A vulnerable Cockney girl meets a rough, struggling rock band. She is truly bought to her knees in the Jungle.
‘London? What are you doing over our side then?’
She gathered from “our side” he actually meant America. ‘I’m a transfer, I study over in Connecticut.’
Looking a little further he noticed the books and notepad huddled in her arms, and the camera lying in her lap. ‘A student,’ he decided, ‘an English student.’ It was a breath of fresh air to see a smart woman around these parts, the amount of scantily clad women walking the streets at all hours made him disgusted. He too, like his passenger, was a college graduate, but like most graduates fresh from college; he found a job with an average wage and had stuck with it for over 20 years.
‘That’s a great little place for classics right there,’ he said pointing to a small bookshop.
‘Oh, I guessed from the books you were a bit of a reader.’
‘You could say that.’ She looked out of the window and made a mental note of the street name, Fairfax Avenue. ‘Seeing as you know of all the good places, where would you recommend eating?’ She asked clutching her grumbling stomach. The flight to L.A had been long, and flying on a full stomach was never something she handled well.
He grabbed a scrunched up petrol receipt from the glove box and scribbled down some diners and restaurants he’d personally enjoyed over the years. ‘Canter’s is lovely…and cheap!’
She laughed and placed the list in her purse.
The taxi took one last turn into a small, quiet neighbourhood and came to a slow halt at the end. ‘Well here we are. Would you like some help with your cases, Miss…?’
‘Oh, it’s Jessica. Jessica Kelly. And yes, that’d be a big help thank you.’
The driver lugged her cases to the front door and scratched his head in confusion, ‘How does a student afford a place like this?’
‘A daddy with a very good job.’ She lifted the key from under the mat and dragged her cases and bags inside, and handed the driver a very generous tip. ‘Thank you for all the help.’
‘No problem, Miss. If you ever need a ride anywhere you know who to call. You have a good day now.’
She closed the door behind her and took a peek at her new home for the next 3 months. It was big, but homely. The lounge had a huge bookcase, that was empty to her dismay, but with the amount of her own she’d bought with her, she had enough to fill a couple of shelves. And if the bookshop was as amazing as the cabbie had said, it was bound to be full by the end of the holiday.
In addition to the beautiful house was an equally beautiful garden, with a medium size pool and a tire swing. ‘The perfect place to enjoy a lazy Sunday in the sunshine.’
She hauled her cases upstairs and slung them in one of the bedrooms, telling herself she’d get round to it later, but first she needed to eat.
Remembering the list the taxi driver had gave her she pulled it from her purse and scanned down it for the place he’d recommended. ‘Canter’s Deli, Fairfax Avenue.’ To her surprise it was on the same street as the quaint bookshop they’d passed. She could have dinner and then pick up a few novels to fill that dusty bookcase.
‘Oh, I was recommended this place by a cab driver. He said the food was lovely and reasonably priced, so I couldn’t resist.’
The waitress smiled back at the young student and scurried off to collect the bill.
Canter’s wasn’t a fairly big place, which gave it a homely and family feel. But tonight it was busy; the average waiting time for a table being 15-30 minutes. That didn’t bother Jess though; she’d waited all day for food, an extra half an hour wouldn’t hurt. And the wait was definitely worth it she discovered when she finally dived into a plateful of spaghetti.
She polished off the last drop of her Cola and with a few moments alone opened her purse and gazed at the photo inside. Running her finger over the plastic cover she sighed and a goofy smile crept across her face.
‘Boyfriend?’ The waitress asked appearing behind her.
‘Yeah, his name’s Ian.’
‘Aww, sweet, how long have you been together?’
‘About 9 months now,’ she replied, unable to hide her huge grin.
‘Aww, young love. Make the most of it whilst you can darling ‘cause it doesn’t last forever.’
Jessica laughed uncomfortably and handed the woman back the tray with a tip, although after that comment she wasn’t sure she deserved a tip. But rather than getting in a tizzy about a minor comment, she shook it off and put it down to elderly cynicism.
With just a short nip across the road she was in Reserve, the bookshop. Not only home to just books, it was also a charity/thrift store, housing clothes and antiques. But books were the only thing she was interested in at this point and headed straight towards the back of the shop, where the classic novels stacked neatly on the shelves lay.
She handled the worn covers with care, and sat on the wooden floor flicking through the pages delicately to check for damage, and within 5 minutes of being there she already had her arms half full.
‘That’s a lot of books.’ The elderly man said as Jess plonked the collection down on the counter. She chuckled and pulled out a wad of notes as he scanned them.
‘And you can guarantee I’ll be back soon to clear the rest of your shelves,’ she joked as she left, struggling with the gigantic pile of books in her hands.
From the time spent entering the bookshop and leaving the bookshop it had got dark outside. And that terrified the vulnerable 20-year old, especially thinking of the horror stories her father warned her of taking this trip. She was half expecting to be mugged, or raped, or both, and quickly ran to the nearest payphone to call her trusty cab man.
Stood in the nearest phone booth though was a man, a young man. He looked deep in conversation with the person on the other end. Not knowing how long he’d be in there, or even if he’d noticed her waiting, she tapped on the glass quietly. He jolted and spun around, then without saying goodbye, hung up on his phone buddie.
Jessica stood back a bit to let him exit the booth and stuck her head round the side of her books to see this man in more detail. His hair was glowing orange under the light of the booth, and he seemed unsure and dangerous.
‘Can I use the phone please?’
He laughed at her. ‘It isn’t my phone; you can do what you want with it.’
‘Oh, well, thanks. This may sound incredibly rude but you couldn’t hold my books whilst I call a cab could you?’
She handed over her books and stepped into the booth, punching in the number of the taxi firm from this afternoon. ‘Maybe L.A people aren’t all too bad,’ she thought watching this stranger holding her novels.
He shuffled the books in his arms, feeling them begin to ache, and looked at some of the titles: Nineteen Eighty-Four, War and Peace. Whoever this girl was, she seemed smart, and he liked that.
‘The taxi will be here soon. Thanks ever so much. I’ve heard such stories about shady characters around here that I wasn’t sure I could trust anyone,’ she said taking her books back.
‘I can wait with you if you want?’
He hadn’t raped her, or mugged her, or stabbed her yet, so she agreed and let him wait with her, and indulged in idle small talk until the cab pulled up.
He was tall, but his body quite petite. And along with the long flowing ginger hair, he had delicate features, almost resembling a girl. And if it wasn’t for the deep southern accent she’d never had known he was a man.
After a short wait the taxi finally pulled up and the small talk came to an end, and with another thank you to the helpful stranger she said goodbye, but not without getting his name first.
‘It’s Axl, Axl Rose.’