Read The Movie Online

Authors: Louise Bagshawe

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction, #Literary

The Movie

BOOK: The Movie
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Chapter I

Megan Silver woke up with an idea worth a million dollars.

Not that she realized it, of course. The excitement sweeping through her, that sweet adrenalin ruh, was just a sudden panic to jot something down on paper quickly, to grab what she remembered of the dream before it faded. Groaning, Megan reached blindly for the scruffy notebook affd ballpoint pen she kept by her bed, hopefully, in case something like this should ever happen. It never had before.

The pen had rolled onto the floor. Megan patted the dusty wasteland under her bed with one hand, feebly, not wanting to get up to look for it. The pain of her hangover throbbed under her temples, but she didn’t care, couldn’t care, it was such an incredible story, she had to get it down right now.

Thank God, she thought, her fingers dosing round the biro.

She grabbed the notebook and began to scribble, long, flowing sentences, her spidery handwriting streaking across the page. Outside her tiny bedroom window the first red streaks of dawn had appeared over the San Francisco skyline.

 

‘He left me,’ Declan announced an hour later, marching into her bedroom without knocking. ‘Do you hear me?

 

I

 

He I me.’ He struck a pose of exaggerated grief, looking

across at his flatmate to check she was suitably shocked.

‘Who left you?’ Megan murmured, barely looking up

from her story. Ripped-up sheets ofpaperlittered the bed, covering the old copies of@in magazine and British music papers she’d been reading last night. She’d been jotting down ideas since she woke up, not stopping to use the bathroom or make a coffee. Like she had time for Dec’s crash-and-burn dramatics right now! This story was different to all the others. She was sure about that. She didn’t know why, but she was sure.

‘Jason,’ Declan said, in tones of utter despair. ‘We were

at The Box last night and he left with somebody else. Some asshole,’ he added viciously. ‘The guy had a crew-cut and a signet ring. A real yuppie.’

Megan smiled despite herself. ‘Dec, you’ve been on

exactly three dates with the guy.’

‘But I thought he was ‘

‘The One? You think every guy’s The One,’ Megan

said, putting the notebook down. She’d just about got it now, and anyway, when Declan wanted to talk, he wanted to talk. ‘Come on, you don’t even care. You just want me to tell you how attractive you are and how you can have anyone you want.’

‘That’s not true,’ Declan said, giving himselfa smouldering glance in the mirror. ‘Although I have put on weight

lately. Does it show?’ Megan sighed, turning her full attention to the sculpture

of masculine beauty that was Declan Heath. Wiry, muscular torso, thin and fit from dancing all night on Ecstasy. Eyes the colour of Irish mist with silver-grey lashes to match. Black hair curling loose round the nape of the neck in accepted Generation X style. Totally gorgeous, totally unavailable. Like just about everything she wanted in life.

‘No,’ she said. ‘But you look great anyway.’

 

‘Why don’t you get dressed?’ Dec suggested. ‘We could go down to Ground Zero and get coffee.., don’t look at me like that, I got paid yesterday. I’ll buy. OK?’

He sauntered out of her bedroom, and seconds later she heard ‘Mountain Song’ by Jane’s Addiction flood the tiny flat.

Megan got dressed, not wanting to face the day. She felt like shit after last night and she dreaded whatever the post was about to bring-another bill, another sheaf of rejection letters from New York agents, or worse, the printed rejection slips from publishers attached to the top of her thick manuscripts by a single paperclip, the only acknowledgment of eight solid months of work. Sometimes it was so tough to be hopeful. She’d worked so hard on that novel - nights, weekends, whatever time she could sneak out of her dismal $IO an hour job at the library - and it seemed like it was being turned down by more people than she’d even sent it to.

In a way, it was uncool to care. The slacker generation wasn’t supposed to give a damn about material success. You needed some kind of job to get by, just enough money to pay for the essentials, like coffee and music and clubs and speed, but that was about it. Megan and Declan could cover a tiny rent between them, afford minim.l amounts of food, and dressed at the hippest thrift stores

San Francisco - Wasteland and AAadvark’s on Haight, Hunter’s Moon on Valencia in the Mission district. They got into most clubs for flee and went to every chic gig in the city. Declan was a failed artist andpart-time comic store sales assistant, and Megan was a failed writer and part-time filing clerk at the public library. They defined style.

