The Royal We
"Oh so you made it! Good." Steve says as he opens the front door. I hadn't even closed my car door yet and he's already greeting me. I guess he was waiting and he heard my car pull up in the drive way.
"Hey." I utter one word as I lock my car and turn to walk those few steps to the entry way of the house.
I contemplated avoiding this whole ordeal. I didn't want to face my mother. Or even my father. I'm sure mother will be difficult .Dad on the other hand won't. But facing my mother is more than enough to unnerve the calmest person.
"I was starting to believe you were going to ditch." He tells me once I reach the door.
"Thought about it." I confess. "But then I'll have to face it again. So I thought what the hell. Let's get it over with." With that I walk in and take off my jacket and hang it on the hangers closest to the door.
"Gail." No mistaking that that's my mother's voice. As I follow it, I find her standing by the entry way of the living room.
"Hey mom." I try at a gentle almost warm greeting.
"You're late." Here we go. She was bound to start criticizing me sometime tonight. Never thought she'd start right after 'Hello'.
"Traffic." I say with emphasize on the word. Trying to make it sound sarcastic. She may try to bring me down soon, make me fall back into her power. Have her control me once again. But I refuse to give her that power again.
"Well next time leave a little earlier. Avoid traffic." She says in her usual unemotional tone. "Your father's waiting for you in the living room. You should go greet him while dinner gets placed on the dining table.
"Right." I agree, and with that I walk past her. I was right not to expect the mother I saw when she came to the station a few days ago. That woman doesn't show up very often. God, no wonder I'm messed up and hate feelings. I was never taught how to deal with them, that's why.
It's best I ignore her jabs at me. I'm sure she's got so many waiting to be said. So before she can continue with them I make my way into the living room, getting my self mentally ready to greet my father, whom I haven't seen or contacted in over five years.
When I walk in, he's standing up. Too shaky to sit down I guess. And to my surprise Traci and I'm guessing Leo are sitting on the opposite couch.
"Hey dad." I greet him as I stand in front of him, keeping my distance.
"Hey." He says as he moves closer, closing the distance I left between us and giving me a hug. "Welcome back."
"Thanks." I raise my hand awkwardly to return the hug.
Once released I make my way towards Traci, knowing well that my father's eyes are following me, and probably also my mother's eyes.
"Hey." I say once I reach Traci.
"Gail." She says standing up. She then pats Leo on the shoulder. "This is my son Leo." She introduces.
I give her this confused look. I thought we agreed not to bring Leo into this, at least not tonight. I could tell she understood what I meant with that look and she just indicates towards my mother with her eyes, in a very discreet way. I should've known. The only response I could give was pursing my lips and biting my tongue. She made sure Leo would be here so that I wouldn't fight her. A kid around meant I'd be on my best behavior. She knows I refuse to slip up and badly influence a kid. This dinner is gonna be worse than I thought now.
But to shake it off I decide to greet the kid. A kid around could also mean a little lightness in the air. It can't be too annoying with someone to light up the mood. So I crouch down to be same level as him.
"Hey little man." I greet as I give him my hand to shake.
"Hey." He answers cutely. I'm guessing he must be nine or ten.
"I'm Gail. Steve's sister." I say indicating to Steve with my head.
"I know. Steve told me about you." He smiles towards me then at Steve.
"Oh he did?" I was a little surprised. Not at the fact that Steve would mention me, but at the fact that he'd mention me to a kid.
"Yeah. He says you're the only one who always beats him in video games." Oh, that's why.
"Tell you what. Next time we'll team up and beat him together." I promise him and he simply smiles at me.
"Shall we sit at the table?" My mother asks interrupting my moment of bonding with the kid. She then walks out of the room towards the dining room expecting us to follow her. And my dad does.
"Sit next to me?" I ask Leo. "The grown ups scare me." I confess and he chuckles.
"But you're one of them." He reminds me.
"Only on the outside." I tell him with a serious face. "But in real I'm a kid."
"True. Still an obnoxious teenager." Steve quips in.
"Takes one to know one." I shoot back and he just squints his eyes at me. "But just because of that, you can't sit with us."
"Whatever you say Gretchen." Steve answers.
"Seriously? You're an idiot." I can't believe he took my answer as a 'Mean Girls' quote. the Idiot.
"I agree to that." Traci says as she laughs and pats Leo on his back and then indicating that we should go to the dining room. Steve then makes his way towards Leo and leads him there.
"She made sure he'd be here. I couldn't say no." Traci says with an apologetic tone.
"Yeah I should've known. He's her weapon against me." I confess to her. "With him here, she'll have her way because she knows I won't fight her."
"Sorry." She apologizes.
"Don't worry about it. It still means she can't fight too heavily." I reassure her as I give her a wink and make my way towards the dining room.
We take our seats at the table and I get what I asked for, I get Leo sitting next to me. I also get Steve to sit on my other side. My father fills our glasses with our requested drinks, and then my mother finishes placing the food, which I'm sure she ordered in, on the table.
