Since I’m being so productive at the moment, here’s something that you’ve not seen before. Enjoy.
His dressing room was as untidy as he’d left it the week before. That was how he liked it. There was a comfort in the mess; and he knew where everything was. Organised chaos. The cleaners were under strict instructions to never come in there – as were most people at the television centre. Apart from the ones he invited himself. Or the ones others procured for him. There would be a few of those, later, no doubt. Anyone who caught his eye during filming; or, if not, someone else his friends would find. He had a lot of friends, even though there was no one he would call close. Not since his mother had died. He took a half-smoked Romeo y Julieta from the ashtray and lit it with the lighter that had been given to him by a cousin of the Queen, in 1977, the Silver Jubilee. It still worked. Things back then were built to last. Not like today.
The rails on the far wall were packed with different colours of the same outfit – tracksuits, always tracksuits. The last time he’d worn anything different in public was when he received his knighthood. A suit was called for that day, even he knew that. Out of respect for her Maj, he’d said at the time. It still felt strange to him that she was gone now, even though he’d been there when they laid her to rest the October before last. Protocol had prevented him from being a pall bearer, even though there were many in the establishment, and in the general public, who would have thought it an apt gesture. It didn’t matter now; she was gone, and her son was on the throne. He was even more of a friend than she had been. Maybe when his day came, it might be different.
He wasn’t a big deal anymore. Not to the public, anyway. He was still sure that everyone knew who his was, but the days of having a prime time TV show every week, a Saturday night slot on Radio One, were over now. Since the nineties, if he was honest with himself. He still ran the marathons and raised the money for charities. He still received the odd award and opened a local fete or shopping centre, but his heyday was over. The times had changed. He still had all his connections though, and that was the most important thing. Out of the public eye was where the real, important work was done, and always had been. The man in Number 10 was a friend, and the two before him, even though they supposedly played for different teams. None of that mattered – it was all the one in the end, he knew that more than anyone. Of course, his greatest friend in Downing Street was dead now. He felt almost as bad as he did about his mother, the day they put that woman in the ground. He was outliving them all now. And, if he wasn’t outliving them, he had his freedom where others had lost theirs. The crackdowns had been many and severe in the last decade, even though they’d died down of late. He knew he was safe, though. He always had been. He had too much on the people in the highest places to ever go down for something. They knew he’d bring the whole house of cards down around him if they ever even dared. Someone knocked on the door.
“Two minutes, Sir Kev!”, some lackey shouted through the thin wooden door.
“I’ll be there in three, then,” he answered in his usual sarcastic tone. He had the sort of sense of humour that was lost on young people, he often noted, but they respected him enough to laugh along nervously, like they understood.
“I’ll let them know, Sir Kev. See you out there.”
He liked the title, even though they used it with the informal version of his name, which made it sound strange. He’d always been Kev, though. To his friends and to the nation. Only his mother had called him Kevin, and she was gone now. He stood up, stubbing out the cigar, even though it had already lost its flame a while ago. He was still in the clothes he’d arrived wearing. He usually was. There hadn’t been much point in giving him the dressing room for the duration of the series, because he never really used it. Not for dressing, anyway, he thought, chuckling to himself on the way out the door. The dressing room was only a couple of dozen feet from Studio three, and as he strolled down the short hallway, he swore to himself that he could smell the girls in the audience from where he was – all cheap perfume and new shampoo, and something else that didn’t really have a name. He was already looking forward to the drinks later on in the dressing room, and whatever else they brought him.
It was too early to be in there. It was too early for her, or for anyone else. But it was open, and there were people, so it was probably acceptable to someone. She was at the bar. She’d walked past security on the door upstairs, but the barman had carded her when she ordered her drink. Jack and Coke, no ice. She’d given him her driver’s licence. She couldn’t drive, and it wasn’t her name, but she was eighteen, so the fake ID wasn’t for juvenile reasons. She had plenty of them – fake IDs, and reasons. The Coke was warmish. He’d taken a mixer bottle from the fridge, but maybe whoever restocked it hadn’t bothered to move them around, she thought. She’d worked in a nightclub bar for a while, in Switzerland, when she was trying to be normal. She still wasn’t going to ask for ice. It hurt her teeth.
The girls were pretty today. And if they weren’t pretty, they were hot. She’d been to lots of places like this, and that was something she’d noticed before – the quality of the dancers and hostesses didn’t go down if it was early in the day. There were just fewer of them to go around. The bar was in the round, with one of the stages to the sides, so she could sit and watch them go up and down the pole in that way that never failed to impress her. She never really associated it with sex, even if it was sexy. She didn’t conflate the pole-dancing with bedroom performance. But it was still quite something to watch, she thought.
Men never hit on her – not in places like this. Women came and sat with her, made small talk – the ones who were on the job, of course, but even then that wasn’t frequent. They had a living to make, and it made more sense for them to corner tipsy businessmen who looked like their wives never fucked them, than to come chat with the little girl who didn’t look like she had money, or an interest in women, sexually. She had both; she just didn’t look like it. Either way, the guys stayed away in places like this. She guessed it was because this was the one sort of bar where they didn’t have to worry about being rejected by random women. As long as they had the money, they got the company and attention. It would be stupid to try and chat up the one woman who wasn’t being paid to be there. The girl on the stage was blonde and pretty. She couldn’t have been taller than five two, she thought. Skinny, in an athletic way, not undernourished. Hardly any breasts to speak of, she noticed. But she could move. There was a poetry to her, almost. A slightly seedy poetry, but poetry nonetheless. Downing her drink, she clicked the snaps of her purse open and picked out a purple note. Another glance at the tiny blonde inching her way down the polished aluminium made her think she might need more than one twenty. It had been one of those days, and Poppy was in no hurry to go home.