Love is Blind

Part 7

© 2013-2014 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.

My thanks once again to Matt for his continuing correction of my sometimes glaring errors

So here it was. Ted's 14th birthday and the family, including Aunt Rose, went out to lunch at the local pub. The boys looked at the bar menu and all went for the sausage, mash and onion gravy. The sausages were fabulous, made by the butcher in the village. The adults went up market to shepherd's pie, which was accompanied by baked beans. Drinks were kept to non-alcoholic due to the fact the night would be slightly heavy. Afterwards, the boys went off to the local park to play football while the adults got their heads down for a snooze.

The limo arrived at the big house at six thirty sharp as arranged with George. The ladies were dressed to the nines in evening dresses. Sam and Tommie in evening suits and Ted and Jimmy nice and casual. All the presents were put into the boot and by six forty five everyone was ready to go.

The journey to the club took only forty minutes and they were all met at the club by Eduardo, the club manager. He escorted them to a large round table at the front of the club, by the stage. They seated around the table and even though the club was yet to open officially, the waiters hovered around making them all welcome. Sam had performed his job as escort to Tommie with great aptitude and skill. Just after they were all seated round the table, George appeared carrying a very large box tied with a bow.

He approached Ted and said, "Happy birthday, Ted. This is just a little present from my partner and me. I would like you to open it now."

Ted, ever polite, thanked George and proceeded to take the wrapping off the box. As soon as he started, Ted realised this was going to be a joke unwrapping as layer after layer produced no more than yet another but smaller box inside. Intrigued Ted unwrapped the final layer to expose a miniature six inch high grand piano. Ted , strangely, was very pleased with the miniature model and thanked George for it.

"Have a look under the lid Ted. There might just be a surprise."

Lifting the lid up sideways as with a real grand piano, there was a small envelope. Ted opened it and read the contents.

'Dear Ted, Tommie has told me about your dedication to learning the piano. The model piano you have before you is of the full size grand piano that will be delivered to you tomorrow morning at eleven o'clock.'

Tears flowed from Ted's eyes onto the note. Between sobs he said, "Thank you, George. I don't deserve such kindness."

George retorted back, "Yes you do, Ted, You have worked so very hard to improve your playing, you are a good kind boy and my hope for you is great success in music. To achieve that, you need the best to learn on."

Ted got up and hugged George, only to be warned that Jimmy would get jealous.

Jimmy laughed his head off and said finally, "He can hug you as much as he likes, George. He has my express permission."

Then George clapped his hands and the birthday party started. Goodies galore appeared as if by magic. In no time the table was full of food and drink and they all tucked into the feast before them. During the food, Ted unwrapped all of his presents from those attending.

Aunt Rose, as ladies of her generation would do, got him the best she could afford; three pairs of socks and a nice modern shirt.

Mum and Dad, as they now were to Ted, passed him one of quite a few parcels. He thanked them and opened the wrapping, having first read the card wishing him a happy birthday from mum and dad.

'Oh, here we go again,' he thought, as the layers stripped away to finally reveal a gift voucher to W H Smith for £10-00. Smiths did all sorts of things that boys liked. Records and books, for just two examples.

He put the voucher safely away in his pocket and opened his gift from Jimmy. It turned out to be a lovely pig skin wallet with a sixpence in it for good luck. Just what he wanted. That earned a sneaky kiss for Jimmy.

Before he could put the wallet away Sam gave him three pound notes to put in it as his present. That meant a lot as Sam hadn't earned any money since the camp closed.

Time had moved on and the club was now filling with normal clients. The noise increased as the small band started to play tunes of the period. Finally it was eight thirty, time for Tommie to do his first ever real professional gig. Sam escorted him up onto the slightly raised stage to one of the beautiful, polished Steinway grand pianos. Having got him seated, Sam left him alone waiting for the M.C.

The club was quiet in anticipation of what was to come. They had been told over the last few weeks about the new fantastic piano player who would be appearing soon.

The M.C. approached the mike and said to the audience, "Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to introduce to you at last in the flesh. A pianist of extreme talent. Please enjoy, Tommie Thompson!"

