After We Danced

by Mark Peters

Chapter 10

As the magpies sang in the trees on this glorious morning, and the sun climbed gradually higher in the sky, the three of us just stood around the back of the car, numb with shock at the thought that someone could be as callous as this.

None of us seemed to quite know what it was that we should do next, so none of us did anything.

The words we were staring at almost jumped off the back of the car, as if they were saying, 'Here we are, you poofters! Now, what are you going to do about us?'

We all wished that we knew.

Finally it was Matt's father that made the first move, leaving Matt and me and walking across towards the garage workshop, where all the tools and paints and polishes were kept.

In the few minutes that he was gone, all that either of us managed to say was, 'Who,' and 'Why.'

'Well boys, it isn't going to clean itself,' Matt's father said to us as he handed us rags and a can of Prepsol, which was a good quality cleaning agent used by body repair shops.

Matt took the lid off the can and we were immediately hit by the strength of its fumes, even allowing for the fact that we were outdoors and there was a slight breeze blowing, which ordinarily would carry the fumes away.

'Fucking arseholes,' Matt said as he started rubbing at the pink paint with the soaked rag. 'Just wait until I get my hands on them.'

I picked up another rag and soaked it in the strong liquid as well, then started working on the other side. After a few minutes we had barely even smudged the bright pink surface. It looked as if it had well and truly already dried.

I stopped and stood up, wiping the sweat that had quickly built up on my forehead.

'Don't stop, Luke,' Matt said. 'We've got to get it off.'

I looked over at Matt's father, who was standing there with his arms folded across his chest. He simply shrugged his shoulders when I looked at him, so once again I bent over and dutifully started rubbing.

'It's got to come off,' I could hear Matt saying quietly. 'It's got to.'

At this point, Matt's father walked off towards the house, saying, 'I'll be back in a little while,' over his shoulder as he walked away.

I kept on rubbing, as hard as I could, but it looked like the offending paintwork had dried and was now stuck fast. It was going to take more than just some paint thinner to fix this one.

A few minutes later I stood up once again and stretched, trying to iron out the kink in my back. Matt just glanced at me and kept going.

I looked closely at what we had both done, but honestly, the only difference I could see between now and when we had started was that we had managed to remove the thin spray from around the edges of the lettering. Apart from that, nothing appeared to be happening at all, the lettering was still as bright and bold as it had been when we first found it.

'Babe, it isn't working,' I said, placing my hand on his shoulder.

He quickly pushed my hand away.

'We've got to keep going,' he said. 'It has to come off.'

I tried again, and started rubbing once more at the paint. I looked up at Matt a couple of times; his eyes were set in a steely glaze. Determination was etched into his features.

'It's got to come off,' he kept repeating. 'It has to.'

I wasn't sure if he was talking to me, or to himself, but he kept saying those same words over and over again.

'Matt. Listen to me. It's not working,' I said to him, again.

'I'm not stopping,' he said, almost snapping at me. 'It's got to come off.'

'Yeah, but it's not going to come off this way,' I said.

'It has to,' he almost cried. 'It has to.'

'Matt,' I said forcefully, rapidly becoming exasperated with him. 'Listen to me. It's not going to come off. Not like this.'

Once again, I put my hand on his shoulder. And once again, he pushed me away.

'Keep going,' he said to me. 'We've got to keep trying.'

'We are going to have to try another way,' I said, trying to reason with him.

'We can't stop,' he said.

'Matt!' I said loudly, this time reaching down and grabbing him firmly by both shoulders.

This time he didn't push me away. He stopped rubbing at the paintwork and his hand dropped away from the car.

Finally, he stood up and faced me. I could see the pain in his eyes. He was near to crying, but he was trying to be strong.

'How else can we get it off?' I asked him.

He simply shook his head. I wanted to slap his face to get him to snap out of this morose frame of mind that he had descended into so quickly, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to do that. More to the point I knew that I couldn't do that.

'Come on Matt, think about it,' I said to him, trying to keep his mind focused on the job we were trying to do and not let him get too emotional.

'I can't think,' he said. 'All I want to do is punch someone.'

'Well just make sure it isn't me,' I said. 'When we find out who did it you can go for it as far as I'm concerned.'

