A Race Against Time – Episode 05

The excitement was almost too much for Christian. The race would soon start. Thomas – George’s nemesis – was strutting around like a peacock, doing little jumps and touching his toes. He was smiling and waving and making a spectacle of himself.

It was as if he had already won the race! Yes, he had beaten George the last three times they met, but it didn’t mean he would this time.

Poor George was standing at the starting line, squinting at the finishing tape ahead in silent contemplation. He’d worked hard for this race. Christian would be rooting for him with all his being.

“Why is George so determined to beat Thomas?” Elswita asked.

She was sitting next to Christian. He’d invited Margaret, but Margaret had not turned up. She was probably still in bad humour. A few of Christian and George’s other friends fanned out around them.

“The rivalry goes back years. To Eton, our old school. When we were young, George always beat Thomas, but the last few times Thomas has taken the lead.”

“So it’s more about George’s pride.”

“I suppose it is,” Christian agreed. “But Thomas has always been arrogant and a bit of a bad sport, which is what annoys George the most.”

The umpire raised his pistol. The onlookers went silent. You could hear a pin drop.

“On your marks,” the umpire said. “Set.”

The gun went off. Twice.

George got a good start, but on the second shot the athletes stopped and returned to the starting line.

“Oh! That didn’t look like a false start to me,” Elswita said.

She turned to Christian, who was leaning forward in his seat.

“Christian? Are you all right?”

He didn’t respond.

She shook his shoulder. Still no response.

“What’s wrong, Christian, old chap?” his friend, Henry, who was sitting behind him, asked.

Henry climbed over the stall and helped Elswita sit Christian up. Blood leaked through his white cotton suit. Christian had been shot.

* * * *

If Elswita hadn’t reacted as quickly as she had, George thought, Christian would certainly have bled to death. Right now he would be singing with the angels, trying his best to influence them.

As it was, he was stable and lying in a hospital bed, weak and miserable. Not getting better; not getting worse. The bullet hit him in the shoulder, close to an artery. Someone had been looking out for him. Perhaps the angels, he thought bleakly.

George sat by Elswita’s side outside his room while the nurses were changing Christian’s dressing. They were both exhausted as they’d been taking it in turns to watch Christian while his parents made their way from London. In between, they’d tried to attend lectures.

“You saved his life, Elswita,” George said.

“I wouldn’t go that far. I applied pressure where it was needed. What saved his life was that the bullet entered half an inch to the right of certain death.”

George could see Elswita starting to well up. He took her hand and squeezed it gently. She eased her hand away from his.

“I can’t understand why anyone would do such a thing,” Elswita said.

George shrugged his shoulders.

“To me, the intention was clear. Pulling the trigger at almost the precise moment the umpire fired means it was deliberate, in my book. Thing is, I accept Christian can be cutting, but he doesn’t have any enemies.”

“Oh, I hope he will make a full recovery,” Elswita cried.

George turned round to face her.

“He will,” he said gently.

“I know how people feel about my friendship with Christian,” Elswita confessed. “I’ve been called a hanger-on. But I adore Christian, George. He was there when I really needed someone to talk to. He is like a brother to me. If only you knew . . .”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.