Sense of Doubt

by William King

Chapter 12


It was five past eleven when Jonathan, Sean, and Jake rolled up. I'd told my parents I was invited for Sunday lunch and had been waiting for them to get here. I didn't want any parental questions about these guys, because I knew that could easily happen, as they were all older than me. Actually, that might swing my parents in favour of Ryan.

I squeezed into the back seat next to Sean, we were the two smallest, but it was not a car designed for four adults, or at least not for an y long journeys. The sun was shining a pale glow through the clouds and the radio was playing the non-stop music hour.

"How's things with you?" Sean asked me.

Turning to look at him sort of sideways, I wondered for an instant how to respond. "Complicated, as usual," I opted for.

He raised his eyebrows and smiled.

"I just found out this guy at school, who I've known like forever. Who I was kinda ignoring, because I always thought he was straight. He fancies me. Has had this thing about me going for a long time."

All that information got blurted out in a constant train a verbal flow as if it needed to get said, but I'm not sure why.

"And you like him or not?" Sean asked.

Jake and Jonathan did not seem to be paying any attention.

"Yeah, I like him."

Sean was looking straight at me. "And Matty?"

"I'm gonna talk to him later. This afternoon, sometime."

"You're gonna break up?"

"I think we already have. We need to talk, honestly. But I think he's got something else going on."

Sunday was turning out nice, weather wise. It was warm outside and we sat at a table in this large conservatory at the rear of the pub, overlooking the garden, well lawn. The doors were slid open and because it was crowded, one or two tables were occupied outside.

After the conversation had covered some of Jake's troubles with his dad, and what was happening with Jonathan and Sean, it turned to me. I knew it was inevitable that Jake would want to know what was going on, but I didn't feel too much like laying everything out.

Jake looked at me whilst sipping his pint. "You want to come back to my place later?" He asked.

"No, I'm seeing Matty later."

"After you've seen him."

I didn't know what to say. I was getting this strange vibe from Jake. "Ive got school Monday. It's probably not a good idea."

"You don't need to stay the night."

"No, Jake. I don't think so."

"What? You don't think you'll stay the night or you don't think you'll come over later?"

"Jake, have I upset you?"

Sean and Jonathan looked at each other, but neither one spoke.

"I can handle it," was his reply. Which didn't leave me any the wiser. I thought I probably had upset him. Maybe he thought I was playing with him, but I wasn't. If anyone was playing, it was Jake. At least that's how it had started. Was he getting serious? I wondered if perhaps that was the problem. Or at this moment he needed me. But what for? A relationship or sex? He'd never even hinted at a relationship.

"Look I'm sorry, alright. I can see you another night. In the week."

"Don't kill yourself."

Shit! What had got into the guy. "Okay. I'm sorry. I'll come round tonight. But I definitely can't stay over."

That seemed to cheer him up. Because I'd given in? Because he needed to be with me? I had no idea, but we would talk about it later.

The rest of the lunch went better. We got back to light conversation and joking around. Before we left the pub my phone buzzed. I had a message from Ryan. You having a good Sunday? I smiled and texted back, it's a little odd.

Why? He asked.

Things that need sorting.

You mean Matty?

And some.


I'll tell you all about it soon.


He ended with a little winking kiss emoji which made me smile even more.

"You're smiling," Jake stood next to me by the table. Looking like he was trying to read my phone over my shoulder.

"Hey! It's just a friend. You're not getting jealous are you?"

He frowned. "We'll talk later."

Jonathan dropped me at the bottom of the hill by the entrance to the park, not too far from Matty's house. We said our goodbyes and I watched them drive off. The three of them were going back to Jake's.

I couldn't help thinking about the contrast between Sean and Jonathan, their relationship, and my own various relationships. Did I have relationships or simply liaisons? Would Ryan be any different?

Whilst I was self-contemplating, my phone buzzed again. It was Matty.

