41. Defying gravity

In which we see some snapshots of Dec, and Matt faces a demon.

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Dec

The Raiding Party‘ unofficial supporters forum.

TOPIC: Summers.

YoHoHo: Can’t believe he’s still here. Should have been out on his a**e after what he’s cost us.

RudolptherednosedRaider: That’s a bit harsh, YHH, don’t you think getting beat up twice is punishment enough? Management usually know what they’re doing. He was showing a lot of potential in the reserves games before everything went pear shaped, and he’s been on the bench a couple of times. Think he got on once season before last.

Cap’nBirdseye: It’s not about potential, he doesn’t deserve to be playing for Raiders. You have to prove your loyalty. Lying about your passport isn’t loyal.

Raiderette: Nobody really knows the full story, do they? Lots of behind the scenes stuff. I was talking to one of the players after the game the other day, there’s more to it than we know.

Matt

Hey Matt 😐

Mr Summers. To what do I owe the pleasure of this unscheduled 3am wake-up call? -_-

Sorry didn’t mean 2 wake u up.

Oh? o.Γ΄

OK, hoped u might b awake.

Well I am now. Problem?

A long pause, during which I dozed off, to be rudely reawakened by my phone pinging again.

Can’t sleep.

Neither, it seems, can I.

Sighing, I called him.

‘I didn’t mean you to call me.’

‘Noh, buh if I dohnt tahk tuh yuh ih’ll take ahl nigh to get ih out of yuh. Spihl, Dec.’

‘It’s nothing really, I’m being a dick.’

‘Yeh, noh change thehr, buh now Ih’m cuhrious. Indulge meh.’

‘I saw Adam today.’

‘Adam? Oh, yuhr shrink. Hoh’s ih goin?’

‘Good. Mostly good. There’s a lot of shit, though, Matt. A lot of shit I didn’t even realise was there. He said it’ll get worse before it gets better, but I keep having these nightmares, scary shit, and I wake Rose up, and then I can’t tell her about it because I’ve already worried her and she’s already done so much for me.’

Rose seemed pre-programmed to worry about Dec, and I personally didn’t think a bit of sharing of bad dreams would make that much difference, but I wasn’t Declan Summers, who had a conscience the size of Russia when it came to upsetting the people who had looked after him.

‘Is thehr anyone else yuh could tahk tuh? Beth?’

Ha ha, I was a riot, suggesting the one thing I would never do in a million years. But Dec had a different relationship with her, and they seemed to talk a lot about all sorts of things.

‘No, Beth and Jay have already had enough of my crap ruining their lives, I can’t weigh them down with this. I’m doing this therapy thing in part so I can stop being such a dead weight to them.’

‘I sehriously dohnt knoh wehr yuh get this shih from. Yuhr not a dehd weigh tuh them, duh I hahv tuh remihn yuh abouh the ‘part of this fahmly’ speech at Chrihsmus?’

‘No, I know all that, I’m getting there, I just don’t want to make things difficult or awkward when I’ve just got them back, just had an amazing time, sorted a lot. I need time to let things settle down. I’ve got mates down here, but it’s been difficult with them too, and I don’t want to be a downer when they’re just starting to relax around me.’

So that left me. Matthew Robert Scott, qualifications to deal with fucked-in-the-head kids in the middle of the night: nil. Unless you count a fairly substantial amount of being fucked-in-the-head myself. Maybe that was qualification enough – I could at least understand where he was coming from with the not wanting to talk about shit, and I never shied away from being a hypocrite if it meant a) helping out a mate, or b) getting back to sleep as soon as.

‘So wha ahr these drehms abouh then?’

Dec described some full-on horror film imagery that I could only guess at the origin of. I wasn’t surprised he didn’t want to share it with Rose or Beth; I was somewhat disturbed by it myself, although I didn’t tell him that.

‘Noh wohnder yuh cahnt slehp, maht. Wehn yuh nex seein Adam?’

‘Next Friday.’

‘Mehbe cahl him, get an ehrlier tihm?’

‘Yeh, maybe. It’s just, I mean, the dreams are bad enough, but when I wake up, I’m, you know, only half awake, and I just call out for my mum.’

