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C'est la vie

Written by Caleb Wilson

Part 1


After working in the same job for the past twenty years Jack Clarkson at the age of forty-five found himself unemployed. He was lucky enough after moving his family down south to find employment in North London and with the money he'd got from his redundancy payment he was able to put down a substantial deposit on a house large enough to accommodate his family.

Life for Timothy Clarkson was no different in London than it was up north in Manchester. The kids in school here did exactly the same as they did in his previous school. It seemed, like in most cases, if your appearance, size, and social demeanour didn't conform to what boys considered the norm, you were at once singled out to be either ignored or they made snide remarks out loud enough so that they were heard with the sole intent of embarrassing the person. Of course there was in his case the usual body slam or slap around the back of the head that sometimes accompanied the insults. So life at school for him was far from being a bowl of cherries.

Even his home life was not to his liking. Both of his parents seemed to distance themselves from him. Even his older brother (who had left home eighteen months earlier) when he had been living with them wouldn't give him the time of day.

The one light in his life was Linda, his five year old sister, whom he dearly loved, and having no friends he would spend nearly all his spare time attending to her needs or playing with her.

Linda had discovered what no one else had taken time to find out, that her brother although no oil painting had a heart of pure gold. The beauty of her brother could not be seen by the naked eye, but could be experienced if you gave him the time to make himself known to you.

At fifteen years of age Timothy Clarkson was different in many ways from other boys who were in the same age range as himself.

Firstly for his age he was surprisingly short. He liked to think that he'd attained the height of 5ft, but that was of course not strictly true. It was wishful thinking on his part. His correct height was 4ft 11ins. He wasn't slim, but downright skinny. He had mousey brown hair that looked like a birds nest overturned atop of his head, his eyes were a lightish brown and in the sunlight appeared nearer orange than brown, and looked overly big in his small face. In all Timothy Clarkson was not what you'd call a good looking boy. He actually couldn't have looked any plainer if he tried.

He said goodbye to his mother, his father had already left for work, and lifting his sister up by the armpits he pecked her on the lips, saying
"See you after school, beautiful." Then setting her down on her feet, he left the house.

He had to leave early for school as he had to walk the two miles there. His mother was not prepared to drive him as she said the walk would do him good. In any case she was far too busy attending to his sister, having to take her to the primary school which was in the opposite direction which left her no time for him. He accepted the excuse and did not question her motives when even in the worst weather she never offered to take him in the car. Timothy arrived just as most of the other pupils were getting off the bus or being dropped off by one of their parents.

He was brushed and at times bumped rather heavily by other pupils as they passed him on the way into the school. Some were accidental, but the more deliberate bumps were by the pupils who were in the same class as he was, and the normal derogatory remarks were cast at him when contact was made such as 'Get out of the way weed, or move out of the way, dip shit,' depending on which particular boy it was.

He never retaliated verbally. Instead he'd learnt to distance himself from all the insults thrown at him or the bodily contacts. Outside his home he lived in a world devoid of any social interaction with others of the human race, other than that of the teachers that required to be answered on a daily basis.

He went from one school day to another without any of the insults, or deliberate trips, or elbows in the ribs, or other means of abuse he suffered from other pupils bothering him in the least. He'd learnt from a young age to make himself an island the moment he stepped out of his front door, an island that no one could reach unless he allowed that person to do so. From a very early age when the first insults were thrown at him he allowed no one outside of his house to step ashore to make contact with him, and that was how he rebutted the various forms of abuse that were directed at him, by hiding ashore on his own personal bit of land.

He was the first to arrive at his classroom, as unlike the rest of his class he didn't hang around the lockers talking and messing around. He stored his packed lunch in his locker, got what he deemed necessary for the upcoming classes and made his way to the classroom.

He sat at his desk, opened his maths text book and turned to the exercise which they had been given for homework from last Thursday, then started to check his work to make sure that what he'd done was correct.

The other pupils now started entering the class in dribs and drabs, all talking or joking. He didn't look up from his books. He took no notice of the other pupils. When a rolled up piece of paper hit him on the side of the head he just ignored the incident. As a second and a third piece of paper hit him he still didn't give the culprits the satisfaction of seeing him look up from his books. Suddenly there was a boy standing at the side of his desk. He looked up to see the tall wiry figure of Kai Webster, the class monitor. Without saying a word he closed his maths homework book and handed it to Webster who added it to the pile he was carrying.

