Sense of Doubt

by William King

Chapter 6


Thursday afternoon I looked for Matty and Edmund, I knew they had an art class before ours, and hoped I could get to talk to both of them. When the bell sounded for the last period I hurried to collect my books and get to the class. I was in luck, there were a few strugglers hanging about talking to Lionel, the art teacher. Matty saw me and excused himself from the conversation to come over.

"Matty, I'm so glad I caught you."

He smiled.

"Can we meet up tomorrow ? After school."

I had one eye on him and the other watching the classroom. People were starting to come in. I saw Enzo and James, Stewpot wouldn't be far behind.

Matty nodded, then turned to go. "I'll be in the car park," I whispered as he was leaving.

Lionel's voice sounded over the noise and hub bub, "Alright! Settle down." People moved to the various tables. The last person in was Ryan. "Close the door please, Ryan. Okay, this period we're going to pick up where we left things on Tuesday."

Ryan glanced across at me as he moved to join an empty table. "Now remember, next week it's the real thing. So take advantage now, to get things right."

As we picked up our artwork and came back to the tables, Brandon asked quietly, "What's up with Matty?"

"I don't know, but I'm gonna find out."

"Now concentrate," Lionel looked in our direction. "And if anyone feels the need to do a little extra prep work. This is the last period and I'll still be here after school."

There were a few chuckles. I'm not sure if his remarks were aimed at us, or the class in general. But, Lionel was a cool guy. As teachers go, he was the most laid back. Well, he was an art teacher.

Supper that evening was a family affair, we did occasionally all get to eat together at the table.

"Your aunt is going into hospital. Only for a few days." Mum placed the casserole dish down in the middle of the table. Dad moved the bottle of water out of the way. She sat down and looked at Michael. "Pass your plate. Your dad and I are going over there tomorrow. We'll be popping back and forth over the weekend." She continued serving and dad chipped in to say, "You'll be on your own this weekend. I know we can trust you both." He looked at each of us. "You might have to eat a few sandwiches," he grinned.

They never said why she was going into hospital, neither of us asked. It's probably selfish, but I was thinking about Matty. If no one was here, he could come over. Just to talk. But maybe that wasn't such a good idea. I didn't want mum or dad finding him here if they happened to pop back. No, I had a better idea.

The phone rang and rang before he picked up. I thought it was going to the messages, but no. "Hi." He sounded out of breath.

"Jake. What you doing? Running a marathon?"


"I need to see Matty and it's difficult here. Can we meet up at yours?"

"Oh yeah! And how are you, too!"

"Sorry. Didn't mean it to sound like that."

"Like what? Like you're using me?"

"Jake, sorry. Really."

"Yeah. Well, okay."

"Okay, as in we can come over."

"Well, yeah. Not right now though."

"No. Tomorrow evening?"

"Sure. Tomorrow."

He hung up. I wasn't sure if he was put out by my asking, or he was just busy. Anyway it was arranged. Lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling, I wondered what was going on with Matty. Were his parents splitting up? What would that mean? Suddenly I felt that sickness in my stomach. The idea that it might mean he'd go away again.

A couple of hours later the phone buzzed. It was Jake. "Hello again."

"Alex, Jonathan will pick you up at school. He's coming round with Sean. Sound good?"

"Yeah. Great. Thanks."

"Maybe you want to stay?"

"Ah, you mean, like overnight? Matty can't. That's for sure. He told me he'd have to get home."

"That just leaves us then babe."

"You know what?"


"You're incorrigible!"

"Yeah. See you tomorrow."

I put the phone down and switched it off, getting ready for bed. After I crawled under the duvet I kept thinking about what he said. I pulled back the covers, I was so hard I had to deal with it. All the time thinking about Jake.

The evenings were getting dark early. The gloom was accentuated by the damp and cold, it had been raining all day. Only now had it stopped. I saw Jonathan's red mini in the car park. As I ran across, Sean stepped out, moving the seat forward for me to climb in.

"Long time," Sean half turned in the passenger seat to look over.

"Yeah, it has been. Good to see you."

"You too."

"Have you sorted yourself out with Ryan?" Jonathan asked casually.

"No. Not at all. One reason I need to talk to Matty."

"There are others?"

"I'll tell you about it later. Here he comes."

Matty was halfway across the car park, standing looking. I hadn't told him about Jonathan being here. Sean got out again and stood up. "Matty! Over here!"

Matty turned, hesitated a moment then he saw us.

"Sean, wow!"

"Yeah, wow." Sean replied. They were standing by the car. "Get in. Alex is here already."

"Whose that guy?" Jonathan was looking back across the car park towards the school.

I turned to peer through the back window as Matty clambered in.

"That's Enzo. And you see the guy joining him?"

"Yeah, I do."

"That is Ryan."

"Mmm, nice."

"So how you doing Matty?" Sean pulled shut the passenger door.

"Hello, young one," Jonathan smiled in the mirror, moving it to take in Matty.

"Alright I guess." Matty nodded to Sean. "Hi, Johnny."

"Oh my god! Nobody's called me Johnny since ooh... forever."

Jonathan started the car, shifted into gear and pulled away, driving slowly out of the car park. He readjusted the mirror, and we took off up the road. I was still watching Enzo and Ryan through the rear window. It didn't take long before we were driving around the roundabout past the cafe where Jonathan turned into a side road and parked.

