Pulling the earphones from her ears, Octavia Davenport gave her mother a resigned sigh. “What?”
“I’ve called your name three times. What did I tell you about playing your music so loud?”
Octavia mocked her mother’s reprimand. “Listening to my music that loud could ruin my hearing.”
Mrs. Davenport wagged her finger in Octavia’s direction. It never failed, whenever the Davenports took a road trip, Octavia would sit in the back with earphones jammed in her ears. The volume would be on ten, and every time her mother would complain. Octavia’s sixteen-year-old brain couldn’t understand the problem. It wasn’t like the music was blasting through the car speakers.
“Give me the iPod,” Mrs. Davenport said. She held out her hand and waited for Octavia to give up the goods.
“No,” Octavia responded.
Mrs. Davenport’s eyes grew, and she turned to Clifford, Octavia’s father who sat in the driver’s seat. Clifford pulled his eyes away from the road to the rearview mirror with a hostile glare.
“Did you just tell your mother no?”
“Yes, she did,” Mrs. Davenport answered.
“I’m not doing anything wrong. How is it fair to take away the only thing I love? I don’t drink or do drugs like my friends. I don’t stay out late, skip school, or have premarital sex. Although there was that one time when I wanted to, but no, I was too busy being responsible, and even that isn’t enough.”
Mrs. Davenport’s mouth hung open.
“Now you want to take away my music because I play it too loud. No,” Octavia said. “I’m standing my ground.”
“Young lady, you will not talk to your mother that way, and you will give up your iPod, or so help me God, I’ll pull this car over and—”
“Dad, watch out!” Octavia shouted.
The Ford Explorer swerved violently as Mr. Davenport tried with extreme caution to get out of the way of the oncoming tractor trailer. But it was too late. The front of the tractor smashed into the driver side of the vehicle.
Mr. Davenport was ejected from the car at the force of the collision. The Ford Explorer flipped and came crashing down on its top. With a snap, Mrs. Davenport’s neck was broken.
The hood caught fire, and Octavia was unconscious in the back, still buckled into her seat. She didn’t feel the shards of glass that stuck out of her skin or the deep-rooted cuts across her face, but she witnessed it all as if having an out-of-body experience.
A horn blared, and quickly Octavia opened her eyes. Beads of sweat sat across her forehead, and the darkness of her bedroom came into focus. Slowly, Octavia groaned and rolled to her side to look at the time.
She inhaled and exhaled deep breaths while trying to calm her fast beating heart. It was back. The dream that haunted Octavia for years after her family’s death. But with a heavy dose of therapy, Octavia had fought through her demons. Most of them anyway. There were still some that lingered. She didn’t dwell on it much until this time of year came around.
Shutting her eyes tight, Octavia thought back seven years ago to one of her first therapy sessions with Dr. Celia Cooper.
“I want you to understand, Octavia. You will have times when you want to give up. The nightmares you experience now are a healing process for your brain. Keep in mind when this happens your discomfort is normal. There are a few things you can do to help yourself move past this trauma.”
“I can’t shift my thoughts to anything other than the memories,” Octavia said. “How am I supposed to remember what you’re about to tell me?”
Dr. Cooper left her desk chair to kneel in front of Octavia. Placing her hands on Octavia’s wrists, Dr. Cooper spoke, “We’re going to practice them together, every time you visit. That way it will become a force of habit, and you will be in control.”
Octavia numbingly nodded.
“First, you’ll do a body scan. The purpose of this exercise is to notice when your body reacts to your trauma.”
“I don’t understand,” Octavia said.
“Close your eyes,” Dr. Cooper said. Octavia’s eyes shut softly. “Now, think about the moment the collision happened.”
“No, no…” Octavia shook her head and jumped away from Dr. Cooper.
“Hey, I’m here to help you.” Dr. Cooper’s calming voice reassured Octavia. “You have to trust me.”
Just then a flashback hit Octavia hard, and the screech of tires sounded in her eardrums. Octavia shut her eyes tight and tried to fight off the memory.
