2. To Pen a Tale
It was late afternoon when the ringing of the cell phone woke him up. Chad felt groggy, like he’d hit a whole bottle or two of really cheap wine the night before, which he hadn’t. He picked up the phone, “Hello.”
“Hello yourself!” Terry spoke with a hint of agitation. “Where are you?”
“You forgot again.”
“Our meeting, Chad. Our meeting.”
Chad remained quiet. He couldn’t recall having set a meeting, and even if he had, it was dangerous ground to admit it.
“You really should get a PA like I keep telling you to?”
Chad turned onto his back and stared at the ceiling. “So that she or he could make one coffee and watch me attempt miserably to write? No thanks!”
Terry sighed. “I’ll be over in half. You and I need to have a heart to heart.”
“Sure. Bring food with you, will you? I’m starving.”
At 3:30 PM in the afternoon, his doorbell rang, forcing him out of the sofa to which he’d migrated to after the chat with Terry. He got up and opened the door to one very unimpressed lady whose striking beauty could have gone somewhere on the fashion catwalk. If only, he thought, then he could have had a terror free afternoon.
“What’s this?” her jaw dropped. “You’re still in your pjs.”
“I was sleeping,” he said, letting her in through the door.
“Well, you look absolutely terrible,” she dropped her handbag on the coffee table and turns to him.
“I feel terrible. Thanks for noticing,” he smirked. “Want coffee?”
“Coffee can wait. First, go take a shower. I can’t talk to you seriously with you in your pyjamas.”
When Chad got back to his semi-bear lounge room because his ex, Setal, brought a moving van and took out all her furniture and belongings right in front of him days after ripping his heart out and mincing it with her 3-inch heels. Lucky for him, at least the couch was his, and the coffee table. That’s all he had in his lounge room. Alas, for that moment, it was even missing Terry.
“Terry?” he called out, half hoping she’d changed her mind about having a ‘serious chat’ and taken pity on him and left, but then again, her handbag was still present. His already empty stomach sunk further. It may as well have been on the floor.
“In here!” came her voice from the kitchen. She was lurking at the open fridge door when Chad found her. “You have practically nothing in here!”
“Why do you think I asked you to bring food?”
Terry considered him a moment. “You’ve taken very hard to this, haven’t you?”
“To you, or the looming doom of cancelled advances?”
“Setal leaving, of course.”
“Let’s go grab a bite then,” she slammed the fridge door shut and strode past him “Bring your stuff. We might be able to brainstorm for you.”
“Great. Can’t wait!” he grumbled, grabbing the laptop off the bench-top before following her out.
They settled for the small cosy café couple of blocks down the street from Chad’s St Peter’s home. Terry drove them there, even though it was in perfectly sane walking distance because her feet ‘deserved better’.
Chad stared at the rough wooden table thinking he felt completely useless in that moment Terry stared him down as she asked, “So, what’s the story?”
“Yes, Chad. The Story,” and Chad could only do as good as stare at her as if she’d just spoken in a foreign language he didn’t understand.
“The story you’re supposed to be telling me so that I know what to expect in a year’s time when you hit your deadline and start making excuses, Chad. That story!” and all this she said without taking another breath, leaving Chad thinking she’d have made a great swimmer with those sets of lungs.
“Are you even listening to me?”
Chad stared at the waiter who gave him a sympathetic look and he placed their coffees down on the table. Chad wondered if he looked like a fish in a very small bowl of water, because that was pretty much how he was feeling at that moment.
“You don’t have it, do you?” Terry finally breathed in astonishment. “You actually don’t have it this time Chad Gilligan!”
Chad succumbed and put Terry out of her misery. He shook his head.
“Not a single clue?”
He continued to shake his head, which kind of made it tricky to sip his coffee he concluded.
“A theme?” head shook. “A character?” Another headshake. “A place? An image? A piece of dialogue? Nothing?”
“Nothing,” Chad gulped down the last sip of his scalding hot coffee. He liked it that way.
“What are we going to do, Chaddy?”
“Your usual methods aren’t working?” He shook his head again. “Try something new then!”
“I did.” Chad laughed, calling the waiter for another cup of coffee. “Just last week, I went to the park across from my café to see if something would hit me.”
“And nothing did?”
Chad laughed again, shaking his head. “Oh, something almost hit me, but it wasn’t an idea!”
“A homeless girl. At least, I think it was a girl. Damn near gave me a heart attack when she leaped up from behind the bench, all yelling and kicking.”
Terry finally smiled.
Terry’s smile got wider. “When was the last time you wrote anything that truly challenged you, Gilligan?”
“I don’t follow.”
Terry quickly opened up her iPhone, pressed a few tabs, grinned and looked up. “I want you to do something for me, Chad. Will you do it?”
