When I arrived at school on Monday morning all I was thinking about was that I had to find out what Jonathan had said to Brandon. Matty and I had spent all day Sunday together and I had put bumping into Brandon and Jonathan out of my thoughts, but now not knowing what Brandon might know was making me nervous.
When the bell went to start classes there was the usual hustle and chaos as everyone went into the school building, along the wide corridor or up the main staircase to their classrooms. Though unlike a normal Monday, instead of starting lessons, after the roll call, each classroom filed out and went off to the assembly which was being held in the gym.
This Monday morning the Principal addressed the whole school about the incident of drugs being sold outside the school gates, or even being brought onto school premises. He emphasised the seriousness of the matter, reiterated the school policy of zero tolerance, and said that one boy, Terrance Wright was his name, had been suspended. The police, he said, had been brought in and were pursuing their investigations. He finished more or less saying exactly what coach had said on Friday. If anyone knows anything at all, or has seen anything odd, unusual, or out of the ordinary, then they needed to come forward with the information and talk to one of their teachers.
When we were dismissed and going back to classes, I found Brandon and told him I needed to talk to him. He said we could meet up after school, ‘we can't talk here’ were his actual words. So I told him I would see him on the way home. Back in class, before lessons began, I started wondering about Brandon and thinking about the drugs thing. The package Jonathan had handed him in the park, but more than that, I was worried for myself and whether he knew I was gay.
It was difficult to concentrate, I was too concerned about Brandon. When the final bell went at the end of the day I found myself stuffing my school books into my bag eager to get off and meet up, but I had a real feeling of apprehension, like butterflies in the stomach. I didn't want to hang around in the carpark, or by the school gates, not with everything that was going on. So I walked out of school as slowly as I could and was relieved when Brandon caught up to me at the gates.
"Let's go to the gardens," he said and I nodded.
There were some public gardens near our school, a little green area with four small flower beds and a couple of benches. It was a slight detour from my usual way home. The gardens were deserted and the benches empty, we sat down together on one of them. I wanted to find out exactly what Brandon knew. What he knew about me and if he had told anyone else anything, but I didn't want to come straight out and ask because maybe he knew nothing. I thought it's best to work around it, so I started with the little package.
"What was in that package Jonathan gave you in the park?" I looked at him.
"What has that got to do with you?" He seemed pretty annoyed that I had brought that up. "You haven't gone around mouthing off to people about that, have you?"
"No of course not, but Matty and me... well we were just wondering, I mean with everything that's going on."
"Fuck, you haven't talked to any teachers have you?" He was getting a bit worked up over it; I couldn't help wondering if Matty was right about it being drugs.
"No I haven't. I haven't talked to anyone."
"And, Matty, he hasn't talked either?"
"No I'm sure he hasn't said anything either."
"You can be such a prick..." Brandon was obviously upset. "You don't know nothing about nothing, but you think you do."
"Maybe I can be a prick, but I'm not a fucking bully like you that goes round calling people gay!" He was making me angry now.
"You're talking about Ryan, but you don't know that story either. I admit I was wrong to play the gay card, but I was really pissed with him and I could have ended up hitting him."
"You were just jealous of him and Mathilde and wanted to get back at him."
"Yeah, but with reason. I was with Mathilde before Ryan came along and she dumped me because Ryan told her I already had a girlfriend. I heard that later from Mathilde's best friend. So you see I had reason to hate Ryan. Still, I overreacted in a bad way, and that was wrong."
I was silently listening as Brandon explained everything. It did throw a different light on what happened, even if like he said himself, there was no excuse for his overreaction and inventing the gay thing to get his own back.
"I don't think you just wanted to see me to play Sherlock over what you saw in the park. I'll tell you straight Alex," Brandon was about to say something I knew was important, I think I even knew what he was going to say and it was about me. "I know you're gay... Jonathan was in a relationship with your buddy Jake before you came along. He saw you leaving Jake's apartment. Listen, it doesn't matter to me... not one little bit. I've known Jonathan all my life, he's gay and we are very close. I don't care, and your secret is safe. I'm not about to go around telling everyone... no, that's up to you to do."
