:: Article

Blue Wicked

By Richard Owain Roberts.

Ryan went to the first, and only, rehearsal with a loose comprehension of his lines. He knew most of them, but struggled with interpretation. Chris, the AD, had told him at the audition that Alain would be very specific in his instruction, so understanding was not essential beyond the most basic grasp.

The rehearsal space was in the old drama building behind the Arts faculty. It was a small room, the windows were barred and the walls painted white. A solitary poster clung to the wall; 1950s Americana as seen through the eyes of some seventh rate Nathan Barley. A luminous yellow James Dean, tired eyes supplanted with two laser-like red dots, looked over at Marilyn. He might have fucked her, were that his cup of tea.

Ryan sat down on a chair, the only chair. It was orange and old; a plastic school chair designed for learning and growing and major bad mouthing. Rhona G is a CUNT was carefully tattooed on it by a compass, and a permanent marker. The depth of the etching was enough; a heartfelt testament to a monumentally fucked up relationship between one young human and another.

He checked his phone for new messages; someone he quite liked was going to celebrate the birthday of someone he cared very little for – and would he like to go?

Ryan turned his phone off. A girl entered the room. She was black, maybe a little Filipino. She wore pink velour tracksuit bottoms, a blue hooded top and a pink pashmina.

‘Are you waiting for Alain?’

‘Yeah.’

‘I’m Zoë. Are you in Alain’s film? He’s fantastic.’

Ryan felt little motivation to talk. Instead, he nodded and aimed a smile just off to the left of Zoë’s head. She sat cross legged on the floor and began to talk; first about her father – a conductor of music, rather thansay… electricity, then about how her parents had insisted she take an academic degree, just in case. She didn’t drink much (but liked the smell of blue WKD), she smoked the occasional joint and she loved dancing and road running and drawing pictures of her dead grandfather who she never had the chance to meet. Her first love, well, looking back, he was a sweet, sweet boy and what happened was a shame. But her more recent ex-boyfriend, well, he was a prick. Wraparound shades and chinos, a (drunkenly confessed) reformed bed wetter on a soaring trajectory destined for affluent mediocrity and a dignified wait to inherit some more money. Zoë laughed, hard, and then shut the fuck up. She jumped up and began to dance, but sat down again after only a second, saying she wanted to save her energy for the performance.

Ryan liked her tracksuit bottoms but cared little for the hooded top and less for the pashmina. She stood up and then described her sister, an actor in musicals, as she removed the pashmina, and then the top. Underneath, she was wearing a fitted grey T-shirt. he stretched her arms up to the ceiling and for the briefest moment, stopped talking. Ryan found himself staring at a barely visible sweat mark underneath her left armpit. Zoë noticed him looking and, smiling, made a show of rolling her eyes.

A mobile sounded from inside Zoë’s bag. She walked over to the bag and found her phone. She spoke confidently, occasionally looking over towards Ryan and smiling. Ryan felt an urge to smile back, and just as Zoë finished speaking, he did.

Zoë put the phone back into her bag, ‘Alain is going to be late. He says we should rehearse here and meet him on location at eight.’

‘Fine. You okay with the words?’ Ryan raised his hips and pulled out a folded script from his back packet.

‘Do you still need the script?’

‘No. Maybe. I like to have it for notes.’

Ryan’s character, Muldoon, was required to twist the arm of Theresa, played by Zoë, behind her back and force her against an alleyway wall.

Zoë walked into the centre of the rehearsal space and faced away from Ryan. She turned her head, and then, ‘Don’t worry Ryan, you can do this as hard as you want.’

-x-

Zoë had asked Ryan to slap her face, at about seventy percent, whilst they fucked. He did. He did and it became a fun thing to do, mainly for Zoë, but sometimes for both of them.

A girl, Camille, came round to the flat to meet Zoë for coffee and some lunch. The doorbell rang and Ryan called out to Zoë, who shouted from the bathroom that she hadn’t finished shitting yet. Ryan answered the door and let Camille in. She wore loosely fitting jeans, and said nothing as she walked past Ryan and into the kitchen.

