Tuesday, April 10, 2012
The soft hum of the refrigerator was all that disturbed the silence, that and the rhythmic clink of his spoon scraping the bowl with each dip for another bite. Every morning it was the same routine, up at 6:00, shit, shower and shave by 6:25 and maple brown sugar oatmeal by 6:30. Hector stared at the spoon in his hand and he sighed dropping it in the bowl. Padding over to the kitchen sink he washed the bowl and spoon.
“Hector?” Elissa’s voice sounded distant, but not distant enough. Hector’s eyes widened as he looked around for something, anything to cover him. He grabbed the dishtowel just as she burst in and hid his nudity as best he could. “Ooooooo…” Elissa grinned and leaned against the door way. “Well, if this is how you have your morning oatmeal,” her eyes raked over his naked form hidden behind the dishtowel barely draped before his crotch. “Must be why I’m not invited for breakfast.”
“Get… don’t you… Elissa,” He fidgeted turning beet red, “why are you here?”
“I brought coffee?” As if her statement wasn’t enough, she raised her left hand. Extending a cup towards him, Elissa tryied desperately not to allow her gaze to drift. Maintaining eye contact with Hector was difficult. A prolonged moment of awkward silence lingered between them. Hector shifted and Elissa’s mind frantically searched for something to say. “You’ve been working out.” She flinched pulling the cup back towards her as the words were blurted out before she could stop them.
“Elissa…” Her name was more of a groan than a spoken word. Hector looked toward the door behind her and his impeded escape. “Yes, okay I’ve been working out. You end up alone and you start to wonder why. You ask questions, like ‘what’s wrong with me that no one wants me?’ Next thing you know, you try things to improve yourself, like exercise…”
Elissa took an involuntary step forward as she tried to reassure him. “Hec, there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re-”
“Don’t…” He blurted the word out almost violently and they both flinched. “Please, just…” Hector ran his fingers through his hair no longer able to quite meet her gaze. “I wasn’t enough for Evangeline. And you… you don’t want me…” His words were thick with doubt, questions and he frowned. His embarrassment over his nakedness was forgotten as his discomfort shifted to the conversation instead. “Obviously I’m lacking some thing, some where.” He looked at the cups in her hands as if their mere existence was wrong or misplaced. “Whatever…” The defeat and resignation in that last word weighed heavily between them. He threw the dishtowel on the counter and moved past Elissa to his bedroom.
The smell of soap and maple lingered in the air as he brushed past. Elissa watched him move down the hall blushing at the thoughts his body stirred within her. His words spoken and unspoken tumbled through her head causing her mind to reel with questions and doubts, ‘you don’t want me…’ Only she did want him, oh how she wantonly wanted him. He was vulnerable after the break up of his marriage and she was so lonely. Elissa had thrown herself at him under the guise of friendship.
Two people searching for something, both wanted to feel anything other than loneliness and pain. She walked to the counter setting the coffee cups down. Elissa gripped the tiles with both hands as she swayed under the onslaught of memories of moments they shared: intimate quiet nights, soft spoken words, tender warm embraces and her cowardly betrayal. She stared at her hands as they trembled. She knew better than to encourage their personal relationship, yet she had pursued him. Hector was her best friend, he trusted her, needed her and she failed him.
Her finger tips slipped across her lips as the memory of the single kiss they had shared accusingly pressed on her. So much passion, sorrow, fear, need, desperation and want in one very heated kiss. His passion and sorrow fiercely mingled with her fear, need and desperation. She panicked, he blamed himself and she let him. She hid behind work, they were partners and there had to be a line you didn’t cross. Somewhere in her convoluted mind she justified her actions and never looked back.
