Part 54

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The only conversation in the car was the English accent of my GPS directing me dispassionately from the hospital to Caitlin's house. My part in the conversation was to listen and do as she said.

Caitlin stared out the window for the whole trip. When we pulled into her driveway, I had to call her name a few times to get her attention.

"Mmm?" she said, sounding far away.

"You're home," I said softly. I unbuckled my seatbelt and opened my car door.

My shoes scuffed and scraped the concrete driveway. I was too tired to lift my feet further as I crossed slowly to her side of the car. I had her door open before she'd even taken off her seatbelt.

Her expression was troubled. Even though her eyes were directed at mine, she didn't seem to see me. She looked lost in a memory.

I touched her now-dry cheek. "You're home," I repeated.

"Home," she murmured, as if she couldn't remember the meaning of the word. She blinked and her eyes cleared, focussing on me. "Thank you, Nathan."

She let me help her from the car. I slammed the door behind her.

"I will never like this car," she said quietly, still looking troubled.

I tried not to laugh. I never have, either. Maybe it's time to buy something new.

She started to take slow, deliberate steps to the front door. I froze for a second before I rushed to help her. She couldn't make it from the car to the door by herself yet, even with the strong pain medication still in her system.

I helped her extract the spare key from its hiding place and unlocked the front door, holding it open to let her inside. I followed her in and dropped her meagre bag of belongings on the tiles, alongside Alanna's laptop.

Her eyes followed mine to the bags on the floor.

"You can use my sister's laptop for as long as you need to," I said and she nodded.

We both stood in the entry, suddenly awkward.

She wants to be alone. She's finally home.

I knew all this, but that didn't stop me from asking her anyway. I wanted to stay to watch over her, to make sure she was okay.

"Do you want me to stay?" I asked, as she spoke.

"Did you want to have dinner here, or do you have something planned at home?"

We both laughed, nervously.

It was fucking stupid to drive her in that car, knowing the memories a Mercedes held for her. The last thing she wants now is to have me in her house reminding her of the atrocities committed against her. She needs to forget.

I jumped in before she had time to invent an excuse to support her refusal. I already knew I didn't belong here. "You should probably have a rest, maybe even a couple of hours' sleep, and I'd stop you from doing that if I stayed. I'll leave you to it...Here's my phone number. If you need me at any time, feel free to call." I handed her a scrap of paper, on which I'd hastily scrawled a number. "How about I see myself out?"

She smiled and looked understanding, as I dragged my feet back to the door.

Unable to resist saying something, I finished with, "I'll stop in tomorrow to see how you're getting on."

She smiled and thanked me – as if she meant it.

As I walked out the front door, I had this mad urge not to go, to stay and just sit in the kitchen while she slept. She has surveillance cameras all over the house and Navid or someone else is nearby, keeping watch. There's no need for me to be here.

I made myself get into the car again and pull out of the driveway. For a second I thought I saw her silhouetted in the window, but I must have imagined it.

Sleep, Caitlin, and stay safe. Please. 

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