Dec’s voice had started to quiver, and it broke on the last word. Shit, I had no idea how to handle this. I heard Dec crying quietly half way across the country, and reached over for my iPad, hoping to find something useful.

‘Ah maht, ih’s natural, ih’s deep inside yuh. I still wan my muhm when I’m scahred.’

Dec seemed to sniff to a halt.

‘Really?’

‘Yeh. Fihst pehson I went tuh wehn I was diagnohsed.’

This was not a usual topic of conversation, you understand. I rarely mentioned the fucking bastard MS without a long run up and weeks of preparation, but Dec seemed to need to know it was normal to want your mum in trying times.

‘No shit. I guess it’s like – I have no idea what I should be feeling or doing. I assumed everyone grew out of it, and this was just a throw-back to when I was younger.’

‘Yuh alwahys nehd yuhr muhm. Dohn fehl bad fuh wantin her. Ih’m sohry she’s not thehr fuh yuh.’

My search of the internet while I talked wasn’t yielding much fruit – teenage angst poems about the death of a parent, Mumsnet sites about talking to children about death, nothing that specifically helped me with Dec’s particular issues. I decided to give up on Google and rely on my wits, which had always held me in good stead before.

‘I miss her. I miss them. Shit, haven’t allowed myself to miss them for so fucking long.’

‘Ah maht. Mehbe wehn yuh wake up after a drehm, yuh should imagihn wha she’d do. She’d cohm in tuh yuhr room an …?’

‘Well, she used to do this thing, when I was poorly or sad, she’d stroke my hair back from my forehead, and sometimes she’d sing to me.’

‘Wha if yuh think abouh her doin tha thehn? As if she’s thehr comfohting yuh? If ih hehps, yuh can cahl meh and tehl meh abouh ih as if she’s doin ih.’

I didn’t really think about what I was saying, I was just spouting ideas, in the hope that something made him feel better.

‘Really?’

The hope in Dec’s voice was touching, as if I’d just thrown him a safety line.

‘Rehly.’

‘Fucking hell, Matt, you don’t know what a weight off that is. I mean, yeah, I think I’ll try to see Adam sooner than Friday, but what you just said, about thinking about what she’d do. You are a fucking genius.’

‘Nohted.’

‘And you really don’t mind if I call you?’

‘Cohrs not.’

He was sounding cheerier by the second. It seemed that luck had enabled me to light on something that helped him through the night, well this night at least.

‘Thanks, Matt. I should let you get back to sleep.’

‘Yeh, yuh shouhd Nehd tuh beh my best tomohrow. Big day of sihting. Might stahnd up too.’

‘Yeah, but you need to save your strength for going to London.’

‘Truh.’

‘Cheers, mate. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Unless I have anymore dreams before then – know what, I’m almost looking forward to them now, having an excuse to wake you up in the middle of the night.’

‘Oh greht. Buhger ohf now.’

And off he buggered, sounding a whole lot happier than he had to start with.

Cal

I missed Dec a lot, but he came to see us a few times, and he phoned us, and although he wasn’t living with us, it was better than it had been, because I was allowed to talk about him, and talk to him.

Matt

Dec did call me a few times after nightmares had woken him, and we talked on occasion about how things were going with his shrink, and touched on his bloody nutter tendencies, but to be honest, he was on the road to being sorted, and he needed me less and less. What I didn’t know at the time was that he was becoming entangled with Amy, and told her everything, much as she told him everything, and so he transferred his safety line to her. As it should be.

My journey to enlightenment took me a lot longer, and the darkness took me sometimes. But Dec was always there, on the phone or in person. Regardless of who else I had looking out for me, and I will be honest and say I have had some astonishingly great people on my side over the years, Dec has always been the one who has got through, when all else, even the combined efforts of Beth and Lau, who are pretty formidable when they join forces, have failed. He got me then. He gets me now. I don’t understand it. He’s my best mate. He’s my brother-but-not-my brother. Oh go on, I’ll say it, just this once. I fucking love him.

