Chapter 5 Justin
Chris woke early and dressed in shorts (white, of course) and t-shirt to go for his run in Hyde Park. He had not been running since the previous Thursday, and felt a little stiff. In the lobby of the hotel, he met Justin bound on the same errand, and the two of them smiled and agreed to run together; they set a fast pace, challenging each other as two males do, and returned an hour later, sweating and grinning. They descended to the little hotel gym and worked out for another hour, then sat sweating in the steam room, shyly still in their shorts, before showering.
‘Listen, Jus, you go in and have breakfast; I’m going to Mass in a minute. I’ll catch you later.’
‘Mass today? What with all those candles and stuff? Cool.’
‘No, it’s short, only about half an hour, if that, and not many candles, I’m afraid. Why, do you want to come?’
So they went, and though the service was staid by comparison with the Easter liturgies, Justin liked it, and much preferred it to the service he had been to with his parents yesterday. He found it prayerful and reposeful.
‘We only go once or twice a year, really. We’re not very good churchgoers in my family,’ he said. ‘Perhaps I’d go more often if it was like that.’
When they got back to the hotel, they found a note from Justin’s parents saying that they had gone out for the day, and would see the boys in the evening. They left some money, with instructions to Justin to buy himself and Chris some lunch.
‘Cool! We’ve got the day to ourselves.’
After a leisurely breakfast, Chris and Justin went to Chris’ room to move his clothes and other belongings into Justin’s.
The first thing that Chris noticed about Justin’s room was that there was only one bed, like in his own room.
Chris looked at Justin questioningly. Justin said quickly
‘Look, it’s okay; we can both fit in the bed, but if you’re shy, I’ll take the floor.’
‘Having paid for you to have a bed, I’m sure the last thing your Mum and Dad want is for you to sleep on the floor.’
‘They’ve not been in here; they probably thought this room had twin beds like their own. But honestly, it’s cool. I like floors!
‘Bollocks! If anyone takes the floor, it’ll be me. But really, as you say, there should be room in the bed for us both, if you’re sure you don’t mind.’
Chris did not mention that he had shared an identical bed with John just the other night.
Justin relaxed. ‘Fine; settled, then.’
They chatted for a while, and then Justin said
‘Look what is it with this white suit thing? Don’t you want to relax a bit?’
So Chris explained, and Justin drew near to feel the light silky smoothness of the suit’s lapel.
‘God, that feels so sexy!’
Mm, thought Chris, as he saw Justin’s smooth cheek so near his own, and smelt the breakfast coffee still on his breath. Justin continued to rub the lapel with his thumb. There was a charged silence. Chris felt sure that Justin would be able to hear his heart beating, it was thumping so strongly.
‘Would you like to try it on?’ said Chris in a small voice.
‘Could I? I’d love to.’ But Justin continued to rub Chris’s lapel gently, swallowing hard, and looking down at his fingers. There was a long silence, apart from the soft hiss of Justin’s thumb on the silk. Chris said
‘You’ll need to take your own clothes off first, mate.’
Reluctantly, Justin let go the lapel and took a couple of steps away. He turned to face Chris, then changed his mind and turned away, his breath heavy.
‘What’s wrong, Jus’
Justin squared his shoulders and replied in an embarrassed voice
‘I’m sorry, Chris. I’ve… er… I’ve got a hard on. I’ve no idea where that came from. Perhaps the silk reminded me of that girl in the show last night.’ Justin was improvising wildly.
‘Oh yeah; the one with the big… er…. Look, don’t worry, I’ve got a bit of a hard on, too.’
Justin turned back reluctantly, and looked relieved when he saw only too clearly outlined under the white silk of the trousers that Chris was telling the truth.
Chris said, ‘Well, go on, then.’
‘Go on, what?’
‘Get undressed!’ Chris could not believe himself saying this. He knew this was dangerous territory; the last person he wanted to out himself to was Justin, whom once again, as in past times, he was coming to idolize. ‘You wanted to try the suit, and you can’t when you’re like that!’
Justin still hesitated, but eventually he slowly pulled his shirt over his blond head. The boys stood looking at each other saying nothing for a while, Chris’s eyes drinking in every ridge and hollow of Justin’s perfect muscular torso. Justin was studying Chris’ beautiful proportions, so perfectly flattered by the silken suit. After a couple of minutes had passed, Chris, feeling more confident, said
‘You’ll need to take your trousers off too, Jus. This is a suit, remember?
