Testing Times - Chapter 26 "The Music Master"

Testing Times - A Tommy & Tamara Story  

Part
Twenty Six

 

"The Music Master"

 
Thursday 21st May
 

Tammy drove herself to school just after seven but saw nothing out of the ordinary. She immediately went up to Gerry's room and knocked quietly.

"It's Tammy."

"Come in."

Gerry was wearing his dressing gown but Tammy could see he had recently been to the shower room.

"Okay, are you ready?"

"As I'll ever be." he shrugged off the gown and dropped it on the floor. "It needs washing, badly!"

Tammy could see that his white underwear wasn't quite a standard boy design, she wasn't looking at his t-shirt.

"Knickers?"

Gerry blushed, "Damn, I forgot! You can't easily get men's undies in pure cotton, or they're hideously expensive. I can get women's plain briefs for very little and they don't have the same heavy elastic. You'll think I'm perverted or something." He sat down on his bed, clearly upset.

Tammy sat with him and put her arm around. "Don't be silly, firstly no-one else will see them, secondly what you wear is your choice and thirdly this is a short term medical decision and not a lifestyle choice. Understand?"

"Yeah."

"Now, dry your eyes while I get the dress out."

Tammy held the tartan dress and unzipped it, the zip was in the back and that might present a target.

"I'll lower it over you, make sure it goes back on a hanger when you take it off."

"Yes, Tammy."

She zipped him up once she was content with it. "Now, is it comfortable?"

"It's a bit loose in the front."

Tammy laughed, "My fault, I should have remembered to bring a bra but I didn't measure you!"

"Oi!"

"Never mind, there's an adjuster on each strap. How does it feel on your legs?"

"Like it's not there, the waist is a bit higher than normal so it's not rubbing there either."

Tammy went behind him to sort the straps out. "Do you have a cardigan?"

"Why?"

"To make it difficult for one of the boys to unzip you. You can take it off in class if you get too warm."

"Oh, yeah, I see what you mean."

A minute later he was ready, slipping on a pair of brogues over black socks.

Gerry wondered where to put his key before discovering a small pocket in the dress.

"Lead on, executioner!"

By now the corridor was filling up with boys, most of whom were towering over Tammy and Gerry.

"Another girl?" "It's true, Geraldine is here!" "Oh no, another one!"

"Silence!"

The Head had chosen that moment to appear. "Ah, Mr Anders and Miss Smart, I see you have everything in hand."

"Yes, Sir."

"Please join me on the top table this morning."

"Sir."

He turned and departed, Tammy now took control.

"I think it is fair to say that Gerry would not have dressed like this out of choice. He has a nasty skin condition which is not, thankfully, contagious. If you had to endure the same condition then what would you do? In Gerry's case his legs suffer the worse, but what if it was your face or ... your genitalia? What remedial approach would you take and, if it helped you, would you care what others thought?"

Tammy earned applause from John Hibbert, who had now come out of his room, most of the other boys joined in then provided an escort for the pair as they headed for breakfast.

News about Gerry hadn't reached the lower years years before they arrived in the refectory, Tammy and Gerry made their way across the floor to two extra places on the top table, normally reserved for guests, this generated a little whispering, although many seats were unusually empty.

Tammy had been up here before but this was a first for Gerry, especially having their food delivered, or pots of coffee being available on the table. One of the Year eights, who was on kitchen duty, brought Gerry's toast, sniggering.

"There you are, Miss."

Tammy intervened, "Name and form?"

"Jester, 8W, Miss."

"That will be all."

Gerry looked to have taken the comment calmly, but Tammy wasn't too certain. Now, however, was not the place for heavy discussions. The Head rose for the morning speech.

"Firstly, we are a little short staffed today owing to the outward bound course on Orkney. Therefore some classes have been amalgamated and there are some room alterations. Please check the noticeboards or see your form tutors.

