Disclaimer: The characters, items, places etc of Digimon are property of Toei Ltd. These objects are used without permission for entertainment only, not for making money. No infringement is intended.

I think I should state right now that this fic deals with drugs, the usage of drugs, and their effects. Readers beware! Any readers currently using drugs- including cigarettes- also take note.
Regards go out to ProcurerFaith, as per usual, for giving me a hand in the more medical side. Thank you, Oh-Medical-Dictionary grins

Don't want to be here, don't want to be here, don't want to be here…
Yet he was, riding the filthy bus into a part of the city he barely knew. He shifted uncomfortably underneath the dusky lighting flitting through the dirt on the windows, highlighting the dirt on the seats.
He looked up and made out a bus stop in the distance. Reaching up, he jabbed the 'stop' button in front of him, getting up and precariously making his way from the back to the front.
"Thanks," he said, jumping off the bus as the driver started to move once his feet had barely left the platform.
And then he was alone. Glancing round, he dazedly tried to look for the man he had been given a description of. Yet, within moments, someone was tapping him on the shoulder.
"You Matt?"
He turned. The man standing before him was of medium height, with bleach-blond hair and a leather jacket
Just like the description.
He held out a small silver packet. Matt took it, fishing into his coat pocket for some money. Finding the notes, he handed them over.
"Ta," was the response. "If you need any more, or anything else, you know where I am."
And then he was gone, and Matt was left to walk a few yards back to the bus stop he had just got off at. Maybe if he were lucky, he'd catch the same bus on its return route.

Off The Verge (aka Tourniquet)

By Nanaki Lioness

Shouting. Again.
Matt wearily unlocked the front door to his apartment, hearing the sounds of his parents fighting from as far down as the elevator.
"Hi Mum, Dad," he said as they ignored him, continuing their rant at each other. He walked into his room, shutting the door and marvelling how his parents could completely ignore his entrance.
It's no wonder I'm on this stuff…
Opening the silver foil, he reached under his bed and pulled a small packet of cigarette papers out. Taking one from the green packet, he pulled some of the tobacco-like resin from a small tin and stuffed it into the thin paper. Double-checking his parents were still yelling at each other, he opened his window and sat by it, lighting the joint and inhaling it's toxic chemicals thankfully.
One of his friends had said he should try cannabis to calm his current violent temper. Matt had taken up on that, and found himself easily addicted to the rush. The euphoria. The general feeling of apathy that he wasn't finding in his life without it.
And yet, it didn't stop him feeling as guilty as hell.
He tried to relax and let the natural high overtake his body, knowing when he returned to normality, his parents would probably have stopped shouting at one another.
As he was halfway through the joint, and somewhere between high and normal, his phone rang.
He ignored it. It rang still.
Angrily, he picked it up and answered it.
Matt winced mentally.
"Hey TK… Sorry about that. I'm just a little bit busy right now."
"Yeah, I'm… Tidying my room. You know what a mess it can be."
TK laughed. "Yeah, I can understand that."
Matt took the moment TK was talking in to quickly inhale some more of his rapidly disappearing joint, only to choke on it.
"Matt, you okay?" TK asked.
"S-sure," Matt coughed. "Choked on some drink."
"You're so funny sometimes, Matt!" TK said, laughing a little.
"There's nothing funny about choking," Matt chided gently, grinning a little. He could feel the high starting to take effect, and he didn't want his little brother to hear it in his voice. "Anyways, what did you phone for…? I need to get back to my room."
"Nothing important," TK said, and Matt could almost see him shrugging along with the statement. "Just wondered if you fancied a movie tonight? I'm at Kari's right now, but she has to go to a dance class soon."
"Sure!" Matt said cheerfully, staring at his joint as it burnt his spent money into ash and smoke he wasn't using.
"That's great! I'll let you get back to work then, eh?"
"Thanks, TK. See you later."
"Sure. Bye!"
Matt disconnected the phone; at the same time inhaling deeply from the joint that was about three-quarters burnt.
He really wished he didn't need it sometimes. He wasn't addicted- far from it, as cannabis contained no addictive qualities; it simply played havoc with his social life. Though, his mind was beginning to drift as he took the last inhale from the joint and stubbed it out. So he laid back and let it do so.
. . . . . . . . . .

A few hours later, the high having worn off, Matt was getting ready to go out. His parents had indeed stopped arguing, and were currently watching TV without speaking to one another.
"I'm off out," Matt declared as he left his room and headed to the front door.
"Make sure you're not back late," his dad said disinterestedly, his eyes still on the TV. Matt sighed and walked out the front door.
Why do I want a fix every time they ignore me like that…?
No. I have to resist it, for TK's sake…
TK was waiting for him outside the apartment building. No words of hello were exchanged, both of them beyond the stage of a verbal greeting when a nod of the head would do. They set on route to the cinema in silence for a while until TK spoke.
"Did you get your room tidy?"
"Huh? Oh! Yeah, I did. So what movie are we seeing?"
"Whatever you want."
Matt shrugged. "Surprise me."
Upon reaching the cinema, TK got tickets for 'any movie you like, you choose'- which proceeded into some strange looks from the cashier, and two tickets for some movie they'd never heard of. Buying some popcorn and drink, the two made their way into the cinema and sat down in the nearest seats.
"Can we throw popcorn at the screen if the movie's lame?" TK asked, grinning cheekily.
Matt raised an eyebrow. "You know how annoyed Mum and Dad got when we used to do that."
"Mum and Dad aren't here," TK said, grinning. After a moment, he looked at Matt seriously. "So… How were they today?"
Matt shrugged. "Shouting. Did you expect any less?"
"No, not really." TK sighed. "I really can see them getting a divorce if this carries on, ya know… I don't want that, but I think they could."
Matt grinned. "Nah, I don't think so."
Or rather, I hope not.
"Mmm. Maybe," TK said quietly, silencing himself as the movie began.
Maybe, little brother? Quite possibly, I think. And there's nothing either of us can do about it.
. . . . . . . . . .

The short walk home from the cinema was windy; night bringing gales and misty rain with it. The two brothers wrapped their coats around themselves, trying to shield from the wind under the collars.
"I hate this weather!" TK yelled, Matt only just making out his words.
"I know what you mean!" He shouted back in response. The walk would normally only take ten minutes at the most, but it had taken them double that already and they weren't even halfway home. They kept ducking into doorways to catch their breath and to warm up a little, and it didn't help that they were trying to walk against the onslaught.
TK stopped, coughing and taking deep breathes beneath his coat collar. Matt stopped, too, waiting for his brother so they could continue.
Only, he seemed to get worse. Before long, he was breathing quick and shallow, seemingly choking.
"TK!" Matt asked, a little panicked as he realised what could be happening.
TK frantically pointed to his backpack, indicating something to Matt knew instantly: Asthma inhaler. The elder blonde did as was instructed, looking through TK's bag for the small blue implement. He found it and shook it, pushing the catch up on top of it and giving it to TK.
"Inhale!" He instructed sharply. Shaking hands took the device off of him, but did nothing.
"Don't tell me you can't! Inhale, TK!"
TK pushed the inhaler to his lips and breathed in; it wasn't very deep, but it was enough to release the concentrated chemicals in a rush of air.
"Again," Matt demanded, taking the inhaler back and re-pressing the catch up. TK took it from him this time, holding it for a second before taking another breath.
"Thank you," Matt murmured, pushing the younger boy to the ground and wrapping his arms and coat round him. TK pushed against his chest, his breathing a little better, trying to hide from the wind and cold.
TK nodded against him, his breathing quieter and deeper.
"Good. It scares me when you do that, you know?"
"Mmm," came the soft reply.
After a few minutes of silence, where TK's breathing returned to normal and the gales surrounded them, TK made a move to stand. Matt followed, and they wordlessly continued their journey.
The word was so soft that Matt almost didn't hear it; wasn't expecting it, either, after their silence.
"Yes, TK?" He near-shouted back.
"I… Thank you…"
Matt shrugged, pulling his coat further around himself.
"Without you… If you hadn't made me, I wouldn't have inhaled that stuff…"
Realising the serious turn the conversation was taking, Matt pulled them both into a doorway of a shop.
"Why not?" He asked, glad that he didn't have to shout as loud to be heard.
"'Coz I hate it."
"Hate what? The taste, the sensation?"
"No, no. Taking it"
"It makes you better, TK."
TK sighed. "Yeah, I know. But… I've heard so much about drugs and stuff, I just don't wanna take it…"
There was a pause.
"We… We had a Drugs Awareness afternoon in school. The guy was telling us about how sometimes prescribed things could be harmful, too."
Matt grinned. "Only if you misuse them. Like paracetamol. It's a painkiller, but if you overdose on it, it'll harm your liver."
"I know, he told us that… I just got worried that-"
"There's no need to be worried, TK," Matt interrupted. "You've been taking that stuff for years. Just because someone's pointed that a few idiots want to overdose on it- and I don't even think you can overdose on it, TK- you suddenly think it's dangerous?"
TK grinned a little sheepishly.
"Sounds silly, doesn't it little brother?"
TK nodded.
"You feel better about it?"
Another nod.
"Good. All you need to know are illegal drugs are the ones that mess you up, not your inhaler stuff. Now, let's go home before we freeze to death."
They continued their walk, feeling the bitterness of the wind as they stepped out of the doorway.
Oh God…
How can I tell TK about the dangers of drugs? How can I tell him it's perfectly all right when I'm messing my own body up with them? How can I be such a hypocrite!
. . . . . . . . . .

They arrived home to find their parents already in bed; or rather, their mother in the bedroom and their father on the couch.
"Typical," TK whispered as he flicked the living room light on. "Dad always sleeps on the sofa these days."
"Hmm," Matt replied, hanging his coat up by the door. "Doesn't seem fair."
"What, that Mum always gets the bed?"
Matt grinned. "No, silly. That when Mum and Dad argue all the time, it never seems to be Mum's fault; it's always Dad's."
