A Time to Mend – Chapter 23

Link to Chapter 22

The following Saturday evening I arrived home from having coffee with my brother at about eight-thirty. Emma was sitting in the living room by the fire with a book in her hand and a cup of tea at her elbow; she gave me a warm smile as I bent to kiss the top of her head. “How was your visit?” she asked.

“Pretty good; probably the best one we’ve had in years”.

“Yeah? How so?”

“Pretty honest”.

“Is he having a tough time?” she asked softly.

“Very tough”, I replied; “Hanging onto sobriety by the skin of his teeth”.

“I don’t think things are good between him and the rest of the family, Dad”.

I dropped down into the chair opposite her. “So he told me. Were you talking to Eric and Anna?”

“Yeah. Oh – Wendy called while you were out. Doesn’t she have your mobile number?”

I smiled; “Wendy hates mobile phones; she says they’ve made it socially acceptable to be rude. When did she call?”

“About half an hour ago. I told her you were out with Uncle Rick, and she asked if you could call her as soon as you got back”.

“Did she say what it was about?”

She grinned mischievously at me; “Does she still need to call you about something? I thought you two were well beyond that?”

“Smart ass!” I replied as I got to my feet and crossed the floor to the stairway. “I’ll make the call in my office”.

“I promise I won’t listen in!”

“Damn right you won’t!”

I took the stairs two at a time, went into my office and sat down at my desk. Books and papers from school were spread untidily across the desktop, and the computer monitor in the corner had a couple of sticky notes stuck to its screen. On the wall to my right were framed photographs of Kelly and Emma and our other family members and friends from Canada; on the bulletin board in front of me were some more recent pictures, including one I had taken of Wendy, Lisa, Colin and Emma at my parents’ home. I glanced at that photograph for a moment, then picked up the telephone and dialed Wendy’s number.

“Howards’ ”.

“Hi Wendy, it’s me; what’s up?”

“Tom – I wanted to tell you that I’ve had a phone call from Rees; apparently Mickey’s been injured in Iraq”.

“Badly injured?”

“The story is that he was travelling in a military convoy and a truck nearby hit a land mine. He was hit by flying metal in his arm and shoulder; he was wearing a flack jacket, but one piece of metal penetrated the jacket and stuck in his shoulder, and a few smaller pieces hit his arm”.

“Is he all right?”

“Apparently he’s in hospital at the British base in Basra right now, but he’s going to be shipped home some time next week”.

“But we don’t know for sure how serious it is?”

“Not really. Rees said it was Mickey’s parents who talked to him; they said Mickey had asked if Colin and Lisa could be told about what was happening”.

“How do you feel about that, Wendy?”

“Well, I know it’s the right thing, but I can’t help feeling anxious about it”.

“Is he going to want to see Colin?”

“Nothing’s been said, but I’ve got a sinking feeling that’s what’s on the horizon”.

“That would be a violation of the settlement, right?”

“Yes”.

“Could that be done legally?”

“I haven’t even begun to think about that; I suppose I should talk to my lawyer”.

“If you’re nervous about it, you definitely should”.

“I’m just afraid that if we agree to let Colin go to see him once, it could be the thin end of the wedge. But then I ask myself, how mean-spirited can I be? The man’s been injured, he’s probably feeling his own mortality; what could be more natural than for him to want to see his son?”

“Are you all right?”

“I’m a bit rattled at the moment, Tom, but I’ll be all right”.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure”.

“Okay”.

“Tom, there’s something else I wanted to ask you. Are you and Emma going to your own church tomorrow?”

“Yes, we are”.

“Would you mind if I came along?”

“Of course not. I’m surprised, though; I thought you were pretty firmly committed to Merton Chapel”.

“I am, but I’m curious, and this seems like a good time to satisfy my curiosity. What time do things start?”

“Ten-thirty”.

“And that’s at your school, isn’t it?”

“Yes, in the assembly hall”.

“Perhaps you and Emma would like to come for a light lunch at our house afterwards?”

