The usual disclaimers apply to this story.


C'est la vie

(Say lah vee)


Part 1


After working in the same job for the past twenty years Jack Clarkson at the age of forty five found himself unemployed. He was lucky enough after moving his family down south to find employment in North London and with the money he'd got from his redundancy payment he was able to put down a substantial deposit on a house large enough to accommodate his family.

Life for Timothy Clarkson was no different in London than it was up north in Manchester. The kids in school here did exactly the same as they did in his previous school. It seemed like in most cases if your appearance, size, and social demeanour didn't conform to what boys considered the norm. You were at once singled out to be either ignored or made snide remarks at loud enough so that they were heard with the sole intent to embarrass the person. Of course there was in his case the usual body slam or slap around the back of the head that sometimes accompanied the insults. So life at school for him was far from being a bowl of cherries.

Even his home life was not to his liking; both his parents seemed to distance themselves from him. Even his older brother (who had left home eighteen months earlier) when he had been living with them wouldn't give him the time of day.

The one light in his life was Linda his five year old sister whom he dearly loved, and having no friends would spend nearly all his spare time attending to her needs or playing with her.

Linda had discovered what no one else had taken time to find out. That her brother although no oil painting had a heart of pure gold. The beauty of her brother could not be seen by the naked eye but could be experienced if you gave him the time to make himself known to you.

At fifteen years of age Timothy Clarkson was different in many ways from other boys who were in the same age range as himself.

Firstly for his age he was surprisingly short. He liked to think that he`d attained the height of 5ft but that was of course not strictly true it was wistful thinking on his part his correct height was 4ft 11ins. He wasn't slim, but downright skinny. He had mousey brown hair that looked like a birds nest over-turned atop of his head, his eyes were a lightish brown and in the sunlight appeared nearer orange than brown, and looked overly big in his small face. In all Timothy Clarkson was not what you'd call a good looking boy, he actually couldn't have looked any plainer if he tried.

He said goodbye to his mother, his father had already left for work, and lifting his sister up by the armpits he pecked her on the lips, saying, "See you after school beautiful," then setting her down on her feet left the house.

He had to leave early for school as he had to walk the two miles there. His mother was not prepared to drive him as she said the walk would do him good. In any case she was far too busy attending to his sister having to take her to primary school which was in the opposite direction which left her no time for him. He accepted the excuse and did not question her motives when even in the worst weather she never offered to take him in the car.

Timothy arrived just as most of the other pupils were getting off the bus or being dropped off by one of their parents.

He was brushed and at times bumped rather heavily by other pupils as they passed him on the way into the school. Some were accidental, but the more deliberate bumps were by the pupils who were in the same class as he was, and the normal derogatory remarks were cast at him when contact was made such as, "get out of the way weed, or move out of the way dip shit," depending on which particular boy it was.

He never retaliated verbally instead he'd learnt to distance himself from all the insults thrown at him or the bodily contacts.

Outside his home he lived in a world devoid of any social interaction with others of the human race, other than that of the teachers that required to be answered on a daily basis.

He went from one school day to another without any of the insults, or deliberate trips, or elbows in the ribs, or other means of abuse he suffered from other pupils bothering him in the least. He'd learnt from young to make himself an island the moment he stepped out of his front door. An island that no one could reach unless he allowed that person to do so. From a very early age when the first insults were thrown at him he allowed no one outside of his house to step ashore to make contact with him, and that was how he rebutted the various forms of abuse that were directed at him, by hiding ashore on his own personal bit of land.

He was the first to arrive at his classroom, as unlike the rest of his class he didn't hang around the lockers talking and messing around. He stored his packed lunch in his locker got what he deemed necessary for the up coming classes and made his way to the classroom.

He sat at his desk opened his math text book and turned to the exercise which they had been given for homework from last Thursday, then started to check his work to make sure that what he'd done was correct.

The other pupils now started entering the class in dribs and drabs all talking or joking, He didn't look up from his books he took no notice of the other pupils. When a rolled up piece of paper hit him on the side of the head he didn't look up just ignored the incident. As a second and a third piece of paper hit him he still didn't give the culprits the satisfaction of seeing him look up from his books. Suddenly there was a boy standing at the side of his desk, he looked up to see the tall wiry figure of Kai Webster the class monitor. Without saying a word he closed his math homework book and handed it to Webster who added it to the pile he was carrying.

