Get Away with Martha Hall

Artemis Callaghan

Part 6


A blast of icy cold air made Cody Brucker look up, not attempting to hide her irritation. A young woman was standing in the doorway, neither entering nor leaving the shop, an oddly expectation look on her face.

“Is there something I can help you with?”

The woman’s smile broadened.

“There’s snow on the beach”

“And you’re telling me this because?”

The woman shrugged.

“I’ve never seen it before”

Cody sighed and turned her attention back to the book catalogue she was flicking through. The woman, however, didn’t take the hint and was still hanging around in the doorway. Cody pulled off her glasses and scowled at her.

“Why don’t you go to the diner and tell Flo? She might actually be interested”

“Didn’t fancy that much”

“So why are you bothering me?”

“Dunno. Maybe I’m homesick for an irascible bookseller”


The woman’s smile was dazzling.

“Come in or go out, you’re letting the warm air escape”

The bell tinked. The woman was standing with her back to the door, the palms of her hands pressed against the wood. Cody took a good look at her. She’d be forgiven for thinking that she was like any number of the college age kids who came in with her jeans and battered leather jacket over a maroon hooded sweat shirt. She wore a Twins ball cap that was faded by enough seasons of rain and sun to sit uneasily with her accent. British, English probably, and without a trace of a mid Atlantic twang, that phoney rising inflection that jarred on Cody’s nerves whenever she heard it. When she looked closer, though, the woman was more towards her late than her early twenties. She could be a tourist but seemed unencumbered by tourist trappings: no camera, no wide eyed culture shock. And the middle of February wasn’t exactly tourist season, even in Hawkins Harbor.

Hawkins Harbor might’ve been specially created for tourists with its pastel coloured clapboard houses, the marina full of sail boats, the red and white stripped wooden lighthouse. Cody hated it. When she’d moved here twenty years earlier, it had been a fishing town on the cusp of being run down. Fishing was a dying industry, certainly not enough to sustain a town the size of Hawkins. Tourism was the only way forward to stop the place from dying on its ass; Cody knew that but there were times she missed the peeling paint and the smell of fish guts.

“Don’t just stand there. Come in. I was just going to make some tea, d’ya want some?”

She hadn’t thought the grin could get any wider but she was wrong.

“God yes. I know it’s a joke but if there’s one thing I miss it’s a nice cup of tea. Your mob are better at making it than I thought but you tend to be a bit fancy”

“My mob?”

“Yeah. Yanks”

“Don’t push your luck. I’ve you’re so fussy, make it yourself”

“Really? That would be wonderful”

Cody had a small kitchen at the back of the shop, complete with a small fridge, a microwave, a sink, coffeemaker and a kettle. The woman looked around appreciatively.

“Very nice”

“It’s just a kitchen”

“Even so, though, we could do with one of these”

“Geez, I know England is backward but I assumed y’all have kitchens”

The woman laughed, a beautiful, rich sound that almost made Cody smile.

“Nah, in the shop. I’ll have to suggest it. Got a tea pot?”

Cody got it down from the cupboard and watched as the woman warmed the pot and spooned the tea from the tin caddy. There was a compact energy about her, no movement was wasted, she was a perfect study in time and motion. Her body was lean but naturally so, she didn’t look as if she worked out. She might run but that would be about it.

“Do you take milk?”

Cody shook her head.

“You don’t mind if I do? You know, I never knew why I was taught to put the milk in first. It’s a bit of a class thing, apparently. Only rich people could afford porcelain”

She picked up two mugs.

“Poor people had to make do with pot, which could crack if it came into contact with hot liquid. Hence putting the milk in first”

She poured milk into one of the mugs before pouring tea into both. She handed the black tea to Cody.

“So there you go, contrary to all appearances, I’m just a peasant. And you’re a lady”

The woman took a sip and groaned with pleasure.

“God, that’s a nice cup of tea”

Cody set her mug down on the counter.

“Who the hell are you?”

