This is the first part of a fiction serial, in 740 words.
We had all read the novel at school. The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas. But there were four of us, so we called ourselves the four musketeers. Childhood friendships don’t necessarily last a lifetime, but in our case they lasted until we became adults. Living in the same district, going to the same junior school. Always in each other’s houses, swapping toys and books, lending each other comics.
Despite the different living conditions, we formed a bond that endured.
If one of us had money for sweets, we all got sweets to eat. Our parents tolerated having all of us around in some kind of informal rota. We shared bottles of lemonade, went to see the kid’s films together, and played out in the local park, or rode around the streets on our bikes. Our four sets of initials were carved in the bark of the biggest tree at the park, and older boys left us alone, knowing we would defend each other, win or lose.
Each of our mums was like another mum to the rest. Cleaning up scraped knees and small cuts, giving us dinner if we were in the house at dinnertime. It was like each of them had another three unofficial sons.
So, who were we?
Me of course, Danny Wellman. Average height and build, sandy hair, and blue eyes. Not good looking like an actor or a film star, but attractive enough to some.
Keith Rainsford. A bit serious, lanky, skinny, and had to wear glasses from childhood.
Terry Wright. Always slightly overweight, a mop of brown hair, and the comedian of the group.
Then there was Johnny Simpson. He was the coolest one. Always wore the right clothes, even when he was 10. His dark hair was thick and cropped, and he had an easy confidence well beyond his years. Despite his very English name, he looked like an Italian, and was the popular one.
Unlike most groups of boys at the time, we didn’t have a natural leader. None of us were into fighting, and we couldn’t be bothered about being good at sport. There were occasional arguments of course, but we always worked things out. Keith and Terry spent the most time together outside of school. Keith thought Terry was hilarious, and even laughed at his worst jokes. And they lived on the same street, four doors apart.
When the four us us were not together, rare ocasions during the school holidays, I was usually at Johnny’s house. Truth be told, I liked to be around him, and hoped that some of his confidence and wide appeal would rub off on me. I watched him, and I learned from him. I might even have had a bit of a crush on him, if I am being honest. Keith and Terry were lost causes by the time we hit our teens, but we never let them down. They were always welcome in our company, even though they didn’t seem to understand that we had to grow up.
Looking back now, it was girls that changed everything. That is no surprise of course, but it was at the time. By the time we were fourteen, Johnny already had a girlfriend. Janice was sixteen, and seemed so much older. She had already left school, and Johnny took advantage of being told that she fancied him. So he had snogged a girl and felt her up, while the rest of us were still looking at some girlie mags we had bought under the counter from the man in the corner shop.
Was I jealous? You bet I was. The others didn’t seem to care. They were both afraid of girls anyway, and Terry put them off with a combination of his chubbiness, and his constant bad jokes. As for Keith, he looked like he would drop dead with fright if a girl even spoke to him. I asked Johnny if Janice had a friend who I could go out with. He was brutally honest, grinning at me as he replied.
“You will have to get better clothes, look older, and have more about you, Danny. All of her friends are sixteen or older, and they don’t want to be seen out with someone who looks like a schoolkid”.
That’s when I started to hate him.
But I didn’t let on. Not then. I would bide my time.