Monday, December 31, 2012

Always & Forever - Chapter Five (continued)

      Madison decided to find a way to keep herself busy.  She would do no one any good sitting and worrying herself sick.  She had to be more patient.  She had to be stronger.
She made her way to the kitchen and looked through the cabinets.  It would not take her long to have a grocery list ready.  The pantry wasn’t hiding even a single can of soup.
Lunch was unusually quiet.  Chase seemed removed.  He spoke up every now and again, but came off as being shy or withdrawn.  Madison did not investigate.  She figured he was thinking over all Sawyer had said.  Knowing Chase's imagination, he pictured some kind of elaborate scheme behind Skyler's arrest.
That, and Madison was not in a talkative mood.  She was on the verge of falling back into the dark mood that hung over her since Skyler's abduction.  She feared he would not let her help.  What if there was something more going on, and Skyler was risking himself to keep Morgan's attention away from her?
Their lunch could not have ended soon enough.  By the time Chase suggested they go, Madison nearly ran for the car.  She waited at the elevator thumping the button until he caught up with her while still struggling to get into his coat.
"Some one's excited," Chase said with a snicker.  "What's the matter, Madison?  Am I not keeping you company well enough?"
She laughed at herself more than his teasing.  He was actually making the situation tolerable.  His personality kept her grounded.
They were in his car and headed to meet up with Sawyer at the jail in no time.  They both remained all business.  Madison's mind ran in circles on what she should say to Skyler.  All the words she thought up felt odd.  Her aching heart told her to tell him of her love for him.  Nothing else measured up to it.  She dwelled on it so much that she didn't notice Chase lost in his own head.
They drew closer to the jail when Madison's nerves screamed for a distraction.  Her jaw cramped from how tightly she clinched her teeth.  She bit her lip and looked around.
"Oh, Chase.  I'm sorry I didn't ask earlier.  How's Tabatha?"
He nodded, and then shrugged.  "She's good.  She's still around.  I think this is an off week."
"Off week?"
"Yeah, her idea," Chase said with another shrug.  "We're both busy.  It gets old trying to keep up with each other and everything that's going on.  So we see one another for two weeks, and then take a week to ourselves.  I kind of lost track of where we are."
"Oh."  She gave a nod, not knowing how to take his reasoning.  But he didn't seem to mind the time apart.  It was a low maintenance relationship.
"Nah," he went on.  "It's cool.  She travels a lot and I'm working on my stories.  It's better this way.  I think it's taught us a lot about ourselves."
That was deep.  She was impressed.  Maybe it was just what they needed.  Absence made the heart grow fonder.
Thus, when they pulled into the parking garage for the jail, Madison's heart nearly climbed out of her chest.  She was so close to Skyler, she could feel him.  Minutes were all that separated them.
As she stepped out of the car, Sawyer, dressed in a gray suit with a black tie, climbed out of his white Suburban with a black leather briefcase in hand.  When he looked at Madison, he hurried his pace.
She didn't notice the cold until that moment.  She wore brown capri pants and a thick, pink blouse.  It was perfect for the winters in North Caicos, but not so much for Chicago.
Chase tossed her a sweater that was lying in the back seat of his car.  Madison smiled in appreciation and pulled it over her head.  The blue hoodie did not go with her outfit, but it was nice and heavy.
"I think I need to do a little shopping," she said with a chuckle as Sawyer caught up to them.
"Depends," Chase said.  He started toward the jail.  "I have plenty of sweaters you can use.  Last I remember, you didn't have a problem wearing Skyler's t-shirts for a few months.  What are a few weeks?"
"Yes," she answered.  She kept pace with him to catch his reaction.  "But then again, I wasn't going anywhere at the time.  I think I'll be a tad more fashionable if I'm going to be dealing with courts and lawyers."
He gave a nod of understanding.  "Suit yourself.  I'm just trying to help."
"You don't have to go to the store with me, Chase.  I won't drag you along on that mission."
His smirk told of his relief.  Fashion was not one of his hobbies.  If it fit, he wore it.  That was as far as his interest and patience went with fashion and the pursuit of it.
Sawyer jogged ahead of them and held the door.  He closed it as quickly as its weighted hinges would allow once they were inside.  There was a frown on his face as a gust of wind snuck past him and ruffled Madison's curls.  She resisted the urge to shiver knowing he was trying to block her from the winter air's assault.
