by Caleb Wilson
“Cobey,” Mitch’s concerned voice startled me out of my thoughts.
“Yeah, I’m okay. I was just thinking back and remembering what used to be.”
“If it’s not too private, what were you thinking about?”
“You want to talk about it?”
I looked at Mitch. With my voice catching in my throat and not knowing why at the time, I said, “Yeah, I’d like to talk about him.”
I composed myself then started my narrative.
“I love my mum and at present, she’s the single most important person in my life. But, when dad was alive, I loved him something fierce. He was my everything. We had such wonderful times together. He’d kick a ball around with me in the park or in the garden, and teach me all the tricks he’d learnt from watching that video,” I said pointing to the video that was lying on the bed. “Other times, when he was attending to the garden, he’d get me involved. At first, I wasn’t too keen on gardening, couldn’t see the point in digging around in the soil. Then, when I saw the results of what he’d helped me to plant, I was hooked. Other times he’d get me lying on my back with him on the grass in the garden, and he’d show me how to see pictures in the clouds. You’d be surprised at the hundreds of different shapes you can see, as the clouds move in the wind. We used to compete as to who could see the most. He would always let me win. He was never too busy to talk to me, and every conversation with him left me wondering how my dad knew so much about the world. Then when he died a week before my tenth birthday, I think a little bit of me died as well. I became very introverted and lost all desire to interact socially with anyone other than my mother. You were the first person who I spoke to socially for more than five minutes in years. So, when you asked me in school, who was Cobey Hodson, I couldn’t answer. I panicked and ran to hide my nervousness and embarrassment, not knowing how to respond to your question. After that, when you left me alone, as did the other pupils in the class, it made me think that you weren’t too eager to be associated with a nonentity, which in a way, suited me and let me revert back to my normal way of life. But now, with you here and me telling you about myself, I hope you’ll understand me better and my reluctance to talk to people.”
Mitch looked at me, his eyes seemed to be roving over my face and taking in every detail. Then, fixing his eyes to mine, he said, “I only asked who Cobey Hodson was because wherever I made enquiries about you, I came up with a blank. Which, to say the least, was very unusual. As a good looking kid like you, who’d been at the school for over two years; you were more or less unknown.”
“What d’you mean good looking?”
“Exactly what I said, with those smokey green eyes and your tanned complexion, it’s surprising why nobody has got to know you better.”
“Umm, I don’t think I was very sociable, so I suppose the kids just left me alone. Anyway, you’ve got to know me better, so your questions been answered.”
“Yeah, I know a bit about you, but I want to know more.” Mitch hesitated a bit then continued, “I’m asking again, can we meet up tomorrow?”
“Without even thinking, the words gushed out of me, “Okay, where?”
“What about here, at your place?”
“Umm no, I have to go shopping with my mother Saturday mornings. We normally walk around the mall for a bit. My mum likes to window shop and after that we get the groceries in for the week. If I don’t go with her, I’ll end up having to eat all the things that she likes, and what she thinks is good for me for the rest of the week. And I’m not into all that broccoli, asparagus, and other green food that she wants to shovel down my throat!” Mitchell laughed as the younger boy pulled a face. Cobey continued, “So, give me your address, and I’ll meet you at your place when we’re done.”
“You got a piece of paper to write down the address?”
“Just tell me, I’ll remember it.”
Mitch seemed a bit dubious about me remembering the address, but still he gave it; “10 Willow Close. You’re sure you’ll remember it?”
“Yeah.” And, I repeated the address back to him.
“Can you give me your email address?”
“Any particular reason?”
"Yep, If you don’t show, I can mouth off at you without interruption.”
“I’ll show, but, anyway, it’s firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Mitch looked a bit perplexed, but when I explained that "becoy was an anagram of Cobey and "95" was the year of my birth, he grinned and said, “That’s good! Easy to remember, and I don’t need to write it down. Okay, I’ve got to get going. My parents will be waiting for me, we’re going out this evening.” He gave me an enquiring glance adding, “So, I’ll see you tomorrow, after your shopping trip?”
“Yeah.” And, I led the way downstairs. Mitch popped his head into the sitting room to say goodbye to my mother. Then with me following him we made our way out of the house and to the front gate.
“See you tomorrow.” Mitch mouthed for the umpteenth time, making sure there was no possibility of me forgetting.
“As soon as I can get away.” I watched him walk down to the front gate, then turned and went back into the house.
The moment I was inside the house, my mother was standing in the hallway with a big grin on her face.
“What?” I asked, a bit annoyed because of her cheesy grin.
“I’m so glad you finally made friends with someone and asked them over!”
“I didn’t ask him over Mum, he just came to lend me his folder with the course work for me to copy.”
“Oh!" She exclaimed, with the grin fading from her face, But then it was back on again, as she asked hopefully, “You did invite him over again?”
