Carting about a man who’s been shot is a lot more difficult than the telly makes it look. After two weeks of keeping an eye on Nightingale, definitely the most restless centenarian on the planet Earth, I knew I’d never be able to watch a crap procedural again.
Not that I watched them anyway. Being a copper sort of takes the shine out of that sort of thing, sadly. I did miss watching The Bill, sometimes.
Intellectually, I’d known Nightingale would be a stubborn prat about having to use the wheelchair but I hadn’t expected to find him, late one night, staring mournfully at the staircase up to the tech cave.
“Something you need, sir?” I asked, carefully studying the late georgian brickwork and not his face.
I heard him shift in the chair, clearly annoyed at having been caught. “I believe there’s a rugby game about to start,” he said, in an aggrieved tone. “But this chair isn’t exactly designed for incline climbing.”
“You’re right about that,” I said, cheerfully. “Has Abdul cleared you for walking yet?”
He glowered at me. “You know perfectly well,” he replied, as evenly as he could. “That I’m stuck in this damn thing until he decides my attitude has improved enough for a stick.”
I smiled. “I think your attitude’s fine, sir,” I said, offering an elbow to help him up. “Fancy trying the legs out? They must be feeling well rested by now.”
He narrowed his eyes, but did grip my elbow. “You are incorrigible,” he said. “Get going.”
Australia ended up beating Wales 21-18.
Nightingale didn’t complain about the chair again, at least in my hearing, so I counted the night as a success.
I paused, apple still hovering dubiously in midair. I hadn’t blown anything up on that particular day, but it was generally only a matter of time. “That is how time works,” I said slowly.
Lesley gave me a look of utter disdain. “I know, Peter, that you only care about the telly when the rugby is on, but saturday evening means one thing in the May household, at this time of year.”
I felt the hand of death upon me. My mum had, thankfully, never got into most of the crap British competition shows (besides a brief and horrifying obsession with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s maniacal attempt to rival the X-Factor with a competition show about The Sound of Music) but I knew Strictly well enough from seeing bits of it while visiting my girlfriend’s house in year 11.
Sequins and organza and glitter. Horrifying.
Lesley rolled her eyes. “It’s Hollywood Week. I plan on strapping you and Nightingale to the sofa and making you accept this cultural miracle in a very pleasant and not at all Orwellian fashion.”
“A Clockwork Orange wasn’t actually an instructional manual for brainwashing, Lesley,” I said. “Also, there are four lights.”
“You know, Peter,” said Lesley, seemingly apropos of nothing as she dragged me to the coach house. “I will never understand how women find you attractive after the first second you open your mouth and sounds emerge.”
“I’m really very charming,” I said, a hand pressed to my heart, coquettishly. “I don’t know how you resist my native charm.”
“You have something stuck in your teeth.”
I sighed, and resigned myself to an evening in sequinned hell. At least I had Nightingale to keep me company, although he seemed to be a much more willing prisoner than myself.
“I didn’t realise you were a fan, sir.”
“Not at all,” he said dryly. “But Lesley tells me there’s going to be a Charleston. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
Nostalgia goggles seemed as good a reason as any to watch, I supposed. Perhaps if I’d been born in the Edwardian period I’d be looking forward to the bloody Charleston as well.
Of course, by the time the TV crapped out during an argentine tango improbably set to GoldenEye I was invested despite myself and dedicated the rest of my evening to sitting by the stupid thing holding the cables in at the back one handed.
The sacrifices I make for my friends really do defy expectations.
I hadn’t realised she even knew how to use catch-up, but to be fair it wasn’t as if we could have conversation in the traditional sense.
She turned abruptly as I set one foot inside on my way to collect the vacuum cleaner. Her hand went to her mouth, presumably out of shock rather than out of a desire to hide her terrifying vampire teeth.
“Hi,” I said, continuing my way to the vacuum. “You just keep doing what you’re doing, I’ve got to be a good boy and clean my room like I always do.”
I thought I caught a hint of a smile before she turned back to watch a scottish man desperately drizzling caramel over a skeletal gingerbread house.
Personally I was more into Masterchef, but I could roll with some gentle baking drama.
After I’d hoovered the room, making sure to run a baby wipe over the skirting board and the lampshade, I went to sit on the sofa, a good foot away from Molly who was almost scarily focused on the screen.
Somehow, I blinked, and two hours of increasingly impressive baking had passed. I wasn’t sure at exactly what point the baking had become impressive, or when I’d got up to google what the fuck a pithivier was, but I wasn’t particularly bothered about that.
At some point during the two hours, Molly had edged along the sofa until we were sat at a distance normal friends might sit at. It was nice.
“Thanks for letting me intrude on your secret cake habit,” I told her. “I now know so much more about icing than I ever thought I would need to.”
She smiled slightly and nodded. Her teeth showed for a split second, but she didn’t move to cover them, which I supposed was a sign of our now much more profound friendship.
The next week, when Molly turned up at the dinner table with a perfectly baked pithivier, I laughed so hard I choked and Lesley had to reach across hit me on the back to rib-bruising effect.