Shelly looked up from wiping down the recently vacated table. She smiled as Agent Cooper came in, her smile grew a little wider when she saw Agent Cole behind him. She had no business smiling like that. They'd only shared a kiss after all, but she couldn't help it. That kiss had helped her see that Bobby didn't treat her much better than Leo did. He may not have hit her like Leo, but she needed things that Bobby didn't seem to understand after what she'd been through. Like being treated as an equal, someone who had a brain and could function independent of a man or someone else. Thinking Bobby would leave as soon as he got his big payoff did not help.
After Leo had gone missing, Bobby had really let his true colors show. Asking about Leo's will and whether the house and his truck would be hers if he was dead. Or if they never found his body. She'd never thought of those things. She wasn't sure what that said about her. She had no idea how long it would take to declare someone dead, but thought it was years. Bobby wanted her to start the process right away.
Agent Cooper didn't smile back and Agent Cole seemed to find a vacant table other than the one she was cleaning off very interesting. She knew he'd seen her and the smile, though, because he'd been looking right at her.
At first she thought they must be having a bad day. Their job had to be tough and investigating something like Laura's murder couldn't be fun.
She let the sanitized cloth drop to the tabletop when both men approached her. Agent Cooper cleared his throat lightly. Agent Cole still avoided looking at her, instead focusing on the cuff of his raincoat. Their behavior caused Shelly to brace the table. She knew then that they weren't here to eat. This wasn't a social call. They'd come to deliver the news.
"You found Leo," she said softly.
"I'm sorry, Shelly," Agent Cooper said, placing a hand lightly on her shoulder. She welcomed the contact, his effort to let her know that someone really was there for her. And he really was sorry. She believed he meant it anyway.
"Just this morning."
"A cabin outside of town a ways."
That wasn't telling her much. There were many cabins around here and lots of areas that would qualify as being outside of town a ways.
"Coop," she heard Agent Cole say in his usual exaggerated tone.
"If there's anything you need, let us know. I'm going to go talk to Norma for a minute," Agent Cooper said, giving her shoulder a gentle but firm squeeze before letting go.
"Thank you," she whispered. She couldn't believe it. Not really. She'd just assumed he'd be back. Bobby had laughed at her when she'd said that, so she never had again. She believed it, though. He hadn't lived with Leo, didn't know what he was like. Shelly did. Shelly knew. And she knew she'd prayed more than once for him to die, sinful that it was to do that.
She turned then, facing Agent Cole though she was unable to meet his eyes completely. It was baffling why she cared what he thought about her, that he knew she'd had an affair. She did, though, and felt a little ashamed of herself. Except, Leo would never have given her a divorce. It would be her body Agents Cooper and Cole had found in a remote cabin instead of Leo's if she'd asked for one.
"Will you be all right?" he asked finally.
She nodded, trying to get her thoughts together. She wasn't really sure she knew what all right was anymore.
"We need you to come down to the station house and identify his body."
"Why?" she asked. She finally risked meeting his gaze and saw empathy there, nothing resembling pity or distaste for her.
"You're his next of kin. Sheriff Truman says it's just a formality. We all know it's him, but it has to be done this way."
"You want us to call your friend to meet you there?"
She smiled a little at that. "No, that won't be necessary."
"You should have someone with you, Shelly."
"No, really, it's okay. I can do it," she said, sounding braver than she truly felt. She'd never seen a dead body before. Well, she'd been to a funeral or two, but that was different. She tried to imagine Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, parents, having to identify their daughter and shivered. She couldn't imagine that.
"I can go in with you if you'd like."
"That would be sweet, Agent Cole, thank you."
"You're welcome. Coop's going to clear things with Norma and then we'll go."
"All right. It hasn't been too busy, so I'm sure it'll be all right."
"She'll understand. She seems like a nice woman."
"Yeah, she is. She gave me a job when no one else would."
"Oh you know. I'm a high school dropout, married when any normal girl would be too young to really do it. No real skills to speak of. Is it any wonder I fell for Leo's charm and thought somehow I'd found the ticket to a good life?"
"No one deserves what he did to you, Shelly."
"I know that. I still can't believe how easy it was for him to sweet talk me. I was so naïve," she shook her head. No more. Her eyes were open now. She knew things about the world many others didn't.
"You can go back to school and I'm sure you married Leo for a reason."
