Copyright J. S. Raynor 2010, 2017
After winning “Britain’s got something extra”, Kimberley Raynor’s life changed far more than even she had expected. Once she had treated herself and her family, most of the one hundred thousand pounds was invested for her future. Many of her school-friends were pleased with her success, yet she was aware of jealous looks from others.
Kimberley did realise that, if it was not for Arthur, the mysterious magician, she would not have won the competition. She had a definite feeling that he had deliberately disappeared to allow her to be the victor. Curious to know more, she went onto Google and typed “Arthur Stanley Jefferson”, as Simon Growl had discovered his full name.
Arthur was born in Ulverston in eighteen-ninety and died in nineteen sixty five. He had married four times, but one of these was to his ex-wife.
The film star had a daughter, Lois, born in nineteen-twenty seven and, was, apparently, very close to her, taking her with him onto film sets, even after divorcing from her mother.
Kimberley was, similarly, very close to her dad, but, even so, why had Arthur helped her? She toyed with this question many times, but, one night, she was looking at the many pictures on her bedroom wall, when one, in particular, caught her attention. It was a poster her dad had given her when she was about seven. It was of several old film stars, including Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and, of course, Laurel and Hardy. She looked closely at the picture of Stan Laurel. It was quite small, but she could see the similarity. The little smile, the large, surprised-looking eyes, were unmistakable. The poster had been there all the time, witness to her many prayers for success in the competition. Excitedly, she called her daddy and showed him the poster.
“I had forgotten all about that”, he said. “It still doesn’t explain how he appeared and did all those amazing tricks.”
She agreed that it was a complete mystery, but was grateful that she had been the one to receive this special treatment. As her dad returned downstairs, Kimberley continued staring at the picture. And then, it happened. Was she imagining things or did he really wink at her? She nearly called her dad again, but thought better of it.
Sometimes, it is better not to say anything, in case others may think it too crazy to be true. Propping herself up on her elbows, she lay on her bed for a while, watching the poster closely. Vainly, she tried not to blink in case she missed the subtle gesture, but, disappointingly, the wink was not repeated.
After winning the talent competition, returning to normal life at school seemed very strange. Year six examinations were a chore she could have done without, but Kimberley was looking forward to the celebrations on finishing her primary education. The school had organised several different events to mark this important educational stage, but it was the Oscar ceremony which Kimberley and her classmates were looking forward to.
Just like the real thing, a red carpet led up to the entrance and both children and adults were dressed in their finery. The idea for the evening event was that children who volunteered to entertain would be judged on their efforts and Oscars awarded to the best.
Kimberley, after her television debut was determined to perform at her very best and had been rehearsing “Smile” by Lily Allan. Her friends, similarly, wanted to demonstrate their own singing skills and all had been rehearsing for quite a few weeks.
As Kimberley began to sing, yet again, everybody in the room, apart from herself, transformed into life-size teddy bears, giving her extra reason to smile while singing. Her headmistress looked particularly comical, her furry arms, legs and head protruding out of her elegant evening dress. As soon as Kimberley finished singing, everybody had instantly changed back to their original human form. Understandably, she did not mention any of this to her friends, as they would definitely think that she had ‘lost it’.
By the end of the performances, everybody was hoping for success with the three judges. Kimberley was delighted to receive an Oscar for the best performance. The little statues really did look authentic, but were, obviously, made from plastic.
Three of Kimberley’s friends were also awarded Oscars, but there was a problem. Somebody had mislaid two Oscars and the three girls were told that they had insufficient for all the winners. Kimberley could see the disappointment in her friends’ faces as only one girl was lucky enough to hold the prized statue in her hand.
Deeply saddened by this situation, a strange feeling suddenly came over Kimberley and she walked towards the back of the stage. As soon as she was out of view, she bent down and placed her Oscar statue on the floor. The ring on her finger felt warm and tiny, high-pitched notes seemed to emanate from it. She touched the statue with the ring and, in a cloud of misty silvery sparkling lights, two more Oscars appeared next to her own. “Thanks, Arthur,” she whispered.
Quickly, she picked up all three statues and rushed towards the front of the stage. The head teacher was packing away some of the items used for the ceremony. “Miss!”
The teacher was busy packing and did not look at Kimberley. “What is it, Kim?”
