Gypsy had just finished shaving and was brushing his hair through when Ed arrived, the man's dark eyes slightly accusing. He lounged against the bathroom door. "I expected to find you still in bed, groaning with your usual aches and pains!"
Gypsy knew he was thinking other things too. "Sandy helped me get moving," He used the job of splashing aftershave on his face to disguise the wiping away of a stray tear. "He's gone to see his agent about some work a producer wants to him to do on a film score."
"Did he stay the night with 'you?"
Gypsy willed his hands to stop shaking as he wound the cord of his shaver and replaced it in its case on the shelf above the basin. "Yes, he stayed with me. You know so why ask?" He ran fresh water into the basin to swill it out and watched it spiral into the outlet. "You want to know the details? We slept in the same bed and he was there when I needed him, but nothing happened; Satisfied? Now it is over and I don't want to talk about it anymore, okay?"
He stood for a moment with his eyes shut tight as he tried desperately to believe what he was saying. Then he slowly raised his eyes to look at Ed through the mirror and from the man's expression he knew the Ed did not believe him either; obviously thinking Sandy had deserted him once again. "You're wrong, Ed, so very wrong." He felt himself start t o tremble and gripped the front of the basin hard. He looked down at the water still running into the outlet, just like his chance of love was running away with every minute that passed. "After we've solved my problem, Sandy will go back to Trish and I will devote my time to Erica and the Chilvers Project. I'll even give up my career if I have to."
Ed was a skeptic, so how could Gypsy explain what he had seen in Sandy's hand; two clasped hands, one male, one female, two silhouettes walking together on a beach with a little boy and a curly headed tot trotting ahead of them. At last Ed, came to stand behind him, reached round to turn the tap off, and turned him round to face him. Without lifting his head, Gypsy leaned his head against Ed's broad chest and allowed the man to pull him into a tight embrace while he wept quietly for a few moments. Once he was calm again, Ed reached for a face cloth, and ran fresh cool water into the basin. Dropping the cloth into the basin, he handed Gypsy a towel and left him alone to get rid of his red eyes.
In the bedroom, Gypsy dressed slowly in jeans and sweater and went back into the lounge to make a phone call, giving Ed's shoulder a squeeze of thanks as he passed where he sat on a sofa. When he got through, he said, "Hello, Sarah? Can you get hold of Edward for me, please? I know he is in court this afternoon but use your charms and persuade him to spare me a few minutes of his time. It is pretty urgent that I see him." When he and Sarah had finished talking, Gypsy put the phone down and he found Ed still gazing at him, playing the wise old owl game. This time the big guy was not going to get the better of him. Gypsy moved over to the recliner. Lying back in it, he relaxed and waited for the lift buzzer to signal that Barney was ready to drive him back to Chilvers. After a few minutes, he heard the radio being switched on. He listening to the flippant patter of the presenter, lost interest but picked up again when the nine o'clock news was almost at an end, and the mention of Trentham, in Cheshire made him listen more carefully.
"…fourteen year old school boy who failed to return home on Sunday night from a fishing weekend. The search for him has switched to the London area after his sister received a letter from him this morning, bearing a London postmark but no address. The letter stated that the boy, Steven Kendrick, was safe and well. Anyone seeing a boy answering his description is asked to contact the police immediately. Last seen, Steven Kendrick was wearing…"
Gypsy felt uneasy and did not know why. He tried to erase the news from his mind and concentrated on the coming events of the day, and the woman he was being forced to play host to. The picture he got made him sit up with a jerk, causing a stab of pain in the lumber region. He gasped and Ed was on his feet. "You okay?" Gypsy nodded and couldn't stop his mouth dropping open. He could see the woman as plainly as if he were standing beside her on the station platform. She had just stepped off the Chester train and was smiling at the female escort the cosmetics firm had sent to meet her.
The seat in the back of the limousine was luxuriously comfortable but still Freda Basset could not relax. She hadn't felt any tension when the car had pulled away from the entrance of Florey Products, but now, as the car turned into the driveway of Chilvers, she was aware of the faster beating of her heart and the clamminess of her gloved hands. She had entered the competition on the spur of the moment and now she was regretting it. Marla Frank, sitting beside her, nudged her for the hundredth time it seemed. She was the journalist from the glossy magazine given the exclusive rights to record and publish a feature on her happy day. Happy day? Freda mentally cringed. The nudging was Marla's way of keeping Freda's attention on her incessant prattling ever since they had left Florey Products.