"To get out of my house. I had this image in my head of what it would be like and he fed that image. A house, barefoot and pregnant, babies, a happy family. Maybe a garden to take care of."
"You're not the only one, Shelly. I've seen it a lot in my line of work."
"I'm sure you've seen worse. And at least he was gone some of the time. And I had Norma when he wasn't gone."
"She's obviously fond of you," he said. "But there are others who are, too."
"Oh, I know, just not in the same way. I'd say she's like a mother to me, but that would be too simple a description. And insulting, too."
She scoffed. "No one would want a daughter like me, Agent Cole."
"I'm sure you're mistaken."
"All set, Gordon," Agent Cooper said loudly from by the counter.
"You ready then, Shelly?"
She glanced at Norma who gave her a sympathetic smile. The look in her eyes suggested she wished Shelly didn't have to go through this. Shelly wished that, too, but her life had long ago taken a detour from being an easy or nice one. She'd come to terms with that a while ago. The first time Leo'd put her in her place and told her how it would be.
"Yeah, I guess," she said. She untied her apron and brought it to the counter. Norma laid her hand over Shelly's and gave it a squeeze. Shelly hated to admit how nice it was to have someone touch her like that.
"If you need anything later, sweetie, let me know. I told Agent Cooper you don't need to worry about coming back today. We'll talk about tomorrow later."
"You're welcome, honey."
"All right, Agents," Shelly said, turning to face them. "Let's go."
Agent Cole held the door open for her. She'd never ridden in the back of an official car before. And while it wasn't a police squad car she wondered how many fugitives or criminals had been hauled around back there. It helped keep her mind off the reason she was in the car.
Agents Cooper and Cole didn't rush her out of the vehicle once they'd arrived at the sheriff's station. She appreciated that.
"I'm ready," she said finally, not really sure she was.
Shelly blinked when she walked through the doors. She wasn't sure where to go. She couldn't even really believe she was here. Not for this. To identify Leo's body.
"Hi Shelly," Lucy said, her sympathetic tone telling Shelly she knew exactly what was going on.
"Hi Lucy. How are you feeling?"
"Oh, fine," she said, beaming. Or was it glowing? Shelly never understood the stereotypical remark people made about pregnant people glowing. "Thanks for asking."
One thing Shelly knew for sure. She was glad she'd never gotten pregnant with Leo. She'd begun to wonder if one of them couldn't have children, but never mentioned it. Suggesting Leo was incapable of fathering a child would surely earn her one of the bad beatings. And if she was incapable? Well, she didn't want to think about that, because likely she was expendable and Leo could find someone else to iron his shirts and cook his dinners. Someone who could give him kids.
Agent Cooper pulled Sheriff Truman aside while Agent Cole walked with her down the hall.
"Do you need a minute?" he asked.
"No," she said, sounding surprisingly strong. She didn't feel that way, but at least she wasn't coming across as if she was falling apart. She hoped not anyway.
Agent Cole opened the door, letting her pass through before he followed her in.
"You don't need to look for very long or anything, Shelly," he said, walking with her to the table that obviously held Leo. He set a hand at the small of her back. His touch was so light she wouldn't have noticed it ordinarily, but everything about this moment was so surreal and heightened that she noticed everything. Agent Cole's hand at her back, the hum of the heater, and sounds of office equipment in use. "Just long enough to say for sure it's him. And then you're done. Coop and I will take you wherever you want to go."
"Okay," she said. She took a tissue he offered her, grateful he'd thought of it because she wouldn't have. She clutched it in her fist and nodded simply. Gratefully, he knew what she was saying because she wasn't sure she could have said the words aloud.
He drew the sheet back to Leo's neck. She swayed a little, feeling unsteady on her feet. Did it suddenly get warmer in there? Or was it just her? Her hands felt sticky and she thought for sure she was going to be sick.
He was really dead. She'd prayed for this moment many times. She never really thought her prayers would come true, though. She imagined quite often how her own death would come to be, because surely Leo would kill her eventually.
Agent Cole was there by her side, keeping her steady as she took a step or two toward the table. She touched Leo's face, stopping at his neck, unable to stop herself. She had to be sure. She thought he'd never walk again, but he managed to do that. So she wouldn't put it past him to not really be dead either. There was no pulse there.