"I'm pleased that one boy has made it back amongst us after a week or more absent for medical reasons. Now, I will make it very clear that despite appearances, Mr Anders remains a young man. He has an ailment that means he can't wear trousers of even a kilt for the next week or two, he has bravely opted to wear a pinafore so he can attend meals and classes as normal.

"Insults will not be tolerated against Mr Anders or any other pupil who does not comply with anyone's narrow-minded opinions of what is right and wrong. I believe Mr Anders is very brave in taking this step."

He indicated that Gerry should stand whilst the depleted refectory applauded him. One wag decided a wolf whistle was needed, the Head identified the boy but didn't directly chastise him. He signalled for Gerry to sit.

"Mr Anders has opted to take this step so his education doesn't suffer. Anyone deciding that education is an excuse for comedy will be finding a change of uniform heading their way. That is all."

"Tammy," whispered Gerry, "what toilets should I use?"

"Continue using the boys' unless you're crossing over to the Dark Side? Just remember to sit down, it isn't polite to pull up a skirt or a frock for a pee."

Gerry blushed. There was a scraping of chairs at the top table as the senior masters started to leave, Tammy and Gerry took the opportunity to escape at the same time, ahead of the rush. Joan was waiting in the doorway.

"Mr Anders, can I have a word? My room, please."

"I'm heading for the 8W form room, I'll catch up with you shortly, Gerry."

Tammy knew where this form would be, she, as Tom, had been a member of the same form in Year 8. When she approached the door she could see, and hear, that Dr Meier was the form tutor for this group of boys.

Tammy knew that he was retiring at the end of the school year, only another 6 weeks away and that his acceptance of the recent changes at St Andrews was the bare minimal. She swiftly moved away and made tracks for the common room, abandoning her original plan. Two of the lower sixth were discussing Gerry when she walked in the door, falling silent as soon as Tammy was spotted.

"I'm interested what you have to say about Gerry, in case we have to get any of the lovely dresses in your sizes?"

"I know that's not true, the Head wouldn't do that."

"Oh, I took a picture of the sample, would you like to see it?" She took her phone out of her pocket, grateful for a little online searching the previous evening.

Girls Pink Gingham dress on mobile phone screen

"Seriously? I'll have my parents deal with the school."

"I suppose it wouldn't necessarily involve any sixth formers, maybe just the lower years?" Offered the other one.

"That may be true," Tammy replied, "Sixth Formers could be punished in other ways, like being banned from going to the bar at the Royal Hotel?" It was known that some of the eighteen year olds, legally, used that bar at weekends to watch live sports. A few nearly-eighteens also used it, despite warnings by the school. The bar manager however was just grateful for the well-behaved boys with money to spend.

"He wouldn't do that?"

"Minibus privileges could be withdrawn on Saturdays and having to be back by midday on Sundays? That would work as a punishment, walking around with bare legs during the week would be the easier option in my opinion."

"All because we told a few jokes at somebody's expense?"

"So laughing at a medical condition is okay, what if you had it? Would you stay in your room until the school asked you to leave or would you man-up and do something about it?"

"That's woman-up, surely?"

"He's more man than you'll ever be, that's for certain." Tammy smiled, "I know if I needed a partner for a ball I would choose him over you any day."

"Hey, I'm captain of the second fifteen."

"Of dominoes or tiddlywinks?"

His partner in crime creased, "wait till the team hear this!"

"No!" The pair were out of the door, one chasing the other, just missing Gerry as he gingerly checked the common room for Tammy.

"What's up with them, missing a rugby match?"

"Long story, how was Joan? Mrs Small I mean"

"Fine, she wanted to know if I'd had any hassle yet, but there's only been a couple so far."

"When's your first lesson?"

"Third period , it's a double music lesson, but I want to do some revision in the library first where I won't get bothered."

"Is your music lesson with Dr Meier?" He nodded.

"Do you have your phone with you?"

"I don't carry it in school, plus I hardly have alot of pockets."

"Well, do me a favour please, and find a way of taking your phone in there to record the lesson. Call it a hunch but I think the good Doctor may have something to say. Just make sure the ringer is turned off!"