After he'd collected the rest of the books as he walked to the teacher's desk Webster managed to manipulate Timothy's book to the top of the pile. On reaching the desk he set the books down, and with his body shielding what he was doing opened Timothy's book to his Thursday's homework, and slowly tore the pages out. He screwed the papers into a ball then dropped it into the waste basket at the side of the teacher's desk. Then placing Timothy Clarkson's book back into the middle of the pile and pleased with himself he made his way back to his desk at the same time giving the thumbs up sign to other pupils in the class.

Mr Beardsley walked into the class room calling out to the pupils to settle down. Getting their attention he called the register then asked the class to open their text books to where they had been working on Thursday. Now continue doing the exercise from where we had left off while I mark your Thursday's homework and after that I'll go over what you've completed today.

Beardsley worked steadily marking books for twenty minutes till he stopped working and called out, "Clarkson come to my desk."

Timothy rose from his seat and walked over to stand in front of the teacher's desk at the same time he could hear the whispers from behind his back.

"Stop the talking," Mr Beardsley called out "and carry on with your work," and the whispers ceased.

Turning his attention to Timothy he asked, "Where is your homework Clarkson."

"In my book sir," he responded, "I even checked it before you came in sir."

Mr Beardsley looked at the book more closely then called out, "Webster, would you please honour me with your presence at my desk."

Within the space of a few seconds Webster was standing alongside Timothy in front of Mr Beardsley's desk.

"Yes sir you wanted me sir."

"Webster," Mr Beardsley said, looking at the book that lay open on his desk, "You are the class monitor are you not?"

"Yes sir."

"And you collected all the math books this morning," he said, still not looking at the boy but staring at the open exercise book in front of him.

"Yes sir."

"Well you see Webster," the teacher said looking up from the book and staring at the boy, "We have a bit of a quandary, Clarkson says that he was checking his homework before you collected the books, and now when I come to mark his homework it's not to be seen. Can you shed any light on the mater?"

"Umm I'm not sure what you mean sir, maybe Clarkson was talking about an earlier homework assignment sir."

"No he was talking about last Thursday's assignment," and Mr Beardsley frowning and putting an index finger to his temple said, "Umm let me see," with a affected gesture of closing his eyes and tapping his finger against his temple, "this being Monday that would be Ah ha," he said opening his eyes, "four days ago. Do you agree Webster?"

"Uh yes sir." Webster responded looking very worried.

"So now Webster could you tell me what happened to Clarkson's homework?" Mr Beardsley asked, at the same time pushing the open book closer to the boy and pointing out a piece of paper caught under the staples that held the pages in place.

Knowing that his deed had been uncovered Kai Webster moved over to the waste bin and retrieved the screwed up homework assignment and handed it to the teacher.

Alright the two of you go back to your seats, and Webster I want to see you after classes in here.

The boys did as the teacher requested and the lesson continued without anymore interruptions.

For once Timothy Clarkson's mind was uncertain what to do. He didn't want Kai Webster punished as that would make his position in school even worse than what it was at the moment. The other pupils were bound to put the blame for any punishment that Webster received on him. The other alternative was to speak to Mr Beardsley and to plead on Kai Webster's behalf. So plucking up his courage that is exactly what he did.

At lunch break he sought out Mr Beardsley and meeting him in the corridor heading towards the dining premises he asked to speak to him in private.

Asking the boy to accompany him he led Timothy Clarkson to the staff common room, and as he'd expected at this time of the day it was unoccupied.

"Alright Clarkson," Mr Beardsley said taking a seat in one of the armchairs while the boy stood in front of him, "what is it you want to talk to me about?

The boy shuffled his feet then with head bowed said, "Umm it's about Webster sir."

"What about Webster." The teacher asked impatiently.

"Umm can you forget about punishing him sir, or if you have to, just give him a warning sir."

Beardsley frowned then getting to his feet he looked down at the boy. He knew as all the other teachers did that the boy standing in front of him was far from being popular, and was treated more like an outcast by the other students in his class and by most other pupils in the school. He guessed that the boy would even be willing to take Webster punishment only to save himself from more harassment in the future that way making his school days more bearable.

"Let me think about it Clarkson and I'll decide when I see Webster after classes, now go and have your break."

"Thank you sir." And Timothy made his way to the canteen to eat his packed lunch.

At 3.30pm Kai Webster nervously made his way to the math class where he knew Mr Beardsley waited. "Beardsley wasn't a bad sort," he thought "but he could be really strict when he had to". As he neared the classroom he wondered, why the Hell had he let that Pratt Hunter talk him into ripping out Clarkson's homework. It was an absolutely stupid bloody idea, and he should have realized that he'd bound to get caught, that's what comes of trying to suck up to Hunter and impress him and his little gang.

