By Carol E. Wyer
Millicent Jarvis thanked the air stewardess, stepped out from the aeroplane into the warm evening breeze at Larnaca airport, and promptly slid down the steps, landing on top of the man who had been her unfortunate neighbour during the flight.
“Oh Lord, I’m really sorry,” she spluttered, not for the first time in the last four and a half hours. She had already hit him over the head with her holdall as she tried to cram it in the overhead locker, and had spilt her glass of red wine over his light-coloured trousers. Each time, he had patiently smiled at her and told her not to worry about it. She loathed being clumsy. She was forever tripping over her own feet. Maybe if she were to wear her spectacles more often it wouldn’t happen so much but Milly hated her spectacles. They made her look crabby and old.
The man helped her board the bus which was rapidly filling with excited holiday-makers and insisted she hold on tightly to the strap above her head.
“Staying in Paphos?” his wife asked.
“No, Limassol,” replied Milly. “I’m meeting my parents at a hotel there. They’ve been there a week already. They booked this trip for me as a surprise. I’ve been studying for my finals for months and they thought I needed a break.”
The husband and wife exchanged a look of relief. At least Milly wouldn’t be bumping into them all holiday.
Sometime later, having done no further damage, other than standing on several toes while disembarking the bus and knocking a pile of papers off the desk at Passport Control, Milly arrived at the hotel. She paid the taxi driver and headed for the entrance.
“Milly!” roared a rosy-cheeked individual as she squeezed into the rotating glass doors, got her handbag strap trapped and had to go around a second time. He raced up to meet her and squeezed her enthusiastically in an embrace.
“Your mother is in the bar. She sent me out to meet you. Come on!”
Milly’s suitcase chose that moment to explode open. All sorts of items fell out. She stuffed a pair of greying knickers into her handbag. A receptionist raced over to assist.
“Leave your case here, Miss. Georgio will take it up to your room,” she said kindly.
A cacophony of noise erupted from the nearby bar. As her father opened the door, a smog of cigarette smoke seeped out into the foyer. Red faces and peeling noses punctuated the sea of bronzed tourists. Ice cubes tinkled merrily in glasses. Somewhere in the middle of the melee came a loud scream of pleasure,
A particularly dense cloud of smoke hung in one corner. Milly could make out a tiny figure perched on a bar stool surrounded by people, waving a cigarette in one hand and a large glass of wine in the other. It was her mother.
“Over here. Come and meet Tony and Ross. They are from Huddersfield. They’re a scream. What’ll you have to drink? Alberto? Another bottle of this wine, please.”
Her parents had always been gregarious, particularly her mother. She could party all night and people were always drawn to her. Milly ached to be more like her but she was shy, quiet and nervous. Sometimes she suspected she had been adopted.
Milly sighed. If you can’t beat them, join them, she thought as she swigged back the crisp white wine.
Before long, she too was soaking up the holiday atmosphere in the bar. The alcohol made her feel warm and fuzzy. The manager appeared on the stage.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, tonight for your pleasure, we have the ‘Marvellous Marvin’, magician extraordinaire, all the way from Paris.”
The audience applauded and cheered. They were definitely ready for some entertainment.
“Unfortunately, Marvin’s assistant, Melissa, has flu,” continued the manager. “Marvin has no one to translate for him tonight and will have to perform without any explanation. He is most sorry.”
“Milly speaks French,” shouted her mother, sliding slightly down the stool, waving yet another cigarette in the air. Her father beamed. Milly, having quaffed a little too much wine didn’t, for once, object to the attention.
“Hurray,” chorused Tony and Ross, as Milly was hustled onto to the small stage to assist a small man with a large moustache.
Marvin muttered quietly to Milly, who nodded. It would be easy. She could do this. After all, it only involved translating some simple high school French.
Fuelled by alcohol, Milly surprised herself with her wit. She ad-libbed and joked as Marvin astounded the audience with his magic. She was a natural.
“The marvellous Marvin will now pull a rabbit from a hat, although given his nationality, a beret would be more appropriate,” joked Milly.
