That week had gone smoothly. Mr Turner eventually found out that we played a trick on him and went to talk to Mr Hansen about it – Mr Turner seemed really offended and didn’t like that at all. We tried to explain it was just a harmless prank, but he didn’t care – Mr Hansen found it quite amusing though, but the rule was ’When a teacher has a complaint about a student, it has to go on the Book. So that Sunday, the name of our class, Form 11 year 1977/78, was going to be on The Book of Judgment. Anthony was radiant, and to be fair, I was too. It wasn’t going to be seen as punishment, it was like a good thing; we were being recognised for our brilliance in execution. It was as Lottie said: We will always be remembered for this. The teachers may as well start to write this in history books!
That day wasn’t just a day of celebration for our achievement, but also my first date, with Anthony.
I was sitting in front of the mirror of our bedroom. Amanda and I were the only ones in the room (the other girls had gone to the canteen to have a late breakfast). Amanda was studying my face and planning what to do with my hair.
“What about curls?” she suggested. “Yeah, definitely curls.”
She pulled from under her bed a metal cylinder I have never seen in my life.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s a curling iron,” she said, as if it was obvious “Have you never seen one before?”
No, I hadn’t. Amanda was staring at me in surprise, and I couldn’t help but look away in embarrassment.
“Yeah I have, it’s just that mine is a little different. I don’t usually use it, I always straighten my hair, you know,” I had also never used a straighter in my life, But I remembered seeing one in a film before. I tried to make my answer as real as possible. With such practice, I was getting really good at lying. I didn’t even stutter.
It was a strange having your hair being curled. It was like burning your hair so that it stayed in a certain shape, but it looked pretty and my hair felt lighter. After that, Amanda did my makeup, which was even weirder. It felt like someone was using your face as a canvas.
I hoped she wasn’t doing a mess with my face and hair. The last thing I needed was to look ugly or weird. I wanted to make sure she was doing a good job, but she didn’t let me look once in the mirror.
“Only when I’m done,” she told me again and again. I just had to trust her and hope she wasn’t turning me into a clown.
Then she gave me the outfit. It was a cold day but it wasn’t going to rain, so I wasn’t going overly dresses.
Lucy lent me her dark brown skinny jeans, Amanda her brown leather boots which had a slight high heel, and Lottie a loose-fitting beige blouse. They fitted perfectly on me and I hadn’t ever had that feeling of confidence regarding my appearance before. I knew the marvellous clothes on my body were nothing special for them, but for me they seemed like the most expensive clothes in the world.
“Okay I’m done!” said Amanda after applying a little more lip gloss. I got up and looked inside, into the mirror. I could not believe what I was seeing.
“I look like a different person!” My eyes seemed bigger, my skin was flawless, my light pink lips were perfect and my hair was simply amazing. Everything was combined in harmony.
“No, still the same you, but a better version of it. You’re welcome!” Amanda said, a radiant smile on her face. I hugged her but I was careful not to touch her with my face full of makeup.
“I didn’t put too much makeup on you,” she said. “You are already so pretty, I didn’t want you to look artificial,” she said kindly. She was right, I didn’t have too much makeup, but since I had never seen it on me before, the difference seemed huge.
I looked at the clock that read ‘12:09’. “Well, it’s time to go,” I said. I couldn’t wait to show everyone how I looked, not just Anthony.
“Wait,” she said “One more thing,” She searched inside her school bag and took out a small pink bottle of perfume “This is essential.”
She sprayed me a little bit and I smelt like fresh flowers. How I loved that smell!
“Okay, now you’re ready!” she smiled happily.
Amanda and I left the room and headed to the main building where I was going to meet up with Anthony. There were some students there with their normal clothes, but none of them looked as special as me – even though they were wearing beautiful and expensive clothes. For the first time, I felt so confident in myself it was indescribable, but as reality hit me, the confidence in me started to dim a little. We were getting closer and closer to the building and Anthony would be there, waiting.
