Before I think either of us knew it, Friday had appeared. We had arranged that he would pick me up from school. Front entrance. I’d never been picked up from school before, so I didn’t quite know how it would work out. It turns out, it was a little manic. A soon as I got in the car I could sense something wasn’t right.
“Heya,” I said, cautiously.
“Yeah, just… hang on.” He quickly lost patience with the parents in front and did a speedy three point turn on the loop to try and get out the car park quicker. I noticed Emma and Oli watching from outside reception, trying to look subtle and unsurprisingly failing. I was surprised, however, that Matts manoeuvre had worked and we got out of the car park with very little hassle at all.
“Right!” he exclaimed suddenly as we sped up Front Street and towards home. “How was your day?”
“Pretty average, to be honest. I had general studies so that was pointless.”
I could see him smile out of the corner of my eye.
“What about you?” I asked, I could tell something was wrong and I wasn’t going to let it go before he told me. Being persistent was something I was quite proud of in myself. I didn’t let things drop easily. Unless I could distinctly tell that it was an area to avoid treading altogether.
“It’s mum,” he announced. I had suspected as much. “She’s not very well and’s been admitted to hospital.”
I thought for a minute. Practicalities. I assessed the situation and decided there were two options.
“Are you sure you want to do this, then?” I asked, sensitively. I would totally understand if he wanted to be with her instead of having to battle with the force that was my own mother this evening. I had already tried to tell him that he had got my family the completely wrong way round. In my case, it was my dad that was much easier to deal with than my mum. He had a much more liberal sense of society. My darling mother, on the other hand, was very much more black and white. But no. He had insisted that he would meet my mother first… Over dinner of all things!
“Yeah, of course, hun. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
“Okay,” I replied, supporting his decision, although I wasn’t sure it was the right one.
We arrived home, and I told him he could park on the drive if he wanted. From what I can remember he did so, a little reluctantly, but it made more sense than parking it on the road. I let us in and lead the way to the kitchen. I put the kettle on and offered a tour of the house. We got to my bedroom and he sat down on my bed. He seemed to be taking the whole thing in very seriously. My bedroom is not typical, at all. It has wild wallpaper on three of the sides and then one red feature wall. I am well aware that this is the wrong way round to decorate a bedroom, but I don’t ever do things by the book and they do say that a persons bedroom is a reflection of their self. And I thought my bedroom was truly that. He led on my bed and after shuffling a few things around, like I do with nervous energy, I curled up beside him. We just uttered sweet nothings to each other until my sister came home, at which point we both headed back downstairs. I left Matt with Laura in the kitchen after introducing them to each other, while I disappeared into the study to burn ‘Illuminations’ to a disk for Matt.
As time passed, I could hear the two of them getting on quite well and having a slightly confused discussion about religion. It wasn’t difficult to confuse Laura, but it did concern me a little that for someone who was taking GCSE R.E. and who was a supposed Christian, she had managed to get herself lost in a conversation about her own faith. It was promising.
“There you go.” I said as I re-entered the kitchen, CD in hand. I had managed to dig out a jewel case, but hadn’t written the title on the disk. This Laura quickly picked up on.
“You haven’t written on it!” she exclaimed, snatching the CD out my hand and vanishing back into the study. Matt and I followed. She wrote on the title and artist, then handed it to Matt who looked at it with pleasure. I had caught him watching the clock when we were in my room, the kitchen and now the study.
“Hun, are you okay?” I asked.
“Yeah, I just don’t want to be here when your mum comes home.”
“Why not?” I laughed.
“Because it’s not right. She’s supposed to welcome me into her home, not me already be here waiting for her.”
“Okay, well do you wanna go then?”
“What time’s your hair appointment?”
“Not till 5, but it’s fine, we can chill in the lounge or something until then.”
“Well, I have to drop some stuff of at my parents, so we can do that first and then we should be just on time for your appointment.”
“Cool. Well, your parents live in Claverham, right?”
I smiled to myself. It hadn’t occurred to me before, but while we were away we discussed that fact that Matt was actually old enough to take me practising my driving. This was something I wanted to try out on him.
“Can I drive?”
For a moment his face looked horrified, but it softened and he seemed to warm to the idea.
“Sure, why not?”
“You’re brave,” Laura interjected, not at all helpfully.
“Oh, for goodness sake, Laura. I’m fine. Come on, then, let’s go,” I invited, getting the keys out my back pocket.
