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Starving Artists by peppersweet
Chapter 5 : A Sparkly Lettuce
 
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Chapter Five: A Sparkly Lettuce




(A.K.A Tarquin fails at pranks.)




‘We’re nearly done,’ Scorpius said, consulting his glow-in-the-dark watch. ‘Only thirty seconds or so now.’


Prodding the tray of developing chemical in front of him, he squinted down at the first of my slowly-appearing photos. Well, I could only assume that he was squinting, given that we were bathed in rather dim red light, and for all I could see of him he could have had no head. Sure enough, the picture darkened and eventually became clearer – it was Al, in a perfect comedy pose of surprise, with his head pulled back enough to give himself a glorious amount of chins.


‘That’s Al, isn’t it.’ Scorpius said, quite fondly, as he hoisted the photo out of the tray with the tongs and dumped it into the stopping chemical.


‘Yep. Surprised Al, anyway.’


‘At his best.’


Silence fell. Scorpius transferred the picture to the last tray, rubbed his hands together in a business-like fashion, and then crossed the room back to the Enlarger.


‘We’ll do a few before we turn the light on.’ he said. We fell into another companionable silence while the next two photos were processed, him occasionally muttering something like ‘nice composition’ or ‘that’s…an interesting photo.’


I’d completely forgotten that Rose was in the majority of the fourth photo. Not even that: Rose was the fourth photo. When Scorpius gave the Enlarger another good smack to expose it onto the paper, his reaction was a rather odd move that was somewhere between a hop, a skip, and a jump, and resulted in him whacking his head off the low-hanging lamp.


‘Ah,’ he said, weakly. ‘Rose. Er...’


He dithered about for a second longer while the picture was developing, then lifted the paper between a thumb and forefinger and tossed it into the developing chemical as if it was a bomb. I watched with some interest.


‘Surprised me there, a bit,’ he gibbered. ‘Didn’t expect to see...erm...shall we do the next photo?’


He turned around and hit his head off the low-hanging lamp again.


‘Do you need to have a seat for a second?’ I asked. He waved me away and ducked under the lamp, moving over to the Enlarger again. I peered into the developing chemical, saw that Rose’s picture was done, and transferred it to the bowl of stopper. Like Al’s, it was a comedy snap; her eyes were wide, staring, her jaw slack, mouth hanging open in a way that wasn’t at all attractive. The photo did move, but Rose seemed to do nothing more than blink and look eternally alarmed.


I had a sudden sneaky suspicion that Scorpius would steal this photo, possibly to make into a dartboard. To ward off any light-fingered thievery, I pinned it up onto the makeshift washing-line Scorpius had strung across the room to hang wet pictures on. Scorpius had already delivered two more photos to the developing chemical by this point.


‘Blimey, what did you do to your family?’ he said, gazing at the row of developed photos and surprised faces.


‘It was my hair,’ I told him, sadly. ‘Gave them all the heebie-jeebies. And just the art school thing in general. Plus the camera was about the size of a hippopotamus, it was just a tad alarming…’


‘You should have seen my dad when I told him I was going to study art,’ he said, mournfully. ‘Nearly did the Avada Kedavra on me. But, anyway,’ he added, breezily. ‘Not bad for your first batch of photos.’


I started to gather the finished pictures together. Scorpius consulted his watch.


‘Eleven o’clock,’ he said. ‘Tea break.’


‘Didn’t we have a tea break at half ten?’


‘Yes. But we have a tea break at eleven too. Then the next is at twelve, which is officially lunch, then there’s...’ he thought about it for a moment. ‘Half one, quarter past two, and half three. If nobody’s buggered off home by that point.’


‘How many breaks do you have?’


He shook a finger at me. ‘You can’t develop photos on an empty stomach. So we have a few. Well, Raven gets more, because she seems to take a fag break every ten minutes or so.’


‘I’m not complaining, I’m all for the idea of...well, tea...’


Scorpius started clearing away the chemicals; I fixed an elastic band around my batch of photos and stashed them on the shelf. Pulling on the cord, Scorpius flooded the room with light.


