Grange Hill Fan Fiction
Home page for fan fiction
by Geoff Phillips
(Set at the time of Series 25's dramatic end, when the school was engulfed in fire and the survival of several students remains uncertain. Following this, Grange Hill became a school ostensibly in Liverpool rather than London without explanation)
Preface: First possibility.
August 19th 1878
The horse and trap rocked as the driver took a bend too fast. The brown mare on the right flared her nostrils angrily, driven too hard on a hot summer's day and ready for a cool stable and a bale of hay. Inside Archibald Strong grinned enjoying the ride - enjoying too his father's evident discomfort.
"You look pale, papa. I think that pie disagrees with you."
"Many things disagree with me at the moment," Archibald's father replied coldly.
"Ah, you mean me. Because I won't stay in the family business. I'm sorry but boot making is not what I want to do. Far too much work."
"So you've made abundantly clear," said Mr. Strong. "I've had all I can take from you, my son. Well - I have a surprise for you young man. We are soon home, and tomorrow I will call upon my solicitors and change my will."
"Rubbish! Who else do you have? There's just me. Unless you have a secret son and heir from a serving girl hidden away!" exclaimed Archibald.
Colour filled the old man's cheeks. "You are living dangerously! You insult me, and yet I can cut off your inheritance at a stroke of the pen! My nephew - he's not a waster like you - he doesn't intend to spend every night gambling and drinking."
"Clarence! Pathetic little creature."
"He has something I admire though - something you lack sorely, and that's ambition. He has plans - plans that he can't make real because they are just dreams without money."
"Plans? What plans?" asked Archibald scornfully.
"Plans to build a school near to London. A modern, forward-seeking school to educate the poor."
"A school! Just the sort of thing I'd imagine he'd want to do. What a waste of time!" scoffed Archibald.
In Mr. Strong's brain, a particular neuron did not fire, although it was on the borderline to do so, and his anger increased. "We shall see," he said, and the argument continued.
The vehicle turned around the bend of a rocky path. Sharp stones scattered down the steep embankment. The angry horse smelt her home territory and put on a spurt while her companion tried to keep a slower pace. Underfoot the gravel gave on one side, and the horse's hoof landed awkwardly and slipped. The horse pulled its companion and load over, the driver quick-wittedly jumping off, while the trap fell sideways. The connection bolt snapped under the strain, the trap disengaged from the horse and turned over and over in slow thumps before coming to rest down at the foot of the incline. The two horses stood back up whinnying in alarm. Down below, the figure of a young man slowly emerged, alone from the wreckage...
Preface: Second possibility
August 19th 1878
"A school! Just the sort of thing I'd imagine he'd want to do. What a waste of time!" scoffed Archibald.
In Mr. Strong's brain, a neuron that was borderline to firing did fire, and a sense of danger came to the forefront of his thoughts.
"Driver! Driver - slow down, man, you'll get us all killed!" The driver cursed under his breath, but reined in the horses so they were forced to a slower pace. The right-hand horse's hoof almost slipped on the loose stones, but at the slower speed kept its grip. The vehicle turned around the bend and headed up the final lane to home without further incident...
About one hundred and twenty five years later...
A sudden wave of pain passed through Lisa and the room whirled around. She shut her eyes firmly and the pain diminished a little. Still close to sleep she could recall her dream - the noise and heat, the sheer terror as the fireball had passed close by and ceilings and walls had collapsed. What a dream, and now she was safely... where? She forced her eyes open, the lids feeling sticky and saw a plain white ceiling. The realisation came flooding back: she was in hospital, not her comfortable bed at home, but a firm hospital mattress, and too many pillows raising her head high. The dream was no dream - the explosion, the fire, it had all been real - too real, just as she and Tom... Tom! They used to call him Speedy - what a stupid nickname - but had Speedy Smith escaped? She could recall the walls tumbling down like in that Humpty Dumpty rhyme. All the King's horses... Her mind was wandering... concentrate, she told herself. She remembered Tom had moved ahead of her as they ran to escape the fire, then something had hit her on the head, and that was it until vague memories of someone in a white coat overhead and a nurse talking in a reassuring manner before the room had spun around in a dizzy dance. Her eyes closed again - she was too tired to think. All the King's horses, and all the King's men. Can they put me back together again? Lisa fell back into unconsciousness...
Lisa opened her eyes, and her thoughts were much clearer. She saw for the first time the details of the room: she was in an isolated ward room, with the usual hospital gear nearby, a drip connected to her arm, a small bedside table with a glass of water. She had a window, but could not see anything outside other than it was daytime. Nearby, a nurse fussed around her: Lisa noted she was name-badged Juliet.
"You have a visitor," said nurse Juliet brightly, fussing around Lisa's bedclothes. Lisa found she could move her head, and her eyes focussed on the girl who sat anxiously on the wooden chair.
