MIKE JOHNSON - I started writing late in life. Age sixty four to be exact so I suppose that comes under the category: it’s never too late to learn! I’m English from the county of Yorkshire but moved to Spain in the year 2000. My writing career began after meeting other published author’s here on the Costa del Sol. My first novel; Dragon - written in long hand at first would you believe – was edited by my wife who I found was more than capable – and far less expensive – than the Publishers. The next two novels in the series; The Korean Connection and The Buddha in Ice followed soon after. It may be of interest to learn the wrap around front covers were designed by me, and illustrated by a local design company. You have no idea how cost effective that is for a first time writer self-publishing? In between these novels I began writing short stories: The Little Home on Wheels was one of them, but my readers wanted to know; what happened next? The story begins here in Spain in places I have visited and know well.
THE STUDENT BY MICHAEL JOHNSON
Daniel Stretch walked smartly along the corridor of the school; it would not do to be late on his first day. The Headmaster was, apparently, a stickler for time keeping. The door marked Jonathan Church – Headmaster; was closed so he entered an office next door to announce he had arrived.
A row of chairs where placed alongside a wall outside the office, he sat down to wait. The young boy at the end of the row sat and fidgeted, it was obviously not his first time in front of the Head, he thought looking at him.
The boy turned seeming to sense he was being observed ‘you’re a bit old to be in trouble if you don’t mind me saying so?’ he grinned cheekily.
Daniel laughed at the boy’s boldness ‘you could say that but I guess this is not your first time?’
He shrugged, as if to say he didn’t know why either ‘I was suspended for disruptive behaviour, whatever that’s supposed to mean. This is my first day back?’
‘Don’t tell me, it was all a misunderstanding; is that about right?’ he said getting interested in what he had actually done to be suspended. The boy looked fairly intelligent and didn’t seem like the average rebel without a cause.
‘Singing!’ was the boys reply.
‘What! You were suspended for singing?’
‘Yes can you believe it?’
Daniel looked at him a little dubious as to the explanation. There must be more to this story he decided ‘come on then, tell me the rest of it’
The boy grinned knowing he wasn’t going to fool this one ‘I had my headphones confiscated twice, but how can I practice otherwise. The final is next week and I’m nowhere near ready’
‘Ok I’ll bite, ready for what?’
‘The Karaoke final. The first prize is fifty quid would you believe that?’
‘And where is this final being held?’
‘Someplace near home’ he answered evasively.
‘If you’re going to be evasive then it’s a waste of time telling me anything’
Dam this one really can’t be fooled can he ‘It’s being held in a Conservative Club, but its ok my mum works there at night sometimes’ he said by way of an explanation.
‘Ok that doesn’t sound too bad I suppose but you still haven’t explained why you have been suspended’
The boy sat back and decided he may as well tell him the rest of it ‘well, I think I’ve got the song down to a tee as they say, but without hearing it through a microphone I’m not sure how it comes across to an audience. So one lunch time I sneak into the main Hall and use the PA system. The trouble was I didn’t realise it was being broadcast all over the school?’
Daniel couldn’t help himself he burst into fits of laughter.
The laughter was infectious so the boy started laughing as well; just as the headmaster opened the door.
‘Good heavens what is going on?’ he asked angrily.
Daniel jumped up quickly ‘sorry headmaster this is all my fault, this young man just told me a funny story’ he said winking at him.
‘Well Mr. Stretch not a good start but I suppose you are here only temporary while our Mrs. Bates has her maternity leave, please come on. Timothy Steele you may join your class mates’ he said dismissing him.
So that was the boy’s name ‘what was the song by the way?’ he whispered before following the headmaster.
‘Yesterday’ he whispered back ‘It’s a Beatles competition’
1815 AND ALL THAT
‘Good afternoon class my name is Daniel Stretch and before we go on, I have heard all the jokes about my name ten times over. I will be taking over from Mrs. Bates while she is on maternity leave. I have looked at her notes regarding your progress so far but I would prefer to start something new while I’m here’ he announced, hoping the headmaster was not going to hear of it too quickly.
That got the students interest, Mrs. Bates was a traditionalist in terms of her teaching methods.
‘First of all who can play an instrument of any kind?’
A few tentative hands went up.
