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A Tangled Web

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Eileen Bruno wanted a glass of milk and thought that the walk downstairs would settle the baby who was currently using her bladder as a trampoline. Yet she lay in bed a while longer her right hand going out to caress the cold space that her husband Jimmy should be occupying, she could faintly hear him and his partner Coop talking in the backyard. When the need for hydration intensified and the fact that she suddenly needed to pee became too strong she reluctantly got up. Once her bladder had been emptied enough so that she could at least stand her unborns acrobats she made her way down the stairs and into the kitchen. Her hand on the refrigerator handle she heard the disembodied voice of her husband say "Why do you gotta piss of Teddy Burke like that?"

Intrigued she walked over to the back door, held the yellow curtains aside and looked out at the two men. They were sat on garden chairs passing a bottle of whiskey between them.

Coop scoffed "Are you afraid of that scumbag?"

"It aint about fear, you know what it's about" Jimmy replied his voice growing quite towards the end

Coop sighed and asked "What's it about Jimmy?"

"Keeping my job, I aint going against McCree" Jimmy replied looking over at Coop.

Passing the whiskey bottle back to Jimmy, Coop replied with "So that makes it alright to be on the take?" and angled his head slightly

"Everything's always black and white with you" Jimmy more sighed then actually vocalised then "You don't know anything" and took another swig of whiskey.

Coop leant forward enthusiastically and said "We're cops, that's all I need to know."

"I've got three kids. Don't talk to me about taking fifty bucks a week from a piece of crap!" Jimmy defended whilst passing the whiskey bottle back making Eileen's heart swell with love for her handsome provider but never once letting go off the curtain.

"Then you are just like McCree" Coop poked a finger at Jimmy and half snarled as if he remembered he was talking to his best friend at the last minute.

"Get off your soapbox Coop! You go out there and bust shins 'cos it's another good time for you!" Jimmy shouted his anger slowly rising

Coop stopped lifting the whiskey bottle to his lips and said "I bust shins 'cos I am enforcing the law." pointing at the ground as he did.

This made Eileen smile behind her wood and glass partition and made Jimmy sigh "You and your John Wayne act."

"We're the law. We're here to put the scumbags away it aint fun and games." Coop said vehemently. Eileen, although having no clue as to what the two men were talking about suddenly felt this overwhelming feeling of foreboding. Like something bad had been set into motion.

Then Jimmy said leaning further towards Coop with every word "Sure it is, just like the fun you had slaughtering Vietcong. You miss that free pass to kill don't you?"

Eileen saw Coop's temper snap and before she could realize what had happened Coop had whacked Jimmy's head with his forearm leaving behind a thud that echoed in her ears. As Jimmy was struggling to reorientate himself Coop put all his weight behind his fist and punched him in the face.

Standing up he said "You're right that was fun."

Jimmy gasped "Go to hell." before he was on his feet again and he and Coop were grappling for a hold on each other until Coop pushed Jimmy away with a hand to his chest.

They stood there staring at each other for what felt like an eternity to Eileen her throat constricting hoping that they'd leave each other be and go sleep off the whiskey and bad feelings. Then Coop's hands came up from his side and grabbed the back of Jimmy's head just as his lips claimed Jimmy's own. Jimmy gave a muffled gasp and placing his arms in between Coop's pushed him off. Eileen was staring wide eyed. Jimmy looked more confused than anything else and Eileen could relate. They stood Jimmy looking at Coop, Coop looking at the floor. Suddenly his face changed the look of confusion replaced by a lust evident in his eyes and he took the two steps towards Coop and repeated Coops earlier gesture, enveloping Coops face with his hands, his lips with his own. Coops hands came up and desperately ran over every part of Jimmy's back they could reach. They kissed like they'd been wandering in the desert for years and now they were each others oasis; Jimmy never kissed her like that. Looking through that window with her mother's yellow curtains clenched tight in her hand Eileen heard her heart break not knowing what the sound meant. She tore her eyes away from the two men still kissing, let out the sob she had been holding back and released her grip on the curtains. Bending slightly she unconsciously brought her hand to her stomach then forgetting the glass of milk she had come down for turned and made her way back to the room she shared with Jimmy.

When she entered the room it was just the same as it was when she had left. Although only minutes had gone by Eileen thought something momentous should have occurred upstairs so as to balance out what happened, was probably still happening downstairs. She led down on the bed and drew what she hoped would be a steadying breath however it only caused her eyes to close and the scene of her husband kissing his partner to replay itself on her eyelids. There would be no sleep for her; Coop had chased it firmly away. In days past she used to see a dim light when she looked at Coop, like a light bulb that needed polishing and she had hoped that he would find a good woman to help him shine. But now all she saw when she thought of him was the devil. Satan himself come to take her sweet Jimmy away from her and his children. She would not have it. Tomorrow she would go to Serge and tell him what that wicked son of his had done. But would Jimmy deny his part in the events, would he deny kissing Coop back? The Jimmy she married would but that man she saw was not the Jimmy she married. With eyes wide open she stayed perfectly still watching the ceiling, trying desperately not to hear any noise from the back yard.

