Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Body Language (11/25/10)
TITLE: Nervous Laughter
By Sara Harricharan
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I wanted to help her, but she refused me still, wrapped in an incomprehensible grief I was not privileged to share. I watched the sofa for the third time that week. She’d hardly moved. I peered beneath the tower of pillows to catch a glimpse of her face.
She was fast asleep.
I tugged the pillows away and smoothed her tear-stained face. Tears I had not been there to witness—yet again. Prying the blankets away, one layer at a time, I willed her to wake and speak. Her eyelids twitched and opened, her lips dry.
I gathered her into my arms and carried her to the kitchen, setting her atop the kitchen counter. She sat, unsteady for a moment until I returned to stand beside her, a freshly washed peach in hand. “Hungry?”
She bit her lip and shook her head, but I saw her hands tighten in their grip on the counter’s edge. I found a knife and cut the fruit in wedges. “You need to eat something, Angel.” I held one piece to her mouth until she closed her eyes and opened her mouth.
She chewed slowly and then swallowed.
Her tortured expression returned. The peach slices were eaten.
“Did they really kill my father?” She hiccupped, rubbing her stomach and then her arms, hugging them close to herself. “Because they thought he was a spy?”
“He was the best kind of spy.” I shoved a mug in the microwave to heat water in a hurry. “They probably thought he knew more than he was telling them.”
“He was a lawyer! There were legal-”
“A lawyer with a client of mutual interest to several parties who care nothing of legalities. He warned you when he took this case that things might not end well. He knew what he was getting into.”
“That doesn’t make it right!”
The microwave beeped. She shivered. I handed her a warmed cup of water.
She looked from the blank liquid to me and a tiny smile briefly decorated her lips. I nudged the cup upwards until she took a few sips. Her eyes darted away, anywhere but on my face as I studied her for a moment.
“Will you be ready for the trial tomorrow?”
“You’re worrying me.”
“I don’t mean to.” She smiled, beautifully, but light did not touch her face. She set the cup on the counter and licked her lips. Her feet crossed, toes pointed. “I don’t deserve you. You’ve put up with all my whims and-”
“You’re hiding something.”
“What did he tell you?”
“Nothing!” Her knuckles went white, her stomach sucked in, the cotton tank top now baggy. The past week had taken a heavy toll on her in more ways than one.
“I’m your husband first, Angel. I wouldn’t turn you over to the-”
“Why do you keep assuming that he told me something?”
I caught her chin with one hand, searching her eyes for the answer she wouldn’t voice. It was hiding just in the corner of her left eye. I cupped her chin with both hands. “Because he only told me half of the security code.” Her eyes grew wide. “Which means the only other person he trusted enough to give the other half is you.”
“He didn’t hate me, Angel. Your father and I got along very well and now I need what he hid to catch the people that killed him.”
She shivered from head to toe as I pulled her from the counter, into my arms and carried her back to the sofa. The self-inflicted torture was catching up to her, leaving a weak, frail body behind.
A fragile spirit still trying to bear her burdens alone—again.
“He told you?” Her hands fisted in my shirt collar with a surprising strength.
She cried into my neck until her breaths came in short gasps. “It’s a coded sequence.”
“You can’t go alone.”
“I’ll take you with me.” Her hands fell limply in her lap.
“Promise.” I kissed her forehead. “They’ll pay for making you cry.”
Her nervous laughter was muffled in my shoulder.
From the table across the room, my badge gleamed, taunting—mocking—pleading.
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