Monday, 19 October 2009 - 9:15 pm

Love and leaving

Today started about as well as can be expected and then slid downhill at a dizzying pace. Debbie is still Sick, though Simon is unwilling to diagnose her. It could just be flu, he said. We can’t know for sure yet. I wish I shared his cautious hope.

As I was heading towards the infirmary’s storeroom this afternoon, I caught sight of Matt. Simon was checking his leg and seemed to be nodding. Just the sight of my best friend made me feel lighter. Warmth blushed in my chest as I busied myself, wondering if ‘best friend’ is really what I should be calling him now and waiting for him to come free.

The next thing I knew, he was heading for the door. I hurried after him; his head was down and I had to call his name three times before he stopped. His face was taut with a fixed look to it that scared me; it closed him off and I wasn’t used to that from him.

I thought he must have had bad news from Simon. Maybe he’d never get rid of the limp, maybe something else had gone wrong. I touched his wrist and asked him what Simon had said to make him so upset.

“Nothing,” he said. It was so hard to read his eyes. “My leg’s going to be fine.”

“Then what is it? What’s wrong?”

“I know what you did.” He spat the words at me and at first I thought he was angry. My fingers fell away from his arm. “Derek told us all about it.” Not angry: hurt.

“Derek?” I was so lost. I don’t know a Derek.

“The one you were with last night.”

Panic started to claw at the inside of my abdomen. I had no idea what he was talking about; the only fella I spent any time with last night was Jonah, when he escorted me back to the dorms. When I said that, Matt scowled and went to push past me towards the door. I had to latch onto him and beg him to stop before he’d even look at me. By then, we were causing such a fuss that everyone in the infirmary was staring at us, even little Debbie down the far end.

I had to plead with him and practically drag him into an exam room so that we could have some kind of privacy. I saw Peter smirking before the door closed, but I was too scared to make much of it just then. I was losing the best thing to happen to me since I discovered my dad was alive and well, and I wasn’t sure that I could get it back.

It took some prying to get the story out of Matt. He didn’t attack me with it; he was upset and hurt, but he wasn’t angry with me. I think that made it worse.

This fella named Derek had come back to the dorm after the nightly ‘entertainment’ visit and boasted about what he’d been up to. He’d used my name, said all kinds of things about how much fun he’d had and in what positions. In some detail, by the sound of it; Matt wouldn’t repeat most of it.

It was the last part that brought tears to my eyes. “It’s not like we made any promises to each other,” he said. He couldn’t look at me. “I know how things work here.”

He thought I would actually do it. He was excusing it. He thought he had no right to be angry with me, because we had barely started being together. It was hard to tell which part hurt most.

“We might not have made any promises out loud, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there,” I said. My voice was thick and it was hard to push the words past the lump in my throat. “Matt, I love you. I’d never do that to you. Never. You know that.” Not after what Cody did to me. Not after what I thought Ben did. I know how that betrayal feels, so it’s the last thing I’d do to someone I cared about.

I kept speaking, afraid to stop in case he said he didn’t believe me. It wasn’t me. This Derek was lying, or mistaken. Maybe someone put him up to it. Maybe one of the girls lied to him, knowing what it would do. But it wasn’t me. I was being ostracised because I had refused to take part in it. I had no proof to offer him except words and what he knows of me already, and that felt so thin.

By the time I stumbled to a stop, we were standing a few inches apart and both had damp cheeks. My hands were cradling his head, in case that would make him hear me better, wanting to hold onto at least a small part of him. Wanting to stop him from turning away from me and leaving me so alone. He hadn’t looked at me since we had come into the room and I so desperately wanted to know he believed even a little of what I was saying.

“Have you?” I asked him suddenly, not knowing where else to go. “With anyone?”

It was enough to make him meet my eyes. “No.”

I clung to his gaze; I wasn’t sure which of us was drowning, but if I could hold on, we’d both be able to breathe. “Please, Matt. Don’t let them do this to us. It’s not true.”

He closed his eyes and bowed his head towards me. There it was: the sign I was waiting for. He believed me; finally, he dared to let himself believe in me. “When I heard him, I nearly–”

“I know,” I told him. I remembered how it felt when your whole world tips and everything is stained with uncertainty and lies. I didn’t want any more words; I wanted to make it up to him, make him feel better, make him understand how strongly I feel about all of this. So I lifted my lips up to his.

Once we had latched on, we couldn’t let go. Cold, sickening doubt burst into sudden heat. The roil of released emotions burned through us with an intensity that made my head spin. There were only feelings between us; it was all about hands and mouths and bared skin. Giving ourselves up to each other and snatching desperate breaths. Holding on so tight we left marks.

I don’t remember how or when we wound up on the floor, but that’s where we were when it was over, tangled and shivering. I tucked my face in against his neck and didn’t want to let him go.


After we’d stopped shaking, we talked a little. I was worried about his healing leg in all the exertion and he laughed. The least of his worries at the time, he said. I can’t bring myself to mind.

We sobered out of our giddiness when we made promises to each other, putting our feelings into words in the hope of chasing away fears. There’ll be no more doubt about that any more. He asked if I thought I could deny the deal forever, and I told him my answer would always be no. I wouldn’t bow to their pressure. It made him unhappy, knowing that pressure would be there.

I told him the other things I had discovered about Haven. About the Converter and the ‘accidents’. He frowned as he absorbed it all, and then he said something that has been rattling around in my head for days. It was a relief to hear it on someone else’s lips.

“Let’s leave Haven.”