"Jon," Alex's voice was a soft sigh in his ear. Her body was entwined around his after a night of exhausting love making, her softness pressed up against his back, her legs would around his. "Jon...it's time to get up."
"Mmm...." he moaned, "not yet baby. ...too early. Let's stay in bed today Ali, ok?" He mumbled in his sleep induced disoriented state.
So much for waking him gently "C'mon Rock Star...get your lazy ass off my couch. Believe it or not, some of us have to work for a living."
It was no longer Alex's voice infiltrating the fog in his brain. This was a voice he couldn't place. He struggled to open his eyes but the bright morning light that flooded the room blinded him. He sat up rubbing the heels of his hands into his eyes. He opened his eyes til they were barely slits and looked towards the voice through protective lashes.
"Alex?" Her back was to him; her long auburn hair cascaded down her back. She wore a simple white blouse and a pencil slim calf length khaki skirt. She was bent over the coffee table, there was a heavy thump as she dropped what was in her hand.
"It's Annie," she said coolly, "you're worse off than I thought."
His eyes were slowly adjusting to the light. He could now see her a little more clearly. He could also see what had thudded onto the table. A black pistol in a leather holster sat on a stack of magazines as if it belonged there.
"What the fuck..." he shot up and pressed himself into the back of the couch, putting as much distance between him and the weapon as possible. He was wide awake now, his eyes scanning the room for further signs of danger and coming back to rest on the gun within seconds.
"Take it easy rock star," Annie grinned. "I'm a cop... a profiler actually...but a cop nevertheless. The badge is beside the gun on the table...see for yourself." She was heading to her little kitchen to pour her guest a cup of coffee. She was hoping to grab a coffee at the shop on the corner on her way out but it didn't look like Romeo over on her couch would make it that far.
Jon looked near the gun and sure enough there sat a shiny badge in a leather flip wallet. Now that was unexpected. The events of the previous evening began to come back to him, and a rare warmth crept its way up to his cheeks. If he remembered correctly his behaviour had been less than stellar.
Annie reappeared then with a mug of steaming black coffee. "You look like you need this, but make it quick. You're making me late." She said in a clipped no nonsense tone. Must be a cop thing he thought. "Oh... I almost forgot," she said as she disappeared into the other room.
"Thanks," he called after her. "Yesterday was kinda rough for me."
"Yeah, I gathered. You talk in your sleep you know." Her voice was muffled by the wall but clear enough.
Annie was walking back into the room again. This time his car keys were in her hand. "I think you may need these. I'll walk you back. Work is just around the block from there." She held out her hand for the coffee mug. "Sorry...you're outta time. I have to be at work in an hour and I need breakfast. We can get you another caffeine hit at the dinner up the road. And if you like you can get a bit of what's bothering you off your chest." At the first sign of his protestation she held up a hand, "only if you want to. I'm a good listener. I have to be...it's essential to the job."
Jon pulled on his boots, they had been discarded the evening before at the foot of the couch. "Do I have time for a bathroom stop?"
She let out an exasperated breath and pointed the way. "Make it quick!"
"Sure thing." He shot over his shoulder as he disappeared into her bathroom.
It was a shame he was so screwed up. She was sure he would be a spectacular lay. Unfortunately that wasn't meant to be. Well not in the immediate future anyway – but she certainly saw the potential in the situation.
Fifteen minutes later they were sitting over steaming cups of coffee in a corner booth at the diner down the block. Before he'd emerged from the bathroom back at the apartment Annie had slipped a jacket on, and now he could see that it concealed her gun holster from the telling bulge over her ribcage.
"I gotta say, I never would have picked it," he said nodding towards the hidden weapon, "you being a cop I mean."
She smiled wryly, "Yeah well it wouldn't be the first time I've been underestimated."
"Oh honey...you misunderstand me. I don't underestimate you. I am sure you are more than capable. You handled me last night like a pro. I just would have picked you more as one that dispensed justice rather than one that enforced it. You know a lawyer or something." He explained.
"Yeah well, I guess the old adage is right then huh? Can't judge a book by its cover."
"I guess so." He took a long draw of his coffee, his intense azure eyes never leaving her. "So tell me...what does profiling involve? I'm not sure I've heard of it before."
"A lot of psych work actually. It's a method of determining likely suspects by analysing the details of a crime. It works best with serial offenders where we can analyse the characteristics of several crime scenes, to form a more comprehensive evaluation." Annie was slightly uncomfortable under his concentrated gaze, very telling considering the situations she had found herself in the past. There was very little left her disconcerted these days. The depravity of humankind was absolutely astounding.
The waitress appeared at the end of the table with their breakfast, two identical plates containing two eggs over easy, a short stack of pancakes, bacon and grilled tomato. For a while there was only silence as they devoured their meals. Annie spoke first.
"I didn't think you'd be able to manage breakfast after the state you were in last night."
Jon chucked, "Years of touring I guess."
Annie watched as he sat steering his food around his plate with his fork. "Oh for Christ sake Bon Jovi....spit it out."
"I ah...I just hope I wasn't too....um...inappropriate last night."
"Nothing I couldn't handle." She smiled gently at the look of chagrin on his face. "It was a tough day huh?"
"Who was she?"
Immediately his eyes shot up to meet hers. "How much did I say?"
"Not much...just that you watched your 'problem' marry someone else. But like I said earlier...you talk in your sleep." She studied him carefully. The signs of his discomfort were clear. "I assume the 'problem's name is Alex." He winced. "Listen Jon...this is none of my business...tell me to butt out if you like...but I really do think you need to talk about this - if not to me, to a friend...to someone. If you keep trying to bottle this up you're going to do yourself some serious damage. From what I've seen you're not far from a full meltdown now."
