I’m reading The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea when make-up comes in to the room.
“I’m sorry I’m late, it’s an absolute nightmare out there.” Make-up is a 50 something Asian woman. She’s attractive in an austere, sexless sort of way. If I hadn’t just been drained by Cathy, it is something I might appreciate a lot more.
“So I heard, don’t worry about it.”
“I just got through before the police closed all the roads.”
I make eye contact with her in the mirror, my post coital serenity dissolving, “The police have closed the roads?”
“You don’t know? There’s a killer on the loose.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“It’s all in the news, there’s an active man-hunt.”
I look at my watch, “Do you have time to do everyone’s make-up in an hour.”
She struggles to speak, “Nobody has told you?”
“Told me what?”
“You’re the only one here.”
“I’m sorry,” she says because that’s all she can think to say.
I jump out of the chair and run onto the set. It’s chaotic. People everywhere. I start stopping set technicians, “Where is Cathy?”
“I don’t know, dude.”
“Cathy!” I shout out across the set. Everyone looks at me. I can feel them bracing themselves. They’re expecting the celebrity meltdown. Some of them want it.
“How can I help?” her voice comes from behind me, without a trace of familiarity. Nobody knows about us and she wants to keep it that way.
“Where is everyone else?” I grunt under my breath. She points at the rest of the stage crew with her eyes. “No. Where is the rest of the on-camera team? The presenters and the guests?”
“Oh. You don’t know?” Pity opens her expression.
She whisperers, “I thought you were a mind reader. How was I supposed to know you didn’t know? Don’t you check your phone?”
“I’ve been busy reading about a fucking Japanese sailor, I haven’t checked my phone since I went into the tube.”
Cathy pulls me to one side and waits until she thinks everyone has stopped listening in. I told everyone I just spent the last hour in your room explaining the situation to you. It’s going to raise a few eyebrows if you start acting weird about it now.”
She’s right, I should’ve known, but I can’t stop myself being a dick, because it’s easier to be a dick, “How am I going to present an evening talk show without any fucking guests?”
She nods over to a group of guys sitting where the audience would have been, too close together, hunched over Macbooks, wearing their masks under their noses and leaning over each other’s shoulders looking at each other’s screens. “They’re redoing the script and it will be up on the auto-cue before you start. It’s going to be a bad show but it looks like we might be the only ones broadcasting live. All because you turned up early. The other channels have no show. Even if we have a disaster, we have something. So everyone will be watching us.”
“Christ. So is anyone turning up?”
“We have the pianist and we have one person who was on the backup list who might be able to help?”
“She lives close by. Within the sealed off area. She can get here.”
“No way, Cathy. No way.”
“It looks good.”
“How the fuck does it look good? It looks like I’m admitting it.”
“No, it doesn’t. It looks like you’ve both moved on, that you’ve reconciled. She’s totally up for it. She said she is going to be totally professional.”
“I’m sure she fucking will be. She’s not the one who got their career destroyed. Hers got enhanced.”
“Trust me, it will work out good for you.” But she’s avoiding my eyes. “Look, we need this. I wouldn’t do it to you if we weren’t desperate.”
“She’s already on her way isn’t she?” She looks down at her pumps. “Fucking hell, Cathy.”