Martin and Luke are getting ready to put Martin's anti-bully plan into action, and Martin is starting to come to some conclusions about the way he thinks about Luke, too. Meanwhile Miles is still trying to find out where Graham went...
Sunday June 8th
We weren’t able to train yesterday because it rained all day, but it had stopped by the time I got up this morning, and so after lunch I called Luke and arranged to meet him at the dip. I was a bit surprised when he arrived with a big bag on his back, and even more surprised when I saw that he’d brought the tent with him. But he said it would be nice to rest in the tent for a while after we’d finished training – and of course it meant we would have somewhere to shelter if it started raining again.
The ground was a bit damp from the rain yesterday (so obviously the trees don’t completely protect the dip from rain), and it was a bit colder, too, so we decided to keep our clothes on while we were training. We didn’t bother with the rope – Luke hadn’t brought the support rope, anyway, and we thought it would be more important to concentrate on exercises to increase my strength. So we ran and worked with the spear for a while, but mostly we wrestled. And of course Luke won every time, but he made sure I worked hard and did my best to beat him.
He also made me do some weight-lifting exercises with a dead branch, because he said I should try to build up my arm muscles a bit. And by the time I’d done that, and the running, and the wrestling, I was really glad he’d brought the tent. We’d set it up before we started training, so I was able to just go and lie down as soon as we finished.
Because of the overnight rain the ground was a bit muddy, so we took off our shoes, shirts and trousers before we went into the tent so as not to get the sleeping bags dirty (he’d brought both of them and zipped them together as before, but hadn’t bothered with the blankets). And once we were inside I took the rest of my clothes off and got into the sleeping bag, and he got in with me. For several minutes I just relaxed – most of my muscles were hurting and I just wanted to rest. But then I rolled over to face Luke and we talked about my plan. He said he’d issue his challenge to Hamilton during the week and we’d aim to put it into action next weekend.
Of course there is a risk: if Hamilton plays it straight and wins Luke will be in trouble, but Luke is sure he can beat him in a fair fight – it’s just having to deal with Young as well that means he always loses. So the idea is that I stop Young from getting involved. I don’t have to be able to beat him in a fight, just hang on to him so that he can’t interfere, and Luke thinks I’ll be able to do that, especially if we use the idea I thought of to frighten him.
Luke was lying on his back next to me, and so I thought I’d see if he liked having his personal places touched the way I do when Miles does it to me. And it turned out he did, because he went hard very quickly, and he didn’t do anything to stop me. I stroked it gently until it was really stiff, and then he asked if I wanted us to have sex, so of course I said I thought that would be nice. And he said he’d hoped I was going to say that, because he’d come prepared – this time he’d brought a little jar of Vaseline instead of the cooking oil, because he said it would be a lot less messy.
We didn’t have the blankets this time, so we only had one sleeping bag to fold up underneath me, but it was enough. And this time I played safe: Luke had brought the roll of kitchen towel again, so I folded up a couple of squares and put them between my penis and the sleeping bag, just in case I got that weird feeling again.
I really enjoyed the mating this time, because he took things really slowly and it went on for ages. It feels so good lying there with him on top of me and inside me like that, especially when he holds me gently at the same time like he did this time. It’s the best feeling in the world, I think. And that strange feeling did happen to me again. It was wonderful, even though after it had happened to me I felt a bit strange for a couple of minutes afterwards. But I didn’t want to spoil things for Luke, so I didn’t say anything, and after a little while I started to feel fine again.
He stopped not long after that. He wiped himself down and even wiped my bottom for me, which felt good, somehow, even though normally I get really embarrassed about anyone seeing that part of me. And then he went outside to pee, which gave me a chance to kneel up – and I saw that the sheets of kitchen towel I had put under my penis were a little bit wet, so apparently I’d lost control of myself again. I’ll definitely have to remember to make sure there’s a towel or something underneath me whenever we mate in future.
