Nicole L. Smith, HPD Detective

"You don't have the slightest idea how much I miss you, do you? How nothing else matters in my life, but this," I waved my hand through the air indicating my surroundings. "How I've become so numb to the world. How I only feel alive again when I'm here with you, when I'm in your presence. It's like nothing else matters, Nic," I rocked myself back and forth, trying to find comfort in my age-old habit. Trying not to cry.

"Baby, when I'm close to you like this, I can breathe again. I can feel the release of tension that grips me through the week disappearing." As I continued speaking, I slightly chuckled, really not seeing any humor in the situation. I remembered how I used to be the one so full of energy, so alive, so dramatic—until everything happened. Until my world crumbled quickly around me, leaving me feeling confused and alone. "Nic, I feel like the world is moving on without me and I don't know how to catch up. Like my life has stopped and I'm trapped in the past. I'm trapped by my guilt, my fear, my grief. I just feel so alone without you. I don't know what to do. I need help."

I gave up trying to remain calm. I knew how you hated when I cried, but I couldn't help it. I couldn't contain my grief. Today was the one-year anniversary of your death and my life was still at a standstill. As I sat on your grave, crying, I leaned my forehead on the corner of your headstone, to draw from your strength. When you were alive and I felt the burden of the world, you would pull me close and lean your forehead into mines and say, "Jess, Angel, don't sweat this shit. Two heads are better than one. We'll get through this. Together." And now, I needed your help more than ever. I needed your strength. I was still young; I couldn't continue my life like this. Everyone was so worried about me. My parents. Your parents. My friends, my supervisor, my coworkers. I had become a shell of the woman that you used to know and love.

"Nic, you know how much I love you and how spending this time with you every weekend makes me feel your presence all over again. You know that not one single day has passed during this year that I haven't thought of you," I confided in my wife.

And it was true. Not one day had passed that I hadn't cried. It was no longer the loud, gut wrenching sobs that solicited a knock on the door from my neighbors, asking if everything was okay. I no longer cried tears as an offering to God, praying that he would send you back to me. The tears were no longer those of a madwoman that sent me pacing back and forth, wringing my hands, praying to the heavens above that I didn't go insane from the amount of pain that I felt deep inside for you. I no longer cried curled up in a fetal position, praying that if God wouldn't send you back to me, he'd at least take me so that I would be with you. I now cried dry tears. Those that eventually flood the soul.

"Nic, there is not a day that I don't drag myself and my guilt from our bed, bitter because I must face the day—alone. There is not a night that I don't cry into your pillow. The emptiness that I feel deep inside of my body haunts me. The loss of you, your love. Your memories. It all haunts me. The guilt runs through my veins, chilling my body. I'm constantly rubbing my arms, wishing that it was your hands instead of mine running down my dark brown skin."

I bitterly laugh when I look at my chilled arms, because you used to smile and say that Hershey's chocolate had nothing on me. You would then sensuously whisper into my ear that you loved how I melted in your mouth AND your hands.

I struggle quietly to shake the memories of the good times between us. I am not worthy to remember your beauty, your love, the calmness I felt in your arms, or to remember that I was your Queen. I am not worthy of the treasure in your heart, the kindness of your eyes, or the gentleness of your touch. Such beautiful memories should not be bestowed on someone who caused you to lose control at such an important moment.

I deserve only the pain, the guilt and the punishment for the mistakes that I made. I deserve the harsh memories, not the beautiful, unblemished ones that we shared. I deserve memories that reflect the hollowness of my heart, the guilt that hovers in the shadows of my mind, and the pain that eats away at my very existence. I deserve to be tormented by the painful words that caused death to interfere and take you from me.

I couldn't believe that it had been exactly a year since your death and the guilt still hadn't lessened any. I sat with my head still resting on your headstone, while my fingers moved across your name. I couldn't help but think about the awful day that changed my life forever.

Loving Daughter. Faithful Sister. Adoring Wife.

I stood in front of the stove, frying bacon. As I heard you coming down the hall, humming, I felt the anger begin to rise to the surface again. I knew that you were going to tell me that you were working late again that night and I honestly didn't want to hear it. I DID NOT WANT TO HEAR IT. I was losing patience for your work schedule…and you.

I was tired. Tired of all the late nights, alone. Tired of the questions that clouded my mind. Tired of the doubts nurturing my pain and resentment. Tired of the resentment eating away my trust for you. I was just plain tired. Day-by-day, the questions multiplied, almost as if they were breeding and becoming bigger. They were taking on a life of their own and they were wearing me down. And when your mind is filled with the doubt, the last thing you need was someone agreeing with your fears. And that's why I couldn't ignore my mother's words the day before.

