Love is Blind

Part 2

© 2013 Sam Lelliott

This Story is works of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

These stories are copyrighted by Sam Lelliot, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.

From part one

The year was now 1950. Although Tommie couldn't see the flat he knew it was nice. It smelled clean and help would come every other day to clean for him until he was able to do it for himself. There was a small garden to the flat and he was able to sit out in the sun and enjoy the warmth. One day, across the fence, came the voice of a boy that he guessed to be around thirteen judging by the up and down sometimes squeaky tones to his voice.

"Hello mister. My name is Ted. I live next door. Are you blind?"

Tommie answered the boy as kindly as he could so as not to upset him, "Yes I am, Ted. That is why I wear dark glasses. I was blinded in the war by a bomb but I am getting used to it."

"Oh, I am sorry, mister err Tommie. My name is Edward really but I like to be called Ted."

That made Tommie smile as he said, "My real name is George but my surname is Thompson so I have been called Tommie ever since I was a young boy. Do you live there with your parents, Ted?"

"Just with my mum, Tommie. My dad was killed in the Normandy landings."

"Oh, I am very sorry Ted. Do you miss him a lot?"

"Not too much as I hardly knew him. I was much younger when I was evacuated and he was already away with the army."

"So, are you on your summer holidays from school then, Ted?"

"Yes, we broke up last week. Mum is taking me with Aunt Rose and Uncle Bill to Watts for a week next Saturday. Uncle Bill is very ill and Mum says the sea air might make him feel better."

"What is wrong with Uncle Bill then, Ted?"

"I think he has something called emfisema; it's to do with his lungs."

Tommie grinned to himself at the boy's attempt at the right word and didn't correct the lad; he could mention it another time.

"I know of it, Ted. Not a nice disease. It never gets any better but the sea air might help him. How are you getting there?"

One of my other uncles drives a taxi and has promised to take us for free and collect us the following week."

"That's nice of him, Ted. I bet you will have fun, lots of other children to play with."

"Yes, mum wants me to enter the talent show. I play the piano, not too good but mum thinks I should enter the competition."

Tommie just had to laugh at the coincidence.

Tommie's laugh confused Ted so he asked, "Why is that funny, Tommie?"

Still smiling Tommie answered him, "It's just funny to me, Ted. You see I teach piano and I tune them. Is your piano indoors?"

"No, it's at my Aunt Rose's house down the road but we're bringing it here after the holidays."

Tommie wondered to himself, maybe he could kill two birds with one stone. He decided it might work if Ted wanted it to.

"Ted, my piano is being delivered tomorrow afternoon and the drivers could pick yours up and bring it to your flat. Yours is a flat, isn't it?"

"Yes, it's a two bedroom one. Yours is too, isn't it?"

"It is indeed, Ted, but I am going to use one bedroom as my music teaching room."

"Mum will be home early today so I can ask her about the piano. Okay?"

"Of course, Ted, just let me know."

Ted thought and then asked, out of curiosity, as most young boys would, "How do you get around, Tommie?"

"Well, mostly I walk using my white stick as a guide, Ted. For the moment, James, my companion goes with me if I have to go somewhere new."

Ted again went silent and then blurted out, "Can I help you, Tommie? Go to the shops and walk with you sometimes?"

Tommie nodded and smiled.

"Best ask your mum first, Ted, but as far as I'm concerned I would love your company. I get quite lonely sometimes and you could be my eyes and tell me what you see."

"I get lonely too sometimes as well, Tommie, especially when mum is at work. It's okay with Aunt Rose and Uncle Bill but Aunt Rose is always busy looking after Uncle Bill. Anyway I had better get in; I have some bits to do for mum before she gets home from work. Bye for now, Tommie. I will ask mum about the piano."

"Okay, Ted, you carry on. It was nice to talk to you. Maybe see you soon."

Tommie went inside to have a shower and get ready to go out to the local pub for a quiet pint or two. He almost tripped over the doorstep but managed to keep his balance. He thought. 'I must be more careful in future.'

Closing the door behind him he smiled to himself and thought of young Ted. He wondered what he looked like. That was something he missed so much. To see what people looked like. It was no use guessing because the last time he did he sent James into hysterics when he said a woman must be good looking as she had a nice voice. It turned out she was in her sixties and far from good looking.

