How Not to Survive

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15

At this stage you’d be forgiven for thinking the whirlwind of shit must finally be over, but if so you may as well know it’s not even close.

Somehow I make it back to flat. I’m way beyond caring if I encounter Arse Face again – I just throw open the door, crawl up the stairs and climb into my bed where I lose consciousness for the better part of the day. When I next open my eyes it’s like, ten o clock and my body’s hurting all over like I’ve been beaten or something. I somehow manage to crawl out of bed and take a look at myself in the mirror. The fallout is never pretty, but in this case it’s particularly spectacular, and I shrink away from my reflection like a vampire from the sun.

My head’s still agonising but at least it’s nowhere near the Armageddon it was, so I take another handful of aspirin and head for the bathroom where I stand under the shower until my skin’s so shrivelled I’m practically old. Finally the hot water runs out and I towel off and head back to my room where I lie back down on my bed and obsess for a bit over just how royally I’ve fucked up my shot at the big time. No matter what way you spin it, there’s no getting around the fact that it was a once-in-a-lifetime style opportunity, and I’m now pretty much destined to fade into obscurity along with the other trillion jobless actors out there who’d willingly give up the ability to reproduce for a similar chance.

Finally I can’t take the like, chasm of depression I’ve fallen into any longer. What I really need to do is talk to Eli, make it up with him and then like, vent like I’ve never vented before. Like, galvanised by this thought I bound out into the hall.

Eli’s door is shut, which is kind of disconcerting since he hardly ever closes it, but I walk right up and boldly knock three times. There’s a shuffling sound from inside so I know he’s there.

I’m like, Come on you gorgeous beast, I’m out here on my knees begging for your forgiveness – it’s a beautiful sight!

Nothing. Not even the muffled sound of him shouting for me to fuck off. I knock again.

Eli! I groan, I forgot to mention that I’m also bleeding to death! If you don’t open up I’ll die and it’ll be all on your conscience forever!

You might have thought this one’d be guaranteed to elicit a response, even it was only a Good!, but still nothing. It’s pretty unsettling. I get that’s he’s mad as hell at me, but he’s also meant to be in love with me, so you’d think those things would equal out – at least enough for him to like, give me hearing.

I’m like, Eli! I’m not leaving until you open up! I’ll sleep here if I have to!

What’s the matter? goes this poisonous voice behind me, Has he finally figured out what you’re really like?

I don’t even bother to acknowledge her.

I’m like, If you don’t let me in Arse Face is going to rape me!

I hear an intake of furious breath from Arse Face herself, but there’s still no sound from within. Finally I turn. She’s standing between me and my door with her arms folded and is obviously doing her best to look imposing, but I’m so completely not bothered about her right now that it’s like she doesn’t even exist. I walk at her. She holds her ground and it’s like we’re gonna collide faces, and let me assure you this is a scary prospect as there is no way I want to be get close up and personal with that mug, but at the last possible second she panics and steps to the side.

You have to move out! she shouts as I pass her, I’m going to get the authorities on to you! You’re not longer a legal tenant! You’ve been given your notice!

I slam the door shut on her.


Next day I feel a bit fresher, having slept for like, the better part of two days. I meant to blow off Dad and Barbie’s luncheon of doom for some retail therapy, but I’ve got no money and I haven’t eaten properly for like, a week, plus I figure the last thing I need is yet more people mad at me. So I head into Covent Garden with the single intention of trying not look like my father’s voluntarily donated his head to a power-mad brain-hungry beast when they tell us they’re getting hitched.

The restaurant they’ve picked is this super-swish place called Veto, where all the waiters dress completely in black and carry themselves around like they’ve got books balanced on their heads. It’s the sort of the place most people have to like, mortgage their infant to get a table at, which is yet another telltale sign that we’re going to be doing some diehard celebrating – whether I like it or not. The concierge looks me up and down like I’m pure riff raff, and only grudgingly accepts I’m a legitimate customer when Barbie pitches up from across the restaurant with my name, cooing it in such a way as to make everyone between me and her shiver like they’ve just heard a banshee and then cast me rueful looks like it’s my fault.

