Disclaimer: I've never been to Great Britain...This a work of fiction I am sharing (rather hesitantly) ...I'll post it in small pieces which could take some time...Well, here it is...LK
(For the memories of L.R.M.)
Caroline Ciccione smoothed a carefully trimmed and taped newspaper clipping against the page of a nearly-filled scrapbook, noted the substantial pile of untouched newstype that remained, and heaved a contented sigh. She was reaching for the scissors again when car keys jangled in the doorway behind her. A handsome man wearing a nervous smile said, "It's time."
* * * * * * * * * *
As the club band plied the lively dance
crowd with a rollicking verion of the early U2 hit "I Will Follow," I braved
the cigarette fiends at the bar, shouted my order above the din, and then
I saw him. Hell, I saw a ghost from my childhood.--Instant recall.
Five-foot ten...Hazel eyes...Birth- date: November 12, 1955...Are you Leslie
Richard McKeown? Oh, God, he caught me looking at him.
I wedged my way back to the table and tried to blend in.
London, England was the place. After five years of college to garner my elusive bachelor's degree in the States, wonderful great aunt Evelyn, who also happened to be my godmother, suggested I spend a summer abroad at her expense tackling a couple more courses for old times' sake before I entered the work force back home in the fall. The young Brits I called my friends so far included my roommate Molly and her platonic counterpart Ted, and I'm sure they believed I was turned on to their bounding about in the night, but in truth I was mainly turned on to my own curiosity. Leslie had turned up again at the club.
Determined to get some answers this time, I turned to Ted. "Do you know who that guy in the pink shirt is?", I muttered discreetly.
"You mean the aging ex-pop star in the queer attire, sitting alone at the corner table with cigarette in hand and a furrowed brow?"
"Yeah, I guess."
"Used to be in some group back in the seventies called the Bay City Rollers. Shall I call him over for you?"
"Seriously, look the other way, girl. He's got this disease called rudeness."
"...How do you know he's so rude?", I persisted.
"I've heard things. Besides, check out that foreboding expression. He literally radiates hostility."
"He can't come in here every night because he enjoys his own company."
"Be careful, girl. He might enjoy yours." To my questioning look, he replied, "A guy hears things." Vagueness would get him nowhere. Curiosity 10, Ted 0.
Sunday night, I burrowed between the dancers and skirted around groups of club occupants toward that corner table. He was alone as always, hadn't said a word to anyone but the wait staff all evening. I wondered what his mid-eighties profession might be, and observed the look of a man who thinks he's become a loser, a mean look. Ted, you were right. Oh, well, here goes.
"Hi." The wide open road to a brilliant conversation.
He responded by shaking his cigarette ashes into his empty beer glass and saying nothing. He stared out at the dance floor then slowly back toward me.
"I can leave." Ted was right.
"There's any empty chair. It's yours if you want it."
"Thanks." I felt like I had to say it. I could see Ted waving at me between strobing lights and bodies.
"Looks like you need a refill on your drink." He signalled to a waitress, pointed toward his glass then waited for me.
"Cointreau with a twist of lime," my fanzine past beckoned me to say but I opted for the more familiar rum and cola, trying not to look or sound as nervous as I actually was. Leslie looked tired and sagged in his chair in a sad sort of way, no longer the fresh-faced Scottish lad who was full of mischief and sang his way into young girls' hearts...I had known him then. Maybe only in a teen magazine sense, but he had fed my imagination. I still owned all the Rollers' record albums, dusty but as playable as the day I bought them.
Only when the drinks arrived did he ask my name. "...Where are you from, Caroline?"
"A small town in the States...Reese, Michigan." Ten minutes from Bay City, I didn't say.
"And you? I know you're not English!", I returned teasingly, desperate to put him at ease.
"I'm Leslie. And I'm not from London. I'm from Edinburgh...Scotland."
"What do you do in London, Leslie?"
My luck ran out then. "Shouldn't you be with your young friends, Caroline?"
He shuffled his feet as if he might be leaving soon. I wondered if anybody loved him. I remembered he had been very close to his parents, but his father had died years ago. Where was his mother now? Perhaps the time had come to lay down my cards.
"I know who you are. Who you were, I mean...I saw you on TV when I was in seventh grade, and--"
He scowled and reached for the jacket on the back of his chair. "It's one of you. Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water. Why don't you go back to your teenybopper friends?" He gave his vacated chair a shove.
