By Paul Jamison
“So what are you going to do?”
Michael’s question cut right through the silent thought that I’d been in pretty much since putting the phone down after our call with Liam.
“I don’t honestly know,” I replied.
“He’s one hell of a nice lad. He’s got your looks too from the pictures we’ve seen, really well spoken and as for that gang he’s living with… I can’t believe it, he’s just so lucky to have found them,” Michael said.
“Certainly looks that way. I’m dreading to think what might have happened if they’d not been around for him and Liam got shipped off to some crackpot straight camp… bloody hell, the damage that would’ve done to him doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?”
“I’ve heard horror stories about that sort of crap, and yes, I agree. It would have been seriously damaging all round, I’d say,” Michael replied.
“I suppose I owe those guys rather a lot for rescuing Liam from all that.”
“Yes, but I also think Liam’s made of sterner stuff. He had the guts to walk out after all and one might think he’d’ve kicked up a bit of a fuss and not toed the line at that camp thing. I mean, he could’ve gone to social services himself, or some similar organisation for help. He’s sixteen, going on seventeen when all’s said and done. So if he’s above average intelligence and it very much looks as if he is - and no prizes for guessing where he’s got that from! - he’d’ve not bought into all that rubbish and done something, I’m sure,” Michael replied.
“Yes, I agree with that to an extent. He wouldn’t have bought into it, as you say, but as Liam said, it was school he didn’t want to lose out on. He really fought for that place, you know, back when he was nine and ten, doing loads of extra work for those Common Entrance exams. It paid off too. He did really well and got that full fees scholarship. If he’d just run away, he’d’ve thrown all of that away too. No, he was cleverer than that in one respect. He waited till he could see a way out and then, he went for it, landing right on his feet as he did so.”
“Yeah, pretty much like his dad when he headed for the other side of the world,” Michael laughed.
“Hmmm, like father… like son… you mean, eh? You could very well be right there,” I replied and continued “He seems to be a ‘chip off the old block’ in more than one way too.”
“And for the same reasons,” Michael added, somewhat gleefully.
That salient fact had come home to me all too clearly… “I’m going to have to send some support for Liam to those guys. His precious mother won’t cough up anymore if she’s lost control over his religious education… Education… more like bloody brainwashing! I can’t stand by here earning good money and leave them to pick up all the bills, I mean, I can’t, can I?”
“You could, but I know you well enough now to know that you won’t,” Michael answered. “That integrity is one of the things that attracted me to you in the first place. It shows through everything you’ve done so far and I like it,” he added.
“Thanks,” I mumbled back, being slightly embarrassed by what to me seemed like basic standards of behaviour.
Michael looked at me for a few moments and then said “I don’t know what you’ve gone all embarrassed about. It might be normal to you, but not everyone has your standards, believe me.”
“I know. I’ve seen some of the shysters in my occupation and crossed swords with a few of them about their dubious practices and creative accounting fun and games over the years, too.”
“There you are then. I’ll let you sort out what to send. I guess that Rick guy, the one who’s an accountant gave you the breakdown on what it costs?”
“Yeah, he has the same qualifications as me and is pretty much following the same career route also. He’s of course got the entire household budget on a spreadsheet, just as I have here, and gave me the figures in seconds.”
“I knew it, down to the last cent, I bet,” Michael crowed with delight.
“Nope, you’re quite wrong there…”
“What?” Michael interrupted looking very surprised.
“… down to the last penny. They don’t have cents over there,” I laughed and got up quickly to avoid being battered with a sofa cushion.
“But they went decimal, didn’t they?” Michael asked.
“Yes, sure, they did, back in 1971. But they kept the denominations of British pounds and new pence to begin with, then they just became pence after a while,” I explained.
“Oh right, I’ve never been there. So didn’t really know,” Michael replied.
“It was just a few years before I was born, so I never used the old money. There was still some of it around until it gradually all got withdrawn and replaced with the new.”
“So, shall we go into town and have lunch at The Taproom, take some pictures in the old city for Liam and then come back here for a while?” Michael suggested.
