An unexpected update, I know 🙂 But I simply can’t stay away from this story. I’ve written quite a lot of it, and I just had to share it with you.
Love you all,
“Mops, is that you?”
Sergeant Andrew Cooper stood in the doorframe, his hand on his armpit holster, or whatever those were called. It did make him look quite dashing – and even taller and more broad-shouldered.
“Evening, Andrew,” Imogen muttered, slowly edging from behind the desk. There was no point in hiding. Andrew always noticed everything.
“What happened to your legs, Mops?” he exclaimed, and made a few long strides towards her. “Did you fall off the bike again?”
“It only happened once before,” Imogen mumbled, and stared at the top of his blonde curly head. He’d scooted in front of her, and stretched his hand.
“May I?” he asked and looked up at her. Imogen smiled into the familiar green eyes.
“We should go outside. We’ll bother the Mayor,” she whispered.
“Maybe we should,” Andrew said in a pointed tone, but keeping his voice down. “He surely has the first aid kit here.”
“We have one in the office bathroom, but I’d rather we went to your car.”
Andrew got up and nodded.
“Let’s go, Mops.”
Imogen readily looped her arm through his; and they walked out, turning off the light, and locking the door behind them.
Imogen climbed into the back seat of his police car, and sat waiting for him to get the kit.
“What are you doing here anyway?” she asked, and his head popped up from behind the door of the boot.
“I was on my way home, when they told me Mrs. Carter from the cottage across the hill saw the lights in the Town Hall offices. She of course rang us up. She was worried it’s ‘them gypsies,” Andrew drew out in a funny high-pitched voice.
“And you got wrangled into checking it out? Poor Andrew,” Imogen laughed.
He walked around the car, and turned on the light on the ceiling.
“Well, I suppose a girl with smashed knees is a better catch than a band of vagabonds,” Andrew answered, giving her an impish grin. He then opened some bottles and a package of gauzes. “Are we ripping your trousers then?”
“I suppose.” Imogen threw a doubtful look at the shreds of fabric. “I can always cut them and turn them into shorts.”
Andrew pulled out scissors from the kit and started carefully cutting. The knees were in a worse shape than Imogen assumed; and she sighed. The next day would be a blast!
“Andrew, don’t think me ungrateful or anything, but could we chivvy a tad, please? I need to go as soon as possible.”
“Oh?” Andrew was now cleaning the bruises, and Imogen hissed and squeezed her eyes. “Do you have a date?” He blew gently on the bruises.
“Ha ha,” Imogen deadpanned. “Haven’t you heard? I’m the Mayor’s mistress.”
Andrew’s hands froze, and he slowly lifted his face. Imogen couldn’t see the expression very well, since he was blocking the light from the ceiling.
“I’m joking, you clot.” Imogen sighed again. “And no, no date. I need to go to Rosie’s.”
Andrew went back to his work.
“Is she… out again?” His tone was nonchalant.
“Yeah… Oh, and I need to stop to get some food. Mr. Clark’s convenience should still be open.” Imogen looked at her watch.
Andrew was carefully putting plasters on her knee.
“I can just see the suppressed judgement bubbling in your skull, Andrew,” Imogen grumbled, and he patted the ends of a plaster with the tips of his fingers.
“You know what I think, Mops. She’s taking advantage of you, and you’re too nice to stop her.”
“I’m all those two children have, Andrew,” she said softly, and he looked up at her, his eyebrows raised in his habitual concerned expression.
“I still think you should report her.”
“And risk giving up Kathy and Brian to the system? No, Andrew…” He opened his mouth, and she hushed him. “A bad mother is better than none. We both know that, don’t we, Andrew?”
He gave her a joyless smile. “We do.” He backed off out of the car and straightened up. “Alright, Mops. Let me help you to the front seat. I’ll drive you to the shop, and then to the estates. I’m sorry I can’t stay for much longer, I have an early inquiry tomorrow.”
“You’ve already done so much!” Imogen let him pull her out by her hand. For a second she was standing very close to him, his soft green jumper in the open leather jacket right in front of her nose. “Thank you.”
A thought – which had been quite a habit of Imogen’s, to be frank – came. It would have been so much easier to be in love with Andrew as opposed to… not being in love with anyone, Imogen no less habitually veered away from the thought of another male in her life. Andrew was – as every female in Fleckney Woulds who possessed a pair of eyes, at least one brain cell, and a pulse, would say – too good to be true. He was decent, kind, and handsome; a policeman with an impeccable record; he sang in two church choirs; he played cricket; he was polite to the extreme; and… single. There had been a talk about him and Annabelle Craig for a while; but judging by her sour look, the rumours remained just that. He also had a few merits as if made bespoke to Imogen’s shy personal preferences. He had wonderful high cheekbones; beautiful hands; and he was grand with her niece and nephew.
And yet, nothing stirred. Imogen had quite accepted that her personal life would always consist of an unrequited longing for an unattainable male with a strong will, long legs, and thoughtful eyes. Except, why did it have to be… not Andrew? It would have been so easy to pine over him. She saw him occasionally; they’d gone to theatre couple times together; he’d driven her and the kids to the fete for several years straight.
And still, that was all that Andrew was – a childhood friend and a very attractive man, but in a sort of abstract way. Even the well-defined chest under the cashmere jumper and the pleasant fresh smell of his aftershave didn’t entice Imogen to press her nose to the aforementioned chest… while the thought of doing it with another man would come to Imogen twenty five times in eight hours at least.
Once she was settled, Andrew took the driver’s seat.
“How are you going to get to work tomorrow, Mops?” he asked, starting the car.
“I’ll have to call a cab, I suppose,” Imogen answered, already calculating the size of a hole this little indulgence would make in her budget, which was quite similar to a slice of Swiss cheese – a very thin slice – and Imogen sighed.
