Please Bleed After The Tone by Dan Brotzel

‘Oh hi Rowena. It’s me, Cassie. Sorry to miss you. Just hoping to catch you. Well obviously, that’s why I phoned! Sorry, darling, I’m rambling. What I was trying to say was, Do you fancy a bite of supper and a glass of wine tonight? We could try that new sushi place in Holland Park? Or you could come round here if you prefer? I’ll rustle up one of those lovely Thai curries from Cooks and pretend I made it? Anyway, lovely, just give me a bell if you get a chance.’ [Double-click.]

‘Hi again Rowena, Cassie again. Just wanted to add — don’t worry, I wasn’t thinking of a counselling session or a pep-talk or anything, just a social meet. Just thought it’d be nice to meet up. Would be lovely to see you.’ [Double-click.]

‘Hi again Rowena. Sorry it’s me again. Just wondered if you’d got my earlier message and if you fancied doing something tonight? No worries if not. Text if you can. Speak later, lovely.’ [Double-click.]

‘Rowena. It’s Cassie again. I’m sorry. I’m just not coping very well. I just really need to talk to someone who understands me, you know. I know Toby’s a cunt but he’s my cunt, you know? And the thought of someone doing him – or him doing them, I just can’t fucking take it! Come round if you can.’ [Double-click.]

‘I guess there’s a bit of an elephant in the room here, Rowena. According to my phone, Toby’s in St Albans yet again, and I think we both know that he’s with you. Well of course you know, you’re probably fucking as I speak. [Sound of glass smashing.] Shit! But I think you’ve known for a while that I know too. This week alone – there was the text to someone called “Hoofy” (a nickname only I was supposed to know), the scarf you randomly dropped off even though we were meeting later, the weird way you greeted each other at The Wolsey. No need to be Sherlock, is there? Though I am proud of my smart deductions. You two got through a lot of electric when there wasn’t supposed to be anyone in the house. Shower was it? It makes me want to retch just think –’ [Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!]

‘Sorry, me again. Got cut off there. [Swigging noise. Belch.] Ooops, pardon me. Not very ladylike. [Pause.] Don’t feel very ladylike. [Long pause]. Bet you’re glad I phoned back! [Pause.] I guess what hurts is that neither of you really even bothered about covering your tracks. The way you both left all these clues — [pause] — there’s a sort of — [burps] contempt about it. My husband and my best friend – also my life coach, huh! – are cheating on me and yet it’s down to me to call you out on it. [Long pause. Swigs. Belch. Sobs.] Were you ever going to come clean about this? Did you expect me to just turn a blind eye for ever? Did you even give a flyi –’ [Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!]

‘Yup – me-eee! I suppose the two of you will have a post-coital vape and play back these messages on loud speaker. Have a good old laugh at Cassie, the stupid, loud, bossy, shallow bitch. That’s what you both think about me, isn’t it? I know. Well this is actual pain, you fucks. These are actual feelings. I hope this does it for you. The  boys — [Long silence. Sound of inhaling smoke, then coughing.] You’re not taking my fucking boys — [Long pause. More sobs. Voice a whisper now.] Oh, they never were my fucking boys — What is it about stepmums, eh? It’s just like the fairytales — You do your best but you’re just never good enough. Even after 12 years they still refuse to call me “Mum” –[Silence. Clicks of a lighter. Sound of inhaling, more coughing.] [Double-click.]

‘Fucking hell, Toby, how do you smoke these things? Rowena, you disgustingly perfect enlightened soul. Resenting one’s partner’s infidelity must seem so hopelessly bourgeois to you. Doubtless you’ll be full of praise for my ability to connect with my feelings – even as you despise me for clinging on to my quaint notions of people being faithful to each other. No blame ever sticks to you, does it? You can piss all over other people’s lives then just chant your way up your own –‘ [Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!]

‘No answer? That’s unexpected. Hoofy! Hah! What do you think it says about you, Toby, that your best feature is — your feet?? Not your heart or your eyes or even your hands — but your feet!! What I really resent about you, Hoofy, aside from the obvious fact that you’re a total cunt, is how you just gave up on us. [Long pause.] I always tried to talk to you about how I felt. Christ I’d have been made up if you’d ever tried to talk about how you felt. But you didn’t. You just went elsewhere. Traded me in. How long ago did you give up on us, I wonder? Was there never a moment when you thought, “Let’s talk about this? Let’s try and wor –” [Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!]

‘Sorry. Me again! Hurrah! [Long pause. Smoking.] You must love each other, I suppose. I’ve loved you both, so I actually sort of get that. ’ [Very long pause. Sound of smoking and swigging. [[Double click.]]

‘OK Rowena, maybe you could give me a call anyway? I realise there’s a bit of a conflict of interest here, but I really need to talk to someone. I just fucking need someone. Just some help to make this feeling go away. You’re my life coach, you have a duty of care surely? Please — ? Call me. [Sound of teenage boy.] ‘Cassie, what are you doing! Put that down!!’ [Cassie shouts back.] “CALL ME MUM!!!!!!!”’ [Double-click.]

Dan Brotzel’s competition shortlists include Flash500 and Sunderland University/Waterstones amongst many others. His work has appeared in Cabinet of Heed, Spelk, Ginger Collect and The Fiction Pool and he has written for Dead Ringers on BBC Radio 4. His agent is Ger Nichol, and both his first novel #unforgivable and a collection of short stories, Hotel du Jack, are currently under consideration. He tweets here.




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