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Chapter One

April 9 2006

Pete doesn’t really like his life at the minute.


Likes the life in his head, of course…the one where he gets to be a legend. All different sorts of legend, rolled into one - QPR football-legend, Swing-musician-to-the-stars-legend, with even fewer fingers than Django Reinhardt (and even more the legend for it). Legendary Poet Laureate. A comedic genius legend on a par with Tony Hancock…

A legend in his own mind.


And although all those titles and accolades are grand, wants to be a legend for himself, too…self-improvement, experience, free-thinking and un-tied to rules, regulations and what his mate, Daniel calls the ‘particulars.’


What makes him dislike his real, non-fantasy life in the present, is that he isn’t really any of these things. At least not as much as he’d like.
The fact that he’s barely seventeen doesn’t deter him in the slightest….never been bothered by regular conventions like age, gender or anything, any way.
What bothers him about life at the moment, is that he feels as though, despite his (blatant, if he says so himself) knack for poetry, melody (things he takes for granted and, doesn’t see that these are in any way unusual) everyone has written him off in some way or other.


Yeah, yeah, strange boy, that Pete kid…obviously a talented lad, but probably going to be a teacher, right?

Wrong, he thinks, bitterly, defiantly, with the part of his brain that isn’t pre-occupied with wondering whether these are assumptions that *everyone* actually makes about his future, or that just because his father is so bloody sure of it, it must show in his face, in his demeanor, somehow.


Should maybe stop wondering, he scolds himself, because while this is one of the many banes of his life back home (isolation, boredom and loneliness), it isn’t doing him any favors here, in the city, where he’s meant to be trying to get a bit of reputation, a few influential friends, love maybe and some inspired spiels for his beloved books of Albion (doesn’t even feel pretentious thinking it, any more).



Should really try and stop looking morose, generally resigned and not-quite paying attention to whatever fascinating diatribes Amy-Jo’s latest ‘best-friend’ is inflicting on him. One of the only things he feels even remotely cheerful about really, one of the rare things he gets to look forward to in his mundane, suburban life (save all the obvious little treats like a good NME with something Smiths-related, or his occasional - but precious - visitings to Loftus Road for Ranger’s outings) is a new face.

Or the occasional new melody. A melody that captures something of him, that doesn’t sound like something that he may (or may not) have sub-consciously re-cycled by a band that obsesses him.



And one of the two isn’t really too bad, for tonight, as things go, because Amy-Jo’s finally going to introduce him to his future band-mate. Who, in all likelihood, is probably completely unaware of this particular fate.

But Pete’s not too worried. Not really. He’s always had a bit of a knack for getting what he wants, one way or another, is a pretty confident lad and he’s sure this boy can’t or won’t be able to refuse.
Won’t have the benefit of actually knowing that Pete is going to have him twisted round his little finger very shortly.

Having said that, he doesn’t have too big a clue just what he’s *actually* like, personality-wise…nor how easily twisted he is going to be. Knows things Amy-Jo deemed important enough to tell him. That he plays in a band ‘The Riot,’ plays guitar in it….is actually “really ace at it, and a proper looker, yeah…….Carl’s well alright”
….probably a right rude, arrogant fucker too, hasn’t even once replied to one of the three (count ‘em) letters Pete’s written him asking whether he’ll try and tab a bunch of Smiths and Chas ‘n’ Dave songs for him, and which football team does he support?



Maybe this boy is his savior…his ticket away from a life dull with ritual, a probable lifetime involving paying off debt, children, a failed marriage and all the while a brilliant, wasted talent. Probably. He grins a bit, tries to act interested in whatever he’s being told, focuses on the way in which Amy-Jo’s friend ‘Emma’ laughs, perhaps to see if he’ll laugh with her, gold stud on her lower lip winking in the light.



Of course, he contemplates, there’s just as much chance that this boy turns out to be a total arsehole…a premonition that has niggled at him more and more since realizing he probably wasn’t going to get any (written) replies from this ‘Carl’…



He’s been disappointed before, it wouldn’t be the first time…it’s just as likely that their personalities will clash, that they’ll be from different worlds entirely, etc. But Pete likes to think that he’s above such barriers and divisions, that they won’t be so different…anyone Amy-Jo thinks is that interesting or rebellious must be cool…or at least alright.



At any rate, he intends to try and make a mature, equally cool impression on this bloke…wants him to see his match, even if ‘Carl’ will feel older and superior to him. He tunes in to Emma’s words for the time being, take his mind off the boy he’s not yet met. “yeah, so, bit of a shame really, he was right good in bed, too…” she reflects, flicking her spent cigarette away, and Pete fights to remember exactly what she was talking about before and how it relates to whatever bloke just finished with her.



“Ahh yeah…shame, that. Still, plenty more fish and all that…” he says friendly as possible, but avoiding her eyes, because he isn’t sure just what she wants and he doesn’t really care to have another girl to deal with at present. Trouble enough with all that, back home. Focuses his line of sight on the band playing on stage at the moment (alright, but could do with better-looking guitarists, he reckons).



