The Saturday Boy
"Chocolates? Ok what do you want?" Jack asked, as I slowly revealed a box from behind my back.
"Well someone is in a perky mood," I replied, as his eyes lit up. Jack smiled and sat up a little straighter in bed.
"Hmm, I do feel good today… hey they've taken me off the sedative so that might explain it.
"Yeah maybe," I said, plonking myself in the seat next to his bed. "Who's that from," I asked eyeing a card on his table in the corner of the room.
"Oh that… it's from my grandma. Hey if you want a laugh, have a read."
"Just read it Joey, you'll see what I mean." I got up and wandered over to the small teak coloured table and picked up the card. It felt cheap, like one of those thin paper ones you get in a discount store. It had a picture of an elephant on the front with a bandage over its trunk. How tacky, I thought, but didn't say.
"Ok…Dear Jack, very sorry to hear that you are in hospital because of your father, your grandfather and I always knew he would do something stupid one day. We are also very upset to hear about your mother, we know she deserved better. We hope you will understand if we don't travel down as I doubt we have a lot to say to each other. Despite the lifestyle you have chosen, we both wish you get well soon and will be thinking of you at your mother's funeral. PS, Your uncle read what happened in the news and called us. We rather hoped you would have informed us, love Grandma and Granddad." I put the card back down on the table and stared at it. Had that been written by a human being?
"What do you think?" Jack asked, as I tried to wipe the anger from my face.
"Disgusting… fucking damn right cold and disgusting." I barked.
"I was thinking of writing back and apologising," he said with a hint of mischievous in his voice.
"What the hell for?"
"Well I was too busy being unconscious to reply, I guess that was a bit rude of me."
"She sounds like a fucking callous bitch Jack, and I'm sorry I know it's your Nan."
"Don't let it bother you Joey, I've got used to her warmness towards me since I came out, my whole family is like it."
"So…so this is your Dad's parents?"
"So what about your Mum's parents, haven't they been in contact at all?"
"Nope, and they won't. They care less about me than my Dad's parents… at least I got a card off them," he sniggered. "I'll probably see them as they pull the curtain round the coffin, and then they'll be gone again."
"How can you be so cool about this Jack, I think it's incredibly sad."
"Like I said Joey, I've had time to get used to their feelings towards me, it's no biggie anymore."
"So who out of your family is normal enough to accept you?" I asked, frustratingly. Jack shrugged.
"No one I guess," he replied softly. "It is kinda sad come to think of it."
"Want a hug?" I asked, giving him a thoughtful look.
"No, because I'll probably cry, and I spent all night doing that," he replied, trying to force a smile. I decided to change the subject.
"Is there any news on when you get out of here?"
"Oh, yeah…two bits of news actually."
"Well, don't keep me in suspense," I said, shifting over to his bed excitedly.
"Ok, so the doctors say I can leave on Sunday as long as my scan comes back ok."
"Scan… is everything ok?"
"Yeah, they just wanna check there is no more swelling or issues… I dunno, I just nodded while they talked, I was too made up with the fact I could actually leave."
"Jack, that's brilliant… oh god, I'm so pleased, this is such good news." I said, sliding my arms under him and planting a kiss on his lips. "So…what's the other bit of news?"
"My dad was called to the dock today and he's pleaded guilty to murder and attempted murder, he'll be being sentenced tomorrow."
"Wow, when did you hear this?"
"The police came this morning and told me. His assault on me was upgraded by the prosecution and apparently he didn't contest it."
"How do you feel about that...him being sentenced I mean."
"I don't know really, it's a strange feeling of relief and pity… pity for him, and it also feels a bit unreal that he will probably be a toothless old man when he comes out."
"Yeah, how long do they reckon?"
"The police say it will be life without question, with a probable minimum term of twenty nine years, but they can't say for sure, it's up to the judge."
"So it's over." I muttered.
"Yeah almost," Jack remarked, wearing a sad look.
