You don't have to bear the weight of the past alone.
|I pushed a pair of socks into my duffel bag and looked around my empty room; it was time. The plane ticket in my pocket seemed to be an unbearable weight.
"When was the last time you saw him?" Randall's voice startled me. He was leaning against the door frame, trying and failing, to look nonchalant.
I picked a book up from the bed and rifled through the pages before tossing it in the general direction of the dresser. I didn't want to talk about this; not even with Randall, especially not with Randall.
"When I was nine, at his trial." It wasn't exactly an answer, but he didn't seem to mind. He also didn't leave.
"Hazel, you don't have to go,"
I closed the duffel bag and settled the strap around my neck, wincing as the movement pulled at my still painful shoulder. If Dr. Owens had any say in the matter he would have recommended that I stay on base at least another month for monitoring. I had never listened to doctors and I wasn't about to start now.
I turned to face Randall, and tried not to look vulnerable. "I do. I-I think I just need some closure, after all this time, I just need to see-I don't know. I have to go."
He followed me into the hall. Sometimes he was like an overgrown puppy; following me everywhere, underfoot, but somehow never in the way. I smiled at the comparison.
"So, would you mind some company?"
I stopped and stared at him; Had he really just asked to come with me?
He pulled out a plane ticket. "Non-stop to Baltimore," he looked supremely pleased with himself.
"You want to come?"
He shuffled his feet, uncharacteristically shy, "I thought you could use some back-up."
Back-up? "This is Baltimore not the Middle East, but if you want to come...Well, I'd appreciate the back-up."
He grinned like a schoolboy on a field trip.
I was utterly exhausted when the plane touched down nine hours later. Randall, however, had slept for most of the flight, and was bouncing around, insisting on carrying my bag, and holding every possible door open for me.
With every step the weight I had been carrying for so many years grew; I had to fight the urge to bolt. Strangely enough, Randall seemed to understand. He talked, goofed off, and generally ran interference, trying to keep my mind off the looming visit.
Still, by the time we reached the prison I was shaking. Why the hell was I doing this? What person in their right mind would go to visit the man responsible for so much pain and loss?
Randall offered to come in with me but I shook my head, unable to speak. He understood, and laid a hand on my shoulder, the firm, warm felling of companionship was the only thing that kept me from running.
The man on the other side of the glass hadn't changed in nineteen years, but looking at him I felt no hatred, no anger, only an empty feeling that might have been pity.
Randall was still waiting by the car when I came back. He'd found a newspaper somewhere and was leaning against the hood, reading.
"Hey," he looked up.
"Hey," I joined him by the car, and took a deep breath, trying to get the smell out of my nose.
"How'd it go?"
I stared back at the blocky building. "He's dying; cancer."
"Oh," he didn't say anything else, didn't tell me he was sorry, or that he was glad. He was just there, solid, and warm, and real, ready to help however I needed him to.
"So, are you going to take me to dinner?"
He looked over at me, trying to decide if I was serious. "Are you hungry?"
"That depends on whether or not you left your wallet back at base."
He laughed; then without warning leaned over and kissed me.
We never quite made it to dinner.