Cheers for the reviews. Yes, I'm going to keep writing:)
Tom and I are snuggled under the doona together. The alarm is due to sound in five minutes time. Neither of us wants to get out of bed. Three days after the race Tom's body is still sore, which makes the prospect of returning to work today daunting and for my part, I have a lecture to attend in the morning and a funeral in the afternoon.
'I don't want to get up,' Tom complains.
'Me neither,' I reply miserably. 'I'm sooo sick of people asking me about you.'
Everyone has a comment of some sort to make about my public kiss with Tom. I've spent forty-eight hours with my face the same colour as a tomato, and that's quite enough for me.
'I have a stupid interview tonight,' Tom adds. 'My parents hate me, work sucks, and all I want to do is go for a nice, relaxing, swim.'
We groan in unison.
Tom pulls the doona over his head and snuggles into my chest. He's naked, and what he's doing doesn't feel too bad at all. I groan again, this time with pleasure, and before I know what's happening, he's jerking me off.
'Wait,' I interrupt. 'I'll turn the alarm off.'
I return to bed, where we indulge in some nice, mutual, messy masturbation. We clean up, and Tom flops onto his back and sighs contentedly.
'Do you think that maybe one day we'll end up living together?'
I eye him curiously. 'I guess. I suppose. Why do you ask?'
He sits up, his legs crossed beneath him. 'If I get a sponsor out of this, I'm moving out of home. I don't want to keep moving around, so I thought maybe you could help me find an apartment. Somewhere that you'd be happy to live, when the time comes.'
Tom looks at me expectantly. I give him a broad smile, pleased that he's considering our future. Pleased, too, that he's so considerate of my feelings.
'That sounds great,' I reply happily.
It would be great to lie in bed all day, and appreciate my boyfriend for all he's worth, but that's not a realistic option for either of us. Tom has a shower and leaves for work, and soon after he leaves, I'm on my way to university.
By two o'clock I'm back home, and neatly dressed in black. Michael arrives to pick me up and we drive to the funeral parlour in his van.
'I'm getting a new car,' he remarks.
'Really? What are you getting?'
'A Subaru Outback, probably. I'm going to have a look at the dealership on Saturday.'
'Cool. Tom has one of those. His air-con needs to be fixed, but other than that, it's pretty good.'
Michael hesitates. 'Well, I'll be needing a proper car rather than a van. Can you remember Teagan?'
I try and recall the foster child Michael is speaking about. My mind conjures up a girl of about ten, fat and with blonde hair.
'Er, kind of,' I reply vaguely.
He nods stiffly. 'She's been removed from her home again. The people that took her brothers don't want to take her. She's too old or something. I've agreed...well, we've decided…she'll come and live with me.'
The news floors me. Michael's fostering? Michael?
'Oh,' I reply eventually. 'Is Brett going to start working in Australia again?'
'No,' Michael replies irritably. 'He isn't.'
It isn't very nice of me, but I can't help but wonder if Michael's fostering Teagan in order to entice Brett back to Australia. If this is Mikey's game plan, then I can't say I'm too impressed with it. Brett might not have expressly wanted another foster child at the time I moved in with him, but cared enough to take me in at a time where money was tight.
'Don't say a thing,' Michael warns. 'This has nothing to do with Brett. She needs a home and, well…my mother is going to help me out. What Brett does is irrelevant.'
'Sorry,' I apologise. 'I was being presumptuous.'
He smiles thinly. 'You and everyone else.'
'Sorry,' I apologise again.
'It's fine. Really. Once she moves in I probably won't have time to care what other people think.'
I can't think of anything to say. It seems Mike, too, has nothing to say; either that, or he simply doesn't want to talk right now. At any rate, we make the trip to the funeral home in silence.
If ever you wanted to see the difference between Jamie's family, and Terry's, then the funeral would have been the best place to witness the gap in financial and social class.
Terry's family is dressed in that expensive, yet understated way of theirs, and Jamie's are in clothing that undoubtedly originated from a chain store. Many of the latter smoke, and most – including the women – have tattoos.
