Tell A Tale in 500 Words

Invisible Mending By Kim Stringer

Julian wiped the blackboard clean of its crude drawings and obscene messages, then stacked it with its easel, the headmaster’s lectern and the rest of the evening’s props.

Desmond held a blazer towards him. “Is this ours?”

“Definitely not a hire. I’ll put it with lost property. Makes me feel old.”

“It’s not that long – what, only ten years? – since we wore the same abomination.”

Ten years was a hell of a long time when you’d spent half of it in jail, Julian thought. He said, “Can’t believe a pretend school disco counts as a corporate bash, but it went well – yet another success for Desmond Grier Events.”

“A good party, wasn’t it? Hurry the caterers out of the way and finish tidying up; I need to see the manager before we clear out.”

Julian piled the blazer on a small heap of stray ties, hats, oddments of jewellery, a single stiletto, and other potentially reclaimable debris. The grammar school still used the same brown and yellow stripes, still had the same badge on the breast pocket.

The edge of the pocket caught his eye. Surely not . . . but it was. His mother’s neat repair stitches from when Alexander Johnson had pulverised him.

Alexander Johnson: the cause of all his problems. That dangerous mix of charm, brains, greed and cruelty. Julian would never have dealt drugs without his influence. Alexander hadn’t had quite enough charm for the sentencing judge, though: he was still inside.

Julian swept up party poppers and food-fight fallout. If it hadn’t been for Alexander Johnson, he’d have made something of himself. That blazer looked almost as shabby as he felt now, although he knew he was lucky that anyone would employ an ex-con. The old boys’ network had its uses.

A partygoer must have bought the blazer from a second-hand shop. Julian stopped sweeping and his cheeks burned. When he’d outgrown the blazer it had gone to the school’s buy and sell, only to reappear on the back of the puny new boy with the thick-sounding accent that meant he was never going to be allowed to fit in, especially once Julian – with much jeering encouragement from Alexander – made it known that his parents couldn’t even afford a new uniform.

He couldn’t imagine how the boy must have felt, going through school as the outsider nicknamed Pezzer – short for Peasant.

The hotel manager opened the function room doors, his arm across Desmond’s slight shoulders. They were laughing at some shared joke. A quick inspection of the room, a handshake, then the manager left. Julian packed the lost property – all bar the blazer – into a holdall.

“Good work, Jules. Should be a nice pay packet for you: it’s double time after midnight.”

Julian handed him the blazer. “I bet this still fits you,” he said, “but you’ve outgrown it in a way I never did.”

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