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Authors: Louise Kean

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Boyfriend in a Dress

BOOK: Boyfriend in a Dress
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LOUISE KEAN
Boyfriend in a Dress

Dedication

For Mum & Dad

Epigraph

I used to be Snow White … then I drifted

MAE WEST

It takes two to speak the truth – one to speak, and another to hear

HENRY DAVID THOREAU

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Epigraph

The First Time I Ran Away

Amen to That

Psycho

My Penis Is …

Stripped Bare

My Green-Eyed Monster

Dressed to Kill

What Charlie Has to Say for Himself

I’m With Stupid

We’re All Going On a …

Mind My Decanter!

Bowls!

Food for Thought

Highlights

Swim When You’re Winning?

Two Inspectors Call

Gone but not Forgotten

Who Cares?

Starting Again

Back to Life

Closure, I Promise

Socrates Says

A Date with Disaster/Destiny

What’s Wrong?

Completely Nuts

Confession Time

Small Truths

Starting Again, Again

When it Rains, it Pours

One Step Forward or Two Steps Back?

Sleeping on It …

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Starting Again, Part Three

Almost Romantic

Perspective

Good Grief

It Could Be So Different

Doing the Maths

What is There to Think?

Epilogue – After All That

Acknowledgements

About the Author

By the Same Author

Copyright

About the Publisher

The First Time I Ran Away

‘I’m sorry, what?’

‘We should just know zat ze ghost is zere, we shouldn’t be able to see it! ’Ave it taken out of ze script. Get somebody else to do it. Sack ’im first.’

You can barely even make out the Spanish accent now, although when my boss first came to this country two years ago, when he first took the job as the head of television development, it was actually impossible to understand three out of four words he said. He told me six months ago, through a toothy Spanish smile, that he swore a lot in those early days, at all of the producers and scriptwriters he worked with, and got away with it. I know that is a lie. He thinks it ingratiates himself with me, with ‘the team’. We know that he would eat his own hands if it pleased the producers. José isn’t fooling anybody any more. It only takes a couple of months for the political animal to show its face.

‘José, I can’t just sack him, I need a reason.’ I don’t know how many times I have had this conversation with him. He still cannot grasp the fact that somebody has to do something wrong before you give them their marching orders.

‘Look at ’iz ’air! It is all wrong. ’E ’as to go!’ José thumps the boardroom table violently.

‘You want me to sack him because of his hair? I don’t think hairstyles are specified in the contract, José – besides, what’s wrong with his hair?’

‘Oh, everything. It is so … so British. ’E ’as no flair.’ He sighs wearily. I too am British, I will never understand. José has slicked back black hair. That apparently is the hair to have.

‘José, why don’t we just ask him to rewrite, if you don’t like it, but in all honesty, I have to say I don’t know how we are going to make the sequel to
Evil Ghost
without an actual ghost.’

‘Yes, but zis is for TV, it is very different, Nicola.’

‘I know, we’ve got a tenth of the budget.’

‘I cannot work like zis,’ José says, as he holds his head in his hands.

‘Look, why don’t I just tell him to make the ghost a bit more … subtle.’

‘Yes, maybe zat will work.’ José comes alive again.

‘Tell ’im it should be more like … more like a big gap.’

‘Just a big gap,’ I repeat, although I know I am pushing my luck, but it’s just such a stupid thing to say. We are not a TV company who lets our audience ‘sense’ anything any more. If you can’t see it, in all its graphically-enhanced, action-packed splendour, it ain’t us. Subtlety went out with the sequel. And promotional tie-ins. Both of which we are very good at, I might add.

‘Zat’s what I said.’ The toothy grin is warping into gritted teeth.

‘You don’t think we might need to be a bit more blatant than that? You don’t think we could show something a bit scarier than … a big space? You don’t think it will just look like we had no budget and ran out of money before we could do the effects?’

‘No, it will intrigue zem.’

‘You think it will intrigue young males, fifteen to twenty-five, our primary audience?’

‘Zee audience are more sophisticated zan you give zem credit for, Nicola.’

‘Fine.’ The only thing he can’t do in a perfect English accent now is any word beginning with ‘th’ or ‘h’. It kills him, I know. But I give up. I will be told to change it eventually, or be ultimately blamed myself for the idea of leaving a big ‘space’ in our TV movie, if it ever actually makes it onto TV, probably cable at this rate. Play the game, I remind myself, as I click my pen, and write in large letters on my notepad – LEAVE A BIG SPACE. I massage the side of my head slightly, and try not to project ‘attitude’. José stares at me pointedly, daring me to tell him what an idiot he is, but I don’t bite.

