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suzannebowditch

Writer of historical fiction, blogger, mum, pet lover :)

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Josh’s story

Europe

The van rattled along the French countryside. Josh looked out of the dusty back window, his mind in a whirl.

His mum had taken the news well, he’d thought. He’d expected a clip around the ear, or at the very least a lecture, starting with the words “You’re both too young, too irresponsible…’

Instead,she’d shuffled Anna into her small front room, and made her tea. Anna had wolfed down a Cornish pasty and a slice of home made fruit cake, and Josh realized that they had barely eaten anything for two days.

‘Well, I’m behind you all the way, you two!’ his mother had said. ‘What does that posh dad of yours say about this then, Anna my dear?’

Anna shook her head, tears spilling down her face. She looked as devastated as anyone could be, who had just discovered that they were going to have a baby with someone that didn’t really care about them. Added to that, her whole family had disowned her. Josh shuddered when he remembered the phone call she’d made just yesterday.

‘Mum, I’m old enough….! Put dad on the phone…’ Doesn’t he want to talk…?’ Anna had sounded desperate. Josh had fled to the toilet on the train, embarrassed by her conversation. Her parents had confirmed his worst fears. He’d known all along that they looked down on him, but to cut her off…well. they were the worst kind of people.

So, his mum had been the best option.

Anna was to stay with her until the baby was born; Josh’s mum had insisted.

He realized then how lonely she had been since he’d left home.

As the van chugged along the road to their next gig, a tavern outside Paris, his heart gave a little leap in his chest. Good old mum, he thought to himself. She’ll look after Anna and my son…or daughter.

He was looking forward to going home.

*

Copyright Suzanne Bowditch, 2016

 

 

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Lincoln

The journey South was unbearable. For five hours he had sat looking out of the train window as the English countryside sped past. Anna had slept most of the way, and for that he was grateful. He couldn’t make up his mind whether he preferred the silent treatment or the stern glances. Anyhow, pending motherhood had certainly shut her up; she’d hardly said a word since she’d told him about the baby. He stared at her sleeping form and wondered what his mother would make of it all. That was his next port of call; Lincoln, his childhood home and the place where he felt safer than anywhere.

He had left the band back in Scotland after the last gig. Somehow, he’d managed to sing his heart out and the crowds had gone wild, especially the women. On the stage he was someone else, someone more important than a small time singer from the Midlands; one who was now tied down by a woman! He sighed to himself. Jazz had been in raptures at the crowd’s response, so had given him leave to spend time at home.

‘Go and rest that voice! Sleep in all day if you like as long as you take care of that voice; its your fortune.We’ll be on the next stage of the tour before you know it. I’ll be in touch.’

His mother had laughed when he had told her that he was coming home for a few weeks, and that he had some news.

‘Do you have a record contract yet Josh? I’ve told the neighbors how good you are. They want to see you on the telly next!’ His mother had giggled.

They’d walked the short distance from the train station. Josh could see her plump form standing in the doorway of the small but comfortable terrace house. A pang of nostalgia ripped through his heart at the sight. The street looked just the same; the row of terraces with long gardens that led down the the common beyond, and the corner shop perched on the end of the street. He walked past the lottery sign that stood in the middle of the pavement like an awkward statue. The ching! ching! sound of a till  could be heard from the shop, and a group of young lads spilled out onto the pavement.

‘Watch it lads! There’s a lady here, and she’s  in the family way.’ Anna glared at him, and her face turned crimson.

‘Josh, did I just hear right? Is Anna having a baby?’ Josh looked over his shoulder. His mother Julia was standing right behind him. In the confusion, he hadn’t realized that she’d left her post on the doorstep and walked over to greet him.

‘Er, hello mam. This is Anna.’

*

Suzanne Bowditch, 2016.

 

 

The Royal Pub

The lunchtime crowd had dispersed by the time that Josh arrived; back to their mundane office jobs, their lives on the fringes of being real as they spend their nights watching reality TV in front of a ready meal.

‘Do I dare 

Disturb the universe?

In a minute there is time

For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.’

