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A deadly night of birlinn stealing by the Fraser's
I was frozen in front of the bathroom, reeking of fish and misery, feeling like the largest failure this side of the East River.
"Yeah, sorry I didn't call you back that night," she looked around as though there could have been an actual criminal hiding in the rafters, surveying the scene, posturing.
I thought of that night, after her first night shift. It wasn't a call. I had text messaged her well-wishes, drunk and petrified that she would ring me back, but more afraid of the disappointment I'd feel if she didn't. The later had come to fruition, but this was far more frightening.
Monte and I had had a complicated relationship, just barely out of being teenagers we had dated for a year and a half, deeply in love but flawed; she wasn't out, I had big dreams and a naivety that had rivaled my ambition. I had left her for Tricia who was openly gay, zealous, and professionally successful. She also had been an abusive bitch but I was able to overlook that for four years. I was still too scared to call her in order to absolve our domestic partnership. There were scars, but none were as deep as my regret for leaving Monte.
Two months after I had gotten out and started to recover I wrote her an email, unsure if her address was the same. "Hope you're well, wish we were in touch." And then we were. Sort of. Computer messages and the one phone call that came after I had sent her congratulatory flowers on graduating from the academy. This was the first time in four and a half years that I'd laid eyes on her and there she was, in my shop, her in uniform, her patrol car parked outside, motor still on, her overweight partner staring at the fish display in the window with a rubbery face that looked like it'd been molded from Play-Doh.
"Um, you didn't have to come by here," I said, my voice coming out shrill, like I was pretending to be hard-core and failing. I had only told her where I worked early on in our correspondence, too embarrassed to bring up details. I was surprised to find her here, surprised she remembered the store's name and the vague location I had given her in relation to where we'd spent time together years ago. Half the stores around had changed hands.
"I know. I just was in the area and I figured why not," she said, her eyes still searching for the cat burglar in my upstairs office. Suddenly they turned on me as though I were the criminal.
"What are you doing later."
It was a command, not a question. My throat was suddenly so dry it hurt.
"I, uh, I was going to go home and take a shower. You know. I smell."
She laughed, that one, tiny giggle.
"If you want to stop by for a coffee, or a beer, or whatever," I could barely make it out. She nodded, once. It was an officer's nod.
"You still live at the same place?"
It was my turn to nod and to remember. We had spent many nights and afternoons there, tied up in flesh-colored knots. I felt a twitch in a dormant place. I could have sworn I saw her smile as she turned sharply on her heel and left, nodding again at her partner who smiled at her as though he knew.
"I'll see you later," she said without looking, her dark blue back receding from my safe place, my only sanctuary.
I couldn't even find the strength to wave.
It was 12:29. In the morning. I had to get up for work by nine. I hadn't asked her when she was coming, stupid, selfish me, I had assumed it was when I got off of work at eight thirty. At this point I knew it had been a trick, a ruse, a little tiny sliver of revenge that was able to be inserted in the Achilles tendon of my life four years too late. I sat on the couch in my sexiest pair of sweatpants and the almost see-through tank top drinking my wine. It had been stupid of me, I thought, watching Lou Dobbs' repeat report on immigration with his pseudo-aggressive bravado. I had believed that so much deception could be overcome by an email, and one that merely declared that I was single in the most roundabout, conniving way. No wonder she had shown up in uniform. I should have been grateful that she hadn't shot me on the spot.