Copyright © 2016 William King. All Rights Reserved.
Saturday morning I rolled out of bed and looked at the little digital numbers on my bedside clock, 08:22 it read. I could easily have stayed in bed, but not this Saturday. I had to go shopping with mum for those new shoes. Not one of my favourite activities, shopping, and Saturday was the worst day, always crowded.
I threw off my pyjamas and now naked, but still bleary eyed and half asleep, walked into the shower. Turning on the tap, I let the spray of hot water caress my body and wake me up. Twenty minutes later, I was dressed and downstairs going into the kitchen. I could hear mum moving about in one of the bedrooms. My brother Michael was sitting at the table eating his cereal, the plastic bottle of semi skimmed milk next to his bowl and a glass of fruit juice.
He looked up as I entered. I walked over to the coffee machine, opened the cupboard, took out the coffee packet and then the little round bag of coffee that I put in the machine. A few seconds or so and the coffee was gurgling and spitting, dripping the final drops into the little glass. I carefully picked up the hot glass, walked over to the table next to Michael and picked up the milk. It was empty. I turned back to the kitchen cupboards, opened the one where we kept the milk, no milk.
"Shit, Michael, you took the last of the milk!" He ignored me and carried on scooping up his cereal.
That pissed me off. I shut the cupboard door, walked back to the table and tapped him on the back of the head as I passed him to sit down.
"You little shit, you could of left some milk."
"Mum... mum!" He called out.
"Shut it you little rat." I told him.
"What is it Michael?" Mum called back, still moving around busily upstairs. "You know I'm busy here!"
I gave Michael one of my mean stares. The sort that meant, say anything and you'll pay the price later, which was exactly what I was thinking.
"Nothing, mum!" Michael replied.
I think he must have sensed I was not in the best of moods. So he decided not to push his luck with me, at least not this Saturday morning. I guess probably like most brothers we were always disputing over something or other. It was good we each had our own bedroom. There was not a big age difference between the two of us, and despite the disputes, we generally got along with each other. But little brothers can still be little shits when they want and really annoy you.
Around half an hour later I'd finished breakfast. Mum had finished upstairs, and we were set to go shopping. I was not too pleased to see Michael ready and waiting by the front door.
"Is he coming as well?"
"Yes Alex, I have a lot of shopping to do. Not just buying you some shoes. Michael can help."
Without another word we were out of the house and in the car on the way to the retail park. It wasn't far, but like I said, Saturdays were always busy and crowded. This Saturday was no exception. We had to queue for a ticket even before we got into the multi-storey car park. Then it took ages to find an empty spot.
Walking along the large hall in the centre of the shopping mall I was not really paying attention to anything. Just thinking to myself that there were a lot of people, people I looked at, but without really seeing them. It was like my vision was on auto pilot and the crowds were just vague unknown figures.
I was snapped out of this semi-conscious state by Michael's voice.
"Those two men are kissing," he said nonchalantly, but in a way that got our attention.
I looked and sort of did a double take.
"Ah, um," mum responded in her fashion. "They could be a little more discreet," she added.
"Yeah," said Michael. "They should get a room!"
"Michael...!" Mum responded, emphasising his name. "Really, that's no way to talk. Where do you learn these phrases? Not from your brother, I hope." She looked at me, but I made no response. I was in a state of shock, only half hearing what was being said.
I couldn't believe it, but there not twenty metres away in front of me, on a bench just before the escalators and fountain, surrounded by some green spiky palm tree, was Jake. Yes, no doubting it, Jake was sitting there kissing another guy.
"Alex, Alex, come on we've got things to do, don't dawdle." She jolted me back to reality, but my mind was doing hula hoops. Thoughts popping up one after the other, Jake's got a boyfriend. Who was that other guy? And thrown into the pot was, that's the first time my mum's said anything about gays. What does she think? One day I will have to tell her. One day I might come home with my boyfriend, how would she react? What would she do when I opened the front door and walked in with my boyfriend and said 'Mum, this is my boyfriend.' In any case I don't think that boyfriend will be Jake, the cheater.
"Alex, what is the matter with you today?" My mother's voice sounded a little tired, a little irritated.
"Nothing... nothing mum. Sorry, I was just... thinking about stuff."
"Well, can you think about your shoes and perhaps we can get something done today." Mum had a way of using words that managed to put everyone and everything exactly in their place, right where they should be.
That Saturday morning passed in a haze of crowds, shopping and mixed up thoughts. I did get the shoes, and the grocery shopping got done, and we were back home. I was determined to confront Jake. I wasn't just going to let it go, he owed me an explanation. No, more than that, an apology. Yes, I thought to myself, it's not right. You can't go around picking someone up when you've already got a boyfriend.
I was upset. I was feeling somehow betrayed, let down, deceived. I wanted to share all this with the only person in the world whom I could confide in, Matty, but I couldn't. I just couldn't tell him. I felt very alone.
Dad came home and we all had lunch together. I don't really recall either the conversation or what we ate. Actually, I think it was chicken, but it doesn't matter. I was really preoccupied with thinking about seeing Jake kissing his boyfriend, who he just happened to forget to mention to me. I was thinking that maybe I could sneak out of the house this afternoon and go over to see Matty.
Then just as we were finishing lunch, the phone rang and my dad got up to answer it. I could hear from what he was saying that it was Uncle Jeff he was talking to. About when he was coming over tomorrow.
My mum got up and looked over at me. "Don't forget Alex your dad asked you to help him clear out the shed this afternoon." Well that put paid to any idea of sneaking out. I was starting to feel miserable.
"Michael, help me clear the table please," my mother told my little brother. But even seeing that he had to do a bit of work didn't really cheer me up much.
That Saturday afternoon passed with me and dad tackling all the accumulated junk in the shed at the bottom of our garden. Sorting it out, tidying up what was to be kept and putting the stuff to be thrown out into the trailer to take to the dump later. I didn't mind working alongside my dad, besides it took my mind off things, although not completely. I still managed the time to think to myself, what would my dad say if he knew I was gay? He worked in logistics for a big national company that dispatched cargo all over Europe. It was pretty much a macho environment. I mean truck drivers and that. I don't know how it would work out for dad having a gay son.