After he'd collected the rest of the books, as he walked to the teacher's desk Webster managed to manipulate Timothy's book to the top of the pile. On reaching the desk he set the books down, and with his body shielding what he was doing, opened Timothy's book to his Thursday's homework, and slowly tore the pages out. He screwed the pages into a ball, then dropped it into the waste basket at the side of the teacher's desk. Then placing Timothy Clarkson's book back into the middle of the pile and pleased with himself he made his way back to his desk at the same time giving the thumbs up sign to other pupils in the class.

Mr Beardsley walked into the classroom calling out to the pupils to settle down. Getting their attention he called the register, then asked the class to open their text books to where they had been working on Thursday
"Now continue doing the exercise from where we had left off while I mark your Thursday's homework and after that I'll go over what you've completed today."

Beardsley worked steadily marking books for twenty minutes till he stopped working and called out "Clarkson, come to my desk."

Timothy rose from his seat and walked over to stand in front of the teacher's desk. At the same time he could hear the whispers from behind his back.

"Stop the talking," Mr Beardsley called out "and carry on with your work," and the whispers ceased.

Turning his attention to Timothy he asked

"Where is your homework, Clarkson?"

"In my book, sir," he responded. "I even checked it before you came in, sir."

Mr Beardsley looked at the book more closely then called out
"Webster, would you please honour me with your presence at my desk."

Within the space of a few seconds Webster was standing alongside Timothy in front of Mr Beardsley's desk.

"Yes, sir. You wanted me, sir?"

"Webster," Mr Beardsley said, looking at the book that lay open on his desk, "you are the class monitor, are you not?"

"Yes, sir."

"And you collected all the maths books this morning?" he said, still not looking at the boy, but staring at the open exercise book in front of him.

"Yes, sir."

"Well, you see, Webster," the teacher said looking up from the book and staring at the boy, "we have a bit of a quandary. Clarkson says that he was checking his homework before you collected the books, and now when I come to mark his homework it's not to be seen. Can you shed any light on the matter?"

"Umm, I'm not sure what you mean, sir, Maybe Clarkson was talking about an earlier homework assignment, sir."

"No, he was talking about last Thursday's assignment," and Mr Beardsley, frowning and putting an index finger to his temple, said "Umm, let me see," with an affected gesture of closing his eyes and tapping his finger against his temple, "this being Monday that would be ah ha," he said opening his eyes, "four days ago. Do you agree Webster?"

"Uh, yes, sir," Webster responded looking very worried.

"So now, Webster, could you tell me what happened to Clarkson's homework?" Mr Beardsley asked, at the same time pushing the open book closer to the boy and pointing out a piece of paper caught under the staples that held the pages in place.

Knowing that his deed had been discovered Kai Webster moved over to the waste bin and retrieved the screwed up homework assignment and handed it to the teacher.

"All right, the two of you, go back to your seats and Webster, I want to see you after classes in here."

The boys did as the teacher requested and the lesson continued without anymore interruptions.

For once Timothy Clarkson's mind was uncertain what to do. He didn't want Kai Webster punished as that would make his position in school even worse than what it was at the moment. The other pupils were bound to put the blame for any punishment that Webster received on him. The other alternative was to speak to Mr Beardsley and to plead on Kai Webster's behalf. So plucking up his courage that is exactly what he did.

At lunch break he sought out Mr Beardsley and meeting him in the corridor heading towards the dining premises he asked to speak to him in private.

Asking the boy to accompany him he led Timothy Clarkson to the staff common room, and as he'd expected at this time of the day it was unoccupied.

"All right, Clarkson," Mr Beardsley said taking a seat in one of the armchairs while the boy stood in front of him, "what is it you want to talk to me about?"

The boy shuffled his feet then with head bowed said "Umm, it's about Webster, sir."

"What about Webster?" the teacher asked impatiently.

"Can you forget about punishing him, sir, or if you have to, just give him a warning, sir."

Beardsley frowned, then getting to his feet he looked down at the boy. He knew, as all the other teachers did, that the boy standing in front of him was far from being popular and was treated more like an outcast by the other students in his class and by most other pupils in the school. He guessed that the boy would even be willing to take Webster's punishment only to save himself from more harassment in the future, that way making his school days more bearable.

"Let me think about it, Clarkson, and I'll decide when I see Webster after classes. Now go and have your break."

"Thank you, sir," and Timothy made his way to the canteen to eat his packed lunch.

