I just had the nicest four days. Hubby surprised me with a ‘staycation’ in our local capital. We saw some shows, we ate nice food, we slept, we read. I didn’t write a lot but I feel like I’ve filled the basket a little.

Warning – first world struggle alert – when you live in a place like the Gold Coast, there’s not a lot of culture to be had. It’s getting better than it was 20 years ago, but you have to seek it out and when you do find it, it’s often a pale version of what you get in the big cities. There is hope for little old GC because my old home town of Brisbane is a grown up city now with something to do at any time in any day. 25 years ago you couldn’t get a decent cup of coffee in Brisbane. 10 years ago you’d struggle to get one after 2pm. Now you can pretty much get anything, anytime. Not that getting coffee is the measuring stick of a good city but it’s an indicator of a city growing up a bit. And I gave up coffee a few months back so…


We’re heading into the last couple of weeks of the year and the decade. For #last90days the challenge this week is to choose 1 goal and GO ALL IN. The first step is to choose that goal. I suggest writing down your top 10-20 goals and projects and hone that down to 5 then whittle that list down to 1!

Next step… make a plan. My all-in goal for the last 2 weeks of the decade is to finish the first draft of Thalia Henry and the Ghost Writer. The first draft is probably going to be around 70k words so I need to write 34k words in 21 days. I will be doing my own mini #nano for the rest of December, writing 1700 words a days until New Years Eve. Wish me luck…

here’s the first chapter or so…

Eleven Seconds

Thalia gave Gaynor the nod. She could see Prak and Dodds at either end of the Food Hall, their discreet next-generation filming equipment at the ready. The approvals for filming had arrived only an hour before so they had to move quickly. Thalia was laughing, Gaynor had her model face on. Thalia had never had a poker face; she wore her heart on her sleeve and right now, she had no sleeves to speak of. She was doing all she could not to double over laughing at Gaynor who was strutting along the shiny floor gathering up fancy food items as she went, her slip dress left in a pile on the floor behind her.

‘She’s such a pro. I’ve always said walking for a living isn’t difficult, but I was wrong,’ Thalia said to herself.

She was so in awe of Gaynor she almost forgot the point of the exercise. She started to pick items off the shelves and gather them in her arms. A hush fell over the Food Hall. People stared. For eleven seconds Thalia and her friend and partner in crime, Gaynor, strutted the aisles of the most famous Food Hall in London, or even the world, naked. For eleven seconds they piled expensive foodstuffs into their arms and headed for the door. At the twelve second mark they were both engulfed in scratchy woollen blankets as the two cameramen made an unsuccessful run for the doors.

§

Thalia could not stop laughing. She wanted to because Gaynor was being led away by two store detectives, but she was still being held there in the middle of the Food Hall. Shoppers had their cell phones out, filming. She gave them a little bow. A wave was out of the question, swaddled as she was in her grey woollen cocoon.

‘What are we waiting for?’ she said and started to follow her friend. The security guard picked Gaynor’s slip up as though it was something dead and put it in a plastic bag.

‘You stay right there, miss,’ he said.

Thalia pouted playfully. ‘We’ve got permission to film here.’

‘Not in the buff, you haven’t, have you?’ he said. It was a rhetorical question, but Thalia felt she had a right of reply here.

‘It didn’t specify…’

‘Of course, it didn’t, it should have gone without saying, shouldn’t it?’ He was angry.

‘No need to get snippy, you got to see Gaynor Shipley naked. You should be thanking me.’

‘Stop talking. The police are on their way.’

Thalia shivered theatrically. ‘Oh, I love a man in uniform,’ she said. She pursed her lips and opened her mouth to speak again.

‘Shut it,’ the guard warned.

She closed her mouth and smiled at the growing crowd. The official video might never see the light of day but knowing Dodds he would still be filming with his Apple Glasses. They were prototypes so the guards would have no idea what they were and not think to take them away.

The store detective began to disperse the crowd. He smiled and joked with the people as they went on with their shopping with variations of ‘show’s over’ and ‘kids today, what are they like?’

A police officer approached with a carton in her hands. She had been scowling but gave Thalia a quick smile and wink when she turned her back on the store detective. Thalia breathed deeply and felt the box of expensive, commemorative edition Royal Wedding short bread dig into her ribs. She was about to be let off with a warning. Again. That would make it 7 for 7 this year. Thalia gave her a huge smile and winked back.

‘Oh, I follow all your YouTube. You are so funny,’ she said. She stood in front of Thalia and began to take food items out from under the blanket.

‘Steady on,’ Thalia said, ‘are your hands warm?’ The young cop stifled a laugh.