"Okay boys, everybody out," he opened the driver's door, stepped out and pulled the seat forward. I followed him out and joined Matty and Sean on the pavement. "Thought we could get a coffee, or coke, and have a chat in the cafe." He turned to Matty, "Alex said you had to get home and can't be too long, so I'll drop you home after."

We all moved off back to the high street and into the famous Instant Snack time warp cafe. I could imagine sitting in a waiting room somewhere and picking up one of those glossy magazines which I would flick through to find an article on how this had become one of the places to be. Remember I told you it earned that shabby chic label, not that you'd say it wore it with pride. Nope, it was worn out and indifferent to the recognition. It wasn't crowded and we easily found a table and slid in, there were no foreign students, just a few tables occupied and a few people at the counter. Jonathan went with Sean to get coffee and sodas.

"I really need to know what's going on with you Matty," I reached out with my arm to take hold of his hand. He turned to look at me, and I couldn't help thinking he looked tired and stressed. Seeing him up close like this almost made things worse.

"A lot's happened... happening," he looked at me, but only briefly before returning his gaze to the table in front of us. For a moment there were just the sounds of people moving, the radio playing something in the background, so quiet it was inaudible. I saw Sean and Jonathan heading back to us. "I don't know how to start, what to tell you." Matty's voice sounded emotional, not exactly like he was going to cry, but sort of charged up, quivering, maybe. Sean and Jonathan sat down opposite, passed out the drinks, but didn't interrupt.

"I got beat up pretty bad at that school..." He lapsed again into silence. I squeezed his hand, it felt limp, lifeless. "Stuff happened, bad stuff. But I can't talk about it now."

I was feeling very worried, all kinds of imagined scenarios were going through my head. I have to admit that none of them were good and the worst was very dark.

"That's why they brought me home. It wasn't some epiphany moment where they saw the light. Fuck no, they had to."

He stopped again, but no one spoke, just sipped their drinks.

"They might be splitting up. I don't know. It's not like, you know, that they shout and argue and stuff. There's nothing like that, it's the opposite, silent. Nobody says anything, my parents, me, just nothing."

Jonathan looked up at Matty as if he was about to say something, but he didn't. Matty continued, "Then at school, it's kinda weird. You'll think I'm crazy, but I feel like I'm being watched, followed. I think maybe I am crazy, I don't know."

"Who do you think is following you?" I perhaps shouldn't have asked that, but it seemed like the one thing I might be able to do something about.

Matty looked at me, and when he spoke it was soft and quiet. For the first time I thought I saw a tiny spark of what we had, of how he was, before all this. "I think it's Enzo. I know it seems stupid, but I just keep seeing him around. You know, like when going between classes, or lunch, or whenever, he's just there."

"And at the boarding school?" I had to ask.

"Someone found out I was gay. I think, anyway, I'm not sure. Doesn't matter, they got me. A whole bunch, well three or four."

"Three or four against one. Shit!" I was starting to get angry.

"I couldn't do anything. One of them sort of tried to stop it, but he couldn't. He left."

Now I had to know what happened, because what did he mean, stop it.

"One of them tried to stop the others beating you up?"

"Not exactly..." Another silence. Jonathan looked from Sean to Matty, but didn't say anything.

"What, Matty?" I squeezed his hand again.

"I... I can't."

Jonathan interrupted him. "Okay, look, I think I need to get Matty home and the questions can wait for a better time. This probably was not my greatest choice of venue."

He slide out and stood up. "Matty, let's go. I'll drop you home and then come back for Sean and Alex."

Matty followed Jonathan out of the cafe. I almost didn't want to let go, but I did. "I know it's tough," Sean said to me after they'd left, "But, I think, you have to be patient. Seems like so much is going on and also... Matty isn't, like, too solid, if you see what I mean?"

"Yeah, I do. And you know what? I feel shitty about everything. Like it's mostly all my fault."

"No, man, it can't all be down to you. Things happen." Sean smiled. He wanted to reassure me, but he didn't know the whole picture.

"Thing is Sean..." I stopped, thinking about whether or not to say it. "I love Matty. He's like my best friend and lover, but I've got feelings for Jake. You haven't met him yet, but you will later. It's always been like this. What's happened to Matty cuts me deep. Having feelings for Jake as well as Matty seems really fucked up. But I can't help it."

Sean looked like he was thinking seriously about how to reply to my confession. "I wouldn't preach morals to you. I don't have all the answers. It just seems to me, you have a choice to make. For myself anyhow, I couldn't run two relationships. It would be like a double life, but then I'm into one to one. I believe you can love different people, of course you can, but for a solid relationship you have to make a choice. And... for that relationship to work you both have to give some things up. For me that's how it works."

At that moment Jonathan came back in. "Okay guys. Shall we go, your carriage awaits, and it's on a yellow line."

We both got up before I had a chance to reply to Sean. What he said made sense, of course it did. As we headed off to Jake's I kept thinking that I'm drowning, pulled under by the weight of my own lies and messed up feelings. Too weak to breakthrough, and if I knew anything at all, I knew this could destroy me and some of those around me. Secrets, too many secrets!

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