"Follow me," Sawyer said as he stepped past them.  Madison and Chase flanked him as he started down a wide hall.
Posters decorated the matte walls.  Some were Wanted posters with scowling mug shots.  Others were victim support notices with pull of tabs and phone numbers.  There were even a few scenery posters, sunsets and ocean views.
Sawyer led them to an area in the hall with a sliding window that revealed an office space on the other side.  An officer in uniform sat at the window and slid it open to speak with Sawyer.  His brown eyes quickly glanced at Madison and Chase on either side of him.  "How can I help you?"
"We have a visitation appointment with Skyler Andrew."
"One moment."  The officer closed the window and turned away.  He typed on a keyboard and scanned several widows on the screen angled away from wandering eyes.
Feeling nervous once again, Madison shuffled her feet and spun the ring on her finger.  Playing with the ring always seemed to calm her, as if the ever-present reminder of the love they shared could wash away all her troubles.
The window slid open.  "Have a seat over there," the officer said as he pointed at the chairs on the opposite wall.  "You'll be called back in a moment."
"Thank you," Madison said to the officer before he could close the window.  He nodded, and then eased it shut.
Sawyer's arm came around her shoulders, and he led her to the sitting area.  "I don't want you to worry about anything, Madison.  If this visitation does not go as well as we wish, we still have time to try another way."
She looked up at him as she sat down.  "Do you think there will be a problem?"
He narrowed his eyes.  "There is always a chance of that.  But I'm just letting you know we still have choices.  Not many, but a few.  This is not our last hope."
"But it's our best?"  He nodded.  "Then it has to work.  Consider yourself Skyler's attorney as of this morning."
Sawyer gave a small smile.  He kept his place standing beside her.  Chase sat opposite of them.  His quiet calling earned her attention.
"Madison, would you let Skyler know I'm here if he needs anything?  I mean, I don't know what I could do for him, but I'm always up to trying."
She nodded.  "I'll tell him.  I think he'd like to hear that."
Chase gave a satisfied grin.  It did not stay long.  He soon lowered his gaze to the floor at his feet and was once again removed.
A loud buzz broke the silence around them.  Madison flinched at the noise.  A motorized door across the hall opened and an officer stepped out.  "Mr. Sawyer and Mrs. Andrew, come with me."
Madison was to her feet before he finished speaking.  Sawyer put his hand on her shoulder as if to steady her.  They followed after the officer.  His build was bulky, but a protective vest added to his size.
Another buzz came as the door closed itself.  A metallic clank sounded as it locked.  Madison was the only one to flinch yet again.
A set of metal detectors waited for them to pass through.  Sawyer emptied his pockets into a small plastic basket and sent it with his briefcase through a newer looking x-ray machine.
Madison walked through the detector as the officer motioned for her to do so.  The light in front of her blinked from yellow to green, and he waved her on.
Sawyer passed through next.  The officer patted him down, and then waved him on, ushering the blond man retrieved his briefcase and items from the basket.
When everyone was back together, the officer nodded at them.  "Follow me."
He led them down a long, windowless hall constructed of glossy white cinder blocks.  A crowded key ring hung from his belt a jingled with each step.  Brown specked, grey tiles stretched out before them.  Florescent bulbs hummed overhead.  A hint of bleach tainted the air.
After the hall took a turn, it opened up a little more as benches lined each side.  Though there was still a lack of windows, metal doors dotted the hall.  They each had a narrow pane of security glass that offered a reserved view of the small rooms on the other side.  They each looked to have a long, metal table and four wooden chairs.
Their officer stopped at the sixth door on the right, opened it, and ushered them inside.  "Have a seat here," he said as he pulled out the chair closest to the door.  Madison did as she was told.  Sawyer took the one beside her.
Madison tried to keep her eyes from wandering.  The room was cold and bland.  A pulsing red light in the corner of the room caught her attention.  It was a camera.
She lowered her stare to the tabletop in front of her.  It looked smooth at first, but the longer she studied it, more scratches and gouges began to show.
"Don't worry about anything," Sawyer said as he leaned toward her.  "Today is just getting to know each other.  No pressure."