‘Ok, I will talk to you individually over the next few classes, don’t worry I won’t be asking you to perform in front of the class. Now, who likes to sing?’ he asked purposely ignoring the hand of Timothy Steele.
‘Come on now surely someone would like to perform on stage in front of the ex-factor judges?’ he asked again ignoring the hand that was practically grabbing him.
Eventually he pretended to notice the young man who was now blushing a deep red knowing he had been had.
‘Hah, Tommy Steele isn’t it?’ he asked desperately trying not to laugh.
The rest of the class had just got the joke and started to snigger at the boy’s embarrassment.
‘Sorry Timothy Steele I should have said’ he grinned.
He let the class have their fun for a while, it was important they should connect with him, music was a very personal and individual thing and needed careful grooming.
Daniel knew the school curriculum regarding music. It was just seen as another examination to be passed, if anyone showed musical ability along the way so be it.
One option had been dismissed by the last teacher, which in his mind was a sacrilege, one that he was about to put right.
‘Please settle down class thank you’ he asked raising his hand ‘now; if I said 1815 what would that mean to anyone?’
‘It’s late and we should have gone home ages ago!’ one boy quipped starting the laughter all over again.
He let it continue for a while ‘that joke is nearly as old as the date’ he smiled ‘so anyone else?’
He waited ‘what if I gave you a few more clues; guillotine -Paris - opera’
A boy put his hand up ‘Isn’t that the French Revolution sir?’ he asked all eagerness.
‘Well done it is indeed the French Revolution but what is it in terms of music?
Daniel looked at Timothy who he was sure wanted to answer the question. I hope I haven’t embarrassed him too much and have stopped him coming forward.
‘Timothy have you any ideas?’ he asked.
The boy realised his teacher was trying to undo his embarrassment so he answered ‘1812 is at the end of the French revolution, which is where Les Miserables the musical is based upon’
The whole class looked at him astounded by his knowledge.
‘Go on’ his teacher asked.
‘There’s lots of songs but I don’t know what they are talking about?’
‘I see, the songs are more like talking I suppose in many ways, not very lyrical I do accept’
‘No sir I mean the words were in a different language – French. My mum got screwed by the lucky-lucky man on holiday last year’
The whole class was in uproar, even Daniel couldn’t help laughing at that one.
Daniel didn’t mind, he was loving the attention ‘Do you hear the people sing singing the song of angry men this is the music of the people who will not be slaves again…….’ He suddenly began singing in French.
Daniel continued singing completely unaware the whole class was listening to him.
‘My god the boy is almost pitch perfect’ Daniel gaped ‘and in French too?’
Eventually he realised he was on his own and stopped suddenly, the whole class began to applaud him, which completely dispelled any embarrassment.
The class continue with almost all the students getting interested in the story of the French Revolution and Les Miserables.
As the students left he called back Timothy ‘that was an impressive performance young man but I’m curious. Where did you learn to speak French surely not from the tape your mum bought?’
‘Yes sir I loved it, but please don’t tell my mates that they think it’s a bit sissy’
‘I understand but tell me would you like to speak French properly?’
‘I wouldn’t mind but none of the teachers here teach it?’
‘Well, as a matter of fact I do, so if you want to stay after class two or three times a week I would teach you’
The boy considered that for a moment, staying after school usually meant detention ‘ok but I need to ask mum if it’s ok to be late home’
As it turned out the lessons ended up being three times a week with the proviso the teacher would make sure her son got home safely. At nearly sixteen that didn’t go down too well with Timothy. The headmaster agreed in principle but suggested he was wasting his time ‘the boys disruptive that’s all there is too it but go ahead’ he had said.
After 4 weeks of tuition his student had learned all the basic vowels and was putting phrases together. There was much reference to Les Miserables and what was being spoken. Then after 8 weeks something seemed to click inside Timothy’s head, from then on he began thinking and talking in French with ease.
One evening Timothy was singing A Little Fall of Rain from the opera.
Two female teachers passing by the room stopped and listened to the song, it was enchanting so they went in to the classroom just at the song finished ‘wasn’t that Michael Ball on your music just then, I love his singing’ one of them asked.
Teacher and student just grinned ‘actually that was Timothy you were listening to, but Michael Ball thanks you anyway’
‘Oh come on now Mr. Stretch we are too old to fall for that one’ she said shaking the head and tutting.
