Chapter 6 – preview of AMPLE MAKE THIS BED

by admin on January 31, 2020

 

A novel for grownups A novel for grownups

 

Here’s the latest installment of my novel: Ama meets her ex-husband, then her ex-lover…

 CHAPTER SIX

 ‘Ronnie? I’m on the airport bus. I should be downtown in half an hour. Where shall I meet you?’ asked Ama, trying to keep her usual tinge of annoyance out of her voice.

‘Ama – Christ! All hell’s broken loose here. You couldn’t have come at a worse time,’ he said.

‘Why, what’s happened?’ Ama tried to keep the hint of suspicion suppressed but already feeling he was back-pedalling on his offer to talk yesterday.

‘Seth, the director, has laryngitis, been shouting at everyone for the last week – speechless, can’t say a word. The producer wants me to take over temporarily. I’m on the set right now, I can’t talk to you, Ama.’

‘Why can’t the assistant director do it?’

‘She’s a trainee – producer doesn’t trust her, that’s why he asked me. I couldn’t refuse him, Ama. Not when I’ve been angling for the chance to direct for ages. Can we make it tomorrow instead? Seth will be back by then.’

Ama swallowed hard and heard herself saying, ‘I understand, Ronnie. I guess I can find a hotel and stay over. You’re sure this guy will be back in the morning?’

It was Ronnie’s turn to sound surprised. ‘You don’t mind staying over? I’m sorry about this, Ama. I promise I’ll meet you first thing tomorrow.’

‘Thanks, Ronnie. I’m really counting on your advice. I’m at my wit’s end. You’d better get back to work, see you in the morning.’ She rang off and stood for a moment replaying their conversation. Had she really asked for his advice? Ronnie seemed as surprised as she was.

 

She found a cheap pension on the French side of Main and propped herself up with pillows on the bed. She had picked up a copy of the Montreal Gazette, the English language daily and skimmed through the arts section to see if she could salvage anything from her wasted day. One of the little fringe theatre groups was doing a matinee performance of Ionesco’s The Bald Primadonna, in French.

Ama had seen a production of this play in Paris some years ago before she came to Canada with Ronnie. All she remembered was the inane conversation about all the people being called Bobby Watson. And the postage-sized set, totally painted like a British Union Jack in red, white and blue. The wonderful absurdity of it had stuck in her mind, as a play she would like to put on someday. Maybe it could be part of another season of offbeat plays for her new theatre. God, she thought, I haven’t even sorted out more than the opening play for our first season and already I’m planning for the next year.

The matinee didn’t start until 3 pm and it was still only mid-morning. Who did she know in Montreal she could look up for lunch and maybe the Ionesco matinee as well? Most of her acting friends from her professional days were retired by now, too. She couldn’t think of any theatre contacts she still had in Montreal. Skimming through her old address book that she kept with her mainly for nostalgia’s sake, no names rang any bells, until… Jasper! Why hadn’t she thought of him before? Was he still practising? Probably, as he was five years younger than her.

 

‘Hello, Jasper Falkenham speaking.’

He answered on the first ring, obviously not over-busy with clients, Ama thought. Jasper was a trial lawyer she had had a brief fling with years ago. They had met when he acted as a free legal consultant on a production of the Merchant of Venice, helping her understand the points of law she faced, playing Portia. He had insisted on discussing it further after rehearsals over drinks and dinner and eventually in her bed. He was comfortably married into an old Montreal family, had three children and no intention of altering this arrangement. It suited Ama at the time, intent upon her acting career.

‘Hello Jasper, how is the Playboy of the Western World?’

‘Pardon? Who is this?’

‘Portia. Remember? ‘The quality of mercy is not strain’d; It droppeth as the gentle dew upon the earth beneath…’

‘Ama? Ama Waterstone? My God! Is that you?’

‘None other. One of a long line of disillusioned actresses to pass between your sheets, Jasper.’

‘Ama. Where are you?’

