The Year We Grew Up – Chapter Twelve.

Bad News.

I woke up Sunday morning with Zack and Tom, like usual I had to crawl over them to get out of bed, no, I mean it wasn’t usual to have slept three in the bed, although it was really fucking good.

I put the coffee on and ignored the grumbles about it being too early and it’s Sunday morning. I wanted some coffee and while I was waiting for the machine I sat on the stool looking at the two of them in bed. Messed up hair and half asleep still, it was an image I thought would make a great photo for a book cover, ‘A Life of Three’ I even imagined the title.

It was when taking the coffee cups from the cupboard that I noticed the little light blinking on my phone. I always thought that as an indicator that a message was waiting it must really use up the battery when you don’t pick it up straightaway. Anyway, I ignored it and put the cups in the machine, pressed the button and waited as it spluttered and gurgled out the steaming coffee.

Turning back to Zack and Tom who were now showing signs of life, Zack was sitting up smiling at me. “Tom,” I said. “You want sugar?”

He looked over. “One please,” He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, passed his hand through his hair pushing it back from his face. He looked just as cute as he did last night, maybe more so, I found myself grinning like a cat that had just lapped up the cream. I put a third cup under the machine, charged the holder with a bag and hit the button. Now I reached across and picked up my phone.

“Urgent,” it said. I clicked the message open, at the same time I switched off the coffee machine. I read the message, “Dad is in hospital, call me.” It was from my mum, my expression changed in an instant, Zack must have noticed.

“What is it Mikey?” He asked.

“From my mum, my dad’s in hospital,” I replied.

He got out of bed, put his coffee cup down on the counter and put his arm around me. It was so great having Zack there, to have someone who cared. “Call her Mikey,” he said.

So I called home and she picked up almost immediately, I could tell by her voice that she was anxious, not her usual self. She said that she was glad I called, but she thought it might have been the hospital. She explained what happened, not in detail, but the essential. Apparently, there was some trouble on the march, a police charge and dad ended up in hospital.

She only got back in about an hour or so and had been, it seemed, all night at the hospital, he was unconscious, I don’t know if she said the word ‘coma’, but I told her I was coming straight over. Zack said he would come with me and Tom was very nice as well, said he’d get going and would call us later to find out if everything was OK.

We arrived about 30 minutes later, I let myself in and called out, “Mum, it’s me.”

“I’m in the kitchen Michael,” she replied and we went down the hall to the kitchen. As we entered she stood up, “Would you like some tea?” She asked. “Or coffee if you prefer.”

“That’s alright mum,” I said. “You sit down and finish your cuppa.” I saw her tea on the kitchen table as I went over to her. She sort of sighed with a half hearted smile. To me at that moment she looked to have aged all in one go, she looked drained. I bent down and kissed her cheek. “This is my friend Zack,” I introduced him and she glanced up.

“Hello, Mrs Woodrow,” Zack spoke up.

“Zack,” she replied as if weighing up both the name and the young man standing there behind me in the kitchen. “That must be short for Zackary,” she added. “And please, call me Margaret.”

I put the kettle to re-boil and got two mugs from the cupboard, a jar of Nescafe and the milk. We both sat down at the table and my mum explained in a bit more detail what had happened. My dad had been, as was usual, at the head of the march, some anarchist types, youngsters, had broken off and started smashing shop fronts, the police moved in to contain things and in the mellay he got knocked down and his head hit the kerb.

She had rushed to the hospital when she got a call from Ken, he was my father’s best mate at work and union co-ordinator, and she had been at the hospital all night. My dad was in intensive care and had been put into an artificially induced coma. He had suffered internal bleeding in the brain or around the brain and had undergone an operation to relieve the pressure. They could not say what damage my dad might have suffered, but had to wait for the swelling to go down before bringing him out of the coma. He was on life support, she said it was terrible seeing him lying there surrounded by tubes and machines. She had only left his bedside because Ken said he would stay.

I felt emotional, I felt for my mum, for myself, I was almost dizzy with the things buzzing around in my head. Zack put his arm around my shoulder, he was a guy in tune with what his boyfriend was feeling, but it’s not a jesture to go unnoticed.

“Well Zack,” my mum spoke to him, changing the subject of my father, probably not because she wanted a respite from her own emotions, but because she was a mum, and a mum could sense things. At least my mum could, but I suspect it’s true of every mother in the world, she knew Zack was more than just my friend and she wanted to know a bit about him, it’s the protective motherly instinct.

“How long have you known Michael…” she paused, glancing briefly towards me. “Because he’s never talked to us about you and I know most of his old school friends?”

It was a question that had to be answered. “Not very long, Mrs Woodrow… I mean Margaret, but we are very close.”

‘Oops’ I thought, that’s a bit too much information.

“And what do you do youngman?” She asked, smiling her reassuring smile as if ignoring his previous response, although I knew she hadn’t.

“I’m in art college, my second year.”

It was then I decided to speak, enough was enough, it maybe wasn’t the right moment, no it definitely wasn’t the right moment with my dad in hospital, but it’s how things had turned out. “Look mum,” I interrupted her questioning of Zack. “When I popped in last week it was not just to say hello, but because I had something important to tell you. It didn’t work out as I’d planned and nothing got said, now is a terrible moment, but you have to know that Zack is more than just a friend… He’s my boyfriend.”

Silence, I looked at mum, then Zack, he was sitting there not moving, suddenly it felt like I was in an image carved in stone which was about to crack. My mum broke the tention, “Well Michael… Zack,” she looked from me to him, she didn’t seem angry or even upset, she still just looked incredibly tired. “Well I’m glad you told me although I must admit I felt it was a little unusual you both showing up here together, but anyway I hope you will be good to each other, because it’s at times like this that you realise how fragile things can be and that everything can change in an instant.”

I stood up went over and hugged her. Zack smiled, watching the scene. In the end, just like before, he had been there to help me.


next –  family Reaction! 

Chapter Thirteen – Families