“That’s the best idea you’ve had all morning,” I said grinning widely at the man I was sure I was falling in love with.
“I knew I had some uses…” Michael attempted to say as I began to chase him around the sofa.
“I’ll find more ‘uses’ if you don’t shut up. Go and get your digital camera. Mine’s only a crappy cheap one. I’ll find the tourist map, so we can go take some pictures. Then we’ll eat. Get sorted okay?” I laughed back.
We happily sorted out the remains of our breakfast, washed up and tidied away. Michael found his camera and I found a map in my office. I tucked a notepad and biro into my backpack and then we left the flat, locked up behind us and headed down to the carpark for my car and drove to the old city centre.
* * *
Monday morning brought a rush of activity. Veronica Sutherland came round early with both Jamie and Craig and took a good look at Chris’s stitched up arm.
“That’ll be just fine. Nothing to stop you going to school, but no sports, PE or anything strenuous and definitely no getting it wet and please don’t bang the wound at all. It’s healing so well now I’m sure we can have those stitches out at the end of this week,” she announced to us all.
“Has anyone a letter for me for school?” Chris asked and added “I know it’s obvious, but they want a proper letter every time. They don’t take our word for it, you see,” he explained.
“Yes, I’ve got one on hospital headed paper,” Veronica said, taking an envelope from her handbag. “I got the doctor to sign it yesterday, the same one who saw you last week,” she explained.
“Thanks for that, I said. “I clean forgot actually, I’d’ve rung the school this morning though,” I added.
“Well, it’s sorted now. They can’t ignore what the doctor’s put.”
“True,” I agreed.
Craig, Jamie, Chris Will and Liam all headed out to Veronica’s car and I welcomed Mr Clarke’s arrival a few seconds after they drove off to school.
“Mornin’, Mr Frost,” Mr Clarke said cheerfully, as he knocked on our partially open kitchen door.
“Hi, come on in. We’ve got the room all cleared ready for you,” I replied.
The next half hour was taken up with Mr Clarke bringing in his supplies and working tools and getting himself set up in the small back bedroom we were converting to a new bathroom. He began by taking up a number of floorboards to reveal pipework. He then got down to marking out positions for new pipes and connectors. So after I’d made him a mug of tea and watched him working for several minutes, I left him to it.
A short while after that he came down and said he’d need to shut off the heating and hot water and drain down so they could remove some old pipework, then install and make connections for the new.
“That’s fine. I’m off out now and there won’t be anyone back here till about five, but as before here’s a key for you, okay?”
“Many thanks, we’ll just get on with the job,” he said, taking the offered key and going off to shut down the boiler and I guessed to do what he’d said.
I tidied away and set off for town myself intending to do some shopping before going into the studios and my office. As soon as I arrived in my office I made a quick call to the school and confirmed the details of Chris’s restrictions until the doctor advised that it was okay for him to resume swimming and games.
* * *
I was extremely pleased to get back to school and was keen to see my friends again. I was sat alongside Jamie in the back of Mrs Sutherlands car when he asked
“Have you told your mates that you’re back today?”
“No, I got their mobile numbers at that party at your place but I’ve not a mobi yet. It was something my mother was getting this weekend for my birthday, if that accident hadn’t happened,” I explained rather glumly.
“You should have told Rick and Paul that, or better still your lawyer bloke, shouldn’t you?”
“I s’pose so, yes,” I answered.
“Craig, can Chris use your mobi to text his friends?” Jamie asked.
“Yeah, okay,” Craig replied passing his phone back to me, while carrying on chatting to Liam in the front of the car.
I looked at the screen trying to work out how to operate it when Jamie reached over and switched it on and moved to the message screen before asking me for the first friend’s number.
“Um… Stephen’s is 0712747325 and Paul’s is 0712592382, okay.”
“Got that. What d’you want to say?”
“Um, just, ‘hi, see you at school, I’m back today’,” I suggested.
