Lilly shifts the curtain slightly, looking out into the night before she unlocks the door and opens it to icy air and Scotty Valens.
“Hey,” she says softly.
“Hey.” He looks pale. “So, uh.” He shrugs and looks down the street. “I found Elisa.”
“She okay?” she asks, moving aside to let him into the warmth of her dimly-lit lounge room.
“I dunno.” He has his gloves clenched in his hand. “She’s goin’ to her sister’s for a while. Things are still pretty messed up.”
She watches him tighten his jaw, his eyes darting around the place, refusing to settle on any one thing.
“It’ll be okay,” she says, not entirely sure what else she can say to him when his thoughts are so obviously racing.
“Sorry,” he says eventually, turning to her. He keeps his head hung low. “I know it’s late.”
“It’s okay. I was still up.” She folds her arms across her chest and looks at him carefully. “You all right?”
“Yeah. I just – I was out all day lookin’ for her. And now...” He traces a trembling finger across the edge of her mantelpiece, avoiding her eyes.
“Still feeling the adrenaline, huh?” Lilly asks.
“Yeah.” He shrugs and then sinks into the sofa without taking his scarf or his jacket off. He stares at the floor.
“You want a drink, Scotty?” she asks softly.
He finally looks at her, meeting her eyes for a split second. “Nah. Thanks, though.” He twists his gloves slowly in his hands and she sits gingerly beside him. For a moment his eyes travel up the pale length of her bare arm to the strap of her camisole.
“So where was she?” Lilly asks.
“Watching a group of kids play stick ball. Remembering back to when we were kids.” He has a small, slightly bitter smile on his face. “She can remember things I can’t. Wasn’t even all that long ago, but it’s like I can only remember the bad stuff. The stuff that’s happening now.”
“Oh, I’m sure that’s not true,” Lilly says confidently, folding her legs up beneath her. “You two have been together a long time; there’s bound to be a lot of good stuff to remember.”
He leans back into the sofa cushions, looking weary. “I’m tired,” he whispers.
“You want to crash here? The sofa’s not bad –”
“No, I mean...” He swallows. “I’m real tired. Of all this.” His fingers are trembling again and he clenches his fists around his gloves. “I’m officially the worst guy in the world,” he says, his voice slow and numb.
“You work at putting the worst guys in the world away,” Lilly says, tilting her head to catch his eye. “You’re not one of them.”
He runs a thumb across his brow and closes his eyes. “Sometimes I hate her. For being sick. For getting sick.” He leans his head back against the couch and Lilly puts a gentle hand on his shoulder.
“That doesn’t make you a bad guy, Scotty.”
“Hm.” A half-smile appears, and is gone just as quickly. “Makes me feel guilty. The things I think about her sometimes. Getting angry with her when she gets like this.” He opens his eyes slowly and stares up at the ceiling. “Doesn’t help either one of us.”
“Is it getting worse?” Lilly asks.
He pauses for a long time. “Yeah.”
She watches his face crumple and she pulls him against her gently, not sure if it’s a good idea. Not sure if he’s comfortable with it, or if it’s what he wants, but she does it anyway, and she can feel his tears on her skin, his head tucked safely under her chin and her arms around his shoulders.
“I can’t even – I can’t leave,” he sighs, his breath hot on her skin. “Relationships go bad and people break up but I can’t leave her in this state, you know? And I mean... I don’t even want to, really. I love her. Always loved her.”
“I know, Scotty,” she soothes. “It’ll be okay.”
“Yeah, that’s what I keep tellin’ her,” he says bitterly. “And it’s only getting worse. These episodes she has... I can’t keep up. I can’t keep runnin’ after her all the time, worrying about her.” He scoffs and presses his hands over his eyes, pulling away from Lilly slightly. “Listen to me.”
“It’s hard, Scotty,” Lilly whispers. “Looking after someone you love when their time of need is so...” She searches for the right word, but fails. He understands anyway.
He dashes his tears away and sits up straight again. “Yeah, I know,” he murmurs. “But knowing it’s hard don’t make me feel any better when I get like this, you know?”
“Yeah.” She gazes at him sympathetically. “She gonna be okay at her sister’s?”
“Yeah.” He looks down at his hands. “Probably better for her, I guess. Someone with her during the day, to help her out when things go wrong. When she gets scared.”
Lilly nods. “I’m sure she’ll be okay. And you too.”
He gives her a small smile. “I guess.”
“I know,” she says confidently, lifting her chin and giving him a superior look. He smiles at her efforts.
“You know, huh?”
“I know everything.” She smiles at him and he laughs, this time. Even though it doesn’t last long, it lifts the mood, and they both settle into the cushions again.
He stares up at the ceiling and she stares at his profile – his smooth brow and his straight nose.
“I figured, when I was coming to homicide here, that you were a guy,” he says after a while.
“Yeah, I know.”
“Pictured you with a moustache and everything.”
She laughs and wrinkles her nose. “A moustache?”
He turns his head and smiles gently at her. “Yeah. Didn’t expect this little blonde lady.”
“Hey, I’m not little,” she says quickly, raising her eyebrow.
The corner of his mouth quirks up. “Yeah, okay.”
“I can see eye-to-eye with you,” she shoots at him.
“On most things,” he says.
She looks down in surprise as he takes her hand and gives it a gentle squeeze.
“We get along pretty good,” he says, blinking slowly. He’s tired now.
“Yeah, we do,” she says. She’s nervous. She’s not exactly sure where his confusion is going to lead him. She closes her eyes as he runs his thumb along her index finger.
“Wasn’t that excited when I heard I’d got the only girl in homicide to work with,” he says.
“I figured.” She smiles at him.
“Glad I got her now, though.” He gives her a smile and she squeezes his hand gently.
They sit there for a while, silently, turning things over in their minds, until Scotty yawns.
“Guess I should go,” he says. He sees the clock and panics. “Oh, Jesus, Lil, I’m sorry. I’ve kept you up all night.”
“No, it’s okay,” she soothes. “I never get much sleep. Just manage to function without it.” She gets to her feet but motions for him to stay where he is. “Crash here. Don’t go back out into the cold.”
“Yeah.” She tugs the blanket off the back of the couch and hands it to him. “If you need anything, just yell.”
“I will.” He smiles gratefully at her and runs his palm along his jaw. “Thanks.”
She nods and smiles. “Yeah.”
Unfolding the blanket, he sees Olivia curled up in the chair in the corner, gazing at them both with her only eye. “Oh, Lil, what the hell is that?”
“That’s my cat!” she says, her voice a little high. She’s smiling, though, and he grins tiredly and shakes his head.
“You’re one of them crazy cat ladies.”
“Yeah.” She stretches. “Single lady with cats always equals crazy.”
“Hey, I don’t make the rules,” Scotty says, arranging himself on the sofa.
“Well we cat ladies kill people in their sleep – so sleep with one eye open.”
“Just like Blinky over there?” Scotty asks, nodding towards the corner.
Lilly rolls her eyes. “Her name is Olivia.”
“Sure, okay.” He smiles and stretches out on the sofa, kicking his shoes off without undoing the laces.
She flicks the overhead light off, but leaves the lamps on.
“Hey.” He looks up at her from the sofa, a cushion clenched in his hands.
“Thanks. Again.” He shrugs and looks down. “For talkin’ tonight. So late.”
“S’okay. I don’t mind.” She smiles at him, and after a second’s thought, reaches over and runs her fingers slowly through his hair. “Night, Scotty.”
He gazes after her as she disappears into her bedroom. “Night, Lil.”