‘Right here in town. Practically on your doorstep. I was hoping we could meet. I’m only here until tomorrow, then flying back to Halifax. Are you free for lunch? I’m paying. I want to consult that keen legal mind of yours.’

‘Amarylis Waterstone. Jesus and Mary. This is my lucky day. I’ve been sitting here feeling sorry for myself with no client to distract me. Stay where you are, I’m on my way. Do I need my car or…?’

‘No, I’m only a few minutes walk from your office, if I recall. I’ll meet you at the Prêt à Manger on St Catherine’s and Main, okay?’

‘Ten minutes – Ama? Will we recognise each other? It’s been so long. I’m old and fat and bald. How about you?’

‘Me too – old and fat, anyway. Blue rinse hair.’

‘You sound gorgeous.’

‘So do you, Jasper. I’ll be waiting. You won’t stand me up again like last time, will you?’

‘If I do, it will be against a wall, Ama.’

‘Same old silver-tongued Jasper,’ she said and rang off.

In the long hall mirror in her pension, Ama tried to see herself as Jasper might. Although she had been joking about her hair which still retained streaks of auburn amongst the gray, her face and neck betrayed her 69 years. She must remember to hold her chin up. She turned to look over her shoulder at her ample behind, which Spike swore turned his legs to water when she was naked. A pity she hadn’t packed more carefully when she left. This skirt didn’t do her any favours, she decided, holding in her tummy. It would have to do, as she hadn’t planned on staying overnight. Or meeting an old beau. A quick brush of her still thick hair and a lick of lipstick, then she pulled on her favourite old tailored linen jacket and closed the door behind her.

The late August morning was warming up as the sun bounced off the plate glass store windows of St Catherine’s street, making her squint behind her sunglasses. The Prêt à Manger coffee shop was only a block or two from her pension. She dawdled along, window shopping in the smart Montreal storefronts, preferring to be late than early to their meeting. Studying her reflection in the window of the store next to the coffee shop she became aware of someone standing behind her.

‘Is this the face that launch’d a thousand ships, And burn’d the topless towers of Illium?’ said Jasper, over her shoulder.

 

Without turning around, Ama spoke to her reflection. ‘I think it’s more like the Wreck of the Hesperus.’ She felt his hand on her arm, turning her around and hugging her to his chest. She kissed his cheek then pushed him away, for them to have a good look at each other at arm’s length. Fat and bald he was not, with a trim if thicker figure and only a slightly receding hair line. But older he most definitely was, with long creases in his face, pure white hair curling slightly over his collar and a slight stoop to his six-foot frame.

‘I nearly missed you, Ama, I was so busy looking for a blue rinse elderly matron. Instead, what do I find?’

‘Just an elderly matron,’ she said. ‘I lied about the blue rinse.’

He took her arm and steered her on past the doorway of the fast food chain. ‘Let’s go someplace quieter. This place is packed.’

‘It’s too early for lunch, Jasper. Couldn’t we just have a coffee and sit outside in the sunshine?’

‘Suits me. This is my stomping ground. I know an espresso café one street over, where I like to people watch.’

‘And I’ll bet it swarms with leggy French-Canadian girls who will show me up as a dowdy old lady. I’d rather find a park bench where I can have your undivided attention.’

‘Have it your way,’ he said, pointing across the street to a small city square with lollipop trees like children’s drawings, in conical concrete tubs. ‘I’ll grab the coffees and you find a bench.’ He ducked into the coffee shop and Ama crossed the pedestrianised street.

She sat on a molded lime-green plastic bench facing the small fountain in the centre of the square. Its sunflower shower heads sprayed a fine mist on three bronze sculptured children in frozen postures beneath. Ama tried to compose how she would ask Jasper for help finding her daughter. The realisation that Ronnie would never abandon his work for even a day, to look for Ocean had made her fasten on Jasper, the moment she thought of him. The fact that he seemed pleased to see her again gave her new hope. He was not only a lawyer, he was a resourceful man, good at his job despite his playboy reputation. She wondered how much that had changed. Jasper was still a striking figure she saw, as he approached her, his white hair curling over the collar of his pale blue seersucker jacket.

