If the police had found Harry at the scene, they’d have taken him away in handcuffs. Despite his incredible ability to avoid the subject of previous criminal activity, I remained aware of his relationship with the authority. They’d take one look at him and label him guilty.
I decided it was probably best to face the blue flashing lights head on, so I left the crumpled man on the floor of the garage and flagged the police car down with my best distraught look. It wasn’t all that difficult. My tears were fresh, but not a consequence of what I had supposedly stumbled upon; the streaks making tracks down my cheeks were evidence of a shattered being.
“Over here!” I yelled.
I was kept away from the commotion, ushered to the side but not forgotten. An older police woman continued to ask me if I was ok, if I needed to sit down. My mute communication was assumed to be an aftermath of shock. They had no idea.
A short time later I observed from the side lines as Harry’s dad was stretchered into the back of a waiting ambulance. I was relieved to hear just the squeak of wheels along the pavement. Part of me had fretted over the man making a scene, crying out to the angels of the person laden with culpability. I praised the drugs needled into his arm, the source of his silence.
The ambulance was peculiarly accompanied by two police motorcycles. The throaty ignition startled me, bumping into an officer carrying a utility belt weighed down with items to force submission.
I’d never sat in a police car before. It humoured me at the thought of the other vigilant vehicles we shared the road with, every one abiding by the speed limit, indicating correcting, refraining from cutting others up on the roundabout. I was pretty certain that as soon as we turned off, cars would revert back to precarious driving habits which would have people hooting in annoyance.
My name was taken again at the reception desk inside the police station. I felt out of my depth and alone. I sought comfort in the ghosting of Harry’s fingers wriggling between mine; he’d done it so many times with a smile on his face. But now there was no-one to hold my hand.
My eyes floated back to the young officer sat in front of me. He’d given me a paper cup filled with milky tea, my hands using it as a source of heat until it was lukewarm and undrinkable. We’d been sat in the room for an uncertain amount of time; the walls a wash of magnolia, a colour to calm the nerves. I’d pictured being dragged to a dark interrogation, the beam from a lamp being shone into my eyes as someone demanded to know “the truth”. But no. It was a cushioned chair with armrests, pictures of sailing ships pinned to the wall by the door, a coffee table with magazines.
I was to have an “informal chat”.
My knee bounced until I became aware of the movement and placed my hand on my thigh to remind myself. “Don’t look guilty”, I mindfully repeated in mantra. Little did it help.
“Am I under arrest?”
My voice was thick with nerves, cracking under the pressure of relentless observation. No matter how casually they’d dressed the room, my eyes did nothing but seek out the camera in the top right corner of the space.
“No, Miss,” he replied with a small smile.
He was sat on the edge of his seat, the one opposite mine. His body was leant forward, almost as if he didn’t want to miss a single word uttered from my mouth; like every syllable was a clue into the crime committed.
“So I can leave any time I like?”
He shifted to pick up his second round of tea, the cup identical to mine.
“I’d quite like to ask you a few questions first,” he retorted, gently blowing on the steam billowing liquid.
“What sort of questions?”
The stony frame of his eyes met mine.
I feebly diverted from his assessing stare. It wasn’t one of intimidation, but uncomfortable nonetheless. They’d taken my bag, “standard protocol” apparently, but it wasn’t difficult to see them eyeing me curiously. I could imagine what they were thinking, the situation they’d found me in. Despite the fact numerous officers had reassured me I wasn’t a suspect, I still had an uneasy feelings.
“Miss, did you see anything, do you know who did it?”
The idea of me inflicting injuries like that had been dismissed early on. I’d been written off like that for most of my life, too quiet, too shy, the girl sat on the side lines. In some impertinent way I wanted to be factored in, I wanted to be considered in their equation; she could have done it. She could have broken his arm and cracked his ribs. Her whole worry-stricken guise could be a façade. I could be dangerous.
He had dark circles under his eyes, and it made me wonder what he had lost sleep over.
“Is there anything? Anything you can tell me?”
A case, an unresolved case. He was clutching at straws.
“What did he do?”
My tone was no longer riddled with unrest. Perhaps it was his turn to sweat. Caution was thrown into the hurricane that my life had been swept up into. It didn’t seem to matter anymore.
“Hmm?” he screwed his eyebrows.
“The man I found, what did he do?”
The young officer remained quiet, sipping again from his paper cup. I wasn’t sure if he’d divulge such information, but it was worth a press of questions.
“Surely his entitlement to a police escort means he’s known to authority. But he was barely moving when I found him. What makes him so coveted?”
The crease situated on his forehead deepened with my open observation and question. I believed my initial impression had me labelled, “distressed damsel”, but I was never one for frilly pink dresses. A flash of indecision was detected before a shutdown of professionalism. It was almost as if he was going to confess a pivotal secret to me. His tone lowered, posture tightening.
“Off the record, Miss,” he leaned closer. “He’s a wanted man.”
“Wanted? What did he do?”