"I know what you mean," TK agreed. "But, he's such a workaholic..."
"He does it for us, and for Mum."
"Yeah… Well, we know that, don't we?"
Matt smiled ruefully and made his way to his bedroom, not answering.
"'Night TK," he called quietly before shutting his door. He heard TK call back to him 'goodnight' though the door, and saw the living room light shut off through the glass panel above his door. He sighed and laid back on the bed, resisting the urge for a fix.
For something that's not addictive, I seem to want this stuff a lot… Probably because it's like a painkiller to me or something…
Out of curiosity, he turned his bedside lamp on and pulled the small tin out from under his bed. Opening it up, he winced as he saw only a small amount of the resin collected in the corners. He never realised how much he was using until it was too late.
He sighed and slammed the tin shut again. It wasn't working so much any more; the pain was still getting through to him.
Lying down, he turned the radio on low and let the music lull him into sleep.
I can get through this without that stuff, anyway.The following morning was a Saturday, which meant neither Matt nor TK had set an alarm for school. Enjoying a lay-in was rare, even at a weekend, since they were normally awaken by raised voices.
The Saturday morning in question was no exception.
"What do you mean, work!" It's Saturday!"
Matt awoke to the very-loud exclamation of his mother, not wanting to open his eyes and not wanting to get up.
"I'm only-"
"I know why you do it! To get away from here, isn't it!"
"Don't lie to me!"
Already having had enough, Matt jumped out of bed and grabbed some clothes. Dressing quickly, he ran a brush through his hair and opened his door so hard he was surprised he didn't pull it off the hinges. Still being half asleep and deciding to enter the war with his parents was probably not a good idea, but he didn't care. He'd had enough.
"Will you shut up!" He said angrily, raising his voice above his parents.
Both of them looked at him, quietening instantly.
"Thank you!" He said, crossing his arms and leaning against the doorframe. "Some of us are trying to sleep!"
"And some of us are going to be late for work," his father stated, reaching for his wallet and packet of cigarettes on the coffee table.
"No!" His mother said, slapping his hand so hard he dropped the contents back down. "You're not going to work today!"
"Mum, just let him go to work!" Matt said, rolling his eyes. "You only yell at each other when you're together anyway! He works for you, and for me and TK!"
"Shut up Matt!" His mother said as his father picked up his wallet and cigarettes again as her attention turned to her eldest son. "You don't know anything!"
"Don't I? I hear you both bitching at each other enough to understand everything! Don't you think me and TK see what you say to each other! Maybe you should both take some consideration into what you say before you say it!"
The words were out of his mouth before he realised, and he mentally kicked himself as he saw the expressions on his parent's faces.
"You always take your father's side," his mother hissed.
"That's enough, Nancy," his father said quietly.
"And you! You always take Matt's side!" Nancy yelled, turning to her husband.
"There are no sides," Matt said, calming himself down a little as he realised how full-scale the argument had become. "Just two confused kids and two at-war adults."
"Well, maybe it would be better if TK lived with me and you went to live with your father."
Matt stared at his mother, eyes wide.
I don't believe she just said that.
"Don't bring me and TK into this," he said, narrowing his wide eyes. "If you have a problem, work it out; don't use us as pawns!"
TK was standing in his doorway, sleepily looking at the scene before him.
Mr. Ishida sighed and walked towards the front door.
"Mum!" Matt said, glaring at her. "Leave it!"
Nancy closed her mouth, silently seething as her husband walked out the door.
"Get out of my sight," she said quietly after the door had slammed, not looking in Matt's direction.
Matt glared at her. "Gladly," he declared, turning his back and slamming his bedroom door shut again.
Once inside, he leant back against and sighed shakily.
Need to calm down, need to not think about what she said…
Impossible. Need a fix, that's what I need…
"That's it," he muttered under his breath, reaching into a drawer next to his bed and pulling out some money. Putting it in his wallet, he opened the door again and ignored both his mother and brother.
"Where do you think you're going!" His mother demanded as he put his coat on.
"Out. Not that you care. You wanted me out your sight, remember?" Matt said patronisingly, turning to her and narrowing his eyes.
"Matt, are you okay…?" TK asked gently.
Matt smiled at him a little.
"Fine, TK. Go back to bed."
With that, he turned and stormed out the door, leaving TK bewildered and his mother angry.
If I come home and find divorce papers on the table, I think I'll do something very stupid…
Not that I'm about to already. Oh, God… Why can't I get by without it! I'm not addicted to it!
No, but you're addicted to the rush, aren't you? Only it's no longer working. Now what? Something harder? That would be stupid.
He reached the bus stop at the end of the road, knowing a bus would be along shortly; they ran frequently on a Saturday for eager kids wanting to shop at the Odiaba shopping mall. Conveniently, his destination was just beyond there; on weekdays, the bus went right through, but even the drivers didn't want to be there if they didn't have to be. The area was rough, well known for its drug dealing and violence.
Almost as though it had read his mind, a bus turned the corner onto his road. He put an arm out to stop it, hopping on quickly with the correct fair in hand.
"Return to Odiaba shopping mall," he stated, laying his money on the serving tray. The driver pushed a few buttons and issued a ticket.
As Matt was tearing it off and putting it in his wallet, he heard someone call his name. As he turned, he inwardly wanted to jump straight back off the bus.
Tai was sitting at the back with Kari, grinning like a madman and waving.
You're the last person I want to see right now, Tai. You always convince me to be happy.
"Hey Tai…" Matt said wearily, walking to where his friend was sitting as the bus carried on its way.
"You look like you've just woken up," Tai commented.
"Gee, thanks," Matt said, rolling his eyes. "And as a matter of fact, I have."
"In a rush to get shopping, eh?"
"Shopping. I heard you say the shopping mall to the driver. That's where me and Kari are going." He indicated his younger sister, who was looking out the window.
"Hey Matt," Kari said, turning to him and grinning.
"Hey Kari," Matt smiled, putting in a little more effort to seem normal. Kari could always sense when things weren't right, unlike her brother.
"So what are you shopping for?" Tai asked.
"Nothing? You're going to a shopping mall to shop for nothing?"
"Yup," Matt replied, leaning back in his chair and closing his eyes.
"Still tired?"
Silence for a while as the bus continued on its way. Matt leant back and enjoyed it; he didn't get much peace anymore.
Tai shook him annoyingly. "You're so quiet today!"
"Maybe that's because I don't want to talk," Matt said, keeping his eyes closed.
"Why not?"
"Because I don't."
"Because!" Matt near-shouted. "Leave me alone!"
"Fine, fine… Just trying to be helpful…"
Matt opened his eyes and glared at Tai. "What part of that conversation did you see as 'helpful', Tai?"
Tai grinned, jabbing the 'stop' button as their destination approached. The three stood up, along with a number of the other passengers. The Odiaba shopping mall was in view, across the road; along the side of it, the alley that led to where Matt wanted to go.
"So what are you really shopping for?" Tai asked Matt as they got off the bus, Tai and Kari heading to the mall. Matt followed them, his eyes on the alley.
"I told you; nothing."
"Nobody shops for nothing, Matt!"
"I do."
"Matt, what's the matter?" Kari asked gently, halting their walk to the mall by stopping and sitting on a nearby bench.
Matt sighed. He couldn't use his cold exterior on Kari.
"Just stuff… Nothing for you to worry about."
"Trouble at home again?" Tai asked, sounding sympathetic.
"How do you know?" Matt asked, a little surprised before guessing the answer himself. "TK, right?"
Kari nodded. "He's told me all about what's going on."
"And she told me," Tai added.
Matt looked at the alley again, and then at the two concerned faces before him.
"Mum and Dad argued again this morning," he said quietly, averting his eyes. "Mum… Well, she gave me the impression that she hates me."
"We went through this four years ago," Tai said. "She loves you, you know that."
"No," Matt shook his head. "She said today… She said that I always sided with Dad and maybe she should live somewhere else with TK."
Kari and Tai both exchanged a glance.
"Divorce?" Tai said quizzically.
Matt shrugged. "Probably. I don't really want to talk about it."
"Then maybe you should come shopping," Tai suggested. "It'll relax you."
Matt shook his head. "I don't have much money, Tai."
At least, I won't have when I get out of here…
"I'll pay."
"No, Tai."
"No. Thank you, but no. I have to be somewhere else right about now."
Tai looked as though he was going to ask where, but he didn't.
"Tell you what," the brunette said after a moment, his face brightening. "Why don't you meet me back here in a hour, when you've done whatever it is you need to do."
"Okay," Matt agreed, smiling a bit. "An hour. See you then!"
With that, he turned and walked away, leaving Kari and Tai to make their way into the mall. Matt waited nearby until he saw the two enter the building before turning and jogging down the alley away from his friend's eyes.
It didn't take him long to reach where he was headed; graffiti, litter, girls with very little on- even in the cold of the day- and guys with leather jackets not unlike his own stood on corners.
"Hey sweetie," one girl, a tall thin blonde, cooed at him. She winked a heavily made-up eye at him, and beckoned with her index finger seductively to him.
Matt sighed, and averted his eyes. True, the girl was attractive, but she was flaunting herself in such a manner that it instantly took the appeal away.
She may have a perfect figure, but she sure doesn't have a perfect personality. Besides, I still look half asleep. My hair's probably a mess, and I'm hardly dressed well at the moment. What the heck can girls like her find so attractive?
He caught the eye of his usual dealer, who nodded and made his way over.
That's it. Hard man, taking drugs. Dangerous, has appeal.
Well, sorry to disappoint you, but I'm hardly dangerous… Just confused, and maybe even a little bit scared.
"Hey," he said as the man approached.
"Hey. You look rough."
"I feel rough."
Matt sighed, putting his hands in his pockets and reaching for his money.
Matt stopped, and looked up. The man was reaching into his pocket himself, and handed him a small silver packet.
"Try this stuff. Might make you feel a bit better."
Matt took the packet, looking it over curiously.
Matt's eyes widened, and he looked up at the dealer.