“You look good Summer,” I heard a tenth grader say in the distance. I think she was called Matilda, but I wasn’t sure so I just smiled at her.
“See, even tenth graders recognise your beauty!” Amanda nudged me, smirking.
Amanda opened the back door of the building and we got in. “Good luck,” she told me.
“Thanks for everything,” I smiled and I meant it. Nobody had ever done this to me, and I was truly thankful.
I walked down the corridor to the main door when Amanda walked away with a wink.
As if in a film, I pulled my hair back with two fingers as I walked. I spotted Anthony leaning against a wall and I approached him, a sudden wave of nerves starting to form deep down in my stomach.
“Wow you look amazing,” he said as his eyes looked me up and down.
“Thanks, you do too” I smiled. He really did. He was wearing a white shirt and black pants. He looked really handsome, a side of him I had never seen.
The double entrance doors of the building were opened, so we walked outside and went down the wet, slippery stairs, holding our jackets close to our chests. I really hoped it wouldn’t rain or else my whole outfit would be ruined.
There was a janitor at the entrance and he gave us a nod before letting us through the gates. There was always a taxi parked in front of the gate that took students downtown when they needed, and for our luck, there was no one wanting to go downtown too, or else we would need to share the small space.
During the entire drive we only talked about the prank, with an occasional silence when we didn’t have anything to say. There were moments where I thought I was going to explode because of the awkwardness, but I held it together.
At last we arrived at central London, and the taxi drove away and left us alone in the big city.
“Do you want to go somewhere before eating?” asked Anthony.
“Actually, I am starving!”
“I’m glad you said that, so am I,” And with that we walked down the busy street, careful not to step on any puddles along the way.
“Where are we going?” I asked Anthony. He hadn’t told me where we were going, and I certainly didn’t know any restaurant we could go.
“You’ll see, we are almost there.”
We turned a corner and we were greeted by a welcoming restaurant, the façade bright and lively.
“Here it is,” Anthony said and opened the door for me. The restaurant was full of adults talking loudly, and the smell of smoke couldn’t go unnoticed. The restaurant was not too posh, and I loved it! It particularly liked the fact that no one seemed to notice two teenagers coming in, everyone minding their own business. We sat on a table next to the window, blending easily amongst the adults, and a waitress approached our table. She looked really busy and didn’t look at us in the eye.
“Are you ready to order?”
“I’d like seafood spaghetti,” Anthony said after giving a quick look at the menu.
“And you?” she asked after writing down Anthony’s order.
“Huh, the same,” I have never tried seafood before, but I had heard that it is really good. If there was a time to try it, this was it.
“Would you like anything to drink?”
“Water please, for both of us,” Anthony simply answered. The waitress took the menus and we made small talk until the food arrived.
I looked out of the window. The sun was covered with white clouds and there was a shivering breeze running through the street. I caught movement from the corner of my eye.
“Hey, what’s that?” I asked Anthony. He turned his attention to where I was pointing while putting the spaghetti in his mouth.
In an alley nearby, there were three big, strong men pushing another against a dirty wall. The guy tried to defend himself, but one of the men pushed him even harder.
“Is that, Harry?” Anthony was agape. I let my fork fall on the plate, making a loud sound, but nobody seemed to notice.
The men were talking to him, I could tell. One of them kicked him hard in his stomach and made him fall on the hard, cold ground. Harry was completely helpless.
I had contradictory feelings. One part of me said we had to do something, we had to help him while the other said just let him suffer; he must have done something to deserve it.
I could tell Anthony was feeling the exact same thing by the look on his face. I looked at him apprehensively, but he’s eyes were fixated on the scene we were watching.
Luckily for Harry, a man turned around the corner and entered the alley, and with this fourth person on the scene, the guys that were assaulting Harry gave him a final push and walked away very casually, as if nothing had happened. I could see the man was extremely confused as Harry quickly walked away in the opposite direction the guys did.
