A wise man once told me that nothing ever stays the same. Things have to be constantly changing in order for us to move forward, in order for us to learn and mature and grow.
I’m sure he was right, but sometimes it’s hard to understand why things happen a particular way, or why they should even occur at all. Are the things that happen to us a part of the grand plan from the masters of our universe? Or are they all just random events that simply ‘happen’, seemingly without rhyme or reason, and we just have to deal with them in the best way that we can?
Given what has been happening around here lately I’m not sure what I think about all this at the moment. Either we are being seriously tested by the powers that be, but for what purpose I have no idea, or we’ve simply just been saddled with some seriously bad luck.
Let’s take Ben and Samantha for instance. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for them going through the events of these past few months, it has been just one thing after another.
Firstly, there was the accident on the boat, in which Ben was injured. Then there was his being in a coma, and then when he finally does wake up he has no memory. None what-so-ever.
Like I already said, I can’t even begin to imagine what that must have been like for him. All I can think of is that it must have been like a nightmare.
And it didn’t end there either, with the two of them also breaking up for a time, just when we all thought things were on the improve. Talk about a genuine up and down, twisting and turning, stomach churning roller-coaster ride!
I recall that there were more than just a few tense moments at the time, but thankfully things have settled down a bit since then. I also remember making a few late night calls to Samantha and talking to her about it all, offering to be a shoulder for her to cry on if she needed it, but things soon righted themselves and it wasn’t too long before Ben’s memory returned and they were back together again, with everything once again as it should be. At least for the time being.
But before that there were also all the other things that seem to have jinxed our year, like the night we almost walked into a trap in the car park of the local hotel, and then the damage being done to Matt’s car not long afterwards.
Was there a reason why these things are happening? I can’t say if there is or isn’t, but what I can say is that I think it’s about time that there was some change in the air.
I have a feeling that it could be coming soon though. In fact, I can almost smell it. What still worries me however, is just what that change may bring!
* * *
When dawn broke this morning, all gloomy and dark, it felt like today would be another one of those days. I lay there for a time, listening to the gentle snores coming from Matt and the sound of the surf crashing on the beach in the distance.
Matt was lying with his arm draped across my chest, with his face buried deep into the gap between my pillow and his and with the sheets all askew. His back was exposed, revealing his latest pride and joy, a small, though elaborate and colourful tattoo of an almost naked angel, standing upon a cloud, back on to us, and with his wings stretching out toward each of Matt’s shoulder blades.
Whatever possessed him to get it, I have no idea. When I had asked him why he had it done he just grinned and said that it seemed like a good idea at the time.
I suspect that Justin may have had something to do with it. And there was probably alcohol involved as well. Or should I say, there was probably lots of alcohol involved.
Despite my initial misgivings, however, I do have to admit that I was growing to love it. Especially after Matt went back to the tattoo parlour and had them add the letters LUKE in an arc across the angel’s shoulders in fancy lettering. That was a sweet touch that, I thought.
Matt wanted me to get a tattoo as well, but so far I had resisted the temptation. ‘Maybe one day,’ I had said to him.
As gently as I could I slipped out from under the weight of Matt’s arm, trying to make sure that I didn’t disturb him, then got out of bed and pulled on a pair of shorts, before quietly slipping out of our room and padding down the hallway to the bathroom. A few minutes later I was in the kitchen, adding instant coffee and sugar to my favourite mug and waiting for the kettle to come to the boil.
There were no sounds coming from Tim and Guy’s room as I passed their doorway, but as I poured myself some coffee when the water had finished boiling I heard someone else using the bathroom before then hearing the sound of a bedroom door closing. Somebody had stirred, but by the sounds of it they had then gone back to bed, which is what I wouldn’t mind doing, except that there was studying to be done and an assignment to have finished and ready for handing in tomorrow, Monday.
After settling into a comfy chair in the lounge room I picked up one of my books from the table beside it and flipped open to where I had left off reading the previous night. It was unimaginative stuff really, all about the inner workings of a computer hard drive, with their rotating platters and motor driven spindles and their magnetic dipoles, but I still had to finish reading it and then write up something about them which at least sounded like I knew what I was talking about. When that was done then maybe I could go out and play, or back to bed to play, but not before.
Between sips of coffee and frequent yawns I managed to eventually finish the book, while at the same time making some notes which I could refer to later on. When I had finished I swallowed the last of my coffee and put the book back down on the table, then collapsed back in the chair and closed my eyes for a few minutes.
