It’s always better to arrive earlier rather than later, but how early was too early? I thought as I glanced over at the clock in my car for what felt like the tenth time in a span of thirty seconds. It was 8:43am. Two more minutes and I’d go inside, I told myself as I stared at the station and mentally prepared myself for my 9am shift.
I patted down my hair then my pockets to make sure that everything was in order and I had all the things I needed. Though I didn’t think I needed to bring anything with me other than my wallet. I’d already signed the forms that I was required to, so there wasn’t really any much I could do at this point.
I nearly jumped out of my car seat when the alarm I’d set on my phone went off. I had set the alarm for 8:45am last night to make sure that I knew what time I had to arrive to work by. It was something I did often. Set alarms. They made me feel…structured. Orderly. Secure. Like I somewhat had my life all put together.
With a deep breath, I squared my shoulders, lifted my chin and got out of the car.
As I made my way to the front door, I saw a few fellow officers hanging out by their cruisers having a chat and drinking their morning cup of coffee. The officer who was talking animatedly to the group made eye contact with me so I raised my hand in greeting. It’d be a good idea to become friends with my coworkers and when better to start than on my first official day. The officer’s smile drastically faded as he made eye contact with me. He looked away, flashed back his brilliant smile and continued talking to his pals without acknowledging me. I quickly lowered my hand and avoided eye contact with anyone else as I steadily made my way to the front doors.
There wasn’t much going on inside the station. I wasn’t very surprised considering we lived in Willock, a small town in the middle of nowhere.
Willock, a town of twenty thousand people, was located in southern Manitoba. The town was established in 1947 and was named after Eunice Willock, a nurse who dedicated her life saving thousands of the brave soldiers of WW2.
“Yes, sweetheart,” the woman at the front desk said into the phone. “I love you very much and I’ll see you soon. Bye now.” The woman was a bit older than most of the officers’, she had a few gray hairs at her temples, but she looked to be in tip top shape. Some of the few guys that I saw outside seemed to have fewer muscles in their entire body than she had in one arm. I wondered why someone like her was stuck behind the reception desk.
“Taking personal calls during work hours, I see?” I tsked. I meant it as a joke but I didn’t think she saw it that way considering her piercing blue eyes cut to me and gave a me death glare that could out-beat my mother’s.
“That was my son,” she said straightening her shoulders. “He just got out of the hospital and he called me to let me know he was okay. Is that a problem? Should I perhaps have waited eight more hours until I called him?” she asked tilting her head to the side a bit.
What a fantastic way to start my career, by making a fool of myself two times in a row. I knew things weren’t going to be easy, but I didn’t think things would get rough this quickly. I could feel panic slowly creeping into my body.
“I am incredibly sorry, Officer-,” I stopped abruptly after I read her name tag. Niamh. I had no idea how to say it so I didn’t bother trying.
“It’s pronounced ‘Neave’,” she kindly offered. I nodded my head in thanks. “It’s my first name. They made a mistake when they made my tag.” I nodded once again and took a deep breath to calm myself down. “What are you here for? Need to make a statement or something?” Niamh asked grabbing a sheet of paper and watching me expectedly.
“Actually,” I said clearing my throat and standing up taller. “I’m here to work,” I said cheerfully. Niamh gave me a confused look so I repeated myself without sounding like a random person off the street coming in to ask if they were hiring. “It’s my first day. I start my shift at 9am. My name is Idris Murakami.”
Niamh raised her left wrist to read her watch. “You’re two hours late,” she sighed. “You’re not off to a very good start here, kid.”
“What? That can’t be right,” I said shaking my head in denial, swallowing down the inevitable fear the was bubbling in my chest. “Sergeant Khalie told me to come in at 9.”
“Did he also tell you to always check your email?” Niamh asked, patiently waiting for me to nod. “Then you would’ve realized that he sent out an email last night telling everyone that there was an important meeting at 7am.”
I hadn’t officially started and I already messed up. Maybe I should just give up now, move to Scotland and become a sheep farmer.
“Here, follow me,” Niamh said getting up from her chair. It was then that I noticed the crutches on the wall behind her. She grabbed them, came around the desk and began walking.
“What happened to your leg?” I asked. It was really none of my business but I was a really curious, maybe that’s why I became a cop.