He showered and dressed, then sat down to the tea meal that he had prepared earlier. He was at last getting the hang of cooking without burning either himself or the food. Mind, you can't burn ham salad.

Spot on 8pm, James arrived and they walked down the hill to the local St. Helier Arms. It was a huge pub with three bars and an off-licence on the side of it. James said the best bar for them was the lounge bar that had music every night.

As they entered Tommie could hear the jazz band playing. James explained that they were up on a stage in the huge bar.

Without being nasty Tommie said, "The pianist is off key to the rest."

James had to smile as Tommie spoke because to his ear the music sounded fine.

"It sounds fine to my toneless ears, Tommie," he said.

James found them a seat near the jazz band and then went to get the beer. On his return Tommie was talking to the band's bass player who was off stage while the band took a break.

"Are you Tommie Thompson?" asked the bass player.

Tommie relied, "Yes, how did you know? Oh, this is my companion and eyes, James."

"Yes, I recognise him. We were down on the coast last year and we called into the pub you was playing in and heard you playing piano. You're fantastic! Fancy giving a treat tonight, Tommie?"

"I would love to, thanks. It's been a while since I played in public. Nothing I like more than tinkling the ivories to give, I hope, pleasure to others."

"Right then, Tommie, my name is Alan. I'll just go and chat to the others and confirm a short gig. Okay?"

"Sure," Tommie said smiling. "Just give me the nod, as they say."

Ted meanwhile was getting ready for bed having had his dinner. He had told his mother all about Tommie, the blind man next door. His mum was a bit concerned but was reassured that all they did was talk and she took Ted's word that all that had transpired was totally innocent.

She had said she would talk to Tommie the next morning, first thing, about the piano.

As Ted went to bed his mother sat with her own thoughts. She thought Ted's piano playing was a lot better but that it could be much, much better with a professional tutor. Could the blind man next door be the answer? Could he also be the adult that could help Ted?

Her brother-in-law, Bill, was a bit old to help a growing boy over much. 'Grief, Ted would be 14years old in November. My God, how time flew.'

Life was lonely for her. The couple of flings she had had with men were a waste of time. As soon as the men found she had a son, they were off.

She thought back to the blind man next door. He seemed so young. What would he be - 24, 25. It was hard to tell with the dark glasses. She made the decision; she would leave a note for him. She had seen him go out with his companion, come helper, earlier so he could read it to Tommie when they got back. She wrote the note out, placed it in an envelope and went and dropped it in his letterbox.

Tommie and James sat listening to the jazz, mostly enjoying it and the atmosphere. It was a good audience who were appreciative. It was about nine thirty that the band had a short break and the trumpet player came to Tommie's table.

He touched Tommie on the shoulder and said, "Hi, Tommie. I'm Jake. I play trumpet in the band. Would you like to play for half an hour to give the boys a longer break?"

"That would be fun, Jake, thanks. Show me the way."

Jake helped Tommie up onto the stage and sit on the piano stool, waited for him to settle and then went up to the microphone.

"Ladies and gentlemen, please let me introduce a brilliant talent the band heard at a pub on the south coast. He now lives locally. Please put your hands together for Tommie Thompson."

There was a good level of applause and then Tommie started to play ragtime. The bar hushed as he played non-stop Rags for 25 minutes. When he stopped there was utter silence and then the applause started with shouts of more! More!

With Tommie back at his seat at the table, James showed his approval to Tommie by patting him on the back and placing Tommie's hand onto a fresh pint.

The bandleader came over later to see Tommie and thank him for his contribution to the evening. He asked for his address because he often heard of pubs and clubs that wanted good entertainers. He also gave him an envelope that he said was money collected by one of the customers to say thanks for his efforts of the evening.

Back at the Willis flat, mum was getting into bed, tired from her day. Her head touched the pillow and she was asleep in no time.

Ted had the dream again. He was playing the piano again at the same place. This time it was daylight. He was much older in this dream and another person was there with him. The dream abruptly ended with a ringing noise. Ted reached out and turned off his alarm clock. It was a great big 'Big Ben' clock that his mum had got for his birthday the year before. It was aptly named because Ted reckoned the noise it made could wake the dead.

He got ready quickly and went into the kitchen. He wanted this morning to get breakfast for his mum and himself. He laid the table and just as the food was ready his mum came into the kitchen.

