The Bull Singer
With every seat occupied and with people standing four deep around the sides and at the back of the old theatre auditorium, Jenny Prescott's diminutive height and the size of her lump gained her a few kind invitations to push to the front but that didn't ease the pain in her back. Her baby kicked strongly, the only thing keeping her on her feet being the sight of the band on stage going into their second number, "I Wanna Be a Rock Star". She feasted her eyes on the second lead singer and fell in love with him for the thousandth time. She always fell in love with him every time she saw him. A Billy Junior addict, Jenny still couldn't believe her luck that her favourite local band had a look-alike of Billy D'Marco as one of its singers. She loved every part of him, from his shoulder length raven black hair to his sturdy denim-clad dancer's legs. He didn't play drums but he still made the grade as he alternated between keyboards and guitar as the show progressed; the last one in this soon to be demolished theatre.
Apart from Ricky Monks, the band had no plans to turn professional so this was also the last time the band would perform as a unit. They all had jobs or universities to go to; Ricky had no such choice. Having left school at fifteen after the death of his parents, Jenny's parents called him a worthless drifter with no skills other than his musical talents. And that was why she had run away from home, found a rented flat and invited Ricky to share it with her. Everything had been okay until she found that her landlord had sold the place to her parents. They allowed her to stay, but made her sign a tenant's agreement and forced her to pay them a rent she could hardly afford.
One of the band spotted her and waved. She waved back and he nudged Ricky Monks and pointed in her direction. Ricky smiled at her and she gave him a shy smile back. She hoped he would have the time to speak to her at the interval and not be mobbed by the adoring young fans who lined the stage. One could hope. The baby kicked again, and she thought of the freedom she would enjoy in five days time when the little footballer would be born. When the band left the stage and a DJ took over, Ricky appeared in the auditorium and fought his way through his fans until he reached her with a frown on his face. "Hi Jenny; why aren't you sitting down somewhere?"
"I was late getting here and all the seats were taken." She accepted his kiss on the cheek.
"Well we'll see about this. Come with me." He put a supporting arm round her waist and led her through the press of bodies until they reached the stage. There, he used his charm to persuade a young man to stand and let her use his seat; and she sat there for the rest of the gig. Content now, she enjoyed the music, the band, and the interest of those around her as they recognized her as a link to those on stage, especially when Ricky Monks seemed to sing all his romantic songs to her. If only they knew the real Ricky Monks, most of them would soon back off. That thought made her think about the visitors who had made her late for the show……
Earlier that evening, she felt the baby move and instinct made her rub the area where a tiny heel pushed out. She picked up her coat and bag, aware of the ache in her spine increasing. Only a week to go and baby Monks would be free of the womb that confined him, free to kick and punch as much as he liked. "For now, baby Monks, please don't give me any trouble tonight. This is the last of the band's gigs and I'm determined to be there for them if it's the last thing I do." As she walked to the door, someone hammered on it. Jenny frowned; she wasn't expecting anyone to call, especially someone who sounded like they wanted to batter down the door. She glanced at her watch. If she delayed she would be too late to get a seat and she didn't feel like standing all night. With a sigh of annoyance, she opened the door and stared angrily at the couple who pushed their way into the tiny flat. "What are you doing here?"
"We are doing our duty as your landlords."
"Dad! You can't come barging in here like this. You know you have to warn me of a visit first. It's in the contract you so kindly presented to me."
"Nonsense." Her father surveyed the state of the flat, looking for any fault he could find. "We're your parents and have every right to visit. I see that freak you call a boyfriend is not here. Out drinking with his mates I suppose?"
Jenny turned to look at her mother but got no support there; her mother looked at anything but her. Spineless bitch! Jenny steeled herself to keep calm. The doctors had warned her to stay as calm as possible and not send her blood pressure up. Shouting at Jim and Julie Prescott never worked of course. They said a lot but didn't listen. They were always right, and nobody counted in their middle class world. "No, as a matter of fact he's working, and he does not drink. And for your information, I'm on my way to a concert. So please say what you want to say and leave." She watched her mother wipe a finger long the mantelpiece, and wished she had the courage to give her a slap. The flat was only a glorified bed-sit – a living room with a drop down bed, a tiny kitchen and a shower room and toilet - but she was proud of the way she and Ricky kept it clean and tidy.
"You realise, of course, that you are violating the conditions of the tenancy?" Her father pulled a long white envelope from an inner coat pocket. "It says quite distinctly, no children. If you do you are guilty of overcrowding and your baby will be taken into care."
