Jess talks about Halloween but its not a Halloween specialSupport the show
Excuse the Jess is a fictional story told over each season.
Written & Performed by: Jacquie J Sarah
Produced by: Deliciously Bright Productions
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Season 3 – Episode 4 Ghosts
I hadn’t heard from either of my friends Izzy or Ems a month after moving to Reading. That’s not strictly true, on my first day here, I received a phone call from Ems. She had recently split from her husband so was now my tenant.
‘Where’s the dishwasher?’, she asked. She sounded stressed.
‘I’ve looked everywhere I can think. Is it behind that door that won’t open?’
I told her it wasn’t. That was a false door.
I instructed her to go out of the kitchen, into the living room, through to the hallway and told her to stop.
I asked her what she saw in front of her.
She sounded utterly confused. ‘It’s a mirror, it’s me.’
‘There’s your dishwasher.’
I waited a second while the penny dropped.
‘You don’t have a dishwasher?’
‘Why would I need a dishwasher for one person? Plus, have you heard of climate change?’
‘What am I supposed to do without a dishwasher?’
‘There’s a full bottle of fairy and a washing up bowl in the cupboard under the sink. Knock yourself out.’
‘You’re not funny Jess.’
Which was a shame because I thought I was. On that sad news, let’s run the theme.
Hello and welcome to episode 4 of Season 3 of Excuse the Jess. I have entitled this one ghosts for reason that will become clear later. Don’t worry, no animals are hurt or injured which I think should be the warning on all programmes now. I remember watching this horrible kids programme with Samuel and they killed off the family dog. I mean, why? I get we have to teach kids about death but why under 5’s? If they are fortunate to have people around them that love them and support them, and if they believe the world is all sunshine and rainbows then why not let them? Not, guess what? Dogs die and someday you will too. Then we wonder why kids of today are no longer kids but seem to be all seeing sentient beings. It’s a real problem, like when their so-called Aunt bursts into tears and the child has to ask their mum why their fun Aunty Jess has suddenly turned into a wailing monster. I mean seriously. Back to ghosts, there is another word of warning too. There will be no ghost story in this. If you want that you should listen to my two Halloween specials. The second one is now out in the world and I thank everyone for downloading it and giving it a chance. Yes, we have done a time jump. I am speaking to you a couple of months later than the last episode. Even I wasn’t keen about putting out a year’s worth of podcasts. Ghosts might not even be mentioned from now on or maybe they will or maybe they’re a metaphor. Have I now piqued your interest? No, thought not.
When we first got together. No, even two months on I am not comfortable about saying that. Jessica J Garner does not do relationships. That was for the normals. Was I becoming normal in my old age? I physically just shuddered. Maybe I should run this as a video podcast so I wouldn’t have to explain things like that. Sorry, I just had to switch off the recording and throw up. Nothing could persuade me to do that. And ten minutes later, I still haven’t explained my first sentence yet. Good, still not normal. When I first got together with Niles, I did mention ringing my friends Ems & Izzy to tell them our news, but he wasn’t keen. Asked him if either had been in touch since I moved. I couldn’t put my finger on it because when we all went out the night of my birthday meal, they seemed to all get on. He told me he liked them. Or had he said they liked me? I swear old age or post covid or perimenopause had made my mind scatty. Or maybe it always was scatty. I just got the feeling that he didn’t want to speak to them. I didn’t push it and thought I would speak another time. Except another time was being put off and I still hadn’t heard from them three weeks after I saw Niles again and a month after I had moved to Reading
I had enough to keep me busy, there was the sixty hour working week for a start. The difference was, I was loving it, especially the second job. It was relatively straight forward and, if I kept the emails strictly business, I could speak to Niles whenever. I knew it would get tougher. I was just working on the factory side at the moment, and I had already gone through that with a fine-tooth comb when I was trying to figure out who and how employees were stealing from the company. This was the good stuff. The stuff I wanted to do when I wasn’t bogged down with the rest of it.