“No, Mum,” and again the grin vanished from her face. But not wanting to disappoint her I said, “But I’m going over to his house tomorrow,” I mumbled.
The grin was back on her face, as she came over and hugged me. “It’s been a long time, Cobey, but finally you’ve stepped out of your shell.”
Mitchell Winters fastened his seat, belt started the car and made his way home, well pleased with himself. He was glad he’d taken the decision to visit Cobey with the excuse of lending him the course work folder, but it had worked. The kid had opened up to him. Now maybe he would open up to others in the school and become a bit more sociable. It wouldn’t happen overnight, but with a bit of help and encouragement he might start to behave more like a normal 14-year-old boy. Tomorrow he could further encourage the kid to develop their friendship. The kid had stirred emotions in him that he’d thought had been laid to rest. But now they were again surfacing, and this time he hadn’t tried to suppress them. The boy had attracted him like a magnet. Yes they’d got off on the wrong foot, but now that incident had been forgotten and their friendship had begun to blossom.
By 11.45am on Saturday morning, my mum and I were back in the house. I helped her stash the groceries away then decided to have a snack before heading to Mitch’s house. With a bacon and tomato sarnie and a cup of tea residing inside my stomach, I was ready to leave. Giving my mother a kiss and promising to be back before it got too late, I left the house for the first time in four years on my own, to visit someone other than a relative.
I had studied the street map and local bus routes, so was quite sure I could find my way to my destination quite easily. Walking down to the main road I headed for the nearest bus stop that would take me to Mitch’s locality. I didn’t have too long to wait before a 263 bus arrived. Boarding it and paying my fare, I was able to find a seat by a window so I could a watch for St Martin’s Church, which would be my indication to ring the bell for the bus to stop at the next exit. As it happened, other passengers needed to alight at St Martin’s, and the bus stopped right outside the church. So when it took off again I rang the bell and got ready to jump off at the next stop.
Alighting from the bus I crossed the main road, walking along it till I came to Willow Close.
As I turned into the road I noticed that it was a cul-de-sac, and that the road was much wider than the normal. The pavements were also quite wide, maybe because of the trees lining the road on either side. Every house I walked past was built on a grand scale, with driveways leading to the front doors. I continued walking down the road looking at the numbers till I came to Mitch’s house, which was the one at the end of the road. The other houses were grand but this made them seem rather insignificant. Looking at the house and grounds I was having second thoughts about continuing on with my visit. The front expanse of garden was big enough to fit our house and three others besides. The whole place looked way out of what I was generally used to in a house. There were wrought iron gates across the driveway, which were locked, but at the side was a smaller gate that I presumed pedestrians used. Taking a deep breath and getting my emotions under control I approached it. Trying to open the gate proved fruitless as that was also locked. Noticing a bell push at the side I pressed the button and waited. I was on the point of giving into my feelings of trepidation and turning around to head home, when a man came into view.
He was about the same height as Mitch but a lot broader and older, he wore what looked like a black uniform and cap. I waited as he unlocked the gate, then stepped into the driveway when he opened it.
“Is Mitch at home?” I asked.
The man stared at me then gripping my arm asked in a very authoritative voice, “Who are you, and what’s the purpose of your visit?”
Getting annoyed at the man grabbing my arm and talking to me like I was some kind of criminal, I tried to wrench my arm free. This only made him tighten his grip on my arm, which became quite painful. Getting really angry I lashed out with my foot catching him on the shin. The next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor my head spinning. He’d slapped me open handed across the face.
As I struggled to my feet I turned my back on the man and headed out of the gate and thankfully he didn’t stop me. I’d got about half way up the road when I heard my name called. Turning, I saw Mitch running to catch up with me. I waited till he had, and at once he was very apologetic about what had happened.
“I forgot to tell Shawcross that you were visiting today, that’s why he acted the way he did.”
“Well you’re welcome to Shawcross, I’m going home. I don’t take kindly to being slapped around the face.”
“I’m sorry Cobey! Come on back I’ll make him apologise to you!”
I was still angry about the slap and now I vented my anger on Mitch, “No thanks! Your house looks like a fucking prison, and you’ve even got warders to patrol the grounds. You can shove your fucking house and guards where the sun doesn’t shine, and you’ll most probably enjoy it!”
I turned and continued my way home leaving him standing on the pavement.
Mitchell Winters was devastated! He was so looking forward to having the kid spend the afternoon with him, and now it had all gone down the drain. He turned and made his way back to the house to see Shawcross waiting by the gate.
“I’m sorry Mitchell, I didn’t know he was one of your friends, I thought he was one of those kids who might be casing the place.”
“Bollocks! You were just trying to assert your fucking authority! I just hope he decides to sue you for assault and take you for every fucking penny you’ve got!”
“I was only doing my duty and in any case he kicked me first. I only retaliated in self defence.”
“Self defence bullshit, the kid isn’t even half your fucking size. I’m going inside. Have the car outside the front door in an hour’s time.”