While Jenny stared in shock at her father, who looked down his nose at her. "We told you to get rid of that brat when you had the chance."
"Right, that's it." She pushed the door open wider and pointed to it. "I'm twenty-three and don't have to listen to you or take orders from you any more. Get out now, before I call the police. I know my rights, and we'll see what Social Services say about you making a pregnant woman homeless."
Her father rewarded her with an icy smile. "I think not. You won't be keeping that baby for long. We've already alerted the Social Services to a possible future child at risk situation. No doubt they will be calling on you soon about an adoption." He thrust the envelope at her. "This is a notice of termination of your tenancy. You have two weeks to get out."
Jenny gasped. "You mean bastards! This is just to get at Ricky, isn't it? You've never liked him."
"That queer freak? I'd like to have him gelded for what he did to you. Mind you, the way you prefer him to us, you're no better than him. You disgust me, playing around with a child." Her father took her mother by the arm and led her out of the flat with a parting shot. "There is no place in our home or our lives for queer lovers."
"Jenny, are you all right?" She blinked and found the show over and Ricky gazing down at her. He took hold of her hands and knelt down in front of her. "Jen?"
She took a breath and smiled at him, seeing the concern in a pair of dark eyes that gave her goose bumps just to look at them. "Yes, I…I was thinking about something. I'm okay, really."
"Are you sure? I'll take you home if you want."
Jenny thought about the party about to start, to celebrate the life of the theatre and it's history of being always available for the work of local charities, it's owner being an aging philanthropist as well as Ricky's foster father. "No, I'm okay, Ricky; I wouldn't miss the party for anything. You can take me home later."
"Is that a date?"
"That's my girl!" Ricky smiled at her. "How's baby Monks doing?"
"I think he's already in training to be a footballer."
"Aw! I thought he was going to be a dancer like his dad!" Ricky hauled her to her feet, slipped a supporting arm round her waist, and led her backstage where the band and friends of the theatre were gathered. A two-seater couch had been kept for their use. Much to Jenny's embarrassment she was treated like royalty while Ricky sat beside her and took the brunt of the teasing. Almost eighteen, he was the youngest in the band and the shortest at five foot five, but the first to become a dad. But what had shocked the band was the fact that Ricky had confessed to being gay, and no one ever thought he would father a child. In fact, Baby Monks was a surprise to everyone including his parents, the result of one tipsy night after a similar party to this one, in which Jenny had stupidly invited Ricky to cuddle up in bed with her on a particularly cold night, instead of using his sleeping bag on the sofa. One thing had led to another and they both had woken up, embarrassed and wondering why they had done it. Before they lived together, Ricky had been in a so-so relationship with an older man who had turned rather nasty. Battered and bruised, Jenny had found him lying in the doorway of her previous apartment and had taken him in and nursed him back to health and they had remained together ever since. Once he got used to the idea of being a dad, he was pleased about the situation and promised to look after her and their baby. He took any job available, including busking in the town square, to help pay the rent and put food on the table. They just had to wait until he was eighteen before anyone would pay him a decent living wage; then, at least, they could find a better place to live and provide for the baby. So far he was living up to his promise; and Jenny was satisfied everything was going to be all right. Sod her parents! She would find somewhere else or register with the council as homeless.
The party proved to be a mixture of happiness and sadness for everyone. Happy for her and Ricky with folks showering them with lots of baby stuff and sad because the closing of the theatre heralded the end of an era spanning seventy five years from when Harold Briggs and his father bought the place and used it to foster an interest in theatre, in the youth of the town. Harold was now in his ninety-fifth year and in failing health, and the place was under a compulsory purchase order to make way for a new trunk road. Halfway through the party, Harold shuffled over to Ricky and asked him to sing and play for them. At first Ricky refused, saying Jenny looked rather tired and he wanted to take her home, but Jenny sided with Harold, and Ricky sat down at the keyboards to play and sing some of their favourites including Gloria Estefan's 'Don't Wanna Lose You' and Crowded House's 'Don't Dream It's Over'. Later on he had folks dancing when he sang Elton John's 'Crocodile Rock' then he declared that Jenny needed her rest, and they were bundled into a taxi with all the baby gear.
That night, as they cuddled in bed, Ricky asked her a strange question. "Jen? I've never asked you, but are you really sure you don't mind us not having sex too often? I mean, you're five years older than me and must have had other lovers; don't you miss it?"
Jenny laughed softly and turned over as best she could to kiss him on the nose. "Experience doesn't always come with age, kiddo. There was only one before you and he was a creep I got rid off after a week. I love my toy boy lover and I intend to keep him; as along as he stays faithful I want to marry him, with or without the hang-ups."
