When Claude got home that evening, he changed into different clothes almost instantly. He combed his hair before sitting down to dinner and his sister teased him about looking so smart.
“Who is this friend you’re hanging out with?” she asked.
“Oh, he’s a new kid in my class,” Claude replied with amicability. He didn’t care that his sister was teasing him - he was too happy about going to the cinema with Matt.
“Oh, that’s interesting. What’s his name?”
“Where’d he go to school before?”
Claude smiled. “Sappen Manor.”
Jenny’s eyes went wide, causing Claude to chuckle.
Matt’s previous school wasn’t the only aspect of him that wowed Claude’s sister. When Matt entered their living room, having been let in by a grinning Claude she openly stared at him. Claude wasn’t sure how he felt about Jenny finding Matt handsome. Jenny had mistreated him - Matt was too nice a person for her. He might even say she didn’t deserve a boyfriend though he could imagine her having one anyway. Still, Matt was his friend and she shouldn’t love him if she disliked Claude. It was somewhat to Claude’s relief that Matt ignored Jenny’s face.
Matt was very polite to Claude’s mum who had come into the room when the doorbell rung, eager to see Claude’s new friend. She told him to call her ‘Marie’ and, noting it was French, Matt had murmured “Enchanté” She looked surprised at Matt’s age but was charmed by his greeting and acted friendly enough, asking him if Claude had offered him a drink.
“Do I have time to see any of your drawings?” Matt asked Claude as he led him into the kitchen to pour him out a glass of squash.
Claude glanced at a clock and laughed.
“Yes. You came ten minutes early.”
Matt continued to smile as he said, “Sorry about that.”
“Don’t apologise,” Claude said. “It means we get time to chill. I think there are one or two drawings I don’t mind you seeing.”
Matt smiled. Claude handed him the glass of orange squash and drank from his own.
“Can we take them upstairs?” Matt asked.
Claude led the way to his bedroom. Along the way he got a bizarre mental picture of Matt recognising the room because a part of him remembered being the Silent, Watchful Presence. But Claude considered that even if Matt didn’t know he had been Claude’s Silent Watcher, Claude would be happy to see him in the room, in the place where Claude first saw him. Claude almost got a sense of fulfilment from it.
Claude sat on his bed as Matt walked in, looking around. There wasn’t much of interest in the room, not really: it was very sparsely furnished. A wardrobe, a chest of drawers, a desk containing Claude’s sketchpads and the notebook with the secret compartment, a cupboard containing board game, his CD player and of course his bed. No posters covered the walls, which were painted pale green so the room almost had an outdoorsy feel to it, and no books could be seen save those Claude used in school.
“It feels comfortable,” Matt commented as he came to sit beside Claude. “I can tell you like this room.”
Claude couldn’t really see it himself but if Matt said that was what he felt, who was he to argue?
“Thanks,” he replied. He leant to his desk, pulled out the drawer beneath the table and took out a sketchpad which contained drawings of various flowers. He had used this when he was first starting out and he regarded the pad with a degree of affection, taking another look at some of his first works from time to time when he was relaxed and on his own.
He handed the sketchpad to Matt who opened it with visible care after standing and placing his squash on Claude’s desk. Claude could see that Matt respected art and he admired that in him. He wondered, a little over-imaginatively perhaps, if Matt would have the perfect character. Though, he wouldn’t ever be demanding of his Silent Watcher. If anything, he would change himself because of something Matt said.
“These are really good,” Matt said after a while. He looked up from the sketchpad and smiled at Claude.
Claude felt warm inside, more because of the smile than because of the compliment. He wondered if he wasn’t a little beyond admiration and into the realms of love for Matt. But that was silly. The Silent Watcher wasn’t his boyfriend, ... was he?
Matt closed the sketchpad and gave it back to Claude. Claude put it away and shut the drawer.
“So what d’you do in your spare time?” Matt asked.
“Draw, mostly,” Claude replied. “I sometimes go to the park to find something pretty like a flower or a swan; I even like imagining things and drawing them.”
“Like what?” Matt asked, it seemed, with genuine interest.
“Like knights and dragons and ponies that aren’t really there.”
“Quite romantic ideas.”
Claude smiled. “I guess so, yes.”
“And what else? Do you go bowling and watch movies?”
“Well, I do that kind of thing from time to time. I’m more of an indoors person, though. I draw till I’m tired, never because I’m fed up of it. There’s so much to draw. But listening to music’s also something I like. See, ... I don’t need a lot to keep me happy.”
Matt nodded. “Yeah, I get that. You’re ... simple. But in the good way.”
Claude nodded. “Yeah. I like that description. What do you like?”
“Reading, mostly. My parents take me out for the odd meal at a restaurant or theatre trip but when I’m at home I read. I used to go out with friends too and I’m doing that with you at the moment...”Here Claude and Matt laughed - “but I like to read for at least an hour every two days.”
“I wish I had a favourite genre. I always hear people talking about the books they love. It frustrates me.”
“Well, hopefully you’ll find something some day. But your drawing sounds fun too.”
Claude nodded, drinking some more of his squash which he hadn’t touched between leaving the kitchen and coming up here. He retrieved Matt’s and gave it to him. They both finished their drinks in silence. Afterwards Claude suggested that they go downstairs and watch T.V. Matt agreed and they headed down, depositing their empty glasses in Claude’s sink.
Ten minutes later, Claude’s mum was driving them to the cinema.
The film was great. Funny, not to slow-paced and there was indeed a hot actor (Cassie’s best friend and sidekick) who Claude could watch with pleasure while Matt did nothing to hide his reaction to Miranda Laughem. Claude was profoundly content just to sit near Matt, though: to laugh beside him and share the medium-sized bag of popcorn they had bought. It wasn’t the film which made Claude’s night: it was the fact that he was having a social experience for the first time in his teenage life. Claude was sorry when the film ended because it signified the end of the night. Matt didn’t seem to be as deeply upset by the thought of going home but he did say that he had thoroughly enjoyed the night. He thanked Claude for being willing to hang out so soon after they had met and said something, which while sounding a little cliché, touched Claude’s heart: “I can tell we’re going to be great friends, mate. Tonight was just the start.”
Tonight was just the start. Claude hoped that it was, and for once was feeling fairly optimistic.