See Disclaimers and crap in Part 1

Chapter 6

        It was official.  Sergeant Jill Cooper was having one of the shittiest days on record.  She grabbed her fourth half-cup of coffee, which was triple her usual coffee intake a day, and stormed back into the class after a short break.  Two hours to go, she thought with a modicum of relief.

        The day had started out pleasant enough.  Her brother Joss and his girlfriend had finally made up after he had found an elderly woman to adopt and care for the high maintenance cat.  Even though she enjoys her brother’s company, it was nice to have her small apartment to herself again. 

After a brief run through the foothills behind her house, she showered and dressed for work, going in a little early to prepare for the class she was going to teach on first responders to a barricade/hostage situation.  Each new recruiting class got training on it and it was Jill’s responsibility to run the classes.

The day began to go bad once she got to work.  Lieutenant Vick had called her into his office to inform her that due to budget cuts; she was being reassigned to only part-time duty in the CRT Unit.  Her new primary duty was now serving as a sergeant in the Patrol Unit. 

Both Vick and Jill knew that what that meant was a doubling up of her duties.  She would be expected to assign, schedule and supervise the Patrol Unit in her district while still maintaining the training aspect of the CRT unit.  She would continue to be on call as a negotiator, but also would be required to go out on routine patrols. 

Jill saw her limited, yet fulfilling social life fade away with each of Vick’s words. Her thoughts went to Wednesday night bowling and how much she would miss it.  She’d come to rely on that night to unwind and have fun with friends.  Her shoulders slumped at that news and she left Vick’s office a bit out of sorts.

Then, she had run into Pete who had gleefully told her that Lan had accepted a date with him.  She managed to share his enthusiasm on the outside, but inside she felt something give way.  Perhaps it was multiplied by the news she had just received, but somehow she couldn’t put the blame squarely there. 

No, Jill couldn’t be happy for Pete earnestly because she wished she was the one whom had asked Lan out.  Weird thing was, it hadn’t occurred to her until that very moment.  Jill was never hesitant about her attraction to women, nor was she hesitant to act on it.  She found Lan attractive, but it was she that pushed the issue and asked Lan out for Pete. 

Jill chuckled ruefully at the irony. She and Lan had met in such an innocuous way that Jill missed the significance of the effect Lan had on her.  It took hearing Pete’s news to realize that a date was exactly what she wanted with Lan.  However, it looked like she would never get the chance.

Now she had to go and spend two more hours with the latest recruiting class who had seen one too many cop shows in which the only answer to a confrontation was a clever quip and unrealistically heroic gun fire exchange until the bad guy was dead.

Sometimes, she really wished she’d become a physical therapist like her parents had wanted.

Jill had really just wanted to go home and go to bed but she’d forgotten that she had agreed to dinner with Rachel and Scott earlier that morning, before everything went to shit.  She thought about asking for a rain check, but decided that perhaps the company would help her sullen mood.  Jill wasn’t one to wallow in her own misery for any amount of time and she knew that this day was testing her self-pity capacity.

So, she raced home, showered and dressed and headed to their favorite Italian restaurant downtown.  She had been seated maybe five minutes when she heard the tinkle of the bell on the door and looked up to see Lan, dressed in sweats and a ponytail head for the take out counter.  Jill only hesitated a second before finding that her feet had already made the decision and she was standing behind Lan tapping her shoulder before she had realized she’d moved.

“Hey.”  Jill said quietly as to not scare the woman.

“Jill!  How are you doing?”  Lan said, genuinely happy to see her.

“I’m doing well.  Just meeting Rachel and Scott for dinner.”  She explained.

“Cool, tell them I said hi.”  Lan said as she slid a twenty across the counter to pay for her meal.  The meal and the change were handed over with a hearty smile and thanks from the owner.  Lan stepped away and turned towards the door, Jill right behind her.

“Uh, I will.”  Jill stumbled, not quite ready to end her conversation with the pretty brunette.  “Do you come here often?”  Wow, that sounded so lame. Jill tried to save herself from a social grace nosedive by explaining herself. “I mean, it seems the owner, Leo, knows you and all.”