Matt didn’t need telling twice. He grabbed his coat from the bottom of the stairs and opened the door in anticipation. I couldn’t help but laugh quietly to myself. I’d stayedsocool throughout everything he’s thrown at me, and yet the prospect of meeting my mother was enough to spook him senseless. Man I was awesome!
“I’ve put Josh on my iPod, so we can listen to it in the car, okay?”
“Sure, now let’s go.”
I darted out the door and led the way to my car.
“Aww, she’s cute,” he commented as he made his way round the passenger door. I let him in and buckled my seatbelts, started the engine and pulled out. We were on our way.
I quickly discovered that he was areallybad passenger seat driver. Quite condescending and patronizing and made me feel like I was in the driving test, only worse. And I thought mydadwas bad! But I kept schtum about it and accepted it. It was a novelty and I had to accept that. He did help direct me through Claverham and to his parents’ house. It was actually a lot simpler that I would have thought and we got there with no problems. I pulled up opposite the house and opened the boot so he could get out the daffodils and supplies his parents had asked for – not the daffs, that was a sensitive gesture, but the supplies they had asked for. And that was the kind of person he was, I was quickly learning this. He wasalwaysthere. Not in a creepy way, just in a really caring way. And that was what I really liked about him. I don’t think I’d ever met anybody who was just so willing to anything for you. It was a really attractive quality and why I was rapidly falling head over heels for him. It was still quite scary.
It turned out that his parents had left the back door open, which was fortunate as he didn’t have a key and he couldn’t find the spare one. Shoes off and into the house. I was surprised to find it was actually quite a big house. Quite why this surprised me, I wasn’t sure. I guess it was because both my grandparents’ houses – who were in a similar age bracket to Matt’s parents – were quite small and compact. But then again, they did live in the town and this was the countryside; a slight contrast it must be said.
He gave me a brief tour around the house including his old bedroom which was now a study. Then we went back downstairs and into the kitchen where Matt laid down the daffodils and began to tail them and searched for a vase to fill with water. Once he’d done that, he put the lemonade and small supplies which he’d also bought into the fridge. I picked up the vase and carried it into the living room, placing it strategically onto the coffee table. I wandered back into the kitchen, which I had been marvelling at only a few minutes ago and propped myself against the worktop. It was truly magnificent, the sort of kitchen my mum had only ever dreamed about having. He turned around to face me and kissed me gently.
“What did I do with the flowers?” he asked.
“I put them in the living room.”
He smiled at me again. As though I had done the best thing in the world. We left the house and walked back over to the car.
A few minutes later I pulled up in the Cadbury House car park and we walked to the salon together; hand in hand. Getting my hair cut was really interesting. Matt sat next to me for the whole thing and didn’t stop talking to the other stylists while Kim listened in intently as she cut my hair. I learnt some more things about Matt that day; how when he was in school he asked an IT Technician to help him hack into another pupils account so he could leave him love notes every time he logged in and ultimately ended up accidentally deleting every single piece of his GCSE coursework. He laughed about it now, but I knew that at the time he must have been absolutely mortified. It reminded me that he was only a human being and human beings had flaws. This I knew all too well and was why I was still reluctant to open myself to him completely and let him in. I expected him to turn around and run without notice. I had told him this. Every time he had questioned why I was holding back when we would cuddle or curl up in bed, I told him that I didn’t trust easily. I knew this really frustrated him, but I had been hurt before. Cut up, smashed and broken and I wasn’t prepared to go there again anytime soon. I wouldn’t let him in, not until I was sure he wasn’t going anywhere.
I think Kim liked him. The stylists certainly did. I knew I did. He left his mobile number with the girls and told them to call him if they ever wanted to go on a night out. I left with less hair and a huge smile on my face. He was mine. I knew that, and I hoped everyone else shrivelled with jealousy a little bit inside. It was selfish and a little possessive, but he made me happy. The happiest I had been in anextremelylong time.
The journey home was quiet. He asked me a few questions about my mum; things he should/shouldn’t say. What her background was. Those sorts of things. It was sweet, he was clearly eager to please her which made me feel like he genuinely did care about me and wasn’t just using me for some bizarre reason. Quite why this would be, I hadn’t a clue. I mean I didn’t have model good looks, I wasn’t the easiest person to comprehend or get on with. Why he was still here was frankly a mystery to me, but he was here. And he was meeting my parents; my mum. Despite my advice that it was my dad who was the person he wanted to tackle first; please my dad, please my mum – then you’re in. Bingo!
