Chapter Thirty Two: Adrienne

As a favour to Fliss and me Fergus had arranged for me to become the new receptionist at Twilight Studios; I had done phone work before, and Nat had explained the switchboard to me once she heard of Fergus’ plan, but, despite this preparation, there were some things that no one could have prepared me for, like the pipe cleaner thin, shaggy haired singer/guitarist recording with his band in one of the studios that week.  He sauntered over to me around twelve ish, with the predatory tread of the born hunter, and attempted to pull a stunt known to regulars at The Gates and other small mancunian music venues as ‘Hey-Babe-I’m-The-Singer-In-The-Band-Lets-Get-It-On’ syndrome.

  I suppressed a yawn “I’m in a band as well.” I said, casually.

  He feigned interest “Are you the singer then?”

“No” I said warily “I’m the drummer.”

  He laughed, as I had known he would; they always do.  At last, he stopped, but he was smirking as he asked “So, did you, like, form through auditions then?”

  “No” I replied icily “We did it the old fashioned way.”

  “All girl band?” he leered.

  “Yeees…” I could see where this was heading.

  He nodded, no longer confused “Yeah, punk band…”

  “Well, sort…”

  “…into Courtney Love and Avril Lavigne.”

  “No” I scowled “not at all.”

  An end to the conversation arrived in the form of Fergus, fresh from the lift; he came striding over, planted a kiss on my cheek, and announced that he was taking me to dinner.  As we watched the singer/guitarist depart, Fergus remarked, “He was chatting you up, wasn’t he?”

  I sighed wearily, “Of course he was, darling, he’s a rock star, he thinks every woman he meets should automatically fall to their knees and go down on him; it’s what he thinks we’re here for…” I was tired, which always makes me irritable, or I wouldn’t have been so all encompassing in my statement.  It’s only certain men and certain musicians who behave that way, not all of them.

  After work, he drove me home.  Fliss had gone to the supermarket to do the weekly shop, but she had cooked tea before she left.  I took it out of the oven, and had just sat down on the sofa with it on a tray, when there was a knock at the door.

  Cursing extensively, I put the tray down on the table, where Marmalade would be less likely to eat it, and traipsed down the stairs to the door.

  I was confronted by a slightly pallid and crumpled looking girl; she had long brown hair and dark eyes, and was wearing a pair of battered and ripped bleach washed jeans, her trainers were falling apart, and she wore a baggy, shapeless, t-shirt that may once have been black, but which was now a faded dark grey.  Her hair hung loose, almost to her waist, and needed washing.  She looked as though she hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep for weeks.  “You don’t know me” she blurted in her thick, Lancashire accent “but I need to see Fliss, I’m Adrienne.”  She extended a pale slim arm, but I didn’t take her hand, and she drew back, her eyes wary as she said quietly “I know; you must hate me, but…” her eyes were pleading “I have to see her, I have to explain…”

  “She’s not here,” I said, unhelpfully.

  “Then may I wait?”

  Something in her expression and manner made me say yes; there was an anxiety, and… there was something that I couldn’t quite pin down, something that couldn’t be faked: humility, or… love.  As soon as I realised it, I knew just what it was that had attracted Fliss to her: She had fallen in love with the girl, not the star.

  I stepped aside, and motioned for her to go upstairs; she didn’t have much luggage with her, just a small travelling bag, as battered and worn as her clothes; it was heavy yet not unbearably so.

  When she saw that I was in the middle of my tea, she was most apologetic, and I watched from the sofa as she sat down nervously in one of the armchairs.  It was only when Marmalade jumped up and settled down on her lap that she began to relax; I noticed her body lose its tension as she stroked the cat, but she couldn’t smile.  After I had eaten, we talked.  That is to say, she talked and I asked the occasional question.

  “I won’t whinge and try to make myself look good” she began, harshly “because I brought this all on myself, and I have to take responsibility for that as much as anything else, but I think things could have been different if there’d been even one person in my life who I could trust not to be a self serving wanker…” She sighed, and leant back in the chair.  She seemed exhausted.  “But now I’m just feeling sorry for myself.”

   “What happened?”  I asked softly.

  “You know what happened” her voice was thick with tiredness “You know from Fliss what happened, how we met, how we were caught out…”

  “But I don’t know your side of things” I pointed out, gently “I don’t understand why you acted like you did to Fliss at the concert, after you were caught out…”

  “I wanted to see her so badly, both times.”  She said fiercely “I nearly got caught before that weekend, I had to put a baseball cap on, pull it right down over my eyes, before I could put her in the cab and send her home.  No one saw me leave, but I was sure the driver saw me kiss her goodnight… I naively thought that we could sneak off together backstage…”

  “For a quick one?”

  She winced “It was never like that”

  “Fliss said it was” I murmured “In the beginning at least.”

  She nodded tensely “For the first few weeks, yes, but… it quickly became more than that.”  She locked eyes with me, and I could sense her discomfort as she confessed “I never intended it to happen, or for any of this” I assume she meant the scandal “to happen.  I wanted a bit of fun, a diversion from work, only it became something else.”

