When I get back I stomp back to my room and find Jel and Henry sitting on the floor watching some cat video’s on YouTube. I dump my bag and sit down to join them.
“TJ! Your back! How is it wherever you went?” Jel asks.
“How’s your 20×20 vision?”
Henry the insensitive bastard.
I look over at Henry and give him two middle fingers.
“Ow Jel! That is bloody painful!”
Jel kicks him the shins. Good.
“What are guys watching?”
Zook sits down to join us.
“Have you guys seen two girls one cup?”
They both nod.
“I bet TJ hasn’t seen it.”
“I’ve seen like the first three seconds of it but I felt pretty ill so I stopped.”
Don’t watch it whatever you do please. It’s one of the most disturbing videos I’ve ever seen.
“Or have you seen that video when the girl eats the used Tampon?”
They just look at him.
“What the hell do you do in your free time I really don’t want to know.” Jel mutters. “Oh TJ, by the way, I’m presuming these two vaginas haven’t given you the English yet?”
I shake my head.
“I knew it.”
He gets up and takes a piece of paper from the junk yard he calls his desk.
“It’s what we have to read for English because we’re going to be studying one of them for our exam next year.”
“Of mice and men…1984…to kill a mockingbird-” I read out with a sense of impending doom.
“Which is the most boring book in the universe.”
“Jel when have you of all people read To Kill a Mockingbird?” Henry asks.
“At my school in the states, we are made to watch the film because it is part of our culture or something.”
Then I realise it is double sided. That’s the low point of my day. It consists of 35 books and we have to read all of them. So at lunch the next day, the four of us go to the library to wreak havoc and hunt out four copies of The Lord of the Rings The Fellowship of the Ring and we drag Brad along to help us because he knows what we are looking for. He says he’d come once he’d finished socialising so until then we are on our own and causing chaos and stressing out the librarian.
“So what are getting again?” Zook asks in his carrying voice and Henry shrugs his shoulders as seven seniors all turns around and shoosh them.
I am about to answer but Jel who has been charming up the librarian to help us pokes his head around the door and says:
“Children! I found it!” in his best female school teacher voice and he beckons us to join him.
Basically, we are kicked out the library. Jel gets us to all sit around him and he starts to read us the first page of Lord of the Rings the Return of the King which is entirely the wrong book and gets very excited most of the way down the first page and starts shouting about the beacons being lit. Then Brad comes to help us and throws a book at Jel’s head which Jel throws back, misses Brad and hits a very neatly piled stack of books which all fall over and knock over a great many other things too in a kind of domino effect. Then we are in trouble.
It turns out that the book Brad has thrown at Jel’s head is the right one but we discover that after we have been kicked out and given a big telling off by the captain of the library (who thinks he is so important) for being too noisy and causing too much havoc and stressing out the poor librarians who already has enough to deal with without five year 10 boys who seem hellbent on causing as much chaos as possible. Then he works out who Brad is and starts smiling very smugly as he had threatens to put us in DT but decides just to tell Mr H instead.
“How are we stressing out the librarians?” Jel asks as we head off to our next lesson.
“Yeah what exactly do they have to deal with?” Henry adds. “Apart from us?”
“The Dewey system. I hear that’s very stressful, putting books in order all day.” Zook says.
“And when you organise them in piles then a retard knocks them over.” I add.
“Thanks Ben. I didn’t mean to knock them over. If Brad hasn’t moved his head-”
“This may surprise you Jel but most normal people don’t like being hit in the head with books.”
Brad is the only one who isn’t finding this funny and he tells us later how much he is panicking about the right bollocking he is going to get into from his dad. And oh boy he does.
We came out of English on Thursday, the 9th February. I always remember the date. It seems to be cements in there as the day I, Ben TJ Roderick Walker-O’Reilly Middleton Jones ruins someone’s life. It isn’t intentional, it just kinda happens.
Thursday is the one day a week we go to lunch together (Henry, Zook, Jel and I.) and we always wait for Brad then go to lunch and would always go and do something afterwards like go to the library, school shop or often just sit the refectory and chat and muck around until there is only us left. And every Thursday Jel will be invited to go along with his in-crowd and every Thursday he says no.
Today however is different. We come out of English and end up waiting like 15 minutes for Brad who eventually comes out at like half one because he has been talking to his teacher about the mock exam he has missed and if it meant anything and what book to read next etc etc etc. So we get to lunch and it is completely crowded and there is nowhere to sit for five hungry boys. After we have got lunch and queue for ages, the only seats are on a table with two Chinese people. About 10 minutes later they leave and we have peace and quiet. I go to get water and when I come back there are like ten girls at our table and I struggle to actually sit let alone get back to my seat.
