Chapter Twenty Eight: Every Day, And Night

After weeks, nay months, of various interested parties worrying about her behaviour, Fliss surprised us all last week by announcing her intention to attend last nights Girl Trouble live extravaganza at the M.E.N Arena. She was really excited about it, screaming and running around the flat like she used to, with Marmalade chasing after her, trying to keep up.  “I’m going!” she shrieked as she jumped up and down, waving her ticket at me “I’m going, I’m going, I’m going!”  Marmalade had finally caught up with her, and was yowling at her feet; Fliss scooped her up and gazed into the bemused cats eyes then, she did a little dance, waltzing her around the room as she sang ‘Baby It’s You’ the cat wriggled, and Fliss let her go; she was still singing as she danced out of the room.

  Mum happened to be visiting at the time and, as she opened her mouth to speak I shook my head, saying “Don’t ask.”

  On the night of the gig Fergus arrived at the flat at about half six, fresh from work.  “Where’s Fliss?” he asked from the kitchen doorway as I poured water from the kettle into three mugs; “I thought tonight was her big night out?”

  “It is” I replied as I walked past him.  Fliss hadn’t left yet, but I could hear her getting ready and as I drew closer to her bedroom, I could hear the sounds of drawers slamming, jewellery rattling, and ‘She’s Your Cocaine’ blaring out from Fliss’ stereo.  I knocked on the door.

  “Not now!” called Fliss, not aggressively as such, more impatiently than anything.

  “I brought you a drink!” I called clearly through the door.

  “I’m going out, I haven’t time; I’ll be late!”

  “I’ll leave it outside the door then!” I called to her as I fled.

  Fergus and I were ensconced on the sofa with a bag of popcorn and ‘Velvet Goldmine’ on video by the time Fliss finally emerged; as the opening credits rolled, I looked up at her as she hovered nervously in the doorway: She seemed to be waiting for something, so I asked “Sure you want to go?”

  She nodded emphatically, but I could sense her apprehension as she asked, “Do I look alright?” there was a nervous inflection to her voice as she fussed and fidgeted with her hair, which was hanging loose and straight like a golden waterfall down her back: I never realised how long it was before.  She was wearing her black backless dress with flesh coloured fishnet tights, and black stilettos, and was wearing a little makeup: lip gloss, foundation, and eyeliner.

  “You look very pretty,” said Fergus kindly.

  “Only pretty?” she pouted in disappointment.

  “Sex goddess” he said quickly, over compensating.

  “Brigitte Bardot” I said, at the same time as Fergus said “Michelle Pfeiffer.”

  Fliss smiled “Thank you.” she turned to leave, “enjoy the film.”

  “Enjoy Girl Trouble” said Fergus wryly.

    Minutes, hours passed and after the film had finished, I lay in his arms, somewhere between consciousness and sleep.  I don’t know what time it was when Fergus nudged me awake; I only know that it had been dark for a long time.  “Recycling day tomorrow” he reminded me.

  I groaned “I’ll do it in the morning…”

  “You’ll forget again if you do,” he cautioned.

  “I won’t” he nudged me again “O.K” I drawled, sleepily “I’m getting up now.”

  “Where do you keep your paper sack?”

  This was a good question.

  “Oh” I waved my arms vaguely “it’s around, somewhere…” 

  We had a stack of music mags that we’d accumulated over the past few months, and we’d forgotten to put the sack out last time the council came round so they were still piled up in the kitchen, being used as an extra seat when we had a lot of people round.  It took us about half an hour to round all the paper up, and when we had, there was enough for the sack and for four carrier bags; Fergus took the sack, I took the carrier bags, and we lugged them along the hall and down the stairs.  It was a dark cloudy night, with a harsh chilly wind. I shivered in my jeans and t-shirt as I plonked my bags down on the pavement and turned around to go back to the house.  Fergus was waiting for me by the door, seemingly not in any hurry to go back inside; he seemed to be straining to hear something, something faint yet insistent… Over the noise of the cars on the road, I hadn’t heard it, but now…

  “Can you hear it?” he hissed urgently.

  I listened again.  There it was, faint yet insistent… “I think it’s coming from the garden” I whispered.

  “Come on then.”

  As we tiptoed round the side of the house, the darkness grew blacker and more sinister; I felt a little afraid as we walked because I couldn’t really see, or feel, where I was going, and it was an eerie sound, a high pitched, thin wail, full of despair.  It was lighter when we got to the garden, but it was still hard to see; we had to follow the sound.

  Fliss was lying spread-eagled and face down on the lawn; she was shaking with the cold and with the crying as she wept, noisily and emotionally, into the long, damp grass.  I knelt down beside her and whispered, “Come on in Fliss, whatever’s happened; it can’t be that bad…” But she just sobbed even harder.

  I spent a good fifteen minutes or so kneeling beside her, talking to her, asking her what was wrong, asking her to come inside, but it was all to no avail.  The temperature was dropping, and we were all growing colder and colder, but she wouldn’t move.  “Leave me here” she sobbed, then hiccupped “Just… leave me alone!”  Fergus motioned for me to come away, and, not knowing what else I could do, I got to my feet and stepped back a bit.  Then, before I realised what he was going to do, he had crouched down and picked her up. I saw him wince as he, somehow, slung her over his shoulder in a fireman’s lift.  “Don’t fight me,” he warned as she began to lash out and scream “or I’ll end up dropping you, and none of us want that.”