"You can have that one free: don't worry, it's pure. I don't want to go round killing people by mixing chemicals and all that other junk into it."
"Sure," Matt replied, not sure whether to be pleased or not.
"You won't need anything else once you've tried that. Trust me."
"But isn't it dangerous?"
The man laughed. "If you get the impure kind. My stuff's neat, no one's ever died from using it. You want it, or not?"
You know you should say no.
"I dunno…"
"Well, take it anyway. If you want to use it, you can. You can make the choice in your own time."
"Okay…" Matt said, placing it into his pocket. "I'll think about it."
"You'll need this."
Discreetly, the man placed something in Matt's hand. He looked down and almost fainted.
A syringe. Clean, in a packet, with a catcher over the tip, so no chance of infections.
"Remember to always use a clean one," the dealer advised. "I'll supply you with one every time for an extra charge."
"I never said I was going to use it," Matt said, his eyes still on the needle in his hand.
"I know. You don't even have to inject it, you can inhale it if you want. Liquidise it over a spoon or something. If you do inject it, remember to use a tourniquet to bring the vein up."
"I mean, the heroin, not the needle."
The dealer shrugged, looking round as someone else caught his eye. "I have to go now. Let me know how you go, if you decide to go ahead with it."
With that, he jogged away to another waiting customer; a girl aged about 15, with the clothing and make-up of a 25 year old. Matt shook his head sadly and made his way out of the area. He didn't want to be there any longer than necessary.
. . . . . . . . . .

True to his word, he met Tai back in front of the shopping mall an hour later.
"Did you do whatever you where going to do?" Tai asked, knowing not to delve any deeper.
"Sure, kinda," Matt replied. "You guys made a good start?"
Kari held up numerous bags with a smile, whilst Tai held up one bag with a sports label written across it.
"How did I know it'd be sports gear for you?" Matt grinned as they made their way to the mall.
"You know me too well!" Tai exclaimed in mock-surprise, running forward a few paces and jumping spread-eagle at the automatic doors. They opened with a dull 'whoosh' sound as Tai grinned and turned to the other two.
"Why are you so hyperactive this morning, Tai?" Matt asked, raising an eyebrow as they entered together into the mall's giant food court at the entrance.
"He's been like this all morning," Kari said. "I think it's a girl that's got him this way."
Tai stopped and looked at Kari a moment before laughing.
"A girl! No way, I don't have time for girls!"
"I don't think that's it," Matt verified. "He doesn't really hang round with any girls at school."
"So what is it?" Kari questioned, putting her hands on her hips and pouting.
Tai looked at her a moment before breaking out into a grin. "Kari, you look so… Well, adult!" He said. He covered his face and pretended to cry. "My little sister's all grown up!"
Matt looked skyward whilst Kari looked embarrassed.
"Tai, shut up," she hissed quietly, trying to hide her blushing cheeks beneath her bag-laden hands.
"Can I meet you guys later whilst I get something to eat?" Matt asked, dispelling the previous conversation as he realised standing in the centre of the food court was making him hungry. "I skipped breakfast."
"We'll come too," Tai said, already walking in the direction of the closest restaurant serving-hatch of many. "Shopping makes you hungry."
"No, shopping makes you hungry," Kari called to them as she sat down at a table.
"Whatever!" Tai called back, grinning even though she couldn't see.
"So what are you guys shopping for?" Matt asked, putting his hands in his pocket and almost panicked as he remembered the sharp needle in there. True, it was covered, but he didn't doubt it'd hurt anyway.
Tai shrugged. "Kari wanted to go, Mum said I had to go with her… Besides, I had money, so I figured why not? I did try to call you last night to ask if you and TK wanted to come, but your phones were off, and your parents said you weren't home."
"Yeah, we went to the movies," Matt said as they stopped at the serving hatch for what turned out to be the mall's ice cream parlour.
"Can I have mint choc chip, strawberry and vanilla please?" Tai asked, handing a note over to the cashier.
"So, where am I going to get something to eat?" Matt asked. "Ice cream doesn't substitute as a very good breakfast."
"Here you are, Sir," the cashier said, handing him back his change.
"Thank you," Tai said before turning back to Matt, who was looking at him wearily. "I already ordered you vanilla!" The brunette protested. "Besides, we can eat and shop at the same time then!"
"I didn't realise that was for me!" Matt said. "I thought 'strawberry and vanilla' was one flavour!"
Tai laughed, accepting the mint and the strawberry ice creams, leaving Matt to take the vanilla. "Well, as you can see, it's not," he said matter-of-factly.
"Hmm. So I can see."
They made their way back over to Kari, who saw them and walked over to them.
"Here," Tai said, handing Kari her ice cream. She smiled and nodded 'thanks' as she bit into it. "Now, will you be all right for a while? I need to talk to Matt."
"Do you?" Matt asked, surprised.
"Yup," Tai grinned.
Kari sat back down in a chair next to her, nodding past her ice cream.
"Come on."
Tai led them to the opposite side of the food court, sitting them down in a space with no one else present. For a while, they were content on eating their ice creams, Tai finished his quickly as Matt was beginning to crunch the cone.
"So are you gonna tell me what happened or are you gonna leave me guessing?"
Matt sighed. "I don't-"
"Don't tell me 'I don't want to talk about it'. Something's up, isn't it?"
Matt shrugged, finishing the last of his ice cream.
"Don't, Matt."
Before either of them could speak again, Matt heard the familiar noise of a mobile phone ring tone.
"That's me," he said, reaching into his pocket and pulling it out. The screen read 'home' on it, and he rolled his eyes. "Hello?" He answered.
"Matt, it's me."
"Oh. Hi Mum."
"Where are you?"
Matt rolled his eyes. "I'm at the Odiaba shopping mall with Tai and Kari. Does it really matter?"
"…Your father called me from work. He says if I want him to, he'll quit."
"That'd be really selfish," Matt snapped, his earlier anger at his mother not dying away at all.
"What! I'm telling you the truth!"
"That isn't what I phoned up to hear. What I actually told him was that maybe he should lay off the work a little bit, but he shouldn't quit."
"Good. That's progress with you two."
"I also said that we're going to get a divorce."
Matt almost dropped the phone, eyes wide. Tai noticed the change in demeanour instantly and frowned.
"Because it's not working out between us-"
"Then make it work! You can't just divorce because 'it's not working out'!"
"That's the main reason people divorce, Matt."
Tai sighed deeply as he heard what Matt said. Everything fitted in to place suddenly, and he wisely caught Kari's eye and shook his head to indicate he would be a while. She seemed to understand, as she pulled out her mobile phone and began to use it; text, call someone, play a game- Tai didn't know nor care at that moment.
"Mum, you can't just… Phone me up and tell me you're getting a divorce! That's not fair!"
"TK'll come with me."
Matt didn't say anything for a moment, and though his mother couldn't see the tears in his eyes at that statement, Tai certainly could.
"You'll go with your father."
"And what about what me and TK want?"
"It's not about that."
"You can't split me and TK apart!" Matt said, his voice cracking part the way through, betraying his emotions.
"I can do what I want, Matt."
Matt pulled the phone from his ear and disconnected the call, turning his phone off and throwing it down on the table in front of them. He bought his hands up to his face, covering his temples with them and angrily blinking tears back.
Tai didn't say anything; he knew the best thing would be to let Matt calm down before attempting to talk to him.
"I don't believe she just did that…" Matt said after a minute or two, eyes closed and hands still over his temples. "She… She wants TK to go with her, and me to go with Dad…"
"She's just angry," Tai re-assured quietly. "When you get home, things will be back to normal again. You'll see."
"Normal?" Matt said, shaking his head. "Normal is shouting these days, Tai. I can't remember when they last spoke about something. I can't remember the last time they weren't angry." He sighed shakily, two tears making tracks down his cheeks, which he quickly cleared. "I can't remember the last time they shared a bed… Dad always sleeps on the couch…"
"Well, maybe it'd be for the best," Tai ventured. "I mean, splitting you and TK up would be a bad move, but maybe it'd be good for them to separate for a while. My Mum and Dad did that, about seven years ago. They were arguing all the time, and Dad went away for a few days. Mum realised how much she missed him, and when he came back everything was fine again."
"How did you feel during that, Tai?" Matt asked quietly.
Tai shrugged. "I thought perhaps Mum and Dad didn't love me and Kari anymore. I don't really remember anything else."
"That's kinda how I feel now, only I know Dad loves me. Mum on the other hand…" Matt shook his head. "I don't think so."
"She's your Mum, of course she loves you."
Matt shook his head. "Not true." He slammed a fist down onto the table, closing his eyes tighter as two more tears crept out. "Go back to Kari," he said softly. "Go and finish your shopping. I'll come and meet you again later, I just… Need to be alone…"
With that, he got up and walked in the opposite direction, leaving Tai with no other choice but to go back to his sister.
"What's the matter with him?" Kari asked, putting her phone away as Tai approached.
"His Mum phoned. She wants to divorce his Dad and split TK and Matt up."
Kari looked troubled. "Is he all right?"
Tai shook his head. "No. But when he wants to be alone, who am I to stop him? I'll go hunting in about half an hour and see if I can find him. He won't do anything stupid, Kari, don't worry. He'll be fine when he's calmed down."
. . . . . . . . . . .
You'll be fine when you calm down. Don't worry…
Only, you won't be, will you?
Matt walked straight out of the building, headed to the multi-storey car park. He had no clue why; he just needed to be alone, and that was the only place he could think that would be semi-deserted.
Putting a hand into his pocket again, his fingers grasped round the syringe and the small packet in his pocket. Jogging across the multi-storey, he headed for the stairs. Three flights later, he was at the top level; one or two cars were parked there, since most people preferred to park at the entrance of the mall.
Perfect for me right now.
The lighting strips were dusty, casting a dull light on the car park as he made his way over to what appeared to be the darkest corner. Once there, he sank down to the ground and curled his knees to his chest. He hated the way he was feeling about the small packet in his pocket.
