“Solve this Magoo and you know what happens.”
He knew what she meant. He also knew it wasn’t really her saying that. Stevie wouldn’t normally have treated him like that. Rationally, he knew it was his anxiety about losing her that changed the way he saw her.
But that was then, and this is now. The now he was living in had the Stevenson family locked up for one reason or another, Stevie’s cat had formally moved in with him, Ira and his wife visited more often these days and ironically, for the first time in his life, River felt he had a family. Most importantly, Stevie was wrong about what would happen when he solved the case. She didn’t go away. She came by less often, less out of desperation and panic and more out of love and comfort.
He woke up that morning and poured his usual bland cereal into his bowl and when he turned around to put it away, she was leaning against the counter. They talked less these days, they spoke more with their faces and expressions. She followed him into the living room and eyed his record player. She nodded towards it, encouraging him to play something.
River followed her demand and pulled Voyage out from the extensive library he had always been so proud of.
He held it up and showed her, knowing that he would get a reaction out of her.
“I can’t believe it took so long to get here. You better not have listened to it without me.” She winked.
“I never do anything without you, you know that.”
“Can’t get rid of me, eh?” She smiled and crinkled her nose in the way he loved so much. He didn’t move, just stopped to watch her. “Well, are you going to put it on or what?” She laughed.
He did as he was told and carefully took out the record and placed it on his player.
The needle scratched the edges for a moment and then the music began to play.
The flat was quiet except for the few opening notes of Don’t Shut Me Down. River didn’t take his eyes off Stevie, loving the way disco lit up her face. She’s going to make me sing this, I just know it.
Stevie’s smile began to form into a full, childish grin. “Wow.” She whispered. “Her voice still sounds so beautiful.” When the beat picked up and the signature Abba beat appeared, Stevie got up from the chair she was sitting in and walked closer to her. She was humming along as best she could. “I’d ask you to sing if it wasn’t a brand new song.”
He smiled, “I’m sure this won’t be the only time we’ll listen to this album if I know you at all.”
“You do know me, and that would be correct.” Stevie started swaying, encouraging him to dance as well. “And you’re not allowed to get fed up with it because they’re Swedish,”
“Just because they’re Swedish doesn’t mean I’m obligated to like them.”
“I think it does. And I know you do. Stop trying to deny it.”
“Where we come from doesn’t make us, Stevie.”
She scoffed, mocking him for using her own words against her. If she were really there she would have smacked him on his chest. Instead, she threw her head back and laughed.
“River, today is a very special day.”
“Is it?” He asked after the song stopped. “Because Abba’s back?”
“Well yes, that’s a given. But because you have the day off. What are you planning on doing?”
“Spending it with you.”
She smiled, knowingly. “So you mean you’re spending it alone, here in your flat.”
He nodded. “I don’t mind being alone.”
“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.” Now she was using his words against him.
River laughed. “I’m not lonely when I’m alone, I have you.”
“Well, I can’t argue with that.” She said as she made her way to the sofa and handed him the TV remote as the song came to an end. “Good thing you bought a TV.” She joked.
“Don’t you want to listen to the rest of the album?” He asked.
“No! River, we can’t listen to it all at once! We have to savor it. Make the excitement last.”
“Right.” He agreed, “So what’s on TV?”
Just like Stevie had predicted, they didn’t do anything that day. They watched TV, listened to the Beatles, ate eggs and drank wine, and most importantly enjoyed each other’s company.
That night, while River got ready for bed, Stevie laid on top of the duvet on his bed, petting her beloved cat. She watched him as he disappeared into the living room and came back carrying the record player. He set it up next to the bed, Voyage still sitting on top, ready to be played.
“What are you doing?” She laughed.
“I want to listen to the rest of the album, here, with you.”
“Aren’t you sweet.” She said, and she meant it.
He put the needle back where they left off and the sound of I Still Have Faith in You filled the bedroom. He picked up the cat and moved him out of the way, and laid down next to her.
He fell asleep, holding Stevie while a chorus lead by Agnetha and Anni-Frid lulled them to sleep.
“I still have faith in you.” Shevie whispered into his ear and he knew this time, she wasn’t just singing along.
When he woke up the next morning, the record was still spinning, the needle stuck at the end. It mustn’t be good to leave it running like that all night but he didn’t care. When he opened his eyes and gained his consciousness, ready to say good morning to Stevie, he realized both his arms were wrapped around his pillow that had formed the shape of a torso.
“Morning sleepy head.” He heard coming from his doorway.
Thank god. He thought. I thought you were gone.