Sense of Doubt

by William King

Chapter 3

An Unexpected Return

Friday morning and the one thing I was looking forward to was the weekend. A whole two days out of school. I don't usually think like this, but at the moment school sucks. I was treading a tightrope. Trying to catch up on school work. Trying real hard to put Matty out of my thoughts. Which was impossible, everything comes back to him. Life is hard. Now as I was getting into my shitty mind set the phone rang. I didn't want to talk to anyone, but I looked at the screen. It was Jonathan, I picked up.

"Hi, what's up?" I didn't try too hard to keep the pissed off feeling out of my voice. Jonathan had to notice, but he ignored it. Guess he recognised teenage angst.

"Well black heart. I've got news for you," he was almost laughing.

"What's with the black heart?"

"That's your mood. Isn't it?"

"Oh yeah. Very hu-more-ross."

"Morose, yes. I couldn't have said it better."

"Okay. Okay. I know. But if you knew everything..."

"Alex, come on. You aren't the only teenager on planet Earth. Face it, a lot of what's going on, is down to you."

"Oh, fuck off! How's it down to me? It's my fault Matty got sent away? It's my fault Ryan's a dick head? It's me spreading gay rumours around school?"

"Perhaps I best just leave you to wallow, darling. You're obviously really in deep, dark, despair."

"Well you started me off."

There was silence. I wasn't sure he hadn't hung up.

"Matty's coming home."


"Don't take my ear off. I'm not deaf... yet!"

I calmed down. "What do you mean he's coming home?" It was a surprise, but a good surprise.

"Sean told me. His parents had a re-think. Maybe they're finally coming around. I hope so. Kids need support when they tell their parents they're gay. They don't need to be bundled off to some boarding school."

"Yeah, I know. But you sure? When?"

"As sure as I can be. When, I don't know. But soon, I guess. You know, school and all."

"I hope you're right about this."

"Yes, oh black hearted one. I am. Don't doubt it."

"Alright. I believe ya. Thanks for telling me, and..."

"And what?"

"Cut out the black heart stuff. It's lame."

"Sure. I'll do that, if you stop being such a miserable arsehole. Okay?"

"I'm not... Yeah, deal. No more black heart."

"No more feeling sorry for yourself. See ya kiddo."

He hung up before I could reply, but it didn't matter. Matty was coming home. 'Would they let me see him?' That was the big question. But like Jonathan said, his parents had had a change of heart. They must have, if they were bringing him back home. 'What about school? Would he be back there too?'

The one person who might have some information would be Edmund. I decided to give him a call and find out what he knew. It rang three times and went straight to voice mail.

"Edmund, it's Alex. Can you call me when you get this. Need to ask you something."

I lay down upstairs on my bed, staring up at the ceiling. I was trying to play out the scene of meeting up with Matty. How it would go. Where. Even if it would happen at all. Would his parents let me see him? Would we have to sneak around? I still had the key to Jake's place. Although he said he would be back, meaning it might not be free to use. Never mind, we could work it out. I wanted to see Matty. See? No, fuck, more than see! I wanted to hold him tight and... Well imagine it. It's been a long time.

Michael poked his head round the door grinning. "So what's the good news?"

"How d'ya know there's good news?

"The music."

Bowie was playing, filling the room with sound.

And we kissed, as though nothing could fall
(Nothing could fall)

And the shame, was on the other side
Oh, we can beat them, forever and ever
Then we could be heroes just for one day

I nodded and smiled, beckoned him to come in. It's true, I was feeling in a good mood now. I've said this before, but sometimes the lyrics of a song take on a personal meaning.

Michael walked in and sat on the bed. I was sprawled out, but I made room for him. "You're right. I just got a call from Jonathan. Matty is coming home."

He turned to look at me. "That's great, coz..."



The music was still blasting away.

"ALEX!" That was my mum shouting from downstairs. She didn't need to say it. I turned the volume down.

"What were you gonna say?"

"Just, well, you've kinda been pretty down and miserable. You know. Since you got back and..."

"And?" I wasn't being confrontational here. I was wondering how bad I'd been.

"All through the summer."

"Yeah, I suppose."

He gave me a smile.

"Dinner's ready in five minutes boys!" She didn't need to shout this time.

"Let's go eat." I smiled back at him and slid off the bed. I was feeling hungry. We went downstairs together. B efore going into the kitchen Michael did the cutest thing. He gripped my arm. "I'm glad it's working out." He was in the kitchen before I could reply. I love my little brother, but I wouldn't tell him.

"So, Alex, how's school?" Dad was home early for the weekend and we were all eating together, which didn't happen all the time.

"Fine." I concentrated on serving a good portion from the casserole dish.

"No problems then?" I moved the spoon towards Michael and looked up. "No dad. Why d'you think there's a problem?"

"Just making sure everything is back to normal, that's all," he smiled.