The little girl was excited and proudly showed what she had in her hands. “I found two more statues at the back of the stage. So everybody can now have their Oscars!” Kimberley had no intention of telling just how she came to have the extra statues and hoped that her explanation would be believed.
The head teacher looked stunned. “I don’t understand how they could have been left there.”
Kimberley blushed slightly as her explanation seemed to be in doubt. It came as a relief when the head teacher said, “Oh, well, never mind! Thank you very much, Kimberley. Would you give the Oscars to your friends for me?”
“Yes, Miss.” She felt disappointed that her friends would not publicly receive their awards, but did as she was asked. Maddie and Ellie were truly pleased when they, at last, received their Oscars and thanked Kimberley for her help in finding the missing statues.
Kimberley knew instinctively that, whenever she was in trouble or trying to resolve a difficult situation, the ring which Arthur had given to her would come to her assistance.
When the day of her eleven-plus results arrived, Kimberley was saddened to discover that she had not managed to qualify for the nearby grammar school. As her parents pointed out, she had only missed qualifying by a few points and should still be proud of her achievements. Her second choice, a College of Art, had a good reputation, but, since it was about three miles away, she would need a bus to get there.
As the day for starting her new school approached, Kimberley was feeling very anxious. It was such a major change from primary to secondary education and she knew that the work would get much harder. Kimberley had seen around the school with her parents on Open Day and was aware that there would be many new rules to adapt to. One of the rules was a ban on jewellery, which caused her some concern. She really wanted to wear the ring Arthur had given her , but how?
A few days before school started, she was at her friend Maddie’s house and mentioned the ban on jewellery.
Maddie looked puzzled. “So, what’s the problem? You don’t wear any rings, earrings or anything like that, so you should be alright.”
“But, what about this?” Kimberley looked down at the ring.
“What are you talking about? You must have left the ring at home – there’s nothing on your finger.”
Kimberley stared down again at the glittering silver ring. She was not imagining it, yet Maddie could not see it and, presumably, nobody else could. “oh, silly me! I thought I had put it on.” She blushed a little at her lie.
Her mum had seen the ring the day Arthur had given it to her, but, could she see it now?
As soon as she reached home, she ran up to her mum who was busy in the kitchen. “Mummy! Can you see the ring on my finger?”
Her mum looked down at her daughter’s hand. “No, I’ve not seen you wearing it since that day when Arthur gave it to you. I assumed that you were keeping it safe in your room. Why, have you lost it?”
“No! I am wearing it, but nobody seems to be able to see it, apart from me.”
Her mother looked again, but, to her, there was no sign of any ring. She did wonder if Kimberly’s imagination was being over-active. “Never mind. As long as you can see it, it doesn’t matter.” It did convince Kimberley that she could wear her ring at school, since nobody would realise she was wearing it.
The dreaded day arrived. She felt nervous and sick as she stood with her friends at the bus stop, wishing that she could have stayed at home. Her heavy bag, the stiff uniform and the thought of all the new people she would have to get used to, made her feel very apprehensive. When the double-decker school bus arrived, Kimberley patiently followed the others on the bus and bought a ticket from the over-stressed driver. As she turned to find a seat, she saw a group of children filling the back of the bus. These were not newcomers. They were shouting childish remarks to each other and sneering at the small group of year seven students trying to find a space before the bus started moving. Just as the bus lurched forward, Kim managed to grab a rail and squeezed herself into the space at the side of maddie. This was not an enjoyable journey and one that she would have to endure twice a day for quite some time.
Kimberley tried to ignore the noisy group permanently stationed at the back of the bus, but after only a few days enduring the journey, this became impossible. A group of four boys were shouting and throwing empty drinks containers around. One of these hit Kimberley at the back of her head.
Seething with anger, she turned and looked sharply at the boys. Seeing that they had gained a reaction, they began to laugh loudly.
That was when Kimberley felt a warm feeling from the ring on her finger. In an instant, the four boys flew out of their seats, high up into the air. Heads turned to look in astonishment as the boys, who were now looking petrified, began to spin around as though some huge juggler was throwing them around as if they were small objects.
Even in the confined space within the bus, the boys spun around faster and faster. The driver must have seen in his mirror what was happening and slammed on his brakes, throwing all the children forward. At the same instant, the boys fell back down, landing on top of each other in an untidy heap.