Although I was half expecting Brandon might say something like this it still hit me head on like an express train, because I secretly hoped that he didn't know anything. A silence descended. I had no reply, I couldn't speak. I don't know if it made it any better that he said my secret was safe, it seemed inevitable that it would come out, everything was pointing in that direction.
Brandon broke the silence, "You may not think so Alex, but I do know it's a big deal for you." I sort of nodded my head agreeing with what he was saying. "You should talk to Jonathan, maybe he will tell you some stuff about Jake that you ought to know. He knows the guy well enough, and I'm sure like everything else, you don't know shit."
Then Brandon took a little package out of his bag and handed it to me. "Go on... take it." It looked exactly like the package in the park. I hesitated, but took it. "Open it, take a look." Brandon insisted. I carefully opened the package which contained a small cardboard box. Opening the box and looking inside, there was a watch.
Brandon had been following all this. "So there. You see, no drugs... just a watch." I was beginning to realise that you can too easily judge people. Things are not always what they appear to be at first sight. I suddenly had a whole new image of Brandon, now I knew a bit more about him.
"I bought a box of twenty-five watches on Ebay. They are connected watches that link to most mobiles using bluetooth. The only thing is, they are blocked, or were, so unusable. Jonathan is a wiz with computer stuff and I gave him a watch to unblock. He did it, the genius. So now I can sell the watches and that was what you saw him give me on Sunday."
"Sorry Brandon." That was all I could say. "I probably jumped to conclusions about you, but I never really believed you were involved in drugs. I've miss-judged you and I'm sorry."
He smiled, "Yep, happens all the time." He took out a little note pad from his bag, and a pen, and then wrote something down. "This is Jonathan's phone number," he tore the page from the note pad and handed it to me. "Call him, Alex; it's always good to talk."
I put the paper in my pocket and handed him back his watch. We said goodbye and I set off to catch the bus home. On the way I wondered if I should call Jonathan, I don't know him at all I thought, wouldn't it be a bit weird?
Later that evening, in my bedroom after supper, I was laying on my bed still wondering if I should call Jonathan, but instead I decided to call Matty and tell him about Brandon and the watches. I picked up my mobile and called, it rang a few times before he picked up.
"Alex. Pretty heavy stuff this morning, in the school assembly."
"Yeah, it was, but no surprise." I had already told Matty what coach had said about drugs at the school. I know we were supposed to keep it to ourselves, but I trusted Matty.
"Except now we know who was suspended. Do you know him?"
"No, not really. I might have seen him around school, but I don't know him. Anyway it's one reason I phoned you."
"What... about the guy who was suspended?"
"No, not about him. About Brandon, in the park yesterday."
"Oh yeah, that was suspicious. Him and his cousin... if it really was his cousin."
"Matty, you watch too many of those crime programmes on TV. Jonathan is his cousin."
"Yeah, okay then. So, what?"
"I had a talk with Brandon today after school. The little package was a watch. One of those digital watches that connects with your mobile. Well Brandon bought a few of them off Ebay, but they were blocked and his cousin Jonathan is good with computer stuff, so he unblocked them. That's it, nothing sinister."
Matty didn't reply. Maybe he was thinking about what I had said. "So you were just as curious to find out as I was?" He said finally.
"Well I suppose." I didn't want to tell him my real reason for seeing Brandon was to find out what Jonathan had told him about me."
"When can we see each other again, Alex?" Matty changed the conversation.
"You mean get some time alone."
"Yeah, of course. When?"
"I don't know Matty, it's not easy. You could come over here, but there's always a risk Michael is hanging around."
"I hate it, not being able to be alone with you."
"Me too. We need to think of a solution."
“Sure, but I don't know what. Listen I have some school work to do so I need to go."
"Bye then, Matty."
"Bye," he replied and ended the call.
I lay there thinking, that really is a big problem for us. I put off calling Jonathan, I wasn't sure what I would say to him, but I had made up my mind to talk to him, just not now.