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 the end of Part 3:
"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,
His plan had worked. Ted had been feeling that this man would be good for all their lives. His mum had been alone long enough. Some of the creeps she had brought home had given him the creeps.
His mum and Tommie were at the local cinema. They had been gone an hour now. The radio was boring so he decided to do more practice on the piano. He took a new piece of music out of the stool and placed it on the reading stand. He looked at the printed notes and read them in his head. The music played in his head and then he transferred that to his hands.
Slowly the music made sense; he felt it all through his body. His hands flowed along the keys like a boy possessed. The piece was short, just over 10 minutes and when he finished he felt elated.
He wanted more. He lifted the lid of the stool and found some other music to play. Before he knew it the time had gone round to 9:30PM. He didn't hear the front door open.
Tommie and Janice stood together in silence watching and listening to Ted play.
Tommie whispered, "I don't believe I'm listening to this, Janice. It's not perfect but it is quite close. Where on earth did that skill come from?"
"I can only believe it came from Jack; his father, Tommie. He could play like a dream. Not this sort of music though. More like the jazzy stuff you play."
"Well, wherever it comes from I am amazed how well he plays and interprets the music. I am going to revise the timings on the grade 8 exams, I think.
Ted finished playing the piece and realised he was not alone. Slowly he turned and both the adults smiled and applauded. Ted; unabashed, asked if they had a good time. Both said they had and thanked Ted for being on his own for a while to let them go out together. Ted told them that he hadn't minded as he had sort of lost himself in playing the piano.
Janice made them all a bedtime drink after which Tommie went back home. Ted was exhausted and went to bed. Janice sat up for another half an hour thinking over the evening out with Tommie. She had had a good time and Tommie had opened up his heart to her as she had to him.
'Time will tell,' she thought.
She looked in on her boy, Ted, on the way to bed. He looked so happy and peaceful laying there fast asleep, the world in front of him.
Ted was dreaming again. He saw the face of a man that he recognised from photos as his father. He was talking to him. 'Son, do what I couldn't do. Make music for the world. I love you.' and the face was gone.
Tommie lay in bed remembering the evening out with Janice. It had been his first ever date with a woman and it was great fun. They had laughed and joked, had a brief kiss. She had related the films action to him, which must have been difficult. Then they had arrived home to hear and see Ted playing almost like a professional. There was something very special about that boy. A touch of genius maybe.
Then he slept.
Saturday came round and the three of them were in Janice's flat waiting for the Uncle Charles to appear to take them on holiday. Janice had booked a single chalet for Tommie two days ago without any trouble and he had been assigned a 'Redcoat' to help him when needed.
The taxi rolled up spot on 9 o'clock with Ted's Uncle Charlie driving and Aunt Rose and Uncle Bill already aboard. The three of them greeted the others and, loading their luggage, set off. Rose and Bill made a fuss of Ted and Tommie and the journey soon passed in good fun and much laughter. Rose, being Rose, silently noticed the difference in her sister, Janice, and would quiz her later why that was. On arrival they all booked in and Ted helped Tommie to his chalet. He walked around with him showing him where everything was. Just as Ted was leaving a very young Redcoat appeared at the chalet door to check that Tommie was okay and to let him know he would be around at all meal times if he was needed.
Ted threw his chest out and informed the Redcoat in a very adult way, that he was Tommie's helper and guide for the holiday.
The Redcoat smiled and said, "That's good to hear but if you do need any help come and find me or get centre to call for me on the tannoy. My name is Jimmy. This is my first ever job since I left school in July."
Ted's legs almost turned to jelly as he looked into Jimmy's face properly for the first time. He was beautiful.
Ted blushed and said, "My name is Ted. I am almost 14."
Jimmy smiled and said, "I was 15 on the 10th of August but they let me leave school this year. Don't forget to call me if you need me."
"He sounds a nice boy, Ted. Did I sense you were a bit embarrassed there?"
Ted didn't know what to say. His main problem in life had just slipped out. He had the problem for a while now and he had just had it again. Instead he burst into tears and ran off.