‘Oh yeah. Sorry. Blond moment! I spaced out for a minute.’
Justin grinned nervously, kicked off his shoes, never taking his eyes off Chris, then bent to remove his socks. Standing again across from Chris, his hands moved to his belt. He tensed the end of the belt to release the tongue, and Chris noted, fascinated, the way it pulled in the slim waistband of his khaki chinos. Suddenly nervous, Justin quickly undid the button and zip, and slid the trousers down, stepping out of them with a couple of smooth athletic movements.
He now wore only a pair of deep blue retro nylon football shorts. It seemed that they were as much a turn on for him as they were for Chris and John. His erection strained at the shorts, and Chris thought for a moment he himself was going to faint at the sight, and at the effort to keep himself and his voice under control.
‘Er…, Justin, those are going to have to come off as well, I’m afraid.’
Justin looked panicked. ‘Why?’
‘White silk has much the same effect as white lycra. You of all people must remember the white lycra! Anyway, it’s dead see-through, and those shorts will show right through.’
Justin shrugged, and, pushing his thumbs into the waistband, lowered the shorts, and stepped out of them.
They had often seen each other naked before, when changing for sports at school, but this was a very different atmosphere indeed, especially with Justin’s very visible large and thick erection. Once more, they stood in silence, drinking each other in. This time Justin broke the silence. His voice cracked, and he repeated himself self-consciously several tones deeper.
‘Chris…… er… Chris, you’re going to have to strip too, if I’m going to try on the suit.’
‘Oh yeah!’ And slowly, Chris removed the jacket and laid it on the bed. He undid the tie, and put it with the jacket. He slowly unbuttoned his shirt the whole way and removed that, too. Normally he would just have undone a few buttons and pulled it over his head. He longed for Justin to strip him, and the thought made his erection all the harder. He fought down the impulse to do a strip-tease for his friend.
Justin gave a sharp intake of breath as he saw how developed Chris’s smooth chest had become by all the workouts, to say nothing of the rowing and swimming; it was almost the twin of his own, and the narrow waist and slim muscular legs highlighted in the shimmering white silk trousers only served to make him more agitated.
‘Oh God, Chris, you look…… fantastic!’ He couldn’t stop himself saying it.
‘You’re not so bad yourself!’ smiled Chris back. He sat on the bed and unlaced his white shoes, then removed them and the white socks.
He stood again and unlatched the white belt. Justin swallowed hard as Chris undid the fasteners at the top of the trousers, then reached down inside to adjust his straining cock as he lowered the zip. In a moment, Justin understood why.
‘God! You’re going commando!’
‘Yeah. I always do.’
The two of them stood completely naked together, a few feet apart, studying each other intently. A draught blew in, and chilled Chris for a moment. It served to recall him to himself.
‘Right, get dressed, then, Jus.’
Justin sat on the edge of the bed to pull on the white socks, but his hands were shaking with the tension, and he couldn’t manage it. He looked up at Chris highly embarrassed. So Chris squatted down in front of him to help, his knees apart and his erection pointing straight up at Justin’s face. That didn’t help Justin keep calm at all, and Chris had to put the socks on him, and then help him on with the silk shirt; Justin was utterly incapable of doing up the buttonsand so, very nearly, was Chrisand the process was not helped by the fact that Justin’s chest was still just a little more muscular than his friend’s, and the shirt had been made to Chris’s exact dimensions. But if anything, once buttoned, the sharply tapered, slightly stretched, nearly see-through silk material made Justin’s torso look stupendous.
By now, Chris had taken over operations. He held the trousers, and Justin, one trembling hand on Chris’s bare shoulder for balance, stepped into them. Chris pulled them up over the slim hips, but then there came a problem. Justin’s rock hard erection sat in the V of the fly and refused to budge. The sensation of the silk sliding up over his legs combined with the naked Chris’s hands so near his groin had been too much.
‘Great tits that girl had, eh?…’ said Chris, amused.
‘Er… yeah, great. Really big. Yeah, she was…er…fantastic.’
Yeah, right, thought Chris. Now he was sure.
Justin made no move to adjust his cock, and Chris said, despite himself,
‘Look, I’m not touching that thing; you’ll have to do it yourself.’
‘Oh God, yeah, sorry, sure!’
