I Want to Know What Love Is

by James Matthews

Chapter 5


Dad drove in silence as I sat there next to him not wanting to ask what was going on. I had been denied a shower, I still felt tired and rough and I was in big trouble. I just leaned my head against the window and looked at nothing in particular as Dad drove through the quiet streets on an early Sunday morning.

I suddenly started remembering certain places we passed and more and more came into my memory as we drove.

I'd been on this road before, I thought

"Uh, Dad?"

"We will talk when we stop," was all he said.

We slowed down at a set of traffic lights and it just all came flooding back.

"You're… oh my God, You're taking me back.?" I cried out, starting to panic. " Why, I mean i'm sorry I know I've done some bad things and…"


"Yeah Dad?"

"Shut up."

Dad pulled away from the green traffic light and turned left on to the winding road that would take us to none other than GREENSTONE!

We got to the top of the winding road and Dad stopped the car in the furthest parking bay from the imposing building.

"Get out of the car," he demanded.

"No, please, I can't!" I replied, frozen and feeling like a panic attack was about to consume me.

Dad undid my seat belt and then leaning over me he opened my passenger side door. "I said get out of the car and stand by the car!"

I gulped down some tears and slowly got out trembling. I looked at the big building that had been my home for so many years and all that came back was dread, even though my life there was ok. I couldn't get my feelings in order and all that kept coming to the forefront was that I was being abandoned, let down, sent back, not wanted. I stood outside the car as Dad also got out, no doubt going to see Mr Watson about placing me back there. I heard his door close and he came around to my side and closed my door too.

I felt defeated, and upset beyond words.

Dad came up behind me and wrapped his arms around my chest and just stood there silently holding me, resting his chin on my head.

What the fuck was happening, I thought as he stood there holding me!

"Look at that building, Puppy!"

"I have Dad, It's all I've looked at since we got here. Are you giving me up?"

Dad stood silent, not answering the question.

"How long were you there? He asked, preferring to ignore my question.

"Uh, ten years?"

"Remember when we met?"

"Of course, you came and saw me in the rec room and…"

"You were so happy," he cut me off. "I had found my boy in this place, and you were so happy to see me and I was overjoyed to meet you, My son, my flesh and blood. God," he exhaled. "That was quite a day, don't you think?"

"Uh, Yeah, big day," I replied, still nervous and wondering what the hell we were doing here.

Dad released me and came round so we were facing each other. He kept trying to make eye contact with me but I was flicking between his eyes and the floor, kind of embarrassed. Dad folded his arms and just stood there. Looking at me, his back to Greenstone, me still seeing it in both corners of my eyes, but Dad taking almost all of my view.

"You're scared right?" he suddenly said after what seemed like over a minute of silence between us.

"Wouldn't you be?" I replied, a hint of frustration coming out, he no doubt noticed.

"You see, I remember clearly driving up this winding road and arriving at this building to take you home with me. I remember that shy, polite, super Intelligent guy walking out of this building with his head held high. That intelligent guy that I just had a feeling would make all the right decisions in life. A guy that in the short term would even tame Steven. A guy that oozed out a massive hold on his conscience… Was so clear about rights and wrongs. So as I stand here with you Puppy… today, on this winter Sunday morning, with so many things I could be doing… I ask you, Puppy, Where did my Son go these past few months?"

As he got to his final point a tear ran down my cheek and I fell backwards against the car and wiped it away. All the memories of what he just said came flooding back. I remember that day probably clearer than he does and those memories do remind me of my former self.

I looked up at my Dad, this time meeting his eyes with mine. "I ran before I could walk," I said slowly and quietly. "You know, after Dr. Burrows sorted my tablets out, you know when we went and stuff? Well my head, Dad, it just became clearer, you know?"

"Yeah, I saw you change, Puppy"

"Yeah and as those clouds that i'd been living with in my brain cleared, it was like a fog disappearing, and in my head I had such clarity and everything felt bright - I felt like I could think, remember, feel! Dad, for the first time in my life I felt like I could FEEL, do you know what I mean?"

"Yeah Son," he nodded, his eyes wet, I noticed.

