WRITTEN BY AMANDA BRITTANY
I knew the perfect groom for Mandy was out there. I just had to wait for my stubborn daughter to open her eyes and her heart…
I first met Louise in June 1969 in the local hospital.
“Mrs Jennings, we’re going to take baby to isolation now,” the nurse had said to me, throwing me the same caring smile she’d used since the birth of my little girl. But still panic rose as she wheeled my daughter away.
The baby I’d dreamed of since I was eighteen when I first saw the motion picture Mandy on a repeat showing at our local cinema.
I’d watched the plot unfold with David, my new husband, mesmerised by the child star Mandy Miller who played her role beautifully, alongside Jack Hawkins and Phyllis Calvert.
“If we ever have a little girl, we should call her Mandy,” I’d said to David as we walked home from the pictures hand in hand.
But it had taken several years to fall pregnant, and now the child we’d hoped for was heading for isolation.
I’d turned to Louise that day. She was another new mum on the ward, in the bed next to me. Her eyes were full of tears, mirroring mine.
I pulled the pale-blue blanket to my neck and breathed in deeply, exhausted after giving birth. “They’ll be all right,” I whispered, praying it was true.
“Yes,” Louise said, dashing away her tears with her hand, clearly as worried about her own baby as I was about mine. “At least they have each other.”
She meant well, but how could our tiny newborns protect each other?
The nurse glanced over her shoulder on reaching the door. “Don’t worry, Mrs Miller,” she said. “Andy is doing just fine. He’ll be out of isolation in no time, you’ll see.” She moved her eyes to me. “They both will,” she reassured. “This is a precaution, that’s all.”
I stayed awake that night, longing to hold my baby close, staring through the window at the clear night sky, and hoping the next day would bring with it news that both babies would be all right.
The following morning, the nurse appeared with a bright smile and the good news. Our babies were just fine, and within a few hours they were out of isolation, and in the week that followed Louise and I became great friends.
The day we left, Louise handed the nurse a bunch of flowers.
“They’re beautiful, thank you,” the nurse said, looking at the card tied round the stems. “Love from Andy and Mandy,” she read out loud, before gently stroking the babies’ cheeks in turn. “You know what? I reckon these two are made for each other.”
I smiled, wondering if it was true. Their cots had stood side by side in isolation, and the nurse had been sure the cherubs had been communicating in some way when she’d checked on them.
“Well, I did name my daughter after Mandy Miller,” I said. “The actress,” I confirmed, just in case they didn’t realise. “So maybe it’s fate that her name will be that one day.”
For five years my friendship with Louise flourished. But despite hoping Andy and Mandy would one day be made for each other, they didn’t seem to be. Louise and I enjoyed chatting over tea and biscuits once a week, whereas the children never stopped squabbling.
OK, yes, Mandy was a bit bossy and liked everything just so, even at that early age. Andy, on the other hand, was a typical boy, spending his life with grazed knees, dirty short trousers, a pocket full of marbles, and a desire to get into mischief. They were opposites, and not the kind that attracted.
Then one day Andy wrestled Mandy to the ground because she was “bossy”, and she ended up with a scuffed nose and a dirty dress, and in floods of tears. Louise did little about it, preoccupied with her three-year-old twins, who were equally mischievous. That was the day our friendship began to drift apart.
In fact, it wasn’t long after that that we moved out of the area. There was no internet or Facebook back then to keep our friendship thriving over the miles, and letters and phone calls soon turned into a card once a year at Christmas with a few lines inside.
Yet every year on Andy and Mandy’s birthday, I would think of Louise and her little ones, and feel sad that things had never ended up as I’d hoped.
As the years went by, Christmas cards told me snippets of Louise’s life…
Andy’s started senior school, Andy is captain of the football team, Andy’s started his own building company, the twins have started university, Bob and I are going on a cruise.
I would send messages back, in a similar vein…
Mandy works in a gallery of fine art, Mandy’s doing well in London, Dave and I went to Greece this year.
I didn’t tell her that I wondered if my daughter would ever meet Mr Right, that she was now twenty-five and didn’t seem interested in settling down. In fact she’d only recently told me she didn’t mind how long it took for her to marry, as long as she met the right man. But I still worried she was missing out.
It was when a gold envelope dropped onto the doormat, and I opened it to find an invitation to the evening reception of the wedding of Andy Miller and Jane Snow, that my heart sank a little. The fact Andy was getting married only magnified my worries about Mandy.
However, I wondered if I was being fair; after all my hopes for her were based on my own dreams at the same age, and those of my parents before, but times were changing. I had to accept that. Although I still worried she’d be unhappy alone.
Although the invitation was for the three of us, David was working on the day of the wedding.