‘No sugar, right?’ he said, handing her the paper cup and sitting with one long leg folded across his knee. ‘Where shall we start?’

‘With you, of course. How is Delphine? And your beautiful children?’

‘Delphine is Delphine. And the children have all flown the coop. We’ve been empty-nesters for many years.’

‘But you still practise?’

‘I still come into the office, most days. But I’m not the fire-eating ambulance chaser I used to be, Ama. The fire has gone out.’

‘I don’t believe that. You still look like a lady-killer to me.’

‘Ah well, I was referring to work. And my reputation as a ladies’ man is a shadow of its former self.’

‘Delphine was a children’s court lawyer – is she still?’

‘Not anymore – she is a juvenile court judge nowadays.’

‘I suppose your kids are all married with families of their own?’ asked Ama, gazing at the bronze infants in the fountain.

‘Charlotte has one, Elvire has two and Bo is still struggling with his gender direction. At the moment, he thinks he’s gay but he may be bisexual, too. He’s had lots of girlfriends.’

‘Which makes you a grandfather three times over. Congratulations, Jasper.’

‘Not too many playboy grandfathers out there’, he said. ‘Can’t get used to the idea of a pipe and slippers.’

‘Nonsense. I’ll bet you’ve got a wallet full of pictures you’re longing to show me.’ She smiled at him, ‘Go on then, let’s see them.’

He grinned sheepishly before taking his billfold out of his jacket. ‘You really want to see them or are you only being polite, to curry favour with me so I’ll reduce my fee?’

‘Both,’ she said. ‘And I’m envious, too. Only one daughter and no likelihood of any grandchildren…’

She studied the pictures for a moment or two. ‘God, aren’t they gorgeous at that age. Hard to believe they’ll turn into surly teenage monsters.’

‘You speaking from personal experience, Ama, or from insider knowledge about my three demons?’

‘Bitter personal experience. According to my daughter, I am the world’s worst mother.’

‘Not possible. Delphine holds that title,’ said Jasper. ‘Apparently, having a juvenile court judge for a mother is about the worst fate that can befall any child. So I’ve been reliably informed.’

‘God, I hope Delphine handles it better than I have, Jasper.’

‘I’ve had to rescue her at times when they ganged up on her,’ he said. ‘But that was long ago, we’re in calmer waters now that two of them are parents themselves. Delphine has been vindicated. The jury’s still out about me, at least with my son, Bo.’

‘My daughter, Ocean, is the reason I’m here in Montreal, Jasper. I came to talk to her father for help. He’s here making a TV series in the old Expo site and giving me the usual run-around. Supposed to meet him this morning – now it’s postponed till tomorrow.’

‘Did I ever meet him, Ama? I have no recollection, but that means nothing these days.’

‘I’m flattered you remembered who I was, Jasper. It was a long time ago. No, you never met him although you’ve probably seen him many times. He works non-stop. If he devoted a fraction of the time he spends on his acting career to his daughter, she might not be in this mess. His name’s Ronnie.’

‘Ronnie Waterstone – nope, no bells,’ Jasper said.

‘Waterstone’s my maiden name. I never took his when we married. Jordan. Ronald Jordan.’

‘Ronald Jordan! Is he your husband? My god – Delphine watches everything he’s in. Thinks he’s wonderful.’

‘Ex- husband. We’ve been divorced for years, separated when Ocean was a toddler. A drag on his career. I’m afraid I can’t share your wife’s enthusiasm for him. Although I grant you, he’s a good actor. Damn well should be, it’s all he’s good for.’

Jasper grinned at her, ‘You sound all bitter and twisted, Ama.’

‘Too right I am. I’d like to strangle him.’