Michael sighs resignedly. I stand alongside him awkwardly, not knowing what to do. We're outsiders, to a degree. We're not close enough to Jamie and his family to go running up and saying hello, and we're definitely not friendly with any of Terry's relatives.
We stand around awkwardly for ten or fifteen minutes. Lee and Claire arrive, sans their children, and less than a minute later it's time for us all to go inside and listen to the service.
'I still can't believe Terry's dead,' Lee mutters quietly as we each take a seat on a rear pew. 'Man, I'm going to miss him.'
Michael frowns, but doesn't say a word. Lee isn't particularly sensitive when it comes to death, which is most likely just a protective mechanism of his – two of his siblings have passed away, one through murder and another through suicide – and this attitude of his bothers Mike. Michael can be extremely touchy.
'I think the service is starting,' I remark, hoping to dispel any more conversation before it starts.
Nobody comments. Michael fiddles with the hem of his jacket, Claire retrieves a travel pack of tissues from her purse, and Lee restlessly leafs through a memorial booklet on Terry's life.
I'm not cut out for funerals. For someone who doesn't seem to have any problems crying at any other time, I'm remarkably adept at keeping my composure during funerals. I don't even listen to the service; I just keep scanning the room, noting everyone's reactions.
Some of the people are crying. Others look like they are here purely out of duty. Jamie, I note, belongs to the second camp. That's not to say that Terry's death has failed to effect any emotion – in fact, he looks as drawn and grief-stricken as I expected – but you can tell he would rather be anywhere else on the fact of the planet but here.
Then, seemingly without any warning and in no more than a split second, the expression on Jamie's face changes. The bitterness is replaced with fury, and his gaze focuses entirely on the eulogist. I follow his angry stare to the front of the room where the speaker – Terry's oldest brother – is staring coolly and satisfactorily down at him.
The image of the speaker's words are imprinted on my brain, and in the next few seconds I play them back, this time actually listening to what was said. In return for caring for him, my brother left all that he had to Jamie. At the time of his death, his personal fortune was conservatively estimated to have equaled…
Well, if Terry's family wanted to make a statement, they certainly have. I'm not surprised at the amount his brother quoted (although judging by the expressions on some of Jamie's relatives' faces, they are), but I am surprised that they've been so tasteless.
Geoff excuses himself and walks outside, regardless of the fact that it's only mid-service, and the speaker continues talking, this time moving onto Terry's legal career. The silence that blanketed the room is slowly replaced by the sobs of mourners, and I force my eyes away from Jamie, not wanting to stare.
The rest of the service passes in a blur. I'm angry at the bastardization of the memorial service, angry that anyone would use a funeral as a podium to voice their disdain of another. Regardless of what Terry's family think of Jamie, they had no right to kick him when he was down, especially given that Jamie managed to give their son what he wanted most – a dignified passing.
When the service ends, Michael and I stay seated. Lee and Claire shuffle outside; during the service they realized Brett's ex-boyfriend was here, and they obviously want to speak to him.
The room is almost vacant when Mike finally speaks.
'They went lower than I thought they'd go,' he remarks tiredly. 'They epitomize the saying that money can't buy class.'
'They'd probably beg to differ,' someone interrupts.
'Geoff,' Michael greets. 'I didn't see you.'
Geoff shrugs. 'I had to go outside for a bit. I wanted to speak to you, though. I heard you were fostering again.'
We head outside together. Michael and Geoff discuss the fostering of Teagan, while Geoff rolls and lights a cigarette. Unlike me, Geoff isn't the slightest bit suspicious of Michael's motives. In fact, he seems quite happy for my foster father, and encourages him to 'sing out' if ever he needs a babysitter.
Afternoon tea is being served up, but none of us are interested in food. Instead of eating, we walk across the grounds to the car park, which adjoins the funeral parlour and a cemetery. It's a hundred meters or so away from everyone and we're hidden from view by a thicket of pine trees.
'Hey, wait up,' Rusty, Jamie's younger brother, calls out.
We wait for him to join us. He's red-faced from the minimal exertion, which unfortunately does nothing for his already dubious looks. He's the fug of the family, unfortunately for him, but he and Lee get on like a house on fire. I expect it's because they have a joint appreciation of fine weed and naked girls.
