by R.K. Mason
The first chapter of my novel Intemperance.
I awoke in a sweaty, frenzied panic. To my left my alarm clock displayed 2:02 in a bright crimson that illuminated the nightstand it was sitting on. I slid off the edge of my bed, careful not to wake my boyfriend Matt who snored next to me. Tiptoeing down the hall into the bathroom, I turned the handles on my sink and splashed water on my face. I looked up into the mirror and stared at my battered reflection. I'm lucky to have made it to 21. The nightmares are so vivid, it's like I'm reliving the incident all over again, despite countless hours of therapy to try to cope with the trauma. Doctors insist that my mother didn't talk to me in the car. That she couldn't have been. They claim she died on impact with the guard rail. The guardrail that failed, and sent our car over the embankment and onto the plain below, hitting every rock and tree on the way down. Running the scenario in my head time and time again, my mother was alive when the car came to rest. No matter what they said, I needed to believe I was right.
I shuffled over to the tub and drew a bath. The steam heated up the room around me and fogged the mirror instantly. I dipped my toe in the scalding water then forced myself to get in anyway, letting the water burn me. Pain reminded me I was still alive. I slipped the rest of the way into the water, and laid back against the cold porcelain.
The blare of my
alarm clock woke me hours later. The water, now freezing, left
me shivering. My hands trembled, and my mind raced as I stepped out
of the tub. I wrapped myself in a soft white cotton towel as I stared
back at my reflection in the mirror.
Returning to my room, I dressed in my light blue button down work shirt, navy tactical pants and black boots while pulling my long, dirty blonde hair up in a ponytail. Breathing a heavy sigh as I put some light eyeliner and mascara on.
"What am I doing?" I said under my breath.
I walked downstairs to the smell of fresh coffee where Matt sat at the dining room table reading the paper on his tablet. The sun was barely up, but a few stray bits of sunshine illuminated his chiseled jawline. He looked up at me with his pale green eyes and cracked a smile as he took a sip of coffee. Shuffling over to him, I ruffled his short brown hair and kissed him on the top of the head.
"You look like a bad ass." Matt set his tablet on the table, and turning to face me as I poured myself a cup of hot coffee.
"I'm so nervous." I took a sip of the scorching hot liquid which burned the roof of my mouth, but I didn't mind.
"Just be yourself babe, there's no way they can't like you."
I nodded, leaning up against the counter. Matt 's phone began to ring next to me. I grabbed it and handed it to him as he bolted up and ripped the phone from my hand. He glanced at the caller ID and dragged me out of the room. Appalled, I protested, but Matt had left the room, slamming the door behind him.
I tried to make sense of what happened, fixed my shirt, then walked back into the kitchen, hoping Matt had an explanation for his behavior. Matt looked up, furious. It felt like his eyes were piercing through me.
"Don't ever touch my phone again," he snarled.
"OK," I said, backing away and putting my hands up in defense.
He grabbed my arm hard and held onto it.
"I mean it."
I just looked at him, my body cold and frozen by fear. His grip was so excruciatingly tight around my bicep, I could see the whites of his knuckles. I flinched as he shoved me away, expecting him to hit me and threw my hands up to my face to protect myself, but he just turned and stormed upstairs. I was used to Matt being angry with me, but this was the first time he'd laid his hands on me. Who was he talking to? I wondered. I looked up at the clock on the wall next to me. Shit, I should have left fifteen minutes ago! Thanks a lot, Matt. I shook my head and rolled my eyes.
With my arm throbbing and my head running in circles, I climbed into my old, rusty car and backed out of my driveway and onto the street. My 2002 Grand Am creaked and squealed the whole way to the police station.
Once I arrived I opened my door and got out, while putting my hand on the handle to the backseat where my backpack was. While standing there staring into the car, I debated getting back in and driving away at least ten times before I finally mustered up the courage to retrieve my bag and walk inside. I stepped up to the big glass doors in the front and slowly pulled them open. My head was twitching back and forth as I was trying to take in my surroundings. My arm was burning from where Matt had grabbed me and a faint red outline began to form and grow brighter. I tugged my sleeve over it.
Once inside, I found myself in a lobby, lined with chairs and a large glass window. I walked up to the window and knocked. My palms were sweaty. An older man appeared from around the corner and looked at me from the other side of the glass.
"Can I help you?" he asked, over the top of his round eyeglasses.
"Uh, yeah...Hi, uh... I'm... I'm an intern.. I mean, I'm here for my internship?" I said, unable to control my stuttering.
I should just leave, I'm making a fool of myself.
He motioned to the row of chairs behind me.
"Have a seat, Sergeant Jameson will be with you shortly," He said.
I nodded and retreated to the row of white chairs directly behind, facing a wooden door next to the glass window. Placing my hands on my lap and put my backpack on the chair next to me, I took a deep breath in efforts to calm myself down. It wasn't working. My heartbeat was deafening in my chest as I waited.
Can they see me? I'm sure they're watching me from somewhere, laughing!
