Writing Non Fiction W
I visited the local pub in the afternoon this day, normally, I would only ever go there during the evening or at weekends. I met a dog tied up just inside the doorway of The Black Griffin. I like dogs and have a habit of talking to them. I suck the fleshy part of my palm to produce ear-raising squeak noises often to the annoyance of their owners. On this occasion, I found the owner and her mother to be quite receptive to this performance and their Collie’s bounding reaction to me bonded us to thirty odd minutes of banter.
Sian, the daughter of her mother was well spoken and bubbly. She had recently returned from Brighton and had bought a house in North Cardiff. She was in her late twenties, pretty, bright eyed and had shoulder length hair – dark, shiny and she was healthy looking. As she switched her attention between mother and me during conversation, I noticed her hair swished across her shoulders. Her mother seemed frail and could have been mistaken for her grandmother. She spoke through that sixty-a-day croakiness, yet she seemed sprightly of mind. We chatted about Cliff the dog and connections with Brighton that Sian and I shared. The weather came into it too.
It was hot that day; mother was smoking another cigarette. A sudden nausia caught her out and a mouthful of clotted red wine abseiled down her blue frock. Sian was evidently embarrassed and so I quickly went off in search of some toilet-paper.
I handed the tissue to mother who was appreciative. She cleaned up as best she could.
The next few days passed. On friday night, I went to the pub again. It was warm and I sat outside with a pint. Sian was inside stood at the bar, I hadn’t recognized her. I was talking with the early evening crowd. The sun was chilling as the early evening crowd was substituting with mid evening bunch. I went inside. I sat with Wally and Heather. They were married. Wally, who liked a bit like Budda, played in a blues band, a good one at that. Heather was not as sociable as her husband and you didn’t often see her out. Wally’s band had played in a gazebo at summer party at my place. Sian was drinking red wine. She was up at the other end of the pub talking to Vernon and Irish Brian who she’d not previously known.
“Do you know Alaster?” She asked them cheerfully.
“We do - why, do yoose fancy him?” asked the Irish man through his standard raspy chortle. Irish Brian was a larger than life character that everybody loved. Rotundish and tall he had a red, capillaried face that evidenced of the excesses of the good life. He was quick witted and very funny.
“Well, could you try and introduce me please?” She asked Brian.
“Vearn, go an fetch Al will yas – this lass has thing for him, so she has!”
“No, no don’t get him over here - he’s talking to those….”
“Oh it’s only Wally an them, I’ll get Im over.” He turned and shouted “Al, come over here”.
I didn’t hear that shout but Sian came over towards where I was sitting anyway, leaving the guys behind.
She said hello and I turned my head. She was standing almost behind me, confidently reaching for the chair to the right of me. “Do you mind?”
“Course not” I replied, gesturing for her to sit down. She was quite squiffy. She apologized about her mum being sick, efficiently passing off the incident, swiftly engaging us in more interesting chatter.
She had obviously made quite an effort for her hair was tied up, she had on crimson lipstick and wore a flowing, sort of dress made out of what looked like greeny crape paper; tasteful . She bought me a drink an we conversed. After quite some time while deep in social intercourse, she reached over and put her hand on mine, took it away, then would replace it periodically. I could see Wally and others noticing this and I felt a bit uneasy. I found her quite attractive, but in the short time I’d known her, also felt there was a definate oddness about her that I couldn’t put my finger on.
“I really fancy you Al” she announced - straight out like that. It really threw me but of course, I was flattered too! Perhaps this kind of forwardness from a girl was the norm in Brighton these days but I’d not experienced it before.
“I think you are really nice too, but listen, would you mind just not doing that - not here?” I asked, trying not to show embarrassment while pushing her hand away. Although I had introduced her to others round the table, we were no longer chatting to them but they were still observing us.
“Can I take you home?” She asked with a big open smile revealing nice teeth.
“Surely you won’t be driving?” I asked as she was pretty drunk.
