June West

Disclaimer: Same as always. June's new, though.

Author's Note: I'm prepared for you to not like this chapter, because it's so different from the other chapters, but either way;let me know what you think and what you think I could improve upon. I must admit, this chapter (which I wrote on the plane!) was going to be more from Rose and the Doctor's point of view, but I found myself sitting across from a woman just like 'June' and couldn't resist twisting it a bit.

"No, don't be giving him a second chance; throw him out, you dozy moo! Give her a slap and all!" the woman cried at the TV, oblivious to the fact that they couldn't hear her. She shook her head in disgust at the sniveling, greasy-haired woman falling to pieces on Trisha and dunked her biscuit in her tea with more force than was strictly necessary, before taking a noisy slurp.

The guests on Trisha always managed to annoy her; some of them really did deserve a good wallop and a talking-to for being so utterly pathetic. Especially today's barmy lot. What on earth made people want to talk about their family scandals on national television? It was shameful, honestly. Entertaining; yes; as good as an episode of Coronation Street on a good day but entirely ridiculous. To go on, you'd have to have no sense of pride or self-respect! The woman from across the street had been on the year before, blabbering on about her son who had nicked her benefits money and ran off to Tenerife with his girlfriend.

The poor woman hadn't even been able to pop down to the post office to buy a stamp without people gossiping about her, the poor thing. Mind you, she only had herself to blame; it was her own fault for going on. A woman like her; she really should have known better…

Today's topic was even worse. My husband's had an affair with my sister. Now we're both pregnant!" read the white lettering across the bottom of the screen.

Still, she loved it, though and sat down to watch it every day with a cup of tea and two chocolate digestives after she'd finished the ironing. She was in her mid sixties and had just retired, having worked in a supermarket for the best part of thirty years. What else was retirement for, if not for the indulgence of watching a little bit of daytime TV now and again?

There was suddenly a sharp rap at the door and she got to her feet huffily, setting down her teacup with a clatter; displeased to be interrupted when she was in the middle of watching something.

"Who's this then, Max?" she said to her cat, bending down to give him a quick stroke as he came slinking round the corner and she shuffled to the front door, her backless slippers thwacking against the busily patterned carpet.

She latched and unlocked the door, opening it a crack so she could peer out suspiciously. She came face to face with a slim, blonde woman wearing a denim jacket and smudged mascara, (carrying, oddly enough; a child's silver inflatable bag) who looked taken aback for a moment before smiling widely at her, her eyes crinkling. Oh hell's teeth; another one of those women selling Tupperware boxes and other tat. Or collecting money for charity…either way they were a pain in the neck. Banging on her door at all hours, talking nonsense. Sick to death of them, she was.

"I ain't interested in anything you're selling, darlin'," she told the woman grouchily, making to shut the door again, but the woman stopped her.

"Wait!" she pleaded. "June West?" she prompted, her eyebrows raised desperately, one hand on the door.

"Who's asking, then?" said June sharply, looking the woman up and down as if she were some dodgy sort of street beggar.

"I'm err…it's about Jackie Tyler," said the blonde woman apologetically. "Can we come in?"

"Oh my God, what's happened to her?" demanded June, her voice high-pitched and panicky.

Jackie Tyler was one of her closest friends; they'd lived next door to each other for a good nine years. She went to Jackie to have her hair done every month; a cut, a perm and an awful lot of gossiping. She could work wonders with scissors could Jackie Tyler and she was the chattiest, bubbliest woman in the world.

They went out for a drink together every Friday night; just the one down the pub and then they'd share a Chinese from the takeaway and go back to Jackie's flat to watch a nice bit of TV with a bottle of wine and put the world to rights, regardless of the age-gap between them.

Course, there was Rose as well; Jackie's little daughter, though seeing as she'd be starting Jericho Street Comprehensive in September, she didn't suppose she could carry on calling her 'little' for very much longer. A right pretty thing she was, too, even if she was a bit on the quiet side. She looked after Rose whenever Jackie went out for any long periods of time; doing hair for weddings or special occasions.