“No, no!” she screamed.
“Listen to my voice,” Dr. Cooper said. “Open your eyes, Octavia.”
Immediately, Octavia was pulled from the memory.
“Look at your hands.”
Octavia glanced down, pulling her hands out in front of her. They twitched, and her fingers tightened into fists. Dr. Cooper advanced on Octavia, grabbing her shoulders and taking her to a full-length mirror.
“Observe,” Dr. Cooper said.
As Octavia’s fingers opened and closed, her left foot also tapped a soft rhythm. Quickly, Octavia brushed her hands up and down her jeans.
“Don’t try and stop what’s happening,” Dr. Cooper said. “The purpose of this exercise is just to notice the effects the memory has on your body. The more you notice, the more in control you’ll become. I’ll tell you how to help it pass in just a moment.”
Octavia relaxed her hands, and they continued a soft vibration until finally, they stopped.
“The next step is containment.”
Octavia gave Dr. Cooper a wary glance.
“Not containment of your body’s response, but containment of the memory. This involves an image that you’ll pull to the front of your mind. It could be whatever you feel most comfortable with using. It could be a childhood toy box, a high school locker, or just simply a box. Bring the image forward and add the memory to the container. This exercise is only used to set the memory aside until you’re mentally able to deal with it head on. It is not to forget it because at some point you will have to deal with it, but this is to help you get ready for that confrontation, allowing your mental stability to become firm and strong.”
Octavia’s breathing was easy as she listened to Dr. Cooper’s instructions.
“I’ll give you one more task, and then you’ll work on those three. I don’t want to overwhelm you with a long to-do list. Thirdly, move your body. This exercise is called body movement. Studies have found that yoga practice can treat post-traumatic stress. This will help you deal with your body’s reaction to the memory. Try whatever exercise is right for you, as long as you are moving your body, Octavia. It will help you self-soothe, and before you know it, you’ll be ready and able to tolerate intense distress.”
Octavia rolled to her back and stared at the ceiling. She had successfully put Dr. Cooper’s instructions into practice, and they had helped her tremendously. However, Octavia had managed to hold on to the practice so tightly, that she’d done what Dr. Cooper informed her not to do. Push the memory away to forget about it, instead of dealing with it head-on.
Octavia sat up in bed and tossed the covers to the side. The Betty Boop nightshirt she wore was plastered to her chest as it too was covered in a sheen of perspiration. Scrambling to the side, Octavia moved from the sheets and trod across the room to her master bath. She removed the nightshirt and turned on the faucet to splash some water across her face. Body scan. Octavia’s eyes followed the small vibration of her hands and waited for it to stop. A distant voice that she recognized as her own adolescent scream rang out in her ears. Octavia shut her eyes. Containment. Her focus drifted but couldn’t find the jewelry box that always held her memory.
“Come on…” she whispered, wanting desperately to get rid of the images. Suddenly, Octavia’s mind shifted again, and an unexpected image surfaced. “Jonathon…” she said. Octavia shut off the faucet and stood up straight, looking at herself in the mirror. Soft brown eyes under drowsy lids stared back. What was Jonathon doing in her safe place? She only kept her containers there, and he was only throwing her off focus. Octavia needed to get to her mom’s jewelry box. A second passed when Octavia noticed the memory was gone. Perplexed, Octavia continued to stare at her reflection as she mulled over how her memory had been contained when she had found no container to put it in. Body movement.
Just that quick, Octavia’s thoughts shifted again, and she was moving through the bathroom. On the back door, she pulled down a set of running gear and quickly stuck her feet into the pants, dragging the tights up her thighs. Although it had been windy outside, Octavia traded the shirt for a sports bra. She bent to grab her Nike running shoes and squatted to put them on. Leaving the bathroom, Octavia stopped at her dresser and grabbed her iPod, quickly tossing an earphone into each ear. She went to the kitchen, grabbed a bottled water, and made her way to the front door when the phone rang.
