Thursday, November 25, 2004

Day 25

Today was much easier, yesterday seemed a bit like going through the motions like I was stalling to fill in time, but then I guess every writer (get me!) feels like that at some stage. Over the magic 40k mark now, should be downhill from here!

The audition went fairly well, at least as far as Natalie and Astrid were concerned. They were biased, but the producer seemed reasonably happy as well. I hadn’t stumbled over anything and he said I was obviously very familiar and comfortable with my material and my choice of films. He then explained that the editing staff would intercut appropriate pieces from the DVD’s to illustrate my dialogue. At the end of the process, a preview tape would be produced and all auditionees would be invited back to view it. I was the last person auditioning that day, and after Natalie had finished, she joined myself and Astrid for a drink at the Kro Bar just up the road. Over pints of Carlsberg Export, Natalie intimated that I’d been one of the better applicants and that some of the people had been so bad it had been embarrassing. She reckoned I was a shoe in for the real programme, if it was made. We celebrated with more beer, then Natalie left us to meet her boyfriend, whilst Astrid and me jumped a cab up to Rusholme for a curry.
“How does it feel to be a TV personality then, Mr Kelly?” she asked, over the mixed starters.
“Hold your equine beasts, love,” I said, smiling, “they might decide I was a big dork and bounce me out before they start. I wouldn’t blame them.”
“You are always putting yourself down. You have a lot going for you George, you just need it bringing out of you. Do you want to make subs for the rest of your life?”
“No, but, you know, it’s safe, I guess I’m scared of losing what I’ve got,” I said.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, what I’ve got at home, Marlene, Shuggsy, mum,” I paused, looking at Astrid right in her beautiful dark eyes, “and you.”
“Stop it!” she laughed, “well, you know, Marlene has moved out, Shuggsy seems a bit distracted I think and…” she stopped.
“And?” I said, making a winding motion with my hand.
“And, well, your mother won’t be around forever.” I nodded, “you have to start thinking of yourself.” She took my hand across the table. “I know we’ve not known each other long, but I know you’re sweet, you’re kind, you’re funny, you know lots of stuff.”
“Some of it almost useful,” I interrupted.
“Mm, and you could be doing so much more with your life.” I got that funny feeling in my stomach again, and it didn’t have anything to do with the onion bhajis. Oh, bollocks, might as well say it.
“You know what,” I started, “I…..” I took a swig of my Cobra to work up to it, “I think….you’re absolutely right.” Shit, couldn’t say it.
“I know I’m right!” she said, giving my arm a playful punch. I think our relationship moved on then, well, I’m saying it definitely did. After the meal, we took a taxi all the way home and Astrid stayed over. Only this time I wasn’t on the sofa.

It was strange waking up in bed with someone else. Although over the years, Marlene and myself had shared a bed, it was on a purely platonic basis, usually when we’d sat up talking half the night in one or other of our beds, and had just fallen asleep at some point. And yes, I hadn’t given Marlene much of a though the previous evening, does that make me a bad person? I was reminded of her when I went to make coffee the next morning as Astrid showered. There were two messages on the answering service, both from Mike Bradley, who I’d also given little or no thought to. The first had been around the time my audition started, saying he was planning on visiting the hospital again that afternoon, the second around eight o’clock asking if I wanted to go for dinner with him. I felt a bit shitty then, not only because of Marlene, but also because the poor bloke had just come back to England and now he was on his own in a town he probably barely recognised anymore and he was asking for a bit of company over a meal, whilst his daughter lay in a hospital bed and her supposed best friend was out enjoying himself. I decided to call him as soon as Astrid left for work and attempt to make amends somehow. I made coffee and toast and Astrid joined me soon after, looking stunning in a simple black trouser suit with a powder blue blouse. Mind you, she’d look great in a spud sack. We kissed, then both laughed. If she was thinking this was weird, I was in cloud cuckoo land, you could have almost shot me right then and I would have been happy. We discussed our plans for the day, unfortunately Astrid had some sort of book launch to attend that evening in Liverpool, which meant that she would be staying over, I said it was OK, I would be out, either at the hospital or with Mike Bradley, and failing that Shuggsy was due back later that afternoon. We ate the rest of our breakfast like a proper couple, then she left me with a lingering kiss and I crashed out on the settee, enjoying the chance to have a day off in peace.