“That’ll probably work, but we won’t be able to stay for too long; we’re going over to Aylesbury again to see Sarah in the afternoon”.

“Right then, I’ll get Lisa and Colin to throw something together while we’re at church, so we won’t have to wait too long. On another subject, we’re still going to the ‘Plough’ tomorrow night, aren’t we?”

“Yes – now, I wanted to talk to you about that. We’ll get our supper together there, but I think Emma and Becca might gatecrash our date later on, when the music starts; they want to hear me playing with Owen and the band. I’m sorry, Wendy; is that all right?”

“Well, they can sit on the other side of the room from us, can’t they?”

We both laughed, and then Wendy said, “Of course it’s all right, as long as we get our supper date. I’ve been looking forward to it”.

“Me too”.

“Well, I’d better go. See you in the morning, Tom”.

“Goodnight, Wendy”.

Since I had returned to England Owen and I had shared a few pints at the ‘Plough and Lantern’, and Emma and I had gone there on one occasion to listen to his band, the ‘Oxford Ferrymen’. The ‘Plough’ still held regular open stages on Friday nights, and I had been there a couple of times, on the rare occasions when we were not spending the first part of the weekend at my parents’ home. Bill Prentiss was still the landlord; his thick beard was now totally white, but he was still the same genial host as Wendy and I walked into the pub just after six o’clock the following evening. He came out from behind the bar and took Wendy’s hand; “Wendy Howard!” he exclaimed with a warm smile; “I would have recognised you anywhere; you haven’t changed a bit!”

“You’re very kind, Bill”, she replied, “but you’re obviously losing your eyesight with your advancing years!”

We all laughed, and Bill said, “Are you going to sing with the Ferrymen tonight?”

“Owen hasn’t asked me”.

“Well, you know Owen!”

“Yes, I’m afraid I do!”

“So you’re a professor now, I hear?”

“No, not a full professor – I’m only a lowly college tutor”.

“Ah well – all in good time. And Tom tells me you’ve had some books published, too”.

“Yes, I’ve been very lucky that way”.

“Well, I shouldn’t interrupt your supper together. Pick yourself any table you like, and I’ll bring you a menu in a minute. Would either of you like something from the bar to start off with?”

“Pint of bitter for me, please”, I replied.

“Wendy?”

“Cider, if you still have it on draught, Bill”.

“We certainly do; Strongbow all right?”

“That’ll be lovely, thank you”.

The pub was about half full; I put my guitar case up on the corner stage, and then Wendy and I made our way over to a small table in the corner by the fireplace and took our seats across from each other. She looked around at the familiar wood-beamed ceiling, the old prints on the walls, the polished black tables and traditional chairs; “This place hasn’t changed a bit, has it?”

“That’s one of the many reasons I like it”.

“Me too”.

Bill came over from the bar with our drinks, and two menus under his arm. Setting the drinks down on the table, he handed us each a menu; “Sally will be over in a minute to take your orders”, he said.

I scanned the menu briefly, and then glanced across at Wendy; she was wearing her hair loose, and she was dressed in jeans and a white fisherman’s sweater. She put her menu down and looked across at me; “Have you decided already?” she asked.

“I have. You’re looking very lovely tonight, Wendy”.

She gave me a shy smile; “Why, thank you, sir!” She took a sip of her cider and set the glass back down on the table. “How was your visit with Sarah?”

“It was fine. Alyson and the children were there, too; Emma’s gotten really close to Eric and Anna over the past few months”.

“I’m sure she’s been a big help to them”.

A young waitress appeared at our table with a cheerful smile; we ordered our meals, and she slipped away in the direction of the kitchen. Wendy sat back in her chair and said, “How was your visit with Rick last night?”

“Quite good. Not that I actually learned much I didn’t already know – I knew his preliminary hearing was looming, and I knew he was in A.A., and that he was finding sobriety a struggle. I don’t think I realized until this past week just how tense things are between him and the rest of the family”.

“The children too?”

“Well, Eric and Anna, anyway. For some reason Sarah doesn’t seem to share the general animosity toward him. But things are really strained between him and Alyson. Not that I blame her, of course; I’m sure if I was in her shoes I’d feel much the same”.

