EPISODE 31 -  THE TICKING OF THE CLOCK

by Michael Braccia and Jon Markes

Sherry’s glare follows Linda as she brushes past her and walks into the kitchen. She flips the switch on the kettle, not sure a cup of tea will ease the situation, but she has to do something. She waits for the kettle to boil and makes two cups, one for herself and one for Sherry, whether she wants one or not. She sits at the table. Sherry hovers in the doorway. She hates falling out with her sister, but her anger has not yet abated.

‘Come and sit down, sis.’ Linda motions to the chair at the opposite side of the table. Sherry is reluctant at first, but she’s never been one to refuse a cup of tea and she’s also curious about her sister’s relationship with Allen Gomez, which has surprised as well as angered her. She puts her hands around the cup and lets the steam from the tea rise up to her face. ‘Why Allen Gomez?’ she asks, her voice calmer now. ‘You’ve never liked him.’

Linda sighs. ‘He’s not that bad, once you get to know him.’

‘You’ve certainly got to know him! Very well, I would say!’ Sherry’s anger begins to rise again, but she manages to keep it under control.

‘The thing is, Sher, I’m 23 years-old. The clock is ticking and I’ve never had a real relationship with anyone. You and I can’t live like this forever, can we?’

Sherry shrugs her shoulders.

Linda continues. ‘We live hand to mouth on minimum wage, with no prospect of ever making anything of ourselves.’

‘I think we do OK. We have each other and living together is fun. Isn’t it?’ Linda detects a quiver in Sherry’s voice.

‘Yes, of course. And I love us living together and I’ll always be there for you, you know that. It’s just that at some point I need to settle down. Have a family maybe.’

Sherry nods sadly, realising that things are going to change.

‘And Allen, well, he’s going places, Sher. He’s going to make something of himself. He wants to take over the market one day and he has contacts that he says will make it happen.’

‘Contacts?’

‘Yes. He says there are people he knows, with money and, er, ‘influence’, was the word he used and that one day he’s going to be rich.’

‘Hang on? Are we talking about the same Allen Gomez here? Allen Gomez ‘the sleazeball’, ‘the snake in the grass’, the ‘lowlife’ and all the other things you have always called him, until he flashed his smile at you. Or his money, or at least the promise of it.’

Linda nods. ‘I know. I did say all those things, but I’ve come to see him differently just lately. I suppose, at first, I knew you fancied him and that he was interested and I didn’t want him around. But, since we’ve been going out together, he’s told me his plans and I’ve got to like him more.’

‘So, what you’re really saying is that you see him as a way out? You want to ride on the back of whatever he achieves? You want to be the lady of his manor?’

‘Not exactly. I do kind of like him, so the money isn’t everything. But I believe him when he says he is going to be rich one day and, yes, I do want some of that. Don’t you?’

Sherry laughs. ‘You’re mercenary, you are, sister.’

Linda frowns. ‘Is that like a nun?’

Sherry laughs again. ‘Never mind. So, you see him as your sugar daddy one day then? And you’re prepared to overlook the fact that he’s a sleazeball, as long as he provides you with the lifestyle to which you would like to become accustomed?’

Linda laughs now. ‘Well, if you put it like that…’ She reaches across the table and grabs her sister’s hand. ‘And you’d do exactly the same, wouldn’t you?’

 

Allen Gomez, who had crept back into the house through the front door to retrieve his shoes and who has spent the past ten minutes listening to every word decides he has heard enough. He feels like slamming the front door shut, but decides against it.

~

 

 

‘An audition? In front of Frank Watson?’

This is the third time Adam has asked the question and it is beginning to irritate Zack.

‘For the last time, yes. An audition in front of Frank Watson. Nick and Jessica will be there, too.’

‘Oh, yeah. Like anyone will have any say in the matter but Frank Watson.’

Clare tries to help the situation by pointing out that Jessica Townley, as well as being a hairdresser also writes songs and plays guitar.

‘I’ve heard her. She was support for a folk group that came to Banfield a few months ago. She’s really good.’

