We’re going to a school reunion today, but at a school where we taught, rather than where we were pupils.
I don’t expect it will be like the reunion my character Thomas attended in my novel ‘Magick’. They have met in a pub and at one point Thomas needs the bathroom so goes down to find the facilities:
The toilets were down a winding staircase by the back entrance and I went down reflecting on how unexpected the evening had turned out to be… I didn’t anticipate how even more unexpected it was going to be.
I was washing my hands and thinking maybe Kylie was right and I could do with a different hairstyle, the fringe really needed to go, when the door swung open.
“Well, well, it’s the ton of lard, it’s the ginger pig! I didn’t think you’d have the balls to show up here!”
Of all my tormentors at school, here was the worst, Martin Pell. I couldn’t even begin to remember the number of times he had been abusive, had hit me, had hurt me, had humiliated me…
I turned round and ripped a piece of paper from the towel holder.
At school he’d been one of those wiry kids, not much bigger than me but quick and strong… and he’d gathered around him a nasty little bunch of cowards. They didn’t have to be that brave to pick on the fat ginger kid. The worst of being bullied is that sick feeling of shame, that there’s something so pathetic about you that the lowest of the low feels free to humiliate you, and that there’s nothing you can do about it.
“Still fat, and still ginger,” he said which was so pathetic I almost felt like laughing… except I didn’t feel like laughing.
Pell was wearing a suit and a pork pie hat; his face was as weasly as ever and he had a tattoo on his face. The tattoo reminded me of another man who had threatened me, a far more scary and dangerous guy than this idiot.
I turned back to the mirror and adjusted my tie. My eyes were grey, the brown hazel colour invisible.
“Still stupid, Pell?” I asked.
He laughed as I turned round and he was still laughing as I hit him in the face as hard as I could. In the few seconds it had taken to decide what I was going to do, I had prepared myself for a fight, prepared to end up bloodied and hurt, even though I knew that this time my enemy would also be hurt.
Thomas confronts the bully from his past, and leaves the bathroom feeling a sense of confidence which he had never experienced before, a bully conquered… however…
My hand was really hurting, maybe I’d broken something, but I didn’t care… what I’d done was shameful, but I felt no shame. My brother Marcus would have been disappointed and furious… but I felt strong and I felt justified and I felt a certain pride. I came out into the bar and almost walked straight into a big burley man with a shaved head and a full beard.
My blood turned to ice water. Hollis. This was the other bully who had seen my refusal to cry or to complain or to beg for mercy as a challenge. He had not been nasty in the way Pell had, he’d just liked to hurt me physically.
A scenario played in my mind, being pushed back through the doors to the toilet and down the stairs and then, and then, a lucky punch wouldn’t save me, I’d be beaten to a pulp… and the faces of the two men behind Hollis changed from adults to the boys they’d been, Peters and Marino…
They nodded at me and walked round Hollis and went through the door leading down to the toilets.
“Hello, Thomas, I heard you were here.”
I’d forgotten that he always had a quiet voice, which in a way was more scary than Pell’s crowing. I was surprised to be addressed by my first name, and my heart began to return to normal speed; he didn’t seem to be about to hit me, and he certainly wouldn’t do it here with people all around us.
“Hello David.” It was probably the first time either of us had addressed the other by our first names.
“Do you mind if we have a word?” his polite suggestion filled me with dread again and I felt sick. The way he spoke was one of the coded threats the bullies had used, but he indicated an empty table by a pillar.
I went and sat in the chair facing the rest of the bar so I could see if any of his cronies were waiting to pile in.
“I was hoping you might be here, I have something to say to you…” he was sitting facing me across the table, his hands clasped as if he was about to say grace. Whatever he was going to say, whatever polite and horrible threat he was going to make, he kept me waiting. “So how’s things, Thomas? I hear you’re a solicitor now… doing OK?”
If you want to know what happens next, read my e-book!