And the really brilliant thing about this afternoon was that this time when Luke came back from having his pee he just zipped the sleeping bags together again and got back in, and when I got in next to him he pulled me against him and hugged me – and we lay like that with our arms round each other for ages. I felt so good: with him holding me like that I felt safe, as if nothing could ever hurt me or upset me again. Of course, I know that isn’t really true, but right then I didn’t care. I think I’ve moved from thinking he’s a really good friend to something more than that: now I think I love him. Obviously I’ve never loved anyone before except for my parents and Miles, but I feel the same way about Luke: I’d do anything to make him happy. And I think that sort of feeling has to be ‘love’, doesn’t it?
Miles might not have been ready to use that word to describe the way he felt about Twitch yet, though he did like him a lot, and so when Twitch called shortly after lunch on Sunday and asked if he would like to come over for tea, Miles said ‘yes’ straight away.
“And,” Twitch went on, “I was thinking of inviting Toby as well. I thought perhaps if one or two of us start talking to him a bit, maybe he’ll feel a bit better and won’t want to… you know, take pills and things in future.”
“Well… okay, that’s probably a good idea. I was going to say it would stop us from doing anything bad together, but since we can’t do anything bad at your house anyway in case your parents come to check up on you, it doesn’t really matter. We’ll save the bad stuff for when you come to my house, and at your house we’ll be good and well-behaved and invite Toby round for tea.”
“Okay. I’ll call him in a minute, then. I didn’t want to until I was sure you wouldn’t mind.”
And Miles liked that, too, because it meant Twitch cared about what he thought. In fact he thought inviting Toby round was a really nice thing to do – Toby would certainly feel less alone if he had a couple of friends in the class. Of course, he’d be less enthusiastic about having a third party about when Twitch came to his house, because he didn’t want anything to get in the way of their sex games…
He rode round to Twitch’s house and they waited together in Twitch’s bedroom for Toby to arrive. They weren’t quite sure what they would talk about with him, but Twitch said he didn’t think it would matter much: just inviting him round would be a sign that he wasn’t as alone as he had thought.
In fact when Toby arrived they found that they had an immediate topic of conversation, because Toby arrived dressed as if he was going to church, in smartly-pressed trousers, shiny black shoes and even a blue tie. They took him up to Twitch’s bedroom and shut the door.
“Sorry about the clothes,” Toby said, before either of them could comment. “My parents said that you have to look smart when you meet someone for the first time. I said I see you two at school every day, but they said they were talking about Twitch’s… sorry, Noel’s parents, and I suppose I haven’t met them before.”
“You can call me ‘Twitch’ if you like,” said Twitch. “I don’t mind my friends calling me that – in fact I think I prefer it to Noel.”
“Yes, but… well, we’re not really friends, are we?”
“Aren’t we? I reckon that if I invite someone round it at least means I’d like to be friends, even if we aren’t already.”
“Because I think we were all wrong about you, and I’d like to know what you’re really like, and I’m only going to find out if we spend some time doing stuff together.”
“Okay, so what sort of stuff are we going to do, then?”
“Well, I think we should start by getting rid of that tie and those shiny shoes – you’re making me and Miles look like a couple of tramps.”
“You just don’t like being shown up!”
“True. Grab him, Miles!”
So they pinned Toby down on the bed and forcibly removed his tie and his shoes.
“You’re just lucky we didn’t decide your trousers were showing us up, too,” said Miles, releasing him.
So of course they shoved him back onto the bed and, after a prolonged struggle, removed his smart trousers, too.
“Want to comment on how much better your pants are than ours?” asked Miles, releasing him again.
“Well, they are, but I’m not going to say so…”
Miles hadn’t been sure that Toby would want to play this sort of game, especially so soon after what he had been through at the hands of the gang, but clearly he was ready to do so. Miles paused long enough to wedge Twitch’s chair under the door-handle in the approved manner (he’d never have done it if it had just been himself and Twitch in the room, but he thought it highly unlikely that Twitch’s mum would feel the need to check on him with two friends there to sound an alarm if necessary) and then knocked Toby back onto the bed, pinning him down so that Twitch could pull his remaining clothes off. Then they tickled him into submission.
