When my friends got a Facebook invite from Darren White, I was pissed, I didn’t get one.
I remembered him from school. He was the guy everyone bullied. They called him Wiggy, because he was already going bald by age eleven.
“Did you know Wiggy invited me to his stag do?” Stuart said to me while we drove to work.
“Really?” I said, “he didn’t invite me. Are you going?”
“Yeah, I think so, I owe him an apology for how I treated him in school.”
He wasn’t wrong there. I can’t even count the amount of times Stuart and our friends made Darren’s life hell. There was the daily robberies of his lunch money. The time they tied him to a tree, which resulted in him being punched and kicked by students in the year above, and even the younger kids. I remember finding him on my way back to class, undoing the knots as he tried his best not to cry. When the ropes relented, his facade broke down and he ran home. I shouted after him, he didn’t respond.
There was this other time, in Chemistry class, when Josh distracted him and Eric set his bag alight using the gas taps.
“Darren, your bag!” I shouted.
His face crumbled as he tried his best to put it out. And to make things worse, the teacher gave him detention for messing around.
Christ, was high school not kind to him. You may ask why did I hang out with people that were so horrible? I admit it, I was a coward. They were friends to me, really good friends at that. On several occasions they saved my ass, whether it was from the bigger kids or others in my class, they protected me. I wanted to tell them to stop bullying Wiggy, but I couldn’t, I was a coward.
“When’s the big day?”
“Next week,” Stuart said.
“That’s a bit last minute, isn’t it?”
“I guess so, but I owe it to him.”
“Who else has he invited?”
“No idea, I only found out yesterday.”
“Can you ask him why I’m not invited?”
“I don’t think that’s appropriate, do you?”
“What do you mean? I was always good to him.”
“Yeah you were a little snitch.”
“Hey!” I said irritated.
“Come on, I’m just joking. Does he even remember you?”
“I’d hope so.”
We arrived at work and all I could think about was Darren and how pissed off I was I wasn’t invited. Stuart went to do some optimisation in the server room and left his phone. Idiot didn’t even keep it passworded. I opened his Facebook, looking for the invite. There was a short chat conversation from Darren.
“Hey man, long time no see. I’m getting married next month and wanted to know if you want to go to my stag do?”
“Still using that name, are we?”
“Sorry man, couldn’t resist. Yeah, I’d love to go. Been a long time since I tied you up. A stag do seems like the perfect excuse ;)”
“Very funny. It’s next week. I’ll send you the details later.”
That was it.
I remembered his username and quit the app. Thankfully just before Stuart returned.
“Forgot my phone,” he said, picking it up and leaving.
Later that day I tried to add Darren to my Facebook friends. Hours passed and nothing in return. I was so confused. I checked his profile. Only a couple of photos were public. He looked the same as before, but now completely bald. To my surprise, there was a mobile number. I punched it in and waited.
It rang for what seemed like minutes before a voice I barely recognised answered.
“Is that Darren?”
“Speaking, who’s this?”
“It’s Karl. Karl Westfield, from school.”
“I don’t want to speak to you.”
“Please don’t hang up!” I said.
The line was silent.
“I have just one question.”
I heard nothing in response.
“Why did you invite Stuart to your stag do and not me? I was good to you!”
Heavy angry breathing was the response.
“If you don’t want me to go, that’s fine, but please tell me why?”
“Fuck off,” he said, and the line went dead.
I tried to phone again, but it just rang until the voicemail picked up.
“He’s hired a minibus,” Stuart said, as we drove to work.
“Sounds like fun,” I said, still upset from the call I had the night before.
“We’re going to Dover. He says he has a cottage there and that he’s hired some strippers.”
“Come on, man, don’t be upset. You were never really one of the cool kids, you just hung on to us.”
“Fuck you,” I said, irate.
“Chill out, man, it takes a lot to be as cool as me.”
“You’re 34 years old, how can you still feel that way?”
“You’re just jealous. He’s invited Eric, Gaz and Topshelf too. You’re the only one he hasn’t.”
“That makes no sense, he hated you lot.”
“We’ve all grown up since then, Karl. Look, I know we weren’t that nice to him, but time heals, doesn’t it?”
I didn’t reply. We didn’t speak for the rest of the journey. I did my best to avoid him until the shift was over.
“Hey man, remember to do the server backups tomorrow. I’m not going to be around to do it,” Stuart said on the phone.
“Yeah, I’ll remember,” I replied, still pissed off at him.
“Darren’s picking us up early in the morning, so I won’t have time to do it. But, it won’t be a problem for you, will it, you’ve got nothing planned.”
I wanted to shout at him, to tell him he was being a prick, but I didn’t.
“I won’t forget.”
I parked my car a few roads down from Stuart’s house. I got there around six in the morning. I drank from the thermos of coffee I’d prepared. I was tired, I never got up this early.
I almost fell asleep before I saw the mini van park outside the house. Immediately I perked up. The others were already inside, drinking and laughing with the man they bullied as a child.
They thumped on the door for at least fifteen minutes until Stuart emerged. His hand already held an open beer. Anger filled me, but I bided my time. A couple of minutes later the minivan left.
I followed. I stayed as far back as I could in my rental car. Not wanting to arouse suspicion using mine. The van took left and right turns around the suburban roads until it entered the motorway. The vehicle didn’t break sixty as it cruised down the highway.
The van left the M2 and onto the M20. We were definitely heading to Dover. They pulled off at a service station. I parked at the back of the car park. I watched them leave, entering the small building. I was busting for a piss, so I relieved myself in a bush. By the time I finished, the minivan was on the move again.
I kept my distance, trying my best not to get too close. After around thirty minutes, the van left the motorway and joined the A20. The road snaked along until I could see the ocean to my right. I hadn’t been this far south since I was a child, it brought back childhood memories I had long forgotten.
The van stopped at Avcliffe, and so did I. Stuart, Eric and the guys got out. They were drunk, singing songs and trying to get Darren involved, who in turn ignored them.
This was my time. I left the car and strode towards them.
“Hey!” Stuart said, “What the fuck are you doing here? You weren’t invited!”
“I want to speak to Darren,” I demanded.
They swarmed around me and said, “He doesn’t want you here. Do you know what he called you? A coward!”
“Eric, please let me talk to him.”
Darren left the vehicle.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” he asked.
The rest of them laughed and replied in unison, “Ooooooo.”
“I don’t understand, why did you invite them? I was the only one who ever looked out for you.”
He shook his head.
“Please leave, Karl.”
“What did I do?” I lamented.
“Fuck off and go home, please.”
His face was serious, it was obvious he’d not been drinking.
“I hate you, you know that right?”
Everyone laughed again.
“Enough sight seeing, get back in the van,” he demanded.
When he stared back at me, his face appeared sad and lost.
“Go. Check my Facebook,” he said to me one last time and got in the van.
The others followed.
Confused and upset I returned to the car to see the van pull away.
I sat for what seemed like ages, staring down at my phone. I was angry at Darren. I was never Darren’s friend, but it was me that untied him from the tree. It was me that stopped his bag from going up in flames. Always me. But his hate, it was aimed at me.
I unlocked my phone and navigated to his Facebook page.
“Today is a great day,” it started, and that made me more upset.
“Today is the day I get my vengeance.”
“Today I right the wrongs that have bothered me since I was a child.”
“I love my family and I love you all.”
Beneath the post comments asked if he was okay, and to not do anything stupid.
Before I finished reading I heard distant screams.
I started the car and raced forward.
The van was no where to be seen. A group of people gathered on the edge of the cliff. I stopped the car and got out.
“He just drove off,” I heard someone say.
I approached the edge, my stomach dropped as I saw the white minivan in flames on the beach below.
I realised why he didn’t invite me. He wasn’t getting married. It was his vengeance. It was his closure.