For the past three days, reporters continually made the trek from their office’s to Isidora’s lawn. They rotated morning, noon and night to be the first to get additional scraps of information or at the very least, a picture of Isidora living in fear. But it wasn’t the case, she wasn’t living in fear holed up in her home. However, it’s not to say she wasn’t going to snap at any minute. She loathed trespassers and lucky for him most of the time he had spent with her, he had gotten to spot her changing moods. Xavier constantly had to keep an eye on her. But the sound he awoke to was less than melodic.
“Get off my property.” Three reporters and camera crew ducked behind their equipment and vans at the sound of Isidora pumping her shotgun. She pointing it at the face of a female reporter whose eyes nearly popped from their sockets. One cameraman shakily filmed the confrontation which was sure to make it on the news. Pulling her inside, he slammed the door shut.
“What do you think you’re doing?”
“Isn’t it obvious? And besides, it got the job done. They’re scattering like ants.”
“This will further reinforce that you’re a maniac on the loose.”
“Oh you worry too much.”
“Give me that,” taking the shotgun and emptying it and tossing it on the couch, “no more guns.”
“Last I checked I have the right to bear arms.”
“I take my eyes off you for one second and you go renegade on me.”
“Isn’t that what you like about me?” she asked looking him straight in the eyes.
“It’s too early in the morning for this.” He purposely ignored her question because a tiny part of him wanted to go crazy and paint the world red with her. She appealed to the side he never knew he possessed. It should have scared him but it didn’t. “What’s the plan for today?”
“You told me to be a sheep, I’m supposed to blindly follow the sound of your voice.”
“You’re picking a fight again.”
“Why do you do that?”
“Because it’s the only thing I’m exceptional at, fighting is.”
“Suppose you let your guard down, just for a second, imagine what it would feel like to be safe in the arms of those who love you. Don’t you want that?”
“I don’t have the luxury of having those thoughts, I’m too busy fighting on a daily basis. You’re standing right in front of me, in my house and I don’t trust you. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
“How many times do I have to tell you, I’m not your enemy?”
“You can talk until you’re blue in the face, I still don’t believe you.”
“Why do I even bother?”
“That’s what I’d like to know.”
Grabbing her by the shoulders, he shook her like an old rag doll. She was so frustrating. “Wake up! Not everyone is out to hurt you Isidora.”
“Let me go.” she warned.
“Or what?” Snatching herself from his grip, she planted her fist on the right side of his jar.
“That’s what.” she challenged. Clenching his jaw, he’d had just about enough of her striking out at him.
“Make that the last time you raise your hand at me.” he pointed a finger inches from her face. She defied him and made it equal, jabbing the left side of his face. No matter how much she provoked Xavier, his eyes held no malice. They struggled against each other until he wrestled her to the floor, pinning her hands above her head.
“Get off of me.”
“Be quiet.” he growled, tightening his grip around her wrists.
“Are you trying to hurt me right now?”
“Maybe…as much as you’ve hurt me.”
“You don’t know what pain is.” Lowering his head, he bit her bottom lip until a tiny dot of blood pooled to the surface, gingerly licking it away at the glide of his tongue.
“I hope that hurt. This is what you do to me every time we meet and I have to lick my wounds in private. Yet, I can’t help but to come back for more mon petit diable. You’re going to learn to respect me here and now. Give and take.”
Though Xavier’s words were heartfelt a smile crawled across Isidora’s face. He just called her a devil! She’d been labeled many things, but never a she devil so affectionately and in another language. He looked into her face and wondered what could have been so funny. Only God knew what was running through her mind. Nipping at her lips earned him a blank stare. There they lay bound to one another probing the depths in each others gaze, secretly deducing theories then casting them aside.
What he knew for certain, Isidora was afraid of something. No one fights as hard as they do unless they want to keep something buried they never wanted revealed. Violence, no, a need to protect herself is what she displayed for all to see. So who was she when no one was watching? “There is something that I forgot to tell you, while you were in the hospital, a man stopped by citing your kids are safe.” Watching her intently, she formed no expression of relief, however, a flash of sadness touched her eyes. She tried to hide it but it was too late to cover up. “Who are they?”
“That’s none of your business.” she swallowed trying to keep her composure.
“You can talk to me.” Isidora’s cell rang, slicing the rising tension. “Don’t answer it.” She struggled to free herself from his grasp, flipping him on his back. Pushing herself upright, she walked over to her now silent phone. It was another message from her father, concerned he hadn’t heard from her in almost two weeks. She didn’t feel like talking to anyone. All she wanted was to go through this transition as quiet and alone as she had in the past. She didn’t need her hand held. Her phone rang again, this time it was Shilpa.
