The Three Halves of Martyn Manning-Chapter Twenty: Paradise By The Dashboard Light? - Part One
the time she got back to the playing fields she’d just about calmed
down. All that was left of the bonfire by now were dull red embers
and all she could make out in the darkness were a few lingering
shadows grouped around the hospitality tents. She’d been hoping to
find Veronika deep in conversation with Billy, but she couldn’t
find either of them in either the beer tent or the hog roast and the
coffee shop had long since closed up for the night. She’d concluded
that Veronika had either gone home (Boo!) or gone to the pub with
Billy (Yay!). She was pondering whether to go to the pub and see what
was going on or just go home and climb into her warm bed with a glass
of wine, then suddenly she heard a familiar voice behind her.
Elena! You came back!”
Where have you been? I’ve been looking all over for you!”
just been to the Village Hall to use the toilets.” She looked over
her shoulder toward the beer tent before continuing. “I’ve been
waiting to see if you came back. It would’ve been rude to leave
without saying goodbye.”
you didn’t know if I would come back?”
know, but I thought I’d give you half an hour. If you hadn’t been
here when I got back from the loo I was going to go.”
reply didn’t seem to make much sense to Elena but she let it go.
what’s been going on? What have I missed? Do you want to get a
drink? I think the bar’s still open.”
I’m OK for a drink thanks. I’ve had two wines already and I’ve
got to drive but you get one if you want.”
I can’t bothered, not if you’re not having one. So go on, what
have I missed?”
really. Absolutely nothing to tell. I’ve just been standing here
watching the fire die down and trying to keep myself warm.”
you’ve been stood here all by yourself? Aw, poor you. Sorry
Veronika, if I’d known I’d have come back sooner. So you haven’t
been talking to anyone? When I left you were talking to Billy. What
happened to him?”
he disappeared about a minute after you left. He said he was going to
get another drink and that was the last I saw of him. He must have
met someone he knew and got talking.”
drink? He already had a glass in each hand when I was here!”
know. Well they both disappeared. And he was already half-pissed when
he came across.”
stood together for a few moments in friendly silence. Veronika looked
over her shoulder a couple of times. Then she spoke:
got my number haven’t you?”
telephone number? Of course I have! Veronika, I text you five times a
day. You know I’ve got your number. Why do you ask?”
I dunno. I was miles away and it just came into my head. You know,
just in case anyone asks you for it. No big deal.”
do you think might ask me for it?”
don’t. It was just one of those stupid things that come into your
head when you’re daydreaming. Night-dreaming.” She laughed to
herself. “It’s nothing. Really. Forget it. I wish I’d never
V! You’re so funny. You make me smile.” She looked around. The
hog roast people were beginning to take down their tent and even the
bar was starting to pack up around its last few stragglers. “Well
it looks like it’s just about done here. What do you want to do? Do
you want go to the pub? Or we could go back to my place and have a
glass of wine and a chat. I’m not bothered either way.”
don’t know. What’s the pub like? Is it any good? Who’ll be
idea. I’ve never been. Martyn goes there a lot and he seems to like
it. Apparently they have a bit of a party after bonfire night but
I’ve no idea what it’s like. We could take a look.”
don’t know. I’m not sure I’m in the mood tonight for a load of
drunken party people that I don’t even know.”
she finished speaking the outline of a man swayed out of the dark
You came back then! Good! I thought you would!”
Billy. You look like you’ve had a good time.”
Billy” said Veronika.
might have had a couple of drinks. What’s the harm in that?
Everybody’s pissed anyway. Who cares? Old Terry Picton had to walk
Titsy Barrett home and put him to bed. He was so pissed he couldn’t
smiled but her expression was blank.
Sorry but I don’t think I know any of these people.”
because you never go down The Feathers. I’ve never seen you in
there once! How do you expect to get to know people if you don’t go
down the pub?”
don’t have time to go to the pub! I have a full time job and two
demanding young children to look after.”
You could find time if you wanted to. You’ve got a very sexy accent
by the way. Anyhow, now’s your chance. Most people are down there
already so come on, let’s get going.”
aimed all his conversation directly at Elena, and as he spoke he
slowly edged his body in front of her so that by now Veronika was
more behind him than in front of him. Veronika piped up:
Let’s go to the pub! It might be fun.”
wasn’t clear whether either of them had heard her. Billy didn’t
take his eyes from Elena’s.
I don’t know if I can be bothered.”
on, Margaret’s laying on some free food and I think there’s some
live music or something. There’ll probably be some dancing. Come
on, it’ll be fun and you’ll get to meet some new people.”
accepted she’d lost this battle that in her heart she’d always
known she could never really hope to win. It was OK, she was used to
it. She conceded the inevitable defeat, but she saw no reason why she
had to do it gracefully.
I’ll be off then. Got to be up for work tomorrow.” It was almost
a shout. She immediately turned and started walking back to her car.
Elena called after her.
Where are you going? We’re going to the pub!
was already several paces away. She called over her shoulder.
a good time!”
aren’t you coming with us?”
was no reply. Elena shouted again.
A pause, then in a lower, deflated voice, “See you on Monday then?”
caught a faint “Yeah, suppose so...” just as Veronika disappeared
around the corner of the village hall.
had an expression on his face somewhere between a smile and a smirk.
Elena’s concern for Veronika turned to annoyance with Billy.
the hell are you grinning at!”
