Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Extract: Behind the Scenes by Kathryn White

Just for fun, I thought that I would share an extract from my novel, Behind the Scenes. This is the beginning of Chapter Five. Catlin Ryan is an aspiring actress from the outer suburbs of Adelaide. Her fiance has recently passed away and she has been offered a part on a popular television series that is being filmed in Melbourne. She has been offered board and lodgings with her father, a man who she has not seen or spoken to in eleven years ...

‘Scuse me Miss. Miss ... Miss!’  
Huh? Turning in her economy class seat, Catlin looked up at a fat, bald man who was standing in the aisle. ‘You got the time?’ He gave her a gap toothed smile. He scratched at his day-old beard. 
‘Six-thirty,’ Catlin said. She watched as the man waddled back to his seat at the other end of the carriage. It was Sunday evening, a little over one week since Johnny had died. Catlin was travelling on the Overland, the train that ran from Adelaide to Melbourne.
Johnny’s funeral was held just two days earlier, in the local Uniting Church hall. Pastor Carpenter had delivered the sermon, telling the mourners not to be sad as Johnny was in a better place now. Johnny’s parents had introduced her to their family and friends as, ‘the girl Johnny was going to marry.’ 
There would be no wedding now, Catlin realised, as she glanced down at her ring. Johnny’s parents had been kind to her as she packed her things and prepared for the move to Melbourne. Well, almost, Catlin sighed. When she had explained that she was moving to Melbourne and why, Raelene had insisted on making some phone calls. ‘Why?’ Catlin demanded, after Raelene put down the phone. ‘I’m not a child. I can look after myself.’ 
Raelene sighed in return. ‘It’s not right, you going off to a strange city all by yourself. You need someone to look out for you.’
‘And you think that person should be him,’ Catlin said. 
Raelene nodded. ‘It’s what Johnny would have wanted ... It took him weeks to track down your father. He wanted your dad to be there at the wedding ... It was going to be a surprise.’ 
‘Why?’ Catlin had demanded. ‘As if I want to have anything to do with that man, or had him come to the wedding. ‘Why should I, he’s never wanted anything to do with me since I was seven ...’
Catlin allowed her voice to trail off as she noticed the tears that were in Raelene’s eyes. From the other side of the room, Jim flashed her a stern glare. ‘It was what Johnny wanted,’ he said, his voice firm. ‘And it is what he’d want for you now, to know that you had somewhere to live and family to look out for you. And let me tell you something else young lady, if you expect Raelene and I to treat you like an adult, you can damn well start acting like one.’ 
And so it was settled. Catlin would stay with her dad in Melbourne. At least until I can find somewhere else, Catlin thought bitterly, shifting in her seat. 
The train arrived in Melbourne at exactly eight-thirty. There was a clatter as the other passengers reached for their bags. They filed out of the doors, one by one, until the carriage was almost empty. Someone tapped on Catlin’s shoulder. Gently, she opened one eye. The man who had asked her the time earlier stood a few centimetres away. ‘We’re in Melbourne now, Miss.’ He smiled childishly. ‘You have to get off the train.’ 
Catlin climbed out of the long rail carriage. Looking up and down the noisy, diesel scented platform, she tried to locate her dad. Nausea bubbled in the back of her throat as she scanned through all of the waiting bodies. She watched as a girl of about five clambered off the train, to be gripped in a bear hug by her dad on the platform. Would Hayden Ryan really come to meet me, after all this time, she wondered. He had promised, after all. Then again, Catlin thought, Dad promised you a lot of things that didn’t- 
A hand touched Catlin’s shoulder. Turning, Catlin found a tall man by her side. She could see little of his face, except for a deep scar that ran along his right cheek, all the way from his ear to his neck. 
‘Catlin Ryan,’ he murmured. 
