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A saga of everyday life in the Big L and a wry look at contemporary culture

Episode Twenty Five

 

Where am I? Her surroundings were strange. What seemed like a black-and-white Union Jack hung in a corner, barely visible in the darkness. She could hear a muffled sound, like electric static from a poorly set up PA system. How did I get here? Then a light came on above her, but it didn’t seem to illuminate anything. She looked around her. Everywhere, there were shadows that hinted at possibilities, but they were very indistinct. Each time she tried to figure one out, it vanished into the gloom. Only the flag seemed real. It fluttered somewhat as if moved by a hidden breeze.

Then she spotted a dark shade standing somewhere off to her right. Who are you? An invisible musician started to play on the electric guitar. The shadow started to croon quietly…

 

…Mary had a little lamb,

Its fleece was white as snow;

And everywhere that Mary went

The lamb was sure to go…

 

As the shade sang, it slowly became more solid. Quinn gazed at the singer. Her face was in shadow under her hood. Who are you? You seem familiar. Then the singer’s voice seemed to be coming from everywhere.

Startled, Quinn looked around for the other singers.

Somehow, the singer was now behind her. In the dim light, she was just a dark shadow. I’m sure I know you. Why don’t you reveal yourself? All she could see of her was her grin. The chanteuse started another song…

…Non, rien de rien

Non, je ne regrette rien

Ni le bien qu’on me fait

Ni le mal, tout ça m’est bien égale

Non, rien de rien

Non, je ne regrette rien…

I know this song! What are telling me?

…C’est payé, balayé, oublié

Je m’en fou de passé

Avec mes souvenirs

J’ai allumé le feu

Mes chagrins, mes plaisirs

Je n’ai plus besoin d’eux…

Is it paid for? Forgotten? The singer seemed to smirk at her. Who are you, damnit?

The scene shifted in front of her. The unknown woman dissolved as if whisked away by a wind. The landscape around her morphed into a dark cellar. She could see the untreated walls where faded and tattered posters with unintelligible writing broke up the pattern of the brickwork. She then noticed the stage and the band. Smoke rose all around the players, who were mere silhouettes, due to the light being behind them. Quinn heard a distant refrain from the woman, as if from a deep well…

…Non, rien de rien

Non, je ne regrette rien…

Quinn approached the platform. She thought she could recognise one of the musicians. Adrian? Is that you? They ignored her.

The band started playing. I recognise that tune!

Then one of the dark spectres grabbed a microphone and started to sing…

…There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself
‘This could be heaven or this could be Hell’
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say

Welcome to the European Union
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face.
Plenty of room in the European Union
Any time of year (any time of year) you can find it here…

Quinn felt a frisson. Something frightening was stirring in the room. She shivered again at its presence. Something’s not right here. She felt her hairs hackle. What is it? She thought she spotted something out of the corner of her eye. What’s that? She spun around but all she could see were shadows. There’s something here I can feel it. She trembled. She caught what the words of the song…

…So I called up the Captain,
‘Please bring me my wine’
He said, ‘we haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty-nine’
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say”

Welcome to the European Union
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face.
Plenty of room in the European Union
Any time of year (any time of year) you can find it here…

Then she saw it. Behind the band a shape was emerging. My God! It was hideous. It had multiple tentacles and huge staring eyes. She screamed but the band drowned her out…

…Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said, ‘we are all just prisoners here, of our own device’
And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast…

The monster flowed past the band, who seemed oblivious to its presence. It came towards her. It’s me it wants! Quinn tried to run. But she was transfixed and couldn’t move. Desperately, she willed herself to move. It was like running through treacle. She took a step. Another one. She sought an exit but there wasn’t one. Suddenly the singer was bathed in light. Adrian! He roared into the microphone…

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before
‘Relax’ said the night man,
‘We are programmed to receive.
You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave!’

Quinn felt her rising terror. You can check out anytime you like but you can never leave! That’s me! She stopped trying to move. Now the vampire-squid was nearly upon her. She screamed.

Quinn was suddenly awake. Her eyes fixed on the ceiling she could just make out in the darkness. It was a bad dream. She was in her bed. She breathed heavily, her heart pounding as if she had been running. She was bathed in sweat. A dream. It was just a dream. She turned to note the alarm clock said 4:27. She looked to her left. Dancy was lying spread out on his back and quietly snoring. Oh, at least I didn’t wake him. She tried to relax. It wasn’t real. It was just a nightmare. But it was so real; like I’d was there. It did feel like that. Did I scream or was that just in the dream? Even as she thought about it, the details of the dream faded. Her breathing subsided.

Dammit, I’m totally awake. And thirsty.

