“I’m not surprised Martin. I’m not a bit surprised that it was handed back unmarked. It’s an absolute mess. Evie shifted her position, trying to relieve the ache in her back; all she needed was Martin giving her earache as well. “You promised your father and Mr Brown that you were going to pull your socks up and make more effort.”
“I hate English Lit, especially boring, boring Shakespeare, taught by boring, boring, horrible Mr Watson.” Martin flung his exercise book across the sitting room. He’d got a right rollicking from his teacher, in front of the entire class, about the disgraceful state of the work he’d handed in, “if you think I’m going to waste precious time marking that mess, you are sadly mistaken, Mr Mitchell. Do it again and do it properly or your backside is going to make the acquaintance of my boot.” He’d flung the offending article back at its owner, to the unconcealed delight of the rest of the class.
“Pick it up young man,” Evie spoke in a deceptively mild voice, “then go and get changed. I’ll get you some milk and a snack and you can make a start on your homework.”
“HOMEWORK!” yelled Martin, “that’s all I do these days. He snatched the book up and stamped up to his room, a seething mass of resentment.
Evie felt the first stab of pain as she climbed the stairs to take Martin’s snack. She had awoken that morning with a heavy sense of foreboding, and a nagging ache in her lower abdomen. She paused for a moment, gripping the banister until the spasm passed, taking a deep breath, before resuming her trek up the stairs.
Martin heard the crash and his mother cry out. He dashed across to the crumpled heap on the landing, flinging himself down on his knees, “mummy, are you alright?” He tried to help her up, but she groaned, white faced with pain, “phone the doctor Martin,” she took hold of his hand, “can you do that for me,” a particularly painful spasm gripped her and she cried out again. Martin’s eyes suddenly opened wide in horror as blood began to seep down her legs, pooling on the floor where she crouched, mingling with the spilt milk. He let out a sob of fear, and then hurtled down the stairs shouting, “don’t die, please don’t die, mummy. I’ll get the doctor.”
He telephoned for the doctor then raced back up to his mother. Evie tried to stay calm instructing Martin to fetch her towels from the airing cupboard. “Go and phone daddy now, the number is in the front of the address book. Tell him I need him, if he can get away.”
Martin darted off and she heaved herself into a sitting position, hurriedly placing a towel between her legs to try and soak up the blood. She managed to get herself into the bathroom, removing blood soaked underwear, biting her lip to stop herself shrieking with pain and grief, as she faced the loss of her longed for baby.
Outline scene two
It wasn’t exactly a boot, but it was the next worst thing, a gym shoe. Martin gulped as Mr Watson opened his desk and removed his favoured mode of punishment. Sam and Lucas gave him sympathetic looks as they trooped off to their next class, leaving their schoolmate to his fate.
“Give me your usual pathetic excuse. Mitchell, then we can get this over with.”
Martin stood up, knees trembling, “I’m sorry Sir, my mother was taken ill last evening.”
“She’s in hospital, I had to telephone the doctor and my father. We didn’t return from the hospital until late. I forgot all about my homework.”
Mr Watson looked consideringly at the pale-faced boy. “Understandably from the sound of it. What’s wrong with your mother?”
To his horror, Martin started to bubble, “my fault,” he spluttered, “it’s my fault. I didn’t want her to have the baby and now she isn’t.”
Mr Watson put the gym shoe away and proffered a handkerchief, “talk to me.”
“Listen, things like that don’t happen just because of a fit of sibling jealousy. If the baby had been meant to be born, it would have been born, regardless of your objections. These things happen, Mitchell…Martin,” he patted the boy’s shoulder. “It’s sad, especially for your parents, but it’s not your fault. Be considerate to your parents, they’ll be fragile for a while, especially your mother. The gift of a child is precious and the loss of one is a great sorrow. Off you go young man, to your next class, quick as you can.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Martin got to the door.
“Oh and Mitchell?”
Martin turned, “yes Sir.”
