But I knew you'd linger like a tattoo kiss
I knew you'd haunt all of my what-ifs
The smell of smoke would hang around this long
'Cause I knew everything when I was young.
The first time that Cassie kissed me, we were five months into our partnership.
I had woken up after sleeping on her sofa to the smell of coffee, with a mild hangover and the back of my neck hurting from having slept in a bad position. Cassie was looking out the window, with a mug in her hands and still wearing that oversized T-shirt she used to sleep in. She looked so calm - the first rays of sunshine on her face, her bare feet on the cold kitchen floor- that I almost wanted to pretend to go back to sleep so I wouldn't disturb her.
Mornings in Cassie's apartment were my favourite part of the day: the intimacy and quietness in the air was something I hadn't found anywhere else before, and will likely never be able to recreate with anyone else either. We went through our routine as usual: Cassie made breakfast, I made more coffee and complained loudly about something.
I was about to leave to change clothes in my apartment before heading to work when it happened.
"See you later, silly," she said, while I was patting my pockets to check if I had my keys.
Cassie was still looking a bit sleepy, and her hair was a mess. I turned to say "Bye", but she got on her tiptoes and kissed me on the only part she could reach – my forehead – before I got the chance. It was probably for less than a second, but in that time a million thoughts went through my mind: me as a child, putting my face on the crook of my mother's neck; Peter and Jamie running and laughing in the woods; the feeling that I got when I was accepted into Murder.
Cassie was already doing something else (looking through the cupboards, I believe), but I stayed frozen for a couple more seconds before I snapped and grabbed my coat. I gave her my best excuse for a smile and left.
If she saw how my eyes were a bit wet with half-formed tears, she never said so.
Dating has always been very hard for me. I consider myself fairly attractive, and I don't have too bad of a temper to have it be considered a major problem, and I swear that, if my relationships fail, it isn't for lack of trying. My work may have to do with it; my aunt has always said that I'm an irredeemable workaholic. She also says that I'm wasting my most fertile years "going around and getting into people's business", so I don't really pay attention to her advice. Rob used to say it's because I'm insufferable and behave like a three-year-old, but all his ex-girlfriends have dumped him for being a dick with commitment issues, so I ignored him as well.
The truth is that the men that usually look at me, the actually interested ones, form ideas about me inside their tiny heads that couldn't be farther from the truth. Maybe it's because of my height, or that I look younger than I am, but my boyfriends can't help but see me as some kind of damsel in distress that desperately needs saving. They want me to be a cute, docile, flowery little fairy or some bullshit like that, and when I turn out to be a fucking human being they get furious.
Men are delusional. Those kinds of women don't exist. I've never met a single woman in my life before that wasn't strongly opinionated and stubborn to the bone.
I mean it, I don't like being bossed around.
That's why I can't explain why, when Rob thanked me for giving him a cup of coffee and a smoke and said, "God, you're a doll" ( with that infuriating British accent), I blushed a little and forgave him immediately for keeping me waiting for half an hour like an idiot outside his house.
It also doesn't explain why, when just after that he leaned down and gave me a little kiss to my temple, just where my hair and my skin meet, I blushed even harder, like an honest to god flowery little fairy.
"If you keep me waiting for that long again, I'll kick your ass back to England," I said, punching Rob in the arm, while he complained he wasn't, in fact, English.
The spot where he had just kissed me was still a bit warm.
Cassie's boyfriend of the season was called, to my dismay, Adam.
Cassie, as far as I know, doesn't have a particularly active love life. Every few months she tries again with an idiot that looks slightly different from the last one, just to end up dumping his arse two months later. She's also quite private about her boyfriends; barely mentions them, almost never brings them along.
I never push her to tell me about them, it's none of my business, but a part of me wishes she would. What does she see in them? Why does it never work out? As far as I'm concerned, these guys come and go through our lives without making any change at all.
Especially with this last one, Adam, I was curious. Adam was tall, and that's all I remember about him. He came on a Tuesday morning to ask if Cassie could grab a quick lunch with him, or if she was too busy. I was surprised - none of her past boyfriends had ever come to see her at work. I pointed out where Cassie was, at the other side of the room, looking at the board, and I watched as he went over to her. I swear I could see the tiniest bit of irritation in Cassie's eyes when she realized who it was.
I tried to not make it obvious that I was watching them, but they didn't look my way once. They had a quick conversation, where I supposed Cassie told him that yes, she was too busy to go out for lunch. In the end, and this is what shocked me the most, he touched her arm and gave her a quick kiss on the lips.