So, Christmas over, life at the Scotts in Stafford started to get better. A weight seemed to have lifted from Jay and Beth with the resumption of peacetime between them and Dec. I started to see the wood for the trees in terms of my health. The bastard MS seemed to have waned, and my ability to speak steadily improved, as did my ability to look after myself. I still got tired if I overdid it, which I did a lot once I was able to do more and began testing my limits. This was a combination of the pneumonia and the bastard fucker, and is something I have never truly overcome.

In my prime, more of which later, I could stay out late with the best, partying, drinking, womening, but I’d sleep like the dead until the next afternoon, and I was bloody difficult to wake up. I’d always liked my sleep, but from now on, it was my natural state, and you’d have to do something pretty noteworthy to prise me out of it. Lau always knows just what to do, eh Lau? Yep, a good tongueing and a bit of a grope. Does it every time. Not exactly something you want your mum trying though.

Dec

Dec: =Will b there Thurs nite. Train fm Stafford Sat am 10.55. Time 4 beer b4. Beer @ ground. Back fm Kings X 18.47. Time 4 beer after! OK? Don’t tell Beth abt beer. Sure ur up 2 it?

Matt:=Beer=good! Lips=sealed. Except 2 drink. Thx 4 sorting. Up 2 it. Sure u can cope with live footy with fucking cripple?

Dec: =I’ll live. Twickers with bloody nutter next time!

Matt =Fuck off, new no rugby 4 cripples rule.

Matt

So anyway, things were getting better for all of us. Dec came up to stay several times. We made plans for him to take me to London to see Spurs at the end of January, out of earshot of Beth who would have vetoed it, and although I could stand on my own two feet now in terms of getting my own way, if not in terms of actually standing on my own two feet, the arguing was too much. So, we presented it as a fait accompli, the night before, and forestalled any quibbling by having thought of all of the objections and done a thorough risk assessment.

We were taking my wheelchair, as there was no way I could walk through London, and Dec had managed to get disabled seats, which were the best at White Hart Lane, through his sporting contacts. So for once I didn’t mind the chariot, as it got me something really good.

He pushed me around North London, visiting a pub or two on the way and, indeed, on the way back. We’d promised Beth there would be no alcohol, but had already agreed between us that beer wasn’t really alcohol, being so full of hops and shit that it was practically a health drink, like liquid salad. I’m sure she hardly smelt it on our breath when we rolled back into Stafford later that night, having celebrated a Spurs victory.

Dec

‘Hey Cal, what’s up?

\dec when you come for your birthday you can sleep under me?

‘You’re sure that’s OK? I might make noises. Maybe I’d be better off in the spare room.’

\granny sleeps in the spare room.

‘Is granny going to be there?’

\i don’t know. She won’t like if you sleep in her bed.

‘Oh, OK, I’d better stay in with you, then. We’ll check it out with Mummy first, though, yeah?’

\dec do you want to go to Ice Cream Factory for your birthday?

‘Mate, I’d love to. Sounds like the best birthday ever.’

\can we go to Pizza Place the next day?

‘Oh, well, actually I’m going to London with Uncle Matty the next day, but we’ll do Pizza Place really soon.’

\is there a Pizza Place in London?

‘Er, yes, I think there might be one.’

\i can come with you and Uncle Matty, we can go to London Pizza Place.

‘Not this time, Cal.’

\why not?

‘It’s a special treat for Uncle Matty, we’re going to watch football and, er, stuff. Grown ups only.’

\which football are you watching?

‘Tottenham.’

\but I like Arsenal.

‘I know, Cal, but Uncle Matty likes Tottenham, so that’s who we’re going to see.’

\arsenal and Tottenham are eyeballs.

‘They’re what?’

\eyeballs. They hate each other and want to beat each other.

‘Oh, rivals. Yeah, I know, but you and Uncle Matty don’t mind supporting different teams, do you’

\uncle Matty says I’ll grow out of it, but I don’t want to support Tottenham when I’m big.

‘Don’t worry, mate, Uncle Matty was only teasing. You can support Arsenal forever, however big you are.’

\dec do you support Arsenal or Tottenham?

