And those who are still looking to pre-order a copy can do so at: Hirst Publishing
I went for another coffee with Rachel, a little less nervous than last time. Although the perfume still got me.
“James loves Doctor Who!” She said. “He wants a sonic screwdriver for his birthday.”
“I've got a-” I began, rather enthusiastically, but then remembered I was supposed to be playing it cool. “...An idea where you could get one of those. Amazon.” I nodded.
“Uh-huh.” She mumbled. I had the feeling that my information hadn't really helped that much. “He's always asking mad questions. Maybe you'll know this one: why does the TARDIS look like a phone box?”
“Well, it's a chameleon circuit. It can change its form to blend in perfectly with its surroundings!”
“So... That's why Doctor Who looks human?” She looked puzzled.
“So what does he really look like? Is he a green blob or something?”
“Green blob? No, that's the Daleks!” I shrieked.
“I thought the Daleks were robots?” She asked. I buried my head in my hands.
“The Daleks are not robots! They're the mutated remains of the Kaled race in a Mark 3 travel machine of bonded polycarbide armour!” I felt the conversation was slipping away from us.
“So... how many days now? Until the wedding?”
She fixed her eyes on mine. “D'you want a proper drink?”
Where was Jeff?! He said he was only going for coffee. Coffee! How long could that take to drink? And what was he doing drinking coffee anyway? He was a pint man. Everyone knew that! I sincerely hoped he wasn't trying to pass himself off as a regular, functioning person again? Cause it takes a lot more than just switching your lager for latte to achieve that. It was that Rachel! I'd have to give him a stern talking to when he got in... But I couldn't do that on an empty stomach. I looked in the fridge: one carton of milk which had separated into a cooking oil-like substance; some margarine that had gone black; a tub of 'Athlete's Foot Remedy' (?); Daisy's organic yeast gloop; and an open tin of dry Spam with an even dryer teabag perched on top. Maybe if we had any bread in the freezer, I could use the athlete's foot cream as spread? But we didn't. The freezer was equally devoid of edible content. Which only left the... But no! Surely I couldn't eat the Doctor Who spaghetti shapes. Jeff might come home to find me having a spasm of some kind. I scrutinized the ingredients, however, and saw that they only contained 0.07% anchovy extract. Why did they even bother? Surely that wouldn't kill me...
Unfortunately, the tin was without a ring-pull and I'd never been able to master can openers. But this was the future, so maybe it was one of those tins where the lid gradually peeled itself off the hotter it got. They existed, didn't they? Dom had mentioned it. Yeah, course they did. So I stuck the whole thing in the microwave and turned the dial. 3 minutes. Great! Time to go to the bathroom.
When I returned, 2 minutes later, the microwave looked like it was about to take off into space-time. The inside was rippling with blue sparks – little lightning forks of radioactive electricity – at its epicentre, the Doctor Who spaghetti shapes. I didn't know what to do. Was this a unique feature to compliment the nature of the product? It did seem like an awful lot of trouble for the good people at The Mill to go to, just for a cheap snack-food, complete with smoke and... FLAMES! Shit! I ran to press the eject button, but just then there was a small explosion, and all the power went out.
Thank god for my numerous supply of sonic screwdrivers, which double as great torches! I inspected the damage. The base of the microwave oven had melted. I'd have to hide it from Jeff. If he asked, I'd just say we'd never owned one, and that he'd imagined it. I put the whole thing in a box, and hid it under my bed. It'd be fine down there. It couldn't be that radioactive...
The power had just overloaded. I threw a trip switch and it was fine. But we didn't seem to have any hot water. What if I had to call a plumber? I'd be required to stand around and banter with them, pretend to be a real man: etiquette demanded it. I'd have to worry about it another time. Jeff had just shambled through the front door, clearly pissed. He moved towards me as though he couldn't bend his knees, steadying himself on the furniture, and then my shoulder.
“Have you met the French?!” His expression was gleeful.
I shot him a stern glare. “What time do you call this?” He seemed to be having some difficulty lifting his hand from my shoulder to check his watch, then remembered that we had a clock in the living room. In fact, we had eleven clocks in the living room: one for each Doctor.
“Ah yes, got a bit waylaid. But it's all going to be fine, 'cause me and Rachel are definitely getting back together.”
“Yeah, I know. Great, isn't it?” He threw both arms into the air and started singing “champions!” – football style – until he could no longer stay upright, and collided with the sofa in a roughly sit-down position. I perched on the arm, to one side, listening to Jeff twitter on about how fantastic he was, what a fantastic night he'd had, and how fantastic everything was going to be from here on in. All I could think was 'what about me?'.
“Obviously there'll be certain complications.” My ears pricked up.
“Oh yeah. Like the fact that Rachel's getting married?”
“A-ha! But she's not! There's no way she'll go through with it. She wants to start a new life with me, for sure.”
“Right... And she did definitely say that, didn't she?”
“Didn't need to.” Oh dear.
“Well, what exactly happened then?”
“Ah, you wouldn't believe it! We went for that coffee, and as soon as she walked into the room, she couldn't take her eyes off me. I couldn't blame her, of course. It couldn't have helped that the Jeffmeister here was socking it to her in the charm department.” So that was why his tie was loose. He seemed to be under the impression that undoing enough buttons to show a little chest hair in public was 'charming'. “Anyway, I was all like – you gonna go through with this sham wedding then, or do you reckon we should give things another crack?” He emphasized the word 'crack' as though it held huge comedic value. This was accompanied by an obscene mime. “And she was like – Oh Jeff, I want to get pissed with you and relive the glory days of your parents bedroom! To hell with the consequences!”
“She actually said that?”
“You bet your ass! So we went to the pub, and she was all over me. Her hand must have touched mine, like, four times or something. And you won't believe this, but when we were about to go, she leaned over, and it was obvious she was going to kiss me.” I raised my eyebrows, somewhat sceptical. “She didn't. Made some excuse about reaching over to get her handbag, which was obviously a lie.”
“Oh right. So her handbag wasn't actually behind you then?”
“Well, no... It was. But that just proves it, doesn't it?”
“Of course! She deliberately left it in a position where she'd end up in an 'accidental' clinch with me.”
“So, let me get this straight. She said she wanted more than coffee...” Jeff slicked back his hair. “So you went for a proper drink; you talked about old times, 'cause that's what old friends who haven't seen each other for a while do; she touched your hand a few times, and was careless enough to leave her handbag out of sight, behind your back. And, because of this, you think she wants to get back with you? Have I missed something?”
“Yes. No.” Visible confusion set in. He had the look of a dog chasing his own tail. “Not just because of that. Because she said so.”
“But did she actually say words like, or to the effect of, 'Jeff, I want to give things another go'?”
“She didn't need to. It was clearly implied.”
“Okay. But what did she actually say?” He didn't answer me. I could see him going through his mental filing cabinet, racking his brains. Then his whole head tilted slowly downwards. I'd burst his optimism bubble... And I only felt a bit guilty. After a moment, he staggered up and, with some effort, made his way silently to the kitchen. Shortly afterwards, he called back “Didn't we used to have a microwave?”