Chapter Twenty Three: Summer In The City

The heat is rising, and just as Fliss and I would like to stand still for a while and reflect on the past few weeks, it appears that life has made other plans for us. In the midst of the chaos that July has brought, I met up with Nat and we caught up on each others lives; it was the end of my first week as a Researcher for Zimas, a small publishing company based in the backstreets of Manchester, and I had mixed feelings about my new career as an office girl. “What is it they publish again?” enquired Nat, with a frown, as she sipped her coffee.

  “Building and architecture stuff; pretty boring really,” I confessed, wryly.

  “That’s funny ‘cos one of the girls at the Flea and Firkin near work used to work for a publishers like that: She said everyone left after about six weeks cos they couldn’t take it anymore.”

  “Well,” I shrugged my shoulders in their white shirt and shifted my feet in the uncomfortable, but smart, shoes, “it’s been alright so far; pretty boring, but not horrible or anything.”

  “Must be a different firm.”

  “Hhmmm,” but she had planted a seed of doubt in my mind, one that sprouted today when I saw the rubbery-lipped deputy manager laying into one of my new colleagues. She ran through the open plan office a few minutes later, sobbing her heart out, and I caught the eye of the girl at the next desk. She quickly turned away from me as, biting her lip, she returned to her work, looking as sickened as I felt.

  Nat is lucky in that she is now in a job where she has an awful lot of freedom, and doesn’t have to observe a dress code. As such, she was wearing a skin tight pair of denim three quarter length jeans with a purple shiny halter top and battered purple and white trainers, whilst I sweltered in flesh coloured tights, black viscose skirt, white poly cotton shirt, and smart shoes; I could already feel the blisters forming on my toes.

  Fliss has a new job too, and we discussed that briefly before turning our attention to Titanium Rose and our recent meeting with Alan Mitchelman, the A&R man at Sandra Dee records. He has been the last in a long list of A&R men and women who we’ve met and, for once, we all agreed that we liked him.

  “What was he like?” asked Nat, genuinely interested.

  “Well, he was very attentive for a start – he let us do the talking, but he wasn’t vague when it came to outlining the deal they would offer us, so that made a change.” Nat grinned as I concluded, “So everyone seems to be in favour really.”

  “So it’ll happen?”

  “Looks like it.”

  Our quest to find a record label hasn’t been too long or too torturous, but we’ve met some very obnoxious people along the way, as Nat knows, having heard me on the subject on previous occasions.

  As we were picking up our bags to return to work, I asked, slyly, “How’s Adrienne?”

  She smiled as she asked, “Who told you?”

  “Fergus worked it out.”

  She smiled even more broadly as she looked away, “Ah well, it was never going to work anyway…”

  “Is that it?”

  “Yeah,” we began to walk, “that’s it. It was fun whilst it lasted, but… easy come, easy go.”

  “Well at least that way no one gets hurt,” I murmured.

  “I think it’ll always be like that for me,” she sighed.

  I looked at her in surprise, “It bothers you?”

  “Sometimes,” she admitted, “cheap sex can be a little too cheap sometimes.”

  I stopped and asked in surprise, “She was that bad?”

  “Well,” she confessed, wryly, as she looked away from me and massaged her neck with her hand “it was rather like being on a high speed express train; very full on and quick, leaving you slightly disorientated when you get off.” She winced, “Poor choice of words, but, well… that’s how she was. You can’t get attached to someone like that – they never let you get close enough to try.”

  After work I made my way to Piccadilly and caught the 192 to Levenshulme where Fliss is now working. She was due to finish her supermarket shift imminently, so I thought I would pick her up and we could walk the rest of the way home. She was parking trolleys when I arrived, and I was struck by the contrast of the green and white of her skirt and shirt against the pink doc martens, pink tights, and the pink ribbons adorning her bunches. She waved as I approached, and then went back inside for her Bagpuss bag. We compared notes on our new jobs as we walked “Well,” said Fliss brightly as we neared home, “at least the money covers our rent rise now; we ought to be O.K for money this month, as long as nothing else goes up anyway.”

