“The Wallace way of life”
English class went all too fast, classes with the beautiful Mrs Finx always did. She was one of the few younger staff at the school and one of the only staff that I respected enough to take their classes seriously. Unlike the following classes, Mathematics and Modern History, which were a blur of boredom and stale teaching methods.
‘Tommy.’ Scarlet confronts me on my way to Drama her voice sickly sweet, her blue pinafore tight but somehow still managing to seem proper, and blonde hair pulled back into a high ponytail. A small golden cross hangs around her neck which she fiddles with as she talks up at me. ‘Tommy we need to talk.’
I allow her to pull me off to a side veranda across from the drama room, my lip curling up into an irresistible smirk, hoping that it’ll buy me my forgiveness. ‘Scarlet you’re looking radiant as always.’
She leans in, her breasts squished against me, her pointer finger pressed to my chest. ‘Pull that trick again and you’ll seriously regret it.’
I’m not one to whine or beg, but Scarlet is the hottest girl in school; so, grabbing her lightly by her waist, I say, ‘You know I didn’t feel anything with those other girls, they were purely physical, but you know another side of me. You bring out another side of me. You’re someone I could introduce into the Wallace Dynasty.’
Of course, all the above statements are lies. But Scarlet need not know.
Her eyes grow big and her cheeks flush, she bites her lip, thinking about whether she’ll forgive my past transgressions.
‘Fine then,’ She caves. ‘I’ll give you a second chance. But just so we are clear, we’re not dating or anything, but we’re exclusive.’
I want to question her further.
Not dating but exclusive, what the fuck does that mean? Does this mean you’ll put out or not?
But instead, I smile and simply say, ‘Thanks’, as she reaches up and kisses me quickly before dancing off to join her friends.
‘What did Miss catholic-wet-dream want?’ Owen grins as I join Dim and him, lounging against the brick of the building.
‘All is well in the world. We’re not dating but we’re exclusive, whatever that means.’ I grin back. ‘I just hope it means I’ll be getting laid.’
‘Disgusting, Tom. Thanks for keeping misogyny alive.’ Dim groans as the drama room is opened by someone other than our eccentric, scarf-clad drama teacher, Ms Carlos.
Not that I care who’s taking the class, drama is a bludge either way.
The three of us meander into the room, taking our usual seats at one of the small cluster tables at the back of the room. I chuck my folder on the desk and wait for the substitute to introduce himself. He leans against the desk, patiently waiting for the group to quieten down. One by one, the female students, straighten up suddenly aroused by the presence of the male sub. Even Dimiti is enchanted by his presence, her sharpie balancing flirtatiously between her parted lips. Owen nudges her.
‘What?’ She shrugs, ignoring her behaviour.
Who is this hot shot?
‘Good morning.’ The substitute speaks, his accent undeniably Irish. ‘I’m Timothy Wires, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but it looks like you’ll be having my sorry ass as a teacher for the rest of the year.’
One table of girl’s sighs hopelessly, not even joking.
‘Where’s Ms Carlos?’ Marnie, short and mousy with a decent rack, asks before blushing violently when the sub looks in her direction. I roll my eyes.
‘She won the lottery? A family member fell ill? Or perhaps she’s pregnant?’ Mr Wires shrugs. Half the class laughs at his banter. I do not. He continues, as he rolls up shirt sleeves and then loosens his collar and tie, ‘All I know is she won’t be back for the remainder of the year.’
Bazaar thing is that I don’t seem to remember Ms Carlos mentioning anything that during yesterday’s lesson about her taking leave?
‘Onto today’s lesson.’ Mr Wires says pushing off the desk and bouncing from left foot to right. ‘Let’s kick off today’s lesson with a quick get-to-know-you game, for my benefit really not yours, and then we’ll move on to some theory. Sound cool? Everybody up.’
I slowly get up from my seat and join my peers at the free floor space at the other end of the room where we begin to play a classic get-to-know-you game, you know the kind, the “say your name, provide an adjective that begins with the same letter as the first letter in your name” kind. I pick Tenacious Thomas when it comes to my turn. Though according to Owen I should have gone with Titty-fucker Thomas.
Owen’s up next, he comes up with, ‘Omnipresent Owen’, though earlier he had joked and said he’d go with Orgasm (inflicting) Owen.
Dimiti rolls her eyes at the two of us, smiles and goes with, ‘Demigoddess Dimiti.’
After this, we kick off our theatre study on Macbeth – which we did last year. But nobody was keen to point this out to Mr Wires, meaning that the remainder of the lesson was pretty much a right off.
