Matthew was sat on the tired green sofa, hugging his legs to his chest. There were damp patches on the knees of his trousers. Brightly dressed presenters were bouncing around on the television screen in front of him; he had turned the TV on in open protest to his mother’s pleas for him to get ready for his cello lesson. He decided that watching a programme would make his disobedience more blatant, but he had not the smallest idea of what was happening because of his determined desire to sulk. He did not want to go. It wasn’t because he didn’t like playing; he had practised his scales really hard, because they had been so much worse than Anna’s the week before. It was Anna. He didn’t want to see Anna.
There were three small knocks at the door. They were followed quickly by four louder ones. Sarah, Matthew’s mother, sped through the hallway, “Gosh! I’m coming, there in a tick!… Oh, Anna, hello.” She was surprised to see Anna at the door, not only because Anna and Matthew had their lessons at Anna’s house, but Sarah had also expected Anna to be as upset as Matthew. She was almost hurt to see Anna stood so boldly and happily on her front doorstep, when her best friend was sat in tears on the sofa, when the two of them had argued so loudly that morning.
Anna sensed that she was not as welcome as usual, and shifted nervously. “Um, Mrs… Mrs Drake, I am v-very sorry for shouting at Matty earlier. I, well I never meant to. It was silly of me really, to get so… so wound up over a broken toy. I mean, I know Matty would never mean to break it.” She stopped dead as she sensed that any more words would cause her to break into tears. Sarah softened, aware that both children were missing each other very much even though it had only been a matter of hours. She also noticed that Anna was clutching something behind her back.
“Oh Anna dear, I know, I’m sorry if I wasn’t very kind just now. Do come in, Matthew is in the lounge, I’m sure he wants to see you really.” Anna raced past her throwing back a ‘Thank you Mrs Drake!’ as she went.
“C’mon Matty! You’re never going to make our lesson if you sit there sulking so much! And I know that you don’t want to miss it. I heard you practising really hard… oh don’t look at me like that you let the window open yesterday! I think you’ll be better than me this week.”
“Leave me alone!” Matthew scowled, but the tone of his voice lacked the impact he had intended. He tried again. “You were really horrible earlier Anna. I know that you loved that rabbit toy, but I said I was sorry about a hundred times.” His voice was just a soft whimper now “You were really horrible.”
Anna was crying now as she slowly produced a large piece of card from behind her back. She stood in silence holding it in front of her body like a sign. She waited patiently for Matthew to turn around when he could no longer bear not knowing why she wouldn’t reply to him. He did turn around, she knew he would. It was a large white piece of card, creased and ripped from an extended storage period; he guessed it had been under Anna’s bed, everything under Anna’s bed emerged a little worse for wear. On the card was a drawing of a large green bear with an orange sun on its stomach and with its arms stretched out wide. Beside the bear was an explosion of red glitter, red glitter that had been arranged into the word ‘Sorry’, except one of the ‘R’s was backwards. Matthew smiled and ran towards Anna, with his arms just as wide, if not wider, than the slightly odd looking green bear.
Matthew and Anna arrived late for their lesson. Anna’s cheeks were slightly blotchy and red, but she wore a wide smile. Matthew entered the room more slowly, with still wet knees and patches off red glitter covering his woollen jumper. The two friends had not been having lessons for very long, but they both loved it. It was possible that Anna loved the instrument more than Matthew, whilst Matthew simply loved spending time with Anna, as he always had. However, this week Matthew had been so afraid of falling behind Anna, that he had practised his way through all of the scales they had ever learned and had given the next page a shot.
“Good grief Matthew! I can tell you practised hard this week!” Mrs Maloney, the children’s cello teacher exclaimed after Matthew had finished the entire duet having made no mistakes, whilst Anna had sat beside him. She had played with as much confidence as ever, but, as always, had missed a handful of notes here and there and had made some others up. “Anna, you should take a leaf out of Matthew’s book, you can’t expect to be better than him forever, not when he’s working this hard!” This comment made both children frown, Anna knew that Matthew deserved the praise this week after he had worked so hard, but she did not like him being better than her, she had gotten used to her position as the more competent of the two. At the same time Matthew’s mood plummeted again, he knew that Anna was better than him, but it had never been said out loud, not so he could hear anyway.
“Right,” Mrs Maloney continued, unaware of the decreased spirits of both of her pupils “let’s hear your solos then. Matthew, you first. Why don’t we be nice at let Anna have a chance to buck her ideas up, hey?”
