Brownsville Tales, Robin
The bus-trip didn't take long. They only made one more stop, to pick-up a bunch of shivering kids at the Point, and then straight to school. Damm, they had a heavy frost in town. It seemed to get whiter as they went down the road and it was bad enough where he'd started from. He'd be glad to get inside where it was warm.
That was one good thing about living in a mining-town, coal was cheap and the fires were big. The boilers at the school were fired for free, sort-of. Their coal was donated by Alborn's mine, so, in a way, his dad was getting paid to keep him warm.
Good job too! It was freezing out there. He had to keep wiping the window to stop it misting up and he could see out and smile at the cold kids walking to school. Hah!
He lost the smile when he saw Darren Hughes trudging along in the frost and the fog. The kid was small and weedy and easily recognised by his mop of dark curly hair. He was walking along with his head hung down and ignoring the group of goons behind him. They were scooping up handfuls of frost from the fences and stuff and throwing ice-balls at his back.
Not nice. He'd like to see them try that on him – he'd rub their bloody noses in it!
All right. Hughes was not who he'd choose, ('Hah! Poetry!'), but he was who he was getting for a step-brother whether he liked it or not. Thinking about it, he realised that Hughes was always getting shoved around by someone or another. He was an easy target for bullies to pick on.
Well, dammit! That was going to have to stop and he was going to stop it. No-one was going to pick on his sort-of step-brother. Not any more, they weren't.
The bus pulled in to the loading bay behind the school and discharged its passengers. Instead of rushing inside with the others, Robin went back up the street to where Hughes and his tormentors were coming from.
They weren't far away, they were just coming around the corner by the old Presbyterian Manse and the ice was still flying.
"Cut that out!" He strode up to them and stood between Hughes and the others. "Leave the bloody kid alone. How'd you like it if I did that to you?"
"Fuck off, Hedges. What's it to you? He's no mate of yours."
"And what's that got to do with it?"
"You want some of this, do you?" Bruce Kelcher brandished a handful of ice.
"Just try it, Kelcher," Robin fumed. "Come on then – one shot, and then I'll shove your head in a puddle and bloody-well stand on it!"
"Ah, to hell with it." Kelcher dropped the ice and walked away. "Come on, Guys. It's freezing out here."
Robin and Hughes watched the bullies walk away. He turned to him. "Are you okay, Darren?"
"I'll survive," he shrugged. "I usually do."
"You get that treatment all the time, don't you? Well, no more. I'm putting a stop to it."
"You're putting a stop to it? Fuck off, Hedges! I don't need you babysitting me." He walked on, leaving a dumbfounded Robin standing there.
'That's gratitude? I stop them chucking ice at him and he tells me to fuck off?'
He snapped out of it and ran a few steps to catch up to Hughes before he disappeared into the school. "Listen, Darren. I'm serious about stopping the bullying. You know about my father and your mother?"
He stopped and looked him in the eye. "Yes, I know about them and I'm not very happy about it too. They're a pair of bloody idiots and if they think I'm moving in to live with you, they've got another think coming."
"I don't think we've got any choice in it," Robin replied. "I mean, what're you going to do? You can't stop them."
"I am NOT living away out in the sticks with you! I'll run away before that happens."
"Where are you going to go? You're only 12, like me."
"Anywhere would be better than out there. I'll go and live with my grandparents, they'll have me."
He walked away and disappeared into the milling mob outside the school.
Robin was gobsmacked. Planning on running away and living with his grandparents, was he? Where had he heard that before? Why wouldn't he want to live with him?
"Fuck you, Hughes," he spoke to the school wall. "What's wrong with me?"
This was not lining up to be his best day ever. He went to school.
He spent most of the morning watching Darren Hughes. They were in the same class, of course. They were the 'big' kids, but it was only a small school. He'd never noticed him much before, they lived in different worlds.
Seemed like the Kid had his own circle of friends – the geeky ones. Why the hell didn't he want to know him? He was better than that lot anyday. Maybe Hughes wasn't such a wimp after all? He certainly had spirit. He had a mouth on him too. Why didn't he stand up to the bullies himself?
They all had lunch in the hall, as they usually did or cold or wet days. Robin walked in, looked around and went over to where Hughes was sitting.
"Hey, Darren. Mind if I sit here?"
"Sit where you like, but it'd be better if you went somewhere else. Why don't you sit with your friends?"
