E D M U N D ’ S P. O. V
Apparently this limo driver did not understand morse code. For the entire painful journey I’d been blinking into the front mirror, trying to catch his attention, and had at one point succeeded, only to have him give me a strange look and roll his little divider window up. I disliked that divider window. It was a self-obsessed divider window. Cruel. Uncaring. Even, dare I say it, supercilious.
Oliver’s head shifted slightly on my legs. I tensed, torn between wriggling away, attempting a flamboyant escape, or deciding not to care. In the end I didn’t do anything, suspended in the uncomfortable equilibrium of not being able to move my legs and having my legs moved all together too much for my liking.
The limo juddered to a halt. Oliver’s eyes opened and he smiled drunkenly at me, mouth slightly lopsided. My inner Audrey Hepburn shuddered at the indignity, although I doubt she would have minded the limo driver opening the door for me. I glared at him as I got out, trying to mentally communicate that he’d abandoned me in my time of need. He didn’t notice, instead opting to drag Oliver out of the limo and hand his slightly limp body over to me. I glared all the more.
“I’m not topping you.”
“You what mate?”
“I’m not giving you a top.”
The driver lit a cigarette. “You mean a tip.”
I hefted Oliver more securely into my arms. “Quite. Now, I don’t suppose you know how exactly I am supposed to get this drunk celebrity into his house?”
“Nope. On your own, buddy.”
“Firstly, I am not your buddy. Secondly, you are rude and you need to brush your teeth because your breath is awful. Thirdly, you need to learn morse code. Good day.”
I turned away and headed towards a small set of gates I assumed led to Oliver’s home.
“House to the left. White one.”
I turned away and headed to a significantly larger set of gates that actually led to Oliver’s home. For the second time in the last two months, the revving of a limousine engine became the soundtrack to another stage in my life.
Oliver was leaning heavily on my shoulder, arm cast around my neck. The sun was setting behind us, making us look like some horrific four-legged lumbering creature.
“Oliver, how do we get inside?”
He grinned at an invisible thing just to the right of us. “I don’t know.”
“Oliver, it’s your house.”
“Is it?” He peered up through the gates, then nodded intelligently. “Ah. I see. There’s a key in my back pocket.” His peering turned expectantly to me. I shook my head and backed away.
“Nope. No way. That would cross invisible boundaries that we’re already beginning to inch towards as you won’t let me go to my place.”
“You’re no fun.” He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a key that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Rivendell.
“And that’s the way I’m going to stay.”
“Oh, just open the gate Oliver. I’m cold.”
Oliver leant against the gate—whether on purpose to make it open, or to show defiance and not open it, I’ll never know, but whichever his intention, the result was the same. The gate swung open, and with the gate swung Oliver. He landed with a thump and groaned.
I debated picking him up and carrying him to his house, but my inner supercilious Marilyn Monroe won out, stepped over him gracefully, and continued on her way towards the house.
Now, the fanciest—or to use one of my guilty pleasure slang words, swankiest—thing I’ve ever seen would have to be Jackson’s private jet. He’d flown me here with it, and during the long flight there’d been private service, a golden Labrador curled by my feet, air hostesses waiting on me hand and feet, a library, a swimming pool, a sun room, a small petting zoo, a catwalk, a cinema, a restaurant, an orchestra pit, and a room inexplicably full of left-handed gloves. Okay, maybe most of that is exaggerated, but it was by far the fanciest place I’d ever been in.
Oliver’s house topped it by far.
It was styled after the Parthenon, pillars winding towards the sky—
“Oh, before you become enamoured by how beautiful that house is, Edmund, I should probably tell you that it’s not actually my house. I live in that little cabin there.” Oliver gestured to a small pile of wood that had bravely arranged itself in a cuboid-like shape and squatted just to the left of us. As we watched, a log fell from the side and a small family of cockroaches cowered from the unexpected light. I watched them writhe.
“I dislike you intensely and hope you choke on a beetle.”
Oliver wasn’t listening. “Edmund, I’m going to throw up—never mind, false alarm.” He stood from where he’d fallen and teetered towards the cabin. I stood back and watched him. It was like watching a small giraffe trying to ice skate.
“Why do you live here? I thought you were rich or something.”
“I am. I’m doing it for the part—my character is a bit of a hermit.”
I opened the door for him as he appeared unable to locate the handle. “Takes one to know one.”
“I’m too drunk to understand that.”
“I can tell.”
The inside of Oliver’s shack was exactly as nice as the inside of my oldest mug. In other words, it was utterly ghastly. (I kept that mug to give to Joan in case she ever asked for tea. Once I found a family of dead maggots in it and held a small funeral for them in a potted plant.) There was one bed, one stump that was trying to disguise itself as a chair, some personal effects such as a wooden toothbrush, razor, and soap, and a piece of fur that if you squinted and turned yourself upside-down looked a tiny bit like a blanket. Oliver collapsed on the bed, which almost collapsed too. “Home sweet home.”
I sat miserably on the stump/chair. “Why can’t we go to a nice little house? A decent house?” Another log fell off the wall. As it fell a melancholy soundtrack played in my head. “A house where the walls don’t fall down if you breathe?”
“Because it’s for the part. You’re the villain slash my love interest, remember?”
“Well, you are, so you have to experience…damn, I lost my train of thought to the alcohol.”
“Oh, stop being so…”
“If I could remember what that word was in answer to, I’d say yes, but I can’t. I’m sure it’s applicable though. You’re very clever, Edmund.”
I threw a wood chip at him. “That’s thanks to a thing called reading. You should try it some time.”
Oliver sat up straight, an expression of indignation plastered across his face. “Hey! I read!”
“Oliver, cereal packets do not count.”
He threw the chip back at me. “I meant scripts, Scrooge. And cereal packets do so count—oh my God, what is that horrific noise?”
I pointed to his back pocket. “You’re ringing.”
Oliver groaned and fiddled weakly with his pocket until his phone fell out onto the incognito piece of fur. “Ugh, this is so hard. Whoever invented phones should have little pieces of Lego thrown at them.”
“Whatever.” Oliver held the phone gingerly to his ear. “Oliver Smith speaking I think.”
There was a low humming that I couldn’t decipher. I realised that I was slowly tilting my head to the side to hear better and hastily stopped myself. Oliver could relay anything interesting.
Oliver’s face was changing. He’d started off with a wince at the volume, then a frown, then an expression of shock, and was now pressing a hand to his mouth, paling. The phone beeped off. I sat forwards eagerly.
“Well? Has the world exploded? Is a bookshop giving out free books? Have they brought back the dinosaurs?”
When Oliver spoke, his voice was shaky. “We have to go back to the studio.”
A sense of for foreboding sent cold trickles down my spine. “Why?”
He turned disbelieving eyes on me. “Jackson’s dead.”