Johnny Neal

Actor, Writer

Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Oh god she’s wearing a suit, a full suit.’ I stood watching the Carol Stafford through the glass walls of her office, her stern features fixed under stylish glasses. ‘She doesn’t look happy Alex. I knew I should have worn a suit.’ Alex Rogers, my literary agent and best friend, sat across the waiting room, stylish as always I swear he could wear a bin bag and make it look chic.

‘Stop worrying, she can smell fear.’ He said with a disturbing level of aloofness, ‘look this is pretty much a formality okay? The fact that they want to meet is a good sign. If they weren’t interested in publishing the book they wouldn’t call us in, the best we could hope for in that case is a note saying: “With all due respect, piss off.” Now sit down you look your about to keel over.’ He was right, I was about to keel over, no matter how happy I had been this morning the nerves had taken over and were now running the show. ‘I need some water.’ I told Alex, shakily. 

With an exasperated breath he placated me, Alex had been in the industry about ten years having joined my agency at twenty and worked his way up the ladder. He knew all the little tricks, and I was sure the only reason he had gone to get me the water himself was so he could slip a Valium into it. 

‘Here drink it fast I think we’re up.’ He passes me the “water” and I definitely feel a few crumbled lumps slide down with it. On cue the door opens just as I finish and out walks: 

‘Carol Stafford, great to meet you.’ Her handshake is firm and her tone friendly, maybe this won’t be so bad after all.

For a while we sit in the office discussing my approach to writing, and what I hoped to accomplish by writing the novel. I spout off a few of the facts I’ve learnt from my limited research into pop quantum physics and how they related to the plot; Carol, seems unrelenting in her need to indulge my pretension, but she smiles all the while we are talking so I took it as a good sign.

Then came the money debate, I’d told Alex I didn’t care too much about the money, being a published writer had always been the goal and finally that was coming true. He had however pointed out that I ‘have a family to provide for,’ and that it was his job to get me the best deal possible. As it always was with Alex he left out the obvious mutual benefits he would receive from a higher commission. So I sat back and happily let the grown ups of the conversation hash out how many zero’s came before the full stop, by the end Alex’s face was beaming, Carol’s seemed a lot tenser than before.

‘We are going to be fucking rich!’ Alex’s drunken shouts were audible throughout the VIP room at whatever terrifyingly expensive club he had brought us to. Standing on the table, champagne bottle in hand he grabbed my arm and pulled me away from Louise to be displayed to the entirety of the room. ‘Alex they don’t look too happy about you being on that table mate.’ I told him, making a feeble attempt at coaxing him down from his podium as Louise just sat there and laughed.

I had waited for her to arrive home that day, drawing out the suspense as much as possible. My girls cautiously stepped through the door together; obviously the lack of post meeting communication had put them both on edge. As I sat waiting, watching whatever drivel I could find on TV, Louise took full stride and knelt by my side as Leila stood awkwardly in the door to the living room, waiting for her turn to comfort me. ‘What happened hun?’ Louise asked, offering a conciliatory hand on my knee.

I took a quick glance to look her in the eyes, anymore and I know my lack of self restraint would have given the game away, I saw she had readied herself for the worst, as she had done so many times before.

I took a deep sigh, and put my hand on hers; unable to contain herself Leila rushed over and through her arms around my neck. ‘It’s okay dad, you’re amazing; everyone knows it.’

I couldn’t do it anymore; the suspense was killing me, I can’t imagine what it must have been doing to them. So with another heavy sigh I let slip ‘Well, I suppose that’s why they bought it then.’

A good thirty seconds must have passed before anyone spoke again; their reaction was worth more than any number of zero’s on a cheque.

Soon after Alex’s table dancing we were politely asked to leave; unable to halt our giggling we shuffled along to the front door escorted by two very tired looking bouncers and a rather angry looking manager.

‘Where to next?’ Alex asked, proceeding to take a swig of the bottle he had not so subtly smuggled out. ‘I think it’s time for bed.’ Louise slurred, she was a little drunk and had to be in work the next day. ‘Your loss’ Alex’s head was already turning to see if he could find anything in a tight dress.

With Leila staying at a friend’s house that night Louise and I had the flat to ourselves, we opened a bottle of champagne and barely made it through half a glass before making slow passionate love. Her clothes I took of gently and with grace and dexterity she shook off the silky dress that flowed over her hips like a stream meandering past smooth rocks and pebbles in its path. Taking our time we felt ever inch of one another’s bodies until finally we just lay together, sipping champagne and feeling the warm breath of the other person cascading over us. We were so happy.