“Me? I’m Lauren Ray”

They sat in the middle of the shop, Cody in her usual straight backed chair and Lauren Ray in the armchair, seeming totally at ease, one leg crossed over the other, her booted ankle resting on the opposite knee. Both were sipping their drinks in silence. Lauren was looking around the shop with visible interest, her eyes never staying in one place for long. Cody cleared her throat.

“You said something before about a shop. And being homesick for a bookseller”

Lauren gazed at her over the rim of her mug.

“An irascible bookseller”

“Yeah. So who’s this you’re homesick for? Your mom?”

Lauren’s expression hardened for a moment before softening into a smile.

“No, my dad. He has a bookshop. Second hand. This place reminds me a lot of it, except you mostly have new titles, don’t you?”

“Second hand out the back. Rare and antiquarian. First editions”

“Dad’d be so jealous”

“And some scruffy paperbacks”

Lauren grinned.

“That’s more like it. I had the Patrick and John reading scheme”

“Lord, girl, you really do talk some shit”

“Ain’t that the truth”

Lauren was tempted to stay exactly where she was. It was warm and familiar, the armchair was as comfortable as the one in the shop at home. She wanted to sit still and let the world get on without her for a while. Seeing snow on the beach, so close to the breakers there was only a tiny stretch of sand visible, had thrilled her. It hardly ever snowed in Broadhaven and when it did, it only settled on the rooftops, never on the pebbles. She had wanted to share the joy of it and had gone to the only place that seemed anywhere close to home: the bookshop. As soon as she pushed open the door she’d known it was the right choice. There was instant comfort in the shelves of books, their spines and covers greeting her like distant but recognisable relatives. And then there had been the bookseller herself. The minute the woman looked up at her and scowled, she felt right at home.

The woman, Cody she said her name was, was somewhere in her late forties, maybe her early fifties, her short hair shot through with iron grey, her eyes a piercing blue that missed nothing. God help anyone who attempted to shoplift, she would be on them in a flash. She was grumpy to the point of misanthropy but Lauren found comfort in that. The full on customer services employed by most Americans made her anxious, as if she were permanently being watched. Of course, she realised it was how you were supposed to do it, that ignoring potential customers really didn’t make good business sense. But the people who patronised the bookshop would faint if Alistair Ray started being polite, or his daughter paid them any attention. In the couple of hours she’d spent in Cody’s shop, she only saw the woman smile once, amazed by how it lit up her face with genuine warmth and affection. The door had tinked open and Cody had looked up, the way she did at Lauren, but rather than scowling, her face had broken into that smile. Lauren turned to see who it was Cody had greeted so fondly.

The woman was a little taller than both Lauren and Cody, her black hair pulled into a tight bun at the back of her neck. She was holding herself in a slightly formal, tense way, a stance not out of keeping with the Deputy Sheriff’s uniform she wore; the stripe at the side of her trousers accentuating the length of her legs, her hands were tucked in the pockets of her bomber jacket. She was another solemn faced woman, her deep brown eyes serious, her mouth unsmiling until she saw Cody. Then she too smiled, changing her face totally, making it softer, gentler.

“Julia, hi. C’mon in. I’ll get you some coffee”

The deputy’s gaze shifted from Cody to Lauren, her dark eyes narrowing slightly.

“You have company”

Lauren jumped out of her chair. She knew when she wasn’t wanted.

“I should be on my way anyway”

Cody put a hand on her shoulder and pushed her firmly back into the armchair.

“Sit down. I’ll make you another nice cup of tea. Deputy Sanchez’s not gonna bust ya for loitering, are ya, Julia?”

The deputy gave Lauren a half smile.

“Not right now”

“Okay. Don’t forget to put the milk in first”

She sat and watched the two women as they interacted. There was as definite connection, both women unbending a little in each other’s company. Lauren didn’t feel excluded as such, she felt as if she was an outsider. What did she expect? She was an outsider, a stranger who had blown into this picture postcard seaside town and would blow out again in a couple of days. Suddenly she was lonely and bone tired. In five months she had barely stood still, never staying in one place long enough to make friends with anyone. She took a sip of her tea, looking at the sculptured planes of Deputy Sanchez’s cheekbones, the curve of her mouth when she laughed at something Cody said. Lauren might not have made friends, but she’d not wanted for company. At the time she had no complaints but seeing the easy friendship between these two women left her with a gnawing emptiness. She gulped down her tea and pasted a smile on her face.

