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''Come down from there, you wimp!''
A stone the size of a grape, wisped past his head, missing his teeth by a fraction.
''Come down here, now!'' yelled the fat-faced boy, panting from the long run - far too tall for his years.
He noticed a large clump of dirt next to a flowering rose bush, amongst the flora of a flower bed. With one clammy hand, he picked it up with ease and hurtled it up towards Billie, who scrambled his way up through the branches of a large oak tree.
The throw was good and whacked hard against the back of Billie's head, causing him to smack his forehead against an outwards branch. The dizzy sensation made his whole body flop, but he managed to hold his tight grip, and drew his dangling legs back close to the oak truck, to continue his climb - ignoring the blood flowing down from his skin.
Three quarters up, the tree forked in two. While Billie dodged the onslaught of sticks, mud, stones, and other debris heading his way. He crouched himself low at the base of the fork, making use of the tangled coverage of branches, to help shield most of what came his way.
Billie slowly turned his head into view of the three boys below. He could see the biggest, and fattest, fat faced ring-leader of the group, walking back and fought, exaggerating his stomping - waiting impatiently. Whilst the other two boys, hurriedly gathered whatever they could find close-by, to throw up at Billie.
One was rooting around for suitable material in the flower bed, trampling small, innocent flowers into a wet mush as he went; the other, smaller of the three, panted back and dropped a pile of twigs and broken brick by the feet of the fat-faced boy, with a smug look on his face.
''What are you doing?!'' the fat-faced boy shouted, towards the small boy standing there.
''I got us some stuff to throw,'' he replied, whilst his smile began to fade.
''So? Go get some more!''
''That's all I could find...'' the small boy managed to say as he was thumped in the arm by the fat boy.
''I don't care, go find some more!'' The small boy hurried off as a large kick was delivered to his buttocks. The fat kid looked at the pile of twigs and brick, he sifted through the lot until he found a nice jagged, sharp looking bit of broken brick.
The fat boy walked around the base of the tree to get himself a better throwing angle. He turned to look at his friend still rooting around in the flower bed, and called out to him, gesturing with his head up to Billie, so he got the gist of the idea.
Before Billie realised what plan was going on below, he witnessed another large piece of mud flying up towards his head. An almighty throb of pain screeched out from the side of his left shin, and it forced him to slump down, just as the lump of mud lightly touched the tips of his hair, as it flew past him; the mud scattered into a hundred pieces through the branches behind him, raining down over the fat-faced boy.
''Mot, you bloody moron!'' shouted the fat-faced boy, shaking bits of dirt from his short, brutish hair.
He walked over, in a quickened pace, towards Mot - who unaware, continued fumbling around under a rose bush. Mot found a suitable ballistic, intertwined under the bushy growth, and used the majority of his strength to dislodge the long branch, entangled under the mess of roots.
Over-exceeding his force, the branch became dislodged far easier than he had originally thought. The sudden jerk forced Mot onto his rump, and the branch flew over his head. A heavy clump of wet mud on the other end, broke itself upon the fat-faced boys head.
Frozen in shock, Mot stared at the boy with his mouth gawping, wide-opened; the redness in his face retreated inwards, to be replaced by a rather pale, whiteness. The fat boy used his left hand to wipe a clot of mud off his face, from brow to chin, while his right arm coiled backwards and his pudgy, clammy hand, lazily collapsed into a fat fist.
On immediately understanding the fat boy's intention, Mot tried to vault over the stomach-high rose bush - his illogical choice for the fastest escape route. With his right leg over the bush, he tried to pull his left over too, but having a less flexible body than he had wished, his left foot became tangled in the mass of rose branches and leaves. In his panicked state, he ended up caught, upside down, with his foot trapped, and he squirmed around like the frightened animal he was. The fat boy loomed over, with little more than pity in his face.
''Please, Tuck. You saw that wasn't my fault, mate,'' Mot managed to squeal out, fighting his left foot free from the bush.
