“Has anyone heard from Gary?” Stevie asked as she brought over the next round of drinks.
“No, he’s been in isolation.” Clive replied
“Isolation?” She said in horror “What did he catch?”
“It means he’s not allowed out anywhere or to talk to anyone until they’ve picked the winner.” Clive explained. “That way no one can spoil the answer.”
“How absolutely mad making.” Tilly clutched her phone as if the mere thought of separation was enough for it to disappear. Miranda ran a swizzle stick through her cocktail as if it held the meaning of life. “And to have to miss Kong’s big shindig!”
“It isn’t a big shindig, it is a small gathering.” Miranda corrected.
“To celebrate a BIG number!” Stevie reminded. “Thirty five is halfway to 70!”
“Yes thank you Stevie, I hadn’t thought about it like that.” Miranda said taking a big swig of her drink. The trio looked at her concerned, so she sat up straight and managed a smile. “I’m fine, really. Yes, I wish Gary was here with us but this will be so good for him. Think of all the free advertising.” A murmur of agreement went around. “In the meantime, and the lady of the hour, I insist on theme selection for karaoke.” She grabbed the binder of song suggestions and searched for inspiration. “I choose- Songs that begin with W!”
Somewhere after Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go but before Whip it, Miranda and Stevie had enough alcohol in them to cross the line of sensible thinking.
“I miss Gary.” Miranda sighed. Stevie rested her head on her shoulder and Miranda leaned over to rest her head on top.
“ I know, but it won’t be much longer. How long is he gone?”
“And we’re on week…”
“I know!” Miranda whined. While stopped at an intersection the cab flooded with incredibly bright white light.
“Bloody hell, who’s trying to blind us?” Stevie complained.
“Oh sorry girls! I should have taken a different road. I forgot there was TV shooting tonight.” The cab driver moved his visors in an attempt to shield the tipsy ones from the spotlights. “One of those reality competition things.” Stevie and Miranda looked at each other and telepathically confirmed their plans. “Not my taste personally but-”
“ Yes thank you, we’ll actually get out here. I think we need some fresh air to clear our heads!” Stevie thrust fare plus a hefty tip at the driver while Miranda hurried to extract herself from the car. As he drove off they took a closer look at the trailers tents and bright lights pointed into the park. “Do you really think he’s in there?”
“No? Yes? I mean how many competition shows can be filming at once?” A kernel of doubt bloomed in Miranda’s brain. However, that kernel was soaking in a hefty dose of gin. “Right, so we’ll sneak around the trailers, take a quick peak to see if he’s there then pop back out.” Stevie nodded.
They ran across the street and flattened themselves against the side of the first building spy style. They silently debated where to move next before Miranda took Stevie’s hand and approached a trailer closer to the light source. A third move was thwarted when they turned a corner and ran straight into a frazzled PA.
“Oh?! There you are!” He said relieved
“Yep, that’s us!” Miranda lied. “Right here exactly where we are supposed to be!”
“ Well you better come with me. You won’t have time for touch ups but we’ll make sure to get you double before the next shot.” He pushed them along the pathway directly into the path of the lights. Between the equipment, crew and the brightness Miranda couldn’t tell whether Gary was there or not. The PA ushered them towards a dressed dinner table and sat the women down.
“Right. Remember the drill? No peeking and No cursing.”
“Absolutely, no need to worry about us!” Miranda confirmed as Stevie wordlessly communicated her panic. Once the assistant left she leaned in.
“We’ve got to get out of here!”
“ We’ll do one take, pop to the loo and not come back.” Miranda assured her. “The real extras should be here soon anyways!” Stevie sighed in resignation.
“At least we get fed.”
“Beats a packet of crisps and whichever fruit friend is the oldest.” Miranda agreed.
“Alright teams!” A voice over a bullhorn called out. “We are going to put Michael’s intro in as post so on the count of three you will all lift your cloches and dig in.”
“We must be rating the chefs’ dishes!” Miranda smiled.
“I wonder if we’ll be able to guess which one is Gary’s?”
“Please, I am the number one connoisseur of Gary Preston cooking. I will be able to tell before a single bite.” Miranda smugly put her napkin in her lap.
“Counting down! Three, two one, GO!”
They lifted the cloches, looked down and simultaneously screamed in disgust. Instead of fine dining on their plates there was a mishmash of intestines, bugs and slime. Stevie jumped up quickly while Miranda fell backwards and took the entire table down with her. Covered in goo Miranda stood up to see four other couples still trying their best to make their ways through their dishes.
“CUT! STOP! FORKS DOWN! Sorry folks we’ll have to reset. What the hell happened with Table 5?” The bullhorn voice shouted.
“Wait table 5? Russell this is week six we only have 4 couples left!” Someone else called out. Everyone looked over at the thoroughly busted duo.
“I- can’t believe you would spoil the results for us like this!” Miranda exclaimed in fake anger. “I’m going to take this straight to the network! Come on Stevie!” She stomped away- or more accurately squished.
It was a long walk back to the flat as no cab would dare take them after catching a whiff of Miranda. Stevie finally let her put her in a cab as soon as they were close enough that Miranda could confidently tell her that she wouldn’t get mugged and would call when she got inside. The phone ringing as she unlocked the door “Timing my steps are we?” She asked peevishly.
“Miranda?” a hushed male voice asked.
“Gary!” She answered shocked.
“I didn’t wake you did I?”
“No no! I’m just getting in actually. Was out with the gang for drinkie-poos.”
“Oh yeah? How was it?”
“Oh you know” She said in an overly nonchalant way ‘No fun without you’ Her brain begged her to say. “Wait! Aren’t you supposed to be icelandic? sorry, thats not it-“
“Isolation?” He prompted.
“Right?! Aren’t you going to get in trouble?” She worried.
“Well hopefully not. I bribed one of the drivers with pavlova to borrow his phone for five minutes. I-“ He paused in that way that always made her heart stop. “ I couldn’t not tell you Happy Birthday. I’m so sorry I can’t be there.” He said with a twinge of sadness.
“It’s alright, really.” She comforted. “This is an amazing surprise. Best of the day.”
“Yeah! How’s it going?”
“Well, can’t say anything otherwise I owe them twenty thousand quid but,” He paused. “It’s the best. I mean don’t get me wrong it’s hard work but I feel so, alive!” She smiled hearing the glow in his voice. “How are you?”
“ Ah no, I gotta run. I’m sorry. I’ll see you in a few weeks yeah?”
“Yeah sure! Go! Don’t get caught!”
“Happy Birthday Miranda.”
“ Good night Gary.” The phone hung up and she held it for a good two minutes after she knew he had left.
It was going to be a long four weeks.