London Calling Me Back( Part 2) London Pride
London Calling me back Part (2)
The Pride of London
"This must be what Maslow referred to as a peak experience." Joy tried in vain to appear calm and composed, but her heart was racing behind her rib-cage like a herd of wild ponies on an open range. The applause thundered, and she was fit to burst with pride. At that moment in time, asking for more from life would be downright greedy. The proud Mum clapped so hard her hands felt like they were on fire.
Oblivious to the tears streaming down the still unlined ebony face, Joy clapped and cheered with the large audience as they leap to their feet in a standing ovation; she was the proudest Mum in the world.
"My baby! My girl!" she cried.
The moment felt unreal as her eyes followed the youngster's every movement, every second captured and stored away in her memory. Her baby had the crowd in the palm of her hand. Toni was every inch a star as she worked the stage in her home city of London.
The audience showed their appreciation by shouting the girl's name. Toni, Toni, Toni. The piercing sound of wolf whistling echoed along the ancient corridors. Joy feared the roof of the magnificent London building would just blow right off.
Amidst all the confusion, there she stood looking vulnerable but exquisitely beautiful, the winner of the world's largest singing competition. Her baby girl.
All the hard work had paid off. The frequent trips to the matinee shows in the West End was worth every penny. The singing lessons that Joy insisted her teenage daughter continued were now bearing spectacular fruits.
Joy had wanted to instill a little culture into her child, ensuring that Toni made use of the opportunities that she, her mother, never had. Joy planned a well-rounded education for her baby girl; she sent Toni to one of the best schools in the country, even though money was in short supply. Joy knew education was one of the great levellers in society, together with a mountain of love, this was the most valuable gift she could give her daughter. But even she could not have seen what was to come.
Her Toni, pretty as a picture and singing like a songbird. Millions of people all over the world now knew her name. For the first time in 19 years, and only for a moment, Joy wished that Tony could have known his daughter.
She thought her heart would burst with pride. They say pride was a sin, but after everything the two of them has gone through, a little pride was no sin.
Even as the child grew inside her, Joy made sure that music would play a significant role in her life. She'd listen to Billy Holiday singing 'God Bless the Child,' and Etta James' 'At last' as she focused on her baby and tried to forget that Tony had ever existed.
Music was therapy to Joy, a sanctuary, where the young theatre nurse took refuge when life seemed to be closing in on her. Her hope was that her child would share her love of music. But she had never dreamt that her little girl would develop such a rich and powerful voice.
Joy had no indication of her daughter's exceptional talent until the day Toni took part in a school play.
Antonia's future was all mapped out. Her daughter would become a doctor, just like the father she had never known. The child was certainly bright enough to achieve the required grades to attend any one of the best medical schools in the UK.
Joy knew Toni could sing, but not to this standard. She heard her fourteen-year-old daughter sing and the girl's voice simply blew everyone away. When Antonia had finished the song, 'I dream a dream' from the West end musical Les Miserables, there was absolute silence. Then the school hall erupted. Joy knew then, there would be no holding Toni back, and that medicine may well have to take a back seat. She knew then that it was time to change the plan.
As a senior nurse, working in the operating theatre at Private London hospital close to Madam Tussauds, Joy was earning a good wage. However, money was still tight for the single mother. She had recently bought her first real home, a three bed flat in the fashionable Notting Hill area of London, not far from Kensington Gardens. Property in the Notting Hill area of London was exceedingly high. Her flat was on the ground floor, with a relatively large garden at the rear of the building.
Joy and Toni would later spend many happy hours in the garden. The little girl was never more content, than when her hands were deep in a pot of compost. The child wanted to know the names of every plant she saw, but the one she loved the best, was a simple edging plant called 'London Pride.'
Joy would always think of her daughter whenever she saw the wiry plant with its pale pink and white flowers.
"Look up and kiss me!" Joy said smiling at her daughter as the child gazed admiringly at the flowers she was planting in the rockery. "Mum, you're embarrassing!" Joy began to laugh.
"Well, I'll never say no to a kiss from my favourite gardener, but that just happened to be the other name for those flowers you love so much." Toni's eyes lit up, and the cutest smile spread across her little face.
