The Saturday Boy
Chapter 18 - Stepping on Troubled Times
"John McEnroe, Jack!" I finally said. He looked at me like I had bashed my head.
"As in, you can NOT be serious! Shaun? Wants me? You have to be joking, right?" I cried, pulling out his old phrase to etherise how ridiculous this all sounded.
"Well, if you add it all up it makes perfect sense. Ok, so he didn't ever come out and say that he liked you to me, but if you look at his behaviour, the things he's said, done and lied about, it all adds up. Plus, when I think about the things he has said to me and read between the lines, I'm not sure why it took this long for me to work it out."
"Look, Jack…" I sighed. "I think you know how I feel about you. I don't care who Shaun wants or what games he playing."
"No matter what game he was playing or who he wants, it gave you no excuse to beat him up. I'm lying here because of actions you seem to feel ok about."
"Well its true, the more I think about what you did, the more it reminds me of what my dad did to me."
"I'm not your father, Jack, not even close," I stated, my face now very serious.
"Why didn't you talk to him?"
"I did Jack; I did on more than one occasion. I asked him questions, I tried to level with him, I tried to find out what he was up to, I sat with him while he lied and lied."
"But in the end you thought, well, that's not working, so I'll just beat him up."
"Like I said, I was…"
"Angry…yeah Joey, just like my dad!"
I was starting to get frustrated now, he wasn't getting it, I never meant for this to happen, if Shaun had just been a fucking man and said what he felt in the first place then he wouldn't have got what he did. What was making it worse is that Jack felt sorry for him.
"You feel sorry for him?" I asked, saying what I was thinking.
"The guy got a beating from the person he's probably in love with, it's sad Joey!" Jack retorted. "Kinda like getting beat up twice don't you think? Once physically, and once mentally… yeah, I feel sorry for him."
I pulled my neck back and glanced at the ceiling, running my hand down my face and neck. "Yeah Jack, and don't worry, I'm paying for that, I'm paying big time."
"I don't know what to think about you Joey, you don't condone Shaun telling a few lies and playing silly mind games and yet you think it's OK to assault him."
"What do you mean you don't know what to think about me?" I asked, blanking the rest of what he said from my mind.
"I had a crush on you for so long, do you know that. Secretly, I worshipped you, at school, in the pub, in your room."
"But when I look at you now, you're different, you've changed. The most attractive thing about your personality was your mild nature Joey, that's what drew me in. But what you have told me…"
"Please Jack, please don't say what I think you're gonna say," I said, starting to tear up. I went over to try and hug him but he pushed me away, pushed me away like I was some stranger. "Jack, what the fuck?"
"What, you want me to kiss it all better and say it was OK, what you did? Is that what you thought would happen? Joey Cork feels insecure, so he smashes his friend up because he thinks his best mate might have a crush on someone he does. I'm not a rugby ball Joey, you can't just beat everyone up to get your hands on me."
"I don't see you like that at all, and you know it," I said, now feeling rejected and defensive.
"Then convince me otherwise!" he shouted, leaning out of the bed.
"Convince you of what?"
"That you're not like my father, because right now you sure fucking remind me of him." Jack's heart monitor was now at a hundred and thirty four and it must have caused an alarm to go off because moments after he finished his rant the nurse came in looking rather worried.
"Jack Stanton, what have I told you about working yourself up? I'm telling you if you keep this up you will burst a vessel in your head and that could be the end of you, now calm down."
"I should go, I've caused this," I said regrettably.
"Yes, perhaps that would be a better young man," replied the nurse, and I started to walk towards the door.
"Wait!" called Jack. "I decide if he stays or goes," he declared, looking at the nurse.
"No Jack, actually I do, so unless you settle yourself down I will ask Joey to leave the ward."
"Fine, I'm calm," he huffed, folding his arms.
"The lie detector that is your heart monitor tells me you need to try again," she replied, a wry smile developing on her face.
"Don't you have some sick to clear up, Nurse Bates?" Jack asked, sarcastically. He has balls when he wants something, I thought, just standing there.
"Fine, I will leave the room, but if that alarm goes off again, I will personally switch you off, Mr Stanton, now rest!" She demanded, leaving the room. I followed her with my eyes until turning back to Jack.
"Why did you ask me to wait?" I asked, softly.
"Because despite how I feel about you on the outside, I think you're worth it on the inside."
"Sorry, I don't get it."
"No, most of the time you don't, Joey," he remarked, eyeing me like some kind of specimen. "Joey, what do you want from me?"
"What? Why are you asking me a question like that?"
"No I don't mean it like that, I mean what do you want from me?"