‘You’re just so funny even when you’re not trying to be,’ she said as she pulled a bottle of bonbons out of Thalia’s arms.

‘I’m always trying to be funny. Hey, how about we put the box on the floor and I’ll just squat down and put everything in it?’

The young officer looked a little disappointed, but she placed the carton at Thalia’s feet. Thalia crouched over the box and released the tiny boxes of macarons and chocolates she had grabbed just before the guard had grabbed her.

Once she was satisfied, she had no more upmarket food stuffs left on her person, Thalia stood up.

The young officer pulled a pair of cuffs from her belt and said the words Thalia had already heard six times that year. She knew them by heart and said them in unison. ‘Lady Thalia Henry, you are under arrest on suspicion of public nudity.’ Thalia said shoplifting instead of public nudity and the officer arched her eyebrow.

‘Really?’ she said.

‘No, I’m joking, it’s what I do, I’m a comedian. It was public nudity. Keep going…you do not…’

The officer nodded her head. ‘You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do say may be given in evidence.’

‘That was such fun,’ Thalia said. I could play a cop in a Netflix special.’ She held her hands out for the hand cuffs and said, ‘Let’s go.’

The officer produced the cuffs and clicked them on. ‘Not too tight, I hope?’ She took Thalia’s elbow and led her towards the lifts. They took a left turn and the officer punched a code into what looked like a staff entrance door. In all the years she had been shopping in Knightsbridge she never suspected anything so ugly and utilitarian was hidden behind the scenes. They walked in silence along a wide corridor and arrived at a service lift. The officer pushed the down button. She looked up at Thalia.

‘They are going to throw the book at you this time, you know. You should have stopped after the show you did at the Fringe. It was hilarious. You’re an icon for a lot of young girls so this is going to look really bad,’ the young officer whispered.

Thalia nodded and smoothed her mouth into a grim line.

The call button didn’t make a dinging sound, no nattily dressed attendant in the lift. Just two huge cops who made even Thalia look petite.

‘Mind your step, Lady Thalia,’ the young officer said. She was still smiling, her eyes kind, but as she turned to greet her colleagues, her face became a mask.

As she stepped carefully over the gap in the old service lift Thalia began to suspect she might have taken things a little too far this time.

§

Star wouldn’t look at her. Thalia had been trying to catch her agent’s eye, but she was looking only at the officers in front of her. She was only metres away, but she hadn’t acknowledged Thalia in any way. Star was talking to the police; she had her back to Thalia but normally she would be holding court, wildly gesticulating and making everyone laugh but today she was sitting at the desk, reading paperwork, signing things.

Thalia was still handcuffed, still wearing the blanket, still starkers, and busting for the loo. She was being held in a kind of glassed-in no-go zone surrounded by admin staff and detectives. She looked around at the staff trying to catch someone’s eye.

‘Hey…’ she called. She looked up at the blinking light on the security camera. ‘I need to use the bathroom. She looked around to see if there was a response. Somebody had to be monitoring the security cameras. She gripped the blanket, shuffled over to the door and tried the handle. Still locked. She looked up again at the security camera trapped in its little metal cage and let the blanket drop and smiled at the camera. She turned to look at the little knot of officers now standing around Star. Nobody looked in her direction.

‘It’s as though they’ve all studied up on how to deal with a narcissist,’ she said to herself. She made a mental note to add the line to her next show.

Thalia was cold now. She bent and tried to pull the blanket back over herself but ended up with it over her head. She gave up and let it fall on the bench seat and sat down.

Gaynor had been released. What a legend she was. She’d left the room with a wink and a nod at Thalia. (No hard feelings. Hopefully they were finally even for the little incident in Ibiza. Gaynor’s dad was going to pretend to be mad for a few days then buy her a new car.) Prak and Dodds were good to go but their camera gear had been impounded for 30 days, not including the iGlasses or whatever they were called.

Thalia shivered. She looked over at Star. She was now sitting with the young policewoman from the Food Hall and they seemed to be signing wads of papers. At least she was doing her job, signing wads of paper for her client. Thalia gave up on Star and knocked on the window separating her from the admin staff. The young woman’s brows shot up at the sight of a naked, handcuffed minor member of the royal family. She raised her finger and hurried out of the room.

‘She’s either telling me to wait a minute longer, or telling me to pray for help,’ Thalia quipped to herself. She sighed and sat back down.

‘What the fuck!’ Star bellowed as she walked into the room. ‘Have you finally flipped?’

‘Star, you scared the living daylights out of me. I let a little bit of wee out. I’m going to have to keep this blanket now.’ Thalia screwed her nose up.

