Well, Jeremy's safely settled in the garage, and in this chapter we'll see some of his friends trying to make him feel better about himself, though without a lot of success. We'll also see Sim and Uzzy up to their old tricks, and watch as Miguel and Andy try to get physical with entirely the wrong person...
The balloon went up on Monday morning: Tony and Bilal got to school at their usual time and saw a police car parked outside the headmaster’s office. They looked at each other.
“Right, now neither of us knows where he is, but we’ve a good idea why he ran, okay?” said Tony.
“Okay. And we didn’t even know he was missing until now, so we ought to act a bit surprised when they tell us,” said Bilal. He paused. “Do you think we’re going to get into trouble for this? I mean, if we tell lies to the police, and that?”
“Perhaps, but I don’t care. We’ve got to try to help Jeremy out if we can, because I’m sure he’d do it for us if we were the ones with the problem.”
“Yes, I know, which is why I’m going to do my best, too. Look… let’s try to talk to them together if we can – that way they won’t be able to catch us out if we aren’t telling exactly the same story.”
“Good idea – then we can back each other up.”
So when their form teacher arrived for morning registration accompanied by a police officer they were ready, and when the policeman told them that Jeremy Fielding had gone missing, and that they would like to speak to anyone who knew Jeremy and might be able to help them find him, Tony and Bilal looked at each other and raised their hands. The policeman took them to an empty classroom next door and asked what they knew.
“Well… began Bilal, “we know Jeremy isn’t very happy at home – he doesn’t get on with his step-father… see, Jeremy’s my best friend, but his step-father’s in the National Front, so I’m not allowed to visit, and nor are any of Jeremy’s other… friends who aren’t white. And it was Jeremy’s birthday yesterday, and on Friday he told us that his step-father wouldn’t let him invite us to his party. He was really upset about it…”
“His step-father hits him a lot,” put in Tony. “We’ve all seen the bruises, and I bet the PE teachers have noticed, too. And sometimes he gets locked in their spare room.”
“Quite a lot, actually,” added Bilal. “Sometimes we play football at weekends, and when Jeremy doesn’t turn up it’s usually because he’s locked in the spare room.”
“I see,” said the policeman. “Have you any idea where he might have gone?”
“Not really,” said Tony. “I think he’d like to go to stay with his real dad, but he lives in America and I’m sure Jeremy hasn’t got enough money for the fare.”
“Has he got any other friends he might go to?”
“I don’t think so. I mean, if he’d come to see one of us I’m sure our parents would have called Ado… Jeremy’s step-father and told him where he was, even though they like Jeremy. They wouldn’t just let him stay with us without telling anyone. And I bet any other parents would be the same.”
“I expect you’re right. Okay, thank you, boys – and if you hear anything, or if Jeremy contacts you, you will let us know, won’t you?”
“Is he in trouble?” asked Bilal.
“Probably not, as long as he doesn’t break the law while he’s away – stealing food, trying to take a car, anything like that. We really just want to make sure he’s safe, that’s all.”
“So, looks like he’s in the clear at the moment,” commented Tony as they walked to their first lesson. “All he has to do is to stay out of sight for a bit and let the cops give Adolf a hard time instead…”
That lunchtime Sim and Uzzy went to their private room at the top of the cricket pavilion, as they often did on a Monday. Today Uzzy was in one of his more dominant moods, and no sooner had he closed the door to their room and stuck the wedge underneath it – a recent innovation which was probably no bad idea, in view of what they sometimes got up to – than he was demanding to know why Sim still had his clothes on.
“S… Sorry, Sssir,” replied Sim, throwing his blazer at the nearest peg and wrenching at his tie.
“You know you’re not allowed clothes in this room,” went on Uzzy, trying to look stern. “If you don’t hurry up I’ll have to strip you and spank you in the form room before the start of afternoon school.”
Sim knew there was more chance of him becoming Pope than there was of Uzzy humiliating him in front of their entire form, but he tried to speed up his undressing all the same. The result was that he knotted a shoelace and had to waste a good minute trying to undo it.
“Maybe I’ll do it out in the playground instead of our form room,” commented Uzzy. “Then the whole school can come and laugh at you.”
