Percival Wemys Madison of The Vicarage, Harcourt, St Anthony, was crying again. He howled inconsolably, one hand gripping the trunk of a tree for support, the other clenched around a broken pair of glasses. Tears dripped down his swollen face and onto the flagstones.
As if in answer to his screams, a door attached to the courtyard opened and a head poked around the corner.
"Are you crying again?" asked the boy to whom the head belonged. "What's the matter now?"
Percival paused in his bawling and held the glasses aloft for him to see.
"M-My-my gla-glasses..." he blubbed, hiccuping. "Harry...b-broke my glasses and I can't see..."
The boy stepped the rest of the way around the door and looked at him. He had fair blonde hair and was built well, possessing the clean features and the slender wrists of good breeding. He was older than Percival, almost double his height.
"Well, you're not supposed to be out here, anyway. Where's your class?"
"T-they l-l-left me..."
The boy sighed. "
"Come along and I'll take you to see Nursie, alright?"
"I want to go home..."
"You can't go home, Percy. Not for another month. Now come on..." The older boy said, and Percival shuffled forwards obediently. "And quit blubbing, you're not a baby anymore."
Percival frowned at this comment and swallowed his tears, indignant yet pleased at the older boy's taking charge.
Very little had changed in the year since Ralph's rescue from the island. He hadn't suddenly been born anew, as he had imagined he would be. His life continued and the memories remained. Old habits stuck with him. His skin was still several shades darker than his classmate's. He was still a leader, and although it was no longer his responsibility, the boys continued to look up to him for comfort and protection. There was a bond between them and the rest of the survivors that would never break. They had taken care of each other when no-one else had, and of all the tightly-woven cliques and teams in Abingdon, the survivors of the coral island were the tightest.
"Alright, Percy?" Ralph asked when they had reached the glass doors of the Hospital wing. The little boy nodded. "You'll just go in, tell her what happened, and it'll all be sorted."
Percy nodded again.
"And stop crying all the time. I don't..." he added, but then stopped at the tears that already were beginning to well up in Percival's bleary eyes again. He sighed and opened the door for the smaller boy, waiting until he had blundered all the way to the Nurses office before shutting it and retracing his steps back to the empty classroom connected to the courtyard.
His friends had waited for him. Maurice, a soft-featured boy from the coral island, of average height with light brown hair, leaned against the open window, and sitting on one of the front desks was Colin, a new friend he had just met that year. Colin had thin black hair and a beaky nose which had already been broken twice that year.
"Ralph! Where'd you go?"
"It's almost time for class again, didn't you know?"
Ralph grinned reassuringly.
"Just had to check on something."
"Yeah, check on Percy. Again." responded Colin, looking at him critically. He had not been on the island and did not understand the unreasonable attachment that the boys displayed towards him. He thought it was strange and a little bit pathetic.
"I couldn't just leave him alone," Ralph said, realizing they had heard him out in the courtyard. He couldn't expect Colin to understand.
"He couldn't just leave you alone, more like."
Maurice smiled at Ralph. He'd been there. He knew. He left the window to sit closer to his two friends.
"So, Ralph, you going with me and Colin for the holidays?" he asked.
Midterm break was approaching next month, and the book-worn boys at Abingdon were already making plans and daydreaming about it. Ralph usually went with his parents to Cornwall, staying in a little rented cottage by the shore. However, there wasn't any money for it now, in the wake of the Third World War. Their home had been destroyed in a fire and they'd bought a new one in Norwich. Ralph's mother swore she would never set foot in dangerous London-town again. His father didn't argue. He was still searching for a job since the Navy didn't need him anymore.
"There's going to be rowing," Maurice said dreamily. "And my Uncle Bertie, he has the largest collection of Charlie Chaplin films..."
"I hate Charlie Chaplin." Said Colin.
"I don't," said Maurice, standing up. He held a finger above his smooth upper lip and, adopted a mournful expression. It wasn't the least bit funny, but his effort was admirable as he began to butcher the classic Chaplin walk. Colin dove out of his chair to put a stop to it and tackled Maurice, sending him flying into the dustbin.
"You're a horrible actor," Colin grunted from beneath Maurice's knees. "If you tried it professionally you'd be hanged." They fought playfully until the bell began to ring and lunch hour was over. They returned to Geography, rumpled and in good spirits.