Note/Trigger Warning: This story references child abuse/death.
The soft whistling sound and the sight of steam emerging from the stainless steel tea kettle was what captured Charmaine Wilson’s attention. Her barefeet softly padded against the wood floors, the legs of her plaid pajama bottoms whispered softly against the floor. She made her way to the stove and turned the silver knob, causing the small red light to disappear. Her fingers then curled around the handle of the kettle as she removed the appliance from the stove ring.
She moved quietly around the kitchen, working in the dim light provided by the small light fixture which was displayed above the sink. Her fingers curled around the porcelain Howard University mug as she moved the object to the marble surface of her counter. She placed a small Chamomile tea packet into the mug before pouring the boiling hot water into the small mug. Bubbles formed, steam rushed into the air. She put the kettle down onto the counter then simply leaned against the counter as she pulled the navy blue cardigan around her tank top and pajama bottoms combo a little more.
Maybe a nice hot cup of Chamomile tea would help her sleep tonight.
Sometimes the cases that she and her squad worked would get to her. She loved working in law enforcement. She had no doubt that it was her calling; that she was meant to be a driving force in this male dominated industry. She and her squad had a case closure rate that surpassed any other unit within the FBI, all because of how fiercely dedicated they all were to the job of bringing home endangered individuals. Charmaine was often praised for her ability to lead her squad; the way she always stood her ground, the way she took absolutely no nonsense, the way she would work until a case was solved.
But then there were cases like their latest one: a case that ended up being a recovery rather than a rescue mission. An innocent four year old child that had been so cruelly snatched from her own front yard, only to be transported across the state line and found dead in an abandoned house, nearly a hundred miles away from her home. Charmaine struggled with cases like these where an innocent child was involved. The thought of anything happening to a child was too much to bear, but she had managed to keep a rather stoic expression throughout the recovery portion. She had learned to keep it together during these tough cases. She had learned not to fall apart when conducting notifications. She had learned to not react in anger when interrogating the sickest criminals.
But it was when she returned home to DC that she allowed herself to just feel, and to fall apart. Since returning to her DC apartment, her mind had been flooded with images of the four year old girl: the bruises, the evidence of strangulation. Filth surrounded the child, and yet, she looked as though she was sleeping. She didn’t look scared. She just looked like she was sleeping.
Everytime Charmaine tried to close her eyes, the image of this child flooded her mind. If she allowed her mind to wander as she lay in the silence, she swore she could hear the screams of the heartbroken mother that flooded the air when they delivered the gut-wrenching news. If she stared into the darkness for too long, she swore she could see the sinister smirk of scumbag they’d arrested for this heinous crime.
And now all of that led to this moment: her standing in the small kitchen of her apartment, leaned against the kitchen counter, making a small cup of Chamomile tea.
She glanced at the glowing green digital clock on the stove: 3:52. Five minutes had passed; her tea was ready.
She removed the bag and tossed it into the trash, then proceeded to add a little honey and sugar to her tea. As she stirred the contents of her mug, the only sound to be heard was a soft clink sound as the silver spoon tapped the inside of the mug with each twirl. She was staring intently at the light grey marble tile of the wall, slowly losing herself in her thoughts once more until-
“Charm, what you doing, baby?”
Her thought bubble shattered as the deep voice filtered into her ears. She looked over her shoulder, only to find her boyfriend Thomas making his way towards her. Exhaustion was evident as he stepped closer, only clad in a pair of sweatpants that he often kept at her apartment. She knew he was just as tired as she was; after all, days of working a case left little room for them to sleep. However, he could sometimes handle cases better than she could. Sometimes he could push the images from his mind and just succumb to exhaustion, like he had done tonight.
Charmaine offered a small smile; “I’m making tea.”
“At four in the morning?”
“I haven’t slept,” Charmaine shrugged a little as she took the spoon out of her drink; “Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I drink some tea and cry a little, and then I’m good.”
Thomas hummed in understanding while nodding his head. He figured that this had affected Charmaine on a deep level. He didn’t miss the way she was so quiet on the plane, absently staring out the window with her brow furrowed. She was quiet during the ride back to her apartment, quiet as they settled in for the night.
Thomas stroked his fingers against her waist and pressed a tender kiss to the side of her head. “Do you want to talk about it?” he inquired.
“Not right now, baby; I just want to sit down and drink my tea.”
Thomas nodded his head. They made their way over to the stools of the kitchen island and sat beside each other. The silence wasn’t awkward but it wasn’t comfortable either. Charmaine was trying to relax and Thomas didn’t want to push her.
They were silent for a few moments then she spoke;
“I keep a box of Chamomile in the cabinet; bring it out after the bad cases, like this latest one.”
Thomas nodded as he looked at her; “Does it help?”
They fell into silence again. Her fingers were curled around the mug as she brought it to her lips for another sip. The drink was warm as it ran down her throat. She and Thomas didn’t really need to talk right now. Sometimes, they needed to just sit in silence.
So they did. They sat in silence. They silently processed how they were feeling. Thomas kept a comforting hand on her back while she sipped her tea. They both knew this case hadn’t turned out the way they had hoped, but they had gotten another monster off the streets and that was a win in somebody’s eyes.
Charmaine finished her tea before pushing the mug aside. She turned on the stool, her knee bumping against Thomas’s leg as she spoke; “Let’s try this sleeping thing again.”
Thomas chuckled a little, tilting his head as he gazed at her; “You sure?”
Charmaine gave a soft nod of the head. “Chamomile; it helps.”
Thomas simply smiled before standing up along with her. She put her mug in the sink and made sure all appliances and lights were switched off, then she and Thomas made their way back to her room. As he climbed into bed, she tossed her sweater aside before climbing into bed with him. His strong arms slipped around her slender frame, and she found herself resting her head on his chest.
It was nearly five in the morning now, and she was thankful that they had today off to rest.
She took a deep breath before closing her eyes. Maybe the chamomile tea would help. Maybe her thoughts would finally relax long enough so she could go to sleep.