With that, Tommie set off playing a fast ragtime number. Soon everyone was clapping along and, when he finished, the applause was tremendous. Tommie knew he had made it. George stood on the side lines knowing he had made the right choice. Tommie Thompson would end up a star.

Tommie played for two hours and then took a thirty minute break with the family. When he returned to the stage he sat back at the piano. Then the M.C returned and went to the mike.

"Ladies and gentlemen. You will have noticed that there is another piano on stage. Tonight is the birthday of another new found talent. Please put your hands together for Ted Willis. Ted, come on up here, son."

Ted was not expecting this and could have cheerfully murdered someone. The rest of the family encouraged him and he stepped up onto the stage to loud applause and a chorus of happy birthday from the clubbers.

He went to Tommie and asked what to play.

"We will duet, Ted. Starting with 'Tiger Rag.' Take a seat and, when you are ready, let me know and, I will count us in. From there on, just follow my lead. After five numbers I want you to solo on that piece of classical music you've been learning. You can do it. Make your mum and me proud, son."

Ted sat at the other grand and said to Tommie, "Ready, Dad."

Tommie counted, one, two, three, four and the pair of them set into the famous old rag. They played it between them for ten minutes, each one playing improvisations.

When they stopped, the place erupted. They both stood and took bows for almost five minutes. Finally the crowd settled again and the two played four more tunes together. At the end of those, the M.C. returned and announced that Ted would be playing solo for a while. Tommie left the stage with Sam and went back to the table with the family.

Ted had got over his nervousness and set into the piece he had learned.

A very rare occurrence at a nightclub is total silence but that was what Ted got for the twelve minutes the piece took to play. He played with his soul, every note and phrase coming from his heart. He realized he dropped two notes but immediately recovered and carried on as well as any professional would.

The end of the piece finished with a flourish and then silence.

Suddenly the whole club clientele stood almost as one and applauded. Ted had the sense of presence to stand and take a bow to the applauders.

"Bravo, bravo, bravo," was voiced by them all in unison as the applause also continued clapping. Ten minutes later the din quieted and George appeared on the stage. He collected Ted and took him to the microphone.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I am sure you have had quite a night so far. When I first heard this young man play it was at a holiday camp when he entered a talent competition and won it hands down. It was also where I heard his new dad, Tommie."

Loud applause broke out again.

Waiting for it to die down he continued, "I was so impressed by the talent of young Ted that I have set up a music scholarship for him at the Royal College of Music. As much as I am sure we would love for him to play for us on the club circuit, I am certain his life is destined to be in the classical concert halls of the world. Please everyone, put your hands together for Ted."

Neither Janice nor Tommie had been told of the wonderful gift of professional training on a full time basis at the Royal College of Music. They were, of course, thrilled for Ted but Janice wondered if he would want that sort of lifestyle. She was answered by Ted giving George a huge hug.

The clamour died down and Ted went back to the piano to finish the night off playing along with Tommie, who had returned to the stage. The last gig they did was playing various tunes from the period. Finally at one AM they finished to loud applause and left the stage.

They all sat quietly for a while to calm down from the high of being on stage. After fifteen minutes they decided to head off home. That was when George appeared and handed a big bag to Ted.

"This is from all the customers, Ted, for your birthday. I have no idea how much is in the bag but, knowing our customers, it will be a tidy sum. I hope your birthday was one to remember, son, and good luck with your music."

The lad thanked George for everything and told him he had a fantastic night he would never forget, ever.

After that they quickly asked for the car and were soon on their way home.

The talk on route back to Carshalton was full of the night's events. Ted was full of his birthday, certainly one, as he had said before, he would never forget. Jimmy seemed a little upset, having realised that, through the week, he might not see Ted when he started at the music school. Then he suddenly realised he was working in London, so there was a good chance the two could meet quite often outside of work and school.

George, during the last hour of the gig, had gone to see Janice about the course for Ted. There would be nothing to find. All expenses were covered by a music trust that George had set up specifically for the purpose. She had thanked him and hoped that Ted would not let him down. In a trice George had replied that Ted was a very talented boy and if he, George, was any judge of character, Ted would be brilliant.

Back home everyone went straight to bed to sleep. Ted could not remember being so tired in his life.

It was ten o'clock the next morning before anyone woke.

