Monday again, son, the start of another bloody week of this half life that I currently call existence. Out early for the ‘Yokel’ pickup from Jimmy. Not even a dozen parcels today, I wondered if he were up to his old tricks again, siphoning off the work to his dumpy little lady friend. I made a point of mentioning his wife in our one sided conversation, to make sure he hadn’t forgotten what I knew.
I did the drops in fair time. Barely two hours work even if I wasn’t dawdling. I took a pass through Ambridge, the speed watch sign was up, but I couldn’t see anyone manning the gun. Probably another tea or toilet break I should think, or Neil pretending to have a poorly tummy again to get out of it. I headed out towards Penny Hassett, looking for some obscure cottage, (no number of course, only a bloody house name) when I got a text from Lisa. Her appointment was at Grey Gables again, at 14:00. Meet at No.22 half an hour before. I pinged back my agreement. A few extra quid and the company of a pretty girl for a while; there’s worse ways to spend an afternoon. It concerned me a little that I was thinking of her as pretty, most of the other girls leave me cold, but there is something about her that makes makes me want to protect her, and not just because I’m getting paid for it. I eventually found the cottage, set back from the road and with its name plaque obscured by a hedge. Of course, they weren’t in. I looked around and spotted a little wood shed with only a latched door and slipped the parcel inside there. As I leaned on the front door to write out the ‘Not At Home ‘ Card, explaining where I left it, I could hear shuffling and growling from inside the house. And, as I slipped the card through the letterbox, snappy jaws grabbed it out of my hands and, I’m sure, tore it to shreds. Oh, well, not my problem, I thought. Wonder how long it will sit there before they go for some wood to make a nice cosy fire with. In this weather. Ha!
I set off back to Borchester. I hadn’t emptied out the PO Box for a while, just in case Keith had had any mail. I was reaching escape velocity on the blessed one way system, passing by the Damara offices when I saw Pat Archer storm out the doors, that nose in the air, disapproving matron look on her face. I quickly pulled onto the pavement, hazards flashing and dived into the the back to try and spy on her. My spy hole worked a treat and I could see and hear her when, a few seconds later Tony came out to join her, looking a good deal more perplexed than angry. I barely needed the mic. to hear what she was saying. It became quickly evident they had just signed the contract with Justin to sell the land. Yes, Tom had fouled the bed and cost them 100K, but from Pat’s attitude you’d think Justin had forced them to sell Henry to a chimney sweep! She stormed off past the van, with Tony a step behind trying to mollify her with that mummy’s boy charm of his. Honestly. Those bloody Archers! Think the world owes them everything in their little bubble!
Once they were gone I climbed back in front and drove back to No.22. I had to run up to my room to get changed into something smarter and met Lisa waiting for me in reception. She tapped her wrist and smiled at me. It was a nice smile.
Once again I drove her car out to Ambridge. We made a little small talk as we drove. I told her some of my delivery stories, she laughed at the right times. He phone chirruped just as we turned onto the driveway up to hotel. ‘He’s running late’ She said with a sigh, tapping out a response. I parked up and waited for her instructions. Her phone beeped again. ‘Oh, he wants me to wait. All billable time. Lets have a drink on him then shall we?’ We left the car and walked together into the bar. I saw a couple of men already there turn to look at her, dressed again in smart, sexy businesswear. I liked that.. A waitress took our order. A white wine for me and a vodka and tonic for her. ‘That way he won’t smell anything on my breath’ She said with a smile. She looked totally suited in this place. Hard to imagine some of the other girls sitting here, without sticking out like a sore thumb.
I decided to ask her out for dinner. Her eyes narrowed and she looked almost disappointed. ‘Really? She said. ‘Well if you can afford it, my ‘Out’ rate is £200 an hour.’ That threw me, and I started to stumble an embarrassed response, about how I thought she’d like the company of a man who didn’t just want her for…for…what she did, how a steady…friendship….with a man might help turn her life around. She went very still at that, and that pretty smile had become very thin lipped.
