It was only a game. It was supposed to be a mere distraction from the tedium of the long summer day. But Tommy's face contorted in blind rage as he launched the chipped marbles at poor old Rusty, who had been chewing on his own hind leg oblivious to the brewing storm. I got off lightly, a slight bruise on my arm from a hurtling cats eye. Rusty took one on the nose which caused him to howl. I watched with a mixture of fascination and disbelief as Tommy ranted, pulled his hair, spat expletives and finally stomped off home. Clearly the perceived indignity of being beaten by a girl was not enough for him and he felt the need to add to his humiliation by letting his devil-may-care fašade slip and his true colours come spilling out from the cracks.
I never played with Tommy again. I kept my distance. But many of the local girls played with him during their adolescence. He seemed to win those games, which suited him. They ended with smeared make-up and confessions to besties over cheap cider. Many a pub toilet heard the cold comfort counsel of "he's not good enough for you anyway". The girls always lost, but still lined up to be picked next.
Eventually he played with someone who beat him, or cheated, I know not which. He threw more than marbles that day. I saw the black car procession pass through the town centre a few days after the sirens had come for Tommy. I wonder if perhaps I should have told her of that summer day long ago. But I doubt she would have listened.