‘A little warning next time.’ I told him, through gritted teeth, half-blinded. He was already leaving, holding the door open for me as I staggered, squinting, towards it. We were halfway down the stairs before I got my sight back, which was just as well. I hated the thought of falling downstairs and landing on Scorpius, of all people. Not much to break the fall with, considering he was almost skinny enough to disappear when he turned sideways.


The common room was deserted aside from The Brooding Nameless One and Obscure Henry, who was perusing an issue of a music magazine that looked to be more pictures than words. Scorpius waved his wand in the vague direction of the kettle, sending a box of teabags soaring across the room. Obscure Henry deftly caught it one-handed and threw it back with a heavy roll of the eyes.


Once the kettle was on the boil, I took my usual cross-legged seat on one of the squishy sofas as far away as The Brooding Nameless One as possible. He gave me a brooding and frankly rather malicious look. I looked back with what I assumed was equal doom and gloom. An anguished staring contest unfortunately commenced, broken by Scorpius loyally missing a mug and pouring boiling water all over his shoes, which was quite the distraction.


Minor flood catastrophe averted, he handed me my usual cup (two sugars, natch) and settled down on the sofa beside me, taking a hefty sip of his own. He looked up, glasses entirely steamed up, before pulling them off and folding them into his pocket.


‘Lovely tea.’ he said, in a voice that didn’t quite sound like Scorpius. Mainly because it was disguised by a thick Russian accent, and it took me about five minutes to process.


‘Huh?’ I asked him.


‘Lovely tea.’ he repeated. The distinct Slavic tone only seemed stonger.


‘What are you even saying?’ I asked. He gave me a funny look.


He said something else indecipherable, slowly pointing at the tea.


‘You’re...talking Russian?’ I told him, equally slowly. Once again he shot me a perplexed look and said something else in his new-found Russian accent that I couldn’t quite get my head around.


But then something seemed to dawn on him. Grabbing a sheet of parchment and a broken biro from a nearby table, he scribbled a message and passed it to me.


‘I can’t read it,’ I told him. ‘It’s in Russian.’


Obscure Henry and The Brooding Nameless One were staring.


‘What’s is wrong with him?’ Obscure Henry asked, only he’d suddenly acquired an accent straight out of Germany. Me, Scorpius, and The Brooding Nameless One all turned to stare.


‘Scorpius is Russian.’ I said, helplessly. Scorpius rolled his eyes and grabbed back the parchment, scribbling furiously again. After a few moments he handed it back; he’d drawn two little stick figures, one in a dress pointing to a Scottish flag, the other in trousers pointing at a German flag. Then, underneath, he’d drawn a bird, and managed to scrawl ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ next to it.


‘Scorpius, I don’t even get what you’re trying to say with this, but it makes no sense whatsoever, much like you...’


He said something else I couldn’t understand for the life of me, coupled with another hefty eye-roll. Just then, the door to ‘where we keep the kiln’ burst open and Frances rushed in. She looked about desperately, saw us all politely staring at her, and then exclaimed ‘Zut Alors!’


She was closely followed by Ellen, who barged past and looked at us all in turn.


‘What’s going on?’ she said, in a West Country accent so think I could have sworn on my life that she’d been born there and lived there to this day, and probably confirmed a whole lot of regional stereotypes in her spare time. Scorpius said something in a very Russian manner, whilst Frances jabbered away in the sort of fluent French I hadn’t heard since I’d last seen my auntie Fleur.


‘You’re Russian!’ Ellen exclaimed, pointing at Scorpius.


‘He’s not making any sense at all-’ I started to say, but Ellen cut across.


‘Woah! Lucy! Since when were you from Glasgow!’ she giggled. I stared at her. Moments later, they were joined by Eunice, who was babbling away in something that sounded like Latin.


‘I’m not from Glasgow! And since when were you from the West Country?’


‘I’m not! I’m from Newcastle!’ she said.


‘Say combine harvester.’


She said combine harvester. Scorpius said something panicky in Russian.


‘We’re all speaking in tongues,’ Ellen said, in her West Country way. ‘Well, you and me are making perfect sense, but I’d be a genius if I understood what any of this lot-’ she gestured around the room, ‘are saying.’


Just then, the door was thrown open and Mr Holstone dashed in, wearing what looked to be a veil of crumbs, a half-eaten sandwich clenched in one hand.