‘Did you even go to bed last night?’ I heard Tim ask after what seemed like mere moments later, but was actually more like an hour, according to the wall clock. ‘I’m sure that’s where you were when I went to bed.’
Opening my eyes I found him standing in the doorway, propped against the door frame with his arms crossed in front of his bare chest.
‘I think so,’ I replied. ‘But it all seems like such a blur.’
‘I know what you mean. It was a bit of a late night wasn’t it? I didn’t realise that playing poker could be so addictive, or so exhausting.’
‘Well, when you are winning it can be,’ I remarked, thinking back to how easily Matt and I seemed to have been parted with our cash. I had given up first, deciding that I would be better off studying than losing any more money, so I went back to my books, while Matt kept at it for a while longer, determined to try and get something back off Tim and Guy. Eventually they prevailed and cleaned him out altogether.
‘Don’t worry. We’ll give you a chance to win back some of your money tonight if you like,’ Tim said, as he removed himself from the doorway and headed for the kitchen.
‘You’re far too kind,’ I replied as he wandered away.
Reluctantly I picked up my notes from earlier that morning and started reading back through them. Things were finally starting to make sense to me and my assignment was finally beginning to come together in my head.
After about a bucketful of more coffee, and another couple of hours spent on my computer in our room, all the while continuing to listen to Matt’s endless snoring, I eventually got to the point where I could hit ‘Save’.
Not even the sound of my printing off the assignment could wake Matt, so I sat there and re-read everything, then made some corrections and re-printed the assignment, finally happy with it, but still just a little worried about how Tom Cassidy, my lecturer, would see it when I handed it in to him tomorrow.
After putting the assignment aside I turned off the computer then crossed the room, soon finding myself standing beside the bed and looking down on Matt, still snoring and spreadeagled across our bed, barely covered by the sheets. Reaching down I slipped off my shorts and dropped them on the floor, then sat on the edge of the bed and lay back against the pillow.
Gently I lifted Matt’s arm and slid beneath it, snuggling in close to him before then letting his arm fall across my chest and pulling part of the sheet across me as well.
It was only then that he finally started to stir, opening his eyes and staring at me across the pillows. Almost immediately he broke out into a smile. It was a smile that lit up the entire morning.
‘Good morning, Sunshine,’ he said to me, before then reaching across and placing his lips over mine.
‘Actually, it’s almost afternoon,’ I was eventually allowed to say, grinning back at him.
‘Who cares,’ he replied. ‘Part of me still thinks it’s morning.’
‘Well then, who are we to argue with that, then?’
He kissed me again, then slid his hands down my body and pulled me closer to him. As his body came against mine, his firmness unmistaken, I felt myself starting to stir. Then as Matt rocked his body against mine, his arms wrapped around me, his tongue sliding in and out of my mouth, I knew exactly how this morning would finish.
And that excited me even more.
* * *
As a lecturer Tom Cassidy wasn’t too bad. He was a bit of a hippy (complete with cliché pony-tail and scruffy beard), very laid back, and we all got on quite well with him, some of us to the point where we often helped out with his latest ‘project’ and even got to call him by his nick-name, which was simply Cass.
I had been in his office, which was on the top floor of a three storey building, on quite a few occasions since I had started my course here, and nothing ever seemed to change within it. It was always a mess.
The piles of paper that were forever stacked on the floor along one wall didn’t ever seem to go anywhere, except perhaps to grow higher. The bookshelves that stood behind his desk were stacked solid with weighty manuals, even to the extent that the shelves seemed to sag in the middle slightly. And the bench along the other wall, above which there was a large window which overlooked a paved courtyard several floors down where students gathered most days to eat their lunch, was covered with various computers, all in differing states of dismemberment.
I often found myself drawn to this side of the room, always enjoying taking a glance out the window to check out the action in the courtyard below (which could often be rather interesting), as well as to check out the latest gadget or computer component he had been playing with.
Once I had even managed a glance inside the back of the old, bright orange Volkswagen Kombi van that he drove and it had been just as big a jumble, so I often found myself also wondering about the state of his house.
It was late in the afternoon and he was sitting at his desk when I knocked and entered his office. He looked up at me, removing his glasses as he did so.
‘Hello there, Luke. Please, come in, and shut the door,’ he said to me.