Whenever Jackie had a full-day job, June was there to keep an eye on Rose and she was terribly fond of her. What with having two grown-up children who had both left home and no grandchildren, Rose was the closest thing June had to a granddaughter.

"No, no; she's all right," said the blonde woman quickly, waving her hands at her, as if attempting to calm an angry bull. "It's just, she's not in and…" she gestured helplessly to her right; to something June couldn't see.

Curiously, she opened the door properly to see a tall, dark-haired man in a suit and long brown coat carrying…

"Jesus alive! That's Rose!" she exclaimed, reaching out to touch her pale, green-streaked forehead, squeaking at the sight of her white, caked eyes. "What's happened to her? What's all this muck? Oh my God it's in her eyes! She could end up blind!" she demanded furiously, reeling out questions at the speed of a machine gun, looking from the man to the woman.

"Can we err, just get her in first?" asked the man pointedly. June's eyes snapped to him. He had a very pleasant voice, she thought; no trace of a Cockney accent, (unlike the blonde woman, who sounded as if she'd probably grown up in or very near to the area) but he was definitely from the South. Oxfordshire perhaps?

There was something about the mild, charismatic way in which he spoke which instantly captured her attention and she found herself doing exactly what he asked her. She gave them both appraising stares before standing aside begrudgingly for them to pass into her flat. He was a man with whom it would not be easy to argue, she thought; like one of those lawyer-type men. Whoever he was…

"What the hell's going on?" she asked angrily, stomping into the living room after the two strangers (the blonde had led the way somewhat unsurely looking round furtively as if she'd been there before and was checking to make sure everything was in its correct place) and planting her hands on her hips as she watched the tall man place Rose onto the crumb-covered faded pink settee, for want of anywhere else to put her. The living room was small and stuffy; holding only a settee, a patterned reading lamp and an archway leading directly through to the kitchen.

"And who are you?" she demanded, looking mistrustfully from the blonde woman, who was stood aimlessly between the door and the window, looking as out of place as a slice of ham in a fruit bowl, to the tall man bending over Rose.

"John Smith," said the tall man, straightening up and striding over to stand beside the blonde woman, holding out a leather wallet with an official-looking gold embossed Detective Inspector's badge to June, whose eyes widened. "And this is my colleague; Lewis," he said motioning to the woman beside him, who nodded and smiled reassuringly.

"You part of them plain-clothes police officers lot?" asked June sharply, her eyes raking over the blonde woman, who was dressed extremely casually and looked very unkempt; her hair was all over the place and her make-up was smudged. "Like in The Bill?"

For the briefest of nanoseconds, there was an unsure silence in which the tall man surreptitiously tilted his leather wallet round in order to look at it, as if checking to see if it held the right information and the woman's smile became rather fixed.

"Yeah, that's right," said the blonde woman confidently. 'Lewis,' the man had called her. Funny sort of name for a woman. Must be her surname, surely? She didn't look very much like a police officer, to be honest and neither did the tall DI man, but these days, who could go on appearances?

" What happened to her?" she repeated forcefully, turning her attention back to the unconscious Rose sprawled on her settee, after shooting daggers at the two police officers, as if they were personally responsible for her state. "Why's she unconscious? Does she not need and ambulance? Is she even breathing?" she shrieked, getting herself worked up into half-hysteria, her ring-clad hands coming up to cover her mouth, her eyes beginning to fill up as she gazed at Rose, her expression pained.

She'd managed to get over the original shock of two police officers and Rose turning up on her doorstep, but now she'd collected her wits, something snapped inside her, and seeing Rose lying there looking half-dead on a settee that she usually sat up in eating her tea off a tray with a glass of Diet Coke watching Art Attack, or playing with her vast collection of Polly Pocket's…it was enough to make her feel cold, and she was aware that she was beginning to lose her head.

