I’ve been so productive with sims and managing to get a chapter out a week, but I’m not sure how much longer that will continue. We shall see! Keeping this up means I can’t really work on other projects though, so it may return to a fortnightly posting…
“What’s the point of this film again?” Kane asked, stretching out his legs with a contented sigh. Jasmine tutted and reached behind Law to flick Kane’s ear, who made a sound of protest but didn’t bother flinching away from her.
“It’s a classic!” Jasmine said defensively. “And the point is that they have to stop Sauron!”
“By throwing a ring into a volcano?” Kane muttered doubtfully. Law twisted around to glare at him and he mimed zipping his mouth shut, but as soon as the grand reveal of the elves’ home, he glanced at his son with a raised eyebrow. Law watched with eyes wide, enthralled, absently biting on his thumb nail as he waited to see if Frodo would survive his stabbing.
Kane nudged him to get more room on the sofa, so Law shuffled over to sit on his lap. Kane wrapped his arms around his son, the scent of the strawberry conditioner making him smile. “Isn’t this a bit too much fantasy for such a rational, logical little boy?” he asked, tickling Law briefly. Law squirmed in response, never taking his eyes from the screen.
“Good fantasy has its own rules,” Law said absently. “Magic is just unexplained science.”
Jasmine considered this and glanced over to them. “So you think magic can exist in this world?”
“No,” Law said derisively. “There’s no such thing as magic. There’s just stuff science doesn’t know yet.” He said it with the conviction of an almost-seven year old, who knew he had to be right.
Despite Kane’s playful groaning, he suggested putting on the second film for Law, who was desperate to know what was going to happen next. Jasmine – who had supplied the boxset from her new flat – had obeyed, but halfway through Law’s eyes had started to droop. Even the tension of war couldn’t keep him awake, and soon his chest was rising and falling soundly as he fell into sleep.
Jasmine and Kane exchanged smiles, and rather than continue with the film he decided just to put Law to bed. Their movie night was set to continue, anyway, as Jasmine had also bought one of the most terrible films she owned. A film, she had said, not at all suitable for Law.
“M’wake,” Law assured him, though Kane noticed he didn’t bother to open his eyes.
“Very awake,” Kane agreed, manoeuvring himself with his son’s warm and sleepy body in tow. Jasmine watched them both with a distant, but genuine, smile, and their eyes met over the top of Law’s head as Kane turned to jiggle the door open with his elbow.
“Night Law,” Jas said softly, laughing when Law grunted in reply.
“Why this film!?”
“Because it’s the best worst film!” Jas replied, her voice a gleeful whisper, and Kane supposed he should have expected something like this with a title like Thankskilling.
“I always come back for seconds,” Jasmine quoted in time with the turkey, and Kane groaned.
“How many times have you watched this?” he asked in disbelief.
“I dunno,” Jas said, grinning. “Like six times?”
“Jesus,” Kane sighed.
The sofa was old enough that the middle was constantly sagging, and so it was more work to stay away from anyone else sharing the sofa than it was just to accept fate and let yourself press into the other. At some point – Kane didn’t remember when – he had put his arm around the back of the sofa, and then after another few minutes of awful hilarity, Jasmine had slipped on the sag and ended up pressed against him, and he had put his arm around her without thinking.
The credits ran and Jasmine’s giggles echoed around Kane’s chest. He took a deep breath after realising how close they were, and quickly swung his arm away. Jasmine made no sign to show she noticed, and Kane had no idea if she was only being polite or if she approved.
“I better go if I want to make the next bus,” Jasmine said, giving a heavy sigh, as she gathered up her films. Kane almost offered to let her stay, but quickly realised the only spare place to sleep was next to him. Not that he’d have much to complain about, but there was something stopping him from making that jump, and he was trying not to analyse it too closely.
“Text me when you’re home,” Kane said instead, and Jasmine gave him a wave.
“No way!” Law complained. “Frodo sucks! Why can’t I be Sam?”
“Because Frodo sucks,” Eilidh grinned, scrambling up the climbing tower at the park. It was a Saturday morning, with a chill still in the air, and the ladder froze their fingers.
“We gotta climb the mountain and toss the ring away!” she continued, finally reaching the top. “We don’t have a Gollum, so you just need to pretend your finger is getting bitten off.”
