by Dirk Lamprecht, Danielle Hale & Carina Hibbitt
Sometime in the ‘noughties, Dad, Dee and Caz hatched a plan to co-write a few stories. One would start, pen a few paragraphs, and then email onwards to the next in the writing chain. It was an enormous amount of fun, and amazingly we managed to meld our writing styles to create a cohesive story. Adams End is one of them.
Who would be keen to continue this tradition?
‘I am not really here’ thought Tallulah as she watched motes of dust dancing in the shafts of light streaming through the tall stained glass windows. She looked up at the high vaulted ceilings vaguely recalling from a distant history class the architectural term for the apex of each arch: the keystone. Those classes with the monotone Ms Drewmore droning on had left her as stiff with boredom as she was stiff now from being up all night painting, Huge canvasses were dotted around her loft bedsit. She regretted the lateness of her going to bed, the wanton use of all her precious paints, the angry brushstrokes as she slew out her emotions. “This can’t be happening’ she anguished inside “It should have been me! Why oh why did I introduce him to HER with her pert little nose and perky breasts and tinkling laugh, manipulative b. … Oh God ..If only…” she thought for the thousandth time.
She brought her attention back to the present, catching a whiff of perfume from the splendid flower arrangements standing sentinel along the aisle, or was the slightly too sweet smell coming from the women in the pew in front of her with the wide brimmed deep purple hat, feather bouncing in tandem as she nodded in agreement with the whispered words of the young women sat next to her.
Tallulah looked down at the dress she as wearing and not for the first time wondered if it was inappropriate for the occasion. The black dress with white polka dots was a good three inches above the knee, the top, a heart shaped corset nipped in at the waist. She’d worn it less than a month previously to Karl’s Fantasy-Fancy dress party sauced-up with a few tutu style petticoats underneath, suspenders and hold-ups and elbow length gloves. She was ‘ little-bo-peep has lost her sheep’, she blushed a little.
The priest, face impassive, was looking down at the ‘book of words’ on the pulpit in front of him. The organist sat ram rod straight. There was a rustling sense of expectation as people waved the programme of events, neatly calligraphed with the date, hymns and readings for the day’s service, to lift the heat of this humid summers day. It was the sort of day that leaves brides in a constant state of panic. Huge scudding clouds interspersed with short sunny intervals and the BBC weather man intoning to ‘watch out for sudden downpours’.
Duncan and Davina’s (god they were just THE most annoyingly perfect have-it-all couple) twin boys, now all of 4 years old, dressed in natty little mini-me suits, broke loose and with no sense of the occasion set about whooping and cajoling each other in a game with rules that only they were privy too. Tallulah shifted again, repositioning her legs and looking down at her feet which were painfully squeezed into the only pair of ‘proper’ high heels that she had.
The air was charged with hushed anticipation at the sound of wheels crunching on the gravel outside. Tallulah took a deep breath, turned and looked straight down the aisle through the church door to see the sombre black hearse come to a halt.
She could hear quiet sobs starting already, bringing a painful lump to her throat. The low tones reverberated through the church as the organ began and they all rose to their feet. She winced as she stood, her baby toes squashing inside her shoes, but managed to balance herself with a firm grip on the church bench. The coffin was making it’s way down the aisle, the bearer’s had their heads bowed watching their feet as they scuffed along under both the emotional and physical weight of what they carried.
The coffin lid was closed even though this was going to be an open casket service; to see him lying there pale and unmoving for the last time. Images conjured up in her head of her best friend Adam who she had known for so long, Adam playing football in the school field when they were 10 with the sun beating down on him, beads of sweat forming on his forehead, his sandy blonde hair flying around as he chased the ball endlessly; Adam at 15 kicking back under the trees at lunch time, laughing at her because she hadn’t seen the roots and often went flying when her foot entangled itself, but always helping her up from the heap she had landed in; Adam last year literally dragging her kicking and screaming to the dentist, whom she hated, when her tooth had gotten so painful she could barely talk or move her jaw without crying, holding her hand the whole time they poked and prodded inside her mouth with metal objects.
The coffin was right beside her now, becoming a watery blur through the tears welling up in her eyes, the hot streams falling readily now down her cheeks. ‘Oh Adam’ she sobbed inwardly. They kept moving him on, steadily toward the pulpit, but she could no longer tell how far away he was, the world was beginning to fade and spin, she couldn’t breathe. Gripping hold of the benches harder she realised the bearer’s had sat down, the organ had stopped and an eerie silence had encased the church. Everyone had sat down, but she couldn’t move. The people behind her, who she could no longer recognise, were staring at her angrily, their hot eyes boring into her, clearing their throats in order to prompt her to sit down, but she couldn’t. Strong hands gripped her arms and lead her away, she was too weak to fight back or resist and now the greyness had taken her.
