A Perfectly Normal Day
Mark was woken up by a bell ringing.
It was loud. Too loud. Mark had always thought so, it made his head split.
He was back in the ruddy hell hole that they called a school.
Oh, he supposed it wasn’t that bad, he wasn’t bad at lessons, well he wasn’t good like Anthony either, but he usually passed around the middle of his class. But that wasn’t what he cared about really. Most of the boys at the school were either rugby-mad or cadet crazy, quite a few of them like Harry were both.
The only moments of solace he had were in drama club two evenings a week and Saturday afternoons. They put on a play in the Autumn, a musical in the Spring, and also organised the Speech Day entertainment at the end of the year.
“Marky,” Anthony called as he hopped down from his bunk bed, “time to get up mate.”
“I’m coming,” grumbled Mark.
Only six hundred and seventy-odd days left, and he would be out of here.
Mark opened his eyes and saw Harry fumbling with his tie in the mirror, and Anthony was combing his hair with the usual Brylcreem.
Anthony’s hair was always neat thanks to the magic tin, but Mark couldn’t stand the stuff for some reason and liked his long natural dark curls the way they were. Mark’s hair had nearly reached his collar now.
“Come on Mark,” said Harry as he pulled on his shoes, “if we don’t get a move on we’ll miss breakfast.”
“I’m coming,” nodded Mark hoping he could get himself a cup of coffee at breakfast.
When they got down to breakfast, Anthony had his usual strawberry jam on toast, whilst Athene had marmite on hers. Mark never felt like eating much at breakfast, all he needed was his caffeine fix to get him started for the day.
Two cups of coffee later, and the world seemed to appear much less bleary to Mark and he was much more awake.
Once Mr Mitchell had handed out all the timetables, he came over to the two Lower Sixth tables.
“Right you lot!” he said, “A-Level students. All Lower Sixth students are to meet in the Latin classroom straight after assembly.”
“What about our timetables sir?” asked Lizzie.
“That is what we’ll be sorting out Lizzie, now get a move on or we’ll all be late for assembly.”
After the welcome back assembly, Mark was surprised that it wasn’t just Mr Mitchell’s students standing outside the Latin room, but all the Lower Sixth, all sixty of them.
“Right you miserable lot,” said Mr Davies coming into the classroom, “get in and find a seat, if you can’t find a seat sit on a desk.”
Mark looked at Julie incredulously before they both shrugged and headed into the classroom. Harry, Charlie, Mark and Julie all sat down on top of a double desk at the back of the classroom, and Athene and Anthony sat down at their usual front desk.
Mr Mitchell and Mr Davies were standing at the front of the classroom with Mr Jones, Mr Baker the Head of English and Mr Turner Head of Science.
“Right quiet please!” called Mr Mitchell.
The chattering and muttering stopped almost instantly and Mr Mitchell got everyone’s attention.
“Alright, we’re here to pick your A-Level subjects. We’re going to start with an easy one, who here wants to take Maths?”
About twenty-five people in the room put up their hands, including Anthony and Mark.
Mr Jones had a clipboard and jotted down the students who had signed up to take maths.
Fifteen people put their hands in the air, most of them had already signed up for Maths, and Mr Jones jotted them down again.
They did the same routine for Physics and Chemistry.
“Right,” said Mr Turner, “who has just signed up to take all four of the above, Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics?”
About twelve boys and Lizzie all put their hands in the air.
“Well first of all I wouldn’t recommend taking any more, you’re going to have your hands full. Secondly, your first Biology lesson will be second period.”
Graham put his hand in the air.
“Yes Graham?” asked Mr Mitchell.
“Well I want to be a doctor like my Dad. He said I should take Latin as it should help with my medical training. Will it clash with any of my maths or science lessons?”
“That is an excellent question for you to ask, firstly no, it doesn’t clash with any lessons apart from Physics. But if you want to go into medicine you won’t need Physics anyway. Also, if you want to take all maths and science you shouldn’t take more than four, I suggest if you do want to take Latin, drop Physics.”
“Thank you, sir,” nodded Graham, “that’s perfect.”
Lizzie put her hand in the air.
“Can I do that too sir?” she asked, “I also want to study medicine.”
“A woman doctor?” scoffed one of the boys.
“There is no harm in that,” said Mr Turner, “female doctors are becoming quite the norm. I look forward to having you in my classes.”
“On that subject. Any more for Latin?”
