Leeford Village episode 99: The vicar, in the study, with a telephone
Catch up with the latest episode of the online serial by authors Michael Braccia and Jon Markes.
Previously in Leeford Village: Ken Taylor stops himself from doing something to Frank, who then explains about the planning issue to Violet. Sherry didn’t want the market assistant job in the first place, but Linda is more interested in what happened in America. Allen goes to the vicarage to once again offer the job to Zack, but ends up losing his temper. Cody imitates Coleridge when Justin visits, asking about Jasmine.
It must be important, she thinks, his dad hardly ever rings me. Clare has made her decision. She is going to Manchester, and, until the call from the Revd John Peterson, she was close to finishing with Zack for good. Her mom, Mel Adams, knows there is something else confusing the situation.
‘You could still see him, even if he doesn’t go to uni. Ring his dad back. He said he’s in for the next hour - it’s got to be about Zack.’
‘But he’s an idiot, mom. He’s all over the place. After proposing over a year ago, he’s—’
‘Always trying to prove himself,’ interrupts Mel.
‘Exactly, but he’s lost track of what I want. What I need.’
‘Darling, there’s something else, isn’t there?’
‘It’s Ziggy, isn’t it? You’ve seen him recently.’
Clare slumps onto the sofa. Her mom always knows. Mothers always know. Mel sits beside her, sliding her arm around her shoulder.
‘Do you love him?’ Mel asks.
‘Of course I do!’
‘No, of course not! I’ve always loved Zack.’
The tears flow, her face reddening. Mel holds her tight in her arms.
‘I know love. Even your dad knows, and he’s about as understanding and observant as—’
‘Zack,’ says Clare.
Sherry Cross always wanted to be a star. Her voice has been described by John Peterson as ‘the sigh of an angel’ – something he told his congregation when Sherry was just fourteen, during her short ‘career’ in the choir. John wanted her to stay, but pop music and boys kept her away. However, two years ago, Sherry auditioned for a TV talent competition. Julie Gregson – talent spotter for Beladon Productions – voted for Sherry to go to the next stage but her co-judges disagreed, saying she was immature (even for her age) and that she had a limited singing range. Nice voice, no future in pop music, they said. A few months later, Julie decided to track her down. She eventually travelled to Leeford and found Sherry standing outside the launderette. Julie took her for a meal and made her an offer.
‘Come and live with me in Las Vegas. I’ll make you a star.’
‘What – the American Las Vegas?’
‘I don’t know of one in England. Do you?’
Shocked, excited, but upset about leaving her beloved sister behind, Sherry eventually left for the States. The first few months were a bewildering maze of club gigs, rehearsals, meeting agents and other artists, and auditions. However, Sherry began to feel uncomfortable. Nothing specific happened, but she had the feeling that Julie, a recent divorcee, wanted more. Vulnerable, scared and lonely, this was the moment when Carlos came into her life.
Sherry had just completed four consecutive nights of gigs in local clubs when Julie asked her if she would like a weekend away at Long Beach where Julie had an apartment.
‘You’ll love Los Angeles. Give your voice a rest for a few days – we’ll just chill out together.’
A young man, about 23, approached her at the bar as she came off stage. She noticed his eyes twinkled when he smiled. His mouth opened slightly, revealing perfect teeth.
‘Would you like a drink, Sherry? I’ve seen you here four times now. You have a beautiful voice.’
Sherry muttered a reply, taken aback by this approach, but feeling the hairs on the back of her neck bristle.
‘Just a cola. Thank you.’
By the end of the night, they had agreed to see each other again. Within a week, Sherry had fallen for him. She had mistakenly thought that Julie wanted her, and now Sherry wanted Carlos.
His father owned a ranch in Brazil, near Sao Paulo on the Atlantic coast. Within a month, he revealed that he was leaving the States to return home. His father had a plan for Carlos to eventually take over the business. He stunned Sherry one evening with a question.
‘Will you come with me?’
Her state of mind dictated that she would make a rash decision. The following day she told Julie that she could no longer stay with her.
‘Maybe the music industry isn’t for me,’ she said.
There was nothing that Julie could do to persuade her to stay, and she flew to Sao Paulo with Carlos. She was in love – or thought she was.
As the weeks went by, Sherry realised her mistake. Carlos had no serious long-term intentions towards her. He had a string of girls who would follow him to the clubs they attended. One particular girl, Anita, was close to Carlos’s father. She had worked for him for three years and she dropped the bombshell to Sherry as they stood at the bar one evening.