"It's been a long time. I just wanted to know how you are."
Unwilling to let him bruise my ego any further, I stood, turned and walked away--with dignity I hoped, but I felt like a banished child. Ted, you were so right.
I wasn't able to wind my way back to the club until Wednesday night. "See you guys later!", I offered to Ted and Molly as the gang grabbed their usual table. I found the corner table empty and was waiting there when Leslie arrived. He stood undecided, towering over me, then he shrugged and sat down.
"I thought you might be here tonight." No speak. "Do you really have so many friends that you couldn't stand one more?"
"I've made a rule not to hang about with silly girls who only see me for what I was. I'm not rich and famous anymore. There's only what you see right here." Still, something in my expression of defeat made him give me a chance.
"Hey, I'm sorry...I've always been the cheeky one. Afraid it's got the best of me. At least let me buy you a drink."
Olive branch accepted, I dived back in. "You still haven't told me what you do."
"I don't sing anymore," he replied quickly.
"Is your favorite car still your blue Ford Mustang?" For the first time, he smiled.
"Usually I take the bus. No one really recognizes me anymore."
At that point, our server intervened and we ordered our first round. As the woman slipped away, I sized up the situation and gathered what I wanted to say but wasn't sure I should. Leslie was thumbing a pack of matches and contemplating a smoke.
"I used to write this crazy story. Eric and Woody were in love with my best friends, and I was engaged to Derek but you were always so nice to me. We had some great talks. I kept rewriting the stupid thing long after you guys had disappeared. I never really knew what happened. You were just gone...I kept a diary back then and every November 12th, I'd start a new one and wonder."
I studied his thin face, realizing he had looked that way in his last photographs with the Rollers, including on the record sleeve of his last album with the band, "Strangers In The Wind."
"What really happened?" Would he trust me enough to say?
"Disillusionment, if there is such a word. The other guys disillusioned with me, me with them. Disillusioned with Hollywood, and television. The endless demands...Then at this worst moment, I was voted out of the group for having the wrong attitude. I was tired of being photographed at every turn and wondering was I gaining any pounds. I just wanted a rest. Well, they gave it to me...and what's it now? Seven years later, here I am."
"But where did you go? The world didn't just stop when the Krofft Superstar Hour got canned."
"I have a room at my mother's house. I go there whenever I like. She's not always well so my brother the deejay looks after her for me. I keep a small flat here in London...Take odd jobs. Day jobs, night jobs, whatever needs to be done. I spend a lot of time *here*...I've been driving taxi's for the last six months. Like I said, no one remembers me." A bit of a smile.
"You always had that extra spark, the front man...Why did it have to die?" Too serious. "You know, sometimes I think your voice reincarnated into Bono Vox."
A flash of the patented Les McKeown grin. Then he sipped his beer thoughtfully and stared me straight in the face. "I think maybe you're the first person to ask what these years have been like for me. As if knowing is somehow important to you."
"Well, it is." I laughed lightly but his expression remained serious.
"I have to go, but could you meet me here again tomorrow?...Caroline?"
An instant head rush told me the summer's most enlightening moments might not include classroom discussions of Jane Austen.
Thursday night. Londontown was being doused with rain and below normal temperatures. Like I knew what was "normal" anyway...Les was waiting for me near the club's front door. "Let's not go inside," he said.
"But it's raining," I was still stating as he took my arm, steering me toward the curb and into a borrowed VW. Our destination turned out to be his first floor--second story to me--apartment. Despite having seen nicer hallways in college dorms, I was beset by an extreme case of pins and needles. My meandering had taken a sharp turn into the unreal.
"I hope you've eaten," he said apologetically as the lock clicked on his door and he reached inside to turn on the lights. "I should have asked sooner."
But he was certain he had wine if I was interested. Leslie's living quarters were simply furnished yet comfortable, I surveyed, quietly taking a seat at one end of his sofa. While he rummaged in his refrigerator, I studied a coffee table strewn with foreign sports car magazines and a nearby televison that had seen many years of use. My ex-pop star host began whistling a tune I didn't recognize, finally appearing with our beverages and one plastic cup then sat down leaving plenty of space between us.
"So what do you want to talk about?", I inquired, pouring a healthy serving of wine.
"...I keep thinking you're one of the people I wanted to get away from. I supposed I wonder if you still find me attractive. Then I wonder why you would. I smoke too much, there's the age difference..."
