– ‘The Magic Of Wor(l)ds’ blog is a hobby, reviews and other bookish stuff on this site are done for free. –
Today I’m on the ‘A Life Singular Series’ blogtour, organised by Silver Dagger Book Tours.
About the Author :
Lorraine Pestell was born in London and has had a successful IT career in the UK, US, Europe, Singapore, and more recently Australia. Lorraine is a life-long sufferer of Clinical Depression and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. She began using writing as therapy, attempting to find her place in the world. “A Life Singular” soon developed into an epic family saga, with the first book published in 2013. She currently resides in Central Victoria with her rescued Belgian Shepherd, Nikki.
In essence a love story, “A Life Singular” is a seven-part contemporary fiction serial.
The books’ themes are triumph over mental illness, the choices we make between right and wrong, and how one affects the other over the relentless passage of time. Sales proceeds go to two Australian non-profit organisations assisting young people with their education: EdConnect Australia and The Smith Family.
Dealing with some of the more complex social justice issues of our age, the universal theme of love and our fascination for celebrity spirit the reader behind the scenes of a superstar family who are plunged into grief, proving that there are always many sides to a story we see in the media. The important events in our public lives are always overshadowed by the backstory’s real truth.
Title: A Life Singular (A Life Singular Series Book 1)
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction
First in Epic 7-part Serial: Love and Loss, Celebrity and Secrets
The Endless Pursuit of Love and Wisdom
What do you do when you lose the one who gave your life meaning? You write about it. You tell the world how amazing it is to love and be loved by someone so special, what love helps you achieve and how it makes you stronger.
Jeff Diamond had built a life of influence, adulation and wealth by making the right choices for the right reasons. He lived by the law of reciprocity, a lesson learned on the streets as a teenager with nothing but an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Plagued by the scars of a violent childhood, he created his vision and fought for it. And once he no longer needed to fight for himself, he fought for others.
Yet when Jeff’s dream girl was taken from him and their children by the ignorant act of a jealous misfit from his own home town, the millionnaire realised just how far he had come. Why had he succeeded when so many like him fail? It wasn’t complicated. The secret lay in the endless pursuit of love and wisdom; life’s two magic ingredients. Now Lynn was gone, he resolved to use his remaining days to account for their life in a way that would inspire young people to make his type of choice rather than García’s.
Then after their story was written, he would be free to go after her, to begin the whole incredible journey over again. Everyone has a life singular: one; unique; extraordinary.
That night, safely back in their Melbourne apartment, the widower lay on his bed in the dark and resumed his own life sentence. Running through his mind were all those years during which Lynn had helped him break out of the obsessive “now or never” anxieties which had gripped him in his teens, as a result of the betrayal and abandonment he had suffered. How long had it taken before he started to believe in the new mantra of “There’s always tomorrow”, bestowed upon him by his beautiful best friend?
Yet there wasn’t always tomorrow, was there? García had seen to that. Jeff had enjoyed a nice, comfortable twenty-year sabbatical from his old fears, but now the boy with the death-wish was back. For the sake of his children, he knew he had to rise above the despair somehow, or at least make a damned good show of doing so. The kids deserved to think positive thoughts about the future, even if he had no interest in it.
Replacing the receiver, the forty-three-year-old leaned back in his black leather executive chair and stared at the ceiling. An eerie shadow of himself moving among the furniture, elongated by the angle of the illuminated desk lamp, conjured up memories of the many nights he had slept as a boy, behind the piles of contraband stacked up in his family’s living room on the Stones Road, unable to face the short journey down the corridor and past his mother’s bedroom door.
OK! That’s enough.
What had happened to Juan Antonio García’s mother? Why hadn’t she arrived off the boat in Sydney with her husband and sons? Why did he even care? Jeff shook himself out of the obsessive train of thought. The runt had killed his wife, and this evening he had received a life sentence to prove it. The widower knew he must learn to accept the guilty verdict as justice.
So with what did society expect justice to furnish a victim’s life partner? The Queen had succeeded in removing one more murderer from the streets. Big fucking deal! There were plenty of far more dangerous criminals still roaming free, and with a much greater likelihood of striking again. The Sydney Mafia remained alive and well for example, Jeff had no doubt.
What would justice mean to him if he had been able to choose its form? This was a tough one. Definitely not financial compensation, a concept which never ceased to intrigue the intellectual whenever he read about other cases. Was a couple of million dollars really going to ease the suffering after losing a loved one? No amount of compensation could bring his children’s mother back, and the Diamonds had more than enough money as it was. The financial whizz-kid, Gerry Blake, had made this so.
‘What do I want, angel?’ he posed to Lynn’s spirit. ‘Are you there?’
The intellectual inhaled sharply. Before his second question had left his lips, the tingling sensation in his chest broke him out of his morbid rêverie.
‘Hey! So you are there. Christ, it’s good to feel you again. I’ve missed you. He’s going down, did you see? I guess you know that already.’
Again Jeff’s left pectoral muscle twitched. He had reached the end of one of the longest weeks of his life, and without question one of the most difficult. Kierney mustn’t hear him crying, he thought. Not again. She needed her sleep.
‘Come with me onto the balcony, angel, please,’ the bereft husband requested. ‘I want to talk to you. Our little girl’s sleeping. She’s so beautiful, Lynn. So, so beautiful. Just like you.’
Grabbing his cigarettes and lighter off the coffee table, where he had left them with his keys, the songwriter slid the glass door open and took a seat at the table overlooking the lights of the northern suburbs. The traffic was still noisy down below, and there was no breeze to speak of. Smoking his first cigarette in a while, he concentrated back on the subject of justice.
Within a second or two however, inspiration was upon him. On his feet again, Jeff ran through the apartment and back into the office. He rummaged around in the desk drawers until he found a small voice recorder, checking its batteries and testing it with a few choice swearwords to relieve some tension. There were memoires to be captured for posterity. How had Rose Milne described him and his beautiful best friend? National treasures?
‘National treasures, my arse,’ he mocked the judge’s words as he reinstalled himself in the open air. ‘Did you hear that too, baby?’
Jeff picked up what remained of his cigarette and rubbed his tattoo through the fabric of his shirt. How did one document a national treasure? How would he do justice to Lynn’s story? To their story?
‘D’you know what I want, angel?’ he asked into the chilly air. ‘I want a long, lingering kiss that makes my insides burst into flames. I want the soft skin of your naked body wrapped around me, intent on speeding things up while you’re urging me to slow down.’
The stinging was gone from his chest now, replaced by a dull but pleasant ache. This peculiar physical reaction was most likely only generated by his own mind, the lonely soul recognised, yet it was helping nonetheless. The little, red light on the Dictaphone flashed regularly to remind him it was waiting for more.
‘I want our kids to have a mother, and I want a friend to share my crazy ideas with,’ he continued, in tears once more. ‘Is that too much to ask? I don’t want a man to go to prison for the rest of his life. How does this help Jet or Kiz? What sort of justice is that? I want our daughter to continue on the journey you were taking her on, towards the lady she oh-so-nearly is. And I want our son to be able to swap tales of Olympic glory with someone who gives a damn.
‘I want this endless torrent of words to pour into your detoxicating smile. I want a reason to check my watch ten times every hour when I’m away from home, to see how soon I can get away. Jesus Christ! I want to stop describing my self-pity and get on with doing all those constructive things we were right in the middle of, angel. I want my level-headed wife to help me resist the temptation to ring our dark-haired gipsy girl every night when she starts her law degree at Sydney Uni’, to make sure she’s safe and happy and still misses her papá.’
With his head in his hands, Jeff wept away the stresses of the last few days. He was convinced he was being heard on some level, although the beating of his heart overpowered any other sensation right at this moment.
Sniffing back the tears, he lit another cigarette. ‘I want my patient and compassionate lover to remind me I’m being unreasonable and hypocritical when I criticise our son for not coming home for Christmas just because he wants to chase girls. And I long to perform again on stage with our family and see you smiling with the joy I know it gave you. The same joy it gave me. And Jesus, Lynn… I long to have more of those long discussions over dinner with Jet and Kierney about life lessons in humility. That’s fucking justice, don’t you think? We had all those things, angel. That’s what he took from us. That’s what a guilty verdict should buy us.’
And those were the things the Diamonds would never receive from the Australian judicial system. This type of compensation wasn’t listed in the bound volumes of laws and legal practices he had seen in Judge Milne’s chambers. With a soothing melody lolloping around his head, no doubt introduced by his dream girl as an instruction to put such antagonism to bed, he switched off the voice recorder and let it drop with a clatter onto the glass table-top.
‘Mañana, angel,’ he promised the night air. ‘Tomorrow I’ll start afresh. I’ll write our life story, baby, and therein you’ll find justice. En nuestra vida singular.’
Title: A Life Found (A Life Singular Series Book 2)
Writing an autobiography on behalf of someone else presented Jeff with an interesting dilemma. Did he make assumptions about what Lynn would have included, or should he restrict her contribution to direct quotes from her letters and diaries? He had their kids to protect, and her parents…
As he worked through the huge amount of material available in the press about their life as it had taken shape, interlacing it with highly personal stories, the widower crafted chapter after chapter of memories, both happy and heartbreaking. If this was to be a true account of their partnership, he owed it to the memory of his beautiful best friend to cover so much more than what was already on public record.
When it came to adding his own reminiscences of those early months, about meeting someone he already knew intimately, Jeff had no difficulty in recalling every single, vivid moment. Entire conversations came back to him, sometimes word for word, rushing through his fingers and into the computer.
Photographs prompted him too, as did the treasured possessions that surrounded him, like the old leather jacket he had received on his twentieth birthday. Lynn had left him shortly after that, just like she had left him now. The pull of being together again was unrelenting, but Jeff hung on to the dream that their life singular would one day resume. Once their story had been told.
The student raised himself up and settled onto his haunches, gazing at the stunning vision with whom he had been transported to paradise just moments ago. She looked raw, like a real woman, and it shocked him, because for the first time he realised what Bart and Marianna Dyson must see. He was stealing the little girl from their daughter, day by day and night by night. Her blonde hair was strewn over the candy-striped pillowcase, the garish tones of which he had failed to register until now, and her nipples and navel had left impressions in the sheer fabric, now damp from the heat of fevered hands and endless kisses. This embodiment of female perfection was not likely to vanish from his mind without a trace, no matter which way he looked at life.
