For days Ellis had remembered that unexpected thrill when he’d spotted Bethany at Uppermill. They’d been friends for ages but that had been a surprising moment, when he’d felt more for her than just friendship. He’d had an overwhelming urge to hold and comfort her when he’d gone to ask her how her grandfather was at Dobcross. Could he risk asking her out? They were great friends. What if she rejected him? Would they lose that friendship?
He wandered towards the card shop to buy a birthday card for his mother, but stared, unseeing, at the card display. He had to talk to Bethany. He had to know one way or the other, no matter what it might mean to their friendship.
The band were still packing up as Ellis started purposefully towards them. Then he saw Bethany talking to a tall young man he didn’t recognise not someone from the band, but someone who had evidently come to watch her. Someone who mattered to her? She was smiling and chatting. Then they went off together towards the caf. Ellis had never felt such a pang of disappointment or was it jealousy?
Bethany had spotted Des at the back of the crowd while she was playing.
“Good concert,” he said. “I bet you’re thirsty after all that playing. Do you fancy a cup of coffee?”
“I’ve already promised Rachel,” she began as her friend joined them. “Rachel, this is Des. Do you remember I told you about him before? He helped Grandad when he was poorly at Dobcross.”
“I was asking Bethany if she fancied a coffee. Perhaps you’d like to come, too?” he asked hesitantly.
Bethany could see Rachel was about to refuse, unwilling to be a gooseberry, but she gave her a pleading look.
Rachel plainly got the message.
“Oh . . . well, that’d be nice, if you’re sure. Thanks,” she said.
“Can I carry that for you?” Des offered as Rachel stooped to lift her euphonium.
“Thanks, but I’m used to it,” she said as she hauled it on to her hip. Many a time she wished she’d taken up the cornet, like Bethany. It was so much easier to transport!
As they turned towards the caf Bethany thought she caught a glimpse of Ellis, but whoever it was ducked into a doorway and she couldn’t be sure if it was him or not.
They squeezed around a table in the packed precinct caf. At the sight of the instruments and the girls’ uniforms several people praised the band and they glowed with pride.
As soon as Des went to the counter to order their drinks, Rachel was hissing across the table.
“Why did you drag me along with you? It’s obvious he’s interested in you.”
“I’d promised to go for a drink with you. I didn’t want to let you down,” Bethany told her. To be honest, she wasn’t sure herself why she’d been so insistent that Rachel joined them. She liked Des, though he was a bit serious. And she felt she owed him for helping her grandad.
“I just don’t want him to get the wrong idea,” she explained.
“Why not, if you like him?”
“It could be awkward with his mother being one of my patients,” Bethany said lamely. She couldn’t explain how she really felt. All she knew was that she kept comparing Des to Ellis. Surely she couldn’t have fallen for Ellis, could she? They were friends good friends. And yet she so wished it was Ellis that she’d seen in the precinct and who she was having coffee with.
Rachel gave her friend a searching look.
“Well, I think he’s really nice,” she said. “Not many blokes will offer to carry my euphonium for me! Sign of a true gentleman, that is.”
Their conversation quickly ceased as Des came back carrying a tray of tea and a plate of tempting cakes.
“I thought you might like something to eat,” he said shyly.
“A man who buys cakes you’re a treasure!” Rachel cried, laughing.
Bethany was grateful for Rachel’s stream of chatter, which was bringing the naturally shy Des out of his shell and covering her own thoughtful quietness.
“Have you anything planned for next weekend?” Des asked.
“There’s a band contest at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool,” Rachel told him.
“It’s a qualifying round for the finals,” Bethany added. “It’s quite important so we’ve extra rehearsals all week.”
She hoped he’d get the message.
“I’d like to come along and lend my support,” he said, smiling.
“I’m not sure of the times,” Bethany began hesitantly.
“I’ll look up the details on the internet,” Des assured her.
“We have our own website,” Rachel informed him. “Here, I’ll write it down.” She seemed to want to encourage him to come to Blackpool and scribbled the website down on a paper napkin. He smiled and tucked it in his breast pocket.
“We’d better be going,” Bethany said awkwardly.
“Yes, thanks for the tea. I really enjoyed those cakes,” Rachel added.
As they parted, Des hesitated, as if he would say something to Bethany, but she just squeezed his hand as she said goodbye.
“Hope we see you in Blackpool,” Rachel said cheerfully, but as soon as they were out of earshot she was hissing at Bethany again.
“What is wrong with you?” she asked. “He’s lovely. Wait . . . have you got your eye on someone else? He must be something special if he’s even nicer than Des.”
Bethany decided the answer was best avoided.
“It sounds as though you’ve taken to Des yourself,” she said with a chuckle. “You did a good job of chatting him up back there.”
“Well, if you really don’t want him, I just might try to bag him for myself. I know a good thing when I see it,” Rachel protested.