ACT 2 EXT. BRUMLEE, SECTION 5 - TODAY A figure shimmies across the rooftops of the city. Jorvik Tiago, but not as we know him. Gone is the military cut and fatigues. And in its place, a long-haired, wild-eyed man. Yet he has lost none of his physical power. JORVIK And if you shall sin, so shall you repent, and wrath shall rain on thee! (bursts into song) Now so long, Marianne, it's time that we began To laugh and cry and cry and laugh about it all again (stops singing) The day of wrath, that day will dissolve the world in ashes. He looks around. JORVIK'S POV: We see Brumlee as it was, a mere ten years ago. The resplendent Capital of the Republic of Londonium. Glassy skyscrapers jostle for space with five hundred year-old buildings. The streets are clean, and people going about their business as they do everyday in other great cities-- Paris, New York, and London --. He sees a packed stadium, where MJS is about to deliver a speech...In Latin. She catches his eye and blows him a kiss. Jorvik jumps up, catches the kiss and eats it furiously. Laughter breaks him out of his hallucination. He is in the Brumlee of today. And in front of what looks to be a place of worship. A temple perhaps? He knocks on the great brass handle. A man opens the door. MAN So you're the one. (smiling) Its not everyday one is so lucky as to meet the messiah... That is, if you are the messiah...I've waited a long time for you. Jorvik follows him in. The hall is empty . Ascetic. MAN (CONT'D) Something to drink? Water? Wine? I suppose you could manage that quite well yourself, if you wanted to. Jorvik trembles. The MAN watches. The trembling turns into a full on fit. The man still stands over Jorvik, watching. JORVIK (struggling) Help.. The man raises his hand and PLUNGES a syringe into Jorvik's neck, emptying it into him. The fitting gradually ceases. JORVIK (CONT'D) Thank you. The Man nods. He surveys Jorvik as a cat would a near-dead mouse. The faintest smile playing on his face. JORVIK (CONT'D) Jorvik Ti... PAPA PIETO ..ago. I know. The Great Martyr of the Blackout. The Messiah of the Final Chapter. Our conduit to Otherworld. JORVIK I need the guide. PAPA PIETO Dont we all... Papa Pieto takes out a roll from under the altar table. Hands it to Jorvik. PAPA PIETO (CONT'D) Maps. Jorvik nods. PAPA PIETO (CONT'D) If you need more supplies, we have them. We have everything you need. Just don't fail us... Messiah. Jorvik spreads the parchment out. It is the blueprint of the Governor's Palace which houses all foreign dignitaries. But rather than the blueprint of the actual architecture, it is the blueprint of the underground bunkers that run through the length of Commonwealth Avenue, the Main thoroughfare in Brumlee and the one with all the important Government buildings in it. In a corner of the map, a stick- figure moves across one of the corridors in the map, which becomes... INT. UNDERGROUND BUNKER, MINISTRY OF SCIENCE - CONTINUOUS Gia walking across the corridor towards her boss's Office. She is on the phone and looks as always, completely fabulous. A genius wrapped in a bombshell, Gia has not only survived her last bruising encounter with MJS, but has thrived here, as Deputy Head of development in the Ministry of Science and Industry. GIA Yes, Mama Rose... I got the waiver last night. Till ten. I can stay out till ten... Its just a few hours after the curfew... OK, five hours after... I have to work Mama Rose... Look, I have to go now... I'm just about to step into a meeting... Mama Rose... I love you. She knocks on the door. KRISTOF Come in! Gia walks in to find Kristof Campbell (65) on all fours under the table. GIA Have you had the meeting? KRISTOF I'm fine thank you Gia, how about you? GIA Kristof... you know this is important. KRISTOF Can you reach down here and get that ball? The damn thing has lodged itself between the desk and the wall and my hands are too big... Gia fishes for Kristof's golf ball at the back of the desk and hands it to him. They both sit uncomfortably under the desk. GIA Well..? KRISTOF We talked about safety parameters. What the expedition would entail.. How far we could go without any further cost to human