When Marvin produced a nose-twitching rabbit from his top hat, the room erupted with further applause and cheers. Marvin had never been so popular, or less nervous. Marvin bowed. Milly bowed. The crowd cheered.
The next morning, nursing a killer hangover, Milly was summoned to reception. Her mother looking fresh and lively accompanied her. Marvin was waiting there, twisting his moustache. A television production company, filming a series about authentic magic acts, had invited Marvin to try out for it. They were filming later that day, in front of a live audience. Marvin’s assistant was still too ill to work with him. He asked Milly if she would care to help him.
“Of course she’ll do it,” barked her mother who then rushed off to rustle up a few supporters. After all, her daughter was about to hit stardom.
Milly, dressed in a sparkly black top with silver bangles on her wrists, stood in front of the cameras. Marvin was nervous enough for the pair of them and was quaking beside her. She felt so sorry for him. They had planned a similar act to the night before but Marvin had one trick he was keeping up his sleeve until the finale. Milly pushed away her own fear. Marvin needed her support. She would try to behave as she had the night before.
The act went well. The appreciative audience, largely consisting of hotel guests who appeared to have smuggled in their own alcohol, applauded wildly. Milly waltzed around the stage like a natural, making amusing comments as she had done the previous evening.
The grand finale arrived. Marvin whispered into her ear. Milly nodded and turned to face the camera and the audience. She smiled her most engaging smile. She would ensure Marvin was included in the series.
“And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, for the first time on television, the mighty, marvellous…mystical Marvin will perform,” she paused for effect, “the astounding Lamb Trick. The likes of which has never been seen before,” she added.
The audience hushed. Marvin swished his cape about and produced three large metal rings from the air. He tapped them together with a flourish to prove they were solid. He tapped them together again and they immediately linked together. He waited. He smiled. The audience, however, didn’t applaud. They were waiting for the lambs. Milly too was wondering where Marvin had hidden the lambs and pondering on the significance of the rings. Were the lambs going to jump through the rings? It was at that moment she realised her mistake. She had mixed up the French for ‘anneaux’ meaning rings and ‘agneaux’ meaning lambs — an understandable mistake given Marvin had whispered so quietly to her.
She stepped forward theatrically to explain her faux pas. Unfortunately, Marvin hadn’t been expecting her to move. Within seconds her silver bangles were attached to the rings that Marvin was brandishing with relish.
Milly squeaked in horror and tried to remove the bangles from her arm. Somehow, she managed to entangle her watch on her other wrist and now looked like a convict in chains. Marvin stood open-mouthed. The audience howled with laughter. Mortified, Milly tried to shake the rings off and succeeded only in trapping her long blonde hair. She shrieked in alarm. The audience hooted with laughter.
“Marvin! Aides-moi!” she yelped. Marvin pulled at his moustache and shrugged his shoulders. The audience laughed more.
Frantic and embarrassed, Milly thrashed about trying to free her hair only to knock into a table which tipped over, revealing a rabbit hiding underneath nibbling at some lettuce. A string of flags dropped out of a top hat and some cards went flying across the floor.
“Cut,” yelled the director. Marvin and Milly were led off stage amidst cheers and laughter.
“Well, although you were very entertaining,” said the director, after Milly had been untangled from the rings and bangles, “you weren’t quite what we were looking for. Maybe you should try out for our second series, which is about comedy acts. I think you’ll be ideal for that. That last number was hilarious!”
Outside, Milly apologised again to Marvin.
“Don’t worry,” he mumbled and shrugged his shoulders as only a Frenchman can. “I was not comfortable in front of the cameras. Large audiences have always frightened me. I think I’m much happier in front of small crowds in hotels.” He took Milly’s hand and kissed it.
“Come on Milly, old girl,” bellowed her father. “Time to get back to the hotel. Your mother has gone on ahead with a few of the chaps to get the drinks ready. There’s some great entertainment tonight. I understand there’s going to be fire eaters.”
“Okay Dad,” she replied. “But do you mind if I have an early night tonight?”
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© 2013 by Carol E. Wyer • All rights reserved