5 Page Challenge
Rachel saves Joshua Todaro’s life on the battlefield and he gives her the bullet in gratitude. She gives him her heart, and back home in Seattle he asks her to marry him. But someone murders Joshua in his apartment above Pike Place Market, and frames Rachel.
Pages 1 - _
Naked under her black Kristi Vosbeck wrap dress, Rachel stood before the window of her office, fascinated by the late evening Seattle thunderstorm. The lightning bleached the public market on the opposite side of Pike Place.
She untied the wrap and shrugged her left shoulder to let it fall. Her reflection in the window betrayed the ceiling light that shone on her exposed breast. Pulling the dress up, she walked across the soft pile of the rug and turned the switch off. Then she let the dress slip barely open as she walked back and stood before the window in red high heels.
Cool air passing over her breasts contrasted with the hot flush of embarrassment. The lightning might soon be over, and then her plan to show all of herself to Joshua, her Joshua, across the street would not work. She moved left, out of sight next to the windowpane.
Her second floor office had a large half-circle picture window facing the Public Market sign, looking down on the fish market. Joshua’s apartment was directly across from her. His window looked in on a large room. The brilliant red scarf of a Toulouse-Lautrec poster dominated the back wall.
Rachel searched all the other windows across Pike Place. No one was there, and the people down below on the shiny wet cobblestones could not see her.
She wanted Joshua to be as excited as she was right now. They had a date this evening, the most important evening of her life. She knew Joshua felt the same anticipation, because she had seen him walking back and forth.
Rachel reached back and felt the cool, slick plastic of the phone, fumbled for the speaker button and pressed it, then found the first speed dial button and touched it. After two rings, she heard Joshua’s wonderful voice.
She stepped out before the windowpane, her abdomen tightening as if she were standing before the open door of an airplane. Rachel took a deep breath, let the dress fall and sent a smile out into the darkness to search for him.
He looked out his window, so tall, with his wide shoulders, poised and graceful. He was frowning. Warmth spread all over her and her knees weakened.
“Do you see anything in my apartment, Joshua?”
“No, sweetheart, it’s pretty dark out there and…”.
Another flash of lightning like a strobe light. A broad smile with those beautiful white teeth of his took over his whole face. “Oh, Rachel, you are beautiful!”
“Just for you Joshua, just for you.” She smiled back and clicked the speakerphone off. Then she stepped out of sight, pulled the dress up, and tied it at the waist. She walked around her desk to the futon and sat, smiling and breathing hard. It was the bravest thing she had ever done outside of Afghanistan. But how thrilling it was. A hot blush burned on the back of her neck.
Now it was time to go and plan her future with Joshua.
She stood, lifted her tan leather jacket off the hook and swung it around her shoulders as she opened the door and left the office. As it clicked shut she thought she heard a second click, but the hallway was empty. The elevator was quiet, not coming up or going down.
Rachel walked the few steps to the janitor’s closet and opened it. The smell of ammonia hit her nostrils. A large box of industrial paper towels was right by the door. It still had packing tape on it and looked too small for anybody to hide in. Shelves of cleaning supplies took up the rest of the room. She shut the door and went to the stairwell and headed downstairs. Why worry about every little sound? Especially tonight. Maybe she wouldn’t even be renting this office space much longer.
With a jaunty step, she went down the stairs and swung herself around at the landing and walked down the hallway to the street door. Once she was outside, the cold air cleared her head. The rain had mostly stopped. Across the street, Joshua’s apartment still looked dark and empty. He was gone from the window, but Rachel knew he was waiting. She rushed out, careful to keep her heels from catching on the wet bricks. A cool mist sprinkled her face as she walked across the street. Hugging her jacket close, she jumped up on the curb on the other side.
A young fishmonger with a dark crew cut and messy apron smiled and held out a wriggling red and white Alaskan king crab toward her. “Hey, Rachel, fresh in today.”
She smiled back and shook her head and waved to him without moving her elbows away from her sides. She continued past Down Under and the grocery store, with its rows of neat green lettuce, to the stairwell.
She took the steps two at a time, feeling an anticipatory pleasure in using her long muscular legs. Then she was on the landing at Joshua’s white front door with its ornate etched glass windows. The door was one inch open, as an invitation. She pushed it all the way in, smiling, encouraged. The warm air from inside flowed across her face at the same time as the wet breeze of sea air cooled the back of her neck. No one was visible at the front of the apartment. It was an exciting treasure hunt.
