By Clare O’Dea
Justin sat at the kitchen table of the Ringsend apartment methodically working his way through the pile of pages and chuckling between drags of his cigarette. Derek watched his flatmate’s face intently, trying to hide his anxiety. He was beginning to doubt the wisdom of sharing his secret with the brash younger man. Maybe he should just interrupt Justin and grab the pages back; the whole notion was half-baked, unethical and difficult to explain. As Derek squirmed and hesitated, Justin read on.
Five minutes passed, then ten. Desperate for something to keep him occupied, Derek put the kettle on and then, feeling tall and self-conscious in the kitchen, started the washing-up. With his back to Justin, he had to keep looking over his shoulder to monitor the reading.
Finally, when Derek was in the middle of tackling the crusty cooker rings, Justin placed the last page on the pile to his right and leaned back with a smirk to look at the J-cloth wielding author.
“I don’t get it, I just don’t get it.” Derek attempted a mature, knowing expression. “This material, these characters, well it’s so bloody real and entertaining.” Derek nodded. “The flow is great, what can I say, it is just as good if not better than any of the chick lit we publish at Perrot’s. But what I don’t get is since when are you such an expert on women?”
Derek smiled weakly and raised his hands in a ‘dunno’ gesture.
“How much more have you written?”
“More. A lot more, I mean reams of the stuff. It’s all a bit in rough form though, needs some structure, some rounding off I suppose.”
“Where does it come from though? I mean how long have you been writing and why these characters?”
“I’ve been writing for a while, you know, and em the women are a kind of amalgam of, well I’ve always been fascinated by women’s friendships and all that, you know through my exes.”
“But I thought the longest you ever went out with anyone was two months.”
“Look I’m a watcher, I’m a listener. I’ve been walking around for the past 36 years watching and listening and this is just something that I kind of tapped into.”
“And the email format, what gave you that idea?”
“Ah I just saw it one time at the airport. I was browsing and I saw one of those best-selling single girl type stories. It was all emails. I think that’s what set me off.”
“Well it’s bloody intriguing, how an IT guy, and I stress guy, who works for an insurance company.” “Worked for an insurance company,” Derek interrupted. “Yeah OK worked then, but you only finished up last Friday after 13 bloody years at the place.”
“What’s your point mate?”
“My point is you don’t fit the typical profile for this kind of writing, by far not, but who gives a shit, you’ve cracked it. I’d be happy to advise you where to go from here with your manuscript. Consider me your number one fan from now on.”
Derek looked at his flatmate’s outstretched hand and broad smile and couldn’t help reciprocating. By now his nerves were starting to evaporate and replacing them came an unusual feeling of satisfaction.
Maybe one day Janet or one of her friends would come across the published material but what could they do about it? Making any kind of fuss would identify them as the women in the emails and expose them to ridicule, if not divorce proceedings. It would teach Janet a lesson for flirting with him and ignoring company guidelines on personal emails, Derek thought, wondering if he might finally have to buy a suit to wear at the launch party.