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Authors: Claudia Carroll

I Never Fancied Him Anyway (41 page)

BOOK: I Never Fancied Him Anyway
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A couple of ‘yeah, go ons’ from the audience.

‘I can’t hear you,’ says Oliver, whipping the crowd up and sounding like the ringmaster at a circus. ‘Are you sure you all want to see a clip?’

‘Yes! Show it! Go on, then!’ comes from the audience.

‘OK, let’s roll it,’ says Oliver, sitting smugly back into his chair. ‘Let’s let our wonderful audience judge for themselves if there’s anything credible in the whole psychic phenomenon.’

Jesus, the man has the nerve of a matador. The studio lights dim a bit and everyone turns to the screen behind us.

OK, the sensible part of my brain thinks, this could just be my salvation. I mean, yes, Oliver was trailing around the past while, driving me nuts more than anything else, but everything was fine, wasn’t it? I mean, I was getting my flashes, doing my thing, all successfully, wasn’t I? So what’s to be worried about?

And more importantly, why do I feel as if I want to pass out?

Oh shit. Now I feel a flash coming on. An awful one.

It’s me, still in my stupid-looking Alice costume and – I don’t believe this – I’m back in my dressing room, bawling crying, really howling to the four walls
. . .

No time to dwell on it, though. I’m pulled out of it by the sound of my own voice.

I do not believe this. There I am on the screen above, in glorious Technicolor. I’m sitting on the
Breakfast Club
set, with a blank expression on my face.

‘Emm . . . it’s . . . well, you see . . .’ I’m saying on the video clip, for all the world to see. ‘This time with George could turn out to be very precious. Umm . . . for both of you. I think.’

I look petrified, I look like a complete dope and then I remember, as I’m going through the horribly surreal ordeal of having to look and listen to myself, that caller. She was the woman who moaned about her husband and I saw him dead within a few short months. What could I have said? I could hardly tell the caller that she was about to be widowed, now could I?

‘Excuse me, Ricky? Could I just say something here?’ I say in a tiny voice, but I’m drowned out by my own voice on the screen. Jesus. It’s me again, same outfit, same
Breakfast Club
slot.

‘Emm . . . well . . . the thing is . . . I can’t see whether—’ Then a shot of me looking like a goldfish, with my mouth gaping open. ‘What I’m trying to say is, well,’ I’m saying, in a deafening voice on screen, ‘sometimes the worst thing that happens to you can often turn out to be the best thing.’

Then it comes back to me. Yes. The woman who wanted to marry her boyfriend and I saw him moving out and leaving her a note. There’s another shot of me umming and ahhing, then I say, ‘. . . trust in the Universe.’ And the studio audience laughs. They actually laugh.

And part of me doesn’t even blame them, I look like
an
idiot. The bastard has edited me to look like a halfwit.

There’s worse to come: a shot of me at the Hendersons’ house on the day I did the clearing for them. That beautiful little spirit boy who didn’t know that he was dead. Dear God, I can hardly believe it.

It’s Liz and her neighbour Louise, being filmed at the kitchen table where I left them that morning. Liz Henderson, the very woman who was so reluctant to be filmed, is now filling the screen for all to see, chatting away with her new friend.

‘So now that Cassandra’s left the building, as it were’ – I can hear Oliver’s voice off-camera – ‘what do you think she actually did for you?’

Then a close-up of Liz, smiling. ‘Well, you know, she didn’t really do anything.’

And that’s it.
No
, I’m silently boiling, how can you sit there and say that? If you only knew what I had done that day – but then I get a flash. That isn’t what Liz said at all. Or at least, not everything that she said. Oliver edited her sentence in half, purposely to make me look even worse.

Now I see Liz, back at that kitchen table, saying, ‘She didn’t really do anything that got in the way, but the difference in the house is astonishing. I’d hardly know the place.’ Then Louise is saying, ‘Oh, I completely agree, the girl did
absolutely
nothing intrusive and I should know, I was here the whole time
.’

Except that’s not what Oliver, the bastard, is showing. He’s cut it down so now Louise is up on screen saying, ‘Oh, I completely agree, the girl did absolutely nothing.’ And that’s it. Now the studio audience are roaring laughing at me and I can feel hot, stingy tears beginning to well up in my eyes.