Maybe… Maybe that'll make it all better…
He pulled it out, looking it over and over before pulling the syringe out as well. Feeling tears prick his eyes, he let them fall as he opened the packaging.
Maybe everything'll just go away… Maybe, if I take this stuff, I won't feel the pain…
Tearing open the packaging of the syringe, he laid it on the ground and pulled his lighter from his pocket. He didn't have a metal spoon to heat it with, though, so he quickly improvised. He picked up an empty drink can from his side- one of many- and proceeded in using his key-ring pocketknife to cut the top off.
One of Tai's ideas for a present proved useful for once…
Flicking the lighter to life, he held the can tightly and tipped the resin in, waiting for the powder to liquidise. His fingers quickly became hot from the heated metal, but he closed his eyes and let it burn. After all, if he dropped it…
He didn't even want to think about that.
Sure enough, the powder soon became liquid, and he drew it up into the syringe. Remembering the dealer's words about using a tourniquet, he quickly pulled his shoelace free and tied that around his forearm. Tightening the knot, he waited a few moments for the vein to appear, slapping the area a few times when it didn't.
For God's sake, someone please see me and help me… Do something, because I don't want to be doing this!
Yet, I do. I want to see if it makes me feel better, but I know it's wrong…
It's pure, the guy said. He said it's all right.
Before he changed his mind, he pushed the needle into the newly protruding vein, wincing as it stung a little. Closing his eyes, he pushed the contents into his blood stream, not wanting to acknowledge what he was doing or why.
Please, someone, see me and help me.
. . . . . . . . . .
He didn't know how long he had been sitting there. Minutes, hours, days even… He'd been in a state of euphoria that had caused him to lose track of time. The only thing bringing him down from the clouds a little was his mobile phone ringing.
He pulled it from his pocket, putting it to his ear.
"Hello?" He said, realising when the phone still rang that he hadn't pushed the 'answer' button. He did so, and spoke again.
"Matt? I've been looking everywhere for you! Where are you, man?"
"Hey Tai," Matt replied, leaning casually back against the wall. "I'm in the multi storey car park."
"Huh! Why are you up there?"
Matt shrugged, even though his friend couldn't see him. "Place to be alone."
"Well, I'm coming up there to get you, alright?"
"Sure, sure… Top level."
"I'll be there shortly, okay?"
A dial tone greeted Matt, so he put the phone back in his pocket and made himself comfortable. His eyes gazed down to his arm, where the shoelace was still tied around it. His forearm was almost purple due to the constricted blood supply, and he wisely loosened it off and began to thread it back through his shoe.
He swallowed a few times, his mouth fiercely dry. He shakily stood up and walked a few paces over to a bin, where he threw the can, packaging and needle away. Somewhere, his semi-conscious mind chastised him for throwing away a needle so casually, but he wasn't listening to it.
He looked down at his arm again; it was still dark with blood. But, then again, all his skin was flushed a darker color.
Upon hearing footsteps coming from the stairwell, he made his way over and looked down them. The three flights were really all one; a spiral stairwell with separate exits on each floor; therefore, people could look down them and see to the bottom.
"Hey!" Tai called up as he saw his friend's blonde head peak over the side. "Don't make me come up there and get you!"
Matt grinned and leant further over.
"Matt, you'll fall if you lean over any more!" Tai said, laughing and jogging up the next few steps. "Come on, let's go!"
Matt didn't retreat his head or body for a moment, and as Tai was about to yell again, he pulled back and began to walk down the stairs.
At least, he made it down about four of them before falling back against the wall. He laughed manically, not realising that to fall down the stairs would lead to a serious injury.
"Matt!" Tai said, running now. He reached Matt within seconds, grabbing his arm to stop him falling and almost recoiling from the heat. "You're burning up…!" He murmured. "Are you feeling all right?"
"Fine!" Matt declared, the grin never leaving his face.
Tai rolled his eyes and lead Matt down by his arm. "You're always stubborn when you're sick," he said. "I'm going to go pick Kari up from some girl clothes shop I left her in, and then I'm going to sit you down and get you something to drink."
Matt nodded, swallowing again to ease his dry throat.
"Kari says its TK's birthday next week," Tai continued on, pulling Matt by the arm back to the shopping mall. "She got him a really cool sweatshirt and T shirt, which I helped her pick out. They both look a bit big, but then again, I know he likes baggy casual stuff. Right?"
"And do you know what he has planned on his birthday? Kari was thinking of taking him out for a movie, but she doesn't know whether to do it on the day or the closest weekend or whatever… Are you listening to me, Matt?"
"No, not really…" Matt said, laughing again and dropping to the floor.
"Geez, what's with you?" Tai asked, almost to himself, pulling him up and dragging him through the mall doors.
"Nothing! I am absolutely, one hundred and ten thousand percent fine!"
Tai raised an eyebrow and promptly pushed Matt down into the nearest seat to them as they walked in to the food court.
"Stay here, and I'll get you something to drink," he instructed, sprinting over to a nearby drinks dispenser. He placed a few coins in the slot and selected a drink, grabbing it as soon as it fell and sprinting back over to Matt.
"Thanks," Matt muttered, gazing off into space. Tai opened the can for him and placed it in front of him.
"What the heck's wrong with you, Matt?" He questioned. "You don't seem yourself…"
Matt shrugged, picking up the can of drink. "I'm good. Really."
"If you insist…" Tai said, shrugging and glancing around the food court. Something caught his eye, and he stood up and yelled across the vast hall. Kari, who his attention was aimed at, turned and looked in his direction. He beckoned to her, and she made her way quickly over.
"How are you feeling, Matt?" She asked, a little concerned as she noticed how pale he looked.
Matt shrugged, sipping from his can. Kari exchanged a look with Tai.
"I'm ready to go home," she said softly.
Tai nodded. "Come on, Matt," he stated, grabbing his friend's arm. "We're going home now, and I think that's the best place for you, too…"
"To them? Back home to them?" Matt questioned. "Nah. I'd rather… Stay here…"
"You can't stay here," Tai reasoned. "The mall staff'll kick you out!"
"That'll do."
Tai rolled his eyes and yanked Matt to his feet. Matt didn't resist, letting himself be led out of the mall and to the closest bus stop and onto the bus.He didn't remember getting home. He didn't remember getting into bed. He didn't even remember night passing; he only knew that he awoke the next morning with a headache and a dry throat. He crawled out from under the covers, not surprised to see he was still fully clothed, and made his way out into the living room. It was a Sunday, the only day his Dad couldn't make an excuse to go to work.
Going out into the kitchen, he poured himself a glass of water without a word to his parents.
He turned to see his Mum looking up at him, an unreadable expression on her face. Without speaking, he turned his attention away and made to go back into his room.
"Matt, we need to talk."
"If it's about yesterday, forget it," he stated angrily.
"No, it's about this."
He turned again to see his mother clutching two objects in her hand; a lighter and a packet of cigarette papers.
"Tai bought you home yesterday from the mall; said you weren't well. We put you to bed and as we did, these fell out of your pocket. Would you like to explain yourself?"
Matt shrugged. "No. Not really."
"I think you'd better."
"I'm sixteen. You can't tell me what to do."
"When you're eighteen I can't tell you what to do. When you're sixteen, I'm still responsible for you. Now, would you like to explain why these were in your pocket?"
Matt shrugged again.
"Matt, I thought I'd always taught you not to be so stupid," his father spoke up softly.
"Hypocrite," Nancy said, pointing to the coffee table where a packet of his cigarettes lay.
"Don't start," Matt snapped.
At least they don't think it's cannabis I'm smoking… I hate to think how they'd react, then…
After all, this conversation is one that they can't win, seeing as Dad's just as guilty as I am of smoking.
Well. Kinda.
"Matt, I just want what's best for you-"
"Oh yeah?" He cut in, leaning against his doorframe. "And splitting me and TK up when you divorce is going to be what's best, is it?"
His father winced at that comment, and he almost felt like retracting it.
"You should be setting an example for TK," Nancy stated, tossing the two items onto the coffee table.
"So should Dad," Matt hit back. "He doesn't know, and it doesn't really matter. Sixteen is the legal age, so what's your problem?"
"I hope you don't do it under my roof."
Matt laughed. "Even if I did, do you think I'd let you stop me?"
Nancy narrowed her eyes. "Matt, you don't realise who you're speaking to! I'm your mother and I expect some respect from you!"
Matt didn't reply, trying not to smirk. He hated that idea.
"Well, I'm confiscating these."
"Good. I can go buy some more."
"Not if I don't let you out!"
"What do you think I am; a dog? You can't tell me what to do, don't you understand that!"
"And you can't do as you please!"
"Why am I even bothering to have this conversation!" Matt yelled, losing his temper a little. "You're always right, aren't you! You always have to have it your way, even if it means upsetting everybody else! I mean, where's TK! I bet he left because of some stupid thing you said, huh!"
"Actually, I informed him about the plans for the future and he left quite civilly."
"The plans where you mean to split us up, you mean?"
Nancy didn't reply, simply turning her head away to close the conversation.
Matt narrowed his eyes, seething beyond words. He snapped, suddenly, throwing his glass of water across the room; startling his parents into staring at him wide eyed. It hit the wall at the other end of the apartment, shattering and spilling water into the carpet and surroundings.
"Hey! Listen to me you cold hearted bitch!"
Nancy was on her feet in an instant, striding across the room. Matt didn't shy away, grinning wide.
"So what are you gonna do, Mum? Are you gonna hit me? Throw me out? I hate to tell you, both of those things are illegal at my age… After all, I'm only sixteen, remember?"
Nancy stopped.
"I don't know what," she said, her voice level and controlled. "But right now, you need to get out of my sight."
"You seem to say that a lot," Matt said, stepping back into his room. Reaching down onto his bedside table, not taking his eyes off his mother, he grabbed his wallet and mobile phone. Putting them in his pocket, he exited the room and headed to the front door.
"Don't bother to come back!" His mother yelled angrily, yet Matt could hear tears in her voice.
