I entered this story into the ‘Leicester Writes Short Story Prize 2017 anthology’ competition. It was long listed and published by Dahlia Publishing in June 2017. I wrote it in 2013 and was rather pleased with it!
Cinnamon Fletcher as her name implies was the sunniest of girls. She wore bright colours on the drabbest of days. She made every room come alive when she entered. Her teachers loved her. She was a pleasure to teach. She wanted to learn.
Her classmates loved her. She was not big headed in any way. She did her work well and helped out her friends.
The friend she helped the most was Efffie Freer. Efffie found it all rather hard. She struggled with her writing and mixed up her maths. She smudged her art work and confused her science. She loved PE, but sank when swimming. But Efffie was always happy, she smiled a smile so big and so bright that her teachers loved her too. She really did light up a room when she entered and everyone loved her.
Brian Jones though. He cried when he got something wrong. He wept because he could not find his pencil. He moaned when he didn’t understand something. He said that everyone hated him and cried because of this. But everyone did hate him because he was so spiteful and nasty and cruel. He seemed to have no idea of how to act with other people. He blamed everyone else for his failures and could not see that he was doing anything wrong. His mum was at her wits end. She did not know what to do with him. He was rude at home and rude to the neighbours. He kicked the cat and threw stones at birds. No one liked him. He was a very mean boy.
Efffie and Cinnamon smiled and laughed their way through life. They had so much fun and nothing seemed to upset them. The pair could not be more different than Brian. He was a sad, lonely boy.
Efffie tried steadily, did her best and no one could ever fault her. She smiled her smile and worked her hardest. She would never give up trying and that was what was liked most about her.
Cinnamon worked her magic and studied and carried on learning at a rate that made her teachers and parents so very proud of her. She had a huge future ahead of her. She was almost the perfect pupil.
Mrs Peabody, their teacher, loved them both.
She was always telling her husband how lucky she was to have such girls in her class.
But Brian Jones, she could not think what to do with him. She had tried everything she knew, moved him from table to table, friendship group to friendship group, but nothing seemed to work. She had asked his mum to take him to the doctors to see if that would help. His mum must have been afraid of what he would say because though she promised she would at every meeting she had yet to take him.
Efffie was on the swings, going higher and higher, squealing as she went. Cinnamon kept pushing her harder and harder, higher and higher.
“Coming round ours later?” she gasped.
“Can do, you finished your English?”
“No, don’t understand it…”
“Oh Cinnamon you are such a liar…” Efffie shrieked.
Next morning after Brian had been sent to the Head Teacher for the umpteenth time, Efffie said, “He just needs a friend. That’s all it is.”
“Huh, who’d want to be his friend?” Asif Yusuf asked.
“Not me, he’s horrible!” said John Taylor.
“Children!” said Mrs Peabody, though she knew they were right.
Efffie looked at Cinnamon and raised an eyebrow.
Cinnamon returned her look and raised both.
“I will,” Cinnamon said.
“Me too.” Said Efffie.
“As you wish.” Said Mrs Peabody with a smile, “If you are both sure.”
When Brian returned after break, with a flea in his ear and a tear in his eye, he found the classroom order had changed. He was no longer at the table with the three boys who hated him, but at the table that Efffie and Cinnamon brought to life.
He smudged his writing.
“Do you want to borrow my rubber?” asked Cinnamon.
“Get stuffed!” he snapped, trying to catch a glimpse of her work. “Don’t need you stupid girls!”
“As you wish,” said Cinnamon and she talked Efffie through the problem. Brian craned an ear.
“Would you like to use my ruler?” Efffie asked.
“No, I’ve got my own! Get lost!”
“As you wish,” Efffie smiled.
And so it went on for most of the morning, all help rejected with a sneer or a snarl. All returned with a smile or a grin.
At Lunch time, Efffie and Cinnamon queued in the Dining Hall.
“Ugh, mashed potato!” said Efffie.
“Yum, I love them,” said Cinnamon.
They sat down opposite Brian.
“Do you mind if we join you?”
“Seen enough of you today, get lost!”
“As you wish,” said Efffie and they moved to another table and were soon laughing and joking about mashed potato and what it reminded them of!
Efffie had her basketball. She and Cinnamon passed and caught, dribbled and shot, just having fun. Efffie passed to Brian, who just let it go past him. Efffie got it back and tried again. Brian caught it and threw it away. Cinnamon giggled and ran to get it, passing it back to Efffie who tried one more time. Brian missed it and it hit his stomach. He started crying.
“You did that on purpose, you cow!”
Efffie looked shocked, no longer smiling, Cinnamon held her back, “It’s OK Brian it was just an accident…”
“You liar, I’m telling Miss!” and off he ran to the Dinner Lady crying and holding his stomach.
