Circles Universe by Gumbie.
Growing Pains…part one:
“Would you mind giving your father and I a moment alone darling?”
Martin shook his head; “I’ll go and set the table for dinner if you like mum.”
“Thank you Martin. I’ll call you in a moment.”
Martin glanced rather anxiously at his mother as he left the sitting room.
Thomas was also anxious, asking, “is there something wrong Evelyn, what did the doctor say?”
Martin began to set out place mats and cutlery, casting glances in the direction of the sitting room. His mother had not been well for some weeks. She had visited the doctors that morning and had been decidedly edgy ever since. Martin, suddenly remembering his aunt Barbara felt a twinge of fear. What if his mother had cancer? By the time he was called back into the sitting room his imagination was running rampant, he had gone through the entire scenario from declaration of some dreadful illness to funeral and was almost in tears as he pictured it in his mind’s eye. The news he was given was not what he expected. He stared in open-mouthed astonishment at his parents for a moment and then turning quickly on his heel fled the room.
“Martin?” Evie gave a cry of distress as her son raced upstairs, flinching as the bedroom door slammed.
Thomas hugged her. “Don’t worry, darling, he’s just shocked, he’ll get used to the idea. I’ll talk to him later. Sit down, I’ll make us both a cup of tea.” He kissed her cheek, “I think it’s wonderful news, simply wonderful.” He went to put the kettle on, humming happily to himself.
Upstairs Martin lay on his bed, his thoughts in turmoil. BABY, his mother was having a baby. It was disgusting, really disgusting. After all she must be at least forty-one years old, and his father was even older. The shame of it, a myriad of different emotions vied for supremacy: shock, disgust, embarrassment and jealousy, real stomach churning jealousy. Why did they want another child, wasn’t he good enough any more? His father had been very critical of him lately. Worse, everyone would know that his parents still did it, whatever it was. Martin wasn’t a hundred percent certain about the mechanics involved in sexual intercourse; he just knew it involved his parents doing something without clothes on. He felt himself blush from head to foot at the thought of it. Should old people be doing things like that? Surely it wasn’t normal? Martin groaned; he had freaks for parents. He refused to go down for dinner and found he was rather resentful when they didn’t insist.
“He just needs time to adjust to the idea, Evie. He’s been an only child for twelve years. He’ll come round, you’ll see. Let’s just give him a little space and time to digest the news.” Thomas suddenly beamed at her. “Just think Evie, a new life to look forward to. A son or daughter,” he looked thoughtful, “perhaps even twins?”
Evie laughed, “don’t get carried away Tom. I think one child will be more than enough to cope with at my age.”
“You are pleased, aren’t you, Evie?” Thomas placed his hand over hers, “I know it must have been a shock for you too, but you are happy about it?”
Evie smiled, gently curling her fingers around his, “yes, Tom, I’m pleased, absolutely thrilled if truth be told. I was as nervous as a kitten when I went for the results of the test this morning. That’s why I never mentioned it to you, in case it was a false alarm. I’d given up the dream of another child years ago. I’m just worried that I’m a little long in the tooth to be starting with babies all over again. I just hope I’m up to it.”
“Of course you are. You’re a wonderful mother, and a wonderful wife,” he leaned across the table to tenderly kiss her.
“May I call for Laura?” Martin’s curt voice interrupted the moment. Evie noticed that he kept his eyes averted
Martin dragged his jacket on. His parents had given him permission without hesitation, and for once his father had not specified the time he was to be home by. The baby wasn’t even born yet, and already he had ceased to be as important in their lives.
Tomas raised his eyes to heaven as the slam of the front door sent vibrations through the house. “I hope he comes to terms with the news soon, I don’t think the foundations can take much more slamming and banging. We’ll have the place tumbling about our ears.”
“A baby?” Laura’s eyes were like saucers.
“I know, isn’t it simply disgusting?” Martin flopped down on the bed.
“Disgusting?” Laura was rather taken aback by her friend’s attitude. “I think it’s lovely. You’re going to have a little brother or sister, don’t you think that’s nice?”
“No,” Martin was upset by her lack of understanding. “I think it’s absolutely ghastly. They have no right to be having a baby at their age. It’s foul. Everyone will be laughing at me. I won’t be able to hold my head up.”