Ryan followed her and put the kettle on.

‘Fancy a brew?’

‘No, I don’t think so.’

Camille had recently gained a modicum of press exposure via a GROUP she created on a social networking site; something, anything, nothing to do with sexism in the media. This was momentum and it could only be good for her. Camille, like Zoë, was an actress. She was, however, the quirky best friend/rival/sister rather than the lead and this was fine, definitely this was one hundred percent fine. Camille got out her new headshots and they looked nothing like her.

‘I think he’s done a great job.’

‘He has.’ Ryan moved over to the cupboard and began opening a brand new box of cereal. Realizing he’d enjoy them more after Camille had left, he paused and pretended to read the box-blurb about the chocolate monkey’s new friend, a camp alligator. He put the box back in the cupboard and decided he should say something.

‘How’s the acting going?’

‘Well. Really well. I think this whole newspaper thing might lead somewhere. Any exposure is-’

‘Oh. Yeah, it was a brilliant idea phoning up that paper.’

‘What? No. I didn’t, they phoned-‘

‘Okay.’

Ryan wanted this to be over but Zoë probably hadn’t even wiped her arse yet.

Ryan had first met Camille when he went to watch Zoë’s theatre group put on a performance at a community arts centre. Zoë wrote, directed and acted in the play; something about people dealing unflinchingly with stuff. Zoë’s writing was changing, improving, all the time. This was okay, it was definitely okay, because Ryan felt his work was travelling on a similar, if not so markedly obvious, trajectory.

After the performance, Ryan commented that Zoë had got some decent work from the other actors, but this was perhaps at the expense of her own performance. She smiled and told him that he looked older than when they first met, especially around the eyes. They drank through the night and at around five, as he lay half asleep on the living room floor, she punched him, hard, on the side of his head. He laughed and warned her not to do it again, but respect all the same.

-x-

Camille had gone to the car to wait for Zoë. Ryan looked out from the kitchen window and saw her speaking on her mobile; every word was being enunciated carefully, her facial expressions were all trusted standards: confused, vexed, happy and so on.

For Zoë’s play, Camille had played two small parts. Her performance was technically adequate, good on occasion, but her numerous attempts to pull focus came across as crass. After the play, Camille had approached Ryan in the bar and, knowing that he was Zoë’s boyfriend, introduced herself. She asked if he was a writer and whether he was looking for any actors.

‘-Yeah I’m a writer. I’m always interested in actors, so if you know of any-’

‘That’s really quite a rude thing to say.’

‘What?‘

They stood, silently, waiting for Zoë to arrive. Ryan finished his Corona just as Zoë turned up with more drinks.

‘Oh, hi Camille. I didn’t realize – I would have got you one.’

Ryan turned around and saw Zoë in the hallway, stood in front of the mirror, pulling up her jeans.

‘You know she’s waiting for you in her car?’

‘I’m only going because she might know-’

‘It’s fine.’

‘There’s a new Coco-Pops in the cupboard. I-̉

‘Yeah, I saw it. Thanks babe.’

Zoë blew him a kiss and slapped her arse as she walked out of the kitchen and down the hallway. Ryan turned up the radio and watched as Camille looked in her rear view mirror, saw Zoë approaching, answered her phone and began talking – excitedly.

-x-

Zoë returned a couple of hours later, alone. Camille had made a bitchy comment about something or other and Zoë said they would probably not be seeing each other again. She sat next to Ryan and nudged her nose and then her lips against the side of his head. Ryan was glad to see Zoë and happy to listen to her talk about the panini she had eaten and how she loved it so much she would now start making her own paninis. Talking about paninis was fine. Later that afternoon they had sex and Zoë did not ask him to slap her face. This was fine too.

richardoroberts

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richard Owain Roberts is a Welsh writer, living in Manchester, England. His work can been seen in the Redbeck Press anthology You Are Here and on Dogmatika. He admires John Fante, Hugo Chavez and Roy Keane.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, May 13th, 2009.