‘Why don’t you two ladies take a seat, and we’ll see if we can change your minds’
‘Timothy, how about empty chairs and empty tables seeing as our guests like Mr. Ball so much?’
Timothy nodded and began, for some reason having an audience was going to make it much more fun.
Half way through the song the two women were trying not to show the emotion they were feeling as they became enthralled in the performance. On the last note they both stood up and applauded ‘we apologise young man for doubting you that was incredible’
The next day the talk was all about the young man who had learned French and was speaking like a native and a voice to die for, as the two ladies put it.
Daniel was more than pleased with his efforts but where to now. The boy had serious talent there was no doubt about that.
The answer came unexpectedly.
The headmaster welcomed him into his office ‘Daniel come in, sit down, would you like a drink or something?’ he asked all smiles and bonhomie.
‘A little different from the last time I was here he thought ‘I’m fine headmaster what can I do for you?’
‘Well we have a little problem and I was hoping you could step into the breach as they say. I understand you speak fluent French, of course you do?’ he said dismissing his own question ‘do you know about the school trip next week?’ he suddenly asked.
‘Err, not really headmaster it seems to be a taboo subject in the staff room’
‘Yes, yes I realize that, a few of the staff got a bit miffed at not being included but there were only a certain number of places’
‘Maybe you should ask your question headmaster?’ he said suddenly getting an idea as to what he was going to ask him.
‘Twelve students from the upper school and twelve from our school have been chosen to visit Paris on an exchange visit. Mr. and Mrs. Tilly from the upper school where ideal candidates to organize the trip as they both speak French. Their daughters where due to go with them by the way’
‘Were due to go with them?’ he asked.
‘Well one is still going but the other is in no state at the moment she has taken it all very badly’
Daniel waited for the story to unfold.
‘Mr. Tilly was discovered with a senior student in a compromising situation, all very seedy I must say but hormones and all that?’ he shrugged.
‘What Mr. Tilly’s?’ he asked trying not to smirk.
‘Tut!’ ‘Tut’ ‘Mr. Stretch this is no laughing matter’
‘Sorry headmaster but it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last time this has
happened will it?’
‘Well I’m afraid Mrs Tilly has thrown the man out of the house as is threatening divorce proceedings. The Paris trip is obviously a no-no’
‘Are you asking me to take over?’
‘Well that would be the ideal solution you speaking French and single’
Daniel considered the request or a moment ‘I agree on one condition’
‘That’s wonderful anything you want please ask’
‘Timothy Steele must accompany me’
The headmaster was about to argue but realised the request was genuine and he had to admit the young man had seemed to change for the better recently ‘very well I agree’
Timothy came to his lesson as usual.
‘Don’t sit down we need to go and see your mum, will she be at home now’ he told him.
‘Yes sir she is’nt working this evening, have I done something wrong?’ he asked concerned.
‘On the contrary, but let’s see your mum first ok?’
Mrs. Steele turned out to be a very charming and attractive women Daniel decided as they sat down across a table.
‘It’s nice to meet you at last Mr. Stretch, Daniel never stops talking about you’
‘Thank you Mrs. Steele but please call me Daniel’
‘In that case my name is Sarah’
Nice name as well he thought deciding she really was an attractive women ‘do you know what I have been teaching your son over the past few weeks Sarah?’ he asked.
‘I believe it’s been French and you have done a magnificent job Daniel’ she answered in French.
‘You speak French?’ he asked astounded ‘dam that sounded wrong I apologise’
‘No it is I who should apologise to my son for not teaching him my second language sooner. You see his father came from Leon but left us soon after my son was born. His family didn’t approve of our marrying. It’s only recently that I’ve realised he should have known who his father was and where he came from. Not speaking French was my way of blocking the memory of what could have been’ she told him ‘When I learned what you were doing I became most ashamed’.
Timothy felt no anger towards his mother, his love was unconditional in that direction ‘it doesn’t matter mum honest, it’s in the past’
She looked at her son and suddenly saw a young man on the verge of manhood.
It was all too much ‘please excuse me!’ she said rushing into the kitchen.
Daniel stopped her son from going after her ‘she’ll be fine Timothy trust me’
Sarah returned carrying drinks and biscuits ‘all very English’ she smiled now fully in control again ‘so what is it you wish to ask me Daniel?’