Her fingertips slid along the skin there, then danced lightly to and through his hair. It could be so soft, but not now. She wasn't sure if that was from death or not being washed for a while before that. There was a time she'd loved this man and thought of him as her world. She'd grown to despise him and the world he'd unknowingly made her apart of. Lying here, in death, she could see evidence of the sweet man she'd first come to know. And love.
Despite everything he'd done to her, the pain he'd inflicted on her, she hoped his death wasn't a painful one. And that it had been swift. She could imagine how confusing things were to him after he'd fled their house. God, that seemed like just last night.
"He's really gone," she said.
"Yes, Shelly, he is."
"I never thought…" She sobbed, turning into Agent Cole when he offered to bring her closer against him. "Oh God. I thought about it. So many times. I just never dreamed he'd actually die."
"Sheriff Truman told me you never pressed charges against him."
"If you had…"
"He'd have gotten out and I'd be lying on that table instead of him, Agent Cole."
"Sheriff Truman made the same assessment. I'm sorry."
"I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. I'm not the only one that lived in that type of situation."
"No, you're not, but that doesn't mean those who know you can't feel bad you had to."
She brought the tissue to her eyes and blotted them, surprised she'd cried real tears. Over Leo. She'd sworn she was done doing that.
"If you want me to call your boyfriend to come get you."
"No, he's busy I'm sure."
"Shelly, I'm sure he'd come get you for something like this."
She shrugged, drawing away from him just a little. "He's not my boyfriend anymore, Agent Cole."
"Gordon," he said. He stepped away from her, taking a minute to cover Leo's face with the sheet again. "In that case, I can take you home."
"Okay," she said. "My car is back at the Double R. You could just take me back there and I'll drive home."
"If you give me your keys, Coop and Sheriff Truman should be happy to drive it back for you I'm sure. You shouldn't be driving right now."
"Okay," she said, following him out of the room. She took one last glance at the anonymous looking form on the table in the room. Leo was dead. Really dead. She had lived longer than he had. She'd survived. She blotted her eyes one more time, wadding the tissue up with her fist and tossing it in a nearby garbage container.
She vowed it was the last time she would shed a tear over him.
As he'd said, Agent Cooper and Sheriff Truman were more than happy to collect Shelly's car for her. She recognized the look in Harry's eyes. One that said what had happened to Leo had been too kind as far as he was concerned. Shelly had never gone to the police, but Harry had run into her more than once sporting a few bruises that weren't as innocent as she said they were. Harry had known. Probably better than anyone else in town.
She was quiet on the way back to her place. She lived a ways out of town, one of the reasons no one knew much of what went on in her house. Out of sight, out of mind. And if she didn't go to town for a day or two, no one wondered where she was.
She'd managed to get the house done in the last month. Norma knew a lot of people and Shelly had been surprised how many of them were willing to help her out. So, where there had once been nothing but a structure covered with plastic she now had a home.
One of the rooms Leo had been adding was supposed to be a nursery. Shelly had made it into her bedroom. She didn't have a lot of money, so getting rid of anything and everything that reminded her of Leo wasn't possible. Getting out of the room she'd shared with him and Bobby was, though. And she'd done it as soon as she could.
"This is nice," Gordon said.
"It's not much, but Leo built it himself. Well, except for the addition. He started it," she said with a shrug. "I guess he'd be happy with it. I'm not sure. I still have a long way to go as far as decorating and stuff."
"You'll get it done I'm sure."
"Can I offer you some lunch?"
"I should be offering to make you something, Shelly. You just found out your husband is dead."
"It's not like we had a happy or good marriage. Besides, I'm sure it will sink in later. It seems so unreal right now. I mean, you didn't know him when he was alive. He was the type of man that you thought nothing would get him down. He was charming and could be very sweet."
"Except here at home?"
"Pretty much," Shelly said, glancing at her feet.
Gordon took her into his arms and Shelly went willingly. He hugged her to him and she clung to him as if her life depended on it. She felt tears welling up again.
"What was that?" Gordon said.
"I swore I was done crying for him," she murmured.
"Maybe you're not crying for him at all. You are free, that has to be something you've been hoping for."
"Will his death change things for your boyfriend?"
She shook her head. "No. I broke things off, but it had nothing to do with Leo. I just realized while he didn't hit me he really wasn't much better than Leo. He was so young, too."
Gordon chuckled. "And you're so old? You can't be any older than he is."
