Matt’s early life is something he doesn’t like to talk about. He was born in the late sixties in Narragyambie, delivered four weeks premature alongside his twin sister Amanda after their mother ‘fell down stairs’ eight months pregnant. His father, John Longhurst, was a bricklayer who worked long days, and drank through longer nights. His mother was a witch, his father a muggle. The pair met after his mother Valerie Belmont (better known as Pearl) graduated Tallygarunga. By all family accounts, their romance was a whirlwind, the pair described as perfectly in love. They married in late 1964, a proper chuch wedding – John’s family being quite religious, would have nothing less. Pearl agreed, happy to just be married to the man she would love forever.
John was aware that his wife was a witch, and while it never sat well with him – for their first year of marriage, it never openly bothered him. He said nothing to his family, worked hard at his job in the hopes that Pearl would never have to work for their income. The couple lived quite comfortably on his wage. Until one day, she came home with news. She had been to morning tea with her best friend Marie (who was married to her own school sweetheart, and pregnant with their first child) when the strangest of feelings had overcome her, and she’d quite unapologetically thrown up into the terracotta pot plant pot on the restaurant’s front deck. Marie, who’s only thoughts at the time revolved around babies, encouraged her to buy a pregnancy test from the corner shop and take it in the public toilets at the Reserve. This she did, both women waiting awkwardly as the test confirmed what Marie had already assumed – Pearl was pregnant.
For Pearl, the news only got better. She’d always wanted a family, and while John had always expressed reservations regarding children, she was sure he would make a perfect father if just given the chance. But he was less than delighted when she told him, the sudden drain on their expenses forced him to seek promotions, work harder. That there were going to be two children only seemed to make it worse, eventually sending him to his father’s house for advice. There he was told that this was all his own doing, and had he handled himself appropriately as her husband, she wouldn’t have become pregnant at all – he was supposed to be in control of her, she was not supposed to be able to run things the way she wished. He earned the money, how their family developed was supposed to be his say, and not hers. He left convinced, demanding that Pearl – at six months pregnant – have the children terminated. She refused, fighting with him properly for the first time – and, for the first time discovering the depths of his anger.
What little extra money they had, he drank – determined to not let her spend any more than she absolutely had to, he started to dole out the money in a small allowance for herself and the children, keeping the rest in reserve or on the tab at the local pub. He came home late, drunk and bitter, shoving her down the back step one night as she went outside to collect the washing. He stopped allowing her to use magic in his presence, confiscated her wand, and she did as she was told – hoping that her obedience would bring back the man she’d married. Sometimes it did, but only in fleeting moments, enough to keep the both of them holding on – not enough to stop the violence.
When the twins were born, things calmed down just a little. John received his first burst of paternal feeling, Pearl slipped easily into the role of mother – helped greatly by Marie, who despite having a six month son of her own, was becoming more and more worried about Pearl. The couple still argued and fought, but never in front of the children. This lasted until Matt and Amanda were about three, when Amanda wandered out of the twins’ shared room while John and Pearl were fighting. The physical violence was on the up again, the shock of it sent Amanda back to the bedroom crying, crawling into bed alongside Matt, the two of them huddling under blankets at the raised voices.
At six they started prep at St Andrews Primary, alongside Alan Burdett – the twins’ best friend. Alan was bright and happy, didn’t understand anything about their life – his mother keeping the reasons for Pearl’s frequent bruises and breaks light and laughable. So used to their way of life, the twins didn’t particularly know anything was wrong, until a personal safety lesson in their first year of school taught them about emergency numbers, and what to do when someone was seriously hurt. The lesson was not wasted on either of the children, who learned quickly how to operate the phone and call for ambulances when Pearl was incapable of doing so for herself.
Over time, Matt found himself more responsible for looking after their mother – Amanda more frightened by the prospect of their mother being hurt than motivated to do something about it. She would go hide in her room until the doctors and sirens went away, and Mrs Burdett came to collect the children. Local emergency services soon learned the sound of his stuttering voice, and came to be fond of the boy who sat quietly and seriously watching as the paramedics tended to her. From the very first call, he longed to be like them – to be able to walk in and make people okay again. He watched in the hopes he would learn, but each time he could never remember what to do.
