How do I let myself get talked into these things, eh? Just because I’ve done languages at Uni and happen to be an interpreter, and, you know, like words and stuff, people think – assume – I’m OK with just spending every waking minute putting everyone’s rambling life stories into some kind of order. Well, alright, I admit I have loved it. So I’m not really moaning, because it’s been awesome making everyone’s tales fit with everyone else’s. It’s just the assumption that I take issue with, and the constant ‘Iz, have you finished putting the book together?’ and ‘I don’t suppose there’s room for one of my poems?’ and ‘When can we all read it?’. Because without all the hassle and interruptions, I would have finished a looooot sooner, I can tell you.
However, here it is, done. I thought it was five people’s stories, and it is that, but really what it is, what it has become, is Matty’s story, with a big slice of Lau, a large helping of Dec, a dollop of Cal and a spoonful of Julia. It’s like a family album, like a huge panoramic photo of our family through the ages, or rather through the ages of Matthew Robert Scott age 0 – 57 and a little bit beyond.
I hope I’ve done a good enough job, I’m pretty pleased with it, the whole thing has helped me know different sides of people I thought I knew pretty well, and I hope you will feel the same. I haven’t changed anything without permission, and haven’t left anything out, although obviously there are millions of things that have happened to us all that aren’t in there. I’ve had some great reminiscences about things that happened, and some great argy-bargies about things that I said happened and others said didn’t, or the other way round. That’s the thing about remembering, it’s so subjective.
Oh, and while I’m on the theme of subjectivity, weeelll, there may be one or two or nineteen or twenty bits where the heat is on, if you get my drift. I might warn you about them, I might just let you hurtle headlong into them. Watch out for my ‘parental guidance’ alerts, but also, just be on your toes. Rumpy pumpy could crop up anywhere, without warning. Just saying. TBH it’s not that great (let’s be generous and call it) erotica. Julia is rather clinical – this went here, he did that, I screamed that – Matty just copied her really, and Lau should have remembered the phrase ‘too much information’ once in a while. But anyway, now you know.
Anyway, Scott family, and anyone else who reads it (Tom, if you really feel the need to blog it, knock yourself out), enjoy it for what it is: the stories of some mighty fine people and one mighty fine person in particular.
This is for Matty.
It’s not about you, Matty, you raging egomaniac, but reading your story made me realise how much knowing a different side of things can mean to the people you love.
So it’s for Matty, because I miss him, but it’s about all of you, family and friends. This is my side of things.
How do I do it? Just straight, factual, one thing after another, like Lau? Or jumping around here and there like Matty? Or starting straight then adding clips and cuttings like Dec? I suppose I should just get going and see how it pans out.
One thing I do know: There. Will. Be. No. Porn. Jesus, I don’t think I’ve ever blushed so much in my life as when I was reading Matty’s and Lau’s stories, even if you say you censored yours before it got to me, Lau. Neither my kids nor my mum will be reading details of … private stuff, because it’s just not going in, alright?
I can at least start at the beginning. Can’t I? Maybe not. Things can get pretty confusing round here, even if you start out in a straight line trying to explain them. Perhaps that’s where I should start, with who we all are and what we all are to each other. Let’s give it a go.
Me. I’m Cal. Calum James Scott, son of Beth and Jay, brother of Iz. I’m married to Chrissie and we’ve got two children, Conor and Lily. I’ve been a rugby player in my time, but retired a few years ago, and now I’m a Physiotherapist.
That’s easy so far, isn’t it? A nice ordinary family, simply explained. Then it starts to get interesting …
I thought this would be easy to write, because I’d done most of it way back then, when I was more than a little bit mad, when writing it all down helped me. But it’s made me think about it all again, about what I lost and what I found, or rather who I found, and I can’t go back over it, not right from the start to now, it’s too hard, opens up too many hurting places.