"And that experience of being able to mentally connect after all these years and not be controlled by a drug - the brightness in my mind, as I said, just exploded and I felt like I had been totally let free." I finished with that and dropped my head.

"Puppy you express yourself so well it's overwhelming, so why the sad face at the end there after telling me such a beautiful experience?"

"Because while telling you all that, the truth is, last night, and probably times before that, I didn't even think about what I was doing and… Well I just fucked it all up didn't I? And that's why we're here, I get it."

"You get it, or you've learned from it?" Dad asked, a smile forming.

I looked at him and a small grin matched his. "Both, OK?"

Dad Sighed and took both his hands and rested them on my shoulders. "Puppy I brought you here today to remind you of where you came from, that life you had. Look, I was sixteen once… A long time ago," he sniggered. "And I know the world is an exciting time at your age. You're experiencing new things, discovering yourself, and I know being in that home for so long made everything outside feel brand new and tempting. But you gotta slow down and think. You gotta make the right choices and accept that you can't do everything at once."

"I know it's just…"


"Nah, it's kind of silly and embarrassing."

"What, tell me, you can tell me anything you know that?"

"Well, It's just I crave love, I want to be loved"

"Puppy you ARE loved! Loved so, so much, by me, and Susan, and Steven...I mean look at you two? When you came out of here you hated each other and now you're as thick as thieves. Getting into all sorts of trouble I might add, but he loves you too, so where's the issue."

"I know, and that's great, I just… well I crave other love, do you get what I'm saying?"

"You mean guy on guy love?"

I felt my face filling with heat. He'd finally got it, but I felt embarrassed that he had!

"Yeah Dad," I said, smiling bashfully.

"Well I know you were quite taken with Dave at first and Hunter pretty quickly after and I mean that's fine but do you think you are rushing into these situations because of that craving."

"And Steven." I muttered softly, putting my head down.

"Steven? What about him?"

I pulled away from my Dad's hand on my shoulders and walked a few paces away from him, blowing air through my lips looking up at the sky. I turned back to Dad who was looking at me, kind of expectedly. Like waiting for someone to tell them a secret.

"Just tell me," he called, walking over to me. "Get it off your chest, it's clearly bothering you. You said Steven, what about hi…"

"We kissed, as in not a kind of family kiss," I blurted out cutting him off." I looked at Dad, his eyes wide enough they looked like they could fall from their sockets. "Well say something!" I blurted, feeling anxious all of a sudden.

"Wow, I mean… I dunno what to say. That's kind of complicated don't you think?"

"It's a car crash," I replied, pacing the gravel beneath my feet. "Are you angry, freaked out, disgusted?"

Dad tilted his head. "Should I be?"

"I dunno, it's pretty fucked up don't you think?"

"And Steven?"

"He dismissed it, and said he doesn't want to talk about it. Look Dad it was a mistake and it was wrong. I just feel things for him that I shouldn't because… well because of obvious reasons."

"I'm not angry," Dad remarked.


"You asked me if I was angry, I'm not. Nor am I disgusted or freaked out ok? But what I am, am, is worried. And I'm worried because whatever happened between you two makes things kind of complicated." Dad signed and put his hands on his hips. "Look, I get it, we're not the most conventional family, and I mean in a sense that yeah, right, you and Steven are not related and stuff, and Steven is not my biological son. So in another life, what you felt for him, or feel for him would be totally cool, you get me?"

"It was a one time thing Dad, it was a mistake. I mean God, Steven is straight, he goes on about girls all the time, I guess what happened was just me feeling so alone and him feeling sorry for me. He said he did it to help get it out of my system. I denied I had it in my system in the first place but Iied. Truth is, I've had feelings for Steven for a while...maybe even soon after I came to live with you and I know it's just a crush or whatever… and I also know its a road to nowhere so don't get all worried because it's just not gonna happen again."

Dad started to chuckle.

"What's so funny?"

"When you're nervous you ramble so much shit, do you know that? Look, thanks for feeling you could tell me all that, it must have been difficult. But you're right Puppy, that can't happen again. Did, uh...did anything else happen?"