Instantly, Octavia’s movements stilled, and she knew without a doubt who was on the other side of the line. Jonathon. He’d told her the night before he would call even though she told him not to. Now Octavia’s mind shifted to a more recent memory. One that confused her and left her feeling incomplete.
“Come home with me.” Jonathon had reached for her hand and pulled her in. “I don’t want you alone tonight. I know how hard this time is for you. Let me be there. We can handle it, together.”
Octavia’s heart warmed, and at the same time knocked against her chest. “This is something I have to do alone,” she’d responded. “Just let me deal with it.”
Octavia left the restaurant the night before in a hurry, but not before Jonathon had promised to call and threatened to come by if she didn’t answer. Knowing this, Octavia told her feet to move toward her cell, but she went in the opposite direction, opening the door and running down her sidewalk to take a morning jog.
As her feet pounded the pavement, Octavia forced her mind to think of good things. Like her career. Octavia had been in the financial planning business for seven years. She came straight out of college into a career at Jones and Morgan Financial Preparation. There, Octavia began to build her profession, but after enduring an egotistical male dominant corporation for so long, she’d finally set out to build her legacy somewhere that was more driven by the career itself and not the inner workings of the male genitalia. Finding S & M Financial Advisory was a breath of fresh air. The owners, Samiyah Rose and Claudia Rose, were a blessing in disguise. The small business housed four distinct offices, one being her own. Samiyah and Claudia had become like sisters to Octavia and her co-worker Selena Strauss. The owners were single when she’d first met them, but now they were both married, ironically into the multimillionaire Rose family.
Finding S & M led to Octavia meeting him. Jonathon Alexander Rose was the head honcho at Rose Security Group, a private company that offered a range of manpower services to government and high-profile clients.
Octavia ran through a brush of orange and red leaves, making her way to the park as her mind stayed with Jonathon. Octavia and Jonathon had hit it off immediately, and their growing friendship had blossomed beautifully. Octavia found joy in regular Saturday nights hanging out at his home, ordering pizza and eating junk food. Often, when the girls tried to get her to hang out, she would turn them down, and they would beat her up with accusations of being in love with him.
“Which is so ridiculous,” Octavia said out loud. No one knew better than her that being in a relationship required give and take. Right now, Octavia didn’t have anything to give him. She was still a prisoner of her past, and no matter what the fast beat of her heart indicated when she was around Jonathon, Octavia had to do the responsible thing and deal with only being his friend.
Octavia let out a sharp breath, and she jogged down the park’s path. It had only been a week since she attended Santana Summers and Josiah Alexander Rose’s wedding. It had been a celebration Octavia would never forget, but it had also thrown her even deeper into a whirlwind of emotions. Octavia knew that she and Jonathon had a thing for each other. Their obvious chemistry was strong enough that trying to hide it had become futile. It didn’t help that whenever she looked at him, he would be silently accessing her, and she always wondered about his thoughts. At the wedding, there was much of that if not more. Octavia would catch Jonathon watching her even during the most chaotic times. Like when she was running around Santana, trying to rush to catch something the bride needed.
Jonathon was in the kitchen when Octavia slipped in to grab the handmade edible arrangement. Or when she sprinted to the bathroom with her heels click clacking on the tile as she sprang for the door. She’d found him coming out of the men’s room at the same time she came out of the women’s. Even when she’d meandered outside to grab a second of serenity to herself, Jonathon had been there. Standing on the opposite side of a large oak wooden tree that sprouted from the middle of the lawn. It was as if he was attached to her, going and coming at the same time. Then there was that moment Octavia wanted to bear her soul. It happened after Josiah’s revelation in front of his family and friends. Josiah shedding his truth had given Octavia a moment of clarity. When her eyes had met Jonathon’s while he stood behind Josiah as best man, Jonathon winked and offered her a smooth smile.