  I asked her why she had turned on Fliss when the press found out, and she told me that she had been angry, and that she had thought that Fliss had set her up as a revenge for treating her so badly at the concert.

  “Fliss would never do that,” I told her.

  “I know” she admitted pensively “I know that now, it’s why I came, or it’s partly why I came; I need to explain to her, why I’ve done what I’ve done.”  Her voice was bitter as she continued, “I was so angry, so ready to believe everything they told me…”

  “They?” I probed.

  She sighed and made a dismissive gesture with her free hand “Management, marketing, all those people at our record company; it was all their idea, first to ignore all the press coverage and hope it went away, then, when it wasn’t dying down, to issue the statement; that shitty, lying, statement…” She gazed up at me with clear, weary, sad eyes “I never wrote that statement, I swear, but I gave permission for it to be issued; if there’s anything I regret above all else, it’s that.”

  “Why did you agree?” I asked her, softly.

  “Because I was told that Fliss would out me in ‘Diva’ this month otherwise.”  She smiled bleakly “I read the interview this morning, I should have known that she wouldn’t, and I read the interview in ‘I.D’ as well, I couldn’t resist” her smile was wistful now “She looked so pretty on the cover, and I had to buy it to remind me of what I’d lost.  She said that she still cared about me in that interview, despite what I’d said in the statement, she still loved me.  I didn’t know what to do, but… I knew that I had to see her, so I came here.  I can’t rest until I’ve seen her again.”

  Talk turned to Adrienne herself then, and to her career with Girl Trouble.  Her voice and her manner in general lost its sense of heightened emotion now that the subject was no longer Fliss, and if I had ever envied any of the various girl pop bands I’ve seen on posters, in papers, and on T.V over the past few years, that envy evaporated as she talked.  Adrienne had studied at a small regional drama school; neither the council nor her parents would pay the high fees required for her to study at the school, and she financed herself by working in shops and factories when she wasn’t studying.  She had seen the advertisement for Girl Trouble in ‘The Stage’ and, with rent and fees to pay, went to the audition knowing that she would have to leave drama school at the end of the term if she didn’t earn a lot of money very quickly.

  “I thought that I could be in Girl Trouble for a year and earn enough money to go back to drama school afterwards, when it was all over.  I never thought I’d pass the first audition, let alone the others, because I really can’t sing that well at all, on ‘All Night Long’, all I do are the whispered bits, I’ve never had to hit any of the high notes or do any vocal histrionics, I leave that to Bianca and Jemma; they’re the divas, not me, I’ve had it easy in that respect – I just stand there and look pretty.  Our first manager as good as told me that I was just there because I looked good, I was to be the tits’n’ass of the band basically.”  She paused, “I’m feeling sorry for myself again, aren’t I? It’s like anything else; you sell yourself with your eyes open.  The difference was that the other girls wanted to be famous, or to be solo singers, all I wanted was the money: They went to stage schools, not drama schools, and they had the look, the walk, and the attitude, from that – I don’t have any of that, but I learnt it: It was just a game at first, a new acting challenge for me; I use a different accent when I’m in Girl Trouble, wear different clothes, wear make-up so thick that it’s like wearing a mask… I didn’t have a girlfriend when I joined Girl Trouble, and everyone assumed that I was straight, so I let them believe it; it wasn’t even an issue, really, at first… I had affairs, but I managed to keep them quiet, and then…”

  Downstairs, the door opened, and was closed again; I could hear Fliss’ impatient skip-walk on the stairs.  Adrienne heard it too, and her sad eyes lit up as she jerked her head in surprise.  “Is this her?” there was an eager catch in her voice.

  The first thing that Fliss saw when she pushed open the door was Adrienne, curled up in the armchair, stroking Marmalade.  The shopping bags dropped to the floor with a crash, as she stood, stock-still and open mouthed, for a few moments.  Adrienne seemed equally mesmerised as she slowly got to her feet.  She placed Marmalade down on the floor, and then walked over to Fliss.  A sob escaped Fliss as they held onto each other, and I left the room with a lump in my throat and a lot to think about.

  When I came back, they were sat next to each other on the sofa.  Both faces bore the evidence of a tearful reunion, and Adrienne was being held, loosely but lovingly, by Fliss.  I didn’t want to ask what they were going to do, so instead I stayed and talked for a while of things that didn’t matter, but as soon as I could, I tiptoed quietly away, leaving them to say what needed to be said.

  I tried to read, but I couldn’t concentrate; it was as though the words kept slipping away from me so that, after a while, I gave up altogether and went to bed. My dreams were haunted by dark haired girls dressed in long, white, old-fashioned style nightdresses, who shinned down drainpipes and ran away into forests and woodland, and I woke up with the lyrics to ‘Scarborough Fair’ stuck in my head. There was a soft give in the mattress as the cat jumped up; she mewed pitifully as she walked across my stomach, “Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme,” I murmured drowsily, and then groaned as she meowed down my ear and began to pummel my shoulder with her paws. With great care, I turned over, and she jumped down onto the carpet. As I prepared to get up, other lines bled through from the lingering subconscious of my dreams, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.”