Tommie could do nothing. All he could do was sit and wait in the hopes that Ted would return. He cursed himself for saying anything. It was almost 30 minutes later that Janice came to see him to find out if he was alright. Tommie told her what had happened. Janice sat down holding Tommie's hand; then she spoke some unexpected words.
"I have suspected something deep down has been worrying Ted for the last six months. He wouldn't do team sports for some reason. I've not said anything hoping that his last year at school after the summer holidays would make a difference. Do you think he likes boys, Tommie?"
"I can't possibly be sure, Janice. However, one thing I do know is that when he met the young Redcoat here earlier I sensed a strong feeling. It was the same when James, my helper, told me about a man he fancied. He spoke in a different way to that person than he did to me."
Ted had, unknown to his mum and Tommie been outside listening. He decided it was time, and walked into the chalet. He blurted it out!
"Mum, I like boys not girls. What is wrong with me?" Then he burst into tears again.
His mum was up in a flash and held her son close.
"Ted love, I don't care if you love frogs as long as you are happy. Now you sit down and talk with Tommie and me about it, okay?
Slowly the tears subsided and Ted told his story.
"I have been miserable at school because I have been frightened that some of the boys would see me looking at them. There are two boys I know that are like me and they are being bullied badly by some of the older boys. I wanted to talk to them but by knowing them I would get bullied too. I don't know what to do, Mum."
Tommie spoke first in reply.
"Ted, I have not known you long and you are a super boy. There is a new name appearing for boys who like boys, or men who like men. It is called 'Gay'. Now, your mum has said she isn't worried and I am telling you that I love you for being you. Like your mum, I don't care if you love frogs either but I bet you would prefer Jimmy."
"Tommie, he's gorgeous!"
"I bet he is to you. To me though, he's just another boy. Probably he is a boy like you if truth be known, one that cares about others. Now, I want you to go and get him here to the chalet by telling him I need some help."
"I can't, Tommie. I feel so embarrassed. What if I was wrong?"
"Tell you what, son, if you were wrong I will buy you a whole tub of ice cream from the shop."
Janice then spoke again, "Go on, Ted, I want to see this 'gorgeous' young man that has caused you heart flutters. If he is any good, you can have Tommie and I will have him."
That remark made them all laugh.
"You're barmy, Mum. All right I'll go and get him."
Ted left at a trot and Tommie and Janice had a chance to talk for a minute or two.
What do you really think, Tommie?" she asked.
"What I think, Janice, is that I think I love you and as such I love your son. I would have loved him in any case. I saw many a homosexual fighting on the front line in Germany and saw many of them die as well. So my answer is this: if we do get married Ted will have all the love and encouragement that I can give him. He is an extremely talented boy who is frightened of what he is. It is our job to help him through it. Who knows, maybe this Jimmy will be what he needs."
"Blimey! Tommie Thompson. When you say something you don't hold back do you?" Janice said as she kissed Tommie on the cheek. "And pray, what's all this about marriage."
"Just seems like a good idea to me, Janice. I fancy you, you fancy me. What is there to do except for us to court each other. At least we could give it a try. What do you think?"
"Tommie Thompson, I need to think about it please. Okay, I've thought about it. We are an unengaged couple. Give me a kiss to seal the deal."
They were still kissing when Ted arrived back with Jimmy.
"Eew, you two get a room."
Tommie and Janice broke their kiss with a slight flush on their faces.
"Oops, caught in the act. Get used to it, Ted," his mum said. "Hello, Jimmy, nice to meet you."
Jimmy stood there looking totally confused by what was going on. Ted had said that Tommie wanted his help but he seemed to be well taken care of by the lady. He spoke up.
"Hi, Tommie, you wanted help with something?"
"Yes I do, Jimmy, if you wouldn't mind. I wondered if you would like to look after Ted and help him with a problem."
Ted blurted out, "No, Tommie, please!"
"Yes, Ted, yes. Now listen both of you. Being blind has its benefits sometimes. One of the benefits is I can tell when someone puts their inner feelings into their voices, like you two did earlier. You can deny it and so can Jimmy but you can't change what is. What time do you finish work, Jimmy?"