“Maybe we could go together,” I said to Mandy.
“Is that the boy who almost broke my nose when I was little?” she said, looking at the invitation and smiling.
“Yes, that’s him,” I said. “But I’m sure he’s sorry and won’t do it again.”
She laughed. “OK, why not? I don’t think I’ve got anything on that day, and it will be nice to have a night out with my mum.”
We arrived as the reception was in full swing, Things Can Only Get Better was being sung by a three-piece band, and a dozen or so people were already up on the dance floor. Louise spotted us and headed our way, eyes sparkling.
“Thank you so much for coming,” she said, drawing me into a hug. The years fell away, and we were back in that maternity unit once more with our newborns. I knew from that moment on, our friendship would be revived, and I was grateful.
“So this must be Mandy,” Louise went on. “My goodness, you have grown into a lovely young lady!”
“Hello,” Mandy said, with a shy smile, and took hold of her outstretched hand.
“Right, well, Andy’s over there,” Louise said, and nodded towards a handsome young man in a tuxedo, chatting with a group of people. “I’ll introduce you shortly. And the boys are over there.” She nodded towards her non-identical twins. One had his arm round an attractive blonde woman, and the other turned our way and smiled.
“Oh my goodness,” I said. “They’re so grown up.”
“I know! Where have the years gone?” Louise said. “Come on, I’ll introduce you,” she said, and we followed her over.
The young men, smiling and friendly, were a far cry from the three-year-old handfuls they once were. It was clear one had a girlfriend, but I picked up that Robert was single.
It was later in the evening that Mandy danced with Robert to the three-piece band’s interpretation of Let’s Get Ready To Rhumble. They were laughing and talking as they bopped, and I admit I got my hopes up. But later still she was dancing to a slow number with another young man, and Robert was propping up the bar.
Afterwards, as we drove home, I smiled across at my daughter in the passenger seat. She glowed, a twinkle in her eye I’d never seen before.
“Did you have a good time?” I asked.
She took a deep breath and let out a long sigh. “Yes, yes I think I did.”
“Know.” She laughed.
“So what did you think of Robert? He’s very handsome, isn’t he?” I sounded a bit swoony. Maybe I still had it in my head that my daughter would be Mandy Miller one day. I was clearly being overly romantic, probably because of the wedding.
“He’s nice. Yes.”
It’s clear that none of the Miller brothers are for me
“Mum, he’s really not my type. In fact, I think it’s clear that none of the Miller brothers are for me.”
“Oh. Oh I see.” I moved my gaze to the road ahead.
“You sound disappointed.”
“No, no of course I’m not.” But I couldn’t hide that I was a tiny bit. I just wanted my daughter to be happy.
As though reading my mind, she said, “You know what, Mum. I’m happy as I am. I love my job, and if I never find Mr Right, that’s OK. Honestly.”
“Yes,” I said, taking my hand from the steering wheel, and placing it gently on her knee. “Sorry.”
“It’s 1995, Mum,” she continued. “It’s not the end of the world if I never meet anyone. And, I’m only twenty-five anyway. I’ve got heaps of time.”
“Yes, yes you have.” Meeting Mr Right wasn’t the be all and end all, I knew that deep down.
“Anyway,” she added, “I quite like Stephen Taylor.”
“Andy’s best man. I danced with him. He’s really nice, loves fine art too. He’s asked me out for a meal next week.”
“Really?” I tried hard to sound nonchalant, but a tiny part of me wondered, with an internal smile, as I pulled up outside my house, whether I should have named her Elizabeth.
“It’s early days, Mum,” she cautioned.
“Yes, you’re right,” I said, smiling and pulling on the brake in more ways than one. “Just as long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters.”
Now the organ plays, and we all rise.
I catch Louise’s eye as she dabs it with a handkerchief…
As Mandy passes, her arm linked through her father’s, the aroma of her bouquet of roses floating on the air, she smiles my way.
Who’d have thought that at 47 she’d be getting married for the first time? Most of her relationships over the years, including the one with Stephen Taylor, fizzled and died. But still she was happy in her own skin.
It was a few years back that she met Andy properly for the first time since childhood. It was at the celebration of our Golden Wedding Anniversary and we’d invited Louise and her family.
It was there, in the corner of the marquee, as music played, and laughter and chatter carried on the air, that the couple talked and laughed. Andy, a widower of several years, and Mandy, an apparently confirmed single woman found love.
Now, my heart is full as she reaches the altar, stands next to Andy and looks up into his warm brown eyes.
A lump rises in my throat, as I recall the nurse saying there was a connection between the babies, and how Louise had said they would be all right, as they had each other. Well it’s certainly true now.