"But I've been living on my own now. Granted, it was in Leo's house and by his rules, but I still had to make a house, buy groceries, be responsible with my money, and stuff."
"He didn't understand that?"
"No, he thinks he does but not really."
"That was very brave of you."
"Not really. I just didn't want him to break up with me, so I did it first."
"So you wouldn't get hurt again?"
"I guess so."
He drew away a little and she looked up at him. He was looking at her and she felt herself blush. She must really look a sight. Blushing on top of crying. Great. He was going to think she was totally clueless and incapable.
"I wish I knew why I can hear you."
"If I didn't know better I'd say it was fate."
"Could be," she whispered.
"My timing is wrong, isn't it?" he asked.
"You just found out your husband is dead. You recently broke up with your boyfriend. You were married young. You're probably looking to sow some oats."
She laughed. "Not in the way you mean. I know what I did with Bobby was wrong, but there was no out for me with Leo. And Bobby was good to me when Leo was just the opposite. And he was here where Leo was on the road all of the time."
"So you're saying … "
"I'm not sure what I'm saying to be honest. For the first time in my life I'm in control. No parents, no husband. I don't know what I'm going to do."
"You'll do fine."
"I wish I had your confidence. I chose a lousy husband and a pretty lazy boyfriend."
"I hope so."
They fell into a silence. It wasn't uncomfortable exactly, but she knew he was looking for something to say just as she was.
"About lunch?" he said.
"Oh yeah, sorry," she said, grateful to have something to think about other than Leo and Bobby. "You must be hungry. Did you drive up from Seattle today?"
"Last night actually."
"Well, I'm glad you were here."
"I am, too, though Coop would have taken care of you just fine if I wasn't here."
She didn't want Agent Cooper to take care of her.
"What can I get for you?"
"Do you have a frozen pizza?"
She was sure her eyes showed her surprise.
"I'm not doubting your culinary expertise, Shelly."
"Okay, then why…"
"You deserve to do nothing today. I'll stay with you as long as you want me to, but you don't have to wait on me. I'm not Leo and this isn't the Double R."
She smiled a little. It'd been a while since anyone had taken her well being into consideration.
"I can put a pizza in the oven," she said. She offered him the choices in the deep freeze, taking one out when he'd stated his preference.
"You'll have to think about arrangements you know," he said, leaning against the counter as she turned the oven on and got the round pan she used to bake pizzas.
"Oh God," she said, placing the pizza onto the pan. "I do, don't I?"
"You could just have a memorial service without a funeral if you want to avoid that. Or just make it private."
"I don’t think he had any friends who would go anyway."
"I didn't know him, but from what I've heard you're probably right."
"I don't know if he'd be upset or not if no one showed up. He didn't really go out of his way to make friends."
"That's the impression I've gotten about him."
"You must think I'm an idiot."
"Why would I think that?"
"For falling for him to begin with."
"No, as you said he could be very charming. And I can't blame him for setting his sights on you. He probably did whatever he could to ensure you were hooked."
"Yeah, he did."
"I don't think anyone who takes the chance on falling in love is an idiot. Some never even get the opportunity. And some who do get it ripped away from them."
"No, but Coop did. It was complicated, but it was love."
"I didn't know."
"Not many do, he doesn't talk about it. I probably shouldn't either. So maybe let's keep this between us."
"I can do that," she said. Smelling the pizza cook, she realized it had been a good choice on Gordon's part. It smelled good and there would be no dirty dishes for her to clean up later. Truthfully, she had no idea how she was going to react later once she was alone.
She just had no idea what she was actually going to do with him once they were done eating. He said he'd stay as long as she needed him to. What if she never wanted to let him go?
The memorial service had been brief and attended by very few. Most there were for Shelly's benefit not Leo's. Bobby had shown for a few minutes, but left before Shelly could even talk to him. Big Ed, one of the people responsible for her house getting finished so quickly, stood by her side offering support through the whole thing.
She'd had him cremated and chose to spread his issues out in the woods. Big Ed and Norma were the only two with her for that. Norma was her family and she happened to love a man she couldn't be with. And was married to another one. Not as bad as Leo, but not a good man either.
Norma had claimed she needed a night out, Shelly couldn't exactly argue with her. So, here they were at a bar. It seemed almost surreal. A few came up to Shelly offering condolences. She hadn't worn black, but she'd dressed decently. The service hadn't been private so everyone knew about it, most had just stayed away.