Laura laughed she couldn’t help it. “Don’t be bloody barmy. Colin has lots of younger brother’s and sisters, no one laughs at him.”
“That’s different. His parents are common Catholics, they don’t know any better.”
Laura flushed a bright angry red, “my parents are Catholic, I suppose you think they’re common and all, Mr high and bloody mighty.”
It was Martin’s turn to flush red; “I didn’t mean it like that. I meant poorly educated in certain areas, not common in a derogatory sense.” He didn’t really know what he meant. He was acting on a snatch of conversation he’d overheard between his parents when they learned that Mrs Clarke was expecting yet again. His mother had said that some Catholics were sadly under educated in matters of something or other; he couldn’t even remember the word she’d used and it was a shame the Church didn’t look to the well being of its followers before that of its dogma. He wished he’d kept his mouth shut.
“Colin isn’t poorly educated, neither is Amy, or me.” Laura angrily clenched her fists. “We all won places at the Catholic grammar school, and we all get far better grades than you did in our exams mister toffee nose. You’re lucky you’ve got parents who can afford to send you to a posh school. If they couldn’t, you’d be stuck in a secondary school, with all the no hopers, cos you’re too stupid to have passed the eleven plus.”
Martin felt as if he’d been slapped hard across the face. He stared at her for a moment, then threw open her bedroom door, taking the stairs two at a time. Grabbing his jacket from the end of the banister he shot out of the house.
“Martin, I didn’t…” Laura ran out onto the landing, but it was too late, the front door slammed closed. Bursting into tears she ran back in to her room, flinging herself across the bed. Why had she said such a mean thing? She would never forget the hurt look on his face. It wasn’t even true. It was just she had lost her temper at his suggestion that Catholics were common and stupid.
Martin ran without real thought of where he was going. He ended up at the rec, forbidden territory at this time of the evening. He perched himself on a swing. Stupid, she had said he was stupid. Just because he wasn’t interested in schoolwork, and liked enjoying himself didn’t mean he was stupid, did it? Once he finished school he galloped through his homework so he’d have more time to spend with her. She finished school much earlier than he did. By the time he finished and had bussed home, she had already done her homework. If he didn’t rush, they wouldn’t have any time to play together. His low grades were her fault, not his. Colin was clever; there was no getting away from it. Martin’s own father was always saying so, always holding him up as an example, it got on his nerves. He might not be able to compete with clever clogs Colin, but he had thought he was at least on a par with the others. Obviously they didn’t agree. Martin swallowed back the tears that always seemed too ready to flow lately, how they all must have been laughing at him behind his back. Stupid, that’s how they saw him, the stupid posh kid whose father could afford to buy him an education. Colin was always telling him he didn’t appreciate what he had. They couldn’t seem to spend any time in each other’s company without rowing lately, not that he saw that much of him anymore. Colin was always working since starting at the grammar school. He spent hours reading and doing and re-doing homework. He was always so serious and intense about things; it depressed Martin who just couldn’t take things as seriously. Colin said it was because he’d had it too easy all his life and knew he didn’t have to make any effort. Martin rather resented this. He might be materially better off than his friends, but his parents were no easy taskmasters. His friends had much more personal freedom than he did. He trailed miserably home, going straight up to his room without saying a word to his parents.
Thomas glanced across at Evie as the slam of the bedroom door indicated that Martin’s mood was little improved from earlier. “Just leave him to his own devices for a while.” Thomas had waited a long time to hear the words his wife had spoken to him that evening. He didn’t want his happy equilibrium spoiled by a confrontation with a sulky twelve year old.
Next morning Martin trailed miserably downstairs. It was the last day of the spring term; he had two weeks of freedom stretching out ahead of him. He usually rated last days of term as amongst his happiest, but he didn’t feel happy today. He had not slept well, dwelling on the astounding news that his mother, his very own mother, was expecting a new baby. He had also dwelt on the revelation that Laura and the others thought he was stupid. He burned with humiliation as he pictured them laughing behind his back. They were always talking about school, about their projects, about their homework, whereas the last thing in the world he wanted to talk about was school. “Where’s mum?”
