Hint 16. If In Doubt - Wine & Pizza
My phone buzzes and I drop a lazy hand to my pocket. It’s a text from Alex.
I check my watch, it’s four in the afternoon. I’ve been embroiled in Shark and The Lady’s plotting for the last two hours. I haven’t seen Alex since I left for Jack’s, so that’s an hour and a half longer than I said I’d be. Not without trepidation, I expand the message, reading it.
Maya, where the fuck are you? I’ve tried ringing six times and no answer.
As I read, it buzzes again.
Where does Docklen live? I swear I’m going to kill him.
Are you alright?
I stand and they both turn, looking up at me. The Lady’s eyes are questioning but Shark already knows that I’ve got to go.
“Don’t worry,” he says, “it takes an awful lot of work to pull something like this off. We won’t finish planning without you.”
“How about we just tell him where Jack lives,” I say with a smile, only half joking. “We’ll get Alex to do our dirty work for us, give Inspector Docklen a big old black eye and no one loses their job.” There’s a pause as they both look up at me. “Alex is my housemate,” I explain for The Lady’s sake.
“Your housemate wouldn’t last five seconds with Jack Docklen’s temper,” Shark soothes, “go home before he does something stupid.”
“Why?” I ask. “Alex knows how to look after himself.”
“Yeah but Jack Docklen’s not quite…” The Lady begins but Shark holds up a hand, cutting her off mid-sentence.
“Go home, Maya,” he says gently.
“What was she…?”
My phone buzzes again and I give in, reappearing in my sitting room. Alex is by the door, furiously struggling into his coat, arms in all the wrong places. He turns as I pop into existence, displaced air swirling around the room.
“Shit, Maya,” he says, “where were you?”
“I’m sorry,” I say, “I went to my mum’s” That’s the beauty of what I can do; it’s perfectly plausible for me to be anywhere, even halfway across the country with my parents.
Alex’s eyes take in the state of my face.
“Fuck, Maya? He hit you?” Alex shakes his head. “Ripley’s going to go ape.”
“Ripley’s not going to hear a word of it,” I say.
“Not going to hear a word of it, my arse,” Alex says, tossing his coat on the floor. “You should call him right now.”
“Well I’m not going to do that,” I say, “and neither are you. Pick up your coat.”
Alex folds his arms, kicking his coat into the corner in a fit of defiance. I sigh.
“He didn’t hit me. This is the result of a picture frame. It fell on my head.”
Alex closes his eyes.
“What time is it?” He asks.
I check my watch.
“Four twenty on a Saturday’s OK.” He strides straight past me and into the kitchen, pulling out the second bottle of last week’s pizza wine. As he pulls glasses and a cork screw from the cupboards with one hand, his second hand is swiping through screens on his phone. “Right,” he says, clicking a button decisively.“Pizza’s going to be here in thirty minutes, I advise I start on the wine and you start on the explanation.”
“Can I have some wine too?”
“Only if you tell the truth,” he says. “Did he hit you?”
“No. He was sort of just threatening. Pushed me against the wall - the picture frame genuinely did fall on me.”
Alex stops for a second, mulling over my words.
“Alright,” he says eventually. “Wine for you.”
I smile and he pushes the glass into my hand.
“What did you do to upset him?”
I sip the wine. It’s warm and gross and I don’t understand why we still have to live like students but it’s exactly what the doctor ordered.
“You know,” I say, “I just had to go through all this with my mother and I kind of don’t want to think about it right now. Can we talk about something else?”
I grin, slouching back in the chair.
“How about your love life rather than mine.”
“Your love life’s more like a gritty Channel Four documentary right now.”
“Exactly, that’s why I want to hear about yours.”
“I haven’t got a love life,” he says. “I’m wild and free.”
I quirk an eyebrow and he rolls his eyes.
“If you want to talk about love, get your girlfriends over. This rubbish is Amber’s thing.”
“And there we have it!” I grin. “How’s Amber?”
“Oh God,” he groans, head falling into his hands. “Nothing even happened and I’m still never going to live it down.”
“Still nothing’s happened?”
“Yeah, still nothing’s happened. And nothing’s going to happen.”
“I reckon she’d still be up for it,” I say, “if you were.”
“Yeah, she’s always up for it, Maya, but if I’ve learnt anything from you and the arsehole in the office opposite my desk, it’s that you don’t want to mess around with people you work with.”
