The scene at the airport as Jared rushed to a waiting Suburban was something out of a Michael Jackson biopic. Pure insanity. Hoards of people running. Screaming. Pushing. Shoving. Shutters fluttering. Flashbulbs blinding. Microphones at his mouth. Shoulder-mounted cameras in his face. Intrusive questioning in both ears.
Shouting. Chaos. Death by flash.
Jared tried his best to ignore the calamity he found himself within. He put his phone to his ear pretending to speak to someone far more important that any member of this crowd. If it were a real call, he wouldn’t be able to hear a thing. Pure chaos. He was thankful for his props: sunglasses and a black fedora. He could hide beneath them for the short walk to the waiting car. He kept character.
Look distracted. Disinterested. Unpreturbed.
Behind a tinted window Jared exhaled then said hello to his driver.
“Wow man.” the driver sighed as he tried to pull away from the crowd and in to oncoming traffic. A swarm of bodies surrounded the car as they crept forward. It was tempting to run them over. Subhumans. Eventually the throng gave way to the giant automobile.
Jared just looked at the floor. He wasn’t sure how tinted the windows were and he wasn’t about to give another free photo-op so he kept the hat and sunglasses on inside the car. And said nothing more.
He rang up Felicity and the driver, without prompting, respectfully put up the partition glass between he and Jared. He knew the headlines just like the rest of America and didn’t feel right about listening in on the private conversation of a family in crisis. Jared made a mental note to tip big.
“I’ve landed.” Jared said when Felicity came on the line.
“Oh thank god.” she sighed. “How bad was it?”
Jared sighed. They’ll be doing a lot of that in the coming weeks.
Jared explained to Felicity the extent of the madness. How the paps and legit news outlets were falling all over themselves for a soundbite and a loose lip. Lobbing questions at him that no one in their right mind would ever answer about their children. Enraging comments from lookie-loos. Judgements and castigations.
No stranger to swarms of people, he was quick to describe the difference in the two. This felt like bloodletting not a homecoming. The energy the polar opposite of what he is used to. Pande-fucking-monium.
Felicity sighed down the phone line.
“Is there anything I have to know right now…like right now? Or can the rest wait until I’m there with you?” Jared asked.
“The bond is 2.5 million.”
Felicity apologized for everything, not that she was guilty of anything, but that she was legitimately sorry for the pain he was coming home to and Jared promised it would be ok, that he loved her dearly (the girls too) and he’d be home soon and when he got there, they’d talk more.
“I love you.” Felicity said one more time before hanging up.
“I love you too.”
Outside the gates that ran along the front of their property and protected their handsome home stood the second string. Reporters at rest but there none-the-less. She glanced at the security camera feeds up on the television screen in the kitchen. He’d be in the mix again in less than an hour. She felt overwhelming sadness envelop her as she thought about Jared’s homecoming. She wondered if there were anything she could do or say that would make him happy to be home. Anything at all. Not likely. Who the hell wants to leave the open sea for a cloudy fishbowl? Nobody. And now, here again, under the worst of circumstances, she expected (needed) him to do just that. He had to come back to port. Felicity still couldn’t understand how he dealt with paparazzi under the best of circumstances. It must be such a mind-fuck. And here he is …
Instead of putting on lipstick, filing a vase with fresh flowers or fixing his favorite meal, Felicity started the coffee maker and set out to organize everything that was known thus far about the fire. Jared wouldn’t want comfort when he walked through their front door, he’d want data. This would be his welcome home. Data.
She took a few moments gathering scraps of paper from all over the house, scraps that held the notes she made during the multitude of phone calls she received from law enforcement and her lawyers over the last 24 hours and sat down at her desk and scribbled out a timeline. She wanted to put some sort of framework to what is known and prepare themselves, the family, for the unknown. She wanted the holes in the story to leap off the page. She knew there’d be holes. There’d be a lot of them.
Jared will, undoubtedly, have a thousand questions for Felicity about what has been happening in meetings and on the phone and she wants to be able to answer everything with as much fact and detail as he requires. If she can regurgitate what he wants to know timely and succinctly, that will please him. And she wants to do right by him the best she can, of course. Facts, not feelings, are what he’ll be most interested in. Of course he cares about the rest, they just don’t have time to dwell on that. There’s no time for wallowing. It’s time for strategy and to sketch battle plans if they are going to war.
Felicity rereads the paperwork. On a fresh legal pad she scribbles out new notes. Through conversations with investigators and the lawyers for the girls, she has a pretty good idea of what they think happened December 19th. On a second page Felicity cross-references the girls’ calendar the day of the fire. Appearances. School. Work. She goes back weeks – leaving very few gaps in the timeline. But there are gaps. Gaping ones. She sighs. There’s much work to be done on the timeline. Too much time still to be accounted for.
Felicity puts that aside and gathers names and contact information on another paper. She organizes the paperwork from the arraignments and the requirement for bonds. She punches three holes in the retainer agreement and xerox copy of the canceled check and countless other documents and slides them in to the binder rings for safe keeping. Some semblance of organization emerges as she sorts through her notes, re-recording whats important on a new sheet of paper. Thinning out. Straightening up. Highlighting what they know and what’s still a mystery.
Much of it is still a mystery.
Less than an hour later, Felicity hears the groan of the front gate and a car pull in front of the house. She peeks out the window of her study and sees Jared helping his driver remove his bags from the trunk. Two suitcases and a laundry bag. She steps away from the window and sweeps the paperwork she hasn’t reviewed back into a file folder.
It’s thick, she thought, and we have only just begun.
“Where are you??” Jared called up the stairs a few minutes later.
“In here!” Felicity shouted back before scooting to meet him halfway in the hallway. They embraced and Jared peppered her lips with small kisses.
“I’m so glad you’re home.” Felicity says.
“I’ve missed you.”
They backed out of their hug but Jared held on to her hand and gazed around the upstairs landing like a lost puppy. What to do first? Well, what to do next? He didn’t want to stop touching Felicity. He missed her touch, like crazy.
“I need to clean up.” he confessed. Felicity smiled. He looked quite handsome and fresh to her. She couldn’t believe how much better she felt just having him in the same room. They walked together towards the master bedroom chatting about nothing.
How was the drive over?
You get anything to eat?
No. Not yet.
You hungry? I could make you something.
No. Not really. Thanks though…
Are you ready to talk about what happened?
Then: I missed you.
Jared invited Felicity to join him in the shower. And of course, she did. They got reacquainted like lovers must do after being apart for so long. They washed away their loneliness and bonded in a physical and mental sense beneath the warm water. This was long overdue and much needed. More important than anything that awaited them in the study or down at the jail.
After the shower they dressed in casual clothes and Felicity brought the lawyer’s file in to Jared’s study where they dissected every word Felicity has heard in the last 48 hours and every line of written word from the lawyer as well. Dissected and digested until Jared said:
Jesus Christ Felicity, it sounds like they actually did it.
Felicity’s stomach churned and she couldn’t believe her own mouth when the words tumbled out:
I think you’re right.