"How swiftly time flies," thought Joy, as those ghosts from the past threatened to overwhelm her. Money was always scarce and with her baby on the way the single mum to be was feeling the pinch, to make the monthly mortgage payment on her flat, she had to keep a tight reign on her budget. She planned to continue working for as long as she could; in fact, she kept working right before her water broke.
When the Doctor told Joy she was pregnant, she was astounded. "Pregnant! But I can't be pregnant. How on earth will I cope with a child? No..no...no. You don't understand. A baby is most definitely not on my agenda. What am I suppose to do with a child, for goodness sake?" The Doctor smiles and shook his head. He has seen and heard it all before.
"Bloody men!" thought Joy. Her well-planned world was closing in on her, and she could almost hear the gods laughing.
"Doc, I don't even like babies," she raged, as she walked away. Joy did not remember the drive home. However, she soon got used to the idea, and even began to look forward to having a baby, Tony's child.
She decided to raise the child on her own. Antonia's father, as far as Joy was concerned, was no more than a sperm donor, and she would do everything possible, to keep it that way. Tony will never know that Antonia existed.
Antonia was everything Joy could have wished for, and more; her daughter was bright and intelligent with a heart of gold. But the one thing the girl desperately wanted from her mother, Joy was unable to give her.
Joy often look back at the first time Antonia asked her, “mum, where is my daddy?” The child was six years old. Joy walked away from the dishes she was carefully stacking into the dishwasher.
She pulled up a chair next to her daughter, who was sitting at the dining table. The tiny hands covered in crayon marks from the picture of the happy family she was drawing, a little girl, mummy and daddy.
Joy reached over, picked up the drawing and forced a smile. She felt her heart breaking, her stomach tightened as she swallowed the bitterness one more time as she fought to hold back the tears.
"A family of three. Hum, let me see now; yep, a little girl, the center of attention, a man holding her hand..oh and a mummy?" Joy sat down beside the child.
"Sweetie, what brought this on? Why are you asking about a daddy?"
The child looked up at her mother; her large golden eyes fringed with dark curly lashes seemed much too serious for a child of six tender years. Her left palm supported her chin, and the tiny angular elbow rested on the table. The crayon in her right hand hovered above the images she had drawn. Antonia stammered.
“'Cause.... ever..every..one except me..have a daddy,” Joy smiled sadly at the child. “Well, not quite everyone,” she explained, that she had wanted a little girl so badly, and when God gave her Antonia she did not want to share her with anyone, not even a daddy.
Joy ended the conversation with the question she would ask after every subsequent discussion about the child's father.
“But we're OK, aren't we? Toni!
And the child would quietly nod her head affirmatively, and get back to whatever she was doing.
Joy's tactic seemed to work well until Antonia became a teenager and would no longer take no for an answer. Toni was beginning to compare her life with that of her friends who all had a mother and a father. She became much more insistent about knowing about the man who was her father. If her mother would not, or could not, provide her with the information she needed, she would find it herself.
What was she supposed to tell the child? That her father was a cheat and a womanizer who hopped from one woman to another, and uses his wife as his get out clause? Joy thought about Kate, "that poor sad cow."
How could she tell her daughter that she had fallen for Tony's Latin charm, even as she vowed never to surrender to him, or that he used her and tossed her aside when he left London to find fame and fortune in the US, and never looked back?
Joy hated that she was no more important to Tony than the various use them and leave them, married women, he frequently bedded. And that when he decided to leave London and move to the US, he expected her to be happy for him, not knowing that she had arranged to see him so that she would tell him about the child she was carrying and as it turned out, hers was the only child he ever fathered.
Tony was a looker, no doubt about that, and boy, did he know it? Women practically fell at his feet, but he did not sleep with the women with whom he worked, not as a rule. He was a flirt and a charmer, who would often seek Joy out for a laugh and chat.
Joy loved the time they spent together. She would often tease him when he strolls into the office on a morning, still bleary-eyed, looking more tired than when he left the previous day.“
All bed and no sleep again!!.. doctor? She would inquire. Tony would smile as he ran his fingers through the mass of thick black hair, that he wore just off his collar neatly combed away from his face. He'd grin as he walked away.