Doing as he asked I closed the door behind me and took the few steps across the room to his desk, holding my assignment out for him.
‘Here it is, for better or for worse,’ I said to him.
‘Thank you,’ he said to me as he took the assignment and quickly flicked through the pages while I stood there. ‘I look forward to reading it.’
‘I hope it’s okay,’ I remarked, though without any real confidence. Glancing across at the bench below the window I noticed that there was a new machine there that he appeared to be working on, and so I went over to take a look.
‘This is an old one,’ I said to him, resting my hand on the casing. ‘I don’t think I’ve seen one of these before.’
‘No, you probably haven’t,’ he said, getting up from behind his desk and coming over to where I stood. ‘It’s an old Apricot word processor that belongs to one of the faculty staff. Pretty ancient. Pretty basic. But they weren’t too bad just for using them for what they were designed for.’
He was standing beside me and quite close. I could feel his breath on the bare skin of my arms and couldn’t help but breathe in the fragrance of the cologne or deodorant or whatever it was he was wearing, leaving me with the strangest of feelings inside.
All of a sudden I could feel my heart starting to beat faster within my chest, yet couldn’t understand why.
‘They came out in the nineteen eighties,’ he continued, then just as he said that he placed a hand on one of my shoulders, sending a tremor through my body as he did so.
This was quickly beginning to feel uncomfortable. I felt as if I needed to run, to get as far away from him as fast as I could, but yet for some reason I was rooted to the spot.
‘It has been playing up a bit, so they asked me if I would take a look at it. I don’t think I can do anything with it, though,’ he added, whilst placing his other hand on the computer case and then sliding it along to where it rested against mine.
Quickly I pulled my hand back, while at the same time trying to shove both hands into the pockets of my jeans. I could feel myself trembling, but what was worse, I could feel something stirring in the pit of my stomach.
‘I… I…’ I stammered. What I wanted to say was that I needed to get the fuck out of there, but nothing came out. I turned and looked up into his face, but was unable to read anything there.
‘Don’t say anything,’ he said to me, in what was barely a whisper.
I tried to take a step back, but his hand slid down to the small of my back, gently but firmly holding me in the spot and preventing me from doing so, while his other hand came to rest flat on my chest.
‘This doesn’t feel right,’ I blurted out, trying to get past him but being firmly stopped. ‘I think I should be going.’
Momentarily he pulled me closer to him, turning me slightly as he did so and pushing me back against the bench, causing our bodies to touch, as he started leaning in toward me, his face just inches from mine. I felt the hardness of him against me and much to my surprise I found myself growing partly erect as well. Once more I made an effort to pull away from him, and this time, thankfully, I managed to succeed.
He stepped back and we stood there facing each other, him with a blank expression on his face and me shaking all over, with anger and humiliation, but perhaps also with just a touch of guilt.
‘What the fuck are you trying to do?’ I spat at him, unable to comprehend where this had come from.
Now it was his turn to stammer. ‘I… I’m sorry Luke.’
‘Sorry? Is that all you can say? Jesus, Cass, you’re supposed to be the teacher here. You aren’t supposed to try on that sort of shit!’
Outside in the afternoon the faculty buildings were throwing long shadows, covering the courtyard with gloom as it started to grow dark. In the office it was even darker and for a few moments silence took over, before either of us spoke again.
‘What can I say, Luke, other than I’m sorry?’ he said eventually. ‘I don’t know what I was thinking. It was late when you came here. Maybe I figured you…’
‘What? Surely you couldn’t think I wanted THAT?’
‘Well… it’s late… you’re, ummm…’
‘What? I’m gay, so now it’s my fault? You’re just too fucking much Cass! I just can’t believe this!’
As he stood there staring at me, open mouthed, I headed for the door, yanking it open and then slamming it closed as I stormed out of the room and started for the end of the corridor and the doorway which would lead me to safety.
The sound reverberated along the corridor and a few heads turned my way enquiringly as I stomped along the passage, my feet seemingly wanting to go faster and faster the further I went. I glance back over my shoulder but there was no sign of Cass following me. By the time I reached the stairwell I was running, but my mind was racing even faster.
‘What do I do about this?’
‘Should I tell anyone? Should I tell Matt?’
‘What will Matt say? Fuck, what would Matt do?’
Moments later I had descended the stairs and burst out through the door into the fading afternoon light. It was cool, yet I felt like I was burning up inside. I kept running, all the way to the bus stop, where I knew I would be able to catch the afternoon shuttle back into town, before then catching the last bus out to Thompsonville.