"Not until half past six o'clock, sir, err, Tommie."
"Then if you would like to, come and join us at our table, son. Come and have a chat and dinner with us, meet with Ted's mum, that's Janice here, along with her sister, Rose, and brother-in law, Bill. I am sure Ted would enjoy your company. What do you say?"
Janice sat and listened, completely dumbstruck by Tommie's words to the boys. She had to admit the boys looked good together. Both were blushing as they listened to Tommie. They looked a bit uncomfortable but also somewhat relieved. Jimmy more so, he had been taken aback at the forthrightness of the blind man. His heart was thumping hard but he finally said,
"Yes, I would like that if Ted doesn't mind."
To help Ted with his answer, Janice broke into the conversation and said, "Of course Ted won't mind, will you love?"
Ted looked between his mother, Jimmy and Tommie and finally said, "If you two matchmakers have finished." With a huge grin and looking at Jimmy he continued. "I would love it if you would join us, Jimmy."
"You bet, Ted, and thank you all. I've had lots of problems up to now. Perhaps that could change. See you at about a quarter to seven tonight then."
"That will be nice, Jimmy, we look forward to it. Don't dress up will you, just be you," Janice said.
Looking to Ted, Jimmy said, "See you later, Ted. I had better get back to work or I'll end up getting fired." With that he was on his way.
When Jimmy was out of sight, Ted turned to both his mother and Tommie. He was still blushing slightly.
"I don't know what to say. You two have outed me to someone I don't even know that well."
"Best not to say anything, young Ted," Tommie replied. "If you don't like being outed, then I am very sorry. However, my belief is it is what you have wanted for a while. I believe you want, and need to meet like-minded boys. I think your mum and I will see a happier Ted than usual. But, and it is a big but, don't broadcast it all over as there are many people in this world that would make your life uncomfortable, if not unbearable for you. What do you say Janice?"
Janice was dumfounded but finally found her voice. "I think you have said it all, Tommie. I have been saddened for some time seeing you friendless, son. Now I understand why. Although I was a bit shocked to hear your troubles I am 100% behind you, love. As Tommie said though, please be careful how you act in public. You are my son, Ted. Just be happy."
"Thanks, Mum; thanks, Tommie. I will be careful, don't worry."
"That's sorted for the time being you two," Janice said. "What say we all go and get a snack and then look in on Auntie Rose and Uncle Bill? And, don't forget, you two men in my life, that you have to sign in for the talent competition on Tuesday night."
"Crikey, yes, I forgot. Can we meet you at Aunt Rose's, Mum, then we can do that on the way?"
"Okay, love. Try and make sure Tommie's not knocked about by the crowds on the way."
"Sure thing, Mum, but I can't see any one knocking Tommie about. He's over six feet tall and strong."
"Just you take care, alright?"
"Yes, ma'am. I shall do me 'umble best fer 'im ma'am," Ted got back with a big grin.
Tommie did his best to keep a straight face but even he had to give in and smile at the mother and son happy banter.
They got to the sign in desk in good time by dodging the crowds as best they could. The man in a redcoat behind the desk looked up, and, totally ignoring Ted, said,
"Tommie Thompson, as I live and breathe, blimey, what happened to you, me old mate?"
"That voice sounds like Jacko Jackson of B Company."
"It certainly is, my old pal. I lost track of you after D Day on the beach. I got wounded quite badly and that was my war over, old son."
"Fate did a turn on me, Jacko. I was due to return to Blighty the very next day for demob when an unexploded got me. Just my eyes though; my mates were killed outright. So what are you doing here?"
"I am a Clerical Redcoat for Messrs Watts'. This is my third season here. I can't do a lot but I can do good bookwork. The Governor, Billy Watts, looks after us old crippled veterans. So are you going to play the piano then, Tommie?"
"I sure am and so is this young lad here. My helper, Ted, he's playing piano too."
"Right, me old mate. I know your name. What's your full name, Ted?"
"Ted Willis, Sir," he said to the Redcoat.
"Oh, Ted, no sir please, and what's your age, Ted?"
