FIRST, I LOVE YOU
By Genevieve Dewey
Copyright 2012 by Genevieve Dewey, All Rights Reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.
This is a work of fiction; any resemblance to living persons is entirely coincidental. The author acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Tommy woke to the sound of his cell phone belting ‘Pretty Daughter’ by the Bad Livers. He fumbled for the phone in his shirt pocket and looked around for Ginny. She had obviously left.
Dammit to hell and back again, he thought, mentally kicking himself.
“Hey, Kicks, wassup?” he answered sleepily.
“Tommy, for real? You’re already sleeping at nine at night?” Kiki asked playfully.
“Some people with real jobs do that,” Tommy said, still irritated at having blown the evening with Ginny. There was deafening silence on the other end.
Shiiiit, he thought, this girl and the silent treatment.
“Sorry, Kiki, it’s just been a long day, everything ok?” he tried again.
“Tommy, did you have a fight with Daddy?”
“No, not more than we usually do. I thought it ended on a fairly positive note. Why?”
“Well, he was acting weird earlier today, and now you’re crabby, and I guess I just wondered if…”
“If?” Tommy asked when she didn’t finish, trying to tamp down his irritation.
She sighed dramatically. He couldn’t help but chuckle at it. Ahh, Kiki. She always managed to both irritate and amuse him simultaneously. Maybe this was a Downey trait, this innate ability to elicit two usually opposite emotions at the same time.
“Nevermind,” Kiki said sullenly. “Jessica’s gone back to New York and I was feeling kind of lonely. Maybe you and your lady friend would like to double date this weekend?”
“Ok, first of all, she’s not my lady friend. She’s a colleague—”
“That’s not what your mom says,” Kiki interrupted, in that obnoxious sing-song voice.
“Since when do you and my mother discuss my love life? When did you two become BFFs?” he asked, feeling decidedly henpecked.
Good Lord, these two harping on me about my father and now about Ginny? Was it ‘Fix Tommy’ Month? Tommy wondered.
“Tommy,” she said in a long-suffering tone. “Mary simply mentioned she felt there might be the potential of something between you two, and I thought so myself the night of my party a few weeks ago. If you’re having trouble making the first move, this could be the perfect way—”
“Absolutely not! I don’t need any help getting dates, Kiki, nor do I want your interference. Why can’t you for once just leave it the hell alone!?” Tommy interrupted hotly. He felt suffocated by all this poking and prodding by his mother, his sister, his father, even Ginny and James. Christ.
“Geeeeze. If you’re determined to be a grouch tonight just forget about it. I was only trying to help,” Kiki said.
“Who’s the guy?” Tommy asked curtly.
“No one. It doesn’t matter. I probably couldn’t get him to go anyway,” she said in a morose voice. She sounded even a little forlorn. His big brother instincts were fast overriding his irritation with her and transferring them to the nameless jerk his little sister was mooning over.
“What’s his name? Where’d you meet him? Has he met your dad?” he asked.
“Our dad,” she said. “For crying out loud, why do you always – and don’t interrogate me! I’m not a suspect here, I’m your sister.”
It was his turn to sigh heavily. Would this day never end?
“Alright, Kiki, let’s do this then. I’d like to meet him.” Tommy said as cheerfully as he could muster.
“No… no… like I said, I bet I couldn’t get him to go anyway. Maybe just the three of us could go out then,” she said, then heaved another one of her patented dramatic sighs.
“Tommy, if a guy hooks up with you, but he hooks up with you a lot–”
“Argh, stop right there. T.M.I.,” Tommy interrupted.
She snickered. “No, no, I just mean like, it’s not just a booty-call, or a one-off thing, but like, you know in those old movies they’d call it an affair? Maybe even a torrid affair—”
“Kicks, have you been watching old Bogart films again?”
“Would you stop interrupting?” Kiki demanded, sounding exasperated.
“There’s this guy—”
“We’ve established this.”
“Alright, alright, I’m listening,” he said.
Dear God, please no more details… he thought.
