EXTRA: ...Danebury Avenue
Sunday roast with my family’s something I’d wish on my worst enemy.
So Danny, from Year 6, if you’re reading this, I still hate you, you fucking knobhead. Get fucked.
I’m sick of ASDA’s food. It’s always the same shite from ASDA – smile potatoes Mum still, somehow, overcooks. Roast chicken, which Michael still, somehow, overheats. Biscuits and saggy vegetables and fish fingers and stale rolls and chewy Yorkshire puddings and lumpy gravy that Mum makes Gavin get the Monday after we eat. And always, always the same nothing conversation.
“Tom, pass the chick’n,” Mum says.
I do. But I have a roll to nibble on. Steve’s picking me up from the station so I can have real tea with him.
“How’s uni?” I ask. I put a piece of roll in my mouth because Michael’s staring me down like I pissed him off again.
“Fine,” Gavin says a little too quickly. He doesn’t look at me when he says it. His eyes are sunken and he has this expression on his face like he’s ready to die.
“Law’ll be good f’r you, Gav,” Michael says, cutting into some rubber Yorkshire puddings drowning in gravy. “Y’know, Tom, you could go back, too. You could – ”
“Nope.” Nip it in the bud now. At least he doesn’t seem as insistent as last time.
“Hm,” Mum says. She takes a good long sip of her wine. “Oh! Y’know, Gavin’s been selected for another schol’rship. ’aven’t you, luv?” She smiles.
Gavin looks up for a second, smiles at her, then goes back to eating.
Mum takes in a breath and adds, “We’re so proud of you, luv.”
Gavin nods his head at her. “Thanks, Mum.”
“So, Tom,” she starts, cutting up more chicken, “’ow’s your work?”
“Fine.” I put another piece of roll in my mouth. It’s like chewing glue.
Mum clicks her tongue before taking in another sip of wine. “Mmm...Michael, ‘aven’t ya heard about new openin’s a’ work?”
Michael’s eyes move between me and Mum before he says, “Yeah...yeah.” He mumbles something that I can’t even understand, which ends with, “ – he’s leavin’ now f’r Cardiff.”
“Cardiff?” I ask. I think Adrian’s going out that way sometime this weekend. “Huh.”
“Wha’ about Cardiff?” asks Mum.
“No, nothin’. One of my mates’s headin’ out that way for a weekend trip.” Another piece of roll in my mouth. And I’m now convinced I’m gonna get sick from it.
Mum and Michael look at each other before asking, “Is, uh...are they...”
Honestly, Adrian’s not my type. But, y’know, I’m just glad he’s found someone who’ll love him. Probably.
I still say, “No.” Because mentioning anyone by name at this point means, to them, that I’m fucking them. Even Steve’s gone through it.
When I say that, they have this relieved look on their faces.
Gavin side-eyes me.
I sigh. My phone buzzes and I’ve gotten a couple messages. “One sec,” I say, standing up.
Steve’s messaged me asking if I need an out yet. Murph’s messaged me asking what I’m doing right now.
T: getting ready to hang myself why?
M: OMG TOMYM
M: OKAY HOLD ON
M: WHERE ARE YOU??
M: I’M CALLING THE HELP HOTLINE
M: TOMMY WHERE ARE YOU???
Oh my God.
T: mate i’m kidding
T: i’m at dinner with my parents
M: DON’T SAY THINGS LIKE THAT, TOMMY
M: OH MY GOD
M: I WAS REALLY WORRIED
I snicker to myself.
T: what do you want?
M: Oh, I was wondering if you wanted to do the London Eye and high tea at the Savoy tomorrow
M: Adrian’s coming, but just for the London Eye
M: I invited some of the people from my study abroad group, but they said they’re spending the day in Camden
M: Wanna come?
T: got work
T: but what’re you doing right now?
I need an out.
M: Well, right now I’m doing some studywork and revisions for my math class
M: Why is it “maths” and not just “math”? Math is a subject and all encompassing.
M: But I digress, sorry for the tangent
M: I haven’t eaten yet, but I’m also trying to make my nutella last
T: nm then
T: enjoy studying
I message Steve I need an out in 2 minutes. I go back.
“Thought you fell in’o the toilet,” says Mum. She finishes off her glass and stands to get more.
“No. People from work askin’ if I can cover them.” I’m not really hungry anymore. I put my plate to the side.
“You will, won’t you?” she asks from the kitchen. “Puts ya above the rest. Might get promoted.”
“Mhm,” I say, nodding. Then the topic gets dropped.
15 minutes later, Steve calls me. In a nasally voice that’s annoying from the start, he screams about an overflowing bathtub from the flat above us.
“Gotta go. Thanks for tea, Mum,” I say, walking over to give her a hug.
“Good seein’ ya, Tom,” she says.
I pat Michael on the shoulder, and nod at Gavin. “See ya next week.” And walk out. As soon as I do, I hiss into the phone, “I’m gonna maim you when I get back.”
Steve laughs. “What, you didn’t have anything else planned for tonight, didja?”
“No, but I could’ve.” I remind myself Murph offered something for tomorrow. “Then why’d he ask if I was free right now?” I whisper.
“Nothin’,” I say. “You’re payin’ for tea tonight.”
“Why do you think I piss you off like this?” he asks. “The kebab place, yeah?” But before I can say anything, he laughs and hangs up.
Murph’s messaged me two more times since I last wrote back.
M: Well, if anything changes, let me know!
M: And if you’re not free tomorrow, let me know when you are!
God, he’s like an excited kid. Or a dog. I’m fucking tired just reading his messages. God, that plonker’s exhausting.
I snicker to myself while I wait for a goddamn truck to pass by. “Fuckin’ dumbass.”