I loved the line in Series 6 where the Doctor says he could "help Rose Tyler with her homework" and I was having a severe moment of disillusionment in myself as a writer. So this popped into my head and I wrote it out. I hope you like it. And you can spot all the characters I tried to throw in.
Rose Tyler, aged 9 3/4, soon to turn 10 in the new year, had been sitting on the bench outside the school library studying the same two pages in her text book for the past two hours. The days were still long and Rose was within sight of Mr. Barrowman, the football coach who owed her mother a favor and promised to look after her until work let out, though she wished he would turn his back for longer than four seconds. Sure, she could do loads in four seconds, but it was not enough time to pack her books and make a run for it.
She traced her pencil along the lines of text rambling on about some old red faced man with more wives than Rose had friends. While the subject may have been dull, it was the easiest to go over and required the least amount of concentration. She dreaded the massive hardcover droning on about solar systems and cellular makeup and ecosystems. It was too much to take in, especially when she would rather be at home watching the telly or reading that book the big eared man in the leather coat had handed to her several weeks ago while she waited for her mother outside the market.
Rose scuffed her white shoes into the torn up grass beneath her, hoping to track as much dirt as possible when she got home. She had been drawing the likeness of an old police box she had once seen in a colorless movie when a funny, green-eyed man appeared in front of her.
He smiled, hands folded behind his back, never taking his eyes off her.
"Who're you?" Rose's words slurred in her surprise despite her attempts to fix it after her teacher had humiliated her out in the hall in front of everyone passing that she needed to enunciate. An older, red haired girl later nudged her shoulder and told her not to be "bovvered" by what others thought of her.
The man bounced on his heels, the tassel on his odd red hat swinging. He appeared to be too excited to speak. His eyes sparkled and disappeared as his smile grew wider.
"What're you wearing?"
The man's hands reached up to straighten his bowtie. "It's a bowtie," he said defensively. "Bowties are cool."
Rose shook her head, her pencil drooping against the back of her hand in her relaxed grip. "No," she said, a little snobbish. "That." She pointed to his head, her upturned nose wrinkling in distaste.
The man frowned and pouted, pulling the red cap off his head and mumbled to himself. "Why does no one appreciate the fez?" He shoved his hands behind his back again and tried to smile. "So! What are you reading?"
Rose looked over the man from his blue bowtie and tweed jacket to the tips of polished shoes and leaned over to rest her chin in her hand. "Mum told me not to talk to strangers."
"But here you are talking to me anyway," the man said. He shrugged his shoulders, the clips on his suspenders showing from under his jacket.
Rose lowered her hand and stared deadpan at the cheery man all but hopping from one foot to the other. "King Henry the VIII and his dead ladies," she said, daring him to continue pursuing her with his happy-go-lucky demeanor.
To her chagrin, he threw himself onto the bench beside her and grabbed her textbook. "Henry the VIII I am, I am!" he sang, flipping through the chapters. "Met him two or four times. Tried to marry a lady friend of mine once. Persistent fellow..."
Rose grabbed hold of his wrist, nails catching hold on the atom shaped cufflinks. "You met Henry the VIII?"
The man grinned. "Yup!" he popped the end of the word. "Does that impress you?"
"You're lying," Rose said, her eyes darkened in distrust.
"Oi!" the man shouted. "That's not very nice. Accusing someone of lying."
"You can't have met him. He's dead."
The man frowned and shook his head although Rose thought she saw a bit of a smile trying to sneak back into his face. "Just cause he's dead doesn't mean I couldn't have met him." He leaned in to whisper into her ear. "I'm older than I look."
Rose studied his face: his highbrow, cheekbones, and long chin. She knew malevolence from the faces of the men who tried to use her mother but there was none of it in this man. He appeared trustworthy and almost... familiar. She leaned forward, chin tilted toward her chest, looking up at him in a way she thought was menacing. "Prove it."
The man raised a brow and adjusted his bowtie. "Alright. Tell me what you know about Henry the VIII and I'll tell you if it's true or not."
