"gradually I've come to realise that my house is haunted by the ghost of a dead astronaut"

Friday, 19 February 2010

44. That Bitch Ormsley


 
“It seemed almost as if listening to Kidman, rather than fighting against her, had allowed purpose to take the lead when dancing with trepidation, and it allowed uncertainty to sit it out, realising it had had its spell on the dancefloor and should now just let others get up and do their thing”

When I think of Mrs Ormsley, I think first and foremost of her eyes. Those eyes designed to perturb and flummox, to unsettle and bewilder. One eyebrow raised, startled and yet strangely accepting; the other lowered, piercing and suspicious. I also, if I’m an honest kinda girl, think about her stomach nice and full with lots of food and fluids, her stomach muscles all relaxed and comfortable, and me delivering an incisive punch right in her bitching old gut! As well as being an honest girl, I’m also at times that kinda girl.

But here I was being a totally different kinda girl. The one who seeks out the company of such a woman. And all I can think of to call this kinda girl is a fool.

It took me forever to decide what to wear, although I concluded that it didn’t really matter. Mrs Ormsley, readers may recall, had concluded long ago, and on scanty circumstantial evidence, that I was little more than a vagrant who was living in Mordan House illegally. Not that she’d ever asked me about how I came to live there! No, she wasn’t interested in truth. Only opinion.

If I 'dressed down' to go and visit her then Mrs Ormsley’s opinion would be that I warranted pity, visibly concluding that I was a poor, ghastly little thing (one brow raised in commiseration), but also concluding at the same time that it wasn’t possible for me to be anything other than a tad ghastly when I was downtrodden and generally alienated from society (the other brow lowered in contempt).

But if I 'dressed up', yes there would be one brow raised in admiration, but it would be the other one that would do all the damage. It would conclude that my cleanliness would be down to a swift half-hour using the mirror and wash basin in a public lavatory, before the janitor decided to move me on after I’d declined his gracious offer of a couple of lost property hair-grips and a skoosh of his Lynx in exchange for a BJ. Alternatively, she would think that my neat and tidy attire would be at the expense of some poor cow who would currently be sitting in the back of a police car on a country road, her nakedness now reduced somewhat by a blanket, and with a cold compress held against a nasty gash at the back of her head, as she explained that she hadn’t seen her assailant as she had been too busy inspecting the dead sheep that was mysteriously blocking the road.

“She would think that my neat and tidy attire would be at the expense of some poor cow who would currently be sitting in the back of a police car on a country road, her nakedness now reduced somewhat by a blanket, and with a cold compress held against a nasty gash at the back of her head”

No. Whatever I wore I would be the loser. So I dressed tastefully, smartly. Jeans for a bit of daytime casualness and black leather shoes with a small heel. I wore a navy blue wrapover top that set my puppies barking and snarling slightly – but not too much that people would worry that they might get out at any moment and cause some damage to property. Earrings with a slight drop. A funky silver necklace with ickle, dainty beads. Hair tied back. Make up. Black waist-length coat with large lapels, but unbuttoned to show off my top. As I said before: tasteful, smart.

Before I left, Kidman had mentioned that I should align my eyebrows, nose and puppies (the ENP of Kidman) if I got into any difficulty – it was to her mind the display of the peacock, the act of defiance, the unfurled stance of unequivocal female pride that kept all evil forces at bay. But there was no need for such a reminder. I was a convert. If in trouble, ENP would get me out of it, and I aimed to use it as much as I needed to.

Another thing that I found myself to be doing was not thinking about this thing that I’d made up my mind to do. Ordinarily I’d let my mind twist in all manner of ways until I was exhausted – yet, for all the deliberation, the outcome would be the same. So, today, as I drove towards the neighbouring town, I let my made-up mind get on with what it had made up. It seemed almost as if listening to Kidman, rather than fighting against her, had allowed purpose to take the lead when dancing with trepidation, and it allowed uncertainty to sit it out, realising it had had its spell on the dancefloor and should now just let others get up and do their thing. Sure, my idea of Kidman was opposed to me going to see Mrs Ormsley to ask for answers to questions about the history of Mordan House, but the philosophy of Kidman as I understood it – the attitude, the soft and genial fire, the keenness of purpose, the resilience – was undeniably true of my idea of her also. I was, it seemed, taking this idea and using it for my own purpose.