"We err, we found Rose in the park," said the Lewis woman tentatively; placing the inflatable bag she was holding on the floor beside her. June crossed her arms across her chest, her eyes severe as she perched on the edge of the settee beside Rose's head, listening raptly. "She was all upset and crying and said that some boys had been throwing stuff at her and…"

"We thought it best to escort her home," said the DI, talking over his colleague as he stood by the windowsill with his hands in his pockets looking over at Rose, seeming to sense that June was in no mood to listen to his blonde, blabbering companion.

"I mean, she's fine," continued Lewis, shooting a thankless glance at him. "But she wasn't walking very well," she said sympathetically and shaking her head, looking regretful. "So we decided to carry her and she…dozed off."

June blinked in surprise; dozed off? She looked from the little girl lying beside her to the woman standing by the window, who seemed distinctly uncomfortable, as if she'd been hauled up to speak in assembly, about to say something biting and sarcastic about Rose 'dozing off' and Lewis' ignorance, bus she stopped herself. She swallowed her words, gazing intently at the blonde woman in the same way as one would look at someone you recognised from somewhere but could not place. She seemed…so familiar. She recognised that look…that unsure, wan expression. Who did she remind her of? This Lewis woman? Eeh now, who was she thinking of?

"It's her body's natural reaction to the shock," supplied the DI matter-of-factly, and as June tore her gaze away from Lewis, who had paled at June's staring, she saw that he looked vaguely panicky, as if he were desperate to distract June's attentions. "Certain circumstances, particularly ones of acute distress and fright can cause someone as young as Rose to err go into a temporal dormant state. It's perfectly normal," he assured her. June just looked at him blankly. It took her a while to work out what he meant. These high-up authority men never put things simply, did they?

"Best to let her sleep it off," chipped in Lewis, kindly. "Learnt that during our first week of police training; how to deal with post-shock trauma," she said, smiling placidly at June, but shooting a weighted look at her DI, as if to say, "For-heavens-sake-watch-what-you're-saying!" But June, who had nodded impatiently at Lewis' unnecessary advice was far too preoccupied with smoothing Rose's forehead and feeling, (incorrectly…as June's only medical knowledge came from watching Casualty and ER) for broken bones to notice.

"Anyway, she gave us her address but there's been no answer at her flat and our records have you down as her emergency contact," said Lewis, almost apologetically, watching as June attempted to rub off the strange white substance from Rose's face with a tissue she retrieved from up her sleeve with little effect.

"Well, I'm her babysitter, aren't I?" said June shortly, her knees giving an audible crick as she got to her feet and bustled into the kitchen. She reappeared a second later with a damp dishcloth, looking like a dinner lady on the warpath.

"Known her since she was tiny," she continued, crouching down by the settee and scrubbing at Rose's dirty face.

"Do you know where her mum is?" asked the DI concernedly, exchanging a quick glance with Lewis, who was watching June tend to Rose with an odd expression on her face.

"Out," said June waspishly, putting her top teeth over her bottom lip as she worked, dabbing at Rose's face gently. She laid the dishcloth over her arm, like one of those foreign waiter's after she'd finished, leaning forwards to inspect her handiwork as an artist might look at a newly-finished painting. Rose's face looked clean, if a little pink from the coarse fabric of the dishcloth, and her fringe was damp but the streaks of green and the white, flour-like substance had gone. "Got a booking at short-notice. Said she'd be back round half four-ish, mind."

She stood up and made her way over to the opposite end of the settee, to where Rose's feet were sticking out over the armrest. "Oh, I knew this was going to happen sooner or later," she muttered to herself as she unfastened Rose's shoes and gently prised them off her feet. She looked up jerkily as a catfight broke out on Trisha, accompanied by lots of female shrieking and pathetic hair pulling, still holding on to Rose's scuffed black shoes.

"Give her a good hiding, love," she said encouragingly to the sniffy dark-haired woman on TV, for a moment quite forgetting the strangers in the living room, as well as the little girl she was fussing over.