“Oh I'm fine darling” she replied in a confident superior manner.
I was fairly hammered too and so I nodded in agreement. She lived in Rwibina. I lived in Thornhill. I thought when she asked if I wanted a lift home she meant she’d drop me off at my place. We were at the Thornhill crossroads when I realized she was driving to her house, not mine. She really was going to seduce me then, I hoped.
“Ive got a lodger called Simon. He’s a really nice guy. I think he has a crush on me but I don’t like him in that way, so don’t worry if he acts a little odd”.
“Sorry what’s he called again?” I said.
“Right, well is Simon likely to?”
“Likely to what, sorry, darling?” she said, again, in her supersillious tone.
“Act odd if I come back. Well you said he’s got a crush on you and…”
“Shouldn’t think so - I don’t know, only known him three weeks – it’ll be fine Alaster”.
It was midnight; we were in the living room having a glass of wine. Simon came downstairs from his computer and joined us awkwardly. He must have weighed twenty stone. When he walked, it was more a kind of shuffle. He was a computer geek, but he seemed like a nice bloke.
I could sense his undulating jealousy as Sian and I were flirting. Sian loved the attention. Eventually, Simon took himself off to to his room. Soon after, I followed Sian up the uncarpeted stairs trying to be as quiet as the clicking of Simon’s mouse. His door was partly open and so it was impossible for me to get past into Sians’s room without him seeing. I then realized I was being paronoid. He fancied her, that’s all, and it certainly wasn’t reciprocated. In retrospect, I should have said “you’d better get used to it - pal!”
In the morning, Simon waddled about the kitchen digging out junk food from whichever cupboards harbored the stuffs. He seemed a bit pissy to begin with but soon calmed down. Within half hour, he’d become quite animated; even jovial.
“Will I see you again,” Sian asked as I was leaving.
“That would be nice—yes, yea, I’ll give you a call. Your mobile would be best I guess?”
“Yes darling – I think so for now, yes it would - well done”. I went home grinning - a lot.
A relationship developed. It was fun and I really liked her quirky strangeness and charm. The sex was engaging too. It being summer, we hosted barbeques at each other’s. Sian had heaps of tales to tell. I suppose I did too. It struck me she was quite experienced in life for a 31 year old. She had dropped into one conversation that she was indeed a good friend of Robbie Williams. Perhaps I’d get to meet him; that’d be cool. Most people liked Sian. Some, I could tell, found her to be somewhat curious.
A couple of months eroded. Work wise, I was landscaping. Sian had been a primary school teacher back in Brighton but couldn’t find a job down here in Cardiff. She never appeared to be short of money. She met a couple locally when she first arrived back here. She used to spend a lot of time in the pub during the daytime with this couple who often had no money.
One day Sian was over at my house helping me sort out some paperwork.
“I am going up to stay with Rob at the weekend - haven’t seen him for ages. What are you upto this weekend?”
“You know, Robbie - he misses me!”
“ Oh - how’s he doing?” I asked not really thinking too much of it.
“He’s fine - really busy I think. Planning and organizing for the summer gig stuff”.
She didn’t invite me to go with her this time, but a few weeks later said…...
“When you do meet Rob, you two will get on really well. He’s a bit shy when you first meet him, but once he gets to know you you will get on great I think” She said said this so matter of fact.
“Can you pass me the stapler?” she asked, looking as though she’d be equally at home helping Robbie with his paperwork.
“He’d really like you Al - he just wants to be normal - he’d see you as normal”.
“Oh Thank you” I said, now finding the coversation to be quite surreal.
The Saturday night she went to London to stay with Robbie she was back in Cardiff by 4oclock the following morning. She rang me at around ten on Sunday morning.
“So how come you came back so early then?” I enquired as it seem very strange.
Mark and Jackie, her pub friends, had had a serious argument.
“Mark walked out on Jackie and she’s pregnant - Aunty Siany had to come back to sort it all out as usual”.
