"Okay, everybody, we go live in three... two... one..."
I do a quick, final finger-comb through my dark hair, shuffle my papers neatly, and stretch my lips into a bright, television-worthy grin as the light behind the cameraman flicks from red to green.
There's my cue.
"Welcome to channel FPN. I'm Jo Carr and this is your six o'clock news." These mere two lines are incredibly well-rehearsed, I've said them so many times that it rolls off my tongue in the same way the words 'hey, what's up?' does for others.
It's a blessing in front of the camera, a sort of curse with my friends.
"We received breaking news earlier today: the dead body of Emilio Dixon has been found." My smile drops as my own lips form the words screened on the teleprompter.
The dead body of Emilio Dixon.
"He was only twenty-five." Born in 1989. "And a rising architect." His dream job since he was only eleven. "He was found on thirty-first street, dead with frozen blood pooled around his body and a large gaping wound on his stomach." My stomach twists at the gory mental image and my heart squeezes tightly, as if the invisible rope of horror had suddenly constricted it.
It suddenly seems a lot harder to breathe.
A bet with Renee Strickland, the channel's top field reporter, is what prevented me from reading my pre-written script beforehand. I'm actually winging it, just continually discreetly reading the teleprompter. Usually, I would know all of this already but I made this bet with her exactly a week ago.
Now, I wish I hadn't.
I'm not one to risk my job for frivolous reasons. I'm broadcasted live daily on national television, I don't have any room nor the need to screw up, but Renee was bragging how she could improvise any field report and be a hundred percent professional and how we anchors aren't nearly as good.
If that doesn't piss off any anchor across the state, I'm the imperial queen of Russia.
And she said it behind my back to boot. Well, she would've if I hadn't caught her; which was how the bet had taken place.
She bet I couldn't go one newscast without rehearsing, I bet that she couldn't memorize an entire news spiel. Of all days I had to choose to not pre-read the story, it had to be today.
The day of Emilio's murder.
"He was estimated to have been murdered at about one p.m., though was found at about one-thirty-three p.m. Detectives are currently searching for clues and the area has been cut off until further notice. Meanwhile, the Dixon family has been taken into questioning - " His older sister, Ada, and his younger brother, Blake. " - along with his fiancée, Terry Hawthorne, and the workers and owners of nearby shops." I try my best to keep my voice steady, my eyes on the camera, my body still.
Indifference is an art-form that newscasters have mastered. You have to unless you want to break down crying due to some traumatic news story.
I feel like screaming.
"Emilio was reportedly last spotted to have been going out of a nearby grocery, armed with bags of food which have been found the trunk of his car." The last time I had seen him, he was laughing at the high school grad after-party with a red plastic cup in his hand.
I don't want to say this. I don't even want to hear it.
I have to do both.
"Specialists have confirmed it was a knife, akin to a butcher's knife, that had stabbed him. It has yet to be found."
Emilio Dixon was in my preschool, elementary, middle and high school. I had known him forever yet not really known him at the same time.
We were acquaintances, even after over a decade of education together. He never really talked to me, not that I cared because I never really talked to him either. At first, it was the classic pre-puberty Girls vs. Guys, 'guys are so gross' thing. Throughout the years, the sex against sex rivalry fizzled out yet we still did not interact as much as one might have thought.
Emilio had always been a star athlete; runner, soccer player, baseball player, basketball player and hockey player. I preferred the quieter, artistic kids - the writers, painters, musicians, drama students, even. Emilio had always been friendly, though, and he had also hung out a bit with the sketchers.
He'd drawn shadowed skyscrapers and firm buildings, math scrawled vertically and horizontally on the side, as opposed to rolling valleys and human and animal anatomy. I had been extremely impressed, it's not an everyday occurrence in which someone can mathematically calculate and draw realistic 3D buildings so clearly, but not interested enough to really get a good look. To get to know the artist behind the pictures.
I wish I had.
We walked home together, our houses only about two blocks away from each other. We didn't chat too often with the few occasional questions of 'what homework is there?' and 'do you know what's due tomorrow?' to sometimes fill in the silence. He bid me goodbye as he reached his house and I continued to plod onwards.
For some reason, I always said goodbye back.
"The details, though few, are still prominent. Perhaps a bit more on that and even more news coverage...after the break."
The light turns red and I stand up abruptly, pushing my chair back for the commercial break.
My hands are freaking shaking. I inhale sharply, hurrying past everyone to reach my private room.