Of course this purpose became harder to realise as I walked up the steps to the library where Mrs Ormsley worked. Oh, much, much harder! It was not that I was having second thoughts about going through with it, it was that I was still unsure about smacking her a hard one at gut-level if she said anything that I objected to! And yet, at the back of my mind was the fact that she had let me stay over at her place the night after I’d ventured down to the basement, and that had been a kind thing to do. But surely that was just one momentary flash of a solitary kind brow – and, due to my frazzled state, I had merely missed the workings of the other brow.

When she turned round and saw me, Mrs Ormsley suddenly had the look of someone who’s just banged her face against an invisible wall.

“Oh!” she exclaimed. Ouch, I thought would have been more appropriate.

I garbled some kind of hello and some kind of request as to the state of her health. From where she stood behind the enquiries desk she made some kind of reply, but I can’t remember what it was – I was looking around me and thinking about my face and my appearance and the positioning of my body, and only just taking in the sound of her voice. I then found myself resting on her face and seeing that it was eyeing me quizzically, as if waiting, and I realised that she had asked me if she could help me with anything.

“Sure, my idea of Kidman was opposed to me going to see Mrs Ormsley to ask for answers to questions about the history of Mordan House, but the philosophy of Kidman as I understood it – the attitude, the soft and genial fire, the keenness of purpose, the resilience – was undeniably true of my idea of her also. I was, it seemed, taking this idea and using it for my own purpose”

“No,” I uttered without the smallest trace of emotion. “Well, yes, actually. I’m looking for some information and I thought you might be able to help.”

In reply, her face did something I had never seen before: both eyebrows rose and arched dramatically. The symmetrical act transformed the entirety of her face. She looked, in fact, like a different person. Moreover, she was looking at me as if I was a different person too.

“Oh,” she repeated, this time as if the wall had just spoken to her. And walls, of course, aren’t supposed to do that. I felt a moment of achievement and flexed my brickwork slightly.

Then, just as quickly as it had appeared, imbalance quickly returned: her eyebrows again opposed each other, one tumbling as the other rose, like the arms of a set of scales.

“Information,” she said coldly, not entirely as a question or a statement. “On what? Emphysema? Bronchitis? STDs? Goodness, I’m trying to think of other conditions associated with vagrancy. Perhaps hepatitis?”

Hepatitis? Hepatitis! The compulsion rose in me like indigestion, or like some ever so small man trying to box his way out of my belly. I felt a tingling in my fingers and my tongue cleaved to the top of my mouth. I poked her in the eye with a sharp look, but, dammit, I didn’t see them flinch or water. Composure, composure, I told myself. I tried to breathe deeply, aligned my nose like a tiny dagger, arched my brows into two tightly-strung peashooters, and pushed my breasts up and out like a tray of delicious cakes.

But then …

Hold on a sec. Now wait a min.

What the devil was she ..?

It was hard to believe – and hard to digest even once I’d started to believe – but Mrs Ormsley appeared to be looking directly at my cleavage. Looking? No, too faint a word. Staring! And staring like some right dirty minx too!

“I tried to breathe deeply, aligned my nose like a tiny dagger, arched my brows into two tightly-strung peashooters, and pushed my breasts up and out like a tray of delicious cakes”

It was my turn to frown. My turn to pull some awkward, garish, twisted facial display. “No. Information on the house. Mordan House,” I said in a weak, slightly staccato fashion.

At the name of Mordan House, her eyes glanced at mine, but then dropped stone-like back to my haughty, tail-wagging, sprightly, conceited little pups. What was going on?

Could this be the effect of the Eyebrows plus Nose plus Puppies equation? The ENP of Kidman? If so, then what were so many mathematicians doing wasting their time on lengthy formulas with brackets, and little numbers sitting on the shoulders of big numbers, when a simple ENP obviously unlocked so many secrets to the universe! Eureka, I exclaimed within. Voila! Ole! Take that, testicle-face!