“Yeah, I guess I do.  Usually, I’ll pick something up here for dinner on my days off.  It gets old, cooking for one.”  Lan stated.

“I know what you mean.  Listen, I won’t keep you.  I just wanted to say hi.”  Jill said, noting Lan seemed to be in a bit of a hurry.

Lan smiled.  “Hey, I’ll see you Wednesday, right?”  She asked, figuring Pete had told her Lan had joined their league.

“Wednesdays?  Oh, bowling, right.  Actually, no.  They changed my duties at work and I’ll be probably be working that night, well, all Wednesday nights for the foreseeable future.”  Jill explained, trying to keep the true disappointment out of her voice.

“Really?  That sucks.”  Lan said succinctly, causing Jill to chuckle at her candor.  “Well, you’ll just have to come by the bar when you get a chance.  I believe we still have some stories to swap.”  Lan said, brightening at the alternative to not seeing Jill at all.

Jill smiled, pleased that Lan still remembered they talked about swapping work stories and that she still wanted to see her. 

Bolstered, Jill responded with an easy smile.  “Count on it.”

“Good.  I’ll see you soon, Jill.”  Lan said with her own easy smile and then made her way out of the restaurant, leaving a much happier Jill in her wake.

About 5 minutes later, and true to their time stretching nature, Rachel and Scott entered the restaurant, all smiles and giggles.

“Ya know, sometimes you two make me want to barf.”  Jill said with mock disgust. 

“Love you too, Loser.”  Rachel smiled and enveloped her best friend in a hug.  Scott immediately followed with a manly half-hug and the irritating hair ruffle that made Jill feel ten years old.

“So, how was your day?”  Rachel asked as she slid into the booth after Scott.

“Shitty.  Real shitty.”  Jill responded as she absently opened the menu.  “Budget cuts came down today and I’ve been reassigned to Patrol Unit.  I’m still part-time CRT, though.  It is essentially double duty.  I’m replacing Sergeant Mack who I guess is moving to Nevada.”  She blew out a deep breath and thumbed through the menu.

“Will you still be able to bowl on Wednesdays?”  Asked Rachel.

“Doubtful.  I’ll be pulling some patrol shifts and I think Wednesdays are best for me.  Gives me the weekend to concentrate on CRT.”  Jill explained while trying to decide between the chicken ravioli or the veal Parmesan. 

“Oh, man.  Things won’t be the same without you!”  Scott said sounding quite bummed out.

“Yeah, our league average will go up.”  Jill said seriously.

“And you’ll miss the budding romance between our Petey and Lan.”  Rachel stated as she turned her attention to the waitress who had just arrived at the table.

As she recited the specials of the night, Jill secretly bristled over Rachel’s words. It didn’t surprise Jill that Rachel had figured out what was going on with Pete and Lan.  But she just didn’t want to hear about it.  She hoped Rachel would forget the subject after they’d finished ordering.  She knew she could only hold out for so long before Rachel would pick up on her reluctance to discuss Lan and Pete and would begin asking questions.

Fortunately, the rest of dinner was spent talking about the upcoming wedding and teasing Scott about what kind of bachelorette party Jill was planning that weekend.  Soon, Jill was immersed in conversation about the potential perils of open bar receptions, non-offensive music selections and the importance of guest table assignments.

They ended up closing the restaurant and as Jill walked out to her car, she couldn’t help herself as she paused for a moment and glanced at the direction she had seen Lan start out after leaving the restaurant.  She wondered if she was still awake, maybe watching the late night news or perhaps she was quietly tucked away for the night, dreaming. 

The rituals of getting ready for a date were lost on Lan.  She figured she would want to look nice and took Joyce’s advice and put on something dark and casual.  It was easy as those were the kind of clothes she tended to wear anyway. 

As she put the finishing touches on her make up, which was really just eyeliner, mascara and lip-gloss, she took a moment to study herself in the mirror.  Tiny lines had appeared around her hazel eyes a couple of years ago, but they had yet to really deepen.  Her nose sported only a few freckles that were barely visible against her smooth olive skin.  She had to thank her mother for that.  Her legacy would be carried on in her daughter’s great skin.

