Friday, 8 July 2011

Amy and Antony - Part One

Amy Adams, aged twelve, rolled her bright blue eyes in despair.

The Home Economics class was in chaos. Lumps of sticky dough adhered to work surfaces, appliances, other pupils and even to the teacher, Miss Appleby, who in vain tried to restore order.

Pots and pans were strewn about and ingredients had been trampled into the floor and there was a thick cloud of flour. Amy realised with disgust that she, like everyone else in that room, was covered from head to foot with flour. Her mum would be furious with her.

It was all the boys' fault, of course. With one exception, the boys usually did wood work. However, the boys couldn't do wood work because the school had hired an electrician to replace the ancient wiring that had been there since Amy's grandparents had attended this school. So, for the next month, the boys had to do Home Ec alongside the girls.

The boys, led by the obnoxious Barry Brooks, had pooh-poohed the idea of them doing girls' stuff like baking and cooking. They had reluctantly put on their aprons and sanitary gloves. So far, so good. But then the boys, led by Barry, had started a food fight.

They were standing about, laughing their heads off, as Miss Appleby gave Barry a ticking off. Barry smirked at her, as he did with all teachers who tried to discipline him. Miss Appleby ordered the boys to clear up the mess they had made. Led by Barry, the boys took off their aprons and gloves, threw them on the floor and left.

Miss Appleby, usually a calm and softly spoken woman, shouted after them, threatening dire retribution. All of the girls, and one other person, shrugged and pitched in to help Miss Appleby restore the kitchen to its former pristine condition.

As Amy peeled off the dough in disgust, she glanced at the only boy who had remained. Antony Starling was like no other boy Amy had ever met. He was small for a twelve year old boy and had a delicate build and features. He was also gentle and placid for a boy. Unlike the other boys, he did not do woodwork, or cheek the teachers and girl pupils. He had signed up for Home Ec, the only boy amongst girls, yet not standing out in any way at all.

The other boys despised him, of course. They called him the usual sissie and girly-boy names that all boys applied to a boy who wouldn't conform to what they considered traditional masculinity. Then Barry had come up with a new name for him. Toni. In one class, when the teacher had been called away and Antony was left at the mercy of the merciless Barry, Barry had made him write on the blackboard "I'm a sissy and my name is Toni", over and over again, to the great amusement of the boys.

But, instead of blubbing or falling apart, Antony had stoically and compliantly did as he was told and returned to his desk, his head held high. In spite of his effeminate nature, Antony had some steel in him, Amy noted.

Antony caught her glance and gave her one of his sweet smiles. Amy flushed and looked away. Like all girls at that age, she was still shy amongst boys. Even a boy like Antony.

The mess was all cleared up, earning Antony and the girls the effusive thanks of Miss Appleby. Miss Appleby removed her own apron and went marching off in the direction of the Headteacher's office to report what Barry and his loutish friends had done. It would do no good, Amy knew. Barry was summoned to the Headteacher's office at least once a week. He had been given detention, extra homework lines and litter picking duties. But Barry simply didn't bother to show up for his punishment.

The Headteacher, a kindly old man called Mr Briggs, had even tried talking to Barry's parents about his behaviour. Barry's father, who had been on benefits since before Barry had been born and who spent most of his time either in the bookies or in the pub, had shrugged and slammed the door in Mr Briggs' face. Barry's long suffering mother, who worked all hours in a nursing home as well as looking after her own sick mother, was too tired and worn out to even notice her son's aberrant actions.

So Barry was at liberty to flout the rules and cause chaos and mayhem in every class. And did so.

On the following day, Amy and some of her friends were walking along the edge of the sportsfield. Barry Brooks was leading out the boys in their football gear. PE was about the only subject that Barry took remotely seriously.

The PE Teacher, Mr Cooke, looked the boys over and then a frown creased his rugged features. "Where's Starling?" he asked the other boys. For some reason, the boys were doubled up with laughter.

Fuming, Mr Cooke shouted "Starling! Get out here right now".

Antony timidly sidled out of the boys' changing area. He was wearing a girls' short PE skirt and looking embarressed, as well he might.

Amy's heart went out to him. The poor boy! Barry and his cronies must have made him wear a skirt to publicly humiliate him!

Mr Cooke of course shouted at him, asked him what the hell he was playing at. Antony, of course, wouldn't dare tell the truth. If he thought his life was hard at the moment, thanks to Barry, it would be a million times worse if he split on Barry. Antony disappeared to change into something more appropriate and emerged a few minutes later in shorts.

Mr Cooke glared at him "Right lads, now that comedy hour is over, lets play some football!"

Amy watched as the other boys pushed, shoved and elbowed Antony as he tried to join in the match. Antony was hopeless at sports, that much was obvious, but he didn't deserve to be so badly abused. Amy watched him limp off the field at the end of the match, muddy and covered with bruises. But, remarkably, he walked with his head held high.

Like a Princess, Amy thought. Like a Princess? Why would I give him that label? Amy was greatly puzzled by her own thoughts.

1 comment: