This is the final part of a fiction serial, in 1600 words.
Benny ties the knot.
Benny had decided to walk to the Registry Office. It was a nice day, and it would give him time to collect his thoughts. He was still a few weeks away from his twenty-first birthday, and the last fifteen months had seemed to pass like an extended dream.
Everything had turned out to be bigger and better than any of them had expected, mainly due to Noddy, and his amazingly quick brain. He had come up with a great idea. Rather than employ lots more models, maybe having to rent studio space, and engage the services of additional photographers, Noddy did what he did best, and trawled online with the skill of a real deep-sea fisherman looking for Cod. He found hundreds of old films being sold in dribs and drabs, most from around the same time period as Nan’s early days, and featuring very ordinary women wearing much the same stuff as she used to. He contacted the sellers and distributors, offering one-off payments for sole rights. More than ninety percent of them went for his deals. After all, they had no idea who he was, or what he looked like, and their annual sales were negligible.
Once they had them, they were sent to Zafir. Tidied up, re-packaged, and branded as ‘A Fortune Films Production’, they found a ready market with the existing customers, who were always looking for something new. Benny’s old bedroom at Nan’s was now fully racked out for storage, and Linda and Sylvia had packed in their old jobs, now working full-time for the company. Noddy put them on the books as ‘Cleaners’, showing the minimum wage paid. But they more than trebled that with extra cash they got, and were very happy. Linda had soon caught on to Benny and Beverly being an item. She took her time, and then announced one day that she had a new bloke. “I’m with Dexter now. You know, the courier driver. He’s moving in soon Benny, so I’d like the key back. You don’t mind, do you?” Benny didn’t mind. He knew the cheerful black guy who did most of the drop-offs for them, and reckoned he would be good for Linda. Besides, Beverly was giving him almost more than he could handle. It seemed as if she had found some elixir of youth, and was going backwards in time.
Nan had kept her site going with Sophie. The drop off rate had been less than fifteen percent, so it was still a good earner. Those two had been a revelation. On Nan’s seventieth birthday, they had officially come out as a couple, celebrating with an almighty piss-up at one of Nan’s favourite pubs. It was a little weird to see the two seventy-somethings holding hands, and kissing and cuddling, more so when one was your old Nan. But his was Camden, in the twenty-first century, and nobody gave them a second glance. Benny was still doing the filming and photos three times a week to keep up the fresh content, but he had a lot of free time, which Beverly made sure was spent with her, usually in her bed. After six months, and the acquisition of all the old films by Noddy, she had announced that Velma was retiring, and closed down her page on the site. The truth was that she had very few paid-up followers, and hardly any page views. She just wasn’t old enough for their niche market.
The advertising wasn’t a huge part of the income, but enough to make a difference. Noddy had struck some decent deals, but a lot of the foreign companies were bad payers, and they soon had to drop their ads when no money arrived. Noddy had also set up an Ebay shop, as well as becoming an Amazon Marketplace seller for the softer films. The Ebay shop was huge. With ‘Buy It Now’ only, and payment in advance, they were run off their feet with orders from all over the world, and had even started to take credit card payments. Noddy contracted Dexter to do all the parcel work and Post Office drop-offs. Then he had the genius idea to lease a new bigger van in the company’s name. He made Dexter rent it off the company, so that deferred a lot of the pay they owed him. Noddy was on fire, and Benny never stopped being impressed.
They finally had to rent a storage facility on an industrial estate in Neasden, when they could no longer cope with the amount of films. Zafir had sorted that out at mate’s rates, through one of his cousins. Fortune Films had fast become one of his best customers, and he was secretly very pleased that Benny had walked through the door of his small warehouse that day. At the end of the first full year, Beverly called another one of her meetings in Noddy’s bedroom. Despite everything, Noddy hadn’t changed at all. He was still sitting in his underpants, wearing the blue hat. Since he had moved in with Beverly, Benny had never actually seen him wash, and he had never once gone downstairs either. Although he had become acclimatised to the smell, his friend’s self-imposed solitude still played on his mind. Noddy was happy though. He had changed his bed for one that folded up out of the way during the day, and his small room now looked like Mission Control for the Mars landing. Over ten grand had been spent on the best new computer equipment, and they had had to have an electrician in, to wire up more sockets.
Noddy had stayed in the bathroom while he was there.
It turned out there was a lot more money. Almost double what Noddy had predicted. When he ran through the financials, he sounded as if he was unimpressed. He was happy enough with his new stuff, and any extra money was meaningless to him, other that it represented success of the project.
“I have been in touch with the accountant guy. The turnover was close to two hundred and thirty-eight grand. We have shown a small profit, paid a little tax in Ireland, and of course the fees for taking credit cards, as well as the Ebay and Amazon commission. Less all running costs, and buying the new equipment, renting the storage. leasing the van, we have a lot left. I have deducted the money paid to Linda, Dexter, and Sylvia, and left a few grand in to cover the next few months. I have also excluded the money paid to your Nan, and Sophie. On top of what you have already spent for day to day living, you and Mum can split a hundred and seventy grand. Not bad, I think you’ll agree. And that’s just up to last week. There are still plenty more orders awaiting processing”.
Beverly turned and smiled. “We can get married now, then there’s no need to split anything. It will just be ours”. Benny had never proposed to her, and she had never mentioned it before. He was twenty, and she was forty-nine, though he had to admit she looked more like thirty-five these days. He hadn’t even realised that she had divorced Keith. He looked at Noddy, keen to see any reaction. As usual, his friend was businesslike, unconcerned by the news. “It would make sense financially. I am sure there could be tax advantages in the long-term, and it would save having to make wills, or additional legal agreements concerning joint finances and property”. He turned back to his screens, and Beverly smiled. “Is that OK with you then, love?” There was a slight break in her voice, a momentary hesitation that he might say no had crept in. He put his hand on her leg and smiled. “Yeah, why not?”
The Registry Office was in sight now. It was the big one with the steps outside, on the Marylebone Road. Nan had been pleased with the choice, and said “Ooh, that’s where Paul McCartney got married to that American woman”. Benny hesitated on the corner, pretending to wait for the traffic so he could cross. Despite all the money, they never did anything. They couldn’t move out of Beverly’s flat, because Noddy refused to live anywhere else. Beverly spent her money on clothes, as well as buying clothes for him too. He had five suits in the wardrobe, and hardly went anywhere to wear them. They ate out now and again, but mainly stayed in, and mainly stayed in bed, when he wasn’t out at Nan’s filming. Still, he might have stayed at university, gone on to become an English teacher for less than twenty-eight grand a year, and never had a girlfriend. At least life was easy, though it had seemed more fun when he had been bust.
They were waving from the steps, urging him to hurry up as it was close to the time of the appointment. Nan and Sophie looked smart, although their dresses were so similar, they could have been mistaken for weird twins. Beverly looked lovely in her dress, he had to confess. Not a wedding dress of course, and not white. But still lovely. Linda, Sylvia, and Dexter had all made an effort too. Zafir looked razor-sharp in a designer suit, and had a dolly-bird girlfriend on his arm. Noddy wasn’t there of course.
Even the wedding wouldn’t make him leave his room.
Benny crossed the junction, and waved back, smiling. This was his last chance. He could simply turn and run, or just walk up to them, and say he had changed his mind.
But he didn’t.