Sense of Doubt

by William King

Chapter 1

First Edition 2020

This third book is dedicated to crazyd1965

who wrote and asked,

crazyd1965 says:

March 2, 2017 at 18:46

Will there be a book three? I really hope so I would love to know they end up together.

It has taken a few years and time does change things...

Sense of Doubt by WIlliam King

Chinese Whispers.

"You know that weird feeling that there's something going on, and it's about you?"

John-boy looked at me strangely. "That's paranoia, Alex."

"No. I definitely got the feeling. People are talking about me."

"Talking about what exactly?"

Perhaps John-boy was right. I was becoming paranoid. I needed things to make sense and they didn't.

"It's all such a mess. I don't know."

He was being sympathetic. John-boy knew about the stuff with Matty. He had told me I had to come clean, and not let Ryan take the blame for more than he was actually guilty of. John-boy was a good friend, someone I had known most of my life, at least since primary school.

"I think maybe my big secret is out?"

"Okay, I get it," he gave a half smile. "But, I don't think so."

Was that John-boy being reassuring? Or did he genuinely believe that? Oh god, I am being paranoid. That's what being in the closet can do to you. You get freaked out about being found out.

"If they were talking about that, I think I would have heard." He put an arm around my shoulder. "If they see us like this. They might start talking about me," he joked.

John-boy was good with people. I don't know how he did it. Must be the way he is, but he snapped me out of my morosity.

"Yeah, you're right. I am getting paranoid. That, and depressed."

"Things will change. You just have to give it time."

Those last words played through my head. You just have to give it time.

These last few weeks had gone quickly. I heard nothing from Matty, not directly anyhow. It was Jonathan who let me know what was going on. Apparently, Sean's mum heard via Matty's Aunt Alice. He was at this all boys boarding school. I think there was a strict enforcement of no mobile phones. Which explained why he never called and why I continuously got his voice mail. If he ever picks it up, he will have about a hundred messages from me.

I just got into this ridiculous habit of leaving stupid messages. Whenever I was feeling down, which was often. My parents noticed, Michael definitely noticed, hell everybody did, even teachers. It was not good, we had our mock exams this term. I know it's not the real thing, but even so it was important, and I was about to fail half of them. I simply couldn't concentrate. I kept wondering about Matty; how he was, what he was doing.

And now I was sure that I was the topic of the latest school gossip, even if John-boy had heard nothing.

"I still got this feeling of being talked about. Whatever you say."

As if right on cue Brandon came out of the main school building and ran over to join us. "So how's the super hero?"

John and I both looked at him.

"Don't tell me you two don't know. The whole school is talking about you."

"Oh shit. I knew I wasn't being paranoid. Now you got proof."

John-boy stopped walking, removed his arm from my shoulder and confronted Brandon. "Talking about what?"

"About him and Matty," Brandon replied as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Which of course it fucking wasn't, and I didn't know how the hell I would front out everyone knowing I was gay.

It was probably me turning white as a sheet that made Brandon realise there were two different things going on here. He may be a big strong jock in the scrum, but he isn't stupid. People can often make that wrong assumption. You know the saying, don't judge a book by its cover.

"No! No! I didn't mean what you think," Brandon qualified. Then caught himself, because he didn't know if John-boy knew about my relationship with Matty. For a second he was looking a little embarrassed. That he might have said too much and accidentally outed me to our school rugby captain. Got to hand it to him, he made a good attempt at recovery.

"Everybody's talking about the two of you running away. To Wales. Getting in trouble. Then the police showing up and bringing you back home. I think you might have just become some kind of school rebel hero... or something." He smiled, sort of pleased with his own explanation of things.

It deflated him a bit when I told him, "John knows... Everything. All about me and Matty."

"Oh!" was all Brandon could manage by way of an answer.

A silence descended, which was broken by the bell ringing for afternoon classes.

John-boy glanced at me. "So now we know what all the gossip is. We better get going."

On the bus home I kept trying to think who knew about what had happened. Who could have spread the story around the school. More importantly, how much did they know? Ryan was on the same bus, we exchanged glances, but that was all. Like usual he was sitting staring out the window, and things weren't that good between us. That's not surprising given everything that had happened. Still, he only had himself to blame for getting suspended, and it wasn't even two weeks. I looked over at him, 'he could be holding a grudge.' But it couldn't be him spreading the story, 'how would he know anything?'

Michael was in the kitchen eating, and Max was there with him. I went over to the fridge, opened the door and took out the carton of juice. When I turned back I was aware they were looking at me. I had had this all day in school, and now at home. For a minute I wondered if my own little brother was mouthing off at school. After all, Michael knew everything, 'but he wouldn't, would he?'

"Why you both giving me weird looks?" It was time to get things out in the open.

