Old School Tie

Entry by: writerYNKGHTYLDE

10th July 2015
Dark blue, pink and white, with stags' heads.
He’d recognise those colour combinations and that pattern anywhere.
He’d spent most of his adult life hiding.
Especially from those colours.
He’d never wanted to set eyes on them again.
It was a corporate celebration in the heart of London.
The type of function Oliver would have run a mile from.
He wasn't the best at making small talk. He thought it a waste of time.
He'd far rather spend his Friday nights socialising with like-minded people who wanted to debate the big issues of the day, the big issues of life, not petty, boring small talk, corporate chatter, all false interest and embarrassingly false laughs.
But Oliver's boss had insisted. "It will be good for your career to be mixing with these people, mingle, make contacts, enjoy it, it's free alcohol, it's a fantastic venue, and we're in the heart of the capital, what's not to like? A lot of people would give anything to swap places with you," he'd said.
Oliver went along with it. He had no choice. Not if he wanted to keep his job. Aged 48 he still had a big mortgage around his neck. It was clear to him that it was going to pay, literally, to keep smiling, even if it was through gritted teeth.
Oliver had just taken his glass of champagne from the waiter by the door, and was scanning the room for where best to start his 'mingle', who looked like they could actually provide some sparkling conversation, that's when he noticed it. The tie.
Dark blue, pink and white, with a stags' heads.
He reckoned the man wearing the tie was about five years older than him.
All ruddy complexion, and veins.
Thin, sandy hair, purple lips, yellow, crooked teeth.
His tie slightly loose at the knot.
Oliver's curiosity got the better of him. In hindsight he was like a fly heading towards a bright light.
But he couldn't help it. "Who was it?" he thought to himself. "Do I know him?"
Oliver moved to the group nearest where the man was standing, entertaining a circle of guests, and introduced himself.
He just smiled pleasantly at those who were talking and half listened in and half tried to catch what the man with the tie was saying with the group to his right.
At one point they all guffawed. The man was obviously quite the entertainer. When the laughter died down, that's when Oliver heard the man's voice. Oliver's hand started shaking. He spilled champagne on the carpet, made hurried apologies to the group he had joined only a few moments earlier, and then headed to the back of the room.
He could still hear the man. His well-educated tones, but still the hint of a Yorkshire accent.
Oliver's mind was racing. He couldn't concentrate on what was happening in the room. He could only think of what had happened all those years before, and that he was now standing in the same room, only a matter of feet away from the very man who had made his life a living hell.
It all happened in 1980. Oliver was in his first year at school. The man, Ben, was in his final year.
Oliver had been Ben's personal 'fag' as they were known at the school, a 'servant' or a perhaps a 'slave' is how the rest of the world would have viewed it.
The hierarchy of the school meant Oliver had to do anything Ben demanded of him. Anything.
During the day, it was harmless enough, although still humiliating, fetching food and drinks, running errands.
In the evening when the teachers had largely disappeared the tasks became even more personal.
Running baths, and bringing Ben food when he was in the bath or making his bed, and bringing him drinks in bed.
Seeing that Oliver was uncomfortable with the situation, Ben would often make fun of the younger boy in front of his own older friends.
He'd leap out of the bath or his bed naked and chase him around the room, and then chastise the petrified Oliver if he spilled his drink or dropped his toast. Sometimes he forced Oliver to eat the toast from the wet bathroom floor without using his hands, demanding he bend down and pick it up with his teeth, while the older boys lay in their big sports baths laughing and jeering.
Oliver thought about telling his peers, his teachers, or even some of the older, fellow housemates, who he knew from the other 'fags' would never treat the younger ones in such a way.
But he knew that would be the end of him at that school. He knew how much his parents had struggled to scrimp and save to send him to the private, boarding school. He knew it would break their hearts if he left. And he knew that the moment he broke ranks, he would have no option but to quit. Ben and his mates would see to that.
One evening after a big rugby match, Ben and his victorious teammates had been celebrating with bottles of vodka smuggled into their rooms in plastic bottles.
The bell in the junior dormitory rang three times. That was the signal that it was Oliver's job to go, that it was Ben who was ringing for him, each sixth former having their own bell-ring signal for their own fag.
When Oliver reached Ben's bedroom at the end of the long corridor and knocked on the big wooden door, and got the order to 'Come', he walked into the room.
"Run me a shower," barked Ben, "so that the temperature is just right for me by the time I get there when I've finished this drink. I'll be there in five minutes," smirked Ben.
Oliver turned and went to do his duty.
He'd only just turned the knob on the shower, when he felt a hand over his mouth.
Almost immediately he felt arms around his legs. He was being picked up. He was dragged onto one of the benches in the cloakroom, and felt several hands tearing at his clothes.
"Keep his tie on," said Ben "Just his tie."
Oliver kicked, tried to thrash out with his arms. But the arms locked around his limbs had him in a tight grip, there was no escape. Whoever they were, however many of them there were, they were a lot stronger than he was, and had a vice like grip.
When he was naked, only his school tie flapping against his chest, they lifted him high into the air, then down into what felt like a big whicker basket. They'd gagged his mouth with rugby socks, tied something which was stinking over his eyes (he wondered if it was underwear, a bandage, or something worse), tied his hands and feet with rugby jerseys, and dumped him in the basket.
He was just wondering how on earth he was going to get out, when he felt to feel the basket move.
They were all at one end dragging it along the floor.
Oliver could soon tell the surface change underneath. The basket was sliding more quickly, more easily now.
That's when he heard the water. Starting to splatter. Getting louder.
Within a few seconds it was coming down on top of him. He was getting soaked.
The older boys laughed. "Leave him," said Ben. "Let's see if 'Ollie F-ing Houdini' can get out of that!"
They all laughed. And then their footsteps disappeared.
In a panic, Oliver found the strength from somewhere to free his mouth and screamed for all he was worth.
A cleaner came in and rescued him.
It was never spoken of by anyone. Ever.
Now, 35 years later, here Oliver was in the same room as Ben
He'd thought about this moment for years.
Thought about what he would do to the tormentor who had ruined his life, who gave him nightmares, who meant that even to this day Oliver could never think of ever putting his face or head under water under any circumstances.
He'd thought how he'd like to hang Ben from the nearest tree by his old school tie. That it would be a fitting justice.
Thought of going to the police and ensuring that Ben was another statistic of someone convicted of historic abuse.
But when it came to it. When it came to that moment, Oliver was as powerless to act as he had been all those years ago.
He left the room, left the party, left the building, headed down to the side of the Thames, looked down, saw his older self, the grey-haired, slightly balding 48-year-old, and shed his own tears into the river below.