Neville walked back to the jeep, his face stinging with embarrassment. What was he thinking? Of course, he couldn't just turn up and tell her how he felt, not if her date was about to arrive in twenty minutes. It would put her on the spot, hurry her into a decision, and that was the last thing he wanted. He wanted her to want this too.
Neville got into the jeep and closed the door with a thud, turning the key and pulling out onto the road. As he drove back towards Catherine's bar, the sun set on the horizon, gleaming down a warm orangey glow. He parked the jeep next to the bar again and got out, hoping to slink back to the table without catching Catherine's eye.
The sound of the door closing alerted her to his presence. She stepped out onto the road and approached him, cornering Neville next to the jeep.
"Did you do it?" she asked in a hushed tone.
Neville gulped and shook his head. "No, Catherine, I didn't," he said, looking down at the floor. "She was literally about to meet the guy and it didn't feel right for me to put her on the spot like that, not before she was about to leave."
Catherine nodded. "I understand," she said. "What did you say instead?"
"I totally lost my nerve and blabbered out something about beers at mine next week and high tailed it out of there," he replied. Then he stopped, feeling himself come down from the anxiety, and ran his hands over his face. "It just didn't feel like the right time, you know?"
"I know," agreed Catherine, patting his arm affectionately.
"I will tell her though, Catherine," said Neville, as much to himself as to her. "I will."
"Good," she smiled. "Now, would you like a drink? To calm your nerves?"
Neville looked back at the table, realising he had left JP, Rosey, and Marlon alone at the table without their drinks he had promised. "Yes, please, if you don't mind. Another round for us."
"Of course," replied Catherine and went back to the bar.
Neville walked over to the table tentatively. Rosey stood over the stroller cooing at the babies. As Neville approached, JP looked up, his brow crinkling. "Where did you go, sir?" he asked.
"He ran off when he realised he had to pay," laughed Marlon. Neville laughed too, good-humouredly.
"I left my wallet at the station," he said evenly. "Just had to run and get it."
"Ah," nodded JP.
"Catherine is just coming over with our drinks," replied Neville, sitting down at the table. He was good at lying. Too good in fact. And Neville didn't like it.
"We'll have to get the babies home soon, JP," said Rosey. "They'll need putting down."
"Just one more, alright?"
Neville sat back, deep in thought, wondering whether Florence's date had come to pick her up yet or whether she was still waiting. He fantasied that her date might stand her up and then she'd come down to Catherine's to join them. Perhaps Catherine would put some music on, and they'd start dancing, and then, ever so quietly, Rosey and JP, and Marlon, would go home and it would just be the two of them. Maybe then he'd tell her.
"Sir," snapped Marlon, clicking his fingers in front of Neville's face.
"Sorry," Neville shook his head back into reality.
"Are you okay?" Marlon asked.
"It's just been a long week," smiled Neville, hoping that his emotion would not betray his face.
On Monday morning, Neville opened up the police station, unlocking the doors and opening the shutters, letting the cool breeze in. It was a beautiful day in Honoré, a clear day, not too hot, not too cold, just how Neville liked it. He was determined to be positive today, even if every time he closed his eyes his mind wandered to Florence and her date. No, he was going to throw himself into work, be the best DI he could be, and wish everything else away. But deep in his heart, he knew the moment Florence walked through that door he would be love-struck again, his body wracked with pining, enough to make him sick.
Just then, his phone vibrated in his pocket. Catherine was calling him.
"Catherine, hi," said Neville. "How are you?"
"Fine thanks, Neville. I'm just phoning to see how you are. I didn't see you all weekend," she said.
"I'm sorry, Catherine," replied Neville. "I meant to swing by, but I was on the phone with my family most of the weekend. I haven't spoken to them much since I got here."
"That's nice," she replied. "How do you feel about everything with Florence, now you've slept on it a few nights?"
Neville sighed. "I'm desperate to know how her date went, but at the same time I don't know if I want to put myself through the pain of knowing if it went really well."
"I know," replied Catherine. "I'm thinking of you."
"Thanks, Catherine. I'll stop by soon, I promise."
They said their goodbyes just as JP and Marlon barrelled into the station.
"Morning, Sir," they chorused.
"Morning guys. Good weekend?"
They exchanged pleasantries as Florence joined them.
"How was your date, Sarge?" JP asked. Neville was thankful he didn't have to be the one to ask. Florence's brow had furrowed for a second before JP reminded her. "At the weekend?"
"Oh, yes," she smiled, realisation dawning on her face. "It was fine."
"Just fine?" questioned Marlon. "Ouch."
"It's not that that," laughed Florence. "It's just… ah, I don't know. I wasn't really feeling it. I'm not sure if it's because I'm not ready yet for a date or if it's because we weren't really…" she trailed off. "I don't know."
Florence's eyes wandered to Neville. He forced a smile. "That's fair enough," he replied, trying to get an equal balance between interested and aloof.
"Do you think you'll see him again?" asked JP.
"I'm not sure," replied Florence, honestly. "I'll have to think about it."
Neville went and sat at his desk and turned on his computer, hearing the familiar whir of the air conditioning fans above. Florence wandered over to his desk after putting down her bag.
"Hey, are we still on for that drink this week?" she asked.
Neville looked up, trying to not fixate on the fact that she was leaning down to mutter to him, her hair flopping over her shoulder like a silk curtain. "Drink?" he asked, then kicked himself mentally. Now he sounded like his offer hadn't meant anything.
"You know the one you offered me when you came to my door?" she asked, a smile playing on her lips.
"Oh yes!" Neville laughed, perhaps a little forcefully. "Yes. Absolutely."
"Friday would be perfect," he told her.
Before he could embarrass himself further, he heard JP and Marlon chorus a "Commissioner" as the man himself stepped into the station. Neville got up and circled around Florence. "Commissioner," he said. "To what do we owe this pleasure?"
"I have come with an invitation," he said, simply. The Commissioner was never one to mince his words.
"An invitation?" asked Neville. "What's the occasion?"
"Mayor Bordey has decided to celebrate," he replied. "I have been the Police Commissioner on the island for the past twenty years."
"Twenty years!?" cried Marlon, forgetting his place.
The Commissioner turned to Marlon and eyeballed him. "Yes, Officer Pryce. Since before you were born.
"That's wonderful, Sir," said Florence. "What a great achievement."
"I think so, Sargent Cassell," agreed The Commissioner. "Mayor Bordey has arranged a masquerade ball that is being held on Thursday night at the golf club. I hope you will all take the night off and join me."
"Of course," said Neville. "We would be delighted."
"It's an honour for you to invite us, Sir," said JP.
"If there's a party, I'm there!" exclaimed Marlon, excitedly, then composed himself as The Commissioner looked at him out of the corner of his eye.
"Your invitations are in the post," The Commissioner said, and turned on his heels and left.
As he stepped out, everyone shared an excited look.
"A masquerade ball!" squealed Florence, clapping her hands together. "How exciting. I'm going to have to go shopping," she gushed, sitting down at her desk.
"Me too," sighed Neville. "I'm going to have to find something half decent to wear. Do you think it will be black-tie?" he asked aloud.
"No idea," shrugged Marlon.
"What are you going to wear?" Neville asked him.
Marlon shrugged again in reply. "Don't know," he said. "But what I do know is that if I look this good wearing this," he said, gesturing to his police uniform. "Then I can wear anything!" Neville scoffed at the young officer and returned to his desk.