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She Belongs To Me
A loud crack startled Jordan from his sleep. His hand flew to his pounding head as he looked around the room for the source of the noise. It sounded like a gunshot, or perhaps he was just having another nightmare. Sometimes he couldn’t tell the difference.
Years in the military and working as a cop had unquestionably done a number on his psyche, so he always investigated. Often it was the dog chasing a squirrel in his sleep or the cat moving through the wood shutters as she stalked a lizard from behind her prison of glass and brick. These sounds he knew. A gunshot, though also familiar, didn’t encroach on his daily routine anymore. Nowadays, most of his police work comprised of slaving behind a desk.
The room was pitch-black, and his alarm had not gone off so it was still early. He reached to his wife’s side of the bed, empty, though that wasn’t unusual. She had been staying up later than him, using studying as an excuse and had been falling asleep on the sofa for weeks. He didn’t buy it. Things between them hadn’t been the same for months.
But tonight he thought they resolved whatever her problem was. He was willing to take some of the blame. But as she pointed out with the age-old “it-wasn’t-him-it-was-her” line, she admitted something was wrong, just not what that something was.
Fuming, he disentangled himself from the blankets that had already twisted around his feet as he thought about their conversation earlier. He gave her an ultimatum when he came home. He didn’t understand what was happening but things had to change. Dejectedly, he informed her if she wanted to leave, fine, just do it and get it over with so he could move on with his life. She didn’t accept his offer; instead, she started kissing him. She hadn’t come near him in almost two months. Every time he broached the subject, she complained about her school deadlines or she didn’t feel well. Tonight was different; she was different. The old passion was there as if it never left, which it hadn’t for him. She was the one who had withdrawn. She was the one who didn’t want to be close to him. God how he missed her.
Jordan now wondered if everything earlier was a performance to distract him. Did she want to leave but wasn’t prepared? She would graduate within a few months, something she’d been focusing on the last five years of their marriage. Would she not need him anymore? He hated feeling this way, but what else could he assume?
His anger now brewing, he rolled out of bed pulling on his boxers and a t-shirt. If she was asleep on the sofa again, he would wake her and demand answers and not let her sidetrack him by acting as if she wanted him. He loved her but could not continue like this, he would not. It was too painful.
As he stood up, he felt the pounding in his head from the excessive amount of alcohol he consumed. It was the first time in years he drank, one of the reasons it was so easy for her to persuade him she wanted him, too. Jordan felt his way out of their master bedroom, opening the door without a sound, unsure if he wanted to rouse her to argue in the middle of the night. He shot a quick glance at the clock radio’s glowing-red numbers; it wasn’t even midnight. It hadn’t even been an hour since he’d fallen asleep.
She must have gotten up almost immediately after they made love. No, he amended, after they had sex as that was all it must have meant to her. He must have been sleeping deeply to already be dreaming of gun battles. His post-traumatic stress disorder rarely allowed him a night without nightmares.
No lights were on in their office, so he padded his way into the hallway and down the staircase to the kitchen and family room.
When she left their bed, if she wasn’t studying, she would feign insomnia and go downstairs to watch TV. But Jordan didn’t hear any chatter or see the familiar flickering light; in fact, the house was eerily quiet.
Remembering the ill-omened sound that awakened him, his heart started racing in his chest, and his stomach felt like an empty pit as he entered their family room.
A greenish glow from the electronic equipment illuminated the area, and as his vision adjusted, he could see she wasn’t on the sofa, either. Did she leave their house in the middle of the night? Could his friends be correct? Was Jaynee having an affair? Resentment welled in his heart at the notion she could do this to him after all these years, after everything he provided. Downstairs was cooler than usual; he felt a breeze emanating from the back porch. The patio door was wide open. She must have left, but why would she leave the patio door open?
Jordan ambled his way over to the French doors and attempted to pull the door shut, but something blocked its track. He switched on the overhead light, and she was there…
He dropped to his knees. His hands fluttered to her face in horror. “Oh, my God…Jaynee…What have you done?” He didn’t recognize the peal of anguish that escaped his throat.
Blood dripped off his wife’s forehead and pooled onto the planks of their wood deck. Her arm draped across the threshold. Beside her lay the .38 caliber revolver he gave her for protection when they first married.
Jordan’s first instinct was disbelief, and he wanted to inspect the gun to ensure it was hers. But his police training took over, and instead he knelt over her to confirm she was breathing. Thank God she was, but it was faint, and she was unconscious.
Scrambling to his feet, his vision blurred by tears, he searched for the cordless phone. Jaynee never kept the phone in the same place, and she never kept the ringer on. Hunting from room to room, he finally found it in the spare bathroom.
Punching in the three numbers, Jordan staggered back to his fading wife.
“Emergency!” he answered the automated question, waiting until a woman’s voice came on the line. “My wife has been shot! She’s breathing but barely. I need an ambulance!” His voice emerged hysterical, a combination of pain and pleading, but he knew he needed to be composed enough to be understood.