"Okay, if you insist. Are you staying until lunch?"

"I wasn't but would you like to see me after music?"

"Please Tammy."

"Okay, why don't you go back to your room, I want to head into town."

"Fine, I'll see you at lunchtime." Gerry gave Tammy a kiss then left.

***

Tammy pulled out of the school; for the next few days one of the grounds staff was on gate duty at the school, checking anyone who was not known. Tammy received a wave from the man as she passed him. Just outside the gate, however, was someone with a camera, Tammy saw a glint reflected in the lens but there was nothing she could do about it.

She decided to keep going after checking that she wasn't being followed. She used quickdial on her phone to make a call.

"Hilary, there's a man with a camera just outside the school gates, he caught me as I came out."

"Is Helen with you?"

"No I left her at home, Dad's babysitting."

"Good, where are you heading?"

"I am on my way into town, why?"

"We've just been told that Veronica is holding a press conference at the Royal Hotel later this morning. Where is your camera bag?"

"At home."

"Can you get it? The conference is at eleven, be there as soon as you can."

"Okay, I'll go home to get it, but why me?"

"I'm on my own in the office and we have no other resources available at short notice. There's some press credentials in the bag, you're a freelance student journalist working for Europe Exposition Magazine, gathering photos for an article on Highland Politics."

"Great, what's my name?"

"Tamara Smart, what else?"

"No alias?"

"You're too well known. Just get there and take some pictures of everyone, especially any heavy mob. Best use the extra wide lens as it's difficult to miss something with that lens. One more thing, don't come back here with the camera, they'll upload automatically when you're in range of a decent 4g or wifi connection. The camera will upload lower resolution images immediately if it can find a 3g connection.

"If anyone needs to check your credentials, there's a dedicated number on the back of the card that Suzie answers in London."

"Okay, approaching home now, when I get into town I'll park in the public car-park as it's near the hotel."

The main gate of Dunbankin' was already open so Tammy parked in front of the house and let herself in.

"Hi Tammy, finished already?"

"No Pru, I need my camera bag as I have a job."

"It's in the office, what kind of job?"

"Photograph a press conference."

"Best swap that skirt for trousers in case you go climbing, but I think you should take some heels - be practical as well as ....."

Tammy scooted upstairs before Pru finished talking. Out of her bedroom windows she could see activity in and around the barn as large shrink-wrapped kit was being unloaded from a truck. In the pool itself, someone was in the water.

Tammy changed then took a look in the mirror, opting to liven up her make-up, perhaps making her a appear a little older than her mere eighteen years. She remembered there was a pair of heels in the car so collected her camera bag and headed out of the door.

Negotiating the Thursday traffic took a little patience but soon she was parked and able to change her flats for the pair of heels She checked the camera bag and found the press pass, she transferred that to her shoulder bag. The camera didn't have a lens on the front so she had a look at the selection, choosing the 10-22mm f3 lens. She fitted a battery, checked the memory card and put the bag back in the book before clicking her heels across the carpark towards the hotel.

"I'm sorry Miss, the bar's closed to the public this morning."

"Press, I understand Ms Salmond will be here." Tammy fished her card out of her bag.

"Okay then."

She went into the bar and was directed to the function room at the rear of the property. A few journalists had already arrived, including two TV crews.There was no sign of Veronica but she could see a few shady characters. One caught her eye, Tammy couldn't immediately recall her name but was certain the woman was one of Yvonne Stewart's friends. Tammy scanned the area to see if Yvonne herself was nearby, remembering that she was still detained on terrorism charges.

Tammy went out to the bar to get a coffee and nearly walked into a newly arrived Ms Salmond, who was now giving an impromptu interview to a local radio station. She moved out of the way but took several shots of Veronica and anyone else in the background.

Having given up on obtaining a coffee she moved back into the room where a stage had been erected. Everyone there seemed to accept there would be a wait.

Tammy was attracting some attention but she wasn't hassled except when everyone jostled for position as the disgraced MP arrived in the room.