"Oh shit, I'm sorry I didn't mean to make it sound as if your mum was…"
"Its fine, I know what you meant, and your right, with my dad out of the picture I can start putting my life back together."
"We Jack… We'll start putting your life back together." I put his head in my hands and brought his eyes to mine. "I made you a promise Jack, I made you a promise that I would take care of you, and my family would take care of you, and that's what's gonna happen, ok?"
"Yeah… yeah you did" he said, trying to swallow down his emotion. "I just get scared you know, because I am totally dependent on you and your parents Joey. All my eggs are in one big basket and I'm scared that if something goes wrong…"
"Hey, hey, listen, I think I can stand here and say comfortably now that no matter what our relationship was, I could not, and would not see you out on the street and nor would my parents."
It was a massive commitment for me to say that, but one that I meant with all my heart. Each day that went by I was falling in love with this sweet guy more and more. One thing I wasn't sure about though, was how he felt about me, which was not so clear cut.
"There's something on your mind isn't there."
"Because you have been kinda… I dunno, a bit nervous since you walked in here."
"Shaun's dead Jack," I blurted out.
"I know you hate him but that's kinda sick Joey."
"I'm sorry I didn't mean to come out with it like that, I just wanted it out the way, and… and there is no good way I can…"
"Fuck, you're not joking are you?" He asked, cutting me off, his eyes on beanstalks.
"No Jack, I'm not joking, I wouldn't, not about that."
"Oh my god…shit, I, I…I mean how, when?"
I sighed. "Last night, early hours of today I guess. He slit his wrists and bled out."
"How can you say it, just like that, no emotion, no feeling, how Joey?"
"I'm still in shock about it all Jack, everyone thinks I don't care, and maybe at the moment I don't want to. It's like someone coming up to you, pouring petrol over you and then accidently setting light to themselves, would you care they were on fire?"
"That's uh…that's not really the same thing though Joey is it. I mean yeah, Shaun and you had a massive falling out, but for him to kill himself…well, one really does quite outweigh the other."
"Jack, I don't expect you to understand, and no disrespect but you were not there when Shaun was at his worst."
"No sorry, I was too occupied lying here," Jack retorted, slapping the mattress.
"Hey don't get upset, I didn't mean it like that, I meant you didn't see how much he had declined as a person. I can't just forget all that and pretend it never happened."
"Joey, you had two weeks of weird shit from him, how does that compare to years of good solid friendship?"
"I don't know Jack; I ask myself the same question. Maybe…maybe I feel like I do because the last two weeks were so intense, I'm not sure. I would love to cry… love to get it all out of my system, but when I start to feel an ounce of sorrow for what's happened to him, I'm overcome with anger about how he treated me. Does that make more sense?"
"I guess, I suppose everyone is different as to how they handle grief."
"Yeah Jack, everyone is different."
"What's that supposed to mean?" he growled at me.
"Stop doing that, stop looking for things that aren't there Jack, When I talk right, there are no hidden meanings, I say things to you as they are."
I grinned. "You will be Mr; it's not a good start if we are arguing this early in, is it."
"Into what?" he asked, raising a brow.
Jack looked perplexed. "We're in a relationship?"
"I dunno, you haven't asked me out yet."
"Shit… you bastard, I thought I had just made the biggest fool of myself then."
"Oh and… I haven't said yes either."
It was my turn to embarrass him this time, so I got down on one knee and took his hand in mine. "Jack Stanton, will you take me to be your loving boyfriend, in sickness and in health, till…"
"Get up you idiot, and yes I will, as long as you never get down on your knee again"
"I promise." I said, putting my hand on my chest.
"Good, you were making me cringe."
"Ok, so I now pronounce us boyfriends."
"Can I be the man?"
"Like shit," I squealed.
"You know when people get hitched, usually there's a kiss involved right?"
I smiled. "If I have to."
"You cheeky bastard, you wait till I get out of here, I'm gonna make you pay for that."
