Rating: Green Cortina
Word Count: 1085
Disclaimer: I only wish I owned Life on Mars.
Notes: Written in about an hour after a mind-numbing stroll in the suburbs. Gene finally brings that new DI of his round for tea, and the Missus narrates in the second person for reasons beyond my comprehension.
DI Tyler unnerves you from the moment you clap eyes upon him.
Except that you don’t startle all that easily, being the resolute, practical woman you are, so it’s easy enough to cast off the fear, hitch on a hostess’ smile, graciously accept the armaments he carries, the bottle of red wine and modest bouquet of white roses. He surrenders his leather jacket awkwardly, seemingly anxious without it, and your fear returns in recognizing how gentle he is, how much he must rankle at working with the likes of Gene. How tempting it would be to shelter him from the world.
He’s nowhere near as gorgeous as Gene once was, has none of the raw masculinity that won your baser desires well before your heart had recognized his gentler truth, but DI Tyler is nice to look at all the same, especially when poised on your settee. He smiles when you bring him a cold beer, frowns when Gene accepts his own with his usual lack of attention, and you can’t help thinking DI Tyler’s mouth is quite attractive either way.
‘I’ll just check on the roast then.’ You sound so bright, so false. ‘Give you boys a chance to chat.’
And you do check on the roast, and sure enough it’s going to be overdone yet again because not giving a shit had become habit so long ago that it’s a hard thing to break.
Gene would be a hard habit to break, but sometimes it would be so easy…
You close the oven door, close your eyes. Open your eyes. Refuse to hide from the monster in the sitting room, your husband’s new DI with the pretty eyes.
‘And is that dill you’ve added to the potatoes, Mrs. Hunt?’
‘Course it is.’ You glance up at him, mildly impatient. ‘Always use dill. Me mum before me as well.’
‘Ah.’ DI Tyler looks down at his plate again, a flush deepening past what the wine has already done. ‘S’just nice, is all,’ he mumbles.
‘You’re not married, are you, Inspector Tyler?’ You intend the question as a change in conversation, but can’t help the cruelty of your choice. The accusation keeps him at a safe distance.
‘No.’ DI Tyler straightens his dessert fork.
‘Not even a girlfriend? Handsome lad like you?’
Gene catches your eye at that, but clearly can’t muster the balls to be jealous, only strangely shocked.
‘No… well.’ You look back at DI Tyler, fail to keep up with the quickness of his eyes dancing around the tablecloth. ‘I, um, had a girlfriend, but she’s, er, well, we had a hard time staying in touch…’
‘Since you transferred from Hyde?’ You feel almost guilty now for bringing this up, can see his hand shaking when he reaches for his wine.
‘Kinda.’ And Gene knows you have sharp hearing, like an Alsatian he used to say, but maybe Sam doesn’t expect you to catch the words he mumbles into your second-best crystal. ‘Seein’ as she’s a foetus.’
Your stomach-full of roast beef and vegetables threatens to burst out of you, roiling in the sudden sickness this man provokes with his vile, cryptic words. You look to Gene, hoping for an explanation but willing to settle for a familiar exchange of exasperated glances, but Gene has turned his attention back to his food, dragging slices of beef through the pool of gravy on his plate, stabbing potatoes with unseemly relish.
It’s as though he doesn’t realize how utterly wrong this new DI is, so unlike the others before him. You know you’re not clever, but you know people – how else could you know how kind Gene really is? – and this Sam Tyler just isn’t right in the head.
‘I’ll, um, get you some more gravy, shall I, love?’ And for the second time in such a short evening, you beat your cowardly retreat back to the kitchen.
Pudding goes down without incident: DI Tyler restricts his monologue to a single compliment on your famous rhubarb crumble, and Gene even offers up a gracious smile and pats you on the bottom as you collect his bowl afterwards. You carry the dishes to the sink, quietly satisfied and chipper enough to fetch up the special occasion tumblers from the cupboard, careful to rinse and wipe them free of dust before pouring out two generous measures of Gene’s favourite single malt. There’s only the two glasses, because that’s how many you received as a wedding gift from one of Gene’s lackadaisical uncles, but that’s fine because you prefer sherry after a meal anyway, and will pour yourself one just as soon as you carry these out to Gene and his cookery-obsessed, pretty-eyed madman of a DI. Taking the pair in hand, you turn towards the narrow doorway between kitchen and dining room.
‘-scared shitless she’s gonna find out.’
And you freeze mid-step at the urgent hiss of DI Tyler’s voice, so unlike his usual soft murmurs. Peering silently around the doorjamb, you see DI Tyler leaning across the corner of your table, arching intensely towards your Gene. ‘And I don’t know what the ‘ell you think you’re playin’ at, bringin’ me ‘ere and shovin’ me right in your wife’s face, you tryin’ to prove some –‘
‘Sam.’ Gene’s voice is quiet but rich with the sort of intensity that speaks above and beyond any further question: the deep, reassuring tones you remember from the bedroom, so long ago. ‘Sam, I’m sorry, but I had to. Been my DI three bloody months an’ she ‘asn’t seen hide nor hair of you yet. She’d ‘ave begun to wonder otherwise.’
DI Tyler’s once-lovely mouth sneers in disbelief. ‘That’s bullshit, why – ‘
‘Because you’re not like the others, an’ we can’t ‘ave the missus thinkin’ otherwise, got it?’ And Gene leans forward as well, his large hand covering one of DI Tyler’s trembling fists. ‘We’ll talk about this later, Sam.’
A stiff nod, a glance of his free, unfurled hand against Gene’s and DI Tyler sinks back into his seat, eyes downcast, the picture of reserved, polite calm.
You sway your hips into the dining room, place the scotch on the tablecloth with the steady hand of a proper Englishwoman, feeling as though the bogeyman has just been and gone, crept back under the bed. Under your bed, the bed that hasn’t felt Gene’s weight in so long.
‘Thank you.’ The bogeyman flashes you a boyish grin. You smile back.
It’s easy to hate the things you fear.