Time May Change Me
by William King
Persona non grata
That same evening I got a call from Jake, it was a nice distraction because I had all this stuff about Matty and me churning around in my head.
"Hi Jake, how's things?"
"Okay, sort of," he replied.
"Sort of?" I questioned.
"Yeah, well I might have to go away again to stay with my dad."
"Is something wrong?" I thought his visit up north was just a normal visit to his parents, not because of any special reason.
"My mum's not well."
It seemed like he didn't want to talk too much about what was going on. I didn't want to push him, but I was genuinely concerned.
"Oh, I see... ah I hope it's not anything serious."
"We'll have to see, but I can't leave my dad on his own, he's useless on his own."
That didn't sound good, I mean if he's talking about his dad being on his own, that can only mean one thing.
"I've taken two weeks holiday off work," he explained. "I going up there on Friday."
"Maybe I could pop round and see you before you leave."
"That's nice of you to say Alex, but let's leave it till I get back."
I didn't know what to say to him. I liked Jake a lot even if everything was all mixed up, I still liked him.
"Listen Jake, you can call me anytime... you know if you just want someone to chat with."
"Thanks Alex, you are turning into a pretty good friend. You know I'm even starting to look at myself and life a bit differently... and that's since meeting you."
"I don't think I've done anything Jake, but I do like you... a lot."
"If you and Matty want to use my place, it's fine, okay. You've got the key."
"Thanks Jake... and call me sometime. Let me know what's going on, alright."
"Sure babe," he replied and hung up.
Normally I should be pleased to have the use of his apartment, but given how things were, I wasn't at all. I didn't even know if we'd make use of it. At least not till we'd worked through some stuff.
You know that old saying, 'nothing can get any worse', well it's not true, things can always get worse, much worse.
I didn't see Matty at school on Friday, I sent him a text, but there was no reply. I called him Friday evening after school, three times, each time it went straight to voicemail. I left messages, he didn't reply. Maybe his phone was broke or something, but he could ring me from home to tell me. I thought about going round to his house, but it would be better to leave it to tomorrow. He couldn't be that upset with me, I know he was not in a great mood last time I saw him, but he said to call.
I didn't have a good night's sleep and in the morning when mum called up the stairs to say there's someone here to see me, I came rushing down expecting Matty.
Standing by the front door was Edmund, which was a big surprise given that we'd only ever really spoken once, and that was after Ryan punched him, I didn't even know he knew where I lived. I immediately thought there must be more trouble with Ryan.
"Edmund!" I couldn't hide my surprise. "Ah, come in." I led the way up to my bedroom, Michael was standing at the top of the stairs watching.
"Sit down," I said to Edmund. "Sorry it's a bit messy."
I wasn't the greatest at keeping my bedroom tidy, I tended to chuck things anywhere and sometimes, no usually, that resulted in piles of junk that stayed until my mum insisted I tidy things up. I always maintained that I knew where everything was and could find it if I didn't move stuff around. It wasn't true, just what I told myself. My mum didn't buy it and would say she couldn't pass the hoover with all the mess on the floor and to put it away. 'That's what cupboards are for Alex' she would tell me, meaning tidy your room.
Anyway I don't think Edmund was concerned about my room, I think he was looking around more out of nervousness than an inspection of the propriety.
"Edmund relax," I said. "Just tell me what's up."
He looked towards me, but not at me. "I thought Matty would explain," he spoke for the first time. "But when he wasn't at school and not answering his phone... well you probably don't know."
"Don't know what?" I felt a knot in my stomach. Nothing to do with Edmund being nervous, but I just knew something bad had happened to Matty.
"Ryan got hold of Matty alone in the toilets... he flushed his head down the bowl, and there was a struggle. Matty gashed his eye on the handle. I came in when Ryan was leaving and... well Matty was bleeding and it wouldn't stop. I tried toilet paper... you know, holding a big wad, but I don't know, it didn't work. He was sitting curled up on the floor when the caretaker came in."
Fucking Ryan I thought. I was so angry I could have stormed out right then and there to go over to Ryan's place and punch his lights out. I didn't though, instead I tried to stay calm and listen to the rest.
"So Matty ended up with a teacher, Mrs Whitley, who was leaving when the caretaker called her over. She said she was taking him straight to the hospital to get it checked out. They drove off in her car."
"So you don't know what happened later?" That was maybe a stupid question, but now I was really worried.
"No, I don't know. I was thinking I should go round to Matty's."
I thought about what to do. "We'll go together, now," I said. "Is that okay?"
So I got my jacket and called out to my mum that we were going round to see Matty. I saw Michael looking puzzled, probably wondering what's going on, but he didn't say anything.
Edmund and I made our way on foot, up the hill, through the park, and down to Matty's house. We didn't say much, it was a cold morning, but I hardly noticed, the only sign was the mist our breath made as we exhaled.
Matty's mum answered the door. She looked at Edmund then me, she did not look pleased.
"Is Matty okay," I asked her, ignoring for the minute her scowl.
Her reply was curt. "He will be." She kept looking me up and down. I had the feeling I'd left my flies undone or was wearing different coloured socks or something.
It was cold standing there by the front door. "Can we see him?" I asked.
"I think..." She spoke slowly, one word at a time. "It would be better if you went home Alex."
There was nothing I could do was there. She made it quite clear we couldn't see him. Actually I thought she was being very weird.
"But..." I started to say.
Mrs T cut me short. "Go home Alex." Then surprisingly she turned to Edmund. "You can come in for minute Edmund... if you would like."
Edmund looked at me, I was stunned, Matty and I were best friends, I'd been round his house hundreds of times. I just kind of nodded to Edmund to go ahead, I turned and walked away. I glanced back to see Edmund going inside and the front door closing.
I stuffed my hands into my pockets and started walking back home, thinking to myself, wondering why suddenly I was unwelcome in the Tetherton house, how I had become persona non grata, was I to blame for Matty getting injured. What had Matty told them?
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