“Car accident,” she answered.
It made me wonder if that was the same accident that got her son in the hospital.
“Are there meeting minutes that are emailed after meetings?” I still felt incredibly bad for missing the meeting but if I got a memo of what was discussed, I really wouldn’t have missed much nor would I feel as bad as I already did.
“No. Sorry, kid,” Niamh said. She stopped in front of a small closet door and opened it. “What are your sizes?”
“You’re a small little fella, aren’t you?” Niamh said winking at me.
I dipped my head to hide the blush that I knew was probably going to show up on my face despite my somewhat tan complexion.
“Here,” Niamh said handing me my uniform. “Men’s locker room is right behind you. Your locker number is 392. Get changed and meet your partner Niska. She’s waiting for you in cruiser 972. Welcome to the force Idris. You’ll be a great fit,” and with that, Niamh walked away leaving me to my own devices.
For a men’s locker room, it was generally clean and odourless. I didn’t want to waste anymore time than I already had so I quickly got changed and rushed outside to the parking lot to frantically find the cruiser. Finding cruiser 972 was not hard at all since it was the first one I saw.
As I approached the car, I saw my partner and if I remembered correctly, Niamh said her name was Niska.
Niska cautiously watched me as I walked my way over to her and the cruiser.
She didn’t wait for me to introduce myself before she got into the cruiser. I followed behind her and decided to introduce myself in the car.
“Hi, I’m Idris Murakami.” I extended my hand for her to shake but she just lifted her hands and placed them on the steering wheel instead.
“Buckle up,” Niska said. As soon as my seatbelt clicked into place, Niska peeled away from the parking lot.
After ten minutes of awkward silence, Niska quietly yet firmly said, “I’m Niska Dhillon.”
I smiled at her and told her it was nice to meet her. She didn’t smile back. Nor did she repeat the pleasantry.
Niska was beautiful. I didn’t want to admit it to myself before but she was really pretty. She was biracial like me, but where I was half Mexican and half Japanese, she was half African and half Indian. I could tell from her last name that she was Indian.
Apart from being beautiful, Niska was terrifying and I didn’t think she liked me much. I didn’t think anyone on the force liked me much so far. Maybe Niamh liked me a little bit but I was uncertain.
“I didn’t know there was a meeting today,” I told Niska. She and I were going to partners for the unforeseeable future. “I feel so bad I accidentally skipped it. Was there anything important I missed? Is the Captain angry?”
“No,” Niska answered gripping the steering wheel tighter.
We were driving around an open road near the woods, so I turned to Niska and asked, “How long have you been on the force?” I needed to develop a friendship with Niska and we couldn’t do that if we didn’t speak and got to know one another.
“Long enough to not need a partner, yet here I am, working with a rookie,” she snapped driving faster.
Oh. That’s what was up her ass.
All of a sudden, Niska outwardly beauty was gone and replacing it was her inwardly beauty. Or lack thereof. She had an ugly personality.
“Maybe you shouldn’t drive if you’re so angry,” I said watching as the speedometer read higher and higher.
I think I might’ve gotten to her because she gradually began to slow the car down.
“Would you like me to drive?” I offered. Niska shook her head once.
That’s how we spent the remainder of the morning and into early afternoon. We just drove around aimlessly doing nothing and not saying a word to each other. Mostly just waiting to see if they might radio us for something but in all honesty, Willock was a small town where nothing happened so not much was to be expected.
It was 1:30pm before Niska and I decided to get some lunch. I was hungry three hours ago but I didn’t want to bother her in fear of her glaring my hunger away.
Niska pulled up at a mall that served some of the best fried chicken I’d ever had in my life. I tried to convince Niska to buy some of the fried chicken but she refused and got Chinese food instead. I knew she secretly wanted my fried chicken because for someone who was adamant on eating Chinese food, she sure was eyeing my chicken a little too much.
After lunch, we walked around the mall for a bit just enjoying stretching our legs out. There was quiet flower shop I went into to buy Niamh some flowers because I felt a bit bad for how I acted in the morning and also because so far, she’d been the nicest person to me today. I also got her two get well soon cards one for her and the other for her son who’d just gotten out of the hospital.
“Who are those for?” Niska asked when we were back in the cruiser.
