I first met Tobias Greening when we attended Oak Grove Junior School; we were both five year olds at the time. Tobias was the smallest person in the class, and the moment my eyes rested on his countenance I fell in love with him and wanted to have him as a friend. The snag being everyone else in the class had the same idea. He was by far the most popular boy in our year and the girls would crowd around him some going out of their way to even plant a kiss on his cheek when the teacher's attention was distracted by some other occurrence. His platinum blonde hair, blue eyes, pink lips, and petite size seemed like a magnet to everyone else in the immediate vicinity.
I did become friendly with Tobias but not as close as I would have liked, and spent most of my time scowling at other pupils who seemed to be getting more of his attention than I did.
It wasn't until are ages were into double figures that are friendship became a lot closer. We were both in our eleventh year, and Toby had started to run across the road outside the school gates to his mother's car without checking the road for traffic. I grabbed his arm and pulled him back just in time as a car went past just missing him by inches. There were a few gasps of shock from other parents waiting to meet their children and Toby himself seemed visibly shaken at the near miss.
I let go of Toby's arm and he in turn grabbed my hand squeezing it and saying, "Thanks Joseph, that was stupid of me see you at school tomorrow," and this time he looked both ways before dashing over to his mother's car.
Because of that one incident over the next few months our friendship blossomed. We visited each other at our houses and also had frequent weekend sleepovers, mainly at Toby's house as I had to share my bedroom with Paul my younger brother.
At every moment we were alone together I yearned to touch and even embrace him, but not wanting to send the wrong kind of signals out to Toby, I kept my feelings and hands to myself. Our sleepovers were like heaven to me and I would wait anxiously for the time when we would climb the stairs to his or my bedroom depending on whose house we were at.
I always made sure that there was a space between our two bodies as we lay in bed, but had to fight the urge to wrap an arm around Toby and draw him into my body. I would wait till my eyes got accustomed to the dark when the light was turned off and would watch the outline of his face as his head lay resting on the pillow. I would lay my arm on the mattress in the gap between us in the hope that in his sleep Toby would roll over and my hand would come in contact with his body preferably in the nether regions. But sad to say it never happened or if it did I was fast asleep.
That was one of the drawbacks sharing a bedroom with a younger brother. One I was awakened at the crack of dawn and asked to accompany him downstairs to serve his Coco pops or whatever else he wanted. So inevitably getting up so early in the mornings I could never stay awake much past 10pm, before my eyes would droop and dreamland would claim me.
Four weeks before the end of the spring term my friendship with Toby more or less ceased to exist, the reason for the culmination of our close friendship was Vincent Peterson.
I walked into the main gates of the school a bit late as my mother had wanted me to attend to my younger brother as she wasn't feeling too well. I entered the classroom to see Vincent sitting at what was my desk. Before I could say a word Ms Clayton came forward putting her arm around my shoulder saying.
"I hope you don't mind Joseph, I've given your place to Vincent. As he's a new student I don't want him to sit at the back of the class in the empty desk and feel isolated I know you'll understand."
Which was a nice way of saying, "Hard luck you've been stuck at the back and no arguments."
The whole of the morning I watched from the back of the class as the new kid kept staring at Toby and chatting to him when the teacher was distracted by other pupils. But what really hurt was when the bell went for the break. As soon as they were out of the door Vincent had his arm around Toby's shoulder as they made their way to the recreational ground. I was devastated, Vincent had achieved in the space of a couple of hours what I hadn't dared do in six years of knowing Toby, and I think that was the lowest point of my short life. The same thing happened at the lunch break, and I ended up sitting by myself for the rest of the spring term. Other boys and girls tried to get me involved with them but I wasn't interested and ended spending the rest of the term by myself which luckily enough wasn't very long.
Three days before the end of the Spring Term I returned home from school to see a 'For Sale' sign in our front garden. I knew my parents were thinking of moving to a bigger house as my mother was expecting her third child, but I hadn't expected it to be so soon.
I greeted my mum and younger brother as I entered the kitchen to have my usual snack after getting home from school.
"When will we be moving to the new house mum," I asked at the same time filling my mouth with a bite from a chocolate muffin.
"Hopefully on Monday," my mother said as she wiped Paul's mouth which had a ring of chocolate around it, "Your father hopes to move most of our clothes and small items between now and Monday, and the removal men will move all the heavy furniture later on the same day." After cleaning my brother she came over to me and stroking my head which she knew always made me feel good said,
"If you want you can have Toby over for a sleepover."
"Umm no I don't think so mum; I'll be busy packing all my stuff away."
"Joey," she exclaimed, "what's going on between you and Toby?"
"What d'you mean mum," I said trying not to let my feelings of sadness show, "nothings going on between us?"
"That's exactly what I mean, nothing is going on," she said scrutinizing my face. "When was the last time you visited Toby or he came around to see you."
"Uh umm," I mumbled then blurted out "Toby has a new friend, and wants to hang out with him all the time." I sniffed and got my voice under control and in a much calmer voice said, "He talks to me at school but doesn't have time to visit as he's more into playing with Vincent." I saw my mum's brow furrow questioningly, "Umm that's the name of Toby's new friend." I said in response to her frown.
My mum gave me a sort of sorrowful look then wrapped her arms around me saying, "Never mind Joey, when we move to our new home, and when you start at your new school after the summer holidays you're bound to make new friends."
That was a shock and made my mind whirl. I didn't realize that with our moving it would mean starting at a totally new school and not accompanying my class mates to Oak Grove Upper School. I looked at my mum and asked, "Why can't I go to the Oak Grove senior school?"
"It's too far for you to travel, and Paul will be going to primary school not far from where we're moving to and close to your new school, so I can drop both of you off and pick you up without any problems."
I finished my snack and drink and went up to the bedroom and lay down. The thought of attending senior school without Toby in eyesight got to me. Although he didn't have time for me now, still I would have been able to see him in school and hoped he might come back to being my best friend at sometime in the future. The more I thought about not seeing Toby again the more emotionally upset I became till the first sobs escaped from my lips, and the tears coursed down my cheeks. I had to bury my face in my pillow to stifle the sound of my sobbing.
The last day of term came, and at the end of classes I said goodbye to my teachers and some of my class mates. I didn't get a chance to speak to Toby as he'd already left with Vincent and was nowhere in sight. I walked out of the school gates and looked back realizing that I'd never be coming back to Oak Grove junior school ever again, and won't be seeing any of the pupils either. I walked home slowly in the vain hope that Toby might appear so that I could speak to him again, and tell him that I'll be moving from this area and not be going to senior school with him. But it didn't happen and I arrived home with just the memories of Toby floating around inside my head.
Monday arrived, and before I knew it I was sitting in the car watching dad locking the front door to the house.
He came to the car got in and drove off. I swivelled in my seat to glance out of the rear window to take one last look at the house where I had, had so many happy and now recently sad memories.
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