thoughtfully.

“Where is he?” she asked, blowing on the hot drink before taking a slow sip. Jason smiled, coming over to give her a quick hug.

“Thanks Lil, I knew you’d help. He’s in the waiting room,” Jason told her. Lily nodded.

“I’ll see him as soon as I’ve finished this,” she told Jason. He smiled gratefully, then checked his watch.

“Anyway, I have to go, I’ve got someone at two.”

Lily watched Jason’s retreating back, then heaved a deep sigh. Although she enjoyed her work, the long hours were often a strain. It didn’t help that the lost souls who came in usually wanted to see someone straight away. Finishing her tea, Lily rinsed out her cup and headed back to her office, unlocking the door and switching on the lights before heading off to find her latest client.

On to Act III

 
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