This way sir, intones the concierge like it’s a lesson in irony having to address me as a sir. I give him a sweet smile to let him know that no matter how far up his own backside he crawls, at the end of the day he’s still a waiter.

Jaz! screeches Barbie again as I approach, making the very cutlery rattle, You made it!

She’s dressed in a sugar-pink Chanel suit and her blond hair is freshly permed and spirals out from her almost skeletal face like it’s trying to escape from her head. She opens her arms out like I’m her long lost baby and I endure this spine-crushing hug followed by two lip-smacking air-kisses. Beside her Dad has this pained smile, like he’s trying to pretend Barbie’s OTT style of hello is just an adorable quirk rather than like, a staple characteristic.

Hello Jaz, he goes reaching out and taking my hand between both of his, in this like, feeble attempt at warm fatherly affection. I withdraw it right away and Barbie grabs me again and like, forcibly manoeuvres me into the seat beside her.

I’m like, Where’s T?

Barbie’s like, Oh, your sister’s just powdering her nose! like we’re still living in an era where people don’t go to the toilet. She’s probably the only person left alive who doesn’t even know what powdering your nose is code for.

Oh my, she babbles on, Isn’t this is just so exciting? Oh and now Jaz! – you simply must tell us how the audition with Bob went!

I’m like, It was OK, cowering under the onslaught. Dad takes pity on me and hands me this glass of champagne, which I like, neck before Barbie can get out another Oh!

Barbie looks puzzled by my lack of a response, but thankfully Teresa returns at this point. I haven’t seen my sis since the funeral, and I’m kind of stunned by the transformation she’s undergone. She’s wearing this frilly white dress with a plunging neckline, revealing boobs I never even knew she had. More shockingly she’s gone and had blonde highlights put in her hair and is wearing actual lipstick and eye shadow. It’s like looking at a completely different person.

Teresa’s like, Hi Jaz, holding her head all high like she’s waiting for me to pay her tribute or something.

I’m like, What’s with the fancy dress costume?

Teresa shoots me a die-screaming look.

Oh just ignore him Tess, goes Barbie jovially, You look simply beautiful!

It’s like, Tess? Since when did my sister answer to that? But Teresa just giggles as if she and Barbie were like, sorority sisters and then sits down next to me. Barbie plucks up her glass of champagne and holds it up.

She’s like, Cheers.

Cheers! trills Teresa.

I watch as they both take these dainty little sips and it’s like Day of the Body Snatchers big time, as if Teresa’s been infected by the same personality-eating virus that ate up Barbie. I think I even preferred her when she was a devout Catholic lecturing me on how I was going to hell. At least then she hadn’t defected to another species.

I’m like, So you guys have some news? figuring we may as well get it over with.

Dad opens his mouth to reply but before he can get a syllable out Barbie claps a pink-taloned claw across it.

Not yet! she screeches, as if delaying a world-annihilating missile, Paul’s not here and we want to tell them together, don’t we?

Dad nods, looking resigned while I take another gulp of bubbly.

I’m like, Paul’s coming?

Barbie’s like, Of course. This is a family occasion!

Before my heart even has time to sink, or like, collapse in on itself in disgust at being lumped into the same group as Barbie’s progeny, the progeny himself appears at the door, looking more immaculate and synthetic than ever. Of course the concierge has no problem believing that Ken-doll is eating here, and leads him straight over. Barbie and Teresa both immediately start jumping up and down and squealing like two pigs being gutted. You’d think he was a fucking popstar.

Hello ladies, goes The Smarmy One, kissing Barbie on her cheek and then putting his arm around my sister, who pretty much orgasms at the mere touch. He reaches out and shakes Dad’s hand firmly, Hello Lawrence, how are you?

Slowly, as if he’d just remembered the retarded hunchback in the corner, he turns to me.

Oh, and hello Jarold.

