This story is set in the early 2000s, in a typical (for the period) Kiwi city, with typical (for the period) Pakeha Kiwi families. Hope it brings some reading enjoyment.
Louie hated inter-school sports day. Pointless running, dodging, tagging, and games he never got the hang of, with a new bunch of kids who were usually at least as obnoxious as his classmates. Sighing, he sat down at his desk and waited for the teacher to return.
“Time for the bus!” came all too soon.
Several meaningless games later, having been ‘tagged out’ from a fast-paced and frightening game of rippa rugby, Louie sat down on the side of the field. Catching his eye from across the pitch was a boy who he guessed was about his age, dressed in the local Catholic school uniform. Louie wasn’t sure why, but there was something about this kid that made him look twice - it may have been his Potter-esque looks, or perhaps his equally bewildered expression, but Louie felt a sense of kinship with him, and decided to seek him out later, perhaps at lunch break.
Because of the inter-school nature of the sports day, Louie found it relatively easy to catch the raven-haired boy at lunch. Surprisingly, he was sitting alone, near the 20-metre mark on the pitch. Unsure what to do, he simply sat down beside the boy, and said “Hi”. This earned him a curious look, and a polite “Hi” back.
Biting into his sandwich to fill the pause, he broke the gaze and looked away, towards the inlet. Swallowing, Louie attempted further conversation.
“I couldn’t help notice you during the rippa game - I thought you looked as bored as I felt”
Smiling, the boy met his gaze again. “Definitely - I’ve always hated rugby, pointless game”.
Feeling a sense of warmth, Louie simply said “You got that right”.
Leading on from the next bite, Louie felt the need to introduce himself properly, given he had interrupted a peaceful solitary lunch.
“My name’s Louis, but everyone calls me Louie. What should I call you?”
“Jem” came the reply, with a softer tone this time.
The conversation flowed easily from that point on, the boys comparing their home situations, schools, and more.
Unsurprisingly, being both from middle-class households in good suburbs, the broad details of their lives ran on similar themes - both having two sisters (though on opposite ends of the age spectrum), two parents at home, and attending church every so often.
Conveniently, around three months prior Louie had, during a church garden working bee, realised that the back of his church hall boundary had a small overlap with the back of Jem’s school grounds. It was agreed that after Sunday school that next week (being the first Sunday of the month), they would meet along this shared boundary to say hi.
Louie’s mum Kath realised something was up, within a couple of minutes of getting him in the car after school.
He seemed far too happy and bubbly, considering he had just finished an inter-school sports day.
“Loo and hands, then come to the table and tell me about your day”.
As Louie took a seat, his youngest sister Nancy smashed her apple segments on her plate, seemingly more interested in how many fragments she could break them into than in eating them.
“So Louie, how was your sports day?” Kath asked.
“Alright - sports were sports but I made a new friend from a different school!” Louie exclaimed.
“Well, that’s good - tell me about them” Kath said, with some reservation - she knew her boy didn’t make friends easily, and was worried about him getting hurt.
“He’s really nice, his name’s Jem, and he’s got two sisters like me, only his are older not younger and one of them’s a twin, and he goes to the Catholic school that backs onto our church - I was going to say hi this Sunday!” Louie breathlessly babbled.
Kath was surprised - this was a longer sentence than Louie had said all week! Clearly this new friend had made quite an impression.
“That sounds like a good plan - I wonder if you would like to invite him over sometime? Maybe one day after school next week. His school is just down the hill from yours, so I’m sure we can make pickup work ok. I’ll have to meet his mother too of course”.
Louie was ecstatic - he hardly ever had friends over, and now his mum was suggesting it for next week! Over the moon, he agreed to ask Jem this Sunday.
Arrangements on Sunday having gone well, the following Friday afternoon Kath pulled up to St Jeremiah’s in her Terrano.
“There they are!” exclaimed Louie.
Pulling in, Louie jumped out and ran over, saying hi. Jem said hi back, but stood there a little shyly. Kath quickly introduced herself to Jem’s mum, who identified herself as Mary-Anne.
Aplogising, Kath excused herself and the boys rapidly, as she had both Emily and Nancy in the car, and Nancy had not had a good afternoon at kindergarten, finishing with a loud tantrum on the way to the car.
“This is so cool!” Louie gushed to Jem, when they had got back to his room. “I can’t believe I’m having you over!”. Jem smiled back at him, “Yeah, I haven’t been to anyone’s house in like two years!”. A little surprised, Louie chose to say nothing in reply, but directed his friend to the bathroom to wash his hands before afternoon tea.
Seeing the boys finishing up their fruit, Kath suggested they head downstairs to the rumpus room and let off some steam with table tennis “or something”.
After a few games of table tennis and some mad scootering down the (rather steep) driveway, Louie realised Jem looked a bit knackered. He suggested “why don’t we head upstairs and play a game instead”. Agreeing, they headed up to Louie’s room.
On the way, Louie ran off some options - they could play Cluedo, Connect Four, battleships, or even chess! Deciding on Cluedo, Louie tried to remember where he’d put it last - oh yes, the top shelf in the wardrobe!
Wheeling his desk chair over and standing precariously on it, feeling it wobble and spin a little beneath him, Louie reached up for the game - the height of the shelf against his pre-tween reach was a losing battle, and he just managed to grab it! Tugging it towards him, it felt surprisingly heavy. With a final tug, the game came loose, and Louie suddenly realised why it was so heavy. Over balancing, he fell to the carpet with a thud, alongside the game, and an unopened pack of something he would rather his new friend not see…