She looked left into the living room with Joshua's wide blue architectural drawing of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater on the far wall. It contrasted with the dark blue in the overstuffed brocade sofa with matching pillows, and square pure glass dining room table. Above the sofa, the Toulouse-Lautrec. That was Joshua, the architect as artist. But the room itself was empty. He was not there, so she would go looking for him. For the thrilling surprise.
The first door on the right opened to his workroom, with his architect’s drawing table. On the table was a model of his current work, a conference center on Portage Bay, extending out over the water. Little plastic trees and cars littered the table as if Godzilla had recently passed through. Joshua had been making the finishing touches for his presentation tomorrow morning to the mayor at the Lake Union site.
She waited and looked around with a self-satisfied smile to see if he would appear. Her leather jacket felt hot, so she took it off and then let it drop to the floor in a show of sensuous abandon.
Joshua was not in the workroom. Only one more door left on the hallway. The bedroom. Of course, it was only natural. He saw her in the flash of lightning, and the bedroom is where he would be waiting.
Rachel put her hand on the cool brass knob and opened the bedroom door enough to peek in, nervous excitement pulsing, expecting to see him languishing across his bed. Not there. The reflection in the dresser mirror against the wall on the other side of the bed showed only the black comforter and a swirly abstract charcoal drawing.
Joshua was still nowhere to be seen. But the familiar warm male scent of Knize Ten cologne was in the air. She turned around, about to go back and check out the kitchen, when a pair of hands came from behind and covered her eyes. The Knize Ten became more intense. Then his whispered voice.
“Not so good for a private detective, Rachel. You didn’t look behind the door.” He kept his hands over her eyes as his warm lips rested on the nape of her neck.
She smiled, reached up, and took his hands. She put them behind her. Then she turned around as if she were doing a slow dance and held both hands before her. She loved his arms. His arms, and his hands—so surprisingly long-fingered and delicate for a man his size. But he was an architect. And a swimmer, with a swimmer’s graceful, strong body. He was hidden underneath his bathrobe, but her smile reacted to the smooth skin of his face and his shining hazel eyes. Rachel put her hand on his warm cheek. He had shaved very, very well.
His face lifted in pleasure at seeing her.
“I think you got enough looking for both of us,” she said.
Now he smiled. “I know you think I should do something similar. Don’t worry, I won’t disappoint you. For now, how about having something hot to drink on a cold evening?”
“Sounds nice.” She followed him into the small kitchen. He already had two large transparent Irish coffee mugs steaming on the gray tile counter top. They read, “T.S. McHugh’s”.
“I’ve never seen those. You? Irish?”
Joshua laughed. “Yeah, well, the best Irish coffee is made with Italian coffee. The Irish part is whiskey as an afterthought.”
When he turned to pick the mugs up from the counter, she put her hands around his waist, and pulled him tight and laid her head against his back for a moment. Turning around, he held his arms out wide holding the coffee mugs, then handed her one as he took a sip out of the other.
“Come on,” he said.
She followed him out to the living room, her silk wrap rustling as she moved over to the sofa. Joshua wandered over to the window.
“Be careful,” she said. “You never know who’s looking and you look very casual.”
He turned back to her and flashed his big, wide smile, then gestured with his mug, embracing with a sweep of his hand the panorama outside the window. “I feel sorry for people walking by themselves down the street, sort of wandering aimlessly.” He looked out and pointed more deliberately with his mug down toward the street. “There’s a young boy, looking in windows as he goes by. All by himself. It’s so lonely. Don’t you think?” He turned and looked over at Rachel, anticipation on his face.
“Maybe,” she said. “Could be he’s on his way to a party and taking his time.”
He put his hand on the windowsill. “Yes, but not this young man. It’s the way he looks at things in store windows, studying them.” Joshua turned and leaned against the window and waited a moment before speaking. He nodded as he spoke, as if a memory came up out of the past, and he turned to Rachel with an impish smile. “Maybe he’s looking for a comb for a girl’s hair, and she’s out looking for a pocket watch chain.”
