The usual disclaimers apply to this story.

Between Dreams

Shandy reached home just before 4.00pm and was surprised that Matthew hadn't returned from school. When 5.00pm had come and gone and he still hadn't turned up he was really worried, something was gnawing away at his insides telling him that Matthew was in trouble. He phoned his aunt who was just leaving work and voiced his fears. She told him not to worry, and if Matthew wasn't back by the time she reached home she'd phone the Benson household to find out if they knew anything.

Fifteen minutes later Jennifer Adams arrived home to see a very worried looking nephew standing before her.

"He hasn't got back yet aunty."

"Okay I'll get on the phone right away," she picked up the telephone directory and soon located the Benson's phone number and dialled it.

The voice that answered the phone belonged to a young boy, "Can I speak to one of your parents please."

"Oh I see are you Matthew's brother?"

"Good do you by any chance know where Matthew is?"

"Oh my God! Do you know which one?"

"Thank you for your help, bye," and Jennifer Adams replaced the phone turned to Shandy saying, Matthew's in St. Marks hospital."

"What happened did he have a car crash?"

"I don't know Shandy but we can go and find out his parents are there at the moment."

"You better have a rest first aunty, I'll go there on my own and you can come later."

"Do you know how to get there?"

"Yes the 221 goes all the way, all I need is bus fare."

His aunt handed him some pound coins he kissed her on the cheek and he literally flew out of the door shouting his "bye" as he did so.


He ran down the road in the opposite direction to the one he took for the Benson house till he hit the main road, he crossed over then made for the bus stop and waited. He didn't have to wait long before a 221 arrived and after a ten minute ride arrived at St Marks.

He made for the main entrance and then to the enquiries desk.

When the receptionist spoke to him he asked, "Which ward was Matthew Benson in?"

She looked at the young boy who stood in front of her questioningly then asked if he was related to the person, to which he responded with,

"I'm his brother John Benson."

She gave him the number of the ward and which floor it was on, thanking her Shandy made for the lifts as quickly as possible and on entering it with a host of other visitors rode up to the fifth floor. Exiting the lift he looked at the signs directing him to ward 22 which was really only a very large room with six beds in it.

He stood outside the open door and could see Matthew's parents standing by their son's bedside. He looked towards the head of the bed and saw Matthew face and sucked his breath in and wanted to run over to him, instead he hung back watching from the doorway. Mrs Benson walked around to the chair at her son's bedside and sat down, looking up she made eye contact with Shandy standing in the doorway. Immediately Shandy drew back behind the door and out of sight. He stood behind the door hoping that Mrs Benson hadn't seen him then his heart sank as he heard footsteps approaching and then Mrs Benson appeared in front of him.

"I can't remember your name but I know you're the boy that Matthew brought home some time back,"

"It's Shandy, Mrs Benson."

"Ah yes now I remember the drink, "Come on Shandy," then taking him by the hand she led him towards Matthew's bed.

When they arrived at Matthew's bedside Shandy was shocked at the damage done to his face. The right eye was completely closed, and the left one was also swollen and purple. There was a huge bruise on the right side of his face and what he could see of Matthew's arms they were also covered in bruises that were purplish in colour. He stood staring silently at the boy who had stolen his heart, and when Matthew opened the one eye that he could see out of and tried to smile, he could no longer hold back the tears that had formed in his eyes instead he let them trickle down his cheeks and splash over the front of his T-shirt.

Mr Benson seeing his son trying to smile looked over at the young boy that had caused the reaction and saw the tears streaming down the boys face. He went over to Shandy and put an arm around him saying, "It looks worse than what it really is; the doctors have said he'll be alright but he'll have to take it easy for a couple of weeks. Now go and speak to him, my wife and I have to leave now, we have to attend to our other two children, will you be alright here on your own?"

"Yes Mr Benson, my aunt is coming over shortly."

"Alright we'll see you at a later date," turning to Matthew he said, "We'll be in tomorrow after seeing the principal of your school." And the Bensons left leaving Shandy alone with Matthew.