Eureka? Voila? Ole? No! I wasn’t sure I liked this, this looking. No, this staring! Moreover, I felt exposed and uncomfortable standing on one side of the enquiries desk of a library, while a middle-aged woman scrutinised my chest as if they were a couple of full bowls ready to be handed over to hungry orphans, or two long-awaited invitations on a butler’s silver salver. Like wriggly bait on a fisherman’s hook. Like a couple of tempting water coolers on a scorching hot day. Oh, please tell me, dear reader, if a vivid picture of the scene is still alluding you!

Reflex kicked in, before I was even aware that it wanted to kick, and I found that I’d grabbed the big lapels of my coat and brought them tightly together to hide my little Dalmatians from the naughty Cruella Deville. Another reflex – of sorts, anyway – kicked in and I found myself taking some kind of control of proceedings.

“I was wondering why the owners of the refuge left? Were they forced out?” I asked.

The library was quiet, but it was a small town and it had been quiet every time I’d been in it. The lighting was subdued around the entrance and the enquiries desk, but brighter at many of the book shelves where light was allowed in by large, old windows.

Mr Ormsley, her eyes disengaged from my puppy pouch, looked away into the shadows and contorted her lips before replying. “I don’t think it ever really closed. We never referred to it as a refuge – it was just the people up at Mordan House. It’s only since it’s been empty that people here refer to the time when it was a refuge. But you could as well have called it a commune. Although it was nearly all women there – and women who had been physically abused. But they were into all manner of things. Living off the land. A return to basics. Trying to build a new idea of society. And, to my mind, it accidentally became a fact that the majority of people there had been abused. Maybe through word of mouth, I don’t know. And because of the problem they were escaping, those in charge tried to cater for them. To help them, I guess. I’m not sure that they did help them though.”

It was only then that Mrs Ormsley looked at me. “I only ever really spoke to one woman from the house," she said. "She would come here and read. I actually think that she used to walk here and then walk back. I can’t think how long that would take her! She was a scraggly-haired girl. Bitten nails. Pretty face. But clothes like yours. Attempting to be tasteful, but dying a death, you know.”

I glanced down at myself and frowned. Within my coat, my two little puppies wriggled uncomfortably.

“I think eventually everyone just left the place, one by one,” she continued, again looking away. “And eventually it was just common knowledge that there was no-one living there anymore.”

As she spoke I was thinking about the house, about these women and the character of the place with them all living inside of it. What would it have been like? How would it have felt? What would have been its atmosphere? I was busy thinking along these lines, as well as formulating a next question, when Mrs Ormsley added to her statement.

“Oh, that girl who came here said something very odd to me once! Maybe it’s a clue to why the women eventually all left. She said that her husband had abused her body and her mind, but that Mordan House abused her soul. She said that they made her eat darkness. And she said that once you get that stuff inside of you then you never get it out. Such a strange thing to say! But, there again, she was a bit like you in other ways too: there was a circus going on in her head but you wouldn’t want to buy a ticket to see it or anything!”

I heard two puppies yelp and felt their little paws try to dig a hole to bury themselves in it.

“Catherine! Catherine!” An old woman’s voice came booming out of the library’s silence. Mrs Ormsley looked up and said, “Oh, dear.”

“She said that her husband had abused her body and her mind, but that Mordan House abused her soul. She said that they made her eat darkness. And she said that once you get that stuff inside of you then you never get it out. Such a strange thing to say!”

“Oh. Someone’s lost a companion, I think,” I said, trying to sound light-hearted and friendly.

“Catherine Cookson! Where the hell are the Catherine Cookson books in this place?” the voice shouted. Then I saw the old woman who had been with Mrs Ormsley that day when I’d waited for James in the café. She was, it seemed, wandering about, frustrated, and trying desperately to find the books of her favourite author.

Mrs Ormsley muttered something, but I wasn’t sure if it was directed at me or herself. Then she got out from the enquiries desk to go to the old woman, and before I had a chance to ask more, she was gone.

There was no point staying. I felt I had a huge amount of information to digest. More than plenty. As I left the library, a middle-aged man with a hold-all and wearing a duffle coat passed me. “Nothing yet,” he said and winked.