‘Well, that’s something at least,’ says Adam, though he is still convinced that neither Jessica, nor Nick will have any say in Frank Watson’s choice for the main act at the fête.

‘Do we know who we’re up against, Zack?’ asks Simon. ‘I can’t think of any other bands around here that would want to do the gig.’

‘Well, my Dad says there’s a band from North East Banfield called The Kingsnakes. I’ve never heard of them.’

Simon and Adam shake their heads. ‘Me neither,’ says Clare. ‘What about you, Zig?’

Ziggy is busy tuning his bass.

‘Sorry, what?’

‘The Kingsnakes. From North East Banfield. Do you know them?’

Ziggy shrugs his shoulders and continues his bass tuning.

‘We’ll take that as a ‘no’ then, shall we?’ laughs Simon.

‘Let’s get started then, guys. We’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re going to impress Frank Watson.’

Zack and Adam pick up their guitars and Simon sits behind his keyboard. Clare adjusts her seat and, after a count of four, they launch into a ballad that Zack has written, one which he thinks might impress even Frank Watson, even though the rest of the band are not keen on playing so slowly. Playing this slowly and with such a straight beat gives Clare time to look around at the others: Zack, singing his heart out, totally dedicated to the band and his music; Adam, contorting his face with every last squeeze of emotion from his guitar solo; Simon, trying not to play like his piano teacher keeps telling him he should and Ziggy, mean and moody, a man of few words, head down, red in the face. Red in the face!

The same colour of red that used to spread up from his neck whenever he lied to her about where he had been, or who he had seen when they were going out with each other. ‘What are you not telling us, Ziggy?’ she thinks.

~

Gary Carr looks out to sea. There is a line of small black rectangular shapes on the far horizon, on their way to somewhere distant and, right now, he wishes he could be on one of them. The idea of running away to sea always appealed to him when he was a boy and he once considered joining the navy after he finished school, but his father persuaded him to join the police force, as he had done. How his father must be ashamed of him now that his career is in ruins, with a prison sentence looming and goodness knows the national press are going to have a field day. He can imagine the headlines now and shivers at the thought. Still, despite Gail’s protestations, he is convinced that giving themselves up is the right thing to do. He reaches in his jacket pocket for his phone, but it is not there. After a brief moment of panic, he remembers that he had put it on charge when he woke and heads back across the beach to the guest house.

~

‘A fête! What a glorious idea!’

George clasps his hands together.

‘Yes, love. I can’t ever remember Leeford having a fête. Can you?’

Clara is preparing dinner, slicing carrots and dropping them into a pan of potatoes boiling on the stove.

‘Let me see…’ George disappears for a while into the past., After a couple of minutes, he concludes there has not been a fête in Leeford, as far as he is aware.

‘I’m going to make lots of things for the craft stall,’ announces Clara.

‘You’re going to be very busy, indeed.’ George is genuinely excited about the prospect and Clara is pleased to see him happier than he has been for a few days, during which he had sunk into melancholy, hardly moving from his study and falling asleep for most of the evening.

‘Well, I already have a lot made. I might try some new designs, stretch myself a little.’

‘You do that, my dear. You do that.’

She smiles. This is the type of conversation they used to have, George encouraging Clara in everything she did. Somehow, having this conversation makes their present situation seem even sadder than usual.

‘You know what, Clara. Maybe the sixth formers could put on a bit of a review. I’ll ask them tomorrow.’

Clara sighs. ‘You do that, my dear. You do that.’

~

Gary Carr runs down the stairs into the kitchen where Mrs Williams is clearing up after breakfast. ‘Have you seen Gail, Mrs Williams?’ There is desperation in his voice.

‘Gail?’

‘Er, Joanne,’ says Gary, remembering they had given false names.

‘She paid up and left twenty minutes ago. She said she was taking her stuff and you’d be back to take yours.’

‘Did she say where she was going?’ Gary can hardly speak the words.

Mrs Whitehouse shakes her head.

‘No, Tony, she didn’t.’

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