‘Now, now. You should learn to differentiate between the stage and real life. I’m sure Ronnie’s a splendid fellow when he’s not acting.’

‘That’s just it. He never stops. His whole life is a fascinating drama with him in the starring role. Please don’t try to defend him, Jasper. I’m the one who needs your help.’

‘Sorry, Ama. My legal training – learn to see both sides. I’ve met many bitter, angry wives in my long illustrious career. I have one at home.’

‘Knowing you, I’m sure she has reason to be, Jasper. The difference between you and Ronnie is that you stuck with her and he’s been trying to scrub us from his life for years.’

‘Delphine and I have a working agreement. We live together but lead separate lives. The trick is always to put family first, anything or anyone else is secondary.’ He stared into his empty coffee cup for a moment or two before crushing it in his tanned hand. ‘It’s not perfect, but it works. Most of the time.’ He looked at her and smiled. ‘We seem to be talking mostly about me, Ama. I haven’t yet heard what the real reason is for calling me after all this time. Not just to hear about my love life. Which has never been quite the same since you left me.’

‘Jasper, you forget how well I knew you. I’m fairly positive you never gave me a second thought until your phone rang this morning. And just for the record, although this may prejudice my chance of getting your help, I left you because I don’t believe in breaking up a family. Even though you said Delphine would turn a blind eye.’

‘Aha! Now we’re getting somewhere. I knew you weren’t after me for my famed sexual prowess.’ He stood and put their empty paper cups in the recycling bin behind their bench. ‘How about you tell me what I owe this pleasant little saunter down memory lane to, over lunch. You did say it was your treat.’ He pulled her to her feet and put her arm through his. ‘I hope you weren’t thinking of making me eat my free lunch in the Prèt à Manger coffee shop. This is Montreal. We can do better than that.’

‘Your choice,’ she said. ‘Not too pricey. Remember I’m an old lady on a fixed income. No expense account dinners in my current post. They gave me a title instead.’

He steered her down a side street to a tiny bistro with a prix fixe menu out front. ‘This okay, Ama – not too steep?’

‘Perfect. And there’s a free table outside.’ She edged past two women eating their way through the set menu and sat down opposite him at the empty table. She studied the menu briefly. ‘You can order à la carte, Jasper, it seems fairly reasonable. I’ll have the prix fixe, I think and a glass of vin ordinaire.

‘No need to be too spartan, Ama. Let me treat us to a bottle of something to celebrate our reunion.’

The waiter brought them a chilled Vouvray and took their order. While they waited, she told Jasper the background to her daughter’s recent disappearance with the druggie boyfriend. Jasper sipped his wine, nodding from time to time but said nothing until she finished her account. The waiter brought their salads and topped up their glasses before leaving.

‘From what you’ve said, it sounds as though the police want him, not her. If they get picked up, I’m sure I could make a case that Ocean was not really an accomplice, just along for the ride. With any luck, she might only get a reprimand and a brief suspended sentence. Unless, of course, she gets caught red-handed in the meantime, actually doing a deal,’ said Jasper. ‘The sooner we find her, the better.’

‘We… does this mean you’ll help me locate her, Jasper? I only intended to pick your brains, not involve you personally.’

‘If we wait for the police to catch up with them, she could get into all sorts of mischief. This guy could be working with a dope ring, not just selling a few spliffs to some high school kids. What do you know about him, Ama?’

‘Nothing good. That’s why I’m so worried. Ocean has run off before on her own. Usually she went to one of her friends or a relative or even occasionally to her father. But not this time. Clay has his hooks into her and she does whatever he asks. God knows where he’s taken her, Jasper.’

‘If the police are after him, he’s probably gone to ground somewhere safe he knows of. My guess is back to where he came from. Ocean told you his hometown is out of province. Where?’

‘Stratford. In Ontario. She mentioned his father was a lighting technician at the Shakespeare festival theatre. That’s how they met. His dad got him a summer job as a stagehand and Ocean went with a bunch of college friends to see a show there.’