"I'm counting on it." I said, winking at him.
It was good to see a smile come through after the news I had given him about Shaun. But at the same time, his news to me was, I'm sure, a step towards getting his life back on track, so I could see why he was able to smile, at least for a moment.
I wanted to make him feel safe with me, and I hoped that was working. I was tired talking about morbid stuff; I was fed up with bad news. We were in our spring, a new dawn, and I wanted to remember every moment of it.
About half an hour had passed when there was a tap on the window, we both looked up and saw my mum and Roman standing there smiling and I waved them in.
"Hey Jackass, how are you today?" Roman said jumping on his bed. My mum was a lot more constrained and just opted for kissing Jack on the cheek.
"How are you sweetheart, I'm so sorry it's taken me so long to get in here to see you, I just haven't been able to get away from the pub, and when I can it's usually been to get supplies we urgently need, but I know Joey has been looking after you I'm sure."
"It's ok Mrs Cork, I understand…and thanks for coming in, you too Roman."
Roman nodded. "How many times do I have to tell you to call me Sandra, Jack?"
"So Jack, do you know when you are getting out of here?" Asked my mum.
"Sunday, pending a scan."
"That's wonderful, oh I'm so pleased."
"Yeah its certainly good news."
"Yes it is. Look boys, Roman has been speaking to me today about living arrangements and…well do you wanna tell them Roman?"
"Yeah sure…Joey, I've decided against my better judgement to let you and Jack have my room, and I'll move in to yours, as mine is bigger."
"But mum, I thought you didn't…"
"Joey, Jack and you are gonna have… are gonna do stuff whether I agree to it or not, so my reasoning was… well actually it was Roman's reasoning, but look I'm going to trust you both to share a room and if anything does go on, well, in that way, I just…"
"What mum is trying to say guys, is that if you fuck each other, remember to put a rubber on."
"ROMAN!" My mum screamed, "language… and too graphic, thank you!"
"I think I'm gonna just collapse now," I said, filling with molten heat in the facial area.
"Now another thing…we don't have a bed for you yet Jack, so I have an offer to propose to both of you. Would you rather dad and I buy you both a double bed, or do you want to start off with two singles?"
"Mum?" Roman asked, raising a brow at her.
"Yes, what is it?"
"It's not really a question you need to ask is it, I mean it's like asking two rabbits if they wanna share a hutch or have separates."
"Yes, I guess your right Roman, I'll tell dad to…"
"Hey mum, we are still in the room you know," I hissed, cutting in, now totally embarrassed. Jack just stayed quiet, but looked equally freaked out.
"Oh and Jack, it looks like the police have released your house now. I'll guess you'll want to go get your stuff, but you better check with the police liaison first and see when you can go."
"Yeah I already asked and they said whenever I was ready." Jack replied.
"You didn't tell me."
"You didn't ask Joey, and besides we were talking about other stuff, more important stuff."
"Stop bickering, already,"My mum demanded, as we both went quiet.
"Oh Joey, your phone has been going off all afternoon, I gather you realised you didn't have it?" Roman asked pulling from his pocket.
"Shit, no I didn't," I replied tapping on my jeans. "That must be Dean, damn it, I forgot, he probably wants to talk."
"Oh Joey, poor Dean," My mum squealed.
"Yeah I know, I know, I just completely forgot."
"Forgot?" Jack cried. "Joey, he's your best mate and he needs you, how could you forget?"
"I was rushing to get stuff done at the pub so I could get here, it just didn't occur to me, I'm sorry ok, don't make me feel any worse. I'll call him later, when I'm back home."
"Make sure you do mate, he probably needs a friend right now," Roman added.
"Yeah I know, I just been so wrapped up in stuff, I… Oh it doesn't matter, I'm just making excuses." Everyone looked at me and nodded. "Do you all think I'm really selfish?"
