Tony Holdsworth was sipping on a beer. It was the first taste of alcohol he had had since binging his way into a coma. It was a bittersweet sensation both figuratively and – thanks to the squeeze of lemon – literally. In between sips he nursed the cold bottle against his cheekbone.
A bag of frozen peas fell onto the table in front of him. “Here, use that instead,” Manny said before slouching into a chair of his own and holding a frozen bottle of water to his eye. “Why do you freeze water in a bottle?”
Tony shrugged. “Probably been there for an age,” he said, “would have thought it would be a quick way to get some cold water.”
“You’ve got at least seven in there.”
“Well once it’s frozen it’s no good; you got to start again.”
“Never heard of ice?”
Tony chuckled, “Never question the logic of a drunk,” he took a sip of his beer, “I’ve been trying to clean out the mess of my past life; must have bypassed the freezer.”
“I think you were trying to bypass me as well.”
Tony winced. As terrible a father as he had been it still hurt to hear things like that, especially from his son. “I’m sorry, Manny,” he said sincerely, feeling a strong emotion well up within –he might have cried had it not been for the energy spent only moments earlier.
Manny shook his head in resignation. “Why did you do it, Dad?” It was the same question he had asked when Tony opened the door, only the endearing “Dad” was replaced with a swinging right that had connected flush with Tony’s cheekbone.
“You know it seems cliché that father and son will eventually face off; come to blows so to speak.” Tony said, following his own train of thought, though not consciously avoiding the topic.
“Just be glad you only had one son.” Manny replied.
Tony let out an appreciative laugh, rekindling the burning pain in the left side of his face. “It’s too easy to say they made me do it. I thought of Smithwaite and whatever horrible end he came to, but to be truthfully honest they never threatened me.”
Manny was silent for a moment. “Look I understand that if it wasn’t you it would have been someone else, I know how this shit works – I mean Sarah pretty much knew, she just didn’t want to believe it. I just...fuck I don’t even know.”
“I’m not going back – if that counts for anything. Be the first time in a long time that there aren’t any Holdsworth holding the fort. Ha! With me out of the picture they might even think of bringing you back in!”
Manny scoffed. “They can go fuck themselves.” He paused and took a pensive sip of his beer.
“What?” Tony asked, his interview skills wouldn’t miss an expression like that. “What are you thinking? You wouldn’t actually do it?”
“No.” Manny shook his head, “Well I mean- What are they actually doing there?” he asked, leaning forward. “We agree if you didn’t do it then someone else would, but I mean why? Why are they so desperate to tell everyone about the affair?”
“To get Walter back. And it worked a treat mind you.”
“But why do they want Walter back? I thought his media run was finished.”
“Nothing is an accident in this business, Manny. Walter’s not finished; his show was purposely cut short. They have bigger plans.”
“What plans? What could be bigger than a worldwide television audience? That guy was bigger than- well bigger than Tony Holdsworth. He had so much influence.”
“I wasn’t stupid enough to ask. If I want to leave they might just let me.”
Manny let out a long breath. “It seems so surreal, that they would actually kill people over stuff like this. I feel like doing something.”
Tony caught on to where Manny was heading with this one, “Don’t even think about it, Manny, this is bigger than you think.”
“But I’ve just been this fucking puppet for them – whoever the fuck “they” are – and I’m sick of contributing to this sickness. I entered this business in your footsteps but I always thought that I could offer more integrity to a degrading profession. No offence.” Tony shrugged it off almost as a compliment. “But what if they gave me this second chance and I went live and promoted this Hippy Protest thing they are planning? All they have now is some alternative internet following. I could give them mainstream publicity.”
Manny was clearly working himself up in excitement. Tony remained pensive. He could see the logic behind the move and wanted nothing more than to hit back at Sammy and Boss, but he couldn’t let Manny do it. “You have a family. What about Emily and Kara and Sarah? You can’t just kamikaze off into the sunset.”
Manny’s heightened emotion was quickly levelled. He looked down and to the left as if he was contemplating striking his father again. “I got to do this. She doesn’t want me back. Fuck, I could even do it on an apology special.”
“They’re not that stupid – they would know you had some other agenda. If it was just a publicity stunt then they would rather not risk it. You would have to contribute to the Walter Wallace fiasco for them to even be interested.”
“I’ll tell them I blame it on Walter. I’ll back up whatever shit they said about his emotional energy.”
“No!” Tony yelled. “You have no exit strategy. It’s suicide.”
“They won’t fucking kill me. There’s no point. I’ll arrange for a police fucking escort if I have to.”
“No.” Tony said, weaker this time. He couldn’t let his only son walk out onto the battle field after he had just abandoned it. But he knew he was powerless to stop him.
“Help me do this, Dad,” Manny said, recognising the opening. “What good are we and the Holdsworth name if all we do is pander to these fuckers. Let us take a stand.”
Tony looked Manny in the eye before shying away. His jaw suddenly began to pulsate with pain. For the first time in his life he felt truly past his prime, as though he had finally seen his son as a better man. “OK,” he sighed, “OK we’ll do it like you said.” He stood and walked to the fridge, taking two more beers out. “But not tonight, alright?”
“Alright,” Manny said, satisfied. He popped his beer and took a long sip of courage. “Will she take me back?” he asked, “Sarah? Will she take me back?”
Tony knew that no relationship ever truly recovered from infidelity. He loved Sarah and knew she had a kind heart but whether she could ever forgive his son was another question. “She will,” he said, reassuringly, “She will.”