“What did Robbie say?”
“A – oh, yea he was fine. Probably glad to get some rest - think I’ve talked him to death. He’s used to me and my goings on”. “Do you know what he said to me cheeky sod?”
“No, go on”.
“He said I was worse than his ex!”.
“I think he meant all of them – bastard!”. She laughed anoyingly. She could put on quite an irritating guffaw at times; this was one of them.
Anto my son, who lives with his mother in Devon, was staying up for the week with a couple of his mates. Through Robbie, Sian Mark and Jackie had tickets, complete with back-stage passes for the Live8 concert coming up.
“Anto - do us a favour, Me and Sian have to go shopping. Mow the lawn for me please - Tim’ll help you, won’t you Tim?”
“Yes” replied the smallest of the two friends, dutifully.
“We want money though” Anto motioned in his mischievous way - something he’d developed to perfection over the years.
“Hey boys, do you fancy coming with us to Live8?” Sian Piped up boastfully, looking over for my approval.
“YEAH” came a very excited cumulative reply. They couldn’t believe their ears!
The concert was due to start the following weekend.
It got to Tuesday and Sian rang me.
“Hello sweetheart, got a problem”. She told me.
“what is it?”
Well, the boys aren’t old enough to go back-stage – even Robbie can’t pull that one off for them. Sorry Darling, can you just tell them that Sian is really, really sorry, but no-can-do.”
Sian came round on the Thursday before the concert. All three boys were in the living room.
“ Hello boys.” She said in an upbeat voice. “Al’s told you about the concert and, well, don’t worry cause one of Robbie’s secretaries’ mother lives in Cardiff. I’ve been in touch with Patricia. She’ll be at the concert and will be getting you all Tee-shirts signed by the likes of Elton, Snow Patrol, Robbie and others. Oh, there are mugs too. Don’t worry it’s all in the bag! That at least seemed to cheer them up!
The Saturday of live8 came and strangely, neither Sian nor the others went up to the concert. The particular reason eludes me, but we all watched Live8 together in my living room.
About three weeks passed. Sian had been working in Newport as a teaching assistant. The funny thing was, on a few occasions, people had said to me they had seen her here or with Jackie and Dingbat there, but not in Newport. I would mention to her what I’d been told and there would always be an immediate plausible response as to whty she was here, there or everywhere. She decided to take me away for the weekend. We went to a classy hotel somewhere up the Wye Valley. The weather was gorgeous. I had a beautiful fillet steak for dinner on the first night, and Sian had the poached salmon. After dinner, we walked a few miles back along the road to the pub we’d spotted as potential on the way down. We each got a pint and sat outside in the beer garden. There were three or four vintage lorries in and around a barn. The owner told us, when out collecting some glasses:
“A few of us gets together _ we restore them like, then we’ll take em to the shows. We goes all round the country in summer”.
“Sounds like an interesting hobby - is it expensive?” I asked.
“well it can be yes, but we’re careful. I suppose you’d call me the treasurer”.
“ Yes, well Stuart see - he gets a lot of the materials cheap cause he does coach-work in his day job like”.
“I see, Yes”. I said interestedly but wishing I’d never engaged him in talk. Sian was making me feel uneasy too because she could sense there would be no let-up in this turgid discussion.
I remember thinking Sian could easily join in by enquiring as to what the third person’s function was in all this.
“We’ll my role—I find the trucks”.
“Oh do you –yes I see.”
“Yes and that one for instance.” He said pointing at a nice shiney looking lorry. “That one only cost three hundred quid”. He said with stifled pride.
“Stuart made those wheel trims out of stainless.”
“Well he’s a clever bloke isn't he” I said, I wasn’t being patronizing but It probably sounded like that.
“Any rate, I best get back with these - else the missus will be out. She gets fed up of me talking to the customers about the lorries but I tells her that customers have to be spoke to”.
“I can understand her point though, I’d be the same if I were your wife running around while your stood around conversing”. Sian had finally interjected something to the conversation, even if a little cutting.
