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A Merry Little Christmas to Us

Little surprises around every corner

By Tina D'AngeloPublished 6 months ago 10 min read
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A Merry Little Christmas to Us
Photo by Sven Brandsma on Unsplash

My cruiser partner and long-time buddy, Tucker, had invited me to his place so I didn't have to face spending Christmas Eve alone after our brutal call earlier in the night. We had been dispatched to look for a missing senior citizen, who ended up wandering away from a home and freezing to death. We were both pretty shaken up by her death and didn't need to be alone and thinking about what we could have done better to prevent it.

Police work is all about people. The public often forgets that we are people, too. We become connected to our perps and victims through their circumstances. A police officer never completely erases all the calls they go on, no matter the outcome. They always stick in our craws, making us question our reactions and actions repeatedly.

Now that we had arrived at his place, Tuck and I were like two awkward teenagers stealing their first kiss behind camp counselors’ backs as he stumbled up the icy steps to his first-floor apartment. “Watch out for the ice patches, Smitty, er, Darlene.”

He fumbled with the locks and finally ushered me into his home away from the cruiser. “Wow, Tuck, this is nice. You’re more of a homemaker than I am, that’s for sure. Stuff even matches. I’m impressed.”

“I figure if I gotta come home alone every night, I might as well make the place comfy, you know?”

“I haven’t gotten that far yet, I’m afraid. The cruiser is more my style,” I admitted. “Shit, I’ve still got boxes of stuff that I haven’t even opened.”

“You need help? I wouldn’t mind coming by and giving you a hand,” he offered uncomfortably.

Tucker and I rarely socialized with each other outside of work, except for the occasional staff development lunches or Christmas parties. If we needed to chat, we’d wait until we had lulls between calls. Our chats were mostly Darlene’s complaints of the day, with Tuck listening, nodding his head, and rarely commenting. That brought another conundrum to bear. What to call him if we end up rolling in the sack together this morning? I couldn’t call him Officer Tucker or Tuck. I should probably call him John. It would feel weird, though. Although, if he pulled his handcuffs on me, I suppose Officer Tucker would be appropriate.

“Hey, check this out,” Tuck said, switching the lights to a sparkling Christmas tree in a corner of the living room.

“Nice, Tuck, um, John. That feels so weird to call you by your first name. Is it Okay?”

“Well, I’m getting used to Darlene. Maybe we call each other by our official names when we aren’t alone, huh? I know we just had breakfast, but my clock is off, and I want to toast Christmas with you.”

He rummaged around in his kitchen and returned to the living room with a dusty bottle of Glenlivet and two glasses tinkling with ice. He motioned me to the sofa, settled beside me, and handed me my glass. For the first time in_ I can’t even remember if we ever sat this close to each other in all our years of working together.

He pulled me closer to him so my head almost rested on his broad shoulder and lifted his glass to mine. “To a better year for both of us. God rest our little lost Birdy. May she find her Jimmy again,” he said, referring to the senior citizen who had frozen in the snow, searching for her long-lost love.

“Hear, hear! I agreed,” while we drank to our future and Birdy’s past.

I kicked off my boots, curled my feet up under me, finished my drink, and snuggled comfortably into John’s warm body, enjoying not being alone for a change. There was no rush to tear each other’s clothes off or begin pawing each other. It felt almost normal, as if we snuggled on this sofa every night after work. I stared at the twinkling Christmas tree lights until I finally gave in to last evening’s freezing weather, exertion, and the pain of finding Birdy dead in the snow. I wasn’t the only one to succumb, as John was sawing logs before I drifted off entirely.

Our morning came around three in the afternoon, with the smell of toast and coffee wafting into the living room from John’s immaculate kitchen. He had covered me with a hand-knitted Afghan and somehow got a pillow under my head without waking me. I hunted down the bathroom and almost fainted when I looked in the mirror, “Oh, my God. What a sight!” My frizzy red hair was sticking out in all directions, and my rosy cheeks now had scabs from the frost. If I had been worried about carrying on an illicit affair with my co-worker, I would have been relieved of that problem. No one. And, I mean, no one would date someone who looked this bad in the morning.