He was tempted to ask for a date but restrained himself ‘I’ve just been asked to take over an exchange trip to Paris and want Timothy to join us’
Timothy almost jumped out of his seat ‘Paris do you mean it, Mum, Paris can I go?’ he asked suddenly realising his life now depended on his mum.
‘I assume he has a passport?’
‘Yes Daniel he has and of course he can go but what will it cost?’ she asked concerned it may be too expensive for her, being a single mother.
‘Actually nothing, all he will need is some spending money and he’s good to go’
‘Yahoo!’ came the response from the table ‘wait till Aunt Hilly hears about this. Can I go and tell her?’
‘Yes go. Let me and Daniel work out the details’ she said as he shot out of the door.
‘I assume Aunt Hilly is close by?’
‘My sister lives just down the street, I don’t know what I would do without her’
Daniel was desperate to ask why such an attractive and intelligent women was still single but decided that was for another time ‘Timothy told me about the disc you bought from the Lucky-lucky man on holiday. He thought you had been conned, now I see it was intentional’
‘In the back of my mind I guess I wanted him to listen to the music and the language. I used to speak French to him when he was young and sing lullabies to get him to sleep. It was only later on when he was growing up I stopped, it seems some of it stayed there?’
‘Now I know how he picked up the language so quickly, his accent is very Parisian you know that?’
‘Yes I listened to him practising. You know he never once asked for my help’
‘Maybe he knew it would make you sad?’
Sarah considered that for a moment ‘he is a very sensitive young man now isn’t he?’
‘And a very talented one, his pitch is perfect when he sings. We must encourage him to continue maybe even attend a music academy?’
‘That would be nice but I’m a single mum and only a secretary, even working the odd evenings it’s hard sometimes’
‘I understand but keep it in mind at least. Well I should be off!’
‘Thank you for all the tuition Daniel you are a wonderful teacher’ she told him.
‘Don’t mention it and thanks for the tea, maybe we can do this again sometime. Err I mean to iron out the details of the trip and all that’ he said just realising what he was asking.
Sarah knew exactly what he was asking ‘maybe next week before you disappear to Paris and all that romance over there’ she said teasing him.
‘Oh no not me, too much responsibility looking after the children’ he said realizing he was stammering a little.
‘Very well I suppose you had better leave the romance until you return then?’
Daniel was unsure how to respond so decided to just say goodbye, when he was outside and in his car he realized his heart was beating like a racing car engine.
Timothy was grateful he was sat next to at least one friend on the Air France jet to Paris. He had tried to be polite and friendly to the others from his school but they looked on him as an interloper, only there because he was friendly with the music teacher.
‘Teacher’s pet’ was uttered more than once.
The students from the upper school were only slightly older but could have come from a different planet. They all had that superior ‘we are older than you’ attitude and refused to integrate.
His friend Mikey whispered beside him ‘that’s the daughter of the two teachers who were supposed to be organising the trip. Got caught with his pants down’ he snickered pointing to a girl sat in the opposite seat.
‘What’s her name?’
‘Catherine I think they said why?’
‘She looks a little sad to me?’
‘Wouldn’t you be, knowing the whole school knows what her dad was up to?’
‘Still it’s not her fault’ he said looking across at her.
He decided it was time to make friends ‘hello’ he said leaning over ‘my name is Timothy but my friends call me Timmy’
‘And why is that of interest to me?’ she asked looking up from the book she was reading.
‘Well we are all going to Paris together and I thought it would be nice to get to know one another. By the way I’m sorry about your parents it must be a bummer at school’
Catherine slammed her book closed and was just about to lambast the stupid person across the aisle when something stopped her.
She realized it was not meant as slight, but was genuinely meant ‘thanks’ she said then returned to her book.
Half way into the flight the cabin crew made sure their young passenger was all well ‘Hello Mademoiselle are you looking forward to your trip to Paris?’ she asked Catherine. Her passenger seemed to be keeping herself to herself and ignoring the people around her, most unusual in one so young she thought.
‘Thank you I’m fine, and I have been to Paris before thank you very much’ she replied in fluent French.
‘Hah, you speak French very well. You will have a good time I am sure, especially with such handsome young men as these around’ she said nodding in their direction.
‘I doubt they would know how to treat any female properly, unlike men in your country’ she sniffed.
‘I see, a woman of experience but I think this one would be worth a little help in that direction don’t you think?’
