Chapter Forty Nine: Awakening

“I’m not here to judge you,” said Jenny from her vantage point on the sofa, “I’m here to try and help you.”  Her tone was quiet, and her eyes were full of kind concern, but I could sense her caution and unease as she watched me through wary eyes.

  “You sound like a fucking therapist,” I muttered truculently.  Like everyone these days, she was killing me with kindness, and I felt bad enough already.  In my lycra mini skirt and neat black shirt, with my hair brushed and tied back from my face, I felt naked.  The shirt didn’t hide the scars on my arms for one thing, and the skirt didn’t cover the scars on my legs.  I had wanted to appear in control, in neat, tidy, sensible clothing, but I had failed, just as I have in everything lately.  I made myself meet her eyes as I said, “I suppose you want to talk about the band.”

  “Well, yes,” I had evidently caught her off guard, caught her before she was ready, “I mean, if you want to that is, if you’re ready…”

  “I’m ready,” I replied grimly.  I had to get it over with. 

  “Well then,” she shuffled some papers in her lap, and I knew that she wanted to look at them, not at me, “Fliss might have told you about the tour being cancelled, has she?”

  “No.”

  “Well, now it’s been re-arranged.”

  “When?” I asked, dully.  I didn’t really care, but it seemed important to express an interest.

  “A fortnight today; I discussed it with your mum, and your doctor, and neither of them think you’re ready, so…”

  “Have I been sacked, Jenny?” I asked quietly.  I feel indifferent about so many things these days, but that was one thing that I had to know.

  She shook her head, “but we’re borrowing Andrea for the tour.”  I raised my eyebrows in surprise as she continued, “The Girls From Mars are writing at the moment; they aren’t gigging or promoting anything, and since it’s only for one week, Andrea offered to step in.  She knows some of the songs already of course, from playing gigs with you before.”

  I nodded; it made sense, “What about the photo shoot and videos we were scheduled to do?”

  “Well,” she smiled awkwardly, “I’m sorry, but we went ahead without you on those.”

  “I’m not.”

  “No,” she smiled wryly, “I didn’t think you’d mind.”  She gazed at me directly, “What we need to discuss now, if you’re ready that is, is what you want to do in the long term, with the band, or without the band.”

  “I want to stay with Titanium Rose.”  I said immediately.

  “You’re sure?” She asked, doubtfully, “Because I want you to really think about this, it’s not a hobby anymore, it’s a career, you have a lot of potential as a band, but its potential that can be developed without you as well as with you, and I do believe, and Sandra Dee believe, that this is a crucial point.”

  I raised my eyebrows again, “I thought you were meant to be being nice…”

  “Sometimes being honest is better than being nice,” she said briskly, “and you can’t tell me that you weren’t thinking of leaving the band last year; Katy told me.”

  I stiffened in anger, “And what did Katy say?”

  “She said that you wanted to be a dancer instead, and I know from talking to Fliss, and especially to Nat, that you have the talent for that.”

  “If you talked to Nat,” I snapped, “you’ll know that I have no chance of going back…”

  “But you have other routes into dance than ballet school…”

  I shook my head, my brain suddenly full of questions and contradictions, it wasn’t that I hadn’t thought of that, that I hadn’t thought of trying those other routes, but… “Believe me, Jenny,” I said, coldly, “I’ve had plenty of solitary hours lately in which to consider it…”

  “Yes, of course, um…” She blushed fiercely as she shuffled papers.

  “Does Katy want me to come back?” I enquired.

  She froze mid shuffle, and I knew that I had hit a nerve.  Her expression was carefully schooled when she at last looked up, but I could hear the barely suppressed anger in her voice as she said, “Let me deal with Katy, she isn’t your concern right now.”

  I nodded reluctantly, she was right of course, whatever private battles Katy and I have to fight will have to wait.  I changed tack, “Are you glad that Fergus and I split up?”

  “No,” her voice was mildly indignant, “what on earth made you think that?”

  “Well, you never approved of us being together,” I reasoned awkwardly.

