Jetta Black and the Seven squats by Bryan Thomas

Jetta’s dad was a simple man, and as a little girl, he used to tell her stories and play games. She adored him. Sadly, her mother, Aisha, a lovely Indian lady who wore shimmering blue saris and bangles on special occasions, died when she was only nine. Steve, an accountant, ran a small company working with local businesses in the East End. The two of them 

managed with a home help for a couple of years until she went to secondary school. This was a whole new experience, and she enjoyed socialising, going to parties and the cinema with her mates. Above all, she loved athletics and ran for the fun and excitement of competition. 

Meanwhile, her dad became even more withdrawn. He hid behind his fascination with early blogging – more as an outlet for his thoughts than expecting anyone to read them. 

‘Daddy,’ said Jetta one day as she read over his shoulder, ‘why don’t you try to find a girlfriend on the Internet?’ 

And that was where it began. Steve, solitary without a wife, mentioned the fact on his Blog and had positive responses from lonely ladies. So he started a Dating Agency, and the online idea grew and grew. He sold it for many millions only three years later. 

His own dating experience was one of his successes. He married a striking, up-and-coming actress, Danai Leigh, with full pomp, bridesmaids dressed in blue silk and a video of the proceedings, replayed at the splendid reception. The family moved from the East End to Chelsea. 

But Jetta hated her stepmother with a passion. She felt that her dad had been snatched from her, but she put up with the disdain and spite that she got in return as best she could, for his sake. Then, one afternoon, she arrived home from the Institute to find an ambulance at the front gate. Her father had suffered from a stroke, and he died on the way to A &E. Jetta was shattered. The antagonism against her stepmother grew exponentially. 

The funeral highlighted Danai’s vanity, and she certainly made the most of the costly black dress and the diamonds while Jetta sat weeping at the service. The tension between them grew, but there was nowhere for Jetta to go – not even a close relative. 

Her stepmother’s life carried on serenely as before. She had a unique mirror, which was also a flat-screen TV with various Apps long before they were common. She used to lock her bedroom door and ask the mirror, “who is the fairest of them all?” The answer was always, “Danai is the fairest of them all.” 

That was until one day when Jetta was seventeen and had grown into a beautiful girl with lustrous dark skin, a gorgeous figure and black hair. While still at the Institute, she was already making a name for herself in the fashion world. 

When asked, this time, the mirror replied, “Jetta is the fairest of them all.” 

The wicked stepmother was furious and decided to restore the old status quo. Jetta’s favourite photographer was told he would be fired unless he disfigured Jetta at her next photoshoot in his East London Studio. But when it came to it, although menacing her with a tripod, he lost his nerve and told Jetta to run before he changed his mind. 

That early winter evening, the streetlights were dim on the soaking back streets of the city. The daily exercises had proved their worth with her running past evil-looking groups of men and through tiny alleyways. She flopped, at last, lost and exhausted on the steps of a derelict house. 

She noticed that the door was slightly ajar and pushed it open. From the dim light through the shutters, she saw a vast hallway with a rickety staircase. It was cold as she crept in. The lights didn’t work, but she found an oil lamp and some matches. There was a long table in the centre, untidy with dirty plates and mugs. Around it were seven unmade but upmarket camp-beds spread about. She wondered who was living there and, making sure the door was shut, started to clear up. She raided the fridge (which was working) and found seven ready-made meals. She took a slice out of each. Then, dead tired, she lay down on one of the beds. 

Later seven young men return from work to their squat to find Jetta fast asleep in Doc’s bed and discover that their supper has been nibbled. They also saw that the place had been cleaned, the crockery washed up, their beds were all made, and there was a fire in the hearth. 

Jetta woke up and gasped at finding herself surrounded. She apologised for her intrusion and explained about her escape from the photographer. They all (except that Grumpy said it would end badly) agreed to let her stay in return for help to make the place a home. Her dear father has died. She has nothing to go back for, so she gratefully accepted, and they sent out for a couple of extra takeaways. 

“Why Doc and Grumpy?” she asked them as they tucked into the evening meal at the big table. 

“Oh,” said Doc, “we were all at the London School of Economics doing various degrees and decided to form a company specialising in IT, intending to counter the Hackers and Scammers. We all work together and are saving up to buy a property that can be home and office. 

“And who is everyone else? There were slightly sheepish grins. 

“Well,” said Doc, “as a sort of trading wheeze, we decided to name ourselves after the seven dwarfs,” as he introduced Sleepy, Sneezy, Happy, Dopey and Bashful. 

“We’ll find you a bed tomorrow,” said Sleepy, “and you can have the little room off the landing. But, in the meantime, have my bed. I can sleep anywhere.” 

*** 

Meanwhile, the photographer had re-touched a photograph to show a disfigured Jetta, but the wicked stepmother went to her mirror only to find that Jetta was alive and still the fairest. 

Danai was incensed and smashed her TIGI Bed Head ‘Manipulator’ jar against the screen, which croaked “Connection Not Available” and then crashed. She grabbed her laptop and brought up AMAZON, the wicked wizard whose mantra was ‘Commerce without Morality’ – looking for a replacement. She ordered one for ‘Prime Delivery’ the next day, and it arrived the following day. But she didn’t know the Password and demanded a refund, which was refused because she had opened the parcel. 

She was furious and looked up ‘Hackers’ on the Internet, and it was Doc and Grumpy who called at the Chelsea house. Between them, they gained access to her magic mirror site and sent a nasty virus to AMAZON, which deducted tax from his sales income without it appearing in his Accounts. 

Over a drink afterwards, Doc, by way of conversation, let slip that a beautiful girl had moved into his house to look after them all - his IT partners and friends. The penny dropped. 

Asked the “who is” question again, the new mirror still answered ‘Jetta.’ 

After discussing her next move, the two men suggested that Dopey would play the part best. So the wicked stepmother summoned Dopey with the request to service her laptop. That done, she gave him a (poisoned) apple to take to Jetta and to tell her that all was forgiven. On his return to the house, and before he had warned her, she had taken a bite and fallen into a deep sleep. No one could wake her. But she remained beautiful, and the mirror said so. 

Meanwhile, back at the squat, Doc and Grumpy had fallen out with their mates and moved out, having decided that there was more money to be had by hacking than trying to counter it. 

The following day, the five lads kissed the sleeping Jetta goodbye as they went off to work, and she woke up, refreshed. She resolved to stay with them. Her income from modelling would more than make up for the loss of input from the other two. On the weekends, she could doze on Saturday afternoons with Sleepy when the others watched football and comfort Bashful when no one was looking. She would blow Sneezy’s nose (and wash his hankies) and enjoy blissful nights cuddling Happy. 

And Dopey? Well, he was just Dopey and the pussycat she always craved. 

Back in Chelsea, the magic mirror grew dusty in the Attic because Danai could not bear the answers and finally ended up on a tip. It was rescued by a new owner who took it to the Antique RoadShow, and Fiona Bruce broke the spell. 

Danai married the first of three millionaire film moguls and proceeded to strut her stuff in California. 

What happened to AMAZON? Well, he was eventually persuaded to pay his taxes like the rest of us. 

Moral? ‘If you believe that…’ 


Published in Issue #25

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