‘Thanks for not drinking so much tonight,’ Lynn interrupted his rêverie. ‘I hope it was worth it.’
Jeff exhaled through his nose, looking around for the blankets, which had fallen off the end of the bed during their furious activity. ‘You’re welcome. It was worth it. More than worth it, if you force me to admit it.’
The young woman giggled, and with relief, her boyfriend sensed the girl returning in the nick of time.
‘I did it because you care enough to make it special,’ he continued, ‘and not just because I want it to be special.’
‘I know,’ the teenager smiled, stifling a yawn.
‘Good. I hoped you would.’
Lynn shuffled across the bed, planting a kiss on her lover’s forehead with her deep crimson, swollen lips, before wrapping the silk robe around her and disappearing into the passageway to visit the bathroom.
‘I love you.’
‘I love you too,’ Jeff said to a door which was latched abruptly to stop a blast of icy air from cooling down their private hothouse.
With his hands levered against the frame of the skylight, the boy from Canley Vale wiped a smear of steam from the glass and stared through tearful eyes at a night that was much darker in the countryside than in the city. And also much darker for him and his beautiful starlet than for their friends on the other side of the wall. The end of the line was imminent for them too, he guessed, although it appeared that their long relationship had had its day. The same could not possibly be said for the one that could exude such rapturous fervour as had been evident in this very room.
The door opened and closed behind him, and he turned to see Lynn return and hop into bed, shivering and chattering her teeth in fun. Her arms beckoned for him to return and warm her up, which was a duty he was only too happy to fulfill.
‘You can put your pee-jays on,’ the human heater smiled, being dragged under the covers most forcefully.
‘You looked exquisite tonight, like forbidden fruit. The most beautiful woman in the world, if you’ll forgive me for repeating myself.’
‘Thank you,’ she kissed him, beginning to weep from a combination of tiredness and despondency.
Her boyfriend shrugged, cradling her head under his chin and rolling onto his back to hide his own tears. ‘Thank you. Don’t cry, angel.’
‘I can’t help it.’
‘Makes two of us. I just want to love you, that’s all. Nothing else.’
‘I know, Jeff. I’m sorry.’
The couple fell asleep to the sound of the bed on the other side of the wall rocking on its casters. The amused student went to thump hard on the plaster, only to have his wrist snared and dragged back under the blankets by his pyjama-clad partner. They had no idea how long their next-door neighbours’ noisy session had lasted, because their next waking memory was Jeff fighting for breath, springing bolt upright and straining to grab hold of an invisible being in front of him.
The dream had begun pleasantly enough, as if the twenty-year-old hadn’t yet fallen asleep in Suzanne’s upstairs spare room. He was walking back from the bathroom carrying two glasses of water when he noticed the door of their bedroom had been closed since he left, and he froze at the sound of loud voices coming from within.
Gripped by fear, more for her boyfriend’s embarrassment, should their hosts hear him yelling expletives and the huge gasps of breath which would shake the very foundations of this lowly cottage, Lynn tried to wake him up before the full force of his nightmare took hold. Still deep in the unconscious however, Jeff grappled with the two full glasses, cursing as most of their contents spilled onto the floor in his frantic effort to open the door. Inside, now drenched with sweat and still unaware of Lynn’s attempts to rouse him, he came face-to-face with a livid Bart Dyson, who was attempting to drag his daughter out of the bedroom, through some previously undiscovered door which the young man swore had not been there earlier.
His defenceless lover’s screams ripped through the street kid’s psyche, at once wanting to block the sound with his hands over his ears while lashing out at the Australian hero, whose commands were bloodthirsty and meeting fierce resistance from the young woman. Somehow his dreaming feet wouldn’t move, now glued to the floorboards of his second-floor flat in Canley Vale.
‘How the fuck did you get in here?’ he shouted at the top of his voice.
Jeff reeled back, feeling a hand grab round his shoulders and then another slap across his face.
‘Wake up!’ the celebrity hissed in his ear, smothering his mouth as best she could. ‘Wake up, Jeff. You’re dreaming! You don’t want to wake Gerry.’
Six-feet-four-inches of solid muscle swung around, ripping the sleeve of her pyjama top clear of the shoulder seam and drawing clawlike fingernails across the teenager’s upper arm. She yelped, temporarily disoriented, before standing up on the mattress and pushing hard down on her boyfriend’s shoulders until finally he crumbled into the dishevelled bedding, biting at the hand which continued to block his airway.
‘Jeff, stop!’ the determined woman shouted. ‘Stop, for God’s sake. It’s me! Lynn! You’re hurting me.’
Staring eyes almost burst free of their sockets, and the rasping sound of air being pumped from already empty lungs vibrated against the sixteen-year-old’s chest. Her tormented soul-mate was finally coming out of the wilderness and returning to the servants’ quarters, and she described the scene thus to the disintegrating fighter in an effort to calm him down. Hurriedly recomposing their evening’s entertainment with her silk negligée, to keep the commentary flowing, Lynn rocked her lover back and forth until his faculties returned.
The girl of his dreams was softly crying when Jeff finally woke up and realised where he was; her warmly-clad figure reclining just as he had last seen her, shortly before they had fallen asleep. They both sat still in each other’s arms, anxiously waiting for the others to knock on their door or give some other clue that the nocturnal interruption had disturbed them.
‘Are you OK?’ the drenched man asked, first seeing his companion rubbing her arm and then the torn armhole of her pyjama jacket. ‘Did I do that?’
Lynn nodded, swiftly covering three parallel lines of reddening scratches. ‘It’s nothing. I didn’t expect you to wheel round so fast. Your nails are sharp!’
She was smiling at her wayward lover, who failed to see the funny side of anything at this precise moment. Thankfully though, there were no signs of life from the room next door, and he broke away and let himself out of the room with the intentions of splashing some water on his face and reclaiming some equilibrium.
Jesus! These violent dreams were spiralling more and more out of control. Bart Dyson had somehow found his way to the Stones Road, and Lynn had taken his sister’s place. Whatever was going on with his messed-up head now? Not content with reconstituting real events from his childhood, his twisted mental state now sought to further pollute his scant hours of repose by feeding off his current agonies too.
Climbing back into bed, Jeff found his long-suffering, sympathetic beauty attired aptly in the costume of an angel, hands outstretched and eyes watery. The sheen of the white fabric had been nearly washed out by the perspiration of their earlier passions, which lent even heavier weight to the strung-out addict’s need to enjoy her in it again. His hard penis penetrated with next to no foreplay, and he gasped in indebted pleasure to find her more than ready to receive him, both sets of hands gripping each other’s hips insistently as they moved together to combined orgasms.
The quenched inamorati collapsed together onto the bed, their mood enlightened by another full dose of hormones and endorphins so violently unleashed. They laughed at how soundly their friends must be sleeping, presumably as a result of full-bodied red wine and the sugary dessert which Suzanne had served. Lynn reached over the side of the mattress to pull up her pyjamas, holding them up in front of her man’s eyes to check that he had no objection to her clothing herself in them again.
He shrugged, knowing he was in absolutely no position to bargain against her warmth and doggedly refusing to tell the gorgeous creature about the latest extraneous journey on which his mind had taken him. What good would it do to share it? She didn’t need the image of her own father manhandling her like a pimp prising her out of the hands of a penniless customer. He was learning, at least, the young man realised. He would maintain the status quo and make the best of a bad situation.
‘What do you want for your birthday?’ he turned the tables instead.
His girlfriend chuckled, caught by surprise. ‘My birthday? That’s ages away. I want to celebrate it with you, two weeks early.’
‘Thanks,’ the student gathered his flannelette-encased girlfriend up in his arms. ‘Hmm… Not quite the same effect, this, huh? I want to celebrate it with you on the day.’
Lynn giggled, squirming in his tight hold. ‘I know. But we can’t. We should go to sleep.’
‘I love you so much,’ Jeff lifted his head and kissed her forehead.
Exhaling deeply, she flexed her neck backwards until their mouths met. ‘I love you too. That’s what I want for my birthday.’
Her boyfriend sniffed, pulling the sheet up to their necks to block the cold air’s path. ‘You can have that on your birthday, and on every other day, before and after.’
‘Thanks, Jeff. I accept,’ she replied. ‘You know the soul-mates thing that we were talking about a few weeks ago?’
‘Yes,’ the young man flashed his eyebrows to signal a dangerous diversion.
His lover laughed again. ‘Shut up. Do you think it’s always two? Is it possible to be more than two?’
‘What are you talking about? I hope not. I don’t want to share you.’
‘No?’ she tested him gently, determined to fall asleep on a light note. ‘I thought men always wanted to have sex with more than one woman.’
Jeff’s mouth smothered her playful grin, refusing to let it go for several seconds. Finally, breathing heavily, he answered in typical, romantic fashion, making Lynn’s heart soar.
‘That’s mating bodies, angel, not mating souls. Change the subject, huh?’
The sleepy schoolgirl smiled and kissed the end of his nose, snuggling into his radiating body. ‘I really hope you don’t have another nightmare.’
‘Are you going to wake me up if I do?’
The sportswoman rolled over, reminded of her scratches. ‘I hope I don’t have to.’
‘I hope you don’t either, but I expect you will.’
The pair lay on their backs, touching at the shoulder, hip and calf, in the position they had adopted as their own. Both felt silently and perfectly connected, despite the clouds suspended above, and drowsiness was soon upon them. Neither wanted to drift apart, either physically or emotionally.
‘Your biceps are twitching,’ the sixteen-year-old murmured, running her fingers along his strong arm.
‘Yeah. They do that. So do my legs,’ he replied, coughing his vocal chords into action. ‘That’s why I go running in the middle of the night, because when I’m in bed, it’s as if I’m running anyway. When I’m really tired, especially.’
Lynn leaned across and planted a kiss on his shoulder. ‘Wow. That’s awful. No wonder you can’t relax.’
‘Tell me about it!’
‘Have you thought any more about meditation?’
Jeff sighed, giving a low chuckle. ‘I’ve thought about it but I can’t empty my mind. It’s too active. Just won’t stop.’
