Strike Up The Band – Episode 30

Len glanced anxiously through his window. Where was Bethany?

“I honestly can’t find anything wrong with your boiler, Mr Douglas.” Ellis’s voice came from the bathroom. “Did you say you’d altered the clock?”

Len went in to find Ellis standing shaking his head in bewilderment as he surveyed the exposed workings of the boiler.

“It didn’t come on at the right time in the morning,” Len explained hesitantly.

“Well, it’s got me beat. I’ll ask Dad to come and take a look. He knows a lot more than I do,” Ellis offered kindly.

“No, no,” Len protested, aware that there was nothing wrong with his boiler and that his ruse would be found out. “I’ll see what happens tomorrow, and if it still doesn’t work after you tinkering with it, I’ll give your dad a ring.”

“OK, if you’re sure,” Ellis said, tidying his tools away. “You might need a new timer. But let me know if you’ve still got a problem.”

“Right, lad. How about a cup of tea?”

Len was anxious to delay him, and he was also wondering why, today of all days, Bethany was late.

“If it’s no trouble.” Ellis smiled.

“Not at all,” Len said, returning his smile. “I usually put the kettle on about now. Bethany’s due any minute and I usually brew up before we begin.”

Ellis’s eyes lit up, confirming Len’s suspicions that his protg was keen on his granddaughter.

“I’ll wait and say hello. I haven’t seen her since the match.”

“She’ll be glad to see you,” Len said. “She said your performance at the Winter Gardens was really superb.”

Ellis glowed with pride.

“I suppose her boyfriend went along to support her?” he asked hesitantly.

“Boyfriend? I don’t think she’s got one, my lad.” Len smirked to himself and tried to look busy with the kettle.

“I thought she was going out with that tall lad,” Ellis said, anxious for information.

“You mean Des? No he’s courting Rachel. You know Rachel, don’t you?”

“Yes, of course. We’ve been mates for ages. I’ve lost touch with all the news since I joined Kemington. So Bethany is . . .” They were interrupted as the front door opened.

“Hi, Grandad,” Bethany called. “It’s only me. Sorry I’m late. I was just on the phone to Rachel and . . . Oh, hello, Ellis.” A pretty blush spread over her face. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Ellis has been looking at my boiler,” Len told her with a grin. “Can you hold the fort while I just nip upstairs?”

“Yes, of course,” Bethany agreed. She opened the cupboard to bring out mugs and set them on the kitchen table.

“How are things?” Ellis asked. “I haven’t had a chance to talk to you since the contest, but you know how it is.”

Bethany nodded happily.

“You did brilliantly. I could have strangled that idiot who objected to the decision. You deserved to win,” Ellis went on.

“Thanks,” Bethany replied. “And you were great, too. But then you always are. I wish you were playing with us. We’d walk it.”

“I’d have to wait six months before I signed up again,” Ellis said thoughtfully. “Anyway, I might not get the chance to play any solos with Jason and his dad in the driving seat.”

“I’m playing one of the solos again,” Bethany said eagerly.

“Your grandad told me. He’s so proud of you.”

“And you, too.”

For a moment they seemed to have run out of mutual praise, awkward because of their feelings for each other and unsure how to proceed.

“I really love the way you play,” Bethany said earnestly, but suddenly the words seemed to be laden with additional meaning, and she blushed.

Ellis saw his chance.

“And I love the way you play, too,” he said, and both knew they weren’t just talking about the music any more.

Smiling, Ellis reached to take her hand and they stared at each other, surprised and delighted at what was happening.

“Would you like to come out for a drink later?” he asked.

Bethany hesitated.

“I’m having a lesson with Grandad,” she said anxiously, “but we could go afterwards.”

“I should go home and change my clothes, anyway,” Ellis said. “I came prepared to get mucky. Shall I come back and then we’ll go?”

“Yes, please.”

Len was very pleased to see them holding hands and grinning inanely at each other when he arrived from his very prolonged stay upstairs.

“Are we ready for tea?” he asked with a grin.

Bethany jumped up.

“Oh! The kettle boiled but I forgot to make the tea! I don’t know what I was thinking.

But . . . er . . . Grandad, Ellis and I are going out for a drink after my lesson, so can we just get started? Ellis is popping home to get changed and then he’ll come back for me.”

“Good lad!” Len said with a satisfied smile.

He escorted Ellis to the door.

“About time!” he whispered. “And don’t worry, lad, there’s nowt wrong with the boiler.”

The dawning look on Ellis’s face was a picture. Then he shook Len’s hand heartily.

“Thanks, Mr Douglas.”

The lesson went well. Once Bethany had managed to stifle her excitement and concentrate, she played with the joy that she’d shown in Blackpool.

“Not bad, lass,” her grandad commented. “Play like that in the final and you’ll walk away with the prize.”

They had barely finished when Ellis arrived back. They drove out to an inn on the moors to avoid meeting any Addersley or Kemington band players.

This was a time to be just themselves, not rivals for a much-longed-for prize, just a boy and a girl on the threshold of something wonderful and new.


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