Jedland Chapter 7

Seven

Jed took up his usual seat in the school dining-hall, right at the back, as far away from Simon as he could possibly make it. He fingered the note that had been thrust into his pocket and watched as its sender, Simon, sat down. The message was clear, he knew Jed had messed with his bike and trouble was heading his way. Jed was sure nobody had seen him, so how Simon knew he had no idea. But however he did, Jed was now on edge. He glanced furtively towards Simon and could see he was already holding court. Jonno was taking up the second in command position to his right, and the remaining seats were coveted by hanger-ons, who considered themselves important through association.

Simon looked up and caught Jed staring. Simon sneered and dragged his thumb slowly and deliberately across his throat. He mouthed one word, ‘dead’.

Jed felt his stomach turn but refused to drop his eyes. He hoped this would show Simon he wasn’t afraid, even if he was petrified. He began counting, his plan being to reach eight before he looked away. Simon took up the challenge and they locked eyes. There were close to a hundred pupils in the dining room, but there might just as well have been only the two of them as each vied for victory.

Two. . . Three. . . The mental count was excruciating. Jed felt his eyes beginning to sting, he desperately wanted to blink. Four. . . Five. . . Simon didn’t look as if he was going to back down, and Jonno had now joined in. Six. . . Jed took a deep breath and almost broke the stare. He thought Simon twitched, but no, his eyes were perfectly still. Seven. . . Jonno dropped out. Seven-and-a-quarter. Jed felt his hand lifting to rub his eyes, but he forced it down. Seven-and-a-half. Jed was sure the corner of Simon’s eye twitched. Jed bit the inside of his lip. Seven-and-three-quarters. He inhaled. Eig-. Simon blinked.

“Yes!” Jed roared and leapt from his seat, thrusting his fist in the air. His eyes darted around the room. People who usually ignored him were smiling. He pumped the air again and couldn’t help noticing, even more, faces grinning and pointing. He looked over at Simon, anticipating a look of defeat.

It took less than a second to see this was not so. His face dropped. Simon was laughing. As were his friends and a good portion of the students surrounding him.

“Sit down,” Jim said and pulled Jed by the arm. Jed hesitated and only moved once Jim had pulled him again.

Jessie slammed her food tray on the table and stood with her hands on her hips, sneering at those closest. “What you lot looking at? Why don’t you lot shut your gobs or better still shove some food in it.”

Jed closed his eyes, but could still see Simon’s face. One day, he told himself, one day I’ll get even with you. But even as he sat down he couldn’t help wondering if that day would ever come.

“Here, eat this,” Jim said and slid a bowl of apple crumble towards Jed. “Jessie can share her chips with you.” He looked at Jessie’s protesting pout, “Can’t you Jessie?”

Jessie nodded and pushed her plate closer to Jed.

“I hate him,” Jed said. “Next time I’ll do more than slashing his tyres.”
Jim didn’t stop chewing, “Thought as much – that it was you who did that. Brill job Jed, brill job.”

Jessie grinned, chips hanging from her mouth. “Heard his old man gave him a good wallop when he got home.”

“How’d you know that then?” Jim said.

“Me dad heard his dad telling his mates down at the working men’s club. Said he was right angry. Me dad asked me if I knew anything about it.”

Jed stiffened. “You didn’t split on me, did ya?”

“Course I didn’t. We’re mates aren’t we?” She wiped her fingers on her skirt. “Even if I had, dad wouldn’t have said anything. He hates Simon’s dad as much as you hate Simon.”

“Why’s that then?” Jed said.

“Dunno,” Jessie said and slurped the remains of her milkshake. She wiped her face with her sleeve and pushed her tray away.

Jim eyed the uneaten pudding. “You gonna eat that?”

Jed shook his head and slid it back to Jim. The bell rung for the start of class, but Jim ignored it and tucked in. Jed watched as the hall started to empty; he could see Simon and Jonno were holding back. He looked to see how far Jim was and willed him to slow down his chewing. He knew he risked detention by being late, but it was a far better option than confrontation with Simon.

