The rustle of a newspaper; the sound of two happy people sipping tea and spreading pâté on toast, the sun beaming down on the clean patio garden, the sleeping dog by their side. Simon and his wife couldn’t look like a happier couple if they tried. Actually they didn’t have a dog, I made that bit up, but they probably would have a dog if they had it their way. If they did have a dog it would probably be called Ruffles or something, which is why I’m not letting them have one.
‘Poor Charlie,’ said Jane looking up from her paper, ‘Why do the papers make him out to be such a bad guy.’
Simon stared at her, ‘We are talking about Charlie Deavon aren’t we?’
‘I know he swore on TV, and I’m not saying I agree with that, but I’m sure he’s really a nice guy at heart.’
Simon’s stare was unmoved.
‘Charlie Deavon; hates people, drinks too much, smokes too much, swears too much, sleeps too much, arrogant, offensive, demanding… are we talking about the same man?’
She ignored him, as most people seem to, and carried on regardless.
‘In the paper it says he’s a disgrace to mankind. It says that young people should stop looking up to him like some kind of idol and that his books are only successful because they’re controversial.’
Simon considered this for a moment, ‘They’re right on most of those points but you have to give him credit, the quality of his writing is always a pleasant shock.’
Jane folded her paper and put it down.
‘We should invite him round for dinner.’
‘Oh why not, it will be fun.’
‘It really won’t, he can’t behave himself.’
‘He’s not a child Simon, I think he acts the way he does because he’s lonely.’
‘No, he acts the way he does for attention.’
Jane folded her arms.
‘Invite him round for dinner tonight, I’ll go out and get something nice.’
‘Are you really going to make me do this?’
‘I’ll ask but he won’t want to come.’
‘Thank you, it will be fun.’
Charlie was sitting on his couch staring at the courgette he had just pinned to the wall with a hunting knife. The phone rang. He looked at the phone for a moment and then picked it up without saying anything.
‘Charlie? Are you there?’
‘Jane and I were wondering if you would like to come over for dinner tonight?’
‘I stabbed a courgette today.’
‘Do you think that’s normal?’
‘Do you think I was wrong to swear on TV?’
‘Since when do you care about that kind of thing?’
‘I wonder if my parents still care. Do you know you’re the only person I talk to? I don’t know a single person other than you.’
‘I don’t know what to say.’
‘And I haven’t had a drink for nearly two days. I don’t like being sober.’
‘You get used to it. Are you coming over for dinner tonight?’
Charlie stared at the courgette, which for him, at this moment in time, made him question his life, ‘Ok, I think that might be good for me.’
‘Ok. Come over for about 7:30.’
Charlie hung up the phone and looked at the mess in his apartment.
‘I need a drink.’
Simon put the phone back in its receiver.
‘What did he say?’ asked Jane.
‘He said yes.’
‘I told you he would come.’
‘Something’s wrong with him.’
‘Why what did he say?’
Simon sat down.
‘I think he said he’s lonely.’
‘See, I told you he was lonely,’ said Jane, a bit too smugly.
‘Well, he didn’t actually say it, but… I don’t know, something’s wrong.’
‘We can talk to him about it tonight. Does he have any allergies? He’s not vegetarian is he?’
‘No and no. Don’t go over the top with it tonight, just keep it simple.’
‘Don’t worry, Simon.’
Charlie rummaged through his drawers trying to find something to drink. He found a bottle of vodka with less than a gulp left in it. He drank it anyway. He opened a box; one of many that he is yet to unpack, and a picture fell out and landed on the floor beside him. He picked it up and looked at it. ‘Claire’ he said to himself. He sat against the sofa and stared at the picture. It was a photo of a young blonde haired girl wearing a summer dress. Ten years, he thought.
Charlie almost screwed up the photo out of a mixture of anger and love. He dropped the photo and let his head fall into his hands. He ran his hands through his hair and picked the picture back up. He put the photo in his pocket and left his apartment slamming the door behind him.
Charlie got to the bar and ordered before the barman had a chance to acknowledge him.
‘Single or double?’
‘I don’t think I can.’
Charlie took two fifty pound notes out of his wallet and threw them at the barman. The barman looked over to his manager for advice, his manager shrugged. The barman took the bottle out of the optic and gave it to Charlie. Charlie grabbed it and filled up his glass. He downed half of it and took out a cigarette.
‘You’ll have to smoke outside.’
Charlie stared at the barman to see if he was joking and then remembered the recent smoking ban, of several years ago.
‘Fucking smoking ban,’ he said, picking up his bottle.
He went outside to the smoking area. He sat as far out of the way as he could and lit his cigarette. He began to relax and poured a second glass.
A girl’s voice interrupted his solitude.
Charlie looked up, ‘Oh, God, help me.’
‘It’s you isn’t it? Charlie Deavon!’
‘Yes it is! I am your biggest fan!’
She sat next to him.
‘What you doin’ here?’
‘I’m Amelia,’ she said.
‘I don’t care.’
‘Can I drink with you?’
This time he took a good look at her. She’s about twenty years of age, nice figure, fairly classy, brunette, definitely attractive… slightly drunk.
‘What are you doing tonight?’ He asked.
‘I’m free, are you asking me back to yours?’ She replied flirtatiously.
‘How do you feel about dinner?’
‘Good we’ll leave in an hour, go and get yourself a glass.’