Take Back Friday (Novella) 2020 Writing Project

Piece of the puzzle 5: The Newspaperman

“Don’t be so sad, Miss Marlow, you can still be the Morgana to Mr Hasting’s Arthur.”

“What did you just say to her?”

Morton’s face goes pale when Hayden spins on his heels, faster than humanly possible.

“Hayden, no!”

Thea closes her eyes too late, though. She saw Hayden’s fist connect to the newspaper’s man jaw. She heard the terrible sound that made.

“Oh, that was a long time coming!” says Hayden in Morton’s Face. 

“Well, that’s okay, I will let this one slide,” says Morton. “But the next time you put a finger on me, Mr Golden Boy, I’ll leak the tapes. Oh, what tapes you ask? I am glad you do! Let’s just say we have got one with a secret wedding, hidden deep in the mountains, and another one with a private concert, with the original Take Back Friday, who had, let’s say some well-known feminine voices…”

“You scoundrel!”

This one was Jacob. His voice is in the same tone as Hayden’s. 

“How??” is all Marie can say.

“I have my sources…”

“You mean Irwing?”

“No, your Manager is extremely loyal to you…”

“Hayden, what is this about?” the starlet asks, and Thea remembers she is there as well.

“What do you want? Money?”

Morton laughs at Thea’s question.

“I have money. I want something else.”

“What do you want?”

“I want my name back. I want you to go public and admit you lied. And I was right. And you and Miss Marlow here are indeed married.”

“Married?? Hay, what is this, you never mentioned a wife. Not this… wife…” 

Thea shifts her eyes to the starlet who stares at her, disbelief written all over her puckered face.

“Well, I would understand why you’d want to keep it secret, but I cannot understand for the love of… why would you marry… her?”

“Gee, thanks…”

“Well, no offence…”

“Clearly…”

Thea turns again to Morton and asks:

“What else can we give you? Come on, I know you have a backup plan. You’re clearly a man of business.”

Morton smiles.

“I see why you would marry her,” but then he stops, seeing Hayden closing in again. “Fine. I want the exclusivity of Arthur. All the juicy stuff, full behind the scene access, all of it.”

“And you’ll be happy with that?“

“I did not say I will do Arthur.”

“And why not?” Thea snaps.

“What do you mean, why not? You said a long time ago that Arthur is yours and you would not let him out of your hands…”

“I will. I mean, I will give him to you. You can have him, for all I care…”

Hayden scowls. He knows how big Arthur is for both of them. Well, was, since she is so easily getting rid of it. He cannot fathom to think of a better writer than her. He does not want another writer for Arthur. He cannot conceive doing it without Thea. Is her baby as much as it is his. If not even more…

“Oh, well, then we’ll do it!” says the Starlet.

“Stay out of it, Elise,” says Jacob, fuming.

“You can have him,” says Thea again, putting another nail in his coffin.

“Nooo, no, that’s not going to work. Do it together. Or we have no deal.”

Thea cannot believe what she hears. Why would the man be so keen on them doing Arthur together? There’s something behind it and she cannot seem to find it.

“But I have no interest in this. I never wrote musicals and I do not have the time to do it now. Not when I’m due for another installment for my series.”

“Make time.”

She can see it as if it is happening right now. The enthusiasm on Hayden’s face that early morning, when they discussed Arthur for the first time, in the tiny kitchen of their NY flat. Even at that inhumane hour, the city was wide awake, and the sounds from the intersection came through the open windows. On the table there were a bunch of yellow daffodils, Hayden picked up on his morning run. Spring came early that year, and the sun was already peeking through the gigantic buildings close by. She woke up right after Hayden went for his run and put the coffee pot on. Then opened the laptop and started scribbling here and there some ideas for her recent novel. But it did not stick. She could not seem to focus well enough so she started surfing the internet, mindlessly, until a portrait of King Arthur caught her eye. He looked like Hayden so much; she filled ten pages in her notebook with ideas for a… novel, short story, movie, theatre play or something. Hayden found her lost in the medieval lore and the portrait of Arthur printed in full colour staring at him.

“What are you working on? These are for you!”

He kissed her forehead and jumped into the shower.

“No idea and thank you!” she hid her face in the sunny bouquet, inhaling the springy scent. “Something Arthurian by the looks of it, but I do not think it will be a novel or a novella or whatever.”

“And you had to Photoshop my face on that painting?”

His laughter and cocked brow made her look again at the portrait of the King looking back at her. So he saw it too. The uncanny resemblance.

“I didn’t. And I am not that good with Photoshop to do it!”

Hayden took the picture and sipped from her coffee, pensive.

“But it looks like me.”

“I know, right?”

He looked through her notes for a while, and they sat there in silence, both entrapped in that story when he suddenly stood up, hands raised above his wet hair and said:

“Turn it to a musical! I’ll play!!”

“Come on, H, I cannot write a musical… I don’t know where to begin.”

“Just think about it,” he said, joy sprinkling in his eyes. Us working together again. Oh, the fun we’d have. Marie can make the costumes and Pete and Mark can be the Knights! Ooooh, just think of poor Jake’s face when we’ll make him play Merlin or something… That’d be fun, right? Riiiight?”

“Yessss,” she laughed thinking about Jacob’s reaction. “We can trace the author of this and use his/her painting as the poster for the show!”

“And you’d be my Guinevere.”

“No, no! I never liked her…” she laughed. “I will be the witch, Morgana. And I will torture you and make your life miserable.”

“I can live with that!” he smiled, taking her into his arms. “As long as you promise it will be forever and ever and ever!”

“Oh, love, I can promise you a lifetime of misery!” she laughed when he tickled her.

“T! Thea, where are you, girl? Have we lost you?”

With a shiver, Thea snaps back from her memories only to find Hayden’s eyes on her. Marie is at her side, grabbing her arm, trying to make her pay attention.

Hayden’s eyes are dark, and fury is written all over his face. She understands he knows what it is she remembered.

“So we have a deal, right? Mr Hastings will be Arthur, the coveted King of the Brits, Mrs Elise here will be his adored Queen and Miss Marlow, or should I saw Mrs Hastings will play Morgana.”

“No, I won’t. I can’t do that.”

“You can’t what? Make my life a living hell?”

Hayden’s words hurt. And how they hurt…

“No, Hayden,” she snaps. “My life goal is not to make you miserable.”

“No? I could beg to differ.”

“Well, you’re entitled to that. After all you’re the King wearing the crown, no?”

Morton’s laughter stops them from bickering.

“You two sure are a married couple, aren’t you? So there’s the deal. Now, to make it formal. I will accept Miss Marlow not to play Morgana, even though it would surely be a treat to see, but she will write the script for it. And not from a far distance. I need to see you all during the creation and the first night in the same room. That would be my payment.”

What has she done? How can she work alongside Hayden for all that time without killing each other?

Hayden just stares at her, Elise close to him, as if they just threw the glove her way, and she had to pick it up. At least she has Marie in her corner, and that makes her happy. She is not alone.

However, she is wondering with whom the others will side.