‘How old is she now, Ama?’

‘Twenty-four in November.’ She looked at him. ‘I know what you’re going to say. She’s not a teenager anymore and I shouldn’t interfere in her life. That’s what Ronnie’s been telling me to do since she turned eighteen.’

‘Maybe he’s right, Ama. They have to make their own mistakes. God knows it’s hard to sit back and just watch them screw up. Specially the first one. Elvire is the same age and Delphine and I sat on her too hard – told her none of her friends were suitable, put unreasonable curfews on her, vetted all her dates… you wanna guess what happened?’

‘She got married and produced two beautiful grandchildren for you,’ said Ama.

‘Not until after she put us through hell. Dropped out of university after one year. Went off to Europe on her own without a word. Didn’t ask us for a nickel, got a job as an au pair in France, then as a crew member on a yacht; left that in Greece to follow some guy on a motorbike heading to Kathmandu. Ended up on an ashram in south India with hepatitis. That’s where I finally found her. She was gone almost two years. Her sister got the odd postcard from a different country each time. I spent a fortune in plane fares chasing after her around the globe. Always dead ends. Delphine lost twenty pounds and became an insomniac, roaming the house all night long.’ Jasper winced, recalling the pain of his loss. ‘I know what you’re going through, Ama, believe me. I want to help you find her.’

‘Poor Delphine,’ said Ama. ‘Two years, with no word. My god, she must have been devastated. Do you ever recover from something like that?’

‘Takes a long time. She and Elvire were estranged for months after I brought her back home.’

‘And yet, she’s married with a family now. And happy?’ asked Ama.

‘Contented. A devoted mother. Happy? I don’t know,’ said Jasper. ‘“Count no mortal happy till he pass the final limits of this life secure from pain.” Isn’t that what Oedipus says?’

‘Show me her picture again, Jasper. I want to see her.’

He took out his wallet. ‘Let me see a photo of Ocean, too. I know you have one. I carried Elvire’s picture everywhere, just in case.’

They exchanged photos and sat silent, studying the faces of their offspring, searching for some clue to help them understand. Ama saw only a striking young woman with her father’s smile, her arms protectively around her two small fair-haired children. Nothing to indicate the troubled girl she had been. Unless perhaps the furrow that crossed her forehead. She handed it back to Jasper with a smile.

‘Happy ending for you all. I hope I shall be as fortunate,’ she said.

‘May I keep this, Ama?’ asked Jasper. ‘I’ll need it if I’m going to help you find her.’

She nodded, ‘If I wasn’t already in love with someone else, I could fall in love with you all over again, Jasper.’ She took his large hand and pressed it to her cheek. ‘Thank you. I feel as if a great pressure has been removed from my chest.’

‘And I’m starving,’ he said. ‘All this unburdening has left me feeling hollow. Let’s eat.’

It wasn’t until they had finished their meal and were polishing off the last of the Vouvray, that he asked her who she was in love with. Ama thought for a moment before she answered.

‘You of all people know about old flames, Jasper. Spike and I go back to my drama school days in London. We only just rekindled, at the wake of a mutual friend in Dartmouth recently.’

‘I guess that quenches this one then. I’ll have to be satisfied with old friend status instead,’ said Jasper. ‘Still, I’m not proud, I’ll settle for the crumbs from your table, Ama. Only one thing, you have to make me a promise if I’m going to help you.’

‘I can’t sleep with you, if that’s what you’re going to ask. I couldn’t, not now.’

‘I wasn’t going to ask you to,’ he said, ‘but why not, just out of curiosity’s sake. Am I so repellent? I could eat you for dessert right here, Ama.’

‘I’m not immune to your charms, even now, Jasper. I have other reasons. Spike. Delphine. Elvire, to name just a few.’

He said, ‘I want you to promise that whenever I have information about Ocean, that we meet in person. Over lunch, like this. That will inspire me to keep searching, knowing I’ll get to see you again. Do you agree?’

