* * * * *
“You look terrible again, Lucy,” was the first thing Annie Goodfellow said when Lucy opened the door to her.
“Lucy!” Teddy cried happily, holding up his little arms until she scooped him up into hers. She pressed her face into his little shoulder for a moment too long, he squirmed until she let him down again.
Annie eyed the other woman worriedly and followed her into the kitchen where Lucy gave the little boy a biscuit and half a glass of milk that he happily devoured on what had become the children’s picnic blanket. It did keep him occupied and fairly quiet for a short while though which was the entire point.
“Tell me what you see.” Lucy retrieved the folded up shirt and jacket she had not yet washed because she couldn’t bring herself to. Then she had thought of Annie, had hoped that maybe a second opinion would help. However that help might look. At the very least Lucy wasn’t alone with it anymore, after a terrible night where she had silently wept with Thomas sleeping soundly just on the other side of the bed.
He may have noticed that something was different this morning as he went to leave. She had turned her head away when he’d made to kiss her forehead like he had been doing most of the time lately. He had looked at her questioningly but left without asking any questions.
“...Lucy…” Just the sound of Annie’s voice was enough to confirm it for Lucy who turned away, covering her face with her hands as she tried not to cry again.
“It’s lipstick and makeup,” she whispered brokenly. “You see it too.”
“It is,” Annie confirmed quietly. “Are you sur-”
“I do not own any apricot colored lipstick, you can go and check if you’d like,” Lucy cut her off gruffly, turning back to her friend. “And I didn’t wear any of either lipstick nor makeup yesterday. The suit was fresh yesterday morning, he even said so himself.”
“Did you ask him about it?” Annie asked cautiously.
“He brought the stains to my attention himself,” Lucy told her bitterly. “Said he didn’t know how they got there. Was more concerned with whether I could get them out than with the fact he was pushing it in my face that he-” She broke off, shaking her head.
Annie frowned at that. “He brought it to your attention himself? That’s… odd.”
“The entirety of him is odd!” Lucy huffed. Then she stopped pacing for a moment and Annie could see the exact moment that her friend crumbled. “And I thought we were doing better, Annie,” she whispered, her shoulders drooping and her body seeming smaller and frailer suddenly as she hugged herself around the middle. “He was so sweet with my feet, every day he’d wash and redress them so carefully. He even carried me around the first day! He brought me flowers because he wanted to bring me flowers.” Her voice became even smaller. “He’d even kiss my forehead hello and goodbye.” Oh, how much she had reveled in each and every kiss and touch.
“I’m so sorry, Lucy,” Annie said softly and Lucy nodded. “I do think it’s rather odd he’d point the stains out to you but they are another woman’s lipstick and makeup.”
“I could even smell her perfume yesterday…” Lucy looked out through the open backdoor, seeing Teddy rip out a few ‘weeds’ that were actually seedlings but that not registering to her at all.
“What are you going to do now? Are you going to ask him about it?”
Was she going to ask her husband about the lipstick and makeup stains on his suit? Was she brave enough to ask him head-on if he was cheating on her? Right now she didn’t even feel strong enough to face him when he came home in the evening.
Teddy was the saving grace then, in more ways than one. He came running into the kitchen with a handful of soil and weeds, beaming and vying for Lucy’s attention that she gladly gave. He forgave that she was distracted, chattering at her as he went through her flowerbeds. The carefully and lovingly nurtured plants and flowers in them were but an afterthought to her.
Annie couldn’t stay the whole day, of course, although Lucy got the impression that her friend would have gladly stayed until Thomas came home to confront him herself. But Charlotte and Grace were coming from school before then and Teddy needed his nap, and Lucy needed some time to think.
He came home almost on time that evening, seemed to be in a good mood while her world had just fallen apart. He told her about work again but she struggled to listen because a new thought had occurred to her just then.
How much of work, of being late to dinner, of his overtime, of his tricky cases, how much of that was the truth? And how much was a way to cover up his… Even as he told her about the day’s work now she couldn’t help but wonder if he had slipped out during lunch break for her as he had for his wife to take her to the doctor’s. Maybe this thinking ahead, maybe this caring, wasn’t so foreign to him at all, maybe it had just never been aimed at her.
She didn’t say anything during dinner and wouldn’t look at him either. He sat through the entire awkward affair until he said something about it.
“Are you alright?” he asked quietly as she stood up to clear the able.
She gave a shrug.
“...are you sad again?”
