Questions and secrets.
I called Matty Monday evening after I got back home, I wanted to hear his voice and chat, we never really could do that in school.
He picked up straightaway, “Alex, hi,” he said.
“Hello Matty, how’s things?” I asked.
“Great… that is, great now you called.” There was a little pause, I couldn’t help smiling to myself. “But if you hadn’t, I’d have called you.”
“Why would you want to call me?” I joked.
“Oh, shut up… you know why, quit teasing.”
I loved the way the two of us could be so easy and comfortable with each other, that’s a big bonus that comes with falling for your best friend.
“So Matty I was just wondering…”
“Wondering what,” he interrupted. “No, don’t say, I bet I know.”
“How could you know? Matty, even you can’t read minds.”
“Are you sure of that?”
“Certain.” I replied.
“So… if I told you… thaaat…” He was dragging it out here.
“That what, come on, what?”
“Thaaat…” he carried on. What a little tease, I thought, if I was there with him I would have wrestled him to the floor by now, or maybe the bed! “That you was wondering about Jake.”
He said that last sentence really fast. “Yep I was.” I told him.
“Knew it, you see, I can read minds.”
“Yeah, I guess you can. But what did you think about Sunday?” I really wanted to know, playing around aside, it was an odd situation, I wasn’t sure how it came about. I mean, I know Jake turned up, but I don’t know how the three of us ended up playing around. Although nothing happened, we were just playing.
“You mean, what do I think about Jake?” Matty asked.
“Yes, of course… well no, not exactly, I mean yes I do kind of wonder what you think of him, but also about the three of us.” There I’d said it, that was really what was on my mind, the three of us, I was having trouble with what was getting to be a very complicated situation.
“I don’t know Alex” Matty replied, sounding more serious now. “I don’t dislike Jake, actually he’s nice, but…” he trailed off, pausing for a long silence.
Too long, “Matty, you still there?”
“Yes, yeah, I was thinking.”
“Oh, I don’t know, it is sort of complicated, I don’t know what to say, I mean you and me are together aren’t we” That was more a statement than a question, but to make sure I told him we were.
“Of course you and me are together, I love you Matty.”
“Well where does Jake fit in?”
That was the big question. I don’t know why I thought Matty would be able to answer that if I didn’t have the answer myself.
“That’s the question, I don’t know where,” I replied.
“Me neither,” Matty answered.
“So I guess we just leave that question. No need to make life more complicated than it is already.”
“So when can I see you next?” Matty wanted to know.
“How about you come over Wednesday? My parents won’t mind, it’s nearly the holidays, but everyone will be here.”
“You could come here, just my mum at home.”
“Okay, deal. Your place after school Wednesday.”
“C’ya then, bye Alex.”
I put the phone down and stretched out on my bed. Why is life so difficult, I just wished it could be simpler, I wished Matty and I had a place where we could be alone. I suppose it’s the same for all kids, you just have to wait until you’re old enough to move out and get a place of your own, like Jake.
Someone was outside my door, I heard them, and it had to be my little brother. He never exactly spied on me, but he did have an annoying habit of eaves dropping whenever an occasion presented itself, like if he heard me talking on the phone
“Michael!” I shouted quite loudly, so he couldn’t ignore it.
He poked his head round the door, looked over to me lying on the bed, he didn’t say anything. I didn’t speak either, just looked straight back at him and beckoned him over with a wag of my finger, you know the gesture, that ‘come here’ sign.
He opened the door and walked in, closing it behind him, good as he was at playing his little games he couldn’t really hide that he’d been caught listening in, he looked just a bit guilty.
“Was that Matty your were talking to?” He asked casually, like it was perfectly okay that he’d been outside listening.
“How long you been out there?” I questioned, sounding annoyed, which I was a bit.
“You left your door open, I was only passing by.”
He always tried to make whatever he did sound perfectly reasonable and twist the situation around, that was something that had provoked numerous fights when we were younger, because it was so infuriating. Nothing is worse than someone telling you that it’s your fault when they were the one to blame.
