Matt - Friday
It was cold, but at least not raining as Matt ran the leafy streets of Buckhurst Hill, up to the cricket pitch and the edge of Epping Forest. The ground was hard and frozen and the leaves crunched as he ran. Matt liked the forest on a cold morning, it wouldn’t get muddy until at least ten, when the sun that promised to break through, would have had a chance to thaw it. Matt was feeling pretty chipper this morning, partly due to the amount of work his team had been putting in, but mostly due to the weekend he had planned with his best pal Toby. Toby and Matt met when they were thirteen and were in the same dorm throughout most of their school careers. Both boys had excelled at rugby, a passion that had united them ever since. Toby had been good enough to have turned pro, had it not been for a busted knee. The plan for the weekend was simple; go to Toby’s and watch the big match live on his projector screen in his den whilst drinking copious amounts of beer. Toby’s wife Melissa was something of a celebrity chef in her native Australia, so Matt knew the food would be amazing too. Over the years, Melissa and Lorna had made a friendship based on their love of their husbands, neither woman being particularly the another’s type, but having spent enough time together a friendship had taken root without either of them trying. Melissa was as loud and bubbly as Toby, always smiling and full of fun, whereas Lorna’s humour was dry and quicker than a rattlesnake on a motorbike. These days the easiest common ground was the children. Melissa and Toby had two girls age six and two. That reminded him, Lorna had asked him to pop into Hamley’s to get the girls a present. He stopped and sent himself a quick email, now what was it she had asked him to get? It had to be something new out as the girls already had as many toys as a small branch of Toys r Us, Lorna said it was because the girls spent more time with their nanny than they did either Toby or Melissa with their punishing work schedules. Melissa often said she’d like to be at home more with them as they’d be going away to boarding school when they were eleven, but the crest of her wave was now, what was she supposed to do, hold back the tide?
A rabbit darted across the footpath just as Matt completed his loop back up to the cricket pitch, perhaps he’d get Dot a rabbit, she’d like that. He’d get Lorna to call the hospital to see if there were any reasons why Dot couldn’t have one.
Matt’s toes burned in the shower even though the water wasn’t that hot, he popped his head around the side of the glass screen when he saw Lorna putting a fresh towel on the radiator for him.
“Darling, could you give the docs a ring today please, and ask them if there’s any reason why Dot can’t have a rabbit?”
“I don’t need to ring to ask that.”
“Because the reason Dot is not going to have a rabbit is because I don’t want one. I’ve enough to do without cleaning a rabbit’s hutch.”
“But you love horses.”
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“It’s just mucking out on a much smaller scale.”
“Good point. Dot is not allowed near a stable so I can’t believe a rabbit hutch will be that different.”
“We could get a house rabbit or I could ask Sid to clean it out when he does the garden?”
“Yah yah a bunny for me,” interrupted a small person that had entered the bathroom unnoticed by either Matt or Lorna.
“Daddy’s not talking about us getting a rabbit Sweetheart, he was talking about his friend at work.”
“I like rabbits,” said Dot as Lorna carried her down the hall.
“Stop even thinking it Matt. I can hear your brain working from here,” she called from the top of the stairs.
The walk from Bond Street tube to the office was a pleasant one this morning, the sun had indeed broken through and was basking London with all its winter might, the cloudless blue sky made the Capital look like one of the postcards sold in the tacky souvenir shops he passed en route to the office. Full of Friday feeling Matt decided to buy the girls in the office a coffee and a cake each, they probably wouldn’t thank him for the cake but he knew they’d eat it anyway. The queue was longer than usual, which gave Matt plenty of time to select the oversized biscuits over the muffins, he watched as the team of three behind the counter processed each customer with a minimum of fuss.
