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|“What the fuck are you doing man? Do you like getting people in trouble or what?”, Stuart shouted in my face, pushing me against the wall. “Come on, get out of here!”.
I couldn’t reply. I wanted to say something about how he was the one who was getting people in trouble, but I just couldn’t. I just ran off.
I had no clue where I was going. I’m sure I would have recognized these streets in daylight, but it didn’t matter anyway. I had to run. Everything seemed a mess. I’d think and reason later. Now I had to run.
I woke up from a drop that fell into my ear. Confused and drowsy, I shook my head. Rain? After such a lovely summer’s day?
“Oi! You there! What are you doing down there?”
I looked up, and saw a woman with her head out of the window.
“Can’t you pass out on somebody else’s porch?”, she yelled. As if that would make a difference. Where was I, anyway? My whole body was sore. I must have slept in an awkward position. There was a graze on my left wrist. I couldn’t remember where I got that from. The last thing I remembered from the last night was... Oh yeah, I tried to find a place to sleep. I must have tripped in my search.
“Piss off or I’ll charge you rent!”, the woman screeched, now from right behind me. I couldn’t help but grin at such a stupid remark.
“Sorry... I was really tired last night and...”
“Yeah, yeah, I know the story. You kids get drunk all the fucking time these days.”
I thought of protesting, but decided to keep her story in tact. I apologised and left the grey and depressing estate. No wonder she wasn’t very cheerful.
Now I really knew what pain was. I could still feel the bruises my dad gave me, and now I had a graze and a headache. And a problem. Well, several problems, actually.
I found my bike where I left it. That was only four hours ago. Unbelievable! I saw somebody had stolen my lights. That wasn’t my biggest worry now, though. What had happened to Stuart? Would he ever want to see me again? How was my father?
“Oh son! What happened to ye, poor kid?”
I looked to my left and saw a man staggering towards me. He looked scuffy with his messy hair and soiled clothes. He must’ve slept rough for a couple of nights. Probably a tramp.
“Look at you! What have they done to you?”, he uttered with the tongue of a drunk man, while touching my cheeks with his dirty hands. He was almost in tears.
“Keep your hands off me!”
“Oh son...”, he said, stumbling back.
He made me realise how much my body hurt.
“Ronnie, leave the kid alone!”, a passer-by yelled from across the street. I was dizzy. My head was cold. Maybe it was best to rest a little... At home.
Stupid climate. The clouds broke to throw their drops all over me. Like there’s nothing beside rain. Despite the nice temperature, I shivered.
As soon as I got home – and believe me, it wasn’t easy with my body in this state – I flung my clothes in a corner, and dove under my duvet to get lost in a sound, deep sleep. Normally I would have never be able to sleep in the morning. But this wasn’t a normal period in my life anyway.
Again it was the telephone on the landing that woke me up. I wanted to let it ring, but my curiosity prevailed. “Cain Lewis?”
“Hey, it’s Stuart”, he said in a low voice, followed by a sigh. “Sorry about that, but you really shouldn’t have. ‘Cause, I mean, it’s dangerous for you, and you scared me like hell, you know”.
In any other situation I would have laughed at his attempt to spit all he wanted to say out in less than five seconds. He was right though, I was wrong.
“And why weren’t you at school today? Was it because you wanted to avoid me?”
“It’s not Saturday yet?”
“Yeah, nice attempt, but even I don’t fall for such a stupid excuse.”, he replied.
I lost my temper. “Look, I ran off last night, didn’t know where I was, fell asleep on a porch, got yelled at by the owner, caressed by a drunk tramp, and I’m fucking covered in bruises!”
“I know your life is not a bed of roses either, but... can we stay calm?”, he said calmly, while I had expected him to return a canonnade of swearing.
“Sorry”, I sighed.
“So, how did you find me? Did you follow me all night?”
“Look, Stu, I hate phone calls. Can we talk in person?”
“Alright, I’ll come over.”
He didn’t wait for a confirmation, and about five minutes later the door bell rang. I told him everything, and we occasionally laughed about my capers.
“So tell me, how was your night?”, I asked, still with a grin on my face. Stuart looked down, and all the happiness seemed to disappear from his face. It couldn’t be that bad?