That was about as likely as Sim being elected President of the USA while he was still Pope, but he said nothing, teasing away at the recalcitrant shoelace until he was finally able to get his shoe off. Quickly he threw off the rest of his clothes and dropped to his knees in front of his master, his penis stiffening up as he did so.
“You’re a disgrace!” shouted his master, happily. “Look at your clothes! Go and hang them up properly – only a really dirty boy would leave them strewn all over the floor. I bet your bedroom’s a real mess – maybe I should come round and inspect it after school. If it’s a bad as I think it is, you’ll really have to be punished.”
“Okay,” said Sim, picking up his shorts and folding them up on the bench. “I think you should, becauthe my room isss a bit of a tip… I’d like my mother to meet you, anyway.”
They’d been a bit nervous about this: Sim was afraid that his parents wouldn’t approve of him having a Moslem as his best friend. Uzzy’s parents didn’t know Sim was Jewish, but, as Uzzy had pointed out, his own name was a clear indicator of his origins, so Sim’s parents would know straight away where he came from. But Sim had decided that they ought to risk it, because it would make it much easier for them to see each other out of school if both houses were available for them instead of just Uzzy’s.
“Right (are you sure it’ll be okay, Sim? Yes? Brilliant!)… then if I find your room is a mess I’ll have to beat you – and maybe I really will invite Awais to join in next time… Come on, haven’t you finished yet? Get those socks turned the right way out…”
“Sssorry…” Sim scampered about hanging his clothes on the pegs or folding them neatly on the bench, and then he dropped to his knees again.
“Far too slow,” said Uzzy. “I don’t know why I bother keeping a useless slave like you. Maybe I should sell you – I’m sure someone out there would like a slave, even if he’s hopeless. So, if you don’t want to be sold to someone who will whip you every day, you’d better try showing me that you’re worth keeping. Now, how could you do that? I know…”
He undid his shorts and pushed them and his pants down to his ankles, revealing an eager erection. Sim, who knew the drill by now, shuffled forwards on his knees and slipped it into his mouth, and for the next three or four minutes he sucked it, starting and stopping frequently to prevent Uzzy from getting too excited too quickly. Sim was quite prepared to keep doing this all through the lunch break, but Uzzy had other ideas.
“Oh, you’re hopeless,” said Uzzy, pushing him away. “I think you need a proper reminder of who’s in charge here. Bend over the table.”
Sim did that, spreading his legs without needing to be told, and Uzzy removed his clothes completely and pulled a small jar of Vaseline from his blazer pocket.
“It’s ages since I last did this to you,” he said, rubbing a little of it onto Sim’s anus. “Obviously we should do this more often, so you don’t keep forgetting your place.”
He lined up and pushed, and Sim relaxed long enough to accommodate it and then squeezed, knowing that this made Uzzy feel good; and Uzzy rewarded him with a gasp. He reached around and took hold of Sim’s very solid erection, squeezing it and twisting it a little, just enough to be uncomfortable without really hurting.
“Maybe I could sell you to Kam,” he suggested, starting to rock slowly back and forwards. “His one would probably split you apart.”
Some time previously Sim had told Kam he’d be prepared to let him try this, but so far Kam had declined, mainly because he really was quite big and he was afraid that it would hurt Sim badly if he tried fucking him. Sim wasn’t really sorry, because he thought the same thing. Uzzy was quite a bit smaller than Kam, and when Uzzy did this to him it didn’t hurt: in fact, it felt quite nice – and he knew how much Uzzy enjoyed doing this to him, too, and how good it made him feel, and that alone would have made Sim happy to do this, because making Uzzy happy was his favourite activity in the whole world.
Uzzy took his time, stopping whenever he thought he was getting too close, and it was only because time was getting short that he finally allowed himself to finish. Sim helped him over the edge by squeezing, and Uzzy climaxed with a gasp.
“Was that okay?” asked Sim, humbly.
“I suppose it’ll do,” said Uzzy, loftily. “Maybe I won’t have to whip you today after all.” He checked his watch. “Hey, we’ve got time,” he said, reverting to his normal, ‘non-master’ voice. “I’m going to have a quick shower. Come with me and you can wash my back.”
