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)

 

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