One of his favorite poems from school sprang to mind; the only good thing to come out of those mundane classes, but he remembered his English teacher and the passion for literature that she had tried to instill in a classroom of uninterested pupils. At the time, the words seemed vague and unreal, but the reality of life has kicked him down again. The words resonated in his mind as he pushed open the door of the pub, set in a busy intersection off Princes street. Anna trailed behind. He barely gave her a glance as he scoured the room looking for Luke.

‘Over here, you two!’ Luke voice cut through the deep aggressive burr of a smoky Scottish pub. Josh made his way to the far corner and sat down. Luke had a pint in front of him; half full. Just like my life, Josh thought. Half baked and going nowhere…

‘I’ll have an orange juice Lukey.’ Anna spoke up and sat down on the opposite side of the table. She placed her handbag on the table and pulled out a compact, which she gazed at, ignoring him.

‘Righto, Anna my dear, be back in a minute. Pint for you Josh?’

Josh managed a smile. He looked out if the window onto the bustling street outside. From this position he could see the tall grey stone buildings that made up the main thoroughfare of Edinburgh. The gold letters of ‘The Royal’ were painted onto the pub glass; reversed letters that seemed somehow significant. Beads of condensation ran down the window making the shoppers look blurred and unfocused, as if they were aliens.

The tension inside was palpable.

Anna continued looking at her compact, completely engrossed in the task of putting on lipstick. Was she trying to wear him down? Knowing that she had the upper hand in this scenario, was she milking the situation for all its worth?

‘Well Joshie, I have news.This involves Anna as well, listen up you two.’ Luke placed a tray on the table, which held a pint and a small bottle of juice and a glass. A couple of packets of crisps were thrown down beside the drinks for good measure.

‘I’ve spoken to Jazz this morning. He wants the band to continue on its tour whatever has come up.’ He looked awkwardly at Anna, who stared back at him wide eyed.

‘Jazz has a mate down South who owns a cracking little flat. Its not that far from your mum’s Josh.’ Luke looked at his mate encouragingly.

‘He says that he can get the flat no probs, so that you and Anna can be near family, so to speak, but you can continue in the band. Anna can do what she wants there and we can carry on touring. Jazz has already booked gigs for a European tour after this one. What say you Anna?’

Anna spilled her drink.

*

 

Suzanne Bowditch, 2016

Poem extract from The Love Story of Alfred J Prufrock by TS Eliot.

http://www.poetry-archive.com/e/love_song_of_j_alfred_prufrock.html#rmyyWtww3uQFCgoA.99

Panic

The journey into Edinburgh was quiet to say the least. Josh had decided to take her back to meet his mother, but not yet; not until he did one more gig. He couldn’t let the boys down. He was the lead singer, the one that the fans showed up for, what ever Jazz may think. His ugly mug would not draw a picture, let alone a crowd.

They had caught a bus at the base of Arthur’s Seat and now sat at the back, whilst the bus rattled down the hill. It was virtually empty, save for a few old pensioners doing their shopping. Anna sat next to him, barely speaking.

He sighed to himself. Was this his future? Tied down at his age to a squawking kid and a surly girlfriend? He looked out of the bus window and shook his head.

Half an hour later, the bus pulled into the main bus depot in the center of the city. Josh went on ahead, with Anna trailing behind him. He felt irritated by her sudden silence. He reached for his phone, and called Luke. His best friend in the band would know what to do. Luke’s Welsh lilt answered the mobile and Josh relaxed as he heard a friendly voice.

‘Hey mate, where are you? We have to be on stage at 8, but there’s a sound check beforehand. Jazz is going nuts wondering where you’ve got to. Is Anna with you?’

Josh glanced over his shoulder to where Anna stood shivering in the sharp draft coming through the depot, and then answered. ‘Yes, she’s with me.Listen; I need to talk to you all. Something’s come up. We need to have a band meet as soon as possible.’

Anna grabbed him by his arm and pointed to a sign that said ‘Ladies.’ He nodded  and watched her walk  across the road towards the sign.When she was out of earshot,  Josh spoke quickly into his mobile.

