Friends

08 May 2010

A FALSE FAÇADE


Holding aloft the two glasses of Chateau Robert, Sonny Blake pushed through the crowd, nodding to colleagues as he sidestepped the potted palms. He was a popular figure at these thespian functions. Until the conclusion of Crisis, the hospital soap, he played the leading role which set budding actresses clamouring to take his arm; an irregular countenance and lopsided smile giving him that rugged appearance which was so in vogue with the younger set. His enforced retirement meant nothing to them. He was legendary; his position was influential.

As he pressed through the swarm of performers he flirted with the starlets, knowing his overtures would not be taken seriously. At fifty-nine his inclinations had subsided; only the memories remained.

Proceeding towards the Windsor Lounge Sonny was hailed by Susan Craig, an erstwhile star whose fortune was in decline. Over the months he had led her through the intricacies of everyday accounting, but Susan felt more comfortable spending money than saving it. Not having time to chat, Sonny inclined his head and nodded as if to say, Tomorrow, I'll call. Tomorrow, I will counsel you further. Susan gave him a dazzling smile. She understood his meaning. Taking a sip of wine, Sonny pinned on a jolly smile and carried on.

He spotted his friend, Peter Vaughan. 'Fine crowd tonight,' Sonny said, raising his voice above the hubbub. 'It's taken me a century to get these drinks through. Meryl will be wondering where I am.'

He started to move away, but Peter clutched his dinner jacket. 'Before you disappear I'd like a word.'

Sonny glanced towards the Windsor Lounge, imagining Meryl's frustration at having to wait so long, but the anxiety on his friend's face prompted him to enquire, a touch facetiously, 'Which word would that be, Peter?'

'You said you'd help with access to the kids.' Peter glared at a highly made-up woman who was endeavouring to get by. 'Weekends are dreadfully inconvenient but it seems I have no choice. Damned solicitor's taken Josie's side. Now, if you could collect them…'

'I will collect them, Peter, and I’ll take them to your flat on the understanding that I join you for lunch. I'll contact you tomorrow for instruction. Now I must get on. Meryl will be organizing a search party.'

As Sonny turned away, Peter remarked to his female companions that Sonny Blake was the very essence of compassion, an absolute rock of dependability. Who else would drop everything to drive twenty-five miles there and back to escort a colleague's brats.

Sonny paused at the doorway to search for Meryl. She would by now have forsaken the couch and joined a group most beneficial to her trade. He acknowledged a couple of agents, one of whom had sought his advice about his ailing mother. Sonny had recommended the relevant organisation. An intelligent suggestion, held the agent. One obvious to a five year old, deemed Sonny.

Meryl's piping voice emanated from the vicinity of the fireplace. Sonny moved in that direction. One of her routines was in full flow, the one he had taken such pains to perfect; hours of instilling into her that to successfully impersonate Joan Rivers she must remember to use the proper accent.

Standing at the boundary of Meryl's audience Sonny signalled his presence, lifting the wineglass for her to see. However, Meryl was absorbed in entertaining the crowd, using the grey marble fireplace and a damson-coloured chaise-longue as backdrop. Sonny watched and gloried in the fact that her performance was outstanding.

At the end, amidst well-deserved cheers, one beefy American roared his intention to engage her for his next revue. Smiling triumphantly, Meryl ran to Sonny and kissed his cheek. He handed her the drink and put his empty glass on a small onyx table. 'It worked,' she said. 'Your badgering worked.' She hugged him. 'Where would I be without you.'

At midnight, after installing Meryl in a taxi, Sonny headed home, tugging his collar round his neck, battling against the rain. His black shoes squeaked as they always did when wet. His blue-black hair was soaked. He regretted not having brought a hat but who expected to see such a deluge after all that heat. A car drove by, splashing water on his trousers.

Reaching his basement home, once a high class Victorian dwelling, he gripped the iron handrail and began to descend, treading carefully on the slippery steps. One by one the street lights were extinguished. Raucous laughter emerged from distant revellers. A clock struck the quarter-hour, its clarity dulled by the rain. A cat meowed nearby. He fished in his pocket for the key, shaking away the drips from a leaking gutter.

