The summer that I turned eleven and got my first tea set, an unruly child named Alfred moved in next door. Up until then, the village that I lived in with my parents had been a peaceful community. Sometimes too peaceful for my dad's liking. 'Places like these turn boys into poofters,' he normally said, and afterwards he would eye me with such suspicion that made my stomach twist and turn in anxiety. At that time I wasn't sure what it meant to be a poofter or a bum boy as he would also call it. But I knew it was something bad, and that he thought of me as such when I wrote 'unicorn-stuff' on top of my wish list.
Alfred wasn't a poofter, and my dad liked him from day one. He was messy, always covered in mud or apple-juice, avoided taking a bath if he could, ate worms just to be brave and owned several toy-guns - something that I found not only to be a disturbing but also cruel interest.
I didn't like Alfred from day one, or day two or three or four. I hated him from the second out gazes met. He came from one of the big cities overseas, and he had no idea of how to behave in a smaller, English village. The pantechnicon had hardly settled in their driveway before he jumped out of it, holding the American flag in one hand and a water gun in the other, skipped across the hedge separating our gardens and planted the flag in one of my sneakers. As he straightened up, he pointed the gun at my forehead and grinned,
"This is now American property!" I remember being shocked, falling to my butt while flailing my arms around in the air, trying to make sense of the situation. He just laughed and pointed to gun to his own mouth. "Relax, dude! It's just water!" He pulled the trigger and shot a stream of water into his mouth. Some of the liquid dripped from the corners of his lips and down onto his white shirt. It held some band-name on it. He noticed me staring and dropped the gun to the lawn, grabbed his shirt and fixed the letters for me to see. "That's Beastie Boys, y'know them?" I shook my head.
"Is that like Dolly Parton?" I asked, for that was the only American singer that came to my mind. Alfred laughed like he was going to choke on his lungs and fell to the ground as well, pointing his finger at me.
"You listen to country music?" he cried, and at that point I didn't know whether to be embarrassed or angry. My cheeks had reached the colour of beetroots, and I shoved the flag off of my shoe and got up, brushing grass off of my pants as I sneered,
"This is my garden, you can't be in here." Alfred rolled over and got up himself after having grabbed his gun. He was about to say something more as his mother showed up by the hedge.
"Alfy, dad needs help carrying all your posters."
"Okay!" Alfred ran towards the hedge, stopped and turned around. He glared at me for a few seconds and then grinned like an idiot. "Here!" He threw me his gun. I didn't want to touch it, but I wasn't keen on seeing it leaving a mark on the grass either, so I caught it with questioning eyes. "That's for you, buddy!" He saluted and clumsily climbed back over to his mother who was busy yelling at his father for being a lazy-ass. I just stared at the lime-green water gun between my hands and shuddered.
The Americans were in town.
I liked going to school, especially when we had lessons on history with Miss Madeleine. She was the kindest woman I had ever met, and the way she told us stories from a time long gone made everyone giggle in excitement and roll around on our desk in anticipation for the end of the story. She had a way with words, whispered Greek tales and roared about world wars while doing small dances in front of the board. I imagined having her as a teacher until I left primary school, and I couldn't dream of anything that could ever ruin my lust for new knowledge on the world.
But then Alfred showed up.
We weren't supposed to be in the same class, but he switched classes just a week after he had started attending school. Not because the teachers didn't want him, but because all the girls did. No sweet Laura or Emma could concentrate on maths when Alfred ran his fingers through his blond locks, looked at them with those baby-blue eyes and drawled an American accent just for them to hear. In my class we only had two girls, and they still though boys were disgusting, so the staff pictured that it was the perfect place for Alfred to be. Unfortunately, the perfect place for Alfred turned out to be the worst place for me.
We had about World War 2 that morning as Alfred swung the door open and stepped in, wearing some old bomber jacket that he apparently found appropriate for school. Miss Madeleine smiled and allowed him to introduce himself to the class.
"I am Alfred F. Jones," he said and stuck his hands deep down into the pockets of his jacket, held a pause and then said with pride in his voice, "and I am an American." Some gasped, some snickered, I smacked my head against the desk.