The tall man cleared his throat, as if to remind her that they were still there.

"Ooh, sorry," squeaked June, now pulling off Rose's socks and diving to find the remote, which had evidently been knocked off the settee and onto the floor at some point. "See that bloke there, though?" she said, pointing at the screen. "Did the dirty on his wife with her own sister and now they're both up the duff!"

"That's lovely," said the DI in a deadpan voice, barely glancing at the TV screen. "About Rose," he said pointedly, discreetly elbowing Lewis before she could become too distracted by Trisha.

"Oh yes! Well I told Jackie, I did," shrilled June, remembering what she'd been about to say and looking rather indignant, waving the remote at him before using it to switch off the TV, where it flickered and crackled into the silence of a blank, black screen.

"I told her something would happen with those boys if she wasn't careful. It was those boys wasn't it? That horrible lot who follow her home?" Now look what they've done to her," she said passionately, gesturing at the little girl lying on the settee, her breathing slow and snuffly.

"Been getting bullied for years, she has and still the school hasn't done anything about it! Had Jackie round here in tears the other day! She blames herself; the poor love; says it's all her fault and that she should've taken better care of her! Madness, isn't it? I mean there's only so much you can do; you can't wrap them up in cotton wool, can you? Not that you'd know yourselves, by the looks of you, though."

She looked passively at them both. The woman; Lewis must be in her early twenties, and looking at her figure, it was fairly clear that she'd never had any children, and the DI, well he just didn't seem the type to have a nice little family to go home to at the end of the day, somehow. Oh no; they were childless, the both of them.

Her impromptu rant, which made her sound like a fired-up pensioner complaining about the increase in the price of toilet roll, was met with silence by the two police officers, who gaped back at her, unsure of how to respond.

"Her mum blames herself?" said Lewis at last, who for some reason had turned faintly pink, her eyes flickering over Rose's messy hair and stained clothes.

"Yes," sighed June, clucking her tongue. "But don't you be looking like that!" she snapped, suddenly overly defensive, causing Lewis to jump. "It's nonsense! Jackie's a good mother to Rose! God knows; not many would have coped on their own but she has and I reckon she's doing a good job, so don't you dare be bringing the Social round here!"

Lewis simply stared at her as if she'd suddenly started gabbling in a foreign language, shocked at her angry outburst, which had seemingly come out of nowhere.

"I…I didn't say anything about the…"

The DI grazed a hand against Lewis' arm to silence her. "Mrs. West," he said soothingly.

"Our only objective was to make sure that Rose returned home safely. I can assure you that the Social Services won't be getting involved at all."

June scowled, looking like she was sucking on a lemon. It was Lewis' tone that she'd objected to. Jumped-up madam. Probably relish the chance to report Jackie; to get yet another Powell Estate kid taken into care. They were all the same; these police women; nosy, no-good, snitching nuisances.

Despite her years, she was not like one of those weak-willed old women who were likely to be swindled out of their life-savings by a man selling double glazing, like Gladys on the floor above, and she was determined to show these two modern, quick-talking police officers that knocking on her door in the middle of Trisha and dropping her off like a bag of shopping simply wasn't acceptable. Not by any means.

"Oh yes?" Then what are you going to do, then; if you're not going to get the social involved?" she said, waving her dishcloth at them in annoyance. "What are you going to do about that scummy lot who've been making her life a misery, hmmm?" she challenged, looking from the DI to Lewis, like an icy headmistress surveying two unruly pupils.

The two police officers looked at each other awkwardly.

"We can talk to the school…get in touch with their parents," offered Lewis, evidently trying to sound optimistic, but aware that, with someone like June her words would go down like a lead balloon. "But other than that…they're too young to be arrested," she said regretfully.

