Previously in Leeford Village: Sherry is invited to a meal by Julie Gregson, in a minority of one when she voted for her at the audition for a TV talent show. Jessica has told Nick she is pregnant. Agnes suspects Cody of having an affair with Meredith from the gift shop and Steve Adams overhears his wife talking to Dr Roberts about an affair they had in the past. Both the Adams and Thornton families want to run book stalls at the upcoming fête and Jack Simmons wants a stall to run his Pound Challenge. Greg Withall, Mary Cleeve’s ex-husband has turned up at the Cross, having been released from prison.
‘What would you suggest? The Merlot, or the Cabernet Sauvignon?’ Julie Gregson runs her finger down the wine list.
‘I’ve never eaten either. You choose.’
Julie looks over the top of her glasses.
‘They’re wines, Sherry.’
Sherry smiles. ‘I know. I was joking.’ She folds and unfolds her napkin, as she has been doing ever since she sat at the table.
‘Oh, I see. Well, which one?’
‘Something else, then. How about a nice Rocha? Maybe a Pino…’
Julie’s finger pauses at a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
‘Of course.’ Julie folds the wine list and picks up the menu.
‘The nearest I’ve been to anything alcoholic is a packet of wine gums.’
‘I’m sorry, I’m just used to, well, you know, in my job…’
Sherry nods, wishing she hadn’t said ‘yes’ to Julie’s meal invitation.
‘I’ll tell you what. I’ll order for us, shall I? Is there anything you don’t eat?’
‘I’m vegan.’ This announcement is as much a surprise to Sherry as it is to Julie.
‘Oh, well, I’m sure they’ll be able…’
‘Why have you brought me here?’
Julie puts the menu down and sits back in the chair.
‘I detect a bit of an attitude. That’s good in the right circumstances and it’s certainly a selling point, but not when you’re talking to someone who could change your life forever.’
‘Change my life? How?’
‘How? I’ll tell you how, if you’ll stop being so rude.’
Sherry looks down at her hands. She needs her nails done and will make an appointment with Jessica’s beautician in the morning.
‘I’m sorry. It’s just that whenever I think something good is going to happen to me, I always get let down.’
Julie leans forward.
‘I won’t let you down, Sherry. I promise. When I saw you at the audition, I knew we could work together. I’ve been trying to find you ever since and I’m glad I have. Your voice is on trend, your sense of style is what kids relate to and, as I have witnessed today, you have attitude. It’s the perfect combination.’
Sherry feels a rush of adrenalin.
‘So, Sherry Cross, what would you like to eat?’
‘A steak,’ says Sherry, smiling.
Sergeant Miller is parked in a lay-by on the outskirts of Banfield. A familiar blue Clio pulls in front of him. A couple of minutes later, PC Gary Carr is sitting next to him, explaining why he helped Gail Perkins escape from custody. The more he explains, the more ridiculous it sounds. Stephen waits until Gary has finished.
‘I don’t know what to say, Gary. You know I can’t let you get away with this, don’t you?’
‘We’re going to have to go to the station, where I will charge you. I’m not sure what with yet, but it could be assisting an offender. Or, it could be harbouring an offender. Or even, perverting the course of justice. Or, with being an absolute and complete idiot!’
Gary lowers his head.
‘We’ll sort it out when we get to the station. There’s one more thing you have to tell me, Gary. Where’s Gail?’
Gary bites his bottom lip. ‘Sorry sarge. I’ve no idea.’
There are six people in the room when Cody arrives and none of them is Meredith. He sits at a table in front of Jessica Townley who is flicking through a pile of papers ready to hand out during the evening. He pulls a pen and notepad out of his bag and begins to doodle.
‘Hi Cody,’ says Jessica, looking up briefly. This is the first time she has run a writing group and she wishes she wasn’t feeling so sick. ‘ I thought morning sickness only happened in the morning,’ she had said to Nick when she emerged from the bathroom for the third time, earlier.
She looks up again. ‘Hi Meredith. Take a seat, we’ll be starting in a minute.’ Cody hears the scrape of a chair behind him, but resists the temptation to turn around. He feels a knot in his stomach, a feeling he has not had since Emily Curtis planted a kiss on his cheek at the youth club when he was 12.
Jessica coughs, which makes her feel worse.