Heavy footsteps approached behind the wooden door in front of me accompanied by the familiar jingle sound of keys and a loud cough. Shit. A man's face appeared in the small window on the wooden door. My first instinct was to stand up, but I couldn't move. When the man opened the door I tried to force out a smile, but could feel the awkward, twisted shape that my lips were making.
"Hey, how are ya, I'm sergeant Nick Jameson ," said the man.
I was taken aback by his informal demeanor.
"Dakota Rivers," I said, forcing my mouth to spit out the words. I could tell Sergeant Jameson picked up on my anxiety. He extended his hand and shook my hand for an intense amount of time. I hoped he didn't notice how sweaty my palms were. I'm sure he has had to deal with worse.
Something about Sergeant Jameson's presence calmed me down. No older than forty, Sergeant Jameson had lighter brown hair, streaked with bits of gray here and there. Deep brown eyes complemented a cheery smile, which was surrounded by a light patch of facial hair. His dark blue uniform was covered in silver lapel pins and service awards. He was clearly a well decorated officer.
"Follow me and I'll introduce you around," The Sergeant said, motioning for me to follow him while walking towards the same door he entered from.
OK Dakota, you can do this. Just don't forget to breathe.
I followed him obediently. He held the door open for me and I walked through, stepping to the side to let him walk in front of me. Right behind the door was a hallway that led to several other hallways. The walls and floor were brightly illuminated by the florescent lights in the ceiling making it almost too bright.
This is going to be a long summer.
Sergeant Jameson was talking, but I wasn't listening. I could see his mouth moving, and his arms gesturing from side to side as I assume he was explaining things to me. My mind was racing again, and I wanted nothing more but to go home. I wanted to run back out to my car, drive away and never to come back. I wasn't ready for this.
As soon as he turns his back, I'm going to walk the other way and leave. Maybe I'll come back tomorrow...yeah, I'll be ready tomorrow.
Down the main hallway, Sergeant Jameson led me outside to the main bay where all of the police vehicles were parked. About a dozen or so squad cars were parked backwards against a fence row. At the end of the bay, an SUV that read New Tripoli Police Department along the side, and was decaled in black and white raced into the parking lot. As smooth as butter, the SUV drove around Sergeant Jameson and I , and then backed into an empty spot, between two other vehicles. The driver side door opened and an officer stepped out, not even bothering to turn the vehicle off.
Damn, who the hell is that guy?
"Ah, Corporal Daniels , Perfect timing," Sergeant Jameson said to the other officer, in an almost playful manner.
"What's goin' on Sarge," Corporal Daniels replied to him, while walking up to us. He was carrying a clipboard and in his left hand. Corporal Daniels turned to look at me and smiled.
Holy crap... he's... Hot! Please don't talk to me, I can't handle that right now.
"Who's this..?" He asked the Sergeant.
"Shit," I thought, as I pulled on my shirt sleeve.
"Miss Dakota Rivers, she is our new intern for the summer," He answered, rocking back on his heals, with his hands folded behind his back.
Corporal Daniels turned his gaze to look at me.
"Nice to meet you Dakota, I'm Brendan Daniels, uh... just call me Brendan, we're really informal around here," he said, extending his hand.
I took it, and gave him a sort of "school girl, trying not to blush at the super attractive guy in the room who just noticed me" smile. What my face produced was some sort of mangled concoction of a grin, and the face you make when you're constipated. He was intimidating, at least to me. Brendan was a tall man, probably in his late twenties. His dark brown, nearly black hair was neatly groomed into an uppercut, which accentuated his perfectly proportioned face. His lightly tanned skin highlighted his bright blue eyes and I couldn't help but notice his neck muscles. He was incredibly fit, as his navy blue uniform clung tightly to his body. His arms tight in the sleeves where his arm muscles were flexed across his chest.
Don't screw this up. DON'T SCREW THIS UP!
Brendan nodded to Nick and I and continued walking into the building.
You screwed it up, why are you so stupid?
"Daniels is one of the best officers I've ever had the pleasure of working with," Nick said to me.
"Why?" I asked him, curious.
"He just really knows his stuff, he's down to earth with people, really good with kids... it's just a shame that he has such a severe drinking problem," Nick told me.
"Yeah, alcohol can really mess things up," I said, half to myself, half to Nick. "My father became a severe alcoholic when my mother died."
Yeah and your mother almost killed you with it.
"I'm sorry to hear that," he replied.
I nodded. I didn't really know what else to say to him.
"This is a professional workplace Dakota, why the hell are you trying to get personal with him?"
"I'm glad you met Brendan today, he's your mentor this week," Nick said to me.
I looked up at him like a deer in headlights.
"Uh...Okay," I said, the pit of my stomach suddenly bottoming out again.
This is gonna be awful. I'm just gonna tell Nick I can't do this, I have too much going on at home or something, he'll understand right?
"Dakota...?!" Nick said, waving a hand in front of my face.
I snapped out of it immediately.
"Sorry, it's just hot." I replied, in a mono tone.
Nick nodded to me.
"Let's go in then," he said, motioning me to the door.
I reluctantly followed him back inside the station, not knowing what the next few months held for me, or better yet, what lay behind the door in front of me. Still, I carried on just the same.