I watch as she gathers up Owen and takes him to the door. When she gets there, though, she turns around. Her eyes are shimmering.
“I am sorry,” she says.
I stare at her. When long moments pass with only silence in reply, she turns and leaves. The door shuts quietly behind her.
And then I’m alone, only the movie frozen on the screen on the television. There’s a cartoon girl there, and she’s crying, shedding the tears that I can’t right now. Slowly, I lift the remote and turn the television off.
Then I get up and go to my room. I need to sleep.
I need to forget the rest of the world for a little while.
Unfortunately, the numbness didn’t last as long as I would have liked it to. I wake up the next morning and my body is so full of roiling emotions that I almost want to knock myself out to avoid them. But I stagger out of bed instead and head to the bathroom to splash my face with water.
I had nightmares all night. In my dreams, Jessica is shouting at me, accusing me of being a murderer, her finger pointing imperiously at me. She won’t listen when I tell her that it was all a mistake, that I was innocent, or I still would be in jail. Instead, she tells me that she’ll be taking this matter to the courts; she doesn’t think a murderer should be allowed visitation rights to her son and she regrets ever telling me the truth.
That was when I woke up.
I look up into the mirror. My eyes are tired, and there are deep bags under my eyes. I try to remember what day it is. It’s Friday? Or Saturday? Not going to work yesterday put me off.
No, today is Friday. Yesterday was Thursday; Jessica came to my apartment on Wednesday night and we had sex for the third time.
If today is Friday… I laugh hollowly at my reflection. That means it’s been a week since Jessica and I reunited. Just one fucking week.
How could everything in my life have fallen down so quickly? Last week, I was living my life quietly, acting like I wasn’t thinking about Jessica and where she is now. This week, I’m a father, I’ve gotten all the answers I wanted, and my past has returned to haunt me.
“Lock him up!”
“He did it, just look at him!”
“I’ll see you go away for a long time for this, boy.”
I slam my fist against the sink, breaking apart the memory voices. It’s been a long time since I’ve allowed them to be so loud, but the talk with Jessica has stirred up things that I wanted to stay buried.
“I didn’t do it!” I say aloud.
It feels good to say it. Only my lawyer had believed me, and he worked miracles, proving beyond a doubt that I was innocent. It had been a shock to everyone who followed the story. Instead, my so-called friends at the time were arrested for the crime they had tried to pin on me. All it did was leave me with a deep distrust of the police and strangers.
Until Jessica came along. She taught me how to trust again. She reminded me how to laugh and have fun. I fell so deeply in love with her that I knew I would never pull myself out of it. I didn’t mind.
And then she was gone. Torn away, it seems, by the past that I had spent so long running from.
My eyes burn. I will not cry over this. It’s over and done. I was innocent. Jessica decided to trust a sensationalist story over me. But that was all years ago.
This is the present. The case, Jessica, everyone who hated me… They can’t affect me anymore.
“Fuck,” I say, pressing a trembling hand to my eyes.
What am I supposed to do now?
I wonder where Jessica is now. I don’t remember much of the look on her face last night, when I asked her and our son to leave my apartment. Poor Owen had continued to sleep contentedly as he was carried away, no idea what was going on or what his parents were currently feeling.