"I'm eating here with you." He pulled out a chair and sat down. "We have to talk."
"No, we don't. Fuck off."
"I'm starting to think that you really don't like me."
"I don't like you. I never have and I never will, so go away and leave me alone."
"It's not that easy – not when our parents are planning on getting married. I just heard about that this morning. Why don't you like me?"
"Why should I?"
"I dunno. But it sounds like we're going to be living in the same house. We might even have to share a room."
"Like fuck we will! I told you, Hedges, that's not going to happen, and I mean that."
"You're running away," Robin nodded. "That was my first plan too. Can't we even give it a try, making a blended family sort of thing?"
"Not interested. I'm not living with you. I don't like you."
"Why not? I'm not that bad, am I?"
"Yeah you are. You're a stuck-up, conceited prick and just totally up yourself. You've spent the last 7 years totally ignoring me. Now you think you can step in and be the Big Man and chase all the bullies away and I'll be ever grateful and we'll be mates forever? Not! Go find someone who wants to know you – I don't."
Whoah! Robin didn't know how to handle that. He backed off, walked away and went and stood, alone, under the wide verandah outside. He'd never struck hostility like that.
Sometimes, tempers flared and angry words, and fists, were thrown in schoolyard fights or on the rugby field when the ref wasn't looking, but they were usually over and done with in seconds. This was different and, somehow, much worse. It felt like Hughes hated him, really hated him. Why did he?
He wasn't that bad a person, was he? No. He was a fairly good guy really and he got on with most people most of the time. He liked people and they liked him too.
Oh, bugger! Maybe Hughes was right when he said that he was up himself. Well, was he? He didn't think that was right. But, he guessed that he did quite like himself really – why shouldn't he? He was an okay sort of person, quite nice to look at, (better than some!), and easy to get along with.
He'd want to be Robin Hedges' friend, if he was someone else. Trouble was, Darren Hughes did not. Why would he hate him? He'd never done anything to him, had he? No, he had not!
Fuck 'im anyway. He wasn't going to worry about it – nothing he could do about it. He'd tried to be nice and once was enough. He didn't need him anyway, he had friends. He went to find someone to talk to and forget about Darren Hughes.
Ever tried to not think about someone? It's not easy. The more you try, the more you think.
For the rest of the day, Robin thought about nothing and no-one else. Why would Darren Hughes hate him? He stayed away from him, as much as he could, but he couldn't help looking and watching him when he thought that no-one saw.
It wasn't mutual, as far as he could see. Darren wasn't looking at him at all, not even once. So he really didn't want to know him then. Who did he think he was anyway?
He was just a weedy little wimp, wasn't he? Yeah, he was – a wimp with a big mouth. But, he was not too bad looking really, if you looked close.
Under that huge mop of tangled curls, he had big brown eyes framed with dark and thick lashes – you'd almost think he was wearing make-up. His nose was small, snub and slightly upturned at the end and his smile, when he smiled, was wide and white – and very nice.
Robin felt jealous of the geeky kids that Darren smiled at. Seemed like he was never going to get one of those smiles himself.
Darren was small and puny, but he was definitely no girl, he was 100% boy and Robin felt an odd stirring in his groin when he looked at him. He wondered what he looked like naked? Probably very nice.
He might find out if they were living together. They'd most likely have to share a room if they all stayed in his dad's house. It only had two bedrooms. How did he feel about that? He had another good look across the room and decided, yes, he could live with that.
He didn't think Darren was going to like it though. Maybe he would run away and then they wouldn't have to live in the same house. He'd just have to wait and see, he guessed.
And, Damm! He had a boner, yet again! He hated when that happened to him in school. One of these days he was going to get busted. It happened all too often, anything could set him off. He didn't even know what had this time, but something did.
Did this ever happen to Hughes? He looked across the room. 'No, probably not. He probably thinks it's just for peeing out of.'
He sat and tried to will his boner to go away. Yeah, that doesn't work either.
When school was over for the day, Robin was standing out the back, waiting for the bus. Darren and a couple of girls walked passed and looked at him, so he flashed a smile to see what sort of reaction he'd get – nothing.
Darren just looked away and kept walking. Stuff 'im anyway. He was not used to this sort of treatment and didn't know how to deal with it.
The bus arrived, he got on with all of the others and went home.
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