Sarah Drake, and her husband Lewis stood in the kitchen as they waited for the microwave lasagne to finish heating up. Her face was furrowed into a deep frown and his mouth was twisted with thought, after a short silence Sarah spoke.
“That was unexpected.” Matthew had just returned from his cello lesson and had walked into the kitchen and declared that even Mrs Maloney said Anna was better than him and he didn’t see why he should bother with lessons anymore. “I didn’t expect him to come back in such a bad mood, when Anna came over with that card I thought he’d cheer up.”
“Hmmm…” her husband offered.
“The thing that rattles me the most though, is that Judy Maloney would say such a thing, to actually say that Anna was better than our Matthew. And to think how hard he practised this week, we didn’t have to remind him once! It makes me so angry!”
“Sarah, dear, we don’t know that Judy actually said those words. Matthew is a child, he could easily have exaggerated it for the sake of having a bit of a tantrum?”
“I’m not so sure. Maybe moving away from the Drakes won’t be such a bad thing for him.” Lewis raised an eyebrow, “yes, I know, Anna and Matthew are inseparable and they will both shout and scream, but I think today has proved something about their friendship. Matthew is devoted to Anna, and she is used to being the leader.”
Lewis nearly laughed, but his wife’s facial expression warned him not to. He reached a hand out to squeeze her arm, “They’re just children, I wouldn’t analyse their friendship too much. Anna is devoted to Matthew too, look at that crazy apology collage of hers!”
“Oh, I know, I know. Anna is a lovely girl and it is really sweet that they’ve grown up together for seven years. But maybe this relocation of your firm has come at the right time. Matthew’s so shy, and spending so much time with Anna is hardly going to help that!”
“Look, we need to tell Matthew about the move tonight anyway, the ‘For Sale’ sign is going up tomorrow. As well as that, we need to ring Judy to see if she can recommend a teacher for us on the other side of town, so I can ask about this ‘Anna is better’ comment too. Does that sound like an okay plan of action sweetie?”
Sarah rubbed her head and sighed, then slowly nodded. Lewis walked into the hallway and lifted the phone from the receiver.
Matthew and Anna, were walking home from school a couple of paces ahead of their chatting mothers.
“Matty, please let me read the story you wrote in English! They’re always so good!”
“No, please don’t,” Matthew was struggling to keep his exercise book out of Anna’s reach, “It’s silly, and I’ve made loads of spelling mistakes…”
Anna giggled “No, YOU’RE being silly. Mr Anderson described mine as the silliest little story he’s ever read!”
“NO!” Matthew shouted, and Anna was shocked at his anger. But slowly a smile crept onto his face and he turned abruptly, “You’re going to have to race me for it!” With no further warning he darted around the corner, racing down their road. Anna quickly followed.
Matthew stopped dead as his house came into view, he had not managed to tell Anna about the ‘For Sale’ sign yet. Anna caught up with him, out of breath and conceded that he won and she wouldn’t read his story. Then she followed his gaze towards the cardboard sign that had sprouted out of his front lawn.
“Matty, what is? Why? Are you?” Anna failed to put a sentence together, as Matthew turned to face her.
“Mum and Dad only told me last night. Sorry I didn’t tell you straight away, I just didn’t know how!”
Anna reached out and took Matthew’s hand, “Oh, that’s okay, you only just found out. How far?”
“Um, just the other side of town, something about my Dad’s job moving…” Matthew was mumbling now, aware that both mothers were quickly making up the distance gained from the exercise book race.
“But, I mean, you’ll still be at school right?”
“No.” He couldn’t bring himself to say any more than one word.
“Cello lessons?” Anna could feel tears welling up in her eyes
“My parents rang Mrs Maloney to find a new teacher, but I don’t think I will carry on, you know? I only really enjoy it because it’s something we to together.”
Anna nodded. She dropped Matthew’s hand and forced a smile onto her face. “Well, I promised mum I would help to cook dinner, so I had better get inside!” She gave her best friend a little wave and hurried inside.
Matthew had been shocked by Anna’s sudden cheeriness, but had also been sure that he had spotted the beginnings of tears emerging in her eyes. He stood for a while, gazing at Anna’s back as she ran through her front door, all the time aware of the large ‘For Sale’ sign stood only a few feet away from him.