He wiped his face with a tissue from a box on Matthew's locker he drew the chair closer to the bed then sitting down he reached over and timidly took Matthew's hand into his.

Matthew turned his head then in a voice barely audible asked, "Does it look that bad that you have to cry."

"Shandy didn't answer, but nodded his head then said, "But it isn't the main reason I cried it was because I felt sad for the hurt you must be feeling, anyway you still look okay to me."

"Matthew smiled, "Bollocks," he whispered

"You do, as long as you're alive I couldn't care less what you looked like, can I give you a peck on the lips?"

"What if someone sees us?"

"Do you mind?"

"Not really."

He leant over and pecked the older boy on the lips, sitting back in the chair again he asked, "How long will you have to stay in."

"At least till tomorrow then they'll have to assess whether it's okay for me to go home."

"What happened? Did you crash your car?"

"A bunch of kids gave me a going over in the school washroom."

"What, why?"

"Because they found out I was involved with another boy and something else."

"What's the something else?"

"That will be resolved tomorrow when my dad goes to the school with John."

"Yeah I get the picture John boy set you up if I know him."

"Shandy, forget it. Mr Woodward the head of the school phoned the hospital this afternoon and spoke to my dad and informed him that they'd found the five boys who had assaulted me. He wanted to speak to me as well but I wasn't up to it, so I told my dad to take whatever action he thought was the best after he sees Mr Woodward in the morning.


The boys sat talking till Jennifer Adams arrived, she to was shocked to see the state of Matthew's face but her mind was put at ease when she got a twisted grin from the boy who on seeing the reaction on her face said," It's not that bad is it Jenny."

She leaned over giving him a peck on the forehead, "Well let's say you're no oil painting at the moment, but you'll heal.

"Yeah but it's going to look gross for the next few days."

"You want I should buy you a Yashmak "

Matthew started laughing but had to stop immediately, grimacing as stabs of pain shot through his chest. When he'd recovered he put the two concerned faces at ease saying "I'll have to go easy on the laughing for a bit, and I think I'll pass on the yashmak."

Jenny had brought some sandwiches and a soft drink for Shandy to consume as he had left the house without eating, which she thought would tide him over till they got back home. He offered some to Matthew who declined the offer saying, "Seeing you two is better than any food or medicine."


They stayed with Matthew till they called time on the visitors. Jenny Adams wished Matthew goodnight then left the boys to say their goodbyes in private.

Shandy leaned over and pecked Matthew on the lips saying, "I don't suppose you'll be home tomorrow, so I'll be around to visit by 4.30pm."

"I'm not sure but I hope they let me out tomorrow. If they do I can get my dad to take me back to our place I've got my key so I won't have to bother either of you."

"D'you think he would?"

"Sure he `s beginning to realize that I'm still me I'm no different to what I was last year, or the year before just a little bit older, and I happen to be in love with a blonde haired brat."

Shandy looked around, "I don't see any brats," then leant over and gave Matthew another peck on the lips, "See you tomorrow." And he left to catch up with his aunt, at the entrance to the ward he turned and gave a last wave to Matthew, before disappearing from view.



At precisely 9.30am the following day Mr Benson and his younger son were shown into Principal Woodward's office. After greeting them and asking them to be seated the principal of Grange Wood Public School said, "As I informed you yesterday Mr Benson, we uncovered the identity of the five pupils who were instrumental in the assault on Matthew. I didn't reveal to you why they carried out this attack as I wanted John to be present when I disclosed the reason for their actions.

When questioned they mistakenly thought that the reason they gave for the assault justified their actions."

Mr Benson interrupted the principal asking? "Would you mind telling me what their allegations were against Matthew?"

"I'm sorry Mr Benson; I'll get straight to the point. Apparently they were informed by your younger son that Matthew had been asked to leave the house because of his homosexuality, and that he had also tried to moles John."

"Mr Benson jumped out of his chair shouting "WHAT," then turning to his son, "Is that right?"

John on the verge of tears in a pleading voice said, "I'm sorry dad, I didn't mean for Matthew to get hurt I didn't think that Michael Griffiths would get him beat up I thought that they would just cut him off and not talk to him."

