Have you ever felt like you were outshone?
Perhaps by a friend or sibling maybe. Trying being outshone by your twin.
Anthony and Mark Pennington were identical twins and looked exactly alike, from their jet black hair to their deep soulful dark blue eyes.
There was only one way to them apart from a distance, Anthony wore wire-rimmed spectacles because of his appalling eyesight, whereas Mark didn't.
Once you actually started talking to the boys though, it was clear to anyone who had only known them five minutes knew which twin was which.
Mark exuded confidence and made friends with anyone and everyone. Anthony though usually felt safer behind a book than with actual people, books couldn't call him names, or hurt him, apart from the occasional papercut.
Every story has a beginning and Anthony's story started on the First of September 1951. On this day, his life changed forever.
Anthony woke up and yawned quietly trying not to wake up his brother.
He looked around dazedly as he reached for his glasses and pulled them on.
He knelt up on his bed and checked the calendar hanging over his bed.
A huge grin appeared on his face. It was today!
He had been looking forward to this day since before he could remember, and it had finally arrived.
“Mark!” Anthony called over to his brother on the other side of their large bedroom.
There was no answer.
“Mark!” Anthony called a little louder.
“What?” grumbled Mark opening his eyes a fraction of an inch, and glaring at his twin brother.
“It’s today!” beamed Anthony.
Mark rolled his eyes and checked the clock on his bedside table.
“It’s also half-past five,” muttered Mark.
“Go back to sleep Anthony,” he mumbled closing his eyes and falling back to sleep almost instantly.
Anthony sighed slightly and decided to let Mark get as much sleep as he could.
If Mark got annoyed at being woken up with only one roommate, it was going to be a nightmare for him tonight.
Tonight, he was going to have to share a room with at least nine other boys.
Anthony had been looking forward to today for as long as he could remember, ever since their oldest brother Simon started at St Christopher’s six years ago.
There was going to be no more small village primary school, today they were going to start boarding school.
Anthony’s trunk was already packed at the end of his bed, the only thing he had left to pack where his uniforms which were still downstairs. Mark’s wasn’t even half packed.
Anthony went over to his trunk and tried to check that everything was packed properly.
He was straightening up the books in his trunk when Mark sat up and glared at him again.
“Anthony,” he said exasperated, “you’ve packed everything, now go back to sleep, or go and read a book. I don’t care! Just let me get back to sleep!”
“Sorry Mark,” said Anthony chuckling slightly.
He picked up one of his books out of his trunk and left Mark to get some sleep.
It was still only quarter to six, so he crept down the corridor, trying not to wake up either of his other brothers or his Dad.
He found the door to the linen cupboard door slightly ajar and he slipped in.
Anthony turned the light on in the room. They called it a linen cupboard, but it wasn’t as small as a cupboard. Half the room was taken up by several large shelves, which were full of spare towels and bedsheets.
He carefully climbed his way up to the top shelf which didn’t have any towels or bedsheets on it. If he knocked any of Mrs Brown the housekeeper's pristine sheets off their neat shelves he’d be for it alright.
He curled up on the top shelf and looked out the window. There was only a small window but it looked out over the driveway and the roof of the house.
Anthony curled up and cracked open his copy of Swallows and Amazons. When he said his copy, it was really Simon’s, at least it had used to be. But Simon hadn’t read any of the Arthur Ransom books in years, so Anthony had sort of inherited them.
Anthony had read it so many times that the pages were worn, but it was familiar. Every word seemed like an old song that he had heard a thousand times before.
He was so absorbed in his book, that at first, he hadn’t even heard people calling.
“Mark!” called Simon, “Anthony!”
“Why is the light on?” wondered Nick before opening the door.
Anthony’s brother Nick poked his head around the door and smiled slightly.
“I’ve found one Simon!” called Nick down the corridor.
“What you doing in here Anthony?” asked Nick as he helped his younger brother down from the shelf.
