Finding the Perfect Companion follows the story of 15, going on 16-year-old student David Chamberlain. David leads a quiet but comfortable life in suburban London, but there’s hidden secrets beneath his quiet character. His life takes a different route when his parents enrol him into Hounslow School, an all-male boarding school in the west of Berkshire. Saying goodbye to his only friend and his much-less shaky life, David finds himself meeting the quiet but intriguing Edward McArthur. Other than his charm, Edward has his own secrets and dark side. Together over the next year they face a number of challenges, including the mischievous and cocky student Edgar Laurelhurst, the eager to get Williams’ sisters, and the arrogant and loathsome headmaster Mr Garrison.
The story comes in three parts. Part One overlooks September to early November 1994. Part Two follows on and continues up to February 1995, and part three leaves them at the end of the schooling year in July.
Note: If you’re not into the idea of same-sex couplings, then this isn’t the story for you. But for everyone else – enjoy!
David forcefully stared at the letter in front of him, trembling hands uncertain of whether what he had just read was a complete scam or actually the truth. Usually in David’s life he never received much, other than the annual Christmas and Birthday presents, and nine times out of ten they wouldn’t be put to use. When he picked up the post that morning, he briefly wondered whether his National Insurance Card had arrived, but once he fondled the letter, there wasn’t a bulky object inside to distinguish the card from any old letter – and so his mind went elsewhere.
Finding a letter opener to undo the seal, he found the letter to be addressed from Hounslow School, all male-boarding in Berkshire, where supposedly he had been accepted and enrolled as a pupil for the next school year, which the idea of sending the letter to him in the first place boggled his mind. Currently a pupil of Norcross Comprehensive, he was about to begin his final year there. In the end, his intention was to come away with a handful of GCSE’s, complete his A-Levels, and hopefully reach university and attempt a degree. His main goal was to find someone and have a family. That was his current plan until his parents had interfered.
As David rested on the one sofa, David’s mother Kathleen brought in three mugs of tea on a tray and eased them onto the coffee table. Clearly from her un-brushed hair and her salmon pink satin dressing gown covering her features, she had just got out of bed. Her husband Peter soon followed her inside, carrying a packet of chocolate digestives to use as a supplement to the tea. Removing the other letters that David had placed onto the table, his parents both had a sigh of relief when they briefly glanced at the letter that David was holding, and then the other letters were placed with the tray. Peter placed the remainder of the letters onto the arm of the sofa as he sank into the sofa opposite David, Kathleen soon joining him. David thrust the Hounslow letter into his father’s face, his voice filling with concern but also anger. “Would you like to explain this one then?”
Peter skimmed through the letter, only bothering to read the important parts – one: to shut up his frustrated son and two because he had many more important things to be getting on with, and the sooner the discussion was over the better.
“Well, the easiest way to explain this is that you’ve been accepted into a boarding school, which you’ll be starting in a few days.”Peter handed the letter back over to David, not making the situation got any lighter than how it started. Obviously, David – like many others of his age, wouldn’t be one to admit defeat from the first conclusion of an answer, and would want reasons why he was to be sent to this school, and to put an argument forward of exactly what was wrong with the current school.
“And exactly what is wrong with Norcross?” Kathleen finished nibbling on a biscuit before adding a reason, trying to come to some agreement with her son. “Nothing is wrong with Norcross. Personally I’d say it’s one to the best schools to come by, but you know what the decision was once the schooling year was over.”
“And what was that?”
“That you would have to transfer somewhere. You knew perfectly clear that your father and I are located in America for the next six months due to our work. We can’t very well leave you on your own. For one, you’re not of age and two; you haven’t met the minimum age to work yet, so you wouldn’t be able to pay the bills.”
“Then if you’re to move away, wouldn’t have it been easier for the three of us to move to America? Also, if I’m not here to pay the bills, then who will?”
“We’ve already in paid in advance and there is no point for you to move when you’ve completed 11 years of education here and if even if you did move – you’d still have to take your GCSE’s here anyway because we’d be home before the end of May.”
