by Caleb Wilson
Mr. Jackson stared at me for a few moments, then he looked across at Mitch, before he asked,
“Was Winters instrumental in changing your mind?”
“At least he made amends for his infantile behaviour of yesterday,” Jackson said, giving Mitch a withering look, “I’ll see you boys later.”
As he made to leave he stopped, “Have you still got your senior class schedule, Hodson?”
I nodded in response as I’d just filled my face with more beef and bread.
“Very well” and Mr. Jackson strode off, leaving the two of us to finish our meal break.
“According to Jackson, you got straight A’s in all the exams, he set you.” Winters said, while he chewed on his sandwich.
“Yep.” I dived into my backpack for a soft drink. Mitch waited patiently for me to expand on his question.
I hastily swallowed a mouthful of orange juice, before answering, “If he says so, I suppose it’s correct.”
“Good, then if I need some help in the math’s and physics papers, would you assist me?"
“Yeah, if you want.”
“I think I’ll want with a capital W.” Frowning he added, “I’m hoping to sit my A-levels after Christmas in four months time if all goes well.”
“So, we’ll be sitting our exams at the same time.” I said, as I finished my drink, “How about you let me copy some of your course work?
Mitch pulled a face before he answered, “Actually I haven’t got a lot for you to copy. I missed six weeks of school last term, but you’re welcome to what I have. I was hospitalized after a fall when rock climbing and ended up with a concussion and a badly broken arm. I should’ve sat my A-levels last June but missed out, so I will have to wait till next year.”
"So, are you okay, now?"
“The head's back to normal,” and waving his right arm around as he stood Mitch said, “The arm is nearly as good as new.” He started picking up his litter saying, “I think we better get back, otherwise we’re going to be late.”
I grabbed my belongings, and with Mitch walking beside me, we made our way back.
“See you later!” I said to my new friend, when we reached the main entrance. Then, I headed for my locker so I could put my pack away.
“I’ll meet you at the afternoon break by the cafeteria,” Mitch responded as I walked away.
I waved my hand over my head in acknowledgement while I moved down the hallway. Then for some unknown reason I stopped, and turned. Mitch hadn’t moved, he had remained in the same place where I’d left him and continued to stare at me. I gazed back at him for a moment then gestured once more with my hand and continued on to my locker, and from there to my next class.
As I journeyed toward my destination, I couldn’t help but think about the boy I had just left.
What a difference a day can make. Yesterday, my opinion of Mitchell Winters was far from high, yet today, we got along like a house on fire.
“Did Jackson find you? I heard a voice ask that I recognised. Looking over my shoulder, I saw Ginny rapidly scrambling to catch up with me.
“Yeah, seems like I’ll be studying with the seniors from tomorrow.”
“Sugar! Just when I thought I had got you to come out of your shell so you could help me out in maths when I need it!”
“Is that the only reason you talked to me?”
“No, you’re cute as well, but I think you’ve said about ten words in the past couple of years.”
“Yeah, well I’m the strong silent type,” I added with a broad smile.
“Silent, yeah, strong, you must be joking!” she laughingly retorted.
I didn’t respond, instead I kept on walking.
“Cobey, I’m sorry!”
I abruptly halted, which caused her to nearly bump into me.
“You don’t have to be. I know I’m no Mr. Universe, sorry! But if you need help in maths, just yell and I’ll see what I can do.”
She grinned, while she quipped,
“How loud must I yell?”
“Loud enough for me to hear you. Come on, we’ll be late for class.”
Mr. Simmonds droned on about the reign of the Plantagenet’s from 1399 to 1485. Having studied that period of the English monarchy about two years previously, no matter how hard I tried to focus and keep an interest in what was said, I couldn’t stop my mind from wandering.
I found my thoughts focused on Mitch Winters, and how for the first time in nearly four years I had enjoyed the company of another person other than my mother. Better yet, I actually became aware of participating in conversation with another individual for more than a couple of minutes. Thinking about our lunch hour meeting, I now looked forward to seeing him again at the afternoon break. Consequently, I itched for the bloody bell to ring. When it did I jumped out of my seat. I raced from the room, headed straight for my destination as fast as possible without breaking into a run. I couldn’t see Mitch in the vicinity of the cafeteria, so I made a beeline towards the entrance. I was just about to go through the double doors, when I heard the distinctive voice of Mr. Jackson call my name, which stopped me dead in my tracks.
