Time for another extract from Am/Dram. This is from Act One and is an introduction to the young lovers, Richard and Cheryl who are obviously up to something dodgy.
The red Volkswagen Beetle pulled into the car park across from the town hall. Richard Dunning looked out through the creaking windscreen wipers and waited for a few moments before looking down at his t-shirt where the originally small patch of water from the rain had now spread across his chest and under his arms.
“Crap!” he hissed. “Just bought this this morning!”
“Stop whining and tell me if the coast is clear!”
He looked down at the blanket on the passenger seat beside him which was shuffling occasionally. Under it, Cheryl Ross knelt, pulling her body as tightly as she could into a ball like shape.
Richard smiled slyly.
“Not sure yet,” he lied.
“What do you mean, not sure?” she growled.
“Well, I think I see something over there. A… a shape.”
“What the hell do you…!”
“Quiet! They might hear you!”
“Oh,” she said and stopped moving.
Then it hit her and she shot up, pulling the blanket down from her head and bunching it on her lap.
“We’re across the bloody road!” she shouted, looking out through the rain lashed windscreen. “There’s no one there!”
“I thought that I saw someone!” he faux protested, waving his arm around at the general direction of town hall.
“Right,” she hissed.
Cheryl lifted the blanket off her lap and threw it behind her onto the back seat. She ran her hands through her hair and mussed it up a little as she turned to scratching her scalp which now seemed itchy.
“Where the hell did you get that blanket?” she asked.
“Its one that belonged to Frida,” Richard replied, sheepishly.
She stopped scratch and stared at him. He immediately turned away but her eyes burned through his head. Even though he was stifling to contain a laugh, he knew that he was in very big trouble.
“The dog!” she spat. “You put the dog’s blanket over me?”
“Well… I …”
She shook her head as if somehow she had been slapped awake.
“A dog…” she continued pointedly, “that died two weeks ago!”
Richard realised he needed to get control of the situation; humorous though it was, he knew he was skating on some very thin ice and in the past few minutes had put on about 100 pounds.
He spun round to face Cheryl and saw that she wasn’t angry any more, but that emotion had been replaced by sadness as the skin around her eyes were getting pinker and tears did appear to be forming in the corners. He quickly reached out his hands and took hers in his.
“Look honey, I’m sorry,” he began, desperately trying to repair things to stop the almost inevitable floodgates. “You know I love you, but there’s too much invested in this thing so we need to keep things low profile. We have to be careful, you know that.”
The tears came, and the sobbing quickly followed.
“I don’t want to live like this any more,” she cried. “I’m sick of the hiding and sneaking around. I don’t want my life to be filled with lies. If you loved me, you’d understand.”
“And I do,” he said, pressing forward in his seat only to be dragged back by the seatbelt which cut into his shoulder. “I do, but you understand as well. This is our future and the future of our future, if you know what I mean?”
Richard’s main problem was children. He didn’t want any, ever. His own experiences as a child – a pawn in a loveless marriage between two bickering parents who believed they had to stay together for his benefit but who were too blinkered by their hatred that they didn’t realise it was doing more harm than good – had put him off and there was nothing that would change his mind.
So much so that he couldn’t even use the words child, children or kids, in any form when with Cheryl.
The only problem there was that she did want to have a family, and if he wanted to stay with her – at least until the plan was complete – he had to keep up the pretence.
So for the moment he tried to hide his obvious disdain for children by using overtly cute substitute phrases, such as “our future” to describe them. It was infantile and childish in the extreme, and he knew that, but that made it all the more appropriate.
“Yes,” Cheryl said this time with a sniffle.
“Well, there’s no need to cry is there?” he said quietly, stretching out his hand and wiping the tears away. “Is there?”
She paused for a few seconds as the crook of his finger touched her chin and moved her head up so she could look at him.
“Is there?” he asked again softly.
She opened her mouth to reply; she had so much she wanted to say and the protests were there queuing and ready to come out, but she bit her lip and just nodded.
“That’s my girl,” he said, smiling widely. “So we know what you have to do?”
“Yes,” she said.
“Good!” he announced and leaned over to kiss her.
She closed her eyes and leaned over to meet his lips, but as they met she heard the click behind her as he had reached over and opened the door. She opened her eyes and leaned back, feeling the first flicks of rain hitting her shoulders and the backs of her arms.
“Off you go,” he said. “I’ll see you in an hour or so.”
Cheryl sat for a second, her new found happiness dashed in just a few words and annoying actions. Richard sat there and led with his arm, pointing without pointing at the door and the horrendous weather that awaited her.
In some way, his smile was able to grow even further and this was accompanied by a brief flick of one of his eyebrows and a nod of his head.
Cheryl closed her eyes briefly and sighed. Then she turned, pulled up the hood of her sweater until it covered her head and most of the top of her face and stepped out into the lashing rain.
Richard leaned across and grabbed the door handle and pulled it closed.
Soon it would all be over and he would have enough money to get out of the town and start up somewhere warm where English wasn’t the native tongue. He looked out through the windscreen and watched as Cheryl ran out of the car park, briefly checked that there was no traffic on the road, and ran across to the town hall across the street.
Richard turned the ignition and put the gear into reverse.