The door swung open. Sonny knocked the light switch with his shoulder and the bed-sit was flooded with harsh light. Nine months he had lived there and still the bulb was naked. The tiny sink was cluttered with soiled crocks. The blue plastic curtain which hid the pipes was torn where once he grabbed it to break a fall. On the opposite wall was his unmade bed. Each night he vowed that next morning he would straighten the sheets, but he was prevented by apathy from attending to domestic tasks. Little point when the only spectator was him.

Taking the bottle of Gordon's from the shelf alongside the sink, Sonny filled a Horlicks mug. Thinking again of his dead fiancé, killed through his own neglect, a little thing like failing to spot the faulty brakes on his car. He felt despondency setting in, once again acknowledging that without his beloved Gloria his life was worth nothing.

Accidental death; accidentally caused by him.

This evening had been like slow torture and he knew he couldn't go on much longer pandering to the whims of others, aiding and advising, supporting and succouring, getting nothing in return. Good old, reliable Sonny. Rock of dependability. If only dependability could pay the rent or reliability settle bills. Advising Susan on budgeting had been easy but for him the road ahead was littered with court orders and final demands. And he still had legal costs to meet.

A profound sigh ripped through his lips. His temples throbbed, a common occurrence after consuming red wine. He refilled the mug with gin, drank from the chip-free side. If nothing else it would ease the pain.

12 comments:

Akelamalu said...

Ah it's not just celebrities that put on a facade for others is it?

Very well written Valerie.

Brian Miller said...

great piece val. love the ittle touch there at the end about drinking from the non chipped side...nicely done.

Bernie said...

Val you do have such a gift for writing, you should be submitting your stories to magazines if you don't want to write a novel.
I really find them very good reading my friend....:-) Hugs

Valerie said...

Akelamalu, I'm afraid not.

Brian, I guess I was inspired by a broken cup around that time....

Bernie, I have written two novels. One of them is on line, the other will be on soon. Magazine writing is a separate art to mine. You have to abide by their rules and write for a particular readership. I decided that wasn't for me. I prefer creative writing, starting a story without knowing where it will end or even what type of story it will be. Call me daft, but basically I prefer writing without the pressure that comes from writing under contract with deadlines to meet. Hope you are feeling well, Hugs from me.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hello Valerie:)

I enjoyed reading this story. It is a depiction of people who advice others but don't follow their own advice. I also shows how difficult it is to live with own self if there is no peace and a guilt feeling always nagging at the back of one's head.A man leading a bachelors life is always bound to be careless about him home unless there is some to take care of his needs and keep nagging him to do things at home.

Inspite of his glamor, Sonny is leading a miserable life and the question mark is whether he will recover from his sorry state of affairs or end his life.

A wonderful short story.

Best wishes Valerie:)
Joseph

Valerie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Valerie said...

Joseph, thanks for your constructive comment on this one. I debated long and hard about the ending, and decided to leave it as a question mark. It could go either way, couldn't it? I also thought about a happy ending sequel, but since all endings are not happy ones I decided on leaving it open ended so readers could use their own interpretation.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Well, my dear friend, your story really got to me...I started choking up and getting teary at the close...poor Sonny! You have developed this beautifully! I feel such an interest in him, and then you take me into his inner world...slowly... just as he walks down the steps into his flat...what an incredible image that is! Simply superb Valerie! Loved this!!! Janine XO

Alan Burnett said...

I have only just re-found your writing blog. A delightful rediscovery.

Valerie said...

Janine, thank you. I am so pleased you enjoyed this one.

Alan, welcome back. Hope you enjoy my offerings.

Sniffles and Smiles said...

Dearest Val,

Just stopping by to see if you had posted another one of your wonderful tales!! Hope you are well...Thinking of you, and wishing you a fantastic weekend! Love, Janine XO

Teacher's Pet said...

Val...I am just reading this story, and I wish I had read it sooner (more on why to you in e-mail)...but I wanted to let you know that your stories reach the very essence of humanity. You are a prolific writer...
I trembled with Sonny at the end.