Tom wasn’t being good! In fact, Tom was rarely good these days! He was well known as the ’troubled kid’ at school and constantly being reprimanded by the head teacher!! His school grades were poor and his attendance low. He had no friends. No-one wanted to be his friend.
Tom was fourteen years old. His dad had left home one day to go to work and never returned. Tom remembers that day very well. Too well.
His mum had been shouting on Tom to get up for school that fateful day. He would have done anything to stay in bed, only he knew that his dad would be giving him a lift in to school and knew better than to disobey him. His dad had a very short temper.
As he descended the stair s he could hear his mum and his dad talking…well, sort of. It sounded like they were unhappy and keeping their voices low. He strained his ears to hear their conversation.
‘Just how do you think Tom is going to take all this, then? You might want to leave me Marshall, but what about your kid?’ his mother lashed out in a seething whisper.
‘What am I supposed to do, Tasha? ’ Marshall’s reply was exasperated! ‘I don’t love you anymore and I cannot stay here one more night. I love my kid…but not enough stay, and put up with all our rows anymore.’ he replied .
‘You are pathetic, Marshall. Give the kid a chance. Think about it again, before you make this huge decision which is devastating us all ’ Tasha’s voice trembled. This had been such a hard blow.
‘OK! OK! OK! I’ll try to make it work but ….oh, it really doesn’t matter.’ he muttered under his breath, walking out of the lounge door.
Tom quickly busied himself, as if he had just come out of his bedroom, frantically getting ready for school.
‘Ah, there you are! You had better be ready, my lad. I will not have you late for school.’ Marshall’s patience was not at it’s best this morning; his temper frayed.
Tom’s thought‘s came back into the present, and his eyes filled with tears. Why had his daddy left?
He had not kept his promise to try to make up and stay with them, and had never returned that day from work. He remembered how very, very upset his mum had been and how he had hidden himself in his bedroom and cried till he could cry no more. There had been no-one to comfort him, because people had been too busy comforting his mum, saying that as he was a kid he would be OK…he was young enough to get over ‘it!’
That was six years ago, and Tom had NOT got over ’it’. Mum had found a new person to love. They had married and had moved to a new house in another town. Tom did not like it there; it was too quiet. He sort of liked his step-dad now and again, but he was different from his real dad.
In fact, Tom had started to hate everything around him. What was the point of being good? Why should he learn? Why study hard at school? What for?
He got more kicks out of tormenting and teasing other kids. He thought it really funny if he managed to trip someone up or call them names. It was fun to be cheeky to the teacher and to ignore instruction.
The more he did these things, the more he got into trouble. And Tom’s response? ‘So what!’
His mum was so desperately upset that Tom was a such a handful to cope with. He was just as disrespectful to her at home as he was to the teachers at school. His step-dad had tried to win him over and do many different things to bring him into his confidence, but had finally lost the battle to change Tom from a troublesome kid to a good one!
And then……………one summer’s day a new boy started to attend Tom’s school. He seemed really popular. This kid soon fitted into the school routine and Tom began to loathe him.
‘Hey, dude. I don’t care who you are or what your name is, I just don’t like you. What makes YOU so cool, huh? Just letting you know, quite CLEARLY, don’t mess with me…!’ Tom spat, shoving his victim backwards, as he spoke.
‘OK! No problem. I have heard a lot about you Tom. Why do you hate so much? Anyway, I’ll stay out your way, if that’s what you want!’ replied Chris totally unaffected by this incident. ‘Oh by the way….nice to meet you. My name is Chris.’ and with that as his parting shot, he walked away.
Tom seethed under his breath. ‘What’s he got that I feel uncomfortable with. He’s disturbing me! I’ll get him back. I know I will!’
But Tom never got the chance to retaliate, because not long after he had threatened Chris, Tom ended up in hospital.
He had been out for a ride on his bike one weekend. There had been nothing else to do, apart from cheek mum and step-daddy; he had been shouted at once again, so he had taken off on his bike to chill out!
He could not remember too much about the accident. All he felt was searing pain going through his right leg. He could only recall someone saying, ‘An ambulance! Get an ambulance! Someone, anyone…. call an ambulance!’
And then he had woken up in this bed with a sea of faces peering at him whispering, ‘Tom. We’re here Tom. Come on Tom. You ‘re going to be fine!’
And then he spotted his mum with silent tears running down her face, just sitting quietly by him holding his hand and whispering, ‘Tom, please be OK!’
Tom had been about a week in hospital and he was getting really bored. ‘What does one do in here?’ he thought. ‘I wish I was home!’ His heart sank. He began to realise that home may not be so bad after all!
And then, a head popped around the door. ‘Hello, Tom. Just thought I would bring these computer magazines for you to read and here’s my portable CD player and some headphones for you. I don’t know what music you like but I’ve brought some CD’s for you anyway. How are you?’
Tom’s mouth dropped open! What was that infuriating boy doing here?
‘Oh! Amm …aa..hello! Thanks for the offer of the CD player and the music an’ all. Why are you visiting me? What is it about you that doesn’t give up? Do you know…you really madden me, but, well, lying here, I’m beginning to think you are not so infuriating after all.’
Chris stepped into the hospital room. ‘Hey! It’s cool….I mean about you threatening me. I don’t think you’re that bad a guy. Can I be your friend?’
‘What? Me? Friend? Never had a friend in my life! Why would you want to be a friend to me? You have lots of other friends.’ Tom asked incredulously.
‘Well, I have been listening to some stories at school and I've heard that your dad left you and your mum. I know what it’s like Tom. My dad left me too. Thing is, so did my mum. They got into some trouble and ended up in jail. I know what it’s like to think like you; talk like you; feel like you Tom. I know hwat it's like to be alone. I know that you aren’t bad underneath. This is just a shell you have built around you, to make sure someone else doesn’t come along and hurt you again.’ Chris spoke quietly.
Tom could feel tears welling up. ‘Don’t you dare cry,’ he muttered to himself underneath his breath. ‘Tough guys don’t cry.’
‘And, Chris spoke gently, ‘It IS alright to cry! ‘
Tom’s tears could not be held back anymore. The kindness of Chris had touched his heart. Here was someone who really understood him. He had been waiting for this for six years! Could Chris really be his friend?