“Three words you should never be able to describe yourself as: charismatic, enigmatic or,” Gail screws up her face, “quirky.”
“It is a little weird,” Holly agrees, chewing on the last of her toast.
“People should describe you as words like enigmatic and charismatic, not the other way around. It’s so … egotistical.” Gail shakes her head and scours the page further. “Ooh, here’s another: mysterious.” She shakes her head. “You should never, ever call yourself mysterious. I mean,” she looks up, frowning, “If you call yourself mysterious, doesn’t that mean you can’t figure yourself out? And doesn’t that say you are actually just kind of dumb?”
“Gail, give me back my paper,” Holly laughs. She returned from the café bathroom to find that Gail has purloined her newspaper and is busily scouring the personals for her own personal entertainment. “Although you might find a date in there for Friday night,” she adds
Gail looks up, frowning.
“Why, Holly, would I need a date for Friday night?” She snaps the paper shut and passes it to her. “Something you’d like to share?”
“Well, actually,” Holly says carefully, taking the proffered paper, not sure how Gail is going to take her news. She folds the newspaper back into shape and tucks it on the seat next to her. “I’m not going to be around Friday to go out like we planned.”
“Oh, why not?” Gail pushes her plate away and folds her arms on the table in front of her.
“I’m going to Montreal for the weekend to see my folks. It’s kind of last minute. It’s my mom’s birthday and I thought I’d surprise her,” she says hurriedly, “I’m taking Friday off and coming back Sunday.” She drops her hand on Gail’s arm for a second and then takes it back. “Sorry I didn’t tell you until now. I only decided last night and I didn’t want to call you so late and …”
“Holly,” Gail leans forward, “It’s fine. I can, despite what you might think, survive a weekend without you.”
“ I didn’t mean …”
“Holly, I’m kidding” Gail reaches over and squeezes her arm, smiling. “I may possibly even miss you,” she adds, waving to the waiter for the bill.
Holly smiles, relieved. She really wasn’t sure how this would go, and she doesn’t like changing plans on people, but, after that conversation with Gail the other night about her parents, Holly had a serious spell of missing them. Then, after a long catch-up with her father on the phone last night, they somehow found themselves hatching the plan for a surprise visit for her mother’s birthday and the next thing Holly knew, she was booking a plane ticket.
“I want to go to away for the weekend,” Gail sighs as the waiter rushes past, dropping the bill on the table. “Instead of working another Saturday night.”
“We should,” Holly tells her, taking the bill from the dish before Gail can. “We should take a weekend and go somewhere some time.”
“Paris?” Gail says, sitting up in her seat and grinning like a kid.
“Oh I would that I could, Gail,” she grins. “But I was thinking somewhere a little more local. And cheaper. Paris, Ontario, maybe?”
She takes one look at the expression on Gail’s face and laughs. “Kidding. We’ll come up with somewhere.” She places some money on top of the bill. “Come on, we better go.”
They leave the warmth of the café for the biting cold of the snowy street.
“You want me to drive you to the airport?” Gail asks her as they get into the car. “I have Friday morning off.”
“Sure, that’d be great.” Holly says, pulling out her keys. But before she can even put them in the ignition, Gail has leaned over, grabbing her collar and pulling her toward her.
“I’m going to be late,” Holly warns her.
“I know,” Gail shrugs, kissing her. “But I have to get it while I can, you know. You’re leaving me.”
Holly loops an arm around her neck, kissing her again and then pulls back to look into those impossible, addictive eyes.
“I’m going for three days,” she says, smiling. “Barely three days. We’ve gone a longer time apart when we are both in the same city.”
“I know,” Gail tells her, “But shut up and let me enjoy you for a minute, before I have to go do something highly unenjoyable like highway patrol or desk duty all day.” Gail tells her.
“Okay,” Holly agrees, resting her forehead on Gail’s.
“Don’t have too much fun,” Gail whispers.
“I don’t know what you think I’m going to be doing all weekend,” Holly grins, pulling her head back and kissing her. “I won’t be scouting the gay bars and partying, you know. I probably won’t even leave my parents’ apartment.”
“Good.” Gail kisses her again, and then releases her collar so she is free to start the car. She slides the key into the ignition
“I still wish I was going away for the weekend,” Gail sighs, stretching out her arms to touch the dashboard, stretching and yawning.
“You’ll have to come with me. One day.” Holly says, pulling out into the road.
“Yeah, one day.” Gail says.
She is quiet until Holly pulls up at the station.
“By the way, I want a present,” Gail says.
“From Montreal?” Holly asks, wrinkling her nose.
“That’s what I said,” Gail tells her, lofty. “Just so I know you are really there, and not running around behind my back.”
“Oh, of course.” Holly nods, smiling. “I’ll do that.” She reaches over and squeezes Gail’s leg. “Have a great day, crazy person.”
“Oh, I plan to, Holly.” Gail tells her, climbing out of the car. “I plan to.”
Who, oh why did Gail not check her phone before answering it?
Because she is an idiot.
Because she was too distracted by her own good mood from starting the day with an early breakfast with Holly at a café, by for once actually having had plenty of time to drink appropriate amounts of coffee and ease into the day and because of that, she forgot to be wary.
Because her horoscope told her everything was supposed go as planned today.
Because she thought it would be Chris or Dov ringing- only one of those two would dare call this early.
Because she forgot that there is one other person who might call this early.