‘Go and see someone who can teach you,’ the sportswoman suggested.
‘Yeah. Guru, yogi… I’m not sure.’
The skeptic chuckled. ‘Yogi Bear, more like. Jellystone Park must have a whole area devoted to the Kama Sutra. Drugs work well…’
His humorous aversion tactics weren’t working, judging by the expression on his dream girl’s face. Not wishing to be psychoanalysed any further, the student rolled leftwards and swung his legs out of bed, deciding to diffuse the atmosphere by visiting the bathroom instead.
‘Put the light on,’ his girlfriend urged. ‘You’ll fall down the stairs. I don’t mind.’
‘No, it’s OK. Don’t need it. I can see in the dark pretty well these days.’
‘Go on! You don’t have to be that selfless.’
Pausing in the doorway, Jeff gave a cruel laugh, taking the caring woman by surprise. ‘I’m not. I’m being selfish, Lynn. Purely selfish. It kills me to turn the light on and find out what time it is. Kills me.’
The door bobbed against the catch but didn’t close, thankfully. Tears pricked at the corners of the young woman’s eyes as she prepared to leave the comfort of the bedclothes and reopen it for her troubled man’s return, relieved that she didn’t need to. This decaying relationship was as anguished as it was passionate, lately spiked with equal parts bitterness and tenderness. She knew they would both feel completely drained in the morning, but only she was likely to suffer anyone’s wrath when her performance at training delivered less than one hundred percent.
Jeff’s hand found the wall in the dark, his eyes having become accustomed to the fluorescent light in Suzanne’s bathroom, and felt his way back to the guest bedroom. He could see a slither of light coming through the door, and smiled to himself, imagining Lynn to have upended or hidden Suzanne’s clock. Sure enough, when he crept back into bed as quietly as he could, knowing how tired Lynn must be, he saw the luminous red digits of the electric radio-alarm had been planted face-down on the bedside table.
His compassionate lover was not asleep however, and turned to greet him, looking thoroughly consumed and contented. At least he scored one out of two, he joked in passing, commenting on how appealing the sight was. He received a sharp slap on the shoulder for his trouble.
‘I shouldn’t be here,’ the sixteen-year-old rued, gazing at the ceiling.
‘I know. D’you want me to drive you home?’
The dreamer kissed her forehead, settling down under the blankets. ‘Good. I love you so much.’
‘I love you too.’
‘I don’t want you to go,’ he dared, after a long pause.
‘No, I know,’ she sighed. ‘I don’t want me to go either.’
Title: A Life Entwined (A Life Singular Series Book 3)
Writing an autobiography on behalf of someone else presented Jeff with an interesting dilemma. Did he make assumptions about what Lynn would have included, or should he restrict her contribution to direct quotes from her letters and diaries? He had their kids to protect, and her parents.
Fame and fortune beckoned. Jeff Diamond was a success, whatever that meant. Fans followed him everywhere, reporters and photographers hid around every corner and journalists recorded his many indiscretions. A whole different world to the downtrodden streets of Sydney’s south-west, where vices were satisfied by using people to one’s best advantage.
The star had more money than he could spend, his opinion suddenly counted, and the opportunities to feed his ever-hungry mind were plentiful. Yet the demons continued to torment him, no longer protected by the guardian angel who had been spirited away as soon as her family found out who Jeff Diamond was and where he had come from.
Suddenly the ambitious businessman and philanthropist found himself in the fight of his life. He would win Lynn’s heart by showing her father he was worthy, and by convincing his dream girl that they had something worth fighting for. Would she risk throwing her privileged lifestyle away for a man whose public persona depended on alcohol, drugs and a string of pretty girls?
Jeff had nothing to lose. The trappings of his new life held little significance until the soul-mates were reunited. This was where their life singular really began. Up until this point, there had only been playtime. Now they must step up and take responsibility. It was up to them.
The songwriter pointed to a chair and indicated for Lynn to sit down. She obliged, a little more at ease now that his demeanour had lost its deranged edge. The atmosphere in the room remained turgid with anticipation, leaving both musicians breathing heavily and uncertain where their next move would take them.
Jeff inhaled deeply, his face breaking into a broad smile. ‘By the way, for starters, you look absolutely, mind-blowingly gorgeous. You are the most beautiful woman in this whole fucking world. D’you know that?’
‘Thank you,’ the young woman responded. ‘I’m sure that’s not true.’
Her eyes darted downwards modestly, hoping her controlling captor would come to the point quickly. Having recovered from the effort required to enter the room, the lost boy felt a familiar anger welling up inside him. He had no choice but to confront this most irresistible of women and break the impasse that had robbed him of all rational thought. He needed to preserve his sanity and behave civilly towards the most important person in his life.
The rock star leaned back on the table, almost facing her, and stared at the delicious female form sitting in front of him. ‘Lynn, I need to know what’s going on. I need you to tell me why you’re here with that bloody Englishman when you could be here with me. I love you so much. It’s been a bloody long two years, and I’ve done everything you and your fucking family wanted me to. I’ve played by the rules, and then at breakfast the other day you were as cold as ice. Why, Lynn? Why? What more do you want from me?’
After courteously listening until his opening salvo had been released, the elegant celebrity took a very deep breath and attempted to provide answers to the many questions all of which were seeking the same answer. Everything her dejected former lover had said was perfectly true. He had stuck to his word, and she couldn’t dispute that he was owed some sort of explanation.
‘Jeff, I’m sorry I wasn’t too friendly the other morning,’ she began, with as much confidence as her nerves would grant. ‘Your ‘phone call came out of the blue, and I didn’t know what to say. I shouldn’t have agreed to meet you at all. You see, I can’t go back. We’re not the same people as we were two years ago, and I can’t go backwards. It wouldn’t be right.’
The intensity in those dark-ringed, bloodshot eyes sent a flood of sensuous memories through Lynn’s body, and she fought the reaction they ignited in her core. Her explanation evidently hadn’t made a positive impression on the disappointed man, judging by the steeling of his jaw and the familiar forced gulp of a tight throat. Still breathing heavily, she imagined him quickly replaying her response in his head to see if he could unravel it a second time around. After a long pause, he spoke.
‘I have no fucking clue what you’re talking about,’ the angry man snarled. ‘Back where? Who’s asking you to go back anywhere? We are the same people. That’s one of the few things that are still the same. We’ve just got older and done more things. We’re no different to anyone else. No-one goes backwards, angel.’
Jeff thumped the table with his fist, and it startled the nineteen-year-old. She sat straighter in her chair. Angel. What a long time it had been since she had heard this endearing nickname. This man wouldn’t hurt her, she worked hard to convince herself. He had never done her any harm; not even through those horrendous few weeks prior to their separation. Surely he hadn’t brought her into this wood-panelled meeting room to unleash his wrath?
‘I’m sorry,’ he snapped, seeing her frightened eyes. ‘Calm down. I know.’
‘That’s OK,’ Lynn responded, scarcely remembering how to deal with the old mastery. ‘It wasn’t a very good explanation. I just can’t think of anything else to tell you. I can’t go out with you again, and you can’t force me to give you all the reasons.’
‘All the reasons? How many are there? Fucking hell!’
The sequined, silver-clad singer couldn’t help but smile at the exaggerated tone of incredulity. ‘That’s not what I meant either,’ she sighed.
‘Yeah? Tell me something I can believe then. Don’t you ever think about what we had at all?’ the frustrated man implored, reducing the volume slightly. ‘All those great times we had? Christ, Lynn! I know I do. I still think about you every minute of the day. Every woman I fuck, every time I go to bed and every bloody time I wake up screaming in the middle of the night. Is all that lost for you? Seven months of perfection… All that means nothing to you now?’
Lynn’s heart was aching, drinking in the raw poetry of this quite majestic beast. Of course she had fond memories of their time together. She often thought about her mysterious Catholic Argentinean Polish Jew, and never more so than when she had arrived back at Benloch and was reminded of those heady weekends they had spent making love and writing music by the creek. Those seven passionate months most definitely meant something to her, yet her situation now dictated in no uncertain terms that those carefree days were over.
‘No. It means a lot. But my father…’ she started, catching her breath.
‘Your father? Your bloody father.’
With his head bowed and muttering to himself, a pair of sunken eyes looked up at the fearless young woman from under his eyebrows. Her body language had relented somewhat, as had her strident gaze. Was that a chink in the stalwart’s glamorous armour?
She continued. ‘Dad told me I can’t go back, that I must look forward and forget the past. You know how he is about drugs and partying and getting drunk. He doesn’t want me to associate with you.’
Jeff thumped the table again, and this time there was no apology. ‘Associate with me?’ he echoed. ‘I don’t want your association, baby. I want you in my bed, as my soul-mate and my best friend. I want to become each others’ forever again. Share all the plans we spoke about. All the things I’ve started in the hope we’d be able to finish them together. You used to want that too. Is your dad the only thing that’s stopping you, or is there something else?’
‘I can’t live your kind of lifestyle, can I?’ the aristocratic star reverted to her original argument. ‘The parties, the alcohol. You know I can’t. I still have to play tennis, et cetera…’
Her adversary stood up and began to pace the floor. Lynn allowed her eyes to follow him around the room. He wore a suit so well, and again she felt familiar frissons of arousal. He wore jeans and a T-shirt well too, she remembered. In fact, he wore nothing well! Her eyes darted back to the table-top, knowing he had noticed her dreamy expression. She blushed without warning. Nothing escaped this man’s attention.
Despite the depth of her feelings, the strong-willed champion mustered a spirited objection. ‘You’re always making the news, and not always for the good things you do. I don’t agree with my father on everything, but I do on that subject.’
He winked gamely at her disingenuous prudish excuse. ‘Isn’t it better to fear what comes out of people’s mouths than what goes in them?’ he deliberately sent her pulse rate into overdrive, determined to capitalise on his apparent hold over her senses.
Jeff walked over and pulled a chair up beside her, straddling it menacingly. He was staring straight into her eyes, but his gorgeous hostage didn’t recoil. The Olympian hadn’t forgotten how insistent he could be, and it unnerved her how readily she accepted his extreme behaviour. His special brand of persuasive poetry was drawing her in again. His every word caressed her, and she was only too aware of the lifeline she had inadvertently thrown her disconsolate suitor. The conflict burned inside her, knowing he was bound to pick up on this too.
