My dreams take me strange places. As I close my eyes, I am eighteen again. Fresh, young, naive. A little bitter, and still frightened of almost everything the world had to offer. I’m dressed in Alan’s old suit trousers, and a shirt I saved for in silver coins. What little of my paycheck doesn’t go to rent and food is sent to my sister, to help with her living expenses. Being at uni, she doesn’t have the luxury of working full time that I do, and we have no parents left to support us. The new shirt is a big deal.
Marie has given me a key to Alan’s room here in Melbourne. It’s the one he lost months ago, and for a moment I’m worried the residence might have changed the locks when they gave him the new one. It turns. They haven’t. I’m still nervous as I walk in. I’ve been here once before, with Alan – the residence is a crazy place well beyond my comfort zone.
Perfect for Alan. Wild drunken nights were always his favourite.
Closing the door, I don’t know what to do. Alan isn’t home, and won’t be for another hour or so. The room is small, and smells like Alan’s feet. There’s a basket in the corner, full of dirty washing and labelled ‘take to Mum’s’. He must be coming home this weekend. I’m tempted to do it for him. The room is an absolute disgrace, nothing is in order.
I start with the desk. It’s supposed to be a place of study, I can’t see how he studies like this. The books aren’t straight, they’re not even alphabetised or stacked in any logical order. I group them by subject, line them up carefully and pile all of his stationary together in one cup. A cup is the best I can do – it appears that Alan has never heard of stationary holders.
Next I make the bed, and pile the dirty dishes from the floor into another basket. Briefly I consider a small washing up spell, but decide it’s ultimately safer to do them by hand. I’m not as talented as Alan, the last time I tried to wash by magic I flooded the dorms. A small bathroom is the best I have for this, so Alan’s dishes are left to soak in the bottom of a deep shower, while I flick dirty underwear into the washing basket without touching it… as much as I am able to do so.
It takes a while, but the work makes me feel good. I couldn’t afford a decent present for Alan, so this will have to do. A clean room – what more could he want? And short of getting his mother in here, it’s likely I’m the only one that will even bother. I have my back to the door, polishing the windows when the sound of a key sliding into the door makes me jump.
I stop, hurriedly shoving the rag into my back pocket. Get caught cleaning Alan’s windows? Uh, no thanks. I sit back on the bed, try to look casual – but it’s not Alan who walks in. I guess there’s more keys to this room than I thought, and it turns out that perhaps Alan wasn’t so truthful when he said he ‘lost’ that second key. Surprise surprise, it went to Kate.
‘Matt.’ She says quietly. ‘I wasn’t expecting you to be here.’
‘No… I wanted to surprise Alan.’ I reply. Kate doesn’t sound happy; she doesn’t want me to be here. But I’m determined to fight tooth and claw for my right to stay. After all, I nearly lost my job just trying to get the day off.
‘Me too.’ She replies sourly, dropping her schoolbag into a corner. I’ll admit, I still think it’s wrong for Alan to be with a girl who’s not even out of school yet. She’s rolled her school skirt up, the pleats are uneven and it makes it obvious. While she’s got her back turned, she quietly does the top button back up. So… one of those surprises? I sigh. I’m still not moving. ‘Do you know where he is?’
‘School, isn’t he?’ I don’t realise how fast the time has slipped by while I was cleaning. She shakes her head, pointing to the clock.
‘He should be back by now.’ She shrugs her blazer off and hangs it on the hook behind the door. I wonder how often she’s done that. She seems very comfortable here, very different to myself – I’m well out of my depth here. The cleaning has done a lot to calm some of my nerves, but having Kate in the room just makes it worse. I don’t understand women; I don’t understand myself enough to be around them. There’s a small amount of safety in that Kate is Alan’s girl. But I still keep my distance, shrinking back as she comes closer.
She shoves a sheet of paper and a pen under my nose.
‘Find out where he is.’ She demands. I don’t argue, she has this look in her eye. She looks like she might just break my neck if I say no.
Burdo. Happy Birthday. What are you up to? Partying hard already? Wish I could be there for the party. Cheers, Matto.
