Part K in the 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge
David and Mary, a married couple, were sitting on an expensive sofa that belonged to their high-school friends James and Linda. James and Linda were also married and had been for a long time. The four of them had kept in touch as they grew up and built successful careers and wealthy lifestyles. The couples had one child each, owned large houses and drove well-kept cars. They'd made a habit of getting together around once a month to sip wine and chat. On this night in particular, the conversation had turned to their kids.
'I don't know, they just don't want to work as much these days,' said Mary. 'They'd rather run off after half-baked dreams and let us look after them in the meantime.'
'Urgh, isn't it the worst?' said James. 'Matthew's Hell-bent on becoming an actor. I keep trying to tell him that once he's got a stable full-time job, he's living out on his own and he's able to support a family, THEN he can chase those dreams in his spare time.'
'They won't listen, will they?' that was Linda. 'We've been there and gone through all that ourselves, they should know that we know better now.'
'But it's all different now,' said David. 'They don't get out there and live life like we did. They're too busy talking to all their imaginary friends on their phones. You know what Ashley said to me the other day? "You can't take my computer away, I need to update my Tumblr! I have fans you know!"' The whole group burst out laughing at such a ridiculous concept. Mary spoke again.
'Back in our day, we didn't need these screens to hide behind. When we wanted to talk to someone, we had to take a bike to their house or phone them. We actually knew how to talk to people.'
'Yeah,' agreed David. 'And they're so self-absorbed that they just don't care what's going on in other people's lives.'
'And they blame all their problems on everyone but themselves,' James lamented. 'Matthew thinks I'm to blame for him not doing well in school.'
'How on Earth is it your fault?' asked Mary incredulously.
'I don't know, apparently I just "don't know what's important,"' he chuckled. 'I tried to get him to do an hour of homework a night all through high school. He fought it every step of the way.'
'It's not just them though, it's society. All these doctors are so quick to diagnose kids with depression and all these other disorders. Depression wasn't even a thing when we were younger. We just had to deal with life and move on.'
'Yeah, all this moping around like their lives are unbearable... They should realise how lucky they are. There are people starving in this world and they're worried about losing their game-station for a week...'
They kept chatting into the night until it almost became morning. Then David and Mary decided to call it quits. They drove home to an empty house - Ashley said she had some stuff to take care of with a friend. They hated it when their daughter was vague like that. Would it kill her to let them know where she was going? Mary opted to be the one to make the phone call.
'Hello?' said Ashley.
'It's Mum, where are you dear?'
'Oh, I'm... at Steph's house.'
'You'd better make your way home soon, you've got dance tomorrow. I don't want you being too tired to perform again.'
'No buts. Don't be out too late.'
Mary climbed into bed next to David and switched off the bedside lamp without saying a word.
Meanwhile, James and Linda were in their own bedroom.
'Did you remember to pick up those groceries for my Dad?' asked Linda.
'Yeah I'll drop them off tomorrow morning, he replied.
'Thank you. Any word back from your boss?'
'Yes. He said the deal fell through.'
'Are you serious? You spent ten months working on that deal!'
'I know, dear.'
'All those nights you worked late, that was all for nothing?'
'Look, I really don't want to talk about it now. Can we work it out tomorrow?'
They turned out the lights.
Now all the lights in the house were out except one. Down the corridor, in the bathroom, Matthew stood staring at his reflection. He hated what he saw with a furious passion. He was ugly, useless, hopeless, disgusting... Tears were streaming down his face, but he dared not make a sound. He didn't want his parents to wake up. He didn't want to be talked out of anything. In his right hand he held a kitchen knife. It was quivering as thoughts violently battled in his his mind. Resting on the shelf next to him, his phone was buzzing incessantly. His friends all new something was very, very wrong. He picked up the phone and looked at some of the messages.
Dude, let's talk it out.
Hey man, are you okay?
Whatever you're planning, wait 'til we get there!
In came a message from Ashley.
Matt, I'm with Steph. Matt, she's crying. Please don't let her down, she needs you.
Steph just didn't understand. Neither did Ashley. Nor did his parents or anyone else for that matter. It would just be easier if he wasn't there to be a burden any more. He gripped the knife as tightly as he could, but he couldn't bring himself to move it. Why was he so scared? Death would be a release, a way of escaping an unbearable world where he didn't belong.
Mate I've shared some of my best moments with you. I love you man.
That was a lie. Nobody loved him. Why were they trying so hard to stop him? He thought of some of the friends he had and the moments he shared. It was true he loved them, even if they didn't feel the same way. He thought of Steph and of how much he'd grown in the time he'd known her. He could feel his resolve weakening.
Matt, remember that ice cream place we found with all the weird flavours? Let's meet there and chat, man.
A smile reluctantly crept onto his face, breaking the stream of tears. Yeah, he remembered that place. Those small moments, those unique experiences, those amazing people... If only his parents could see that that's what life is really all about. He put down the knife and the tears renewed themselves. He just couldn't do it. Shame and relief came together to make a weird, tight feeling he felt inside his chest. He decided to send a message of his own.
Steph, I'm so sorry. Can we talk?
She called him immediately and sobbed hysterically into the phone, begging him to come over and see her. Matt quietly put the knife back in the kitchen drawer and sneaked out of the house - the place that had been his prison for so long. He knew he'd have to come back eventually. He knew he'd have to deal with an irate Mum and Dad when he returned the next morning. But for now the best thing he could do was to get out of there. Maybe one day they'd come to understand what he was dealing with. Maybe he wouldn't live long enough. But right now, it didn't matter. He was alive and about to be with people who truly cared. Nothing else mattered beyond that.