The smirk is there in full-force, just pleading to be wiped off.

I’m like, Hi Paulie.

At the use of his baby name Paul’s smirk turns into a sneer of fury, but he quickly turns away and busies himself with telling Barbie and Tess how gorgeous they look, which produces like, a festival of overjoyed giggles.

Well then, goes Dad, sounding nervous but determined, Are we all here?

He looks around as if maybe they’ve forgotten to invite someone and Barbie lets out another demented titter that’s echoed by Teresa.

I do believe we are! Barbie hoots.

Right then, goes Dad rubbing his hands together, Do you want to do the honours, Jules?

Barbie’s like, Oh if I must! as if she’s not totally dying to, OK children, Laurie and I would like to announce to you all...

I don’t really mean to do it, since even an evil piece of plastic like Barbie probably deserves her moment in the spotlight, but she pauses for dramatic effect and it’s like this window of opportunity I just can’t say no to.

I’m like, You getting married, in this totally flat voice.

Barbie looks pretty astonished at having her thunder stolen from her. She stares at me, her mouth continuing to work as she starts to say, We’re getting mmmmaaaarrrr... before she realises it’s already out there. There’s only a half second of awkwardness though, as Teresa let’s out this scream like she’s being molested and leaps up to give Barbie a hug, the traitor, while Ken-doll starts offering Dad this long speech of heartfelt congratulations. I find myself just sitting there with this stupid smile, trying to look like I’m actually happy and not like, filled with vitriol.

After about ten minutes of wedding-related inanity a waiter swoops in and asks if we’re ready to order, and thankfully things move on to less celebratory topics. Even though I haven’t eaten properly for like, eons, I’m strangely not hungry and I just pick at the first course of buttered shellfish, each one of which has still got its eyes on and seems to be peering up at me questioningly, like they’re asking, What’s exactly is the deal here?

I do think David Cameron gets such a hard time of it, Ken-doll is saying to Teresa, who’s nodding up and down like she’s never agreed with anything so much in her whole life, He’s really doing his best for this country, and after the state that Labour left it. I mean, what do people expect? We’re recovering from a recession –

I’m like, Pity he’s a fascist!

Paul looks at me with his mouth slightly open like I’m this fixture on the wall that just started talking or something. His eyes like, travel up and down me and it’s like I can practically feel his scorn flicking out and lashing me like a whip. I sit on my hands in case I accidentally forget to repress the urge to go for his throat.

Paul’s like, If you’ mean with regard to... homosexuality, I think he’s done quite enough apologising around the subject. More than is necessary, some might say.

With this supposed witherer he turns back to Teresa like I’m not even worth bothering his brain about and has a sip of water.

Yes Jaz, goes Teresa, who at this point would probably agree that Osama Bin Laden was just misunderstood if only Paul said so, You can be so judgemental sometimes!

I’m mighty tempted to say something about the whole section twenty eight thing and opposition to gay marriage (which incidentally I’m only half for since I can’t work out why anyone’d ever want to get hitched anyway – especially after what I’ve just sat through with Barbie and Dad). But the truth is that ‘something’ pretty much sums up all I know on the subject, and it’s all just stuff I got off Eli anyway, who’s a total nerd for political shit. Thinking of Eli gives me this stab of guilt and I consider texting him something funny about this awful never-ending lunch, which is the sort of thing I would do automatically if I knew he was speaking to me still. But somehow I know he won’t appreciate it. Instead I give Teresa a glare into which I try to channel just what a lowly treacherous turncoat I think she is.

The tension fizzles in the atmosphere until Barbie decides to change the subject. She’s like, Paul why don’t you tell us all about this new programme you’re masterminding?!

Paul’s like, Oh no, they won’t want to hear that.

Teresa’s like, Of course we do!

Paul carries on with this display of not wanting to boast about himself, even though it’s stunningly obvious it’s the kind of thing he lives for. Finally he lets himself be like, beaten down by Barbie and Teresa’s combined barrage of pleas and holds up a hand.

