"How could you boys even do this?" Our headmaster roared at us.
I was leaning back in my chair by now, daydreaming whilst staring at the diplomas on the wall behind Mr Charleston's desk. He hadn't shut up for the past half hour, and to be honest, I was getting a bit bored. Charlie, on my right, continued to stare defiantly at our head, whereas Carl was examining his shoes with renewed interest. As I looked at him he caught my eye and made a rude gesture at Charleston's back, making me snort.
"You think this situation funny, Mr Scott?" Charleston barked at me. "Oh yes, it's very clever to break into the school safe isn't it? That money was raised from school charity events, and our students didn't do all those car washes and bake sales for you hooligans to just play around with their hard-earned money!"
He now turned and walked back to his chair, sinking down and rubbing his temples, a defeated look spreading across his face. "However, I know that me telling you just how terrible your acts were certainly isn't enough. From here and out, you will have three months' worth of lunchtime detentions. Your parents are waiting for you outside and have been informed of your actions. Dismissed."
As we skulked out of the office, we came face to face with the disappointed faces of six very upset adults. I didn't dare look at my mum as she asked me quietly to go get my things from my locker. I could almost hear the heartbreak in her voice – and all for a stupid prank. I walked silently along with Charlie and Carl, listening to them moan on about what kind of punishment they thought their parents would give them this time.
"Dad's probably going to make me go work in his office," Charlie groaned as he opened his locker and violently shoved his books into his bag. "He's always been desperate for me to learn the family business – now I have no way out of it!"
"You think that's bad?" Carl scoffed. "Try having elderly grandparents living with you twenty-four seven. They'll be making me do all their gardening and housework for the next several months!" He sighed, turning to me. "What do you think you'll get, Scott?"
I shrugged. "Not a clue; they've never really had to punish me before." I closed my locker as the other boys muttered about how 'lucky' I was. Really they had no idea.
My parents had never really threatened me in a serious way. My dad was strict, but due to his job, he wasn't around often enough to see the trouble I usually got into. Unfortunately, this being my first serious offence, of course my mum had had to call my father.
Mum was the softer parent, the marshmallow, and it killed me that I knew I'd upset her - she was so fragile and gentle nowadays. She used to be a prima ballerina in London's Royal Ballet Company, before her legs gave out mid-performance, and she's been in a wheelchair ever since.
Caught in my own thoughts, I hadn't realised we had begun to walk down the corridors until I ended up bumping straight into someone, knocking them and their books to the ground. Looking down, I came face to face with Lynette Carter. We'd once been friends, throughout our younger years, but since high school, we'd just … drifted apart, me drifting over to the jocks, and her gravitating towards the nerds.
It always impressed me how she kept herself different from the other girls in our school. Whereas most girls had ignored the strict guidelines our school had sent out regarding our uniform, and re-hemmed the skirts until they were verging on too short, long white socks up to their knees, and scary-looking heels, Lynette's skirt looking by-the-book length, her navy knee highs and dolly shoes just screaming 'plain-Jane'.
"Watch where you're going, jerk!" Lynette said angrily, bringing me back down to Earth.
"Why don't you, geek?" I sneered back, and my friends grinned at me. Lynette huffed as she gathered her books off the floor, openly glaring at me. "Oh better yet, why don't you scuttle off back to the Library, back to where you belong, you freak." And with that, I pushed past her, and started off down the hall, Charlie and Carl sniggering as they followed behind me.
"You're a right git, Daniel Scott!" I heard her yell from behind me, a touch of hurt in her voice. But I didn't bother turning to look at her. I already had two people annoyed at me – one more surely wouldn't matter. Sometimes it was hard to even remember how to be friendly with Lynette, let alone how close we actually used to be.
"Hey, Dan?" A ten year-old Lynette asked an eleven year-old me.
"Yeah, Lynny?" I turned to my friend and smiled.
"Even though we'll be far away from each other this summer, we'll still be best friends, right?" she begged me. We'd both been accepted to different camps that summer, me going to Baseball camp, Lynny going to Dance camp.
"Yes Lynn, we'll still be best friends. I promise."