"LES LOVES ADVENTURE!" a teen magazine had once declared. Did sense of adventure bite the dust by age thirty?..."I like you," was my forthright response. If thirty-year olds could still blush...I took a big drink.
"When I saw you for the first time at the club, I felt lucky. I thought I was seeing a ghost. Now that I'm old enough to appreciate this opportunity, out of the blue, here you are."
You're never too old to be shy, I guess. Leslie's eyes were cast toward the worn carpeting on the floor. I reached for his nearest hand, and unclenched the fingers to fit into my own. When he turned his head toward me, those eyes were bright with their own curious questions.
My life story of twenty-two and a half years did not take long to tell. Leslie's interest surprised me. Maybe we were both dumbstruck by chance...which included the chance to pursue each other if we so desired. He told me there had been many women but never anyone serious until gradually the affairs had dwindled and he drifted into his current lone wolf existence.
"Would you like me to take you home now?"
No longer in need of an invitation, I moved across the sofa, feeling the drowsy effects of the wine in my blood. "I like you, Leslie," I said again as I searched his face and reached out to touch his pin-up-poster hair, hoping he would put his arms around me. He did. "Do you think we could find a room somewhere?".....
Friday, one week later. Molly's raised voice through the shower door. "So are you in love with him or what? My God, you've been seeing each other every night! You know, I think Ted misses you."
Hearing Leslie's name was not neccessarily required to send me spinning off into dreamland these days. For instance, right off the bat, he had told me that he'd never spilled his guts to anyone about his days in the music business...Oops, Molly had finished speaking.
"You think Leslie's too old for me, don't you?"
"It's not his age, Caroline. He's been an unhappy person for a long time. I'd hate to see you get dragged down with him...I don't know. I just fail to see what's wonderful about a dusty ex-singing star who drives taxi's for a living."
I thought about Molly's choice of the word "dusty." Well, maybe she was right but underneath the dust... Not even in my wildest storylines had Les McKeown ever told me I had made a difference in his life, leaving me to reply, "That's my job--To make you young again."
His place once more. Squeaky sofa...whispering over chocolate milk in the dark. I was asleep in his arms when the phone rang. "Hello, Leslie here.....When?.....Yeah, I'll be there... Thanks for calling..." Slowly, he dropped the phone back into place. "It's my mum. She's just died...At the hospital."
I rubbed my eyes and reached for his hand. "What happened?"
"Something with her lungs. She couldn't breathe. And not long after..."
I sensed I was about to be dismissed. "I've got a long drive ahead of me. Would you like me to call a taxi? I'm sorry about all this...I'll give you a ring when I can."
As he began to dial, I kissed him and said, "Don't say you're sorry. It just happened."
It just happened. Two weeks went by and I was still waiting. The dust had cleared and I was back to my studies and out clubbing with Ted and Molly, but wondering (deeply and constantly) how someone I had known for such a short time could have left such a hole in my life. My friends tried to cheer me, declined to ask questions just yet, and I watched the shadows dance through a cigarette haze...An empty corner table. Who chose to sit there in his place didn't matter. The table was still empty.
Frustrated, Molly finally blurted out, "If he loves you, he'd call." So I caught a bus, rode it to the proper neighborhood. Up the stairs, and the name on the door...was gone. I stumbled to the nearest red phone box and cried.
Three weeks remained of school. I rallied my way toward finals and a ticket back to the States, not the type to let grades slip over heartbreak. Molly, Ted and I took in a Springsteen show, and madly staked out a hotel where George Michael was supposedly residing. My school chums believed I'd survived a summer fling, but inside I knew two things: Leslie's mother had died, and he never would have dumped me otherwise. Without malice. The facts of (my) life.
SCOTLAND--One of the four countries that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The country's rugged mountains, green valleys, and deep, blue lakes provide some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe. Scotland has cool summers and cold winters. Most Scottish cooking is simple. The favorite alcoholic drink is Scotch Whiskey. I set out to find me a bottle.
Passing the club in daylight, I peered inside through the glass. By the time I returned to my room with my purchase, I had decided not to drink its contents after all. Instead I would keep it by my bed as a kind of epitaph
for however long I deemed neccessary. I told Ted and Molly so as I walked in. Molly did her best to interrupt me then I noticed the envelope on my bedside table.
"The delivery boy brought it round just after you left. It's Britishrail fare to Scotland, and your train leaves in an hour."