“No, not yet,” I mumbled indifferently, my head full of thoughts and impressions. But then, all of a sudden, I stopped and turned back to him. “Actually, no. I’m sorry but I don’t know what you mean by that. What hasn’t happened yet?”

“Oh,” he uttered. Someone else confronted by an invisible wall, I thought. I must have been attracting the damned things! “Josh,” he said. “He hasn’t been found yet. Or come home. That’s all. That’s all I meant.”

I tried to formulate a response, but by the time I’d thought of one the man was several steps away from me. Josh? It was a name I’d never heard mentioned to me before. So that was why they said “Not yet” all the time. Someone called Josh was missing from the town and hadn’t reappeared or been found. But who was Josh?

When I told Kidman how nice to me Mrs Ormsley had been, but at the same time so unusual, all she had to say was: “Nice to you? Unusual to you? How dare she! Testicle-faced whore!”

“Yes, Kidman,” I said in full agreement, “you’re bloody right! How dare she! The dangleberry-faced bitch!”

And we both laughed. Yes, reader, we laughed! Later on, we sat and had a bottle of wine together and we discussed long into the night what I’d discovered that day.

And during that discussion I told her that my ENP had collapsed while talking to Mrs Ormsley, due to my puppies getting scared. She said they needed to be trained. Hm, was my response.

And during this discussion Kidman also told me that she was planning a gift for me. What she called a very special gift indeed. Hm, was my response to that too.

Next instalment: 45. The Astronaut Stopped

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

43. Kidman Ruins It

(This is a second scene from the screenplay of the movie version of ‘Nicole Kidman stars in: The Astronaut Dropped’, starring Nicole Kidman (as herself) and Julianne Moore (Kidman on a budget) as the remarkable Stephanie Fey. This scene is dedicated to Nevine Sultan of ‘Dreams, Deliriums, and Other Mind Talk’, who specifically asked for another blog post of this kind.)