“It’s about time you answered your phone! I’ve been trying to get ahold of your for days. Where are you?”
“Jesus Izzy, you could have let me know something!”
“Relax. I’m fine.”
“Every time I turn on the television, you’re at the center of this bombing. You’re being blamed for something I know you didn’t do. I just don’t understand why that detective is coming after you again.”
“He’s probably bored.”
“How can you not take this seriously?”
“I never said I wasn’t.”
“You pointed your shotgun at a reporter. Do you know how many meme’s you have trending all over social media?”
“You can’t be serious.”
“I just ran across one the other day that said, when a cashier doesn’t give you your exact change, inserted is the picture of your pointing a shotgun at her head. You looked like a Puerto Rican Terminatrix.”
“That’s kind of funny. People have too much free time on their hands.”
“All jokes aside, how are you really doing? Where are Caleb and Miranda?”
“I’m fine and last I heard they are okay.”
“What are you going to do about this? The media is having a field day making you look insane.”
“I’m not going to do anything except live my life the way I normally do.” Isidora made herself comfortable on the couch thinking this may be a long conversation. She had forgotten about Xavier who had made himself at home in her kitchen. As Shilpa chatted away, her voice grew dimmer and dimmer until Isidora heard silence. Without warning, she had fallen asleep on the phone to an unsuspecting Shilpa.
“Hello, who is this?” Shilpa asked startled.
“Xavier. Who are you?”
“Izzy’s friend. Where is she?”
“On the couch. She fell asleep on the phone.”
“Guess what I was saying wasn’t important…”
“Don’t hold it against her.”
“Izzy never told me about you. You dating her?”
“There’s not much to tell and I wouldn’t say we’re dating.”
“What do you do for a living?”
“I’m unemployed right now.”
“Izzy definitely doesn’t date losers.”
“I’m not a loser.” he chuckled into the phone. “It was my choice to leave.”
“What was your previous job?” He’d already learned anyone attached to Isidora would clam up on him if he mentioned he was in law enforcement.
“Doesn’t matter, I’m looking forward to doing what I love. By the way, how much can you tell me about Isidora?”
“She’s a private person. Why should I tell you anything?”
“I’m trying to win her over and I need all the help I can get.”
“Look, she’s been through enough.”
“She hasn’t shared her past with me. The only bit of information I have is about her adopting kids and her disdain for authority, the police rather.”
“That detective is the main reason she lost all four of her kids. Him and a friend that turned on Izzy. It’s a long story.”
“I have nothing but time.”
“I’ve already said enough. I don’t want her to think I have betrayed her in any way. You’re on your own with this.”
“You’re a loyal friend to her.”
“You would be to if you knew what she went through to get us out of that house when we were kids and the sacrifices after that. People think she’s crazy but that simply isn’t true. She has her quirks but deep down she’s a good person with a good heart.”
“I see. I won’t speak of anything you’ve shared with me. I promise.”
“Well, just tell her I’ll check on her later.”
“Will do. What’s your name by the way?”
“Well Shilpa, I hope to meet you in the future.”
“Okay.” He trotted back to the kitchen and finished putting together their small lunch before arranging plates on the table. Traveling back into the living room, he sat next to Izzy, slowly scanning her features. When her mouth wasn’t flapping, she was a knockout. Who was he kidding, even the harshest words she’s uttered to him, he still couldn’t resist wanting to around her. He guessed it was exactly as she once stated, this says a lot about his mental state. Sighing as he pushed himself up, he hadn’t wanted to wake her, but they didn’t need another episode that landed her in the hospital.
“Cherie, wake up.”
“Go away.” she grumbled.
“You haven’t had anything to eat since this morning.”
“Just let me sleep.”
“No. Up, up mon petit diable.”
“Twice you’ve called me the devil.”
“Ah, I see you understand me.”
“Yeah swamp thing.” He held out his hand in front of her squinted eyes and she accepted without fuss. Smiling, he led her to the table, pulling out a chair for her to sit. “What are you doing in Marshall anyway?”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s a long story but I needed time away from family.”
“And how long has this time away lasted?”
“Left home at eighteen, haven’t been back since.”
“And you’re how old?”
“Forty. I feel bad about it still.”
“Don’t feel bad, fix it.”
“I miss New Orleans, my father, and siblings…I just haven’t had the time to go back.”
“You’re jobless, so you don’t have an excuse.”