‘Gladly. I haven’t felt this hopeful for ages. I know it sounds selfish, but your experience with Elvire has made me feel you really can find Ocean before it’s too late. Where will you start?’

‘Probably with the boyfriend. He’s the one whose left some tracks. I’ve got lawyer friends and court contacts from here to Victoria and back. What did you say his name was – Clay something?’

‘Clay Fordwich, from Stratford. Jasper? I can’t pay you, except for your expenses. In fact, I can’t really afford to fly to Montreal to meet you for lunch, either.’

‘You pay for the lunches, I’ll handle the rest. I can fly to Halifax to meet you, instead. We’ll have a Lloyd’s of London contract – no rescue, no fee. Then when we find her, you can owe me. It’ll give me a hold over you, so we can keep having lunches together into our dotage. I understand there’s some good seafood restaurants in Arcadia we can sample, too.’

Ama hugged him and she and Jasper parted outside the bistro.

For the rest of the evening she worked on ideas for the plays to make up her opening season and decided what she was going to say to Ronnie tomorrow. The TV news was focused on the debate over the Physician Assisted Suicide bill that was being forced on a reluctant government. They saw it as a hot potato that was handed back and forth between them, the courts and the medical profession. On a whim, she decided to phone Spike. She’d been thinking about him almost non-stop, she realised, since she left Jasper.

‘Hello? Porter Drummond here.’

‘Spike, it’s me, Ama. I know it’s late. I suddenly felt the need to hear your voice.’

‘Ama? Is something wrong?’

‘Not really. I’m in Montreal and I’m missing you, that’s all.’

‘Montreal? What’re you doing there?’

‘Supposed to be meeting my ex to talk about Ocean, but he’s too busy with filming – maybe tomorrow, he says.’

‘Does he know where she is, Ama?’

‘No – hasn’t seen or heard from her since her birthday six months ago.’

‘I don’t understand. Then why are you there?’

‘Because he’s her father and I want him to help find her. But I’m pretty sure it’s a waste of time. If he stalls again tomorrow, I’m leaving.’

‘What made you think he’d change after all this time, Ama?’

‘An old friend told me I should give him the opportunity to get involved…Spike, I don’t want to talk about Ronnie. Let’s talk about us, can we? When am I going to see you? I can’t think straight since I got back here. All I do is fantasize about us being together on the Mongoose. Then when I don’t hear from you, I think you’ve gone off me. You haven’t, have you, Spike?’

‘Never, you won’t get away from me this time, Ama. When are you coming back to Arcadia?’

‘Tomorrow, as soon as I’ve met with Ronnie. When are you leaving? Is there much left to do on the boat?’

‘Not much, she’s nearly ready. Fergus isn’t happy with the autopilot, keeps running off course when we take it out for trials so he’s got it all apart at the moment.’

‘God, how long is that going to take?’

‘Maybe another couple of days, not more,’ Spike said. ‘Tell me about the theatre project. What have you been doing?’

‘I’ve found this amazing designer who’s full of brilliant ideas to change the interior, so we can play on three levels at the same time.’

‘Three levels? I thought you said it was an old Edwardian proscenium arch theatre.’

‘It is. And the best thing is it will hardly cost a penny.’

‘He sounds amazing. I can’t quite picture how he’ll do it,’ Spike said.

‘It’s all done with smoke and mirrors. And he’s a she. Her name is Claire and you’re going to love her. She’s got me all fired up with new ideas for the first season. I’ve thought of a different play for the opening instead of doing Twelfth Night.’

‘What’s happened to your modern dress classic revivals idea – have you ditched that?’

‘I want to use the theme of the Edwardian era in the revamped Edwardian theatre – plays about that period around the First World War,’ she said.

‘You’re not going to do War Horse, are you? The rights would cost a fortune. Never mind the production costs.’

