‘But if you don't do it, you know you will regret it for the rest of your life.’
I told myself that for the first time three years ago; the first time I saw two boys getting beaten up at my old school in the playground. They were stupid enough to get caught doing something at school that two boys shouldn’t have been doing and they got what they got. It sickened me; I knew all about gays and their ways, my dad had raised me right.
I’d been expelled from my last school for beating up five boys a year younger than me. Actually, let’s tell the truth. I’d put three of them in the hospital, and they have only just recovered enough to fully return to school. I’m proud of what I did. I’m glad I did it and have no feelings of sympathy for them and their kind, or remorse for my actions; they got exactly what was coming to them. The story of what happened passed from school to school to school like a brushfire, and soon nearly every schoolkid knew what had happened.
I walked into the boy’s toilet with my two henchmen – we were skipping the last class of the day and wanted a smoke. The sight we walked in on shocked us - two boys were kissing each other by the urinal. Judging by their size and the uniform they were wearing (our school has one crest for kids in years 7-9 and a different crest for years 10-11) , I would assume they were both in year seven, year eight at the most – that would make them eleven or twelve years old.
“Well, well, well. What do we have here?” said Mike.
“Looks like a couple fags asking for a beating,” said James, pounding his fist into his palm emphasizing his point.
I turned to my two henchmen and grinned. “You two, outside. Guard the door and don’t let anyone in.” Mike and James laughed as they walked out.
The two boys looked at me and they were absolutely petrified. I had seen fear in people’s eyes before, but the fear reflected in the wide eyes of these two small boys surprised even me. They were beyond scared as to what this fifteen year old was going to do to them.
Everyone in school knows me. I’m the bully; I’m the person who people deliberately cross the road to avoid; I’m the troll under the bridge; I’m the thing that demons have nightmares about; I’m big, bad Toby Carlin. I’ve been in this school for six months, and everyone knows me, and everyone here goes in fear of my name.
As I walked closer to the two smaller boys I felt like Gulliver in the land of Lilliput. Their eyes widened and their fear deepened; if that was even possible.
“Come here.” The two boys looked at each other. “I said ‘come here’!”
They slowly walked towards me. I noticed they suddenly held hands, trying to give each other the strength to survive this. James and Mike poked their heads in at this point wondering why there were no screams of pain, wondering what was taking me so long.
“Please don’t hurt us,” the smaller of the two whispered. “Please don’t hurt us. We’ll do anything you say, but please don’t hurt us.”
I knew the door had opened as the school sounds began to filter into the toilets, and I turned around. “I said wait outside. Unless you two want what these fags are gonna get.”
James and Mike closed the door again, smiling. I heard one of them saying, “He’s a genius. Why just beat the fags up, when you can mess with their heads first.”
Once the two boys were close enough to me, I knelt down and wrapped my arms around them.
“You two need to be careful doing things like that, especially in school,” I whispered. “Next time it might not be me who catches you; next time you really might get beaten up, or worse.”
I felt a wetness on my neck and I realised the two boys were crying. Their bodies went limp as the tension flooded out of them. I held the two boys tighter and allowed a tear of my own to fall. In that hug, I thought back to three years ago when I saw those two boys getting beaten up, and I’d promised myself that I would do whatever was necessary to protect any gay children in my school; as I said, my dad had raised me right.
“I’m sorry I scared you so badly, but I needed to keep up appearances. If Mike and James realised that I wasn’t going to beat you up, they’d have done it themselves. Now I need you to cry out as though I’m hurting you.”
The larger of the two looked at me with a quizzical look on his face, but yelled out as I’d requested. Then I held my hand over his mouth and told him to yell again. Even through the door, James and Mike could hear his muffled cries.
“I wonder what he’s doing to them,” Mike asked.
“Judging by the sounds of it, he’s half killing them.”
“No less than their sort deserve.”
At that point Miss Timpkins, one of the school secretaries, turned around the corner.
“Just what are you two boys doing hanging around instead of being in class?”
I heard her through the door, but not the rest of the conversation as they were talking too quietly.
“Nobody can know what I did for you today, you understand?” Both boys nodded, and whispered their thanks.
A few moments later Miss Timpkins opened the door. She walked in to find two boys who were barely five foot with very red puffy eyes from where they had been crying, and of course, she found me. Putting two and two together, and quite naturally coming up with four, she told the two younger boys to go to her office so the other secretary call their parents to come and collect them. She dragged me, Mike, and James to the headmaster’s office, told him what had happened, but only left my two cronies there. She pulled me with her into a nearby empty classroom.
“Just what the hell is your problem?” she yelled at me. “You were kicked out of your last school for putting three boys in the hospital, and now you carry on that shit here? Is there something seriously wrong with you?”
I looked at her in surprise. She was five inches shorter than me, probably forty pounds lighter than me, and yet she was the first person to ever talk to me like that. Even when teachers have had to discipline me before, they were all too scared of me to be in the room alone with me. Now here was this secretary, showing no fear at all.
“I didn’t do nothing to those two kids.”
“So you’re telling me that they just happened to be in the boy’s toilet with you, and the pair of them had been crying for no reason?”
I said to her, “Believe what you like. Just ask the two kids what happened, and they’ll tell you I didn’t touch ’em.”
