Incomplete Information
by Nicole Clevenger

She always takes a sick day on the anniversary of his death. At first it was because she couldn't deal with going in on that day, wasn't up to the challenge of pretending it was just another box on her calendar. Then it simply became a part of the ritual, like the bottle of merlot and the delivered pizza and the Dirty Harry marathon that ran the whole day through.

He'd always liked the first two the best, but Alex plays them all.

She's sure that Bobby's read her file, sure that he's connected the pattern of these dots. They've never spoken of it, but she's sure he thinks he understands. From her to Jonathan to the report of the event itself, pages of paper filled with names and dates and times. She's sure that all that information looks deceptively like a complete picture.

Her husband, killed in the line of duty. A single gunshot wound to the head. Shooter apprehended on scene.

But there's so much missing from those reports. Like that it was snowing that day, and her fingers were so numb she could barely hold the binoculars in that ice box of a stakeout car. That she and her partner Sammy Macklin were trying to top each other by coming up with the most obscure tropical island, but that she lost because she was wondering instead if there was any way she and Jonathan could fix their vacations to coincide. They'd been hoping to get away somewhere this time; even if it wasn't one of the names on Sammy's list, she was definitely pushing for some place warm.

There's nothing in those reports about their backup arriving three hours early, with no other explanation than that they were supposed to return to the station immediately. Nothing about how long that drive back lasted, both of them silent with the struggle to keep their biggest fears from playing out in their guts. She'd known that one of Sammy's kids was sick; she was painfully aware that their current case wasn't going well. Looking back, she wasn't sure if she truly hadn't thought about Jonathan, or if she just hadn't allowed herself to.

Those reports don't describe the look on her captain's face when he led her into his office and closed the door. They don't convey the way the words rushed past her ears, the feeling of falling even when she was sitting down. There's no mention of how they wouldn't let her see his body, because there was nothing left of his face for her to recognize. As if she hadn't seen enough gunshot victims to be able to imagine it in vivid detail anyway.

There are no paragraphs about how it felt to stand on the other side of that interrogation room glass, memorizing the face of the man who'd killed her husband while the other cops around her kept their uncomfortable distance. About how it felt to come home to their empty echoing apartment, his pillow still smelling like his skin. About the night when she broke half the plates in their sink, because she could remember too much about the last meals that had dirtied them.

She'd returned to work only two days after the funeral. She saw the department shrink only once, before giving it up as a pointless formality. Alex can't remember, but she's betting that last part is probably in there.

Sometimes it feels like a lifetime of years, sometimes it feels like it all happened yesterday. Setting aside one full day to spend with the ghost of his memory makes it easier to go on with the process of living without him. It's The Eames School of Grief Therapy, free and simple and completely confidential.

She can imagine Bobby reading those files, folding those facts into his profile of her. She wonders how much of what she does is colored in his mind by the details he thinks he knows. She wonders if he ever considers the idea that he might not be able to see the entire picture. She can't say. They don't speak of it.

All those extra details belong to her anyway.

Tuesday afternoon, and she's gathering up her things. Bobby's sitting across from her, working on the phone to get some records faxed to them from the DMV. His eyes lift to hers as she gets to her feet; he covers the receiver with a hand and offers her an ambiguous smile.

"See you Thursday," he whispers, right before she turns to go.


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