“You really should get a license, Imogen. I told you, you can have my Dad’s old car.”
“Uh-huh,” Imogen answered absentmindedly, lost in the sad thoughts about those two volumes of Dorothy Sayer she had put aside in Mr. Sanders’ book shop. They would have to wait for another couple months now. “And who will teach me to drive, Andrew? A school certainly won’t manage. You know I’m physically incapable of operating anything mechanical.”
“Oh, not the old tale of Imogen vs technology again!” Andrew laughed.
“Not technology, Andrew. I’m wicked with a computer, and even our printer listens to me!” Imogen exclaimed defensively. “It’s the mechanical part, cogs and levers! I broke my toaster again last week!” Andrew laughed louder. “Oh do shut up. It’s true. It now goes ding, but the toast stays in, and burns.”
“Do you want me to have a look at it?” Andrew offered, and Imogen gave him the usual, ‘Thank you, but it’s OK.’ “Maybe, if it were made by Apple, and had WiFi…” Andrew drew out, and Imogen snorted.
“Maybe then it’d stop filling my kitchen with smoke.”
“I still think you should try. I did teach you to ride a bike.” He gave her a cheeky side glance.
“And look where it got me!”
“Into a ditch?” Andrew asked; and they both laughed.
They stopped at the shop; and Imogen picked up some bangers, pasta, a bit of fruit and vegetables, milk, and couple more things.
“Going to your sister’s, Imogen dear?” Mrs. Clark asked, bagging Imogen’s purchases.
Imogen sighed. The old part of Fleckney Woulds, where the shop, Imogen’s cottage, and the Mayor House were, was the neighbourhood Imogen grew up in; and of course, everyone knew everything. At least, since Rosie had moved out from their family home to the estates, less was known about her lifestyle. On the other hand, everyone who knew Rosie when she was a child and especially a teen, could make an educated guess.
“Yes, thank you, Mrs. Clark.” Imogen gave the woman a tense smile, and then couldn’t help but execute a small revenge. “How is your book going?”
Mrs. Clark had been writing romance novels for quite a while now, but had no luck publishing them. She’d given Imogen a draft to read once – it was dreadful. As inexperienced as Imogen was, she was quite sure that the disturbingly detailed descriptions Mrs. Clark had provided in her book were not actually physically possible to execute.
“Quite well,” Mrs. Clark answered in a brittle voice, and shoved the bags towards Imogen. Andrew picked them up, futilely trying to hide a chuckle under a coughing fit.
“Are you sure you don’t need me to go up with you?” Andrew asked, but Imogen was already climbing out of the car.
“No, no, I’ll be alright. And thank you!” Imogen took the bags from the back seat, and then stopped near the passenger door window, which he’d lowered thoughtfully. “I mean it. Thank you, Andrew.”
He gave her a long look, which she couldn’t quite decipher, and then nodded.
“Good night, Mops.”
She knew he’d wait till she entered the building; so she gave his a clumsy wave with her occupied right hand, and walked towards the entrance.
The lift wasn’t working again; and she sighed and ventured into her climb. The knees hurt; and she was thinking she should’ve changed really. There was no need to frighten the children with her bloodied clothes; but she’d felt she had burdened Andrew already, and asking him for yet another stop would be just too much.
She unlocked the door, and slowly walked into the flat. It was dark, and she threw a quick look at her Swatch. It was half past eight, so the children weren’t supposed to be asleep.
“Kathy! Brian! It’s me! Are you here?” she called, and the light went on in the living room, and two disheveled heads stuck in the doorway.
“Aunt Imogen!” Kathy shouted, and both children beamed with smiles. “It’s you!”
“Imogy!” Brian hollered, and rushed to her. Imogen had just a second to put her bags down, before both children were pressed into her. Their angular limbs were inflicting quite a lot of pain upon her battered self, but at least they weren’t bothered by her unorthodox looks.
“Of course it’s me. Who did you expect?” Imogen ruffled two sandy blonde heads. The children were quite smelly, actually. Imogen’s mind was already working on the dinner and baths schedule.
“Tommy Gurdie picked Mom up earlier,” Kathy whispered into Imogen’s side. “He was with friends, and they were already drunk.”
Imogen cringed. So, the children were hiding in the living room, with lights off, worried Rosie wouldn’t be alone when she came home.
“Alright, my lambkins. Let’s go eat something. I’m starving, I haven’t eaten anything all day,” Imogen said in a pretence jolly voice. “And I will tell you how clumsy your Aunt is.”
The children cheered; Kathy grabbed one of the bags; while Brian was already running to the kitchen to start the water for tea.
“Did you fall, Aunt Imogen?” Kathy asked over her shoulder, hauling the groceries in her stick like arms.
“Yes, spectacularly, into a ditch. And my phone drowned.” Imogen mimicked gasping for air and made bubbling noises. Brian who was now running around her like a puppy giggled. “And then Andrew came and saved me. Do you remember Andrew?”
Imogen started putting groceries on the table.
“He’s a policeman!” Brian answered excitedly.
“He’s beautiful!” Kathy added in a dreamy voice. Imogen laughed.
“Yes, and yes. And you know what? He thought I was a burglar and came with a gun to stop me!” Imogen said dramatically. The children boggled their eyes at her. “But then he saw it was me, and drove me here.”
“You should marry him,” Kathy said decisively, and Imogen snorted.
“I can’t. I’m waiting for Prince Harry to propose.” The children exchanged confused looks. Imogen meanwhile opened one of the bags, and gave the eggs inside an appreciative look. “Alright, let’s deal with the important matters. Marriage is such a nonsense anyroad. Where is your pan, Kathy?”