Don't cry… No matter how much I hate you right now, I'll always love you when you cry… I have to…
"I won't, don't worry," he snapped back without turning.
The word came out as a sob, and then there was silence. Tears filling his own eyes as he realised the damage that had just been done, Matt opened the apartment door. Closing it quietly- such a non-climatic end to such an argument- he fell back against it and slid to the floor, burying his face in his hands.
He looked up to see TK standing at the end of the hall.
"I could hear you guys from the elevator… Is it safe to go in…?"
My little brother's asking me if it's safe to enter his own apartment…
Mum, Dad… What are you doing to us…?
"Of course it's safe," he replied, standing and smiling falsely. The tears on his cheeks and in his eyes betrayed him, but it was the least of his concerns. "Me and Mum just had a set to again. As usual."
TK smiled a little, but Matt could see the questioning in his eyes.
I'm so sorry, TK. I'm sorry."You made a good job of that, didn't you?"
Nancy looked up at her husband, who had lit a cigarette, leaning back in the chair.
"You were hardly a help!" She snapped, tears falling from her eyes.
"You know you can't reason with Matt when he's like that. So what if he's decided to smoke? He can make his own mistakes, and you can't tell him how to live his life. I think you'd just better hope he doesn't make the same mistake as us."
"Getting married to the wrong person…"
"And who's your right person, then?" Nancy asked, drying the tears from her eyes. "Some girl at work? At the local shop? Where?"
Mr. Ishida shook his head sadly. "No. I… I had rather hoped it would be you, Nancy."
A pause.
"Well it's not, is it?"
"No. It's not."
"So we need to do something about it."
"It's going to destroy them."
"Matt's already destroyed…" Nancy said softly. "And TK seems to be taking it well so far. It'll be fine."
The front door clicked opened, and TK walked in.
"Hey Mum, Dad," he called.
Nancy quickly dried her cheeks. "Morning, son," she called.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Mm, sure."
TK appeared in front of them, concern etched across his features.
"Why is Matt crying out in the hall?"I need something to keep my mind off of this…
I don't have anything, not even a lighter. Lot of good that is.
"Hey! Matt!"
He stopped and glanced round to see where the call came from, even though he recognised the voice.
Ahead of him, running towards him, was Tai. He was grinning wide when he approached, making Matt wonder how he stayed happy all the time.
"How are you feeling today?" The brunette questioned.
Matt smiled weakly. "Not bad."
"You don't look right."
"Just had a fight with Mum, is all. I'll be fine."
Tai raised an eyebrow, which Matt ignored. He carried on walking, leaving Tai to walk beside him in his own time.
"You seem to spend a lot of time fighting with your parents these days."
The comment startled Matt for a moment, but he quickly regained his cool.
"My parents seem to spend a lot of time fighting with me, Tai. I don't pick fights with them unless they give me meaning to. Or rather, my Mum. Dad just sits there and stays quiet."
"He knows not to get you angry today, eh?"
"I guess. Mum today… She was like a women possessed, and I wasn't exactly calm myself…
Shut up, and do it now, before you talk too much.
"What happened?"
"Mum said some things she shouldn't have… I lost my temper and threw a glass of water across the apartment before saying some things I probably shouldn't have said. Mum told me not to come back; I told her I wouldn't. But, it never works that way, does it? I'll go back tonight, she'll say sorry, and then they'll be signing divorce papers.
"She… She wants me to go with Dad. Maybe she really doesn't love me. I'd just rather go into care than see this happening… TK seems oblivious to it all, but he's not, really. He's just good at hiding things."
"So are you."
"Sometimes. Not always."
And now, you will shut up, because you've already said too much.
"So what are you doing out today?"
"Nothing. Getting out, getting away…"
Getting some more drugs…
Tai sighed softly.
"I was coming up to see you," he said. "Your Mum called me, asked me a couple of questions…"
"Like, she wanted to know when you started smoking."
Matt didn't even flinch; he had been expecting that.
"What did you tell her?"
"That I wanted to know when you started smoking. I had no clue."
"So… Why have you, Matt?"
I just love the way everybody assumes its tobacco. I can live with that, considering the options…
"Can you blame me?"
A pause for a moment, and then Tai was shaking his head.
"No. I can't say I do. Just… I don't want to make you angry, but I'm sure there are other things you could do…"
What, like heroin? Been there, done that, need it again…
Need it again? Where did that come from?
And then the urge was there; biting him sharply and phasing his very existence down into one path of thought. He curled his hands round his stomach, the feeling making him feel suddenly sick.
"What? What's the matter?"
"Nothing," Matt said between gritted teeth, pulling his hands from his stomach and forcing himself to walk in a vaguely guided straight line.
"Doesn't look like nothing."
"Well, it is!" Matt snapped angrily.
"If you're still feeling sick, you shouldn't be out."
"And even if I was sick- which I'm not- where would I go? Home?" He laughed sharply. "I don't think so."
"Whether you think you're sick or not, you don't look right. You're all pale…"
"Stop fussing!" Matt snapped sharply. "It's nothing I can't handle."
"Why don't you just come back to my place…? Did you eat this morning?"
"No…" Matt said, defeated. He felt guilty for snapping out at his friend; after all, he'd genuinely been trying to help.
"Then you're probably just hungry. Come on… I'll fix you breakfast?"
Matt raised an eyebrow.
"Okay, so maybe not. But Mum can fix you breakfast!"
"I don't expect your mother to feed me, Tai. It's a sweet offer, but I'd feel awkward. I think I'll pass."
"Are you sure I can't convince you…?"
Matt sighed, whilst Tai gave his best impression of a puppy being told 'no' to treats.
I've never seen him so protective…
But, everyone seems worried about me. I don't want to prove to them they're right.
"Tell you what," Matt said, smiling just a little. "Let me go into town and get some painkillers, and I'll come back in about half-hour? You can use the time to have an impromptu cooking lesson, seeing as you're set on cooking for me."
"I could come with you…? Mum'll cook…"
"No, it's okay. Really. I'd rather you didn't. I… I need some time to reflect after this morning, and I'm not much company when I'm sick. I get irritable."
"Okay, that's cool," Tai said with a nod. "See you in half-hour?"
"Sure, about that. If the buses run on time, I guess!"
Tai laughed and ran off in the direction of his apartment. "Great!" He called over his shoulder. "See you then!"Just over half an hour later, Matt was making his way to Tai's apartment. He was clutching another small, silver packet in his pocket, feeling relieved yet guilty, too. He'd forgone the needle this time, figuring that he could get away with smoking it now his parents were convinced he did anyway. If he was ever caught, it would be explainable.
Does that make me happy or not…?
I just hope they don't tell TK… He'll be so disappointed…
He certainly hadn't forgotten to pick up another lighter and cigarette papers; he was going to need them. He pulled them from his pocket; the small green packet, and the tiny blue lighter. He clenched his hand round them, putting his hand back in his pocket as he knocked on Tai's door.
"It's open!" A friendly voice called out, which Matt recognised as Tai's mother. He entered, and was greeted by the smell of a cooked breakfast. Tai grinned from the dinner table, where he was already eating.
"Morning, Matt!" Mrs. Kamiya said with a smile. "Sit down, I'm almost done."
"You needn't have gone to so much trouble…" Matt said, blushing nervously.
"Tai was going to cook," Mrs. Kamiya explained. "Cooking for you is a small trouble compared to what Tai would have done to my kitchen!"
"Hey!" Tai said round a mouthful of toast. "You're worse than me at cooking!"
"Now, I don't understand how you came to- Oh! The toast!"
Mrs. Kamiya hurriedly pushed the 'cancel' button on the toaster to reveal two slices of charcoal colored bread, looking very sorry for itself. She sighed, putting her hands to her hips.
"It's okay, I'm not too fond of toast anyway," Matt said, blushing a little. He didn't like being fussed over.
"That's beside the point. Who set it up higher than normal?"
Tai laughed nervously. "Well, I was late for college, and I wanted breakfast before I left…"
"Didn't you think to put it back again, Tai?"
Tai shook his head, grinning a little.
"Well, in future, I wish you would…" The sentence tailed off as she looked into the frying pan.
"What…?" Tai asked, getting up to look. He laughed as he saw what had happened to the bacon.
"Matt, your bacon shrunk a little…" He said, going back to the table to have a laughing fit.
"That's okay," Matt said, shaking his head. "Really, you've already gone to too much trouble…"
"Don't be silly," Mrs. Kamiya said, putting the miniature-sized bacon onto the plate along with the spaghetti, eggs, tomato and sausages. "Do you want vinegar on this, Matt?"
Tai laughed even harder at that comment.
"No thank you, Mrs. Kamiya…"
"Mm, no, I'll pass on that, too…"
"Did you get painkillers, Matt?" Tai asked, somehow reducing his laughter to giggles.
"No… The shop I went to had sold out…"
"I'm sure we've got some paracetamol around somewhere," Mrs. Kamiya said, placing the saucepan and frying pan she had used into the sink. "Tai, would you check the medicine cabinet?"
"Uh hmm," Tai said, stuffing the rest of his toast down his throat as he made his way to the bathroom.
"Sit down, Matt," Mrs. Kamiya repeated kindly, placing the plate down on the table.
"You really didn't need to go to so much trouble," he said softly.
"Don't worry if you can't eat it all; Tai's a human dustbin, he'll finish what you don't eat," Mrs. Kamiya said, handing him a glass of orange juice.
"Thank you…"
Tai's Mum is showing me more respect than my mother has ever done…
"Didn't Tai have to go to college this morning?" He asked her, sipping the orange juice.
"No, not until this afternoon. Have you got a free day, Matt?"
He nodded. "Yeah. I'm working from 3pm, though. If I feel better, that is…"
"Got some!" Tai called, emerging from the bathroom with a small packet in his hand. He tossed it to Matt, who caught it deftly.
"Thanks, Tai." He opened the packet and popped two pills from their protective blister packet, thinking quick.