He must have decided, looking at my expression, that he was making me angry, so he relented with his defence. “I wasn’t really listening,” he added, “and anyway I don’t mind about you and Matty.”
“What exactly does that mean, you don’t mind?”
“You know… if he’s your boyfriend and all.”
Well it’s difficult to hide stuff from your little brother, especially when he is always hanging around listening in. I guess I wasn’t really surprised when he came out with it, after all he’d already hinted at it, but even so I was stunned for a minute. A deathly silence rained down, the atmosphere in the room was suddenly so heavy you could slice it with a knife.
He was still standing just inside the door, and rather nervously moving from foot to foot, he must have realised that perhaps he said too much this time. I just had to take a few deep breaths and let it sink in, there was no way to blame Michael, maybe he’d done me a favour, I just needed to know I could trust him. I mean really trust him, because I wasn’t ready to tell the world.
“I can keep a secret… you’re my brother… if you’re… you know… ah, in the closet.” He looked all sheepish and innocent and at the same time like an impish little devil who held a secret, but I couldn’t do anything but smile. Relief, I don’t exactly know, that must be part of it. I was pretty certain that on this I could trust him, despite all our long history of fights, annoying arguments, all about who did what or what belonged to who, when it came down to important stuff we were brothers, and that’s what counts above anything else.
“Oh, it’s okay,” I said, still smiling. “You’re right, I guess I am in the closet.”
He visibly relaxed, he walked over to me and I patted the bed for him to sit down.
“I think you will have to tell everyone sometime,” he said, “but it’s cool and I think Matty is great. Actually, you’re kind of lucky to have someone.”
“It doesn’t always feel that I’m lucky from where I am, it feels complicated and difficult.”
“I guess,” he replied, and it looked like he was seriously trying to see it from my point of view. “I understand Alex, but you can count on me.”
Even pesky little brothers can be really cute and almost nice to you, sometimes. I put my arm around him and pulled him down onto the bed next to me.
“Thanks Michael.” That’s all I said, it didn’t seem there was any need to say more.
We just lay there together for a bit before Michael sat up to break the silence. It’s weird how things can change one instant to the next, first it’s all really heavy, then the weight has lifted and everyone feels good.
“I really wanted to tell you something,” Michael said.
“What?” I asked.
“It happened at school.” I sat up a bit, propped myself up against the headboard.
“Max and me were hiding on the far side of the carpark. You know Max, Maximilian?”
“Yeah, a friend of yours,” I knew Max, not very well, but I was wondering why they were hiding on the far side of the carpark, which was out of bounds during the day.
“Well we saw Edmund walking into school, Matty’s friend.”
“Yeah, I know, so?” I was wondering where this was leading and I was frustrated at how Michael had a habit of dragging things out instead of getting straight to the point.
“So, he was walking across the carpark and Ryan came up behind him and grabbed hold of him around the neck. He said, ‘Just the person I want to see’, we could hear them, no problem.”
“What happened?” I wanted him to get to the end of the story.
“Edmund said something like, ‘leave me alone’ or maybe it was ‘get off of me’.”
“Yeah okay, but what the fuck happened?”
“Cool it, I’m getting there. Ryan punched him in the stomach, well we never actually saw the punch because Edmund had his back to us and Ryan was in front of him, but Edmund doubled up. Then Ryan pulled him up and dragged him off in the direction of the sheds.”
“Is that it? You don’t know what it was about?”
“No, except when he was dragging Edmund across the carpark he said something about his sister. It wasn’t clear, we were hidden, maybe ‘told your sister’, I’m not sure, neither was Max, it was definitely to do with Edmund’s sister.”
I decided not to make a big deal out of this with my brother. I knew I needed to talk to Matty about it and I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I knew what it was about, something I thought was over and forgotten.
“What were you and Max doing in the bushes around the carpark anyway?” I asked him changing the direction of our conversation.
“Oh, nothing really,” he replied.
“Yeah, I bet. Anyway, you keep my secrets and I’ll keep yours.” I couldn’t help smiling when I said that even though I was anxious about what they’d witnessed with Ryan and Edmund.