'Yeah. I think I will,' he responded.

'That's better,' I said. 'Now, how else can we get this off?'

He was silent for a moment, then said, 'Paint Stripper. A sander, maybe.'

'All right, now you're thinking,' I said. 'You got either of those?'

'We've got a sander,' he answered. 'It's just a little handheld orbital job. Should do the trick though, I think.'

'All right,' I said. 'Are you going to go and get it?'

Just as he was about to answer, we heard the sound of someone walking down the driveway, and we both looked up to see DJ and Hoss walking towards us.

When they noticed the pile of rags and the can at our feet, they both looked from that, to us, and then to the car.

When their eyes settled on the writing they both said, 'Holy fuck,' at the same time.

As Hoss squatted down by the car, running his fingertips over the bright pink paint, tracing the outline of the letters, DJ asked, 'Who do you reckon did this?'

The three of us were just standing there looking at the car, with our arms folded, watching Hoss. In answer to DJ's question, both Matt and I simply shook our heads.

'I suppose it could have been anyone, really,' Matt finally said. 'There would be enough sick bastards out there now who would know about Luke and me and would get a kick out of this. If I find out who, though, I'll give them all the kick they want.'

'When did it happen?' Hoss asked, looking up at us from where he was crouched down behind the car.

'Last night, while we were at the cinema, we think,' I answered. 'We were getting some funny looks and stuff on the way home… it just didn't click then that there was something wrong.'

'So, what now?' asked DJ.

I looked at Matt, who I could see was deep in thought.

'Well, I can't afford to get the whole boot resprayed, so I guess I'll just have to patch it up as best I can, myself, for now,' he finally said.

'We'll help,' Hoss said.

For the first time since early that morning, Matt smiled. I noticed how quickly his whole demeanour had changed once we got him talking, and I smiled too.

'Thanks,' he said to Hoss. 'I appreciate it.'

'How about we mask off the top, right along this edge,' DJ said, as he ran his finger along where the top of the panel bent over and dropped down almost vertical, to where the words were painted. 'Then we sand this whole part back smooth, prime it and then paint it black again. It's only about six inches by about four feet. We'll have it all finished today.'

'Almost sounds too easy,' Hoss said.

'Yeah, that is a bit too easy,' Matt answered. 'But he's got the right idea at least. It'll take more than just today to finish it though, because each coat has to be dried and then sanded smooth before the next coat is applied. Besides, I don't have a spray gun. I'll have to ring Phil and get him to help. At least I've got some primer and paint that was left over from when we first did the job.'

'How many coats of paint will be needed altogether?' I asked, not really being up to speed with the finer points of automotive repairs and spray painting.

'I'm not sure exactly, but it will probably take a couple of coats of primer, at least, then another couple of coats of paint, probably more, to get a finish that looks sort of close to the rest of the car. At least it is only a relatively small area.'

'Okay then, let's get stuck into it. It's not going to fix itself,' DJ said.

'Where's that sander?' I asked Matt.

'In the garage,' he said, almost laughing. 'Let's back the car in there so we can work on it.'

It didn't take us long to get the first part of the job done, once we had set our minds to it. Hoss and DJ started covering all the back end of the car with old newspapers and masking tape, intending to leave just the one black panel with bright pink lettering exposed, measuring about six inches high by four feet wide.

While they did that I went into the flat and retrieved Matt's mobile phone, so we could ring Phil and ask him to come over. Just as I got back to them with the phone, it rang in my hands.

'Hello,' I said, answering it on about the third ring.

I could hear someone breathing on the other end, but no one answered me.

'Hello, who's there?' I asked again. Then it went dead.

I looked at Matt and just shrugged my shoulders, saying, 'No one there,' as I handed it to him.

He shrugged, then simply dialled Phil's number, heading outside into the morning sun to talk to him while we finished the masking job.

He was smiling when he came back into the garage a few minutes later. We looked up and noticed him standing there just staring at us with this huge grin on his face.

'Well, this isn't going to be the best job ever seen, but it will have to do,' he said.

'Don't worry about it,' DJ said. 'It'll be perfect.'

'Of course it will,' Matt said, walking over towards the workbench. 'I shouldn't doubt you like that.'