What time was it? Lynn couldn’t see a clock in the room, unless it was behind her. Her childhood self-defence classes had taught her never to turn her head away from an aggressor and risk missing a vital clue. She tried to read Jeff’s watch, but half of its face was hidden in the sleeve of his white dress shirt. Her thoughts turned briefly to Peter, at the same time realising that she wasn’t in much of a hurry to get back to him. Damn her father! And damn the promise she had made before leaving for the awards ceremony this morning.
‘OK. I get it,’ the young man repeated slowly, the veins on his forehead and neck pumping visibly. ‘But what does your father have to do with us now? Didn’t you just have another birthday? You’re old enough to make your own decisions these days. You know that. Your parents shouldn’t be running your life anymore. What do you want, Lynn? What do you want?’
With his patience smouldering under the surface, Jeff leaned over so that their heads were closer together. He could feel her breath on his face, and hoped she could do the same. He knew her responses well enough to be sure it would have the same effect. Each time he said the word “you”, he gently pressed against her sternum with his index finger, just above the neckline of her dress, quite clearly aiming for her heart.
Lynn felt her pulse rate accelerating as he prodded her skin. ‘I know, but it’s not that simple.’
‘Yes, it is that simple,’ her former lover countered, more quietly this time. ‘Christ! Do you know how much I want to touch you right now? It’s exactly that simple. I’m sober, I’m clean and I love you. Plus together we generate enough electricity to power this whole damned hotel.’
The lady in the sleek ballgown raised a slight smile before smartly stifling it again, choosing not to reply. Her lips were full, red and so conspicuously kissable that the hot-blooded poet struggled to concentrate on what else he might say to convince her. In an effort to limit his distraction, he brought his mind back to the fact that she still hadn’t explained why her relationship with Peter Elswick was sanctioned while he remained out of bounds.
‘So… You can go out with that pommy bloke, but you can’t go out with me? Why is that? What does he have that I don’t? Forget your dad for a minute. Am I not good enough for you either anymore? Even now, with everything that’s happened?’
This awful home truth was far too difficult to explain away, Lynn realised, instantly driven to the verge of tears. She had prepared for this question before their awkward breakfast date, knowing that photographs of the blond pair had been plastered all over the television and magazines. She could only imagine how seeing them together must have made Jeff feel, having kept his promise to the letter. He hadn’t asked the question that morning, and yet now here it was; front and centre, inescapable.
‘It’s nothing to do with whether you’re good enough, or who’s better than whom. I don’t love Pete. In fact, he’s leaving tomorrow, and we’ll probably never see each other again. But that’s the only kind of boyfriend I can have right now. It’s a using relationship, Jeff. I remember what you used to say very well. I just need a using relationship at the moment and I’ve actually become quite good at them. Could you have one with me? I don’t think so. What we had before is impossible now.’
No, absolutely not! A using relationship was definitely not what the devoted songwriter had in mind. This was something he understood, and he hung his head, feeling as if he had been punched in the stomach. Jesus! This smart woman had called his bluff, damn it. He cursed the alarming regularity with which his own words came back to haunt him. Those early, dangerous and intimate conversations with his naïve schoolgirl seemed a long, long time ago, and he was at least flattered to hear her quote him, even if it was to make the opposite point.
A wry grin spread across his face. ‘Whoa! That’s very good,’ he sighed. ‘You just shot me with my own gun.’
The physical attraction bleeding out of the millionnaire’s every pore was beginning to overwhelm him. He watched as the superstar’s supple, sexy shoulders with their shoestring straps sunk ever so slightly as his self-deprecating humour relaxed them both. He felt grateful when this tiny giveaway sign was followed by a shy smile from the tanned and radiant face.
‘Listen to me, you gorgeous thing,’ he requested, by now making no attempt to hide his lust. ‘You can have whatever you want. Just don’t tell me we’re nothing without finding out for sure.’
Stroking Lynn’s face and tracing his highly-sensitised fingers along her neck and then across her right collarbone, Jeff felt her muscles twitch at his touch. It had not been surprise which had made her jump so violently earlier. The spark was still there. No doubt about it.
‘Tell me you don’t feel anything,’ his deep, sultry voice whispered in her ear. ‘I dare you.’
The nineteen-year-old straightened up, gulped and breathed in sharply, as if trying not to cry. ‘Jeff, don’t. This isn’t fair. I can’t do this,’ she blurted out. ‘My father’s told me he’s found out some disturbing things about your past and he’s forbidden me to see you. That’s it. Plain and simple.’
Shocked by this sudden admission, the young Sydneysider backed away, a metaphorical dagger piercing his heart. Springing to his feet and causing the chair to rock a few times before righting itself, he threw his arms in the air and roared. Lynn thought his eyes were about to burst out of their sockets.
‘Halleluja!’ he shouted, spinning round to face her again. ‘Finally we get to the real story!’
The young woman craned her neck to follow his imposing presence as he stormed around the end of the table. He looked magnificent in his anger. This was her beautiful black stallion, she was reminded; so wildly indignant at the stance her conservative parents had taken.
Again the staunch sportswoman stood her ground, needing to bring this clandestine standoff to a close. ‘But what is the real story? Jeff, I don’t know the real story. That’s why I have to obey my father. I have no way of knowing whether what he knows is the truth or not. You didn’t tell me, and now he won’t tell me. I’m not a child anymore. You keep reminding me of that. I need to know what it is I’m being protected from by both of you. Can’t you see?’
The tall man heaved his leaden frame onto the table and swang his legs to purge the cramp that was steadily sapping his strength. The conflicted celebrity had revealed the magic key to her heart, knowing it would be quite the hardest thing for him to grasp. Even though he had often contemplated disclosing his collection of immured secrets to his dream girl upon their reunion, he had not foreseen being pressured into doing so as a condition of their continuing friendship.
‘Christ Almighty!’ he exclaimed. ‘The ultimate test! Is that it? You’re fucking right you’re not a child anymore, angel. You are truly formidable! I’ll tell you everything, if that’s what it takes. Is it? Would that make the difference? Would that make me better than that arsehole out there?’
Lynn was crying now, shaking her head. ‘Jeff, please stop. You’re too angry to talk about this sensibly now, and we have to go back to the party. This isn’t getting us anywhere.’
The despondent man couldn’t bear the thought of her returning to the clean-living, middle-classed actor, especially now they finally appeared to be making some progress, but the elegant beauty was right. He couldn’t hold her hostage any longer. Her abandoned boyfriend would soon summon security, and then the rock star with the party reputation would be tossed unceremoniously out on his ear like a loutish troublemaker. Such a humiliating fate would worsen his position still further with Big D, not to mention the fun the paparazzi would have in documenting the spectacle.
Jeff calmly sat down opposite the stunning woman again and kissed her wet lips, wiping tears from her face. ‘Alright. I’m sorry to kidnap you. Have dinner with me, and I’ll tell you everything. Then you can make your choice. Is that fair?’
The graceful princess nodded, relieved that the hot-head had seen reason. The kiss tasted good. Really good. Another was therefore totally out of the question. Looking into his big, brown eyes, she smiled.
Title: A Life Lived (A Life Singular Series Book 4)
So this was it! Lynn and Jeff, two celebrities driven to change the world together, had grasped their life singular with both hands and were not about to let go. They had the Midas touch, gifted through the virtues of reciprocity and a deepening understanding of right versus wrong.
The prospect of turning two into four, mirroring the black jetstone ring that lived on the handsome man’s right hand, filled the couple with excitement. Never in his wildest dreams had the no-good street kid imagined himself as a father. His own had given him nothing. So much less than nothing, in fact.
Should Jeff settle that score? Was it worth disturbing the paradise they had planned, where their well-established careers showed no sign of slowing down and their hard work yielded so much for so many? Surfacing past wrongs and holding people to account for setting them right were part and parcel of letting go, his dream girl had insisted. And who was he to argue? She had been right all along.
As the book’s extraordinary chapters continued to document the achievements of their life singular, the solitary author cried and smiled in equal measure through the arrival of a small boy with blond, curly hair and the sultry gipsy girl who could see inside his soul from the moment she was born. Lynn had given him two new friends who must now be steered through their young lives, learning their own lessons about the endless pursuit of love and wisdom.
The star made his way down the staircase and into the hotel lobby, searching for a public telephone. There were already fewer people milling around, many calling it a night and retrieving their cars from local car parks before the streets clogged up with drunken merrymakers. He located a booth near the concièrge’s desk; not in a very private location, but enough to serve its purpose. He hoped he could still remember the number for downstairs at Benloch, knowing full well that Lynn wouldn’t be hiding out in her bedroom just after the New Year’s chimes.
Standing between two wood-panelled partitions which came almost to his shoulders, Jeff couldn’t make up his mind if they reminded him more of a urinal or a confessional. He propped himself against the left-hand wall and dialled the operator.
‘Happy New Year!’ he said to the jaded voice at the other end. ‘Bummer to be working on New Year’s, huh?’
‘How can I help you, sir?’ the monotone woman asked.
Smiling at her less-than-bright personality, Jeff read out the long serial code on the phone-card and gave the operator his best guess at the main number for the Dyson homestead. The line connected and rang four times before clicking through to an answering machine. He hung up. No doubt the whole family was celebrating together in the vast drawing room. He couldn’t remember ever seeing or hearing a telephone in that cavernous salon.
The impatient groom dialled again. Before he had completed the number however, he realised these thoughts of urinals had set off a quite different sense of urgency. If he were lucky enough to get through to Lynn eventually, he might as well be comfortable while he spoke to her. He hung up again, slipped the phone-card into the breast pocket of his shirt and looked around for the restroom.
Of course, as always happened at such times, two attractive females had spotted their idol and were making right for him. The rock star didn’t slow down, simply pointing to the symbol on the door. The girls laughed and shouted after him that they would wait. He half-expected them to follow him in. Jesus Christ! There were some things a man needed to do in private. Even an exhibitionist like him!