Money was starting to become a very serious issue the older the children got, with John drinking more and bringing home less – Matt decided to take matters into his own hands. Other kids had multiple sets of clothes, and didn’t have to watch their parents agonise over which child was due a new pair of shoes the most desperately. Slowly the town was starting to take pity on Pearl, shoving extra money in the change, hoping she wouldn’t notice the difference, Marie snuck in with an extra key and hid food about the house for Pearl and the children to find, food that was almost always confiscated by John. The problem seemed to be money, and so Matt started sneaking out about town in search of odd jobs to help bring in little bits and pieces. With nothing to wear but his St Andrews uniform or his pyjamas, and the occasional hand-me-downs from a much rounder Alan, residents of Narrie tipped well, and often. Matt worked hard, determined to impress his clients. He liked to see things clean, and the work made him feel useful and relaxed. He was productive, solving things. He brought home a fair amount, money that Pearl stashed away in the vain hope she would be able to give it back to him, but it managed to be found, or spent on needed goods. This was to be a theme with any money Matt brought in.
Both the twins turned out to inherit their mother’s magical abilities, something she was thrilled with. By now, John had started to embrace the magical world, frequenting the worst sorts of stores in search of items that would pull his wife ‘in line’ again. He fed her potions both forced and by secrecy, bought self-detonating charms and hexes, figuring she ought to be afraid of the things she knew – all that ever achieved was to make her ill, and as the kids grew up he realised he was going to have the same problem with Amanda.
Once was all it took. A wrong remark from Amanda, and John’s temper snapped – reaching across the table he slapped her hard, shocking both Matt and Pearl – up until now, he’d never laid hands on the children. This was the breaking point for Pearl, who bundled up the children and drove their wreck of a car across town to the Burdett’s. From there she made her final decision, taking out a restraining order on John, and divorcing him for good. The day he left, the small remainder of the family went for a rare dinner at the Bush Barbie, ordering extravagant meals out of what little money they had left, Pearl under the impression that she would be supported by her family – something that turned out to be horribly wrong. They didn’t care what sort of husband John was, they were disgusted that she had divorced him, and wouldn’t be swayed. She resorted instead to government handouts, spending on the children well before herself. Matt continued to earn as much money as he could, occasionally resorting to lying to his mother in order to be allowed out of the house. She felt he should be spending time with friends, sometimes banning him from going out to earn money. It never stopped him.
It was at around this time, as the kids started at Tallygarunga, that the effects of eleven years of abuse was starting to show in a more permanent way. Pearl was sick, and not likely to get better. The news was devastating, though doctors predicted another ten years before things got too drastic. Treatment was expensive, and in Pearl’s opinion – optional. Matt continued to earn money wherever and however he could, insistent they could afford it all. She encouraged the children to spend nights at the school, pushing them towards independence, wanting them to be strong and capable when she couldn’t be there. Amanda, who was now officially Alan’s ‘girlfriend’, took the opportunity to spend time with her friends, Matt came home as often as he dared, teaching himself to cook and clean, gleaning tips from Marie when he stayed at the Burdett’s, and asking a million and one questions of the chefs at the Bush Barbie, when they went there for their now monthly splurges.
He hated how helpless he felt when his mother was too tired to move, and too sick to even laugh. He concentrated in healing classes at Tally, but his grades in all classes were low. He spent his days distracted and worried, and while some girls showed interest in them – he pushed them away. He didn’t want the chance to do to anyone what his father had done to Pearl. He knew that he got angry sometimes, very angry – the possibility that he could lose control terrified him. It made his friends wonder, and sometimes Matt himself wondered whether he was okay. Alan, who dated Amanda on-and-off through school, his first love and first lover – felt that Matt’s shyness needed to be overcome, refusing to let Matt reach sixteen completely unkissed.
So the great kissing event occurred, Alan rounding up as many girls from all the houses as he could find, tying Matt down to a chair and letting the girls march past and kiss him as much or as little as they dared. This was quite confronting for Matt, whose anxiety around women peaked – eventually forcing Alan to send the girls away and untie the poor boy so he could breathe again.
Back at home, things were going downhill – though the twins were yet to realise it. More than once Matt had found himself needing to call the paramedics after finding Pearl in a bad state. Initially he had thought it was to do with her illness, the more often it happened, however, the more the words ‘attempted suicide’ started to be banded about – even by Marie, words that felt like accusations and he refused to believe. Her attempts were subtle, usually poison related – and Matt continued to deny it was happening until she locked herself in the garage. That was her closest call, a realisation that made Matt so angry he almost left her there. That brief hesitation is something he still hates himself for, even though she survived.