Thomas rinsed his coffee cup under the tap, he was running late, “in bed, she’s feeling rather under the weather, so you’ll have to get your own breakfast this morning. Make sure you leave the house in plenty of time to catch your bus, no loitering just because your mother isn’t available to push you out of the house. I must dash; I’ve got a staff meeting this morning. I’ll see you this evening, Martin.”
Martin got himself ready for school, making do with a glass of milk, rather than fuss on with breakfast. His pocketed his bus fare, which was neatly stacked on the kitchen table as it was every morning. He dashed out of the house without calling goodbye to his mother, colliding with the postman who was busy sorting out a pile of mail.
“Steady, you daft lad,” he said crossly as the letters dropped to the floor, “where’s the fire?”
“Sorry,” Martin flung his satchel down, “I’ll pick them up and take them in.” He gathered the envelopes together, his stomach lurching as he eyed a familiar motto emblazoned across one of the envelopes addressed to his father. God, his school report. It always arrived on the last day of term. He knew it wouldn’t be good, his form master had hinted at such. Actually, what he’d said was: ‘Mitchell, you can thank whatever providences have struck the headmaster down with influenza, because if they hadn’t he would be calling you to account for the total lack of effort you’ve put in this term’ He’d then given him an hours detention for shoddy homework. Martin sighed; he had not found the transition from lower to upper school a happy one. The amount of homework in the lower forms had been bad enough; here it was twice as much, and the regime even stricter. He silently prayed that the headmaster’s bout of flu was fatal, and that whoever took over as headmaster would abandon the custom of caning boys whose academic performances fell below a certain standard. Perhaps his report wouldn’t be that bad. Martin tore the envelope open. It wasn’t bad, it was abysmal, a real shocker, his heart pounded. The highest accolade came from his Housemaster who commented: Martin is a pleasant, good mannered boy. It went downhill after that: He politely declines to make any effort whatsoever in any subject. His excuses and regrets are always charmingly delivered with a winning smile. The headmaster hopes that Martin has an enjoyable Easter break and politely extends an invitation to visit him in his study on the first day of the summer term for discussions.
Martin scowled ferociously; trust sarky old Trotter to write something like that. He stuffed the report in to his satchel and took the rest of the letters indoors, laying them on the kitchen table. Perhaps, with news of the baby occupying him, his father would forget about his end of term report. He hadn’t been pleased with the report Martin had got at the end of the last term. He’d have an apoplexy when he read this one.
Evie glanced at Martin; he’d been awfully quiet since coming in from school. Usually on the last day of term, gloriously free of pressing homework commitments, he changed out of his uniform and dashed straight out to call for Laura. She sat down opposite him at the kitchen table, where he was idly doodling on a note pad. “What’s wrong sweetheart?”
“Nothing,” He didn’t even glance up.
“You’ve barely spoken a word since coming in from school, usually I can’t shut you up.” Still no response. “You’re not sickening for something are you?” she laid a hand against his forehead, but he jerked it crossly away. Evie battled valiantly on, “why don’t you go and call for Laura. Invite her for dinner if you like.”
Martin stood up, “I don’t want to.” Gathering his pad and pencil together he took them upstairs.
Evie sighed. Getting up, she rubbed her aching back and began to make preparations for the evening meal. Martin was still upset about the baby that much was clear. She would have to have a talk with him, reassure him that he was still important and loved. Jealousy, she knew, did not have a cut off point and an older sibling was just as likely to suffer from jealousy as a younger one. She could still recall how she had felt when her brother Stuart had been born, putting her eight year old nose firmly out of joint.
His father’s question at dinner, casually asked, made Martin swallow nervously, “Mr Brown is ill with flu, perhaps that’s why the reports didn’t get sent out.” He kept his eyes down, hoping and praying that he didn’t blush.
“Don’t be silly Martin, the reports are prepared well in advance. The secretary is responsible for sending them out.” Thomas glared at his son who was beginning to irritate him with his sulky attitude; he’d barely had a civil word out of him since returning from work.
“It was only a suggestion,” snapped Martin crossly. “How should I know why my report hasn’t arrived on time? Maybe it got lost in the post.”