The first half of dinner is filled with light conversation. Conversation where Leo tells us about his day in school, where Traci reminds us of the stupid call we got today about a fake bomb thread, where Steve reminds Leo about a hockey game coming up and asks if I want to go with them. Where dad tells some story about one of his inspector friends, where I barely participate. And I notice that I'm not the only one doing that. My mother only jumps in when needed. But during most of the time that passed she'd been eating and eyeing me. But it won't last.
Once we reach half our meal. I was sure things were about to change. The conversation will turn.
"Bill." She turns towards my dad once he finishes telling some story. "I ran into Turner today. He sends his 'hellos'." She tells him. I'm guessing Turner most be some big shot guy in the police force.
"His son is back in town." She adds and she turns towards me then. Here we go. Here it comes.
"Oh good. How's he?" I could tell my dad was very uninterested in this Weston guy.
"He's good. And I hear he's single." She adds. Oh no. Not happening. I just came back and she's already trying to control everything. Trying to be controlling without even asking how my life while I was away was.
"Not happening mother." I let her know I caught on and that she won't get her way.
"I said nothing." She shrugs. "But he is from good family. Handsome boy, just finished his PHD in England. He's single, you're single, good match." She adds and looks at me pointedly as if saying she has a point and I need to see it and go with it.
"And you know I'm single how? You've barely even asked me about my life." I remind her. She can't just make assumptions.
"Well are you or are you not?" She's relentless.
"I am. But that doesn't mean I need you to set me up with boys you think are cute and good for your reputation." She's not getting her way. I refuse.
"Won't hurt you to meet him." She persists.
"Let me guess. His father has some big police position." Only reason she'd persist on a guy.
"He's her boss." Steve answers me and she turns a simple glare his way.
"Right, well I'm not going to follow your needs for me to marry some high name in policing. I don't need you to play matchmaker." I may have let her set me up with guys she found fitting before I rebelled and settled for Nick, but it's not happening now.
"So you can end up with some unworthy man? Like that Nick who made you leave?" She spits out.
"That man, Nick. Even though he left me, he left to serve in the army." I never thought I'd defend Nick, but here I was doing just that. "He left to fight for his country and put his life in danger. More danger than we face in our own jobs. So no matter how low you think of him, or how much I don't like him now, he's still a good man." Can't deny that he is a good person, and him leaving was best for us both. I wasn't thinking clearly and we would have definitely regretted our choice of marriage had it happened. "Besides, who I end up with is my choice, not yours."
"Well…" She starts but gets cut off.
"Mother, have the higher ups got anything on the three lined tattooed victims?" Steve interrupts and saves me from a fight with my mother. A fight I was sure would be a mistake to have in front of Leo.
"What Victims?" On the mention of a case she immediately turns her attention to Steve. He may have saved me from a fight but he picked the wrong subject.
"The ones the higher ups took off our hands." He adds and she still looks at him confused.
Weren't we supposed to stay quiet about this case? What did sergeant Best say? Right. "Looking further into this case will lead to dismissal".
"Steve, we're not supposed to look into this anymore." Traci reminds him. "And we can't discuss this now." She adds looking at Leo.
Right, discussing murder cases in front of kids, not a good idea.
"Right." Steve remembers and nods while my mother still gives him confused looks. Since our department took over the case, my mother would've never heard of it. Leo however at that moment says he finished his food and excuses himself to go wash his hands.
"I gotta ask something though. How did you know the cause Gail?" He asks as he looks at me with a smile. I know what he's doing. He thinks if mom knows that I caught the cause of death immediately she'd be proud. Idiot.
"What cause?" I play dumb.
"I heard you knew the cause of death just by looking at the body." He says proudly.
"Sam." I utter out his name. He must have told Steve.
"Yep, he mentioned it. He was impressed." He confirms. "So how'd you know the guy was poisoned?" He pushes.
"Right. Skin color." I answer shortly and hastily.
"You knew the cause of death before the pathologist?" My dad asks incredulously and I simply give him a confirming look. "So you went away for five years, got a college degree, ended up top at the academy, and made detective in a really short time. And got yourself some medical knowledge. I'm impressed kid." I could tell he truly was, because the smile he was giving me was true. I wasn't impressed though because he was impressed with lies. "But I'm glad you're back. Kind of missed you." He adds with a smile and I know he did miss me. I've always been closer to my dad than my mom. He kind of got me and never pushed me.
"Missed you too dad." I tell him warmly.
"You could've done all that here Gail." And here goes the moment, ruined by my mother.
"Maybe." I refuse to give her a yes or no answer.
"But I'm not surprised, you are a Peck. And my daughter. Of course you'd get to your position fast." She adds with a semi proud smile, but I'm sure the proud smile wasn't for the fact that I made it here, but the fact that I'm a Peck and her daughter, so the good I do is good for the name and for her.