“So there’s this guy, and he’s a really nice guy, and we get along great, and we’ve spent a good bit of time together in the last few weeks. I mean not just… you know… but other things, like taking walks, and boat rides, and we went to the museum last weekend, and I think he really likes me, but I can’t be sure if it’s not just about the—” she cut off abruptly.
“About the ‘you know’?” he finished for her.
She was silent.
“Yeah, about the ‘you know’,” she answered softly, but he got the impression that wasn’t what she meant at all.
“Hmmmn. Now I’m doubly sure I ought to meet him,” Tommy said.
“Well, take for instance, last weekend I suggested we go out clubbing together with some friends and he said no. He said he wasn’t into that scene, and so I said, well, we could just meet up with some of my friends, or some of his friends at a restaurant, and he just sort of changed the subject,” Kiki said.
“Did he say you couldn’t go?” Tommy asked, his radar going up.
“No, not at all. He suggested I go ahead and go out with my friends, and we’d just get together later. So that makes it seem clandestine, doesn’t it? Like he’s ashamed of being seen with me?” Kiki asked.
Tommy didn’t like the sound of the confusion in her voice. She was old enough to drink and vote and run her own life, but he knew she didn’t have much experience with relationships. Hookups as she called them, yes. Relationships, no. It wasn’t like he was that much older than her, but his almost five more years on the planet seemed like decades sometimes with Kiki. She was pretty intelligent and usually had a good read on people, but obviously this guy had her at sixes and sevens, and that made him want to hunt this creep down and…
“Yeah, I was just thinking. It’s hard to say. You say you’ve only been seeing each other a couple of weeks—”
“But a lot in those few weeks; like almost every day.”
“Ok, but it’s still early days yet, right?”
“Well, he may just not be ready to go public yet. But you should definitely tell him your feelings about it, because if he respects you, values you, he will understand your point of view and he will give you the courtesy of what had better be a damned good reason. And I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to be seen with a beautiful, smart, funny girl like you, so if he persists with the cloak and dagger B.S., kick his stupid butt to the curb,” Tommy said.
“Tuh. Not that you’re biased or anything,” Kiki replied, but he could tell from her tone she was pleased with his response.
Man, he thought, this big brother thing was exhausting sometimes.
“Was there anything else?” he asked, rubbing his eyes.
“D’you work things out with Daddy?” she asked, sounding perky again.
“We… agreed to try,” he ground out, still feeling henpecked.
“Oh, Tommy! I’m so happy! You’ll see! Daddy’s really great if you just get to know him better—”
“Alright Kiki, I better let you go. Got a pretty full day tomorrow,” he lied.
It was still new and daunting this thought of having his father in his life as more than an acquaintance and he couldn’t pinpoint what ratio of parts were fear, hope, love, disgust, wonder, and worry, and after the day he’d had, he didn’t want to spend one more second dissecting his emotions.
“Oh, ok, Tommy… um… thanks for your advice,” she said.
“Anytime, Kicks,” he said gently.
“And… I love you,” she replied softly.
“I love you, too.”
“Yeah?” she asked, sounding happy again.
“Yeah,” he answered, feeling exasperated. “Kiki, what’s the matter with you tonight, for crying out loud?”
She just laughed and hung up.
Oh for the love of… if he lived to be a hundred, he would never understand women and their convoluted moods. He tossed his phone beside the uneaten pizza and headed for bed.
The next morning, he was trying to figure out how to call Ginny and apologize for falling asleep on her like a dolt when his mother knocked on the door. He thought about ignoring her, but he was pretty sure he’d go to Hell or Purgatory or wherever it was that sons-who-ignore-their-mothers-who-sacrificed-everything-for-you-but-had-an-annoying-habit-of-micromanaging-your-life go to.
“Hey, Mom,” he said, opening the door.
“Are you sure this is a nice neighborhood?” she asked, looking around her.
Tommy grunted and headed to the kitchen to start another pot of coffee. “It’s no different than Omaha,” he said.
“I read an article that Chicago hasn’t been able to make a whole twenty-four hours without a murder,” she replied.
He sighed. Today was shaping up to be as long as the day before.
