EXTRA: ...Danebury Avenue
Sunday roast with my family’s still something I’d wish on my worst enemy. I don’t care. Somehow, the food’s gotten worse. Maybe that’s what’s giving me the headache.
Or maybe it’s the constant talking about Gavin’s law degree. Which he doesn’t even seem that excited about.
“Tom, pass the chick’n,” Mum says before taking finishing off her wine. She goes to the kitchen for the other box.
I pass it and just leave it in front of her plate. I don’t have anything to eat. I’m not hungry.
No one’s asked me about why my face’s fucked up. They see it. It’s kind of hard to miss. There’s a giant purple bruise on the side of my head, the yellowish bruises on my nose and chin, and the red chafed skin around my neck from where that asshole grabbed me. They still don’t ask.
“How’s uni, Gav?” I ask.
Michael’s staring me down. I’m waiting for him to complain that I’m not eating.
“Fine,” Gavin says too quickly. He doesn’t look at me when he says it. His eyes are glossy. He hasn’t smiled once since I got in. Not even the fake ones he gives Mum when she compliments him.
“Should’ve seen ’is recent marks, Tom,” Mum says, cutting into the dry roast chicken drowning in watery gravy. “Well, I am proud, wasn’t I?”
Gavin nods. No smile. He doesn’t even look at her.
“Tom, you remember that tutor from Year 4?” she asks.
I just want everyone to shut the fuck up.
“She taught literacy?”
“Oh yeah.” She was a cunt.
“Well, I ran into her at the shops. She asked about you.” Mum pauses, like she’s waiting for me to ask. Which I won’t. “She remembers your ‘avin’ a way with words. Y’ remember tha’, Michael?”
Michael nods, then says something I catch two words of. “Desk” and “studies”.
“What a gifted writer you was,” Mum says, sighing. She goes back to eating. Well, drinking while eating.
I take a sip of my water. My head hurts. I feel sick.
My phone buzzes.
Oh thank God.
M: Steve told me to message you to ask if you needed an exit yet?
M: Though I don’t know why you would, I love having dinner with my family
Already off to a bad start, considering I wouldn’t think Murph’d be a good liar unless he was
Actually, this might work.
T: Just call me and say you need me for some bullshit thing
T: my flat’s on fire
T: steve’s dead
T: JUST CALL ME TO GET ME OUT OF HERE
M: OKAY OKAY
M: Calm down, I’ll call you.
I put my phone away.
My phone buzzes, but I can’t check it just yet.
It buzzes again.
I groan. “’scuse me,” I whisper, standing up to head to the toilet.
M: Okay, hold on
M: Do you want something serious, like you mom’s passed away? Because if so, I need to know who you’re NOT having dinner with right now.
M: Do you want something a little lighter, like it’s the bank calling because of some suspicious activity on your credit card(s)?
M: Do you want me to pretend to be your landlord? I can’t do a British accent.
M: What constitutes “lighthearted” enough that you need to be called away for something?
OH MY FUCKING GOD, MURPH.
T: call me on my phone
T: and say im needed for something right now
M: Do you still want an excuse?
I’M GOING TO KILL HIM, I SWEAR TO GOD.
T: JUST CALL ME
M: Okay, okay!
I flush and put my phone away. “Jesus fuck, you dumbass,” I hiss.
“‘ello, Tom,” Mum says when I sit back down. “We were just talkin’ about Gavin’s upcomin’ training contract.”
I don’t know what that means.
“F’r his law degree.”
“Nice,” I whisper, tapping his shoulder.
Gavin looks up for a second, nods at her, then goes back to eating.
Mum takes in a breath and adds, “We’re so proud of you, luv.”
“You can stop now, Mum,” I say.
She blinks. “Wha? I can’t be proud of my son?”
Can’t say anything to that. Because it’s not worth it.
“So, Tom,” she continues, cutting up some of her chicken, “’ow’s work?”
“’t’s fine, Mum.”
“Oh!” Mum puts down her fork and knife and turns to Michael. “Michael, your colleague from the HR department, aren’t they leavin’?”
My phone starts buzzing. I pull it out and hiss, “What?”
“Mr. Maguire, this is Mr. Harlow from the Bowman Pub on Theberton Street?”
Okay, wasn’t expecting that.
“You submitted you CV a few weeks ago,” Murph says, in a voice that’s trying to sound older, “and I apologize for the tardiness of my reply, but we have decided to move you to the next stage of the interview process.”
My head hurts. “Didn’t they shut off the water for them yet?”
Murph pauses. “What?”
“God, I’ll be there soon,” I sigh, and hang up.
“Wha’ was tha’?” asks Gavin.
“The flat above Steve ‘nd I left the taps runnin’ again. I haveta go check damages.”
“Wh – if ‘t’s happened again, can’t Steve do i’ by ’imself?” asks Mum.
“All’ve Tommy’s stuff’s could be ruined,” Gavin says. He looks at me. “He should go.”
Wow. Didn’t expect that. “I should go.”
“Stay, stay,” Michael says. More mumbling than actually saying it. “You c’n always buy more, yeah?”
“I’m gonna go.” I grab my jacket and throw it on. “Sorry, Mum. Wasn’t very hungry. See you next week.”
“Tom,” she starts, but I’m already out the front door.
I call Murph. “I’m gonna drown you, I hope ya know tha’.”
He gasps. “I-I thought it was nice!”
“Givin’ me a fake job?”
“You didn’t even hear it. I had a whole thing prepped because – ” And he clears his throat, and goes back into that deep, old voice. “ – we feel you’re a candidate who’d flourish more in a managerial position.”
I wipe my face and sigh. “Murph, I can’t tell them tha’.”
“Because next week, I’ll sit down with them, they’ll ask about the interview, and, and wha’ do I say to tha’?”
He takes in a breath. “O-oh...sorry.” I’m going to say something, then he says, “I just...I thought you were capable of getting something like that. I didn’t want to go negative with a fire or fraud. I wanted to...you know, like...you’re smart. Smarter than you like to think.”
I cross the street. “That’s real sweet, Murph, but that shit doesn’t work with them.” I round the corner for the bus stop.
“Why wouldn’t they be proud of you?” he asks.
I don’t say anything. What’s there to say to that?
“Just – ” I sigh. “Next time, don’t prop me up. The worse news, the better.”
“...okay.” He takes in a slow breath and adds, “I don’t think I can do that.”
I lick my lips. “Then don’t help me next time.”
Murph sighs. “...okay.”
“I’ll message you later, okay?” And I hang up.
Except now I feel like right shit.
I call him. “Look, mate, I’m sorry.”
“Nono, I’m sorry,” he says.
I scratch the back of my head and ask, “You really think I could get a manager job?”
Something moves. I’m assuming it’s Murph nodding, because he real quickly says, “Mhm. I think you’re much more capable than you say you are.”
“Could say the same about you.”
Murph takes in a slow breath and whispers, “Thanks.”
We don’t say anything for a little.
“I, uh...” He clears his throat. “I have revisions to make on my proposal.”
“Okay. Talk to ya later?”
“Mhm.” And he hangs up.
I sit and lean back into the metal bench. My head still hurts, but I feel better. Sighing, I close my eyes.
I take in a slow breath. My stomach’s settled.
I rub my fingers together, and for just a second, it sends chills through me.
Frowning, I sit up.