"Sit up straight, Arthur." The others chuckled as I straightened up in the back and looked towards Alfred. He was staring at me, and as out eyes met, he jumped and cried,
"I know you! You're the dude from next door!" I blushed furiously as all eyes fell on me, and Miss Madeleine cleared her throat.
"Oh, you know each other?"
"No!" I cried.
"Yes!" he yelled, and tumbled down between the desks to sit next to me. Or he would have, if I hadn't already had someone sitting beside me. Kiku was a good friend of mine and had been it since we met in first grade. He was from Japan, but a true English gentleman in my eyes, and another one of the reasons as to why I liked going to school.
I hadn't told him about Alfred. I don't know why, but even though I couldn't stand the thought of having Alfred living next door, he was still my personal bother and no one else's. I had spent the last days of Summer vacation trying to keep an eye on him for the safety of our village. I had noted quite a few things.
Firstly, he liked sleeping late and staying up late. I had more than once been awakened by his profane music playing loudly and the smell of burgers creeping in through my open window. He seemed to love fast-food, occasionally he would come running out in the garden if he saw me leave the house and offer for me to come and have some fries with him. "French fries, it's the best!" he would always say, and I would turn him down because he denied calling them chips.
Secondly, he considered himself to be a true hero. He had a superman-costume that he wore even in the greatest heat, claiming that he was the one who made the Soviet Union break down. I liked superheroes, though I knew nothing of their powers or personalities. I just found a great liking in putting up pictures of men with muscles on my walls and watching them in awe. My father said that only poofters did that, so I had moved all my pictures to the inside of my closet, but as he saw Alfred crossing the road with a red cape swaying behind him in the wind, he yelled for me to go and become friends with him, for that was a true man. 'Someone who doesn't just stare, but also acts, he's worth a million!' he said. I didn't think Alfred was worth the shoes he ran around in, but I liked his costume, so I approached him, only to be told that I could play with him if I pretended to be Stalin and if he could shoot me with his water guns. I didn't want to be Stalin, and I didn't want to be shot, so I went inside again to my dad's disappointment.
I was also disappointed in myself for even asking him if he would play, so now that he was standing there with shining eyes and a smile crossing his face, I didn't want him to sit anywhere near me. So I grabbed Kiku by the arm and pulled him close to me.
"You can't sit here," I growled, "this is Kiku's spot and it always will be!"
"We can fit in three on that bench," he said and tried to make space between Kiku and me. Luckily, Miss Madeleine once again proved herself to be a fine lady as she told Alfred that no, it wasn't appropriate to sit three on a bench, and that he had to move to the back and sit next to Ivan.
Bad choice. Five minutes later as we were discussing the world leaders during the world war, Ivan made a comment on Stalin being a wise man which made Alfred step up onto his desk and yell from the top of his lungs that Stalin had never been wise.
"He fought for equality!" Ivan cried and raised to his feet.
"So did Roosevelt, he just wasn't a… a sissy!"
"Staling was no sissy!" Ivan roared and grabbed Alfred by his legs. Alfred wobbled, but didn't fall.
"You're a sissy!"
"You don't even know what that word means!"
"Uh-huh, it means.. You don't know it either!" Alfred pointed his finger at Ivan who hesitated. Miss Madeleine along with the rest of the class was startled, unsure on how to react to a situation like this. We had never experienced anything like it in class before. Ivan snapped in air.
"It means to be fat!" Ivan then decided, and Alfred nodded.
"I knew that!"
"Calm down, you two!" Miss Madeleine finally stepped in and freed Ivan's arms from Alfred's legs. Or the other way around. Hard to tell from the spot that I was sitting. Alfred jumped down from the desk and went to the board, turned towards us all and said,
"You want to know about World War 2? I'll tell you about World War 2, for America saved you all!"
"That's outrageous!" I cried and got up.
"Then who helped Europe back onto its feet?" Alfred wanted to know and crossed his arms like the spoiled brat he was. Miss Madeleine was still busy calming Ivan down who was declaring that he had nuclear weapons in his schoolbag, so she didn't notice as I went up to Alfred. Kiku mumbled something about all of us being quiet and speaking in a proper manner, but for once I decided to ignore him.