“Oh, I thought I’d get something for Niamh and her son. She told me he just got out of the hospital and I wanted to just do something nice.”
Niska huffed in humour but she didn’t actually smile. I knew she thought something was funny because I could see the humour in her eyes. Does this woman know how to smile? I asked myself as she drove us out of the malls parking lot. A lot of people smiled at us at the mall and she never smiled back. Maybe she’s physically incapable of smiling.
The rest of our day was uneventful. Just like the morning, we spent most of it just driving around in silence. Niska, unsurprisingly, never tried to start a conversation with me.
I was grateful when my alarm finally went off for 4:45pm. “We should probably head back to the station,” I told Niska waving my phone around. “15 more minutes and we’re off duty.”
I didn’t know if it was the fact that we were heading back to the station and I could finally get away from Niska and her negative attitude, or the fact that I could go home and watch tv in a few short minutes, but I just couldn’t stop talking.
“So is this what it’ll be like every day?” It wasn’t at all what I was expecting. It was a bit boring if I was being honest. I thought I’d be getting into more action, issuing speeding tickets at the most.
“No,” Niska answered simply. I was beginning to think “no” was her favourite word.
When we arrived at the station, Niska and I both got out of the cruiser but she didn’t follow me when I started walking to the front doors.
“You coming in?’ I asked pointing my thumb behind me.
“No,” she said untying her thick curly black hair from her bun. “I’m going to wait for my fiancé.”
“Oh, okay,” I shrugged. I didn’t notice an engagement ring on her finger. “I guess I’ll see you tomorrow.” Instead of leaving it at that and walking away, I raised my hand and waved at her. I actually waved goodbye at her when she still stood right in front of me.
Niska, as expected, just nodded.
Niamh was just grabbing her purse to leave when I walked up to the reception desk.
“Hey, kid,” she said smiling at me. “How was your first day?”
“Boring,” I replied. “I don’t think Niska likes me much.”
Niamh chuckled and lightly punched my shoulder. “She’s all bark no bite. Don’t worry about her.”
“More like scowl and no smile,” I joked. Niamh released a boisterous laugh and I couldn’t help but smile back at the fact that I made her laugh like that. At least I did one good thing today, even if it was making someone smile.
The station was getting a bit chaotic with the morning crew heading out and the night crew coming in, so no one could really blame me when I didn’t immediately notice the man standing beside Niamh.
“I got these for you and your son,” I said holding up the flowers and cards. When Niamh gave me a confused expression, I quickly stammered out, “I wanted to apologize for this morning. I hope you and him get well soon.”
“Why don’t you just give it to him yourself?” Niamh giggled.
It was my turn to look confused. “You want me to go to his house?”
“Just give it to him now,” she said patting the shoulder of the man beside her. He had Niamh’s blue eyes. He was undeniably her son. He was also scratch-free.
“But you just got out of the hospital,” I said looking at him from head to toe. “You look fine.”
“Thank you, I work out a lot," he joked. "I’m a doctor,” he laughed along with his mother. “I will take the card though,” he said taking it from my lifeless fingers. Along with his card, he also took his mother’s card and flowers.
“Let’s head out,” Niamh chuckled, nudging me out the door.
“My clothes…” I said pointing towards the men’s change room.
“You can pick them up tomorrow. They’re not going anywhere. You should really just come into work with your uniform on. It’ll make everything easier.”
I stared after Niamh’s son and then her. I really thought he was ill. “You had me think-.”
“Rule number one, kid,” Niamh said cutting me off. “Don’t take half the things I say seriously.”
“My car is parked there,” I said pointing at my brand new BMW that I’d bought when I came back into town two weeks ago.
“Mine is the one beside it.” Niamh’s son, whose name I had yet to find out, made my car look like garbage. It was an Audi and it was so shiny, the sun’s glare made it difficult to look at it.
As we reached our cars, I saw Niska with the man who didn’t wave back at me in the morning. He had an arm around her shoulders and she had an arm around his waist. He must be her fiancé. Mr. and Mrs. Scowling Jerks. They were perfect for each other.
Niamh must’ve noticed me watching them because she turned towards them and yelled, “Bye, Niska!”
Niska turned around to the sound of her name and said, “See you tomorrow, Niamh.” Then she did the darndest thing.
And then I remembered.