“I’m going to tell him. The poor boy needs to know. That Audrey always seemed like such a nice girl to me-”
“Never mind the inconvenient identity crisis,” Gloria mumbles into her tea, not even bothering to refrain from rolling her eyes.
Laverne glares at her as she arranges cookies on a glass plate on Nathan’s desk. “But she’s going to break his heart and I just can’t stand by and let him be blindsided. I’ve known Nathan Wuornos since he was just a grasshopper,” she continues as if Gloria hadn’t spoken, her usual bulldozing over any mention of the Troubles.
Laverne’s quite literally heard it all on the dispatch but it’s her job to spin the Troubles. Some days Gloria wonders if she actually believes her own spin, or if she’s just a master at avoidance.
As well as baking, that is, because these cookies are delicious.
Laverne slaps her hand as she reaches for another one and Gloria heaves a long-suffering sigh. “Well of course she’s going to break his heart. He’s a sap. He’s asking for it.”
“That is not what I mean!” She purses her lips and glances around as if they aren’t the only ones here this early. “I saw Audrey a couple of days ago, with Duke Crocker. They were parked down the alley by Haven Joe’s in his truck and-”
Laverne looks for a moment as if she’s going to explode, her cheeks pink and her hair standing even more on end than usual.
Leaning in, Gloria stage-whispers, “And what?” Even though she’s pretty sure she knows exactly what.
“And they were kissing. Poor, poor Nathan.” Laverne presses a hand over her mouth, shaking her head. Apparently it’s just such a shame.
“Yeah, poor Nathan.” Gloria gulps at her tea and coughs, rubbing her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “Better let the tea cool down a bit before you ambush him. He won’t be able to tell that it’s the temperature of tinfoil on the sun.”
“Aren’t you the least bit shocked?” Laverne demands, fussing over the cookies again and somehow still managing to ignore the Troubles. Maybe that’s Laverne’s Trouble: avoidance. “I thought they were really happy. Anyway, I just can’t stand to see her break his heart without him at least having some idea it’s going on.”
“Sure, sure. What kind of nosy-ass dispatcher would you be?” Gloria snatches an extra cookie and stuffs it in her purse. Before Laverne can protest, the ‘poor dear’ makes his appearance, looking a little ragged around the edges but with that cocky grin that probably means he got laid last night. “Well! You just let me know how all this goes.”
She brushes out past Nathan, who still looks a little baffled and well-screwed in the doorway, and makes a halfhearted attempt to hide her cackling laughter in the too-hot tea.
Nathan stills, hands stuffed in his pockets as he eyes the tea and cookies on his otherwise tidy desk. “Laverne? What’s… going on?”
“Oh good morning, sweetie. Come, come, sit down!”
He hesitates, sniffing slightly, but shuffles over to his desk chair. “What’s all this?”
“Well.” She takes a deep breath, as if she’s about to give him the worst news of his life, (which he really hopes she isn’t because that would have to be pretty horrific news.) “Here, why don’t you have a cookie first? And some tea.” Despite her avoidance skills, she dips a finger into the teacup for a moment to be sure it isn’t too hot before sliding it over to him. Not actually clueless after all.
Nathan dutifully munches on his cookie, knowing better than to try to get Laverne to talk before she’s good and ready. “You look awfully tired, sweetie. Didn’t you get any sleep?”
He can’t feel it but heat rises in his face as he scratches at his forehead. “Uh, not really, no. Duke and Audrey kind of kept me up most of the night.”
Laverne’s eyes get a little misty at that, like just-saw-a-puppy-get-kicked misty, and she reaches out to pat his hand. “Oh honey. I-I really don’t know how to say this. Gloria thinks I should just mind my own business but…”
Nathan sips carefully at his tea, hoping that he can trust her judgment that it isn’t too hot. He may not be able to feel his burnt tongue but Audrey would fuss. “It’s all right. You can tell me.” Whatever it is, it can’t be as bad as she’s making it out to be.
“I know how much you care about Detective Parker and- and I know you’ve really patched things up with Duke Crocker too, but- Oh, Nathan, sweetie. I saw them together, a few days ago.” She presses her lips together, oh so sympathetic. “And I just thought you should hear it from a trusted source first, before it gets all over town.”
Nathan pauses with his cup halfway to his mouth. “Saw them… together? What do you mean?”
“Together.” As if that clarifies everything. He must still look mystified because she lowers her voice and elaborates: “Kissing.”
He chokes on the cookie, coughing and grinning as she slaps him on the back. “Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry you had to hear this! I just couldn’t stand to see her break your heart and just blindside you!”
“No, no, Laverne, I-” Nathan shakes his head, trying to wash down the cookie crumbs that he can’t be sure are still there. “Thank you, for being so concerned, but…” He winces, squinting up at her. “Um, I know.”
“You know what, dear?”
“About Duke and Audrey. Kissing.” Nathan imitates her emphasis on the word, leaning in and lowering his voice.
For once in her life, the woman seems to be at a loss for words. He almost feels bad for stumping her so hard.
“It’s-it’s okay,” he rushes to explain. “We’re, um-”
Explaining to a town full of busybodies that you’re in a polyamorous relationship? Not easy. Explaining it to a woman who’s been like a grandmother to you most of your life? Nathan finds that’s next to impossible.
“Did you two break up, hon? I’m sorry, I’m dredging up bad memories, aren’t I? Ach, Gloria was right, I should have just minded my own business.”
“No, no we didn’t break up. Audrey and I are still together, we’re just… also… Duke’s, ah…”
Her face falls and she perches next to him on the deck, refilling his cup. “Now, Nathan. You’re a real catch, you know that? You’re a sweet guy and a caring guy and you were the Chief of Police! You don’t have to stay with someone who doesn’t recognize that. It’s noble of you to try and make it work but if she doesn’t see what she’s got, well.”
Nathan drops his forehead into the palm of his hand. “No, it’s not like that either. Audrey and I are really happy. She’s not- I mean, it’s- Duke and I have, for a long time, you know and-”
That’s always the trickiest part, explaining that it’s not an ‘open relationship’, that he and Audrey aren’t just ‘seeing other people’. It’s the Nathan-and-Duke part that’s a bitch to put into words. Because Nathan doesn’t want other people thinking about what they do and, you know, it’s not like that. Well, it is, they fuck like bunnies, but it’s not just sex and neither of them is just gay and it’s more complicated than that because they love Audrey too and-
Laverne’s eyebrows are knit together in equal parts concern and confusion and he’s been quietly mumbling for too long, he can tell, so he just stuffs another cookie in his mouth to buy himself some time.
The door bangs open and Gloria marches back into the office. “Nathan! Up and at ‘em, you’ve got a body. Floatin’ one. Better call Detective Parker.”
Either she has impeccable timing or she was eavesdropping, but whatever her secret, Nathan finds himself outrageously thankful for her intrusion. And for whatever Trouble is causing dead bodies to float six inches above the water in the harbor, according to the initial report she shoves into his hands.
Nathan pastes on a slightly awkward smile, never quite sure how to control his facial muscles, and grabs an extra couple cookies as he marches out after Gloria. For now, he’ll just be grateful for well-timed interruptions and eavesdropping MEs.