Deano sat on the kerb, face in his hands, bawling. I’d told him he was too young to come with us, but he wouldn’t listen.
Kelvin stared menacingly at me, one of Deano’s grubby trainers in each hand.
“You are such a wuss,” he declared.
“Am not. I just don’t wanna do it.”
Deano’s mum would kill him. Ever since his dad went, she’d been a bit loopy. I’d seen her lay into him before and it had scared the shit out of me.
Kelvin scowled and spat on the ground. “Fine. You’re next, pea-brain.”
“You’re the pea-brain…”
Kelvin swung round and punched me hard in the stomach. I didn’t expect it, and the ferocity of the blow shocked me. Winded and shaken, it was all I could do to lie on the pavement and try to catch my breath.
Marcus laughed at this point: a cold, mocking snigger. He gripped my ankles and started to pull off my trainers. I writhed as hard as I could: they were only a couple of weeks old and I loved them. DC’s. Black with a gold emblem near the heel. More than mum could really afford; but I’d begged her. They weren’t laced up of course, so they came off all too easily, despite my attempts to wriggle away.
Kelvin had already tied Deano’s shoelaces together and was launching the coupled trainers high into the air, time and again. Eventually he succeeded. They dangled cheerfully from the overhead wire, still swinging from the momentum of being thrown. My DC’s soon followed, snagged on Marcus’s second attempt.
Deano, still crying, had run off. He didn’t make it all the way home. Blinded by tears and awkward in his grimy socks, he stumbled near a kerb and lurched into a Transit van. Those swaying trainers reminded him of the day he’d found his dad two years ago, I just knew it.
I’m glad I wasn’t in anyone else’s shoes that day.