“Good Morning, what are we having today?” smiled Vlad. Matt knew his name from the tag that hung on his apron, and because he came in every day. Over the months that Vlad had been working there, Matt had had a few conversations with him. He knew that Vlad was an excellent skateboarder, skier and snowboarder, he also knew that Vlad could draw and was an aspiring graphic artist. Without being told Matt knew he must have been a creative; he sported numerous facial piercings and two full sleeves of tattoos which he had drawn himself, they were quite spectacular in their own right. Matt thought of his own sorry tattoo. He’d been in Australia with Toby for six months before they headed off to their separate universities, an extended holiday with a minimal amount of work thrown in. They planned to stay in a backpackers in Cairns for close to a month, while they learnt to surf. Each day after surf school they’d go to PJ O’Briens Irish Pub for “a-schooner-a-new”. One particular afternoon after a few too many schooners of lager, Matt and Toby decided to get tattoos to remind them of their time away before they were properly separated for the first time since childhood.
“You go first,” offered Toby, “I’m still browsing.”
“I’ll have that, ‘Friend’ in Thai or Chinese or whatever it is,” declared Matt.
The following day, Matt and Toby were sitting on the beach realising they had made a mistake having paid in full for surf school and were now unable to get their arms wet for two weeks. Laying flat down on sunloungers wondering where they should head off to next, a female in a lime coloured bikini approached.
“You really should put some sunscreen on your backs,” said the really fit girl smiling down at them, “and why have you both got ‘cock’ tattooed on your arms?”
Matt and Toby looked at each other, then down at their arms. Sure enough when viewed from the other way up the Thai for ‘Friend’ looked an awful lot like ‘Cock’ in English.
Later that night Toby had copped off with the fit girl, her name was Melissa and she worked in The Woolpack bar, but wanted to become a chef.
“Have a good weekend man,” said Vlad as his gaze moved on to the next customer.
“And you,” said Matt cheerily.
Katie and Jo were as pleased as punch with the coffees.
“Stay and drink it with us Matt, I’ll share my bourbon with you,” said Jo.
“I’ve got calls I’m afraid, but enjoy.”
“Oh we will.”
First call of the day was to Toby, it went to voicemail, “hey it’s me, just checking we’re still on for the weekend. Do you want us to bring anything? Looking forward to it, oh and my money’s on Leicester to win, think I’ll even wager a small bet on it. Catch you later, Tobes.”
By mid afternoon it was clear that the day that had started out so promisingly had turned to shite. None of the contracts were signed despite the best efforts of all that were involved, some days it was just like that. But, to cap it off Lorna had phoned to say that Melissa had called to let them know they were still welcome, but that Bonnie their two year old had a cough. It could be teething, but they weren’t sure.
“You can still go Matt,” offered Lorna “I don’t mind staying at home with Dot. I know how much you were looking forward to it.”
“No. It doesn’t matter,” replied Matt feeling like he was going to cry. “I can’t go either because if I catch it, I’ll end up giving it to Dot anyway.”
“I’ll phone the hospital and see what they say.”
“Lorna, I appreciate what you trying to do, but are you going to enjoy it now whatever they say?”
“I guess not.”
“I was looking forward to it, but there’ll be other days.”
“Ok. I’m sorry Matt, I love you.”
“Its one of those things, I love you too.”
Within thirty seconds of hanging up from Lorna, Matt was in reception.
“I’ll be back in half an hour,” he barked at Jo as he strode out of the door, taking the stairs out. The morning sky that had started out so beautiful and had been replaced by a grey one, and it had just started to rain.
“That’s about fucking right,” said Matt looking skywards as he made his way towards Regents Street at the pace of an Olympic walker. He felt his phone vibrating in his pocket, he quickly glanced at it and saw that it was Toby. He rejected the call. He was too upset to fake it at that moment. It was so unfair, why did it have to be his daughter? As he paced the streets Matt’s fury eventually passed. The sadness that followed was like water, it chose the path of least resistance straight into Matt’s heart. He felt bad that he’d basically had a tantrum, he knew there were plenty of families worse off than them, it just didn’t always feel like it. He went to Hamleys and bought the softest white bunny they had to offer, one with a pink tail that he knew Dot would love. Then he went to Berry Brothers to get a ridiculously expensive bottle of wine for him and Lorna to share over the weekend. On the way back to the office he gave Toby a call.