Reluctantly after saying "Goodbye," to his mother he made his way to face the torture of another day at school. Surprisingly the morning period went rather well and other than a couple of snide comments he got off rather lightly. It was at the dinner break that things got a bit hectic when after his meal Michael Bolton and his followers accosted him outside in the school grounds.
Michael was well over a foot taller than Ethan and nearly twice as heavy and made a habit of making Ethan's school-life a misery. Now confronted by his tormentor and his cronies Ethan was hoping things wouldn't get too unpleasant. He looked around to try and see if any teachers were in the vicinity that he could use as a means to escape the inevitable, but there were none in sight.
"Don't bother looking for any teachers Grant, there's none around we've already checked."
are you going to do to me this time
"What's with you wanting to know, are you some sort of punishment perv who likes to get hurt."
"No just want to prepare myself I'm sure you get more enjoyment out of this than I do, so if there are any pervs here it must be you lot."
"The moment he finished speaking Ethan's head was snapped back by a fist crashing into his jaw, his eyes glazed over and he crashed to the floor. The gang of boys turned and left him lying on the ground they laughed and talked excitedly about what had just happened.
A couple of minutes later Ethan with tears in his eyes got to his feet, his jaw ached but thankfully no teeth were broken although there was a slight swelling to the side of his face. By the time the bell rang for the resumption of classes he'd cleaned the tearstains from his face but the swelling had increased and was quite noticeable.
Mr Robertson the science teacher had made it a point of arriving in the classroom early. He had witnessed what had taken place in the playground from the Staff room window although, he had not seen who had struck the blow but he had a good idea who had. When Ethan walked into the classroom Mr Robertson stopped him and questioned him about the swelling and asking him what had happened? Feigning ignorance to what he'd witnessed take place earlier in the playground to see what excuse the boy would come up with to explain the cause of his injury.
"Alright Grant you had better go and let the matron take a look at you, and Bolton, you had better accompany him to make sure he gets there in one piece otherwise you'll have me to answer to, do you understand?"
"Yes Sir," Michael mumbled and both boys left the room and headed for the dispensary.
"So do you expect me to thank you for not informing Mr. Robertson that one of us had hit you."
"Look Bolton I don't expect anything from you except more punishment so just leave me alone I didn't want your company and I don't particularly like you or any of your friends either."
"Don't get smart with me Grant or I'll kick your arse again."
"So what's new about that, and I'm not being smart I just stating a fact, just as you don't like me so I don't like you or any of your friends, is there anything wrong with that?"
"Listen you little runt you're going to be in big shit by the time we've finished with you."
"What's with you, I only stated the truth, and why do you have to have your friends around when you have a go at me? Do you need to have moral support to hit me?"
"Right I'll show you I don't need anyone around when I deal with you after school today, I'll give you a swelling on the other side of your face to match the one you've already got."
"Do you really think that frightens me, you've hit me so many times I don't get scared anymore just annoyed that I can't hit you back hard enough to hurt you."
Michael grabbed the boy's shoulder stopping him and looked him in the eyes; there was no fear only a smouldering resentment at his tormentor's attitude.
"So you want to hit me?"
"Okay, go ahead I'll let you take your best shot."
"What, right now."
"Yeah there's nobody around."
"No, there's no point to it I won't be able to hurt you, and if I was lucky enough to do so what would it prove."
"What do you mean what would it prove."
"Okay so I hit you and hurt you then what? Does that make me different to what I am at the moment? Does it make me cleverer, or make me better looking; no I'm still me? The only difference would be that I can hurt you when I hit you, big deal. Would that make you and your cronies leave me alone or even like me, I think not."
Michael new the smaller boy was right but was reluctant to admit it instead he sneered, "You're so full of shit Grant, no wonder no one likes you when you start spouting out all that moral diarrhoea."
"I didn't ask to be liked especially not by you and your friends I'm not that desperate for friendship."
After the smaller boy's remark Michael Bolton was seething. None of the other boys had ever spoken to him like this; he thought that his popularity with the other boys made all of them wish to be friendly with him except for present company. So he retaliated in the only way he knew how, "Button your fucking lip Grant otherwise school or not I'll beat you to a pulp if I hear anymore crap from you."
continued their walk in silence till they reached the dispensary. The injured
boy entered into it while
The two boys made there way towards the main gates and waited in silence till Blake who could not contain his inquisitiveness any longer blurted out.
"So what did you tell the Matron?"
"Same as I told Mr Robertson."
"Oh, okay I suppose I'd better say it, thanks for not telling although it wasn't me that hit you."