All I could do was wet my hair and hope for better results when it dried and steal a glob of Vaseline from John’s medicine cabinet to keep my scabs from worsening.

When I showed up in the kitchen, mortified with how I must have looked in repose, John looked up from the frying pan with a wide smile, “Hey, beautiful, how do you like your eggs? You’re in luck. I’m an excellent cook and haven’t had a victim to experiment on in years.”

“Oh, boy. I look terrible. You need to get your glasses checked, partner,” I quipped, too embarrassed by the truth to take his compliment seriously.

“You know what your problem is, Smitty? You have no self-confidence. You don’t see yourself the way men see you. You are one of those statuesque women with long legs and a great figure. Your red hair is the icing on the cake. Guys love real redheads. Maybe it’s because they’re crazy.”

“Who? The guys or the redheads?” I asked.

“Well, to be fair, probably both. I’ve, um, been crazy about a certain redhead ever since she broke up with her last husband. She doesn’t pay one bit of attention to me. But, someday, she’ll notice me.”

“Oh, really? Who?” I asked, buttering a piece of toast, clueless.

“Well, she and I have known each other for about seven years. We’ve both been through a marriage breaking up together. We spend more time together than we ever did with our spouses and know each other better than we knew our spouses. Guess.”

Blushing from ear to ear, I realized he was making a pass at me, and I had been too dumb to pick up on it. It never occurred to me that John would have the slightest interest in me.

“Didn’t you just call me the ‘most vile woman’ you’d ever met?” I asked pointedly.

“Well, yeah. You are. What’s that got to do with the fact that I’ve been moping around after you like a sick puppy for years and pretending to be all business?”

“I like the way you think, Tuck, er John. I’m vile but not vile enough to chase you away?”

“Nope. Never. Every time you tried to move on from your ex by dating someone new, it was like you were tasing me in the heart.”

“I had no idea. You never seemed the least bit interested in me. I figured you’d written me off as a loser partner you were stuck with, period. Why didn’t you say something?” I asked querulously.

“Because I was afraid you’d chew my head off, sort of like how you’re doing it right now. A partner I was stuck with? The Sarge gave me three chances to change partners, and I turned him down all three times. I couldn’t imagine coming to work and not being with you. That would be worse than my divorces, Darlene. Then my life would be truly empty.”

I dunked my toast in some excellent coffee and slurped it up, with John grinning at me like it was the most adorable thing ever. Wait a few more months of watching me slurp and gobble my food, and we’ll see how adorable I am.

“So, scrambled, fried, or poached, my dear?” he asked, cracking open eggs for our breakfast.

“Umm, fried. Where did you get this bread? It tastes homemade.”

“It is. Every Saturday, I come home from work and make bread for the week. I bake one loaf and freeze the dough for the rest of the week. I told you I’m a spectacular cook. Wait until you taste my lasagna with homemade sauce and noodles.”

“Wow. I usually buy frozen dinners and a bag of apples to get my fresh fruits in. I’m afraid if I let you cook for me, I’ll lose control and get fat.” I whined.

“Good to know we’re back to normal. Darlene’s whine for the day- don’t cook for me, or I’ll get fat!” he mocked in a girly voice, which sounded nothing like me.

“Hey, don’t laugh; all that equipment makes me look like a linebacker for the Giants. A girl has to watch her figure, you know.”

“Don’t worry. I’ve been watching it for you, and you’re doing just fine. You want to spend the afternoon and hang out? We don’t have to get, you know, intimate. I want to spend time with you off the clock.” He persisted.

“Well, I don’t know. I was hoping for a back rub. Last night beat me all the hell up.” I winked at him as he looked at me in surprise.

