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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Second hand shirt
By Lesley Mitchell
"Baby cases," Claire had said. "Cops hate baby cases."
While Cindy could accept that, her journalist's nose said there was more to this than just that. She might not have been part of the club for all that long, but she'd never seen the Inspector quite so off her game. However, Claire and Jill had closed ranks around Lindsay, supporting her as best they could. While she thought that Jill might well break under the right questioning, Cindy felt that even asking would probably dissolve the fragile trust that she was building with these women.
She'd done what she could, and if the crazies from the hotline had been eye-opening on one aspect of humanity, the horror of the baby trading website would live with her far longer. At least she'd been able to find the sleezeball ex-boyfriend, after an equally enlightening hour or so trawling through the high-class dives that surrounded the marinas. Having been treated to a display of his charm for twenty minutes or so, she was a little disappointed to not have been there when Lindsay had reportedly tried to take his head off.
Sat in the insane evening traffic, she'd actually missed the news that the baby had been found. She'd even missed hearing that Lindsay had found the mother alive and mostly well, and then had to talk her down from shooting people. However, when she finally made her way into the Hall, Claire had caught her, turned her around and filled her in with the details as they drove back across town to the hospital to catch up with Lindsay and Jill.
"I'm guessing you need a drink," Jill had said, and Lindsay hadn't refused.
"Just the one," Claire had agreed. "'Cos my husband and my boys are probably beginning to think I'm the one who's gone missing."
Cindy kept quiet, knowing that she had a deadline and a grouchy editor, who'd only be slightly mollified by the exclusive picture and details that she'd be able to bring to her piece.
"Come on, then, girls. Like the lady said," Lindsay waved vaguely at Claire, as the four women quietly left the new grandparents to their mixed emotions, "we done good."
The bar they found was darker, busier and noisier than Papa Joe's, but, that evening, the anonymity that offered was a good thing. It was a strangely subdued celebration. Each woman was deeply wrapped up in her own thoughts, and, truly, they were all too drained to really appreciate the success. So, they sipped at their drinks in comfortable silence, and when Lindsay's phone trilled, she checked caller ID and let it ring. Tom could leave voice mail, she was off the clock.
When hers rang, moments later, Jill didn't even bother looking.
Out of nowhere, Lindsay started to speak.
"It was four years ago."
Jill and Claire exchanged a look across the table.
"Lots of..." She stopped and cleared her throat. Almost without moving, Jill and Claire each had hold of one of her hands. "Lots of first pregnancies don't work out. It's nobody's fault. It just happens."
Cindy nodded minutely and said nothing, and Lindsay poured out the whole sad story. It didn't take long.
"I'm so sorry."
"It's done. No way to change it, now." She tossed back the last of her Scotch, and stood up. "Now, can we all get some sleep?"
"Speak for yourself," said Cindy. "No rest for me until I've submitted some sort of coherent story to my editor."
The other women joined her on their feet, and, together, they moved carefully through the jostling crowd towards the door.
"Don't stay up too late," said Claire, when they reached the relative quiet of the side walk.
"Hey! Do you want to keep getting fed at my house or not?"
"Will it help if I bring cookies, next time?"
"I'll... think about it. C'mon, I'll give you a ride back to your car."
Claire paused a beat as Cindy turned away, and, lowering her voice, said knowingly, "The same goes for you two."
Jill looked down guiltily at where she still held Lindsay's hand in hers, and failed to keep a blush from colouring her cheeks.
"No pumpkins tonight, Claire," said Lindsay.
"I'm just saying..."
"I know. See you tomorrow, Claire. Go see that husband of yours."
Lindsay's dark hair splayed wildly over the pale pillowcase where she slept. In her repose, she was finally mostly relaxed, though the ghosts of the stresses that filled her waking hours were visible in the faint creases that marked her skin. Those scars were deeper than usual after the ordeal of this case, and Jill had to resist the urge to try and smooth them away with her fingers.
Sleep had eluded Jill; she was too aware that she would need to leave before dawn to cross the city and pick up the strands of her life once more as if this too sweet interlude had never happened. So there she was, again ensconced in the chair at the end of the bed, wrapped in the over large shirt Lindsay kept for her, knees drawn up to her chest, watching her sometimes lover sleep.
The shirt had been Tom's. She'd known that the first time she'd picked it up and didn't much care. In the beginning, it had still smelt slightly of his aftershave. But somewhere along the line, she'd erased him from it. It every respect that mattered, it was her shirt now. It had caught her eye, peeking out of a random box in the not quite fully unpacked apartment, as she'd padded softly back to the bedroom, naked in the darkness. It wasn't that her nudity bothered her, simply that she couldn't sleep and didn't want to disturb Lindsay. Without the shared warmth, the air of the last hours of the night was cool against her skin.
The clock in the next room ticked the minutes slowly by, and when the sky outside the bay window began to lighten, Jill dressed quietly, patted Martha's head, and left the apartment, phone in hand, to call another early morning cab.
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