I'm on my way. R U in the park?

Yes. On my way to the bench.

The bench on the hill. It could easily be the focal point of a film. So much had gone on there, and not only between me and Matty.

I watched him walking up the path, followed him all the way until he was standing in front of me. At that moment I was overcome with emotion, with the way I felt for him. All the things we had shared and done together. I put one arm on each of his shoulders and steered him towards me. Then I leant in, very slowly, watching his reaction. Looking into his eyes, I kissed him softly. He didn't pull back. Didn't object.

"I guess we've grown up some," he grinned as we parted.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that felt like a farewell kiss."

"It did?" I looked at him carefully. "Maybe only if that's what you're thinking."

"No. I don't think it's because of what I'm thinking. But what I'm thinking is we've moved on."

I sat down on the bench and gestured for him to join me.

"I still love you. I always will," I told him.

"Yeah, I know. Me too." His grin was now a broad smile. "But we've moved on," he repeated.

And he was right. No point to tear ourselves up about things. We sat in silence for a moment, before both starting to speak at once. I let Matty say what was on his mind. He told me how he had exaggerated being beaten up when he was away at boarding school. It did happen, but the boy he had mentioned before actually broke things up before it got out of hand.

Matty explained that he had wanted to come home. He wanted to see me. But when he did, things seemed different. The worst was his parents splitting up. A cold silence reigned in the house. As for him and me. He had fallen for that other boy at school. In a big way. He didn't know how to tell me. He didn't know how to come to terms with his feelings.

"You and me both," I told him. "But then you know that. I'm one big coward when it comes to some things."

He laughed. "But I like you like that. It's you. I don't want you to stop being you. Even if you're all screwed up."

"Thanks, Matty." I smiled and then started laughing. "I think."

I had decided to come clean about Jake and how things had changed with Ryan. I shared my story. How I got to this point in time. We were completely open with each other. We were after all, best friends and lovers, and best friends again.

"I still can't work out if Enzo was following me or if I am being paranoid. Why would he do that?"

I had no answer. I did, however, whilst he had brought it up, want to know about the video of him he had sent me and why.

"The video was Edmund."

"What!" Fuck, I was astonished, surprised. I couldn't believe it.

Obviously, Matty got my almost hysterical reaction full on. He laughed.

"No, Alex. Not like that. Edmund is as straight as they come. He's also a whizz on computing. Yeah, the ultimate nerd. But, seriously, he's an ace. The video was a fake. You want me to explain how?"

I studied him. It was obvious he was telling the truth, but I would never have seen it. It did look real.

"Why send it, anonymously, to me?"

"I don't know. Guess I wanted to provoke something. I honestly don't know. We all get screwed up sometimes. I'm sorry I did that."

"I'm sorry I wasn't more honest with you."

"What, about Jake?"

"Yeah. I kinda feel like I cheated on you."

"You did. But I get it. Apology accepted, okay. Let's just move on."

"And so, what's next?"

"With you and Ryan, or you and Jake?"

"With us, idiot."

"With us," he sighed. Then calmly he explained that he wanted to go back and live with his aunt. Go back to the boarding school. See what, if anything happens with that boy.

"I'll miss you."

He smiled. "No you wont. Not with everything you've got going on. Anyway, we'll stay in touch. I've got one of these now." And he held up his phone. "And you've got the number."

That's how we parted. On that bench in the park, halfway between his house and mine. The one thing I was certain about. We were best friends forever, we certainly would keep in touch. Quite possibly this was the best move for Matty. It seemed to get him out of the turmoil at home and, who knows, into another adventure.

We stood up and embraced with a long lingering kiss. Then I watched him walk away, back down the hill, before I turned for home. I had Jake to deal with, and I had no idea where things were going with Ryan. There were lots of loose ends, like who took those photos of Edmund? Still, that didn't seem so important, although I wondered about it. T here was still a lingering sense of doubt.

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