Escape to the coast.
“Oh fuck it!” I was talking out loud to myself. Outside it had started to rain, the drops of water sliding down and obscuring the windscreen.
“No luck?” Jonathan asked looking across at me holding the phone. “Maybe he needs to charge it?” He hadn’t waited for a reply, I think he wanted to diffuse the tension.
“No, it was charged enough and anyway he just would have to plug it in. No, bet she never gave it to him. He’ll never even know I was here.”
“You don’t know that. Send a text.”
“So much for my great plan.” I was pissed off, what next I thought. Maybe I’ll just go back round there and hammer on the door, camp outside. I knew that was ridiculous, besides it was kicking up a storm. I just sent the text like Jonathan said.
We waited what seemed like ages, but it couldn’t have been that long, suddenly Jonathan caught a glimpse of people leaving the restaurant. The car park had been empty awhile, just two cars and a motorbike remained. It was hard to see clearly through the misted up windscreen. Jonathan opened the door leaned halfway out and shouted “Sean!”
He must have heard because he looked over and then Jonathan was out of the car signalling to him with his arm in the air. Sean said something to the person next to him and ran across the wet tarmac to join us.
“Get in.” Jonathan said, holding the driver’s seat up so he could clamber into the back seat. Both of us started to talk at once until I shut up and let Jonathan speak, actually he told me to be quiet. How he knew that Sean was gay I don’t know, but he just talked to him like he’d known him all his life and not like we just met him five minutes ago.
Sean listened as Jonathan gave him the story of me and Matty. Occasionally he glanced sideways at me and when he caught me watching him, he smiled, but otherwise his eyes were fixed on Jonathan. There was definitely something that clicked between those two, you would have to be blind not to have seen it, and felt it.
As the rain eased off leaving large puddles across the carpark, the story had reached the point where we were now. Sean seemed only too keen to help and volunteered to go with his mum to visit Matty’s Aunt Alice, but that would be Wednesday, because the two of them had arranged a shopping trip together in town. He said he could come up with some reason or other to go round there and would see if he could talk to Matty.
Wednesday, that’s like three days away and we would have to get back home, I wasn’t sure we could come back, if Jonathan would want to make the long drive again. Maybe he would now we’d met Sean, but even so it wouldn’t be Wednesday, he works.
“No, no way!” I said that rather too loud. They were both looking at me. “No,” I repeated. “I’m gonna talk to him, I’m not leaving here,” I nearly said without him, but caught myself just in time.
I’d made my mind up though, I definitely was staying to see Matty and if he was up for it we would escape together. Runaway if you like, whatever, I was not going home, but neither was I telling that to Sean and Jonathan.
“Well look Alex,” this was Jonathan being all adult, he was using the same tone as my dad. “I don’t think there is anything else to do now. It’s a long journey home and we’ll need to get going.”
This way of talking to me just made me react more and more childishly. “You go,” I said. “I’m staying.”
“Don’t be stupid, where are you going to stay?” Jonathan was doing his best to reason with me, but I just wouldn’t wear it. Sean was just sitting there not saying anything, looking kind of sympathetic whenever my eyes wondered in his direction to avoid Jonathan.
The impasse was broken by the beeping of my phone, which I snatched up to look at the incoming text. In that instant everything changed, it was a message from Matty. He had the phone and was asking where I was.
Over the course of the next five minutes we texted back and forth, in brief bringing each other up to date. We arranged to meet a few hundred meters from his house, down the road somewhere out of site. We agreed to leave together, I told him I had some money and he was up for it. I had no idea what we would do, where we would go, but who cares?
I didn’t tell all this to Jonathan, just that Matty was coming to meet me. Sean said he hoped it worked out and maybe he would see us again. By us, he really meant Jonathan, but anyway, we all exchanged numbers and he left on the motorbike. We pulled out of the carpark after him to go and meet Matty.
The rain had stopped completely now as we drove into the street that led to his aunt’s house. Then I saw him turning the corner, coming in our direction, bag slung over one shoulder. Jonathan stopped the car, I got out just as he came up to us, I opened my arms wide and hugged him. Oh my god, did that ever feel good, to hold him in my arms.
