John Bradshaw’s reign of terror continued past Christmas and into the New Year and without fail, Lloyd continued to ignore any provocation that came his. After a while John moved onto other targets where he would get more of a response, such as members of the chess club and Tim the stutterer. However, Lloyd was always there as a visible and obvious target if the need arose.
Sometime in February, Lloyd woke up as usual before school and set about his usual, he stumbled downstairs for his breakfast. As usual the cereal was all laid for him and he set to them with a slight smile on his face. Maybe it was just taking a bit longer to kick in but the pain didn’t seem so bad today. Instead of the usual shovelling, Lloyd spent a bit longer with his breakfast than normal, he looked out of the kitchen window and into the back garden, noticing a blackbird scratching around the crumbs at the foot of the bird table. A few daffodil nibs were poking through next door’s lawn and it seemed an unusually bright morning.
Up in the shower and there was still no sign of the dull pain, no burning in the bones or aches in the joints. Sitting in the shower, enjoying the morning, he hummed a few bars of what he thought was a Stevie Wonder song, liking his seat in the bath so much, he decided to use some of mum’s conditioner to see what it was like. The scent of Jojoba filled the room. Lloyd wasn’t impressed.
“Lloyd will you hurry up,” came the shout through the door. “You’re going to be late at this rate,” said his Mum.
Lloyd bounded out of the bathroom with his towel around his waist. “Sorry Mum, got carried away with the conditioner,” said Lloyd.
Catherine was mildly taken aback with Lloyd’s unusual exuberance. It was one of the longest things he’d said in months but she was so busy with her morning routine that she didn’t really take it in.
In registration that morning, Lloyd answered with a clear ‘here Miss’ to his name. As usual, everyone else ignored Lloyd, everyone except Joanne Stills, who, with her now straight teeth, looked up to check the new voice in the classroom. A smile tried to waltz on her lips as she noticed it was Lloyd, but she caught it, blushed slightly, and checked around the classroom to see if anyone had noticed.
By the end of the day, Lloyd was strangely tired and weary, but happy. Normally the pain meant he slept in fits and starts, sleep dotted with nightmares and tangles with the sheets. But that night he slept like a baby. The next day started the same as the previous, only Lloyd passed on the conditioner. At school he even put his hand up to answer a question about Howard Hughes in Mr Hopkins’ history class, causing a mild snort of surprise from the teacher.
After a pain-free week, Lloyd was beginning to think it was all over, and he was right. So with his height topping out at an impressive six feet eleven inches, Lloyd stopped growing at age 15. But being true to himself, he kept it all quiet.
Now the growing pains were in remission he started seeing what was happening in his world. He was a good few years behind on social development but he found his natural disposition turned from sullenness to openness, putting his hand up in class, walking with his head up and a purposeful stride.
He still ate the same amount of food, greedily polishing off whatever was put in front of him. But now, instead of it adding to his height, he added much needed bulk and muscle, filling out his clothes so they fitted as they should. At night he had started doing as many press-up and sit-ups as he could, burning off the excess energy he had and making his muscles flex and work.
Spring came and went and the long, warm school days of June stretched on, promising so much for the summer. While Lloyd had begun finding his feet in the classroom, John Bradshaw was tearing up the rule book. In May, he’d been suspended from school for three days after being found smoking in the toilets. He was routinely in detention and routinely didn’t attend. Every day was a battle for him, fighting against teachers, learning, uniform, the system. He still liked to assert his power over everyone but wasn’t so oblivious as to not notice Lloyd emerging from his hermit’s retreat.
It was the last day of June. Lloyd was sat on a patch of grass, his long legs stretched out in front of him and his hands behind him, supporting his body on his arms. He had his face tilted toward the sun, eyes closed to it’s brightness but soaking up the warmth like a guillemot on a rock.
A football caught Lloyd squarely in the chest, though he barely flinched. Suddenly, the warm sun was blocked and someone kicked at one his arms, hoping to knock him off balance but Lloyd was strong enough to keep it planted.
“Look at you, you fag. Sat in the sun on your own, like a loser with no mates.” It could only have been John Bradshaw.
