By Karen J Mossman
Jenna heard the song on the radio and the sweet rawness of the words transported her back two years when she met a stranger on a train.
She was travelling to London to visit her aunt, Ivy and running late. She pulled open a carriage door just as the whistle blew. Too late, she realised she was in a first-class compartment and there was a lone occupant inside. He looked up with surprise. “Sorry,” she said, not meaning to invade his privacy. The train lurched forward throwing her into the seat and almost into his lap. “I’m so sorry,” she said again.
He was very handsome with the deepest brown eyes she had ever seen.
“It’s okay, as you’re here,” he said. She hadn’t expected to hear an American voice in the heart of England.
Jenna sat down in the seat opposite. The train carriage was small. Outside it was hot and clammy and not a day for travelling. The open window made little difference to the humidity and trying to draw him into a conversation was proving difficult. Giving up, Jenna settled back to rest and fell asleep.
Waking up, she found the train stationery and Nino, as she later learnt, was nowhere in sight. Pulling out a magazine she read the problem page and was part way through someone’s acne breakout when he opened the door. He looked like an Adonis dressed black.
“Hi,” he drawled. “It’s so damned hot in here, I thought we could use a drink.” He was carrying two cans of cola.
“Oh, thank you,” she said. “Just what I needed.”
“I don’t think the British have heard of air conditioning,” he told her sitting down he pulled the ring off the can.
“Well this weather is unusual,” she replied taking in his square solid chin and small nose. Those deep-set eyes set her heart racing when he looked at her.
“Sure as hell is,” he said taking a long swig.
“Are you on holiday?” she asked.
“I’m working. You?”
“I’m visiting my aunt. I erm…” For a moment she contemplated telling him and then thought, what the heck, he was just a stranger. “I’m escaping a broken romance and my aunt says she has just the remedy for a broken heart.”
For the first time Nino looked interested. “Why would anyone break your heart, honey?” His eyes softened and the way he called her honey made her pulse quicken.
“Because Pete found someone else who was more exciting and prettier than me, the bastard. We’d only been together two years.” She shrugged. She still couldn’t believe she had meant so little to him. Feeling the familiar lump in her throat, she grinned as if she had said something funny.
“I’m sorry.” He seemed genuinely sympathetic and it was comforting.
“So,” she said with exaggerated brightness. “My aunt is going to take me out and has promised me a good time. In fact,” she knew she was babbling now, “tomorrow she’s taking me to a concert at the Lords Hall.”
Nino raised his eyebrows, “Lord’s Hall, no kidding?”
“Yeah, you know it?”
“I’m going, too.”
“Well, that’s a coincidence! I’ve never heard of the singer which isn’t surprising as my aunt has weird taste in music, but hey, if it gets me out…”
“Sure does. And you never know you might enjoy it.”
“Yeah, bloody singing Eyetie who probably thinks he’s God’s gift to women.” Nino looked amused. “He’s got a foreign sounding name, so I hope he sings in English.”
“He does. His name’s Santario and he’s all right.”
“Thank goodness for that. We have front row seats, so I can hardly sneak out if he is rubbish!”
The journey flew by as they chatted, and Jenna felt a fleeting disappointment when he didn’t suggest they meet at the concert.
Surprisingly, Lord’s Hall was packed with people. Jenna wondered how so many had heard of him when she hadn’t. “You’ll love him, I promise.” Aunt Ivy gushed at Jenna’s scepticism.
“Ladies and Gentlemen.” A disembodied voice announced as the show began. “Please welcome on stage Mr Nino Santario!”
The auditorium erupted into a standing applause as the singer appeared. The only person still seated and not clapping was Jenna. Shocked, she stared at the stranger from the train.
He was wearing all black again, jeans, tee-shirt and a leather jacket with tassels that swayed as he moved. He had talent and Jenna was soon up with the rest of them applauding, dancing and enjoying the performance.
Back in the present, the song on the radio ended and Jenna let the memories wash over her. After three encores, she and Aunt Ivy had been invited back stage. Everyone was vying for his attention, but he only had eyes for her.
