‘Faith, Hope and Love’ Part 25

Later that evening I called James on his mobile, making sure the living-room door was closed so there was no chance of Elaine overhearing our conversation.

“James?” I queried quietly, “Hello? It’s not too late to call, is it? Can I ask a favour?”

“Of course, Marian, what’s up?”

“It’s just Elaine. That is –” I felt my throat closing over the confession that Elaine was being bullied at school. I forced the words out, “I just discovered that Elaine is having problems, being teased at school. Could you…help, maybe?”

“Like, come up, and hang around the school gates for a few days, you mean?  I’m sure I could. I’ll bring some work with me.”

I felt such relief and gratitude at not having to spell it out. “Yes, that is what I sort of had in mind, actually. Do you think…?”

“I’ve only got one more lecture this week, tomorrow afternoon at two, so now would be a good time. I’ll get the bus up afterwards, okay?”

“Oh, that would be so –” lovely, marvellous, kind I started to say, when James interrupted, “The least I can do. See you soon,” and hung up. I held the receiver for a long time, listening to the silence and wiping away tears.

James called again the next day to say he was a bit delayed and would be catching the five-fifteen bus, so I went to meet him when it got in at around seven. He looked tired, but when he saw me his face lit up. He hugged me without a trace of self-consciousness.

“So, what time does Elaine get out of school?”

“Well, most days about four. She used to take her time, but now she rushes home.” I tried not to think about what that meant, and to focus on what we could do to help her.

“I could walk to school with her, why not?”

“I’m sure she’d love that.”

Elaine was just setting the table for supper when we arrived home. Seeing James, her smile shone, and she immediately added another place for him. “What are you doing here?” she grinned.

“I just fancied a change, that’s all”

“Yeah, sure, and I’m Zoella…” Elaine was cheerfully dismissive and relaxed, more like her old self.

“Okay, well, I came to see you. Came to act the part of the boyfriend for a few days, show those kids at school a thing or two.”

“Muuumm!” she wailed, meaning, how could you tell him… but James winked conspiratorially and chatted amiably to lighten the mood, then went up to his room: which had become ‘His room’ and already, it  felt as if he belonged.

Bright and early the next morning, I waved goodbye to Elaine and Jamie as they set off for school, Jamie fitting easily into his role of handsome sidekick. With a casual wave, he loped after Elaine as she took the lead, then slowed to allow him to take her arm. I could see them joking together as they rounded the corner of the street.

***

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