Starting Over

The world seems to have ended when Tom's father dies in the middle of his AS exams. He struggles to cope with life, with coping all alone.

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4. Are You Listening John ?

'John are you listening to what I'm saying'

I raised my head up from the desk, at first unsure where I was. The classroom setting gave it away. For a moment I wondered if it was another of those dreams. Maybe they would all develop teeth and turn and attack me. In that minute I was so unsure of everything. Millie was sat in front of me, she turned around and opened her mouth, but it was for a smile not to bare teeth and attack me.

'Sorry, a bit tired today' I stuttered out. Truth was I was wrecked. My exam for History was in three days and I couldn't turn my mind to the work. Every time I looked at my notes the page blurred and my head lolled forward. I could have understood if it was sociology but I loved my history.

'Come on if you don't take this in now you'll never pass. Can I remind you that your grade is only a D, if you slacken off more then you won't even get that. Have you been drinking all weekend' the teacher sneered towards me. I felt about two feet tall, my head went down to hide my embarrassment.

'You complete and utter f**king b*st*rd,' I heard Mel shout from behind me. I looked up and saw the stunned look on the teachers face. At first she looked stunned, then I saw a redness come to her cheeks and instead of being embarrassed I saw her clenching her fists, her chest swelled out and she opened her mouth.

'Miss Needle, will you leave the room now, that language and attitude isn't right' she yelled, rage showing on her face.

'Oh go and f*ck yourself, do you think I'm bothered about that. Well I'm not going, it's you who should be going. Don't you know John's dad died yesterday. Do you not having a f*cking heart you dried up prune. He was up all night not drinking but having f*cking nightmares.' Mel shouted back.

I stood up and rushed to the door, tears were falling down my face. I felt anger at the teacher but also felt happiness at the way that Mel had defended me with such conviction. I hoped she wouldn't be in too much trouble. I wandered down the corridor and out of the door into the bright sunlight. Sitting on a bench I thought back to the night before and the way Mel had taken care of me, never flinching once. She was a good friend.

I heard the door go behind me and expected a teacher to be coming out after me. I looked up to see Millie stood there. She threw her arms around me and hugged me tears in her eyes.

'Oh John, I'm so sorry, I didn't know he was that bad. I just thought he was going in for a checkup.' she said.

'Well it just got worse and I didn't want to bring anyone else down,' I shrugged.

'Come on back in now, everyone knows. The teacher is gone now, Snodgrass showed up and had a few words. We're all so sorry' Millie said.

I looked at her, apart from their concern, Millie was totally different to Mel. Millie had more curves than the Snake pass. She was almost as tall as me, in one of those Victorian novels she would be described as voluptuous with ample bosom, not my usual attraction but she had a heart of gold as well. It just hadn't worked out for us after the initial passion had died down. neither us had any regrets though.

'No', I said, 'think I'll go home, too much to do'

'Would you like me to come with you, help out a bit?' Millie asked.

Looking into her eyes, I saw the sincerity of her words, felt it in her voice. I hesitated, Millie was always nice to be around, always bright with no downside. She wasn't deep however, didn't hold the mind for long, her mind was uncluttered, what you see was what you got. I contemplated sinking into her arms again, of getting lost in her acres, I knew I would enjoy it. I eased my arms around her and pulled her close, would it be so wrong?

I heard the door go and turned around to see Mel coming out punching the air as if she was a gladiator leaving the arena.

'That told the stupid old bat' Mel shouted across to us before she halted and eyed us up.

'Jesus John, you didn't waste much time, last night me and now Millie, are you sure you've got it in you?' Mel said offhandedly.

I felt Millie pull back and felt rather than saw the glare in her eyes.

'Mel stayed over last night, I had nightmares and she sort of helped,' I said eventually meeting her eyes before adding, 'nothing happened'

'OK, but if you want me text me, I'll come over and... help you' Millie said standing up. She kissed me on the cheek and smiled at Mel as she went towards the building. I followed her rear view as it sashayed and swayed it's way towards the interior. Glancing across at Mel I saw she was looking in Millie direction. I saw her shake her head and turn back to me.

