Love is Blind
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.
My thanks to Matt for taking me to task and editing for me.
From Part 2
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."
* * * * *
Ted was so excited about the day and when His mum came home he couldn't stop talking. It all seemed to come out as one sentence as soon as she walked through the door. Finally she had to slow him down because she had no idea what he was talking about.
He started again and went through his day more slowly. Janice was amazed that he had done so much. She had a cup of tea which Ted had pre-prepared for her homecoming, adding some broken biscuits which Ted loved. Ted never knew what he would get and sometimes he was lucky enough to get a broken chocolate coated one. Now that was living. This time though it was digestive, rich tea and shortcake ones. They were still nice though.
After the tea, Ted had to go into the front room while his mum had a bath. When she had finished it was his turn.
Of course, his mum no longer bathed him as he was now well into adolescence.
By 7:30 they were ready to go out with Tommie and James to the pie and mash restaurant. They called next door and both of the men were ready and waiting.
"We are going posh tonight, Janice," Tommie said. "I've ordered a taxi for us. It will be about ten minutes, so come on in for a while."
They all went in and, although Ted did his best to get his mum to ask about piano lessons, she was having none of it. James saw what Ted was up to and gently shook his head and smiled to show him all would be well later on in the evening.
It seemed less than ten minutes when they heard the taxi's horn beeping outside. Ted took on his new role from James. He was starting to enjoy his job of assisting Tommie.
Within five minutes they were all walking into the pie and mash restaurant. There was a table for four just inside the door which was ideal for the party. They took their seats and, as none of them wanted eels, James and Ted went up to the counter to order four pie, mash and liquors. (Eels are an integral part of a pie and mash restaurant) The lady asked if they wanted any teas to drink. Ted went to ask his mum and Tommie if they wanted tea, to find them in deep conversation.
He heard his mum say, "Yes, that will be very kind of you, Tommie, thank you."
Then Tommie sensed Ted's presence and spoke, "Did you hear, Ted? Your mum has agreed to me teaching you music."
Despite bursting with happiness Ted tried to seem calm and said, "Oh great. Do you want any teas?"
"Yes please, love," his mum replied. "How about you, Tommie?"
"Sounds like a good idea, Janice, yes please."
Ted rushed back to the counter where his excitement exploded.
"James, Tommie is going to teach me music and piano! He just said!"
"That is great news, Ted. I have to own up that I knew he would. Your mum stood no chance when Tommie makes up his mind about something. You'll learn a lot from Tommie. So, did they want teas then?"
"Oh, yes please, for both of them."
James completed the order and paid. Then, the two of them went to sit back down at the table.
Tommie told Janice of his journey in the war through Germany and how he lost his sight. How James had become part of his life, teaching him how to cope with life as a blind man. He told her of his time playing piano in the pub at Ovendean, through to his training as a piano tuner and teacher, to his being allotted the flat next door to her.
Janice listened in awe. So did Ted as he hadn't heard Tommie's story before either. Janice worked out he must be around 25 years old. Around ten years younger than her. He was certainly a handsome man. Deep down she was pleased that Ted had found an adult male that he could look up to. He seemed to not get on with his peers at school for some reason. He never asked friends home or go to friends houses like other boys. It had worried her but she had seen the sudden change since Tommie appeared into his life.
Tommie finished relating his story as the food appeared and silence ruled as they tucked into the big plates of pie and mash. The plates were soon empty and everyone sat back with a satisfied look on their faces. Nobody wanted a sweet as they were all full up, including Ted for once. James lit a cigarette and Janice wanted the loo. She made Ted go as well which left James and Tommie alone for a while.
"She sounds a lovely woman," Tommie said. "I wish I could see her."
"She's gorgeous, Tommie, with long blonde hair and bright blue eyes, and just a touch of make up on her face. Why, do you fancy her?"
Tommie blushed and said, "No, well yes, I suppose I do. It's her voice. It seems to beckon me to her in some strange way I can't explain. Still, I don't suppose she would be interested in a blind man. Plus she must be a lot older than me."