“I want that essay, redone and neatly presented, on my desk next lesson, or I’ll make sure you can’t sit down comfortably for a week.”
Martin smiled, “yes, Sir, thank you Sir.”
“Was it very painful, Martin?” whispered Sam to his red-eyed friend.
Martin shook his head, “he didn’t whack me, he’s alright is old winker Watson.”
“Well done Mitchell,” Mr Watson laid the exercise book down on Martin’s desk, “well expressed and well presented. A deserved A+.”
Martin beamed proudly.
Martin chose the flowers carefully, he wanted something that looked nice as well as smelled nice. “They’re for my mother,” he told the girl in the shop, “she’s been ill and I want to cheer her up.”
“I’m sure that these will do the trick,” the girl smiled at the eager faced boy. She wrapped the Pinks prettily, adding a ribbon at no extra charge. Martin thanked her. He was looking forward to presenting the scented gift to his mother. It had taken him a week to save the money to buy the flowers. Coming home from school on the bus, he had got off four stops sooner than usual, saving the change from his bus fare. His mother, having no idea what he was doing, had ticked him off for coming home late every evening that week. She had been a bit short tempered since coming home from the hospital, and sad, so had his father. Martin knew it was because of the baby and he still felt bad about the way he’d behaved over the news. He had enough money left to buy a small bar of chocolate. His father was very partial to chocolate.
He was too busy admiring the flowers and imagining his mother’s face, to notice Frankie Hall and his mates making a beeline for him. He gave a shout of dismay as the bouquet was torn from his hands.
“Hey!” Martin looked up, his stomach clenching with fear when he saw who it was. Frankie had always been stocky, Fat Frankie that’s what he, Laura and Paul had nick named him, but he had really filled out now, unlike Martin who had hardly changed since he was ten. Frankie was twice his size and three times his bulk.
“Are these for me?” Simpered Frankie, his stodgy face glowing with malice, “how sweet. I didn’t know you cared,” he fluttered his eyelashes, making his mates snigger.
“Give them back,” Martin swallowed nervously, he was scared of Frankie, really scared. There was an air of menace about him that went beyond childish spite.
“They’re for my mother.”
“Aw, did you here that lads, he’s bought his mummy flowers.” Frankie mimicked Martin’s accent, “and there’s me thinking they were for me. I’m upset now.” He suddenly began to pluck the heads from the flowers chanting, “he loves me, he loves me not.” His mates seemed to think it was hilarious, and began kicking and crushing the blooms as they fell to the ground.
Martin felt a great surge of anger, “you great stupid fool,” he shouted, trying to grab back what was left of the posy.
“He loves me not,” the last head fluttered to the ground, “you snotty little pansy!”
“Martin, is that you? You’re even later this…” Evie stopped dead in her tracks as she came into the hall.
Martin stared at her silently for a few moments, then he whispered, “can you mend my blazer mum, I’ll get in to trouble if I go to school with it like this?” He touched the torn lapel with shaking hands.
Evie held out her arms and he fell into them, sobbing silently against her chest, she let him cry, stroking her fingers through his hair, fighting back her own tears, tears of rage at whoever had hurt him. He explained what had happened, “and they even took the chocolate I’d bought for dad, and now I’ve got nothing to give either of you,” he wept. “I wanted to say sorry about the baby.”
“Oh Martin, what a lovely, kind boy you are.” She cupped his bruised face in her hands, “thank you for the thought, but you are not to do anything like this again. You getting home safely is all that matters to your father and I.”
“What are you doing young man?” Evie spoke sharply, looking suspiciously at her son as he whirled round guiltily, concealing something behind his back. “You have no business being in here. What are you hiding?”
“Nothing.” Martin tried to look innocent; it wasn’t nice snooping amongst other people’s belongings.
“Let me see,” she grabbed his arm, drawing it forward, glaring at the exercise book disgustedly, “how dare you pry among other people’s belongings.” She took it from him, laying it back on the desk. “I doubt that Colin is covering the same curriculum as you, so attempting to cheat by copying his work is pointless.” She pushed him across the landing in to his own room.