I boarded the train with only minutes to spare, Molly convinced that I was going to quit school, and Ted pissed at Leslie for dragging me off on what he hoped was only a weekender so close to finals. Neither of them asked me what I thought, and I hadn't any time to think until the train was moving...Edinburgh-bound for the next six hours or so. Midnight arrival, early Saturday morn.
The rail car was comfortable though well populated. School seemed far away and unimportant. I had brought one textbook with me that I probably wouldn't open as well as a few items of clothing, mostly for cooler temperatures than I'd encountered in London. And somewhere along the way, I admitted that despite all the feelings I had for Les McKeown, we didn't exactly know each other very well. Was I crazy, or was I doing the right thing? Or both?
I tried to picture the Central Lowlands in non-encyclopedic terms, but the vision escaped me. I saw only black and white images from old "16" magazines...Leslie sitting on the hood of his car, Leslie demonstrating how he washed his hair in his bathtub (fully clothed of course), Leslie with his smiling mum and dad, and a color spread of individual Rollers in their natural habitats. Why couldn't I remember Leslie?...I knew my mother had thrown all of my magazines and color pictures away, and where before the idea had never bothered me, now my heart felt heavy. So heavy...I fell asleep still clutching my proof of passage to Edinburgh.
I must have been the last to realize we had reached our destination because a young attendant had to wake me. I thanked him as I retrieved my pass and gathered my carry-on belongings. Joining the last stragglers to step from the train, I paused to look around me, finding the station almost empty at such a late hour. I walked in the direction of the nearest exit sign.
He appeared in my line of sight just inside the station doors, a light jacket clutched about him as if he was unsure of wanting to be seen or recognized. I felt hesitant myself. But the very instant I was within touching distance, he threw his arms around me and asked, "What are we going to do?"
Riding through the night, Leslie's shoulder, and headlights on the road...I was farther from home than I had ever been before, at the mercy of a man I strangely loved despite the eight years that divided us. The car slowed to make a right turn down a secluded drive. Engine stilled and silence.
"...I tried to let you go. Guess I didn't make a very good job of it...C'mon, you're tired. Let's go inside. This is my mother's house."
I trudged beside him, hoping that we could crawl into bed very soon. Again he led me to a second story, down the hall to a room that had always been waiting for him. And all the years converged there. Guitars hung on the walls, keyboards in their cases, put to rest. A stack of newspapers in one corner that he had always meant to organize into scrapbooks but had never found the time, then when he had the time, he only wanted to forget.
"She left this house to me," he said in a hushed voice. "I bought it for my parents as a Roller, and now she's returned it." I squeezed his shoulders, in comfort I hoped. "I really wanted to forget you," he continued without looking at me. I studied the back of his head, fighting that choking feeling in my throat. "Didn't work. But I tried. Thank God I failed." Now he faced me. "Because now that you're here, I can't tell you how much I missed you."
"I have finals next week," I informed him. (Huh?)
"We can talk about that later...Let's go to sleep." He kissed me hungrily and we tumbled onto his unmade bed.
Sunday morning already. I was industriously cooking french toast for two while admiring the McKeowns' green, well-tended garden. "We still have to talk," I reminded him...A funny thing to say since we had spent most of our time that weekend talking. I wanted a decision to be made for me, some magical answer to the puzzle of my future.
"School is important to you. I wouldn't know myself, but I know it's important to you."
"Do you really want to be a lone wolf all your life?"
"I stopped thinking about what comes next years ago...but I can't go back to London."
I finished my breakfast slowly, watching him. "I wish I could take you home with me." He was stalling and that was scary.
A resigned "I can't keep you here."
"...You're going to let me go, aren't you?..."
Far too collected, Leslie checked his watch and noted, "It's eleven. Your train leaves at noon." I rinsed the dishes and went upstairs alone to gather my clothes strewn among his clothes around his special-in-such-a-short-time room. I did my best to cry quietly, feeling like I hadn't passed the audition...Thought about asking for a taxi to the station so I wouldn't have to look at him anymore.
"I'm ready." He was standing at the kitchen window, staring endless miles past his mother's garden. I was beyond reaching out to him, wanting so badly to be gone. "I have enough money for a taxi. You don't have to--"
"It's not easy!" He slammed his fist fiercely against the windowsill. "It's not easy to lose you! I just can't see a future for you here..."
A two a.m. phone call. Molly grumbled when I turned on the light. "I'm fine," I yawned, "I made it home just fine."