‘You know that Carlos and I are engaged, don’t you?’
That was enough for Sherry. The following day, she told Carlos and his father that she wanted to return to England - homesick, disillusioned, career in tatters. Carlos had been kind to her, but she had misunderstood his intentions. He liked having pretty girls around him and maybe she was just one more. He tried to persuade her to stay, but finally agreed to help her. His father gave her enough money for the flight home and Carlos gave her one final day out – in Rio – before she boarded a plane to Birmingham the next day. The adventure over, she wanted to get home to her sister, but as yet has not been able to tell Linda the whole story.
Clare selects Zack (home) from her mobile contacts, being very careful not to press Zack (mobile).
It’s answered after four rings.
‘Hi, Mr Peterson – you called earlier.’
‘Oh, hello, Clare! I’m glad you got the message. I’ve had a nice chat with your mom. Would you be able to come over to the vicarage? About six?’
‘What’s it about?’
‘Let’s just say I want to kill about three birds with one stone. I’m wearing two hats - the vicar and the frustrated dad.’
The images immediately jump into Clare’s mind. Two hats, three birds, she thinks.
‘I just have one question for you.’
‘What’s that?’ says Clare.
‘Do you still love him? If you do, and want to hold onto my infuriating son, you don’t need to say anything. Otherwise…’
The silence at the end of the line tells him all he needs to know.
‘I’ll see you at six, Clare.’
‘Thank you so much,’ she says.
Revd Peterson’s plan starts to unfold. He has Clare arriving at six o’clock and he has already made sure that Zack will be in. John cobbled together a most unlikely reason to ‘ground’ his son when the usual noises emanated from the basement. Zack is in the middle of another bout of songwriting, and the chords are not coming easily. This doesn’t lend itself to the most harmonious sound. However, to be grounded for being noisy and out-of-tune is, to say the least, unusual.
‘What? Dad, you can’t be serious!’
The next part of John’s plan is to persuade Allen Gomez to come back to the vicarage. At the conclusion of his last visit, he managed to knock a cup of tea out of John’s hand, causing the teacup to smash into several pieces.
‘Hi, Allen. Didn’t think you would answer my call.’
‘Sorry vicar. By the way, I’ll pay for the broken cup.’
‘What about the carpet cleaning bill, Allen?’
‘Oh – sorry, of course I’ll—’
There is a pause as John cruelly leaves Allen to stew.
‘I’m pulling your leg. You may not have noticed, but we have a stone-tiled floor at the vicarage.
C of E standard. Anyway, it was a cheap tea set from the market. Allen – just be there.’
Six o’clock. John calls Zack into the study just as the doorbell rings.
‘John, it’s Clare!’ calls out Hilda.
‘Send her into the study, please love.’
Clare enters the room, the estranged couple looking surprised to see each other.
‘You sit next to Zack, please Clare.’
The doorbell rings again. Hilda brings Allen into the room.
‘What’s he doing here, Dad?’
‘He is here to finally help you sort yourself out, my lad!’
John is on a roll now, and no one dares to stop him.
‘Right. Allen, will you still accept Zack’s job application?’
‘Okay. Let’s stop messing about, Zack. You need a career, you need to carry on your education, and you still want Clare?’
‘Yes, of course I want Clare.’
Clare reaches over and touches his hand, tears in her eyes.
‘I have a suggestion. Zack - you will accept Allen’s offer for the post of Assistant to the Market Manager and you can start next week. I’ve already spoken to your boss, Allen, and it’s all set up. I’m not going to apologise for interfering. This needs doing.’
‘Okay, John, I accept,’ says Allen, meekly. He is impressed by the vicar, who continues.
‘Zack. Next week I will help you enrol on that Business Studies course. If you work at the market for a couple of years, who knows where it might lead? And, you will be pleased to know, the job is part-time. Sorry, Allen, forgot to mention that. Initially three days a week, so you will be able to spend a day or two in Manchester with Clare. You can, ahem, study together. How does that sound?’
‘Thank you so much, Mr Peterson,’ says Clare. She stands up, leans over the desk and plants a kiss on John’s cheek.
‘Well,’ he says, his face a light shade of vermilion, ‘hopefully that’s all sorted. Now get out all of you. I have a sermon to write.’