‘Well, you know I always cheer Arsenal for you, Cal, but I don’t really have a football team. When I was little I used to support West Coast Speeders, they’re a rugby team in Australia.’

\are they still your team?

‘I guess so, but I haven’t been able to see them for a long time.’

\you can listen for the scores on Final Score.

‘Yeah, I could, couldn’t I. If I listen hard enough, maybe they’ll say them one day.’

Cal

Dec came up for his birthday, at the end of January, and we did all the things I wanted to do with him, like going to the zoo, going to Pizza Place, having a huge chocolate cake with Smarties on the top, and him sleeping underneath me. He visited us a few more times in the next few weeks, and then he didn’t come as much because he had got better, and his hurts were gone, and he was playing rugby again, and he couldn’t come and see us as much, even to go to Ice Cream Factory.

Dec

Amy: =Cinema 2nite? James Bond. 6pm. Nandos after.

Dec: = Who’s going?

Amy: =Everyone!

Dec: =OK cu there.

Matt

As Dec got closer to full fitness, he stayed with us less, and we didn’t see much of him after the beginning of March. He still phoned and texted, but never really got into Facetiming or Skyping, being one of the few – I nearly said teenagers, but by this time he was twenty – people of his age who seemed flummoxed by technology. He’s remained so as long as I’ve known him.

Jay stood by his promise to get me out more, and as the weeks rolled on I progressed from being pushed about in the sodding wheelchair to walking painstakingly slowly for a couple of hundred yards before needing to head home, to being pretty good on my feet.

Jay took me to a gym he was a member of, thinking he would try to get me to bulk up my wasted muscles, but I’d never been a gym bunny, much preferring to be outside surrounded by the elements than stuck to a machine indoors surrounded by other people’s sweat. I went with him a few times, to show willing, and even had an appointment with a personal trainer who, to be fair, was encouraging and motivating and did her best, but I was both too self-conscious to be there with a bunch of fit people, and too disparaging of the constant ‘be better, be faster, be stronger’ vibe to really get into it. I was more motivated by the thought of walking up Potter Hill, in the fresh air, at my own pace, watching the birds and the rabbits, than I was doing half an hour on a treadmill at a steady 4.1km/h and 15.0 incline, watching the seconds tick by until I’d done thirty minutes, and so eventually that’s what I did. Potter Hill won every time.

By the middle of February, I had improved to the point where I’d completely ditched the sodding baby cup, although I had submitted to a pair of trainers with Velcro fastenings for days when my fucked up nerves couldn’t do laces. I could even walk all the way to the car from my room, and so I could go out with Jay or Beth. It was so great to be out of the house, I’d even go to the supermarket with Beth. Usually I stayed in the car while she went in, but I decided on one occasion to go in, just to the very entrance, so I could a) get a newspaper and b) see how I managed walking all that way.

I had just got inside the shop when I caught sight of a woman with blonde shoulder length hair who looked, from the back, just like Carrie. I suppose I knew that if I was out and about in Stafford, there was a risk I would run into her or muscle boy one day, but it shocked me, and I turned and fled. Not that running was on the agenda in any way, but without even waiting to double check it was her, I stumbled out of the shop, across the zebra crossing, and back to the car, where I sat, panting, heart racing, trying to sink down in my seat so I couldn’t be seen.

When Beth got back with the shopping and opened the boot, I shouted in surprise, as I hadn’t seen her coming and she made me jump.

‘Everything alright, Matty?’

I didn’t reply, feeling scared and foolish at the same time.

Beth got into the driver’s seat and looked at me.

‘Matty? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.’

‘Cahrie.’

Beth looked up and around, as if she was going to see Carrie walking in front of the car.

‘Where?’

‘Ihn the shohp. Fuck, migh not even hahv behn her.’

‘Oh sweetheart. That must have been hard. I’m sorry, I never even thought about you running into her somewhere. Does she live near here?’

I shook my head and shrugged.

‘Cahn we goh?’

