Escapists and Wanderers: Getting to know Harriet (deleted scene)
Below is an excerpt from a now-deleted scene. There are no longer any POV passages from Harriet in the 2nd draft, so this is a rare chance to get to know who she really is, rather than simply how other characters perceive her. Enjoy!
Harriet picked out a cigarette from the pack on the bedside table, flicking her lighter into life with two clicks and a froohm. She held the crisp white end to the quivering flame and set the dull orange filter to her lips, inhaling deeply once she saw the crackle and disintegration beyond the tip of her nose. The smoke tasted of Autumn leaves and harvest time, a distinct contrast to the blankets of white outside. Harriet smiled and exhaled a cloud of pearly smoke, remembering the previous season’s dying light with affection and longing. She missed the cool, clean air of Autumn’s cavernous belly, the orangey hues hung like spider webs from its crevices, and the country’s seasonal sweet spice obsession that peppered the collective sinuses like a temporary tattoo. She wouldn’t have considered herself a ‘basic white girl’, but then again, she was rather a fan of pumpkins.
She was lying in bed naked, her pink nipples erect in the chilly air despite Johnathon’s best efforts to heat the apartment. Nestled against a number of garish fluffy pillows, she kept her left arm crossed over her pasty abdomen while her right arm did its best to feed her ferocious nicotine habit. In. Out. In. Out. She smirked in satisfaction. She had curated quite the life for herself.
She heard the fizz of the running shower cease and the muted padding of her lover’s feet on the bathroom tiles. He always had been such a stickler for cleanliness, she thought. Perhaps he was paranoid that he would somehow be caught with the evidence embedded in the pores of his skin. Hardly likely, but he wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box.
Johnathon traipsed into the bedroom, a towel around his waist in the fetching colour of aubergine. He wasn’t exactly handsome, but ever since they had begun their trysts he had taken up a gruelling workout routine in some kind of deliriously productive mid-life crisis. She enjoyed his newly muscular, athletic physique, but more alluring still was the reminder for whom it was meticulously built. Certainly not Diane; all she had inspired was a flaccid gut and meagre, scrawny limbs.
“You okay babe?” He asked her, filling the silence with a question she cared little for.
“Mmmmm,” she murmured, still inhaling deeply from her craved cigarette. There was a pause as Johnathon began to get dressed. “I love it when you fuck me,” Harriet purred, expelling another frosted nebula and observing as it drifted and descended around her. The sex itself had been passable if not downright insipid, but that wasn’t what she was here for. The lie of prowess and excellency was necessary for the pleasure she derived elsewhere, and his fragile ego was a prize plum just begging to be devoured.
Her cigarette burnt out, Harriet heaved herself out of bed and stretched sensually, putting on a show that she knew was being avidly watched. She dressed, but slowly; each item of clothing was carefully applied to its appropriate body part, despite the popping goosebumps on her skin crying for swiftness. She smiled in Johnathon’s direction, causing him almost to wilt.
“Where are you going?” He asked, somewhat demandingly. She raised an eyebrow, a dash of rage flaring against his audacity, his disobedience.
“Out,” she responded sharply, turning and exiting the room without so much as a goodbye kiss. He didn’t deserve one.
Harriet was on her way to Shelby Park, where she had plans to meet Adam, Kate, Brett and Isaac. While she had no musical aspirations of her own, she enjoyed the power she held over The Wanderers’ careers, acquired by way of controlling each important decision and making her skill set indispensable to the ambling, aimless collective. In this position she was frequently able to force the band into situations that caused them apprehension, and there was nothing more gratifying than watching them squirm unnecessarily through experiences she had effortlessly persuaded them to endure. On this occasion she had convinced the group to brace the raw glaciation of February by the unprotected Cumberland River, insisting that it presented the perfect photoshoot opportunity. Armed with her array of 35mm cameras, she had taken on a kind of performed eccentricity that implied a creative genius beneath the bizarre propositioning. She found it amusing how susceptible all of these supposedly intelligent individuals were to such blatant exploitation, how willingly they followed her extraordinary insistence. It was all part of the beautiful game, and it fed her like honey.
Nathan had had to pull out last minute due to unexpected employment, but secretly Harriet was glad of Nathan’s absence. She found his unyielding stubbornness and propensity for belligerence bothersome and more difficult to coerce, and couldn’t understand the others’ fondness towards him. She would never have voiced her distaste, of course. As far as any of them knew, she was as friendly with Nathan as she was with any of them.
Maintaining a deception with competency and ease was her greatest gift, she thought, and her greatest joy. There was something about knowing the truth whilst painting an entirely believable new world that enthused her; in deceit, one had the power to control others’ realities, or at least their perceptions of them. It gave her a rush like no other.
It didn’t make her a bad person not to tell the truth all the time. Sometimes she was protecting others’ feelings, and sometimes she was protecting institutions. With Johnathon, she was protecting his marriage and her own covert lifestyle by not revealing their affair. With Nathan, she was protecting her important place within the group as the agreeable, all-American Harriet. It made perfect sense when one framed it like that.
A few blocks down from Johnathon’s comfortable apartment, Harriet gave a quick survey of the area for prying eyes. No sign. Satisfied that it was safe, she pulled her furry hood down from her head and stepped into her car, a sparkling new Volkswagen Golf that Johnathon had bought her on company expenses. The man had many business investments and was, to all intents and purposes, thoroughly loaded. She wasn’t exactly sure just how so, but every month she would invariably discover yet another offshore account or carefully concealed bond hidden in the depths of paper-filled cabinets and easily-decoded safes, and her smile would grow bigger. Each new finding was further proof she had chosen the right man to be her pay piggy.
Safely in the car and protected by its tinted windows, Harriet pulled down the driver’s mirror and adjusted her bleach blonde fringe. She had always been obsessed with the decade of the 1960s, from her fashion choices to her thick bouncy fringe to her false eyelashes and superfluous winged eyeliner. There was something charming and innocent about those black-and-white days, and she hoped to capture it somehow as an extension of her sweet and girlish image. Today she had opted for classic hoop earrings, a pale pink woollen shift dress, navy tights and chunky, knee-high boots, although Winter wasn’t really a time when her fashion flair came out. She much preferred Summer for that, when her petite, slim legs could extend from denim cut-offs and flowing mini-skirts, and her flat stomach could shine beneath chiffon shirts with puffy sleeves. Her charm offensive shone even brighter during those humid months.
Switching on her car radio but turning it immediately to ‘CD’, she waited for the rich tones of Linda Ronstadt to wash over her. Music was unequivocally superior in those days, although she tolerated the eclectic vibrations of The Wanderers. Part country, part folk, part rock ‘n’ roll, part blues – it was the quintessential melting pot of ‘10s Americana that had become so hip of late, and with such varied influences between each of the band members, they were one of the most popular unsigned bands in Middle Tennessee. Other commitments and lackadaisical contentment had prevented the band from touring heavily or pushing to sign to a label, and Harriet felt this poor foresight. Who wouldn’t want to improve their situation, make more money, garner more success? It was utterly nonsensical to her, although it did mean that they stayed well within her clutches and influence.
It wasn’t long until Harriet was pulling up to Shelby Park, her rendezvous with Linda Ronstadt ending all too soon. Adam and Kate were waiting in their respective cars, too cold to stand outside, and Brett and Isaac were characteristically late, devotees as they were to the losing of presence and self-awareness with narcotic reprieve. At times she found their flakiness to be quite maddening, but she supposed she couldn’t blame them. The nightmares collected from life’s twists and turns were harrowing indeed.
Vickye Fisher © November 2016 / May 2017. All Rights Reserved.