I don't think I can take these with… That stuff… I don't know, but I can't risk it…! I know feeling sick is probably just withdrawal symptoms, too…
"Aren't you going to take them?" Tai asked. Matt snapped out of his train of thought.
"Huh? Oh, yeah…"
He picked the glass of orange juice up and made like he'd put the pills in his mouth. Taking a sip of juice, he swallowed and sat down; pocketing the pills as he did so.
"That'll make you feel better in no time," Mrs. Kamiya said, smiling kindly and placing a hand on Matt's head. "Hope you enjoy it, sweetie."
With that, she picked a magazine up off the side and made her way to the sofa. Matt glanced across at Tai, who was currently feeding a small amount of bacon to the cat beneath his feet.
Tai looked up, dropping the bacon. The cat pounced on it greedily, snatching it up within its jaws.
"What did you tell your Mum?" He whispered.
"That you were having a few problems at home," Tai explained. "Nothing much."
"She needn't have done this…"
Tai shrugged. "Mum's weird; she like to cook."
"I like to cook, Tai."
"Well, you're just weird then, too."
Matt grinned a little.
Being with Tai makes me feel normal. I almost feel like I don't need it.
But… I do. My body needs it. One shot and I'm already addicted… How sad is that…?
I need it.
I need it.
"Tai, can I use your bathroom?" Matt said, standing quickly.
"Hmm? Sure."
Matt nodded and made his way across the hall, shutting the bathroom door and locking it quickly. He pulled the small packet from his pocket, shaking like a leaf as he examined it.
I can't smoke it in here… They'll know…
I can't inject it, because I don't have a needle…
I can't take it off the packet, because that'll be obvious…
Think! Think quick!A few minutes later, the decision was made, and Matt was making his way back to his half-eaten breakfast. The silver packet still rested in his pocket, but he now had a plan.
"Tai?" he said, catching his friend's attention as he sat back down and picked up some toast. "I have to work this afternoon, but I really don't feel up to it… Could you call them for me and explain…?"
Tai nodded. "Sure, gimme the phone number."
Matt reeled it off from memory as Tai fetched the cordless phone, tapping the number in.
"Hello? I'm calling regarding Yamato… He won't be into work this afternoon, he's not very well. Okay. Okay, I'll tell him. Bye."
"Well?" Matt asked, wandering into the living room with the orange juice in his hand.
"The guy asked if you could let them know when you feel up to coming back, and he sends his wishes for you to be well."
"Do you feel a little better now you've eaten something, Matt?" Mrs. Kamiya asked. Matt smiled.
"Yes, I do. Thank you very much…"
"No problem, any time… Just ask Tai to let me know, and I'll do what I can for you, sweetie."
I appreciate her concern, but it makes me feel so awkward…
"I have to go to college this afternoon," Tai said after a moment. "Will you be all right?"
"I'll be fine," Matt re-assured. "TK'll be home, he'll keep me sane. I still don't have any painkillers, though… I'll need to get some…"
"You can have some of ours," Mrs. Kamiya said, standing up to fetch them.
"No, really," Matt said. "I can get some on the way home, from the local shop."
"Then why did you go into town before to get them?" Tai asked, bewildered.
"Because… I need to clear my head a little. I'll stop by on the way home and get some, really."
"You're welcome here as long as you want, Matt," Tai said, and Mrs. Kamiya nodded in agreement.
"Thanks for your hospitality," Matt said softly. "But I think I need to go home… Mum and I have some things to sort out…"
"Do you want a lift?" Mrs. Kamiya asked. Matt shook his head.
"No, really, you've done enough. The walk'll do me good."
With that, he bowed slightly in respect and made his way to the front door.
"I'll call you later?" Tai called, more a question than a statement.
Matt smiled. "Sure. I'd like that."
And then he was gone, leaving Mrs. Kamiya to look after him sympathetically, and Tai to sigh and shake his head. He knew there was something bigger going on, but he also knew Matt would never say what.
Matt, why do you have to be so stubborn…?
. . . . . . . . . .
In the elevator on the way down, Matt was already rolling the brown powder into a cigarette paper. He was shaking so much he was surprised it didn't spill all over the red carpeted floor, and was relieved when the elevator pulled to a halt and he could exit it and the building.
Sticking the small white stick in-between his lips, he lit it and inhaled, hoping for the best.
He choked.
Coughing, he was half-tempted to throw it to the floor and stamp on it. But, no, he had paid a lot of money for it, and he wasn't going to waste it.
Injecting was easier, I hate to say…
He eventually recovered and tried again, this time a smaller intake of smoke. He found that easier to handle, and by the time he reached the local shop, had finished the stick without any more ado.
Throwing the small amount that was left to the floor and stamping on it, he entered the shop. The sales assistant looked up from his newspaper and acknowledged him with a nod.
Matt soon found what he was looking for; painkillers. He picked up a box and a drink- the smoke had made his throat sore- and walked to the counter.
However, something caught his eye as he placed his items down on the counter.
Filters, that's a good idea… But what's that thing…?
"Can I have a box of filters, please?" He asked, clearing his throat a little as he realised how scratchy it sounded. He picked up a packet of soothers from the point-of-sale rack next to the till and placed them down.
A box of filters next to his small pile later, and Matt was intently studying a small box next to where they had come from.
"What's that?" He asked, pointing to the box.
The assistant picked it up. "It rolls cigarette tobacco into one of these for you." He picked up a box of what looked like cigarettes. "It's like smoking tobacco from a cigarette; it's quicker and easier to have them made up in a box than it is to roll them as you want them."
Aha! Buy a pack of ten normal, replace the contents with those… Edited ones…
"I'll have the machine, and the fake cigarette things," Matt said.
"You won't need the filters if you have those."
Matt shrugged. "Okay, I won't have filters. I'll have ten cigarettes instead."
"Ten what?"
The sales assistant looked baffled- most people had a favourite brand- and placed down a pack of something in a gold box. Matt noted they were the most expensive, but didn't comment.
"Do you need any tobacco for the machine?"
Matt shook his head. "No I don't, thanks."
Ringing up the total in his head, he mentally winced. When the sales assistant confirmed it, he winced again.
Geez, I can't believe Dad spends this kinda money every single day on these…
Handing over a note, he accepted his change and pocketed it. He could feel his senses going a little out-of-normality, so he grabbed his purchases and left, heading home as quickly as possible.
If he was going to suffer the euphoria that heroin gave him, he'd rather do it at home when it could be directed at his mother.He pushed open the door after unlocking it, swallowing heavily to combat his dry throat. The drink he'd bought at the shop was long gone, yet the raging thirst wasn't. He was grinning wide, something he couldn't help.
He also hadn't placed his purchases into his pocket; he'd carried them home in his hand. He did so as he entered.
"Home…" He yelled as he got in the door.
Both his parents turned, surprised to see him.
Walking straight into the kitchen, Matt turned the tap on and poured himself a glass of water.
And another.
And another.
"Matt…?" His father asked quizzically.
"Thirsty," Matt replied, placing the glass in the sink, finally satisfied that he was no longer in need of it.
"I'd have never guessed…"
"Smoking will make you thirsty," Nancy said bitterly.
Matt shrugged, still grinning.
"You smell of smoke," she continued.
Matt shrugged again.
"Night," he said simply, walking into his room and closing the door.
His very confused parents exchanged a look.
"…What was all that about…!" Mr. Ishida exclaimed as TK opened his bedroom door.
"Did I hear Matt come in?" He asked.
"You did, but… He went back to bed…"
TK raised an eyebrow, confused.
"Bed? He really isn't well, is he?"
"No, he isn't…" Nancy said softly. "Don't disturb him, darling, he's obviously very tired…"
"Okay…" TK said, eyes narrowed a little in thought as he went back into his bedroom.
"So… When are we going to get the papers…?" Nancy asked quietly.
"Not today," her husband replied. "Today, Matt's sick. I think he could do without it. Tomorrow, we will. Tomorrow, we'll do it all."
. . . . . . . . . .
An hour or so later, Matt awoke to the sound of his cell phone ringing. Picking it up, he answered it quietly.
"Matt, it's Tai… I said I'd call…"
Oh, yeah… Hey…"
"How are you feeling?"
Matt laughed a little. "Terrible."
I know the effects aren't worn off completely… I could go out there now and make things right again, because I'm too happy to care what she says…
"Were you sleeping?"
Another laugh. "Yeah."
"Well, you sound better."
Matt didn't reply; he simply laughed again.
"And you sound happier, too."
"So, remember to call your work and let them know when you'll be back, right?"
"Sure, I will."
"And will you be at college tomorrow?"
"Should be. I think a good night's sleep'll help a lot."
"Good. Glad to hear it, buddy."
Matt nodded, even though Tai couldn't see.
"Well, I think I'd better go. Got homework to do."
"Good, 'coz I was about to kick you off the phone anyway. My throat's hurting and I need a drink."
It was Tai's turn to laugh, then. "Sure, okay. I'll see you tomorrow?"
"Sure will. Bye."
"Bye, Matt."
Matt disconnected the call, stretching and walking out into the living room. He shielded his eyes from the light a little, making out the forms on the sofa; three, in all.
My whole family…
"Hey…" He said softly, his voice hardly present. He went into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water. As he began to pour his second, his father was at his side, putting a hand over the tap.
"Don't drown yourself like earlier!" He said good-naturedly.
Matt grinned.
"My throat really hurts…" He said softly.
"Your mother's right, that'll be the cigarette smoke," his father said softly, so Nancy couldn't hear.
Matt didn't reply, pouring another glass of water as his father let the tap go.
"You need to come and sit down when you're done, Matt. We need to talk to you and TK."
Matt nodded, finishing the glass and putting it in the sink. Walking into the living room, he sat down next to TK on the sofa and looked at his parents expectantly.
Nancy sighed. "Well, as you boys know, it hasn't been working out between your father and I lately…"
She paused and glanced at Matt, as though she were expecting a flippant comment. She didn't receive one.
"So, we've decided to… Divorce…"
"You've been saying that for a while," TK said quietly. "And it hasn't happened."
