I banged my forehead on the table for what was probably the millionth time that day and cried.
I had nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Nothing that would meet my boss' expectations.
It seemed as if there was nothing I could do to save my job now.
After our confessions yesterday, Antonio and I had exchanged numbers. It had turned out to be a very bad idea - for me, at least.
Every two seconds I got a text from him, as he complained about his daily life.
But at least he wasn't going to lose his entire job altogether. Unlike me.
Staring at the blank Word document, I exhaled.
Suddenly, my phone vibrated. I almost fell off my chair, hitting the side of my head hard on the edge of the table. I cursed aloud, grabbing the vibrating phone off the table and hauling myself up.
I struck a glance at the screen:
Matilda? I thought. The girl from school? I still have her number...?
I picked it up.
That was definitely Matilda. Her voice was almost exactly the same. We'd been in secondary school together, and we used to be close friends. Until...
"Darren? You there?"
"I haven't seen you for... Ages."
"I wanted to catch up with you. I found your number in my phone and decided... Why not?"
She paused, as if she had nothing else to say. I was the one to eventually break the silence.
"I miss our school days."
"Yes. The good old days, as it were. Before we became adults..."
"I have a lot of regrets. But they were good times."
I could feel the hesitancy in her voice, as if she there was something on her mind.
"This isn't about the whole... Crush on me thing, is it?"
"Oh! I..." Matilda replied quickly, and then stopped. "Can I tell you something?" she whispered.
"Of course. You can tell me anything you want!"
Another pause, this time as if she was composing her answer carefully.
"I never did have a crush on you."
"Then... How come you never denied it? Every time it was brought up, you'd turn away as if you were trying to... Hide something."
"I was trying to hide something."
"And it wasn't my feelings for you. I'm sorry."
"Oh... That's... Completely fine!"
I tried to imagine her face now. Little Matilda, all grown up. Her smile... She may not have been my childhood crush, but all the same, she was attractive. And her smile was the best of all. She had always been the shyest of all of us, but on that rare occasion where she did smile, we all smiled with her. Matilda always seemed so depressed, she rarely ever did smile.
I could hear rustling from the other side of the line.
"Matilda... You okay?"
"Aren't you going to ask me... Why?"
"Why I was trying to hide something. What was I trying to hide. That," she said.
"Oh... I suppose... I'm a bit curious... But it's really none of my business, so if you don't want to tell me, you don't have to..."
"I want to tell someone. I think maybe... If I tell the right person, I might start to feel... Better about it."
"Okay, then. If you want to tell me, fire away."
"Please... Keep it secret?"
"Okay... Here goes..."
She took a breath.
"My friends made up the rumour about our crush. It was just with random boy - don't take it too personally. But they did it for me, to hide the truth..."
"The truth, which is...?" I asked quietly.
"I don't think I'll ever get in a relationship with a man. I don't think... No... No, not for me. Never. I... Never really feel that connection, you know, when you feel like you're in love... I don't think I'll ever feel that with a man."
"How can you be so sure?" I asked, a little pointlessly, already knowing the answer.
Her voice was so quiet now, it was barely audible.
"Hey, guess what?"
I inhaled and tried to sound cheerful.
"So am I! Well, not lesbian, but..."
She sounded like she was going to burst into tears.
"Darren! I know you're trying to make me feel better, but... Don't you feel guilty? It took me a lot of courage to tell you this, and now you... You... Make fun of me!"
She sounded very indignant.
"What... Whatever are you talking about?"
"Huh? What? You mean... You were serious?"
"Deadly serious. I'm gay."
"You're not alone in life. You see? There are so many other people out there too," I exclaimed. "There's no need to feel embarrassed! Well..."
I stopped abruptly.
"There are, of course, the haters out there..."
"Outside of school, I had friends too. But when I told them... Some of them reacted badly. Called me inhuman. Unnatural. Alien. And much, much worse... And I went to bed crying every night." She was whispering again.
"I know, but..." I reassured her, gently. "But the main thing is, you're not alone. There are others out there too. And there are also the supporters. The people who don't hate us. Of course, there will always be someone who doesn't like us but we will face the haters together, okay? You and me, and other LGBT friends we can find, we will stand together."
"Thank you so much... Darren."
"Thank you too."
I put the phone down and couldn't help but grin.
My conversation with Matilda had just given me the inspiration I had needed for my article.
In a nutshell?
Matilda had just saved my job.ns 126.96.36.199da2