“So, let me guess, you’re here to ask if I went and talked to my father. Well, you’re too late, Kiki called last night to confirm that, yes, I did indeed talk to him, and no harm came to any animals while making the film,” Tommy said with a smile.
His mom flushed and fussed with her hair.
Man, I love her, he thought. He loved how she fussed, worried, loved and forgave with all her heart, even those who had done nothing to earn it.
“Well. Well, I’m glad that you at least tried. We’ll just see, won’t we?” she finally said.
He just smiled at her and raised his eyebrow, deliberately trying to mimic his father.
“What?” she asked, hands on hips.
“What’s this about you and Kiki spending time with each other? Dissecting my so-called love life?” he asked her, needling just for old-time’s sake.
“I’m… we aren’t… that’s just… ffffff,” she blew out a flustered breath.
Then she laughed and shook her head. “You know what? It’s the strangest thing. I think I might’ve spent more time with your sister than I have you on this trip so far. I just can’t tell you why. I guess I always wished I could’ve had a daughter. I mean, another child in addition to you,” she said.
She looked a little wistful and regretful. It made him worry a little that she was romanticizing the past.
“But surely you don’t regret what you did?” he asked.
“No… no, I regret that it came to that. Regret what it cost us both, but I couldn’t have made any other choice I don’t think. Because I truly believe that even though God gives us the ability to make choices and pick paths, there are some roadblocks and landmarks that are just meant to be. That no matter what choice you might’ve made, eventually all roads would lead to where you are at.”
“Hmmmnn,” was all he could muster in response. He wasn’t sure he could buy that. Life seemed pretty random to him most of the time. But then again he saw a lot more of the harsher, more evil side of life than his mother did.
He chatted with his mother until he was sure she had satisfied herself that he was alright, and even promised her he would go to Mass with her on Sunday. As soon as she was out the door, he checked his phone again. No messages. He sighed and figured he ought to make the first move since it was his screw up.
He sent Ginny a quick text: Sorry about last night. Make it up to you? T
She replied immediately: Don’t worry about it, it was a long day. See you at work! GS
Well, that sounded friendly, at least. He called Kiki’s number next.
“Good morning, grumpy butt,” she answered playfully.
“Hey, I got a better idea than a double date. How about you and I spend some time with the old man this weekend,” he suggested, ignoring the squirming in his stomach at the idea of it.
“Oh, are you serious!? That’s great, Tommy. Daddy’s going to flip!” she all but squealed in his ear.
He smiled and headed out the door for work. On the way there he convinced himself that it was probably better that nothing came of it last night with Ginny anyway. There was nothing worse than mixing work with one’s personal life. He was pretty sure she must have decided as much also because she was back to her overly professional self when he saw her at work.
And it was why he was frankly stunned when, instead of heading off to her motel room after work the following Monday, Ginny actually joined him and James for Happy Hour. She’d been rather frosty towards James since the O’Rourke hit, and he began to wonder if that had really been what she had wanted to talk about the other day instead of his father. Maybe Hoffman was giving her a hard time or something. Maybe she had decided to get over her jumpiness around Tommy. Or maybe she was just worried about her ‘team solidarity’. The idea made him chuckle. In any case, he was pleased to see her, and tried to convince himself it was for professional, friendly reasons.
They settled into that pleasant routine – work, drinks, work some more – over the next few weeks, ironing out the last kinks, pulling in their undercover ops and compiling surveillance, combined with video conferencing with the New York and DC offices. But after a while, Ginny began to vacillate between looking apprehensive and seeming impatient about something around Tommy. She hadn’t suggested they go out again on their own and neither had he, but he continued to see her at Happy Hour. Eventually he began to suspect she was only attending because her day planner had told her to do so, rather than an actual desire to sit in a crowded pub or restaurant with him and James. She certainly seemed preoccupied. She would show up, order one appetizer, make stilted small talk, and be out like a shot before Tommy had finished his first beer. But that wasn’t nearly as confusing as his so-called family life.
