“Nice review of ‘Sextet’, Ms Hall,” says Connor, as Cynthia hands me a cup of coffee. “Would you like a little something in that?” He waves a hip flask in my direction.
I shake my head. It’s a bit early for me.
Connor pours a liberal slug into his own cup. “Of course, I find a slim volume always has an appeal; like those novellas that Leonardi chap’s written. I must say, I do like his work.”
“Connor did very well with both his poetry collections at the Edinburgh Book Festival.” Cynthia smiles at him proudly.
“Publicity, d’you see.” He takes a mouthful of coffee. “Isn’t it time you gave our book another little push? I mean, we know you’ve only just released ‘The Rabbit’…” he chuckles. “‘Released the rabbit’, rather catchy that, eh?”
I nod in acknowledgement. I have used that, corny as it may be.
“Our book’s done well in the ratings, but it doesn’t seem to have achieved quite the sales we might have hoped, does it?” Connor rubs his chin.
“I thought it would’ve sold loads more by now.” Gina drains her coffee.
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you all ab…”
I’m interrupted by an instantly familiar beat coming from the flat upstairs. Gina rolls her eyes. “Not again! I’ve woken up to that song every morning since Bob moved into Lucy’s old room,” she sighs. “Hold on.” Gina gets to her feet and hurries upstairs.
“It has become a little tiresome,” says Cynthia.
“You can always bunk in with me, old thi… Cynth.”
Cynthia looks at him sharply.
The music stops. Moments later Gina returns followed by Gary and Bob who has Fingers perched on his shoulder. The little monkey chirrups when he recognises me, launching himself from Bob’s shoulder, via the back of Cynthia’s couch, onto my lap.
Gina, Gary and Bob squeeze onto the couch and look at me expectantly. I stroke Fingers’s head.
“The thing is, I may have made a misjudgment with the title.”
“How so, Ms Hall? I think it’s a lovely sentiment, using that pretty song from Carousel.” Cynthia beams.
“You mean the Liverpool football team anthem. That’s what it’s properly famous for.” Gary thrusts out his chest which is clad in the latest LFC team shirt. “Best team in the world!”
“That’s just the point, Gary,” I say. “Not everyone would agree.”
“Me Nan wasn’t best pleased with yer title. You know, being an Evertonian, like,” said Bob. “I mean, she did read it, but only ’cos of Fingers being in it.”
Hearing his name, Fingers sits up and chatters.
“Do you think that’s the reason? The title?” asks Gina.
“Quite possibly. Certainly in the UK.” I remember the reaction on Twitter back in July.
“So what would you call it?
“I’m not sure, Gina.”
“How about ‘We are the Champions’,” suggests Gary.
“Don’t be daft, Gary,” Gina digs him in the ribs.
“Well, we were all champions in the end, weren’t we?” Gary holds his hands out. “I mean, Connor here…”
I hold up my hand. “Don’t give away the plot!”
“No, well, y’know what I mean.”
Cynthia turns to Connor. “What do you think? You’re so good with titles.”
Connor rubs his hand across his face. “What about ‘The Ruby Necklace’? Pierre giving Lucy that necklace is your inciting incident, isn’t it?”
“That fits in so well with your first book,” Cynthia claps her hands together. “‘The Silver Locket‘ followed by ‘The Ruby Necklace’. That would be perfect.”
“And after that, ‘The Solitaire Diamond’..?” Gina touches her engagement ring.
I nod slowly. I wonder, maybe I should change the title?
The music referred to is ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order, which my flat-mate played loudly every morning for the whole of our last term at university.