life. It is a very dangerous thing we are proposing... GIA I know it is... I did the calculations... I found the seam... KRISTOF Of course you did. You're the cleverest scientist, no, the cleverest human I know-- and someone who's indispensable to the project.... GIA Then I'm going? Unfortunately, KRISTOF No. GIA That vengeful bitch! She would nix it wouldn't she? KRISTOF She didn't. I did Gia. GIA What? KRISTOF You're indispensable. I cannot risk your life up north. Not you. GIA You won't have to. I'll lead the team up there, we'll find the seam. Set mining domains and come back before you know it. It's the easiest way. KRISTOF We can't risk it Gia. We can't risk you going there. GIA Why? KRISTOF For a genius you're remarkably dense sometimes. GIA Stop being a shit Kristof. KRISTOF Not to mention rather offensive. GIA For the past ten years. I've worked on nothing but this. This is everything I've ever wanted. I've risked curfew, I've lied to stay on past time, I've given up my life. For this. And now you tell me I can't have it? KRISTOF No Gia. Now I tell you, that its time to let the science take over. GIA Are you going? KRISTOF Yes. I have to. GIA Fuck you Kristof. She scurries out on all fours at first, and then marches out as proudly as she can under the circumstances. EXT. BRUMLEE, SECTION 2 - EVENING Vira and Frito walk through the street. Frito carries her doll, as always. Brumlee is battening down for the curfew. The street is quieter. In fact it is much too quiet. They turn the corner... And see Jean Claude. He is carrying a tin bowl of rice and beans in the crook of his arm. JEAN CLAUDE Hey Vira! Frito! What a coincidence! I was just on my way to your place. FRITO Really? JEAN CLAUDE Yeah. I shouldn't have chased you off like that. Friends again? (holding out the bowl ) For you. On me. He is both sweating and grinning... sweating, and grinning. Vira looks into his eyes. There's something odd about the man today... FUCK! VIRA Frito. RUN! GO! Jean Claude leaps on Frito but she shoves him off. She RUNS from the scene, in the opposite direction of Vira. Vira RUNS! Two THUGS APPEAR from behind a cart give CHASE. She DUCKS into an alleyway. The thugs RUN after her. She JUMPS into a shack and then OUT through the window. The THUGS FOLLOW still.. She LEAPS...onto a tin roof. She looks behind her. The thugs are nowhere around. She SWINGS down into a room...to find Thug One (Buck) waiting for her. OOPS! She SWINGS back up like a trapeze artist executing a turn. ONWARDS over the rooftops. The thugs after her. Vira LEAPS DOWN over stacks of boxes outside Rusty's Bar. A cycle leans agaisnt the wall. Vira picks it up and RIDES FULL TILT out of the gates of West Brumlee. A sign reads: Welcome to West Brumlee. Curfew hours 5 p.m. to 5 am. And below it, a clock that shows the time: 4: 33 p.m.. EXT. STREETS OF BRUMLEE, SECTION 2 - CONTINUOUS Frito RUNS as fast as her little powerful body will take her, her doll tucked into her belt. She barrels through the alleyway and runs SMACK INTO a hustling ice-cream cart, sending cart and vendor sprawling on the street. VENDOR ..the fuck? You goddamn retard. FRITO (forceful) I have Downs. Im not a retard. ICE CREAM VENDOR Well get those goddamn popsicles back into my cart Downs. Before I smack you on the head. Frito starts gathering the popsicles and putting them back in the toppled cart. She spots a strawberry explosion. It has burst out of its wrapper FRITO Can I have this strawberry explosion? She hands him five dollars. VENDOR Sure Downs. Take that one. He takes the five dollars. FRITO I need 50 cents back. ICE CREAM VENDOR What the fuck did you say? FRITO I need 50 cents back. Please. ICE CREAM VENDOR Fucking retard. Now get outta my way freak, before the curfew gets us both. FRITO (holding her ground) I want my 50 cents. ICE CREAM VENDOR Listen freak. I don't got no 50 cents left to give you back. Let it go. FRITO Vira said I need 50 cents back. ICE CREAM VENDOR Well you tell your Vira... to go fuck herself, OK? (mutters under his breath) Fucking retard. FRITO I am NOT a RETARD! She BARRELS into the Vendor, THROWING him against the wall. VENDOR You bitch! He SWINGS at