Annoyed with himself he audibly exclaimed. "Shit," then taking a deep breath he opened the door to the classroom and entered to see Mr Beardsley sitting at his desk looking at an open book while waiting for him.

Walking over to the desk and standing in front of it Kai Webster presented himself saying, "Here sir."

The teacher sat studying the boy for a few seconds before saying, "I'm disappointed in you Webster," he opened his report book before continuing, "out of all the boys' and girls' in your class you were one of the few pupils that I thought I could rely on to do the monitor duties as they should be done. It seems my judgement was way off the mark."

"I'm sorry sir it will never happen again."

"Oh I'm absolutely positive it will never happen again," Mr Beardsley said, closing the book that he'd been looking at, "I intend removing you as class monitor. If Clarkson hadn't interceded on your behalf you'd be standing before the Principal to answer for your behaviour and not in front of me. You would most probably have been suspended from school for at least a week, as what you did was a serious breach of discipline."

"Yes sir thank you sir."

"Don't thank me Webster, thank Clarkson. You may go now."

Kai Webster made his way to the door and before he could open and leave the room he was halted in his tracks by Mr Beardsley calling out,

"And Webster, I'd be careful how you choose your friends in future."

Outside the classroom he hurriedly made his way out of the school and as he got outside had to pull his jacket over his head to shelter from the rain.

He could see where his mother had parked the car and sprinted over to it opened the door and jumped into the front passenger seat.

"You're a bit late Kai more Monitor duties."

"Umm no mum, I'll explain when we get home."

His mother started the car and was just about to pull away from the kerbside when Kai shouted for her to stop.

"What's got into you Kai," she said stopping the car and applying the handbrake.

Her son wasn't listening he was jumping out of the car and running over to a figure standing under a tree on the pavement about twenty metres away. Reaching the figure Kai Webster approached the boy standing under the tree sheltering from the rain.

His nearly 6foot frame seemed to tower over the boy standing in front of him, "Clarkson, you want a lift home?"

Taken by surprise Timothy Clarkson could only stand and stare then shake his head saying, "No thanks."

"Come on Clarkson you'll be here all bloody night waiting for it to stop," he moved forward and grabbed the smaller boy by the arm pulling him along saying, "and we don't charge for the ride."

Timothy Clarkson for once didn't struggle but let himself be pulled along, and then with the other boy run towards the car to get out of the rain. Reaching the car Kai opened the rear passenger door telling Timothy to hop in, and then closing it and jumping into the front passenger seat again.

"Mum is it alright to give Clarkson a ride home he'd get soaked if he had to walk home in this."

Mrs Webster looked at her son and smiling asked, "Where does he live."

Kai swivelled his head and asked, "Umm Timothy where do you live."

"26 Brentwood Avenue."

"Oh that's on our way," Mrs Webster said, "you only live about half a mile from where we stay, and the next instant she was pulling away from the kerb without any interference from her son.

Five minutes later they pulled up outside Timothy's house and the boy after thanking Mrs Webster got out of the car. Kai turned to his mother and said.

"Mum can you wait a couple of minutes," then jumped out to confront Timothy Clarkson. He looked at the small thin boy that stood in front of him then reaching out his hand patted the boy on the shoulder. "Thanks for talking to Mr Beardsley, if you hadn't I'd be in big trouble not only with the school but with my parents."

Timothy Clarkson for the first time had allowed a boy ashore on his island, and was now talking to another boy not because he had to but because he wanted to.

"That's okay Kai, just didn't want you getting too badly punished then have the rest of the class blaming me for it."

"Well whatever, but if you hadn't I'd be really in it up to my eyebrows, I'll see you in school tomorrow." He got back into the car and waved to the small boy still standing on the pavement getting wet as his mother drove off.

Timothy Clarkson walked to his front door with a big grin on his face. For once he was not the morose young boy that came home from school with a frown on his face till of course he met up with his younger sister. He opened the front door and walking into the hallway noticed his sister and mother removing their coats having just returned from his sister's school.

"Your home early," his mother remarked while he lifted his sister to peck her on the cheek, "did you get off school early?"

"No mum, I was given a lift by one of the boy's parent," putting his sister down and starting to take his jacket off.

