Noxback

Surrounded by at least a couple women doing who are his makeup, they whisked him away alongside the call issued, Seb has returned to his false jovial mood. It’s why he cracks jokes, smiles, laughs in all the right places. Watching, anyone would think this man, if they saw and compared, is entirely different person to the one who had been conversing awkwardly and despondently with Matthias Robern. It’s because the presenter thinks it is best to keep up appearances where necessary. At no point did he feel it necessary while stood alongside Matthias.

Though, the upbeat mood disappears entirely when he returns to the set and claps eyes on a small group who are clustered around one side of the table strategically placed in the staged backdrop for the show.

Seeing those faces, severe and furrowed, Seb struggles to swallow. A lump in his throat stops him from doing so and try as he might he cannot get it to clear but is urged, by Roger the director who is sat in the rough centre of the gathered mass, to take a seat across from them.

Seb doesn’t like this. It feels like an interrogation. He wants to run but his body is already sliding into the chair.

Against his better judgement he gets comfortable and then waits, his green eyes flicking from face to face. Amongst them is Matthias, several of the crew he returned acknowledgements from and a load he cannot recall having seen previously.

He should speak; the presenter knows it but can’t bring himself too. Thankfully, it isn’t long before Roger admits, “There’s a problem Sebastien.”

Eyes widening Seb feels a heavy slump of terror rise up and lodge itself in his chest cavity. Somehow he manages to utter, “W-what’s the problem?”

He can’t have stepped on anyone’s toes. He’s only just got here, plus he’s been pleasant enough. Thoughts go through Seb’s head. They’re interspersed with curses and a massive fear that his career is over. He begs, pleas in his head for another chance, promising he’ll do anything, though he is met with no answer. Rather, the crew, en masse, turn their gazes toward a figure stood away from them. Seb thinks it’s a woman, judging by the length of the hair and the painted nails on the hand as they talk on a phone.

He can’t hear a word the figure is saying, and has no clue as to who they are, but quickly finds the faces of the crew pointed back in his direction. He gulps. An awkward silence follows while Roger tries to pick the appropriate words for the news he’s got to deliver. Because what he’s got to say is not positive in the slightest.

“It’s about your family, your ancestors.” The director says carefully trying to get straight to the heart of the issue instead of beating around the bush. After all, time is money.

“What about them.” Is the cautious statement muttered in response.

Pulling faces, none of which do a thing to dispel the fear in Seb, Roger admits, “They’re nobodies, all of them. You’ve no royals, lords, ladies, explorers, soldiers or anything else in your past.”

A chuckle escapes the bald directors’ mouth and is followed by, “In fact they appear to have steered clear of all points of historical importance. It’s impressive but…”

Roger doesn’t have to say it, Seb gets the point; they can’t make a history programme about someone if their relatives never did anything noteworthy.

It was not a fear he’d held previously but is sure this is absolutely, now he’s heard it, the worst case scenario for him. It’s why he drops, instantly, into a pit of despair. Thoughts rolling round in his head taunting him, reminding him of his fears, how he thought it might not be for the best him taking this gig. Which has proved to be true as, to his knowledge, no one has ever suffered such a humiliating revelation.

Sure, some of the episodes are more interesting and discovery packed than others, but never has someone been the descendant of nobodies. If he was not so disillusioned he might ask how far back they’ve looked but he doesn’t. Rather, he wallows in his misery while he sits there. He doesn’t care if the crew can see it on his face. It doesn’t matter, he’s sunk, life over.

When finally a meagre amount of the fog clears and he feels capable of speaking some minutes later, Seb turns toward Matthias.

“There has to be something, anything. It doesn’t matter how small it is, you can find it. You always do.” The presenters’ tone is desperate, his voice cracking as he speaks, tears filling his eyes. Yet, he refuses to cry and chokes them back while waiting for a reply.

Without a word Matthias bows his head. Roger is the one who speaks, “Seb, Matthias is an on-screen historian. Not a real one. It’s an act; entirely for the show.”

The revelation floors Seb who is left blinking astonished, lost for words. He only closes his mouth when he feels saliva getting perilously close to spilling from inside his mouth to embarrass him further.

Best he can describe how is feels is betrayed, but a voice in his head tells him he should‘ve known, not been this naïve. He is inclined to agree, or would be if he were not feeling as numb as he is.

This discovery proves he’s done for, which is why all he wants to do is shrink until he’s so small no one can see or hear him.

“There has to be something.” The presenter mutters at barely more than a whisper.

He isn’t aware the words have passed his lips and yet in the quiet of studio nine the gathered crew cannot help but hear the desperation in the man’s voice as he stares bleary eyed at nothing, barely blinking.

The director, Roger, prepares to answer when suddenly a heavy tome is slammed down upon the table they are gathered around. Everybody jumps out of their skin and then turns toward the responsible party, the figure, indeed a woman, who had been on the phone and stood away from the rest of them.

This woman with her black hair, dyed not natural, and piercing blue eyes announces, “There is one, tiny, claim to ‘fame’…” the woman makes sure to use air quotes as she says the word fame before continuing, “…for your family, Mr Knox.”

The mention, is vague as it is, ignites a small spark in Seb. It dispels his doom and gloom, turning his face from melancholy defeat to hope filled curiosity.

“What is it?” He cannot help but question, feeling it important to know for thus far his day has been quite the rollercoaster.

Truthfully, only since his arrival at studio nine has it been a ride, not a rollercoaster, and yet he sees no distinction.

Waving his hand in dismissal Roger overrides Seb’s wish to be told what the last minute discovery is for he is director and wishes to know, “Is it film worthy?”

“I’m a historian Roger so how would I know?” Is the curt reply issued by the woman who is wearing a long dress with a pair of white trainers which Seb, if he were in a different frame of mind, would conclude do not marry together well at all. But then the historian, Mary, wasn’t supposed to be here, on set, today. She was meant to be attending a race with friends and had been on her way to said thing when she’d received the call that it was unacceptable that Mr Knox had no ancestors of note for TVC had paid money and so needed her to dig deeper, go back further, than the three hundred years that she, team included, had.

If her fee had cleared and been in her account she would’ve told TVC where to stick it, but as yet it hadn’t. She expected they knew that and so, not wanting to miss out on money owed to her for her time, she abandoned her plans, came to TVC and started making calls.

“Roll the cameras anyway.” Seb blurts out of nowhere before Roger has chance to say anything else. The presenter doesn’t rightly care at the moment, whatever has been dug up will have to do. He is not missing out. Not giving up. His career, his life is on the line.

For some reason the crew, Roger included, oblige without so much as a word. Whether out of pity or desperation Seb hasn’t a clue but he’s pleased when he sees bodies rush back and forth making the final preparations necessary for them to begin.

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