"No need to thank me, if I had told the truth you or one of your friends would have beaten me up again later on so I only said it to save myself another beating."
"What's with you Grant can't you accept someone's thanks I was trying to be nice."
"Sorry not used to you being nice."
"Okay, but don't get ideas any mouth from you in future and you'll get another swollen jaw."
Just then a car pulled up and a very attractive, curvaceous auburn haired woman stepped out of the car. She walked towards the boys then in front of Ethan stooped down and kissed him on the cheek.
"And what have you been up to that I have to come and pick you up from school."
"Nothing mum, just took a knock playing football that's all."
"Alright get in the car and does your friend here want a lift home as well."
"Can't go yet my mum doesn't get back till four."
"That's alright, umm, what's your first name?"
"Michael, you can come home with us till four then I'll take you home. I'm sure Ethan will enjoy your company."
"Uh! Okay Mrs. Grant."
Both boys got in the back seat and Mrs. Grant drove off. As she drove she asked the boys how long they'd been friends as she'd never seen them together before. There was a strained silence for a few seconds before Ethan answered.
"We've been friends for some time but normally Michael has to wait behind he's a classroom monitor so has to make sure no one has left any belongings behind and everything is put away."
"That is a very responsible position I bet your mother is proud of you Michael?"
"Umm, well she doesn't know I haven't told her yet."
"That's very commendable not very often you come across a boy who doesn't brag about what he's achieved in school. Take Ethan here he's always talking about how many friends he has and how well he's liked by all the boys."
Before the mother could continue Ethan interrupted her.
"Mum, stop going on you're embarrassing Michael."
"Sorry Michael didn't mean to."
Thankfully for Michael and Ethan the drive didn't last much longer before they arrived at their destination.
While his mother parked the car Ethan led Michael into the house. He asked him if he wanted anything to eat or drink. A coke was requested if any was available which Ethan supplied from the fridge.
As they seated themselves in the sitting room Mrs. Grant came in telling the boys she had just remembered that she had to go out again but would be back in time to take Michael home. Kissing Ethan she made her goodbyes to the boys and left.
As soon as Ethan's mother had left Michael turned to him saying.
"Jeez you're one helluva a liar where did all that come from?"
"I've had heaps of practice, when you're not very popular and have no friends and your mum thinks that everyone must like her son then you have to learn to lie to keep her happy."
"What does your dad think?"
"Don't know he's not around to worry about, just my mum. I think he's married to some other woman and is overseas in the army."
"I suppose you must hate my guts for having a go at you every day."
There was no response from Ethan he just sat silently looking at the other boy.
"You can say what you want I'm not going to beat you up especially not in your own house."
"I know that, but there is always tomorrow at school or the days after."
"Okay Grant I promise not to hit you, now tell me."
"No I'm not going to say a word, maybe today and tomorrow you'll be okay but then later you might just revert to your normal self."
"I'm telling you, you arsehole I'm not going to do anything."
"Why don't you just listen to yourself then tell me why I don't tell you what I think of you."
"Michael Bolton was silent for a while then, "I'm sorry I didn't mean to sound off like that for some reason when I'm near you after a time it just happens. I'm not sure why but I just seem to lose control and I have a go at you if not verbally then physically."
"That's okay for you, but it doesn't make me feel any better seeing that I'm on the receiving end."
"Alright I'm really sorry I know that it's rough for you but what else can I do to make it alright."
"Depends on how long you intend to stay in this frame of mind, if you can keep it till we're at school tomorrow then you could ask your mates to lay off."
"Okay consider it done." So now what are we going to do till your mum comes back?"
"Do you want to watch the telly or a video?"
"Not a video it's not far of and I won't have time to watch it all."
"Okay Michael what about games on my pc we can play one of them."
Michael Bolton was silent for a moment just looking at the smaller boy as he heard him use his Christian name in that high pitched voice of his."
"What's up did I say something wrong?"
"No I just feel bad about you being nice to me after Jones hit you in the face at school. I feel like a real worm now thinking about it. There were six of us all bigger than you and you weren't scared to say what you had to."
"Can we just drop the subject Michael you've apologised already?"
"Will you really tell me what you think of me if I promise I'll never hit or swear at you again."
"It really doesn't make any difference if you promise or not at least I've got the chance to tell you now so here goes."