His mother looking none too pleased raised her voice saying, "Well don't let it happen again," as she made her way to the kitchen from where she shouted, "we don't need any charity in this house," as she started getting the evening meal ready.

"But mum, it was pouring with rain I'd have got soaked coming home in it."

"That's your fault," she said poking her head around the kitchen door and glaring at him, "you've got a plastic Mac, how many times have I told you to take it to school and keep it in your locker in case it starts raining. Now remember I don't want you accepting anymore lifts."

"Yes mum," Timothy Clarkson said resignedly and made his way towards the stairs to go to his bedroom and change. He felt a small hand in his and looked down at his sister and smiled, "I'm going to get changed Linda I'll be down in a bit then we can play."

"Okay Timmy, can we play shops when you come down?"

"Whatever you want Lindy," using his pet name for his sister and Timothy made his way to his room.

That night as he climbed into his bed Timothy Clarkson had another face to fantasize about other than those illustrations from the various books that he'd read.

This time it wasn't another fictitious character instead it was a real person, and as he closed his eyes so Kai Webster's face entered his fantasies to accompany him on his nightly adventures which helped him escape the unhappiness of life.

The next morning after bidding his mother and sister goodbye he made his way to school. Thankfully the rain had stopped and the morning sky was clear with the sun already beginning to dry the water that still lay in puddles on the pavement and road. After his fifteen minute walk he approached the school gates and as usual received the customary verbal abuse as he was roughly barged by boys from his class as they passed him by, and as usual he closed in on himself and ignored them.

For once when he was sat at his desk he didn't ignore the other pupils as they entered the classroom instead every time the door opened he took a quick glance hoping to see Kai Webster. When the class had filled and the boy in question hadn't put in an appearance he was slightly baffled as to why not but soon cast it from his mind and resumed his normal isolation, and handing his homework without a word to Kathleen Jacobs, who was doing the monitor duties.

It was during the first break that Brian Hunter and his cronies accosted him in a secluded area of the school grounds.

"This is for getting Webster suspended," he said, as he planted his fist into the pit of Timothy's stomach. The boy doubled up from the blow the pain was excruciating but he wouldn't give Hunter the satisfaction of seeing him cry or yell. As he straightened trying to conceal the pain from the blow the second fist crashed into his ribs, and this time he could not restrain his voice as instinctively he screamed in agony.

The moment they heard the boy scream Hunter and his little mob took off and Clarkson was left lying whimpering on the ground. He tried to move but stopped immediately as the pain shot through his rib cage making him catch his breath. Just then Roger Beardsley came into view drawn to the area by the noise he'd heard earlier. Seeing the boy lying on the floor he hurried to his side and noticing the pain he was in asked him where he was hurting.

"My ribs sir," Clarkson responded to the teacher's enquiry

"Okay I'll help you up," Beardsley put an arm around the back of the boy and tried lifting him the moment he did Timothy Clarkson screamed in agony and quickly Beardsley set the boy down again.

"Stay put Clarkson and lie flat on your back I'll call for an ambulance," and he extracted his mobile phone from his pocket to call for the emergency services. He then phoned Principal Bernard Geddings telling him where he was and what action he'd taken regarding Clarkson. When he'd finished speaking on the phone he turned his attention to the boy.

"Alright Clarkson how did this happen?"

"I fell down sir."

"Well I think the doctors might come to some other conclusion after they've examined you," then accessing his mobile again asked the boy for his home phone number. The boy gave his number which Beardsley phoned immediately and then proceeded to tell the person at the other end of the line what had happened to their son. That he was at the boy's side awaiting the ambulance to take him to the hospital to be treated at the same time assuring the boy's mother that her son's injuries were by no means life threatening.

"Oh dear," Mrs Clarkson responded, "this is most inconvenient; I won't be able to get to the hospital right away. Can you tell my son that I'll see him later," and she broke the connection.

"God what type of mother is that." Roger Beardsley thought, and just then he heard the ambulance sirens as they neared the school. He rose to his feet to go and meet the ambulance crew when he saw the Principal striding towards him, and on reaching him asking,

"What happened Roger?"

"According to Clarkson he took a fall and has injured his ribs which I find hard to believe," then lifting his arm he signalled to the ambulance crew to where they were needed. Then turning to the Principal said, "I think someone should accompany the boy to the hospital, I phoned his mother and she won't be able to go there straight away as she is indisposed at the moment."