‘Nope. Not going to tell you till you get down here. I’m only starting to work out the staging so I’ll need your input.’

‘Better have it all figured out by then, Ama, because when I get there, I’m not letting you off the boat for a week.’

‘I can hardly wait, I’ve got so much to tell you, Spike.’

‘Long as you can do it lying down, you can tell me anything you like,’ said Spike. ‘I’ll tell you a few things I’d like as well. And they’ve got nothing to do with the theatre.’

‘Sounds idyllic. I talk about plays and you talk about love. Are you sure we’ll only need a week?’

‘Better make that ten days – keep forgetting we’re jerries, everything takes longer than you expected,’ he said.

‘Take as much time as you like, I’m available right now.’

‘I wish you were, Ama. I miss you, baby-sitting Esther, instead of being with you.’

‘How is she, Spike?’

‘Distracted, mostly. She wanders from room to room, picking things up and putting them down in a different place. Sy and Ivy and I take turns staying with her. Supposed to be helping her clear out Simon’s old stuff but really, she doesn’t want to part with it. I get restless and fidgety not accomplishing anything. I’m starting to worry Fergus won’t want to leave to come with me when we go,’ he said.

‘Oh god, I don’t want to hear this, Spike. Please don’t say you’re putting off the trip.’

‘I suppose I can try to go on my own. As long as I’m in harbour every night.’

‘But Fergus promised you he’d come with you. Has he changed his mind?’

‘He says he hasn’t but I don’t think he likes to leave home. He’s 85 now.’

‘It’s crazy you sailing that great big boat by yourself, Spike. What if there was a storm or it broke down?’

‘It’s not that big, Ama.’

‘What about Fergus? Why has he changed his mind?’

‘Fergus says his sailing days are over. I don’t like to press him. He’s already done a lot for me, making sure the Mongoose is in good shape.’

‘Let me talk to Ivy tomorrow and ask her if she can persuade her to talk to Fergus,’ said Ama. ‘I’ll call you as soon as I hear from her, Spike.’

 

She was up early despite waking half a dozen times, dreaming incomprehensible pastiches with Ocean and Elvire running off together to an ashram and Spike and Esther being seasick in a storm on the Mongoose. She dressed hurriedly, grabbed a coffee and a croissant from the corner café before heading down to the old Expo site, to the huge geodesic dome that was now turned into a museum. Ronnie had told her she’d see all the film trucks, around the dome area where they were shooting beneath the monorail. It was after 9am when she arrived.

She saw Ronnie before he saw her. A cluster of technicians surrounded him and he was arguing fiercely with them. She stood by the catering truck waiting for her chance, and drinking another coffee the girl in the truck offered her. A long tracking shot was laid out parallel to the overhead monorail, and the camera crew were moving the dolly back and forth on the temporary rails. Three actors in 60s clothes stood waiting for direction, looking at Ronnie. He broke away from the tech crew and moved towards the actors, then saw Ama and stopped, hesitating before coming over to her.

 

‘Bad news, Ama. The director’s worse today – some kind of summer flu. They want me to continue the shoot without him, as it all went really well yesterday…’ he paused, scanning her face to see how she was taking this.

‘I don’t care a damn about him, Ronnie. I came here to get your help with Ocean and I’m not leaving till I get some commitment from you,’ she said. ‘Where can we go and talk privately?’

‘Ama, you’re not listening. I’m in charge here and all these people are waiting for me to get started. This is a complicated scene and they need me to…’

‘And I told you I need you to help find our daughter. Now stop stalling and take me somewhere we can discuss our plans.’

Ronnie looked back over his shoulder at the actors and crew watching them. He held up two fingers, then turned back to her. ‘I’m sorry, Ama, it’s impossible right now – you can see for yourself. I’ll have the producer yelling at me in a minute if I don’t get started. Maybe tonight, say after nine – no, shit, we’re doing a night shoot while we’re set up here. It will just have to wait for a few days more, I’m sorry.’

