That was my name. That was all anyone ever called me, because I was always alone. Now, they were calling me something else. I mean, my real name. Arnie? Allie? Something like that. Did it matter? I was still alone. I was still just another nameless face. Another monotonous drone in the serial murder that was school life. I had to admit though, in my professional opinion, this must have been the best school I'd ever set foot in. I say 'set foot in', because most schools heard my story and threw me straight back out again, before I'd even taken the second step.
So far I'd managed about thirty steps down the hallway from the door. I'd been counting. I liked counting - it helped me relax - sort of. So I was guessing that there were about forty steps left until I got to the Head Master's office. I was starting to dread it, and getting even more nervous because I'd lost count of the number of steps I'd already taken. Damn it.
I carried on walking, dragging my feet, forgetting, for a moment, my original name. "Alfie!" This time I looked up.
"Yes," I said quietly, stopping outside the door.
Denise smiled down at me. "You don't need to be nervous. Everything will be fine."
"Yes," I said, because I felt I should say something.
She gave me another charitable smile and patted my head fondly. She was always doing that and I did find it slightly annoying, but the monosyllabic answers worried her. She was my guardian and she worried about me a lot. I lived with her most of the time. She was always trying to get me to talk, but I really didn't see the point. In my view, most questions could be answered with a simple yes or no, and I only asked questions when necessary. I only ever talked properly to Kid. He was the only one that understood, because he'd been through all this before.
Kid was a couple of years older than me and had managed to remain at the same school across town for the last year, just. It was pretty fragile towards the end, but I think they'd accepted him this year too. I however, had been bounced around all over town. I think it was about four different schools in a year. I honestly had no idea how I did it. Half the time I didn't know what had gone wrong.
"Yes?" I said again.
"We're going in now," Denise said.
As she pushed open the office door, I glimpsed the Headmistress from my previous school, leaning forward animatedly, talking to a balding man in a grey suit. She came to an abrupt stop and stood up as we walked in.
She'd probably just finished telling the Head Master why I shouldn't go to this school. I swear she was conspiring against me - with her stupid moustache and everything. She too, patted me on the head as she left, saying "Good luck." It might just have been me, but that didn't sound very reassuring and it made me uneasy.
The Head Master looked up from his paperwork, shuffling them efficiently. You could easily spot mine. My papers looked like some sort of novel, and a long one too. It consisted of twenty six pages. I counted them. The Head Master moved them out of the way before smiling at me and offering me a seat. I sat down and Denise sat next to me. I could feel my palms dampening and my stomach was swirling uncomfortably. I was a very nervous person in general, but I was feeling especially anxious. I kept fiddling with the pockets on my jeans and the zip on my jacket, until Denise laid a careful hand over mine and put my hands gently at my sides. Here came the lecture about expectations and standards, blah blah blah.
"So, Alfie," The Head Master said. I stared at my lap, I hated looking people in the face. I wasn't counting because I already knew all the numbers. There were three loose threads on my jumper. "You're a very intelligent boy." There were twenty one ink stains on my jeans, from where I doodled on them in lessons. "A very gifted mathematician, I hear." There were three knots in my shoelaces. "But with some troubles unfortunately." There were eighty four black marks on my trainers. "We will be happy to have you at our school." I finally looked up, slightly stunned. That was it?
"Great," I said. An induction that short, I thought, was too good to be true. It was. I was quickly deposited to wait in the corridor, whilst Denise had a quick chat with the Head Master - It was surprisingly long.
I sat on a chair outside, swinging my legs, and started counting the tiles. It must have been at least half an hour later, and I had a good judge of time, before Denise came out of the office. "All set!" she said cheerily, giving me a thumbs up. I gave her one of my rare smiles back. She really tried hard, I felt she deserved it. She ushered me gently, but hurriedly out of the school saying, "You start on Monday, Okay?"
"Okay," I said. What else could I say?
The car journey back to Denise's house was a silent one, as usual. Silent from my end, anyway. "Do you want to talk about anything?" Denise asked me. Then it was, "So, how are you doing back there?" and "If you ever want to tell me anything you can." It was the same question said in a different way. Every time she asked she would look in the wing mirror at me, sometimes even turn around in her seat. I wished she would watch the road. I gave her a nod each time she asked, maybe a smile and continued to watch the scenery whiz past.
There was a long silence, which I didn't mind, but it must have been uncomfortable for her. Then she said something I wasn't expecting. "You do like school, don't you?" It was the way she said it. Like she had been puzzling over it and had just figured it out. I found myself nodding vigorously, even though I hadn't meant to. She was looking at me in the mirror. I caught her eye. I hadn't meant to do that either. I dropped my gaze quickly, almost frantically, as I felt panic shimmer through me, as it always did when I looked someone in the eye.
I took to staring at the grey seat material in front of me. It was faded and the material was so transparent I could see the yellow foam underneath it. Thankfully Denise's attention was diverted to the oncoming traffic congestion, but she hadn't dropped it. "But you don't make friends easily?" she asked, but I thought she already knew the answer, so I didn't bother responding. "Alfie?" she asked again. I gave a defeated nod. "Yes what?" she asked kindly, quietly. "Yes you do make friends, or Yes you don't?"
I shook my head.
"Alfie, you're going to have to talk to me."
"I don't make friends," I mumbled. It was probably the longest sentence I had spoken today. I had one friend. Kid. Although, I hadn't exactly made friends with him. I had more latched on to him and refused to let go because back then he was all I had, but without him I felt slightly lost. I couldn't make friends. The twenty minutes left of the journey passed in silence. An uncomfortable one, even for me.
As soon as we got back to Denise's house I headed for my room as inoffensively as I could.
The next time I spoke was after dinner. And by that I mean, saying more than one word, so don't get excited or anything. I was trailing my fingers nervously through a puddle of juice that was rapidly spreading. I couldn't seem to concentrate if I wasn't doing something with my hands. "Alfie?" I heard Denise say just behind me. She startled me and I stood up really quickly, my chair clattered behind me and began to topple. It fell and banged loudly in the silence on the wooden floor. I stood tensely, as if I'd been caught doing something I shouldn't.
"I'm sorry," I said immediately.
"It's Okay, Alfie," she said. Then she gave me a genuine smile, free from patronisation and pity. "Someone's here to see you."
Copyright © 2009-2013 A. C. W. Alias Blue (Id: 626202)