How naïve we were back then – when all it took was a simple promise. I don't think we've said another nice word to each other since that moment, and it was one of the only nice moments I remember having with Lynette now. But I couldn't even pretend that I didn't know what happened in our relationship to tear us apart so violently, and I couldn't blame anyone but myself either.
"Daniel! You're back!" Lynny was all smiles when she ran up to me in my back yard. She reached up to give me a hug, but I quickly pushed her back. A hurt look spread across her face.
"You shouldn't just fling yourself at me!" I said nastily, wrinkling my nose at her.
"But why?" she sniffed.
"Because I'm a boy, and you're a girl! Boys shouldn't hang around with girls all the time, it makes them stupid," I repeated what the boys had told me at camp. I hadn't dared tell them my best friend was a girl.
"You never cared that I was a girl before," Lynny complained, her eyes going watery with unshed tears.
"Well I care now, so leave me alone!" I shoved her back, and she let out a sob.
"I hate you!" she yelled, before running out of my yard. Out of my life.
Sure, now I look back, it all seems kind of stupid; to fall out over something like gender, but back when you were eleven, stuff like that mattered. It didn't matter how much we were going to be attracted to girls later on, and regret ever running from them, it just wasn't cool to hang around with girls all the time. Sometimes a boy just needs his lads.
Pulling myself out of my memories, we fell silent as we once again entered the office and re-joined our parents. I silently nodded a goodbye to my friends, before walked over to my parents. My mother was leaning back in her chair, and dad was gripping the handles so hard his knuckles were turning white. He nodded for me to leave, turned mum's chair around and walked to the car. The car ride home was silent; mum's chair digging into my legs in the backseat and dad throwing heated glares at me through the rear-view mirror.
I waited 'til Dad got my mum into the house before following them inside. I wondered if I could just sneak upstairs and lock myself in my room, but dad grabbed the back of my shirt and flung me into the living room, where mum was already seated in her special chair.
"Don't be so rough with him, Steve!" she scolded her husband, who threw her a disbelieving look that she skilfully ignored as she turned to look at me. "Now Daniel, come and sit beside me," she said, patting the sofa cushions. I quickly made my way over, before looking her in the eyes.
"Mum, I'm so-" I began.
"I know," she nodded, her eyes shining with understanding.
"It was a stupid pran-" I began again.
"I know that too," she cut me off again, shaking her head in disapproval. "I don't like what you did, or why you thought it might be clever to do such a thing, but we can't change that now."
"A good hiding might help, though," Dad muttered from where he was leaning in the doorway, but other than the meaningful look Mum gave him, neither of us responded to him.
"However, I don't feel it right to give you a punishment that you'll resent; you already have three months of detention to do that job for us. Me, your father, and the other parents all discussed that we would punish you in a way that will teach you all a little more respect and dignity," Mum stated, sitting straighter in her chair. "Charlie will be working at his fathers' office, and Carl will be working in his grandfather's old firm."
I wrinkled my nose. I didn't like where this was going. Mum didn't work anymore because of her disability, which meant I would have to go work with Dad, in the accountancy offices. I couldn't think of something I'd hate more…
"But, my boss won't let me take my under achieving, slacker of a son into his office. So, we've decided your punishment will be a little different than your friends," Dad said, his eyes glittering with malice. I gulped, this couldn't be anything good. "Starting Monday … you will start dance lessons at Corin's Academy. Have fun," Dad winked at me in amusement before heading out the front door, back to work. I shot up and looked down at my mum in shock.
"Mum, tell me he was joking? Dance?" I begged her to tell me it wasn't true.
"No, we're not joking, Daniel," she said, a smile playing at her lips.
"But what could I possibly learn from dance?" I practically spat the word, as she reached up to cup my face.
"Dance was my life when I was your age," she said calmly, and my heart once again broke for her. "Dance teaches discipline, respectability, and will challenge you far greater than anything else would. I know this will work out for you, Dan. And I know you'll be a better man for it." With her eyes full of glistening tears as she spoke, she let me go and pulled herself back into her wheelchair. "You'll love it," she winked at me, before wheeling herself off into the kitchen.
I cursed loudly and stomped up to my room, trying not to crash my door too loud. I collapsed onto my bed and stared angrily up at my ceiling. Dance? Me? At least it couldn't get any worse.
How little I knew ….