I guessed he was just making conversation, but I wasn't too sure there wasn't something behind his questions.

"You seem to have been a bit down." Now my mum was joining in. 'What was this about?' "Since the summer."

'That's not really surprising is it? Considering all that happened.' I was thinking that, but that's not what I said. "Suppose."

"Well, your mother and I were thinking we could do something together. As a family, this weekend."

I didn't reply. I was thinking about Matty coming home, if and how I could get to see him.

"What's that then dad?" Michael was more interested than me. He actually sounded enthusiastic.

"Just the four of us? Or could I ask Max along?"

I wasn't paying much attention, but I still caught my dad's glance across to mum, who smiled. Which meant yes. I suddenly realised they were both trying. Perhaps, no probably, they thought I needed cheering up. Maybe they were even worried, a bit. Parents can be like that.

"Matty's coming home." I don't know why I threw that into the conversation. It came out. Involuntarily.

"Yes, we know."

Fuck, that slammed me by surprise. 'What's going on here?' "You know?"

"I got a call from his dad. We had a long chat." Everything went kind of quiet around the table. "Let's just say things didn't work out too well at his new school. I'm sure he'll tell you about it, when he's ready."

'When he's ready. That means I can see him.' "So I can see him?" I had to know.

"If you wanted to invite him to join us for this family outing. I think that would be good. And, of course, Michael, you can ask Max if he wants to come along."

This was some enormous change. They split us up, his parents, because somehow I was supposed to have turned their son gay. Now they wanted us back together. Something didn't quite add up, but shit, who cares. It's what I wanted, to see Matty. I wanted to be alone with him, you know. But seeing him was a start. 'Why did my dad say, "he'll tell you about it, when he's ready." WHAT happened?' I felt a kind of panic. "What's happened?"

My dad had that reflective poised attitude. He looked the way he sometimes did when he wasn't exactly sure about what to say. Or maybe how much to say. I knew there was something important. It was obvious the way he looked at mum.

"Alex," mum spoke with her gentle reassuring tone. The way she always did when taking control. She had this incredible way of making everything normal. Taking all the force out of a crisis.

'Was this a crisis?'

"It's nice Matty is back. It will be nice to go out together. And I think anything else will sort itself out, in time."

'In time.' Everything sorted itself out in time. 'Did it? And what exactly was it that needed sorting out? Apart from the obvious of me and Matty. WHAT had happened?' I learnt nothing else over dinner. We talked about what we wanted to do. Decided we would go karting, Sunday afternoon. I was excited, and worried, both at the same time. Not about going karting, but about Matty.

Saturday morning the phone rang, I was still upstairs getting dressed. "ALEX! It's for you." I didn't bother with socks, but hurried downstairs. Michael was talking to whoever was on the phone. "He's here," he turned to hand me the phone. He wore this huge grin. My heart started beating fast.


"Alex..." It was him.

"Matty, oh it's so good to hear you. You're back home now?" I glanced across at Michael who was still hanging around. I nodded and stared at him, as if to say go away. Well, it was a private conversation. Anyway, he got the message, and moved into the kitchen.

"Yeah. I'm back from hell to purgatory." I wasn't sure what he meant, except I knew that something big happened.

"The folks okay?"

"They had to change their ideas a bit."

"Oh yeah. And they're okay about us? I mean..." I wasn't sure what I meant, or where I was going with this.

"I missed you." I heard the waver in his voice. He sounded, like he was close to tears. I heard him sniffle.

"Matty, my dad said I can invite you out with us for Sunday. He said your parents would be fine about it. We're going Karting. The whole family."

There was silence. All I could hear was him sniffling and probably wiping his nose. I waited.

"Do you want to ask them? Then Sunday we get to be together. Sort of. Find time to talk. Matty?"

There was more silence. "Matty, I missed you too. You know how much I love you."

Shit! Michael was coming back out of the kitchen. I'm sure he heard that. He walked past, pretending not to pay attention.

"What time on Sunday?"

"Afternoon, after lunch. We can pick you up at your place. Is that okay?"

"Wait a minute. Don't hang up."

I heard him put the phone down. Maybe he went to ask his parents? It seemed like forever.


"Yeah, I'm still here."

"My dad says it's okay. I have to be back by seven though."

"We can do that. Matty?"


"Is there something wrong?" Obviously there was. Once I'd said it, I thought it was a stupid question.

"Nah, it's fine."

I knew it wasn't fine, but now was not the time to push it. Not over the phone."Tomorrow then. About half-two."


He hung up and I instantly felt kind of sick in my stomach. It was alright whilst I was talking to him. There was like a connection. Even if we couldn't touch. But now I felt all kinds of doubts and emotions. He'd nearly been crying. Maybe he was crying. I wanted to go around his house and grab him and hold him tight. That wasn't going to happen. It would mess everything up. I was walking on eggshells.

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