Talking Is Overrated
Catherine dropped onto the grass in front of Becky’s grave. The grass was damp but at least it wasn’t raining and her heavy-duty uniform trousers should be alright for a while. She took a deep breath and rested her head against hands, looking across to her daughter’s grave. It had been an exceptionally shit week. She had come straight from work as she often did these days. Whenever things threatened to get on top of her and she couldn’t face her obligations at home just yet, she took a breather and visited her daughter. It wasn’t comfort as such, not when it served to remind her of her own failings, but it was what she needed.
“Sergeant Cawood, isn’t it?“ A voice pulled Catherine out of her thoughts and she looked up, surprised. People don’t usually talk to you when you’re visiting a grave and Catherine considered herself even less approachable than most. And yet: a short, middle-aged woman came to stand beside her, glancing at Becky's grave briefly. Catherine didn’t recognise her but the white dog collar gave her profession away, if not her name.
“Reverend…“ Catherine said, her voice non-committal as she looked up at her for a moment. “Didn't realise we had a new vicar…“ She averted her eyes and focused on her daughter’s grave instead. “You have me at a disadvantage.“
“Jane Oliver,“ the vicar responded and Catherine found herself nodding in acknowledgement.
“How come you know who I am? We didn’t have a drunken fling that I don’t remember, or anything?“ The police sergeant chuckled though joylessly.
“Nah, I’d like to think that’s not something you’d forget about,“ the vicar retorted and Catherine looked up at her, impressed by the quick comeback. “Lucky guess,“ Jane carried on to clarify with a kind smile. She touched her hand to the stripes on Catherine’s shoulder. “Sergeant stripes and…“ She gestured to the grave and Catherine huffed.
“But I’ve also seen your picture in the paper. Queen’s Police Medal for Bravery?“ The vicar added and clasped her hands in front of her.
“That was a while ago,“ she hummed. Jane Oliver wasn’t an imposing figure and Catherine surprised herself in the fact that she hadn’t told her to do one yet. Perhaps it was a vain attempt at not pissing everyone off the moment they first met her. She did wish she would state her business though or at least sit down; she was making her nervous by hovering. “Are you just going to stand there?“
“Might have done a bit of research about this place before I came here. I wanted to know what sort of community I was coming into,“ Jane carried on and knelt down next to Catherine. The policewoman watched her for a moment, surprised that that was her reaction to her question.
“Shitty one, I’d say,“ Catherine answered at last and returned her attention to her daughter’s grave. The last few weeks had been rough… no, last few years , Catherine corrected herself. Since Becky’s death, everything in life had become a struggle. There had been ups and downs but her most recent downs, her experiences with Tommy Lee Royce, the influence he continued to have over her life and the damage he had done continued like a never ending valley of dread and despair. These days, she was barely coping.
“Things are not exactly easy around here, are they,“ Jane commented though without judgement in her soft melodic voice.
“That’s one way of putting it…“ Catherine gave a bitter sort of laugh as she contemplated the state of Calder Valley. “How do we compare?“
“Hm?“ Jane glanced over to her questioningly, a frown knitting her brow.
“To where you were before, surely this is not your first parish?“ The sergeant clarified.
“About average,“ Jane replied and Catherine huffed:
“Shitty end of average but average nonetheless, sadly…“ the vicar confirmed with a thoughtful nod.
“So where were you before?“ Catherine had already placed her accent as London but she thought it polite to ask anyway.
“Central London,“ came the prompt confirmation.
“You’ll be laughing at our small city problems then,“ Catherine mused.
“Not a laughing matter,“ Jane retorted sincerely and the calm comment cut deeper than the policewoman had anticipated. Things were bad in the Valley. When a copper had been identified as a killer, right under Catherine’s nose, she had lost what little hope she had for this place.
“Yeah I suppose it’s not…“ she mused. “But if you don’t laugh about it, you’d just be crying all the time…“
Silence fell. It wasn’t unpleasant but it wasn’t exactly light either.
“You know we can… talk,“ the vicar said at last, shooting her a glance.