‘You know what, Keith, I don’t need your pity or someone to turn my life around. Yes, I’ve had a tough life, but every decision has been my own, I’ve never depended on some man to make it for me. Do you get that? I don’t know where you grew up, but by your accent and manners somewhere pretty comfortable.’ I nodded at that. ‘I was’ She continued, ‘from the age of four, a guest of East Sussex childcare system. Short term foster placements mainly. Even shorter once I turned 12 and started getting these.’ She gestured at her chest. ‘Once it was clear I was going to be pretty and curvy, suddenly lots of fosters didn’t want me. I might as well have had jailbait written on my forehead!’ She took a drink. I had no idea what to say. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone like her before, someone from her background. ‘They don’t exactly throw you out your care home on your 16th birthday, but it’s not far off. The only family you’ve got are the others kids, and most of them are as screwed up as you. So that’s how I ended up on the streets for a while. The cliched tragic back story. But I never let it beat me, I never became addicted and I never injected. Not like some, not like…’ She faltered. ‘Not like some. I tried to find work, but when your only option is seasonal work in a cafe, getting felt up by the owner, or working at some horrendous care home, then suddenly going on the game isn’t such a bad choice. Why should I barely earn minimum wage wiping some old guys arse, when I could get ten times as much spanking it instead?’ I opened my mouth to answer but it was clear from her expression it was a rhetorical question. At that moment her mobile beeped. She looked down at it. ‘ He’s finally here. I’ll meet you in the car in a while.’ She stood up from the table and turned to go, but stopped and looked back round. ‘Look, Keith, don’t take it the wrong way. I like you. The girls like you; you keep yourself to yourself and don’t act like you’re their pimp, their hero or have free rights to them. Most of them have got boyfriends or husbands who give them grief enough already. I did what I did out of necessity, and then out of choice. I may need your muscle as back-up for me, but that’s all. I don’t need rescuing. I’m doing that all by myself.’ She planted a delicate breath of a kiss on my cheek and walked out into the lobby and towards the stairs. I sat in stunned silence. That kiss, that lightest touch of affection, I realised, was the closest, most intimate I had been with anyone for months and months. (Except of course when I grappled with Keith in the mud of Berrow Farm, but that was not what you’d call affectionate.)
I was surprised by the jealously I suddenly felt, that those lips, that had just been so soft on my cheek, would soon be pressed against another man, a filthy disgusting old letch! I left my drink and marched into the lobby. I knew the room number, I could go up there now and get her. I even took a step towards the staircase, but, of course. I stopped. It would achieve nothing except raising a fuss and drawing attention to us both. We both live in the shadows, And there we have to stay, at least for now.
I walked out to the car and got into the passenger seat. (Another little spy tip there for you. Waiting in the passenger seat makes you look a lot less innocuous then in the drivers seat. A passenger is simply waiting for the driver to return, a driver is lurking for a reason.) 38 Minutes later I got the All Clear Text and shortly after she came out, looking just the same. She got in without a word and I started the engine. ‘Home’ I asked? She nodded. This was not a comfortable silence. I turned left out of the drive and set off back to Borchester. As we passed the Lodge I saw a pair of malevolent eyes peering out from a window. Unusually, not Peggy, but her psychotic cat, Hilda was it?
We were only a couple of miles out of town when Lisa broke the silence. ‘Look, Keith, I’m sorry. I was a bit harsh on your, but I’ve had this before. I don’t need any man to save me, as sweet as those intentions are. I am in absolute control of my life.’ She paused there and looked at me. ‘If anything, I need to save you.’ I asked her what she meant. She smiled. ‘ A single man, living in a tiny room at the top of knocking shop, under an assumed name. Not much of a life is it?’ I tried to hide the sudden panic in my eyes. She laughed. ‘Your just not a Keith are you? Men like you aren’t Keiths; you’re Charles, or Edward or William. Don’t worry, we all have histories in this game.’ I kept my eyes fixed on the road and tried to loosen my grip on the steering wheel a little. I could feel her eyes on me. ‘You should shave off that beard though. I think you’d look better without it.’
We got back to No.22 but I had to got out again. I was too shaken up, angry, confused and humiliated to stay cooped up with all those women! I took to the bike instead and pounded through the rush hour traffic, out onto the country lanes. Of course, I ended up back in Ambridge. I sat in the Bull with a pint of Lemon and Lime (with a sprig of mint in it, for god’s sake. Does that make it ‘Artisan’ too?) and tried to gather my thoughts. After a while I tuned into the conversation that was happening behind me. Two workman were laughing quietly together. One, a welsh chap by the sound of it, was saying ‘You’ve just got to know how to handle them, Connor. Give them a bit of flannel about their stylish eye and they’ll be eating out of your hand. We’ll get another £50 for that old sink, you watch.’ Lillian, had to be. That, at least brought a smile to my face. The other lad, Connor, apparently, crunched on a crisp and said. ‘Right pair of miserable buggers though aren’t they?’ That didn’t sound like Lillian at all. Give her a couple of workmen and that would usually keep her happy for days. Perhaps she is still dwelling on the events of Friday evening?
I rode back to Borchester, and had a McDonalds, sitting in the market square in the failing evening light. I’m really starting to worry that I’m losing my edge. Starting to fall for a call girl of all things! I can’t help it son, I just can’t help falling for fragile broken woman, to try and protect and guide them.But look where that’s got me me.
She’ll be gone soon though. And she doesn’t know who I really am. People move on all the time. Things move on.
G’night son. I love you.
Message from Fat Bloke
Firstly, let me just say sorry, that was kind of long. Unusually I wrote that Monday night and got carried away a bit with the extra time. Perhaps a 50 minute bus journey should be my limit. On the plus side, it means I can slept in ’til 06:10!!!!
Secondly, if you listen to this week’s Dum Tee Dum (The Archer’s podcast by its fans.), you’ll experience almost the nerdiest thing imaginable, the Archer’s theme played using musical Note Blocks in the computer game, Minecraft. Humbly created by my son, Little Bloke and myself. And you should be listening to it anyway. 🙂