Once he had surrendered they let him get back up, but before he could pull his pants back on they got a look at the state of his buttocks: there were bruises all over them, in a variety of colours from blue to black to yellow.
“Bloody hell, Toby,” said Miles, “they really worked you over, didn’t they? How many times did they hit you?”
“I’m not sure. I lost count. All I know is that it really hurt.”
“Is it still sore now?”
Toby shook his head. “Not unless I sit down too quickly,” he said. “And I try hard not to do that.” He pulled his pants back on, followed by the rest of his clothes except for his tie and his shoes.
“What would you like to do now?” Twitch asked him.
“Well... I wouldn't mind playing a strip game – but a proper one, where you play poker or pontoon or something and take one thing off every time you lose. I think that would be exciting, having to keep taking things off and wondering if someone else was going to lose before you did.”
“But I thought you didn't like having to strip,” said Miles. “You seemed sort of embarrassed when you had to strip last week. That's why I was a bit surprised about you letting us strip you just now, to be honest.”
“That's because Robyn was there last week. I don't like girls much, and having one looking at me when I was naked was really embarrassing. If it had just been boys I wouldn't have minded half so much. It's strange, really – six months ago I wouldn't have been interested in playing that sort of game with boys, either, but now I really like the idea of playing a proper, one thing at a time, strip game. It was one of the really interesting things about last week, seeing what the other boys looked like without their clothes on. I've never had a friend to play that sort of game with – my parents think playing any games with friends is a waste of good studying time. Except now maybe I'll be able to talk them into letting me do that more easily – if I have a friend to play with, of course.”
“Well, I like that sort of game, too,” said Miles. “But we can't really play here, because Twitch's mum is likely to come and make sure he's okay from time to time – so I'd better move the chair again, just in case.” And he went and put it back where it belonged.
“Oh,” said Toby, looking disappointed.
“But we can play that at my house,” promised Miles. “Or we could play outdoors – but it's safer inside, just in case anyone comes past. But if we do play, I don't think we should play for forfeits.”
“Me neither,” said Toby. “I think the loser should just have to let the winner, or winners, sort of examine him for a bit, and then he can get dressed again.”
“That sounds okay,” said Twitch. “But we can't do it here, so what else would you like to do? Do you like model railways?”
“Well, yes – I've got a little one myself, but I don't get it out too often because it takes too long to set everything up.”
“Twitch doesn't have that problem,” Miles told him. “Let's show him.”
So they went up to the attic and Toby was as impressed with Twitch's layout as Miles had been, and they spent the afternoon playing with it – or operating it, as Twitch preferred to call it. Toby enjoyed himself a lot, and by the time he went home he was feeling a lot happier than he had felt for a long time.
“He's alright really, isn't he?” said Twitch after Toby had been collected by his parents.
“Yes, I think so. I certainly won't mind if he plays with us again – except I still want to do stuff with just you sometimes, because I'm not sure I want Toby watching when we play our sex games.”
“No, I think we'll keep those private. There are some things you only share with your best friend...”
School on Monday was marked by a number of empty seats around the room: four of Miles’s classmates were now suspended and Graham was still missing, and by now Miles was getting very worried about him. But he had no idea where else he could look, and with most of the gang stuck indoors there wasn’t anyone to help him, since Twitch was always picked up as soon as school ended.
But as soon as he turned his phone on at the end of school he found a text message asking him to call Tom’s mobile, and so as soon as he was out of the classroom he did that.
“He’s not back yet, is he?” asked Tom, as soon as Miles got through.
“Well, I’ve had a thought. There’s somewhere we used to play a couple of years ago, before Graham moved to his new house – he used to live near our house and we played together a lot. And we used to have this camp out in the woods, not far from where we were playing cards. We were only allowed to go there when Kevin came with us, because me and Graham were too young to go off on our own, and after Graham moved away we didn’t go there much. I’d go and look myself, but we’re grounded this week.”
“How come? Nobody mentioned your names when we went to see our headmistress, and I’m pretty sure Toby hasn’t told anyone else.”
