As promised. Here is the next instalment in this story. So sorry I couldn’t post it last night. Please enjoy. Chapter 7 is on it’s way soon. 🙂
6. A Date with the Devil
Chad lay on his back atop all the covers, arms folded behind his head. He listened to the sounds of the night, to the dull humming of Earth itself for nothing else stirred the cold winter night of early July. If he were to close his eyes and got to sleep, he’d definitely forget that there as June in the house with him.
He woke up chilled to his bones and the night was still young and draped in darkness. He stole out of his room into the hallway and stared at the closed door to the guest room, which was frankly the only room currently well-furnished in the house. He walked lightly to her door and listened. She was as quiet as a mouse, not a sound, and suddenly, he missed Setal’s light purring. It had been a constant reminder that he wasn’t alone. With June, she was as if a ghost, there but not there. Even at dinner, which had been takeout delivered form a local fish and chips store, she’d barely spoken, barely a sound. He was afraid to fall asleep in case he woke up in the morning to find her gone. After all, she hadn’t really wanted to come to his house in the first place.
Chad heard the floor creek somewhere, and he bolted, back inside his room. What was he doing anyway stalking the room?
It was the ringing of his mobile phone that woke him up, half falling out of bed. The sun was well up and he rubbed sleep off his eyes, tempted to stay under the warm covers. “Terry!” he tried to sound wide awake.
“Chad,” it was slow, almost calculated, the way Terry spoke. “I’m assuming you’ve been hard at work, late into the night to have forgotten our meeting again.”
Chad suddenly sprang up. “I did? Oh, holly. Sorry, Terr.”
“No,” she laughed. It was a rare thing. “But we do have a meeting at eleven, and I’m just making sure I don’t find you in your pyjamas again.”
“You’re coming here?” his phone beeped, and as Terry was saying, “I was in the,” the phone read ‘LOW BATTERY’ in case he’d missed the beeping.
He coaxed himself out of bed and down to the kitchen where his phone’s dock/radio was. As he emerged into the combined foyer to the kitchen and lounge, he saw June huddled up with a book and a mug of coffee. He halted suddenly, embarrassed that he’d almost forgotten she was there.
“Morning,” she pulled the book down and smiled. “Hope you don’t mind I made some coffee for myself.” Chad shook his head. June eyed him curiously. “I can make you some too.”
“No,” he finally managed, rolling the phone side to side in his palm. “It’s okay, I’ll make some. I was just on the phone with my ed…boss, and the phone died.” He pointed like a child at his phone charging station on the kitchen benchtop next to the coffee machine.
“Hope you’re not late for work.”
“I work from home,” he moved towards the kitchen, and struggled to dock his energy sapped phone. “Carry on.”
June did just that, dug back into the book she’d found on one of the bookshelves lining the hallway above. Meanwhile, Chad waited few minutes for life to breathe back into the phone, and sat there pouring few sips of coffee into a mug at a time, for a reason unknown to him. He dialled Terry back when the phone turned back on. But, because he didn’t want June to know what it was that he did for a living, he wouldn’t let Terry get much more than a few words in. He just didn’t want June to know that he was failing miserably at his job at the moment.
“11 am it is!” he cried out as soon as the phone connected. “Sorry, phone died earlier. I’ll meet you at the café at 11. Ciao”
“Chad…” she was starting to say but he disconnected the phone and gulped down the luke warm watery coffee and dashed up the stairs in a hurry. He came down minutes later, all showered and clean. As he reached for his phone and wallet on the benchtop, a knock sounded on the door.
They both turned to it and Chad eyed the time on his phone. It was nearing eleven.
“You want me to get that?” June asked, putting down the book on the arm of the sofa, stirring Chad into action. He was at the door in seconds and found Terry smugly smiling at him.
“I thought we were meeting at the café.”
Terry pushed past him, her hand bag tucked under one arm, and the other holding a large paper bag that smelled heavenly of fresh baked pastries. “No. You said café without giving me a chance to say I was already there and ordering us some breakfast. I assume you still have no food in this house.”
She stopped short of the sofa, eyeing June inquisitively. Terry smiled, an awkward, forced smile. “Hi.”
“Hi,” June replied unsure.
Terry slowly put the pastry bag on the coffee table, the smell of which sent June’s tummy rumbling in hunger. She was starved since there was indeed nothing in Chad’s fridge or pantries worthy of eating without taking serious bio-hazard risks. After all there was a half-finished block of blue cheese in the fridge that June was pretty sure started life out as cheddar.
Terry turned to Chad. “I thought we could talk better here without all the café noise.” Her eyes were wide and kept glancing back in June’s direction. “I didn’t know you had company.”
Chad smiled. “This is June. And June, this is Terry.”
Terry turned to June and extended a hand. “Excuse the sloppy clichéd man, June.” She shook June’s cold hand in her own gloved ones. “If I didn’t know he had a way with written words, I’d never believe the boy could write, let alone best-sellers,” she said, eyeing the book in June’s grasp.