Ricky stared at her, his eyes wide. "You want to marry me? Really? Oh My God! I can't believe someone really wants me."
"Well of course someone wants you; I don't see any other man claiming to be the dad of Baby Monks around here. And I don't care if sex with a woman isn't up your street; I'm not all that hot and bothered about it as long as we can sometimes get to together when it's time to make another baby. At least our family will be well planned for, in advance. Now come here and rub my tummy; baby Monks wants some daddy time. You know he likes his daddy's hands to calm him down." Soon, Baby Monks ceased his lively tour of his current home and Jenny relaxed in Ricky's arms and they both slept until Jenny woke up to find Ricky sitting up in bed, muttering softly to himself.
"Ricky, what's wrong?"
"Nothing, I've had a strange dream, that's all."
"No; just a disturbing one."
Jenny sat up and eased the duvet up around them, snuggling against him. "Do you want to talk about it?" She felt him shrug his shoulders. "Come on, Ricky, you know you'll sleep better for it. Tell me about it."
Ricky reached out to switch the bedside lamp on and they settled back under the duvet. Jenny made herself as comfortable as she could; allowing Ricky's slender body to take the weight of her bump against his left hip. She laid her head in the crook of his left arm and waited patiently, knowing that he would eventually start talking without any encouragement from her. "I'm talking to Billy Junior but he looks more like a mirror image of me, and he's showing me an old black and white photograph of a young couple holding three babies and an older toddler. They all look like me and Billy points to the picture and says, "They're coming soon." Then there are two of me and we're on an old stage and we hug as if we know each other. And when we start singing, my other me plays a keyboard and an older version of us plays the drums while I play my guitar. Weird or what? What makes it more of a puzzle is that now I'm sure I've seen that photograph before somewhere, but I can't remember where. And how can that be if I've dreamed it?" Ricky sighed and pulled Jenny into a close hug. "I wonder if Harold knows about that photograph, after all was a friend of my parents and I've known him for as long as I can remember. I used to go to his theatre and sit on his knee, watching people rehearsing, and that's how I came to love the stage. Mum and Dad encouraged it, although I don't think they realised how serious I was about it. Dad wanted me to follow him and become a lawyer." Ricky chuckled. "Can you imagine me in pin-stripes with a gown and wig. You've gone quiet; am I boring you?"
"No silly." Jenny punched him playfully on the chin. "This is something you've never told me before. You never said how you became so talented; considering you were home schooled after you left proper school and never attended Music College. Who taught you music?"
"Myself, honey-bunch; if my folks came looking for me, they would always find me sitting on the piano stool with the current pianist or strumming a quarter size acoustic guitar Harold had made for me; or jamming with the band. Harry used to spoil me rotten and I guess that's how I became a wild child. Harold was the only one who could control me; the Monks's certainly couldn't, they were far too soft. When Mum and Dad died in suspicious circumstances, Harold let me leave school and he home-schooled me himself, but in the subjects of my own choice – none of your Science, Physics, or Chemistry stuff; just good, solid music, and stage, with enough English, History and Maths, to keep the Education Authorities off our backs. I might take my GCSE's a couple of years later than everyone else but who cares. I'm having fun and that's what life is all about; that and looking out for others not as fortunate."
"So why didn't you go to him for help when your lover beat you up and raped you, and made you homeless?"
"I was too ashamed to go back to him in the state I was, and he still doesn't know all the details of what happened, so please don't say anything to him. He'd warned me about the guy but I wouldn't listen. Do you remember the first time I took you to meet Harold at the theatre, and he took me into his office for a chat? Boy what a chat that turned out to be. He made me feel an inch tall, but he still loves me and told me I should have gone straight back to him. He said …" Ricky wrenched free of their embrace and sat up, leaving Jenny trying not to fall off the other side of the four foot wide bed. "Oh, Jeez! I've just remembered where that photograph is. It's in a safe in Harold's office." Jenny reached for him but he swung his legs out of bed and stood up. Ruffling his hair with both hands, he went over to the kitchen sink to fill a glass with water.
Jenny's heart went out to him, standing there in his jockeys and silhouetted against the moonlight streaming in through the curtainless window while he drank the water; seeing the cute, vulnerable boy she had first fallen in love with. She struggled out of bed, slipped on her dressing gown and went to stand behind him. Putting her arms round his waist, she leaned against him. "What are you going to do about it?"
"Go and see Harold, I suppose; he'll be at the theatre tomorrow to check everything is okay before he hands over the keys. I'll go and meet him there in the morning."