“Of course they’ll say that; they’re scared of you. Fortunately, since I caught you, it doesn’t matter what they say. On my evidence alone, the headmaster will suspend you at least, expel you at best.
“Why are you so violent Toby? I know boys get into fights, Christ I’m not stupid; I’ve patched up enough bloody noses in this school over the years. But you! You break bones! You put kids in the hospital! You really don’t care about anyone or anything do you? I heard what happened in your last school. Those boys did nothing to you. You attacked them after school for no reason at all.”
“They got what they damn well deserved,” I spat.
“Nobody deserves that.”
“Ask Colin Patrickson if they deserved what they got!” I said. This was the closest I had ever come to actually saying why I turned so savagely violent that day.
“And just what does my nephew have to do with it?”
“Colin Patrickson is my nephew. Are you saying those boys you beat up had something to do with what happened to Colin?”
I slowly nodded my head. “They were the ones who beat him up,” I whispered. A silent tear rolled down my cheek, and I absentmindedly brushed it away.
“Do you know what happened? You have to tell me.”
Miss Timpkins grabbed me by the shoulders and started to shake me. “You have to tell me.”
“I can’t. Please, don’t ask me.”
“You have to tell me! He spent three weeks in the hospital and lost his spleen in that assault! He’s had three near fatal infections as a direct result of having no spleen, so you will tell me!” Her voice becoming louder and angrier at my refusal to answer her.
“I can’t, and I won’t.” I started crying.
“You will tell me, or I swear to God I’ll drag it out of you,” she snarled.
“I told you, I can’t. I beg you, stop asking me.” I choked the last few words out as tears streamed down my face. I ran out of the classroom, down the hall, leapt the stairs two at a time and escaped out the front door.
After I had calmed down I went to Colin’s house. I rang on the doorbell.
“Toby,” he said smiling.
I walked into his house, closed the door and pulled him close to me. I kissed him like it was our first kiss and we melted into each other.
“Colin, we have a problem. Your aunt knows that I attacked those boys because of you. She doesn’t know the details of why, but she knows.”
Colin looked at me. “How did she find out? How do you even know her?”
“She’s the secretary in my school. Why didn’t you warn me?”
“I had no idea what school she was working in. So, that explains how you know her, but it doesn’t tell me how she found out.”
I told Colin the whole story from when I walked into the toilet, right up to when I ran out on his aunt. Just as I finished the story, his doorbell rang again.
“Aunt Susan.” Colin was shocked to see his aunt at the door; but not as shocked as she was to see me in her nephew’s house.
“Well Master Carlin, this surely is a pleasure. Now that we’re no longer on school grounds and I’m no longer tied up by regulations, we are going to talk. And you are going to tell me everything even if I have to beat it out of you.”
“I told you all ready, I can’t, and I won’t.”
“It’s OK,” Colin said looking at me; but I could see he was trembling.
“Are you sure?” I asked. He merely nodded.
“Miss Timpkins,” I started, took a deep breath and added, “those boys beat Colin up because they found out he was gay.”
She looked over to Colin, trying to verify this. He nodded, with a tear in his eye.
“It doesn’t matter to me, Colin. I still love you. I don’t care if you’re straight, gay or whatever. I love you for who you are, not for what you are. Though Toby I don’t really see what business it is of yours? You’re no different than those boys, and you’ve done far worse to people!”
“Miss Timpkins, I’m nothing like those boys! What they did to my boyfriend was wrong, and I saw that they paid for it!” My voice started to crack and I was on the verge of crying again.
“Yes. Colin and I have been together since we were twelve.” Colin placed his hand in mine, and gave me one of those smiles that show all of his pearly-white teeth. “I allowed myself to earn a reputation, to be feared, to help me protect myself. It was the perfect mask; who would ever think a bully, especially a bully feared by the entire school, was gay. And if nobody figured I was gay, then they wouldn’t figure that Colin was gay either, no matter how much time we spent together. I allowed this reputation of mine to happen to protect him as much as to protect me. If you ask around at my old school, you’ll find all that there ever were were accusations, that I never once actually bullied anyone. The only time I’ve ever actually done what I’ve been accused of, is what I did to those boys who attacked my Colin.”
“You still haven’t convinced me. I think that yes, you and Colin are together, and maybe, just maybe, perhaps, you’re not quite the thug you portray yourself as. But I still think there is far more to you attacking those boys; the attack on Colin happened three months prior to what you did. Something else must have happened to make you react like that.”
“Think back, Aunt Susan,” Colin said morosely. “What happened the day before Toby did what he did?”
Susan Timpkins thought back, and let out a deep sad sigh. “We found out that you contracted measles. You were hospitalised, but you were treated and didn’t suffer with any complications. ”
“I didn’t know I’d survive the infection at the time! Neither did you, the doctors, nor did mum and dad, and neither did Toby.”
“When I thought Colin was going to die because of what those animals did, I saw red and lost control. I decided I wanted to inflict as much pain and suffering as humanly possible on the people who had hurt my Colin. The problem was that once I’d started hitting them I couldn’t stop.” Colin pulled me into a tight embrace, and I hugged him back. “I love Colin with all my heart and I'd do anything for him. Miss Timpkins, now that you know what nobody else knows, now that you know the truth about me and the truth about Colin, are you going to tell anyone or can we trust you to keep this to yourself?”
Opening line: “But if you don't do it, you know you will regret it for the rest of your life.”