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Authors: Claudia Carroll

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BOOK: I Never Fancied Him Anyway
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‘Anyway,’ he goes on, ‘I just wanted to make sure that this was absolutely OK with you, that’s all. I know . . . well, put it like this, I know how persuasive Oliver can be. For God’s sake, he’s a TV journalist, the guy could probably talk the Dalai Lama into coming out with something risqué and inflammatory.’

I laugh again, can’t help it.

‘So you’re all right with this? Sure?’

‘Yes, of course, it’s absolutely fine,’ I say brightly, as if I go around the place with TV cameras trailing after me every day of the week, like, I dunno, George Bush or Paris Hilton or somebody.

Then I remember it’s not fine, it’s absolutely not fine, it’s the exact opposite. Oh bugger, how will I phrase this delicately?

Another phone starts ringing in the background and I can sense he’s a bit distracted. ‘Great, well, technically, Oliver is doing this as a freelance gig, but you should just know that you’re doing the
Breakfast Club
a huge favour, publicity-wise,’ he says, in an I’m-not-being-rude-it’s-just-I’m-in-work-and-have-to-go tone of voice.

Right, nothing for it, I have to jump in feet first. ‘Jack? Before you go?’

‘Yup?’

‘Are you planning on coming to the shoot too?’

There’s just the tiniest pause. ‘What do you mean, did you want me to be there?’

‘No, no, no, I mean, yes, I mean, I’m not telling you your job, I just . . . err . . . wondered, that’s all.’ Great, now I sound as if I fancy him. Which . . . let’s be honest, I do.

And Charlene’s upstairs.

OK, I am officially the most horrible person in the world.

He laughs it off. Luckily,
very
luckily for me. ‘Cassie, while there is nothing in the world I’d enjoy more than a day’s location shoot in your sparkling company, unfortunately I’m going to be stuck in budgeting meetings for the rest of the day, most likely.’

‘Oh, OK then. Well . . . enjoy, I suppose.’

Yes, yes, I am fully aware that sounded teenagery and pathetic, but what was I supposed to say? I mean, what do I know about budgeting meetings?

‘Enjoy?’ Jack says, sounding a bit more like himself now. ‘Believe you me, there are Samuel Beckett plays that are more gripping and move faster than our quarterly financial meetings.’

I snort with laughter, then realize how unattractive it sounds, then remember Charlene upstairs, still rummaging through my wardrobe, then I instantly shut up.

‘So, best of luck, Cassie, you’re in safe hands, but do call me if, well, if there’s anything you’re not one hundred per cent happy with. Deal?’

‘Deal.’ I smile, feeling all safe and minded.

‘Oh, and will you tell Charlene I’ll call her as soon
as
I get out of here so we can . . . well, so we can . . . emm . . .’ Another phone rings in the background and suddenly the production office he’s calling from sounds like Grand Central and I couldn’t quite catch the end of his sentence. But I think I can guess what he meant. I think at this stage the dogs on the street could pretty much guess what’s coming.

Yet another one you don’t need to be psychic for.

OK, so now I’ve gone from being the most horrible person in the world to the most hateful person who ever lived. Worse than Pol Pot, worse than Hitler and right up there with the worst relationship-sabotaging cow ever to grace the screen of a daytime soap opera.

This, however, makes me an awful lot nicer and a helluva lot more patient with Charlene in the car. ‘I mean, what is it about Jack Hamilton, would you please mind telling me?’ she rants to me as I try to navigate my way to the Hendersons’ house in Rathgar. ‘On the rare occasions when he actually
does
want to see me – and I might add that getting a date with him is like pulling teeth – it’s only ever in the daytime. This makes him either (a) married, or (b) a vampire.’

‘Honey,’ I say as I attempt to reverse the car out of a cul-de-sac after taking yet another wrong turn, ‘I want you to be blissfully happy with the right guy. I’ll repeat that for further emphasis: the
right guy
. Someone who will love and adore you and treat you like a princess.’

Did that sound OK? Gentle but firm is what I’m going for here. And honest. This
is
what I want for her. For all of us. I’m not sure she’s even listening to me, though; from the corner of my eye I catch her staring at her reflection in the wing mirror.

‘Charlene? Have I lost you? Are you drifting?’

She doesn’t answer. Which is odd. Normally you have a job shutting her up, particularly whenever the conversation revolves around fellas.