God, Matt would laugh at me – I can almost hear him calling me a ‘miserable doomwank’. So, OK, because it’s important that people you love know about things, I’m going to do this, but only up to a point. Only up until it’s good, until it’s shining, kind of the top of the mountain. All downhill from there, as they say, and I’m not really up for that journey, downhill I mean. And there are some things I’m not going to tell you, because I spent a lot of time in a therapist’s room sorting them in my head, and to go there again will seriously fuck me up.
So, off we go to the top of the shiny mountain.
I wrote this, and it’s about you. I thought you had a right to see it.
I’ve just had a lovely surprise. Well, I think it’s lovely. Maybe I’m not quite sure yet. But Matt left all of us something. He addressed it to me, but it’s obvious it’s for all of you too.
He hid a story on the computer, something he’d been writing in secret for over a year. It’s his story, and parts of it are your parts of his story, and I know he wanted you to read it, because he says things in it he would never say to you out loud, only in his heart.
You don’t have to read it, Matt would have understood. But if you would like to, here it is. Don’t print it off, for goodness sake. It’s really long.
Just a word of warning – some of Matt’s descriptions are rather intimate. He gets up close and personal, about our relationship and about previous relationships. It’s probably not something to read to small children. I wondered about cutting bits out, to make it less embarrassing (I mean to me, Matt wouldn’t have given a hoot), but I’ve decided to leave it as it is.
I’ve only just finished reading it, and I think I’m going to do something similar. It feels good to think that something of you lives on after you’ve finished. It feels good to think that Matt has kept this much of him alive for us.
As I said, take your time, read it slowly, or never if it’s too much.
I’m planning on getting some kind of memory file together, maybe on the computer or real paper in a real box somewhere for the things that I don’t know how to computerise (help Tom!), so if you’ve got anything, please let me have it.
Anyway, here it is.
My name is Matt, and I am a swearaholic. Actually, although most people call me Matt, I have been known to answer to Matty and Matthew, with the occasional ‘arrogant bastard’ thrown in for good measure. And a couple of people call me Dad, or Daaad if I’ve done something particularly squeamishly embarrassing, which I try to manage at least once a week, because it makes them say ‘Daaad’ and I bloody love it. But, yeah, swearaholic. Even invented ‘Fuckotinell’ to help counter it, but it never really did the trick – in all likelihood because, despite some people’s assertion that I have some kind of compulsion to say, oh I don’t know, fuck or bollocks a bit too often, I would retort that it’s not actually a compulsion, not a neurological medical condition as such; I already have one of those. No, I can trace the origins of the increase in the ‘fuck’ rate to a certain Christmas, when a certain teenager name of Declan Summers took it into his head to shove his way past my painstakingly erected defences, without even so much as a by-your-leave, to become my best mate-brother-aunty-ohidon’tknowwhatthefuckheis.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. A lot had happened in my thirty years on this planet before the year that I nearly died. I’ve been around a bit, got a bit of a reputation in some quarters, so you might think you know me; I doubt you do. In any case, here’s my story, here’s how I got where I am, the whole roller-coaster, hands in the air and scream, wind in your hair, log flume water in your pants, hundred mile an hour fun ride that has been Matt Scott. Ready? I hope so.
Ha ha. Fun ride? With me? That’s a laugh. I wish. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to convince people I’m different than I am, that I’m not always sure what ‘me’ is. Without wishing to sound maudlin, I’m here at what is potentially the end of it all for me, and without Lau, without that huge, inexplicable, indescribable, fucking amazing love I have for her, and that somehow, unbelievably, she has for me, well I wouldn’t even have made it this far. But again, ahead of myself. Oh bollocks, maybe you should just resign yourself to this being an all-over-the-place, out of sequence, mixed up splurge of a life story, because really, being the story of Matthew Robert Scott, it couldn’t be any other way.
I will at least start at the beginning. I’m told it’s a very good place to start. Or as near to the beginning as I remember. I was born – no, of course I don’t remember being born, but my mother and my birth certificate tell me – in Stafford, which is in the Midlands, England, UK, Europe, Earth, the Solar System, the Milky Way Galaxy, the Universe, should you wish to send me a letter from the Aldebaran system.