He excuses himself, to go and get another drink, his second double. Glowing inwardly at how this is still an act of liberty, new in many ways to him…nothing like the stolen swigs from vodka bottles in friend’s homes, back in good old suburbia.

Here, he feels more accepted…humored, but one of the gang in a lot of ways,
strange but no stranger than everyone else in this foreign environment. And his height doesn’t hurt his chances of getting served in pubs either, hasn’t once been turned away, as yet.



Downing half the double (…who says he should pace himself?) on his way to the gents.
A minute or two later, he’s leaving the bathroom, drink in hand, weaving through the punters and locals when with excruciating awkwardness, he’s sent flying, by an over-enthusiastic gesture by someone, drink skidding over the floor before his startled gaze.

He turns, his now incensed gaze backwards, finding the twat that just back-handed him (however accidentally) smirking infuriatingly down at him with a fair few others.
Calmly rising to his feet, brushing himself off as though it was this cunt that just fell face-first, and not him, he steps swiftly right into the fucker’s personal space.



“You owe me a drink, mate.”

He isn’t nervous. Most encounters with people shorter, or less rough-looking than he supposes himself to look, don’t intimidate him. And that drink was practically full, if you ask him.


“Do I fuck! Watch where you’re going in future, yeah?” the boy’s voice is irate, words almost indistinguishable, but clear enough in their tone.

The fucking cheek.


It’s got to be one of the most rubbish come-backs Pete’s ever heard. And he’s been hit with many of those in his time.

And it makes him absolutely livid. What the hell does giving him a smack in the face have to do with watching where he’s going? He can handle falling over in public. He can handle getting up, acting like he doesn’t give a shit. What he can’t handle is outright bad manners, or walking away with his tail between his legs.



Now he gets a good look at the boy, he sees they must be more or less the same age...although this boy’s face could be slightly older, despite their height difference. It’s a face more defined than his own, not as boyish, with large, hooded but presently flashing blue eyes (probably more than a bit pissed off) and a rather full, feminine mouth.

His hair is longer than Pete’s, but for some reason it doesn’t make him look any more feminine, despite the mouth and long-lashed, bedroom eyes. Pretty bastard probably gets out of most scraps this way, just by turning that semi-pornographic gaze on whoever he’s just offended. Pete’s buggered if it’s going to work with him, though. This guy’s getting a lesson in humility, one way or another.



“Watch where I’m going? You just fucking punched me, you spazz! How the fuck am I s’posed to watch where I’m going when a random geezer with tourettes decides to clobber me?”

He’s aware that that may’ve been too far, but it’s never stopped him before. Maybe a little too harsh…the guy probably genuinely didn’t *really* see him coming. But it’s still fucking rude. And for the briefest of moments, he feels a pang of regret, guilt, when strange, beautiful eyes darken a little, and the smirk disappears and lips are parted a little in hurt, as if to say ‘sorry’…and he’s regarding Pete as if he believes every word of it. That he’s everything Pete’s just said.



Doesn’t really get why this fella has failed to react like anyone else would, and hit out or told him to fuck off. He feels far too exposed here, with those searching eyes traversing his countenance and thinks maybe if things were different he’d want to know this boy, touch him, know why he seems as different a person as Pete feels.

He’s expecting an equally spiteful, snide reply, followed by/or a real punch this time,
at least from the way that the boy’s previously placid and hurt eyes have narrowed, eyelashes like threats, moth-like frames to those twin slits of violent blue, casting danger-shadows on his cheekbones.



He’s close enough to speechless when instead, he’s shoved roughly aside as the boy strides straight past him, like he isn’t even worth it.

Well….that was…unexpected.

Because in that split second before he walked away, Pete had really thought a fist was coming instead, was just starting to feel maybe more intimidated than before…

that despite the height difference, the guy definitely looked better built, even under a leather jacket and ill-fitting jeans, shoulders significantly broader, and posture that, despite heavy nonchalance, suggested physical confidence.



He’s too stunned momentarily, to go after the bloke, to even yell now about drinks being owed and such, would look silly now anyway, left it too long to go back for a repeat performance.

Instead, he makes his (slightly dazed) way back to his seat near the back of the bar, to Amy-Jo and Emma and their student-friends, who seem blissfully unaware of his little encounter just now.



“You get your drink, then?” enquires Amy-Jo, unconcernedly lighting a fag, eyeing his empty-handedness.

“Yeah, right, only this cunt made me spill it.” He says, petulant nonetheless. Maybe someone will get him another, if he harps on about it enough.

“Out-of-order arse, didn’t even offer to pay for it.” He adds, nicking Amy-Jo’s, as she listens.

“The fuck? Didn’t you tell him where to go?” she asks, disbelievingly.

“Yeah! Just shoved me though, and ran off. Arrogant little fuck.”

“Psycho” she agrees, lighting his cigarette for him.



Another band are on now, greeting the crowd. Distractedly, Pete leans over and yells, over the howl of dischordant clatter, at his sister “When did you say this Carl bloke’s getting here?”