“Can’t we play Aragorn and Legolas instead?” Law asked, finally reaching the top. He tucked his hands under his armpits to warm them up. “Being an elf or a ranger would be way cooler.”
“Hobbits are cool!”
“You’re just saying that because you have hairy toes,” Law teased, and Eilidh chased him back down the ladder.
“You are a hobbit,” Law muttered, loud enough for her to hear it. She stuck out her tongue and then pointed her finger at him.
“Okay, now I’m Gandalf, and I’m putting a curse on you!”
“Gandalf wouldn’t put a curse on me,” Law replied, gingerly sitting down on the cold surface as he prepared to slide down. “You’re being a total Saruman right now!”
“Do you think I could magic some food?” she asked, as Law pushed himself down the slide.
He went faster than intended, squealing, as the morning dew sped up his travel. He landed on the damp grass with a squawk. Eilidh’s laughter made him see the funny side of the situation and he laughed as well, thinking to himself that maybe it was a less cool version of Legolas’ slide down the walls. He stood up and rubbed his backside.
“Too bad I’m not an elf,” he sighed.
“Tell you what,” Eilidh said, planting her hands on her hips, “you can be Sam, and I’ll be Frodo.”
Law perked up and nodded eagerly, only to be told they were about to climb the mountain and that he needed to go on his hands and knees.
Law groaned, thinking that he should have seen that coming. “Guess I’m carrying you up the mountain?”
“Of course,” Eilidh said, pointing forward and squeezing his sides. “You are Sam, after all.”
“But I’m not a horse,” Law complained, though he began plodding forward anyway.
They heard a girlish laugh behind them and Eilidh twisted around. “Oh, it’s Meghan!”
Meghan was Alyssa’s daughter, and although she went to a different school, she lived on the other side of the park to them. They only saw her occasionally, but she was fun to talk to. Law bucked Eilidh off with a laugh and they ran up to see Meghan.
Meghan was only a little older than Eilidh, but because of the way their school system worked, Eilidh was in Law’s year while Meghan was in the year above. Even if she had been at the same school as them, they would have little interaction with her until lunchtime.
“I’m working on a school project,” she told them proudly. “Would you like some lemonade?” Law thought it was a very American thing to offer lemonade, but he spied a bottle of it behind her makeshift stall and realised there was nothing homemade about it. He hid a smile.
“Lemonade? Uh, sure, I guess it’ll fill me up.”
“It’s fifty p, please.”
As Eilidh began to count out her money – of which most seemed to be in fives – Law scanned the rest of the park for something else to do. The basketball court wasn’t in use, which made a change, but Law knew he wouldn’t be tall enough to reach it. Besides, he didn’t really care about any sports subjects, unless they were playing capture the flag or dodgeball in P.E., and even though his dad had started to get into the Six Nations and football, Law didn’t see the appeal.
He pushed his hair out of his eyes and saw Alicia in the window of the café she worked at. Law knew his dad was doing his last business studies exam (which was why they were both kicked out to go play at the park) so that he wouldn’t have to do a similar job forever, and Law wondered how he was doing.
When the Monday came round, Law found himself drifting towards the bookshelf once his work was finished. Miss Rogerson had given up scolding him for it, and instead let him amuse himself rather than egg Eilidh on in her mission to disrupt every class. He saw a book about business and slipped it out curiously, wondering if it was one his dad would like to know the title of as he started to apply for managerial positions now that he’d done his exams, and as he did so a leaflet came along for the ride. He grabbed it before it could fall and put the book back in, reading the front of the page.
“St. Conval’s Academy for Accelerated Students,” Law read aloud. He folded out the leaflet and read on, realising that it offered advanced curriculums on a student basis, and covered ages from five to eighteen. Law began to feel excitement unfurl in his gut and bounced on the tips of his toes, wondering how difficult it would be to find something like this for himself.
After everyone had run out of the classroom for lunch, the teacher’s abused voice cracking as she yelled at them to walk not run, Law sidled up to her. He motioned for Eilidh to go for lunch and sneezed as the chalk dust was pushed into the air from the board which the teacher was cleaning. She turned around with narrowed eyes, assuming one of her pupils was misbehaving, but when she saw it was Law she smiled.
Law offered up the leaflet he found. “Is this close by?”
She took it from him and smoothed a wrinkle out that had been pressed in from its long sentence in the bookshelf. “Yes. Saint Conval was said to have come from here.” She turned the sheet around until she found the map, and pointed to their town on the map. “See, it’s about fifteen, twenty minutes away. Just outside Glasgow.”