“Thanks for your hospitality, Cody”

“How long you staying in town?”

“Er, a couple of days, I guess”

“Well, come back in whenever you like”

Lauren zipped up her jacket, trying not to make eye contact with either woman. It was a genuine offer, she could tell, and a very tempting one. Lauren was at a loss. Since she’d left home it was as if she’d made up for all the years of lost time. She made her way from coast to coast, travelled north and south. She hadn’t visited every state but she wasn’t far off. The enormity of the country was too much for her to take most of the time. The mountains, the deserts, the rolling plains and the rolling oceans. The big blue sky. It was overwhelming. But this was the first time she’d felt homesickness this intense, and it wasn’t for place, or even for something she already had. It was a longing for something that couldn’t be defined. She didn’t say anything, she simply nodded and left the shop.

“Hey, wait up” Lauren turned around to see Deputy Sanchez walking quickly up behind her, straightening her hat. Lauren thrust her hands into her armpits as the woman approached her.

“Where are you staying?”

“A motel on the edge of town”

“Got a car?”

Lauren shook her head.

“C’mon, I’ll give you a ride”

“Only if I can sit up front. I’ve managed to make it to nearly thirty without being in the back of a jam sandwich”

Lauren was trying very hard not to be intimidated by the unsmiling deputy, by her uniform and her holstered gun. Lauren had never been in trouble but the police always made her nervous, and as stunning as Deputy Sanchez was, she was no exception, especially when she stood with her thumbs tucked into her belt, her hip thrust forward. Deputy Sanchez nodded slightly.

“Sure, you can ride shotgun”

“Can we put on the blues and twos?”


Lauren sat in the passenger seat gazing out of the window of Deputy Sanchez’s cruiser. There was no denying that Hawkins Harbor was a pretty little town, the sort you saw in films where the inhabitants were terrorised by giant sharks or a legion of zombies, but in real life was more likely to be plagued by tourists. Lauren could sympathise with that. Earlier she’d walked into town and it had taken her a little over half an hour, they should’ve been there by now.

“Are we taking the scenic route, Deputy?”

“Thought you might like to see a little bit of our town. Wanna see the ocean?”

“Do I get a ninety nine?”

“D’ya ever speak English?”

“Not if I can help it”

Deputy Sanchez took a right turn after a wooden, white painted church.

“I saw the beach earlier on. There was snow on it. You’re the second person I’ve told that”

“Who was the other?”


“Why’d ya do that?”

Lauren shrugged. Deputy Sanchez pulled the cruiser up at the side of the road. For the second time that day she stared out at the white of the beach and the black of the sea beyond it. She sighed.

“I’ve seen so many extraordinary things since I’ve been here, you know. I’ve seen the sunset turn the desert red. I’ve seen a mountain range that runs from Canada to Texas, one mountain after another after another. Can you imagine? I’ve never seen a mountain in my life, and then that’s all I could see. And then this. I was brought up the sea and I’ve never once seen that. Nothing in this country feels real, Deputy”

“Maybe it’s time you went home”

“Is that a gentle way of telling me to leave?”

Deputy Sanchez said nothing.

“I’m over twenty one, I’ve got a visa that still has more than six months to run. I’m allowed to work if I can get a job. I’m disease free, I’ve broken no laws. There’s no need to run me out of town”

“I’ve know Cody Brucker for ten years”

“She’s a nice woman”

“Usually no, she’s not. Usually she’s antisocial and hates everyone”

“Except you”

“Yeah, except me. So you can imagine I was surprised – ”

“– to see me drinking tea”


Lauren opened the car door and moved to get out.

“Stay where you are. I’ll take you back”

Lauren slumped into the seat.

“Sure you can trust me?”

“If you’re nearly thirty, don’t ya think you’re too old to sulk?”