"Hi Lisa," said the girl brightly. The girl was a little on the plump side and had an oval face. She had long thick black hair with a childish looking low fringe and wore a white polo neck jumper with contrasting black jeans.
"Hello. Who are you?" replied Lisa.
The girl made a mock frown. "What have they done to you - wiped your memory?"
"It's true, I'm... not quite myself. But I've never met you before in my life," said Lisa with certainty.
"Oh stop it - ha ha ha. You're always trying to pull my leg. Have you really lost your memory?"
The girl's giggle annoyed Lisa instantly.
"Perhaps.... My head certainly aches. Let's start at the beginning. My name is Lisa West. Your name is....?"
"Je me piddle Miranda Summerton, at your service, Ma'am," said the girl with a stony face, and executed a brisk salute.
"Or Miranda the Panda, if you like." Miranda giggled again. She's too old to giggle like that, thought Lisa to herself, but couldn't help smiling a little.
"Miranda the Panda?" said Lisa disbelievingly.
"Yes... As I recall it, you gave me that name. Rather unflattering really, since pandas tend to be... well, fat to be blunt - but I do like wearing black and white, and for a while there was the dark eye makeup... so there we are. Miranda the Panda, yes, that's me. Do you remember now? You must do. Go on, stop messing around." A tolerable Kenneth Williams impression, Lisa thought.
"Nope, never seen you before today. It's can't be my memory, 'cos I can remember everyone else - Cracker, Matt, Ray from the café, my mum and dad, and little sister. I can remember the explosion and the fire..."
Miranda puffed out her cheeks and made a noise through her lips. "Well that's some cast list. Who are they all - never heard of half of them, apart from your family of course. The café, the one we go to in the high street, that's run by a woman called Charley. She makes great fruitcake."
Lisa shook her head. "Are you sure it isn't you who is the fruitcake? You aren't just an escaped lunatic from somewhere in the hospital?"
"Oh I'm nutty as they come - just like you. Us two and Gemma were the terrible trio before she left us. Come on, tell me it's all coming back to you. You're such a joker."
"Well of course I recall Gemma. I'm often on the phone to her, but it's all midnight feasts and jolly hockey sticks for her at her private school. That's why you said Je me piddle - that was one of Gemma's little inventions, yes?"
"Oh goody," said Miranda. "You remembered Midget Gem. At least your memory is halfway there. " Miranda subsided into silence.
"Midget Gem... that’s cruel," said Lisa.
"Well, that's rich coming from the person who came up with the moniker for her."
"I hate to ask what name you had for me!" said Lisa. "Well we did call you Lisa Vest at one stage and..." Miranda was interrupted by the entrance of Lisa's father. Lisa's heart filled with joy at the sight of him.
"Dad!" she called out. He kissed her on the cheek, and tried to hug her.
"Ouch!" she said "Careful, I'm bruised all over."
"Sorry Lisa - look at you though - you're back in the land of the living!" said Mr. West. "For a while I thought we'd lost you." He took in Lisa's visitor. "Hello Miranda."
"Dad? Is that really you? How come you know Miranda? Is she a friend of yours?"
"She's your best friend, you silly thing. And of course it's me, who did you expect?"
Lisa managed a weak smile. "I was expecting Mum or Shona?"
"Not here today - they've been coming every day though. Your mum stayed with you all night when you were first brought in. You've been in a coma."
"A coma? For how long?"
Mr. West laughed. "Don't worry, it's not years and years like in the movies. Just a few days. We all came and talked to you. Then you came out of the coma, but were still unconscious. It was a lucky escape you know. That's school's a right mess!"
"Tom!" exclaimed Lisa suddenly. "Is Tom alright?"
"Oh Tom - Yes, he's fine, absolutely fine. He's in another ward, got a few burns on his back, a few bruises like you, but he'll be okay."
"Thank God. That explosion. I keep seeing it. Feeling the heat, the noise." She coughed violently and her father looked concerned, but she stopped, raising her hand to mean she was fine, as he started to go and get the nurse.
"I'm okay, really I am - it's the dust I think - so much dust and smoke."
Miranda stood up from the lone visitor's chair. "Lisa - I'd better go - leave you and your dad to talk things over - I'll come and see you again."
"Sure.... thanks for coming to see me Melinda..."
"Sorry... Miranda. Stop by again some time. Give my love to the loony bin you've come from."
Miranda looked at Lisa's father and shrugged helplessly. Then she left the room.
"You've got some of your colour back. Your mum and Shona will be over the moon that you're back with us. I brought you some orange squash."
Lisa made a face. "I've not drunk that stuff since I was a little girl," she said. "Dad. I don't know if it's me or what but why are you talking funny?"
