Take Back Friday (Novella) 2020 Writing Project

Piece of the puzzle 4: His Manager

What sanity? That is the real question.

Following Hayden’s inquiry, Thea remains silent. Her mind is racing to find an answer, her cheeks turn to a redder shade than she ever thought herself capable of achieving.

“So, are you? Back, I mean…”

“I… I…”

Thea does not finish her thoughts, not that she would know what to say, when the band’s manager bursts in, redder than Thea. A huge smile is plastered on his face, and before they can react, he is clapping Hayden’s back like there’s no tomorrow.

“Hayden, my boy! I knew you were a goldfish when I first saw you ten years ago upon that stage in SanFran. But not in my wildest dreams I could imagine you will be this big…”

Taken by surprise by this, Hayden staggers.

“What are you talking about, Irwing?”

Irwing stops talking and takes a step back. He looks from Hayden to Thea and from Thea back to Hayden, trying to dissimulate his displeasure with her. But he is too giddy to let his antipathies linger on and he claps Hayden’s back again.

“The rumours are out there. We’re working on the press release right now. If I knew it from the beginning, I would have made a better plan, but, hey, I am not the one to look at the gift horse’s teeth. I am too excited!”

“Clearly,” mutters Hayden under his breath, putting some distance between him and his effusive manager. “Now, what’s this about?”

“What do you mean what’s this about? Your new role, of course!”

“What new role?”

“The one that will take you from superstar status to immortal status.”

“Oh, you mean he’s not there yet?” says Marie, not trying to hide her sarcasm.

“This is ridiculous, Irwing. What’s this about?”

Irwing does not answer, a stupid smile is plastered on his face and Thea worries his cheeks might crack if he won’t stop grinning like that.

“I have the press ready for you to go live in half an hour. I believe Mark has no problem in using his bookshop for this monumental development.”

Mark tries not to flinch hearing Irwing’s defamatory stance on his “bookshop” and agrees.

“I will coordinate with Morton on our take on this and how to best spin it, now that the cat’s out of the bag and will come upstairs to set you up. In the meantime, freshen up, we need that perfect face to sell and knock us out of the park, son!”

“Morton? That piece of… is here, in my bookstore?”

That is it. Mark is losing it. He never liked that newspaperman who stalked them for the better half of a year, checking their trash and popping out from the least expected places with his flash camera, and almost costing Mark his marriage and Thea her life.

“No, no! I want him out. I want him out, Hayden! I will not have him here close to Marie or Thea, or I will strangle him with my bare hands. Take that as a piece of news that will knock us out of the park. You hear me Irwing!?”

“Now, Mark, be reasonable, son.”

“Do not call me son!”

“Fine, I won’t call you son, but listen to me, boy. Morton is the one who has the audience for this and can help us have the impact we want.”

Thea has always believed Morton and Irwing were working closely together, but when she mentioned it to Hayden, he dismissed her worries away. He always did that. He never believed her. Shaking her head and taking a big breath in, she put her hand on Mark’s arm.

“He has no power over us, my dear. Marie is safe and so am I, and Morton’s actions cannot hurt us.”

As if to strengthen Thea’s words, Marie hugs him, smiling.

“Thea is right, honey. Morton is no bother to me.”

“I hate the guy!”

“Yeah, we know that,” Thea says, also smiling.

“Hate him all you want, but he’s going to be there, conducting the interviews.”

Irwing twirls around and leaves them all stunned. For a few moments, no one moves. 

“What just happened?” asks Pete.

“Didn’t you hear? Hayden’s gonna be an immortal goldfish or something like it…”

“Stop it, Jake.”

“Make me.”

Rolling her eyes, Thea comes between them.

“Not this again. I thought we got over it.”

“You did? How lovely we have just started.”

Thea shoots a side glance at Hayden, and he frowns.

“Look, I better go now, and leave you all to it. I have no part in this.”

“By your choice.”

“Hayden!”

“What, I just wanted to make that clear,” he says, putting his hands up. “She left, she did not want to be part of this… whatever this can be. So I just stated the obvious.”

“Well, thank you, Captain Obvious,” says Thea, not being able to hold her tongue anymore.

Hayden just shrugs, saying:

“I’ve been called worse.”

“Yeah, I remember.” 

Jake’s input is not well received, as Hayden gets up again, facing his friend.

Hayden’s phone rings. To Thea’s dismay is set to one of TBF’s songs that she very well remembers. He pulls it from his pocket, red-faced, and puts it to vibrate. He does not make eye contact with anyone, while he reads his message.

“Why is Elaine calling me?”

“Elaine?!” Thea wears her shock on her face. “I don’t know. She doesn’t even know I came here…”

“Yeah, about that…” says Pete. The concert was live-streamed on our webpage. Including breaks, so you and Hayden kinda were together in a few shots… 

“You live-streamed it??”

“Well, technically not me, but Irwing…”

“You knew better, Pete,” says Thea hurt, on the brink of tears. “You knew better than this. You should have told us…”

“Yeah, Pete, cause you heard the lady, she does not want to be a part of this…”

Hayden’s not-so-subtle insult does not pass unnoticed.

“Yes, Hayden, I don’t. Whatever this is, as you say, I don’t want it. Okay? It does not interest me, I want nothing to do with it! This place, this band, this… relationship… this-”

“This marriage?” he offers, and she stops dead in her tracks. “Go on, this is what would have come next, right? You don’t want to be part of this marriage.” Hayden sighs, not taking his eyes off her. “Just say it Thea and we’d both be in the clear.”