“I wasn’t trying to cheat,” he scowled resentfully. “I just wanted to see what Colin was doing.”
“More to the point is what you’ve been doing all morning.” Evie examined the books spread out on Martin’s desk. “Is this it, is this all you’ve accomplished in two hours?” She crossly jabbed at the half page of untidy scrawl that was supposed to be a history essay. “This can’t have taken you long. What have you been doing Martin?” She spotted his sketchpad. “Right, I’m confiscating this and your pencils. I’m going to make lunch now, and you’re going to make a proper start on that pile of homework, and after lunch, you’re going to finish it. Furthermore, if it isn’t good enough, you’ll do it again.”
Martin scowled, “but I told Sam I’d ride over to his house this afternoon.”
“You are going nowhere until that homework is done.”
“It’s not fair, you’ve ruined my weekend.”
“It’s your own fault, you should do it on an evening, after school, like Colin does.”
Martin scowled harder still at the mention of Colin. He still hadn’t made up with him, or the others. Colin had called round timidly one evening to be warmly welcomed by Martin’s parents, but Martin consumed with jealous anger and hurt pride wouldn’t be friendly with him. Colin had asked him why he had a bruised face. Martin had told him to mind his own business and gone up to his room.
“Colin isn’t my friend anymore,” he said, “you shouldn’t let him come round.”
“Colin is a family friend who is more than welcome to use your father’s study. It has nothing to do with you.” Evie was running out of patience.
“I’m going to tear up all his rotten books, and…”
“That’s enough,” Evie interrupted his would be tirade against Colin. “If you lay so much as a finger on that boy’s belongings, I’ll spank you. I mean it Martin. Don’t think you can play me up, just because your father is away for the weekend.”
“I’ll tear mine up then,” Martin grabbed at his history book in a temper “you don’t care about me, only bloody saint Colin.”
Martin’s backside was saved from the full force of maternal wrath by the arrival of the weekend groceries. She marched out of the room, her cheeks flushed with annoyance, as the delivery boy hammered loudly on the front door. “I’m not finished with you yet,” she called over her shoulder.
To Martin’s relief she didn’t take up at the point she’d left off, instead she told him. “You’re not allowed out for the rest of the day, and I shall tell your father about your behaviour when he comes home. You promised to be good while he was away. I’ll telephone Sam and let him know you won’t be coming.”
Evie consulted Martin’s homework diary, checking that he’d completed every assignment. She nodded approvingly, “see, you can do it easily when you put your mind to it.”
Martin ate a hearty tea, relieved to have got all his homework up to date. He had refused to eat his lunch, cutting his nose off to spite his face, as Mrs Archer would say, hoping to make his mother feel guilty and upset.
Martin helped clear the table and stack the dishes by the sink in the kitchen. He watched her pause in the hall, en route to the kitchen and sniff appreciatively at the beautiful vase of flowers on the hall table. After the incident with Frankie, his father had taken him to the florists and had let him choose a spray of flowers.
“I’m sorry mum.” He reached his arms round her and she immediately cuddled him back.
“Help me wash up, then you can keep me company for a while.” She kissed his cheek, “I’m sorry too.”
Martin, curled up in a corner of the couch, sighed heavily as he tried to concentrate on the book he was reading.
“You’re missing Laura, aren’t you?” Evie put down her knitting. “That’s why you’re all at sixes and sevens with the world.”
Martin nodded. He was missing her, very much. She was on his mind all the time. He missed Colin and Amy too, but not as desperately as he missed Laura.
“Call for her then. Make it up, you silly boy.”
“She said I was stupid,” Martin blinked back tears. “How could she say that mum? I thought she liked me, the way I liked her, but all the time they’ve been laughing at me behind my back. It made him feel sick with humiliation thinking about it. “I thought I was one of them, but I’m not.”