Catherine glanced across at Timmy who seemed to be ignoring the conversation, not that he would understand a word they were saying she thought ‘I very much doubt it’ she said shaking her head.
The stewardess returned to her station at the front of the plane.
Timmy wanted a toilet brake but as he was passing he smiled at the hostess ‘if all the women are as beautiful as you in Paris then I will look forward to increasing my experience’ he said in French then grinning at the shocked look on her face.
HOTEL - NEAR PARIS
The first two days of the visit was taken up visiting schools and local museums. The French students were welcoming and friendly.
Timmy didn’t see Catherine again for over three days but when he did she still had that sad look about her. Her fluent French had not gone down well with her classmates who saw her as snobbish and conceited. She had therefore kept to herself.
The fourth day was a rest day. The hotel sported an outdoor swimming pool and as the afternoon was hot and sticky no encouragement was needed to strip off and dive in.
‘Timothy are you enjoying yourself?’ asked Daniel.
‘You bet sir this is brilliant’ he beamed happily.
‘Well, I couldn’t say anything earlier but I have tickets for a theatre in Paris. Do you want to go and see Les Miserables being performed on stage?’
‘Are you serious of course I do’ he laughed.
‘Then we leave at 7pm ok?’
Timmy had an idea ‘sir how many tickets do you have?’
‘Just two but I can order more if any of the others wish to go?’
‘Can you give me a minute’ he said slipping on his t shirt.
Catherine was sat by herself seeming oblivious to the others but inside she was hurting. Her friends had deserted her and she felt alone, something she would never admit to.
Timmy approached and sat down beside her. He didn’t want the rest of the students to hear what he was about to say so he spoke in French ‘Mr. Stretch has tickets to the theatre tonight to see Les Misrables and I thought you might like to join us. The play will certainly match your mood, maybe we could even borrow the guillotine to chop off some of your friend’s heads?’
At first she was shocked to hear his fluent French then his quip about her friends sank in, she burst out laughing much to the stares of those around her ‘I would love to join you, and thanks’
The play was everything Timmy imagined. Catherine caught his happy mood and started to enjoy herself as well. At the interval the three bought drinks and wandered around the room looking at the pictures and paintings on the walls of the theatre.
One poster carried a picture of the actors, Timmy examined it closely ‘that’s the scene where they sing Master of the House!’ he said then couldn’t stop himself;
‘My band of soaks, my den of dissolute.
My dirty jokes, my always pissed as newts.
My sons of whores spend their lives in my inn.
Homing pigeons homing in.
They fly through my doors.
And they crawl out on all fours’
Catherine was enchanted ‘more, more’ she cried in encouragement.
‘What’s all this, has one of my actors escaped the stage and is performing in private. Hah, no! It seems we have a budding thespian in our mist?’ the man cried theatrically.
Timmy looked a little sheepish ‘sorry sir I just got carried away’ he said in apology.
‘Do not apologise young man that was better performed than a few so called singers I know, what is your name young sir?’
‘Timmy, sorry Timothy Steele’
‘My young student has a passion for the play sir, as you can tell. My name is Daniel and these young people are students on an exchange visit’
‘If you are his teacher sir then I commend you, the young man has talent, would he be interested in an audition?’
Timmy was just about to jump in when Daniel stopped him ‘sorry that is not possible, that would be up to his parent to decide but thank you’
‘A pity but here is my card, you are English?’
‘Then here is another card do you have a pen?’ he asked.
Daniel passed one over and he scribbled on the back of the card ‘if you give this to the person named on the card I will guarantee he will agree to an audience, enjoy the rest of the play’ he said bowing and walking away.
Daniel read the name on the first card ‘wow, that was the Director of the theatre would you believe?’
It was getting late by the time they returned to the hotel. Daniel bid them goodnight and went to bed. Timmy escorted Catherine to her room and said goodnight.
‘Aren’t you forgetting something?’ she asked as he turned to go.
‘Sorry what’s that?’
Catherine walked forward and kissed him on the mouth ‘goodnight!’ she said closing the door.
It was a good 5 minutes before Timmy remembered how to walk.
The rest of the Paris trip went in a blur for Timmy, before he knew it he was landing back in London.
‘How was it in Paris?’ his mother asked hugging him.
‘Pretty cool actually, we even went to the theatre to see Les Miserables. We met the Director of the theatre would you believe, he wanted me to audition’ he said proudly.