Amy-Jo’s attention snaps back briefly, “He’s here. Spoke to him when you went to the gents” she yells back, over the guitar-feedback.



“Oh” Pete feels a bit let-down. Feels like a missed opportunity. What if he’s already left?

“He’s on now.” She adds, her voice almost drowned out, even this close to his ear, head nodding to a figure on stage.

He follows her line of vision and laughs.



Of course, it can only make sense in the sick, constant stream of let-downs that is his life, that the semi-perfect, Adonis-like, guitar-god he’d imagined, would just have to be the same absolute, no-manners bastard that made a fool out of him, then ran him down in his obvious eagerness to get to the stage and wank around with some flash guitar that probably isn’t even his, that he probably couldn’t play as well as Pete could.

In his head, of course.



‘Wouldn’t be surprised if he sees me watching and makes some snarky announcement about certain people watching where they walk themselves’ he thinks bitterly as the onstage-Carl fidgets with his guitar, fiddles, re-adjusts, with his band-mate, a reed-thin boy with a crew-cut.

He decides to resign himself to just sipping everyone’s drinks, watch the show, doesn’t want Amy-Jo to know what just happened and with whom. Though she’s bound to know anyway, when she re-introduces them later. But, its not like he intends to stick around. He knows now that he doesn’t like this boy, knows once again, that predictably, the reality fails to live up to the fantasy.



Even if, for a fleeting second he had thought about knowing the chap, staring earnestly at that handsome face as he poured out his soul over dirt-cheap-spirits, writing songs that steal his life, live it for him, alongside this boy, who he’d gotten off to a bad start with but would come to know better than boys ought to ever know each other.

He’s convinced it will never happen now, though. He made an impression, alright…although ‘cool’ and ‘mature’ aren’t the words he’d use for it, and he doesn’t expect that that hurt and recognition will disappear from Carl’s eyes when Amy-Jo introduces him …’Pete, my little brother, remember?’



“Yeah” he says blankly, aloud, but the wail of un-tuned guitar means no one hears him.

He’ll just leave as soon as the band finish, before any introductions can be made. He knows his way back to his sister’s, found his way back the other day, from a pub down the road from here. He wishes he didn’t feel so strongly about things like this, wishes he didn’t over-react and hurt people more than they could ever hurt him, and not for the first time that night, feels tears prick, slight and stinging at his eyes. Doesn’t cry, of course…just gets these urges now and then. Maybe Carl will see a pair of wet, brown eyes in the crowd and realize he didn’t even mean anything by it.



He’s wrenched from his wretchedness with the start of a song and recognizes it, quickly. It’s some bizarre version of ‘Purple Haze’…dark, dirty, distressing beats shaking him from his current mourning. Might be a bad idea, he thinks, starting with a cover like that…suggests you don’t have a lot of faith and pride in what you’ve written yourself, so he’s always thought.

Smoke fills the room slowly, hypnotically, like mist…Pete wonders where it comes from. Doesn’t wonder for long though because Carl has his full attention now; he’s curious to hear and assess whether Amy-Jo was right….and he sees and hears that she was spot-on.
Carl isn’t legendary…not in the grandiose way Pete imagines about legends. He’s a genius. The way he plays reminds Pete of some fanatic mathematician, fingers scrabbling wildly to complex rhythm. Even though Pete can tell that what he’s playing isn’t terribly hard, there’s precision, elegance and artistry in the way his hands shift, re-adjust on the strings, there’s so much more than even normal emotion and transportation taking place here.



Pete’s certain he’s never seen anyone play this way before. Never felt what he’s feeling now simply from sitting and listening, watching someone play. He’s been moved by the way people play before, sure…but never this confusing, awakened, jubilant *something* that has him enthralled right now.

He envies this boy, and whatever it is that he possesses enables him to sound like this…it’s a jealousy that goes beyond obvious, surface things…like Carl’s looks, sex appeal that Pete thinks must be blatant to everyone and not just to people that swing both ways (like him), goes far beyond his obvious cool, the fact that his sister seems to talk about him more than most other things…



He’s singing now, mouth smudged against the mic, to hide it, maybe. Pete doesn’t quite recognize him as the strange being he ran into earlier…not like this, anyway…

Soft edges, eyes shying away from the lights, gossamer lashes cast downwards more toward his feet, Pete thinks than the chord-shapes his hand’s making. Nice voice too…although it’s so quiet, hesitant Pete can barely hear or understand it.



“…Now she’s like fool’s gold, I’m sorry to report…

Now he’s crossing the road, picking up his daily sport…”



Right, that’s the only bit he’s heard sung clearly. All the same, Pete’s totally re-considered leaving as soon as the last song’s over, knows now that he’s going to have to *make* this bloke talk to him ….he’s just impossibly certain all of a sudden, that he’s the one. The last few songs go over his head, white and shining, he’s too wrapped up in Carl’s playing, the impossible tricks that seem to bloom at his fingertips, to notice when everyone else has stopped playing and Carl’s alone on stage, finishing solo.

And then he is gone.

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