‘Maybe a big space is going too far,’ José says, and I realize he is coming to his senses.

‘’Ow about a cloud of white fog instead. Try zat.’ He smiles at me. I smile back. It’s obviously happy hour at the idiot farm.

‘A cloud of white fog?’ I ask, trying not to sound numb.

‘Yes, like a mist.’ He makes a circular motion in front of him with his hands, and then nods at me to somehow ‘write that down’.

‘You want me to tell him to write a mist in. What kind of mist?’

‘A ghostly mist.’ Jesus wept!

‘Look, it’s called
Evil Ghost 2: The Return.
We need a ghost in it. Come on, he’s doing a good job. If the script is lacking, maybe we need another character or something. Maybe there’s something wrong with the second act.…’

‘Yes! We need … we need … something sinister – who are sinister? Work with me, Nix, work with me … the old, the old are sinister, if zey ’ave lost zer teeth … An old lady
mist! It should be an old lady ghostly mist,’ he shouts, his personal Eureka. We have been doing this for over an hour.

‘An old lady?’ There are no old ladies in our script.

‘Yes, shoot it tomorrow, get me a visual, I know it will work. You can use Angela! It will be cheap.’

‘José, we can’t use Angela.’ Angela is his PA.

‘Why not?’ He looks at me, confused.

‘Because she’s thirty-nine. She might be offended.’

‘Thirty-nine? She looks older zan zat.’ He looks down solemnly; I have burst his bubble. José only employs young women, and by young, I mean under twenty-five. Luckily, Angela and I were here before him, and he hasn’t sacked us yet. I’m twenty-eight, but that is middle-aged in José’s book.

‘So?’ He looks at me expectantly, waiting for a solution. By my side, Phil, my assistant, has a blank look on his face that lets me know he has been asleep with his eyes open for the last half an hour.

‘Okay, I’ll drop in an old lady, a proper old lady – she’ll be like, eighty, José.’ He practically retches at the thought.

‘I’ll have it worked up by the designers, so we can see how it looks.’ I surrender, trying to draw the meeting to an end.

‘No, organize a shoot. I won’t attend.’ There’s a surprise.

‘You want me to organize a shoot – for an old woman in mist?’

‘Zat’s what I said.’ I’m going to get told off after this meeting. I’m being ‘negative’.

‘But it’ll cost twenty times as much as just working it up on the Mac.’

‘Yes, but it ’as to be realistic.’ He gives me a patronizing smile.

I sigh, as José sucks on a biscuit with a smile.

‘Set it up for tomorrow. I’m in Spain on Friday,’ José says through a mouth full of Digestive.

‘Tomorrow? But it’s five-thirty now!’

‘Nicola, ’ow ’ard can it be? It’s just mist, and an old woman.’ He smiles at Phil, and raises his eyes to heaven at me. Phil doesn’t respond.

‘We’ll have to get a smoke machine.’ I nudge Phil, whose pen darts towards his pad, and just draws a line.

José thumps the table with his hand, and looks straight at me.

‘No, for fuck’s sake – it ’as to be realistic for fuck’s sake!’

‘But we’re in the middle of a heatwave; where am I supposed to find mist by tomorrow?’ I ask coldly, trying not to lose my temper.

For emphasis, I wipe the beads of sweat off the back of my neck, and blow a hair off my cheek that has stuck.

‘I’m sure you’ll find a way.’ José regains his composure and smiles at me again, through gritted teeth. He hasn’t broken a sweat for the last two weeks, in the middle of this freakishly hot May. The man is ice. You could pour vodka down his ear and watch it come straight out of the other end, with your mouth open beneath what I am sure is a below-average length penis, while everybody cheers and claps. I am left with a horrible mental image. If it wasn’t eighty-five degrees outside, I’d shudder.

‘Are we done zen?’ José asks cheerily, and pushes back his chair.

‘I suppose. So for now, the scriptwriter can stay?’ I say, as confirmation.

‘Yes, but tell ’im to cut ’iz ’air.’ José pulls a face, and saunters out without a care in the world.

I nudge Phil again – his pen darts towards his pad and underlines the line he made earlier.

‘Phil,’ I say, losing my temper.

‘Wha?’ he says, as his eyes desperately try to focus.

‘I’m going for a cigarette. Go downstairs and conference in Naomi and Jules.’

‘Your mates?’ he asks, confused, even though he has done it a thousand times before.

‘Yes, you have their numbers. I’ll be back in five minutes.’