I am Matthew Robert Scott, my parents having lacked the foresight to consider what the initials MRS would do to a teenage boy. I am the youngest of two boys, my brother Jay being five years older than me.
You will have heard of Jay; most people have. Full name Jameson Lucas Scott. You will notice that he got the big long Scottish sounding rufty tufty name, shortened with a cool nickname, and I’m name after some wanker in the Bible. Probably the weediest of the disciples or some such shit. Practically a self-fulfilling prophecy, as nearly all the women I’ve ever met, especially in this city, when I’ve mistakenly let slip that my brother is Jay Scott, have said, ‘Wow, I really fancied him when he played for Raiders. You’re nothing like him, are you’. It’s one of the reasons I hate him. Not really hate him. Oh but, yeah, really really hate him. He’s my brother, doesn’t that come with the territory? Mostly I hate him for being five years older than me, for how far ahead of me that makes him, how much bigger and stronger than me he’s always been, how much more confident and worldly wise he seemed growing up. I also hate him for rescuing me when I nearly died. I also love him for rescuing me when I nearly died. My relationship with Jay is really fucking screwed. But then again, probably no more screwed than any other family.
Sooo, anyway. Back to the epistle. My father died when I was two; I barely remember him – just a vague impression of largeness, a booming laugh and scratchy whiskers. And maybe even that is a false memory borne of poring over photos and talking to my mum about him. I always used to say that because I was so young when he died, and it was a long time ago, well, I don’t remember him, thus it doesn’t really matter. But it does matter, he was always there-but-not-there, throughout my whole childhood. Jay was seven so he remembers more, but he never talks about him. We were never able to bond over fond memories of our father, because the way Jay chose to remember him was to try and be just like him. Their build is the same, they have the same features – when I see Jay now and compare him to the photos I’ve seen of my father, he’s got the same eyes, the same chin, the same bulky rugby player’s shoulders, chest and thighs. Jay even calls me Matty because that’s what my father used to call me. I, on the other hand, look much more like my mum, with the skinny build, the light brown hair and greyish eyes, although I’m a lot taller than her. I wouldn’t have had a hope of following in my father’s footsteps, even if that had been my chosen path, because I was far too scrawny. I’d like to think my way was more healthy than Jay’s – talking to Mum, looking at photos, asking questions – but to be honest, I claim the prize as the bigger fuck up in the long run, so who’s to say?
So I guess that’s how it all started, my story, with the absence of a father figure, the presence of a mother figure and a brother figure, a leaning towards books and knowing shit, and a leaning away from anything that required a muscle of any description.
By the time I was ten or so, Jay was already playing rugby for the county, had already attracted schoolboy contracts from various local clubs, had been scouted by England youth teams, was the popular boy at school, had more girlfriends than he seemed to know what to do with, and really disliked having a little brother. Especially a little brother who spent a lot of time with his head in a book or fiddling with the innards of a CD player; especially a little brother who needed protecting from the bullies at school, on the orders of our mum; especially a little brother who knew answers to questions on Mastermind. And most especially a little brother who enjoyed spending time with our mum, being ten and still liking that closeness, when a fifteen year old, who might still have wanted the closeness with his mum but would never admit it in a million years, could only look on and sneer when we spent Saturday mornings making cakes or pulling up weeds or sorting out socks from the washing basket. I’m still a good sock sorter-outer, it appeals to the neat freak in me, and is about all I can contribute to the running of the house these days.
God, I’ve spent so long over the years analysing Jay and me. Some of it with paid professionals, some of it on my own in the dark. I often wonder if Jay has spent anywhere near as many minutes thinking about us, but it’s unlikely, as he’s not really a thinker. Shit happens and he reacts, he doesn’t really plan – he’s got Beth for that. But anyway, what it boils down to is this: if someone were to say ‘tell me about your childhood’, and I’ve spent enough time with shrinks over the past few years to know that they never actually say that, but if they did, then the edited highlights would be: a) my dad died when I was really little and my mum and I leaned on each other more than maybe we would have done otherwise. b) my brother made my life difficult, whether on purpose or not. c) despite this, I looked up to my brother and wanted to be like him. d) I never was like my brother in any way, and we never really connected when we were young.
