Stage-fright had seized her, that’s all. This apprehension was borne from self-doubt nurtured by a culture of hopelessness and low expectation. Nancy didn’t deserve to be in this shoot. She was an imposter, they would all see. The cameras would record her cheap cocktail dress and her plastic shoes. That’s Nancy, that is, she works at LossLess Insurance at the Parkway Industrial Estate. What is she doing next to Vincent Jonas? What right does she have to enter that limo? She’s a sneak; she’s a cheat and a fraud.
Defiance propelled her forwards anyway. Bex or Cora would be here if not Nancy. Nancy’s mother, her neighbour or her boyfriend’s sister would be here if not Nancy. With that, she stepped onto the kerb. She smiled, gave a little wave and maintained her tenuous link with Vince via the lower joint of her small finger. The maw got bigger but her gut had begun to uncoil itself.
She relaxed her finger and his dropped easily from hers. She raised her right foot and lowered herself into the limo. The acoustics within immediately deadened the noise of the crowd. Tinted glass rendered the flashes green. Pine and polished leather vanquished the former odour of fag smoke, booze and wet overcoats. Every muscle immediately undid itself. What had she been so freaked out about earlier? She was in here; they were out there. She emitted a small sigh and stretched her legs. Warm air caressed her ankles. Her legs hadn’t failed her. She hadn’t given way to gum or dog poop or whatever; her face hadn’t betrayed a grimace or a stupid frown. The amble had gone to plan – or so she believed. The shoot was now done. The pap can now do their part.
Vince followed her in. The seat remained steady as he took his place beside her. An odd concoction of pride and misgiving forbade her from glancing aside. In a formal manner, she pulled her skirt over her knees until the fabric possessed the tension of a drum. The air grew awkwardly still. She remembered Leon’s words: you are not to speak to Mr. Jonas unless he asks you a question. At least the onus of breaking the ice had been taken from her. Leon closed the door with a soft thud. The cab fell silent. And that’s when the urge to glance aside got the better of her.
Vince was staring ahead. His eyelids weighed with disdain, rendering his eyes narrow and his mouth taut. Nancy understood he would prefer this compartment to himself. For a stupid moment, she wished desperately to impress him. She massaged her skirt against her fingers in abashment. The car pitched as Leon got in. A moment later, the engine purred into life. The floor reverberated in a soft rumble. Jazz funk started up on the stereo.
‘Where to, Nancy?’ Leon asked.
Nancy had already decided not to allow Glebe Hollow near Bedworth to escape her lips. ‘Oh, just drop me at Broadgate in Coventry.’
‘It’s not far from the Godiva statue.’
Leon chuckled at this. ‘Oh, yeah, I know that one, the naked lady on the horse. Sure thing, Nancy.’