Inside Ms. Lynch’s office, Alfred ate his cereal without any fear of reprimand. Each spoonful of cereal that travelled down his esophagus was bliss. The warmth of the milk with the crunchiness of the cornflakes was a good mix. What made it heavenly, was the peace at which the masticated food travelled through the gullet.
“I hope you’ve not finished the Milk Alfred?”
“You know Hayward likes having coco pops as soon as he arrives from work before he eats his dinner.”
He snapped out of that trap. The voice of Lucy lurking in his brain and rearing its ugly head in such an unwelcomed hour.
“Go away” he said with such an authority and that voice receded like tidal waves receding.
He couldn’t believe he could drink cereal with such peace.
He ate some boiled eggs in addition, without the fear of Hayward. Two boiled eggs and some bread for that matter. Ms. Lynch was god sent.
He started his day well. For the first time in his life, he ate without the fear of threat. No wonder he didn’t want to go back home anymore. He started getting involved in after school clubs and enjoyed being mothered by Ms. Lynch.
He was not afraid of himself anymore. His life started to make sense. He started enjoying what other kids enjoyed, being a kid. He laughed at Ms. Lynch’s jokes and began to see the star in himself. He had something to live for. His day was made when he walked through the gates of Buxton. Lucy noticed the difference in Alfred. He was a happy kid. Weekends were the worst times for Alfred because he was away from Ms. Lynch. Hayward and Lucy became grumpier and more agitated. Alfred began to distance himself from their negative emotions. He spent more time playing with his sister Martha and tried to create some nice memories for himself. Alfred added some weight and laughed a lot more at home which angered Hayward and Lucy. The change was phenomenal. From that little sticky boy to this robust young man, was a transformation. Ms. Lynch ensured that Alfred had enough protein.
During one of those evening sessions at Lucy’s, Alfred took his little sister for a walk and when he returned, he was licking ice cream. Lucy was mad at him, thinking that he had pilfered some coins from her purse.
“Have you been nicking my money?”
“Then where did you get the money for the ice cream?”
“I was rewarded for my hard work.”
“Liar!! If I check my purse and find out that my coins are missing, you would be sent straight to your dad.”
“When? I didn’t take your money, however I want to see my dad”
Wrong vibe. Lucy was shocked. The initial scare that used to bother Alfred, anytime he was threatened with being sent off to his dad turned to joy now. Ms. Lynch had taught him to have confidence in himself to face whatever circumstance life presented to him. He wasn’t afraid anymore of the bullies. He knew that they were cowards. He knew that they came for him because they thought he was an easy prey. But through Ms. Lynch’s help, he was able to overcome the fear. He faced them and actually looked forward to meeting with the bullies. What had happened to him? The whole school wandered. The bullies were now scared of him. He called them losers. He told Parcell, the well known bully in the playground “you’re a loser. All your life you have lost. But listen buddy, I have some news for you. If you ever decide you want to switch sides, to be a winner, a champ like myself, come and let’s talk. I will help you and again, that will be for free.”
Parcell knew what Alfred said was the truth. He knew all his life he had been a coward. He preyed on vulnerable folks to raise his self-esteem. He knew deep down him he was empty. He yearned for the real kind of confidence and kindness that Alfred exuded. He wanted to be like Alfred. Alfred was genuinely happy and Parcell knew that he wasn’t happy. The fake happiness that came to him, was when he preyed on vulnerable people, which gave him a power of superiority and he knew that if he was confronted, he lacked the emotional capacity and robustness to handle the confrontation.
Ms. Lynch once told him a story that turned his life around.
“Don’t be scared to walk alone. Man is created a social being and that is the tool the bullies use to scare people. They try to separate you from having a relationship with your friends. All what you need to do is to develop your character. Enjoy your own company. Keep a book with you always. If people don’t want to play with you, bring out your book and read it. Read books of general knowledge as this will increase your intellectual superiority over them and make you an intellectual star to be reckoned with.”
Alfred took this to heart, and you could not catch him without a book. The library became his second home. His grades began to shoot up. People began to approach him for help in homework and stuff. He became the desirable element. He was pleased with himself.
“Mum I would like go and visit my father” Alfred confronted his mum.
Shocked is an understatement to describe how Lucy felt.
“Your father is in a bad place” Lucy said.
“I don’t mind, wherever he is I want to go and visit him. He is my father.”
“He is in the prison, for murder crime”
“That’s ok. I still want to see him” Alfred told Lucy.
Alfred had devised a strategy to get live updates. That was by positioning himself in the storage room about 1am. This was when Hayward and Lucy usually came out for food. During this time, he would pick up bits and pieces through their kitchen conversations. Hayward was getting angrier these days because the food was still not enough for him and Lucy could not blame Alfred anymore. Alfred barely ate at home these days. One time he overheard Hayward say, before Andy gets a parole, they would have moved the entire stuff overseas, sell the house and go live their dream life.