Letting the doors close and walking over to where the teacher stood, I responded with, “Yes, Sir.”
“Cobey, I need to have a word with you, now that you’re on your own.”
I waited impatiently for him to ask his question, eager to meet up with Mitch.
He hesitated a moment then haltingly queried, “Umm, did Winters coerce you in any way, so you would start studying with the seniors again?”
“No Sir, actually I was just on my way to meet up with him once again.”
My answer brought a look of relief to his face as he exclaimed, “Oh that’s good, I’m glad you’ve made a friend with one of the seniors. That puts my mind at rest. I’ll see you later.”
After Jackson had left, I made my way to the cafeteria entrance and opened the doors. The moment I entered, I saw Mitch. He is one of tallest boys in school, and stood in one corner chatting with a group of his friends.
Since I am not one to socialise with crowds, I began to retrace my steps, however when he saw me by the exit, he waved in my direction.
Turning he said something to his friends, then detached himself from the group and hastened over to where I stood.
Once he reached me he grabbed my shoulder and guided me towards the doors while he stated, “Let’s get out of here,” as we exited the cafeteria. “I thought you weren’t going to show,” he said.
“Mr. Jackson wanted to speak to me,” that’s why I was a bit late.
“Oh, yeah, what was that about?”
“He asked whether you twisted my arm to make me reconsider studying with the seniors again.”
“I’m not, and I even showed him the bruises, but he didn’t believe me, so you’re safe for now!”
We both laughed, at the same time as we made our way outside.
“What about your friends in the cafeteria?” I asked, as we walked through the school grounds.
We continued walking till Mitch paused for a bit, hesitated for a moment as he stared into my eyes and asked, “Who’s Cobey Hodson?”
His question turned my insides to jelly!
“What d’you mean?” I finally managed to get out nervously, with my voice cracking.
“Just what I said, I’ve been asking around since lunch time, and either they say "Cobey who?" or something like, "The kid keeps to himself and doesn’t say a lot when spoken to. So, I want to know who you are!”
My nerves took over, and panic enveloped me. Sooner than answer any questions, I turned-tail and bolted, heading for the safety of the school.
I heard Mitch shout, as I ran off, “Cobey, wait up!”
I ignored his plea. Instead, I kept going until I reached the protection of the main building. Once inside, I made my way to my next scheduled classroom. I was literally shaking, when I arrived.
With the break still in progress, I found myself alone. I sat at my desk until I had my nerves under control. Once calmed down, I thought about Mitch. I decided my attempt to get close with another boy was not a good idea.
I had been so used to my own company since my father’s death, that the first time a person had enquired about me through genuine interest I’d done a runner. I realised that I had nothing really to tell about myself other than my age, height, weight, and that I liked to study.
When Mitch Winters finds out the limited extent of the information which there is to be had about Cobey Hodson, he'll soon realise that I wasn’t going to be the most interesting character he’d ever encountered.
Since my Father’s demise, I had lost the ability to socialise, or for that matter take an interest in anything other than my studies. To put it bluntly I was about as interesting as watching grass grow!
Classes resumed, and when the bell went for the end of school. I was thankful that for once my mother was on time to pick me up.
I was out of the school gates and inside the car so quickly my feet barely touched the ground. Even if Mitch had been in the vicinity, he’d have had no chance to talk to me.
On the way home, I told my mother I planned to study with the seniors.
“What made you change your mind?”
“One of the boys, and Mr. Jackson.”
“I hope you won’t have any problems this time.”
“No, I don’t think so. Mr. Jackson seems to be taking a personal interest in making my time studying with the seniors as pleasant as possible.”
Mitchell Winters watched the car as it carried away the kid. The boy’s behaviour perplexed him. They had been getting along fine during lunch, then at the afternoon break when he’d enquired about whom Cobey was, it had caused the kid to run away.
Now, as the vehicle disappeared from view he thought, “Id better stay well away from Cobey Hodson.” He didn’t want to be responsible for the youth walking out of the senior’s study group once again.