Thomas spoke coldly, “perhaps you’re hoping its got lost in the post and incidentally, don’t take that rude tone with me, young man.”
Martin lay down his knife and fork, “may I be excused please I’m not hungry.”
Thomas shook his head as Martin flounced out of the dining room. “I think you’re right, Evie, he and Laura have definitely quarrelled. Let’s hope, for our sanities sake, that he and she patch up their differences soon.” He looked thoughtful for a moment, “were you up when the post arrived this morning?”
Evie shook her head; “it was on the kitchen table when I got up. Martin must have picked it up before he left for school. I did feel rather bad about not being there to get his breakfast, but I felt so dreadfully off colour. I noticed he only had a glass of milk.”
“He’ll live,” said Thomas dryly, “and you need to look after yourself a little more.” He stood up, “I’m just going to make a phone call. I want to check the date of the next bridge club meeting with John. I might as well kill two birds with one stone.” After completing the call he took the stairs at a brisk pace, opening the playroom door “where is it Martin?”
“Don’t play games with me. I’ve just telephoned Sam’s father, funnily enough his report arrived as normal. John is very pleased with him, it was a good one by all accounts.”
“Lucky old Sam, its not my fault his postman is more efficient than ours.” Martin went back to the elaborate model he was constructing from Meccano. His heart was doing the Samba in his chest.
Thomas gave his son a measured look, “where’s your school satchel?”
“I haven’t got any homework.” Martin spoke quickly.
“I didn’t ask if you had any homework. I asked where your satchel was. It isn’t hanging on the hall pegs, I looked.”
“I think I might have left it at school. Does it matter?” Martin tried hard to keep the tremor out of his voice.
Thomas bent down, gripping Martin’s wrist he hauled him to his feet. Pushing him into his bedroom he began searching around. “Ah, surprise, surprise, you didn’t leave it at school after all.” He extracted the brown leather satchel from beneath the bed. Opening it he tipped the contents out. “Haven’t you heard of waste paper baskets Martin?” Thomas grimaced as he removed several mouldy apple cores from the bed covers, fastidiously dropping them into the basket under the desk. He held up the crumpled report, saying frostily, “how dare you interfere with correspondence that is not addressed to you personally?” He laid it aside, took a firm hold of Martin’s wrist and applied a brisk admonitory slap to the back of his hand. “You will respect other people’s mail in future. I wouldn’t dream of opening something addressed to you.” He pulled out the desk chair. “Sit!”
Martin, hand smarting, sat, watching the thunder clouds roll across his father’s face, tensing as the report was laid down on the desk; waiting for the sky to fall about his ears and a hand to fall about his bottom.
“No wonder you tried to conceal it.” Thomas didn’t shout, but his voice was sharp enough to engrave glass.
Martin let out a shaky breath as his father left the room without so much as a backward glance at him listening as his footsteps descended the stairs
“My goodness, Tom,” Evie removed her reading spectacles, laying them beside her on the couch. “It’s appalling, an utter disgrace. What are we going to do about it, he can’t carry on like this.”
“I’m too disappointed and angry to think straight at the moment.” Thomas took the report out of his wife’s hands, glancing through it for the second time, as if hoping to find he’d misread it.” “I thought the talk we’d had at Christmas had got through to him, obviously I was mistaken.” He shook his head sadly, “I love him dearly, but we have to face facts, he’s bone idle, he will not apply himself. I’m certain he doesn’t lack intelligence, or ability; it’s just sheer laziness plus a desire to want to be with Laura when he should be applying himself. I’ll talk to him again later, when I feel more rational. The only thing I want to do at the moment is shake him until his teeth rattle.”
Martin utilised his t-shirt as a handkerchief, pulling it up to wipe his eyes. He was stupid, like Laura said, that was why his father hadn’t yelled, or lectured him. He’d realised that his son was stupid and was therefore not worth bothering with. To have his best friend say it was unbearable, to have his own father confirm it was devastating. He sat miserably, head on arms, doodling on the top of his desk with a coloured pencil; his mother would be annoyed, but he didn’t care. He raised his head as the doorknocker was pounded, venturing out onto the landing to see who it was. Any hopes he had of it being Laura come to say sorry, faded as he heard Colin’s voice. The warmth in his father’s voice as he greeted him added more weight to his burden of unhappiness.