That’s pretty much it. I could tell you about the miserable dark evenings standing on the touchline of some muddy rugby pitch in the middle of sodding nowhere with Mum, waiting for Jay to come on as a sub, or replacement, or whatever the don’t-give-a-toss they call them. I could tell you about all the times Jay wasn’t there when I was getting the school maths prize or being a shepherd in the Nativity play or playing in the recorder concert. I could tell you about my brief brush with popularity with girls when I was nearly eleven, which came to nothing when Jay found out and told all his mates I was gay. I could tell you about all the times I was knocked over and sat on, usually with a hair pull or a finger bent backwards, because I’d said something clever that made him feel stupid. I could tell you about every teacher in every school in every class I ever sat in asking if I was Jay’s little brother. I could tell you about all the times … oh but what’s the point? It was then. Maybe I sound bitter. I guess I was. I wanted Jay to notice me, to think I was worth something. I needed, craved, some male approval, a someone to replace my father, but he was so busy being popular and strong and older, I was beneath his notice. And I suppose, if I’m being fair, it’s not a role many teenage boys would willingly step into. Then, when he was eighteen, he was gone. He left school, signed professional terms with a rugby club, and left home.
Jay and I didn’t see each other much after that. I spoke to him if I happened to pick up the phone when he called to talk to Mum, and if he came back to stay in the off season, we’d be there together and we’d grunt at each other, but he wasn’t really interested in anything I was doing, and I had never been able to keep up with his physicality, so we really had nothing in common. It was almost a relief, a liberation, to be just me and Mum. I got on with things my way, I did my homework, passed most of my exams with straight As, joined the computer club, the chess club and the debating society with no one to call me a ‘poncey wanker’ for playing to my strengths.
Yeah, I was a nerd, a geek, I was gangly and gawky, I wore glasses, I had acne, my hair was thick and unruly and cut by my mum and I didn’t really care about the latest trainers or designer jeans. Luckily my mates were equally nerdy, and we’d talk for hours about the latest version of computer code, or the finer points of Star Wars back history, or, OK, as we got older, occasionally the finer points of Pamela Anderson.
I made my mum proud, as did Jay, and when it was time to think about my further education, I chose a University near to home, so I could come back regularly. Said it was to do laundry, but really it was where I felt comfortable.
My course was Information Systems & Computer Science, and my best mate Andrew was there too. He was as nerdy as me, and I’d thought we’d be able to carry on as we had at school with our prattling about science fiction, our off-the-cuff equation battles, our joint love of all things Tottenham Hotspur, and our occasional drunken ‘what’s the answer to life the universe and everything if it’s not forty two’ sessions.
But I hadn’t counted on Andrew dropping the nerdiness and landing himself a seriously hot babe in Freshers’ Week. It was as if he underwent some kind of overnight larval transformation. On the Tuesday he was Andrew – skinny, gawky, hair in his eyes, slight squint. Then on the Wednesday, we went to the Freshers’ Ball, downed copious amounts of cheap cider, he must have been pissed enough to ask a girl to dance and she must have been pissed enough to say yes, all while I was pissed enough to be sat in the stalls with my head spinning trying not to vomit. I lost track of him, but the next day I knocked on his door at noon, hangover pounding behind my eyes, and I had to look twice when he opened it to check I had the right room. He looked completely different.
‘Whoa. Holy shit, Andrew. Did you get lucky with Edward Scissorhands?’
‘Ha ha. Er …’
Andrew looked behind him and moved his body to stop me going any further into the room.
‘Are you coming to the Chess Club thing?’
He ran a hand through his newly chopped, and actually, now I thought about it, pretty trendy hair.
