Martin sat like someone in shock. Someone who had witnessed something unbelievable. An event that couldn’t properly be conveyed to anyone else in words, no matter how learned you might be. He had read that page again and again, replaying the short conversation with Pamela in his head, over and over. She had used the line from his novel. She had suddenly arrived at his home, after ten years during which their paths had never crossed. And it had happened the day after he had typed the page.
How had she found him? Even former close friends didn’t know where he was, let alone an office girl who had been a one-night stand he had completely forgotten about. She couldn’t have read the page. She had sat with her back to the table, and he had only left her alone for a moment, to grab his dressing gown. That must be it. She must have read those lines when he was in the bedroom, deciding to throw that comment in, just to give him the creeps. For a second, he relaxed. But he knew that wasn’t the real explanation. She had stood awkwardly in the room, and when he got back wearing the dressing gown, she hadn’t moved an inch. He had to face it, there was a more sinister explanation. Something beyond his understanding.
The day slipped by unnoticed, and the headache at the back of his neck started to develop into something awful. He threw down a couple of paracetamol, but that didn’t help. He couldn’t stop thinking, and with the thoughts, the pain grew in intensity. Suddenly noticing it was dark, he shook his head hard, and tried to pull himself together. It wasn’t as if he had been horrible to her. He certainly had’t forced himself on her, she was keen as mustard after the party, no mistake. He had been polite and caring with her too. The more he thought about that night, the clearer the details came back to him. He had arranged a taxi for her, on his account, and walked her out, to see her off safely. Fair enough, he put his hands up to what happened after that. Yes, he ignored her. Yes, he wasn’t really interested. They had their fun, and that was that. Had she expected more? An engagement ring perhaps? And so what if the child was his? Had she told him she was pregnant? No. Had she asked for money, or any help at all? No. The longer he went over it, the better he came out of the whole thing.
But why had she said that about the Christmas tree decorations? How could she have possibly known that he had just written that line the night before? And why now, with the threats of court action, and demands for money? He felt light headed, and realised he hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since he woke up. He made some coffee, and then ate a whole packet of digestive biscuits while drinking it. The caffeine and sugar rush was just what he needed, and helped him make up his mind to do something. It felt like a crazy thing to do, but what did he have to lose?
Inserting a fresh sheet of paper, he typed that first page all over again, word for word. Except when he got to that sentence. He changed it, to read differently.
‘He used most people without conscience, but when it came to women, he was always kind. Maybe he didn’t see them more than once, but they had a good time, and remembered him fondly.’
That didn’t really sum up Sam Logan’s character, but it removed all traces of the words ‘decoration’, ‘baubles’, and ‘Christmas tree’. Martin had to admit that even he thought it was lunacy, but he was nonetheless convinced that the alteration might change what had happened today. Unable to think about writing any more tonight, he sat down and watched some complete rubbish on TV, hoping to rest his brain from the taxing thoughts that had felt like gears grinding inside his skull. But once again he found himself drawn back to the typewriter. He added this line, carrying on from where he had stopped before. ‘Sam had even got a girl pregnant once, but she had been happy enough to carry his child, and even managed to get an old boyfriend to marry her, and adopt the kid.’ Martin mumbled to himself. “Let’s see what happens now”.
Deep down, he was angry with himself for giving in to the superstitious idea that any of this had something to do with the pages of the book. He hated typing those words about his main character. Sam Logan would never have worried about some girl he knocked up, and it would have been against everything he stood for to be kind and thoughtful to women. If this carried on, he would end up changing the whole direction of the book, as well as the personality of his hero. But despite that, he decided to try something else. Sitting quietly at the table, he clicked the paper up, and started a new paragraph.
‘Sam turned on his I-Pad, and checked his online banking. Things were looking good. £10,490 in the current account, and close to fifty grand in his easy access savings. And that didn’t include the money he had tied up in his share accounts, or what he had tucked away in someone else’s name. He thought he might treat himself to a luxury weekend away somewhere. Maybe one of those Spa Hotels, full of lonely rich women looking for some action from a stud like him. He opened the web browser, and started to surf some hotel websites.’
Martin liked the sound of that. If it was true that what he typed now happened the next day, then he should wake up tomorrow with a lot more money, and the prospect of a weekend away.