And Justin manipulated his penis painfully inside the silk of the trousers, where it immediately tented the light cloth, and Chris quickly fastened and zipped up, pulling the belt tight. The trousers fitted really well, and Chris was suprised. Again, Justin was a little bigger than he was, and so the shimmering silk stretched slightly against his backside and round his legs, the effect heightened by the straining erection, but he looked, frankly, stupendous.
Justin thought so too. As soon as his cock felt the silk, it hardened even more, and he began to fear that he was going to disgrace himself by cumming. Chris ran his hands round Justin’s thighs and backside, adjusting the silk and getting the seams straight, and Justin began to panic, the sensation was so erotic. It was as well that Chris then got up from his squat and busied himself with the tie, meanwhile looking into Justin’s intense blue eyes, then helped him on with the jacket, and finally the shoes. Justin got up and looked at himself in the long mirror. He tidied his blond hair with shaking hands and admired himself. This suit was the loveliest thing he had ever worn; he felt fantastic, and looked fantasticwell, apart from the tenting monster erection, anyway.
He looked back at Chris to find that his friend had pulled on his own shorts. Wow! How erotic! Their cocks were now in each other’s places, silky, and still warm from the previous occupant.
‘Do you mind?’ said Chris.
‘God, no, of course not! I’m wearing your suit, after all.’
Justin did, indeed, think those shorts were very erotic, and thought they looked even better on Chris. Chris was thinking exactly the same thing about Justin in the suit. There was another long silence, as they looked at one another. With one consent, they drew nearer. Justin reached out, and ran his hand softly over Chris’s bare pectoral muscle, circling slowly round the nipple, and looking deep into Chris’s eyes. Chris raised a hand and gently caressed Justin’s cheek. All pretence about girls was behind them now, and Justin leaned over to Chris and kissed him gently on the lips. He was surprised at the vehemence of Chris’s response; he grabbed Justin behind the head and pulled him to him. The silken trousers rubbed against the nylon shorts, hissing sensuously, cock abraded cock, and it became too much…
‘Oh God, Chris, I’m cumming……”
At the same instant, there was a knock at the door. ‘Room Service. Can I come and clean now, please?’
With an agonized bleat, Justin sped into the bathroom, tearing down the zip just in time to extract his pulsing cock; he came again and again into the bath, gasping, relieved only that he had prevented a single drop from falling on the suit.
With great presence of mind, without opening the door, Chris had sent the cleaner away, and they were not discovered.
He sat down on the bed, still in Justin’s shorts, with his head in his hand. The moment’s excitement had deflated his own erection, and cold reality was beginning to seep in. They had crossed a serious boundary together, and nobody could tell just what was going to happen now.
Justin pathetically called for help from the bathroom, so Chris got up and went in to see what the problem was.
When he saw his friend, he began to laugh. Justin stood by the bath, his face a picture of desperation, his hands held over the bath, away from the precious suit, dripping in huge quantities of his semen. He was terrified lest he stain the delicate white silk. His cock hung out of the fly, going flaccid now, though it was still a deep red, and still oozing slightly.
‘Don’t just fucking laugh, you git, help me!’ Justin could not see the funny side at all. But Chris had to sit down on the lavatory seat, because he was laughing so hard at his friend’s predicament. Finally, even Justin began to smile, even as he begged Chris to pull himself together and do something.
So Chris took the shower attachment on its hose, and turned on the tap.
‘No, you bloody idiot! You’ll get water on this suit, and it’ll be ruined!’
‘Use some toilet roll to clean me off.’
‘Ugh! No way!’
‘Please!’ Justin’s smile had gone, and he was getting desperate. He was more terrified of spoiling the suit than Chris was, who frankly was thinking that he might actually treasure one of Justin’s cum stains.
So Chris tore off a long strip of toilet tissue and approached Justin’s hands.
‘No, my cock first; it’s about to drip! Oh please!’
Justin was nearly crying now, so Chris suppressed his conflicting feelings of reluctance and desire, squared his shoulders, squatted, and took Justin’s large sticky cock in his hand. It was indeed about to drip, and so Chris cleaned it off, gently squeezing the shaft to remove any more cum from the urethra, and tenderly cleaning under Justin’s foreskin. In years past, he had dreamed of doing this, and the reality was not failing in its effects now. He felt himself harden again inside Justin’s shorts, and he felt Justin’s heartbeat strengthen in the cock as it pushed blood hard into his renewed erection.