Madison nodded.  She drew a deep breath to calm her nerves and collect her thoughts.  She still did not know what to say to Skyler.  Though they were only apart for two days, it felt like ages.
She kept her eyes on her hands, and spun the ring on her finger, watching as the sapphire shimmered in the light.  Its simple beauty helped her find a genuine smile.
Footsteps sounded from the hall.  It was at least two people, if not three.  A metallic clank rang in rhythm with the steps before slowing as they neared.
Hushed voices replaced the footfalls.  Two men spoke quietly just outside the door.  The officer in the corner straightened his posture with his eyes intent on the doorway.
Neither of the voices sounded familiar to Madison.  She continued to stare at the ring on her finger, staying that way even as Sawyer's hand come with a firm grip on her shoulder.
Those waiting outside the room finally came in.  An older man with slicked back, brown hair and a black suit came in first.  He carried a large briefcase, walked around the table, and seated himself across from Sawyer.
The metallic clanking started again.  It was chains.  Madison peeked over her shoulder and saw Skyler being brought into the room by another officer.  He wore a bland uniform of pale brown.  His hands and ankles were cuffed, chains running from each until they met at a thick belt around his waist.
The officer led him to the chair across from Madison, which he took without meeting her eyes.  He stared down at the scarred table top between them.  He looked miserable, but well enough.  It felt as if her heart would take flight with the joy of seeing him.
The two officers spoke amongst themselves, and then one stepped out of the room and closed the door.  The sound of it locking told Madison their visit had officially begun.
She reached across the table, hoping for Skyler to do the same.  He kept his eyes down and remained unmoving.  His brows were tight as if he was nervous or angry.  It was not a look he often had.  He let very little wear on him enough to show on his face.
"I am honored to meet you," the lawyer in the black suit said as he offered Madison his hand.
Madison looked to the officer in the corner.  "Are those necessary?" she asked as she pointed at her husband’s wrists.
The officer studied her, and then turned his gaze to Skyler.  After seeming to debate it in his head, he stepped towards the table and took up his weighty key ring.  "Let's have 'em."
Skyler slowly lifted the cuffs as the officer said.  They were off with a single turn of a key.  Skyler did not move as the officer then fastened them to a loop at the side of the table.
"Thank you," she said with a smile.  The officer nodded, and stepped back into the corner.
"As I was saying," the black suit started again.  "I am Mr. Andrew's attorney, Raymond Jones."
Madison glanced his way.  "Yes, Mr. Jones, I know who you are.  I want to thank you for any help you have managed to provide for my husband, but from here on out," she nodded to Sawyer, "Mr. Sawyer will be representing Skyler."
Mr. Jones leaned across the table.  "Now, hold on …"
"Madison."  Skyler's voice was soft, but the suit beside him settled as soon as he spoke.  The tone he used was not one anyone would want to interrupt.  "What are you doing?"
She placed her hands in front of her on the table, still hoping he would reach for her.  He did not move.  "I'm here to help, Skyler.  Sawyer can help us through this."
"Why are you here?"
A frown threatened to form at his asking.  She thought her reasoning was obvious.  "Because you disappeared, Skyler.  I was worried.  I need to bring you back home."
He shook his head and his blue eyes finally found hers.  "You need to go home.  You can't be here.  You shouldn't have come in the first place."
The frown won out.  Madison searched his eyes for an alternative feeling rather than what his cold words were giving her.  She was looking for a little happiness.  Where was the love that shined in his eyes?  She was only met by his disappointment.
"Skyler," she started, "you don't have to let them lock you away like this.  We have options.  Sawyer is ready to represent you at your next hearing.  He can make this a lot easier."
"Excuse me," Mr. Jones spoke up, "but you cannot just come in here and replace me.  I work for Mr. Andrew, not you."
"You're state appointed, right?"
"Yes, ma'am.  I've been appointed to represent my client."
"When were you appointed?"
"Excuse me?"
"When were you first given the job of representing this client?"
He peered at her, then at Skyler.  "I received word six days ago."
"So you knew about this before he did.  And you didn't meet him until he was abducted from our home, dragged back here and into court.  Am I wrong?"
"Well, Mrs. Andrew, it is not that simple …"
"No, it's not," she agreed.  "But it can be.  You're fired.  Mr. Sawyer will take over from here."
