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The Sinner's City

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Silence blanketed Jack’s apartment, but gunshots still rang out in her mind. She huddled under a fuzzy blanket, a mug of tea in her hand, but something in her felt cold. It bit at her core, and she shivered, unable to warm up. After the flashing lights had faded, Jack had stumbled back to her apartment in a daze. She had turned the shower on scalding hot, but the shivering didn’t stop. Now, she sat with the lights off, listening to her phone ring over and over and over. The tinny ringtone that Jack never bothered to change echoed, but Jack couldn’t find the will to turn it off.

 

Ding dong.

 

The doorbell rang, but Jack didn’t move.

 

Ding ding ding dong dingdingdingdingdingdingding dong. It called shrilly. Jack sighed and pulled herself up, shuffling over to the doorway. A wave of sleepiness washed over her, and she inched the door open.

 

 

 

“Rachel?” Jack asked, too numb to respond. Before Jack could respond, Rachel pulled her into a hug. Instinctively, Jack struggled, thrashing out of Rachel’s grip. She stood there for a second, panting, heart racing.

“Jack?” Rachel asked, and Jack saw the concern on Rachel’s face, and Jack’s face flushed with embarrassment.

“Uh, sorry,” Jack said, her face burning, “Do you want to come in?” Jack walked inside, flicking on the lights.

“It’s sweltering in here,” Rachel observed.

“Yeah, I was cold,” Jack said lamely.

“Jack, it’s eighty one degrees outside.” Jack shrugged. She pulled her blanket tighter around herself while Rachel put something down on the kitchen counter. Jack dimly realized how dark it was in the living room. All the shades were pulled down while light spilled in from the front hallway. Rachel flicked on the lights, and Jack hissed, shielding her eyes.

“I brought cookies. Do you want some?” Rachel asked. Jack shook her head.

“I already ate,” Jack lied. Her stomach felt like a pit of rocks, but the very idea of food felt repulsive.

“I’ve never seen you refuse cookies, Jack. Are you okay?” Rachel asked. Jack opened her mouth to lie, to say she was okay, but the words couldn’t come out. Jack slumped onto the couch. Rachel walked over and sat next to her.

“Do you feel comfortable talking about it?” Rachel asked, and Jack gestured to the TV remote. Rachel turned the TV on.

“Eight Hostages Dead in Terrorist Attack,” The TV proclaimed, and there was footage of Jack on the roof with the man holding her hostage.

“If I fall, he falls with me!” He shouted all over again, and Jack felt it like a blow to the stomach. “Right after we left,” Jack swallowed, “they killed the other hostages. If I hadn’t left…” Jack trailed off, tears building in her eyes.

“They would have been alive,” Rachel finished. Jack nodded, leaning into Rachel. They stayed like that for a long time, so long that Jack lost track of time.

 

Having Rachel didn’t make the world better, but she was so, so warm.