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It Only Takes Seconds

It Only Takes Seconds

Wesley adored his English teacher, who also happened to be his Form teacher. Having just turned nine, the young boy was constantly awash in turbulent emotions, and Ms Alexander was a steady island in a fickle, furious ocean.

He was blind to her shrivelled left arm and claw-like hand; ignored her often lopsided brown bush of a wig that to all intents and purposes had a mind of its own. He was even entirely ignorant to the truth that Ms Alexander was nearly as blind as a mole. All Wesley saw, reacted to and thrived on was her kind nature that shone from her in glorious waves, embracing the awkward lad like a comfortable blanket on a wintry day.

And Wesley had many, many wintry days, being a social misfit and reticent boy. The only time of any week day when the painfully shy lad felt any sense of joy or confidence was when he was being taught by the object of his adoration.

It therefore came as both an unpleasant shock and rude awakening when Wesley committed an act so out of his normal nature that he would forevermore wish he could retrace his steps and erase that moment from existence. Only with adult hindsight, years later, would the nine-year-old acknowledge that his moment of being such an utter unforgivable cad had stemmed from the spectre of bullying.

Stanley shoved Wesley straight into the toilet wall, laughing at the comical manner in which the geek spun his arms in an attempt to maintain his balance.

“You’re going down, chump!” Stanley barked-laughed as Wesley did exactly that, falling like a heavy bag of wet laundry to the ground. Swiftly, not allowing Wesley a second to gather his uncooperative limbs under control, Stanley loomed over the boy. His dark, mean eyes bore straight into Wesley’s pale green ones, daring the weaker boy to say something.

“Go on. Don’t you wanna swear at me? Maybe punch me in the nuts?” Stanley teased the still-seated lad. Wesley dropped his gaze, focused on the texture of the gravel biting into the palms of his hands. He noticed that he had scraped his left knee; twin trickles of pinkish blood trailed down his calf.

“Make him cry, Stanley,” Keenan urged, the eleven-year-old lackey clearly enjoying Wesley’s humiliation.

“Slap him up his stupid head, Stanley!” shouted Luke, another of Stanley’s toadies. Not waiting for Stanley to do so, Luke smacked Wesley hard against the side of his head, making the boy rock slightly. Wesley bit his lip and refused to say anything.

“Why are you so pathetic? A slug has more backbone than you! Look at you: all shrivelled up in a small ball, not even trying to fight us,” Stanley remarked angrily, a sudden desire for violence shaking his stocky frame. Abruptly, he kicked sand in Wesley’s face, but the boy had been expecting it and averted his face, preventing any of the soft soil from reaching his eyes.

“I bet you have wet dreams about Ms Alexander, don’t you?” Stanley sneered, his dirty mind veering unerringly to the topic. He hated how Ms Alexander always treated Wesley with such exquisite kindness and tenderness. He craved that same attention, but she seemed to know what black heart the young man possessed.

“Isn’t!” Wesley unexpectedly declared. His eyes were large saucers, revealing his own shock at his audacity to speak back to Stanley.

Before anybody could react, Wesley added, “Why would I love her with her floor mop for hair and that crippled hand? She’d be more useful if she walked on her head instead of her feet!” Wesley snarled, his sudden bravado scaring him silly.

Wesley had risen to his feet in ire; the other boys skittishly backed off, never having seen Wesley this infuriated. Without waiting for a response, the red-faced, ball-fisted lad dashed off to the main playground, his need to use the toilet having evaporated like his dignity. The taunting laughter of the bullies followed him like an inescapable wraith.

Ms Alexander sat behind her desk, facing a solemn and subdued Wesley seated in front of her. She had asked him to stay after class at the end of the day, as she had said, “I need to have a chat with you, young man.” Wesley dreaded the conversation, and her first words confirmed his worst suspicions.

“I would be more useful if I walk on my head instead of on my feet, Wesley? I believe that’s what you told Stanley and his friends today. It breaks my heart that you would betray my trust in such a manner when I’ve always treated you and everyone else with respect. I can’t even bring myself to repeat the other things you apparently said about me,” she added before reaching for a Kleenex.

Wesley’s head snapped up in surprise; he had said nothing else. He knew it would be useless to deny anything though.

“I’m very sorry, Miss. I swear I didn’t mean that. I just wanted to get away from Stanley and his buddies because they bully me all the time,” he admitted.

“So instead of facing them, you chose to mock rather than informing me about their bullying,” Ms Alexander stated weepily.

Hearing the tremor in her voice shattered Wesley’s young heart. He fervently wished he could go back to that awful moment of insanity and undo it. Tears pooled in his eyes as he said, “Sorry, Miss. I swear I didn’t mean a word of what I said to them.”

“Wesley, we can never recall words we’ve already spoken out loud. This is why it’s wise to speak sweet rather than bitter words, so that if ever you need to eat your words, at least they won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth,” Ms Alexander stated softly. With a nod of her head, she indicated that Wesley was dismissed.

It was with dismay that Wesley learned the next morning that Ms Alexander had taken an immediate transfer to another school.


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