In my main job, I was mid grant, when Jo came into my office and asked if I wanted to go to the Christmas meal. My immediate reply was don’t feel you have to invite me, I’m not technically staff. She just laughed and told me I was invited because they wanted me to be there. Did that happen pre-pandemic? Was I invited places because people wanted me there? It occurred to me it was. It was like my experience with the pandemic and then subsequently the factory had taken away that bit of confidence. I was pretty sure I was liked in previous work places but that was all a distant memory. My life split into two again. BC before covid, there is no AC yet but also BC before crash, AC after crash. I said yes immediately before even asking where we were going, what we were doing, and how much. Jo said she’d email me with all the details. Shortly afterwards Dawn came in and I told her about the meal. She was slightly annoyed with herself that she hadn’t mentioned it to me before. Again, happy face. Because Dawn hadn’t told anyone to invite me. I was invited. It shouldn’t feel like this it occurred to me. Maybe Niles was right and I would benefit from some sort of therapy. I had been told this as a young adult. You need therapy to get over what happened to you with the crash. I had always defended that I didn’t. I was fine. I think I was. I had someone who focused all their time and attention on me after the crash, my grandmother. So although I was overwhelmed by my feelings, I had someone to talk to, and be angry about the world with. If people had said I may have needed it after she died, then they were probably right. But my mind wasn’t fully formed and people seemed fixated on the just losing half my family bit and not losing the most loving and biggest influence in my life. She was older, it was the way things are. Plus, I was a working-class Cardiff girl. We didn’t need things like that.
Niles had been open with me when we went out back in Cardiff that he had been in therapy since near the start of the pandemic. Of course, these were details I never mentioned in the podcast. They were private but he said, I could share what I wanted. The names had been changed to protect the guilty. In March 2020, New York had been hit badly with COVID-19 and the virus was running through the city before people had a chance to realise the scale of it. Probably true of anywhere. Especially if you don’t attend any Cobra meetings, mentioning no name. Niles and his best friend caught it quite quickly. They had been friends since college. They came to England to live together for a year, were best man’s at their respective weddings, and were as close as two people that are not in a romantic relationship could be. So back in March 2020, two men who were the same age caught the same virus, both from similar backgrounds, both in the same average physical health, and only one survived the virus. The other became obsessed by cleanliness and invited a woman he had only been seeing a few weeks to live with him so they didn’t have to live alone through the lockdown.
He'd said therapy had helped. Probably saved him from spiralling into a very dark place. I told him I was way over what happened in my childhood but he said no, he was talking about Covid. Now I believe we are all dealing with that trauma. Some worse than others. Even trained professionals who listen to people’s problems all day. Also, it’s okay for him with his high-powered job to afford these professionals. At this point, I will say he’s very lovely too. But, and it’s a big but, it’s not cheap to find a therapist, especially if you don’t feel confident that they can help. Not even those online ones which state it’s affordable. For many, it’s not. Let’s not get started on difficult it is to get it on the NHS. It’s only in the last month that I have even begun to earn what I consider a moderately good income. Not that I have been paid yet. I didn’t say this to Niles though. I listened because he only said it to me because he cared. That in itself is a new thing, most people have told me I need therapy because I have issues. I did too, having people like them in my life. So as the thought drifted into my head, it drifted right out again.
Back to my new work place. I loved going there. Loved sneaking in that coffee shop for a nice coffee and a buttery croissant. Every other time there was no weird American person trying to get my attention. My office was stunning. The ones in the factory were dirty and had pain… pain?… I mean paint peeling from the walls. That was a Freudian slip if there ever was one. They probably had no work done on them for twenty years. Even when I got a deep clean on the office it was never immaculate. Just much better. That’s what I would have done if Niles had put me in charge like he planned. I would have had the offices cleaned and painted. It was an easy thing to do and it would have immediately improved staff wellbeing. Me leaving also improved staff wellbeing so I inadvertently got my way. I had personalised my new office a little bit. I had bought a plant and a screen voice assistant. I won’t say the name out loud in case you are playing this through speakers. ALEXA play Back in Black full blast. Sorry, couldn’t resist. Even my office chair was comfortable to sit in for eight hours. I had been overlooked and outsmarted all my life but now, now this is where I was, and I only had six months of it.
