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School Reunion 2 - Amanda's Secret
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Author:

Genre:

Cert:
Ken Orford

Modern Fiction

PG

This is the second story about  events surrounding and people involved in a  school reunion. Individuals, incidents and events wil crop up in each of the stories.


The ceiling looked the same as it always did. Her bed felt the same as it always had. The early morning sun coming in through the gaps in her curtains cast the same sharp shadows she had become familiar with in her eighteen years of life. But Jessica knew that today would be different. Today was the day she would find out.

She didn’t bother to look at her alarm clock, she knew she was awake long before its irritating beep would sound. With an easy movement she slid out of bed. Ludwig looked up from where he’d been curled up at her feet, and with a similar graceful movement got off the bed, and followed her downstairs. Once in the kitchen, the enthusiastic ginger cat proceeded to wail and entwine himself around her legs. Jessica knew he’d keep this up until he’d been fed.

“God, you’re a persistent little bugger, aren’t you? Come on then.”

“What a life, eh?” Jess said to the cat’s uninterested ears. “Eat, sleep, catch a couple of birds and do the same thing all over again tomorrow. Not a care in the world. You don’t know how lucky you are. Mind you, you don’t know who your dad is either, but it doesn’t worry you, does it?”

Ludwig ignored the question and continued eating the chunks of “delicious whitefish in jelly”. Jess smiled and gave the cat a tickle on the ear:

“Not my idea of breakfast! But hey, by tonight we’ll be different in another way – tonight I find out who my dad is….”

As Jess pushed her cereal around the bowl, she studied the montage of photographs in the large frame hanging on the wall. She and her mum had spent ages getting it just right. There were photos from when she was a baby, with her mum and Grandma and Granddad. In the next group she was a cute blonde four year old – with her first musical instrument, a recorder. Then she was a bit taller, a huge gap where her baby teeth had fallen out. Despite that the world could see she was going to be like her mum – a real looker. The recorder had become her first violin, and there she was with her mum, playing a duet. By the early teens, she and her mum looked more like sisters than mother and daughter, after all, her mum was still in her twenties when Jess had become a teenager. The most recent had been taken just a few months ago. This time Jessica was on stage with four school friends. Jess on electric guitar, the others on guitars, keyboard and drums – Hell’s Belles. What a rubbish name, she thought to herself.

She looked at the clock, not yet eight thirty. Still twelve hours – this was going to be one of the longest twelve hours of her life. She heard movements from upstairs. Mum rarely slept past nine o’clock, and a few moments later her mum, Amanda, came into the kitchen, yawning as she remarked that Jess was up early.

“Yeah, well – couldn’t sleep. And Ludwig wanted feeding.”

Her mum looked at her and smiled. She knew her daughter, and was pretty sure she knew the real reason she hadn’t slept in. Then turning away so Jess couldn’t see her face, she just hoped Jess wouldn’t be disappointed – on two counts. Firstly, he might not even be there tonight, and secondly she was concerned that Jess might not approve.

“So, what you got planned for today then?”

Jess replied she didn’t have any firm plans and that Kendra would probably come over.
“We’ll probably just hang out, maybe jam a bit.”

 Amanda said she was going clothes shopping, to get “something decent” to wear tonight and that she and Kendra could come along if they wanted to. Jessica said she’d text Kendra and ask her,

“After all mum, you could probably use the fashion advice.”

The grin was a giveaway. Her mum knew she was still really attractive and knew how to dress, but Jess desperately wanted her mum to look particularly stunning tonight.  In her fairy tale dreams, her dad (tall, wavy hair, Justin Timberlake’s good looks and Becks’s smile of course) caught sight of her mum across the room. They’d rush to meet each other, and kiss passionately while their former schoolmates looked on and cheered. But Amanda knew life wasn’t like that.

Kendra arrived, guitar case in hand, shortly after eleven, and Amanda opened the door:

“Jess isn’t quite ready yet. Want some coffee?”

Kendra said she was okay, thanks and asked why Jess was so excited.

“Why do you say that?”

“Her text said she was a bit hyper about tonight. What’s tonight?”

“Oh we are both going to my school reunion.”

“I can see why you may be looking forward to it, but why’s Jess like that?”

“I think you’d better ask her. Anyway, what’s going to happen to Hell’s Belles now you’re all going to go your separate ways?”

They talked about how all the girls in the band were off to different Universities, and about Jess’s acceptance at the Royal Academy of Music.

“You know I love coming here,” Kendra announced. ”For one thing you are the coolest mum. You know more about music and bands and fashion than half our friends. But your house is so cool. You know, no newspapers or car magazines everywhere. It’s just so… I dunno … feminine.”

Years ago that comment may have hurt, somehow implying that without a man Amanda’s house, and life, was somehow deficient. Despite the support from her mum and dad, it had been a struggle being a mum at sixteen and bringing up Jess alone. Her mum and dad had never quite forgiven her. Not for getting pregnant, but for not telling them who the father was.

As the two were in the throes of discussing University life, Jess was sitting upstairs staring at the mirror. She had been doing this off and on for the past week. She wanted to memorise everything about her face: the size of her ear lobes, the shape of her nose, the curve of her chin. Some of those features had come from her father, and she wanted to be able to spot them tonight. She wanted to be able to spot him before her mother told her. To be able to look at him with a knowing smile.

Amanda left for her shopping expedition and the two teenagers drank coffee and took up one of their favourite pastimes: listening to a music track and then trying to play it.  They had some lunch and played some more, and by the time Amanda arrived home they were well into writing a new song. They made Amanda show them what she’d bought - Jess gave it her seal of approval, much to Amanda’s relief! Then they made her listen to their new song. She made positive comments and a couple of suggestions.

