This is based on a true story. Names, places and dates have been changed to protect the innocent, and in the case of one guy, the very stupid. Some scenes have been dramatized for that extra oomph.
“So. What do you want to know?”
Matt knew Steve was dying to find out about Mina’s past, and Matt was quite willing to oblige. But this was a game, and Matt had no intention in revealing his hand this early.
Steve hesitated. Having come this far, he now found himself having second thoughts. How much did he really want to know? He was fully aware that his relationship with Mina was a stable, happy affair…. was he really willing to jeopardise it all now?
“You want to know if we dated?” Matt had sensed Steve’s hesitation. He had set the bait, now he needed the fish to bite.
Steve squirmed in his seat. This was more uncomfortable than he’d expected. But he might as well get it over with.
“Yes. Did you?” He hoped he sounded relaxed and confident.
Matt suppressed a smile at Steve’s very obvious discomfiture. Time to reel in the line.
“Yes. We did. Back in school, we were the couple. She was the most popular girl, and I was the most popular guy. It was a match made in heaven.”
Steve squirmed some more. He might as well have had a big sign over his head saying INSANELY JEALOUS. Matt was finding it all quite amusing. But perhaps he overshot a little. He didn’t want Steve to consider him a rival. Not yet, anyway.
“Relax, I’m just kidding. We dated for awhile, that’s all..”
Steve stopped squirming – not because he felt better after Matt’s statement, but because he realised Matt could see quite obviously how uncomfortable he was.
“Mina never mentioned that, you know, that you two dated…”
“Why would she?” replied Matt. “You don’t tell her about every relationship you’ve ever had, do you?”
Steve said nothing. Once again, Matt had to stop himself from smiling. He realised this was Steve’s first relationship. Matt felt that it is always easier to break up first relationships – there are just too many factors and variables that could go wrong.
“Look, Stevo, don’t take it too hard. Maybe she felt you’d be jealous or something. I mean, come on man, it’s not like she’s pining for me or anything…” Matt let his words hang in the air. It always helps to plant an idea in someone’s head, just in case they don’t get around to coming up with it by themselves.
Steve remained silent. He felt Matt was hiding something – he was certain Mina’s actions earlier that day had nothing to do with simply protecting Steve’s ego.
Steve was certain she had been afraid of Matt. The question was – why?
Matt decided to grab the ball in this conversation. It was quite evident that Steve was torn between being cautious and curious. Matt needed to make sure Steve remained curious – it was the only way Matt would be able to keep Steve under his influence.
Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer. Matt loved clichés, and this was his favourite.
“How long have the two of you been dating?”
Steve felt somewhat relieved at the question. Here was something he could respond to.
“It’s been a few months. We’re taking it slow. I don’t want to rush things, you know…”
“Of course. But do you feel your relationship has progressed during this time?”
Steve could sense Matt was building up to something. He wasn’t so sure now whether he should be answering Matt’s questions. He wasn’t even sure whether he should remain there, talking to a man he hadn’t even met before today. Perhaps he should begin politely extricating himself from the conversation.
“You know, Stevo, Mina has a tendency to get bored after awhile. She’s dumped quite a few boyfriends before.”
Steve was stunned. A few boyfriends? “She’s not like that….”
“I’m not saying she’s gonna dump you or anything, of course. I’m sure you guys have a special bond or something. In my case, I realised she was tired of me when she would no longer sleep with me. She had all these excuses and all… Gawd! She even broke up with me over the phone….”
Matt realised Steve’s face had turned ashen. He seemed frozen – it almost appeared he had stopped breathing.
For a brief moment, Matt feared Steve was suffering a heart attack. The fear disappeared as soon as he saw Steve exhale.
“What’s wrong? You look ill, man.” Matt was genuinely concerned. The last thing he needed was Steve conking out in his house. Not here. Not today.
“I’m… fine. Really.”
Matt was intrigued. Was it perhaps something he had said? What would have…
Matt decided to make sure. “Before me, another guy had been dating her too. They were together for about 4 months, but then…”
Matt watched Steve closely.
“… she stopped sleeping with him.”
Steve’s right eye twitched. It was very subtle, and it wouldn’t have normally been noticed – but it was there nevertheless.
Hook, line and sinker.
“Then they broke up, and it was only after that when I hooked up with her.” So Steve had never been intimate with Mina. This was going to be easier than Matt expected.
“And then, after the two of us broke up, she met this other…”
Steve had heard enough. He stood up, and asked if Matt wouldn’t mind if he made his exit. It was late, he said, and he had to get up early the next morning.
Matt got up from his high-backed leather chair, and offered his hand to Steve. Steve, after a moment of hesitation, accepted the handshake.
Matt escorted Steve out of his office. As he led Steve down the corridor towards the stairwell, Matt began talking about the house, and how difficult it had been to arrange to lease it, and the problems he had liaising with his landlord regarding issues with the central heating system and water supply.
Steve wasn’t really listening, of course. He kept nodding but Matt’s words in the study continued to dominate his thoughts.
When they reached the front door, Matt grabbed Steve by the shoulder.
“Listen, Stevo. Forget what I said about Mina getting bored and all that. She’s not gonna dump you. I’m sure of it.”
Steve smiled weakly.
After mumbling a weak goodbye, Steve turned and walked out the doorway. Trudging down the path, he noticed that the drunk he had spoken to earlier had passed out on the ground, his head resting on a damp patch of grass.
He stopped to look at him. Feeling no sympathy, he moved on down the path, turned left at the sidewalk, and walked off towards the university lodgings.
Matt stood by the door, watching Steve take that slow walk to his flat. He then quickly turned around, closed the door and hurried back to his study.
He picked up the phone, and rapidly pressed a series of buttons. It was ringing, but no one was picking up.
“Come on.. come on, pick up, you stupid bi…”
“Hello?” The voice seemed strained. Matt looked up at the clock. It was 1 a.m.
“Hey babe, it’s me. Listen, sorry to wake you, but I’ve got a favour to ask. There’s a guy I want you to meet…..”
To be continued…
Muchas gracias, senor Sharizal, for assisting in the making of this chapter.