Chapter 17, A.D.A. Blantyre-Tattershall
“Well, I sure as hell blew that one, didn’t I?” were the first words out of her mouth the minute they’d left the questioning room. She was mad as hell she let that monster get the better of her.
“Not at all Chloe.” She could tell he wanted to comfort her but didn’t dare with others in the room, Lieutenant King included. “You did just fine – more than fine.” He drifted off in deep thought, weighing the options or whatever it is he did to determine whether or not someone was a lunatic.
Had you asked her a couple of hours ago, she’d have had no question in her mind whether or not this man was mad, insane, completely unhinged – but now? She began to shake. It trembled up her body like a water ripple, becoming more pronounced as it travelled north. She saw, sensed, Walter, begin to reach for her, to hold her, however, Sam beat him to it. “You better sit down, kid.” His beefy hands grabbed her tiny shoulders, guiding her to a nearby chair. “What the hell went on in there? You’re trembling for Christ’s sake?” His concern was genuine – not like Walters, more like an older brother or an Uncle.
“She went toe to toe with him. That’s what.” Walter actually looked proud of her. She had thought she’d thoroughly messed the whole thing up.
“I had my ass kicked is what happened, Sam.”
The big cop looked at her, shook his head. “You?” he looked incredulous. “I bloody well doubt it. You’re too hard on yourself Chloe. What about it Doc? Is it as bad as she says?”
“Not at all,” Walter looked at her, beaming, proud – in love? “There are no right and wrong answers in this type of situation. She handled herself magically. It isn’t what you do, it’s how he responds to it that makes the difference. You must remember something – crazy people don’t usually believe they are crazy – it’s their responses, their actions to stimulus that determine them so. Thinking you can have a logical conversation that has any basis in your reality or that will end on a mutually agreeable note is in itself – well, crazy.” He smiled at them both.
“But he kicked my damn ass, Walter! He took charge and I crumbled. You saw it! He put me over his lap and paddled my ass.” She wasn’t sure what was worse – the fact that Marcus had beaten her at what was supposed to be her game or the way he’d humiliated her in front of Walter?
“It wasn’t a competition, Chloe. We aren’t here to win but to determine whether he is sane. Therefore, it’s his move next. You did remarkably well, my love.” She was sure her eyes bugged right out of her head as did Lt. King’s and unfortunately Sam spoke first.
“Your what?” He looked utterly shocked. “Are you two…? I don’t bloody well believe it. You?” Sam pointed at Walt, a massive shit-eating grin plastered from one ear to the other. “Do you have any idea how many guys over at the precinct would sacrifice their left nut to—”
“That’s enough, Lieutenant!” The command in her voice made up for any deficiencies in stature. “I do not date cops for just that reason.” She lowered her voice, put her hand on her old friend’s arm. “And I ask that you to keep it to yourself Sam, as a friend. At least until this case is over and Dr. Alexander goes on to whatever he does next. Though I’m extremely proud to be dating him,” Chloe looked towards her Doctor, “I don’t want to jeopardize my professionalism or be the talk of locker rooms around the city.”
The big cop looked at her then at Walter, shook his head and walked away. His diminishing trail of, “Who would have bloody-well believed it,” echoing in the hall.
“Kayleigh, will you get that honey? It’s probably Walter.”
“I thought you said he was a doctor?” Kayleigh said, peeking her head into the bathroom where her mother was still in the process of getting ready.”
She didn’t know exactly how tall her mother was, not too tall that was for sure ’cause she was only seven and not that much shorter, but her mother sure was beautiful. Everybody said so. She was still looking at the mirror putting on her face as she always called it and had not yet pulled her dress on. She always said it was because the make-up sometimes splattered and she couldn’t afford more cleaning bills than she already had. Whatever.