Jim lifted his bowl and using his stubby fingers slowly wiped what little custard was attached to the sides, before sucking them clean. Jed couldn’t help smiling. It was almost as if Jim could read his mind.

“Come on you lot. Class. Now,” the head teacher shouted as he appeared at the entrance.

“Anybody not immediately exiting this hall will be in detention, scrubbing desks for the next two weeks.”

Jed was relieved when Simon and Jonno were out quickly. He grabbed his bag and looked towards Jim who winked and motioned thumbs-up for him to get going. Jed turned and headed for the door and heard Jim’s bowl clatter to the table and his chair scrape across the floor. With a little luck Jim would make it out, and if not, he knew full well Jim would be able to sweet talk himself out of any detention tossed his way.

As Jed ran for his next class, he passed the cloakroom and leapt over some bags that were in his way. Mid-air he failed to see the heavy bag aimed directly at his head and was stunned by the impact. He fell against the wall, his knees buckling, but somehow he managed to stay on his feet. His ear was throbbing and he reached to feel for blood, pleased to find there was none.

“Told you I’d get even, you shit-head,” Simon said, kicking Jed in the shins before running for his class.

(to get the entire book in one go, click here, or keep reading chapters on the blog)

Jedland Chapter Six

Six

Jed whistled a few bars of “Rainin’ Hearts’ as he walked towards the corner shop on his way to school. He was meeting Jim and Jessie there, and with a bit of luck between them, they’d have enough change for a bag of sweets. The road was streaming with uniformed children, and while he recognised most, he acknowledged none. Not that they were interested in him that is, other than to snigger at his coiffed hair from behind his back.

The shop was close to school, and this time of the day a lot of shoulder shoving took place as children shouted out orders for gob-stoppers and sherbet-dips. Near the back were racks of magazines where groups of girls ogled the celebrity magazines, and the boys tried to sneak a peep at the men’s girly magazines stacked discreetly on the top. Not that they could see anything, what with the sealed packaging and amount of neck straining required. It didn’t stop them jabbing at each other to reach up and pinch one though.

Jed stood at the door and was joined by Jim, who was filing his mouth with a bacon sandwich. Jed declined a bite and could tell by Jim’s smile it had been the correct response. With only a few minutes before school started, Jed thrust his hands into his pocket and frowned as he looked out for Jessie. He didn’t know why he got so agitated with her lateness, considering she did it every day. Jim came up behind him and together they stared at the end of the road willing her to appear.

“Two minutes and I’m going,” Jim said. “If I’m late again, I’ll be for the high jump.”
Jed nodded and pulled his school bag up onto his shoulder readying himself to go. “Here she comes,” he grinned as he saw her appear around the corner, her tie around her arm and her jumper dragging on the floor.

Jed didn’t waste any time when Jessie reached them and held out his hand to show his coins, “How much you got?”

“Nothing, me dad said he’s broke,” Jessie said. Jed shrugged and looked at Jim. Jim continued chewing and offered a few coins. Jed counted the stash. It wasn’t much, but at least they’d have a couple of suckers for break.

“Have you got enough for some fags,” Jessie said.
Jed frowned, “Serious?”

“Forget it, I’m not wasting my cash on those, give me mine back,” Jim said and went to grab his coins. Jed snatched his hand back.
“Yeah, you’re right, Jim. Anyway, Jessie, you didn’t put anything in, so you can’t tell us what to get.”

“Please yourself, I’ve got a couple in my pencil case. Pinched them from me dad.” She pulled open her pencil case displaying the cigarettes.
“Put it away,” Jim said, checking over his shoulder for adults. “I don’t wanna be nabbed for those.”

Jessie laughed and made out she was smoking. Jim and Jed turned away and headed for the shop. If they were late, that was one thing, but being caught with cigarettes could mean detention for a month, something neither of them wanted.

***

Careers class was in full swing and it was Simon’s turn to share his career expectations. He made his way to the front, taking a route past Jed. As he neared, he slowed his pace briefly and thumped Jed in the back. It was quick and deliberate, and he knew Jed wouldn’t say a word.