I had never seen Cassie have such an intimate moment with anyone except, of course, myself. The way she gave Adam a little smile and touched his hand made me feel weird, as if I was observing something that wasn't supposed to happen.
There was an intruder, and I wanted him to leave immediately. The Dublin Castle was Cassie's and mine's safe place, our refuge, just for the two of us. For a second I got furious with her, for letting an outsider come and ruin everything.
Tall guy left, and Cassie came my way.
"It's good to see Adam again. Seriously, I see him so rarely that I'm going to start wondering if you're only using him for sex," I said. I think I was trying to make it sound like a joke, but my voice came out with a weird edge I didn't recognize. Cassie gave me a questioning look, and watched my eyes for a few seconds before getting her coat and saying:
The next evening I called her to see if she wanted to hang out, and she said, completely wasted, that she had dumped Adam's arse and was out with her girlfriends, getting a rebound.
The Murder squad is small, only twenty permanent detectives, and most of them over the age of fifty. And Dublin is also a small town, so at the end of the day, there are not that many interesting homicides to investigate. That leads to those detectives, who have the fatal flaw of gossiping so much it should be considered a sin, getting bored easily.
You could see that boredom and lack of gossip clearly in the way the Murder boys kept talking about Maddox's "fuck-me" dress of the Christmas party for months after it happened.
I have to give it to her, Cassie knows how to make an entrance. She arrived fashionably late, by the arm of his hot cousin that looked incredibly out of place, and showing way more skin than appropriate. I could almost hear the collective gasp that went through the room. And, I will admit it, I couldn't help but follow the way her legs disappeared into the short skirt of the dress.
"Well, hello, Jessica Rabbit," I said, mockingly.
"Shut up, I look amazing right now," she said, even though she looked a bit uncomfortable.
"It's certainly a big improvement from the "The bigger, the better" T-shirt".
Cassie laughed (god, I love making her laugh) and punched me jokingly in the arm. I got her hand and kissed it softly- smiling and making a small reverence, just to make her laugh again. She did, and her eyes sparkled with something beautiful I couldn't decipher.
The night was fun. Gerry and I spent it giggling at everyone's outraged looks when Cassie dropped her purse and bent down exaggeratedly to get it, and glaring protectively at the few idiots who chose to ignore she had come with her "boyfriend" and flirted with her anyway.
Later, after we had dropped Gerry home, we went to her apartment and stuck our heads outside the window to smoke a joint we had gotten God knows where. I hadn't smoked weed since my first college days and it made me dizzy. The moonlight illuminated softly Cassie's face and collarbones, still showing as she hadn't changed the dress, and she took a long drag from the joint. I suddenly felt so glad to know her, to really know her, to be able to see through the unbreakable façade she had put on for everyone else. She exhaled the smoke slowly into the night.
It was late when O'Kelly called me and I had just gotten home after hours of hearing Vicky complain about her husband, her kids, her job, and her husband again. So after taking my shoes off and changing into my pajamas there was nothing I wanted to hear less than the Psycho theme song I had as O'Kelly's ringtone.
I cursed and actually considered not answering. My head was hurting like a bitch, and Rob and I had stayed until late at work that day– we were in the middle of one of those impossible cases: nobody saw anything, nobody heard anything, the victim wasn't anywhere she wasn't supposed to be. But because I didn't want to get fired, and because maybe he wanted to warn me about a serial killer on the loose, I answered the phone.
"About fucking time, what are you and Ryan doing, painting each other's nails?" he screamed, even louder than usual, "I've been trying to reach you for ages, the victim's boyfriend just confessed. Says he can't live with the guilt or something. Really, these murderers keep getting more stupid."
I almost screamed out the window from happiness. The fucking boyfriend.
"That's amazing news, sir," I said, trying to sound professional, "Do you need us to come in and check on him?"
"Nah, the guy's in custody and won't hurt anyone. Just be here first thing tomorrow morning, I think we all want to go to sleep," There was something that was bothering me.
"Didn't you try to reach Ryan first, sir?" I asked.
The thing is, everyone wants you to believe that workplace sexism is something from the 50s that became extinct decades ago. They get one woman to work with nineteen other men and say, " How can we be sexist? Look, a woman is working here! ". Rob can't see this, of course he can't, but it's more in the little things. Everyone always assumes Rob's the one in charge, no one assumes he's gay for not banging me. I have to stand there and listen who everyone thinks I slept with to get to Murder. My partner always gets the big news before me, he's the one they call first. I wouldn't say I'm not bothered about this stuff, of course I am, but it's something that I'm used to. No point in trying to change it.