Frito, LANDING A PUNCH square in her jaw. She BURSTS out crying. The vendor KICKS Frito across the street And onto... EXT. STREET, SECTION 2 - CONTINUOUS Two burly men walking home. MAN 1 Hey! (recognizing Frito) You leave this kid alone! He GRABS the Vendor and PUNCHES him. A crowd gathers around. Oh, this is good entertainment! The burly man and the ice- cream vendor are in a FULL BLOWN FIGHT. CRASH! An onlooker throws a beer bottle in. It catches Burly Man in the back. He ROARS and dives into the crowd, SMASHING and PUNCHING anything in his wake. More people JUMP in. Someone THROWS a box into a shop window setting off the alarm. People SWARM into the shop, Frito follows. A wail of sirens as... EXT. STREET, SECTION 2 - CONTINUOUS Three ROL guard cars come crashing in. EXT. AT JEAN CLAUDE'S CANTEEN, SECTION 2 - CONTINUOUS Jean Claude nervously covers his pots up. Cleaning will have to wait till tomorrow. He needs to be home by curfew and it's going to be going to be touch and go today. A man walks up. JEAN CLAUDE Sorry. Closed. BOYO Are you, now? Jean Claude's lips have suddenly gone dry. He is uncomfortably aware of his racing heartbeat. JEAN CLAUDE Mr. Straights... BOYO Rice and bean please. Not too spicy. Got a delicate stomach. He smiles. An endearing smile. JEAN CLAUDE She ran. I tried... I swear.. I offered her rice and beans.. BOYO And she ran. I know. I saw it. We all have our bad days.. Jean Claude hands Boyo a steaming plate of rice and beans from the pots. Watching the clock. BOYO (CONT'D) Don't worry. You're with me. (of the food) This is good. Not kidney beans. JEAN CLAUDE No.. (then) Lima. BOYO Butter beans. My mother used to make Daal and rice. She got the recipe off an Indian friend of hers. A little cumin, garam masala, and wham!.. Jean Claude jumps. BOYO (CONT'D) Scared you did I? (back to the beans) Best damn beans I had. But this ... this is pretty fucking good. Jean Claude murmurs something. BOYO (CONT'D) What? JEAN CLAUDE Daal... is made of lentils, not beans. They look at each other. JEAN CLAUDE (CONT'D) (verbal diarrhea now) All daals are lentils... they're made of lentils... But I'm sure there are some made of kidney beans. Oh GOD PLEASE DON'T KILL ME! BOYO (amused) Seriously? I'm not going to kill you. (another spoonful) They are. Nods to two more thugs (Bronco and Horse) as they round in on Jean Claude. Boyo finishes up his plate. He looks at the cart and picks up the festive ribbons Jean Claude ties to the roof of his shutters. EXT. BRUMLEE FENCE - CONTINUOUS Buck and another thug, Mick, are chasing Vira on motorbikes. She can't keep up. She jumps off and starts climbing the fence surrounding West Brumlee. Buck shoots at her. MICK You fucking crazy? Boss says alive! Buck climbs up, behind Vira. He grabs her leg. She kicks him off. The time shows 4:58 p.m.. Mick rides around to the other side and waits for Vira to jump down. Vira leaps, barely grasping a tin roof with her fingers. She hauls herself up. She runs across the roof and jumps... onto the back of a passing laundry van that has screeched in before the curfew. Sirens sound. The curfew is on. Mick and Buck duck into a doorway. Police vans move in. INT. CAPITAL HQ. MEETING ROOM - CONTINUOUS MJS is preparing a speech. She isn't happy with what is written down. And she has a splitting headache. MJS (murmuring to herself) We have a great debt owed to those that died this day , ten years ago, many of them sacrificing their own lives so that we who stand here, shall live... (no, that doesn't sound right) So that we can rebuild our devastated... (tries a different tack) Like you, I lost my dearest to the Blackout... She looks up to see Jon there. MJS (CONT'D) Who did you lose, Jon? JON My father, Madame and my older brother. MJS Your mother? JON Breast cancer. A few years before that. MJS Do you remember much before the Blackout? JON Some things. MJS You must have been a child then. JON I was twenty. MJS Huh. I wouldn't have put you in your thirties. You look much younger. JON It mostly works in my favour madame. He smiles at her. She smiles back. She goes back to her speech. Jon leaves a cup of tea and a sugar bowl on her table.