‘Are you maybe fantasizing about this month’s
Vogue?
’ What the hell, I might as well make a joke of it.

‘Something’s up, Cassie,’ she eventually says, slowly turning to face me, the big blue eyes swimming with wobbly tears. ‘With Jack, I mean.’ And she’s not acting, this is for real. She smells what’s coming, same as we all do.

‘Oh honey, are you OK?’ I ask as soothingly as I can. God love her, I think, feeling if possible even lousier than I did earlier. Bad enough that she’s going through a family crisis but now this . . .

‘Cassie, I think you know me well enough to know that I’m beyond looking for a boyfriend. I’m auditioning for a
husband
. And to be perfectly honest, I smell a dumping in the air. And what’s even worse, I’m going to be the dumpee. Oh, to hell with bloody Jack Hamilton anyway, that’s all I can say. Stupid bastard just bought me about five more years on my analyst’s couch.’

For once I find myself wishing for a miracle to happen. Not for me, you understand, for Charlene.

Years and years ago, when I was just out of college, wondering what to do with my life and still coming to terms with being psychic, I went to (and I swear I’m not messing here) a white witches’ convention in Hastings, England, centre of all sorcery activity in Europe.

Now, I stress that I only went for the laugh and because I thought I’d fit in. But guess what, I didn’t. They all looked down their noses at me for being psychic and for (a) telling people who came to me the flashes I saw about their futures and (b) daring to even think about accepting a job writing a column in a magazine, which in white witch circles is the equivalent of selling out and becoming a door-to-door encyclopaedia saleswoman. For my part, I thought they were a shower of headcases who never, ever washed and somehow always smelt of hash.

Anyway, while I was there, I met the head of all white witches, leader of the coven, who we had to address by his proper title – Kevin. Kevin was in his sixties, white-haired and sprightly, and if you didn’t know, you’d almost think he was an assistant bank manager. He would throw his broomstick into the back of his Nissan Micra and cheerfully head off to do energy-clearings and chanting and maybe the odd spell. It was a confused time in my life and the only reason I even mention Kevin now
is
that he always used to say this. Or at least, this is the gist of it: if you wish something unselfishly for someone else, for good, with goodness in your heart and for the greater good of mankind (‘good’ and ‘evil’ feature an awful lot in the white witch community. Honestly, it’s like something out of
Harry Potter
), and if the Universe is in very good form that day, and all other things being equal, then it will come to pass.

It might well sound like tosh, but I find myself doing it right now. It’s worth a try.

I wish some knight in shining Armani would magically appear out of nowhere and sweep Charlene off her feet. Give her everything she wants and make all her dreams come true. She’s a good soul and she really, truly deserves it. It’s all she’s ever wanted out of life and, given her family background, it’s not really that hard to understand why she so desperately craves a normal family of her own. It’s not much to ask, and can I just add that if ever she should meet someone, now is the perfect, perfect time.

Anyway, I finally find the Hendersons’ house, which is very posh, with a long sweeping driveway up to it. We scrunch the car up, pulling in behind a very swish-looking Mercedes, brand new, almost in showroom condition. The driver’s door opens and, with a spring in his step, out steps Oliver.

Chapter Eleven

THE TAROT DECK

THE ACE OF CUPS CARD

The Card Of impulse and intuition. Signifies that you must trust yourself and be guided by your sixth sense. If you do follow your gut instinct and stay in close contact with your inner voice, all will be well. If you chose not to, then, sorry, but I’m afraid that’s a whole other story. Don’t, however, come back crying and say that you weren’t warned
. . .

OK. WE’VE ONLY
been here for half an hour and already Oliver is driving me
mental
. First of all, when we meet
Mrs
Henderson (who is lovely, by the way, tall, pale, gracious and welcoming. She immediately puts me at ease by assuring me her awful husband is out for the day – phew), he launches into the hard sell to try and persuade her to participate in his documentary.

‘I’m seeing you reading out the letter you wrote to Cassandra,’ he says, oblivious to the stressed look on the poor woman’s tired face. ‘Then maybe we can cut to you walking around the house, inspecting all the damage that’s been done by whatever unseen force is at work here. The place is looking a bit too tidy; maybe we’ll mess it up a bit, you know, make it look more like a bomb hit it.’

‘Well, I don’t know if I’d be quite comfortable with that,’ says Mrs Henderson timidly. ‘You see, I don’t think my husband would be very happy for me to appear on TV.’

