I tried Matty's phone, easily five times, but always got the voicemail. I spent the whole day moping around trying to figure out what might have happened between Matty and his parents. What had he told them? It obviously involved me, that much was certain, otherwise why wouldn't they let me see him? I wished I had Edmund's number, but I never thought about asking.
Sometime after lunch the door bell rang, I ignored it. I heard Michael go down to answer it, but I stayed in my bedroom feeling lost. The knock on my door surprised me. I assumed it was Michael wanting something or other, and I wasn't in the mood.
"Go away!" I wanted to be alone with my depression.
"Edmund's here," Michael replied, rebuffing my unpleasantness.
Jumping off the bed I rushed to open the door and let him in.
"Sorry," I said by way of an excuse. "Come in. You saw Matty!" I looked at Edmund. "How is he? What's going on? Why wouldn't his mum let me in to see him?" Edmund sat down, it seemed he was a bit taken aback by my verbal assault.
Michael stood just inside the door. I didn't pay much attention to my brother being there, I was too anxious to get some news.
Michael spoke first, "Calm down, Alex," he pleaded.
Edmund took a deep breath, "I don't know why," he sighed "I didn't get to stay very long. Matty is okay. Well, he was in bed. He’s got a black eye and two stitches to a cut underneath. It looks worse than it is, but I suppose it still hurts." I wish Mrs T had let me see him. Why wouldn't she? That's cruel.
"You can't phone him," Edmund continued. "His phone got smashed or something. Anyway it's not working. You could phone the house, but I don't suppose they'll get Matty up out of bed to talk."
"What did he tell you?"
"He went to the hospital emergency with Mrs Whitley and she stayed until his parents got there. Once back home, of course, they wanted to know what had happened. I don't know exactly how things went, except now his parents know it was Ryan who attacked him. I don't know what else he said about that, but..." he paused looking across at Michael then back to me.
"It's okay Edmund," I said. "Michael's cool." I wanted to know everything and I didn't care if Michael heard or not.
"It came out, or maybe he told his parents, I don't know which, but he said he was gay."
"He told them?" I couldn't believe it. But knowing Matty, I could see him saying that in a confrontation, he wasn't a person that would hide.
"Yeah," Edmund confirmed. "They know, and maybe they think the fight was about that. Who knows? Maybe they think you are involved or..." he paused again.
"Go on. What do you think?"
"Maybe they think, well like you are best friends. I don't know, but perhaps, that you are involved. Or, you know, the two of you are always together. Outside school, I mean."
"They think I'm gay and I'm responsible?" Is that what he's thinking? It made sense. His best friend, a year older, turns their son gay. Now loads of scenarios were buzzing around my head. I was sinking. Sitting on my bed I dropped my head into my hands. Michael came over to sit next to me. He put an arm around me and leaned in for a gentle hug.
"Guess I'll go," Edmund got up, "I can let myself out."
"Wait," I looked up. "Give me your number please."
We exchanged phone numbers and Edmund promised to let me know if he heard anything else. Michael went with him to show him out. Obviously I didn’t have the full picture. How much did Matty’s parents know and what would happen next? Everything seems so out of control. What to do now? The door opened and Michael reappeared.
"You alright?" he asked.
I tried a half hearted smile, "I guess."
"So why did Ryan beat up Matty?"
"Not now Michael, please. Look, you're a good brother and I'll tell you everything. I owe you that much, but just not right now."
"Okay. You sure you're okay?"
He left me and closed the door on his way out. Was I okay? Didn't seem like there was much to do about any of it. If I keep telling myself there's nothing I can do I’ll have to just go with it and deal with whatever comes up. The only thing I need to work out is how to get to see or talk to Matty. I should tell Michael what’s going on. Not everything, nothing about Jake, but the rest, the stuff with Ryan. He already knows about me and Matty, plus like I told Edmund, he was cool.
I knocked on Michael's door, "Come in!" he shouted.
It wasn't often I went into his room, which was a bit smaller than mine, although you wouldn't notice the difference. It actually seemed he had more space, probably because he was tidy. Sitting on his big orange floor cushion I looked across at him lying on the bed. For the next twenty minutes or so I gave a more or less uninterrupted account of what happened between me, Matty and Ryan. I told him about Ryan coming on to me in the showers. How Matty wanted payback and had got Edmund to tell his sister to talk to our cousin Mathilde about it. I explained how I thought everything was all over after I told Ryan it was nothing to do with me. It wasn't my fault if he and Mathilde split up, I hadn't told anyone. Then I told him that Ryan found out it was Edmund's sister. Which is why he punched Edmund and then shoved Matty's head down the toilet. The rest he knew. There was a long silent pause after I'd finished. Not surprising, it was enough of a story to make a book.
Michael looked over at me from his bed. "Alex," he began. "Jed and me are pretty good mates."
What's up now? Is he about to tell me another little history about him and Jed? Whatever, it will be a distraction; but it wasn't that at all.
"Mathilde never split with Ryan because of what happened between you and him. I'm not even certain she knew. I would need to ask Jed. No, she split with Ryan... and with Brandon as well, because they were too young. She's going out with a guy called Robert who is around three years older. Before it was just, you know, playing about. Now it's a more serious boy girl relationship. At least that's what Jed says, and I reckon he knows."
"How fucking ironic," I didn't mean to swear, it just came out. "Sorry," I apologised for swearing even though I knew it didn't bother Michael. "All this trouble with Ryan and it was all about nothing."
"Yeah, that's how it goes sometimes," Michael said. "People think everything is about themselves when it isn't at all."