She looked into my teary eyes and tried to comfort me, "Baby, every now and then, even the best man cheats…" She quickly looked away and forced a smile, "Well, in your case, even the best woman cheats. You just have to be careful and pay attention to the signs, especially when they begin working longer and longer hours. I don't care what type of work they do. When the hours increase, your suspicions need to increase. Then, when they no longer talk your ear off about what happens at work, that's another sign. Baby girl, you have to be careful of these men—or women in your case."

I tried to hold my temper in check. I had to remember that this was my mother, but I hated how she always mocked my relationship by throwing in "or women in your case" as an afterthought. And I hated how she always found something to try and make me doubt Nicole's integrity. But, this time, I really didn't need her opinion. Her words echoed my own fears and I didn't want to hear it. I tried to remain calm, so that I could sound convincing when I explained that Nic would never hurt me the way she was suggesting. "Ma, Nic wouldn't cheat on me. She loves me. She's just working on a really important case that she can't talk about at this time. She'll talk to me about it later, when it's over. I trust her." Even to me, those last three words, sounded weak. But, I still couldn't believe that my mother had the audacity to doubt Nicole's faithfulness to me.

My mother rolled her eyes and began to use that condescending voice that she always used when she was trying to be patient. I hated when she talked down to me as if I was three years old again. "Jessmin, don't be so gullible. You're a smart girl. Don't be a fool and think that your woman isn't capable of cheating on you. She's a fine looking girl and I imagine she has a lot of those queer girls on her tail." She saw the expression on my face and immediately began backing down. My look told her that I was finished discussing the manner. She had crossed the line, but the damage was already done. Her warning sat like a bolder on my heart—heavy and unmoving.

I began to actually wonder—What made this case so different from previous ones? Why were you constantly undercover? Why weren't you able to discuss just general details of the case with me? Was it something…or someone more that had you leaving the house at your normal time in the mornings and not crawling into bed beside me until one or two every night?

My doubts were frustrating the hell out of me. In the past, I had never doubted your love for me or your faithfulness to me. I had always understood that being a cop, sometimes risking your life going undercover wasn't an easy life to lead. I understood that there would be secrets from me, as well as sacrifices that you would make and that I, as your wife, would make. I understood that from the day that I met you. From the day that I fell in love with you. From the day that I committed to you for the rest of my life. I understood.

Don't get me wrong, I didn't like what I understood, but I knew that it was something that you needed. Just as you needed me, I knew you needed to be a cop. I knew that you needed to follow in the footsteps of your grandfather, father, and your two brothers, or you would feel less than a woman. I understood that you felt that being a detective on the force was not simply part of you, but it defined who you were.

I disagreed. To me, being a cop didn't define who you were, it only contributed to your entire being. It was your kindness and your sincere belief that you were working for something greater, something bigger than yourself. It was your deep passion and loyalty for fighting for those less fortunate than you. It was the way you gave 110% of yourself when you committed. It was that stubborn little crease in your forehead that meant that you weren't backing down because you had made up your mind.

Ohhhhh, and that charm. That charm is what won me over and it's what made me go out with you one, two, three times before I fell deeply in love with you. It was that charm that could so easily wrap me and everyone else around your long, sexy finger. The way you could captivate an audience, with your smile, your laugh, your presence. But above of all, it was the way that you loved so deeply, so passionately. That's what defined you. Not that you were a cop.

Just as you walked into the kitchen, the bacon finished cooking and I tried to calm myself before moving away from the stove. I wasn't ready to look at you, smell you, or feel you. But, I knew your next move and my body tensed in anticipation. I pleaded for my body to remain calm. I didn't welcome the familiar ache between my legs this morning. It only added to my frustration. I needed to be strong. My body needed to be strong, but damn it, it had been sooooo long. Too long, since your hands or your mouth had touched me. So long since our bodies had lay entwined, breasts-to-breasts, stomach-to-stomach, with my hot chocolate thighs pressed against your reddish, brown ones.

I was emotionally and sexually frustrated and I couldn't help but picture you rolling me onto my stomach and urging me onto my knees. I imagined you leaning your body over mines and rubbing your breasts against my arched back. A soft moan would escape my lips, while your nipples teased my back and your fingers teased my nipples. My pussy tingled at the thought of your tongue moving down the center of my back, making its way downward until your face rested between my ass cheeks. You would tease my body until you had me writhing and moaning your name to take me.

