'You're mean,' Katrina tells me in no uncertain terms. 'You went to work when your father was in hospital recovering from a heart attack. Take my word for it, Alex, that's mean.'
'It's not,' I argue. 'He told me to go to work. You know how cranky he gets when I don't do what he wants.'
Matthew gives me a pointed look and I sigh, shrugging helplessly at Kat to signify that the conversation's over. I hold the wires in position as my housemate reattaches them, a look of intense concentration on his face. I can't help being bored; it's four pm and we've spent all day beating my smashed panels into shape, buying parts and doing a lot of standing around whilst Matthew works his magic. Jared's gone for pizza and beer, Kat's flicking through a stack of old fashion magazines and I'm trying to figure out why it is Matthew's always so good to me.
'Done,' he grins, throwing the screwdriver on the ground and stretching. 'The dealer isn't going to get the paint until Friday, so we can spray the top coat on next week, but at least your car's roadworthy again.'
'I'd say thank-you and sound like I mean it, but I'm really tired,' I confess. 'And I don't really want to drive around a car that's got undercoat on the back. It makes me look derelict.'
Matthew shakes his head and laughs to himself, reaching into his overall pockets for his pouch of tobacco. He lights his cigarette and unbuttons his overalls, slipping them off his upper half and tying the arms around his waist to hold them up. It's November, it's hot and he wasn't wearing a shirt underneath, which gives Kat and I a nice view of his body. Not, however, that I tend to perve on him too much now; he's done so much for me that the last thing he needs is some little sleaze making him uncomfortable with his stares.
Kat picks up the fashion magazines and takes them inside, announcing she's going to have a shower, leaving Matthew and I in the backyard of Jared's house, exhausted from a day's work.
'You didn't have to spend your weekend helping me,' I point out, rolling onto my stomach and enjoying the feel of grass against my body. Only when you live in a townhouse, with a tiny little courtyard can you begin to appreciate a nice, large yard with soft green grass.
'It's what mates do,' Matthew replies simply, flopping onto the grass next to me. 'You know, when I said I was moving to Brisbane, everyone said I'd get all stressed out because it was cramped and polluted and there were always people around, but the worst thing is actually the lack of backyards. You know what I'd give to have a backyard?'
'A lot,' I reply knowingly. 'I love my parents to bits, but why they had to buy a townhouse for me, I don't know.'
'Maybe you should ask them if you could move,' Matthew suggests, scratching his chest. 'Would they mind?'
'Probably not,' I reply. 'But then I'd have to find another housemate, and I don't think I could find one as forgiving as you.'
He laughs softly, but his amusement is brief and he returns his attention to his cigarette. Unsure of what to do, I try teasing him a little.
'So why is it you put up with so much, anyway?' I inquire archly, poking his bicep. 'Am I just special?'
The look he gives me is one of annoyance. 'Cut the crap Alex, you know why I do it.'
'Because you have nowhere else to go,' I admit shamefully. We become silent, finishing our cigarettes and smoking fresh ones, staring at the grass and listening to the neighbourhood kids playing. I didn't have many friends as a child; my parents were never ones to have a wide circle of friends and rich kids don't tend to play on the streets with each other as much as the poorer ones. Social learning differs so much, and as we lay on the grass together, I wonder about Matthew's childhood.
'That's not it, Alex,' Matthew offers uncomfortably, breaking my chain of thought. 'Um…'
We stare at one another, our cigarettes disintegrating into ash. Simply being this close to him makes my heart beat faster and I feel incredibly nervous and clumsy. He's so beautiful; the sun's shining on his luminous skin, highlighting his tattoos and sparkling off his piercings and he carries the scents of grease, sweat, smoke and deoderant. His face is slightly sunburned and I notice he has light freckles on his shoulders, so faint you have to be looking for them to notice. Everything about him is perfect and I can feel myself flush, embarrassed at the knowledge that just being around him is enough to arouse me.
Slowly, Matthew leans over and tilts my face in his direction. He bites his lower lip for a second before moving closer and kissing me.
'This is why,' he whispers, moving in for more. 'I love you.'