Sally was in the kitchen battling with the largest roast chicken I had ever seen. She was trying to keep it still while she cute portions off it. I had to laugh because she was scolding the cooked chicken like it was small child. She looked up as we entered and grinned at us saying that the chicken just didn't want be eaten. We both fell over in hysterics at the scene of the roast chicken trying to get away and had to sit down to recover.
Tim asked who was here at the house, indicating that he had seen the cars in the driveway. Sally said some names that I didn't recognized but Tim must have because he looked at Sally then at me and asked why my mother's solicitor was there tonight. Sally just shrugged her shoulders and continued battling the dead chicken. I felt a hot flush or embarrassment course through my body as I ruefully realized that his mother had obviously decided that I need to talk to a lawyer after all. I cursed to myself and wondered why people couldn't stay out of my business. I was upset and embarrassed enough already without wanting to go through the hole thing in front of people I hardly knew.
We quickly washed up and Tim guided me through the maze of rooms till we entered the formal reception room of the house where three people including Tim's mother were chatting having an aperitif before dinner. Tim straightened his back as he walked in and gave his mother a kiss on the check and introduced the other people around the room.
Jonathon Simmons was his mother's solicitor, he had an associate with him, a young college graduate Matt Aitkens. There was also someone else that I already recognized from yesterday, the policeman that had taken down my statement at the hospital. I gulped air in to my lungs to try and stop my knees from shaking and to control the expression on my face. I knew my eyes must have opened as wide as saucers, but kept my breathing relatively under control.
"Tim, you didn't tell me that you went to the hospital yesterday with Josh", his mother enquired. Tim went bright red and I was instantly horrified about how much the policemen had already told her.
"I um I um, well he is my friend and um his parents were working so I um", Tim stammered out, but then his mother turned to me and apologized for this, but she was not going to stand by and allow the school to try and ruin someone else's life like they had before, so she had spoken to Jonathon after we left and asked him what could be done.
In some ways I was relieved and overjoyed that Tim's mother had obviously believed us and had not read too much into the situation, so our secret was still safe for the moment anyway. I was embarrassed and overjoyed at the same time that Tim's mother did actually want to help but I was still so painfully embarrassed by all the attention and the situation.
Mr Simmons came over to me and asked if I would like to spend a few minutes talking privately in one of the other rooms. I looked from Tim to his mother not knowing what to do or say until she interrupted my terrified contemplation with, "don't worry about cost, I will cover any costs that Jonathon might have". It was honestly the last thing on my mind but I realized that a solicitor was expensive and I certainly couldn't afford one so I agreed to have a quick chat with him.
We went into another room which was almost as large as the formal lounge and sat down on one of the sofas near a roaring fire. Mr Simmons sat down opposite me and smiled kindly making me feel a lot more comfortable with the situation.
"So do you want to tell me what happened", he enquired gently. "Nothing you tell me can be repeated to anyone else, this is called lawyers privilege and it remains only between us". He murmured taking a sip from his large drink.
I didn't really no where to start but with the gentle questioning by Jonathon as he asked me to call him, he very quickly had a full version of events from yesterday afternoon, the headmaster at my house last night and episode with my father this morning. He also asked me my age and when I turned 18 which was only a few more days away.
After finishing he sat back for a moment or two to think and then started to give me his opinion of what legal and other recourse I could take. He explained that because I was not yet 18 my father was legally entitled to sign the paper granting no future action on my behalf. I started to interrupt him at that point but he held up his hand indicating that I should wait till he finished.
However he explained that because I had been assaulted it was both a civil and judicial matter and I could legal action on my own, regardless of my age have charges pressed against the teacher. I could also take civil action which meant suing the school. He also said that because it was so close to my eighteenth birthday the courts would not view me as a minor and the actions my father had taken could be overturned by a good judge, but I would have to petition the court that my father's actions were not done in good faith.