At 3.30pm Kai Webster nervously made his way to the maths class where he knew Mr Beardsley waited. "Beardsley wasn't a bad sort," he thought "but he could be really strict when he had to". As he neared the classroom he wondered why the hell had he let that prat Hunter talk him into ripping out Clarkson's homework. It was an absolutely bloody stupid idea and he should have realised that he'd bound to get caught. That's what comes of trying to suck up to Hunter and impress him and his little gang.

Annoyed with himself he audibly exclaimed "Shit!" then taking a deep breath he opened the door to the classroom and entered to see Mr Beardsley sitting at his desk looking at an open book while waiting for him.

Walking over to the desk and standing in front of it Kai Webster presented himself saying "Here, sir."

The teacher sat studying the boy for a few seconds before saying
"I'm disappointed in you, Webster." He opened his report book before continuing. "Out of all the boys and girls in your class you were one of the few pupils that I thought I could rely on to do the monitor duties as they should be done. It seems my judgement was way off the mark."

"I'm sorry, sir. It will never happen again."

"Oh, I'm absolutely positive it will never happen again," Mr Beardsley said, closing the book that he'd been looking at. "I intend removing you as class monitor. If Clarkson hadn't interceded on your behalf you'd be standing before the Principal to answer for your behaviour and not in front of me. You would most probably have been suspended from school for at least a week, as what you did was a serious breach of discipline."

"Yes, sir, thank you, sir."

"Don't thank me Webster. Thank Clarkson. You may go now."

Kai Webster made his way to the door and before he could open it and leave the room he was halted in his tracks by Mr Beardsley calling out
"And Webster, I'd be careful how you choose your friends in future."

Outside the classroom he hurriedly made his way out of the school and as he got outside had to pull his jacket over his head to shelter from the rain. He could see where his mother had parked the car and sprinted over to it, opened the door and jumped into the front passenger seat.

"You're a bit late, Kai. More monitor duties?"

"Umm, no, Mum. I'll explain when we get home."

His mother started the car and was just about to pull away from the kerbside when Kai shouted for her to stop.

"What's got into you, Kai?" she said stopping the car and applying the handbrake.

Her son wasn't listening. He was jumping out of the car and running over to a figure standing under a tree on the pavement about twenty metres away. Reaching the figure Kai Webster approached the boy sheltering from the rain. His nearly six foot frame seemed to tower over the boy standing in front of him.
"Clarkson, you want a lift home?"

Taken by surprise Timothy Clarkson could only stand and stare, then shake his head saying "No, thanks."

"Come on, Clarkson. You'll be here all bloody night waiting for it to stop." He moved forward and grabbed the smaller boy by the arm pulling him along saying "and we don't charge for the ride."

Timothy Clarkson for once didn't struggle, but let himself be pulled along, and then with the other boy he ran towards the car to get out of the rain. Reaching the car Kai opened the rear passenger door telling Timothy to hop in, and then closing it and jumping into the front passenger seat again.

"Mum, is it all right to give Clarkson a ride home? He'd get soaked if he had to walk home in this."

Mrs Webster looked at her son and smiling asked "Where does he live?"

Kai swivelled his head and asked "Timothy, where do you live?"

"26 Brentwood Avenue."

"Oh that's on our way," Mrs Webster said. "You only live about half a mile from where we stay, and the next instant she was pulling away from the kerb without any interference from her son.

Five minutes later they pulled up outside Timothy's house and the boy, after thanking Mrs Webster, got out of the car. Kai turned to his mother and said.

"Mum, can you wait a couple of minutes?" Then he jumped out to confront Timothy Clarkson. He looked at the small thin boy that stood in front of him, then reaching out his hand patted the boy on the shoulder. "Thanks for talking to Mr Beardsley. If you hadn't I'd be in big trouble, not only with the school but with my parents."

Timothy Clarkson for the first time had allowed a boy ashore on his island and was now talking to another boy not because he had to, but because he wanted to.

"That's okay, Kai. Just didn't want you getting too badly punished, then have the rest of the class blaming me for it."

"Well, whatever, but if you hadn't, I'd be really in it up to my eyebrows. I'll see you in school tomorrow." He got back into the car and waved to the small boy still standing on the pavement getting wet, as his mother drove off.