This time, Marla said, "You haven't heard a word I've said, have you, dear? Poor you, getting excited about the day are we? Never mind, I've heard Mr. Diaz has a knack of putting people at their ease, but you know that already, don't you?"
"I only knew him slightly," Freda sensed that this woman was an expert on leaching the innermost secrets out of people, but she wasn't going to trip Freda Basset up so easily. The woman was short, overweight and dressed to look a lot younger than her forty-five years. Her vivid blue dress and jacket was pinched round the hips and struggled to meet across the bust where flesh won the battle, probably against frilly, ultramodern undergarments. Her heels were too high; her hat was too tiny as it perched precariously above her left eyebrow, threatening to slide down her face at a touch. At a word, she was a mess. She was also a tactless organizer, Freda decided as she patiently bit her tongue; the type often seen in charge of garden fetes or brownie picnics, charging ahead to clear the field of obstacles and mowing down those who strayed into her path with the ease of a bulldozer. The magazine must be have been either desperate for decent PR personnel or running out of money to pay them.
Marla smiled knowingly and pointed at the twenty cream roses resting across Freda's lap. "Those don't look-like the kind of gift from someone you know only slightly, dear, but I won't pry into your love life just yet. I'll leave all that till this afternoon when I get the two you together for the full story. All we're concerned about is that you have a wonderful day with your favourite pop star. Terry and I will just merge into the background and take some pictures of you and you'll never know we're there at all."
With that blue outfit, Freda mused, what a hope. She could be seen for miles! Freda glanced up at the small blonde zombie sitting beside the driver with a large diddybag on his knee, she was sure he was in the right profession having nothing more exerting to do than point a camera and click a shutter after a few adjustments, or was it Marla's dominating character which made him a mouse?
The car approached the house and slowed to a crawl, and Freda's jaw dropped as she gazed at the sprawling property. This wasn't a house; it was a mansion out of a fairy tale! Seeing it for the first time, Freda wished she were back in her aunt's house in Rugby.
"Here we are." Marla adjusted her hat with the aid of a mirror from the depths of her bottomless handbag, and Freda wondered for a moment if things would come popping out of it like they did in the 'Mary Poppins' film she had seen as a child. She stared at the gracious cream pebble-dashed building with its cheerful old windows, and old fashioned chimney stacks pouring faint traces of smoke into the air; the kind of place she had always dreamed of living in. Then she let her eyes fall on the reception party waiting in the large Victorian doorway, recognizing Ed Thompson and Gypsy's manager and deciding that the little tot hanging on to Ed's hand must be Gypsy's six year old daughter . The rest she didn't know, and where was the star himself? She didn't see him.
Almost before the car had stopped, Terry, the cameraman astonished her at the speed in which he bounded from the car and had a camera to his eye to record the welcoming party before turning to face the car to record Freda alighting from it. Where had he found the energy?
The chauffeur came round to her side of the car and opened the door while Marla scowled her annoyance and struggled out at the other side by herself. Freda ducked her head as she stepped from the car and as she did so, she was aware of someone walking towards the car. She straightened up and adjusted her hold on her bouquet and found Gypsy Diaz standing in front of her, grinning widely. "Freda Basset indeed! You had me fooled for a while."
Freda blushed but managed a hoity toss of her head." I'll have you know, Mr. Diaz, that it's my real name."
"You're kidding me!" Gypsy gave a laugh of disbelief as he took hold of her right hand and gave it a friendly squeeze. "I never knew: Where does the Lorna bit come in then?"
"My middle name, of course." Lorna let him plant a friendly kiss on her right cheek for the camera. "Thank you for the roses, they're lovely."
Gypsy gave her a sheepish grin. "I'm glad you like them. It was all they could do at short notice. It was all a bit rushed, am afraid. I rang the shop as soon as I realized who you were."
Lorna's heart sank. "So, you knew. I had planned on surprising you."
Gypsy's grin widened. "Oh, you surprised me all right." He slipped an arm wound her waist. "Come on, I'll introduce you to my household."
By the front door, Erica was the first to come forward, holding out a tiny posy of rather crushed flowers. "Hello, I'm Erica and I picked these just for you, all by myself." She grinned cheekily, before fleeing back to her uncle's protection.