"I'm just curious, Steven might be going through a phase and he tells your mother and I nothing. I just wanted to know in case...well you know he might want support or…"

"Oh my God Dad, please don't tell him I told you about this, he'd slit my throat!"

"Ok calm down, I won't, but he's OK yeah?"

"Yeah, he's fine, I'd tell you if he was going all weird… well weirder than he can be!"

"Well that's good enough for me, and yes your little episode with Steven doesn't make you a freak or anything, As much as I want you to treat each other like brothers you are not related as such, so no harm done. But please, Puppy, try to get over this thing, with Steven. Look I don't know much about being gay or how it all works but I am totally fine with it, but one thing I do know is as much as you find certain guys attractive, most of them will be straight and wont take kindly to you hitting on them."

"Yeah, yeah, Mum already gave me that talk."

"Oh, well then, that's good right?" Dad replied, for the first time feeling a little embarrassed himself.

"Am I still grounded?"

Dad sighed. "Puppy you're sixteen, Your mum and I are probably at the limit where we can ground you both at your age but when you break the rules or lie to us there needs to be consequences. I'll speak to Mum and see if we can get both of your sentences reduced ok? But you gotta remember, she's the boss, and I'm just the Consort," Dad said laughing.

I looked at my father seriously, something he picked up on as his laugh turned to match my expression. "I'll do better! I'll do better and I'll remember this trip and not take for granted the fact I could still be in here if it weren't for you. I'm sorry I let you down."

"Come here you big softy, give your old man a hug!"

Dad pulled me into a tight cuddle and kissed my forehead. From what started as a terrified journey here actually turned out to be a great thing he did. Dad always seemed to do these sorts of things and make them mean something. I'd got so much off my chest and it had actually brought me down to earth a bit. I was craving too much. I was making silly choices because although my brain was clear of fog due to the drugs I was on, I'd still been blind with my choices and actions. I suppose as I heard on TV once at Greenstone…

This was my wake up call!

"You coming, or are you walking back?" Dad said getting back in the car. Actually freezing now, I quickly did the same.

Back at home all seemed quiet and calm as Dad and I walked into the kitchen. Dad threw his keys on the table. Mum was wiping down the surfaces with a cloth, her back to us, and Steven was nowhere to be seen. Mum didn't say anything to either of us as she pottered round and Dad just gave me an eye to head off upstairs for a bit. I felt bad I'd upset Mum, and seeing her this quiet and not even saying hello to me was so alien it actually affected me inside.

I placed my sneakers under the stairs and chucked my coat on the hooks by the front door and headed upstairs to my room. I gazed left as I got to the top seeing Steven's door closed. I stopped, looking at it. Should I knock?

I bottled it, ruffling my hair in frustration as I walked into my own room instead and closed the door. I pulled out some underwear and fresh clothes before heading back out on the landing seeing Steven's door just being opened. We both froze, not quickly, but enough so we just stood there looking at each other.

"Uh, I'm gonna take a shower, do you need the bathroom first?" I asked, sheepishly.

"Where did you go with Dad?"


Steven flicked his chin at my answer and headed for the bathroom and closed the door leaving me standing there. I leant against the bannister, and just waited. Hearing a flush, he came out and just walked back into his room and closed the door again. I just frowned and headed in for my shower.

I must have fallen asleep for ages because there was a knock at my bedroom door, with Dad telling me to come down for dinner, before closing it again. "What the hell," I muttered, wiping drool from my chin.

I rubbed my eyes and plonked downstairs, heading into the dining room taking a seat at the table. Mum came over with a plate of roast chicken, potatoes and some veg.

"Here you are Puppy, hope you're hungry?" she said, looking happier.

"Yeah, thanks, Mum." Dad sat down and winked at me. "Where's Steven?" I asked, to either of them really.

"Hunger strike," Dad replied. "It will last 6 hours max." I saw Mum shake her head, probably at the ridiculousness of it. Dad just grinned.

"He's in a strop Puppy, unfortunately rather than taking his punishment like a grown up, he thinks doing this will make me feel sorry for him," Mum announced, coming to sit down herself and sighing.

"Should I talk to him," I asked, not really knowing what to say.

"Let him sulk, he'll magically appear when his stomach starts rumbling and no Max, you are not giving into him," she said, pouring gravy over her dinner.