“I’m too fucking old to be told off by a rozzer, that’s for sure”

Deputy Sanchez looked at her for a long moment, her serious brown eyes boring into her. Then she sighed.

There were times during the winter when Cody wondered why she bothered opening the shop. Days would go by when the only people that came in where George the mailman and Julia Sanchez. Both were more regular and reliable than the Town Hall clock. George came in at eleven, Julia at three. George would stop just long enough for a cup of coffee and a quick exchange of local news. Julia stayed for longer, taking her break at Cody’s. Of course, there were days when she was on different shifts and wouldn’t make it in, and much as she hated to admit it, Cody missed her. She was a taciturn young woman; more often than not they’d sit in companionable silence until Julia would finish her coffee and drop a kiss on Cody’s cheek before leaving.

So when the bell over the door went at half past twelve, she knew it was either an exceptional customer or Lauren Ray had come back. Looking up she saw it was the latter.

“What do you want to share with me today? Is there a rhino on the boardwalk?”

“When you say boardwalk do you mean the prom?”

“How the hell should I know?”

“Well, whichever. No rhinos. Or zombies”

“Cold keeps the zombies away. Zombies and tourists”

“Same thing”

Cody snorted.

“Don’t just stand there, girl, go put the kettle on”

Cody knew that the young woman’s previous assessment of her was pretty accurate, certainly as far as the rest of the town were concerned. Not that Cody cared much what they thought. They were a small minded bunch, quick to jump to prurient conclusions and just as quick to spread them around. Her apparent ill humour kept most people at bay, except for George and Julia. Well, George was obliged to pop in, but not to stay. She didn’t know why Julia seemed to like her, and now she couldn’t understand why this strange English woman was making overtures of friendship. Cody watched her as she browsed the second hand books. She suppressed a smile; Lauren showed no interest in the new titles displayed on the tables by the door.

“S’up, Ray, don’t ya dig Karin Slaughter?”

“When I can have The Seven Pillars of Wisdom? What do you think?”

Lauren had been in three days in a row, always around midday and staying until just before Julia was due to arrive. Cody didn’t think much about the timing until the fourth day when Julia arrived a little earlier than usual. Lauren had been laughing, that beautiful sound bouncing off the books and wooden shelves, making Cody smile with delight. However, the laughter faded when the door opened and Julia came in. The temperature dropped two degrees.

“I’d better go”

Cody looked between the two women, puzzled by the tightness in Lauren’s voice, the tension in Julia’s shoulders. When Julia spoke, her voice was gruff.

“Don’t leave on my account”

“No, no, it’s okay. Cody, I’ll see you later. Thanks for the tea”

“Stop by tomorrow if you’re still around”

Lauren simply nodded, dropping her eyes as she brushed past Julia. After she’d gone, Cody turned on Julia.

“What the fuck was that about?”

Julia said nothing.

“If you’ve run her off, Julia Sanchez – ”

The deputy pulled her hat off and ran the brim through her hands. She had the decency to look a little embarrassed.

“Sit down. I’ll get ya a coffee”

When the door opened at midday the next day, relief washed over Cody. She’d didn’t need to look to know that it was Lauren. By now she knew the way the woman entered, with a certain relaxed confidence. The only other person who opened it like that was Julia, and it was too early for her. Unusually, she had some customers, an elderly couple of out of towners who were surveying the local history section. Cody didn’t want to hurry them as they looked the sort that were easily spooked and would flee without buying anything. So she left them to it and turned her attention to Lauren, who had pulled out a thin leather bound volume, probably poetry, maybe Emily Dickenson. Cody didn’t say anything to her, instead she went into the kitchen and made them both tea.

“Where d’ya go when you’re not here?”

Lauren took the offered mug, carefully sliding the book back on the shelf before she took a sip.

“I go and sit in the diner for a little bit but the waitress does my head in. She never shuts up”

Cody snorted.

“That’s Flo for ya. What else?”