Gypsy wagged a finger at her. "And I know whose garden you raided, you little imp."
Erica pouted at him. "Uncle Ed said I could!"
Ed grinned. "So there! Get outta that one."
Gypsy tweaked Erica's hair where it was tied up with a fresh white ribbon. "Your Uncle Ed spoils you too much. What is Auntie Jo going to say when she finds her flowers are gone?"
"I'm sure they'll grow again," Lorna defended the child, and received a shy smile from her. "They're very pretty, thank you."
It took a few minutes to get to know everyone, including a young butler called David who welcomed her on behalf of the staff, and a longhaired Persian cat who sprang into Gypsy's arms from nowhere and fixed Lorna with a curious stare.
First on the agenda was a tour of the house, the chief guide being Erica as she bounced from room to room ahead of them till she tripped over a mat and sought the safety and comfort of Ed's arms. Afterwards Lorna was taken into Gypsy's private sitting room on the first floor for coffee, with Terry and Marla being relegated to the ground floor lounge, much to Marla's frustration.
As soon as David set a coffee tray down on the low table in front of the white leather settee, Erica ceased her dizzy antics and settled down between Gypsy and Lorna with a picture book and a glass of milk. "I hope you don't mind." Gypsy said as he poured the coffee. "This is one of the rare occasions when Erica and I can be alone, and you did say in your letter you wanted to spend a typical day with me. This is part of it."
"Of course not." Lorna had already warmed to the little girl who gazed up at her with trusting eyes. "She's a lovely little poppet. You must be proud of her."
"I am." Gypsy handed her a cup of coffee. "There is no one more important in my life."
He settled back with his own coffee and Erica pushed the book onto his knees. "Read it to me, Daddy."
"Read it what?"
"I thought you were going to it read yourself, this morning?" Gypsy smiled at the way Erica's bottom lip stuck out. "Come on, lazy lion. You promised you would read it this time."
"Try. Come on, you know you can."
Lorna shook her head in wonder. "Can she read?"
Gypsy glanced up and smiled. "A little; she knows her alphabet and the easy words. She's just a typical Leo wriggling out of doing things. Come on, Erica, open your book."
After a reluctant start Erica spent the next five minutes in the circle of her father's arm while she stumbled over the words in her book, with Gypsy teaching her new words and sounds and showing her how to use each picture as clues to the words.
When at last Erica closed the book and trotted off to put it away in her room, Lorna eyed Gypsy with fresh interest. "You seem to have a flair for teaching."
Gypsy shrugged his shoulders. "It's the way my mother taught me to read, and the way I taught my brothers and sisters." He finished his coffee and, putting the cup back on the table, he moved closer to Lorna and studied her face with a quizzical grin. "How about you; have I been conned or what?"
"Yes. You didn't really win the competition, did you?"
"Come on. I'll bet Erskine put you up to it."
Lorna couldn't keep the smile off her face any longer. "I really did win the competition, but I only entered it for a joke. We had to write a short essay, no more than two hundred words stating why we wanted to meet you. I wrote that I wanted to apologize for something I did to you when we were in school together. I nearly died when I heard I had won."
Gypsy stared at her with amused eyes. "Why; did you get cold feet?"
"No. I'd always wanted to meet you again but not like this; not through a publicity stunt for some stupid soap firm. I wanted to meet you in private so I could say I'm sorry for what happened. I don't even like the soap."
"That makes two of us. Anyway, you have nothing to be sorry for. Because of what you did in Blackpool, I found happiness with a wonderful woman who gave me a lovely little daughter. After you and I parted company, I went for a walk and met Shana serving hotdogs in her sister's kiosk. I have a lot to thank you for."
Lorna's left hand was close to Gypsy's right hand on the settee. He reached over and took hold of it and Lorna watched him study it for a few seconds, rubbing her palm with his thumb. She saw his smile fade from his face as his lips parted to speak, then he raised startled eyes to gaze at her in wonder.
"Well? What do you see?"
Someone knocked in the door before Gypsy could answer, and he shook his head. "I'll tell you later, but just let's say I should have known it would be you who would come."
Puzzled, Lorna watched him rise to his feet as Ed came into the room to tell him it was time for his workout in the gym. He invited Lorna to keep him company and she felt a jolt of excitement. Perhaps the day would not turn out so bad after all.
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