Summer With Em - Chapter 40
By Julie D Cole
Mum was a bit quiet through our meal that was ideal for pre theatre and not too heavy. I tried to keep her as relaxed as possible by asking about Carole King and who she was. I’d never seen her in the charts.
Mum laughed and said I used to dance to lots of her music from an early age and she had written dozens of hit songs for famous artists. I would soon recognize them when the show started. I’d thought we were going to see her perform but the show was about her career. A musical about her life.
Frankie knew all about her and smiled then she started singing ‘Will you still love me tomorrow’ and I had to say to shush before other customers complained. I recognized the song even though Frankies rendition wasn’t likely to pass any talent show auditions.
Mum said that she used to sing ‘Take Good Care of My Baby’ to me every night when she tucked me into bed and that she’d written a big hit for Aretha Franklin called ‘Natural Woman’ and even The Beatles had a song written by her. Dad had bought mum an LP record that she still had at home that made her famous in her own right.
‘Wow mum. Dad made her famous by buying her LP?’ I remembered seeing it but not in recent years. At least she hadn’t thrown it in the garbage when dad left.
That lightened the mood and we enjoyed the rest of our meal chatting about other music mum liked in her era. We were in relaxed mood by the time we were ready to leave for the theatre that was just a short walk from Covent Garden so we arrived in good time to look around and have a drink in the bar.
We purchased a show programme for mum but she passed it to me to read first so I could understand more about Carole King and her music. The production had been very popular so far with lots of demand and the venue at the Aldwych theatre was just perfect as a location. We were lucky to get tickets thanks to the staff at our hotel.
I saw that the show had been on Broadway with a young American artist in the lead role. In the UK they had a British girl in the lead role. I commented that she was very beautiful that caused Frankie to laugh because she said the name of the show was ‘Beautiful’ in case I hadn’t noticed.
I didn’t recognize any of the UK cast but most seemed to be regular performers in major shows in London. Not that I was a theatre buff or had much knowledge of theatreland. With so many shows around London I expected we must have a production line of talent. There I was working at a leisure centre with no talent that I know of that caused me to sigh a little.
As I flicked through the programme I looked up occasionally at the surroundings. How exciting it must be for people of my age to perform on stage in these venues. At school I used to hide when pupils were selected for plays or dancing displays. I would never stand out in a crowd so I never got selected for anything and I was easily embarrassed. But since staying with Em and then meeting Frankie I seemed a lot more confident. Maybe I would have been happier growing up as a girl.
It soon because apparent to me that Carole King had been destined for success from an early age and that she’d been married to another music artist. Together they were churning out popular songs in a wonderful era for music. No wonder mum liked her.
The show was fantastic and I did recognize lots of the songs and the audience were transfixed as I was. Eventually some stood up and clapped and danced with the aisles filling up quickly. It was a long time since I’d seen mum smile so much and she reached out to encourage me to dance with her and sing the choruses. It was a great show and there were several 3 curtain calls before the audience started to head for exits.
Mum was still singing as we got outside and she had a smile from ear to ear as we stood a while to let crowds disperse. Frankie insisted she took a taxi home which she paid for rather than go on the underground and we hugged for a while. As she got into the taxi she wished me good luck for my trip to see dad.
Frankie and I walked to Leicester Square where we would take the underground back to Kensington High Street to go our hotel. Everything was alive with lots of visitors from all sorts of places by the look of it. I’d lived in London all my life yet never really had chance to visit the sights other than as a small child with dad. Funny how that memory came back as if a switch had been flicked.
I pointed to the Odeon Cinema in Leicester Square. ‘I remembered dad buying me a hot dog and a Coca Cola drink from a street vendor outside and then sitting on his shoulders watching lots of people arriving. He said some were very famous.
There was a big ship on the posters all around the square. It was a film about two young people who met and fell in love in the midst of tragic circumstances. I suppose we were very lucky.
Frankie smiled and spoke ‘Yes it was a big movie with beautiful music. I remember the lovers at the front of the ship. The biggest liner ever built in the UK. It hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic.’
‘Yes dad said it was about a freak accident over a hundred years ago that killed hundreds of people. I expect people blamed it on the ice caps melting and Global warming.’
‘Not in 1912 even though the ship had coal-firing to drive the propellers with black smoke belching out of the funnels. I suppose it was just at the end of the industrial revolution but one theory is that it was to do with the earth, moon and sun being in alignment affecting sea currents. So lots of icebergs broke free.’
‘I guess their two bodies were aligned as well and there was a strong current between them.’
‘Very funny Ha Ha.’
‘Does that mean another disaster is imminent? We have icebergs breaking free because of climate change don’t we? Were the earth, sun and moon in alignment when we met? Is that what brought us together?’
‘We should check. Stranger things happen but probably it’s just fate. We are all on a long road and there are many twists and turns and forks in the road and crossroads. We just meet others doing the same thing and the lucky ones meet people they connect with and travel together.’
‘I hope we stay together. Maybe the visit to Italy will be a disaster. Maybe dad will go crazy.’
‘Yes maybe it will cause problems but it’s not going to stop us is it?’
‘No. I want to see him more than ever now. We’d spent a full day together just the two of us. I remember we visited Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace. I wish I had lots of happy memories rather than nothing.’
We stood for a while in silence and I gripped Frankies arm. Funny that she seemed so strong and confident whilst I had always felt vulnerable and insecure.
‘Penny for your thoughts Kim.’
‘I was just thinking back. I’d no thoughts of that day I spent with my dad until now. It all comes flooding back. I want to cry. It’s a strange feeling. I miss him. I can picture his smile and his curly black hair and red scarf. He lifted me up onto his shoulders so easily. It’s just like it was yesterday and we had lots of fun. Yet he just disappeared from my life soon afterwards. Why?’
‘Things happen Kim. All families have good and bad times. Separation is common these days.’
‘But I loved him. He never came back. I used to cry myself to sleep at night but I daren’t tell mum. She’d get upset and angry if I asked about him.’
‘Well let’s hope your visit to see him gives you chance to see him smile. I’m sure he will still love you and regret leaving you behind but then what would have your mum have done?’
‘But look at me now. He might be ashamed of me. Am I being stupid? Am I doing the right thing?’
‘Well in my opinion you can’t really move on in your life until you do. You’ve got a chance to meet him and if he sees what I see he will pick you up and probably squeeze the life out of you.’
‘He’ll hate me that much.’
‘No you ninny he’ll not want to let you go.’
‘Have confidence and give him chance. He left a little boy behind and now he’ll see that he’s missed out. He’s the father of a beautiful young woman.’
‘I’m not sure we should go.’
‘Too late we’re going even if I have to drag you there. What have you got to lose?’
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