“Okay,” agreed Sim, enthusiastically, and he followed his friend across the landing to the other small changing room, the one that had a shower in. They kept their heads out of the water – wet hair would have been hard to explain away – but washed the rest of their bodies. In fact, Sim did all the washing, soaping his friend’s body thoroughly, and paying particular attention to that part of him that was most in need of cleaning, with the result that Uzzy was soon good and stiff once more.
”If we had time I think I’d have to make you suck it again as punishment for making it go hard,” commented Uzzy. “And I really ought to punish you for letting yours stick up without permission, too. You’re just lucky there isn’t time. You just wait till next time we’re here, though.”
He stepped out of the shower and dried himself off using half of the towel he’d brought along specially, while Sim finished washing his bum and rinsing himself down. Then he took the towel and dried himself while Uzzy stood and watched him.
They walked back to their room, but before they got dressed they stood and looked at each other. Both had erections, although Sim’s was a little larger and curved upwards, while Uzzy’s was slightly smaller and stuck straight out.
“I can definitely th… see where your hair ith growing,” said Sim. “I reckon you’ll have proper one… ones soon. I still haven’t got any, though.”
“I think yours is getting even bigger,” said Uzzy. “Perhaps I’ll tie you up and hang a big weight off it for a couple of hours and see how far I can make it stretch.”
Sim grinned at him, wondering what that might feel like and thinking it might actually be fun to find out.
“Come here,” said Uzzy, opening his arms.
“But I’m not allowed to hug you when you’re undressed.”
“You are today. You’ve been really good – and, besides, I want to.”
So Sim stepped into a hug, returning it enthusiastically.
“You’re a brilliant friend,” said Uzzy. “I bet nobody else in the world has got a friend who’d let them do the stuff I do to you. You give me the most amazing feelings… thanks, Sim.”
“I love you doing that thtuff to me,” Sim told him. “Like I s… said before, I don’t know why – I reckon I’m strange. But I don’t ever want you to thtop, U… Uzzy.”
They held each other for a minute or so, then Uzzy looked at his watch and said that they ought to get dressed, so they put their uniforms back on and headed back to their form room.
At the end of school they walked round to the garage to see how Jeremy was doing, but before they got there Sim asked the question that had been on his mind since the previous morning.
“Jeremy told me he… he’s worried,” he said. “He thinks there’s sssomething wrong with him, and I reckon it would help if we told him what we do – you know, like at lunchtime.”
“Crumbs, Sim, I don’t think so,” said Uzzy, looking worried. “I mean, it was different with Kam, because I’ve known him for years. Neither of us really knows Jeremy at all. I don’t think we ought to tell him something like that… why do you think it might help him?”
“Well, he told me he thinksss he might be queer, ‘coth he really likes… another boy. And I thought that if we told him that we like to hug and thtuff he might not feel quite tho different…”
“Well, I don’t mind him knowing how much I like you – I don’t mind anyone knowing that. But I don’t think we should tell him about… you know, the other stuff. That’s supposed to be our secret.”
“Okay. I think it’ll help him if we hug in front of him, though – can we do that?”
“You just want an excuse for a hug!” accused Uzzy.
“Well, I don’t mind – in fact I think it’s a good idea…”
They walked on to the garage and found Jeremy working on the Lancaster.
“Okay, Jeremy?” asked Sim.
“Well… I’ve been a bit bored, to be honest. I don’t know how long I can just sit around reading and making my models. Still, I slept all right… is the village shop still open?”
Sim nodded: he knew the shop didn’t close until five-thirty.
“Do they sell toothpaste – and toothbrushes? Only…I’m starting to feel a bit manky: I can’t clean my teeth, and I haven’t got enough water to wash in, and the water’s cold, anyway… you won’t want to come near me by the end of the week…”
“They’ve got a thort of chemi… chemist corner,” said Sim. “I think they sssell all that type of thing.”
“Hey, hang on,” said Uzzy, a little light bulb metaphorically appearing over his head. “I’ve got an idea. Sim, take your clothes off.”
