Authors: Nikki McWatters
Tags: #Fiction, #Psychological, #Retail, #Suspense, #Thrillers
I sighed and patted my hands on my white Sass and Bide jeans.
‘Well, her mother came here today and she saw that photo you’ve got as a screen saver and now she’s got the scent of blood…she’s going after that band,
Drop Dead Gorgeous
‘What?’ Abbie screamed and jumped up, her school bag clattering to the floor. ‘You snooped in my computer? Are you for real? How dare you. How fucking dare you!’
‘Abbie,’ I reached up to her. ‘Calm down.’
Her bitterness stung me. She was hysterical, really heated up.
‘No! Goddamn it, Mum! You have no idea. You will fuck everything up. Just butt out, okay?’ she was crying, streaky tears making their way over her creamy peach cheeks. ‘I’ve got to warn Libby. Shit!’
I felt stupid and helpless as I watched her run upstairs like a hot-headed bull. Slamming doors and more cursing. She was back within minutes and I was pouring myself a tall vodka and soda with a twist of lime. She was dressed in jeans and a tight pale blue sweater. Purple Converse sneakers. She had her laptop bag and gave me a curt nod as she headed out the door.
‘Don’t expect me back til late and don’t keep calling my phone.’
When did my little princess grow up to be such a defiant young woman? She reminded me so much of myself when I was her age. The difference was that she had all the fine things now that I never had. And that was because of all the sacrifices I made for her. Sometimes she was so ungrateful.
I let the vodka warm my blood and sighed. To be perfectly honest, I was just so grateful it wasn’t my daughter who got knocked up. That would have been a horrible inconvenience. I’m quite happy to never add
to my list of achievements.
I couldn’t help but wonder about those boys in the band. They were very hot and I wouldn’t blame a teenage girl for throwing herself at those musicians, particularly the very drop dead gorgeous, Chris Bergin. If I was a few years younger….well, actually, I looked across to the mirror-tiled wall, I’d still pass as a thirty-something. Guys like Bergin were not altogether unattainable for a slick cougar like me. Looking at those photos of the girls with the famous rock-star had actually made me a little bit jealous. If I’m completely honest.
You know you really appreciate home after a long tour. I was tired. Just kind of burnt out and I really wasn’t sure that I’d want to do another international tour. It had been a long time to be away from Meg and Olive and with a new bub on the horizon, I was starting to think that I was getting too old and settled for that type of lifestyle. Recording was one thing and maybe a benefit concert now and again to keep that energy up but the other guys were also starting to settle and create families and it wasn’t like I wanted to end up like Mick Jagger. He’s great and all but he’s past it and it just begins to get tacky, if you know what I mean.
The constant turnstile of hotel doors becomes stale after about a week. After three months, it’s mind numbingly dull. They all look the same and I get sick of eating out all the time. I like to cook. See, not many people know that about me. If I wasn’t a rock god, hmmm, I think I’d have been a chef. I had an Italian grandmother so I think I get that from her.
Leura was so nice that time of the year. It had cooled down nicely and the leaves were beginning to crisp and turn into every shade of Autumn. My body clock gets screwed up when I tour because I’m zipping between weather zones and that’s supremely odd. Unnatural.
Olive had a birthday the weekend before. I could not believe she was thirteen. Sweet Jesus. When did that happen? She was practically a young woman. Mum sent her fifty dollars in a card and Meg took her into Katoomba to spend it. It was late-night Thursday shopping and then the girls were going to have a pizza together. Olive would no doubt buy crystals or Tarot cards or something equally esoteric. She was like a little oomie goomie witch child. That’s her mother. Astrology. Runes. Star charts and whatever. Bunch of baloney if you ask me but I’m happy that it makes them happy. The Blue Mountains has a lot of that alternative stuff happening. I just liked the crisp air and the views. Meg missed the city and the hustle and bustle. But after a thirty-city tour, I was in heaven up there in the hills.
We were down on the edge of the escarpment and I didn’t think I could ever tire of that view. It was like a verdant version of the Grand Canyon, craggy bluffs and sweeping green-black pockets of forest. I felt like some kind of ancient god living on Mt Olympus.