"This looks great, thanks Mum," I said, changing the subject. "Chickens ok?"

"Just one egg in two days. Normal for cold winter," Dad replied.

"I've ironed your uniform for tomorrow Puppy, It's hanging up in the Lounge. I didn't want to wake you, looks like you needed the rest."

"Thanks Mum… Cant say I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

"Well if you see that Hunter boy you tell him to stay away from you." Mum said, slight irritation in her tone.

"Honey, I think Puppy and Hunter should talk. You know, we can't expect them just to not see each other."

"Well looking at his neck, I'm surprised you'd even want to go anywhere near him. What a savage," Mum said, shaking her head.

"I'm gonna need to see him, he's in my registration tutor class. But Mum?"


"I know what he did to me was really bad, but that night was… well it was really a bad night and I'm not sure he meant to hurt me, he's not like that."

"Sorry Max I have to say this… Puppy, I used to spend all my time trying to convince my Darts friends that my Ex husband was not like that when I had a black eye or scratches on my face. You're too young for me to be telling you stuff like that but I need to to let you know that a bully is exactly like that. Once anyone demonstrates they can physically hurt someone to the point of bruising them, I'd say he is exactly 'like that'. Anyway that's all i'm saying."

I lowered my head and carried on eating in silence. Mum had a good point, but whatever happened I needed to get to the bottom of why Hunter acted the way he did that night and why he said those things to me. Even after clearly remembering what happened I still loved him, and I still had strong feelings for him. The unknown was about how school was going to go tomorrow. I knew he'd come to the house demanding to see me, I also knew he'd tried to look after me after I'd taken Meth. But what confused me is why he said those things and grabbed me by the neck so violently.

We hadn't text each other, which for me was easy as I didn't have a clue how to start a conversation after what had gone on. I thought maybe he didn't text me for the same reason. All I'd had was a text from Jessie asking if I was ok and several texts from Cindy asking how my 'romance' was as she called it. I hadn't even had the guts to tell her what a shit show my life had gotten these last couple of days. But if I was being honest with myself. I'd felt different for months. I knew a lot more now, courtesy of Mum, Dad and Steven, not to mention school life had taught me how outside life works. I guess that's all great but there were times I wished I'd not known any of it.

Dad told me at Greenstone that life was exciting at my age. Right now all I felt was an ache in my mind and just so much happening, it was often all consuming being me,

With dinner finished I'd helped load the dishwasher, been down to see the chickens, left Cindy a couple of replies not really going into any detail, just saying how school was and how big the new house was since we'd moved.

Now it was the time to see Steven!

I placed my phone on the bedside table on charge and heaved a big sigh as if to gain some courage. Almost marching out of my room I headed straight to Steven's room, gave one knock and just went in.

He was laying on his bed, headphones on, just staring at the ceiling. He let his head fall in my direction as I stood just inside his door and slowly removed his headphones.

"Wondered when you'd come knocking," he said.

I closed the door and remained where I was. "Why are you avoiding people… me. Why aren't you eating?"

"Because I'm tired of this shit. Mum and Dad fucking grounding me because I tried to get you into a party. You fuck it all up and have a shit night anyway, I just wonder why I bother. It was like such a waste of time and I'm in fucking prison."

"And what else?" I asked, folding my arms.

"Oh fuck off Jensen, you just need to forget that. It was a mistake!"

"Oh, Jensen is it again? I must have been a bad boy!" I barked, sarcastically .

"What do you want me to say? How long would you like the conversation on your topic to last? What is it we need to talk about?"

I shrugged. "How about we talk about it because I know you're avoiding me because of it."

"Pfft, I'm not avoiding you. As far as i'm concerned it's in the past."

I walked over and sat on Steven's bed and placed my hand on his wrist. He pulled away immediately.

"So i'm not allowed to touch you now?"

"Depends why you're touching me."

"It's part of an apology, nothing else."

"Then just say sorry, we don't need to have contact!"

I put my head down and got up off the bed and walked back towards the door. I was just about to open it and leave but turned back and looked at him. "I miss you!"

I opened the door and left.

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