Frankie was staring at her reflection in the mirror, she had streaks of soot on her face and her hands and shirt were covered. She washed her hands and face and was drying off when she heard the door open.
She saw Cameron in the mirror, she had a worried look on her face, but she didn't speak; she couldn't. All she wanted was the smell of soot off her, she ripped her shirt open, buttons went flying and took it off and threw it in the bin. Her back was to Cameron and she wasn't surprised when she heard Cameron's gasp.
Cameron wondered what was wrong with her partner, but lost her train of thought when Frankie turned her back. She couldn't not notice the tattoo on her right shoulder - it was beautiful.
"That is incredible."
Frankie shrugged, she put on a clean shirt and turned around. That was when Cameron noticed the tears, they were pouring silently down Frankie's face.
Cameron walked toward her. "Frankie? What is it? What's wrong?"
Frankie looked at her, opened her mouth, she tried to speak but nothing, not a sound came out. Cameron took her arm and lead her to sit on the bench and did the only thing she could think of, she took Frankie in her arms and held her. For a moment she worried that Frankie was going to pull away, but she didn't. And, after a few seconds she put her arms around Cameron and just let the tears fall.
"It's okay. I've got you...I've got you."
For about twenty minutes Cameron just held her tight, reassuring her that she wasn't alone. When Frankie pulled away Cameron got her some tissue and Frankie wiped her eyes and face.
Cameron smiled. "Anytime."
Frankie stood up and went to the window, she looked out and was still, Cameron was silent. She could see that Frankie was trying to work things through in her head, so she stayed silent. After a few minutes of silence she turned around and spoke to Cameron.
"I think it's time I told you some stuff about me. But, I think we should get some ice cream first."
Cameron nodded. "Okay. You drive."
Frankie finished getting her stuff, then they went down, got her car and drove to the nearest ice cream shop. They got what they wanted, Frankie decided that she wanted to be at her place when she told Cameron her story.
Cameron didn't say a word, she realised that Frankie was fragile and the best thing she could do was let her dictate what and how things would happen.
They got to Frankie's apartment and went in, Cameron looked around while Frankie served up the ice cream. When she came in the living room Cameron was sitting on the sofa, Frankie put the bowls on the coffee table but didn't sit down. She went and stood looking out off the window, she took a deep breath, exhaled and started to talk.
"The tattoo is a tribute to my parents. The badge was my dad's and the rose; the rose was my mothers favourite flower."
"And the hawk?"
Frankie shrugged. "I don't know. Just something to put them together, see the hawk is flying off with the badge and the rose. You see, when I was a rookie I lived in an apartment by myself and not at home, I wanted to be independent. One night I was on duty, Andy and I were called to a fire, but when the address came over the radio I froze because I recognised it, you see it was my parents house. When they said the address my heart stopped, and when we got there Andy had to hold me back to stop me from going in. They told me that they had found my younger brother Billy and my mom and that they had been taken to hospital. But my dad...my dad was DOA."
Cameron could see that Frankie was finding this hard, her shoulders were shaking and tears pouring down her face, so she got up and stood next to her in the window.
"When they told me this I broke down, Andy put me in the car and drove me to the hospital. The doctor told me that Billy would make a full recovery, his left arm and shoulder were burnt but it would be okay. But my mom...my mom was in a bad way, they said the damage was too extensive for her to recover. They took me in to see Billy, and as soon as he saw me he started to cry and asked about mom and dad. He was only fifteen and I was only nineteen, I took his hand and had to tell him that dad was dead and that mom was dying. About half an hour later a nurse came in and told us that mom wanted to talk to us."
All through her story tears streamed down her face, Cameron grabbed some tissues and handed them to her.
"Thanks. They let me wheel Billy down to her room, and I had to try really hard not to break down, for Billy's sake and my own, she was badly burnt, but she was still mom. She said she just wanted to see us one last time. Billy told her he loved her, kissed her cheek because it was the only place not burnt and said his goodbye, then the nurse wheeled him back to his room. Then my aunt Amanda came in, she said goodbye to her sister and went to sit with Billy. Then mom made me promise to look after Billy and not to die. You see we had fought over my decision to be a cop. So I promised her. I kissed her cheek and told..." Frankie's voice broke so she took a breath. "... told her that I loved her, and watched her as she died a few seconds later."