The songwriter turned a sharp right upon exiting the toilets and burst out through another emergency exit, stepping down onto the street. His evasive tactics would trigger an alarm one of these days, he smiled to himself. Luckily, tonight was not one of these days. He ran round the outside of the building until he reached the main entrance again, marched past a group of flabbergasted onlookers and soon found himself back at the courtesy telephone.
Dialling the same number for the third time, Jeff went through the tiresome process again. He couldn’t be sure it was the same operator at the other end. They seemed to have been recruited for their robotic vocal qualities and lack of personality. The connection clicked into action, another four rings and the answering machine cut in again.
‘Fuck,’ he cursed under his breath.
One more attempt and then it would be time to give up, get blind drunk and swallow the pill. The new man could feel disillusionment burning inside, anticipating Gravity’s arrival at any moment, roused by a mocking wail from Miss Irony. Right now, tomorrow morning’s rehearsal seemed so far away. He knew it shouldn’t, but it did.
His fingers set to work again, and this time, the operator broke protocol and asked if her caller was still trying to get through to his number.
‘Yes, I am,’ Jeff responded, relieved to find a compassionate automaton at last. ‘Please could you try again?’
‘It’s a busy time of year.’
Miss Sparkle had hit her stride, to be sure, with this statement of the obvious. At the fourth go-round, the young man felt the vibration of the line connecting, heard the first ring and then a female voice.
Halleluja! The rock star’s head span, and all the air rushed from his lungs at once, leaving him gasping for breath and fast-forwarding to their wedding day after all.
‘Angel! It’s me.’
‘Hey, wow! I knew it was you!’ Lynn sounded so happy to hear from him. ‘I heard the ‘phone ring a couple of times and wondered if anyone would answer it. Then I heard it ring again. I just had a feeling it was you.’
Jeff’s eyes were full of water, spilling over at the corners and running down his cheeks. Reaching into his pants pocket for a handkerchief, he leaned further into the booth so that no-one would see him.
‘Jesus. I’ve missed you so much,’ his voice croaked. ‘How’re you going?’
The cheerful chatter was more than welcome after the frenetics of the last few days. Temporarily, the superstar allowed himself to leave behind his delinquent sister and the vivacious screeching of Gerry’s sisters, and he imagined himself once more at the dam with his dream girl; at the place where time stood still.
‘I miss you too,’ Lynn almost sung to him. ‘Not long to go now. Are you excited?’
‘Yeah, I know. Excited and exhausted. I just had to hear your voice.’
‘Where are you? It sounds noisy.’
‘In the lobby of the Windsor, outside The Cricketers’. I’m in a ‘phone booth that makes me want to piss and at the same time give my last confession,’ the charmer told her, sinking down onto the stool and crossing his long legs.
‘Oh, no! That’s funny. Do you have anything to confess?’
The lightness in his fiancée’s tone didn’t quite hide the undercurrent of her question.
‘No, angel,’ Jeff allowed his pride to answer, supremely confident in his honesty. ‘I don’t.’
A viscous bubble of relief jammed the telephone line, leaving both stranded in the moment. He could tell from the long pause that his beautiful best friend’s happiness had been raised at least one more notch on hearing these words.
‘Thank you,’ he heard her gulp. ‘I can’t wait to find out how the bucks’ night went.’
‘Baby, it was awesome,’ the young man assured her, inordinately thankful that he had shown appropriate restraint.
What a sound decision the former playboy had made early this morning. One of the best of his life, he figured, judging by the warm stream of love that flowed out of the receiver and kissed the side of his face. Her big-hearted offer was no less of an offer for having been passed up, and he would make sure she knew it in good time. This woman was so, so worth it.
‘Thanks for helping Gerry out,’ the glowing soul added. ‘He did a fantastic job at “MC-ing”.’
‘Excellent! Great news. I’m glad, and you’re welcome. I’m pleased it was special. What’s going on over there now?’
The host had almost forgotten about his guests, so content was he to be talking to the woman he loved. ‘Ah, the usual. Drinking, smoking. Everyone’s dancing. It’s been a good night. We’re tired, and I’m failing miserably at stopping Lena from getting tanked up. I just don’t want her to turn up looking half-dead for you.’
‘Don’t worry,’ the bride-to-be reassured him. ‘I’m sure she’ll be fine. She’s not your responsibility anyway. She’s old enough to earn her own reputation in the newspapers.’
Jeff laughed at the concept. ‘Indeed! I’m glad you’re cool with it. You shouldn’t be, but it helps, so thanks.’
‘I love you.’
‘Angel, I love you too,’ her boyfriend replied, inhaling as again he felt his heart melt, just when he had regained some semblance of control.
He stared at his black ring with the solitary stone in one corner, twisting it slowly round his warm, swollen finger. His lone-wolf period had not much longer to run. By the time the newlyweds returned from Tenerife, the heavy piece of jewellery he had taken so long to get used to would have been delivered complete with its second, shimmering diamond.
‘Hey, are you coming back into town tomorrow?’
It was Lynn’s turn to laugh; the sincere, sunny laugh which was reserved for appreciating the subtext of her lover’s statements. ‘Of course I am,’ she answered. ‘Why? Is there something going on?’
‘Ah, you know…’ he crooned. ‘I thought we might have sex.’
‘Sex?’ his girlfriend repeated in a subdued voice, as if afraid of being overheard. ‘Well, that’s certainly worth coming back in for. Nothing else then?’
‘No, angel. Nothing much.’
A lone teardrop escaped from the millionnaire’s right eye, and he brushed it smartly away. It was fortunate that the hotel was large enough to have put some distance between his fans and the homing beacon that incessantly tracked his movements. With depression banished and Gravity summarily halted at the turnstiles, he moved on to more practical matters.
‘What time are you getting there?’
‘We should arrive about ten-ish,’ Lynn replied. ‘The hairdresser’s booked for ten-thirty, and the musicians are turning up then too. I’m probably just as excited about the songs as I am about the rest of the ceremony.’
Her co-star sniffed. He felt the same way but hadn’t been prepared to admit it. In fact, he still wouldn’t, he decided. In case she was leading him… The subtle mind-games being transmitted over the telephone line turned him on violently. After the last couple of days of abstinence, his libido needed precious little encouragement.
‘Will the rooms be open upstairs?’
His fiancée scoffed, having a fair idea what was taking place in the Windsor’s confessional. ‘Yes, some will. Why?’
‘I know you know why,’ the horny lover balked at her reserved reaction, hoping his ardour wouldn’t be too long in subsiding after the call. ‘Don’t give me a harder time than I’m already having.’
‘And you think I have a gap in my schedule for that?’
‘Yeah. It’s a priority, baby. You’re good at prioritising. How about while you’re having your hair done? You don’t have to move your head.’
‘Oh, shut up!’ the refined young lady scolded his one-tracked mind. ‘You’re incorrigible. Get back to the party.’
‘OK. As you wish,’ Jeff laughed. ‘Hey, wait! I forgot… Happy New Year, angel. Happy Our Year. Are you having a good time over there?’
‘Happy Our Year to you too! Yes. Pretty laid-back. It’s nice.’
‘Ha! I’m very jealous,’ her fiancé didn’t want to let her go. ‘Thanks for a wondrous nineteen-seventy-five, gorgeous. Let’s make ‘seventy-six even better.’
‘It will be,’ Lynn agreed. ‘See you tomorrow. Thanks so much for ringing. It was great to talk to you, even though I can’t tell mum. Everything’s suddenly unlucky for her. She’s injected some sort of superstition drug, I think. Sleep well. Can’t wait to see you.’
‘You too,’ her appreciative audience chuckled. ‘All of the above. Have fun, gorgeous.’
Rejuvenated by the five-minute cruise into peaceful, friendly waters, tomorrow’s groom replaced the receiver and stood up from his confined hiding place, willing his erection to play nicely. He flipped open his packet of cigarettes. Only one left, and no lighter. Madalena had all but cleaned him out. Oh, well… At least there was one. He asked the concièrge for a loan of his matches and headed back outside to smoke in solitude. And to dream of his bikini-clad wife lounging beside him on a sandy beach a long, long way from their current locations.
The twenty-three-year-old smiled to himself when he remembered hearing the words “Not long to go” drifting from Lynn’s enticing mouth. He was fairly sure she had meant not long to go until the ceremony commenced. As far as he was concerned however, his use of the expression was more directed to the point when the whole fiesta was finished and they were safely locked in their hotel room in this very building as a married couple, never to contemplate such a spectacle ever again!
To his utter astonishment, his tired mind next rocketed forward to a fantasy world where their own daughter was getting married. The young man shook his head. For Christ’s sake! Where had this fanciful idea come from? Was his conscience hinting that he might one day need to do this all again? He dismissed the bizarre but altogether engaging vision and retraced his steps into the last hour of the charity fundraiser he had abandoned.
Jeff found the Blake men back at their table in the ballroom, having recently been delivered a fresh round of coffee. He helped himself, impatiently surveying the area. Where was his bloody sister?
His gaze alighted on a pair at close quarters in the middle of the dance floor. Great! Madalena had hooked up with someone. Now he had a different problem to deal with. Where would she be at the end of the night? Would he have to follow her and wait outside for hours in order to dispatch her to Dyson Administration by ten o’clock? For Christ’s sake! This babysitting lark was no fun at all, but he couldn’t afford to put his sister off-side and risk having a stroppy bridesmaid on their hands tomorrow.
Reluctantly, he re-joined the Blake ladies on the dance floor, causing a massive stir for which he had zero tolerance.
‘Did you get in touch with Lynn?’ Celia asked over the music, smiling at the attention her adopted son was receiving.
The young man nodded. ‘Yeah. Eventually.’
‘That’s lovely, dear. You’ll sleep well tonight then.’
Maybe not, the celebrity sighed inwardly. He grabbed hold of a delighted Jacinta and whisked her round in several circles towards Madalena and her attachment, who both looked up and grinned inanely at the sudden movement around them. She was away with the fairies, and her dancing partner appeared angry to see another man’s gaze bearing down on them.
‘What do you want?’ the short, dishevelled man sneered.
‘Nothing, mate,’ the rock star responded, unable to stop himself smiling at the sight of the wretched pair, six sheets to the wind between them. ‘She’s my sister.’