"I'm 13 coming up to 14, sir...err, Jacko. I'll be 14 in November.
"Good, that puts you into the 11 to 13 slot then. Right, both of you, the competition starts at 7PM sharp on Tuesday night. 5 to 10 year olds first, then at 8PM, 11 to 13, then at 9PM, the 14 to 18 year olds, and finally at 10PM, the old folk, like Tommie here. The piano might need a bit of tuning before it can be played the way you play, Tommie."
"I'll see to it, Jacko, and get it right before the night."
"Good on you, Tommie, we have a few Joanna players on the list. Oh, and by the way, the prize money has been raised for this week. Billy Watts has put it up to £200-00 for the kids and £500-00 for the adults, so good luck, me old mate." And addressing Ted, "and you to, son."
They left the sign-in centre and went off to meet with Janice, Rose and Bill at the chalet. They picked up some ice creams on the way and, when they walked in the door, the three of them were arguing. The heated discussion was over Ted. Janice was almost in tears as her sister and brother-in-law called Ted a disgusting little pervert and, had they known, he would never have been allowed in their house. Ted cringed when he heard his uncle's words and he started to cry. Janice saw him and ran to him and helped him out of the chalet.
Tommie had been left by the door and was fuming. He couldn't hold back.
"I fought in the war against a tyrant like you, Bill. I never thought the boy would be treated like this by his own kin. You, Bill, are a piece of shit on my shoes from now on. We warned the boy there will be people like you. We'll make our own way from now on. You go stew in your prejudice. Goodbye!" and with that Tommie turned on his heel and caught the sobbing sound close by.
"Ted, Janice, I need your help please. I can't think straight I am so angry."
"Tommie, I am so sorry," Ted said and came to help him, the tears still flowing.
He walked over and let Tommie take his arm and then help him back to their chalets.
The ice creams long forgotten, they sat down together while Janice got up and made some tea.
"Tommie, what am I going to do? Uncle Bill and Aunt Rose hate me."
"Ted, those two are no loss. It is a shame, as I know you love them both, but if they can't or won't accept you as the way you are, then they don't deserve your love. Now, you cheer up and we'll have a cuppa with Mum, then we'll go and have a look at this piano we have to play on Tuesday."
Tommie took a hankie out of his pocket and handed it to Ted to wipe away the tears.
"Thanks, Tommie. They hurt me the way they spoke about me."
They all finished the tea and, dragging a very willing Janice with them, they all headed off to the concert hall, come restaurant, to find the piano. When Tommie felt round it, he gasped. It was a very upright iron frame jobby. He lifted the lid and played the scales. They all grimaced. To say it was out of tune would have been kind. It was going to take a bit of time to get back in tune. Mechanically it seemed sound, it just needed a good tuning.
Tommie sat on the stool and asked Ted to go and see Jacko to see if there were any tuning tools around. Ted came back almost immediately. The news was not good. No piano tools about but Jacko had a small tool kit for minor repairs around the place.
Tommie asked Ted if certain tools were in the box and found that he could manage.
Two hours later, and somewhat frustrated, the job was finished. Tommie had worked a miracle with the piano. During the time he had gathered an audience and, unbeknown to Tommie, one of the onlookers was the camp manager, Anton himself. He was doing one of his spot visits to check if all was well with his holiday camp. He didn't say hello, he just watched Tommie at work, being helped by Ted, and then passed on with his inspection.
Ted closed the piano lid and took the toolbox back to Jacko, then returned to help Tommy, only to find his mum holding his hand. Ted smiled to himself as he saw the two looking happy together and snuck off to leave them on their own for a while. He bumped into Jimmy who was entertaining some young children with magic. To Ted's eyes he was good at what he did, the children were in awe of him. Jimmy saw Ted, smiled, and gave a quick wave. He waved back and went on his way. A second later he did literally bump into the camp manager, Anton.
"Sorry sir." He said.
"That's all right, son," he said. "No harm done. Did I see you with a blind man working on the piano a while ago?"
"Yes sir. We are both in the talent competition and Tommie was just making sure that it was in tune before the competition."