Cameron took her hand. "You don't have to go on."
"No, I'm okay. I couldn't stop now even if I wanted to. After she died I went outside to the waiting room and John was there. He was my dad's partner, he saw my face and he knew, he told me how sorry he was. But, I didn't care. By this time my heart was behind the wall I'd built, the walls were up and I was numb. I just said 'tell me what happened' and he did. He told me that the men my dad was undercover investigating had found out he was a cop and they had dealt with it, in their own violent way. The other undercover officer with him didn't find out until it was already done, and it was too late to do anything when he did find out. That's when I got angry, but John said at that moment they were arresting the men responsible. I just walked away, back to my brothers room, my aunt was still there and they both knew that mom was gone without me saying a word. My aunt Amanda was great, she dealt with everything and everyone. It was moms wish that if anything ever happened to her and dad that Mandy would look after Billy, so he was going to move in with her to finish high school. The funeral was a week later, when Billy was well enough to attend. All this time I hadn't cried, the whole thing was horrible, especially the wake. I had compassionate leave off work and I left the wake early because I just couldn't stand it. I went to the nearest off license and bought a bottle of vodka and drank it until I passed out."
Frankie turned to look at Cameron, grateful that she was just letting her talk, getting everything off her chest.
"For three months I drank and drank to try and numb the pain of losing my parents. I wouldn't listen to Billy or Mandy when they tried to help, I thought I could handle it. I couldn't see how much I was hurting them and myself. I kept drinking until the day Billy decided to come and see me, and when I didn't answer his buzz he let himself in. And, as he walked through the door he heard a crash in the bathroom, when he opened the door he found me unconscious and blood pouring from a cut on my head where I'd caught the edge of the sink when I collapsed. So, Billy did the only thing he could do, he called an ambulance. When I woke up a couple of hours later I saw Billy, with tears in his eyes looking so distraught. But, my reasoning was that the promise I made to my mom wasn't broken, I wasn't dead but, I wasn't really living either. But at that moment, I woke up and realised what I'd been doing to everyone. I started to cry and Billy held me and I promised then and there that I would get help."
Cameron held her hand tighter. "What did you do?"
"I went into rehab, and I got sober. After six weeks I went back to work and put my head down and worked hard to become a detective at twenty four. So, I've been sober now for almost five years. I go to AA meetings at least once a month and on odd occasions if I feel the need I go twice. So there you go. The reason I keep people at a distance, you, even Billy and Mandy is because I don't ever want to feel like that again, that heart breaking agony. If I don't get close to people then I don't get hurt. Which is why I haven't had a partner last longer than two weeks since they died. But, I realise now, that if I don't feel things, then I'm just an empty shell of a person. And, another thing I realise now, is that sometimes I can be a bit slow...what I realised...is that I am really glad that you are here and that you let me just talk."
Cameron was crying as well, all that stuff she'd had to deal with, most of it on her own. "I'm really glad I'm here too. Wow, now I know you were going to an AA meeting that first night."
Frankie nodded, Cameron just pulled her into her arms and held her.
After a couple of minutes, Cameron let her go and went to the sofa and sat down, Frankie seeing the pensive look on her face sat next to her and said, "What's the matter?"
Cameron looked down at the floor and said. "I guess it's my turn for true confessions."
Frankie shook her head. "You don't have to tell me anything."
"I guess I need to. I want you to understand......and if you can be brave then so can I."
When Frankie stayed silent, Cameron began to talk.
"You know at the raid last week when I disappeared and I said I just needed some fresh air?" Frankie nodded, "Well that wasn't the real reason. When you disarmed that guy in the corridor, I had a flashback to a similar incident that didn't go so well. About a year ago my squad were called to an office block where some disgruntled employee had gone on the rampage with a gun. My partner was in front of me and he came around the corner and before I could react he'd shot her in the head. I froze, it was only thanks to the other detectives that he didn't shoot me. So, I had compassionate leave and appointments with the psychiatrist forced upon me. I requested a transfer because I couldn't stand being in New York anymore. I felt ashamed, I couldn't face Sophie's husband or her daughter. I thought it was my fault for not reacting quick enough, if I'd reacted maybe she'd still be here."