Seventh year was a struggle for him, his grades suffering miserably under the stress from home. Amanda seemed to cope with support from the Burdetts, Alan tried his best to split time between best mate and girlfriend, and Amanda continued to hold up late night chats with her brother – but he was near obsessed with saving their mother. In some respects Amanda had given up, and Alan didn’t seem to understand. Seventh year was also a big year for Tallygarunga, with it’s inclusion in the inter-school games between Greyheme and Penrose. The first of the games was to be held at Tallygarunga, a night Matt remembers with mild irritation on Amanda’s behalf – Alan had been an idiot, leading to a break in their relationship. In revenge, Amanda had sought out the Head Boy of Greyheme, Alan finding his attention captured by one of the Penrose girls. They caused a scene, kissing in public as the schools parted, the younger girl thanking him for the fun and heading back to her own school.
Some weeks later, it was Tallygarunga’s turn to visit the other schools – the boys staying at Greyheme, the girls at Penrose. The games themselves were not memorable, Matt spent the whole time on edge, distracted. His mother had insisted he go, support Amanda who was on the Quidditch team. He and Alan had been allocated the same room, Alan somewhat disappointed he hadn’t spotted his Penrose girl yet – right up until she snuck into the room in the middle of the night, grinning and insisting Alan come with her. He did, Matt choosing to sleep rather than escape the school. The next morning he was woken by the Deputy Headmaster of Tally, cursing Alan – who was still not back from wherever he’d gone, Matt feigned innocence, but Knightley’s purpose was much graver. Pearl had passed away overnight, Knightley had come to bring Matt and Amanda back to Narrie.
The twins coped with their mother’s death in very different ways. Amanda sought the company of Alan once more, who came through for her with muffins, hugs and support when she needed it. Matt ran instead to the Bush Barbie, bursting into tears as the staff offered him a free dinner out of sympathy. Knowing he would need employment, the Hamiltons hooked him up with a job at The Drunken Roo, running tables during the dinner rush. Exams were fast approaching, and despite the fact Matt knew what he wanted to do, he had no chance of getting the grades to do it. Even if he had, the money wasn’t there to send both himself and Amanda to university.
When Amanda revealed during one of their late night chats, the note their mother had written her (both the twins had received one, Matt still keeps his in a very safe place), she dropped a few bombshells. One was that while she enjoyed Alan’s company, she wasn’t attracted to him anymore. The other was that she was cheating on him – with her roommate, Cassandra. Amanda had always felt to blame for her parents’ split, blamed it on the fact she was a girl. Pearl’s letter addressed her as her ‘other son’, something that apparently meant a lot to Amanda. Matt wasn’t permitted to tell Alan anything, and though he tried to stop Alan’s grand graduation proposal, he wasn’t at all successful. Amanda managed to get a position at a university in Ballarat, and sensing his sister’s need to escape – Matt supported her decision to leave Narrie. Alan also chose to leave Narrie, a surprise from the boy who’d only ever wanted to run his own farm, taking a third round offer for a teaching course at VMU. It was in Melbourne that Alan again met his Penrose girl, Kate McElhaney – and the two started seeing each other formally. Matt couldn’t help but resent the girl a little, she was the reason Alan hadn’t been there when he and Amanda had need a friend the most, and that was never going to be alright.
He continued to work at the Roo, not knowing what else to do with himself, renting a broken down flat in Koonyah, and sending the majority of his earnings to Amanda to help her through. His boss wasn’t all that nice – a slave driver who kept the place in disrepair, completely ignoring the work that Matt did to make it nicer. Though Matt did eventually get promoted to bar manager, it was like getting blood from a stone, and the positions rarely came with pay rises. He worked twelve or more hours a day, every day, just to get by. He took a weekend off, receiving a note from Amanda who wanted to talk. Amanda had made a major decision, that she no longer wanted to be recognised as a woman. Matt, who’d been somewhat expecting this by now, supported her in this – but warned that she ought to at least give Alan time to swallow the news before spreading her choice about.
The next day was Alan’s nineteenth birthday, and Matt took his second day off to visit Alan for his surprise party – getting a surprise of his own when he broke into Alan’s dorm room to find Kate sitting there. Alan, who’d headed into the city to meet up with Amanda, wasn’t due home for another hour or so, and this he told Kate – who proceeded to get upset. And then kissed him, saying that if Alan could nookie up to his ex-girlfriend, then he shouldn’t be worried about whatever Kate did. Kate, who’d been saving herself as a special birthday present for Alan – gave it to Matt, instead. Matt was shocked and unsure of what to feel, quite convinced that was supposed to be a special moment, with the right person... he was about to leave when Alan walked in, and before Kate could start to rant, explained that Amanda had sat him down to have the gender change talk. Kate changed her tune, turning from angry almost-ex to supportive loving girlfriend in ten seconds flat.
