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Chapter 2 Alone and Sad




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Back from Peter and Juliet's wedding, Jamie unlocked his front door and hurried into his living room. Another, slightly younger man came into the room at the same time from the kitchen.

`Hello!' Jamie said to his brother with surprise. `What are you doing here??

'Oh, I came round to borrow some old CDs,' Chris replied.

`Did the lady of the house let you in?’

`Yes.’ `Lovely, helpful girl. I came back before the reception to see if she was feeling better,' Jamie said. `Listen, perhaps we should take Mum out for her birthday on Friday. What do you think? I feel we've been bad sons this year.’

`OK,' Chris agreed. `That sounds fine - boring, but fine.'

Katya's voice came from the bedroom. `Are you coming back to bed, darling? Jamie will be home soon.’

*

By now, on the same beautiful winter day, Daniel and his eleven-year-old stepson were at his wife's funeral. A crowd of about eighty people filled the church, all dressed in black.

`And now,' said the vicar, `Daniel wishes to say a few words.' Daniel stood up and faced the guests. Behind him was a large picture of his wife, as she was before she died.

'Jo and I had a lot of time to prepare for this moment,' he began. `Some of her requests were not very serious - I have not, for example, brought Claudia Schiffer with me to the funeral.' Even the vicar smiled. `But she was quite clear about other things that she wanted. My darling girl, and Sam's darling mum, wanted to say her last goodbye to you, not through me but through the words of the great, the wonderful, Bay City Rollers.’

The Bay City Rollers were a pop group who were popular with young teenagers in the 1970s. Their terrible song, `Bye Bye Baby', played loudly through the church.

And as the song played, more pictures were shown, including a twelve-year-old Jo dressed in a Bay City Rollers T-shirt. The guests smiled at the song and the pictures, while their faces showed their deep sadness.

*

That night, at Peter and Juliet's wedding reception, the guests were dancing. Mark was still filming.

Sarah, a friend whose phone never stopped ringing, sat down next to him and watched him with interest for a few minutes before she spoke.

`Do you love him?' she asked softly.

`Who? What?’

`Peter. Do you love him? I just thought I'd ask the question because it might be the right question. I mean, you might need to talk to someone and perhaps no one has ever asked you, so you couldn't talk about it ...’

`No, no, no is the answer. No. No!’

`So that's "no", is it?

'Yes. Er ... this DJ - what do you think? Is he the worst DJ in history?’

`Probably,' Sarah replied. `We'll know definitely when he plays his next song.’

The DJ looked out at the wedding guests. `And here's one for lovers,' he said. `Quite a lot of you are lovers, I expect ...' He played the beginning of a very well-known and completely unsuitable song.

`Well, now we know,' said Mark.

`The worst DJ in the world,' Sarah agreed. `No doubt.’

*

The next day, Sarah was back at work in the large, untidy offices of Fairtrade, a company which bought from poor countries at fair prices.

A beautiful girl at the next desk got up and knocked on the door behind her.

`Come in,' said Harry.

Mia walked into Harry's office and smiled as her boss looked up. `Sarah's waiting for you,' she said.

`Oh yes - of course. Good, good. Are you enjoying working here? Do you know whose advice not to listen to?’

`I think so.’

Mia left as Sarah came in.

`Hi, Harry.’

`Switch off your phone,' Harry said. `Then tell me exactly how long you've been working here.’

`Two years, seven months, three days. And I think ... about ... two hours.’

`And how long have you been in love with Karl, our mysterious chief designer?' her boss asked.

Sarah looked surprised. `Er .... ' she began, `two years, seven months, three days and ... about an hour and a half.’

`I thought so.’

`Do you think everybody knows?’

`Yes.’

`Do you think Karl knows?’

`Yes’

`Oh, that is bad news.’

`And I was just thinking,' Harry continued, `that maybe it's time to do something about it.’

`Like what?’

`Invite him out for a drink. Then, after about twenty minutes, say something like, "I would like to marry you and have your babies."‘

`You know that?’

`Yes. And Karl does too. It would be best for all of us, I think. It's nearly Christmas.’

`Certainly - excellent. I'll do that. Thanks, boss.’

She opened the door to leave, and a very good-looking man walked in.

`Hi, Sarah,' Karl said.

`Hi, Karl,' Sarah replied.

Outside Harry's office, she stopped and took a deep breath. She switched on her phone and it rang immediately. `Darling,' she said. `Of course. Tell me.' She turned to Mia.

`Could you turn the music down? What is that song?'

It was `Christmas Is All Around', by the ageing rock star Billy Mack.

*

At a local radio station in Watford, on the edge of London, a DJ was playing Billy's new record. As it came to an end, the DJ spoke to his listeners.

`And that was the Christmas song by Billy Mack, who used to be a great musician. Has there been a worse song this century? I don't think so' The DJ looked up and saw a second DJ waving at him. Looking down at the list of guests in front of him, he realized his mistake. `And ... yes ... I believe Billy is a guest on my friend Mike's show in a few minutes. Welcome back, Billy.’

Billy and Joe were waiting outside the studio. The programme was playing in the room and they didn't look very happy. But ten minutes later, Billy was in the studio with DJ Mike.

`So, Billy, welcome back to radio. And your new Christmas song is "Love Is All Around".’

`Yes, but we've changed the word "love" to "Christmas".'

`Yes,' said Mike. `Is that an important message for you, Billy?'

`No, not really, Mike. Christmas is for people who can share it with someone they love.’

`And that's not you?’

`That's not me. When I was young and successful, Mike, I was greedy and foolish. And now I'm grey-haired and alone.'

`Wow! Thanks for that, Billy.,

'For what??

'For actually giving a real answer to a question. That doesn't often happen here at Radio Watford’

`Ask me anything you like,' Billy said. `I'll give you an honest answer.’

'OK, here's one - how do you think the new record compares to your old stuff?’

`Oh, Mike, you know as well as I do that the record's rubbish.' In the next room, Joe looked very unhappy. `But wouldn't it be great,' Billy continued, `if the Number One record in the charts this Christmas wasn't by a spotty teenager? Wouldn't it be great if it was by an old fool looking for new success at any price? All those young teenage stars will be in a hotel bedroom on Christmas Day with a good-looking girl. And I'll be in a cheap flat with my manager, Joe, the ugliest man in the world, feeling very unhappy because our idea for a Christmas song failed. So if you believe in Father Christmas, children - like your Uncle Billy - buy my Christmas song. And enjoy the line that's too long for the music ...’

`I think you mean, "If you really love Christmas "...

Come on and let it snow" Yes, horrible!’

`So here it is one more time,' Mike said into his microphone for the listeners. `A possible Christmas Number One - "Christmas Is All Around". Thank you, Billy. After this, the news. Is the new Prime Minister in trouble already?’

Billy went outside to Joe, smiling.

 







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