Once, when Catlin and Johnny had been driving through the Adelaide Hills at night, a kangaroo had hopped out into the middle of the road. Catlin remembered how, this large and wild animal had stared straight into the headlights of the vehicle, too frightened to move until Johnny had swerved out of the way. At this precise moment in time, Catlin felt just like that kangaroo as she stared at her father, her feet unable to move from the platform floor, even though she wanted them to. Was this really him, Hayden Ryan, her dad? Up close, the resemblance was frightening. They shared the same green eyes and blonde hair that was flecked with strands of white and auburn. Unlike Catlin, his face was old and rugged. Deep circles had formed under each of his eyes while his scar stuck out, glaring angrily at the world. 
Catlin nodded. ‘Dad?’ 
Hayden Ryan nodded. ‘I would have recognised those green eyes anywhere. You’re the splitting image of your grandmother.’ 
I am, Catlin wondered. She only had a few memories of her grandparents, a kindly white haired old couple that lived on a farm. Catlin could remember staying at the farm one Christmas, watching Grandma Ryan to stuff the turkey and picking fresh apricots from the tree with Grandad. Grandad called me his little apricot, Catlin thought suddenly. I missed him and Grandma after we left. Slowly, Catlin looked up at Hayden. ‘Are Grandma and Grandad still ... ?’ 
Hayden shook his head. ‘A long time ago, Catlin.’

Oh. Catlin felt a pang of sadness. 
‘Is this all of your luggage?’ Hayden took Catlin’s backpack. ‘Come along then.’ 
Hayden led Catlin up to a large, crowded car park. Catlin watched as Hayden unlocked the doors of an old Holden Statesman De Ville. Despite its age, the vehicle was in pristine condition, Catlin noted, running a finger along the smooth white paintwork. Inside, the leather seats were soft and comfortable. 
Hayden turned a key in the ignition. The engine came smoothly to life. Catlin watched as her dad expertly steered the Statesman out of the park. It was obvious that he and the car were old friends. Had he owned it since new, Catlin wondered. She tried to recall what kind of car her dad had owned before he and her mum had split up. Just as every time she thought about her early childhood, her mind came back empty. 
Rain tumbled down on the windscreen as Hayden inched the Statesman through the thick, inner city traffic. ‘I was sorry to hear about your fiancé, Catlin,’ Hayden murmured. He kept his eyes fixed on the road. 
‘Yeah.’ Catlin looked down at her lap. This whole situation felt so strange and uncomfortable. Eleven years had passed since she had last spoken with her dad. What did you say to someone after all that time, Catlin wondered. Hi ... I’m your daughter. I’m really sorry that my fiancé died and you got stuck with me. 
‘I would have liked to have been there for the funeral,’ Hayden said. ‘I understand that the police are charging the other young man concerned with reckless driving.’ 
Catlin nodded. Rocco Baker and whatever punishment the courts handed out seemed so unimportant now. Nothing the police or any court could do to Rocco would ever bring Johnny back.
Hayden turned the Statesman onto St Kilda Road. He followed a tram over the bridge that crossed the Yarra. Through the beam of the streetlights, Catlin stared down at the murky water below. Funny how the Yarra always looked like it ran upside down, with the mud floating on top and the water underneath. 
‘So ...’ Hayden said. ‘I hear you’re going to be on some television show.’ 
Some TV show, Catlin wondered. ‘Angel Street is the highest rating drama series on Australian television.’ 
‘Mmm.’ Hayden nodded. ‘I don’t really watch much television, apart from the ABC. Adele does, she likes to keep up with everything Kimmy is in, of course. I believe Keeley ... your sister ... was rather fond of that singing idol show.’ 
‘Australian Idol?’ Catlin frowned. 
‘That’s the one.’ Hayden chuckled. ‘And I have a copy of Paralysed Beach on DVD, of course.’ 
‘You do?’ Catlin was genuinely surprised. ‘Mmm.’ Hayden nodded. ‘Kimmy, your ... other sister, found the DVD a few months ago. She’s very interested in that sort of thing, works in the industry herself. Perhaps you’ve seen or heard of her.’ 
Catlin shook her head. Kimmy was Adele’s daughter, she knew that much. So far Catlin had not met anyone named Kimmy in the industry. But then again, that was not surprising given that Kimmy was obviously based in Melbourne. 