We seemed to be the only ones who acknowledged what happened, because the restaurant continued to be noisy and people were still talking loudly and happily, minding their own business, the smoke from their cigarettes circling above us.
“What was that?” I asked Anthony.
“I don’t know,” he said and looked down “But I am not surprised...”
“What do you mean?” I asked him. He paused and then continued.
“Do you believe in Karma?”
“I don’t know, maybe,” I told him truthfully. Karma was the idea that if you did good, the universe would give you good things, and the other way around: if you did evil things, the universe would give you bad stuff. I thought that concept was beautiful; it was a way of making justice indirectly, a way to compensate the people that never did anything bad in their lives, and also to give people that did bad thing a punishment. The logic was simple and it made sense to me.
“Maybe Karma is catching up with Harry,” he said looking down. “Maybe this is the time where Harry is paying for all he has done, and I don’t think a beating was enough,” Anthony spoke calmly and clearly.
I didn’t say anything. I looked at my lap where I was playing with my fingers. I put my hands too quickly on the table, and accidently put my right one of top of his. Just before I could open my mouth to speak, he jerked his hand away with an abrupt movement.
I don’t know why but I felt slightly offended. I knew it was just a date and we are nowhere near being romantic, but I just touched his hand. He didn’t need to have that reaction. I looked at him, and his cheeks were a slightly crimson, which I didn’t understand... It was just me, no need to be embarrassed. Oh God, this was so awkward I felt like exploding!
“Well,” I wanted to forget what happened and move on, so I led the talking “I guess you are right, but don’t you think he deserves a second chance?”
“A second chance for what? To prove that he is a decent human being? Summer, he was mean to everyone, not just John. Including me-”
“What did he do to you?” I asked incredulously.
“Doesn’t matter now, stupid stuff,” he simply said. I could tell he didn’t want to tell me, but there was something that was bothering him. Maybe it was something embarrassing, but it didn’t really matter. What mattered was that Harry was completely cold-hearted and had no sympathy towards other.
That was when a light bulb lit inside my head. That could also be a reason why Harry didn’t have any friends or didn’t try to solve things: because he couldn’t acknowledge the feeling of other people. He couldn’t get into other people’s shoes. He didn’t understand anyone.
Or maybe he was just pure evil.
We eventually finished our plates and Anthony – being the gentleman that he was– paid for all the food. I was glad he did it, because I only had less than six pounds left. The girls said that I should say to him “Really? Are you sure you don’t want me to pay?” while I put my hand inside my purse. They told me that, if he was a true gentleman, he would never let me pay for the whole lunch. That was a genius trick!
We decided we didn’t want to go to Hudson just yet, so we walked around the city for a while to waste time. We talked about nothing and everything, and I laughed at every joked he told. I was actually having a very good time with him. I knew I didn’t feel anything for him yet, but we never knew what could happen in the future.
I covered my face with a hoodie so nobody could see my black eye as I walked inside the gates of Hudson. I didn’t waste time and went straight to the nurse’s office which was in the main building’s first floor on the side faced to the sports area. My eye was hurting like hell and I just had to swallow my pride and ask for help if I wanted the pain to go away.
I walked swiftly and knocked on the door of the infirmary before walking inside. It was not the first time I went there, but there was something different that caught my attention. The room was rather small, with a desk and a bed so the injured could lie down, but there was an opened door that was usually closed on the right wall. It revealed a much bigger room than the one I was in. I could see six beds, three on each side of the room and numerous windows that reached the ceiling. The far wall was round, and had some kind of window seat made of grey rock. Maybe it was a room for someone who was really sick (with the flu or something equally contagious, making the or recovering from a serious injury.
The nurse, a young black woman in her early thirties who wore a white coat looked surprised when she looked at me.
“What happened to you?” she asked, putting her glasses on. She pulled my face closer to her and I noticed her black hair was short and very thin with some white ones growing on the top of her head.
“I have a black eye,” I simply said.
