[Author’s Note: This piece is a sequel to the piece What We’ve Become.]
The room was all wood panelling and polished metal corporate logos. Scott Darrow sat far back in his chair in the empty room. There were several other chairs around a large wooden table. Each chair was near identical to the ones next to it. They were black, cushioned, curved, and all had wheels affixed to their legs. Scott messed with the levers, trying to lock his chair in position, slightly tilted, so he could sit back comfortably. Once he was successfully adjusted, he began spinning towards the spotless glass windows. The windows reached from floor to ceiling. From his position, he could see most of the city. Part of his vision was blocked by skyscrapers taller than the comparatively squat office building he was currently in. The large wooden doors swung open as his agent stormed into the room.
‘So, the rumours are true,’ she stated grumpily in her New York accent, which only now stood out in contrast in this new environment.
‘Rumours?’ he asked coyly.
His agent threw that morning’s The Age at him. The paper flapped awkwardly across the room landing in his unathletic grasp. He fumbled for the front cover and read the headline.
Look Who’s Back in Town
The picture that accompanied it was a far-off shot of him walking down Collins St, looking every bit the returned expat: a pair of large black Aviator sunglasses, and a two-piece suit with a few buttons undone around his neck. Attire totally unsuited to the frigid winter that Melbourne had finally found itself in, after toying with the idea throughout the spring. Or so he had heard. He’d been back for a week. He refrained from shaving the whole time he was here, growing a beard to hide his somewhat recognisable face. Admittedly, the clean-shaven expat on the front cover of the Age had disappeared soon after he’d got into the city from the airport. Now, as his agent stood before him with a disdainful look on her face, he wore some trappings of his own stomping ground. He was wearing skinny jeans, a white t-shirt and a large black woollen jacket. He finally responded to the paper in front of him.
‘So what? So the local paper thinks I’ve returned?’ he retorted.
‘You have returned, you idiot. Whether it’s some sojourn, though winter probably not the best time for an Australian holiday, or something bigger, you’ve got a new book coming out next month,’ his agent began ranting, her breath quickening with each oncoming offensive.
She continued to argue her point past him.
‘We’ve got a whole press circuit lined up. My ass is as much on the line as yours. You and I both know that Moon Rose wasn’t a riotous success. You’ve lost capital with your publisher, and then you disappear. Nobody knew where you were. Marketing were preparing a posthumous campaign. I was trying to find someone in New York to submit a eulogy to the Times.’
She had worked herself into a frenzy. She reached into her pocket and grabbed a pill pocket, she popped the cap and swallowed two white capsules.
‘My doctor thanks you for your continued commitment to keeping my stress levels high enough to warrant medication’ she cursed, her voice coarse from the pills.
‘Would you calm down, Moira? I’m just in town to help an old friend. Miller Road and the press tour will be waiting when I get back. I’ll be back soon,’ he reassured.
She sighed and thought this over, pacing in front of the landscape of nearby roofs and the Yarra beyond them.
‘I’m supposed to bring you back. I bankrolled this trip myself to get my prime talent back to New York where he belongs. I’m not leaving without you,’ she told him, sitting down.
‘You got a hotel room?’ he asked.
She shook her hood.
‘Book a hotel room. Charge me for the impromptu trip if you need to. I can afford it. One week down here and then back to New York,’ he bargained.
‘I can get you a week,’ she told him.
Scott climbed the under-furnished staircase to the third floor. He passed rows of apartments as he made a beeline for Apartment 3E. He knocked on the door and it swung open. Dawn stood in the doorway. Her bob of brunette hair was in disarray. She wore a loose, dark green dress. She invited him in. An array of Chinese take-out was sitting on the kitchen bench, a couple of stools arranged around it. He took a seat and Dawn began unpacking their meagre meal. Scott dived into some pork ribs as Dawn poked at some green beans. Between bites, he spoke to Dawn.
‘How’d thing’s go with your agent?’ she asked.
‘On the record, or off the record?’ he asked.
‘Off the record. Give me some credit,’ she told him.
‘I’m in town for a week. Then back to New York for Miller Road. My agent will be in town as well, to keep an eye on me,’ he gave her the lay of the land.
‘That should be plenty of time for my interview,’ she concluded.
