Chapter Twenty Five: All She Really Wants

Any further drainpipe climbing exploits on the part of Fliss’ mystery girl have been curtailed this past week by our trip to Scotland. Perhaps it was for this reason that she was so self-absorbed during our journey north, although even once we’d arrived she displayed no outward signs of interest in the process ahead of us. Instead she remained moody and detached, uninterested in music, her appearance, and probably even the band, which made a strong contrast with the shared excitement and nervousness felt by me, Flora, and Katy. All Fliss seems to be interested in these days is her mobile, which she is glued to. When she isn’t on the phone, she is checking it, fiddling with it, texting on it, or feverishly checking it for missed calls or text messages. She refuses to switch it off when asked to, by Jenny, and she doesn’t seem to care if the rest of us feel ignored as a result. She spent most of the journey up here conversing in French, and there has been at least one night whilst we’ve been here where I have left her talking on her mobile, only to wake up the next morning and discover her still talking, having evidently not gone to bed.  I don’t know what to think.

  She was clearly both elated and exhausted on the morning that we signed to Sandra Dee. She appeared peaky and bog eyed, but extremely happy when she finally emerged for breakfast, and it was evident that, once again, she hadn’t slept. The previous day’s jeans and t-shirt, designed for slouching about in, not meetings, were crumpled and limp, and her hair had not been brushed. Despite the fact that we would be late, Jenny sent Fliss back upstairs to change her clothes. When Fliss hadn’t emerged after twenty minutes, Jenny sent Flora and me upstairs to hurry her up. When we arrived, we discovered her fast asleep on her bed, still in her jeans and t-shirt. Flora shook her, gently, and Fliss drowsily swatted her away, muttering something incomprehensible, possibly in either French or Dutch.

  I walked over to the sink, filled a glass with cold water, and squatted down in front of her sleepy head. “Fliss,” I whispered down her ear, “if you don’t show any sign of waking up in the next five seconds, I will pour this very cold water down your back.” I counted, very slowly, and on the count of five, she sat up and grabbed the water from my hand. “Drink it then,” I said, sweetly, as Jenny burst into the room.

  We were an hour late. The journey by taxi to the Sandra Dee offices was marked by acute nervousness on the part of me, Flora and Katy, and extreme agitation on Jenny’s part. Fliss, meanwhile, sulked. Upon arrival, Jenny apologised once more for our tardiness, and we formerly signed the contacts we had received weeks ago, having resolved any concerns with both sets of lawyers before arriving in Scotland. There then followed a number of meetings with various Sandra Dee people, during which we shook hands and smiled a lot. Jenny talked to the various teams, departments, and individuals that made up Sandra Dee and between them a schedule was drawn up. I enjoyed watching her work, she was calm and professional but friendly, and she was very good at remembering names and job titles, something I often have trouble with.

  We went to the pub afterwards and talked, and it was nice not to have to think about contracts and schedules for a few hours. Jenny regaled us with tales of her youth in Liverpool, of riot grrrls and gigs, fanzines and parties, and the various exploits of the enigmatic Liberty Belle. We listened earnestly like wide eyed children.

  After the pub, Jenny went back to her room to work on some pieces for ‘NME’, and we all drifted off into separate camps. Fliss wandered off somewhere with her mobile, whilst Flora, Katy and I talked in their room. “What the hell is going on with Fliss?” muttered Katy as she threw herself down into an armchair. Flora and I more quietly claimed the bed. “Search me,” shrugged Flora, “but if she has that phone switched on tomorrow, when we have our gig and photo shoot, I shall ram it down her pretty little throat.” I winced. “I mean it,” she turned to me, “I’m sick of it.”

  Katy nodded, fiercely, in agreement. “Aren’t you?” she asked.

  I admitted that I was, “but she’s in love,” I explained, “don’t be too hard on her.”

  “When she was with Violet she wasn’t like this,” Flora pointed out, “she never let her interfere with the band anymore than Violet let her interfere with The Girls From Mars. Why should whoever it is this time be any different?”

  “Who is it anyway?” demanded Katy.

  “I don’t know,” I confessed “she won’t tell me anything – she never does – even with Violet, she never told me anything.”

  Jenny confiscated Fliss’ mobile as we set out for Glasgow the following morning. “You can have it back after the gig tonight.” She said briskly as she put the phone on silent and switched it off. Fliss began to argue, and Jenny gave her a look. It wasn’t a threatening look, as such, but it was the kind of look that spelled out, most clearly, that any further discussion would be futile. Fliss shut up, and began to pout sulkily instead. Jenny ignored her.