Installed at the front of the class, Simon lapped up the awe-struck faces of the girls and allowed himself a moment to smirk at Jed.

“When I leave this place, you’ll find me on the soccer pitch alongside my Arsenal teammates.” A squeal went up from the girls and Simon directed a kick at the empty rubbish bin, diverting the contact only inches away.
“OK, and how do you see yourself working towards this position?” the teacher said.
“Easy. Play a bit more soccer around this place, and then go up to London, show them my talent, and sign on the dotted line.”
“You think it’s that easy?”
“Course it is. Haven’t you seen me play?”

The class erupted in laughter and Simon made his way back to his seat. Somebody tossed a ball of paper towards him and he took a brilliant header. He turned to look at the teacher, “See what I mean, miss, a star before your eyes.”

The teacher laughed and waited for everybody to settle down. “Who’s next?” She scanned the room. “Jed, how about you? You’ve been quiet all term.”

Jed squirmed, he didn’t want to share his career choice but knew he couldn’t get out of it. He made his way to the front and tried to ignore the jeers coming from his classmates.
“So, Jed, tell us. What do you intend doing when you leave school?”

He knew of course what he wanted to do, but wasn’t sure about telling. He put his hands in his pocket and jingled a couple of coins there.
“Stop playing with yourself, loser,” Simon shouted. Jed blushed and yanked his hands out. The teacher warned Simon and told Jed to continue.

“I’m gonna be Jed Parsons’ bodyguard,” he blurted and listened as the class erupted with laughter. He looked towards Carmen and was gutted when she began pointing and mouthing loser, over and over again. Every face he looked at was laughing and he felt his face burning. Not waiting for the teacher to excuse him, he bolted back to his chair and dropped into his seat, his head down, humiliation flooding him, angry at himself for being so stupid as to share his dreams.

Suddenly Jim leapt up and barged his way to the front. “My turn miss, my turn.” He waved at the class, “Shut up you lot. Miss tell them to shut up.” He looked over at his friend and offered a slight nod. Jed knew it was Jim’s way of saying everything would be alright.

“I’ve got great plans,” Jim began and grinned at the glass, his extensive gap very clearly on display.

End of Chapter Six

(to get the entire book in one go, click here, or keep reading chapters on the blog)

 

Jedland Chapter 6

Six

Jed whistled a few bars of “Rainin’ Hearts’ as he walked towards the corner shop on his way to school. He was meeting Jim and Jessie there, and with a bit of luck between them, they’d have enough change for a bag of sweets. The road was streaming with uniformed children, and while he recognised most, he acknowledged none. Not that they were interested in him that is, other than to snigger at his coiffed hair from behind his back.

The shop was close to school, and this time of the day a lot of shoulder shoving took place as children shouted out orders for gob-stoppers and sherbet-dips. Near the back were racks of magazines where groups of girls ogled the celebrity magazines, and the boys tried to sneak a peep at the men’s girly magazines stacked discreetly on the top. Not that they could see anything, what with the sealed packaging and amount of neck straining required. It didn’t stop them jabbing at each other to reach up and pinch one though.

Jed stood at the door and was joined by Jim, who was filing his mouth with a bacon sandwich. Jed declined a bite and could tell by Jim’s smile it had been the correct response. With only a few minutes before school started, Jed thrust his hands into his pocket and frowned as he looked out for Jessie. He didn’t know why he got so agitated with her lateness, considering she did it every day. Jim came up behind him and together they stared at the end of the road willing her to appear.

“Two minutes and I’m going,” Jim said. “If I’m late again, I’ll be for the high jump.”

Jed nodded and pulled his school bag up onto his shoulder readying himself to go. “Here she comes,” he grinned as he saw her appear around the corner, her tie around her arm and her jumper dragging on the floor.

Jed didn’t waste any time when Jessie reached them and held out his hand to show his coins, “How much you got?”