"What a lovely surprise, Ted. Thank you."

"It's okay, Mum. I wanted to do it for you to say thanks for all you do for me. Maybe one day I shall be able to help you back."

She hugged Ted close and said, "Ted, you already do a lot for me by just being my boy, Ted. I love you dearly and I wish I could spend more time with you but I have to earn a living to put food on the table and pay the rent."

"One day, Mum, you won't have to work or pay rent if I can help it."

That earned him a kiss on the cheek.

'My how he has grown,' thought his mum.

They finished their breakfast and Ted had just washed up when there was a knock on the door.

"Can you answer it, Ted? I'm just getting ready to go to work."

"Okay, Mum," Ted replied.

He opened the door to see Tommie standing there.

"Hi, Tommie. Come on in."

"Thanks, Ted. Can you help me up the step?"

Ted blushed, suddenly realising that Tommie didn't know their flat entrance.

"Sorry, Tommie, I wasn't thinking. Here, take my arm. Would you like a cup of tea?"

Taking Ted's arm, Tommie thanked him and said it would be nice. Just then Ted's mum came to the door and, seeing Tommie, she did what most people do around blind people - she fussed.

"Oh, let me help. Are you alright? Mind the step, careful. Ted, take his arm."

"MUM!" Ted said. "Please don't fuss. You never take a blind person's arm; they take yours. I learned it at school."

"Alright, Ted. I am not fussing as you put it. I'll go and put the kettle on while you help Tommie in."

Tommie whispered to Ted and said, "All mums fuss. My mum always used to, but remember, they are always doing what they think is best."

"I know, Tommie," Ted said. "She does lots for me and I really love her."

Ted helped his neighbour to a chair in the kitchen and aided him to sit down.

"Well, hello, Tommie." Ted's mum said. "It is nice to meet with you in person at last. I have seen you in the garden and out with your helper friend. My name is Janice; obviously I'm Ted's mum. What can I do for you? Not being rude but I have to dash off to work in a minute. I can't afford to be late as the money I earn is essential."

Tommie smiled, with what would become a famous smile.

"Please don't let me keep you, Janice. Ted can sort out the tea for me. I just called by to tell you that I can get your piano delivered this afternoon as you asked."

"Well thank you, Tommie, that is extremely kind of you. Before I go would you like to come to dinner tonight? We have plenty spare and Ted can just do some extra vegetables."

"That, Janice, is extremely kind of you, but James and I are going out to a restaurant tonight as I was given some extra money last night at the St. Helier Arms. I did a short gig and the collection netted over £5-00. So we are going to the pie and mash restaurant down the circle shopping centre. Why don't you both come with us? We will enjoy your company and it will be on me."

(Pie, mash potato and liquor is a famous old east London dish that, although cheap, is very filling.)

Ted jumped and said, "Oh Mum, can we? I love pie and mash."

Janice smiled and replied to Tommie, "Thank you, Tommie, we would love to if it's not too much trouble."

Ted ran over to his mother and hugged her. "Oh thanks, Mum. I love you, and you Tommie," going over to give him a hug as well.

Janice said' "I must go to work now. Ted will look after you, Tommie. I will see you tonight."

"Okay, Janice, don't work too hard."

With that, Janice left for work.

Ted poured the tea and placed a cup in front of Tommie.

"Have you got Aunt Rose's address, Tommie?"

"Yes I have. Your mum put it into the note she left for me last night."

Ted asked, "How can you read letters, Tommie, when you can't see?"

"Well, if they are in Braille it's easy for me but normal letters have to be read for me. James, my helper friend, does it at the moment but he will have to return to St. Dunstan's soon to help another blind serviceman. There are still so many, Ted. War is a terrible thing."

Ted thought a moment and then said, "How do you write letters then?"

"I can't write letters like you, Ted. I write with a Braille machine. I'll show it to you later if you like."

"Really, that will be interesting. I have to go to the shops for mum. Is there anything you need?"

"The baker and milkman call on me, and at the moment James gets my shopping once a week for me. What I will do though, if you don't mind, I will come with you for a walk as James won't be here until lunch time to oversee the piano delivery. Would you mind?"

Ted didn't have to think about the question, he immediately agreed. Tommie finished his tea and Ted helped him back home. They bumped into the postman on the way and he told Tommie there was a letter for him.