"Too young!" cried June in outrage. "Oh yes; too young to be arrested, but old enough to attack her! It's disgraceful!" She glared at her two visitors, scrunching the dishcloth from hand to hand in obvious agitation; neither of who seemed particularly comfortable and were standing pressed close to the wall, as if they were attempting to blend in with the decidedly 70's style wallpaper, backing away from an attacking tiger.

She stood with her hands on her hips, breathing hard through her nose like an angry rhinoceros.

"I'll tell you what I'll do, though" she said after a brief pause, seizing on a sudden, ill thought-through brainwave. "I'll phone that boy's grandma! What's he called? The one with a face like a monkey's arse? Oh!" she pressed her knuckles to her head in deep thought. "That Todd menace! Yes that's it!" she crowed, clapping her hands in self-congratulation. "I've been wanting to have a word with Ethel Todd ever since she diddled me at the Bingo!"

She gave a short, barking laugh. A smoker's rasping chuckle that betrayed that, once upon a time she'd been on twenty a day.

The DI and Lewis both nodded, deciding to humour her; at loss at how to deal with this fiery, imposing woman swinging a dishcloth backwards and forwards.

"Yeah, you do that," said Lewis, smiling warmly at her, sounding genuinely encouraging, yet her DI pulled on his ear and shook his head in a 'Why-am-I-here?' sort of way.

June clicked her fingers at Lewis, obviously a housewife meaning business.

"You couldn't pop through and put my kettle on, could you? It's just through in the kitchen," she added unnecessarily. "Beside the window. I had a cuppa before but it'll be stone cold now, I s'pect," she said in a long-suffering tone, rearranging her cardigan around herself.

Lewis raised her eyebrows, giving a surprised smile, as if taken aback that she was being given orders, but nevertheless she nodded smartly and squeezed past her into the kitchen, shooting a smirk over her shoulder at her DI, which fortunately June didn't catch. She'd spotted a soup stain on her front, and was busy trying to rub it off with a licked thumb, much to the DI's chagrin.

"Bring me my clean washing in as well, would you, love? It's piled up on the draining board," she called after her, as an afterthought. She sounded like one of those women who sold fruit in the street on market days. The ones who bawled, 'Three punnits of cherries for a pound!' after you and left your ears ringing. Voices like a foghorn.

"I never go on the phone without a good cup of tea," she told the DI, who smiled, feigning interest as he rocked on the balls of his feet. "I mean, you never know who you're going to end up talking to, do you?"

She sighed; chest heaving and saving him from answering as Lewis came back through into the living room carrying a bundle of pastel-coloured t-shirts and flowery patterned elastic leggings with elastic round the bottom.

"Not much for a nine year old girl, is there?" she said, casting a critical eye over the pile of washing that Lewis was holding. "Just have to make the best of it, I suppose. Give them here," she ordered, taking the clothes from Lewis and rifling through them until she picked out a pale pink t-shirt. "Do as a dress, that will," she decided, shaking it out and holding it against Rose for size.

"Better than her uniform; yeah," agreed Lewis nodding approvingly.

There was suddenly a very heavy, awkward silence, in which nobody spoke, having quite run out of anything adequate to say. June looked pointedly at the small, ceramic clock above the TV and Lewis glanced at the DI, looking to follow his lead.

"Right then," he chirped at last, as Lewis knocked his arm with hers. "I think we'd better be going, Lewis. Can't be out chasing after muggers and vandals and whatnot if we're standing in Mrs. West's front room now, can we?" he said bracingly, looking from June to Lewis. " And I believe you still owe me a report from Stanchion House…"

"Yessir," replied Lewis dutifully, shifting as if beginning to make her way out.

"You falling behind on your paperwork, then?" nosed June as she shepherded them towards her front door. Oh but that was a stupid question. Of course she was probably behind on her paperwork; she was young; she probably went out drinking till all hours and then clocked into her shift with a hang-over…just like they did in The Bill last week.