A complete musical comedy in less than seven minutes.
Vocalists: Arri Lawton Simon and Christiana Cole
Music: Rick Bassett
Lyrics: Anjali Jay (writing as A.J. Olain)
Based on a short story written by A.L. Kennedy for distribution by the English National Opera. This libretto was one of the ten final scripts showcased by the ENO during its worldwide call for submissions.
From The Duffian Cabaret, Cornelia Street Cafe, New York, N.Y.
The stage is divided into two physical spaces. On one side is her kitchen. She is standing at the countertop. Working. Typing. On the other side is his hotel room, which consists of a single bed, a desk and chair, and a lamp on top of the desk. He is also typing. At work on his computer.
She pours herself a glass of water, takes a sip.
She: So what if it never happens?
I’m too busy anyway.
One hundred different buyers.
I’m upto here in orders. Success is really nice.
And being unattached is a bonus
A fair shake of the dice.
Who wants to start all over again.
I’ve had my share of heartbreak and pain.
I told myself- never again
Yet here I am once again.
He: Should I press send?
Or should we stay friends?
I should make that leap.
No. I should get some sleep.
What am I doing? The meeting’s in five hours.
I should go to sleep. Perhaps take a shower.
This is madness. It’s three a.m.
No one thinks clearly at three a.m.
I’m too old to be doing this.
Too damn worn out to dream of bliss.
Too damn mature to feel like this.
To fantasize about a kiss.
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She: A chance encounter.
He : in Ipswich town centre.
(They turn to face each other. They are now standing on a pavement on a busy weekday morning. )
She: I’m late. I’m lost. Could you tell me where I am?
He: I don’t think so, but I’m sure my phone can.
She: Technology eh? I’m a big fan
Both: It runs our lives.
(They smile and look at his phone.)
She: Well thank you. I should go. Got to get to my meeting.
He: It was nice to meet you, however fleeting.
(She turns to leave.)
He: Wait. (Scribbles something on a piece of paper.) Keep my number, just in case.
She: I think I will. ‘Just in case.’
(They turn back to their realities. She walks to her computer during the next section.)
He: A phone call.
She: A text.
Both: That could have led to sex.
(They both sigh.)
She: A few emails from Manchester.
He: Leicester and Colchester.
She: A video chat from Penge.
He: Is that near Stonehenge?
She: Close enough.
He: Close enough.
(They both touch their computer screens.)
He: Who am I kidding?
She: When has fate done my bidding?
He: I should get to bed.
She: Long day ahead.
(She switches off her light and leaves. He turns off his lamp and gets under the covers of his bed. Darkness. Silence. A beat.
And then, he leaps up, switches on his lamp and presses SEND on his computer. Her computer lights up with the unmistakeable ‘ping’ of incoming mail. She rushes out and reads his email. She laughs, delighted. He smiles. A choice well made.)
Both: Perhaps this time it will be different.
Perhaps this time it will be sane.
Who knows, it may even be brilliant.
Even kindly and humane.
It’s three am. I should get to bed.
So late and such a long day ahead.
Goodnight my love. I miss you.
Goodnight my dove. I kiss you.
Only three more minutes. She could do it. Of course she could.
Malini passed the woman walking her dog. Older than Malini, she was perhaps in her late fifties, and the dog, a mutt of some sort. Both had a limp. I wonder what her story is, Malini thought, trying to distract herself from the fatigue threatening to overcome her. Everyone who comes to Vancouver Island has a story, often a good one.
She had been running for seventeen minutes straight, with only a bit, a tad more, a smidgen of time to go. Malini willed her legs on. The couch to 5K app on her phone had upped her run time today. After a week of running for twenty minutes in four five-minute sections, it had decided to, brazenly, in Malini’s opinion, throw down a challenge. Twenty minutes at a stretch. She had three minutes more to go.
