We stopped and got ice cream cones, then sat on the steps of the Lincoln, observing people. Jordan’s eyes dashed around, taking in each person. He was rushing to finish his ice cream, snarfing it down in big bites while I licked mine, slowly as I dabbed at the melting drips on my fingers.
“Did you realize our lives were so intertwined?” I asked.
His eyes met mine. They glittered in the sunlight. The heat from the midday was muggy and my body was sticky from sweating. He moved a strand of hair stuck to my cheek and tucked it behind my ear.
“I knew you were from LA. You mentioned it on one of your stays in the hotel. I didn’t recognize you from the photo in the newspaper.” He took another bite of his ice cream and stared out onto the reflecting pool towards the Washington Monument.
“That photo haunted me for years. It was the last thing I painted for my show. Once I finished it, I was free.”
“When I saw it, I felt the same way. I found her teddy bear where the front door would’ve been. For a short time, I thought they escaped and were in a shelter waiting for me. I searched everywhere. I didn’t sleep until they pulled their bodies up. Emily never went anywhere without that bear.” I stopped talking. Maybe he didn’t want to hear about my family.
“What happened to the bear?” He asked.
I looked at him. His face was soft and searching mine for something. What was he looking for? Should I answer him? Would he think it’s silly?
“I buried it with them.” I looked down on the steps. I didn’t want to see his reaction. I had to bury my entire family in one fell swoop, but I remember the details of the bear the most. The man in charge of the burial didn’t flinch when I asked to have them, Daniel and Emily in one coffin. When I gave him the bear, he took it in his arms as if it was my child. He was so kind. I bought a family plot, and they were all buried there. The Jones-Wilson family burial plot. I’ve never visited it. I never will, it hurts too much. But the bear, I remember the most.
“I carried that thing with me everywhere for four days. I thought if they were at one of the shelters, Emily would be so happy to have her bear. The earthquake destroyed the house. Nothing was recoverable. Except the bodies.”
Jordan placed his hand on my knee. “I’m sorry, Katie.”
“Did you start the earthquake?” I asked. “There’s nothing to be done now. This is the first time I’ve ever talked about it. This weekend. Isn’t that strange? This whole time, we’ve experienced the earthquake in different ways and here we are on the steps of the Lincoln Monument. Our lives are intertwined, and we never realized it.”
I finished the rest of my ice cream and stared out at the reflecting pool. Could life be filled with so many coincidences? I’ve known Jordan for two years. This whole time, we were circling each other, flirting, building a friendship and, the whole time, our connection to the earthquake was hidden in that one painting.
“This weekend has been so…” I couldn’t find the words to express how I felt. I still couldn’t explain it. Thrust into Jordan’s world of friends and family was…
“Serendipitous?” He grinned.
“That seems like an appropriate word.”
It looked as if he would say more, but he stopped and brushed his lips on mine. He tasted sweet, like chocolate ice cream, comfort, happiness, and love. I didn’t pull away, my lips hovering for more. How many people made out on the steps of this memorial would anyone care about two thirty-year-olds groping each other?
“Let’s go see what Mr. Lincoln has to say about all of this.” I said. “I’m sure he has some wise words to share.” Perhaps Jordan was thinking the same thing. Like teenagers who couldn’t control themselves.
Jordan jumped up and gave me his hand. He didn’t release me as we walked up the steps. I’d never been to this memorial. There always seemed to be so many people here. I avoided it. Once we were inside, it didn’t matter how many people were visiting because the statue of Lincoln was so huge. You couldn’t miss seeing it, no matter where you stood.
“Lincoln was a skilled orator. He was so tall and when he spoke everyone listened. He would spend so much time on his arguments to ensure he had the perfect message,” I said.
“You studied him?” Jordan asked.
“He was a fellow lawyer. I study all the brilliant speakers. Gotta hone my skills. Dr. King is one of my heroes.” I looked up at Jordan, I didn’t want to be here, not in my last few hours of this day.
“You’re a hero too.”
“What? No.” I blurted.
“Says the humble lawyer,” Jordan said and squeezed my hand.
More people filed in, the space getting crowded. I pulled him over to the engraved speech on the left side of Lincoln. The echoes of voices created a loud murmuring, their whispers amplified like a concert of mismatched music. Our bodies bumped by others, pushing us together in the space. Jordan held me, his hand on my lower back, our bodies pressed together, my hand on his hard chest. We were jostled by a large man backing up to get a better look at Lincoln’s huge body. There were too many tourists here.
“Let’s go sit on the steps again,” I said. “It’s getting crowded in here.”
The sun blinded me, but down below a parade of at least three hundred demonstrators walked by, drums beating with Obi Stanton and my other clients on the Fullerton case waving to the crowd. Large rainbow signs with, “Kids need homes, Help our children…” and many others. Jordan pulled me into his embrace as we watched the parade wave to the assembled crowd on the steps. They were a colorful group, rainbow hats, shirts, flags, The vibe was happy, as if they realized something about the case I didn’t. No one noticed me up on the steps. I was glad. This was their joyful parade, their potential victory. I watched smiling children, parents wave as they made their way around the reflecting pool of the mall. I squeezed my arms around Jordan, his body warm as he rubbed my back. He was quiet, I helped this group in the courtroom but these loving parents did this, they moved a group of people to give love for their cause. I could sense it. The last of the parade, two men pulling a red wagon and on the back a sign, “Kids need love!”
“This is perfect, Katie. Just perfect,” Jordan whispered in my ear. “You’re going to win tomorrow.”