“Nothing, me dad said he’s broke,” Jessie said. Jed shrugged and looked at Jim. Jim continued chewing and offered a few coins. Jed counted the stash. It wasn’t much, but at least they’d have a couple of suckers for next break.

“Have you got enough for some fags,” Jessie said.
Jed frowned, “Serious?”

“Forget it, I’m not wasting my cash on those, give me mine back,” Jim said and went to grab his coins. Jed snatched his hand back.

“Yeah, you’re right, Jim. Anyway, Jessie, you didn’t put anything in, so you can’t tell us what to get.”

“Please yourself, I’ve got a couple in my pencil case. Pinched them from me dad.” She pulled open her pencil case displaying the cigarettes.

“Put it away,” Jim said, checking over his shoulder for adults. “I don’t wanna be nabbed for those.”

Jessie laughed and made out she was smoking. Jim and Jed turned away and headed for the shop. If they were late, that was one thing, but being caught with cigarettes could mean detention for a month, something neither of them wanted.

***

Careers class was in full swing and it was Simon’s turn to share his career expectations. He made his way to the front, taking a route past Jed. As he neared, he slowed his pace briefly and thumped Jed in the back. It was quick and deliberate, and he knew Jed wouldn’t say a word.

Installed at the front of the class, Simon lapped up the awe-struck faces of the girls and allowed himself a moment to smirk at Jed.

“When I leave this place, you’ll find me on the soccer pitch alongside my Arsenal teammates.” A squeal went up from the girls and Simon directed a kick at the empty rubbish bin, diverting the contact only inches away.

“OK, and how do you see yourself working towards this position?” the teacher said.

“Easy. Play a bit more soccer around this place, and then go up to London, show them my talent, and sign on the dotted line.”

“You think it’s that easy?”

“Course it is. Haven’t you seen me play?”

The class erupted in laughter and Simon made his way back to his seat. Somebody tossed a ball of paper towards him and he took a brilliant header. He turned to look at the teacher, “See what I mean, miss, a star before your eyes.”

The teacher laughed and waited for everybody to settle down. “Who’s next?” She scanned the room. “Jed, how about you? You’ve been quiet all term.”

Jed squirmed, he didn’t want to share his career choice but knew he couldn’t get out of it. He made his way to the front and tried to ignore the jeers coming from his classmates.

“So, Jed, tell us. What do you intend doing when you leave school?”
He knew of course what he wanted to do, but wasn’t sure about telling. He put his hands in his pocket and jingled a couple of coins there.

“Stop playing with yourself, loser,” Simon shouted. Jed blushed and yanked his hands out. The teacher warned Simon and told Jed to continue.

“I’m gonna be Jed Parsons’ bodyguard,” he blurted and listened as the class erupted with laughter. He looked towards Carmen and was gutted when she began pointing and mouthing loser, over and over again. Every face he looked at was laughing and he felt his face burning. Not waiting for the teacher to excuse him, he bolted back to his chair and dropped into his seat, his head down, humiliation flooding him, angry at himself for being so stupid as to share his dreams.

Suddenly Jim leapt up and barged his way to the front. “My turn miss, my turn.” He waved at the class, “Shut up you lot. Miss tell them to shut up.” He looked over at his friend and offered a slight nod. Jed knew it was Jim’s way of saying everything would be alright.

“I’ve got great plans,” Jim began and grinned at the glass, his extensive gap very clearly on display.

End Chapter 6

(to get the entire book in one go, click here, or keep reading chapters on the blog)

 