"Being a Peck had nothing to do with this mother. I was in Vancouver. You don't have that much power there." I remind her. I refuse for her to make my accomplishments, even if fake, meaningless and based on a name. She can't disguise their importance with a name. "If you did, you would've known I was there this whole time." Which is true, if she had as much power as she believes she did, she would've found me.
She doesn't answer right away. She takes a moment.
"Well, you did run away. A good police officer doesn't run from things, they face them." Right. She had to come to that. Me running away, which doesn't make me good enough.
"I came back to face it didn't I?" I try to disguise her witty remark as unimportant.
"So you came back for him? Even though he left you?" She took it wrong. So I came back to face Nick? She thinks I ran from him?
"No, I'm sitting here with you. I didn't run from Nick mother. I knew I wouldn't face him when I came back. He had already left to join the army." I then place my fork on the plate and lift my napkin to the table, getting ready to make my escape once I say my last remark, because I refuse to see her face when I speak those words. "I ran away from you. I didn't want to face you, and your judging face and cutting words. Because I knew, that if I made it back, you won't be the concerned mother who's daughter just got her heart completely broken, but you'd be the superintendent Peck who's daughter almost married someone you disapproved of, and you would scold me for almost embarrassing you, instead of helping me get through the hurt I was feeling. So I ran to heal and not have you add to it." With that I grab my plate and get up to make my way towards the kitchen. Thankfully Leo shows up and my mother remains silent.
Once in the kitchen I place my plate in the sink and hold the counter for support.
"You okay?" Traci's voice asks behind me.
"Yeah. Five years away, kind of forgot how intense my mother was." I answer her and she chuckles.
"You did good out there." She reassures me and I know then at that moment that Steve did good. That he's found someone really good for him.
"Thanks." I turn around to give her a smile.
"Well, the men are going to join Leo in the living room. Go join them. I'll help your mother clear the table. I'm sure you can use a few minutes free of her." She tells me with another chuckle. Did I mention I liked her? Yeah, Steve did good.
"Are you sure you want to spend a few minutes alone with my mother?" I ask to be sure.
"I can handle her. Don't worry." She gives me that motherly smile and I can't help but give her one in return.
"Thank you." I say gratefully as I make my way towards the living room.
I find an empty seat next to Leo on the couch and I take it. He seems to be busy with a phone while Steve and my dad are watching some game on TV.
"Hey kid. Whatcha doing?" I ask him as I peer at the phone.
"Steve has this cool game on his phone that I like to play." He answers me without looking up from his game.
"Mind if I watch you play? More interesting that the TV." I tell him and Steve just looks at me with a weird smile.
"I don't mind." He answers engrossed in his game. It looks like he's driving a car. Really crazily at that.
"Is that Crazy Taxi?" I ask him incredulously. We used to play that game as kids. Steve and I got so competitive.
"Yes." Leo confirms as he keeps playing.
I guess these few minutes aren't so bad. No mother, and watching a kid play a cool game. I guess this doesn't make my night completely a disaster.
A phone beeping catches my attention. It's my phone. A text message.
Hey Officer. X-men is on TV. Just thought I'd let you know, since you're a nerd when it comes to that apparently.
My face immediately lights up with a smile. Holly. I guess my night isn't bad at all after all.
"Anyone interesting texting you?" Steve asks cheekily.
"Shut up." I answer back.
"Hot doctor by any chance?" He winks and I throw a pillow at him.
"Idiot." I murmur at him.
Says the one who's watching it. I'm watching far more interesting things. I text back.
Oh is Superman on TV? She answers back. How does she know I love my superheroes? Or is she just playing?
Nah, I'm watching some crazy taxi driver getting his customer places for money. I answer vaguely.
Really? that's her answer? A question mark?
Traci's kid is playing Crazy Taxi. I clarify to her.
Oh, haven't played that game since I was a kid. Anyways, I'll leave you to that. I'll just get back to watching the movie. So she just randomly texted to tell me X-Men was on TV? I knew my previous comment about Professor X will reveal my nerd side and she'll be taking advantage.
Whatever, what channel? I give in and ask. Maybe I can convince the boys to watch it. Kids like X-Men as well right?
Crazy drivers not as interesting? She teases and texts the channel.
Not nearly as much. I put my phone down with that.
"Hey Steve, Change the channel." I tell him what channel to go to and he just looks at me weirdly.
"What? X-Men is on TV?" I justify my choice of channel and he and dad laugh at me then.
"Still a nerd?" Steve asks bemused.
"Whatever." I answer him.
"And who told you it's on TV?" He asks with raised eyebrow and a teasing tone.
"None of your business." I dismiss him as my phone beeps.
See you around then. Good night officer. So our banter is done? Awww, I was enjoying it.
Goodnight Lunchbox. I text and put my phone away, smile still in place.
"Don't let that smile blind you from watching the movie." Steve continues his teasing and I refuse to give him ammo to continue it. I simply ignore him and watch the movie and Leo puts his game away to watch too.
I guess I can handle my mother now. I'll just think of those texts from Holly and be reminded that my mother has no power over me.