Sudden panic hit Ted! The grand piano was due to be delivered at eleven and nothing was set up for it!

He quickly woke Jimmy and, in turn, they woke up Sam. Between them, furniture was moved and a large space made in the basement for the monster.

Precisely at eleven the front doorbell rang. Ted ran to answer it and almost fell over in his excitement to get there. Standing at the door were four workmen and man with dark glasses. The four men introduced themselves and went with Ted to see where the piano was to be placed. Ted remembered the other man in the dark glasses and went back to see who he was.

The man told him his name was Albert Jones; his accent said Welsh to Ted. He went on to explain he was the piano tuner sent by George to tune the piano once it was set up. With that Ted helped the man in explaining on the way that his dad was a piano tuner as well.

"It was told to me that Tommie Thompson lives here. Is that correct?"

"Yes, he's my dad, but only recently. My name is Ted Willis. I'm keeping my name out of respect to my real dad who was killed in the war."

"Small world, that of piano tuners. I knew Tommie at St. Dunstan's. I didn't know he was married with children though."

"He recently married my mum. He plays professional piano now in London nightclubs."

"That figures. He is a brilliant pianist but too young to have a son your age. How old are you, fourteen?"

"Yes, yesterday. I had my party in the club where Tommie was playing. Would you like a cup of tea, Albert?"

"Yes please, Ted, I would love one. Two sugars if you can spare it."

Ted escorted Albert to the kitchen where everyone was now up and gathered drinking tea or coffee.

Seeing Tommie Ted said, "Dad, Albert is here to tune the piano when it is set. He says he knows you from St Dunstan's."

"Albert Jones, Tommie."

"Good God, Albert, how are you?" Tommie asked, walking toward the sound of Albert's voice.

"Brilliant, Tommie. Nice and busy. I do a lot for George Graham, tuning all his theatre and club pianos."

The two men touched and shook hands like long lost brothers.

"I'm pleased for you, Albert. I work for George as well, playing piano in his clubs in and around London. I did my first gig last night. Tonight we go to a different one."

"Yes, I knew as young Ted here told me, and I'm here to tune Ted's new piano after the deliverers have put it together."

"Where are they putting it, Ted? Down in the basement?"

"Yes, Dad. There is plenty of room down there and it isn't damp anymore."

"Okay, son, sounds good. Albert, since it will take two and a half hours or so to complete the tuning, why don't you plan on staying for lunch?"

"Sounds good to me. I miss me old pie and mash. I have a lady what does for me and her meals, although nice, aren't a patch on pie and mash, mate."

"Good, that's sorted then. Ted, will you please phone the cab company, taxis for seven."

"Okay, Dad, what time?"

"Let's see, it's half past ten now, say one PM."

Ted went to the phone and booked the taxis, then headed down to the basement where the men were putting the legs onto his piano. He still found it hard to believe that this was all happening. The men smiled kindly and told him they would be finished soon and that Albert could start the tuning.

The family pottered about for the rest of the morning and Ted suddenly remembered the bag of money that George gave him. With Jimmy's help he counted it and found there was almost sixty pounds in the bag. That was a fortune to him and both he and Jimmy went to Rose Hill and put the money into the savings account. They stopped for coffee and then rushed back to see the progress on the piano. Jimmy would be back to work the next day, so they made the best of the morning after checking the piano status.

They went out into the garden to find Mum weeding the borders. She had spent a lot of time slowly bringing the garden back to some sort of order. Most of the flowers were dead now as it headed towards winter but the holly trees looked good. Spring would bring masses of daffodils. They knew that because of the times they had passed the house at that time of year. The forsythia shrubs would add to the yellow of the daffodils, with it's bright yellow foliage that came out around the same time.

Janice looked up at the boys. They both looked so happy together.

"You boys want to help?"

"Yes, Mum," Ted answered. "We can start clearing the brambles from around the summer house, or whatever it is."

"Brilliant idea, boys. There are some gloves in my trug you can use, just watch the barbs, and you might need to pull out the roots if they're easy. The really big ones I'll get a gardener in to do for us."

"Right, Mum. Come on, Jimmy, get the gloves on."

Both boys donned the gloves and started clearing the thick brambles from around the old brick structure. It took them a while but finally they could stand back and look at their handiwork.