‘Sit. Down,’ Star said. Thalia didn’t like her tone of voice but decided to keep that particular bit of feedback to herself.

§

Thalia had never seen Star in any mode other than what she referred to as ‘pumped mode.’ Even arriving at the airport at 3 am, Star was pumped. On the last night of Glastonbury, Star was pumped. Today, Star was definitely not pumped. Her eyes were red as though she had been crying and she was wearing the most hideous coat. It may have been a raincoat. It may have belonged to an elderly man. She stood with her back to the door and said nothing. As annoying as Star in ‘pumped mode’ could get it was preferable to Star in whatever mode this was.

Thalia smiled. ‘Star, thank the hairy goddess you’re here, I have to pee.’ Thalia ended up shouting this as Star raised her voice to tell Thalia to shut up. ‘Star, I’m in pain.’ Thalia was holding up her cuffed hands.

Star’s shoulders dropped as the young officer opened the door and waved a set of keys.

She went over and unlocked the cuffs and gave Thalia a bottle of water.

‘She needs to use the bathroom,’ Star said. Star was holding out a shopping bag. The officer took the bag and showed Thalia to the bathroom but not before draping her with the blanket.

When they returned the officer hugged a now-clothed Thalia.

‘Good luck,’ she said.

‘Thanks, Katie, and you tell your little sister to have more respect for herself,’ Thalia said.

Star let out a barking little laugh. ‘If that’s not the pot calling the kettle a little tart, I don’t know what is,’ she said. The officer looked back at Thalia and she frowned and looked sadly at Star. ‘See,’ Thalia said, and Katie nodded. She patted Thalia on the arm and gave Star a sad look as she left.

Thalia had changed into the outfit Star had bought. Black trousers, black shoes, black top, with an acrylic wrap striped in multiple shades of pink. She handed Star the plastic shopping bag.

‘Is it support sweat-shop day? And what’s with the fake wool serape?’ The weather was unseasonably warm. Thalia held up the wrap, her nose scrunched.

‘That is for putting over your stupid face while we make a bloody run for the car.’

‘Aah, good thinking. You are such a good agent.’ She draped the wrap over her shoulders.

‘Yes, it works doesn’t it,’ she said and turned back and forth for Star to see both angles.

Star rolled her eyes.

‘Did you get my kimono? The one I took off in the video.’ Thalia grinned.

Star didn’t respond.

‘Star?’

‘Look, just don’t.’ She held up a finger. ‘Just. Stop,’ she said.

§

Thalia looked out the window at the London traffic. The dash to the car was a laugh. Thalia put her game face on, which no one could see because it was swaddled in the bright pink scarf. Thalia Henry was a distinctive woman, she stood out even with a scarf wrapped around her face, but Star always said photographers, couldn’t sell a photo of what really could be just about anyone, or at least anyone over six-foot-tall, wearing a too small top with no bra. Star said she was sorry about forgetting a bra; even she got it wrong sometimes.

 Thalia watched Star from the corner of her eye. They had never had so much as a cross word.

‘Can I have my phone,’ she said.

‘No, you bloody can’t.’

She slumped in her seat. Safely in the car, she assumed Star would return to her default setting; her usual, enabling self. Thalia was confused by her agent’s change of attitude. ‘I’ve done some pretty ballsy stunts and you’ve always been up for anything…’

‘Thalia, you were naked, in Harrods. What the fuck? What was with all the shortbread and stuff?’ She sounded tired.

‘You never call me Thalia. I hate it. Why do you have to suddenly call me Thalia because you’re mad at me?’

‘Of course, I’m mad at you, you twit.’

‘We were…shoplifting…naked, it was to make a point.’

‘Oh really? What point? That you can’t shoplift when you’re naked?’

Thalia hesitated and looked out at the traffic ‘uuummmm…. climate change?’

‘Don’t be a bloody idiot.’

Silence settled over the car.

Star sighed. ‘Li, they’ll get a ghost writer if you keep this up. We fought to get you to write these books yourself.’ The light changed to green, but Star didn’t move, her fingers pinching the skin between her eyes. The car behind sounded it’s horn and Star slammed her foot on the gas. Tyres squealing, she sped into the intersection.

‘They’ve given you a month. They are being very generous.’

Thalia nodded. ‘As soon as I get home, I will get down to it. I’ll have a shower and eat something, but then I’ll get down to it.’ She reached for her phone but remembered she still didn’t have it. ‘I can start now, if you give me my phone.’

‘You’ve already missed a deadline and after what you did today…well, drastic time’s call for drastic measures…’

Thalia had no idea what Star was talking about. For possibly the first time ever, the two women drove in silence. Thalia closed her eyes and pulled her wrap over her head.

§

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