Break the Child: Chapter Twenty-Five: To Prank or Not to Prank
Chapter Twenty-Five: To Prank or not to Prank
Everybody left the school grounds in twos or threes or tens. Sal and Mel had to go because they had things to do. Sal asked me if I was all right and if I was going on the bus with them, I nearly did, but Danny had asked me to wait and he’d just dumped his bag, I’d have to do something with that. I didn’t know what to do. Sal didn’t want to leave me, but I told her that I’d be all right. Nobody else said anything to me, they were all talking about the fight and how exciting that was.
I waited for ages, more than ten minutes, and nobody came out. I thought that Danny was playing a prank on me again like he always does. I told myself that he wasn’t going walk me home at all. I didn’t even know if I wanted him to, all he ever does is pick on me. Maybe he’d wanted to have a fight with Cotter for ages. Maybe I was just the thing that gave him to reason to have a go. I had to get home; Dad would be worried. But I couldn’t leave Danny’s bag. I didn’t know whether to put it in my locker until tomorrow or take it home with me. He’s always messing about. What if he told Sir I’d stolen it? Why did he go and leave his stupid bag with me in the first place? The dork.
I picked up his bag and my bag and started to walk to the bus stop. I’d have to wait ages for the next bus. I sent a text to Dad telling him that I’d missed the bus and was going to be late home.
It was only then that I thought about Danny’s arms wrapped around me and the kiss on the top of my head. It was a kiss, wasn’t it? I wasn’t sure now. It probably wasn’t and I’d just been imagining things in the heat of the moment. And then I thought that it might have been, after all, because my mind couldn’t make its mind up. My stomach suddenly flipped and I felt all warm and odd. I’ve never, ever, ever, for one single, solitary, second, imagined being kissed by Danny Peterson. Not even just on the top of my head. He’s the class clown and he always gets on my nerves. He gets on everybody’s nerves, especially the teachers. And then I realised the most oddest, craziest thing in the world. I realised that I’d been thinking about Danny Peterson and not about the horrible thing that had happened to me. I wasn’t crying, but what had happened to me was horrible. I started to feel a bit sad about it now, but I couldn’t feel properly sad because my mind kept jumping from the bullying bit to the Peterson kissing me on the head bit.
‘Hey, Kate, wait up.’ I didn’t dare look, but I did.
And he was running down the street towards me and I just knew that he had a frog, and he was going to put it down my shirt. He stopped in front of me and his hands were empty.
‘I thought you were going to wait for me?’ He looked sad. I didn’t know what to say, so I just shrugged.
It was like he didn’t know what to say, either. Maybe he remembered the stupid kiss, too, and was regretting it. We couldn’t just stand there gawping at each other, so I turned and carried on walking down the street
‘Do you want me to carry that?’ he sort of grinned and motioned towards his school bag that I was still carrying. It was heavy and I was very glad to give it him back. Then he said, ‘Do you want me to carry yours, as well?’ it seemed like such a dorky thing to say. I nearly laughed, but I didn’t. Then I realised that he probably wanted to take it so that he could pull everything out of it and take the mick about my stuff.
‘Nah, you’re all right. I’m good.’ He’d fallen into step beside me. He had his hands in his pockets and his shirt had come out of his pants. Without turning my head I could see grass stains on his trouser leg. I knew I should thank him, but I felt stupid and couldn’t think how to begin.
‘Katie, about what happened back there. Did they hurt you? Are you okay?’
‘No, they didn’t hurt me. I’m fine. It’s no big deal. Thanks for—’ I still didn’t know what to say to him and felt myself going red. ‘—thanks for jumping in like that. You didn’t have to or anything. You’re going to have a black eye tomorrow, does it hurt?’
‘Yeah, it hurts like hell, I think I’ll have to go to the hospital, and I might even need an operation on it to save my sight, Sir said I could be blinded for life.’
I gasped and felt tears stinging my eyes. If he went blind it would be all my fault. He heard my distress and pushed me on the arm, ‘Don’t be daft Kate, I’m having you on. It’s fine. I worked hard for this shiner; it’d better be a beauty, got to have something to show for my efforts in class tomorrow.’
‘Are you frightened of what Cotter and his gang are going to do to you?’
Now it was his turn to gasp. ‘Katie Bell, I don’t believe you. I do my best afternoon-in-shining-armour, stuff and you accuse me of being scared of a pack of idiots like them. I’m not scared of them, and anyway, I’ve got another thing in my favour,’
‘What’s that then?’ I asked, curious now.
‘Yep, my genes. See, my old man gave me a pair of great legs to run with.’
‘Oh, your genes. I thought you meant—never mind.’
‘I can show you them if you like, here, look.’ He stopped and pulled his trouser leg up. I thought his legs would be all skinny and white and kind of puny, but he had hairs on them like my dad. Not as many of them as my dad and nowhere near as thick, but hairy, nonetheless.
‘Put it away,’ I said laughing, ‘I’ve seen them before in games lessons.’
‘You’ve been looking at my legs while I was innocently trying to avoid the ball in Rugby? Holy mother of Jesus, that’s got to be a sin.’ I blushed but he was still talking and didn’t notice. ‘And anyway, I haven’t finished my story because you keep interrupting me. Have you heard of a bloke called Lindford Christie?’
‘Yes,’ I said, cautiously, because I sensed that there was going to be a punch line.
‘My uncle. That’s him, good old Uncle Lindford. Didn’t you know my name is Daniel Lindford Peterson? Cotter doesn’t stand a chance of catching me.’
‘Cotter’s black? Has anybody told his mother?’
‘No, you idiot, Lindford Christie’s black.’
‘I know, we’re just hoping that he doesn’t notice that the rest of the clan are all white. So anyway, enough about my family tree, what I want to know is, why have we never had a conversation like this before?’
‘A crazy conversation, that makes no sense and is bordering on racism, you mean?’ I asked laughing.
‘Oh, that’s a terrible thing to say and me with an African terrier, too.’
‘Is there such a breed?’
‘Of course, there is, come and ask Tiddles, if you don’t believe me.’
Tiddles, my African terrier. We were going to call him Tiger, but every time we called him, he got scared and peed.’
‘And you evade questions.’
‘What question have I evaded?’ I knew, but I felt embarrassed when he touched on personal stuff.
‘We’ve been sharing a classroom for what, seven years. But you never talk to me. I could develop a complex, you know. People can get tics when they’ve got a complex and then they start twitching, like this,’ He did the actions and an old lady passing by tutted at him because he’d stepped off the kerb into the road, she called him a silly boy. He shouted after her, ‘It’s not my fault Missus, she’s given me the tics.’ And he was still twitching his face.
But what was really funny, what was absolutely hilarious was when the old woman shouted over her shoulder, ‘Get some flea spray, then.’
I was in hysterics on the pavement, I couldn’t stop laughing and he laughed too but mostly he was just looking at me.’ It’s nice to see you laughing, Katie Bell. You used to laugh a lot. I thought you were just growing up all serious and ladylike, I didn’t know that—you know?’
I was embarrassed again because he had noticed that I used to laugh a lot and then he’d noticed that I’d stopped laughing much. He seemed to do an awful lot of noticing that I didn’t know about. He was still messing about and talking daft all the time, but one on one he seemed older. He’s the oldest kid in our class and is something like nine months older than me; he just missed the cut off point for the class above. Mr Hunter says that he could be really clever if he spent more time working and less time making an idiot of himself. He thought I was growing up ladylike, and I hadn’t noticed that he was growing up, at all. I was noticing now.