Saturday, November 25, 2017

The First Day Back

November 27, 2017,
07:56 local time,
Lloydminster Watchmen Cohort Headquarters,
Lloydminster, Roman Columbia

I hope I’m making the right choice.

Ryan Tolliver, the Prefect of the Lloydminster Watch, stopped pensively in his tracks as he reached the door. He had been on leave for three months in order to grieve for his wife, murdered by a serial killer in late August. He heard news from his subordinates that the killer, Gillian Graymore, a “superhero” who called herself “The Flowerer”, had been apprehended, bringing Tolliver a small sense of closure.

It gave him the strength to decide to go back to work, since with his wife’s murder resolved he thought he’d be able to move on and continue with his life.

Yet, as he got closer and closer to the door, he wondered if he really could. After all, just because her killer was caught it didn’t mean she’d suddenly come back to life. He had memories, sure, of their happier moments, and he treasured every last one of them…but, deep down inside, he knew he would have no more happy memories, because Marie Tolliver would not come back to him in order to have them.

He also wondered, too, if his Cohort would really welcome him back. He wasn’t the nicest person to any of them, and rarely did he ever socialize with them. He had his lunches and dinners in his office, always with the door locked, just so no one could bother him.

Truthfully, the only person whose presence he truly appreciated was his wife, because Marie gave him an affection and a fondness he thought his subordinates lacked. Marie was also the only one he felt he could really talk to, the only person smart enough to keep up in conversation with him.

Not to say that he didn’t love his watchmen and watchwomen- he loved every last one of them- but they were “kids” to him, not people he could count on as his friends.

He even thought that of his two deputies, Primus Pilus Bridgit Penny and Pilus Prior Tristan Logan, even though he was quite friendly with both of them. Tolliver felt keeping a distance from both of them was necessary, owing to his rank as their superior.

So he breathed heavily and sighed as soon as he reached the moment of truth. Will it be worth going back? Is this life worth living, knowing my wife is no longer a part of it? Will my watchmen take me back, considering I haven’t always been the best with them?

He began to think about turning around before a thought caused him to re-consider.

No, Ryan, he thought, Marie wouldn’t want you to give up. She would want you to soldier on. She always told me my officers had my back, and that they respected me more than I think they do. Besides, what kind of a leader am I if I just gave up on them? They worked hard to catch The Flowerer…I owe it to them to come back.

He took in a deep sigh and grabbed the doorknob. He turned it slowly before putting in the strength to open the door completely, far and wide, opening the door to his building for the first time.

“Hey Ryan,” said Gregalis Patrick Peterman, who manned the security gate along with his partner, Gregalis Cindy Dixon.
“Hey Patty, hey Cindy,” said Tolliver, flashing a restrained smile as he went through the routine of going through the scan. “How’s it going?”
“We’re going to have our third kid,” said Peterman, smiling. “I’m pretty excited.”
“We just got a dog,” said Dixon. “A pit bull puppy…cutest thing you’ll ever meet. My husband picked him out.”
“That’s good,” said Tolliver, having finished entering the gate.

Dixon smiled, sensing Tolliver’s apprehension at discussing her marital bliss.

“Listen,” she said, approaching Tolliver, off-put only because Dixon never addressed him before. “I’m not going to pretend like I know what you’re going through or that you’re feeling very good about yourself right now. The only thing I can say is that when I heard about Marie, I thought about Steve and what I’d do if I ever lost him.”
“Is that why you got a pit bull?” said Tolliver, “so you could have some protection? Wished a pit bull could have helped me.”
“No,” said Dixon. “I got Farley because he reminded me of you.”

Tolliver was taken aback.

“I don’t know if I should be insulted or honoured that you think of me as a pit bull,” said Tolliver.

“You should feel honoured,” said Dixon with a warm smile. “Because Farley will fight for me just like you fought for me and Patrick.”

Tolliver gave both a look, but neither flinched.

