|Primary Characters:||Cal, Dan, Della, Cameron|
|Description:||Cal’s trying to get back on his feet after the Collins’ affair. Dan loses his wife. When Dan ends up in trouble, Cal takes him home with him, which leads to misunderstandings. Della gets caught in the middle and Cameron’s on the warpath.|
Della had been meaning to call Cal for ages. What little she had learned from Cameron about Dan hadn’t really told her anything. It was clear from Cameron’s behaviour that this was something he didn’t wish to discuss. Della recognized that reaction in her boss. She would learn nothing more from him, unless something new occurred, something that threw him off balance. Between trying to keep up with work and holding off her parents, she somehow couldn’t find the time to ring Cal. What she really wanted to do was go and see him in person. She’d missed him. Missed seeing his face. Missed hearing his voice. Even when he yelled at her and treated her like a messenger. As soon as her parents returned home, reassured about her well being, Della decided to head over to Cal’s place. She did want news about Dan but most of all, she wanted to talk to Cal. The hours until she could get away from work stretched on endlessly. In the ladies’ room she happened to overhear a conversation that caught her attention.”And you know what I heard about McCaffrey?””What?”
“My friend Jenny told me she’d heard Vince tell her that he’s shagging the gov’s son. You remember Dan. The cute guy who was here around that time we were working on the Stephen Collins story.”
“You can’t be serious. I heard he was doing Anne Collins. Stephen Collins’ wife.”
“Oh, that. I heard that too. That was ages ago.”
“But McCaffrey isn’t the type. I can always tell. Dan isn’t either. You should have seen the way he was staring at my legs.”
“Oh, please. He was looking at everyone that way.”
Della felt all colour drain from her face. That simply couldn’t be true. It was just that Moira’s spiteful lies again. She was always up to her old tricks. Della could remember the time about a year ago when she insisted Cameron must be shagging Cal because he always got the good assignments. And it was easy enough to guess why Moira felt that way about Cal. She’d been practically begging him to take her out and he hadn’t even noticed. Secretly, Della had enjoyed seeing the other girl’s frustration build. If Cal wasn’t taking her out either, why should Moira get lucky? This made her even more eager to go over to Cal’s place to see him for herself, to reassure herself that what she’d heard simply couldn’t be true. She knew it couldn’t be true, but she would prefer to see him with her own eyes to make sure.
Of course that was just another spiteful rumour started by people who envied Cal his fantastic journalistic instincts and excellent writing. Or it could just be that Cal didn’t seem to notice the way women reacted to him. It might not be the same type of reaction Dan elicited, but to Della’s practiced eyes, it was easily detected all the same. Though she had another story to proofread, she decided to sneak out early and go over to Cal’s place right away. She just had to see him. If only her parents hadn’t picked that particular day to visit. She might have been seeing more of Cal by now, and she’d also know more about Dan.
Breathlessly, she rang the doorbell and waited. At first she didn’t think anyone was at home. That was odd. She had been hoping Cal would give her a ring if he was going anywhere. But who was she fooling? Why should he? He had never promised her anything. And there had never been any indications that he’d ever see her as more than just one of the boys. There were times when Della almost believed her father’s insistent wish for a son had more or less turned her into a boy, or at least a sexless, unattractive creature unable to arouse any sort of romantic feeling in a man. As she was turning to go home, dejectedly, she heard someone fumbling with the lock. Once again filled with hope, she fixed her eyes on the door.
Cal was busy in the kitchen, trying to find some clean plates and glasses. Dan had gone to have a shower and a shave. It might be too soon to hope for any miracle recovery, but it really seemed as if Dan was feeling a little better. He had begun to discuss plans for the funeral. Apparently, arrangements were being made. Cal hadn’t wanted to pry, so he’d left Dan alone when he made the calls. Suddenly, the sound of the doorbell ringing, startled Cal out of his preoccupation with the stacks of unwashed dishes that had piled up during Dan’s stay. To his dismay, he heard Dan calling out almost cheerfully that he was answering the door. Whoever it was, Cal really preferred to get the door himself. Especially if Dan was wearing what he thought he was wearing. Too late, Cal managed to put down the pile of dishes and rush after his guest towards the door.
