Old School Tie

Entry (anonymous)

6th July 2015
Old School Tie...

“Mummy, mummy! Look at me, I’ve got a broken arm,” shouted Tilly, as she ran over to Rita with her arm hanging in what appeared to be some kind of lasso.

Rita looked more carefully and then smiled when she realised that Tilly had utilised her old school tie for a makeshift sling. She remembered playing nurses and doing that with her brother’s tie, when she was about five years old; as old as Tilley was now.

“I want a broke arm too!” said Jenny Riley, walking up to Tilly and grabbing at the tie.

“Look its fine, I can make you both better slings. Wait just a second,” said Rita.

Two minutes later, Jenny was beaming from ear to ear, as she now donned a pretty red sling, made from an old bandanna Rita had left over from a festival she attended in her younger days. Fortunately, she used to attend quite a lot of festivals when she was younger, before Tilly had taken over her life, and so she had many more bandanna’s that Tilly could also choose from - which was lucky, because now Tilly was pouting, because she said Jenny had a better sling than she did.

Rita grabbed a handful of bandannas and several toilet rolls for bandage supplies before she headed back into the garden to join the others. Tilly had only just started school that year, and Jenny Riley had become her best friend. Nikki Riley, her mother, was a good friend of Rita’s from her school days, but they didn’t get much chance to see each other properly lately. Alison Potter was also a mutual friend from the last year of high school, and she had brought along her six year old daughter, Penny, to the play date. However, she’d also brought her younger son, Patrick, who was only three.

Since Patrick had been able to walk and join in the fun with the girls, Tilly had not wanted to play with Penny as much any more; she’d told Rita that boys smelled, and she didn’t like Patrick putting his sticky hands on her toys. Alison, was worried that Penny was getting withdrawn because she had to give Patrick so much attention, and so had called Rita to make a play-date. Rita had obliged happily, while she loved playing with Tilly, it was much easier when there were others her own age to encourage her to play with, and Rita could drink a coffee and talk about adult things quietly, in-between taking it in turns to watch the children.

Rita strode back into the garden where the girls were happily covering their arms in lipstick to feign wounds that may require stitches.

“I have fresh bandages!” called Rita.

All the girls rushed up to get the new supplies and then ran to the corner of the garden to begin giving Tilly a fully leg cast.

“That should keep them busy for a while,” grinned Nikki.

“That’s what I was hoping,” replied Rita.

“Hay, I can’t believe you still have that,” said Alison, pointing at the tie still thrown over Rita’s shoulder.

“Oh I know, it must have been in Tilly’s dress-up box. I forgot I had it,” said Rita, removing it off her shoulder and examining it.

“I’ve still got mine,” said Nikki, taking a sip of her coffee.

The blue and gold stripes seemed so nineties to Rita as she mused at it, turning it over to reveal a hot rock burn in the thinner end.

“I can’t believe I wore this every day for all those years,” said Rita.

“Feels like a long time ago, doesn’t it?” said Nikki, gazing at the girls attempting to make a mummy out of Patrick. “Be a little bit less rough with Patrick, remember he’s younger than you!” she shouted.

“He’s getting more resilient,” said Alison. “Penny, allow your brother to walk!”

“What did you do with yours?” asked Nikki, looking at Alison.

“My what?” asked Alison, barely looking at Nikki. “Penny, if you don’t take that paper from round your brother’s legs then we shall go home early!”

“Your school tie, what did you do with it? I kept mine for the memories,” smiled Nikki.

“What, memories of having to hide in the shadows for four years while you waited for your time to escape, so you could socialise with normal none mean people?” retorted Alison.

“You had some good times, like when you met us?” said Rita.

“Yeah, but I didn’t…”

“Jenny let Patrick stand up by himself!” shouted Nikki.

“I didn’t meet you guys until after we graduated. You were popular, me I just existed hoping the popular people didn’t notice me. We had different experiences of that place. The day I left I threw my tie in the bin on the way home,” shrugged Alison.

Rita felt a twang of guilt as she held the tie and remembered telling Timothy Caldwell that Alison was a swat and he shouldn’t ask her to the prom. Rita had wanted to go with him, but he’d never asked Alison in the end, he’d gone with Rita, so Alison never knew.

“Do you want more coffee?” asked Rita, filling Alison’s empty cup anyway.

Alison stood up and reached for a jug of squash and began to fill brightly coloured, plastic shot glasses.

“It’s medicine time!” shouted Alison, holding out the tray.

The children ran to the funny small cups and drank, and began to pretend to pass out on the lawn; out came the plastic stethoscopes, and they began to practice dying with gurgling sounds and giggling.

“I’m not bitter, I’m just disappointed when I think of school. I was lonely then. Why do you keep your old tie?” asked Alison, sitting down and looking at Nikki.

Nikki blushed and cleared her throat.

“Well, I never really thought about it, I just never threw out my stuff when I left my parents, so it was there in a box when I was unpacking. Anyway, I left it hanging off my mirror, and well you know… it fitted in with a certain thing me and Finn were doing one evening. Seemed a shame to get rid of it after that, plus I think that might have been the night Jenny was conceived,” she smiled.

The children had moved off to use their plastic doctor’s toys to check whether the plants needed medical attention.

“Don’t tread on the flowers!” called Rita.

“Oh my,” said Alison. “Imagine, being able to link the darkness of that place to the light in your new life?”

“Who knew the uniform could still be exciting? It’s so nylon,” said Rita.

“Oh yeah and what were you doing in your uniform? Breaking the law by the look of it,” said Nikki, rubbing her finger on the rough melted edges of the scorch mark.

Rita blushed and glanced over at the children. They were definitely out of earshot.

“I got stoned with that exchange kid, after the final exams. I never did it before, but he told me I should try it, and well, I’d already done the exams so I just thought, hell, why not?"

“What was it like?” asked Nikki.

Alison charged away from the table to stop Patrick licking a slug.

“Odd, you feel a bit sleepy, but awake at the same time. It gave me a headache though,” replied Rita. “Tilly! Don’t pick the petals off the flowers, it takes Mummy a long time to get them to grow.”

Nikki poured some squash and handed it to Alison, who was trying to get Patrick to stop crying after he had realised the taste of slug was not as he’d hoped.

“Hide and go seek! Penny’s it!” shouted Tilly.

“Do you think we can be good parents? I really don’t feel like school was long enough ago, and now look, I have a child who is at school,” said Rita shaking her head, knowing that her daughter was only ten years away from drug, sex, and alcohol experimentation and, it scared her to her wits end.

“Look I was the sensible one, ten years ago, and even I didn’t think I’d ever be ready to touch a slug with my own bare hands. But you realise that you can do it, because it’s for them, and you can’t help but give them what they need,” shuddered Alison.

“Yeah, it’s not like your kids are going to judge you because you were once a child yourself. You weren’t setting an example then,” said Nikki, handing Alison a wet-wipe.

Patrick was sat on the floor amusing himself trying to re-roll the unrolled toilet roll. He looked quite determined, and like he had forgotten the slug completely, unlike Alison, who was trying to rub off the end of her finger-tips.

“I think I’ll go and get us some biscuits,” said Rita, picking the tie up off the wooden table and heading inside.

As Rita nipped up the stairs to quickly use the bathroom and wash her hands, she looked at the old tie in her grasp just as she was passing her open bedroom door. Alison had said you do it because it’s for them. Rita knew she was right, it was time Tilly had a younger sibling. Then she thought about Nikki and giggled. Shaking her head, Rita looped the old school tie over the bottom of the bed post.