Come on, Mal. That’s only one hundred and eighty seconds. She was surprised she could do the math. Or think. Or do anything else besides stumble, drool and give up. She felt her legs shuffling under her. Her left knee wobbled, perfectly willing to disengage from the rest of her body and lie down right there on the trail, a conscientious objector to this madness.
Babe… She called herself Babe when things got rough. It brought a smile to her face, and it did this time too.
Come on Babe, she said to herself, this pain is nothing compared to childbirth. Don’t stop now. Granted, childbirth was nineteen years ago, but still indelible in her mind. Her midwife at Lamaze had said that she needed to train for it with the intensity of a marathon. Malini had scoffed – she had never run a marathon, but it was an exaggeration surely. But there it was. A breech position that wouldn’t turn, a missed window for an epidural, and, in the end, an emergency C-section. A difficult birth… for a difficult child.
Malini would not let herself say it. Nevertheless, in the nineteen years since Sophie’s birth, through the haze of naptimes that segued into class times that segued into graduation, Malini regularly fought off feelings of perhaps not having done enough for her daughter. For perhaps setting her off on the wrong foot. Perhaps of missing something.
“Nonsense,” her friend Dina said when Malini confessed these feelings of inadequacy one evening. They were into their third glass of Shiraz, and Malini was on the verge of phoning Sophie. “I’ve seen you with her. You’re a good mother Mal. A kind one. Sometimes too kind… There will be time to call her. But not now.” Dina paused. “Anyway, how about that idea of a book club? Do you think it’ll work?”
Yes. It would.
That was nearly two months ago. Tonight they were discussing Dina’s choice – a story about a man who becomes friends with his reflection in the mirror. “Is It Me?” was a recent release and gathering storm. It was Dina’s first time to pick, but Malini would have to miss book club. Tonight, she had a visitor.
She saw the end of the trail loop. It was farther away than she wished, but she saw it.
“COME ON BABE!”
The family walking ahead of her jumped. They were in their late twenties, maybe early thirties, walking briskly along the trail. They were lightly dressed for this early autumnal day. The woman wore a blue fleece and Malini glimpsed a tendril of a tattoo under the blond ponytail. The man next to her had a beard and wore a short-sleeved t-shirt. He was pushing a bright orange stroller. His beard, neatly trimmed, more red than brown, and his compact, workman-like build reminded her of a younger Niall. A small, grey Border terrier kept pace with them. Malini smiled at the thought of her husband. And then she smiled at the realization that she had smiled. It was a small victory. Perhaps those endorphins were kicking in after all…
“Sorry!” She panted, as she increased her pace. The terrier ran at her ankles and Malini skirted the dog with an ease that surprised her. Maybe she was fitter. Or perhaps it was long- dormant survival instincts coming into play. She had been adept, as a child, at dodging yowling strays near her apartment building in Bangalore.
“Bianca, down!” The man shouted. “She’s an idiot. But she’s actually very sweet once you get to…” Malini gave them the thumbs up as she passed. It was a good move, for she was too out-of-breath to make any cogent reply.
It was autumn, the year Malini had turned forty-nine – the same age as Malini’s mother had been when she died. Galvanized by that realization, Malini decided to start an exercise program. She found trainers in her area, and quickly discounted them once she realised that her twice-weekly visit to Roberta’s Gelato and Brownie Bar would be off limits if she signed up. There has to be a balance, she thought, although finding the right balance was challenging.
She was on the local parks and rec website when she thought of her friend Ines in Seattle. Ines, like her, was small and brown with a weakness for ice cream. She ran an online fitness camp for Latina women- Músculos Femeninos Entrenado Con Inés! It was in Spanish, of course, but Malini had a smattering, and so could manage. When she logged onto the website, she was heartened. The success stories looked like what she hoped to turn into. Muscular, but still womanly. She had signed up for a six-month course, and this was the end of week three. She had done her workout at the gym earlier and now, the trail running.
And so far, so commendable. She willed her way to the top of the scrabble path and as she reached the crest of the trail, she heard her timer chime. Sweet Jesus! That was hard. Malini stopped and took in the view. It was magnificent. The light off the bay on Eveningside Crescent was pink-crimson and the waves lapped onto shore, each a small cheer as it broke. She felt the breeze as she lifted her face to the sun in silent thanks. Below, the beach was gravelly, fallen trees forming natural bolsters against the water.
