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Second meeting, the Centre
Her footsteps sounded in the room. Jarod knew she was there but chose to ignore the pounding in his heart as he tried to concentrate on the book in front of him.
“You’re afraid of me, aren’t you?”
Jarod turned defensively, watching as she walked behind him. Turning his head to follow her, he kept his voice even when he replied, “No.”
Miss Parker continued her walk, her gaze never leaving his when she said, “You were yesterday. I could tell.”
“I was nervous,” Jarod paused for two seconds before saying, “You have soft skin.”
Miss Parker’s whole stance was aggressive. She raised her voice slightly when she replied, “You didn’t even touch me.”
“Yes, I did,” Jarod answered. Touching his temple, he said, “In here.” He held his hand out again, as if the partition stood before him. “Hold out your hand like this.”
He closed his eyes while Miss Parker held her hand out. She slowly extended it, closing her eyes as well.
“Can you feel it?”
She wanted too. Their hands slowly closed the gap until the barest of touches sprung like an electrical current between them. They jerked back in surprise, as if they had done something wrong. Jarod breathed and then asked, “What’s your name... Your first name?”
He watched her walk around the table and then her breath was warm on his ear as she told him.
Three months ago, the Centre
Sydney leaned against the door jamb to Miss Parker’s office. He watched as she opened another box before she noticed him. She sighed, turning her back on her. Hugging herself, she moved towards the window, staring blindly at the scenery.
“Parker, are you all right?”
She nodded, aware that Sydney had stepped into the room and closed the door. She could feel his presence come closer and he stopped just short of touching her. Drawing strength from him, she took a deep breath and turned.
“I have made up my mind.”
“I thought that Lyle would not have accepted your resignation.”
Stepping to her drinks cabinet, she poured herself a good measure of scotch before she downed it. She poured herself a second glass. Sydney’s hand stopped her. It rested on her hand holding the glass. She focused on it, seeing for the first time the age spots that dappled the skin. She remembers a time when that hand had held hers while she mourned her mother. Shaking her head, she banished the image from her mind.
There was enough sorrow already.
She felt incredibly vulnerable. Sydney didn’t say a word as he pulled her into an embrace and for a few moments she enjoyed the feeling of parental care he bestowed. Pushing away, she smiled briefly before turning from him. She left the scotch on the cabinet and returned to the box she had been packing.
“Why would Lyle…”
“No contest to his chairmanship,” she answered dully. She took an item of her desk and let it drop in the box. Then a second, a third; not really caring how she packed. All she wanted to do at this stage is disappear and never return.
“Parker, we need to talk about this.”
Sydney’s voice was soft and so full of understanding that she nearly relented. Her hand stilled on one of the objects while she tried to compose her emotions.
She returned to her packing, trying to ignore the psychiatrist. She knew that he would have that concerned look on his face, his stance un-aggressive while he tried to think of ways to outmanoeuvre her in to acknowledging what had happened. His hand stilled hers, while he forced her to turn and face him.
“Let me go.”
His grip increased. “Parker, look at me.”
She didn’t have the strength to face him. She could feel the tears burning behind her eyelids. It wouldn’t take a lot for it to fall and she had promised that she would not cry. She kept her eyes closed, her body tight.
“Let me go.”
Sydney did the opposite. He pulled her back into an embrace. His one hand cradled her hair, holding her face against his shoulder while his other pulled around her back. It was an image that she had experienced only once before with her own father when she had nearly been killed by Brigitte while she had save his life. She relaxed slightly, the memories too strong and she could feel the tears, hot and wet, as they soaked the older man’s shirt. Out of her own volition, her hands closed on his shirt.
“It wasn’t your fault, Parker.”
She answered Sydney in her mind, unable to even say the words.
No. That is where you are wrong, Sydney. It is my fault.
“Shush…its ok, Parker.”
She mentally shook her head. It will never be ok. She was aware that Sydney was now supporting her limb body. She didn’t acknowledge him as everything dimmed around her, the last sentence a scream that was swallowed by the void.
Infirmary, the Centre
Broots hurried into the room and skidded to a stop. Sydney and Lyle turned from the bed to look at him and he swallowed his apologies. His gaze slid back to bed where Miss Parker lay. She was pale, her eyes closed. He watched for movement in her chest and felt immediately grateful when he noticed the slow up and down movement that indicated that she was still breathing. He was still trying to come to terms with everything that had happened in the past week. With Raines dead and the whole other business, he was seriously considering his options in leaving the Centre. The only one stopping him is the thought of leaving her here on her own, although he had heard from one of his contacts in Personnel that Miss Parker had handed in her resignation.
