As promised the last bit of chapter 3 of Westley Writers.
The whole thing so far can be read here
They stood in the car park for a few moments, saying things about stories read that had not seemed appropriate in the meeting itself or exchanging tangential thoughts about writing in general and then June and Ashby departed.
Straker looked at his watch.
‘Go on then, just a quick one.’
Stephanie drove them out to the Dragon. There was a fire in the grate and the place was about half full. Not bad for mid-week. Half the pubs around the village had closed in the last ten years. Straker was pleased to see no-one he knew.
‘What will it be Jules?’
‘An orange juice thanks.’
‘Nothing stronger? You’re not driving are you?
‘No, but I’d like to keep my wits about me thanks.’
‘Jules! I’m not going to leap on you. Not without a bit more positive feedback anyway.’
‘It’s the positive feedback I want to control. So an orange juice please.’
Stephanie beamed at the barman and ordered the drinks. Julian carried them to a table tucked away in an alcove.
‘What did you really think of my piece?’ Stephanie asked as they settled down.
‘Good.’ he said. ‘No seriously. I can understand what John was saying about it needing work to remember which level of the narrative we were in but he was right at the end as well. You need to read it as a piece, not in segments strung out over weeks to do that easily. You should email a chapter to him and he’d pick it up easily enough.’
‘Do you pick it up?’
Straker looked at her over the rim of his orange juice. There was no obvious flirting going on. It might have been a straightforward question.
‘I did. I remember the last few excerpts you’ve read and I like the dream in dream reality.’ He smiled. ‘Not at all like the protagonist waking at the end of an entire series of soap opera.’
‘Joke.’ It’s not. It’s really engrossing’
‘Hmm. Thanks, I think.’ Stephanie took a sip of cranberry juice. She was driving after all. ‘I liked yours. A bit biographical wasn’t it?’
‘You noticed did you?’
‘Don’t worry. Your life’s been a bit more complicated than most. It makes a good novel, or two.’
‘I’ll take that as a compliment’
‘You should.’ Stephanie took a sip of her drink and continued, ‘So the boy, William. He’s Crispin?’
‘Not an exact copy but there are facets of him in there.’
Stephanie nodded before proceeding.
‘And how is he?’
‘Crispin? Speaking again.’
‘Bad divorce was it?’
‘They never actually got married.’ Straker sighed, ‘Which was behind most of the problems.’
‘Well, I took that as read but no, it was more all the legal complications about the kids and the house and, well just about everything.’
‘But it was fairly amicable?’
‘As far as these things ever can be I suppose. I thought given they both wanted to go their own ways it would have been simpler. Lots of buggering about with signing off saying you had considered the cat’s mental welfare and taken its best interests into consideration, that sort of crap.’
‘Jules! I’m shocked. You used to be such a progressive thinker. All Guardian and Left Bank Show sort of thing.’
‘I still am really but, well you know, some of it’s yoghurt knitting Tofu spinners.’
‘I bet you read the Telegraph and go “harrumph” every morning.’
‘Do not.’ Straker looked a little uncomfortable. ‘Well, I do read it, but only for the rugger and the cricket. The Guardian’s not interested in rugger, unless it’s women’s. And I’m sorry Steph but I can’t take that seriously. I know it’s a fault but there it is.’
‘Short sighted Jules. I always enjoyed scrumming down with you.’
‘Don’t worry Jules.’
‘Look, you know I still fancy you but I’m married…’
‘So am I.’
‘Yes, but you seem to regard Benedict as an optional extra or something.’
‘Listen Jules, my relationship with Ben is my business. But you and me, we were always something else. God knows why we didn’t…’
‘Steph, no offense but you’d be having this discussion with someone else and I’d be sat at home, or wherever Benedict is tonight if we had stayed together’
Steph slid a gloved hand along his thigh.
‘Don’t think so, Jules. Not bored yet.’
‘But having me on tap for twenty years would have been different. It’s the rarity value, the forbidden nature that make you still want what we had.’
‘I don’t remember you being this logical in Pembroke.’
Straker swallowed hard.
‘Well I wasn’t, and Pembroke was a mistake.’
‘Felt like the best thing that’s happened to me in years. I thought you enjoyed it too?’
‘Steph it was gorgeous, just like you. But the guilt nearly killed me.’
‘Because I’m married and I owe Emily a lot.’
‘I notice you didn’t say you loved her.’
Straker finished his drink and stood up.
‘I need to get back Steph. Could we go please?’
Stephanie finished her drink, got her car keys out of her handbag, rose and then paused at the table.
‘What if I said “No”? What if I said I wouldn’t drive you home until you’d given me a kiss in the car?’
‘I can still walk three miles you know Steph.’
‘Good to know.’ And with that she walked out of the bar.