Jamie was busy with his fingers on the keys for a few seconds then he turned to me and said
“All sorted. Let’s just wait a moment to see if we get a reply. I added that it was from you as they won’t know that number, will they?”
“No, I s’pose not, thanks,” I said.
A few moments later the phone buzzed and Jamie checked the message.
“It’s Stephen. He’ll see you by your locker, okay?” he said.
I nodded in reply and as Jamie cleared the message and reply from Craig’s phone another message arrived. He quickly looked and showed me pretty much the same reply from Paul Schofield as well.
“I’ve got to get a mobile,” I said to Jamie.
“Yeah, you and me both,” he replied and added “Mum says, next birthday I can have one,”
“I think I’ll do as you said and ask Paul and Rick about it tonight. I mean if it all hadn’t happened I would’ve had one this weekend,” I re-stated.
“Yeah you said, good idea, hope you get lucky. Anyway, we’re here now so you can go see your mates. I’ll see you at lunch?” Jamie asked.
“Yeah, deffo,” I replied as we pulled into the car park and all piled out. Mrs Sutherland waved quickly at us and then headed off.
I followed Jamie and the others through the pupil entrance and headed off to my locker. As soon as I’d put my stuff away and got things out for first period both Stephen and Michael turned up with their stuff too.
“Hey,” I said, smiling at them both.
“You okay now then?” Michael asked.
“No, not completely, still got the stitches and no sports or swimming and I mustn’t bash it or anything,” I explained.
“Makes, sense,” Paul said grinning. “So, can you carry your own stuff or what?”
“I’m okay as long as it’s not very heavy. I’ll manage.” They both nodded and I added. “It means coming back here after most periods cos I can’t carry too many books, but I’ve an okay excuse if I’m a little late between classes.”
“Yeah, it’s a bit obvious really,” Paul smirked at the one arm in a bandage that Mrs Sutherland had insisted I had on to show it was injured.
Just then the bell went for registration and we all headed to our year rooms. I handed in my doctor’s letter as soon as I entered to Mr Wellings, who was dealing with registration that day. He opened it and read it through quickly and then said
“This is all quite a pity, seeing as you’d just made the team, isn’t it?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” I replied, not quite knowing quite what else I could say.
“Can’t be helped. There was nothing you could have done about it anyway. A very unfortunate accident and I am so very sorry for your loss. How are things?” he asked quietly.
“I’m okay, sir. I’m staying with Will Barnes and Liam Russell at the moment, till things get sorted out for me.”
“Oh, right, well you’re with people you know then. I expect that’s helped you a lot over these last few days?”
“Yes sir, thanks, sir, it did, very much actually.”
“Good, you must follow the instructions you’ve been given and as soon as you are able we’ll get you back into the pool again, okay?”
“Yes, thanks, sir,” I said as I left his desk and took my own place in the form room.
The morning’s lessons proceeded and I had either work to hand in or stuff coming back that Jamie had brought back the previous week for me. I’d done okay in most things except for the history where I’d missed a class discussion and video. I was lent the video to catch up with over the next day or so. Then it was lunch period and we all headed off to the cafeteria as usual.
Stephen joined me in the corridor as I got to the cafeteria doors
“Hi, everything go okay?”
“Yeah, I just missed a history vid. I’ll watch it tonight and then I’ll’ve caught up. It was only two days of school after all,” I said.
“Yeah, but you were hardly ‘all right’ on Thursday were you?”
“Nah, well sorta numb really, being with Will and everyone’s really helped though. I enjoyed Saturday too. That was great of Mrs Sutherland to sort that out for us all.”
“Yeah, thanks for inviting us.”
“Wasn’t me, I had no idea till I got there,” I laughed. “I’ve got all the Harry Potters now, so I can have a marathon watching session during the Christmas holidays.”
“The last one’ll be out then too,” Stephen said. “We’ll all have to go see it then,” he suggested.
“That’s be good if only I knew what the hell was going to happen to me. I mean my granddad’s said absolutely nothing to me about what’s happened apart for how sorry he was for me and how he’d be down for the funeral and to see what needed to be done.”