‘I say!’ he cried, uncharacteristically enthusiastic and also uncharacteristically cut-glass and snooty. ‘This is jolly queer!’


Ellen and I exchanged looks. Scorpius said something to Mr Holstone in Russian, but was duly ignored as he took a large bite out of the sandwich and chewed it thoughtfully.


‘Well, whatever’s happened, we’re all talking odd.’ I told him, in an accent I supposed must have been Scottish, but sounded perfectly Lucy to me. Glasgow must have still been in my voice, though, because Mr Holstone’s jaw dropped open slightly, displaying an attractive array of partially-chewed food. From behind him, Gwendolyn/Raven entered, inspecting her nails with apparent boredom.


‘Tarquin’s downstairs,’ she said, to the room in general. If I hadn’t known better, I would have judged that she’d lived in Texas all her life. ‘You may want to speak to him.’


Mr Holstone abandoned his sandwich on a nearby shelf and made for the stairs, saying ‘Well, he’s being ebsolutely bloody, this is just orful...’


A moment later, there was an immense crash-bang-wallop and a strangled sort of cry.


‘Don’t mean to alarm you, guys...’ Tarquin’s curiously normal voice drifted up from the stairwell. ‘But Mr Holstone’s fallen down the stairs.’


There was a moment of scuffling, then Mr Holstone shouted ‘Unhand me, you rogue!’


Ellen and I exchanged looks again. Frances and Eunice were hopping from foot to foot, looking distressed in their respective French and Latin ways. Tarquin emerged from the staircase, as cool as a particularly cool cucumber, dusted off his shoulder, and glanced at us all.


‘Tarquin,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, in a calm voice that was slightly at odds with her expression, which seemed to indicate the burning, angry passion of a thousand rather pissed-off Hungarian Horntails. ‘Is this your idea of a joke?’


‘Funny, isn’t it?’ he said, cheerily. ‘I found this spell that’s supposed to-’


He didn’t get the chance to finish speaking, however, as Gwendolyn/Raven smacked him over the back of the head with her palm.


‘You planned a joke without me!’ she fumed in her southern twang. ‘Come on! We were going to glue the sofas to the ceiling! What happened to that?’


‘Well,’ Tarquin said, with a heavy sigh. ‘We were going to do that, but now you’ve gone and revealed it, you prat-’


She smacked him over the head again. ‘Take the spell off!’ she commanded. Tarquin had the nerve to stick his tongue out at her before her hand went up again, and he dug in his pocket with a weary sort of resignation.


‘Alright, alright, I’ll take the spell off. How did everyone turn out?’


‘Just hurry up and cast it!’ Ellen exclaimed. Tarquin’s smile twitched.


‘Fine.’ He said, extracting his wand from his pocket, and giving it a straggly sort of wave over the room, which let out a collective gasp of relief (curiously, it sounded like a giant balloon deflating. It was difficult not to smile.) ‘Finite.’


Scorpius turned to me without hesitation. ‘Lucy, honestly,’ he pointed to the picture he’d drawn. ‘Look, that’s supposed to be you, with the flag symbolising your Scottish-ness, and then that’s Henry, with a German flag because he was speaking German, and then that’s a bird which is supposed to be Raven, because I thought she was behind it...duh!’


‘You sound superior,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, plonking herself down onto the sofa between us. ‘Why do you sound superior? That gives me some cause for concern.’


‘Lucy didn’t get my drawing-’


‘You were speaking Russian!’


‘Well,’ she said, comfortably. ‘Let bygones be bygones. Look what I found!’


With the air of a magician producing a rabbit from a hat, she pulled a flyer out of her pocket and dangled it in front of my face. Given that it was about a centimetre away from my nose, I couldn’t make head nor tail of what was printed on it and shrugged, the awkward silence that followed having the air of the magician discovering that the rabbit was dead.


‘Isn’t that exciting!’ she said.


‘Yes, blurry, out-of-focus flyers really do wonders for my heart rate-’


She hit me over the head – a little less hard than she’d hit Tarquin, thankfully – and handed me the flyer.


‘Ta-dah! Screaming Bloodthirsty Disco are on tour!’ she cried. Scorpius groaned and put his head in his hands.