"Tommie, my mum is twelve years younger than my dad and so deeply in love you wouldn't believe. As for you being a blind man, so what? You're a man with a great big heart. Don't forget I've known you for four years. I've seen you give money and succour to others when you were at low ebb sometimes. Don't ever put yourself down, Tommie. Anyway they're coming back now. Just you remember what I said."
"Cheers, James. I appreciate all that you've done for me. Just don't lose touch when you go back to St. Dunstan's."
"No chance, you ugly sod. I hope we remain friends for as long as we live. You've been an inspiration to me and a lot of others with your positive ways."
James spoke out when Janice and Ted returned, "How about going for a drink at the pub before we go home?"
"What about Ted?" Janice asked. "He can't go inside; he's too young."
"Hang on,folks. I'll go and see the manager and see whether he will let Ted in as Tommie's helper."
James went off and was soon back.
"The Guvner said that as long as we sit by the entrance he will let Ted into the lounge but we have to keep it quiet." James smiled and said, "It was a bit of blackmail really, I told him you were the man that played piano last night."
Tommie had to laugh and said, "James, you could charm a snake."
James smiled and said, "It's just my youthful charm, people."
They got to the pub lounge door and crept in. The same jazz band was playing as the night before and people were more intent on the music than three adults and a minor walking in.
Janice said, "Right, this is my treat now, no arguments. So what would you two men like?"
Rather than argue both Tommie and James said almost together, "We'll have a pint of bitter please."
"And for you, Ted love?"
"Orange squash, please,Mum, with a straw."
"Two pints of bitter and an orange juice it is. I'll be back in a minute."
While she was gone there was an announcement from the stage.
"Ladies and gents, I see we have Tommie in again tonight. Shall we see if we can get him to come up and play again for us?"
With the announcement came shouts of, "Tommie! Tommie! Tommie!"
A continuous chant went on until, in the end, Tommie gave in and James escorted him up onto the stage again. The applause grew as he sat down to play.
As soon as he played the bar went silent as the grave.
Tommie played a long repertoire, this time copying Ted's afternoon session with old time war songs. People sang along to the music. Ted thought his heart would burst with pride as Tommie played.
Janice was totally mesmerised by the playing and the barman had to ask three times for the money for the drinks. Finally he made himself heard and Janice paid him.
Jamie was by her side to help her to carry the drinks back to the table.
"He plays piano well doesn't he, Janice?"
"He certainly does. I have never heard playing like it."
Jamie smiled and said, "He used to wow them like this in the pub at Ovendean three nights a week. This place is much bigger though. This is a bit like the Albert Hall by comparison."
Just then Tommie stopped playing and the lounge erupted. Talk about applause!
Ted was jumping up and down, clapping like mad when James and his mum came back with the drinks.
Tommie had a word with the bandleader and rose to leave the stage. James rushed down to help him.
The bandleader made an announcement, "Tommie is here with family tonight so he asks you to forgive him if he stops playing now and returns to them."
The crowd understood and continued to clap and shout "bravo!"
Tommie and James returned to the table and sat down.
Ted said, "Wow, James, that was some music. Everyone loved it."
"Thanks, that is very kind of you. You can be just as good with lots of practice but you have to learn classical music to pass exams."
"Mum has some classical records, I like them. They sound difficult to play though."
Tommie smiled. "You have to feel the music, not just play it. Give it time and you'll find out what I mean."
As they enjoyed their drinks many of the people going to the bar stopped to thank Tommie for his playing. One or two bought him drinks, some of which he passed to James so as not to drink too much.
Tommie got round to asking Janice about their coming holiday. Where they were going and what the accommodation was like.
Suddenly, for what seemed no reason at all she asked Tommie if he would like to go as well. It was only for a week and perhaps the break would be good for him.
"Hmm, let me think about it, Janice," he said with a wink that Ted couldn't see. "I would need a helper."
As Tommie had expected, Ted exploded, "I'll do it, Tommie! I'll be your helper. It will be fantastic if you can go with us. We could swim and dive and have fun."