“I didn’t notice that,” she said sarcastically “How did you get it?”
“I got in a fight,” I wasn’t even going to lie, I didn’t feel like it.
“Some guys from outside.”
The nurse didn’t say anything else and made me sit down on a chair. She went to get some ice and put it inside a plastic bag. I put the bag on my eye as the obnoxious lady made a speech on how fights were very wrong and very dangerous, my mind somewhere else.
I could have done something out there. I could have defended myself, or at least try, I just let them do what they wanted to do. Fighting was useless, I knew I wasn’t going to get away with what I did without a punishment.
“Look who finally decided to show up!” I could recognise that voice even in my sleep. Tom. I looked back and stopped walking. He had two guys with him, they all looked very strong, the kind of guys you didn’t want to mess up with. “Did you miss us?” Shit.
“I have no time for your shit Tom,” I simply said.
“Well, then buy some,” he spat harshly. They started walking up to me, challenging me. I looked around. I was trapped in an alley and I couldn’t get out. If I tried to run, those two guys would chase after me and the chances would be that they would catch me and turn me into a bloody mess. Oh shit. I should have listened to Hansen. I should have never left Hudson.
“Look, Tom,” I tried to calm him “A year had gone by and you know I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to cause any harm okay-”
“You killed my brother!” he shouted and pushed me against the wall, my back slamming against the old brick. Those guys had been chasing me since fucking John killed himself, and they wanted revenge. Hansen told me to never, in any circumstances, trespass the gates to avoid getting into some serious trouble with them, but I had to leave this time. I had to go to the post office and I could wait. I had to tell her what was going on and I couldn’t wait any longer. Besides, I was not going to be a coward for the rest of my life, I had to face them, but now that I was, I hated every single muscle of my body for dragging me into town.
“I didn’t kill him okay! I didn’t even know he was going to kill himself God damn it! If I knew that brother of yours was such a wimp I would have never-”
Tom kicked me in the stomach and I fell on the floor.
“What did you just say?!” He shouted, punching me in the face. The impact of his knuckles against my face was so strong I lost my vision for a couple of seconds, like I saw stars or something similar. I hit my head on the ground with an impossible amount of force. I just couldn’t let him beat me, I had to defend myself, but I could make him even angrier if I punched him. I really wanted to do that, not just for self-defence. After all I decided against it. It was no use.
For my luck, an ordinary man appeared in the alley. He seemed startled by seeing a boy being beaten on the floor, and I prayed he wouldn’t go away. For my surprise, Tom looked at the man and then at me with a disgusted expression on his face.
“When you stop being a coward and you leave that little refuge of yours, we will be waiting,” he said and the three men walked away after pushing me one more time, pure hatred in their eyes.
I didn’t waste any time and I got up from the floor and ran. I ran like a person who had escaped from prison.
“... And nobody wins. It’s a cycle that never ends,” the obnoxious women went on. She looked at me straight in the eye “Did you listen to what I said?!”
“Yeah,” I simply said, trying to hide the fact that I couldn’t stop playing what happened in my head “Can I go now?”
“Yes. I don’t want to see you ever again,” she said strictly but in a playful tone. I didn’t say anything and I left the office. I put the hoodie on my head to cover my eye and hid the ice package. As I walked to the exit, I saw Summer walking inside the building. Whoa. Summer looked beautiful. There was something different in her face, it looked brighter or more lively, and her wavy hair bounced as she walked. She had a smile from ear to ear, a genuine one; we don’t see them around there much.
Anthony was also with her. Anthony? Why was he with her? Did they go downtown together?
Summer noticed my presence and nudged Anthony as if signalling something. That left me confused, but I didn’t have time to think about it. I turned the corner and walked to my dorm, not wanting people to notice my injury.
“Harry wait,” a sweet voice sounded as I walked outside. The sun was already down and there was only a little orange light that illuminated the gardens. I turned around and Summer was right behind me.