“Hello, Colin, come along in,” Thomas smiled at the boy. “Do you want to see Martin, he’s upstairs?”
“I’ll say hello, but I really want to use your study, if I may, Mr Mitchell?” Colin grinned up at the tall figure.
“Surely you haven’t got home work on the last day of term?”
“We don’t break up until Friday Mr Mitchell. I’ve got some maths homework I want to do. I can’t concentrate at home. It’s our Lily’s birthday and she’s having a tea party, it’s like a mad house.”
Thomas laughed, “I can imagine. How old is Lily?”
“Two, I think, maybe three. I lose track,” said Colin cheerfully.
“How are you doing at school this term, Colin?”
“I’m in the top stream.” Colin beamed proudly.
“Well done, go up, you know the way. Would you like a drink and a snack?”
“Yes please, ta very much, Mr Mitchell.”
Colin headed for the study. Even after being moved to a bigger council house, both space and silence were severely limited qualities at home. Amy went to Laura’s to do her schoolwork, enjoying the companionship and support of her friend, but Colin looked forward to coming to Martin’s house. He loved the calm atmosphere, the space and the blessed quietness. To have a room to work alone in was a marvel, and he never ceased to be grateful for it. He popped his head round the playroom door, but it was empty, so too was Martin’s bedroom. Colin quelled a spurt of disappointment and then shrugged and entered the small study, luxuriously spreading out his books on the handsome oak desk. He closed the door, breathing in the solitude with a deep sigh of contentment.
Once the study door closed Martin slipped out from behind his parent’s bedroom door. The last person in the world he wanted to see was clever dick, Colin Clarke. Leaving the house quietly, he took his bike from the garage and cycled off.
“Martin!” Sam stared at his classmate in amazement. It was rare indeed to see him outside of school. “How did you get here, did your dad drive you over?”
“No, I rode over on my bike,” Martin was slightly out of breath, “it’s taken me ages. I got lost twice.” He grinned, saying with false levity, “dad’s on the war path, because of my lousy school report. Thought I’d clear out of his way until he calms down.”
By the time Martin made the return journey, it was way past his curfew and he was exhausted, unused to cycling such long distances. He walked straight into a row with his parents who were furious that he’d gone off without permission.
“I went to see Sam,” shouted Martin when his father demanded to know where he’d been. “You’re always telling me to mix more with the boys at school.”
“Sam lives almost nine miles away. You had no business going that far on your own. Don’t you dare pull a stunt like this again, you foolish boy, cycling all that way on unfamiliar roads.” Thomas was furious; “we were worrying ourselves sick while you were riding the highways and byways of England, like some frustrated cycling champion. Who do you think you are – Reg Harris?”
“I don’t know what the fuss is about. I haven’t got school tomorrow, or perhaps you thought I was too stupid to find my way home again?” Martin pounded up to his room, slamming the door shut with a resounding bang.
“Leave him Tom, he’s tired.” Evie put a restraining hand on his arm. “He’s still upset about the baby. I’ll have a talk with him in the morning, when he’s in a better frame of mind.”
Martin stared angrily at his mother, “I have to stay in, all day?”
“That’s right dear, but don’t worry, you won’t get bored. You can tidy the playroom, and your bedroom; they’re both a disgrace. I’ll inspect them when you’re done” Evie began to collect the dirty breakfast dishes together, her lips set in a thin, determined line. Master Martin wasn’t speaking to her like that and getting away with it. She had tried to broach the subject of the baby with him, as they breakfasted together, but he had been fearfully rude. She had forgiven him by lunchtime and was prepared to soften her manner, but he was still out of sorts refusing to show any enthusiasm for anything including the imminent arrival of his gran for lunch. “Martin,” she finally said in exasperation, “have you been to the toilet today, properly, for a bowel movement, because if you haven’t I can give you some syrup of figs.”
“I’ve been,” said Martin indignantly. Why were mothers always obsessed with their children’s bowels? His mother always assumed that his bad moods were brought on because he hadn’t been to the toilet for a poo.