"What do you mean by funny?" His dad laughed shortly. "I mean why are you speaking in that accent?"
"I always speak like this. I don't understand, love. Perhaps you're still a little groggy. Dust in your ears maybe?"
Lisa shook her head and found that she had become tired again.
"I can hear you fine. I am a little sleepy though. Can't you just talk normally? Stop putting on the silly voice?" A tall male doctor entered and took a look into Lisa's eyes, then held her wrist to measure her pulse.
"Glad to have you back with us Miss West. My name is Doctor Andrews. You had a lucky escape," he said in a thick Mersey accent.
"You sound like my dad," said Lisa. "He said you had a lucky escape too did he?"
"No - I mean your accent. I don't understand. My dad was born in London. Why everyone suddenly speaking in a Northern accent?"
The doctor laughed. "Don't worry, we've pumped you full of horrible chemicals - all for your own good of course - but it's probably made you a little confused." Lisa shook her head, but her eyes were getting heavier and heavier.
"At least Miranda - whoever the hell she was - had a London accent," she said, her speech thicker and slower.
"That's because she comes from London originally, silly!" said her father.
"You better rest now, Miss West," said the doctor letting her arm fall back onto the bed. "You'll be right as rain in no time."
"There's nothing right about rain," Lisa said, and then she fell asleep.
"How is she, doctor?" asked Mr. West. "She's had a nasty blow to the head, some bruising all over, and some superficial burns. Some cuts on her arms had a risk of infection. Overall, no lasting damage we think: she'll be out in a few days. She'll most likely sleep now for the rest of the day, but she'll be bright as a button tomorrow. You look like you need a bit of sleep yourself - I'd suggest you go and get some kip."
Mr. West nodded. "Thanks, Doctor," he said, and left the room.
* * *
The next day, Lisa woke up early and had a boring morning with nothing much to do but watch the small television and be bored by the daytime programmes. To her relief, the drip had been removed. Her whole body ached a little, but it was bearable. Why did it have to happen to me, she asked herself. She should be out enjoying Summer, not stuck in here with aches and pains. If only she hadn't been there, if only... suddenly, there was a sudden pain in her head: a moment of dizziness, a feeling of falling, then afterwards a feeling of disorientation. The wave of oddness diminished, but there was a feeling that the room was in some way different. The room seemed slightly smaller than before, and the light outside the window seemed subtly different, and the colours falling into the room seemed less vibrant. The air was more stuffy than the day before, and smelt of traffic fumes. A nurse came - a different one to yesterday's, and name-badged Monica. She told Lisa that she could get up if she wanted, though she would have to be very careful to move slowly at first. She found a dressing gown in the cupboard, and a hairbrush, and very groggily got to her feet with the nurse's help, and felt considerably better sitting in the armchair with the gown around her. I'm staggering around like an old woman, she thought to herself, but relaxed herself by brushing her long mane of blonde hair. In the afternoon, she had a visitor - Mr. Robson, who wore a dark suit.
"Hello sir," she said brightly, managing a smile. He did not smile back.
"Hello Lisa," he said in a sombre voice. "I'm glad you are out of your coma. We were all worried sick about you."
"Yes, I'm fighting fit. Well a bit of an exaggeration. I could get up and go home, if the room didn't keep spinning round every five minutes, and my legs hadn't turned to jelly."
"Good. I've brought you some chocolates. Never sure any more about bringing flowers to hospitals any more," said the Headmaster. "Chocolates are good," said Lisa. "I could eat a horse. Dad brought me some of that orange squash stuff... oh it's gone, perhaps the nurse confiscated it. I was hoping I could be strong enough to walk over to see Tom in his ward."
Mr. Robson paled. "What? I... I.. thought you had been told..." he said.
Lisa looked at him with concern. "Told what? Is there something up with Tom? My father said he was doing fine."
Mr. Robson looked aghast at this. "No. I'm terribly sorry to tell you this Lisa, but Tom didn't... didn't make it out of the fire. He was one of three casualties. Keiran Osbourne and Vikki Meades were the other two. We still don't quite know why Keiran was in Grange Hill at all."
Lisa felt her eyes filling with tears as her world fell apart. "But... but... dad said he was okay... I don't understand..." Lisa held her head in her hands and sobbed. Mr. Robson didn't know what to do or say.
"I'm so sorry, Lisa. I'm so sorry." Mr. Robson twiddled his hands nervously, and put the gift box of chocolates, suddenly horribly inappropriate, on her cabinet. A rotund, balding doctor came into the isolation room accompanied by the nurse, and tut-tutted at Lisa's distress.
"We'd better get you back into bed," he said. "Would you mind...?" he said pointedly to Mr. Robson.
