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poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth

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Donald Scripps claims to hate the many nicknames he’s been given over the years: Don, Donny, and all the other diminutives, and he does hate them. But the one he hates the most is ‘Scrippsy’, which is unfortunate, because that’s the one that’s been scrawled along his forearm since birth, mocking him in its melodramatic way:

 

Oh Scrippsy, I can’t bear to listen, but I want to hear every word.

 

He’s lucky, he supposes- most people’s sentences are common phrases, or only one or two words long- but he can’t decide whether to curse himself or his remaining faith in God for letting himself one day fall in love with someone who calls him Scrippsy.

 


 

For a short while- a thankfully short while- he entertains the idea that it might be Dakin.

 

Dakin becomes friends with him sometime in their second year of grammar school, and Scripps wonders why for a good few years. It’s only when they’re older, around sixteen or so, that Scripps gets a good look at Dakin’s words, along the bottom of his ribcage.

 

Taking off my glasses is the last thing I do.

 

Scripps recalls getting his disgustingly huge glasses, being one of the few at Cutler’s to have them, and Dakin entering his life soon after. And Dakin, on occasion, has called him Scrippsy, when he’s feeling particularly dramatic.

 

So, Scripps thinks on Dakin for a while, and then decides dead against it, because despite the words kind of matching, he can’t see Dakin as anything more than a friend that at times he’s very unfortunate to have.

 


 

In the midst of their O-Levels, the words are temporarily pushed to one side, but once over, the fascination returns. It’s not a thing that they discuss often, other than an occasional joke, but Scripps felt the need to ask on one rainy evening in the summer, when Dakin had come over to steal his copy of Henry IV.

 

“Do you have an idea on who yours is?” he asks, spinning around in his chair to face Dakin, who has sprawled himself over Scripps’s bed.

 

In return, Dakin lifts a sarcastic eyebrow. “Been reading a lot of Housman lately, Scrippsy?”

 

He has, but that’s not the point, so Scripps throws a book at him.  Dakin just laughs.

 

I only vex you the more I try.

 

Scripps swivels back to face his desk, ignoring the snickering. “Dickhead.”

 

There’s a quiet, drawn-out pause, where he can hear Dakin shifting behind him, sitting up properly for once. “Not really, if I’m honest.”

“Huh?”

 

Dakin shrugs. “The words. I don’t really think about them. Or I try not to.” He sighs. “I just hate hanging around for them, that’s all. It’d’ve been more convenient if they gave you a name or an address or something along those lines, but no. The first thing they say to you after you fall in love. At which point it’s a bit redundant, isn’t it?”

 

Scripps stares at him, regarding Dakin’s uncharacteristically forlorn expression. “Don’t think about them? The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

 

He smirks when Dakin flips him off.

 

“Go on then. Who do you think yours is?”

 

It’s Scripps’s turn to shrug. “I’ve no idea. It’s not someone I know, I don’t think. It doesn’t sound like anyone I can think of.”

 

Dakin furrows his eyebrows. “It occurs to me, Scrippsy darling,” -Scripps screams internally- “that I actually don’t know what your words are.”

 

“Fuck off. You must have seen them at least once.”

 

“Nope. Never.”

 

Scripps scoots his chair over to the bed and rolls up the sleeve of his jumper to his elbow, letting Dakin read to words printed there, hard and black against his untanned skin. Dakin chortles for a second, but then Scripps can practically feel Dakin’s eyes on his skin, scanning the letters over and over again. He tugs his sleeve down nervously, and Dakin gives off a low whistle.

 

“Shit, Don. I hate to say it, but it sounds like they’re in love with someone else.”

 

It’s not the first time the thought has crossed Scripps’s mind, but it’s different to hear it out loud, and his stomach sinks to his feet. “Trust me to get this kind of poetic crap.”

Dakin rolls his eyes. “I know. Hector’d love it. All the unrequiteds. Austen. Westbrook. Tchaikovsky.”

 

“All of whom died alone or committed suicide, if I recall correctly.”

 

“I think you’re being a bit presumptuous.”

 

“I think you’re being a bit facetious.”

 

“That’s fair. But I tell you, Scripps,” says Dakin, crossing his legs, “I reckon it sounds a bit like Posner.”

 

Scripps frantically does a mental search of everyone he vaguely knows, finally coming up with a fragile-looking blond boy in Dakin’s form. “David Posner? From Totty’s history class?”

 

Dakin nods. “We’re in the same English Literature. You should hear him wax poetic on the Shakespeare comedies.”

 

“Why do you even think it’s someone at school?”

 

“Logic. Unless you’re planning on introducing yourself as Scripps at university, I can’t see why anyone would be calling you Scrippsy at all.”

 

Scripps considers as Dakin packs up his rucksack to cycle home. He’s halfway out of the door when he turns back. “He sings. You should ask him if he wants to do a duet sometime.”

 

“I’ll think about it.”

 

“And anyway, I think he’d appreciate the finger skills.”

 

Scripps throws another book at him as Dakin races down the stairs, cackling all the way to the door.

 


 

 

When they go back to Cutler’s in September they find that the five forms that they had in the lower school have been reduced to two for the A-Levels, so Scripps finds himself in a form with Dakin, who cocks an eyebrow at him and indicates a boy sat at the front of the room with an evidently much-loved, dog-eared copy of The Importance of Being Earnest.

 

Dakin’s already situated himself at the desk behind, so Scripps sits himself next to him. He’s halfway through unpacking his books when he hears the long, beleaguered sigh from in front of him.

 

“Not again, Pos.”

 

It comes from the boy sitting himself down next to Posner- Akthar, Scripps’s brain eventually supplies. “Five years already and he’s stuck himself behind us again.”

 

Scripps can see Posner roll his eyes. “It’s not like I asked him to sit there.”

 

“True. But that doesn’t mean he’s not a twat and I can’t complain about it.”

 

Scripps realises that they must be talking about Dakin, who was somewhat of a terror in the lower years. He half-expects Dakin to be affronted, but instead Dakin has the cheekiest grin he’s seen in a while. “Good summer, boys?”

 

Scripps hears Akthar mutter a half-hearted “Go fuck yourself,” before slumping over his bag. It’s just Posner who turns around to face them. “Excellent. You?”

 

“Good enough. Happy to be back?”

 

“Present company excepted, yes, I am.”

 

Dakin pouts in jest. “Are you really that unhappy to see me?”

 

Posner looks him dead in the face with steely eyes. “I heard a rumour that you’d died of syphilis and I threw a party to celebrate.”

 

Scripps can’t help himself at that, and cough-chokes while Dakin leans back dramatically in his chair. “You wound me, David. I am slain.”

 

Posner grins, breaking character. “Good. Wouldn’t want to let my funeral casserole go to waste.”

 

Dakin leans over the desk to slap both Posner and Akthar on the back. “Good to see the pair of you.” He settles back into his chair, falling into an old and familiar routine which Scripps hasn’t seen before. It occurs to Scripps that he’s never really seen Dakin interact with his friends from form. “This is Scripps, by the way.”

 

Both Akthar and Posner give him a nod by way of greeting, and it’s Akthar that addresses him first. “So, you’re friends with this idiot too?”

 

“Unfortunately.”

 

Posner laughs at that, and then peruses the books that Scripps has already unpacked. He indicates to a sheet of music for Fur Elise that Scripps is using as a bookmark in a book of letters from Elizabethan earls. “You play piano?”

 

Scripps nods, and Posner beams. “That’s great- I sing, you see, and I can never find an accompanist. Maybe we could work together sometime?”

 

Scripps nods again, dry-throated, pointedly ignoring Dakin trying not to smirk beside him.