"I don't Joey, I just think you need to spread yourself and your time around a little more," Jack remarked. "And, Joey, I'm almost out of here, so you don't need to come every day anymore if you don't want to, I mean, I get enough company from the police during the day." He said, managing a chuckle.
They were all right, I shouldn't have forgot, in fact I should have waited for Dean at school, he probably… he definitely would of needed someone after the news. Now, I had just dug myself a big hole. Not only would I have to go through the difficult conversation with him about Shaun, now I would have to contend with Dean berating me for not being there for him.
I realised then and there that I had become so wrapped up in Jack that everything else had just gone out of the window. I even began thinking that if I wasn't so wrapped up with him that there could have been a small chance I could have helped Shaun. I tried to banish the thought from my mind, feeling that this was not about me ignoring the signs from Shaun that was the problem… the problem was Shaun's issues.
Mum, Roman and I arrived back at the pub at around seven, having spent a few hours chatting to Jack. Mum felt it was a good time to lay down some more ground rules while we were there, most of which revolved around school and working at the pub. She seemed to think that until Jack was well enough to go back to school or work in the pub again that I was going to be neglecting both of them from my side. I reassured her that I would go to school every day and that my chores at the pub would be done, something Roman doubted.
The pub was pretty quiet when we walked in and there were three unexpected guests easily visible because of that fact. Sitting talking to my dad at the bar were Dean and his parents. Sarah was the first to spot me, before the chain reaction happened causing everyone to look at me… or us.
"Joey, Sweetheart, it's good to see you, come and give your auntie Sarah a kiss, oh I'm so sorry to hear about dear Shaun, it's such a tragedy. Vince, I said it's such a shame, isn't it." Vince just nodded and I wandered over to Sarah to be embraced, under the stern gaze of Dean who didn't look happy.
"Hi Dean," I said looking up, struggling to breathe from Sarah's tight hug.
"Been gallivanting about with your lover have you? While our friend lies in a morgue."
"That's not fair Dean, what am I supposed to do, sit and wallow?"
"Well you could have waited at school for me, which would have been a good start."
"Now boys, don't you start arguing, you need to support each other now." Sarah barked, before kissing my mum on the cheek and then grabbing Roman. "The two Cork boys in my arms, my, what two handsome lads you have Sandra."
"They take after their father," my mum gushed, winking at my dad. Roman had developed a scarlet glow, while I just rolled my eyes, being used to Sarah's manhandling.
"Wanna come upstairs Dean?" I asked, thinking that it would be more private should he have an outburst.
"Yeah, why not." He replied. I gave Sarah a polite peck on the cheek before uncoupling myself from her grasp, and we both walked away from our parents, leaving Roman to follow.
I knew why they were here, Dean's parents I mean. They rarely came to the pub unless it was an official invitation from my mum and dad, usually for a party or a night playing cards. No, they were here to discuss us, moreover us and Shaun.
"I still can't believe it," Dean remarked as we plodded up the stairs. "I feel… fucked up."
"Yeah, it was a big shock Dean."
We walked along the hallway and into the lounge where Roman offered us a drink. I got the feeling he didn't want to impose on us while we talked, but at the same time he probably wanted to mediate and offer his two cents should they be needed. Me? Well I wanted him here, he always had something useful to add and he was usually the voice of reason.
"Look Joey, I'm not gonna have a go at you, I'm tired of us fighting all the time, and none of us need that right now, but fuck man, why didn't you wait for me?"
"I don't know Dean, I didn't think."
Dean sighed. "I really needed you when I got out of that office, I needed you then more than I think I have ever done, and you fucked off."
"I was actually in the parking lot for a while, then Olly came and found me and before I knew I was walking out of school. I'm really sorry, I've been selfish lately, I know, I realise it and It's not been fair on anyone, especially you."
"I've spoken to Shaun's parents and I got some shit news."
"What now?" I asked, exasperated with getting shit news.
"Shaun's mum asked me to pass on a message to you that you will not be welcome at his funeral." I was about to reply, but my mouth half opened and I sat staring at Dean.