“Never mind. Leave it. I’m not expecting any -”
Too late. He saw Dan fiddling with the lock, then saw the door swing open to reveal Della. Great. Just great. She finally showed up and there was Dan in nothing but a towel.
“Hello. Come in. Cal and I were just going to have some pizza. Want to join us?”
To Dan’s devious mind, it almost seemed as if Della was speaking out loud. He could see her eyes darting between Cal – wearing an open shirt and a pair of jeans, and himself, dripping wet from the shower. Her deepening frown told him exactly what it was she suspected. For a laugh, but more to force Cal out into the open with his feelings for Della, Dan decided to play on her suspicions, for the time being.
“Oh, well. I suppose there’s no point in hiding any longer. Is there, Cal? We might as well tell Della -”
Cal couldn’t believe his ears. Was Dan standing there telling Della that they were – This simply couldn’t be happening. Cal opened his mouth to snap at Dan to stop playing the fool. He wanted to tell Della that this wasn’t the way it looked, but he could already hear how that would sound. Like some feeble excuse. What possessed Dan to choose this moment for such a tasteless joke? Especially after that incident the other night. Unhappily, Cal remained silent, as he saw Della’s smile vanish.
“Bloody hell, Cal, the gov will have your hide for this.”
That tore it. Any chance he might have had to get to know Della better – to even – well, what was the point? Dan’s joke had spoiled that chance. At least for now.
She couldn’t believe her eyes. Dan. Then – Could Moira’s wild story have an ounce of truth in it after all? No. Impossible. Cal just wouldn’t – Would he? But Dan had just told her that the rumours at work were true. Only now did she realize fully how much she’d been hoping that this time, Cal would actually see her. Not fancy Anne Collins. Just plain Della Smith. And now, it seemed he wasn’t even into women anymore, let alone one as unattractive as she was. She just couldn’t face them. Before she lost her composure entirely and began to cry, she turned and ran down the stairs. She thought she heard first Dan, then Cal call her name, but she didn’t stay to find out. What a fool she was. What a ludicrous little idiot.
Cal stared at Della’s vanishing form, not quite believing his eyes. She had believed Dan. And now she was gone. Even if he’d somehow found the courage to tell her the truth, it was too late. Angrily, he whirled around to face Dan.
“Now look what you’ve done. Why did you have to say something utterly stupid like that? Is it your idea of a joke?”
Dan too, was amazed at the reaction his teasing had had. This was not what he’d intended at all. The look in Della’s eyes as he dashed her hopes had been a silent accusation. Cal was right. But then again, his original idea was still sound. It was about time Cal told Della the truth. What Dan didn’t want to admit to himself was how much he’d been missing Della’s companionship. Apart from Cal, she was the only one who had ever believed in him. Except for – but he couldn’t allow himself to remember her now. Besides, he had to say something to Cal.
“Why does it matter what she thinks? Unless – Unless you have feelings for her that you haven’t told her about.”
Cal opened and closed his mouth, stunned by Dan’s insight. He hadn’t even known until now, when he’d most likely lost Della, how much he’d been counting on her. Perhaps it had taken a stupid incident like this to show him how much he really cared about her.
“That’s none of your business.”
“Fine. Then I guess you won’t mind if we let her go on believing that you and I are -”
“Of course it’s absurd. But no more so than you allowing her to think that you don’t care.”
“Besides, even if I did feel that way about her – what makes you believe that she’d feel the same way?”
“Oh, please. You’re such an idiot. Can’t you tell when a woman only has eyes for you? What did Anne have to do? Tear off your clothes?
The memory brought back that night Anne had more or less – not torn his clothes off, obviously, but even so – Cal’s felt his face heat up. This was none of that spoiled brat’s concern.