Fat-faced Tuck lurched closer over his body. ''Look at you! You're an embarrassing, worthless piece of...'' Mot's left heel walloped Tuck under the chin, jarring his head backwards and spraining his neck muscles. It was all Mot could do to free himself by kicking both his legs around wildly. Alas, his final efforts for freedom helped to nil effect, and Tuck's pouring in, red face, dived into the bush with fists whirling and knees smashing.
Despite his best efforts for retaliation, Tuck also became a prisoner inside the bush, alongside his upside down friend. And for what he pictured to be a brutal beating, in aid of his manly ego, turned out to be a pathetic mess of slapping and whining. Both fools defeated by this once pretty, rose bush.
Looking from up in his tree, Billie seemed to forget the blood seeping from his shin, where his hand gripped tightly, and he let out a small snigger, aimed at the two, foolish boys.
Though a light sound, it was not quiet enough from entering inside Tuck's eardrums, and infuriating the boy to beyond belief. His face changed to the colour of a badly, sunburnt back. Hanging entwined in the middle of the bush, he used all his force to turn to the side, using his fat weight to collapse the poor rose bush; a large, multitude of cracks strummed their sound as the bush broke, and stabbed itself into the fat boy's blubber, as he tumbled into the dirt. This action also enabled Mot to scramble free, and without daring to looking back, he ran as fast as his spindly legs could take him, all the way home.
Standing to his feet, Tuck shook off twigs and dirt embedded in his skin and clothes. He walked over to the oak tree, Billie was hiding in, rather calmly, not seeming to feel the thinly lined scratches of blood scattered up and down his face, arms and legs. Arriving at the base of the tree, he stuck out his arms, and in an undignified manner, clambered up onto the first branch.
Looking down at the threat heading his way, Billie tried to find a way to get higher onto thinner branches above him, that would not support the weight of the fat boy. Yet those branches were far and between - so small and frail to even comprehend climbing, and mostly out of reach.
This was really the furthest he could climb...unless, a branch he had overlooked at first, due to its difference in colour - a hollow looking, dead branch. Billie had climbed trees a lot in his young, eight year old life, much to his mother's yelling at, or general unawareness, as he often went to climb in secret. However, he'd learnt pretty quickly to always test the branches he was going to climb, and to never have both hands on one single branch, unless you could be certain it wouldn't crumple beneath you. So this little tree expert knew, that he'd never even think to climb a branch that looked so dead, nor even bother to test it out...not unless a fat boy, with steam racing out his head, was scuttling up towards you, to taste your blood and batter you blue.
Though before Billie could contemplate the thought any longer, a hand grabbed sharply, and dug violently into his left shin's wound. The hand dragged Billie's left leg down, and without even thinking, Billie hugged the trunk of the tree like a coconut crab, using his upper-body strength to hold on while he swung out his right leg - kicking out discriminatingly at anything within range.
He raised his leg back up to the peak of flexibility and plummeted it down with a tough clunk, as his heel bashed the top of Tuck's head; the almighty crack made Tuck blackout for just a few seconds. He awoke in a protective ball at the base of the Oak tree, and rose to his feet, pretty rapidly for a fat kid. His rage had reached its peak, when the poor, small boy ran up to Tuck with a large bundle of twigs and sticks in his arms.
''Tuck, are you O...'' was all he could say, as Tuck bashed a horrendously large fist into the small boys head.
''Aghhhhhhhhh!'' Tuck yelled to the highest possible range his voice could go, lurching over the unconscious, broken jawed boy by his feet; twigs and branches sprayed out everywhere from the boys arms. Tuck looked down at the mess by his feet and grabbed his right fist, it was bleeding and sore from the impact on the boys face.
He looked back up to Billie hiding in the tree. ''You see what's happened! You see what you've made me do?! This is your fault! Your fault, Billie!'' He jumped and grabbed the first branch again, lifting his large body upwards and towards Billie.
Billie knew he was lucky on the first instance to kick Tuck out the tree, and he wouldn't have that opportunity again. His head and mind went back to the discoloured, hollow branch just within his reach. Billie danced his feet out of the way of Tuck's hand, which grabbed hold of the fork where he stood.