Jedland Chapter 5

Five

“Wotcha,” Jed said to Jim and Jessie as they headed up the road towards the youth club.
“Wotcha, Jed man,” Jessie said, linking arms with the boys.
“Get off, will ya,” Jed said, pulling his arm away.
Jessie snorted. “Not gonna bite you. What you think, I got the lurgy or something?”
Jed smoothed down his jacket as he took a step to the side. “Nah, I dunno, I just don’t like that touchy stuff.”
“Bet you wouldn’t mind Carmen touching you,” Jessie laughed and pushed her boobs up with her hands. “Come on, have a touch. Let’s call it a practice run.”
“Bugger off, Jessie. And don’t talk about Carmen. She’s classy, not like, not like-”
“Me! Well, sod you, Jed. I was just trying to be a mate. And anyway, that Carmen doesn’t deserve you. She’s a bitch.”
“I’m warning you,” Jed said, coming to a halt. “Say one more thing about her and I’ll . . .”
“What, hit me? Go on then. And see what happens then.” Jessie stood her ground, her hands already in fists ready to strike back. Jim knew she was afraid of nobody and if Jed had even started to raise his hand to her, she would have decked him before he had time to blink. She took a step closer to Jed and snarled, “Hit me and the coppers will be up your house and you’ll never see Carmen again.”

Jim leapt between them. “All right you two. That’s enough. We haven’t even got to the end of the road and you’re already at it.” He gently pushed them apart and walked on. Neither of them followed, their anger still very close to the surface. It would only take one chirp and they’d be at it again.
“You coming or what?” Jim said, over his shoulder. “The music starts at eight, and I want a game of table tennis before the lights are dimmed.”

Jed took the first step and ran to catch up with Jim. Jessie followed suit. They walked along in silence until they neared the top of North Street. Jim glanced at his two friends and could see they had calmed down sufficiently for him to start a conversation. He kept his head down as he spoke, “Didn’t see you in English class this afternoon, Jed. There was a story going round Simon and Jonno had got at you. That right?”
“Yeah, it was nothing. Dealt with it,” Jed said and left it at that.

Jim didn’t really need answers from Jed; he’d already heard what happened. Simon and Jonno had taken centre stage in the school canteen and recounted every detail to anybody in earshot. What Jim wanted to know is how Simon got the massive lump and bruising on his shin, clearly visible at phys-ed. Jim had heard, and dismissed, Simon’s excuse of knocking a desk. He didn’t know that many school classes with desks that stood at shin height. Jim was certain it was Jed’s doing, and he knew with time Jed would open up. Until then, he’d keep a close eye on Jed, and an even closer eye on Simon.
***
Jed had been coming to the youth club for donkey’s years, and was about as familiar with the assorted tables and chairs as he was with the ones in his own home. Not that the furniture at home was heavily varnished with graffiti etchings, that is. There was no way that would have happened; unless he’d wanted a thwack to his head from mum, and a wood repair kit shoved in his hands.

That hadn’t stopped him from doing this at the club mind, and to date, his hastily carved, Simon is a plonker, could be found on a chair up against the back wall, in a very dark corner. On a couple of occasions when he’d come close to punching the lights out of somebody, he’d even gone as far as scrawling on the walls in the boy’s toilets. Pete, the guy who ran the club, had almost caught him once, and Jim and him had fought to clamber through the cubicle window to safety, flushing Jim’s foot in the process.

But for Jed and many of the Leighton Buzzard youths, the club was the place to be. Actually, he would moan with Jessie and Jim, it was the only place to be. Leighton Buzzard wasn’t exactly buzzing with fun. And if it wasn’t for the club, he could well see himself spending umpteen nights baking biscuits and poxy fairy cakes with his mum.
Jed would spend his time hovering around the table tennis and pool tables, watching all the rivalry going down. But tonight was different. Tonight was Disco night; hosted by none other than Disco King himself. Disco King being a local teenager with not one, but two specially constructed storage boxes for his extensive 45’s collection. Jed suspected he was a bit of a show-off because who in their right mind would enter the club with both boxes on their shoulders while wearing a pair of earphones as big as a couple of fresh bread rolls.

Everybody made sure they were there for Disco night. And as with Jim, Jed coincided this with his weekly bath night. Not that smelling alright was enough to get you a dance mind. But it sure as hell helped; especially when the real intention was to get in for a fumbled-grope.

Jim had once told him that picking a dance partner was nothing more than social politics. He’d not understood this until Jim had talked him through the process.
“See,” he’d said. “Take a look at those girls up against the wall. What they doing? Easy, giggling and offering a sly glance at the boys.”

