When The Sax Man Plays: Part 5 - The Prequel Excerpt
The series finale tells the story of the teenage Jason - When The Sax Man Plays: Part 5 - The Prequel.
Those early years of trouble filled Jason’s mind on his journey to his new life. Now he was six months away from his eighteenth birthday and he was heading to London to make his own life.
He drifted into another, happier, set of memories while the scenery whizzed by. In another two hours he would reach his destination - and his challenge would then truly begin.
His scholarship did not begin for another two years, a time that seemed like an infinity away, yet Seb had pointed out to him that the opportunity was worth waiting a lifetime for. He patted his saxophone case fondly, smiling to think about the very beginnings.
His music lessons progressed well. One evening, it had been a Monday, he’d been nearly walking properly unaided for several weeks. Seb met him at the end of the corridor, grinning madly at him, holding a cheque in his outstretched hands.
“You’ve won a bursary,” he put his arm around Jason’s shoulders, “so we’re away to spend it.”
The questions obviously filled Jason’s face, so he listened as Seb answered them on the bus journey. Jason had no idea where they were headed, but he’d placed his trust in his music tutor. He stopped only when they were outside of the small, bright shop.
Ushered inside, Jason again stopped, over-awed, his eyes taking in all the details. The place was huge! It was brightly lit, there were guitars suspended from the ceiling, drum kits under spotlights, a baby grand piano in the corner. It was musical heaven!
Seb had laughed at his expression, hailing the owner Benjy - a man he obviously knew of old - telling him that they were here for the saxophone.
Jason had turned his shocked expression to Seb, realising that this had been the music man’s plan all along. Allowing himself to be led to the back of the shop, the second the instrument was placed into his hands, he fell in love. Seb laughed again and they had a deal. Jason sat in silence on the bus back, hugging the slim case to him.
It was a second-hand saxophone, with a few dents and scratches, but he didn’t care - the sound was magic to his ears, and it made him even more determined to master it.
Jolting from his thoughts, Jason realised it was the conductor asking for his ticket. He fished it from his pocket, returning the smile of the man as he re-pocketed the card. A one-way ticket, stamped Kent-London. Was it obvious that he was a student? He had a small bag, his saxophone and his jacket; £600 savings stored safely in a hidden pocket and a set expression.
Taking the opportunity to look around him, he saw that his fellow passengers were a complete mix. He seemed to be the only student. It was July, he supposed, and the new term did not start until September. He took a deep breath - two years in September for him.
What was he thinking of? The thought hit him like a slap in the face. But there was no option. He couldn’t stay at home any longer. It would do him good to find his feet, make some money of his own, ‘establish his own groove’ as Seb said - he smiled just thinking about his supportive tutor.
Why had his father not been like Seb?
He switched his thoughts to Seb. They’d taken several weekend trips into London. Seb had taken him through the streets of London, using the back roads which were less crowded; pointing out various landmarks to him; taking him to jazz clubs and to see an evening show, hinting that one day his name would be on the playbill in the capital. How they had laughed!
Weeks later, they’d received his results, and both fallen speechless for several minutes.The examiner had travelled across from London; there were only three musical scholarships, one each year, and the competition was stiff - they were warned.
There wasn’t much chance of his winning a place, but it was worth an attempt, if only for the experience, Seb had advised him. Both student and tutor had secretly thought that there was a good chance of Jason getting close to winning a place, but had never voiced the thought aloud.
The man, when they were there, had said nothing for the whole thirty minute audition; he’d asked several questions and had written down everything that Jason had said in reply, not even his face had flickered.
Both of their hearts had sank when he left, and Seb had done something totally out of character - escorted Jason from the school, to the local pub. Politely Jason had sipped his fruit drink, listening while the older man lamented on the unfairness of the world, and keeping his thoughts to himself.
His results had arrived addressed to Seb at the school weeks later. They’d both known it, although the envelope was of the plain white variety.
This was it.
This was the turning point.
Jason felt physically sick, nodding to Seb to open it, secretly relieved that the older man’s hands were shaking - he felt better knowing that his nerves were shared. He watched Seb’s face as he scanned the page, it took all of a second but that second felt like an eternity!
Surely he would have jumped up and down if it had been good news? Jason’s stomach flipped when he was handed the letter; he couldn’t read Seb’s expression and he didn’t want to know.
He didn’t take it at first, then Seb smiled at him: his curiosity sparked and Jason took the page from him, beginning to read, forcing himself to read from the top of the page.
The school’s address, beside the London college address. The date. The heading. He took a deep breath before reading the letter fully.
“Dear Mr Sebastian Harper
STUDENT: JASON BOTTELLI
Following our recent audition with your student, as named above, we were pleased by the standards attained. Moreover, the hardworking attitude shown by your student----”
Blah blah blah, Jason skipped the details, unable to contain his excitement.
“We would be honoured to offer your student our 2002 scholarship placement.
Please contact us for further details. -----”
The words blurred after that. He’d won the scholarship! Against the odds! Hardly daring to breathe, he looked up, seeing Seb was rendered into speechless shock just as he was. Then he’d laughed, and laughed until he cried.
Seb had hugged him then, tightly, and Jason hadn’t minded at all. He couldn’t have done this without Seb’s help; he owed such a lot to this man, who’d given up so much for him.
How was he going to show his gratitude?
How could he possibly repay the favour?
Seb had made him promise to go; to give it his all; to take all the opportunities that came his way, no matter what.
Wordlessly, Jason had agreed, promising to keep in touch so that they could monitor his progress. Likewise Seb had promised to mentor him long-distance, and Jason had suddenly felt that it was possible.
His life finally had proper direction and it was obtainable. And damn it, he would obtain it!
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