British Columbia. Probably the most beautiful place she had ever lived in, certainly more beautiful then Bangalore, which had morphed from the sleepy backwater town of her childhood to the screaming tech-centre of India; unequivocally more majestic than Bristol with its mealy-mouthed high street and traffic congestion. She noticed with some amusement that Toronto and Oxford being the honourable exceptions, she had an affinity for living in places that started with a B. Bangalore, Bristol, that stint in Buenos Aires for a year, and now B.C. Yes, British Columbia was technically a province but it still counted. Where would she go next? She wondered. Burkina Faso? Bolivia? Berlin? Berlin might be nice. She’d always wanted to visit the Brandenberg gate.
She had been unnerved at first by the lack of interesting architecture on the island. She missed Georgian and Victorian buildings. But slowly, the place had trained her eyes to look for the mountains, the beaches, the drama of the setting sun.
Her eyes swept across the vista in front of her. So much sky. She thought. One hardly noticed the sky in Bristol, except perhaps to comment on the impending rain. But here, in this corner of Eveningside Park, the sky dominated. Towering cumulonimbus clouds in shades of deep orange, pink and purple. Yes, there would be rain. She could smell the promise of it in the air. The beach looked inviting, and she checked her watch. She narrowed her eyes, wishing she had picked up her interim contact lenses from Costco’s that day. 6:18 P.M. She had just enough time to shower and head to the ferry terminal.
“Humans have a strange way of showing love,” Misha said to Hattie as she sharpened her knife and readied the tip towards an eyeball. The blade caught the light and glinted, eager for the plunge. It was now Friday afternoon and she had been working on the doll – a custom for a client – for two days. Her shop “Creations of Commercial” had been a surprising success since she had opened two years ago with a high number of walk-ins, and although Misha would have liked to believe that it was entirely due to the fine detail in her work, she couldn’t discount the fact that she was right next to the sex shop. Between the two, they managed to take care of the more unusual needs of the denizens of the area.
She had less than an hour to finish Death Doctor Barbie and visit her mother at the care home. She gritted her teeth.
“It’ll be fine darling,” Hattie said. “She’s old. Be kind.”
“Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
“You too will be old sometime,” Hattie said, “if you’re lucky…”
“Can you leave me to concentrate, please?”
“Oo-er, look at her!” Hattie sang back. She was sitting on the shelf today. Her Victorian corset highlighted her tiny waist and her billowing skirt made her look grander than usual. Misha sensed Hattie was in a good mood. Her clothes were a dead giveaway. She was an elegant ghost and even when she was in a bad mood, impeccably dressed.
“You can copy this exactly?” The client, Max Something or the Other had asked earlier that week as he handed the doll and a photograph of his girlfriend to Misha.
“Great. Taylor was dressed like this when we met, at a Halloween party last year, serrated head and all. Thought it would be a worthy way to propose. It is a good idea, isn’t it?” Max looked worried. Misha looked at the photo and saw a tall woman, in perfect make-up, both gory and beautiful.
She was surprised at the tightening under her ribcage, the little twist within. She hadn’t had that response for a few years now, a tried and tested forewarning of rough waters ahead. When she was younger, sure, but now her life was on an even keel. Maybe Max’s proposal wasn’t a good idea.
“Good idea,” she lied to Max. She didn’t meet his eye – he looked hopeful, and she couldn’t bring herself to say anything contrary. And what was she going to say? “My body thinks the proposal may not go to plan?” Misha was aware of how batty that sounded.
She had successfully serrated the scalp with enough of a hollow to insert the ring. It opened and closed smoothly and had a latch hidden at the back of the doll’s now blood-drenched hair. The dark-red nail polish lacquer (Midnight Red!) had dried perfectly and the final touch would be the hollowed-out eye. Misha held the knife to the doll’s left eye and dug in, twisting it slightly as she went through it. She flicked the blade and popped the eye out. It was like shucking an oyster. More red nail polish and Death Doctor Barbie was done. She held the doll up to Hattie.
“What do you think?”
“Marvellously gory darling.”