"You cannot do that," Jones raised his voice.
Skyler turned to him, his brows knitted in disapproval.  "Yes she can," he raised his voice over Jones'.
"But, Mr. Andrew …"
"You're done here," Skyler said in a more controlled tone.  "Thank you for everything you've done, but I'm going to trust my wife's judgment on this."
"But, sir …"
"You're relieved."  Skyler matched his scowl.  "Leave the files with Sawyer, and go."
Mr. Jones leapt to his feet.  "Mr. Andrew, you need to reconsider this decision."
He nodded.  "The files."
"If you are letting me go, I am taking all my files with me."
Skyler's eyes narrowed.  Sawyer spoke up before he could correct the man.  "I have most everything we need, Mr. Andrew.  And I can get copies of his files within the hour if you like."
"Now, hold on a second," Mr. Jones pointed his finger at Sawyer.
Skyler raised his voice once again.  "You're fired, Jones.  We're done.  You need to go, now."
Mr. Jones puffed out an aggravated snort.  He met Skyler's stare for a few breaths, then snatched up his briefcase.  "This is most unwise, Mr. Andrew.  You are making a huge mistake."
Skyler did not offer a reply to the flustered suit as he marched to the door and banged his fist on the narrow window.  The officer outside the room opened the door.  Mr. Jones took one last look at Skyler, his brown eyes full of anger, and left.
Madison closed her eyes and let out a sigh of relief when the door closed and its lock sounded.  When she opened them again and looked to Skyler, his scowl was now aimed at her.
"Skyler, let me …"
"Go home, Madison."
"But, I …"
"You can't be here."
"Skyler …"
"Madi!"
She cringed.  He only used that tone and called her by that name when he was exceedingly irritated.  She had no choice but to yield and stop trying to explain herself.
She watched him as he took several calm breaths.  When he spoke again, it was much more kind than his earlier tone.  "I appreciate that you came, Madison.  I know you were worried, and I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to tell you otherwise.  But this is not something you need to get involved with.  Go back home.  Go today if possible."
"You're asking me to leave without you?"
He shook his head once as his eyes softened.  "I'm telling you to."
She could not believe what he was saying.  He was turning her away.  He was choosing to go it alone and leave her behind.  "I need you to come home, Skyler."
"I can't," he said in a whisper.  "It doesn't work like that."
"But you didn't do everything they say you did."
"I know, but I did some of it.  I have to answer for my part.  If I don't, who's to say the others won't pay for what they did?"
"But I thought Detective Payne could have you exonerated.  You helped him build a case against Morgan."
Skyler nodded gently and let out a sigh.  "He can only do so much.  I can't depend on him.  I have to settle this myself."
"And what about me?  Did you think of that?  It's not just that I want you to come home, I need you to, Skyler."
"That's enough, Madison.  They're trying to build a case against you here.  You need to go home before they get anything.  I can't concentrate on this if you're arrested too."
She reached for him again, and he took her hands in his.  "Please, Skyler … It doesn't have to be like this …"
"Go home, Madison.  Go home and take care of yourself.  I know you can do it.  I'll come home as soon as I can, but you have to do this for me."
Tears welled in her eyes.  Shaking her head with a frown, she refused to let them fall.  She wanted to argue his point.  She wanted to tell him he was wrong.  He was needed at home now more than ever.  She could not give up that easily.
Skyler got up and stood beside the table.  "Come here," he said in a warm tone.  He tugged at her hands when she was slow to respond.
Following his guiding, Madison stood and went to him.  He wrapped her in a soft embrace, pressing his cheek against hers.  "We tried, Madison," he whispered in her ear.  "We couldn't hide forever.  And this is not over," he said as he tightened his hold on her.  "This is only an interruption.  I'll be home as soon as I can.  And you will be just fine.  You've done it before.  You can do it again.  I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but it is doable.  Then it will be just us again.  Just you and me."
With her arms fast around him, she dug her fingers into the fabric of his shirt.  She couldn't believe what he was asking her to do.  How could he just walk away?  Why didn't he fight?  Maybe she asked more of him than he was willing to give.
Madison summoned what little voice she could find.  "I love you," she muttered.  His hand fisted in her curls as she kissed his neck.
