A serialised novel
……The sun shines and bleaches out the colour. Like my memory right? I wake up and there’s nothing left of it… Anyways, so I’m looking left and then I see him. No, not Harry. The guy… The one stood at the street corner, by the streetlight. … I crouch behind the desk, behind the drawers, under the table… Thinking ‘they can’t get in’ as hard as I can. Over and over…”Shem? It is you isn’t it? I saw you at the window. It’s me, Frank. And I’ve brought Felicity with me.”… I realise it’s because my heart is banging like a big badass drum at my chest…Because I can smell it. I can smell her. It’s the same damn perfume I found in the drawer…
So there’s this long pause. More whispering.
“I’m here.” I say. Like they didn’t know right? But I’m making a statement. I’m in here but you’re outside. I’m not letting you in just because you ask y’know. I have some dignity after all. This is me, I don’t have to just take all this. Right?
“Will you open the door Shem? We’d like to see you. I was worried when I saw Mr. Parks leave just now.” Mr. Parks? Is that Harry? Who else could it have been? Mr. Parks – doesn’t he know his name? And why so worried? Harry wasn’t so bad. I take too long thinking all this. “Shem? Come on old boy, open the door.” And then I have the accent. British. Posh, like…shit…like how do I know? But I’ve heard it before. Somewhere.
“I’ll open the door.” I say, “But she’s not coming in…Felicity or whatever. Not her.” I wait, thinking this makes me sound like a real idiot right? A real shmuck. Another pause. Whispers. Then I hear the skitter of heels across the floor and down the steps until they fade out.
“Alright Shem, I’ve asked Felicity to wait downstairs until we’re finished. Now, how about letting me in?”
I look at the door post and the shiny little button. Will I open up? My finger points at it, trembling, then on some impulse I press it. There’s a click and the door swings towards me. I wait behind it. Slowly his head comes round, smiling. It’s a handsome face. Straight. Blue eyes smiling, a strong sharp nose and slicked back hair, greying at the temples. A warm expression. “Shem. Good to see that you’re alright. May I come in?”
I’m not feeling too friendly yet. “You’re in, right?” I mutter and back away towards the table, putting both hands behind me to steady myself. He watches me. Then, when I’m still, his head pulls back slowly and he walks into the room. Slow, purposeful, confident steps. Good shoes, a sharp suit, no fuss. One hand in his trouser pocket. Unlike Harry this guy is all in proportion right? Like from the day he was born everything’s been just so. Just his way; he has that air of confidence, of control.
“Well, this is nice.” He looks around the room. Then turns to me. His smile bends to include a concerned frown as he takes me in. “How are things Shem?”
“Well, you know, the usual weird shit if you must know…” He smiles again and I start blabbing, I couldn’t resist. “Look, I’m sorry if I’m acting weird right? I mean, it’s all just been a bit out there, y’know? First Harry then you…and all this…I mean, none of this is making any sense to me right? I don’t know shit about what all this is…what I’m doing here right? I can’t even remember my…you calling me Shem? Is that my name?”
His face winces, like he’s trodden on something painful like. He takes two steps towards me. I grip the table harder but don’t move. His figure fills my vision but it’s not menacing. Just strong. Tall. He reaches out with his right and places it on my shoulder and squeezes, reassuringly. I look up into those eyes and he smiles.
“Shem. Your name is Shem. And I am Mr. O’Donnel. But you know me as Frank.” He moves his hand down to my arm, brings his left out and holds both my arms, looking real deep into my eyes. “You and I go back along way, Shem. A long way. I know you’ve been through a lot but I’ve been looking out for you. I’ve always looked after you Shem. And I’m not about to stop now.” He takes both hands and slides them back into his pockets. He nods positively as he talks. “Everything’s going to be alright now, my boy. You’ll see.” He holds my gaze for just one moment more before turning and walking over to the far window, looking out.
I walk over to him and follow his gaze. The woman is stood back by the streetlight, fixing her make-up in a small mirror. “Felicity was keen to see you again Shem, but she understands what you’ve been through. She’ll wait. We’ve all been waiting.” He sounds like he’s talking to himself, y’know, when you think out loud by mistake? He takes a deep breath and turns back to me, like he’s re-starting something.