"Yeah, its crap, is that what you want to say?" Dean asked, trying to express my thoughts for me.
"Maybe it's for the best, I don't suppose I'm popular among his family right now, especially if she's had time to spread her poison. "
"You're kidding right, you're not gonna go?"
"How can I? She doesn't want me there, what am I gonna do sneak in at the back like some desperate prick?"
"Problem guys?" Roman asked as he walked into the room with three glasses of Coke.
"Shaun's mum said Joey is not welcome at Shaun's funeral and Joey's said he's not going."
"Well Dean, I guess if he's not welcome then…"
"I just thought he would put up more of a fight to pay his respects, Roman, that's all."
"Hey guys, I am still in the room. Look I just think it's better if I respect her wishes and stay away. How would it look if there was a scene or something? I think I can do Shaun more justice by not risking fucking up his last day. Besides, thinking about it, would Shaun really want me there?"
"Do you wanna take that risk, not knowing if he might of?"
"Damn it Dean, I'm probably one of the reasons he took a blade to his wrists, I'm pretty confident that he wouldn't want me at his funeral."
"So you've made up your mind and there is nothing I can say to change it."
"Yeah Dean, The more I think about it, the more I'm sure it's the right thing to do."
Dean slapped his hands down on his calves. "Ok, I'll drop it then, but I'm going."
"And so you should Dean, like it's the right thing to do that I don't go, it's the right thing that you do."
"How are you Dean anyway, are you bearing up ok?" Roman asked, taking a healthy sip of his Coke.
"Sort of, I miss him and I still have moments where it all feels like a fucking nightmare, but… I don't know, maybe I had a tiny feeling things were gonna go bad for him, especially when he started coming out with all that weird shit about me conspiring against him. I never thought he would kill himself, but I did wonder if he would try and hurt himself."
"That's what haunts me the most actually," I cut in.
"What's that?" Roman asked.
"What if that was his plan, and it just went horribly wrong. What if he never meant to kill himself and this was just a cry for help. I mean, he had tried to call me, what if he was calling for help and it just went too far."
"Joey, you can't think like that. By all accounts his parents were in and if he really thought he had gone too far he would have called for his mum and dad. The fact that he didn't says to me he wanted to carry out what he was doing to the end." Roman offered.
"It makes me shudder to think of him lying there, bleeding, waiting for the end to come and…"
"Dean, can we not talk about the details please, its making me feel weird." I said, an involuntary shiver running through my spine.
"Guys, Shaun obviously had some demons, there was no doubt about it, but you can't change what's happened. The way I see it, Shaun has gone to another place. His body that lies in that morgue is just a shell. Hopefully wherever he has gone he's been able to resolve all the things that were making him hurt so much in life. The both of you are still here, and you will both grieve in your own ways, but in the end you both got to move on, and you gotta do that supporting each other."
"I know, and Dean, I'm sorry I haven't been there for you lately, I should have been."
"Your right you haven't, but then I probably haven't been the easiest friend to be around I guess, so I'm sorry too."
"Aww, I think I might shed a tear," Roman said, pretending to well up. "Why don't you both hug it out."
"I don't do hugs," Dean retorted, before I grabbed hold of him and locked him into a tight embrace. I felt him shudder softly, realising he had started to cry. I looked at Roman who mouthed at me silently to go with it. I did so, finding myself also overcome with emotion. Dean, whose arms had hung loose while I hugged him, brought them up and around my back, and we both gently sobbed.
I don't know about Dean, but the relief I felt just holding him was a huge weight being lifted. I was starting to feel like there was light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time the thick jungle that had been my mind lately was clearing into open savannah. Lots of things had been uncertain recently, lots of things that were making me feel like I was going mental. Finally I felt like life was starting to go right for me.
I followed Dean downstairs to catch up with his parents again, eyeing Sarah who looked inebriated somewhat.
"And that's when I found him with his feet dangling through the ceiling," Sarah finished saying, before letting out her trademark cackle.