That was one of the most endearing things about Joshua. He cared about people. He had genuine warmth, she thought, as she crossed her legs and sipped the drink. Hmm. Wonderful coffee, not too much Jameson’s in it. Too bad you couldn’t get something like this at Pike Place Starbucks. Rachel was annoyed by the distraction of the thought. But the combination of the warm Irish coffee, and Joshua highlighted by the darkening light from the window warmed her soul. His reflection across the dining room table doubled his height.
He stood, and held up his finger in a signal for her to wait a moment. He walked with careful footsteps, mysteriously, around the table and back out to the hallway and into his workroom. Rachel sipped again and listened for sounds of his movement as he returned. One minute later he came out, looking puzzled, even somewhat sorrowful. “I misplaced something. I’ll look for it later.” He caught himself and looked over and smiled at her, then walked noiselessly to the sofa and sat beside her.
He put his coffee down on the coffee table. “I have something I want to discuss with you,” he said, looking at her with a seriousness she had never seen before.
Finally. Her heart began to beat faster. “I’m ready.” She had thought she was ready, but when she heard herself say the words she wasn’t completely sure now. Sudden doubts about her belief that he was ready to propose flooded her consciousness. She dismissed them with an internal laugh. She focused on his eyes. “There’s just you and me and the wind, darling,” she said.
Joshua leaned forward a bit, looked in her eyes and at her lips, then closed his own eyes, and moved in toward her mouth. He stopped an inch away, then continued on and gave her a very gentle, hesitating kiss. As if he were kissing a girl for the very first time.
She responded by moving to him and feeling herself go all soft, barely opening her lips. He let his lips rest on hers for several seconds, then pulled away so they were barely touching. He put his hand on her hip, and leaned back so he could see her clearly.
“When I make my presentation tomorrow morning, you know, before the mayor, the whole city council, I want to be the happiest man on earth.” When he continued, his voice was low but clear. “Rachel, I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I think you are the most wonderful person I have ever met. … Will you marry me?” Then he waited, his eyes, opened wide, on her.
She jumped up and put her arms around him and held him so tight she felt like she might smother him. Then she let go, and between breaths whispering yes, gave him a long, tender kiss, his lips and hers tasting of whiskey, coffee and lipstick.
Joshua studied her face and frowned for a moment. “I have to tell you, the ring, I…”
Rachel put her hand on his mouth, then moved it to his cheek. “The ring can wait, Darling. I have all I need if I have you.”
She smiled and pulled the belt of his bathrobe. “Of course, but there’s still this evening… I have been waiting for you long enough. We will have forever starting tomorrow afternoon. We can go to the cabin for a couple of days.”
Rachel woke in the silent early morning darkness of the bedroom, feeling Joshua’s warmth next to her. As her eyes adjusted she watched the silhouette of his chest rising and falling with the slow cadence of his breathing. She lifted the covers off and the cool air of the room wafted over her legs. She sat upright in a slow arc and waited, then turned and watched him, resting, peaceful. Her Joshua, forever. She pushed herself off the bed and heard his groggy voice behind her.
“Are you okay?”
She turned back and leaned over and touched him on the shoulder. “Yes, I’m fine.” She looked at the alarm clock on the bedside table. “It’s four o’clock. I’m going to go over to my house and…”
“What?” He lifted himself up on his elbows, his eyes blinking. He rubbed them with the back of his hands. “Why?”
Rachel wished she had been more quiet. She whispered, “I need to go pack, get ready for our trip. Then I’ll come back and organize my office so I can get away.”
“Come back to bed. It’s too early.”
“No, you go back to sleep. You know you didn’t get enough work done last night.”
He laughed. “Yeah, whose fault was that?” He fell back down on his pillow.
She gave him a kiss. “I’m happy to accept blame.” She took hold of his hand. “I’ll be back in a while. Go to sleep so you can work in the morning.” Rachel pulled away and let his hand drop, but he held her fingers, and pulled her back. She knelt on the bed and gave him another kiss, then gently pushed herself away. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” he said as he turned over on his side and pulled the covers up.
Rachel, on tiptoe, took her clothes out to the hallway, dressed and picked up her keys by the door. Her throat felt dry and scratchy, so she walked to the kitchen and drank a glass of cold water. Still on the balls of her feet, she went to the window in the living room and opened it wide. The cool sea air filled her lungs. At first she worried that noise from the market or birds would wake him, but then she thought it would help him to get up on time.