Tallulah opened her eyes gingerly, her head pounding. Sitting up quickly she felt her cheeks flush ‘no, no way had I just fainted!’ she had never fainted in her life, as far as she could remember. She was nowhere near the fainting kind, she was too strong willed and determined and STRONG! She didn’t faint! But she had, and in front of everyone. Embarrassed she looked around her and realised she was sat on a bench outside of the church, the service continued and had moved onto a melancholy hymn that was muffled out by the thick church door.
“Tallulah, are you alright?” asked a deep husky voice. She looked up into storm grey eyes and saw Theo Moore, one of Adam’s friends from university. She had met him before a couple of times but had never spent much time with him. He had chestnut brown hair, finely muscled and had a lovely tan which made Tallulah think he must have just come back off holiday from somewhere wonderfully hot and sunny.
“Yes? I…Sorry?” she mumbled, not sure what to say. Her hair fell into her eyes and she brushed it behind her ears quickly, blushing again. He sat down beside her, watching her carefully. As he opened his mouth to speak a clap of thunder sounded, the rain had begun, just as the weatherman had predicted, a downpour.
She sipped the hot tea from the mug, waiting for the tea to do what it was supposed to:- make her feel better, it wasn’t. She was curled up on the armchair in her studio, her hair wrapped in an apricot coloured towel, grey tracksuit bottoms and a loose lilac hoody, She’d not been able to face going back inside, Theo had suggested they go for coffee, or something stronger, saying that he didn’t think she should be alone. She’d declined saying alone is exactly how she wanted to be, how she felt. They’d shared a cab, she’d stepped straight into a puddle of kerbside water as she got out, she looked like a drenched Bridget Jones, only less funny and even more forlorn.
She slept a straight 15 hours and woke to gunmetal grey skies. It was Sunday – and she felt the wrenching ache as she remembered the day before, the whole past week. Last weekend had started out so differently.
Last Friday the sun was shining warmly for the first time in days, where the clouds huddled humidly around its heat. Her studio was brightly lit, bouncing off the coloured canvasses leaning against the walls and tables. She’d had an inspirational past few days; the dull grey clouds had awakened an urge to bring colour to her days so she had splashed several canvasses with some vibrancy. The sun’s appearance was most welcoming, reinforcing the joy the colours had brought to her studio in its absence.
She’d jumped into the shower, singing a song she had heard on the radio that morning. She had to get ready for the girly night that was planned, but she had no idea what to wear. Leaping out she rummaged through one of her many wardrobes, casting rejected outfits to her floor. Sequined skirt, silver halter-neck top… too much. Denim skirt, black vest top… no, purple V-neck… she was beginning to think she had too many clothes, or not quite enough. she grabbed her navy blue wedge sandals and put them on the bed with a white vest top and pair of jeans; she’d figure out what to wear later.
A buzz sounded on the intercom, Adam. She pushed the button to let him in and pulled on a dressing gown, stepping out of the towel. The white flannel rested suggestively against her thigh, and even though Adam was a close friend she didn’t think he’d appreciate the exposure of bare skin, so she pulled on her jeans. There was a gentle rap at the door. Opening it he beamed a perfect white smile at her and flicked her wet bedraggled hair that hung loose over her shoulders.
“Been drowning again Flopsy?” He laughed, the humour radiating through his eyes, bringing a smile to her face. he had nicknamed her Flopsy in school because she was accident prone and often flopped over, sometimes even falling over her own feet. She flicked him playfully on the ear, his silver hooped earring wobbled reflecting the sunlight wondrously.
“Shut up Golden Boy! Look, make yourself comfy I just need to get ready.” She grabbed up her clothes and darted into the bathroom so that she was out of view.
“No need to dress for me, you know.” He called to her, cracking open a can of coke. She could hear him settling himself on the sofa as she tugged the top down over her chest. He was always making flirty comments; she felt her cheeks flush as she spiralled her hair roughly into a hair grip still damp. Usually this would give her hair a gentle curl which she found made her look more attractive. Sighing to her reflection she went back through. If only Adam would think of her as attractive…
“Thank god you don’t fuss with how you look” Adam said as she came out a minute later. He’d turned to continue studying a giddying abstract of what looked like a clown pirouetting with an umbrella in the rain, and missed her startled expression. She looked down self-consciously, hurt.
“Lets go lets go lets go” he said draining the coke can and lobbing it into the recycle box under the table in the compact kitchenette. She threw him a whither, he could be so considerate and so infuriating all at once she thought.
He’d called the night before and suggested an impromptu jaunt into London. He was delivering some landscape plans for a new narrow boat mooring to the architectural firm who were overseeing the re-development of a disused waterway. The plans could have been couriered in but he had been working for Mappin Landscapes for a year now and was keen to show his face to the ‘big boys’ at Kidman Architects, put his name to the plans, get noticed. They would have the rest of the day to lark about.
He looked at her admiringly as she pulled the door shut, he knew he could always rely on her to be up for an adventure, he loved that she didn’t spend hours ‘getting ready’, he loved that she didn’t fawn over him like most girls, he was good looking, yet she seemed immune.