“Huh? But I thought…”
“No, silly, I want you to swap clothes with Jeremy – you’re nearer his size than I am. If we put him in our uniform we’ll be able to walk back into the school grounds without anyone noticing him, and then I can get him into the pavilion. Once he knows where the key is, he can let himself in and have a wash, or even a shower, whenever he feels like it – well, out of school time, anyway.”
“Brilliant!” agreed Sim. “I can go to the shop while you take him to the pavilion.”
So Jeremy put on Sim’s school uniform, which fitted him pretty well, and Uzzy led him back to the school. They passed a couple of older pupils on the way, neither of whom spared Jeremy a glance, and once they were inside the grounds Uzzy showed him where the key was hidden in the middle of one of the rhododendron bushes.
“How on earth did you get this?” asked Jeremy as Uzzy opened the pavilion door.
“Wood – he’s a senior – got it cut last term. I don’t know how he got hold of the original, though. Still, it’s really useful. I’ll show you where everything is.”
He gave Jeremy the grand tour, concentrating on the little changing room with the shower on the top floor and the larger changing room with the wash basins on the first floor. He also showed him the kitchen, but advised him not to use it because the window looked out towards the main school buildings.
“Don’t come here on Tuesdays or Saturdays,” he advised, “because when the first eleven has a cricket match the caretaker’s likely to be around. And don’t put any lights on, either. But I think you’d be safe to use the upstairs shower or the basins, as long as you don’t leave any traces. Do you want to have a wash now?”
“I didn’t bring the soap, or my towel. I’ll come back later this evening.”
“Okay.” Uzzy led the way back downstairs, put the key back in the bush and headed back to the garage. Sim joined them ten minutes later, carrying a small bag containing toothpaste, a toothbrush and some shampoo.
“Thanks,” said Jeremy, starting to remove the Ivy House uniform. “I was getting a bit worried: I was afraid that if I get too dirty and smelly… well, nobody would want to come and see me.”
Sim knew who he was really talking about, of course, but he didn’t say anything. Instead he put his own clothes on again, went and stood beside Uzzy and put his arm round his shoulders.
“What you told me yethterday…” he said, “well, me and U… Uzzy are really good friends, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with hugging – do you, Uzzy?”
“No,” said Uzzy, turning to face his friend and putting his arms round him. “We do it all the time. Not usually in public, of course, ‘cos we don’t want people calling us names…. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.”
“Okay – but do you ever kiss each other?”
“Huh? No, of course not… though…I suppose if we wanted to, we could. What do you think, Sim?”
Sim hesitated, and then carefully kissed Uzzy on the cheek. Uzzy froze for a moment, not sure what to think: he was pretty sure boys weren’t supposed to kiss other boys. But then they weren’t supposed to fuck each other, either, and he knew that was fun. So, just to see what it felt like, he kissed Sim on the cheek, too.
Physically it didn’t do much at all, but psychologically he recognised that it was a special thing to do, something to indicate that you really, really liked someone… and he knew that he really liked Sim – so why did this still feel strange, and a bit… well, wrong?
“Because we’re not supposed to,” he muttered to himself.
“Huh?” said Sim.
“That’s why it feels a bit strange, because everyone says you’re not supposed to kiss boys. But I don’t see why we shouldn’t…”
“Me neither,” said Sim, and he kissed him again.
“Thee?” he said, looking at Jeremy. “We’re like you.”
Jeremy felt… well, confused. In one way it was nice to find that at least two of his friends felt that there was nothing wrong with kissing, but at the same time he felt jealous that these two had each other, while he was certain that he would end up with nobody – because, despite his fantasies to the contrary, he was certain that Bilal would never want to kiss him, far less do other, more physical things with him.
“We ought to go,” said Uzzy, looking at his watch. “Otherwise I won’t have time to see your house before my next bus goes, Sim. Is there anything else you need, Jeremy? I can call Bilal tonight if there is.”
“No, I don’t think so, not now I’ve got my washing stuff. A fresh pint of milk would be handy, but I think that’s all. Oh – if Tony’s still intending to come and stay the night, you’d better remind him he’ll need to bring a pillow.”
