This was inspired by Raymond Carver’s Short Cuts
Mathew was only twenty-one but he thought of himself as a man. Mathew worked most days part time as IT support for a growing finial business in central London. This decent job paid for his current new apartment and fresh independence. He also had a girlfriend, Alex. They were both still in education but thought themselves to be rather mature and serious about their relationship. When he wasn’t working or doing essays, he was with his friends. They would often come to his apartment and drink beer and yell profanities as they watched football match in his small living room.
“That’s a red card for sure,” Chris said shaking his head unimpressed.
“Bloody hell, what’s he doing?” Mathew’s friend – Darren – asked annoyed. He got up from his seat and paced around the room. Mathew sat in the centre of the sofa, watching his friends as they absorbed the football match on the TV. Darren threw his empty beer can at Mathew’s head and huffed in annoyance. “Get your girl to give me another mate,” Darren begged.
“Tell her yourself man,” Mathew said as he turned back and gave his best effort to be act interested in the match. Darren looked uncertainly to the kitchen door and then back at Mathew.
“You tell her man, she’s your bird ain’t she?” Darren challenged. “Because if not, I’ll claim her,” he grinned.
“You’re so wasted,” Mathew laughed, he then also looked to the kitchen door, he could hear his girlfriend shuffling and preparing the pizza he had asked her to cook earlier that day. “Alex!” He called out, the noise in the kitchen settled. “Alex bring another round of beers in already,” he said. Alex then walked in with a tray full of beverages for the boys which she placed on a table crowded by empty cans and crisp packets. None of the boys noticed of her. Mathew then stepped out of the circle of football fanatics to be with his girlfriend. He whispered a quiet ‘thanks’ into his girlfriend’s ear before he turned back to his friends. “Alex make some pizza for us too,” He said as his friends all jeered at the prospect of food.
“All meat right?” Alex asked.
“You’re lucky your chick is hot Matt, because she asks bloody dumb questions!” Chris laughed and all the boys wolf whistled and hooted. Alex shook her head dismissively and walked back to the kitchen. Mathew watched her walk away and then said: “what do you expect – she’s only a girl,”
The next Sunday evening Mathew and Alex set about preparing for a dinner party that Alex had planned for her friends. As Alex polished the cutlery, Mathew cooked; set the table; stitched the detail in Alex’s evening gown and carefully placed a vase of flowers at the table. He admired his work silently as he stood by the door. He was clandestinely proud of his efforts.
That night all of Alex’s close friends came by and spent the evening dining and drinking. Mathew sat in his room reading the works of Charlotte Bronte, but he could hear the giggles and whispers of the ladies’ talk knocking on his door. He put his book down and turned to the door. Then he changed his mind and decided to go to bed. He stepped into his bed and looked at the celling… he thought he heard someone mention his name. His gaze drifted to the door. He blinked and then rolled over and tried to sleep. Finally he gave in and walked over to the door, he pressed his ear against the door; everything was a muffled blur. There was no helping it now, he opened the door ajar and listened.
“This mousse is an absolute delight,” one voice exclaimed.
“The flowers are beautiful too, oh Alex you have such wonderful eye for these things,”
“Her dress too! It’s lovely, I love the detail at the hem, stitched it yourself didn’t you?”
Mathew smiled, he smiled quietly and shyly and bit his fingers in a satisfied embarrassment. Suddenly, he heard Alex clear her throat, “Ah yes, I did actually, I’m glad you like it!” She said. Mathew frowned. His fingers tapped at the doorknob as he heard her go on: “It was nothing really,” and all the girls retorted by laughing at her humble response. Mathew slammed the door shut, and wished he had gone to bed after all. He grabbed the bottle of whisky on his desk and poured himself a glass; downed the whole glass in one and then went for the door.
“I can’t believe what you did!” Mathew hissed, as he tapped nervously on the kitchen counter. Alex peered at him from behind the fridge door.
“Babe, you’re stressing over nothing, everyone’s probably forgotten!” she reassured him. He looked at his fingers and watched as they tapped rhythmically on the surface.
“They’ll think I’m a joke,” He mumbled. “I can already hear them laughing,”
“Look babe,” Alex shut the fridge door, “We were all very drunk; too drunk. I didn’t realise when I was taking the video of you that… well, that doesn’t matter; everyone will just assume that you were too drunk to realise, its fine babe,” she then walked towards him, and reached up to his face to kiss him but was interrupted by a knock at the door. Mathew’s fingers paused and tensed.
“We’re here!” Darren yelled from the other side of the door, Alex glanced at Mathew as he anxiously watched the door. Comfortingly, she squeezed his shoulder before opening the door. “Hey, Alex where’s Matt?” Darren asked as the rest of his friends swarmed in and took their place on the sofa. Darren looked over at Matthew and smirked. “Well, well if it isn’t my man Matty!” He said with open arms, Mathew glared at him. “Or should I say… girl?” he mocked.
“Please don’t Darren, Matt’s not feeling well today; hung-over from yesterday actually,” Alex said.
“Aw, poor bastard… cross dressing is really tiring huh?” Darren winked, Mathew swallowed and clenched his fist, he could feel the blood drain from his face as he watched Darren laugh and walk towards the boys; walk away…The noise around him blurred and he could only hear the thumping of his heart. He could hear his girlfriend’s muffled voice asking if he was okay, constantly trying to assure him. He could hear Darren walking further away. He could feel his blood rush to his fist and he felt himself raise his first and the way it cut the air and how it delivered a violent blow…
Alex was stunned, shocked and horrified; both by the blood and Mathew. The room was quiet, not even the sound of commentator celebrating a goal on the TV could spur any movement. All eyes looked from Mathew to Alex… who lay dazed on the floor.
“Well,” Darren coughed, “I suppose this is what happens when the woman doesn’t stay in the kitchen….”