Feeling less threatened, the guy relaxed a little, almost toppling over. ‘Oh, OK. You’re right.’
‘Lena,’ the weary child-minder ordered, much to Gerry’s sister’s apparent amusement. ‘¿Qué haces? Tengo que dirigirme a tú. Ahora.’
‘Chico, leave us alone,’ Madalena snapped.
‘Now, Lena,’ her brother insisted, taking hold of her arm. ‘Excuse me, mate. She’ll be right back.’
Abandoning Jacinta on the dance floor with the stunned drunkard, Jeff frogmarched his blustering sister to the side of the room. Fortunately, she was too relaxed to put up much resistance, merely bleating her objections as her feet trotted along beside him.
‘What the fuck are you doing?’ he demanded of her blurry eyes. ‘You need to stay on the case. I’m fucking getting married tomorrow, and I don’t want anything to spoil it. Don’t do this, Lena. Please?’
‘I’m not doin’ nothin’,’ Madalena replied, an inkling of guilt penetrating her bewildered brain. ‘I was just dancing.’
‘With a view to what though?’
‘OK, listen,’ tomorrow’s groom grabbed her shoulders firmly but affectionately, realising he had confused matters further by the complex turn of phrase. ‘If you’re going to get off with this bloke, you gotta at least tell me where you’re going. I need to be able to pick you up if you can’t get back to the flat on your own. ¿Comprendes?’
The woman nodded, but her brother wasn’t so sure his message had been correctly interpreted. There was a vagueness in her expression which he trusted more than her passive acknowledgement. Remembering the little white semi-circle he had been saving for himself, he took a furtive look around in case they were being watched. Not as far as he could see. He reached his wallet out of his back pocket and opened it, shaking his head when he saw dollar signs spinning in his sister’s slot-machine eyes.
‘Take this,’ the rock star suggested, waving the half-tablet in front of her face and lifting an abandoned glass of water from a nearby table. ‘Swallow it and drink all this water. OK?’
The Sydneysider’s eyes lit up. ‘The ecstasy! Can I really ‘ave it?’
‘Yeah. It’s yours, but take it easy. Real easy,’ Jeff insisted, desperate for his words to sink in. ‘And ring me at home if you need me to come and get you. D’you hear me, Lena?’
Madalena popped the pill into her mouth and swallowed down the glassful of water. ‘Cheers, chico!’
Her anxious brother then took two twenty-dollar notes out of his wallet and sighed as he witnessed her lightning reflexes yet again. A survival instinct, he presumed, guilt once more intervening and forcing him to take the compassionate view.
‘That’s for a taxi,’ he said, slapping the cash into her open palm. ‘You know my address by now? Be good, please? Nine o’clock tomorrow morning. At the absolute latest. Or you’ll miss the whole damned show.’
Title: A Life Tested (A Life Singular Series Book 5)
The world was an enormous place; full of good and evil, beauty and ugliness, wonder and despair. Sometimes all seemed lost, returning from the latest round of negotiations and attempting to balance the surreal career of a chart-topping musician with the demands of an advocate for those discarded by mainstream society. With every problem the Diamonds worked to solve, a new one would be right around the corner.
All was not lost, however. Unity and liberty, the twin spirits living in two perfect beings waiting for him at home, were all Jeff needed to spur him on. They would one day inherit the world which he and his beautiful best friend were intent on changing for the better, along with the millions of others who wrote to the couple every day, seeking ever more of their energy, time and money.
The tired author kept reverting to the theme of reciprocity. We should never take more than we give. If only they could convince enough people of their byword… It was right that the struggle should never end. What would he do if it did? There was no room for self-satisfied fat cats in their life singular. What sort of example might that set for those who must follow?
Lynn had departed, the children were growing stronger now, and the widower heard the clock ticking night after night after night. Still with so many amazing experiences to recount, the lost boy knew his dream girl couldn’t wait forever. He was grateful for this opportunity to set the record straight, but gratitude could only take him so far.
Thomas’ gnarly fingers closed around the handle of the gun, his frame shifting on its chair. After seventy-two hours in the company of their exalted but enigmatic hostage, the dynamics of the rebel cell were changing. The mercenaries grew restless and unsure.
‘I pray to God that he will help me, and now I have this job,’ the young man explained. ‘I hope someday that I can do another job, but for now God wants me to do this job.’
‘Is that what you believe?’ Jeff sat up, planting his stockinged feet on the floor. ‘Truly? In your heart, I mean? Or in your fine, educated head?’
‘Mister Diamond,’ Thomas stiffened. ‘You have the most fine, most educated head, and even you say you are confused. I am confused but I want to believe in God. Do you want to believe in God?’
His captive inhaled and exhaled to steady his nerves, wishing he could slip his hand inside his shirt and help himself to a surreptitious second helping of dessert. Instead, he rubbed the inked skin over his heart. Did he want to believe in God? What a pertinent question this was!
‘Mate, I don’t know what I want to believe in, to be perfectly honest. I know I don’t subscribe to formal religion, with its eight o’clock mass and its eleven o’clock Holy Communion. All these artificial observances, like not eating pork or only eating fish on Fridays… Or worshipping cows and letting them hold up traffic in some of the world’s most densely-populated cities. Y’know what I mean? India… The man-made stuff people think will take them closer to God.’
Thomas, his eyes wide with amazement at the richness of the musician’s response, lifted the gun off his knees and placed it down on the floorboards at his feet. The heartwarming statement was not lost on the empathetic Australian. Like his “JL” tattoo, it was a symbol of equality and respect.
‘Thank you,’ Jeff muttered, extending his hand.
‘I believe to see God you must get closer to him,’ Thomas leaned across and completed the gesture. ‘My mother fears God very much. She never lets us miss Sunday in the church because she thinks God make us sick or some terrible thing to happen.’
‘And did it?’
‘Oh, yes,’ the tall rebel grinned. ‘Sometimes it rains when her clean washing is outside. That is God’s fault.’
The showman laughed aloud at the kid’s gift of comic timing. ‘Very cool, mate. I like your sense of humour. My good friend at home, who’s also my manager… Gerry, his name is… his mother’s the same. She told her kids they’d fail their school exams if they didn’t pray every night and go to church on Sunday mornings. And in the end, the two who didn’t go to church passed, but the one who attended every week bombed out.’
Thomas hesitated for a second before chancing a snigger, unable to translate the idiom “bombed out” into his native language.
‘I’m sorry,’ the polyglot backtracked. ‘”Bombed out” means she failed. Didn’t pass.’
This time the young man sounded genuinely amused, although Jeff also detected a slight crisis of conscience. Had his commentary cemented the African’s own religious scepticism? He changed the subject, so as not to push him too far too fast.
‘Anyway, I do believe there’s something each of us has inside that guides us, hence my reserving the right to turn atheist. And I think that force inside… the soul, if you like… has often lived other lives before us.’
‘Reincarnation?’ Thomas asked, now suspicious.
‘Yeah. Sort of,’ the philosopher nodded. ‘My theory is that some souls are older than others. They’ve inhabited more people than others. Mine’s very, very old, I reckon. Maybe yours is on its first time round. Why am I like I am, and you’re like you are? We make our own destiny. That I believe. But I don’t believe we set it.’
The gunman sat up straighter again, not knowing if he should be fascinated or wary. ‘That is interesting. I never think of this before.’
‘Do you like reading?’
‘Oh, yes. I would like to read again,’ the uniformed mercenary rued. ‘I have no books now. They are all in my home.’
‘Shame, mate,’ the Australian shook his head. ‘If the rest of my shit wasn’t in a hotel somewhere, I could give you five at once! There’s a book that came out in in the late ‘sixties called “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, by Gabriel García Márquez… a Mexican guy, I think… It ends with something like “Races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on Earth.”’
‘I see,’ the young man appeared puzzled. ‘Can you say the line again? I need to hear it slow to understand.’
‘Sure,’ Jeff smiled, preparing to repeat the novel’s final, weighty sentence. ‘Sorry, mate. Your English is so good, I forgot to be careful.’
‘Second opportunity on Earth,’ his captor ruminated. ‘Reincarnation. But what does it mean?’
The intellectual chuckled. ‘I can tell you what I think it means, but it can mean whatever you want it to mean. When you’ve read the whole story, ‘phone me and tell me what it means to you. Deal?’
‘Ha! You send me the book? Then I read it. Good, Mister Diamond. What does this hundred years of solitude mean to you? I like to know, please.’
‘OK. I’ll tell you like this: who was it who told me to do what I do and not bum around wasting my life?’ Jeff posed another rhetorical question instead. ‘Plenty of others do, but I can’t. Something drives me to do more every day, and that’s my idea of God. I have no clue if we’re born with our God, or perhaps it chooses you at some point during your life, when you deserve to be chosen. Or even if you choose it. God’s not the same for everyone either, so I can’t justify a single supreme being sitting in heaven looking down on us all.’
‘Because some people are guided to do good things, and some bad?’ Thomas dared to continue the argument. ‘So there is a good God and a bad God, like Satan?’
The wise man whistled. ‘Hmm… Maybe there is. I think it’s up to each of us what we want to believe, and what type of God we want to guide us. I don’t rely on it though. My amazing wife and I have two children who make people smile wherever they go. Friends of ours have rude, obnoxious children. Did one God make both sets of children how they are? I don’t think so. I believe in a world where you and your God can work together to get things done while my God and I get on with what we need to do. And if you don’t work together… like if one of you’s bad and the other’s good… you go crazy.’
Thomas reached into his breast pocket and pulled out his packet of cigarettes, handing it to the earnest orator. The rock star wondered whose God had planted this welcome seed, or was it the power of telepathy from his addicted mind? Eager for a hit, he helped himself to the gift and paused for a light. Raising its glowing end to his nose and breathing in the smoke, he toasted his companion.
‘Cheers! Mister Diamond, you have good children because you are good,’ Thomas blurted out, causing his own cigarette to slip from his lips before it caught alight. ‘You are doing good things for my Africa. I believe God will find you and thank you.’
‘That’s a nice thing to say, Tom. Thanks,’ Jeff smiled. ‘But it’s pretty hard to believe when I’m stuck here. I should’ve been on a ‘plane to London yesterday. I was meant to open a new treatment centre for traumatised kids. Don’t tell me your God didn’t want me to go there. Don’t you reckon God’s a “big picture” kind o’ guy, mate?’