Timothy Clarkson walked to his front door with a big grin on his face. For once he was not the morose young boy that came home from school with a frown on his face till of course he met up with his younger sister. He opened the front door and walking into the hallway noticed his sister and mother removing their coats, having just returned from his sister's school.

"You're home early," his mother remarked while he lifted his sister to peck her on the cheek. "Did you get off school early?"

"No, mum, I was given a lift by one of the boys' mother," he said putting his sister down and starting to take his jacket off.

His mother looking none too pleased raised her voice saying "Well don't let it happen again," as she made her way to the kitchen from where she shouted. "We don't need any charity in this house," as she started getting the evening meal ready.

"But, Mum, it was pouring with rain. I'd have got soaked coming home in it."

"That's your fault," she said poking her head around the kitchen door and glaring at him. "You've got a plastic mac. How many times have I told you to take it to school and keep it in your locker in case it starts raining? Now remember, I don't want you accepting any more lifts."

"Yes, Mum," Timothy Clarkson said resignedly and made his way towards the stairs to go to his bedroom and change. He felt a small hand in his and looked down at his sister and smiled. "I'm going to get changed, Linda. I'll be down in a bit, then we can play."

"Okay, Timmy. Can we play shops when you come down?"

"Whatever you want, Lindy," he said using his pet name for his sister and Timothy made his way to his room.

That night as he climbed into his bed Timothy Clarkson had another face to fantasise about other than those illustrations from the various books that he'd read.

This time it wasn't another fictitious character. Instead it was a real person and as he closed his eyes so Kai Webster's face entered his fantasies to accompany him on his nightly adventures which helped him escape the unhappiness of life.

The next morning after bidding his mother and sister goodbye he made his way to school. Thankfully the rain had stopped and the morning sky was clear with the sun already beginning to dry the water that still lay in puddles on the pavement and road. After his fifteen minute walk he approached the school gates and as usual received the customary verbal abuse as he was roughly barged by boys from his class as they passed him by, and as usual he closed in on himself and ignored them.

For once when he was sat at his desk he didn't ignore the other pupils as they entered the classroom. Instead every time the door opened he took a quick glance hoping to see Kai Webster. When the class had filled and the boy in question hadn't put in an appearance he was slightly baffled as to why not, but soon cast it from his mind and resumed his normal isolation, and handed his homework without a word to Kathleen Jacobs, who was doing the monitor duties.

It was during the first break that Brian Hunter and his cronies accosted him in a secluded area of the school grounds.

"This is for getting Webster suspended," he said, as he planted his fist into the pit of Timothy's stomach. The boy doubled up from the blow. The pain was excruciating, but he wouldn't give Hunter the satisfaction of seeing him cry or yell. As he straightened trying to conceal the pain from the blow the second fist crashed into his ribs, and this time he could not restrain his voice as instinctively he screamed in agony.

The moment they heard the boy scream Hunter and his little mob took off and Clarkson was left lying whimpering on the ground. He tried to move, but stopped immediately as the pain shot through his rib cage making him catch his breath. Just then Roger Beardsley came into view, drawn to the area by the noise he'd heard earlier. Seeing the boy lying on the floor he hurried to his side and noticing the pain he was in asked him where he was hurting.

"My ribs, sir," Clarkson responded to the teacher's enquiry

"Okay, I'll help you up." Beardsley put an arm around the back of the boy and tried lifting him the moment he did Timothy Clarkson screamed in agony and quickly Beardsley set the boy down again.

"Stay put, Clarkson, and lie flat on your back. I'll call for an ambulance," and he extracted his mobile phone from his pocket to call for the emergency services. He then phoned Principal Bernard Geddings telling him where he was and what action he'd taken regarding Clarkson. When he'd finished speaking on the phone he turned his attention to the boy.

"All right, Clarkson, how did this happen?"

"I fell down, sir."

"Well, I think the doctors might come to some other conclusion after they've examined you." Then accessing his mobile again asked the boy for his home phone number. The boy gave his number which Beardsley phoned immediately and then proceeded to tell the person at the other end of the line what had happened to their son, that he was at the boy's side awaiting the ambulance to take him to the hospital to be treated, at the same time assuring the his mother that her son's injuries were by no means life threatening.

"Oh dear," Mrs Clarkson responded, "this is most inconvenient. I won't be able to get to the hospital right away. Can you tell my son that I'll see him later?" and she broke the connection.