"Ohhhhh Papi, fuck me, already," I would beg. You would ignore my pleas and continue moving further between my legs. When your mouth first touched my pussy, I would quiver. Always. The rough texture of your tongue touching my soft folds sent shudders through my body. As I would spread my legs even further apart, I welcomed your touch. I longed for your mouth to touch me; I needed it. You would drag your tongue back and forth between my asshole and my pussyhole, teasing me and encouraging my building need for you.

As I felt your finger circling the outside of my pussy, I would shiver in anticipation. Knowing what was to come next. You always began with one finger, when you entered me. You knew that my small, tight pussy could take three of your fingers at once, but you always began with one. It was part of the game. You knew what my body craved; yet you always approached it as if you were discovering a treasure for the first time. You touched, teased, tested, and rediscovered what I needed to push me to the limits.

One finger. My pussy would wrap itself around it, tightening, contracting, allowing the steady flow of my juices to coat it. About this time, I would hear your moan as you withdrew your finger and sucked my juices from it. Next, as two fingers entered my body, I would push backwards to meet them, knowing you knew how I wanted it. By the time three of your fingers entered me—gentleness was a far thought from my mind. I needed the pressure of your fingers slamming deep inside of me. Ramming deep inside of me. I needed your fingers to touch places that your tongue would soon touch.

All of the pent up frustrations, both sexually and emotionally, would seem to flow from me and onto your fingers. You would move closer against me and began rubbing my clit with your other hand. I always enjoyed the closeness of our bodies, as you wrapped yourself tightly around me--pumping my pussy with one hand, stroking my clit with the other hand. At this point, I couldn't take the intensity of our loving any longer. My back would arch and my body would begin to buck as I rode your fingers harder, as my pussy clenched tighter. I always prayed that I wouldn't break your fingers. I could imagine the sound of your moans as you pushed my mind and body to my breaking point.

Ohhh shit, it had been so long…

I felt your warm breath first. Then, I felt your lower body pressed against my ass. It happened this way every morning. I would hear you coming down the hall, humming the last song you had heard on the radio. You would enter the kitchen and move quickly across the distance that separated us. You would pull me against your body, while gently moving my hair from my neck. I would feel your hot breath teasing me. Beneath your tongue, my skin became a canvas, and your tongue would paint beautiful designs on my skin. Your hands would move down my sides, settling on my hips, pulling me tighter against you. I would feel a sense of completeness.

"Good morning, Angel," you would mumble in my ear before allowing your mouth to graze my neck. Hmmmm, you always smelled so good and I loved the way our bodies connected. The way you fit perfectly into every groove, every curve of my body. You were the last piece to my puzzle. The rightness of "us" always amazed me. We belonged together. When you held me close in your arms, the way you pulled me into your body, the way your neck nuzzled against mine. There was no better explanation. We simply fit. And it was not only our bodies—it was everything. Our minds. Our hearts. Our souls. We were destined. You complemented me. Completed me. This was right. We were right.

But, this morning, I fought against the rightness of us. My mind held my body tense, not allowing it to relax into your warmness. I moved my neck so that your mouth no longer grazed my skin and then wiggled out of your embrace. I wasn't in the mood to be loved on—well, technically I was, but I was too close to breaking down that I really couldn't deal with the cuddling, gentle kisses, or the way you sexed me up with your eyes while watching me move around the kitchen. Not this morning.

I moved away from you and made sure that I didn't make eye contact. I didn't want to answer questions that your eyes were asking. I quietly begged you not to say anything to me. Just follow my lead and remain silent, I pleaded mentally. But, I knew you, and that wasn't your style. You weren't the type to just fight it out quietly. You needed words. You needed to know what was going on in my head and analyze why I felt the way I felt and what we could do to fix it. You were the analytical one, and I was the "shut the fuck up, so I don't become emotional" one.

But, I knew that this morning shit could go wrong if we discussed what I was feeling. I needed some time to reign in "the bitch in me" springing to life. I could feel the soft growl, which meant that the slightest thing you said, I would attack and claw your soft brown eyes out. Just one word and things could get out of control. I knew it and I hoped you knew it, too. I only needed a minute to allow "the bitch" to cool off and lick her wounds privately. I pleaded again silently, "One minute, Papi. Just give me one minute."

But why did I think this morning would be different? Why did I think you would give me the silence I needed? Silence wasn't your style. "What's up, Jessmin," you asked walking over to me and turning my face towards yours. You looked into my eyes and I quickly averted them. I couldn't take the depth in which yours were probing.