"Yes of course.... I'll come and visit you again, Lisa," said Mr. Robson, and walked out. Lisa was helped back into bed, still crying.
"Poor Tom," she said.
"Your boyfriend?" asked the nurse kindly.
"Yes... sort of. I've known him so long.... We were friends, and just becoming more. There seemed the whole world ahead of us..."
"There, there," said the doctor as the nurse adjusted the bedclothes. "Just try to get some sleep. Life goes on, as they say." Lisa looked confusedly at him. Her father had said... he had said ... why would he lie to her? She tried to hold back the tears, but it was impossible, and a salty tear dripped down her cheek.
"Where did the other doctor go?" she asked as the doctor studied her chart.
"Which other doctor?" he asked her. "It's quite a big hospital you know."
Lisa tried to think back to the previous day. It was important to try to think of something else, anything else. "Doctor... Doctor Andrews. Tall, fair hair. Old. At least forty. Had an accent."
"Never heard of a Doctor Andrews, sorry," said the doctor. "But.." "Never mind any of that. You've just had a shock, and you’ve got to rest now, let your body recover a little more. Just a few more days and you'll be back at home."
The doctor whispered something to the nurse who nodded in reply. Shortly afterwards, Monica brought a couple of thick white pills for Lisa to take, and refilled her glass with fresh water.
"They will help you sleep dear," she said, and the idea of oblivion was a good one to Lisa, so she didn't argue the point.
* * *
When Lisa woke up the next day, the memories of the previous day's bombshell came back to her. Tom - dead... If only they hadn't been in that part of school. They could have so easily been in the main hall, or outside. If only... That weird dizziness had returned, the room spinning. She closed her eyes, and then the room was steady again. Today her body ached much less, and she felt more alive and ready to face the world. Tears still threatened at the back of her eyes, but she blinked them away. Tom, poor Tom... The nurse entered - Juliet this time.
"I think you're strong enough to take yourself to the loos now. Doctor said you'll need to walk a bit slowly, but you'll build your strength back quickly. You have youth on your side," she said.
"Thank God, can't stand using those bedpans any more," said Lisa and managed a little smile.
"You'll be back in the public wards tomorrow I think. You could take a little walk this morning, as long as you don't get lost. Don't go wandering outside though - you're not quite ready for that! Going to be another warm day though."
Lisa managed to slide easily out of bed, and looked out the window for a while. The view looked unfamiliar once more, but at least the air seemed clear again.
"A walk? Good idea," she said to Juliet. "I'll get a bus into Oxford Street and do some shopping in my pyjamas," said Lisa.
The nurse laughed gaily. "That'd be some bus going all that way from here!" she said. Lisa frowned, not seeing the point of Juliet's reply.
"Not really," she said. "Which part of London is this hospital anyway? Isn't this the North Middlesex?" The nurse laughed again.
"London? What do you think you've got, some rare disease? This is Broadgreen Hospital."
Lisa shook her head, "Never heard of it," she said. The nurse helped her into the fluffy white dressing gown and gave her the little bag with a flannel and toothbrush inside.
"Well don't worry. I expect your father will be here to see you later," said the nurse.
Lisa glowered at her. "I shall have a few things to say to him when he comes," she said darkly, recalling his misinformation. "Where's the toilets then?"
"Just left out the ward. Signposted, can't miss it. Think you can manage?" asked Juliet. Lisa found that she could walk, albeit slowly.
"No problem. Hey, where did my chocolates go?" she asked.
The nurse shrugged. "Didn't see any. Did you eat them?"
"I wasn't in a state to eat anything after those knockout pills yesterday - I think they were meant for elephants."
The nurse shrugged again. Juliet looked helpfully in Lisa's bedside cabinet, but there was no sign of any confectionary, just a half dozen get well cards on top and the orange squash bottle, still unopened.
"Go carefully, and shout if you need help," said the nurse as Lisa left the room for the first time since she had arrived. After using the toilets, and enjoying the delightful pleasure of brushing her teeth. Lisa felt energetic enough to shuffle along the corridor to get a change of scenery. The hospital was busy with porters pushing beds, doctors doing their rounds, and nurses walking briskly from one place to another. Lisa emerged into a main central area with wards leading off to all sides, and a lift leading both up and down. A window looked out on the world: she could see a busy road in the distance, a petrol station, and some kind of covered shopping centre, but none of it was familiar.
"Lisa!" said a familiar voice, and Lisa's hair almost stood on end, a cold sense of dread passed over her. Her eyes wide open with shock, she turned, reeling slightly, almost overbalancing as she looked up into Tom's face.
"Look they've given me this zimmer frame - I'm like an old man," he said good-humouredly, but then saw her white face, and sensed her growing panic. "Hey, you look like you've seen a ghost," he said.