The other problem is, I am not getting any younger, no one is I appreciate. I mean a tiny human born minutes ago is ageing, but I am beginning to see no clear way forward workwise. I am so tired of hanging on to a job when I was way past any enthusiasm for it. However, let’s not pretend that ageism is not a real thing. Over 50’s get a much harder time getting promotions and going for new jobs but why? Especially if you can consider you are barely not allowed to retire until your late sixties. That’s a lot of work time where you can’t get promoted or new jobs. Part of me wants to start looking for a permanent role, well as permanent as it can be role, and the other wants me to embrace this freelance lifestyle because it is financially more rewarding. The problem with going outside your comfort zone is it’s so flipping uncomfortable. Niles was right, I spiral a lot. One minute I am starting a role I am under contract for six months and the next I am old and destitute.
After a month it felt like Dawn my client, knows more about me than my supposed best friends Izzy and Ems. I had settled into my new home, new routine, new role, and my Cardiff life was disappearing into the distance. It’s weird how quickly everything changes. I didn’t even know if Ems was still pissed off with me because I don’t have a dishwasher. It occurred to me though she visited loads of times and never once did she ever notice that I wasn’t loading dishes. Just left them on the side to wash later. That said, at least I know now why she never bothered to help with the washing up.
It was me that gave in in the end and asked if they fancied a good old fashioned, well if you can consider old fashioned three years, ago Prosecco zoom. I was good too. Didn’t rush in with my news. Listened how Ems was settling into my house. It was very odd to know she was there, sitting in my chair, watching my TV, drinking out of my wine classes, using my plates, etc. It was odder that the child I once, if you consider once around in the hundreds, referred to as the devil’s representative on earth was spending time in my spare bedroom. Poor Samuel. I mean there is something unworldly about him but I have decided that what makes him special and in no way do I empathise with him, much. My once office which housed my desk and treadmill now has a bed and toys. My treadmill was moved into Ems room. I expect it’s a glorified clothes hanger around now. Ems detests exercise, mainly because she’s never had to do it. The good news was she was happier cleaning a much smaller house and the bad news is, she hasn’t had to do manual dishes for about 20 years which does make her sound like a spoilt brat. Which she kind of is, and I told her. Which made her laugh before you go all hulk on me. There’s also the separation from her husband Simon which is playing on her, but the less said about him the better. I think she is feeling a little happier anyway. She needed breathing space. I am pleased for her. Izzy on the other hand, was wildly busy with work. She is doing promotion work at the moment, and has been up and down the country working events for a company. Izzy loves the work but misses her partner Jason James which is of course very sweet and kind of saccharin. Yes, I know, with all the stuff I have been saying, pot kettle black isn’t it.
We were on the call for around an hour when Ems suddenly asked me how life was in Reading. I thought I am not going to tell them unless they ask. Which they did, which was very lucky for them. I said it was a tough learning curve doing everything new all at the same time, new city, new role, new flat, lots of new stuff, as I put it. Izzy asked about the writing, which I thanked her for. Part of the bugbear of mine was that they treated that part of me as some kind of joke. Now they were asking out of interest and because I put a podcast out about it. Part of the series you are listening to now. I told them I was working a 60-hour week, so it was tough to fit it in, but I was planning to do 10 to 15 minutes a day which was better than nothing. That was the plan anyway. I hadn’t actually done that yet. Ems kicked off about this, this Dawn taking advantage of me, it doesn’t matter if I was on a zero-hour contract. I still didn’t have to work all those hours. I assured them I was not on a zero-hour contract, I had a full contract, with hours, pay, and the duration already written. Added to that, Dawn had been perfectly lovely. Which suggests that maybe they don’t listen to me. They don’t, by the way. As what happened next proved. Izzy suddenly asked if I had been on any dates. When I was moving, there was someone from the writing group suggested that we ‘get a coffee’ when I settled in. He had messaged again recently, and I had to tell him I was starting to see someone, and he didn’t reply. Which means that was a lucky escape for me. I answered Izzy’s question with I had. It was like I announced that I was dating Robert Downey Junior. There was lots of excitement and whoos and tell me mores. I had been on a date. One (ish), would you call the night at Dawn’s a date?
‘It went well’. I said deliberately being obtuse.
