Chapter Thirty: Wicked Whispers

Band practice was awful: I was the first to arrive and, as such, welcomed the calm grey space of the Twilight Studios practice room, knowing that it would give me both time and peace to get my story straight before Flora and Katy arrived.  I’d not long finished setting up my drums when I heard footsteps outside in the corridor; quick, heavy, determined steps as though the person was running, “Maggie!” called Katy, slowing down as she entered the room, “I found that song we talked about last week!” she passed me a tape, and a folded sheet of paper, “I transcribed the lyrics for Fliss” the eager expression on her face began to fade as she glanced around the room; she frowned “Where’s Fliss?”

  Flora, who had brought up the rear, walked into the room and calmly laid her bass down on the floor.  As she unzipped the bag, she murmured “Don’t tell me Fliss had to pull an extra shift at work”

  I nodded, seemingly in disappointment, but really in relief; I hadn’t been looking forward to lying to Flora, who I trust, and to Katy, who I’m beginning to trust.

  Katy rolled her eyes impatiently, “Great” she snapped, “when will she be here?”

  “She won’t,” I admitted, truthfully.

  “Well” Flora got to her feet and carefully picked up her bass, “We’ll just have to do what we can.  I had wanted to work on the new songs, but…” she shrugged.

  “Sorry” I said.

  She looked up from her bass “Don’t be sorry, it’s not your fault.”

  But I felt as though it was.

  On Saturday night, Fergus and I went out to Juvenile Hell. It was early when we arrived, and the red, sparkling décor was adorned with only a few early birds.  In a dark, private corner, Nat was sat with Dylan, gazing wistfully into his eyes; she looked up as we made our way past the door staff “Hello” she gestured to the seat next to her “Sit with us” and when I voiced our desire to get drinks, she said, “Dylan and Fergus can get them, you sit with me.”

  The wistful expression hadn’t left her face by the time I reached her, and she seemed quiet; not subdued, but… thoughtful.

  Dylan and Fergus returned with the drinks.  Two pints, lemonade, and bottled water which, I was surprised to discover, was Dylan’s.  It was later, when Nat was busy working and Fergus had returned to the bar, that he answered my unspoken question “I’m allergic to alcohol.”

  “I didn’t say anything!” I protested.

  He smiled, displaying a lot of white enamel.  I took in his muscular tanned arms and long, thin face; his eyes were the same dark blue as Nat’s.  “I could tell that you were surprised though.”

  “Have you been at ‘City Life’ long?” I enquired, eagerly, wanting to change the subject.

  He smiled, not at all fooled “A year.  I worked for ‘The Face’ and ‘NME’ before that; still do sometimes.”

  I nodded.

  We talked of other things then, and I found that the reservations I’d had about him dropped away one by one as we talked. He seemed to genuinely love her, and I was glad of that.  After a lull in the conversation, he asked rather cautiously “You don’t drink either, do you?”

  Fergus was just returning with another drink, as he sat down, he grinned at Dylan, and said “The only time I’ve ever seen her drink was the first time we came here, and she got plastered and spent the rest of the night throwing up.”

  I could feel myself colouring, not with embarrassment so much, more with anger as I glared at him.  I sensed Dylan glance speculatively at us both, but he didn’t say anything, and I could tell that he didn’t think it was funny either; most people would have done I suppose.

  The awkward silence was broken as Fergus turned around to talk to some newly arrived friends, and I seized my chance.  “You’re right, I don’t drink.” I murmured as I leant forward.  He leant towards me expectantly, and his face was sympathetic, which gave me the courage to continue.  “Alcohol clashes with my medication, it stops it working properly, and if I drink more than a pint or so, I’m sick.”

  He nodded, and we each leant back in our chairs.  As I looked up, I noticed that Fergus was watching me; he had an odd, questioning expression on his face, and I think he may have overheard.  There was no time to talk about it though, not there, not then, and neither of us has raised the subject since.  It was shortly after that that Nat and I hit the dance floor in any case and, despite everything, I’m glad I talked to Dylan; he seemed to be one of those rare people who listen without judging, for which I am grateful.