“No time to chit chat, Joy... come on people lets get this show on the road.” However, later she would get the low down on his night of casual passion.
Joy knew Tony's marriage was in trouble, but he never told her that the reason for his marital problems was because he was unable to give Kate the children she'd so desperately wanted. And she had never asked him why. Joy could still remember that faithful morning when Kate showed up in the operating theater.
Kate had apparently been drinking, and heavily. She was intoxicated and slurring her words. A distinct whiff of stale gin mixed with tobacco escaped on her breath with every word she uttered as she screamed at Tony.
“Take your fucking stuff,” she threw a suitcase containing his clothing at him.“ If you can't be bothered to come home at nights, then stay the fuck away from me, you cheating bastard.” Kate swayed dangerously, as she attempted to muster as much dignity as she could, given the situation. Her tiger print high stiletto shoes echoed throughout the department as the metal tipped heels came into contact with the tiled flooring. She turned to leave and twisted her ankle as she slipped onto the recently polished floor, landing on her knees.
The theatre staff watched in shocked disbelief. The silence that followed was deafening, broken only by the occasional burst of giggling.
Joy was the first person to recover; she rushed to Kate's side took the woman's hand and attempted to lead her away from the operating theatre. Kate looked directly at Joy for the first time, her eyes narrowed, and the furrows in her forehead deepened. The woman reaching out to her was as dark as she was fair and she was stunningly beautiful.
"Is he poking you as well? I bet he's doing you too," Kate tried to stand by herself and brushed Joy's hand away.
"My God... he is, isn't he? you're dancing the gig-a-gig with my husband." Another burst of giggling came from the sterile equipment room as Joy attempted to reassure the drunken woman that she was not, for want of a better word, 'dancing the gig-a-gig with Tony,' nor was she doing the rumpy-pumpy or hiding the sausage with anyone at the moment.
" I'm afraid I'm far too busy." Kate relaxed, and reluctantly accepted the other woman's offer of help.
The giggling grew to a crescendo.
“OK, folks.... the show is over, all of you, get back to work.” Joy shouted as she tried to guide the woman away from prying eyes, even as Kate resisted, attempting to push Joy away from her.
“Come on Kate, let's find somewhere a little more private” she coaxed, as she helped the confused woman into an empty office.
Joy dispensed a strong hot espresso and handed the coffee to Kate.
Kate accepted the brew; her hands were shaking like a leaf in a storm. She began to cry. Joy sat with Kate until the woman regained her composure before going to find Tony, who was utterly humiliated.
She found him pacing around the male changing room like a caged animal, swearing in his native Italian, at the otherwise empty room. Tony always reverted to Italian when he was under stress. He ran his hand through his hair, a nervous gesture he had adopted. He knelt down and began to gather his belongings, returning each item to the suitcase, which had busted open when it came into contact with the hard theatre floor.
Frustrated and angry, the fiery Italian Doctor, who often wore his emotions on his sleeves grabbed a hand full of the clothing he had just placed in the suitcase, and threw them at the wall, then aimed a mighty kick at the case, sending the offending object flying across the room. Drained and defeated, he held his head in his hands.
Tony had discarded his scrubs and changed into outdoor clothes.
“Is she still here?" he inquired,"
Yep...I've got her mainlining on espresso," Joy tipped her head in the direction of the small office.
"She's in there.” Joy moved closer to Tony, placed a hesitant hand on his arm and pushed a strand of hair from his face.
“Tony, I think we can cope without you for a while, go.... take her home.” Tony waited, scratching his chin, long dark lashes veiled his red eyes. “Yes..yes, I'll take her home,” he started to walk toward the office. As Tony reached for the door handle, he turned to Joy.
"Thank you!" he whispered softly.
You May Also Enjoy London Calling Me Back (Part 1)
- The Unwanted Gift Part one
- The Unwanted Gift Part Two
- The Unwanted Gift Part Three
- The Unwanted Gift: (Part 4)
- The Unwanted Gift Part Five
- The Unwanted Gift Part Six
- The Unwanted Gift Part seven