‘Oh God, not again!’ groaned Justin.
But Chris was nearly finished. He soaked a face flannel in cold water, wrung it out, and washed what was left of the cum off Justin’s cock with that. The cold water cooled Justin’s ardour somewhat, and after drying his cock with a towel, Chris was able reluctantly to tuck it back inside the silken trousers and close the zip.
Chris then turned his attention to Justin’s dripping hands. In some ways, this was even more intimate, since Justin’s helplessness was all the more poignant, he who was so strong and full of life. Chris gently unbuttoned and turned back the still pristine jacket sleeves, undid the gold cufflinks and slid the silken cuffs back along Justin’s muscular and lightly haired tan forearms. Again he took some tissue and, squatting again, painstakingly cleaned off all the sticky mess between the rough fingers, along the strong palms and the defined backs.
As Chris worked, Justin looked down at his friend’s short hair. The sight did not move his cock this time, but rather he felt his heart give a bound as he looked at where the neck met the bare shoulders and the perfection of the spine and back muscles. He could see that Chris had no erection tenting his own shorts now, and so was surprised that, when he was finished, Chris did not let go his hands, but held on to them tightly, studying them intently. Then suddenly, he kissed them softly. He then pulled down the shirtsleeves and fastened the cuffs once more, then gently folded down and buttoned the jacket sleeves.
There was silence. Justin and Chris simply stood in the bathroom looking into one another’s eyes. Justin raised one hand and gently stroked Chris’ cheek. Chris raised his hand and laid it over Justin’s, holding it against his face and nuzzling into it. Nothing was said, but both boys recognized that they had crossed a bridge together, and nothing would ever be the same again.
The sound of a lavatory flushing from another room recalled them to their senses. They both laughed, and Justin said
‘I suppose I’d better take the suit off, now.’
‘Don’t for my sake. You look much better in it than I do. Please keep it on for a while; wear it when we go out.’
‘Wow! I’d love to, for a while, anyway; it feels and looks so fantastic. What are you going to wear, if we’re going clothes shopping? Do you want some of my stuff?’
‘Thanks, that’d be great; I’ll wear these shorts, then. No, hang on, I ought to wear white.’
‘John did say you don’t have to.’
‘No, I want to; it’s important to me.’
‘Okay, okay. But I haven’t really got any white trousers. The khaki chinos are the nearest.’
‘They won’t do. I can’t wear the shorts I ran in this morning; they’re all sweaty.’
They looked through both lads’ collections of clothes, and concluded that there was nothing for it. If Chris had to wear white, he would have to wear the suit.
‘I’ll feel so overdressed, though.’
‘Your decision! Why don’t you wear the trousers of the suit and my white football shirt. Then you can put on some trainers.’
And that is what Chris did.
Justin reluctantly took off the suit, and Chris reluctantly took off the shorts, and they swapped. As Justin was about to put the shorts back on, Chris, still naked, stopped him;
‘No, Jus, go commando!’
‘Me! No way! What if I had an accident? I’ve never gone commando!’
‘Well, it’s not too late to start!’
And Chris snatched the shorts back. A tussle started, and Chris won, sitting naked astride the naked Justin, the shorts in his hand.
‘You’re going commando!’
And Chris reached behind and squeezed Justin’s balls. A useful tip from Tony.
‘Ow! ow! okay, okay, I promise!’ and Justin was allowed up. ‘For today.’
So Chris dressed once more in the white suit trousers, and put on Justin’s shiny white football shirt and his own white trainers. He looked in the mirror as he tucked in the shirt, to make sure that his privates were not on display through the thin material.
Justin pulled on a tight blue polo shirt and his chinos, shiverering as he felt the rough cloth against his cock for the first time. It was a strange, but not unpleasant sensation. He closed the zip with exaggerated care, then pushed his feet into boat shoes, and the two hit the town.
The first stop was the bank. Chris had absolutely no idea how much money he had, so he inserted his card into the machine and entered his pin number. He took a step back in shock.
‘Crikey, Justin! I’ve got over twenty thousand pounds! John must have been putting in a lot more than he said.’
‘Well, looks like dinner’s on you, then!’
They wandered up Knightsbridge, into all the clothes shops and had a wonderful time. Harrods they didn’t like much, thinking it overrated and tacky, though they wanderered in and out of almost all the departments, and got lots of ideas for clothes.