"Look at me," you demanded. I sighed. It was hard to ignore the authority and respect that your voice commanded. My eyes quickly met yours. "Now tell me what's going on," you questioned.
I didn't say anything.

"Jessmin, talk to me. I don't have all morning."

And then you had to go and taunt "the bitch." My eyes narrowed, my eyebrows arched and I cocked my head to the side, knowing that my neck was getting ready to roll. I held up my index finger, as if saying, "Wait a minute." Both finger and neck began to move as I began to speak, "So, what? Now, you don't have time for me, Detective? You're penciling me in? Am on a schedule?"

You moved your hand away from my face and quietly warned, "Don't start, woman. Just tell me what's going on. Why you acting all bitchy and shit." I could tell you were really trying to be patient. Part of me felt really bad for acting this way—like a spoiled child that didn't care that I was inconveniencing you by my tantrum. But, right now, I couldn't control myself. I was ready for war….and hopefully some answers.

"Excuse me? Oh? So now I'm a bitch that you can't make time for?"

You took a deep breath and looked at me. Really looked at me. It was an intense, hard stare, where both your light brown eyes and thin lips narrowed. This was the look that told me that I needed to drop the attitude—and quick. I knew that you probably used it countless times with suspects. It also usually worked with me, but when I was in a foul mood like this, I could care less about "the look." But what tugged at my heartstrings was that the normal icy glare was mixed with confusion and sadness. You began to move away from me and as I watched you walk to the fridge, I tried to calm myself by thinking of something else.

I concentrated on your style of dress today. You had deviated from your normal dark business suit and instead wore your street clothes, which meant that this case was coming to a head soon. It always frightened me when you switched your style of dress because it meant shit was getting hot. The days that you walked into the kitchen with your street clothes on, we would hold one another longer, our kisses were sweeter, and the words of love were always spoken. I dreaded those mornings and as I sat at my desk throughout the day working, I could concentrate on nothing else, except your safety. I would pray that you would return to my arms that night and when you did, our lovemaking was so incredibly intense.

You would slip your naked body in bed beside me and pull me tightly against you. We both would quietly thank the heavens that we had the opportunity to hold one another again like this. The first time we would make love, it wasn't gentle. Our fears would pour through our touches, our kisses, our orgasms. Your body would let me know, I'm home, Baby. I'm all yours, Ma. I missed you, Angel. Your touch would precede the words that you spoke when our lovemaking turned slow and gentle.

However, the nights were no longer filled with our passion for one another and you were wearing street clothes more often…Today, I didn't need my doubts and frustrations mingled with fear for your safety. It only made me angrier. Angrier because I didn't allow myself to relax and share the time that we did have together. Angrier because at any moment I could lose you. Angrier because I feared that I was losing you now…to another woman.

But, judging by your clothing, today wasn't the right day for me to be angry. And that was part of the problem as well. I was angry at your job. Why did I have to schedule my anger, my sadness, my any type of emotion around your job? Why did being a cop take so much of you from me? It took all of your time. All of it. Everywhere we went, more attention was spent on being cautious, watching our surroundings. It was as if being a cop controlled both of our lives.

I sighed and reminded myself—You understand her need to be a cop. You understand it and can deal with it. Get yourself together. But, I just kept thinking of the number of times that I had reminded myself that I understood and how I kept pushing my feelings and fears to the back of my mind. But, not this morning. We needed to really talk about why your work hours had increased so much. Why you never talked honestly, openly to me about work anymore? Why had I become second to your work lately…or was it work?

"Are you cheating on me," I asked.

You turned away from the fridge, closing it without removing anything from it. You looked at me and I could see you were no longer struggling to remain calm. You didn't hide the anger in your eyes or on your face, nor did you try to keep the coldness from your words. "What kind of shit is that to ask me?"

"What do you mean what kind of shit is that? Valid shit. You're never here anymore. What am I supposed to think? You act like you're not even interested in me when you get home."

You crossed your arms and leaned against the fridge. Were you purposely keeping your distance? Maybe, you didn't want me to see the truth in your eyes.

"Damn, woman. When I get home I'm tired and all I wanna do is relax and leave work at work. So what's the deal with the third degree, you don't trust me anymore?"

I sighed and really didn't know what to say. I knew that I missed you. I knew that I wanted to see you more. "Nic, you used to make time for me. The only time I have your attention even just a little is in the morning when I've cooked you breakfast. And you probably only give me your attention then, so I don't bitch."