"I want to spend the rest of my life with you." I said, thoughtfully. Jack's face became etched with a look of bewilderment.
"You can't know that, it's not possible"
"Then give me a chance, and I'll prove it."
"You wanna know what I think, Joey?"
"Yeah, I do."
"I think you feel sorry for me. I think you see me as the poor boy from a broken family who has suffered at the hands of his father and you think you can somehow fix it. Let me tell you Joey, my father first hit me when I was seven. He first beat my mum when I was nine, and I survived… we survived. I don't need charity."
"That's not how I look at you!"
"I think you do. Remember, I was the guy who humiliated you in front of Anna Day at school. You wouldn't even have pissed on me, then."
"Are you trying to push me away?" I said, starting to wonder why all this was coming out of his mouth.
"Why, so Shaun can step in?" I asked, rather immaturely.
"If you remember, he wants you, not me," Jack barked back at me.
"Why are you doing this, what are you trying to prove?" I asked, holding my hands out.
"I don't know Joey, what are you trying to prove?"
"Nothing, what the hell has got into you?"
"Getting angry, Joey?"
"Yeah, a little."
"Wanna hit me?"
"What? No of course not," I retorted. "Is that what this is all about, you think I'm gonna hit you when I get annoyed now?"
"I don't know, would you? Say for instance years later when the honeymoon period is over and we are just having a classic argument like couples do and I really pushed you, do you think you would be able to keep your temper?"
"Jack this is getting ridiculous, I'm not some monster." I'd had enough of this. "You know what? If you really think that I am that much of a risk, then as much as it would kill me to do it, I'll walk away, because I'm not going to be berated by you for the rest of my life because of a mistake I made that I can't take back."
"I know, I'm sorry, I just worry, that's all," he said, suddenly calmer.
"What about, Jack, please, tell me."
"About you, and me, how you might get sick of me when I'm better, or that you want me just because you feel sorry for me, or even that you might hit me if I piss you off too much. I just don't want to put myself through any more, I've had enough of being let down by people in my life. Laying here in this bed just focuses all the bad things that have happened, and then hearing you admit you beat Shaun up just made me feel like it was happening all over again."
"Jack, what do I need to say, what do I need to do to convince you I'm not like that, I'm not that person. I wanna be with you, I have for a while. You… you are what's been missing, in here," I said patting my chest.
"What about Shaun."
"You need to make this right Joey. Regardless of us, you need to make this right with him."
"If that's what it takes to convince you I'm a good person, then I will."
I had been in the room with Jack for the last hour and he had exhausted me. I don't know if it was the real him coming out with all this stuff, or some drug induced outburst. Some of the things he said made sense, but some… Jesus, they were just not words I expected to come out of his mouth, especially the part where he asked me if I wanted to hit him, that just fucking threw me sideways. Maybe everything he said was true, maybe that's how I had made him feel. I didn't know for sure, but what with him thinking his mother was still alive and the rest that followed I wasn't sure if I was coming or going.
What I was certain of was my determination to prove to him I was the real deal. I'm sure what I did to Shaun brought back a lot of memories for him that he would rather forget, but to compare me to his evil father… well that was just hurtful.
If I had to make it up with Shaun to satisfy Jack then I would do it, I would do anything to put him at ease. I wanted to be everything he expected, everything he wanted, and everything he dreamed of. I wanted to make him feel safe, and yeah, not a good start, I know.
"Jack, I need to talk to you about what happens when you get out of here, but I really need to go now, my brother is probably downstairs in the parking lot waiting for me. We'll talk tomorrow yeah?"
"Yeah, ok Joey; just think about what I said ok?"
"What you said Jack? What did you say?"
"About Shaun, and him liking you."
"Oh, that, yeah well, I still don't understand it, he said he had the hots for you when I spoke to him."
"He could have gone about this in a better way I'll admit, but perhaps because he's been friends with you for so long it was the one thing he found difficult talking to you about…His own feelings for you. Joey, it's important to me you sort things out with him right?"
"I have to go Jack, we'll talk again soon." I said, the thought of my brother downstairs tapping his foot distracting me from the present.
"Joey, promise me! If there is any future for us then I don't want to have it hanging over me that I was the cause of your friendship breaking up and I also don't want to get into anything if Shaun is going to be avoiding us because we are together, I happen to like the guy."
"OK, I promise, now I really need to go," I quickly went over and kissed him on the forehead and our fingers loosely connected before they separated by my action of walking away from him.
"Been here long?" I asked, as I clambered into the passenger side of his car. Roman turned off the music he was listening to, sending the car into silence.