This response threw him a bit. Naturally, he had expected her to be thinking about her interview. He thought she might have at least given a passing thought to them sleeping together. It had happened after their coffee shop meeting. A harmless fling, she assured him of that. He wasn’t in town again to settle. He’d come back for the email from who he thought was Connie. He’d also returned for his brother’s birthday. On this train of thought, he had stopped eating. Connie noticed his pause.
‘What’s with the thousand-yard stare? Got an idea for another novel?’ she asked.
He shook his head.
‘Just thought there might be more on your mind than your interview,’ he noted.
‘You mean our brief tryst. I’m game to go again if you are,’ she told him. ‘Look, I knew our reunion wouldn’t last long. Better to make the most of it than think too deeply until you catch a plane again,’
She was positively frank about this. Time and distance must have afforded some powerful introspection. Time and distance had just left him musing over the past as he fictionalised it all, well most of it.
‘You going to see your dad while you’re down?’ Dawn asked.
‘I expected to see him at Dave’s 30th but he never showed,’ Scott told her.
She pursed her lips, pondering the distance between father and son.
‘He still work at the Melton City Council?’ Scott asked.
She nodded, chewing on her green beans before responding.
‘Yeah, those who know what he does think he does a fine job. Those who don’t, don’t care. You thinking of heading in to see him?’ she asked.
‘Maybe,’ he told her.
They continued to eat. Discussion flew back and forth. Comments were made on and off the record. Dawn opened a bottle of red wine. Scott decided that he didn’t have to be anywhere else tonight. He stayed.
The next morning, close to midday, he wandered the halls of the Melton Civic Centre until he found an office with his dad’s name on the door.
Arthur Darrow: Councillor for Watts Ward
Hillside wasn’t a large suburb and thus was under the jurisdiction of the City of Melton. Further down the rabbit hole, Watts Ward was the subdivision of Melton that contained Hillside. Scott knocked on the door.
‘Come in,’ said a slightly tired voice.
Scott opened the door to see his father sitting frumpily behind the desk. The desk was covered in papers, a computer sat to the side of the desk. Arthur wore a striped white and grey dress shirt and a lanyard around his neck.
‘The prodigal son returns,’ Arthur declared.
‘Is now a good time?’ Scott asked.
‘Yeah, I’ve got nowhere to be. Just filling out some paperwork,’ Arthur said, seemingly buzzed that his long-absent son had returned.
Scott arranged himself in the weirdly egg-shaped chair.
‘Didn’t see at Dave’s 30th,’ Scott commented.
‘Dave and I caught up earlier in the week, for his actual birthday. Work function that I couldn’t miss,’ he told Scott.
‘That used to be your excuse when you having an affair. Still with the harpy?’ Scott quipped, his tongue remembering the venom that he thought was behind him.
‘It was an actual work thing. New swimming pool. Dave understood,’ Arthur stated bluntly.
‘Dave did always give you the benefit of the doubt,’ Scott snipped.
‘Did you just come here to berate me? If so, you were better off in New York,’ Arthur told him bluntly.
He had been overly harsh. He was supposed to be back to pay for his old sins. Leaving things the way he had left them was one of those sins.
‘You still obsessed with that Connie girl? You wrote about her enough,’ his father commented.
Two can play at this game apparently. The Connie comment was an expected blow. The fact that his father read anything he wrote was less expected.
‘I was never obsessed with Connie. You read my books?’ Scott asked.
‘Just Midnight Theatre. It was a New York Times bestseller, after all,’ his father noted.
He couldn’t tell what his father’s game was. The words New York seemed to be peppered with bitterness, but there was a hint of pride in the words best seller. Not that Scott had ever sent a penny home, except in the form of a gift to Dave every so often.
‘What are you doing here Scott?’ his father asked.
‘Dawn convinced me to come back. She’s interviewing me for The Age. Figured I’d visit the past while I was down here,’ Scott told him.
‘I know about Dawn’s article. She came to see me. Bit of a dangerous game you’re playing, isn’t it? I mean, you never mentioned Dawn in your writing and now you’re giving her full power over your return to the past. Journalists have a slippery reputation you know,’ his father noted, donning the politician’s perspective.
‘I guess I just need to have faith in Dawn to write me better than I wrote her.’