The sound of children’s laughter filled the bus as they had been watching this strange spectacle, but this stopped when the red-faced driver marched angrily down the bus and up to the boys, who now seemed very groggy. “What do you think you are doing? I am not having you children jumping around, doing acrobatics on my bus?”
One of them lifted his head towards the driver and weakly said, “We weren’t doing anything. Something just lifted us up.”
“A likely story! I want your names and I will be letting the school know just what you have been up to!” He took out his notebook and stood over the terrified boys as they meekly gave him their names. Eventually, the driver, now satisfied that he had identified the culprits, returned to his cab and continued the journey to school.
Kimberley knew exactly what had happened and smiled with satisfaction. Once again, Arthur’s ring had come to her aid, but she knew that she must never tell a soul. Not even her best friends, as they would assume that she was losing her mind.
That night, she again looked at the poster in her room. She thought it a pity that the image of Stan Laurel was so tiny and decided that she needed something bigger. Using Google on her computer, she found a wealth of information about the comedy film star and several photos. After a few minutes, she had an A4 sized picture printed and carefully attached it to a card backing before putting it on her bedroom wall. Standing back to look at it, she said, “Thanks, Arthur. You have made a big difference to my life and I will be eternally grateful.”
She spun around in surprise, wondering where the voice had come from. There was nobody there. She was alone in the room and, yet, she had heard his voice. “Where are you?” She sounded frightened.
“Don’t be afraid, Kim. I am nowhere and, yet, everywhere. I will make certain that no harm comes to you.” The voice seemed warm and re-assuring and appeared to be inside her head.
“Perhaps I am going mad!”, she thought.
After this, the bus journeys did not cause her the same apprehension as on those first few days. Kimberley made many new friends and worked hard. She was a very well-mannered girl and her teachers were pleased with her academic efforts. She was not particularly keen on maths or science, yet tried her best to absorb the mass of new information she was expected to remember. English, art and music were her favourite subjects, where her enthusiasm was noticeable.
When Kimberley learned that there were optional lessons on Cheerleading, she volunteered to join and, together with some of her new-found friends enjoyed the lessons. She received instruction from Miss Whitworth, who was also her form teacher and well liked by most pupils.
During one of these late-afternoon sessions, they were practicing forming a human pyramid. Kimberley was one of the supporters, while her friend, Charlotte was standing on the very top of everybody else. Everything was going fine, until Charlotte’s footing slipped. Kimberley realised what had happened and knew that her friend was likely to fall. Even though there were mats on the gymnasium floor, a drop of about fourteen feet could still prove dangerous.
“Arthur!” Kimberley said, urgently. She had deliberately not said it out loud, but more in a strong whisper. In an instant, she felt the warm glow from the ring and Charlotte, instead of crashing to the floor, descended, still upright, down to floor level as though in slow motion. It was as if she was standing in some invisible, protective lift moving slowly towards ground level.
Miss Whitworth looked incredulously at the scene, rushed to Charlotte and asked, “How did you do that? Are you alright?”
Charlotte looked flushed and, shakily replied. “I don’t know! I slipped, but felt as though I was being lowered down gently. It was an amazing feeling! I must have a guardian angel.”
One of the other girls, Joanne, a year eight student, had heard Kimberley’s call for Arthur and looked with curiosity at her. She had no proof that Kim had anything to do with this strange spectacle, but, still, it was quite a coincidence.
News of what had happened to Charlotte soon spread. Everybody was asking her about the incident. She could offer no explanation, but was just grateful that she had avoided injury.
Ever since she had won the talent competition, Kimberley’s life had been very different. Although she had to continue her schooling as normal, she had to travel to London with her parents every few weeks. This was to meet Simon Growl’s production team and learn what was required of her for the Royal Variety performance in December. There was a great deal of rehearsing and, as the time grew nearer, Kimberley was becoming more anxious. It was a big responsibility for a twelve-year old and she was worried about her performance in front of her Majesty on the big day.
Simon Growl himself re-assured her that there was no need to worry. The initial rehearsals were fine, but this did not stop her from feeling anxious. Everybody had faith in her abilities, but was she strong enough to stand up to the pressure? The strange thing was that, every time she began to worry, she felt the ring give a gentle sensation. It was very brief and she knew, instinctively, that Arthur was saying, “Don’t worry, Kimberley. I will look after you.”