"That was very sensible. Would you thank him from me? My name is Anton, the camp manager."
Tommy was a little shocked and stammered back, "It's nice to meet you, sir."
"The pleasure is all mine, young man. Did I see you waving to young Jimmy over there with the children?"
"Yes sir. He's my friend, well since this morning."
"He is a nice lad. Started working here in July when he left school. All the children love him. Unfortunately he has had a very sad life. He has been very happy here though. Well, young man, I must get on. Nice to meet you. What are you and your dad's names by the way?"
"My name is Ted and the blind man is Tommie. He's not my dad; he lives next door to me and my mum. I am sort of his helper."
"Take care, Ted, and thank Tommie from me for doing the piano. I appreciate it. Bye for now."
Ted thought, 'I had better get back as I didn't tell mum and Tommie that I was going off.'
He returned to the concert hall and his mum and Tommie were still there, sitting down now but still holding hands and talking. He interrupted their talk and went through his chat with Anton, and that he had to thank Tommie for tuning the piano.
Tommie and Janice were impressed that he had met Anton in person. Ted then went on to relate what Anton had said about Jimmie having had a hard life. Janice wondered what was meant by that. She would soon find out though, through dinner.
They finally went and replaced the ice creams from earlier and sat by the pool slurping them.
"How about we all get up very early tomorrow, Janice, and have a swim before it gets busy?" Tommie asked. "It will be too crowded later to swim properly."
"Sounds good to me, Tommie. How about you, Ted?"
"Not half, Mum. Will you need help, Ted?"
"I just need to get to the changing rooms and then into the pool. Then point me in the right direction," He said with his smile.
Before they knew it, dinner time had arrived and they went off to the dining room. They soon found their table and, instead of Aunt Rose and Uncle Bill, there were two old ladies seated at their table. The three of them said hello and it suddenly occurred to Ted, 'Where would Jimmy sit.'
Janice asked the waiter and he simply brought another chair. He did say though that the extra dinner would have to be paid for. When she said it was Jimmy, one of the redcoats smiled and said it was no problem.
Jimmy turned up in his own clothes and they looked a bit the worse for wear. None of the trio said anything though and invited Jimmy to sit with them. The two old ladies seemed to know him and congratulated him on how he was with children.
There were two choices for the main meal: Roast beef or a salad of your choice. Everyone chose the roast. Jimmy talked mostly with Ted and they made goo-goo eyes at each other. Janice decided that then was not the time or place to delve into the boy's life and was content with conversing with Tommie and the old ladies.
After the main course there was a selection of sweets or cheeseboard. Ted loved cheese and ordered that. It turned out they all had cheese except one of the old ladies who had apple crumble instead. Coffee or tea finished the dinner and soon everything was cleared away ready for the cabaret to commence.
There was a murmur in the crowd and somebody said, "It's Anton the manager."
The crowd hushed and onto the stage came the man himself. He walked up to the microphone, tapped it twice, and started to speak.
"Good evening, everyone, boys and girls. I am Anton, the manager of this Watts holiday camp. I have been around all afternoon and have met some extraordinary people. One of those was a young man who was most polite and called me sir. His name is Ted and earlier I had seen him helping a blind man who was tuning the piano.
"I understand that the man's name is Tommie, a war veteran, who was blinded at the end of the war. One of his old colleagues is one of our Redcoats, Jacko, who is also a war veteran. Jacko was telling me that Tommie is a bit of a whiz on the piano and so I would ask Tommie, assisted by Ted, to come up on the stage with me. Let's give them some applause to persuade them to come up."
The place erupted. Tommie turned toward Ted and vice versa. Tommie shrugged his shoulders and motioned for Ted to go with him. As they rose, the applause got louder and louder until they reached, and ascended the stage.
Anton took Tommie and Ted aside and spoke quietly with them so that nobody else could hear. Tommie and Ted nodded their heads and Anton went back to the microphone.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Tommie has kindly agreed to give us a short concert, and Ted, who is now an honorary Redcoat, will assist."