Later they had dinner, Aunt Ivy smiled, declining his offer to join them, she had to go home and feed the cat. She didn’t have a cat. After they had eaten Nino asked if she had ever been to a casino, she hadn’t, and it was a great experience.
For his next concert, Jenna sat in the wings and he was even better close up, especially when every time he came off stage, he kissed her!
She followed him around various interviews and photo shoots. She was even with him when he recorded the songs for his debut album.
Everyone treated him like royalty. They all believed this up-and-coming star would be the next big thing. They treated him with such reverence that even he thought he was royalty at times.
Jenna remembered one radio interview where she sat facing Nino, and behind the interviewer. She decided to give him direction
“And when did you discover you could sing?” asked the man.
Jenna rocked her arms and Nino said. “When I was a baby.”
“Really? That young?”
Jenna put her fingers to her eyes pretending to wipe away the tears and Nino said: “I used to cry in tune.”
“Really?” he said again appearing to believe every word.
Nino looked at Jenna who put her hands together in prayer. “I used to cry in church.” She shook her head and Nino said, “I mean sing, I used to sing in church.”
The man nodded, “When you were older, of course?” She held up her fingers and Nino said, “Three, when I was three.”
They laughed so much and as more interviews came, it got sillier. Jenna tried to put him off whenever he was trying to be too serious.
One day, things went too far, and they ordered Jenna out of the recording studio. Nino was up in arms and walked out too. Everyone was in a flurry about wasted recording time and who was footing the bill.
One night in the hotel room after they had laughed about the day’s antics, Nino said. “I love you, Jen.”
She caught her breath, “But you don’t even know me.”
“Honey, I’ve had the best time. That Pete must have been mad.” He kissed her neck and her skin turned to fire. “I knew you were different the moment you walked onto the train.”
“You mean fell on,” she laughed. “And, you didn’t really want to talk.” His kisses travelling down her shoulders and she groaned.
“I just wanted to look at you,” he said, his hot breath caressing her.
Sighing and unable to resist him anymore, she found his mouth and drew him in. “Oh Nino, Nino,” she cried, wanting him more than ever.
Picking her up, Nino carried her to the bed where they fell into each other’s arms. Making love to him was an amazing experience, and she didn’t know it then, but it was to be the last time.
Now, Jenna gazed towards the kitchen window. Their relationship really had been that good. The song faded, and the DJ said, “Nino Santario there, with Broken Dreams, dedicated, he says, to a girl he loved and lost.”
Jenna’s legs went weak, as she felt for the chair. Her heart was still broken for what she’d lost. After all this time, he still loved her!
“And if you want to catch Nino, he will be in Manchester on the 8th and 9th next month. Next we have….”
“Poor Nino,” she whispered out loud. Their affair was all too brief. He had kissed her and said he would see her later. She left his hotel and never saw him again. Later she realised she hadn’t told him anything about herself. All he knew was her first name and that wasn’t even her given name.
Going into town was a daunting task. The bus driver called out her stop and she disembarked. It wasn’t difficult finding where he was staying.
“Can I help you Miss?” a voice beside her asked.
She jumped and turned to him, “Is this The Imperial?”
“It is. Shall I escort you to reception?”
“If you don’t mind,” she said, mounting the steps with him.
“May I help you?” asked the girl at reception as Jenna approached.
“I believe Mr Santario is staying here?” Her heart was pounding making her sound breathless.
“I’m sorry but I can’t give out that information.”
“I’m an old friend of his, you see. Will you to pass this note to him? Would you do that?”
“I assure you I’m not some crazy fan trying to get near him.”
“Well, all right then, but it doesn’t mean he is staying here.”
Jenna smiled. “I understand. I’ll just wait, is there a seat?”
“Yes, I’ll show you.”
Jenna waited for what seemed like an eternity, her heart thumping wildly. She formed the words in her mind. “Aunt Ivy and I were in a car crash, she died, and it left me like this.”
Then she heard his voice call her name and could imagine his face. She picked up her white stick and went to him.
This story is taken from my The Magic of Stories. It contains a collection of short stories and poetry. More details here.