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two times they talked and three times they didn't

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1. PHONE CALLS

 

“How's my favourite Elemental?” The voice is deep, deeper through the phone line, and even though the tone is slightly ironic, the deep affection underneath makes it vibrant like hot chocolate.

 

“Tired, but happy,” Judi says, curling on her sofa, with a quick glance at her goldfish to make sure he's happily swimming in his bowl. They don't talk as often as they would like, both being busy and worlds apart, but it's always like this: easy, as if they've just been chatting over a coffee the day before, during a break from filming together.

 

“Saw you've been fielding interviews again,” Vin says, knowingly. This is a subject that will get Judi go into one of her rants, with the lovely precise diction and accent he could listen to for hours. And when she swears, ah, it makes him laugh so.

 

True, she picks it up and flies with it: “When are you retiring?” Her voice assumes a nasal tone, mimicking someone pedantic and insisting. “Isn't it time to rest and put your feet up? Again and again, always with this refrain, I'm so affronted, next time I hear those questions I am going to show them one of those moves you showed me, see if I don't! I'll show them who's old! Really. Journalists these days just don't know their job anymore..”

 

She goes on for a while, and Vin listens to his friend, sipping a cup of cold tea. He knows her eyes are bothering her, and not because he read it in some gossipy article, but because Judi told him, almost a year before the media knew about it. The prospect of partial or complete blindness isn't cheerful, but Judi had laughed about it with him, “It'll be what it'll be,” she said.

 

“So, have you got a part for me in this Hannibal of yours? I can see myself majestically riding an elephant against the sunset,” Judi often does this, switches from one topic to the other, especially when she is the subject of the conversation. A Dame never talks about herself, for too long anyway, she told him with a wink one of the first days on the Riddick set.

 

Vin smiles, snorts. “Nah,” he says, “but the writers want an Amazon Queen type of character, you know, with a small leopard-skin bikini and masses of lovers at her feet.”

 

“Talk about historically correct. I hope you squashed these silly ideas straight away. Oh well, since I happen to have on my table an invitation to the production screening, I will make sure to complain about the absence of elephant-riding me every five minutes. I always wanted to ride an elephant.”

 

“I hope you can make it,” Vin says. “I worked hard on the character, so many details I wanted to get right, I'm really proud of it, love for you to watch it with me.”

“A new challenge, yes, I know. Every new script can bring that surprise, that life role you didn't know you were waiting for. I'll do my best to be there, I told my assistant about it already and there shouldn't be conflicting filming. But I'll come on one condition.”

She holds for a beat. A theatrical pause calculated for effect, so that Vin can ask the obvious question.

“Okay, okay,” he smiles again. “We can play after. But I wanna see your DM skills, yes?”

“My DM skills are mad, as my grandchildren say,”she boasts.

“Sure they are,”

“Oh, they are so,”

“We'll see,”

“We certainly shall, my dear boy.”

No one really calls Vin 'boy', apart from his mother. And Judi. He's fine with it.

“Gotta go, now. Talk soon, okay?”

“Yes,” Judi says. “Soon.”

 

2. EMAILS

 

To: Vin

From: Judi

Hello, my dear,

a quick question for you. What on earth is the Keoughtom’s ointment and what do I do with it?

J xxx

 

To: Judi

From: Vin

It cures poison, diseases and wounds. Useful but there are others. What you want is Keoghtom's spidery map, now that's something. Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins?Really?

Love, Vin

 

To: Vin

From: Judi

Judge me, see if I care. ;) I have Keoughtom’s staff anyway. Perhaps I'll create a dwarf character, what do you think? Did you check out The End of the Beginning?

J xxx

 

To: Judi

From: Vin

Too busy working, I'll do it as soon as filming on the Witch Hunter is wrapped. Dwarf, why not? The dragons wallpaper is great.

Love, Vin

 

To: Vin

From: Judi

Prestige classes still do not count toward an XP penalty. Explain.

J xxx

P.S. Explain better than when you explained Chronicles to me ;) Thank you.

 

To: Judi

From: Vin

Ahh, yeah, rules are not clear on that. Will call you this weekend, let me know what time is good for you.

Love, Vin.

