Talya’s interview also went well, or so she says.
“They asked me a lot of questions,” she explained. “I had to explain a couple of times about how we made the connections and how we came to such conclusions. I think they were impressed and a little scared.”
“I also think that can work a little against us,” I said. “One of the investigators insinuated that we were smart enough to pull a big lie like this off.”
“I like to think I’m that smart,” Talya sighed, “but I’m not.”
I usually would have laughed at that, but not today; I could only muster a smile as my hands tightened around the steering wheel. “I know it’s irrational, but I am very upset at Reena right now,” I admitted.
“Me too,” Talya said, surprising me.
“If she had kept her mouth shut…”
“Could have, would have, should have,” Talya interrupted me. “No use going there. You have to work with that girl and, if I am not mistaken, you are going to have to be civil with her now – because that’s her car and yes, that’s her waiting for us on the porch.”
I groaned; Reena’s unmistakable long hair was fluttering around her head. She stood up, clutching her purse; she always did that when she was worried or stressed.
“She probably knows we were questioned,” Talya murmured before we stepped out of the car.
“Hi,” Reena said.
“Hey,” I said. From the corner of my eye, I saw Talya raise a hand in greeting. “Is everything OK?”
She nodded. “I just got a call from Jeffrey. Well, a couple of hours ago.” Probably around the same time I had received one too, I thought. “He told me you were going to be questioned. We are, too.”
“Who?” I asked, surprised.
“Connor, David and I,” she said.
I groaned. “Great. They are going to pester everyone who has helped me. Are they also going to want to question the kids?”
Both Reena and Talya had little smiles playing on their lips.
“Probably,” Talya said with an otherwise straight face.
“Absolutely,” added Reena. “Who knows? Shona could have been your accomplice all along.”
We burst into laughter; it felt good.
“Anyhow, I just came by to see if you guys were OK,” Reena said. “I really feel bad. I know… I know you were going to go to the cops at some point in the near future,” this, I felt, was addressed more to Talya than I, “but I’m sure the fact that it didn’t happen on your terms made it more difficult.”
“Actually,” Talya said, very nicely, “I think it did us more good than harm. It came out of the blue, so we didn’t have to fret about what we were going to say and how and we didn’t suffer sleepless nights. Plus, the fact that we were in touch with law enforcement so soon after we figured it out shows them that our willingness to help. So please, Reena, stop fretting.”
I don’t know who was more surprised, Reena or myself.
I was first to regain my senses. “Talya’s right. You have to stop fretting. All’s well that ends well!”
Reena smiled. “Thank you guys.” She glanced down at her watch. “Well I have to go, I don’t want to be late for my appointment with the police. Are they nice?”
Both Talya and I nodded.
Reena heaved a sigh of relief. “Thank God for little favours. Bye guys!”
We watched her hop into her car and waved her off.
“She’s an odd one, isn’t she,” Talya murmured, walking up the pathway. “I can’t quite figure her out.”
“Is that why you don’t like her?” I blurted, opening the door.
It was so obvious to me that she had never liked Reena, and it bothered me to no end. My wife usually liked everyone she met; she could be, quite literally, the devil’s advocate, defending the undefendable, seeing the one good thing about the worse person alive. It could be quite frustrating, actually – which made her dislike of Reena even odder.
“I thought I was hiding it well,” Talya murmured, slipping her coat off. “Do you think others might have noticed?”
“I don’t think so. It took me awhile to realize it, too, and that’s only because I know you really well.” I carefully hung both our coats.
“Good, good,” Talya said, deep in thought. “I guess I am going to have to be even more careful then.”
“Maybe if you figured out why you don’t like her it might it easier to deal with,” I suggested, following her to the kitchen.
Talya threw me a surprised look. “But I do know why I don’t like her,” she said.
“Really?” I flicked the kettle on.
She peered at me for a few seconds before laughing softly. “You are just too adorably naïve, Sean.”
“I like being adorable, but I don’t know about the naïve part,” I said, pouring tea leaves out in the teapot.
