“Have a good day at school son” She says, visibly holding back the tears.
“I will Mum. See you later” I wave goodbye as I entered the big blue school for the last time.
The air is thick; A mixture of humidity and excitement fill the playground. The usual clicks are going about their morning rituals: the popular boys playing football, the girls giggling on the sidelines and the teachers on the far side of the tarmac conversing about something too important for us children to hear.
Today was different though. I felt like it was. The last day of primary school. ‘7 years of learning down only 5 more to go.’ At least that was what most of the boys were saying.
Not me. I have plans. I want to be something, do something, go somewhere. Cambridge. Maybe even Oxford. I’ll either be a Doctor or a Mathematician.
I’m smart enough. I read the entire school library before I entered year 6, got some of the highest Year 6 SATS results in the school when I was 9 and I’m learning more and more everyday. The idea of secondary school, with a big library and better teachers excites me.
Steven, Bharat, Dean are my best – and only real – friends. We are the 4 smartest students in the school; although this last year we haven’t been treated like it. Despite being 11 our combined IQ is close to 400.
Walking towards my friends, that were waiting in our usual place in the shade, I felt a rush of blood course through my body.
A heightened sense of awareness wouldn’t be a normal occurrence for most boys walking across a playground; it is for me.
“James, look out” Dean yells.
I turn around just in time to see an open palm come flying at my face. Unable to avoid it, I’m hit with a pain that is increased 10 fold by the state of hyper-awareness I’m in.
This action is a daily thing now. Almost entirely carried out by Chris.
Chris is a boy my age, a little smaller in size – I’m not by any means big – he lives with his older brother and his Mum a few streets from the school. He says his Dad is in prison, which given his actions isn’t unbelievable. I don’t know why he picks on me but my Mum always taught me not to fight back.
I just suck up the pain and carry on towards the few people in the world I don’t fear or loathe with contempt.
“What was that for?” Bharat asks.
“I don’t know. Can we just go inside please.” I reply.
While Dean and I talk about the latest Dragonball Z episode – it’s the Android Saga and Roshi’s Island had just been invaded by 16, 17 and 18 – Bharat and Steven walk quietly with us.
Steven was never one for words. He is probably the smartest of us all. Quite tall for his age; one of the tallest boys in our school. He speaks with a hushed tone; almost mouse like. When he does speak it is always something insightful.
Bharat and Dean are the vocal boys in our group. If we ever had to do presentations then Dean would be the one to do the talking.
As the bell rings I’m already firmly sat in my seat. I can’t be poked or punched or tripped up if I’m sat in the corner of the room.
The rest of the class file in with Chris predictably late. While ignoring the teacher he shoots a look in my direction. I just look away and ignore it; I know I’ll come to regret that later.
As it’s the last day of school Mrs T has got the TV and video for us to watch. I’m not too fussed about it as I’ve got my head in Prince Caspian for the 50th time.
The lunch bell shocks me out of my zone. Where the last few hours have gone I do not know.
“What have you got for lunch?” Dean asks.
“Cheese sandwiches” Steven replies.
I wonder if I’ll ever meet another human as bland and fussy an eater as Steven.
“I don’t know what’s in my batches today. I haven’t looked” says Bharat.
I know what’s in mine; Ham and salad cream. The same as every other day. I hate salad cream. The boys have stopped asking me because they know I never eat them.
As we walk down the corridor towards the playground I hear Mrs T yell.
“NO SWEAR WORDS!”
The age old tradition of signing school shirts on the last day of school has commenced. I won’t even be asking anyone.
“James. Can I sign your shirt” screams Jess as she comes running towards me.
“Erm…I guess so” I reply.
I feel a warm, fuzzy emotion bubble up inside me. I have no idea why Jess wants to sign my shirt but despite my reservations it feels good.
As me and Dean are walking and talking about Dragonball Z some more we are being interrupted every few minutes by more people coming up to sign our shirts and asking us to sign them back. This is the most popular I’ve ever felt.
“Oi James” Chris yells.
I turn around to see the boy I loathe the most walking towards me with a marker pen in hand. I automatically think he’s going to write on my arm or face.
“Turn around and let me sign your shirt” he says once he’s within arms reach.
I turn around submissively. I know he won’t hit me when Dean’s around but that doesn’t stop my heart from racing.
After hearing the cap go on the marker and Chris laughing as he walks away I breathe a sigh of relief.
Dean and I carry on our conversation until the bell rings again. Only 2 more hours and I leave primary school for good. Excitement, fear, anticipation. My heart rate quickens again.
There is a queue to get in the classroom as Mrs T checks everyone’s shirts for swearwords. I can’t see any on mine so I walk in confidently.
“James. Go and get changed into your P.E shirt now!” she screams as I turn around.
For the 5th time today my heart races. What is on my shirt? Who did it?
The cloakroom is busy; I guess there were a lot of swear words written today. I walk over to my P.E bag. Lee lets out a laugh as I walk past.
Stood topless I check my shirt for offensive words. There’s nothing on the front. I flip it over.
FUCKING GEEK is written in red pen across the back.
“Chris. Did you write this?” I ask.
Chris starts walking over from the other side of the room. My heart quickens again.
“What if I did?” he replies.
“Nothing. I was just asking” I say trying to defuse this situation before it gets worse.
“Are you being cheeky?”
“No, no. I was just asking”
Whimpering away I realise I’m getting close to the wall. It may hurt if he pushes me against it.
I try to walk past him, still topless, but he pushes me. He must have had his leg behind mine as I’m now lay on the cold tiles.
Jumping on top of me I beg him to just let me go. My heart is at 200bpm and I have fear running through every nerve in my body. Fight or flight kicks in and all I want to do is fly.
Turning to my left underneath him in a vain effort to protect myself just seems to aggravate him more. He starts unleashing punches on my upper arm.
All I want to do is die.
I assume Chris is bored of my crying and cowering as he gets up and walks off without so much as a word.
I’m left alone, shirtless and in tears on the floor of a cloakroom. Surely this isn’t how I’m suppose to remember my last day at school?
Still crying I pick myself up, throw on my P.E shirt and walk back into class.
“James come outside” Mrs T says.
I am at my most vulnerable. The most internal, introverted state I’ve been in since the spider incident last year.
Mrs T’s voice is so soft I just can’t hold back the tears.
“It…it…it was Chris” I mumble between snorts and coughs from the salty taste of my tears.
“Go to the toilet, clean yourself up then come back and sit down. We’re going to watch another film this afternoon and then it’s the summer holidays. You‘ll be fine.”
I walk off without saying anything. Mrs T is right. The summer is 2 hours away. I’m big enough to last 2 hours. The fear of what Chris can do to me is lessened knowing my Mum will be waiting for me at the gate.
Stood in front of the sink I avoid looking in the mirror. I hate seeing myself cry. All I can think is how weak I must look.
I cannot go into big school this weak. I’m smart. I should be able to change myself so I never look this weak again.