My face drops and he stands, waving a warning finger under my nose.
“Don’t look at me like that, Maya. The only one disappointed by this is you. You’re trying to meddle now, look at you.” He laughs. “Meddling Maya. Don’t you know I’m saving myself for The Lady?”
“Oh really?” I wonder if he’d still be saving himself for The Lady if he knew she’d had a knife up against my throat not two hours ago. Actually, no, that wouldn’t make a difference to Alex. He’s probably into that kind of shit. “Is that how you like it? Doggy-style.”
“Hey,” he throws his hands up in surrender. “I’ll take her any way she’ll have me.”
“So that’s it, you made your choice then? Whisper’s out of the picture?”
His eyes widen.
“Hey, no, steady. Don’t get me wrong. If she decided she really wanted a piece of this,” he runs a hand down his side, displaying himself like he’s a prize on the price is right. I almost choke on my wine.
“Trust me, she definitely does not want a piece of that.”
“Be quiet now, Maya, shh shh. You know nothing. You don’t understand her like I do.”
“Alright, sorry,” I concede, “you’re right. She’s probably fantasising about you right now.”
“Probably,” he nods, secure in his confident superiority. “Anyway, as I was saying. If she was willing to put the effort in. A man like me, he needs a good wooing, don’t you know.”
“A good wooing?”
“Yeah. But not from The Lady! I’d eat my own left testicle for The Lady.”
“That’s a lovely image, Alex. Is that what you think modern woman likes in a man? The ability to eat one’s own testicles?”
“I’m quite sure I don’t know what modern woman wants, Maya. But my point, my point, is that I like a woman that can make a good moan, you know what I’m saying?”
I bite my lip, holding back the punch that I know he deserves.
“Well that explains my many sleepless nights. If I’d known that before we’d moved in together, I’d have tested the soundproofing effects of the walls in every flat.”
“Shut up. You like the show.”
“The show?” Alex just shrugs as my voice hits the upper octaves. “I’m not watching, Alex. You pig.”
He holds his hands out, waving his wine dramatically.
“Maya, you keep interrupting my point. The very linchpin of my decision, the core reason why any man should always succumb to The Lady.”
“Oh most grandiose of apologies, Lord Higgs. Pray tell. Spread your wisdom, this great epiphany. Why is The Lady so much better than Whisper?”
“Because she’s called Whisper, Maya. How much noise is she going to make in the bedroom? She doesn’t even speak. She’s probably all girly and pathetic and I don’t need that.”
“What happened to ‘it’s always the quiet ones’?”
Alex collapses back, defeated, and I pour out more wine. The pizza better come soon else I think he’s in trouble. That’s the problem with drinking at four thirty in the afternoon.
“Maya,” Alex says, accepting his wine unquestioningly, “that’s… such a good point. What am I going to do now?”
“Well,” I say, driving the point home. “The Lady seems a little unreasonable to me. You don’t want to mess with that. She strikes me as the kind of person to take offence at the smallest of things. You never know; one second you could be smiling at her, telling her what a wonderful person she is, and the next she’ll have a knife up against your throat.”
“Yeah but I’m not a rookie, Maya,” he says, shaking his head, “I wouldn’t tell her she was a good person. She’s desperate for you to tell her how naughty she is. She’s such a bad girl, Maya. She can ask me, I’ll tell her she’s a bad girl.”
“You’re a pig.”
I’m disgusted by how accurate he is. He just shrugs.
“You gotta give The Ladies - see what I did there? - what they want, Maya.”
“I’m so disappointed in you right now.”
“Nonsense,” Alex says, standing for the knock at the door. “I’m a gentleman.” He waves his drink at my eye, only just about managing to keep the liquid in the glass. “I would never do that to The Lady. She can be as bad as she wants but I’ll treat her right.”
I shuffle around sideways on the sofa, crossing my legs beneath me as Alex reaches the doorway. He takes hold of the handle, twisting it, and flings the door wide, raising his hands in celebration.
“Pizza man! Welcome to our humble abode.” He bows and I wonder if he’s actually secretly onto his fifth bottle already. “The pepperoni is for me, could you please pass the margarita to my friend over there? Devil’s in the details, they say, but not when it comes to margarita pizza. In margarita pizza the devil’s in the complete lack of anything interesting, don’t you agree? But she’s been getting into fights, you see, and she needs to be punished.”