Wednesday morning, the moment my mother dropped me off I entered the school a bit apprehensively. I wondered what Mitch Winters might say.
My first lesson started with a double period of chemistry. I soon learned as I looked around the class that it wasn’t one of Mitch’s A-level subjects, so at least for now I wouldn’t have to face him. At the first break, I grabbed a drink from my locker and made my way out to the recreation area.
I couldn’t help but notice Winters because of his height, but thankfully he didn’t notice me as he stood amongst a group of his friends.
At the end of the break, I headed for room 3C. I knew Mitch would be in the class. I arrived there before most of the other pupils and took the same seat that I selected on my first day of the term.
When the rest of the pupils entered, Mitch Winters among them. He didn’t give me a glance. He just went to his desk, which was two ahead of mine, and sat down with his back to me.
Mr. Sapsford arrived and the normal hubbub of voices subsided. He looked around the class and noticing where I was seated. He didn’t ask me to make my way to the front desk, as he had demanded on the first day of school. Instead he let me remain where I was.
For the rest of the week, plus the next one, the pupils in all of my classes only spoke to me if necessary, and Mitchell Winters not at all. It didn’t bother me in the least, as I was quite used to keeping my own company.
However, Ginny did collar me one lunch break. She asked for my assistance in explaining the Pythagorean theorem. She stated that she’d been giving Trevor Bentley the eye, rather than pay attention during the lesson.
So, I described the theorem for her in simplified terms. She went away really happy, saying “Why couldn’t Gibson explain it like that?”
On the Friday of the second week of the return to school, Mitch Winters watched the fourteen-year-old from the corner of his eye during the afternoon break. The boy appeared unperturbed that the other pupils in his class hardly spoke to him. In fact, he seemed to prefer it that way. As he watched the younger teen, there was something about him that gnawed away at the back of his mind. It concerned the boy’s face. But he couldn’t put a finger on it.
At the end of the day’s classes he watched as Cobey dashed out to the waiting car, as if he was in a hurry to escape the confines of the school and everything in it.
“I suppose I’d better take my case work around, so that he can copy it,” Mitch Winters thought, as he watched the car drive away with the boy in it. “It might seem childish if I were to withhold the notes, after all, I did offer him the use of them. Now, to get his address.”
He made his way over to the school secretary’s office. After giving the lady a fabricated story about losing Hodson’s address. He went on to explain he needed it to let said student have the A-level course work. He came away with a piece of paper, on which was written the words ‘34 Marlborough Road’.
Happy with himself and now with a genuine excuse to call on Cobey Hodson, he headed home. He entered his front door, and hearing sounds coming from the drawing room he made his way there to see his mother watching television.
After greeting his mother, Mitchell Winters informed her that he’d be going out after his evening meal.
“Any place, in particular?” she enquired.
“No, just have to keep a promise and lend someone my course work to copy. I shouldn’t be too long.”
“Well remember, we’re going out later this evening, so don’t be too late.”
He was about to leave the room, when the advert for Qatar airline on CNN drew towards the end. The stewardess’s face, or rather the upper part of it came on screen, and then the question that had bugged him ever since he’d met Cobey Hodson, clicked into place. It was his eyes, they were the same colour as that of the woman in the commercial, a kind of smokey green. He smiled to himself, happy at having solved the problem concerning the kid, as he climbed the stairs to shower and change.
I had just finished my evening meal and stood at the kitchen sink helping my mother with the dishes, when I heard the front doorbell ring. Mum dropped the dishcloth to make her way to the front door. I could hear muffled voices, then the front door closing, then footsteps going to the sitting room.
Next, my mother appeared in the kitchen, saying,
“Cobey, you’ve got a visitor! Leave the dishes, I’ll attend to them. You go and make him welcome.”
Drying my hands I made my way to the front room expecting to see one of the teachers from my school. Instead, standing in the middle of the room carrying a folder, stood Mitchell Winters.
“Mitch, good to see you!” I said rather nervously making my way towards him. “What brings you around, and how did you know, where I lived?
“I didn’t, I got the address from the school secretary. I brought this around for you. It’s the course work from last term. I’ve copied Bob Haines’s notes as well so it’s bang up to date.”