“I wanted to read,” said Anthony simply.
“But why in here?” chuckled Nick as they left the cupboard.
“Well, Mark wanted to sleep, and I didn’t want to disturb anyone,” muttered Anthony.
“Yeah well Mark’s a prat,” said Nick shaking his head as they headed downstairs together.
“Morning lads!” called Mr Pennington cheerfully from behind his copy of The Times as Nick and Anthony joined him at the breakfast table.
“Morning Dad!” beamed Nick as he helped himself to some toast.
Anthony tried to read his book whilst cutting the top off his egg at the same time, but he kept on missing with the knife because he was distracted.
“Anthony Charles Pennington!” said Mrs Brown walking over to him and picking up the book.
“What have I told you about reading at the table?” she asked as she cut the top off his egg for him.
“Dad’s reading his newspaper,” muttered Anthony somewhat foolishly.
“Yes well your father, can read and eat at the same time, you can’t!”
“No wonder you’re so skinny,” muttered Mrs Brown placing Anthony’s book on top of the china cabinet.
Anthony sighed slightly and looked at his book longingly.
“Eat up son,” chuckled Mr Pennington putting away his newspaper, “the sooner you eat that boiled egg and toast the sooner you get your book back.”
Anthony looked up at his Dad and smiled before tucking into his boiled egg.
At that moment, Simon arrived pulling a half-asleep Mark who flopped down at his seat next to Simon.
Mark gave a huge yawn before reaching for the coffee pot.
Mr Pennington gave his son a meaningful look before Mark grinned innocently before he withdrew his hand from the coffee pot and drank his milk.
“So how does the new prefect feel this morning?” smirked Simon looking at Nick.
“Nervous,” sighed Nick, “what if I get it wrong?”
“It’s a piece of cake,” shrugged Simon, “they’ll make anyone a prefect.”
“Funny thing you say that Simon,” smirked Mark, “as you never got a badge.”
“Fair point,” chuckled Simon, “you’ll be fine Nick.”
“If you four don’t get a move on, none of you will get there on time!” said Mrs Brown coming over to the table.
She had left out four large neatly folded piles of uniforms.
Anthony picked up his pile of uniforms as he finished his breakfast. Mrs Brown reached up on top of the china cabinet and put his book on top of the pile.
“Thanks!” beamed Anthony.
“Get on with you,” sighed Mrs Brown.
Anthony walked slowly upstairs trying not to drop his pile of uniforms, he didn’t want them getting creased.
He gave his school shoes one last polish, even though they already shined before he started to get dressed into his uniform, grey trousers, white school shirt, a dark red jumper with the school crest, and a grey blazer with red trim.
He pulled on his new school shoes and then tried to do up his tie, but he kept on getting it wrong.
Mark was wandering in and out of the room half in his uniform, half in his pyjamas trying to collect assorted possessions from around the house.
He was just trying to do his tie for what felt like the tenth time when Mark came back in again.
“You haven’t seen my tap shoes have you?” asked Mark.
“I’ll go take a look,” sighed Anthony giving up the tie as a bad job for now.
From the strange sounds he had heard through the ceiling yesterday, he thought he knew exactly where Mark’s tap shoes where.
Anthony headed up to the attic and found the tap shoes in the corner of the room.
“Got you!” beamed Anthony picking them up and carried them back downstairs.
“Why were your tap shoes in the attic?” asked Anthony.
“Oh so that’s where I left them!” said Mark somewhat muffled as he pulled on his jumper.
“The bare floorboards are great for practising on,” said Mark packing away his tap shoes, and trying to squeeze his trunk shut.
Mark wasn’t a very neat packer, and his trunk was a jumble of various possessions pouring out, no wonder it wouldn’t shut.
Anthony had gone back to trying to tie his school tie
“Mark,” said Mr Pennington, “put the books on the bottom and fold the clothes properly, then it will shut.”