‘Of course, Matty. Let’s get back. I’ve got some cream cakes to have with a cup of tea later. If we can eat them before Cal gets home from school, we won’t have to share …’

She chattered all the way home, covering up my brooding silence. Now I was getting out a bit more, I was going to have to think about what would happen if I saw her, or him, or them. I’d coped so far by never thinking about her, or him, or them, but if it happened I needed to be in charge of myself, and not just run away like I had done. I’d done nothing wrong, nothing to be ashamed of.

I went straight to my room and lay on my bed when I got home. I didn’t stay in there much anymore, but it was still my bolthole. I spent more time with the rest of the family, in the living room, in the kitchen, but it had become a kind of unwritten rule that when Uncle Matty went to his room, he was tired and he wasn’t to be disturbed, Cal. Unfortunately it only applied to Cal, and before long I heard Beth come in.

‘Matty, sweetheart, I know what you’re going to say –’

‘Then dohnt bother, Beth.’

‘Well, I think I will, actually. I’m sorry that I didn’t even think about it, that you could run into her. But you’re going to have to face up to it sometime, unless you stay indoors forever or move to Timbuktu.’

The fact that I’d been thinking exactly the same thing meant I was less gentle than I could have been in my reply.

‘Do yuh ever stop tehling pehpl what to duh?’

‘Matty –’

‘I knoh, Beth. I knoh I’m gona hahv tuh think about it, about her, so I knoh wha the fuck tuh do, buh I hahvnt, all this tihm, an ih’s hard.’

‘Maybe if you’d talk to –’

For fuck’s sake, she was going to try, again, to get me to see someone about it.

‘Noh! I dohnt ever wahn tuh talk about ih. Ever. Got tha?’

‘But sweetheart, Dec told me his counsellor –’

‘Wha part of ‘not ever’ dohnt yuh understahnd? She destroyed meh. Ihm not gona kehp reliving tha to line the pockehts of some pompous-ahrs shrink. Dohnt ahsk meh again.’

‘Matty –’

‘We’re dohn hehr.’

‘OK.’

She got up and left me to my contemplation. Unfortunately, after an hour or so of thinking, I couldn’t come up with anything useful, and decided to go and eat some humble pie, or at least one of the cream cakes that had been mentioned. I walked into the kitchen, where Beth was ironing, as if nothing had happened.

‘Soh, if I wehr tuh apologihs fuh bein an ahrs an ask fuh yuhr hehp, would yuh share a crehm cake?’

Beth looked at me, contemplating.

‘I don’t know, Matty, why don’t you give it a try?’

She wasn’t going to let me off lightly, then.

‘Sohry I was an ahrs. Cahn yuh hehp meh wih something?’

She threw a bright smile my way, pushed the ironed clothes to one side and put the kettle on.

‘Of course, sweetheart. Eclair or cream slice?’

‘Eclair. An, jus soh yuh knoh, I’m never gona tahk abouh ih tuh anyohn.’

‘Alright, I think I got your earlier point. What do you want help with, then?’

‘Wha am I gona do if I see her?’

‘Oh Matty. I wish I knew. I wish I could give you a foolproof answer to what you should do, but I think, maybe, you’re going to have to wing it. Do you think you could talk to her?’

‘Noh. Cahnt imagine wha I’d say or do tha wouldn’t geh meh arrested. An if he’s wih her, thehr will beh murder.’

‘Well, maybe walking away is the best way, then, sweetheart. I don’t mean running, I just mean walking in the opposite direction. Do you think she’d try and follow you?’

‘Beth, I thoht she’d choose meh over hihm any day, I thoht she’d care I nehly died, I thoht she had a bih of decency. I dohn’t knoh wha the fuck she’d do now.’

It was the closest I’d come to talking about it with anyone, and I wasn’t going any further. I could almost feel the scars tearing as I said the words, and I needed to back away from it.

‘Mehbe yuhr righ, walk away. Ih’s a plan. Tha was easy.’

‘Well, planning is a forte of mine. Are you sure that’s enough?’

‘Yeh. Mm, this Γ©clair is fucking tahsty. Hoh’s yuhr slice?’

Beth read the signals and realised the subject had been dismissed. It wasn’t really a plan. If this morning was anything to go by, a sighting of Carrie would send me into a panic, and who knew how I’d react next time, but I just couldn’t go there, couldn’t think about it any more.

