Split Decision (kindle £0.99 | $1.24)
“Can I sit here, please?” a deep but smooth voice asked.
I looked up from my notepad into the face of a very good-looking guy and felt embarrassed straight away. Why on earth does he want to sit here?
I looked around and couldn’t see any other empty seats, compelling me to answer or look mean. “Yes.”
I watched him slide along the bench seat, until his body was against the wall.
What’s he going to think of me? I look a fuckin’ mess.
He glanced at the pad under my hand. “Have I interrupted your train of thought? Sorry.”
Before I answered, I looked down at my pad and then across to his face, “It’s all right. I’m stuck on something, anyway.”
“I’m Harvey, Harvey Burgess.” He waited for me to introduce myself.
“Alison Grey,” I said quite timidly.
He smiled and his face lit up. God, he’s confident.
“What are you writing about?” He looked at the pad again, covered in my terrible scrawl. I moved my arm to cover it up – anything to stop him looking.
I glanced at him quickly and said, “Nothing really, I’m just doodling.” I picked up my cup and finished the dregs in the bottom, and then I hastily gathered my things together. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
His hand covered mine, which surprised me.
He blurted out, “I’m sorry, I’ve disturbed you. I’ll stop talking, don’t go.” He pulled his hand off mine as if my skin had scalded him, looking totally embarrassed.
That’ll teach you.”I have to go,” I told him. “I’ve finished the tea I came in for.” I continued to stack my things into a pile, easily carried tucked under one arm.
“Can I get you another drink?”
I just wanted him to leave me alone. “Why are you interested in me? I’m nobody.” I’d had enough and started to get up.
“Can I get you another drink, please, Alison?”
I didn’t take much persuading and slumped down into the seat, resigned to let him pay. I can’t afford one, so I’ll make the most of this. He’ll get fed up before I do, daft bugger.
“I’ll have a tea, please.”
His smile was there again and it seemed genuine. He flagged the waitress and ordered two teas. While we waited for them to arrive, he stared at my face until I looked down. I could feel my neck getting hot and didn’t want to blush in front of him. I’d have died.
The teas came, delivered by a miserable-looking teenager, who would’ve preferred to be somewhere else. It was that obvious as she banged the mugs down on the table between us. The seating was so cramped, we were only separated by eighteen inches of table, so I made damn sure I kept my feet under my seat.
“Thank you,” he said to the girl.
I’m sure he only said that, hoping to make a point for her to be civilised. Wasting your time there.
I pulled my mug towards me, added the sugar and while I stirred it, I said, “Thank you for this.”
“It’s a pleasure. I’ve seen you in here before, and notice you always have a pad with you. Are you a writer?”
“Just starting out as a writer, really. I’ve written one of those Mills and Boon stories and they did publish it, but I’d like to write something with a bit more meat in it. The constraints they put on you, for one of their books, seemed to stop me from writing the way I wanted.”
He perked up, on hearing that and looked more interested. “What sort of book are you writing now?”
What’s with the third-degree? Oh, well, he did buy the tea. “I thought a horror would be something I could get my teeth into – not literally, though.” I giggled at the thought. He smiled at my little joke.
“Sounds interesting. Are you writing it in longhand? That’ll take an absolute age, won’t it?”
He actually looks concerned. What is it with him?
“No. I have my dad’s old computer to type it out on, at home. These are just extra thoughts about the story.”
“Do you live around here?”
Why does he want to know that? “Quite close,” I told him and drank some tea. I kept the mug in my hands with my elbows on the table, more of a barrier to him than anything else.
“Hi.” I looked up at Adey, my long term boyfriend. God, I call him that in the loosest possible term. He was stood next to me, staring at the guy sitting opposite.
“Oh, hi. I didn’t think you were coming today.” He moved and stood at the end of the bench Harvey was on, looking daggers at me, he was so pissed off.
“That’s obvious.” His voice was as sarcastic as I expected. I ignored it.
