After Biology, French. A class he shared with Kerry. There was a dark patch on Kerry’s school jumper, a damp splotch, starting to dry out. Oh yes, Marty the watermeister! He kept his eye on her but she paid him no attention. Nope, she had no idea. She reached into her bag and surreptitiously checked her phone. Naughty Kerry, using phones in class.
She studied her phone for a second then turned round and stared at him very hard.
Marty didn’t like this and he liked it even less when Kerry fell in behind him after class and hissed in his ear. “Emma Lamb’s looking for you, scrote. She says she wants a word.” She pretended to look thoughtful. “Or was it your bollocks on a plate?”
“I ain’t done nothing,” he muttered, feeling hot on the back of his neck.
“Oh, no. We were standing right under the library windows. And who was library monitor today? And who left very quickly?” He felt her finger jab him in the arm. “After school.”
After last period, Marty raced out of class and headed for the school gates. Emma would be coming for him but if he was quick he could dodge mischief for now. Schoolkids kept getting in the way; they were such a nuisance. He got to the entrance yard and was halfway to the gates when he spotted a small group by the wall. Shit: Emma was there, waiting. They might have seen him already but he didn’t care if they thought he was chicken.
Back, back into the school corridors. The library was no good, there was no member of staff there outside of school hours. Keep to the corridors so you can see anyone coming from a long way off. He could leave the back way, down the path to the estate. Yes, that was best. Slip home to fight another day. Down the stairs, through the big doors, along the path under the library, dodging kids heading home.
Roaming the playground like panthers ready to strike were Kerry and Asha, phones in hand. Shit, shit. He couldn’t get by that way without being seen. They’d come after him, text Emma, and then he might as well be dead. Back, back through the big doors, back into the school corridors.
The school became rather sinister after the pupils had left. Those noisy spaces were already nearly silent, as if a neutron bomb had vaporised all the people. Muffled voices from after-school clubs or detentions echoed from behind classroom doors. There was always the sports field. There wasn’t really a path but loads of kids scrambled over the wall at one place to get home. The shortest route there was by the cafeteria, but he took the longer way, via the gym. He wanted to spin the time out, let his hunters give up. Through the long oblong windows the afternoon had turned to heavy grey. Pigeons huddled on the roof of the Science block, twitching their heads. They had no problems, pigeons, just the same old routine every day. They weren’t afraid of Emma. A fucking easy life, the bastards.
Past the clock where bad kids had to stand when waiting to be seen by the headteacher, past the secretary’s office where form captains fetch the registers, past the long corridor leading to the staffroom.
“Marty, isn’t it?” a girl’s voice said, and he nearly leaped into the air. “Library monitor?” It was big, cheery Sunday Abuja, one of the Fifth Form prefects.
Sunday wore her tie in a fat knot, her legs comfortable in black trousers and spread apart in boredom as she sat on a plastic chair. She was pretty fit. Not as mean as Emma but still, you wouldn’t argue with her.
“What’re you creeping around for? School’s over, kiddo. Go home.”
“Uh, the thing is, I’m worried about –”
Sunday sighed. “Not Emma bloody Lamb? Yes, don’t look so surprised, you simpleton, everyone knows she’s got it in for you. Eh eh, that girl’s out of control.”
Warmth swept from Sunday Abuja’s lovely presence into Marty’s shaking knees, a vision of Sunday the prefect protecting him, standing up to Emma, bashing her, bashing Kerry, bashing Asha, then pulling him to the floor for a victorious snog. Because I always fancied you, Marty, I’m desperate for you.
“Oh my days!” she exclaimed. “Just do as she says and wear skirts, it’s no big deal. Boys belong in skirts anyway. Now go home!”
Thanks a lot. My fucking hero!
Perhaps the school gate would be clear now. Emma wouldn’t waste the whole afternoon hanging around to catch him leaving school. Well, OK, he’d tipped a load of water on her head and humiliated her, but the proudest, toughest girl in school wouldn’t be upset about that, would she?
He dropped the sports field plan and tried again for the main entrance, peering at the school gate. It was fine, no one sitting there. He’d led them a merry dance with his knowledge of the territory. He’d split their forces so Kerry and Asha were on the other side of school. He played a mean tactical game, he’d stamped his mastery on those silly lasses right enough. Walking purposefully, hands in pockets, schoolbag on his shoulder, just another kid going home from school. He chewed a bit of gum he found in his pocket, and here and there penalty-shot a stone, to look cool.
Oh fuck, fuck. He didn’t know why, but a few paces after the gates, tight by the wall where they were not easily seen, stood Emma, Kerry and Asha.
“Here he comes,” said Emma.
His heart broke out into a thump. He could still turn and run but it was somehow as if forces beyond his power were compelling him. If it wasn’t now then it would be tomorrow or the day after. This was the moment, whatever the terms.
The girls weren’t uneasy at all. Fuck you, bitches, Marty thought. Fucking bitches. Emma smoothed her hair. She wore that dark and serene beauty that turned his insides a-quiver. Without her blazer and schoolbag, she might have been a goddess. There was no evidence of the water strike. She stared straight at him. He swallowed in dread.
He found some courage from somewhere. “Fuckin’ leave off me, will you?”
“Don’t speak to your betters that way, smeg dick,” said Emma.
“Classic!” said Kerry. “Smeg dick.”
