Short Story #1

“Kev, I need to tell you something” He sat at the end of Conors dining room table. Just to the left of me. Headphones, jumpers and empty muffin casings littered the table. Why did they make such a mess? Was is instinctive. Did they even notice? Or was it some sort of way to build a wall between them and me?

To my right (directly opposite Kyle) was Conor. He was looking down at his phone, although it wasn’t on. In between both men was Aine. She held her hands in the cufflinks of her green knitted jumper. Her hands held her face like one does when coughing. But she was silent. I was offered tea when I walked into this room twenty-two minutes before. I was the only one with a cup.

I knew something was off as soon as I got the invite. My curious mind trumped my pride. So instead of coming up with some excuse, or even a direct rejection “Sorry can’t tonight!” I arrived at another exclusive group meeting. Unnecessarily exclusive most times but tonight I learned that it was better that none of my other friends were there. Not for my sake, or theirs, but for her sake.

“Ok,” My heart realised what was happening before the rest of me caught up. It beat faster. But I remained relaxed. Unaware of what news, what gossip, what joke I was in for.

A breath left the room as the nervous man put both his hands on the table before him. A pit stain in his dark blue t-shirt was exposed. “So you know the way me and Lindsey didn’t work out?” I nodded, he had informed me of this very fact a month before. “Well after all that, I started seeing Chels.” I think he wanted a response from me, but my face had fewer expressions than a statue. He took this as an indication to continue. “She and I…..we had slept together. Before I kissed Lindsey. But it was just friendly stuff. We were just having a bit of fun. So it was cool when we stopped when I started going out with Lindsey.” Still, I remained unmoved. My eyes fixed on him. “We didn’t want to tell anyone, yeas would have made a big deal out of it. I really liked her Kev. She’s great. But now…she and I are not in the best place.”

Biting my tongue although that was not apparent to the room. I pushed away any comments or opinions that had burned in my brain since he began.

He looked away from me, I think he looked at Aine. Just as a child looks at a mother during an apology to a grown up. The look that says “Is that ok. Are we done? I’ve said enough” I didn’t see what Aine’s inaudible response was, or if there even was one. My line of vision had not changed throughout his entire confession. “I wanted to meet up with her after everything with Lindsey but she was angry with me. I thought we were cool. Like it was just a bit of fun. Nothing serious. Now I think I’ve fucked things up with her.”

He was speaking in the present tense. His recital of the facts was over, now his story was over. I would have to talk now. That’s what he expected. My mouth shut. Locked by the gritted teeth. Dogs claws scratched the floors. Buzzing of the fridge was a guideline for my breath. Expelling air in a long stream through my nose. Kyle looked back at the others once again. He knew he was done. But I hadn’t reacted. This must have messed up the linear plan in his head. What he expected would unfold tonight. Maybe he imagined I would shout at him. Maybe he imagined I would do my usual “You did what’s best for you”. Maybe he expected me to say something important or meaningful. But I spoke the only sentence that wouldn’t come with a trail of fury anger and tears. “Why…Why are you telling me this?”

None of this information was new to me. But he didn’t know that.

“We’re worried about Chelsea” Aine had said this. I had forgotten she was there. Oh and Conor was there too, it was his house, but his presence was belittled by my thoughts. I shot a look to her and began to laugh. No one else joined in. “Kev…” Kyle asked in a broken voice. Had I upset him? But I couldn’t stop myself. The situation comical. “Kev, we’re worried she’s hurting herself!” Kyles’ voice sounded like he was the victim. He made himself small, to be pitied. I didn’t buy into his act. “I’m sorry, but you have to laugh really” my voice returned in the midst of laughter.

