It had only been half an hour since the start of school. I left the office and jogged down the rest of the corridor, looking in each room as I passed it. I started up the stairs and something hit me. I flew down the half of the long staircase that I had walked up. I screwed my eyes shut and waited for the impact of my body against the floor. It never came, but I was on the floor at the bottom of the stairs all the same. I tried to lift myself up, but my arm was hurting like crazy and I couldn't move it. I rolled over and propped myself up on my other arm. Ben was lying next to me with his eyes shut tight, his face was a picture of pain.
"Ben?" he didn't answer so I tried again. "Ben, are you hurt?"
"What do you think?" he whispered
"Umm... does it hurt a lot?"
"It hurts. Like hell" he said. I pushed myself up onto my feet and walked over to him.
"Can you sit up" I was worried. Ben had never been this hurt before. He tried to sit up. Pain covered his face. He managed to get himself propped up on his elbows. I went behind him and helped him up the best I could with one hand. He tried to walk but he was limping and he nearly fell again, but I stopped him just in time. I helped him over to one of the chairs in the nearest waiting room. He put his head against the wall and sighed.
"That's OK. Do you want me to get you something?"
"No. I'm fine. Well, except for the fact that my leg feels like it's gonna fall off."
"What did you do to it?"
"I hit it on the stairs when I smacked into you. Did you get hurt by the way?" He was looking at me now. He looked worried.
"Yes. I hurt my arm." I said
"Come here, let me have a look" he looked more worried now.
"Forget about my stupid arm. You're more hurt than I am" I didn't care that I was hurt.
"Come here. I will not forget about your arm. Just let me have a look, I might be able to help." Of course, his Mum was a doctor. He would know a bit about injuries from her. I went over to him and he gently lifted my arm. I winced at the pain when he moved it.
"Are you OK?" he looked really worried now.
"Yes, I'm fine. You don't need to worry" he didn't look convinced so I said "Look, I'm gonna have to help you walk around because of my clumsiness on the stairs. Don't worry about me"
"Hmm..." he looked more convinced, but not totally. He tried to get up but he failed. Pain crossed his face again. I was really worried about him. I looked at him, his eyes were closed and he was resting his head against the wall again. I looked away from his face to where his wound was - and screamed, but then I covered my mouth with my hands to stop the sound coming out. Ben's eyes snapped open and he looked straight at me. I don't know what he saw on my face but he suddenly looked so worried it was unbelievable.
"What is it?" he said "what's wrong?" I pointed at his knee.
"You're bleeding" I said weakly through my hands. I couldn't stand the sight of blood and he knew that. But I had to help him. He was looking at the injury with shock in his eyes. "Roll your trouser leg up" I said to him.
"I can't do that! You hate the sight of blood. You'll probably faint!"
"Just do it Ben. It probably isn't as bad as it looks. And besides, it'll get worse if you just leave it." He couldn't say no to that. He pulled the leg of his jogging bottoms up to his knee and bent over to look at it the best he could.
"Umm... you might wanna look away or close your eyes or something"
"Just do it, Ben" I said. He carefully pulled the trouser leg over his wound. He was right. I should have looked away. I covered my mouth again and ran to the toilets attached to the waiting room. I threw up in one of them. I washed my mouth out with the water from one of the sinks and splashed cold water on my face. I went back out and sat down on the floor. I rested my head the wall and closed my eyes.
"You've gone pale." said Ben "Are you OK?"
"I think so" I said though I wasn't so sure. After a while I got up and went back into the toilets. I got a lot of loo roll and wet it, then I went back out and threw it to Ben. He caught it.
"Put this on it" I said without looking at him. He put the wet tissue over the bloody mess that was - or should have been - his knee.
"Damn, that's cold" he said
"No, its fine. It's probably better cold anyway. Are you sure you're OK?"
"Yes, I'm fine. I just wasn't expecting it to be that bad"
"Oh. Right." He looked at me. His eyes weren't worried anymore, they were questioning.