In one shop, they found almost all their tastes answered. Chris, who only wanted white clothes, found a pair of slinky shiny light cotton trousers that were almost as good as the ones he was wearing. Justin thought they were so good on him that he tried a pair on too. He was mortified taking off his chinos in the changing room lest someone pull aside the curtain and discover that he was wearing no underwear, but he came out to show Chris, and Chris thought they were so good on Justin that he bought them for him, as well as a pair for himself.
In the Gap, Chris bought some tight white jeans, and some tight black ones for Justin.
‘You don’t have to do this, man!’ said Justin, touched and a little embarrassed. ‘John and the other guys’ parents gave me so much money that day in the hospital!’
‘But you deserved it, and you don’t have nearly as much as I seem to have, though I’ve done nothing to deserve it, unlike you, so shut up. I want to do this. It gives me more fun than you. And anyway you look so fantastic in them, which gives me pleasure.’
Chris showed Justin what John had told him to look out for in trousers ‘since you’re going to be going commando all the time in future.’
‘Absolutely! Always look and make sure the zip has a strip of cloth covering it on the inside. Otherwise the chafing is agony! You only make that mistake once!’
‘I think I’d rather wear underpants, thanks!’
Chris tried on some t-shirts and polo shirts in what was supposed to be his own size, but Justin made him try a size smaller.
‘You’ve got a really good torso now; you should show it off.’
And, looking in the mirror, Chris had to agree.
The two strode along the road, quickly marching towards Piccadilly. As he went, Justin began to appreciate what going commando was all about. He felt curiously exposed, but curiously free, too. The thought that there was only one thin layer of cloth between his cock and the outside world was quite erotic, and he liked the way his cock brushed against the inside of his fly, and his balls bounced around. It felt so, well, male! Really weird that a pair of shorts or briefs could make all that much difference under his trousers. He began to bounce on the soles of his feet as he strode, and come down hard on his heels, just to intensify the experience in his groin.
Chris noticed what was going on; he walked like that so habitually now that he didn’t have to think about it. But he said to Justin,
‘See what I mean?’
‘Yeah, I think I do. This is way cool, man! I think you’ve got a convertto this, at least, if not to the rest.’
Chris didn’t like to ask what he meant about ‘the rest’, but he noted something else, and it amused him.
‘Going up and down a lot of steps is the best. There is something else you have to look out for, though.’
‘Oh yeah; what’s that?’
And Justin was mortified to see himself in full erection. He had been so absorbed in the sensation, that he had not thought how it was being caused. He immediately calmed his walking style, and the problem slowly subsided. No one seemed to have noticed, fortunately, except Chris. Chris grinned as he remembered;
‘That happened to John once, in a big public street in Dublin. He looked in a dark window to admire himself, and saw this great hard-on sticking out in front. He wasn’t as lucky as you; people saw him and laughed. He nearly stopped going commando, but he felt that the loss would be more than the gain! Just be a bit careful. He also says you’re not as sensitive when you get older.’
‘John goes commando, too? So he doesn’t mind you doing it?’
‘Yes to the first, no to the second. Of course. Anyway, who do you think gave me the idea?’
‘Sometimes. Not always. But then he’s half-and-half in so many things.’
That puzzled Justin, but Chris did not elaborate.
Chris had hugely enjoyed his shave at Trumpers a few days before, and he wanted Justin to have the experience too, even if there was not yet a great deal to shave on either lad. Before going in, Chris stripped off Justin’s football shirt on the street; he thought that it might not quite strike the right note in Trumpers, and pulled on one of his new tight white polo shirts, remembering just in time to rip off the price label.
In the shop, they sat in adjoining chairs as their faces were lathered, shaved with an open razor, and then swathed in hot, wet towels and splashed with cologne. Chris, of course, did not need his hair cutting, but insisted that Justin got the benefit of such professional barbers, and afterwards, Justin looked ravishingly handsome. Chris swallowed hard. The men really knew their work.
Chris’s barber recognized him. ‘Weren’t you the young man who was baptized the other night in the Oratory? I was there myself; I go there regularly; in fact I’m one of the servers, so I saw you up close at the Vigil. Many congratulations to you! And all in white, too. Very appropriate!’
And he refused to charge for the lads’ shaves and haircut, but presented them each with a bottle of Wellington cologne.