I thanked him as I took the proffered folder, “I’ll let you have it back on Monday, at school.”
“Monday? That soon?” Mitch exclaimed, “I thought you’d need a couple of weeks at least, to copy it.”
“No, it’s okay. You can have it back on Monday. I’ve got nothing else to do, so I may as well finish it.”
“Well, you can always come over to my place and hang out if you want too.” Mitch said, going a bit red in the face.
I was stuck for words, it being the first time someone actually had invited me to spend time with them in over four years. When I hesitated to answer his request he blurted out, “You can bring your sister along with you, if you wish.”
Frowning, I replied, “Sister? I don’t have a sister!”
“Uh, that person, who answered the door wasn’t your sister?”
I started laughing then stopped, seeing the look of embarrassment on his face,
“Sorry, didn’t mean to laugh at you, that was my mother.”
“Oh, Christ! He exclaimed, “She looked so young, and she has those same smokey green eyes as you.”
“Yeah, well, when I tell her what you said, you’ll be her friend for life!”
“Oh, Man,” Mitch groaned, “Don’t say anything, please!”
“Okay I won’t! Now instead of standing around, do you want to sit? Would you like any refreshment?”
“No, thanks, I’m good,” Mitch said taking a seat.
I settled down opposite him and contemplated how next to proceed. I took a deep breath then stated,
“Um Mitch, you’re the first visitor I’ve had in four years. We’ve had relations, and some of my mother’s friends, around on a regular basis, but you’re the first one that’s come to see me. So, I’ve got no idea how I go about keeping you entertained. Um what do you normally do when you visit your friends?”
Not answering my question, Mitch smiled saying, “Is that why you bolted, when I asked, who’s Cobey Hodson?”
I hung my head, not wishing to look into his face, before I replied,
“Yeah, I didn’t know how to respond and got scared thinking that if you learned the truth, you’d be a bit disappointed with the facts.”
“Okay, first of all, I’m not, and wouldn’t have been!” As I looked up, Mitch had a huge grin on his face, while he added, “Now, let’s get down to you entertaining me. What music do you like, or listen to?”
I pointed to the CD player, “Umm, those discs over there, but they’re all my mother’s. I’ve never bought any of my own.”
“Okay, have you got a PC?”
“Good, what games do you have on it?”
“Uh, only the ones that were loaded onto the computer when I got it, there’s solitaire, 3D pinball, and some others.”
Mitch smiled, “You know Cobey, your answers to my questions are entertaining enough. What say we just sit and talk?”
“Great, we can go to my room. I'll put this folder away, and up there we won’t be disturbed by my mother.”
He followed me out into the hallway and to the stairs. Before we climbed them, I yelled, "Mum, Mitch and I are going to my room."
I heard a faint, “Okay son,” and with my friend behind me, we continued on our way.
Inside my room I put the folder away, then offered the seat by my PC to Mitch while I took a spot on the bed. Mitch declined the chair, instead plopping down beside me.
He was looking into my eyes again, before saying, “Your mum and you both have the same shape and coloured eyes, as the stewardess on the Qatar airline advert.”
“Is that good or bad?”
“Haven’t you seen the ad?”
I frowned, then I recalled the one he was talking about, as my mother also watched CNN from time to time.
“Yeah I remember, but you only see one eye at the end of the ad.”
“But that’s all you need to make the comparison.”
I watched as Mitch’s eyes roved around the room checking out all that was in it.
“Other than the computer, you don’t have a whole lot here. Have you got any DVD’s stashed somewhere?”
“Nope,” and then I remembered, “Oh yeah hang on there’s this one.”
I went to my wardrobe, searched around till right at the back my hands came in contact with it. Pulling the DVD out, I walked back over to Mitch and handed it to him.
He glanced at it and seconds later he laughed before explaining, “I’ve got this one as well!”
He returned the disc to me asking, “You like football?”
My mind immediately flashed back to the time, when my dad still lived. The two of us used to play in the park together and watched the Saturday afternoon matches on Sky TV. A lump came to my throat, while my eyes started to tear up, as I recalled the memories.
At my silence, and seeing the sudden distressed look on my face, Mitch became concerned. He took my arm and in a low hesitant voice, he enquired gently, “Cobey, you okay?”