“Leave her out of this. Anyway, what about you?”
“What about me?”
“It’s far more likely that she’d go for you. Not me.”
“Oh, come on. Of course she finds me attractive. Half of London does. So what? They stare. Smile. Try to touch you up. Big deal. Then what? Do you think anyone really cares?”
“Why not? They’re crazy about you.”
“And you don’t even appreciate it, do you? What does it take for you to get a little worked up?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You have everything. Looks, money. Cameron. And you still don’t appreciate any of it.”
“I have everything? You don’t have a clue, do you? My dad? He likes you far better than he likes me. If he had any say in the matter, you’d be his son, not me. You wouldn’t like him so much if he really was your father. And the money? What good are they when it really counts? They couldn’t save -”
Cal wanted to take his words back. In the heat of the moment, he’d forgotten about the reason Dan was staying with him.
“Don’t – I didn’t mean -”
But Dan seemed determined to have his say.
“Look at you. You’ve got it all. You’re a brilliant reporter, Della’s crazy about you. My dad likes you. If that’s a good thing. Do you realize that you – you, of all people, might be the only one left who -”
“Who doesn’t just want to get into my pants. If Della wants to, that’s one thing. At least I think she liked me. Until now anyway.”
“If you don’t like the attention, why bother playing up to them?”
“You heard me. Syd for instance. No wonder he thought -”
“What about Syd? Have you heard from him -”
“Don’t you remember? When I came and picked you up at your place?”
“Remember what? I know you came for me, but what’s Syd got to do with it?”
“You really don’t remember anything, do you?”
“I told you, I don’t. As far as I know, I haven’t seen him since we worked that story together. Ages ago.”
“No, tell me what you were hinting at. Besides, you know why I flirt with people. It’s just part of the job. I’m surprised you don’t use your looks more than you do.”
“Don’t make fun of me. What looks?”
“Alright, I give up. You clearly don’t have a clue about the effect you have on women. Like Della. But never mind that. What are you not telling me about Syd?”
“He was there. At your flat.”
“Syd? No. Was he? Alright. I’ll take your word for it. What about him?”
“Look, lets forget about it. Nothing happened so -”
“Tell me what you were on about. Cal, please.”
Cal had had no intention of telling Dan about what he’d walked into that night, but he found himself pushed into a corner, and didn’t know what else to do. Besides, this would be far more embarrassing for Dan than for him so, why not let the kid know? Not that it had anything to do with Della or any of today’s mess.
“I found him on top of you, on the sofa. You were so drunk I felt I had to interfere, but I would have thought you’d have some memories of that night. Don’t you?”
“No. You mean – Oh. God. He must have thought – It appears I have more to thank you for than I realized. I’m such an idiot. Oh, well, if dad ever heard of this he wouldn’t be above a bit of gloating. Let this be a lesson to you and so on. It’s not as if he’d be surprised. I think he’s been expecting something like that for years. Or maybe something more – voluntary on my part. But I should have told Syd the truth. It just didn’t come up. I did put the ring back on, but -”
After all Dan had put him through, Cal felt it was only fair if the kid got some of his own medicine.
“Perhaps he just assumed it was some kind of gay engagement ring. And you were after a bit on the side.”
Dan shot Cal a glance, as if to check if he was joking, then he shrugged and smiled, slightly tense, if Cal was any judge of his moods.
“Good one. I suppose I deserved that. Thanks, Cal. Bollocks. Now dad’s been proven right again. I hate that. He always has to win.”
“He wouldn’t have wanted anything like that to happen to you. Trust me. He cares more about you than you think.”
“What do you know about it? Have you discussed me?”
“No. He never says anything, even though everyone knows. But it’s obvious from the way he looks at you. Oh, forget it. Now what do we do?”
“About Della, you mean?”
“You know, if you’re not going to tell her how you feel, I think I’ll let her go on believing this charade a little longer.”