"Do I look like an idiot? Of course I did, five fucking times! I've never called anyone five times in a row, not even my ex-wife when she left me for her yoga instructor," Yikes.
"Don't worry sir, I'll contact him. Thank you for telling me."
"Hm," And that was it.
I wondered what was Rob doing that had gotten him to ignore O'Kelly's calls, because he sure as hell wasn't sleeping, the insomniac fucker. I called him and he responded almost immediately.
"Cassie? What's going on?" he said, breathing loudly, as he had just run a marathon. I sat down on the futon and smiled.
"We just hit the jackpot, baby. Written confession and everything, every detective's wet dream"
" What!? " he was almost screaming, and still completely out of breath. I laughed lightly.
"Have you run out of brain cells at last, Ryan? The murder we're investigating, does it ring any bells? The boyfriend just confessed, he's in custody. I would have never thought he had the balls for it, really," I said, looking at the ceiling and feeling euphoric. I really thought we would have to give Cold Cases this one.
"Oh, um, that's great," he made it sound like it wasn't that great. He had gotten his breathing a bit more under control, but his voice was still sounding weird.
"What the hell are you doing? O'Kelly is about ready to kill you."
"Um, I was just..." He cleared his throat but didn't give me an actual answer.
"Don't tell me you've gone for the first run of your life at midnight, " I joked, rolling on the futon so I was laying on my belly.
"God, no, I..." I had never heard his voice like this, low and throaty. I don't know if he would have given me an actual answer, because in that moment he was interrupted by a high-pitched female voice calling him.
"Are you going to keep me waiting here all night?" she said seductively from the background.
I took a sharp inhale of air, my mind going dizzy. Rob had a girl over at his house. Rob was probably fucking her when I called. Kissing her. She was probably in his bed, naked. Hell, Rob was probably naked. I felt like an idiot.
We were silent for a couple of seconds, I listened to his laboured breathing while I thought about what the fuck was I supposed to say.
"Well, you could have told me you were busy and I would have gotten out of your hair quicker," I tried to laugh but it sounded fake.
"Uh, you were saying something important, so..."
"Is she pretty?" I asked, because apparently, I am an idiot. Rob's turn to inhale sharply.
"Just your type then? Petite and girly?"
Rob chuckled darkly. I think he could feel my nervousness from kilometers away.
"Sound like you've hit the jackpot twice in one night, huh?" I didn't recognize my own voice, "Tell me, is she good? A screamer?"
"God, like you wouldn't believe. I haven't had one this good in ages." Maybe it was my imagination, but I think he was breathing harder again.
I couldn't think properly, my skin felt on fire and the air was charged with electricity about to explode, Rob's stupid English accent in my ear made my head spin.
"Good for you." Pause, again, "Fuck, I really need to get laid too," I don't know why I said that, I really don't.
"Didn't you pick up a guy after Adam? What about him?"
"Nah, that guy wasn't good for anything longer than a night"
"Why, was he boring?" he sounded bitter, "He couldn't possibly be more boring than Adam and the stick he had up his ass."
I was getting angry.
"Oh, you would be surprised," He wouldn't.
Rob chuckled again. I hated how he could see right through me.
"I bet you've never really met a guy that knew how to fuck properly." What the hell? What the fuck ? I started wondering if he was drunk, because there was no way he would dare to say something like that in normal conditions. My voice came out tight when I said:
"Really now? How would you know?"
"All your boyfriends look like boring little fucks."
I breathed in and out, twice, and ignored the heat that was pooling in my belly.
"Well, you better get back to her, she must be getting cold," I said, before I could tell him something that I would regret later.
"Yeah, I guess," I told myself I was imagining the disappointment in his voice.
I hanged up.
"Fuck!", I screamed into my pillow. Three times, for good measure.
I was furious, I was tired, and I wanted to pick up the phone again to tell Rob to shove it and to ask him if he thought he could fuck me better.
I couldn't stop thinking about how he had ignored all of O'Kelly's calls but had answered mine in a heartbeat.
