Part V: A Need to Change
It would an understatement to say that Laura was quite surprised to see the Bad Boy of the School, Michael Hudson, being a gentleman.
As soon as she entered the campus alongside Robert, a week after New Year, he strutted up to her, a wide yet awkward smile on his face, and extended his arm.
“Michael Hudson here. Do you need any help?”
Both Laura and Robert were so shocked that they could only exchange glances with one-another! They could not comprehend what in the world was going on!
A slight frown creased Michael’s forehead. “Look, I’m trying to be nice for once – at least, let’s shake hands in friendship!”
With the kind of childhood she had had, Laura could not bring herself to trust anybody on the spur of the moment; she needed more time than anybody usually did. So, she decided that Michael had to have some trick up his sleeve if he wanted to make friends with her.
’Perhaps, he wants to embarrass me in front of everybody in school,’ she thought. ′Oh no…not going to happen!’
She turned to see Jonathan catching up to them from behind him. She sighed in relief—even if he was the School Joker, at least Jonathan was a reliable companion if things with Michael got ugly…
She turned her focus back on the boy in front of her and said, “All right… But, I won’t accept your friendship so easily! You need to earn it!”
Laura smiled in satisfaction when she saw Michael turn a pleading look to a patronising Jonathan.
To her pleasant surprise, instead of trying to comfort his friend, Jonathan actually turned to her and said, “Deal!”
“That’s awesome!” She then accepted Michael’s hand. “Deal!”
“Sometimes, I don’t understand whose side you’re on,” Michael told Jonathan with a grimace, as the two walked home together that evening. “Are you still my best friend – the same way we used to be when we were ten?!”
A sigh was audible in the air and Michael knew that he did something wrong to exasperate his friend.
“You talk about us being friends for a long time now,” began Jonathan, “but do you even think about how you were then and how you’ve become now? Do you even realise you’re hurting people who care about you, just because you’re popular as the Bad Boy of the School? Do you even know why I made friends with you in the first place?!” At this point, his voice has risen a few pitches higher than his usual gentle quiet voice.
He sighed and said, “I’m sorry, but…I don’t know.”
“See?” said Jonathan, voice in check. “All right, I’ll give you answers for them all – if” – he paused dramatically, looking at his friend straight in the eye –“you agree with a certain condition.”
“Go ahead; you’ve got yourself a deal.”
“Very well then. Come on in!”
By this time they had reached Jonathan’s home and Michael accepted the invitation.
Jonathan announced his arrival to his mother, who then came down the stairs with a dusting cloth in her hand. She greeted the two boys, before they made their way to their favourite spot—a corner of the terrace upstairs.
“First,” began Jonathan, once they were both settled, “about your attitude. There’s been a lot of change. You were the most humble person I’ve ever known. But, you also fought – went to boxing classes and beat up bullies. If you remember, you were my saviour back then – my hero!
“All that changed with some idiot who ‘took you under his wing’ and you became a popular kid and a playboy; you meddled and played about with people’s feelings. Do you realise how much that must have hurt them? Especially those little ones who had always looked up to you! Forget about everybody; just think of your little crippled brother. How much will it hurt to help him with his exercises for an hour in a day?”
Michael suddenly seemed rather captivated by his school boots. A softie that he was, Jonathan felt a little bad for bulldozing his best friend so crudely. So, he gave a deep sigh and placed a hand on his shoulder. Michael still did not look up.
“Micky, I don’t want you to pity yourself for what you’ve done. I just…want you to feel guilty and want to change for good – back to that sweet caring boy you used to be before.”
When again he did not get any response, Jonathan realised he had only one card left with him…
“I’m sure Laura will love you to change,” he said, observing his friend closely, to see if he would react.
And he did! Michael looked up, a frown creasing his forehead, and stared at him. Jonathan grinned.
“What do you mean?” Michael asked him in a low dangerous voice.
Jonathan gulped, his grin faltering. Oops, did I go overboard? Aloud, he responded, “I mean simply that perhaps she doesn’t really hate you… just doesn’t like your attitude.”
Suddenly, Michael sighed and got back to staring at his shoes. Jonathan relaxed.
“Yes, Bobby did say something like that,” Michael told him.
“See what I mean? Okay, now go home and get back to Bobby and tell him – very sincerely – that you’d very much like to get back to Laura’s good books.”
Michael looked up and frowned. “Was I even in her good books before?”
Jonathan gave a light chuckle. “I’m afraid you’re not the only one in contact with the enemy territory! She and I got talking last year, and she was telling me that she might have a crush on you if only you weren’t such a – and I’ll quote – ‘nutcase’.”
Michael cringed once more at this. “Did she actually say that?”
“Her words, not mine!” Jonathan sounded defensive.
“Yea, whatever.” Michael turned away in a huff, but it was evidently all pretence.
“Look, man, what I’m telling you is this: you’ve still got a chance to win her heart back. You just have to do it that right way!”
“And what is that?!”
Jonathan shrugged. “Just do what she tells you to.”
Michael groaned, but accepted his friend’s advice.
He was prepared to do anything in his power to make Laura smile – and if that meant he had to quite literally become her servant, then so be it.