“Have you got tummy ache?”
“No, I’m just fed up. Paul is going to Italy for the holidays and I’ll have no one to play with. Why couldn’t I go with them?”
“You know why, Martin. Paul, Lucy and Uncle Edward need to spend some time together as a family, things have been difficult for them. Don’t begrudge Paul some time with his father. You like having your father all to yourself sometimes. Anyway, you’ll have Laura and the others to play with.”
“Dad won’t be just my dad, not when you get this baby. He won’t want me then, especially if it’s cleverer than me. Dad thinks I’m stupid, everyone thinks I’m stupid, and I’m not Laura’s friend anymore and no before you ask, I don’t want to talk about it.” Martin darted out of the room before he started to cry.
“Evie, you dark horse,” Fran kissed her daughter, then held her at arms length, “you look a bit peaky. Are you eating enough? You’re eating for two now, remember.”
“I’m fine mum, really, just a little tired. You don’t mind about the baby?”
“Why on earth should I mind? I’m thrilled for you darling. I didn’t know old frosty face still had it in him.”
“Mother!” Evie blushed; sometimes her mother said the most outrageous things. She shouted Martin to come down and say hello to his grandmother.
“I don’t want to be a big brother,” Martin scowled at his gran, “I think it’s absolutely disgusting, it makes me feel sick.”
Frances watched the tears gather in her daughter’s eyes as Martin flounced out of the room after giving her a very soiled look. She put an arm around her. “Take no notice of him Evie, he’ll get used to the idea. And don’t let him speak to you like that again. Tell Thomas, he’ll soon put him in his place.”
“He’s been impossible lately mum, really unpleasant.” Evie dabbed her eyes dry, “perhaps he’s right, and it is rather disgusting to be having a baby at my age.”
“Nonsense, women older than you have babies, it’s perfectly natural. Growing pains, that’s what’s the matter with sulky Simon, you were the same at his age and Stuart too, impossible to live with. Why isn’t he playing with Laura, they’re usually stuck together like glue during the holidays?”
“Laura’s school doesn’t break up until tomorrow, besides, they’ve quarrelled. He hasn’t called for her the last few evenings, nor she for him.”
“Oh dear, no wonder he’s in a mood. They’ll get over it I expect.”
After lunch Fran told her daughter to go and put her feet up while she with Martin’s help cleared the lunch pots away, raising a warning finger as her grandson made contradictory noises, “don’t answer me back Martin Mitchell, or I’ll smack your legs until your eyes water.” Martin hurriedly swallowed the rest of his protest, his grandmother sounded as if she meant it. She continued, “you’re twelve years old, it’s high time you were helping your mother, especially now. She needs her rest.”
Martin, with ill grace, and a face that could turn milk to cheese, helped take the dishes into the kitchen. He took the proffered tea towel without a murmur, drying as his grandmother washed. Fran glanced at him, “what have you and Laura quarrelled about?”
“Nothing. She just doesn’t want to be friend any more, but I’m not bothered. I was fed up of her anyway.”
Go and see her, Martin for heavens sake, put everyone out of their misery.”
“No!” Martin banged a plate onto the table, “and why won’t mum get someone in to do the housework, she can afford it. Dad has a gardener so she should have a cleaner. I’m not doing all the work when this baby comes!”
Fran shook her head as he flounced off wondering if her daughter and son in law had any real idea of the roller coaster ups and downs involved in having a pubescent child in the house, from the looks of things Martin had already boarded the ride. It was like having a poltergeist in residence with no hope of exorcism to cure it. Evie slept most of the afternoon and made little protest when Fran insisted on making dinner preparations, they were well under way when the doorbell rang. Martin yelled that he would get it.
Martin’s heart was beating a little faster with excitement as he headed to open the door. “What do you want?” His disappointment that it wasn’t Laura knocking on the door displayed itself as bad temper.
Colin looked puzzled, “I just came round to see you. I haven’t seen you for ages, I thought we could do something, after I’ve finished my maths homework.”
“Hello, Colin,” Fran came in to the hall to see who was calling, and why Martin hadn’t invited them in.
“Hello, Mrs Shaw, how are you?”