“Yes sir, I’m sorry for what happened.”
“Fuck you, don’t speak to me,” and Mitchell stormed off towards the house. I’ll give Cobey time to get home and cool off, he thought as he headed upstairs to his room, then go over and see him, and hopefully get him to lighten up again.
I reached home, just as my mother was preparing to go out. Seeing me, she was, at first, surprised at my early return, then concerned at the mark on my face.
“What happened?” she asked as she stroked my face, then she added, “does it hurt?”
I related to her what had happened, and she was all for going over to Willow Close, and confronting the guard. I managed to calm her down. After bathing my face with a cold flannel to try and reduce the slight swelling, she started to remove her coat that she’d been wearing for the purpose of going out.
“You don’t have to stay at home Mum,” I said making my way over to the fridge to get a cold drink. “I’m not dying, and if I need you, I can always call.”
“Are you sure you’ll be alright?”
“Mum, I’ve been slapped in the face, not shot. I’ll be okay.” I said, getting exasperated at the fuss she was making.
She donned her coat again, came over and gave me a kiss saying, “Now call me if you feel the slightest bit of discomfort.”
“Yes, Mum.” And my mother, after planting another kiss on my cheek, made her way out of the house.
Mitchell Winters exited the front door, seeing the BMW Series 6 convertible that his father had bought him when he’d passed his driving test, parked in the drive with Shawcross behind the wheel.
Yanking open the driver’s door, “I’ll drive,” he blurted out.
Shawcross exited the car. And before Mitch could take his place behind the wheel he asked, “Has the place you intend visiting got a drive or place to park off road?”
“No.” Mitch responded.
“Then I’d better come with you, you can’t leave a sixty thousand pound car parked in the street. I’ll return with the car when you wish to return home. Just phone, and I’ll bring it over.”
“I parked it in the street the other day and nothing happened.”
“You were lucky, but I wouldn’t push it if I were you.”
Not wanting to argue the point, Mitch climbed behind the wheel and waited for Shawcross to get into the passenger side, then they headed out for Cobey’s house.
The moment my mother had left, I headed up to my room, intent on copying the notes from the folder that Mitch had lent me. If I worked at it for the rest of the day and tomorrow, I could return it to him on Monday. But try as I may, my mind could not concentrate on my work, instead it was drawn to thoughts of Mitch. Putting my pen down, my thoughts went over the events of the past few days, wondering why was Mitch being so nice to me. Maybe he was trying to make up for what he’d done in the classroom on the first day of term. But then, he’d already apologised and had also been good enough to bring the folder that lay in front of me. As my thoughts tried to make sense of Mitch’s actions, I also started to think about my own. I had insulted him when he had tried to get me to return to his house and have the guard apologise. And still he hadn’t got annoyed with me. I was beginning to feel a bit guilty about what I had said to him outside his house. Trying to put it behind me, I grabbed my pen again and started copying the course work, where I had left off.
I’d been working for about half an hour when I put my pen down, as thoughts of Mitch again entered my head. 'It’s no good, I won’t be able to work unless I do something about it!' I thought.
I headed downstairs to the sitting room to call him on the landline. When I reached the bottom of the stairs, the front doorbell rang. I went and opened it, and stood open-mouthed, as the person I had been thinking of stood framed in the doorway.
As I stood there staring, he smiled saying, “Can I come in?”
Which brought me to my senses. I stepped aside to let him enter the house and close the door behind him when he had.
“I’m sorry for my outburst outside your house.” I said, as I led him into the sitting room, “But I got a bit angry after being hit by your guard.”
“No need to apologise, I most probably would have reacted in the same way.”
“Yeah, but it wasn’t you that hit me,” I said as I indicated for Mitch to have a seat, “It was the guard, so I shouldn’t have taken it out on you.”
He didn’t take a seat, instead he stood in front of me, looking at my face. He extended his hand and gently brushing the cheek where I had been hit and asked, “Does it hurt?”
His touch on my face was so soft and caring that when he removed it I wished he’d kept it there. I was still so taken by the feel of his hand on my cheek that I didn’t answer his question, but stood looking into his face.
At the sound of his voice, I came-to saying, “No, it doesn’t hurt now, I just hope the swelling goes down before we return to school.
“It should. Can we start again and forget about what happened earlier at my place?”
“Yeah, but just keep your dogs of war at bay.”
He smiled, “Shawcross has been warned, one more slip like that, and he’ll be seeking employment elsewhere. Now before we go any further, is your mum at home, so that I can apologise for the guard hitting you?”
“No, she’s gone out, thank goodness. She was driving me nuts fussing about what had happened.”
“Damn! Other than wanting to see if you were okay, it was one of the reasons I came over.”
“Are you in a hurry to return home?”
“Well, you can keep me company, till my mum returns.”
Mitch smiled saying, “Now that’s the best offer I’ve had all day!”