“Okay, but nothing more,” he promised, “Just a back rub_ fully clothed.”

“Shucks, you’re no fun,” I whined again.

“You’re making this more difficult by the minute, you know? If I’d have known you wouldn’t beat me up, I would have told you how I felt years ago,” he complained.

“Exactly how long have you felt like this? I asked, stuffing my face with more of his homemade bread and fried eggs, which were done perfectly.

“Since you married your last husband. I hated him and never told you because I didn’t want you to think I was jealous. Maybe I hated him because I was. When you split up and spent the next two years almost suicidal, it almost killed me, too.”

“Well, when you split up from Maria, I was glad. I always thought she was a bitch and treated you like a nobody. It really pissed me off. Who the hell did she think she was, anyway?” I groused.

It seemed that John and I were on a revolving marriage rollercoaster; one of us was either in a bad marriage or getting out of one. We’d commiserate on patrols and shore each other up. I never thought much of it, except we were stuck in the confines of a vehicle all day and needed to talk about something. It saved us a fortune on therapists.

He began clearing off the table and filling the sink with sudsy water, when I joined him, “Hey, you cook, I’ll clean. I can’t do what you do with food, but I can wash a dish like no one’s business,” I bragged.

He looked at me skeptically, like I wouldn’t do it right, but then backed down and poured himself another coffee, leaning on the counter, ready to wipe and put away the dishes. After being partners on patrol for all those years, we were a well-oiled machine, and the dishes were washed, dried, and put away in no time. That left us all afternoon for uncomfortable confessions and avoiding the taint of intimacy with each other.

“Hey, if I stay this afternoon, do you have something clean I can put on? This uniform smells like a dead body- oh, yeah. I forgot for a minute.”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind flannel shirts and sweats three sizes too big for you,” he offered, heading for the bedroom to gather something for me to wear.

He returned with a cozy pair of gray sweats, a soft flannel shirt, and a pair of comfy woolen socks, which I grabbed and took to the bathroom, taking advantage of a shower as well. I heard a tentative knock on the bathroom door while scrubbing off my tired, sore body from our adventure in the blizzard. John gently pushed open the door, one hand over his eyes, and placed a towel on the rack for me. Then, he backed out respectfully.

I toweled off with a freshly laundered towel that smelled like fabric softener- what? This man knew how to take care of a house. I should marry him and make him my wife, I thought. There was nothing to be done with my hair. All my frizz remover goop was at home. I tried to finger-curl it and leave it alone to dry unmolested. Curly hair_ the bane of my existence. The clothes were huge on me, but they were clean and warm, and I was thankful to get out of my soiled uniform.

When I came to the living room, he had the TV on and asked what movie I wanted. We settled on an old-fashioned Christmas classic, Die Hard. Before starting the movie, he asked for my uniform and dainties. Yes, he said, ‘dainties’. He would toss our uniforms into the washer and finish that chore.

“Good man. I may have to keep you around, John. You have hidden your talents from me,” I congratulated him.

“Hey, I have to do these things for myself anyway; it’s more enjoyable doing them for two. Let me spoil you for a while, Darlene. You need it.”

“In that case, after the movie, you owe me that backrub if you can find me under all this flannel,” I joked.

“Oh, don’t worry, I intend to keep my promise on that,” he laughed, wriggling his eyebrows at me.

With the washing machine swishing our uniforms clean, he scooched closely to me on the sofa, clicking the remote while he pulled the Afghan over us and nestled his big arm around me. I must admit that was the most relaxed I’d been in years. It felt like home under his wings, maybe too much like home.

RomanceFictionCliffhanger
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About the Creator

Tina D'Angelo

G-Is for String is now available in Ebook, paperback and audiobook by Audible!

https://a.co/d/iRG3xQi

G-Is for String: Oh, Canada! and Save One Bullet are also available on Amazon in Ebook and Paperback.

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  • Mark Gagnon6 months ago

    Aw, Shucks mamme!

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