“I might as well talk to the bloody wall. A class of thirty kids and not a sign of life from any of them.”
A copy of the Guardian rustled at the other end of the room. Someone marked off one of the last days on the 1985 calendar.
“It can’t always have been like this, I’m sure that when I was at school we at least pretended to listen. Now they’re either hung over, drugged up or just plain, bloody stupid,” Mr Burns had started on one of his speeches. “Take that Kevin Davison for instance,” he said to no-one in particular,” personality of a house brick and all the girls love him, can you believe it? I know he’s had a hard life, his dad dying the way he did, but he just sits there, with about as much get up and go as a koala bear on dope.”
Burns tipped his cigarette in the general direction of the ashtray, missing and dropping ash on the already worn and stained carpet.
“At least his dad was interesting, an insane alcoholic admittedly but interesting all the same.” He slurped at his coffee and shook his head.
“Then there’s Peter Wood, strange little bugger. He’s got all the brains in the world, has two lovely parents and what does he do? Sod all. Walks about like he has the whole world’s worries on his shoulders. What’s a young lad like him got to worry about? School days are the best days of your life so start bloody well enjoying them.”
Burns had gone red in the face and had started spilling his cigarette ends and coffee all over. He brushed the ash from his lapels.
“Do you know that he refused to play in my chess team? He should be honoured that I even asked him. I’ll not let him get away with it. Nobody ever crosses Jackie Burns and gets away with it.”
He shrugged his shoulders and scanned the yard. He turned for recognition of his latest put the world to rights speech but found the room empty and his tweed jacket with a large coffee stain down the front.
“Bollocks to you all. Set of Bastards. You’ll see I’m right.”
He placed his now empty cup in the sink at headed back to class.
Ingham was spot on with his review of the restaurant. The food was first class and, for someone who doesn’t open at lunchtime, he appeared to do quite a good trade. I recognised a few faces from Sunday. Most people appeared to know each other and nearly all of them came over to acknowledge Ingham.
“Was it somebody’s birthday on Sunday?”
“How do you mean?” Ingham was struggling with a particularly awkward oyster.
“It’s just there was a big crowd of you out on Sunday. The pub was packed.”
“Oh that. It was just business. I’m not going to kid you Pete, I’m sure you have worked out what type of businessman I am. I hope you don’t mind but I took the precaution of checking you out. It was little bit difficult at first; you were the man with no past, disappearing for fifteen years. I have a lot of friends around the country and I spoke to a few friends down south, I’m sure you know who I mean. I know enough about you to know that you’re ok. As long as you pose no threat, you will be fine with me. Try any of that funny business and I’ll kill you. Do we understand each other?”
I knew my past couldn’t be hidden forever but I was glad that, despite his threat, Ingham appeared to trust me.
“I’d appreciate it if you kept my past to yourself for now. I’d rather people didn’t know the full story.”
“No problem, I’m just protecting my interests. You know how it is. Don’t know why you need to keep it a secret though. Sunday was mainly just a social gathering with a little bit of business thrown in. We have a lot of business going on at the moment and I need everyone to be one hundred per cent on the ball. It was a bit of a team building exercise. I was a little disappointed that a friend of yours didn’t turn up.”
“I wouldn’t really call him a friend as such. We just go back a long way”
“Whatever. I wanted to know who was making a move on me. You already know about the fire and then some money went astray. I think Davison’s non appearance tells its own story don’t you?”
“You don’t know for sure.”
I found myself in the strange position of defending Kev.
“I know enough to know that he’s taking the piss. That man is walking on very thin ice.” Ingham gave me a stare that told me not to argue with him.
I hoped that Kev hadn’t upset Ingham too much. I had plans for him. I had to be the one to finish it, not Ingham. I needed closure.
“Why are boys so immature? They’re always farting, fighting or wanking. Then if they’re not doing one of those three things, you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll be talking about one of them.”
Claire Pearson was leaning against the radiator in the girl’s toilet. Surrounded by mini skirted, bubble gum munching friends who were almost indistinguishable give or take a few pounds. They were now the oldest in the school and hogged the radiator from the younger girls.
“I’ve got my eye on someone, not that I could tell you who it is, you would only laugh.”
“You’re joking, who is it, Claire?” Sara demanded. “Come on, we’re your closest friends. You have to tell us.”
“No, like I said, you would only laugh,” Claire knew how to play to her audience.
Sara shrugged and edged her way onto the radiator as she took a drag from her cigarette. She blew the smoke skywards, an action that would eventually colour the pink walls with a tinge of yellow.
The door crashed open.
“What the frig are you doing, Wood?” shouted Sara.
“Sorry, I was pushed,” I replied sheepishly.
“I don’t care. Get out you little pervert.” Sara aimed a kick at me.
Karen Walker gave me a hand up. I brushed myself down as I edged, blushing out of the girl’s toilets. Davison and his friends walked away laughing.
“Come on then, what are they like?” Elvis was stood beside me.
“What do you mean?”
“The girl’s toilets, what are they like? You’ve been in that many times you should be an expert by now.”
“I’m serious, what are they like?”
I have to admit that the girl’s lavatories had always been a mystery to the boys at school.
“Claire was there,” I replied.
It had been nearly four years since I had sent her that card. She had just about stopped laughing about it. I think she was beginning to warm to me.
“God, is that all you think about,” said Elvis, “Claire, sodding, Pearson?” he stared at me through his milk bottle lens glasses.
“The girl’s toilets are just the same as the boy’s really, just pink,” I said as I feared he was going to walk off if I didn’t answer his question seriously.
“What so they piss in urinals?”
“So they’re not the same then?” Elvis was beginning to annoy me.
“You know what I mean. All the girls stand round the radiators smoking and chatting, exactly the same as the boys.”
“And that’s it?”
“Yeah, apart from the cigarette machine.”
“Yeah there’s a machine on the wall, it must be selling tabs.”
Elvis stared at me in disbelief until a grin started appearing across my face.
“I was worried about you for a minute there, Pete.” We both laughed and headed for the yard.
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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