‘Do you understand what I want you to do?’
Not hearing a reply, I looked up, catching his eye for the first time. He didn’t even blink. Well, I assumed he wasn’t blinking. Hard to tell with those dark glasses he was wearing. I saw the corner of his mouth twitch, and quickly dropped my gaze.
Getting back to business, I asked ‘Its okay if you use a bit of force. You know, to get the job done.’
This time it was more than a twitch. He smiled.
I moved nervously in the chair, ‘Perhaps I said that wrong. I meant you can be forceful, but not in a physical way.’
‘Look lady, let’s just get this over with. I’ll take the job.’
‘Great, I’m sure we can work together just fine.’
‘I hadn’t finished talking.’
I grimaced, this wasn’t going the way I had expected.
He continued, ‘I’ll do it on one condition.’
‘Anything is fine with me, really.’
He leant forward, finally removing his glasses, revealing eyes I could easily become lost in. I felt my face reddening, and diverted my attention back to the folder on the desk.
‘Anything’, I murmured. ‘You are the expert, after all.’
‘Okay, I’ll take the job, on the condition that we do this my way. I call the shots. You do exactly what I say.’
I nodded, imagining what he might ask of me. Perhaps this arrangement will be more enjoyable than what I had imagined. Then I blushed. My imagination could get a bit out of hand, sometimes.
He got out of the chair, ‘Let’s get moving.’
‘Now? I thought perhaps next Wednesday, Tuesday at the earliest.’
Crossing his arms, he said firmly, ‘Whatever I say, remember? Where do you do it?’
I stammered, ‘In the next room. It’s a bit of a mess in there. I really think we should wait a few days.’
He raised an eyebrow. That’s all it took. One raised eyebrow. Showing him to the next room, we got straight down to business.
I fired up the computer, then exclaimed, ‘I forgot the coffee. I can’t start without a coffee.’
‘I’ll make it, you sit. If it helps you to write, then coffee it is. That’s what you hired me for – to make sure you write. So start writing.’
Perhaps I should have hired a muse?
I stared out the window. Was that the same bird I saw in that tree three hours ago? Why was it sitting on the same branch? I felt as if time had ceased to move. I couldn’t even hear the clock ticking. That ancient timepiece that drove me mad most days. Now its silence was driving me mad. What was the time, anyway? Surely there is no sense in sitting in front of this damn computer when stupid words refused to jump from my imagination and onto this maddening blank screen.
‘Are you talking to yourself again.’
Turning around, I saw him. Grimacing, I reflected on how quick it had taken for me to despise him.
He put a mug of coffee on the desk, next to the keyboard. Then a plate of fruit, cut into small pieces.
‘Oh,’ I groaned. ‘Fruit again.’
‘Yes, its good for you.’
‘Can’t I just have one biscuit? To go with the coffee.’
He shook his head, ‘Fruit is better. And later, you will go for a walk.’
‘Do I have to?’
‘You can’t sit in front of that monitor all day long. A healthy body sustains a creative mind. Now eat your fruit, and get back to work.’
I picked up a piece of rockmelon, then put it back, ‘I can’t.’
‘Yes you can, it’s just rockmelon. Nothing scary. Anyway, I thought its one of your favourites.’
‘I don’t mean the fruit,’ I said, briefly wondering how he knew that I liked rockmelon. ‘I mean writing. I can’t. Nothing is happening. I’ve got the worse case of writer’s block.’
‘Did you just pft me?’
He nodded, ‘Writer’s block is a load of rubbish. There is no such thing. You just have to try a bit harder.’
‘What!’ I looked up, ‘Try harder?’
There was that arms-folded thing again. He really was infuriating.
I turned back to the screen, ‘I should have hired a muse instead. That’s what I really need.’
‘No, you need me. Stop the excuses, and write,’ he said, as he left the room.
There’s more important things in life than fiction
‘What are you doing?’
I closed the browser quickly, ‘Nothing, just some research.’
I sighed, ‘It was twitter.’
‘You won’t get that manuscript done if you waste time on social media.’
‘Its not a waste of time,’ I said, turning to face him. ‘I need to keep up with current affairs. Especially when there is so much bad stuff happening out there. I’ve been thinking…..’
