Everything in Maya’s brain screamed at her to stop talking before she said something she couldn’t take back.
“Please, Brian.” Maya reached out and grabbed Brian’s arm hesitantly, needing… Shit, she didn’t know what she needed, but she needed him.
The look in his eyes, though, stole the last piece of confidence she had left.
“You know that’s not how this is going to happen. We’ve already gone too far even by having this conversation. I can’t do this. Not with everything at home.”
His blue eyes held nothing but regret. Regret that they’d talked. Regret that Maya opened her mouth and told him how she felt. She couldn’t help it when the tears started to sting her eyes, and she had to focus on not crying.
They hadn’t even kissed. All she’d done was tell him that she had feelings for him that went beyond friendship. That she thought they could be good together, if they had a chance. She hadn’t even meant to say that to him, but the words had come tumbling out when he asked her how she was.
Now that she had started talking, she couldn’t stop. “I’m sorry, Brian. I thought there was something here. Something more between us.” There was a quiver in her voice and Maya knew that if she didn’t get away from him, the tears pooling in her eyes would start to fall. And she wasn’t a polite crier.
“There can’t be anything between us. I’ve already got a failed marriage, and so do you. I’m going home to the train wreck waiting for me. I’ll see you at work next week.” With that, the man of her dreams got up from the table and walked out of the room.
It was a simple encounter, one that no one would think anything of if they hadn’t been in the room. It had been theirs, private. A moment between two people that knew they shouldn’t be together, that they wouldn’t work out in the long run. Brian was a fantastic person, and he wasn’t intimidating like her ex had been. He would never raise a hand to a woman, and as a police officer, he had been taught to treat everyone with respect. He was the shortest deputy in the department at five foot ten inches. But he was tall compared to her petite five-foot frame.
She watched as he walked out of the kitchen, and she let the tears fall only after she heard the door to the patrol room close. Wiping her face, she got up. It didn’t matter; she had always known somewhere in her mind that they would never be anything more than friends. Now she was going to lose him even as that. Brian always insisted on toeing the fine line between appropriate and inappropriate conversations. Now that she had told him how she felt, he would cut her off. It wasn’t going to be easy, since as a dispatcher she had to have constant communication with him. But he would keep it strictly about work from now on, and she had come to rely on him for more than she should since her divorce.
She made her way back to dispatch and smiled at her partner. Teri looked at her above the computer screens, her red hair unkempt like always. “You told him, didn’t you?”
Maya nodded, and just sat at her station. With the schedule the way it was, at least she wouldn’t have to talk to him for another week. It would be enough time for her to get her big girl panties on and function outside of the bubble she had created.
“You know he’s still in the building, right?” Teri’s smile was obvious even though her mouth was hidden behind her screens. “I warned you, girl; you should have kept it to yourself.”
Before Maya could say anything, she heard the patrol room door open and the booming voice of the lieutenant through the halls.
“What do you mean, you can’t find him? He’s driving a bright-yellow car! It can’t be that hard to find a drunk man driving that monstrosity.” The lieutenant’s face was starting to turn red. He looked like a three-year-old having a temper tantrum, and there was only one deputy in the office for him to take it out on.
“Bill, he’s driving a cab. Of course he’s going to be able to get away. It’s the middle of tourist season.” Brian had been a deputy for going on seven years, and he had long ago gotten used to the fits thrown by his lieutenant. Maya knew that voice, the placating tone Brian used on suspects when he needed them to calm down and listen.
Brian wasn’t the most intimidating man in the department, either by size or demeanor. At just under six feet tall, he stood more lean than muscular, and he’d been balding the entire time Maya’d known him. He had simply been forced to learn to use other methods besides his stature to get people to comply with his wishes.
“Just tell dispatch to get Serenity Harbor PD on it.” With that, Bill slammed his office door.
Maya and Teri heard the bootsteps that meant that Brian was coming to dispatch. Maya didn’t turn around to look at him, just sat and stared at her blank computer screen.