"I don't believe you coming at me with this shit. It's like a part of me wanna laugh and another is pissed cause I'm hearing this. You already know how my job is and what kind of commitment I have for it, so why you trippin like this?"

"Because I'm tired of you're job always coming before me. I'm tired of always being second in your life. And it seems like it's gotten so bad lately that it makes me wonder if you're screwing around on me."

"First of all, I don't put you second in my life because you are my life. When I go out there, I'm not just busting my ass cause its fun, I'm doing this shit for us and our future together. And second, why the hell would I fuck up what we have for some hoe in the streets," you questioned. "I know what your problem is, you been listening to them stupid ass broads you call friends again.....naw, betta yet, it was probably your mom. Am I right," you didn't wait for me to answer before continuing. "You know Jess, I'm so sick of your gullible ass falling for what other mf's gotta say about me and how I run my damn house."

At that point, I was seriously pissed. I couldn't believe the nerve of you calling me gullible. "Excuse me? If you were around more, maybe you would see that I have a mind of my own. So don't be bringing my mother or my friends all up in this. And second of all, if your ass was RUNNING THE HOUSE, then maybe my ass wouldn't be so fucking unhappy right now. While you out trying to be the woman and shit and save every goddamn body, you need try to work on saving what you got at home. Where the fuck you get off calling me gullible? Fuck you."

"Fuck me, Jess? Naw, fuck you and fuck this stupid ass convo you bought up. Why you gotta go fucking up a nigga morning with bullshit? I ain't even bout to sweat this though...I'm bout to go to work, and hopefully when I come home tonight, yo ass got some sense."

"Naw, fuck you. Since your job or your bitch is all you got time for, you sleep with that shit tonight. Don't bring your ass home," I yelled.

You turned around and looked hard at me. "So what the fuck, you kicking me out?!"

I rolled my eyes, crossed my arms, and didn't say anything.

I saw the look of pain and frustration evident on your face, but I didn't care. You picked up your jacket from the back of the couch and threw up two fingers in the shape of a V. You walked to the front door and turned and looked at me. "Holla, Ma."

b. July 7, 1970
d. January 25, 2003

I angrily wiped at the tears that were quickly falling from my eyes and continued to lean my head against your headstone. Every time I thought back to the way I acted that morning, I felt anger so intense, it captured my breath. My heart would begin to beat faster and I felt the pain grip it when I thought back to that morning. If only I knew then, what I know now, I wouldn't have picked a fight with you. I wouldn't have acted like a spoiled brat throwing a tantrum.

I would have held you close to me that morning, stealing sweet kisses from your forehead, your eyelids, your chin, and most definitely from your mouth. I would have drawn circles into your skin, tracing the dark brown birthmark on your neck. I would have pulled your head close to my breasts and calmed your chaotic mind with the steady rhythm of my loving heart. I would have wrapped my fingers around the ends of your honey blond dreads, pulling them to my nostrils to capture their scent. I would have held you so tightly, trying my best to lose myself in you. I would have experienced heaven with you one last time. I would have spoken the words that bound us together forever—I love you, Nicole.

I rocked myself back and forth at this moment—hoping, no, praying that I could calm myself. Oh Lord Jesus, not today, I prayed. I couldn't allow the grief to destroy me. But, I felt the anxiety gripping me. I felt as if something unseen was seizing my pumping heart, causing my chest to tighten in pain. In this wide, open cemetery, I felt surrounded. Not by resting, sleeping souls, but by the something that always haunted me. Every day for a year, I felt it. It was closing in, the guilt, so heavy on my heart, troubling my soul, consuming my being.

"Oh sweet Jesus, help me," I prayed. "I need your strength." I continued rubbing my arms and rocking my body back and forth. I knew that I had to come to terms with your death. I had to remember without losing control, so that I could move on. So, that I could live again. Breathe again. Be whole again.

"But it WAS your fault," that small nagging voice inside of me reminded.

I heard it clearly and I believed it. Your death was my fault. If I hadn't accused you of cheating, if I hadn't acted like a nagging, unsatisfied wife, a spoiled brat, you would still be alive. You wouldn't have made that fatal mistake that caused you your life. You would have been able to concentrate on your work. Not me.

The tears were raining down my face and I heard the distant sobbing that I recognized as my own. This was my destiny to always be plagued by guilt. I couldn't escape it, just as I couldn't escape the ringing doorbell a year ago.

Killed in the Line of Duty.

