You don’t believe in magic, do you?  In spells, or wishes or dreams that come true, nor did I once.

Just a normal Monday morning. 
“Morning…..sucker,” one of the boys whispered as he passed me on his way to the back of the school bus. The boy behind him grabbed my school bag and continued to the back dropping the contents as he went. The two made themselves comfortable on the back seat, giggling and whispering about something as they waited for re-enforcements to join them.  The contents of my bag rolled around on the dusty floor.  Other children looked on, their feet quickly dodged any object that rolled towards them, no one was ever brave enough to help. I scrabbled on my hands and knees trying to retrieve my belongings as the bus twisted and rocked its way along the country roads.
At the next stop ‘Billy the Brave’ or Bully Bullshit as I preferred to think of him got on the bus, with the rest of his gang and the full assault would start.
Billy was tall for a twelve year old, but other than that I always thought he was very average, greasy brown hair, spots, and long lanky limbs, which always made his clothes look too small.  He ignored me and headed towards his friends.
“Billy, Billy, Sut’s got fags,” the first boy couldn’t wait to tell.
“Well done Sut. Give them here, we’ll have them at first break, yeah?”
Sut grinned, like a puppy eager to please his owner, “Yeah, right Billy”
“Get the boy then Dodge,” Billy instructed.
Dodge came to get me, and looked with amusement, “Come on then, dickhead.  You know the score.”  I quickly got up and headed to the back, not giving him a chance to drag me.
“Done your homework like a good boy, have you?” Billy asked sarcastically.
I willingly handed over my homework, knowing that I had a copy in my back pocket.  He looked at the algebra and I knew he didn’t have a clue what was on the page, they were probably still doing their two times tables in his Math’s group. “You want it back?”
“Yes please,” I mumbled.
He slowly tore it up and handed it back, everyone laughed and I wondered if they actually thought this was still funny or if they just laughed because they were scared not to.
“Come on, you know what’s next,” Billy snapped.
I handed my lunch money over, and turned to head back to my seat.
“Where you going?  I haven’t said you can go.  Sit." I sat, "We’ve got fags, want one?” Billy asked.
I wondered nervously why he would offer me one. “No.”  I really hoped they weren’t going to make me smoke one.
“Come on wussy, I’ll light it for you,” and he did. 
I’d never had a cigarette and I didn’t fancy it either, I started to feel scared, the same feeling I had had when the bullying had started months ago.  Now I was used to the homework and lunch money thing, but this was new and I was unsure of what would happen next.  I turned away from them and looked towards the front of the bus, willing the journey to end.  Behind me the boys were strangely quiet, but I daren’t look round.  I felt sick.  Trying hard to focus on the road ahead, I tried to blank them from my mind.  My concentration was broken by a burning smell, not of cigarettes but of something actually burning.  I carried on staring ahead, until there was an outburst of laughter, I looked down to see that the burning smell had been my blazer.  I quickly brushed my hand across it as if it were dust I could brush away, but instead there was a big hole.  I felt tears in my eyes, my throat was tight and looked again to the front of the bus without a word.  I didn’t want them to see me crying. The bus continued.
“Arrrrgggg!”  I jumped round quickly as they all laughed hysterically, Billy still managing to hold the cigarette as he rolled around with laughter.
“Sorry,” he managed, “sorry did I get you?
I held the back of my neck, feeling the sharp sting as though the cigarette were still on my skin.  I got up to move back to the front, tears now flowing freely. Why, why?  What had I ever done to them?
“Get his hand,” Billy instructed.
Sut grabbed me, and I fell back onto the seat, he held my hand down while Billy slowly pushed and twisted the cigarette into my skin.
“Arrrrgggg!” I cried again, this time louder and more aggressively.  “That hurts, stop it, that hurts!”  The bus driver looked in his mirror.
“You boys at the back, stop larking around.”
“Yes baby stop making so much noise, before you get us all in trouble,” Billy mocked.  At that point we reached the school and the boys finally left me.  The bus was still and silent, I lay in a crumpled mess.  I looked at the burn on my hand, the red weeping skin pulsed as through still being burnt and stung like hell.  At that moment all I could hope for was that the driver might brush me up and throw me away with the rest of the rubbish.  I didn’t want to be here.  I wanted to die! I pushed my face into the seat and sobbed as loudly as I could. Please just take me away.
         I don’t remember getting off bus, and I don’t remember the long walk home.  But that must be what happened.  All I remember is hanging my head and dragging one foot in front of the other, like a wounded animal returning to its den to die.          

When I got home, I collapsed into my mother’s arms, it was time to tell her my secret. As I did so, she held me close and started to take my sobs, until finally she had taken all my pain and despair, leaving me weak and empty.
“This is going to stop Henry!” she finally managed to say between the sobs she had taken from me.  She knelt down in front of me, “stand tall, and stick up for yourself.”
“But I tried, everyday I try,” I said weakly.
She reached into her pocket, “I’ve got something for you, it’s very special.”
“What is it?”
She held out her hand, and showed me the coin.
“It’s magic,” she whispered.
“No it’s not!” I laughed through my tears.
“Henry,” and I knew by the way that she looked deep into my eyes that she was telling me the truth, “I swear to you, it is a magic coin.”  She put it in my hand and wrapped my fingers around it, I could feel the heat, the magic coming from it.  She held me close again, tight, and as she did I could feel the heat from the coin inside me.

As I sat on the bus the next day with the coin in my pocket, I felt different – brave.  When the boys joined the bus I sat up tall.
“Watcha…………Gayboy,” Billy remarked as he headed for ‘their’ seat at the back of the bus.
I reached into my pocket and felt the coin; I turned to look at the boys.  Today I didn’t wait for them to tell me to come to the back of the bus.  I followed close behind, today I was different, I was taller, my footsteps were harder, I pounded my way, I was powerful and strong by the time I reached them.  I looked down on these pathetic boys; I was in charge.  I stepped close to Billy, and cast a shadow over the group, my hand reached for the collar of his shirt, I pulled it tightly to bring him to my eye level, my eyes pierced into his soul.  Now he was scared. “What did you call me?”  I demanded.
“Ggggay gayboy,” he whispered
My hand moved to his throat, and with a strength that came from the coin, I tightened my hand around his throat, “Can’t hear you.”
“Nnnnothing,s…..sorry”  his face was red, and my grip tightened, I wondered if I could let go.  Around me was silent.           
“Can’t hear you, louder”
“Can’t bbbreathe,” he gasped           
This was good.  My grip tightened again
“Can’t hear you!”
His eyes were full ,and his lips had started to turn blue, I think I might kill him I thought calmly
“LOUDER!”
“…ssssorry……….SORRY.”
“You little shhhit,” I threw him back onto ‘his’ seat, his trousers were wet, he backed away like a nervous animal as he struggled for breath, holding his neck but not managing to hide the redness my grip had left.  His terrified bloodshot eyes pleaded with me – no more. 
I smiled.

Gill Campbell



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