“Is…is she all right.”
“I don’t know, Broots. I hope so.”
“What happened? Is it her ulcer again?”
Sydney shook his head, still holding on to Miss Parker’s hand.
“My sister is overworked. Nothing more. Contact me when she wakes up, Syd.”
Broots watched as Lyle left and turned to the older man. “What’s wrong with her?”
“I believe that she had an emotional shutdown. She had not been grieving as she should and now…it had caught up with her.”
Broots nodded. This whole blasted business of the past week had been so messy. He had not even had a chance yet to fully comprehend what had happened.
“Will she recover?”
“With time. All we can do now is to be here for her, Broots.”
Infirmary, the Centre
She watched him increase his speed as he ran down the road with Willie and Sam in hot pursuit. Her gun was out, pointed at his receding back. For a moment she though about actually pulling the trigger before she swore and dropped her hand. Running, she changed direction towards where they had parked the car. Aware that Sydney had entered on the other side, she started the car. Spinning, she drew rapidly away from the curve.
“What are you going to do, Parker?”
“Whatever it takes, Syd. Wonder boy is not getting away from me this time.”
Sydney held on to the door handle as she skidded around a corner. She wanted to cut the pretender off at one of the intersections. Glancing left, she caught a glimpse of a black jacket. Smiling, she raced two blocks further down the street before she turned. She entered the intersection of the street he had been running down in, bringing the car to a screeching halt while horns blared around her. Sydney’s head connected with the front dashboard. She ignored the older man as she opened the door, her gun already lining up on the approaching Pretender.
Jarod saw her when he had passed the only intersection left between them. His face registered surprise and for a moment he faltered. His head whipped sideways as he tried to find a way out. Willie increased his speed, closing the distance between them. She could see Jarod make his decision. Abruptly he turned to her right, crossing the street. She saw the car and wanted to scream a warning.
Time slowed down to an immeasurable crawl. She watched as his body made contact with the car. He bounced from the windscreen, leaving a cracked network of lines while his body flew over the top of the car. He hit the pavement and bounced once again before coming to a final halt.
He wasn’t moving.
She screamed, her warning a second to late. Ignoring the numb feeling inside her, she raced from her car to where the Pretender was now sprawled on the street. Willie got there first, dropping down on his haunches and turning Jarod onto his back. She could see the blood bubbling from his mouth, his eyes closed. The left side of his face was scraped raw; a gaping hole had been torn from the pants that covered his right knee. She could see the bloody mess inside, the white of bone sticking jaggedly out.
It was only then that she noticed Sydney standing next to. He had the beginnings of a bruise forming on his forehead and she remembered his head making contact when she had stopped. She watched as Sydney pulled Willie away, kneeling by Jarod.
“Willie, ambulance. NOW!”
Sydney took the Pretender’s vitals, his heart sinking when Jarod’s heartbeat faltered. Somewhere in the distance he heard sirens. Carefully, he turned Jarod so that his ward can breathe easier. From the bright bubbles of blood coming from his mouth, he knew that Jarod had probably broken a rib and that it had punctured his lung.
“Jarod, you’re going to be all right.”
He could feel the tears on his cheeks as he felt Jarod’s life slip from his fingers. Wiping at a stray hair that fell over Jarod’s eyes, he continued talking, unaware of the audience. “When you’re better, we’ll go fishing. I had always wanted you to experience that with me. I know I’ve never told you but I’ve always seen you as a son.” Sydney smiled, remembering the card Jarod had made him once. “I’ve always loved you.”
The pretender’s breaths were laboured and weak. The blood from his wounds was slowly pooling around his body. Sydney felt someone take him by his shoulder. He wanted to lash out, at anyone. Curling his hand into a fist, he turned and stopped short.
The medics had arrived.
They watched as the medics worked to try and save Jarod’s life and watched numbly as the ambulance sped away, the red lights receding.
“Miss Parker, Mr. Lyle wants to know what happened.”
She turned to see Willie with a phone in his hand. She had nothing left.
“Tell him the truth. Tell him Jarod died.”
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