Cracks in the Facade
By Auburn Red Disclaimer:
Well nothing changed in the last three stories. I still don't own the OFAH crew. They are still owned by John Sullivan. (Don't you love when the ideas just keep popping up? :D)
Even Trigger could see the change in Del Boy. To most people who didn't know their friend that well, Del Boy seemed the same as ever. He was still charming, sardonic, and quick with a joke or a hair brained scheme. He laughed the same and still talked about getting rich as incessant as ever. On the surface nothing changed. But to people who knew Del as well as the lads did, they could see that it was all a facade, an act that he played.
They could see the cracks in the facade start to break away at times when he was on the job selling something and the customer wasn't interested. His voice would take on an almost desperate quality as if in his mind, he could just imagine that amount of money just floating away from him. Before being a market trader was a lark, a source of fun to relieve boredom and to make plans for a very wealthy future that circumstances had deprived him of. Now, whenever Del was on the job he was in full time survival mode making sure that he earned enough for himself, his brother, and his grandfather. He now traded for survival so there was an edge when he worked that was single-minded, determined, and in some ways frightening to his friends.
He didn't always talk about his younger brother with his mates. He would sometimes mention him at the Nag's Head but then stop as though he tried to compartmentalize his life keeping that life separate from the one in front of his friends and separate from his professional life. They never knew how he managed it. It seemed as though Del's time were different from everyone else like he lived a 32 hour day going from Raleigh House, to grafting, to Nag's Head, to dates with birds and back.
There were certain times of the day which were unmovable and his friends knew that. They knew not to contact him in the early morning (when he had to get Rodney up for school though he took pride in the fact that "Rodney's much easier to get up than I ever was. Sometimes he's awake before I am."), in the afternoon (when Rodney came home) and in the early night (when he tucked Rodney into bed). It wasn't worth their lives to try to contact him on the rare times when he wasn't available at all, because Rodney was ill or for other reasons.
Occasionally circumstances would force Del to bring Rodney along on a job. It was entertaining to watch because Rodney would get into an act trying to appeal to the customers' sympathy. ("Could you please buy our**cough, cough*** last handbag, Mum? We really need it so we don't live on the streets.") Del Boy would offer a smile and a wink at his little brother's performance, but if Rodney was ever seperated from him, like when he wandered off, Del's charming facade would crack again. He would become worried, drop whatever he was doing, and instantly look for him. But that rarely ever happened, because whenever they were out, Del would keep one eye on his customers or clients and keep Rodney in his vision. Any of his friends could see his eyes turn protectively towards his little brother and back when neither was aware that they were being watched.
Sometimes when his friends would go on and on about birds and cars and all of the things that they used to talk about, Del would laugh a bit too loudly as though he were humoring or patronizing them. He would still hang out with them as a tension reliever but they caught the idea that he somehow felt himself more mature and less frivolous than they were. Sometimes they would notice him writing figures on paper or napkins as if he were trying to figure out how to stretch bills as far as they would go so even when he was with them his personal issues could not be pushed aside because of a lager or a dirty joke. They felt as though there were a rift between them with the lads on one end and Del on the other.
His dates with birds had altered. He still played the ladies' man taking them to the cinema or out to dinner, but there were differences with how he was with them. He wouldn't say much about what ended it, except once he was playing with the ring that had been returned and snapped, "You really find out who really is bloody there for you, don't you?"
Even his movements changed, particularly when times got really lean. Occasionally, they would see him walk into the pub with less stridence, less determination. His shoulders were stooped and his legs moved slowly as though walking across the room required great effort. Those times he seemed to age from 19 to 42. He would say that he was fine and he didn't need help, but he was really short-tempered if they asked. He would rest with his head on his hands , and start to nod off. Before his mates knew it, he would start to fall into a light sleep and someone would drive him home. They also noticed that Del never ate, at least not in front of them, during those times. They wondered if he was passing up on food, or at least eating smaller amounts, so Rodney and Granddad would have their share.
It was a life that neither Boycie, Denzil, Jumbo, nor Trigger would have envied or wanted. In fact privately they wondered why Del still managed to hang out with them, but then they figured he needed them to keep him sane and normal so he wouldn't constantly worry all the time. So they could be there for him to glue the cracks in his facade back together so life couldn't break it further.