“Anthony, do you want me to show you again?”
“Yes please,” chuckled Anthony.
Mr Pennington showed Anthony how to tie his tie in the mirror again, and they practised until he got it right.
“Perfect!” said Mr Pennington as Anthony got it right.
He looked his two younger sons up and down for a moment beaming before pulling them both in for a hug.
“Your Mum would have been so proud,” sighed Mr Pennington.
“We know Dad,” chuckled Mark, “we know.”
“Right,” said Mr Pennington composing himself.
“Nick!” he called down the corridor, “Simon!”
“Aye aye sir?” said Simon giving him a brief salute in the corridor.
“Let’s get this luggage loaded please boys.”
Even though this was only Mark and Anthony’s first year, they knew what to do, Nick and Simon had been going for years.
They worked in pairs, Mark and Simon always worked together, as did Anthony and Nick.
Between the four of them, they managed to get all four trunks and assorted extra luggage such as cricket bats and music bags into the boot of the range rover without anyone bumping into each other or getting hurt.
“I think that’s everything,” muttered Mr Pennington shutting the boot.
“I think you’ll find you’ve forgotten something,” said Mrs Brown coming out of the house with four boxes.
How Mrs Brown had managed to fill the four tuck boxes with rationing still going on was a miracle in itself, but there was a lot less sugar than there should have been in all the treats.
“Tuck!” exclaimed Simon rushing over and peering into his box.
“Brownie you’re a gem!” beamed Simon hugging her.
“Thanks, Mrs Brown,” said Anthony taking his box from her.
“You’ve got some jam tarts in there,” she whispered conspiratorially, knowing they were Anthony’s favourites.
“Don’t tell your brothers or they’ll swipe the lot.”
“Thanks,” beamed Anthony peeking in the box quickly before sliding it back shut again.
“See you at Christmas!” said Mrs Brown waving as the boys piled into the car, and the car pulled away from the driveway.
“And we’re off!” exclaimed Mr Pennington as they left the driveway.
“You excited boys?”
“I’ve just been made sports captain for our house, and I’m only lower sixth, yeah I’m excited!”
“Dad?” asked Nick, “what if I fail my GCE O Levels?”
“First of all, Nick, you won’t fail, secondly if you do, you can just retake them next year.”
“You won’t be disappointed?” asked Nick surprised.
“I could never be disappointed as long as you try your hardest.”
“And what about the terrible twins?” asked Simon turning around in the front seat.
“I can’t wait,” beamed Mark.
“Is it true, that they have shows and concerts every single term?”
“Yes, but you’ll have to be bloody good to get in at your age Marky.”
“I am bloody good!” protested Mark outraged.
“I know that,” nodded Simon, “but you and your mate Julie will have to show them that.”
“What about you Tony?” asked Nick.
“What?” asked Anthony who had been staring distractedly out the window.
“School? You looking forward?”
“Oh um yeah sure,” shrugged Anthony.
“You ok Tons?” asked Mark.
Anthony nodded enthusiastically to his twin brother before looking back out the window. But the truth was, he wasn’t alright. The closer they got to the school; the more worried Anthony got. He had been looking forward to going to St Christophers for years, but the closer he got, the more Anthony thought it might be the exact same as primary school.
Simon was keen on sport and there was lots of sport at St Chris’ and Nick was in the military cadets at school. Mark though was born to entertain, he and his best friend and next-door neighbour Julie. He had always felt at home under the stage lights, they had all sorts of stuff for people like Mark at St Chris’ concerts, choirs, plays, school entertainments, Mark would probably take part in all of those.
But then there was Anthony, he wasn’t like Mark or Simon who spilt over with confidence and made friends easily. He always felt much more comfortable with a book and took to all his lessons like a fish to water.
What if Anthony had dreamt of this day for years, just for all the others to think he was a know it all swat or a teacher’s pet like they used to a primary school?