He told me that the chances of me winning either a civil case against the school or the teacher were quite high, although the school had the resources to fight a long and dirty legal battle. He explained that from his experience it depended on what I wanted out of the case as to how the fight would be fought. If I was looking for a monetary settlement the school would probably settle out of court very quickly, if on the other hand I was looking for the teacher to be fired and the school to issue an apology that they would probably go to court.
If I went to court they would try and totally discredit me, my behavior at school, anything bad I had ever done, problems at home. Anything they could try to use against me they would.
It would be a nasty fight and it could last for many years and be very stressful for me. If I wanted the police to charge the teacher, it would be very traumatic for me and again the teacher's lawyer would try to discredit me as being unreliable and a problem student.
I sat there taking all this in, not knowing what to say or do and Jonathon sensed this by letting me sit there for a few minutes. He finally broke the silence by telling me that I didn't have to make my mind up then and there I could leave any of this until I was ready, and added that I could even wait until I had finished my school exams and left school.
After a few more moments he suggested that we go and join the others for dinner and let me think about what course of action I would like to take. As we got up he turned to me and reminded me that I could do nothing and simply get on with my life and forget all about it. No one was going to force me to do anything that I didn't want to do and the choice was entirely up to me.
When we came back to the others Tim came straight up to me to ask me what had been said. We walked away from the rest of them and I hastily whispered everything to him. I was really worried about the whole thing because if I did take action and it went to court there was a very real chance that our relationship would be made public and we would be pulled kicking and screaming out of the closet.
This was the last thing I wanted and I knew that it not only terrified me half to death but it also terrified Tim as well. Tim was so very straight acting and all of his other friends who he had been pretty much ignoring for the last several months would stop talking to him if he came out, or so we both thought.
It seemed that there were a lot of people around us who wanted to help, but I still felt very alone and that the problems all rested on my shoulders. I turned to Tim and desperately wanted him to hug me right then and thee, but I held off knowing that it wasn't a good idea in front of his mother and the others in the room.
"Why is my bloody life so damn complex" I asked Tim, half joking and half serious. Tim looked at me with his big brown eyes and just shrugged not really knowing what to say to me.
I felt like hell at that moment, the only thing that seemed to be going right was my relationship with Tim, but I hated being dishonest to people around us about our relationship. The whole thing with my father and the school was just too much for me to deal with at the moment and I just wanted it to all go away.
Dinner was an amazing affair for me, as I had never really been invited to a formal dinner before. But the food was delicious and I was made to feel very welcome, especially by Tim's mother.
We didn't have much time before we had to be back at the school for the Musical that night, but after we had all finished our meal and coffee had been served Tim's mother cleared her throat and stood up. I turned to Tim as if to ask what was going on, but he was looking straight at his mother so I could not get any clue as to what was happening.
"Ten years ago my first son, Tim's eldest brother died, and I promised myself that I would never let his memory rest until we bought those people to justice that caused his death".
My stomach instantly knotted as I realized why Tim and his mother had been so evasive about the date and why the special dinner was on. Under the table I felt over for Tim's hand and grasped it hard.
"Josh", she said looking directly at me. "Jonathon was ten years old when he died from complications of an appendicitis. He became ill at school during a class in the morning and died later that afternoon".
His mother the recounted what had happened that day at the school and I finally understood why she hated the school and in particular the headmaster. Jonathon had been a very quiet child, unlike his older brother Tim, who was very outgoing and loved all sorts of sports and was generally a rambunctious child! Jonathon liked nothing more than to sit and play the piano for hours on end and he had a very promising talent for it too. He had a habit of losing track of time at school during recess and lunch when he would go into one of the practice rooms and play on the piano, often being late to class.
On the fateful morning, Jonathon had been late for the class and his teacher was very cross with him, so when he complained of feeling unwell the teacher ignored him and thought he was just being naughty. As a punishment for being late to class the teacher made Jonathon stay in during lunch and clean up the room.
Unfortunately Jonathon had been ill for a few days and by that morning his appendix was almost ready to burst. He had tried to tell the teacher that he was very sick but he had not listened to him.
