Eli woke to Derek poking him in the face. He opened one eye to see his son poking at him. “What’re you doing up?” he whispered.
Derek giggled. “I up.”
Eli checked his cell to see that it was barely six in the morning, and he didn’t have to get up for another hour. He sat up, wiped his eyes from the dried tears he fell asleep to, and plopped Derek onto his lap. “You should be sleeping.”
“I wanna watch cartoons.”
He kissed his son’s temple and turned on the television, flipping the channels until he landed on Sim Jr. Harry the Giraffe was currently on, which made Derek jump up and down and clap. Eli put his son on the sofa, and got up to make a thing of coffee. Derek would stay entertained for a while, which gave Eli time to take a quick shower while he waited for the coffee maker to finish.
Entering the bedroom, Eli momentarily stopped. His eyes prickled. Sam was wrapped up in blankets, sleeping, and looking as gorgeous as ever. It hurt him. He had said some pretty awful things to her the night before arguing about Anthony’s poker buddies. Eli still couldn’t believe she had the audacity to follow him into the bedroom.
In the end she kicked him to the couch.
He headed to the shower and washed the night away. He had every right to be upset, and no one cared about his feelings. He understood Anthony wanting a social life. Hell, the guy deserved to have one. But, it was one thing to go out and have a few beers with his friends from work; it was another to bring said friends to Eli’s home—his safe home away from men who only saw Eli for who he was, and not who he is now. They would always see Eli as the inmate.
Eli finished his shower quickly, and got into his work clothes. He left the room before Sam could wake and tear into him again. He was surprised to see Derek sitting in Anthony’s lap. They met each other’s eyes for a split second before Eli stalked over to the kitchen and grabbed his coffee.
Anthony came over to him, obviously not getting the hint that Eli didn’t want to talk to him, let alone see him. “Eli—”
“Don’t. Just don’t.” Eli was going to be sick. Anthony was already in his uniform, and that didn’t help matters. He was pissed off. “I don’t want to fucking hear it, Tony. I don’t know what your game is, or theirs, and I really don’t care. This is my home, Tony. Mine. And I shouldn’t have to tell you, but you’re friends from work are definitely not welcome here.”
Eli shook his head, rinsed out his cup, and stormed out of his own home. With his vision slightly blurred with tears, he somehow made his way down the elevator and out of the apartment building. How he managed to get to work without shedding a single tear, he wasn’t sure. Only when he was in the back of the garage, and alone, did he cry. No one respected him back home. No one respected how he felt.
Marv found Eli in the garage, and made Eli jump. Where the hell did he come from? Was he out in the back or something? Eli wiped his eyes and went to work.
“You okay?” Marv asked. Nothing got passed him. Eli should have known.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Eli didn’t want another person to tell him he was acting irrational about the entire situation. Those were Sam’s words. She had yelled at him about being irrational and stubborn the night before.
Marv didn’t let that slide, however. “Come on. What’s going on? You look like you’re either going to punch someone or start throwing shit. What’s eating at you?”
“My brother,” Eli spat. He opened up to Marv about his brother’s scheme with his co-workers, and Sam’s reaction. “And you just know they’re doing this just to see me, like I’m some kind of zoo exhibit. I don’t deserve that type of abuse.”
Marv sighed. “Are you sure that’s it? Not that I don’t understand your feelings on the matter. because I do. I just… I don’t see your brother doing that to you, though.”
“Yeah, well, neither did I.” Eli slumped against the vehicle that he had been working on. “Sam kicked me to the couch last night after we fought. It was the biggest fight we’ve ever had, Marv. I know I said some shit, and I regret calling her some pretty awful names, but she fucking hurt me last night.”
“Did you tell her how you feel?”
Eli shrugged. “Not really. I just kept telling her I didn’t want those assholes in my own home. It shouldn’t matter as to why, she should just fucking support me on this.”
Marv joined him on the hard concrete. “I dunno. Maybe she would be understanding, you know?”
“Maybe, but maybe I don’t want her to see me that way.”
“A fucking pansy.”
Marv laughed. “Believe me, you aren’t a pansy. Look, if you don’t want to deal with this, then If you want…I got a spare room you can stay in back at my place until after the poker game ends. Though my girls might keep you up all night with their new RX Cube.”