Carrie Mitcham wasn’t done with me yet, though. It was almost as if by thinking I’d seen her, and thinking about her, and talking about her, I’d called her into being.

Beth finished her cake and cup of tea, and got back to the ironing, while I put the small TV on and flicked around the channels. The phone started ringing as Beth was in the middle of one of Cal’s school shirts.

‘Could you get that, sweetheart?’

‘Ih’ll beh insuhrance. Or dohbl glazing.’

‘Please?’

Sighing, I got to my feet and walked into the living room, where the handset was trilling. I’d hoped that if I took long enough the answerphone would pick up, but it didn’t.

‘Matt Scott.’

‘Matt, it’s Carrie.’

I nearly dropped the phone, her voice felt like it burned me. I’d just been planning it with Beth, how I was going to walk away. How can you walk away from a phone call? I was frozen.

‘Matt?’

Her voice brought it all back, everything, all the things we’d said and done. It all washed over me in a wave of nostalgia and misery.

‘Are you there?’

‘Yeh.’

‘I want to know what happened to the deposit on the flat.’

What?

‘Wha?’

My head was spinning. If I had ever allowed myself to imagine this situation, this would have been in the top ten of unexpected things to hear.

‘The deposit. We paid half each. What happened to my half?’

She’d ripped my heart out, taken all my stuff, left me for dead, and now she was asking about the deposit? Apart from having no idea, Jay and Beth had handled all that when I was trying not to die in hospital, we’d had a life together that deserved more of an acknowledgement than ‘where’s my half’.

‘Dohnt knoh.’

‘What did you say to the landlord? He sent me a bill for cleaning, won’t give me the deposit back, charged me two months rent, he said it’s my responsibility. I can’t afford to pay it, Matt.’

I finally found my voice.

‘Not my prohblem.’

‘It bloody well is your problem, Matt, because I can’t pay, and we went halves on everything, and you owe it to me.’

I owed her?

‘Why dohnt yuh sell my iPad thehn. Or my Plahstation. Or the dihshwahsher.’

‘There’s no need to be like that. I had as much right to that stuff as you, and you weren’t using it.’

‘Sohm of tha stuhf was mihn. My phohn. My iPad. My laptop. An I wasn’t using ih cos I was in fucking hohspital.

I was vaguely aware of Beth coming into the room. I felt her hand on my shoulder, but was rapidly spiralling into confusion and panic. I didn’t want to be having this conversation, I didn’t want to be talking to her, it was making me feel too much, making me remember, making me so fucking angry, making me so fucking sad.

‘After everything, Matt, I think the least I had a right to were the things that made that flat ours.’

Wha? Carrie, I rehly cahnt bliehve yuhr even –’

Beth took the phone out of my hand and pushed me gently so I stumbled backwards and sat down hard on the sofa.

‘Carrie? It’s Beth, Matty’s sister-in-law … yes, I just wanted to say it, so you know I’m Matty’s family, not yours, that what you did to Matty while he was in hospital almost dying means that you have no right to have anything to do with him … no, you’re going to listen … Carrie, if you think any of this is going to work when you’ve done nothing while Matty was so ill except steal everything he had, you are very mistaken … no, you’re not going to talk to him, he’s not up to dealing with your conniving crap at the moment … I don’t know how you got this number, but if you don’t stop talking now, I’m going to hang up and change the number, and that will be that … that’s better. What are you after? … Well I’m not surprised. When Matty was in hospital, James and I contacted the landlord and had everything put into your name … actually, Carrie, we had every right. Matty couldn’t make decisions for himself then, he was very seriously ill, and we had it done legally … no, you are solely responsible for everything relating to your tenancy of that flat, up to and including any back rent or cleaning bills associated with giving up that tenancy … I can do that, Carrie, and I have. I don’t know how you’ve got the nerve to talk to Matty after the way you treated him. If you ever try to contact him again, we will have a restraining order taken out against you quicker than you can say ‘oh that’s what you helped me do to my ex-boyfriend’ … oh indeed I would … not my problem … the feeling is mutual, I assure you … leave Matty alone, I’m blocking this number now.’