"Wow, look at that, Jimmy, it is a real summer house; it's massive. Shall we see if we can get in?"

Mum looked up and said, "Be careful, boys, the doors might be rotten."

They approached the door and turned the handle, then pulled. The door opened easily and they went inside. It smelled musty but fairly clean. Like all boys, they explored the large space and found there were tables and chairs, dusty but otherwise okay. They then spied the cupboard in one corner.

They pulled the doors open to reveal a large bag. Looking into it they saw mallets, poles and hoops, along with six balls.

"I've seen this stuff before, Ted. It's a game called croquet. You play it on a lawn. You have to knock balls through hoops. I am not sure how to play properly but that is it roughly."

They decided to ask Janice if she knew of the game. She pointed to a large patch of grass and said that was likely where it would have been played. Perhaps in the summer they could play.

The boys put the bag back and explored further. Opening another door, they found two old air rifles. The temptation was there but Jimmy decided that Janice would not want them to have them so they took them out to her and showed them.

"These are quite old, boys. Thank you for bringing them to me, they are dangerous things and need correct handling. I think it best if we destroy them. Okay?"

"Alright, Mum," they replied in unison. "We'll get the big club hammer and damage the barrels and butts."

In five minutes the air rifles were rendered harmless. The boys continued tidying around the summer house, quite content in recovering it from the weeds.

A while later, there was a call from Tommie at the back door. "The piano's finished everyone. You want to try it out Ted?"

Ted didn't need a second asking, he was indoors and down in the basement just ahead of Jimmy.

Albert stood by the piano and on hearing a dash of footsteps he said,
"If that is you, Ted, slow down. Plenty of time to play it. I think you will love it. The tone is fantastic."

Ted slowed, almost to a snail's pace and then, reaching the gleaming piano, sat and adjusted the stool. Flexing his fingers he ran up and down the scales until he was loosened up. Albert had been right, the tone was fantastic indeed. He paused and then went into the piece he had played at the club the night before. It was as if something magical had possessed him. No mistakes this time; the piece just flowed like a brook in the woods.

When he had finished, the whole family, who had gathered to listen, stood in silent awe. Ted stood with tears in his eyes and went to Jimmy to hug him.

"That was for you, Jimmy," He whispered.

"It was beautiful, Ted. Now I know what George meant by giving you that place at The Royal. You go and knock them dead, love."

The others gathered round to hug Ted while Albert made a comment that would be remembered at a later date.

"Ted, you are a natural. I know of few 14 year olds that could have played that piece that well with so little experience. I have a piece of music in my bag. Would you mind playing it?"

"I'll try."

Albert was given his bag and he took out a piece of sheet music. Handing it to Ted he said, "This is Liszt piano concerto. Try it and see how you do."

It is well documented that Liszt is probably the most technical and difficult to play. Ted did not know this but Tommie did. He said nothing as he wanted the same as Albert. To see just how good Ted might be.

Ted looked the music over, reading the piano part of it in his mind, feeling the difficult notation. After a few minutes he sat back at the piano and started to play. Tommie and Albert stood together not believing what they were hearing.

Finally Tommie spoke quietly to Albert, "I can't believe what I'm hearing, mate. I heard just one fault in fifteen minutes of playing, and that was very minor. How can it be? He's only been playing a few months."

"Some people are born to play, Tommie, not just play but to be brilliant. Ted is one of those, he is a genius."

Tommie smiled. "George said as much last night. He said concert halls were where Ted would belong."

Finally Ted finished with a flourish and sat back exhausted.

Janice took her son aside and said to him, "Ted, I am so proud of you. I see your dad in you whenever you are at a piano. You're beginning to look just like him," and giving him a hug said, "I love you so much."

"I love you too, Mum. Do I really look like dad?"

"Yes, son, almost the spitting image, except he was losing some of his hair."

"Thanks, Mum, I needed to know that like a hole in the head."

Smiling Janice replied, "Or like the hair on your head."

The others groaned at the bad pun and Janice said, "Tea, everyone?"

However it was almost one o'clock and time for the taxis, so everyone declined. Ted went to the front door and, sure enough, one of the drivers was about to ring the front door bell.

"With you in a second, boss." Ted said, and went in to muster the rest together.