Evie sat down on the couch beside him, slipping an arm around his shoulders. “You’re getting it all out of proportion darling, Laura thinks the world of you. I’m sure she didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”
“I wasn’t trying to cheat today mum, when I was looking at Col’s work. I just wanted to see how he did things, what makes him different to me. I wanted to see why dad likes him and not me any more.” His tears spilled.
“Oh Martin, don’t be silly, of course your father likes you. Colin is a bright boy, it’s true, but the main difference between you and him is that he applies himself. Daddy admires his tenacity, he doesn’t have it easy, coming from a huge family, living in a crowded house, no space to himself, but he strives to do his very best. Your father gets cross because you have all the advantages, you have the intelligence, but you just won’t work. Look at today, all that hassle and yet when you put your mind to it, it was done in next to no time. You ended up wasting your entire Saturday and made yourself, and me, miserable.” She glanced out of the window, suddenly patting his leg, announcing, “we’re going for a walk, it’s a shame to waste such a fine evening.”
“Where are we going mum?” Martin glanced uneasily at her.
“I want to pay a visit to Catherine, I haven’t seen her since she came to visit me in hospital.”
“Evelyn,” Catherine embraced her fondly, delighted to also see Martin with her.
“Come on in, it’s lovely to see you.” She turned to Martin, ruffling his hair, “and who’s this stranger?”
Martin smiled slightly, “hello Mrs Archer.”
“David’s at work, come through to the kitchen, I’ll make us some tea.”
“Martin!” Robbie delightfully flung himself on the older boy, smearing him with icing from the cake he was eating, “where’ve you been? Look,” he grinned grotesquely, “I’ve lost me front tooth, the tooth fairy comed for it last night and left me a threepenny bit.”
“Where’s Sean?” asked Martin, pleased that Robbie seemed to have missed him.
“Gone to the rec with his friends. He wouldn’t let me go wiv him. Will you play footie with me, out the back?”
Martin allowed himself to be dragged off.
Catherine raised her eyes towards the ceiling. “Holy Mary knows, over at Amy’s I think. Lord, but she’s been hard work lately. She’s hardly eaten a thing since she fell out with Martin, she cries at the drop of a hat. I hardly dare look at her, never mind talk to her.”
“Growing pains,” said Evie ruefully, “we’re suffering them as well.”
“That’s what I keep telling David, I thought he was going to kill her the other night. You should’ve heard the lip she give him.”
“I can imagine.” Evie shook her head, “Martin has been absolutely impossible. You wouldn’t believe some of the…” They spent a pleasant hour swapping horror stories about their offspring’s tantrums.
Martin, at his mother’s insistence, opened the front door, staring in astonishment at the caller.
“Hello,” Laura stared awkwardly at the tiled floor of the porch; “your mam invited me for tea. My mam said I had to come.”
“You’d better come in then,” Martin stood politely aside, his heart thumping. His mother had said nothing to him.
Laura glanced at his face as she stepped inside, he had gone quite pink. So had she, she could feel her cheeks burning. “Colin said Frankie Hall had beaten you up.”
“Did he hurt you much?”
Again Martin nodded. He closed the front door. They stared dumbly at each other. Martin cleared his throat, but couldn’t think of anything to say.
Laura couldn’t bear it another second, she flung her arms round him, almost knocking him off balance. “I’m sorry Mart, I don’t really think you’re stupid, I was mad at you for saying we were common.”
“I didn’t mean it,” Martin hesitantly put his arms round her and hugged her, “I’m sorry too. I’ve missed you ever so much.” He felt strangely regretful when she broke her embrace. “You smell nice Laura,” he offered shyly, the colour in his cheeks deepening further.
Laura smiled, “It must be my hair, mum washed it with this new shampoo last night.”
“Come along you two,” Evie ventured in to the hall, “tea is all ready.” She smiled as they walked in to the dining room, Laura linking her arm through Martins.
Summer 1963>xmas1963/4>spring1964>teenage years (transition from childhood beginning)