"We're quite a pair aren't we?" Shelly said, sipping the beer.
"At least someone in town is happy," Norma said.
Shelly followed her gaze and saw Audrey Horne sitting with Agent Cooper. The two looked as if they might be together. Like on a date together.
"Really?" Shelly asked.
"Audrey's had her eye on him since he first came to town."
"Hoping for a ticket out I imagine," Shelly said. That was what they all dreamed of, getting out of Twin Peaks. Shelly had hoped that Leo would get a job based out of another town that would require them to move somewhere else. It was a false hope, but it had appealed to her.
"I don't know."
"And you're okay with it?"
"You mean because of Annie?"
"Well, he only knew her a couple of weeks."
"He hasn't known Audrey much longer."
"No, but I imagine when he realized she could have died at the bank that day…"
"Oh right," Shelly said, watching the couple. Audrey gave a soft laugh, setting a hand over Agent Cooper's arm. He didn't shrug it off or move his arm, so evidently there was something to Norma saying they were together.
"Besides, he wanted Annie because he thought wanting Audrey was wrong for him."
"The age difference, but he still liked her. It was obvious."
"Did Annie know?"
"I'm not saying that's the only reason he was with Annie or he didn't really care for her. He did, just not in the same way. I mean, look at the way he's watching her."
They both took the couple in for a few minutes. Shelly had to admit as clueless as she felt about love or how people felt for one another in a healthy relationship, Agent Cooper did look smitten.
"Annie was innocent and pure, something Agent Cooper probably doesn't get the chance to brush up against much in his occupation."
"Audrey's not as impure as she'd like people to believe."
"No, but she's sexy and not afraid to use that."
"I wish I had that."
"You do, sweetie."
"I'm not sure I'd know what to do with it anyway."
"You will. When the right man comes along, you will."
"You think so? I haven't made very good choices."
"Gordon said the same thing."
Norma arched an eyebrow. "I didn't realize you were on a first name basis with him. Then again, you kissed him so I guess I shouldn't be surprised."
"I'm not. It was just a kiss, Norma. It didn't mean anything and I'm sure it meant even less to him. He went with me that day at the sheriff's station to identify Leo. That's all."
"And yet he went with you to identify Leo not Bobby or Agent Cooper. Or even Harry."
"He volunteered. And you know why I didn't ask Bobby to."
Norma smiled a little. "I'm almost surprised he showed up today."
"I'm not," Shelly said. "He wasn't at all happy when I broke up with him. He'll probably be even less so now that Leo's dead. Because there's a chance the house and the truck and whatever else are mine. So, he's lost his chance to freeload off me. But he knew what I went through."
"I'm so over the bad boy thing, Norma. I get it, but I think I lived it long enough."
"Well, well, look what the cat dragged in," Bobby said, his arm draped around one of Laura's friends. Shelly couldn't help but notice she was a cheerleader and very pretty. "What are we celebrating?"
"We're not really," Shelly said simply. She couldn't deny it hurt a little seeing Bobby had moved on so quickly, but she couldn't blame him. Or the girl. First of all, no one but Norma and a few others had known they were even really together. And second, Bobby was a nice looking guy. And maybe he'd be nice to someone he wasn't trying to gain something from. For sure, he wasn't bad to her, just out for himself. And that was mostly toward the end.
"We spread Leo's ashes after the service, Bobby," Norma said by way of explanation.
"Oh yeah, heard about that. Sorry I couldn't make it."
"It's okay. I didn't want an audience."
"I just bet you didn't. That way you could spread them on a pile of cow shit and no one would know."
"Show some respect," Norma said. Her voice was soft and honey-sweet, but there was no questioning the fact she meant it.
"As if he deserved any. You know how he treated her," Bobby said.
"I meant to Shelly."
"Oh," Bobby said softly. "How you holding up?" He asked after seeming to give it some thought that she might really be shook up about this.
"Not rip roaring drunk, so you must be. I'm glad they found him," he said.
Shelly rolled her eyes. Was he hoping she'd get some money and go back to him?
"Thanks, Bobby. Have fun tonight." She didn't want to talk to him right now. Not about this. It just seemed so wrong.
"Yeah, sure," he said. "Come on, baby," he practically cooed, tugging the girl away from the table and off in the direction of an empty one across the room.