The dispatcher asked a torrent of questions to keep him talking.
“Listen, ma’am,” Jordan interrupted the woman’s queries, racing to the front of the house. “I’m a cop. I know protocol. I’ll leave the front entrance open for the officers and medics. My wife is unconscious from a gunshot wound to the head. The firearm is beside her. I need to get back to her.”
Jordan disconnected the phone as he returned to Jaynee, slumping down next to her, hoping she could still hear him.
“Jaynee, can you hear me, darling? I love you, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean those terrible words, Jaynee. Please don’t leave me like this. Please come back…I don’t want you to leave. I promise whatever it is we’ll work it out, but please don’t leave me.”
Inhaling a mouthful of air, he positioned his fingers against her carotid artery to confirm she was still breathing. She was, but her pulse felt weak. He needed her to comprehend how much his existence counted on her survival.
“Jaynee, you need to fight. You’ve always been a fighter, so I want you to fight to live, fight for us,” he commanded, his tone beseeching and demanding. Once again, tears fell unrestricted down his face. He never cried, not before tonight. But at this moment, he knew more than ever how much his wife meant to him, and how he could never subsist without her.
“Dear God,” Jordan pleaded in a quiet prayer. “Please save her. Allow me another opportunity. I don’t want anything without her. Please, take everything from me but not Jaynee.”
Jordan heard the wail of the sirens as they made their approach, but he didn’t move; he couldn’t leave her. After a few minutes, the telltale sound of an officer's heavy boots indicated that the police had arrived.
“Stand up slowly with your hands up, and step away from the gun,” the officer commanded in a loud, authoritative voice. The bellow of the officer’s voice sounded hollow in Jordan’s ears as if he was still in his nightmare. “Hands where I can see them!” he repeated.
Jordan didn’t want to leave Jaynee, but lifting his arms he retreated from his wife. He understood procedure, knew they needed to cordon off the area, but he couldn’t fathom the suggestion of leaving her side.
The officer focused his eyes on Jordan while he kept both hands gripped on his unholstered gun. “You made the 911 call? You’re a cop?”
“Yeah, with Charlotte-Meck.” Jordan looked down at Jaynee. “She’s my wife, her name is Jaynee. I was sleeping when I heard the gunshot. I came down to look for her and found her like this. She’s still breathing, but it’s labored.” Jordan glanced over the officer’s shoulder toward the entry. “Where is the ambulance?” he asked, uninterested in anything but rescuing his wife.
“They’re just a couple minutes away,” he muttered, tone distracted, obvious concern penetrating his voice. He knelt near Jaynee’s head and checked her pulse then stood up, his eyes grave.
No matter what the situation, cops didn’t appreciate seeing other cops in peril. The officer’s chin pressed against the mouthpiece clipped to his shoulder strap, spewing words into the radio, all the while keeping his eyes and gun trained on Jordan.
Jordan’s mind was a fog, only deciphering fragments of what the officer muttered, something about the house being secure. Of course, he comprehended after a few seconds; paramedics would confirm it was safe before entering the house of a gunshot victim. Domestic disturbances were the most perilous of all police calls. Scorned lovers were notorious for turning the gun on others and then themselves after realizing they murdered their loved ones in a moment of distraught passion.
Finally, the ambulance arrived. Jordan watched as two medics poured through the door and rushed over to his dying wife. The older of the two shouted orders to the younger, while a third and fourth paramedic carried a stretcher into the room. Jordan backed out of their way, knowing he could do nothing but watch as they struggled to save her life.
Outside, hidden in the vegetation at the back of the property, he watched in frustration.
He should have made his escape when her husband found her. He hated envisioning him with her, but couldn’t bear to leave. So he waited and watched, questioning her intentions, wondering why she had a gun.
Now he would have to stay and observe, sit by as her husband wept over her. As if he cared about her. Her so-called husband could never love her the way he could. He wasn’t supposed to be her husband. It was all a mistake. A travesty he intended on rectifying as soon as possible.
He would wait now, as he had for years. He had an abundance of practice with waiting. She would survive, of course she would. She belonged to him, forever.
The gun was unexpected, why did she have a gun?
Was she still alive? If so, would she remember the conversation? Would the police suspect foul play? And if so, would there be any evidence to suggest the shooting as anything other than her attempted suicide? These and a hundred other questions swarmed infectiously as the vehicle crawled down the gravel road circumspectly, the driver watching carefully so as not to be recognized by the officers or paramedics.
Jordan followed the ambulance in his wife’s Altima.
He understood they would not permit him in the back with Jaynee, and he would be helpless in the front. He knew he could maintain their speed, probably even arrive at the hospital faster than they could. As a patrolman, he was always first to a crime scene. He decided to stay behind the ambulance and attempt to remain collected as his heart pounded in his chest, as his mind agonized over the “What ifs”. What if he hadn’t gotten drunk? What if he hadn’t fallen asleep? What if he hadn’t accepted her reassurances everything was okay? He should have insisted she tell him the truth.
