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A New Normal

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With one last gulp of calm before the storm, Alec cranked the window closed and rummaged through his pocket for his mobile. He hated the thing, hadn’t quite got used to the one with buttons before Daisy pushed this one on him.

He sighed as he swiped through his contacts; he’d have worn Miller’s awful orange anorak, if Daisy’d asked, though, so getting some fancier, ‘smarter’ phone was nothing. Especially if it meant seeing her smile.

He pressed the little picture near her name, sent a quick text: ‘On my way. Make sure your mum knows, and I’ll see you soon, darlin’. Love, dad.’

Her response took less than ten seconds: ‘Da, u dont have to say its you, I already kno’.

‘Did you write your essays for university like that? Tell your mum!’

Still, in under ten seconds: ‘Forsooth, father dear, it is within mine faculty to grant thine will: to call upon that most wretched beast which wrought me from her loins; to temper her violent rage with quick wit and careful pass, honeyed words.’

He stared, and his pride swelled like the little ellipses in her grey speech bubble. But before he could type a response—or even figure out how to respond—she sent another.

‘aye da, ill tell her. Love u.’

And he kept staring, clutching that stupid phone like it was the only light in the world, not just the growing night.

“Mind shutting that off, mate?”, the driver asked, honeyed words on a viper’s tongue, forsooth. “The light makes it hard to focus.”

Alec clicked the lock, wondering if maybe he should be more worried than proud: had she and Tess had an argument?

He didn’t think she’d tell him, anyway. Their relationship was tenuous, despite the increasingly-frequent phone calls, the occasional Skype sessions, and recently, the visits. Daisy didn’t mind laughing, talking about school or friends, her plans for university. But it didn’t take a detective to see that she was still holding back: the way she avoided sensitive topics with all the grace of a teenager, the way she picked her words, the things she didn’t say, didn’t share. It was like she’d let him into just a tiny sliver of her beautiful world, allowed him entrance into only that which was carefully curated.

And it hurt, if he was honest. But they had time. He had time. ‘No more broken heart’, he’d half-lied.

It was raining in Sandbrook, too.

“There”, he told the driver, “take that left, and you can leave me at the end of this street here.”

“Sure?”

He didn’t dignify that with an answer, and when the cab stopped, he paid, stretched out of the car, and grabbed his bag from the boot.

The cab splashed him as it pulled away, soaking his shoes in filth, wetting his socks with sludgy run-off from the street. He could feel it, but he didn’t bother looking, because his attention was already focused on his mobile. Raindrops scattered the colors on the screen like a kaleidoscope, and made it hard to type.

Still, he managed: ‘I’m in Sandbrook.’