“So, this place looks a little sparse. How long have they kept you here my boy?”
“I don’t know. A day. Maybe… shit, don’t ask me Mr…Frank. I don’t know for sure.”
“Well, did you wake up here? I mean, have you somewhere to sleep?” We both look at the room, taking in the table, the chest of drawers, the chair. We answer our own question. No. Probably not. “Alright, it doesn’t look that way does it? Well, that helps us. It means they will probably want to move you before the end of the day. We’ll have to think fast. Tell me, what did Harry have to say when he was here?”
So I give it all to him right? I mean, not all, but my own take on the whole thing. Harry’s head, the weird conversation and all that. While I’m talking Mr. O’Donnel sees the table with the note paper spread out. Asks me if Harry had seen it and I tell him how Harry thought it was a good thing.
“Hmmm. That’s not like him, Shem. He must have known you’d write about him too. Interesting. We must make sure that we take it with us.”
Now my head does a double-take. What? Leave? I hadn’t thought of that. Like, I’m not sure I’m ready. I mean, this Frank seems o.k. but how do I know? How do you really know? He could be anyone, really. Right? I mean, I’ve only met him today. Oh, sure he tells me we go back along way but…how do I know? He must have seen all this go sailing right across my face because he walks over to the wall and leans against it in his slightly laconic way, like he’s got all the time in the world for this.
“Of course I understand, Shem, that you have no reason to trust me at the immediate moment.” He gives a little laugh. “I mean, who am I? Just another person coming to this…room. You need more than that if you are to trust me. I understand. I really do. I would expect nothing less from any sensible person. And especially so from you. The problem for me is, of course, where does one begin? What can I tell you – either about yourself or about what is happening to you now – that will help you to believe me? I really don’t know where to start Shem. Perhaps you have some questions?” He throws this out alongside his right hand, like it was scattering imaginary seed over the floor.
Perhaps I have some questions? Sheesh, this guy’s a cool customer. Like, I haven’t twenty million questions right there! Right? A question for every second I’ve been in this place. But then that weird thing starts. Y’know? When you’re on the spot and someone asks you for everything. For everything you’ve got and you hit that brick wall. Like, it’s some huge chasm – and you know it’s there, you know how high and wide and deep and all that – but you just can’t find the words to describe it. Or ask it. Or…tell it. So what could I possibly ask him that would make it all o.k? Shit. What?
(Later I realise that that’s the biggest shmuck question of all time right? I mean, ‘what can you tell me that will make everything alright?’ Isn’t that what we’re all asking, everyday, right? We’re watching for it, waiting for that answer to come padding round the dark corners of our tiny little minds – ‘oh, here it comes, the answer that will make everything o.k.!’ Sheesh.)
Anyways, I ducked it. I took a moment to pretend like I was considering his offer, real serious like, but all the time I knew I would duck out, evade his offer. For now. Maybe later there would be time to ask the questions. And maybe he’d have an answer. But not here, not like this. No way. I was at rock bottom. There was only one question.
“Can I really trust you Mr. O’Donnel? I mean really?”
In answer he pulled himself off of the wall and lifted his chin, like he was considering some noble purpose, drawing in a deep breath through his fine strong nose. Like he was smelling it, savouring it almost. Lowering his chin again he gives me that deep look with those blue eyes. Like an ocean staring back at me.
“Yes, Shem. You can put your trust in me. I won’t let you down.”
One of those moments. Don’t ask me how I know. But one of those. When something passes between two people and they don’t need to blab about it. You don’t need no words for that kinda shit. There was an understanding. Me and Mr. O’Donnel. We had something. A pact. A promise. I don’t know. Like I said, you don’t need words for that.
“O.k. let’s get outta this dammed room.” I say and move towards the door.
Dear reader – do you have a suggestion for the next chapter? A suggestion for what might be found in the room? Will anyone come to the character’s aid? Perhaps a plot idea? Or maybe you just want to tell me to stop! Whatever, drop me a comment! You may find it used in the next chapter!
‘Til next time,
- The Room (rattledrum.wordpress.com)