 

Clearing my throat I regained composure “You’re concerned? A little late for that!” I spoke with a smile, my eyes widened. Just as I would at a party. “Where was your concern when all this happened? Where was your compassion for Chelsea huh? You slept with her, then ditched her the second Lindsey threw you a bone. Where was the concern then? Why now. Why do you suddenly feel that now is the time to be concerned? Why now?” Kyle looked taken aback by my outburst. Although it wasn’t loud, nor was it soft, it made an impact. “We think she’s been hurting herself…” Aine had been crying, choking on her words. Storing this nugget in the back of my mind along with everything else I was dealing with I continued to look at Kyle. “Why are they here?” I pointed to Aine and Conor but didn’t receive an answer in the 5 seconds I allowed before answering myself. “Is it because you didn’t have the balls to tell me yourself. Just as you don’t have the balls to talk to Chelsea directly about this. Are they your support? You could have told me this over text. We could have gone for a walk. But no. You chose Conors house, with these two as your backups. Why? Because you can’t deal with confrontation. You know that whatever I say now, I’m going to want a response and you’re scared that you won’t be able to form a rational thought to save your life. That’s why they are here, to jump in whenever they see you overwhelmed by simple questions like what the fuck is wrong with you.” I pushed back my chair and stood up looking at the three faces, all horrified by what I was saying. But I had nothing to lose. “I can’t believe you two went along with this. You’re are supporting him!” I shouted that last line. Conor fought me “Kev, he’s trying to fix it. We’re his mates, of course, we want to support him!” Once again I laughed but only for a moment before turning back to rip that statement apart. “You are supporting him because he is your mate. Right. And I guess Chelsea is just a problem you want to pawn off on me? Something you want me to deal with so that you three can still be mates and feel good about yourselves because you help her. Here’s the thing, this. This little ambush of a confession only helps one person, him” I pointed at Kyle who was teary eyed. “You think y’all are doing the right thing. The selfless thing. You think you’re doing the right thing now Kyle? Bullshit. This is to clear your conscience. You tell me my friend is upset and you expect me to run off and help her. Thanking you for bringing it to my attention. None of you care one fucking bit about her. If you did you wouldn’t be here right now. If you care about her Kyle you’d be dealing with this with her. Aine you support him after he treated her like that? You both are acting like the parents that still give their child desert even if they didn’t eat their vegetables.

Where the hell is your human decency? A girl is hurting herself because YOU made her feel like she had to. You made her feel like she was nothing more than the sock at the side of your bed. And you two are telling him that that’s ok! Sitting here with him, defending him and his actions, makes me think that both your moral compasses have been thrown against a wall. Sitting here, By his side, is like saying ‘You made an oopsy, but we are here for you’. What does he have to do for you to finally wise up and form your own Goddamn opinions? ‘Hey guys I murdered someone, I feel bad about it…sorry’ It’s laughable really.”

The room was silent. Conor couldn’t look at me. Both Kyle and Aine had been crying. I took a breath and picked up my phone. I looked at Aine and asked, “Were they fresh?” She seemed confused so I explained “Who saw her and thought she was cutting herself? Were they fresh cuts? Did they look crusted and bloody? Or were they white speed bumps like mine?” Aine shot her head to the side, shocked by my questions. Kyle wipes his nose and looked at the table. “They were like yours”

Smiling I began walking out of the room. “Well, then all this was pointless. Because if you actually took two seconds to listened to her before you shoved your dick in her mouth you would know that she has survived a lot of shit. She has done some things she isn’t proud of, and she stopped. So no she is not hurting herself. Although it’s interesting to see how highly you think of yourself. That not being with you would drive someone to hurt themselves.”

Looking back at the messy table, I wanted so badly to tidy it. A minute job to regain some sort of control on a situation. That’s when it dawned on me. Why I was here, why the table was a so disordered. I’m their cleaner. They know I can’t resist a mess.

“Where are you going Kev” Conor squinted as if he was angry with me. Like I disobeyed orders and went off script. “I’m going to get my mop! Because once again I have to clean up another one of Kyle Deans messes.” Spinning around I left the room with a slight spring in my step. I was furious at them. I had known this secret for weeks. My acting tonight, flawless. As I left the room I laughed a small bit and shouted back “Cleanup on Aisle Chelsea!”

The door closed behind me.

 

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