I feel the most secure here. Usually.
Because who would have thought that eight years later friendly, creative, athletic Emilio, my former classmate, would be dead? He's dead, he was murdered...and I'm reporting it.
Sure, it's a bit of a sticky business, being a newscaster; from breaking bad news to good news. It's never been news that truly affected me, it's never been about the people I had known, or once known, until now.
Emilio was dead. Emilio was murdered. Emilio Dixon was no longer alive as of a mere few hours ago.
It's strange because, since I had never really known him, I didn't truly have a reason to grieve. I had been fond of him, despite this, and I missed him. I close my eyes and could see in my mind's eye Emilio.
It had been eight years but his image is clear as day.
Him walking beside me in winter, snow boots crunching on packed powder; leaning over a thick sheet of sketchbook paper, calloused hand shaping out a tall, paneled building; him dribbling down the court and dunking the basketball to the wild, loving applause of the roaring, cheering crowd.
It is as if I was still in high school, where I could feel his presence beside me, or just know that he was across the room.
I'd never had any romantic feelings towards Emilio, but he had been nice enough and I just...missed him.
It's funny how life works. Someday, we'll all be dead whether we are intentionally murdered, unintentionally hit or just dead from old age when our bodies finally crumble beneath the pressure of ourselves. We'll all die and we might attend each other's funerals if they fall before us, cry and get over it.
We'd be joining them soon enough anyway.
I sink into my plush chair, leaning back and closing my eyes. I feel like a teenager all over again, when I knew that my classmates surrounded me and, only now, I realize, in a way, protected me from the possibilities.
We were all so blind to possibilities that it was startling, how our minds could only begin to comprehend all the possible solutions, tragedies and everything in between. Like the possibility that one of us would get murdered, like the possibility that anything could happen to any of us at any given moment and none of us could ever predict it; none of us would never even know until it hit us and that would be our very last thought.
How very sadistic and morbid.
I inhale deeply, then exhale, breathing in the familiar cinnamon perfume that always lingers in my dressing room, regardless of how many times I leave the door open to air it, hang air-fresheners or spray new scents. I just it need it right now, it's the only part of reality that doesn't hurt.
Figures, you don't appreciate something in the past but the in the future you hold on to it as it slips through you fingers.
It's not to say I truly need Emilio in my life, I haven't been in contact with him, or most of my other classmates at that, for years. There's just this ache in my chest. The dull ache that has to be the aftermath of my shock because I'm sure that Emilio never deserved to die like that; to have been murdered. If push came to shove, there are hundreds of other people who could have died in place of Emilio, even me. Hundreds of people who have, or had, been worse than my memory of him.
Did that make it any more right?
Did it make anything right?
God, I had always known that life was complicated to the point where simplicity didn't even begin to break down the psychological barrier. It was one of the reasons I aspired to become a news anchor. To be able to share and spread emergencies, to finally know and learn and grow. The news station may be utter chaos yet I swear it's sometimes easier to lounge here than at home with my whiles and woes finally catching up to me.
It's a common feeling, as my psychologist friend, Emma, says. It's the way everything else wraps around you and drops a veil upon the inevitable dread; when you focus on someone else, on other people, you don't care nearly as much about yourself and your own problems as you do with them.
I wonder how often Emilio felt that way, all weary and tired.
"Jo?" calls the feminine voice of my assistant, Ivanna. "You're on in two."
I suck in a deep breath, and stare at my reflection in the mirror. What if I die today? What if this is the last time I'm going to see my reflection? What happens when I no longer can? I inhale again, then exhale, sliding off of my chair and out the door where Ivanna speed-guides me towards the high-backed, wheeled chair behind the anchor desk.
"Coming back from commercial break. We're on in fifteen seconds, Jo," Carl, the director, tells me. Thanks, Carl. Always so professional. I take a few more deep breaths to stabilize and calm myself. This time, I don't bother prepping my appearance. If this is ever the last time I go on TV, I want to look natural. Who knows what may happen?
Perhaps getting murdered...like Emilio.
"We're on in the three... two... one..."
I left at midnight. I had been at the station for an extra two hours, reviewing tomorrow's material.
A disgruntled, reluctant Renee had come up to me just after the end of the session and given me a hundred bucks, our agreed payment on the bet.
The "fuck off" I gave her made me feel marginally better. She was a reporter, didn't she know there were more important things than winning petty feuds?