Tuck's face appeared, his jaw snapped as he tried to bite at one of Billie's legs. With no choice, Billie jumped up for the hollow branch and he lifted himself with haste, up onto it. Creaking and cracking, Billie slowly straightened himself out to hold onto an overhanging branch, but before he could reach his hand out, the branch snapped.
Billie and the branch fell in a shower of wood chippings, on-top of Tuck; who had just clambered onto the fork of the branch, where Billie had just been. He too, was taken in the plummet of falling leaves, wood, and Billie. And while they all fell off the tree together, the poor, broken-jawed boy below, just opened his eyes out of consciousness, and quickly closed them again, as the heavy masses above, fell upon him.
''Mrs. Bucket. Mr. Reills will see you now. Please, this way.''
''Ah, Mrs. Bucket. Please, take a seat.''
Seated, Mrs. Bucket stared with heightened concern towards Mr. Reills, the headteacher.
''May I ask how your son is faring since the incident?''
''Billie,'' Billie's mum said, agitated with a great deal of worry to contend with. ''He's fine, not one single scratch on him. Fighting fit, as you'd say.'' She grimaced at her last, unwisely chosen words.
''That's very good to hear, Mrs. Bucket-''
''-Sarah, please. I hate my surname.''
''Sarah, then. After our group meeting with the other parents of the children involved, we have had one final staff meeting to discuss the final outcome of this sad occurrence.'' Sarah nodded intently to every word spoken, acknowledging nearly each one with a light, vocal agreement. ''You know the injuries sustained to the two boys: Tucker Browning is in hospital with a broken shoulder and knee, plus an arrangement of other ailments, and Theodore Hammerhead will be in hospital for at least 3 months; he's only just come out of his coma, the poor lad. I've read nearly a page worth of broken body parts he's suffered to his anatomy. We wish them both all the best.''
Sarah held the thought of 'that's what they both deserve,' in her head. She knew not just from Billie, what a nasty bunch of so-called homo-sapiens they were.
''We are still all quite amazed how Billie, the smallest of the lot, came out with only a couple of superficial bruises, and that's if you can even call them that. I'm afraid, however, that we've no choice but to suspend all four boys involved, for the rest of the year-''
''They are all welcome back after the summer holiday, when they've all had long enough to cool down and learn from this hideous conflict. I'm sure you'll be strict when it comes to properly disciplining Billie, Mrs. Bucket...Sarah.''
Sarah tried to dispel the though of Mr. Reills lying in full-body caster, next to the three, foolish boys. Including the one who'd escaped, physically-wise, anyhow. Sarah sat there, her words stuck in her throat. She knew exactly what to say, however, the frustration from Mr. Reills had caused some sort of ballooning in her windpipe.
''Sarah, are you all on-board with our decision?'' Mr. Reills said, trying to continue the flow of the conversation.
''My son.'' She stared into the headteachers eyes, in disbelief. ''Why...why are we punishing my son, when he is the innocent one involved here?''
Mr. Reills cracked his back, in a strange, reassuring manner. Knowing now the uncomfortable questions would head his way.
''Mrs. Bucket...Billie was targeted in this fight, there is no doubt. Yet, several witnesses have all placed Billie as the cause-''
''-cause?! Are you telling me that these 'several witnesses' seem to have forgotten that Billie was rescuing my daughter and her friend, from these thuggish, bullies!'' Sarah grabbed the bottom of her seat tightly. It seemed the only fitting place for her to tighten those fists around...for the moment.
''We understand that Billie was trying to help these girls, but he just made things worse. If he had waited for the teachers-''
''-who were nowhere to be seen!''
Mr. Reills paused for a moment, wishing that at this point he had some glasses to take off his face, to make his next statement sound ever so more important.
''We have a dire incident here. Where it is in everyone's best interest to punish each boy equally. Showing no favour to any side.'' He paused quick enough, before Sarah's voice could disrupt the flow. ''Your son was helping these girls from being picked on, Mrs. Bucket. Yet despite this, we cannot award favouritism towards your son's vigilantism, and show that we approve of his methods, my awarding him a less severe punishment.
