V is for Veritas
List finds it when he’s sorting through the junk in Melinda’s office (again – seriously). It’s a book: small, simply bound and very dusty. His curiosity piqued, he opens it; the print is small, simple and handwritten, the letters beautiful. When he tries to read it, he fails. Shit. Latin. He frowns at it, cocks his head. Nope, doesn’t look any different from another angle. “Melinda?” he calls, and waits.
Soon enough, a throat is cleared behind him; paper is rustled. “List?”
“Is this anything important?” Still kneeling by the filing cabinet, he passes up the book.
He hears her small exhaled breath and, “Ah.” He’s tempted to ask, but thinks better of it. There’s a silence. Then she says, “This… No, it isn’t important; I thought I’d forgotten it. Carry on, List, if you don’t mind.”
“Sure, boss,” he says, noticing that she’s making no move to return the book. He waits for her footsteps to fade, and wonders why he feels so disappointed.
W is for Wool
Elizabeth is sorting through cupboards. She’s in the closet, knee-deep in cardboard boxes. (A glamorous life she leads. Alister is probably hiding in hedges, spying on cheating husbands, and she’s… here. Doing this.) She opens another box, and pauses. She recognises that pattern… She stares numbly at the jumper she can see through the flaps of the half-open box. (He didn’t take all his things. She should have remembered that.) Her mouth opens a little, as if to say something; she closes it when she realises that there’s nothing to say.
Bastard. Doing this to her just when she was… was…
Denny’s still here, in some ways. She allows herself a moment, standing there and staring at the box of his clothes, to wonder what might have been. Then she heaves the box onto the “throw out” pile, and wonders whether she ought to visit her son.
X is for X-Ray
“Shit.” List lets out a groan as he trudges into the office. “What the hell is this?”
“That’s a hangover, List,” Mary replies. “And don’t let Melinda catch you; she’s said before she doesn’t want the police on our doorstep.”
“You’re underage, and everybody’s stupider when they’re drunk. You could’ve started a fight.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t.”
“That’s not what she’ll care about. Besides, you did manage to fall into the gutter.”
“Once. One time.”
“One time too many.”
“I think something’s broken.”
“I think it’s my ass.”
“I really think it’s my ass.”
“Alister,” a voice said from behind them. “Good to see you make an appearance.”
List whirls round, trying to look nonchalant and only managing to seem constipated. “Ah – Hi, Melinda.”
This is how he gets a twelve-minute lecture (he counts) on how he should’ve waited five months, it wasn’t really that long – and no, Melinda, he does not “enjoy acting like an idiot” – and how if his “arse” is broken he most certainly deserves it. (Yeah, thanks for the support.) Apparently, if he wants a doctor he can pay for it himself, out of his own wages.
“‘I will not have the law knocking on my door,'” he whines in a really stupid – and stupidly posh – mock-English accent as he trudges into the main office.
“List, you chose to head out,” Mary chides.
“I – Yeah. Call me in two hours.” He clomps up the stairs to his room, muttering, “Broken ass, broken head, broken paycheck…”
He’ll be fine soon enough, when the pain and the indignity wear off. Like hell he’s waiting ’til his eighteenth to try again.
Drinking age over here is still eighteen – I’m British – and I’d assumed it would be twenty-one in NY. Nope: apparently back in the forties it was eighteen; it was only raised to nineteen in 1982 and to twenty-one in 1984.