We came to a red light. Hunter looked at me curiously, his face concerned.
“Were you crying?” he asked.
My jaw clenched. “What makes you think that?”
“Your eyes are puffy.”
I glanced up at the rear view mirror. He was right. No point in lying about it now.
“Oh. Well, yeah I did cry a little bit. Just being emotional. I’m fine.”
He looked skeptical, but said nothing. We continued driving. I was glad we weren’t continuing our fight from before. At this point, I wasn’t sure I could take it.
I drifted to thinking about writing another letter to Marco. Maybe I could call the prison to see if the first one had been received. If I ever had to write another one, I was definitely paying for tracking information.
“. . . said some stuff and I got to thinking.”
Hunter was talking to me.
“Hm?” I asked, trying to pay attention.
“I said, Clint and I got to talking.”
“Oh, what did you talk about?”
My voice felt distant, even to myself. I did my best to push Marco from my mind and focus on Hunter. Why was I trying to put my emotional stability in the hands of a murderer? What good could possibly come from that?
On the other hand, I clearly couldn’t move on without some sort of closure. I had to find out why Marco did it so that things would start making sense again. Would I ever find out or was I going to be trapped by this forever?
“. . . really care about you. I don’t want to look back on my life wishing I had treated you differently.”
Hunter was staring at me. He shook his head in frustration and let out a heavy sigh. “Lorrie, are you even listening? I’m trying to apologize here.”
I rubbed my eyes. “Sorry, yes. I’m listening. Thank you for apologizing. I care about you too.”
He frowned. “What’s going on with you? Why were you crying?”
We were already half-way home and I barely remembered leaving the parking lot. My mind felt like it was trapped inside a cloud. I needed to snap out of it, fast.
“It’s nothing, Hunter. I’m sorry.”
No matter how it happened, I had to get this obsession with Marco’s motive for killing my mom out of my mind. It was popping up more and more and it had to stop if I was going to be able to give my relationship with Hunter the attention it needed.
“Why do you feel like you can’t tell me?”
Hunter was worried about me, but I didn’t want to talk about it. I doubted that talking about Marco would help get him out of my mind, but it would definitely give Hunter something more to worry about.
“I told you it’s nothing.”
He shook his head. “Lorrie, look, I f**king hate being in this chair and I know it’s hard on you too. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time. Sometimes I’m gonna f**k things up, but can you be patient with me? I promise you, I’m gonna work my ass off to get outta this chair as soon as I can.”
Hunter looked at me, his gray eyes focused and intense.
“It’s okay, it isn’t your fault.”
“Like hell it isn’t. I’m sorry I was being a dick earlier.”
“No really, I just . . . nevermind. Let’s talk about it later.”
He studied me suspiciously for a moment, but he didn’t say anything. When he realized that I had nothing else to add he sighed heavily and turned away to look out the window.
Somehow, I’d managed to make things worse. Hunter was doing everything he could to make this work while I kept messing things up. I scrambled for some way to save it, but everything I thought of sounded dumb. I had nothing.
I bit my lip and glanced over at him before returning my eyes to the road. Even though we were sitting only inches from each other, it felt like we couldn’t be further apart.
It was awkward between me and Hunter for the next few days. Every night, I’d have nightmares, and every day I would walk around in a fog. Aunt Caroline and Uncle Stewart seemed to notice the shift in our moods but gave us our space. I felt trapped in my own head. Even when I tried to focus on helping Hunter, my mind continued to drift back to thinking about Marco and my letter. I was thinking about asking my therapist for an emergency appointment.
Thursday afternoon rolled around. The two of us sat together in the living room, but neither of us felt like talking much. Aunt Caroline had left earlier in the afternoon to run some errands. She’d be coming back later after she picked the kids up from school. Uncle Stewart was still at work.
Hunter sat on the living room couch, watching TV. I sat beside him, a sketchpad open on my lap. After an hour, it was still blank.
Staring at an empty page wasn’t going to help me. I sucked in a deep breath and decided to check the mail, just like I had every day that week.
“I’m going to go see if the mailman came,” I said, standing up.
Hunter opened his mouth as if to say something, then he seemed to think better of it and just nodded. I turned and left. This was how it had been with us lately. On pins and needles.
I walked out the front of the house to the curb, opening the mailbox. There was a large stack of envelopes inside and I pulled them all out.
Coupons. Coupons. More coupons. Clothing catalog. Something forwarded to me from Arrowhart.
When I tore the envelope open, there was another envelope inside.
Cook County Penal System.
I froze in place, shivers running down my spine. My eyes scanned and rescanned the words as my chest pounded, blood rushing to my ears.
Marco had written me back. Finally.
My mind raced. Was this it? Was today the day I got some answers. After all my suffering, had I just needed to ask?
I tore the letter open and started to read:
I am very happy that you have written back. I want to to talk to you very much. I hope that one day we can understand each other.
I know you have a lot of questions and I will answer them, but you must come visit on May 11th. I will only tell you, nobody else. I am truly sorry. It must be on May 11th.
I spend a lot of time thinking about what I did and I only wish to find forgiveness now. Please find it in your heart to visit. It will help both of us move on to the next step. My PN is #276-2596. I put you on my guest list so the guards let you in.
With much love,
My heart sank. The date he gave me was the next day. It must’ve taken the letter a while to get to me. I was so close to getting the answers I needed, but he had to throw in one more step.
Still, though. The prospect of seeing him again face to face was scary, but if that was what I needed to do to get closure . . .