"Thanks, postie," he replied.

They got to the flat and Ted went to take the key to open the door.

But Tommie kindly said, "Thank you, Ted, but I must do it, otherwise I would start to rely too much on other people. If I can do it myself I must."

Ted could see the sense in that. With the door open, the envelope could be easily seen in the carpet. It was a large white envelope. Ted picked it up and handed it to Tommie without thinking and suddenly realised what he had done.

"Sorry ,Tommie, I did it without thinking."

Tommie was actually grateful this time as the one thing he still found difficult was bending down to find things on the floor.

"Not to worry, Ted. Perhaps you can read it to me in a minute."

They went into the lounge where everything was quite sparse as far as furniture went. Ted worked it out quickly that it was that way so that Tommie could find his way around more easily.

Tommie found his way to an armchair and asked Ted to read the letter to him.

Ted duly opened it and looked puzzled. "It's all dots, Tommie," he said.

Tommie laughed and said, "That's Braille, Ted. Here, give it to me and I'll read it."

Ted handed the letter over and with reasonable speed Tommie read it. At the end he said, "Oh dear, James has got to return to St. Dunstan's next week. It seems a bit too soon. Still, I suppose I will just have to manage. I have been lucky to have him for so long."

"I can help you, Tommie," Ted said. "I am off school until September and it will help me to fill my time. I have to practice the piano every morning but I am free otherwise, apart from the holiday that is."

"That is nice of you, Ted, but surely you have friends your own age to play with?"

"Not really. Most of them call me a brain box because I get good marks at school all the time."

"In that case, Ted, I'll think about it but I will ask your mum first. Okay? For now though, we will go up to 'Rosehill' to the shops."

"Do you want to catch the bus, Tommie, or walk all the way?"

"What say we walk, Ted? I will enjoy that as I have only been to the 'Circle Shops' so far and I have heard there are barrow boys at Rosehill."

"No problem, Tommie. I need some veg from the stalls as they're cheaper than the shops. Shall we go then?"

They walked the mile up to the shops passing the hospital on the left and the old air raid shelter on the right. Their first stop was at the one of the barrows selling fruit.

"'Ere yer are, lovely termatas, all fresh this mornin', only tuppence a pound," the stall holder shouted.

"Can you get me a pound of tomatoes, Ted, please, and a cabbage"

Ted approached the barrow and the man said, "Yus, yongun, wot can I do fer yer?"

"A pound of tomatoes please, mister, and a cabbage. It's for Tommie. He was blinded in the war."

The man looked at Tommie and said, "I'm sorry to hear that, Guvner. 'Ere yer are, a pound of termatas and a cab. On me, me old mate and fanks for your service to the country. You come and see me anytime. I'll look after yer."

Tommie and Ted were speechless and thanked the man for his kindness.

"No problem, Guvner. You boys gave a lot for us."

Other stall holders saw Tommie with his white cane and all found something to give him with their thanks. That was something that never changed over the years.

Tommie would make sure that Ted and his mother got some of the fruit and vegetables later that evening. They had so much food it was a job to carry it all so they caught the bus back home.

They arrived back home at a quarter to twelve just as James was coming up the street.

James called out, "Leave the door, Tommie."

Tommie recognised the voice and called back, "Okay, James. I'll see you indoors" And then he saw the funny side of what he had said and laughed. "You're a daft sod," he said of himself.

Ted picked up on it as well and laughed along with him.

"What could you say instead then, Tommie?"

"I'm blowed if I know. I have always said it so it just comes out naturally."

Just then James came in and saw the sense of fun between the other two.

"Share the joke then, gents."

Ted told him what had occurred and James joined in with the humour. Then he got to ask Tommie if he had had a letter that morning from St. Dunstan's. Tommie said he had and what it had said. James said he also had, and basically it said the same as Tommie's.

"That will be a blow, Tommie. I've enjoyed my time with you but sadly, duty calls."

"God, James, how rude of me. This young man is Ted. He lives next door and has promised me to be my eyes after you go back to St. Dunstan's. We walked up to Rosehill this morning and did some shopping. The barrow boys were very kind and gave me a lot of fruit and veg for free."

James said with a grin on his face, "Hello to you, Ted. This guy will wear you out you know. He wants to go everywhere. I used to be 6ft tall and now look at me; I am only 5ft 9".