“Yeah,” Jed said, not entirely grasping Jim’s point.
“Right, mate. Now take a look at the boys on the opposite side.” He pulled Jed around and pointed. “Can you see they’re egging each other on, daring each other to step across the divide and ask a girl to dance?”
“Yeah.” Jim wasn’t making it all that easy for him.
“So, what it means is this. They’re both offering something, and only a couple are gonna be winners.”
“Yeah,” Jed had said, scratching his head, not understanding a single thing he’d heard.
“Maybe this is easier,” Jim said. “Take a race. Everybody is at the starting line and nobody wants to come in last.”

Jed had sort of got it then. Not that anything Jim said was much of a help to him, seeing as he’d not even made it to the starting line, yet.

Jessie on the other hand regularly stormed the dance floor, grabbing the first guy who didn’t get out of her way fast enough. She’d never tried to grab him mind, and he liked to think this was down to a friend thing, even if Jim had said it was because he was a skinny runt and not Jessie’s type.

Jed saw Pete was greeting at the front door and was almost embarrassed to find his gaze drifting from his flowing hair and settling on his bulging groin.
“Bloody hell,” Jessie said, her bright red lips beginning to form a smile. “You reckon he’s got a rubber tube down there?”

Jed blushed. Had Jessie seen him staring? “Trust you to see that,” he said and hoped Jim would take over.
“What you mean? His willy almost poked me in the eye,” Jessie said and began to saunter ahead.
“Crap, she’s at it already,” Jim said. “Anybody would think she’s twenty-two the way she flirts around him. I tell you if she bends down tonight the whole of Leighton will get an eye-full.”
“You think Pete fancies her? I mean, he always chats and smiles with her like.”
“Nah, he’s just being nice.”
“Hi ya,” Pete said to the three friends. “Disco is on shortly, and cool drinks are half price.”
“Yes!” Jim grinned and headed straight to the drinks counter.

Jed sauntered in and glanced around the room. Carmen was there and his heart leapt into his throat. She looked beautiful. Her long dark hair, parted in the middle, was flowing freely down her back. She wore bell-bottom trousers and a tight top that showed off her newly developed breasts. Jed thought she looked like one of the dancers on Top of The Pops. He saw her smile and wave at him, and his stomach did a double somersault. This was the first time she had ever acknowledged him, he felt like crying and whooping at the same time. He raised his hand and waved back, hoping his smile wasn’t as stupid as it felt.

When Jed felt a thump to his head, and already his fist was raised as he spun around, coming face to face with a smug Simon, carrying a cold drink.
“Loser,” Simon said. “She isn’t waving at you. It’s me she wants. Keep your eyes off her. You hear me?” Simon pushed past and Jed watched as he grabbed Carmen by the waist and kissed her, his eyes never leaving Jed’s face. Carmen squealed and looked at Jed, mouthing loser at him.

Jed dropped his head, and made to flee, colliding with Jim.
Jim caught him. “Ignore him, Jed. You’ll have your day to bring him down.”
Jed ignored his friend and was out the door quickly.
He stood outside and went over his plan, thankful it was getting dark and that his chances of being seen were slim. Just in case though, he zipped up his jacket and pulled the collar up around his ears to hide his white t-shirt. He made his way to the bike rack where he spotted Simon’s chopper bike near the end. It was easy enough to identify, Simon had painted his name on the frame and had paraded his handiwork around the school bike shed.

When he was sure nobody was watching he dropped to the ground. As fast as he could he shuffled towards the bike, inadvertently sending particles of dry, dusty earth into his mouth and nose. He spat out what he could, and managed to stifle sneezing as he progressed. Once or twice he heard voices and he held his breath and closed his eyes until he was sure he was on his own.