Bernard Geddings lifted his eyebrows on hearing the statement then said, "Alright Roger you had better go along to your class and see if you can find out what really happened, I'll get my secretary to accompany the boy to the hospital."

Back in the classroom Roger Beardsley before resuming the lesson confronted his class then looking at one boy in particular said,

"Mr Hunter I would like you and your friends to stay behind after classes, I wish to speak to all of you about an incident that took place in the school grounds during the morning break."

Immediately the pupils concerned, started looking around at each other, trying with indications of their heads to assess what had happened to their victim that they'd left lying on the ground.

School had finished for the day and pupils were being picked up by their parents, or making their own way home except those that had to stay behind for one reason or the other. Five boys stood in front of Roger Beardsley who was seated at his desk.

He silently eyed the five boys for a few moments and then spoke.

"Anytime a pupil in this school is injured we the staff have to make enquiries and through those enquiries try to ascertain how that pupil came to receive his or her injuries." The teacher paused for a moment to let his eyes roam over the five pupils that stood in front of him, and then continued, "And when we do we report our findings to the Principal of the school and to the student's parents. At the moment Timothy Clarkson claims to have fallen in the school grounds and hurt himself, which I'm sure that when questioned by the medical staff they will have difficulty in believing. We have been informed by the hospital that Clarkson has severe bruising to his ribs and maybe a hairline crack to one of his ribs which they won't know till they x-ray him."

Staring at the five boys in turn and letting what he'd said sink in he continued, "Just falling in the school grounds especially on grass it's highly unlikely to cause such injuries. So would any of you care to enlighten me as to how Timothy Clarkson acquired severe bruising and maybe a cracked rib?"

The boys' standing in front of him were silent with a couple of them shrugging their shoulders indicating that they knew nothing.

Seeing that he was not going to get any response from any of the boys Roger Beardsley sighed with exasperation before saying,

"It seems like we'll have to wait for social services and the police to get involved before we can find out what happened. So I suggest that when you get home you tell your parents that one or both of them should accompany you to school in the morning. You may go now."

"Why do we have to have a parents come to school tomorrow sir?" Peter Blake one of the five boys asked.

I saw you five boys walking away from where Clarkson was lying on the ground so I think when the Principal wishes to question all of you especially if the police are involved in the questioning then your parent or parents have to be in attendance."

"We didn't do nothing sir," Blake said looking around at the other boys.

"That's your story at the moment but when the police have finished talking to Clarkson I'm sure we'll know what really happened,"

then looking directly at Brian Hunter continued, "Won't we Hunter."

Brian Hunter's face was drawn he knew that once Clarkson talked he would be in big trouble and trying to defend his actions blurted out, "Well he deserved it sir. He got Webster suspended from school."

"For your information Hunter," Beardsley said raising his voice a bit, "Webster isn't suspended from school, he sprained his ankle coming down the stairs at home and will be off school for a couple of days. What's more if it hadn't been for Clarkson coming to see me yesterday and asking me not to punish Webster too severely he most probably would have been suspended. Instead all the punishment he received was that I relieved him of his class monitor duties. So now can the five of you give me another plausible reason for your assault on Clarkson?"

The boys were silent, "Now that we've established your guilt I'll report the matter to the Principal and he'll deal with you as he sees fit." Roger Beardsley stood and walked around to the front of the desk, addressing the boys again said, "It would be advisable you tell your parents what you've done and that the Principal will be dealing with you in the morning. Unless of course Timothy Clarkson's injuries are worse that expected. In which case the police may have to deal with the matter, now get on home."

He watched five frightened boys leave the classroom and felt a good deal of satisfaction for having instilled the fear into them, so that the rest of the day would give them a lot to think about. The school had already heard that Clarkson's injuries were just severe bruising to the rib cage but he wasn't about to let Hunter and his mob know the truth. Just let them stew overnight he thought that will make them think twice before they decide to assault someone again in the future.


Part 2


On Thursday Kai Webster after reporting to the school nurse limped into the classroom followed by Mr Beardsley. As he went to his desk he looked in the direction where Timothy Clarkson sat and saw the desk was empty. Looking around he saw a few more desks vacant and noticed that the vacant desks were of Hunter and his mob. Realizing that something must have happened in the two days he'd been absent from school he leaned forward to question Collin Ross the nearest boy to him, but was stopped by Mr Beardsley beginning the roll call. For the moment he got a brief account from Ross but had to wait till the first break to get the complete details of what had happened during his absence. He was told that Clarkson was taken to hospital after the assault. Hunter had been suspended for a week, and his gang for three days which meant they would be returning to school tomorrow, and Hunter not till next Tuesday

Kai, after hearing what had happened to Clarkson felt guilty about the incident, and realized that his actions though not intentional were instrumental and getting the boy injured. If he'd just told Hunter to get lost and refused to tear the homework out of the math book none of this would have happened.