I still don’t want to ruin my surprise, so I keep it general. I push the paper back towards Kate, who calls an owl from the window. The note disappears and she takes a seat across the room, pulling out a textbook from her bag and studying quietly while we wait. It doesn’t take long, which is a surprise. Neither of us expect any sort of response from Alan that quickly.
Matto. Thanks mate. Wish you could be here too. Partying, yeah – at Manda’s at the moment. Gotta head home soonish and get ready for the big party though. Mate… when did life get so complicated? I mean, you think you know one thing, and then it all changes. Suffice to say, Manda’s pretty good at delivering birthday bombs. Anyway. Talk later, your sis is demanding my attention. Cheers, Burdo.
‘He’s at… Amanda’s?’ Kate has her eyes narrowed on me. I nod, like the idiot I am – not realising where she’s going with this. I’d known Manda was going to talk with Alan soon, but I wouldn’t have thought she’d do it on his birthday. ‘He’s getting back together with her, isn’t he? He’s over there right now, he’s probably in her bed… that’s why he had to stop writing!’
She’s taking this well out of proportion. I open my mouth to stop her, but she keeps ranting, raving. It’s a bit scary, but worse is the tears I can see coming down her cheeks. I don’t know how to deal with this. I tell myself I just have to wait, Alan will come home – he’ll explain the whole thing and they’ll be fine. She’ll stop talking about breaking up with him.
But then, maybe I’m wrong too. Amanda was always flighty, and perhaps she’s changed her mind. Maybe Kate is right. I hope for my own sake that she’s not – the thought of Alan once again wanting to be my brother in law is more than I can bear. But I can’t even try and explain what I think is happening, I’m sworn to secrecy on that – and I’ve never broken that pact. I’ve never broken Amanda’s trust, even when it could have saved Alan a lot of embarrassment. I can’t do it now.
Kate charges toward me. I shuffle back on the bed, a little concerned that she means to hit me – and I can’t hit a girl back. Even in self defence. She looks so unhappy, so upset. I don’t know what to do. She falters on the last step, nervously rolling her sleeve up. I can see clean down her shirt now, she’s so close. Breathing on me. I can’t get any further back.
This isn’t right.
‘I wanted today to be special.’ She’s a little distraught. I want to push her back, but I don’t know where is appropriate to touch her. Kate doesn’t seem to share the same reservations, while I’m busy debating propriety, she’s undone the belt buckle and slipped her hands into the generous slack around my waist. I’m in shock.
‘I don’t think…’ I start, but my words are stolen as her hand travels further yet, finding it’s way into my underwear. I’m paralysed now, unable to stop her. No one has ever touched me like this, and it’s frightening. I can feel the sweat beading on my forehead, worse as my body responds to her touch – I’m disgusted by the fleeting feelings of pleasure. It’s different to doing this myself. Much different. Her hand is smaller, the rhythm is different.
She stops suddenly.
Kicking her shoes off, she crawls onto the bed with me properly. My head is thumping, I don’t understand. Kate is still upset, still crying – and rifling through Alan’s bedside drawer. With a sense of dread, I see the future. I know I should stop it, but I still don’t know how. She won’t listen to anything I have to say. I’ve never been in this position before; I’m not as casual with myself as Alan has always been. I’m too afraid of hurting someone, of getting hurt myself. Mum always said the first time should be special, and I’ve lived my life in the hope that when it was right – I wouldn’t be afraid.
Right now, I’m petrified.
‘It doesn’t matter.’ Kate gives up her search. She takes a deep breath, and swallows. For a moment, she looks scared. Then angry. And then, determined. She pushes me back on the bed so that I’m laying down, pins me there. She might be small, but she’s surprisingly strong and I’m in no frame of mind to throw her off. She positions herself over me, and slowly sinks down.
Waves of fear and utter bliss wash over me; I’m not sure which to give into. For a moment, I understand Alan. I look up at Kate in just a little bit of awe as it dawns on me that I’m no longer a virgin, and as awful as this makes me – I can only fight the pleasure so long. Kate feels good, so completely unlike anything I could have imagined. For a moment, I think I can go no further… and then suddenly I can.
