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Gravity, Chapter 12
Lan woke with a sudden start. Her eyes shot open and she winced at the fresh memory of the dream. It was her mother, kneeling beside her bed, her face contorted in sorrow, palms raised in some sort of desperate appeal. It seemed she was trying to say something to Lan, but there was only the motion of her lips, no sound. The pain her mother seemed to be experiencing was palpable. Lan still felt it heavy on her. “Fuck.” She groaned out, hands coming up to rub her eyes.
She fought the temptation to look over at the floor next to her bed. The dream had seemed so real. She finally sat up, the last vestiges of the dream sliding away with the onset of consciousness. Her dogs began to gather themselves in her lap, innately aware of her distress.
She hadn’t thought about much less dreamt about her mother for a long time. Why now? She thought to herself as she swung her legs over the edge of the bed. Lan wasn’t one to dwell too heavily on dreams or their meanings, but this one was a bit disturbing. If she cared enough to give it more thought. Fact was, she didn’t. Her mother had been out of her life for many years now and Lan rarely felt the loss anymore.
Not willing to spare anymore of her valuable time off on analyzing the dream, Lan rose and ambled into the bathroom. She had a few things to take care of today and wanted to make sure they all got done. She also hoped to see Jill since she knew the sergeant wasn’t scheduled to work until tonight.
After witnessing the incident at the softball field a couple of weeks ago, her admiration for Jill had grown tenfold. When Jill came out to her, Lan hadn’t really considered what it might be like for someone in her field of work to not only be gay, but to be open and not apologize for it.
Jill’s response to the homophobic officer offered Lan a small glimpse into the mind and heart of the brave, self-assured sergeant. How she wished she had a friend like Jill when she was younger.
“You out on patrol tonight?” Pete asked as he joined Jill in the hallway on the way to the squad room.
“Yep. Sam’s partner’s wife should be giving birth any minute so I’m filling in for him.” Jill said, nodding to Sam as she spotted him. He grinned and automatically threw her the keys.
“Oh no, Officer Cortez, you’re chauffeuring me around tonight.” Jill informed him, tossing the keys back to him with a smirk.
“Well, be careful out there.” Pete said in a deep voice, reciting a favorite line from an old cop show.
“Will do.” Jill replied in the same tone. “Let’s go keep the streets safe, Sam.” She aimed at her partner for the shift, slapping him on the back good-naturedly.
They had been out on patrol for about 2 hours and so far the night had been pretty uneventful. It was just the way Jill preferred it.
Her attention turned to earlier that day when she had gotten an unexpected phone call from Lan, asking her out to lunch. They’d gone to a little sandwich shop not too far from Lan’s place.
As she sat opposite Lan, listening to her recount a funny story about John and Katy, she thought about how her feelings for Lan had evolved. In the two months they’d known each other, Jill had gone from casual crush to a kind of docile jealousy when she’d been dating Pete, to an authentic desire to get to know this woman. Her mind came back fully to listen to Lan’s story and an uncontrollable smile spread across her lips as she looked at Lan intently.
“What?” She heard Lan say, a warm smile caressing her face. Lan had stopped her story when she sensed Jill had lost the plot. It didn’t bother her, though. How could it when she was on the receiving end of such a smile?
“Do you want children? I mean, you know, in the future?” Jill asked awkwardly. Her embarrassment at the blurting out of the question was instantly eclipsed by the sudden need to know the answer.
Lan looked at her thoughtfully, pleasantly puzzled by the not so much incongruous as surprising question.
“When I’m around those two, I do think about it.” Lan said. Then she looked down at her half eaten club sandwich. “But I can’t imagine doing it alone, you know?” She paused for Jill’s reaction, getting a nod. “How about you?” Lan tossed back as she picked up her sandwich.
“I guess same as you. I haven’t really been around kids all that much, but the idea of being responsible for a child, teaching them what I know, it’s appealing. But doing it alone? I don’t think it would be very fair to the kid.” Jill reasoned.
“Yeah.” Lan replied, sandwich forgotten. She looked at Jill with an unreadable expression. Jill wanted so much to ask what she was thinking, but held back, an innate feeling telling her not to press.
“You know, if that guy hadn’t been such an ass, we wouldn’t have given him a citation.” Sam voiced, breaking Jill out of her thoughts. He was referring to their last stop, a failure to stop for a pedestrian.
“No shit. He was entertaining, though.” Jill replied, chuckling at the guy’s ineffectual attempt at flirting his way out of a ticket. When he realized he was getting nowhere with her, he started to name all the police officers he knew and how they would never give a ticket for this kind of ‘ticky-tack’ stuff.
“Man, give me that kind of stop any day.” Sam said as he shifted slightly in his seat.
Jill grunted affirmatively. She knew that routine traffic stops could be anything but routine, especially in the area their division patrolled.
Suddenly the radio crackled to life. “We have a 415 at 1243 Watson. Units in the area, please respond.”
Jill picked up the mic, “3 Adam 20, our ETA is 3 minutes.” Jill also heard another unit respond that was within 6 minutes of the call. She let them know if they needed the second unit, she’d call them in.
“Hmm, let me guess, boyfriend beating the shit out of his pregnant girlfriend?” Sam speculated, knowing more often than not these disturbance calls were almost always domestic abuse calls.
When they rolled up on the scene, it was eerily quiet. Jill double-checked the address she’d scribbled down before proceeding to the front door of the rundown bungalow. Sam flanked the other side of the door as Jill knocked loudly. “Police officers, please open the door.” Jill paused briefly to listen for any sound coming from the house. She heard heavy footsteps making the floor creak and then the door was pulled open roughly.
