* * *
The class dismissed, George gathered his things from the desk and presented himself to Mr Smalling. He waited patiently for several seconds as the teacher wrote something in a journal on his desk. Looking over his spectacles, he began. 'I am very disappointed with you Knight. Would you care to explain yourself?'
'I am sorry Sir, I had no idea....'
'That much is clear. You have no idea, not a clue. Your brother seems to be coping with your situation better than you. Perhaps you could enlighten me as to why that is.' George felt a flush to his face. He knew what Smalling was referring to.
'He's too young to understand Sir.'
'That sounds like an excuse Knight. This is not the first time your Mother has been admitted to that particular clinic, am I correct?'
'Yes Sir.' replied George, who began to involuntarily curl his fingers up into a fist. He felt like shouting at Smalling, he felt like saying 'What business is it of yours how my Mother is, you stupid old man?' but he remained silent.
'No more sleep lost over this matter, do you hear me?’ said Smalling uncaringly. 'A one thousand word essay on my desk tomorrow morning before 9 o'clock entitled 'The Trivium'. You may leave.'
George left the room silently; his thoughts were with his Mother and not with the pursuit of logic and reason.
* * *
George meandered along the corridor, considering his options. He had two other essays that were due tomorrow morning, which he had planned to complete last night, but unusually he could not concentrate on anything, not even on the page of a book. He had felt a strange sensation, a tingling in his neck and a pain at the back of his eyes, which he had put down to reading too much in dim light. Reluctantly he had elected to retire to his bed much earlier than usual together with the understanding that he would have to be twice as industrious the following day. He had diligently brushed his teeth, staring into the mirror as he did so; his eyes looked as they usually did despite the pain. They were brown with hazel flecks. His Mother would sometimes tease him that he alone had eyes like chocolate while everyone else in the family had eyes the colour of clear blue sky. She called him her little chocolate soldier and he would pretend to resist as she tried to ruffle his hair, but secretly he enjoyed the attentions she gave him. He had smiled at himself in the mirror at the thought before climbing into bed and falling into a deep sleep almost immediately.