“He hospitalised a woman and her thirteen year old son,” he bluntly replied.
My mouth went dry, setting the tea down on the coffee table before my trembling hands had a chance to spill it. The statement had compressed the air from my lungs, and it was a second before I took a breath.
“He hurt them?” I gulped down the lump in my throat. “Has it happened before?”
“There have been other incidences; a lad from his first marriage was taken to A&E for a wound to his side, they think it might have been caused by broken glass.”
“That was a good few years ago though. It’s taken us a little while to piece everything together, but we can finally take him in now. We’ve been looking for him for a while. In my opinion he’s nothing short of an abomination, and it’s not in our interest to follow up an investigation as to the state you found him in. But if you have any information, as an officer, I would encourage you to come forward with it.”
The wind caught the length of my hair, blowing it up for it to flutter around my face. I battled for my vision, pulling my hood up to secure the escaping strands. It was going to rain.
The drumming of my heart beat against my chest, hammering relentlessly until I spotted him sat at the top of his steps. Harry’s head was cast down, not bothered by the cold as his jacket flapped open. I approached without caution, but the trepidation his eyes were fraught with rendered me immobile.
“I’m sorry, Bo,” his tortured voice spoke.
I ran to him, the force of my determination yanking down my hood. Once I reached him my hands took hold of his face, his fingers spanning the circumference of my wrists.
“You don’t need to say that,” I desperately told him.
“I’m so sorry,” Harry repeated, attempting to bury his face into my shoulder.
I gently cradled the back of his head, aware of the shaky breaths he forced himself to take. Tumbled hair was petted, soft against my touch until we’d both calmed, satisfied to be in each other’s embrace. I was sniffing back the tears as Harry resurfaced to the reality of our exposure on the top step to his flat. It was only then I noticed the duffle bag to his right.
“Are you going away?”
“Only for a little while,” he hushed.
“On your own?” Without me.
His small nod was enough for the tears to roll down my cheeks. When his hand attempted to rest on my knee I shied away if only to see whether he held remorse. The hurt prickling his face confirmed Harry’s emotional stand point.
“If this is about your dad, then I don’t care. I know you’re nothing like him. He hasn’t changed the way I feel about you,” I uttered to my shoes, unable to watch him. Fearing the worst.
“Seeing him again…I can’t do this anymore,” Harry laboured. “I can’t risk it, not with you.”
My body had subconsciously nestled into his side, an attempt to shield myself from his excruciating words. I softened as his thumb brushed to my cheek, losing a war against the onslaught of tears.
“Stop comparing yourself to him. Fight for me and I’ll fight for you,” I gritted my teeth through the watery words.
“I’m tired of fighting,” Harry exhaled.
“So you’re giving up?”
A faint smile formed, plagued with sadness as he rested his forehead to mine. My hands were gathered into his.
“No,” he lightly shook his head, “I just have to let you go.”
It was like having a knife dangle above your body by a piece of string, trusting that one person not to cut the thread. Harry had severed the line.
Everything we had accomplished together, all the shit we’d been through was for nothing. My mind flashed through all the times I’d seen Harry smile, a proper smile with dimpled cheeks and contagious laughter. I stored those memories deep inside, buried them safely so Harry couldn’t rip them from me when he walked away.
“Can I kiss you?”
“Not if it’s goodbye,” I quietly replied.
Harry’s lips never met mine.
Instead, he eased me up to sit on his lap, my arms constricted around his neck, soaking in whatever I could. He held me so closely it felt like we were hemmed together, impossible to find the seam that slowly would be torn apart. My mouth pressed to the pulse point in his neck, convincing myself that he was real in the time that I had left with him.
“Don’t be afraid. I told you I’d keep you safe, I’m not going to break that promise.”
The hiccupping sobs were coaxed into passive inhales; stroking my hair as we sat in a bundle on his steps. I didn’t care about anyone else. There were people walking past on the pavement, trying to disguise their curiosity with sly glances. They were just a blur; the only thing clear to me was the boy who was holding onto me as if his life depended on it. But he was slipping through my fingers.
“I’m going to look out for you, Bo,” Harry paused. “I just can’t be with you.”
It was an automatic reflex to cling to his jacket as my fingers were pried from his nape. A human instinct, fight for survival and the source you depend on. Strands of hair clung to dampness of my cheeks.
“You have no idea how badly I want to keep you.”
Despite the peaceful tone, the raw desperation couldn’t be disguised. Even when I was placed beside him once again, his hand still sought out mine.
“Then keep me,” I begged.
“I wish I could.”
The once brilliant green had dulled, eyes closing before delicately bumping his nose to mine. I wanted to tell him how much he meant to me, that I didn’t think I would be able to piece together the broken bits of me he’d leave behind after he’d gone; that he’d taken my life, turned it upside down and shaken until he’d stamped his mark.
Harry wasn’t going to leave me with enough of my heart for me carry on.
We ushered words of love and adoration before Harry stood and retrieved his bag. One final kiss was lingeringly pressed to my cheek.