Authors: Shelly Pratt
|The Bars That Hold Us|
We were never meant to be caged …
It was just a matter of circumstance that brought our equally ruined lives together.
Mercy Cole has come off the beat. She’s a drowning mess after devastating circumstances shatter her every ideal in one single second. Torn from the life she knew by chance, she decides that a post in Silverwater Jail is just what she needs. There, she won’t have to deal. Deal with real people, deal with emotions, and deal with life.
What she doesn’t expect is for Saxon Miles to work his way into her heart and destroy the steel bars she’s built up to keep people out.
Saxon’s no stranger to trouble, but that was the last thing he was expecting on a night out. When it comes to family, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do to protect them. He just didn’t plan on going to jail because of it.
In a twist of fate, their lives collide; the only thing keeping them apart is the bars that hold them prisoner.
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I wasn’t always this broken. I was alive with the prospect of a bright future
—a future Daniel played a part in. All it took was a single second to tear all that away. The future, the love we felt for each other, my…
… all dead.
Sometimes I feel that I’m so raw, drowning with sorrow, that I’ll never see the other side
—the side where people keep telling me I’ll get to once the pain has passed. But I know better. It’s never going to end; because I won’t let it. If I make the choice to let him go, then all I’ll have are memories.
Even the memories torture me, though. How could they not. Such wonderful times
we had, just gone. With each passing day, his face, his touch, his smell… it all just dissipates a little more; as though with each southerly breeze that blows through town, it takes a piece of Daniel with it.
He wouldn’t want me to be miserable, I know that. We signed up for this life. It’s in our blood. Well, it
in his. Not anymore. Each drop just filtered out, like a tap turning, emptying him of the very essence that kept him alive. Gone. Forever.
A tiny sob escapes my lips and I slap my hand over my mouth to cover the guttural sounds that worm their way past tight fingers. No one will hear me, but I know the noise to my own ears is enough to spark something more. More pain, more torture, more devastation.
Despite my best intentions to make it through another day, another night without completely succumbing to the heartache that grips me, it always ends the same. Tears. More tears. And even more tears.
There is no end to this suffering, so I just roll with it. Day after day, night after night. Every minute seems to roll into the next one so that I no longer know how long it’s been. A year? Perhaps. Maybe longer.
Would I medicate? I want to so badly, to make myself feel numb. Not numb with pain, but artificial bliss. Can anything make me happy? I doubt it. Besides, it goes against everything I stand for – everything
stood for. I’d drink, but I don’t want to drown him out. I want him with me, even if it is only in my mind. And for that, I need clarity, not some alcohol, drug-induced haze.
I roll over and glance the time on the clock. Still early. It’s to be expected while I continue to have these fitful, sleepless nights.
I absently wonder if this nightmare will ever end, but I know it will never be so. He’s not coming back; not returning to our bed to make love to me or touch me in a way only he knows how. Daniel was so strong, so safe.
Not safe enough
His smell still lingers on his pillow. I’ve never washed it. The other sheets may occasionally see the inside of a washing machine, when I force myself to function, but never his pillowcase. Even after all this time, the
dent where his head use to lie is still present. I touch it, remembering what it was like to have him sleep there. Damn annoying most of the time, but I’d give anything and everything I have just to hear him snore one more time; to have him breathe with life next to me.
I ignore the memories and turn on my side, tears trickling down my face towards my own pillow. I know I need to get a life, but I’m struggling to avoid the inertia of my sorrow. How can people say this gets better? It doesn’t.
After generations of cops in our family, it was only natural that I would follow in their footsteps. The day I joined the academy was one of the happiest days of my life. To serve and protect was in our blood, our DNA. It seemed fitting that I’d meet Daniel on the force. It destroys me that I wasn’t able to protect him. He gave his life for me and I can never make him take it back. I can never swap our destinies. Fate has already decided our paths; I’m just not willing to accept that this is the way things are now.
Giving up any chance of sleep, I decide to take a shower. The bathroom is just as empty as the rest of the house. The
ghosts haunt here, too. I strip naked and ignore the gaunt woman in the mirror. I don’t need to look to see that her once shiny brown hair has become a brittle, matted mess. I don’t need to look to see the dark circles under her eyes, or the hollow cheeks. God knows I look like shit. I just don’t care anymore.
The water is hot; always so hot. I need it to caress and hold me, the absence of touch from another gripping me even in this tiny stall.
Sometimes I wish my ability to care would just wash down the plughole and disappear forever. Other times I scream at myself for being so ridiculous, because how could I ever stop caring about the man I loved, dead or not.
Like every action, I soap my skin lacking complete awareness. It’s just motions. I know I have to do it, I just couldn’t care less whether it actually gets done or not. When I’
m clean, I dress in clothes that are way too baggy, but have no desire to replace. That would mean shopping, and people, and talking. All things I’m incapable of right now. I want to stay in my depressive hole where I can’t infect anyone else with my mood, or have them try to cure me of mine.
The kitchen holds many memories, too. I try to ignore them as they swirl about, enticing me to remember snippets of our life and how it played out in this room. I don’t want to remember some things
—they hurt too much. Making love on the kitchen bench, kissing at the sink,
pressed up against me as I cook over the stove. These memories make my hunger for food non-existent.
