Proxy. Ch 18. Not recommended for readers under 16.

 “Oh.” Mum says.

“What?” I ask.

“Three years ago a man named Zephyr Spoon came to see us. He said he was a scientist and that we needed to swallow a pill if we wanted to live.”

“Go on.” I say.

“I asked him why we should believe him. We could have been swallowing anything. He said he knew who had kidnapped you and Rosie and he wanted to help us.” Mum says.

“What did you do?” I ask.

“I listened to him. He was very plausible. Dad and I took the pills, and while our neighbours and friends health has deteriorated, ours hasn’t. Zephyr really did help us. He saved us.”

“Did you have to pay for this pill?” I ask.

“No. It was free.” Mum says.

“So if it’s free, why hasn’t anyone else taken it?” I ask.

“It was free to us. Not free to anyone else.” Mum says.

“Did he say how much it is for other people?”

“No, he didn’t. How do you know him Baxter?”

“Mum, if I told you how I know Zephyr Spoon, you wouldn’t believe me.”

“He said you would say that.”

“Did he say anything else?” I ask.

“He said, you would return one day, and when you did you would explain everything.”

“Well Mum, Rosie and I are back, and that’s pretty much everything.” I say, hoping she will let it go. But she doesn’t.

“Why were you kidnapped? Who kidnapped you Baxter?”

“If I tell you Mum, you have to promise to keep a very open mind okay?” I say.

“I will try to, ok.” Mum says.

“You too Dad.” I look at Dad.

“I’ll try to.” Dad says.

That evening Rosie and I get onto a gliding tram and get off outside The Gazer. Volt sees us walk in on his CCTV and we don’t have to wait very long before he is standing in front of us.

“Hello. The gallery is closed this evening.” He says somewhat formally.

“Volt. It’s me. Baxter Breckeridge.” I say.

“Jake Coppel. Lovely to finally meet you. Dad told me your real name was Baxter Breckeridge. Marvellous. I have some of your work here. Yes. You are a magnificent painter. If you like, I can open the gallery just for you so you can see where I have your work displayed.”

“Baxter, he doesn’t know who we are.” Rosie whispers to me.

“You must be his wife Sarah Coppel?”

“I am, yes. My real name is Rosie Feather though.” Rosie says.

“Lovely to meet you Rosie. Follow me. I’ll have the waiters fetch you some wine. You both drink wine, don’t you?” Volt asks as we follow him, and he tells the lights and music to come on, and he offers us two metal plates to stand on.

“Yes.” We say. We put our plates on the ground and stand on them. We float upward passing artwork on our right and left, above us, and below us, before coming to a stop in front of a painting of mine.

“I know your husband, Duke Chaperin. We both know him.” Rosie says.

“Husband? Oh no darling. Boyfriend yes, but not anymore. We broke up two months ago doll.” Volt confirms.

“Oh. I’m so sorry to hear that.” Rosie says. She gives me an oh-shit-I-have-really-put-my-foot-in-it kind of look.

“Yes. Well. So am I. To hear myself saying those words. He was, is, a wonderful man. Excellent photographer. I have some of his work here too. I have many local artists in here actually.”

“Yes, you do.” Rosie says.

“My apologies. I assumed it was your first visit. You have both been here before haven’t you? You should have said. It is no grand tour then.” Volt laughs.

“Oh, we have, yes, but it was before our work was displayed here. So this tour is not in vain, not to worry.” I clarify.

“Good. That is good.” We take the flutes of wine from the robotic waiter and he disappears on his metal floating plate out of view.

“Would you like to join me in my cellar downstairs? I feel we are old friends and could talk endlessly.” Volt says.

“Sure.” Rosie says, and we stand our plates against the brickwork that is only too familiar to us and follow Volt down the black wrought iron staircase into his cellar, where his coterie, including Duke, are gathered, eating and drinking and doing lines of coke.

