Gladys is through to the first round of a big TV talent show contest. She had been planning to travel to the show on the train, but her manager Dud insisted on driving her. She is extremely frustrated when he turns up late to pick her up.
Introducing Gladys's latest song, Are We There Yet?
Story by Bertie.
Read by Natasha.
Illustrated by Ciara Civiti.
Gladys goes it Alone, Chapter 8: Are We There Yet?
It was 9.30 on Wednesday morning. Dud was already an hour late to pick her up. He had sent her a message, "Running late. Bad traffic. Be with you soon."
That had been half an hour ago. Gladys was annoyed. She could have been on the train by now. She had rung his phone several times but presumably, he couldn't answer because he was driving.
He turned up at 10.45 and asked to use the bathroom. At last they set off in his snazzy little sports car. They weren't far down the road before he stopped outside a coffee chain and asked Gladys, "What do you drink? I see you as a skinny latte person.”
"There isn't time,” she insisted. He glanced momentarily at the clock on the car. It didn’t seem to point to any time that related to the present.
"Haven't had breakfast. I left at the crack of dawn to get to you.”
As he got out. Gladys thought, "If only murder wasn't quite so illegal… And against the ten commandments," she reminded herself as he returned ten minutes later with a cardboard cup in his hand. He had a special drinks holder attached to the dashboard. She really didn't like the way he took a sip as he was driving - it didn’t seem safe.
Somehow, he managed to miss the turning for the M25. Gladys turned on the Sat Nav on her phone and the soothing voice commanded them to "Make a U-turn.” That was a fat lot of use. How were they supposed to do that in the middle of the motorway?
Then they had to stop for petrol; and for the toilet, and then there was a mammoth traffic jam on all three lanes. Gladys had given up any hope of arriving on time.
"Not my fault," said Dud when Gladys was fuming like a steam iron. "Must have been an accident further down the way.”
"But I could have gone on the train!" Said Gladys in a raised voice. She drew a deep breath and said despondently, "I would be there by now.”
They arrived at the TV studio three hours after they were supposed to be there, Dud gave his card to the programme's producer and sort of apologised, saying it wasn't their fault because of all the traffic - but the fact was, Gladys was out of the contest.
"Sorry," said the producer, who was a smart looking woman of about 40. "It's not enough to be talented. You've got to be professional too.”
Gladys burst out, "But it was my manager's fault, I wanted to come on the train. I'm never late for anything on my own.” As soon as she said that, she released that blaming Dud made her sound like a kid in the playground.
“Well, I'd get a new manager, if I were you,” said the producer, who could see that Gladys was seething with rage as well as disappointment.
"I can't. I've signed a contract for a year,” muttered Gladys glumly. “And I thought I was so smart at business,” she said to herself ruefully.
Dud looked uneasy. "That was out of turn," he said as they were going down the corridor. They were being escorted towards the exit by a production assistant. Gladys was looking at Dud's back, but even the sight of him from that angle made her feel sick with anger. There was no way she was going to drive back with him to London. They were passing a glass door that led out onto a sort of garden, part of the so-called "Media Village”. She hung back until Dud and the production assistant were a few steps ahead, and then she slipped through the door. She went out into the garden and found a bench under a tree. She slipped off her shoes and sat crossed legged on it. Then she closed her eyes and thought of the sea lapping against the beach and the cries of seagulls. Gradually she began to calm down.
When Gladys opened her eyes, she was no longer alone in the garden. A man was standing by one of those red ‘No Smoking’ signs. He was smoking a cigarette.
"Hope you don't mind, filthy habit," he said.
"Yes it is a filthy habit,” said Gladys. She hated those horrid smelling things that give you cancer.
He looked a little surprised, and Gladys realised that his face was familiar. He was famous, but she couldn't quite figure out why.
"I apologise," he said, and he dropped the foul fag onto the paving stone and extinguished it with his shoe. "That was my last one. I'm giving up," he promised. She didn't believe his pledge. “He’s just schmoozing me,” she thought. In real life, he didn’t come across as a man with an iron will - in contrast to his image on screen. You see, she had just clicked who he was. He had been in one of those vampire movies in the lead role, a sort of deadly attraction. She could have sworn he was taller in the movie; and a lot better eye candy. Quite frankly, even Dud was better to look at. He glanced at her almost sideways, with a spark of mischief in his eyes - it was rather nice actually - and he said, in a voice that she had to admit was as silky as his film voice, "What do you do here, if I may ask?"
“Of course he knows he may ask,” thought Gladys, “but I don't have to tell him.” She held up the plastic covered pass she had been given at reception. "Just visiting,” she said.
"Snap," he replied, showing her his visitor pass. "I'm here for one of those cosy daytime TV programmes," he said, “Only I never feel cosy doing the showbiz schmaltz thing. That's why I'm feeling nervous, and I just bent the rules a bit,” He nodded towards the sign forbidding smoke. "Tell me why you are here? It will take my mind off things.”
"Well," said Gladys, "I was just trying to forget about it, but as you ask..." She told him the story of the terrible trip, and feeling super embarrassed because it made her look unprofessional.
"I'm sure you sing brilliantly," he replied brightly. "I'd like to come to your next gig. How can I find you?"
"On Facebook. My page is Gladys Jones Singer.”
"Glad to meet you Gladys. I'll look you up," he said. Of course, she knew he probably wouldn't.
When Gladys left the Media Village, she hailed a taxi and asked for the railway station. An hour later, she was sitting on a train for London. It felt great to be heading back under her own steam, so to speak. She took out her phone and just out of curiosity checked her Facebook page. She had a new like. It was from Darren Wolf, actor. In fact, to be honest, a huge Hollywood star.
"Not always Ghost Girl after all," thought Gladys. One of the nice things about the train is that you can read on it. She opened her bag. She had reached the part of Anna Karenina where Anna watches Vronksy ride in a horse race. She half pulled out her e-reader but then thought, “No I'll write a song, and then the day won’t be wasted.” She took her notebook and pen and put them on the table. She looked out of the window. Fields were flying past.
"My life is a journey," she wrote on the page, and then put a big circle around the thought. She mulled over the nightmare journey in the car. She began to see that it could be quite funny if it didn't make her feel so angry. "I've got to get something positive out of this," she thought. "I'll use it as a metaphor for a song.” By the time she reached London, she had written the words to "Are We There Yet?"