By the time I was headed up the highway toward home, I had calmed down a bit, yet I was still feeling jittery inside. As I sat staring out the window into the near darkness, seeing only a faint glow behind the towering dark bulk of the mountains and watching only the lights of other vehicles fly past, I kept mulling things over in my mind. By the time I reached the Thompsonville turn off I had decided that in the end I wouldn’t say anything at all to Matt about what happened, as I knew he would probably go ballistic if he found out, and despite me being extremely pissed off by what Cass had tried, it didn’t warrant him having Matt coming after him seeking revenge, which is what I figured Matt would be bound to do.
I still felt that I needed to talk to someone about it, though, but just who that should be I wasn’t sure.
* * *
That night in the house was a relatively quiet one, with no one it seemed wanting to do anything much at all. Tim and Guy excused themselves early and went to bed, although the faint sounds that were coming from their bedroom soon told us why.
Matt and I curled up on the lounge together with the lights off and watched some television for a while, some American sitcom that was supposed to be funny, but I think we were both finding it difficult to laugh at the times we were supposed to.
‘You’re a bit quiet tonight,’ I said to him during an add break, thinking I would get in first before he started asking me what happened in my day.
‘I could say the same about you,’ he replied.
‘Long day, I guess.’
‘Yeah. Me too. Did you get you’re assignment handed in?’
‘Yeah,’ I answered, hoping that he didn’t hear the quaver in my voice.
We were lying on the lounge, Matt’s back against the arm of the chair while I was leaning back against Matt, his arms wrapped snugly around me while I had my head resting back against his shoulder. Being in his arms like that felt good, even though my stomach was still churning after the events of the day.
Sometimes it’s simply best not to say too much, I thought. Especially when there’s stuff that you specifically don’t want to talk about.
‘Are you watching this?’ Matt asked me.
‘Mind if I kill it then?’
‘No. Go right ahead.’
Reaching toward the table beside our seat he picked up the remote and hit the red power button, immediately plunging the room into near darkness.
Neither of us made any move to get up, we just sat there, wrapped up in each other’s company, listening to the a soft wind outside that was blowing through the she-oaks that were close to the house and rocking them gently.
It was a comforting sound, one that I loved to just lie back and listen to, but as we sat there in the darkness we soon found ourselves listening to another sound as well.
‘Do you hear that?’ Matt asked me, his voice tinged with something akin to mild alarm.
‘Yes. I thought I was hearing things at first.’
We both got to our feet and headed down the hallway toward the back door of the house, from the other side of which we had both heard footsteps coming up the path behind the house and which were now climbing the short row of steps leading up onto the back verandah.
Some time ago, at about the time when we had run into a little bit of trouble with some local rednecks, we had stood a baseball bat beside the back door, just in case it was ever needed. Thankfully none of us had ever had to pick it up, but as a precaution Matt reached out for it now as I turned on the outside flood-light.
The sound of the footsteps stopped and cautiously I opened the door, to reveal the somewhat bedraggled figure of a young man standing there, with a backpack over his shoulder, his clothes dirty, his jeans torn at the knees and his dishevelled blonde hair sticking up this way and that.
For a moment the three of us stood there staring at each other, looking back and forth without a word being spoken, before Matt finally made a move and pushed open the screen door.
‘Can I come in?’ Tony asked. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t know where else I could go.’
‘Of course you can,’ Matt answered, stepping aside to allow Tony to come through the door.
It was quite a shock to me seeing my cousin like this. The last time I had seen him was about a year ago and he was barely a boy then. He still couldn’t be any more than sixteen now, but in that time he had certainly grown some.
‘Aren’t you going to say hello to your cousin?’ Matt asked me as Tony crossed the threshold and swung his backpack off his shoulder, dropping it on to the floor.
Tony reached out his hand for me to shake, which I took, then pulled him to me. We hugged.
‘It’s good to see you again,’ I said to him.
‘Thank you,’ he replied. ‘It’s good to see you too. I wasn’t sure if you would want to see me though, or even let me come in.’
‘Tony, you’re always welcome here,’ Matt said to him.
‘Yes, you’re family, so of course you’re welcome here,’ I added. ‘Now tell us how you got here and why you’re here. What has happened? Are you all right? You’re not in any sort of trouble, are you?’