Wright and Wrong
Ernest knew very little of Pamela Beaumont. Throughout his career, the actor had somehow managed to keep his wife out of the public eye and that extended into his retirement. In depth research had uncovered nothing but her name and an old photograph from the 1950s. It depicted a young and handsome Lawrence Beaumont climbing into the back of a stretch limousine outside of a theatre. Closer analysis of the photo exposed the blurry face of a woman glancing out of the back passenger window.
This was all he had on Pamela Beaumont.
Ernest span round.
Behind him stood one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. Long blonde hair flowed neatly down to her shoulders but it was her eyes that were the most catching, piercing blue eyes that were both intimidating and comforting at the same time.
She looked quite a bit different to the photo.
‘Hello Mr Wright. It’s really lovely to meet you, I’m Pamela but you can call me Pam. Honestly we’ve been looking forward to having you since you first called. You see we don’t get many visitors out here, just the delivery man but he only comes on the weekends. It’s just so – ‘
Ernest hadn’t been listening to a word she was saying. In his head he was trying to comprehend how it was possible for a woman to look so stunning after so many years in existence. Again, it was impossible.
‘Forgive me Mr Wright I’m rambling, let me help you with your bags. Would you like to ask me anything before we go inside?’
‘No no it’s quite alright,’ said Ernest, It’s nice to meet you to. It’s just the two bags, I think I’ll manage on my own.’
‘No please I must insist, you must be so tired after your long journey.’
Before Ernest could object, Pamela had already opened the door and lunged into the back seat of the bug, quickly emerging with a bag in each hand.
‘Follow me Mr Wright, I think you’re going to like your room.’
‘Mrs Beaumont I do have one question,’ said Ernest. ‘This one’s off the record so don’t worry too much about your answer.’
Pamela stopped and placed the bags down onto the gravel. ‘Of course,’ she said, ‘but only if you call me Pam.’ Mrs Beaumont sounds like I’m in trouble.’
Ernest felt awkward but if it hastened things, he was more than happy to oblige.
‘Of course,’ he said. ‘So Pam I’ve been wondering, why me?’
‘How do you mean Mr Wright?’
‘You and your husband have refused interviews for decades now. Why the sudden change of heart?’
‘It’s quite simple Mr Wright, we liked you. Now come on, I’ll take you upstairs.’
Picking both bags back up, she led Ernest into the farmhouse…
The interior was just as distasteful as he had imagined. The front door immediately opened up into a spacious hallway with an old fashioned spiral staircase at the far end, probably an expensive replica of an early French design. Before he could catch a glimpse of the living room, he was already being ushered up the stairs towards the second floor.
‘I’ll let you get settled and you can join us downstairs whenever you like. Dinner will be ready in the next hour.’
Pamela unlocked the bedroom door and Ernest stepped inside. He opened his mouth to thank her, but she had already disappeared back down the spiral staircase.
Ernest picked up his bags and kicked the door closed; the bedroom was the most modest part of the farm he had seen so far, though it still maintained the same old fashioned style the Beaumonts seemed to love.
Sitting on the bed, he glanced out of the bedroom window, which looked out onto an enormous cabbage patch.
He drew his notebook and pen.
‘Lawrence and Pamela Beaumont – unusually young.’
It was safe to say dinner with the Beaumonts did not go as he had expected. After spending a little more than an hour in his room, Ernest joined Pamela and Lawrence in the dining room, which was seemingly modelled after a traditional farmhouse kitchen. The inconsistency of the décor was offensive; it was as if every room had a different theme.
The Beaumonts watched him from the far end of the table as he took his seat at the opposite end. They’re eyes directed him towards a less than appetizing plate of meat and gravy, which he accepted despite not being at all hungry.
He was about to take his first bite when something caught his eye.
‘Are you two eating as well?’
Mr and Mrs Beaumont sat staring at him with no food in front of them.
‘It’s our preference to eat alone, said Lawrence, ‘please start eating, ask us anything you want.’
‘er – thank you Mr Beaumont.’
Ernest forced a smile and placed a piece of meat into his mouth. It tasted cold and rubbery but he pretended to enjoy it anyway; complaining about the food would only land him on the wrong side of the Beaumonts.
He swallowed it down and smiled.
‘Okay let’s get started, he said, Mr Beaumont –
‘Lawrence please Mr Wright.’
‘My apologies. Lawrence you haven’t made a film in twenty two years now. Your last picture ‘Buccaneer’s Curse’ was a smash hit, both critically and financially. Why the sudden decision to retire?’
Lawrence paused for a moment.
‘Have you ever heard of leaving on a high note Mr Wright? Now I always wanted my career in film to be short lived. I loved every minute of acting but I knew it would be best to quit while I was enjoying it, so I could look back on my film star days fondly. Besides, I think change is healthy; most people like to try new things.’
‘Well you’re quite different from most people Lawrence,’ said Ernest, ‘for most people trying new things means taking up a hobby. You went from Hollywood actor to living on a secluded farm. Some people might call that strange.’