Oh yeah, and because she’s an idiot again.
And because of all this Gail let her guard down, plucking out her phone and answering it as she juggled keys and bag, not looking at the name on the screen first.
And now her day is crumbling around her. A grenade launched into her ideal morning, lobbed by one Elaine Peck.
“Now, you be sure and get your uniform dry cleaned before the awards. You don’t want to look scruffy for the photos.”
“Of course I will,” Gail sighs, her third already for the phone call.
Why does she even need to say that, Gail wonders? Gail prides herself on never looking scruffy, especially not in her uniform. And it is not like her mother hasn’t spent the last however many years drilling into her that presentation is half the path to success—just another of her ‘just helping you be the best you can be’ pieces of mom advice.
“Anyway,” Elaine changes the subject, “Tell me about this Traci girl your brother’s seeing. I don’t think I know her. She’s the one who beat you for that detective rotation, isn’t she?”
“Yes, that would be the one.” Gail suppresses another sigh, leaning against the boot of Oliver’s car, which is already parked in the lot.
“Don’t be bitter, darling. I saw that young woman’s application and she, unlike some people I won’t mention, put in some very hard work to make herself ideal for that position. That girl clearly has drive.”
By which she means Gail does not.
“And you can’t just rest on the family name to get promotions, you know.”
“I know,” Gail mutters. She checks her watch. Her mother seems to be working toward a new record: two bullets in two minutes. She’d be impressed if she weren’t so dispirited.
Besides, Gail has no intention of resting on her family name. The one time she ever tried to use her Peck backing in any real way it had nearly backfired on her in a seriously bad, nearly career-ending way.
And she hadn’t even thought of applying for that detective rotation until she was pushed into it. Everyone at 15 knew it was Traci’s for the taking. That application had been the result of yet another ‘serious talk about her future’, endured on a drive up to the cottage for her father’s birthday last year. One of those occasions when her mother actually had her in her clutches long enough to manage to drill some tangible fear into her of never making it anywhere, of staying on patrol until she retires while everyone around her moves up in the world. Next thing Gail knew she was rushing in an application on the last day they were to be accepted. She has to admit; her mother does know how to push her buttons when she wants to.
“Anyway, your brother seems quite taken with this woman.”
“Hmm,” Gail say, noncommittal, not sure if this is information coming from Steve or the from great police grapevine. And the last thing she wants do is grass on her brother for anything, especially at the moment when he’s helping keep her love life well under wraps.
“I heard she’s a single mother, too.” Elaine says in a hushed tone. “Doesn’t she have enough on her hands?”
“What does that mean?” Gail asks, shaking her head and stamping at the snow stuck to her boots.
“I don’t know why your brother wants to be burdened with a woman with a child. “ Elaine says. “But don’t tell him I said that, though. He’s a grown up, he doesn’t need to hear what his old mother has to say on the matter.”
Gail suppresses yet another sigh. Why does her brother not have to hear every opinion his mother has about his life choices? Gail certainly has to.
“So, honey, what about you? Did you call Cecilia’s son about that dinner?”
“No, I didn’t,” Gail says, checking her watch again. She has to end this phone call and she has to end it soon if she wants to recover this day for herself.
“Oh why not? He's just moved back from the States. He’s working for the Chief’s office, you know.”
“I .. I haven’t had time. Work’s been really busy,” Gail stutters, wondering how much this lie is going to turn around and bite her later, when her mother inevitably finds out about Holly.
“Well you should get right on that call, sweetheart. He sounds like a good one and someone will snap him up quickly.”
“Okay, mom,” Gail says, willing to agree to anything to get off the phone. “I have to go. I’m about to start work.”
“Okay, well don’t be late on my account. But we need to talk about planning your Aunt’s birthday soon. You didn’t forget to get her present, did you?”
“No, I did not,” Gail sighs.
“And you got the seats she wanted? In the circle?”
“Yes,” Gail clenches her teeth. Why does her mother think she is completely incapable of the easiest of tasks, like buying ballet tickets, but then wants her to apply for promotions she’s not qualified left right and centre?
“I have to go,” she says again.
“Okay, well bye, honey. Have a wonderful day.”
No chance now.
“Yeah, see you.”
Gail pulls her bag onto her shoulder, sighs, and heads for the entrance. She feels weary already. There is nothing, nothing like a call from her mother to start the day.
She looks up. It’s Andy, arriving for the same shift. She looks tired. And sad. As much as she doesn’t want to, Gail can’t help feeling the teensiest bit sorry for her. Things have been a mess for everyone lately, but especially for Andy. Sure, it’s partly of Andy’s own making, but Gail knows what it is like to be in that situation. It doesn’t make it any better. In fact, it’s worse.
“Hey,” Gail replies quietly, pulling open the door and letting her through first.
They fall into step together down the hall. Neither says anything. Gail considers pretending she has to go somewhere to cut this awkward silent lockstep toward the locker room short, but she doesn’t have time to take detours now.
“So, uh, how are you?” Andy asks, tentative.
“Fine,” Gail tells her in a voice that she hopes reminds Andy: we don’t do this any more. Gail might feel sorry for her, but that does not mean she is anywhere near ready to step back into that thing they had, that thing that was slowly inching its way toward becoming a friendship of some kind. Gail and her pride are not ready to do that yet.
“Uh, I have to go see Frank before parade.” Andy mutters. Gail watches her speed off down the hall.
Looks like they both had the same idea.