“Go for walks along the front, go and sit on that excuse of a jetty you insist on calling a pier”

“It is a pier”

“No, a pier has fruit machines and merry go rounds. That’s just somewhere to tie up boats and go fishing off”

“And that’s all you do?”

Lauren shrugged.

“Pretty much”

“Why are you still here?”

“I wanted to stop still for a while and this seemed as good a place as any. I’m not ready to go home yet”

They fell quiet for a moment. Cody drank her tea, deep in thought.

“How much are you paying at Bannerman’s?”

“Twenty bucks a night”

“And you can afford it?”

Lauren nodded.

“For the time being. I made a bit of a killing working in a pub in Boston”

“How did you manage that?”

“I told everyone I was Irish”

“You, Irish?”

“Well, it could be true. British genes are so convoluted and mixed up I could be as much Irish as I am English”

“What about your accent?”

Lauren grinned at her.

“I can do a fairly decent Belfast accent if I put my mind to it. I thought that was a nice touch. Anyway, none of them seemed any the wiser”

“Move in here”

“I’m sorry?”

“Don’t waste your money in that flea pit. I’ve got a spare room. Move in here”

“I don’t know, Cody – ”

Cody walked over and put a hand on Lauren’s shoulder, making the younger woman look at her.

“You can work here for your bed and board. I could do with a hand”

Lauren snorted.

“Right, cos this place is rammed with customers”

Cody shrugged.

“There’s inventory to take. Also, I do some mail order on the rarer stuff. I could always use a hand with that”

“I don’t know – ”

“God’s sake, woman, don’t make me pretend like you’d be doing me a favour”

Lauren’s laugh came out as a short bark, but then her expression became serious.

“Deputy Sanchez wouldn’t like it”

Cody frowned.

“Julia might be the law here but she doesn’t have any say on what I choose to do with my life. What is it with you two?”

Lauren stared down at her scuffed boots.

“I don’t think she likes me very much”

In the ten years Cody had known Deputy Julia Sanchez she’d never known her express either a liking or disliking for anyone. Cody suspected the younger woman was a lesbian, but it was just a hunch, she’d never had it confirmed either way. Not that it mattered to Cody. She’d put affairs of the heart behind her when she’d left Baton Rouge and moved back up North with all her belongings in the back of her ancient station wagon. Men, women, she didn’t bother with either anymore, choosing to keep her emotions safe and untouchable behind her bluff exterior. It had never occurred to her to ask Julia about her love life, she figured if there was something the other woman wanted her to know about, she’d tell her, and so far she’d hadn’t felt the need.

And then Lauren Ray walked into her shop. There was no ambiguity about her liking girls, it was practically written all over her. She had an ease about her, an openness to her body that Cody envied and had never seen in Julia. The deputy held herself in tension, like at any moment she might explode into action or violence, and the fact that she didn’t was a supreme act of willpower. The two women were in opposition, that was self evident, even as an abstract concept they were pulling against each other.

“Julia doesn’t like anyone”

Lauren gave her a half smile.

“Except you”

Cody waved her off.

“Don’t worry about her. I’d like ya to stay, that’s all that matters. You can earn your keep, so don’t fret”

Lauren’s smile slowly became a full one.

“That’s a yes then?”

“Yes, it’s a yes”

When three o’clock came around, Lauren was twitchy and trying hard to cover it. She sat back in her usual armchair, chewing at the edge of her thumbnail. Cody reached out and squeezed her knee. Lauren tried to smile but it was a weak effort. And when the door opened, she couldn’t hide her flinch. Cody rolled her eyes and decided to grab the bull firmly by the horns.

“Hey, Julia, can you do me a favour? Can you give Lauren a lift to Bannerman’s to pick up her gear?”

Julia’s eyes flickered to Lauren and then back to Cody.

“Sure, no problem”

“And then bring her back here”

A frown rucked the deputy’s usually smooth brow.


She turned and walked out of the shop. Lauren stayed in her chair, looking shell shocked.

“Go, girl, she won’t wait forever”

Deputy Sanchez was already in the driver’s seat of the cruiser, her hands at ten to two on the steering wheel, her expression unreadable. Lauren took a deep breath and slipped into the passenger seat. She glanced at the tight lines of the deputy’s profile. The other woman refused to meet her eye.