As Matt walked past, DJ feigned a jab at him, which Matt quickly sidestepped, spinning around, and offering three quick air jabs in return.

DJ grabbed at his stomach and took three very artistic steps backwards, staggering up against the wall, his face contorted in mock pain, as if he had just been laid out by Mike Tyson.

'Very nice dive,' Hoss said to him, clapping his efforts. 'Maybe we should get you a job in the ballet?'

We all laughed at them, as Matt quickly installed a new sanding pad onto the sander and plugged it in.

We then all stood back as he turned it on. I guess we were expecting something loud and obnoxious to start up, instead we got little more than a quiet hum.

Matt pulled a facemask on and then turned his attention to his beloved car. He ran is hand gently over the car, almost as if he were apologising to the vehicle for what he was about to do, then carefully brought the sander down onto its intended target.

It didn't take long for the black and pink paint that had adorned the back of Matt's vehicle to disappear, being replaced by the dull grey of the primer underneath, now seeing daylight for the first time in months.

He didn't take it right back to bare metal, just far enough to ensure that all of the black and pink from the unmasked area was gone. It simply meant that we wouldn't need as many coats of primer, he told us, and no one argued with him. At that stage he was the only one amongst us who had any idea about what he was doing.

Phil arrived just as Matt turned off the sander and started wiping down the panel with a rag soaked in Prepsol, nodding his approval as he ran his hand over Matt's handy work.

'Good job,' Phil said.

Matt beamed.

'So, what's next?' DJ asked.

'Well, this needs to be washed thoroughly then allowed to dry, then by about lunch time, if we are lucky, we'll be able to hit it with the first coat of primer,' Phil answered.

Matt threw DJ a clean rag and a bottle of car wash. 'You wanted to help,' he said. 'Your turn now.'

DJ mumbled something to him about slave labour being outlawed in this country, but still went off in search of a bucket.

'Well, little cousin,' Phil says. 'It looks like you have everything under control here. You right with the painting this afternoon?'

'I think so,' Matt answered.

'Good. Well come on, we better get the spray kit from my car,' he said, playfully grabbing Matt around the throat and dragging him, struggling, out of the garage.

Hoss and I followed them both outside into the sunlight, watching them as they continued to wrestle, much like a couple of school kids… or lovers, perhaps.

Then I suddenly remembered that they had been lovers, and as I watched them groping each other I felt these strange and unfamiliar pangs of, dare I say it, jealousy, rising up within me.

Watching them like that, with their bodies rubbing together, their hands all over each other, trying to pin each other to the ground, I suddenly wanted Phil to stop it. I wanted them both to stop it. I wanted Phil to leave Matt alone. He was mine. And mine alone. Didn't he know that? I thought.

I looked at Matt and could see the outline of his cock in his shorts. This was getting him excited. Phil's jeans seemed to getting stretched as well.

'Come on. Knock it off, you guys, before you make total fools of yourselves,' I said to them both, trying to make it sound as reasonable as possible.

Just then, Phil looked up at me, grinning broadly.

'What's wrong with you?' he asked. 'Scared you're going to miss out or something?'

I laughed at him. 'Yeah, right.'

He released Matt and then pulled him to his feet. They were both facing me, then they both started advancing towards me, faces contorted with an expression I couldn't quite make out. It was something that was somewhere between the look that a kid gets when he's been caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and the look that a villain gets when he is about to commit the perfect crime. A glassy-eyed grin, mixed with determination. Knowing and dangerous.

I started backing away from them, thinking that this did indeed look dangerous, and after that they both soon grabbed me, quickly picking me up and stepping forwards until I was pinned, quite forcefully, against the garage wall.

'Hey, come on, guys,' I pleaded. I was half scared, yet at the same time I was half excited, at the thought of these two gods rubbing their bodies up against mine like this.

I managed to glance across at Hoss, who looked like he was blushing, or was it that he was getting hot at the thought of this? I don't know, but he looked like he was enjoying it. He hadn't left, anyway.

Someone's hand, which had been on my leg, suddenly slipped up inside my thigh. I looked down and saw it wasn't Matt's.

I looked into Phil's eyes and could see a mischief there that I had never seen before. I looked at Matt and found his expression to be exactly the same.