‘No, no, that
isn’t
what they said, or . . . at least, not what they meant,’ I’m desperately trying to get out, but I’m wasting my breath. The camera is focused on the screen above me and I’m completely drowned out.

The torture’s still not over. We’re back to the
Breakfast Club
set and there I am with Mary sitting beside me. ‘I hate to tell you, but I’m afraid I can’t help,’ I’m saying crisply, all matter-of-fact. ‘I can’t see anything. Sorry, but there it is.’

More laughter from the studio audience and now I want to scream. That was that awful, bossy woman who rang in and I couldn’t see anything because I took a dislike, a very rare dislike, to her. But Oliver has made it look as if this happens to me every day of the week.

Then comes a shot of me whispering to Mary, which happened during a commercial break, I remember, because I was explaining to her why I blanked, but of course now it looks like I said it live. ‘I’m worse than
useless
,’ I hear myself saying to Mary. ‘As far as your future is concerned, I’m as blind as a bat.’

OK, now I actually want to scream at the
unfairness
of it all, but I can’t because there’s more humiliation to come. Oh Christ. Here I am again, leaning forward and stage whispering into the mike, ‘Anyone who believes in ghosts is a big silly pants.’

‘The caller was a little girl!’ I say at the top of my voice but still no one can hear me. ‘She was frightened and I was trying to calm her down!’

The studio audience are still guffawing as the clip finally comes to an end.

‘Well,’ says Oliver, turning to camera, ‘as I always say, I just present the facts in an unbiased manner and let the viewer decide. I hope you’ll all tune in to my documentary, it’ll be on your screens, twentieth of November, nine p.m. Hey, don’t miss it!’

‘But that’s not FAIR!’ I almost scream at him, with tears starting to roll now. ‘You edited me to make me look like I hadn’t a clue—’

‘And I’m afraid we’ve run out of time on this item. We’ll have to leave it there and go to a commercial break,’ says Ricky to the audience. ‘Oliver Hall and Cassandra, thank you so much for your time.’

I don’t believe it. They never even gave me a chance to defend myself.

The next few moments are a haze. I desperately want
to
see Jo and Marc with a C or even Valentine, but next thing Lisa comes out and ushers me and Oliver off the set. I can barely see straight, the tears are stinging my eyes so much.

We get out to the corridor where the dressing rooms are and Oliver strides on ahead of me but I don’t let him. He is
not
getting away with this.

‘What exactly did you think you were doing in there?’ I almost splutter at him, angry tears streaming down my Disney cartoon make-up. ‘You made a fool out of me, and you know right well that . . . that . . . what you showed was a load of crap. It wasn’t like that . . . It was . . . edited to make me look like—’

‘Cassandra,’ he says and I swear I want to punch him. I physically want to punch him. ‘I just record what I see around me, that’s all. May I remind you that you did give your permission for me to film what I saw. Now, if you’re unhappy with what I shot, frankly, that’s your problem. The viewers are paying their licence fees and they have a right to know what goes on behind the scenes.’

‘You absolute BASTARD,’ I try to scream at him, but I’m too upset and my voice sounds tiny.

‘Hey, you’re the one who charges money to umm and ahh and fill people’s heads with crap like “trust in the Universe”. High time charlatans like you were exposed, in my opinion.’

‘How bloody
DARE
you . . .’

But Lisa’s straight in, thank God. ‘Cassie, come on, let’s get you to your dressing room,’ she says, firmly steering me out of Oliver’s path. ‘Let me get you settled and then I’ll run to the bar and bring you the largest gin and tonic I can get my hands on.’

I can’t answer her. All I can do is sniff and snuffle and allow myself to be led away.

It’s over. My career is as good as finished. I’m a national laughing stock and I’ll never survive this. My reputation is in tatters. No one will ever come to me for help ever again. Why would they? Why would anyone write into someone who’s just been spectacularly exposed as a fake?

We go into the dressing room, she leaves me in peace and I collapse on the sofa in a fit of deep, uncontrollable sobs.

A few minutes later, there’s a gentle tap-tapping on the door.

‘Come in,’ I say in a tiny voice, expecting it to be Lisa. Badly needing that drink.

But it’s not. The door opens and in comes a very contrite, very humble-looking Charlene.

Chapter Twenty

THE TAROT DECK

THE SUN CARD

Ooh, lovely. High time a bit of good fortune came your way. Symbolizes special relationships all around. Which will bring great happiness to one and all
.