Hattie glided down to Misha. “Handsome fella the one that brought this in.” Misha enjoyed listening to her cockney accent.
“Mmm,” Misha said. “Perhaps.”
It was important to be non-committal at this stage. She never knew with apparitions at the beginning of their relationship. Most were benign, but she had encountered a few, the ghouls who would sweep in and create havoc within Misha’s subconscious. All that howling and wailing through the nights and Misha was a wreck for a few weeks for a lack of sleep. But mostly, they wanted Misha to listen.
Misha was putting the Barbie in her casket when her phone vibrated.
It was a text from Amar.
Chaz is at the door and beckons me outside.
I got the job, hen. He beams so hard his dimples cut his cheeks in half.
That’s fucking fantastic Chaz! I say. Chaz is a hard worker. I mean we both are, we got no real chance otherwise, but I reckon he has a better chance than me being in the construction business. I just make sandwiches.
Mr. Shah’s signed me on for a preliminary project, not far from your fancy sandwich shop. He reckons there’s place for me to grow at Beauville Constructions. Said I look like a lad that’s going places. He grabs me by the hips and thrusts himself into the small of my back. You and me hen, he whispers into the nape of my neck and licks my ear. We’re on our way out of this place. He is going to want sex tonight.
Chaz and I have been together since our GCSEs. He doesn’t smoke or sniff or shoot up, and unlike a lot of the other boys from school who ended up on ASBOS or living under the Tulsey Bridge or being wankers who beat their girlfriends, he’s got backbone. And them dimples, they get me. Mum thinks I’m lucky and I agree.
Chaz says what with all the planning permissions and the Grade 2 listings, he reckons it’ll take at least a year. That’s more for the down payment on the flat.
Flat? What flat? Mum calls out, looking up from her paper. We’ve been standing too close to the door.
Chaz looks at me a didn’t you tell her look in his eyes. I stare back at him, I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to and I didn’t want to upset her.
Mum looks up at us, glasses falling off her nose. She’s on the Sudoku in the Daily Mail. She can’t do much physically anymore, but she spends hours on puzzles- Sudoku, KenKen and the (easy) Crossword. I just wish it wasn’t in the Daily Mail with all its banging on about Brexit and immigrants. But it’s the only paper Mum and Chaz agree on so I let it go.
Fucking lack of privacy, Chaz hisses. Our flat, Jean. Lucy’s and mine. I reckon, in a year, eighteen months tops, we could have our own little place. Lucy was supposed to tell you… He glares at me.
Oh well, it’s out now, and I prepare for the waterworks.
You’re leaving? Mum’s voice wobbles. Where you going?
But that’s way out east.
Only by fifteen minutes Jean.
Why didn’t you tell me, Luce? There they come, the waterworks. Suddenly, I feel terrible.
I was going to Mum, honest, but it never was the right time. Mum, please don’t cry… I look up at Chaz. We’ll come and visit every day, won’t we Chaz? And I’ve spoken with Dr. Vedantham about getting you proper care.
Yeah Jean, one of us will check on you. He smiles at her, and I can see Mum melt a bit. She’s a sucker for kindness that one.
Yes, Mum, we will.
And the doctor’s looking into care, as Lucy said.
And Chaz and I will be fifteen minutes away. It’ll be well over fifteen minutes, but I don’t say that.
Mum nods. She’s trying her best, poor love and I put my arms around her.
After a while she calms down. Your own flat and a nice man to take care of you, Mum looks up between sniffles. I’m so happy for you pet. You’re a lucky girl.
The door chimes open at 12:30 P.M. on the dot.
Hey hen, fancy a cheeky pint? I don’t have to look at the door to know it is Chaz. He has an hour off for lunch and the construction site is two tube stops away which means that he and I travel to work and back every day – me to my job at Au Petits Fours and he to the construction site at Kings Cross station.
He comes in during his lunch hour and we both eat at the café. I make him a cheese ploughman, sometimes with the fancier cheeses, Raclette (which he likes), and once a gorgonzola from Milan that a new supplier had brought in. (For fuck’s sake hen, smells like the devil’s fart!) But today, he came in asking if I fancied a pint.
Course I fancy a cheeky pint. It’s been a while.