''I have discussed this vigorously with the deputy head, and we understand that the three boys involved all come from, shall we say, aggressive backgrounds, and similar relations to one another. In the interest of your son’s safety, we would rather show that your son has no higher regard over us than the other boys; to ensure we have killed, in their parents' eyes, any kind of special treatment. And in doing so, we hope to stamp out any possible growing flame of detest, that these parents might have towards your son and your family.'' Mr. Reills tried his best to not show worry in his eyes, as he couldn't help himself telling Sarah things she aught not hear.
Sarah's right hand grasped at her throat, in reaction to the sudden dryness inside it. ''Excuse me? Are you saying we're being threatened? Does this not require imminent awareness to the authorities?''
Sarah had an idea that the three boys might wish for retaliation when their injuries had healed, but for their parents to wish the same...it may not have seem so far-fetched. Yet from such unsavoury characters, who knows what kind of redemption the boys' parents might have planned for them.
''I'm sorry, Sarah,'' His cheeks began to bruise. ''We had wished to keep these details away from you. Yet, alas, once again I couldn't stop my mouth from running away with me.''
''If you suspect something or are worried, then why don't you contact the police, immediately!''
''By all means we have, Sarah. The police have told us they are aware of the boys families, and always have a watchful eye on their behaviour. They're ever so notorious for unruly behaviour, and mostly all of their relations have a list of criminal convictions as long as themselves.''
''This really doesn't do a lot to comfort me, or my family. Why don't they just lock them up, do I need to go to the authorities myself?''
''We have nothing to prosecute them for, Sarah. We just have prediction, based on their history of convictions, and previous methods for how they have dealt with situations. This is precisely what the police have told us; they can't just arrest the boys' parents on predictability, there needs to be evidence: threats, abuse, intimidation. For which so far, we've received none.
''I apologise, Sarah. It was not our intention to cause you discomfort, I fear we may now have caused you undue concern and stress.''
Sarah stared at the man, as though he has just spoken the punchline. She wasn't sure if she need laugh or cry.
'Well...fucking, bloody hell, yes. There's quite a lot of discomfort actually. I'm sorry for my language, but you're an idiot! So you've basically told me my son can't return until after the summer break, as some punishment for his heroism. While individuals who cannot be punished, will more or less likely attack us when they feel up to it. Because what is another one crime added to their boasting lists of tyranny?''
The bruise that had slowly seeped into Mr. Reill's cheeks, decided it was most appropriate to then spread all over his head - to complete the clown effect.
''-I might as well talk to yesterdays left over cabbage.'' Sarah quite calmly uplifted herself from her seat. ''What else is there to say?'' She turned around and exited the lonely room.
Mr. Reills was left abandoned, like a child on his first day at nursery. ''Well, Mr. Reills,'' he told himself, ''you buggered that up didn't you, you bastard.''
Madder than a cat who had not only lost a nice bowl of milk, but also had a large, lump of a foot stood disrespectfully on their tail. Sarah marched straight towards the nearest Police station, all be it a car was required.
Just as she had marched in, she had marched out with the same disappointment and brooding madness on her face. Quite certain that the police had fed Sarah with the same, tepid cup of broth as Reills, Sarah's internal, expanding bottle of rage and disbelief required expelling, and so who better to burst this bottle of skin blistering water onto...other than her loved ones. So, she headed home.
Bang, the front door went. Not the kind of casual, every day bang the front door went. This was, bang the front door went, which instantaneously thickened, the previously light atmosphere.
''Billie!...Toby!...Chlo!'' Silence persisted. Sarah headed into the living room where Billie sat upon the sofa, happily rocking his little legs, while watching some cartoon on the television.
''Billie...why didn't you answer me?'' she said, ready to begin some kind of argument, but the look on the happy boy instantly killed any kind of kindling, hot-temper.
The little boy looked unconcerned towards his mother and gave a small, sweet smile. All he had to prove for his incident of a few days ago was that of a single Spiderman plaster, stuck diagonally across his forehead.
Sarah quickly raised her eyes. ''Where's your sister?''