They got to the venue, not a posh expose as she thought it would be considering it was an important event, but housed in an old warehouse. A spread of finger foods and plastic glasses of wine lay on a white clothed table in the middle of the large room, blue prints and design drawings displayed on screens. There were a lot of people dressed casually meandering around the room, glancing at the displays and chatting briefly about their opinions of the design ideas, but never with much passion. The whole place felt rather drab and dull in comparison to what she was expecting, but that didn’t matter too much. After a couple of glasses of wine and a few nibbles she had felt the boredom fade into non-existence as she watched Adam mingle with the others, his smile bringing flutters to her stomach. The event had gained numbers considerably fast she had noticed, so she had to wade through them all, now avidly opinionated on what they could see, in order to link arms with Adam.
“Do you really think I don’t fuss with how I look?” she asked, now voicing the hurt she had felt when he had made the comment.
“What are you talking about?” He looked at her, genuinely not remembering what he had said, if he had said anything at all.
“Earlier, you said I don’t fuss with my appearance, it took me a long time to figure out what to wear!” She could feel the prickles in her eyes, but blinked them away, anger filling her instead of the pathetic emotions he had brought out in her.
“Don’t be stupid! How many glasses have you had?!”
He was angry and she could see it, making a scene in a place he was supposed to appear professional.
“Come on Lu, let’s go.” He grabbed her wrist firmly, although from the lack of interest shown by the people around it probably didn’t appear as forceful as it felt. She bit her tongue, not wanting to cause him further embarrassment. The air hit her like a ton of bricks, the humid night felt like a thick soup they had to swim through in order to be out of sight and earshot of the event goers.
“Adam! Please?!” she pleaded with him as they rounded the corner. He released her gently and kissed her hand, rubbing the red marks he had made on her wrist.
“Do you really think that was the time and place to have this conversation?” He turned away, not wanting to scare her, though he could feel the red mist clawing around the edge of his vision. He was not usually an angry person, but when it came to his work, he took things very seriously.
“I’m sorry…” She looked down to her shoes, a thin layer of grey dust had built up from walking around the dismal warehouse. “Lets get you home…” He dialled a taxi and they returned to her flat in silence.
As they reached the front door he took her in his arms and held her close, kissing the top of her head gently. “Get some rest Flopsy. I’ll come and see how you are tomorrow.” She tilted her face up to his hopefully, but he let her go and turned around back to the taxi. She fumbled for her keys, and suddenly felt arms around her, twisting her round. Adam touched his lips gently to her cheek; he honestly did think she looked amazing for someone who didn’t fuss, but would never admit it. “Night.” He whispered, smiling at her. Her legs feeling like spaghetti beneath her. He climbed into the taxi and she watched him go until she could no longer see the taillights any more.
She woke in the early hours of the morning unable to ignore her bladders pressing call to duty any longer. Her mouth was dry, her stomach relaying acid accusations of last nights neglect. She downed a pint of water out of the Guinness glass she had nicked from the Slug & Lettuce, popped a painkiller to head off the cheap-wine headache and slipped back into bed trying to quell unsettling feelings of things said and things unsaid.
Feeling near normal she got up just after eight, had a searing hot shower and peered into the desolate cavity of the fridge. One egg and borderline edible bread transformed into a couple of slices of french toast with a squidge of syrup. Hmmm not bad she thought feeling rather clever at her inventive resourcefulness, then felt immediately chastised for her smugness as strands of her hair got caught up in the honeytrap as she bent over to take a bite.
She checked her mobile, resisting the temptation to text Adam and then spent the next couple of hours on Facebook. A few more people had confirmed for the Truth or Dare party at Caroline’s that night. Caroline always threw seriously good parties, Tallulah had not yet replied whether she was going or not.
Her eyes flicked through the new names, Chania, great that would be fun, Max and sidekick Alistair (honestly when was he going to face-facts and admit what everyone else knew already) Her eyebrows raised as she saw Lauren’s name. Lauren Pitcher art college bitcher, how the hell did she get on the invite list, that was the problem with fb, no hiding! As daughter of a wealthy construction magnate, what Lauren had lacked in natural talent she had made up for in looks, money and cunning. Her mediocre works gained good marks from the lecturers who, Tallulah was convinced, were after a new wing for the collage.
Kasha’s Tik Tok ‘ But the Party don’t stop…’ burst forth from the now blue screen of her ringing mobile. Her left hand swung behind her pulling the chair back while her right arm simultaneously flung forward, sending the mobile and a half full coffee cup crashing to the floor. She did a fairly spectacular lunge in an effort to grab the phone, but it hit the floor and cart-wheeled across the room seeming to gather momentum before smashing into separate parts against the skirting board. ‘missed call’ indeed she thought as she reassembled the phone, annoyed at her clumsiness. She blinked, shook her head and pushed the ‘on’ button harder. The screen remained blank. Her hands moving swiftly now she flipped open the back, readjusted the battery, checked the sim card, plugged the charger in, tried the keys again. Nothing. No no no NO she wailed, noooooo.