‘Where did you get that?’ he moaned. Gwendolyn/Raven flashed him one of her disturbing smiles.


‘Pasted on the wall at The Lantern, darling,’ she said, her teeth glinting evilly in the light. ‘And...first gig is there, tonight!’


‘I was hoping you wouldn’t find that out,’ he murmured. Gwendolyn/Raven threw an arm around him.


‘Come on, Scorp, you need all the moral support you can get!’


‘I’m just a piano-playing...person,’ he protested. ‘It’s not a big thing for me-’


He was silenced as Gwendolyn/Raven drew him into a bone-crushing hug. A moment later, she released him.


‘Ouch.’ He said, finally.


‘And even if it goes badly, you’ll still get really inspired for another anguished poem...or maybe even a play!’


‘Please shut up.’


‘Or, if it goes really badly, it’ll at least give you an excuse to beat up your singer!’


‘Raven, please-’


‘What’s wrong with the singer?’ I butted in.


‘Oh, he’s a total idiot,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, with a heavy roll of her eyes. ‘Fancies himself a bit...well, a lot. Wears big girls’ blouses and likes to quote muggle authors a lot, he used to go here but got kicked out because he was too much of an ar-teeste.’ She said the last word with a vague hint of disgust, forming quote marks in the air with her fingers. ‘Oh, Scorpius, that’ll be you in a year or two-’


‘I don’t wear…b-big girls’ blouses!’ Scorpius shot up. ‘And anyway, he only got kicked out because he was stupid enough to set fire to the kiln...’


‘That’ll be you in a year or two,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, fondly. ‘We all end up that way, in the end.’


Scorpius snatched the flyer out of my hand.


‘The flyer’s wrong,’ he said, lamely. ‘We’re not touring.’


‘Yes you are. And we’re going.’


Scorpius frowned. ‘Is this going to be like the open mic again? Tarquin getting drunk and leading a one-man stage invasion? A vendetta against me and my art?’


‘Don’t be such a drama queen. Vendetta.’ Gwendolyn/Raven snorted. ‘If we really had a Vendetta against you, we would have poisoned you by now. Anyhow, Lucy,’ she turned to me. ‘Will you come to watch Scorpius beat up a piano for half an hour?’


‘Erm, alright,’ I shrugged. ‘What sort of music do you play?’


It was a reasonable attempt to draw the conversation back to normality, but Gwendolyn/Raven was having none of it.


‘Well, we’re an alternative rock-’ Scorpius began, but she cut across him.


‘They’re a bunch of avant-garde ar-teestes in too much makeup and tights. Like poets…only in drag, and with about an ounce of musical talent between them.’


Scorpius sighed heavily and stood up, pushing Gwendolyn/Raven away. ‘I’m going for a walk.’ He said, with a defeated, hunched sort of look that made me feel momentarily rather sorry for him.


‘You’re not very nice to Scorpius.’ I finally plucked up the courage to say.


‘He’s an easy target,’ Gwendolyn/Raven shrugged. ‘Anyway, I can’t wait till you see his band. They’re absolutely dire!’


‘It’s not my band!’ Scorpius shouted from somewhere across the room.


‘Should be…erm…’ I glanced down at the flyer again. ‘…smashing.’


‘Well, yes, if things get too out of hand, Scorpius might break a few glasses, but don’t take such a defeatist tone already, Lucy. They’re only the support band as well, so Scorpius can cheer himself up a bit by heckling the headliners.’


I consulted the flyer again. ‘Who…?’


‘The Ragged-Trousered Misanthropists,’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, with a proud air. ‘They’re even worse.’


‘Ragged-trousered…?’


‘Yes, apparently it’s some sort of literary reference. Beats me. Ask Barry, he’s bound to know.’


There was a pause.


‘Barry…?’ I asked, confused.


‘Barry.’ Gwendolyn/Raven nodded. ‘You haven’t been introduced?’


I shook my head. She gestured across the room, and, following the line of her finger, I saw the Brooding Nameless One – or, Brooding Nameless Barry – who instantly looked up and met my eye, with an expression of the deepest, darkest, most miserable doom and gloom. He seemed to be a deserted moor and a thunderstorm short of every Victorian novel set in Yorkshire ever. Or a few swans short of a treacherous, rain-battered lake. Or maybe even a couple of sandwiches short of an especially miserable picnic. You know, the sort of picnic where the moment you open the Butterbeer, it’s like wasp city. And then it starts to rain, and your food gets all soggy and someone forgets to bring the Frisbee.


