This song was recorded in 1960 by The Drifters, and is another in my song title series of short stories. Tissues at the ready.
We met when she was 15 and I was 19. Teenagers with raging hormones, but despite the ribbing from my friends I instinctively knew Rose was the girl for me. We dated for a while, lived, loved and laughed, then went our separate ways in the big, wide world.
Although I often thought of her, my work took me all over the country, and it was several years before I saw her again. She had remained friends with my sister, who kept me updated on who she was seeing, and what she was doing. Sally’s email hit my personal inbox while I was finishing off a contract in New York.
‘‘Hi Jim. Just to let you know the party’s been organised for my birthday. Obviously you’ll be aware of the date, but knowing what big brothers are like, it’s the 25th. Get your penguin suit ready, it’s going to be posh! At The Grange, no less. Dinner at 7.30 and carriages at midnight, so no pulling a Cinderella act and turning up late. Hire a helicopter if you must, but be there! And don’t forget I want a BIG, expensive present. Rose has split with that toe-rag she was seeing so you can be her “plus one.” See you on the 25th. If you’ve got anything else arranged, cancel it! Love Sal. X’
I couldn’t believe my baby sister would soon be 21, but that meant Rose must be a similar age as they’d been in the same class at school. It would be good to see her again. Well, both of them, obviously. Sally could be a pain, but she was family, whereas Rose was, and always would be, special. I was looking forward to spending the evening with her, but things didn’t work out quite as planned. Knowing the timing would be tight, I’d booked an overnight stay at the hotel, and arranged for a taxi to take me there direct from the airport. At least I’d be on the spot if we were held up by traffic, and would have time to freshen up while everyone else was enjoying their first course.
“We regret to announce that due to the adverse weather conditions, the 5.35 a.m. flight to London is experiencing delays. We apologise for the inconvenience and will keep you informed. Please listen out for further announcements.”
Great. I’d pulled out all the stops to finish the project so I would be in time for the party, and now it looked as if I’d not only be late, but shattered from lack of sleep and sitting around at airports waiting for the fog to clear. Sally wasn’t best pleased when I sent her a message explaining, but what could I do? It was impossible to concentrate as the hours crept past and the departure board remained blank, but just as I was on the point of giving up, the tannoy announced the boarding gate and I was finally on my way.
Thankfully, there were no hold-ups at Heathrow when the plane landed, and I promised the taxi I would pay any fines and double his fare if he put his foot down. Despite his best efforts it was already 11.35 p.m. when we pulled into the parking area at The Grange. After checking in and the quickest shower ever, by the time I had thrown on my monkey suit and found the ballroom it was nearly midnight.
‘Ladies and gentlemen. It’s been a wonderful evening and our hostess, Sally has asked me to thank you all for coming, and for the wonderful gifts. This will be a birthday to remember. Please take your partners for the final dance of the evening, that old favourite, “Save the last dance for me.” On behalf of the band, I would like to wish you Goodnight and a safe journey home.’
I couldn’t see my sister amongst the crowd, but the smile Rose gave me as I held out my hand to invite her to dance was worth every hassle of the day. We didn’t have much chance to talk, but I held her close, she put her head on my shoulder, and I stole a quick kiss before she was whisked away as the evening ended.
‘It was lovely to see you again, Jim,’ she said, ‘even if it was very short and sweet. Thanks for the dance.’
‘I’m sorry it wasn’t longer, Rose,’ I told her. ‘It’s been one of those days, but I’ll keep in touch. Perhaps we can meet up one night, and make time for more than just the last dance. See you soon.’
Again, fate intervened. The following day, after catching up with some sleep, I was enjoying a leisurely lunch and checking my phone when an urgent message popped up from the MD of the company I had been working for.
‘Need you here, like yesterday. Phone me as soon as you see this. Damn time zones.’
By early evening I was winging my way back to the states, with no opportunity to arrange a proper date with Rose. The problems had been nothing to do with my work, and it seemed the main man had been so impressed he immediately signed me up for a lucrative, extended contract. It was another two years before I returned to the UK, and I assumed my lovely girl would have given up waiting for me.
It all seems like yesterday, but the memories are as fresh and new as they were fifty years ago. Our family and great grandchildren encourage us as we take to the dance floor to celebrate our golden wedding anniversary. Temporarily discarding our walking sticks, we hang on to each other for mutual support as the band strikes up, and as usual, my darling Rose has saved the last dance for me. 🥰
© Voinks April 2019