The Dinner Lady of course knew that it could not be true and shooed him away to sulk on a bench near a tree.
Efffie and Cinnamon continued their game. Others joined in and soon the playground was alive with whooping and hollering and children having fun, except for one sad, miserable, lonely boy sitting by the tree.
The lovely Mrs Peabody. Firm, but fair, happy and smiling, the children knew when to stop their silliness. Except for one. She was ready to push the brightest and lift up the weakest. Every child got her equal, undivided attention. No one was left behind, all moving forward on her terms. She always knew the right thing to say to her children, to their parents or to teachers. Supportive, yet inquisitive. Mrs Peabody always wanted to learn more herself even after thirty years of teaching. Mrs Peabody was worried about Brian.
“What can I do with him?” she asked her husband.
“Slap him,” he joked.
She frowned, “He just doesn’t care, he doesn’t listen, he just sulks. His mother finds him impossible at home.”
“Still waiting for an appointment.”
“He does need help, but who best to help him if not you?”
“Well Cinnamon and Efffie are trying…”
Efffie was on the swings, going higher and higher, School would start soon, but she loved to feel as if she was flying through the air, floating in the clouds. She squealed with pleasure as Cinnamon pushed her faster and faster, higher and higher.
It was a gorgeous day and the best of lessons. Mrs Peabody was very happy, everyone was learning and improving. A steady hum filled the room like buzzing bees as children asked questions, gave answers, discovered new things and recorded their results. Heads were down, pens were scraping, minds continually engaged, interest gripped except on just one part of just one table. Brian Jones: he could not work, he dropped his pen, he lost his rubber, he mislaid his ruler. His crayons were at home, his calculator in his coat in the cloakroom. His mind was somewhere else.
“Take my pen,” Efffie smiled.
“Not using a girls!” he snarled.
“As you wish.”
“Brian, perhaps…” Cinnamon started.
He spat out, “Don’t need your help!”
“As you wish,” she replied, her face happy to have offered help.
“What an obnoxious boy…” said the Teaching Assistant, Mrs Elphick.
“But why? Why is he so spiteful? His mum is so nice. I know Dads not at home…”
“Dad left Mum?”
“Yes, last year…” Mrs Peabody replied.
They were tidying up after the lesson. Everything in its place, a place for everything. Except for Brian, he had no place and sat and sulked, not helping, not wanting to be part of anything. All sat down, silent, eyes on Mrs Peabody. Silence.
Brian kicked Cinnamon under the table. She said nothing. He kicked her again.
“Brian! “ She scolded.
“What? Done nothing.”
“As you wish Brian, but be it on your own head. You can’t go on behaving like this.”
“Brian, we will be your friends, but you will have to change.”
“Don’t want friends.”
”We all need friends.”
“As you wish,” said Efffie.
Games lesson, a boy alone. No one wanted him in their team. That was no surprise. He stood swishing his hockey stick at fresh air as the class busied themselves.
Efffie smiled her smile, “Come with us Brian.”
“No, go on my own.”
“That’s silly,” said Cinnamon, “just come with us.”
Reluctantly he joined them and dribbled the ball around the cones and hit it towards Cinnamon. She dribbled back and tried to hit it back to Efffie. She missed it and laughed. Cinnamon showed Efffie how to hold the stick properly. Brian watched and changed his grip. They dribbled and pushed the ball, dribbled and struck the ball hard. Brian smiled as he scored a goal.
Efffie was swinging lazily, Cinnamon was playing football with some other friends. A shadow crept over Efffie. Stephen Ferris appeared, a large boy who had left the School a year before. An unpleasant type who no one had ever liked. He was a nasty bully, but Efffie smiled her smile.
“Get off, my turn…”
“In a bit, I’ve only just got here,” Efffie said bravely.
“Now!” He pushed her, she went flying.
“Hey! Don’t do that!” a voice called out.
“What’s it got to do with you?”
“She’s my friend, it was her turn.”
“No, you can’t do that it’s not fair.”
It was Brian, he was helping Efffie up. All the children were watching.
“Get off and let her back on.”
“Brian stood in front of the swing, it could not move without hitting him. The bully pushed back and swung forward, both feet hitting Brian. He stayed where he was. Brian winced, but stayed there. The bully swung again. It must have hurt, but Brian again stayed still. He just stared at Stephen.
Stephen looked at him, then at Efffie, then at the other children who were coming over.
“Get lost you freak.” He said and stalked off.
“Thank you Brian,” said Efffie.
Brian shrugged and walked away.
Cinnamon ran after Brian. “Thank you Brian, that was very brave of you.”
“Nothing,” he muttered.
“Because he was wrong, because she’s my friend. You both are.”
“As you wish Brian.” She smiled.