He looked directly into the larger boys eyes, "You are the nicest looking boy I've had the misfortune to know. When I first saw you I really thought that I could get to like you but jeez did I get it wrong. For some reason I don't know why you seemed to take an instant dislike to me and that's when life at school became less than pleasant for me. From the moment you and your friends started on me any chance I had of forming any friendships with other boys went out of the window. They're all too scared to associate with me in case you all take it into your small little minds to start on them as well. I sometimes think why are there boys like you in the world that take pleasure out of hurting someone who has done nothing to make you dislike them. I wonder why parents cant see their kids like you and your friends for what you really are. Or maybe your parents don't really give a shit what you do and how you act and let you run wild, that's the reason why you behave the way you do. Frankly I think I've seen better things crawl out of the gutter than you and your mates, and as for intelligence you've all got as much as a turd." With head bowed he was silent for a moment then lifting his head and looking directly at the bigger boy he said, "That's it now you can think and do what you like you asked me what I thought of you and you got my answer."
Michael Bolton sat quietly for a while, he'd never felt so humiliated or insulted in all his life swear words normally used at him by other boys just bounced off and he could give as well as he got, but being spoken to in this manner was absolutely humiliating. The only recourse he had was to say, "My parents do care how I behave and if they'd heard what you just said I think I would have been in big shit. I never bothered to look at it the way you just explained, as you said we must have been small-minded and brainless to do what we did. I don't expect you to forget everything overnight but if you can later on I wouldn't mind being your friend if you wanted my friendship."
"I'm sorry for saying that your parents didn't give a shit it was uncalled for but I got a bit angry."
"It's okay if it was me I think I'd have used a lot worse language than that but I don't think it would have been as effective. Where the hell did you get to talk like that?"
"What do you mean talk like that."
"Insult a guy without screaming or swearing at him."
"Oh, well there was this kid at my last school who used to make you feel like a worm when he used to open his mouth to insult someone. I used to listen to him and sort of copied him but I'm no way as good as he is. I didn't really mean what I said about you, but that's what happens when you get a chance to get back at someone who has been bugging you from day one."
"You don't know how close I came to breaking my promise. I felt like kicking you in the goolies when you said my parents didn't give a shit how I behaved or I had as much intelligence as a turd that really hurt.
"It was meant to hurt you, and to pay you back but I'm only sorry that I couldn't say the same to your friends some of them deserved it more than you."
Before the conversation could be continued Ethan's mother returned breezing into the sitting room she announced, "Is Michael ready to go home."
With affirmative sounds from the boys they all trooped out to the car the two boys sitting in the back as Ethan's mother roared of down the road towards Michael's house.
Outside his house Michael jumped out of the car thanking Mrs Grant then sticking his head into the rear window he said, "Bye Ethan see you at school tomorrow.
For the first time in a month Ethan was ready and raring to go and not having any misgivings about attending school. Since yesterday it seemed like the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders. He kissed his mother goodbye and with a decided spring in his step headed for school. Unfortunately none of Michael's friends had been informed of his promise of not to hit Ethan. So it was a complete shock to him when he felt himself falling as he was tripped from behind and lay sprawled on the floor his clothes soiled by the dirt from the pathway. The boys laughed some actually stepping on his back as they filed past him adding to the hurt and embarrassment. The tears flowed down his cheeks, not from any pain but from the sheer frustration of having thought he was not going to experience any more harassment only to have his hopes dashed in such a short space of time. As he started to get to his feet he felt a pair of hands helping him then a voice.
"What happened Ethan?"
He turned at the sound of Michael's voice. "Some of your friends did the usual."
"Shit! I'm sorry I'll have a go at them later."
"No leave it Michael you can't blame them they didn't know about your promise yesterday and in any case it was you that made the promise not them"
"Okay but I'll warn them to lay off in future. Come on we had better get you cleaned up in school before we attend assembly."
They continued their way to school together getting puzzled looks from some of the boys who knew of the enmity that normally existed between the two boys. Inside the school they headed for the washrooms. Inside Michael took some paper towels slightly wet them then proceeded to try and wipe off as much of the stains on Ethan's clothing that he could. After attending to the clothing he wet another towel then gently started to clean the tearstained face. When he'd finished he said, "That doesn't look too bad,"
"Thanks Michael it makes me feel a whole lot better."
"Well that makes up for yesterday now if you're up to it lets get to assembly."
The boys made their way to the assembly hall then once inside split up to go to their respective places. As Ethan reached his place John Stevens one of the boys who'd witnessed Michael helping him asked, "What`s with you and Bolton?"
"What do you mean nothing; yesterday he was half killing you today he's helping you get cleaned up. Have you got something on him which you can blackmail him with?"
"I don't know but it's very funny him helping you."