“Okay. We’ll probably drop in again tomorrow. Bye!”
They left him to his thoughts and made their way to Sim’s house.
“Are you sure about this?” asked Uzzy, nervously. “We don’t want your parents forbidding us to see each other.”
“They won’t, I’m sssure. And if they did I’d just ignore them. Come on.”
Sim’s mother was in the kitchen, so Sim towed Uzzy straight in there.
“Thi… this is my friend U… Uzzy,” said Sim. “Hith family come… comes from Pakissstan , and he’th a Mo… Moslem. Isss that okay?”
Mrs Lewis looked at the small, neat, bespectacled boy in front of her: he was obviously as nervous about this as Sim was, because he looked as if he was about to go in front of a firing squad.
“He’s been helping me with my lisp,” said Sim, concentrating furiously. “It’th got a lot better lately, ha… hasn’t it?”
“Yes, it has. Well, as long as your father doesn’t mind – and I don’t think he will – Uzzy can come round whenever you like.”
“Thanks, mum!” Sim rushed to her and hugged her, and then turned and dragged Uzzy up to his bedroom.
“Now you can come round after school whenever you want!” he said, happily.
“You might not want me to,” said Uzzy. “This room’s a mess.” He paused. “Will your mum come upstairs to see what you’re doing?”
Sim shook his head.
“Then you’d better get stripped, because I’m going to have to spank you for having an untidy bedroom.”
Grinning, Sim removed his school uniform, putting his blazer, tie and shorts away in the wardrobe and dumping his shirt in a basket by the door. Then he took off his socks and pants and bent down over the bed, and Uzzy came and spanked him, firmly enough to make him squeal but a lot less than at full strength.
“I’d better go,” he said, delivering one final blow. “But I can probably arrange to catch an even later bus sometimes, so I’ll be able to come round for half an hour or so next time. And this room had better be spotless next time I see it.”
He gave Sim’s erection a quick squeeze and headed for the door. Sim went to the window and watched him go, giving him a wave when Uzzy looked up at him, and then he put some clothes on and went downstairs for his tea, feeling that for once life was smiling at him…
For the past couple of weeks Miguel had been on the lookout for someone he could introduce to the Collection: Tony had said they could do with a couple more footballers, and Miguel thought it would be really good if he could make a positive contribution to their weekend meetings.
The problem was that he didn’t know anyone who lived close enough. Andy would have been an excellent choice, but he lived too far away: Miguel was sure he wouldn’t want to undertake such a long cycle trip, entirely on a busy main road and with at least one long steep hill, every weekend. And the bus service on a Sunday was really rather poor, even assuming Andy could afford the fares. The same was true of everyone he knew in his class, including Hamilton and the other two boys who had been similarly inveigled into games of strip poker since.
There were a few boys from his school who lived in Poundford Spa and who caught the same bus as he did, but he didn’t know any of them, and in any case most of them seemed to be either older or younger than he was, which he thought made them unsuitable.
There was one who he thought would be absolutely perfect, because he was Japanese and so was guaranteed to annoy Jeremy’s step-father. But although Miguel had tried to say hello a couple of times he had been met only with curt monosyllabic answers. He wondered if the boy could speak English, but supposed he must be able to if he went to an English school.
The boy was from the year above Miguel’s, so he didn’t see him at all during classes, but he’d spotted him in the school grounds from time to time, always on his own, and he wondered what would happen if he and Andy were to try jumping on him – after all, it didn’t look as if the boy had a lot of friends who would jump in to help him. So he suggested to Andy that it might be fun to see what a Japanese boy looked like with no clothes on, and Andy agreed that it would be a good idea to find out, and so they followed the Japanese boy as he strolled across the grass that lunchtime and caught up with him by the trees at the edge of the grounds.
“Hello,” Andy greeted him. “We’re part of the official uniform checking squad, and we’re here to check that your underwear meets school standards. So – grab him, Mig!”
Miguel stepped forward with a grin, and the next thing he knew he was flying through the air and landing flat on his back. He staggered to his feet and saw Andy pinned underneath the Japanese boy with his arm in a painful-looking lock.
