I hovered outside Mr Reynolds' classroom all break-time. I really wanted to go in, yet something kept drawing me back.
It didn't help that I was new. And I'd worked so hard to be accepted. On my third day here, I'd even loaned two boys five pounds.
They were both 15, three years older than me. And I didn't like the look of either of them or the sly smiles they kept giving me. Also, five pounds was just about all the money I had on me. But the very last thing I wanted was to make any enemies. So I handed over the money saying: "Pay me back tomorrow, all right?" Neither of them answered.
And next day they didn't come near me. Irritated now, I searched for them.
They were parading about on the back field.
"Have you got my five pounds?" I demanded.
"Afraid not," said one of the boys, but he didn't sound sorry at all.
"Will you have it tomorrow, then?" I persisted.
"Doubt it," he said, then they both laughed contemptuously.
Later I told David, a boy in my class who'd befriended me, what had happened. He said, "You won't ever get that money back and later on they'll be after you for more. I know," he added. It turned out they had a number of other pupils - including David - from whom they "borrowed" money.
I felt so angry and insulted that I'd been added to their list of victims, especially as I'd never really been picked on before. Why did they think I'd be such an easy target? Was it just the fact that I was new? Well, I was determined to resist any further demands for money.
A couple of days later, just as David had predicted, they came up wanting to "borrow" another fiver. I replied sharply: "No, you can't. You haven't paid back the last five pounds yet." They didn't say another word, just slipped away. I felt rather proud of myself but also spent the rest of the morning gazing warily over my shoulder. Nothing happened, however, until my bag disappeared.
I searched everywhere and then it dawned on me who'd taken it. I found the two boys. "Have you got my bag?" I demanded. "Don't know what you're talking about," they said.
By the end of school my bag still hadn't turned up. Again, I asked the boys, but this time my tone was much gentler, almost pleading. And I added the word "Please". They considered, then one said, very casually: "A bag was found in the science block. Maybe that's yours."
Of course, it was my bag. On the way out of school I looked inside it. All my pens, pencils and rulers had been snapped into bits. My new exercise books were ripped up too. In fact, every single thing in my bag had been destroyed, then eerily put back into its rightful place again. I'll never forget the shock of that discovery and years later I used it in a book. But David urged me to be very careful and tell no one what had happened. "They can do far worse things than that," he warned.
So I didn't breathe a word to anyone. I used up all my spare cash on new pens, pencils and exercise books. And I felt thoroughly depressed by it all. I noticed Mr Reynolds, my class teacher, looking at me in a concerned sort of way and more than once he asked me how things were going. But I couldn't tell him, could I? That would be sneaking, snitchingI being a grass.
Then the two boys came up to me again, needing to "borrow" some more money.
I genuinely didn't have a penny on me. They said they'd give me just two days, then strutted away, totally confident in their power over me. But would I be able to get another five pounds from my parents? And after that, how long before the next payment was demanded? It would just go on and on, wouldn't it? And I couldn't stop it. Not on my own. I needed help.
I tossed and turned all night. Then, at three o'clock in the morning, I shot up in bed and vowed I would go and see Mr Reynolds at registration.
Six hours later, though, I funked it and every other chance I got. At the end of the day I trudged out of school, totally defeated.
Suddenly both boys charged into me, yelling down my ear. "Don't you dare forget our money tomorrow." Somehow, that jolted me into action. I knew I couldn't put up with this a second longer. I raced over to Mr Reynolds'
classroom where he was just packing up his bag for the day. Breathlessly, I poured out the whole story. He listened to me very carefully, asked a couple of questions, then said, "All right, you can leave it all to us now."
Afterwards my head throbbed and I had to keep fighting down this sick feeling. But I was also shaking with relief.
Over the next few days other pupils who'd been bullied came forward - including David. Then I heard that the two boys had been suspended. I dreaded their return. But they never came after me for money again. They did chant, "Pete the grass", after me, though. At first I hated hearing that. Then, one day, I looked across at them and bowed. "Yeah, that's me", I said. "And don't you ever forget it."