‘Luke mate, listen up! Anna’s gone and got herself pregnant. I have to meet you, and soon. Can you get to the pub earlier than the others? I’ll ditch Anna somewhere, and we can talk.’

‘Oh mate, I knew that would happen! Listen don’t panic; there’s weeks before she even shows, and then a few months again before the baby comes. Don’t act too quickly. We can finish the tour and then you decide what to do. I’ll meet you in an hour. The pub’s off Princes Street – it’s the Royal, can you remember?’

Josh rang off, the relief evident on his face. He could handle this, he was sure.

Copyright: Suzanne Bowditch, 2016

 

Anna

Garden City shops

‘Whaaaat! What did you say?’ Josh stared down at her open mouthed, like he could not believe what he was hearing

‘I’m pregnant.’ She answered. Plain and simple, as if the world had not just crashed around her.

‘Is it mine?’ he reacted quickly, brutally even, but regretted the words as soon as he had spoken them.

‘Of course! What type of girl do you think I am?’ her eyes filled with tears as she looked up at him, and he felt a first class cad.

Just then a tinny rendition of ‘We are the champions’ filled the air, and he reached into his hoodie pocket for his phone.The screen said that it was his mother.

‘Hi mam, what’s up?’ he tried to stay as normal as possible after this world shattering revelation, but his voice seemed high pitched and weird even to him. Fortunately his mother had not noticed, as she rattled on about his aunt Julie.

-‘Yes, and she’s having a baby now, what do you think of that?’ his mother’s voice became loud and clear, and he realized that he’d put the phone onto loud speak. His heart was in his mouth – did his mother know about Anna already?

He looked at Anna, still sitting on the bench. She looked suddenly fragile and unsure of herself, and he realized that she had never even met his mad but fun loving mother. An image of her came into his mind; the photo of her and his dad at a New Years Eve party taken before he was born. They have their arms around each other and look so happy. His mother has a bright pink jacket on and matching lipstick and his dad’s dark locks are in  his eyes.Josh barely recognizes his dad from that; before he died he was completely bald. The photo is framed and has pride of place on the sideboard; a reminder of a happier time in his mother’s life.

A surge of loneliness hit him and he felt homesick. All he wanted to do at that moment was to curl up on the sofa at home and listen to his mother rabbiting on about the family, the neighbors – anything but stand here. The weight of responsibility hit him like a ton of bricks.

Anna was a lovely, quiet girl; he knew that. He had treated her appallingly.

He said goodbye to his mother quickly, promising to call her later. He took his hoodie off and placed it over Anna’s shivering shoulders. She leans into him, placing her head on his shoulder and he realizes that he likes it.

‘I know that it’s a shock to you; it was to me. We have to talk though; sort things out. I’ll be at the markets in Edinburgh all weekend helping my friend Georgia out. Can you meet me there on Saturday?’

Josh nodded a yes.

Copyright: Suzanne Bowditch, 2016.

 

Edinburgh gig

Josh loved Scotland. As a child, his dad would take him fishing on Loch Awe, under the shadow of Kilchurn Castle. They would spend hours on their small tug in the middle of the loch, searching for the biggest pike that they could find. Then they would go back to their hired stone cottage, wet and cold but happy, and fry their catch on a small skillet until they were stuffed.

Josh sighed at the memory. A happier time in his life; now gone. His dad had passed away several years back; it was just him and his mum at home now. He suddenly felt very alone. Jazz had not spoken since their debacle hours earlier. His face had been set straight ahead, just focused on the road ahead.

Luke sidled up behind him, and grabbed his shoulder. Josh was grateful for the distraction.

‘Hey guys, let’s stop for something to eat. There’s a cafe up ahead that does a real mean burger and chips.’

Jazz turned his head and grunted. ‘I’ll take that as a yes, then!’

Moments later they pulled up outside a row of low slung cottages sat on the side of the road. The end cottage had a couple of tables and chairs outside, with umbrellas blowing in the wind. A sign swung from the cottage, with ‘Cocoa Cola’ etched onto it in white and red. A board stood alone, held down with a couple of stones. It read ‘Maggie’s Cafe.’