Rose thought for a moment, cocking her head and rolling her eyes up toward the cloudless blue sky obscured only by the orange and yellow leaves of the tree above her. His challenge seemed fair. "He had six lady friends."
"The first was mum to Bloody Mary."
"And the second was accused of being a witch."
Rose smirked. "False!" she said. "She was accused of being unfaithful and got her head chopped off."
The man pursed his lips and looked down his nose at her. "You seem to know quite a bit. What're you doing reading all this and looking so bored?"
Rose rolled her eyes. "It's the easiest thing to read," she narrowed her eyes at him. "What's your name?"
The man was digging into her bag and pulling out that dreaded hardcover. "Here, now this looks like a challenge!" His eyes were sparkling again as she shrank back. "It's just a book. It doesn't bite," he bit his lip to keep from smiling.
"It's boooring," Rose said. "And you haven't answered my question."
"It's not boooring!" the man said, flipping through it until he found a chapter he liked. "Look at this." He showed her a picture of an expanse of dark blue overtaken by swirling, misting colors of greens, white, and purple.
"Isn't that fantastic?" he giggled. Rose had never heard a grown man giggle before. "Would you like to see one up close someday?"
Rose took the book from him and looked over the chapter. Outer space never interested her much. But then again, now that she thought about it... well, she really never had thought about it before. Staring at the pictures of stars that seemed to twinkled despite their flat, printed format and the green, blue, and white globe that looked like it was rotating right there in her hands she thought that outer space was a fine, interesting subject indeed. Maybe as long as she did not have to do the homework. She handed the book back to the giggling man.
"Maybe," she said. "But I doubt it."
The man made a face, his lower lip protruding and his chin disappearing into his neck. "You doubt it?" he cried, earning odd looks from boys sitting against the opposite side of the fence near the football field. "I'll have you know that you can do anything you set your mind to."
Rose shrugged and looked over her shoulder to see if Mr. Barrowman was still watching her. He was. But the presence of the derp next to her did not seem to bother him. If she squinted a bit, she could have sworn he was looking the funny man up and down.
"Do you know him?" the man asked, leaning over her shoulder and following her gaze.
"Not really," Rose said. "Mum does. He doesn't talk to me."
"Not even to say 'hello'?"
Rose shook her head. She began to pack her books back into her bag but left the hardcover out, still open to the page about giant gas clouds. She pointed to the picture.
"Have you ever seen one of those? Up close?"
The man looked at her. His head was tilted to the side and he really seemed to study her. Rose shifted her eyes several times before returning to meet his. He grinned. "I've seen whole other planets," he said, raising his hands and spreading his fingers as if to display the vastness of the universe. "Worlds where their grass is red and their skies are violet. Planets that have three moons and sunsets that last for hours."
Rose stared, wide-eyed at the man.
"Their suns are colors you've never seen and their inhabitants are creatures you would never believe existed."
Rose felt her jaw slacken and jumped to attention, snapping her mouth shut and sitting upright. She looked past the great tree obscuring the corner of the street and peered around it to see her mother's car park alongside a hydrant. She looked at the man in his suit and suspenders and smiled, her tongue poking out from between her teeth.
"You're a funny bloke," she said, closing her hardcover and slipping it into her bag.
"Oi! Respect for your elders!" but his tone was light, the sight of her smile seemed to ease the tension in his shoulders and the bit of sternness that lingered around his mouth. "You read up on the solar system at least. That nonsense toward the end about archeology is rubbish."
Rose made her way across the yard but stopped not far from the sidewalk. "What's your name?" she asked again.
The man smiled. "Just a friend."
The answer did not satisfy her but her mother was honking the horn. She made to hurry but the man spoke up again.
"Rose Tyler. You're fantastic. One day, you'll be brilliant."
Rose stopped to memorize the man in the tweed suit and brown hair and silly bowtie. He stood against a backdrop of a field and brisk autumn afternoon with color, simplicity, and the promise and hope of brilliance.
Her mother honked again and Rose turned for an moment to look back at the car but the instant she turned back, her funny fez wearing man was gone.