I must have dozed off for a while, because it was late morning when the doorbell went and kept going. I woke with a start, thinking it was probably Gareth back again, demanding that I find Be Lucky! immediately and burn in front of the executors of Guy Mattinson’s estate or something. I answered the door, yawning, and was faced by two blokes in dark suits, and long trenchcoats. For one horrible moment, I thought it was the Dream Police come to real life, but when one of them held out an identification badge and introduced himself as Detective Constable Warwick and his partner as Detective Constable Haslam, I relaxed slightly. Then I went on my guard again, as I concluded that they had to be here for Shuggsy. I was right as well. After I showed them in and offered them the obligatory mug of tea, DC Haslam asked if this was the residence of Allan Burns. I affirmed that it was, then added that he wasn’t in.
“Do you have any idea when he’ll be returning, Mr…?” Haslam asked.
“Kelly. Not really, he’s a plasterer and he’s away on a job in Wales at the moment. Can I ask what this is about?”
“Er, we just need to ask Mr Burns a few questions in connection with an outstanding matter.” Warwick reached inside his suit and pulled out a card.
“If he does return today, could I ask that you ring me on one of the numbers on this card please Mr Kelly?” he said, passing a card over, “it’s quite important.” With business concluded, the two policeman swallowed the rest of their brews and marched out, with me trailing impotently behind. Fuck it, I was starting to believe that Gareth had a point about this karma malarkey.

I spent the rest of the day at the hospital, mostly in company with Mike Bradley, and always with Marlene. She certainly seemed a lot brighter, but something was missing, a spark which I put down to a combination of shock, tiredness and the circumstances which led to the accident. Neither of us mentioned Maarten, who still hadn’t been traced, and we skirted around our recent disagreements. I desperately wanted to talk to her about both, but I didn’t want to make her anxious and I especially didn't want to bring either up when her dad was around. I don’t think he’d got over his initial coolness towards me, and it certainly hadn’t been helped by me going AWOL yesterday. We parted on better terms though and I was thankful when he told me that he had rung one of his old buddies from when he lived here and they had arranged to meet up for a meal. I recommended a couple of places to eat out of courtesy, but he said that his mate had already booked somewhere. I took the bus home and wondered what I’d do if Shuggsy was there, waiting for me.

As it was, I needn’t have worried. The house was empty, and as I let myself in, I picked up the phone and checked for messages. There were two, one from Astrid saying she missed me and wished she didn’t have to stay in Liverpool but would text me later (aah!) and one from the carer at mum’s nursing home, telling me that mum wasn’t up to travelling back that evening and could I ring her when I got the message. I called immediately. The carer told me that mum had been in some pain all day, and had been given some steroids to help and she was now asleep with the aid of a couple of sleeping pills. I asked if she’d seemed OK when she came back to the home last Monday and the woman intimated that mum had looked weary and had not been herself all week. I had rung on the Wednesday but she’d been quite chatty, asking after Marlene and remembering some events from the past. I knew that she had been stressed and tired and Marlene’s accident but hadn’t thought it would affect her quite so badly. The carer said that it was better if mum stayed where she was for the weekend but that I was welcome to visit. She didn’t say it but I could almost hear it in her voice – “by welcome I mean insist.” Now I was torn, I didn’t want to go off and leave Marlene and I certainly didn’t want to abandon Shuggsy to the cops without warning him. I tried his mobile again, but it was turned off and I couldn’t leave a message. I texted him again, telling him to ring me as soon as he got the message, and make sure he did. Then I did the only thing I could think of doing, given the circumstances. I went to the Beehive to get pissed.

Word Count: 1,711
Total Count: 42,060
% above target: 0.92%
Words to go: 7,940


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