A Brother’s Secret
© The author reserves all rights to this work.
This story is of an adult nature. It is not intended for minors nor for those whose law in their land forbids them to read this material.
This story is entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual people is purely coincidental and unintentional.
NB: Words found between asterisks (*) refer to words exchanged in psychic or telepathic communication.
Date: 11 January 2675, Monday
“Are you sure you’re going to be fine?” asked Mark.
“For the last time, my over-protective brother, I’m going to be okay. You must remember that I chose this,” reminded Matthew, Mark’s younger brother.
Mark’s face lengthened a little. “I was just worried. After all …”
“I’m going to be with students that are younger than I am. Yes, bro, I know,” said Matthew kindly. “Mark, I lost one and a half years when I went into therapy. The school was gracious enough to let me in halfway through the term. I should be grateful and do my best. I’m not going let this opportunity go. I need to get my cert.”
“I’m proud of you!” said Mark as he pulled his brother into his arms for a bear hug.
Mark watched his brother move out of the building with his breathing apparatus. Matthew, like all who live in Uranus, had to use a breathing mask when outside. Mark was proud that his brother had decided to go back to school. Though he would be at a class that was two years his junior, he was unfazed. Mark only hoped that Matthew would be able to take whatever difficulties that situation brought.
Matthew had grown up quite quickly during his stay in the state institution. He had witnessed many older men who had gone mad because they could not handle the stress of what life brought them. Through a counsellor, he was able to cope with the rejection he felt. Most of all, the love of his brother really accelerated his recovery.
Unfortunately, Matthew got into trouble the very first day. His first period class was history. His teacher, Mr. Reynolds, had expressed his dislike for him and two of the boys in the class took advantage of that. They managed to frame him for throwing a water filled condom at the history teacher. The enraged teacher brought Matthew to the principal without even interrogating him.
“Is this true?” asked the principal.
“I didn’t throw the thing,” Matthew replied.
“Then how do you explain my wet shirt and another condom filled with water just behind your seat!” shouted the history teacher.
“I don’t know how the condom got there. I really don’t know,” said Matthew as calmly as he could. “I did see the condom fly from behind me towards you, but I didn’t throw it.”
“Don’t you lie to me, Mr. Keith. Your record as a trouble-maker is well known …” Mr. Reynolds said firmly.
“How did you know he was a trouble-maker, Mr. Reynolds?” the principal asked. He had known Matthew’s problems but he had not let any of his staff know.
“Uh … er …” the history teacher faultered. He had taken an instant dislike to Matthew Keith but he had not understood why. “What other reason … uh … is there for … uh … an … overaged student?” he stammered.
“Mr. Reynolds, I shall now handle the student. Please change your shirt and get back to your class. The rest of the class shouldn’t have to suffer because of one boy,” said the principal firmly.
“Yes, Mr. Naughton,” said the teacher. He shot a glare at Matthew just as he left the room.
After Mr. Reynolds left, the principal gave a sigh. “Take a seat, Mr. Keith.” After Matthew had sat down, he continued, “I know it’s not easy for you to be away from home and that you have to come back to school. Your brother was worried about how you might fare here.”
“Mr. Naughton,” Matthew said, “my brother is always worried because I tried to kill myself and that the stress of being behind in my studies might cause more problems. You must know that I chose to come back to school. I wasn’t forced to come.”
“Uh?” the principal looked surprised. “I thought your brother wanted you to finish so that you could get your basic certification.”
“It was my decision, sir. He was happy, of course, that I wanted to study, but I wasn’t forced,” said Matthew. “I know my record doesn’t look good, and with this incident on my very first day, it gets worse. All I ask is a chance to get my cert.”
“Mr. Reynolds was drenched,” Mr. Naughton said.
“Sir, I state again,” said Matthew seriously, “that I’m innocent but I know that I can’t prove it. I’m willing to take whatever punishment but please don’t kick me out.”
