The Bull Singer
I felt pretty good as I left Mr. Mitchell's office, but by the time I got to the locker room, my confidence had taken a dive into the deepest pit. I fought my way through the crowds of pupils and reached my locker, wishing they would stop staring at me. I searched my anorak pocket for my locker key and realized it was still in my old coat up at Top Farm. Damn! I punched the locker door.
"Well at least he's had a wash." The words cut into me and the some of the crowd snickered. "I see some sugar-daddy has bought him a new uniform. Aren't we posh?"
I turned to retaliate when Jimmy, the head boy, stepped between the nerd and me. "Good morning, Mr. Bronson; trod in some doggy-poo lately? Smells like it to me." Not waiting for an answer, he turned round and nodded to me. "Forgot your key?" As the head prefect, he was in charge of the locker room and had keys for several empty lockers for this kind of emergency. He took out a bunch of them and slipped one off the ring. He unlocked the one next to mine and opened it. "There you are, Mr. Street; be my guest for today, but I want that key back tomorrow. We also need to talk." I tossed my main bag and coat into the locker and slung my smaller class bag over my shoulder; and watched Jimmy lock it again. He handed me the key then he grabbed my shoulder to lead me through the stunned crowd. "Right, everyone, we've all got classes to go to, HAVEN'T WE?"
If anyone looked like a typical school bully, Jimmy Mitchell fit the bill perfectly; despite his dad being the head teacher. He didn't even have to lift a finger; his height, stocky build and number one marine haircut being enough to make people back off. Add to this his gruff way of talking in a gently bullying way, and you had someone that all the school looked up to and had many pupils having crushes on him, and not just the girls. I had been having warm feelings about him ever since I came to the school. Now he was actually rescuing me from would be aggressors; not that it was anything special, he had an inbuilt radar which seemed to ferret out trouble and stepped on it before it got reported to his dad. As we negotiated the crush, I thought he would make a great head teacher.
He held onto me till we reached the first of the classrooms. Down the corridor, some of his mates were waiting for him. "I hear you're thinking of joining the Paper Dolls. I'm sort of their manager and act as chaperone for them. The boys definitely want you in. Can you stay behind after school for a pow-wow? They're in a bit of a panic at the moment as they've nowhere to practice, and Mrs. Devonshire wants them to be up to scratch by a week this Thursday or they're out of the Christmas show."
"Sorry, not today; a friend of my grandfather's is due to pick me up after school otherwise it's quite a hike from where the school bus drops me off. What about lunchtime?"
"No can do, two of them are in lunchtime detention and I have a prefects meeting to go to." More talk was interrupted by First Bell, which meant the usual chaotic charge to get to classrooms before Second Bell sounded. Jimmy had to hurry off and join his mates, and I walked down to classroom five for registration.
I entered to find Mrs. Roberts, my home form teacher, already at her desk. She smiled at me, her star pupil or so she hinted. "Ah, the rebel returns! I thought you were suspended."
"Mr Mitchell is sorting it out this morning, Miss."
"Glad to hear it. Go and sit down before you get mown down in the rush." As if summoned by her words, the rest of the class hurried in. Thankful for Mrs Roberts's reminder that a few of the pupils liked to show their dislike for me by subtle digs and jostles on their way to their desks, I slid into my seat as the first of them passed me. If only Jimmy was in this class, none of this harassment would happen. The problem was, with him being head boy this year, asking him to be my protector would have me in deeper trouble. No one wanted to be labelled the head boy's pet. Jimmy certainly wasn't a daddy's boy, and got where he was by sheer hard work and determination, plus his own ability to stay calm and deal with situations without having to call a teacher. I didn't want to cause him any problems. I glanced up at the teacher and saw she was otherwise engaged with another pupil. So, there was nothing for it but to curl up inside my mental shell and pretend they didn't exist; to pretend I was elsewhere till the lesson began.
The latter was easy; I had things to think about, such as last night and waking up in the middle of the night in Granddad's embrace and him snoring in my ear. I had needed to pee but didn't want to wake him so I stayed where I was till my bladder screamed for release. I eased out of the old man's arms and rolled over to find my way to the bathroom blocked by Pete. Beautiful Pete, why hadn't Mags gone for him instead of worthless, underage, me? Here was a guy who had lived a full life according to Mags, and knew more about sex and stuff than I could ever hope to learn, apart from the sleazy world of the Angela Streets of this world. He stirred in his sleep and brought his arms about me, probably thinking he was sleeping with Gramps. At the point when I thought I would burst and have an accident, his eyes flickered open and glittered in the moonlight shining through a chink in the curtains. "Sorry, I need the loo."
"Yeah, 'kay," was his sleepy answer as he let me scramble over him. I stayed awake long enough to sort myself out and stumble back to bed. Pete pulled the bed covers back and scooted over to the middle of the bed to make room for me, and it hit me then that I had company in my bed. I wanted to ask him but my eyes were closing, and I felt too weak to resist as he pull me down into his embrace. After that I knew nothing till I woke up to find myself using someone's naked chest as a pillow and feeling a hand stroking my right hip, and soft lips brushing my forehead, just like Mags used to do. That had made me panic and I almost spoilt things by jerking my head up and demanding to know why he was in my bed. Then Gramps had walked in to the bedroom pushing a fully laden breakfast trolley, looking very business like in a suit and tie and ready to crack the whip at someone. Pete had said I had a nightmare but I couldn't remember it any more than I could remember all the others that I had over the years, just that they had me terrified out of my wits. What I did like about last night was Pete's hand on my hip and how I wanted to feel it again; if only I could make it happen again…………….
