Matt arrived outside the English classroom about two minutes after Claude.
“Hey,” he said jovially.
“Hey,” Claude replied. “How was the Study Time?”
Matt rolled his eyes. “I was bored witless. Witless, I tell you.”
“Poor thing,” Claude said, smiling wryly. “Biology and Chemistry weren’t much better. I usually like Chemistry but today we were just doing a whole load of theory.”
“At least it wasn’t two hours of nothing,” Matt grumbled.
“Hey, cheer up. English is fun.”
“Really?” Matt asked sceptically.
Claude winced, considering it.
“No, not really.”
“Great,” he said sarcastically.
“Sorry,” Claude sighed.
Matt laughed, instantly changing the atmosphere to cheerful again.
“Don’t worry. It’s not your fault. Hey, I was thinking - during my two hours of absolute tedium - do you want to hang out at some point?”
Claude’s heart leapt.
“Yes, I would,” he replied, trying not to sound too excited.
Matt smiled. “Cool. So, what is there to do around here?”
Claude thought about it. What did he like to do in his free time?
“Well, there’s a bowling alley. And a cinema. Otherwise, it’s only really restaurants and shopping centres. Oh, unless you want to go to the park, but there’s nothing much there either.”
“Cinema sounds cool,” Matt said.
Claude remembered that on Tuesdays you could get cheaper tickets at the cinema.
“Yeah, that would be great,” he enthused. “Tickets are less expensive on Tuesdays. Is there anything you’d like to see?”
“How about that new action film? Cassie K?”
“Oh, yeah, I’ve seen the adverts for that. About that female teenage spy. It looks pretty good.”
“And the actress is pretty fit,” Matt added, grinning.
“If you say so,” Claude replied.
Matt laughed. Claude joined in, finding it felt good when your jokes were laughed at.
“Well, I’ll text my mum now and she should reply by lunchtime. D’you want to come home with me after school? I’m sure my mum won’t mind cooking dinner and, well, if she does, I’ll cook you something.”
Matt laughed. “That’s very kind of you. But I’ll go home first so I can get changed. Do you mind giving me your postcode? The driver can put it into the sat nav and follow directions.”
Claude’s jaw dropped.
Matt flushed with embarrassment and looked down at the ground.
“That’s pretty cool,” Claude said to reassure him.
Matt smiled, looking up again.
“Thanks, Claude. So, can I have your postcode?”
“Sure. It’s A32 LIF.”
Matt pulled his homework diary out of his bag and noted the postcode down.
“Cool. So, shall I come to yours about six?”
“Yeah, six should be cool. We’ve usually finished dinner by quarter to.”
Claude pulled out his phone and created a new text message. The slowness of his fingers almost frustrated him because he was so excited about tonight. He was also mildly annoyed that he had to type everything in full because his mum couldn’t understand text language. But he reminded himself of how worth it it would be when he was actually sitting beside Matt in an auditorium, watching a movie. It made it so much better that Matt was the Silent, Watchful presence
Mum, can I go to the cinema tonight with a friend? He’d come about six to ours - he’s using our post code and a sat nav ...
“Will we buy the tickets there?” Matt asked. He pulled out an iPhone. “I can check the times.”
“Yeah, I’m sure there’ll be seats available. Oh, wow, you can check the times on your phone. Would you do that? Mine’s years old, so I barely have Internet access. ” Claude was glad he hadn’t yet sent the text. His mother would want to know which showing they intended to see.
“Sure.” Matt loaded up the internet on his phone and typed in ‘Acreleigh cinema times’. The website for Acreleigh Cinema came up and Matt found Cassie K and a list of all the times. “Right, there’s one at 6:20, 7:15, 8:20 and 9:15. Film length is 110 minutes.”
“We’d be best going for the 6:20 then. Should I tell my mum you’ll need dropping off?”
“Nah, it’s fine. I’ll get the driver to pick me up from your house at half eight.”
“Cool.” Almost brimming over with excitement, Claude finished the text.
...and a sat nav. We’ll see the six twenty showing of Cassie K, buying the tickets there, and then he’ll get picked up from ours. Text back ASAP. Claude
Claude clicked the send button. A few seconds later, a message came up on Claude’s phone: ‘Text sent’.
Claude beamed, putting his phone away.
Matt smiled. “Brilliant. I’m really looking forward to it.”
“Me too,” Claude replied.
But their joy was cut short by the arrival of the teacher, which reminded Claude that he was still in school and that there were still four lessons and also lunch to wait through until the end of the school day.
Nonetheless, Matt brought fun to the lesson too. While the teacher wasn’t paying attention, he whispered silly reasons for which the poets had written the poems in the GCSE anthology which made Claude struggle not to laugh out loud.
At lunchtime, Claude checked his texts and saw that his mum had replied.
Yes, you can watch a film tonight, honey. What’s your friend’s name?
‘Matt,’ Claude replied, while turning to Matt who was walking beside him and telling him, “We’re on for tonight.”
“Whoo,” Matt said, pretending to be hyper-active.
Claude laughed, putting his phone away again.
“You won’t start trying to contact Miranda Laughem if we watch this, will you?”
Matt mocked a look of innocence.
Claude laughed. “Well, I hope there’s some hot actor so that I won’t be distracted by your drooling.”
“I won’t drool,” Matt said, playfully punching his arm.
“We shall see.”
“And you don’t need a hot actor,” Matt continued.
“Why not?” Claude asked, intrigued.
“You’ll have me, silly.”
Claude snorted. “Yeah, I’ll stick with an actor.”
“Hey, I’m all-right-looking.”
Claude looked at Matt. He thought about the sharp lines and the cool blue eyes and running his fingers through that smooth black hair... Part of the reason that the daydreams had been so pleasurable had been linked to Matt’s handsomeness, he thought.
“No, you’re not,” he said, his tone serious. “You’re better than all right. But I won’t think about that sort of stuff. We’re barely even friends.”
Matt looked flattered.
“Oh, thanks, mate. Hey, if I might say so, you’re not too bad-looking yourself. You’re kinda cute.”
Claude chuckled but smiled sincerely.
“Thank you. No one’s ever said that before. Except maybe my mother. But she doesn’t count.”
“Well, people aren’t looking hard enough,” Matt told him.
“Thanks,” Claude repeated. He wondered how many times Matt had been told he was good-looking. He couldn’t imagine it was a small number of people.
“Hey, Matt, have you ever had a boyfriend or girlfriend before?” Claude asked curiously.
“I’ve had several girlfriends,” he replied, and Claude wasn’t surprised by the answer in the affirmative. “Never a boyfriend, though. You?”
“Nah, I told you - you’re the first guy I’ve met who’s not straight.”
“Oh yeah. Though some homosexual guys do have girlfriends before they work out they’re not straight.”
“Ah, well, I’m sure you’ll find someone. That is, if you want someone. It’s equally cool to be single.”
“Yeah, you just need great friends,” Claude replied. He looked at Matt in a significant manner.
Matt beamed. “Yeah. Thanks.”