‘Our pleasures, sirs. Happy Easter to you both, and God bless you!’
‘Are all catholics so nice?’ asked Justin.
‘Definitely not’, said Chris. ‘The Perv is a catholic, for one, though not a very good one. He has to take his turn taking the catholic guys to Mass, and bitches about the Church all the way.’
Looking at the hair gel on display gave Justin an idea. He slipped back into Trumpers, pretending he had left something, and bought a pot.
The next visit was to Lillywhites, the great sports shop on Piccadilly Circus. Chris treated them both again to new sports kit for the next term; their muscular growth had made their old sports gear rather tight, and though tight was good from a fashion point of view, it was not so good when freedom of movement was required.
Justin again was embarrassed.
‘Look’ said Chris. ‘I have been given so, so, much by someone who loves me. How can I not give to someone I love? That would be the rottenest ingratitude! You can’t believe how it makes me feel better to give stuff to others. I never used to be able to. Now I can, and you’re not going to take that from me.’
Justin reeled for a minute. ‘Did you say love?’
But Chris did not answer, and Justin did not like to press in case he got an answer he didn’t want to hear.
In Lillywhites, while Chris was engrossed in the football shorts, Justin slipped away for a minute, and bought each of them a pair of cropped adidas trousers; white with grey stripes for Chris, blue with white stripes for Justin, and some sleeveless muscle t-shirts to match.
Strolling back along Piccadilly, the young men passed a sort of market in front of St James’ Anglican church. They wandered around the stalls, and Justin bought two shell necklaces; they were not that expensive, but both he and Chris liked them. There and then, Justin spread the elastic with his hands, and lifted it over Chris’s head so that it circled his throat. Then he gave the other necklace to Chris, who immediately realised what he was supposed to do, and put it on Justin.
‘Take it off again’ said Justin.
‘Why? I really like it.’
‘No: now we’ll swap. I’ll wear yours and you’ll wear mine. That way I’ll always have a bit of you with me, and know that you have a bit of me with you.’
Chris was deeply touched, and hastened to comply. The intimacy of the act caused them to forget the busy market around them, and they kissed, gently. The world around them receded quickly as they found each other more intimately than ever before…
It was their first real kiss.
For both of them.
Neither ever forgot it.
Justin and Chris were due to have dinner with Justin’s parents that night in a smart French restuarant not far from the hotel. For the occasion, Chris put out again his white suit for himself, but was rather at a loss as to what Justin was to wear. He was very anxious that he should not outshine his friend, and together they tried on every combination of what they had bought, and got quite a lot of sensual pleasure doing so. But nothing seemed quite right, most of the clothes they had bought being rather too casual or fashionable for a smart restuarant, until Chris remembered his black baptism suit. Justin could wear that.
The two suits were laid together on the bed, together with two silk shirts and ties, and slowly, lovingly, Chris and Justin dressed each other, applied cologne, and tidied each other’s hair. Then they went down to the hotel lobby to meet Justin’s parents. The adults were prepared for the sight of Chris in his white suit. What they were not prepared for was the sight of their own son, in a beautiful suit which fitted so well, and with his blond hair cut to perfection, also blissfully happy.
‘Oh my baby!’ said his mother, tears coming suddenly to her eyes. ‘You are so handsome!’ And, to Justin’s embarrassment, she kissed him, and then had to wipe her lipstick off his face with a handkerchief.
The evening was a great success. Chris and Justin’s parents got on famously together, and though their views on teenagers drinking wine were a little more puritan than John’s ideas, everybody enjoyed themselves and the company of the others.
The boys sensuously stripped each other of their suits that night, and, each dressed only in soccer shorts, shared a half-bottle of whisky they had managed to illegally purchase earlier and put the world to rights.
‘This freeballing thing. You don’t do it all the time, do you?’
‘You said it!’
‘All the time?’
‘Do you own a single pair of underpants?’
‘Because it feels good, that’s why. Anyway, what’s wrong with it? There’s no great moral dilemma here. It isn’t immoral not to wear undies. Why do you wear retro nylon footie shorts instead of underpants?’
‘I only do it sometimes, and because they feel really good I suppose. Okay, okay, hoist with my own petard, I know. But what about sports? Don’t you even wear a jock strap or swimming trunks, or something under your shorts to play football? Ow, man!’
