“Single "Empty Bed"”

Single "Empty Bed"

Single facts
Release date: 2023-08-29

Storyline

Empty Bed –David’s Story

I must be one of the only people in the world that doesn’t have a good memory of Fat Cat. I know, not everyone likes everyone but Fat Cat just annoyed me. His constant caterwauling, playing guitar all night and napping all day. I couldn’t stand it. He may have helped my wife to leave me with all that noise but I am willing to admit that it was probably me.

We were living in Camden Town when Fat Cat entered our lives. We had a garret flat overlooking the lock and Regent’s Canal. There were a lot of musicians hanging out in Camden and new bars and clubs popping up all the time.

I preferred reading and owned a second-hand book stall in Camden Market. I wasn’t doing very well or making much money and it was causing a big strain on my marriage. Sarah and I would argue all night. She wanted me to give up the books and get a proper job that paid proper money. I couldn’t abandon my passion though. On Sundays, I would travel all over London on my bicycle searching for first editions and rare manuscripts. I would often cycle up the canal to Portobello Road and hunt through the antique shops.

In retrospect, my biggest mistake might well have been opening a book store in Camden instead of Portobello but I couldn’t afford the rent further west. So, Camden it was, surrounded by fashion, cool kids and music. It seemed that no one appreciated real books anymore, let alone old or antique ones. At least not in Camden. Everyone would rush past my stall, glued to their mobile phones, trading Spotify playlists or whipping out their e-readers. The world had moved on from paper and my wife knew it.

The flat next door to us had been empty for some time. The walls were thin and the previous owner had been an older lady who had passed in hospital at the grand age of 95. So, when someone moved in, we knew immediately. We could hear them padding around, arranging things. We were keen to see who had moved in but before we even got a chance to bake a welcome cake, there was a loud crash, a tinkle of piano keys and the dissonant twang of a guitar falling over. We rightly assumed it must be a musician but had no idea who it was.

My wife muttered something about rich musicians always having fun and walked back into our sitting room. I could sense another argument coming on. I knew she would rather go out and eat at a posh restaurant, go dancing in a club and be treated like a princess. I just couldn’t justify the expense on the wages I brought in. We only just managed to pay the rent and bills. Sarah began telling me to let go of the books and find something better when an almighty drumroll reverberated through our flat. Piles of books swayed and wobbled as a bass guitar kicked in. A whole stack fell over when the sound of a distorted guitar crashed through our flat.

I am sure it was music of the highest quality but I hadn’t asked for it and my head started to ache. Our arguments tended to last for a few hours and this was one was no exception, except now, we had a backing track. As we argued, it was as if the music rose and fell to the sound of our voices. I swear, sometimes, I thought he could hear us and was just playing along. We decided to talk to him the next morning.

We awoke, tired from our fight and tired from the impromptu all-night concert. I plucked up the courage to knock on his door and introduce myself. But there was no answer. I couldn’t hear a sound. He must have been napping. I tried all through the day to rouse our new neighbour but to no avail. That evening, the same thing happened. Clattering and banging, shuffling and then bam! Loud music to all hours of the night. I couldn’t take it. I knocked on the walls and the doors but the music just kept on playing, sometimes in time to my fist, pounding on the wall. Who was this maniac?

Well, our arguments got worse and the music continued. It went on like this for months. No one would answer the door in the morning and it seemed like he couldn’t hear us banging at night. I talked to the landlord and he just said that Fat Cat was a high-paying client with the Spice Cats and could do whatever he wanted. Occasionally we would get some peace. There would be no music and we assumed he was out playing a gig.

One day it all came to a head. I was arguing about money with my wife. She wanted to take a loan to start a new business and I didn’t think it was a great idea. Our capital was tied up in some new books I had just bought and she wasn’t happy. If I could just make one good deal, she would see that all the hard work was paying off. As our argument reached fever-pitch, a small piece of folded gold cardboard dropped through the letter box, making a sharp clipping sound as it hit the floor. It was an invitation to a party, that evening, at Fat Cat’s place.

We jumped at the chance to finally meet him and tell him to turn down the music. Although, secretly, I think my wife enjoyed it. I wanted to meet this hooligan who slept throughout the whole day and played music all night. We didn’t dress up. I just changed out of my comfy trousers into some jeans and a t-shirt that said “Thou hast been Bard from making Shakespeare puns.” Sarah hated that shirt. She wore a summer dress with her hair in a loose bun. We ventured onto the landing outside our door and there was already a crowd of people outside his flat. Everyone looked fancy. Long hair, ear-rings, make-up, the rock-star vibe. We felt a little out of place. The flat was decked out in a modern style. Clean, simple, white walls. There was a set of disco lights and lasers lighting up the flat and a band playing what I presumed was some kind of modern pop-jazz. Our elusive host was nowhere to be seen though. Probably taking a nap according to one guest.

After an hour our of aimlessly wandering around, nibbling hors d'oeuvres and drinking pale bubbly glasses of liquid, I started to get annoyed. Yet again, this strange, disappearing, eternally sleeping, noisy cat was ruining my evening. I could have been at home reading my latest antique book. My wife was nowhere to be seen either. She seemed to relish the chance to talk with a bunch of musos and artists. I spied her in the kitchen, sampling mysterious cocktails whipped up by a flamboyant barman wearing feathers and eyeliner.

As I moved toward the front door, preparing to leave, there was a small commotion. A door I hadn’t noticed before, that must have led onto the roof, was suddenly flung open. In strolled Fat Cat, in a cloud of dry ice, holding a big red electric guitar! The whole room cheered as the band struck up and he started grooving to the beat. His sense of drama and style was something to behold. People started dancing and cheering, with my wife in the very middle of her new friends, twirling her summer dress as she spun around.

When Fat Cat finished the number, he jumped off the makeshift stage, grabbed a drink and started chatting to his guests. The band continued on. My head was hurting by this time and I wanted to go home. I decided to give Fat Cat a piece of my mind. I strolled right up to him and introduced myself as his next-door neighbour. His face split into a wide grin. “Ah yes, the couple next door. You sure make a lot of noise! Very inspiring. Thanks so much for coming. Help yourself to whatever you want.” I was about to reply when a big man with lots of shiny rings and a big diamond in his ear pulled Fat Cat away to meet someone who looked rather glamorous.

I was mad! Fuming! Fat Cat disappeared again and so had my wife. I stormed out of the apartment and back to my flat. I tried to read but couldn’t concentrate. The music was pounding through the thin walls. I ended up burying my head under the pillow. I felt useless. I didn’t get a chance to confront Fat Cat about the noise, my business was failing, and my wife was happier next door than with me.

I must have fallen asleep because I woke up very late, my head throbbing. It felt very still in the flat. I shuffled to the bathroom. There was no noise from next door and no noise from my house. Things looked different but I couldn’t put my finger on it. My house felt strangely empty but I wasn’t sure why. I opened the front door, expecting to see people and mess everywhere but the hall was spotless. A man in a suit was coming out of what looked like a very clean apartment next door. I asked where Fat Cat had gone and he told me that the flat was empty. Fat Cat had moved house.

I rushed back to my apartment and picked up the gold invitation from yesterday. I read the small print. It was a farewell party! Fat Cat was leaving! Or rather, he had already left and I had slept through the whole thing. Confused, I walked back and stared at the empty room. There was a note on the bedside table from Sarah. She couldn’t take it anymore and left me to go live with her mother. She wanted to start a new life. She had taken all her things in the middle of the night as I lay under the pillow. That was why the house felt strange and empty. I had got what I wished for, a peaceful life, Fat Cat had gone and Sarah had left me with nothing but my books and an empty bed.

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