TWO. INTERIOR – STEPH’S LIVING ROOM IN MORDAN HOUSE. DAY

The living room of Stephanie Fey in Mordan House is tidy but shabby. All different kinds of furniture and different kinds of ornaments can be seen; the wallpaper also contains different styles on different walls. The carpet is a bizarre dark floral affair and the ceiling is cracked and with flaking paint. There is one large window in the room that looks onto the gravel driveway at the front of the house. There is a closed door that leads to Stephanie's bedroom and, at the other side of the room, a square archway opening onto a short corridor. Stephanie is taking her time in getting dressed, considering her appearance more than usual. She is also wearing make up. Nicole Kidman is present in the room. Her face wears an expression of incredulity.
     Kidman
No, no, no! Absolutely no way! There’s just no possible, conceivable way you can do that! What are you? Crazy?
     Steph
     (Momentarily stops buttoning her blouse)
Uh, yes, actually. You telling me you hadn’t noticed?
     Kidman
     (Looks down at her feet and lowers her voice)
Good point.
     (Regains her sense of irritation)
But, still, of all the crazy things to do!
     Steph
I’ve done crazier things.
     Kidman
     (Looks towards the window)
Granted. You have.
     (Looks back at Steph)
But, sweet buggery, this? This!
     Steph
Calm down. You’re scaring your puppies.
     (Kidman looks down at her breasts, then looks up, confused)
Not to mention your eyebrows. Your nose, even!
     Kidman
     (Puts her hand up to her nose defensively)
Don’t criticise my ENP. My eyebrows, nose and puppies are most perfectly aligned, thank you very much.
     (Points her finger at Steph)
And don’t you try to change the subject!
     Steph
     (Stops putting on a pair of shoes to look at Kidman purposefully but calmly)
There’s no subject to be changed. The subject is set. It’s not for being changed.
     (Continues putting her shoes on)
Anyway, what other choice do I have?
     Kidman
     (Sits down on a chair and leans towards Steph)
Well, that’s a given! Indeed you are a woman who has very limited choices in life, Steph. Yes, looking at you and your circumstance, you do seem rather lacking in fruitful possibilities. Let's face it, shit does have a tendency to choose you. Bad dress sense chooses you also!
     (Steph looks up, perplexed)
Solitude chooses you certainly. God, even the ghosts of the dead choose you! Yes, admittedly, good choices would appear to be pretty thin on the ground for Stephanie Fey. But, that said, you can't possibly do that!
     Steph
     (Turning angry)
Don’t ruin this for me!
Steph tries to calm herself and finishes putting on her shoes.
     Kidman
Look, I think it’s laudable that you want to go out and speak to people. Even if it is contrary to what you promised yourself when you entered this house. But surely this is too much! Too much even for you, Steph!
Steph takes her coat from where it lies on a sofa and starts to put it on.
     Steph
     (While not looking at Kidman)
Yes, it is laudable. Absolutely it is. And, surely, that’s all that matters.
     (Steph looks over at Kidman who is looking out of the window)
Are you listening?
     (Kidman doesn’t reply)
No, you’re not. All the more reason to go out and speak to someone else.
     (Raises her voice in Kidman’s direction)
Someone who will listen!
     (Kidman puts her fingers in her ears)
Jeez, Kidman! You’re imaginary! You don’t need ears to listen – you could listen with your ass if you wanted to!
Steph looks away, looking instead for a handbag. She finds it, and as she moves towards the archway and the short hallway on the other side she glances back at Kidman. Kidman is crouched over a chair, her face pushed down into a pillow on the seat and her bum raised high in the air towards Steph.
     Steph
     (Sighs)
What are you doing now?
     Kidman
     (Voice muffled by the pillow)
Listening.
     Steph
     (Sighs again)
Right, I’m going.
     Kidman
     (Springing up from the chair)
Fine! Go and speak to Janey Ormsley about the history of this house, and be generally insulted by her without learning anything at all!
     (Steph moves into the hallway and towards the door to her suite of rooms)
While you’re there, at least ask her why she has a dog's testicle on her face!
     Steph
     (Steph moves towards the front door of Mordan House)
It's called a goiter.
     Kidman
     (Following her)
And ask her when she's going to do something about that great sagging hernia that jangles when she moves. Oh, I loathe how it jangles!
     Steph
     (Now walking across the gravel towards her car)
It's a bum bag.
     Kidman
     (Stands still at the front door)
And don’t forget your ENP. You’re going to need it. Eyebrows. Nose. Pebbles!
     Steph
     (Doesn't look round, instead simply mutters acerbically)
Bitch.
END SCENE

Next instalment: 44. That Bitch Ormsley

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

42. Remember, Whispers of Cold Can’t Hurt You

 
"At night I imagine the cold breeze swirling in this house’s cold gut, and the breeze growing plump as it feasts on the coldness of the house and its cold history. I imagine it pushing against the walls, forcing them to bulge as the house relents to this frozen force that growls and whimpers within it"

There are times, usually at night, when the cold of this winter encircles Mordan House, its teeth eating away at the stone façade, gnawing the wooden window frames and the slate roof, making holes for itself to push through. Once inside, it scurries through the passageways, charges into empty rooms, tumbles noiselessly down the stairs in search of the history of the house that was never actually a home. Looking also for a cold companion to cuddle up to.

Cold winds love history; history is cold like itself. History is as shallow as palimpsest, as fragile as a child’s cough. And this house's history is colder than most. What love has it ever known? What arms have welcomed it? What plans have been made with hope and joy? What kisses has it witnessed to warm it through and through? What hurt has it seen to make it knowledgeable, so it can learn how love stretches in and out of all feelings, no matter the colour? What new life has gladdened its walls and revitalised its shape? None, none, none.

The bitter cold is drawn to Mordan House, I think. Why would it not be? What is colder, more lifeless, greater in pointlessness, sadder, deader than here? At night I imagine the cold breeze swirling in this house’s cold gut, and the breeze growing plump as it feasts on the coldness of the house and its cold history. I imagine it pushing against the walls, forcing them to bulge as the house relents to this frozen force that growls and whimpers within it.

Of course the cold pushes against my door, that icy muzzle trying to force its way in. But these days I  barricade my door with cushions to keep the cold at bay. So all that gets through are little whispers of cold. And I remind myself, whispers of cold can't hurt me. Nor can its whiskers. Nor can its whimperings and its growls.