‘No, never! Look; didn’t you feel fantastic today when running up and down stairs? You said you did, anyway, and I always do. Your balls are outside your body not only to get cool, but to get shaken up when you run, in other words, when you need an aggressive edge. Your balls supply testosterone to your body and will do so more readily when they are stimulated. Stands to reason; if you have more testosterone in your system when you play football or rugby, or any other competitive sport, you will have more of an aggressive edge. That could well make the difference between defeat and victory. Q.E.D. Go commando at all times, buddy!’
‘But what about your balls and cords and things getting tangled. I’ve heard about it; it’s supposed to be fucking agony.’
‘Whom do you know first hand that that has happened to? Nobody? Right! Urban myth, mate!’
They were unused to spirits, and so, very drunk, but just remembering John’s advice to drink great quantities of water before retiring, they passed out on top of the bed, tangled in each other’s limbs, and slept the sleep of the just.
It was Conor’s fifteenth birthday, and among his many presentsbought ones from his parents, though they could not afford anything fancy, and home-made ones from his siblingswas a card from John, with money inside. Conor had had his birthday party the week before, because the house was in uproar in preparation for the move to Whitefriars. So on the day itself, the very day before the move was to take place, the celebration was muted; people ate cake and drank coke among the packing cases and dust.
Conor was thoughtful as he read the affectionate message in the card from John. He took it up to his room and sat on the bed glumly, looking across to John’s side of the room. His own side of the room was stripped and packed, but John’s was still as on the day he left, except that Conor had replaced the beloved Swallows and Amazons books on John’s otherwise empty shelves. Conor sighed; the job would have to be done; it was well overdue, anyway. He pulled down the posters, one by one and rolled them carefully. They had faded rather, and were very out of date, but Conor treated them as if they were prized relics, as indeed they were as far as he was concerned. There weren’t many things there that were John’s, but Conor packed them all carefully, ready to unpack and reinstall when they got to Whitefriars.
‘You sad fuck!’ he said to himself.
He knew he was behaving ridiculously. Conor was not gay, he didn’t know why John meant so much to him. Since he knew John was alive and well, and now understood that his depature was not his, Conor’s, fault, the lad had felt a lot better. The anti-depressants were no longer necessary, but he still felt angry with John, and missed him terribly. He knew himself to be a good second-in-command, not a leader, and Seán was now coming to an age when he really needed an older brother. Conor tried his best, but Seán had spent the last couple of years more or less on his own, since Conor had been in no fit mental state for anything, and so Seán had been growing up rather too fast.
Seán’s distress at John’s leaving had at first resulted in bed-wetting, and then, partly due to embarrassment at that problem, an ever-increasing toughness that was becoming more and more difficult to deal with. He got into fights at school, he began to hang around with bad characters down at Macdonalds, he was probably beginning to steal with them, he bitched about having to go to Mass…
Seán needed an older brother. Conor said it again to himself, and blamed himself for not being that older brother that Seán needed, but in truth he was not to blame at all. His personality, even if he not been depressed, was simply not equal to the job. Though a first-rate athlete, and quite fearless on the sports field, he was simply not an alpha male, not someone that Seán could look to in that way. He was loving and caring, like his father, but he suspected that what Seán needed was someone to dominate him a little for a while. He sat on the side of the bed, an old pair of John’s jeans in his hands, and cried again. He not only felt his own burdens, he felt his younger brother’s, and he could deal with neither.
There is no doubt that he could, had he wished, have talked to his parents: Pat was identical in almost all ways to his first-born son, though perhaps more of a leader, and Bernadette saw and loved in Conor what she saw and loved in his father, but there must be very few fifteen-year-olds who would ever think of confiding in their parents.
‘I’m going to have to talk to John’, Conor said to himself. He had a mobile phone now and, before he could change his mind, he dialled John’s number, which was inside the birthday card. Conor’s heart banged in his chest as he heard the phone ring at the other end, and he began to panic as he heard that voice, so familiar, and yet different, older.
‘Hello. John Scott here… hello… anyone there?’
‘Erm… it’s Conor Henry.’
‘Conor!’ There was no mistaking the delight in John’s voice. ‘How wonderful to hear from you! And happy birthday!’
Conor relaxed a little. Perhaps after all there would be no problem.
‘Er, thanks. I just, er, reckoned that it was time we talked again.’
‘Absolutely right. I’ve really missed you, little brother.’