“You going to pay him back, Emma?” said Asha.
“I didn’t do anything,” muttered Marty. Her face said she wasn’t messing around and he was telling himself, what am I doing, this is not the time or the place, I should get out of here.
“Uh, Kerry,” said Emma, “could you call an ambulance? And better call Search and Rescue too, ‘cos this little sod’s going to be hunting for his bollocks for a week.” The girls hooted.
“Fucking squash ‘em, Emma,” Kerry spat. Marty flinched, lowered his bag to crotch height.
“He’s scared,” Emma taunted. “Aww, is the poor boysie scared that the big scary girl’s going to hurt his poor goolies, then?”
“Ah fuck off, you nasty cow!” said a voice: Noel’s voice, from Marty’s mouth.
“Scrap!” yelled Kerry and Asha. “Scrap scrap SCRAP SCRAP SCRAP!”
School scraps were normally great fun. Everyone would race to form a ring, and eventually some teacher would wade in, tossing children aside. Everyone gabbed about it for hours afterwards. But when you were one of the scrappers it wasn’t so funny. There weren’t that many kids left around, but even so, about a dozen seemed to rush up from nowhere and gather round to watch. The fighters sized each other up in front of the gates. Marty had an inch or two over Emma at best, and of course Emma was dead hard. Nobody would put their money on a boy to beat a girl in a fight and when the girl was Emma Lamb, the odds looked even more hopeless. Marty’s entire body was trembling with fear.
“Nothing below the belt or it’s not fair,” he cried.
“What, says you? And who gives a fuck?” Emma lunged forward, slapping at his face. “Bitch!”
He ducked back and flailed out an arm. “Well you’re a… a psychopathic donkey!”
“Shut your…” – Emma punched the side of his head – “fucking mouth!” Fuck. That hurt. As his hand shot up to rub the spot she got him in a headlock. Marty was swung one way, swung the other, but Emma couldn’t quite get him to fall over so she smacked his head with her free hand. Marty roared in frustration and hurt.
“In his fucking balls, Emma!” shouted a girl.
He was slightly stronger and prised her arm away, shoving her off and backing towards the school. He unexpectedly bumped into the wall and came to an abrupt stop. In the delay, Emma seized his school tie, yanked it downwards into a tiny knot, and squared up to him; he flapped at her arm, gangling and ridiculous; taking a deliberate step back, she swung her black leather shoe with uncompromising force into his testicles.
He tried to yell but his throat choked up. It was excruciating, humiliating and utterly defeating. His knees buckled and his hands leapt to grasp his tortured balls.
Emma stood back, shrugging slightly as if this was the feeblest fight she’d ever had. The girls did high-fives.
Shit, he thought. It was horrible. He shrank down against the wall, desperately nursing his balls to make the agony go away.
“Aww,” mocked Emma. “Had enough, have we? Thought you could fight a girl, could you?”
“My nuts,” Marty gasped. There was no way he was letting go of them. He didn’t try to stand up.
“Goodbye, my pretty. See you next week in your cute boysie skirt.”
“I’ve not bleeding lost, you cow, you cheated, it’s a bleeding draw.”
Emma didn’t seem to even notice the ‘cow’. She smiled at Kerry, Asha and the fascinated crowd. “Marty Smeg-Dick Welling calls this a ‘draw’! Well, let’s have round two, shall we? Smash his balls a bit more?”
Oh, shit, it hurt. “No. It’s not fair.” Emma standing up there, sneering at him, that too was agony.
“The superiority of girls isn’t fair,” she remarked. Then in a mock pout: “But I’m afraid it’s real, darling.”
Hands under his armpits. Kerry and Asha helped him to stand up and leaned him the school gate-post. This almost drew tears of gratitude, until they dragged his arms aside, dragging his hands from his balls.
Emma put her arm around his throat, squashing his adam’s apple painfully, and her other hand slid between his legs to where his testicles dangled in the gusset of his trousers, enclosing them in her pretty fingers. Marty panicked when he felt that hand. It was groping into a dark recess of his mind, evoking a primal fear. His throat was as parched as dust. He struggled to free his arms but the girls held on ferociously.
“So I’ll see you next week,” Emma insisted. “In a skirt?”
She tightened her fingers, and he squealed, he couldn’t help it – it was awful, as if his balls were being roasted over a fire. Nothing mattered but to free his boyhood from her grip. He nodded. “Yes – YES!”
Emma released him. It was over now, he thought, wincing in distress. He doubled up against the gate-post, clutching his balls. He felt that he had conceded defeat not only for himself, but for his sex. Sorry, Dad… Emma pulled his hair, forcing him to straighten up. “Look at me.” He obeyed, his legs bent at the knee. Her expression spoke volumes, a sneering assumption of superiority. Her gorgeous face was close to his and her eyes were glittering. Her lips parted slightly. Spellbound, he felt her breath on his face.
“Who rules, bitch?” she whispered.
“Girls! Girls rule!” He could hardly stand with the pain in his testicles, and started to cry.
Emma said, “Bag,” and clicked her fingers. Someone immediately produced a little make-up bag and held it out. Emma opened it and took out a lipstick. Holding Marty’s face firmly with one hand, she slowly, with obvious enjoyment, applied the glistening pink to his lips.
“I’ll see you in school,” she said.
(To be continued...)