“Why are you wearing your special underwear mom?” She watched her mother’s reaction in the mirror to see if there was any change. She knew deep-down that her mother and father were never getting back together. Her mother told her so, but it still didn’t make it any easier. Besides, her mother never had a man over to the house, not that she knew of anyway. And she should know, she was with her mom all the time.
“They’re not special underwear Kayleigh—they’re just underwear. Now, quit being so nosy and go answer the door like I asked. And be nice!”
She listened to the clop clop clop of her daughter’s shoes as they descended the stairs. She hoped she hadn’t turned too red when the little know-it-all asked about her underwear. She hadn’t even thought about it as she always dressed in front of her. Hell, there had been just the two of them for so long. Even so, she should have known better. The little whip never missed a thing.
She looked into the mirror and grinned. This was indeed her special underwear! Red, of course, to accentuate her hair and make her eyes pop. The pair was so sheer they more or less showcased her treasures as opposed to concealing them. The matching garter and hose turned a beautiful bra and panties set into something wet dreams were made of. She wasn’t sure if the night would progress that far, but a girl could hope couldn’t she?
It was by fluke it was even a consideration. She was supposed to have Kayleigh tonight, just like every other night. But a last-minute call from her idiot ex asking if he could have her over-night – some family gathering or something, so that he could play the doting, misunderstood, underappreciated father in front of everybody had – altered their plans.
Of course, Kayleigh wanted to see him, even though the bastard had missed the last two visits and not seen her in six weeks. Chloe had insisted they keep their dinner date with Walter, though. They would drop her off after if she still wanted to go. Her daughter wasn’t happy about the arrangements and broadcast her lack of enthusiasm at every opportunity. She still believed there was hope of bringing the two of them back together, even though they’d lived apart since her first birthday. Who the hell was she kidding? His affairs had started long before then.
At least Kayleigh agreed to come to dinner without too much fuss, providing she could see her dick-head father afterwards. Chloe expected curiosity to be the prime motivator as this was new, had never happened before, not with her mother at least. Chloe had never dated, not in Kayleigh’s life, the break-up with her father being not long after she was born. It wasn’t her, never, this was in the works from before her inception, from the day she’d met Kayleigh’s father.
Of course, it hadn’t been Kayleigh calling her father dick-head. No, to her he was some kind of super-hero, always the fun guy. Chloe merely added the title of dick for her own sanity, whenever she pictured his face. Like a flashing balloon or neon-sign attached by her mind’s eye, to remind herself he wasn’t worth the energy to get angry over. That any man who would leave his family in the mess he’d left the two of them in was not worth another thought.
She could hear the mumblings of a conversation going on down-stairs. I hope they’re getting along, she thought, giving herself one last look in the mirror before covering up her scrumptious lingerie with the dress she’d chosen for the night. It too was red, of course! – form-fitting, simple and tight, tight, tight. Tonight she wore it with shoulder straps like she usually did. Nevertheless, they were removable if she wanted to go strapless.
She slipped into her shoes, red patent-leather pumps, and grabbed her matching purse. She was ready to make her way downstairs, yet she paused, holding onto the bathroom counter a moment. She couldn’t believe how nervous she was and realized for the first time that maybe, somehow, possibly, inadvertently – their two roles had managed to become reversed. A quick laugh in the mirror escaped when she realized what her father would have said to her at such a moment.
“What do you mean you need your daughter’s approval, Chloe? You are the parent and she is the child – end of discussion.” She knew he was right, yet at the same time she knew she had somehow given her daughter the impression she had a vote.
“Oh well, there’s nothing you can do about it at the moment woman,” she said into the mirror. “You just make sure to fix it the first chance you get.” She nodded her head in approval, made a promise to herself then made her way down the stairs to referee the meeting.
Dinner was nothing if not spectacular, the restaurant beautiful, the service faultless. Even Kayleigh had been impressed, telling Walt – as she now called him – that he had made a superb choice and that the mac-n-cheese had been one of the very best she’d ever tasted.