While he was speaking, Tommie, helped by Ted, had sat down on the piano stool and was set to play. Onto the stage came a Redcoat with a smaller version of the famous coat and slipped it on to Ted. Applause broke out again and Anton continued his words.
"Ted, you are an honorary Redcoat for your visit. Wear the coat with pride, son." And, to the crowd, he said, "I now give you Tommie Thompson. Take it away Tommie."
With that he left the stage.
"What are you going to play, Tommie?" Ted asked.
"How about some sing-along music, Ted? Ready? Off we go."
He went straight into 'It's a long way to Tipperary'.
Unseen by the two, Jimmy had appeared on stage, back in his Redcoat, and started to sing-along using the microphone. His voice was bold and strong. Tommie heard the voice and asked Ted who was singing. Ted turned to see and saw it was Jimmy.
"It's Jimmy. What a great voice?"
Tommie continued to play and said to Ted, "Why don't you go and duet with him? I bet the two of you together would sound wonderful. Go on, son. Show your miserable relatives what you can do."
With that, Ted went over to the mike and started to sing. Jimmy noticed the difference and moved aside. The music the boys made was superb. So much so that the applause started all over again and almost drowned the three of them out. For three quarters of an hour the three of them entertained the huge crowd in the restaurant. The applause for their last number was terrific and lasted five whole minutes. An encore was clamoured for, and so the three of them decided on the Maori Farewell, better known as 'Now is the hour'.
The boys started off without the piano. Then Tommie joined in, playing the gentle melody. Slowly the audience joined in and the overall sound was beautiful. At the end, there was total silence for almost 30 seconds, and then the applause started. The boys brought Tommie to the microphone to take a bow. In the end they were only able to leave the stage with the help of Anton himself.
That was the night that changed the lives of Janice, Tommie, Ted, and Jimmy forever. For within the audience was a great friend of Billy Watts, He was George Graham, the owner of many London theatres and a well-known philanthropist. He had passed Janice a note to say that they should all meet with him in the morning at 10AM before he left to return to London. Back at their table Janice read the note to them all and the excitement was clear on all their faces.
Despite the excitement, they all slept well that night. Janice and Ted in one chalet, Tommie alone in his, with Jimmy sharing the staff chalet.
The next morning they all went for a swim as planned and talked of nothing except the events of the night before and what might be the reason of the meeting with George Graham later.
At breakfast, there were lots of greetings from the other campers who had seen the performance the night before. Ted politely thanked them on behalf of them all as he guided Tommie to the table. Jimmy was missing, as he had to work, but suddenly joined them and said the m had insisted he have breakfast with his friends.
Aunt Rose came over to the table and apologised for what had been said the day before. Ted accepted it but said that unless Uncle Bill had seen the light, so to speak, nothing had changed. Rose was so sorry, but Uncle Bill had not changed his mind and she hoped they wouldn't hate her, as he was her husband after all.
Ted spoke in a kindly voice, "Aunt Rose, you are welcome to see me anytime and I suspect that is the same for Mum and Tommie, and maybe Jimmy as well. So is Uncle Bill, but I will not put up with any of his nastiness again."
"Thank you, Ted, that is kind of you. Sadly, I don't think he will change. I do look forward to seeing you on my own sometimes, love. Oh, and congratulations on last night, all of you. It was wonderful."
"Thanks, Aunt Rose. I hope to see you soon," Ted said and got up to give his Aunt a hug.
George Graham was a portly man of over six feet in height and was waiting for them in Anton's office. He quickly introduced himself to the others. Another man was with him who he described as his secretary. Coffees were handed out by a Redcoat who retired as soon as her task was finished. George Graham started to speak in a serious tone.
"I heard you three last night from start to finish. Jacko, your friend, phoned me to tell me that you, Tommie, were likely to play the piano and I should hear you. Jacko is sort of my talent scout at this Watts' camp. So I came down here.
"What I heard and saw was absolutely fantastic. The bonus was the boys singing alongside you. In addition to theatres, I have seven night clubs in London and others around England. Tommie, I desperately need someone of your talent to join my company of entertainers. I have never seen such talent."
