IT had seemed strange to Kate, being in a theatre on a gloomy winter’s afternoon. It seemed anything but glamorous backstage, with bare walls painted green along a corridor of numbered doors. Dressing-rooms, she supposed. Huge pieces of scenery jutted out here and there and, overhead, banks of lamps of different sizes and shapes were arranged in rows with pulleys and ropes and electric cables everywhere. It was cold.
“Enid!” Johnny called. “More lovely than ever. Why can’t I be ten years older?”
“You’d still be twenty years too young,” Enid said as they greeted each other with a kiss on each cheek.
“And this,” Johnny said, turning to Kate, “is Miss Kate Flynn, celebrated assistant to the Great Nesbo.”
“Hello, Miss Flynn.” Enid held out her hand. “I’m Enid Broom. Cyril, my husband, is the company’s manager but I arrange all the digs. I also play the piano for rehearsals and help out at band call. If you can’t find Cyril and want something, come and find me.”
“That’s very kind. Thank you.”
Enid Broom continued.
“The Jolly Good Company always have decent digs. They they are clean and comfortable and provide decent meals. Isn’t that right, Johnny?”
“I’ve put you with Delia and Sally,” Enid said, “so you won’t be on your own.” She looked round as someone came down the passage. “Here’s Delia now. I’ll leave Johnny to introduce you. I need to find Cyril before he has too many glasses of stout.”
Enid hurried off on her way to the Crown, exchanging greetings with the woman who’d just come in.
Kate thought she was lovely. She was quite tall, elegant with a good figure, perhaps in her mid-forties, but could easily pass for younger. She had a face, Kate thought, that would always be beautiful, with a perfect complexion and soft grey, rather sad, eyes. She smiled at Kate as Johnny made the introductions.
“So you’re going to work with Leo. Now don’t let him bully you,” she said.
“Oh, I’ll make sure of that,” Kate promised, returning her smile. “I’m tougher than I look.”
“Good for you,” Delia said. “Now, Johnny, dear, why don’t you get us a taxi. We can drop you and Salty Sam off at your digs then unload our bags at ours.”
“I’m the slave of two beautiful women.” Johnny bowed theatrically and went off to find a taxi.
Half an hour later Kate and Delia were settled in a warm little caf with tea and a tall tier of sandwiches on the table between them.
As Delia poured tea, she said, “Kate, you are a very brave girl, setting out on a venture completely new to you.”
“I don’t know about that,” Kate replied, thinking of her panic attack on the train. “I was desperate, I suppose.”
Delia paused, teapot in hand.
“Yes,” she said thoughtfully, “when you are young and desperate you do things you never thought you possibly could.” Her face clouded with an expression of great sadness, then it was gone. “I hope everything works out for you.”
“Thank you,” Kate said, accepting a cup of tea. “I believe you’re a singer, Miss Desmond . . . I mean Delia.”
“Love songs, traditional ballads, that kind of thing. I was trained for opera when I was a girl.” Her eyes suddenly looked past Kate and she waved. “Here’s Sally!” She waved across the room. “Sally does song and dance. She’s very good.”
Kate looked round and saw a smiling, attractive young woman coming towards them. Kate was fair, but Sally was a distinctive blonde with a fashionable cut.
Both young women looked at each other. Sally was pretty, tall and slim. She was smartly dressed in the short, straight tunic dress of the day. Her make-up was just right with a mere hint of rouge. Her bright red lipstick emphasised the cupid’s bow of her mouth. She was the epitome of the 1920s flapper. Kate sensed that Sally was weighing her up rather warily.
“Johnny West came up on the train with Kate and saw her safely delivered to us,” Delia said.
Sally arched an elegant eyebrow.
“Now, why doesn’t that surprise me? No doubt he was very charming and typically Johnny.” She smiled sweetly at Kate. “What do you do, Kate?”
“Kate is Nesbo’s new assistant.” Delia smiled at Kate.
“Ah,” Sally said. She seemed to relax a little and said in a more friendly tone, “Good luck with that. You’ll need it. I mean,” she went on, “Nesbo’s a nice enough man, but he’s a perfectionist and has a temper if anything goes wrong in the act.”
“Sally, that sounds just a bit like the pot calling the kettle black.”
Sally acknowledged the truth with a smile.
“Leo is hardest on himself. But he’s very fair,” Delia reassured Kate. “And he won’t let you set foot on the stage until he’s sure you’re ready.”
It was just a 10-minute walk to the large Victorian semi-detached house. Kate was relieved to find that it really was quite pleasant. She had to admit that it was better than what she had been used to at Aunt Norma’s.
She unpacked, undressed and was happy to slip between the sheets of the single bed. She took the top off her fountain pen and opened her journal.
She really should write about the day, about her thoughts and emotions more than the events, and about the people she had met. Foremost in her thoughts was the smiling face of Johnny West. She wondered if perhaps there was something between him and Sally.
It had been a very long day and very soon she put away her pen and her journal and was quickly asleep.