They’d taken a taxi as he didn’t feel comfortable driving in the city with the car the department had put at his disposal. “I rarely drive in California, either,” he’d told them. “I prefer to ride with someone else whenever possible – keeps my mind free to think.” Chloe had no problem with that, offering to drive, but he’d insisted they cab-it as there would be wine involved with the meal. Kayleigh rolled her eyes.
After dropping Kayleigh off at her dick-head ex’s – her daughter actually giving the Doctor a kiss on the cheek, which took Chloe a solid five minutes to gather herself and roll up her bottom jaw – Walt started in on the story of the first minutes together with Kayleigh, after she had answered the door. While Chloe was still upstairs putting her face on, as Kayleigh had put it.
“So,” he started, “I’m sitting in the chair over by the clock with her in this miniature recliner, leaned way back—”
“I figured that by its size.” He smiled at her and winked, “You are still bigger than her you know.” Chloe nodded her reply, possibly reddening a little, wondering if he was poking fun at her, maybe just a little. He continued, “And then she comes out with, ‘So what are your intentions with my mother?’ Well, I don’t recall exactly what I said first as I was still trying to get my head from swirling, but I do remember one word I managed to sputter out, ‘Honorable’. To which she nodded like some Supreme Court Judge or maybe God or some ancient deity of too long ago to remember. Then she hits me with, ‘Are you going to ask her to marry you?’”
Walter had been laughing until this point, Chloe along with him. Then he stops, unpredictably, get’s serious and peers inside her eyes with an inferno of intensity and says, “I don’t know. Not yet, of course, as I am only getting to know you – the both of you. We all have to spend some time together first. Don’t you think? What do you think your Mother would want?” He was holding her hands, leaning in, staring into her eyes. The time dragged in silence between them. He let go of her and leaned back, smiled at her. “And that’s when you came down the stairs.” She was speechless, unsure what to think. A heat wave flooded over her blocking out everything else. She needed some air and asked the taxi driver to roll down the windows.
“Yeah,” he said. “That was pretty much how I felt at the time too. And yet at dinner tonight, with the two of you…” He shook his head, caught her eyes once more. “It felt good Chloe, better than anything I’ve ever felt before…. For that moment, watching the three of us interact, it was like… like I was full, complete for the first time as if there was a counter- balance to offset my work. My life’s been so one sided for so long – forever.” He looked deeper, more intent. His eyes were watering, he didn’t pull back. “It was good Chloe—better than good. I felt…” She watched him search for the words as if trying them out for the first time. “I felt as if I was loved.” She felt the warm tears trickle down her face though was sure he hadn’t noticed in the dark of the cab. He brought his hand to her cheek and touched one.
“I’m so sorry. I’m such an idiot. I should never have said those things—”
“Shh!” She hushed him. “Don’t ever apologize for telling me how you feel, for showing your emotions, being vulnerable.” He tried to look down. She pulled his head back up to her eyes. “The world needs more men like you. Women need more men like you… I need a man like you.” She kissed him, tender, with love.
The other night, although she’d led him up the stairs she had let him be the man, let him take over, set the pace. It hadn’t taken long for her to realize he was inexperienced, that she might have even been his first and if not, no more than his second. It had been lovely, clumsy, sweet and she’d fallen for him all the more because of it.
Tonight, however, was going to be different. It was her turn to set the pace, to teach him about – her, what made her lose herself in the moment. Not that she was a pro, she laughed at the thought but compared to him she just might come off as sex incarnate.
Once inside, shutting off the outside world with the closed door, she leaned against his chest. It felt so incredible to be held, wanted. He put his arms around her, held her tight. “I want you to make me a promise,” she whispered. Had there been a single other noise in the room, he would never have heard her.
“Anything…” his voice hardly a breath.
“Don’t say that. Never say that. It takes away from what you might be asked to agree to next.”
He pulled her back, arms length. “Is that the lawyer talking in you?” His face questioning, grinning at her, happy.