Tommie winked at Janice again and said, "What about that talent competition. I might enter it and win?"
Ted had seen the wink this time and played along. "You are an old man so you can't take part in the children's competition. And I saw you wink to Mum." Then more seriously he said; "But you could enter the adult competition."
Tommie and Janice laughed as they were found out.
Then James spoke up and put his pennyworth in, "I think that you going away for a short break, Tommie; would be a great idea. You haven't had a real break since 1946 when you turned up at St. Dunstan's. You've been working very hard all that time. St. Dunstan's has to get your telephone installed before you can start tuning and teaching piano."
Janice, after hearing what James said, was not about to take no for an answer. Without batting an eye she said, "That's settled then. You'll be coming with us."
Tommie caved in and agreed he would go, which had Ted on his feet and round to Tommie to give him a hug.
Later that night, Ted lay in bed unable to sleep. There was something about Tommie that made him so happy. What it was he couldn't work out. He could see his mum liked the blind man also. He dropped off to sleep and had the dream again.
Nothing was clear; there were just a mass of people cheering two figures on a stage. He awoke the next morning to milk bottles rattling outside. Looking at his clock it showed 6 AM. The milkman was whistling in addition to making a racket with the bottles.
Wide awake, Ted decided to get up. Early rising was still in his make-up from his days in Wales on the farm. He thought his Mum might have a slight hangover from the night before but it proved to not be so. She appeared as bright as a button with a spring in her step.
"Put the kettle on, love, please. I want to get the copper going for some washing."
"Okay, Mum, any toast?"
"Yes please, love, two slices with dripping on them."
"Cor, have we got some dripping?"
"Yes, love, in the larder by the air vent. It's in a blue bowl."
Ted went into the larder and called out. "I've got it, Mum. Gosh, this looks really nice with jelly underneath."
Ted made the tea and toast and, by the time his mother had sorted out the copper, it was all ready to eat and drink.
Ted sat thinking and his mum said, "A penny for them, Ted?"
Ted snapped out of his thoughts and said directly to his mum, "Are you thinking of going out on a date with Tommie?"
Janice was a bit taken aback at that and a little uncomfortable that her son might have read her feelings.
Ted was smiling and so Janice thought, 'In for a penny, in for a pound.'
With a big grin she said, "I can't believe you can read my thoughts, Ted Willis, but yes, I do like him. He is a lovely man, and if he wanted to have a date with me I wouldn't be too angry."
"Ha! I thought so, Mum. I noticed the way you looked at him last night, and, that same look I have when he plays piano."
"Okay, clever clogs, there's no flies on you are there?"
"Ask him out then, Mum. I bet he would love to go out with you; you are very beautiful."
Janice blushed a little. "Go on with you, Ted. He can't even see me."
Ted thought and then said, "I bet he asked James what you look like. Yes, I bet he did, They were in a huddle when I came out of the loo. When you came out of the loo, James nudged Tommie's arm."
"You'll be the death of me, Master Ted Willis. Now, I've got to get off to work. Is Tommie coming over to tune the piano?"
"Yes, Mum, and then he is going to give me a lesson to read music."
Janice walked over and gave Ted a kiss.
With a cheeky grin he said, "I bet you wish that was, Tommie, Mum." and dodged the backhand from Janice.
"I'm going, Ted. I'll deal with you later, young man. Turn the copper off in half an hour and I'll sort the washing out later. Bye, love."
"Bye, Mum. Love you."
Tommie was having his breakfast of cornflakes with milk, plus some toast and 'Marmite'. He too was thinking about the night before, how pleasant and easy going Janice seemed to be. James had said she was a stunner and he could quite believe it. 'Ah well,' he thought, 'I doubt I stand any chance with her.'
James would call round at lunchtime to finalise arrangements for his return to St. Dunstan's the next day. They would go out that night to The Cottage pub in Carshalton Village that specialised in jazz music, as a farewell outing.
