Face Up

Another post written for Rachel Heffington’s chatterbox feature!  This month’s topic was food, and thus I picked a certain Detective Inspector to write about…  Honestly, I expected this scene to be at least partly funny when I first thought about it.  Hah.  Of course not.

Colin vaguely remembered that he was supposed to eat regularly, though exactly what he could eat was another question.  The thought wouldn’t quite roll away, like the cold drizzle soaking into his hair and shoulders.

Two months, and every time he blinked he could replay the screams, vivid color photographs constantly on file.

Two months, and he still turned down every thought of dinner at work.  At least now he wouldn’t have to stare at the same faces, the same haunted angry eyes.  At least now the whispers, the glances, were something he could walk away from.

Two days ago he had run into the family of the girl in the street.  He stilled with the memory and tried to suck in a calming breath, wincing as pain knifed along his chest with a hiss, rib by rib.

Months of slinking to and from work, desperately trying to crack a case growing cold, and finally he had to confront the fact that he could not stay.  He suddenly recognized his hands as shaking, the rough clamminess of his wet shirt clinging to him.  Even the entrance to his neighborhood was dripping miserably, reluctant to see his presence.

The second lurch of pain was expected: his breath was stolen all over again every time he stepped into the echoes of his empty house.  By this time the stairs were covered in a layer of undisturbed dust; the months had whittled away at the sounds of footsteps long made ghosts.

Another shiver wracked him as he absently hung his still-folded coat on the closet door handle.  Two steps, and he surveyed the kitchen with a dour glance as he wiped rain—or was it sweat?—off of his forehead.  The refrigerator hummed in a forlorn repetition, like a broken record.  He squirmed internally at the cycle of sound, and shuffled wearily to the pantry.

Two cans of soup, both probably on the forbidden list, and wooden paneling greeted his stare with the utmost indifference.  No bread, no toast.  Of course not.

Not that it mattered any more.  The whole mess was his fault, always his fault.

His knees nearly buckled with the exhaustion guilt kept writing in his bones, and his heart fluttered gently, warningly as he shuddered with the chill.

That was a first.  Shaking his head didn’t clear it this time.  Colin’s left hand gripped the counter.  Cold fingers, shaky cold fingers, smooth marble under them; a lone anchor to reality.  The voices and the haze over his vision rolled back.

Tired.  He was so tired, and so cold and wet, and supper was overrated.  He was too tired to be hungry.  Bread could wait, Colin thought, as he curled up on the sofa and listened to the echoes of people no longer there.


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