Octavia wanted to tell him. Tell him that every time they were together she never wanted to depart. That sometimes at night she battled her demons, wishing he was there to help her. That for some strange reason, Octavia believed Jonathon had become her container. And it frightened and confused her to death. But for the sake of her sanity, Octavia promised to stay on course and deal with her demons by herself, until she had unlocked the achievement of moving past her family’s death. It was her cross to carry, and hers alone.
Running another mile helped to clear her mind a little. Making a U-turn, Octavia trekked back toward her condo, opting to take the long route without cutting through the park. The smell of the crisp fall air was calming. Vivid shades of soft yellows, fire engine red, and orange decorated the path as Octavia ran through a grove. Squirrels scurried up and down willow trees as she passed by. When Octavia turned the corner to her street, her steps slowed as she ventured upon a familiar Rolls Royce parked outside. Jonathon’s tall frame leaned against the luxury vehicle with his eyes closed tight and his head down pushed against the side. As she approached, Octavia observed him, taking her eyes from his toned arms that lay on top of the car, down to what was a peek of his toned back, and the three sixty handgun that sat in a holster on his waist.
The sight of him standing there at this hour made her feel sentiments she couldn’t recognize. What was he doing here? Octavia knew she should call out to him, but she couldn’t help but take her time marveling at his strong masculine persona. It was not often Octavia did it without being caught. A tingle ran through her, and she shuddered then pulled herself together.
“Hey,” she said, reaching out to touch his shoulder.
Quickly, Jonathon turned. He took a step forward and drew Octavia into his arms. The move sent another ripple through Octavia, and the warm kisses he pressed against her face heated her blood.
“I called you,” he said. As if that were all the explanation he needed to give.
“I went out for a run,” Octavia returned. Being in his arms did a number to her nervous system. She pulled back just slightly, but Jonathon held on.
He met her face to face. “You needed to run this early?”
Octavia fumbled with her words. “I-um… had to- yeah.” Octavia shook herself more, freeing herself from his grasp. Starting over, she reiterated, “Yes, I needed to take a run.” She smiled. “Is that why you’re here?”
Jonathon pushed his hands into his pockets. It was apparent that Octavia didn’t want to be touched, or she wouldn’t have moved away from him.
“I told you, if you didn’t answer your phone, I would come over here.”
“But as you know, it’s early. What makes you think I wasn’t just sleeping?”
“I know this is not a good season for you, so I didn’t plan to take any chances.”
Octavia smiled softly. “Chances on what, Jonathon?”
“You shouldn’t be alone,” he cut in.
Octavia warmed more, then reached her hand out to him. “Come on, let’s go inside.”
Jonathon accepted her proffered hand, and their fingers fit snugly together. “I thought you only took the Rolls Royce out for special occasions.”
Octavia opened the door, and they entered.
“I didn’t think about it before I left. I just drove right over. You left your door unlocked?”
Octavia looked up at him. “Yeah, my neighborhood’s safe. I do it all the time.”
Jonathon glared. “What do you mean, you do it all the time? As in every time you leave the house?”
“No silly, when I go out for my morning runs and sometimes at night when I go to bed.”
“Have you lost your mind? That’s dangerous, O.”
Octavia chuckled. “That’s why I never told you because I knew you would trip.”
“Damn right I would, and all your other friends would, too.”
“No,” Octavia said. “Just you.”
“And how do you figure that?”
“Because it’s a part of who you are.” Octavia tugged his hand and turned to walk toward the kitchen. “Would you like coffee?” When Jonathon didn’t respond, Octavia turned back to him. “What’s wrong?”
“I need to tell you something. I want you to be open about it.”
Octavia rubbed her arms at the sudden chills that fell across her skin.
“O-kay… what is it?”
Again, Jonathon reached for Octavia and pulled her close. Looking into his dark brown eyes, Octavia held her breath, but movement at the front door caught both of their attention. Possessively, Jonathon straightened and pulled Octavia behind his back. Instinctively, his hand went to his side to grip his gun. With eyes lowered, Jonathon walked to the door just as someone knocked fiercely.
“State your claim,” Jonathon barked, pulling the door open.
“Chicago Police Department.”