I moved away from the dresser mirror and crawled into bed. It had been a long day and I was aching for your presence. I hadn't spoken with you since our argument that morning and I missed you. I sighed thinking how usually during the day, we either talked or you left a message saying that everything was cool and that you were thinking about me. You always teased that you had to "check in" because I was such a worrywart, but I knew that you called because you needed to feel my closeness as well. Although you would never admit it, you were a worrier just like I was.

I slid further beneath the covers and wondered should I call. I needed to acknowledge the pain that I caused you, as well as express my own pain for the things that I had said. I knew that you probably wouldn't come home later tonight, but you needed to know that I did want you here with me and I had complete trust in your love for me.

I knew that because our relationship was stronger than a fight, you would always forgive me, but that wasn't what worried me. It worried me that I had questioned the most important aspect of our relationship—our trust in one another. It meant the world to me to know that you trusted me with your all. If for one minute I ever thought that you distrusted me, it would tear me up inside. I couldn't believe because of my insecurities I doubted your faithfulness to me. Just thinking how I treated you earlier made me cringe.

Moments later, all I could hear was a constant ringing—a shrill sound echoing in my head. Finally the sound registered. It was the doorbell. I looked over at the alarm clock and realized that I must have drifted off to sleep because it was 17 minutes after 11. The irony of this situation is that I'm terrible with remembering numbers. Not just phone numbers, but also dates, times, zip codes, addresses, even area codes. It seems that when it comes to numbers, my mind takes what it's given and rearranges the numbers, transposes them, and sometimes it even loses some in the process. Yet, that night was filled with significant numbers and I remember them all—they became a permanent fixture in my brain.

I slowly pulled my tired body out of bed and grabbed the blue tights that lay carelessly thrown across the armchair. "Just a minute," I yelled as I opened our bedroom door, stumbling slightly as I tried to balance myself to slip each leg into my tights.

Who the hell is it, I mumbled aloud. I knew that it wasn't you because no matter how big the fight, you would never ring the doorbell to your own house. That simply wasn't your style. You would walk in and dare me to even consider mentioning that you should have knocked or rang the bell. So, who in the hell could it be at this hour?

I finally made it to the door and glanced through the peephole. The figure looked small and broken leaning against the doorframe, but I could make it out as your partner, Chris. I opened the door and my heart stopped. I didn't need words; the picture in front of me was enough. Chris, who was normally so well put together, stood at our door, his head slightly bowed, with traces of blood evident on his disheveled, wrinkled clothes. He looked up at me with bloodshot eyes, and a deep gash across his chin. His eyes were filled with such intensity; they were hard to describe with one emotion. I saw pain, sadness, confusion, vulnerability, and most of all guilt in them.

He looked as if he had spent hours on the front line of combat, only to survive so that he could be the one to deliver the heartbreaking news. He more than likely had volunteered to talk with me because he probably felt that no one else could provide the empathy, as well as a shoulder to cry on like he could. And he was right, but I didn't want to hear what he was sent here to say.

My heart was telling me that you weren't coming home tonight, but my mind wouldn't believe it. I felt it deep inside of my body that you were gone. You had been in numerous fights, shot a couple of times, and stabbed once, but this time was different. Chris had never come to my door like this, not without a call from you first. Even when you were hurt, you were protecting me. You had always found the strength to call me and calmly explain what happened, so that I wouldn't freak out once the officer rang the bell. But, tonight there was no call.

"Don't say it." I heard the words that I was only supposed to think, leave my mouth. But, it was an earnest plea, as I felt my heart racing through the night and my eyes tingling from the tears that were threatening to come. "Don't say whatever it is you've come here to say. I can't stand to hear it."

"Jess," Chris began, reaching out to me. I jerked my body away from his outstretched hand and violently shook my head. "No, whatever it is, I do not want to hear," I pleaded, my voice beginning to break.

"Jessmin," Chris continued, stepping forward. Chris' eyes began to water and as this huge man stood before me, allowing himself to be vulnerable, he finally admitted what I had dreaded, what I had known and felt deep in my heart. "Nic was shot and killed this evening. She died at 9:36."

I simply stood there, not saying anything. Not moving, not responding. I felt like I was frozen to the spot in which I stood. I couldn't move. I didn't want to move. I felt Chris take my arm and begin to lead me into the house.

My mind was moving slowly, still trying to process his words. Moments ago, my mind was filled with uncertainty, yet my heart had known. Now it was a fact. Nic was dead. I shook my head to clear it, trying to comprehend his words. It wasn't until the strong scent of coffee filled my nostrils that I recognized my surroundings. I sat in the kitchen, and as my eyes retraced our steps from that morning, a deep, gut-wrenching moan escaped my body. I began to tremble, and the pain consumed my entire being. I began rocking myself back and forth, not fighting my grief. I felt Chris' arms pull me close, as he rocked with me, crying himself.

