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Monday, October 8, 2018

13 - The 70's - A True Story - First Chapter

On an average Sunday morning in 2004, a newspaper article caught my eye and immediately took me hurtling back to 1977 to events which had seemed so innocent at the time, but which turned out to be anything but. 

My 13th year was one of the most eventful of my life, (and that's saying something) ......

I nearly died, my best friend nearly died, I became a man and........................I went to Switzerland! 

Teacher’s Pet

Flicking through the many pages of a Sunday tabloid newspaper, The News of the World to be precise, my whole world came to a complete standstill, as I sat on the three-seater leather sofa pressed against the main wall in the living room. The heart-stopping moment, a couple of minutes before midday, was brought upon by something that caught my eye, rendering me completely motionless.

The faint whistle of a kettle coming to the boil in the adjacent kitchen was the only sound penetrating the otherwise silent room, but the Sunday morning tranquility was shattered by the thundering in my head as I stared in disbelief at the page in front of me and the pages of my past were torn apart by the revelations it contained.

It was the main headline on page seven, normally a lucky number for me.

Not just the headline though, it was the accompanying image, of a man with guilt engraved on his face, that lured me in. The face of a man who had lured in many, apparently. A face that was instantly recognisable to me. A face from my past. A face I thought I’d forgotten.

“Fuck.” I whispered to myself, as my body sank deep into the worn leather. I tried to swallow the silence, as the words I’d just read took a moment to sink in.

The tranquility was then shattered by an array of multiple four-letter expletives exploding from inside me, as the story in front of me catapulted me back to 1977 and brought blurred fragments of my past into sharp focus.

“Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.” I repeated out loud, thumping my bare right foot against the wooden floorboards in unison with my curses.

“Baby, what is it?” An anxious voice came from the narrow modern fitted kitchen where Kate, my girlfriend of six months, had been preparing coffee and buttering croissants for breakfast. I noticed out of the corner of my eye, her shoulder length blonde hair flick from one side to the other across her makeup- less face, as she stepped out into the equally narrow hallway towards me. She wore a pink track suit, but my eyes were transfixed by what I was reading in black and white in front of me. I was vaguely aware of the aroma of the freshly painted magnolia walls which seemed, all of a sudden, to be closing in on me. I suddenly felt as though I was suffocating as I continued to stare in disbelief at the letters, words, sentences and paragraphs before me.

“Baby, what is it, what’s happened?” Her troubled voice spread through me like a knife slicing butter, but so disturbed was I by what I was reading, I didn’t answer, I couldn’t reply. No words would come, I was still trying to absorb what I’d just read.

“What’s wrong, baby?” Kate’s concern escalated to another level as she tried to grab my attention, sitting next to me on the sofa and taking my right hand in both of hers. But again, nothing from me in return.

I released my hand from hers, spitting the word “Shit!” into my palms, as I covered my eyes with both hands and pulled them back hard over my shaved head. 

“Baby. Baby” she repeated. “Answer me, please. Please answer me, what is it?”

I said nothing. I didn’t answer. I couldn’t, even though my mouth was ajar, nothing escaped, apart from the words fuck and shit.

“Please what is it?” She tried again to prise a response from me. But I couldn’t reply. It wasn’t that I was being rude or that I didn’t want to respond, I was quite simply struck dumb with the shock of what I’d read. Face down. Hands on my head. Elbows on my knees. I couldn’t move. Staring at what was before me. It felt like I was paralysed from the neck up, with fuck and shit being the only four-letter words that intermittently spewed from my mouth.

“Baby, are you okay, please answer me, please.” Kate’s tone became sterner, but with more concern in her voice than anger.

Terror spread through me as the words I’d read sank in and brought back memories which had been lost to me, events which I’d forgotten, or had tried to forget. A period of my life, twenty-eight years earlier, flashed in front of me, replayed in a new and extremely disturbing light and it was terrifying. 

At that moment I was completely overwhelmed by fear. Fear of what had been and in light of what I’d just read, fear of what could have been.

