Bernard’s feet are on his desk, and he’s reading the newspaper. Of course, Fran knows this is simply a distraction – he’s avoiding talking to her. It’s completely obvious, and she won’t stand for it. She pushes the shop door open, forcefully, and stomps into the shop.
Bernard doesn’t look up. Fran fumes inwardly; he may be a master in pretending he can’t hear her, but she knows he won’t be able to ignore her for long. She slams a wine glass down on his desk and slugs red into it. ‘Bernard!’
No response. She peers awkwardly under the newspaper – he couldn’t have suddenly developed an interest in current affairs, not Bernard, never! It was the Philatelist’s Daily Advertiser. That clinches it.
‘Bernard!’ Fran knows he’ll recognise that voice. That’s her if-you-don’t-listen-to-me-now-I’m-never-buying-you-wine-again voice. She snatches the newspaper away.
‘Hey!’ Oh, he knows she’s here now, all right. Slowly ripping the newspaper into equal sized tiny pieces, Fran glares at him.
‘Bernard. There’s a certain someone we both know. You do remember him, don’t you? Used to be HAIRY?!’
‘I couldn’t possibly say I know who you’re talking about.’Bernard pulls another newspaper from under his chair, swings it around away from Fran, plants his feet on the pile of books balanced precariously on the other side of his desk, and ignores her.
Fran marches around to face him. This time he’s reading the Choreography Times.
‘Bernard, I will hurt you.’ This gets him worried, although of course he’s pretending he isn’t. He looks up slowly, mouth pouting ever-so-slightly, and then shakes his hair into his eyes and goes back to reading.
‘Wouldn’t know a thing about it,’ he mutters into the newspaper. Fran grabs him by the hair and pulls his head back until he’s looking straight into her eyes.
‘Manny,’ she states icily. ‘What did you do? He’s threatening to kill himself! I had to tie him to my bed with some tights!’
‘Well then I’m not surprised he’s threatening to kill himself, the little worm,’ Bernard mutters snarkily.
‘BERNARD!’ Fran screeches, yanking his head back. ‘Talk!Right now!’
Bernard’s eyes widen into that look. The little-boy-who-knows-he’s-in-big-trouble look, where his hair goes all floppy and his lip wobbles. ‘He woke up and all his hair was gone, so he broke all the wine bottles, so I fired him. Happy now?’
Fran’s tight grip on his hair does not loosen. ‘“He woke up and all his hair was gone?”’ she mimics. ‘You mean, youshaved off his hair in his sleep?’
‘Now Fran,’ Bernard tries the charming approach. ‘Why would I do a thing like that? And no, I didn’t, for your information. Maybe he has some kind of disease. Maybe he’s malting. It’s the season for that, didn’t you know? And I think it’s a good thing,’ his voice lowers to a conspiratorial whisper. ‘I think he has fleas!’
‘Bernard! Manny doesn’t have fleas, and you know it. And all the hair on someone’s body doesn’t just fall out. What did you do?’ Fran looks like she has a bad taste in her mouth, but she lets go of his hair.
‘Wait…’ Bernard rubs his head back to feeling, his expression calculating. ‘All the hair on his body? How do you know it was all the hair? I thought it was just his head…’he grabs her chin and pulls her face towards him. ‘Maybeyou did it. Maybe you secretly sneaked in here last night with teeny-tiny tweezers and plucked each and every hair from his disgusting little form!’
Fran’s face scrunches up in disgust. ‘No. He… showed me.’
At Bernard’s expression she turns away, grabbing her wine glass and drinking it down in one gulp. ‘Well, he said all his hair was gone, and I said show me because he had a big coat with a hood on, and the next thing I know he’s got it all off! He’s not in his right mind, Bernard, and it’s all your fault. Fix it! I’m not leaving until you’ve done something.’With that, she sits down into the chair next to his desk with her back to him and folds her arms forcefully. After a couple of seconds, she pours herself another glass of wine, downs it, and resumes the position.
Bernard stares at her, and then goes back to his newspaper. He mutters something under his breath.
Fran’s back twitches angrily. ‘I mean it, Bernard!’ she huffs, but doesn’t turn round.
Of course, that means she doesn’t see her hair change colour, nor the look of horror and growing realisation on Bernard’s face…
Bernard is, in fact, barely noticing Fran’s sulk. He has been trying to pass off this morning as a particularly hallucinogenic hangover for almost three hours now, and it still isn’t working. And he’s already got through a good half a bottle, so any lasting effects should have worn off by now.And what is perhaps even more disturbing is that something is telling him that he shouldn’t be feeling surprised by any of this at all. He looks around twitchily, then prods Fran forcefully in the back.
‘I’m going to rearrange my sock drawer,’ he tells her decisively. ‘I may be some time.’
Fran makes a noise that could be mistaken for a fairly convincing whale impression, but she doesn’t turn around, so Bernard stomps noisily up the stairs. ‘Stupid Manny and his stupid disappearing hair…’ But whining to himself isn’t half as much fun as whining to Fran (or, as his irritating inner voice supplies, Manny), and he can’t quite work out why he has such a sudden urge to search his sock drawer.He hasn’t looked in there in years; there could be thingsliving in there.