Ted and Tommie had to laugh at that as it was said with a lot of humour.

James took the vegetables and fruit into the kitchen and at the behest of Tommie put a mixture aside for Ted's mum in a basket. He then set about making some lunch which turned out to be homemade vegetable soup. Ted was amazed how delicious it was as he ate/drank it with a spoon and two slices of bread.

Ted helped to wash up the saucepan, bowls and spoons and they had just started to listen to 'Worker's Playtime'; a variety programme that ran for years on the BBC light service. They had all the stars of the era, mostly singers and comedians.

Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. Ted got up first and went to the front door. There was a man standing there and beyond him a closed in lorry.

"Two pianos for delivery at this address, son," he said. "Is your dad in?"

"Just a minute, mister, I'll get James." Then he shouted. "James, the pianos are here."

James came to the door and asked the man which one was first to come off. The man said it was an old stand-up piano.

"That is for Ted's flat next door first then," he said.

"Okay, Guvner. I'll get the boys to shift it. Can you open the front door, lad, and tell us where to put it."

Ted ran to his front door and opened it. From the door it was straight into the lounge where a space had been made for it. In no time at all the men had it set into the corner that would be its new home.

"Tell yer dad it will need tuning as it's been moved."

Ted thanked the man, shut the door, and went back to Tommie's flat.

He went in to see Tommie and told him what the man had said about his piano being tuned.

"Oh, don't worry, Ted, I can do that for you, perhaps tomorrow. I'll have to do my own today. Every time you move a piano it goes slightly out of tune because the frame moves a little. Have they got mine off the lorry yet?"

"It is just coming through the door but it hasn't got any legs."

"That is because it is a grand piano and it has three legs that come off so you can get it through doors. Otherwise it would be too big."

"Cor, it must be huge when it's put together?"

"It is, Ted; you can see it up soon."

He put his hand in his pocket and took out a pound note and said to Ted, "Go and give this to the delivery men and thank them for me."

Ted entered the room with the piano as the men were putting the legs back onto the piano. Ted looked in awe at the beauty of it. It had a bold name on it saying 'Steinway.' He stared in disbelief.

James saw the look on his face.

"Magnificent, isn't it, Ted? It's not new, and it was bought for Tommie by one of the ex-servicemen's charities. It cost a fortune and is probably the best make of piano in the world. The legs are on now. Go and get Tommie to come in and try it."

Ted remembered the tip for the men and handed it to the man who seemed to be in charge.

"Thanks, son. Tell yer dad if he wants us to shift anything for him to give us a call."

With that all three men left.

Ted went into the lounge to get Tommie and guided him to the piano stool where he sat down, lifted the lid from the keys, and ran the scales.

"That's good; it's not too much out of tune. Ted, can you get my tuning tools from the shelf in the corner. They're in a sheepskin roll."

Ted easily found them and handed them to Tommie who unrolled the kit, stood up and went to the side of the piano and lifted the lid. He then went back to the keys and, one by one, fine adjusted the strings until he was satisfied that every string was correct. He then rolled up his tools and handed them to Ted to put back.

Then Tommie sat down and played.

Ted listened in awe as the notes flowed in perfect unison. After ten minutes Tommie stopped and got up off the stool.

Ted clapped and said, "I hope I can be that good one day, Tommie."

"Let's see what you can do on the piano, young Ted. Sit down at the piano and play something for me. Anything you like."

"Wow, I can play on this one, jeez, really?"

"Yes, Ted, go on, have a go. Don't be frightened; I won't bite."

So Ted sat down, his hands shaking a bit at first, then he got into playing and worked his way very well through a few old wartime tunes. He stopped when he ran out of tunes, waiting for Tommie's comments.

Tommie had his back to the piano and he slowly turned round with a sour look on his face. Ted's face dropped and he felt close to tears.

"Wasn't it any good, Tommie?"

Then Tommie's face broke into a smile and he said, "Ted, for your age, that was very good. Now tell me. Can you read music?"

"No, but my dad could, so mum said. I just remembered the tunes and played them. Uncle Bill said that was playing by ear."

Tommie said, "I want to talk with your mum tonight, Ted. Would you like to learn to read music and play properly?"

"Would I? Yes please, Tommie. Will you teach me then?"

"Let's talk to mum first and see what she says."

End of Part 2

Part 3
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