“It wasn’t my idea”

“Put your belt on”

They drove to the motel in silence. Lauren bit at her thumb nail until she tasted iron, sucking the blood until it stopped. For the first time in almost a week, the sun had come out. It was sitting low in the sky and cut through the cruiser’s windscreen. Deputy Sanchez was scrunching her eyes up against its glare, the fine down on her cheek turned golden. She really was a beautiful woman. She was as austere and unmovable as a classical statue. Lauren wrapped her arms around her stomach. When she spoke, her voice came out as a croaky whisper.

“It really wasn’t my idea, Deputy”

Deputy Sanchez shot her a quick but piercing look. Lauren swallowed and then continued.

“Cody knows her own mind”

The brown eyes slid down Lauren’s body and then back outside the car, the gesture was unmistakably dismissive.

“I think I know Cody better than you do”

“I didn’t realise it was a competition”

The care came to an abrupt stop. Uh oh, she’s going to kick me out of the car in the middle of nowhere. But when she glanced out of the window, she saw that they were outside the motel.

“Don’t forget your passport”

It didn’t take long to collect her stuff; the majority of it had remained packed. Most of the clothes she had, she’d picked up since she’d been in America: a pair of jeans from a Walmart in San Diego, the leather jacket she’d won in a card game with two boys in Tucson, the faded baseball cap she been given by a woman in St. Paul who laughed when she came and cried when she put Lauren on the Greyhound the next afternoon. Lauren had worn it every day since, the memory of the woman’s sky blue eyes merging with another pair exactly the same colour. She threw her toiletries into the open top of her rucksack. What was she doing here? Why was she sticking around when there was nothing here for her? Her ticket home was open ended, she didn’t have to stay away the whole year. Her father surely wouldn’t mind her coming home early. But this is what she’d dreamed of for so long, to be out in the world seeing things, experiencing them for herself not just reading about them in books. Living life in three dimensions not through the impenetrable flatness of photos and films.

Deputy Sanchez might be waiting for her outside or she might’ve driven off. She was only doing this as a favour to Cody, not because she liked Lauren and wanted to help. Don’t forget your passport. Something wet tickled Lauren’s face. To her shame, she realised it was tears.

The flat above Cody’s shop could be generously described as cosy. The spare room had enough space for just a single bed and a tallboy but Lauren didn’t mind. The bedstead was made of cast iron, the posts topped with brass balls, like the one in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, the bed itself was covered with a snowy white counterpane. The chest of drawers was elderly and pine, battered in places, but the drawers were deep and lined with tissue paper. On the top was a mirror, silvered with age but still clear. Lauren’s reflection stared back at her. Her dark hair was in need of a cut, flopping over her forehead; she pushed it out of the way and scrutinised herself. Although in her late twenties she could pass for younger, had regularly been carded in bars across the states. She didn’t have the pinched whiteness of the New Englanders around her, her skin retaining the healthy glow of an Arizona winter tan. As she pushed her hair back on her head, she couldn’t meet her own eyes, their colour too close in shade to Julia’s.

Julia. When had she started thinking of her as Julia rather than Deputy Sanchez? She stepped away from the mirror and moved to the window. The tiny room was in the eaves of the house, the window set in the pitch of the roof. From up here, Lauren could see over the roofs of the shorter buildings opposite, across to the edge of the sea. She pushed the window open and leaned out, the skin of her still tanned face assaulted by a frigid onshore breeze that smelled of ozone and salt water, the slight tang of decaying seaweed and fish. It was as familiar as the smell of her own sweat, and she had missed it in the arid heat of the desert and the thin carbon monoxide air of the cities. Thrilling as they were, they had been alien, and to an extent that was the point, Lauren had wanted to lose herself in other places. But now the smell calmed her. She was close to home without actually admitting defeat and being there.

Cody was surprisingly easy to live with and Lauren picked up her ways quickly. The older woman was inhuman until she’d had her morning coffee. It was the only cup she had, switching to English Breakfast tea after that, but Lauren doubted anyone’s heart could stand more than that small amount. It was thick and black and strong enough to raise the dead. Cody kept the coffee machine in the kitchen at the back of the shop but that was for visitors: the rare customer Cody took a liking to, the late middle aged postman who came in everyday at eleven, for Julia when she came in at three. Cody looked forward to Julia visiting, it didn’t take an intuitive person to work that one out. At about a quarter to three, she’d go into the kitchen to set the machine up to make a fresh pot. Lauren never saw her do that for anyone else. When her face lit up with happy anticipation, Lauren felt a twinge of something close to jealousy, instantly despising herself for her unreasonable, childish behaviour. The women had known each other for years, had known her a month. She couldn’t expect Cody to get excited at the prospect of seeing her, couldn’t expect Julia to look at her with warmth in her eyes.

Cody’s face my not have lit up when Lauren walked into the room, but she’d adjusted her being around the place with an ease that relieved Lauren. The flat had felt right from the second she’d carried her rucksack up the step stairs. As with the shop, it was enough like home to make her feel both comforted and a little sad. Where her father’s shelves were filled with thrillers, Cody had an unexpected and eclectic passion for romantic fiction in all its forms, from modest love stories to hair raising erotica that bordered on pornography. It was a revelation to Lauren; romance was the only genre that Alistair Ray would not allow in his shop and certainly not in his home. It is wrong to support women in their own oppression, he said. When Lauren relayed this to Cody, the other woman had snorted and said that it was a lazy form of sexism, especially coming from a man whose favourite form of escapism stank out the joint with forced testosterone.

Lauren could understand why her father loved the books he did. He’d never been a physical man, all his strength was in his brains, but he’d been every bit as prone to tales of derring-do as any other boy. Richard Hanney hanging onto the hands of Big Ben; James Bond, shaken but never stirred, playing Baccarat in Monte Carlo; Biggles tearing up the skies and giving Jerry a taste of hot lead. Inside her white haired, white bearded father was an eight year old boy in love with heroes, psychos and massive explosions. But she found it harder to understand Cody’s fascination with romance. She’d never met anyone as self reliant as Cody. She didn’t need anyone for anything, a trait she admired and envied. When she asked why she read them, the reply was enigmatic:

“Know your enemy”

And Lauren had had to settle for that. But then Cody surprised Lauren by asking a question of her own.

“Have you ever been in love, Lauren?”

Lauren was so surprised, she automatically told the truth.

“Yes, when I was a kid”

“Who with?”

Lauren sighed.

“Fire up the internet and I’ll show you”

Cody didn’t have a television, but she did have a computer. It transpired that she did a lot of business via the internet, buying and selling. Lauren dropped in to the chair in front of the computer, calling up Google and typing martha hall. Up popped an entire gallery of photos: a still of a young Martha standing in front of a weather map, Martha in a red bikini top and sarong standing knee deep in a turquoise sea, Martha on the red carpet at the BAFTAs in a black dress that plunged to the small of her back. Lauren had forgotten Cody was standing just behind her until she heard a low whistle.

“Wow you don’t set your sights too high, do ya?”

“She didn’t look quite like that then”

There was a picture of Martha standing next to Marco, her smile looking professionally bright but holding little warmth, she looked tired and somewhat strained. Lauren looked at the date of the photo; it had been taken two weeks earlier.

“You still not over her?”

“It’s no that. She just – ”

The squeeze on her shoulder was firm but reassuring. She rubbed her face with her hands.

“I loved her like mad but I never told her. We were at a party – ”

“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to”

“I’ve never told anyone. It was one of the worst moments of my life”

Cody ran her fingers through the hair at the back of Lauren’s neck. It was comforting and Lauren leant into the touch. She was so close to tears it was all she could do not to break down.

“And there’s been no one since?”

Lauren shook her head. They were quiet for quite a while after that, gazing at the picture of Martha. Cody kissed the top of Lauren’s head.

“Sometimes you have to let things go, kid”

Continued in pt. 7

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