“Stay where you are,” the boy ordered him in near-perfect English, “or I’ll break his arm. Now, what was it you wanted to do to me?”
“Nothing,” gasped Andy, struggling vainly. “Honest, we weren’t going to… aaagh!”
“Don’t lie, or I’ll break your wrist. The truth, please.”
“We were… aaagh, okay, I’m telling you! We were going to pull your shorts and pants down.”
“Well, just to see… you know, what you look like.”
“Oh, so you think my bum might be a different colour from the rest of me? How strange. I wonder if you’re like that? You,” he snapped, looking at Miguel, “pull your trousers and pants down.”
“No!” said Miguel, firmly.
“Do it, or I’ll break his arm.” He wrenched, and Andy gave a cry of pain.
Miguel hesitated, and then undid his belt. He glanced around nervously: he was in full view of the school here.
“Go beside that tree,” said the Japanese boy. “But do it quickly, or your friend will end up in hospital.”
Miguel moved so that the tree hid him from most of the grounds and lowered his shorts and pants, straightening up so that the Japanese boy could see. The boy grinned widely at him.
“How odd,” he said, “you’re the same colour all the way down. Okay, you can pull them up again. Now I’m going to get up – don’t try anything or you’ll really be in trouble.”
He stood up, and Andy got up slowly, rubbing his wrist.
“Why did you do that?” the Japanese boy asked Miguel. “Why didn’t you just run away?”
“He is my friend. I did not want you to hurt him.”
“Loyalty is good,” the boy said. “So if I had threatened to break your arm, would he have done the same for you?”
Miguel looked at Andy, who hesitated but then nodded slowly. “Probably,” he said. “But I didn’t think you would really have broken my arm.”
“I wouldn’t have, but I could have hurt you a lot without actually breaking it.”
“How did you do that?” asked Miguel. “Throwing me away, I mean.”
“Martial arts. I thought everyone knew we Japanese are good at those? Actually, not every Japanese person does study them, but I’ve been learning for ages. It’s fun to get a chance to practise sometimes.” And he grinned at them and turned to walk away.
“Wait… could you teach us to do that?” asked Andy.
“No, I don’t think so. You have to practise for ages – and you’d probably use it to bully other boys, and I wouldn’t want that to happen.” And he smiled at them again and walked off.
“Well, that was a really bad idea,” commented Andy. “I think we’d probably better stick to cards in future.”
That evening Miguel approached the Japanese boy at the bus stop.
“I am sorry,” he said. “We should not have tried to do that to you.”
“Okay. I accept your apology. But if I ever see you bullying again I’ll have to hurt you properly.”
“We have never done that before,” said Miguel. “And it was my idea, not Andy’s. You should have hurt me.”
“I will if you like,” said the boy. “Which arm would you like me to break?”
“Neither,” said Miguel, nervously.
“Okay. Anyway, I suppose you got your punishment as well when you had to pull your pants down. You looked funny like that… I should have made you take everything off and then run round the grounds.”
“I’m glad you did not. Anyway, my name is Miguel. Can we be friends?”
“I’m Kenji, and no, not yet. I don’t want friends who gang up on people or try to bully them. But I’ll watch how you behave for a while and see if you’re telling the truth when you say you haven’t done that before… but in the meantime, leave me alone.”
That wasn’t very promising, but at least now they knew each other’s names. Maybe if he could show Kenji that he was really a good person he’d change his mind.
The bus was late arriving, and by the time it turned up there were a very large number of boys trying to get on it. Miguel fought his way aboard, but the only seat left was next to a boy from the final year at their school. Miguel had noticed him because of his unusual appearance: he had pale skin, white hair and wore very thick glasses, and although everyone at Inchley had to wear shorts, this boy wore long trousers.
“Don’t sit there, or you’ll catch it,” advised a boy a couple of seats away.
Miguel looked at the pale boy nervously. “You do not have… I mean, you are not really..?”
The boy shook his head. “No, I haven’t got leprosy, and you won’t catch anything if you sit there.”