Upon the glorious electronic chime of our school lunch bell, Dimiti, Owen and I fly out of the room and off to the food hall. Lunch and dinner being the busiest sessions for food hall, both having set times, unlike breakfast. This means that I only had half an hour of grub time before my meeting with Corvetz; and subsequently, my impending doom.
Arriving at the hall, my friends and I find our table available and laden with today’s choice of lunch – chicken-pot-pie with roast vegetables or a vegetarian focaccia with a garden salad (produced locally, organic, and prepared on campus. There are also sandwiches on offer in the glass cabinets near the service counter. They’re only there for the students who can’t afford meals with their board or for students who are non-boarders. Which is odd considering I can count the total of students in that category on one hand.
Serving herself eagerly, Dimiti goes straight for the vegetarian option. Following suit, I serve myself a helping of chicken-pot-pie and roast vegetables, whilst Owen serves himself both options onto his plate.
‘So how do you thin Keith and Glenda will react this time?’ Owen asks, shovelling mouthfuls of the aromatic chicken filling into his open mouth. Chasing it down with a swig of sparkling water.
I laugh, heaving mouthfuls of my own as I talk, chewing vigorously, ‘How do you think they’ll respond?’
Owen smiles wryly before giving his best Keith impersonation, ‘You know what boy…’ His voice dropping down serval octaves into a rich growl, ‘The Wallace name is a prestigious one, one that is not easily tarnished, yet somehow you have managed to continuously leave your grubby print on everything. In military school, I learnt how to be a real man and have respect for power and wealth – yadda, yadda, macho, macho…’
We all laugh, our heads lulling back, cheeks tight and red from laughter before Dimiti screeches loudly, ‘Thomas, how dare you infuriate your father like this and in front of all these people. How selfish. Look at the spectacle you are making of yourself.’
Upon this I spit my food across the table upon her impersonation of Glenda, ‘Dim, that’s spot on as fuck, you sounded just like her right down to the social outburst blamed on me. All you needed to add was the wailing tears.’
Dimiti laughs and gives a seated bow.
‘As for Corvetz,’ I add, ‘No clue what’s going to happen there. She’s hard to read, like a very micro-detailed instruction magazine. Hopefully, all I’ll get is a wrap on the knuckles and nothing too rash.’
The others nod, even though we all know that this will not be the case.
We finish up our lunch just as the food hall empties. Lunch break isn’t over until two, so many of the students will go out and play sports or relax in the sun, others will attend social clubs or work in the study hall, most will just sit on Facebook or watch Netflix in their dorm rooms. Usually, the three of us would head off to the old unused Chapel on the Colleges premises after lunch, for drugs and debauchery, Cards Against Humanity and a good banter, but today Dimiti and Owen chaperone me towards the administrative end of the school.
They leave me at the doors of the building, as Owen believes this wing of the school to be haunted – long story, drugs may have been involved – and therefore steers clear unless the situation is a dire one. I give my friends a firm salute, my hand sarcastically cutting the air, before entering the strong timber and stone bowels of the building.
My feet echo down the empty hallway, this building is stripped of its student numbers. No classrooms are in this building, not a single one. Just office space and school administration, two student testing rooms and the very large, very demanding office of our Head Principal Ms Corvetz’s office. Three doors away from the main office, and the entrance to Corvetz’s lair, I hear the feminine and melodic tune of someone singing in one of the small testing rooms. It intrigues me and lures me forward. I don’t know why it holds my attention, as modern party beats and dubstep are more my thing, and this tune is anything but modern. It sounds ancient, mysterious and lost – like that one Enya song I know. Swivelling on the spot, I close in on the door of the room and peer in through the small rectangular window in the door that separates myself from whoever is making the music.
A girl sits singing, her long fingers plucking at a harp which accompanies her melodies. I haven’t seen anything like her before, in fact, I’ve never seen her around her before. For one, she’s not wearing a Saint Augustine’s uniform. Instead, she is wearing a fitted black and white plaid dress. She must be a transfer. That’s the only time these rooms are ever used, for new student processing.
She pauses the lyrics momentarily, distracted by a thick lock of her auburn hair before her rounded lips begin to form the old words once again. I push against the door, closer, wanting to close the distance between myself and this enchanting beast. Unfortunately for me, the door yields to a startling click, as the weight of my body pushes the door open. I freeze, frightened to move and cause her to look my way, but she does so anyway. Slowly, in a movie star from the silver screen kind of way, she turns my way and stares at me a long while. Whilst I just stay rigid and pray that she doesn’t see me.
I still don’t move when she opens the door and, smirking, introduces herself, ‘Hello there, I’m Aisling, and you are?’