"I've lived through worse," he said quietly, looking down again.
There was a long moment before he spoke, but when he did, his tone was resigned, his voice shaky. "No, I haven't." He shook his head, and she thought she could see a tear in the corner of his eye.
Annie didn't know what was drawing her to this stranger. The waves of pain emanating from him were tangible. She knew that kind of pain...knew what it could do if it wasn't resolved. It could change a person from the inside out...turn them cold, unfeeling. She didn't want to see that happen to him. She just hoped it wasn't too late.
"Talk to me Jon. We can head back to the apartment if you like."
"No Annie, you have to work."
"It can wait. I'm not working a case at the moment. It's just paperwork... and I hate paperwork so you'd be doing me a favour." She prompted.
"I don't know."
"You can trust me Jon." He looked at her closely. In that instant he felt instinctively he could trust her with his very life...this complete stranger.
"Let's go...before I change my mind."
He took her hand this time as they strolled back to her apartment. She did not pull away. There was nothing sexual in the gesture; he merely needed the comfort of a human touch.
She let them into the apartment and went straight to the phone. "Hey Dave...it's Annie...I don't think I'm gonna get in there today. I have some personal shit I need to take care of." She waited for Dave to finish speaking, "No problem...look if anything urgent comes up call me on my cell. I won't be far away." There was another short pause, "Yeah ok, I'll see you then."
She turned to look at Jon then who was still frozen in place before the door. "Is there someone you need to call?"
"Yeah I guess..." He wondered why no one had called him as he patted his pockets in search of his own cell phone. Then he remembered when he left home yesterday he hadn't wanted anyone to call him. "May I?" he asked gesturing to the phone.
"Of course...unless you're calling Australia that is," she joked. His grimace was not lost on her. Hmm Australian huh? Curious! "There's an extension in the bedroom. Go make your call in there. I'm just going to take the trash out and give you a little privacy."
"There's no need. Believe me...this will be a short call." He replied though he did appreciate her discretion.
"Regardless...this trash needs to go down. Go make your call. I'll be back in a second."
"Thanks!" Jon walked stiffly in the direction of the room Annie had retrieved his keys from only an hour earlier. He couldn't help but grin as he entered. The room was a total contradiction to her personality. Decorated in delicate pastels, in shades of green, blue and lilac...it was a tranquil retreat he supposed, from the rigours of her career. He sat on the edge of the bed, taking care not to mess the pretty pale teal comforter, and picked up the phone.
He hesitated as his finger hovered over the buttons that would connect him to home. This wouldn't be pretty. He punched in the number... the line was picked up immediately.
"Hello?" He could hear the anxiousness in his wife's voice, and immediately felt remorse for putting it there.
"Oh Jon," her sigh of relief was palpable, "Thank God your ok. Where have you been? Where are you?"
His voice was shaky as he spoke, "I uh...I'm with a friend. I just needed some time out. Sorry I worried you baby."
"A friend huh?" She sounded suspicious now, her voice was cooler. "When will you be home?"
"I'll be home this afternoon. I'm just sorting a few things out, and then I'll be there." He twisted the phone cord around his finger. He knew what conclusion Dot had come to...she wasn't too far off the mark. "Dottie...I promise it's not what you're thinking."
"Ok Jon...just come home...ok?. Stephie had a rough night...she wants her daddy." Oh great the guilt card.
"Alright...I won't be long. See you soon." He said and placed the receiver back on the base.
When Jon looked up Annie was standing in the doorway. "Everything ok?"
"Yeah fine. She's pretty used to it by now I guess - me not being there. I never am really." It was the story of his life.
She walked over to him and held out a hand, "C'mon...let's talk," she said as she led him back to the lounge.
Jon watched the beam of sunlight, that streamed in through the window retreat across the floor as the sun rose higher in the sky, until finally it disappeared altogether. He had been talking for hours, all that time Annie sat and listened patiently, asking a question occasionally but usually just letting him go. He hadn't realised exactly how much he was holding inside, the resentment and the anger - mainly directed towards Dot - and to his surprise a measure of rejection. Of course that was all Alex, and totally absurd. She had never been his...but then as Annie explained, that didn't matter. He had always belonged to Alex.
When Jon finally left Annie's apartment four hours later he felt like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He had told her everything...the whole sordid story. With her help, he recognised now, what he was doing was mourning...mourning for the love he lost when Alex said I do. And he understood that it was something that would take time. A bond of love that had endured seven years, no matter how infrequently it was requited - a fact that actually spoke to its strength - could not be forgotten over night.
Just minutes into her conversation with Jon, Annie had begun to see him in a whole new light. Obviously she knew he was in pain, but she never would have...could have guessed at how deeply that pain ran. His public persona was that of a confident, sexy, self assured and intelligent man. One who held the world in the palm of his hand...he could have anything or anyone one he wanted. Well not anyone...he couldn't have the only one he really wanted and that had affected him more than he was willing to admit. Even to himself.
"Jon," she said softly as she showed him out.
They were standing in her doorway. He paused and leaned against the frame. She couldn't help admiring him...she had never seen that kind of beauty up close...it was surreal.
"I think you know you can trust me. I mean you wouldn't be here if you didn't right?"
"Look...it strikes me that you're a very private person, and I know I'm not much more than a stranger to you, but if you ever need someone to talk to, someone who isn't going to sell your soul, or judge you...someone who will just listen....I'm here." She pulled out one of her business cards and a pen from her purse on the hall table, scrawled a number on the back and handed it to him. "Call me...anytime..."
"Thanks..... again." He leaned in and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead and with a promise to stay in touch, and one he intended to keep at that – he really liked Annie, she was easy to be around – he walked out of her apartment and headed home.