“So since you’ve paid in advance, I could stay here then.”
By now Peter was becoming agitated over David’s excuses and his mother’s back and forth bickering, and was to put an end to this mess, even if there’d be further consequences. “No! Look, love or lump it, you’re going. End of! Instead of whining, get dressed and pack!” Peter gave David a scowl as to why ‘no more questions’, which left a lump in David’s throat. Without muttering a word, David collected the letters up off the sofa, dusted himself down from the biscuit crumbs and went to the door, Kathleen groaning as the litter of crumbs landed on the carpet.
“And when you’re done with having a tantrum, you can come and clean up this mess!”
“Fine! I’ll clean up my mess, but don’t expect me to clean up yours.” Every parent knew that teenagers were rather cheeky and often back-chatted to parents, but Peter wouldn’t stand for any of the cheek.
“One more snarl from you young man and I’ll send you tomorrow! You deserve a good hiding for that!” David was about to close the door behind, but then another idea came to mind.
“All right, one more question – and a proper answer this time is possible, how did I get in? There is no way we can afford the tuition.”
“Your uncle Robert mingled you in and your former headmistress wrote a letter of recommendation. You’re going there on a scholarship due to your impressive grades, so you better keep your head down and work.” David was fuming over the decision to send him to an institution that he was unlikely to settle in, and so he would find a way to get himself back home.
“Just because I have been accepted into this institution, it doesn’t mean I approve of it. I won’t fit in any crowd and you damn well know it! You know, I’m sure you do these things because you despise me. First London, now Hounslow, make up your mind whether you actually want me or not. If you don’t, just tell me and I’ll soon leave and be out of your way.” David slammed the door behind him and bounded the stairs two at a time, slamming his bedroom door. Peter was by now livid and howled from the bottom of the stairs.
“If you’ve broken that door then you’re paying for it; and you better sort out your tantrums young man because I’m not having the headmaster of one of the best institutions in the country phone me up and tell me what an embarrassment of a son I have!!!”
David wept as he choked his response out. “Yeah, well if I’m such an embarrassment to you then go and find yourself another son because I’m clearly not wanted!!” Kathleen had joined Peter at the foot of the staircase when they heard something smash. Kathleen’s hands clutched to his shoulders as she forced him from going up there and setting about her son.
“Leave it. Let him at least calm down first and when he’s ready he’ll come down. You might eventually get an apology out of him.”
“Let him calm down, he ought to be enlisted into the army! That would soon set his attitude straight!”
A few hours had passed; Peter was now upstairs in the master bedroom completing work. Kathleen was in the kitchen thinking of what to do the family the lunch and gradually all was silent above. Creeping up just in case the troubled teen hadn’t quite calmed down yet, she hesitated before knocking on the door. Without a response, she tested the door to see whether it was actually locked. Fortunately for her, David hadn’t bothered this time to slide the bolt across, and instead of finding her son packing, she found him on his bed curled up with his top pillow sleeping. Skimming the room, she noticed that a suitcase was undone near the wardrobe, where a few items had been placed in there. A few boxes stood nearby the open case in a tower, the third box open with books crammed in; the other two stuffed with many more hardbacks. Heaps of clothing pooled across the floor and the letters that had been addressed to him that morning were crunched up in the case. A blue biro was settling atop of them, where she presumed that David had been ticking off items as he packed them. Hopping over the mess, she nudged her son to awake him.
“David? Why aren’t you packing?” Half-hearing his mother’s voice, he fell off the bed in shock, which led him to grumble when he hit the floorboards. Standing up, he gave a confused expression and then realised on how little he had packed.
To back up his argument, David shook himself and then pointed to the case and boxes across the other side of the room. “Mum! I have been packing!”
Kathleen nosed her way into her case to inspect the items, and lifted the top lid of the boxes to inspect the contents in there. “Anything else other than books?”