“So Mrs J, what got you into music? After all, you’ve a lot to answer for, inflicting Jess’s talents on an unsuspecting world.”

Jess raised her eyebrows and nudged her friend in the ribs. Amanda smiled:

“Well, Jess’s Grandma and Granddad were big classical music fans, and both play the piano. My dad was also into Jazz, so the house was always filled with music. They got me into the violin, but I guess the rebel in me came out when I wanted a guitar for my 10th birthday. I think they were just glad I was playing an instrument. Anyway, at secondary school we had a great teacher and he was around for the first two years. He left but kept teaching privately, so mum and dad paid for him to do guitar and violin with me for a couple more years.”

Amanda paused, clearly reminiscing in her mind.

“Then he left completely to join a group. He was on ‘Top of the Pops’ once, and ‘The Tube’.”

Jess and Kendra looked at each other and shrugged. What the hell was “The Tube”?

“Must have been cool to have a teacher who’s a rock star. What was his band called?”

Amanda was surprised that Kendra seemed genuinely interested.

“He was in a couple that were kind of semi famous. I’ll dig out the old records for you.”

“Wow, you mean real vinyl!”

Amanda laughed:

“Yeah, real vinyl. Good job we’ve still got a deck that can play it!”

Kendra left, giving Jess a huge hug and an “it’ll be all right” smile, the two women set about getting ready around each other with clockwork precision. At seven thirty they left the house. Jess’s throat was dry and she thought she’d burst with anticipation. Her mother felt scared witless at what the next few hours would bring. Oh God, she wanted desperately to see him again, yet she felt sick at the thought. Both tried their hardest to keep their emotions hidden and in check, pretending this was just another social evening with some friends. Just as they were going in, Jess’s phone bleeped. She looked at the message from Kendra:

“I hope U both find wot U R looking 4”

Jess smiled and showed her mum, they briefly made eye contact, took deep breaths and entered the noisy hall. They both looked around – Jess could tell by just looking at her mum’s face that he wasn’t here.

They got some drinks and found themselves in a group, a couple of whom Jessica had met before, a couple whose names she recognised, and the rest she didn’t know from Adam. Well, to be more precise: she didn’t know from Eve, as they were all women. Why aren’t there more men here? Why isn’t my dad here?

Jess surveyed the swelling numbers – looking mainly at the men, naturally at the best looking ones first. Hmm, the bloke with the flirty girl in the green dress looks alright. Wrong colour hair though – way too dark. There was an overweight, scruffy guy at the bar who kept looking at her and at her mum. Oh God, no, not him please. I’ll throw myself in the canal if that’s him. But his features were all wrong.

Then she caught sight of a really good looking bloke talking to a couple of other guys. Now that’s more like it! But he was quite clearly with an equally attractive girl. But the other guys are quite passable too. Jess studied their features carefully, until she realised she was staring. Instantly embarrassed, she looked away and suddenly found her shoes of acute interest.

People were coming in all the time, and the room was starting to get crowded. Jess was having difficulty keeping track of all the men. Then they started to circulate – and suddenly it seemed there was just a tangled mass of faces and names. This wasn’t going to plan at all!

In the middle of a conversation about University – a conversation she reckoned she’d had at least ten times tonight, Jess realised that her mother was no longer with her. She looked around and couldn’t see her. Jess saw her mum’s friend Rachel and asked her if she’d seen Amanda.

“Yeah, she’s over there with one of the teachers.”

Jess looked to where Rachel was pointing and approached the small knot of people. As she got nearer, Jess studied the two guys talking to the teacher with her mum. The red haired guy was definitely a no no, but as she was only a few feet away she felt her pulse quicken. The other guy was tallish, light straight hair. Is he the one? She noticed her mum turn and look at her, something in her eyes gave it away. At that point she felt like throwing up.  Maybe not the best way to say your first ‘Hello’ to your dad. Control yourself. Get a grip. The last few metres to the group were in slow motion. She looked at her mum and at the man, her throat dry.

“My God, she looks just like you!”

The words came from her left, not from her dad, but from the teacher.

“Jess, this is Tony Wright, teacher I was telling you about earlier. The one that left to join a band.”

The words took a few seconds to penetrate. She’d expected her mum to introduce her dad… what was going on? Amanda looked at Jess:

“Yes, she does, doesn’t she? She has her father’s eyes though. And her father’s talent for playing lead guitar. She was born just after your band broke into the top ten.”

Jess’s mind was a whirl of confusion. Her father and the red haired guy shook hands with Tony, said to keep in touch and wandered off. Why are you letting him go mum?

Then through the racket of thoughts and confusion, she picked up the end of a question Tony had asked her mum:

“…..her birthday?”

Amanda’s eyes were locked on his:

“July 18th. As I recall you left at the end of November the previous year – the 27th I think.”

Jess looked at Tony Wright. Longish wavy fair hair. Despite the years of “rock and roll” he still looked young, and looked after himself. He was dressed as Jess would expect an ex rock star musician to dress - in expensive looking casual gear.

But what she noticed were his eyes, the same eyes she’d been studying acutely in the mirror for the past week. Those eyes were locked on her mother’s, and as if Jess wasn’t there, he asked:

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

The tears were forming in the corners of Amanda’s eyes, and her speech started to wobble:

“Your career was just starting. I knew how desperately you wanted to be successful, and I knew you would give it all up and stand by me...”

Tony reached out, and Amanda fell into his arms, the tears now streaking the make up she had taken so long to get “just right”.

“… and I couldn’t let you do it.” She pulled away and looked at him, “I have never told anyone.”

Tony looked at her for several, long seconds. He started to say something. His mouth moved but nothing came out. He turned to Jess, smiled at her and extended his right arm around her shoulder.



© Ken Orford, 2008



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