“It’s a private school, which means most people have to pay. Sometimes you can apply for something called a scholarship, have you ever heard of that word?” When Law shook his head, she continued. “It means that the school lets you in for free, or pays some of the fees, if you’re from a poorer background or meet the terms of their scholarship.”
Law nodded thoughtfully. “Do you think I could go there?”
The teacher paused, seeming to debate internally, before she nodded. “I’m sure it’s possible, but you would have to ask them. Sometimes they give all their scholarships out before the year starts. They don’t always have many, so you should find out by asking your dad to contact them.”
“Can I keep the leaflet?” Law asked, as his stomach grumbled. Miss Rogerson happily handed it back to him and then pointed him in the direction of the door.
“Go get some lunch and keep that Eilidh out of trouble, alright?”
Law nodded and stuffed the leaflet in his bookbag before racing off in search of food.
“Of course,” he said, as Law watched his dad switch between two tabs – one with a job application, and a second with a budget spreadsheet. Law stepped closer and realised what those numbers met, and chewed on his bottom lip indecisively.
After he said nothing, Kane turned back around. “What’s up?”
“Actually, I think I’ve figured it out.”
“Oh, okay.” Kane stretched and popped his back, before sighing and returning to the computer. “Was it about homework? Because if you’re stuck, I’ll be useless. I’m pretty sure you’re way smarter than me, kiddo,” he laughed.
“A couple of things nearby.”
He didn’t seem particularly enthused by the possibilities and Law pressed his lips together in disapproval. He was of the opinion his dad should find something he really enjoyed, though Kane maintained the money was more important. Law felt the shiny paper of the leaflet in his pocket and sighed.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Kane asked, upon hearing the sigh.
Law summoned a smile from somewhere and waved him off. “I’m fiiiine,” he said, ducking back through the door and then into his room.
Law settled onto the rug that Jasmine had left when she’d moved out, his back to the bookshelf that they’d found in a charity shop a few weeks after. Law spread out the leaflet in front of him and traced the map with his finger as he thought. Everyone had always told him he could do anything he put his mind to, and although he found the sentiment ridiculous at its base (he couldn’t fly, no matter how much he tried to concentrate), he knew that it was true in a not-so-literal way.
He knew his dad would try his hardest to get Law into the school, if that was what he wanted, even if it cost a lot of money. But Law knew they didn’t have a lot of that in the first place, which probably meant Kane would find a well paying job even if he would hate it, or try to make ends meet in other ways.
No, Law decided, he didn’t want to put his dad in that position. There had to be ways to find out if he could get into the school without letting Kane know until he was sure. That way Kane wouldn’t feel like he had failed, and so no way he would feel bad about it. Law nodded to himself and got up to examine his shelf, finding his piggy bank and shaking it out onto the rug. He sorted through it and counted it up, trying to calculate how much he’d need.
Once he was satisfied, he put it all away in his wallet, and made a list of what else he needed to find out.
As soon as school had finished, Law ran down to the bus stop that sat just outside the town hall. It was a weird sculpture that had been unveiled more than three years ago by a bloke with a fancy sounding foreign name, but to Law it was a ridiculous extravagance and not at all ‘art’. If anything, it focused the sun on anyone who was waiting for the bus, which was fine in the Winter, except for the lack of protection from the wind. He had to admit the sound of heavy rain hitting the glass roof was cool, but other than that the entire stop was ridiculous.
He smoothed out the bus timetable and went over his plan, nodding to himself. He had told his dad he was going to stay out after school, and it wasn’t like he was lying, just leaving out some important information, but Law could live with this kind of deception.
Law jumped up and waved as the number forty approached, and the coughing bus came to a stop. He stepped up to the door and waited for the sigh of it opening, the exact change already in his sweaty hand.
He was pleased that his planning had been accurate so far, and put the return ticket in the safety of his bookbag, sitting at the window and waiting for the bus driver to tell him when to get off.
The sky was a little duller when the labouring bus pulled over, and Law jumped off to see the school. He checked his watch and was pleased to see he was on time according to his plan, which meant the reception was still open. He glanced around as he walked up to the door, letting himself imagine what it would be like coming here every day. The excitement was almost too much, and he tried to keep the smile from his face and appear more serious as he pressed a button to open the doors.
