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Songs of Bliss


The images in his head flicker back and forth. He imagines conversations the way
they should have happened. There is a dull ache in his vital organs, which lowers his
defences against these viral memories. Every sign on the motorway proves that he is
drawing closer to his destination, and with that closing out of options the memories become
stronger. It is inevitable. Familiar. Unnerving.
Billy is torn.
He speaks with Bex every weekend on the phone. He understands that she is in her
final year of A Levels and needs to study, but they have not seen each other since
Christmas and he desperately wants this time with her. K nowing that he is loved, knowing
that he can make a difference to her life is one of the keys to his survival. As a lone male in
his mid-fifties he is high on the list of those lonely souls who die too early, but Bex helps to
keep him well. She gives him purpose. She stops him from turning the car around, from
disappearing down the rabbit hole.
Equal and opposite force. Every time that Billy speaks with Bex he invariably has to
speak with her mother, Carol, his first and only wife. She is the opposite, the converse, the
flip-side. Bex pulls him towards Oxford with unstoppable force. Carol blocks the road, the
immovable object. Bex always proves the stronger. Billy wants to be with her. He thought
about trying for custody when she was small, but so did Carol. She made it plain, given
their shared experience, that she would cut him out of their daughter's life completely if he
ever tried to do that to her. Billy tells himself that the compromise they reached all those
years ago was in everyone's best interest, and it probably was, but he still thinks of himself
as a coward.
This is what unnerves Billy. This is the story in his head:
He met Carol after a show in eighty-five. Let It Be Me had already become a
nostalgic pub quiz question. Billy Nero was back in summer season, hitting the high notes
at the end of the pier, warming up for the headline comics. He sang the standard s at holiday
parks. He worked the clubs. Billy Nero was right back where he started. The bright lights of
stardom were dimming under the clouds of Billy?s personal history, although you could just
make out the fading tail of his comet if you knew which par t of the darkling sky to stare at
through a telescope. Faded he might be, but his one time chart entrance helped his billings,
helped to keep his head above water, and paid for cocaine.
The club where he and Carol met was in the Lake District, Billy being the main
attraction at a caravan park where they held a regular Saturday evening cabaret. Billy Nero
headlined. Carol was a groupie, in that off- hand way that some people have. She had never
seen Billy perform before, and as far as either of them were concerned at the time, she
would never do so again. She wanted a little bit of glamour. Billy wanted a shag. Simple.
Except that the simple things in Billy's life have a habit of going pear-shaped.
It was the mid-eighties. Everyone had a habit. Billy had two; cocaine and women.
The drink would come later. Billy was in that downward spiral loved by the red tops and
show business gossips. It was a strange and unexpected whim of his muse that Carol should
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