‘Shit, Matt, sorry, I completely forgot. Er …’
Again with the look behind him. I heard a giggle, and tried to look over his shoulder.
‘Sorry, mate, maybe another time, I, er …’
Andrew pulled the door to behind him and stepped out into the corridor of the halls where we both had rooms.
‘I, look, sorry, I, er, hooked up with Cindy last night and, well she’s still here. Sorry to blow you off, but …’
He shrugged, unable to disguise the huge smug bastard grin of the newly de-flowered.
‘No shit, Andrew. You dog.’
I punched him on the shoulder, feeling more than a little envious – Cindy was a girl we had both identified early on in Freshers’ Week as someone we ‘would’, although of course we ‘would’ just about anyone, given the desperate nerd-virgins we were.
‘Did she cut your hair?’
‘Yeah. Her sister’s a hairdresser, apparently she taught her. She said it brings out the sparkle in my eyes.’
He ruffled the haircut again trying and failing to look embarrassed, but managing to look extremely pleased with himself.
‘Yeah, looks great mate. Loving those sparkly eyes. Later then.’
And so things changed for me and Andrew. He was still my mate, they included me in lots of things, but Cindy wasn’t into Star Wars or computer code, or even Spurs (she was a girl, it was just about forgivable), and three’s a crowd, and they bloody snogged all the bloody time. Oh, and I had the hots for Cindy. Big time. Like there wasn’t a whole university full of girls I could have obsessed over, I had to pick the one who was doing it with my bloody best friend to be hopelessly in love with.
So spending time with them was bitter sweet. I really didn’t have any other friends, being a bit of a loser back then at the socialising thing, but seeing her with him was torture. And not seeing her was torture. So I hung around like either a lost puppy or a bad smell depending on your take on things.
I tried to join societies, clubs, go to things on my own in the hope of making some friends, and there were people on the course I talked to and hung out with a bit, but Andrew was my best mate, I used to tell him everything, in a blokey kind of way, and although I tried to give them time on their own, I felt like I needed him and didn’t want to just disappear. I told myself I was ‘being there’ in case things went wrong with Cindy, someone he could talk to for advice if it was necessary. Yeah, right, I know.
Cindy had friends she hung out with when she wasn’t sucking Andrew’s tonsils, and she’d sometimes have a go at setting me up with one or other of them, but somehow it never came off – they’d cancel or be really vague about when they were available and, oh, actually look, there’s this other boy … and anyway, I was hung up on Cindy, who was small and blonde and vivacious and curvy, and I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Maybe it was the whole ‘want her because you can’t have her’ thing – she was a safe bet because she was my best mate’s girlfriend and therefore off-limits. But thinking about it rationally didn’t make it any easier.
Occasionally Cindy and I would hang out together, if Andrew had a tutorial, or was doing laundry or something, and none of her girl-gang was around. On one of these occasions, we were in Andrew’s room waiting for him to get back from a meeting with his tutor. I was looking at my emails and she was flicking through a glossy magazine. I was also checking her cleavage out of the corner of my eye when I thought I could get away with it. Her top was low cut; there was a bit of lacy bra showing at the edge of the neckline, and it was driving me wild. She suddenly looked up. I quickly looked down at my computer.
‘Hey, Matt, this is what you need.’
I looked up, trying to seem as if I’d been engrossed in some piece of startlingly well-written cyber literature. She turned the magazine to face me and showed me a neon-pink headline which positively yelled, ‘Man Makeovers – Ten Top Tips to Get Your Geek Gorgeous!‘
‘You need a makeover.’
‘What? No I don’t.’
‘Why not? I could do it. I could cut your hair, like I did Drew’s.’
Oh, I neglected to mention, Andrew’s name was now Drew, to Cindy and indeed everyone except me. Could he be any more lame? And yeah, I was a green-eyed monster. Couldn’t help it. He was shagging the girl I wanted.
‘I don’t want my hair cut.’