Hearing the doorbell ring, she swooped to intercept the dogs and shut them up in her bedroom.  Then she slipped on her shoes and headed over to the door, checking through the peephole before opening it.  She grinned when she saw Pete popping a breath mint into his mouth.

“Hey, Pete.  You look great.”  Lan said as Pete came in and stepped into a casual hug.

“That’s my line!”  He argued around a smile.  He took a moment to appraise his date in her dark slacks and burgundy v-neck sweater.  Wow, she does look great, thought Pete.

“Um, I’ll just get my coat and let out my dogs.”  Lan said awkwardly, not knowing what else to say.  Pete grinned and nodded.

“You might want to step out, they can get pretty rambunctious.”  She explained as she began making her way to her bedroom door.

“Oh, no problem.  I would like to meet them though.”  He said hopefully.

“Oh… uh, sure.  Just be warned, they are small but they are full of energy.”  Lan warned as she began to open the door.

As soon as it was opened a tiny, a black nose pushed it the rest of the way open and barreled out.  A second smaller mutt trailed right behind.  When they saw the guest, the made a bee-line, barking happily and jumping up to be pet.

“Whoa, guys!”  Pete said as he bent to pet both, taking care to distribute the affection equally.

“The larger one is Hook, he’s the man of the house.”  Lan said loudly, over the cacophony of barking and sniffing.  “My little girl here is Bait.  They were rescues from the shelter.  I had to take both, as they are brother and sister.  I couldn’t bare to split them up.”  Lan said as she began ushering them away from her guest.

“Well, they’re adorable.  I wish I could have a dog.  I’m just never home enough.”  He said somewhat wistfully.

“They do enrich your life.”  Lan stated.

“They do, don’t they?  I used to have a dog growing up.  A huge Shepard named Duke that would follow me around everywhere.  I loved that dog.”  He mused, thinking of the Shepard for the first time in years.  “You ready?”  He asked, snapping back to the present.

“Sure.”  She turned to the dogs who had made themselves comfortable on the blanketed side of the couch.  “You two behave.”  She intoned seriously.  She got two furiously wagging tails in response, which caused both her and Pete to laugh.

“So, you were pretty ambiguous over the phone.  Where are we going tonight?”  Lan asked as she climbed into Pete’s late model Dodge truck. 

“Well, I’ll tell you up front, I’m not a very creative guy.”  Pete said, glancing at Lan as he pulled away from the curb.

“Let me guess, dinner and a movie?”  Lan speculated.

“Are you disappointed?”  Pete asked.

“Well, Pete, counting you, I’ve been on exactly…”  She pretended to calculate in her head, “One date since high school.”

Pete looked at her in utter disbelief.  “Are you serious?”

“Quite.  With the exception of a few fumbling first dates when I was in high school, I haven’t dated.”

“Why?”  He asked before he could stop himself.  He tried to elaborate.  “I mean, you are very pretty woman.  You are funny and smart…” He left off, bewilderment still evident in his voice.

“For many years, I wasn’t what you would call dating material.”  She said matter-of-factly.  He looked at her, still confused.  She knew she would have to explain further, but didn’t want to get into her past right now.  She settled on the bare facts.  “I left home very early and struggled with making it on my own.  I had lots of dead-end jobs with no thoughts about my future beyond getting through the day. I hadn’t the time or the desire to even consider dating.  Then in later years when my life became more settled, I was a little under whelmed at what was out there.”  She said with a small chuckle.

He echoed her chuckle with one of his own.  He knew what she meant.  Still…

“Why me?”  Pete asked after a few seconds of silence.

“I feel safe with you.  Comfortable.”  She said without hesitation.  Truth was, she had thought about that a few times after Pete had asked her out.

“Well, you should, knowing what I do for a living.”  Pete responded with light sarcasm.  She swatted him on the arm, tossing a mock glare his way.

“Smart ass.”  She mumbled.  He smiled at that.

“What I meant was, I feel safe with you, emotionally.  That’s big for me.  I really have no friends outside of my co-workers at the bar and my neighbors.  I keep to myself mostly.  I always have.  But lately, I’ve been more comfortable around others.  Like the bowling league, I never would have done that a couple of years ago.”