Talya took out a small tray and two teacups. “Which makes me like her and the fact that you work together even less,” she said. “I would have rather had some form of distance between the two of you.”
Talya paused in the act of opening a pack of cookies and peered at me again. “You have no idea whatsoever.”
“You have never noticed the smiles Reena gives you, the giggles, the blushes, the flicking of her hair, the way her eyes follow you around?”
She had to be kidding. “Are you telling me that Reena has a crush on me?”
“Congratulations, give the man a prize,” Talya said, placing the sugar bowl and three spoon on the tray.
“Talya, come on,” I said, pouring the boiling water in the teapot. “We’re talking about Reena. Miss I can only marry an Indian guy because he is the only one who can understand me.”
“Just because she has to marry an Indian guy doesn’t mean she wants to,” Talya countered.
I picked up the tray and carried it to the living room. “Is it because she and I get along so well?” I asked. “I mean, if it bothers you…”
“No, no,” Talya interrupted me. “Reena isn’t the only woman you are friends with. Reena is the only one who is always there for you, who always comes over when she can, who always giggles and tosses her hair when she is talking to you, who always is the first one to approve of what you have to say or of your suggestions…”
I blushed. When presented that way, it did seem like Reena might have a crush on me. “So what if you are right, and she does have a crush on me. What do you suggest I do?”
Talya shrugged. “Nothing, really. I just wanted you to know because you noticed I’m different when she’s around. I do trust you, Sean, and, in an odd way, I do trust Reena too – she doesn’t seem to be the kind of person to start an illicit affair. But she is also the type of person to martyr herself over her secret crush on a married man, and that bothers me.”
I could see why it would; Talya was a cut-your-losses type of woman. Had she as a single woman started developing even a hint of a crush on a married man, she would have cut him out immediately, gotten over it and gone onto other things. Plus, it was her husband Reena had a crush on.
“You know what… I really appreciate the fact that you trust me, and also that you are able to see past Reena’s capital offense of liking me…”
I smiled – I really loved that sound. “But I don’t want to create any weird situation. So I am going to limit my interactions with Reena, until you notice that she is over me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t want to encourage that line of thinking in Reena, and I don’t want to create a situation where everyone is gossiping about us. So I am going to make sure never to be alone with her, and to be her friend, yes, but to keep from making comments or jokes that could even remotely be considered flirtatious.”
Talya leaned over to kiss me. “I’d like that. Thank you.”
I peered into her eyes. “This bothers you more than you will admit even to yourself.”
She made a face. “Shall I pour the tea?
I let the conversation go, but made a mental note to get back to it again.
As for my promise… Well, it didn’t start that well because the very next morning, I found myself alone with Reena at the office early in the morning. We both came in about two hours earlier than usual to have the office to ourselves (ha), since we had missed a big junk of the previous day at the precinct.
I sent a panicked email to Talya.
Subject: Promise unwillingly broken
Talya! I’m alone with Reena at the office. Can you come by or something?
Subject: Calm down
Come on Sean, nothing is going to happen. I don’t consider this breaking your promise. You are way too hard on yourself.
Subject: Look who’s calling the kettle black
And I’m not talking about my tan.
I calmed myself down; I didn’t want to become so anxious that I couldn’t sleep tonight. I was hoping for a dreamless night, and had scheduled yoga and exercises on top of the sleeping pills. I reasoned that I had done nothing wrong, that my wife trusted me and she was being less dramatic about this entire situation. I wondered, yet again, who exactly was wearing the pants in our marriage. Maybe I should stick to my Scottish heritage and wear a kilt from now on.
The urge to wear a kilt increased as Connor called in sick a little later, and David decided he’d work from home.
“Well then,” Reena grinned as she hung the phone up, “doesn’t that give us some quality time together.”
I grinned back, then turned towards my screen, squelching the panic I felt. This was not going well at all. A mere hour later, I myself was also on my way home, leaving behind a dispirited Reena but feeling a lot better myself. I really hoped this entire situation would resolve itself – Reena, the cops, the dreams, everything – before I became a hysterical housewife in a kilt.