All through that endless evening Bethany could not concentrate. As they travelled from village to village, untouched by the gaiety and air of carnival around her, her playing was barely adequate. She tried hard to do her grandfather’s coaching justice but she was so worried about him.
The tang of barbecues and fried onions in the air, the fairy lights sparkling in the trees as the evening fell, the milling enthusiastic crowds and, above all, the soaring music failed to enchant her as it usually did.
Once she’d received a reassuring text from Des to say that Len was stable and that her parents were with him she settled a little, but still could not concentrate.
The upset had disturbed the rest of the players, too. At Dobcross village Ellis came hurrying up to her and grabbed her hand.
“I’ve just heard about Len. Any news?”
“He’s in hospital but he’s stable,” Bethany explained, smiling gratefully at his concern. She knew Ellis had great respect for Len and the old man had been a mentor to him.
“You’ll let me know, won’t you?” Ellis asked anxiously. “I’d better go. We’re on in a minute.”
He squeezed her hand and for a moment she wished he would not let it go.
“Traitor,” someone murmured as he left to play for their rivals.
“I reckon it was Len who suggested he went to Kemington Silver,” another grumbled.
So that’s why some of the players were so offhand with her grandfather, Bethany thought. Did Ken think so, too? Was that why he seemed very cool with Grandad?
She wondered if they were right. Perhaps when all this was over she would ask her grandfather.
* * * *
Her home was quiet when she finally arrived back later. Some of the band had insisted they needed a drink after their last venue and they’d piled into a nearby pub. It had been packed and she’d only half listened as the rival bands swapped news and picked over their performances. Her parents were already in bed.
“I’m still awake,” a quiet voice said from Mizzy’s room.
Bethany tiptoed in.
“How’s Grandad?” Mizzy whispered.
“He’s fine, but they’re keeping him in for observation,” her sister told her.
“Dad’s really mad at you.”
“So what’s new?” Bethany sighed.
“He thinks you should have gone with Grandad to the hospital.”
“I did try, but the ambulance drove off pretty quick,” Bethany explained.
“Mum and Dad want Grandad to come and stay here for a few weeks,” Mizzy informed her sister.
“That sounds sensible.” Bethany nodded. “We could share my bedroom as it’s bigger than yours.”
“I don’t fancy that. You boss me around enough as it is!”
“Oh, come on,” Bethany coaxed. “We’ll manage. It’ll be for Grandad’s sake. I promise not to boss you about too much.”
She gave her sister a kiss on the forehead something she hadn’t done in a long time.
Next morning her father made his annoyance known throughout the morning.
“Don’t worry, pet,” her mother told her privately. “He’s only hard on you because he’s worried about Len. I know you did your best.”
Bethany was by Len’s bedside the moment hospital visiting hours began the next afternoon, her anxious tears wetting his cheek and pillow.
“I was so worried, Grandad. I should have come with you! I turned back but the ambulance raced off before I could get there.”
“I was fine, honestly, love,” Len assured her. “Don’t you upset yourself. I like that young man of yours. He was a great help; phoned your mum and dad for me.”
“He texted me, too. I couldn’t concentrate until I got that text to reassure me. But he’s not my young man, Grandad,” she added. “He’s actually the son of one of my patients at the foot clinic. He loves brass band music, though.”
“I think he’d like to be your young man,” Len said with a grin. “All he could talk about was how patient you are with his mother. I got the impression she’s a bit of a handful.”
“Not just a bit!” Bethany chuckled.
“How did the band do yesterday?” her grandfather asked. “I was wondering how you got on. You sounded champion as you marched through Uppermill.”
“That was our best performance of the day.”
She went on to tell him of their troubles at Greenacres. Lacey should not have been promoted to the senior band and had played badly. She’d worn high heels and stumbled in them, bumping the players in front of her into disarray.
“Uppermill was our best performance of the evening, but after you’d left it was all downhill. We forgot to hand in our music score at Dobcross, so that delayed us, and Lacey kept missing notes. We were all worried about you. I’ve got to do a lot of phoning round when I get home.”
“Who’s in the lead in our section?” Len asked. Addersley were in the First Section and all of that group were judged together.
“Middleton Band, so far, though there are some results due tomorrow. Kemington have done well, too. Ellis won a few prizes with his soprano cornet.”
“Good lad,” Len said generously, proud of his protg.
Bethany wondered again about the rumour that he’d persuaded Ellis to leave the band, but this wasn’t the time to question her grandad.
He chuckled when Bethany told him about Mr Cale’s attempt to foist an advertising board on the band.
“‘Cale’s Best Meat A Treat To Eat!’ What next?” Len laughed.
“I hope he doesn’t withdraw his financial support, though,” Bethany admitted. “I think Ken’s worried about our funds, especially as we won so little prize money.”
“You’ll manage,” Len said confidently. “We always did. By the way, your dad wants me to stay with you for a while.”
“I know. We talked about it this morning,” Bethany told him. “Mizzy and I can share a bedroom. I know you like your own space, but it needn’t be for ever, just until you’re back on your feet.”
“You’re all very good at organising my life.” Len laughed. “I’m hoping I’ll be on my feet in no time.”