She swallowed thickly and then nodded slowly because it was true, wasn’t it? She was sad.
“We can sit by the radio and find something to listen to you like,” he suggested but she never gave a response to it as she started to fill the sink to do the dishes. “I’ll be in the living room,” he said before he left the room but still no reaction from her.
She couldn’t bear to be in the same room as him any longer so she went upstairs into the study, sitting in front of blank paper and twirling her pencil again. He listened to the radio for some time and then a while later he came up.
“I’m going to bed now,” he told her after knocking lightly and opening the door.
“Good night.” He came in and up to where she was sitting, bending down to give her his kiss and this time she couldn’t turn her head away without being too obvious. Without jerking away from him like he had from her, multiple times. The touch of his lips on her temple burned long after he had closed the door after himself again.
* * * * *
It took her a few days to make up her mind. They were quiet days where she barely said anything to anyone and he seemed to try to be nice in his own way but it just made her feel more hollow. He was late for dinner two times, calling ahead himself both times, but all she could see was him with a nameless, faceless woman who wore apricot lipstick and-
She had done everything in her might, more than she ever could have imagined to find herself willing to do for a husband, to be a good wife, to be his faithful servant, for better, for worse, to love and honor him. But she couldn’t… she would not be made a fool of like this. Her parents be damned, her reputation be damned, her non-existent prospects for the future be damned. She would not stay with a man who treated her like this and had a woman on the side. She had vowed to forsake all others, just like he had, so for all she was concerned their vows were null and void now.
“I’m going to London tomorrow,” she told him at the end of dinner when he was finished with his meatloaf. She had forced down a small portion that now felt like a brick in her stomach.
He gaped at her. “What?”
“I’m going to London tomorrow,” she repeated, emotionlessly, searching his face for any kind of reaction other than the surprise and shock as well as incomprehension that were the most obvious.
“… but why?” He sounded like he didn’t understand one bit. “I thought… I thought we were doing better. We were having dinner together and talking, and listening to the radio together, and you liked the flowers I brought you, and you were smiling at me again.” He looked absolutely lost and uncomprehending, giving her a prompting look to explain herself.
“You’re honestly asking me why?” she pushed out, standing. Her hands were clenched by her sides to resist the urge to throw her plate somewhere. It was like a dam was broken now, it all poured out of her. “Do you really think me that foolish, that stupid, that I wouldn’t notice? You’ve told and shown me time and time again that you aren’t interested in me, that you don’t care for me at all, that you’d rather hack off your arm than touch me or kiss me properly. But now I know why.” She glared at him and wanted to wipe the dumbfounded expression from his face.
“Care to enlighten me then?” he asked dryly, his expression changing from shock to irritation. It was an expression she was very familiar with.
“You even pushed me to see them, Thomas,” she snapped at him, wondering how he could be so cruel. It had been cruel to rub the evidence right under her nose like that and then pretend that nothing had happened. “You rubbed them right under my nose!”
“I rubbed what right under your nose?!” He stood too now, his irritation turning into anger. “I have no idea what you are talking about, Lucy!”
“What stains?” He gave her a look like she had lost her mind. “There are no stains!” He looked down himself and around his vicinity. “What are you talking about?”
“I am talking about the lipstick and makeup on your suit last week,” she said with deadly calmness. He noticed too, his look immediately turned guarded.
“Lipstick and makeup on my suit?” he questioned slowly anyway. “When did I get lipstick and makeup on my suit?”
“You pointed them out to me yourself, Thomas,” she told him icily. “You brought me your jacket and your suit with lipstick and makeup on the collar and lapel, asking me if I could get them out like you hadn’t just rubbed it right under my nose that there is another woman.”
“What other woman? I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I know there was something on my suit, I remember asking you if you could get whatever it was out, I don’t remem-” He stopped abruptly and his face told her that he had finally caught on.
“Well, there you have it,” she scoffed, shaking her head. “Finally remember it yourself. I’ve done everything I could to be a good wife to you, I’ve put up with far more things than were decent but I will not accept this. I will not suffer in solitude and silence here while you go gallivanting off with someone else, I will not be made a fool of like this. I am going to London tomorrow and that is final.” She pried her wedding ring off her finger and put it onto the table before leaving the room and going up into the study again. Just one more night she had to put up with this then she was free.