He was enjoying this. They were both enjoying this.

Suddenly the hand moved again, sliding upwards.

Surely not? I thought. Not out here, in the middle of the yard? Not in broad daylight? Not with, oh so straight Hoss, looking on?

I felt myself growing hard. I didn't want this to happen. Or did I? Anyway, struggling was useless. I just closed my eyes and waited. Oh well, I might as well just enjoy it.

Then someone's lips met mine. I opened my eyes to see that it was Matt. That was a relief, at least.

Then the hand, Phil's hand, reached my groin and started massaging me, slowly. This was just too much, I thought. For fuck's sake Phil was supposed to be engaged. And Matt was helping him! What the fuck was going on here?

I quickly looked around and couldn't see Hoss anywhere. I figured it must have gotten a bit too much for him. I just closed my eyes again.

Just then we were all brought crashing back to earth, as a bucket of cold, soapy water was thrown over us.

'What the fuck is going on here?' DJ asked, as we separated, laughing and trying to shake off the water. 'And why the fuck wasn't I invited?'

After we had dried off, and Phil had left, we all decided to head down to McDonalds for lunch, with the four of us squeezing into Hoss's mother's car.

It was Sunday and surprisingly it was rather quiet, so we found a cosy corner booth and retreated into it.

'So, what the fuck, exactly, was that this morning?' DJ asked us, just before he took his first bite of his burger.

The three of us just blushed. Hoss especially.

'And what the fuck were you doing watching it?' DJ asked Hoss, jabbing him in the shoulder at the same time. 'You're the only straight one here! You ain't going dodgy too, are you?'

Hoss buried his face into his burger, staying silent.

We all just looked at him.

Nah, couldn't be? I thought.

We ate in silence for a little while, then Matt asked, 'So where is Dwayne today?'

'His place, I suppose,' he said, rather indifferently.

We all picked up on the vibe and our heads snapped towards him.

'What?' he said to us, looking from one to the other, sounding as if he didn't care, but we all knew differently. We could hear it in his voice.

'What's going on?' Matt demanded.

DJ just shook his head.

'Come on, give,' I demanded.

He took another bite of his burger.

'You're not getting away with it that easily,' Matt said to him.

He glanced at each of us and saw that we all wanted an answer. We sat there, waiting. When he had finished chewing and then swallowed a mouthful of Coca–Cola, he finally spoke.

'We had a fight,' he said quietly. 'Now, are you satisfied?'

'Hardly,' Matt answered. 'What happened?'

'It doesn't matter. It's too late to do anything now, anyway.'

'Bullshit!' Matt said. 'I know that you fancy him. More than fancy him actually. Why aren't you around there trying to work things out?'

'Just leave it, okay, Matt?'

Matt shook his head. 'Nope. Can't do that,' he said.

DJ just glared at him.

'So, what happened?' I asked him.

He was quiet for a minute, before then finally answering.

'We had an argument… about his work. I told him he takes it too seriously, or something like that, because he didn't want to go out anywhere on Friday night. He said he had to finish off some job or other.'

I had to think for a minute. Friday night. Shit, it had been New Year's Eve. How could I forget that?

'Well, we didn't go anywhere special either,' I said to him. 'We can't party every night you know?'

'And I doubt if Dwayne could either,' Matt added. 'It is his job, his work after all, and if something needs to be done on time, then I supposed he has to do it.'

DJ was quiet. We hoped he was taking this in.

'What did you say to him?' I asked.

'I told him he was selfish.'

'And what did you do?' asked Hoss.

'Went out to a party,' he answered, rather sheepishly.

'And did you go back there after the party?' Matt asked.

DJ just shook his head.

'Have you been back there at all since then?' I asked.

Once again, he shook his head.

'Then what the fuck are you doing here?' Matt demanded. 'Get your ass back over there and say you were sorry.'

'I… I… don't think I can,' he answered. 'It's too late.'

'It's never too late. You get over there and fix things. Or do you want us to fix things for you?' Matt said to him.

'I suppose you're right… again,' he finally said.

'Good, now let's get going,' he said, half pushing me off the seat as he was going.

As we were leaving, we bumped into our old school captains, Chris Smith and Donna Booth, who it appears were now more than just good school friends.

