When Jed woke it was still light and after taking a quick look at his Casio watch he saw it was closing in on six o’clock and tea-time. By now his mum would be wondering where he was. And if there was one thing he knew for certain, it was never to be late for tea-time. On more than one occasion he’d had a clip to the ear for being late, and just as many times he’d gone hungry when his food was deposited in the bin. He loved his mum, but boy she was a stickler for meal times.
Home was only a short walk, and he was thankful he no longer needed a covert operation to get there. Schools had closed well over two hours ago, and nobody would question why a schoolboy was up the town. He pulled his shirt on and covered the stains with his jumper. He knew he’d be hot wearing it, but rather that than arriving home with visible red streaks on his shirt.
“You almost went hungry,” his mum called as Jed bolted up the stairs to his room.
“Sorry, be down in a minute.” He raced into his room and slammed the door, throwing his school bag on the floor and ripping the jumper over his head. He fumbled with the buttons on his shirt and almost pulled several off as he rushed around looking for a t-shirt. His mum had left a clean pile on the end of his bed. He grabbed one but managed to knock the pile to the floor. That was another reason he could end up with a clipped ear this evening; he grabbed the pile and forced it into a chest of drawers.
The school shirt stared at him as he heard his mum telling him to get down sharpish for his food. There was no time to think; he grabbed it, rolled it up and shoved it at the bottom of the washing basket. With a bit of luck, she wouldn’t notice the shirt when it went in the machine. And if she did . . . well, he’d worry about that then.
Taking the stairs two at a time, he bounded down to the sitting-room as the first bars of Crossroads theme tune began to blare. His food was on the coffee table, egg and chips and a couple of slices of white bread with a thick spread of butter. He grinned, this was his favourite meal.
Mum didn’t like to chat while her programme was on, and that suited Jed just fine tonight. He wasn’t up to fibbing about school today, and mum was an expert on spotting his lies.
Jed layered a slice of bread with chips, lining them up neatly between crusts. He decided against tomato sauce – he’d had enough of that today – and put a second slice of bread on top. He flattened the chip butty with his hand and dunked a corner into his egg. He looked at Mum as he took the first bite. She smiled and took a sip of her hot, sweet tea and then turned her attention back to Crossroads, where no doubt Jed assumed another tragedy was about to unfold.
While they ate, Jed couldn’t help but think about Simon and Jonno, and how one day he hoped he’d get his own back on them. Even if it was in years to come, he really hoped he would find a way to make their lives as miserable as they made his. Jed didn’t just dislike Simon because of the bullying, he secretly envied Simon’s elevated status at school. Every girl he looked at ended up a giggling mess, and if word on the grapevine was correct, Simon had already touched-up most of the girls in his age-group. Jed could only dream of doing that, he squirmed on the floor as he thought about touching Carmen’s breasts. Fat chance, he decided, she doesn’t even know I exist.
“What you fidgeting down there for?” his mum questioned.
Jed felt his ears burn and he leapt up quickly, “Nothing, just getting up to take my plate to the kitchen.”
“Take mine will you.” She handed over her plate and cup. “You out tonight?”
“Yeah. Up the youth club. Jim will be here in a bit to get me. I’ll wait in my room.”
“Well, if you put on that record player of yours, try to keep it down a bit. I don’t need grumpy next door knocking on my door complaining about your noise.” She grinned, “But if she does, I might suggest she switch her hearing aid down.”
Jed laughed and went to the kitchen. He washed the plates and left them draining.
Up in his room, Jed hauled his portable record player from beneath his bed. This was his prize-possession, something mum had relinquished to him several years ago. It resembled a small suitcase, and he flipped the clips and pushed back the cover to reveal the playing table. He crawled to the end of his bed and plugged it in. As he turned a knob he heard the familiar whir and click that told him it was on.
A second box was extracted from beneath the bed, and from this, he took out a pile of vinyl 45s, still in their paper sleeves, every one of them being Jed Parsons hits. He rummaged through and decided on five good ones. He pulled them from their sleeves and piled them onto the spindle. He turned another knob and the table began to spin. The first record fell down and Jed picked up the arm and wiped the stylus to remove a build-up of fluff. When the needle connected with the grooves he settled back against his bed waiting for the cackle to stop and his song to begin.
Jed sang along and gazed at his walls. Every surface was covered with posters of Jed Parsons. Most of them had been torn from magazines, but some were posters the man at the record shop was throwing out and happily handed over to Jed. ‘Lovin’ Heart’ ended, the arm moving away to allow the next vinyl to drop down, and before long ‘Ragin’ Girl’ was in his ears.
He let the music drift around him and wondered if Jed would ever come to England for a concert. But would Mum let him go? Jed decided he’d go regardless. There was no way he’d miss that. The thought of being in the same room as Jed was something he found hard to comprehend. Would he shout and scream? No that was just for sissies. No, he’d be cool and keep a dignified stance. And what would he wear? Would the jacket be good enough, or would he need persuading Mum to buy him a new real leather one? That might not be too easy – she’d already told him he couldn’t have a real one until he stopped growing. He decided he’d work on her when the time came.
He started making plans for getting to London, which he was certain would be the venue choice. After some consideration he settled on the train; it was faster than a coach, and besides, he was sure it would be full of other Jed Parsons fans and they could talk and share sandwiches and a flask of tea as they travelled. Plus he wouldn’t get lost if he stuck with them.
He decided to write a letter to the fan club and enquire if a concert was being planned. Spelling wasn’t his best, and he had several attempts before he was reasonably satisfied. He read it through and was sure his suggestion of Jed coming in the next summer holidays around the middle of August would be best. He would have added that this date coincided with his birthday and that he would use his birthday money to purchase the ticket, but decided not to sound too desperate and left it out. He signed off with a ‘Thanks, Jed, see you next year’, and addressed the envelope.
Thankfully the fan-club was in England and so all he need do was attach his last first-class stamp and post it on his way out tonight. When he’d joined the fan-club last year, he’d read in the membership pack that all letters were personally read by Jed, so he was pretty sure his letter would be in Jedland within the next few weeks. And who knew, maybe Jed would write back?
Jed grinned. One day he was going to visit Jed in Jedland where they could sit down and talk about music and maybe sing a few songs together. One day, he thought, as soon as school is done with. He lifted the corner of his mattress and felt for his bank deposit book. He flicked open to the last entry, there wasn’t much there, but one day he’d have enough, and then he would be on his way.
End of chapter 3
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