Although Tommie guessed they would meet again one day,it was strange that James seemed to not have any interest in women. Still, that was his business.
There was a knock on the front door. Expecting Ted, he was surprised to find it was the postman with a registered letter for him. He signed for it and went back to the lounge, only to be interrupted again by another knock on the door. This time it was Ted.
"Hi Tommie, it's me."
"A good morning to you, Ted. How are you today after your late night?"
"Great, thanks. So was Mum. I've never seen her so happy." Then he blurted out, "She fancies you."
"I beg your pardon, Ted; she fancies me? What on earth are you talking about?"
"She said so this morning but she thinks she would be too old for you."
Tommie laughed at that. "You, young man, are incorrigible. Did she really say that?"
"She did, so why don't you take her out?"
Tommie laughed again. "I promise I will think about it. Now let's drop the subject. We have a lot to do this morning. First thing is, please open this letter for me and see what is in it."
Ted took the letter and opened it. Inside were ten white £5-00 notes and a letter in Braille. Ted told Tommie what was inside the envelope and handed him the letter. Tommie read it and then read it again with a frown on his face. Ted asked what was wrong.
"The letter says there is £50-00 enclosed which is the proceeds of a collection taken at the pub I used to play in at Ovendean. It is to say thank you and wish me luck in my new career. It says there is a card as well, Ted. Is there one?"
"Oh, yes there is." Ted looked into the card and told Tommie.
"It's from all the customers with their signatures and the front of it says, 'Good luck, Tommie, from all your fans."
Tommie sat down and cried. He was surprised at the kindness from those folk at the pub and it took the wind out of his sails for a minute. Ted immediately put his arm around Tommie's shoulder and gave him a hug.
"They must have thought a lot of you to treat you so well. It seems everybody loves you, including my mum."
Tommie ignored the last comment and said, "I will have to write and thank them."
He made for the table with a machine on it and Ted guessed that it must be the Braille machine. Tommie got out some paper with dots where a name and address usually goes and put it in the machine. Ted watched fascinated as Tommie punched down the keys making marks on the paper. When he had finished he picked up an envelope and put the letter inside. The envelope already had dots on it and a picture of a stamp in the corner.
Ted asked if the envelope had an address already on it. Tommie replied that it did, and that a stamp was also printed on it to make it easy for him to send any letters to St Dunstan's.
"I don't think I could learn all that Braille stuff like you have. I bet it is really hard."
"Yes, Ted, it was very hard but without it I would be a bit isolated. I'm certain you could learn it though, Ted." Then with a large as life grin all over his face he said, "You'll have to learn it, Ted, or how else will you be able to read my love letters to your mum."
That stopped Ted in his tracks and all went quiet. Just as suddenly they both started laughing.
"Right, young Ted, time to go and tune that piano of yours. Bring the kit for me please."
Ted picked up the roll of tools and then escorted Tommie to his flat next door. He helped Tommie to the stool which he had to adjust a little to suit him. Then Tommie ran up and down the keys, stopping here and there to hit a key twice. Finally satisfied, he stood and took all the front of the piano off and sorted out his tools.
Ted looked on fascinated as Tommie went from string to string adjusting each one until he was satisfied. Ted didn't interrupt, as he guessed that Tommie needed quiet while he was tuning.
Finally the last string was adjusted and Tommie played the scales again. Even Ted's untrained ear could tell the difference. He had never heard the piano play as well. There were still one or two small adjustments to be made. Finished, Tommie put the cover back on.
"Where is the tea then, big feller? Does a man have to die of thirst in this flat?"
Ted came out of his trance and dashed into the kitchen to put the kettle on and tea leaves in the pot. While he was making tea Tommie played on his piano.
'I hope I can play that good one day,' he thought.
What had Tommie said? 'Practice, practice, practice, and then even more practice.'
He had told the boy of when he was young, learning how to play and read music at the same time. It had been very hard on him but he was glad he did now.