‘There’s no Maggie here that I know of, but they’ve kept the sign the same.’ Luke noted, as they piled into the small doorway. Inside, it was even gloomier than out. The sun had decided to hid behind the neighboring trees, casting a shadow over the interior.

Just two men were in the cafe, sitting in a corner table against the window. They nodded as the lads entered. After ordering his meal, Josh went back outside and sat on a narrow stone wall. He pulled a a clump of weeds absentmindedly and tried not too think too hard. He could not face Jazz and had no desire to sit at a table with him. This tour was starting to turn into a nightmare.

The door to the cafe slammed shut, and Luke joined him.

‘Thought you’d be out here.’ Luke sat down and pulled out a cigarette. For a few minutes, there was silence, just the rushing of the wind in the tall firs behind them. Then Luke spoke, and his voice seemed to startle Josh from his reverie.

‘Me and the other lads have been talking. It’s no good having a atmosphere like there’s been. Mikey thinks we should bale and pick up a few gigs elsewhere.’

‘Split up the band you mean?’ Josh looked shocked. ‘It’ll blow over between me and Jazz; you’ll see. He’s a bully, but has a short temper. I’d hate to see us split ‘cos of this. I can handle him. Known him since school, and he hasn’t changed. But he’ll never get a decent lass if he acts like that; Sophie will lose interest; he can’t cover up his temper forever.’

Just then, his mobile buzzed. Josh reached into the pocket of his hoodie, and looked at the screen. It said ‘Anna.’ He groaned inside, then retrieved the message.

Hi Josh. I don’t know where you are, somewhere outside Edinburgh, Luke told me. I have to meet up with you. I have something to tell you; it’s important. Anna.

Copyright Suzanne Bowditch, 2016

 

Payback

It was deadly quiet in the van. The only sound was from the swish of the tires on the wet tarmac. Every so often, the van would hit a pothole, and Josh would jerk in his seat. The other lads in the band, sensing the atmosphere up front, spoke quietly which was unusual for them.

‘Look, I didn’t know that you was interested in her did I?’ Josh was looking at the side view of Jazz, who had barely taken his eye off the road ahead.

‘Whatever.’ Jazz grumbled, and Josh was taken aback by his subdued tone. Was this a good sign? Or should he be worried? It was hard to tell by his profile; the set line of his jaw, the large hairy arms gripping the wheel, or the trickle of sweat running down the corner of his face.

Jazz took his grip off the wheel and wiped his brow with the back of his hand, then turned to look at Josh.

‘No need to look so worried, Josh boy. I want a good lead singer, and your ‘it.’ The ladies love you that’s for sure.’

Suddenly, Jazz pulled the van into the kerbside. Straight ahead lay the road to Edinburgh, and Glasgow beyond that. Jazz turned off the engine and lent over to grab a cigarette. He sat there quietly smoking.

‘We’ll leave you boys to it. I need a pee and some fresh air anyway.’  One of the lads spoke up from behind. Josh heard the van doors being pulled open, and then silence. He watched as his band mates walked over to a gate and disappear behind some bushes. Luke, ever the loyal friend, stood next to the van, a worried look on his face. Josh could see his pained expression through the dusty streaks on the window.

Not speaking a word, Jazz lent into the glove compartment in front of where Josh sat. Josh got a whiff of the rancid smell of cigarettes and beer. He turned away, but not before Jazz grabbed his chin and forced him to look straight in his eyes. He had a torch in his right hand and with a smooth movement that belied his size, he swung it at Josh’s knee.

The pain was sharp and immediate.

‘I won’t touch the pretty boy face; we need that for the fans.’ he growled quietly into his ear. ‘I’m warning you – don’t ever show me up in front of the ladies, or the other lads, is that clear enough for you?’

Josh nodded, sweat pouring down his face. Moments later, the van slid open and the other lads piled in.

Jazz switched on the ignition, and they were on their way.