“So would I”.

“Still, I think he’s genuinely trying to turn his life around. The problem is, A.A. is taking up a lot of his time right now. He goes to meetings four or five evenings a week. Becca says that’s common with people who have been especially heavy drinkers; recovery almost has to be their full time job for a while. They have to spend a huge amount of time concentrating on not drinking, and they need all the support they can get. Rick’s not getting a lot of support from home, so he’s finding it at A.A.”.

“That doesn’t sound good”.

“Well, it’s not ideal, but in the long run it’s his only chance; if he wasn’t in A.A., he’d be drinking like a fish right now”.

“You’ve got a lot of sympathy for him, Tom”.

I shrugged; “I’ve learned a lot from Becca about how alcoholism works”.

“Mickey drank a lot in the last few years of our marriage; I’m afraid he’s had a rather negative effect on my sympathy for alcoholics”.

“I remember Mickey used to drink a lot even when we were up at university”.

“Yes, but I was used to that; he’d always been able to consume several pints of Guinness at a time without seeming to be affected by it. But it got a lot worse in later years; he often came home drunk, and he sometimes used drugs on the side, too”.

“So his drug habit never really went away?”

“It seemed to come and go over the years; I think he used a lot more when he was overseas on assignment”.

“No more word about him tonight?”

“No – not that I’ve tried to find out”.

“Are you all right?”

She nodded; “Thank you for asking, but I’m doing better tonight. The service at your church this morning helped”.

“Really? I’m surprised”.

“So am I, actually”, she said with a smile; “I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon, and the more I think about it, the more it grows on me”.

“I’m glad to hear it”.

“I’ve been trying to put my finger on exactly what it was that I found so supportive; I think it was probably just the general friendliness and warmth”.

I nodded; “We like that, too”.

“But it’s not like some small churches, where they’re friendly to each other but ignore strangers; they were very good about welcoming me”.

“I’m not so sure they’re always good at that; the fact that you were with Emma and me probably helped”.

“Of course”. She inclined her head a little and gave me a thoughtful frown. “I liked the actual service, too; I’ve been trying to work out why, when I’m so attached to traditional liturgical worship. I think it was because it was so different that I wasn’t really thinking of it as a church service at all – more as a group of Christian friends coming together to pray and sing and compare notes about living the Christian life”.

I smiled; “That’s a good way of putting it”.

“The sermon was very good, too. By the way, do Mennonite churches always have a discussion time after the sermon?”

“No; bigger congregations tend not to do it, although some of them will have an adult Sunday School class after the service, with a discussion of the pastor’s sermon. But it was certainly a very strong part of the Anabaptist tradition back in the sixteenth century – so I’m told by the real scholars”.

“Well, anyway, I enjoyed myself, and I’m very glad I went”.

“You’re welcome to come any time you like”.

She inclined her head a little and met my gaze; “I’ll probably do that from time to time, but you were right about my commitment to Merton Chapel”.

“I understand”.

“It’s not just the chapel itself and the style of worship; it’s the community, too”.

“You’ve got some good friends there”.

“I have. There’s Bev and David, of course, and Stephen, but also our organist, Jeremy Bayly, and Gwen Kirby, another one of our college tutors. The six of us are in the habit of going out for lunch together after Sunday morning chapel services, and we’ve become a pretty close group. I also go in early one or two mornings a week, so I can attend Matins at eight o’clock”.

“Your experience must have been very different from mine. When you came back to faith  and churchgoing, you were coming home to something you’d been brought up in. I didn’t have that when I became a Christian – it was all very new and different for me”.

“Well, there’s enough variety in Anglicanism that Merton Chapel was a little different for me, too. My Dad is fairly low church – on our terms that means a simpler liturgy, although it wouldn’t be simple on your terms! Merton Chapel’s a lot higher”.

“The parish church in Northwood leans in that direction, too”.

“Yes, of course”. She smiled at me apologetically. “I’m sorry, Tom; I keep thinking I have to explain all this to you, and of course you’ve got experience of the Church of England too”.