"Could we have some quiet? My name is John McGregor and I'm Ms Salmond's agent. We'll first hear from Ms Salmond and I will allow a few questions."

Flashes from other cameras had been going off as he spoke so Tammy joined in akthough she wasn't paying attention to what Veronica was saying.

She negotiated her way between the mostly male crowd and their metallic perches until she was in a position to the left of the stage with limited visibility. What is did give her, however, was sight of the agent speaking to two others, who were not journalists. She snapped away, capturing the trio in the wide angle whilst apparently photographing Veronica Salmond.

There was no-one else in the immediate area so she withdrew to the doorway and looked to get a few of the assembled crowd but needed height. A voice addressed her from behind.

"You look lost, young lady."

She turned, finding a man in his forties. "Oh, I'm just looking to get a shot of the hacks but I don't have any steps with me." It was curious seeing so many decorating steps without paint pots .

"Just starting in the business?"

"Yes." She wondered how much to say.

"I haven't seen you at any other gigs, where do you come from?"

"I live in the town, although I'm a part-timer. I'm sorry, but who are you?"

"Oh, I'm James Sturton, the new editor of the Thurso Echo. If you take anything of interest, I'm always after good photos." He handed her a business card. "We don't pay unfortunately, do you have any cards?"

"Sorry," she hesitated, "I'm waiting for them at the moment. I'm Tammy Smart, by the way."

"Nice to meet you Tammy, give me a call if you have anything useful?"

"I'll have to check with my agency first."

"Sure, it looks like it's winding up in there, there'll be a rush for the door any minute."

Tammy made it back to her car just as a helicopter passed overhead, deciding to leave straight away - without changing her footwear - having forgotten her original reason for going into town. She called Hilary on the way back to the school.

"Got some reasonable photos, I reckon one of Yvonne's friends was there. I've remembered her first name's Fiona and I believe she's from Inverness."

"Yes, I have the low res images. We're having some trouble getting a full ID on her and will have to ask the Police. Did you get any photos of the cars outside the hotel?"

"No, should I have?"

"It would give us the car registration numbers so we could see who was in the area."

"Sorry."

"Okay, next time maybe?"

"I'll try to remember. I had an encounter with the new editor of the Thurso Echo, by the way. I could do with some business cards if I'm using the journalist tag again?"

"Okay, we'll order some but I'm a little concerned that the local newspaper will have a record of you from last December?"

"Yes, but Dad and Elsie are major shareholders of the holding company so we should be able to keep a lid on anything being dredged up. The editor wants me to supply photos, for free."

"That won't do any harm, it would give you credits and establish you in that role."

"Okay, but what am I really doing?"

"Tammy, we all have multiple roles to play in life."

Tammy drove back into the school, arriving around midday and not spotting any rogue cameramen. She parked out the front, not intending to stay too long.

There was no sign of the school secretary when she walked in and had gone past the Head's office when there was a shout behind her.

"Excuse me Miss, where are you going?"

Tammy turned around, finding a stranger walking towards her.

"I'm going to the music rooms to wait for Mr Anders as the lunch bell is due to go shortly."

"I'm afraid you'll have to wait at the office, you can't go anywhere uninvited."

"Excuse me, I'm a sixth former here and a prefect too. Who are you?"

"As this is a boys school I find that surprising."

"You still haven't said who you are, and obviously didn't get a briefing. Where's Janet?"

"Mrs Adams? She's not available, I'm agency."

"Well, Miss Agency, I'm Tamara Smart and I'm very much entitled to be here." Tammy purposefully strolled away, her heels clicking, walking straight into the Headmaster.

"Sorry Sir."

"In a hurry, Miss Smart?"

"I need to get to the music rooms before the bell goes, I'm meeting Mr Anders there."

"You had best come into my office, then you should take a look in a mirror."

Dr McIntosh closed his study door behind Tammy.

"There's been an incident, Mr Anders has gone to hospital."



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