"Erm…a bit, yeah," said Lewis, looking startled, smiling apologetically at June, (who sniffed disdainfully) and frowning at her DI. "Anyway; we'll be off now, then," she said, moving to open June's front door before pausing and turning back around to face her properly. "Thanks for looking after…Rose," she finished, waving her hand in the general direction of the living room.

June ruffled at that.

"Well why wouldn't I look after her? You see if I don't!" she trilled, sounding quite offended. "A good dose of Calpol and she'll be as right as rain, she will," she chirped, with a glance back into the living room.

Lewis nodded once as if in clarification, giving June a small smile before she opened the door with a loud squeak before leading the way out of the flat and into the shabby hallway outside.

June stood at the doorway, like a human bulldog, watching as Lewis and the DI made their way towards the staircase. She stared at the retreating Lewis; at her messy blonde hair and scuffed trainers as she walked beside the tall DI. Oooh she still couldn't put her finger on what it was that she found so familiar about her…what was it? Her eyes? The way she walked? It was definitely something…but she couldn't think of what, of who the blonde woman reminded her of…

"What's your mum's maiden name?" June shouted after her, poking her head around the door, before she could stop herself. Good grief. Standing shouting after people on the doorstep…she was like Vera Duckworth!

Lewis turned in surprise, as if unsure whether she was referring to herself or the DI.

"Harkness," she said clearly, with a slight glance at the tall man beside her, who had frozen at the top of the stairs. She looked appropriately wrong-footed and put out; confused as to why June wanted to know about her mum. "My mum's maiden name's 'Harkness'," she repeated unsurely, taking half across the hallway back towards June. "Why?"

June dithered, trying to back-pedal. "No matter, love," she said, giving a would-be-casual shrug. "'S just you look familiar, that's all and I…wondered if you were from round here. I know most people. Don't know no one called 'Harkness', though," she mused, sounding mildly disappointed.

She shook her head, as if to shake herself out of a daze and looked back at Lewis, who seemed slightly apprehensive for some reason.

"Right," said Lewis, evidently unsure of how to reply to that. "Ok…bye, then," she said, turning back round and beginning the long descent down the stairs, with one last glance back over her shoulder at June, the DI slightly in front.

"Ta ta," June mumbled to herself, still not being able to shake off the feeling that she knew that woman from somewhere.

She tilted her head to the side, listening to the two sets of retreating footsteps on the stairs, and the low hum of voices as Lewis and the DI began to talk, quietly. Discussing the downfalls of the Powell Estate, probably; like those two uniformed officers who had come to take a statement from Mrs. Next Door's husband about some stolen power tools. Very rude, they'd been. One of them had suggested that the estate would be vastly improved if they let the local yobs run riot with steamrollers and bulldozers, while the other had laughed, unkindly.

She didn't like the police, if she was being honest. They were like politicians; said one thing, then did another. Lewis and the DI man…well they hadn't done much to convince her otherwise, had they?

"What a pair," she chuntered, as she pulled the door shut behind her with a loud bang. Too young to be arrested, indeed! A chocolate fireguard would be far more useful. Still, that was the police for you; they'd do anything to get out of doing their job! Really, what had Blondie and DI fancy-pants done? Picked Rose up and brought her home like some sort of dead goose…not much!

Considering that, actually, it was a good thing that they'd had the decency to bring her home; who knows what would have happened if she'd been left in the park? The haunt of gangs and dealers…oh no; it wasn't worth even thinking about! Not for a second!

She was glad that Rose was safe and sound, anyway, and she'd leave it at that.

This DI Smith and Lewis, though…well she'd never have believed they were police officers if she hadn't seen his ID wallet. Just what sort of idiots did the Met employ these days? Oh, it was never like this in The Bill

She shuffled back through into the living room agitatedly, feeling thoroughly bad-tempered about her unwanted visitors, but her face softened when her gaze fell on Rose; lying there on the settee like a discarded doll. Bless her. It would be a shame to wake her, but she couldn't let her stay like that, could she? All damp and cold; she'd catch her death!