‘You promised me if I flew here, we could talk about finding Ocean. I stayed overnight and now you tell me not for a few days more. Meantime we have no idea how much trouble our only child is in and you just say you’re sorry. I told you the police are looking to arrest her, Ronnie. Don’t you care?’

‘At least she’ll be safe if she’s in custody. We can do something then. The cops will find her faster than we can, Ama.’

‘And she ends up with a criminal record to follow her through life, is that what you want?’

‘Ama. I’ve got to go – leave your hotel address with the PA and I’ll try to call you later tonight, okay?’

He turned and hurried back to the camera crew before she could answer. A girl with a headset detached herself from them after a brief word with Ronnie and came over to Ama.

‘Hello, I’m Stella, the PA. Ronnie asked me to take your details so he can be in touch later.’ She held a pen and spiral notebook poised to write.

‘Tell him the next time he hears from his daughter, will be from prison,’ said Ama. She turned and stamped off to the bus stop without another look back.

Riding out to the airport, she stared out the bus window, not seeing anything but her reflection. She grimaced at herself, thinking of her conversation with her ex-husband. Why was she surprised at him when she had felt from the start it was wasted effort? But she hadn’t helped her case by jumping down his neck in front of all his cast and crew. Poor Ronnie, she smiled ruefully, she had made him squirm publicly and he wouldn’t soon forgive her. To hell with him, she had Jasper’s pledge to cling to now. She rang his number at work as she had promised him she’d do after speaking to Ronnie.

‘Jasper? It’s me, Ama.’

‘I was wondering when you’d call. Are we having lunch again today?’

‘Afraid not. I’m on the airport bus to catch the noon flight to Halifax. I just wanted to tell you I’ve spoken to my ex this morning.’

‘Was he as pleased to see you as I was?’ asked Jasper.

‘Just the opposite. Gave me the bum’s rush,’ she said. ‘No time to waste on me or our daughter. Far too busy with his precious TV show.’

‘What’s it called, Ama? Delphine will want to know.’

‘I never gave him a chance to tell me. Tore a strip off him in front of everybody on set.’

‘That was a good move. I’ll bet he can’t wait to help us find Ocean now.’

Ama laughed, ‘It certainly felt good, Jasper. I knew he had no intention of helping as soon as we met, so…’

‘…You gave him both barrels. I guess it’s my turn now to play good cop, as you’ve usurped the bad cop role.’

‘Save your breath, Jasper. It was a mistake listening to my friend Kitty’s advice,’ she said.

‘Can’t believe she would have advised a broadside as an opening shot, Ama.’

‘You’re right. I did everything she told me not to do.’ She gave Jasper a blow by blow account, venting her anger at Ronnie’s selfish behaviour. When she finished, he waited a moment before replying.

‘Okay, what’s done’s done. Now that you’ve got that off your chest, as your lawyer, I think it might be useful for me to invite Ronnie around to the house for dinner. Try to repair some of the damage from your full-frontal attack and get him onside. Delphine will be delighted to apply some massage to his bruised ego, I’m sure.’

‘Can’t imagine why you want to bother with him, Jasper.’

‘I think I’ll ask Elvire to come too. She can frighten him with some of her stories of her lost years in the wilderness. Maybe he’ll decide he should help find his own child after all, ‘said Jasper. ‘Leave it with me.’

‘Does Delphine know about me – us? She might not be so keen to get involved.’

‘On a need to know basis, she will know enough not to inquire too closely, Ama. I told you we have an understanding. And she will be doubly sympathetic with your missing daughter and her favourite actor.’

‘You know best, Jasper. I hope you’re right on both counts. Ronnie and Delphine. Let me know as soon as you have any news. And Jasper? I’m doubly grateful too. For your help with finding Ocean, and for having you back as a friend.’ She rang off as the bus was pulling into Montreal’s Trudeau airport departures’ drop-off. Her flight for Halifax was already loading.

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