“I know. We turned ourselves in to our parents. It didn’t seem right that everyone else got into trouble, so we told our parents about it and said that we thought we ought to be punished, too. To be honest, we were both afraid that if we didn’t do something like that someone else would let something slip – maybe Jamie’s mum talking to our mum, or something – and then it would be more serious and our parents might even decide to tell our headmaster. This way they’re pleased with us for being honest and it hasn’t gone any further. But they spoke to Jamie’s parents and agreed to ground us until Monday next week, same as him, and I suppose that’s fair, really.
“Anyway, it means I can’t go and check the old camp. But Jamie told us you and Twitch weren’t in trouble, so maybe you can go and check.”
“Okay – where is it?”
“The easiest way is to go to where we were playing cards and then follow the field round, going anticlockwise. After a bit – a couple of hundred yards, I suppose, though I haven’t been there for ages – you’ll find a path going into the wood. Follow it in for a minute or so and you’ll see some rhododendron bushes on your left. We had our camp in the biggest one.”
“Okay, thanks, Tom. I’ll check it out on the way home.”
Miles saw Toby heading for the front gate and went after him, managing to ask him a couple of important questions before he got into his mother’s car, and then he got on his bike and rode to the Greyhound, across the main road and down Broom Lane. He pushed his bike through the wood, carefully lifted it over the fence and followed the edge of the field as Tom had told him to. The path came up a little earlier than Tom had suggested, but Miles decided it had to be the right one, so he left his bike propped against the fence, climbed over the stile and followed the path into the wood. He wasn't entirely sure what a rhododendron bush looked like (he'd never asked what the bush at the end of their garden in London was called), but there were some leafy bushes off to his left, so he picked the largest-looking one and pushed his way into it.
At first sight it was empty. He was confident he'd found the right bush because there were some short planks piled up in one place and an old door lying on the ground in another, and there was a folded tarpaulin on top of the planks, all of which suggested that this had once been the camp Tom had told him about. But there was no sign of life, and so he sighed, thinking that Tom had been wrong. It had been a good suggestion: Miles thought this would be a good place for a hideout, because the bush would keep off most of the rain that found its way through the tree canopy above it, and if that tarpaulin was still water-proof it could probably be rigged up as a sort of tent, using the planks to support it – in fact he decided to come back at some point and see if he could get it to work. If he could, maybe he and Twitch could try camping out here...
He wondered if the tarpaulin was big enough to cover two people, so he went and picked it up… and as he reached the pile of planks he saw Graham curled up into a ball, hiding behind them.
“Hey, Graham, are you okay?” he asked.
“Go away. I’m not coming back.”
“So what are you going to do? You can’t stay here for ever.”
“I don’t know, but I’m not going to prison!”
“No, you’re not. God, Graham, have you really been here since Friday? I mean, did you have anything to eat, even?”
“Of course – I brought some stuff with me, and I went to the shop on Friday before anyone knew I was missing and bought some more. And the tarpaulin kept me dry when it rained on Friday night. I’m fine, Miles – just go away. And you’d better not tell anyone where I am, or else.”
“Or else what? You’ll kill me, too?”
Graham had stood up by this time. He shrugged, not looking Miles in the eye.
“Of course you won’t, stupid,” said Miles. “We’re friends… well, we were, anyway. Still are, as far as I’m concerned. Look, you’ve got to come home, Graham – everyone’s worried about you, especially your family. And the police are looking for you – I should think it’s a miracle they haven’t been here yet. But they’re only looking for you because you’re missing, not because they think you’ve done anything wrong – they just want to take you home, that’s all.”
“Yeah? How long will I get to stay there once Toby tells them what I said?”
“That’s the thing: I checked with him before I left school this afternoon, and he says he never mentioned a knife at all. Okay, they know you threatened him, but not with anything in particular. Nobody knows about the knife, so you won’t get nicked for it.”
“You’re lying! You’re just trying to trick me into going back!”