  The photo shoot posed no problems for Fliss, used as she is to earning the odd bit of extra cash by modelling wedding dresses for ‘Brides’. She enjoyed the attention, and was obliging and cooperative throughout, something which no doubt helped to smooth over her earlier disastrous behaviour at the record label. Both Katy and Flora were nervous and gauche in front of the lens, but with much coaxing, they eventually came out of their shells. I have always been notoriously camera shy, so I suffered and tried to console myself with the fact that the only shots of me that were likely to be used were the group shots. 

  The showcase gig in Glasgow went much better, despite our continued nervousness. It was made all the more nerve wracking by the knowledge that not just Alan the A&R man would be in the audience, but also the famed Alice Benson, our label boss. Jenny gave the still slightly sulky Fliss a pep talk before we went on stage, during which she expressed in no uncertain terms, just how important the gig was, and how disastrous things would be if Fliss was not on full form.  Flora took charge of Fliss’ wardrobe, and made her wear a new outfit she had made especially: a loose, floaty, smoky blue mini dress of sequinned and embroidered chiffon, which Fliss wore with blue ballerina pumps, blue ribbons and sparkly butterfly hairslides in her freshly curled hair. Lip gloss and subtle use of foundation, powder, blusher, eyeshadow and concealer, completed the look, turning the increasingly bad tempered Fliss into an English rose for the evening. Katy opted for an androgynous post punk neatness, Flora for a less glitzy femininity of denim skirt and silk shirt, whereas I tried to look neat.

  The venue where we played our showcase was no bigger than The Gates, but there was the nervous excitement that comes with playing on foreign turf, as well as our knowledge of the VIP’s in the audience. It was a strange gig, slightly surreal and dreamlike in quality, and it seemed at once to be taking far too long, and to be over far too soon. Afterwards, Flora and I relaxed backstage as Jenny took Katy and Fliss to meet Alice Benson. Katy had promised to kick Fliss if she showed any signs of sulkiness, but as it was, we didn’t have to worry: Jenny reported back that both of them behaved impeccably.

  We travelled home the next day feeling weary but satisfied. Fliss, newly reunited with her phone, withdrew back into her own little world again, as the rest of us dissected our various performances. It was evening when we reached Piccadilly, and the burnt orange sun was just setting as Jenny parked the car in the back alley next to the Gates. We walked the three or four streets it took us to reach Juvenile Hell.

  Inside those dark red and glittery gold walls were herds of impeccably dressed Bright Young Things, talking, drinking, and smoking over the deafening sounds of Felix Da Housecat.  At the epicentre of it all was Nat, squeezed into a black bustier and PVC mini skirt, turning on the charm for a tallish, slight of build man in baggy designer jeans and a Diesel t-shirt.  He was sporting what is known colloquially as a ‘Beckham’: scruffily punkish blonde hair with dark roots.  A very expensive looking camera hung around his neck, and, like his non-camera carrying colleague, he appeared to be in his late twenties.

  Fergus came over as I was observing this little scene.  He kissed me hello, and led me over to the table that he and his friends had taken possession of.  “Who’s that with Nat?” I asked as I leant back into his arms.

  “’City Life’” he explained, “Journalist and photographer, come to do a piece on the club.”

  We said no more about it, and he quickly turned his attention to asking me about Scotland.  I filled him in as best as I could. 

  “Well” he said as I leant sleepily against him, “I’d have a poster of you on my wall any day.”

  I yawned, “Wouldn’t you feel weird about it?”

  “Weird?”

  “It being of me”

  “No” he kissed my neck “I might phone them up actually, ask to see the sample shots, pick the best one of you, have it made up into a poster…”

  I wanted to protest, but I was too sleepy; I only hoped that he was joking as I closed my eyes.

  “Oh dear” he sighed as he tilted me into an upright position “I think I’d better take Cinderella home.  Do you have work tomorrow?”

  “Yes, worse luck”

  “Then I’ll definitely take you home”

  “My stuff” I murmured “In… the… in… Jenny’s…”

  “I’ll sort it”

  He practically had to carry me out of there; I was that tired.  Work was awful today, and I was so tired that it seemed even worse than usual.  I wish that I could get a decent night’s sleep.

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