Past, Present & Nowhere

Jack Davril is an internationally famous teen pop star. He's riding high - but he's about to fall. His new song, Ain't No Fun, includes the lines 'Don't give me that essay, don't give me that look; I'm gonna grab me a match and burn your book'.

The song gets out of control - fans walk out of school lessons and burn their books. But worse, Jack is confronted by two men who claim to be from a government agency. Suddenly, he's on the run - from the men, from his fans - and from himself. Can the mysterious Jane be his saviour?

Past Present & Nowhere (previously called Burn This Book) aims to be a fast-paced adventure, looking at how fame can change us, how a friend can save us, and how living for today sometimes means looking back.

This will be a full-length novel, and these are the first chapters. While it is a contemporary story, there is a lot here of interest to fans of historical fiction (I hope).


3. Don't You Want Me?

Chapter Three: Don't You Want Me?

I woke up with a jolt. I sat upright, looked around my room. I like my wallpaper, it’s full of gentle patterns that weave together so you can imagine all sorts of shapes, figures in it. But I couldn’t see any shapes, any patterns. Any wallpaper. I looked around. That wasn't my bedside cabinet, this wasn't my bed and my flat-screen TV underneath the window had completely disappeared.

"This isn't my room," I said.

Okay, I was slow, but it had been a rough night. I looked round again. The room was pretty bare and built of dark wood beams, in the walls, across the ceiling. There was a dark wood wardrobe and a dark wood cabinet by the bed. This was an old room. There were only a couple of pictures on the walls, one a landscape, the other a portrait of some guy with a beard. Pretty dreary. But what was I doing here?

I noticed a remote on the cabinet, but I couldn't see any system, any TV. I pushed a button anyway, and music filled the room. Cool. I pushed another couple of buttons, John Lennon came on, singing Imagine.  I went to the window, pulled back the heavy curtains. Outside was an immaculately manicured lawn, stretching off into the distance. I whistled. Where was I, Buckingham Palace?

I heard a knock and the door opened behind me, so I turned. Into the room came a girl, long brown hair, pretty. Not Buffy pretty, more Willow. More interesting. She looked at me, then quickly looked away. I glanced down...I was just in my boxers.

"Um...sorry," I said. I grabbed the bedspread - hand-embroidered, by the look of it - and held it in front of me.

"Would you like some tea?" Her voice was smooth, rich. Upper-class.

"Uh...yes, please," I said. She turned and left. Where was I? Who was she? I tried to remember what I was doing there, how we had got there, what we had done... I'd been at the concert...then what?

She came back in, carrying a tray with a pot of tea, cup and saucer and a sugar bowl, all made of delicate china.

"There's food in the kitchen, if you're hungry," she said.

"Thank you..." I said, as she turned to leave. "Um..did you, er, sleep well?" She just stared at me. "I did. I think," I said. She still just stared at me. She wasn't making this very easy. "Your parents around?"

"My what?" she said.

"Uh...your parents? I was just wondering if we were alone here. Or if we were alone here last night."

"You can't remember last night?"

"Um, not entirely. Some of it. Which was wonderful." If in doubt, lie.

"Doing what?"

Oh dear. "Just, er, everything. It was wonderful. Fantastic. Did you enjoy it?"

"I beg your pardon?" She was getting cross now, and so was I.

"The concert. I did a concert. Were you at the concert?"

She stared at me, eyes narrowed. "No."

"Oh." I looked at her. I'd had enough. "Look. I'm rich and I'm famous and I don't need to be embarrassed," I said. "Did I pick you up at the gig?"

"The 'gig'?" She said the word as if it tasted of dog crap.

"Yes, the gig! Did you pick me up? Did anything happen between us?!"

Now she looked at me as if I was dog crap.

"Don't be so ridiculous! Now go and get something to eat, they'll be here soon."

"What do you mean, ridiculous?" I stormed. "Why is the suggestion that something happened between us so ridiculous?"

She was shorter than me but she managed to tilt her head and look down her nose.

"You silly little boy. It's time you grew up. Now stop chattering."

Stop chattering?

"Oh, I do beg madam's pardon," I said. "Did I offend you in some way? Did one suggest that one might have done something inappropriate with one? Would that be awfully below one?"

She stared at me. I waited for her to turn and run. She didn't.

"Listen to me," she said, in a tone that was used to being listened to. "I know you are disorientated so I will make an exception. But you will treat me with respect. And when they come, you will treat them with respect. You are in more trouble than you realise so stop talking and get yourself ready. There are clothes in the closet."