I tense as she cries out. A fresh lot of tears, and then I start to worry. She looks as though she is in pain, and I wonder if there’s something wrong with me – if I’m doing this wrong. She stays still, her skirt splayed across my stomach, rested completely against me.
‘I’m sorry…’ I say, apologising for whatever it is I’ve done.
‘It’s not your fault.’ She whispers back, opening her eyes and looking at me the first time. ‘It’s supposed to hurt the first time. That’s how you know it’s the first time.’ We sit for a moment, the both of us adjusting. When she is ready, she starts to move – and the feeling is indescribable. Everything about this is wrong, and strange, and frightening to me – but overpowered by an ecstasy that keeps me going even when I know I should stop.
I needn’t worry about that, though. It is all over in a matter of minutes, I’m not able to control myself. We don’t even think about the consequences, it all happens too quickly. I don’t even have a chance to warn her.
After we clean up, I stay on the bed – she slowly starts to go through Alan’s shelves, picking off the items she has brought over. There is a lot of stuff. She wraps things slowly, sitting them in her school bag. She doesn’t look at me, but I watch her the whole time. I realise then she’s beautiful, even with her mascara running. It’s the second lot she’s put on.
‘Why are you upset?’ she snaps almost, finally looking back at me.
‘I don’t know.’ It’s hard to explain the emotions running through me. Confronted with a sudden attachment to her, knowing she’s my best friend’s girlfriend (or ex-girlfriend), and that by rights I shouldn’t see her again once they break up for real. And then for breaking the dream my mother left me with. I’m still frightened. ‘First time is supposed to be special.’
‘Special is what you make it.’ She looks back at me, gives me a small, sad smile. ‘That was supposed to be Alan’s birthday surprise. He’s wanted it for so long. But he wants Amanda more.’ More tears. I want to stop them. I find myself wanting her to come back to where I am. For the first time in my life, I want to kiss a girl. That thought alone terrifies me more than anything we’ve done today. The fear is enough to stop me crossing the room.
Kate cleans up her makeup one last time, straightens her skirt and puts her blazer back on. I don’t want her to leave. I know she has to.
‘Maybe I’ll come down and see you.’ I offer, surprised at my own boldness. My heart thumps awkwardly as she mulls this over, nods, and slings her bag onto her shoulder.
‘That could be fun.’ She says, reaching for the door handle.
It opens before she can even touch it. Alan walks in, double taking as he sees both Kate and I sitting there, staring in mild horror at the door.
‘Surprise…’ I say weakly.
‘Surprise isn’t the word.’ He sighs, pulling Kate into his arms. He kisses her tenderly on the forehead, holding her too tight for her to fight back – her hand is balled into a fist, and I know she wants to. ‘Amanda just told me… the whole… sex change thing.’ His voice is mildly strangled and he has a hard time getting the words out. These are the parts of life Alan would rather forget happen. He lives a much simpler life than I do. ‘It’s… weird. Why would she want to be a man?’
Kate’s hand relaxes.
‘That’s what you were over there for?’ she asks. Alan nods. ‘Oh, Alan-bear…’ all of her unhappiness seems to vanish in a second, and she pushes herself up on her tip-toes to kiss him. A niggling thought in the back of my mind wonders what that’s like. She never kissed me. I’m not sure what to do as she steps back from Alan, still holding his hand. She has a cheeky look on her face, it’s as if she’s forgotten about what we’ve done already. ‘If that makes her… him… happy, then it’s for the best, right? And you’ve got me now.’ The expression deepens. ‘And I’ve got quite a birthday surprise for you myself.’
They kiss again. I feel like I don’t exist.
I don’t want to hate my best friend. But I don’t want them to be happy anymore. I want what he’s got, and I hate her for going back to him so quickly. In the space of an hour, I’ve found and lost my first love. The pain is indescribable.
She can’t be forgiven for this.