“No, I’m not. I wouldn’t do that to anyone, especially not to a friend. Look, Graham, all that’s going to happen is you’ll get suspended for a bit – that’s what happened to everyone else. Toby’s already said he won’t be making any official complaint, and he’ll make sure his parents don’t, either, so once your suspension is finished it’ll be all over.”
“Really? You swear?”
“I swear. Trust me.”
“Well… okay, but… okay. How did you find out about this place, anyway?”
“Tom told me. He’s grounded at the moment like everyone else, or he’d have come himself, but he was worried about you, so he asked me to come instead. They’re all worried about you: we were all out looking for you yesterday – well, me and Rob and Robyn and Jack were, anyway. I tried calling Tom, but I suppose they’d gone out. What did you do with your bike?”
“It’s just back there, covered in dead leaves. Wait while I get my bag and I’ll show you.”
Graham pushed the old door to one side, revealing that there was a trench underneath it.
“This was our store,” he said. “We kept comics and toy guns and stuff here. We dug out a little bit more every time we came – me and Tom had this mad idea of building a proper sort of room, but Kevin said we wouldn’t be able to get very far because the roots would get in the way, and he was right. But we made quite a good trench. Me and Tom said that if ever Kevin bossed us around too much we’d put him in there and pile a load of bricks on top so he couldn’t get out and he thought that was a good idea – not for him, of course, but for us if we messed about too much. So we made the trench big enough to lie down in and Kevin drew up a list of punishments for us – like if you swore you’d be put in the trench for five minutes, stuff like that. We all tried it out – it was scary, because obviously it’s completely dark once the door is on top, and with the other two standing on the door there was no way to shift it – me and Tom were only nine, after all. And the time I tried it I was thinking about worms and ants and spiders and things being in there with me. None of us liked it much and so we never used it as a punishment, though we threatened each other with it. The worst punishment would have been for letting each other down: Kevin said anyone who did that would be stripped naked, tied up so he couldn’t move and left in the trench overnight. So maybe I should do that to Tom for telling you where I was…”
“No, you shouldn’t. He only told me because he couldn’t come himself, and I haven’t told anyone else, not even Twitch. And he told me because he was worried about you. And… okay, if you’re still worried about what will happen if you go home, I promise that if you think I’ve got you into bad trouble by me taking you home now you can put me in the trench for as long as you think I deserve.”
“You don’t know what it’s like in there.”
“No, and I won’t find out, either, because once you get home you’ll realise it’s the best thing you can do, just to get it all over with.”
“Prove it. Come on, I dare you: if you trust me as much as you want me to trust you, let me put you in the trench now.”
Miles hesitated. After all, if Graham put him in the trench and left him there nobody would find out about it for ages: the only person who knew he was here was Tom, and because Tom was grounded he’d be in no position to follow up his suggestion to Miles to check this place. Graham could just keep him prisoner for the whole week, or even simply leave him, get on his bike and head off for somewhere where nobody knew him.
But he supposed it was true that he was asking Graham to trust him, and so he really had to show Graham that he was worthy of that trust.
“Okay, then,” he said. “How long for?”
“Five minutes should do. But you have to do it properly. Get undressed.”
Miles stared at him.
“Chicken!” jeered Graham.
Without a word Miles started to strip, piling his clothes up on top of the planks. When he was naked Graham made him stand with his hands by his sides, pulled some string from his bag and tied one wrist to the other, passing the string behind Miles’s back so that he could lie down flat but would not then be able to use his hands. He helped him to lie down in the trench and then tied his ankles together.
“You look funny like that,” said Graham. “Say hello to the worms for me.” And he pushed the door back over the trench.
Miles tried to control his breathing, because it really was scary being in here: the ground was cold and a bit damp, and he couldn’t see anything or move very much. If Graham did decide to go off and leave him like this he really would be in trouble.
He couldn’t hear anything outside: there was no way of knowing whether Graham was still there or not. He tried to count the seconds but he wasn’t at all sure that he was counting at the right speed. Had he been stupid to trust Graham? After all, he knew Graham was terrified of going to prison, so if he hadn’t believed Miles earlier… but he couldn’t believe Graham would really leave him here like this. Martin had said he thought that Graham was basically a decent kid, and he thought his brother was right.