"Hey mum, had enough to drink?" Dean asked, sarcastically.
"Oh Dean honey, I was just telling Andy and Sandra about that time you dad was trying to bring a box down from the loft and he came through the ceiling joists, do you remember that?"
"Yeah I remember… so what time are we going home, I'm getting kinda hungry.
"You're welcome to have dinner in the restaurant Dean, just go and pick a table and the waitress will get you what you want," my dad said.
"Thanks Mr Cork," Dean said, his eyes lighting up.
"Go for the rack of ribs Dean, they're the best," I said as he began to walk over to the seating area."
"How is he Joey?" Vince asked, putting his hand on my shoulder.
"He'll be ok, Shaun's death has been a big shock, but I'm here for him… we're here for each other."
"That's good, I do worry about him, sometimes he can go inside himself and it's hard to get him out when that happens."
"Yeah, he went like that about two years ago and we never did find out why." Sarah remarked. "Took him weeks to come out of it."
I knew why but I wasn't about to tell them, after all it was Dean's decision. "I'm sure he'll be ok once the funeral is out of the way and he's said his goodbyes."
"You make it sound like you're not going Joey."
"I'm not Vince, I'm not welcome, but its ok, I understand." I said, managing a smile. "Mum, is it ok if I go have dinner with Dean, he looks kinda lonely over there."
"Ok Joey, but no fillet steak please, that stuff costs a fortune."
"Naa, I was gonna have the rack of ribs too, I got them on the brain now."
I walked over to where Dean was sitting and sat down on the chair opposite him. "Fancy some company?"
"Yeah sure," Dean replied, turning his lips up.
"Your parents mentioned you went inside yourself two years ago, you still haven't told them have you."
"No, and I don't plan to, what good would it do?"
"I dunno, maybe get some justice for you."
"We've been over this Joey, I've made my decision."
"Yeah, I was just thinking that's all."
"Well think about something else… how about what you are gonna get me for my birthday."
"It's not for two weeks."
"So, I need something to cheer me up, what do you have in mind anyway?"
"Well it's hardly been top of things to think about Dean, let's face it."
"No you're right there I guess."
"How about a movie and pizza, out in the west end?"
"Sounds good, anything to have some fun after the shit we've had to put up with."
"You can say no, but if Jack is well enough do you…"
"Yes you can bring him, I guess with you two an item now, I'm gonna have to get used to him being around."
"Don't say it like that Dean… what have you got against him anyway?"
"Nothing really, I just can't help thinking that things were ok before he came along, but that's not his fault, and like you said he's been through enough himself."
"If anyone is to blame Dean, it's me, not him."
Dean puffed air through his lips. "We've all been through the fucking mill Joey, let's just concentrate on the future and hope it gets better. Oh and the service in this pub is shite, where is the waitress."
"She's new, give her a chance… It will get better Dean, I know it will, and before long we'll be doing things like we used to… you me and…"
"Yeah…and maybe Toby, and Olly…"
"Olly? We don't even know Olly, Joey!"
"Something tells me we will soon, you see, he's kinda latched on to me because of the fact I'm… well you know, and he's a nice guy."
"You know how I am with new people Joey, just don't shove me into a room with him and expect me to talk that's all I'm saying. Toby is cool though, I like him."
"Because he skateboards?"
"No, because he's straight," Dean said, before bursting into a heartfelt laugh.
"I asked for that one didn't I?" I asked, starting to laugh too.
The waitress finally came over and we ordered some food. Dean and I chatted quietly in the equally quiet restaurant until our meal came. We talked about the good times over dinner and jogged each other's memories about some of the things we had all done together since we became friends. It was hard to keep Shaun out of the conversation because he was so much a part of our lives, not to mention most of the time he was with us. In fact, I think Shaun and I spent more time together than Dean and I did. But something told me, we were about to be spending a lot more time together.
I knew that because I was going to make sure it happened.
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