‘Spit it out now Jessica J Garner’. Ems said.
I knew I was in trouble when she called me that.
‘Aren’t you more interested in the work I’m doing?’, I asked.
‘Noooo.’ Izzy looked disgusted.
‘Okay fine. You are not interested in the fact I’m working two jobs. I’ll tell you about my date.
‘We went for a meal in this posh hotel place. And he was super hot, super lovely’.
‘Why have you stopped talking?’, Izzy responded annoyed. ‘Don’t stop until you’ve told us everything. Sex good?’
Ems let out noise that showed her disgust. ‘Do we have to?’
‘No’, I replied. ‘It’s rude to discuss it or the fact it happened approximately 80 minutes into the date. Plus, it would just sound like I am bragging that it was so mind-blowingly good, that I can barely think about it without getting hot all over again.’
That wasn’t a lie. That was an understatement. When Niles had said that week had been intense, it wasn’t just about the confessing feelings part.
Ems was just staring at me open-mouthed at the screen. Izzy knocked back the rest of her Processo and started pouring herself another glass. Then she announced.
‘Now more. Have you seen him since?’
‘Since the date, yes’.
‘When was the last time you saw him’.
‘Two weeks ago.’
Ems deep sighed. ‘I’m sorry Jess. You don’t seem to have much luck with men.’
‘Don’t be sorry. It’s been wild.’
Izzy pulled the laptop towards her. ‘Right, I am looking him up?’
‘I’d rather you didn’t’
‘What’s wrong with him?’, Ems asked.
‘Nothing. He’s perfectly lovely. You thought so too when you met him.’
They both had this weird look of confusion on their faces. The penny dropped with Izzy first because she screamed.
Ems was saying. ‘What? Who?’
I heard Izzy’s partner Jason James, who I have to point out is not a superstar DJ, ask what was wrong.
‘Hey Jason James’ I called.
His handsome face appeared on screen. ‘Hey Jess. How’s life in Reading?’
I didn’t get to reply, Izzy started shaking him.
‘I told you, I told you’, she kept saying. ‘I knew he’d be back’.
‘Awesome’, Jason James replied. Then looked into the screen. ‘Happy you’ve seen Niles.’
Finally, Ems caught up. ‘Niles, you had a date with Niles?’
‘He flew from New York to take you on a date?’
I nodded again.
‘It’s because he lurves you.’ Jason James called and Izzy elbowed him in the chest.
‘He does’. And even as I said it confidently to my friends, in my mind I heard, so he says anyway.
I gave them the quick version of events which was still another 20 minutes worth. I was enjoying myself. It had been a lovely catch-up with them. Of course they knew Niles was coming back. They didn’t. They knew he liked me. Did they though? They also said I deserved to be happy which I loved to hear and it was blatantly not true.
‘Are you sure Daphne is out of the picture? Ems suddenly asked.
‘100 per cent’, I replied. I was sure, I don’t know why I was so sure. I just was. He liked me. I was not the woman you lied to just to sleep with them. He would not have travelled 3.5 thousand miles for an easy lay, not for me anyway.
‘What was she like?’ Izzy asked, curiosity was getting to her.
‘I don’t really know. I’ve never seen her and Niles doesn’t talk about her much.’ I didn’t really want to know. I just had to trust it was over between Daphne and Niles and that was a sentence I never thought I would say.
‘Shall we find out?’ Izzy said
‘No’, I snapped.
‘Aren’t you curious what she looks like?’ Ems asked and the answer was an unequivocally no. I did not want to compare her to me, and I did not like to think of them together.
‘Right, I’ve found Niles again,’ Izzy announced. ‘Now Daphne’.
‘Please stop’, I called. ‘I mean it stop! I don’t want to know about her.’
‘Come on’, Ems called finding it funny. ‘Daphne, Daphne, Daphne.’
I started to panic. I couldn’t deal with this. ‘If you look up Daphne I will end this call. I mean it.’
Then my screen was filled with the face of this hugely elegant and attractive woman, Daphne. She was nothing like I imagined and everything that I knew she would be all at the same time.
As promised, I cut the call and went immediately to the sink to throw up.
