Chapter Five

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Climb your hill, steal my will, fight to kill. And when you fall, I'll be here still. -Jackson Killian

Chapter Five

MRAH was quiet that night. Which meant Bettie and I spent most of the time cleaning, moving animals from their kennels and scrubbing down the tile with heavy bristle-brushes and dilute bleach solution. We worked side by side, frequently checking the small monitor that displayed the front entrance just in case someone standing out there didn't see the buzzer.

For most of the evening I'd been considering telling Bettie about Jack's surprise visit at my house that morning, the corresponding afternoon meeting, and tomorrow's morning visit looming large in my very near future. It had been so long since I'd had a confidant, so long since I'd shared my feelings with someone, I felt rusty and out of practice when it came to discussing anything important.

We were on the third kennel when I finally decided. I needed to trust her. Bettie had only ever given me cause to do so. I couldn't keep staying silent.

When I spoke, my voice had a disused quality despite our earlier innocuous chatter.

"Jack came to my house this morning."

She straightened to look at me, rolling down the top of one blue rubber glove in order to brush back her bangs with a clean forearm.

Her face was serious but interested. "What happened?"

The light in the kennels was dim, even with every switch flipped, and I was glad for the soft light and the shadows. Frustrating while trying to clean, when confessing It was somehow comforting.

"He saw Quinn. He knows now." I gave her a quick synopsis of the day's events.

"So. You know, Kibbs. This is a very strange situation to be in, from my perspective. I mean... how do I explain this?" She tilted her head and her eyes shifted upwards, considering—her cupid's bow mouth pressed tightly closed.

I squatted down, moving the wash bucket closer to me. "Okay. This might not sound right, but I've known Jack Killian for a long time... in a sense. A couple years anyway. I mean, if knowing someone's music means knowing them at all. Maybe it doesn't."

I scrubbed at a corner of the kennel, not ready to respond to that statement, not sure I knew how. On the one hand, Bettie had a point, she was familiar with an aspect of him that I could never be. Not because I couldn't listen to his music, but because I couldn't listen to it objectively. But know him. Could she claim that?

"Jack Killian, the Jack Killian I thought I knew. I sort of had this picture of him as a very loving person, maybe even overly so."

I sat back on my heels, looking at her. "Overly so?"

She shrugged a little like she didn't know how to go on. But she did.

"Look, Katie. I feel like... I mean, I know that you still love him, so I'm not sure where the boundaries are for you. Did you ever listen to that CD I gave you?"

I shook my head. "Almost."

"I know you've heard some of his music."

"Some of his first album. Yeah."

She chuckled. "And I just thought you really loved Ryan Adams."

I smiled, one shoulder rising to meet my ear. "I like him well enough."

Bettie kneeled down next to me, using a rag to wipe down the back wall of the kennel. She spoke quietly, because she was speaking of Jack Killian. Reverently.

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