“I told you about those people who make me do things. Well, it wasn’t just shoplifting. Lately, they want me to brake into houses too.”
“...And you’re quite skilled at it, I saw.”, I replied bitterly.
“Thanks, you know how to cheer somebody up”, he said, sarcastically.
It appeared that that gang just used Stuart if they needed anything. Yesterday they needed money, so he went into the house of someone his mother knew, because he knew his mother and her acquaintance would always go to their Spinning workout on Thursdays. Afterwards they’d go to a friends house to play card games. Yes, he felt incredibly guilty, but it was such a last minute decision, he had no chance to find another house. Ofcourse I wondered why he couldn’t just run away from it. He told me it was because then they’d threaten to do something to his little sister (whom he loved). Once, they had taken her to an abandoned building and phoned Stuart to come over, just to show they were serious. He told me I was the only one I knew about it now. He couldn’t tell his father, because then he’d want to move to another town. That would ruin his career. He couldn’t tell the police either. They were with too many; they could still harm his sister (or himself) before they were all caught.
“What if you get caught?” I asked.
“Then I have a big problem, just like every person who gets caught doing these things. I can only do my best, so I won’t get caught”, he sighed. “So, still want to grow stronger?”.
“Haha, ofcourse I do!”
“Shall we go to the gym then? I mean, if you feel like it... Does it all hurt much?”
“I’m alright”, I lied. “They’ll probably think I got beaten up at school and that I want to grow stronger to revenge myself on them.”
“That’s close enough to the truth”, Stu said.
“Hey, I’m not beating up my dad, you know!”
“Pretty much deserves it, though”, he mumbled. “I can’t believe you protect him like you do. Trying to blame yourself for it. There’s always more than one person to blame.”
“You two surely aren’t eightteen yet, are you?”, the bright-eyed woman behind the bar in the gym asked.
“Does that mean we can’t...”
“Ofcourse you can become a member! It’s just that you’ll need a slightly different training program, because your body is still growing. Oh, and we need your parents’ permission”, she continued with a cheerful voice. Stu and I looked eachother in the eyes, knowing that I wouldn’t have to ask my dad to sign for this to know his answer.
“Here, these are the forms. One for each of you, and these are for your parents. The costs are ten pounds a month, another ten to subscribe. That includes a locker”, she told us like a real sales-woman. “You can take a look at our facilities if you wish. Oh, but please take off your shoes.”
Not bad. Not that I had ever seen a gym before. Well, in some American movies, but I didn’t expect it to compare to those. Still, it came close. A fat man trying to row the pounds off, a middle-aged lady toning her legs, a muscular man pushing a bar up, ...
My eyes rested on that man. It was much better than on television. Very impressive. Up and down, breathing in, breathing out, sweating, pushing on...
“Oi, it’s not polite to stare”, Stu whispered laughingly. “So, is that your goal? Better sign that form right away! Lots of work to do for you. Great huh, how you can transform your body like that.”
“Let’s go to my house. Maybe we can find a letter with my dads signature on it”, I proposed.
“Great, can’t wait to start. I feel the energy already.”
“Could you give me some? I feel pretty jaded.”
“So, do you kids like it here?”, a man behind us spoke. When I turned my head, I froze in awe. My ‘goal’, as Stuart called it, stood behind us. The inevitable ‘teenage boy in awe’-thing happened and the glands in my armpits were overproductive, despite the deodorant... no, that’s right, I forgot about the deodorant today. Luckily Stu could speak.
“Yeah!” He said, with great enthusiasm. “Err... I mean, I can’t wait to start myself.”
“Need keys?”, I mumbled. It was a stupid habit of mine. I couldn’t help but make a cheesy comment if someone got his tongue tangled in his words. Not even in this situation. Luckily they both ignored it.
“I can still remember standing here, four years ago, just like you two, wishing to be big. I used to be a lanky kid, you know. Takes a lot of time and effort to get some result, though”, the big man said. Only four years? Amazing...
“Unless you take short-cuts, ofcourse. But even then it takes effort”. He was referring to steroids. “If you two need any advice or help, don’t hesitate to ask me! I know I would have loved it as a rookie. I’m usually around from four to half past five.”
“Thanks! We still have to become members, though”, Stuart said, still exited.
“See you around! Oh, and my name is Tim.”
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