Monday evening, after I got back home, I called Matty. I wanted to hear his voice, and chat, something we couldn't do in school. He picked up straightaway.
"Hello, Matty. How's things?"
"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."
The way the two of us could be so easy and comfortable with each other, I loved that. It's a big bonus that comes with falling for your best friend.
"So, Matty. I was just wondering..."
"Wondering what? No, don't say. I bet I know."
"How could you know? Matty, even you can't read minds."
"Are you sure?"
"So... If I told you... Tha..aat"
He was dragging it out here. "That what? Come on. What?"
"Tha..aat" he carried on.
What a little tease. 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."
"Knew it. You see. I can read minds."
"Yeah. I guess you can. But what did you think about Sunday?" I wanted to know. Playing around aside, it was an odd situation. How did it came about? I mean, I know Jake turned up, but how did the three of us end up fooling around. Although nothing happened, we were just playing.
"You mean. What do I think about Jake?"
"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 what was on my mind. The three of us. I’m having trouble with what is getting to be a very complicated situation.
"I don't know, Alex"
Matty sounded more serious now.
"I don't dislike Jake. Actually he's nice. But..."
He trailed off, pausing for 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. "Of course you and me are together. I love you, Matty."
"Well where does Jake fit in?"
That was the big question. Why did I think Matty would be able to answer that if I didn't have the answer myself? "That's the big one. I don't know where."
"I guess we just leave it then. No need to make life more complicated. No more than it is already."
"So! When can I see you next?"
"How about you come over Wednesday? My parents won't mind. It's nearly the holidays. But everyone will be here, mum, dad, and my nosey little brother."
"You could come here. Just my mum at home."
"Okay, deal. Your place. After school, Wednesday."
"See ya then. Bye, Alex."
Putting the phone down I stretched out on my bed. Why is life so difficult? I wish it could be simpler. If only 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 somewhere of your own. Like Jake.
I heard a noise, someone was outside my door, 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 and looked over at me lying on the bed. He said nothing. 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 hide that he'd been caught eavesdropping. He looked just a little guilty.
"Was that Matty you were talking to?" He asked casually, like it was perfectly okay that he'd been outside listening.
"How long you been out there?" I was a bit annoyed.
"You left your door open. I was only passing by."
He always tried to make whatever he did sound perfectly reasonable. Twist the situation around. That was something that 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. He gave up on his defence.
"I wasn't really listening. 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 before. Even so, I felt stunned for a minute. The atmosphere in the room was suddenly very tense. He was still standing just inside the door. Nervously moving from foot to foot. He must have realised that perhaps he had said too much this time. I took a few deep breaths and let it sink in. There was no way I could 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, but I knew him too well, he couldn't hide that impish little devil who now held a secret. I couldn't do anything but smile. Relief, I don't exactly know, that must be part of it. I was pretty certain I could trust him on this. 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. That's what counts above anything else.
"Oh, it's okay." I was still smiling. "You're right. I guess. I am in the closet."
He visibly relaxed. Walked over to me. I patted the bed for him to sit down.
"I think you will have to tell everyone sometime," he said. "But it's cool. I think Matty is great. Actually, you're kind of lucky to have someone."
"It doesn't always feel like I'm lucky. Not from where I am. It feels complicated. Difficult."
"I guess," he replied.
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. 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. Michael sat up and broke the silence.
"I really wanted to tell you something."
"What?" I asked.
"It happened at school."
I propped myself up against the headboard.
"Max and me were hiding on the far side of the car park. You know Max? Maximilian?"
"Yeah, a friend of yours." I knew Max, though not very well. Why were they hiding around the car park, which was out of bounds during the day?
"Well we saw Edmund, Matty's friend, walking into school."
"Yeah, so?" Where was this leading? It frustrated me how Michael had this habit of dragging things out instead of getting straight to the point.
"So, he was walking across the car park. Then Ryan came up behind him. Grabbed hold of him around the neck. 'Just the person I want to see', he said. We could hear them."
"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. Edmund had his back to us. 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 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."
No point making a big deal out of this, I needed to talk to Matty, but I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I knew what it was about, something I thought was over and forgotten.
"What were you and Max doing in the bushes anyway?"
"Oh, nothing really."
"Yeah, I bet. Anyway, you keep my secrets and I'll keep yours." I smiled when I said that. Though I was anxious about what they'd witnessed with Ryan and Edmund.