By Jessica (la_belle_dame)
Julie Deakins is not an idiot. She knows her parents stopped sleeping in the same bed the year she moved out of her parents’ house for graduate school in the city. She caught her dad getting ready for work one morning in the guest bedroom over her first Thanksgiving break back from Hudson University. The antique wardrobe was full of his neatly ordered suits and his reading glasses rested on the night table. He made some excuse about lack of closet space and his snoring keeping his her mom awake, and Julie smiled and never mentioned it again.
After all, it wasn’t as if they were unhappy or fighting or something. If anything, as Julie works her way through a year of living on thirty cent pasta and reading undergrad essays, the Deakins’s only seems to relax further into each other as time when on. They give outdoor dinners on the weekends in the summer and attend the opera at the Met in the fall. Occasionally, Julie will go out to lunch with them now that she’s downtown full time. They still smile at each other and share dessert, and life in the Deakins household rolls along with Julie’s parents sleeping a hallway apart.
The first time Julie meets Detective Alexandra Eames, it’s at the Policeman’s Ball the winter before she graduates with her M.A. in literature. Eames is wearing a plain black cocktail dress that’s just one step shy of frumpy and Julie generally ignores her in favor of eyeing the detective’s ridiculously tall partner. Julie only speaks to Eames for a couple minutes at the end of the evening about what her father is like at work, and even then it’s mostly small talk about how he takes too much sugar in his coffee to be a hard-boiled captain at Major Case. It’s not until her father’s birthday in the spring that she notices Eames again.
Julie’s been bogged down with insipid freshman term papers and decides to surprise her dad at work on his birthday. She buys a cake from the local bakery and carries it along with her sleek, black briefcase, a frighteningly adult-looking carry-all case, up the stairs of PP1. She plunks the white paper box down on the steel-topped table in the break room and knocks on the door marked Captain James Deakins. By the time they get back to the break room, half the squad has squeezed itself into the tiny white-tiled room and is singing an off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Logan dices the dry sheet cake with exaggerated flourish while Julie chats with Barek about her new boyfriend.
When Julie looks over at her father, he is talking to the tall detective, Robert Goren as Julie now knows, with Eames sitting next to him. Julie doesn’t know why it catches her attention, but it does. Her dad makes one of his famously awful puns and Robert is laughing, which makes his sweet, serious face light up. Julie only catches the tail end of Eames’s smile, but it’s enough to stop her cold. It’s turning up the corners of her small mouth and crinkling the corners of her eyes, and she is most decidedly not looking at her captain. Julie’s dad doesn’t look back at her, not exactly, but the same catching smile tugs at his mouth, and that is when Julie knows that her father is having an affair with Alexandra Eames.
She doesn’t know what to think. Never in her wildest dreams did she ever believe her father would do something like this. Julie may not be the most experienced with men, but she knows enough to know it takes a certain type, and her dad’s never had a wandering eye or a problem with his hands, either at work or anywhere else. If Julie didn’t know for a fact about their separate rooms, she’d have said her parents were perfectly happy because, well, they are. But she didn’t imagine that moment in the break room, that silent flash of heat between her captain father and half of his dream team of star detectives, no matter how much she replays it over in her mind. It’s an unprovable theory, like the big bang or prime numbers. There’s no concrete mathematical proof to explain or define prime numbers. They just are. There’s absolutely no proof, none at all, and Julie will never ever ask, but she’s an investigator’s daughter first and foremost, so in a fit of temporary insanity, she asks Eames to lunch at The Rafter Café.
The lunch is awkward as hell with plenty of long silences between bursts of small talk about the quality of their respective entrées of a garden salad and French onion soup. Eventually, they find a rhythm of sorts, when Julie confesses to an invented infatuation with Robert Goren, or Bobby as Eames calls him after her second white wine. Eames relaxes immediately into talking about her partner, though she keeps remarkably quiet on the subject of inter-office rumors. It could be because she doesn’t want any undue attention. Or maybe she just isn’t one for gossiping with her boss’s daughter.