“I’ve read some things about it as well”.

“I didn’t know that”.

“Well, you can’t really read Austen and Eliot and Trollope without getting to know something about the Church of England, can you?”

She laughed; “I think things have changed a bit since those days!”

“I’m sure, but I’ve been reading up a bit about modern Anglicanism as well”.

“Oh?”

“Yeah; there’s actually a wealth of information available on the Internet if you know where to look”.

“Tom, I didn’t realize you’d been doing this”.

“Well, I wanted to try to understand what makes you tick, Wendy”.

She was suddenly quiet, looking back at me with a subtle smile on her face. We sat in silence for a moment, looking at each other, neither of us feeling the need to say anything, while the soft hum of conversation went on around us.

Eventually she spoke in a quiet voice; “Thank you; it means a lot to me that you would do that”.

“I suppose I could have asked you, but for some reason I felt a little embarrassed about that; I don’t really know why”.

“No, I understand; I’ve felt shy about asking you about your Mennonite beliefs, too. My faith’s very deep and personal to me, and – well, to be frank, I’ve been afraid of finding some hugely important difference that might threaten…” Her voice trailed off, and she looked down at the table.

“Some hugely important difference that might threaten what’s happening between you and me, you mean?”

She nodded, looking up at me again.

“What is actually happening between us, Wendy?” I asked quietly.

She shook her head slowly; “I’m not sure”, she replied softly, “but I know that I like it”.

“So do I”.

She reached over and put her hand on mine, and we sat in silence again for a moment, looking at each other, neither of us needing to tell the other what we were feeling. We were still sitting like that when Sally the waitress appeared at our side again, a tray of food in her hand. “Oops – bad timing!” she exclaimed with an embarrassed grin.

We both laughed, withdrawing our hands and making room as she put the plates down on the table in front of us. “Are your drinks alright?” she asked.

“Fine, thank you”, I replied.

“Good – just give me a wave if you need anything; otherwise I’ll leave you two alone”.

She went across to a table where an older couple had just taken their places, giving them the same cheery greeting she had given us. Wendy and I ate in silence for a few minutes; I was almost afraid to speak, knowing the significance of what had just passed between us. Eventually she looked across at me and said, “Tom, can I ask a favour of you?”

“Of course”.

“Some Sunday in the not too distant future, will you come to Merton Chapel with me?”

“Of course I will”.

“It wouldn’t be too fussy and ritualistic for you?”

I shook my head; “I’m used to it, since I go to church in Northwood at least once a month. I’ll be glad to come with you”.

Once again she reached out and put her hand on mine; “Thanks, Tom”, she said quietly.

“Not at all; I’d been planning on asking you about coming over some time anyway”.

“Continuing your research project?”

I smiled; “I suppose – but not just about Anglicanism. I’d like to meet your friends and get to know them a little better”.

Again we lapsed into silence, eating our food and listening to the quiet folk music playing in the background. Eventually she said, “How are your family in Canada, Tom?”

“I think you might get to meet some of them this summer, actually”.

“Oh?”

“Yeah; Joe and Ellie have been talking about coming for a visit in early July, and hopefully Jake and Jenna too. They’re trying to talk Kelly’s parents into coming with them; Will and Sally have never been to England before, so if they come we’re hoping to be able to do some travelling with them. But of course, a lot of it will depend on how things are with Dad”.

“What does Becca say about that?”

“Her usual pronouncement is that it’s notoriously difficult to make pronouncements!” We both smiled, and I continued, “There are days when I think he’ll last for a year yet, and there are other days when he looks so ill that I’m sure he won’t make it to the summer”.

“How are you managing?”

“Actually, for the first time in my life, I’m starting to like him”.

“It must be very hard, Tom”.

I was surprised to find myself suddenly unable to speak; I looked down for a moment, struggling to control my emotions, and once again I felt the touch of her hand on mine.