To make it worse, there was a great deal of jealousy at school, surrounding her regular visits to London. Kimberley and her mum would travel to London on a Friday morning, returning the following Monday. They would stay in a top hotel near to the Palladium Theatre.
When Kimberley returned to school on the following Tuesday, her friends would be genuinely interested, while others would make nasty, hurtful remarks. Although she had permission from the school, Kimberley still felt intimidated by the comments and would be quite tearful. “They are only jealous”, said her Mum. Kimberley knew this was true, but her sensitive nature made her feel low and miserable. She wished that it was all over then she could return to a normal life.
Her life was destined to be anything but normal and this became evident when she met Simon Growl on her next visit to London.
After the audition on the Monday, Simon asked Kimberley and her mum to join him in the room he used as an office at the theatre. Simon was as impressive in real life as he was on television. He was charming, calm and re-assuring, a man who believed passionately in the people around him. After they had chatted for about half an hour, he arranged for a driver to take them to Euston station to catch their train home. During the one hundred and forty minute journey, Kimberley and her mum discussed, in great detail, what had been said in their meeting with Simon Growl.
Kimberley was excited as she made her way to school on the following morning. As soon as she saw her friend, Maddie, her face lit up and Maddie could see that she had something important to say, “What happened, Kim?”
“Are you planning to do anything over the half-term holiday?” Kimberley asked, still beaming.
Maddie looked puzzled. “No, nothing special. Why?”
At last, Kimberley was able to tell of her good news. “We had a meeting with Simon Growl, over the weekend. He would like me to make an album for release before Christmas. He wants me to make the recording in the London studios, during half term.”
Maddie looked really pleased at her friend’s success, but was still puzzled.
“That’s great! But, why did you ask me what I was doing?”
“Well, Simon is really nice and he asked if I would like to take a friend with me to London for the week. Would you like to come with me?”
“Would I? Kimberley, that’s the best invitation I have ever had! Yes, I would love to go with you.”
The two friends skipped happily as they made their way from the bus into the school entrance. As soon as she had the opportunity, Kimberley told her form teacher, Miss Whitworth of her good fortune. She was thrilled to hear the news and promised to buy a copy of the album when it was released.
The one problem was that Kimberley, who had several friends had chosen Maddie, much to the disappointment of the others. She did feel guilty and wished that all could go with her, but that was not possible. As the news spread, there was even more jealousy than before. One girl was overheard, saying, “Her voice isn’t that good. I could sing better than her.” It brought great sadness to Kimberley, but, she reasoned, “Why hadn’t she entered the talent competition herself, if she thought she was that good?”
The next few days passed quickly and preparations were being made for the travel to London. Both Kimberley’s mum and dad were going with her, while HER brother, her brother, would be staying with friends. Maddie’s parents were thrilled that their daughter would be involved. When Saturday arrived, the four travelled by taxi to Piccadilly station in Manchester, where they took the train. As with all their transport to and from London, Simon Growl’s company paid their first-class fares.
The two girls chatted happily for most of the journey. The four travelled by taxi from Euston station to the five-star Goring Hotel in Belgravia, close to Buckingham Palace. Again, this had all been organised for them, but they were amazed at the sheer luxury. It was a suite with two bedrooms off a comfortable sitting room. Kimberley’s dad, John, looked around, taking in the scene. “I could get used to this way of life.”
Over the next few days, they spent most of their time in the recording studios. Kimberley had to practice many songs until she was word and note perfect. Her mum, dad and Maddie were all in the control room watching her through the large, soundproof window. As she sang each song in turn, her voice rang loud and clear through the high quality speakers in the control room.
Occasionally, the sound engineer would speak to Kimberley through her headphones, to give her instructions, which she followed precisely. The days were long, but everybody was well fed during the many breaks.
On the Thursday, Simon Growl came into the studio and seemed pleased with the progress. He listened to some sample tracks and praised Kimberley for her efforts. They were all thrilled to meet him and agreed that he was very pleasant, well mannered and nothing like his television persona.
On the following Saturday, Kimberley had finished all the recordings and, now, somebody had the task of editing, mixing and producing a finished album, ready for release into the shops. Their return train did not leave Euston until five in the afternoon, giving them time for some last-minute shopping.