She looked behind her now towards the doorway Hector recently stormed through, the image of his defined hard body etched to memory flitted before her and the realization of what they could have had dawned on her, “Wow…” The thought was immediately followed with the overpowering reality of the impact her selfish actions had had on him. She let him down, she failed him. A tear fell, followed by a few others that she fought before she succeeded in the fight to hold them back. “Oh Hector…”
As if responding to his name, he called out from his bedroom breaking through her thoughts, “You still didn’t tell me why you’re here.”
She opened her mouth to speak then closed it with a snap. Looking down at her hands clutching her middle she hesitated before responding. She cleared her throat and rubbed at her eyes with the palm of her hands while she spoke, “There’s been another death. We have victim number two and still no answers.” Elissa grabbed her cup with a shaky hand and sipped her coffee, waiting for him to emerge.
“Who died?” Hector still hadn’t come back to the kitchen.
Elissa mentally reprimanded her own silly behavior. This was Hector. They had been partners for years. She needed to think of him and not her own mixed up feelings. With determination she wandered down the hall with both cups of coffee. She leaned against the door frame watching the still shirtless man slide his pants over his hips. “Travis Knight was found face down in the pool at 06:10 by none other than our friendly gardener, Kingston Riley.”
Hector looked up in surprise, “Kingston Riley found pool boy?” His pants were still unzipped, resting low on his hips as he made his way over to his dresser to grab socks. “I thought he told us yesterday that he wasn’t allowed to start work at the Hamilton estate until 10.” He found a suitable pair and wandered to Elissa, grabbing his cup of coffee. “Thanks.”
The soap and maple scent was joined with a hint of coffee. Elissa fought to keep her eyes and mind from wandering over her partner as she nodded. “Yes, well we’ll just have to ask the man what he was doing at the estate when we get there.”
Hector took a sip of his coffee lost in thought. “Kingston finds Travis; Did Kingston show up early to kill Travis then claim to have found him or did someone call Kingston to the house early so he could find Travis?” Hector took another drink of his coffee. Elissa watched his throat as he swallowed. Her eyes are drawn to his muscles when they rippled as he moved. Her gaze traveled down his chest following the light dusting trail of hair that tapered the lower it went below his belly button. Her face warmed as she remembered what was now hidden from view.
“Hmm…” Hector handed his cup back to her. She blinked staring at the cup before taking it without a word. “Do we know anything about his death or the time of death?”
Hector sat on the edge of his bed and pulled his socks on. Mesmerized, Elissa watched him as she told him, “Travis Knight was last seen downtown at the Lucky Lounge. Nothing else is concrete until the coroner tells us otherwise.”
“Okay…” He got up and crossed to the closet. Elissa swallowed past the lump in her throat, clumsily turned on unsteady legs, and started out of his bedroom. Hector called out to her, “Elissa…”
Elissa stopped without turning or looking at him. Her heart raced as fast as her mind filled with enough thoughts, images and what ifs to make her head spin out of control. “Yes?”
Hector’s dress shirt still hung open revealing his tone torso, his pants remained in place purely by his hips as he made his way to her. He stood behind her, his voice lowered intimately, sincerely, and filled with pent up emotions. His breath brushed lightly against her skin when he said, “I’m not going to make the same mistakes again.” He once again took his coffee cup from her only this time his hand closed over hers and he kissed her cheek.
The two stood together unmoving. Hector's head was lowered in order to rest his cheek against hers. Elissa leaned back against him on unsteady legs. Both were breathless and silent, both were afraid to speak their feelings and afraid to hear what the other might have to say. His free hand slipped hesitantly to her hip tugging gently, encouraging her to turn around. His lips brushed along her jaw, “Lis…”
Half way around, her free hand captured his. She lifted her gaze to meet his, her lips parted with no sound forthcoming. She licked her lips and tried again to speak. “Hec, I-” Elissa jumped when her cell phone rang. A small disappointed groan crossed her lips. Her cheeks burned red with guilt when she moved away from him. Hector wandered off to finish dressing and Elissa pulled out her cell phone. “Putnam.” She distractedly watched Hector as she listened. “We’re on our way…”