She got up and padded out to the kitchen. She went in without switching on the light, so the room was in semi-darkness. Just like my dream. Perhaps I should put on the light? Before she could act on the thought, Pharaoh moseyed over and entwined itself in her legs. She reached down and scratched it under the neck.

‘It’s too early for your breakfast, my love.’

She pushed the cat away. It meowed at her and tried again. She nudged it away. Then Pharaoh turned and headed out of the kitchen, its tail in the air. Good. You got the idea. I’ll feed you later at the right time. Then she felt upset at her harsh behaviour.

‘Pharaoh?’ No response. You’ve far too much pride as to accept an apology. You remind me of Dancy. No, I shouldn’t say that of him. Somehow the thought made her think of Adrian. Why now? Parts of the dream came back. Then she felt guilty thinking about him. I’ve no reason to feel that way. She remembered the kiss she had given him. It was a thank you for a great day out. I regretted my impulse later. Adrian, you can’t have thought it meant anything…did you? The thought somehow troubled her greatly.

Now what did I come in here for? Ah! I remember. She went to a cupboard and found a glass before going over to the sink to fill it. Her foot stepped in a puddle. What? She looked down. In the half-light, she could see a little pool of water emanating from under the sink unit. She put the glass down and opened the door beneath the sink. She reached in and felt the taps. One was wet. Damn, it’s frigging leaking again. What a bloody nuisance. Anger welled up inside. Pyle’s Plumbers didn’t do much of a job, blast them. Then she remembered. The stopcock! Turn off the water.

She went out in the hall and opened the cupboard. Then she stopped. Should I wake Dancy? She had a moment’s hesitation. He hated it when I woke him up that time when the fire alarm had a low battery and started to ping. She pulled away the things blocking access to the stopcock. I’ll switch it off now and tell him when he wakes up. She turned the handle to cut off the mains supply.

Quinn got to her feet and returned to the kitchen. Without thinking, she turned on the cold water to fill her empty glass. The water spluttered out, half drenching her hand then stopped. Pith! I should have filled it up first. She turned towards the kitchen door. Back on again? Nah. She held up her glass. A third—that should do.

Glass in hand she returned to the bedroom. She put it down on the bedside table and got in. Echoes of her dream floated into my mind. What was it all about? I wish I could remember.

She must have fallen asleep for the next thing was she felt Dancy get out of bed and pad into the bathroom. He shut the door behind him. Then a couple of minutes later he emerged again. He noticed she was looking at him.

‘Bloody water’s off.’

Quinn was immediately alert. ‘I turned it off. There’s another leak in the kitchen.’

‘What? Why didn’t you wake me? Jesus, Quinn, this is my place. You should have woken me up.’

‘I did what I think best.’

‘And since when did I ask you to make decisions about my flat?’ He gestured at the bathroom. ‘I nearly got scalded in there.’ He stomped over to his side of the bed and grabbed a tee shirt. ‘Why didn’t you put up a sign or something?’ Oh, Dancy come off it. I didn’t because I didn’t think of it. It was four in the morning, for Christ’s sake! She had a thought. Adrian wouldn’t react like that.

‘I’m sorry. It was early in the morning. I thought I was doing the right thing.’

‘Thought. Thought. Putting up a sign isn’t rocket science.’ That’s it. Turn on me. You’re blaming me for something that isn’t my fault. Should I have just left the tap to leak? Is that it?

‘If that’s how you feel about it.’ She got up and quickly dressed. I’ve hear enough.

‘What do you mean, how I feel about it?’ He pointed towards the bathroom. ‘I could have been really hurt.’ Yes. I’m sorry I didn’t put up your bloody sign.

‘Yes, yes, it’s all about you, isn’t it?’

‘What’s that you’re saying?’

‘I’m saying you’re acting like a prick when I tried to do something right and now you’re blaming me.’ There. Now he knows.

‘I’m not blaming you.’ But you bloody well are!

‘Well, that’s what it sounds like.’

She went to the door. I‘ve got to get out of here or I’ll say or do something stupid.

‘Quinn! Listen.’

‘No. You listen. I’m not some dumb blonde you picked up at a party. You may be a mathematical genius but you’re not mister universe when it comes to knowing how to deal with other people.’

‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

‘It means, Dancy, I’m fed up with your behaviour towards me. Always putting me down.’ Without listening to his reply, she stepped out of the room and slammed the door behind her. I’ve got to get out of here. Don’t answer back; don’t get into any more argument.

As she put on her shoes, she heard the door to the bedroom open. Dancy emerged into the corridor. You want round two, is that it?

‘Quinn?’

‘I’m going out.’ And don’t even think about stopping me.

