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Just to plunge me even further into the depths of despair, the first dance soon followed. The new Mr and Mrs Henderson took to the floor as Take My Breath Away by Berlin began to play. Gradually, the guests began to pair off and joined them on the dance floor to celebrate their special night. Soon, only me and a few other “spares” remained. Amira had dragged Max up at the first opportunity while Nate was getting very friendly with a bridesmaid.
‘Makes you sad, don’t it honey?’ A rich female voice lifted straight from the Deep South drifted across to me from a nearby table.
I turned to see who the mystery person was and found an old woman of around seventy sitting by herself. She was extremely beautiful; her crop of silver hair made her look full of life, as did the glint in her sparkly black eyes. Her skin was the colour of milky coffee and barely had any wrinkles, save for some lines at the corners of her eyes when she smiled. I recognised her as the jazz singer from earlier, the one who’d sung At Last while Giselle had walked down the aisle. She was wearing a long black maxi dress, accented with a teal shawl. When she saw me looking, she smiled and waved, beckoning me to go over to her.
‘Makes you sad, don’t it?’ she said again when I sat down opposite her.
‘What does?’ I followed her gaze to the dance floor, where all the couples were now swaying in time to Careless Whisper.
‘Seeing all them couples out there, happy as clams, when there’s people like you and me who just sit by and watch it all happen without us.’ It was impossible for the woman’s voice to sound truly sad but there was a definite melancholy tone to it. It struck a chord deep within me.
I chuckled awkwardly. ‘It’s just a first dance; it doesn’t bother me really.’
The woman eyed me with suspicion. Her eyes pierced through me, behind the layers of bravado I’d built up in preparation for this moment. I’d been dreading being alone for the first dance and my nightmare had come true.
‘Honey, a beautiful young thing like you should be out there with the most handsome young man in the room, spinning like a ballerina without a care in the world. Instead you’re sitting here with an old crone like me!’
My mouth dropped open. ‘Y-you’re not a crone! You look very good for your age actually. I heard you singing Etta James earlier and you were wonderful.’
She let out a wry laugh. ‘S’all I’m good for nowadays. Fifty years ago, I was Ivy St Clair, toast of the jazz scene. Now I’m Ivy St Clair, dried-up old has-been who’s wheeled out for the odd special occasion.’
‘You were a jazz singer?’ I shuffled my seat round, keen to know more about the mysterious Ivy St Clair.
‘Indeed I was!’ Her face beamed with pride and she straightened up in her chair. ‘Back in New Orleans, I sang at every jazz club on Bourbon Street. Oh I did all the classics: Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday. Rock and roll fever hadn’t hit New Orleans yet so jazz was still flavour of the month. I still remember the atmosphere in those jazz clubs; it was like our own version of Hollywood. You could step out on that stage and feel like a star in seconds because you knew everybody in that room was there to see you.’
She cast a wistful glance around the room before turning her attention back to me. I was completely enthralled by her; I could tell she had a thousand stories to tell but nobody had ever taken the time to ask.
‘Wow, that sounds amazing!’ I breathed. ‘I don’t think I’d ever be brave enough to get up in front of a room full of people.’
Sensing she had a captive audience, Ivy continued. ‘Nothing to do with being brave, sugar. I performed because I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else and loving it as much. It was like I was born to do it, you know? It was such a wonderful time. The men knew how to be men then too; they were always sharp as tacks with their suits and ties and their hair slicked back with Brylcreem. And talk about gentlemen! Back then if a man wanted to court you, he had to ask your daddy’s permission first. The ladies were always well turned out too, with their pin curls and finger waves and pretty dresses.’
She paused as though she was remembering something and I saw her eyes drop to a gold locket that hung around her neck. She caught me looking at her and I quickly averted my gaze back to the dance floor.
‘Of course that was in the sixties: a time where things like twerking and Gangnam Style and Facebook didn’t exist!’ she added.
‘I’ll bet you had all the men running after you,’ I said with a chuckle.
Ivy smiled secretly. ‘I had my fair share of admirers but they were just that: they came down to the club to hear me sing, asked me out at the end and I said no to all of ‘em.’
I frowned. Surely someone as beautiful and talented as Ivy would have had lots of boyfriends?
‘Why did you say no to them?’ I asked. My curiosity was piqued; I had to know more about this fascinating woman.
Just then, we were interrupted by Nate. He’d left the bridesmaid on the dance floor and was now standing over us with a goofy grin on his face.
‘Fancy a dance?’ he asked, extending his hand.
I paused for a second and looked at Ivy, who smiled knowingly.
‘Sure, why not?’ I knew my voice sounded a bit wobbly and uncertain and from the look on his face, so did Nate. It wasn’t every day a hunky photographer asked me to dance after all.
A careers adviser at school once told Lynsey writing wasn’t a “good option” and for a few years, she believed her. She tried a little bit of everything, including make-up artistry, teaching and doing admin for a chocolate fountain company. The free chocolate was brilliant. When Lynsey left my job a couple of years ago, she started writing full-time while she looked for another one. As soon as she started working on her story, Lynsey fell in love and decided to finally pursue her dream. She haven’t looked back since.
When Lynsey’s not writing, eating cake or drinking tea, she’s daydreaming about the day Dylan O’Brien FINALLY realises they’re meant to be together. It’ll happen one day…