‘Oh come on, this could be for primetime broadcast,’ says Oliver, flashing his gluey professional grin. ‘Just think about the exposure.’

‘That
was
what I was thinking about.’

‘Would you like me to have a word with your husband?’

Now Mrs Henderson looks completely panic-stricken and it’s at this point I step in, unable to witness any more of his shameless pushiness. ‘Oliver,’ I say crisply in my very best won’t-take-no-for-an-answer tone of voice.
‘I
need a word. Outside. Now. Please excuse us for a minute, Mrs Henderson.’ I step into the front garden and take a breath of nice, soothing, cool air. Honestly, at times like this I really, really wish that I smoked.

He’s hot on my heels like a bad smell. ‘So? Everything all right with my beautiful star? Not getting cold feet on me, I hope?’

Unfortunately for him, the TV-friendly cheesy grin doesn’t work on me. God, even the faux-American accent is really starting to irritate me now. ‘Oliver, I don’t mean to be rude, but you have got to back
right off
. Mrs Henderson clearly doesn’t want to take part, so why can’t you just leave her alone?’

‘Hey, no need to get excited.’

‘I cannot do an energy-clearing with you buzzing around like you’re trying to direct
War and Peace
. It’s just not possible. Now, I hate to sound insistent, but what I’m about to do requires calm and quiet and serenity so I can
hopefully
, with a bit of luck, and I’m making no promises here, tap into the energies around and actually help this woman—’

He doesn’t even let me finish, just interrupts me with a pained look on his face that might as well say, ‘I sure as hell don’t want a ticket to whatever planet you’re living on.’ Jesus, I could strangle him.

‘Cassandra, you may know a lot about the occult—’

‘I DO NOT dabble in the occult.’

‘But you have to admit, you know diddly squat about what makes great TV.’ Another flash of the practised smile. ‘Now, I’ve been making documentaries for years and years . . .’

Which have brought pleasure to fives of tens of people, I’m silently thinking, still smouldering.

‘. . . and I instinctively know what will work here. You have to trust me. OK, so maybe I won’t be able to talk Mrs Henderson round, but I’m seeing you marching purposefully up the driveway, I’m seeing you dressed like a sort of spiritual spring-cleaner . . .’

Oh my God, it just gets worse and worse. Did he really just say that? I’ll be lucky if he doesn’t play in the theme tune from
Ghostbusters
. But he’s not even finished.

‘. . . then I’m seeing you drifting into a trance and maybe even speaking in tongues.’

‘OLIVER!’

‘Don’t worry, I can dub in the voices later in editing.’

I try my best to keep my voice cool, calm and measured, although what I’m actually thinking is, Kill me now, for the love of God. ‘At the risk of sounding like a prima donna,’ I say, slowly, slowly, slowly, ‘if you want this clearing to be successful you are going to have to
back off
and let me do it my way. And just so we’re absolutely clear, that means no voiceovers, no theme tune from
The Omen
and most definitely no extras floating by looking
like
rejects from the set of
Jane Eyre
. It basically means you just let me get on with it. OK?

‘Hey, if that’s what you want, that’s not a problem.’ Again he beams the faux I-really-think-you’re-great-and-I-love-love-
love
-working-with-you grin, which is utterly wasted on me. ‘Although, a word to the wise: I wouldn’t use the prima donna phrase in front of the cameraman if I were you. I mean, after all, you’re the one who brought your agent here with you today.’

Well, colour me moody, I think furiously as he goes back inside the house. I didn’t think it physically possible but this whole ‘Hey! Fab idea! Let’s film Cassandra doing a clearing’ both sucks
and
blows. If Oily Oliver had only played his cards right, I might even have attempted, in time, to fix him up with Charlene, but right now he has a Hindu’s chance in heaven of that ever happening. Oh well, his loss. No kidding, this man puts the noxious into obnoxious. Anyway, lucky escape for Charlene, if you ask me. I suppose the lesson for me here is be very, very careful what you wish for . . .

Anyway, Charlene is still in the car, in a deep chat on the mobile with Marc with a C. The good news is that she and ’Orrible Oliver have barely looked twice at each other since we got here; she’s too upset, God love her, and he’s too busy trying to be the next Ang Lee. Best of luck to him.

BOOK: I Never Fancied Him Anyway
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