Thursday evening I finally took out my school books and got down to some serious work. There were some things I needed to finish, including a history project to hand in tomorrow, and some other stuff needed to be done for Monday. Given that Saturday was the match and then I was staying over at Matty's, it had to get done tonight, or I'd be left doing it on Friday.
By around 11PM I had cracked it. With some satisfaction I closed the books and put them back in my bag ready for tomorrow morning. Finally, I thought, it's nearly the weekend. I flopped down on my bed and was just lying there thinking about Saturday's match and about Matty, when Michael poked his head round the door.
"You'll never guess what I heard from Jed..." he said, kind of baiting me in that way that only little brothers can tease.
"Yeah, well what did he tell you then?
"What's it worth?"
"Nothing, Michael... tell me or not, why should I care?"
"You might care if you knew" He was obviously enjoying the moment, playing his game of I know something you don't. It made me think about the fights this sort of stuff used to start when we were younger. I would lose my cool and we'd end up scrapping, rolling about on the floor, but being older and stronger I would always come out on top. Literally, it would usually finish with me on top of him, sitting on his chest and pinning his arms down so he couldn't fight back.
"So you wanna know... or not?" He grinned that little impish grin of his.
"Okay then, tell me, come on."
"What do I get in return?"
"You'll get a smack in a minute if you don't either say what it is or get out." He'd opened the door and entered my bedroom whilst talking, but I wasn't that interested, and like always he was starting to annoy me.
I guess he understood from the tone of my voice that I wasn't in the mood to play his little game. "Well Jed told me Mathilde's got a boy friend."
"So? What's the big deal, and why should I care?"
"Because... because," he started saying. "You and her used to have a thing going on."
"No we didn't Michael. I have never had a thing going on with Mathilde, why would you think that?"
"Coz... Jed said that. He said you and her kissed... He saw you one time, when they were round here."
"Yeah, well okay, that happened. But it was over a year ago, and we never had anything going on between us."
"But it's true, you kissed her?"
He had a way of manipulating information out of me. He was very good at it, and that was also very annoying. I would end up telling him things I never wanted him to know, exactly like now.
"Actually she kissed me, and that's all... Happy now you know?"
"If you say so."
That was so annoying little brother, he'd worm his way around to finding out something, then even after I told him, he would still question the answer and wind me up. You can see how we ended up fighting.
"Anyway. That's not the best part."
He liked to drag it out. "Oh, so what is the best bit then. Come on, I can't wait to hear it."
"Alright, but you owe me." I think he was trying hard to get something from me in exchange. I wondered what he wanted. "The best bit then is this..." Dramatic pause, it made me smile, he was such a play actor. "Her boyfriend goes to our school and... it gets better... he's even in your class!"
Yes, that made me think. If it was true and why wouldn't it be, then who was the boyfriend? I started picturing the boys in my class, one by one.
"Come on then Michael, who?"
I should have known. That explains how he knew what I was doing over the weekend, because Mathilde had told him. I wondered what else she had told him about me. Michael looked pleased with himself, he turned around and scooted out the door. I got up, walked over and closed it.
* * * * * *
Friday was always a great day, I've said it before, just the morning to get through and then most of the afternoon was sport. I handed in the history work I'd completed last night and there's not much else to say, the rest of the morning passed normally.
On the way to the playing fields, for the final practice before the match, I saw John boy up ahead and trotted to catch him up.
"How's it going Alex?" He asked when I joined him.
"I think we are in with a chance tomorrow." He smiled looking pleased about things.
"Yeah, so long as the team pulls together we should win it. But if we do, then the final will be another matter altogether."
"Well, one thing at a time."
The sun was peaking through the clouds. It wasn't cold, almost a pleasantly warm day, and dry.
"Thanks for chatting to Ryan last week. That whole thing should be sorted now."
"Yes. I don't even know what it was all about. All Ryan would say was that he and Bulldog, Brandon, were not the best of chums."
"I know it's stupid. Especially to bring up the gay thing. I cannot allow that sort of bullying and prejudice, not in the team, and not in the school."
"Brandon can be a real idiot sometimes."
"More than sometimes. And why did he think Ryan was gay? Not that I care one way or another."
"I don't really think that he thought Ryan was gay. It was just a way of getting at him. As it happens Ryan is going out with my cousin Mathilde."