Very gently, with the expert tenderness that only a mother could have, she sat on the edge of the settee again and stripped off Rose's school uniform, leaving it in a heap on the floor, and pulled one of her own pink t-shirts over Rose's shoulders, bundling her arms into the sleeves.

"Here you go, my darling," she cooed as she finished, pulling the cotton fabric down over Rose's knees as she mumbled something in her sleep and rolled over, but still didn't wake up.

'Let her sleep it off', that Lewis woman had said, and for all she seemed like one of those types that were more beauty than brains, her caution did at least seem sensible. What was there that a good sleep couldn't solve?

No, no; she'd leave Rose there to have a little lie-down to put herself to rights. Would she be warm enough, though; dressed as she was in just an over-large t-shirt?

Dubiously, June retrieved a crocheted wooly blanket from underneath the settee,( the one she kept for when it was particularly cold during the winter and she didn't want to chance putting her heating on in case her electricity bill came in too high) and draped it over Rose; just in case.

Stooping, she picked up Rose's discarded uniform, making a face at the slime stained jumper, damp skirt and muddy socks and carried the disgusting articles through into the kitchen, between her thumb and first finger. She dumped them into the sink, which she filled with hot soapy water and left them to steep. Goodness, it had been years since she'd had to wash things by hand! Oh dear… it was like being in the 50's all over again!

She sighed to herself as she poured water from the warm kettle, (that Lewis woman had at least been good for something) into a red Kit Kat cup and busied herself with making the tea. She liked it extremely weak with lots of sugar so that it took on the same sort of colour as chicken soup and left mounds of clear sugar crystals at the bottom, as well as a thin film of sugary scum all up one side.

Noisily, she stirred in three heaped teaspoons of sugar and carried it over to the wobbly kitchen table, covered as it was in the remains of her lunch. A dirty bowl holding the remains of cold tomato soup lay beside a plate of chewed crusts and orange peel messily wrapped up in kitchen roll. She pushed them to one side lazily, vowing that she'd clear them away properly later and sat herself down comfortably, reaching for the phone, which was hanging on the wall.

Out of habit, she wrapped the cord several times around her hand and pressed the receiver to her ear with her shoulder before punching in the number of one of her best friends on absolute autopilot. It was a number she called at least four times a day.

"Cathy, it's me," she said in her usual no-nonsense manner as soon as she heard her friend pick up. "Listen, have you got…oh has he? Oh that's good isn't it? Good for him! Eeh how old's he now? He's not? Seventeen? Mind! Well make sure he uses his discount, won't you? I'm telling you, they do Madeira cake to die for; it's fluffy and light as anything…yes…mmh-hmm. No, no I was just wondering if you had Ethel Todd's phone number? No, not in ages…oh, good…what's that now? Oh I know…I wouldn't stand for it. Hold on a minute, love, would you?"

She was distracted from their usual gossiping, with Cathy telling her all about how her grandson had managed to get himself a Saturday job at Marks and Spencer, and June herself trying to get a word in edgeways about what had happened to Rose Tyler and exactly why she needed Ethel Todd's phone number, by a movement in the street outside the window.

Still attached to the phone, she stood and made her way round the table to the kitchen window, above the clothes-filled sink, and pulled aside the white net curtain, upsetting the colourful row of washing up liquid, hand soap, bleach and kitchen cleaner bottles that were lined up on the windowsill as she did so, to look out.

Nosiness had always been a particular fault of hers; she was forever peering around curtains and even through letterboxes to watch the goings-on in the estate. Well, it filled in half an hour or two, didn't it? Being nosy wasn't a crime, and plus; it gave her something to talk about on the phone, didn't it? When Mrs. Whoever in flat 42 had chucked her husband out, she'd been there at the window, gawping as she'd emptied his clothes out into the street from the balcony, like a scene from Eastenders. And then when there'd been that fight in the car park between those two teenage girls; she'd watched that, too; tutting and shaking her head at every slap.