Ted made the tea and took it into the lounge with some broken biscuits. Ted put the tea down and helped Tommie find it along with the biscuits. Tommie smiled at them being broken and remembered his childhood. The regular Friday order had been a pennuth of broken biscuits.
They finished the repast and then it was down to business. Tommie patiently began teaching Ted scales using Braille music with sighted music written above it, and how to play them with all his fingers. They took breaks after each 30 minutes and by lunchtime Ted was starting to not only read music fairly well, but his fingers were beginning to 'feel' the keys, as Tommie put it.
They stopped practice at 1 o'clock with both of them feeling hungry. Tommie thought it a good idea to invest some of the money given him in fish and chips for two at Rosehill shops. At the same time he could post the letter back to St. Dunstan's and include £10-00 for their funds.
They got to Rosehill at 1:15 pm and firstly posted the letter and then found the 'Chippie.' Tommie handed over a white fiver for the food and was asked his address and then to sign it on the back. He had to smile to himself. Five pound notes were such a rarity that businesses were suspicious of them and would only accept them with a name, his address and signature.
They went into Rosehill Park, sitting on a bench with Ted describing the view toward Sutton in the distance. Tommie asked if there was a sweet shop close by and Ted said there was, but to get sweets he would need sweet ration coupons. Tommie took out his wallet and gave them to Ted.
"Get as many as you can," Tommie said, "Should be three months worth there."
At two ounces a month that made six ounces of sweets they could get. Ted took the coupons and money and went into Bewlay's. They sold smokers needs and sweets.
Ted looked up and down the shelves and saw 'Callard and Bowsers' nut toffee, a luxury treat that he hoped Tommie would enjoy. The man behind the counter cut out the coupons, then weighed the toffees and placed them in a paper bag. Ted paid him the two shillings and sixpence they cost, and returned to the park bench. He handed Tommie back the rest of the coupons; then the sweets.
"What sort did you get, Ted, toffees?"
"Yes, they are Mum's favourites, Callard, and Bowsers nut toffee. They're all individually wrapped. 'Ever so posh,' she calls them."
"Help yourself to one, Ted, and we will make our way back home. I'll have one later."
Ted took a toffee and they set off on the walk back. Tommie tried to concentrate on the number of steps there were from the park gates. He might have succeeded had not Ted been talking and slurping his toffee at the same time.
Ted was still practicing scales on the piano with great enthusiasm when his mum got home. She said hello to Tommie and then stood behind her son to watch. She was amazed at his progress from two or three finger play to five in just the one day.
Ted sensed someone behind him and stopped. He turned to see his mum and stood up, then hugged her. She complimented him on his improvement and then thanked Tommie for his help.
"He has made so much improvement today, Janice. Provide he practices well; I suspect by January he will be able to take his grade four piano test. That will be half way to the final grade. From there on we will see how he does but I feel sure he will be able to make grade eight before he is sixteen."
"He idolises you, Tommie. You should have seen him last night while you were playing. I think if you said jump off the cliff at Beachy Head he would."
Ted was blushing as they spoke about him as if he wasn't there.
"Excuse me, Mum; this is Ted here listening to you two gushing on." And then with a huge grin, continued, "If you don't mind me saying, it is you that idolises Tommie."
Then he pursed his lips.
It was his mum's turn to blush then and she stuttered out, "Tea everyone," and went into the kitchen.
"Ted, that wasn't fair on your mother to say that. I will have to ask her out now, not that I will mind one bit.
Tommie went out to the kitchen and sensed Janice sitting at the table crying.
He went up to her and put his hand on her shoulder.
"Janice, please don't cry. Ted just wants what he thinks would be good for you. So do I. What say we please the little scamp and go out to the pictures? We can sit at the back and you can tell me all about the film."
"Tommie, I would love to but I don't want you taking pity on me."
Tommie laughed. "Ted has our number, Janice Willis. He has been trying to match make all day and I am not arguing. I may not be able to see you but I sure know you are a lovely lady who I would like to get to know better."
Ted, listening at the kitchen door clenched his fist and said, none to quietly, "YES!"
End of Part 3