My rooms. My rooms. In here, I work to kill my own history, and the only thing that destroys history is newness: the grand scheme that's begun with an arm raised ready to put it into action; or the innovation of love as its charmed and magical mechanism just begins to turn; or the energy of an expectant moment, like that instant just before lips connect in a kiss. Just so. Just so.

"Of course the cold pushes against my door, that icy muzzle trying to force its way in. But these days I  barricade my door with cushions to keep the cold at bay. So all that's gets through are little whispers of cold. And I remind myself, whispers of cold can't hurt me. Nor can its whiskers. Nor can its whimperings and its growls"

I know the meaning of the cold and I know what it wants from me. As I sleep, I hear its whimpers of frustration and its whispers that ask to be let in. And I do everything I can to dream warm dreams of James, because I know that it’s that or death.

There is, I know, so much pointlessness in dreaming about a man I've only seen twice and spoken to once. And a man who knits, for Christ's sake. But women, I've found, have the ability to love the way God must love. To appear to be eternally non-present from the lover - even through the entirety of that person's lifetime - but still to cloak the lover with love through every moment of every day of every year. The only question is: does God feel the frustration, the inner conflict, the sickness of the absence that we have from Him, the way women do with men? The way I do now? Love, it seems, is like alcohol. Drinking it is easy; it's keeping it in your stomach that can often be difficult.

What's changing in me? Something is.

"Love, it seems, is like alcohol. Drinking it is easy; it's keeping it in your stomach that can often be difficult"

I feel the need to speak to a person. To look, to listen, to respond, to be heard. To feel the tension of conversation - the coming together, the pulling apart, the mystery, the revelation of it all. Just for the beauty of it too. It doesn't have to be James that I speak to. No, just someone. After all, there are so many questions to the mystery of Mordan House that are potentially just a conversation away, and they won't be solved in libraries and basements and through soul-searching, or online. I've felt so distant from people and so reluctant to present myself before them in anything more than a perfunctory and accidental way. It's all part of the promise I made to myself whan I moved into this ramshackle, windswept wreck of a place. But that promise has been unravelling from the moment I arrived at the door of this house, it seems.

Yet if I speak to someone, who should I speak to? A stranger? Or someone I know?

I tell myself that I don't need to have any fear. What does it matter what people say to me? To my face or whispered behind my back.

I must remember at all times that whispers of cold can't hurt me. No, they cannot hurt me.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

41. The House that Was Never a Home



[This is a scene from the screenplay of the movie version of ‘Nicole Kidman stars in: The Astronaut Dropped’, starring Nicole Kidman (as herself) and Julianne Moore (a poor man’s Kidman) as Stephanie Fey. Okay, the movie hasn't been made yet, but this is how this scene would most probably play out.]

INTERIOR – LIBRARY IN NEIGHBOURING TOWN – DAY

A small library in a small town. It's also almost empty, save for Nicole Kidman, a Hollywood actress with red hair of diminishing lustre, and Stephanie Fey, a quite stunning redhead. Steph sits at a table with a number of old books before her. She is reading and taking notes. Kidman sits across from her, her feet up on the table and rocking backwards and forwards on the back legs of the chair. The lighting is sombre. Shadows abound. During the scene, Kidman speaks loudly and her voice echoes through the library; by contrast, Steph whispers. But that's as you would expect. After all, Steph's so much more polite and charming than Kidman. Don't you agree, dear reader?
     Kidman
Pebbles.
     Steph
     (Annoyed)
Do you mind? I’m trying to read!
     Kidman
     (Pretends to be offended)
Huh. It’s not me that’s distracting you, Stephanie. It’s your own thoughts.
     Steph
I beg your pardon? I’m quite happily reading here, I’ll have you know.
     Kidman
Pebbles!
     Steph
Oh, be quiet! You’re so rude.

     Kidman
You really should stop thinking about all that stuff. It won’t help you. It’s baggage. Drop it. Drop it and let security come along with a sniffer dog and detonate it in a controlled explosion. That’s what you do with the baggage of the past!