"About ten minutes, but its fine, I guess you have a lot to talk about. How did it go?"
"It could have gone better," I replied as Roman backed the car out of the parking space.
"How so," he asked, stretching his neck to look back, dividing his attention between me and the rear window.
"I guess I can't blame him, it's been a traumatic time for him," I mused, perhaps talking to myself.
"Joey, you didn't really answer my question, what happened?"
"What… oh, well he got angry and the nurse came to come in and settle him down. I told him about Shaun, or rather what I did to him, and now I remind him of his father, and he thinks his mother is still alive."
"Hmm, heavy shit. Do you know why he thinks that?"
"About his mother?"
"Yeah, you did say he thinks she's still alive right?"
"Yeah, apparently it can happen with certain types of trauma, it should go away soon and he'll begin to grieve. I hope so because it kinda freaked me out when he said it."
Roman pulled on to the road and headed back towards the pub and I continued to babble on about the different things Jack had said and was asking him whether he thought Jack was right saying them. I told him Jack's theory about Shaun possibly liking me, which caused a laugh from Roman, but he offered no comment on it, frustratingly.
"I really wanted to get to the part where I told him he could come and stay with us Ro, but with the way my visit went, I didn't have the right moment to mention it, and then I ran out of time with him."
"Joey, can I be honest with you?"
"I know you are really excited about Jack coming to stay, and I get that. But when you do tell him, or ask him, just don't get upset if he doesn't go dancing round the room. I just think you need to understand that his mother has been murdered and his dad is going to prison for a long time. His home life has been turned upside down, and I'm gonna bet that where he lives when he gets out of hospital hasn't been top of the things he's been thinking about."
"Yeah I have thought about that. When I mentioned he had an offer to stay at Shaun's he just basically said he knew and moved on to something else." The kiss with me, but Roman didn't need to know that, I thought.
"Well, just as long as you don't get upset when he flat-lines on the subject."
I sighed, shifting in my seat. "God, Ro, my life is gonna be so shit for the next two months."
"My advice, take the hit and keep your head down. Yeah I know its shit, but it's better than having a criminal record," Roman said, tapping my leg. "But, you know me, as your helpful brother I have a plan," he added, tapping his nose. I tried to smile, but carried on ranting.
"You know Roman; it's all so fucked up. Jack has pretty much been at the centre of everything that has gone wrong in my life lately and yet he's the person I think I'm falling in love with, don't you think that's weird?"
"Blind love, Bro."
"Ok, you're a bowling ball right?"
"A bowling ball?"
"Yeah, you're a bowling ball, and behind all your pins, sits Jack. The standing pins are everything else in your life. How do you get to Jack?"
"Knock all the pins out of the way?" I asked, raising a brow at him.
"Is that how you think I've been acting?"
"I don't know, Joey I haven't been here most of your time with Jack, but that's how it usually works. Sometimes, when you really care about someone, you tend to think they are also the cause of all your problems. But in reality, you often need to look closer to home, in other words… your own behaviour."
"Hmm, I never thought of it like that before."
"I get it's a weird analogy, but it helped you see what I was trying to say, yeah?"
"Yeah… yeah, it did, thanks."
"Hey, what can I say, I should have been a psychiatrist," he said, ruffling my hair, messing it up.
As we neared the pub I began to think about it as a prison, a work camp, my room being my prison cell. I don't know why, but mum had not mentioned about taking my cell phone away when she listed my punishments. Maybe she forgot, or maybe she knew I would kill myself after twenty-four hours without my phone. Either way, I was grateful for small blessings because the next month without anything to stimulate my brain was going to be torture. At least I could still phone Dean, or play silly games and apps.
Roman pulled his car into the pub parking lot, something he was always being told not to do by my mother because it was reserved for customers and space was scarce. Usually he would leave it across the road or up a side street, but when I asked him why he was parking in here he said it was because he was going back out after he dropped me off. Funny thing is, he wouldn't say where.
I got out of the car and watched as he drove straight back out and off into the distance, leaving me extremely curious as to what he was up to. Feeling over the top of the wooden gate to the pub garden, I flipped up the catch and opened it, finding the place full of customers drinking. Every bench was filled, the warm weather bringing people outside. There were empty glasses stacked all over the place and instinctively I went to work Hoover-ing them up before going in.
The pub was absolutely crammed inside, large groups of men taking up swaths of space, all in football kit, some of them really hot and trim. I now understood why the garden was so full; the football players had taken over the whole pub. It was unusual though because we didn't get football teams come here, since we were nowhere near a club or pitch.