“Call it what you want. Now, how about that dinner?”
“You – you’re such a -”
“I know. Always have been.”
Later, over dinner, Cal went over their conversation again. So Dan didn’t have nearly as much self confidence as he seemed to have. Strange. And the way he’d sounded when he referred to his privileges, made Cal think that perhaps all that wealth wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Della felt numb inside, but dealt with it the way she always did, by throwing herself into her work. Whenever she heard a hint of the rumours about Cal and Dan, she couldn’t help doing her best to deny them. After all, if Cameron found out, what would he do to Cal? Despite the pain he’d caused her, she didn’t want him ending up in any more trouble. Not Dan either. It was amazing how those eyes, and the boyish smile affected her. And now, they were both lost to her. When she wasn’t working, she found herself drinking more, as if the alcohol could somehow blot out the pain and loss.
Working under Cameron made her realize how difficult it must have been for Dan, growing up with such a father. That was something she could relate to, even though she suspected Cameron wasn’t half as tough as her own father. She knew he’d really wanted a son and when it became clear that there wasn’t going to be one, she had decided to compensate him any way she could. And that turned out to be by becoming a reporter. Cal had been her role model and idol, just as much as Cameron, and lately, Dan.
Now Cameron was all that was left, and though in a way, he was as close to a father figure she could get, he was edgier than ever. The tragic loss of his son’s wife must have been harder on him than she’d imagined. Or – perhaps his wife’s condition was worse than she’d guessed. Either way, the next couple of weeks were rough to say the least.
Cal tried to ring her twice in as many weeks, but each time, she was unavailable, and she didn’t call back. Not that he’d actually dared to ask her to, or leave a detailed message. He was still toying with the idea of asking her to lunch, to explain everything to her, despite the position that would leave Dan in, when Cameron showed up to pay him a visit.
Della had noticed Cameron eyeing her suspiciously a couple of times and once he even asked her if she’d heard anything from Cal, or Dan. The way he fixed her with his merciless eyes led her to believe that perhaps he guessed that she knew something she wasn’t telling him. She managed to evade his questions, but from then on, she felt she constantly had to look over her shoulder. And why? To protect those two who clearly didn’t care the slightest about her.
When the doorbell rang, Cal was half hoping it would be Della again. This time, he wouldn’t hesitate to tell her the truth. But the way whoever was ringing the bell was pressing on it, gave him a bad feeling. He fumbled with the lock, but was finally able to get it open. To his dismay, Dan was right behind him, so there was no way their visitor could miss him.
“McCaffrey? May I come in?”
“Of course. Hello, Cameron.”
“So this is where you’ve been hiding yourself, Dan?”
“As you can see. I did ring you and left a message, if you recall.”
“Yes. A message, saying you were staying with a friend. Oddly, none of your old friends had heard from you.”
“What were you doing? Checking up on me? I am handling the arrangements, you know.”
“Yes, I know, since I’ve been kept informed by the undertaker. What do you mean by this odd behaviour?”
“I don’t see what’s so odd about it. You and I don’t see eye to eye on anything, so you could hardly expect me to come and stay with you. And the house -”
“Yes, yes. I do see that. But why the secrecy? Are you hiding something from me?”
Here, Cameron cast Cal a scalding look. Cal winced and inched away from his two guests.
“No good trying to hide anything from you, is there, dad? So what did you want to ask me?”
Cameron looked taken aback by his son’s reaction, but after a moment’s consideration, he came out with the question that was on his mind.
“Is there – is there anything going on between you and McCaffrey?”
“Charming. Are you asking me if we’re sleeping together?”
“It’s a reasonable question.”
“Reasonable? I can’t see that it’s your concern whoever I sleep with. So what if we are?”
“I knew it. McCaffrey? What do you have to say for yourself? Have you lost your mind? Taking advantage of an immature boy who’s especially vulnerable – I knew that girl was hiding something.”
