A sketch in one scene
By Peter Wilson
JULIE. Late teens, emotionally volatile, rather naïve.
KAREN. About the same age but calmer and more mature.
An ordinary kitchen with a table and two chairs; time, the present.
Peter D. Wilson
Seascale, December 2002
Copyright © 2002, 2016
(Julie is asleep, rather dishevelled, at the table. Karen enters very quietly.)
JULIE. Uh? (Struggling awake) Karen! You startled me.
KAREN. Sorry. The door was ajar so I just came in.
JULIE. Was it? But I’m glad you did. I don’t usually nod off like that.
KAREN. Well, it was a late night. Though you left before I did. First time I’ve known you to!
JULIE. Yes, I thought I’d told everyone. I had to go to Dad’s leaving party.
KAREN. Must have been when I was getting a round. Any good?
JULIE. Not really my scene. Might have been better if Joe had come with me. But I’d promised - had to show willing.
KAREN. From the state you’re in this morning, I’d say very willing.
JULIE. People kept pressing drinks on me, and I couldn’t very well offend them by refusing every time.
KAREN. You could have asked for a coke or something.
JULIE. Not when they’d actually thrust a glass into my hand.
KAREN. Did Joe say why he wasn’t coming?
JULIE. No need. He’s never got on with Dad. And Dad has no time for him at all - calls him a spoilt brat, a waster.
KAREN. To his face?
JULIE. No, of course not. But he’s never made much effort to be more than barely civil.
KAREN. I sometimes think your father is too straightforward for his own good.
JULIE. Funny, that’s exactly what Mum says.
KAREN. What does she think of Joe?
JULIE. She rather likes him. He does go out of his way to be specially charming with her.
KAREN. Yes, he can turn it on when he wants, can’t he? Anyway, what time did you eventually get in?
JULIE. Must have been about two. Then I couldn’t get to sleep for ages. I can’t have had more than a couple of hours before Mum and Dad went out and the door slamming woke me up.
KAREN. What time was that?
JULIE. About eight. They had to go and make some arrangements about the move.
KAREN. How come the door was open, then?
JULIE. I had to get in some supplies. And I thought the walk might clear my head a bit. But I must still have been really dopey to leave the door like that. Though I was loaded up a bit when I came in, and then something on the radio drove everything else out of my mind.
KAREN. What was that?
JULIE. The crash on your street last night.
KAREN. Yes, it was bad - a real mess.
JULIE. What actually happened? The report was a bit vague.
KAREN. Some maniac jumped the lights - looked as though the cops were after him - when traffic was coming across too fast to avoid him. Then a truck driver tried to dodge the pile-up, skidded and ploughed into the bar over the way.
KAREN. They’re still arguing over whether they can pull the wreck out without bringing half the building down. Probably have to prop it up first.
JULIE. At least that’s only property. The report said dozens of people were hurt, some of them quite badly, and seven or eight killed outright.
KAREN. Yes, there was a party just coming out of the bar at the time. You don’t win an argument with a thirty-ton truck. And the people in the cars didn’t stand a chance.
JULIE. That’s the third crash at that junction this year. I’m beginning to think Dad’s right moving out of the area. You never know who’s going to be next.
KAREN. That isn’t the reason, is it?
JULIE. No, not really. He’s been after a promotion for years. And there’s no chance of getting it here.
KAREN. So Joe said. That’s why he was planning to leave, too.
JULIE. (Affronted) He never told me.
KAREN. Must have slipped his mind.
JULIE. (Getting suspicious) You don’t let a thing like that just slip your mind. How long have you known?
KAREN. About a month, I suppose.
JULIE. No one else has mentioned it.
KAREN. I think he was hoping to keep it quiet. There were some loose ends that might have been a bit awkward to tie up.
JULIE. (Simmering) Loose ends, eh? And I suppose I was one of them.
KAREN. Now Julie, don’t get upset. I’m sure he’d have got round to telling you before he went.
JULIE. But he told you a month ago. That seems to say something about his priorities.
KAREN. He probably thought he’d told you already.
JULIE. Oh, no. You don’t get a way with that one. If he’d told me he wouldn’t have had any doubt about it. I’d have seen to that.
KAREN. For goodness’ sake calm down. You’re getting a bit illogical.
JULIE. (Furious) Don’t expect me to be logical! Not about a two-timing rat like that. And I thought you were supposed to be my friend!
KAREN. Two-timing? Honestly, Julie, it wasn’t like that at all. We just had an occasional bit of fun together.
JULIE. (Bitterly) Yes, I know about his "bits of fun." They’re not so funny when the chickens come home to roost. All right for him, I suppose. He can just walk away from his responsibilities.
JULIE. (Subdued) Yes.
KAREN. Oh, that’s it, is it?
JULIE. Mum’ll be furious. And Dad will hit the roof. He’s always going on about teenage promiscuity. As if everyone wasn’t doing it these days.
KAREN. Well, not everyone. Not by a long chalk.
JULIE. (Sarcastic) So I suppose you’re strictly virginal?
KAREN. As it happens, yes.
JULIE. And you can afford to sneer at the "fallen woman."
KAREN. (Conciliatory) Julie, who’s sneering? No one talks about fallen women these days. I know as well as you do what the pressures are - inside and out. They’re agonising at times.
JULIE. But you’ve resisted.
KAREN. Let’s say I’ve been lucky. Opportunity and real inclination never coincided.
JULIE. You call that luck?
KAREN. On the whole, yes. In my saner moments. Though there’s a nagging wonder about what I’m missing.
JULIE. A hell of a problem, for a start.
KAREN. You wouldn’t consider …
JULIE. No, I wouldn’t. I know Mum and Dad. As it is, they’ll explode at first, but they’ll soon come round. Do everything they can to help. Not if I got rid of it. "Abortion is murder," and all that. I couldn’t do that to them. But I’m certainly going to give Joe a piece of my mind.
KAREN. I’m afraid you may have a bit of a problem there.
JULIE. Why, he hasn’t left town already, has he?
KAREN. It’s more difficult than that. You may find it hard to take.
JULIE. Oh, stop being so mysterious, and come out with it!
KAREN. All right. You see, Joe gave me a lift home last night.
JULIE. Another of his "bits of fun," I suppose.
KAREN. No, it wasn’t like that at all. He was actually rather worried about leaving you behind - wondering how you’d take it, saying how much he’d miss you, that he’d be lucky to find anyone half so nice …
JULIE. For goodness’ sake cut the flannel, and get to the point.
KAREN. So perhaps his reactions were a bit slower than they might have been. He couldn’t stop in time to avoid the crash. Then two other cars piled in behind, and the skidding truck crushed the lot.
JULIE. But the report said that everyone in the cars had been killed.
KAREN. That’s right. We were. Both of us.
JULIE. You mean …?
KAREN. I’m afraid I told you a little fib before - wanted to break the news gently. Your door was firmly locked. I came through anyway.
(Julie gives a little moan, and subsides into the position in which she was first seen.)
KAREN. (Tenderly) Goodbye, Julie. (Exit silently.)