Eventually I looked up at her; “Thanks”, I said. “It is hard, but it’s good, too. Dad and I have been able to work through a lot of our differences; that’s been the great benefit of actually moving back here and having lots of time together”. I smiled at her; “And then, of course, there’s this totally unexpected fringe benefit”.

“And what would that be?” she replied with a mischievous grin.

I took a deep breath, looked at her, and said, “Finding love again”.

She caught her breath and held my gaze for a moment, a sudden stillness on her face. “Yes”, she said softly; “That’s been a surprise. I don’t think I ever expected to find myself in love with someone again”.

“I know I didn’t; I didn’t think I’d ever get over Kelly”.

She squeezed my hand; “I don’t want you to forget her, Tom”.

“No danger of that; all I have to do is look at Emma”.

We both smiled, and she said, “Emma’s always been so friendly and welcoming to me, but I know it must be difficult for her to come to terms with the fact that you might come to love someone else”.

“I think she’s struggling a little, but not as much as I’d expected”. I told her about the conversation between Emma and me in the garden at my parents’ house. “The important thing is, she really likes you”, I concluded, “but she’s an only child, and her mom was an enormous influence on her. I’m trying to let her know that if she’s got conflicting emotions, she can talk about them with me, and it won’t threaten our relationship”.

“So what does that mean for you and me?”

“Just that we try to keep her in the loop as much as possible. I told her that we were going on this date, and she knows the way things are developing between us. She and I are used to talking about pretty well everything, so I guess I need to know if you’re okay with that”.

She nodded slowly. “I am”, she replied; “I envy you, actually”.

“Of course, I know that before too long she’s going to be moving out and making her way in the world, and at the moment I’d say it’s a toss up whether that way will be here in England or back in Canada”.

“Back in Canada?”

“Well, her emotional ties with home are still very strong. I’m sure she feels torn; she loves her cousins here, especially Sarah, and now she’s found a sister she never knew she had. But Jake and Jenna have been like brother and sister to her ever since she was a little girl, Wendy; she’s always going to feel that a piece of her is back in Meadowvale”.

“I’d like to visit Meadowvale some day; you always speak so warmly about it. Will you take me there?”

“Of course I will”, I replied; “although I must admit I have a secret fear you’ll be disappointed”.

“Why would I be disappointed?”

“The prairies are an acquired taste; a lot of people who go there for the first time can’t see anything but the fact that the land is flat for hundreds of miles, and that the trees are few and far between”.

“But you learned to love it”.

“I did. Mind you, I probably learned to love the people before the scenery; that took longer to grow on me”.

“I’m sure I’ll be fine”.

“Of course, if we time it right, we could take a trip to Jasper too, and do some camping and hiking in the mountains”.

“I’d love that; why is timing an issue?”

“Because at this time of year there’s still snow on the ground, and it lasts quite late in Jasper; some of the best trails aren’t snow-free until late May”.

“Right – I should have thought of that”.

“A lot will depend on how my Dad’s doing, of course”.

“I understand that, Tom; I know that as long as he’s alive, you’re going to want to be here”.

Owen and Lorraine arrived at the pub around seven-thirty; they came across to our table and chatted with us for a few minutes, and then Owen went over to the little stage to begin setting up the microphones and the sound system. One by one the other members of the ‘Oxford Ferrymen’ arrived, and at about ten to eight I saw Becca and Emma coming into the pub; I was surprised to see Lisa with them. “Look who’s here”, I said to Wendy.

“Lisa! I didn’t know she was coming tonight!”

“Looks like a plot of Emma’s; she’s good at this sort of thing”.

Emma had seen us; she gave me a cheery wave and made her way over to where we were sitting, followed by Lisa and Becca. She leaned over and kissed the top of my head; “I brought an extra groupie!” she said.

“So I see”.

“May we join you?”

“Of course; grab a few chairs. Actually, I need to go and tune up with those guys on the stage”.

“Okay”.

I smiled at Lisa; “You’re brave, joining all these folkies tonight!”

“I thought I’d stretch my boundaries a bit”.

“When did you and Emma cook up this plot?”

“After you picked Mum up, actually; she rang me a few minutes later to ask if I was doing anything tonight”.