I've said it many times, Cassie's and mine's relationship is too precious, too unique to put a label on it. We were very close friends, the type that share almost everything and are intimate with each other, that's true, and I understand how to an outsider that can be a sign of something more, but it wasn't like that. We both had relationships outside of our friendship, other friends and lovers alike, and we never got jealous of each other. It's not like we wanted to jump each other's bones at any chance we got. I've never seen Cassie as anything more than my closest partner, someone that I would risk my life for.
But, there was this one time. I think about it every now and then, and I can't explain it no matter how hard I try.
It was another morning in Cassie's apartment. I waked up to find her cooking breakfast wearing, and this is the confusing part, the shirt I had worn the previous day.
I don't know why it startled me so much. I probably had left it lying somewhere and she had put it on because it was the closest thing she could find, and anyway, I was wearing one of her oversized T-shirts that said: " I am the American dream ", so it shouldn't have been a big deal. But to see her standing there, her hair up in a bun but with little hairs falling all over her face, my shirt with the first two buttons undone, and no pants, made me stop in my tracks. She had the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, and, because the shirt wasn't that big, it hanged loosely just a little below her hips, so I could see parts of her underwear.
"Good morning princess," she said, grinning, "About time you decided to stop drooling on my sofa."
She looked at me and saw something in my eyes that made her expression change. She put on a blank face that could have meant anything. For some reason, I thought she was challenging me.
I wasn't really thinking when I got next to her, placed my hand on her waist to pull her a bit closer to me, and kissed her hair, just for a few moments longer than I should have.
It wasn't that important, I guess, but sometimes, late at night, Cassie standing in my rumpled shirt is another reason to keep me awake until ungodly hours.
"Rob, I know you're fucking your landlady again," she said, sitting down (hard, almost breaking my knees in the process) on my lap, like a little kid waiting for a story.
Fuck, I was way too drunk for this.
We were celebrating something, I can't remember what exactly, in Cassie's apartment, as usual. It must have been a pretty big deal because I was drunker than I had gotten since college. I was still in my work clothes, but I had lost my tie somewhere, and was sitting on Cassie's sofa because standing up wasn't an option anymore. Cassie wasn't doing much better, her eyes had an unfocused, crazy look and it seemed like a bird had planted a nest in her hair.
"Fuck me, how did you find out?" I said, my mind too lazy to find a way out of the conversation.
"You just confirmed it! You little prick!" Cassie put on an exaggerated look of disbelief and gasped. I started giggling uncontrollably.
I had started something with Heather again, against all my logical thinking. It truly wasn't worth all the hell she gave me after, both the cold looks and the emotional breakdowns were too much for me to handle.
"Okay, okay, sorry!", I said, trying not to smile. Cassie was still on her outraged charade.
"Ugh, I knew I wasn't just imagining that disgusting cheap perfume on you,"
"C'mon, it can't be that bad..."
"I can smell it from kilometers away!" she got off my lap and stood up, still on the sofa, looking ridiculous, "You're a fucking hypocrite, y'know that?. What happened to " Oh Cassie, she's such a bitch! All she does is drink soy milk and give me hell! Never, never in my life again! ", huh? What happened to that, you fucking idiot?"
Cassie was grabbing my shoulder to steady herself, almost falling twice while imitating (horribly) my English accent, and I was trying to muffle my laughter in a cushion.
"Are you actually mental Rob? She's your landlady ! You'll dump her and she'll kick you out!"
"Oh well, then I guess I'll have to live on your sofa forever!" I said, falling on my back dramatically. Cassie looked horrified.
"Uh, no? The fuck you will? Get your arse off my sofa and keep it in your pants!"
She started kicking me so I would fall to the ground, insulting me and my private parts in fifty different ways. I was laughing so much I couldn't breathe.
She sat on the sofa again, her cheeks burning. I was half spread on the floor, grabbing her legs to try to get up again or pull her down with me. I'm sure we looked ridiculous, completely wasted at 10 p.m on a Thursday night, bickering like an old married couple.
"I should have listened to my grandmother! " Never trust a Brit, young Cassie, they're all worth less than a ton of shit " Oh, her wisdom was out of this-"
"You never met your grandmother, you cunt!" I interrupted her, "And I'm as Irish as you!"
My cheek was pressed to her bare knee (she had, at some point, changed into her T-shirt) and I was clinging to her leg, trying to make the world stop spinning.
"You're right, you're not a Brit. You're worse! You're an Irishman that went to a private boarding school in England! That's much worse!"
"How are you still forming sentences?!"
"Y'know what you are, huh? A traitor! A fucking traitor to your country, that fought so hard for its freedom!"