“I’m not a child. Dad, I’ll sleep with whoever I like. End of story.”
“You – Are you serious about this?”
“Very. I’m thinking about getting married again. Right, Cal?”
“Dan – this isn’t -”
“McCaffrey, you’ll never work in the newspaper business again in this country. You see if I don’t have you blacklisted from here to Glasgow.”
Before Cal had time to say anything else, his former boss was slamming the door shut behind him, storming down the stairs.
“Dan – now this really has gone too far. Your dad – I’ll be lucky if he doesn’t have me thrown in jail for this.”
“Don’t be absurd. I’m 25. There’s no law against it.”
“Della – She must have tried her best not to tell him.”
“And if she didn’t – of course she wouldn’t – but since she didn’t – who would have told him?”
“Syd. It’s obvious. He must have told someone at work, maybe Pete or Helen. It doesn’t matter who.”
“Syd? Of course. He must have thought -”
“Don’t remind me. Of course he did. He said so, that night. I didn’t bother correcting him.”
Dan was biting his lip, while frowning thoughtfully. This time his impulsive lie had landed them in even more trouble. Cal was right. This was serious, if only for Della’s sake. On the other hand, he’d never willingly take his words back. Not when his father had acted so intolerably. No. The old man could just stuff it. As long as he didn’t take his anger out on Della.
“We’ll have to do something about Della.”
“I’m glad you think so too. What did you have in mind?”
“We’ll have to make sure dad doesn’t take this out on her.”
“And how do you suggest we do that?”
To Cal’s amazement, Dan was now smiling impishly.
“Oh, I have a smashing idea. Just you wait. It will be just the thing. Leave it to me. Do you have Della’s number?”
Cameron stormed back to the office, so angry his blood pressure shot through the roof. Back at his desk, he rummaged through the top drawer to find the pills. Dan always had this effect on him. But this time the boy really had gone too far. And McCaffrey – He had never in a million years suspected the promising young man of this type of treachery. Sleeping with his son? How on earth was that possible? After that liaison with Stephen Collins’ wife – And that Smith girl, it was obvious she had known all along. To think she had the nerve not to inform him when it was his boy who was being –
He shot up and held open the door.
“Della. In here now.”
The few people still around looked up, startled at the vehemence of Cameron’s words. So Della was in trouble? Better her than someone else, was the general idea.
Della had been about to leave, for another night of solitary drinking. When she heard Cameron calling her, she involuntarily shrank back. It was all too much like her childhood. Her father calling her into his study to – discipline her, as the euphemism went. She could still feel the cane eating into her rear end. Of course, Cameron wouldn’t restort to anything that physical, but she knew his words could still sting.
“Did you know about it all along?”
“Know about what?”
She was only stalling for time. It was pretty clear that only one thing could have made Cameron this upset. So now he knew. And naturally he was going to blame her for it, though what she could have done to prevent the disaster, she simply didn’t know.
“Don’t lie to me. About my son and McCaffrey of course. Did you know about it?”
“Well, I’d heard some rumours about it -”
“Rumours? Did you or did you not know about it? I know you and McCaffrey are as thick as thieves and he must have said something to you -”
Why bother denying it? Whatever she said or did, Cameron was going to find a way to punish her, even though it wasn’t her fault. If she had had any say in matters, either Cal or Dan would have been involved with her, not each other.
“I went over there to talk to Cal and – Dan was there.”
“And did they offer any explanation?”
“Dan said -”
“I see. Well, he said rather a lot to me as well. And you didn’t see any reason to inform me? No, obviously not. He’s my boy. I just won’t stand for it. McCaffrey will regret this. If it’s the last thing I do -”
“Cameron, please -”
He silenced her with a look.
“Tomorrow, you’ll be working on a new assignment.”
“I’ll take you off the corruption scandal and give it to Helen. You will investigate the illegal garbage dumping in Brixton.”
“Or would you rather find work somewhere else?”