‘Really how did that happen?’ she asked wanting to know more.
‘I just started singing and he came over, Catherine was well impressed’
‘Oh, she went as well didn’t I say that’ he said blushing slightly.
‘I see. Nice girl is she?’ she asked innocently.
‘She’s ok, her friends were really bitchy to her though’ he said.
‘And you stepped in and befriended her. That was nice, will you be seeing her again?’
‘Probably not, she’s in the upper school. Her parents were the two teachers who were supposed to be going to Paris’.
‘I see, that must have been awkward for her’
‘I guess it was a bit, she speaks good French by the way. Well I’m off to bed good night Mum see in the morning’ he said finishing the sentence off in French.
Sarah sighed ‘what is it about Paris?’ she asked herself.
After the Paris trip there were no more lessons with Timothy, Daniel having decided he wasn’t going to teach the young man anything new ‘your French is better than mine Timothy, but I would like to follow up on that offer from the director of the Theatre if your Mum agrees?’
‘She asked me to tell you it was ok to call next week if you want?’
‘Ask her if Monday is ok, will you?’ he told him trying not to sound too enthusiastic.
For Daniel Monday seemed to take a long time to come around but when it did he was suddenly nervous ‘Oh get a grip Daniel, your imagination is in over drive’ he scolded himself.
‘Hello Daniel please come in, I have prepared a meal for the three of us. I hope you like French cooking maybe not as good as Paris though’
The meal was quite simply incredible ‘where did you learn to cook like that?’ he asked trying to finish the desert manfully ‘I should have brought a better wine to compliment all this’
‘The Bordeaux was a good choice and not from the local supermarket I’m guessing’ she said looking at the label on the bottle.
‘No I got it from my father’s wine cellar’
‘Mum can I go and finish my homework it has to be in tomorrow?’ Timmy yawned.
‘Of course darling say goodnight to Daniel’
Sarah cleared the plates away and returned to her guest ‘you have done an incredible job with my son, Daniel. It concerned me for a long time about not having a father figure around’
‘You’ve done a great job in bringing Timothy up on your own, but may I ask why?’
‘What do you mean’ she enquired.
‘Come on Sarah, you are a very attractive women, intelligent and a dam fine cook, what more could a man ask for?’
‘I could say the same about you Daniel. Good looking, intelligent and a gentleman, in fact I sense there’s more to you than you let on. Your fathers cellar for example?’
He hadn’t meant to let that out but now he had an explanation was called for ‘my family own an estate in Kent, Sir Robert as his Tenants call him is my father. The wine cellar really is extensive maybe you would like to see it?’ he asked.
‘Daniel are you asking me out on a date, a bit early to be introduced to the parents isn’t it?’
‘I’ve just realized you are a terrible tease Sarah, but yes I am asking you out on a date!’
‘In that case I would be delighted to accept’
At the top of the stairs a young man just exclaimed ‘YES!’
The couple continued to discuss Timmy’s future. It was decided the opportunity to be introduced to one of the leading theatre directors in London was too good to miss and plans were made to follow it up.
Daniel left giving his host a polite kiss on the cheek, anything more passionate and he would have had trouble controlling himself.
Sarah appreciated the gesture and decided this man needed further attention.
THE ESTATE IN KENT.
‘My father cringes every time I drive this old Citroen up the drive’ he laughed.
‘Is that why you do it?’ Sarah asked.
‘I suppose it is. I see I’m going to have to be careful around you aren’t I?’
‘Bloody hell is this all yours?’ asked the young man in the back of the car.
‘Timmy behave yourself and watch that mouth young man’ she scolded.
‘Sorry mum but look at the size of the place’
It really was impressive she had to agree. It wasn’t the first time she had visited a large mansion. The father of her child unbeknown to him had a Chateau and vineyard covering a small portion of Southern France.
Daniel’s parents were charming and friendly, Sir Robert insisted on showing his guests the whole house including the large wine cellar.
‘I’ve seen a few cellars in France Sir Robert, but this is most impressive’ She said complimenting him and walking around and examining bottles ‘this is a Chateau Mouton- Rothschild isn’t it?’
‘You really do know your wines young lady. That is correct, shall we try it?’
‘Oh good heavens no it must be worth a fortune?’