"I told you he wanted me to start the process to declare Leo dead before he'd even been gone a day. I wanted Harry to search for him, thinking he'd fallen or something. I didn't really think he'd be dead."
"Because it was Leo," Shelly said.
Norma just looked at her, apparently not understanding Shelly's explanation.
"I don't know how to explain it. He would have hated dying like that. In the middle of nowhere with no one to see what he was doing."
"Does that bother you?"
Shelly shrugged. "Not really. Agent Cooper told me the coroner said if he had lived he wouldn't have been much more than he was, just with the ability to walk and stuff."
"And that would have been a handful."
"I would have put him in a home then. I couldn't have done that. I wouldn't have been able to work. It was Bobby's idea we do the home care anyway."
Norma shook her head. "He does have a tendency to scheme, doesn't he?"
"If he think it'll make him money, yes."
"Ready for the next round, ladies?"
"Yes," Norma said to the waitress who disappeared as soon as Norma spoke. The place was busy tonight so she had other tables to serve as well.
"So now that you know what happened to him, are you going to stay?"
"In Twin Peaks."
"I don't know where else I'd go, Norma. The house is finished, so decorating it the way I want it will give me something to do."
"You're too young to sit at home fixing up a house by yourself."
Shelly shrugged a little. "Maybe some time by myself is what I need."
"Time alone is nice, but it's no substitute for spending time with friends." Norma's eyes widened a little. "Or potentially more than friends," she said with a smile.
"There's no one I'm interested in being more than friends with."
"That may be true, but I think there's someone who wants to test that theory."
Shelly rolled her eyes, knowing Norma was just trying to make her feel better about Bobby showing up with a date on his arm.
"In fact, I think I've just become the third wheel," she said as Shelly turned her head to look behind her. "Judging by the smile on your face I'd say not only that I'm right but that you might even be receptive to the idea."
"I'm sure he's here for Agent Cooper, Norma," Shelly said.
"Agent Cooper isn't sitting at our table, Shelly. And he didn't look any further once he'd spotted you. What happened between you two that day at your house anyway?"
"Nothing! We talked. We had pizza, watched some TV, I fell asleep on the couch. He covered me with a blanket and left."
"Sounds like a gentleman."
"Seems so. I can't say I'm a real good judge, though."
"Well, there's one sure way to find out. Aside from the fact that Agent Cooper seems to think highly of him."
"Ask him to join us and let your friend get to know him, too."
"Which friend would that be?" Shelly teased.
Shelly waved at him, thinking she'd feel like a fool if he was there for Agent Cooper. He made his way directly to their table, though. And Norma was right, he didn't seem to be looking for or noticing Agent Cooper. Had he come here for her after all?
She hated the excited feeling in the pit of her stomach at the very idea of it. It was too soon. She really did think some alone time would be good for her.
"I know you want some time to yourself," Norma said, leaning toward Shelly as if reading her mind. "That doesn't mean you have to be alone every second of every day."
"How did you know I was thinking that?"
"Because I could see the guilty expression cross your face. You're doing nothing wrong, sweetie. You're legally a widow."
"Yeah, he hasn't even been dead a month."
"You rushing off to get married again?"
"You going to jump into living with another man right away?"
"Then you're doing nothing wrong, Shelly."
"Ladies," Gordon said, speaking up as he usually did. Probably for Norma's benefit. Or maybe due to the noise in the bar.
"Agent Cole," Norma said loudly. "What a surprise."
"I tried to get here earlier actually, Coop told me about the memorial service, but I couldn't get away from the office in time to make it."
There went that funny feeling in the pit of her stomach again. He'd tried to get here in time for the service. To be here for her?
"Can I buy you ladies a drink?"
"I was hoping you'd ask," Shelly said with a smile. She couldn't help it, somber occasion or not. He'd driven from Seattle for her.
"It's nice to see you, Shelly," he said, taking the seat next to her.
She'd thought the day she and Gordon kissed things might work with Bobby. He'd been jealous and she'd confused that demonstration of emotion with caring. He cared, but she wondered now if he just didn't want her to realize there was something better out there.
"Thank you for driving all this way."
"It's my pleasure. You look nice tonight, if it's appropriate for me to say so."
"It is and thank you."
"Norma," he said, speaking up again. "You're looking nice as well."
"Thank you, Gordon. I have to try a little harder than Shelly does I think."
