Who the fuck is playing Joy Division? thought the man, as he was herded into the back of a car. The seats gave a leathery groan. Tears tumbled from waterlogged eyes. Through the tinted windows the flash of leering cameras stormed. He shifted uncomfortably in his ill-fitting jacket, and turned to see his wife sat next to him. Her eyes were raw, streaming nose clogged with used handkerchief. No, not handkerchief, the man realised, a small, frayed blanket. Billy’s blanket.
‘Right, good job guys,’ said the women in the front passenger seat, turned around to face man and wife and the empty seat between them. ‘I know that was tough, for the both of you, but we’re almost done.’ The driver sat motionless, hands making small alterations to wheel and stick, and feet to pedals. On the radio next to him, melancholy little lights danced a binary waltz to Ian Curtis.
‘Just one more appearance for today, a quick interview,’ the women in front let out a faux sigh, ‘and then it’s ITV tomorrow. Okay?’ The wife, Mary, nodded, kept her eyes closed. The car had come to a stop in traffic. The rain outside sounded like the shuttering of a thousand lenses.
Why is the bedroom so cold?
‘Could you turn the radio—’
‘Has there been any more news, Jen?’ Mary said, her voice quivering. Jennifer shook her head slightly, cautiously. The car rumbled forward.
‘Where are they looking? Still in the field?’
‘We’ll know more in the morning, I’m sure everyone is doing their best.’ Jen managed a smile, Mary inhaled the wet blanket and wrapped an arm around herself tightly.
Yet there’s still this appeal.
‘Terry,’ his wife turned to him, ‘your phone.’ Inside that poorly suited jacket, a phone vibrated with fanatical intensity.
‘It’s your mum.’ Mary held out her hand, Terry palmed the still shaking phone over.
‘Terry,’ Jen had twisted in her seat and was facing him, ‘are you okay?’
Love will tear us apart again.
‘Earlier, during the interview, you seemed a bit off.’
‘I can’t hear you mum, let me—’
‘A bit off? Of course I’m a bit fucking off, Jen.’
‘I get that, that’s why I’m here.’
‘I’m hanging up. Love you too.’
You cry out in your sleep.
‘Can we please turn that off?’ The driver moved his head fractionally, the corner of his eye just able to glance over Terry.
‘Turn what off, Mr Goodall?’
‘Of course Terry, of course that’s why I’m here,’ Jen’s eyes pleaded, ‘why else?’ Mary began to whimper quietly into Billy’s blanket, her blanket. It had been white, now stained a deep ivory after brief use, and covered with a rash of polka-dots. The car came to another standstill, and the driver swivelled in his chair. He had a crooked nose, and small dark eyes that sat either side of it.
‘What was it you wanted, Mr Goodall?’ Terry paid no attention. He placed a hand on his wife’s shuddering shoulder. She shrugged it off. The engine gave a guttural grumble. A phone rang.
‘Don’t Terry, please,’ she stared through the window, ‘not now.’ Terry let his hand fall onto the empty seat between them. He realised he was still crying; had he stopped? Through the rain-streaked window he saw motionless clouds, a deep grey, hung low in the sky. He watched a cyclist ride past, spraying a mist in his wake which landed as gentle beads upon opened umbrellas. On the radio, a baritone sang:
All my failings exposed.
‘Turn the radio off,’ Terry wiped his cheeks with starched cuff, ‘please.’ The baritone silenced. The little lights retired from their dancing, exhausted. Jen swivelled once more, slipped her phone back under her leg for safe keeping. The car pulled up.
‘We’re here,’ Jen said, with a resigned smile. ‘Almost over.’ Cameras began to flash again, lenses pressed against the window. Mary had burrowed her face in her blanket, but took it away and stowed it in some unseen pocket within her coat. Terry saw the driver checking the football scores on his phone.
‘Yeah,’ Terry laid his hand on the door handle, ‘almost over.’