OK, in the short term, there may have to be some, shall we say, heated discussions, but stick with it and, if you’re very, very lucky, things just might work out
.

This is a card of miracles, and if ever anyone was due a miracle of biblical proportions, it’s you, baby
. . .

CHARLENE HASN’T COME
here to say, ‘I told you so.’ Which, considering the last time we spoke she told me that there was a thing called karma which would eventually come and bite me on the bum, is a major relief.

‘I’m sorry,’ she says simply.

‘No, I’m sorry.’

‘What have you to be sorry for?’

I just look at her, still in floods of tears, with my Alice in Wonderland make-up dribbling down my cheeks. I can’t bring myself even to say Jack’s name. ‘For . . . you know,’ I trail off.

‘Well, I’m sorrier,’ she says, sitting down beside me on the sofa and slipping her arm around my waist. ‘You were right about Oliver and I didn’t listen to you. I can’t believe he did that to you. I nearly died. He made you look like . . . like . . . oh God, I don’t even want to finish that sentence.’

This starts me off bawling again.

‘Shh, shh,’ Charlene says, fishing around in her handbag for a Kleenex, which I gratefully grab from her.

‘It’s my own bloody fault,’ I say, wiping my eyes. ‘I wished him for you, you know. Before I knew what he was like,’ I hasten to add.

‘No, if there’s a blame game, I get first dibs,’ she says, really looking sorry. ‘My humble muscle has just kicked in and we all know that doesn’t happen too often, so just let me finish. Here it is. I have a confession to make.
I
was the one who told Oliver you were going on
Late Night Talk
in the first place. So, if it wasn’t for me and my big mouth . . .’

I pause to blow my nose. Very attractive.

‘He set you up, Cassie. Completely and utterly. But you have to believe me, I didn’t know what he had planned. Honestly. On my future deathbed.’

‘I do believe you.’

‘Thank you, sweetie.’

She squeezes my hand and I squeeze it back.

‘I missed you.’

‘I missed
you
.’

OK. Nothing else for it. Seeing as how we’re having confessionals, I may as well get it off my chest. ‘Charlene, there’s something else that I really want to say to you, that I
have
to tell to you—’

‘No, no, there’s no need,’ she says, looking all noble. ‘Jo and Marc with a C have been at pains to point out my appalling behaviour. You were so generous and kind to me; you took me in when no one else would and in return I was horrible to you. I don’t want to fall out with you over a guy, Cassie. We’ve been friends for too long. If you want to see Jack, you have my blessing.’

OK, I know it sounds like something the Pope might come out with, but she really, really does mean it. When she’s being insincere, she stares off into the middle distance, another pose courtesy of Joan Collins
on
Dynasty
, but not now. She’s looking straight at me, white as a ghost.

‘I haven’t been seeing him,’ I tell her, gently. ‘How could I when I knew that it was hurting you? Anyway, long story short, we agreed to leave it be.’

‘Well, call him,’ she says generously.

‘Can’t,’ I say, shaking my head. And it’s the truth. I’ve just been through too much in the last few excruciating minutes to even think straight.

There’s a comfortable, easy silence while I compose my thoughts.

‘Charlene, can I ask you something?’

‘Of course, sweetie.’

‘How bad was it out there? When Oliver showed that awful clip?’

She doesn’t answer, which immediately makes me think the very worst.

‘Tell you what,’ she says, getting up. ‘Why don’t you and me go to the hospitality room and have a nice stiff drink? I think we could both use one.’

I’m in no fit state to argue with her, so I get out of the horrendous Alice gear and back into my comfy jeans and a warm sweater.

Lisa pops her head around the door, says a quick hi to Charlene and plonks a full-to-the-brim gin and tonic into my hand, bless her.

‘Thanks, lifesaver.’

‘You’re so welcome. Jesus, if I get my hands on that bastard Oliver Hall, I’ll murder him on your behalf. The guy is unbelievable.’

There’s another silence. Neither Charlene nor I are about to argue with her on that particular point.

‘Well, I gotta get the next guest on,’ Lisa says apologetically, ‘but I’ll see you in hostility after the show, OK?’

‘Hostility?’ says Charlene innocently.

‘Sorry, that’s what we call the hospitality room here. Just taste the wine and you’ll see why.’ She winks at me and disappears as Charlene and I leave the dressing room.

BOOK: I Never Fancied Him Anyway
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