“Excellent. Right – I’ll go and tune my guitar”.

The Oxford Ferrymen took the stage just after eight o’clock. They were a four-piece band who had been playing Celtic-flavoured music together for about eight years. Irishman Fergus McBride played guitar and sang, American Lewis Willimon played guitar, resonator guitar, fiddle, and banjo, Dan Pargeter (who had been in a previous band of Owen’s) played upright bass, and Owen himself sang and played guitar and cittern. I had met with them a few times to rehearse over the past few weeks; I had learned a few of their tunes, and they in their turn had practiced some of the material Owen and I had played in the days of ‘Lincoln Green’. I had a sneaking suspicion that Owen was going to invite Wendy to sing with us at some point in the evening; many of the pieces he had chosen from our old repertoire were songs on which she had shone in our old days together.

The pub was full by now, and as Bill Prentiss stepped up to the stage to introduce us I had a strong sense of déjà vu; all I had to do was close my eyes and I could have been back in the spring of 1982, with Owen and Wendy and I sharing this same stage. Bill greeted the crowd in the bar room, waited for a moment for the hum of conversation to die down, and then said, “The Oxford Ferrymen don’t need any introduction from me; they’ve been playing here for years, and I know you all enjoy them. But tonight they’ve got an old friend with them; those of you who come out to the open stages on Friday nights might have caught him a couple of times. Tom Masefield’s an old musical partner of Owen Foster’s; when they were university lads together they used to play on this stage, with a pretty young woman with an amazing voice by the name of Wendy Howard. That young woman is sitting at the back of the room tonight, and who knows? Maybe we’ll tempt you up onto the stage before the evening’s out, eh, Wendy?”

I saw Wendy shaking her head with a smile. “No?” said Bill; “Ah well – we’ll see what happens. Anyway, please welcome the Oxford Ferrymen!”

Bill stepped down from the stage as the people clapped and whistled. Lewis Willimon put his fiddle to his shoulder, Fergus played a single chord on his guitar, and we went right into the old Scottish tune ‘Johnny Cope’, which Owen and I had heard Wendy sing the first night we had met her in this pub. In the Ferrymen’s version, however, Fergus McBride sang the lyrics in a broad Irish accent, and the combination of fiddle and bass gave the song added depth and power; it became a rousing melody, which had everyone in the pub clapping their hands and stamping their feet. We finished to loud applause, but the band hardly skipped a beat before they went right into a traditional Irish melody.

We sang the Ferrymen’s Celtic-style music for about fifty minutes, and then took a short break. When we returned for the second set, the rest of the band stepped back and played a subtle supporting role as Owen and I took centre stage. We played our old arrangement of ‘Lord Franklin’, and then moved into ‘Scarborough Fair’, ‘Polly on the Shore’, and an instrumental version of ‘A Blacksmith Courted Me’, on which Lewis Willimon’s fiddle added an extra layer to a tune I had often played myself on solo guitar.

Then, as I had expected, Owen stepped forward to the microphone and smiled at Wendy, who was still sitting at the back of the room with Lorraine, Becca, Emma and Lisa. “As Bill said earlier on, we’ve got an old friend here with us tonight, sitting over there in the corner. It was the autumn of 1980 when Tom and I first met Wendy Howard here at the ‘Plough’; we heard her sing, and we were brave enough to ask her to join us on stage a bit later on and sing a couple of songs with her. Eventually the three of us formed a little band that we used to call ‘Lincoln Green’. Now, Wendy’s a bit shy tonight, so she might need a bit of encouragement, but I can promise you all that she’s still got a beautiful voice, so perhaps if you all encourage her, she might be persuaded to come up here and join us for a couple of songs”.

The people immediately began to clap and cheer, some of them turning to look at the place where Wendy was sitting beside Emma, the embarrassment plain on her face. She shook her head reproachfully at Owen, but as the applause continued I saw her shrug, get to her feet, and make her way between the tables to the stage. As she got up beside us she gave Owen a playful clip on the ear; “Owen Foster”, she said, “after twenty-three years, you’re still out of your tiny little mind!”

