Tammy watched the little boys zoom across the grey concrete on the playground. They screamed and yelped and made their voices deeper as they stopped, turning and facing their enemies with their fists on their hips. They were superheroes, with their coats buttoned around only their necks and their hoods turned up on their heads.
Tammy desperately wanted to join in. It looked like so much more fun than playing ‘Mummies and Daddies’. For some reason, they always picked her to be the daddy and today, she really did not want to play the part of someone who went to work and came home and demanded dinner. But then, she had an idea. It was genius! She could be a Superhero Daddy! That could be her job! The other girls looked at her as if she had lost her mind but then, miraculously, they shrugged and said, “Okay, then.”
Tammy zoomed off, attaching her own grey duffel coat around her neck, like a cloak. She ran as fast as she could, and she knew, with her new trainers, she was pretty darn fast! She felt the wind whip her hair around her face and sting her eyes. She gulped the cold air and drank it in, thirsty for more. She glanced back at the girls and they were content. She just kept on running!
But then, everything went black; her knees were throbbing, as was her forehead and her elbows. She saw her bare knees first and noticed the blood, the miniscule gravel pieces trapped in the cuts. She wanted to cry but fought back the tears when she saw the boy sitting in front of her, her mirror image, rubbing an emerging bump, the size of an egg, on his forehead. Another superhero.
She grinned at him and he grinned back.
“I know you,” she said, “You’re in Miss Ham’s class.”
“I’m Josh. And you’re Tammy.” His voice was quiet, soft. Tammy liked him instantly. It helped that they were in the same year.
She wanted to say something more, but a crowd had gathered around them. Mrs. Samuels had appeared and was directing Snivelling Samantha to escort the two fallen, to the first aid room, which in reality was the disabled toilet.
They walked side by side, following Samantha, as she wiped away the mucus that stubbornly, eternally was attached to the end of her nose. There were only two chairs in the cubicle, and one toilet. Samantha left the two wounded, whilst Tammy took the chair and Josh took the toilet bowl. The lid was down. Mrs Barnes was already sitting on the other chair.
“So what have we here?” She looked at the both of them, her hair in tight grey curls on her head and deep, deep wrinkles adorning her face like war paint, even and dark. Her tone was pleasant. She smiled and Tammy wanted to be as brave as possible in front of the teacher and the boy.
“We bumped into each other and fell over. We grazed our knees and elbows and hit our heads.”
“Let me have a look, then.”
Mrs Barnes examine Josh first, gave him an antiseptic wipe and asked him to clean himself up, while she examined Tammy. She then handed Tammy another wipe and asked her to do the same. Meanwhile she opened the small freezer and took out an ice pack. She gave it to Josh. “I’m afraid you’ll have to share,” said Mrs Barnes, genuinely apologetic.
She took out a pair of tweezers, rubbed it with something and proceeded to take out the debris from Tammy’s knees. Conscious of Josh’s eyes, Tammy fought back the tears. It was awfully painful but she would not cry, she told herself.
Josh did cry but his tears were silent, trickling down his face leaving streaks, lighter than his skin, cutting a pathway through his freckles. At the end of it, they both received stickers, like medals and a note to take home. It was also Tammy’s turn for the icepack, but it was warm and soft by the time it was handed to her. She left it on the chair.
“You’ve both been really brave. Well done! I’ve cleaned up your knees and you’ve both got plasters on them. If the plasters fall off, it’s not the end of the world. You don’t need to come back for another one. Oh, and don’t forget to take the note home to Mum.”
The instructions were clear. The bell had rung, indicating that playtime was over. Tammy looked at Josh and smiled. They didn’t really bump into each other again after that.
But they did become friends.