When she didn't reply, he continued talking to fill the gap. "I was going to come and see you, wasn't sure it was allowed. Your dad came to see me - I think he was bored when you were in that coma, nothing to do except wait and drink endless coffee. Look at the bruises on this arm - I'm black and blue all over. My feet got badly burnt, which is why I am hobbling around like this."
Lisa studied Tom - he was a bit of a mess, his foot bandaged, plasters over his face, black bruises down both arms, and visible on the lower part of his legs, uncovered by the pyjamas which were far too short for him.
"But... you're dead. Mr. Robson said ... And..."
Tom laughed. "Did he say that? He has a very bad sense of humour, does our old Head. "
"But he wouldn't do that. Remember when he went after my attacker?"
"I don't remember you being attacked. Why didn't you tell me about that?"
"What do you mean? Don't you remember when I stayed at home and wouldn't go out. You and Cracker helped me over that. And why are you talking like that... like the others who've visited me - in a Liverpool accent."
Tom held his hands up. "Lisa, Lisa. I've no idea what you are saying. Perhaps I should help you back to your bed. Cracker? What or who is Cracker - is he a druggie?"
"I think the world's gone mad," said Lisa more calmly. "But... you're alive!" Lisa gave Tom a hug. He tried to hug back, but a burst of pain crossed his face.
"Steady on, Lisa, you'll have the stuffing out of me - I'm in a bit of a fragile state."
Lisa stepped back, and renewed worry furrowed her brow again. "Robson said four had died - including you."
"Are you sure he said that - not being funny - but could you have dreamt it. The sleeping pills they give you here, wow, they knock you out and give you such weird dreams. Why, last night I dreamt...."
"No - absolutely sure," Lisa interrupted. "So tell me then, how many died in the explosion?"
"You've got death on the brain! No-one died. There was just us two in that part of school when the explosion went off. The police reckon it was Deverill who started it. He burned some evidence or other against him."
Lisa was silent. Perhaps her mind was playing tricks. And Tom's voice, perhaps he always had that twang to the way he spoke. She thought back: yes, that's right, that's how Tom speaks, why did I think otherwise? And Miranda, of course they must have been friends...
"But... Cracker..." she started, and then frowned. For a moment she had the image of an impish round face in her head, but then the image had gone and she could not remember what or who she had meant by Cracker. "Never mind," she said.
Tom frowned. "We'd better get back. Catch up soon. I don't think I'll be in here for more than another couple of days, nothing really wrong with me. I'll buy you a drink down near the river when we're both out."
"Yes, river. The river Mersey, what did you think I meant, the Mississippi?"
"But that's in Liverpool!"
Tom raised his eyes to heaven. "Of course it's in Liverpool. It's in Liverpool, I'm in Liverpool, You're in Liverpool. That's what makes it possible!"
Lisa shook her head. "It's no time for jokes. It's not even funny."
"Who's joking?" said Tom turning his zimmer back towards his ward. "Will you be alright, you're not heading for the funny farm I hope?"
"I'm not the mad person round here," exclaimed Lisa, but she smiled. Tom was alive... somehow, and that's what mattered. She hobbled back to the ward, finding the return journey much easier. Liverpool indeed! Back in her chair, Lisa was surprised to find that she was quite tired from her excursion into the corridor. She put the television on for a while, and a man brought some tea round, which was far too strong for her taste. She sat on the armchair, bored again with the tiny room and wishing she could be at home on the comfy settee, or out in a street café chatting and consuming cheesecake and coffee. If only that stupid fire hadn't happened... Lisa felt her head spin again, but it passed quickly enough - they were becoming routine these dizzy spells, but definitely diminishing. She had mentioned the previous dizzy spell to the doctor when he did his rounds, but she was told that it was just because she was sitting in one place for too long - probably nothing to worry about. When she opened her eyes Lisa reached for the mug of tea, but found to her surprise that it had disappeared. She cursed the staff for a moment - so impatient! She looked towards the cabinet, thinking she might at least pour herself some water and some of that orange stuff she'd not drunk since she was little. On the back of the cabinet was an unopened box of chocolates...
After lunch, Lisa's father arrived with Shona in tow. Lisa asked where their mother was. "I got a lift in with Daddy - Mummy's got to look after the baby," explained Shona. Mr. West grimaced at the mention of the baby, the son of his former wife's new boyfriend, Dave.
"You alright, darling," asked Mr. West. "Yes dad. I was cross with you for a while, but I'm not any longer. I'm angry with Mr. Robson instead" "Oh good - I think," said Mr. West, confused. "Well, I don't know why you were angry with me, but I'm glad you're not," he said, scratching his head.
"I've had a strange couple of days," said Lisa. "Things seem different today - more positive. More real."
