Blue eyes met mine for an instant before their gaze slid away to the floor. I tried to catalog the man’s features, but all I caught was the shoulder-length blond hair, square jaw, and too-blue-to-be-real eyes that I was sure definitely caught me taking pictures of my sister’s file.
Not that he knew that the file was my sister’s. Not that he knew who I was at all. But he didn’t say anything. In fact, he pretended he didn’t see me as he sat on one of the orange chairs, thumbing through a paperback. The silence of the room built, grating against my guilty conscience.
It made me almost mad on my sister’s behalf that this stranger wouldn’t call me out for my clear invasion of privacy.
Yes, that thought actually crossed my mind before I mentally slapped myself and got my shit together.
I was here for an actual reason, and that reason didn’t have anything to do with the mysteriously hot unwanted visitor in the morgue waiting room. The silence of the room raking against me like sandpaper, growing larger with each second the pair of us refused to look at each other. My only saving grace was the click of Pinky’s heels as she pushed her way through the swinging door.
Or they would’ve been if that door didn’t separate the living from the dead.
All the bravado I’d stored up fled my body in a single mass exodus that left me shivering in my heavy coat. My sister’s body was on the other side of that door, and as much as I wanted to know the real reason she was there, the thought of seeing her burned my soul. My nose stung as I met Pinky’s eyes, a detached sort of sympathy in hers.
I got it. She saw people at their worst. Folks identified bodies probably every day. She couldn’t possibly feel for them all without going insane from grief. But even though I understood, the falseness to her sympathy still grated – the hollow reassuring smile that painted her face like a wince.
“You can come on back,” Pinky murmured as she held the swinging door open, yawning wide into the path of a cold hallway.
For some reason, I wanted to look back at the man in the waiting area. Maybe for a bit of reassurance, maybe because he had to be here for the same exact reason as me. But I didn’t let myself turn my head, and for that, I was grateful I had the fortitude to pick my feet up and walk through that door.
Pinky lead me down the hallway to another room. This one was colder than the waiting area, no real chairs or accouterment – just a giant wall covered by a curtain and a box of tissues on a sparse metal table.
“When you’re ready, you can hit that button right there,” she said pointing to the green button to the left side of the curtain-covered window. “I’ll warn you, no one ever looks how you expect them to.”
It was then that her mask slipped, and some of the same pain I felt leaked onto her face.
“Did you know my sister?”
Pinky shook her head. “My little sister and Genevieve were good friends. I’ve met her in passing, but Piper is devastated. I’m sorry for your loss.”
I wasn’t sure what the right response was. Was I supposed to say thank you? For lack of a better option, I simply nodded, eyeing the rough gray curtain separating me from the glass and my sister behind it.
“I’m Patience, by the way, and if you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
She shut the door behind her, and then I was alone. A part of me didn’t want to see my sister at all. Didn’t want to taint the vision of her in my head. She wouldn’t be the first dead body I’d ever seen, and she wouldn’t be the first accident victim. And if there was foul play, she wouldn’t even be my first murder. Researching my father’s cases – and even solving a few of them – I’d seen more than my fair share of dead bodies.
The fact that most of them were pictures and not the real deal made me hesitate. I didn’t know if I had the courage to press the button. It made me wish my dad was here. Made me wish there wasn’t such a rift in the tatters of my family that the one person I had to support me was actually welcome in this cold, unforgiving place.
Pulling a deep breath into my lungs, I smashed the annoying green button, but I lost courage at the last second, my gaze sliding to my feet instead of the room beyond.
I hated that bit of cowardice. I came here for a reason, didn’t I? How could I look into my sister’s death if I couldn’t even look at her?
Setting my jaw, I lifted my gaze to the glass, forcing myself to focus on the body beyond it. Pinky – err, Patience – was right. Vivi didn’t look how I expected her to. I expected gore and blood, a grotesqueness that just wasn’t there. She’d been cleaned up, covered to respect her modesty. If it weren’t for the gray, waxy pallor to her skin, I would have been convinced she was sleeping.
I shouldn’t have come here.
Other than the file, there was nothing here for me. This wasn’t my sister. My sister didn’t just lie there. She was joyful and frenzied, had a constant need for attention, and was the center of everything. My sister was the cause of every debacle, every bit of mischief. I should have been the one getting her into trouble growing up, but Vivi was always the one who made the plans, the one to orchestrate our impending groundings.
And it would always be worth it, too.
I ground my teeth, heat flashed over me biting into my skin. My skin was on fire and cold at the same time, and for all the world I wished there was something in this room to hold onto. A chair, a rail.
Something had to hold me up.
Something had to keep me tethered to the right here and right now because all I wanted to do was scream. At the injustice of it that my sister was here. At the sheer gall the universe had to rip her away from me.
The sharp bark of a sob took me by surprise. I’d thought I was too far gone for tears, drowning in the rage of it all. But rage and pain seemed to be close together in my brain because the tears came and still I wanted to break the glass separating my sister and me. I wanted to rip that steal table from the rivets holding it down and smash it against the glass.
Hell, that was probably the reason this room had a table bolted to the ground in the first fucking place. So idiots like me didn’t lose their shit and start a rampage.
That thought brought a full-out laugh from the depths of my belly. Vivi made me watch an adult cartoon where the main character frequently went on rampages. We were up to the eighth season, and now we wouldn’t watch another one together as we Facetimed, hogging all the Wi-Fi.
Hot tears scalded my cheeks in this refrigerator of a room, and as much as I wanted to get the hell out of here, I couldn’t stop myself from plopping on the linoleum over cement floor just so I didn’t have to look at her anymore.
What kind of sister did that make me? That I couldn’t honor her enough to fucking look at her? My chest felt heavy and hollow all at the same time. The weight of it all pressing into me but ripping something so vital away I couldn’t fathom the yawning wide-open blistering heat of it.
The tissue box floating to just the side of my field of vision made me stifle a scream. I’d been alone just a few seconds ago, I was sure, but I wasn’t now. The blond man was now in this stupid room with me, the door open wide behind him. He crouched beside me, one hand holding the tissues out for me to take and the other pressing the smaller red button which seemed to make the curtains close. Their slow, creaky pull together was a relief, and I gave the poor man a half-hearted smile as I took the box from him, pulling a tissue or three to mop up my face.
I wanted to apologize, but my brain wouldn’t give passage to my mouth. What did I have to be sorry for? I wanted to ask him what the hell he was doing in here, but I didn’t do that either. His presence broke me out of what was inevitably going to be an epic self-flagellation session.
I settled on a lame, “Thanks.”
“No worries. I’ve been where you are. And I didn’t even have a nice guy passing out tissues.”
“Lucky me,” I murmured, my voice hoarse from my tears.
“I’m Noah,” he offered his name along with his hand, pulling me up from the floor. But he didn’t let me pull my hand away.
“Gemini.” I offered my name reluctantly, but once I supplied it, he released my hand.
“And Genevieve is your sister. Which is why I’m hesitant to bust you for snooping in her medical file. Wanna tell me why you were taking pictures of it?”
Because stealing it outright would have given me away?
“I’m an investigator by trade. I wanted to make sure everything was on the up and up.”
His eyes narrowed. “That’s what I’m here for.”
And then it dawned on me.
Noah wasn’t just a random guy in the morgue.
Noah was a cop.
Thank you for reading this chapter of Seek You Find Me! New episodes will release on the last Tuesday of each month. If you enjoy this story, you should check out the Shelter Me Series.