What have I done? Why are you grinning at me?”
you are coming to the pub then. You were just playing hard to get eh?
Nice. I like that.”
only said that to get Veronika to stay.”
looked toward where she last saw her friend. “I wonder what’s
wrong with V?”
do you mean?”
off like that. Did we do something?”
not. Don’t worry about it. Let her go. It’s probably just the
wrong time of the month. She’ll be fine. Anyway, it’s just you
and me now. That’s nice. I’ve got you all to myself.”
didn’t react. She was still concerned about Veronika. “I’m
worried about her. I hope she gets home OK.”
course she will. Forget about it. Me and you can have a good time.”
He went on in a lower voice, almost as if he wasn’t sure he wanted
Elena to hear. “We don’t need the oompa-loopa tagging along
anyway.” But Elena did hear it.
How fucking dare you! That’s a horrible thing to say! Veronika’s
my friend! And she’s not an oompa-loompa! She’s very attractive!”
Is she? She’s not exactly Scarlett Johansson is she?”
in the dark the look on Elena’s face told Billy he’d gone way too
far. He knew he had to think and act fast if he was going to retrieve
the situation. His mind raced. What did women like to talk about?
Clothes? Handbags? Cosmetics? (Maybe he should stay off handbags and
cosmetics.) Experience had taught him that they always liked to talk
about themselves. And they always liked compliments, everybody liked
like that coat. Where did you get it?”
You like my coat? You can’t even see it in the dark! You can’t
even tell what colour it is!”
know but I like that style and it fits you well and it suits you.
That style’s fashionable at the moment isn’t it, I see a lot of
that style coming in the garage. What colour is it anyway? I can’t
tell in the dark. It’s looks like it might be a sort of
is. It’s called “Tuscan Umber”. I bought it online. I really
you big on clothes then? Are you a fashion expert?”
not an expert but yeah I like clothes. But a lot of girls do. I don’t
suppose I like clothes any more than the next girl.”
ought to meet Saskia Brown. She lives up Ashton Close. She’s a
buyer for one of the big fashion stores. Can’t remember which one,
but she’s always dressed up. She’ll be able to get you a
use of the word “discount” got Elena’s attention.
discount? Really? You think so? Are you sure you can’t remember
which store it is?”
I know she gets a discount for Julie Temple. She’s always banging
on about how good it is. And I think she gets one for Sandra Mills.
She’ll probably be down the pub now. Come on, let’s go and I’ll
you really think she’ll be there!”
should be. She said she was going and she never usually misses a
party. But don’t blame me if she’s not.”
then. But I’m only staying for one. And if she’s not there or
it’s no good I’m going straight home.”
on then, I’m buying. We’ll go this way.”
took a few steps into the dark then stopped and turned round to see
why Elena wasn’t following him.
are you going?”
not the way to the pub. The pub’s that way.” She pointed to the
path running beside the village hall where Veronika had fled earlier.
a short cut, it’s quicker, and it goes past the garage. Come on.”
quickly dismissed any doubts. This was a village, Everyone knew
everyone else and their business. No danger here.
hurried to catch up to him and they strode off. At first there was
just enough light to see where they were walking but as they left the
bonfire behind it soon became pitch black and she began to feel
closed in. All she could see were the high street lights towards
which they were heading, about fifty yards away.
on a minute, I can’t see where I’m putting my feet. Let me put my
before she could reach for her phone she felt Billy’s hand close
don’t need your phone. I’ve got you. Just follow me, you’ll be
firmly removed her hand from his. There was a new edge to her voice
when she spoke.
I want my torch.”
dim light of her phone showed her she was on a narrow path with a
tall dense blackthorn hedge on either side. Billy stood still,
looking at her, so after a moment she carried on walking along the
path towards the street lights and Billy started to follow. By the
time she reached the road Billy had caught up with her. They turned
right towards the pub and soon they were coming up to Billy’s
garage on the left. She’d begun to relax, Billy had been right, it
was a short cut, then she remembered something else he’d said
did you want to go past the garage?”
got something I want to show you.”
In the garage?”
Why not? What’s wrong with my garage?”
I can’t think of anything in your garage that I could possibly want
want to see this. I promise.”
left the pavement and walked across the garage forecourt towards the
door to reception. The motion sensitive security light switched on.
had better be good.”
what is it? Give me a clue.”
brought a car in today. They want me to see if I can sell it.”
don’t like cars.”
like this one. Really. Honestly. You will. Trust me.”
Billy unlocked the door to reception Elena was thinking how unlikely
it was that she or anyone would ever trust Billy. Nevertheless her
curiosity was piqued. She stepped through the doorway as Billy
switched on the light.
here” he whispered.
What are you doing? And why are we whispering?”
be back in a minute.”
went through the back door of reception and she heard other doors
opening and closing. He was back in less than a minute.
on then.” He smiled. “This is gonna blow your mind.”
now Elena was intrigued. She was even beginning to feel excited but
she was also a little fearful of how she would express her
appreciation and gratitude to Billy should the object of his pride
and of which she was clearly being honoured to be allowed to view
actually turned out to be a complete dead loss. She followed him out
of reception and through a small showroom then across a small office
where Billy stopped with his hand resting on the handle of a closed
we go then!” He pulled open the door and gestured for Elena go
through. “Age before beauty. After you!”