But as the time stretched out it got harder and harder to believe that. Surely it was a lot longer than five minutes now? He couldn’t do anything with his hands, but by bending his legs he could get his knees against the door, so he did that and tried to push… but nothing happened: the door didn’t move an inch. He could get his forehead against it, too, but he couldn’t apply any proper pressure, and again the door didn’t move.
Now he was getting really scared. He had to fight to stop himself from either screaming or bursting into tears, and only succeeded because he knew that neither would do him any good. He tried to wriggle along so that his head was at the end of the trench: if he could get his head against the point where the door covered the head of the trench, maybe he could push himself up with his feet and force his way out. But his heels slipped on the muddy ground, giving him no leverage. He slumped back…
And the door slid open, and Graham reached in, cut the string around his ankles and helped him to stand up.
“How long was I in there?” asked Miles, standing still so that Graham could cut the string around his wrists.
“Just over four minutes. And you didn’t even yell for help… I’m sorry, Miles, I shouldn’t have made you do that. Now I really know you trust me, because I bet you were thinking how easy it would have been for me to just leave you there and run – and, to be honest, I did think about it, for about five seconds. But you still got into the trench without arguing. You’re a proper friend and I’m really sorry about putting that photo on the board. Come on, get dressed and then you can take me home. If you can trust me that much, I reckon I can trust you, too.”
“Does that mean I can put you in the trench, then?”
“Okay,” said Graham, without hesitation, and he started to undo his jacket.
“Not now, stupid,” said Miles. “We can come back once everything’s sorted out. I reckon we could make this into a really good camp. How come you and Tom stopped coming here?”
“Well, after I moved I couldn’t come back very easily at weekends. It’s only a mile and a bit, but my parents wouldn’t let me out on my bike alone – I was still only nine so I suppose I can understand that, though I know I got really upset about it at the time. And then when I was old enough to be allowed to cycle on my own we started playing football a lot, or we’d go round each other’s houses and play video games instead. And Kevin’s had a lot of extra schoolwork lately – he’s in his final year at prep school and he wants to do well in his exams so he can go to a good school next year, and somehow it wouldn’t have been the same without him. As big brothers go I reckon he’s brilliant: he was always ready to play with me and Tom even though he was two years older than us, and he never seriously bossed us around or anything. Jamie’s got an older brother, and he’s a complete arsehole.”
“Mars is okay,” said Miles, pulling his trousers back on. “He’s weird – well, you know that, because you’ve met him – but he’s nice. I can’t remember him ever trying to boss me about – in fact most of the time he acts like we’re the same age, or even like I’m older. I like having a brother.”
Graham put the door back over the trench and then waited for Miles to finish dressing, and once he was ready they walked back to the path. Graham went and unearthed his bike from near one of the smaller bushes and then they made their way back to the stile.
“Where does the other end of the path come out?” Miles asked. “If it comes out on the lane it would be quicker to go that way, wouldn’t it?”
“I had a look, but it’s too overgrown for the bikes - it’s got loads of brambles and stuff growing on it now. And it runs right next to one of the houses on the lane, so I didn’t want to use it anyway in case someone saw me.”
“Maybe we should have a go at clearing it a bit if we’re going to play here again: you should always have a clear escape route in case someone attacks you. Otherwise you just get trapped.”
They pushed their bikes back to the lane, got on and rode back to Graham’s house, though as soon as Graham’s mother saw he was safely home Miles thought it would be best if he left them to it, so he rode on home. Once he got in he called Twitch, Toby and Tom to say that he’d found Graham at the old camp and that he was okay, and Tom promised to let everyone else know.
Graham didn’t arrive in the classroom next morning, which was enough to start Miles worrying again, especially since he didn’t find out why straight away. Just after registration Toby was called to the headmistress’s office, and Miles didn’t get a chance to ask him about it until break.