About ten people put their hands in the air. Only eight signed up for Classical Civilisations. There were a lot less people for the humanities subjects than the sciences. History was the most popular with fifteen.
“And finally,” said Mr Mitchell, “Music?”
Five people put their hands in the air, including Mark, Julie and a handsome boy with bright blonde hair that Mark had never seen before.
“Right, if you’re taking Biology, follow Mr Turner. Otherwise please return to the common room, we’ll sort out the schedules in time for the next lesson.”
They went to go and explore the sixth form common room which was a new luxury to them. Anthony and Athene had already found the bookcases and were flicking through a book the size of a large dictionary. They were squashed into a massive armchair together flicking through the book.
Some of the boys, were fiddling with the radio. They couldn’t have it on too loudly, as some people were in class but they were crowded around listening intently.
“Hey Fred,” called Julie, “this is a good one!”
Julie pulled Mark over to the radio and they started to dance energetically to the music, doing all the latest dances twisting and shimmying around the common room. Mark noticed that the mysterious boy with the blonde hair kept on catching his eye.
Mark had Maths in the second period, followed by double English Literature before lunch. He had a free period after lunch which was followed by music in the final period of the day.
They all met up in the music room and the boy with the blonde hair was sat between two of the boys from Mr Bakers house.
“Right,” said Mr Wells, “everyone gather round, and pull up a chair.”
“There’s only a few of us, so we’re going to get to know each other very well, so introductions. Quite a lot of you already know me, I’m Mr Wells, I’m the head of music and drama, I also run the drama club which coincidentally meets tonight.”
Richard groaned, Mr Wells had been trying to persuade him to join for years.
“Nobody’s making you join Richard,” chuckled Mr Wells.
“I’m Richard Smith, captain of the swimming team. I play the recorder and clarinet.”
“He’s basically just an old windbag,” chuckled William.
“Yes yes thank you William,” sighed Mr Wells.
“I’m William Callas, I play the violin, cello and a bit of the piano.”
“I’m Johnnie,” said the boy with the blonde hair smiling nervously, “Johnnie Jones.”
“I’m new here,” he chuckled, “my parents seemed to think that it was a good time for them to move abroad and have me change schools when I’ve only got two years left anyway. I play the piano, but its mainly singing.”
“I’m Julie Fforbes Hamilton, I don’t play instruments, but I sing.”
“And I’m Mark Pennington, I play the guitar and also sing.”
They spent the rest of the lesson learning about Mozart. At the end of lesson, as they started to pack away, Mr Wells called Mark and Julie back.
“Could you two come help me set up for drama club, you haven’t got too much prep yet have you?”
“No sir,” said Julie shaking her head.
“Um, can I come too,” said Johnnie, “I want to join the Drama Club.”
“The more the merrier!” beamed Mr Wells as they headed off to the drama room.
The only difference between the drama and the music room is there was a lot less desks and chairs in the drama room. There was also only the piano instead of assorted instruments. But there was a large stage that took up half the room.
Julie, Mark and Johnnie helped put out the chairs for when the students arrived.
“I’ve got some really good news for you two,” beamed Mr Wells.
“I made a new friend over the Summer holidays.”
“Whilst it’s lovely to hear about your social arrangements Mr Wells, why is this good news for us?” asked Julie.
“Because he’s a talent scout,” said Mr Wells smiling at them.
“And he’s heard all about you both, he’s going to come to see some shows this year if he can.”
“Are you serious?” stammered Mark.
If he got spotted, he could get a contract, he could be in films. Maybe even Hollywood!
“Why would I joke about something as important as this?” asked Mr Wells.
“Anyway the kids will be here soon.”
Mr Wells was right, about thirty students of varying ages from throughout the school had come into the room having finished prep.
“Right, we’re doing the great Will Shakespeare this term. It’s not the Scottish play, it’s not Romeo and Juliet, it’s not Hamlet.”
“It’s,” he stopped for a moment, “drumroll please!”
The students gave him a brief drumroll.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream!”
“Mark, Julie and Johnnie, will now go out and give out the scripts. If you can all go through the scripts for next week and try and learn a speech for your chosen character. We’ll be having auditions next Friday.”
They spent the next hour playing drama games and improvising.
“Um Mark,” said Johnnie at the end of the lesson, “do you want to go and work on the Music homework together?”
“Sure,” beamed Mark.
They grabbed their bags and headed back to the dorm, leaving a very confused Julie in their wake.
When they got to the dorm, Harry wasn’t there and neither was Anthony. Harry had rugby, and Anthony was probably in the library.