“For you, Terry? Anything.” He mostly said it because in her happiness lay his own.
“I want you to go back to the park and see if you can strike up a conversation with this girl who nearly attacked you.”
“Are you crazy?”
“You just said, Chad, anything!”
Chad narrowed his eyes. “What’s the catch?”
Terry shook her head. “Nothing. I just think you’ve hit a wall and even if I wanted you to, you wouldn’t be able to write even a children’s story. I need that old Chad Gilligan back in his form, Chaddy. Not this new, angst ridden writer who can barely get some shut-eye because he chugs coffee like the world is facing a coffee famine, and takes sleeping pills like candy because he wonders why he can’t sleep at night. I don’t want to find you dead in you house, Chad. I want to find you holding a pristinely typed new manuscript out to me with a goofy grin.” She indicated to the waiter to bring the bill around, and turned back to Chad. “So, you’ll go out there and for a month, you’ll do everything that makes you uncomfortable.”
She reached over and laid a hand on his and gave it a barely-there squeeze. “If your mind tells you not to do something, then I want you to do it and see what happens. We need you to find that old carefree Chad, hun. So, can you do that?”
“I don’t think I have a choice,” he said, draining his second cup of coffee.
Terry laughed, rising to her feet. “You have a choice, dear. Everyone has a choice. It’s what you do with it that counts. With you, your choice is either to deliver another Zachary Eve best seller, or watch as they terminate your contract because you couldn’t fulfil your end of the deal.”
Chad rises up, following her out of the café. “Aren’t you being a little harsh, Terry?”
Terry turned around as she unlocked her car from across the street. “Oh, I’m not being harsh, Chad. I’m being honest. My job is to make sure you do yours.”
She patted his arm gently, her look softening. “So, please, Chad. I like you, and I need you to do your job.”
“We’ll meet again in a month,’ she said, starting to cross the road waving a general goodbye in the wind. “And next time, you’ll be doing the talking!”
Chad suddenly had an image rush to mind, where Terry gets ploughed down by an incoming vehicle. Alas, the image vanished when she reached for her driver’s door, and slipped into safety. She rolled down her window. “You want a lift home?”
“I think I’ll walk,” Chad yelled back. “Because that’s opposite to what my mind’s telling me to do!” he grinned.
Terry laughed, pulling the car out onto the road, and sped away. Within seconds, Chad was standing alone, tired, massively hung-over even though he hadn’t had a drop the previous night, and nursing a throbbing cortex or other in his brain. Completely at the mercy of his legs which felt like they’d suddenly turned to jelly.
Chad fell onto his bed; face first as soon as he got home. It wasn’t till around midnight, he woke up startled to the ringing of his mobile. It was dark, with barely enough moonlight streaming through the window for him to see where he was. He struggled, wriggling up to his night stand and patted it down in search of his phone, but the ringing stopped. He buried his face back into the covers and groaned, his entire body aching. The headache having moved to the back of his head, mild, but annoying, like the ringing of the phone again. This time he patted himself down and found his phone in his jean’s pocket.
“What?” he groaned down the phone, his face, barely out of the covers.
Silence, except the music he could hear in the back ground like a party going down well.
“Hello,” he said, this time reasonably human like. The phone clicked dead. He stared at the screen and the time was almost midnight, leaving him wondering who the caller was behind the private number.
The house creaked and groaned, and outside, he could hear the soft drizzle of rain starting to fall, but he was far from relaxed. He kicked off his shoes, threw his jacket somewhere on the floor and crawled on all fours to get under the covers, and there he lay, wondering about the caller. Was it Setal? He wondered. But then again, it could just be a stranger. A creepy stranger. He hadn’t had a loony fan problem for a while, not since Cassie Micah who had somehow managed to let herself into his previous home, set up personal effects such as photo-shopped pictures of her with Chad in various occasions, and when he’d finally gotten home after a long day of book signing and crawled into bed, to his shock, found a completely super naked woman crawling over to him in the dark. Let’s just say, it wasn’t his finest moment, having had to call the police while a frantically crazy fan tried to convince him he was married to her, showing proof of their marriage with a fake certificate and photographs.
Chad shivered, looking at his phone, scrawling through the incoming calls, only to spot Setal’s missed calls from previous days. He missed her, as miserable as he was. He missed the woman who broke his heart and wondered whether he was okay. Just as he was about to fall asleep again thinking about how broken his heart was, his phone vibrated in his loose clasp. He immediately answered, and again the blasting music in the background filled his ear but no one answered.
“Who is this?”
Chad couldn’t help but shut the phone, throw it on the bed and jump out, running around the house, checking that all the doors and windows were shut and there was no deranged woman, whom he had a restraining order against, lurking in the shadows.