It could have been worse – much worse.
I even laughed, in amusement and relief, when Ian and Stan finally stopped going around the Wrekin and told me who it was.
After all, it might well have been Rufus the Doofus. Maybe somewhere, back in his distant past, his stage mother had crammed some piano lessons down his throat.
It might well have been Silla, attempting to cozy up to us, in the absence of Rufus and Quentin.
It might’ve been Tiny –
Instead, to my comparative relief, it was Jenny Yao.
Back in Hong Kong, she’d had years of piano lessons. They’d been rigorous, almost by rote. She’d stopped shortly before she came to the U.K., perhaps sensing the lessons were in the process of killing what little love she still had for music.
But Stan and I hadn’t parted with Jenny on the best of terms; now, we’d have to eat some crow. I did laugh a bit to myself – since Stan was also involved, perhaps we’d end up eating crow curry or crow vindaloo.
School was out for Holy Week, which gave us all a great deal more time together, but it also meant that Stan and I wouldn’t have school pressures to fall back on as an excuse for any kind of lame apology to Jenny.
We’d one chance to get it right. Stan was confident, but I’d doubts that he and I were up to the task.
Before I went downstairs to join Stan and Rashmi for our Sunday night session with Radio Luxembourg, I laid out the outfit I’d worn for Auntie Gene’s birthday, substituting the mock turtleneck for the necktie. The dry-cleaners wouldn’t pick up until Tuesday; if I slipped out quietly Monday morning, I’d get away with wearing it one more time.
The onyx cufflinks might give me a clue to Jenny’s thoughts; let me know if I was messing up before I was past the point of no return.
I also laid out Gramfer’s guitar – I might not need its magic, but better safe than sorry.
* * *
Ian, the Tippins’ driver and the Bentley were waiting for Stan and me next morning. Mum and Dad had both already left, and it was easy enough to slip unnoticed out the front door, with scarcely more than an offhand “g’bye” to Cressida, still in the kitchen. I threw the guitar in the boot, piled in the back with Ian and Stan, and we took off for a planned trip to The Diskery.
After my last splurging there, I doubted I’d be allowed to purchase new disks before Christmas, but it would be a great place to think about what I was going to say to Jenny, as I watched Ian and Stan shop (and possibly go on a bender). I’d begun, even at this stage, to see record shops as a kind of refuge from the world.
But, their shopping was interrupted by a flood of teenagers, mostly girls, who’d recognized Ian from his “onstage” appearance with Linda Faye and were making quite a fuss over him. Ian looked embarrassed, even nonplussed, but glowed almost as much as he had after his encounter with Linda Faye herself.
Stan turned promoter, produced a fountain pen, got everyone to line up for Ian to sign autographs and directed traffic as everyone in line gushed over Ian. – a few girls going so far as to kiss him (mostly on the forehead or cheek – but not always).
I grew amused, wondering what Jenny would make of the whole affair if we didn’t get a chance to clean the lipstick off Ian’s face first. There’d be no living with him after this in any event – of that, I was certain.
It seemed to have opposite effect – at least temporarily – from how he’d felt in the aftermath of his seizure.
Eventually, the crowd thinned out. The Diskery, seeing what a crowd Ian had generated inside the shop, decided to “reward” him with a couple of free singles – peanuts compared to what they’d have paid a celebrity for producing a like crowd, but icing on the proverbial cake for Ian. We left, got Ian back to the Bentley and home, leaving it to the capable hands of Ian’s mum and the housekeeper to clean him up.
© 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.
The Bluebottle Boys (Volume One) and Walking Backward for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall are each now available from Amazon Books. The Bluebottle Boys (Volume Two) is expected to be available shortly. The next novel of the series, By Good Angels Tenanted, will be available later in 2018.