NANCY pulled up outside her house to see a shadow on the porch steps. Please not now. Since her landline had lain quiet, bar the hospital call, she hoped the press attention was fizzling. Not a reporter, it seemed; the figure’s carriage more befitted Bex. Even on a cold night such as this, Bex insisted upon wearing short skirts and court shoes. Her large overcoat made her look like an oilrig.
Nancy killed the engine and got out. Bex appeared subdued, but not enough to say sorry. ‘Hurry up, you mong, its cold out here.’ Her way of saying she’d known Nancy long enough not to let a small matter of inflicting gouges on skin to stand in the way of a toxic friendship. Nancy didn’t look at her as she inserted the key and let her in.
Bex took the lead and perched herself on the sofa. She tucked her knees demurely beneath her. ‘Look, I heard about your mom,’ she began.
‘I came as soon as I heard. Danny told me everything. It’s shit, isn’t it?’
‘What do you want, Bex?’
‘You have such a low opinion of me, don’t you?’
‘You drew blood.’
‘I’m sorry, all right? It’s me fingernails, they’re a bit sharp, that’s all.’
The usual Bex reflex of self-denial. A fusion of assertiveness and going too far. Nancy eyed the newspapers sticking out of Bex’s coat pocket. ‘Why don’t you just cut the condolences and get to the point, Bex? You obviously have something you want to show me.’
Bex gave a sanctimonious smirk. ‘You are such a sullen bitch, Nancy.’ She untucked a newspaper and leafed through with aplomb. She slammed the reams onto the coffee table. ‘Fuckin’ Cora,’ she huffed.
Nancy read the headline: What’s in Store for Core: Life after the Jonas Crash, Trauma Victim Rebuilds her Life.
Bex slammed a second newspaper on top. ‘Fuckin’ Cora.’
Cora Splashes out: Jonas Crash Victim has Retail Therapy at Selfridges in Oxford Street.
Bex slammed a third on top. ‘Oh, and there’s fuckin’ Cora again.’
Cora says: Jonas Made Indecent Proposal before the Crash.
‘We’ve got to do something about her.’
Nancy quickly drew her eyes from the final headline. ‘Like what?’
‘She’s a liar, a freeloader and a tart. Apparently, she was bullied at school before suffering the private hell of bulimia. You remember how she used to flick spit at kids’ hair with a ruler? Bully my royal but! As for bulimia, she just downed a load of Fantas and chips to fatten up her tits. Everybody knows what she is, yet the press‘re still yakking on about her.’ Bex gathered up the newspapers and stuffed them back inside her pocket. ‘She was snapped the other day just for chavving about town with some third-division footballers. Her skirt’s so short you could see the tat on her arse.’
The silver bottle tops in Vince’s overcoat. ‘She’s gone dirty.’
‘She’s gone dirty. I give her two weeks.’
Bex’s eyebrow twitched at this. She never questioned the obscure. Her lower lip curled beneath her teeth before carrying on as though Nancy had not spoken. ‘I could dish out some real dirt on her. That’d shut her up.’
The tension headache of earlier started to bite. ‘Look, Bex, I’ve had a rough evening…’
‘Come in with me, Nancy. We could play her at her own game, fill some columns of our own. We’d have lots of clout together.’
Nancy lengthened the term to three weeks, a month. Does it count if a third party assists?
Bex’s false fingernails flashed in the gloom. ‘I know the press’ ve been bugging you. I’ve seen ‘em waiting outside your house. You should have told me about the shoot, Nancy. You’ve forgotten where you came from. You’re ashamed of us, aren’t you? Are you ashamed that your mom got blotto in the Hatchet bogs?’
Nancy kneaded her skirt in a fist. ‘Shut up, Bex.’
‘Come in with me, Nance. Please. Let’s have some fun in bringing down that jumped-up cow.’
‘No one can argue with photos, Nance. You were there, right next to Jonas. You’ve got tons more whack than her. You could bring her down with just one word.’
The stain on the floor shaped like a witch on a broomstick. The reap of forty years. She’s a belly of iron, has our Sheil. She’s a party girl.
Nancy closed her eyes a moment.
‘Who’s to argue that you weren’t there, in the crash? You could have, Nance. You so easily could have.’
Nancy’s fist began to shudder. ‘I think you should leave now, Bex.’