  As soon as we got upstairs, he deposited her carefully onto the sofa, where she immediately covered her blotchy, tear stained and make-up streaked face with her hands as her knees folded up to her chest.  I smoothed the strands of hair that had stuck to her face, and she began to whimper like a fractious child.  By the time Fergus had returned, bearing hot, sugary, milky tea, she was sitting up and biting her lip to stop from crying as fresh tears hovered in the corners of her eyes, waiting to fall.

  As he sat down in the armchair opposite us, Fliss spoke at last “She doesn’t love me” it emerged as a hoarse, taut whisper.  She blinked her pink swollen eyelids, and the tears fell in silence. 

  At last I asked “Who? Who doesn’t love you?”

  She shook her head tiredly.

  “Come on Fliss” I coaxed quietly “If she’s upset you this much, isn’t it time you told someone her name?”

  There was a long, long silence.  Fliss sipped her tea pensively as we waited.  “Adrienne” she said at last.

  Somehow, it didn’t register with me “Adrienne who?”

  “Adrienne Du Shanne!”

  “But Fliss” I said urgently “Why should she love you? You only met her once and…”

  “No!” she interrupted, shaking her head so vigorously that I feared she would drop her drink.  “You don’t understand!” and that was when she told us the truth at last.

  “Girl Trouble were in Manchester around the time of Fliss’ birthday,” said Fergus later when we were in bed, “they were recording their new album here, remember I told you.  They were in a hotel somewhere in or around the city centre…” There was a note of amazed wonder in his voice as he said, “It all fits together, the more and more you think about it, the more sense it makes.”

  “It’s not that I don’t believe her” I murmured, “It’s just… I can’t believe her, it’s so far fetched”

  He kissed me “Let’s talk about it in the morning, it’s too late now.”

  “When I met her,” Fliss had confessed earlier, her voice hoarse from crying; her face blotchy and sad “All either of us wanted was a little fun.”  She had been with Adrienne almost every night that the band had been in Manchester.  Sometimes there would be nights when the band had to be seen around town, or publicity was needed, but Adrienne had always made time for Fliss; she had taken her around the Village, showed her clubs that Fliss had never been to, but that Adrienne seemed to know very well; she had taken her clothes shopping, and showered her with gifts.  Even if they couldn’t see each other during the day, even if they couldn’t go clubbing together, Fliss was always there, sleeping with her, tiptoeing out of the room at five or six in the morning, sneaking up or down fire escapes and out of windows, being sure not to get caught.  If anyone came into the room when Fliss was there, she would hide in the bathroom, or under the bed; once, Adrienne hid her under the covers when one of her band mates barged in one night unannounced, luckily it was dark…  “She always locked the door after that,” observed Fliss softly.  “She was so… careful, about everything…” She broke off as she stared up at me, her eyes were full of regret as she said “But she took so many risks” her eyes filled with tears again as she sobbed “Far, far more than I did!” We waited until she had regained her composure, and then Fergus asked “What happened tonight Fliss? What went wrong?” she shook her head sadly, but he was determined “What happened?”

  “We… talked” she said, guardedly “When she went back to London; I thought that that was it.  I was sad, and I missed her, but… I never dreamt for one moment that she felt the same way.” She looked up at me “I’m not stupid, Maggie, I know the difference between a fling and a relationship, or” she paused as confusion clouded her face “at least, I thought I did…”

  “What happened?” pressed Fergus, gently.

  She regained her composure a little “I was angry” she stated “We had been phoning and texting each other every day since she went home, and she told me that it was a lie, that she didn’t have a boyfriend, that the press were making it up about her and the guy from Dangerous! She said that his publicity people had made it all up; to cover up that he’s gay, and her record label told her to play along with it.  She told me it was like acting, like playing a part, and I believed her…” She put her head in her hands, and we waited.

  “Tonight was going to be our grand reunion” she said sadly, tears in her eyes “She got me a ticket and an access all areas pass.  She said I could go backstage, and we could disappear somewhere, we could be together, and no one would know.”  She sniffed a little, and her voice wobbled as she continued, “I went backstage, but it was no use, I could see her, but I couldn’t get close to her.  They were surrounded by press, management, photographer’s… people… I kept waiting for them to leave, so that she and I could go somewhere, but when they did, other people come in, I managed to sit near her, near enough for her to see me, but she just looked through me like she didn’t know me.  She was sat on a sofa opposite me, with the other three, and she was in her stage clothes, talking in her stage voice.  I felt as though I didn’t know her, like I’d never known her… she was a stranger to me then.”  I passed her a tissue, and she wiped her eyes, and then blew her nose.  “There were bottles of champagne everywhere.”  She continued “So I helped myself to some of it, as that’s what it seemed to be there for.  People kept topping my glass up, and I kept on drinking it, and” she smiled wryly “I suppose I drank too much, and that I got drunk or embarrassing, so… someone phoned for a taxi for me, and it took me home.”

  We persuaded her to go to bed and try and get some sleep; we had recording work in the morning, and she was worn out.  She nodded dully in agreement, and got to her feet.  The expensive, slinky, backless dress was crumpled and covered in grass stains, and her tights were ruined.  “I don’t care” she snuffled, “I never want to wear this dress again.” 

  “You don’t really mean that, Fliss” I said soothingly.

  “Yes I do,” she muttered, her eyes blank, her tone listless as she shuffled out of the room, and along the corridor to her room.

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