When Jimmy finally came up to bed she was dozing on her back dreaming of righteous fury and the return of her Jimmy. He woke her up by kicking off his shoes and dropping his belt to the floor the buckle clattering loudly. His lips were kiss-swollen and his shirt was un-tucked, she pretended not to notice. He climbed into bed next to her dressed in his boxer shorts and mumbled that Coop was asleep on the couch 'cos he was too drunk to drive home. He smelt of whiskey and Coop, her nose wrinkling at the thought. There was nothing she could do but lay there and hope sleep would claim her and God forbid if she dreamed. When sleep finally found her she dreamt that Jimmy had not taken those two steps toward Coop after pushing him off but had taken two steps back. She dreamt of the words queer and cocksucker coming from her husbands mouth and fear in Coop's eyes. She smiled in her sleep.

The light of early morning woke her to an empty bed, Jimmy's side already cold and the smell of breakfast cooking. Smiling sleepily she slowly rose, slipped on her dressing gown and waddled to the bathroom. Once finished brushing her teeth she turned for the stairs. She was in her ninth month now so soon her baby would come. Jimmy had liked Charlie for a boy and Charlotte for a girl. There eldest Jason really wanted a younger brother and he would spend hours on end whispering into her belly telling his unborn sibling the things he would do with him if only he would be born a boy. Mary there daughter didn't seem to mind what sex the baby was just that it was born healthy. Lost in her thoughts she had made her way downstairs and was assaulted at the bottom by Mary who grabbed her hand and said "Mummy, Daddy and Uncle Coop are cooking breakfast!" whilst pulling her in the direction of the kitchen.


Her tranquil morning was shattered. Last night really did happen; she had hoped it was a nightmare. Dragged into the kitchen by an overactive five year old she quickly composed her face into the most genuine smile she could muster and said mock cheerful "Boys you really didn't have to." and took a seat at the little table pressed against the wall. Jimmy smiled at her, giving her hope that he regretted what happened last night but then when he thought she wasn't looking he turned to Coop who was frying some eggs and the smile met his eyes and made them sparkle. Jimmy placed three crispy rashers of bacon on a plate and Coop supplied the fried egg then Jason took the plate from his fathers waiting hands and placed it in front of her. Little Mary tugged on Coops trousers and asked him if he could pass her the ketchup and once it was in her chubby hands she too placed it in front of Eileen. Smiling despite herself she said "Is it my day to be waited on then, darlings." Jimmy, Jason and Mary laughed while Coop just smiled. How dare he, how dare he stand there among her children after what he'd done to there father, she thought, her rage returning. Every bone in her body ached to scream at Coop, scream the words she'd dreamt Jimmy saying but the fact that her children were in the room and her lingering doubt that Jimmy wouldn't deny it stilled her tongue. So she put some ketchup on her eggs and ate them along with her bacon her eyes never leaving the pattern on the plate. Her children and their father chatted around her, talking with Satan at the breakfast table she thought and nearly made herself giggle with the absurdity. Jason and Mary had finished there breakfast and were playing in the living room and Jimmy was at the sink dealing with their plates and the frying pan whilst Coop dried up after him. Finished eating she placed her knife and fork on her plate and Coop took it away. In the absence of the plate she stared at the wood of the table drawing patterns in her head. Looking up for a moment she caught Jimmy's hand lingering on Coops whilst passing him a washed knife. With eyes like saucers she again fixed her gaze on the table. After he and Coop finished the washing up they joined Eileen at the table each with a cup of coffee and one in Jimmy's hand for her. Coop smiled that charming smile of his and told her she was looking beautiful today, it charmed Jimmy more than it did her.

Jimmy stood up saying that the only reason Coop ever came round was to eye up her, then with a kiss to her cheek he told her that he was gonna go get ready for work walking out the kitchen leaving her and Coop alone. With the sound of Jimmy's footsteps on the stairs Eileen was all set to rip into Coop. Demand he get out of her house and to keep away from Jimmy. Then Coop's eyes went to her belly and his smile faltered, his face clouding over. This was the Coop Jimmy had introduced her to last year, a good man who knew when what he was doing was wrong. Any thoughts of talking about last night fled Eileen's mind as a new hope bloomed in her mind, she would let Coop stop this. He had started it therefore he should finish it. She found herself slipping back into her easy way of talking with Coop now that the pressure was off herself, if in her mind only. While waiting for Jimmy to get dressed she and Coop chatted idly about nothing it was then she again found the man that shone dimly and she rejoiced. Jimmy walked down the stairs and into the kitchen in his uniform smiling from ear to ear. Coop asked what he was grinning at and Jimmy replied nothing, this time Eileen missed the look that passed between them. If she had seen it she would have know that Coop had no intention of ever quitting Jimmy, willingly or otherwise. This would have made the blossom of hope she was revelling in wilt and die. As it was she was content in the plan she had formed not seeing how flimsy it was. As Jimmy and Coop walked out the door throwing goodbye over there shoulders, on there way to Coop's apartment so he could change into his uniform she saw only what she wanted to.

That day she would bake cookies, Mary eating more of the mixture than actually helping and sit on the couch watching but not listening as Jason and Mary played. That day Eileen Bruno thought her fear that her family would crumble was unfounded and foolish. If only she knew.