He stepped inside and his first observation was that it felt far too warm inside, and behind the receptionist the windows and a layer of condensation on them. He could see a couple of smiley faces where a wayward child had managed to sneak in and draw on the window. Either that or the receptionist had been bored.
“Um, excuse me?” Law said after a moment of hesitation.
The receptionist glanced around her computer screen and smiled down at Law, with a slightly puzzled look. “Are you a pupil here?”
“No,” Law said, feeling his face flush. “But I’d like to be.” He knew he was being bold, but Jasmine had always told him to be bold in the things he wanted to do (after one too many times letting Eilidh take the lead) and crossed his fingers behind his back.
Law glanced around the room as he made his way over to the receptionist, realising how different it was from his school in the furnishings alone. They still used a blackboard in his classroom, for goodness sake! And here the artwork on the walls was probably worth more than a blackboard was these days.
“My name is Law. I was wondering if I could talk to someone about getting a scholarship,” Law said bravely, pleased when his voice didn’t waver. The receptionist seemed a little at a loss, but after a moment she rallied.
Law shook his head. “I came here by bus. I don’t live far away. I just wanted to see what the school was like myself, without asking dad, in case I couldn’t come.”
The receptionist tucked some of her bright orange hair behind her ears and nodded. “Well, usually we have to make appointments to talk to the head master, but I’ll see if he’s free. Take a seat.”
The receptionist continued as she typed out an email. “Does your dad know you’re here?”
Law thought it best not to lie to the people he wanted to impress, but wondered if they’d get him in trouble if he was honest. As Law panicked to find an answer, the receptionist frowned in disapproval.
“You should call him if he’s going to worry –“
Leaping on this, Law smiled at her. “Oh, it’s okay, he knows I’m not going to be home until later.”
“He should still know where you are,” she said, trying to keep her tone gentle. “You never know what could happen.”
“Some kids must take that bus to get here though,” Law protested, and the receptionist dropped the matter with another sigh.
“Luckily for you, the head master is free. You can go in – it’s the door on your left.”
“Law, is it? I’m Mr Cooperman.” He gestured to the chairs stashed in the corner of his room. “Pull them over, will you?”
After a pause, Law did as he was asked. He looked around at the surprisingly clear office, somehow thinking it would be like the one in his school, which seemed to have an endless wall of filing cabinets. It smelled differently too – less like crayons and a choked computer fan, and more like something that reminded him of a soap they’d had once. He didn’t know what the smell actually was, but it was reassuring somehow.
Mr Cooperman decided not to sit at the start, something which made Law endlessly nervous. He swung his feet and wondered if he was about to get into trouble, and thought to himself nothing ventured, nothing gained. The head teacher regarded him thoughtfully.
“I’ve been told you’d like a scholarship here?”
Law nodded, unsure whether or not he needed to add any information.
“School’s boring,” Law said, surprising himself with how quickly he answered. “Learning isn’t boring, but school is. I’m always ahead of everyone else. But the teacher is too busy with the class to give me more work, so I just read what’s on her bookshelf, but I want to learn properly.”
“Is there a proper way to learn?” Mr Cooperman asked, finally taking the seat Law had pulled over for him. He wasn’t sure if this was a good sign or not, but it felt a little less intimidating.
“I know that some people learn better in different ways,” Law said, wondering where this was going. “But I meant through school. I want to get to do cool projects and be challenged and, well, not to be rude, but everyone in my class is usually loud and distracting.”
Mr Cooperman nodded. “And you came all the way here on the bus without your dad to ask for a scholarship?”
Law stared at his feet, and the mud up one side of his trainers. He hoped the posh head master hadn’t noticed, though Law thought that he missed nothing. “My dad would try to pay for me to get here if he could.” He paused and pursed his lips. “But we can’t afford it, and I don’t want to make him feel bad because of it. Taking the bus is easy, too, and the bus driver was nice.”
“Well, that may be, but I’d rather have you on a taxi on the way home.”
“Oh,” Law flushed, “I can’t afford that. Really, it’s okay, I know where I’m going.”
Law pulled at dry skin on his lip with his teeth. “Does this mean I have to go?”
“Well, you can’t stay here forever.” The head master laughed – a deep baritone of a laugh – and Law felt a little better. “Law, the simple fact is, scholarships are given out based on merit.”