‘But it’s only a bottle of wine at the end of the day’
‘Please no, save it for a special occasion’
‘But this is a special occasion’
‘Sorry I don’t understand?’
‘You really don’t do you. This is the first time since my daughter-in-laws death that my son has brought a guest here?’
Sarah couldn’t speak for a moment. That news had come as a shock ‘I’m sorry Sir Robert I didn’t know Daniel had been married’
‘He doesn’t talk about it I know, mores the pity. She was a wonderful young woman, full of life. The riding accident was just that, or so we thought, until she started getting dizzy spells all the time, before we knew it she was in hospital fighting for her life, a brain haemorrhage the Doctors told us. She died a few days later. Daniel went to pieces for a while but then decided to finish his degree. He has a Doctorate you know’
Sarah was beginning to think she didn’t know anything just now.
‘Let’s join the others shall we?’ she finally said.
It was late evening before they called it a day. Timmy was fast asleep in the back of the car before they left the estate. Playing catch the ball with two Great Danes had completely worn him out.
‘You should have told me Daniel’ Sarah told him sternly.
‘Don’t play games it doesn’t suit you’ she told him ‘she sounded a really nice person’.
‘I’m sorry it really wasn’t intentional, it just never came up. We haven’t really got to know each other yet have we?’
‘I guess not. Your parents love you to bits don’t they?’
‘I guess they do, speaking of which tell me your story, about your parents, are they still alive?’
‘Is that it, just no?’
‘They died in a car crash when I was 10, my sister brought me up, educated me and took over as a parent. Father was French my mother English’
‘No I’m sorry for scolding you. I should know how hard it is to remember loved ones when they die in tragic circumstances’.
‘What about Timmy’s father is he still around?’
Sarah laughed ‘you called him Timmy he’ll like that’
‘Yes he is but I don’t have any contact with him, his parents saw to that. One day I will explain it all to him he deserves that’
‘It seems we both have a lot of skeletons still in the cupboard Sarah, but if we have any chance of getting to know each other we have to bring them out into the open, assuming you want to?’
She considered that for a moment. There had been friends in the past but none she could really get close too, maybe it was time to move on ‘yes I would like that’
LONDON – 1 YEAR LATER
Sarah tried not to fidget but it was hard not to keep glancing backwards at the audience as they started taking their seats. The young lady beside her was doing the same. They glanced at each other and giggled like old friends which in some ways they had become.
Daniel had followed up on his promise and had contacted the name on the card the Paris Director had given him. It was almost like a magic key. The London Director had immediately granted Timmy an audition.
He and Sarah had taken Timmy to London for the day.
They pretended not to be nervous for his sake but it didn’t work and besides Timmy was too excited anyway. The audition had lasted over three hours, finally they emerged.
‘I would like to offer this remarkable young man a position in my Academy. It will include accommodation and of course teachers to continue his education. A mentor or chaperone would be appointed to look after him, but of course you may visit whenever you wish, shall we say beginning next week?’ the Director had announced casually.
That was it.
Timmy moved out the next week, and three weeks later Daniel moved in, after proposing of course. The wedding was at a London Registry Office two months later.
The young lady beside her was invited at the last minute.
Catherine had made enquiries at the school only to find her Knight in shining armour had left. She handed a letter to Daniel ‘please make sure Timmy gets this letter, it’s a thank you for what he did in Paris’
Timmy had written back straight away, the letters went backwards and forwards right up to the day of the wedding.
The Bride and Groom, family and friends where all waiting all in the reception area. Timmy kept sitting and standing and watching the door.
‘I think he is a bit nervous about giving the bride away?’ Daniel said.
‘Oh, I don’t think that’s the reason, look who’s just walked in?’
Catherine entered the room a little unsure what to do. She noticed Timmy and broke into a smile.
Timmy strode over, swept her in his arms and gave her the most passionate of kisses, totally oblivious to the hoots of the guests.
Daniel, Sarah and Catherine had visited Timmy as much as possible, even being allowed into the theatre for rehearsals.
The Director had approached them one day ‘Timmy is doing incredibly well and between you and me is earmarked for a role when we reopen. The young man is a natural for sure but it’s when he’s in front of an audience that he really shines. A most rare gift I assure you’
The Director had been true to his word.
It was opening night, the lights dimmed and the audience became silent.
And the play.
Do you really need to ask?