There was an awkward moment, as we all met at the doorway, but it soon passed. We couldn't tell what they were thinking about us, as no doubt they now knew all, but they didn't seem to treat us any differently to when we had been at school, which we were thankful for.

As we were about to go our separate ways, Chris put his arm on Matt's and said, 'Oh, did you get the message from Davo?'

We all just froze.

'What message?' I cautiously asked him.

'I don't know,' Chris answered. 'We just saw him on Friday night at a New Year's Eve party and he said that he had to get some message to Matt. He was half pissed, so we couldn't make much sense of him anyway, but that's just what he said.'

'Yeah, we got his message,' Matt said, then just pushed past them and walked out the door.

'What's up his arse?' Chris asked.

'Don't worry about it,' I answered. 'He's just in one of his moods.'

'I hope it passes then,' he said, then took Donna's hand and they said their goodbyes to us and walked over to the counter.

When we got to the car, we found Matt leaning up against the door, with his arms folded and just staring at the ground.

'You alright?' I asked him.

He didn't answer.

We got into the car and Hoss said, 'What now? Where to?'

'Just drop me around at Dwayne's, will you? I think I've got some grovelling to do,' DJ said.

That brought a smile to the face of Hoss and myself at least, but Matt was still looking thunderous.

Hoss started the car and pointed it in the direction of Dwayne's, and a few minutes later we pulled up outside the house, where we found him outside watering his lawn.

He watched us as we pulled up and gave us a wave, which we returned, then DJ got out of the car and started walking over to him. Dwayne turned off the hose and they spoke briefly, then went inside, both of them giving us a wave as they walked up the few steps onto the front landing.

'Well, at least that one looks like it will work out,' Hoss said as we drove away.

I looked across at Matt, who seemed to still be smouldering. I didn't know if this problem would work itself out as easily, however.

'Can you just drop us home?' I asked Hoss.

He looked at me, then looked at Matt, then nodded. We were going to ditch him for the afternoon, but I think he understood. It wouldn't be a good time to be hanging around at our little flat. Not today. Not after that news.

When we reached home, he pulled up on the street and we got out. We waved and I gave the car a thump on the roof as he drove off, then we set off up the driveway towards our flat, with Matt walking a few steps in front of me and not saying anything.

'So now we know,' I said to him as I unlocked the door to the flat.

'Hmmm,' Matt replied.

As we stepped inside, I said, 'What are you going to do?'

He walked across to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of cold drink, pouring himself out a glass.

'Want one?' he asked, just before he put the lid back on the bottle.

I just shook my head, then he put the bottle back in the refrigerator.

'Well?' I asked.

'I don't know. I think I need some time to think about it,' he answered, then swallowed his glass of drink. 'Can we not talk about this right now?'

'Sure,' I answered.

'Thanks. I think I'll go and give the car a coat of primer.'

'You don't need my help?'

He shook his head. 'It'll be alright, I think. Besides, I think I'd rather be alone for a little bit, just to think about a few things. I'll call if I need some help. Is that alright with you?'

I nodded. What else could I do?

He left me then, so I put on a CD – an old Dan Fogelberg album that I really liked – and then sat down to start reading the new Stephen King book, Dreamcatcher , for a while.

Matt never came inside at all that afternoon, and I was so immersed in what I was reading that I lost track of time.

When I eventually went outside at about five thirty and wandered over to the garage I found the tail end of the Commodore nicely painted, and all his equipment neatly packed away, but Matt was nowhere to be found.

I walked up to his parents' house. They were both there, and hadn't seen Matt at all, but their car was gone. Obviously, Matt must have taken it somewhere. But where?

'Shit, not again?' I said to myself as I walked back down to the flat, by now half out of mind with worry.

'Don't panic,' I said to myself. 'He'll be back.'

I sat down, tried to read some more, but couldn't. For the next hour I was up and down, looking out of windows, walking up and down the length of the flat, stepping outside and looking across at the garage, coming back inside and doing some more pacing. I felt like a nervous wreck.

When he finally walked back in through the door, about half an hour later, I almost ran over to him. I hugged him and I told him not to do that again.

'What's wrong?' he asked.

