One single drop of rain slithered down the dirty window pane. Tara watched it clear a path in the grime. She wistfully wondered how many drops it would take to wash away her doldrums. Soon, the grime dissolved in a sheet of water. She sighed, turning away from the window wondering how long it had been.
Slumping on the couch, she grabbed her calendar and the remote. She jabbed the buttons without thought, and in about 1.7 seconds Casablanca was quietly filling in the background between the flipping of the day planner’s pages.
Loneliness was a feeling she never easily overcame. The feeling grew with every drop of rain hitting the roof echoing her emptiness. She tried to concentrate on her calendar. Each raindrop took her mind back to another time: When there was happiness, before it all went wrong.
Irritated by the romantic scenes, Tara angrily switched off the television. The last thing she needed to see was romance. The television was mocking her loss. She still was not sure what had gone so wrong. Tara threw herself off the couch. Stomping, she went to the bedroom and flung open the closet door.
She stood in the open door for a moment, anger replaced by wistfulness. Against her better judgment, she knelt to retrieve the box containing her journals. Time slowed to a crawl, and she drew the tattered shoebox onto her lap. A maelstrom of memories swirled in her brain, while her hands seemed to seek in the box on their own.
She leaned back against the door jamb, cradling the box in one arm. Her other hand clasped the journal it had sought. She slid down to the floor as the tears fell in concert with the raindrops. In the seconds which passed as she lay on the floor staring through the journal cover, images played in her mind like vignettes of a movie in fast forward.
The doorbell shattered her private screening. Shoving the journal and box back into the closet, she swiped at the tears on her cheeks with the sleeve of her shirt. “Saved by the bell,” she thought wryly, as she answered the door.
With the door opened wide, Tara felt as though she had been punched in the stomach. A little more breathlessly than she would have liked, she asked, “What are you doing here?” Without a word he stepped inside and doffed his slicker. Lines drew between Tara’s eyes as she pursed her mouth into a puckered frown at the muddy footprints and droplets of water littering her freshly waxed foyer floor.
It occurred to her she was focusing on the minor details to prevent herself from guessing why, without a word for over six months, he was suddenly here again. “And to think I thought I had been saved by the bell,” she mumbled under her breath.
“What was that?” Dean asked, frowning quizzically.
He brushed raindrops from his curly, black hair, and she flashed back to him stepping out of the bathroom in nothing but a towel for the first time. She managed a melancholy smile. “Oh, nothing. So, what brings you here?” she asked as she closed the door.
“Well, that wasn’t the reception I was expecting. I though you would be glad to see me.” His flip manner and that damnable crooked smile reminded her of days when she would have been glad to see him. Uncharacteristically, she folded her arms and made no move toward more comfortable surroundings. Her body language screamed, “Answer me.”
The pregnant silence grew heavy. “Whoever breaks first loses,” Tara thought, remembering what her SWAT negotiator father told her years before. Her jaws ached, as she only just realized she was clenching her teeth. She refused to break the silence and chose to stare at his cerulean eyes.
Tara’s mind raced. How did she ever accept him as a favored apprentice? Had he learned nothing? Had her father failed to teach her anything? “I know damn well he tried hard enough. I have the scars to prove it.”
Finally, Dean broke the silence with a laugh, “Still as tough as you were when I was a young rookie…before the student out-mastered the teacher.”
Tara stared back at him blankly. Her mind was still filled with Steve, and she was in no mood for dealing with her arrogant former student. Had she recognized how arrogant and ambitious from the off, maybe she would have been more careful.
Dean realized how callous his comment sounded too late to suck it back into his mouth. He cursed his over-active brain and under-restrained tongue, who had never been in synch. “Shall we get more comfortable?” he tried with a boyish grin, hoping she would warm to his affability.
Once Satan buys a heater, she venomously thought, but instead presented, “I haven’t the time today. For the third time, what brings you here?” Having a different affliction, an over-active mind and an over-restrained tongue, she felt her trembling hands long to reach around his throat.
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