“Well, by George, if it isn’t the very man himself. Baxter! Rosie! Darlings! Where have you two been all my life? I haven’t seen you in what? Twenty years?” Duke kisses us both twice on the cheeks before handing Rosie a bowl of cherries, which makes her smile, and she sits down on the red velvet lounge and I take an all too familiar place on the polished concrete floor listening to Duke tell me about the past twenty years in Melbourne.

“Max is huge in New York. He is in all the movies. You’ll have seen him in a few I’m sure. His sister Chloe is a supermodel over there. But you’ll already know all about that won’t you? Her face is. Oh, I could just eat her. She’s scrumptious.”

“No, we didn’t know. Did we Baxie?” Rosie says, eating the cherries.

“How could you not know? Where have you been living? Under a rock?” That’s Duke for you.

“No, Dukey. We’ve been living in Hobart.” Rosie laughs.

“Oh right. Well, yes, under a rock then. Hobart, rock, same thing.  Like I said.” Duke laughs.

“You aren’t married?” I ask.

“I thought marriage was on the cards Baxie, but sadly it wasn’t. Volt and I split up a few months ago. His grandfather passed away and he didn’t take that so well. It really had a huge effect on our relationship. But we are the best of friends now.”

“Oh, that’s so terrible. I’m sorry to hear that.” I say.

“What did his grandfather die from?” Rosie asks, ever so bluntly.

“Lobadantriosis. Sad, I know, but so many people are going that way.”

“It’s shocking, isn’t it?” Rosie sympathises with him.

“How are your parents?” Duke asks.

“Well. They are well. They remain unaffected.” I smile.

“Oh yes, I remember. A few years ago Mummy bumped into your Mum and said she was looking extremely well. Is it true? Did you really let her sell that nude portrait of Rosie?” Duke says.

“I did. And a few other paintings of mine as well. My parents are more important than a bunch of paintings.” I lie, going along with the lie Mum would have fabricated for her wellness.

“Understandably so. Who bought it?” Duke smiles.

“An overseas buyer. You won’t know him. ” I lie.

“And your mother Rosie, too, is looking well. Not a day older than forty, I dare say.” Duke says.

“Thank you Dukey. Yes, my mother has always been a very beautiful woman.”

“Decluttered your house of some of your old paintings too, did you?” Duke says wittily.

“I did. I did.” Rosie laughs.

“Give me a cherry sugar. I’m starving.” Rosie hands Duke the bowl of cherries.

“Rosie and I need to get going now, but it was lovely seeing you. We must see you again soon Duke.” I say, kissing the man twice on the cheek.

“Certainly. It has been amazing. I want to see you both again yesterday!”

“Bye Dukey darling. I have missed you.” Rosie kisses him on his lips and hugs him tightly.

 

We leave The Gazer, and I place my right thumb over the black dot in my wrist. We walk across the road where the traffic flies above our heads.

“Call Zephyr Spoon.” I say.

“Baxter. Hello son. How are you?” Zephyr answers.

“Zephyr. I’m well. Thank you. How can I ever thank you?” I say.

“It was no trouble at all. Live now. Be free. You are free.”

“I am so sorry about your father Zephyr. I’m so sorry that it had to come to that.” I say.

“I am not sorry Baxter. He was an old man. He died in his old age. There is nothing to be sorry for. Nothing whatsoever.”

“Thank you. For everything.” I say.

“You are welcome. I must go now. The two of you take care ok?”

“We will. And you too.” I say. The call ends and I smile.

“What would we do without that man?” Rosie asks.

“I dunno.” I shrug.

“Now we get to live. Properly. He is right. We’re free now.” Rosie peers up at me smiling.

“We are free Mrs Breckeridge. Yes, we are free.” I kiss her hair, and hold her around the shoulders as we walk back to Mum and Dad’s house in Carlton, where all my paintings remain, in the garage, covered in calico fabric.

 

 

 

 

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