I didn’t know what to do. Niles said he’d ring me after work so I wasn’t expecting his call until after 10. It was only 8. What would I say to him anyway? What the hell of you done dropping that woman for me? I was tired though and, a little dipsy, so I took a couple of painkillers to hopefully send me off. I am not proud of this. I text Niles to say it had been a rough day and I was going to bed early, I would speak to him tomorrow and about a million kisses. I then switched my phone to DND. I went to sleep within the hour and apart from waking every few hours from a nightmare, I slept quite well.
On Day 29, the morning after I saw Daphne on screen, I was groggily getting dressed, my phone started to ring, the one person now who was allowed to ring me when it was on DND. It was stupidly late in New York and, as we established, he’s a heavy sleeper. I picked it up immediately. He sounded like he was asleep.
‘Hey’, he said. ‘You sounded upset. Are you okay?’
‘Have you set an alarm to wake you up to speak to me?’
‘I asked what’s wrong?’ he demanded.
Which meant he had, and it was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for me. I told him the gist of the call. He listened, making no comment. In fact, at one point, I thought he’d fallen back to sleep. Then I told him about Daphne.
‘That was a shitty thing to do,’ Niles said. I agreed it was.
He asked me how I felt. I told him it was weird. Daphne was some idea in my head, and now she was real.
‘I never felt about her the way I do about you.’ It made me feel incredibly sad for Daphne. I know how that feels. Liking someone more than they like you.
‘Let me ring you back’, I told Niles.
I hung up.
Ten seconds later, Niles answered his phone.
‘I’ll stay with you until you go back to sleep.’ I told him. He didn’t argue.
I heard him put the phone down on his bedside table.
I then softly told him why I liked him which would send you to the nearest sink too. He was asleep within two minutes. How the fuck can he do that?
It did give me an idea, though, because obviously, my time wasn’t precious enough. I made him a podcast. It started with the theme, I can’t say it’s my theme. Anyone can use it. It’s licenced music. I think that’s what I’d change about this if I started again. I probably would have tried to get original music. I wasn’t getting out much then, though, to be fair, no one was. I digress. It started with the theme and thanking people. There is some order to this, although it’s stretched granted. Even sent the file as a potential first episode of Season 3. I just hoped he’d listen before going to bed as instructed. After that, I said my theme was favourite things. Even went into an introduction to the theme. That took work too, which only shows I am out of my tiny mind. It talked about the first time I watched the Sound of Music on TV. You want to listen to it now. What do you mean no? Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens always struck me as odd because why raindrops, it meant you are getting wet, and whiskers on kittens, please. I have barely noticed them and I have seen a lot of kittens. It went on in this vein, and I really hoped it wasn’t so bad that Niles would see through it and maybe as bad so he just thought it was like my others. After I tore apart a song I actually quite liked, I said a quote that was barely connected and then played a little music sting. Then I started to talk about Niles. Why he was one of my favourite things. Except after a few sentences, I dropped my voice to almost a whisper and started to call him by his real name. Which is why I wanted him to be in bed when he listened. Not that. Ewwwww. I meant it for a little bed time story so he could drift to sleep as someone talked to him.
I sent it off with the instructions of when to listen, and I think he did as he was told because when I woke up around 5am, I couldn’t wait and checked my phone. There were texts from Niles, one saying thank you for letting him in on this, it was his honour to be the first listening, but I shouldn’t be tearing apart one of the best all-time musical numbers. However funny he found it. Then a text a few minutes later saying WTAF!. P.S. I love and miss you. There was no third which meant he fell asleep listening which is exactly what I wanted for him.
Niles texted to say it was perfect. He listened again the following morning. Then later in the day he sent me a sound file which he said to keep for later. Unless it went on for a good couple of hours, the chances are that I wouldn’t fall asleep to it. However, I felt an early night was in order and around 9 pm, I put my PJ’s on and got into bed. I wondered which way he went. He was the romantic one of the two, so it could be that I will need a bucket beside me, or if he goes the other way, well, I was up for that too. He started to talk. Asked me what time it was. Had I gone to bed early? Was I half listening while brushing my teeth? I hadn’t anticipated that. I felt like I was being told off. Then he started telling me that he couldn’t wait to see me and I thought, that’s better. It was only 62 hours and 38 minutes until he was due back here but I was barely counting. Then my phone rang, and I nearly didn’t look, annoyed that I had been disturbed. Then I saw it was Niles and thought I probably should answer.