Strangely, the drawer is actually already open. ‘Manny, you disgusting little fiend!’ Bernard shouts. ‘Have you been looking in my…’
‘Stupid Manny…’ Bernard mutters, and begins to pull socks out of the drawer, even to his mind a trifle faster than is perhaps justified. It’s as if he’s looking for something.Something… that could be hidden in a drawer. Like… a long, thin, pointy thing. Things like that could be hidden away, forgotten, never mentioned again, left behind like all his money (money?!? I don’t have any money! Who wants to deal with complicated things like that?) like long, thin, wooden, pointy…
‘Aha!’ Bernard lets out a triumphant cry and pulls a…something… from the drawer. And stares at it. Until Fran sticks her head around the door.
‘Bernard, what on earth are you doing in… Oh!’
Bernard thrusts the… thing… up his sleeve and spins around guiltily. ‘Nothing!’ he protests. ‘Absolutely nothing! In fact, I think that rearranging socks is highly overrated as a method of procrastination, much best left for when Manny gets back and this whole thing blows over, and don’t you think it would be better to go downstairs and maybe go out to a pub? Maybe somewhere nice and far away… maybe a nice pub in, oh, I don’t know, Bermuda or somewhere, yes, I’ve heard Bermuda is lovely at this time of year… Ow!’
Fran has grabbed his arm and twisted it around. ‘You’ve got something up your sleeve,’ she says dangerously. ‘What is it? What are you trying to hide?’ She allows the last word to roll off her tongue slowly, a hint of hidden torments to come unless Bernard answers her right-now-at-this-instant.
‘Oh, that? Nothing. Nothing at all. There isn’t even a “that” there, so it’s obviously nothing,’ Bernard babbles.
Fran raises one eyebrow. ‘Show it to me, Bernard.’
Bernard shakes his head, hiding behind his hair. ‘Shan’t,’ he mumbles.
Fran prods him. ‘Bernard… I’ll make you listen to that dolphin noises music I bought yesterday!’
Bernard sighs heavily, and lets the… pointy thing… slip out of his sleeve. It lands with a clatter on the floor.
Fran grabs it triumphantly. ‘Aha! It’s a… it’s a stick?’
Bernard pushes a hand into his hair messily. ‘It’s-a-mrphle-wrphle,’ he mutters.
Unfortunately, Fran has been translating Bernard-speak for quite some time, and her eyes widen in startled recognition.She grabs it. ‘A magic wand? Bernard, you can’t be serious… like Harry Potter?’ A grin spreads across her face and she points it at Bernard. ‘Wingardium leviosa! Hocus Pocus! Avada Kedav-’
Bernard lunges at her, grabbing the wand. ‘Don’t!!’ He pushes it back up his sleeve. ‘Don’t say those things.They’re not nice things…. And the middle one wasn’t even real, anyway.’ Of course, he can never pass up on a chance to win a game of one-upmanship with Fran. Even if she has just tried to kill him.
‘Oh, Bernard, don’t tell me you believe in these things!’ Fran laughs at him. ‘They’re just children’s stories! You just stole that from Manny’s Dumbledore costume and then forgot about it! Don’t try to tell me you think it’s real.’
Bernard glares at her. ‘What about Manny’s hair, hmm?What about that? And you didn’t look in a mirror before you came in here, did you? Hmm?’
Fran looks at him disdainfully. ‘No, of course I didn’t, I just ran up here when I heard you say “aha!” Why would I have looked in a mirror?’ She pauses, touches her hair, and frowns. ‘Wait a second… Bernard, why should I have looked in a mirror?’
She fumbles in her handbag for a moment, and pulls out a small black plastic mirror. ‘Oh my God!’ The mirror lands on the floor with a thud. ‘What did you do? Change it back!Changeitbackchangeitbackchangeitback!’
‘I don’t know how,’ Bernard admits sulkily.
‘What do you mean, you don’t know how?’ Fran demands. ‘I am not leaving this room with blue hair, Bernard! If you did it, you must be able to undo it!… Agh!!’
The ‘agh’ actually has nothing to do with Bernard, though, and a lot more to do with the loud crack that has just echoed through the wall. It has even more to do with the man in a purple… outfit… who has just appeared out of nowhere on Bernard’s bed.
Bernard doesn’t seem to have noticed. ‘Agh?!’ he asks.‘What kind of a noise is that supposed to be? How am I supposed to understand you if you don’t even speak with proper words?’ He squints at Fran quizzically. ‘And why are you making such a stupid face? I definitely didn’t do that to you. Or the hair. Actually, the hair has nothing to do with me whatsoever. Definitely not.’
‘Bernard-look-behind-you!’ Fran’s dramatic stage whisper is a little bit too dramatic with not enough actual whispering, though, and as Bernard spins around the stranger has already spoken.