After what seemed like hours, I finally had the courage to ask what happened. Chris cleared his throat and moved away from me. I knew that he needed to compose himself as he recounted the details of earlier that evening. Before speaking, he moved to pour himself a cup of coffee and leaned against the counter.

"I can't talk to you about certain details because of the extremely sensitive nature of the case. But, basically Nic and I were working on an assignment, which involved gun buying. I'm not sure how much Nic ever shared with you about this, but gun buying is one of the most dangerous tasks in law enforcement because you're bringing together law officers and armed criminals in situations where backup has to be maintained at a risky distance."

The tears rolled down my face as I silently listened to Chris, wondering why Nic didn't tell me when she began working with these types of cases. But, right now that didn't matter. I continued to hold my body, relying on my comforting mechanism, rocking, to help ease my mind. I rubbed my arms, wishing that it was you. I wanted to block out Chris' words thinking, if I didn't hear them that it would make them less true. But, I knew that I needed to hear what happened.

"Tonight, we were going to make the bust once we exchanged goods. Somehow either our guy was tipped off that we were cops, or either he planned to rob us all along. I don't know which. But we were walking and talking with him, when all of a sudden, he pulled his gun and grabbed Nic. Neither of us saw it coming, he moved so quickly. Yet, I know that it was premeditated. Nic was usually really perceptive when it came to determining the mindset of a criminal. She had this gift for knowing when to strike before our guy did. It was sometimes eerie because she could read them so well. There have been so many times, when her instinct has saved my life."

At this point, Chris stopped and dropped his head. I could tell that he was struggling as he was reliving the death of his partner. It seemed as if he was trying to soften what happened, as well as be completely honest with me. He looked up at me, with tears in his eyes once again, "I'm sorry, Jess that I didn't protect her better. I'm so sorry."

I dropped my head, knowing I should go to him and comfort him. I felt that I should pull him close and thank him for the countless times that he had saved Nic's life as well. He was more than a partner to her; he was a big brother that she greatly respected. But, I couldn't go to him, not now. At that moment, I wanted to believe that he was right; he should have protected her better. He was her partner and that's what partners do—protect one another. I knew that what I was thinking wasn't right, but I was angry. "What else happened," I asked, looking away.

Chris cleared his throat and began again. "The gun dealer had me hand over the guns, as he used Nic as a shield. Once he thought that he had safely moved out of my shooting range, he shot Nic and I shot him." He answered my unasked question, "I always keep a gun hidden on me, so I'm still strapped.

I nodded my head and he continued.

"I called for backup and then I went to check things out. I made sure that everything was secure with him, and then I went to Nic. Jess, you have to believe me when I say, if I would have known that she wasn't wearing her vest, I would have checked her first. Maybe, I could have saved her life, if I had moved to her quicker."

My head flew up, my eyes widened. I felt my heart pounding, beating a painful rhythm in my chest. "What?" I questioned. That didn't make sense, I thought. Nic always wore her vest. She always protected herself in that manner because she said that she had seen too many cops trying to play Superman and being killed because they didn't have their vest. She took chances, but not with her vest.

Chris repeated, "She didn't have her vest on today. I didn't think to double check prior to meeting with the buyer because she always wore it. I don't know what she was thinking because she knew today the shit was going to hit the fan," Chris spoke with confusion evident in his voice.

OH GOD, I thought. I felt like I was going to be sick. It's the worst feeling in the world when you think you're the reason someone is dead. It makes you feel like you should be the one who has left this world. It makes you feel disgust for everything that you are. For your every breath, you begin to feel resentful and angry. And as the pain of the guilt begins to move throughout your body, it becomes a silent enemy desperately focused on consuming you, desperately trying to eat away at your existence.

I'm not sure when Chris left because I retreated into myself. The rest of the night, I sat at the kitchen table crying. I sat staring off into space, remembering the woman who changed my life. Every moment that I ever spent with you, I replayed in my head. I thought of the morning we first met and how you pulled laid it on thick trying to get me to say yes to dinner. Through my tears, I laughed about our first date, and I smiled when I imagined the evening we first made love. I couldn't forget the romantic evening that you proposed to me, the beautiful afternoon we were married, and the glorious night of our honeymoon. I would never forget that you were my first and my only love. I couldn't forget the way you loved me, protected me, and treated me like your queen. And most of all, the moments that we shared would never allow me to forget that you were my world; you completed me. Complemented me. Fulfilled me.

