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Finally I was home, finally I was asleep. That cannot be the phone ringing. Who the hell would be calling me after one? It might be her; I don't want to answer. I drift in and out of consciousness to the sound of a ringing phone. I'm never going to get any sleep like this.
'Hello?' I must sound aggravated because it seemed as if I made the woman on the other end jump.
'H-hello? Mr. Hill?' She manages to get out of her frightened lips.
'We need you down at the morgue; we need you to identify the body.'
'Identify the what?'
'You are the closest contact Ms. Evans has. Her parents are-'
'-too far. South,' I finished for her.
To my car, to the morgue, in the morgue , in the cold room. Nod my head mechanically. Out of that room, out of the morgue, in my car, back at my apartment. Just in time to get ready for three cups of coffee and work.
Her mother flew in from Arizona the next day. Staying close, calling frequently, and asking questions I'm not exactly sure how to answer. The airport was there for us to shed tears and share hugs. She obviously hadn't told her we broke up. It had only been three days. She treated me like the family member. She didn't know I was never going to be. To her I'm her son. To her we were in the middle of wedding preparations for May. Three days ago three years had ended, and I was okay with that. Though she still act as if I'd lost Dana through this tragedy. I haven't lost anything; she was gone a long time ago. I could never tell her that, I could never tell her I wasn't the perfect person for her daughter. I could never destroy the perfect life she had planned out for us. I am her son.
Margaret examined my apartment piece by piece, I assume to keep busy. To avoid the uncomfortable situation we would be left with when she finally settled down. What am I suppose to tell her about her daughter that she doesn't already know, but she'll still ask. She walked around slowly touching everything, every picture, and every piece of furniture. The sharp edges shone from their recent bath in orange glow.
She came to sit down next to me on a leather sea. Her gray curls bobbing as her frail old body slumped into this ocean, the examination of my apartment was over. It was now my turn. She was not looking at my green eyes, or the neat business cut that identified me, but looking further for answers to questions about her daughter. She asked me about what happened; I knew the doctors had left her with the brief version of the story, so she turned to me. Holding her hand I told her about the truck, the truck that had a ladder on top of it. I told her how it must not have been strapped on tight enough, and that she was on an overpass going home after a long shift at the hospital. I told them that it broke her neck; she didn't feel a thing. By this time, I had lost all of the feeling in my hand to this strong woman's grip, and it was now throbbing. I let go to get a cup of coffee and distance myself from her sobs.
I couldn't comfort her, I couldn't say anything without revealing what happened. Without revealing a story that would only hurt her worse and worse. I have to walk away, hide my face and appear more upset than I am.
'Mark?' I hear her voice come from behind me, I can feel her hand on my back in a comforting action. She thinks I'm upset.
'Will you tell me about the last time you saw her?'
The last time I saw her she was crying, the last time I saw her we were fighting again. Almost a week ago she was shouting and calling me names. Telling me how much she hates me. Explaining how I don't deserve to be in a relationship. Accusing me of being a d*** and a cheater, I think those were her exact words. I told her she needed to calm down. I wasn't sleeping with my secretary, but she didn't believe me. Why would she? That was the only reason she could come up with for me breaking her heart. I even tried to explain that our relationship had been falling apart for a long time and it was time to stop pretending. I didn't love her anymore and it was time to stop.
'Mark, its okay if its too hard, you don't have to tell me.'
I must have looked odd standing there staring in to space for an amount of time I had lost track of. Thinking of a memory I couldn't tell her about. So I lied.
'A couple of days ago we went to the park.' Something I remembered from a few months ago, something that Marg will enjoy. 'Well first actually we went to the store to buy a Frisbee then walked to the park. Dana packed a lunch and we stayed there and enjoyed the day for a few hours.'
'Did you see her the day before?' She asks after a moment of silence, absorbing the memory as her own.
'No,' I answer honestly for once 'I had to work.'
Should I tell her we weren't together anymore? Would that make things worse? Maybe they would leave me alone, even hate me, if I told them I dumped her three days ago. They could even blame me for all of this. I wouldn't have to cry anymore. I wouldn't have to make up excuses not to speak at her funeral. But I would have to no matter what I said, I was her fianc'. I knew her better than anyone, and that was true.
Rows of wooden benches filled to the brim with sobbing women attached to men in suits. I realized how loved Dana must have been. So many people thought they knew her, thought they loved her, and they even thought that they had lost her. The church was covered in armies of people in black, marching in circles, making the rounds, to the front, to the back, to see me, to see Marg. I accepted condolences at the door with a nod and a quick glace to the ground. A glance that says 'I'm hurt, don't ask me about her. Thank you for you concern. Please move on into the church so I can do this all over again.' I was the last one in. They all knew how I felt, they told me so. They all knew what it was like to end a relationship with your fianc' of three years, then have death consume her. I'm sure they understand what it feels like to be completely disconnected, to not care anymore. To make my self cry so I don't seem heartless. I'm sure they also understand what it's like to keep so much hidden, so her parents still love her as she used to be. They know how it feels to cut out all emotional connections to her so I can function. Spend my nights sleeping again. I'm sure they've all had to ask a coroner to hide the track marks on her thigh so her family would not know what has been going on. She was gone, and I just couldn't hold on to who she used to be anymore.