“Adey, this is Harvey. Harvey, Adey. He’s bought me a tea. Do you have a problem with that?” I stared at him. He knows I’m livid when I snap at him. He usually backed down – today would be no exception.
“Sorry, Alison.” He nodded to Harvey. “I need to speak to you in private.”
“You’ll have to wait, then, Adey. Harvey’s only just got me this. Sit down, you’re making the place look untidy.”
Harvey smiled. It was so subtle, I hardly noticed it.
“I’ll come back later. I have a few errands to run for Mum.” He knew that would go down like a lead brick with me, wishing he hadn’t mentioned it.
I blasted at him, “Go on then, do your mummy’s shopping!” He left the café with his shoulders hunched, slamming the door.
I saw the face Harvey pulled and told him, “Suppose you think I’m a first class bitch?”
I kept my eyes on him until he answered. “It all depends why you said it, surely?”
Click page 2 to continue reading
Christ! You’re understanding.
I was in too deep not to enlighten him, “His mum’s a lush and sends him to get her booze every day. I’ve had enough drunks in my life...” I’d divulged more than I wanted
and tried to back-track, “Sorry, I’ve said too much. You don’t need to hear that crap.”
“I’m a good listener,” he offered. “Don’t worry about it, really. It hasn’t put me off you.”
Why would he say that? If he’s trying to pick me up, he can bloody think again.
“Adey’s my boyfriend, Harvey. You better understand. I’m not on the market.”
He nodded at me and said nothing else on the subject, only he continued to drink his tea with a permanent smile on his face.
I’ve no bloody idea why he’s smiling.
I finished my tea, thanked him for his company and left him sitting at the table. I stepped out of the café, and in through the door of the boarding house I lived in, next door.
Adey rang my bell about an hour later. I reluctantly went down to answer it and before I looked at him, I said, “What kept you?” It was Harvey’s face I stared at when I raised my head. “What are you doing here? I told you, I’m not interested.”
“I’ve not come about that. I’m a police officer and Adey’s been in an accident.”
My hand shot up to stop a gasp escaping my mouth. It didn’t halt my tears.
Harvey could see he’d upset me and carried on gently, “When I went back to work, I was called out to an incident in town. I recognised Adey straight away. Could I come in?”
I didn’t answer. Instead, I turned from the door and led him up to my bedsit – a tiny room at the top of the house. The ceiling followed the shape of the roof; slanting in different directions, making it difficult to stand up in most of the room.
He saw how low it was. Choosing with care, where he could stand comfortably, he asked, “Sit down, Alison, please?” He waited for me to sit.
I looked for clues in his face, but he was so serious, he gave nothing away. I couldn’t wait, asking, “What’s happened? Is he in hospital, Harvey? Sorry, I shouldn’t call you that if you’re a policeman.”
“Harvey’s fine. It’s okay. Alison, I’m afraid Adey died at the scene.”
“What scene? He only went to the off licence?” Tears welled up and I couldn’t stop them this time, crying in front of this stranger. My thoughts flashed across the time I’d known Adey: I may not have loved him but I wouldn’t have wished this on my one and only friend.
Harvey sat on his haunches in front of me. “Sorry I have to ask this: Do you know his mother’s address? We have to inform her, and he didn’t carry any ID. I’m sorry to ask you this, Alison – really I am.”
I wiped the tears from my eyes with the back of my hand to answer him. I felt such a fool for crying. Trying to stop my chin from shuddering and setting me off again, was difficult. I took a deep breath and told him, “She lives in Mason Terrace. Number seventeen, I think. How did he die?”
He said gently, “I’m not supposed to tell you, before we’ve informed his mother. I’m sorry,” he added, not wanting to upset me again.
I felt my chin quivering and clamped my teeth together, thinking: I’ve waited forever for most things – one more, won’t make any bloody difference to me.
The silence from me filled the room, making him stand up again. He said, “I’ll come back after I’ve informed her, if that’s all right with you?”