But why would Jaynee attempt committing suicide?
She had been struggling to finish college for five years and was now within a few months of graduating. They repeatedly discussed having children afterward. She intended on working out of their residence anyway so it would be unproblematic. It was what she said she wanted.
Had he pushed her to extremes? Maybe he only thought this is what she desired? She had always been adept at suppressing unpleasant situations. Hadn’t she done that her entire life? Jaynee seemed content when she moved here after they were married. Jordan thought he had shown her the love she needed to forget her past. Now he wondered if he ever understood her.
He promised himself he would—he wouldn’t assume everything was okay any longer. He’d find out what was wrong, but for now he’d do whatever necessary to get her healthy again. She was going to survive. She was a fighter.
He felt the tears sting his eyes and wiped them away as he pulled into the parking area for the hospital’s emergency room. Jaynee needed him. She needed to hear his voice, understand he was here for her, comprehend that he still loved her, that he would always love her.
Racing through the entrance of the ER to the receptionist, Jordan introduced himself as Caycee Jaynee Monroe’s husband.
The short-tempered woman told him to wait; someone would attend to him. Her personality was cold, as the hospital itself.
Jordan paced the hard tile floor, stopping and looking at the locked double-doors every few seconds.
Fifteen minutes elapsed before a nurse approached. “Your wife is in surgery.”
“How is she?” He wanted to grip the woman and shake her until she told him Jaynee was okay.
“I don’t have any more information. The doctor will be out when he is done.” She hurried away.
The hours passed slowly even with officers interrogating him and finally accepting an affidavit of his account. They assured him, however, they would return in the morning or when his wife woke up.
When he thought he couldn’t bear the agony of waiting one second longer, a familiar person stepped into the waiting room. He gave Jordan a nod in a silent request to accompany him to a separate area. Jordan had spoken to Dr. McMullen many times over the years, but rarely did he come to the emergency room. Normally a nurse updated a loved one on the patient’s status—unless it was bad news.
This was not good, this was never an encouraging sign, but he followed obediently. The tears that had never come before this evening started flowing again.
He lost the only woman he ever loved. What had he done to cause this? How would he ever survive without Jaynee? She was his entire life. She couldn’t be gone; he’d feel it wouldn’t he? His chest felt tight and his stomach lurched at the same time a chill traveled down his spine as he followed the doctor into his office and sunk into the sofa. His head fell into his hands; he couldn’t handle this.
Jordan looked up as Doctor John McMullen sat beside him silently, his face unreadable. Though he looked as if he wanted to comfort him, Jordan knew Doctor McMullen would not provide him any artificial expectations.
McMullen was always honest, but unlike some physicians Jordan had met in his career, he always tried to be sympathetic. Jordan had witnessed his compassion for years. He tried to emulate it, having been the bearer of dreadful news to countless spouses and parents after their tragic loss. Now he was on the receiving end of McMullen’s sympathetic stare, and it wasn’t any more comforting.
He clenched his hands into fists and pressed them against his face.
“Caycee is in ICU now,” Dr. McMullen began. “The bullet entered the left side of her skull below her temple and exited through the frontal bone. She survived the operation...” Jaynee was alive. Jordan let out the staggered breath he’d been holding as he awaited the rest of the doctor’s summation. “But, Jordan,” his tone softened, “we cannot be certain she will endure the evening. Even if she does, there is no way to distinguish what damage the bullet inflicted until she awakes.”
Jordan swallowed hard. “But she survived the surgery,” he repeated as if to hear it again.
“Yes, she did. We have her in a drug-induced coma, and we won’t attempt to revive her until the cranial pressure decreases. She couldn’t tolerate the pain if we did.” The doctor patted Jordan’s arm. “You can see Caycee now, Jordan, and you need to talk to her. Studies indicate numerous coma patients respond to a loved one’s voice.”
“Jaynee…” Jordan said emphatically, drawing in a breath and shaking his head in disbelief. “Please, call her Jaynee. She doesn’t like Caycee. Please inform the nurses.” The doctor gave a nod and stood. Jordan followed. “I’d like to see my wife now.”
Jordan walked tremulously into the cold, antiseptic-scented room. He felt as if his legs had vanished from underneath him, and he would collapse to the floor at any moment.
Jaynee lay motionless on the bed. Wires leading from her body connected to several machines that created an ominous cacophony and an eerie, yellowish glow in the small room. It looked like a scene from a movie. Under the fluorescent lights, her skin was pallid, except around her eyes which had splotches of crimson and were swollen and puffy. And worse, where her beautiful tresses of curls should be…was nothing but white gauze.
Jordan lowered his head to her ear. “I love you, Jaynee. No matter what’s been going on, I love you, and I know you love me, too.” Jordan believed the words, wanted the words to be true. But he couldn’t help but wonder what was so awful that his wife would attempt to take her life. Unless…was there something he didn’t know about her?