Monday, 21 September 2009 - 10:44 pm

Tell me something

I finally got a chance to talk to Matt this morning. His swollen lip forces him to mumble and he can only see me out of one eye right now, but he seems to be doing all right.

I filled him in on what happened after Simon put him out, let him know that the others are okay. He and Thorpe took the worst of it and the Sharks came off badly. I didn’t mention the General’s appearance or the questions about the fight; there’s no point worrying him just yet. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of time to worry about repercussions once he’s back on his feet or at least able to form audible sentences.

I had to ask him about what happened. The subject stood like an elephant between us; we both knew that it needed to be aired.

“Did they go after Terry?” There wasn’t any point beating around the bush on this.

His visible eye went hard and unhappy – not a look I’ve seen on my friend before. He nodded stiffly. I held his hand loosely, unable to grip him because of the wrappings around his bruised, torn knuckles. “Couldn’t get to me,” he said.

I looked at him and saw what he meant, saw the cogs turning under his skin. My stomach went cold and I shook my head. “Matt, it wasn’t your fault.”

His glance away disagreed with me. He believed that because they couldn’t get to him, they went after his weaker friend instead. To punish him, to prove that he wasn’t as untouchable as he’d like to make out. Poor Terry never knew to protect himself from that.

“You didn’t do this,” I told him. “They did. You did nothing wrong, nothing at all. It’s not your fault.”

He didn’t answer. I couldn’t stand seeing him like that, beaten and still punishing himself. He hardly looks like the boy I grew up with, the one I’ve known forever.

“You stopped them.” I kept speaking because I hated the silence between us. “Before they– I mean, Terry, they didn’t hurt him badly.” I hoped I was right. Terry hadn’t seemed badly hurt when I checked him over – he’d been hit and his hands were the least damaged of everyone involved, but that was it. I didn’t want to put the possibility of rape into words, but luckily I didn’t need to. Neither of us wanted that spelled out, as if hearing it made it more real, more tangible.

“Yeah,” he mumbled to me, sighing. We were both relieved.

“So, you saved him.”

He glanced at me, unwilling to unbend from his guilt, but his fingers wiggled at my hand lightly. That was enough on that. “Was coming to see you.” It sounded like a change of subject but I wasn’t sure.

“Who was? You?”

He nodded. That was the only reason he came across Terry and the Sharks; he was on his way here. I don’t like to think about luck like that.

“Well, for future reference, you don’t have to go getting yourself stabbed just to see me. Next time, fake a sniffle, okay?”

He blinked at me, and then he groaned. I’m not sure if he said ‘ow’ or ‘cow’, but I am sure that he was laughing, at least a little bit. I was close enough for him to ruffle my hair with his fingertips and I grinned at him. That was better. That was more like my Matt.

Next thing I knew, he was grappling at my hand, awkwardly because of his bound knuckles. “Wanted to tell you somethin’,” he said.

He sounded so intent that my smile faded. I remembered him trying to talk to me yesterday when he had just got here, and I watched him struggling to get the words out with a growing sense of dread. “What is it? I’m here, Matt. What’s wrong?”

He shook his head and I think he tried to smile, but it was hard to tell with his fat lip. “Not wrong. S’good. Promise. You gotta come with me somewhere.”

“What, now? You’re not going anywhere, mister.”

“Soon.” He looked so proud of himself, but he was tapping the back of my hand with his fingertips the way I like, so I couldn’t hold it against him.

“Simon says you’ll be in bed for a few days.”

He gave a little whine. “Stop makin’ me laugh. Hurts.”


“Simon says? You five?”

“It’s the medic’s name!” I couldn’t help it; by then, I was giggling too.


I poked fun at him until he begged me to stop – it really did hurt – and then I went and did my rounds for the day. I avoided the Shark’s room; he was awake and I didn’t want to have to suppress the urge to smack him.

The other Seekers came back for fresh dressings, fresh from a grilling by the cutouts. They have soldiers in the dorms, making sure the peace is nailed down, but somehow that’s not a great reassurance. No-one has come to talk to Matt yet, but I think Simon had something to do with that. I’m hoping that the General comes down to do it; I haven’t forgotten my list and he won’t get away from me so easily again.

In the meantime, I’m keeping my best friend company and trying to help him forget how much pain he’s in. If I have to sleep in that chair again, I’m going to wake up cricked.