James hated having to wear a red sash to indicate he was a newbie at St. Thomas’ Boarding School for boys. He felt as if he had been singled out by some kind of spotlight above his head. Like a police helicopter shining its beam on an escaped criminal. As it was, he felt trapped, nowhere to go, no one to run to when he felt down. He walked the long corridors staring at the floor, not wanting to annoy any of the other boys. He’d seen how the long termers treated the newbies. Taunting, teasing, bullying.
“Hey fatto, want some chocolate?”
He felt sorry for Edward who was considerably overweight and everyone, even the new boys seemed to pick on him.
“Hey, skinny, we’ll miss you if you turn sideways.”
James had always been on the thin side.
Two weeks after joining the school Edward and James were walking back through the grounds after a rather bad game of rugby where Edward found it hard to run and James got knocked over by every tackle.
“Hey, fatty and skinny. You make a great twosome.” The voices came from a group of six lads who were standing beneath a tree and sharing a cigarette.
“Did you hear us? Hey, stop, we want to talk to you.”
Edward and James began to walk faster. They would soon be at the entrance to their rooms.
The group began to run toward the two boys.
“We said stop.” The tallest lad ran and stood in front of Edward and James. They had no alternative but to stand still.
“Like rugby, then do you?” The lad continued. Another boy grabbed James’ boots and threw them across the lawn.
“Leave my friend’s boots alone.” Said Edward.
“And?” Said one of the other boys.
“Nothing. Just leave us alone.”
“Come on boys, let’s teach them how to do a tackle.”
Two of the group grabbed Edward’s arms while another got him with a headlock.
James kicked the boys in the shins but to no avail. Another lad grabbed James around the waist and pulled him to the ground.
Meanwhile Edward had managed to squirm himself free from the headlock by putting all his weight into swinging himself around. He then brought his Rugby boot down onto the head of the boy who was rolling on top of James.
Another boy ran over and Edward bashed him in the face with his other boot. Then he kicked the shins of two more boys.
“Leave my friend alone will you or you’ll know who you’re messing with.”
The gang gathered together, fists raised but then the evening bell began to chime, and the group of lads ran off hugging their wounds.
“Are you all right James?”
“Yes, just a bit bruised that’s all. You can put up a good fight when you want to.”
“Yes, I guess it helps when you carry extra weight.”
“Thanks, thanks a lot but we’d better mind they don’t all gang up on us again later on. I’ll keep an eye out for you and you can do the same for me.”
“Yes, we need to stick together.” The two lads did a high five.
The following day it was the inter class swimming contests.
Edward and James stood at the end of the pool waiting for their races.
“Look at fatty and skinny,” Said one of the boys who had attacked them the day before. “You don’t stand a chance. Think you can swim mate and beat me? You’ve got another think coming, I’ve been the champ here since day one.” Said Kaden.
Edward walked over to the blocks and stood at lane 6 while James stood near the blocks for lane 5. Giggles could be heard all around.
“Now, now lads, silence or we won’t hear the gun go off.” Said the swim coach.
“Take your marks.” The swim coach lifted the starting pistol up in the air and fired.
James was the first off the blocks and into the water, swimming with long, deliberate strokes. He skimmed through the water like a slithery fish.
Edward threw his arms back and then forwards and dived in like a torpedo shot from a submarine. He stayed under water for almost a quarter of the length of the pool and was just behind James.
“Old fatty will soon run out of puff.” Shouted a boy who was waiting for the next race.
“Come on Kaden, show ‘em what you’ve got. You can’t let them beat you champ.” Shouted a large group.
James was the first to tumble turn at the far end followed by Edward who did another quarter length underwater which brought him alongside James. They swam neck and neck for the next length then for a few metres Edward overtook James. By this time Kaden was flagging considerably and was now in fourth place.
“Kaden, Kaden.” Shouted the group on the poolside.
“Someone stop that fat idiot and old skinny bones.” Came a loud voice from the group.
Edward and James swam on. The last turn, it was neck and neck. Down the final length Edward was in front and at the very last second James stretched out his fingertips as far as he could and touched the wall followed by Edward. The two boys looked at each other, pumped their fists in the air and hugged each other over the lane ropes.
The third lad glided in rather badly followed by the now ex-champion Kaden who immediately got out of the water and was disqualified.
A huge roar from all the newbies went up and they chanted, “James, Edward, James, Edward.”
At the trophy giving James stood on the rostrum in first place, Edward in second place, they shook hands and received their medals.
Kaden, the gang leader was nowhere to be seen.
Edward and James went into the changing room and as they entered a boy slammed the door shut. The gang, minus Kaden had arrived.
“Just try it,” said Edward as he held his fists in the air and stepped toward the leading lad.
“No, that’s all right, calm down. We just came to congratulate you both, that’s all.”
“Okay, but you’d better come in peace.”
“Yes, we want to be friends now. You two are the new champions. Never thought you’d be able to swim like that. Not with you being um..”
“Fat,” said Edward as he laughed.
“No, I didn’t mean that at all. You just don’t look like a swimmer that’s all, and James looks a bit um.. feeble, maybe. Took us all by surprise.”
The group turned and scrambled back through the door of the changing room.
Edward and James looked at each other and did a high five.
“Pals it is.”
“Thanks for being there for me Edward,” said James.
“No problem. What are mates for if we can’t look after each other.”
“Too true.” Said James as he threw his red sash in the bin. It was the end of his first year at the boarding school and as a newbie.