Paddy O’Shea stood behind the counter as Tomas and Tasha entered the building. Both had sprinted to the doorway; large drops of rain had dropped on their shoulders and drenched their clothing.
“Y’all come on in,” Paddy said.
“Thanks,” Tomas said, as he brushed the rain from his over coat. Tasha did the same thing, and their gazes met and both guffawed.
“Could we get a seat next to a window, Paddy?”
“Of course, detective. Follow me.”
Paddy led them to a corner table near the back of the room and placed two menus on the table. “A waitress will come by in a second to take your orders. What can I get you guys for drinks?”
“Sweet tea for me,” Tomas said, and Tasha nodded and said, “same.” Paddy gave them a smile and confirmed, “Two sweet teas coming right up.”
Tomas watched as Paddy walked away, and he turned to Tasha, once Paddy was out of earshot.
“You know, you can ask me anything Tasha. I only wish to know you better. Nothing is off limits. If you want to know something about me, ask.”
“Why are you a cop?”
“Um, because I needed a job?” Tasha frowned and Tomas cringed. “I grew up in a town where all the cops were corrupt, Tasha. They took advantage of people, like my mother and grandmother, and no one ever tried to stop them. I decided I wanted to stop people like that.”
Tasha grinned and said, “You’re a hero.”
Tomas shook his head and whispered, “No, I’m no hero. I just wanted it to stop.”
Paddy brought the sweet teas back and a tall, pock-marked waiter raised his eyebrows.
“We’d like fried pickles and fried okra, please.”
“Absolutely,” the waiter said, scribbling the order down on the pad. “Anything else?”
“That’s it for now.”
“Okay then. Let me know if you need anything else.”
“What did you want to stop, Tomas?”
“My sister was raped and beaten to death by ‘cops.’ My family refused to cower in the presence of these uniformed thugs, and my dad, grandmother, and more than one cousin all died.”
“That’s horrible,” Tasha said, as she shook her head. Tomas sipped his tea and swallowed.
“Yes, but I migrated to America when I was fifteen. I was adopted by a police officer and his wife. They squared me away.”
The pock-marked kid brought the pickles and okra to the table and left. Tomas picked up a piece of okra and popped it into his mouth; Tasha started with the pickles.
“Wow,” Tasha said, as she picked up a piece of okra. “Sounds like you lucked out. I ran away from home at 15. My mom drank and did every drug she could find, and her dealer pimped her out when he wasn’t beating her. I stayed with a foster family for a couple of years, but I wasn’t easy to live with. Things got bad, so I ran away again. Then, at nineteen I met Bray.”
Tomas sipped his tea and wiped a white napkin over the corners of his mouth.
“We’re quite the pair, aren’t we?”
Tasha gave Tomas a sad grin and looked at the table. “I have something to tell you, Tomas, before we go any further.”
“Okay, Tasha. Let it rip.”
“Um, me and Bray had a, well it wasn’t a relationship, but it was something like one. I got pregnant by him, and he wasn’t ready for a child. He told me he didn’t want to deal with being a father, and I had no choice but to have an abortion.”
“Something went wrong in the procedure. I can’t have children now, even if I wanted to. That’s why I was defensive in the car.”
Tasha said it all in one hurried breath, and Tomas sat with his mouth slightly ajar. He wiped his mouth with his hand and let out a sigh. “Hey,” he whispered to Tasha. “It’s okay. What you did before, I don’t care about. You know? It doesn’t matter.”
“I wasn’t a nice person, and you…you seem so very nice.”
Tomas grinned and leaned down to look into her eyes, and then he said, “Yeah, but that’s cause I’m trying to make a good impression on you, see?” Tasha laughed, and Tomas’s grin grew wider. Soon, both laughed raucously, and Paddy looked at the pair from the bar.
After eating the appetizers and leaving a generous tip, Tomas and Tasha walked out of the pub and out to their vehicle. Tomas put his hand on Tasha’s, as they walked arm in arm out into the rain.
I like him. He’s funny, charming, and a bit old fashioned. He seems up to the challenge of protecting me. How did I get so lucky?