‘But what about our lunch with Alice and Dave?’ Shit! I’d forgotten about their invite.

‘You can go.’

‘You’re not coming?’

‘That’s what I said.’

She grabbed her coat and handbag and opened the front door.

‘When will you be coming back?’ When you start behaving.

‘I don’t know.’

She shut the door noisily behind her.

 

 

Mary had a little lamb – Stevie Ray Vaughan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aP2RzLNlbw

Je ne regrette rien – Edith Piaf

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q3Kvu6Kgp88

Hotel California – The Eagles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqPtz5qN7HM

 

*   *   *

 

The doorbell rang.

Andrew went to answer it. ‘Jill!’ What are you doing here?

‘Aren’t you pleased to see me?’ Jill moved forward to give him a kiss. I thought we agreed that we would just be friends?

He returned her affection before disengaging himself. ‘I wasn’t expecting you.’ You could have at least let me know you were coming.

She gave him a searching look. ‘Who were you expecting?’ Well, if you must know, not you.

‘No one. I am in so when the bell rang I just answered the door.’ What do I do now you’re here? She looked at him quizzically.

‘Aren’t you going to invite me in?’ I suppose I have to.

‘Oh, sure.’ He opened the door wide. Then he noticed the cabin bag she had with her. ‘You up in town for a bit?’

‘I just couldn’t stay home any longer. Buxted’s a total pit. Nothing to do. And my parents…’ Yeah, I can just imagine how you’re driving them insane.

‘Would you like a cup of tea?’ Stay polite. He thought of Tim. He won’t forgive me if Jill has a relapse after she’s been here. What a mess!

‘That would be nice.’ He led her into the kitchen. ‘Where’s everybody?’

‘Oh, they’re away. Josh’s on holiday and Freddie’s gone to see his girlfriend for the weekend.’

‘But you’ve stayed in London.’ Well, yes. I don’t have to go rushing off home or wherever. Why do you ask?

‘I could have but, to be honest, I couldn’t be bothered to go home.’ That sounds lame.

‘Same as me, then.’ Well, no, not like you. ‘So just us.’ She rubbed his arm suggestively.

Andrew took the kettle, filled it and set it going. ‘Milk and sugar?’

‘Milk. Two spoons, please.’

He busied himself with getting the tea things. Jill wandered around the kitchen examining things. She opened a cupboard, eyed the contents before closing it again.

‘This kitchen’s not like the one your parents have got.’ This flat is a boys’ pad in town. He noted the unwashed dishes in the sink. Yeah! We’re bachelors, baby.

‘I was looking for what we might have for lunch.’ Well, I’m not sure there’s anything. I can go out and buy something.

‘Try the fridge.’ She opened that and poked around a bit. ‘All there is, is salami.’ She took it out and deposited it on the table then came and stood behind him as he added milk to two mugs on the counter. She started to caress his crotch. Stop that!

‘I’ve missed you.’ I don’t want to go down that route again, Jill. Look what happened last time. Without thinking about it, he gazed at the scar on his arm. She pulled him towards her. ‘Let’s have sex.’ She rubbed his groin. No. No. Don’t do that. He felt himself react. ‘Where’s your bedroom?’ No. No. No. We mustn’t.

She took his hand and led him towards the hall. ‘Which one?’ What am I doing?

‘The second door.’ It’s a complete mess.

They went in. ‘Ha, you’ve only got a single bed. Well, never mind.’ Jill began removing her clothes. Andrew stood there watching her. ‘Are you expecting a striptease?’ She started to undulate as she removed her blouse, then her bra. She twirled it in the air, then grinned at him before letting it fly off into a corner. Andrew stood motionless just watching her. Jill then came over and hugged him. She started to unbutton his trousers. ‘Off with these.’ She kissed him. Oh, Jill! He started to undress.

Afterwards, they lay together on the bed. Jill idly ran her fingers over his chest. ‘I said I don’t have to go back till Tuesday.’

‘Where are you staying?’

‘Why here, silly.’ She then slapped him. He jerked involuntarily. What? ‘You don’t want me to?’

‘Of course, I do.’ What have I agreed to? He got up and padded off to the kitchen. The kettle was cold. He switched it on again. He could hear Jill enter behind him. ‘We didn’t have our tea.’

‘Well, a cuppa would be nice.’

She sat down at the table. Her breasts hung over the surface. She took hold of them and shook them, then grinned. ‘It’s a good thing your flatmates aren’t here.’

‘Well, Freddie will be back tomorrow night.’

‘So, in the meantime, we have the place to ourselves…’

 

To be continued…

 

All characters appearing in this work are fictitious.

Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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