“I know you’re right, but we have to get things settled here.”
“We don’t have to do anything. I’m the one in the middle of this fiasco. Get out of here and go see your family.”
“I said I wasn’t leaving you all alone in this.”
“I don’t need your help.”
“You’re so stubborn.”
“I am. So, how many siblings do you have?”
“Parent’s still living?”
“I suppose so.”
“Who’s your favorite, your mother or father?”
“Father.” he answered without thinking.
“So you can’t stand your mother. What’s the problem there?” His jaws clenched and a slow frown creased in his forehead.
“It’s not something I want to talk about.”
“Yet you’ve picked me for information.”
“And you gave me nothing in return. I say we’re even.”
“The revengeful boy scout rears his ugly head again. Cute.”
“I’m not being spiteful, it’s a sensitive subject.”
“Okay then, tell me about the girl you mentioned the night I brought you your case file.”
“Have it your way.” She pushed back from the table letting the legs scrape against hardwood floor and walked toward the kitchen. Left alone, he chewed the walls of his cheek milling over the fact that they’d actually had a conversation. He didn’t want her to stop, to shut down on him so he decided he could at least tell her what had happened to the innocent he found in a grave.
“Come back in here Izzy.” he called from the dining table.
“What is it?” she sauntered from the kitchen, standing next to the edge of the table.
“Sit.” Xavier waited until she sat and until he could form the words he needed to say. “The short of it is-”
“I don’t want the short version.”
“You’re testing my patience.”
“They need testing. It’s all or nothing.” she challenged.
“You trying to break me?”
“I don’t need to break what’s already broken.”
“You’re constantly starting a war with me.”
“Let’s stay on point. The girl, what happened to her?”
He licked his lips in frustration and tapped his heel trying desperately to calm himself. “I’m trying here.”
“You don’t understand what it’s been like for me these past five years. I live with the fact that I could save that young girl’s life! If it hadn’t been for Black, I could have gotten to her in time. That girl, her name was Michelle Strickland, was abducted… she was only twelve years old. I don’t know why the abductor chose me, I was sent one letter after another, clues as to the whereabouts of that child. Everything was going fine until Black got involved. I was so close putting all the pieces together to a location Michelle was at. Black shows up at my office, distracting me with supposed information he’d gathered. He didn’t have anything substantial and we arguing about which course of action we should take, oh maybe fifteen minutes. Michelle didn’t have fifteen minutes to spare. It took me another thirty minutes to connect the last dot. After that, we rushed out to a site, in the pouring rain, somewhere in the woods where we found a makeshift grave. She ran out of oxygen before we got there. She tried clawing her way out judging by her busted and bleeding fingernails.”
“And you blame yourself, why?”
“She died because I lost my focus.”
“Where’s your proof?”
“She’s dead, that’s my proof!”
“She didn’t die due to your negligence. It’s the perpetrator’s fault. He abducted her and put her in the ground. It’s Black’s fault for interfering. You were doing your job.”
“I can’t look her parent’s in the eye and make them believe that. They are all excuses. It won’t bring their daughter back.”
“No, Michelle can’t be resurrected but you also shouldn’t bear the weight of something you couldn’t control. It was out of your hands.”
“You just don’t understand.”
“I understand perfectly. My kids were taken away from me because of Black and a no good “friend” who stabbed me in the back. Don’t think for a second I don’t know how you feel. I felt like I let them down and sometimes I still feel that way. There was nothing more I loved than those children. I wouldn’t have sacrificed my life for them. All I’m saying is, you can’t blame yourself for all eternity over something that was out of your hands. That goes for whatever has gone awry with your family. If you can make amends, do it, and if they don’t accept it, so what?”
“It’s not that easy.”
“Yes it is. It’s a choice.”
“With my father, I left home and haven’t contacted him since.”
“Is your father the type of man to hold grudges?”
“Then what are you worried about? Stop being so afraid and make something happen.”
“How can you speak to me like this?”
“Someone ought to. Get your head on straight and do what needs to be done. I’m sorry that Michelle didn’t live but it doesn’t give you the right to live in pity.”
“I don’t understand how you have any friends.”
“I’m not as bad as you think,” she smirked. The ring of the doorbell grabbed their attention and Xavier went to answer it.
“How can I help you?”
“Is Isidora Torres home?”
“Who are you?” she asked as she walked toward a woman with a thick folder clutched against her chest.
“My name is Abigail Floyd. I’m assistant at a law firm and I’m compiling evidence against Detective Richard Black.
Next chapter here, Full Circle