You're not the easiest person I ever got to know
And it's hard for us both to let our feelings show
Some would say I should let you go your way
You'll only make me cry
If there's one guy, just one guy
Who'd lay down his life for you and die
It's hard to say it
I hate to say it, but it's probably me
Sting - It's Probably Me
Let me tell you a story.
The day I met Detective Inspector Robert Lewis, I was not in the best of forms. CS Innocent had sent me off to play cabbie, which wasn’t, I didn’t think, the best use of a fast-track DS’s skills. Of course, I wasn’t going to argue with her about that. I did try to make it clear to the newly-arrived DI that I wasn’t best pleased with my new assignment, but he seemed to have perfected the art of ignoring what he didn’t want to hear; a skill I later surmised he had learned from the infamous Chief Inspector Morse, a man whose talents and foibles were still the stuff of legend in Thames Valley Police CID. I discovered to my dismay that he’d been assigned to me, or rather, I’d been assigned to him within an hour of his arrival thanks to my then-DI, Knox, who’d managed to get himself booked for drink-driving before 10am, damn fool that he was.
So there I was, trailing behind an irritable Geordie with an out-of-place golden-brown Caribbean tan, the bluest eyes I’d ever seen and just barely the right amount of authority and respect for the chain of command to avoid being done up on insubordination charges on his first day back. I was fairly sure he disapproved of me too when I caught him scowling at my emailing Innocent on my Blackberry. But on Day Two the most unexpected thing happened: he asked for my opinion. As I’d intimated, I did a bit of rowing at Cambridge. Okay, quite a lot of rowing, but one doesn’t boast of past glories at all if one can help it in the British Constabulary. Trust me on that. Anyway, Lewis asked me for my opinion. I nearly stumbled over my own clown feet, but managed to rally and point out the inconsistencies at the scene drawing on my considerable experience in the area of competitive rowing. When he called me out on “used to row a bit,” I couldn’t help the treacherous smile that overtook my stupid face and it took me several minutes to force my features back to a professional demeanour.
Then he went and took the blame for a stupid slip-up I’d made. Nothing major, just an administrative hiccup, but one that was sufficient to incur the wrath of Chief Superintendent Innocent. I was nothing to Lewis, yet he shouldered the blame and diverted her attention to him, before brushing it off as nothing. No-one had ever done that before for me, not at school, not at seminary, not ever. From that moment I was helpless, I started falling.
When I asked Innocent to give him first refusal on being my governor, I could barely control my eagerness and I am sure that a glimmer of a smile made it through the mask of cool friendliness and willingness to be useful that I was trying to project. God help me, I had already fallen for him so hard with his gentle beautiful accent and steel-clad determination. My heart had already broken for him at the grave of his wife, and my pulse beat like a teenager on drugs every time he sat down (too close) to me. No, never too close to me. I could always smell him when he sat next to me. He was soap-and-water at the start of the day, sweet-smelling sweat in the evenings, freshly ironed shirts in the mornings, and coffee-breathed mid-morning when we tended to take our breaks. I instantly learned to be drugged by those scents, headier to me than any perfume. Like I said, I have a stupid face. I have an even stupider brain. But I do know that you don’t fall in love with your boss. You especially don’t fall in love with a man who is:
one) straight and completely heterosexual
two) still in love with his dead wife
three) in mourning
four) did I mention he is my boss?
five) so much older and more sophisticated than I.
He could have any woman he wanted, and God knows, over the years I’ve seen plenty of women set their cap at him. Some of them actually caught his attention too – being as he is, a red-blooded male who is hardly immune to the allure of the fairer sex – the most important of course being the resident pathologist, Doctor Laura Hobson, a woman of high intelligence, impeccable taste, unimpeachable integrity and the noblest of hearts. He liked her too and I could only commend him for his choice. But still my foolish, idiot heart now beat only for him and I knew I would be happy to resign myself to a lifetime in the mere presence of the man I could never have. I would revel in his sarcastic grins and wry comments, and thrill in every appreciative glance and nod I ever received from the man.
I’m not proud of it. I know it’s somewhat pathetic. But for the first time in my life I woke up in the morning desperate to get to work on time because he would be there; and I knew it would be interesting and fun, because he would be there. I partly hated myself because I knew these were my best days ever in all my life. How could I have let myself fall so fast and love him and love him and love him?
I did everything not to show it. I smiled, nodded crisply, listened intently but tried to pretend to only an appropriate attention to duty. Made a smart observation. Carefully noted everything he had to say on anything. I anticipated everything he would want that I could think of. I followed up on everything he mentioned, even as a casual aside and then shrugged aside with modesty any surprise he might show in my over-enthusiastic diligence. I affected a calm confidence I did not feel when he brought me down to the pub over the bridge by the green riverbank at the successful end of the case:
“Thanks, sir. Mine’s a pint.”
He put me in my place straight away, and God help me, I loved it.
“Mine’s a pint, sergeant; you’re driving.”
When my orange juice arrived he took out the new smartphone he’d been assigned and fiddled with it and then huffed and beckoned me over. I sank down next to him breathing in the salty-sweet scent of him that I already thought was the most intoxicating thing in the universe, and bent my head over his phone showing him the most useful menus and how to add his daughter and me to his hotkey contacts. He was so close his leg was pressed up against mine and his warmth crept over me like a cover. I could have stayed like that forever, basking in his body heat. So close that I could have touched his face – put my hand to his jaw and gently touched my lips to his.
But of course I did no such thing. I’m a coward. I’m also not a complete idiot. (Well, maybe I am, jury’s still out on that one.) Instead, I showed him how to make a photograph of him with his wife and kids the wallpaper of his phone and then retreated to my side of the table.
God help me. I was in love with him and utterly without any hope of his ever returning those feelings; and I’d never been happier in my entire life.