Max, looked away. I think he was embarrassed at being confronted. Michael returned my gaze. "It's all this stuff being said around school. About you."

"What stuff?"

"Well, someone spread the story about you and Matty running away from home. Hiding out in a squat in Wales. Then getting busted by the police."

Max was shuffling around uncomfortably. He probably didn't want to be in the room, but he did want to know more. It was like that at school, the more information you have the bigger you are. Kids love telling other kids that they got it wrong and it wasn't like that. Gives them kudos.

"What have you told Max?"


I wasn't sure I believed him. He would have had to say something to his best friend. Shit he's my brother, if anyone knew what went on, he did. He couldn't just keep schtum. I gave him my cold steely eyed stare. I used to do that when we were young. It was my superpower, my x-ray vision, I always played Superman, he was Zod.

"Well... I was only telling Max about you and Matty running off. That somehow you ended up on a farm in Wales. With some cool guys. Then the police showed up. They called mum and dad because you were on the missing persons list. That's it."

'Did I believe him?' I let it drop.

"Yeah well that's about it," I was looking at Max. "What I want to know is. Who went mouthing all this around school?"

Max looked up at this point. He must have decided I wasn't angry, or that he wasn't in the firing line.

"It wasn't me," Michael replied emphatically.

"I'm not accusing you, Michael. I would just like to know who is behind this."

"Maybe it's Edmund," Max ventured. "Him and Matty are pretty tight."

I thought it best to leave things for now. I wasn't sure I liked where this was going. I didn't want to get into how tight Edmund was with Matty, or what exactly Max meant. I'd ask Michael later.

"Well okay. I guess neither of you knows."

I took a glass from the cupboard, poured out the juice, returned the carton to the fridge and left. I heard them talking as soon as I was out of the kitchen.

"Michael!" I was standing in the hall outside his room. The door was open. "We need to talk."

"Come in. Close the door."

He was sitting at his desk with his laptop open. I could see he was playing games. I sat down on the edge of his bed. Looking around I thought about how he always kept his room so tidy, much neater than me. I had stuff all over the place.

He swivelled his chair around and was looking at me, waiting.

"You really don't know anything about the story doing the rounds?"

"No, I really don't. But if you think about it, Max could be right saying it's Edmund. I mean, okay, you know how things get exaggerated and all, but it's all about the two of you running away."

"That's all?"

"Alex, some day it's gonna come out... You know, the gay thing. Nobody's put two and two together. Yet!"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You know what it means. Jeez, think about it. Someone only has to pose the question. Why did they run away? People often don't see what's right in front of their nose. But no one just ups and leaves home... Without some reason. Some pretty damned strong reason."

I knew everything he was saying made sense.

"Yeah, okay." I got up and left him in his bedroom.

I wondered, or was that hoped, that it would all fade away. If Edmund had spread the story, then he had only told half. But why? What next? I flopped down on my bed, exhausted by all the stuff going on inside my head. Matty had always been stronger about things than me. He came out to me and maybe if he hadn't, I never would have said anything. I didn't regret that. But him telling his parents, that was, I don't know what it was. I don't know if he should have. It doesn't matter now, it's done.

The phone rang. I pulled it out of my pocket, it was Jake.

"Oh, hi Jake."

"Ah hi. What's wrong babe? You don't sound too great."

"You know I hate that babe stuff."

"Uh oh, I have a feeling someone is in a bad mood. Talk to me, Alex."

"I don't think you want to hear it."

"Come on, try me. You know it's good to talk."

"You sound like that ad for prepaid mobiles," I had to smile. Despite myself, Jake made me smile.

"Bet you smiled when you said that."

"What are you Jake, some kinda mind reader?"

"I knew it, you did smile. Can't be so bad. What's up?"

"Well, I got into school today and I just knew people were talking. Talking about me. I was the subject of the latest gossip, story, rumour, whatever!"

He listened as I told him everything and more, because I added in my feelings, my thoughts, and confided a lot of my worries. I don't know why I did that, but I guess Jake was my confidant. Who else was there?

"You were right. It is good to talk."

Somehow he'd managed to change my mood from very depressed, to maybe just borderline depressed. It was something. I even managed to be considerate and not entirely self-centred when I asked how his dad was doing. I think he glossed over it, but he did say he would be back down here soon. Only for a short visit, he had some things to sort out. Thinking about that afterwards, it could mean he was going to tidy stuff up here before moving in permanently with his dad. But he hadn't actually said that, and I forgot to ask.

I fell asleep that night thinking about school and everything that had happened and what I should do. I kept running all these different scenarios through my mind, as if somehow I might stumble upon a magic solution. That is a solution other than the whole school finding out I'm gay, which I wasn't at all sure I could face, not on my own.

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