  I opened the front door to go out to work, and was nearly blinded by a volley of flashbulbs.  I somehow barged, elbowed and shoved my way through the congregation on the doorstep and path and emerged from the scrimmage not too much the worse for wear just as Fergus arrived to pick me up.  I ran to him, and threw myself into the car, slamming the door so hard that he winced.  “GO!” I shouted, “FAST AS YOU CAN, GO!”

  He was so startled by the whole spectacle that he did just that.  It was only as we waited at the traffic lights that he asked mildly “Mind telling me what that was all about?”

  “Adrienne” I replied, and quickly relayed the whole story.

  “It was on Key 103 this morning that she’d been sacked from Girl Trouble” he said once I had finished “The label issued a statement about an hour ago, something about her just walking out, not telling anyone where she was going.”

  “She read Fliss’ interview in ‘I.D’” I said quietly “Fliss told them that she still loved her.”

  He shook his head “It’s going to get nasty…”

  “Get nasty? I have the tabloid press camped out on my doorstep! Can it get worse?”

  He nodded “Oh yes, it’ll definitely get worse…”

  At dinner, he emerged from the lift with the ominous statement “I’ve phoned Jenny, I think we’re going to need her.”

  “We?”

  He sighed, sounding almost as weary as Adrienne had, “You, me, Fliss, Adrienne, Flora, and Katy: That’s us.”  He explained, patiently, “Girl Trouble, SKM Records, Dave Nelson Management, the tabloids… they’re them.”

  “And what do you intend us to do?” I enquired.

  “Well” he admitted, “that depends on Adrienne.”

  But Adrienne was clearly weary of the lies.  “Let’s get it over with,” she announced to Fliss, Fergus, Jenny and me that evening, her eyes deadly serious, her face set in a stubborn expression, “I’m ready.”

  The plan was for Adrienne to write a statement in which she effectively outed herself, and in which she clarified and gave a short account of her relationship with Fliss.  Once she had written it, Fliss typed it for her on Jenny’s laptop, and it was promptly emailed to every paper, magazine, fanzine, T.V and radio station that we could think of, both those who had expressed an interest in Titanium Rose, and those who religiously ran even the most trivial Girl Trouble gossip pieces.  From the 3am Girls to the ‘NME’, from Radio One to Silk F.M, ‘The Face’ to ‘The F Word’, it was sent.

  From far and wide they read, and from far and wide they came, seeking interviews, pictures, and details… Some wanted to interview Fliss, some wanted to interview both Adrienne and Fliss, but mostly it was Adrienne that they wanted.

  In the space of a fortnight, Adrienne did over two hundred interviews.  Her three biggest, and most important, were given to ‘City Life’, ‘NME’, and ‘Diva’.  In-between interviews, she and Fliss spent as much time together as possible.

  On the second Thursday, Adrienne was persuaded by Fliss to go with us on our monthly pilgrimage to X-Offender; Fliss evidently wanted to show her off, and although I could sense that Adrienne would rather not go, she complied, swapping her usual denim rags for a lycra mini skirt and red velour halter-top.  Her hair was washed and styled into glossy ringlets, and she wore red lipstick and dark eye shadow.  “Scrubs up quite nicely, doesn’t she?” grinned Fliss, affectionately, but I could sense Adrienne’s discomfort.  Though there was no question that she looked anything other than gorgeous, I could tell by the way that she stood, and by the way she wouldn’t meet my eyes, that she hated it.

  Whilst we waited upstairs in the crowded bar for the club to start, I noticed a number of people glance, speculatively, in our direction as we drank our drinks and watched T.V.  Adrienne noticed it too, and I sensed her shift, uncomfortably, under their gaze.  After a few minutes of this, a couple of youngish men with Beckham haircuts and designer clothes came over, “Are you Adrienne Du Shanne?” asked one of them.

  “Yes,” she replied, warily.

  He relaxed, and I saw him nudge his companion, “Told you, you owe me a pint.”

  The other boy became very excited then, he seemed to tremble with a nervous energy as he asked, in quivering tones, “Can, can, can I have your autograph?”

  As he handed her a piece of paper and a pen, she let go of Fliss’ hand, and moved away from her as she said, in the smooth tones of her stage voice, “Who am I writing it to?”  I saw her frown to herself, and then she added, in her Burnley accent, “What’s your name?”

  “Craig,” he whispered, adoringly.

  “Craig,” she nodded as she signed, and I saw her take hold of Fliss’ hand once more as she handed the paper and pen back to him.

  In the tiny, dingy, neon tinged club, I observed them dancing to the Tatu version of ‘How Soon Is Now?’ a treasonable offence this close to the M60.  On the way home, they clung to each other as though they would never let go, and yet… I somehow knew.

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