I pulled up outside the house and we piled out and walked back over to the house. I opened the door and announced we were here:
“Hello!” I called. My mum was in the kitchen working on tea, pottering around in her own little world. Shoes off and into to the kitchen.
“Hello!” I said again.
“Hello!” she replied, “You must be Matt.”
He smiled at her and shook her hand.
“Claire, Matt, Matt, Claire. I’ll leave you to it for a minute.”
I wandered off to try and allow them to start a conversation and went to find Laura. When I came back they wereactuallytalking. As in, full sentences. It was amazing. I hopped up on the sideboard and perched myself on the edge, watching them.
The rest of the evening went relatively well. Mum must have liked him a least a little bit because she asked him to stay for dinner, which he seemed to accept without much hesitation. Although I’m sure he must have regretted this at least a little bit when the conversation strayed far beyond the normally acceptable at the dinner table.
There we were, sitting politely, eating our Chilli, just talking about this and that, when all of a sudden, my mum asked – completely out of the blue;
“So, what attracted you to Matt, then?” Yep. She asked my not-so-boyfriend what attracted him to me. I died a bit inside. Matt stopped chewing, so the question must have stunned him more than just a little, too.
“Well,” he began, “He’s very mature for his age, he has a direction in life. He’s passionate about what he does and he’s really ambitious, and I like that.”
“So, nothing physical, then?” she asked, digging a little deeper. I’m surprised she hadn’t already discovered Australia.
“Well, yes,” he answered, a little sheepishly.
I was thoroughly shocked. This was really quite strange. But he stayed. And he stayed. And stayed. He stayed so long that my mum left to take Laura elsewhere and we were left to wash and dry up from dinner.
“She thinks we’re together,” he said, a little annoyed, I thought
“Well, it’s got nothing to do with me,” I replied, trying to keep it cool, “I’ve insinuated nothing.”
“Well, she’s thought of it somehow.” He was defensive, but I think underneath it all, he could understand why. We were a couple… sort of… just without the label.
He washed I dried. It was easier that way. He stayed so long… so long mydadcame home…
As he came in the front door, I saw Matts face fall.
“Shit,” he panicked a little, but kept washing.
He came into the kitchen and threw his keys down.
“Hiya,” he welcomed, warmly. I smiled, I knew my dad would be easier to tackle. “I’m Keith,” he said, extending a hand which Matt shook, firmly.
“Matt, this is my dad.”
“Hiya,” he replied, smiling. My dad already seemed more welcoming than my mum. I think Matt was beginning to see that I was right all along. When Matt finished the washing up, my dad offered him a cigarette outside which he snapped up and they left me to finish putting everything away.
Eventually, we went into the lounge and sat down on the sofas. I wasn’t sure what the rules were at the moment, so I sat a noticeable distance away from Matt to begin with and just listened as my dad told him about the work he was doing for the Coal Authority at the moment, simulating the collapse of a house down a coal mine with his hands. And Matt told him about recent developments at the Carphone Warehouse. Listening to them, I couldn’t help but smile, it was like the two of them were old friends just having a catch up. When my mum came home and sat next to my dad, the conversation turned. All of a sudden he and Matt were sharing tales about their time in Korea. I’d heard my dads’ story before, but the way they went on about it, it was like they’d never told anybody else about this before in their lives. It must have been nice to have someone else to talk about it to who knew exactly what you meant.
He showed them pictures of cars he’d had and talked about his parents. I just listened for the most part, eventually plucking up the courage to shuffle closer to him on the sofa, cuddling up gently to him. After hours of talking, he announced it was time for him to go. My parents seemed a little surprised, but it was almost eleven o’clock. They had been talking for almost five hours. They must like him then, I deduced. I stood with him by the front door as he put his shoes on and we kissed just before he left. A goodbye kiss. I was seeing him tomorrow anyway, but just for now… He said farewell to my parents and left. I went to bed, smiling, satisfied with how the whole evening had panned out, even if it wasn’t exactly as planned…
“So what do you think of him, then?” I asked, bluntly after he had gone. There was a momentary pause. It felt a little awkward.
“He’s nice enough,” Mum answered, in the high voice she used when she wasn’t entirely convinced.
“No, he’s nice!” my Dad defended.
“He’s just so easy to talk to…” I argued.
“He’s a salesman,” my Dad replied. I laughed. I’ll never forget that…