''Um, she's outside playing, but I'm inside. I'm not allowed outside. I have to stay inside, where dad can see that I'm causing no more trouble.''
''And where's your father?''
''In his study'' they both overdubbed each other.
''Where else...you stay here, Billie. I'll talk to your stupid...your father.'' So Sarah left the room.
''Dad's in trouble again,'' Billie commented, with a funny giggle.
She headed upstairs to the study/hobby-hole, that Sarah's husband/father to Billie and Chlo, liked to hide in most days...especially when Sarah was in this kind of mood.
A double tap rattled the study door. So naturally, Toby sneakily turned up the volume of his questionable music. He kind of wished he had propped a chair against the handle, so no man, nor wife, could enter his den.
Unsure why she had even knocked in the first place, Sarah harshly pushed the door ajar. The guilty look on her husband's face, very nearly made her laugh out loud, but she had a position of a mother to adhere to. There was no leeway here to be found.
''Tobias!'' she spoke, with that chiselled look, capable of cowering any man, to any dark corner.
''Darling,'' he replied, in a ridiculous fake act.
''Oh, balls off, Toby! What is that in your hands?''
''This...erm...Lego?'' He looked down to the table, more ashamed with himself than if he'd been caught doing something much worse.
''If I were anyone else, I'd swear that Billie and Chlo were your parents. Billie's watching television, and Chlo is out in the garden, playing with her gardeners' set. While Toby the toddler, sits in his room playing with his Lego men.''
''It's actually a Star Wars set, so there's women figures too...'' She flicked his ear. ''Ow! What's wrong with you?!''
''You of course, what else? You need to be watching over your children, instead of being one of them! Can't you do your work downstairs, play with your plastic bricks with Billie?''
He scrunched up his face. ''He's not touching my Lego.''
''Oh my God, Toby! What's going on with you today, please talk to me, it never helps when you shut yourself up like this,'' Sarah said, knowing that when Toby has a bad spell with his depression she couldn't just take it out on him, even though some days she would really like to.
''It's nothing.'' He tried to hide, whilst making two Jedis duel.
''It's something.'' She placed her hand on his shoulder and gently rubbed the bright red earlobe, she had flicked.
''I...I just wish, some days I were like these figures,'' he finally said, in a very soft and sad tone.
''A plastic man?'' She grasped his shoulder tighter.
''It's just...just some days, like today. It just comes over me, absolute fear...worthlessness. No point to anything, really. All this stress and pressure, all day, every day, until you die. Why do we hold out for so long, when we could just already be there. In a world of nothingness. No more pain.''
Sarah stayed quiet.
''That's why I'd like to be one of these plastic men; they have a place...like a chair, or a table, or a door. That's their purpose, simple. What's our purpose? It's all so complicated, and hurts my brains. I just, just hate it. That's why I love to sleep, it's all so perfect there, all the worries disappear. I rule my sleep, and I'm free there,'' he finished, and pulled off the head of one of the Jedis.
Sarah's hand was tighter than she knew, around Toby's shoulder. She tried to hold back the water in her eyes, but she failed, and let them rinse past her cheeks. She was just grateful that Toby couldn't see.
''I don't know why you say these things, Toby,'' she managed to speak out, despite the croakiness. ''You have a gentle son and a beautiful daughter...you...you have a comfortable life, we have enough money, and...and this lovely house, and...and you have me, Toby.'' She closed her eyes firmly, while another wave of water flushed down her face and dripped onto Toby's shirt, both unaware.
''You just don't understand.''
She raised a fist. She could so easily have whacked him hard with it. But she knew, she didn't understand, how could she? That was their dilemma. No easy solution.
''I wish I could.'' She opened her fist and stroked his face, instead. ''When you say things like that, it hurts me so much. I'm sick to death that you'll do something to hurt yourself. I want to help you.''
Toby grabbed her hand off his cheek and kissed it meaningfully. He was shaking slightly, his eyes were red, as were Sarah's. His eyes stared at the Jedi's, unmoving. There was a hollowness to his stare.
