Claire placed her arm around me. The orange glow of the streetlights and the fret coming in from the sea combined to form a luminous haze.
“Do you never miss seeing the stars?” I asked her. “Do you not wish that you could lie back in the grass and stare up into the evening sky without this orangeness? I used to do that quite a lot, completely lose myself in my thoughts. Better than any drugs, better than any religion.”
“And you would know, would you?” she challenged.
“Surely the point of religion, the chief selling point, is freedom. To be alone with your thoughts with no distractions is the greatest freedom. That’s why people are never happy when they are together. You can only be truly happy when you are alone. The happy couple is a myth.”
“God, you can be a miserable bugger at times. I thought we were having a good time. These last two weeks have been really special to me. Obviously you don’t feel the same. Someone must have really hurt you once for you to be so bitter.”
“I’m not bitter, just realistic. Why build yourself up to be knocked back down again.” I put my hands in my pockets.
“That’s it isn’t it? You don’t really believe any of that crap. It’s just another one of your little self-defence mechanisms. Don’t let anyone get close because you’ll only get hurt. That’s bollocks and you know it.” Claire was surprised at how angry she had become.
“I think you’ve just proved my point. If you were alone you wouldn’t be having this argument. Unless you were schizophrenic and then I suppose you wouldn’t be truly alone.”
“Ok I give in. You win we’re all going to lead miserable unproductive lives and die unhappy. Now can we just try and enjoy this walk along the seafront before the rain comes and spoils it.”
“I quite like the rain.”
“That doesn’t surprise me.” Claire smiled.
We walked for about ten minutes in complete silence, quietly enjoying each other’s company.
“I’ve got to go. His Majesty will be expecting his tea by now. See you tonight.”
Claire headed across the road, past the concrete lions and up the garden path. I checked my watch, not long now.
I didn’t know what to do with the rest of my day. I hadn’t felt this relaxed in ages. I went home and had a few games of snooker, equalling my record break of thirty. I then went upstairs and had a wank, it would be rude not to. I played my Depeché Mode tapes at full blast and generally enjoyed myself. This was definitely the way forward. For the next couple of weeks I did the same every day. I would go in for registration and then walk straight out of the gate, only returning for afternoon registration. Elvis and Bumper soon joined me. It hadn’t taken Kev long to work out who had tipped me off and he administered a sound to beating to Elvis.
Elvis saw the benefits of my new found freedom but Bumper wasn’t really sure why he was there. He just said that the idea of playing snooker and listening to tapes appealed to him.
We started playing games on the computer. They were normally banned in my house, the computer was an educational tool but Elvis’ parents were a little more liberal. He had stacks.
Like all good things, it had to come to an end. A letter to my parents soon put a stop to it.
Tomma knew it was all going to come on top sooner or later; he’d had a good innings and now was the time to get out. He’d planned it from the start and now he had enough money to move to Oz and disappear. Not as much as he had hoped but that was unavoidable. He had managed to skim that money from Ingham but that meant his need to get away all the more urgent. There were just a couple of loose ends to tie up and then he’d be away.
Tomma didn’t feel sorry for Kev; he’s had it coming. He did murder Nick Couzens after all. Whether he had the right motive is irrelevant. He was still the man with the knife. A little phone call just before he boarded the plane would have Carter and the wooden tops pissing themselves with excitement.
Fuck Davison, Fuck Ingham, Fuck everyone.
Tomma knew that disappearing would make him look like a bad person but he didn’t really care. All he wanted was to be liked, to be popular. Then life got in the way, people got in the way so they had to be removed. He was thirty-one years old and this was the first time he had actually done something that was for him alone. He’d been living Davison’s pocket for the last twenty years, it was time to move on. This would be his last time in the Whistle with the lads. He fingered the wrap of Charlie in his hand. Yes, tonight was going to be a good one and he was determined to enjoy it.
“Straighten your tie.”
My mother tried to strangle me with my neckpiece then tried to reinforce the side parting she had combed into my hair that morning. Taking a tissue from her pocket, she spat on it and started wiping an imaginary mark from my face.
“For Christ’s sake, Mam. I’m fifteen, I can manage to wash myself.”
“Well, you should try and act your age sometimes. And don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. No the wonder you’re in so much trouble with an attitude like that. I don’t know where we went wrong with you.”
I was tempted to tell her, when I saw Bumper forcing back a grin at the other side of the entrance hall.
“I don’t know what you’re smirking at,” said his mother.
“I don’t smirk. Stunts your growth apparently.”
This was too much for Elvis who burst out laughing. Mrs Morris hit him so hard that his glasses flew across the floor.
The humour kept our minds off what was coming; we were all due in Gutteridge’s office to get our punishment. We had been bunking off for about three weeks now thinking that nobody had seen us. The funny thing was that the teachers had watched us from the staff room window as we walked out of the gate. They hadn’t bothered to say anything at the time as they were probably thinking we would set a trend that would take the likes of Kevin Davison out of their lessons giving them an easy ride. When they eventually realised that we were never going to be trend setters they decided to pull us in. I’m not sure how they explained to Gutteridge that they had quite happily watched pupils walk out of the school and not done anything about it. I would loved to have seen them try and explain it to my mother but I was never going to get the chance.
Another installment to follow same time next week.
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