“The case has things in.” Kathleen sighed and started to clear up the mess, wishing her son could be more orderly. “So why are there heaps of clothes all over the floor?”
“I was trying to work out what was best to take with me.”
“Warm clothing would be appropriate, and a fair decent selection of clothes. Remember that you won’t be coming home at Christmas so choose wisely. At the same time I hope you realise that there is more to entertainment other than books, you know, such as board games and communication.”
“Board games require people as communication does, and I have no desire to well into any of those areas.”
“Friends are what you need David.” David very well knew that his room was in a state and so chipped in to tidy up. “Since when was a commoner allowed to hang around with the best-off students of the country? One look from them and you know you don’t belong there, and so in the end you’re usually a one-man party anyway, so in a way I don’t see the point.”
“You still need at least someone to talk to. One friend who will be an hour away is not enough.”
“One friend is better than none.”
“True. But don’t be so harsh on yourself. There is the girls’ school not a mile from it, maybe you’ll find someone?”
“I don’t need friends and I certainly don’t require a girlfriend. I’m perfectly capable on my own thank you.”
“All right, keep your head on, I was only suggesting! Anyway, initially I came up to ask about lunch.” David turned a blind eye, working out which of the folded items would go in the case and which would be sent back to the drawer. Kathleen pressed on. “You need to eat. The way you’re going, you’re not going to have enough energy to attend school.”
“Isn’t that a good thing?”
“No it’s not.”
“Look, if you’re going to try the reprimand talk on me, it won’t work. I eat when I need to. If I want something then I’ll come down for it.”
“I’m going to make sure that the tutors at Hounslow make you eat.”
David had an idea that this would come up. For at least a year, David’s health had come to Kathleen and Peter’s attention, where gradually David was barely eating anything at all. Discovering his anorexia, they persuaded him to see a councillor and try to change his eating habits. Because of this and the amount of food that David was forced to eat, anorexia soon became bulimia. David showed his mum the door. “Out.”
Kathleen dropped the clothing on the bed and left him to it, throwing another reprimand on her way out. “You’re still cleaning the biscuit crumbs you dropped this morning.”
David never left his room, other than to go to the toilet and to collect supplies for the night whilst his parents were out shopping, such as a bottle of coke to stash in the wardrobe to quench his thirst. He didn’t bother with eating anything, a couple of digestives doing him nicely. He’ll probably eat something tomorrow and do a bit of exercise to wear it off.
Cross-legged and continuing to sort through materials to pack, Kathleen knocked on the door and slipped in without permission. She didn’t see why she needed permission to enter her son’s room – unless he was indecent of course; that was understandable. “I’ve brought you something up.” David glanced from the pile of things up towards her, not particularly impressed. “It better not be food.”
“It’s not food.”
“Then you have permission to enter.” Kathleen handed over the gift as she seated herself on the edge of his bed, David soon joining her.
“I’m sorry for earlier. I just completely lost it.”
“I understand, but think of it this way. Once the year has been completed, you can come back home.”
“Here we go again! I haven’t been home in six years. As far as I’m concerned, my home is in York.” David had finally undone the wrapping and found a journal inside, lifting it up to wonder of its use. “What am I going to do with a journal?”
“We bought it knowing that you wouldn’t talk to anyone, so at least you’d have the journal to write your thoughts down. Maybe any memories you encounter?”
“What memories? The memory of walking straight into hell? Why go and do something without regarding what I thought and felt? It’s known as that I don’t count and I don’t get noticed, and that’s how it’s always going to be.” Having the journal still in his hand, he went to grab a pen, returning to his desk. “Leave me alone.”
David launched out of the chair in fury. Holding the pen, he held it in the form of a dagger or a knife, threatening his mother to get out. “Leave me!!” She turned away and closed the door behind her, trying to hide her fear. Realising what he had gone and done, the pen slipped out of his hand and dropped to the floor. Lobbing his journal towards the door in frustration, he crashed to his bed and cried himself to sleep.