The line of bikes seemed endless, but he finally got Simon’s. Rolling onto his side he reached into his pocket and extracted his penknife. It was stiff to open and he wrestled with it until it snapped open. Once more, he paused to make sure he was alone, then stabbed both tyres, allowing himself a smile as the air hissed and touched his cheek. He remained on the floor until the air stopped, but somehow the damage didn’t seem enough. Sure, Simon would be mad as hell, but he’d easily fix the punctures and be back in the saddle in no time. No, he needed to do more and he knew exactly what he was going to do.

He once again quickly set to work with his penknife, manipulating the rubber from the rims. The front came off easily, but the back was tougher and he almost gave up when it finally came off. Knowing the longer he lay there, the chances of being caught grew, he jumped up and headed for the rubbish area.

The rubbish bins were full and he settled on the one furthest out of view. He lifted the lid, gagging as the smell hit him. Holding his breath he pushed the tyres inside as far as he could, shuddering when his fingers touched a cold, slimy substance which made him drop the lid. The metal smashed against the bin and hit the floor. Jed grabbed it and bounced it back on the bin. His heart was pounding and his mouth was dry. As the lid connected with the bin, he took off, heading towards the road and directly home. He felt bad for not letting Jim know but figured once Jim realised he’d gone he would understand, and as for Jessie, well she wouldn’t even bother looking for him.

As Jed neared the front of the club he checked his clothes and brushed off some dirt on his jacket. He was relieved his breathing was normalising and allowed himself a brief smile. Steadying his pace he kept his eye on the road and hoped he wasn’t arousing attention by leaving the club early. Suddenly he heard a noise behind him and he began to pick up his pace, afraid it would be Simon. He was startled when Jessie bolted past, sobbing.
“Stop her, grab her, Jed,” Jim shouted.
Jed spun around and saw Jim lumbering towards him. “What?”
“I said to grab her, she’s gone nuts.”

Jed turned back towards the road. He was thankful Jessie wasn’t a good runner and was still in view. He closed in quickly and stretched out to grab her, but only managed to clutch the fabric of her jacket. Jessie took a side step and Jed heard the jacket tear. Jessie swore but kept running, pulling her jacket off and throwing it to the floor.
“Jessie, stop, will ya.” Jed shouted. “Jessie!”

But still Jessie ran, and Jed chased, bumping cars as he avoided lampposts. When Jessie stumbled, Jed lunged and grabbed her arm, yanking her to a standstill. She lashed out and scratched his face, screaming for him to let her go. Jed wrestled with her, holding her arms down and avoiding her feet. “Cut it out,” he yelled. “Cut it out.” But still, she struggled.

He pulled her tight to his body and was ashamed to feel an erection forming. He pushed her away and spun her around, staring angrily at her. “What the hell are you doing, are you nuts?”
Jessie glared at him and pulled her arms free. Throwing her head back she let out a scream and finally, her body slumped as she crumbled to the ground, her face in her hands and her skirt hitched up too high.
Jed looked away; he didn’t know what to say, and was pleased when Jim arrived wheezing, his face red and covered in sweat.
“Well done mate,” Jim said as he slid next to Jessie.
***
Jim could hear his heart ramming against his chest, and took several deep breaths. He was mad as hell with Jessie and couldn’t understand what the hell had got into her, accusing Pete of being a fanny-teaser and then slapping Pete’s girlfriend like that? Watching Jessie in action hadn’t been pretty, and all he’d wanted to do was remove her from the club before she did any more damage. But he hadn’t been quick enough and all he could do was watch as Jessie emptied a cup of coke over Pete and then lunged at Sarah. Pete had lost it then and grabbed Jessie. She’d thrown her arms around his neck and wailed, but Pete had forced her arms off and told her to get out and never come back.

Jim sighed and looked over at Jessie. Her clothes were a mess and her face was streaked with black makeup. If anybody saw her they’d think she lived on the street, she was that bad. And yet as mad as he was, he felt for her. She didn’t have much of a life, what with her mum being in and out of prison, and her dad being a bit of a drunk.