Kate, ten years younger than me and a lookalike for actress Alicia Silverstone, friends and strangers alike were constantly telling her so, was startled by the sound of skin to leather as I punched the sofa’s green fabric several times with my right fist, leaving an indentation in the cushion and a red smear across my knuckles. It was the beginning of summer. Early June. Twenty-three degrees outside. The heat of the sun beamed its way across the slightly overgrown garden and through the open patio doors. The temperature was now a notch or two higher inside the two-bedroom, mid-terrace property I’d been renting for the past month in Exeter, Devon. The quaint little house was situated in a cul-de-sac, among several similar properties on a new development, established approximately fifteen months before.

It was the second house I’d rented since I’d moved out thirteen months before from the family home in a small village, three miles away. Divorce had been on the cards for several years. I’d stayed because of the children, my three beautiful children, but the relationship with my wife had been at boiling point and I didn’t want the cold frosty atmosphere to spill over to the children. I’d stayed in the area, so I could still see the kids, my business was there too and that’s how I’d met Kate. She lived on the road in which my office was situated, close to a large park, on the corner of a residential tree-lined road, but adjacent to a busy roundabout called the Clock Tower.

I’d moved there three months previously, from a smaller office that was within a period building, on an attractive cobbled alleyway, a little further up in the centre of Exeter. Kate had to walk past my new spacious, double-aspect windowed premises every day, as she went to work in the city at the Royal Clarence Hotel, overlooking the cathedral and the green. So, every morning at around nine fifteen and each evening at around five forty-five, like clockwork, I would remove myself from my own office at the back, into the front area, to sit at the window desk. I would act like I was busy, you know, trying not to be too desperate, and we would glance at each other, have a little more eye contact, together with a little more of a smile, a little conversation outside and then inside the office, and so began a little friendship, which soon blossomed in to a relationship.

“Sorry baby. I'm so sorry, it’s just, just that I'm reading something, and I can’t believe what I’m reading,” I replied to her eventually, still in shock. She was happy for that, and I continued, shaking my head with disbelief, “And I c-can’t, can’t believe it and c-can’t believe that its him, or c-can I? I don’t know.” I continued with a slight stutter. A stutter that I’d grown up with after hitting my teenage years. A speech impediment I thought I’d left behind decades ago, but at that very moment it was another thing that came back to haunt me.

“Reading what and who, what do you mean, him? Who are you talking about baby, what are you talking about?” Kate quizzed, waiting for an answer from me, but carrying on before I could reply, 

“Look at you, you’ve gone as white as a sheet, like you’ve seen a ghost or something.”
I took a deep breath and blew out my cheeks, exasperated.

“It definitely feels like my past has come back to haunt me.” I murmured as I turned to look into her crystal blue eyes.
Since we’d been together most of our Sunday mornings had followed the ritual of waking up later than usual, especially after a night out, which to be honest happened most Saturday nights, grab a few kisses and cuddles, and eventually get out of bed at around eleven. Once up, we would usually spend an hour or two reading the papers, that we purchased from the local newsagent a stroll away on the corner of the road. We’d have breakfast and then wander along the waterside canal, pop into one of the many inviting pubs for a drink and maybe for a spot of lunch and sit outside if the weather was kind. The weather was kind today, but this particular Sunday turned out to be anything but kind, or usual.
“What do you mean, your past? What about your past? Please tell me baby.” She insisted with a puzzled expression on her face.

“My past from when I was at school.” I answered, clenching my fists, with the right fist still displaying a red glow across the knuckles.

“Reading what, tell me, tell me, what. What is it?” Her voice now also contained some anger, but I couldn’t really blame her, all she wanted was an explanation.

“Hold on. Hold on. I’ve just got to read it again.”

As I read the article for the second time, shaking as I did, still not believing what I was reading, small droplets of sweat trickled from my brow and splattered onto the paper that was spread out on the carved oak coffee table. Kate went back into the kitchen and returned with two mugs of coffee and a plate of croissants that we’d bought earlier, along with the Sunday newspapers.

Totally oblivious to what was hiding inside them.

By now I had completely lost my appetite.

Taking a sip of much needed coffee, Kate tenderly massaged the top of my hand and then interlocked her left hand within my right, holding it tightly.
“Is this what you’re reading baby, this?” She said looking at the police mugshot of a man in his late sixties.

“Yes. Yes, I am.” I replied with an additional nod of the head, still trembling all over.
She noticed.