I eyed my parents behind the bar working feverishly along with Christie, they must have asked her to come in, in an emergency. Even with three of them working, there were still people waiting to be served. I walked over with my hands full of glasses, one by one they looked at me, relief etched on their faces knowing I would start helping. I took charge of the glass washer and started filling it rapidly. Slamming the door shut, I went out and started to collect another batch. Before long, I had begun to win the war of clean verses dirty glasses.
"Was I glad to see you, Joey," Christie remarked, as she buzzed by me on her way to another customer.
"Good old reliable me, eh?" I said walking passed her on my way back through to the washer. She smiled and carried on serving.
I looked at my mum, and then at all the football players. She rolled her eyes and gave me a look as if to say… don't ask. I went along and checked all the spirit bottles and made a mental note of what was running low. I did the same with the bottled beer before going down into the cellar and bringing up some supplies. While I was down there I popped my head into the cooling room to see how things were, barrel wise. A guest ale I had only put on last night was already sealed off, indicating it was all gone. We were also on our last barrel of Fosters, unusual, as we always had at least two in reserve.
I shut the cooling room doors, deciding to deal with that later, instead grabbing an empty crate and filling it with bottles and spirits I knew we needed upstairs. I filled it to overflowing and staggered upstairs, the weight evident to my protesting arms.
"Thanks Joey, we just haven't had the time to get down there and do anything, this lot is drinking us dry," my mum said, standing over me as I started to restock the shelves.
"It's fine, I don't mind, it's not like I have anything better to do."
"Joey, we talked about this…"
"I meant because I'm not at school, I wasn't trying to be funny," I said cutting her off.
"Look, I have to get back and help your father and Christie, but I'd like to hear about your visit to see Jack later, when things have calmed down, ok?"
"Yeah sure mum, I'll empty the last lot of glasses from the washer, and then I'm gonna go upstairs if that's ok?"
"No worries, but I might phone you to come down if it gets any worse in here, you may need to help serve."
"Ok," I said dejectedly, and plodded over to the washer, pulling out the tray of steaming glasses and promptly putting them back on the shelves in their correct sizes.
Lying on my bed I watched as a fly buzzed round my room on its way to a certain death after I had sprayed it with bug killer. It was one of those big blue ones that like to sit on dog shit in the street. Filthy bastard, hurry up and die, I thought as it began rapidly flying in circles, bumping into the wall and ceiling. It did provide a few minutes of entertainment I'll admit, but a few minutes out of a whole two months got me thinking that the fly just wasn't going to cut it.
God I was bored already, and I wished Roman was here, if just for someone to talk to. I noticed that my TV, PlayStation and internet hub had already been removed from my room. I still had my laptop and my cell at least but I could have really done with putting on GTA five right now and blowing up some random people to rid myself of built up tension.
I closed my eyes and could see Jack's face everywhere behind my eyelids; he was in brilliant colour and smiling at me. How I wished he was lying here with me right now, in my arms, softly breathing on my skin while I gently caressed his battered body, soothing him. It was a lovely thought, ruined only by the buzz of my cell in my pocket. Text message!
I pulled out my phone and unlocked the screen. It was Dean.
Dean: Haven't heard from u, r u ok?
Joey: yeah, been @ hospital. Shaun split on me, in big trouble.
Dean: yeah he said but apparently no choice, his mum dragged it out of him. Heavy rite??
Joey: Yeah police and everything, think its ok as charges dropped but still in big trouble
Dean: Yeah Shaun not at school. People asking where you are and what's happened!!!
Joey: What have you said?
Dean: As little as possible
Joey: thx, I got to apologise to Shaun, not looking 4ward 2 that
Dean: He don't hate you, dat much I no
Joey: he sed anyfing else?
Dean: not really, only that his mum has suspicions about his sexuality, I didn't ask any more than dat!
Joey: Thx 4 not saying anything at school, gotta go, can hear sumone cumming upstairs!!
Dean: no worries, let me no how it goes with Shaun.
Joey: I'm sure he'll have his own version for you. Catch u laterz.
I quickly shoved my phone under my pillow and pretended I was asleep.
"Hey," came a whisper. It was Roman. "You asleep?"
"No, sorry, I thought you were mum…or dad."
"No, just me, can I come in?"
"Sure," I replied and he entered my room, shutting the door.
"I have something for you."
I grinned. "We don't do that anymore!"
"Shut up, we don't even discuss that anymore. Look, you gotta promise me that when I give it to you, you keep it out of sight.
"What is it?" I asked, and Roman lifted up his t-shirt pulling out an iPad. "It's got about a gig of data on it, if you need a top up let me know. At least you can get back on the net and have something to do. I thought it might make your nights a bit more bearable."
