Beebie had been so proud at being picked for the Saturday football match until his life fell to pieces and he fell to pieces with it. Nothing in his life was important any more except belonging, and where do you belong when your Mum and Dad split?
The convertible couch had become a symbol of never belonging and nothing was going to change for the better. Beebie at last decided to change himself and take charge of his own life.
Ebook and Print versions available exclusively from Amazon:
Genre: Mid-Grade Reader Word Count: 13, 495
Benjamin Bateman, known to friends and enemies as Beebie, scuffed his feet and squirmed. Other kids whispered, shuffled, clattered pens and rulers, and opened and shut books. In exactly ten minutes the bell would sound, and the tyranny of school would be over for the weekend break.
The wandering eyes of Mr. James, his teacher lingered on him. He straightened up and sat very still. Today of all days he didn’t want a detention. He had been picked to play rover in the Saturday game. He couldn’t wait to get home and tell the exciting news to his family.
He breathed hard as he thought about how proud his father would be. His father captained cricket, umpired football, and his swimming was still pretty hot. Beebie’s two older brothers, Jeff and Miles, played sport all the time; football in the winter and cricket in the summer.
In fact, for weeks at a time, Beebie often forgot he had big brothers. Jeff worked and Miles was still at University, but they spent all their nights training, either at the field or in the pool swimming and were often missing all weekend. Sometimes they played ‘away’, or vanished skiing in the winter or scuba diving in the summer.
Until now, Beebie had always been the odd man out. To start with, his eyes were weak and he wore glasses. No one else in the family had bad eyes. Also instead of being solidly built and tall for his age like his brothers, he was slight and undersized.
“Rovers don’t need height and weight,” the coach had stressed. “Just speed and agility, and I expect a good performance out of you tomorrow.”
Well, he was going to get it! Beebie was going to be the fastest, trickiest rover on the field. All the years he had spent running and dodging instead of fighting because he was scrawny and wore glasses hadn’t been wasted! He had been practising skills needed for his position as rover in the school football team. Boy! Was his Dad going to be proud of him!
Just then the bell went. Mr. James bawled, “Class dismissed.”
His voice was drowned out by the thunder of thirty desks being banged down, and thirty bags and cases being dragged along the aisles as class 6B made its usual headlong dash for freedom.
“Coming down the music shop?” Gordon yelled as they hurtled down the steps together. “I heard they’ve got some new stuff in.”
Beebie hesitated, almost tempted. Gordon, Beebie’s closest friend was long and skinny, also wore glasses, and loved listening to music. They always spent their time after school together. The exciting news he just had to tell his family was more important though.
“Got to get straight home,” he yelled back. “See you.”
He ran all the way, across the football field where the joggers paced endlessly in pairs; past the tennis courts where women in mismatched tracksuits played; and along the long stretch by the side of the high-fenced golf courts with the solitary players spaced across the expanse of greens and roughs.
He wouldn’t just burst out with the news straight away of course. Maybe he would drop it casually during conversation. Or wait until his brothers asked. “And what’s little brother doing tomorrow?” before he dropped his bombshell.
He ran faster as he pictured the surprise and congratulations. His father, tall, heavily muscled, with a shock of brown hair. His grey eyes always danced first before his mouth turned up into its broad smile.
His brother Jeff had a habit of bursting out with his hearty laugh, and a tendency to whack you on the back when he got excited. Miles always wrinkled up his nose when he grinned and winked his understanding. Not only were they the best athletes in the district, which was something to brag about, but they were the nicest brothers in the world as well.
Jeff had bought him a skateboard with his first pay and Miles went out and thumped the bigger boy who had tried to take it off him that same evening. Beebie glowed all over as he thought again of how proud his brothers were going to be when they heard the news.
He put his head down and sprinted past the squash courts, to at last reach home. No gold Commodore was in the driveway. Was it still too early to expect his father home? He was too excited to remember.
“Mum,” he called as he slammed the back door.
The place seemed strangely quiet, and gave an odd impression of space. The deep shelves and hanging space along the wall by the back door had been tidied up.
The wet suits hung in their usual place with the tanks beside them. Only two pairs of football boots and two pairs of spiked runners waited on the bottom shelf. The other shelves were empty except for Beebie’s skateboard and the top shelf only had two sets of skies and stocks resting on it.
“In the laundry.” His mother’s voice sounded funny.
She was ironing of course. Beebie flung his bag on the shelf and opened the door. It seemed to him that all his mother ever did was iron football gear in the winter and cricket whites in the summer.
“Guess what!” He couldn’t wait until dinnertime to break the news. “I’m playing rover tomorrow in the school game!”
He waited for her pleased reaction.
“So you’ll need your white shorts?”
Beebie felt his excitement fizzle out of him like flat lemonade. He studied his mother. Her face was tired. She looked somehow droopy as her arm swung backwards and forwards with the iron.
Perhaps she had a bad day or something? Miles had warned him several times in the last few weeks not to bother her as she wasn’t very well.
“It’s an ‘at home’ game,” Beebie agreed. There was a choking feeling in his throat. His Mum didn’t sound that impressed. He cheered up as he thought of his father’s pleasure at the great news. “When’s Dad going to be home?”
“He isn’t,” was the blunt reply. “Your father has left us!”
Beebie stared at his mother. Had she flipped or something? What did she mean?
He glanced back at the too-neat shelf of sports gear. His father’s golf clubs, his tennis racket, his cricket gear and line of jogging shoes, runners and football boots were missing!
The cold patch at the bottom of his stomach spread. He started to shiver. This was ridiculous because he had glowed with warmth all the way home.
“Your father has left us!” his mother repeated, and burst into tears.