During his meal break he asked Mr Beardsley which hospital Timothy Clarkson had been admitted to, as he would like to pay him a visit

He was informed that Timothy was being discharged from hospital on Friday morning so he could if he wished visit him at home

Saturday morning Kai told his mother he was going out to visit Timothy Clarkson. He'd come clean to his parents in the roll that he'd played in getting Timothy injured and his somewhat lenient punishment of being removed from the position as class monitor thanks to the intervention of Clarkson. He felt the least he could do was to visit the boy and see how he was. He didn't relish visiting Clarkson as he wasn't what one would describe as, the boy you would most want to hang out with. But in spite of that there was something about the boy that made Kai realize that Clarkson would be a better friend than Hunter and his mob. In the looks department Clarkson was just ordinary, size wise he was diminutive for his age, and as for his interacting with others it was unheard of. But still Kai felt he owed the boy and in some peculiar way he felt drawn toward Timothy Clarkson. Now as he neared the door of 26 Brentwood Avenue he took a deep breath and rang the bell.

A dark haired woman in her early to mid forties opened the door and on seeing Kai asked him what he wanted.

"Morning Mrs Clarkson I'm a friend of Timothy's and came around to visit to see how he is. I would have come sooner but I twisted my ankle and have been off school for a few days."

To Kai it appeared that Mrs Clarkson didn't seem too pleased when he enquired about Timothy but nevertheless she resignedly said, "You'd better come in," and when he'd stepped into the hallway closed the door behind him saying, "He's up in his room cleaning it. If you wish you can go up and see him, after you turn left at the top of the stairs it's the second door on the right."

"Thank you Mrs Clarkson," Kai responded, and made his way up.

He climbed the stairs two at a time and like Mrs Clarkson had said turned left at the top of the stairs and gave a gentle rap on the second door. There was no vocal response but he heard footsteps and the door opened and he was looking down at Timothy Clarkson.

There was a startled look on Timothy's face then "Kai, what are you doing here." He blurted out as the tall nearly 6ft boy with blonde hair, and hazel eyes that stood in front of him.

The taller boy smiled at the look of disbelief on the smaller boys face as he stood in the doorway and responded to Timothy's question.

"Came to see you and find out how you are. I was off school for a couple of days with a twisted ankle and only went back on Thursday and heard you'd been taken to hospital."

"Oh right come on in and sit down you'll have to sit on the bed I'm afraid no chairs in here," And Timothy led his visitor into the room. After they had both seated themselves Kai said, "I asked Beardsley about visiting you in hospital but he told me not to bother as you were being discharged on Friday morning and I could visit you at home, so I decided to leave it till today and here I am."

"Thanks for coming over Kai, but you really shouldn't have," then with a concerned look on his face was my mum alright with you visiting?"

"Yeah she was okay, why do you ask?"

"Oh no reason," the smaller boy said looking a bit flustered, then changed the subject by asking. "How's your ankle?"

Kai looked around the room while Timothy asked his question and continued to do so as he answered, "Its okay still a bit painful but nothing to worry about."

He noticed that besides the bed that they were sitting on the only other furniture in the room consisted of a small wardrobe, and a chest of drawers with a mirror standing on top of it leaning against the wall. There was a shelf fitted to the wall at the foot of the bed which had umpteen books stacked on it. The floor had brown lino and nothing else except for a bedside mat roughly 5' x 4'.

There was an awkward pause in the conversation till Kai said, "I'm going to the Shopping Mall to have a look around you want to come?"

Timothy looking nervous shook his head saying, "I don't think my mum will allow me out, and if I asked her she'd most probably get mad at me."

""Don't worry Timmy," Kai said shortening the boy's name, "I'll ask her, then it will be me she'll have to speak to not you, come on let's go find her," and Kai stood and made his way towards the door with a reluctant Timothy following.

They found Mrs Clarkson in the sitting room with Timothy's sister, the moment she saw her brother walk into the room she was out of her seat and running towards him yelling, "Timmy are you going to play with me?"

Lifting her into his arms he pecked her on the cheek, "Not now Lindy I'm with my friend but later we can play."

