We kept touring around the streets of Clevedon and I was still well and truly lost until I noticed the sea out in front of us. We disappeared down a little private road literally on the sea edge and drove cautiously along it until we reached the end. He pulled up onto the drive – which, it must be said, was a feat, as he had to park on an incredibly steep hill. We got out and grabbed the stuff from the boot, then headed over to the house.
The house itself was beautiful. It was a modern mansion right on the Clevedon cliffs. Walking up the steps to the front door it just got more beautiful. It was on a par with Liz and Andy’s house in The Park in Cheltenham. We got in the house and made our way upstairs to greet everybody. I got out the bottles from my bag and discovered now that the ‘Gin’ wasn’t actually Gin and revealed itself to be Archers. It was clearly wearing and clever disguise when I picked it up. MattandI found this raucously hilarious, and mixed it with some Lemonade which we found lying around instead. We dumped our stuff for a bit and then went to fight it out with the other guests for a bedroom. The marble floors were highly polished and everything was nicely furnished. It was my sort of house. The house I’d only ever dreamed of living in. A modern house that was spacious and practical. The view from the balcony was stunning. During the course of the evening, Matt tried to beckon me out there while he had a cigarette. It was absolutely freezing and there was a dangerously strong wind. I was mildly terrified if I even set foot out there, I would be blown out to sea never to be seen again… And not in a good way.
I had never felt it so easy to talk to so many new people in my entire life. It was nice because I didn’t feel like I was being judged the whole time. People would just come up and chat to me – and Matt, of course – flirt casually and then potter off elsewhere. Cam was lively, just like the last time I had met him. I made a joke to him about how I promised I would try my hardest not to spill any red wine on the carpet this time… Not that there was actually a great deal of carpet to spill it on which was a relief. He laughed at this and we got talking for a while.
There was a lot of socialising during the evening and I often find this tiring. Oh god – listen to me, I sound like I’m about 70! But seriously, I was already tired from a busy week of rehearsals, planning and suchlike that by the time it came to about 11.30, I was falling asleep on the sofa. I had already snapped at Matt and thrown a bit of a strop because of this.
We were in the kitchen and he was talking to Chris James and some others I think and he was talking about how he was going on his 4x4 driving experience on my birthday weekend. I accidentally misinterpreted what he was saying and inferred that he wouldn’t be back in time for the gathering at Ruth’s. I can’t remember exactly, but I remember it wasn’t exactly pleasant, I would let him neither touch nor talk to me for nearly an hour afterwards. Looking back, it was mildly embarrassing, but I was genuinely tired. I’d got the peppermint oil out already to keep me awake for as long as possible, but when Matt came over to me when I was sitting on the sofa in the living room, I just let him be. I’d had enough of avoiding him. It was exhausting.
“Are you okay, baby?” he asked.
“I’m just really tired,” I replied, in all honesty.
“D’you wanna go rest for a bit, downstairs?”
“No, I’ll be fine.”
“Babe, you look exhausted.”
“Well thanks,” I smiled in reply… There was a pause between us. I could have a power nap. At these I was king. Just fifteen minutes of deep rest and I could go for another two hours. That would be enough, right? “Alright, I’ll go have a power nap for a bit. You’re sure no one will mind?”
“Of course not, baby. You go rest.”
I felt like a fool. Like a child. I was having a nap at a party. I was just so tired. I’m not even sure what I had been doing to get myself into this state, but as I curled up on top of the duvet so as not to get too comfy, my heavy head was grateful for the soft pillow on which to lie. Midway through my super-fast power nap, Charles tried to sneak in and seemed a little sheepish when he noticed me curled up on the bed. I alerted the two of them – who was with him I couldn’t tell you – of my presence and the crept back out the door as if nothing had happened. Fifteen minutes later, I shocked myself back awake, as was the ritual end to these power naps and became distinctly aware of a strong tingling sensation on my face. I had forgotten that I had put the peppermint oil on my scarf in an attempt to keep myself awake. I had now face planted this scarf for almost 20 minutes and my face was now stinging somewhat. I knew it would pass, but I could tell anyone who got up close now was going to get a particularly fragrant awakening.
As the night progressed, toasts were made – including a ritual proposition of marriage by one of the guests whose name I simply can’t remember; I’ve already mentioned that names arenotmy forte – and cake was traditionally dished out. Drinks were further consumed and by about midnight, a group of the guys decided they fancied making a trip to the newly refurbished Flamingos in Bristol. As they dearly departed, having invited the taxi driver - whose name I believe was Elaine (!) - in for a chat while the group organised themselves, this left a mere few of us in the house. Myself, Matt, Cam, Scott, a guy called Ian who had been hitting on me profusely ever since he found out I had worked in the theatre, Charles and a group of supposed heterosexuals.
