Erm.... Mum...Mature

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Chapter Three – Erm… Mum

 

“Erm. Mum.” Olivia said down the telephone line. “I have something to tell you. Oh yes, I am still coming home on Sunday, but not for long. I do not want a full-scale war with Dad. Has he calmed down any yet? Somehow, I did not think he would have. The lads have agreed to come with me. I thought that if he met them, he might be reassured that I am not hanging around with strange men. Listen! Let me tell you my news…Mum! Now, are you sat down? Good. No, I am not pregnant! How could you even think that? No! All right, all right! Well, you know I was in Dublin last week? I did not tell you exactly what I was doing, until I found out the result. No, I am not pregnant! I have been working very hard. Dancing, singing, learning the concert. I will tell you why if you will let me. I was offered a contract as a singer and I had to prove my ability, but, yesterday morning, Nigel, the manager, asked me to join Take That! I accepted, and the fans accepted me. Not all of them, I admit, but most of them were fantastic. I did my first concert last night at Sheffield Arena! It was fantastic Mum, just fantastic. I get to sing, dance and tour with them, and next year I am going to Europe! Mum, calm down! Thank you. I knew you would be pleased for me. I am just scared about what Dad will say. He will disown me, will he not? Then you will cop all the flak, which is not fair. I know you can handle it. Yes, I am happy. I have never been happier! Dad just will not accept that this is what I want. I am doing my A Levels as well. Surely, that will help things. I know it is going to be difficult, but finally I am happy, so very happy. I even made the front cover of the Sheffield Gazette! I wish you were here to share this with me, and Gavin too. I wish Dad could understand, but I cannot let him spoil this now. Look, I really have to go. Yes, I am eating! Bye Mum, speak to you soon. Love you too! Bye!”

 Olivia replaced the receiver and sighed. She knew she would have to face her father at some point. She just did not know whether she was ready. She had never given him cause to be angry before, and she did not know how he would react.

 “Have you finished with the telephone?” a man asked her. She had seen him hovering around while she had been talking to her mother.

 “Yeah, sure,” Olivia replied, moving out of his way. She went and sat in the lounge, feeling a lot better after the events of the previous night. Gary had woken her with breakfast in bed before going back to his room for a couple of hours of comfortable sleep. The sofa had not been the most accommodating place to sleep.

 Olivia looked up and smiled when she saw Robbie. He was pulling faces at the man using the telephone. She just hoped that Robbie knew the man, and was not just annoying a member of public. She watched them both walk into the lounge together, chatting away, so Olivia assumed that this must be the journalist from “Smash Hits” magazine. She caught Robbie’s eye and smiled at him, and he grinned back cheekily.

 Richard came and sat beside her, bringing her a cup of tea. He saw her looking at the journalist.

 “He knows nothing about you, you know,” Richard said.

 “I know,” Olivia replied. “Thanks for the tea. Everyone is looking after me this morning, but I am not an invalid. I feel a lot better today.”

 “Good, but people are only looking after you because they care about you. You’ve only been here a week and everyone loves you. I heard some fans talking about you last night, and they thought you were great. They were surprised about you joining, but they enjoyed the concert. I did hear a few muttering about you stealing the guys from them, but overall I think you won them over.”

 “I was really worried about what the fans would think. I still have such a long way to go with them though. That was only one audience, the next lot will be totally different,” Olivia replied.

 “For what it’s worth, I thought you were fantastic. I could hardly believe the change in you. I thought you might have chickened out and got a body double. I never realised how wonderful you are.”

“What are you? My number one fan?” Olivia asked, laughing.

 “If you want me to be,” Richard replied, smiling, “but I would tell you if I thought you were rubbish. I don’t think I could lie to you. You have this way of looking people in the eye and they find themselves doing whatever you want, telling you everything that you want to know.”

 “I do not do it deliberately. I do not even know what I do,” Olivia said.

 “But you do something, believe me.”

 Suddenly someone grabbed her and gave her a huge bear hug, then picked her up in their arms and spun her around. Olivia did not know what was happening to her or who was doing it to her.

 “Morning cherub,” Robbie said, cheerily. “How are you feeling today?” he put her down, and then grinned at her dazed expression, before planting a kiss on her cheek.

 “Erm. Fine, thanks Rob,” she replied eventually. “I feel a lot better.”

 “The fans thought you were great,” he said.

 “I know. Richard was just telling me.”

 The journalist crossed over to them and Olivia thought he had finally realised that she was someone important to the group, but instead, he gave Robbie a camera, and then he gave one of his grins and headed off in the direction of the kitchens.