‘Gave us all quite a surprise, little Catlin all grown up and starring in a movie.’ Hayden said. ‘Not that I think acting is a sensible career choice.’ 
The words cut Catlin as sharp as any knife. She supposed that she had been secretly hoping Hayden would be impressed with her career path. 
‘I suppose there are a few good actors on television, like our Kimmy, but most of them seem to be more interested in fame and money. The media is good at exploiting people like that.’ As the Statesman stopped at a traffic light, Hayden nodded toward a newsagency. Beneath a dim and flicking light, Catlin could just make out a poster for a popular tabloid. An image of Milo Bartemucci, wearing nothing but a few strategically placed feathers filled most of the poster. The caption was so tiny that Catlin could make out none of it apart from the words, Page Three. 
‘She’ll be forgotten in a years time,’ Hayden sighed ‘And another girl will take her place, on the front of every newspaper and magazine. Then another girl will come along and another. Don’t be like them. Make acting your first priority; be careful how much information you give to the media. And be careful who you associate with.’ Hayden nodded toward another poster. This one featured an image of Tom Arbuckle his face partially covered by a hoodie and sunglasses. ‘There are a lot of bad people out there, Catlin.’ 
Don’t I know it, Catlin thought. She watched as the traffic light changed to green. Like rotten, cheating fathers who will abandon their wife and child the second that someone better comes along. Do you remember that, Dad? 
Hayden followed a tram along St Kilda Road for a while. Eventually, he turned the Statesman into Baird Avenue, slowing down as they reached number 10. ‘This is it,’ he murmured. ‘Home.’ 
Home ... 
Standing in the driveway beside the Statesman, Catlin felt slightly dizzy as she stared at through the beam of the headlights at the older-style home. It was as though someone had flicked on a switch inside her head. It was the exact home that she remembered from her early childhood, big and old, with a balcony along the front and morning glory growing along one of the walls. As she followed Hayden along the front veranda, Catlin recalled how the garden used look in spring, when the jacaranda tree would be in blossom. ‘This way.’ 
Hayden held the door open. Catlin stepped inside. The hallway was cool, and smelled of a mixture of old wood and Mr Sheen. An ugly, elephant foot umbrella rack stood beside an old antique telephone. Catlin remembered the telephone well. Hayden had found it at a market stall and spent the entire weekend meticulously restoring it. Catlin had always secretly thought that the phone looked strange, with a chunky receiver and a round dial in place of a slim handpiece with buttons. 
Hayden closed the front door. A floorboard squealed as he walked through the room. Beside the stairs, an ancient grandfather clock creaked, its pendulum swinging from left to right. Tick ... tick ... tick ... Catlin paused. She remembered that noise! It echoed through the entire house at night. She would lie in her tiny bed, listening to the steady, hypnotic rhythm of the clock until her eyelids grew heavy and drifted away to sleep... 
‘Good to be home?’ 
Hayden’s voice interrupted Catlin’s thoughts. Catlin blinked, jolted back into reality. 
The phone rang, saving Catlin from any more awkward small talk. Hayden took the call in his study. ‘Feel free to explore,’ he told Catlin. ‘The kitchen is at the back if you’re hungry...’ 
Catlin nodded. Shafted already, she thought. What a surprise. A floorboard squealed under her foot as she turned inside the kitchen and flicked on the light. Taking a clean glass from the dishwasher, Catlin poured herself some water. The kitchen was large and filled with every possible modern convenience, from stainless steel refrigerators to a coffee maker that looked more like a computer. Spooky, Catlin decided, staring at the coffee maker. I wonder how you even turn it on ... Suddenly, Catlin smiled. When she had first arrived at Southcoast, as a seven-year-old, the tiny kitchenette in their caravan had frightened her too, because it was so small and old fashioned. I guess it just depends on what you’re used to, Catlin decided as she opened the biscuit tin. There were plenty of iced vo-vos available, her favourite, but Catlin found herself placing the tin back on the shelf. For some reason, she did not feel hungry tonight ...
Behind the Scenes Copyright  © Kathryn White 2013