“Remember our first day, back when we all worked in Revelstroke?” said Dixon.
“Yeah,” said Tolliver, “before most of us moved here because the Romans took Alberta and thus changed our borders. Yeah, I remember it well.”
“Remember there was this woman visiting from Ireland who was certain that asking her to go through the gate was ‘oppression’?” said Dixon.
“Tabitha O’Hara,” said Tolliver, “a 19-year-old drunk who came in here screaming for her ‘boyfriend’. Yeah, I remember her.”
“Remember when she ran through the gates and I had to tackle her?” said Peterman.
“…and then she tried to get out of it by claiming Peterman groped her?” said Dixon.
“She tried to sue both of you by claiming you had violated her human rights,” said Tolliver. “I remember it very well.”

“Well,” said Dixon, putting her hand on Tolliver’s arm, which startled but didn’t upset the Prefect. “You stood behind both of us every step of the way. Other jurisdictions would have fired us, but not you…you knew in your heart that we were just doing our jobs, and you knew, despite all the pushback you got, that the truth prevailed…and it did.”
“…and we have you to thank for that,” said Peterman, “because without you, neither of us would be here.”
“So, thank you,” said Dixon. “From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. I know we never said it to you before, but we were worried you’d never come back, that you’d feel that maybe none of us in the Camp would appreciate all the things you do for us.”
“…and believe us,” said Peterman, “this entire Camp appreciates you more than you know.”
“So we at least wanted to let you know,” said Dixon, “because there’s no other Prefect we’d work for. Ever.”
“I know you lost a big part of your family,” said Peterman, “but know you have one here.”

Tolliver became overwhelmed by his emotions, with tears welling up his eyes. He embraced Dixon and Peterman both heartily, the first time he’d ever done so, with both offering their condolences to him. Those few moments where he cried on their shoulders relieved much of his tension and allowed him to carry on through the day.

He was even more floored as he passed through the building, as everyone stopped him to offer him their best. They cared for him, they really did, and only now did Tolliver realize that.

By the time he got to the bullpen area and saw a huge “Welcome Back Ryan!” banner hanging from the ceiling, with every officer waiting for him to show up, Tolliver could hardly contain himself.

“Guys, guys, guys,” he said, doing his best not to cry but there was nothing he could do. “My gosh…there’s just…there’s just no words. The amount of love you guys have for me…oh man…I’m so sorry I never realized it before.”
“Hey,” said Logan, a tall, muscular bald man of a dark complexion. “It’s okay. We knew you’d see it eventually. I’m sorry about Marie…she may have been your wife, but she was like a sister to me. She was great to talk to…I’m going to miss her as much as you will.”

Logan gave Tolliver a hug before giving way to Penny, who then gave Tolliver a hug herself and offering her own condolences.

“Tristan, Bridgit,” said Tolliver, smiling at both of his charges. “I’m proud of both you. You both did a great job catching Graymore. I couldn’t be more grateful to have both of you on my team.”
“The pleasure’s ours, sir,” said Penny, rubbing Tolliver’s arm. “We did it because it’s our jobs, and because we owe that to you.”
“You guys don’t owe anything to me,” said Tolliver. “Just your service, of which I can always count on.”
“We got you something,” said Logan, “left it in your office.”
“Oh come on,” said Tolliver with a happy chuckle. “Bring it back…you guys didn’t have to get me anything.”
“Oh no,” said Penny, “you don’t get to bring it back. In fact, I doubt you want to bring this back.”

Tolliver was speechless as soon as he saw the gift, a framed, pastel portrait of his wife hanging on his back wall, her smile as bright as ever.

“It’s beautiful,” said Tolliver with a wondrous whisper. “Almost as beautiful as Marie was.”
“We got it for you to let you know that she’ll always be there for you,” said Penny, “and she’ll always look out for you no matter what. She may not be of this Earth anymore but she will always be with you, and she will always care for you, no matter what.”

“Oh man,” said Tolliver, giving both a hearty, tearful embrace, “thanks so much. There are no words I can say to express how thankful I am for both of you.”

“Ryan,” said Logan, “you don’t need any words. You just gotta keep being you.”