  “Doesn’t matter what I think,” she said wryly, “I thought he was too old for you, and I thought it was bad because he had been your label boss, but he seemed to be good for you… I never disliked him…” She turned away to pick up her papers, and began to sort them out and put them into her bag, “until now” I heard her add, under her breath.

  “He told you what happened, didn’t he?” I persisted.

  “Yes,” she said softly, “he did.”

  I could feel a blush creeping up my face as the sense of betrayal washed over me like a wave.  The mortification must have shown on my face, for Jenny walked over to me and sat down next to me on the sofa, “Now listen,” she said, kindly but firmly, “He only told me because I made him tell me, your mum told me the rest, it’s gone no further than me, and it never will…”

  “The ‘NME’, the press…” I murmured, frantically.

  “I don’t work for the ‘NME’ anymore.”

  I jerked my head up in surprise, I could see the anger and regret in her face as I said, “Oh Jenny, I’m so sorry.”

  “I’m not,” I saw her shoulders tense, “they put me in a very difficult position, between people I care about, and I do care about you, no matter what you think, and my career.  I chose the people I care about.”  Her expression became wary once more as she said, tentatively, “Flora seemed to think you’d seen some of the press coverage about your illness,” she paused for my reaction, and when none came, continued, “She said Fliss left some of it lying around.”

   I nodded, grimly, I didn’t want to get Fliss into trouble, but I wasn’t prepared to lie either.  “I had to find out sooner or later,” I said tensely, “what they were saying about me.”

  “I’d rather it had been later, we all had.”

  “Well, its character building I suppose” I said with false cheeriness “being called an anorexic, self-destructive, attention seeking lunatic.”

  “It’s not personal to you,” she tried to explain “it’s what gets written most of the time about musicians with mental illnesses.”

  I nodded tensely, I knew that, but it didn’t make me feel any better about it, “Jenny,” I began cautiously, “I don’t know if I can do this, but, I really don’t want to do interviews anymore,” I sighed, heavily, “they’ll only be interested in writing about me as some woeful caricature, and I’m not into that, besides,” I concluded, “no one ever wanted to interview me before.”

  She nodded, “I’ll get in touch with Sandra Dee about it today: No one will make you do press if you don’t want to.”

  I nodded gratefully, “Thank you.”

  She watched me with that same thoughtful expression, “This has been worrying you, hasn’t it?”

  I nodded again, “You have no idea,” I admitted, with feeling.

  After Jenny had left, I wandered aimlessly from room to room, thinking… Practically the first thing I had seen upon returning to the world had been the press cuttings about me from the music press, which had taught me not only how they viewed me, but how much they loved that I had fallen from anonymity into the spotlight, and could be used as such for vicious gossip.  It was hardly a newsflash, I’d seen it happen innumerable times before with musicians and film stars, but I had never expected it to happen to me.

  Over the weeks, the music press’ sniping has lost impact, mainly because I haven’t been reading the press, but also because re-entering the world has meant catching up on everything that has happened whilst I’ve been away.  I was sedated throughout the ongoing carnage in Iraq, and I slept through government approved scare mongering about obesity and smoking, in the process going through cold turkey for my own nicotine addiction whilst slowly wasting away.  Asylum seekers were turned away, Haitian presidents ousted, and the tenth anniversary of Bill Hicks and Kurt Cobain’s deaths were marked as I slept.  It seems, even now, as though I am still waking up.

  On the 11th of March, I was awake and wretched as Al Quaeda bombed trains in Madrid, killing hundreds of people and injuring still more. I missed at least two deaths in Israel, and came back to the world just in time to mark the chaos caused by the fire at the B.T plant in Manchester.  For a week, silence seemed to reign as phones lay dead and useless, but the chaos felt normal to me.  All around the world, people die because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I can’t feel anything for them because the pills stop me from feeling; not entirely, but they blur my feelings to such a degree that they no longer feel natural, but instead feel chemical, synthetic, and altogether false.  I no longer cry, but some days I still want to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head, and stay there forever, knowing nothing, feeling nothing.

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