I am outside the door. Looking in through the stain glass windows I spot Marco, sitting at the dining room table in his crisp white button down shirt. I’ve always loved that shirt. I can hear the screaming through the glass, years of neglect being thrown at Marco in a barrage of insults and shouts. I know I shouldn’t be looking, but I am, and I know that he knows I’m there from the small glances he’s throwing at me every few seconds. His white crisp shirt is jarring against the backdrop of the vintage wooden house, furnished with brown armchairs and black carpets. I should intervene, kick down the door and yell back at them for all they haven’t done for Marco over the years. But,
a best friend wouldn’t do that.
At one point the screaming reaches such a crescendo that I find my hands glued to my ears, desperately searching for some quiet within the noise. I flinch at the high-pitched voice of Marco’s mother and decide to run home. I can feel the hot tears streaming down my face as my hair becomes wet with sweat. My sweatpants, ‘not a lady’s clothing garment’ by my mother’s standards, stick to my legs as I run the last minutes home. I collapse on my front doorstep, my ears ringing with the shouting and screaming.
* * *
A few hours later I’m sitting inside my bedroom reading when I hear a knock at the door. I know immediately who’s outside. I force open the creaky door and don’t get a chance to say anything before Marco rushes into my chest. Our soundscape is made up of sobs for a few minutes, Marco’s racking cough reverberating through my t-shirt. I take his rough palm in mine and lead him to the kitchen, where he takes a glass of water from me thankfully.
‘I don’t know if I can live there anymore Sarah. I left school and I still have to deal with their rubbish? What else do they want?'
It takes me a few minutes to form an answer.
‘They’re angry at you leaving school Marc. Maybe if you go back-'
‘Are you serious? And have to deal with those horrible teens jeering at my clothes again? I’d rather die Sarah, you know that.'
Marco had been wearing that crisp white shirt for as long as I’d known him. It was a birthday present from his uncle before he died. Marco was especially close with his uncle, more than anyone else in his family. When he died, he’d kept wearing it every day to try and regain a sense of family he never found in his parents. Days turned into years.
‘Yeah I do, I know I know. But what else can you do?’ I replied.
Marco threw his hands up in the air in response. He grimaced at me in a funny way, like this was all a joke - but I could see his sad eyes almost bursting with tears.
‘Let’s watch something on tv,’ Marco said defiantly, changing the subject.
He awkwardly skipped over to the couch, flicking the tv to some reality program. I knew Marco usually hated this fake stuff so his enthusiasm at the show was odd. He was almost hysterical in the way he said ‘damn I love this show!’ gradually leading his voice higher and higher with every comment, so he sounded like a completely different person.
He looked at me with crazed eyes brimming with tears as he said, ‘what am I going to do Sarah? My parents hate me. They hate me they hate me they hate me they-'
I stopped him with a ‘shush’, pulling him into my chest once again.
* * *
I woke up later with Marco on my chest, breathing heavily in and out. His hands were clasped round me, his hands fists as he clung to my shirt. Dad walked in, evidently home from work, and gave me a cup of tea.
‘Sarah, I think it’s time we sort this out. Your mother and I have been talking and we are happy to have Marco live with us. I don’t know how we will sort it out with his parents but he just can’t go on living in that house again. He doesn’t fit in there, in that horrible family. Your friendship with him is all he has Sarah.'
* * *
Marco woke up a few hours later, bones cracking as he hauled himself up from the couch with his skinny arms. HIs face is blotchy with tears as he makes his way into the kitchen.
‘Listen Marco. I’ve been having a chat with Sandra and we’d like to have you live here if that’s alright with you,’ proposed dad.
Marco’s eyes lit up so much I thought he was five years old. It only took a few seconds for that smile to move into a concerned frown.
‘But, my parents…they’d never let me leave. I-'
‘Marco they just dropped your stuff round.'
I could tell Marco was shocked by the confused expression written all over his face. Not just confusion, but hurt and relief all at the same time. Marco had been trying to tell himself that his parents did love him after all and that their anger was just love - but now he knew it wasn’t true.
‘Wow.’ was all he could muster with a sigh.
I smiled at him, letting him know it would all be alright. After looking at me with a confused and sad expression, his face softened. A relieved smile stared back at me.
‘Thank you,’ he said, with such softness. His voice was chocolatey as he said those words - it was one of the only times I’d heard him be truly genuine.
‘I’m going to go and have a sleep if that’s alright,” muttered Marco, heading to my bedroom as my dad nodded in approval. I mouthed a silent thank you to dad and sat on the couch to relax.
Let me tell you a little bit about Marco. Ever since he was little, Marco rejected everything his parents expected of him. Sure, he wanted to impress and make them proud, but their idea of success wasn’t the same as his. He’s a creative person, far removed from the intellectual businessmen that make up his family - except for his uncle. He’d had learning difficulties his whole schooling life and couldn’t grasp basic concepts. As a result he became very hard on himself, introverted and anxious. We’d met in a detention class, two misfits just trying to survive at school. He told me in confidence once we’d met up a few times, that he’d never really had a friend before.
* * *
The next morning Marco walked slowly into the kitchen.
‘Morning,’ I cheerfully called to him as I stirred my cereal.
He looked about four years old when he rubbed his eyes like a baby bear. He was looking so adorable in his pinstripe pyjamas and tired wrinkles around his eyes. He made his way over to me and embraced me fully. I could smell the clean cotton scent of his pyjamas and buried myself into his auburn hair.
'Tranks,’ he whispered. (It means thank you in the secret language we’d invented.)
‘You’re welcome,’ I replied.