“God, you’re shaking all over baby.” And, as she turned to look at me, she asked,

“Do you know him?”

I took a deep breath,

“Yes. Yes, I do.”

There was a pause for a moment or two as Kate read the story in silence, in the biggest selling Sunday newspaper in the UK. As she read, her facial expressions registered and reflected every word, every sentence and every paragraph.

“A former music teacher at an Edgware school has become the first person in the UK to be jailed for sex tourism, after he was caught trying to groom young Sri Lankan boys over the internet.
Shocked former pupils have described how Brian Parnell, 66, was popular when he taught during the 1970s and 80s at Orange Hill Junior School in Edgware.
But at Wood Green Crown Court, Parnell, from Hornsey, was convicted of sex tourism offences after an operation involving Sri Lankan child protection officers and the Metropolitan Police paedophile squad.
In October 2002, Parnell posted a graphic advert on the internet called Gay Teens of Sri Lanka', appealing for a young Sri Lankan boy to contact him. He then left on a tour of southern Asia with an opera company.
Parnell's advert was spotted by the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) of Sri Lanka. One of its officers, posing as a 15-year-old boy, wrote back to Parnell, who replied within hours and sent a picture of himself involved in a sexual act.
The NCPA then confronted Parnell at a concert in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo but could not prosecute him under Sri Lankan law. Parnell is the first person to be convicted of sex tourism in the UK. He was jailed for two years on June 2.”

“Fuck! Baby!” was her first reaction.
“I know. Fuck indeed.”

“How do you know this bastard?”

“Well.” I swallowed and paused again for a second, “He was my music teacher.”

“What!” she squealed as she let go of my hand and turned to look at me again.

“Like I said, he was my music teacher. At school. From the age of round eleven till I left at sixteen, well fifteen and a half actually, where I grew up, in Edgware.”

“Your music teacher?”

“Yes baby, my music teacher.”


“Yes, really.”

She clasped her hand back into mine.

“Shit. And he did this?”

“Well, I guess so, it’s there in black and white, with the name of the school and everything.” I replied nodding towards the paper. His pasty, wide eyed face stared back at me with a look that made my skin crawl.

"But it says that he was popular, well respected and everyone liked him, did you?"

"I liked him as my teacher. I respected him for his music. I mean, he was on tour with an opera company. He was highly thought of in his field, and he did take me under his wing, so to speak."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, he always wanted me to sit next to him at his desk in the class during the lessons, or by his side when he was playing the piano in the music room."

"What, like a teacher’s pet?"

"I guess so."

I removed my hand from hers and smothered my face with both of mine, at the same time closing my eyes, to try and erase this moment, pressing into the sockets with the tips of my fingers, not quite believing what I’d just read. I pressed harder, clenching my eyes tighter, pushing them deeper within my skull, when darkness took over, and a second or two later, a black and white light show dazzled me. I became dizzy and unaware of my surroundings, but then I felt Kate's manicured hand comforting my naked thigh. Her touch made me tingle. I needed her comfort at that precise moment. She huddled closer to me on the sofa. I sensed her morning breath, with a hint of coffee seducing the side of my face, and as she turned to me, she whispered,

“Baby, are you okay?”

I pulled my hands away from my face, my eyes still closed, mesmerized by the diminishing light show before me and nodded. But I was far from okay.

“Did anything, you know, did anything happen to you. Did he touch you or something?” Kate questioned.

I took another deep breath and released my eyes, with the remains of the light show fading before me. I tried to focus through blurred vision on the photo of this pathetic, but once extremely well-respected teacher and pianist. His wide, shallow, glazed eyes, hollow and riddled with guilt, no longer hiding his secret. I looked deep into his pupils as they gaped at me in return and I reflected on my time at school, in his office, in his lessons and most of all, the school trip to Switzerland.

“Baby talk to me, please. I'm here for you, you know that, don’t you?”

I nodded. Of course, I knew she was, she had been for the past few months, but it was impossible to know how to respond to her in this situation and I didn’t answer, I couldn’t. She didn’t know what had happened. I hadn’t told her.

In fact, I hadn’t told anyone. 

13 is released on the 5th December and you can pre-order today by clicking on this link: