Wednesday lunchtime I met up with John Boy who told me he'd had a talk with Mr Mathews, the rugby coach. Mr Mathews wanted to find out about Ryan and me which is understandable as we are both on the team. John Boy explained he couldn't tell him much, except that I was only involved in trying to settle things and calm everything. It was Ryan who had acted stupidly. Apparently, Mr Mathews agreed and told John Boy that Ryan had been sent home suspended for the rest of the week, until the whole matter was resolved. Whether or not he would be back next term depended on what the Principal decided after listening to the boys involved. That meant, Matty, Edmund and me.
"Don't worry about it Alex."
John Boy tried to cheer me up, but the prospect of an interview with the Principal made it kind of hard to feel anything but dread.
That evening at home my dad told me he had received a call from the school and had arranged to take a couple of hours off work to come with us to see the Principal. We all needed to be there tomorrow at two o'clock.
Michael asked me what was going on when we were alone after supper. So I filled him in on the missing details, which wasn't a lot, only that Ryan was suspended. I think he already knew I'd come out to mum and dad, but I told him anyway.
At two o'clock I was sitting in the secretary's office with my parents. The phone buzzed and Mrs Slater, the secretary, an elderly lady with glasses on a gold chain, picked up then looked across to us. "You can go in now Mr and Mrs Weston." We stood up and I followed my parents into the Principal's office.
"Mr and Mrs Weston," the Principal greeted my parents, standing up to shake their hands. "Good of you to come in. I am sorry to have to ask you here, but what has happened is serious and your son Alexander is involved. Please, take a seat." I was feeling very nervous on hearing the words, 'serious' and 'involved'. We sat down, all three of us in chairs in front of Mr Jameson's desk.
"I will get straight to the matter at hand," Mr Jameson said. "I presume that you know something about what happened last Friday? Alexander would have told you what he knows?" The Principal looked over at me in a way that seemed like he was trying to form a judgement.
"Yes," my father replied. "Alex has talked to us about Ryan, Matty and Edmund.
"Good, well perhaps..." Mr Jameson paused, again looking in my direction. "Alex, you would like to give us your account of these events." I took a deep breath. "Well Sir," I started. "I think it all really began a while ago when Ryan kinda stole Brandon's girlfriend, that’s Brandon McCauley. You see Brandon regarded Mathilde Weston, she's my cousin, as his girlfriend. I'm not sure it was actually like that, I mean from Mathilde's point of view. Anyway, Ryan made up some sort of story to tell Mathilde about Brandon seeing another girl and so she dumped Brandon for Ryan."
"Yes, I see," Mr Jameson said. "But if you could get to what happened recently."
"Well, you see Sir, it all goes back to before, because Matty told Edmund to tell his sister to tell Mathilde about something that happened between me and Ryan in the showers after the rugby match. That is, and I don't think it was serious, but Ryan sort of came on to me."
"Came on to you?" Mr Jameson raised an eyebrow.
"Well you know Sir, I think he was mucking about, but sort of... well wanted me to touch him, if you see what I mean." Mr Jameson nodded and I continued. "Like I said it was playing around and I told him to cut it out and just left. Thing is I told Matty about it and it's that story he told Edmund to tell his sister. I thought it was all over until Ryan accused me of telling Mathilde about playing around in the showers and I assured him I hadn't. I know she's my cousin and all, but we hardly see each other. Maybe a couple of times a year. I thought Ryan believed me and that was an end to it."
I paused and glanced at my dad, he gave a little nod of encouragement. I continued, "Well somehow Ryan found out Edmund's sister told the story about the showers to Mathilde. He was convinced that's why she dumped him. Anyway, he went after Edmund and punched him. This was before the incident with Matty. Edmund was scared he'd get beaten up so he told Ryan that it was all down to Matty. Edmund came to see me that's how I know. Then of course Ryan gets Matty and it's payback time. Edmund told me this as well. That Ryan put Matty's head in the toilet and in the struggle he cut his eye. That's about it."
Wow, I don't know how I got through all that, but I was hoping that Mr Jameson would see I'd told the truth without me having to mention what was going on between me and Matty. But that all depended on what Matty had said. After a brief silence Mr Jameson spoke. "What you have told me is exactly what both Edmund and Matthew said when I spoke with them. I would like to thank you Alex, for your honest reply and also for trying to help as best you could. You have certainly not done anything wrong."
My father then spoke up again. "What happens now?"
"What Ryan did is serious, even if Mathew, Matty, was not faultless in the affair and nor was Edmund by helping to spread malicious gossip. I have reprimanded both of them and I believe they appreciate that it was wrongto act the way they did. Ryan has written an apology to both boys and has been suspended until the end of term. That I hope is an end to the matter."
Mr Jameson stood up, shook both my parents hands again and opened the door for them. "Thank you both once again for coming in at somewhat short notice, I didn't want this to hang on through the holidays."
"No, that really is no problem," my dad replied. My mother just gave a pleasant smile and a nod. With that we left the Principal’s office and with some relief I was through the ordeal.
"I have to get back to the office," my father said looking at his watch. "We'll have a little family chat tonight." I stood and watched them walk out of the school, then I went back to what was left of the afternoon classes.
After dinner that evening we had that little chat, just the three of us, Michael was upstairs in his bedroom. "I'm pleased everything went well with the Principal at school today and you have not done anything you shouldn't have. In fact you acted correctly. Except, you should have trusted your mother and me a bit more and told us about your feelings for Matty." They were both looking at me, but sympathetically. They didn't seem too upset about what had happened.
"I should have told you both," I agreed. "But it was hard."
"It's water under the bridge now," my dad said. "We should just move on."
He looked across at my mother and she spoke for the first time. "Your father has had a talk with Mr Tetherton about things."
About things — about me and Matty I thought she meant.
"Well Matty told his parents that he was... gay." Mum sounded like she had a bit of difficulty with that word, gay. Perhaps she was finding it hard to come to terms with having a son who is gay; a son who loves his best friend.
"You must understand Alex," she continued. "It's all come as quite a shock to them... to us as well... not a shock perhaps, but a surprise nevertheless." A bad surprise or just a surprise? Should I be happy they accepted me for who I was. I did wish she would get to the point though, rather than rambling on. "Matty's parents do not look upon you as being a good influence on their son. I'm not saying they blame you for what's happened, but you are a year older than Matty and at fourteen his parents don't believe he can properly know if he's gay or not."
"I knew before I was his age. How can they think like that?" I was angry now. "He knows. It’s them who don't like it."
"Alex, calm down." That was my dad interrupting. "Listen to what your mother is telling you."
I tried to compose myself, but I was furious, because I knew where this was heading. It was why they sent him away. It was obvious, they don't want me to see him.
"Matty has gone to live with Joan's sister Alice in the north east and I'm sorry Alex, but for the time being they don't want you contacting him. This may be hard for you Alex, but as we said before, you have to respect their decision."
"That's bullshit!" I couldn't control it any longer. "Listen to what you're saying. I'm not allowed to see... even talk to the guy I love, who's exiled to the other side of the planet."
"Alex, I'm not going to keep asking you to calm down." My father again, this time sounding cross.
"Good!" I said. "Because I'm not gonna calm down. They've got no fucking right to do that!" I shouldn't have sworn, but I was angry.
"That's enough." My dad stood up. "Go to your room. I'm not having you swearing and screaming. Go!"
I got up and left, went upstairs and banged my bedroom door shut, then collapsed onto the bed. They sounded like they went along with Matty's parents. Did they even understand everything that had just happened? No, how could they. I don't think they accepted that I was really in love with Matty. Maybe I should have told them we'd slept together. Maybe I should have told them about Jake. Perhaps if I did that, they'd take me more seriously.
Friday, the last day of term.
I'd eventually calmed down last night, then fallen asleep, but not before trying Matty's phone one more time. Even if it was broken I figured there was an outside chance he might have got a new one. No such luck, only his voicemail, I didn't bother leaving a message. I spent all day trying to figure out what I could do. No way was I going to hang around doing nothing. I had to find a way to see Matty. The first thing I needed was that address of his Aunt Alice. Maybe Edmund would come up with it, I wasn't sure he would.
Jonathan, that's the guy I had to see. He always told me if ever I needed someone I could call him. Jake was gone and anyhow it was Jonathan who had a car. If I could get the address, I could go see Matty. If Jonathan didn't want to take me, I'd get the train or a bus. That's it, I decided, I'm going to get to see Matty.
Lunch time I called Jonathan and we arranged to meet up in the cafe after school, the same place where I met him before. I tried to find Edmund, but he was nowhere around. We got out earlier than usual it being the holidays. I guess the teachers were in as good a mood as most of the students. Most, not including me, I was on a mission, I was definitely not in a good mood.
The 'Instant Snack' is a stupid name for a cafe. It sounds like the owner was tired and ran out of inspiration. A bit like the place itself, definitely seen better days. The red plastic bench seats were from another era, the mirror behind the counter was marked by bronze patches where the flaking silvering broke up the reflections. The coffee machine was a collectors item. If it wasn't for the position it occupied on the roundabout, slap bang in the centre of all the shops and the bus terminal, then it would have closed down long ago. For some incomprehensible reason it had acquired an air of shabby chic. Which it had done absolutely nothing to deserve, unless it was merited simply by it's longevity!
It was quite full which was different compared to the last time I was there, but I managed to find a seat at one of the small round wooden tables from which I had a view of the door. I would hopefully see Jonathan arrive. As I was early I had plenty of time to think, and not just aimlessly about the place and the people in it, no, I had enough time to come up with a plan.
I saw Jonathan walk through the door and look around, I waved and he came over.
"Hi there," I said. "Take a seat."
"Hal-lo, Alex," he greeted me with his usual affectation, although he was never out to impress, nor pretentious, but perhaps posturing. "I must get a coffee. It's so awfully crowded in here. Do keep a seat for me. I shall part the hoards and be back in an instant." And he disappeared towards the counter through a crowd of school kids. He made it back, coffee in hand, and sat down. "Oh dear, how remiss of me," he looked over at me, "I didn't ask if you wanted anything."
"Nah, it's okay, I just had a coffee." I smiled.
"They're foreign language students," he nodded in the direction of the kids.
"Oh yeah, right."
I guess they probably arrived here for the Easter break, there's an English college for international students nearby, so it's no surprise. I simply hadn't given them any thought.
"Well what can I do to help you?" Jonathan asked. "That is presuming you didn't just invite me here to catch up on things." He smiled.
"No Jonathan, I didn't just invite you here to catch up on things. I need your help, if you can spare a day."
"A whole day," he joked.
"Yeah, a whole day and... your car."
"You better explain then, I’m all ears!"
So I did. I launched into an account of 'coming out' to my parents, about Matty's parents and him going to live with his aunt. I told Jonathan that I absolutely needed to see Matty and that I had a plan. I explained, that when I found out where in the North East Matty was living, I wanted him to take me there and for him to call at the house and give Matty a phone that I would buy. That way I could at least talk to him.
Jonathan listened and seemed to be very sympathetic. I didn't tell him I planned to stay there and run away with Matty.