''Will you talk to someone again? Please, maybe someone who knows something different.''
He let go of her hand, the words seemed to sting his insides. ''It doesn't work, I've nothing left to say. I'll just keep taking my medicine...and focus on my work.''
''Toby, this doesn't help...''
He stood up from his seat and grabbed his closed laptop. He turned around to smile at her wet face. The smile stopped and he rushed past her. Sarah closed her eyes again, on opening them she looked over his desk. She replaced the head back on the Jedi, and followed her husband.
Sarah returned to the living room, where Toby had started up the Nintendo. He was about to play a game, with an excited Billie, of the latest Mario and the gang adventure; though this one just seemed to be hitting each other repetitively.
Chlo was happily seated in the recliner, yet she had brought her 'Kittie's Happy 'ittle Garden Trough, For 'ittle Green Thumbs' in, despite several past telling off's. She couldn't wait for her pansies to grow, and thought that by bringing the trough in from outside, would encourage the seedlings to sprout faster. Though by the look of things, there was more soil spread around the living room floor than in the actual trough.
Sarah made a mental note to remind Chlo again, of the several reasons why we don't bring the ''ittle Garden Trough' indoors, though it would only be back inside again tomorrow. What did she expect from a four year old, who shares half her genes with Toby. Poor souls.
When Chlo at last took her gaze away from the small amount of soil in her trough, a massive grin took up her whole face. She took out a rather, petal-less rose, from under her dungarees, and held it out for Sarah in her ''ittle Gardeners Gloves.' Sarah shook her head, she'd be surprised if there were any roses left on her bush now. Again, despite the warnings that the rose bush prefers to keep its roses, they kept disappearing.
With all the sounds that erupted from the living room, a scruffy, terrier walked into the room and instantaneously pounced on the sleeping tabby cat - dreaming on the last, empty recliner. Naturally, as always, the cat screeched in protest at the scruffy thing, and gave him another claw mark around his head. The dog, looking so very confused, plodded off into the centre of the room, and the tabby went back to her peaceful dreams.
Chlo noticed the scruff ball and shouted ''Doggy!'' She jumped off her seat to engulf herself around the dog; Sarah just about managed to catch the trough, that Chlo seemed to fling in the air.
Despite their best efforts to give their scruffy dog a simple ringing dog name, like Max, Chlo insisted he was Doggy; just as the tabby was called Catty, instead of Tulip.
Sarah observed Chlo, enwreathed in the dog and dirt, and smiled at the two boys, eagerly engaged in their mindless game. It almost seemed like a happy, normal household. The smile slowly faded.
With the dog in mind, Sarah was reminded of other pets. ''Billie, don't you have some furry friends to clean out?''
''Ergh!'' Billie let out.
Sarah knew this would happen, just like it seemed to always happen. They looked so fun and cute at the pet store, but a child's mind has the attention span of an drunkard - they can also walk and talk the same too, which is kind of worrying. Despite this, Sarah couldn't help deny that it was her fault as a parent, to let them have their pets. Once again those deceptive, cute little faces, and their shimmering eyes, had won the day.
''Billie! Don't make me spell out your whole name. One more game then you go clean out those poor things. I don't know why you even wanted them in the first place.'' Sarah put her hands on her hips and let out a large huff.
Surveying her family, she pondered that if she wasn't around, this whole house would be in ruins. Toby can get off being depressed, but she doesn't have that excuse. She paused a bit. That was mean. Sarah thought that she better prepare the dinner. She didn't have a wife to palm that off to.
After the last four games, Toby scruffed up Billie's hair, and in a playing manner, pushed him onto his side.
''Go on, BB. Clean those poor buggers out.''
''Buggers?'' Billie enquired.
''Erm...yeah...I thought you had rabbits?''
''They're called bunnies, silly,'' Billie laughed.
''I am silly. Now go on, BB, off with you.''
Billie made a sad face, and purposefully walked as slow as a snail out of the room. Toby kicked him on the bum, to fasten his pace. Pleased with himself that he didn't teach Billie another naughty word, and once again safe from Sarah's wrath...for now.