‘Hello. All right?’
‘Hello. Yes… I’m fine.’ James looked around.’Er… excuse me?’
‘If you don’t mind me asking, who are you?’
‘Oh, sorry. I thought you knew. I’m one of the secondary characters.’ He extended his hand. ’I’m Pete.’
‘Hello, Pete. Pleased to meet you. I’m….’
‘Oh, I know who you are. No need for introductions from you, James. After all, you are the protagonist.’
James stood up taller, his chest out. ‘So, you recognised me, then?’
‘Of course.’ The other man got to his feet. ‘As soon as I saw you introduced in the opening paragraph of the first chapter, I said to the love interest that you must be the protagonist.’
‘You’ve spoken to the love interest?’
James sidled closer to the other man. ‘What’s she like?’
‘What? You mean you haven’t met?’
‘No, not yet. These are still the early chapters.’
‘Oh, right.’ Pete leant over and grinned, whispering in James’ ear. ‘Between you and me, I think you are in for a very interesting middle build, if you know what I mean.’
James blushed. ‘I wasn’t expecting anything like that.’ He glanced at his watch. ‘Anyway, I think I’d better be getting back to the story. The author will wonder what’s happened to me.’
‘The author? I wouldn’t worry about him, not this time in the afternoon.’
‘Why? What do you mean?’
Pete made a drinking gesture.
‘Well, y’know. Sales of his last one didn’t go that well.’
‘The reviews on Amazon weren’t much better. One of them complained about his main protagonist saying really all the time.
‘Rea… you don’t say?’
‘Well, you know what readers are like.’
‘Yeah. Don’t start me on that.’ James looked around again. ‘Anyway, what are you doing here?’
‘Oh. He didn’t need me in this part of the story. So I thought I’d find myself a nice blank page and have a bit of a lie down.’
‘Rea… I mean, what role does he have planned for you, do you know?’
Pete sucked in a breath. ‘No, not a clue. I’m probably here to add a bit of colour in a scene or two if necessary. You know, if he needs a postman, a shop assistant, another pedestrian, something like that.’
‘I see.’ James nodded.
‘Don’t get me wrong. Playing a secondary character does have its benefits. I mean you don’t have all the dialogue to learn, or to do much of the dangerous stuff – unless you are the evil genius’s minion or something like that. Anyway, it is a nice living and you always tend to knock off at the same time each day. Steady, regular work.’
‘And you don’t mind… not being the star?’
‘Nah, mate. You are welcome to all that. I couldn’t be doing with the stress, to be honest. Anyway, I like the character roles, unless the author gives me a stupid accent to help define my character. They always make you look like a dick.’
‘Anyway, I have to go.’ James pointed back to the story. Already he could feel the author – now he’d finished his drink – preparing to put fingers to the keyboard. ‘Bye.’
‘Bye, mate. No doubt I’ll see you around in a scene or two later.’ Pete waved.
James waved in return as he made his way back to the narrative that was already speeding down the once-blank page towards him.
‘Oh, and good luck with the love interest,’ Pete called as he slipped over onto the next blank page.