Although the thought of her standing close to me, running her fingers across my scalp, maybe pressing into me a bit, did nearly make my eyes go crossed and raised my pulse rate several notches. I was glad I had the laptop to disguise my hard-on, which had been threatening since I noticed the lacy bra, but had now developed fully.
‘Oh but why not?’
I do believe she even pouted a bit. It might have been the pout that did it, especially as she stuck out her chest at the same time.
‘It says here that a man’s haircut and clothes are what attract seventy per cent of women at initial glance.’
‘Oh really. Empirical study is it? Or just Cosmo bollocks?’
‘Don’t be so snooty. Why don’t you give it a try? I’m at a loose end this morning, we could go to your room, I could cut your hair, we could have a look at your clothes, make you a new man.’
‘I’m happy with being an … um … old man.’
‘Yeah, that’s your problem. You look ten years older than you are. All it would take is a little trim …’
She got up and sat next to me, looking at my hair, then reaching out and pulling at a strand, between forefinger and middle finger, measuring. I wondered if she had any idea of the effect she had on me. My breathing sped up, and I tried to calm myself so she wouldn’t notice.
She stood up and took my hand, pulling me to my feet. I quickly shut the laptop and clamped it to my groin as she tugged me along the corridor to my room. I wasn’t quite sure when I had agreed to this, but it was apparently somewhere between the pout and me looking ten years older than I was. I stood in the middle of my room, laptop jammed against the bulge in my jeans.
‘What are you standing there for? I can’t cut your hair standing up, you’re too tall. Sit down.’
She gestured to the bed. There wasn’t anywhere else. I sat down, laptop still stuck to me like glue.
‘Put your bloody computer down, Matt. I know you love it like you want to marry it, but you’ll get hair in it, and won’t that mess with the, er, microchip thingy or something. I’ll get a towel, look, so you don’t get the bits all over your clothes.’
She fetched the towel, which I held around me like a cape while I slid the laptop off my crotch.
‘Who usually does your hair?’
‘Oh. Well that explains a lot. Mums don’t always know best, do they.’
I was silent, not prepared to criticise my mum at this point.
‘Your hair’s lovely and thick, isn’t it. Nice colour, too. Oh, you’re going to have to take your glasses off, they’ll get in the way.’
‘I can’t see without them.’
‘Well dur, otherwise you wouldn’t need them. As long as I can see, you don’t need to worry. Give them here, I’ll put them on the – oh you’ve got amazing eyes, I never noticed before. You should defo try contacts.’
So first my hair’s a nice colour and now I’ve got amazing eyes. And this is my best friend’s girlfriend. If things got any more awkward I might possibly self-combust. And then she started touching my hair, pulling at it, and then snipping with the scissors she’d grabbed from the bedside in Andrew’s room, and things definitely got a whole lot more awkward. I’d never been in this close proximity to a girl – well, not since my brush with popularity when I was nearly eleven and snogged Lily Knight and Lucy Carpenter both in one lunchtime behind a portakabin.
Lily was my first kiss. She was in my class, and we were in our last year at junior school – the year when hormones started surging, and boys noticed that girls were girls rather than just not boys. I definitely noticed Lily was a girl. She had big blue eyes and wore her hair in a high ponytail, and she was really really good at spelling. She always came first in the spelling tests. I always came second, and it was my aim to beat her at least once before we went to secondary school, so there may have been an ulterior motive to my romantic interest; possibly I was trying to nobble the opposition. Oh come on, I said nobble. I was ten.
It was the lunchtime before the spelling test. I’d asked Mum to test me all week, and I knew I could get all of the words right, even ‘miscellaneous’, which I could never pronounce, didn’t have a clue what it meant, but could finally spell. If I could just distract Lily enough, I might have a chance. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, but it started well enough, with me sharing my crisps with her at lunchtime. We got talking about stuff – ten year old stuff, nothing particularly earth shattering, she had a cat called Biggles, and I liked the name, and I told her about the Biggles books, but she already knew about them because her brother had some and that was why the cat was called Biggles – and she suddenly grabbed my hand and told me she wanted to show me something behind the portakabin. Poor naïve me had no idea that this was code for having a bit of a pash, so I went with her willingly, expecting maybe a secret passage or something, and was extremely surprised when she pounced on me as soon as we got there, crushing her mouth against mine in a facsimile of a movie kiss. Maybe it was a secret passage of sorts.