Frankie held her as she cried. "Oh Cam. It wasn't your fault." Cameron looked up at her, she looked so devastated. "There was no way you could have stopped him, no one blamed you...did they?"
She shook her head. "No, no one blamed me, this is all my own guilt. Why did she have to die? She had a family, it should have been me."
Frankie shook her head vehemently, "No. it shouldn't. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this so listen because it has taken me almost five years to realise this, things happen for a reason - you might never understand why it has happened. But, you cannot let the shoulda, coulda, woulda's get in the way of living your life. I'm a prime example of that."
Cameron smiled. "I guess it was just what happened last week, it made me remember. I guess I'd repressed it all...we are a right pair aren't we?"
Frankie laughed. "Yeah. But, now we know that we can talk about it all and work through it. Because holding all that stuff in, isn't good; for either of us."
They sat in silence for a few minutes, both feeling like a huge weight had been lifted off their shoulders.
Frankie looked at Cameron. "Yeah."
"Where's Billy now?"
Frankie took a deep breath and said, "He's at college in Chicago. He's doing something with computers, I forget what exactly, we talk at least once a fortnight. But, I really did keep him at arms length after my parents died, even more so after I came out of rehab."
"Maybe it's time you let him back in. You said yourself it's time to start living."
Frankie nodded. "I know your right. You should forgive yourself too - about Sophie. Were you friendly with her family?"
Cameron nodded slowly. "Yeah. I was. But I know that Andrew didn't blame me. He told me so at the funeral. But, I was so upset that it took me a long time to accept that. But I have now."
Frankie hugged her again. "I'm glad."
They talked for a couple more hours about what had happened, and then Cameron went home, Frankie felt different. That was the first time she had told the entire story to anyone, she was glad that Cameron had listened and, that she had confided to Frankie also.
She decided to do something else, so she picked up the phone and dialled.
"Hey Billy. It's me."
"Frankie? Are you okay?"
Frankie smiled. "Yeah, I'm good. I just wanted to phone and tell you that I love you, that's all."
Silence at the other end, and then she heard Billy crying. "I love you too sis."
"I wanted to say sorry for pushing you away after everything and that from now on I'll be your big sister again. If that's okay?"
"Yes Frankie that's okay. I can't think of anything I'd like better. One question though."
"Okay. Go for it."
"What bought this on?"
She laughed. "I got a new partner at work. And, I told her about everything tonight and I realised that I wanted you in my life. Like you should be, and thought, or rather hoped that you would forgive me?"
"I forgive you Frankie. I'm glad you've got a new friend. Is she nice?"
Frankie smiled, picturing Cameron in her mind 'gorgeous' she thought, 'where did that come from?' she pushed it to the side of her mind, instead, she said. "Yes she is, really nice. I'm glad too. Well, little brother I have to go as I have to get up early. I'll talk to you soon okay?"
"Yeah, I'd like that. Goodnight sis."
Frankie heard the phone cut off and smiled, but she decided to make one more call before bed.
"Hello?" said a groggy voice.
"Hey Mandy. Sorry for waking you up."
"Frankie? Are you okay, what's wrong?"
Frankie had to smile, "I'm okay. I just wanted to phone and apologise for giving you grief. I just phoned Billy and apologised, so I wanted to call you too."
Mandy smiled to herself. "It's okay Frankie. I always understood. I'm glad you're feeling better. It's really late. Do you want to come around for dinner one night?"
Frankie smiled. "I would love to. Is Tuesday okay?"
"Fine, be here at seven? We can talk then."
"Yes ma'am. Goodnight."
"Night Frankie. Sweet dreams."
Frankie put the phone down and smiled to herself, she went and had a shower before flaking out because she was so exhausted.
Cameron got a cab from Frankie's back to the station to pick up her car, and then she drove to her place. She marvelled at all the stuff that Frankie had been through at such a young age, and how she had gotten through it all. She was glad it was all out in the open, and that she had told Frankie about her experience. It really did help to talk about things, maybe now they could both get on with living their lives.
She got to her apartment and went straight to bed, the evening had been emotionally exhausting and she was glad to be in bed. She fell asleep almost instantly, having the first peaceful, dreamless sleep she'd had in a week.
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