Читать онлайн «An Almost Perfect Moon»
He stomped up the stairs. In his kitchen, a faint odour of cleansing fluid still lingered around the sink and surfaces. His answerphone, neatly attached to the wall by the door, was flashing the message light. Underneath, lying equally neatly on top of each other, were two bills, two more final warnings. Harry cursed himself. He’d intended to pay those first thing on Saturday morning but had forgotten. That meant he’d have to phone the following morning and explain that he would pay them that day, as he was bound to have already exceeded his seven days’ grace. This was the trouble with being a self-employed artist: irregular pay which it encouraged irregular payment of bills. Still, nothing he could do about on a Sunday night. He pressed the answer machine.
‘Oh, Harry, it’s your father here. Need to come down to town this week and was hoping to bunk up at your place. How about tomorrow? Bye.’ His father often did that, always ‘bunking up’ or ‘bunking down’ armed with his old leather overnight bag and battered briefcase. Harry smiled; he loved the fact his father felt he could. The second was from Julia, her smooth Galaxy bar tones filtering their way through the distortions of the machine.
‘Hi, Harry. It’s Julia. Just wondering when I’m going to see you next. I loved last night – it was wonderful. Call me.’
He would, but later. In his bathroom he undressed and ran a bath. Looking at himself in the mirror, he realized how tired he looked. It wasn’t surprising. There were just a few grey hairs amongst the otherwise light, soft mop that shaggily covered his head, and the beginning of a wrinkle at one side of his mouth; curiously the other remained unblemished. Nearly thirty and yet his life still felt utterly directionless. His other friends seemed to be leaving him behind. Nearly all of them were now married or living with their partners. Ben and Lucie were about to have a child. His parents had been twenty-nine when he’d been born, but there still seemed an enormous gulf between his present situation and settling down. He wished he could; he felt ready to in his heart, but he just didn’t seem able to find the right person to do it with.
What was the matter with him? Was he so obsessed with finding his one true love that, like Mrs Danvers, he would slowly go mad, eventually setting fire to his flat and himself? He plodded out of the bathroom, his towel wrapped around him, put on some cheering music, and sighed once more, this time a little more heavily. At least he had his flat. That was something. Just his and no one else’s. He could be as selfish as he wanted without it affecting anyone. Slumping down on the sofa, he looked about him. His taste, his choice; the television positioned in the corner, or the painting by his mother next to the door, simply because he wanted them there. There was no one to compromise with over what video to watch or when to have a bath. No one to stop him farting if he felt like farting. He could eat what he wanted to eat, and not be chided for putting too much butter on his toast like Lucie did with Ben. And no matter how envious he might feel of his friend’s advanced situation in life, once the baby was born, Ben’s life would not be the same. Being an artist also meant he was his own man, with no one telling him what to do. Unlike Julia, or his other friends, he wasn’t a slave to some higher being. Really, he had a lot to be thankful for.
The rain had finally given way to a half-clear sky as the blanket of cloud slowly disappeared. But, leaving Ben and Lucie’s, Flin barely noticed the upturn in the weather; his mind was preoccupied with a different matter entirely.
‘You know what, Tiff, perhaps we should leave London,’ he suggested to her in what he hoped was an offhand, easy-come, easy-go kind of manner.
‘OK,’ said Tiffany, as the bus pulled up on St John’s Road.
‘Well, perhaps we should,’ said Flin again, his excitement level rising.
‘When?’ said Tiffany casually as she stepped up to the driver. ‘Two to Hammersmith, please.’
She took the tickets and they squeezed themselves into one of the seats, which was far too small for Flin’s six-foot-something frame. His knees were wedged against the carpet-backed seat in front, and even Tiffany, who was tiny, looked cramped.
‘Are you serious?’ said Flin.
‘I don’t know. Are you?’
‘I’m not sure. Am I?’
Tiffany laughed. ‘You’re so funny. Flin, baby, I don’t know. I mean, what would we do?’
‘I’m sure we could find work. There must be PR companies worth working for outside London.’
‘Well, if we can both find something to do, then we could think about it. I wouldn’t mind moving out to the country. Don’t forget, hon, I’m a country girl. I’d never been anywhere a quarter of the size of London before I came here.’
‘It would be good though, wouldn’t it?’ continued Flin. ‘We could get a dog, have long walks, it’d be really quiet. We’d probably become regulars in some flagstoned local boozer. And just think – no more of this: taking hours to get anywhere. If we wanted to go to the beach, we could just go; we wouldn’t have to fight our way through one traffic jam after another, and walk past endless amounts of litter and graffiti.’
She looked up at him and grinned. ‘Darling, I’ll go anywhere with you. You know that.’
‘Be serious,’ said Flin, prodding her.
‘I am! Ouch! Get off me!’
‘No you’re not.’