Her kitchen window looked out onto the back of the Powell Estate. The view was grey and dreary; all concrete buildings and weed-strewn pavements. Normally, the only people who frequented that area at this time of the day were the vagrants and the homeless. It didn't become a hive of activity until nightfall; when all the estate's truly shady characters came out. Dealing and selling their stolen goods. Yet now, two people emerged from round the corner and ambled right into her viewpoint. These two figures were what had captured her attention, and set her gossip alarm bells ringing, pricking her natural nosiness. They were close enough so that, if they were to turn around she would be able to see their faces and read their expressions; get some inkling as to what they were doing; yet they had their backs turned to her.

She recognised them both; a man and a woman. The man was tall and thin, with a shock of messy dark hair, wearing a suit and a long brown overcoat, whereas the woman was blonde- bleach blonde by the looks of it; she could definitely do with a bit of a trim; it was at that awkward, untidy stage in-between cuts, and she was dressed in black trousers and a battered denim jacket. Behold; DI Smith and his female colleague; Lewis. Again.

But what were they doing? They were heading in entirely the wrong direction for the police station; that was towards the city center, and they didn't seem to be in any hurry, either. They were just meandering along, as if they had all the time in the world. Surely police officers weren't being paid to take a nice little stroll?

She frowned as DI Smith and Lewis came to a halt beside a bin, overflowing with crisp packets, beer cans and take-away cartons and turned to look at each other properly. What were they talking about, June wondered, leaning her head against the glass in a better attempt to see. Oh, if only she could lip-read!

The woman; Lewis; she looked well… not upset, exactly, just a little bit unsure and perhaps a bit lost, like a child, and she was looking up at her DI with doe-eyes. Oooh, the waterworks would be turned on, soon! Playing the overly sensitive policewoman card, was she? Hmmm, what for? She was never after her DI, was she? Mr. Skinny?

"Ooh, hang about," June murmured darkly, as the DI suddenly pulled her into a very tight, very close hug, lifting her up off the ground slightly so that her trainer-clad feet were left dangling, and she hugged him back, wrapping her arms around his neck.

Well, really! Public displays of affection always made her feel slightly nauseous, but on the job? Disgusting! She tutted and gave a long-suffering sigh as they slowly broke apart, after standing entwined for a good few minutes and exchanged smiles before resuming their walk across the estate, this time holding hands like two lovesick and dippy teenagers.

Office romance. Had to be. No wonder she'd claimed to be behind on her paperwork...

She watched them walking until they turned the corner beside the garages; the doors of which were rusty with cracked paint, and they were out of sight. Yet before they disappeared completely, June saw Lewis rest her head against the DI's shoulder as they walked. Now, if they weren't together then June was a fire-breathing squirrel. Well, as together as their job would allow; sooner or later they'd be found out…somehow, she didn't think the police were supposed to wander around hand-in-hand on their patrols.

"That'll not last long," she said skeptically, quite forgetting that she was still on the phone.

"Oh no, no; I don't mean your grandson's job," she placated her friend, who had shrilly leapt to his defence, like the ever-doting grandmother she was. "No, I'm talking about these two police officers in the street…just had them round at my flat, haven't I? And now they're holding hands and hugging in the street like nobody's business! No…I'm sure it's not allowed…definitely against policy. I should write and complain to their superintendent, shouldn't I? Disgraceful is what it is…oh no; they were here about Jackie Tyler's little girl. S'why I need to speak to Ethel Todd; lazy moo that she is…well, little Rose Tyler turned up on my doorstep today with two police officers and…

It was a good hour and a half later that a very dry-mouthed June finally got off the phone, having twice complained bitterly about the behaviour of the police; exchanged opinions on this afternoon's quality of Trish; discussed what the TV Guide had printed about tonight's episode of Eastenders, and most importantly, given Ethel Todd a good ear-wagging about the way she was bringing up her awful grandson.

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