"Street! Will you wake up, please?" I jerked out of my daydream amid jeers and rhythmic tapping of pen on desks, and Mrs. Roberts's face let me know her support was wearing more than a little thin. "Will you please answer the register; if you are here, say so; if you're not please indicate."
More sniggers at my expense. "Sorry Miss; here Miss." My face burned and I wished the room would vanish.
"Thank you." Mrs Roberts glared at me then at the class before closing the register. Third Bell sounded and I waited till the mad scramble out of the room had abated before I rose from my desk and slung my bag over my shoulder. As I passed Mrs. Roberts's desk, she beckoned to me. "Where were you this morning, Street; in your own little world again? It's happening far too often, lad, and you only have yourself to blame for the barracking you receive."
"Well then, see it doesn't happen too often. Off you go."
Room three was down the corridor to my left, freedom and fresh air to my right. I chose freedom, took a couple of steps and stopped. What would Mags say if I let these nerds win? With a sigh of resentment, I turned round and found Jimmy waving to me. "Come on, Fast Foot, get your backside moving." As head prefect he had the right to direct erring pupils to where they were supposed to go. He achieved this with the gusto of a regimental sergeant major, but the pupils put that down to his being the senior cadet warrant officer in the local Air Training Corps. But there was a twinkle in his eyes as his hand lingered on shoulder and pushed me ahead of him into room three. Hello? Was that a signal of some kind?
Jimmy was hopefully going for an HND course at Oldham IT College and spent as much time as he could in the computer classroom, and had his own little corner away from the rest of the class computers. I watched him as he sat down at his computer, not sure that I had felt anything. Then he winked at me and disappeared behind his monitor. Stunned, I sat down at my own assigned computer. Surely he hadn't given me the come on. I turned on my PC and while I waited for the settings to load up, I thought about Jimmy. Okay, I wanted to get to know him better, he was a nice guy, but he had never struck me as gay, spending most of his time, when not at the computer, on the soccer field. So how would I go about making contact? By email if I knew his address. So how could I ask him for his address? One of the projects we were working on was to practice clearing and cleaning our PCs, including deleting all unnecessary files, and our email files, using the scandisk settings. Once I was up and running I checked my emails. Normally we were only allowed to send emails to another classmate or to an approved website for research purposes, and only pertaining to our IT projects in the course of our lessons. At first I didn't see it, and almost deleted it as rubbish because I didn't recognize the address of the sender, but then I gave it a second glance. The email was from someone called 'paperboy'. His message read, " I'm watching you. "
" So? " I wrote back.
"What do you do if you don't want to catch a virus?"
"Use protection, Dumbhead."
"Are you thick or something? I use software."
"Nosey, I use Trend Micro Internet Security and Malwarebytes."
"Silky soft or Super?" Mr Doke, the IT tutor had started his rounds and my new friend wrote " The Joke is behind you, delete fast ."
Hey! What? I glanced up and saw Jimmy leaning round his monitor and making a face at me. Suddenly realizing who 'paperboy' was, and that he wasn't talking about PC protection, I deleted all the emails, plus those in my sent and received files. Doke the Joke, as we called him, checked my files and mailbox and advised me to check I had emptied my recycle bin and my temporary Internet files. He patted my shoulder and praised me for a clean PC. No wonder he was called the Joke! It was a good thing he hadn't checked my address book. As I opened it, and searched for paperboy's address, it suddenly dawned on me that he knew my address and had used it when addressing me in the corridor; 'Fastfoot'. I wrote him, "That was close. How did you know my e- address? "
" Who covers for the Joke and helps look after the PCs? I came in early with Dad and looked for it while I cleaned your registry."
"Why didn't you just ask me for it?"
"I wanted to surprise you. Got to get on with my stuff, now; see you five minutes before I go to prefects meeting."
I didn't think I could wait that long. "Better still, follow me on sick call." I deleted my email files, closed down my PC and signalled to Doke. "I don't feel well, sir. Can I go to the loo?"
"Of course, my dear boy. Mr. Mitchell, take Street to the men's room and stay with him till he's recovered will you?"
Perfect! We hurried out of the classroom and down the corridor towards the toilets. We passed a teacher but she said nothing; I was with a prefect so it was okay for me to be out of class. There were two swing doors to the toilets, each banging noisily as they closed behind us. That meant, whatever we did or said, we had fair warning of anyone else coming in. With my heart beginning to pound, I watched Jimmy check the place. It was empty. Satisfied, he leaned his rump against a stall doorjamb and folded his arms. "Right, can you come to our meeting or not?"
"Like I said, Pete will be waiting for me at the gate. He and Gramps will worry if I'm not there." Thinking quickly, I said, "Why not have your meeting at my place on Friday night? The B.....erm...my mum's away and you and the boys could sleep over this weekend; there's plenty of room. You'll just have to bring some food with you. I'm staying with Gramps at his cottage till my Uncle Mags gets back so there isn't much food around and I don't except Gramps to shell out for food for all of us."
"That's not a problem. Have you got a PC?"
"No, but I can get one for this weekend, why?"
"So soon? Wow! I was thinking I could set it up for you while we're there. It might give your granddad an incentive to let us be at the house. Is your uncle the guy the boys met last Tuesday? My dad knows him; they went to school together."
"Really? I didn't know."
Jimmy's face split with a grin and he stepped forward, rubbing his hands together. "Right then; it's a date. I'll tell the boys and give you a call." I scribbled the number of the new mobile Gramps had bought me on a page out of my pocket diary. Holding it out to him, I kept it just out of his reach. He stared at it then at me. "What?"
"What you did earlier." I stared him in the eye, "A hand on the shoulder, and a sly wink; and talking about protection?"
Jimmy blushed a deep red and shuffled his feet, no longer the confident young man everyone knew.
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