She hesitated about leaving, thinking maybe she could help him in the morning. She wanted to help him, be there with him, but then rejected that idea, too. He didn’t need distractions on this most important day of his career.
She drove in the darkness over the empty streets from downtown to Capitol Hill and her house across from Volunteer Park. The windows high up on the Water Tower in the park glared in orange light like sentinels. Rachel parked her car and took care to be quiet as she opened the door to the house and walked in. She didn’t want to wake Irene in the basement apartment.
She found the small suitcase in the hall closet. No searching around or seeing how clothes looked in the mirror. She just filled it with enough for a short trip. Then she put on her white Adidas track suit, put the pepper spray in the pocket, and went back outside and down E. Prospect for her run on the Volunteer Park outer loop. Back home, she took a long hot shower, got dressed and drove downtown.
Pike Place outside her office window was nearly empty. On the street she saw a red and blue Pepsi delivery truck and a man pushing a handcart full of green apples. Forms moved past the brass pig inside the marketplace. Someone in an apron piled ice around fish. Across the street Joshua’s window was still open, even though it was a very cool morning. She waited and watched, but he did not appear.
A moment of concern gripped her, but then her imagination moved easily back to the night before, to the bedroom she had shared with him. The bleeping of a truck in reverse interrupted her reverie.
The only place Joshua would be was in the workroom, getting ready for his presentation. Or maybe he left early to take all his material down to Portage Bay and didn’t think about closing the window. Rachel wanted to call him on his cell phone. But that was a distraction.
Later in the morning, he was going to dazzle them. His idea was unbeatable, a conference center extending out over the water, where you could see the boats going back and forth between Lake Union and Lake Washington. He had even prepared a virtual tour, with a 360-degree panorama view from inside the main conference hall.
A minor worry surfaced. What if the mayor’s people would not let him get away today? She sighed and thought it didn’t matter. She could wait a couple of days more. She could still see him and they would be so happy with his success. That was all she wanted for him. For them.
She shaded her eyes with her hand, and ducked down below the sign on her window to see if she could see anything farther back in Joshua’s apartment, but she saw only the red and blue of the drawing and the sofa.
Rachel smiled to herself, then turned back around and sat at her Navy-surplus metal desk, the window at her back, and surveyed her one-room office, with her desk, a file cabinet and a futon. She leaned forward in her chair and put her head in her hands and closed her eyes. She imagined a breeze cooling her face and Joshua holding her hand at the railing of a ferry across the sound.
Boom! Crash! A gunshot exploded from the hallway. The window in back of Rachel disintegrated, shards of glass falling outward to the street.
She fell down to the right, put her arms out and landed on the floor. The fall pushed the air out of her lungs and her muscles tightened. Her left ear was ringing. Then she started breathing hard and her heart beat faster.
She twisted her head and looked out under her desk. She could see the bottom of the file cabinet and part of the beige carpet of the hallway beyond the door. The only legs she could see were those of the desk, and the futon frame along the left wall.
She kept her head down, reached up and fumbled around her desk drawer desperately searching for her gun, but only found the pint of Hennessey cognac and her Zippo. She grabbed them. For a second, she stared at the polished metal lighter with its gold and black 272nd MP logo of crossed pistols. Where was her gun? She was sure she had put it in her desk.
Quiet now. First the big bang, then nothing. No metallic click. No footsteps. Not with the plush carpet out there. No breathing except her own, fast and heavy. The gleam from the clear plastic dish on the hyperbolic microphone in the corner caught her eye. It would have let her hear the quietest movement out in the hallway. But she would be an easy target if she tried to get it. He was out there, hiding in the hallway, pupils enlarged and ears tuned, eyes shining from adrenaline, both hands on his gun, waiting for her to stand up so he could surprise her with a quick jump into the room and several rounds into her heart.
Cold air came in through the now-empty street window and shivered down her back. She pushed herself up on her knees and then stopped. Still no sound. This plain gray office was going to become her tomb if she didn’t figure out something to do.
If he were still around, the shooter would be in the hallway to the right of the open doorway. If she called 911, he would hear her and know where to aim his gun. If she stood, he was going to lean in and unload his semi-automatic up and down her body. But next to the doorframe she could surprise him. Where the hell was her gun? She had no answer. It had been in her desk a long time.