     Steph
It’s the past of Mordan House that I’m focused on! Not my own past. Not my own baggage.
     Kidman
     (Leans across the table and wags a finger at Steph, slowly and deliberately)
Then stop being distracted!

     Steph
     (Sighs)
I so hate it when you do that.
     Kidman
I can always hover above you and do it. That any better?
     Steph
No, not really.
     (Reading from a book)
This is so interesting. Apparently Mordan House was never actually a home. According to this book, a wealthy industrialist in the 19th century built it for his wife. It was to be their family home. It says that she died in childbirth and he never came to live in it. It stayed in the family possession, yet stayed empty.
     Kidman
     (Kidman isn't listening. She looks around at the library, distracted)
Men. Bunch of stinky bums. Big old bunch of botty burps. That's what they are.
     (She looks at Steph)
Pebbles.

     Steph
     (Looks up sternly)
I'm not talking about it. Stop saying that, will you?

     Kidman
     (Shrugs and changes the subject)
What book is that anyway? Mordan House - The Early Years?

     Steph
There's no such book, of course. It's a book about the local history of this area.

     Kidman
I'm thinking about Jonathan Mido. Aren't you? Your first love in High School. He was smaller than you. You stopped dating him when you realised you'd never seen his nostrils. Aren't you thinking about him?

     Steph
Well, you have to see a guy's nostrils, at least once in a while. But it wasn't really the nostrils that was the problem.
     (Looks off into space)
Imagine being a house that was made to be a home, but that purpose is never, ever realised.

     Kidman
No, it wasn't the nostrils. It was the fact that he was always looking down. Never looking you in the eye.

     Steph
I don't think anyone who took refuge from people who were violent towards them could ever have regarded Mordan House as their home. Just imagine. Never knowing the sound of love cries in the night. Never knowing a baby's screams and the sleepy padding of bare-footed parents across a hallway.

     Kidman
You knew that he never looked you in the eye because he didn't love you.

     Steph
I'm the first person to ever call it home. And it isn't even really my home! I'm really just a caretaker.

     Kidman
A janitor.

     Steph
     (Steph snaps back to reality and raises her voice in replying)
No! I'm not a janitor!
     (She looks around, embarrassed to have raised her voice)
     Kidman
What about Thomas Quip before him. I know he's on your mind too. Stubby-nosed, black finger-nailed Tommy Quip. He was the first boy to feel your breasts.

     Steph
     (Looks away on purpose and stares into space)
To never know a dinner party. To never know the first tipsy embrace of two lovers whose feet touched under the table. To never know a child running onto the gravel at the sound of a father's car coming up the driveway. To never know happy silence, full to the brim with saying nothing.
     (Looks at Kidman)
Yes. I knew he didn't love me. That was the real reason I had never seen his nostrils.

     Kidman
Tommy felt your breast and was shocked that it was so firm. I mean, really shocked! He thought it would be softer. He told all the other boys in school that your breasts were hard as rocks.

     Steph
Alright, Kidman, alright. Just leave it, will you.

     Kidman
And what did they call you after that? Pebbles!

     Steph
     (Folds her arms self-consciously)
That's right. You happy now?

     Steph
And ever since then you've tried to find some way to ask every man you're with if your breasts feel normal. Or do they feel like -
Kidman stops talking as she notices that Steph is not listening. Instead Steph is looking down a library aisle at a shadowy figure walking towards her.
     Kidman
Pebbles? Pebbles! You don't seem to be able to hear me, although you're only a STONE'S throw away, Pebbles!
Steph's face grows fearful, but then the figure is revealled and it is a woman in her 40s with a shopping bag and wearing a large coat. She walks by the table that Steph's sitting at.
     Woman
Not yet, ma dear.

     Steph
     (Automatically)
No, not yet.
Steph looks down at the book she's been reading. The open page has a black and white picture of Mordan House on it. Steph gently strokes the image of the house.
     Steph
There, there, little house. There, there.
Suddenly Steph grabs the top of her head, obviously thinking that she has felt something touch her there. She looks behind her but there is nothing and no-one to be seen. Looking across the table at the seat where Kidman had been sitting, she notices also that the seat is empty.

END SCENE