"Nothing funny about it at all, he came to my house yesterday and we had a talk and he just said that he'd lay off me in future that's all."
"Okay but what about his moron friends will they leave you alone?"
"Not sure will just have to wait and see."
"I hope for your sake they do Ethan. Sometimes I used to get really angry the way they used to treat you but was too scared to do anything in case they started on me."
"It's okay Johnny I don't blame you for not doing anything most probably I would have done the same in your position."
And leave him alone they did. Ethan's school life improved dramatically he made friends with a few of the other boys but Johnny was his closest friend. They were constantly together at every possible moment. He did from time to time talk to Michael but only fleetingly he was too engrossed with his friendship with Johnny to spare more time for him.
Michael on the other hand had become more subdued he didn't exert his authority in the classroom like he did previously and was not as feared by the smaller boys as he used to be. Since his talk with Ethan he realised that if his parents had known how he behaved in school they would have been ashamed of him. Now he was trying to make amends, he hadn't dropped his usual friends he only didn't associate with them to the extent that he used to.
The down side was that inside he was hurting, he thought that after his understanding with Ethan that they would become firm friends but quite the opposite had happened. Other than the cursory, "Hi Michael," that would be it and Ethan would be on his way jabbering away with his friend who seemed to be constantly at his side. He envied Johnny solely for the reason that he and Ethan were so friendly and often wished that it was he and not Johnny at Ethan's side.
This evening in the privacy of his bedroom Michael sat and contemplated his actions of the past and realised that it was expecting too much to think that Ethan would forget and let bygones be bygones and become a close friend. He had thought that after the day that he'd spent at Ethan's house that he would be a constant visitor but that experience was never repeated. It was the one and only time he'd visited, yet from the conversation he'd overheard Johnny was around there on a regular basis.
Michael had friends but none that he could call really close and when he'd first seen Ethan had taken a liking to him only to have any thoughts of friendship dashed as one of his friends made the remark, "Another pretty boy wanker I bet he's a mummy's boy. So rather than seen to be getting friendly with Ethan he kept his distance and eventually joining in the bullying of him. Now thinking back he came to understand why he had constantly picked on Ethan. It was one way that he could actually make contact with the boy without seeming to be wanting too. He liked the smaller boy but his macho image meant a lot to him at that time. Now he wished that he'd been a bit braver not to worry what the other boys thought and instead become friendly with Ethan, now any chances of his getting friendly with Ethan had taken a severe denting. Lately he'd sit in his room fantasizing how he would rescue Ethan from the bullies, or in the swimming pool when an attack of cramp had him going under, or whatever took his imagination with the inevitable outcome of Ethan regarding him as his hero. All this fantasizing was because Michael craved Ethan's friendship even yearned for it and at times so much so that thoughts of resorting to harassing him to gain his attention again but decided against it, fearing that it might lead to the boy hating him again. He gave up on his thoughts of getting Ethan to notice him and went into the kitchen where his mother was preparing the evening meal.
"Hi mum the food not ready yet."
"No, and what are you doing moping around here instead of being out with your friends."
"They're not really friends only boys that I know at school I see them there all day so I don't want to see them after school as well."
"Then why did you always want to be out after school only a few weeks back and now all of a sudden you're stuck in the house and even playing with your younger brother who you never seemed to have time for before."
"Oh okay I'm going out to the park I'll be back later."
"Just make sure it's not too late otherwise you'll have your father coming out searching for you."
"Okay bye mum," and Michael left to try and put his thoughts about Ethan out of his head.
He met his friends in the park and kicked a ball around with them for about half an hour then decided to head home. As he came to the main road he saw Ethan walking on the other side. Dropping all his inhibitions he yelled across to him and started to run over and then darkness. The driver of the car didn't have a prayer of stopping in time as Michael dashed out into the road. Now he just sat there stunned and in shock after he'd felt the impact of the car hitting the boy and seeing him hurled into the air. Cars screeched to a stop people yelled and Ethan like the driver of the car stood frozen as he saw Michael hit by the vehicle. He'd looked across the road when he'd heard his name called now wanted to run over to Michael but he couldn't move. Tears were flowing down his cheeks, then suddenly his vocal chords responded to what he'd seen and a horrific scream erupted from his lungs. He dropped on all fours to the pavement his mind in total turmoil at the events that had just enfolded in front of his eye's his body jerking with the sobs pouring out from him. People ran in different directions some to attend to Michael and to see what could be done for the boy at the same time calling for medical assistance on their mobiles. Others attended to the driver and some to Ethan who was still sobbing on the pavement.