It was a heavy burden to live with—that your love was gone and I was the cause.

The next couple of days after your death were a blur. I moved through life on automatic, working with your family to make arrangements. Your mother and father had always thought I was the perfect balance to your personality, treating me like a second daughter. But, the guilt was always so near reminding me that if they knew I was the blame for your death, they would no longer love me. Being in their presence began to hurt more than it helped.

After your funeral, I couldn't bear the presence of people any longer. They're probing eyes, their words combined with hugs that were given to comfort, and the reminders that God would help me through—it was all too much. They couldn't understand that I didn't deserve their sympathy, but deserved their hatred instead. But like a dutiful mourning wife, I stood with a dazed look on my face, and thanked each and every one of them for offering their condolences.

When everything had ended and everyone had left, I dreaded going back to our house. You had bought it for me as a wedding present and now it was mine to enjoy all alone. The very thought sent chills down my spine.

I unlocked the door and all I heard was silence. There was no Jay-Z or Pac bassing from the basement, as you worked out. I sighed and moved into the living room, heading for the couch. I fell on the couch and wondered was next. Without you, what next?

I lay there thinking and trying to process the last couple of days and I simply couldn't. I finally realized that I wasn't comfortable because something was poking me in my shoulder blade. I sat up and looked behind me. As my eyes rested on the object, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I closed my eyes, hoping that I was mistaken. But, I wasn't and I knew it.

For the past couple of days, I had forgotten about it, trying to concentrate on simply making it through the day without breaking down. When I first realized that you hadn't picked up your vest because of our argument, I wasn't brave enough to come in here to see the evidence of my mistake. I had prayed that you had grabbed it, along with your jacket that morning. Yet, today, the khaki nylon object lay casually thrown over a burgundy throw pillow, in the same exact spot you had left it.

My hands shook as I picked up your bulletproof vest and slid to the floor. I held it close to my trembling body, allowing it to cover my beating heart. As I pulled the vest tighter, I breathed in your scent and longed to feel your presence. I rocked my body back and forth praying to God, to the heavens, and to you for your forgiveness. While my tears fell on your vest, I prayed that one day I would find comfort, instead of pain, while holding it.

Love, Rest in Peace.

I ran my fingers across your headstone again, stopping on the words: Adoring Wife. A smile eased onto my face as I thought how you were my biggest fan, my loudest cheerleader. You were constantly pushing me to go beyond my goals, so that I could reach my fullest potential. When I wanted to quit because I thought things were too hard, you pulled me close to you and rocked with me. You were my Knight in Shining Armour, the source where I drew my strength. I loved you, respected you, and lived for your approval and acceptance. And it was tough living without you.

However, I knew it was time for me to draw my strength from within, as well as from a higher being. It was time for me to fully accept that although you were gone, I still had a full life to live. I couldn't go on simply surviving; I had to live. Yet, it was so scary to think about really carrying on without you. Just thinking about becoming part of the world again, made me feel lonely and scared. I couldn't remember the things that made me happy before I lost you. I couldn't remember living life and actually enjoying it—not without you. It had been too long and I had forgotten. But, it was time to refresh my memory.

I knew that one of the reasons I had allowed myself to grieve for so long in this manner was because I was afraid of forgetting you. I didn't want to ever forget what a special gift you had given me—your love. Your love changed my life and it made me feel whole. It made me feel like a beautiful cherished eagle, who could soar. Out of everyone in the world that either of us could have loved, we were brought together and I felt truly complete.

But, it was time. I had allowed the guilt to take control of my life for far too long. I didn't know how I was going to let it go, but all I knew was that I had to. I knew that I would never forget our argument and the fact that I wasn't able to tell you that I loved you on the last day of your life. But, I also knew that our relationship consisted of more than just that one morning and that one argument. Our relationship was bonded together by our two hearts, our two souls, no matter what words spoken.

"Baby, I love you," I began speaking. " I will always love you and I will never stop loving you. Although you're gone, you will always be a part of me. You'll always be that quiet voice in my head urging me never to give up. You'll always be the first person that I think of when something exciting happens to me, and the last person that I think of when I fall asleep at night. You'll always be that calm that I feel when I rest my head on your pillow and close my eyes and imagine you holding me. You'll always be my precious, adoring wife." I stood and leaned over so that I could kiss the corner of your headstone. "Until next weekend. Rest in peace, my beautiful love," I said as I turned and walked away.

The End

Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of author. All Rights Reserved.

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