I had a radio interview at eight which is why I’d sent them out of the house. Some Melbourne music program I hadn’t done before. I wasn’t going to crack open the beer until that was done and dusted. I wanted to make sense and sound half-way intelligent on the phone. I was just putting a load of washing in the dryer when I heard the front door bell.
I wasn’t expecting anyone and no-one just pops in up here. That’s one of the reasons we moved out of the city. Maybe Ollie our sheepdog had gotten out again, I thought . He’s a terrible wanderer. I opened the door and had no idea how messed up my night was going to get from that point.
Two girls. A blonde and a brunette. The smaller one was in a school uniform.
‘Yep, what can I do for you?’ I asked.
They just stared. Clearly fans who were wanting an autograph of photo or something, I thought, laughing nervously. Uncomfortably.
‘So? Hello? What do you want?’
‘Chris?’ the pretty blonde smiled. ‘Don’t you remember us?’
I thought and looked hard at them and then it hit me in the chest like a sneaky upper cut. Fucking hell. It was those two chicks from that final gig. I had the feeling there was more to this than just a friendly drop by for a cup of tea and to shoot the breeze. It reeked.
‘Um…yeah..like girls I don’t think it’s appropriate to come to my family home and…how did you even find this place?’
‘We just asked a local cab driver,’ the small dark one said.
The school uniform was distracting me. More than distracting me, it was making me feel like I was going to pass out. These girls looked similar to those trampy groupies but in the light of day, in my goddamn front foyer, they looked like kids.
‘What do you want?’ I said more forcefully and frowned hard.
‘I’m pregnant,’ the small uniformed one said and I felt the ground beneath me begin to give way.
I stumbled back, and almost fell on the slate tiles. I crumpled my fingers into fists and forced myself to breath.
‘Chris?’ one of them said.
‘I was trashed,’ I bumbled and stuttered. ‘You girls…seriously…I don’t do that sort of thing. I’m married and it was just a one-off end-of-tour slip up. You were like bloody harpies. I feel like you took advantage of
. You…’ I pointed to the pixie one with the short dark hair. ‘I remember waking up at some stage and you were like….doing things that no school-girl should have known how to do… and I tried to push you away and get you to stop but you were latched on like a leech.’
And then the reality of my situation really hit home and I asked the dreaded four words that should never have been left so long to ask.
‘How old are you?’
My words seemed to eat themselves. I held my breath and waited.
‘Oh hell…no,’ I yelled and banged a rounded, tight-balled hand against the door jamb.
The impossibility of the situation, the sheer implausibility of the situation suddenly made me angry. My face flushed dark and I pointed at the devil girls.
‘No…you trapped me…you know you did…you looked twenty that night….it didn’t even occur to me….’
The girls just stood there, framed by my front doorway. It took me a few minutes of blankness and confusion before I was able to stand upright more steadily and I put a hand on the cold door handle, hoping they took it as a cue to leave.
My beautiful wife and daughter. I’d risked losing them that night and I really had put it out of my head. Deleted it like a bad file. And here it was, back, like a critical, life-threatening virus. Taunting me. It occurred to me immediately that it was a blackmail situation. That perhaps, the pregnancy thing was made up. Just to get me feeling utterly vulnerable.
‘What do you want? I’ll pay for the …you know…and whatever it takes really to keep you quiet about this.’
The blonde was smirking and nodding and clearly happy with where I was heading. That was encouraging. Money had brought me a great deal of freedom and I hoped like hell in those hopeless moments that it might also buy me out of trouble.
‘I’m keeping the baby,’ the pixie girl said.
I gaped. Her words echoing around my skull.
‘I’m sorry,’ I blustered. ‘I don’t even remember your name.’
‘Libby,’ she smiled sweetly and for a moment I wondered if this wasn’t some elaborate hoax or set-up by one of the band. Clayton had been there that night. But he wouldn’t. There was nothing at all funny about a prank like this.
‘Well, Libby,’ I said, swallowing hard, trying to sound in control of myself. ‘Give me your phone number and I promise I’ll call you and we’ll sit down and work all this out okay? But you’ve got to leave now and …hey…’ I felt around for my wallet. ‘I’ve got a couple of hundred here. You take that as a security that I’ll call you. You haven’t told anyone else about this already have you?’