So I was surprised, but not so much that I didn’t enjoy it; I enjoyed it a lot, in fact, and we spent the rest of the lunchtime kissing. Fairly chastely, but still, to ten year old me, it was a highlight of my life so far. Sadly I still came second in the spelling test, but the upside was that lunchtimes after that became much more entertaining, with several more pashing sessions to follow.
Just as I was beginning to wonder if Lily was my girlfriend, she ditched me. I had gone to our usual spot behind the portakabin only to find her locking lips with Harry Thomas, the class clown, who must have joked his way into her favour, the bastard. I walked away despondent, but was accosted on the way back to the playground by Lucy Carpenter, who was one of Lily’s friends. She’d obviously heard about Lily and my lunchtime trysts, and wasn’t shy in expressing herself.
‘Lily says you’re a good kisser.’
What does a boy say to that? Yeah I am sounds rather big-headed. Am I? sounds a bit disingenuous and needy. So I shrugged, and let her take my hand and lead me to a different part of behind the portakabin, where I showed her just what a good kisser I was.
And then Jay found out, from Lily’s brother, and he decided to out me to the world, even though I wasn’t even in, and that was the end of my junior school kissing career, as I spent the remainder of my lunchtimes there fending off juvenile homophobic bullying. Cheers Jay. Did I mention I hate him?
But anyway, back to Cindy. Things were getting awkward, especially in my jeans, and I needed to alleviate the tension. I tried to focus on something boring. Maths. Equations, standard deviation, Pythagoras’ theorem. None of it boring, not to me, but it almost worked as a distraction. Locks of my hair were falling past my shoulders and onto the towel, as well as drifting onto the bed and the floor. Cindy was kneeling behind me, her knees either side of my hips. I was hyper-aware of her breasts brushing my shoulders, and indeed all the places where her body was touching mine, and Pythagoras was taking a bit of a battering.
As Cindy chattered, I didn’t say a word, I was trying so hard to concentrate my way out of saying or doing something to offend her. Finally, after what felt like hours of exquisite torment, she leaned back, then shuffled off the bed, to stand in front of me and look. She gave me a satisfied smile.
‘There, that’s tons better. Shows off those eyes. You’re a bit of a babe, Matt. Now all we need is to sort out your wardrobe …’
She walked over to the cupboard where my clothes were hanging. She was a blur.
The blur turned round, and looked like it might have raised its eyebrows.
‘Where did you put my glasses? I can’t see a thing, and I haven’t seen what you’ve done yet.’
‘Oh no, you don’t get your glasses back until the big reveal. Honestly, have you never watched any of those celebrity makeover programmes?’
I honestly never had, so I shook my head. Cindy tutted and turned back to the wardrobe, where she started taking clothes off hangers.
‘What are you doing?’
‘Sorting your clothes. Two piles. This one is ‘no hope, down to Oxfam with you’, and this one is ‘oh well it’ll have to do’. I’m hoping for a third pile of ‘wowzers’, but it’s not looking promising.’
‘There’s nothing wrong with my clothes.’
‘Not for an old age pensioner. Does your mum buy your clothes too?’
I shrugged, trying not to feel embarrassed, because that was exactly what usually happened. It hadn’t ever felt embarrassing before.
‘Isn’t your brother, like, some kind of sports hero? Doesn’t he get you free cool stuff?’
I wasn’t prepared to bring Jay into this. I’d never told anyone here that Jay Scott, Royals and England rugby player, was my brother, because I hated all the people who wanted to know me so they could get to Jay. Andrew must have told her.
‘Oh, you should defo get him to. Maybe ask for me as well. I went out with a footballer last year, he only played for Port Vale, but he got me a really cool pair of Nikes.’
