Cleaning the fridge later that night, ready for moving out on Monday, Williams realised that everything he’d added to his notes this afternoon had been concerned with procedure and office communication. Remembering that he’d planned to think about how Sam Tyler would be with women, he wondered where to start.
He knew the change would have to be deeper and more dramatic than just a new smile, but Sam Williams did not understand women; sometimes he feared he never would.
“I’m always nice,” he’d protested to Pete after a particularly sharp rebuff from a young woman he’d got talking to at the library. “I always treat them like they’re intelligent reasoning beings. Some of the ones I meet at work actually are, so I’m not being patronising or anything.” Enjoying the conversation in the library, he had very daringly suggested dinner and had been resigned but nonetheless disappointed when she’d given him a cool smile and remarked that she didn’t think so, thank you very much.
“But they always seem to want more than that,” he went on, aggrieved. “It’s as if you’re supposed to acknowledge that they’re female but ignore it at the same time. I don’t know how to do that. Does everyone have that problem, or is it just me?”
Pete had laughed. “No good asking me, mate, you know I don’t have a way with women! But my sister - Julie, the one that’s getting married - she says women like a man that’s ‘confident but friendly’.” He looked at Williams speculatively. “And she thinks you’re gorgeous. She actually said that, the cheeky cow.”
Moving the neat row of condiment jars to clean under them, he thought about that one. Confident but friendly. Sam Tyler was going to have to believe in the sexy smile, and approach women with direct, cheerful confidence. Williams was not sure if he was looking forward to it. Whether he was or not, he thought, Sam Tyler definitely was going to be as charming as he knew how with women.
He still wasn’t sure if he could manage that, but with the kind of response he’d got from Susan and the girl in Records, he wondered if the confidence might develop on a sort of feedback loop. Not that he would become involved with anyone from the station of course - he had very strong views on mixing work and private life - and he couldn’t have a serious relationship with anyone, as he would need to be telling her lies about almost everything, starting with his name and date of birth.
But something, someone, just so he didn’t have to go home alone to an empty flat every night. He’d had enough of being on his own all the time; he had begun to fear he always would be, and it was not something he felt he could look forward to. Not and stay sane, anyway.
Closing the fridge door on half a pint of milk and Friday’s dinner ingredients he looked up at the clock – 9:15, not too late to try ringing Pete.
The foreign student hadn’t learnt much English since yesterday, but the words he did know were used effectively enough. “I not know this Pete. I not see this Pete. He not come to door. In Novi Sad is not this nuisance to phone every night.” There hadn’t been much he could say to that. Sitting down to watch the end of the News, he did his best not to calculate the days since he had last spoken to Pete, nor the hours until he would meet his temporary new DCI.
* * *
Williams lies in his bed, half-smiling in his sleep.
The sun is shining fiercely above. He hasn’t seen the sun for so long, and that’s not the only thing that is good about today. He’s going home at last.
The nurse sits down on the end of his bed. He knows they’re not really allowed to do that, but it’s the friendly one today. She’s nice; she gives him sweets sometimes. She’s not really allowed to do that either.
She has a big bright smile on her face. “I’ve got good news for you, Sam. The doctors have decided they’ve done everything they can for you, and now it’s time for you to get on with your life. It’s been lovely having you here, but I’m really pleased for you that you’ve made so much progress. You’re going to the Home tomorrow. Everything is ready for you there.”
She stands up gracefully and moves towards him as if to hug him, but something makes her stop. She looks at him compassionately and says merely, “You need to pack your bag, Sam. You’ve got a big day tomorrow.“
* * *
The sky is so bright after weeks indoors that he closes his eyes to protect them. He’s twelve years old, and going home at last.
When he wakes up he sees trees flashing past the window; there’s a strange crunching noise under the wheels.
The car draws up by a row of trees and a rather dilapidated building. Sammy gets out of the car and looks around, confused. The woman – he still does not understand who she is – gets out too.
“Where are we? Why are we here? Where’s Mum?”
“This is where you’re going to live now, Sam. There are very kind people here to look after you. You’ll make lots of friends; look, they’ve come out to meet you. We know you’ll be very happy here, when you get used to it.”
Williams goes rigid in his bed; he mutters loudly, “No, no, no!”
“NO! I want to go home. I want to see Mum!“
“But Sam - you know that’s not possible. We’ve explained all this to you. Your Mum isn’t there any more: she died, Sam, you know that. You’re only twelve years old; you have to live here.“
“I want to go home! I want to go to my house!”
“Sam, it’s not your house any more; someone else lives there now. You can’t live by yourself, Sam, you have to live here, where people can look after you. Now then, let’s go in and meet some people, shall we?”
And then he’s running, screaming, begging, kicking. “Let me go home! Please! I want to go home!”
“Grab the little...”
Begging, sobbing, whispering. “I want to go home.”
A man who looks a bit like Daddy walks up to him. “It’s OK, Sam, you’re quite safe. You need to come with me, Sam. Come on now.”
Williams smiles through the tears, and turns over in his bed.
... continued in Part 5