“Hey, did you call—”
“Yeah, we heard him, but like we need to be told that.” Teri, always cheerful, addressed him above her computer screens.
“Thanks. Hey, I’m headed out.” Maya still didn’t turn around, unable to face him again, knowing that he was never going to be going home with her.
“Ten-four, see you later.” Luckily, Teri would know that there was no way she could talk to him at the moment. Stuck together for twelve hours a day, they had become best friends. It was either that or they would start to hate each other.
Once they could see him walking out to his cruiser, Teri stood up and looked at Maya over the computer. “Come on, it’s just a stupid crush. You can get over this.” Her words were reassuring, as though they were meant to convince Maya that she didn’t really love Brian.
“I know that. I don’t know why I even care. He’s just a friend. I know he’s not mine. I don’t even really want him.” She didn’t have to say anything about the fact that they both knew she was lying because Teri raised both eyebrows at her.
“We both know that’s a lie. And we both know that he’s the only one you talk to about the divorce, or the abuse. So don’t lie to me.” Teri was famous for her Irish attitude, and when she got onto a tangent about Maya’s life, it was only a matter of time before she exploded.
“Come on, Bill’s still in the office. I don’t really want to talk about this.” Maya could feel the heat rising into her cheeks and she looked at her keyboard so that she wouldn’t have to look at her friend.
“Just… You deserve more, Maya. He can’t give you what you need. I won’t say any more right now.”
She couldn’t have said anything after that anyway, because their emergency phone line started ringing and for the next few hours, they were busy taking medical calls, logging traffic stops by deputies, and handling everything else that came up. Maya didn’t even have a chance to go to the bathroom, let alone think about the fact that she lost her best male friend.
It was stupid, her idea to tell him how she felt. But sometimes, Maya felt like there was no one else that she could talk to. He was smarter than most people gave him credit for, and he never blew up at her. There were times she would catch him looking at her as though there was no one else in the world, but she had convinced herself that it was all in her head. And when she filed for divorce, it was easy to go to him for advice. Obviously she was mistaken, though, when she thought there was something growing between them. It was time for her to move on.
Maya physically shook herself in an attempt to get rid of the memories that were damning her. Before she could get very deep in her thoughts, the emergency phone rang again.
“9-1-1, what is the address of the emergency?” Her brain flipped a switch in order to be able to handle the situation that prompted the caller to pick up the phone. Twenty minutes later, after finishing CPR instructions and staying on the line until first responders could take over, Maya let out the breath she didn’t realize she was holding. Every call was potentially serious, and every caller needed to be handled with the same courtesy and respect.
The hours ticked by slowly, dragging out interminably. By the end of their shift Maya was ready to go home and get some sleep. Instead, however, she trudged into the locker room and got changed into her workout clothes.
Teri was already dressed, looking over her shoulder in the mirror at Maya. “Come on, hurry up. We’re chasing the night, and I don’t want to be out on the track when the sun comes up.”
Since they worked overnights, neither woman liked to be awake when it was light out. It threw their sleep schedule off, and she completely understood Teri’s frustration. As she grumbled and walked into the stall to change, she heard the door close behind her work partner. After she squeezed herself into her jogging clothes, Maya let herself out of the stall. Looking in the mirror while she put her long brown hair into a bun, all of the insecurities that she had about herself came flooding to the surface. She had gained a lot of weight while she was with her ex, and hadn’t been able to lose any until recently. Unfortunately, she still had about forty pounds to lose before she wouldn’t be considered overweight according to her doctor.
She had naturally tan skin from her Hispanic origins, and generally didn’t bother to put makeup on most days because no one else saw her but Teri and the guys. The only time she really went out of her way was when she knew that she was going to see Brian, and now that he had rejected her, she wouldn’t have to bother with that anymore.