Well at least now I knew where I stood with Cindy: a complimentary pass back to the sporting freebie world. I didn’t reply, as she continued heaping my clothes into two piles. From my fuzzy vantage point on the bed, the ‘off to Oxfam’ pile was considerably bigger than the ‘have to do’ pile, and I was likely to be wearing the same t-shirt and cargo shorts until the end of term.
‘Am I actually going to have any clothes left to wear when you’ve finished?’
‘Well, there is quite a large charity shop pile, but I did this with Drew, it was so cool, we took three bags of stuff to the charity shop, and then replaced it with loads of other stuff from the same shop, so it was dead recycly and all that. There’s this really good place just off the High Street, they do lots of vintage and labels and stuff. You’re pretty skinny, so there’ll be loads of stuff for you to try.’
‘No, I don’t do shopping.’
‘What? How do you get clothes, then?’
What, apart from my mum?
Another tut, and probably a roll of the eyes.
‘Well you’re going shopping with me today. We’ll bag this stuff up and then get you some cooler stuff.’
I was starting to feel irritated. Cindy had decided I wasn’t good enough as I was, and was just barging through my whole life, changing everything. I half expected her to announce she was changing my course from Information Systems & Computer Science to Fashion & Media, as well.
‘Look, thanks Cindy, I appreciate the haircut and everything, but I really don’t want to get rid of my clothes, or buy new ones, or even old smelly ones from a charity shop, and –’
‘Oh come on Matt, it’ll be fun. You’re already half way there. Just imagine what everyone will say when you walk into the canteen this evening and you look totally hot.’
‘Well that’s not hard to imagine, as I won’t.’
Self-confidence not high on my list of personality traits back then, but I wasn’t usually as openly self-deprecating. There was a brief silence, as Cindy turned to look at me, then walked over and sat down next to me.
‘You totally already do, Matt.’
She took my hand, and all the aching desire I’d managed to push away while she was irritating me returned with a vengeance. I felt my cheeks burn and my jeans got tight again. Bugger.
‘Cindy, I –’
‘Underneath that hair, those dorky glasses and those Matalan Online clothes, you’re a total hotty. I never realised before.’
She squeezed my hand and leaned up to kiss me on the cheek. My burning red cheek that was giving away everything. Shit shit shit. And then she lifted her hand up to the back of my neck and put her fingers in my hair and as a bolt of pure want shot to my dick, I couldn’t stop a sound coming out of my mouth. It was a moan or a groan or a grunt or some such bollocks, but I couldn’t stop it, and once it was there, it was there.
Cindy looked pointedly down at my crotch where the traitorous hard-on was throbbing for all to see. She laughed. I loved her laugh, it kind of tinkled and set the hairs on the back of my neck on end, but I didn’t want that tinkly laugh directed at my hard-on, so I pulled away from her and stood up, turning my back on her, unable to think what to say or do, trying not to die of shame.
‘Oh Matt, don’t worry, it happens all the time, Drew’s always bulging out all over.’
‘Yeah but he’s your boyfriend.’
I thought that was patently obvious. You shouldn’t be getting a hard-on when sitting next to your best mate’s girlfriend. Didn’t girls know anything?
‘So maybe you should just go.’
She laughed again.
‘Why? To spare your blushes? Don’t be silly Matt. I’m not embarrassed.’
I wheeled round to face her, my anger and shame somewhat offset by not being able to focus on her face, and the slightly off-balance wobble that made me stumble.
‘Well I fucking well am. You should go, Cindy. Thanks for the haircut. See you sometime.’
‘But that would be such a waste.’
She stayed sitting on the bed, and I couldn’t clearly see her face without going up to her and peering, so I didn’t have a clue what she was thinking.
‘A waste of a good stiffy.’
What was going on now? I was about to find out, as Cindy stood up, walked over to me and put her arms round my neck, stood on tiptoe and pulled my face down to hers. And that’s when things got a whole lot more interesting …