List frowns down at his jacket, huffing an outbreath of frustration. The lining’s torn. Again. Eyes narrowed, tongue creeping out onto his lower lip, he takes a needle and thread to the offending rip. After a couple of minutes of this, he looks up at the sound of a soft laugh, one hastily muffled by a hand.
Mary is sitting a couple of feet away, pretending to read a magazine, but her eyes are regularly flickering to him, a smile on her lips. “Never had you down as one for sewing,” she says brightly.
He raises an eyebrow. “‘A man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do,'” he paraphrases faux-seriously, before adding, “I darn my own socks, too, if it helps. I’m a jack of all trades.” He smiles, but it falls from his face as his eyes drift to the clock. “Oh shit shit shit.” He hastily bites off the thread, placing the rest of it on Mary’s desk along with the needle, and stands. He gives her an apologetic look. “Mom.” At her nod and smile, he throws the half-repaired jacket over his shoulder and flees from the office; in his haste, he forgets to be gentle when he closes the door.
Less than half a second later, Melinda’s door is yanked open and she steps through, shoulders tense and a hand on her revolver. She visibly relaxes when she spots Mary – and Mary’s smile, giving her a weary one in return. “Demon of the ninth Realm?”
“List,” Mary replies.
“Ah.” The small, tired smile widens a little, becoming more genuine. “One and the same, I suppose.”
He arrives home to an unusual silence. When he arrives home at about this time, his mother is normally humming while she works on something; he can see her in his mind’s eye, absentminded smile on her face, sewing or writing lists… Home is a cheery little tune and the smell of coffee.
Today, however, he walks into the kitchen to find her sitting at the table, putting the last finishing touches to her lipstick; she has on a pretty dress, one he hasn’t seen her wear for a long time. “Mom?” he asks, frowning.
She startles, gives him a smile. It’s like her usual, but her eyes are somewhere else. “Alister.”
“Are you – ?” He gestures to her outfit.
Her face falls slightly. “Didn’t I tell you this morning?” she asks, her frown confused and more than a little hurt.
He seems to recall, now he thinks back, her saying something about tonight, but he was still reeling from performing an exorcism at the time, and it went over his head…
“I’m going out,” she explains. There’s that smile on her face again, her eyes soft and secretive, and it’s what prompts his next, sudden question.
“Is it a guy?”
She seems surprised, and after a pause, she nods. “His name’s George.” She watches him warily, trying to gauge his reaction. When he doesn’t speak, she asks, “Is that a problem?”
He opens his mouth without words, then manages to smile. “No. No. It’s… uh… good. Go have fun.” It’s the least she deserves, if he’s honest with himself.
She smiles back, brisk, bright and pleasantly surprised, visibly breathing out. “He’s picking me up at eight.”
He nods, making his way over to the breadbin, and – much more to himself than her – mutters, “Shouldn’t have forgotten.” No, he shouldn’t. He feels like he isn’t much if a son, not even being able to remember that his mom’s dating. Cause that’s what this is, even if something big, ugly and grabbing his throat right now, making him swallow, doesn’t want to admit it – a date.
Or maybe he does want to admit it, now he thinks about it. There hasn’t been a man around the house… well, ever. Dad left way back, when he was too young to talk or even remember him, and as far as List knows, there hasn’t been anyone since. Besides, she seems happy; if this George guy is doing it, who’s List to say no?
Eight comes and goes. It’s eight-ten – not that he’s counting or anything – by the time Mom’s date arrives. List hears a car (and now, with the days of the Model T for everyone long gone, that just screams rich) draw up outside. Mom’s date – black hair with actual Brylcreem, not the make-do grease some people use; white teeth and slight tan; a suit List would maybe like to own in his dreams – enters the room, instantly looks at him, and says, “So this is Alister.” List doesn’t feel like an Alister – never has – but he lets it go. The guy wouldn’t know; in Mom’s world, a person called List doesn’t even exist, and if George has only ever heard of him through his mother…
The man walks up to him – long, confident strides – and offers his hand. “George Buchanan.”
List is used to this whole dance by now; he’s dealt with enough of Melinda’s clients, after all. He shakes, smiles. “Alister Kord.”
To his credit, the guy laughs, long and loud – big like his walk. “Good to know.” He looks over his shoulder, gives Mom a small smile as if seeking approval, and List suddenly gets it – he’s nervous too. He’s been waiting for this too. List can’t help but relate to the guy.
“Uh… enjoy yourselves,” he tries awkwardly, unsure of what to say.
George smiles. “We’ll try. And I’ll do my best to deliver your mother home in one piece.” There’s a noise, a rustle of cloth, and then Mom’s taking her date’s arm, moving things along. George’s eyes fall to her. “You ready, Elizabeth?”
She nods, raising a finger to toy self-consciously, demurely, with one of the pearls at her neck – an old set: her best set, her only set. She’s told quietly but firmly by George, “You look wonderful.”
List finds himself agreeing. Brown curls that he’s partially inherited fall in a tamed waterfall most of the way down her face, casting shadows and showing of her cheekbones; she has red lips, a little jewellery at her wrists and neck. The make up, and, most of all, the effort, remind him forcibly of Mary, and it’s weird to see his mother looking like this.
She leans in, all powder and floral perfume, to kiss his cheek, and he barely catches the whisper of, “Thank you.”
He watches them go with the slightest hint of a smile, waits for the sound of the door closing, and then reaches for his coat.