Well, I suppose I didn't really comprehend that part about life either. At least I did now; another perk about being an anchor: you realize that what's happening, the kidnapping and natural disasters and more, is real. You realize that it's happening all around you, and you're one of the lucky ones because you're safe and alive.
This could also apply to field reporters, too, but it's debateable - cough, doubtable, cough - that Renee, who is a perfect example of a field reporter, has gotten the memo. Even if I just realized it today. It was a step up from her.
God, life and job benefits.
I slide the gold key into the lock where it turns and clicks, the door swinging open. I step inside, feeling warm radiation instantly surround me, a difference from the light snow fall and sweeping, chilly winds that danced outside.
Home, sweet home.
"Ah-ach-achoo!" I pinch the bridge of nose, letting out a sigh as exasperation built up inside me. Dust particles hovered in the air around me and I irritably wave them away. Has it really been that long since I had last gone through my academic schooling, excluding university, mementos?
If the hazardous coatings of dust was anything to go by... I'd say so.
"Finally!" My voice sounds too loud in the silence of the basement, a contrast to the soft shuffling of papers and sporadic grinding of hard binders and notebooks. It echoes off the walls and I wince. But I had what I was looking for.
My senior yearbook. Graduating Class of 2006-2007.
I carefully brush off the smooth, glossy cover before flipping through the pages. They're thicker than I thought.
And right there, staring up at me, is Emilio Dixon's smiling face. I take the headshot, something I found with the article, and compare them. In the headshot his sandy hair is darker and shorter, more mature, but he holds the same soft, sage green eyes and bright, white grin. His jawline is more structured, defined, too.
It suddenly hits me that he wouldn't be able to smile at another picture. Any picture taken from now on will be shots for the murder case because he's dead. It also occurs to me that he'll never be able to smile, to laugh, to open up his eyes. From what I'd gathered, his fiancée was really nice and sweet, a curious middle school English teacher, who would never be able to wake up to or kiss her husband again. His siblings wouldn't be able to hug him and have him hug back. Because Emilio was gone, and while his body remains, him as a person ceases to exist.
And it's so sad and terrible because death is hardly ever a kind thing in this world. My eyes prick and my vision blurs, the lamplight shifting into a pale gold glow. I try and choke them back, deep breath in...deep breath out, but then my shoulders are shaking and I'm bloody crying. I wish I had known Emilio better, had fully and genuinely appreciated him as a friend, or even now, an acquaintance. Everyone deserved to be appreciated and though I'm sure he was plenty appreciated, I wonder what could have happened if I had stayed in touch with him, or with another now faceless person from my old classes.
Later, I wonder what happened to them, if their life-thread had been abruptly chopped off, too.
It was half past two as I reclined in my seat, running my fingers over the skin of my cheekbones. The dried tear tracks had left my skin feeling tight. I had just gotten off the phone with a distraught, shaken Terry who had, despite this, readily given me the information when I inquired.
For the first time in a long time, I picked up my pen and wrote.
THE DAILY ADVOCATE
STORY OF HIS LIFE
in honour of Emilio Dixon
by Jo Carr
Emilio Charlie Dixon had been a great son, brother, friend, co-worker and fiancé to many and he was an extremely talented individual. His dream, to be an architect, he pursued at the young age of eleven. Never one to waste a ticking second of burning time, he set about to persuading his parents immediately. His argument swayed his guardians, William and Elena Dixon, who had, true to their word, taken him to see the CNN Tower, Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa and several other architectural buildings. His art lessons had expanded his ever-growing horizons and sharpened his vivid imagination.
Emilio had been an inspiration to all whom he had known, with his playful athleticism, fierce loyalty and sweet love. The middle Dixon child had tried to be a good role model for his younger brother, Blake, a good brother for his older sister, Ava, a hard-working son for his parents and a caring significant to his fiancé, Terry Hawthorne.
Him, as a person, deserves to be appreciated for all in which he has done for those who knew him before his recent death. This is the story of his life.
Multiple people with some sort of relationship with Emilio had called me up to talk about the first article I had written in about three years, telling me how much this means to them.
That journalism elective paid off after all.
I'm just glad that I had been able to show the world a piece about a person, pull some truth from behind the distorted glass.
FPN is still, of course, my main focus, though.
"Okay everybody, we go live in three... two... one..."
a/n: scatter here with my finally finished oneshot! i'm actually pretty proud of this. and i'm not writing in capitals just because. so... hope you liked it! R&R, please!
word count: 2961