“Well, you’ve got Jill to thank for that.  She’s fast on her feet that one.  I never thought to ask you if you bowled.”  Pete said.

“I have to admit, I was caught a bit off-guard by the question, but I’m sure glad she asked.”  Lan said in a teasing tone.

“Yeah.  I’m going to really miss her on Wednesdays.”  Pete expressed sadly. 

“I ran into her last week and she told me about a change at work?”  Lan probed. 

“Her boss told her she would be reassigned and only be on the CRT part-time due to budget cuts.  She’s still training new recruits and she’s on call as a negotiator, but she has to pull some night shifts on patrol along with her full-time duties as a Sergeant for the Patrol Unit now.” 

“Geez, that sounds like an awful lot.”  Lan thought.

“It is.  But it’s the nature of the beast.  Bureaucrats only see dollars being spent, not the amount of work that needs to be done, money or not.”

“Well, we’re here.”  Pete announced as they pulled into a popular steakhouse restaurant. 

“Oh, I love this place!”  Lan happily reported as she slipped out of the truck before Pete could go around and open her door.  His parents brought him up right and he was one of the few men who knew what chivalry was.  He shook his head in amusement.  I’ll get the door for her when we leave.  He thought as he caught up to her at the front of the truck.

Dinner was quiet and pleasant as they both traded their personal histories.  Lan wasn’t surprised that Pete was a third generation police officer.  He talked fondly of his father and grandfather who were now retired but lived vicariously through Pete’s stories.

“You’re lucky to have such a strong family.”  Lan said, hoping the wistfulness she felt hadn’t surfaced through her words.  Pete knew enough to know Lan didn’t and she didn’t want him to feel like she didn’t want to hear about his.

“Yeah, I guess I am.  It certainly kept me out of trouble.  So many of my friends growing up didn’t, ya know?”  He shrugged absently.  “I did the stupid rebellious things when I was younger, but luckily none ever stuck.  My father would have laid into me if they had.” 

“Hmm.”  Lan murmured thoughtfully.  “I was such a goody two shoes growing up.  You’d think with the way my mother used up men when I was young, I’d be more jaded, or worse.  When she settled with Stan, my step-dad, I just saw everything I didn’t want.”

Pete sensed Lan was beginning to get introspective and reached out a hand, settling his on hers.  She smiled at the quiet support.  “Thanks.  Sorry to bring such a nice evening.”  She said apologetically.

“No need to be sorry.  I want to hear about these things.  Figure out what makes Lan tick.”  Pete said lightly.

“Right.”  She said with a hint of sarcasm.  They sat in silence for a bit as they waited for the bill.  After a bit of arguing, Lan relented, letting Pete pick up the tab after he promised to let her pay for snacks at the movie.

“So, what are we seeing, Mr. Creative Dater?”  Lan teased as they pulled onto the street and headed for the new multiplex on the west side of town.

“Uh, there are a few that start around the same time.  I figured we could choose when we get there.”  He said, chancing a glance at Lan to see if that was acceptable.

“Oh, good idea.  I will warn you though.  I hate gore, horror and anything with Adam Sandler.”  She informed her date.

“Man, picky, picky!”  Pete laughed.  “You are a girl, aren’t you?”  He said around a smile.

“No, I’m a woman and I have taste.”  She said with a sense of superiority that made Pete laugh all the more harder.

“Well, this outta be fun, then.”  Pete said as he pulled into the near full parking lot.

They’d settled on a romantic comedy, which Pete actually found himself enjoying.  He’d wrestled with the temptation to grab Lan’s hand or put his arm around her shoulder, but the right moment just never presented itself.  He chuckled at himself for being such a teenage boy.  Lan brought that out in him though. 

When they’d said their goodnights, Lan took the lead, wrapping Pete in a hug at her door.  He’d stood there awkwardly for about fifteen more seconds before asking her if she’d like to attend Rachel and Scott’s wedding with him in a couple of weeks.  She agreed, and that was more than enough for him.  He stepped off of her porch with a little hop after watching her safely enter her house, as happy as he had been in a long time.




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