Kiki and his mother would tag team him about his progress with his father when he wasn’t working on the case; his mother at lunch, Kiki in the evenings and the weekend. They’d find reasons why he needed to meet them at places and coincidentally – there’d be his father. Subtlety was not their strong suit. Mickey seemed to alternate between sharing Tommy’s exasperation, and a kind of philosophical complaisance. The ratio of which depended upon whether either one of these women would stick around. His mother rarely did. Especially if Kiki and she were together, they’d rush off after some contrived sale or exhibit or some such blatantly made up excuse to leave Tommy and his father alone.
Tommy didn’t know whether to feel satisfaction or pity at the look of pure frustration on his father’s face when this would happen. During these moments of forced proximity, as long as he and Mickey would avoid the topics of the law and his mother they could get along, mostly, but Tommy still felt like there was an invisible wall between the two of them. His father seemed more interested in filling in the blanks of Tommy’s childhood than what was going on in his life right now. And he’d change the subject each and every time Tommy tried to ask about Mickey’s past. Ironically, their unspoken agreement to not talk about the law, while preventing arguments, only seemed to further the disconnect between them. And then later, when Kiki or his mom would pry, Tommy felt like he was letting them down. And that made him feel resentful and guilty, and then angry.
So, about a month into being in Chicago, it was with a deep sense of relief he shook all three of his suffocating family members, and the trafficking case, to spend a Friday night at a popular club with James and Ginny. They had agreed beforehand, no work discussion allowed. Ginny showed up wearing an outfit he strongly suspected his sister had a hand in picking out because Ginny kept pulling down the skirt and crossing and uncrossing her legs like she didn’t know what to do with them. He tried his best not to look at them. Much.
James kept checking his phone obsessively, so Tommy started ribbing him about whether he and this girl he had been seeing so much of had moved on to the sexting portion of their relationship. He was enjoying watching the way it made Ginny blush furiously and nervously rearrange the coasters and napkins, when a man came up to them and slapped Hoffman so hard on his back that his phone scattered across the table. Tommy laughed.
“Sup, Hoffstops?” the jovial man greeted.
“Piss off, Russo,” James replied with more irritation than heat while putting his phone away.
“Where’s the sexy little brunette?” Russo asked, clearly intoxicated.
“What brunette? How many you had, bro?” James asked, getting up to steer the man away. Russo shook his arm off and leaned unsteadily over the table, holding his hand out to Tommy.
“I’m Teddy Russo, this jackass’s brother-in-law,” Russo said, practically falling over on the table.
Ginny had her lip curled in disgust. Tommy shook Russo’s hand and met James’ worried gaze.
“Yeah, why don’t I get you a cab, and you go on home to Steph, alright, Ted? I’m sure she’s worried,” James said while trying to tug him away.
“Ahh, she don’t care. All you Feds are cut from the same cloth, ain’t ya? Jist work, work, work, woooork,” he drawled out. “Used to be me an’ your sister were a courtin’ and a sparkin’ like you an’ that hot little number I saw you wit’ down at Millennium Park—”
“Listen, let’s get you—”
“I thought I was seein’ things,” Russo said to Tommy and Ginny. “Dis guy doin’ the tourist thing with a brunette half his age, gigglin’ under the Bean like a pair o’ teenagers, I’m tellin’ ya, it was far out. Steph’nie’s baby brudder’s gone and got himself a nose ring,” he drawled out in a booze-mangled, thick Chicago accent.
James dragged him away as Russo was making air kisses.
“I’m going to take him home, alright?” James called out, without turning back.
Tommy grinned at Ginny, expecting her to share in his amusement, but she was looking pale and a bit horrified.
“What, you’ve never seen a drunk man before?” he teased her.
“I – what?” she said in a distracted manner, fingers mindlessly kneading her clutch purse.
“Are you alright?” he asked, thinking she looked a little ill.
“I’m fine. I mean, I’m not. I think I’m going to go home, I mean, back to my motel… if you don’t mind,” she replied, then stood up, and shot out of the bar.
Well… Hell… he thought. So much for a nice relaxing evening amongst friends.
–Copyright 2012, Genevieve Dewey.
Read on… Chapter Fourteen, “James”.
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