'God, what type of mother is that?' Roger Beardsley thought, and just then he heard the ambulance sirens as they neared the school. He rose to his feet to go and meet the ambulance crew when he saw the Principal striding towards him, and on reaching him asking,

"What happened, Roger?"

"According to Clarkson he took a fall and has injured his ribs, which I find hard to believe." Then lifting his arm he signalled to the ambulance crew to where they were needed. Then turning to the Principal he said "I think someone should accompany the boy to the hospital. I phoned his mother and she won't be able to go there straight away as she is indisposed at the moment."

Bernard Geddings lifted his eyebrows on hearing the statement, then said "All right, Roger, you had better go along to your class and see if you can find out what really happened. I'll get my secretary to accompany the boy to the hospital."

Back in the classroom Roger Beardsley, before resuming the lesson, confronted his class, then looking at one boy in particular said,

"Mr Hunter, I would like you and your friends to stay behind after classes. I wish to speak to all of you about an incident that took place in the school grounds during the morning break."

Immediately the pupils concerned started looking around at each other, trying with indications of their heads to assess what had happened to their victim that they'd left lying on the ground.

School had finished for the day and pupils were being picked up by their parents, or making their own way home, except those that had to stay behind for one reason or the other. Five boys stood in front of Roger Beardsley who was seated at his desk. He silently eyed the five boys for a few moments and then spoke.

"Anytime a pupil in this school is injured we the staff have to make enquiries and through those enquiries try to ascertain how that pupil came to receive his or her injuries." The teacher paused for a moment to let his eyes roam over the five pupils that stood in front of him and then continued. "And when we do, we report our findings to the Principal of the school and to the student's parents. At the moment Timothy Clarkson claims to have fallen in the school grounds and hurt himself, which I'm sure that when questioned by the medical staff they will have difficulty in believing. We have been informed by the hospital that Clarkson has severe bruising to his ribs and maybe a hairline crack to one of his ribs which they won't know till they x-ray him."

Staring at the five boys in turn and letting what he'd said sink in, he continued "Just falling in the school grounds especially on grass, it's highly unlikely to cause such injuries. So would any of you care to enlighten me as to how Timothy Clarkson acquired severe bruising and maybe a cracked rib?"

The boys standing in front of him were silent with a couple of them shrugging their shoulders indicating that they knew nothing. Seeing that he was not going to get any response from any of the boys Roger Beardsley sighed with exasperation before saying
"It seems like we'll have to wait for social services and the police to get involved before we can find out what happened. So I suggest that when you get home you tell your parents that one or both of them should accompany you to school in the morning. You may go now."

"Why do we have to have a parent come to school tomorrow, sir?" Peter Blake one of the five boys asked.

I saw you five boys walking away from where Clarkson was lying on the ground, So I think when the Principal wishes to question all of you, especially if the police are involved in the questioning, then your parent or parents have to be in attendance."

"We didn't do nothing, sir," Blake said looking around at the other boys.

"That's your story at the moment, but when the police have finished talking to Clarkson I'm sure we'll know what really happened." Then looking directly at Brian Hunter he continued "Won't we, Hunter?"

Brian Hunter's face was drawn. He knew that once Clarkson talked he would be in big trouble and trying to defend his actions blurted out "Well, he deserved it, sir. He got Webster suspended from school."

"For your information, Hunter," Mr Beardsley said, raising his voice a bit, "Webster isn't suspended from school. He sprained his ankle coming down the stairs at home and will be off school for a couple of days. What's more, if it hadn't been for Clarkson coming to see me yesterday and asking me not to punish Webster too severely he most probably would have been suspended. Instead all the punishment he received was that I relieved him of his class monitor duties. So now can the five of you give me another plausible reason for your assault on Clarkson?"

The boys were silent. "Now that we've established your guilt I'll report the matter to the Principal and he'll deal with you as he sees fit." Roger Beardsley stood and walked around to the front of the desk. Addressing the boys again he said "It would be advisable to tell your parents what you've done and that the Principal will be dealing with you in the morning. Unless of course Timothy Clarkson's injuries are worse that expected, in which case the police may have to deal with the matter. Now get on home."

He watched five frightened boys leave the classroom and felt a good deal of satisfaction for having instilled the fear into them, so that the rest of the day would give them a lot to think about. The school had already heard that Clarkson's injuries were just severe bruising to the rib cage, but he wasn't about to let Hunter and his mob know the truth. Just let them stew overnight, he thought. That will make them think twice before they decide to assault someone again in the future.

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