Thea grabs her bag and her coat, raises a hand to Jake who gets in her way and opens the door, only to find the least desired person in its frame.

“Well, well, if it is not the very elusive Lady Marlow-Hastings… The mirage in the desert, the one and only bride of Hayden Hastings. I have been looking for you for the better half of the year, Lady Hastings. What a treat to find you right here. Where it all started, right? Could I get a picture? Yes, well lovely, he says, clicking on his phone before anyone has a chance to move. Well, now try nothing funny, I linked it to my cloud and there are people who can ensure it will go public if something happens. Now, how about we all take a seat and we talk? I am not here tonight to delve in the most secret marriage of our times, but to make some honest money out of this first scoop.”

“That would be a first…” says Mark, ready to jump at him.

Morton smiles and closes the door behind him, phone in hand, forcing Thea to take a step back.

“So, what are your thoughts on this… extremely lucrative job for all of you?”

Seeing the faces of the ones surrounding him, he burst into laughter.

“You mean you haven’t heard? This is priceless. No wonder Irwing wants to have a press release before the night is over. So, you lot won’t ruin it. Afterwards, we’ll come with the news about your nuptials..”

Hayden jumps from his corner and grabs the collar of the newspaperman, pushing him in the wall behind him with such hate, that it makes Thea jump.

“Start talking, Morton. What do you know?”

The smile on Morton’s face is unwavering. He just shakes his head, his arms up.

“It is all done now. Irwing has accepted the offer anyway on your behalf. I believe the Power of Attorney you signed a while ago is still valid.”

As if summoned, Irwing comes back to the room, and seeing Hayden holding Morton against the wall, hurries to his help.

“Hayden, my boy, let him go. He is a douche, but he is on our side. And think about the bad publicity we would receive if this gets out.”

“Yeah, Hayden, think of all the publicity you would get and the stories I would tell..”

Against his wishes, Hayden releases him and retreats to Thea’s side. His phone is vibrating incessantly in his pocket. He takes it and sees Elaine’s photo popping on his screen. Why would she call him? 

Unwillingly, Thea takes it. This is not the moment to have another unpleasant discussion. The entire night has been a mess. She feels tired to her bones. Hayden motions to her to pick it up and, knowing Elaine will not stop hounding her, she answers.

“Elaine, hi, yes… this is not the – What, what are you saying? Please slow down, I don’t understand a word… What? What do you mean? No. Oh no. Please tell me you didn’t. Elaine, for the love of – Yes, I shut my phone. But why? Why would you think that? You saw what now??”

“What’s wrong?” Hayden nudges her, while she shakes her head, fighting back the tears.

“Arthur, Arthur is what’s wrong!” she manages to say.

“Arthur? No…” Now Hayden shakes his head and turns so fast on his heels, Thea gets dizzy. “What have you done, Irwing? You pushed for Broadway? You revived Arthur? I specifically told you not to bring it to my attention. Ever.”

Irwing waves his hand at Hayden’s concerns and turns to Morton again.

“So, go on and do it. Publish it. The new face of King Arthur – Hayden Acker Hastings from TBF, starting on Broadway this spring. Music by Take Back Friday, Lyrics by Miss Marlow, directed by Vladimir Antoniev. You can also mention that Guinevere‘s part was already given, but do not under any circumstances mention who she is, so we can keep the audience on the edge of their seats during the whole press conference.”

“I won’t do it.” 

Hayden’s words stop the world. Thea looks up from him, her phone still glued to her ear. Elaine’s voice is just a nuisance at this point. Morton and Irwing looking at him both gape-mouth and eyes popping out of their sockets, the band members all in shock.

“I am not doing it. I am not working with her.”

Of all the reasons he could think of for not reviving Arthur, that was the worst. But he knew it would make the biggest impact. And true to his thought, Thea just gasps next to him, drops his phone and walks out of the room, leaving him there, dead inside, and alone as he never imagined he could be.

“You will do it, boy. I already signed the agreement. And from what I know, Miss Marlow’s editor has accepted on her behalf. It is a done deal.”

“You’re fired.” 

This is Jake’s voice and Hayden is glad to have his friend again in his corner.

“You have no legal ground.”

“We’ll find some. And if needed, I’ll take you to court myself. That legal diploma of mine comes handy right now, Irwing. I never liked you anyway. I just put up with you for Hayden’s sake. But you’re nothing but a low-life asshole!”

The door opens, and Hayden raises his eyes, hopefully. To his dismay, it is not Thea who stands in the door, but his second nightmare of the night. All dressed up in a sparkly pink mini-dress, matched purse and heels, wearing a litre of perfume, clouding his senses and making him wish he were somewhere else entirely.

“Hay, love!! Hay, have you heard the news? Irwing, you told him? I wanted to be the one to tell him!”

She jumps on him, hugging him and kissing him, making him nauseous. A migraine is circling his head, and he tries to escape her embrace.

When the door opens again, letting Thea enter, Hayden wants to disappear entirely. What a sad picture she can see now. Pain and hurt cover her beautiful eyes, and when Elise says:

“I’ll be the Guinevere to your Arthur…”

Thea locks eyes with him in silent agony.