Chapter 12. It’s been a tough year.
Updated: Dec 22, 2020
After Maeve had left, Steve cleared up their debris, dumped it in the bin and walked on down St Margaret St to pick up a takeaway coffee from the Micro Roastery on his way back to the office.
He always ran some background music in his head, now he was in the ‘80s with Sade and ‘Smooth Operator’, though he didn’t feel that he had been very smooth. He was reflecting on this last year, it felt like years, not less than one year.
It was spring when he met Maeve. Steve liked her right from the start, she was his kind of woman. The warm, practical, ‘takes no shit’, kind of woman. But there was nothing normal about how they met or what happened after that.
Steve didn’t believe in ghosts, or rather before meeting Maeve he didn’t. Now he knew that Maeve had something, an extra sense, or a gift. He believed that she could communicate with the dead. That didn’t mean that she would, or that he would get any useful leads from it if she did. Nevertheless he hoped that this time it would give him the excuse to spend some time with her. To try again, and see if there was anything there between them.
Due to Maeve, he had arrested a serial killer and they had saved one, possibly two lives. Back at the station he was a hero. Tim, his ‘colleague’ or nemesis more likely, had been put in the shade, and Steve, with his team, got all of the glory. They’d had to manage the media, it was clear that the police put the case together that would keep the killer in jail even if the medium, Mystic Ada, had helped. In fact Ada was great and the more she played down her part the more the media loved her and didn’t believe a word she said. The press headline ran ‘Local Mystic Finds Serial Killer in Canterbury Cathedral’. Regardless the police line is always the same, ‘we do not work with psychics, or any paranormal practitioners.’ This time they had to add that ‘ a neighbour Ada McPhilips had been helping the police with their enquiries.’ When the media frenzy had died down and things got back to normal, it hadn’t actually changed anything in the station. Steve didn’t get the promotion, neither did Tim. COVID happened. Everything else was sidelined.
In that all too brief gap between lockdowns during the summer, when everyone had been encouraged to ‘eat out to help out’. He had tried to have a date with Maeve. It was a beautiful evening and Steve had booked one of the tables outside the Millar’s Arms. The sun was still warm but not too hot; laughter, clinking glasses, the sounds of summer were all around, the smell of fresh cut grass wafted past. It’s a quiet part of Canterbury, so even though the tables opened onto the street you could still hear the water racing through the old mill run, in the adjacent park. Perfect.
Maeve looked wonderful, soft, a touch of make-up to make her sparkle but not overloaded. Steve hated seeing lovely faces layered up with foundation, particularly with young women determined on masking perfection, on plastifying nature.
They were facing each other, it should have been idyllic. But you know when the little things start to go wrong, it’s not going to end well. The table was too small, dishes were on top of each other, finally the garlic bread fell onto the ground and the plate smashed. Or maybe Steve was too big, he had felt nervous, he hadn’t been on a date in years and years, maybe he knocked the plate, either way it was a bad omen.
Maeve said it was fine, it didn’t matter. But they both knew it wasn’t good. They ordered another bottle of wine, as if to start again. That was another sign, both of them had drunk the first one too quickly. Nerves.
Anyway, one way or another they ended up in an argument. It was a stupid argument. Steve shouldn’t have said anything, but he was used to being in charge and having people listen to him, so he mouthed off anyway. He didn’t even mean it, it was just something to say. Maeve had said something about the government giving away this ten pounds each towards their dinner when there were people that needed the help to survive who had been ignored, like all the freelancers. He said they were all hand-outs and he didn’t believe in handouts. She got really mad, the extra wine probably played its part, she got louder and pretty soon was almost shouting ‘it’s not their fault, all their work has gone’. Then like lighting touch paper, Steve had said ‘Shhhh, we don’t want to make a scene.’ Well that was that. Maeve started with “Don’t you dare tell me what I can and can’t do.” Then her voice dropped to an icy cold, icily polite, “thank you for offering to take me for dinner. I think it's over now.” And with that she put her share of the bill, in cash, on the table, and left.
As he re-lived it now, he could see that he had been crass, recognising that she was one of the freelancers who had lost work. And that evening she had got too emotional too quickly. She probably hadn’t really had any time to deal with the full emotional roller coaster that she had been on since she discovered her gift.
Thinking back he counted the issues Maeve had dealt with, one, she was reconstructing her relationship with her mother Ada when Ada had a heart attack, Steve had been the shoulder Maeve had cried on. And it made him feel good. He liked that closeness, he liked having someone need him. At the time he hadn’t been sure that he was ready to give up his single life, now he was thinking, what was it that he was so afraid of giving up? Lockdown made him crave company. Two, she thought that she had lost her daughter; three, there had been the adventure that had led to his utter humiliation, and finally going on to that mad chase to save Maeve’s other daughter’s life. Now, with mature reflection, he knew that he should have cut her some slack. At the time, he was just hurt.
That summer evening, he had been thinking of what he wanted, not what she needed. It was time to try again. So this was a nice, hopefully safe, little project that they could work on together. The body had been dead for some time and had not been reported as missing so it was good to solve the crime, but not urgent. Steve could use this to repair bridges, and calmly see if there was still anything there between them.
However there was still an elephant in the room, he knew that there was one other problem that he would have to face.
Steve had spent ten years lighting a candle for his first love, who had been killed in a car crash. He needed to know that she was okay about this, that he wasn’t betraying their relationship and that she was okay for him to move. How could he be sure? There was only one person he could ask to communicate with the other side, and that was Maeve. He could never do that