P.S. Did you have to put it in your autobiography? :P

 

3. JOURNAL ENTRY

 

Dear diary, Judi wrote on the lined page, then smiled to herself. After all these years, the girl she was when she first started keeping a diary, a journal, that girl still smiled and felt a touch foolish. To keep a journal, every day, to record her life, as if it was important, as if she was going to become someone. Oh yes, the awards, the red carpets, the interviews, the exclusive parties and all that, someone may think- correction, someone certainly thought that was it, that was 'being someone': fame, of some kind, being a media celebrity. Oh well, now, don't be excessive, she thought to herself. Someone quite known, that's who I am, and that's all there is to it, it is part of the job.

 

Dear diary,

filming, as always, was at the same time refreshing, exciting and exhausting. All the time spent waiting, it's starting to making me more tired than I cared to admit. At least, no more Bond for me, in as much as I shall miss it. In the fan mail, someone wrote I will always be their M. Pleased or concerned out, I'm not sure...

 

As her pen kept writing on the pages, filling the ivory-coloured paper with thin lines of elegant ink, fixing her thoughts and feelings and all the little and big things of life for the times when her memory would not be as good, when these pages may be the difference between fading away or holding on to her sense of self, her organizer open on the desk caught her attention, and the appointments of the next week. Vin was flying through, stopping in London for a day before reaching L.A. They would meet for a quick lunch. She was going to tease him about his Facebook page, all these modern miracles of technological communication, and then compliment him on being able to reach out to his fans in such a genuine, sincere way. She was of the older generation, and fans, even if one was naturally happy to have some, and even grateful, still felt like an intrusion: they were hungry for gossip, for news, for a piece of you here and one there. She had once spent an entire afternoon on the phone with him, exchanging recipes and work news and D&D strategies, to then end the conversation with Judi offering parenting advice and listening to Vin's passionate speech about the power of the media, about how he could feel the love and energy of the fans on his page, and how showing the numbers, the thousands and thousands of likes and comments, have convinced producers and studios to finance his latest projects. Most of all, she remembers Vin's powerful, deep laugh, and the excitement in his voice, and the pleasure of just closing her eyes and listening to him reading her his latest script.

 

 

4. PACKAGES

 

He mails her little souvenirs from every location he happens to be filming in. They're not expensive objects, they are amusing, funny – weird postcards with jokes she does not always understand and then he has to explain on the phone, or beautiful hand-crafted curios, a paper basket with wooden eggs, an elephant sculpted in desiccated mud, and once a small mummified lizard, an in joke from Chronicles that still made her chuckle after all these years. And yes, if she's doing a run on the stage, he sends her flowers.

 

She sends him crocheted gloves and socks for the little one in his life, bits of poems she finds in old books, an illustrated book on the castles of Scotland, anthologies of traditional fantasy tales, and cross-stitch patterns for him to practice on, a bet he lost once and promised he would honour, one that he still keeps promising to fulfil and yet can't help laughing when he says it, because it was made in jest and they both know it. And yet, it's a promise she will keep reminding him of until she has breath in her lungs, because the idea of the man, built as a wardrobe with muscles from here to there thanks to hours and hours of training and determination, the idea of him learning to cross stitch just gives her the stitches.

 

 

5. AND SILENCE

 

This is what friends are for. Judi doesn't even think about it, but only about when. She sends a telegram, of course, so sorry for your loss, but she knows he's in the middle of filming and that everything will be complicated and sad and hard right now. She looks at the veins on her hands, the skin showing her age, and feels angry about the loss of youth, not hers, because she has lived and experienced the good and the bad, but of someone still young, in an accident brutal and sudden, as all accidents are. She thinks of the vagaries of life, of knowing about this young man because she's friends with another young man, not because he was an actor just like she is. She thinks of how improbable their friendship is, and even more, in her widow years, of how this friendship has been a breath of fresh air, a meeting of two different natures with the same ethics, with the same curiosity and love for life. She knows that some of his friends mock him for this friendship, but it's all done in good humour after all, and she doesn't really care.

She cares about him, though. So she picks up the phone, when she thinks the time is right, and as an older woman who has been through life and loss, she calls him, to let him talk about his friend who is no more, to listen to his contained fury and his open sorrow, and his tears, when they come. Because that's what friends are for.