She had disentangled from my grab and was now standing on her knees, a hand in her chest and looking at the ceiling patriotically.
"I'm the resistance! The only one left that- Ah!"
I had finally found the stability to stand up and throw myself at her, ending up with my face pressed to her left arm and a sharp pain in my chin. She started screaming and moving her legs to get away from me, so I grabbed her by the hips and started tickling without mercy. Our laughs melted into each other. Cassie started trying to tickle me as well, so our hands were all over each other.
My face was burning, I couldn't see clearly, and I hadn't been so happy in years.
Then, someone (I think it might have been me) pulled the other in and we were kissing desperately.
It kind of felt like a continuation of the tickling, another game. It was sloppy and there was too much tongue, we were grinning so hard that we had to keep stopping every few seconds because one of us was giggling into the other's mouth. Cassie's hands were grabbing the collar of my shirt sloppily and kept slipping down to my chest again and again. I had both hands on her hair, pulling it a bit too tightly at times, but she didn't seem to mind.
For some reason, I kept thinking of the morning after we first became friends. We were in Dublin Castle and I caught her attention from across the room. I mimicked smoking a cigarette, pointed at the exit, and tilted my head, questioning. When she responded, grinning and nodding enthusiastically, something warm started growing on my chest.
Outside, I hadn't even gotten the cigarette to my lips and she was already giving me her lighter, without me even asking. I don't think she even noticed what she had done, she hadn't stopped bitching about how unattractive everyone in the squad was for a second. I was surprised at how perfectly we fit with each other, like we had known each other for years.
That's what kissing her felt like. Completely natural, as if we had done it hundreds of times before. I thought I would feel a big, sudden shift, like an earthquake changing every aspect of our relationship, but I didn't. It just felt like a fluid, smooth alteration that made everything click even better.
Then, of course, something changed. I bit lightly her bottom lip, and she let out a tiny gasp that went through me and, suddenly, made me aware of what was actually going on. I noticed my right hand had shifted slowly and was now located dangerously low on her back, pulling her closer to me so she was practically on my lap again. I also became aware of how her T-shirt was slipping up higher, and higher, and that I didn't want it to stop. I wanted, more than anything in the world, to pull it off her and press her down on the sofa, start kissing her neck and slide my hand between her legs, or something equally as stupid.
Cassie gasped again. She had her thigh pressed between mine, and I was getting harder by the second, my body going on autopilot. All I could smell was her hair, the shampoo she had been using ever since I met her. She pulled forward to press our chests together and my right hand finally surrendered to temptation and grabbed her arse.
When I realized I had almost let out a moan, I pulled away from her, startled.
I thought it was done, it was over. There was no getting back from this. My heart fell and I wanted to throw myself out the window. How had I managed to destroy the last good thing in my life? The last person that had loved me and supported me unconditionally? What we had was sacred, and I had just committed the biggest sin, marking it with bloodstains forever.
While all this apocalyptic bullshit was going through my mind, Cassie only used a second to recover before starting to laugh again. My thoughts stopped escalating. She was letting out the ugliest, loudest laugh I had ever heard, doubling over with her hands wrapped around her belly and her face completely red from lack of air. She looked so hilariously drunk that I couldn't stop myself from laughing again – first timidly and later louder than her.
We spent a long time like that, laughing about nothing in particular on her sofa, like any other night.
It was only the next morning, when I finally had my killer hangover in control, that I realized I hadn't thought about Heather once.
It's amazing how easy is to ignore things you don't want to think about. You just bury them deep in the back of your mind, put a metaphorical lock on them and think of something else every time they resurface. Easy.
I didn't want to think about the sadness that Rob seemed to carry almost perpetually, like an undefined weight that came with his existence, because I didn't know what to do about it. It was hard to think about my mother, her memories always sent a sharp pain through my chest that left me hopeless and wanting to cry, so I just pretended I remembered her way less than I actually do. The way Rob's body fit perfectly against mine when I placed my thigh between his, how he pulled me closer and moved his hips almost imperceptibly, without even noticing he was doing it. How his left hand was moving up my other thigh, pulling my T-shirt upwards with it, and the sparks he sent through my skin while doing it. Him biting my lip, pulling my hair, grabbing my arse.
It was all too confusing, too unfixable, for me to deal with, so I just didn't.
And, not really surprisingly, it's quite an effective solution, at least for some time. I didn't think about it, we both didn't talk about it, and we went on with our lives as always.