It doesn’t matter anyway. There is no food to speak of; just a couple of stale boxes of cereal and wilted fruit and veg in the fridge crisper. I don’t even know how they ended up here. My dad
, perhaps? He worries, as do they all. But they can’t save me anymore than I can save myself. They say time will heal, although I already know as it slips away that this is not the answer either.
I settle for tea, brewed dark and strong with lots of milk. Thank god for long-life, huh? I can just imagine if it were the fresh variety
. It would soon go off. The plop-plop of it would drop into my tea, destroying my beverage had I used it after it’d expired and curdled.
The phone rings, as it often does. It’s only five am, but family reject themselves from such politeness when they think they’re doing what’s best for me. I ignore the incessant shrill, leaving the machine to answer politely instead. This
in itself is a stab in the heart, but one I can’t refuse, because I love to hear his voice, no matter how much it kills me to do so.
‘Hey, you’ve reached Daniel and Mercy. We’re too busy kissing the hell out of each other, so why don’t you leave us a message and we might get back to you sometime this week.’
The machine beeps rudely, letting the caller know they can now leave their message. It’s intrusive to the rich tones of Daniel’s voice, making me recoil as though physically struck.
‘Mercy, honey, pick up will you? I need to talk to you. Come on, you can’t avoid me forever, you know. Right, I’m coming over after breakfast. You better answer that damn door, girl, or I’m going to
bust it wide open.’
My dad hangs up, leaving me feeling like a petulant child, and me not caring in the least. So he’s mad at me. I’ve got bigger issues to deal with. Like my fiancé’s death. I don’t need him breathing down my neck telling me it’s time to move on
, or that the family needs me. Or that the force needs me. I know I’ve used up all my long service leave, but that means nothing to me. Insurance policies and savings are keeping me afloat for now.
The thought of stepping foot outside scares me. It scares me because people don’t accept people walking around
in tears all the time. It’s not…
. I know if I’m put in a position where I need to talk and communicate with others then the tears will have to stop. The visible pain would have to stop. My feeling anything at all would have to stop. It would mean that I’ve relinquished my grief for Daniel, and I’m just not ready for that.
The burden of having family
right now makes me want to move far away where they can’t touch me—where they can’t penetrate the cocoon I’ve created in this house. I would leave, except this is where I feel Daniel the most. I can’t give that up. I won’t give that up. So I put up with these visits from family, just so I can spend my time with a ghost I will never see.
I take my tea to the front room, the stale air moving reluctantly around me. It’s cold out, winter already leaving a little frost on the ground. I know when my dad walks up I will hear the crunch-crunch of the thin ice underneath his work boots. The sun will melt it quickly enough
. I wish I could say the same for my frozen heart, petrified since Daniel stopped living.
the neighborhood busybody, I peek out of the front curtains. It’s a distraction from the outside world, needed to dry my eyes before my dad gets here. He won’t be happy to see the state I’m in, yet I’m powerless to stop it. Food tastes like cardboard and looking pretty seems superfluous. He will just need to accept me the way I am now; that perhaps his little girl is gone for good.
The woman I am now doesn’t crave things normal people do. Normal people partake in having desires and dreams. Not me. My dreams were blown to bits. There was no way he was going to survive that, but I don’t think I did either despite the fact that I’m the one who is still breathing. Barely.
A familiar engine turns the corner down the road. I know it’s him. I let the curtains fall closed, unable to watch his stern approach. He’s a practical man, unable to feel the depths of my suffering. He sees my grief as a logical emotion not overcome fast enough. He wants to fix me, like everyone else. But like everyone else, he will be just as unsuccessful. I’m already steeling my heart against his pleas. I won’t let go. I won’t move on. I just… can’t.
I know he’s there, but the knock still startles me. He knows I’m here, so there’s no denying him entry. As the door whooshes open and the outside world collides with mine
, I’m hit by the force of cool air and old spice aftershave.
‘Hey, Mercy. So, you’re not taking my calls now, huh?’
‘I was in the shower,’ I say pointedly, motioning towards my still-wet hair.
He grunts, not caring for my excuses. He knows me better than that. His arms are laden with grocery bags. Food which I know will end up in the waste like the offerings before it. Dad knows it too, but my mom will continue to push him to reach me in some way.
I follow him into the kitchen, watching silently as he methodically throws out the wasted food taking up residence in my fridge, replacing it with the goods intended to
energize life back into me. When he’s finished, he sits on the bar stool watching me intently, waiting for me to say something. Anything.
‘Would you like coffee?’
From a little jar on the bench, I remove a coffee pod and place it in the machine Daniel bought for us last Christmas. Every single thing reminds me of him. Sometimes it gets so exhausting trying to hide from him, yet I don’t want to. I welcome whatever s
craps I can get, whether that is a memory or a scent.
The machine goes to work, releasing a heady aroma of freshly brewed coffee. When I’ve stirred in the obligatory milk and two sugars, I stand back in the corner, allowing my dad to drink his beverage without being able to touch me with his concern.
He’s a big bear of a man; very tall, and wide shoulders that carry the weight of the world. When I was growing up, I used to get lost in his embrace, certain he could fix anything if I needed him too. His dependable, steel-grey eyes would always tell me so. They don’t tell me that anymore. They’re watery, hollow and vacant—unsure. Sometimes when he visits I think I’m looking into my own reflection, because that’s how I feel. Hollow.