"But why did you do it and why say he tried to molest you?"

"I was angry that he wouldn't give me a lift to school, so I wanted to get back at him."

Mr Benson turned to the Principal, So what course of action do you intend taking."

Mr Woodward cleared his throat, "The school board has given me permission to act as I see fit in this matter. Firstly as I have just heard because of John's lies Matthew was the victim of a savage attack, and so I will be suspending John from these premises for the next month."

"That won't be necessary Mr Woodward, I think my son needs to be taught a lesson that he won't forget. There is a state run school not far from where we live and I'm sure I'll be able to have him enrolled in it by next week."

"Dad you can't."

"Dad can, and if you don't hold your tongue you'll see a lot more of what dad can do," and Mr Benson returned his attention to the school Principal.

"I will abide by your decision Mr Benson, and I'll also have the teachers in Matthew's classes prepare papers for him to study while he is away from school until his injuries are healed enough for him to return. I will be meeting with the five pupils and their parents later this afternoon. When I have dealt with them I will inform you of my actions, and if you feel that they are not to your satisfaction then I will leave it to you to take the matter further if you so wish."

"William Benson thanked the Principal and with his younger son in tow left the school premises to make their way home and from there to the hospital.



"No dad I don't want to go to the hospital."

"You're going if I have to drag you there by the scruff of your neck. You will face your brother and apologize to him for what you caused. Now go and get in the car your mother and I will be along shortly."

John Benson slunk from his father's sight and made his way to the car where he climbed into the back seat and waited his thoughts running wild with what was happening to him. He had to face Matthew that was going to be awful, knowing because of his lie his brother had got so badly injured.

His thoughts came to an abrupt end when his sister got into the back seat with him, and his parents took their positions in the front.


They rode in silence, each one enveloped in their thoughts all of which focused on the same character Matthew.

John sat glumly wondering how he was going to face his brother. Natalie, now regretting her attitude towards her brother and his friend at her party, was just hoping that he wouldn't hold it against her. The parents also sat in thought. The day they had returned from the hospital they had discussed their actions and behaviour towards Matthew on learning about his homosexuality, and realised as parents they had failed to try and understand him. Now they wondered if he would ever be as close to them as he was in the past, and would he ever find it in him to forgive them.


After parking the car the four of them made for the main entrance to the hospital and surprisingly William Benson found his younger son clasping his hand as they made their way to Matthew's ward.

Entering the ward they made their way to Matthew's bed to find him sleeping. John and Natalie were shocked to see the state of their brother and burst into tears.

At once the parents tried comforting them and to quieten their sobs so that their brother wouldn't be disturbed from his sleep. Getting their children's crying to subside to the occasional sniffing Mr and Mrs Benson got chairs and placed them around his bedside and sat down to wait for Matthew to waken.

Ten minutes later he opened his eyes the swelling to his right eye having decreased enough so that he could see out of it, and saw four enquiring face looking at him. They all greeted him and he smiled on seeing his brothers tear stained face."

Looking at his younger brother, "Are those tears for me John."

John sniffed and didn't answer but only nodded his head.

"You're in good company Shandy had the same reaction when he came yesterday."

John hung his head "Matthew I'm really sorry for what I caused I never dreamt that they would do what they did."

"John come closer," the younger brother did as was requested of him all be it a bit fearfully. Matthew took his brother's hand and squeezed it reassuringly saying,

"Forget it John, what you did taught me a lesson that I won't forget."

"What do you mean?"

"That so called friends can react the way they did without me being given a chance to refute the accusations brought against me are not what true friends are made of."

"Are you still going to go back to school when you're better."

"Yes you bet I wouldn't give them the satisfaction of thinking they got me to quit."

"Well you won't have to worry about me dad has taken me out of the school."

"What," and Matthew looked across at his father.

"I. think you'll agree with me Matthew, that your brother needs a lesson in humility and that everyone doesn't have to bow down to his wishes. A couple of years at a state run school will soon instil in him this lesson more than your mother or I, or for that matter any public school could possibly do."