Downstairs she could hear him talking loudly, probably complaining to himself about being found out while she sat upstairs staring out of the window into the quickly fading daylight. He hadn’t tried to argue her point, hadn’t even said a single word to dissuade her, to convince her that she had it wrong, that he wasn’t- She didn’t know if she would have believed him either way but for him to not even try…
“Lucy?” Suddenly he stood in the door, his expression awkward and almost grave. He stared at her for several moments. “I’ll get you some tissues.” He turned to leave and it was only just then that she became aware that her cheeks were wet.
“Don’t bother,” she said bitterly, wiping her cheeks with her hands. “What do you want?”
“Would you come downstairs for a moment?”
“I am not changing my mind,” she told him but stood up to follow him downstairs. She didn’t know why but she didn’t feel like arguing either.
Only downstairs she got a surprise, again, when the living room was not empty. Instantly feeling embarrassed she quickly wiped her face again, trying to make herself more presentable as they were having an unexpected guest.
“Sergeant Goodfellow,” she said weakly, trying for any kind of a friendly, or at least polite, smile but failing from the look on the sergeant’s face. “I didn’t know you were coming, Thomas didn’t- Can I get you anything? I-”
“Tell her,” Thomas instructed his sergeant, standing where he could look at both of them. “Tell her what happened when we got to the MacMurray estate the second time.”
Sergeant Goodfellow swallowed visibly, wringing his hands, but nodded.
“What does the MacMurray estate have to do with anything?” Lucy asked flatly. She had no idea why her husband had dragged over his sergeant so late but it was beyond what could be called decent. She would surely give him a piece of her mind when Sergeant Goodfellow had gone home. “I don’t-”
Thomas’ very sharp and very dark look shut her right up. Now she swallowed thickly as well.
“Well, we were called by Mr. Carter that there had been an incident at the MacMurray estate and that he and the Father had found out who had really killed Mrs. MacMurray.”
“Go on,” Thomas urged him.
“When we got there…” The sergeant looked a little uncomfortable, giving Lucy an apologetic look.
“What happened when we got there, Sergeant Goodfellow?” Thomas ground out.
“Miss Stanwyck, well, I’m sorry Mrs. Sullivan but she threw herself at the inspector,” Sergeant Goodfellow explained awkwardly. “Something about Mr. MacMurray going to kill her.”
At first Lucy hadn’t wanted to look at either man but as the sergeant went on, she had found herself staring at him as he spoke. She could feel her husband’s gaze bore into the side of her face as feelings she couldn’t put into words passed through her.
“Sergeant, would you please direct a demonstration if my wife would consent to assisting?” Thomas’ voice was sharp and precise, it was his inspector voice that she had only rarely gotten to hear.
“Uhm…” Sergeant Goodfellow looked even more uncomfortable.
“Mrs. Sullivan, if you would,” Thomas addressed her very coolly and she gave a small nod. Without the sergeant having to instruct her, she went to her husband’s side, so closely she could feel his body heat. Throwing herself at him required even more closeness though. She looked to the sergeant for a cue.
“Uhm, kind of with her arm around his shoulder and the other at the, at the lapel, I would say,” he instructed her hesitantly so she slung her left arm around her husband’s shoulder and neck and put the other on his lapel and- She stared at the spot, the same spot she had stared at days before, it was right on front of her, if she pressed herself closer she would- She gave the smallest nod.
“That will be all, sergeant, thank you,” Thomas dismissed the sergeant.
“Glad I could help clear this up,” Sergeant Goodfellow said quietly. “Inspector. Mrs. Sullivan.” He nodded at both of them and left.
As soon as the door had closed behind the sergeant, Thomas softly disentangled his wife from himself. Her eyes were downcast and there was nothing left of the fight that had made her glare at him and raise her chin defiantly earlier.
“You see, there is no other woman,” he told her quietly. “At least none that I want to throw herself at me.”
Lucy let out a small snort at that. “You don’t even want me to throw myself at you,” she pointed out truthfully.
He didn’t know what to say to that. “I didn’t realize what you might think when you saw the stains, otherwise I would have explained.” It was as much of an apology as she was going to get, she knew that. “Don’t go to London. Please.”
She sucked in a sharp breath and then she just couldn’t anymore. A moment later she found herself wrapped in her husband’s arms, crying into his shoulder, probably leaving stains of another kind.
“I know it’s not easy and that you’re not happy. I shouldn’t have said those things to you, they’re awful. Please don’t go,” he pleaded with her, tucking her under his chin and holding her so tightly it felt like he feared she may go the very next second. “I want you here.”
* * * * *