"What's your friend's name?"

"Kai ."

"Ooh I have a friend in school who has that name."

Just then Kai after smiling at Timothy's sister and saying, "Hello," turned to Mrs Clarkson asking, "Is it alright if Timothy accompanies me to the Shopping Mall?"

"I'm not sure," Mrs Clarkson responded, "I don't want him getting into trouble."

"It's alright Mrs Clarkson, Timothy won't get into any trouble, I'm the last one to let that happen especially as my dad is an elected member of the local council."

"Your father is a councillor,"

"Yes, he's also Head of the Children's Welfare Board, so I can't afford to get into any trouble, if I did the newspapers would have a field day and plaster my name all over the front page."

Mrs Clarkson looked a bit concerned when she asked Kai, "What do you mean Head of the Child Welfare Board."

"You know Mrs Clarkson," Kai responded to her question, "Like if kids were being abused and ill treated, or in financial need. He works with the local social services department and makes sure that all cases come to a satisfactory conclusion."

Still looking a bit uneasy Mrs Clarkson looking at her son said, "I suppose it would be alright for you to go out, but mind you don't get into any trouble."

"Yes mum," Timothy replied keeping the feelings of exuberance bottled up inside that wanted to burst forth from his mouth in the form of a cheer. He looked at Kai as if he were some kind of super hero freeing him from the chains that his parents had enveloped him in.

Gently kissing Linda on the cheek and lowering her to the floor saying "I'll play with you when I come back," and voicing his "goodbye," to his mother, he quickly followed Kai in his stockinged feet to the front door only stopping to slip on his trainers then quickly make his way outside.

As they walked down the street Kai started to cross over the road and was stopped by Timothy asking, "Where are you going?"

"The bus stop,"

"Umm can't we walk to the Mall?"

"Your joking Timmy, it's about three miles to the centre we'll be knackered by the time we get there."

"No we won't, I walk to school and back every day that's about two miles each way, and I don't get tired."

"Yeah, well I will we're going on the bus."

"You can always lean on me Kai if you get tired."

"Kai getting a bit peeved said, "Do you really think if I were to put all my weight on you Timothy, you'd be able to support me."

"Well I could try, and in any case I haven't got any money for the bus."

"Okay do you want to nip back home and get some?"

"I told you I don't have any money for the bus or anything, and before you say it, no I can't ask my parents they don't give me any money."

Kai looked at the small fifteen-year-old standing in front of him whom if he'd not know better would have taken him to be twelve.

"Don't you get any money at all?" Kai asked in astonishment, "Not even when you go to school?"

"I told you I don't get any money not even for school. I walk there and back and I take sandwiches and a drink so my mum says I don't need any money."

"Okay then I'll pay your bus fares, let's go"

"My mum says I'm not allowed to accept charity,"

"Its not charity." Kai said getting a bit annoyed, "I bloody asked you to come to the Mall with me so if I asked then as you're my guest I can't expect you to pay."

"I dunno if my parents were to find out I get a right earful and more."

"Kai gazed at the smaller boy who had a concerned look on his face, "And who the Hell do you think is going to tell them that I paid for you on the bus? He said exasperated, "The Queen of Bloody England."

"Timothy smiled, "Okay then, but if I ever get any money I'll pay you back."

"Shut up and let's go get the bus." And grabbing the smaller boy by the hand Kai dragged him across the road to the bus stop.

When the bus arrived they clambered aboard with Kai showing his pass and paying Timothy's fare. Then they squeezed past the bodies to find room where they could stand side by side in the densely packed bus. The bus took off and with the acceleration Timothy was thrown against his companion who grabbed him by the shoulders to steady him. Looking up he saw a smiling Kai looking down at him. He kept holding onto the taller boy's jacket as the bus made its way stopping and starting towards the shopping centre with more, and more passengers squeezing onto the bus, till Timothy found himself squashed face to chest against Kai.

Moving his head from Kai's chest and looking up into the boy's face Timothy said, "We should have walked this is crazy."

"I think you're right we should have walked I'm getting some mighty powerful odours from all these bodies and they're not nice."

Timothy smiled and was thankful he couldn't get the smells; he had his nose more or less buried into Kai's body and quite like the aroma emanating from him.