“Leper! Unclean, unclean!” said the boy who had spoken before, ringing an invisible hand-bell and getting a general laugh. The pale boy just looked out of the window and took no notice.
When Miguel stood up to get off the bus at his stop the boy who had made the accusation of leprosy loudly advised him to have a good bath when he got home if he didn’t want his fingers to start falling off. “Look it up in the encyclopaedia – it’s obvious he’s got leprosy,” he said as Miguel headed for the door.
Miguel did look up the symptoms of leprosy, and found that it certainly affected the skin and could affect the eyes, but he hadn’t noticed any of the skin lesions that were supposed to be the main symptom. So next morning when his bus arrived he deliberately sat next to the pale boy.
“I do not believe that you have leprosy,” he told him.
“I haven’t. The other kids in my class only say I have to wind me up.”
“Why do they do that?”
“Because I’m different. I’m an albino, so my skin is really sensitive to the sun and my eyes are pretty useless, but it isn’t contagious or anything. I had the same problem at my last school… anyway, thanks for sitting next to me last night. Usually nobody will.”
“I think they are stupid if they call you names. I am Spanish, and everyone says I must come from Barcelona and be really stupid, but it is not true… well, I do not come from Barcelona, anyway. But they do not call me names all the time.”
“They do me,” said the boy, gloomily. “Still, I just ignore them most of the time. Perhaps they’ll get bored with it eventually.”
“Can you play football?” Miguel asked him, wondering if this might be the recruit he wanted.
“No, I’m hopeless at sports. I can’t see anything without my glasses, so it’s hard to play most games, and I’m supposed to stay out of the sun most of the time, too, so running about an open sports field in shorts would be a bad idea. Why?”
“Oh, I was just wondering. My name is Miguel – what is yours?”
“James. Not that anyone at school ever calls me anything other than ‘Unclean’ or something… My surname’s Linnell, so I’m ‘Linnell the Leper’ all the time…”
“I shall call you James,” said Miguel, firmly.
At break Miguel saw James walking across the grass with a book in his hand, so he followed him and found him sitting under the trees with his book open on his lap.
“Hello, James,” he said.
“Hello, Miguel. What are you doing here?”
“I saw you and decided to come and say hello. Why are you here?”
“I like it here – it’s out of the sun and it’s far enough away from the school buildings that nobody usually comes and bothers me. It gives me a bit of peace and quiet.”
“I am sorry,” said Miguel, backing away. “I will not disturb you.”
“I didn’t mean you, silly. You can stay. I just meant it gets me away from all the idiots, that’s all.”
“Oh. Okay. If you are sure you do not mind…”
“I’m sure. Sit down.” James put his book down and lay back, looking at the sky through the branches of the trees.
“It’s really difficult, being different,” he said. “I hardly ever get to talk to anyone here, except in lessons when I talk to the teachers. I suppose I should be used to it by now, but I’m not, not really. I’d just like to be the same as everyone else for once.”
“Everyone is different,” said Miguel. “I have a foreign name and a foreign accent. Some of the boys in my class have red hair, or wear glasses, and one of them has something wrong with his foot and walks badly. Some of the boys I play football with at the weekend are from Pakistan, and so they are a different colour. There is a Japanese boy in the school, too… you are not the only person who is different.”
“I know. I just wish they’d stop going on about it all the time. I’d just like to have a friend I could talk to normally for once…”
“You can talk to me,” said Miguel. “I know I am younger than you, but if you do not mind to speak to a stupid Spanish kid from two years below you, I am here.”
“I don’t mind at all – and you can’t really be stupid or you wouldn’t be in this school. Plus, you can speak two languages really well, which I bet none of the idiots in my year can do… It’d be nice if you could keep me company sometimes, even if I don’t always have a lot to say.”
“I would like that, too,” said Miguel, who knew what it was like to be an outsider and wanted to help James if he could. So he sat next to him on the bank and watched the sky go by until the bell summoned them back to lessons.
Miguel seems to have made a new friend here – we'll have to wait to see how it develops. In the meantime Jeremy's still sitting in his garage wondering if he's done the right thing and trying to work out where to go from here...
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