"That's great," said Mr. West. "Someone's brought you chocolates I see. Good job I didn't."
"I brought you a magazine," said Shona. She gave Lisa a glossy mag that was way too young for Lisa, but Lisa managed a grateful smile for her sister.
"Thanks Shona," she said. "Yes, it was Mr. Robson." Lisa frowned. "I'm not sure I'm very fond of Mr. Robson, after what he said to me."
"Why, what did he say?" asked her father. "He told me - can you believe this - he told me Tom was dead. I mean what kind of sicko is he. After all we've been through... Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Oh Lisa. Lisa, darling Lisa. I thought you seemed ... too happy. You've not accepted it have you?" Mr. West looked gloomily at his daughter.
"Accepted... oh no, you're not getting me again. I just saw Tom two hours ago in the corridor. He's fine. He's going to take me for a drink...and... and..."
Lisa's dad spoke slowly and carefully. "Tom's dead, Lisa. I know it's hard, so very hard to take in. He died in the explosion. Him and three others."
"But he can't be... I spoke to him. And you yourself told me he was fine yesterday. Don't you remember? Have you all gone stark staring mad?" Lisa found herself getting angry, her voice becoming raised.
"Shh. Shh. It's the medication, or the bump on your head. It's making you imagine things. I was hoping you were taking the first steps to recover from the loss, but now..."
"I won't believe it. I won't," shouted Lisa furiously, clenching her fists, her face bright red with rage.
* * *
In the pub, Mr. Robson put a pint in front of Geoff Hankin, who sat with a book on Quantum Physics to one side.
"Thanks, Peter," said Mr. Hankin.
The Headmaster sat down opposite the science teacher and took a sip of beer.
"What book have you got there - Quantum Physics, bit of light reading is it?"
"It's a bit heavy going at times. I'm taking it back to the library later." Mr. Hankin pushed his glasses further up his nose.
"I've just been on the phone to Lisa's father," said Mr. Robson. "I was thinking of going to see her. It's a terrible business. And Vikki and that Osbourne boy. I never had much love for him after what he did to me, all that intimidation - but I'd never have wished what happened on him. How is Lisa?"
"She's taken it badly, very badly. In fact the hospital may need to call in psychologists, or psychiatrists. She's apparently delusional. It might be schizophrenia, she behaves fine one minute, and the next she's raving. Sometimes she seems to have accepted Tom Smith's death, and other times, it's like she's put it out of her mind - even that she believes people have told her he's alive. She says she met Tom in the hospital corridor."
"In the corridor? She thinks she saw a ghost?" asked Mr. Hankin incredulously.
"Not a ghost - she said he was real. Said that her father had previously told her he was alive."
Mr. Hankin shook her head. "Poor girl. I hope she can pull through. I'll go and see her. Maybe a friendly face might help."
Mr. Robson shrugged. "Anything is worth a try."
"How's the new Mrs. Robson?"
"She's great, though I think she misses the honeymoon we never took."
"There's still time to have a break before the new term."
Mr. Robson shook his head. "No, there's too much to worry about here. Next year perhaps, a long cruise, somewhere hot."
Mr. Hankin drained his glass. "It's hot enough here at the moment. Hot enough for me anyway."
* * *
Lisa was hot too. Her family had departed, and then shortly afterwards, Cracker and Matt had turned up. "Tracy's coming to see you tomorrow," said Cracker. "And Gemma too - I called her up and told her about..." he trailed off miserably, unable to complete the sentence.
"It's all right, you can say it. I don't know what you've heard about me, but I'm not quite ready for the men in white coats. You told Gemma about Tom." Lisa saw that Cracker was genuinely upset, and softened her tone, remembering that he and Matt would also be missing Tom.
"It's nice of you to come. I need my friends at the moment. The adults around these parts seem to be all crazy. Ever heard of someone called Miranda?"
"No," said Cracker. "Who is she?"
"Long black hair. She reckons we were best friends. I think she's loopy. There's a lot of it about, so it seems to me."
"Well we're at least not crazy," said Matt. "We brought you some flowers - gave them to the nurse outside. She said she would put them in a vase for you."
"Thanks, Matt, It was nice of you. What sort were they?"
Matt shrugged. "No idea, yellow and pink ones. With stems and coloured bits at the top." He was pleased to see that she smiled a bit at his ineffectuality, and he smiled too.
* * *
After her friends had left, Lisa had another visitor within minutes. "I'm popular today," she said, as Mr. Hankin walked in.
"You're very popular Lisa - you have lots of friends, and we all wish you well," he said.
"It's true I have lots of friends - I've even got friends I've never even seen before."
Mr. Hankin looked quizzically at Lisa. "What do you mean?"
"A girl - Miranda something or other. Sum... Summerton. Ever heard of her?"