Matthew reluctantly agreed with his parents then turned his attention to his sister, "How's my favourite sister doing."

"I'm your only sister."

"So you can still be my favourite if I say so."

"I don't deserve a brother like you, we treated you like shit, and you don't have a bad word to say about us."

"Oh yes I have, I've called you stuck up snotty nosed gits to my friend."

"Big deal, that doesn't come anywhere close to how we all treated you."

"Just shut up and give us a kiss."

Natalie leaned over and pecked her older brother on the cheek then using the name that she had used as a very young girl when she wanted her elder brother to do something for her she said, "Matty I'm really, really sorry."

"Come on sis nothing to be sorry about."



While the Bensons sat around their son's hospital bed talking, Mr Woodward looked at his watch, seeing it was 2.35pm he thought that would be long enough to keep the five pupils and their parents waiting in the schools' conference room, so that they could think on what was about to take place.

He opened the door and breezed into the room making his apologies for his lateness stating that the Board of Directors had kept him longer than anticipated.

Taking his place at the head of the table he let his eyes slowly roam over the five pupils and their parents creating even more nervous tension.

Then nearly startling them he blurted out, "I've asked all of you parents to be here so that I can deliver after having consulted with the School Board the punishment that the school sees fit to bestow upon your sons. If you haven't been told the full story by your off springs I will set before you their actions that took place yesterday afternoon on these premise, then you can judge for yourselves whether the punishment taken by me with the approval of the school board seems fitting."


Pausing took look around the room Mr Woodward continued, "At approximately 12.45pm in the school washroom as Matthew Benson entered it, a coat was thrown over his head by one of the five, and he was then assaulted by all five boys resulting in Matthew having to be taken to hospital. After investigation by one of my members of staff it was discovered that your sons were the guilty party. When questioned they all admitted to the deed but said that they only did so because of what they'd learnt about Matthew Benson from his younger brother. I won't go into the details of the accusation made against the older brother as they do not justify your son's actions."

Mr Griffiths interrupted asking, "We would like to have the accusations about Matthew Benson made known at this meeting."

Mr Woodward paused for a moment then looking over the parents again resumed talking, "I don't want anymore interruptions again until I have finished my statement, if there is then I will pick up this phone and speak to the local constabulary hand over all the evidence the school has, and let them charge your sons with G.B.H (grievous bodily harm). or attempted murder, whichever they feel is most appropriate. Have I made myself clear?"

He looked around at everyone seated at the table getting no reaction from any of them except silence.

"Now to continue, irrespective of what was told to them, these boys are old enough to know that they cannot set themselves up to be Judge, Jury, and Executioners, and to beat a boy to the extent that they beat Matthew Benson is downright criminal. Every one of you should get on your knees, and thank God that Mr Benson and Matthew have decided to keep the police out of the case and let the school deal with the matter."

Pausing for a moment to look around the room at the faces before him Mr Woodward continued, "I have therefore decided that all five boys will be expelled from the school forthwith. This is the first time that anything like this has ever happened on the school premises and I mean it to be the last."

Again he cast his eyes around the room then continued with his statement, "If you accept the school's decision that will be the end of the matter and you may all leave and do whatever you can for your sons futures. If just one of you objects to the decision I have made then the case will be put in the hands of the local constabulary and you can all fight the case in a court of law. "


There was a stunned silence at first then the parents knowing the severity of the charges against their sons rose from their seats and with the boys left the school premises.

Michael Griffiths didn't leave with the rest instead he made his way over to Mr Woodward saying, "Thank you sir for keeping the police out of the matter, I was a fool to do what I did, I just can't believe I acted in that way and it's going to be hard to live it down."

"I'm sure you won't ever act in the same manner again Michael, now I hope you can put this episode of your life behind you. Your parents will of course be disappointed but there are other public schools you can attend to finish your education."

Saying "Goodbye," to Mr Woodward, Michael Griffiths with a heavy heart joined his parents and left Grange Wood Public School for the last time.


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