Dana will be home when I get there, I need to see her face after a day like this. 'Hey.' I call though out our apartment as I walk in the door.
'Hey there handsome' she yells back. I can hear her bouncing though our place from her loft on the other end. Covered in paint she darts in to the room, almost crashing in to me she stops an inch short. From her inch away she blows me a kiss then goes to wash her hands off. She knows exactly what I was thinking. That must have been why she giggled when she got so close to me completely covered in paint. This is my new suit and I could not get paint on it.
'How was your day?' I begin our conversation while I watch her bounce around the kitchen. This doctor said that. That nurse said this. She had a great day. Everyone is improving, no new patients. This explains the painting, she only paints when she's in a good mood. After her fantastic story she asked for mine. I give it to her, the short version though. I could not be responsible for ruining a mood like this. She's perfect. I assume her headaches are getting better too, though I won't ask. I'm not even going to risk bring her down a notch from this bliss.
'I don't have to work again till tomorrow morning.'
'I know we have all afternoon, and all night to our selves.'
'Its still light outside.'
'Yes, it is, its only two. It will be light outside for a while.'
'We have all afternoon.'
'All afternoon for what?'
'Well since you asked, I was kinda hoping, you see, that maybe, seeing as how I already made sandwiches and packed everything up, that you might want to go to the park?'
She knows I would love to go to the park with her, but everything is a guessing game. Making every moment with her that much more exciting.
'I'll go change.' I chuckle. Careful not to stain my suit I quickly kiss her before she can move, then rush to get into park worthy clothing.
After a small simple prayer, I was asked to come up and speak of the life of Danielle Elise Evans. Her accomplishments, how happy she was, how successful we were, how we met and the life we were going to have together.
'Dana was always happy, and she made my life that way too.' Before her addiction she was the perfect person for me. 'She complimented me in every way, and I her. We were going to live the rest of our lives together in the city, and retire to the country.' Before everything we had a plan to be happy, to be perfect, to be the poster couple for the American life style. But she screwed that up. I'm crying now, but I guess that's what they expect. 'Dana loved what she did, and everyone loved her. The hospital is where she belonged.' The stress of that might have gotten to her though, or maybe it was my stress. After she started stealing from the hospital I knew she wasn't the girl once fell in love with. 'Dana spent every second she could working there, and loved every part of it. No matter how tired or stressed she was, she continued to amaze me.' The stress was too much, she was surrounded with temptations, if she had pursued a career I suggested for her this wouldn't have happened. She would have had a nice office job, work nine though five and avoid all of this shit. 'Everyday with her was exciting, she found joy in the smallest things, and watching her in this act brought me an unsurpassable amount of joy. ' Before I had to clean up her puke, and before we had to argue. Life was fun, everyday. 'Before we argued about cleaning or shopping. After we moved on to her addiction. ' Her track marks became an everyday argument, I threw out any morphine I found, and she lashed back at me for it. Three broken rips and a smashed toe, all because I 'fell down the stairs'. I asked her to stop, I told her I would help her. I told her I would leave if she didn't.
Quickly realizing what I had said though my tear, what was meant to remain in my head, I walked away from the microphone. Wondering how many people heard me? After all of my work to keep her image pure, even if mine suffers in the mix. I might have just slipped up. The preacher approaches the microphone with a concerned look on his face. For the first time I look up at the crowds and they are all staring at me, whispering. In elementary school when you get an ugly haircut, and everyone stairs at you. They are all talking, and you think their all talking about you. This is like that, ten times worse, and I know there all talking about me. We pray and have one last look at the body of Danielle Elise Evans.
The Smiths were done, they had no upstanding in court, I had won. Once again. I can't wait to tell Dana, she's been following me with this case for weeks. She is going to love this, it can be our excuse to go out at the end of the week. I'll tell her when I get to the hospital, she should be getting there about the same time I do. For the next few days were on opposite schedules, she'll get in when after I leave for the office in the morning. I won't get to see her for more than 10 minutes for the next few days. But we have our celebratory dinner to look forward to. Weeks like this I need something to look forward to.
I always park beside her when I come to visit her at the hospital. She always parks in the same spot. It could be hailing the size of golf balls outside and she will be parked in the middle row, first car. Today though she's not here yet, her shift starts in five minutes. She's normally here by now, I'll wait. Ten minutes later I decide she must have parked somewhere else and decide to go ahead and go in. Pretend like I just pulled up act like I'm not silly enough to sit in the parking lot waiting on her. The hospital was slow, it was nine so I guess its normally slow around this time. I expect to see her cheery face peek around every corner, but it does not. She is not even here.
Quickly I leave, and go home. Where the hell could she be, was she even working to day, why would she tell me that she was if she wasn't? Her car is at our apartment. Inside I call out for her but she does not answer, maybe she's sick. Maybe that's why she didn't go to work.
The bathroom floor is covered in her vomit, and there she is in the middle of it on the floor. She's scratching herself, practically ripping her skin off. She doesn't even see me here. My first reacting is to get her up off the floor and cleaned up, she must be sick. I should take her to the hospital. But the marks on her thigh tell me different. She been shooting something up, and she's hidden it well. But she hasn't gotten any of whatever it is in a while and now she's having with drawls.