June smiled, even though she had no idea what Terry was talking about. “Chad writes?” was all she could string together for fear of sounding ‘sloppy’.
Terry laughed such a cacophony it sent June taking a step back. “Chad writes? Oh dear, you’re a charmer!” It took her all of few seconds to compose her demeanour. She looked at the book in June’s hand again. It had ‘Zachary Eve’ written in big letters across the bottom of the cover page. “How’s that read?”
June shrugged, stroking the book’s spine. “Only started it this morning.”
Terry nodded, nestling her handbag on the other end of the sofa. “Do tell me how it is at the end.” She then turned to Chad who was looking aghast. “Shall we leave June to her lazy Saturday read and take our breakfast and work to your study?”
Chad nodded immediately, leading Terry toward the study, which was the garage-converted space at the back of the house. A garage was wasted on Chad as he never liked parking in that small room of doom. He was always afraid he’d take out a supporting pylon or something and bring his entire house down.
“Thanks for not outing me!” he whispered, once they were safely inside the study and he closed the door.
She shrugged. “She’s pretty!”
“It’s not what you think!” he brushed off her eagerness and sat her down at the table. “I’ll get us a pot of coffee,” and with that he slipped out of the room, able to feel Terry’s eyes on the back of his neck.
“Don’t forget to bring some pastries!” she called out.
An hour later, Chad had his head in his palms and Terry had lost a few shades of colour from her earlier rosied cheeks. “You what?” she finally asked, quietly, reserved.
“I don’t have a story,” Chad mumbled into his palms.
“You’ve got nothing to show?” He shook his head. “Any ideas?”
“Nada.” He looked up, and he couldn’t help feel immediately sorry for Terry for some reason. She was looking horrified and he’d been the cause of it.
“So, what have you been doing this past month?”
Chad looked towards the closed door of his study and Terry understood. “Her? She’s taken your month? Who is she? Family?” He shook his head. “Chad!”
And that began a drawn out afternoon of Chad recounting the last month to Terry; the entire story behind the reason why there was a strange girl sitting in his lounge room, reading one of his bestsellers without the slightest as to who he really was. The Author.
Terry took a good minute or two to think about it in utter silence. The last time Chad had felt this nervous might have been on his first date with Setal, or his HSC English exam because he’d felt his entire future was dependant on it. A bit like his current position.
“I couldn’t leave her in the park, not after that for some reason,” he continued, getting up to stretch his legs. He grabbed the empty coffee pot and headed for the door.
“It’s fantastic!” Terry suddenly blurted.
Terry rose from her chair with a fantastic grin that made Chad worry ever-so-slightly. “The story. It’s fantastic!”
“Terry, that wasn’t a story. I was just telling you what I did the last month.”
The grin on her face widened, and she stepped closer to him. “I know, but that’s what makes it fantastic, and I want you to write it!”
“You want me to write that as a book?”
She shook her head. “I want you to use it! Find a story worthy of your audience in it. make them cry, make them laugh.” She stepped closer yet, taking him by his arms. “Make them think it is real, the pain, the anguish, the confusion, the lost writer and a homeless duo, the loss. Whatever.”
“Terry,” Chad stared at the woman. She was utterly excited at the prospects of the next book. A book he couldn’t see. “It’s too personal.”
“Nothing that happens to a storyteller is off limits, hun!” she grinned. “Right. I’m off, but yeah, keep me posted.” She kissed him on the cheek and patted his shoulder proudly before reaching for the door. “I want a story, Chad. A story! And next time, I better hear a damn good one.”
She was gliding across the lounge room already which was June-free, and sent Chad slightly panicked. Terry grabbed her bag, buttoned her jacket and stared at the empty coffee cup on the coffee table. She looked up just in time to see Chad walk into the kitchen and put the pot away.
“There’s a story there, Chad. Just dig deep.”
When Terry left, he felt a weight of a ton pull him down. He couldn’t figure out where Terry saw the next bestseller in his recounting of the month, which wouldn’t really have happened if she hadn’t told him to do everything opposite to what he would. Instead, he thought about June and Bax, and couldn’t quite see where to take it. Bax was dead, tragically so. June was still homeless though he’d taken her in as a house mate. And him, well, he was still where he’d been a month ago. Back to that desperate writer scared to step onto the green turf of Hyde Park.
Chad went back to the study and fetched his laptop, then sat on the kitchen benchtop which was bathed in the warm afternoon sunlight. He sat there not only for the bright light, but also so that he could see when June came downstairs. He was about to attempt to chronicle the last month and see what would come off it, and he didn’t really want her to feel that he’s generosity towards her and Bax had been self-serving. It had been in a way in the beginning, but then, friendship had gotten in the way.
He stared once again at his nemesis, the blank page and poised his fingers for their dance. He flexed them, cracked them, and twisted them though one another, delaying the inevitable such for this elusive story only Terry believed he’d find.
Chad started typing.
It began: It wasn’t my usual morning.