Disappearing

The only thing he had done wrong was want back what was his anyway. Mrs B had thought she’d put it out of reach, on top of a cupboard at least twice his height. But as he watched her, his face wet with hot tears, he noticed the wobble.

They all sat cross-legged on scratchy carpet inside a metal square for story time. She was reading a book called Funnybones today. It made him think about mum, and the funny way she walked at home. She always said it was because she’d spent too much time on ships in her pirate days. It made her stagger and sway. Sometimes her sea legs made her grab him to stop from falling. He didn’t like the way her face looked then. Sort of surprised. And a bit frightened. He was too small to stop her fall but he still put his hands up to hold onto her sleeve. The bit straight after that was the worst because she cried and kept saying sorry over and over.

He put his hands to his cheeks to try and stop the pain of not crying. People don’t tell you that; it is messier to let tears out but a lot less achy than holding them in. He looked up at it and remembered the fun he and mum had making it. That afternoon his mum had not been so pirate-y. She had been sitting down he supposed. Sitting down mum was way better.

As everyone filed out for their toilet break he saw the cupboard wobble again, every time someone brushed past. He waited until the room was empty. He pushed himself up and slowly approached it. The bell was going to ring in a second. He timed the ring with the bang he gave. It didn’t budge. He put his tiny arms against the edges and shook. It slid off and fell to the ground in front of him, scattering a few crumbs.

It was only when he had his mouth opened to take a bite that she came back in. All red and spitting, she pulled him out by his sleeve and pushed him onto the stood-out bench in the corridor outside. He peered back in and watched as she swept up the crumbs and the bun. Tipping it into the bin.

As time passed, he knew that he was stood out for the rest of the day. Every time he heard foot-steps he shrank back into the coats behind him. He heard the class chanting times tables and singing nursery rhymes. The teacher sounded happy without him there. He pulled at another finger nail, and watched as it bounced back again. Mum hated him doing that. It meant he never needed her to cut his nails for him. Maybe she missed him sitting on her knee.

He mustn’t think about her right now. She would probably cry again when she heard what he had done. He got on his hands and knees and crawled as far as he could. Maybe if no-one saw him, no-one would tell her. Maybe if he was actually invisible this horrible day would disappear too. He looked down at the wrinkle in his pullover and spied a crumb. He put his finger and thumb around it, grabbed it and put it on his tongue. He closed his eyes, thinking about that time when mum had been like any other mummy. Laughing, mixing, spooning it into bun cases, letting him lick the spoon like her mummy had let her when she was wee.

They had been happy. No-one had fallen. No-one had cried.

That bun had been the best thing he’d brought to school. Ever. He would never ever forgive Mrs B. She thought he was just being fidgety and naughty about it, but it was his bun, his and mum’s.

By the time the last bell rang he was behind the coats, hidden. As his classmates lifted theirs, he turned his face towards the wall and curled up tight.

“What on earth are you doing Matthew? Get out of there and put your coat on before your mum gets here.”

Matthew moved slowly. In the end, Mrs B forced his arms into his coat and zipped it up, nipping his chin.

“What a fuss over a bun!”

He felt his jaw ache again.

“Don’t look so upset! Goodness, you can make more!”

Matthew didn’t tell her that it had been the last one for who knows how long. She didn’t know about his mum being a pirate. She didn’t know that you can’t bake buns whenever.

Not when you have a funny mum like his.

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