"You did this for me? Is that where you went?"
"Yeah, I'm good to you, I know. You can't keep it though; I borrowed it from a band mate, so please look after it." Roman whispered, handing me the data dongle from his pocket.
"I will, I will. Fuck Roman, you're the best, this is… you are so cool, thanks.
"No problem, just don't let the 'rents see it or we'll both be toast!"
"Don't worry, I'll keep it out of sight."
"You mean like your phone that's poking out from under your pillow?"
"Shit, yeah OK, I'll be more careful."
Roman grinned at me and left my room. At least now I could connect to the outside world and I beamed a smile from cheek to cheek, staring at the device in my hands, it was like Christmas had come early.
Thankfully, the phone call to come downstairs had not happened, and it was now early evening. I had spent the last few hours on the tablet looking at naked guys, and jerked off… twice. I had also looked up about Jack's condition and read stories about people who had taken hard knocks to the head and how it can change their personality. This worried me because I wondered if Jack would be altered slightly, even if the nurse said it would just be temporary in his case.
"Joey, Dinner!" mum called from behind my closed door.
"Coming!" I called back. "Ewww," I said, shuddering, as I put my elbow right in a pool of cold spunk collected on a pair yesterday's underwear I'd used to clean myself up with. I put the tablet under my mattress and chucked the underwear in my clothes bin before walking out into the hall, the smell of lamb invading my nostrils.
"What have we got tonight?" I asked walking in to the kitchen.
"Minted Lamb chops, go wash your hands before you sit at that table young man," my mum said. I passed Roman in the hall and he smiled at me, our little secret still amusing him. He knew what I would be using the tablet for.
"Helping with the release?" He asked, sniggering under his breath.
"Shut up you perv, I was looking at Italian fine art."
"Is that's what they're calling Michelangelo's David these days?" He said, bursting out laughing. I stuck my tongue out at him and headed into the bathroom to wash up, before heading back out to the kitchen.
"Where is dad?" I asked, sitting down at the table opposite Roman.
"Down in the bar with Christie, we're still pretty busy down there. I'm going to eat with you guys and then let your father come up and eat."
My mum served up our evening meal and joined us at the table, a glass of wine nearby. "So, tell me about your visit today, Joey?"
"It was ok, Jack's head injury is making him think and say weird stuff, but I was told that's to be expected for a little while."
"Have you told him about coming here?"
"Not yet, I didn't get a chance. We had a bit of an argument about Shaun for most of the visit."
"The fact that you hit him, I'm guessing."
"Yep, and at one point I thought he was gonna tell me to stay out of his life."
"I can't say I blame…"
"Mum, please don't start. I know what I did was wrong, everyone has already told me. I'll do my time like you have asked but please don't keep reminding me of this, its crappy enough as it is." I said, cutting her off before she went into lecture mode.
"So… do you know anything about his mother's funeral, or what's happening with his father?" She asked, changing direction.
"That's the problem, Jack won't admit his mother is dead so talking about her funeral wouldn't have been a good move today. As for his father, I don't know, hopefully he has been beaten to death or something."
"I think I should go down there and see him, you know, have a chat about things. Perhaps having an adult there he trusts might be able to get through to him."
"You could try, but he still thinks she's alive. Until this thing he has wears off or he actually sees his mother's body, I don't know if you could convince him mum."
"Well I need to see him anyway to talk about how things would work if he stayed with us. Sometime in the future we will need to get him through his mother's funeral and his father's prison sentence, not to mention getting his stuff from the house before the authorities do whatever they do with that property."
"Well if he wants, Joey and I could go to the house and get what he needs in the next few days or something." Roman suggested, biting into a piece of lamb.
"You can't, it's taped off. I don't know how it all works but I think they need to finish doing things in there, like forensics or something, before anyone can go in the house," my mum said, picking up her glass of wine.
"So how long does that take?" I asked, looking up at her expectantly.
"Not sure, but I guess the police will let Jack know all the information when the work is done," replied mum.
"When are you going to see Jack?"
"I'm not sure Joey, it depends how busy we are tomorrow. If you like we can go over together if your dad can manage the bar. But that won't be until after you have finished school and got back from Shaun's."
"I don't know how late they let you visit, can you call tomorrow and find out? I would really like to get back and see him as soon as I can."
"You will stay at Shaun's until his mother lets to you go, this is not up for negotiation Joey."
"Right, ok," I said, and then sighed.
What with people surely asking questions at school tomorrow and having to go over to Shaun's, it was going to be a day from hell, I could feel it!
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