“The strange thing here is that I do believe that you’re telling the truth. However …” Mr. Naughton went deep into thought. Then he looked up with a satisfied look. He turned to the display he had at the side of his desk and called up some study schedules. “Mr. Keith, I believe I do have a solution for you. At the moment your records show that you’re two years behind in your studies. How good are you in your history?”
“I’m afraid my history isn’t very good,” admitted Matthew. ”That’s why I had to start from scratch with Mr. Reynold’s class.”
“No matter, I’m going to put you in a higher class. I’ll put you in Mrs. Cairn’s class. You’re going to have pass an entrance test given by Mrs. Cairn. I’m going to schedule it in three weeks time. Meanwhile, here is the list of chapters you’re going to have to know by the time of the exam.” Mr. Naughton handed a data chip to Matthew. “Included are the different classes you’ll need to attend to catch up with your peers. If you’re diligent, you’d be able to try for the entrance exams for the degree programme at the end of the year. That would put you only one year behind if you pass the exams. I actually thought of how to help you when your brother came to see me a week ago to arrange for your studies.”
Matthew did not look very confident. “Sir, I’m not very intelligent. I’m not sure if I would be able to do it all.”
Mr. Naughton smiled reassuringly, “Mr. Keith, you’re two years older than the kids here. I’m sure you’ve matured very fast because of your situation. I’m just asking you to try. Fortunately, being less playful than the students here, you’d probably spend more time studying than hanging around in the recreational centres. Don’t sell yourself short. Just try your best. If you need to relax, do so. If you don’t make it at the entrance exam, you’ll still be able to follow the programme that you’ve signed up for. I believe you could be one of the top students here.”
“Thank you, Mr. Naughton. I’m honoured that you think so highly of me,” said Matthew, beaming in pleasure.
“Just do your best and don’t stress yourself unnecessarily, okay?” instructed the principal.
“Yes sir,” said Matthew confidently.
“I’m going to ask you to go home now,” continued Mr. Naughton. “I want you to look at the study schedules at home and try to work out your own schedule and fit in the various classes you’d have to do. Your workload will be heavier than the average student here by one-third. Go home and work out a strategy. To placate Mr. Reynolds, you’re officially suspended from school for one day. I’ll just forget to enter it into your records. However, if you come in here on a real charge of mischief, I won’t hesitate to punish you. Understand?”
“Yes sir!” said Matthew. His spirits were higher and he was wearing a smile.
“You may leave,” said Mr. Naughton.
Matthew turned to leave but Mr Naughton stopped him. “One more thing, Mr. Keith,” the principal said.
“Yes,” Matthew turned back to face Mr. Naughton.
“Wipe the smile off your face. You won’t want Mr. Reynolds to think that you enjoyed your punishment, will you?” said Mr. Naughton with a wink.
“No sir!” said Matthew and he dragged the sides of his mouth down to reverse the smile. However, his eyes were smiling.
“Go!” said Mr. Naughton. He did not dare to smile. He knew Matthew’s spirits were soaring. At least, Mr. Reynolds would be satisfied by the punishment and Matthew could make up for lost time.
‡ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ‡
Date: 18 April 2675, Wednesday
Mark had just returned from a ten day cruise. He was getting used to working on board a ship. The cruise he had just come back from was not as hectic as some of the other cruises. It was the honeymoon cruise and the couples were mostly enjoying quiet moments by themselves. Though the crew were ready at a moment’s notice, they were more subdued in offering their services. Keeping away from the couples was the strategy that Jacques, the cruise director, had. It had proven to be a good one because 90 percent of the couples gave a four star rating to the cruise. Only one couple thought that the crew could have been more helpful.
Mark had just finished his shower when his brother returned from school.
“Hi Mark!” Matthew greeted. “I thought you’d come home later because of the debrief.”
Mark grinned. “We’d a four star rating for 90 percent of the guests. Debrief was short. Anyway, the captain said he’d be speaking to the main guys and the assistants were excused. This is one time I’m glad to be an assistant. How’s school going with you? You seem to be extra happy today.”