He shook his head and wiped his face with his sleeve. “What the hell is wrong with you? He’s old enough to be your dad. Pete can’t go out with you. He’d end up in prison if he did.”
Jessie sniffed and kept her head down. “I know. But I love him.”
“Somebody gonna tell me what’s going on?” Jed said.
Jim put his finger to his lips to silence Jed. “Long story mate,” Jim said. “Let’s leave it at Pete’s girlfriend was at the club and Jessie didn’t take too kindly to it.”
“Crap,” Jed said and offered Jessie his handkerchief. Jim knew Jed hated carrying it, but his mum made him, and tonight he was probably glad she had.
Jessie pulled herself to her feet. “Let’s go,” she said. “I want to get out of here.”
“You want us to walk you home?” Jim said.
She shook her head, “Don’t want me dad to see me. I’ll hang about uptown until I know he’s gone to bed. Walk me there if you like.”
“How about we go and get some hot chips. I’m starving,” Jed said.
Jim’s face broke into a smile, “Best idea you’ve had all day, Jed. The chippy should be open if we get going.”

Jessie sniffed and positioned herself between Jed and Jim. They linked arms with her. Jim watched as she nudged Jed, “Hey, thought you didn’t like holding my arm?
Jed shrugged, “I don’t. Let’s not make it a habit.”

End chapter 5

(to get the entire book in one go, click here, or keep reading chapters on the blog)

Jedland Chapter 4

Four

At the sound of the front doorbell ringing, Jed shouted down to Mum to open up for him. He knew it was Jim and he knew Jim wouldn’t mind waiting while he finished getting ready. Jim was a good sport like that, he never moaned or anything.

He left the record player out and pulled on a pair of tight jeans, a white short sleeved t-shirt and the fake leather jacket his mum had found at the weekly market. It was a little battered, but it looked good in the dark and he loved it. He grabbed a jar of Brylcreem and rubbed a dollop between his fingers, smoothing it on his hair. He styled his hair with a pocket comb using a picture of Jed Parsons for guidance. It took a couple of attempts, but finally, he had his hair slicked back and a single loose curl in the middle of his forehead. The comb went into his back pocket and he checked out the total package in the full-length mirror on the wall, another purchase by Mum from up the market. He grinned at his reflection; he could pass as the son of Jed any day. He attempted a hip roll and decided he needed a bit more practice before he would demonstrate that particular move in public.
***
Mary opened the front door. “Hello, Jim. Oh hello, Jessie, I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Hello,” they both sang out.
“Is Jed allowed out tonight?” Jim said.
“And why wouldn’t he, Jim?” Mary said. “Something I should know about is there?”
Jim swallowed the last of his Milky Way chocolate bar, and offered his biggest smile, exposing the extensive gap between his front teeth. “No. I meant, is he ready to come out.”

She wasn’t sure she believed him but decided to let it go this once. For some reason, Jim had that effect on her. In years to come, she had no doubt Jim would be a womaniser of note, even with the growing girth, that is. She turned her attention to Jessie.
“Jessie, nice to see you, dear. Your mum OK? Haven’t seen her at work for a couple of days.”
“I think she’ll be missing a few more days,” Jessie said, as she chewed her bubble gum and began to blow a pink bubble.

Mary scowled. She couldn’t help noticing a bra strap poking out from beneath Jessie’s sleeve. She was about to remind Jessie that nice girls didn’t reveal their underwear and that a safety pin might restore her dignity when Jessie’s bubble burst. Jessie grinned and pulled the sticky mess from her face, twirling it around her finger and poking it back in her mouth.
“Oh dear, nothing serious I hope?” Mary said, purposefully turning her attention back to Jessie’s mum.

Jessie shrugged, “Could be. The police were around and I heard one of them saying something about doing time for stealing. After that, I went out, and when I got home, me dad said we’d visit mum on the weekend.”

Mary would have liked to know more but was prevented from further questioning when Jed came bounding down the stairs and dashed out the door with his friends.
“Don’t be late,” Mary called after him.

End chapter 3

(to read it all in one go, click here, or continue reading by chapter on the blog)

Jedland Chapter 3

Chapter 3

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

(to read it all in one go, click here, or continue reading by chapter on the blog)

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