“You’re leaving?” Paul interjected.
“Um… I just don’t know what the hell’s happening actually. No one’s really explained everything to me yet. So much depends on my Granddad, it seems and what he decides, as it appears that he’s now my guardian… except he’s not actually here yet because he’s too busy just now and the lawyers are making all the arrangements so far.”
“What lawyer?” Stephen asked.
“My mum’s boss, she was a legal secretary… well more than that actually, but everything was arranged through the firm she worked for.”
“Oh, I see, I think,” Stephen replied… looking none the wiser and that was pretty much how I felt too, to be honest.
We chose our food and I said
“Come over to our table and eat with us.”
“Yeah, okay, I normally eat with our year group, but they can be boring sometimes,” he replied. “So, who actually lives where you are then?” he asked as we made our way to our table.
“Um… Paul and Rick own the house, Will Barnes and Liam Russell live there and now me too,” I explained.
We sat down and I introduced Stephen to the others. Jamie smiled at him as he already knew Stephen and introduced Craig and then Liam. Will introduced himself and Justin just grinned, nudged Will and whispered something to him that I could not make out. Will coloured up, something I’d seen him do a few times and glared back at Justin. I just smiled and hoped Stephen’d not noticed anything odd.
Stephen just grinned back and nodded as the introductions were made. He seemed just a bit overawed by being at a table mostly of boys in the years above us both. That done we just got stuck into our lunch and exchanged a few words as we did.
“What were you doing that got you into that accident?” Stephen asked.
“Was at the theatre with my mum. We’d been to a play. It was a birthday treat,” I answered.
“Oh, sh*t, that’s tough luck. What d’yer go to see?”
“The History Boys,” I replied.
“Was it good?”
“Yeah, brilliant. It was set in a big Grammar school, actually very much like this one about thirty years back when they had to do ‘S’ levels for Oxbridge,” I explained. “And it was about this class of ‘S’ level boys and the discussions they had with the master, who was a bit of a one with lads. It was brilliant dialogue, very funny and the settings were good too.” I enthused. “All the headmaster in the play was bothered about was the results and how good his school would look compared to others,” I added.
“Nothing’s changed since then,” Stephen laughed. “I mean its all league tables these days too, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” I laughed back. “I hadn’t thought of that,” and giggled.
We finished our food and joined in some of the table chat when we were spoken to and then as we cleared away our rubbish into the bins Stephen said
“Would you like to come over to my place sometime?”
“Yeah, that’d be great. When do you think?”
“Don’t think a school night’s any good. \my mum’ll want me doing homework first and then we eat when my dad gets home. So how about this Saturday? Is that okay?”
“Probably, I think so. I’ll have to ask of course as I still don’t really know what’s happening about, you know, the funeral and stuff.”
“Yeah, I s’pose so. Can you text me?”
“No, not yet. Jamie borrowed Craig’s this morning and sent those texts. I’ve got email and msn, but no mobile yet. I was going to get one this last weekend, but none of that went according to plan.”
“What’s your email and I’ll add it to my msn, okay?” Stephen said as we left the cafeteria and headed to our lockers.
I opened my locker took out a rough notebook and scribbled down my email addy on a loose sheet and handed it to him.
“firstname.lastname@example.org,” he read out.
“Yeah, that’s right. It’s web based so’s I can check it anywhere,”
“Here’s mine,” Stephen replied, scribbling down his email address and tearing it off to give me.
“Thanks,” I said, tucking the slip of paper away in my backpack and as the bell went we both hurried off for afternoon registration and assembly.
* * *
During a lull between meetings I took the opportunity to check my email as I’d hardly had time for that with the busy Sunday we’d all just had. I was deleting away the usual commercial spam when I noticed one from email@example.com. I quickly opened the mail and read through the contents. Clicking the print button I waited for the office printer to spew it out into the tray and collected it tucking it away in my briefcase. I then forwarded the mail to Paul, with a note of my own to keep the contents confidential for the time being at least, and sent the email on. About ten minutes later Paul was on the phone to me
“You’ve read it I began…”
“Yeah, rather generous too, don’t you think?”
