By Karen J Mossman
Jenna heard the song on the radio and the sweet rawness of the words swept her back two years ago when she met a stranger on a train.
Off to London to visit her Aunt Ivy, Jenna was late. She flung open the door of the first carriage just as the porters 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. She was met with the deepest brown eyes she had ever seen.
Sorry,” she gasped breathlessly, not meaning to invade his privacy.
Just at that moment the train lurched and threw her into the seat and almost into his lap. “I’m so sorry,” she said again, suddenly flustered.
“It’s okay, as you’re here. Why don’t you take a seat?” To hear an American voice right in the heart of England was unexpected..
She grinned sheepishly, and sat Jenna opposite him.
The carriage she found herself in was small and stuffy. Outside the blazing sun sent temperatures soaring. She felt hot and clammy, and it was not a day to travel comfortably.
The open window made little difference to the humidity and Jenna attempted to draw him into conversation. Giving up, she settled back to rest, and soon fell asleep.
When she awoke some time later, Jenna found the train stationery and Nino, as she later learnt, was nowhere in sight. She pulled out a magazine and read the problem page. She was part way through someone’s acne breakout when he opened the door and came inside.
The sight of him took her breath. A black tee shirt, that matched the colour of his hair, clung to his torso. It emphasised his muscle-filled torso. Jeans and boots completed the Adonis-like vision.
“Hi,” he drawled. “It’s so damned hot in here, I thought we could use a drink.” He carried two cans of cola.
“Thank you,” she said taking the offered drink.
He sat down, pulled the ring on his can. “I don’t think the British have heard of air conditioning.”
“Well erm, this weather is unusual,” she replied, glad he at least wanted to talk now…
“Sure as hell is.” He raised the can to his mouth and took a long mouthful.
“Are you on holiday?” she asked.
She took a long drink and told him how she was visiting her aunt. For a moment she contemplated telling him why, and then thought, what the heck. He was a stranger and they were unlikely to meet again. “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. We’d only been together two years.” She gulped, still unable to believe she had meant so little to him. Feeling the familiar lump in her throat, Jenna laughed as if she had said something funny.
“I’m sorry.” He appeared genuinely sympathetic.
“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 as she fought to keep the tears away. “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 there, too.”
“Well, what a coincidence!” she gushed. “Mind you, I’ve never heard of the singer which isn’t surprising as my aunt has the weirdest taste in music, but hey, if it gets me out…”
“Sure does. And you never know you might enjoy it.”
“Yeah, a 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 disappointed when he didn’t suggest they meet at the concert.
The following day, 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 laughed at Jenna’s scepticism as they settled in their seats.
Before too long, the show began with a disembodied voice announcing the act. “Ladies and Gentlemen. 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 wore all black, jeans, tee-shirt, and a leather jacket with tassels that swayed as he moved. His obvious talent and great singing voice soon had Jenna on her feet too.
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 vied for Nino’s attention, but he only had eyes for her.
Later they had dinner, Aunt had declined his offer to join them.
After they were inseparable.
At next concert, Jenna sat in the wings and Nino’s performance was even better close up. Especially good, when every time he came off stage, he kissed her!
He had many interviews and photo shoots lined up and Jenna accompanied him.. She was even with him when he recorded the songs for his debut album.
On the last week of her holiday and his British tour, they went into a London Radio station. They were both giddy and on a high. Jenna sat facing Nino for the interview, but behind the presenter. A little bored, she decided to give Nino direction and spice things up a bit.
The introduction was given after they had played his song. The Presenter started with his first question. “And when did you discover you could sing?”
Jenna rocked her arms and Nino promptly said, “When I was a baby.”
“Really? That young?”
Jenna put her fingers to her eyes pretending to wipe away the tears.
Nino replied, “I used to cry in tune.”
“Really?” The man appeared to believe every word.
Nino looked again at Jenna who put her hands together in prayer.
“I used to cry in church.” She shook her head and Nino quickly corrected himself. “I mean sing, I used to sing in church.”
The man nodded, “When you were older, of course?” Jenna held up her fingers and Nino said, “Three, when I was three.”
They laughed so much. They had so much fun. Jenna wiped a tear from her eye.
In the hotel room after they had laughed about the day’s antics, Nino held her gently and said, “I love you, Jen. I’ve had the best time.”
She caught her breath, “But you don’t even know me.”
“Honey, all I can say is that Pete must have been mad.” He kissed her neck and her skin turned to fire. “I knew you were different the moment you almost fell on me in the train.”
“I did not,” she scoffed. “Besides, you didn’t want to talk to me at first.”
His kisses travelling down her shoulders and she groaned. “Because I just wanted to look at you,” he said, as his hot breath caressed her skin.
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.
Making love with 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 so 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, and she felt for the chair. Her heart was still broken for what she’d lost.
After all this time, Nino still loved her!
“And if you want to catch Nino, he will be in Manchester on the 8th and 9th of next month. Next up we have….”
“Poor Nino,” Jenna whispered aloud. 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.
It was only later that 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.
Heading into town was a daunting task. The bus driver called out her stop and she disembarked. It wasn’t difficult to find out which hotel he was at.
“Can I help you Miss?” a voice beside her asked.
She jumped and turned to him, “Is this The Imperial?” All the big stars stayed there.
“It is. Shall I escort you to reception?”
“If you don’t mind,” she said, as she mounted the steps beside him.
At the reception desk, a female greet her. “May I help you?”
“I believe Mr Santario is staying here?” Jenna’s heart pounded so much it made 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?”
“Well I…” she hesitated.
“I assure you I’m not some crazy fan trying to get near him.”
“Well, all right then, but it doesn’t mean he’s staying here.”
Jenna smiled. “I understand. I’ll just wait, is there a seat?”
“Yes, I’ll show you.”
It seemed like an eternity, as she clasped and unclasped her hands in anticipation. She formed the words so many times in her mind just for this moment. 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 but could only imagine his face. Jenna picked up her white stick and went towards him.
Meeting a stranger on the train who turns out to be someone unexpected, is a scenario that I quite like. If you do too, you maybe interested in reading my novel set in 1980s Manchester.