"No, but it is now. It's for the best, really…"
"Best for who?" Matt asked.
"All of us," his father answered. Matt shrugged, accepting that as an answer. He knew he was grinning just a little too wide, so he tried to stop.
He failed; laughing instead. Or rather, trying to hide behind his hand and trying not to laugh.
"Matt, this isn't a laughing matter!" His mother snapped.
Matt just laughed harder.
"Matt!" His father said sharply, warning in his tone.
The blonde stopped instantly, but the grin remained.
"I'm glad to see it's so funny to you."
"It isn't…" Matt said, leaning back in his chair. "I have to laugh…"
"Well, as I was saying," Nancy continued after a moment's silence. "We're not going to be living together anymore, obviously… We feel it's only fair that-"
"I know, I know," Matt interrupted. "TK goes with you, I go with Dad. Mum, you've said all this already."
"Yes, but… I've always said it when I've been angry… I've never sat you both down and told you it straight. I didn't want you thinking I'd only been saying those things because I was angry."
"You were never angry with TK," Matt stepped in again. "It was always with me. So why don't you just direct this whole conversation at me, and stop boring TK with it?"
"TK needs to listen as well," Nancy replied. "You need to know when this is going to happen."
A moment's silence.
"It's… It's going to be this weekend."
"What!" Both TK and Matt exclaimed, both shocked by that development.
"TK and I will be moving out of the city. You and your father will stay here, Matt."
"Out of the city?" Matt repeated, glancing at TK. "You can't split us up like that, that isn't fair!"
"And it's not fair to keep us all under one roof," his father said. "Life isn't fair, and don't expect it to be so now."
Matt sighed. The effects of his earlier high had worn off completely, and the euphoric haze he had been in vanished. It was time to leave the conversation as it was, which he attempted to do by standing up and walking to his bedroom.
"Matt, I'm not done talking," his mother said softly.
"I'm done listening," Matt snapped, opening his door and slamming it shut behind him.
Before either of his parents could react, TK was up like a shot and striding across the lounge to Matt's bedroom. He pulled the door open and shut it without another word.
Nancy sighed.
"Well, that went well…" She said softly, gazing sadly at Matt's bedroom door.
. . . . . . . . . .
Matt ignored TK, lying face-down on his bed. He had his face buried in his pillow. He rather liked it there; it was doing a good job of hiding his tears.
"Matt, listen…"
TK sat down on the bed beside his brother, placing a gentle hand on his back. Matt didn't reject it.
"I don't want you to move away…" His muffled voice said after a moment.
"I know. But do you really want to live with Mum and Dad at each other's throats all the time?"
"I'd rather that then split us up."
TK sighed softly, gently pulling at Matt's arm to coax him up. He succeeded, making his elder brother sit upright.
"I'll only be a subway ride away."
Matt sniffled, turning his gaze away.
"What if I don't have any money?"
"Then I'll lend you some."
"And how will I get to you for you to lend it to me?"
TK shook his head sadly. "I'll make Mum pick you up…"
"And if she's not home?"
"Matt, stop. Don't make this more difficult than it already is."
"I don't like the idea of not being able to get to you. What if something happened and you needed me?"
TK laughed a little. "I'm old enough to take care of myself."
"You're twelve, TK."
"I'll be thirteen next week!" TK protested, grinning. "I'm sure I can handle anything life wants to throw at me."
"What if you have an asthma attack and you're home by yourself?"
"Stop making me panic."
"Besides, Joe lives out of the city, right? I'm sure he'll help me if I need him to. You know, if I start choking on air, I'm sure he can be by my side and panic just as much as you would."
Matt laughed a little at that, drying tears from his eyes.
"See? I'm always a phone-call away, if nothing else. This doesn't mean we're going to lose contact; in fact, I'd say the opposite."
"I know, I know… It doesn't mean I have to like the arrangement."
"I don't like it, either, but I'd rather Mum and Dad split up and be happy."
Matt nodded. "I know TK. I just don't want to have to live alone with Dad. I guess I'll miss you and Mum…"
"I know I'll miss you and Dad."
They were silent for a moment, before Matt reached out and hugged him brother tightly. TK returned it, making himself comfortable in the elder Ishida's arms.
"You do realise Mum'll change back to her maiden name? You'll be a Takeishi, not an Ishida."
"I know. I'll always be of Ishida blood, though."
More silence. TK re-adjusted his grip on his brother, but pulled away, puzzled after a moment.
Matt raised an eyebrow, confused.
"What's in your pocket, Matt?"
Matt's eyes widened.
And now, I have to explain…
"Painkillers," he said, pulling them out and throwing them onto the side.
"No, there's more in there. What else?"
Matt sighed and pulled his little collection from his pocket; the box of cigarette-cross-filters, the machine they went with, the lighter, the cigarette papers and the cigarettes themselves.
TK snatched the packet of cigarettes from him.
"When!" He demanded to know.
"Don't start. Mum and Dad already had this out with me."
TK didn't reply, throwing the packet down on the bed.
"And I thought you would have known better," he said after a moment. "I have asthma. I would do anything to have healthy lungs, and you're damaging yours!"
"I know, TK…"
Back to injecting, back to injecting…
"Look, I don't need it," he said. "Mum and Dad were stressing me out, and it was helping… But now, I won't need it."
With that, he picked the whole lot up and dropped them in the bin. He pulled the packet of soothers back out after he realised they had been in the pile, too, and put them on the side.
"You… You'd do that… For me…?"
TK seemed shocked, and Matt didn't blame him.
"Actually, why don't I just give it all to Dad? That'll mean I haven't wasted the money."
"Don't encourage him."
"I'm not; he'll do it anyway."
TK shrugged, getting off the bed.
"Thank you," he said simply before exiting, smiling just a little. Matt pulled the myriad of items from the bin again, pocketing the small lighter and making his way to the living room.
He dropped the lot onto the coffee table, much to the surprise of his parents.
"Dad, it's all yours. I quit."
With that, he turned and headed to the front door, walking out of it and pulling it closed behind him.
Nancy stared at the items of the table, and then at TK who had appeared in the doorway.
"What did you say to manage that…?"I'm not going to cry, I'm not going to cry…
Matt closed his eyes tightly, mentally cursing as tears fell anyway.
I am going to cry.
But I don't want to.
He wiped the tears from his eyes and kept walking, reaching the bus stop at the end of his road. It was just beginning to get dusky, the pull of winter shortening the days and lengthening the nights.
I don't think I need it…
I hope not; it's only been a few hours since I had it…
I don't think that's it. I know I need to get away for a while.
Absolutely. I need… Sanctuary, a safe haven…
And as the bus veered into view, he counted some coins out in his hand. He knew where he would be getting the bus to.He stood nervously, tapping on the door, almost as though he didn't want to be heard. He hated turning up on people's doorsteps unannounced, and didn't want to intrude on anybody's home.
The door was pulled open, and he resisted the urge to stare at his feet.
"Matt?" Mrs. Kamiya said, looking surprised. "If you've come to see Tai, honey, he's gone to college, remember?"
"Oh yeah… Sorry to bother you…"
"You're not a bother, dear," Mrs. Kamiya said softly, smiling.
More than my parents could say…
"He's due to finish in an hour or so if you want to stay?"
"No, no, I don't want to intrude… I'll come back then…"
"Don't be silly. You're here now, and you're more than welcome to stay."
With that, she pulled him into the apartment and shut the door, practically pulling him to the table and making him sit down.
"Now," Mrs. Kamiya said matter-of-factly. "Make yourself at home. There's food in the fridge if you skipped lunch, and magazines on the coffee table… You can watch TV if you want; we have satellite channels now. I've got to go shopping, and then pick Tai up, so I'll be gone. The place is yours. Kari's at a friend's doing a school project of some kind, I don't know. She works too hard, that girl."
"Don't question me, dear. What we have is yours."
For God's sake, you're going to make me cry with your kindness…
"No, I was going to say… Perhaps I could go shopping with you?"
That sounds like such a strange request… She's going to think I'm crazy, but I need to do something normal…
Something a parent would do with their kid, I guess…
Mrs. Kamiya looked taken aback, but recovered quickly smiled.
"Sure, if you want to. I've just got to get my coat and keys together."
Matt nodded, trying to push back the foreboding tears on his conscience.
"Can I just use your bathroom first?" He asked.
Mrs. Kamiya laughed. "Now, you know where it is, you needn't ask. I'll go out to the car; pull the door shut tight as you leave, okay?"
With that, he turned and walked into the bathroom, shutting the door and leaning against it. Away from other's eyes, he fell apart almost instantly, stifling his sobs into his hands.A few minutes later, he was on his way out to Mrs. Kamiya's car. She was waiting for him in front of the apartment block, having obviously taken her car out of its usual resting spot; be it a car park or parking space, Matt didn't know.
He opened the back door, only to be told 'no, don't be silly' by Mrs. Kamiya. He took that to mean he was to get in the front, so he did.
He buckled the seatbelt, trying to keep his eyes averted. One glance in the bathroom mirror before he had left had confirmed his eyes were red and swollen from the tears that had overwhelmed him.
They drove on in silence for a while, until Mrs. Kamiya spoke.
"You know, Matt, if you're having problems… You know Tai'll always listen to you."
Matt stared at the dashboard, his cheeks reddening.
"He's a very good listener, once he gets himself out of his habit of cracking jokes when someone's trying to talk serious." She laughed a little. "He always does that. It can be frustrating sometimes."
"I know…"
"But, really. He'll listen, if you talk. You don't seem to be spending a lot of time at home recently, and you don't look the same. You were always so… Well presented, I think is the word. And now, you don't seem to mind if your hair is a little out of place, or that your clothes are creased…
"I'm worried about you, dear. You're not yourself. And… Well, you know, if you don't want to talk to Tai, you can always talk to me."
Matt opened his mouth to deny all, to say 'you needn't be', but said something very different instead.
"My parents are divorcing."
He would have clapped his hand over his mouth if that wouldn't have looked so wrong. He mentally kicked himself, though.