“Thought we were talking…“ Catherine huffed in response and Jane chuckled:
“You know what I mean.“
“Talking is overrated…“
“Or I can just sit here,“ Jane offered, she shifted, sat down properly and crossed her legs to sit more comfortably. Catherine caught sight of her trousers and shoes. A priest in jeans and converse? She was bemused.
“Have you not got anything better to do?“ She asked and refrained from commenting on her choice of attire, though she couldn’t help but think that her jeans would soak through in the damp grass.
“Other than trying to support someone that looks like they could do with it? No, nothing better to do,“ Jane answered mildly.
“People are usually more scared of me,“ Catherine said, after brief consideration.
“Are they?“ Jane raised her eyebrows and despite her best police instincts, Catherine couldn’t tell whether she was genuinely surprised or that was something she already knew about her, too.
“Yeah, I’ve got a reputation,“ Catherine stated, figuring the priest might as well know what she’s letting herself in for.
“As someone who stands up for law and order. Don’t see anything wrong with that.“ Jane shrugged and again, her response surprised the policewoman. Reverend Oliver knew how to steer a conversation.
“You know you have quite the way with words, Reverend,“ Catherine hummed, realising she wouldn’t be able to get one over her that easily.
“Good,“ Jane smiled and it was most dazzling, warm and bright on a grey autumn day.
“And you’re not like any vicar I’ve ever met,“ Catherine decided to carry on.
“Good. Again.“ The vicar nodded approvingly. “Means you won’t measure me against my predecessor… or whatever else put you off the Church.“
“Is it that obvious,“ Catherine chuckled to herself. She was not only quick with words, she was observant too.
“It’s that look, when people see the collar, tells me everything I need to know,“ Jane answered, gesturing to the white plastic on her neck.
“And yet, you spoke to me,“ Catherine commented, a little impressed. She could only imagine what sort of face she had pulled upon realising her profession.
“I’m not scared off that easily,“ Jane stated lightly.
“The old vicar…“ Catherine took a deep breath and fixed her gaze to her daughter’s grave. “He told me suicide was a sin… that’s how Becky died, she…“ She paused for a moment and Jane didn’t jump in, she waited patiently. “She killed herself after some awful things happened to her… You can see why that might not exactly… prompt a positive response to the Church…“
“Miserable bastard…“ Jane huffed and Catherine nodded.
“That’s what I thought, too…“ The vicar’s words took a moment to sink in but when they did, Catherine’s head flew around: “Sorry, did I just hear you right? You called him a bastard? You’re a priest, you’re not meant to talk like that!“
“I like saying things how they are,“ Jane shrugged but a little smile betrayed her amusement at her reaction.
“Right, you really are not like any vicar I’ve ever met,“ Catherine laughed in disbelief. Then she extended her hand to her. “I’m Catherine by the way. Not Sergeant Cawood. I’m here to see me daughter, not make an arrest.“
“Jane,“ the vicar responded in kind and took her hand. “Though, I am the vicar here, this is my church, so I am at work, sorry,“ she added with a chuckle.
“Do you get time off work too or is it an all-day thing?“ Catherine surprised herself with the question.
“Depends on how you look at it. It’s a vocation, not a profession but I suspect you understand that very well yourself…“ Jane replied with ease and let go of her hand.
“Only, we could grab a drink if there ever were a time when neither one of us is on duty,“ Catherine gave a non-committal shrug. “I like knowing what’s going on on my patch.“
“Not completely off duty then,“ Jane gave back, her quick wit resurfacing and Catherine held up her hands defensively.
“Just thought it might be a good chance to talk.“
“I hear talking is overrated,“ the vicar hummed and Catherine shook her head to herself.
“Wise-arse,“ she chuckled and Jane feigned affront:
“You get to swear and I don’t?“ Catherine grinned, incredulous.
“Well, you insulted me, that was personal. I was just insulting my incompetent predecessor,“ Jane pointed out with a smile of her own. “But I suppose you could buy me dinner to make up for it.“