Before Cameron said anything else, she turned and fled into the ladies’ room. Her eyes filled with tears and she didn’t want Sylvia or Lucy to see her this way. How could Cameron treat her like this? She’d always admired him. And she’d thought he had some appreciation of her work skills. But it was obvious that she was unable to please any man, young or old. The sound of her mobile phone interrupted her gloomy thoughts.
“Hello. Yes, speaking. Cal? Just a second.”
Hurriedly, Della wiped off the mascara that had smeared on her cheeks, and though she knew Cal couldn’t see her, she straightened out her hair.
“Alright. What do you want?”
Her voice sounded strained. Hardly surprising. Right now, she had to hate both of them. And what had Cameron done to her?
“Can you talk?”
She sounded as if she’d been crying. This was simply too much. Della shouldn’t have to get caught in the middle of an argument that had nothing to do with her. None of this was her fault.
“Did Cameron -”
“You could say that. It’s as if I can do nothing right. He’s just like my dad.”
“Della, listen, we were wondering -”
There was a disturbance on the line, and Della thought the connection was going to be broken, but now she heard two voices arguing. In the end, Cal’s voice took on an aggrieved but resigned note.
“Fine. Be my guest.”
Now it was Dan’s voice speaking to her.
“Listen, how would you like a week’s holiday in the south of France?”
“Is this some kind of joke?”
“No. No joke. It will be great. You and me and Cal.”
“What is this about? I’ve ended up in enough trouble because of you two.”
“I know. All that has been my fault and I want to make it up to you. Honestly. Please, say you’ll come.”
“If I took off on holiday just like that, I’d be lucky if I could get a job in the south of England.”
“Don’t worry about that. Leave dad to me. Della, please, I’m begging you. Let me make it up to you.”
“Hm. How does Cal feel about this?”
“Oh, he wants you to come along. Trust me. Oh, alright. I’ll put him back on. He’s trying to – Alright, alright.”
“Della, please. I’ll explain everything later. Just say you’ll come with us. I feel terrible about all this. Cameron had no right to treat you this way.”
“I appreciate your concern, but I can’t. Surely you can understand that?”
The pleading in her voice really got to Cal, and he thought he could see her sad face looking back at him.
He really sounded sincere. And how could she say no, when he was begging her like that? On the other hand, how could she simply take off on a wild goose chase? Even if this new assignment sounded just as awful as it most likely would be, it was still her job. If she left with Cal and Dan, she wouldn’t even have that. Now Dan’s voice was back.
“I’ve already booked the tickets for us.”
“If you think I’m going to let you pay -”
“Oh, please. Just this once. You – you can pay me back later. How about that?”
Despite herself, she was weakening. She did have the money she’d saved up for the summer and if she took a week off, perhaps Cameron’s anger would have abated a little when she returned.
“I’ll pay you now.”
“Alright. As long as you come along.”
Della couldn’t believe she was even considering Dan’s offer. What could they possibly want to bring her along for? She knew she ought to cling to what little pride she had left and carry on, even though Cameron gave her the worst and lowest jobs imaginable. Whatever the guys were up to, she couldn’t imagine it would be anything she’d enjoy. Still, she couldn’t resist the temptation. She’d had it with being the good little girl. Look where it got her. Her surrogate father/boss had turned on her, when she had only been doing her job to the best of her ability. True, she hadn’t told him what she’d learned at Cal’s flat that afternoon, but how could she have? Apart from selling out two of her best friends, she would also have broken Cameron’s heart.
She would go on a once in a lifetime adventure and suffer the consequences for her rashness later. Why not? Everyone deserved one indiscretion. She was still young. This time she would only focus on having fun. She’d worry about the rest later. If Cameron fired her, that was it. Time to move on. She knew she could get another job. Of course she’d be starting out at the bottom again, but she’d deal with that when she had to. Now she would go home and pack her summer clothes and bathing attire. When was the last time she’d been on vacation anyway? The visits to her home didn’t count. What fun had that ever been?