“It’s only what the Frank coughs up for Will.”
“Really? He still sends that much a month?”
“Certainly does. Most of it goes on food, some on travel and all the other stuff they all need for school these days. it’s not over the top… He’s only followed my ‘suggestion’. When he asked me on the phone on Saturday what a reasonable amount would be, I just referred to what Frank sends.”
“Oh, I see. Seems all quite straightforward then.”
“Definitely so. So we accept it?” I asked.
“Yeah, we do after all it’s all for his own son, so yes accept it.”
“Okay, I’ll email him back with details of where to transfer it to and we shall see how that all goes. I’m not concerned really. He’s a professional and seems to genuinely care.”
“I agree with you and Liam’s a lot happier since that call too. Positively bouncing around on Sunday when we all went out. That was a brilliant surprise too.”
“Yeah, wasn’t it too, the ratbag. We’ll have to get our own back for that one weekend,” I laughed. “So did you read the last para?”
“Oh, yes, I most certainly did.”
“Yes, of course, no problem at all. Tell him to go for it.”
“I hoped you’d say that. Oh, by the way, on something entirely different. I think Frank can help a lot with the arrangements this Christmas. We’ll need to have a chat with him this next weekend about it all.”
“Yes, do that. We can easily adjust our plans to cope, okay.”
“Okay, I’ll email back now and send details of how to send those payments to us and that his suggestions are completely acceptable to us.” I replied.
“Yes, that’s just fine. See you this evening then. Bye Rick,” Paul said as he rang off. I replaced the receiver and set to composing my reply to Jeremy’s email. Once done, I clicked ‘send’ and it was away. One young man’s future is beginning to look more and more secure, I thought to myself, as I got back to my own work.
* * *
I could not help but smile to myself as I picked up the gang in the school carpark that afternoon. I had the luggage space full of groceries so the boys had had to sit with their backpacks on their knees for the journey home. As soon as I’d stopped in the drive and our three had decamped after saying bye to Craig and Jamie, to the kitchen for snacks and brews. I thankfully sat down at the kitchen table as Will placed a welcome mug of tea in front of me and broke open a large pack of chocolate biscuits and began stuffing away.
“Um… can I ask you something?” Chris said quietly.
“Yes, of course. Here or in private?”
“It’s not really private. It’s just that I was going to get a mobile phone for my birthday. Mum’d planned for us to go and buy it on Saturday. I just wondered if it might be possible to have one still, that’s all.”
“I don’t see why not. The other’s all have one. I’ll just have a
I fished out my own phone from my pocket and made a quick call to
“Hey, not got a secretary yet?”
“Well, I’ve a typist, but not a PA, which was what Marilyn was,” he replied.
“Just a quick question. Chris was due to get a mobile phone as part of his birthday present and was going to buy it with his mother this last Saturday. He was asking us if he might still be able to have one?”
“That’s not unreasonable, yes. Get one, but make it a pay-as-you-go for now rather than a monthly contract. We can always change it over when the dust has settled. Get whatever network his mates all use. It’ll be cheaper that way.”
“Okay, we’ll do that at once. Receipts to you?” I asked.
“Yes please. It’ll all go through the expenses. Chris is still a dependant, so has claims on the estate for everyday living as normal.”
“Many thanks. See you again soon, bye for now,” I said as I ended the call.
“I turned to Chris and said
“Yes, that’s fine. Any idea what network your mates are on or what they have?” I asked.
“Um… no, not really,” Chris replied.
“Guys, what mobile network do you lot all use and what phones?” I asked aloud to all.
They all told us and waved their phones at us I made a quick note of one or two of them and we quickly set off for the precinct and mobile phone outlets. An hour and a half later we were back home and Chris went and showed Will his new mobile. Will quickly got organised setting it up to charge for him and while it was doing so, set up the address book with all their numbers and those of his friends.