Except that Megan Silver was getting sick of style. She wanted someone besides Dec to read her book.

She dressed in seconds, snatching her oversized Levi’s from the floor where she’d left them last night, belting them over a Soundgarden shirt and pulling on large,

 

3

 

clumpy biker boots. No make-up, but she finished the effect with two armfuls of jangling copper bracelets and a heavy crystal ring. Megan didn’t have that many clothes, so choosing an outfit never took long. Whatever she had that was clean lay strewn casually about the bombsite that was her room, over the bed and’the ratty Indian rug, under her beloved posters of Nirvana and Veruca Salt and Dark Angel. Dark Angel was her favourite band; their huge, bleak soundscapes had been the backdrop to her college years, the hamrnerhead rhythms and black harmonies firing her up when she worked, lamenting with her when depression bit, slipping under her skin when she made love. A superband for the late nineties, the soundtrack of the generation.

‘ They’d split up last week, and Megan felt ridiculously upset about it. Not that she’d been the only one - Sasha Stone, a friend of Dedan’s, had sat in front of them in the Horseshoe Car6 and sobbed her heart out, mascara running down her cheeks in grimy black rivulets.

‘Come on, this is embarrassing,’ Megan had said, trying

to Let Sasha to accept a tissue. ‘They’re just one band.’

‘Don’t be bourgeois,’ Declan snapped, flinging a velvet covered arm round her shaking shoulders. ‘It’s serious. All art is serious.’

‘Zach!’ sobbed Sasha wildly. ‘Zach Mason totally betrayed everybody who believed in him!’

‘He was a singer, not the Messiah,’ Megan said, rather

coldly. ‘And you wouldn’t be so upset it’you didn’t want to

screw him so badly. He’ll make some solo records, I guess.’ ‘Do you think so?’ Sasha gulped hopefully. ‘Jesus Christ, how old are you?’

‘Megan,’ said Declan. ‘Sasha is hurting here! Show a

little compassion.’

‘Nobody died,’ Megan muttered, rebelliously.

How old was Sasha? Wasn’t the real question, how old

was she? Twenty-four and not a damn thing to show.for it,

 

except an English degree from Berkeley. And here she was, sitting in a car6 with an adult woman who was cracking up because a rock group had disbanded.

That was the day when the restlessness had started to creep back in.

Megan twisted in front of the mirror, semi-satisfied. She looked good. Nothing special, but pretty good. She had soft chestnut hair curling gently down to the nape of the neck, clever brown eyes, a clear skin rendered somewhat pallid from too much partying all night and sleeping all day. Underneath the funky, shapeless uniform she’d pulled together her body was nicely curved in an unfashionable way: swelling breasts, feminine calves, maybe h little chunky round the thighs, weight she had never been able to shake. Megan was glad of the hip-hop culture and its outsize style. She hated her body. Most days she hated her looks; OK, so she wasn’t exactly ugly, but amongst all the golden California butterflies she was a death’s-head moth. Invisible.

It had been like that since the day she was born, youngest of six in a Catholic household in Sacramento, one more mouth to feed for an overworked electrician and a harassed mother who found it hard to cope. Not that she’d been abused or neglected, but they just didn’t have much time or attention for her. Megan was no beauty, like her twin sisters Jane and Lucy, slim and lithe as gazelles, nor a strapping sporty guy like her three elder brothers, Martin, Peter and Eli. Not ugly enough to inspire pity, not smart enough to inspire concern, Mean grew up dating the OK guys Jane and Lucy didn’t want, and making average grades, and resenting the hell out of everybody, all the time. When she did scrape into Berkeley, Megan Silver suspected that the congratulations of her family had been mingled with relief that she was leaving Sacramento.

Well, that’s mutual, Megan thought angrily, tugging the Soundgarden shirt more loosely over her waist. If I never

 

5

 

see that dump again it’ll be too soon. Why should I stay

there and rot in Sacramento?