"Do you want me to come with you?"
Ricky shook his head. "I think it's best if I see him alone. He might not want to talk with anyone else around, if it's to do with my real parents."
"Your parents? How would he know them?"
Ricky turned within the circle of her arms and brought her into a warm hug. "He must know them; why else would he have that photograph? John and Irene Monks are definitely not the parents in the picture, and he was the closest friend John and Irene had."
"You've never talked much about your adoptive parents. Were they good to you?"
"They were the best. We weren't too well off, but we loved each other like crazy. My real parents couldn't have loved me more. They let me know early on that I was adopted; but they said they loved me just as if I was their own son. They also told me that when the time came for me to find out about my real parents, they would persuade Harry to tell me what he knew; and John promised to help me find them. It was the way they said it that I felt there was something mysterious about them and Mum and Dad wanted me to be old enough to cope with the knowledge. They were killed before they could tell me anything more. Harold was ill at the time and too upset about their deaths for me to ask him about them, and somehow the time went by and I never had the chance again. I know now, I should have asked him straight away. I feel it's time to ask him, before it's too late, especially now I know where that picture is. It's strange, Jenny, I've always had the feeling that part of me is missing, that I came from a larger family."
"Perhaps you're a twin? You hear stories about twins being split up when they're adopted."
"Could be, but in that picture there were three babies and an older kid about three years old."
Jenny laughed. "Triplets! Even more interesting! If that's correct, how will you go about finding them?"
"Jenny, I haven't a clue." Ricky kissed the top of her head. "Right now I'd rather get some sleep; it's getting cold in here." He moved to test the one central heating radiator that provided the only heating in the flat. He frowned. "It's gone off, or someone's switched it off and didn't switch it back on again. Oh well, that means a trip downstairs." A stab of cold steel gripped Jenny as he grabbed his bathrobe, stuffed his feet into his trainers and unlocked the flat door. She hadn't told him about her parents' visit yet; it would be just like her father to leave them without heating. She went to sit on the bed to wait for him, her mind full of worry at the prospect of living in an ice-old top floor flat of an empty building apart from them selves.
" Well thank you, father dear ," she thought, " You certainly know how to twist the knife. Is this how you persuaded your other tenants to move out so you can sell the place as vacant property and make a bundle? You're covered by the six month tenancy law but what about us? "
Ricky's sudden return startled Jenny out of her thoughts; he pushed the door closed and leaned his back against it. "The door to the basement is closed with a padlock on it. What's going on, Jenny?" With a sinking heart, she went to fetch the notice from her bag and handed it to him. Ricky opened it and read it through several times before he screwed it up and threw it in corner. "The bastard!"
"That's what I thought."
"He can't do this, Jen; it's against the law. Read your contract. Read your tenants rights. If it's a flat rented as fully furnished, a landlord has to provide hot water and heating. And our washing machine and tumble dryer are down there with my pushbike. Harold bought those and your dad has no right to lock them up. That's theft."
"He'll just say we had no right to use the basement for our stuff."
"Bullshit! We'll go to Harold in the morning and tell him what's going on. He'll help us, I know he will." He took her hand and drew her to the bed. "What we need now is to keep warm and get some sleep. Come on, little mum; in your get." He lifted the duvet and helped her slip under it, then slid in beside her. "Don't worry, Jen, we'll find somewhere else to live, no problem. It's a pity Harold's cottage is too small, I know he'd let us move in with him for a bit, but with the baby it would be too crowded." She moved willingly into his embrace, loving the way he always cared about her needs, her comfort, and in his efforts to please he came across as an immature, sensitive boy. He was gay but no way was he effeminate, just a likeable sweet talking kid willing to show that love wasn't all about sex, which pleased them both. For them, there was more to loving someone than what went on in bed. Jenny had never met such an affectionate young man, and despite what her parents were doing and the snide remarks from some of the band's so called friends about the difference in their ages, she knew she had found her life mate. If God meant them to have more babies, the opportunities would present themselves without them forcing things. She snuggled closer and hugged him to her, and let Baby Monks have the last word, or kick…. until the phone rang.
They both jerked awake and while Ricky dived out of bed to answer it, Jenny grabbed for the alarm clock on the dresser. Three Thirty? Who could be calling them at this time? "Hello? Yes? Hi Rosie, what's up?" Jenny switched on the main light and watched Ricky's face harden with shock. "What? When? Okay, yeah, I'll be ready." Ricky put the phone down and turned to face her with tear filled eyes. "That was Rosie, Harold's housekeeper. Harold's had a stroke and they've taken him to hospital."
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