Jennifer Venis is a freelance journalist and editor, specialising in human rights and gender equality. Her articles have been published in print and online. She holds a first-class Bachelors degree in English with Creative Writing (focus on poetry and prose) from Keele University. This is her first play.
Amy’s estranged father Paul turns up hoping to rebuild their relationship, but Amy is not interested. Paul claims to be ill and manipulates Amy into letting him stay with her. Reluctantly, Amy agrees, but the longer Paul stays, the more Amy loses control and relapses into her old eating disorder. When Paul’s illness catches up with him, and Amy is expected to save the day, she realises that she first must save herself.
But what if he dies?
Paul notices the cake. He lifts the tea towel to take a look. He dips his finger into the icing bowl, tastes it. Grimaces.
Paul: Celebrating something?
Paul: The cake?
Amy: Oh… just trying a new recipe.
Paul: I was worried I’d missed your birthday then.
Beat. Amy looks confused, hurt.
Amy: It’s just a normal cake, but–
Paul: Can we have some?
Amy: Oh, it’s– it’s for a friend. My flatmate. And it’s not ready anyway. I need to decorate it and–
Paul: Is that the icing?
He points to the bowl.
Amy: Yeah, buttercream, but–
Paul: Doesn’t taste quite right to me.
Amy: Uh… well it’s vegan and it’s not ready–
Amy: I did say I was in the middle of something.
Paul nods, sips his tea. Amy stands with her arms folded.
Paul: Louise bakes a lot you know. She does some really interesting designs – intricate little flowers.
Amy: Hm. (a small smile) That’s great.
He comes back to the living space. Amy moves back towards the sofa. Paul puts his mug down on the table and pulls his phone out of his pocket. He fumbles with it for a minute.
Paul: She made a great one for my birthday. Very impressive. Ah yeah, here we are. This is the one. Back in March.
Amy: I know it’s in March.
He offers Amy the phone.
Paul: There are a couple, you can swipe– I can’t remember which way.
Amy looks through a few pictures, smiles. Lingers on one for a while.
Amy: That’s great… She looks so different.
Amy gives the phone back to Paul. She folds her arms again and grips her them tightly. Paul watches her. An awkward silence.
Amy: She did a great job with the cake. Really impressive. I used to do stuff like that, probably not as well as her. Can’t find the time these days. This one won’t be very special looking (gesturing at the cake on the counter).
Paul: Ah, well. Louise is very motivated, always busying around the house. She has so many hobbies I can barely keep track. But the cakes are always very special. Do you remember that party she had, in the barn?
Amy: Of course. That was the last time I saw her.
Paul: Right. Well I think they inspired her with all the decorating stuff. And you, with those cake balls–
Amy: Cake pops.
Paul: Mm. Really inspired her.
Amy: That’s great.
Paul: Do you still make those?
Amy: No, not really. Like I said, I don’t get the chance. They’re a bit sweet for me anyway.
Paul: There’s no stopping Louise’s sweet tooth! She’s not made the cake balls–
Paul: –for a while though. She’s really experimenting with new flavours at the moment. Savoury style. She made a cake with courgettes from the garden the other day. You remember I grow my own courgettes, tomatoes, cucumbers…
Amy: It’s really… really great that she’s so into it. It’s nice.
Paul: Yeah, shame you aren’t anymore. You could have swapped tips.
Amy looks away. She remembers her coffee and reaches for it, takes a sip. She doesn’t look at Paul. She turns to face the audience. She tugs on her necklace again briefly with her free hand. Paul watches her for a moment, lets his gaze wander around the flat. He spots the guitar. Moves over to it.
Amy: So, you said you wanted to talk about–
Amy looks round and notices where Paul’s heading.
Paul: Do you still play?
He points to the guitar.
Amy: No, I–
Paul: Ah, shame. I was hoping you’d still be doing something with all those lessons I paid for.
Amy: You always said my teacher was an idiot.
Paul: Well, if I’d had time to teach you I would have.
Amy: Did you teach Louise?
Paul: No, I–
Amy: Right. But she plays?
Paul: All the time. Taylor Swift everyday.
Amy: And she has a piano, too, right? And lessons?
Paul: Of course.
Amy: Of course.
Paul: Why don’t you play anymore?
Amy: I just… don’t.
Paul: But you were obsessed with it. When you were a kid. It was either a book in your hand, or an instrument. I could never get you to put either down.
Amy: Well… I just… went off it. There wasn’t really anyone around to… who was into it, anymore. So. I stopped.
Paul: Right. Your mum still doesn’t–
Amy looks at him sharply. Paul’s hand hovers over the neck of the guitar.
Paul: (slightly smirking) Shame.
He runs a thumb across one string.
Amy: That’s my flatmate’s.
Paul: Where’s yours?
Amy: I sold it a few years ago.
Paul: You should have said something, I’d have taken it back.
Amy: Well, Louise didn’t want it, so–
Paul: She has plenty of her own.
Amy: I’m sure she does.
Paul: You know, she sings pretty well too. No lessons needed on that one.
Beat. Amy looks away.
Paul: She sounds a bit like you. It’s nice, but… not the same.
Amy: I’m surprised you can remember.
Paul: Of course I remember. We used to sing together. You’d write us songs, lullabies for Louise when she was a baby. Some of the best memories of my life.
Amy watches him, silent. He takes a step towards her.
Paul: We could have more memories like that. Good memories again.
Amy takes a step back.
Amy: It’s a little late for lullabies now.