Truth or Lie

Written by: SameerNagarajan

The ten year-old jumped onto the bus just before it pulled out of the stop. His brown hair had not seen a comb for the better part of a week; his clothes were not torn, but certainly not clean. His light brown eyes twinkled cheerfully, as if daring life to throw a few more challenges at him.
Her initial indifference turned slowly to sympathy as he sat next to her. Overcoming her initial reserve she smiled at him then noted the blue patches on his arms and the scratch on his face.
He noticed her staring at his arms and as the bus moved he said, “It isn’t fair... I wish he wouldn't drink.”
She was troubled by the image forming in her mind, which suggested abuse. Righteous anger swelled as she probed. He lived at home. There were other children. They were not taken care of. Soup for dinner last night! And he'd got slapped when he'd said he needed some books for school. It wasn't fair, he declared.
This was a case fit for Agatha Rathbone, self-appointed social worker and she was up to the task. She wasn’t going to watch a young child being abused. It had to stop. She had to stop it.
The boy murmured with his eyes lowered, that when his father was drunk he was violent. If he failed in a task he would beat them even more. It's not about me, he assured her. But the younger ones. Her lips pursed tightly.
“Thomas,” she said firmly, taking his hand in hers, “you’ll be alright. You'll be in a safe place tonight.” She gently patted the back of his hand.
They sat in silence as the bus stopped and started at various stops.
“This is us,” she said, standing. He followed her off the bus.
The house was ordinary with trimmed hedges. The wonderful aroma of frying onions met them as they walked down the driveway. Thomas suddenly became quiet.
"Ah, Tom, you're back from your drama practice now, are you?" a man’s voice rumbled from inside. "I hope you didn’t have to carry the props today, you need to be extra careful with heavy stuff, after all those injuries you got on your football match.”
A tall, fair man stepped out and stopped. Thomas had disappeared. She assumed he was probably afraid.
"You ought to be ashamed, getting drunk and beating up a poor boy like that," she blurted.
His jaw dropped and confusion filled his face.
“There's no point pretending to be innocent.” She glared at him. "He's told me everything. The alcohol, the beating, the younger siblings ... I've called the police…" Stunned surprise filled his face.
“What are you talking about?” he demanded. “We don't drink.”
Awkward silence jarred the air. A wry chuckle filled the distance between them. “I get it. Tom's been telling you his stories, has he?”

Writing order: Abhimanyu Jamwal (India), Sumanda Maritz (S. Africa), Hemali Ajmera (India), Anthony Smit (Samos Island), Diana Labrum (USA), Abhimanyu Jamwal (India), Iliena Bosu (India), Sameer Nagarajan (Dubai), Joe Labrun (USA), Suraya Dewing (NZ).



You got me all teary Sameer during the first half. I really felt for the little boy and what he must have endured. And then the story turned a complete 360 degrees in the last few lines. Sympathy turned to surprise. Sometimes children are not as innocent as they seem, are they? We will find out.
:-) I think what I liked about the way it turned out is that genre-wise it can go in any direction now ...
He was convincingly portrayed and the turn around was a surprise. Where does the truth lie. I'll be keen to see who is telling the truth. It has so many possibilities.