Preparing herself for the possible comments of the morning dispatchers, she walked out of the bathroom. Teri was leaning against the door and almost fell as Maya flung it open.
“Okay, lady. Let’s get this over with. I think my goal is just to get a mile without stopping tonight. You?”
“Ha, are you kidding? I’m just going to try not to throw up.” Teri didn’t really need to lose any weight, but at the beginning of the year they had made a commitment to do one 5k a month during the summer. Maya looked at her friend, tiny frame and all, and was struck by how beautiful the other woman was. Teri was about five seven and with her red hair and fair skin, she resembled a Gaelic princess. “Well, come on then, you’re the one who wanted to do this.”
Surprisingly, the morning dispatchers were engulfed in a conversation about bear baiting and weren’t paying attention to either of the two women on their way out.
With that, they left the secured building and began their slow-paced jog. At just after four in the morning, no one would really be out for a few more hours unless they were fishermen headed out for a day on the water. Hopefully, the men heading to the ocean wouldn’t be paying any attention to them. While they ran, Maya tried to rid herself of the feeling that she was doing it for Brian. When they had initially started exercising, she was convinced that she was working so hard just to get his attention, but he never mentioned it. She had beaten herself up, falling for him when he was in a relationship.
She never wanted to be the one who would cheat, especially after Jason had broken her heart with the multitude of girlfriends he kept throughout their marriage. It wasn’t until after their divorce that Maya realized she had always lived her life by giving up her own happiness for everyone else. She’d never fought for what she wanted. It didn’t matter that she had feelings for Brian; she never wanted to be the “other woman” for him. She wanted to start a life with him. But he said no, and she wasn’t about to put her life on hold anymore. Especially by waiting for a man who didn’t want her.
Maya took a deep, gasping breath as she heard her pedometer signaling that she had run a mile. Wheezing, she stopped and looked back at Teri, who was a couple hundred yards behind her. She put her arms on her knees and her head between her legs, willing herself to catch the breath she had lost somewhere along the way. Teri was the only one who knew how she felt and what Brian meant to her, and she had tried on more than one occasion to talk her out of her feelings. She was a real friend; maybe it was time for Maya to listen to her.
“Okay, I don’t know what happened back there, but you left me in the dust.” Gasping and coughing, Teri caught up to her and collapsed on the sidewalk. “Why do we do this to ourselves?”
“Because I need to lose weight and I love eating delicious food. And you, you don’t want me to run on these dangerous streets alone.” Maya threw herself on the ground next to Teri and they just lay there for a few minutes, catching their breath and feeling their muscles cool down.
“Hey, do you think the new dispatcher is going to work out?” she asked Teri before she moved.
“I hope so. She’s a sweet girl. Her family has been around for years, and the guys have always watched out for her. Lilly and her mom have pretty much been part of the department since before her dad died.”
“I thought she did good today with her training.” Maya liked the new girl, Lilly. And she really hoped that she stuck around.
“Well, my dear, I’m gonna head back and get my butt in bed. I’ll see you at work tonight. Get some rest. And don’t think about him.” Teri left, but Maya didn’t watch her go. Instead, she listened as the other woman’s steps faded into the distance.
Looking up at the full moon in the sky, Maya knew she needed to get up and head home. She only lived another half mile away and always walked to work when the weather was nice. Since it was the beginning of April, there was no more snow on the ground and it meant that she could save on gas as well. She wanted nothing more than to get in bed and forget about the day.
When she got back to the house she shared with a roommate, she noticed the living room light had been left on, which Brandi didn’t usually do. Sighing, she went inside and locked the door behind her.
There was a note on the fridge from Brandi saying that she was going to be out for the night. Why she couldn’t have sent a text was beyond Maya, but there it was. Brushing aside how strange it was, she turned off the lights and went upstairs, where the door to her room was open. She always shut it so the cat couldn’t get in.
She took her phone out of her pocket and hit the emergency button before whatever was hiding in the night could jump out and get her.