I digress.


‘Yes,’ Gwendolyn/Raven continued. ‘That’s Barry. A deceptively lovely, if a little shy, boy…’


‘Are you sure about that?’ I said, voice lowered. Brooding Nameless Barry still stared.


‘Well, not entirely…shall we go and bother Scorpius again? It’s ever so fun…’


She bothered Scorpius for about three hours before she got bored. Scorpius got bored of being bothered within about five minutes, however, and spent the three hours idling about with his notebook while Gwendolyn/Raven amused herself in smacking him around the head, imitating him playing the piano, and generally making a fool of him. Later, when I checked his notebook to see what he’d written, the latest poem was entitled ‘Rainy Tuesday (death of the Raven).’ The forecast for the next day had indicated nothing short of a torrential downpour, so I made a mental note to hide all sharp objects lest Scorpius should become a murderer.


By the time the gig finally rolled around, the weather was looking as glum as Brooding Nameless Barry on a good day. Gwendolyn/Raven stared up at the sky and grinned, evidently being the sort of person that enjoys rain. Scorpius started mumbling something about it being a bad omen and said he didn’t want to play the gig anymore. Tarquin punched him in the arm and told him to stop being such a wuss, and Gwendolyn/Raven nearly decapitated him following up with her own encouraging smack around the head. Scorpius looked a bit concussed by the time we reached the venue.


It was a lot like The Banshee in the way that it was small, grubby, and looked as if it had been put together by a construction team who were reading the plans the wrong way up. The stage looked particularly treacherous; loose planks and nails stuck out at odd angles, and I was pretty sure that it had sunk under the weight of the heavy piano pushed against the wall at the back. A lone microphone stand was placed at the front, backed up by a guitar, a drumkit, and a stack of amplifiers that looked ready to give up and topple over.


The place was almost empty. This worried me slightly, given that there was only half an hour left until the gig started.


‘Why don’t you introduce Lucy to the guys?’ Gwendolyn/Raven said with a nasty sort of sneer, before making a beeline for the opposite side of the room, Tarquin hot on her heels. They immediately threw themselves down into a rather old and dilapidated sofa, apparently claiming the comfy places.


Scorpius, rather grudgingly, led me towards the back of the room, where a ramshackle counter served as a bar. I squinted at the cabinets behind; most of the bottles were dusty and full of more than the daily recommended intake of units of alcohol. Not a Butterbeer or Shandy in sight. I guessed that my father would not approve. Three men stood in front of the bar – well, alright, three adolescents – with half-empty drinks in their hands, eyeing up the stage with a certain look of apprehension. Like Scorpius, they also seemed to have mastered the skin-tight jeans and underfed look, although none of them had quite the impressive fringe that he did.


‘This is the…band,’ Scorpius said lamely, throwing out a hand to the three skinny people before him. As we drew closer, I saw that the lead singer seemed to have covered himself in glue and rolled around in a vat of sequins. Either that or he was wearing a highly decorated bodysuit, I don’t know. I think I liked the vat of sequins idea better. To cut a long story short, his dress sense was beyond the kingdom of the weird and into the realm of the oh dear.


‘I’m Felix. Felix Felicis,’ the sparkly one stepped forward, a rather self-assured smile on his face.


‘Er, hello, I’m Lucy.’


He shook my hand for longer than I would call necessary, and looked me up and down in a way that I would very politely call disturbing. The sequins just added an extra smidge of perversity to it.


‘Niceeee,’ he whistled. ‘Nice catch, Scorp.’


‘Oh, no, it isn’t like that-’ Scorpius flustered, pink spots rising in his cheeks. But Felix grinned.


‘Sure, mate, sure. Hey, darling, if you ever get tired of Scorp here...well, remember they call me Felix Felicis for a reason.’


He winked and walked off.


‘Scorpius…’ I said. ‘Please tell him never to come near me again.’


Scorpius shrugged apologetically. ‘And, er, here’s the other two. This is Griff and Skylark.’