"I feel awful," Les thought I should know, "but I can't see this any other way. Can you... honestly?"
Without much consideration, I honestly answered, "No."
After that, we didn't have much else to say except goodbye..."He loves me, Molly. I know he does," I protested into renewed darkness.
"He's a fool is what he is."
"...Molly?", I confessed, "I stole his notebooks."
The notebooks had been lying in plain sight on the floor of Leslie's room. I'd collected them with my clothing like a sneakthief. Although previously accused of being too honest and gullible, in a guiltless panic, I had decided that I wasn't going to leave without something. I had no idea what the notebooks contained. Ultimately, guilt had set in on the train causing me to wish I could have at least been implicated with his call.
Since school ranked first on my list of priorities, the unturned pages rested in peace on my bedside table beneath the still-sealed bottle of scotch...until Tuesday evening when my friends departed for the club, and I stayed behind to imbibe both words and alcohol.
"We've been away from home near enough seven weeks. The stress is not so much physical as mental. I was always a loner anyway. Success means you have to make sacrifices. I miss driving for miles and miles on my scooter. I used to go out in the rain and snow and get soaking wet and I thought it was great. Used to go hitchhiking in the summer.
Wish I could have my car with me then I could just drive off and be alone for an hour or two. My mother still doesn't understand quite what has happened to us. Mum's Irish Stew...I don't like hotel food at all really. The others like to call me a fussy spoilt wee brat.
I love to buy my mother things, it makes her so happy, and then I feel the same way. Even when I had no money at all, I'd sometimes buy her cigarettes or chocolates. They made her just as happy as anything I might buy today that costs a lot more."
I pinpointed the year as 1975, before the band made it's plunge into the U.S. music biz. The 1976 album "Dedication" was recorded in Toronto with a new member, Ian Mitchell, and at one time, sixty-thousand fans gathered to see them.
"In young Ian's eyes, I can see fear. There is no escape from the hysteria. I've thrown myself into the recording of this album, fancying some lonely girl will sense my confinement. Then I'll have left my mark in this world. Only I'll never know, shall I?
'I can't sleep nights wishing you were here beside me/Can't help feeling that's the way it ought to be...' I imagine a young girl's mother scolding her daughter over those words. I lose myself in these daydreams. Making records is my job."
Ian left the group, of course, after that one album. Another replacement, Patrick McGlynn, was even shorter lived. Continuing the tune of an album a year, 1977 brought the release of "It's A Game."
"An article has appeared in one American teen magazine telling all that the Rollers, in our own words, are not boys anymore. That we're grown men who do enjoy a drink, and God forbid, a date with a woman our own age. Newsflash: Some days I hope I'm not the first to burn out.
The new songs are a real progression for the group, I think, as they should be.
The overwhelming fan mail, I can't read it much today. Behind each line is a squeal. I'm going to rent a car and find a back door from this hotel. I miss the North of Scotland in the summer, I miss my mum."
Leslie's days with the Rollers were now numbered. Following their entrance into the Saturday morning ratings game in the States (Odd timing, I thought, after the more adult appeal of "It's A Game."), and the little publicized release of "Strangers In The Wind," he snapped.
"The criticism finally fits. My dreams of success wasted away to grinning at cue cards and lip-syncing to thirteen-year-olds. I only wanted to sing, and now there aren't even any words. 'Strangers' was the end of the road for me. They aren't having any more of Leslie McKeown."
I capped the whiskey, despising the bitterness, just as Leslie had become so bitter toward his career. His last words as a Roller were "No one is going to remember us." I couldn't read or drink any more. I needed to take a walk. I wondered if Leslie had ever walked to clear his mind. No, global fanaticism had swiped that option from his life...Instead his mind had just stayed jumbled since he had flown home that night from the States. Suddenly gone from my life. Our collective Roller-girls' good will was to blame, our young age at fault, for his misfortune.
How could I have known the answer to this? That when personal freedom and self-importance vanished, all he had left was just a shell that couldn't remember or feel a simple pleasure other than a childish love of his mum's
favorite dish? Walking alone the campus sidewalks, I couldn't feel bad for me. I could only feel sad for him because I didn't know then. I was just a kid, Leslie. Shielding myself from the rain beginning to fall, I dashed back to the dorm.
My folks limited their trans-Atlantic phone calls to once a month and they had already made their August call, so I was surprised when they rang me again in mid-week of finals. "Just wanted to double-check on your flight home," they said.
