Whatever happened to Terry?
At secondary school there was no one from the same primary school and making friends was not easy for Ian. After school there was no one to hang about with so he would set off as soon as they were dismissed from the last lesson. A few minutes’ walk on his own, past groups of older boys and girls, took him to the bus stop and the long journey home.
One day Ian took his model railway magazine to school. He was reading it at break when he realised that one of the other new boys in his class was trying to read it over his shoulder. It was Terry. He was not very tall and sat on the other side of the class.
“Can I have a look when you’ve finished with that?”
“Sure. At lunch. See you outside.”
The next day there was an invitation to visit Terry’s home after school so, on the following Monday, there was no walk to the bus stop. Instead they walked to Terry’s home. Terry’s father, a doctor, sat with them. He was a small man, hardly taller than his son and he made Ian feel welcome. There was plenty to eat, brought in from the kitchen by a woman who was clearly not Terry’s mother. Afterwards, as Terry showed Ian around the big house, he explained that she was the housekeeper. His parents had separated because of his mother’s illness: something called schizophrenia.
In the loft there was a train set. As Terry opened the door at the top of the stairs, Ian gasped. In front of him was a model railway layout, the like of which he had never seen before, not even in the catalogues which he loved to look over whenever there was a chance. Ian was used to visiting the loft in his parents’ house where he could stand in the doorway and see everything there, even the Christmas presents which his mother thought she had hidden. Here the model tracks wound themselves around, disappearing then reappearing from parts of the loft that extended out of sight.
“Go on then; what are you waiting for?” There was a nudge as Terry pushed past him and reached for a switch on the wall.
They played with the trains for over two hours and then Terry’s father appeared in the doorway. “Do you boys realise what the time is?” They did not. “So, it’s too late for a bus home, Ian. We’d better take you back in the car.”
For the rest of that first year there were regular visits to each other’s homes and then, the next year, as Ian made other friends, there were fewer invitations From Terry. One day, when they were about thirteen, one of the girls in their class was making a fuss. She had seen Terry putting her purse back in her bag. Five pounds had been taken. Ian saw several of the boys corner Terry who turned out his pockets before they could lay hands on him. They found nothing.
Later that year there was an incident in a technology lesson. They were being tested, making joints in wood, mortice joints that required careful marking and cutting. One of Ian’s friends, Brian, came back from the teacher’s desk with a new copy of the instructions. He went to place them down on the bench where he was working with Ian then stopped. His materials, two pieces of wood that he had cut ready and started to form into a joint had gone.
“You seen my materials, Ian, mate?”
Ian shook his head. Someone could have walked past, but it was not like this class, unless… He watched as Brian walked towards Terry’s bench. As he walked past he looked carefully at the material in Terry’s hands, but said nothing. Brian spoke a few words to the teacher who went straight over to Terry and picked up his piece of work.
The teacher spoke very carefully and slowly. “Is this yours Terry?” Brian was already shaking his head and Terry’s face was turning red. He said nothing. “Just stay there, Terry.” In seconds the teacher had found another piece of work in the scrap bin and stepped back to Terry and Brian who were now glaring at one another.
“Whose is this?” The wood was dirty and damaged.
Brian was very clear about it. “Not mine.” He pointed to the other piece of work which lay undisturbed now on Terry’s bench. “That’s my work.”
For a moment Ian thought that Terry was about to lose control. His fists were clenched close beside him and his head was trembling. Again the teacher spoke. “Is that right, Terry?” Again Terry said nothing. The teacher leaned forward and Terry had to watch as the piece of work was returned to Brian.
“Bring that piece from the bin over here.” The teacher gestured to Terry who followed over to the teacher’s desk. From their bench, Ian and Brian watched the teacher speaking to Terry before sending him back to his bench clutching the wood that had been retrieved from the bin. Later, at the end of the lesson, Terry followed them out through the door. He sounded angry. “That’s my lunchtime gone, thanks to you. He’s keeping me in.”
They walked away. Ian knew that there was no point in talking to Terry not now, but he felt a little sad about the business.
For the rest of their time in school Brian and Ian remained friends. For Ian there was no return to the friendship with Terry but he remembered the kindness from those first days in the big school. There were times when Terry’s friendship would have been welcomed but Terry seemed now to get by without friends.
It was Brian and Ian who met up, not long after leaving school. Ian had moved away and wanted to catch up. Brian had news of classmates: who had got a girlfriend, who had got a job and who had joined the army. There was much good news of friends with whom they had spent five years. Then there was something that Ian wanted to know.
“What about Terry? Didn’t see much of him that last term.”
“Haven’t you heard?” Brian remembered now. “Got himself arrested at the start of this term.”
“What for?” Ian thought he knew what might be coming, but he had to ask.
“Someone went through the boy’s changing room during a games lesson. Not a penny left. He’d been seen in school and the police caught up with him somewhere near his home”
For a moment remembered Terry’s dad who had made him so welcome there. Brian continued. “No cash on him, but, do know what he said – Just went back to see my old mates. If you think I took the money, you prove it.”
“He didn’t have any mates.” It was sad but it was true. “You know he didn’t have any mates, Brian, not after the first year.
Brian was shaking his head. “Yeah, I know, but the police, they just had to let him go. End of.”
In the New Year they met again. Brian had more news of Terry.
“Broke into his mother’s house last month – you know she’d split from his dad. Left his footprints in the snow. Due in court, next week. Bloody good job.”
This seemed to satisfy Brian. Ian however could not forget tea in the big house, the enormous train set and the lifts home in the back of that comfortable car.
What is it about Terry that changes?
What does Ian remember about him?