The other two guys nodded before heading off and following Felix.


‘Wow, do any of you have normal names?’


Scorpius pulled a face. ‘Well, mine’s the only real one. But mine’s good enough to be fake anyway. They’re all stage names. Griff’s second name is Findor...’


'Oh. Wow.'


‘...and I don’t know what Skylark’s name is. It’s just Skylark. He doesn’t actually talk much, to be honest. I don’t know a thing about him apart from the fact that he drums in the band I’m in.’


‘Tell me,’ I sighed. ‘They’ve all got really cringe-worthy real names or something, haven’t they?’


‘Well, Griff’s not too bad. He’s just Thomas Wright, but that’s a bit dull.’


‘And what about Mr Felicis?’


Scorpius looked me straight in the eye. ‘You won’t believe me when I tell you.’


‘Go on.’


‘No, seriously, you won’t believe me.’


‘Please,’ I held a hand up. ‘I’m pretty open-minded.’


‘Oh, alright then. It’s Lettuce Spebbington.’


There was an extremely pregnant pause.


‘I can’t ever think why he changed it to Felix.’


‘I know.’


‘But why would you name a child Lettuce?’


‘His parents are really hardcore vegetarians, he said. He’s got a sister called Carrot.’


‘Weird.’


‘You’re telling me.’


‘Buh...buh...but...Lettuce?’


‘Lettuce.’


‘And you’re not kidding?’


‘I’m not kidding.’


‘Serious?’


‘Very much so.’


I stared after the sparkly Lettuce’s retreating back, feeling, suddenly, a little sorry for him. I thought Scorpius was an unfortunate name, but Lettuce...


‘Anyway,’ Scorpius said, with a heavy sigh. ‘I better go and...well...prepare myself for death by humiliation. See you in a bit.’


He wandered off after his bandmates. I drifted over towards Gwendolyn/Raven and Tarquin, who were carefully patting down the patches of sofa around them as if they were cats preparing to sleep.


‘Did you bring earmuffs, Lucy? I do hope you brought earmuffs.’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, reaching into her bag and withdrawing a large and particularly fluffy pair of black earmuffs. She fixed them on and grinned at us, looking like a demented animal.


‘I didn’t bring earmuffs.’ I told Tarquin. He shrugged.


‘Just...don’t get too close to the amplifiers. They...well, they pack a punch.’


We sat in companionable silence for five minutes or so, Gwendolyn/Raven merrily wriggling her earmuffs around on her head to get the best fit. After a while, Tarquin pulled out a set of cards from his pocket and started up a game of exploding snap. The place was starting to fill up; the occasional bangs as Tarquin continued to beat me at the game drew some rather nasty looks from fellow gig-goers.


When, finally, the lights were thrown on and the stage was lit up, Tarquin tucked the cards away and we turned to stare. An immense glittering, sparkling thing waltzed on and took position behind the microphone. I presumed it was Lettuce, but I was a little dazzled by the sequins. Behind the skinny six feet or so of twinkling, I saw Scorpius trying to get comfy at the piano, his face determinedly turned away from the crowd.


The person in control of the lights had the good sense to dim them slightly, and the cornucopia of glitter that was Lettuce stopped being so blinding. I saw him lean over and carefully place a collection of candles around the bottom of his microphone stand. Then, gently, he lit each one with a touch of his wand. When this was done, he reached out an arm behind him and was handed a beautiful silk scarf by the guitarist, whereby he proceeded to drape it lovingly around the stand before him.


(The scarf, not the guitarist. Just to clarify.)


‘He’s a total prat.’ Tarquin muttered darkly. ‘He got kicked out of art school because he was doing this project on destruction and the human impact on the planet, so he set fire to the kiln just as Holstone walked in...never a good idea. It was only a week after Scorpius had got there, he was running around like a headless chicken, trying to put the fire out...forgot about the Aguamenti charm and all, he was just chucking tea on it for a bit…’


Tarquin was drowned out as Lettuce put his mouth close to the microphone and crooned ‘Helloooooooo everyone, are you having a lovely night?’


A few people cheered half-heartedly. Without preamble, Screaming Bloodthirsty Disco launched into their first song, which seemed to mostly consist of the guitarist playing one note over and over again while Scorpius did some impressive thundering away at the piano and the drummer sat around looking confused. Most of Lettuce’s contribution seemed to be lyrics about cats.