"Good for him. Brandon is probably peeved that Ryan has a girl friend and he doesn't. Probably resents his good looks. Probably all about jealousy."
"Yeah, jealousy, I never looked at it like that."
We arrived at the playing fields and were entering the changing rooms, "I just need a quick word with coach Alex. See you out there."
"Okay." I went off to get changed.
The practice went well. We weren't pushing things too hard, because coach didn't want any injuries on the eve of the important semi-final. He called a halt earlier than usual and said he wanted to see everyone together before we went home. No doubt the usual Mr Mathews pep talk.
Finally when everyone was cleaned up and changed we waited for the speech from coach.
"Well boys. I have two important subjects to talk to you about before I let you go home. The first concerns tomorrows match." He looked around making sure people were paying attention. "We have a very good chance of going through to the final. As a team you are all playing well. And when I say team, I am including the reserves. Because even if you are on the bench, you are just as important a part of this team. It is my intention to pull some players off after half time. I want to get some of the reserves on the field and bring some fresh players to the second half. Of course I can't say who or when this will happen, because it depends how things play out. Right. What you have all been eager to see. Here is the starting line up and reserves." He then read the team list, amidst some sounds of approval, maybe some of disappointment, but anyway I was on the team. I hadn't really doubted that I would be, there were few surprises with the line up.
"Okay. I will pin this up." He turned and pinned the list to the board a few paces behind him.
"Now before you go. I want to talk to you about something that has happened and which is very serious. It concerns all of you." At this point I thought maybe John boy had told coach about the bullying incident.
"I am talking to you now, in confidence. I don't want you going away gossiping or repeating to anyone what I am about to say. So I hope I am not misplacing my trust in you." There were a few murmurs of 'yes coach', 'sure', 'def', etc.
"There will be an assembly at school first thing Monday morning when the whole school will be addressed." Now I was thinking this can't be about the bullying, it must be something else.
"A boy, I won't give his name, but he's a year above you has been suspended from school." There was a hushed silence. It had to be very serious for that to have happened. "The reason is that it is believed he was involved in drug dealing... as you know our school has a zero tolerance policy where drugs are concerned. It would appear that drugs have been sold, or exchanged, outside the school and brought onto school premises. The police have been informed and are making their investigations. A letter will be going out to your parents." He looked around again, watching reactions, making sure we looked like we understood how serious it was.
"I have every confidence in each and everyone of you here. But if anyone knows anything about this, if you have seen anything unusual happening. Perhaps in the school car park or outside the gates. Then you need to come forward with that information." He stopped, again looking at faces. "You need to come forward even if it concerns boys in school. It is much too serious an affair and you mustn't think of it as telling tales. It's about protecting everyone at your school, and you are all old enough to take your responsibilities seriously." He stopped there and waited what seemed a long time, but it probably wasn't. He was just giving everyone time to take in what had been said. The atmosphere was heavy and still.
"Okay boys," he broke the silence. "See you all bright and fresh for the match tomorrow. Off home now."
On the way home I hooked up with Ryan. "So what do you make of that then?"
"I don't know. I haven't seen anything going on."
I let it drop. "So you're going out with Mathilde?"
"Yes. Who told you?"
I repeated the line he gave me the other day on the bus home. "We have our sources."
"Ha ha, very funny. I guess you do."
We took the bus home together, not saying too much. Like usual, Ryan preferred gazing out the window, and that suited me fine.
Before I got up the road and home my phone rang, it was Jake. "Hi Jake, what's up?"
"You mean other than missing you babe?"
"Yeah, other than missing me."
"I just wanted to ask if you happened to see Jonathan hanging around when you left my place Wednesday?"
"No. I'm not even sure I would recognise him. I only saw him that one time with you in the mall. Why do ask?"
"Oh it's nothing. I just want to make sure he doesn't bother you. We had a bit of an argument. And well, I wanted just to check things with you. Anyway it's nothing. I mainly called to wish you good luck for tomorrow and the match."
"Thanks Jake. That's real nice of you."
"Okay, bye then beautiful. And don't forget I'll be waiting for you to call me."
"I won't forget. Bye Jake."
Once inside the house and back upstairs in my room, I thought about the call from Jake. It was a bit odd, asking about Jonathan. I dismissed it. I didn't see any argument he had with Jonathan effected me. Actually it was good if Jake got rid of him, specially considering he was a kind of weird guy.