  It would have been about eight am on Sunday morning when Fergus and I were rudely awakened by the phone ringing.  It must have been ringing for a long time, because I heard it in my sleep long before I woke up.  It rang and rang and rang in an almost aggressive manner as I staggered out of bed, and by the time I eventually answered it, it was almost screaming.  Things were no better when I picked up the hand set however, for the scream of the phone was replaced by the scream of Jenny as she shrieked and ranted incoherently about tabloid newspapers and betrayals of confidence.  “YOU KNEW!” She yelled.

  I winced, and held the handset away from my ear.  I could still hear her though.


  It was with a sinking heart and sudden feeling of dread that I covered the mouthpiece and turned around to face Fergus, who was standing behind me with a deeply curious expression on his face.  “Nip out and buy a selection of the tabloids.” I hissed “the trashiest ones; might be important.” He nodded, and then shot off to my bedroom in pursuit of his clothes and wallet.

  Jenny was still bawling me out when he returned from the newsagents, and by then I knew what to expect, for Jenny had confirmed my worst fears.  Fergus was surveying the papers with a mingled expression of distaste, revulsion, and fascination when I joined him on the sofa.  He passed me the ‘News Of The World’ as he murmured, “Well, no denying it’s real now…”

  The front cover of the paper, in common with several other tabloids that day, was given over to an enlarged, grainy picture of a young dark haired slim girl in frayed bleach washed jeans and a cut off t-shirt; she was kissing a younger seeming fair-haired girl, also in jeans and t-shirt.  It was a very intimate shot, seemingly taken from a distance, but using a zoom and it made me feel both saddened and moved as I realised how good they looked together.  But I also realised as I gazed at that grainy image that they could never be happy together; not now.

  “GIRL TROUBLE!” screamed the headline, whilst the subheading shrieked “Raunchy Adrienne’s Steamy Weekend” I scanned the text frantically, desperately checking for any mention of Fliss’ name, but it seemed that she had been lucky, for there were none, just the usual mentions of a ‘mystery blonde’.  I asked Fergus to check the other reports, and he reported back the same: plenty of ‘mystery blonde’ references, but nothing to suggest that Fliss’ identity was known.  The picture was taken from Adrienne’s vantage point, revealing her face, but Fliss had been shot from the back.

  “She’s safe” I sighed in relief as I handed the ‘News Of The World’ to Fergus.

  “For now” he replied, softly.

  The phone rang once more and, fearing that the press had found out about Fliss after all, I answered warily: But I needn’t have worried, for it was only the girl herself. She must have been unaware of the tabloid coverage (quite how remains a mystery), for she began her call by saying “I’m on my way home, how was band practice?” she sounded so happy that I almost didn’t tell her, but I knew that I had to.

  “Fliss…” I began, carefully.

  She didn’t say anything once I had finished telling her about Jenny and the tabloids, but I could hear her breathing as it came heavier, and faster “Oh” she said, at last.  “I’ll be home soon, we’ll talk then” and, with that enigmatic response, she rang off.

  She was in tears when she arrived home.  “She told me I’d betrayed her!” she sobbed as she threw herself down into the armchair,  “She thinks I phoned them all; they were all waiting for her when she got home, camped out on her doorstep…” the sobbing engulfed her once more, and I couldn’t just sit there and watch.  I went to her, and I took hold of one trembling hand as I crouched down beside her.  “How did they find out?” she wept, “Who told them? And how did they get pictures of us so soon? We were only there last night!”

  Fergus was telling Fliss about picture messaging in a low, calm voice as I squeezed her hand and made soothing noises, when the phone rang.

  Fergus got up to answer it as Fliss began to sob increasingly violently.  When I looked up from her a minute later, I noticed that he was stood in the doorway, an expression of deepest sympathy on his face as he surveyed us both “Fliss” he said at last.  She jerked her head up, and we both took in her blotchy, tear stained face and quivering lip as he added, “It’s for you.  It’s your mum.”


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