There were some times though, when the truth was too obvious, too big to ignore, that sent me straight back to that night.
We were in Rob's apartment for once, working on a case we should have stopped working on hours before. O'Kelly had told us to go home and rest, but we just pretended to follow orders, grabbed all the files we could fit in my bag, and kept working on Heather's sofa. We weren't getting anywhere, and it was obvious. I had gone through all the alibis at least thirty times, and I couldn't find a single mistake, not even a tiny slip-up, in any of them. Rob had been chain-smoking for the last two hours and reading the same paragraph for at least half of that time. I was about to let out a scream of pure frustration when we heard a voice coming from the entrance:
"Hi," Heather was at the door, her lips pressed tightly, "You didn't tell me you were bringing someone over," I almost started laughing.
"Hi Heather, long time no see," I gave her a polite smile. I didn't have anything against her, really, I actually used to think Rob was way too harsh on her, but it seemed like my indifference was not reciprocated. She didn't look very happy to see me.
"Hello Cassie, I didn't know you were coming over."
Rob looked about ready to pass away. When Heather turned to hang her coat, I met his eyes and he looked terrified. I wanted to tell him " Go and talk to her! I will NOT let you stay on my sofa!, " and I guess he understood with just looking at me because he got up immediately.
They moved to the kitchen and I pretended to be reading the forensic's report again while I tried to understand what they were talking about. It seemed like Rob was trying to do damage control, while Heather was somehow screaming and whispering at the same time. Rob trying to comfort women has always been hilarious to me- he's so obviously bullshitting them that I don't understand how they don't dump him on the spot. I guess it's something about his tiny smile and innocent face when he says " It's nothing for you to worry about! " that makes them forgive him, again and again.
After a short time he came back and sat on the sofa again, looking anxious. I took it as my cue to get the fuck out of there.
"Well, it's clear we're making no progress here. I say we sleep on it and try again tomorrow."
"Are you sure about that?" he said, when he actually meant " Please leave immediately before you have to arrest her for my murder. " I started collecting the files back to my bag.
"Sure, you know we're just wasting time right now."
Then, maybe because Heather's intoxicating perfume was getting on my nerves, and maybe because I am a bit evil after all; I bent down slightly, I cupped Rob's jaw with my left hand and kissed intimately on his cheek. Nothing I had never done before, but the first time I did it in front of someone else.
There was this tiny moment, when my fingers were still on his face and he turned around to look at me with incredibly dark eyes, that I wanted to move forward an kiss him properly, to see if he tasted the same as the last time.
"Night hon, see you tomorrow," I said, and left ignoring Rob murdering me mentally and Heather's eyes, sharp on the back of my neck.
I think I don't need to say I never felt her perfume on Rob ever again.
I had a stranger moaning in my mouth and Cassie on my mind.
During that time I had found myself picking up more girls in random bars, taking them home, trying to satisfy a void I knew they couldn't fill. Everything was out of control. The days went on as usual, our partnership as sharp and pure as always, but on the nights we weren't together it seemed like my body and my mind grew tired of pretending and I lost it.
I kissed the woman in my bed, again and again, trying to make the sound of Cassie saying, with a low, breathy voice: " Fuck, I really need to get laid too, " out of my mind. I closed my eyes and thought of her fingertips on my jaw (" Night hon, see you tomorrow ") and her bottom lip between my teeth. The image of her standing in her kitchen, wearing my shirt and nothing else, reappeared again, to haunt me, to turn me crazy, I don't know.
The woman slid down my body and I wondered what could Cassie be doing; if she was thinking of me, if she would answer if I called, and if she would talk to me like that time, her voice in my ear making me want to melt into the ground.
I've always wondered if everyone is as obsessed with every woman my age's love life as the people in my life seem to be with mine. First I had my aunt, asking me every time I saw her why didn't I have three children, a dog, and a house in the suburbs. Then, all my friends walking down the aisle with a completely incompetent man they would divorce five years later, trying to set me up with every mildly attractive man available in Dublin.
No one seems to ask me if being single bothers me- everyone, except Rob, just assumes it does.
Sometimes though, as almost every annoying aspect of being a woman does, it gives me some benefits. There's nothing I wanted less to do on a Friday night than listen to Emily talk about what colour the balloons would be at her baby shower. I loved her very dearly, but there just wasn't any way I would do that, so I just told her I had a date and she got out of my hair immediately.