Copyright Suzanne Bowditch, 2016

 

Jazz

Jazz was waiting outside the pub when Josh finally left the dining room. He was just standing there, a cigarette perched on the corner of his mouth, looking for all the world as if he did not have a care.

But Josh knew him better than that. He had known Jazz since their misspent school days at Newtown Comp. He knew his old school friend of old – he certainly held grudges. Josh’s heart gave a leap in his chest as he crunched his way across the car park towards him. Jazz had finished his cigarette and now had his head down in the bonnet of the car. He pulled the oil stick out of its holding, and peered at it as if his life depended on it.

‘Alight?’ was Josh’s greeting.

Jazz stopped what he was doing and slowly replaced the oil meter. ‘Alright? Is that all you can say? After last night’s performance? You need your head read mate.’

Jazz slammed down the bonnet of the van, and climbed into the driver’s side.

‘Get the others will you?’ he growled. ‘We have to get to the next venue; we’re running late as it is.’ Josh swallowed quickly. He felt as nervous as a school boy in his first day at school. He looked down at his hands; they were shaking. How ridiculous! he thought. I have known this guy for years; he’s a mate! What am I scared of?

But he could not get that image out of his head. The one image that had left him feeling a sense of wariness towards Jazz, however much that he had covered it up in the pretense of friendship all these years. Now, the image forced its way to the front of his mind – Jazz standing face to face with another student, pointing at him because the lad had spoken to Annabelle Forster, whom Jazz had had his eye on for quite a while.

They had been at the back of the tennis courts, by the dilapidated shed that was rarely used except as a venue for smokers and lovers. Josh had stood at the back of the small gang gathered around the victim, and had watched as Jazz had thumped the boy, and then kicked him when he was down. The others had walked away, but Josh had never forgotten the mean look in Jazz’s eyes, or the way that he had kicked the boy as if he had been a useless object to use and abuse.

Jazz had never gone out with Annabelle Forster. She had learnt of the incident and had given him a wide berth.They had all left school at the same time, and Josh had heard that she was studying Art at uni.

He turned and went back into the pub. This was not finished by a long chalk.

 

After effects

Josh woke to the sound of a drill being used just outside his window. He raised his head off the pillow, and felt nausea creep up his throat. It took a moment to realize that the drilling was in his head, not outside. The after effects of a noisy gig; he should be used to it by now. His head felt hot to the touch and he could feel beads of sweat forming under his hairline. He groaned and reached across the bed.

He was alone. He laid back against the pillow, loathe to face this day.

No Anna. A mixed cacophony of feelings washed over him.

Was he relived that she had not shared his bed? Or had he missed her? An image suddenly appeared in his head, a memory of last night that he so wanted to forget – Anna and some random bloke, laughing together as if they were lovers; his arm around her in that familiar way. A wave of jealousy washed over him (at least it wasn’t nausea this time!) and he felt sick.

He crawled out of bed, and made his way to a sink in the corner of the room. He vaguely remembered checking himself into the pub, but it was so foggy as to be surreal. He retched into the sink, and was pleased that it was just bile. He washed his face and pulled on his crumpled jeans.

Outside the room, the corridor was silent. Doors stood either side of him like silent sentries. The carpet was a garish mix that looked like a throw back from the seventies. This time there was no smell coming from the kitchen; just silence. Stumbling downstairs, he entered a small dining room and saw Luke at a table under the window.

‘Josh! Get yourself over here! There’s some tea in the pot, come and sit down.’

Luke had a cereal bowl in front of him, with the dregs of Weetos lining its bottom, and some milk.

‘No fried breakfast this time, boyo. We have to make do with toast and cereal.’ Luke lent forward conspiratorially. ‘Hey, what’s the news on last night then? I heard from a good source that you attacked Jazz? He’s real mad at you for trying to get between that Sophie and him. He’s fancied her for ages – didn’t you know?’

Josh groaned as Luke’s Welsh lilt rabbited on and on. No, he didn’t know! He poured himself some tea and sipped the warm liquid.

What had he done this time? 😦

Copyright Suzanne Bowditch, 2016

 

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