That night, Matt was sure he ought to say something to Alan – but wasn’t sure how. Kate continued to give him dirty looks, as if it were his fault, eventually pushing her overly drunk best friend Coralynne his way in an attempt to keep him quiet. Having had a few drinks himself, Matt let himself relax – and as Corrie took charge of him, he started to believe that maybe he could love after all. Their relationship lasted six years, three years longer than Alan and Kate’s longest consecutive stint. He resented Kate for how things had happened, and how Alan didn’t know – the pair displaying their dislike for the other openly, fighting bitterly whenever left in the other’s company too long. He was glad when Alan and Kate were finally over, but at the same time – his own relationship with Corrie was starting to fall apart. She’d taught him a lot, coaching him out of his insecurities to a place where he could try to be passionate, where he could trust himself just a little.
A few drinks and a bitter argument put an end to that, Matt feeling the first serious argument between himself and Corrie go bad, he only grabbed her wrist – but to him, it felt much worse. To him, he might as well have broken her arm. He told her it was over, but she refused to believe - returning on numerous occasions to beg that he change his mind. Eventually he did the last thing he wanted to do, and sought the advice of Kate, the only person he felt would be able to talk Corrie out of trying to make it work. All that it achieved was getting into another argument, that somehow (and neither can explain how) ended in a loss of clothing, and a very upset Corrie walking in to find her best friend and her ex-boyfriend in a position she would never have imagined them in.
Matt did his best to ignore it ever happened, continued to hate Kate (as she bounced back to Alan and away again over the years) and started his own way of life. After Corrie, he knew he didn’t want to be alone, but at the same time, didn’t trust himself to spend too much time with the same woman, for fear that he would find himself wanting to harm someone else. During this time he also became close friends with Loraine Hamilton, and as Amanda’s choices pushed distance between them, Loraine became his new confidante.
He never wanted much from his ‘girlfriends’, if they could be called that. They understood the way things worked, that it was only ever a week, that he had no intentions of going beyond that – and that it was all in fun. In return, he got what he needed – the company of another human being. Some women he never actually slept with, some he just wanted to talk to. Some he just wanted to cook for. But if anyone asked, he politely declined to share details – leading to the belief that his intentions were a lot less innocent. History repeated again, as Kate broke up with her husband – fleeing to Narrie in search of Alan, but finding Matt instead, he apparated her back to her home, not wanting her anywhere near Alan, the argument deteriorated, somehow things went wrong, yet again. Matt decided to try and not get angry at Kate ever again.
Things rolled on smoothly for Matt, his system worked – no one got hurt. Mack, the owner of the Roo died, and having no relatives who cared enough to admit they were related to him, the hotel fell into his ownership. He moved into the top apartment, and commissioned Amanda (now Adam, and a qualified interior designer) to redecorate out of the hotel’s amazing surplus.
His life took an unexpected turn when a casual fling with Kate turned into a more on-going situation. As much as he wanted to hate her, he couldn't. He would come home to find her in his seat, playing his favourite game Kill Death 2. Beating his scores. After a lot of denial, both finally admitted they didn't actually hate each other that much, and started seeing each other properly.
Around this time, Matt's father's second wife, Angela, began trying to make contact with Matt and Adam for the first time. This was when Matt learned that he had a younger half-brother Aiden and half-sister Valerie. He was furious that his father had dared to name his daughter after his deceased ex-wife, but just as his mother had been, Angela seemed to be in trouble. Both Matt and Adam made an effort to help, but ultimately it ended it tragedy.
Angela was murdered in front of her children, who were then taken from the crime scene to Matt's apartment at The Drunken Roo. Aiden and Valerie lived quite comfortably there, sharing a bedroom in the small living quarters.
Matt proposed one night, grateful for Kate's help in managing his half-siblings. Expecting that Matt would eventually realise he was making a commitment and bolt, Kate organised for all their friends and family to get together on a boat in the middle of the Murray River. And then informed Matt that this was their wedding day. He freaked out, but didn't run, and the pair were married.
Shortly after, he chose to change his surname from Longhurst to Belmont, feeling that his father (now spending life in prison) didn't deserve to have his name carried. Belmont was his mother's maiden name.
Kate fell pregnant and had Hazel, followed by a stillborn daughter Rylea. Matt had always been frustrated by his inability to help with the things that happened to those he loved, and at Kate's insistence, he finally enrolled to study nursing.
In his first semester, he was crossing the road to attend class and hit by a tram. He's been in a coma ever since.