She felt him shift in her arms.  He held her closer, snug against his chest.  She could feel his breath.  His heart raced beneath her fingers and mirrored the pulsing she felt against her cheek.  He didn't want this anymore than she did.
"Skyler, please."
He shushed her and stroked her back.  "I'm sorry, Madison.  This is bigger than us."
Easing back, Skyler took her face in his hands.  She met his eyes.  The love she questioned shown brightly.  A tear escaped at the shame of doubting him.
He caught it with his thumb and wiped it away.  A weak smile formed on his lips.  "I love you," he said as he leaned his forehead against hers.  "But you have to do this.  I need you to go home."
She tried to shake her head.  His strong hands didn't give her much room.  "I can't."
His eyes bore into hers.  "Yes you can, and you will.  You're going to be fine," he said.  "Go home, Madison."
It took all her concentration not to cry.  Madison bowed her head and closed her eyes.  She didn't want him to see her that way.
Skyler pulled her to him once again.  She moved to bury her face in his chest, but he caught his finger under her chin, and lifted her face to his.  He leaned in and tenderly kissed her.  She hugged his neck, wanting to curl up against him to stay.
When he shifted back, she finally met his gaze.  She was determined not to let another tear fall.  She studied his blue eyes and searched for a way to convince him to fight the charges laid against him.
He took another step back, still holding her hands within his.  "I love you," he said in an almost playful tone.  It reminded her of the comfort they once gave one another.
Forcing a smile, Madison squeezed his fingers.  "Forever."
Skyler looked to the officer in the corner.  "Would you show her the way out?"  The officer nodded.
Madison peered at Skyler.  Would he turn her away just like that?  He would not let her sit with him awhile longer?
The officer gently took her arm to guide her to the door.  She hesitated in going with him, not ready to leave Skyler.
But her husband let go of her hand.  He nodded in appreciation to the officer and backed away from them both.
Fear gripped Madison's heart.  She wanted to cry out and let her desperation show, but the look in Skyler's eyes stopped her.  The warmth that called her to him had been replaced by a cold persona.
Before she was led to the door, the officer outside opened it.  She looked at Skyler one last time as she was ushered into the hall.  He lowered his gaze and took his seat at the table.
The hall to the main lobby did not seem as long when she first passed through.  She kept pace with the officer after he let go of her arm.  She stared at her feet, seeing goose bumps on her legs but not feeling the chill.  Had she been there for a different reason and not having her husband taken away from her, she would have envied the officer's heavy, blue uniform.
She heard the obnoxious buzz that signaled the motorized door.  Raising her eyes, she could see the sitting area on the other side of the door.  Chase jumped to his feet and stared at her as she closed the distance between them.
Before she could step into the sitting area, the officer beside her spoke.  His voice was low and sympathetic.  "I see this all the time, ma'am.  It happens more often than you know.  My advice to you is to move on with your life.  Don't waste it waiting around for him."
Madison looked to him.  She nodded in understanding though he couldn't have been more wrong.  Skyler was not like the rest of the crooks he dealt with.  He couldn't be.
She moved clear of the door.  The officer waved to the technician operating it, the buzz sounded again, and the door closed with a rattle.  She watched as the officer turned and went his way down the hall.
Her mind brewed on what chances she would have to get another visit with Skyler.  Would he refuse her now that he knew she was here?  Or would he let her stand by his side throughout the entire ordeal as she wanted?
"Let's go."
Chase's voice startled her.  A part of her knew he was standing behind her, but it did not register until he spoke.  She looked to him.  He offered his arm and an empathetic smile.
He did not say another word as they left the building, crossed over to the frigid parking garage, and got into his car.  Chase started it up and turned on the heated seats right away.  He then shrugged out of his coat and draped it over Madison's knees.
"Thank you," she said quietly.
"Where to now?"
"I don't feel like going anywhere.  Can we just go back to the apartment?"
Chase raised a brow.  "What about that shopping list?"
"I left it on the counter.  I'll get it later."
He reached in his pocket.  "You mean," he pulled out a folded piece of paper, "this shopping list?"
She stared blankly at the paper he held out for her to take.  "You picked it up?"
"I figured you'd want to do something after this.  No use going and pouting in a corner."
She glared at him without meaning to.  "I don't want to go to the store right now."
"Then you can sit in the car."  He gave a smirk as if daring her to counter him.

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