‘Well,’ I said to Tarquin, who was looking longingly at his pack of exploding snap cards. ‘At least Scorpius can play his instrument moderately well...or at least he can play it at all…’


‘You should hear him practising in the flat,’ Tarquin shot across. ‘Always at the least appropriate times. Did you know, I once had a girlfriend over, and we were just, y’know, when Scorpius decided it was the best time to run through his experimentalist collection? As much as I love the bloke, dissonance really isn’t the best for romance, you know?’


I nodded as if I did know, although the truth was that, in all the relationships I’d been in, not one had been soundtracked by experimental dissonant piano music, thankfully. The song finished, to a smattering of bemused applause from the audience.


‘Thanks, everyone...’ Lettuce said, grinning smarmily. ‘Next, we’re going to play a little song for you about heartbreak...and the destructive power of humans on earth.’


I saw Scorpius exchange a worried glance with the guitarist, who hastily started to tune up.


Their second song was marginally better. This was mostly due to the fact that halfway through a rather ambitious high-kick, Lettuce upset one of the candles and set the hem of his sparkly bodysuit on fire. Thanks to the well-aimed pint of a front-row audience member, catastrophe was soon averted, but I don’t think there’s anything more miserable than seeing someone in a glittery catsuit being drenched mid-kick. At the back of the stage, Scorpius took a hand off of the piano for a second to facepalm.


Their set finished quickly. Whether this was due to a small repertoire or shame, I don’t really know. Scorpius shot up off his piano stool and was clear of the stage in a matter of seconds while the rest of the band took their time to pack away. He rejoined us, looking somewhat dejected.


‘We were bad, weren’t we?’ he said hurriedly. ‘We were awful. We were pants. We were bloomers. We were so pants we were basically long johns-’


‘Not awful, as such,’ Tarquin mused. ‘But certainly consistent…ly not fabulous.’


‘Budge up, Lucy.’ Scorpius said, before throwing himself down into the tiny sliver of space left on the sofa. The sudden weight almost made Gwendolyn/Raven shoot up off the other end, but she kept her dignity remarkably well, which is difficult when your earmuffs are at a jaunty angle.


‘I hate my life,’ Scorpius said in a dejected voice. ‘I never want to be in a band ever again, ever. That was excruciating.’


I offered some sympathy. ‘Well, you weren’t that bad-’


The three of them turned to stare at me in shock.


‘Not that bad? Lucy, our lead singer caught fire.’ Scorpius told me, wincing slightly at the memory.


‘It’s alright,’ Tarquin leaned over me and patted him on the back. ‘It’ll all be okay, Scorp.’


‘And then they had to put him out with beer!’


‘It’s fine, Scorp. Think happy thoughts.’


‘He made us play the song about cats! I hate that song!’


‘You played quite well, though.’ I offered, but was instantly ignored.


‘Cats!’ Scorpius blustered, as if he didn’t know what to do with himself. ‘Cats!


‘Cats,’ Tarquin nodded in agreement. ‘Big, hairy cats.’


Scorpius folded his arms and sunk into the sofa in what appeared to be the first stage of a sulk. Given that there were four of us trying to sit on an especially old sofa built for two, the cushions started to dip alarmingly in the middle. In a matter of minutes, I was squashed rather uncomfortably in-between Scorpius’ bony elbow and Tarquin’s knee, which was painful, to say the least.


‘I’ll get another sofa, shall I?’ Gwendolyn/Raven said, voice muffled somewhat. I couldn’t see very well, but judging by the yelps and bangs that preceded these words, she’d turfed the people next to us out of their sofa and drawn it up to face ours. She and Tarquin scrambled onto it instantly, leaving me and Scorpius to hastily claw away from each other from what had been quite an awkward almost-hug.


‘All in all,’ Tarquin sighed. ‘Not one of your better gigs, Scorp.’




A/N: 19/08/2011 - new CI added
edited 22/04/2011
edited AGAAAAIN 03/06/2012
Massive, existentialist & poetic thanks to Nar for all the help and madness from the original forums thread.

Zut Alors = darn it/blimey. Basically.


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