The next day, being a Saturday and all, Matt picked me up at about half three and took me back to his house. We messed about for most of the day, watching telly, talking a lot and generally enjoying each others company. We bought some more wine and had a little drink. Somewhere along the way, we ended up in the kitchen. Chris and his then-boyfriend Tom had come home and were in the living room watching the telly-box. I think I had offered to make cups of tea and Matt followed me. He stood opposite me as I waited for the kettle to boil. I could tell something was up.
“What’s up, babe?” I asked.
“There’s something I need to tell you. I think you’re ready to hear it.”
“Okay?” I asked, cautiously. He wasn’t looking at me, so I could tell it must have been something serious. Recently, I had tried to tell him about who I was, what I had done and where I had come from. The things I wasn’t proud of. The Gavin drama in its entirety, bringing the letters with me and reading them out to him as he shaved me in his bathroom. He convinced me that the things I was telling him were nothing compared to the things he had seen and experienced in the past. Boyfriends smashing up his car, threatening to kill themselves and even kill him. But behind all this, I could tell even then that there was more he wasn’t telling me. But, me being me, I wasn’t going to push any more until he decided to tell me. I could see now, that this time had come.
“When I was a bit younger than you, I used to bunk off school a lot. I’d get the bus into Bristol and go to this pub. There was this guy in the club once who was playing pool. I sat there watching him for a while. He came up to me and bet me £20 that I couldn’t beat him. Now I was a bit of a cocky shit and I thought I could beat him easy. So, I picked up a cue and began to play. Of course, this time, I won. So I took my money and left.”
As he was talking, I was visualising everything in my head. Only picking up on some of the details, and distancing myself somewhat from the situation. At points, I was trying to work everything out so hard, that his voice would muffle in the background and I could feel my breathing getting deeper. He kept telling me about what he’d been through and swore me to secrecy that I would never speak of this again... And I never did. I never told a soul about what Matt had told me, but, just as a precaution, I went and got myself tested at the Brook clinic in Bristol a couple of weeks later. I thought it was only wise. Of course I still trusted him, but it was myself whoalwayscame first.
The next week, Matt was away on business all over the country. It made sense why he was a salesman now – and a damn good one at that; even my Dad had commented on this. He was in and around London, the Midlands and Belfast Thursday/Friday. I’d booked a table at one of my favourite Restaurants; Shahnaz in Cheddar. I thought at the time it was a bit risky, but I could always reschedule if worst came to worst. Turns out it did. His flight was delayed and we missed the booking. Fortunately, he had known this in advance and so we rebooked for the Saturday instead.
I was kneeling on the floor in the study, poring over my revision-covered wallpaper when my phone lit up and did a little song and dance. I was mildly confused. It was Matt.
“Hello!” I answered, excitedly.
“Hey baby, you free?”
“I’m sat outside.”
I left my revision, slipped on some shoes and went outside. Sure enough, there he was, sat in the courtesy ’10 plate Ford Focus which he had been given while the Passat was nursed back to health. We just sat in the car and talked. Forages.About everything. How he couldn’t stop burping because he’d had a Burger King before he got on the plane home. How his week had been. How much revision I had done. Everything. We kissed a lot, and cuddled across the centrepiece of the car. Mildly awkward, but it worked. I had missed himsomuch, that week. Every day, longing that he was home with me once again. We’d kept in touch. Brief phone calls, text messages and Facebook posts, but it’s never the same unless you have them there with you. I was worried. I could feel myself falling in love with him. I knew there would never be anyone like him, and I still believe that now. He was having such a huge impact on my life that I could never go back to the person I was six months ago.
Over the next month, our relationship – and friendship – only grew stronger. At dinner on Saturday, we talked mostly about me. My past, my present and my future. We had never really talked much about me. Particularly why I wanted to go to Uni and do English, and then what I wanted to do after that. This was why I had tried to avoid talking about me. Because I was still being made, and most of my plans would have found it difficult to involve Matt. I knew that, and I think, really, he knew that, which was why for three months, he never once allowed us to speak of love, nor were we ever officially ‘boyfriends’ or whatever. It was strange, but I guessed it was just easier that way…