Sunday, August 11, 2013

London: Chapter One

   Evangeline tilted her face upwards to feel the rain.  This was what she had come for.  The rain and the hiss of the late night taxis on the roads, the warm glow of lights on St. Stephen’s Tower and the measured gray stateliness of Westminster Abbey.  There were still tourists out, exclaiming over the Abbey, and the noise of chatting travelers coming out of the Underground Station nearby—and ever so faintly and ever so distantly, the sound of the waves left by pleasure cruisers and tour boats lapping against the walls of the Thames.
   London was perfect.  Britain had been perfect.  Ireland too, although she’d found herself missing Scotland as soon as they boarded the ferry to Belfast.  She never wanted to go home, back to school, where she had yet to pick a major, back to her parents who had been distinctly unimpressed by every major she’d picked so far.  They wanted her to be like Nick, her older brother, and pick something practical and civic and preferably with something that had a heroic bent to it.  
   “You coming?” Nick asked, walking back up to her.  They were with a large group, fifty or sixty in fact, and Evangeline knew she couldn’t stand in the rain forever, not matter how much she wanted to.
   She pulled up the lapels of her trench, suddenly cold, and smiled.  “Yeah.  I’m coming.”

   The Tube was less crowded than it had been at rush hour, but their party soon rectified that.  Soon, the swaying car was jammed full of off-duty cops—British and American—on their way from an open bar at New Scotland Yard to a pub near Queen’s Park.  Her brother and the others had traveled to London for some sort of convention for cops of Irish descent, and while some of them brought their wives or girlfriends, Nick—being a good Catholic boy—brought his sister.  Partly to be nice and partly to continue his never-ending quest to get Evangeline to marry one of his friends, even though she had only just turned twenty.  As a bonus, they’d planned a whole tour of the UK and Ireland before the convention, just her and Nick and two of his closest co-workers.
   She needed no excuse to while away her summer break abroad, but the constant flirting of Nick’s two single friends was starting to wear her down and she was a little worried she might end up hooking up with one of them before the trip was through.  Which was theoretically what Nick wanted, but Evangeline had already had two boyfriends who’d seen the business end of Nick’s fists, and she didn’t want to be the cause of that again, not between his friends.
   She tried to keep her distance from Scott and Trent, and instead chatted with some female cops from Minneapolis, who, by the sounds of them, were hoping to score some British law enforcement tail by the end of the night.  Inwardly, she shook her head.  Cops.  Male or female, British or American: they were the same everywhere.
   The pub was crowded and noisy; a football match between Ireland and Germany was on, and Ireland was winning, not that Evangeline could tell, since neither team had scored any points.  She grabbed a pint of Guinness and sat with the lady cops at corner table.
   “That one,” one of the women said, pointing at a tall British cop who was still in uniform.  “I heard someone else say he just separated from his wife.”
   Her friend scoffed.  “You can do better than a rebound hook-up.”
   “What if I want a re-bound hook-up?  My flight leaves in two days, it’s not exactly like I’m wanting a proposal.  Just a little souvenir from London.”
   “Good point.  Damn, there are a lot of cute guys here.  What about that one?”
   “Is he British?  I thought he was from California.”
   Evangeline tuned out the rest of their conversation.  There were a lot of cute guys here, and she was just as susceptible to the British accents as the other ladies, but she also knew Nick would skin any guy alive that touched her that hadn’t been pre-approved by him.  Her lack of activity in the boyfriend department this semester meant that she definitely wouldn’t mind letting off a little steam, but it was all so much work.  The drinking and the flirting and the bra-adjusting in the bathroom mirror.  And then the sloppy making out, and then the awkward small talk about where to go, and since she was traveling, it would have to be her hotel room, which was a long tube ride away, not to mention next to her brother’s hotel room.
   What she wanted, and it made her flush a little to think about it, was something quick with someone she didn’t know.  Something carnal and not pre-planned at all.  No words, no work, and no way her brother could find out.
   She looked over at Trent, who was looking her up and down appreciatively.  She knew she looked good; high heels and a short black dress that she’d chosen because it didn’t wrinkle, that dipped very low in the chest and rode up dangerously high on her thighs when she sat.  She smiled at him and he came over and leaned against the bar, blocking out the Minnesota cops with his broad back.
   “So when are you coming home with me?” he asked, flashing a big smile full of white teeth.  His muscles were thick and prominent under his shirt, and she felt the familiar pang of lust.
   “When are you hiring a bodyguard to protect you from my brother?”
   “Oh come on, now,” he coaxed.  “I’ve got Nick’s blessing.”
   “As long as you marry me and make lots of Catholic babies.”
   He leaned in.  “How about we just get to the babies part and skip the rest?”
   Evangeline finished her pint.  “You’re going to end up with a black eye, talking like that.”
   “It’d be worth it.”
   For a moment, she considered it.  Either Trent or Scott would be happy to take her to her hotel room, strip her down and quell the knot that had settled at the base of her spine this last year.  And they might even hit it off, and keep it going back home.  But it wouldn’t last, she knew it wouldn’t, and she wouldn’t be the reason her brother fought with any of his friends.  Not again.  Never again.
   Trent slid his hand down her bare arm and she knew she had to go, or she was going to let that unsettled knot dictate her night, and undo all her hard work, and there would have been no point denying herself like a saint these past two weeks if it ended in Nick fighting anyway.
   “Good night, Trent,” she said, and left a pound coin on the bar.
   He handed her her coat.  “Good night, Evangeline,” he said.  He was resigned but not offended.  She squeezed his arm and turned away, half wishing things were different and half grateful that they weren’t.

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