  “Something always goes up,” I moaned. My shoes were killing me.

  “Then we’ll have to keep scaling up our career expectations I suppose,” said Fliss, equally glumly.

  There was a message waiting for us on our ansaphone when we got home. It was from Jenny; she wanted to arrange a band meeting to discuss the offer from Sandra Dee.

     I don’t know a lot about Sandra Dee Records, but Flora filled me in at our next band practice whilst we were waiting for Fliss to arrive.  “It’s owned by Alice Benson who used to be in The Fat Tigers.” She said, then, noticing my blank expression, she added, “Ask your mum.”  (“Ah yes, fey Scottish C86 meanderings to love lost, heavy fringes, gigged with The Pastels a lot” said mum, which didn’t really clarify things, “she was the guitarist.”)

  Flora told me that Alan had purchased both of our singles on One Way Or Another, and that Sandra Dee had a good reputation with all their bands that she’d spoken to.  Jenny also has yet to hear a bad word against them, and she knows quite a few of their employees.

  Flora looked at her watch.  “Where the hell is Fliss?” she snapped, “She’s getting really crap about time keeping just lately.”

  In fact, Fliss was a full hour and a half late when she finally did arrive, which is something of a personal record.  We heard her flip flops on the stairs first, a scampering, thwacking noise that gradually slowed to a flip-flop, flip-flop slow, steady beat as she sailed down the corridor and into the room.  It was half nine, and the sun was setting outside, bathing the clouds gold and white in the blue sky as the grey walls of the Twilight practice room grew darker.  She was distracted and seemingly unconcerned as to her lateness as she got her guitar out of its case and set about plugging it in.  I heard her half humming, half singing ‘The Look Of Love’ as she approached the microphone.  It is impossible to shout at someone in such a state, so none of us even attempted to, instead we observed, with a mixture of affection and exasperation, as she proceeded to fluff, stumble and meander her way through all the new songs that we had so carefully put together.  It was infuriating and yet somehow, sweet.

  No sooner had the three of them put down their guitars than Fliss mumbled something about having agreed to meet friends in town and not wanting to be late.  Her eyes were trained to the floor the whole time that she was speaking, and a slight blush crept over her face as she delivered her little speech.  Without looking at any of us, she left before we could argue.  Flora, Katy and I stared after her fleeing form, utterly mystified.  “Well,” began Flora at last, “at least she’s happy”

  She and Katy left shortly after Fliss, leaving me to haul my drums home alone.  I went to bed almost as soon as I arrived home, with an unpleasant expectation that I would have to get up at half six for work, which is hardly a thought to fill you with joy.  Two weeks into the job, and I’m already terrified of oversleeping.

  I was woken at six by the door being unlocked downstairs and, knowing that it was futile to go back to sleep now, I got up and made my way towards the kitchen in pursuit of coffee.  Fliss was just opening the door to the living room when I came up behind her.  She turned around, and then froze, her eyes wide, her expression one of guilt and surprise.  I could tell from her clothes that she had only just arrived home, for her hair was loose from her usual bunches, and was messy and tangled, and her black velour slip dress was creased.  She was wearing foundation and lip-gloss, and had a lot of blue eye shadow and eyeliner streaked and smudged around her eyes.  She looked absolutely exhausted.  “Did I wake you up?” she asked anxiously “I tried to be quiet.”

  “It’s O.K” I reassured her “I had to get up soon anyway, want a coffee?”

  She shook her head “No, thanks.  Think I’ll have a shower, doesn’t seem to be any point in going to bed.” She wandered off in the direction of her bedroom.

  As I ate a breakfast that I usually had neither the time nor inclination to prepare or eat, I could hear Fliss singing against the backdrop of the shower, first ‘Central Reservation’, then ‘Love Hangover’, then the chorus to ‘Erotica’ in her high, girlish voice.

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