Geoff stares at his son. 'How is Jamie going?'
Rusty shrugs. 'Okay. He said he was going to go home soon. Mum's gonna take him.'
'I don't want him causing trouble,' Geoff warns.
His son takes offence at the intimation. 'He might be a poof, but he doesn't need me to hold his hand.'
Michael winces at the choice language, but doesn't comment. Instead, he turns away, and watches someone come buzzing down the street on a small motorcycle.
As the rider approaches, I realize it's not a motorbike he's on, but a scooter. A black scooter. A very familiar black scooter. A Lambretta, in fact. Jackie's scooter.
Before I have a chance to worry about coming face to face with Jackie, the rider has pulled up, and removed his helmet. It's not Jackie at all, though the rider is definitely wearing Jackie's leather jacket and helmet. From a distance the guy looks like my ex-boyfriend – they have the same body type – but up close you'd never mistake them.
'Hey, hey, hey,' the rider greets, flipping up his visor. 'Is there anybody around?'
All of us look around.
'Nope,' Geoff confirms.
'Then it's all good. Now who's gonna be the lucky recipient of my attention?'
Geoff describes the car, and it's driver. I realize, when he starts describing the driver, that he's talking about Terry's brother. I want to interrupt, and confirm that they're not really talking about what I think they're talking about, but Michael gives me a firm warning look. I keep my mouth shut.
The rider clarifies a few points, nods, and then suggests that Michael and I head back to where everyone else has congregated. Michael and I agree that this is a very good idea, and start walking back to the main group.
'From a distance, you wouldn't know that wasn't Jackie,' Michael muses.
'No,' I agree. 'You wouldn't be able to tell a difference.'
Michael starts making a detour, walking in amongst the rows of graves and 'memorial trees', so that we have a few more minutes of privacy.
'In the event that anyone ever asked, who would you say you saw?'
I shrug. 'I don't know. I don't know his name.'
'Really?' Michael confirms archly. 'I would say I saw Jackie.'
I bite down on my fingernail. 'They're setting him up, aren't they?'
'They're killing two birds with one stone. Not literally killing of course, but there are two problems to be dealt with, and they're dealing with them both at the same time.'
'Jackie's a family member,' I argue restlessly.
'Jackie's screwed the family over. You can't abuse your family's connections and expect to get away with it.'
Reluctantly, I accept the inevitable. 'I suppose.'
'You'll say it was Jackie you saw?'
Michael removes his jacket and loosens his tie. 'Terry's brother is a fool. Terry died without a cent to his name. Everything was transferred into Jamie's name three years ago.'
The statement strikes me as false.
'No,' I argue. 'Terry always had money. He used to spend way more than Jamie did.'
'He had access to what were legally Jamie's accounts. He didn't have a thing. Jamie could have left him years ago and taken off with the lot, and Terry would have been left without recourse.'
'Wow,' I remark. 'That was brave of him.'
Mikey shrugs. 'Why would you say that?'
I consider my answer. 'I was thinking of Jackie,' I admit. 'I'd trust Tom.'
He smiles at me. 'That's good to hear. It's good to have that kind of relationship.'
Michael glances down at his watch. He stares at the congregation of people eating afternoon tea, and then in the general direction of the carpark.
'Are you ready to go?' he asks.
Michael and I make our way over to Lee and Claire, who are talking to Brett's ex-boyfriend. We let them know we're going. Lee agrees to pass on our sympathies to Jamie, if he manages to get a minute alone with him before the latter leaves.
As we walk towards the car Michael removes his tie and runs his hand through his hair.
'Jamie's going to Vietnam to see Brett,' he comments. 'Terry arranged it before he died. He didn't want Jamie to be at home, alone, after his death. It will also give people something to talk to Jamie about, rather than just asking about Terry's passing.'
I shake my head. 'Terry planned everything didn't he?'
'He certainly did.' Michael agrees. A smile flickers across his face. 'I wonder how Brett will cope with having a guest?'
The mental image amuses me.
'Terribly.' I grin.
Michael and I break into uncontrollable laughter.