Mrs Bailey knelt down in front of Nathan and wiped the tears from his mud splattered cheeks. He was calmer now, his breathing returning to normal. She would make some effort to clean him up before his mother arrived to take him home, but there was nothing she could do to disguise the torn clothes, stained in places with the boy’s blood. Bruises would develop in time, but at least no bones had been broken. She could be grateful for that small mercy.
Sammy was perched on a table across the classroom swinging his legs, his expression impenetrable. He had watched Nathan sullenly as the boy explained, between broken sobs, how he had been pushed over the wall, falling head over heels down the deep gully on the other side. Nathan’s mother had been into the school at least half a dozen times this term already to warn the teachers about Sammy’s violent and threatening behaviour towards her son.
In the event it was Sammy’s mother who arrived first. Large and purposeful, she marched into the classroom, nodded curtly to Mrs Bailey, and thumped her son on the side of the head. The force of the blow would have knocked him clean off the table if he hadn’t seen it coming and moved adroitly to the side. Before the action could be repeated he took off out the door of the classroom, his mother lumbering after him, cursing and swearing loudly.
Nathan’s mother was her usual poised and elegant self, immaculately dressed and indignant that the school had, once again, failed in it’s duty of care. Despite Mrs Bailey’s best efforts Nathan was still looking grubby. His mother’s distaste was palpable when the child put his arms around her for a comforting hug, tears once again rolling down his cheeks, his small body wracked by sobs.
In her office the headteacher repeated all the usual platitudes and apologies; a full investigation was promised, punishment would be swift. It was not enough. This situation had gone on for too long already, was too extreme. It was only good luck that had prevented Nathan from being seriously injured, perhaps even killed. He could not be expected to have to face such blatant and persistent aggression.
Sammy eyed Nathan warily as he swaggered towards him, but stood his ground.
‘Told you I’d pay you back’
‘You think I care?’
‘Mum bought me a street scooter. I can do tricks on it at the skate park’
Sammy shrugged and turned to walk away but Nathan hadn’t finished with him yet.
‘I bet your mum thrashed you. Does she hate you as much as the rest of us?’
Sammy turned back slowly and took a step towards his suddenly frightened nemesis.
‘I’d be careful down that skate park. Throwing yourself off a wall ain’t gonna damage you near as much as the accidents that happen down there all the time.’
‘You can’t threaten me! I’ll tell my mum!’
Sammy laughed bitterly.
‘You think those lads gonna take a blind bit of notice of that stuck up cow? They’ll just find out where you live. Be grateful I’m not the pathetic little snitch you are. I might change my mind though. You watch yourself in the dark, lad. You watch yourself.’