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The Dominic Effect - 3




It was two weeks before Dominic came back to school.  The day before he was due to return, Miss Pawson sat us down and explained to us that we were to be as kind to him as we possibly could.

            “He’s going to need you all to be supportive to him.  Don’t ask him questions about what has happened, but if he wants to talk about it, let him.”

            “How will we know?” I asked.

            Miss Pawson ignored me and carried on addressing the class.  “If he appears upset, offer him some comfort but come and let me know.”

            “Are we allowed to mention death to him at all?”

            “It’s probably best not to, Daniel,” she sighed.

            “But if he mentions it-”

            “I very much doubt he’ll be mentioning it,” Miss Pawson replied unsurely.  I was growing accustomed to reading hesitation in adults.  It was like when my parents talked about my grandparents, I knew that there was something missing.  So from Miss Pawson’s voice, I ascertained that there was still the chance that Dominic might wish to talk about it. 

I sat there quietly, but privately I was looking forward to Dominic’s return. 


I loved the way the classroom went quiet as Dominic’s father led him in the next day.  They had decided to reintroduce him after morning playtime, probably so he didn’t get accosted in the yard when we were all out there.

            “Dominic!  Lovely to see you!” Miss Pawson said as if it were a complete surprise.  She was unnervingly jovial and Dominic told me later that he knew that she was just pretending to be nice to him because his Mummy was dead.  The class remained quiet until Miss Pawson told us to carry on with whatever we were doing, something like drawing farmyard animals. 

            I couldn’t help but look at him.  There was something so magnificent about the grief that you could see written all over his face.  Dominic had always been a fairly quiet, anonymous member of the class.  He wasn’t a crier, which meant a lot in those early years of education.  But he came back looking different – slightly ravaged by an outside world that we knew nothing about.

            “I don’t think he’s alright,” I said to Alex quietly.  “He definitely needs a friend.”

            Dominic had a couple of close friends in the class, both of whom appeared ill-equipped to deal with what had happened to him.  He sat on their table with them, but they had taken Miss Pawson’s advice too literally and barely uttered a word to him. 

            All of my conversation was about Dominic that morning, and I think Alex tired of it.  Such is the attitude of the seven year old, that he probably thought he was going to lose his best friend.  He was certainly more reluctant to approach Dominic than I was, but he joined me at my behest.

            We went to see him after we had eaten lunch.  I remember this being my idea, because to have gone and had lunch with him might have seemed too obvious.  It seems strange to me to think back on my actions at that age as deliberate, but there was definitely a motive and a plan behind what I was doing.  It was a crude and contrived plan, but it was certainly the right one.  It was one of the few times that I approached a classmate without Alex leading the way. 

            “How are you, Dominic?” I asked him.  “We were very sorry to hear about your Mummy.”

            Dominic’s eyes instantly welled up, but he managed not to cry.  “I’m sorry too,” he said simply.  “It’s really weird without her.”

            “It’s very sad,” I concurred, struggling with what to say.  “Alex’s granddad died last summer.”

            In adulthood, such shameless use of a friend’s bereavement would have been condemned without any further thought.  In the laws of the infant school, it was a valid method because it worked.  Dominic and I bonded that lunchtime, and he talked to us about what had happened and how things were at home.  A dinner lady tried to intervene at one point, but left us alone because she could see that it was actually doing some good.  It would have been terrible for him to lose his mother, and then to return to school and be treated differently by all of his friends.  That we weren’t ignoring what had happened to him was enough for him to want to hang around with us.

            It was such a successful approach that Dominic asked whether he could be moved to sit with us in class that afternoon.  Naturally, Miss Pawson agreed, although I can imagine that she was hesitant about letting my influence anywhere near him.