Mark and Harry both got their books out and sprawled out on Marks bed and started on their homework, which that week was to research the life of Mozart in time for next weeks lesson.
“You got his date of death Mark?” asked Johnnie after a while.
“Um sure,” said Mark distractedly passing him the right book.
Johnnie and Mark’s hands brushed slightly as he passed over the book, and Mark felt an electric surge run through his body.
From the look of Johnnie's face, he had just had a similar experience.
Mark moved aside the books and edged up closer to Johnnie on the bed completely ignoring his homework.
He didn’t know why they were doing this, but it just seemed right.
Johnnie put his hand on Mark’s cheek and brushed it softly.
Mark hummed softly as he closed his eyes and took in the whole experience. He could smell the musky smell of Johnnie’s aftershave combined with the lavender from his soap.
Mark took his hand and brushed Johnnie’s face tracing his perfect jawline.
“Wait,” said Johnnie disturbing their moment of passion.
“What about Julie?”
“What about her?” asked Mark. Julie was the last thing on his mind right now.
“Isn’t she your girlfriend?”
“God no,” said Mark slightly horrified of even thinking of Julie in that way.
“Well, that’s alright then,” beamed Johnnie as he cupped Mark’s face in his hands and pulled Mark in for a deep kiss.
It felt so perfect, Mark was kissing him back without even thinking and running his fingers through Johnnies soft golden locks.
They might have been sat there for five minutes, it could have been several hours, Mark didn’t know he was completely lost in the moment.
All he knew was, that just as suddenly as it had started it was all over.
“What the hell are you doing!” shouted Julie from the doorway.
Mark and Johnnie broke apart and whipped their heads around. Johnnie looked like a deer caught in the headlights.
“What the hell are you doing,” said Mark through gritted teeth pulling Julie into the room and closing the door after her.
“Looking for help on the music homework,” she said casually.
“And the next time you two want to break by the law, you might want to lock the door at least.”
“Break the law?” asked Mark, “what law?”
“The law against homosexuals,” sighed Johnnie looking thoroughly miserable.
Illegal. Being like this was illegal. But how it felt so natural, so right. It felt so much more natural than anytime he had ever kissed Julie on the stage.
How could being like this ever be wrong?
“What are you talking about?”
“How can it be illegal, if you like guys rather than girls, you can’t help it right?”
“You’re right Mark,” sighed Julie, “but it’s illegal.”
“Well acting on it is illegal, and just being gay is frowned upon.”
“So what are we supposed to do,” asked Johnnie, “just ignore the fact we feel this way for each other?”
“Either that or get much better at hiding it,” said Julie.
“Because if you act on your feelings and sleep with each other, and somebody found out, you could both end going to prison.”
“Prison,” said Mark horrified, “for loving someone?”
“What’s harm is it doing anyone?” asked Johnnie.
“I don’t know,” muttered Julie, “but I have got a plan.”
“Mark, if we pretend to be going out and kiss each other every now and again.”
Mark looked slightly disgusted.
“Stage kissing, just acting, like we do on the stage.”
Mark seemed slightly less upset.
“Well that way, we can throw people off the trail.”
“People will think that Mark can’t be gay because you’re his girlfriend.”
“And people won’t know about Johnnie either,” added Mark.
“But isn’t all this lying?”
“Well yes,” said Julie inclining her head slightly, “but it’s either lying or prison.”
“Julie,” said Mark getting off the bed and pulling Julie in for a hug.
“You are the best friend in the entire world!”
“I know,” laughed Julie.
“Now I’ll keep watch over the door, I’ll knock when I see Anthony or Harry coming.”
“Thanks Julie!” they called as she left.
“Johnnie,” asked Mark as they sat back down.
“How long have you known?”
“A year or so, but I’ve never kissed a boy before.”
“I only learnt about an hour ago,” laughed Mark.
“Well it sounds like we’ve got some time to make up for,” smirked Johnnie tracing Mark’s lips with his finger.
When Mark went to bed that night he lay awake for a while. Johnnie had left hours ago, but he couldn’t sleep.
He had had an emotional whirlwind today, discovered he was gay, experienced his first kiss the most natural thing in the world, only to be told that it was illegal, and his happiness evaporated as fast as it had appeared.
But then, Julie had offered to cover up for them, even offered to help by keeping watch sometimes. He was so grateful, but Mark knew one thing, he had to keep his sexuality a secret from everyone. Especially Anthony.