I was quite surprised to find Bumper working the day after his nuptials. He explained that he couldn’t afford to lose the business by going away on honeymoon, which was understandable. I was even more surprised at how readily he agreed to my plan.
“You do realise how dangerous this could be, don’t you?”
“Fuck dangerous. I spend all day dressed as a great big banana and it begins to wear you down after a while. It’s about time I had some excitement in my life. Count me in.”
“If you’re sure?”
“Never been more sure in my life.” Bumper’s big yellow hand slapped me on the back.
“We’ll meet up for a drink tomorrow night then?”
I felt a little guilty asking him to go out with me the day after his wedding but if it bothered him, he didn’t show it.
“Yeah. Who else has volunteered so far?”
“There’s a couple who have put their names forward but I’d rather keep the names to myself for now.”
I knew that I only really had Gilbert on board at the moment but I didn’t want to scare Bumper off straight away.
“Need to know basis and all that. I like it. Very Secret Squirrel.”
Bumper was getting into the spirit of things. Hopefully his involvement might encourage Elvis. A young girl approached the stall.
“All right, Bumper? I’ll have a dozen bananas and a pound of grapes please.”
“Jesus pet. You’ll shite yourself away with all that,” Bumper got a snigger out of his customer and I wondered how he got away with it.
“See you tomorrow then?”
“Yeah, good to see you again mate”
I headed back to the car, pleased that I’d got Bumper to agree but I really needed Elvis’ help. I knew I was going to have to go and see him.
“Mr Burns wants to see you.” Sara Nesbitt approached me in the yard.
“What for, I haven’t done anything?”
“How would I know? He was giving me a bollocking for Friday night then said that you had to meet him in the entrance hall.”
I headed off to meet Burns, unsure what I was meant to have done. I passed Claire and Karen on the way. Karen smiled over but I pretended not to see her.
Burns wasn’t there and I had to wait ten minutes until he arrived.
“I’ve been picking the football team,” he explained, “and you will be playing at right back. I hope you can be bothered to turn up this time.”
I had to admit that I was surprised at my inclusion. Not that I was the worst player in the school but I certainly wasn’t the best. I was usually overlooked because of my size. What was all the more surprising was that Mr Burns was picking the team and we had a history after I refused to play for his chess team.
When you are being bullied at school it’s best to keep a low profile and being on the chess team was the last thing I needed to do but Burns hadn’t understood. This had been four years ago but I think he still held a grudge. I tried to act cool but inwardly I was really chuffed, I’d never been picked for anything before, except the chess team of course, and that hardly counted.
“I don’t give a toss about the law. What do you think is paying for this house, your poxy job at the hairdressers? I don’t think so. Where do you think your car came from? Do you think the garage was giving them away? No? Exactly. I paid for them and how I earn my money is nobody’s business but mine. It certainly isn’t yours. Now go and be a nice little housewife and make me some tea you stupid bitch.”
Kev slammed the door behind him. A tear formed in Claire’s eye. She wandered into the kitchen and started to make the tea. As she opened the fridge she noticed the bottle of Chardonnay. She removed it and poured herself a glass. It was times like this that she wished she had friends of her own. Since she left school she had become cut off from everybody else. Now the only people she knew were friends of Kev and she couldn’t speak to them.
The invitation to the school reunion was lying on the kitchen bench. She was definitely going to go now, with or without Kev. The people he’s mixing with now, I’m going to be on my own anyway. It’s about time I started making friends again. Her mind was made up. Now she had to find a way of telling Kev. His mood had changed since Pete first suggested the reunion. It wasn’t going to be easy he hated everybody he went to school with. She tried to cover up the damage as much as she could. It wasn’t the first time that Kev had hit her but it was going to be the last. She tried to remember what happened to that ambitious young girl from school. Yes, she had the nice house, the nice car and plenty of money but there was something missing. The face looking back at her from the mirror was not one of a happy successful woman but that of a battered, bruised and beaten wife. She knew she was going to have to leave him, she just didn’t know how or where she was going to go.
None of the lads seemed that surprised that I had been picked for the football team. By the time the game came along I had begun to become accepted as part of the team. I hadn’t been able to resist telling everybody that I had been picked and today was my big day. I couldn’t wait for the end of school so the match could start.
Mr Burns knew this and he had me exactly where he wanted me, in the palm of his hand. When I was boarding the bus Burns pulled me to one side.
“Where do you think you are going?”
“On the bus Sir,” I replied
“No you’re not, we don’t need you.”
The words cut into me like a knife. The bastard had stitched me up. Now I had to walk home on my own, in my football gear. I forced back the tears as I trudged home and hung around for over an hour before I went in for my tea.
“How was the match?” asked my mother.
“Will you be playing in the next one?”
“I doubt it. Most of the other players were much better than me.”
“You don’t know that. I’m sure you’ll be picked. Why haven’t you come home with your dad?”
“They let him finish work early so he could go and see you make your debut. Didn’t you see him?”
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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