"Most women do, I'd wager," Gordon said, causing Shelly to blush.
The waitress brought their round, Gordon placed an order and it was then he noticed Agent Cooper.
"Is that Audrey Horne then?"
"Yes," Shelly said.
He gave a low whistle. "She is a looker, I can see why Coop was taken with her so quickly. Probably the type to keep him on his toes, too."
"I haven't seen them out together before."
"I don't think they've come out before."
"Oh," she said. They looked pretty comfortable and cozy for a first date. Not that she and Bobby had dates out in public either.
"How did it go today?"
"Fine," Shelly said. "No problems or anything. Not many showed up, but I expected that."
"And the ashes?"
"I think so, too. I couldn't see myself holding onto them for any length of time."
She took a sip of her beer. She probably sounded very cold and uncaring.
"That sounds terrible. I didn't mean it like that."
He chuckled as the waitress brought Gordon's drink.
"Shelly, my dear, you're entitled to how you feel. I just wish more people spoke honestly. The world would be a nicer place if they did."
Shelly smiled, bringing her glass to her lips in an attempt to hide it.
"How long of a drive is it, Agent Cole?"
"Drive? Yes, I drove. I couldn't very well fly," he said, sounding a little perplexed. "Did one of you need a ride home?"
Shelly ducked her head to hide her grin while Norma looked a little flustered.
"It's about a ninety minute drive," Shelly said, answering Norma's question.
"Oh, is that what she asked," Gordon said, sounding a little put out that he'd gotten something so simple wrong. "I was wondering why she'd asked if I drove. If you needed a ride home, I would give you one."
"You know, I think that would be a great idea," Norma said. Shelly noticed she was making a point to speak up this time. "I need to get up early so should be going soon, and there's no sense in Shelly leaving when you just got here. So, I'll just excuse myself after this beer and you two can enjoy the rest of the evening for as long as you like."
"Norma," Shelly said.
"What, sweetie. You did what you had to do today. Enjoy yourself tonight to some extent."
"I just feel…"
"I know," Norma said with a wink. "Don't feel that way." She polished off her beer in record team it seemed to Shelly. "You need anything give me a call, but I expect Agent Cole will see to it you're kept very safe right to your door."
She slid her jacket on, left some money on the table to cover the drinks they'd had so far and leaned over to give Shelly a hug.
"Maybe even beyond your door if you play your cards right."
"Norma," Shelly said.
"Don't write off the possibility now. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Good night," Shelly said. "Thank you for everything today."
"You don't have to thank me, it was my pleasure. You're welcome though, sweetie. You'd do the same for me."
Of course she would. Hank wasn't any better than Leo. When it came to husband's both Shelly and Norma had gotten the short end of the stick. And then some.
Gordon stood from the table as Norma said good bye to him, offering him her hand.
"She's not leaving on my account, is she?" he asked.
"No, I think she wants to go home and get away from people. Couples."
Shelly realized he wasn't privy to Norma's situation and explained it to him.
"So you two sort of understand each other," he observed, not sounding judgmental. For that she was grateful.
"Yes," she said simply.
"That's good. Everyone needs someone who understands them."
"Who understands you?"
Gordon shrugged. "I said everyone needs, that doesn't mean that they always get it."
"Oh," Shelly said, glancing at Agent Cooper and Audrey Horne who still had only eyes for one another despite the bar being full. She wondered if Agent Cooper had even noticed his boss was here. She imagined he did, very little escaped Agent Cooper's notice, but it was so odd to see him in an unofficial capacity. At least like this. At the Double R, he was still professional.
She scanned the crowd, seeing faces she'd known most of her life amidst a few faces unfamiliar to her. Businessmen most likely passing the time here instead of in their room at the Inn.
And finally, she found Bobby and his date who were practically all over one another. He didn't have to hide anything with this girl. She wasn't married to anyone else and her father probably wouldn't kill her if he found out she'd been making out with a guy.
She turned attention to Gordon who seemed to be waiting for her to say or do something. He was far too patient with her. More than she'd be if the situation was reversed. Or so she imagined. She didn't really know.
She slid her hand in his, leaned into him so she could look into his eyes. Eyes that conveyed so many things she wasn't familiar with: sincerity, honesty, and safety to name but a few.
"Tell me about your day," she said, realizing by the look in those eyes she was watching so intently that she'd asked the right question.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com