‘Jess’, he said, and he sounded a little stressed.
‘Niles’, I said in the same tone.
‘Where are you? He asked.
‘Home. Where are you?’, I couldn’t place it. It was outside, I thought but where?
I heard him say something to someone and a door closing.
‘Sorry, just getting in a lift. I may drop out’.
Why on earth would he ring me if he was just about to get in a lift? I didn’t say that. He didn’t drop out. I could hear the machinations of a lift.
‘I was worried?’ He said, a little out of breath. ‘It’s Friday night, date night.’
‘I’ve been staying in for them lately’, I said.
I heard the faintest ting of a lift and the doors opening.
‘I couldn’t see any lights on’.
What the fuck was he talking about? Did he have eyes on me? Had he linked into the CCTV camera across the road?
‘I don’t know what’s happening.’
And that it hit me, he couldn’t be, he wasn’t.
The doorbell to my flat went. The one in the hallway.
I threw down the phone, leapt out of bed, put on the hallway light, and couldn’t open the locks quickly enough. If this was a joke, it was a poor one.
I flung the door open and, there he was. Weary, ruffled, looking miserable, and as hot as ever.
‘Your neighbour let me in’, he said.
‘I’ll have words with him’.
I let him in. Excited was not the word. I silently locked the door again as he hung his coat up and wheeled his suitcase into my bedroom.
He was standing by my bed when I walked back into the bedroom. The light in the hall lit up his face and he grinned.
‘Pleased to see me?’
I ran at him, literally ran, jumped up, and we both tumbled onto the bed. He told me he couldn’t wait. After that podcast, he couldn’t wait. And people thought I was wasting my time with these.
The same thing happened as the first time we slept together. As he was in the bathroom showering, I fell into a state of nothing. Not thinking, not aware of anything going on around me. This time, I fell asleep.
When I woke up, I couldn’t work out where I was. My sight was blurry and my head was pounding. As my eyes adjusted to my surroundings I could see my television in front of me. I was back in my house in Cardiff, sat up on my settee. I went to move and my body wouldn’t obey. I was thirsty. I needed a drink but I didn’t have the energy to get up. My heart was pounding and I couldn’t breathe. Short shallow breaths I told myself and I felt my heart rate slow down. The slow, dreaded thought that was there fighting to get out, finally did and I realised what I felt was Covid. I was home alone with Covid. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t get up properly because I was sick, very sick. I should ring the hospital I thought but no. I was more comfortable here, I should die here. The last year. Was a fever dream. Losing my job, being offered a new one in the other factory where everyone hated me, the writing retreat, when Simon threatened me, and Niles. Niles wasn’t real, Niles was a fever dream. Of course he was, of course someone like that couldn’t like me. Instead of my life flashing before my eyes, I was having a future life flashing before me. I heard a wailing sound and I checked for the TV but I knew, I knew it was me. I was dying and there was nobody around who cared. Then I felt someone next to me and the warmth of a hand.
I woke up again. It was dark and my eyes adjusted to the lights. I looked at my watch, 1.30. I was in my flat, in Reading. I reached out and Niles was there. He was real. Everything was real. That time on my settee was real. I wanted to wake him. I wanted him to tell me everything was okay but I couldn’t. You just don’t wake people up for your own selfish needs. Even I knew that.
I crept out of the bedroom and into the main room. I then poured myself a glass of wine and tried to calm down. My watch was telling me my heart rate was 120 BPM and that was good for no one but especially not me. I took deep breaths to slow it down, get rid of that sense of dread. I closed my eyes and I could feel it working. I went to sit down when suddenly Niles was there and I jumped.
‘Are you okay?’
I nodded. ‘Just a bad dream’.
‘Did I try to kill you again?’
He was referring to the nightmares I had back in Wales, where my colleagues were baying crowds and he in charge was ordering my demise.
