Come the 5thFebruary, it was all stations go for me. Blood Brothers had been a moderate success the night before with a slightly thin audience, and I had been trying to rope people in to come and see the Saturday show. Lots of people. Including Matt.
In all honesty, I was sceptical he would actually turn up, so when I saw him lurking by the door outside, I smiled. I didn’t have my phone on me, so didn’t get the text he sent me to announce he was here. He filed dutifully into the auditorium and took his seat. I took mine with my obligatory Stage Managers ‘Bible’ and the show began. It was a good show, and I was pleased that the turn out on the Saturday was much improved from the previous night. When all was over and done, it was time to pack away. I think Matt tried to help, but couldn’t quite keep up with the fast pace of things. It was all done astonishingly quickly. However, thankfully he helped me carry the abundance of things I had been typically hauled in to providing for the show… Including a travel cot I had nabbed from next door.
We went back to my place first and dumped the stuff, then whizzed round the corner to the Smiths where everyone else was celebrating Chinese New Year.
“So I’ve now become an official fan of Josh Groban,” he announced , as he turned into Hillmead.
“Oh really?” I replied.
“Yeah. I liked the group on Facebook,” he smirked back.
I laughed, “I might just have to do that, too, then.”
He pulled up outside Jades house after I pointed it out to him and I led him by the hand to my second home. I could sense he was a little nervous when I opened the door and let myself in…
“Hello!” I called from the porch. We took off our shoes and went into the kitchen. Most everyone was there; Mum, Dad, Tracey, Andy, Ruth, Ian, Emma… even Georgia and James as I recall. Laura, Jasmine and Issy must have been elsewhere in the house. I remember I had already told Matt about Issy. She was one for, if she liked a person, she would cling to them and smother them a little. I thought it was only fair to give him the heads up.
I was really pleased that everyone was so graceful about the situation, and somewhat thankful. We ate,a lot,and drank plenty of wine. I can’t remember exactly how it came about, but at one point during the evening, Ruth announced that she had recently found an addition to her collection of skulls. I willneverforget Matts face when she said this.
“I found a bird carcass and put a glass over it. Now its sitting in the garage with the others.”
We were all roaring with laughter, but I didn’t think poor Matt quite new what to make of it all. I would have thought he would have been used to the somewhat eccentric by now, but nevertheless, it still seemed to befuddle him a little…
“So, Matt told me you work with aeroplanes?” he asked Ian, Emma’s dad, while everyone else was talking. I had told him already that Ian was an air traffic controller at Bristol Airport and Matt had said he would ask Ian if they ever did a ‘runway dance’ like on the Dairy Milk advert, although I hadn’t thought’s he’d actually mean it.
“Yeah, up at the airport,” Ian replied.
“So, you know the Dairy Milk advert with the runway?”
“Er,” Ian seemed unsure. At this point, my mum interjected and reminded Ian what Matt was talking about. “Oh, yeah!” he replied.
“Do you ever get the aeroplanes racing on the runway and stuff?”
There was laughter and I got distracted by Jasmine asking me to pass her some food, so I didn’t hear what was said next, but I couldn’t help but smile to myself that he had actually asked that question. At one point during the evening, Jade came home from work, flew around the kitchen, completely ignored everything that was going on, demanded some things for herself and disappeared again to head into town. Jade. What a character. Going through a mental break then and still in one now. It wasn’t exactly how I had anticipate Matt would properly have met my ‘sister’, but I suppose any appearance was better than nothing, which was the norm at the moment.
The night grew on, and it came time to leave. Matt had had too much to drink to drive home, so he crashed at mine again. We were going to Cheltenham to visit the Grandparents for my Gramps’ birthday on the Sunday, so it was a hurried get up and go situation. Matt left and walked back round to Jades to collect his car and the last glimpse I saw of him that day was as his car pulled out of the road as we disappeared round a corner…
I spent a lot of time thinking about Matt that week. I couldn’t wait until Friday when I would see him again, and get to sleep over, properly, for the first time, under the allowance of my parents. He picked me up from home and took me back to his place. We’d messed that up a little bit and got our wires crossed so he didn’t think I meant for him to pick me up when I did. It was probably my fault, to be honest. We crashed on the sofa for a bit when we got back and then carried on cooking steak and noodles, which he had made for dinner. It was a lazy evening, which was nice. It had all got a bit manic lately, with insane rehearsals for my Drama practical which was coming up on Wednesday.
