Two Halves of a Whole

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Chapter 11

Everyone left the room except for Lola and Thomas.

Lola's hand hit her leg twice, and she cleared her throat, leaning against the podium.

"You ok?" Thomas asked as he crossed his arms over his chest.

She nodded and mumbled a response.

"Are you sure . . . because you seemed nervous, and you were a bit more tickish."

"I said I'm fine," she snapped. Silence encased the pair, and they both sighed. "This day has just been terrible, and those pricks don't know how to shut up," she spat out as she pointed to the door, where the police officers had left.

Sighing, she pinched the bridge of her nose. "Sorry, it's just been a bad day," she mumbled.

"Do you . . . want to . . . talk about it?" he awkwardly asked.

She laughed and shook her head. "No, it's just OCD being OCD."

"Are you up to check up on the families. If not I can grab an officer-"

"No, I'm fine." She stood up straight, and sarcastically smiled. She outstretched her arms, daring the universe to hit her. "This day could only get worse."

***

Lola's heal slammed into the floorboard for the one-hundredth time in the last five minutes.

Thomas' grip on the starting wheel tightened again, and he breathed out deeply. "If you're that nervous, then I can just take you home," Thomas said, accidentally allowing the annoyance to come into his voice.

Lola got out her phone and leaned back in her seat. "Am I annoying you?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.

"Only a little bit," he said as he switched on his blinker.

They fell into silence.

He looked over at her, expecting her to recant with her usual rudeness or sarcastic remark; however, she was staring at her phone, her leg bouncing as fast as it could.

"You want to stop and get coffee?" he asked.

This grabbed her attention. "Uhhh," - she turned off her phone - "sure."

He sharply turned down another street, causing Lola to slide into her door, banging her head on the glass. "Ow," she said as she grabbed her forehead.

"Oh . . . my . . . gosh," he said with more than enough sarcasm. "I'm so sorry. Maybe if you were wearing your seatbelt, that wouldn't have happened."

"First off, you're such a cop. Second, maybe if you weren't such a terrible driver, my skull wouldn't be cracked open."

"I'm so glad you know what my job is. Also, sorry that I don't have a car that drives itself."

"I don't have a Tesla."

"Forgive me, I got my overly expensive cars mixed up."

Lola rolled her eyes and went back to her phone. "Just get me a damn coffee."

"Yes, Ma'me," he said as he saluted her.

"And keep your hands at ten and two! Oh my gosh, that's reckless driving! You could wreck!"

"If you keep talking, I will kick you out of my car."

"I didn't know I had a choice to leave."

Thomas grumbled and pulled up to the drive-thru, rolling down his window. A woman's voice asked what they would be liking.

"Can I please have a large vanilla cold brew with almond milk?" Lola asked as she leaned over the mid-section, purposefully invading Tom's space. He sighed and leaned back in his seat, trying to get away from her.

"Ok," Lola said, "thank you." She leaned back, and Thomas rolled up his window, driving forward until they were behind a car.

Thomas drummed his fingers against the steering wheel as Lola pulled out her card.

"Do you have two dollars?" she asked. "I'll pay you back; I just need to tip."

Thomas opened his mouth but couldn't think of a rebuttal. It was hard to deny a request to give someone a tip, and he honestly didn't know if she had done it on purpose or not. He grabbed his wallet and pulled out two dollars.

Lola grabbed the money and stared ahead, her heal thudding against the floor again.

It took everything in Thomas to hold back his sigh, but as he looked at her, she looked zoned out. He vaguely wondered if she knew she did it sometimes. For one of the first times in his life, he was genuinely confused. Did she do it because she knew it annoyed him, or did she do it because she couldn't control it? He wondered what that was like; to need to have complete control over everything around you but no control over yourself.

Lola glanced over at him for a second, before she looked back at her blank phone screen, her other hand twirling the card around.

This entire drive had been more than strange. She had no idea this time if they were in their unspoken war, they both just didn't like one another, or if they were so awkward, they could barely hold a conversation. She didn't think they were in their mental war - she hadn't read that he was calculating anything, and her brain was too preoccupied to do so anyway.

Lola was brought out of her thoughts when Thomas gently took the cash and card out of her hands. Looking to the side, she saw they were at the window, and the barista was waiting.

After swiping the card and putting the cash in the tip jar, the barista handed Thomas the overly big coffee. He said thanks and gave Lola her coffee. She took a small sip of it while simultaneously tucking her card away.

"Please buckle," Thomas said, but she couldn't sense any sarcasm or demeaning tone coming from him.

Without saying anything, she put her coffee in the cup holder and clicked her belt into place.

"Thank you," he said as he turned onto the main street again.

"Yeah," she mumbled as she grabbed the drink again.

"Ssoooo?" Thomas asked.

"Yyyyeeeaaahhhh," Lola mimicked, surprisingly earning a small smile from Tom.

"You're addicted to coffee?" he asked. "This is your . . . third cup today?"

"I think it's only my second."

"This morning at your house." He lifted his thumb. "Before the briefing." He lifted his pointer finger. "Now." He lifted his middle finger.

"Three isn't too bad."

"That's actually really bad." He chuckled.

"I'm about to make you feel terrible."

"Really?" he asked.

"Oh yeah, you'll be apologizing for weeks." She took another sip.

"Ok, try me."

"I like coffee so much because it's one of the only strong drinks my single kidney can handle."

The smile fell from Thomas's face, and he cleared his throat. "Oh."

Lola laughed, going so far as to lean over her legs. "I told you." She took another sip. "I mean, I can still technically drink, but I don't want to risk it, blood sugar and all."

"So, you make up for it by having copious amounts of coffee."

"You are one hundred percent correct." She smiled.

He glanced over at her and opened his mouth, trying to form words, painfully aware she was watching him. "Doesn't stress contribute to high blood sugar?"

"Yeah, but this case isn't that stressful."

"You and I have a very different definition of stressful." He turned onto a secluded driveway, going up a hill.

"You wanna know what is stressful, though?"

"I would love to!"

"Meeting these rich, spoiled mourning families."

Thomas was silent for a second. He still wasn't totally used to how blunt she was when it came to death and the people around it. "I thought you knew these people?" he eventually asked.

"I do, but I still don't like them."

"How come?" he asked.

She smiled and took a sip of coffee, purposefully taking her time. However, he watched her jaw twitch, and her grip tightened around her drink. "You'll see," she said. "You've already met them but . . . they'll be different."

The car rolled to a stop in front of a million-dollar modern LA house, reminding them of Lola's.

Lola unbuckled and got out of the car. She leaned down and stared at Thomas. "As I said, this day could only get worse."

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