"That is a real compliment, George, if I may call you George?"
"Compliment intended, Tommie, and yes, you may most certainly call me George. It was the name I was born with."
"So was I, George. That's my real Christian name but with a name like Thompson, what can one do?"
George smiled and said, "Not a lot I suppose, Tommie. I'm glad I'm not a White or Wood or some other similar name. Now back to business. How do you feel about guesting at my nightclubs for one night a week starting in two weeks time at 'The Lounge' in Leicester Square on the Friday night? The times are 9 through to midnight for which I will pay you £90-00 plus expenses."
Ted's eyes popped open and without thinking said, "Ninety bloody pounds, Tommie? Jesus, that's a fortune for one night."
"Ted Willis. You mind your language, young man, or it'll be soap to eat."
"Oops, sorry, Mum. It's just, that sounds a fortune to me."
George laughed and said, "That is what top stars get paid, Ted. The really top stars, that is, and much more than that. Recording stars get even more as they get money from the sale of records as well."
This time Ted, Jimmy, and Janice all said, "WOW!"
Tommie's mind was in turmoil. Did he want that sort of life or the more sedentary life of teacher and tuner? There was so much to think about before making any decision.
George seemingly read his mind.
"Don't make a decision now, Tommie. Here's my phone number in London. Let me know by this coming Friday if you can. I will be in all day waiting for your call. Discuss it with the family first. I surmise that this is your family?"
Janice laughed this time. "George, Ted is my son. Tommie is my next door neighbour, and Jimmy here is Ted's new friend."
"Oh my God, what a mistake to make, I saw the three of you performing last night and just assumed you were one big happy family. Janice, Tommy, I must apologise."
Janice broke the silence that followed. "An easy mistake to make George, please don't worry about it."
Tommie spoke up again, "George, I have to think seriously about your offer. There are the logistics of getting from Carshalton to London and back each time."
Ted was there in a flash. "I can take you." And puffing his chest out said, "I am your official helper."
Janice said immediately, "You are not travelling alone with Tommie at that time of night, young man, official helper or not."
George stepped in immediately. "I would have you picked up from home, Tommie, and transported to the club. Ted can accompany you with Janice's permission and come back with you later, again by car. Janice, I will pay Ted fifteen pounds for accompanying Tommie."
Janice was not so much annoyed by the suggestion but she had to say, "Ted won't be 14 until November 16th, George. He is too young at the moment to be out so late."
"Okay, Janice, I have an idea. How about we make Tommie's first night at the club on the 16th of November? That way you can all come and celebrate Ted's birthday plus you'll be able to judge better Ted's safety with our staff?"
"Oh, Mum, can we, please?" Ted asked. "That would be great."
Janice could be seen giving the idea a lot of thought and then finally she agreed.
"Alright, George, I think that would make a brilliant birthday party for Ted."
"Thank you, Janice. So as long as you agree, Tommie, it's all systems go."
"I have thought about your deal. It suits me fine, George, as it's Ted's birthday to boot. I will still be able to teach, especially Ted. The deal is sold and I look forward to working with you."
With that George shook hands on the deal. He then turned to Jimmy who had just sat there very quietly all the time.
"Jimmy, it is now your turn, son. I am told that you have survived one hell of a young life. Drunken parents who abandoned you to fend for yourself when you were ten years old, then all through the abusive care system until you found the job at Watts. I know you are happy here and that you have just met young Ted . However, I know for a fact that after the camp closes you will have nowhere to go."
It was then that Jimmy broke down in tears. Ted rushed over to him and held him tight until the tears subsided.
"I just don't know what I will do, sir," he said. "Watts is the only real home I have had in years."
"Yes, I know all about that. I'll give you my plan, Jimmy. I've heard through the grapevine that you used to protect, as best you could, the younger children in the homes and try to keep them happy with your tricks. I gather for doing that you were the target of physical abuse by the bullies in those children's homes. I hope what I suggest will be a way of paying you back for all your goodness and kindness, son.