“Go away, John,” said Lloyd, purposefully. “I just want to eat my lunch.”
“What lunch?” said Bradshaw, who swung a boot at the lunch box at Lloyd’s side, sending the contents spraying in an arc over the playground. Like vultures around a fresh kill, a crowd of pupils instantly appeared around them, smelling an altercation.
Lloyd let out a sigh and made to stand up. As he was half way through the manoeuvre, Bradshaw jumped at him, knocking them both to the ground.
Bradshaw started thumping at Lloyd’s stomach, but Lloyd soaked up the brief onslaught before putting his massive right hand in Bradshaw’s face and brushed him off like a crumb from his jumper. This enraged Bradshaw further, who could sense his ‘cock of the year’ title slipping, his period of infamy nearing an end. He rushed at Lloyd, grabbing at his shirt and ripping buttons from it, leaving his tie flapping around his neck and the rest of the shirt wide open, revealing a heavily muscled torso.
The crowd gasped audibly at this first glimpse of Lloyd’s muscular, fat-less physique. Why had no-one noticed the stork-like physique grow into a credible hulk? Lloyd now weighed in at around 17 stone; Bradshaw gave away about five stone and ten inches. Lloyd began to feel a new sensation; anger, and the blood rising into his head from the annoyed rage at this unnecessary nuisance who had ripped his shirt.
Bradshaw came at him again but this time Lloyd was ready and caught him with one hand, lifting him high off the ground by his scrunched up shirt. Bradshaw’s feet wheeled for a surface to stand on like Wile E. Coyote chasing after the Roadrunner. A look of genuine terror was there for all to see in the bully’s eyes, his reign of terror had been broken and the hold he had over everyone was now over.
Lloyd looked Bradshaw in the eyes. “Enough” was the only word he said before nonchalantly tossing his attacker to one side. Bradshaw fell smartly on his arse, tears welling in his eyes, and was left shouting obscenities at Lloyd, obscenities that no-one heard. All eyes and ears were now on Lloyd, who despite his abnormal height had been so silent and unnoticed for so long, that they wondered how they’d never seen how magnificent he’d become.
Lloyd tried to put his shirt back together but seeing that the buttons had been ripped off, fished around in his bag for his PE shirt, removing his ruined school shirt in the process. The gathered pupils were slack jawed at the sight of the man mountain now in front of them, their eyes hypnotised by the mass of muscle on show.
Lloyd suddenly became aware that he was the focus of attention. He hurriedly put his t-shirt on and gathered his belongings as best he could and started walking away, parting the sea of onlookers.
“Lloyd, wait,” Joanne Stills shouted after him, “you’ve forgotten your lunchbox.”
Lloyd stopped and turned round to take the container from Joanne, both of them blushing as their fingers touched in the handover. “Thank you,” said Lloyd, sensing for the first time that change had come.
Catherine was putting the washing on that night and picked up Lloyd’s ripped shirt from the basket. She’d been paying more attention to the upturn in Lloyd’s moods recently, but hadn’t want to delve too deeply in case it didn’t last. Now seeing the state of his school clothing, she was worried he might be in trouble.
“Lloyd!” she yelled up the stairs. “Get down here this minute!”
Lloyd bounded down the stairs with the enthusiasm of a young spaniel, taking them three at a time and jumped into the kitchen, as always making sure not to catch his head on the doorframe.
“What’s happened to this shirt? If you’ve been fighting at school then you’re in serious trouble,” said Catherine with a fury.
“I can explain…”
Catherine interrupted: “You better had and quickly.”
Lloyd could see his mum was seething, he’d never seen her so angry before. He did the first that came into his head to calm her down.
He took a step forward and picked up his Mum, pinning her arms against her side, and holding her so she was at his eye level.
Catherine gave a little shriek at being lifted so high, but on seeing the smile on Lloyd’s face, laughed as he carried her high off the ground, her head brushing against the ceiling light fitting.
“Don’t worry Mum, it was nothing and it’s all been sorted now. There’ll be no more problems.”
With that he twirled his bemused but laughing Mum around his bedroom.
“Let me down you big bully,” his Mum joked, swimming in the smile on Lloyd’s beaming face and the laughter in his eyes.