‘Thomas, Tom, I’m Tom.’ I stretch my hand out, breaking free of my trance, and attempting to coolly introduce myself.
‘Pleasure.’ She returns the handshake, her hands soft against my own.
‘Love the name, by the way.’ I add as she releases her hand from mine. ‘It’s Irish, right?’
‘You have it in one, it means dream in Celtic. My mother picked it, her family is from Ireland .’ She replies with a poetic shrug.
‘My family is from Ireland too. I lived there until I was four.’ I explain to her, confiding private information, that very few know about. I stop myself, biting my tongue, not wanting to tell her of my tragic past or my gruelling adoption. Some things were better-left secret, particularly from a girl who you want to, hopefully, get into your bed.
‘I thought I sensed a hint of an accent. Attractive.’ Ainsley flirts, pivoting on the spot, her chest thrust outwards.
‘So,’ I shrug and cock her my best smile. I manage to make her blush. ‘I haven’t seen you around here before, you must be new because I know all the girls here – many on a personal level. I am Head Boy here after all, with great power comes great responsibility.’
‘Head Boy, really? You don’t really fit the bill, I would have pegged you a philanthropist playboy with far too much time on his hands.’ She bites back with a twinkle in her eye. ‘I’m hoping to be transferred today actually, my parents are just finishing off my paperwork. I just sat my academic testing and performed my recital, you see I’m also incredibly talented with my mouth and fingers’.
I feel a sudden lump in my throat and all my blood rushing to my balls. A smart and witty comeback on the tip of tongue, ready to reel her in and make her mine, but I am stopped before a word can escape my lips as a firm hand meets my shoulder with a tight grasp from behind.
‘Ah, Mr Wallace, I suspected as much.’ Corvetz looms behind me. ‘Your parents are in the office and their waiting is beginning to nag me.’
‘Right. My apologies Ms.’ I rise an eyebrow at Corvetz, trying her patience. ‘I was just busy being a good patriot of this school and introducing myself this lovely specimen of a potential student.’
‘Oh god, Thomas, when will you learn.’ Corvetz groans, turning me in the of her office and shooing me out of the room.
W a farewell to Aisling, I take my leave. ‘I hope I’ll see you around.’
‘Oh, you will.’ Aisling replies, with a flash of her porcelain fingers.
‘I’d advise you to think wisely about your interactions here, Miss Gale. Mr Wallace is somewhat skating on thin ice for the moment, and may not be at this school for much longer’ Corvetz intervenes, her eyes intensely burning a line between myself and Aisling, before kindly pushing me out into the hall.
Following Corvetz, her shoes clunking down the hall, we make it to her office doors. Turning to me upon entry, Corvetz pulls me in close by the collar of my blazer ‘Miss Gale is an asset to this school, an asset I wish you not to weave your little rich-boy charm on. Let’s just be clear, her parents wear higher titles then your own, and I’d rather keep her over you.’
‘Understood.’ I nod, as she drops her hands from me and opens the door. Corvetz enters the room first, muttering her untruthful apologies to Keith and Glenda before I reluctantly follow suit.
Two leather sofa chairs, in the centre of the room play host to the Wallace’s, in front of them Corvetz makes herself comfortable behind her cedar wood and leather-topped desk. She motions for me to take a seat. I silently oblige, watching my parents cautiously and waiting for them to let loose. Glenda glances at me from out of the corner of her eye as I sit. Her brown, greying hair, is twisted up into big curls to form a stylish bun and her cream suit neatly pressed. She raises a manicured hand to dab her dry eyes with an embroidered hanky. Keith, ignores my existence, keeping his lips sternly shut, beady eyes focused on my Principal. He wears his funeral suit.
With a satisfied smirk, Corvetz begins her case against me, and I passively watch as she and my parents bring about my demise.
‘How dare you do this to us, boy?’ Keith rumbles hot air up into my ear, his nostrils flaring.
‘After all, we’ve done for you.’ Glenda wails, her eyes darting around to make sure that other students can not only see the commotion but hear it too.
We’d finished our meeting with Mr Corvetz, with the result of a month’s suspension and the stripping of my Head Boy title. Though these consequences would be nothing compared to the hiding I would get from Keith when we returned home.
‘What about the Wallace name? Our reputation has once again been ruined because of you.’ Keith jeers up at me, bolding head speckled with sweat. ‘What about the respect you owe our name? How dare you do this to us!’
I push my rage down, after all, I’d been subjected to this years on end. But Keith keeps digging away at me with his superiority.