Kimberley had, for some time, a liking for clothes by Hollister and, with the help of her mum and dad, found the store on Prince Charles’ Drive. Kimberley, her mum and Maddie went into the famous American fashion store, while her dad wandered around a hi-fi shop not far away. After an hour of looking, choosing, trying and buying, the three emerged from the store, carrying several large bags with all their purchases. They were walking towards the hi-fi shop.
At first, they took little notice of the man in his mid-twenties. There was nothing unusual about him and he blended in with others walking along the street. As he drew close to them, he pulled out a knife and held it menacingly. “Give me the bags,” he ordered. “No fuss and nobody will get hurt.”
The three froze and Kimberley stared in amazement. The man suddenly realised that the three of them were not looking at him, but straight past him. Slowly, he turned around, only to come face to face with the stomach of a huge teddy bear. It must have been at least ten feet tall. It had appeared instantly behind the man. He stabbed wildly at the huge, furry creature, but this did not stop it from spreading its tree-trunk like arms around the man, lifting him up and, literally, giving him a bear hug. The gigantic creature looked down and seemed to smile, even though its enormous mouth was just made from massive stitches, as with most toy teddies.
The criminal’s arms flailed wildly and his face was turning crimson as the breath was squeezed out of his lungs.
As quickly as it had appeared, the bear vanished, leaving the man to drop hard on to the pavement. There was a look of sheer terror in his eyes as he struggled to his feet, left the knife where it had dropped and ran away, as fast as his legs could carry him. The two girls and Kimberley’s mum stared in astonishment at the scene.
Maddie spoke first. “Am I imagining it or was that a huge teddy?”
“You saw it, as well as me?” Kimberley realised that Arthur had, somehow, come to their assistance, but she had wondered if she was the only one to see the gigantic teddy.
Her mum pulled herself together. “I thought I had seen everything, but I’ve never seen anything like that! It appeared and disappeared so quickly.”
“But, why did the man want our bags?” Kimberley was puzzled by his actions.
“Look at our bags,” Kimberley’s mum explained. Hollister’s name is quite clear for anyone to see and, if they realise how valuable their contents may be, then they were probably worth stealing.”
The three were quiet and thoughtful as they met John in the hi-fi store. He was unaware of the weird incident. “What’s wrong?” he asked, seeing the troubled look on their faces.
“Someone just tried to steal our purchases, but, thankfully, they changed their mind.” She did not feel it appropriate to go into details in the shop and would tell him later.
John looked shocked. “Are you all okay?”
“Yes, we’re fine, but I think we are all ready to go home, now.”
Soon, they were back at their hotel, where they collected their cases and made their way back to Euston station. Compared to the events of the past few days, the journey back home was quite uneventful. When they told John about being rescued by the bear, he thought they were joking and took quite a bit of convincing.
Although Kimberley had enjoyed her week in London, especially the luxurious hotel, she was happy to be back home and in her own bed. She lay there, thinking about all that had happened since she had met Arthur at the talent show. She marvelled at how every occasion was different. The illusions for the talent show, the replacement Oscars, the idiot boys on the bus being juggled, Charlotte’s cheerleading accident and now the super-sized teddy. All were fantastic and so imaginative.
She did wonder what would come next, but, more to the point, why was all this happening to her? She was thankful for having what, in effect, was a fairy godmother looking after her, but wondered how long it may last.
The next few weeks were hectic. She had to attend school, complete her homework and rehearse for her performance before the Queen in December.
At last, the big day had arrived. Kimberley was nervous as she was being made up by dedicated theatre staff. Her hair, make-up and the fantastic dress made her feel very special. Simon Growl was giving her words of encouragement and kept telling her not to worry. Rant and Peck would be introducing her and they, like Simon, did their best to reassure her.
As usual, the two were joking with her as they all walked to the side-stage area ready for her entrance. They could hear the applause as the previous act, a group of Russian dancers finished. Rant and Peck walked in front of the huge curtains, while Kimberley was shown just where to stand, while she waited for her introduction. In addition, several dancers positioned themselves, behind the nervous twelve-year old.