I was having a pint in the pub with Rob instead. We had actually gone out a few others from the squad, but everyone else had left already. We were clowning around, imagining what was O'Kelly's preferred sexual position, and bursting into giggles with every new idea. I'm aware that sometimes we behaved like teenagers, people with fewer years in their body and way more hormones, but it was just the way we worked, how we clicked. I couldn't help but turn into a more childish, more innocent version of myself in his presence.
I stopped laughing when I saw Vicky entering the pub from the corner of my eye. I guess she had also put on a stupid excuse to escape Emily and baby showers.
"Fuck me," I said, "Vicky's here."
"My friend , Vicky."
"Oh, you wanna go and say hi? I don't think I've met her before."
I turned sharply to face him and lowered my voice.
"No, you idiot! I'm supposed to be on a date, she's going to see me here and tell Emily, and they won't speak to me in forever," I started looking for a quick exit, nervous. Rob looked thoughtful.
"Well, calm down. How does she know you're not on a date right now?"
"She's never met me, right? She'll probably just assume you're going out with me."
"Yeah, right. Like anyone's going to believe that," I scoffed, getting more nervous. Actually, she would probably believe that in a second, many people before her had assumed the same thing, but the thought of Rob and me on a date made me feel uneasy. Rob's eyes widened.
"C'mon, calm down. She'll believe it if I do something like this, right?" He placed his left hand on my right knee as if it was the most natural thing to do in the world. That relaxed me, for some reason. He was right, I was just being paranoid, and anyway Vicky wasn't very bright. But then, I looked up and I saw that something in Rob's expression was different, as if he had changed his mind.
"You're right, sorry. I shouldn't have lied to Emily like that though, I guess I'm feeling guilty."
He was still looking at me with a weird intensity.
"Vicky will eat it up though, right?"
"Yeah, don't worry about it."
"You sure? Maybe we should guarantee it somehow," his thumb had started doing little circular motions on my knee. My throat tightened.
"What are you talking about? It's okay, really."
"Just for good measure, I guess."
Then he slid his left hand up my thigh, caressing the seams of my jeans, so he could turn towards me and cup my jaw with his other hand. And I should have seen this coming, but I was still surprised when he kissed me.
I should have gotten furious with him: it was really not necessary, and if he really wanted to make sure he could have kissed the cheek, or at least he could have just given me a peck on the lips. Instead, he kissed me slowly and seductively, his lips soft against mine. As I said, I should have gotten angry, and I did, but only afterwards. At that moment the only thing on my mind was Rob's tongue in my mouth, Rob pulling me closer. I slid my fingers through his hair, trying to make the illusion last a bit longer, until it broke down and we had to return to reality. His fingers on the inside of my thigh were burning me, and when he bit lightly my lip I was transported back to that night, whiskey down my throat and the smoke of his cigarettes in the air.
When our lips separated I was overcome by a terrible feeling of loss that left me confused and wanting to punch him. My fingers slid down his neck before falling down to my lap.
"That was insanely stupid," I said, coldly. Rob smirked and cleared his throat, but his eyes looked sad.
"Not a big deal."
"Yeah, it fucking is. Now Vicky has seen us for sure and you'll never be able to meet my friends. And have you forgotten who usually comes to this place?"
Rob flinched. The pub we were in was very popular between cop squads, especially on a Friday night. If someone else from Murder, or even from another squad, had recognized us and O'Kelly heard about it, we were done.
"Fuck." he said.
"Fuck indeed." Rob had left me unable to respond, and he knew it. If I acknowledged what had just happened, what had been happening for months, then it would become real and we would have to deal with it. And Rob knew I was way too stubborn to be the first one to back down.
I sipped my almost empty pint and thought about nothing. After a long moment, I sighed and looked at him, his eternal sadness now more obvious than ever. I made a decision: to bury everything like I always did. The fact that I wanted more than anything to hug him, to wrap myself in his protective arms, to feel him kiss the crown of my head. The fact that I knew that if I did it, that unbearable weight he was always carrying would turn me down, break me to pieces, not letting Rob be happy even after all these years. I buried it all deep and fought for it to never come back up again, even though I knew that, eventually, it would.
"You should brush your teeth, you stink, " I said, putting on a smile I wasn't feeling.
Rob's smile in return made everything worth it.
The next day we got the Devlin case.