He grinned at her mischievously. “The boys have practiced ‘I Wonder What is Keeping My True Love This Night’”, he said.

“You know how to make a girl cry, don’t you?” she said softly. Stepping up to the microphone, she smiled shyly at the people, and said, “Later on tonight there’s going to be a murder in the car park!”

Everyone laughed, and then Owen began to play the guitar part. Wendy closed her eyes, put her head back a little, and began to sing:

“I wonder what is keeping my true love this night;
I wonder what is keeping him out of my sight.
I wonder if he knows of the pain I endure,
And yet he stays from me this night, I’m not sure”.

I leaned into my microphone and joined her with a low harmony:

“Oh love, are you coming your cause to advance,
Or yet are you waiting for a far better chance?
Are you coming for to tell me you’ve a new love in store?
Are you coming for to tell me you love me no more?”

And so we sang the song together, with Lewis Willimon playing the instrumental breaks on his resonator guitar. For the last verse the other instruments stopped playing, and Owen alone accompanied Wendy as she sang the words by herself:

“The spring grass grows greenest, and spring water runs clear;
I’m sorry and tormented for the love of my dear
Your love it lies so lightly, like the dew on the thorn,
That’s here in the evening, and away with the dawn”.

She stepped back from the microphone, a ghost of a smile on her face, as the applause began. Owen beamed out at the people; “Wendy Howard!” he cried. “Would you like her to do another one?”

The crowd roared their approval, and Owen turned to Wendy and me. “How about ‘The Snow it Melts the Soonest’?” he asked.

Wendy sang with us for half an hour before Owen would let her off the stage; as she made her way back between the tables, the people in the pub gave her a standing ovation, and I knew her well enough to know that, despite her shyness, she was pleased. I smiled at Owen as the applause continued; “Nicely done, mate”, I said.

“Yes, but she doesn’t need the boys and me, you know”.

“What do you mean?”

“Too many instruments; we crowd out her voice too much. You and Wendy by yourselves, now – that would be perfect”.

I stared at him, opening my mouth to respond, but by then he was stepping up to the mike to announce the next song.

The Ferrymen played until just after ten o’clock, and then they all crowded in around our table at the back of the pub for a last drink before everyone went home. The mood was jubilant; the music had been a success, and everyone knew that Wendy’s singing had added something very special to the evening. A number of complete strangers came over to our table to thank her before they left, while Owen watched, a satisfied smile on his face.

“Well”, he said to her at last, “Did you enjoy yourself?”

“I did, you scoundrel!”

We all laughed, and then he said, “Mind you, as I was saying to Tom earlier on, the Ferrymen are a bit much for you. Your voice is still too good, Wendy; you don’t need all these backing instruments. You and Tom, now – that would be perfect; one guitar and two voices. That would be worth hearing”.

She glanced at me, her face flushing a little; Owen saw her expression, and I knew immediately that he understood what it meant. He gave me a knowing grin, got to his feet, and said, “Well, Monday morning comes early; Mrs. Foster, are you ready to roll?”

“I am, Mr. Foster!” Lorraine replied with a smile.

Emma and I gave Wendy and Lisa a ride home through the quiet streets, with the girls sharing the back seat of my car. I pulled into the short driveway outside their house, and as Lisa got out Wendy leaned over to me, kissed me on the cheek, and held her face to mine for a moment. “Ring me, Tom”, she whispered.

“I will”.

“I’d like to see you again this week”.

“I’d like that too. I’ll call you tomorrow”.

“Right”.

I watched as she got out of the car; at the front door of the house she turned and gave us a wave as Emma slipped into the seat beside me. We waved in return, and then I backed the car onto the road, turned the corner and headed up towards Marston.

Link to Chapter 24

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Published by

Tim Chesterton

Family man; pastor of St. Margaret's Anglican Church on Ellerslie Road, Edmonton; storyteller; traditional folk musician and occasional songwriter. Email me at timchesterton at outlook dot com.

3 thoughts on “A Time to Mend – Chapter 23”

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