‘We got you into this bloody elitist school to learn, not to hang around with filth and fuck every woman you see fit. We must be doing something wrong as parents because you turned out to be a bloody waste of space and a useless little shit. You didn’t even help your mother with her Campaign, no wonder she lost, with a retarded speck of a son like you. I should have just put you back into that grubby orphanage the moment you started to show disobedience, but your mother fought for you and thought the therapy would be enough. She was wrong. Children like you should have more respect for family.’
The muscles in my jaw twitch as my hands curl up into fists.
‘You’re not my family.’ I mumble to the ground.
‘What was that boy? Speak up.’ Keith growls, Glenda suddenly silent.
‘I said, you’re not my family!’ I spit in Keith’s face, rage boiling out of me. Struggling to control the energy that bounces through my veins and down to my fingers.
‘How dare you, boy!’ Keith begins to pace, spit flying from his mouth with vile instinct. ‘We gave you more than your real parents ever could, as far as the law is concerned we’re all the family you have left!’
‘That’s it. Fuck you and fuck the Wallace name! I’m out of here.’ I flick him an obscure gesture, furiously marching off towards my dorm room. ‘You know, as soon as I am eighteen, I’ll grant you your wish and fuck off out of your precious little life!’
‘Pack your bags now! You’re coming with us now!’ He hollers back, charging after me like a fat little bull. Dimiti and Owen stumbling into my view as I continue to march away from Keith. Dimiti’s eyes are glazed with tears and Owen is unusually still.
‘It’s an in-school suspension, Keith. I’m not going anywhere!’ I make my point, loudly, ignoring my friends, and turning to face Keith.
‘Until you’re eighteen you’ll do what I fucking ask you to do boy.’ Keith raises a hand to my face but I hold my ground, waiting to see what he’ll do next. It’s not like he’s never resorted to using physical discipline towards me, I just don’t think he’d hit me in public. Keith lowers his hand, much to my relief. Even with his stature against mine, his inflictions always left their mark. ‘I’m your parent Thomas, and I expect you to do as I ask. Pack your things, we are leaving. I’ve had enough of your nonsense at this ridiculous school. Military school is where brats like you should be.’
‘Fuck it, whatever.’ I storm off past Keith and up the front steps of the male dormitory. My breathing is ragged, my eyes burning, and my fists clenched white. I am not fine, I want to scream and punch until the cows come home.
‘What the hell just happened, Tom?’ Owen yells from behind me, over the pounding in my head I hadn’t even heard the two of them following me. Tears burn in my eyes but I push on ignorantly. Owen grabs at my arm, prying for an answer.
‘None of your fucking business Phelps, none of your god damn business.’ I growl back at Owen. His eyes are huge and wild with concern, he’s awkwardly still for someone who is a consistent ball of shakiness.
‘Tom, please. We’re your friends, let us help you.’ Dimiti’s eyes begin to pool up with tears, as her hand clutches at my blazer. My heart breaks. It hearts me to see the tears in her eyes, but none of her kind words and sympathy will fix this situation.
I can’t afford to lose them.
I shake my head, jerking free my body from Dim’s grasp, continuing my way down the hallway to my room. But they persist, my personal shadows, pleading with me to stop and listen, to not give up and fight. I finally make it to my room, only to fumble with the door handle. Their presence making my hands shake. My eyes are one big blur, my skin is on fire. Finally, I break the door open and slide in, trying to force the door closed before they can follow me in. But I can’t close it fully, as a red Nike holds it ajar. Dim’s fingers pull at the door.
‘Don’t leave us.’ Dimiti begs as she always does. ‘Don’t leave us, Tom, you promised you’d never leave me.’
Her words consume my thoughts as I manage to force her foot out of the door whilst uncurling her fingers from the frame of the door. Slamming the door shut, I lock my friends out. The sound of Dimiti sliding against the door to the floor is followed by her heavy sobs. Owen pounds the door with his fists shouting ‘Fuck’ repeatedly, just like he does every time I screw up.
It’s like a never-ending loop. Every time I mess up, they do this and I do and I do what must be done because I love them both so much.
I make my way across the organised mess that is my room and to my bed. I don’t pack my bags. I never do. Instead, I focus all my energy, clear my mind of Dimiti’s sobs and Owen’s growing curses, and grab the razor blade from my side table. Closing my eyes, I zone out of reality and build a new one, as the cold small piece of sharpened mental penetrates the thin skin of my wrist. I slide it upwards in a deep motion, blood rushing from the wound and onto my duvet. I lie down, planting myself on the mattress, ignoring the throbbing pain and wet warmth of my wrist. In the blackness of my mind, I let my thoughts go silent, concentrating on a point in time. Things begin to reverse in the world, the past rushing around me. Everything begins to rewind, everything but me that is.