“But it wasn’t where I left it! It really wasn’t!”
In a demonstration of violent manhandling that made the class wonder if Mr Greggs should ever have been hired in the first place, Mark was hauled from the classroom, his protestations ignored. Mr Greggs plopped him down outside the door and folded his arms, glaring down at him like an overbearing preacher. Mark blinked and looked up at him, rubbing his shoulder.
“What did I say about forgetting your homework, Mark?” The teacher pursed his lips in a way that reminded Mark of his mother putting on her lipstick.
“I didn’t forget it!” Mark insisted, wringing his hands. “I looked for it this morning!”
He had, too. And he knew exactly who had taken it.
“It’s to the headmistress’s office with you, boy.”
“That,” Mark said to the empty room, “was not funny.”
A high-pitched giggle came from under the bed.
“Did they give you detention?”
Mark went down on his hands and knees and poked his face under the table. There was nothing under there but an old teddy bear and a dusty Scalextrics box. Mark scowled.
“Yes, for a week.”
The teddy bear chortled and rubbed its paws together.
“What about your mum? Did she ground you?”
Mark did not appreciate having the starring role in his own version of Toy Story. At the age of six, he had been delighted to come home from school and find that his new bear could talk to him. At the much wiser age of ten, he knew it was a nuisance.
“Yes,” he said.
He had done the homework. He had done it well. All the answers were right, he was sure of it, though he had struggled with a few. And Cuddles – a bear he would never feel inclined to cuddle – had hidden it.
“Excuse me, Mr Greggs, but the teddy stole my homework.”
He’d either be whisked to the headmistress or to the hospital.
“I’m throwing you out,” he said. The bear’s grin faltered.
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“I’m putting you in the bin.” He groped under the bed, just missing Cuddles as he scampered away. Mark hit his head as he got up and saw his victim swinging precariously from his dressing-gown girdle.
“You can’t throw me out,” he whined. “I’m your oldest friend.”
“Where did you put my homework?” he snapped. The bear had now buried himself in the robe pocket and was throwing old chewing gum wrappers at him.
“Look on the fire,” he said with a grin. Mark could have ripped him apart.
“Right, that’s it,” he said, crossing his arms like Mr Greggs had. “Do you want me to put you on the fire?”
The bear squealed. “You wouldn’t!”
Mark lunged at him, falling on to the bed with a yell as someone knocked on the door. He looked around wildly. Cuddles had disappeared.
“Mark?” his mother called from outside, sounding angry. “Mark, I told you – no watching TV!” She opened the door to see Mark’s arm flailing over the side of the bed, stretched towards his dressing gown. She stared, her mouth open in a little ‘o’ of surprise. “What on earth are you doing?”
‘Nothing, Mum,’ said Mark, scandalised. ‘This is how I relax!’
Emma is twenty years old and currently studying English with Creative Writing at University College Falmouth in Cornwall. She has been interested in writing fiction since the age of about eight: 'I loved reading as a child and it was from this that my own interest began, as soon as I realised it was possible to make the stories yourself as well as reading other people’s. There isn’t really anything else that I’ve ever wanted to do professionally; I love the pride and enjoyment that comes from not only someone complimenting my work but also the writing process along the way.