“I’m very well, thank you Colin.” She turned to her grandson, “do you plan to keep him on the door step all evening?”
Martin reluctantly stood aside.
“Where’s Mr Mitchell?” Colin followed Martin’s gran into the sitting room.
“He’s working a little later this evening, but he should be home soon. Did you want to see him about something?”
“Yes, I’ve got a problem with my homework, I thought he might be able to help.”
“Martin might be able to help, he’s quite good at maths, aren’t you, darling?” Fran smiled at him encouragingly. Martin was about to offer to have a look when Colin spoke. “I don’t think Martin will be able to help, it’s a bit advanced. I’ll wait and see Mr Mitchell, if that’s alright.”
Martin flushed at the perceived put down, “that’s all you come round for isn’t it?” His voice came out as a shout. “To use the study, a study I’m not allowed in, and to see dad. You couldn’t care less about seeing me.”
“Now then, what’s all this yelling? I could hear you outside.” Thomas chose that moment to arrive home.
“Tell him to go.” Martin poked a rude finger in Colin’s direction. I’m sick of him coming round here, pretending to be my friend. I don’t want him to come anymore.”
Colin went bright red, his eyes sparkling with tears, which he angrily blinked away, “if that’s how you feel, I’ll go.”
Thomas put out a gently restraining hand as the boy went to flounce past him. “You’ll do no such thing Colin. You’re here at my invitation, and you’re welcome to come and use that room whenever you want, regardless of what Martin says. I’m Master in this house, not him.” He turned to look coldly at his son, “I think you owe Colin an apology.”
“Get lost!” Martin flew out of the room.
“How dare you speak to me like that, young man?” Thomas quietly closed the bedroom door behind him.
“Leave me alone,” Martin deliberately turned his back, “why can’t you just leave me alone?”
“Stand up at once.”
Martin didn’t dare disobey the sharp command. He got off the bed, standing with slightly shaky knees in front of his father.
“I’m sick and tired of your sulks and tantrums.”
“And I’m sick of you being nice to Colin and horrible to me,” Martin’s mouth seemed to have a will of its own. “I don’t know why you don’t just adopt Colin and shove me in a home, then everyone will be happy.”
“You’re a spoilt brat, Martin Mitchell. You’ve had everything handed to you on a plate, and you don’t appreciate it one jot. It pains me to say it, but you’re absolutely bone-idle. All you want to do is mess around and have a good time, yet you resent the achievements of those who have worked hard. I wish you had a quarter of the gumption that Colin and the others have shown. They’ve settled themselves to working hard and putting in a real effort. Not you though. You just can’t be bothered. Well I’m telling you this. You,” he shook a finger in Martin’s face, “are a marked man. You’re going to work and you’re going to work hard this coming term. You will go to your room every evening, straight from school and you will do at least two hours home work, if necessary I’ll engage a home tutor. You’ve had an absolute fortune spent on your education and I want to see some returns on it.”
“I’ll leave school,” shouted Martin, “I’ll leave when I’m fifteen and get a job, then I can pay back all the money you’ve wasted on my education. You can spend the rest of the fund on the new baby, or St. Colin.”
“No one would employ you,” said Thomas coldly, “you’d be a liability.”
“I’ll become a prison officer like you then. Jangling a set of keys can’t be that difficult.” Martin swung his hand in front of him, as if he was shaking a set of keys.
Thomas barely trusted himself to move, let alone speak. There was a split second of silence in which he resisted an impulse to give his son a real beating. “If you’re not undressed and in bed by the time I count ten,” he said coldly, “I’m going to flay the skin from your bare backside with my belt.”
Martin burst into terrified sobs and began dragging his clothes off as fast as he could. He was under the blankets on the count of nine.
Downstairs Colin turned tearfully to Mrs Mitchell, he felt awful. “I’m sorry if I’ve upset Martin, I didn’t mean to. I really like him, he’s a good friend.”
“Don’t worry Colin,” Fran patted his shoulder, glancing anxiously at her daughter who looked grey of pallor, all this stress wasn’t good for her. “I’m afraid Martin is rather out of sorts with himself at the moment. He’ll get over it though.”