She opened the bottle of Hennessey. Raising her hand but keeping her head down, she got the cognac as far out to the middle of the desk as she could. She twisted her wrist and upended the bottle and heard the whispering gurgle of the liquid pouring on to the surface. The strong dusky smell filled the air. More stillness.
She pulled the bottle back down and laid it on the floor. Reaching over to the trash can, she picked up a small piece of paper between two fingers, opened the lighter top with a deliberate quiet movement of both of her hands, lit the paper on fire, and threw it on top of the desk.
A deep, loud whoosh erupted with a tower of red-yellow flames. Black acrid smoke hit the ceiling and fanned out.
Rachel stood halfway up, keeping her head down, and ran over to the far wall. She hid for a moment behind the file cabinet, then went around it and stood next to the empty doorframe. He wasn’t going to take her down without a fight.
She stood still and tensed her abdominal muscles to control her breathing. The fire died down but the thin black haze still covered the ceiling. The smells of cognac and smoke made her nauseous. No one appeared. Out in the hallway there was only emptiness. The stairwell was quiet, and the elevator door was open, showing no one. She went back into her office.
The fire hadn’t taken hold on the metal desk, but the black smoke was going out the window. The smoke alarm in the ceiling was screeching its hell. She was sure the Seattle Fire Department sirens would pierce the air any minute now, and Seattle Police would be right behind them.
Rachel stepped over to the desk and looked through all the other drawers for the gun. Not there. Next, all the drawers of the filing cabinet. There were only a few folders in the top drawer, reflecting the state of her business, and below that the other drawers opened fast and easy. No gun there, either.
There was no place else for it to be. It had been in the top desk drawer. That’s the only place it had ever been. He must have come in during the night and taken it.
The sound of sirens came through the empty window, growing ever louder. The sound came around a corner, down Pike Street, and then stopped outside the window.
The cavalry would be up here any second now. She imagined Detective Diane Scanlan coming in the door, arms out straight, gun tight in both hands, sweeping left and right. Seattle Police could get started on the search for whoever fired the shot.
The clamor of voices grew from the street. Rachel stopped for a second and listened. The jagged edges of the glass pointed in from the window frame. Why wasn’t anyone coming up the stairs?
Her hand rose to her mouth. A pang jolted Rachel’s chest when she looked through the empty window. Paramedics were in Joshua’s apartment.
Rachel ran for the door. Once in the hallway, she ran over to the stairwell, jumped down the first few stairs, then grabbed the newel post and swung herself around. She crashed head and torso into a woman. Rachel and the woman both let out a scream. They tumbled hard down the stairs to the next landing. Rachel’s head hit the wall, and bright lights flashed. She found herself lying on her back, looking up at the ceiling. A sharp slash of jarred nerves settled on the back of her skull.
Diane Scanlan, lying next to Rachel, was upset, disheveled, and at the same level on the floor. Diane was out of breath. Her twisted face showed the hurt inside her. She put her hand behind her neck and pulled hard as she massaged it. Grabbing the railing and pulling herself up with a grunt, Diane stretched out her hand to Rachel.
Rachel reached out and pulled herself up. She held her head in her hands for a moment and steadied herself against the banister. “You okay, Diane?”
“A headache, but it’ll be okay. You?”
“Yeah. Why were you coming up here?” Rachel said.
“Somebody called in a gunshot, and when I heard the address I came over. The paramedics are across the street. Your window was out and smoke was coming out of your office.”
”Come on, let’s go.”
Diane nodded and put her hand on Rachel’s back and nudged her down the stairs. “What was burning?”
“Yeah, I set it on fire to distract the shooter.”
Diane stopped for a second and held Rachel by the shoulder. “The gunshot came from your office?”
“From the hallway, but I looked out there and couldn’t find anyone.” Rachel pulled away and went to the hallway exit.
They hurried out to the street and shoved their way through the crowd. A cool breeze blew across the back of Rachel’s neck. Joseph from the fish market looked up and saw her coming. He took a step back and put his hands behind him, but managed a forced smile. “Rachel, what’s going on?”
She gave him a quick look on the run and waved him off. They ran around the ambulance and up the stairs to Joshua’s apartment.
Through the back hall Joshua’s bed still showed the white rumpled sheets that she’d been in last night. She stood still and stared at them for part of a second to assure herself there was no blood.
Turning to the living room, she gasped and held her fist to her mouth.
