Still Waters Run Deep.
I was chatting with John boy at lunch break when I turned around and noticed Edmund standing there looking a bit lost, but I knew he probably wanted to talk to me, so I looked over to him: “Edmund, you want me?” I asked.
“Ah, well I don’t want to interrupt,” he ventured tentatively.
I knew Edmund by sight, he and Matty were good friends, but I don’t think we’d ever said more than a couple of words to each other. We weren’t in the same year, he didn’t play much sport that I know of, so I only saw him around school from time to time, usually hanging out with Matty and a couple of other guys.
“I’m gonna go get some lunch,” John boy said, “I’ll catch you later.”
“Okay, later John boy.” He smiled and headed off towards the school canteen.
I looked at Edmund. “Let’s walk,” I said, thinking we could get a bit away from the crowd.
We ambled over in the direction of the science lab. “So what’s up?” I asked, but I knew it must be to do with Ryan.
“Well…” He hesitated. I suppose because he didn’t really know me, he wasn’t sure about what to say or how to say it. So I helped him out.
“If this is to do with Ryan.” I glanced down at him, he was at least a foot shorter than me. “I know what happened and I’m sorry you got hurt.”
“It wasn’t your fault,” he replied. “The guy’s a bully, but thanks.”
“Why did he hit you?” I asked, wanting to get the full story from Edmund.
“He said he owed me that for spreading rumours to my sister and fucking things up with his girlfriend.”
“So he found out it was your sister told my cousin Mathilde about him and me?”
He looked a bit embarrassed now, not quite sure how to answer that.
“It’s okay Edmund, I think you and me can be honest about things, we’re friends or should be, at least we’ve both got Matty as a good friend in common even if the two of us don’t know each other very well.”
“Yeah, you’re right. But I don’t think it was a great idea of Matty to get me to tell my sister to tell your cousin. I kinda think Ryan has a reason to be pissed off.”
“It’s a mess and I thought it was all forgotten, but obviously not.”
“I’m a bit worried for Matty though, cos now Ryan probably knows it was him. I mean I never said… it’s just he wanted to know if I knew you, and well, I didn’t really think. I was more thinking, like is he gonna beat me up. Anyway, I said no, I didn’t really know you, except like we met once or twice. So you see it doesn’t take a genius to work out, if I hardly know you and I hang about with Matty… well it’s pretty obvious, it was Matty, and that’s got me worried.”
“Did you tell all this to Matty?” I asked him.
“Yeah, but he just said Ryan’s a prick and he’ll keep out of his way, but he’s not gonna cross the street. You know, Matty can be a bit stubborn sometimes. I mean he’s really upset still about Ryan and he’s heading to get into trouble.”
“I’ll talk to Matty, and to Ryan. If he bothers you again, you let me know, okay?” I knew there was going to be a lot of sorting out to do here, I was also surprised that Matty, according to Edmund, was still angry at Ryan. Angry or jealous, I’m not sure which.
“Matty likes you a lot,” Edmund said with a sly kind of look at me.
“Yeah, I know,” I replied, wondering just what Edmund was thinking, but not quite wanting to say. “You take care, and you tell me if Ryan bothers you again.”
“Okay, c’ya around then.” With that Edmund scooted off back to the main building and canteen. I stood around for a minute thinking about all this and trying to come up with a plan.
I sat down next to Ryan on the bus home that evening. He didn’t really acknowledge me, just gave me a surly glance and returned to his usual habit of staring out the window in silence. I wondered if he was looking at anything or just dreaming, or didn’t like being disturbed by anyone. Well I could see that I was probably not his favourite person, I had lied to him over Mathilde, or at least I’d avoided telling the truth because I needed to protect Matty.
“I saw Edmund today,” I said, breaking the silence.
He managed a “So what!” in reply, as the doors clanked shut and the bus pulled away with a jolt that made anyone standing grab for a hand rail.
“So why did you punch him, that’s what?” I said.
“Mind your own god damned business,” he replied angrily.
“Well it is my business.” I wasn’t about to let it drop.
He stopped looking out the window and turned to look at me.
“Then I guess it’s you who whispered in your little bum boy’s ear about us in the showers.”
He was getting red in the face. I’m not sure I’d ever seen him this worked up, except perhaps that one time after the rugby practice with Brandon and company. Thinking about it, that’s where this all started. No, maybe not, I think it started before that with Ryan, Brandon and Mathilde.
“Cut it out, and that’s no excuse to go round beating on kids younger than you.”
“He deserved it, and fuck, it was one punch, I didn’t beat the little fucker up.”
It seemed pretty obvious there was a lot of anger inside Ryan and I didn’t know where to take this. I wanted a calm talk, not an angry confrontation. I wanted to defuse things. But anyway I had no time right now.
“My stop,” I said, “we have to leave this talk for now.” I stood up and pressed the bell for the next stop. Ryan just looked away, back to staring out the window.
The doors opened, I got off, then I watched them clang shut and the bus pull away. I was thinking there’s trouble around the corner if ever Ryan with all that pent up anger faces Matty with his stubborn jealousy.
Wednesday evening I was sitting in the comfy old armchair in Matty’s bedroom, drinking tea and looking at him lying on the bed. I had the strongest desire to jump up and hug him, but this was his house, not Jake’s studio, and Mrs T was downstairs.
“I need to talk to you Matty,” I looked across at him.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” he replied.
I don’t know why, but he wasn’t in the best of moods. ‘What had I done’, I couldn’t think of anything.
“You don’t know what it is,” I insisted.
“Fuck, I’m not stupid. I don’t want to talk about Ryan and I don’t want to talk about Jake. Anyway, we talked about Jake and you never knew what to say.”
Where did all this come from. We spent a great Sunday together and now a few days later he was pissed off.
“You want me to go?” I don’t know why I said that, it wasn’t what I wanted at all.
“Up to you, if you wanna go, go. I’m not stopping you.”
“Matty I don’t want to go, why are you angry with me, what have I done.” I really couldn’t figure it out.
“I’m fed up with the whole situation. I don’t know, sorry, I guess it’s all just getting to me.”
I got up and went to sit next to him on the bed. “I’m sorry too,” I said.
We just sat together on his bed, side by side, I didn’t know what to say to him, I didn’t have all the answers. I felt there was something else behind Matty’s mood, but if he didn’t want to talk, I couldn’t force him, it would only make matters worse. I just wondered how one little thing with Ryan, something that I thought was buried, could suddenly flare up like this.
We lay together in silence. My mind just wondered, thoughts came and went, then I realised it’s the same as with Ryan. That is on appearance it’s a small thing, but that’s just the match that lights the fire, there is a whole load of other stuff. Maybe this was all my own fault, perhaps I have been too… I’m not even sure how to say it, how to put it into words… too easy going. No, that’s not it, too uncaring, it’s more like that.
Matty has never done anything wrong, except the Ryan stuff, but that’s understandable, and it’s the only thing. He came out to me, he forgave me and Jake, he’s always been there and I’ve more than a bit taken advantage.
I couldn’t, much as I would have liked to, stay with him all night. I had to go home, I wanted to see him again as soon as I could, but I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even want to say ‘I love you’ in case those were the wrong words, I mean they’re not the wrong words, just too easy to say, I needed to prove it.
But despite those thoughts I told him anyway. “I love you Matty.” I kissed him on the cheek. “I have to get home.”
He made a half hearted effort to smile. “Call me yeah,” he said.
“Of course,” I replied.