Curled up on the sofa in front of the sofa, watching Valentine’s Day – it only seemed appropriate – I took a bite of the steak and tried to swallow. I knew what had happened straight away. It was rump steak, and so quite stringy. As a result, while I had attempted to swallow the one half of the steak which I had chewed, it was attached to the other piece which was still in my mouth. Stuck halfway, I began to choke. Trying my hardest not to panic and keep cool, I coughed gently, trying to loosen said piece of meat – oh! the irony! – but to no avail. I tried everything, shifting my posture, swallowing and tugging at the contents of my mouth, but it wasn’t having any of it. I could feel myself getting redder and redder and Matt was beginning to wonder what was going and with all the coughing and spluttering, I decided there was no elegant way out of this and delectably coughed up the meat back into the bowl. Oh yes. I felt classy. World class, me!
We finished watching Valentine’s Day and headed up to bed... Kissing, cuddling, touching. I knew full well what would happen next. I didn’t know two things. It would be the best so far. And it would also be the last...
I slept well that night. I only woke briefly at around two, but quickly fell asleep again. We both had to be up early to take me to Euphoria in Backwell for 9.30 and Matt had his driving experience in Berkshire later that day. We got up, breakfasted quickly and headed out. I remember distinctly being twenty minutes early for Euphoria, and hanging my head in shame. I just smiled and so did he… eventually.
“We could always have a quick shag in that field,” he suggested, cocking his head towards an empty green space to the left of the car. I just laughed. We sat and talked for a while before Tina, Jonas (complete with a nosebleed), Emily and Rob rolled up. I got out that car after a goodbye kiss and watched him drive away. About half an hour into the rehearsal, I got a text which had a picture attached to it. We had been talking about Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods’ in the car and he’d been in Bristol and found a pub called ‘The Woods’. I had to admit, it was comical, and kept me content until I would see him again… Tomorrow… Tomorrow. The day I turned 18. Officially becoming old. And officially becoming an adult. I could see the grey hairs already.
That evening, my family and I went to Bella Italia for a delightful little meal. I drank my first glass of wine out – despite the fact that I wasn’t actually 18 yet. What the heck, it was legal nonetheless! I came home feeling well and truly stuffed and went to bed for one final sleep as a ‘child’.
Waking up on the Sunday it was all go straight from the off. I had birthday things to do first thing and then some final preparations for RISK before the D&T rehearsal that afternoon. RISK, which Matt had helped me write the most difficult scene of. It was a real shame he wasn’t going to be there to see his work in action. I thought I had discovered a brand new talent in Matt’s inventory of talents.
I had been standing in his kitchen working on RISK and my English Language coursework conclusion and had got thoroughly stuck with the whole thing. I took it to Matt and briefed him on the outline of the story and what the scene needed to be. I wanted two of the children to become involved in a moral dilemma. Do they shoot their best friend or not? In an attempt to join the army and ‘make a better life for themselves’. It was hard to conceptualise the scene and then on what they should say around this, keeping it light hearted, but deadly serious at the same time. It was hard. I’m not denying that I was stumped. I just couldn’t visualise what to do? So, I pitched the scene to Matt and he went away and thought about it over a cigarette for a minute. He came back to me about five minutes later and began spewing words. Words of sheer genius.
He suggested that kids like thinking they’re an adult before their time. That they’re falsely brave and prone to hubris as a result. In a matter of minutes I had almost a fully formed scene on a sheet in front of me, whereas before I had an entire page of mindless babblings. Admittedly, Matt had taken some of these ideas and formed them into A-grade worthy script, but it was the fact that he had the mostbasicknowledge of this stuff and had managed to come up with something infinitely superior to me that made me both love him all the more and hate him from the bottom of my heart at the same time.
I went away and scripted the scene over the next couple of days before pitching it to Nicole, Bam and Becca that week. Needless to say they loved its power and purpose and, with a bit of tweaking, it fell perfectly into the narrative of the play. That had been a couple of weeks ago and now, here we were, three days before the performance, running through the entire 20 minute play time after time. I loved how my birthdays tended to pan out. Last year I had an audition for the National Youth Theatre and this year I was inschool, rehearsing for my A Level Drama Practical. It was the epitome of my life really, wasn’t it?