They arrived at the shopping mall and with the rush of passengers jostling to get off the bus they got separated. Kai walking along with the flood of people turned to speak to Timothy to find the boy nowhere to be seen. He looked around desperately trying to locate his companion, but with the pavement being jammed packed with people all surging towards the entrance to the Mall and because of Timothy's size there was little chance of seeing him. He started to walk back against the tide of human traffic twisting and turning till he broke clear of the mob. then saw Timothy, standing by the bus that had brought them to the Mall looking around in bewilderment. The moment Timothy saw Kai walking back towards him he broke into a huge smile and started towards him.

The moment they met up Kai grabbed hold of the smaller boy saying, "You had me worried silly why, didn't you follow me?"

"I got pushed out of the way by the other passengers when we were getting off and when I did get of the bus I didn't know which way you'd gone, so stayed where I was I knew you'd come back."

"How did you know I'd come back?"

"Just." Was all Timothy said looking up at Kai.

He looked down into the eyes that stared back up at him and felt a sense of comradeship with the small plain looking boy, grabbing him by the shoulder said, "Okay Timmy lets go, and stick close this time it's not too bad out here now but once we get inside the mall it can get a bit crowded."

They walked side by side till they entered the mall through the huge automatic doors, and the moment they did and Timothy saw the throng of humanity ahead of them he grabbed the hem of Kai's jacket and hung on. Because the shops were having there spring sales there were more than the normal Saturday crowd. With as much time spent trying to avoid other shoppers as moving forward they eventually arrived at the shop Kai wanted to visit. Inside the sports shop wasn't much better than outside in the Mall walkway there were customers all around trying out or looking at various products. He walked straight to the back of the shop where the trainers were on display and saw what he wanted and picked up an Air Max iD90 trainer and took it over to wait for and assistant to attend to them. Turning to Timothy he said, "I've been waiting to get these they've reduced them from 120 to 95 what do you think?"

"They are really nice, but aren't they a bit too expensive."

"No way Timmy, they've been reduced by 25 it's a real bargain."

Timothy shrugged his shoulders saying "Okay if you think so, but you only need them for getting from A to B you're not going to be competing in any sports are you?"

Kai looked at the smaller boy standing by his side and paused to let what he'd said sink in, Suddenly he turned around and looking over his shoulder said, "Come on Timmy," as he headed back to where he got the trainer from and replaced it. As they exited they shop he said, "You're right I don't need to spend that much on a pair of trainers. I only really wanted them to look flash."

"I'm sorry Kai," Timothy said knowing that his remark was instrumental in his friend's decision not to buy the trainers as he followed him out of the store and into the mall, "I didn't mean for you not to buy the trainers that was stupid of me. What you want to buy is for you to decide and you shouldn't be influenced by what I say."

Kai stopped walking causing Timothy to hurriedly stop as well and turn to face his friend. "Timmy if you had the money would you buy the trainers?"

Timothy hung his head looking at his feet,

"Come on Timmy answer me."

He raised his head at Kai's insistence of wanting a reply and said, "It wouldn't make any difference to me if I bought them or not."

"What d'you mean?"

"The kids at school expect you to look good they've come to expect it because of the way you've always dressed. With me if I wore the trainers it would have a totally different effect and would most probably get me noticed for all the wrong reasons. It would have an adverse reaction and most probably get me into quite a bit of trouble. C'est la vie."

"Huh what was that?"

"It's French and my aunt uses it quite often, it means, That's Life."

"Okay, but I don't think it would get you into trouble Timmy, I think it would improve your image."

"Do you realize Kai that you're the only boy in our class that has spoken to me socially inside or outside of school. You've also never barged into me, or sworn at me when at school or insulted me in any way."

Kai was a little embarrassed by the statement, He'd only spoken to Timothy after the incident with the homework and of course now visiting him because of the guilt he felt because of his actions that caused the boy now standing in front of him to be physically assaulted. He had noticed how Timothy had been treated by the other pupils but had been too involved with his friends and class monitor duties to worry about what effect they had on the boy. Now several days after the homework incident here he was with the class outcast.

His thoughts were broken by Timothy saying, "Its okay Kai I know you didn't have much time for me at school, but as I said you didn't do the same things as the others."

"Timmy I'm really sorry I umm I shit! It was my entire fault you got hurt if I hadn't gone along with Hunter's plan you would never have been hurt."

He was interrupted by the smaller boy saying, "It would have still happened sooner or later Hunter, or someone else would have found an excuse to have a go at me so don't go blaming yourself."

"God!" he thought, "This kid is something else he's still trying to make excuses for me." He grabbed Timothy by the hand saying, "Come on Timmy, we're going to my place."



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