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The three of them endlessly called and texted me throughout the day, and twice Keegan had come over. But I never answered my phone, or the door. Was I overreacting? Was I being dramatic? Yeah, I probably was. But at the time, I didn’t care. They’d gone behind my back on something they knew I was strongly against. They’d tried to put me in a situation I was too scared to put my son and myself in. So instead of talking to any of them, I spent the rest of the day playing with Parker and cuddling up on the couch to watch movies before he fell asleep. The entire time chanting to myself that we didn’t need a man in our lives. That we were perfect just like this.
Coen—August 20, 2010
MY BODY FLEW up into a sitting position, and I struggled to fix my breathing. My hands were gripping the sheets as I fought against the tremors making their way through me. I was covered in a cold sweat, and even though I could see that I was in my condo, it took my mind another few seconds to catch up.
Memories. Nightmares. Night after night. Never changing. Never giving me peace from what had happened.
Had, I told myself. It’s not happening right now. I’m in my bed. In my condo. In Colorado.
Glancing at my phone, I sighed and let it fall onto the bed beside me. I’d stayed awake as long as I could last night and this morning editing photos, watching mindless TV, doing an impromptu shoot of myself at my studio, and then coming back to my place to edit those as well. I’d finally given in and crawled into my bed at eight this morning.
It was 9:45 A.M. now. Not even two hours of sleep, and already more than I could handle, apparently.
Flipping back the covers, I slowly got out of bed, and pulled off my sweat-soaked clothes as I walked to the bathroom. Turning the water on as hot as it could go, I waited until steam started filling the room before I got in . . . welcoming the burn as it hit my skin. Putting both hands against the wall, I dropped my head and let the hot water pour over my head and back as I waited.
The burning helped take my mind off the ingrained images that played over and over like a f**ked-up video. Despite what Hudson said, I didn’t need to talk to someone about what was going on. They wouldn’t understand. Neither would Hudson.
Hudson, Saco, and I were all in the same unit, and though we didn’t have your typical deployments, we had missions. Ones we weren’t allowed to talk about with our families—not that we’d want to put them through that shit—and one that I couldn’t talk about period. The only person that could understand that time to an extent was Saco. We’d been on a mission and had split up into four teams of five for one part . . . and it had all gone so f**king wrong. Saco and his team had found me; and he’d seen the destruction.
Out of respect for me, he hadn’t told Hudson what he’d seen when he grabbed me. I respected the hell out of him for that since I knew they were both always worrying about me and trying to get me to get help. But they hadn’t been there. Hadn’t gone through it.
I waited until my mind was on nothing but the heat from the water before shutting it off and getting out of the shower. Pacing around my condo for a few minutes had my mind going back to places I couldn’t have it go. So I pulled on mesh shorts, grabbed my running shoes, and walked out the door. I didn’t care that I’d just been in the shower. It hadn’t been to get clean; it had been to forget. And it hadn’t been enough.
Taking off for the trail just off my backyard, I ran hard, trying to push all thoughts from my mind except for the pavement below me, and view around me.
I wasn’t sure how long I’d been running when I came upon a park. Open area off to one side, a playground in the corner closest to me, and a lake on the far corner. And right in front of me, a blond standing off to the side of the playground. She was facing it, watching as she talked on her phone, her hand shielding her eyes from the sun. Hazel eyes that I’d been thinking of for five days since she’d stormed out of the restaurant.
Knowing I was probably the last person she wanted to see, and not having the best morning so far, I considered running in another direction so I wouldn’t be tempted to talk to her. But she looked quickly over to me before doing a double take. Her mouth forming a perfect O as recognition settled over her face.
There was no way I wasn’t stopping now.
Slowing down as I approached her, I noticed her eyes kept darting between me and the kids using the playground, and I wondered which one was her son.
“Reagan,” I said, and tried to catch my breath.
She didn’t respond, but I could hear a woman ask through her phone, “Who’s that?”
Reagan floundered for a second, and I almost told her my name, but I didn’t want to let on that I could hear her friend. “Um, uh, it’s Keegan’s friend from the army. The one from the coffee sh—”
She hadn’t gotten the rest of the word out when the other voice said excitedly, “The hot Asian?”
I couldn’t help it, I burst out laughing and had to turn away from her for a second when I saw her cheeks stain red.
“I, uh, I have to go.” She quickly tapped on her phone and shoved it in her back pocket before running her hands over her cheeks.
I wanted to tell her they were as red as she feared, but knew she was embarrassed enough.
“Uh . . . hi, Coen.”