Mr. Hankin shook his head negatively. "Not anyone I've taught. I'm quite good at remembering all the kids I've taught."
"She's my best friend - apparently. Unless I dreamt her up. Like I did with Tom, so I'm told."
Mr. Hankin gulped. "I'm so sorry about Tom. The mind can play funny tricks you know.... No - don't get upset, I don't mean you're seeing things, or you're mad. Why don't you just tell me what happened and I'll listen to your side of the story."
Lisa relaxed. She told her teacher about how she'd seen Tom in the corridor, and how weird everything had become. She went through her experiences from the first time she had awoken in the hospital bed up until the visit of Cracker and Matt. Mr. Hankin listened attentively. Afterwards, Lisa felt her throat was dry, and drained the glass of water, but she felt better for telling her tale.
"It seems," said Mr. Hankin slowly. "that when you have those dizzy spells, for you the world feels different."
"Doesn't just just feel - it is different," said Lisa firmly. "This nonsense about Liverpool. Why should I imagine everyone has a Liverpool accent - my dad for heaven's sake! He was born in Hackney!"
"What about the last time your father was here? How did he speak then?"
"He was normal again. But I don't get it - when the world seems wrong - my friends are wrong, Dad and Shona speak with a funny accent - and Tom is alive. When the world is right - well not right - things will never be right - but at least the people are all present and correct - but Tom... Tom's dead." There was a lump in Lisa's throat as she said the last words of the sentence. Mr. Hankin sat on Lisa's bed.
"You shouldn't do that - they tell you off for it," cautioned Lisa.
"Just let them try," said Mr. Hankin. "I can't keep standing up. I'm not the youngster I used to be." He looked at her with seriousness. "You know they are talking about psychiatric treatment for you?" he said.
Lisa nodded. "They think I'm round the bend, seeing visions or ghosts. Do you think I'm mad?"
Mr. Hankin shook his head. He showed her the book he was carrying in the plastic shopping bag.
"I've been reading about quantum physics," he said. "You know, some of the ideas in this book would have had people sent to Bedlam a century or two ago."
Lisa didn't reply, and Mr. Hankin continued. "I won't bore you with the details, but what people think is that every instant the world splits off into new worlds. Parallel worlds, each slightly different, splitting off millions and millions of times a second. Worlds where things are almost the same, but key things different. A tiny event in the past leading to complex repercussions."
"But that's just science fiction," said Lisa. "Like Star Trek and Doctor Who - my dad always watches those."
"No," replied Mr. Hankin. "Not just Sci-Fi. It's pretty much established science. And I wonder... what seems to have happened to you is that you are experiencing two alternate worlds. In one of them Tom died - this is the world I come from, where you were brought up in London, where you have Cracker, Matt, and Tracy as friends. The other is one I don't know much about - but it seems that Grange Hill is in Liverpool which is also where your family comes from, or at least live now. Tom is alive, and you have other friends such as this Miranda girl who you never met here."
Lisa laughed briefly, but there was no real humour in it. "Or, more likely, I am going mad. If you're not careful I'll take you down with me."
"You don't seem mad to me, Lisa," said Mr. Hankin gently. Neither spoke for a few moments, and the room was quiet. Outside the window, traffic noises punctuated the silence.
"Let me tell you about someone I once brought to school - before your time though. My Aunt Camelia - she came and used her voice to shatter a glass to demonstrate acoustics for me - it brightened up the lessons."
"Sounds cool," said Lisa.
"If you were to meet her, you might well think she was an actress, and you would sort of be right."
"When I was a boy, she was just an ordinary housewife. Then her husband died, very, very young, and for a while, she came to stay with us. And then, one morning she seemed much brighter and happier. She told us that she had played Lady Macbeth to a rapturous audience the night before. Of course we knew she hadn't - but from then on, she had this new personae. And this continued for quite a while, with different roles in different plays, sometimes Shakespeare, and sometimes modern plays, like A Taste of Honey."
"We read that in English. So, she wasn't really going out treading the boards?"
"No - she would stay in her room and listen to classical music and opera. We might occasionally hear her sing, but she almost never went out."
"So what happened to your aunt Camelia?"
"Well one day, my father found her crying at the breakfast table, and of course asked her what was wrong," continued Mr. Hankin, while Lisa listened earnestly, her mouth slightly open.
"She finally told him that she had landed a big role - a Harold Pinter play where she would be only one of two actors. She explained that she had stage-fright - she couldn't face going on the stage because the role was too daunting."
"Why didn't your father just tell her he knew she wasn't really going to the theatre?"
"Because she was so happy until then, it seemed wrong to break the spell. To her it was real, you see? Anyway, my father tried to reassure Aunt Camelia, and talked to a friend who knew someone who really was in the acting business. In the evening, he passed on the advice - he told her that the audience was not there to criticise her - it was there to enjoy her performance. She should just concentrate on doing the play and everything would be alright. He said that, and other things too which I forget."