"Good luck on your exams!", my mother chimed.
I said goodbye, fighting back tears, phone cord tangled around my fingers. Then I picked up Leslie's last notebook and relived the death of his father, and all of the empty affairs. Wasted years, even he admitted in private. He said that way his aspirations would never exceed life's limitations. Damn him, I wanted to shout! He hadn't been cheating anyone but himself. He had cheated himself out of me.....
One step closer to Heathrow. I took photographs and collected addresses, stared at telephones or out of windows when I'd have been better served gazing at study guides. I actually unplugged the phone once because I convinced myself that Leslie was going to call on that particular afternoon. When he finally called, it was Thursday night and I was fighting to pack several oversized, insubordinate suitcases. My remaining strength went to pieces when I tried to tell him how I thought I'd aced my afternoon exam...until the only words I could choke out were, "Can I go now?...(Sob)...Please?"
The idea of cashing in my plane ticket--when allowed to be a conscious thought--both appalled and intrigued me. Caroline on the lam, you know? I mentally toyed with the pro's and con's. My parents would be out-of-their-skulls pissed off. But on my side was freedom.
Last class, another potential "A," and a trip to the airport with Molly, my like-it-or-not confidante. Mail was waiting when we returned. A letter from Leslie. I found a shaded bench in the nearby courtyard where I sat momentarily motionless, envelope in hand, before pulling out the penknife in my pants pocket.
"Dear Caroline, You probably know more about me now than is good for you. I see that you have lifted my private thoughts. I want you to know I understand, and I want you to keep them...I never told you, but I used to picture myself with a girl like you. I'd even bet your favorite Bay City Rollers album was 'Dedication.' I'll always be glad we had this chance to meet.
I've thought about us so much. I'm sorry that I made you cry. You told me once that your life seemed like an unfinished novel and you wished that you could flip ahead to the last page. Well, in the years since the Rollers, there have been times when I seemed to be stuck watching a bad movie unraveling before my eyes, only the movie was my life. I wanted you to know that in our short time together, the demented screen writer went away...I'd like for us to keep in touch. Love you, Leslie."
The club, eleven p.m. My fourth rum and cola, or was it five?
"You're going to do something stupid, aren't you?", Ted inquired.
I pulled my eyes away from the ever more mesmerizing effect of multi-colored lights flashing on the ice cubes in my otherwise empty glass and managed to say, "I owe it to myself to do something stupid once in my life."
"I cashed in my plane ticket this morning. I'm not ready to go home yet."
"And at the end of the line is that Scottish bloke's doorstep, am I right?"
"Actually, I was going to Dublin to look for Bono and the Edge."
"Cut it, Caroline. I know what you're going to do. And if it's going to get you out of this bloody funk you've been in, so be it. Much as I bloody hate to say this, I'll be happy for the both of you. I'd like to tell that bugger a thing or two, but I'd be wasting my breath because deep down, he must already know."
Saturday noon. Goodbye London, riding the rails back to Edinburgh, wearing jeans and a Springsteen tour t-shirt, windbreaker in my lap for the likely ten-degree temperature drop. I wasn't thinking about potentially lost luggage or the telegram I'd sent my parents saying don't bother to meet me at the airport. I was studying, analyzing, Leslie's letter for exactly the thirty-eighth time.
While the other passengers conversed, tried to keep small children in check, or dozed, one quite loudly, I scrutinized the green, passing landscape, and wondered how Les correctly guessed I still had a cassette copy of "Dedication" stashed somewhere. With a faraway smile, I remembered how my girlfriends and I had pestered our local deejays to play the Rollers' latest singles--AGAIN! The static we had caused with our hysteria...Unlike my first trip to the city of Edinburgh, this time I stayed awake for the duration. And somewhere along the way, the sunshine became clouds until there was only a dark drizzle over the countryside. My earlier bravado began to wane. This was real life stuff, my first crack at it, and I had chosen to be an irresponsible knucklehead. Then a frightening thought dawned on me. Unemployed or not, a twenty-two-and-a-half-year-old college graduate's responsibility is not to her parents, but to herself. A lunatic grin gradually replaced the anxious-for-days expression on my face.