Eli nodded. “I’ll think about it. Thanks Marv.”
Sam text Eli again. Where are you? Dinner is in ten. Getting worried about you. Call me. She worried her lip. That was about the hundredth text she sent to him since the day before when Eli didn’t come home. At first she worried he broke parole, but Tony assured her that if he had, someone would have called her.
But just in case… Sam dialed her dad.
“Williams,” Dad answered.
“Dad,” Sam cried. “Um…did Eli get arrested by any chance?”
“Not that I’m aware. Why? Did he break parole?”
Sam huffed. “I don’t know! He hasn’t been home since yesterday morning, and he won’t answer my calls. I’m worried. Tony’s worried. He was really mad when he left the house, and…I just don’t know if he’d break his parole.”
“Why was he mad?”
“We had a fight, okay. And he just took off.”
“DAD!” This was not the time for him to go all I told you so on her. “Please. This isn’t funny.”
“Okay, okay. Fine. Did you call his work?”
“Marv said he hadn’t seen Eli all day.”
“I’ll call around, and check in with his PO. Stay calm, okay?”
Sam hung up, and cried. She laid on her bed and just cried. She shouldn’t have yelled at him. She shouldn’t have put her foot down about this poker thing with Anthony. She should have listened to him. If Eli did break parole because of how upset he was at her, she would never be able to forgive herself.
She didn’t get the whole ordeal as to why he didn’t want Anthony to bring his friends over. They had both talked about Anthony living with them for a while. Sam even asked repeatedly if he would be able to handle his brother and his chosen career while he stayed over. Eli swore he was okay with it. But maybe he wasn’t… Maybe he had reservations or something against Anthony.
But of course she couldn’t ask him now. She might have really fucked up here. But how else was Anthony supposed to feel home if he couldn’t bring over his friends? He needed friends. Even Eli said that a few times the last couple of weeks.
Uhg. This was driving her mad. Where the hell was her husband? And why couldn’t he just talk to her, and not call her those names. She had never seen Eli so upset, and he had never yelled like that to her.
She heard a door open, and she rushed out of the room. “Eli?”
Anthony shook his head. “Just me. I went to grab some dinner for us.” He held up the bag of Chinese food. “He still hasn’t called?”
Sam shook her head. Derek jumped up and pulled on her leg. “Up, mommy.”
Sam lifted her son into her arms., and kissed his forehead. Thankfully Derek hadn’t realized his Daddy wasn’t home yet. That was another thing she didn’t want to have to explain. What would she tell Derek? What could she tell him?
“Uncle Antony got me egg-olls, and chicken!”
“He did?” Sam asked, trying to force a smile for her son. He couldn’t see her falling apart even though she couldn’t stop the tears. She would never be able to stop the tears. Where was Eli? “Well, why don’t we go sit in your chair and you can eat it. Okay?”
Derek nodded. “Okay.”
Sam’s phone rang in the middle of dinner, and she rushed to answer it, only to see that it was her Dad calling. “Did you find out anything?”
“Nothing. His PO said that she hasn’t heard from him since Tuesday when he met with her. She tested him for drugs, and said he’s clean. I called all the local stations, including mine, and no one’s picked him up for anything. I also called the hospitals. Sam, if he doesn’t show up by tomorrow, come in and we’ll put out a missing persons report.”
“You think…you think he’s missing?” Sam’s voice trembled.
“I don’t know. I called Eliza, and even she hasn’t heard from him. Look, I’ll go down to Marv’s tomorrow and talk to Marv. Maybe he knows where Eli went. Just stay calm, okay.”
“Okay.” Although she doubt she could stay remotely calm. Where was he?
The bell to the front of the station alerted Marv and Eli someone was out front. Eli ignored it and continued to work on the car he was rotating the tires on. He heard the door to the garage open and close, and still he worked.
Marv returned. “Eli, your father-in-law is looking for you.”
Eli sighed and put his tools down. He headed to the door to look out to see that Grant was standing out in the front, and he did not look happy.“I don’t want to see him. I don’t want to see anyone right now. Don’t they get that?”
“Just go talk to him, before he storms in here demanding answers. I told you last night to call Sam, didn’t I? She at least deserves to know where you went.”