She disconnected and threw the handset onto the coffee table, then turned and looked at me. I was staring at her, my mind in a whirl. I had barely heard what Beth had said, but knew it had been hard and uncompromising and in my defence.

‘Apparently I’m a fucking interfering heartless bitch. Oh Matty.’

She flung herself onto the sofa next to me and put her arm round me. I should have dissolved into a blarting wreck, but everything was being channelled into that cold, hard place I was learning to reserve for Carrie and all her shit.

‘Thahks, Beth. Yuh showed her.’

‘I guess I did, sweetheart. Are you alright?’

‘Yeh. Noh. She wanted more. She took everything, an ih wahnt enough.’

‘Can I revise my earlier advice?’

‘Ohkay.’

‘If you ever run into Carrie, punch her in the face. Hard.’

‘Nohted.’

‘Now, how do I go about blocking a number?’

It set me back, I’ll be honest. I went into myself, and had a little flirtation with the dark pit of despond. Mr Summers was required to annoy me out of it by getting himself put on speaker phone, out of my reach, so he could cajole me from afar. I really, really just wanted to be left alone to ponder how the woman I’d loved so much had turned into this grabbing harpy, who just didn’t care, didn’t seem like she’d ever cared. But there was to be no pondering from any comfortable dark pit, and in the end I relented and cheered up, and Dec recharged the battery on his phone and that was that. On the outside. On the inside, something somewhere was seething, bubbling, and one day someone was going to be very sorry.

Dec

‘How long’s it been?’

_Just since this morning really, or maybe last night. He got that call from Carrie yesterday and it’s really set him back. I don’t know, Dec, I’m just not that good at sitting with him when he’s so angry, he keeps telling me to piss off. I wish James wasn’t away, he’s better at it.

‘Let me talk to him.’

_He won’t. He won’t talk to anyone.

‘Put me on loudspeaker, then, put the phone out of reach. He can’t turn me off then, not unless he gets up to do it. I’ll just talk till the battery dies or he gets up and turns me off, or starts talking back. Tell him I’m going to call and text until he talks to me. Hopefully something will get through.’

_Oh, thank you sweetheart. Are you sure you’ve got time?

‘Always.’

_Thanks, Dec …

Matt

I’d like to pause at this juncture to ponder the nature of love, and whether it actually exists or not. After the fun and games with Carrie, I doubted it. I hadn’t loved anyone before, then I had, and look how that turned out, and what it turned into. Then there was no one, I didn’t let myself love anyone, until Jules, and I even kidded myself about that for months, until it was too late, so if I didn’t even realise myself, was it real? And then there was Lau. Lau. Just her name makes me all gooey. She mended me.

I can’t say love doesn’t exist, because then these last twenty odd years would have been a lie, and these last twenty odd years have been the best truth I’ve ever known, because they have been spent loving Lau. I’d thought my heart had been ripped out and destroyed by Carrie, but Lau helped me realise that hearts can grow back, or maybe not, maybe you meet someone, and they just give you their heart, and you share it, so neither of you can survive without it. That’s what I’ve got with you, Lau.

Carrie never gave me anything, any small bit of her. Looking back, it was always about her, what she needed, and when I needed something back, she had to find an out. She couldn’t give.

Jules was so busy trying to control life that she couldn’t let love in. Maybe she did, and she didn’t realise. I’ll never know for sure. But Lau made me love her, how could I not love her? She’s Lau.

Dec

Amy: =Danno, Bonksy, Mikey & girls not coming. Another time?

Dec: =I’m still coming. U & me? x

Amy: =OK cu l8r x

o0o

The Raiding Party‘ unofficial supporters forum.

TOPIC: Summers plays for Trojans.

RadarRaider: Looks like Declan Summers is fit again – he’s on the bench for Trojans on Saturday – I forgot he had dual registration. Interesting to see how he does.