It had been agreed that I would abandon the rehearsal early. It seemed only fair that I was allowed to go to my own birthday party, even if it was going to cost me a few marks for preparation, it was totally worth it. I left in a hurry and dashed home, getting half way down Ladymead Lane and realising that I had left my phone and iPod at school. A quick dash back and forth again and I dumped everything in the study at home, quickly got changed and jumped in the car to go pick up Matt. His car had broken down. Again. He had phoned me at school during the rehearsal and told me he was stuck at his parents. We had agreed that I would go and pick him up and take him to Ruth’s for the supper. I was running late as it was and after a brief argument with my mum that it made more sense for me to drive because I knew where his parents lived already and directing in the dark was never easy. It was comical really. On the way to Matts parents, James, Georgia and Jade ended up following us and got lost on the way to Ruth’s, which was in Congresbury. Matt’s parents lived in Claverham and they followed usall the way there, before realising that we weren’t heading to Ruth’s at all. My phone was all go throughout the journey and my mum had to answer it on several occasions due to the fact thatIwas driving. Ohhh, yeahhh.
I rolled up outside Matts parents and jumped out. He was clearly flustered and annoyed, hazard warning lights a-flashing on the car. He grabbed some stuff out the boot and packed it away in my car before we set off to Ruth’s for my Birthday American Supper.
I hadn’t wanted anything fancy for my birthday. I didn’t even want presents, I had simply asked for people to bring or make food to eat at the supper. And that was precisely what they – and I – had done. And Jesus, there was a lot of it. It was probably the most memorable birthdays I can remember. Ever in my life. Just the fact that I could be around the people I cared for most in my life, who had supported me with every decision I had ever made and gone through the best and the worst that life had ever thrown at me and just accepted me for who I was, was more than I could ever have asked for. And to top it all of, the man who I was deeply in love with was stood by my side through it all. And for that, I was the most grateful. More than I think he even realised. Exactly what happened throughout the evening I can’t remember. I just remember a sense of elation flowing through my veins the entire time. It annoyed me a little bit that Matt kept dissapearing off with James every half hour or so for a cigarette, and particularly that they took Georgia with them, but what could I do? It wasn’t my place to dictate otherwise.
At one point during the evening, Matt took me up to Ruths room and rummaged around in one of his bags.
“Now, I didn’t have much time to do anything fancy,” he warned as he held something behind his back, “But I wanted to get you something anyway…”
And to me, he presented a razor. I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle quietly to myself. A raz0r? Really? But I totally got it.
“Now, I expect you to use it!” he exclaimed. I kissed him and thanked him with a wry smile before we headed back downstairs. The rest of the evening absolutely flew by. Due to the fact that Matt had no car, Oli had agreed to drive us both home. As we pulled up outside my house, Matt kissed me goodbye and wished me Happy Birthday once again… I handed him a Valentines Card, feeling a little foolish as it was something I had never done before and we we’re ‘in a relatioship’ after all… I fell asleep very quickly as I collapsed in my bed and awoke the next morning to a text from Matt:
“Happy Valentines Day, baby. Check under your matress x”
I jumped out of bed and instantly rummaged around under my matress. To my surprise, I found a card lying there, waiting… It was a Valentines Card. I had to control myself. No one had ever given me a Valentines Card before and it was one of the sweetest things he had ever done for me. I was a little scared to open it. A week ago he would have put this under my matress and hoped in earnest that I wouldn’t find it. It pretty much summed up the kind of guy he was. And the reason I loved him…
That day was set to be manic. I had my Driving Test that day. First attempt. I dashed home after break, hoovered out my car and waited for Marcus – my driving instructor – to arrive. We drove to Weston and I did my thing. I failed. Almost instantaneously. A stupid mistake of forgetting to check again assoonas I pulled out the test centre road. So bad that I nearly had a collision with a Mini. I knew I’d failed, but carried on going nevertheless. Other than that, I got two minors, which made the whole thing just that little bit more sour. I was furious and unfairly took it out on the rest of the group when I got back to rehearsals at school. That caused further tensions when they were already high. Not the best plan, but we carried on. For four and a half hours we slaved away at RISK, getting it to the best it could possibly be. All the while I was thinking of Matt, worrying about how dissapointed he would be and feeling more than a little depressed that he wasn’t able to see his work in action. What he had contributed to and what would ultimately win me an A – something which hadneverbeen achieved at this level in recent history. He was away on business that week and, as usual, I missed him like crazy… It was just a shame that the week ended the way it did…