I don't know why I'm made this way. In a way, I hope that, if I'm an irredeemable asshole who doesn't deserve any sympathy, it's my own fault. The idea that the reason I turned out like this (suspicious about the people who love me, terrified to lose everything again) is because a stupid incident that I can't even remember that happened over 20 years ago, makes me feel sick. I can't stand the idea that something that happened to another me, a younger and less careful one, something that I had no control over, it's what dictated my whole life and my future. But, sadly, that's the way trauma works. Losing Peter and Jamie marked a before and after in my life. I wonder often what I would have turned out to be; maybe a happy kid with a normal adolescence wouldn't have been a dysfunctional adult that pushes away everything that makes him happy and runs every time he's faced with something he can't escape.
Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and wish that I could change who I am.
The Devlin case was just me making what I thought was the worst mistake of my life, and then making a worse one after that, again and again. Cassie was probably the reason I didn't break down sooner, every time I threatened to fall to pieces she picked me up, squeezed my hand, and helped me keep going.
That's what I was thinking about while riding home on the back of her Vespa: if everything was destined to turn out this way, if I had had any power at to stop it all.
I decided that I didn't when I turned Cassie in my arms and kissed her, all the other times I had done it going through my mind. Cassie and I were always meant to end up there, in her bed and in each other's arms– it was the only reason I could think of that explained how natural it came, how peaceful it made me.
When she kissed me back I almost exploded. It seemed like she had decided to bring all her walls down and show me everything she didn't dare to before. She pushed against me insistently, letting out more of those little gasps that made me so crazy. I put myself on top of her and she wrapped her bare legs around me while I kissed her neck, like I had wanted to do hundreds of times before. She tried to unbutton my shirt clumsily without success so I straightened my back to do it myself, without breaking eye contact for a second. Cassie looked beautiful below me: her lips pink and her eyes shining. I guess she got tired of waiting, because she slapped my hands away and finished taking off my shirt before kissing me hard again. We were both on our knees in the bed, and in this position I had to bend down to kiss her. She stopped for a second to get her T-shirt off and my breath got caught in my throat, the smirk she put on making me blush like a teenager. She pulled me down with her again.
"C'mon, get on with it," she said, a smile in her voice.
She stopped smiling when she saw me sliding down her body until I could kiss the inside of her thighs.
"Fuck," she whispered, even before I had put my tongue in her.
Usually, I don't like girls being bossy with me, but when Cassie slid her fingers through my hair and pushed me closer to her, moaning, it somehow turned me on harder. She guided me through the whole process, marking the rhythm. I tried to make it as good as possible for her, my hands caressing the insides of her thighs while my mouth was working. She was also the one that decided when to stop, cupping my jaw and guiding me upwards until she could kiss me, and her taste on my lips made her moan once more.
Our hands found each other and stayed pressed together while I entered her, as carefully as I could. Cassie, of course she did, was pushy through the whole thing, wanting to be the one in control. That's what calmed me down the most, it made me feel like this was real, it was Cassie I was doing it with.
"Fuck, come here," she said, her voice breathy after a particularly deep thrust, and pushed me by the shoulder so I could kiss her. I chuckled and obeyed.
There was a point where I was trembling too much and I was too concerned with keeping the rhythm that I couldn't kiss her properly, but we kept close, cheeks against each other until the end. Cassie's nails left marks on my back and the sounds she made, on my brain. The world disappeared and the only thing left was her, the smell of her hair intoxicating me and every thrust into her undoing me and bringing me closer to my end, our end.
"Cassie. Cassie, baby," I said, looking into her eyes, and it sounded like a plea. She opened her mouth to say something, her eyes more vulnerable than ever, but suddenly she threw her head back, exposing the long line of her neck, and came with strangled sound. That was what destroyed me, two more thrusts and I was done, muffling a scream into the curve of her neck.
Her skin in the moonlight felt like my last safe place, the only thing I could be sure of.
Somehow, I managed to destroy that as well. Against Cassie's best efforts, I fell to pieces anyway and stabbed her with them in all the places I knew would draw more blood. I fell apart and dragged her, and the investigation, with me.
" Oh, Cassie, " I said softly, and in that precious moment when she looked at me, her eyes wet with tears and her body angled towards mine, I thought of the first time she kissed me, on my forehead, standing on her tiptoes in her apartment, lifetimes ago. Then she remembered and she shut down, putting her arms around herself to protect her from me, someone she would have called her best friend, her closest partner, her lover, once.
I almost didn't notice Sam pushing me out of the way, but when he hugged her and kissed the top of her head, I knew it was over.
To kiss in cars and downtown bars
Was all we needed
You drew stars around my scars
But now I'm bleedin'