‘Honestly, honey, I think it’s great that you see a house for sale in the newspaper and then decide we should throw in our jobs and move out.’ Flin saw she was trying to keep a straight face. ‘I mean, I think we should put our flat on the market straight away. Nothing like acting on a whim. Probably best just to be spontaneous. In fact, first thing tomorrow, let’s put an offer in on that house in Northumberland.’
‘That’s not funny,’ said Flin.
‘I think it’s hilarious.’
Both began giggling.
‘Tiff,’ he said, gasping, ‘share my vision.’
At which she started laughing again so hard, she could no longer speak. Eventually, she recovered. ‘Look, stop making me laugh. Everyone’s staring at us.’
‘I still think we should think about it though,’ said Flin.
Tiffany rested her head against his shoulder. ‘But seriously, Flin, you’re always having these plans. Don’t you remember last year you were dead set on us moving to France?’
‘It was a great idea at the time.’
‘Except that neither of us speaks French and we wouldn’t be able to get any work. And then you wanted to buy a houseboat.’
‘But that would have been great too.’
‘Yes, but you couldn’t talk about anything else for two weeks, then you realized it was actually going to cost a fortune and that was the last I heard of it. Then there was the time when we were going to take out loans and learn to fly. And then that was shelved and the money was going to fund us for a year of travelling the world. I love your enthusiasm for things, darling, but I can’t take this latest “vision” seriously because it’ll probably be dead in the water by next Thursday.’
‘But it’s only ever been lack of money that’s prevented us doing this stuff. If we can get jobs and so on, it might really be possible. And you have to admit, it would be good to have a little bit of land, wouldn’t it?’
Tiffany said nothing.
Flin continued. ‘That house we saw had a couple of fields, didn’t it? Just think, we could have a few sheep, get some geese and chickens and grow things. We could eat lots of really fresh, wholesome food. It’d be brilliant, wouldn’t it?’ Flin kissed the top of her head.
‘Brilliant,’ she said, and closed her eyes.
But Tiffany was probably right. Did he mean it? He simply wasn’t sure. In theory, the idea of moving out and pursuing the pastoral dream definitely fired him. But in practice … well, it was a big, big step.
‘You know what?’ Flin said to Tiffany a while later. The telly was on and she was snuggled up against him on the sofa.
‘What?’ said Tiffany, absent-mindedly tickling his arm.
‘I think I’ve just eradicated all the arguments I used to use for staying in London.’
‘Still on this one then. And what are those?’
‘Well,’ said Flin, counting them off on his fingers, ‘firstly I always used to say all my friends were here. But they’re not really. Not any more. Jessica’s in New York, Geordie’s in Wiltshire, Josh is in Sydney. That’s three really good mates who’ve left me behind. Secondly, I know film PR is fun and glamorous, but I have always said it was a young person’s job, and not for life.’ He paused, ‘Perhaps I should leave now. Sort of quit while I’m ahead.’
‘You do love your job, darling, you know you do.’
‘Well, yes and no, actually. I mean, having to deal with all those egos gets a bit wearing. And after all, it’s just promoting a product really. I’m sure there’re other equally interesting products to promote outside London.’
Tiffany put her arms around him and gave him a quick squeeze.
‘And,’ he continued, ‘I’m thirty now. If I’m ever going to take a risk in life, now’s the time to do it. No more of this complacency. It’s time we showed a bit of carpe diem, or whatever.’ He knew he was a past master when it came to convincing himself into doing something, but felt on this occasion his arguments were both valid and reasonable.
‘You’d be able to get work in TV research outside of town, wouldn’t you?’ he continued.
‘Well, maybe. There’s the BBC in Bristol, and there are other production companies in all the major cities. I suppose, in theory, it might be possible.’
‘Exactly, it would be a doddle. And I’m sure with my experience I could get another job in PR without too much problem.’
‘Well, honey, there’s only one way to find out.’
‘Exactly.’ He knew he was really preaching to himself, not her. Excitement lit up his face. ‘Come on, Tiff, let’s just do it. Bloody well take the plunge and live a little. Really, what have we got to lose? We’re still young, no kids – who cares if it all goes pear-shaped?’
‘I know what you’re thinking, but it would be great – a new life.’ He kissed her.
Tiffany went back to watching the television.
‘OK,’ said Flin, wanting to seem as though he were compromising, ‘but look at this place.’ He waved a hand around their little sitting room. ‘It’s great and everything, and all ours, I know, but it is a shoe-box. In the country we could have something probably four times the size.’ He looked about him. With their two sofas, laundry-box coffee table and bookshelves, the room did look particularly narrow. ‘Just think of all that space. It’d be so great. A proper, grown-up house.’
‘Where’s that?’ asked Tiffany, pointing to the TV. Jerome Flynn was gallivanting around the countryside in a four-wheel drive saving an otter.
‘Northumberland,’ said Flin.
‘Wasn’t that house you were looking at earlier in Northumberland?’
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