He crossed his arms, and raised an eyebrow.
‘Stop that! You don’t even know what I was going to say.’ I turned away, to avoid his stern appearance, ‘I think I should put this draft aside for a while, maybe write some non-fiction. I can’t just sit back and say nothing. I’m a writer, I can use my skills to voice what needs to be said. I can’t do that with fiction.’
‘Nonsense. All this tweeting isn’t making a difference. You are just procrastinating. Use fiction, that is the strongest voice you have. Channel your rage, use your wisdom and experience for good. Embed that in your fiction. Writers have always shone a light on reality, on current events or unjust pasts. Get off the internet, and write.’
I shook my head, ‘I can’t disconnect. I have to build my writer’s platform, create a following. And then there is marketing. My first book isn’t just going to sell itself. No way can I turn off the internet.’
‘You’re wasting time. You need to be more strategic, find a balance. Write first, spends as much time as you can writing; then go on-line. Use your time wisely.’
Walking into the study, I jumped. I hadn’t at first noticed him, sitting in the corner, in my big green, plush chair. He had some papers in his hands. Slowly, it dawned on me.
‘I didn’t give you permission to read that!’
‘This isn’t too bad. Needs a bit more work, but not bad at all.’
Nodding, he put the paper aside, ‘Its good. Strong characters, good pace. You’ve really nailed scene-setting too. I could almost see the places you were describing. However, most of all, I like the plot. You’re a very capable storytelling. Very imaginative, indeed.’
I blushed, already forgiving him for reading the manuscript without my consent.
‘Let’s get back to work,’ I said, as I sat at the computer.
Getting the job done
‘Its done,’ I said, hearing him enter the room.
He placed a cup of coffee on the desk, accompanied by two chocolate biscuits, ‘I knew you were close to finishing. So thought you could do with a treat.’
‘Biscuits? At a time like this? No, this moment deserves a real celebration.’
I walked to the kitchen, grabbed a bottle of bubbly from the fridge, and opened the cupboard. Stretching, I tried to reach the flutes.
‘Here, let me help.”
I moved aside, and watched as he took out two glasses, and handed them to me. Taking the bottle, he expertly popped the cork. I held out the glasses, and watched as he gently poured. He put the bottle on the counter, and reached for a glass.
Tapping his glass against mine, he remarked, ‘Congratulations. Book number two is done. And, if you don’t mind me saying, its good. Much better than your first.’
I smiled, and took a sip. So many thoughts were racing through my mind. I was elated at having finished the book, but sad too. I sipped my drink, lost in these conflicting thoughts.
Finally, I looked at him, ‘I suppose this is the end, then. Of our working relationship.’
He smiled, ‘I suppose it is.’
‘What will you do now?’
‘Oh, I have a few options. The one most interesting me at the moment is a job being a muse for a writer I know.’
‘A muse? I thought you didn’t do that sort of work.’
‘Not usually, but there is this really promising writer and she’s needing one. I reckon her and I could work together. In fact, I think I could happily spend the rest of my life being her muse.’
I looked away, hiding my eyes. I didn’t know what to feel first. Jealousy? That he could be someone else’s inspiration, and not mine. Sadness? After all this time, what we had been through, I couldn’t imagine writing another word without him. I felt his hand on my chin, gently urging me to look at him. Obediently, I glanced up. Annoyed that he could command me as he did. Me, Ms Stubbornly Independent. Still, I felt compelled to look at him.
‘What do you say?’
‘You and me working together some more.’
I furrowed my eyebrows. Had I missed something?
He smiled, ‘Are you still looking to hire a muse?’
I returned his smile, ‘Only if I can find the right person for the job.’
‘Okay then, when do we start?’
‘Your next book, of course.’
‘Ah, of course. In a while. First, I must find the inspiration. I think I will take this bottle, wander out into the garden and see if I can come up with an idea.’
I took a few steps, and then turned back towards him. He looked totally confused. Finally, he was no longer the one in charge.
Laughing, I said, ‘Aren’t you coming too, my muse?’
‘You lead, I’ll follow – my writer.’