Seeing the guard turn his gaze towards the ceiling, embarrassed by the sudden confrontation, the peacemaker backed off and changed the subject again. ‘What’s happening tomorrow?’ he asked, laying back across the couch. ‘Is there anything to look forward to here on Sundays?’
‘No,’ Thomas shook his head. ‘Same as today. Perhaps some news for you?’
‘Oh, yeah? What sort of news?’
‘Nothing for certain,’ the younger man hesitated. ‘They say they take you to Addis Ababa.’
The hostage played down the effect this welcome dose of optimism served his brain. ‘What for?’ he asked. ‘Who’s in Addis Ababa?’
‘I cannot tell you,’ Thomas clammed up. ‘Rasul plans to talk to you in the morning. They think the police knows where you are.’
‘Yes. I am sorry to see you go.’
Jeff sat up, private euphoria now tempered by outward concern. Had the ringleader fed his subordinate this information, expecting him to pass it on? Perhaps he was being punished for becoming everybody’s friend. A powerful means of assuring a sleepless night, from one psychological manipulator to another.
‘So you guys won’t be coming with me?’
‘No. We stay here,’ Thomas told him. ‘I think Rasul go with you. There are many more of EPRP men in Addis Ababa. It’s a city; our capital city.’
‘Yeah. I know. I’ve been there.’
The performer faked a yawn to dispel a lungful of disappointment. Another long car journey to another unknown destination, and his relationship-building scores would rewind to zero with each new person in his planned chain of custody. The rebel leader was no dunce. Jeff needed to bring things to a head soon. If it were true that the police were waiting to knock on the farmhouse door, there was a good chance he might be smuggled out during the night.
‘Please could I make another ‘phone call?’
‘No,’ came a predictably emphatic reply. ‘So you can tell your wife where you are going? I get fired for this.’
Title: A Life Loved (A Life Singular Series Book 6)
Lynn Dyson and Jeff Diamond had become the celebrity couple with the Midas touch. With their son showing every sign of fulfilling his sporting destiny and a teenaged daughter who was already driven to right the world’s wrongs, they were showered with accolades and adoration from every corner of the globe.
How had this nobody from the wrong side of the tracks got so lucky? With his dream girl by his side every step of the way, the superstar’s multi-faceted career knew no bounds. Politicians clamoured for photo-opportunities, the press hung on his every word and the success of their business empire funnelled millions of dollars into worthy causes.
No wonder they had been an assassination target! Jeff’s autobiography foretold this omen with twenty-twenty hindsight, his open wounds smarting with each obvious opulent and outspoken occasion. “The higher you climb, the harder you fall.” This tedious cliché rang true for the father as he captured his teenagers’ many exploits for posterity. He and Lynn had dared to scale enormous heights, paying the ultimate price far too soon.
Had it all been worth it? The book held these secrets, painstakingly transcribed by a man who couldn’t wait to find out what was to come. Whether taken from his lover’s journals, the children’s memories or the cataclysm of poetry pouring from his lonely heart, the months leading up to his next challenge had legitimised every decision the forever couple had ever made.
He only hoped the same good fortune would hold true in the next lifetime.
‘Hi! Very smartish,’ Lynn said, greeting Jet and Allanah as they appeared hand-in-hand in the doorway of the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron’s main function room, located on the sea front by the famous landmark of St Kilda Pier.
‘Hi, Mum, Grandma,’ the birthday boy leaned in to kiss both women on the cheek, nudging his attractive girlfriend forward to copy him. ‘You look amazing too. Where’s Dad?’
The sportswoman held her hand up, returning to introduce the young woman before answering the question. ‘Good evening, Allanah. Welcome. This is Marianna Dyson, and that’s a beautiful dress! Go on inside, you two. Dad’s in there somewhere. Dad, Gerry and Grandpa are comparing notes on who’s going to say what, I think. Junior and the gang are in there too.’
‘Happy birthday, Jet,’ the stately grandmother said, admiring how well turned out the good-looking couple was. ‘It’s hard to believe you’re eighteen already. Nice to meet you, Allanah.’
‘Thank you. You too, Missus Dyson.’
Lynn rested her hand on the young lady’s bare, sculpted shoulder for a few seconds. She remembered how nerve-wracking it was for her school-friends to be introduced to her legendary family members. With any luck, the previous evening spent chez eux would have helped Allanah to feel more relaxed around the Diamonds, leaving only the Dysons to contend with. It brought to mind the first weekend she had invited her nineteen-year-old heartthrob to Benloch, and the glaring contrast between the apparent ease he had displayed in her parents’ company and the abject discomfort of the following night’s nightmare; the first of a thousand or more. Neither could have predicted the incredible journey both would undertake to deliver them to their son’s coming of age.
The two dignified Melbourne women watched the birthday boy and his stunning blonde date stride into the middle of the room, commanding attention from all angles.
‘Makes you feel old, darling, doesn’t it?’ Marianna said.
‘A bit,’ her daughter nodded.
‘He’s such a fine young man. Another impressive, gentle giant. Let’s hope they don’t break the mould.’
‘Hear, hear. He’s gorgeous. We’re very proud of him, Mum. And he’s got a good heart underneath all the bravado.’
The party was soon rocking at full volume. The guest list had been kept to under a hundred but included people from all phases of the birthday boy’s life: fellow pupils from primary school in Mount Eliza and from Melbourne Academy, along with a smattering of teachers; sports coaches and teammates; music tutors; and a bunch of geeks from the science-fiction club whence the script for Jet’s recent movie was hatched.
Lynn and Jeff danced the night away for the second time this year, surrounded by most of their life singular’s significant contributors. Kierney even managed to convince Dylan onto the dance floor, where he tried to act cool while pretending not to enjoy himself in his own, sweet, punk-cum-gothic manner. Of greater frustration to the awkward lad was the large amount of attention the sixteen-year-old garnered from several of her brother’s peers. The added pressure kept the gangly teenager on his guard all evening, much to everyone’s amusement.
At nine o’clock, the band stopped playing to let the proud father direct their guests’ focus to the stage for Gerry’s address. Jet had been given the choice of who he wanted to speak at his birthday party, and both parents had expected him to select his grandfather. He had called their bluff in the most delightful way by picking the family’s trusted business manager.
Although stoked by the vote of confidence, Jeff had seen fit to give Bart Dyson a part to play. Not only was it the right thing to do, politically speaking, but it would also make Lynn happy. The sixty-three-year-old Australian icon had announced his withdrawal from the competitive sporting arena at the end of the season, and he had welcomed his son-in-law’s invitation as a way of passing the baton to the next generation.
The Diamond duo stood back to watch the speeches, with Kierney at their side. Jet looked comfortable and proud on stage between his grandpa and Gerry, tossing the odd stupid grin towards his friends and responding to the good-natured heckling.
‘He looks well, doesn’t he?’ Lynn whispered in her husband’s ear. ‘He has your swagger. Your sense of self.’
The charismatic rock star inhaled and kissed his wife’s smiling mouth in full view of the intimate gathering. He wasn’t ashamed to soak in a healthy dose of chutzpah on this occasion, further fuelled by how sensational his own date looked. Dressed in a low-cut, black cocktail dress which hugged her curvaceous, athletic figure, hundreds of sequins shimmering with each sway of her hips.
Her long, golden hair was pinned back to reveal a youthful but all-knowing face, and high heels accentuated her grace and poise. She had taken a leaf out of her husband’s book tonight with this patent public statement: despite being the mother of an adult, she was still in the prime of her life. The tips of her piano-playing fingers brushed his thigh, sending pulses of electricity racing in all directions.
Such a cornucopia of enticing qualities rendered him especially horny, and this father of an adult didn’t care who knew. Keeping one eye on the Master of Ceremonies, the grateful man ran the knuckles of his left hand along the side of his regala’s face.
‘I want to eat you,’ he hissed, making a group of Jet’s friends’ mothers gasp in delight.
Lynn offered him a forearm to gnaw on, but he pouted and shook his head, winking at the women in the front row. ‘I wasn’t going to start there.’
To a chorus of shrill whoops, the elegant blonde opened her mouth, her eyes ready to dismiss his advances, but instead gave in to another long kiss.
‘Yeah. That’ll do for starters.’
And to cap it all, here was their gorgeous gipsy girl, right by his side and accompanied by her own first love. The quirky, super-intelligent Dylan was the perfect boyfriend for his earnest but sultry daughter, who was not the tiniest bit interested in the glitz and glamour of the party set. Jeff put his arm around the sixteen-year-old, hoping he wasn’t overstepping the mark. To his delight, she shuffled closer and allowed herself to be cuddled in close while Gerry made his speech.
‘Good evening, ladies and gentlemen!’
The chatter subsided, with all eyes turning to the modest stage. The rest of the Diamond family did their best to slink into the background, their own gazes trained on the man of the moment, his grandfather and the businessman. They all stood tall, representing three generations of bold, suave Australian manhood.
‘Thank you, thank you. It’s my great pleasure to welcome you to Ryan “Jet” Diamond’s eighteenth birthday party, here amongst the ancient mariners of Melbourne,’ the self-assured speaker paused as muted laughter rippled around the room, followed by a polite round of applause. ‘My name is Gerry Blake, for those who don’t know me, and I’m chuffed to bits to be chosen to propose a toast to this strapping lad tonight, particularly amid such exalted company.’
He deferred to the elder statesman to his left, then to Lynn and Jeff lurking in the wings and also to Junior Dyson on the floor in front. ‘My justification for being up here is that I’ve known the Jet-star since he was but a bun in the oven of the very hottest mamma over there…’
Gerry fashioned a salacious grin as he pointed out the woman in the black dress. The guests clapped, many of them whistling, including the birthday boy. Jeff released his grip on his human treasure trove and took a step back, making sure he cast no shadow over his beautiful best friend. His heart glowed to hear Kierney cheering for her mother too, and he raised his empty beer glass to the sophisticated blonde.
‘Let’s first drink to tonight’s hosts, shall we?’ the toastmaster ad-libbed. ‘To Lynn and Jeff, who made this occasion possible, in more ways than one!’