“I told you, I couldn’t, okay? Just drop it. I don’t want to get into another fight with her, and that’s exactly what would have happened.”
“Well, I wouldn’t ignore Captain Williams. Even I’m not that stupid to lie to him.”
“Fine.”Eli wiped his hands on his coveralls and headed out the door.
Grant stood there with his hands crossed his chest. “So, you aren’t dying in some ditch somewhere, or getting yourself arrested.”
“Why are you here, Grant?” It was all he could say, even though he was pretty sure the answer. Sam sent Grant to find him.
“Because I spent half of last night searching for you! I have a pregnant daughter freaking out that her husband is missing, and he’s just…what? What the fuck are you doing, Elijah?”
Eli narrowed his eyes. “Ask her. Ask her why the hell I would want to go back home right now? Because until Anthony fucking leaves, I ain’t going back. No way in hell am I going to be treated…treated like some animal in a zoo!”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
Eli took a deep breath, and met Grant’s eyes. “We had a fight okay.”
He went on, and told Grant about the Poker Game and how he and Sam got into it, and how Eli felt afterwards. “Marv invited me to stay at his place until after the poker game. I don’t know if I can go back with Anthony there, though. I am not some animal to be gawked at.”
Grant, surprisingly, agreed with Eli. “No, you aren’t some animal. I can reason that much. But have you even told Sam what you’re actually going through? What you went through inside that prison? I know you keep that wall up, but she’s not like you or me, she doesn’t understand what prison life is like.”
“And you do?”
“I’m a cop, I’ve done enough interrogating and investigating to have a pretty damn good idea what you’ve gone through. Hell, I’ve escorted you to the juvenile detention center, how many times? You need to tell her Eli. You need to make her understand.”
Eli shook his head. “No. I can’t. She can’t know.”
“Well, you’re an idiot then. Just talk to her or at least call her, and tell her where you are. She’s almost six months pregnant. She doesn’t need this kind of stress. Will you do that for her?”
Eli nodded. “Yeah. I’ll call her. But I’m not going back there. Not until he’s gone.”
Grant gave a nod “You do what you have to do. Just don’t hurt my baby in the process.”
Only after Grant left did Eli slumped down onto the floor. His anger was back and so were his tears. He dialed Sam’s cell, and when it went to voicemail, he dialed the nurses station at the hospital. “OBGYN this is Samantha.”
“Hey, it’s me.”
Eli swallowed a large lump. Sam’s voice sounded pain, and Eli knew he did that to her. “Yeah. Your Dad came by.”
“Where are you?”
“But Marv said—
“I know. I asked him to tell you I wasn’t here. Sam…” Eli sobbed a little. “I can’t go home. I can’t. I don’t want to be on display like some animal. Don’t you understand? That’s exactly why they want him to host.”
“Eli, I doubt they care or even know who you are. They just want to play poker with their friend. And they didn’t ask him to host, he volunteered.”
“You don’t get it. I’m fucked up in the head, Sam. I know he volunteered, and you’re probably right. But Sam…these guys…I can’t explain it. Prison sucked, and it brings out a lot of bad memories in me. I see Tony in uniform and I have to remind myself I’m not there. How do you think it’s going to be for me when these guys come over?”
“Why didn’t you just say that?”
“Because…because I don’t want you to see me like some sort of broken guy.” Or a pansy-ass wimp, but he didn’t say that.
“You’re not broken, Eli. I’m sorry.”
Eli let out a sob. “I’m sorry too, baby.”
Eli wiped his tears, but it was pointless. He couldn’t stop. “I want to, but I can’t. I can’t deal with this while he’s still planning on having a game there. I need to stay away.”
“And what about Derek? What am I supposed to tell him when he finally asks where you are?”
Eli smacked his head on the counter. “I don’t know.”
“Don’t do this, Eli. Don’t leave me. Come—”
“I’m not leaving you, Sammy. I love you. I just need to stay away, just until I can get over this.”
Sam and Eli were silent on both ends. Finally, Eli decided to say one last thing. “I love you, Sam. If you want to see me, I’ll be at Marv’s.” He then hung up.
Eli sat there and cried after. Even though he told her he wasn’t leaving her, it sure as felt like he was.