 Everyone who walked past her asked how she was, and Olivia was touched to think that all these people cared about her. Several fans approached her with flowers and get-well messages.

 Gary waved at her from where he was sat with Nigel, discussing the show. He had sat with her for a long time that morning, talking. He wanted to prepare her for what might lay ahead. He told her repeatedly about how much he cared for her, and how he never wanted her to get hurt. They had been so close earlier, but now it seemed as though he was a world apart from her, as if there was a glass wall between them, a couple who wanted to be together, preventing their feelings from reaching one another. Nigel saw the look between them and frowned. He distracted Gary and renewed their conversation. Olivia sighed, but deep down she knew that he was only looking after the interests of the group. Now as she looked at Gary again, it was as though he was a million miles away and that there was nothing that Olivia could do to reach him.

 She looked up and saw the hotel receptionist approaching her, carrying a small box.

 “Miss Huntley?” she asked and Olivia nodded. “I have a delivery for you.” She handed Olivia the box. “One of our guests asked me to deliver it to you personally.”

 Olivia was intrigued. Richard teased her about having a secret admirer and urged her to open it. She took the envelope that accompanied the box and opened it, taking out the card inside.

 “To Miss Olivia Huntley,” the card read. “Your performance last night was wonderful. I hope to see so much more of you. I think I could easily fall in love with you, despite the promises you had to make to join Take That. Open and wear forever, with all my love, Your Loyal Friend.”

 Olivia grinned, knowing exactly whom the gift was from. She thanked the receptionist, and Richard became impatient to know what the box contained and whom it was from. She unwrapped the box and took off the lid. She gasped when she saw the most beautiful rose gold ring that she ever had seen. She tried it on and it fitted perfectly. Then she noticed a chain at the bottom of the box, so she slipped the ring onto the chain, the fastened the chain around her neck. It was like having Gary with her all the time. She looked across and smiled at him, knowing that he had been watching her. He smiled back as she mouthed a “thank you” to him. Richard saw her and realised who the ring had been from.

 “You’re playing with fire Olivia,” he warned. “Nigel will not like this.”

 “There is nothing going on between us Richard. I only promised not to get involved with him, and I am not involved. I cannot turn my feelings on and off like a tap, and neither can he. I love him and I cannot deny that. As long as we do not do anything about the way we feel, it is all right.”

 “It’s a dangerous game, but I reckon you know what you’re doing. I don’t think you’re daft enough to get yourself thrown out of Take That just yet. I won’t lecture you or you’ll end up hating me, and I couldn’t cope with that. I’ll be here if you ever need to talk about anything.”

 “Thanks Richard, I appreciate it.”

 The journalist approached her again, but still ignored her completely and went straight to Gary. Olivia just found the whole thing funny. Everyone in the hotel knew her and cared about her, but this man came from London and had not even heard the rumours. What kind of journalist was he?

 Even when Howard emerged from upstairs, bleary eyed and not quite with it, and came across to Olivia to hug and kiss her, the man did not even bat an eyelid. Was he completely blind or just very stupid? To everyone else it seemed obvious that Olivia was worthy of being interviewed, even if it was just about why Take That insisted on hugging and kissing her every time that they saw her.

 A few minutes later Mark arrived in the lounge, causing a flurry of excitement amongst the large number of young females sat around. After fending a few off with lengthy autographs and photographs, he came over and sat in a chair opposite Olivia. He glanced at Richard, and something in his eyes told Richard that he wanted to speak to Olivia alone.

 “Erm. I’ll see you later Olivia. I’ve. Erm. Got some work to do,” he said and got up, leaving them to it.

 “Why did you do that?” Olivia asked.

“I need to talk to you,” Mark replied.

 “Go on then. You have my undivided attention.”

 “I want to know what’s wrong. You wouldn’t tell me last night, so I want to know now,” he said, taking her hand in his and squeezing it gently. “I want to help.”

 “There is nothing wrong. Do you realise that the journalist over there has no idea why you are all coming over to me and being nice,” Olivia said, giving a false laugh, hoping to change the subject, “and if you continue to hold my hand, he will have us down as a couple.”

 “Right now, I don’t care about him, I care about you, and I want to know what is wrong with you. I am really worried about you Olivia. You’ve been so odd since last night.”

 “I could not handle it all, I told you. It just got too much for me. I have never had so much attention in my life, so you can imagine how I felt. Last night made me realise what a lot of things about being in Take That really mean.”

 “Like what?” Mark asked.