Jonathan called across through the still open passenger door, “Get in, let’s get out of here.”
Matty threw his bag in the back and scrambled in with me after him. Jonathan closed the passenger door and drove off. We just looked at each other, I couldn’t help noticing the cut under his eye, but it looked to be not too bad and any bruising was fading, I was so happy to see him. I was aware the car had stopped somewhere because the motor cut out and Jonathan just let the two of us cuddle and talk.
Eventually things calmed and we got back to the reality of what’s next. “I think I’ll have to drop you back home Matty,” Jonathan had turned to look at us.
“No way Jonathan,” I told him. “He’s not going back there and I’m not going back either.”
“Come on now,” Jonathan replied. “Be reasonable.”
“Nobody’s being reasonable,” I said. “The time for being reasonable has past. We are going away together.”
“That’s not a good idea. Where would you go Alex?”
“I don’t know, it does matter. Anywhere we can be together.”
“And your parents, Matty’s parents, his aunt?”
“I don’t care.” That’s all I could say.
“They’ll think somethings happened.”
“We’ll phone them to tell them we’re alright.”
“They’ll call the police. A 15 and 14 year old don’t just run off with nothing happening.”
“They won’t find us.”
“So this was the plan all along?” He seemed annoyed as he posed the question, but he already knew the answer.
“I’m sorry,” What else could I say, I hadn’t told the truth to a good friend who’d helped me.
By way of a dismal excuse for an apology I added, “You won’t be involved. If anything goes wrong I’ll say I got the train or hitchhiked here.”
“And what about me delivering the phone. You don’t think I’m involved? Nevermind, it doesn’t matter, but I’m telling you… both of you it’s a big fucking MISTAKE!”
That hit me with all the force he meant it to have. In the back of my mind I knew he was probably right. I definitely knew I’d treated him badly. I’d used him. You don’t do that to your friends. At least you shouldn’t.
The atmosphere was heavy, as dark and threatening as the black clouds. “I’m sorry Jonathan. You’re a good… a very good friend, and I used you. I should have told you the whole plan, but you’d never have come here.”
“Maybe not,” he eased up a bit. “What now?”
“Can you let us out at the train station?”
“Where are you going?”
“I’ve got a plan,” I told him trying to sound convincing, but in reality any plan was very vague. I hadn’t worked out what happens next.
Matty spoke for the first time, what I mean is, he joined in our conversation. “If it doesn’t work out we’ll turn ourselves in, but you know… my parents have been really shitty to send me here… not let me talk to Alex. All that cos I told them I was gay.”
“I’m sorry it worked out badly with your folks,” Jonathan was looking directly at Matty, “but, you make it sound like a movie, ‘turn ourselves in’, it’s no movie and I’m worried for you. Your mum and dad will come around, they’re not going to leave you with your aunt forever.”
He appeared tired, he was trying to win the argument, it was obvious he would prefer if we all just went home, but that wasn’t going to happen.
It was nearly six thirty when we watched Jonathan drive away from the station. Only the lights of the terminal kept the night at bay. It was quiet, not many people around, you wouldn’t expect it to be busy on a Sunday evening.
Matty and I went into the large hall and we wondered over to look at the train departure timetables. I had no real plan, but I got the idea to head to the coast. I remembered a family holiday the four of us had spent on the west coast, me, mum, dad and Michael. I must have been 11 and Michael 9, we stayed in a pretty basic rented cottage, but it was a great holiday. I could picture the cottage, the fields of tall grass over the fence behind and the fivebar gate at the end of the lane where only a track led on over the brow of the hill and down to a big old barn.
This became our plan as I shared it with Matty. We would head to the nearest station, I knew there was one in the town near the coast, I couldn’t remember how far it was from the cottage, but that would be our destination. You need a place to head for and this was as good as any.
I searched for the name on the timetables and eventually found it. Checking times, we would take the main line west and would have to change onto a local train. It was a long journey, the best option was the night train that arrived here at 23:15 and would get us to the station where we would pick up the local train, at 03:10. Then we would have to wait until 05:20.
I went to the ticket machines and punched in the final destination, even two children’s tickets aren’t cheap, but what the hell, we would be away from here and it would be warm on the train.