‘To Lynn and Jeff!’
Title: A Life After (A Life Singular Series Book 7)
Their Handbook For Life Was Complete. Not A Cast-Iron Guarantee, But A Good Start For Anyone Looking For Answers. The Rest Was Up To Its Readers To Make Their Own Life Singular. Jeff Diamond Sealed The Envelope On His Manuscript, Content That He Had Fully Accounted For The Life That Had Brought Him To Where He Was Today.
Lynn Would Be Pleased With The Way Their Autobiography Had Turned Out, Complete With A Carefully Selected Set Of Photographs And Proof-Read From Cover To Cover By Their Gorgeous Daughter.
It was now time to finish things off properly, and that began by acknowledging the mate who had stood by Jeff for almost thirty years. Gerry Blake had been his squash partner, his manager, his drinking buddy and his best man through the whole incredible journey, in so many ways his alter-ego. He was now getting married for the first time at forty-seven years old, no doubt spooked by what had happened to his old friend.
The thankful billionnaire and the ghost living inside his heart were determined to give Gerry and his new wife the very best send-off, before continuing on their own quest for reunion. Would they find a way to be together again? And how would the kids know to keep telling their singular story?
Book 7 in the series is twinned with “Le Roi se meurt (The King is Dead)” by Eugène Ionesco.
Available December 2019.
Ryan and Kierney turned to each other, wide-eyed with delight. So this was why their dad had been so covert all morning… Trust Gerry Blake to be paragliding to his own wedding! The two young Diamonds could see Celia’s worried expression and wagging finger, no doubt tutting at her brood. They imagined her disapproval at yet another of her renegade son’s decisions to fly in the face of normal protocol. Quite literally this time!
Back on the big screen, the aerial masses were still not distinct enough to be identified. One thing the guests knew for sure was that the two men who were currently suspended below the clouds must also be the two men missing from the proceedings down on dry land. Such was the assumption that Jeff was hoping for, at any rate.
The boat reduced speed as it approached the shoreline, causing the paragliders to tumble in a most ungraceful manner out of the sky and plunge into the greenish waters about fifty metres offshore. The onlookers inhaled en masse as the two men disappeared underwater, only to be engulfed in their orange sails. They broke through the surface and started swimming through the surf.
‘They’re going to be pretty damned wet when they get here,’ Ryan whispered, gritting his teeth.
Kierney shook her head. ‘That can’t be them. They’re behind the screen, surely.’
‘Bloody oath! Good thinking, Batman!’ the lad replied. ‘What a fantastic skit! I had no idea.’
His sister slapped his muscular knee, hoping they weren’t attracting attention and giving the game away. ‘I only guessed because, when I was in Papá’s room earlier, there were wet wetsuits… dripping, I mean… and scuba gear all over the floor. And he was wearing make-up.’
Her brother grinned, and they fell silent to focus on the screen, keen to follow the unfolding drama. The fellow wedding guests were spellbound too. Another camera, high on a podium behind the seating, was now tracking the pair of wetsuits, who were sprinting over the sand, towards and then behind the screen.
A second or two later, the image on the screen cut to a close-up of the groom and best man, breathing heavily, shaking the salt water out of their hair and unzipping their suits.
Kierney shot a glance at the bride. Judging by how relaxed she seemed, she was obviously in on the ruse. Relief and tentative laughter flowed up and down the rows of seats when they saw Fiona and Toni enjoying the stunt as much as they were.
‘They must have been filming this earlier. They needed to be genuinely out of breath and wet,’ the seventeen-year-old mused. ‘Otherwise it would have looked staged. Unless that really is them now.’
‘Yeah, nah. Can’t be,’ Ryan mumbled. ‘It’s an awesome stunt. You have to hand it to him, don’t you? Wonder how long it took him to come up with it…’
Leaning to her right, the young woman rested her head on her brother’s shoulder, suddenly hit with a wave of sadness. The cricketer tilted his own head to meet hers and threaded an empathetic arm around her back. Time was running out for both of them. He regretted spending so much time enjoying himself and failing to acknowledge the secret he and his dutiful sister were hiding from the rest of the world.
The audience’s attention was directed to the screen again, where a sound engineer had pointed a microphone under Gerry’s nose while he floundered around, trying to peel off his wetsuit without dislodging his boardshorts in front of the guests.
‘Hold on, Fiona,’ the groom panted. ‘Not long now. I’ll be there in a second. Don’t start without me. Hi, Mum! I know you’re going to hate me for this.’
Next on the best man’s list of non-standard duties was to hold up a colourful beach towel between the camera and the groom to protect his modesty. Off to one side, a good-looking Asian valet began to hand Gerry a sequence of more conventional items of marriage attire. From time to time, the joker turned round with a mischievous grin, providing a running commentary interjected with regular threats about dropping the towel.
‘Hurry up. Fiona’ll marry someone else if you keep her waiting much longer.’
The Irishman sounded more than a little flustered. ‘Yeah, yeah. You just concentrate on that towel. I’m going as fast as I can.’
‘A recurring theme for you, mate,’ his old friend quipped, looking over his shoulder into the lens again. ‘Am I right, Fiona?’
Down beneath the screen, surveying a congregation in raptures on her special day, Fiona nodded and laughed along. Many were now standing up and roaming around, eager to snap the best photograph and capture unique video footage of the pre-ceremony antics.
Finally, suit pants belted, and shirt buttons almost fastened, the intrepid accountant put the finishing touches to his outfit in full view of the audience: tie, cufflinks, socks and shoes. The extravert had no qualms about hamming it up, answering a series of questions from an interviewer who had appeared out of nowhere. This more family-friendly interlude gave Jeff the opportunity to disappear off camera on the pretext of getting himself towelled down and spruced up too. No omitted detail would spoil the illusion.
Moments later, timed flawlessly to coincide with a level of ennui settling over the attendees, two pristine and surprisingly dry gentlemen appeared to cheers and rousing applause. Still combing their hair to prolong the effect, they strolled up the aisle without a care in the world, arriving at the pagoda accompanied by Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Coming”. A large number of Gerry’s friends had heard him murder the track from the “Blues Brothers” movie in late-night karaoke bars, and the significance made for magical entertainment.
The celebrant had been primed to ask everybody to rise at this point, but his instruction was redundant since almost the entire audience was already on its feet. The groom and best man joined hands and raised their arms to thank the crowd for their reception, as ruddy-faced with pride as if they had won a prestigious paragliding competition.
Requesting some quiet at last, Jeff led his business manager towards their seats next to the rest of the Blake clan. He thought he detected a hint of nerves from the old stager, and this pleased him a great deal. The occasion had significance for the perennial party-boy too. They shook hands with Gerald Blake Senior and leaned over to kiss the ever-exasperated Celia. She was unlikely to forgive them for such anarchy, but they would genuflect accordingly on a future date yet to be determined.
‘How come your hair’s not wet, Uncle Gerry?’ Tamilla’s son Miles blurted out, loud enough to be picked up by the field microphones.
Slowly, the realisation dawned that the wedding guests had been taken on an elaborate theme-park ride in place of the standard walk down the aisle. No-one felt short-changed though, and before the celebrant had a chance to bring the bridal party together to commence the ceremony, several people left their seats to take photographs of the relaxed scene.
Everyone’s favourite songwriter twisted in his chair to face the six-year-old in the row behind, tapping the side of his nose with his left index finger. This was their little secret, he said, winking at Fiona and extending his hand to the man she was about to marry. He could scarcely believe he was shaking his oldest friend’s hand for the last time as a single man, and immediately choked back a huge surge of emotion.
With adrenalin levels plummeting after their action hero sketch, the grieving husband found himself cast back to New Year’s Day nineteen-seventy-six, when the dynamic duo’s roles had been reversed. Their last handshake almost past unnoticed, his best man more intent on not losing the gold wedding bands stowed in the top pocket of his shirt.
That amazing, unforgettable day, he and his dream girl had signed on the dotted line for the official version of their life singular. Here in the sunshine of Byron Bay, nearly twenty-one years later, the rings were in his own pocket, and his dream girl was nowhere to be seen.
An extreme sensation gripped the songwriter’s chest, perhaps sweeter than he had ever felt before. It demanded attention, burning the skin behind the treasure he would shortly hand over to today’s happy couple. When he had first dropped them into his pocket, it hadn’t even occurred to him that they would be resting against the “JL” tattoo; the emblem which had always been the more important symbol of his and Lynn’s partnership.
Occurring to him now instead, this thought forced Jeff to gasp for breath as tears sprang from his eyes. He leaned forwards to keep his face away from any opportunistic lenses. Far beyond concern for his own embarrassment these days, upmost in his mind was the effect his discomfort might have on the couple and their families. No-one wanted a reminder that the stunning, dignified woman who was cherished by all who knew her would not feature in anyone’s wedding video.
‘Gracias, angel,’ he muttered under his breath. ‘I knew you’d be here. It’s a good day. Je t’aime, mon amie.’
‘What was that?’ Gerry asked, turning to find his best man and doubled over. ‘Are you alright?’
Jeff sat upright in his chair and nodded. ‘Yep. Ignore me, mate. I’m fine.’
From the fourth row, Ryan and Kierney noticed their father’s reaction too, afterwards even confessing to being able to hear him cry. They felt powerless from such a distance, but if the year had taught them nothing else, Jeff Diamond, the consummate performer, could always manage to regain control when it counted. As if feeling the weight of his children’s sympathy on his back, the showman placed a hand over his left pectoral muscle to reassure them.
Fortunately, all eyes were now firmly on the bride and groom. They were standing in front of the celebrant, preparing to begin their own official life together. Gerry’s boyish grin had been replaced by an attentive smile, and Fiona looked radiant and self-satisfied.
‘Not long now, gorgeous,’ their best man whispered into the air again, ‘I promise.’
Today had been a very long time coming. Tuning out from the familiar, well-rehearsed lines floating around him, Jeff’s mind drifted back to the intense exchange he and his conservative business manager had shared, upstairs in their favourite Italian restaurant in DeGraves Place, when “The Australian Elvis”, the headstrong and outspoken playboy, had admitted that he was in favour of marriage as a full and final commitment.
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The Magic Of Wor(l)ds
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