'I've been worried sick, here. You never said that you were going anywhere. I didn't know what you were doing or where. For all I knew you could have been lying at the bottom of the cliffs.'

'Relax,' he said to me, trying to calm me down. 'I'm back, and I'm all right, and I didn't go anywhere near any cliffs.'

He hugged me back.

'I'm here,' he whispered into my ear.

When we separated I grabbed him by the hands, and was about to tell him that I loved him, when I noticed him wince in pain.

'What's wrong?' I asked him, bringing his hands up in front of me for a moment, before letting go of them.

'Nothing,' he answered.

I looked at him suspiciously. I had noticed the swelling and the beginnings of a bruise, but said nothing.

'I…' he started to say, but I placed a finger on his lips.

'I don't want to know,' I said to him. 'I just want you to make love to me.'

He smiled, then leaned in and kissed me.

'Is that good enough for a start?' he asked me, in a whisper.

'Good enough,' I whispered back to him, then led him to our bedroom.

The next day was Monday. Back to work. Yet again. I can tell you that it never seemed this monotonous when we were still at school.

We were lying awake in bed long before the radio came on, with Matt snuggled up neatly behind me. His arm was draped over me, gently stroking my hardness, while his own erection was nestled comfortably between the cheeks of my butt.

This was my favourite time of the day. Here and now, just like this. I wished we could stay like this all day, but I knew we couldn't.

'So, will you tell me some more about Phil?' I asked him.

'Phil? What about him?'

'Well, that was a pretty good show you guys put on yesterday, and then dragged me into. You do that often?'

He laughed. 'Not for a long time,' he answered. 'It seemed to have the desired effect though.'

I laughed. 'On some of us. You should have seen the look on Hoss's face just before you kissed me.'

'I can just imagine it.'

Just then the radio came on, it was some old sixties tune that I had never really liked anyway. Two minutes to seven. Time to get up. Another day was ahead of us.

We lay there for a few minutes, just as we were, until we had heard the morning news, then Matt let go of me and rolled onto his back.

I rolled over and looked at him, and that was when I saw the bruise on his ribs.

I reached out and touched it, and once again he winced.

'You alright?' I asked him.

'Yeah,' he answered.

As curious as I was, I didn't ask him how it happened. I had an idea that I knew what it had been caused by, but I also knew that he would tell me in his own sweet time. Or at least I hoped he would.

After showering and having a quick bite for breakfast, we headed off to work as usual, making it just on time. We pretty much had our routine down pat now, and we could time it fairly well from bed to business. We would come unstuck one day we knew, but things were working now and that was all that mattered.

The day proved to be pretty much the same as any other. When we compared notes at lunch time, we found that there was no let up for either of us from the Christmas shoppers, everyone seemed to be demanding more bargains, even though Christmas and New Year were now behind us.

We were joined by the whole gang at lunch time when we went to Con's café; Hoss, plus DJ and Dwayne, who, we were pleased to see, were apparently now over their little problem.

Dwayne made a point of thanking us for helping them to get back on track. We weren't sure what it was that we actually did, but we were just pleased that they were together again.

'Hey, did you hear that Davo got bashed up yesterday?' Hoss asked excitedly. 'Apparently, he has a hell of a black eye, and maybe a busted rib or two. Stupid prick.'

I looked straight at Matt, giving him a knowing kind of look.

He looked away from me, then shook his head and said, 'No, I didn't know that. Anyway, I thought you two were mates?'

'Huh! Not bloody likely. Not anymore. You guys are my mates. And that's the way it's going to stay.'

'When did you find out about it?' I asked him.

'This morning. I was talking to his brother downtown.'

After that our lunch was served, so we turned our attention to that. Matt stayed fairly quiet throughout, and I never said anything else about Davo, and especially nothing about where Matt had disappeared to yesterday afternoon.

'So, how is business?' I asked Dwayne.

'Flat out, actually,' he answered. 'Normally it's a bit quiet at this time of year, with everyone usually going away, but I've got enough to do to keep me busy for weeks.'

'And how is your apprentice going?' Matt asked him.

He laughed. 'When I can actually get him working, he's fine. The trouble is all he wants to do all day is download porn from the internet. He's found these sites with erotic stories on them, and he keeps reading bits and pieces of them to me while I'm trying to work. It can be a bit of a distraction.'