The pie and mash shop was very busy with lunchtime trade so Tommie suggested the St. Helier Arms for a drink first and the manager of the pie and mash could call them there when he had space.

The arrangement meant they all walked the short distance to the pub. The lounge was closed at lunchtime so they went to the saloon bar instead. Albert, with the help of Sam and Jimmy, went to the bar and ordered the drinks for everyone. Ted put two tables together and moved the chairs around so there was seating for all of them. Tommie and Janice wanted a quick word with Ted and this proved to be an ideal opportunity.

"Ted love, Tommie and I want you to succeed. However, there is a but. If for some reason you fell under stress or pressured because of the music, please make certain you talk to us before it causes you any severe problems. We want you to enjoy your music and not let it rule your life. You rule the music, okay love?"

"Yes, Mum, I know it could take over my life but when I play, I live the music, almost as if I was sitting with the composer as he was writing it. For some reason I don't feel stress, just joy. I am sure that will never change. Like when I played Liszt this morning, I could almost hear him saying to me, 'I have got you, young Ted,' when I played through some of the very difficult parts, yet I could almost feel his spirit guiding me through at the same time. It was as if he wanted me to succeed with the piece."

Tommie spoke, "Well something or someone certainly seems to be guiding you, Ted, judging by the rapid progress you've made. Mum is right though, son, make sure that you take control over your career in music."

"I will, Dad, I promise."

Just then the others returned with the drinks and so interrupted the conversation.

"Here we are," Albert said, "A small libation before lunch. Sam tells me he is your guide Tommie, I hope he is a good one?"

"He is indeed, my friend, although Ted is also my guide sometimes. Between them I am well looked after."

"I must say everyone seems to have their own talents. Janice, housekeeping?"

Ted answered for her, "You bet, but Mum also sings well."

Sam chimed in again, "She sure does, she is singing all the time indoors. She has a lovely voice."

Ted and Jimmy cheekily sang together, "A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square."

That effort stopped the discussion dead as everyone laughed.

From then on the talk was mostly just chit chat while they had their drinks. They had barely finished when the barman said the pie and mash shop had called to let them know they were ready for them. Everyone drained their glasses and headed out of the door.

When they arrived back at the shop the tables were already laid for them and, as soon as they were sat, the waitress came to the table for their orders. Janice was taken aback finding the table waited upon and asked if it was a new service. She was told it was and that would be the norm in future.

Chit-chat carried on through the meal and Jimmy reminded everyone he was back to work in the morning and would be leaving early to catch a train. George had bought him a season ticket so that expense was covered. Ted would be back at school the next day and Tommie and Sam would be working that night. Janice decided not to go as she wanted an early night and make sure she was around for Ted to go to school in the morning.

The meal over, Sam organised taxis home again. Once back Albert made a move to go back home to London. Everyone wished him goodbye and good luck, which was reciprocated by him. His car arrived and he left with a wave and a smile.

At two pm there was a phone call from the music college for Ted. After a lengthy conversation he was asked to come to London for an interview and tests. He was told to go there on Saturday morning by ten am. He asked them to hold and got the okay from his dad and mum. They would go with him and, if needs be, go for a meal on their own and meet him later. He returned to the phone and confirmed the visit. He told the caller, who was the college secretary, that his parents would attend as well. She told him that was not a problem but they would not be needed for the tests and could pick him up later, about two hours after his arrival. He thanked the secretary and reiterated his visit, replacing the phone.

He told his parents of the secretary's message. They asked what tests he would have to do and he, of course, replied that he didn't know.

The rest of the week went by quite quickly and Saturday morning arrived. Jimmy was home for the weekend, Sam and Tommie were tired but everyone was determined to go to London with Ted, even Aunt Rose.

The whole family arrived at the College at ten minutes to ten in plenty of time. They looked at the college façade, taking in its beautiful stone. As soon as Ted went inside the rest of the family disappeared to the nearest Lyons Corner House, famous for tea, coffee and cakes. The distinct waitresses in their uniforms were everywhere. It wasn't long before they were all seated round a large family table. Sam had got his first wages and insisted he get all the goodies.

Minutes after Ted walked through the huge double doors....

End of Part 7

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