‘Get me a Twix,’ I hear him shout after me as I head for the lifts.

I sigh and hit the button for ‘ground’, and try desperately to ignore the mirrors on all sides of me in the lift, reflecting my shiny face back at me. It is too hot for May. I love it and hate it. If it holds until the weekend, I’ll love it. If it breaks on Friday, it’ll just be a pain in the arse. There is nothing worse than working in the summer. Actually, there are a lot of things which are much worse – torture with acid and sandpaper isn’t great, I’ve heard – but this is … frustrating.

I lean against the side of our building, with the sun pouring onto my eyelids, and inhale.

I was fourteen, dressed in my school uniform, and hiding behind a petrol pump. My exasperated parents drove up and down the road in front of me. I could see the car crawling back past the church, past the petrol station opposite. I didn’t want to go to my first confirmation meeting. My friends were all at the cinema, but I was ducking behind the four star. After too many arguments to go into, I had succumbed to being driven to St Jude’s, our church, because my parents didn’t trust me to get there on my own. I waved at them as they pulled away in our old Orange Datsun that my mum swore had ‘character’, and walked up the few steps to the door, but didn’t ring the bell, waiting for the car to recede into the distance so I could make a run for it. But the door suddenly flew open, and Sister Margarita sprung out of nowhere, grinning like the village idiot: she’d been at the holy wine … again.

‘Jesus Christ!’ was my unfortunate cry of shock.

‘Nicola Ellis!’ she managed to slur back in mock outrage – she’d
heard worse, hell, she’d said worse herself, but she was obliged to at least seem offended.

‘Sorry, Sister,’ I mumbled and made a break for it. I dashed off down the steps, and stood, half excited, looking both ways deciding which new path to follow. Which is when I noticed the mobile baked bean tin handbrake turn at the end of the road, and suddenly my mum and dad were on my tail like the Dukes of Hazzard hit Kent. I managed to make it to the petrol station before they drove past – my dad may have been angry, he may even have done an illegal turn, but he wasn’t going to do more than thirty in a built-up area. So I ducked and dived as they went along and their sixth parental sense stopped them driving off in the other direction. They were going to track me down. It was a matter of principle, and it would make my nanny happy.

As they cruised past the church again, looking like a pair of terribly respectable kerb crawlers, I found my feet and dashed off in the other direction. The Datsun caught me as I sprinted towards the park, and I heard my mother’s voice say wearily from behind a wound down window,

‘Nicola, get in the car, please.’

There was no point fighting it. For me the compulsion to run has always been there, but when I am caught, as I am always caught, a tidal wave of guilt at doing what
I
want to do manifests itself in a desperate need to make amends. My dad walked me up the steps and rang the doorbell to the nuns’ house, as I hung my head in shame.

‘Don’t run off again – it’s getting dark, it’s not safe,’ was all he said. And I obeyed. Sister Margarita swung open the door again, still smiling like she had a Wagon Wheel stuck in her mouth. At the sight of me she managed to say,

‘Blasphemer!’ covering my father in a shower of holy saliva.

‘Sorry, Sister,’ I said again, as my dad eyed her nervously, and wiped himself off. Her cheeks were purple and riddled with veins, and her nose was bright red, her wimple lopsided, with an ear popping out of one side.

‘I’ll pick you up in an hour and a half. Be here,’ my dad said, and kissed me goodbye. I waved to my mum, who waved back, smiling that it would be okay. So I end up doing the thing I’m running from anyway, just with the added bonus of feeling like a bad person for daring not to please somebody else. I was the only latecomer, but I was already feeling guilty, so I was instantly top of the class.

I go back upstairs, and throw the Twix at Phil on my way past his desk, and he catches it with cricket hands and cries ‘Howzat!’

Phil follows me into my office mumbling ‘not out!’ as I slump at my desk.

‘We should throw more things in the office, it brightens my day,’ he says, and lingers near the door.

‘Are they on?’ I ask, ignoring him, looking at flashing buttons on my phone.

‘Yep, they’re holding. Is Naomi the fit one?’ he asks seriously.

‘They’re both fit, they’re my friends,’ I reply, wearily.

‘Yes, but not girl “they are both lovely and funny” fit, bloke fit?’

‘I wouldn’t know,’ I say, and hit the red button and mouth ‘shut the door,’ at Phil, who slumps out of the room. He really would prefer just to sit and listen to my conversation for twenty minutes.

When nothing happens – I can’t work this damn phone, it’s like something out of
Star Trek
– I press the button again, and instantly hear the girls talking at the other end.

BOOK: Boyfriend in a Dress
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