Julie manages to wrangle another lunch date out of Eames, who goes right back to looking uncomfortable once the check is paid. Outside the restaurant, Julie hails a cab and heads back to her sterile-looking starter apartment. She doesn’t know what she’s looking for, exactly, so she doesn’t know if she got any information out of her afternoon with the detective. It’s not as if Eames is going to show up with a scarlet “A” pinned to her blazer or blurt out, “I’m dating your father.” But she’s smart and funny, and heaven help her, Julie could be actually like this woman. She could be her friend. And perhaps even more worrying, Julie thinks as she drifts off to sleep, she might not be kidding about liking Bobby Goren.
They hit all the upscale student restaurants first, and then move on to slightly more adult venues. Julie still gets nervous sometimes reading menus printed on heavy paper at tables with linen napkins. She keeps waiting for someone to ask her for ID or something. Eames, naturally, seems perfectly at ease no matter where she is, and if she wasn’t so great about it, Julie would resent the hell out of her for it. But she can’t.
Eventually, the lunches get less awkward and Julie finds herself asking Eames about things a girl should talk to her mother about, but never actually would. She asks her about what guys really think of career women, or career cops anyway, and if Alex ever broke up with a guy for being a really bad kisser. They talk about Julie’s search for the perfect teaching job and Julie can tell Alex what she really thinks about all her coworkers without having to use polite language or tiptoe around family politics. Alex does not discuss her own personal life except for vague references to men she’s dated in the past. But when Julie mentions her father’s tendency to sing along with the Clarence Clearwater Revival songs on the radio or his habit of mixing dark socks into whites-only laundry loads, Alex gets this look in her eyes and Julie knows, just knows that this woman is in love with her dad.
Alex gives Julie her cell number and tells her to call her if she needs anything, which Julie does only once when she gets shockingly drunk on bad wine at a house party and needs a ride home. Alex picks her up, pours her into bed, and presets the coffee maker before she leaves. She never makes Julie feel bad for it and two lunches later, they’re laughing about the stupid things they’ve done while intoxicated. It gets to the point where Julie forgets sometimes why she started hanging out with Alex (it’s been a while since she thought of her as Eames) in the first place. Until her father walks into the same restaurant in Chinatown where Alex and her are having dim sum one Sunday morning.
Julie is halfway through a plateful of Pearl Chicken when Alex chokes and kind of half stands up, staring at someone over Julie’s shoulder. Julie twists around and there, large as life and looking very confused is her father. He’s wearing a suit jacket, like he just came from the office, but no tie. Alex frantically tries to swallow a mouthful of spring roll and Julie asks, “Dad, what’re you doing here?” to buy her some time.
There’s a long moment with three people staring at each other, surrounded by bustling waiters and loud conversations in a mixture of English and Cantonese. A large party of diners with a small child wearing a pointed party hat in their midst bump Julie’s dad closer to the table and he nods like he’s made a decision. In one deft movement, he doffs his jacket and slings it over the back of an empty chair. He sits down between his daughter and his mistress and starts talking about how Logan punched a perp during interrogation, right in front of the D.A., could they believe that? Alex apparently can because she relaxes right away and laughs, letting all the tension Julie hadn’t noticed in her back drain out of her as her captain talks about the amount of ass-kissing it took to get Logan out of trouble.
For a while, Julie just watches them talk. They’re easy with each other. Not causal, per se, they’re sitting too far away for that. But her dad looks so happy and Alex keeps laughing, even at his awful puns. It must be contagious because Julie starts giggling, too. It’s pretty funny, after all. She’s eating dim sum with her married father and his girlfriend, who is swiftly becoming her best friend, in the middle of Chinatown at 10 AM on a Sunday. Julie thinks briefly about trying to analyze what all this means. Instead, she steals a pot-sticker off Alex’s plate and listens to her dad talk about Detective Goren’s latest escapade. The only way this could get more complicated, she thinks, is if she got involved with this Bobby Goren guy. But she’s not a total idiot. She hopes.