WestStandRaider: He’s had a long lay off after all that trouble around Christmas. Not everyone will be happy to see him back. I think the club made the right decision suspending him till the end of the season. Playing for us, even in the reserves, while we’re still trying to clean up his mess might be a bit much.

o0o

\dec when you play on Saturday me and Daddy will be there.

‘Really, Cal? That’s great! I’d love you to come and watch me. I might not get on until the end, though, I’m on the bench.

\but I want you to score a try.

‘Well I’ll do my best. If I score, it’ll be for you, OK?

\will there be burgers at Trojans?

‘I’m sure there will be.’

\why do you play for Trojans and not Raiders?

‘Trojans are just borrowing me for a while. I’ll be back at Raiders next season, I hope.’

Cal

Dad and I went to see Dec play rugby. It was his first game, and he was a replacement, which is what rugby calls substitutes. He didn’t play for Raiders, because Raiders had said he couldn’t play for them for a while because he’d told lies, but another team wanted him to play for them, who were called Trojans, and that’s who we went to see.

I was expecting it to be the same as Raiders, with the crowd and the burger vans and the flags, but it was a bit disappointing. Dad said that Trojans were in the next league down, as if it was Huddersfield Town instead of Arsenal, which is why they had less supporters. They had a good burger van, though, and Dec played for them for the last bit, and he scored a try and made a C for Cal with his finger and thumb, because he scored it for me. It felt strange cheering on Dec, like it had with Nico. I was wearing my Raiders shirt, for him, and Dad and I waited afterwards so we could talk to him. We waited for ages, and I drank a whole Fanta before Dec came out of the changing rooms.

‘Here he is, Daddy.’

‘Oh, hey, mate. Well played. How did it feel?’

‘I can’t believe how bloody knackered I am. I only had ten minutes. I thought I was fit.’

‘You’ve got to be match fit. There’s a difference.’

‘Yeah, I never really got that before. Hey Cal, thanks for coming all this way.’

‘You made a C with your fingers when you scored your goal.’

‘Yeah. Did you like it?’

‘It’s a try, Cal. Goals are in football.’

‘I know, Daddy.’

‘OK then.’

Dad was trying to teach me about rugby, but I sometimes used the same words, because I knew all the words for football, and it was easier.

Dec

On a wreath, next to a ditch on a bypass:

TO FRANCIS BROOKS

WE NEVER KNEW EACH OTHER, BUT YOUR LIFE ENDED BECAUSE WE WERE BOTH HERE AT THE SAME MOMENT. I’LL NEVER KNOW WHAT HAPPENED THAT NIGHT, BUT I WISH I’D BEEN IN A DIFFERENT PLACE OR A DIFFERENT TIME, SO WE COULD HAVE CARRIED ON NEVER KNOWING EACH OTHER.

I’M SO SORRY.

DS

Cal

Uncle Matty was getting better too, and didn’t just stay in his bed, or even just in his room any more He came out with Mum and me, and sometimes went out with Dad when Dad did his work. Uncle Matty still played with me, sometimes with my cars and models, and sometimes on his PlayStation, which he had got for his room when he got better. Mostly he played games that Mum didn’t like me playing, or even watching, but he did have some games that I could play, and sometimes if Mum and Dad were out, and Granny wasn’t there, he would let me watch him play some of his war games. Once, he let me use the controller, and I exploded a whole building with a rocket launcher.

Mum was still having my brother or sister, and her tummy got lots bigger to show there was a baby in it. It was difficult to cuddle her, because the baby got in the way, and I looked forward to the baby not being in her tummy any more, so I could cuddle Mum, and so I could play football with my new brother. I was hoping for a brother; it would make everything easier, because girls didn’t usually like football.

Matt

And then, in a last gasp attempt to send me back there, back to that black abyss, I found out what she’d told everyone. Why none of my friends had replied to my desperate messages on the night she left, why none of them cared that I was dying in hospital, why none of them had tried to find me to see if I was alive or dead since.

Author: 00dreams00

Human of several decades experience. Full time employment, part-time enjoyment. Searching for the fountain of youth in the sure knowledge that it will be full of beer cans and dog piss. Plan B is the fountain of age, which will be found next to a comfy chair with the TV remote in easy reach.

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