“ I wouldn’t mind that—you being my wife” He retorted with a laugh, refusing to recognize her offish facial expression.
Before we’d left home, Anto had phoned to ask if the bag of goodies had come yet. I had to tell him they hadn’t. While Sian and I sat there on the bench-table in the beer garden chatting, I wanted to bring up the matter of the missing goodies bag. Infact, truth be known, I wanted to bring up a lot of things that were missing and didn’t make sense. I told her the boys, especially Anto, felt really let down.
“I’m really pissed off about it too Al. I don’t know why, Patricia’s usually on the ball—she has to be in that job”.
“Well I’m going to sort this out. Oh, shit, Robby’s in America”. She was looking at her watch fiddling with the buttons in order to see the time-zone difference.
She squinted at her watch “He’s six hours ahead I think”. She had mentioned he lived in LA. when he was in America. She proceeded to dial. The phone was pushed tightly to her ear, presumably it was dialing. She eased herself down into the bench-table opposite, with her back towards me.
“Robbie must have answered the phone personally. “Hi darling, how are you she said loudly so as to leave me no doubt that she was talking to Robbie to sort this all out. “
“You alright sweetie?” she asked in an over familiar way “Listen”, she commanded, “this stuff Patricia’s got for Anto – the boys are really upset about it – where is it? – Can you do something - please, Rob it’s getti….?” She’d been interrupted. There was a long pause from this end - Robbie was probably explaining things - she tried to speak on a few occasions during this long pause, interjecting little clusters of words; sometimes only half words because she’d been interrupted. I was finding it difficult to come to terms with the fact that She had mentioned Anto in a way that conveyed that he, Anto, was a regular component of their conversation. When it was her turn to speak again at any length, she repeated back words and sentences as she was being told them. Now I was scared. If she was acting, then she should definitely be on television. If she was acting, what does that say about me? If it was all a drama, what would I tell the boys? If she is acting…….?
I sat back,watching and listening in astonishment, I mean, I didn’t want to doubt her but at the same time I finally had proof that she was mentally ill. Pehaps I am mentally ill I thought. I mean, do people always know when they are suffering from such conditions as a split personality. I didn’t question her that day, and in fact, I put all that to one side for the very time being, and still managed to have a good last night at the plush hotel.
Once home, I reflected heavily on that conversation. Over and over I thought about the wierd scenario infact everything about her was under my scrutiny. Everything about her life begun to crumble in my mind. She had said once, she’d done some acting while in Brighton. She had once said a lot of things. As I was doubting my doubts in this haze of confusion, Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’ came on the radio. My head filled noisily with those alarm bells and chimes as I reflected back to everything she’d ever said. It turned out that she had completely made up the story about her job in Newport. She would get up, get dressed as though she was going to work for the day and drove off to somewhere. Her brother was a total nut-case wino who I had issue with. Her mother a hopless alcoholic, her father was a top Barrister and a curcuit Judge and as such, I imagine was never around much when they were kids However, it stood to reason that Sian might have inherited some or all of the family traits. Someone needed to help her and help her soon.
A few weeks later, we had argued and weren’t speaking. I saw my chance to get out of this bizzare relationship – away from all of it once and forever. I told her we were over because I would probably be going traveling soon. However, I was soon coerced back by her plausibility and dark seduction.
In bed one morning I confronted her. I empathized and suggested softly….
“I don’t want you to answer me right now – take a few days over what I am about to say….” I then hit her with it;
“Sorry but I don’t believe all this Robbie stuff Sian.” I paused for a while to see if she’d come up with anything. “Listen, you basically have a choice; either you can hang onto these Robbie stories and continue to weave them into the loom of your wild imagination which makes up your life, or, you have the opportunity of just being honest about things and we can set about sorting it out!
A few days later, I had to ask her what she’d decided on regarding our discussion…
Believe it or not, this is just the beginning!