Paul’s like, Well if you insist... Basically all I did was point out a few obvious flaws in the existing model –

Already I’ve had enough.

I’m like, Excuse me, I need a cigarette.

I stand up and head for the door. Outside I fumble with my cigs and raise one wearily to my lips, only to be interrupted by the concierge who asks me if I could move along as I’m standing right in front of the window. I give him a special look of icy hatred and wander around to the back of the building, where a couple of the waiters are also slouched against the wall smoking.

Jaz?

I look up. Dad’s standing there looking hunched and uncomfortable, which is pretty much how he always looks only here it’s like, especially so. I give him this nod that’s a pathetically feeble effort to make him feel better.

He’s like, You know, you’re kind of behaving like a brat.

I’m like, Really?, so sarcastic it hurts.

Dad’s like, It’s obvious you’ve got reservations about this, but I really wish you’d make an effort to get to know Julia. She’s been nothing but be nice to you. She got you that audition, remember?

I’m like, Whatever, averting my eyes and staring ahead like this conversation isn’t even happening. I wish it wasn’t. For some reason I’m trembling.

Dad’s like, I know you’re upset about me and your mum.

I’m like, Ha!

Dad’s like, But I need you to try. Can you do that?

As if I’ve just come up on the ultimate nicotine rush, I start letting rip psycho-style, OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU? MUM’S IN REHAB BECAUSE OF YOU! ARE YOU TOTALLY BLIND? WHY ARE YOU GETTING MARRIED TO THIS SADISTIC BITCH WHEN IT’S TOTALLY OBVIOUS YOU DON’T EVEN LOVE HER? DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHO YOU ARE ANYMORE? ETC ETC ETC

It’s funny because I actually sound quite a lot like Mum when she loses it, and like her I also kind of lose focus on what I’m saying or that I’m even still saying anything – though it’s obvious the shit’s still flowing right out of me because the waiters are staring at me open-mouthed, not even bothering to pretend they’re just smoking. Dad’s staring at me too, and he’s gone all red and there’s this vein in his forehead which is bulging grossly like it’s on overload. I wind down and just stand there in front of him, like panting from the effort of shouting for so long. The waiters take this as their cue to start sucking on their ciggies again, but Dad just continues to look at me like he’s fixated or something. Ordinarily the idea of Dad trying to death-stare someone is pretty laughable, like being charged by a Chiwawa, but there’s something really chilling about his gaze, like he’s thinking how wonderful it’d be if he could just disown me or something.

I’m like, Sorry... that just came out.

Dad squeezes his eyes shut and then opens them again like he’s trying to exorcise himself of his anger. It doesn’t seem to work.

He’s like, I’ll see you back inside.

He turns and heads off. I look down at my crumpled cigarette and then lift my foot and grind it into the ground some more. When I look up again one of the waiters is giving me this sly grin like I’ve just made his day. I give him the finger and head back into the restaurant.

At the table everybody’s gone quiet and is leaning in while Barbie holds her Blackberry to her ear with a silly soppy grin. Dad has his arm around her shoulder and refuses to meet my eyes as I sit down.

I’m like, So what’s going on?

Teresa’s like Shhhh. Jules is calling that agency you auditioned for, to find out how you did. Exciting, huh?!

I don’t even have time to register the Jules before my stomach flips.

Oh hi Bob! Barbie goes as it dawns on me just how hideously this is going to be, I’m just checking in to see how the meet with Jaz went yesterday! Are you able to talk? Well no, I...

Barbie trails off and looks troubled, or at least as troubled as her botoxed features are capable of looking.

Oh... Oh! Well listen it’s –

I watch as her eyes suddenly bulge out of her face.

What?! Oh my god... Oh my – Oh. Goodbye.

Something wrong? goes Paul, looking at me, his smirk back in full force.

Ever so slowly Barbie raises her head. Before she can say anything, I cry something about an emergency thing to do I’d completely forgotten all about, and then bottle it out of the restaurant.

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