"If you helped, it was only to benefit from it yourself!"
"We still helped!"
"We… We built up a health care system, by ourselves!"
"That has nothing with anything to do!"
"It does!" I cried. We were now in each other's faces, yelling so spit flew around. "Mom says that we're better than you because we have a health care system!"
"We're better than you because we have guns!"
"We have… fish and chips!"
"We have McD!"
"You suck!" And that did it all. We jumped at each other. I had never before been fighting with anyone, but from the way that Alfred's fists hit my stomach I guessed that he had, so I mostly head banged his chest and tried to cover myself up while he flailed around with arms and legs, sometimes hitting himself in anger. Miss Madeleine yelled for both of us to stop, the girls started crying, Ivan pulled forward pens that he said had nuclear powers, and suddenly, I can't remember how, I was sitting with Alfred outside in the school yard for a time-out. I had gotten a black eye and several scratches, he was bruised mostly on his knees and claimed that he had broken a rib, though he probably just had a mark somewhere underneath his shirt.
"That sucks," he mumbled, breaking out minute-long silence and swinging with his legs in the air. We were seated at one of the tall benches, facing the soccer field that was being mowed. I smelled fresh grass and blood trickling down my chin.
"Yeah, well, at least my dad won't call me a poofter anymore."
"What's a poofter?"
"I don't know." Alfred leaned back against the wall.
"It's probably someone who smoke. Y'know, like, taking a puff?"
"Why should fighting make me a non-smoker?"
"Because you can't fight with a cigarette in your hand," he explained, and I nodded, for it made great sense the way he told things. But I quickly regretted having nodded at all, for I didn't want to seem friendly with Alfred.
"Why did you move here?" I asked and peeked at him from the corners of my eyes. He was looking up at the sky, his tanned skin looked like melting chocolate in the sun.
"My brother lives over here."
"Your brother? Why doesn't he live with you?"
"Half-brother. Daddy messed around with some British girl when he was in the army."
"Oh…" I felt that I shouldn't ask anymore questions, and he probably didn't knew much more than what he had already told me, so I looked down at my sneakers. One of them still had a hole in the side from the time when Alfred poked his flag down through it.
"Why don't you like me?" he suddenly asked, and I shrugged as an immediate reaction.
"I don't know why."
"Can't we try and be friends?" he asked. "You're spending time on me anyway."
"I am not!"
"Am so!" We glared at each other. His nose was running. He wiped it off in his arm. "You've been watching me since I moved in."
"Maybe a little.."
"So? Why not be friends?" I didn't say anything at first. Becoming friends with Alfred would make my dad happy and my mom worry less about me being an idiot. Since I didn't have many friends, she once thought that I had to be mentally unstable. I hated going to the psychologist for three months just to be told that there was nothing wrong with me.
"Hmm…" I mumbled, just to answer something. Alfred straightened up.
"I'll let you play with my guns."
"I don't want your guns."
"Then my horse." I looked at him with shiny eyes.
"You have a horse?" He grinned.
"Well, it's at a ranch some miles from here, but I go there at least twice a month."
"Why? Doesn't you dad say that horses are for girls?"
"What? No!" Alfred wrinkled his brows. "Cowboys rode horses. I want to become a cowboy when I grow up, so I am learning how to ride and take care of a horse. It's super manly." He nodded as if he wanted to make sure that I understood how manly it was. I bit my lower lip.
"Okay, if I can play with your horse, then we can be friends."
"Great!" He beamed and grabbed my hand and shook it harshly. I smiled awkwardly and looked away. At that time I just planned on staying by his side until I got my own horse. How was I to know that there would come a time when I would freely stay by his side, with or without a horse, and feel proud of doing so?
Note: I've wanted to make this story for SO long =u= Now I finally got the first chapter finished. This is rated M, but the M-rating only counts for later chapters.
Please leave a comment with your thoughts so far and tell me if you like the idea =u= Have a nice week!