This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 790 words.
Luckily for me, Babs was sorting out her van as I got home from work one Friday afternoon. I stopped and chatted to her, studiously avoiding eyeing her up and down, and concentrating on her face. After the usual small talk, I said that she must be fed up of seeing burgers and breakfasts, and wondered if she would like to go to a nice Italian restaurant I knew, on the edge of Clerkenwell. She gave every indication of realising I was asking her out on a date, and smiled when she agreed that would be nice. I decided to strike while the iron was hot, and suggested the following evening at eight. She looked a little coy when she agreed, as if she hadn’t expected me to ask.
I booked a table for two, and arranged a taxi to collect us at seven-thirty. She met me in the entrance hall, and I had to admit she scrubbed up well. Her skirt was a little too short for her age, but I was’t complaining. And she hadn’t overdressed for an Italian meal either. Just the right combination of outfit and make-up. We chatted comfortably in the cab. She told me the rather bad news that she had an early start on Sunday. She had managed to get a pitch for her burger van at a big Boot Sale venue near Watford, so to get the most of the morning trade, she was determined to be set up just after six.
It went really well at first. She loved the old-fashioned atmosphere, and was happy with my suggested wine. When the starter arrived, she said she had never had one better, and she ate with gusto, showing no reserve. As we waited for the main course to arrive, she finally got around to asking me the one question I had dreaded. What did I do for a job. That left me with just two options. Lie about doing a job I knew sod-all about, or tell her the truth. I went for the truth, but even as I tried to play down my role by describing the local fraud squad as little more than being a Trading Standards official confiscating fake designer goods, her face was already falling like snow slipping down an avalanche.
The main course was eaten in silence, and I could tell from her face she was weighing up what to say. She said no to a dessert, but was happy with my suggestion of two glasses of Limoncello. Fingering the edge of the tiny glass, she hit me with both barrels. Her brother had done time. Her dad had done time, and the ex-boyfriend she had run the bar in Spain with had done nine years for smuggling cocaine. There was no way she was going to be a copper’s girlfriend, I knew that. She did’t actually say as much, but she was checking the time on her phone before I got uncomfortable enough to ask for the bill.
The ride home in a black cab was awkward, to say the least. Mind you, she did kiss me outside the door of her flat. All warm and soft, and tasting of her peachy lipstick, and that lemon liqueur. But I knew that was it. The job had killed any chance of another date. As if to drive a nail into my coffin of expectations, she smiled as she closed the door, saying, “See you around, I expect”.
The worst thing about being a policeman is that it makes you hate the general public. Maybe ‘despise’ would be a better word, as you spend your working life dealing with all the most horrible and disgusting aspects of human behaviour, and people who you soon regard to be little more that the proverbial ‘scum of the earth’. That is the main reason why cops stick together, and only socialise with other cops. They simply cannot abide to spend time with ‘civilians’. The people who don’t understand their job and never will, because they don’t have to deal with all the low-life shit that populates a city the size of London.
I sat out on the balcony that night with a bottle of Cognac. I was reflecting on what a shitty life I had chosen for myself. It had cost me three girlfriends, for one reason or another, and I spent my life avoiding the subject of my job at all costs. When the the bottle of good stuff was half empty, I called it a day and went to bed before twelve. I had a restless night, dreaming about being on my own for the rest of my natural.
More like a vision of the future, than a dream.