“Maybe,” she answered, “a little. But the woman too – mostly. I don’t want you to agree to something before you know what it is. I don’t want quick answers, Walter. I want… forever – I need forever. It’s not just me, I’m not alone. I’m a single mother Walt, I’ve got Kayleigh to think of. I know that puts a splash of cold water on a wonderful evening, a big bucket full, but I can’t afford to pretend. I don’t have that luxury. Kayleigh needs a real mom, not one living in wonderland, getting caught up in her emotions. It’s all I can do to—”
“Are you finished little-one?”
That got her attention. “What! What the hell did you just call me!”
“Whoa, I just needed to get your attention.” He grinned, held her at arm’s length, probably so she wouldn’t hit him. He waited.
She let it go. “Well? You’ve got it.” She knew she was putting him under pressure. She’d never intended to but here it is and she couldn’t even explain how they had gotten to this point.
He was staring at her, his head tilted to the side, a smile upon his face, a twinkle in his eye. “Are you insinuating,” he paused for effect, “that I’m a player?” He lifted his eyebrows, grinned.
She couldn’t help herself. She tried to hold it, but the laughter just burst out. Maybe it was the wine? Maybe it was remembering his clumsiness from the night before when she had to unhook her own bra as he was shaking too badly and had most likely never done it before. He was also laughing, perhaps even harder, at the mere thought of him as a player. He couldn’t seem catch his breath. Still laughing, they tumbled to the couch. When he pulled himself together enough to breathe, he excused himself to the kitchen to pour them a glass of wine from the bottle he’d brought earlier. She knew he was no player and she kicked herself in the ass for even going there, yet he was certainly a fast learner. The wine was nothing short of gorgeous.
They drank without words for a while – nothing but Van Morrison to fill the silence, the sensual wine filling their senses, their inside thoughts, spaces in time. Neither dared ask the other what they were thinking – too afraid they might get the wrong answer, something they didn’t want to hear.
She believed she knew his. He wore it on his sleeve.
He’d fallen for her, all she needed was to say the word. He would never hurt her, never leave her, always love her, of these things she was sure. Except that was not it, she knew that now. It was her, all her. She was afraid that after all these years of independence, getting tough, building barriers, of steeling off her heart to everyone but Kayleigh, of tying her emotions up with such wicked-tight knots that Houdini himself would never unravel them – terrified she couldn’t trust herself. That she might beat up this lovely man, this soft man though in all the right ways, this vulnerable man.
What if she were damaged goods? He would give her all of him, open his heart unconditionally to her, expose his innermost self, of that she had no doubt. But what if, deep-down, she was not strong enough to let go of the past? That deep-down, though she put on the brave face, she had never let go of how badly she’d been hurt. That her deep-down, long-buried pain would come out and abuse him, batter him, pummel him mercilessly so that he could never hurt her. And she didn’t want to do that to a man as beautiful and innocent as this one.
He broke her train of thought, “Chloe. I want you to know—”
“Shh…” She stopped him with a finger to his lips then took him by the hand, her wine glass and unfinished bottle in the other, and led him upstairs for the second time, hoping he could not see the tears streaming her face.
Tonight, she was going to treat him right. Tonight, she was going to test herself, see if she could truly let go and love this man. Let go of the past, not make him pay for crimes he’d never committed, would never commit, was incapable of committing. Tonight she would see if she could truly give him all of her, hold nothing back, total vulnerability. She knew it wouldn’t solve everything. She knew it would be a long road. But hey, it’s a start, she reminded herself and pushed him down into the oversized chair by the window in her bedroom. She placed the bottle and wine glasses upon the small table beside it and took two steps back into the shadowed light.
“No more talk of the future tonight my love – only the present. And this is my present to you.” She heard him catch his breath as she pulled the straps of her dress off her shoulders then unzipping it from behind, let it fall.