"And did it work?" said Lisa.
"Yes - she took in what my father was saying. Next day, there she was again in the morning, bright and cheery, full of tales about how well the play had gone. After that, she decided she wanted to live on her own again and moved out."
"I'm not sure what point you're making," said Lisa.
"The point is that the advice for Aunt Camelia worked regardless of the fact that she was not actually an actress on stage, it would have worked if she were one."
"So if I treat this double-world thing as real, then it doesn't matter if it isn't, because the solution will still do the trick?"
"Yes, that's what I am getting at in my round about way," agreed Mr. Hankin.
Lisa sat quietly for a moment, weighing up her choices and trying to get a clear picture of her options.
"So I'm slipping into the other world, an alternate where there's a different me in Liverpool, where Tom didn't die, but where ... where it's all so wrong, so terribly wrong?"
Mr. Hankin shrugged. "It seems insane doesn't it. But to you it seems real. Maybe that's the important thing. When do the changes happen?" Lisa tried to work it out. She ran her hand through her hair. It badly needs a wash, she thought.
"I think I know. I'm sitting in the chair here, like I am now, and I think - if only... none of this happened. Regret. I feel regret about the fire, the explosion, us being there - me and Tom I mean. If only things had been different. That's my thought - 'if only'. Not just the words, but I really mean it."
"And every time you think that, you've jumped. Back and forth to the other Lisa, one in Liverpool, and one here in London."
When Lisa stopped talking, looking increasingly pensive, Mr. Hankin quickly spoke up.
"Be careful - it might be that if you swap again, it could be the last time you can do it. It might be your injury has given you this ability - or the delusion. You need to decide, Lisa. Decide which of the two lives to lead. Real or not, it doesn't matter, it's real to you. And when you make your final decision - that's it - that's the world you'll stick to."
Lisa looked up at her former teacher. Was he serious?
"I've already decided to finish my A Levels at Grange Hill, if they rebuild it. It's funny because when I was with Tom in the corridor, I can remember thinking the opposite - that I would leave, perhaps go to Sixth Form college with him - you see, he told me he was going to leave school next year. But... now I've decided... I don't think there's really a choice. Here, now, is right, there is wrong - fake, unreal. And yes, I realise that there's Tom there, alive and well in this other place, but if I understand this thing right, he'll go on living there with some other version of me, and be none the wiser. But here, now, is the right place for me, the real me looking out with these eyes. Here, with my friends - the friends who are right, who belong to me, the ones who fit my memory - Cracker, Matt, Tracy, Gemma away in her fancy public school. And my London dad - he needs me you know - me and him against the world. I need to be here for all of them, I need to look after Cracker to stop him being an idiot again like he did at the club. And other things are right here - Grange Hill, my family - we belong to London - it's where we all grew up. If I go back, every time I look at Tom I'll think - 'you're not real'.
Mr. Hankin nodded and smiled. "Then that will be an end to it. You'll be out of here later, and I hope to see you in the new term. For now, grieve, but not too much. Not too many "if only's". There's his funeral... look at that as the time to put your grief behind you, if you can. Tom wouldn't want you to mourn him, would he? Enjoy the sunshine, enjoy your life - there's still a lot of the summer holiday left. You should go out and spend time with your family, and with your friends too."
"Yes - my family - the proper one, and my real friends," agreed Lisa.
* * *
"Lisa," said her father while they were driving home through the reassuringly familiar suburban streets.
"Do you remember Aunt Lucy? Uncle Bill's first wife?"
"Yeah sure. She moved away when they divorced. She always wore coloured wigs, called me "Lie-za", drove me mad, it did."
"Well, she's going on a cruise, and wants someone to house sit. Just for a few weeks maybe."
"Sounds okay," said Lisa cautiously. "Where is it?"
"Liverpool," said her father. Lisa made a face. "I don't think I want to go there again," she said.
"Again? I don't remember you ever going there," he said, disappointed. "Are you thinking of Blackpool? We had a family holiday there once."
Lisa shook her head. "I want to spend some time at home, go and see mum, and go out with my friends. But... perhaps a day at the seaside - Brighton, Southend, somewhere like that?" she suggested.
Mr. West looked at his daughter's face briefly and saw determination there. "Southend or Brighton, eh?" A message passed down between two neurons in Mr. West's brain. The signal was borderline for the synapse, but the neuron fired. "Okay, Brighton it is then!" he said.
In another world, newly created, the neuron did not fire. "Okay, Southend it is then!" said an alternate Mr. West to an alternate Lisa.
© 2008 Geoff Phillips All Rights reserved.