Saturday, 13 June 2015

Heathrow to Home

This is an outtake from Walking in the Shadowlands. It'll become pretty obvious why I wrote it and was very fond of it, as well as why it didn't make the final draft.

Posted for obvious reasons which are obvious.

16th June 1995 - Heathrow Airport.

Rosalie had spent the last 25 years flying around the world, but had never become accustomed to the free-for-all at Heathrow’s Arrivals lounge during busy times. She gripped Ricky’s hand so tightly that he complained but she preferred it over losing him to the crowd.

‘It won’t be long,’ she promised once they’d retrieved their bags and she let him believe he was the one pushing the trolley.

A month and a half in India had given them both deep brown tans and Rosalie felt rested for the first time for years. They’d rented an oceanside house in Goa to exist for awhile in a place unlike their usual universe.

It had been an eye-opener for Rosalie to discover her son had been developing a personality of his own while she wasn’t looking. He spent their days playing football with local children and in the evenings he loved to read to her while she made dinner.

It had been a slice of heaven, but all good things had to come to an end: he back to boarding school; she to whatever she was going to try next.

‘I’m tired.’ Ricky had long ago learnt that “being tired” wasn’t going to cut any ice with anyone in his life; she knew he was several steps ahead of “tired” if he was complaining.

‘Not long now, I promise.’

She struggled to lift him up onto the trolley even with his weary help. The sticker on the handlebar explicitly said not to let children ride but she couldn’t bring herself to give a monkeys after the journey they’d had.

She manoeuvred the thing through Customs, past a young couple from their flight who were being searched, into the bright sunlight of the Arrivals hall. A line of people stood along the path with signs that ran the gamut from amateurishly illegible to laminated and branded professional signs.

As usual, she looked for the name “Scout Finch” and found it held aloft by a uniformed chauffeur waiting near SockShop.

She flashed a tired smile that turned into a yawn. ‘Hello again, Kevin.’

He was one of her semi-regular drivers: a young man with curly red hair which reminded her of the white guys she’d known in the 60s with their big nearly-afros. He moved to take the trolley from her, but she shook her head.

‘Would you mind taking Ricky? Poor thing’s exhausted.’

Kevin gathered barely-conscious Richard into his arms and effortlessly carried him out of the terminal to the waiting Bentley. The boy was fast asleep by the time his mother secured his seatbelt.

'There’s the newspapers if you want them,’ Kevin said.

'Thank you.’ Rosalie reached for the first one on the pile.

She settled down as the car moved away from the terminal. It was a Friday and the traffic was heavy with people heading off to exotic places for their weekends.

She flicked idly through the Independent. The Western world seemed much the same as she had left it: the Conservative government was still floundering ineffectually, there was still war in Bosnia and OJ Simpson was still on trial. Plus ca change…

With a yawn she turned a page, only to find a familiar but unexpected face staring back at her. Rosalie’s heart failed for a couple of beats as she numbly read the phrase “Rory Gallagher was…”


With a firm blink, she read the line again and took in the heading on the page: Obituaries. It took her four more attempts to fully comprehend what she was reading: her old hero was dead.

For the hour and twenty-five minutes of the journey from Heathrow to Canonbury, she read and re-read the article. Phrases like “people’s guitarist” and “exceptional songwriter” sang out in her mind.

How many times had she told JD that Taste had saved her, after a fashion? It was hardly an effort to recall the dark days after her family’s destruction and how Rory’s guitar had brought her back to the living world. It had been the scimitar to cut through her thick grief and had left changed her forever.

Hadn’t she handed JD the Irish Tour LP in a slightly-desperate attempt to break through his depression, and hadn’t it worked?

Without Taste gigs at the Marquee she probably wouldn’t have begged for a job there, and without that… She stifled a sob: everything in her life was thanks to Rory, from a certain point of view.
All that said and if she was truly honest, she hadn’t thought of him in awhile. He had faded out of her notice in the last few years. Did that make this better or worse now he was dead? It had to be worse, because how could anything be better?