“What the fuck do you want?” Rasped a mountain of a man, predictably wearing a dirty white t-shirt and ill-fitting jeans. He was barefoot and Jill could smell the stench of alcohol on his breath.
“We’re responding to a disturbance call and wanted to make sure everything was alright. Are you alone, sir?” Jill asked with a well-born mix of professionalism and concern.
“Most times, I wished to hell I was.” Deadpanned the man with a deep sigh that told of years of apathy, alcohol and capitulation. Jill almost laughed, but knew it could make the situation, which was still a mystery, go south real quick.
“Are you currently alone in the house?” Sam tried. The two took turns trying to look into the house, but had no luck looking around the body that filled the doorway completely.
“No, the missus is in the bedroom sleeping it off. She was in a rant about James pissin’ his bed.” He said as if it happened often.
After getting the man’s name and the name of his wife, Jill made a move towards the door, “Mind if we come in and take a look around?” The man gave a gesture of ‘be my guest’ as he moved out of the doorframe and into the house.
“Sorry, the maid went back to Mexico.” He announced sardonically as he kicked some old newspapers from the middle of the entrance. The house smelled of stale fast-food grease, sweat and dust. The furniture was worn, especially the faded floral print couch that had two deep dents, one large one smaller, in the cushions, obviously from many years and many hours of sitting.
“Where can I find James?” Jill asked as she looked around the front room thoroughly, taking in details of the front room: Old console television across from the couch, a slanted bookshelf with a few dusty romance novels and well worn 1000 piece puzzle boxes under the front window, battered coffee table with more newspapers and some fast-food wrappers.
“He’s in his room, door on the right,” The man gestured down the hall.
“Thanks,” She said as she knocked lightly and then opened the door. The room was dark and smelled faintly of urine and sweaty tennis shoes. “James?” Jill called out as she searched for a light switch, finding none. She opened the door wider to let in more light and told Sam to go check on the mother.
“James?” She tried again a little louder. “I’m Officer Cooper, can I speak with you a minute?” The column of light let in by the hall fell across a young boy, no more than eight, Jill imagined, with green eyes as big as saucers. She immediately bent down near the bed so she wasn’t towering over him. She assured the boy in a soft voice, “I’m just checking in on you. There were some loud noises and someone called us.”
The boy sat up and switched on a bedside lamp. Now illuminated, Jill could see that the boy had been crying, his eyes puffy and red. She began to visually inspect his face and neck for any signs of bruising as she asked, “Can you tell me what happened tonight?”
The boy sniffed and rubbed his hand across his nose and Jill wished she’d had a tissue for him. She took a quick glance around the room. It was sparse, with a battered dresser missing most of its knobs and a couple of cardboard boxes with some toys in them.
“I peed my bed and mom got real mad.” He mumbled. Jill looked down at his thin arms and hands, laying limply on his sweatpant covered thighs. All she wanted to do was hug this kid.
“Did she hurt you?” Jill asked, knowing that if he said yes, CPS would be called. He sat for a minute and after a very adult sounding, weary sigh he shook his head no. “You sure? How about your dad?” Again, he shook his head no. “Do they ever hit you or hurt you, James?” She asked softly.
“No, my mom, she just yells a lot. I do a lot of things wrong.” He said quietly. It broke Jill’s heart. It made her angry. Angry at the powerlessness she felt to help this boy’s lot in life. It wasn’t his fault he was born into this situation. She also knew that for every James there were many other kids who were worse off. She looked at the boy, seeing the top of his head as he was looking down at his lap. She couldn’t imagine how scared and confused this boy must feel.
With no physical injuries she could see and with the boy’s answer, and no obvious signs of physical neglect, she knew there was no grounds to make any arrests. She had the means to stop him from being bruised and broken on the outside, but not the inside. The thought of having to leave him here made her sick. She pulled herself together and affectionately brushed the boy’s hair back.
“Listen to me, James. Do you know how to use the phone?” He nodded, his face brightening a bit. “Excellent. I’m going to give you my card,” she said taking one out of her breast pocket. “If you ever need someone to talk to, or if someone hurts you, you call this number here,” she continued, pointing to her number. “Ask for Sergeant Cooper.” He repeated her name and nodded again, this time with a full smile on his face. It transformed his features. What a handsome boy, she thought.
Before she stood, she put her hand out in front of him. He reached out and gave her a most gentlemanly handshake. “You know what James, I think you are a really cool kid.” She chuckled a bit at his enormous grin and ruffled his hair, letting her hand linger on the top of his head for a moment. She then stood and walked out the door, barely in control of her emotions.
She met Sam out in the hallway, snapping back into professional mode. “The wife is passed out in the room,” he said pointing to the back of the hallway with his thumb. “The dad said she didn’t lay a hand on the boy, just lots of yelling.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty much what the boy said too.” Both shook their head, knowing they were thinking the same thing. They left the dad with some anger management and AA class information, hoping, but knowing the information would probably not be used. They climbed into their squad car and hoped to finish out the rest of their shift in relative peace.
Jill slammed back into her car seat outside of the bar, disconsolate. Unable to shake the sadness she felt for the boy that was at the disturbance call, she could only think of one person to talk to.
So she showered, dressed in her street clothes quickly and drove straight to the In the Drink. As she began to step out of her car, she remembered that Lan had the night off. She felt powerless as her tears began to fall, wondering why this particular call had gripped her heart so completely and why being unable to talk to Lan about it had felt like her undoing.