DJ blushed. We all laughed, and Dwayne gave DJ a playful ruffle of his hair.

'Once I get him out of a few bad habits though, I think he'll work out alright.'

'You don't know how bad some of my habits actually are yet,' DJ shot back at him. 'You could end up being sorry.'

'I'll take my chances,' Dwayne added.

As Matt and I had to get back to work, we left the three of them there at the café, and started back towards our shops.

'It was you, wasn't it?' I asked Matt after we had walked in silence for a while.

'Would you be upset if it was?' he asked.

'Hell no!' I answered. 'The bastard deserved it. But what if it had been you on the receiving end? Then I would have been upset.'

'Have you ever seen me on the receiving end of a flogging?'

'Ummm… no. But there's always a first time for everything.'

'Not for that,' he said, confidently.

'Let's hope not.'

We called around to mum and dad's place after work, to see how they were doing, and ended up staying for dinner.

Matt and I ended up sitting on opposite sides of the table, and for the very first time Matt was actually treated like one of the family by everybody, including my father, and that lifted our spirits like you wouldn't believe.

Everything looked like it was back to normal, which, I can tell you, pleased me no end. For once, I felt that things were finally looking up.

Nothing was mentioned about the car. Or about Dad's upcoming court case. Or about Davo. Or about Tony and Aunt Margaret and our own impending court case. We were all living in the present, and it was like we were living in an entirely different world to that which we had inhabited over the past few months.

'So, Luke,' my father asked. 'How long before your exam results are out?'

'The end of this week, I think.'

'You both looking forward to getting them?'

Dad looked at Matt first, who just shook his head, then me.

I shrugged. 'Yes and no,' I answered.

He looked at me, in a kind of disapproving way, but said nothing more.

I didn't want it to end there, so I said, 'I mean, I want to know that I've got a good enough score to get into the type of course I want at a decent university, but I'm as nervous as all hell about the results actually getting here.'

'Well, don't you know that all good things come to those who wait?' he asked.

I looked across at Matt, who suddenly smiled at me.

'Yeah, they do,' I said, smiling back at him.

'What about you, Matt?' dad asked him.

His smile was suddenly gone. He looked nervous.

'Well, I'm not really expecting a great score, not like Luke will get anyway. And I don't expect it will be good enough to get into university.'

'So, what are your plans?'

'Come on, Tom,' Mum suddenly interrupted. 'Leave him alone. What's with the third degree?'

'No third degree,' he said. 'I just want to make sure both of them know what they want in life.'

I wanted to say that all I really wanted was Matt, but thought better of it.

'It's all right, Mrs S,' Matt said. 'I don't mind. I've already got a good part-time job, and there is a good chance that it may become full-time very soon, so I'll be quite happy there for a while.'

'And what about if, or when, Luke goes off to university somewhere?' dad asked him.

'We've already spoken about that, and we've both decided that we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Someone close to me told me, not so long ago, that everything works out in the end, no matter what it is or how bad it may seem. And while I doubted him at the time, I now believe what he said. I truly do. So, I know that whatever happens, it will be for the best and everything will work out.'

Matt was looking directly at me when he said that, and straight away I could feel myself blushing. Dad looked from one of us to the other, then just shook his head and took a sip of his coffee.

I smiled at Matt. He beamed back at me.

We left them not long after that, after we had finished our coffee, and headed home to our own little world where we could love one another like there was no tomorrow.

The next day, Tuesday, we once again met the gang for lunch.

It was a beautiful day outside, so we settled on a sidewalk table in the Mall, where we watched the world go by. As always, it was interesting, to say the least. The inhabitants of our fair town certainly were a diverse collection of people, and they never ceased to amaze me.

A few minutes after our meals were placed in front of us, I noticed DJ's eyes fix on someone, or something, which was approaching us.

'Don't look now, boys,' he said to us, 'but here comes your old flames. Both of them. Together.'

Of course, Matt and I both had to look around, and who should we see but Julie and Kerrie strolling up the street. They hadn't seen us yet, but it would only be a matter of time.

'Do you think they know about us yet?' Matt whispered to me.

