As the final notes died down to vigorous applause, Bethany waved to Grandad and then smiled at Ellis. She stepped down from the bandstand and ruffled Mitch’s silky head.
“Hi, Ellis. It’s great to see you.”
“I was taking Mitch for a walk when I heard the band playing in the distance,” he said with a smile. “So, of course, I had to come over to investigate. You were great, Bethany. I’m glad to see Ken has recognised that for once.”
“Thanks,” Bethany replied shyly. “But I only got to play first cornet because Jason has a sore throat.”
“Jason’s got a sore throat? Are you sure? I thought I saw him in . . . I must have been mistaken.” He shook his head as if he couldn’t believe what he had actually seen. “Anyway, you look great.”
“Fraternising with the enemy?” a sarcastic voice came from behind them.
Bethany turned to see Ken and Norman, the trombone player, behind her. They were scowling at Ellis.
“How are things at the Kemington Silver Band? Are you trying to poach more of our talent to boost your new mates?” Norman asked sarcastically.
“Don’t be silly,” Bethany protested.
“Bethany would do very well at Kemington,” Ellis said. “But I didn’t ask her. I know her loyalty is to her grandad’s band. It’s a pity you don’t reward her loyalty.”
A row was avoided as Grandad wandered up.
“She did all right, didn’t she?” he said loudly to everyone. “I was right proud of her. Hello, Ellis, lad. Come to check out the opposition, have you? You’ll find us more of a challenge these days, won’t he, folks?”
The others murmured their assent.
“Hello, Mr Douglas. I saw you sitting there but I didn’t want to ruin your concentration,” Ellis said with a smile. “Anyway, I’d better be going. See you, Bethany. You did great.”
Bethany watched him leave, Mitch glancing longingly back through his feathery tail.
“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” Norman commented.
“He was one of our best cornet players,” Grandad said pleasantly. “It’s a pity he left.”
“Yes, nurtured and trained in our band, and now ready to stab us in the back by joining Kemington Silver. Of all the bands to pick, he had to choose them,” Ken replied grimly.
Addersley Temperance and the silver band had been rivals for years, and Bethany knew all too well why Ellis MacElroy had left. Too many times Jason Cale had been chosen to play the solo over him. It wasn’t as if Ellis had been ambitious, as he’d confessed to her himself. He loved to play, but he’d also been fed up with being unappreciated. When Kemington had approached him, he’d thought long and hard before joining them. Only Bethany and her friend Rachel knew about his soul-searching.
“You want to be more careful with your friends,” Ken said before he walked away. “Don’t give him any hints about our programmes.”
“As if I would,” Bethany protested. “Anyway, he wouldn’t ask.”
“Take no notice of them,” Rachel, who had suddenly appeared beside her, said. “They need to grow up. The way to win competitions is to choose your best musicians, not the ones whose folks contribute most to band finances,” she added, referring to Jason Cale’s wealthy family, who ran a successful butcher’s business.
Bethany nodded in agreement.
“You played brilliantly today, Beth.”
“Thanks, I just wish . . .”
She wasn’t sure what she wished, but at least Grandad had been there to see her, even if none of the rest of her family were. She knew that the moment Jason arrived back on the scene she’d be relegated, as Ellis had been, and she might never play a solo again in public.
“Are we walking home?” she said, linking arms with Grandad. “Or would you rather catch the bus?”
“I’m not totally decrepit yet!” he protested. “I arrived early and found a space in the car park. Do you two want a lift?”
The girls smiled their thanks and followed him to his car an ancient Rover, old but beautifully polished.
Like Bethany, saddled with student debt, Rachel lived at home. She taught the reception class at a nearby primary school.
“Thanks, Mr Douglas,” she said as she reached home. “See you at practice, Beth.”
“Are you coming in, Grandad?” Bethany asked as they stopped outside her own home.
“Not today, pet,” her grandfather replied, shaking his head sadly.
She didn’t protest. It was such a pity that Grandad and her father didn’t always see eye to eye.