“Graham’s parents brought him in and they went straight to see the head,” Toby told him. “And they called me in to confirm that Graham had been the one who had threatened me. And for a moment I really wanted to drop him in it: I was that close to telling them about the knife, and how I was so scared I wanted to kill myself… but then I thought about what you told me when you called me last night, how he’d spent the weekend outdoors, hiding in the woods because he was terrified of going to prison, and I thought… well, maybe we were quits.
“So I said yes, Graham had threatened me, but that I should have realised that he didn’t really mean it. I said that now I’d had time to think about it I’d realised that he was okay underneath, and that I thought he’d only threatened me because he was scared, because he knew he and the others had gone too far. And I said in a lot of ways it was my fault for winding everyone up, and I supposed I could understand why they’d wanted to get me back for it. And if I hadn’t over-reacted and taken the pills no harm would have been done.
“The head seemed surprised, and I suppose it was because she’d seen the report from Social Services, and they knew how many bruises I had. But I said as far as I was concerned it was all sorted out now, and that I thought Graham shouldn’t get anything worse than the others got – after all, I said, he’d already spent a very uncomfortable weekend living wild, and I thought that ought to count towards his punishment. So then the head told me to go back to class, but I hung around outside until Graham and his parents came out, and they let him talk to me – in fact they said he had to apologise. So he did, and then he said thanks for speaking up for him, which he’d never expected me to do, and I said that a lot of that was down to you, because you’d told me he was a decent kid really. And he told me he’s suspended for a week, including yesterday, so he can come back to school on Monday like the others.”
“Thanks, Toby,” said Miles. “You didn’t have to do that, and I wouldn’t have blamed you if you’d told them about the knife instead. But I’m glad you didn’t. So… do you want to come round to my house at the weekend?”
“Yes, please. Saturday or Sunday?”
“I’ll find out when I’m free tonight and call you, okay?”
“Great! Is Twitch coming?”
“Would you like him to?”
“Well, yes, I think so. It would be more fun with three of us. Besides, I know you and him are friends, and I’ll bet you’d prefer it if he can come, too.”
“Okay, then. I haven’t got a train set, though, or a computer.”
“That doesn’t matter. I’m sure we’ll think of stuff to do - playing cards, perhaps.”
Miles knew what Toby was thinking of, but he thought that could be fun, too, so he didn’t argue. He checked with Twitch that he was going to be free at the weekend, and Twitch said that he was, and so they provisionally agreed on Sunday afternoon at Miles’s house, provided that everyone’s parents said yes.
On his way home after school Miles stopped at Graham’s house. Graham came to the door and explained that he was grounded for three weeks, mainly to punish him for frightening his parents by running away like that, and that he wouldn’t be allowed to have friends round either, or even to talk to them on the phone or on the computer – in fact, his PC’s modem cable had been confiscated to make sure.
“I’ll be free again from the first of July,” he said. “And obviously I’ll see you at school from next week. I’m allowed to cycle to and from school with you, but I have to come straight home after school or I’ll be in really bad trouble: I’d probably be grounded for the whole of the summer holidays, and I don’t want that. Look… how did you talk Toby into sticking up for me? I thought he’d want to see me in prison after what happened to him.”
“I just told him you were okay. I think it helped that Twitch invited him over for tea at the weekend, and I went, too. We got to know him a bit better, and I reckon maybe he isn’t quite such a knob as we all thought.”
“Well, however you did it, it saved me from a lot of bad stuff. Thanks, Miles… you really are a good friend. I’m sorry I was such a dick last week. I’ll make it up to you somehow… maybe when they let me out next month I’ll buy you a pizza or something….”
At that point his mother told him to come back inside, so Miles said goodbye and rode the rest of the way home, thinking that it looked as if things had sorted themselves out after all...
Well, that looks like one problem solved, anyway. The next chapter will concentrate on Martin and Luke as they try to deal with the boys who have been giving Luke such a hard time at school.
You've had twelve chapters now, so I scarcely need to remind you all that my address is firstname.lastname@example.org and that I like getting mail. But I'm going to, anyway.
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