We didn't know if they knew or not. We could only assume that they did, but as this was the first time we had seen either of them in ages, since Schoolies week in fact, we were about to find out.

We watched them as they approached us, looking everywhere about them, but not at us. At least not yet anyway.

When Kerrie finally spotted the five of us sitting around the table, we could actually see the falter in her stride. With her next step she grabbed at Julie's sleeve, then, once she had her attention, nodded in our direction.

They both stopped and stared at us.

'They know,' Matt said.

'Yup,' I answered.

I offered them a small wave, then after a moment's indecision they started towards us.

'What did you do that for?' Matt whispered.

'Relax,' I said to him.

'Ummm, hi,' Matt said to them when they joined us.

'Hi,' they both answered.

'How have you both been?' I asked them.

'Okay, I guess. You?' Kerrie said. Julie didn't answer.

I shrugged. 'Good, thank you.'

Matt and Julie were just looking at each other. Neither knew quite what to say to the other. I mean what can a girl say to a guy who runs off with his best friend?

'So, is it true?' she finally asked.

'You have a problem with that?' Matt asked.

'It's your life. I hope you are… happy together,' she answered, looking at me, with an expression that clearly spelt disgust, and then at Hoss and DJ and Dwayne.

It was clearly one of those awkward moments where no one knew what to say or do. We all wanted it to pass.

'Well, it's been good to see you again,' Julie finally said, tugging at Kerrie's sleeve. 'We really have to get moving.'

'Yeah, okay. Goodbye,' I said.

Matt and Julie just looked at each other, but said nothing.

The girls turned and walked away, with both of them glancing back over their shoulders just once.

'Did you see how fat she's got?' Hoss asked.

'Put a sock in it, Hoss,' I said.

Just then Matt's mobile phone rang in his pocket. He reached in and retrieved it, then flipped it open and answered it.

'Hello. Who is this?' he asked. 'Hello.'

He folded the phone shut and put it back in his pocket.

'Another wrong number,' he said. But I could see something in his eyes that told me differently. I made a note to ask him later, when the other guys weren't around.

I looked up and noticed the clock above the Court House, the place that I knew we would be visiting all too soon and saw that we were both due to be back at work in five minutes.

'I'm afraid that we're going to have to run, boys,' I said to them as I stood up from my seat, trying to drag Matt to his feet as well. I pointed up at the clock.

'Shit, we've only got five minutes,' Matt said.

As we were leaving, Dwayne said, 'Lunch at my place tomorrow, guys? DJ is cooking.'

'I am?' he said. 'Yeah, what the hell. Come over for lunch. The rich business owner can feed us all tomorrow. Alright?'

We smiled at them.

'Yeah, sure thing,' I said. 'Sounds great. I think.'

Dwayne laughed. 'He might surprise you.'

'I doubt it,' Matt answered. 'But we'll be there. Thanks.'

Once again, we left the three of them sitting there, as we headed back to work. It wouldn't matter if we were a few minutes late back to work, but we couldn't have afforded to hang around there for much longer.

'Who was it on the phone?' I asked him as we strolled along.

'What makes you think it was somebody?' he asked.

'The expression on your face when you hung up.'



'To be honest, I wish I knew. I've had about five calls like that in the past couple of days, counting that one you took on Sunday when we were working on the car.'

'No one there?'

He shook his head.

'Julie seemed a bit strange today,' I said, trying to change the subject.

'If I remember correctly, you thought she was strange all of the time,' he answered.

'True. But she seemed even more different today.'

'I didn't really notice.'

Just then Matt's phone rang again. He took it out of his pocket and was holding it, seemingly not wanting to answer it.

I took it from him and flipped it open.

'Hello, who is this?' I said quite forcefully.

'Errr… Harry Lawson,' he answered. 'Is that you, Luke?'

'Yeah… ummm… sorry about that, Harry. Matt's been getting some strange calls.'

'Oh,' he said.

'Is Matt there with you? Can I speak with him?'

I passed the phone over and told him who it was.

'Hello, Harry.'

They talked for a couple of minutes, with Matt saying 'Yes… Fine… Okay… Right. See you then.'

'He just wants to see us tomorrow,' he said to me after disconnecting.

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