She turned, pulled the door shut, not as aggressively as I would have expected. I sat and stared at the door for a second, having trouble comprehending. Who was she? And who were 'them'? No idea.

"Guilt," I said aloud, to console myself. "She's feeling guilty. Not bad looking though."

I opened the wardrobe, pulled out a pair of jeans, put them on. Hang on, where were my clothes? I looked around – my stage gear was folded neatly on a chair by the window. Jeans were probably a better choice for this time of day though.

Nick. I needed to call Nick, he’d tell me what happened. He always knew what had happened, even if he wasn’t there. That’s the skill of a good friend I guess. I went towards my clothes…duh. If I was still wearing my stage gear when I met this girl, then I wouldn’t have had my phone on me. Great. But blimey, it must have happened quickly…

I sat on the bed and poured myself a cup of tea. There was milk in the cup but the handle was so tiny I couldn't get my finger through the hole. Posh people, what can you do? Yeah, all right, I know I’m rich, but I’m not posh. I don’t have impractical china.

From outside came the noise of a car door slamming. Funny, I didn't hear it pull up? I went to the window and peered out, but just missed whoever it was. The car was nice, though, American, from the 1950s. Open top, very sleek, with fins at the back. Probably a Cadillac. Maybe this was the 'them' who I was supposed to treat with respect.

The front door must have been near my bedroom, as I heard it open, could just make out voices.

"...C’mon Jane, you promised." His accent was American, somewhere in the south.

"I did nothing of the sort," said my posh girl. "Now please, I must ask you to leave..." I smiled to myself. Jane, eh? She looked like a Jane, but certainly not a plain one.

"Just come with me for a drive."

"I cannot. I have business to attend to. And as I told you, I have no interest in a relationship."  I walked back to the bed, wrestled with the cup again. Poor lad, I thought, I know the feeling.

Then the front door crashed open, and I heard Jane scream. I ran to the window, tried to see, but couldn't. I pulled open the bedroom door, dashed into the corridor, turned left. A man, in his early twenties and wearing a denim jacket, was pinning Jane against the wall.

"Leave her alone!" I yelled.

Startled, the man looked at me standing there in jeans and no shirt. He nodded slowly and let go of Jane's arms.

"Oh, I see."

Jane turned to me. "Get back in there!"

"Are you okay?" I said.

"Get back inside!" she shouted at me. Some people just cannot be grateful for anything.

"Not until he's gone," I said.

"He's going," she said, and only then did I notice the fear in her voice. It had been there all the time, but I told you I wasn't very good at noticing things. The man stepped towards me, held out his hand, but his eyes weren't friendly.

"I don't think we've had the pleasure? My name’s Jimmy."

I stared back at him, kept my hand to myself. "I'm sure it wouldn't be a pleasure," I said. "And my name's..."

"Don't tell him!" shouted Jane. "Just get back in the front room!"

"I'm not scared of this guy," I said, watching him. "My name's Jack Davril, and I think it's time you left." He looked at me, gave me the ‘look’ I always get when people meet me, that hint of recognition. To be honest, he looked vaguely familiar too, but he had a couple of day’s stubble across his face and just appeared like a good-looking roadie.

"Well. Jack Davril. I'll be happy to. For now," said Jimmy. He turned, walked past Jane to the door. "M'lady," he said. The door closed. Jane turned on me.

"What have you done?" She was seething. Scared. “You fool! You stupid, brainless, incompetent fool!" She ran past me, down the corridor and away. I just stood there.

"Man comes to door. Man assaults girl. Jack rescues girl. Girl shouts at Jack." I shook my head, sighed. "My life."

I went into the front room, grabbed a shirt from the wardrobe, then started to walk down the corridor - all dark wood beams - and tried to find her. I opened a couple of doors, but the rooms were empty. Everything about the place smacked of old, old, old, apart from a few modcons, a funky washer-dryer in one, a wall-mounted wide-screen TV in another, with a pile of listings magazines. Down the corridor were a few pictures, more landscapes, more men in beards, and one framed photograph of the actress Helena Bonham Carter in period costume. Strange.

I stopped at the next door, and listened. From behind it I could hear sobbing. I opened it, and Jane was there, curled up in a high-backed chair, tears streaming down her face. It was agonising to see her like that. Incomprehensible, and agonising.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I'm not entirely sure what I did wrong, but I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I don't know who you are, and that I can't remember last night. I don't know why I can't remember last night, but I can't. I don't know how I got here. I don't know where 'here' is. So this is all a bit strange for me, and I don't know how to act. But I obviously got it wrong, so I'm sorry."

Jane was still curled up, her head tucked against her shoulder, tears still streaming down her face. I turned and left.

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