By the end of lunch when the teacher returned to the classroom Jonathon was lying curled up in a corner of the room in his own vomit just barely conscious. The teacher had called the school nurse and the headmaster, but by the time he was taken to hospital and they operated the infection from the burst appendix had spread too far.
By eleven o'clock that night ten year old Jonathon had died. The school immediately tried to cover up the incident and the teacher's culpability in not letting Jonathon go to the school nurse earlier. In the end Tim's father who was an old boy of the school and a close friend of the headmaster had agreed that it was all just a big mistake and that the school was not responsible.
Tim's mother however had never forgiven either the school or her husband and ten years later she still had a burning hatred for the school. I understood everything now, why Tim's parents did not get along and why Tim's mother wanted so much to help. Except it wasn't help that she wanted to give me, she wanted to use me for revenge.
I didn't really know what to say so I sat there quietly with my eyes staring down at the empty coffee cup in front of me for several moments. Tim broke the silence in the room by saying that we had better get going or we would be late.
As we got up to leave Tim's mother came up to me and gripped my arm tightly, "don't let them get away with it Josh, they have to face justice for their actions!"
Her eyes were burning with hatred and the hand on my arm hurt as she whispered this to me and it was all I could do not to visibly shake away from her. Tim came up behind me and motioned for us to leave.
As we drove off towards the school Tim explained some more of what happened after his brother's death. He was too young to really understand what was going on, but he had loved his brother who had always looked after him. His feelings towards the school were pretty ambivalent and he neither really loved the school or hated it. He didn't truly believe that it was the schools fault, because even if his brother had gone to the school nurse he probably still would have been died as the appendicitis he had was quite unusual in the speed it burst and killed him.
I was silent for a while until he asked me what I was going to do about the school and Mr McAllister. I was still very confused and didn't know if I should take his mother's offer of help and pursue the school. I decided that I would wait a week and then decide.
We continued talking till we arrived at the school and Tim went one way and I went the other towards the back stage area where I would be because I couldn't play that night. I hardly concentrated at all on the singing or the action around me as I sat there playing over and over in my mind what I should do. Most people avoided looking at me because they knew what had happened and didn't want to get involved. Ben did come over and say hi to me quickly in between moving scenery around, but I could tell that he was a bit scared of being seen with me.
Just before the final number I saw Mr McAllister walking towards me and my whole body started to shake and sweat ran down my face. He glared at me and laughed a nasty menacing little laugh as he said. " stupid poofter, I should have hit you harder and knocked some real sense into you". I held my breath shaking wondering what he was going to do as he leaned in very close to me and said in my ear, "you know that you can't touch me legally, the school would never allow a stupid little queen like you to hurt them, and if you try well we can just make life extremely difficult for you".
He then sneered at me and walked off. I was almost in tears at this, because I had been so frightened that he was going to really hurt me this time. And sat there for a few moments just gathering my thoughts.
I heard a noise in my ear as one of the stage managers made some comment into the PA system. I realized I was still wearing one of the small earphones with a microphone in my ear and the voice made me jump.
After the show was over I met up with Tim, Dan, Nick and Cass near the school gates. Cass gave me a hug and asked me how I was feeling and if I had made any decisions about what I was going to do. Tim came to my rescue by saying that for the next few days we were just going to forget it ever happened and have a great weekend as my Birthday was on Wednesday of next week and I would think about it later. Cass smiled and said that I should have a great weekend and then she left to get home to her partner.
The four of us stood there for a few minutes confirming our plans for going out into town the following night before we all departed, Dan and Nick to their own homes and Tim and I to his where I was staying for the next little while.
On the drive home I rested my had on Tim's knee and fell asleep to the movement of the car feeling safe from the school and safe from my father for the time being. I dreamt of Tim and I having our own house away from everyone else playing on the beach laughing and generally being happy. When I woke we had just parked at the front of Tim's house and we went inside talking about going out and what it would be like. I was really excited by going out and was really looking forward to going somewhere where no one knew us and we could hold hands and be ourselves in public!