It was very quickly revealed that the plan now was for us to get in the hot tub which had been quietly heating up on the balcony outside Cam and Scott’s bedroom…Matt and I went downstairs to change into our trunks and then pattered back up the freezing cold stairs, out onto the even more freezing cold balcony. The gale force wind was still blowing ferociously against the house and I hurriedly lowered myself into the contrastingly boiling hot tub. I was one of the first to get in and sat opposite Cam who was sipping on a drink. Scott was still in the bedroom, Ian was downstairs getting changed, Charles was elsewhere in the house, sulking and Matt was just behind me. He got in and positioned himself on the corner which face out to sea. I snuggled into him and he held me close. I felt safe. Not that I had felt in any way threatened before; Cam was an absolutely lovely fellow who I had grown to appreciate immensely in a short amount of time. Sure, Ian was a little odd and flirted atrociously, but it was nothing I hadn’t encountered before. All in all, I was really happy being here. Especially beingherewith Matt…
Surprisingly, Cam asked about Matt and I. Just general banter, but this quickly ceased as Ian came out onto the balcony. In all honesty, he wasn’t much to look at – and was definitely gettingnothingfrom me, but I had noticed throughout the evening that Matt got a bit defensive when he was around. It was a little strange and also quite sexy at the same time. This was why I liked him so much. Because he genuinely cared about me. In a way that I couldn’t remember anybody else had before. He took my hand and held me close, kissing me gently, but clearly so as to prove that I was ‘his’. We wereus.I don’t know. I just felt wanted. And it was lovely.
By this point I had gone past the point of remembering things eloquently. I remember their being talk of the trip to Gran Canaria that was planned for May. I had been invited along at one point, by Matt in Morrison’s about a week previously. I had been forced to decline the lovely offer as it was right in my last weeks of school when revision would be gearing up – yet again. That, and the fact that I simply couldn’t afford it. I wasn’t like these high flyers and earning plenty... Or in Matt’s case, had an extensive overdraft.
As the night drew on, we laughed about in the hot tub and each of us in turn became shrivelled prunes. Scott got out at one point and slipped on the wet decking... It would prove to be a grisly sight in the morning and would leave a nasty bruise. But as we got out and dried in the bedroom, I could feel the tiredness returning. Shortly afterwards, Matt and I retired to bed. We cuddled up close and fell asleep in each other’s arms...
Matt twitched. I had already noticed this from falling asleep with him on the sofa at home. His home. Not mine. Although, sometimes it felt like it was. I felt at home there... So surely that made it home? He called it his ‘silent Tourette’s’, his twitching. It kept me awake for some time, every time I slept over. It wasn’t that it bothered me particularly, more the fact that it worried me. It made me worry that he was dreaming about thethinghe had told me. It made me worry that he was having a nightmare... It was childish, I knew. But I was a natural born worrier. But I eventually fell asleep, only to wake again at about 4, just in time to see the sun begin to rise above the Clevedon Seafront. I awoke again at the more agreeable time of 10? I had plugged myself in the last time I woke up and listened to Einaudi’s piano concerto. This was something I would end up doing a lot.
When Matt awoke shortly after me, we sat talking and cuddling for a while, before there was a soft knock at the door and Cam came in...
“You will never guess what happened.”
I stayed quiet. Matt enquired more.
“Charles... And Ian...”
“Oh god, no.” Matt murmured. I just looked down in shame. I knew it must be the same Ian that had been hitting on me the previous night. The conversation revolved around what we were to do to resolve the situation for several minutes. Since I had no background on the entirety of the situation, I felt I could not contribute much to the conversation so listened intently.
Eventuallybreakfast was mentioned. I thought it was never going to come. I was ravenous. I have a feeling there may have been bacon. I do remember there was ketchup involved asMatthew(not I) managed to get it on the quilt cover and create a stain. We made our way upstairs and mingled with the stragglers for a while. Cam told me - yet again – what utter admiration he had for Matt, and also discovered, somewhat to my amusement, that Matt was thirty. We he had not previously known. Sitting in the lounge, Scott came in at one point and showed us the gargantuan bruise he had got from falling out the hot tub last night. It looked painful. Following that, the conversation turned to sex, the past and the future and Matt and I again.
I’ll never forget what Cam said to me that morning:
“I like you. You make Matt happy. I can see that. I’ve met plenty of Matt’s ex’s...” And that was it. Just the fact that he said I made this man smile was enough to send me into emotional breakdown. I could feel myself getting red and I looked down at my feet, trying to avoid eye contact. I didn’t take compliments very well and so I just smiled nervously, supressing a laugh.
Some time later, I headed downstairs to get dressed and showered ready to meet Matt’s parents. I got into the wet room in ‘mine and Matts bedroom’, showered, and dressed. I managed to not flood too much of the rest of the room, which I had managed quite outstandingly in the bathroom in Germany last year. We said goodbye to everyone, all of whom were either going for a walk to the pier or back to Portishead and as I guided Matt down the drive, I took one final look at the house before we left. We got on the road to Backwell and he weaved through the streets to his parents’ house. I was just sitting quietly, composing myself and trying not to completely freak out…
We pulled up at the house and onto the drive;
“One thing before we go in. I don’t smoke, okay?”
I smiled, of all the things to keep from your parents, it amused me that at the age of 30, this was still the one he chose to keep. Well, that and the fact that I was already 18. And if they asked, my birthday wasJades. And not mine a year in advance. Keep it simple, eh? As we walked over to the front door, it began to open and Matt stepped inside, leaning down to give the person a kiss. As I stepped into the porch, a short, grey haired woman with tanned skin beamed up at me. I was surprised she was so short. Matt, in comparison was a giant. I’d got used to the fact that he was taller than me, but I hadn’t imagined his mum this way. It was nice to have your perceptions dashed every now and again. Kept you on your feet.