 “My promise not to become involved with any of you. If I did, Nigel would be very annoyed, and what is more important, so would the fans. I have to think about every little thing: what I say, what I do, just in case it damages the group. I have to keep up a constant image, which is more difficult than it sounds. I have never had to think about what I am going to wear, or how my hair is styled, or that I have to put make-up on every day before anyone sees me. My life just does not feel like my own anymore. It is as if every action is choreographed and planned for me. I am finding it hard to become used to,” Olivia explained. Mark sighed.

 “I know how you feel about Gary, and I know how he feels about you. It was the reason you came to meet us and why all this began for you. You can’t just stop feeling that way immediately, it’s impossible. However, I think with time it will get easier, if you are determined to make your part in Take That work. Spending every minute with him is not going to help. You have to make a conscious decision to get on with life and not think about him. You will be surprised to find out that there will be other more available men interested in you. As for everything else that is going on, you will adjust eventually. We all went through it, and we all survived,” Mark said, smiling. “You will hear all sorts about us, about women we are supposed to have been with, fans we’re supposed to have slept with. It’s hard to say no at times, but you should always know how Gary feels about you. But at the same time, you do need to look at the men you can really be with.” Olivia knew that he was right. She had to spend time away from Gary, no matter how much it hurt.

 “For the moment Gary is my mentor, a guide, someone I can look up to. That I can deal with. Nevertheless, anything else, I am prepared to try to ignore. I want to be a part of Take That so much, I would sacrifice my heart,” Olivia replied and Mark smiled again. It was the right decision, although carrying it out may prove more difficult, Olivia thought. She hoped that Gary would understand why she had chosen against him.

 “The problem comes with him feeling the same way about you. He knows that he can’t live without you now, but he knows he must. It’s tearing him apart, although he would never admit that. You can see he is a changed man now that he has met you. You can see it in the way he talks about you, cares about you. It’s in everything he does or says, and he’s fighting it ever so much, even pretending to not be interested in you. I want you to remember though – we all care about you, maybe more than you think, not just Gary. We have all been through what you’re going through, and we will listen whenever you need us to listen. Don’t suffer in silence because you can’t talk to Gary,” Mark replied.

 “Thanks Mark. You are all so much like family now, and you have gone out of your way to be nice to me and make me welcome. I have never known so much love from so many people, and I have only known you all just over a week. I wish it could be this way forever, and I wish that I did not have to go home.”

 “There’s no need to think about it until it happens,” Mark said. “Come on, we should get to this meeting that Nigel has called and see what he has to say for himself today.”

 “All right.”

 Mark put his arm around Olivia and her around him. Just feeling him beside her as they climbed the stairs reassured Olivia that everything was going to be all right, just as long as there was someone like Mark who cared enough about her to want to listen, no matter how insignificant the problem seemed to her. She hoped that she could be there for him when he needed someone to talk to. Touring seemed to be a lonely business and it was good to think that there was someone she could rely on when she needed a friendly voice the most. She smiled at him as they went into the room, feeling happier than ever.

 Throughout the meeting Olivia was only half listening, putting in her “yes” and “no” in the right places. The things that they were discussing did not seem to concern her and nothing was being achieved, except frustration. Olivia found herself drifting off into her own private dream world, thinking of all the things that she wanted to happen to her now, things that could really happen to her now. She tried to forget that she could not be with Gary, thinking instead of how she would see him every day. She knew that despite her mother’s protestations, her father would not easily forgive her for leaving home one day and not coming back for over a week, then announcing that she had joined a pop group with five men. She could never be what he wanted her to be now. She could never be his perfect and dutiful daughter again, and he would hate that so much. She hoped that one day he would understand why she had done what she had done.

 She looked around at the faces of her five new friends. She had never had friends like these before. She was only beginning to appreciate what friends were. Richard had helped her so much; he made her laugh, and he made her feel good about herself, attractive even. There was no denying that Richard was very good looking, and he was interested in being seen with her, not embarrassed like the boys at her school had been. Maybe that was the difference. They were boys, and Richard was most definitely a man. She wondered what her father would think of Richard. She had never had any coloured friends before. She hoped that she would not discover that her father was racist.

 She looked at Gary and though of how, if she worked hard enough, she might sing lead vocal on the new album. She looked at Robbie and wondered if she would ever have her face in every teen magazine in her local newsagent. Looking at Mark, she thought of how she might become “Most Fanciable Female Star” at the “Smash Hits Poll Winners’ Party.” She heard the crowds cheer inside her head, calling her name alongside Gary, Howard’s, Jason’s, Mark’s, and Robbie’s. She heard the applause, the compliments. She saw the admiring looks as she was photographed with some celebrity man on her arm. She longed for the day when newspapers would print ridiculous stories about her, the day when she could not walk down the street without being recognised or someone asking for her autograph. She wanted to go home and shove her success in everyone’s faces after the way they had treated her for so many years.

