He was a bloke, that was all.
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I looked quickly at Nick. He was bouncing around on the balls of his feet, rubbing his hands together. A good day, then. But Nick's 'good days' had a way of bringing disaster to anyone who got involved, his un-aimed enthusiasm was a form of weaponry that warring nations could exploit. Er, Kai. Thank you for holding the table for us.
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I'm sure you'd like to get off now. Back to Well, with me, although not in the way that you are obviously thinking by the way you're staring.
Not a couple. They were probably really a kind of paleish brown, but the lights in the pub made them look yellow. Nick was staring too, but that's the kind of person he was, he didn't mean anything by it. His eyes, like mine, were on the normal side of grey, although he'd inherited our father's pale skin and blond hair, so we used to tease him that if he was photographed in black-and-white he'd be invisible. I, on the other hand, got Ma's ginger ringlets and freckles, Aunt Mairi's athletic build and, from some anonymous donor to the family gene pool, the kind of mouth that always looks as though I am smiling, even when I'm not.
I looked, so I was told, like Little Orphan Annie's evil twin hatching a plot. The two guys eyeballed me until I began to feel awkward. Kai broke the silence and dropped his eyes, to stare at the scratched and scarred table and the two pints sitting stickily atop. You're a location scout? Sounds brilliant. You know you're not supposed to go round blurting out what I do.
Remember last time? And, oh God, the time before? Nick looked down at his scuffed shoes. We'd never managed to get him to polish his shoes, not even with all the family nagging, and now scuffed toecaps were as much a part of my brother as his floppy fringe, huge eyes and eccentricities.
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Sorry, Holl, but I think it's so cooooool to have a sis who drives around finding places to be in films! I couldn't be cross with him for long. It was completely pointless in the face of such effervescence, like sulking at a beagle.
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And yes, it is cool. But when you tell people, they always think I'm some kind of backdoor entrance to the industry. I never get to meet anyone with any influence, I just scout locations. I'm only slightly higher up the food chain than the guy who makes the coffee on set. This got me an even-toothed grin. Knows all sorts of people. Hugh Jackman and David Tennant, people like that.
You like Hugh Jackman, Holl, don't you? No agenda.
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Wanted to interview someone who's taking them and my doctor put him on to me. The lemon slice bobbed to the surface and hit me on the nose like a fairy slap and, as if in reaction, someone behind me burst out laughing. The Welshman's eyes flicked up for a second to watch the crowd and I caught a hint — I mean, call me Mrs Suspicious if you want, but it was there, trust me — of someone used to watching, observing the crowd from the outside rather than being a part of it. But I do other stuff too. A colour I'd never seen on a man before. Can only go so long asking all these gorgeous women if they've had work done, just so they can deny it.
I waited for him to leer and ask if I'd had work done, but he didn't. I mean, I haven't, but it would be nice to be asked. Better be off. Deadlines, you know how it goes. And if you're ever looking for a gothic cottage, well, quite fancy seeing my place on screen. Not many people volunteered their homes; most had to be persuaded into letting some film crew muck up their lawn, scare the cat and leave traces of John Nettles everywhere.
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And by the time I looked up from the small-printed square of card, the lanky Welshman was gone and Nick was drawing house shapes on the table in spilled beer. He's not my type. I don't have a type. How're you doing?
Did you get the washing out that I put in the dryer at your place this morning? It needs folding as soon as it's dry or it goes all crinkly. Nick flicked me a sudden straight stare. It was disconcerting, from someone whose eyes usually never stayed still.
And he was interested in you, Holl, I could tell, the way he kept looking at you. That's how normal people are. I reached out and laid a hand on his bony wrist. Come on. You're doing okay. And the new stuff seems to be helping, doesn't it? She looked away from me now, round the crowded little room. I hadn't been able to stop myself assessing her house on a professional basis when I arrived, but there was nothing that could have featured in anything other than a sitcom based on the antics of a rural witch-wannabe. Heavy velvet curtains, incense, crystal just-about-everything and a deep, layered smell of cats, damp and sage.
And as if all that wasn't enough, it was a cottage in the woods. If anyone offered me gingerbread, I'd be violent. Everyone has something they wish for. Apart from Megan, and to a much lesser extent me, the advert had gathered two others. None of them looked like witches, apart from Vivienne, who, with her bony chin and slightly-too-large nose, looked like a starter-hag.
What do you want?