Nancy had readied the house for them and had a pot of tea waiting when they arrived. Kevin carried still-sleeping Ricky inside and put him into his bed before leaving for his next assignment.

While Nancy dealt efficiently with their luggage and laundry, Rosalie dialled Bobby’s number.

‘Rosalie, you’re home!’ He sounded pleased and relieved as though he'd half-expected her to stay away indefinitely. ‘Did you have a nice time?’

‘Yeah. Listen, I just read-’

He sighed. ‘You’ve heard then? Funeral’s tomorrow, in Ireland.’ Bobby sounded resigned and businesslike, which was comforting, though she wasn’t sure why.

‘Will you arrange for some flowers for me?’

‘Already done. I wasn’t sure when you’d be back.’

‘Thank you. I need to phone Twain. Where are they at the moment?’

‘He’s at home. I spoke to him a couple of days ago. Sounds well.’

‘All right. What did you write on the card?’

‘Not much,’ he admitted. ‘I wasn’t sure what you’d want. Just “Peace at last, with deepest sympathies, Rosalie Cochran.” Or words to that effect.’

‘Thank you. I’ll… I’ll write to his family soon.’

It was an uncomfortable reminder that Bobby had been required to do the same when Lynott died because she was too busy nearly dying to give life to Richard.

They spoke a little while longer about short-term plans then, with a promise to meet at the office in the week, she said goodbye and dialled the number for Shadowlands Villa. She didn’t even check the time difference.

A barked ‘Yeah?’ was all the greeting received. He sounded like he had a cold but more likely had just overdone his whiskey consumption.

‘That’s not the way to answer the phone, Twain.’

‘Rosalie! Where are you? Tell me you’re at LAX-’

‘I’m in London. I just got back and heard-’

‘Yeah. I didn’t know how to get a-hold of you.’

‘It’s fine.’ It wasn’t fine, but there was no other option. ‘How are you?’

JD went into an extended ramble about the new music he and Liam were writing for a film and Rosalie listened, eagerly soaking up the details and allowing herself to remember that though one of her guitar heroes was dead, the one she loved beyond the rest was still alive, kicking and very well indeed.

‘Jay?’ she asked when he finally paused for breath. ‘I love you.’

‘I love you too, Rosie.’ She heard his voice crack (just a very little) thousands of miles away. ‘I’ll see you soon, right?’

‘Yeah.’ She had no idea when it would be, but had a renewed sense that it should be soon. ‘You’ve got to play on my next record. Bobby said Crudup sent some more songs.’

‘You can have me anytime.’ He laughed. ‘I mean, any time after the end of the month. We’ll be done by then.’

‘Cool.’ She heard a loud crash somewhere upstairs followed by a yell. ‘Ricky needs me.’

‘Tell Sprocket I love him too.’

‘I will tell Richard, yes.’

‘Bye bye, love.’

‘Bye bye, happiness.’

‘You’re madder than I am.’

‘You made me this way.’

‘I’ll happily take credit.’

‘I really have to go.’

‘Bye then.’

‘See you soon.’ She put the receiver down before he could make another crack.

‘Mummy?’ Richard stood in the doorway: dishevelled, disorientated and upset. ‘Are we really home?’

‘Yes, sweetheart.’ Rosalie leaned back against the back of the sofa and let him climb up and throw his arms around her neck.

'That’s good.’


‘Why are you crying?’

‘Am I?’ She hadn’t even noticed. ‘I just got some sad news. It’s nothing to worry about.’

‘I’ll make you better,’ he promised solemnly as he pressed soft, silly kisses all over her face until she started to laugh.

‘You’re very sweet. What do you want for dinner?’ The question was a formality: she knew the answer.

‘Chip shop!’

They had more money than God and he still just wanted fried fish and chips. At least his grandfather would have been proud.

As they walked up the road to the chip shop, Richard now wide awake and chattering rapidly, Rosalie silently wept again.

Rory’s death was another scar for her heart and soul to bear. This particular scar would run deep, but she would survive.

She always survived… but the scars were starting to outnumber joys.

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