“I’m smart,” Law said confidently.
“I’m sure you are,” he agreed. “But it’s all relative. Are you smarter than other students who would like a scholarship?”
“Probably,” Law said, matter of factly. It seemed to amuse Mr Cooperman, though Law was serious.
“Next year?” Law asked, dismayed. That was forever away, and the idea of remaining in his loud and boring class for that long made his heart sink.
Mr Cooperman stood briefly to retrieve a form that sat on his desk. He handed it to Law and automatically Law found a pen sitting at the bottom of his bookbag. Before the head master could protest, Law began to fill it in.
“That,” the head master said, “is for your father to fill in so that you can take the entrance exams.”
“Oh,” Law said, feeling stupid, and since he’d already filled in his full name where his father’s should have gone, he handed it back. “Could I have another one, please?”
Law fidgeted under the scrutiny. “Um, yeah?”
Mr Cooperman nodded and handed the form back to Law. “Continue to fill the contact details in, please. I’ll arrange with your father to organise the exams for you sometime soon.”
“To… to get into the school this year?”
“I thought there were no places left?”
Mr Cooperman smiled mischievously. “I think I can pull some strings.”
“Do you know another Williams, or something?” Law asked, wondering about the sudden change. “Maybe my mum’s family?” Law had never learned anything about his mum, but he knew that his father had no relatives.
“Ah, no, I don’t know another Williams. Well, there is a very good scientist who has once lectured here, by the name of Loxley Williams, but he has no family this way.”
“Then why…?” Law asked, trailing off in the hope that the head master would understand what he was trying to ask.
Mr Cooperman smiled mysteriously. “You couldn’t begin to understand, but one day, if you look back to this meeting, I’m sure you will.”
Law screwed up his face. “That’s weird.”
Mr Cooperman laughed. “Yes, but then life is weird.”
Law couldn’t argue with that, he supposed.
Mr Cooperman held his hands behind his back and watched his receptionist. She was a lovely woman, if a little lacking in initiative, but she genuinely cared for the wellbeing of his students and so long as that was the case she would have a job.
“Not at all. He’ll be here in the new term, I’m sure of it.”
She raised an eyebrow, as always managing to look thoroughly unimpressed with him. “Oh, and how’d you figure that? Because he came here on his own without his father’s permission? You really shouldn’t encourage that kind of behaviour.”
“Probably not, but that kind of preparation and commitment in a seven year old is not the be sniffed at. It’s simple to tell those who are more – shall we say – switched on that other children. However, to be able to know the smartest ones of that group is a talent I do not have.”
She sighed and tilted her head to the side, not giving him the satisfaction of asking aloud.
Mr Cooperman grinned. “Take note, my dear. The boy that walked through our doors this afternoon will do great things.”
“Sure, we’ll go with that,” Mr Cooperman said, passing her a rather shit-eating grin as she made her way to the door.
“Well, I’m not finding the budget that the scholarship will come out of.”
“No need. I shall cover it myself.”
She gave him one last look in disbelief before clearly deciding it was better not to chase such bizarre behaviour, leaving him to his work in peace.
“Guess who’s being considered for a scholarship at some fancy accelerated school?!”
Law squealed in excitement and his dad spun him round the tight hall, laughing, until he let Law slide out of his grip and back to the floor.
“I guess your teacher must have recommended you, or something, but they said that they’d like you to take the entrance exams a week on Monday.”
Law jumped up and down with his father laughing beside him.
“Amazing, huh?” Kane grinned. “It was the last thing I expected, but I know you can do it, if that’s what you want.”
“YES!” Law said, struggling to contain his excitement. “Yes of course I want to go there!”
I completely forgot the receptionist’s name, so rather than make it up and change it in game later, I just haven’t given her one yet, haha.
Also while looking for Scottish saints to be the namesake of the school, I found St. Conval, who is associated with a small town to the West of Glasgow called Inchinnan, which would fit location-wise with where they stay. I can’t remember if I ever gave a place name of where they live, or if I stuck with the name of the ‘hood, which is why I didn’t mention it here. But if you’re curious, it seems like a nice little town about 30 minutes drive from Glasgow!
Oh, the film Thankskilling is….. scarring. Lmao. Hilarious, but not for most people… which is probably why Jas likes it so much. And of course the other film they’re referencing is the lord of the rings *heart eyes*