"What?" it annoyed me when people looked at me like that. He didn't say anything, just kept looking at me. "What?"
"Why am I your best friend?"
"Why am I yours?" I hated questions like that.
"No, I mean - why me? Why not Maria or Alice?"
"You mean - ‘Why am I best friends with a boy and not a girl?'"
"No. I mean ‘Why me and not one of your other friends?' If you had other boys that are friends then I would have said their names, but you don't, so I didn't" Why did he have to ask me questions like this?
"Define ‘best friend'"
"Why do you choose to hang around with me? Why do you care about me so much? Why do you tell me your problems? Why - "
"Stop, stop, stop." I interrupted him. "Why are you asking me these questions?"
"You're my best friend because you care about me, you are the only person except my family who actually listens to me, you're fun to be with, you take me seriously and you are the only one of my friends who understands me. And you're kinda cute... Happy now?" He smiled.
"Yes" he looked happy. But now it was my turn.
"Why am I your best friend?"
"That's not fair"
"Yes it is"
"Same reasons as you I suppose"
"Come on, there has to be something different"
"Well..." he was reluctant to tell me.
"Please. I spilled my guts to you."
"Please, I won't laugh"
"I'm not worried that you'll think it's funny" he said, still reluctant to tell me "I'm worried that you'll think it's too much, that you won't like it at all." He looked a bit embarrassed
"Don't be silly" I said, I didn't want him to feel embarrassed. "I promise I won't say anything. Please. Just tell me."
"I'd prefer it of you said something."
"Come on Ben. Just tell me."
"Well... I kinda..." I waited patiently, I knew he would tell me now "I... sort of... love you... kinda" he looked really embarrassed.
"Oh" I hadn't been expecting that. There was one of those awkward silences, where nobody said anything. I hated awkward silences. I had to break it so I said - well more whispered "In what way?" he didn't say anything. I looked at him. He had his hands covering his face, his elbows resting on his lap. "Oh no! You're not embarrassed are you? You're not crying?" I went over to him and put my hand on his arm to comfort him.
"I'm not crying" he said quietly.
"Hey, you don't need to be embarrassed. I don't mind what you said. Honestly" I didn't mind what he'd said; I minded that he thought I did. He looked sideways at me.
"Are you sure? You really don't mind?" he looked unsure and embarrassed
"I really don't mind" I took his hands away from his face. His eyes were red rimmed. "You were crying, weren't you?" he nodded. I didn't ask why. But he asked:
"Do... you love me?" I pondered this for a moment and then said:
"Yes, but in a friend way"
"OK" he said. I didn't like subjects like this, so I changed it.
"How's your leg?" He seemed relieved about the change of subject. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand.
"Better" he said
"I should have a look"
"Umm... are you sure about that? I don't want you to throw up again."
"Ben" I said "I'm fine. Just let me have a look."
"Well... OK. But if you - "
"Ben! Just do it!" he carefully took the wet tissue off his knee. It still looked bad, but it had stopped bleeding at least. I got some more tissue - dry this time, and dabbed the wound gently. It had definitely stopped bleeding. But it was open and would probably get bigger when he moved his leg. We had already wasted too much time. I opened my bag and took out my P.E kit. I tried to rip the shirt but my arm throbbed painfully when I moved it.
"What are you doing?" asked Ben
"Making you a bandage"
"Give the shirt to me" he sighed. I gave him the shirt and he ripped a strip off the bottom. He gave me the strip and continued ripping. I tied the strip around his knee. Every minute or so he would give me another strip and I would tie it round his wound. Eventually my P.E shirt disappeared.
"Can you stand up?" I asked. He slowly pushed himself up into a standing position.
"Can you walk?" he managed a few steps put he had to stop. The pain showed on his face, it must have hurt a lot. I went over to him. "Let me help" I said. I put my good arm under his shoulders, he walked a few steps but then had to stop again. He sat down on the floor.
"Damn, this hurts" I was about to say that maybe we should wait a while when we heard some footsteps.