'Well, you certainly know what you get there don't you?' Mel said, 'Not my type but I see why you like her.'

'We're just friends now,' I said thinking way too hard about being with Millie.

'Seriously John, don't get back with her, even for a night, she might not even hold your imagination for that long,' Mel said sitting down, 'you need someone who'll stimulate your mind not your wand.'

I smiled at the reference, this was the old Mel, a person who gave me sound advice ladled with a joke or two.

'Well come on, Snodgrass thinks it may be better if I only come in for exams, she said I'm to take you home and look after you. I have to say she seems worried about you on your own. we'll go to my ' Mel said standing up.

We wandered out the school gates like in days of old, hand in hand, talking about the school and events that had happened when we'd been in year eleven.

Later we were sat around the table drinking mugs of tea with her mum.

'Do you want to stay here john ?' Doreen asked, 'there's not a lot of room but we'll manage'

'No thanks, it's nice for you to ask but I've got the cat to look after.'

'Is it OK if I go and stay for a while?' Mel asked casually, 'the place is a worse pigsty than Bramall Lane. He needs to get it straight before the fu...'

Doreen looked anxiously from Mel to myself probably weighing up if we were up to something. Mel smiled sweetly back at her mother. I saw doubt on Doreens face. She rubbed her hands down the front of her skirt as if wiping them clean as she was clearly thinking.

'It's OK Mel, I'll be fine,' I said, Mel hadn't discussed coming to stay with me and I wasn't sure I wanted her, my mind still slightly on Millie and I.

'No John, you were in such a state last night that if you’re on your own you won’t cope. Mum, I’ll be fine, you can trust me, we’re not sleeping together.’ Mel said

I nearly spluttered out the mouthful of tea and turned red quickly. I thought of last night and how we’d been together. True nothing happened but the closeness of our bodies meant we couldn’t hide any feeling.

‘It’s OK Mel, I can’t stop you but I trust you two together anyway.’ Doreen stated smiling, ‘tell you what I’ll come over this afternoon and help you tidy up. The minister is coming to see you tonight, so we’ll make it nice and tidy for you.’

That afternoon whilst I napped in the spare room, Mel and her mother transformed the house so that it actually looked livable again. When I reappeared a couple of hours later the transformation was complete. The windows had been thrown open taking away the stale odours that had built up over the weeks I’d been alone. There was freshness to the air as the smell of tree blossom wafting in on the breeze. The floor was uncluttered and I actually could walk around without fear of knocking over cups or bottles.

Following the sound of chatter I went towards the kitchen where I found Mel and Doreen still busy wiping surfaces down. Mel smiled when I came through the door.

“Ah sleepyhead,’ she said, ‘you have to learn that you will never get anyone to come here if you keep this place the tip that it is, even Millie won't venture in"

"Oh is Millie your girlfriend, John" Doreen asked pleasantly.

'No', I replied quickly.

'She's everyone's girlfriend' I heard Mel mutter under her breath.

I shot her a glance. True, Millie was sort of known for her friendliness towards boys, but I'd been with her and knew that she wasn't really like that. Her reputation had preceded her. I knew for a fact that she'd been bad mouthed by so many, when she hadn't given them what they wanted.

'OK, but what do you seriously talk about,' Mel said her feet on the table, her arms gesticulating in the air. Millie had been part of the reason we had stopped seeing each other, although we'd really been at the point where it was all falling in on us anyway. The magic had gone and for weeks we'd been arguing all the time. For the first time in our entire friendship she'd shirked away when I touched her, she went quiet and refused to discuss what was wrong. Then she didn't see me for nearly a week, refused to answer my texts or pick up the phone. At the end I was shocked and dazed, my brain couldn't understand what had happened between us. In desperation I sent a text saying that if she didn't answer me, it was over. The reply came straight back 'fine, goodbye' That night I'd met Millie and in my depression had hooked up with her.

Mel and I hadn't talked for months. The last few months we'd had stilted conversations and were starting to talk more. She was the one I'd turned to though when my life fell apart and in return she'd let me back in her life. I smiled at her and got a weird smile back.

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