He answered on the second ring. Adrenalin rush? More like an adrenalin ttidal wave. "Caroline? How did you get home so--"
"I'm *not* home, I'm at the station--here in Edinburgh!", I socked him with my happy hysteria. "We've been such a couple of bozo's, you know? Because I don't *have* to leave. The only place I *have* to be is right here!--With you." Completely breathless, my brain was invaded by B.C.R. song lyrics (Why must my teenage heart feel blue...If you're listening at all...Your love's put a magic into my life) until I feared I'd miss Leslie's response. If he had one. Suppose he didn't *want* to be shanghai'd in love?
What I think he did was drop the phone. I felt a tidal wave of relief when he offered me a rather choked-up chuckle, followed by, "I guess I'll have to take you home with me then." Just as I thought he was going to hang up, he added, "I love you, Caroline Ciccione."
"Dear mom and dad, I don't even know how to begin to explain this to you so I'm not even going to try. What I will say is these have been and are the most amazing days of my life..." Leslie's near magical transformation picked up with a brief, impromptu visit from ex-Roller Eric Faulkner. I only caught a glimpse of him at the front door as he paid his respects to the late Mrs. McKeown, but I could hear--although not decipher--all of the accented dialogue (puncuated with plenty of "aye's") between the two Scotsmen. I deduced a clash or two of egos had occurred in their show business past, and hoped this would be time to reconcile.
Eric returned a few days later with a worn-looking Rollers songbook he said he had borrowed from an old fan of the group. If Leslie wanted to look at it, he said. A week passed, finding Eric back with an acoustic guitar and me following the two of them upstairs...The result was only a rough attempt at what they used to be, but Leslie persisted, favoring the ballads over the rockers for the moment. I wasn't sure I should stay as he thumbed through the songbook to choose another number...until Eric began strumming the intro to "Don't Let The Music Die." Color me swept away--by every word and every note, even though they had decided to work out just the verses. Then the voice that I would die for (metaphorically, of course) soulfully hit its mark. Blown away by Leslie's eyes meeting mine to the words, "Echoed voices from the past recall the songs I thought would last. They say those times will never die and the love we share's the reason why..." Eric (looking virtually unchanged from his BCR days) just shook his head, laughed to himself and kind of shrugged, still strumming his guitar.
A club date was set in which Leslie would front a quasi-reunion band of Eric, Woody and perhaps Alan with members of Eric and Woody's current band Ruffian filling in wherever needed. I absorbed every moment of their joke-filled rehearsals and watched an at-first openly tense Les relax into the professional but light-hearted guy that I knew on TV as a teenager. (Stage presence is like a bicycle...) However when the final rehearsal day arrived, my lead singer asked me to stay home. I guess I would have been hurt if he hadn't looked like he was one-hundred- percent relying on me to understand why he had to do this one thing on his own. "Go then," I said bravely, "but I want to hear everything when you get home. Okay?" His determination may have had something to do with that old clash of egos. I barely knew Eric, but thought I could still recognize someone laid back yet driven, a guy who always had a plan. Please be kind to Leslie, I prayed.
Well, the long and the short of it was Eric and Woody weren't keen on committing to a full-time Bay City Rollers reunion, but both were willing--and Alan too--to doing a few shows to get Leslie's name back into circulation...beginning with tomorrow's club date. And by the way, the legendary Cliff Richard would be there representing the record label EMI U.K. Caroline spent the evening and most of the next day working on Leslie's years- forgotten scrapbooks. She was still clipping when her knight in the knockout stage clothes shook his keys, nervously smiled and said, "It's time."
Eric volunteered to drive Caroline home after the performance while Les stayed behind to talk business with Cliff. She was still rocking to the closing tune--"Let's Go"--as she studied the late afternoon sun on the peaceful green of Leslie's backyard...She barely noticed tires on the drive more than an hour later, lost in a sea of pages in those now-finished scrapbooks which were spread across the kitchen table. He burst through the door beaming and said, "Come 'ere, Caroline, and close your eyes!" What? If he insisted...He put one hand across her eyes to keep her honest, and led her out the front door by the other until they were, she guessed, standing in the driveway. "Okay, open now."
There was Leslie, sitting on the hood of a blue Ford Mustang. Not *the* Ford Mustang, but "It'll do," he quipped. He told her to climb in beside him and he'd take her for a spin, then one day soon, when he wasn't recording his first solo album (produced by Cliff himself) for EMI U.K. or thanking his good friend Eric for the billionth time, he'd drive her to the North of Scotland.
(Written 6/5/88...Reworked 3/5/96...by Loraine A. Koski)