* * *
About an hour and a half later Rick arrived home looking very tired indeed. I made him a mug of tea as he collapsed into a chair at the kitchen table.
“So, why so late, and why so knackered.”
“Client meetings. We’ve taken on a new very large account and there were long introductions and planning sessions all day today. It’s a great new opportunity, but getting it all set up to run smoothly is quite a task. Anyway what did you make of that email I forwarded?”
“Oh, I think all will work out very well indeed.”
“Yes, so do I, so do I,” Rick agreed smiling widely.
“Any news of the funeral for Chris’s mum yet?”
“Nothing confirmed except
Rick finished his tea and we both went up to the first floor and the old small bedroom to see how much progress had been made.
“He’s done an awful lot for one day,” I remarked to Rick,
“It looks as if he’s got all the new plumbing in and connected to the inline isolators and the waste and soil pipes fitted ready to connect too,” Rick observed.
He said he’d tile the floor before fitting the new bath, shower and loo. So I guess he may be on to that tomorrow at this rate,” I surmised. “Tomorrow floor tiling, then it will be a day before that goes off, so he’ll start ripping out the old bathroom. Chris’ll have to use upstairs now until this is finished, I reckon.”
“Yeah, we’ll tell him that at supper, okay. Have we cleared out that bathroom by the way?”
“No. After supper we’ll do it. There’re only a few towels and shampoos and things, not much really. It can all go in a plastic storage box and into the garage till we’re sorted out again,” I remarked, as we made our way back downstairs to the kitchen.
* * *
I was seriously pleased with getting a mobile after all. I had thought that what with everything going so horribly wrong on my birthday that there would be no way I could have one until everything got sorted out. I also thought that there’d be little chance my Granddad would be too keen as he only had an ordinary phone, no computer and no internet. So I couldn’t see him allowing me one or attaching any importance to my having one at all.
So having done most of my homework I looked at the phone again where Will’d set it up to charge and as it was now showing ‘fully charged’ in the window I unplugged it and got the instructions out to see if I could suss the thing out. The assistant in the shop had explained that the more I topped up the more free texts and minutes I’d get for my money. Paul had put twenty quid of credit on and so I had loads of texts and minutes’ credit.
I scrolled through the address book and put Grandad’s details and number in and wondered who else I ought to have in there. I noticed that Will’d already put in Stephen and Michael. So I thought I’d surprise Stephen with a short message. Following the instructions I started to tap the keys till I had what I wanted to say, selected his number and pressed the button to send. It sprung into action with two loud beeps to show that the message had been sent. I put the phone down again and waited. About a minute later there were another two slightly different beeps to show that a message had arrived. I checked the screen and opened it.
“Gr8 to C U’ve got 1 U’ll need to learn txt spk now. LOL CU 2morrow.”
Cripes, I thought. I’ll never learn all this txt stuff. I then sent a similar message to Michael and after a few minutes got a reply back that read..
“Hi good to C you’ve got one at last. It will be good to keep in touch c u 2morrow OK.”
Oh, much better, I thought. I could imagine my being able to cope with that and getting better the more I used it. I put the phone down when I heard Paul calling us all for supper. Will came thumping down the stairs and into the kitchen. I followed him and Liam came down after me. As ever, we had a really great steak pie with mashed potatoes, peas, carrots and gravy. I loved every bit of it. After supper we all went back upstairs to help with emptying the bathroom I’d used. Will moved my towel up to their bathroom and the rest of the stuff we put into storage boxes and carried out to the garage until all the work was finished. After that we went back to our rooms to finish homework. I read several more chapters of the book we were doing for English with Mr Stonebridge and then at ten thirty I went to bed.
I lay there for a while just wondering what would happen when my grandfather eventually got round to coming down to see me and to sort out what was going to happen about where I’d live and what school I’d be going to.
End of Chapter 18
many thanks again for all your emails. I believe I am now up to date
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Very many thanks again for all your emails. I believe I am now up to date with replying to you all. I'm as delighted as ever, to see that you are all enjoying the story so far. I fully expect another chapter to be up within a week or so.
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