“Yeah,” said Matthew with a big grin. “I’ve been exonerated by Mr. Reynolds.”
“Mr. Reynolds? You mean that history teacher that gave you hell on the first day?”
“The same one. If you remembered, someone behind me drenched Mr. Reynolds with a water filled condom and tried to put the blame on me.”
“Well, whoever they were tried to do so again and this time the student they wanted to frame lucked out. Mr. Reynolds turned around just in time to see one of them placing a water filled balloon behind the student’s seat and another about to throw the balloon.”
“Wow, talk about timing!”
“They were just a moment too late and the guy who was supposed to throw the balloon had such a shock that he dropped the balloon on his accomplice.”
Mark laughed. “Serves them right!”
“Anyway, Mr. Reynolds came and apologised to me and promised to set the record straight. I thanked him and said that there was no harm done.”
“So,” asked Mark, “that incident actually worked in your favour. If you didn’t get into trouble with the teacher on the first day, you wouldn’t have had the chance to take the history exam and move up one level.”
“True,” said Matthew smiling to himself.
“Whoa! I see something! That smile wasn’t just a normal smile. There was something hidden in it. Let me see … a girl? I know that smile. It is a smile of a smitten teenager!” declared Mark with a mischevious grin.
Matthew blushed. “No, it’s nothing. Nothing … really!”
“No point hiding from me bro. I was there, remember?” said Mark, wagging his forefinger. “I’ve seen this smile on every one of my friends when they meet who they considered to be their dream girl. C’mon spit it out … I know what I see. It’s no use denying.”
“Okay, okay!” Matthew was blushing even more furiously. “It’s this girl that sits three seats in front of me. She’s very quiet and I just like her smile.”
Mark raised his eyebrows. “Only that smile? Your hormones couldn’t be that weak, could it?”
Matthew’s expression changed to that of annoyance. “Is that all you think about, bro? Obviously not having a girlfriend has degenerated you. You’re reverting to a sex-craved teenager again.”
Mark noticed his brother’s change in emotion and apologised, “Sorry, I was just teasing. This must be serious. Have you spoken to her?”
“Only once or twice. She’s quiet and we greet each other politely.” Matthew paused as if lost in thoughts. Mark was about to ask him to continue when he spoke again. “I have this incredible feeling in me whenever I see her,” Matthew admitted.
Mark knew what he meant. He also knew what the feeling implied. “Have courage Matt,” Mark told his brother. “I know what you are feeling. I was there myself.”
Matthew felt uncomfortable. “How’s work? You look pretty tired. I’m sorry that you’ve got to work so hard. Maybe I should look for some part-time work … to pay for my part of the household expenses.”
Mark frowned. He did not like Matthew to change the topic. “I’m okay. I’m sure I can manage with the household expenses for now.”
Matthew's face showed concern. “But I feel like I’m just freeloading off you. You’re working your butt off feeding two people and putting me through school. Let me help.”
“Your job, Matt,” said Mark firmly, “is to make sure you make it through school. When you’ve gotten your degree, you’d be able to help me with expenses.”
“I feel guilty, bro,” said Matthew unhappily. “You’re carrying a heavy load. I feel like a burden.”
Mark reasoned with Matthew, “If taking on a part-time job causes your studies to suffer, then, what good would having the extra money be? Look, you’ve a lot of catching up to do and you need to put all you’ve got into your studies. At the moment, my job’s paying quite well. If we don’t spend unnecessarily, we’d even have some savings. We aren’t really bad off. So put the idea of getting a job out of your head.”
“Yes Mark.” replied Matthew reluctantly.
Mark smiled knowingly, “And I know what you were really doing … I won’t question you about the mysterious girl in your class now but if you really need to talk I’m here. I may have failed in my relationship with Stef but that doesn’t mean you can’t approach me. I don’t have all the answers but I’m willing to listen.”
Matthew nodded his head. “Thanks bro for not pursuing …”
“I know when to shut up. Come, let’s get some dinner.”