I look down at Sam’s black shiny shoes with the thin, black laces. I can see my face in them like a mirror and there is a little mark on the front. I don’t think he wears them a lot. I shift my eyes to my shoes: my white converse. The ones I drew on with a blue pen the time I sat outside the Head teacher’s office. Mum said they were “inappropriate” to wear to a graduation ceremony, and that all the boys there will be wearing their smart shoes. But after I didn’t eat my breakfast or drink my orange juice, and locked myself in my bedroom for three hours and twelve minutes, she let me wear my white converse with the blue pen on them.
I remind myself of what mum told me to do on the drive here.
“Walk on stage, shake the head teacher’s hand, smile, walk off the stage.”
A woman I have never seen before touches me on the shoulder, smiling. I didn’t like it. I look at her hand, still on my shoulder, and I look up.
“Brace yourself! You’re up next, sweetie.”
I don’t know what she means by “Brace yourself.”
I crack my knuckles to stay calm. The man on my right that smells like onions and has sweat down his face, leads me onto the stage, and I lift my head up towards the many people. The lights were hot and the stage was big. My heart beats faster and faster. A fat man wearing a plain red polo shirt with creases standing near the far left back exit has a video recorder. I think it is a Canon XP. I wave at him. Then I see my Mum and Dad, sat on the fifth row, three seats in from the right. Mum has tears coming out of her eyes, which means she is crying, which means she is sad. I don’t know why she is sad because when she left me backstage she said she was “happy” and “proud”.
The Head teacher grabs my hand really hard and shakes it. Dad once told me that a woman’s emotion changes all the time and very quickly, mainly at a specific time of every month, but I think he means Werewolves. Mum isn’t a Werewolf. I don’t think she is. But the Royal Family are Werewolves. It is said Queen Victoria was the first in her line to carry Haemophilia and the only explanation is that she was bitten by a Werewolf because I found that in 1821…
“Smile for the camera, Paul!”
I jolt. That stupid man with the stupid plain red polo shirt takes a photo of me with the head teacher with his big stupid camera.
“You did so great!”
My mum is dabbing her eyes, as she hooked her arm into mine. We stroll down the centre of the hall, closely followed by my Dad, talking to Peter Smith’s Dad. I didn’t like Peter Smith. Peter Smith had blonde yellow hair like the sun, I didn’t like yellow. That means I don’t like pasta, cheese, lemons, sunflowers, potato, Thai curry - Mum cooks it every Friday night- yellow jelly beans, yellow starbursts, and yellow M&Ms - I have to give them to Sarah. Sweetcorn, the Yellow Pages, yellow chicks - baby chickens- yellow hair and yellow bananas. Every yellow banana needs to be destroyed. I don’t know why I do not like the colour yellow. I do not mind all the other colours. In my black folder, the colour sheet says that in the world and in different cultures, different colours mean different things. They say Red means anger or love, Green means fresh and natural, and white means pure and innocent. I don’t know why colours have meanings. They shouldn’t have meanings. They’re just colours, to make things look nice. Just because a boy picks a Red flower for a girl does not mean he loves her. The boy just likes Red. When Susan came to school with a blue lunchbox in Y3, the girls in our class called her a “Boy!”. But I don’t know why? The sky is blue. Does that mean the sky is a boy? It can’t be a boy because the sky isn’t a person.
So, my favourite colour is Black because Black can mean anything. It can be a black dog, a black night sky, a black chocolate cake (Mum made one for my graduation), my black folder, the black ground. Black is not confusing like the other colours. I do not know why I do not like Yellow. Mum says it was because when I was a baby, she dyed her hair from black to blonde at the hairdressers, and when she came home, I did not recognise her and so I screamed and cried for many days screaming
“I want my real Mummy back!”
Then a week later, we went to Asda to go food shopping, and when I saw the Bananas, I screamed and cried again and so Mum had to put the Bananas back. I just don’t like Yellow.
“Hey! Paul! You got into Cambridge? That’s fab! What are you going to study? Are you going to do Science or something? I always knew you would do Science? Or are you doing Computers? You’re good with Computers aren’t you? Sarah Whittaker says that...”
Peter likes to talk a lot. But Dad says I have to make an effort to talk to people or I wouldn’t make friends, and I needed to make friends when I go to university. So I nod and smile like people do when they’re not really listening. Peter stares at me with a funny face.
“What?” I ask.
“I said, are you moving into the halls or staying at home? It’s a long way for you to commute, but I heard your Mum and Dad might move to Cambridge?” He smiles.
“No they’re not. Dad says they don’t have enough money now. So I have to sleep at the University on my own.” Mum and Dad start waving to me from the hall entrance.
“You’re going out for dinner, your Dad says. You better hurry cos’ traffic is going to be murder out of the car park. Good luck at Cambridge, pal! You’ll do great. Don’t worry; you’ll make plenty of friends. Just don’t make friends with the snobby shits. You’re a funny lad and they’ll only take the piss out of yer.” He pats me on the back really hard.
“…Who did you murder?”
“Paul! Come, on! We need to get out of here before it gets really busy!”
Mum, Dad and I go to The Bungalows and Bears pub for tea. I have an American burger with no cheese and no onions but lots of red ketchup and salt! The burger makes my mouth turn all watery, tingly and salty so I guzzle down the biggest pint of Cola! Mum has a large Greek Caesar salad with a drink of vodka and lemonade, whilst Dad has a large steak and chips and a pint of lager.
I tried lager once, when I was eight years old. Uncle Matt held a glass up to my mouth at a family BBQ in the summer. I remember it because it was a really hot, sticky summer and I always kept my t-shirt tucked up into my armpits because I didn’t like the sweat touching me. I took a sip of the lager and as soon as it hit my mouth, I had to pant like a dog because it felt like a bomb had exploded in my mouth. I had to drink three pints of water to make the disgusting taste go away.
“How’s your burger taste, dear?” asks my mum as she squeezes a slice of lemon over her salad.
“Tastes like burgers.” I reply with my head down.
“I wish you wouldn’t write at the table, dear. It’s not good manners, I’d like to talk to your face whilst I’m talking to you, not the top of your head”.
I lift up my head. She had stopped squeezing the lemon over her salad and was now looking at me with her knife and fork in her hand.
I chew at my pen top. ”It’s my university diary. The one you told me I should start to keep me calm. I’m using the new diary Aunt Jackie bought me in Waterstones on Sunday.” I take a bite of the burger and tap the pen on my pint glass.
“Great idea, darling, but a restaurant isn’t a suitable place to start it. Besides, you haven’t started University yet. You do not go for another two weeks, why don’t you begin it then?”
"Sweetie, maybe we should start bringing up the whole, you know, girls and university thing?" says my Dad.
"There will be no Werewolves at University, Dad. Don't worry, I have already looked into it."
Issue 8 & 9
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