 She saw all the boys at concerts that were yet to be, and her fan mail from love struck teenage boys and admiring girls. She could feel the heat of stage lights on her face, hearing “Top Of The Pops” audiences applaud and sing along with their songs, the music pulsing through her body and the adrenaline racing. She felt an enormous sense of release. In her mind, she saw success. She could taste it, even smell it. The sweet smell of success.

 She saw herself dancing on an enormous stage, quite alone. The arena was empty, but in an explosion of light and sound, every seat was filled with a screaming fan. She danced on, hearing the sound. She danced until her body ached, every muscle screaming in pain, but the applause grew louder and louder. That was how she always wanted it to be. She was dizzied by the thought of it all; her body really did ache and nausea swept over her again, but she did not care, right then.

 It all seemed so real now, within easy reach. Where once there were dreams, reality stood in their place. It was like having that carrot dangling in front of you and being able to reach it if you just try, instead of it moving further away each time you got near. All she had ever wanted could be hers, and most of it was contained in this room, within these people and what they represented.

 Dreams were within her grasp and all she had to do was reach out and take them, make them hers, live them each day.

 Success, stardom. Fame, fortune. Life, liberty. Take That.

 It could not be this easy. Nothing had gone wrong – everything had always gone wrong for her before. That was before, this was now. Everything was different now. She was not who she had once been. She hoped that she would never have to be that person again. That part of her had died the moment she wrote to Gary Barlow, and now it was forgotten. It was gone forever. Forever.

 She heard Gary’s voice through the mist of her dreams, but he was not speaking to her. His voice took on a different tone when he spoke to her. Olivia smiled to herself. That voice had given her so much. Everything she had was thanks to Gary wanting to meet her, but it was more than that. She loved him and always would, despite her promises. She knew that she would never be able to be with him now, but he was part of her dreams. No one could take them from her. They were hers and hers alone.

 “Are you all right Olivia?” Mark asked, noticing how pale she had become, stroking her arm.

 “Huh?” Olivia said, jolted from her dreams.

 “I said, are you all right?”

 “I am fine. I feel fine. Just a bit tired,” Olivia said, rubbing her eyes.

 “Do you have anything to add to the meeting?” Nigel asked. “The others were just airing their grievances.”

 “Yes. Why is my room always on a different floor to everyone else?”

 “That’s all that is available. We were lucky to get you in at the same hotel. We book these rooms months in advance,” Nigel replied.

 “But I do not feel very safe. I do not get any security either. I would have thought that I was most at risk right now from rampant fans wanting to beat me up.”

 “Fair comment. I’ll try and sort something out.”

 “You could always share a room with one of us,” Robbie joked. Olivia smiled.

 “I don’t think so,” Nigel said firmly.

 The topic changed and Olivia went back to her dreams. The technicalities of the tour held no interest for her. All she could think about was dancing, giving her all out on stage, and winning applause for it. Even if it never happened, she would always have her dreams. Dreaming had always been an escape from her real life, an escape from all her troubles and worries. Even when she found herself at her lowest, she could dream of what might be, what should be, what could be. She had new dreams now – of what would be.

 Her dreams made her light-headed, and the feeling of nausea came back more strongly. Olivia fought it back, but her limbs felt leaden. She felt so ill for a moment, and an urge to sleep nearly overcame her. Her eyelids closed, but she fought them open again, knowing she must resist.

 Howard nudged her and told her that the meeting had ended. She fought her lethargy and stood up, her head spinning. She mechanically left the room and out into the corridor. As she walked, she felt as though she was quite separate from the others, invisible to them, or as though she was not there at all. She did not see the others watching her as she almost staggered down the corridor.

 Her head began to spin more violently than before, screaming at her, pounding at her. Her head felt as though it was being torn apart by some unseen force. Her eyes closed and she blindly reached for something, someone to steady her.

 There was no one near; she was quite alone in her part of the corridor. Hopelessly giving up, she slumped to the floor with a groan, the darkness surrounding her, closing in on her.

 “Olivia!” Gary cried out, watching her fall, and then rushing to her side. He knelt beside her, cradling her in his arms. The others gathered around in concern.

 “I am. Going. To. That concert…if. It is the last thing. I do,” Olivia mumbled before falling back into the darkness.

 

 

 

 

                              

 

The End

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