SUCH an ordinary doorway did not represent the grandeur of Vincent Jonas’ dressing room. Mock gas lamps lined the walls casting an intimate glow over mocha panelling. An entire wall had been dedicated to a walk-in wardrobe. Within, Nancy glimpsed racks of shoes, suits, shirts and ties. A chaise lounge, Turkish rug and a drinks bar added decadence to a room she suspected served also for business.
Movement to her right drew her eye. Vince was checking out his appearance in front of a mirror. She couldn’t see his reflection for the oblique view but guessed he was adjusting his tie. Leon had positioned himself behind the chaise lounge, hands clasped at the groin like an usher at a funeral. Nancy kept her reactions in check. She didn’t want to appear flaky in front of two men who saw this routine as just another day at the office. She pinched her lip between incisors and an iron tang blossomed over her tongue. She swallowed it down.
Without warning, Jonas turned – not to face her, but Leon. As though by script, Leon scooped up a long, black overcoat from the back of the chaise lounge and opened it out for Vince. Vince turned and allowed Leon to place it over his shoulders. Leon brushed it down as Vince gazed soberly ahead. Nancy quickly stifled an urge to snigger. Never had she seen such a routine task performed with such gravity. The scene deserved the proverbial banana skin – for Jonas preferably. She would treasure the image of one seen standing next to the likes of Beckham and Barlow fall flat on his backside. Would Leon retain his poker face? Would Leon share a complicit smile with Nancy? The set of his mouth as he brushed down Jonas’ overcoat suggested not. Nancy had the feeling theirs was a close-knit relationship forged on trust and loyalty.
Nancy swallowed her smile down. She braced herself for when Jonas turned. She would need to jettison her previous thoughts quickly. No one must suspect. She rebooted with a brief closing of eyes and attempted a smile. Oddly this one felt sincere. Deep down, she wanted to impress after all. He was Vincent Jonas. She was about to shake hands or exchange words with an A-list celebrity.
Vincent turned. Nancy put on full beam, certain her molars probably glinted in the dim light. But Vincent didn’t even look at her. He made a beeline straight for the door, pulling at his cufflinks as he did so. He kept on going. The shoulder of his overcoat scuffed against hers on passing. Leon didn’t seem to notice. He donned his Bluetooth and stepped towards her. ‘After you, Nancy,’ he uttered.
For her sake, she held onto her smile. Well, what else had she expected?
Leon maintained a distance of two paces behind as they made their way down the corridor. Jonas continued ahead. A man of immaculate gait, his spine remained true to vertical as his arms and legs worked in faultless sync. Without effort, he gained distance. Before she knew it, he had disappeared through the stairwell door at the other end. In her effort to keep pace, one stiletto veered sideways. Feeling foolish, she kept going, aware of Leon’s presence not far behind.
On reaching the foyer, she spotted him standing at the grand entrance. Sporadic flashbulbs etched out his silhouette. She admired how squarely he stood, unphased by the pandemonium outside and owning the space he occupied. She wished she possessed one iota of such composure. But she didn’t understand the world that had brought him to this point. A spiny orb bristled against her gut. Was she acting naïve? What was she about to hurl herself into? A grubby outcrop of Coventry had defined her twenty-five years of existence. She had been mangled into shape by the welfare state, a city comprehensive and a string of meager jobs. Past and future looked the same at this point. Such a fate should have been more frightening than anything that awaited her on the other side of those doors.
But when the papers came out tomorrow, at least she had no current boyfriend to give her the third degree. Who knew, this fifteen minutes of fame could jolt her out of this steeply-banked rut. Someone might consider her perfect for a soap extra, a face for a skin cream advert, or a model for Kay’s catalogue. The idea made her feel like a child bunking off school. She could cheat her way out of a job she should feel grateful for yet hated; she didn’t have to grim it out with those mangled by the same system. Nor be in it together, like Cora and Bex. Like the rest of them in that tin box in the Parkway Industrial Estate.
At this moment Nancy could see she didn’t have to turn up on Monday. She had a choice.
Leon drew up beside her. This spurred her to take a step. She took another. And another. And then she drifted over towards the grand entrance where Vince stood. She could hear Leon uttering something into his Bluetooth. The two other bouncers she had spotted earlier emerged from the entertainment suite. A steady stream of punters was now milling through the other exit, the one from which Nancy had bid farewell to Bex and Cora only minutes earlier.
If only they knew.