‘Yep, I’ve been meaning to ask, why did you put me in a chair on a table? It seems excessive.’
‘I guess to amplify your humiliation, your dream Niles is an asshole.’
I half smiled at him.
‘Yes’, he continued. ‘The real-life one is too.’
Which is exactly what I would have said if my brain had been in gear.
I wanted to tell him what happened so much, but he would have been on the first plane back to New York, thinking what a lucky escape he had.
‘Thank you for coming back earlier,’ I said instead.
He kissed my forehead and pulled me into him, which I needed but would never have asked for.
‘Come back to bed, I’ll protect you from dream Niles.’
Which I did, but dream Niles wasn’t the problem. That would be me.
It was intense again. So much so that I was beginning to dread him going back. He was here nine days this time. I hated who I was becoming because I needed to be me. I needed not to want someone else’s attention. This was not going to last I reminded myself. He would come to his senses soon or we would split but this wasn’t a forever thing. Nothing was a forever thing. It’s not like we didn’t argue either, we did. We had all kinds of opinions that rubbed with each other. Honestly, when couples say they don’t argue how could they not? Is there any passion there? We would go back to who we are though in a very short amount of time. Was this sent for me? I wondered. That was all nonsense though. I loved him for sure though but I also loved his sense of humour, his intelligence, and his general loveliness. I’d never tell him I thought he was lovely or kind though. I am only saying it on here because that I know this won’t be going out in the near future and by the time it does, I had forgotten I had said it and he would not be in my life. I needed this memory.
We settled into a routine really quickly. I would get up and go to work. He would get up shortly afterwards and start his working day. Then I would come home and do a couple more hours of work on his job while he finished his working day. We would eat, watch some TV, including Frasier and then we would start again. Then on the weekends we would work, but also lay in bed and watch TV, or go shopping but we rarely strayed far from the flat. Why go out when we could stay in? Remember we are old.
I was preparing my Halloween podcast and he asked about last year. As you know, I told how I visited an old house around Halloween and either a ghost or an employee of the organisation, gave me a private tour while scaring the other visitors to the house. He said it was a great story, liked the fact that it sounded like it was a memory. It was a memory I told him. When I went around the haunted house with colleagues, everything I said was true. He laughed. Then he asked the killer question.
‘You don’t believe you were hanging out with a ghost?’
I didn’t like where this was heading.
‘I don’t know.’ I was adamant that I didn’t know because I didn’t.
‘Yeah, funny. You can’t freak me out. I know there are no ghosts.’
This was an argument I was never going to win because I don’t know if I believed in ghosts. I just knew what had happened to me. Twice. I tried to change the subject, but he started to make fun. Said he now knew why I wasn’t perfect, which is great because I have never ever given the impression that I was. I let him get it all out of his system. It made me know, though that I right to never talk to him about it.
This year I didn’t have much time to work on the Halloween special. I loved doing the last one though, so I wanted to do it anyway. I picked a short story I wrote a while ago. I did ask the writers group if someone could read it for me. Unfortunately there was no takers, it was the first time I asked. I got someone else to read and record it. I then hired someone to edit it. That’s why it’s going to be my favourite of all my podcasts because I am not a big part of it.
Niles came again in November which I really wasn’t expecting. This time it was as arranged. I had carried on doing the podcasts for him. They aren’t produced. I know, shocker, I actually produce these. I mean how many times have you heard me say fuck that’s not it, or what was I saying, or cough or take a huge deep breath. Sometimes I even send myself little notes when I am talking for future Jess who is not enjoying the editing process. These podcasts were more like voice mails. I did put the theme on in the beginning but that was it because the last thing you need when you are falling asleep is loud music. He occasionally sent voice notes back. He’d run out of things to talk about within two minutes though which was really frustrating because when he was with me he wouldn’t fucking shut up.
I would describe this period of my life as happy. Happy as I can be anyway. I was still working long hours and hadn’t written one thing that wasn’t work related, but time was going so quickly and I loved my new life. I thought maybe this would be it. My second act in life was going to be great. Let me tell you something that all writers know about the second act. You think it’s all going well and then you realise it was all going wrong and it started right at the beginning. The realisation was a conversation about the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas.