Stepping Back – Dark Wardrobes

Eating Shepherd’s pie in the kitchen with Mark felt like the epitome of a domestic bliss she had always wanted.  Rachel enjoyed the camaraderie of cooking together, and chatting about nothing in particular while they prepared the meal and sat down at the kitchen table to eat together.

“Thank you.” Mark said as he finished off the last of the Shepherd’s pie.  “This is definitely worth coming home for.”

Rachel pulled a mock-disappointment face. “Just the pie, or me and Pluto too?”

“Everything.  The house feels far more like a home than the flat I shared with Sorrel. Mrs K cleaned most of the apartments in the block, but I did the cooking.  It wasn’t Sorrel’s thing. Mrs K kept me sane when Sorrel’s antics got too bad.”

“Mrs K is rather special.  Apart from Lou – and you – she’s the only person who ever really looked after me because they wanted to.”

“I’m so glad that you two get on…”

“If the last couple of days have taught me anything, it’s that I am well and truly over Sam, and that I don’t want to go back to working in London.  I feel happy and welcomed here.  It isn’t just the old memories, it’s the new ones too.  The way people have rallied round to support Lou and the girls – and me as well. If I sell the flat in London, I’m burning my boats, but with the money in the bank I can concentrate on writing.  I may have to buy more long and flowing scarves though.”

Mark laughed and leaned back in his chair.  Rachel could tell that there was something that he was burning to say, but didn’t know whether or not he should.  Mark’s work mobile rang out in the hallway and he jumped up to answer it.  Rachel cleared the table and tried not to listen.  It didn’t sound like it was very good news, but Mark’s voice remained calm, low and level.  She started on the washing up in order to distract herself and had managed to wash, dry and put away before Mark returned to the kitchen looking annoyed but not furious. “I’ve been asked to take some gardening leave.  Sam has put in an official complaint about me, so has Adele’s father and the entire Davenport-Hooper family.”

“No!  Mark!  I’m so sorry! This is all my fault!”  Rachel turned around and leaned against the sink feeling as if the whole world was crumbling again, and just when she was beginning to feel safe and happy.

“Come here Rachel?” He put his arms around her, and gently turned her so that her face was nestled against his chest. “Shush.  None of this is down to you.  It’s the work of arrogant and power-hungry people who think that that money and influence can break the law.  My job is very important to me, but ensuring that I do things by the book is just as important.  Regarding Sam, I made sure that I recorded everything I did and submitted it at the time of the arrest.  Although Sam initially broke the law by taking Adele’s car without permission, that charge has now been dropped, and she has paid the fines that she owed.  I couldn’t overlook the lack of insurance however, and that’s why the car was impounded.  Adele’s father is just annoyed about having to get someone to come down here to collect it.  As for the D-H’s; on two of the occasions where the twins were spoken to by the police, I was not involved. Apparently, our Daw has said that the boys are minors, and should have had an appropriate adult when they were interviewed.  That needs checking out, but again that’s for someone else to do.  There have also been questions about why we didn’t report Damaris for nearly knocking us down, but I was still working undercover at the time, and making too much of a fuss might have blown the whole operation.  Daw has been spoken to about transporting her sons (especially if they are minors) to our house knowing that they had offensive weapons that they intended to use on you.  Daw also got another speeding ticket which means that she’s used up all her points and will now be disqualified from driving.  With all this against them, the D-H collective has decided to fight back and accuse me of harassment.  I am angry, but my boss feels that it will disappear once an investigation is started.  Look on the bright side Rachel. I’m on holiday again until it all blows over.”

“But none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for me!”

“I don’t see it that way and neither does my boss. In fact…”

“What?”

“He’s read your pieces online, and says he found them very entertaining, and informative.  He also said that you must be someone very special.  I’m inclined to agree with him.”

Rachel pressed her forehead against Mark’s shoulder and breathed in the scent of him that she had come to know so well. He stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head. “I miss the pigtails; they’re yet another quirky aspect of you that I…Oh Rachel, why can’t I say what I want to say?”

Rachel smiled. She stroked the side of his face and looked into those beautiful blue eyes. “You could always try kissing me instead?”

Mark needed no other invitation; it was the kiss that they had both been waiting for.  She was where she wanted to be, in Mark’s arms and feeling every fantasy turning into a rather wonderful reality. Pluto had other ideas however.  All this hugging and kissing just made him feel left out, so he leaped around the kitchen barking and yelping, until Mark and Rachel had no choice but to pay some attention to him.

Mark looked at him sternly. “That’s enough now Pluto.  You’re just going to have to get used to this. Isn’t he, Rachel?”

Rachel reached down and ruffled Pluto’s ears.  “We’ll have to be discreet and confine ourselves to a Pluto-free space.”

“Does this mean what I think it means?”

Rachel smiled and nodded. “Looks like we’ve really become an item now Mark.  It isn’t just Lou and the Village that makes me want to stay. You’re an even bigger part of it; have I got a future with you?”

Mark held her so tightly that she thought he was going to squeeze the life out of her, and she tapped his shoulder in protest. He loosened his grip. “I’m sorry; I’ve just been waiting for you to give me a sign that I was in with a chance. I was attracted to you right from the very first moment you sat on the bed while I picked broken glass off your legs.  The more I’ve come to know you, the stronger my feelings have grown. You and I made the wrong choices the first time around, didn’t we?”

“Second time lucky, and I think we’ve both learned from our mistakes.  I’ll admit that I found you very attractive right from the start too, but Sam kept getting in the way.  I love the way that you let me be me, whether it’s the clothes I wear, or the words that I write. Ease up on the bear hugs though, I don’t want to find myself having Ben and Dr Hussein treating me for cracked ribs.”

“Sorry Rachel. I just can’t believe it’s true.”

“Let’s take Pluto out for his late-night walk and put him to bed, and then…”

“And then?”

“I think it’s about time you showed me around the rest of the house, and I’m not talking about the sail loft.  After all, you have become very familiar with my bedroom, but I’ve never set foot in yours.”

Once Pluto was settled on the sofa and the living room door firmly shut, Mark opened his bedroom door, and walked over to switch on the bedside lamp. Rachel stopped on the threshold for a moment and surveyed the hitherto unknown territory. The room was dominated by a set of built-in wardrobes in very dark wood surrounding Mark’s bed. “It’s functional.” he said.  “I just sleep in here and keep all my police kit in the wardrobes. The curtains on the road side are kept drawn all the time, but I have a good view of the garden through the other windows.  I toyed with the idea of having doors out onto the patio, but I’ve never got around to it. It isn’t very romantic in here I’m afraid.  Your room is much nicer; Mrs K picked up some things to make it more homely when we knew you were coming to stay.”

Mark shut the door and leaned against it; looking a little embarrassed by his sombre surroundings.  Turning towards him, Rachel reached up and held his face between her hands as she kissed him. “You and I are alone in this room, and that’s what makes it romantic.  I don’t care where we are as long as we finally get the opportunity to get to know each other properly.”

“There’s another thing, Rachel?”

“Mm-m?”

“I was about to ask you if you had anything on under those pyjamas but as you’ve just taken them off…”  

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