‘Then some people would be wrong Mr Wright. It’s quite normal for somebody like me to want to escape the public eye. You see it all becomes rather draining after a while. For me, this farm is a reward for years of hard work.’
Ernest speared another piece of meat.
‘Well you’ve certainly managed to keep yourself away from the world. This article I’m going to write will bring you back into the public eye. If you’re so content with the quiet life, why let me ruin it?’
‘You’re different from the rest Mr Wright, said Lawrence, ‘I get calls from journalists all the time, vultures the lot of them. It was refreshing to speak to you on the phone Ernest. I could tell by your tone that you were desperate for this interview; you must really care about your work. I respect that.’
Pamela smiled. ‘I told you.’
‘You’re too kind Mr Beaumont,’ he said, though he was not satisfied with his answer. The idea that Lawrence would welcome publicity back into his life just because he liked him seemed incredibly far-fetched.
Something felt off.
He swallowed a few more pieces of meat and pushed the plate aside.
‘Thank you for the dinner Pamela, said Ernest, it was delicious.’
‘It was my pleasure. It’s not everyday somebody compliments my cooking.’
‘I bet it’s strange seeing a different face around here,’ he said, ‘at least you’ve got some company, you mentioned earlier that you have a delivery man.’
‘We do indeed,’ said Lawrence, ‘lovely man, comes out here on the weekends.’
‘I already told him this,’ interrupted Pamela.
‘No I’d actually like to hear a little more,’ said Ernest, what exactly does he deliver?’
‘He doesn’t deliver anything, said Lawrence, he comes to collect. You see we don’t just live out here Mr Wright, Pam and I are real farmers. We grow and we sell.’
‘What exactly do you grow Mr Beaumont?’
Lawrence paused. For a moment silence overtook the room.
‘We’re a different kind of farm, said Pamela, we grow a very special kind of crop. It’s very nutritious, you should try some before you leave. You’ll feel far healthier Ernest.’
They both smiled. Ernest tried not to cringe; the last comment sent a chill down his spine.
‘I think sampling some of our crop would help you with your current predicament Mr Wright, don’t you think Lawrence?’
‘I do indeed,’ he said.
Ernest froze. The Beaumonts kept their gaze fixed on him.
‘May I step outside for a cigarette?’ said Ernest.
‘Of course,’ said Lawrence, ‘I’ll tidy your plate away. Would you like some pudding?’
‘No no I couldn’t possibly eat another bite. Thank you both, I’ll be back soon.’
Before they could object, Ernest left the table and headed for the front door.
The night time air was a welcome respite from the uncomfortable atmosphere of the dining room. Unlocking the bug, he pulled out a carton of emergency cigarettes from the glove compartment. Satisfied, he walked round the back of the house, until he was stood directly underneath his bedroom window.
Striking a match, he glanced out towards the cabbage patch, which shone underneath the moonlight.
‘You’ll feel far healthier Ernest.’
He took a long drag; it had been a long time since he had smoked and it felt good. Since the diagnosis he had promised himself never to touch a cigarette again but the Beaumonts had spooked him enough to rouse his cravings.
Pamela Beaumont had only known him for a few hours, yet she had referred to his health and ‘predicament,’ like she knew everything about him. It was far too specific to be a coincidence.
Then there was the matter of what the Beaumonts were growing.
Taking another drag, he suddenly had the overwhelming urge to walk out into the field towards the cabbage patch.
‘We grow a very special kind of crop.’
He started to walk forward but only managed a few metres before he heard Mr Beaumont calling his name. Ernest grimaced; the field would have to remain unexplored for the time being. Putting out his cigarette, he returned to the front of the farmhouse.
‘Ah there you are,’ said Lawrence, ‘I’m about to lock up, would you mind coming back inside now?’
‘Not at all, I was just finishing up.’
Lawrence breathed a deep sigh.
‘It’s a lovely place isn’t it Ernest?’
‘Indeed it is Mr Beaumont but please I really would prefer it if you called me Mr Wright.’
‘Suits me. Now come inside, it’s getting cold out here. ‘
‘Mr Beaumont I’ve got one more question. What’s your secret? How do you and your wife look so young?’
‘Fruit and vegetables Mr Wright. Lots of fruit and vegetables.’
Pamela was no longer in the kitchen by the time they came back inside. They found her in the living room, sat before a large open fire on an expensive looking armchair. The room was hot and stifling; Ernest had to undo the top button of his shirt just standing in the doorway.
Lawrence sat down in a vacant armchair, joining his wife.
‘Sit with us if you like Mr Wright, said Pamela, ‘we’re not due to have dinner for a while yet.’
‘That’s quite alright, I’m very tired; I think I’ll turn in.’
‘You can ask us more tomorrow,’ said Lawrence, ‘We’ll both be up early for the delivery man but feel free to wake up whenever you want.’
‘Thank you both, I’ll see you in the morning.’
‘Goodnight Mr Wright.’
He closed the door and started up the spiral staircase.
‘Oh Mr Wright,’ called Lawrence, ‘watch out for the bird.’
Ernest almost shouted back but thought better of it. Pretending he didn’t hear, he carried on up the stairs.