“Celine. Let Ben have his seat back.” Jel tells the one in my seat and she obliges. Henry is bright red and I am sure I not the only who has noticed.
“Wait, who are you?” The Chinese looking one with the American accent brandishes a manicured fingernail in my direction.
“Ohhh, you’re the other Arkansas boy. I’m Valentina.” She puts out her hand, as if she wants me to kiss it. So I shake it.
“This is Celine and Lutra” She goes around the table, gesturing vaguely. On the scale of who is the hottest, I’d say it goes Lutra, Celine then Valentina. I think Valentina thinks she is the most stunning thing to walk this earth and she ummm…isn’t. But I’m not going to be the one to tell her that. Henry obviously has a thing for Celine who I think must have been Swedish or something because she is very pale and blond and icy.
“Wait, did you go to Filey High?” Valentina says.
How the hell does she know that?
“I use to know Elena Rockwell.”
Oh damn. I laugh nervously.
“How did you know her?”
“I met in year 8 at the scholarship weekend here.”
I remember there had been a massive hoohah about her going. She was the richest and poshest girl in our year. She wasn’t necessarily the most popular but she knew how to spread gossip when she wants to and she came back from Gordonstoun every summer with an even posher accent and more designer clothing than ever.
“You do know she went to Gordonstoun right?”
“Of course. I have known her since I was five and she does come back every year.”
People used to ship us because we were the ‘posh kids.’ Notice the past tense here.
And I’ve heard all about you.” She says viciously and I sink into my chair and begin to panic. What does Elena know about me and what’s she told Valentina? Actually I really don’t want to ask or know.
Celine places a finger on Valentina’s lips.
“Save the reunion stuff for later please. Changing the subject, Valentina, has that ugly kid there. Has he ever got with anyone?” Celine asks.
“You mean Gwebe?” Jel says.
“He did.” Lutra replies boredly. Everyone stop at look at her.
“Yeah when the hell did Gwebe ever get with anyone ever?”
“Year 8.” She told us.
“With who?” Henry asks, flabbergasts.
“Some chick I am in a room with. Can’t remember her name.”
“Maybe it’s time he get with someone again.” Valentina suggests but not in her usual purr. Her voice is loud and in control and it stops everything we are doing and draws us all in to listen.
“What do you mean?” Jel asks; the first one to speak.
“Get him a girlfriend.” She replies firmly.
“Yes. All you Arkansas boys.”
“In fact.” Lutra decides to add in. “I bet you guys can’t get him a girlfriend.”
So this involves all of us now. Great.
“You can’t can you?” Valentina mocks.
These next few words I didn’t mean to say and I wonder what would have happens if we had ignored them and walks away instead.
Valentina comes up to me and whispers:
“Do it. Or I’ll expose you.”
I shift uneasily in my chair.
“How much would you be willing to bet?”
The other girls look at me as if I have fallen from the sky. Valentina just grins like an evil Cheshire cat.
“Cut it out both of you. Come on TJ lets go.”
“No I’m serious. How much would you be willing to bet?” I repeat.
“To bet?” They look amongst themselves for a moment. The guys just look at me. But they aren’t angry. At least I hope they aren’t.
“If you win Ginger boy; well you choose…” Her voice is a mixture of seductiveness and something else I can’t name. “But if you lose… Well, what do you think girls?”
All of Arkansas are now seats watching me and Valentina while the girls consults amongst themselves.
“We get to pierce your ear. The gay side.”
We get closer and consult.
“Well Ginger this little scheme yours sounds like a bit of fun. I’m up for it.” Zook whispers.
“I’m in. War against Valentina? Why not.”
“Brad. You in?”
He is the only one who looks uneasy.
“Fine. But if it all goes wrong, I’m not taking the blame.”
It won’t go wrong. What could go wrong about it?
“Jel?” We all turns to him, some more hopefully than others (Brad.)
He pauses for moment.
“Fine. Let’s do this.”
We come back out of our huddle and Valentina looks at us, waiting for an answer.
“If you lose, you have to get with Gwebe yourself.” Jel tells her. She looks very uneasy for a moment.
“Game on.” I stick my hand out into the middle.
“Spit on it.” Jel mutters.
I did and after a look of disgust, she copies and put her hand in mine and we shake on it and as we do, she mutters:
“Don’t worry, I’ll keep your little secret, for now anyway.”
So I reply.
“May the best man or women win.”