‘Thank you, everyone, for coming. I’m sure you’re going to enjoy it and I’m looking forward to sharing our work. We’ll introduce ourselves to each other in a moment and I’ll explain what we are going to do this evening. But, first, I’d like us to just spend five minutes writing whatever comes into our minds. It doesn’t have to be Dostoevsky and it’s not something anyone else will see, but it’ll get the creative juices flowing.’
Cody picks up his pen. What to write about? “Whatever comes into our minds”, Jessica said. There’s only one thing in Cody’s mind and he certainly couldn’t write about that! He sucks on the end of his pen, trying to erase the image of him and Meredith, at least temporarily. Just as he is about to write his first sentence, he hears the door close at the back of the room followed by the voice of the last person he thought would be there tonight.
‘Sorry I’m late.’
Jessica looks up.
‘Agnes! Welcome. Please take a seat. I’ll come over and tell you what we’re doing.’
‘What are we going to do without a bass player?’ asks Simon.
It’s been three days since Ziggy walked out on the band and not even a call from Clare could persuade him to return.
‘We’ll advertise for someone,’ says Zack.
‘Right,’ says Adam, ‘and we’re going to get someone to audition and learn all the songs before the fête?’
Zack sits disconsolate on the floor in front of his amp.
‘I don’t know. Maybe we should forget the whole thing. Anyway, Simon. It’s your fault. You were the one who told us Ziggy was playing with the Kingsnakes.’
Simon’s face reddens.
‘And, you never answered Ziggy’s question. What were you doing at the Dive keyboard auditions?’
‘Don’t have a go at me!’ Simon puffs out his chest but he is so skinny it makes him look like he is leaning backwards. ‘You’re the one who called him a liar!’
‘Yeah, because you had got it all wrong!’
‘We could have just asked him why he was there, before we accused him.’
Zack looks at Adam.
‘Actually it was you that accused him first!’
Adam throws up his hands. ‘Only because Simon got it totally wrong, just like his keyboard parts!’
Simon points at Adam, ‘Oh, that’s great, coming from the guitarist who can only play three-string chords!’
Adam lunges at Simon and the two of them grapple, knocking over amplifiers and guitar stands before crashing into Clare’s drum kit.
‘Enough!’ shouts Zack. ‘Out! You’re both fired!’
Adam picks up his guitar case and storms out of the room. Simon goes to pick up his keyboard, then realises he needs his mom to come and collect it.
‘I was leaving, anyway,’ he says, brushing past Zack on the way out of the room.
The room is suddenly quiet. Clare straightens up her kit.
‘That’s it, then. We’re finished,’ says Zack slumping to the floor. Clare puts her drumsticks into the bag her mother had made for her when she first started having drum lessons.
‘You haven’t said anything,’ says Zack.
She comes from behind her kit and sits behind Simon’s keyboard.
‘Play that new song. The one you wrote at the weekend,’ she says.
‘I like it.’
He reaches forward and grabs his acoustic guitar which has been knocked off its stand in the melee. He tunes it roughly then strums the introductory chords. He sings the first verse. When he gets to the chorus, Clare joins in, in perfect harmony. It’s a beautiful sound that sends shivers up his spine. They finish the song together, with a chorus.
‘Wow, Clare, that was amazing. I didn’t know you could sing like that.’
Clare smiles. ‘I used to have singing lessons, before I switched to drums.’
‘Let’s do another,’ says Zack jumping to his feet and strapping on the guitar. They work their way through two more of Zack’s songs and a couple of covers, in one of which Clare sings the verses.
‘This is it, then,’ says Zack as they finish the final song.
‘This is what?’
‘This is the new band. Me and you. Zack and Clare. We don’t need the others!’
The front door closes and Allen Gomez jumps up from the settee. He is tucking in his shirt when Sherry steps into the room.
‘It’s OK, Allen. I’m not bothered,’ she says, sitting down heavily in the armchair.
Allen looks at Linda, who shrugs her shoulders.
‘What’s up with you? Was the meal no good?’
‘Yeah. It was really good, actually.’ Sherry sighs and slowly unbuttons her coat.
‘So, why the glum face?’ Linda pats the settee and Allen tentatively sits down beside her, his eyes on Sherry.
‘Julie Gregson wants me to make a demo in her recording studio.’
‘Oh, wow, Sher! Fantastic! When?’
‘So why are you looking so miserable?’ asks Allen, feeling a little more confident though still suspicious about Sherry’s sudden acquiescence.
‘She wants me to go and live with her for a year.’
‘And what’s the problem with that?’
A single tear runs down Sherry’s cheek.
‘She lives in Las Vegas.’