Angel 57 (Pizza Face and Tony)
Angel was late getting the twins dressed when Stacey came to tell her there was somebody on the phone. Adam clenched his fists like a boxer who was about to start bubbling.
‘Who is it?’ Angel asked, distractedly.
‘He wouldn’t say,’ Stacey hovered at the door. The flat expression on her face suggested she didn’t really care and she’d better thing to do.
Angel swore under her breath. ‘I hate asking…’ She nodded in the direction of the twins. ‘Can you watch them for a minute?’
‘A minute and that’s it.’
Angel bit her lip to keep from smiling. She was a big softie, despite the gruff tone. The payphone was near the door, the receiver perched askew.
‘Hallo,’ she said, in a querulous tone, uncomfortable with using a phone, her eyes adjusting to the gloom of the lobby. Someone had biroed a message on the wall.
She recognised Pizza Face’s telephone voice and waited for him to say more. She wondered where he was calling from. He didn’t have a phone in the house. He should have been born in an age when messages were sent by pigeon. And for a moment she imagined his birthmark flame as he got angry and because he got angry, got embarrassed, and she felt sorry for him.
She wet her lips and spoke softly, ‘Whit is it?’
‘I read about your case in the paper.’
‘Aye, I know.’
She knew that it had been in the paper, but not that he’d read it.
He swiftly moved on, anxious to get finished and put the phone down. ‘I’ll need to come up and see you.’
Upstairs she heard someone striding about and the toilet door shutting. She needed time to think.
‘Is that alright?’ he asked.
‘So they print something in the paper and suddenly you believe it?’ She could feel the anger rising in her throat. ‘Am I not a no good slut now?’
She pressed the phone closer to her ear and twiddled the wire around her finger. His breathing was like that of a dumb horse, a presence. ‘You still there?’
‘Aye…I’m sorry,’ he muttered.
She adopted a business-like tone. ‘Whit do you want to see me about?’
He’d no answers. He never had any answers. Nothing had changed.
‘Because I love you,’ he said, eventually. ‘And I miss you so much.’
She heard the pips going and quickly figured it was a pay-phone.
‘Should I put another ten pence in?’ he asked.
Angel felt the slow wash of relief in mindless absurdities and giggled. She could imagine him standing there, baffled, searching his pockets for change and glaring. The phone went dead. She took a few steps up the stairs and the phone rang.
She vaulted down the stairs and picked up the receiver.
‘It’s me, again.’
She sat on the second bottom stair. ‘This is getting to be a habit.’
‘Aye,’ he said. ‘I know. I cannae help myself.’
‘Soon you’ll be chatting on the phone to all and sundry.’
‘Don’t think so…well, cannae I come up and visit?’
Her light-hearted tone had a jaggy spike. ‘Whit about the twins?’
‘A cannae phone them. They’re too wee.’
She sniggered through her nose, not sure whether he was serious, or not. And then decided he was. ‘I mean, would you be visiting them too. Adam’s the dead spit of you.’
He laughed too and the tension fell away like cobwebs. ‘That’s a shame. Whit about Lisa?’
‘She looks more like me.’
‘Gorgeous, well, she’s the lucky wan.’
‘She’s bigger, more independent.’
‘Just like you…I want to kiss you…and you know.’
She pretended she didn’t hear him. ‘But Adam’s got more of a temper. Get’s into a right tizzy, when he doesn’t get his own way.’
‘That’s about right…So can I come up and visit?’
‘Emm, we can give it a go.’
‘And is there somewhere we can go…and you know?’
Angel knew some of the girls fucked their partners in their room, and sometimes it wasn’t just their partners. ‘I’m not sure if that’s allowed and I’m ready for that, yet. I wouldnae take any chances. I’ve got the twins to think about. They come first.’
‘Aye, that’s fine.’
She knew he was lying. ‘Anyway, I’ve got Bruno and Tony coming up to see me, shortly.’ She spoke in a breezy tone. ‘I don’t want you all coming up at the one time.’
‘Whit’s that poof coming up fer?’
She chewed on her lip and sighed. ‘I’m gonnae hang up.’
‘Wait, wait…I’m sorry. You know whit I’m like. I’ve nothing against him, but I’ve never liked the cunt.’
‘I know that, but he’s one of my best friends and he’s Tony’s best mate too.’
Pizza Face sounded smug and a harsh laugh crackled down the line. ‘No so much noo.’
Her world was full of secrets and she could feel them grating in her head and stirring in her stomach. ‘Whit do you mean?’
‘Well, he’s hooked up wae that daft cow and I hear he’s into the smack.’
‘Stop it,’ she rasped, her throat dry and crackly as ancient parchment. ‘He is not.’
‘I wiz just saying,’ he muttered. ‘So when you want me to visit?’
She swallowed, ‘I’ll need to check wae the staff…In fact I need to go.’
‘I’ve got another ten pence…whit dae you want to talk about?’
‘No, I need to go…’ She held her hand over the receiver, to muffle her sobs. ‘One of the girls is waving at me, the twins are crying.’
‘Nae bother, I’ll phone you later…Love you, Babe.’
‘Aye,’ she hung up.
She leaned against the wall and held a fist to her mouth. Upstairs she heard clumping feet. She wiped at her eyes. Her head hurt and she wanted to crawl into bed and pull the blankets over her head.
‘You down there?’ Stacey stood at the top of the stairs, glowering at her and holding Lisa and Adam in her arms. They gurgled, happily.