She doesn't need to know your problems…!
"Oh? Sorry to hear it…" Mrs. Kamiya said, and she actually sounded generally upset for him. "So that's why you've been spending a lot of time away from home, is it?"
"Well, you're welcome at mine any time whilst your parents are sorting things out."
"Thank you…"
They pulled into the supermarket lot, parking the car near the entrance. They exited the car, Mrs. Kamiya grabbing a nearby trolley and wheeling it instead. Matt walked a couple of paces behind, not knowing what to do.
Mrs. Kamiya handed him a list. He glanced at it, realising it was a shopping list.
"If you want to take your mind off things, you can read this out to me."
"Oh! Sure, I'll do that…"
And he did. And he found himself smiling; enjoying the experience.
It was the first thing he had enjoyed for quite a while.About an hour later, and a boot full of shopping later, Matt was nibbling the corner of a chocolate bar Mrs. Kamiya had insisted on buying him. He wasn't all that hungry, but she had been adamant.
They parked up outside the college, nightfall closed in completely now. Tai didn't finish until 5 pm, Matt remembered, and it was 5.10. Tai was waiting for them across the car park, with another figure. As they approached, Matt could see it was Izzy.
Tai looked as though he was going to protest to someone being in the front, but upon seeing who it was, kept his mouth closed and climbed in the back with Izzy.
"Izzy's coming home for tea, Mum," Tai said. Mrs. Kamiya smiled in the rear view mirror.
"Good afternoon, Izzy."
"Good afternoon, Mrs. Kamiya."
"Matt's joining us for dinner as well," she said, pulling out of the car park. "He went with me to do my shopping today, and very helpful he was, too. He didn't place all the goodies in the world in the trolley," she said, winking at Tai.
"Who, me?" Tai replied, mock innocent.
"Yes. You. And my shopping bill was actually less than normal."
Tai's face fell. "No chocolate?"
Mrs. Kamiya grinned and pulled up to a red light. Reaching into a shopping bag by Matt's feet, she threw two bars of chocolate into the back. Tai's face lit up as he grabbed one and then gave one to Izzy.
"Thank you Mrs. Kamiya."
"Thanks Mum!"Upon arriving back at Tai's, Matt was beginning to feel withdrawal nipping at him. He mentally cursed it and pushed it to the back of his mind, but it kept creeping forward.
It bit him hard as he was walking across the hall to the elevator, carrying some of Mrs. Kamiya's shopping bags. He fell to his knees with a slight cry, half-dropping half-placing the bags down to wrap his arms around his head. Raging pain tore through his skull, making him want to leave everything and go and get some.
Need some. Need some now.
Tai was behind him, grabbing the bags that had fallen.
"Matt, what's wrong?"
Tai sounded hazy, he realised. Not at all right.
"Need water…" He said softly.
Tai nodded, nodding to Izzy to go ahead with his Mum, who was now standing next to him, worried. Between them, they took the bags Tai had and took them up with them, leaving the two alone in the hall.
Tai knelt down next to him, placing a hand on his shoulder.
I'm making them worry about me. This is my own fault, they needn't worry!
"Are you okay? You haven't been right for a few days, now…"
Matt shook his head as the pain subsided, making a move to stand. He managed to do so, Tai's hand on his arm for support.
"What's wrong?"
No. You mustn't. Remember TK's disappointment; you can't disappoint Tai, too…
Izzy reappeared from the elevator, running across and handing Matt a glass of water. Matt nodded his thanks, drinking it gratefully.
Izzy cast a 'what is it?' look to Tai, who shrugged. Izzy nodded and made his way back upstairs again.
"My parents are divorcing, Tai," Matt said so quietly he could barely be heard, when he was sure no-one was around. "They're divorcing tomorrow, and TK'll be gone by the weekend. Mum…"
He cut himself off with his tears, sinking to the floor.
"Mum's taking TK out the city… S-she's splitting us up, l-like she said she would! T'isn't fair!"
The last part was more of a howl of pain than a coherent sentence, and he could see the shock in Tai's eyes before he turned his own away to the floor. He curled his knees up to his chest, burying his face into them. Sobbing, he tried to pull away from Tai as he gently touched his shoulder.
"T'isn't fair…" He continued. "She doesn't care, she never has done and never will do! She wouldn't care if I was dead in a gutter right now; she has no clue where I am! And she obviously doesn't give a damn! She's never loved me; no-one does! But why should I be surprised, 'coz no-one gives a damn these days…"
A sharp smack round the head later, Matt was looking up at Tai through his tear-filled eyes. Tai had his fingers curled into fist, and rage was evident in his eyes.
"You take that back! That's saying that I don't give a damn! Because you know what, blondie, I do!"
"Don't call me blondie!"
"Well don't assume I don't love you!"
Matt tailed off.
"I didn't say you…" He muttered.
"You said 'no-one'. That includes me."
"I didn't mean you."
"Well, don't make me believe that, then."
There was silence then, occasionally punctuated by the sound of Matt trying not to cry into his knees.
"Come on," Tai said after a moment, the earlier anger gone from his voice. "Mum'll be worried."
"Your Mum treats me better than my Mum and Dad put together, Tai."
The comment was unexpected, and it made Tai re-think his plans to leave. After all, Matt hadn't changed positions.
"And I'm s-sorry, you know, if it seems like I'm trying to steal her or something…"
"Steal her!" Tai laughed. "Matt, don't be daft."
"It feels like that… She cooked for me, and let me go shopping with her, treated me well…"
"Treated you how you deserve to be treated," Tai corrected.
"She made me feel worth an adult's attention. Worth more than just someone to yell at… She made me feel wanted…"
"Well, doesn't TK make you feel wanted?"
"Yeah, but-"
"And don't I make you feel wanted?"
"Well, yeah, but-"
"Well, then. You are wanted then, aren't you?"
"It's different when it's your parents," Matt explained, straightening himself out into a stretch, standing as he dried the tears from his cheeks. "No matter how much they push me away, I still… I still try to make them happy. Try harder, even, to make them notice that I exist…"
"Well, don't then."
"Not that easy…"
I need some. I have to get out of here.
Did I tell him I'd 'quit' smoking? No, don't think so.
"Are you coming up for dinner then or what?"
Matt nodded. "Yes, I will be. I just need to get something first."
"Like… Cigarettes?"
Tai laughed. "Opportune time to quit, ya know."
Matt shook his head. "I'll be half an hour, if that. It's not far on the bus."
"What's wrong with the local shop?"
"No, it-"
"Leave it. Tell your Mum and Izzy that I'm fine, and that I've just gone to get something. Half an hour, Tai."
"Half an hour."
And then he left, leaving a bewildered Tai standing in the hall watching him.No less than twenty minutes later, he was making his way through the rough estate that he had come to know like the back of his hand. His shook his head sadly as he made his way through gangs of kids, probably no older than fifteen, dressed like adults and acting like they owned the place. Many of them were smoking- probably something other than tobacco, Matt realised- and many had drink cans and bottles in their hands.
And then there was that area…
Scantily clad women, leaning over the bonnets of cars, seductively grinning at the passers by whilst hiking their skirts up just a little. Teasing, tantalizing, and Matt hated it.
This is going to put me off ever having a girlfriend…
"Hey cutie."
He turned to see a tall blond, all leg and bust. He sighed, ignoring her sexual movement on the front of a car behind her. He had gotten used to the calls and the whistles as he made his way through them. They seemed to be everywhere, probably selling their bodies to get cash for drugs.
Bitter, horrible cycle that one.
He spotted who he was looking for, and made a beeline. He tapped him on the shoulder, and the guy turned to him.
"Ah! I was wondering when you'd turn up."
Matt nodded. "Need it, I guess."
The dealer shrugged. "I've got the junk. Have you got the cash?"
"Of course."
Matt handed over a small bundle, which the guy counted and pocketed.
"Yes, this time."
More money exchanged hands and then Matt was gone, making his way back out of the estate without another word or a glance. He hated every second of it.He barely had time to sit down on the bus when his mobile phone rang. He pulled it from his pocket and answered it, rolling his eyes as he read 'home' on it.
"Matt, it's Dad."
"Oh. Hey Dad."
"Where are you, son?"
"I'm going to Tai's for dinner, and then I'll be home, okay?"
"Good. Next time you leave after a fight, let me know you're okay, won't you?" A slight laugh. "I've been worried."
"Well, after the weekend there won't be any more fights."
"…That's true, I suppose. Sorry, Matt."
"What for?"
"For… Splitting you and TK up… He said you were upset about that idea…"
"Yeah, well…"
"You can see each other all the time, you know. It doesn't mean you won't be in contact anymore."
"I know Dad."
"And… You know, things will be different after your mother leaves. Things will be calmer, and you won't have to spend so much time away from home…"
"I know, Dad…"
"Well, I'm going to let you go. I'll see you when you get home? Are you eating?"
Matt sighed. "I just told you I'm eating at Tai's."
"Oh." A nervous laugh, which made Matt smile a little. "Sorry."
"Nah, don't be. See you later?"
"Yeah. See you later."
Matt disconnected the call, pocketing his phone and getting vaguely comfortable on the filthy seats.
He hated bus rides.
. . . . . . . . . .
Not long later, he gently pushed at Tai's front door. It had been left ajar, he realised, for him as Tai looked up from the dinner table and grinned to him.
"Come on, Mum's dishing up dinner now!" He said with a grin. Matt made his way in and to the table, where he noticed Izzy was also sitting. He sat down, smiling up at Mrs. Kamiya.
No offence Tai, but I really don't want to be here right now…
No, that's not it. I don't want to be here because I want to be off getting high. That sounds so terrible…
He snapped out of his thoughts as a dinner plate was placed in front of him. He thanked Tai's mother without really hearing himself, picking up the fork and eating slowly. He wasn't hungry. He wasn't anything, in fact. He was living in a world which he didn't want to be a part of at the moment, merely existing in a time-space he couldn't see.
Get me out of here…