Paramedics were lifting Joshua onto the wheeled stretcher that had been collapsed down almost to floor level. Deep red blood oozed onto white gauze around his head. They had stuck an IV into him and covered his face with an oxygen mask. She ran over to the stretcher, kneeled and put her hand on her heart. As tears ran down her cheeks, she touched his arm.
His arm moved toward her. Rachel squeezed his hand, but he didn’t react. Her heart sank. She squeezed his hand again, with more strength, and held it with both her hands, remembering her fingers entwined with his before she left last night.
A warm hand pressed on her right shoulder. She turned and looked up at the concerned man in the paramedic uniform. She looked back down, put her palm on Joshua’s head, and moved out of the way.
A small pool of blood coated an irregular circle on the floor in front of the window. Rachel stooped down and studied it, then looked up and across the street. From this perspective it was clear the bullet couldn’t have been meant for her. Her desk was way to the right of the trajectory that led from the hallway outside her office to Joshua’s living room. The killer had aimed at Joshua, not at her.
Why would anyone want to kill him? There could only be one purpose, to get back at Rachel. It didn’t make any sense. She was alone at the desk; why not shoot her while she was sitting there? Why kill someone else? And she would have seen anyone who was stalking Joshua. It came back to her: she had thought of vetting Joshua, but it seemed so brutal, as if she couldn’t judge character. Now she regretted it. She might have discovered the killer before it happened. Shards of thoughts.
Her own empty window frame looked back at her with black smoke trailing upwards and feathering out in the wind. Clues were waiting over there, things small and forgotten. A blue-white bird flapped its wings close by in a blur past the window. A bus rumbled as it started.
Rachel turned back into the room and put her hand on the arm of one of the paramedics as he was going toward the door. He frowned and pulled away.
“Sorry,” she said, “I want to know where you’re taking him.”
Rachel shook her head and shrugged. “But Virginia Mason is closer.” She looked over at Diane, who came over and stood by her side.
“Neurosurgeon. Would you mind getting out of my way?”
“Wait. Is he going to be okay?” The question came up out of her gut. She had to ask it.
“Vital signs are stable now. We gotta go.”
She took one last look at Joshua, already in his little emergency room of oxygen and solution, and then turned to her old partner in war and peace.
I’m going over there, Diane.” Rachel waited for the paramedics to negotiate the stairs. She followed, with Diane behind her.
On the street, she instinctively looked around for anyone who didn’t belong there, but she immediately felt the uselessness of it. Business owners were standing on the sidewalk watching the day’s sales disappear. Vendors in aprons, arms crossed, seemed like palace guards watching over the scene.
Four black and white sedans were now parked at crazy angles on the street, red lights flashing, voices squawking from radios. A fire truck and an ambulance blocked most of the street. Men in dark blue were unrolling yellow tape, and down the street a Channel 12 news van was elevating a dish antenna.
Rachel turned to Diane. “Give me your keys.”
“Give me your keys.”
“No way, it’s a police vehicle.” Diane cocked her head to one side and backed away.
“Shit, Diane.” Rachel shook her head and then ran up the street to Diane’s unmarked car. She reached in through the open window, picked up the red magnetic light off the floor, and jogged across First Avenue to the lot where her car was parked.
The ambulance started its siren going up Pike Street. Rachel put the red light on top of her car, turned the ignition on and drove down First and through every stop sign and stoplight until she got up to James and the Harborview emergency entrance. Spotting a free section along the curb, she made a quick u-turn, grabbed the space, and ran inside.
“Where’s the man they brought in, the one with the head wound?”
The triage nurse in a rumpled green uniform kept her head down, lips pressed together. Shuffling papers on her desk, the nurse turned her head toward Rachel. She folded her arms across her chest and settled back on her heels. Rachel took out her wallet and held up her investigator’s license.
Behind the nurse, two orderlies pushed Joshua’s gurney down the hallway. Rachel watched as his body moved from side to side. She thought he looked like he was trying to escape from his neck brace. The only sound was the squeak of the wheels against the linoleum. They turned a corner and disappeared. She made a quick step toward the hallway, but hit her knee against a low barrier and caught hold of herself.
The nurse raised her voice to get Rachel’s attention. “Are you related to him?”
“I’m his fiancée.” Rachel was shocked by the sound of her voice, hearing the word for the first time out loud. Shocked that it was here, in the emergency room.