I was fumbling over my words, shaking, praying. Desperate to wake up from what had to be a nightmare. Reality couldn’t be so cruel.
‘Nope,’ she shook her head. ‘Not yet. But maybe we could you know…go out for dinner and work it out. If you want to just keep me on the side as a mistress until you work out what you want that’s fine….I won’t tell as long as I know we’re together. You and me.’
‘No!’ I yelled and held up both my hands. ‘It was a mistake, Libby. A really big mistake on my part. I did wrong and I’ll pay you for that. I took advantage of you girls and I didn’t know…’
Tears welled up in her eyes and her face began to quiver. I was dealing with an emotional child. I could see that she had wanted me to fall in love with her or something so ridiculous it was unthinkable. I tried to explain. I tried to make her understand.
‘I don’t even really remember half that night. You know, when I woke up I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. I’d wet the bed. I felt like I’d been drugged and you were running around all night offering your candy!’ I pointed at the dark-haired Libby. ‘I can’t believe you were giving out drugs to the road-crew. School girls?! And I know there was a condom involved. I know that….so how do I know it’s mine. Really?’
‘Well…the condom clearly didn’t work all that well…,’ the blonde shrugged and laughed. She actually laughed. These girls were demonic and seemed to be enjoying my distress.
My interview time was creeping up. It was cold outside and dark. Only a few pinpricks of star light penetrating the night. A panic so numbing had gripped me by the balls, shrivelling the world I knew into a tight knot, like a malignant cyst.
‘How did you get here?’ I asked, terrified that there were parents sitting in a car somewhere out there in the darkness.
‘In a cab,’ Libby smiled. ‘He’s waiting down the end of your very long driveway. We caught the train up from Sydney.’
‘Well you better get home before people start to worry about you and I promise I’ll call and we’ll settle this thing no matter what it takes. I’ll give you some money ..lots of money if you’ll consider terminating this …this. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you and you’ll fall in love….’
‘But I am in love,’ Libby smiled up at me. ‘With you and I want us to be together.’
My stomach was rising and I was pretty sure I was about to throw up. I dredged up some more useless, flaccid words.
‘Libby….you were playing with fire. You were way out of your league that night and frankly it feels a lot like entrapment.’
I hated myself for even attempting to fob off the responsibility for this onto a child. As I uttered the words, I could hear a collective intake of dismay from the press. You see, even then, in those frozen, blistering moments, I knew that there would be no containing this. It was the double-edged sword of success. Fame brought dangers and I’d left the barn door open and the horse had bolted and now I was going to pay for it. I lived in goddamn glass box, having surrendered a normal life of privacy.
‘You can’t deny it. I’ll get DNA testing,’ she came back at me.
‘You were asking for it…you threw yourself at me and you’ve got no-one to blame but yourself,’ I said, raising my voice.
Who was I? Where was this school-boy bullshit coming from? Each word was a nail in my coffin. And my stupid, careless, defensive crap ignited a spark of fury in the dark-haired Libby.
‘Well fuck you Chris Bergin,’ she snarled, her face going hard and cold. ‘I could make a shitload of money by taking this story to a current affairs program or a women’s magazine.’
This was disintegrating into the stuff of nightmares. Not nightmares where you try to scream but no sound comes out, worse than that. Nightmares like being tortured by terrorists. Being eaten alive slowly by rodents. Watching your loved ones disembowelled. That sort of nightmare. A complete dystopia. But of my own making.
‘No, Libby. I’ll pay you to keep it quiet. You don’t want to be all over the television. They’ll destroy you and you’ll be painted as some no good trampy slut. You don’t want that? Do you? Remember that football groupie. The media crucified her. You don’t want that so just settle back and be a good little girl and do it my way and you won’t get hurt. Just play along with what I tell you okay…?’
They girls looked at me and my mouth was dry, my guts were spasming.
‘If you’re a good friend,’ I said desperately to the blonde. ‘You’ll help her to realise that there’s only one way this should go and you know what that is.’
I nodded, trying to convince myself as much as them that everything was going to be alright. As if some dirty pieces of silver would make it all disappear.