When you could come here and rot in San Francisco? finished

the snide, carping little voice in her brain.

‘Are you ready?’ Declan yelled. ‘We’ll be late.’

She took one last look at herself, shrugged, and went to

join him.

‘We already are,’ she murmured.

 

Everybody struggled out of bed at eleven, the days they didn’t have to work, and sometimes on the days they did; Jesus, if you believed all the excuses and hacking coughs that went singing down the phone wires to employers

,every morning, you’d think a serious epidemic had afflicted San Francisco’s twentysomething population. Mostly, the bosses rarely complained. What they were offering was dead-end jobs paying little more than minimum wage, hardly worth coming off welfare for; what they were getting was sullen, unproductive employee who knew their worth and thus sold themselves cheap. Everybody’s just marking time, Megan thought, as they strolled up Haight towards Ground Zero. Like time will last forever.

It was quarter of twelve, and the cold mist was just beginning to clear, melting away in the thin autumn sun. Declan strutted down the street, waving and smiling at all their friends hanging out; Haight truly was the centre of his universe, Megan thought, smiling affectionately at her friend. He never feels hemmed in. Why should he? This is more than enough for Dec… Why can’t it be enough for me?

‘Hey, Megan! Hey, Dec! What’s up?’

Trey, Declan’s best friend and ex-lover, waved at them

from an inside table, and they threaded their way through the usual crowd to join him: beat poets, bikers, art students, potheads, and the occasional brave tourist from Europe.

 

6

 

Megan had once seen Ground Zero listed in a student guidebook as ‘the official caf of the Apocalypse’, a description that always made her laugh.

‘Ola, what’s up?’ Trey said. ‘Megan, Dec, this is Francine, Rick and Consuela. Consuela’s a model,’ he added, showing off. Trey collected cool people as if they were stamps.

Megan glanced at her as she sat down; silken olive skin, a little button nose, chic hair in a sleek bob, and no more than Io5 pounds under that Nirvana jacket. Consuela didn’t have the exquisite bone structure you really needed to make it in modelling-Megan could see that right off but what did that matter? She was beautiful, confident, everything Megan had never been. When Consuela decided to get down to work, she’d have it easy. She would not wind up working at the San Francisco Public

Library p,rt-time for ten bucks an hour.

‘Hi,’ Consuela said.

‘Megan’s a writer. A novelist,’ Trey told the others, exhibiting her for their approval.

‘A novelist? Wow, that’s so cool,’ Francine sighed, laconically, not meaning a word of it.

Tm not a novelist. I’m a filing clerk,’ Megan said coldly, ignoring the furious gestures being semaphored across the table from Declan.

‘Oh, she only says that because the big corporations haven’t sent her a fat cheque yet’ he explained. ‘You should be pleased they haven’t let you sign your soul away.’

‘Dedan’s an artist,’ said Trey.

Declan preened. ‘Of course, lifeis art,’ he acknowledged modestly. ‘I just express it as best I can.’

‘Cool,’ said Rick, not looking up from his coffee.

‘I guess the only reason they haven’t signed you is that they don’t understand artistic integrity,’ Consuela said to Megan, soothingly.

 

‘How would you know?’ asked Megan, pushing her

fringe out of her eyes. ‘You’ve never even seen my book.’ ‘Megan!’ Declan hissed.

‘Actually, they haven’t signed me because my book sucks,’ Megan went on relentlessly. In that moment, she knew it was true. tkealization hit her like a flash of lightning; her mannered, meandering study of teenage ennui, which she had thought was poetic and evocative, was in tact stunningly boring.

‘Why did you write it then?’ asked Francine, stung to hostility.

Trey leaned forward, in hopeful anticipation of a scene.

‘I have no idea,’ Megan replied, shrugging. She felt lighthearted and free, somehow. It felt good to admit that,

‘ something she’d maybe known all along; she’d written to a blueprint her friends would approve of, eschewing such outdated concepts as plot, and the result had been just terrible.

BOOK: The Movie
11.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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