At last, the applause died down and Rant began his introduction. “Earlier this year, eleven year old Kimberley Raynor became the winner of Britain’s best talent show in the strangest final we have ever experienced.”
Peck continued, “Arthur Jefferson, better known as Stan Laurel gave us the most fantastic illusions ever, only to disappear into his own carrier bag. This meant that Kimberley became the winner and she most certainly deserves it.”
“Your Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen, please put your hands together for a Carpenters medley from Kimberley Raynor!”
The whole theatre erupted with the applause, Rant and Peck walked off the stage and the curtains began to open. Kimberley looked tiny on the huge stage and then, the orchestra started. The twelve-year old began to sing, putting every effort into the vocals while the dancers behind her made their well-choreographed moves.
As before, every member of the audience changed into teddy bears, making a very strange sight. The young girl looked up to the Royal box out of curiosity. Even the Queen had changed into a teddy, complete with dazzling tiara.
As she came to the end of the main part of the medley, the dancers left the stage and two huge screens were lowered down behind Kimberley. For the last song, “Close to you”, Simon Growl had wanted to have one image projected onto each screen. The one on Kimberley’s left had a picture of Arthur, which had been taken from the talent show’s recordings.
The other screen had an image of Karen Carpenter, edited from recordings of her from the seventies. In effect, the image of Karen was singing along with Kimberley for the song, “Close to you., giving a very strange effect and one which took the audience by surprise. Mixing levels meant that Kimberley’s voice was dominant, but Karen’s voice echoed the words of this most beautiful song.
That was when it happened. Kimberley could not see what was going on behind her, but the audience gasped as the magic started. Arthur’s image became three-dimensional, literally walking from the screen. He walked over to the other, where Karen was singing. Arthur placed his hand on the screen where Karen’s hand was. Gently, he took her hand and escorted her from the two-dimensional screen into the real world. She carried on singing as she walked with Arthur close to Kimberley.
It gave her a shock when she realised that the woman standing next to her was Karen Carpenter, but, like a professional, she continued. She also realised that Arthur was standing close to her, just as with the words in the song. Remarkably, the two figures standing by her felt real to the puzzled girl.
As the song ended, the audience erupted into enthusiastic applause. Karen and Arthur took Kimberley’s hands and the three bowed towards the audience. The applause was deafening and seemed to last for ever and, as the curtains began to close, the two magical figures walked back to the screens, appearing to melt into the surface.
As Kimberley turned to walk from the stage, she noticed that everybody backstage was looking open-mouthed and dumbfounded.
Rant and Peck gave her a hug, both inquiring, “Did that really happen?
Kimberley smiled. “it certainly did and, what’s more, I could actually feel their hands. It seemed really strange.”
Simon Growl walked up to Kimberley. “That was fantastic! Not just the singing, but the whole effect. I don’t know what it is with you, Kimberley, but you seem to be enchanted. I’ve never seen anything like it, before.”
Kimberley had a refreshing drink after her performance and watched the remaining acts before the show ended.
The finale meant that all acts had to run onto the stage, bow and stand in positions, as instructed. She was slightly disappointed that Arthur and Karen did not join her again, but she knew that it had been too much to expect.
The curtains rose and dropped several times as the audience applauded for what seemed to last ages and, then, it was all over.
The theatre manager organised all the acts to line up in the foyer, ready to be introduced to the Queen. In some ways, this was even more nerve-wracking than the actual performance.
“Remember to bow or curtsy as Her Majesty reaches you and say, ‘Thank you, Maam’, as in Jam.” The theatre manager fussed about making certain that everything was ready for Her Majesty.
The chattering stopped as the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh started meeting the performers . Rant and Peck were on one side of Kimberley, while Simon Growl was on the other and all waited, nervously for the Royal introduction.
When it was her turn, Kimberley curtsied. An aide whispered the names of the performers to her Majesty as she reached each individual. “Well done, Kimberley. I do like the Carpenters and enjoyed all your songs. The special effects were very clever.”
“Thank you, Maam.” She smiled as she realised that her Majesty was not aware that what she had seen was truly magical and not some carefully-choreographed special effect. She smiled as she looked, once again, at the glittering ring on her finger.
If you have enjoyed this story and would like to find out what happens next for Kimberley, read Part Three (Where is Arthur?).
Copyright J. S. Raynor, 2013, 2017
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