THEY clinked glasses as Kate looked happily at the grinning face of Johnny West.
“Congratulations,” he said. “You did jolly well. You are now officially a trouper, Miss Flynn, or should I call you Zara?”
“Oh, no. I’m Kate. Zara’s very useful, though. She’s a different person, who goes on stage and does things that Kate could never do. Seriously, Johnny, was I all right?”
“You were terrific,” he insisted. “Any pretty girl could do all the posing and walking round and so on, but that mentalist stuff needs a clever head on pretty shoulders.”
After the show Johnny had insisted on taking her to supper. She’d hardly eaten anything all day and suddenly felt ravenous. They’d got a cosy corner table in the Glass Slipper, a popular restaurant across the road from the theatre.
He’d bought a bottle of wine to celebrate not that Kate needed any alcohol as the adrenalin was still bubbling through her veins. She shrugged the shoulders Johnny had referred to.
“It was Nesbo who devised the code. He’s the clever one. All I had to do was learn it.”
“And remember it under terrific pressure.”
She looked at him.
“I was good, wasn’t I?” And they both collapsed in laughter.
“You’re quite right, though.” Johnny sipped his wine. “Nesbo is brilliant. He’s wasted here. He should be in America. That’s where the future is.”
“Oh, gosh, yes. Europe’s old,” Johnny said decisively. “The war did it, of course. But America’s young and booming. Everyone has a motor car. They have talkies now. Nesbo would be a star in vaudeville. And that’s what I want, too.”
“Really?” Kate could see the excitement in Johnny’s face.
“Wouldn’t you like to see America, Kate? The skyscrapers, the Grand Canyon, Broadway?”
“What would I do in America?”
“I know! You could sit on my knee instead of Salty Sam. I’d be a ventriloquist with a difference.”
They were both laughing when someone said, “I hope I’m not butting in?” They both looked up at the large figure of Lennie Douglas, the company’s comedian.
“Lennie!” Johnny said. “Come and join us.”
“I will. Just for a minute.” He took a chair from a nearby table and lowered his bulk into it. His battered boxer’s face smiled at Kate. “You did champion tonight. First time, and spot on.”
Kate glowed in the praise of a seasoned professional.
“Thank you, Lennie. That means a lot to me. Thank you.”
“Nesbo was pleased,” Lennie said. When he saw Kate’s raised eyebrows he chuckled. “Oh, I know he won’t show it, but he was, take it from me. But I won’t keep you long.”
He leaned across the table.
“You’ve perhaps heard about this chap who’s stealing my material? This cribber?” His face showed his worry. They both nodded. “Have you noticed anybody, Johnny?”
Johnny shook his head.
“Sorry, Lennie, no. But I’ll be looking.”
“And so will I,” Kate said. “Don’t worry, Lennie, I know Nesbo’s determined to catch him.”
Lennie’s big face broke into a smile.
“Well, I’ll not interrupt you youngsters any more.” He got to his feet. He winked at Kate and with a wave he ambled off.
As soon as he’d gone, Johnny said with a mischievous grin, “More wine, Miss Flynn?”
Kate put her hand over her glass.
“Certainly not, Mr West. The only person who’ll be sitting on your knee will be Salty Sam. I have my reputation to think of, sir.” They both laughed.
“As a magician’s apprentice?” he said.
“Yes, for the foreseeable future. While I’m waiting.”
“Waiting? For Prince Charming?”
“No, not that. Perhaps some day.”She hesitated, then said, “I’m waiting to be published. You see, I’m a writer. Well, I hope to be some day.” She looked down at the wine in her glass.
“Gosh! I knew you were clever. Can I read one of your stories?”
Kate smiled shyly.
“Perhaps some day. But now it’s time we were going.”
Johnny walked Kate to the front door of her digs. They stood and looked at each other for a moment. He placed his hands on her waist and pulled her gently towards him. She reached up and quickly kissed him on the cheek.
“Thank you, Johnny,” she said. “You’re a good friend.” He released her.
A moment later she had closed the front door and leaned against it for a moment. She was tired, happy and a little confused. This other girl, Zara, had appeared on stage, in the spotlight, been applauded, and Kate had been wined and dined by an amusing, attractive young man and had then turned away from romance. What was she waiting for? Rochester and Jane, Cathy and Heathcliff, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy? She thought of her friend Maggie at Woolworths. What would she have thought of her?