"Within my empire I have many employees with children under the age of five. I provide care for those children while their parents work. I want you, Jimmy, to take charge of entertaining those children. I have six crèches around London. The plan would be, if you accept my offer, to visit each one of those in rotation and entertain the children there for a whole morning. You can do that in any way you like. I hear you are multi-talented and have many skills already. However, my friend Billy Allen of circus fame has agreed to teach you even more skills from his performers at their winter quarters in Windsor. There is of course a problem, where you will live? My friend and I have a very large house in Lowndes Avenue in London. We have many spare rooms that are huge. You are welcome to one of those for free, on the proviso that you keep it clean and tidy and that you cook breakfast on Sunday. We have a manservant all the other days and the one thing, Tim, my friend and I hate, is to cook."
George paused to gauge Jimmy's reaction.
Jimmy couldn't believe his ears. He was certain it was all a dream. What he was being offered was a chance in a lifetime. Something worried him though. It sounded as if there were three adult men in the house, seemingly gay as well. Would they take advantage of him, as had happened before, when he relied upon adult help?
As if he read Jimmy's mind George reassured him. "Yes, Jimmy, we are all gay men, BUT, and here is the crunch, I give my solemn promise that you will not be approached by any one of us and you will be free to lead your life as you wish. If it is with Ted, then that is all well and good. I just hope it is he, as he seems to be a lovely young man. Does that reassure you?"
Jimmy thought hard and then replied, "Yes, sir, and thank you for your kind offer. I can't quite take it all in."
"Right, you will move in on the first of October after you finish at Watts'. You will take a tour of all the crèches the following Monday with my driver. Next, you'll have time to settle into the house routine, then go and meet with Billy Allen down at Windsor and get settled in there. Then, I want you to go to Ted's home and live there with Ted and his mum so you can get the feel for a real family. That is providing Janice and Ted won't mind?"
Janice and Ted sat there with mouths wide open. Who was this man? He had just performed some sort of miracles as far as they were concerned and then suddenly Jimmy was to stay with them. Ted and Janice looked at each other. They both just nodded and said the plan was okay. Ted was overjoyed and, by the look on Jimmy's face, so was he.
"That's settled then. Jimmy can come back to London on your birthday, Ted, and start work and training the following Monday morning. Just two things I forgot to mention: firstly, your pay, Jimmy. You will receive fifteen pounds a week of which you will save five pounds and I will match that with another five pounds. Secondly, I will pay for Ted's piano tuition in full."
Tommie butted in and said, "No, I can't accept that, George. My pride insists I teach Ted for free."
"Fair enough then, Tommie. I can understand where you're coming from. I shall leave you now to talk among yourselves as I'm due back in London this afternoon. Goodbye."
He shook all their hands and bade them farewell for the time being.
Four completely bemused people sat there and then suddenly they all spoke at once. Janice had to stop them as nobody could understand anyone else. What followed was an intelligent conversation which split into chats between the pairings of, Tommie and Janice and Ted and Jimmy. Before they knew it, the hooter for lunch sounded and they all made their way to the restaurant. Discussion ceased over lunch. Unusually, they all had the same, ham salads.
Jimmy and Ted left Janice and Tommie alone together. They had things to talk about and, they suspected, so did the adults. The boys didn't quite hold hands but fingers touched frequently when they thought nobody was looking. They reached the sand dunes and sat down in a little hollow, hidden from view. They looked lovingly at each other and their faces got closer. Boldly Jimmy kissed Ted gently on the lips, then instinct took over and Ted kissed back. That bold move by Jimmy was to start a relationship that would last a lifetime. They sat and talked some more and, after an hour of having the odd kiss here and there, they got up from the sand and brushed the loose grains from their clothes. This time they did walk hand in hand until they reached the crowded area of the beach. They made their way back to Ted and his mum's chalet to find the door locked and the curtains drawn. Ted knocked on the door but Jimmy said, puckering his lips,
"I worked out a while ago, Ted, never knock on an adult's door when the door is locked and the curtains are drawn. Come on, time for an ice cream."
It took a minute for the truth to dawn on Ted but when he did he hit Jimmy on the arm and did his famous, "YES!"
End of Part 4