“Yes, that’s fine – I’d like to know. Thank you.”
“I’ll see myself out, then, Alison. I’ll be about an hour.” He left me to think about the only thing I knew for certain: Adey’s dead.
True to his word, he rang the doorbell an hour later. I opened it with swollen red eyes and he followed me up to my room. I offered him my only chair, leaving me the edge of my bed to park myself on.
As soon as I sat down he began to speak, “I’ve spoken to his mother and she’s shocked; you can imagine. I told her I was coming to inform you, as you were his girlfriend and had given me her address. She doesn’t like you very much – she made certain I knew that.”
“I kept telling him to leave home. It came out in a blazing row, and she hasn’t spoken to me since.”
“Alison, Adey was hit by a four-wheel-drive car. It was backing up, after a raid on the off licence he was going to. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you, Harvey. We knocked about together for the last two years, nothing serious. We were friends and just like part of the furniture. I thought we’d go on like that forever, muddling along. Neither of us looked for anything else. It was easy to let it carry on.”
“I can understand that. You get comfortable with each other. Are you going to be all right, Alison?” He waited for me to answer him.
Click page 3 to continue reading
“I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me. I’ve had to get over worse things than this.” Now I’ve said too much.
“Really – what sort of things?”
What the hell. I’m just going to tell him. “Most of my life, I lived with a couple of drunks. My dad finally left, but then my mother continued the abuse, so I left home as soon as it was legal. I wanted to go to college or university but that was never going to happen, so I started writing. I keep looking for a normal job, but you need a degree to get a job as a toilet attendant, these days.”
“You’ve had it rough, Alli.”
I smiled at him.
“What did I say?” he asked, wondering why I’d smiled.
“No one’s called me that for years. From the word go, Adey insisted on calling me Alison. I prefer Alli.”
“Alli it is, from now on, then.”
What does he mean by that? I’m actually going to see him again?
“How long have you been in the police?” I asked him, being nosy and changing the subject off me.
“Three years. I was fast-tracked up to inspector, after a year.”
“Blimey. You must have a brain on you.”
He just smiled. You might as well have said ‘yes’.
He threw me by asking, “Come on. Tell me about your new book. What genre are you writing it in?”
Bloody hell. He forgets nothing.
I tried to steer him away, saying, “You’ll think it’s stupid.”
“Try me? I’m interested. I’ve never met anyone who writes.” He waited.
“If I must,” I answered; my tone very clipped and sarcastic. “I’m going to write about a woman who’s a vampire.” He didn’t say anything.
Now he thinks I’m bloody thick. I stood up and headed for the sink to get some water. “Do you want some?” I asked, holding up a glass. He smiled at me and shook his head. When I sat down, he still had that same smile. “Find that funny, do you?” I’m annoyed now; you being such a clever dick.
“Sorry. I was thinking about what you said in the café: something to get your teeth into.”
I sniggered, remembering it again. “Oh, yeah. You don’t forget much – suppose that’s why you’re an inspector?” I relaxed a bit.
“I have a photographic memory, Alli. That’s how I learned the job so fast.”
“I wish I did. I have a memory like a colander: full of holes.”
“You can’t be that bad? I’d have thought, holding a story in your head to the end of a book, is quite a skill?”
“Book things, I remember without a problem. It’s the day-to-day things I forget. I definitely have something missing up there,” tapping my head as I told him. “From what I can remember, I’ve been like it all my life.”
I could see he didn’t believe me, so I didn’t elaborate further.
“I have to go, Alli. I’m still on duty and have to report back before I finish. Maybe I’ll see you in the café again?”
“Maybe. Thanks for telling me about Adey. If you hear when his funeral is, can you let me know, please?” I added to make a point, “His mother won’t.”
“Of course I will. We usually hear. The investigation isn’t finished, Alli. Will you be okay?”
“I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me.”
“I’ll see myself out.” He smiled at me and left my room.
I sat thinking about the last few hours. How your life could change, completely out of your control.
End of chapter