Collins and Tilden walked holding hands along the River Walk. The brightly multicolored lights emitted a festive air highlighted by the antique streetlamps. Colored lights outlined the river barges with their complement of passengers. The barges were rectangles of red, blue, beige, orange or yellow wood with bench seating on the sides and in the middle. A single pilot at the rear directed the boat down or up the San Antonio River. Multitudes of people of all ages moved along the edge of the River Walk looking at the shops or restaurants. Many of the restaurants were part of the modern hotels that had been erected since the 1968 San Antonio World’s Fair. Indeed the fairgrounds had been maintained to this day in perfect splendor. Music spilling out of the shops or restaurants was Mexican, country and western or current popular melodies. Some stores and shop fronts had troubadours plucking tunes on guitars. The sky was clear and the weather was comfortable enough for shirtsleeves.
“It’s a beautiful night.” Tilden looked up at the star-studded sky. “Have you decided on a place to eat?”
“Yes. The next restaurant after the Hyatt.” He steered her to the menu at the restaurant’s River Walk entrance.
“Mexican-American. Okay by me.” Tilden smiled and the dimples caught the rainbow of light coming from the overhead strings of tiny bulbs.
They were seated and given menus and a large notebook.
“What’s this notebook?” Collins asked the waitress.
“Tonight is carioci night, Señor. You can sing for the lady, yes?”
Tilden looked at her and at Collins. She flashed her dimples and said, “Yes he will.”
“Very good. Please pick out a song from the book Señor, and after your dinner you can take your turn.”
“Sing? In public? The only time I ever sing is in my car, the shower or in church.” Collins blushed.
“You’re committed Matt.” She looked up at him from the menu. “You go to church? We never talked about that. What’s your church preference?”
“We were brought up Episcopalian, but I tend to go to any protestant church when the mood strikes me.”
“Frankie and I go twice a month. When was the last time you went to church?”
“I haven’t been attending church since I got back from Afghanistan.”
“How about going with us the next time we go. We do Lutheran.”
“Lutheran’s good. They do a lot of singing.”
“So you do like to sing.”
“Well, not solo. I don’t think I have a good singing voice.”
“Wonderful. You debut tonight.” She reached over the table and touched his hand.
They completed their spicy repast and their chardonnay glasses were still half-filled. A mustached corpulent man with salt-and-pepper hair announced the carioci singing was to take place. He asked the patrons to select the song of their choice from the notebook.
“Also, ladees and shentlemen, you must sing the song to the person you are with. Right here up on stage.” He waved the cordless microphone high in the air and then brought it to his mouth again. “All the tables iss numbered. We will start with number one.”
“Okay. Matt. Pick out the song. Hurry up. We’re number three.”
Collins looked at the table of contents and then went to the middle of the notebook. He hummed while he glanced at the words. With a broad grin, he turned the book toward Tilden so she could read it.
“All right my dear,” He said. “I’ll sing the three verses and then we sing the last one together. It’s a repeat of the first verse.”
“Matt. You want me to sing?”
“We sing the first verse again last–together.”
“I don’t know the melody.”
“It’s easy. Trust me. If you can do church hymns you can do this.”
The applause had died down for the last couple. A woman who chose to croon with her mate about the “Moon over Miami” sang selection number one. They were from Florida. An elderly man sang off tune to his gray-haired wife about “Harbor Lights”. The jolly emcee now announced couple number three. Collins and Tilden came to the stage. He gave the emcee the number of the song.
“Ladees and shentlemen Señor Mathew Collins will sing to Nancy Tilden – ‘Since I met you baybee”.
The introductory melody began and the words flashed on the large video screen facing Collins and Tilden as they looked out at the dinner audience. Matt held the cordless microphone and began:
“Since I met you baby, my whole life has changed’
His voice filled the room with round baritone tones, which were clear and heartfelt as he gazed at Tilden. The phrase repeated itself with a concluding sentence:
And everybody tells me, that I am not the same.”
The room became totally absorbed in Collins’ full penetrating voice. It was as if the sound wrapped around each patron.
His voice was sincere and poignant. Tilden stared in wonder. Collins had a beautiful singing voice. The words to the song were registering his sincere feeling. She looked at the audience. They felt it too.
Collins nodded to Tilden to come closer and share the microphone for repeating the first verse:
Their voices blended beautifully and in harmony. The audience was caught up with the delivery of their feelings.
Collins reached around her shoulders and they stared into each other’s eyes and finished the song.
“And everybody tells me, that I am not the same.”
They kissed. It was their first kiss. The audience went wild and the applause was thunderous.
“Moss excellenn, ladees and shentlemen. Thane you Mathew and Nancy.”
Collins and Tilden went to their table holding hands. They sat across from each other not speaking.
Tilden produced her dimples with glassy eyes. “That was the most wonderful experience of my life Matt.” She reached across the table and squeezed his hand.
“We have another performance tomorrow.” He smiled still holding her hand.
“Tomorrow is church, remember.”
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