Home > Dirt (Evergreen #1)(7)

Dirt (Evergreen #1)(7)
Author: Cassia Leo

I’d practically begged Jack to try for another child, but it was never the right time for him. He finally admitted to me recently that, until he found the person who took Junior from us, he didn’t know if he could love another child.

I knew it wasn’t the answer to fixing our broken marriage, but I was willing to try anything. With every passing day, I was more convinced that Jack was willing to try nothing. Well, nothing other than sex.

We spent the rest of the waning sunlight fucking, showering, and picking at slices of delivery pizza in the living room, which was now devoid of all decor and photos.

I didn’t ask Jack what he meant when, in the middle of chewing his slice of pizza, he said he was “this close” to finding Junior’s killer. I’d heard those exact words before. And Jack never asked me how I’d felt while packing away my mother’s things today.

It was almost as if our feelings didn’t matter to each other anymore. Only, we were too lost in our own grief to recognize the moment we’d stopped caring.

We went to bed earlier than usual in my old full-sized bed, which seemed almost claustrophobic compared to the king-sized bed we slept in at home — the one I’d been sleeping in alone for most of the last few months. We normally slept in the guest bedroom when visiting my mother, but somehow we had ended up in here. And now, with my mother gone and all our personal items packed away, I felt like a squatter, taking refuge in a history I’d long abandoned.

“I promise I’ll fix that wall tomorrow,” Jack said as I settled myself in his arms while he spooned me. “I’ll run to the hardware store before you wake up and I’ll have it done before you take your first sip of coffee.”

I made an mmm sound to indicate my approval, because I’d heard these kinds of promises before. Like the time he told me he would take the boxes of Junior’s stuff in the guest room to a storage facility. Or a few months ago, when he promised we would spend our anniversary together today, only for him to back out last night, claiming he was slammed at work. When I saw him leaving this morning in his gym clothes instead of a suit, I knew our marriage was over.

Jack continued. “Remember when we went to that party at Kent’s in-laws and his mother-in-law flipped her shit when she saw you breastfeeding Junior on the sofa?”

I sighed as I adjusted the position of my head on his bicep. “She was such a bitch.”

“Do you remember what you said to her?”

I shook my head, though I did remember. I just wanted to hear him say the words, to know that his memories of Junior were still as traumatically fresh as mine.

“You said, ‘What’s wrong? Never seen tits bigger than your husband’s?’” He chuckled as he squeezed me tightly against him, burying his face in my neck. “I miss watching him fall asleep in your arms.”

I closed my eyes and took deep breaths as the muscles in my chest tightened. I wished we could lie here forever, talking about Junior and the good times. But I knew the only reason Jack was talking about Junior this way, without getting angry or bringing up the case, was because he thought this is what I needed to hear in order to stay.

“I love you, pixie,” he murmured in my ear, using the nickname I’d once told him was my favorite. “I know we’ll get through this. I just need some more time... more time to figure this out. I’m almost there. I can feel it.”

My stomach tightened into painful knots as tears streamed out of my eyes, down my temple, disappearing into my hairline. Jack was never going to let this go. He would never stop searching for a murderer who, at this point, almost felt like a fictional monster.

The murder case started out two years ago with a few promising leads. But with no witnesses, and my mother abandoning her phone to get to Junior before she could make a 9-1-1 call, there was nothing to go on except for our home surveillance footage.

Unfortunately, with the murderer wearing a mask, the only thing that separated him from anyone else was his stature and gait. The killer had seemed to slightly favor his right leg, as if he had a very old injury on his left leg.

Jack had been obsessed with the security video for a while. He would watch it every night and compare it to surveillance footage of other crimes committed in the area. He was convinced he would see something important that no one else could see, something more significant than a bum leg or whether the killer was right- or left-handed.

None of the leads or persons of interest they interviewed fit this description. Today, we were no closer to knowing who killed Junior and my mother than we were the night it happened.

I would lie here tonight and bask in the warmth of Jack’s skin against mine, and the comfort of his solid arms holding me together. I would inhale his woodsy scent and wrap myself in the familiarity of it, until it lulled me to sleep.

But come morning, I would text John Miller and tell him I needed to postpone the sale of the house for a while, at least until I could bear the thought of engaging in a legal battle with Jack. Then, I would do what needed to be done to save my marriage.


* * *

I hardly slept, waking almost instantly every time I dozed off, I squinted at the alarm clock on the nightstand. As soon as the red numbers flashed seven a.m., my eyes clicked wide open and remained so as I waited for Jack to wake up.

He was usually a restless sleeper, yet somehow — probably because of the size of the bed — he’d managed to stay in the exact position in which we’d fallen asleep. Even in his deepest slumber, he wouldn’t let go.

I wanted to take it as a sign that I should go home with him. This time it would work. This time, he was right. We would get through this.

Then I thought of the vile words he spoke about my mother and the sacrifice she made by trying to protect Junior the night they died.

A sacrifice I’ll always be grateful for, even if it was for nothing.

If he could say something so repulsive to me, he was nowhere near finished hurting me.

I thought of his confession that he might never be able to love another one of our children.

I thought of the wall in his office, obsessively wallpapered in newspaper clippings and maps dotted with thumbtacks. Despite his compulsive need to solve this case, he’d made zero headway. His tenacity would be admirable if it weren’t tearing us apart.

As I thought of our wedding day, a small fairy tale ceremony set against the backdrop of evergreens in the Hood River Valley, Jack turned over.

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