Suddenly it was all too much for Conor, and he started to sob.
‘J…J…John; why did you go? Why? It’s all been so horrible without you! I miss you so badly. We all do.’
John felt deeply guilty; somehow being actually confronted with Conor’s acute distressstill strong, even after the worst had passed, after John had been found againmade it all so much more real, and he began to realize what Pat and Bernadette had had to cope with all these last few years.
It took a little while, but Conor eventually calmed down, and the two were able to have a healing and good conversation. Conor finally admitted the real reason for his call, that Seán was in very bad need of John’s help right now; Conor thought that probably only John would be able to do anything at all.
John worried about this; what would he be able to do if everyone else who loved Seán had failed? He then suddenly realized what he was doing; pushing away the problem, and, as three years before when he had fled Lancashire, he was pushing it onto the Henrys once more, for them to deal with. Ready or not, this time it was his call. So he said
‘Conor, is Mum or Dad there?’
‘Yeah; everyone’s here. We’re packing up because we’re moving tomorrow.’
‘Look, shall I ask if you and Seán can come down and stay with me for a few days?’
Conor started to tear up once more. ‘Oh, please, yes. That would be fantastic, and I know Seán would like to come as well.’ Then his heart sank. ‘But we’re in the middle of moving; I’m sure we’ll both be needed at Whitefriars.’
‘Well, it doesn’t have to be today; next week would be fine; I know what moving is like; I’m just coming to the end of the horror myself. Look, just get me Dad; in fact, get me Mum; we’ll sort something out between us.’
In a minute or so, Bernadette was on the line.
‘Hi, John: how’s the new house?’
‘Beautiful, Bernie. You’re going to have to come and see it soon; there’s acres of space for you all. But there’s time to talk about that later; there’s something I want to ask you.’
John quickly explained his request, and to his surprise, Bernadette immediately thought it was a great idea.
‘John, that’d be perfect; frankly the lads are getting under foot; they think they’re being a big help, but I’d rather have two of them out of the way. If I got them onto a train, how soon could you take them?’
‘I suppose that wouldn’t work, really, much as I’d like to do that. We’d better arrive at the house together and get the fights over the room allocation out of the way first. But perhaps the day after tomorrow?’
‘I’ll look forward to it. Really I will.’
‘John, I’m so pleased to get you three back together. I think it’ll make a big difference to the lads; they’ve both missed you so much; so have we all. You weren’t that long with us, I suppose, but it was at a very crucial time in their lives. But actually, Seán has been behaving very oddly recently, and Pat and I are worried. It’s a big part of the reason we are moving now, and getting him away from his bad friends.’
‘I know; Conor is worried too. I think that’s why he rang me.’
‘That doesn’t surprise me. Conor would do anything for Seán, and vice versa, I think. But Conor is so very like Pat; the most loveable guy in the world, but totally helpless when being a bit tough with his own family is required. That’s usually my job. Actually, if this is what has made Conor get back in touch with you, then perhaps Seán’s problems may prove to be a blessing in disguise. God willing.’
Chris and Justin were left to their own devices again the following day. They woke a little woozy, but, thanks to John’s tip about the water, without any noticeable hangover. After their usual run and work-out, the two friends sat in the steam room, fully naked this time, having firmly shed their inhibitions of the previous day. There was another man who shared the steam with them, and the lads ignored him, sitting opposite each other, transfixed by the sight of each other’s bare, sweating musculature; every contour of their bodies seemingly highlighted by the wetness of the atmosphere and the severity of their workout. They trapped their erections between their thighs and prayed that the stranger would not notice. If he did, he didn’t comment, for he left without saying a word to either of them, as is the way in such places. The lads sighed their relief and released their cocks. They had already stayed in the steam room far longer than they should, and felt hugely overheated and a little unwell, but both had been afraid to move for fear of revealing their excited state.
Nervous as a result of their rock-hard erections, they waited until the changing room was empty, then exiting with relief the steam room, eschewed the gym’s own shower facilities, and, shorts on, they tucked their erections under the elastic waistbands, and fled back to their shared room.
There, they collapsed in nervous giggles.
‘God! That was close. Did you see that pervy cleaner staring at us?’
‘Der! I think it was the fact that we were sweating like pigs, all we were wearing was shorts, and were carrying our shirts rather obviously in front of our groins! How obvious can you get?’
‘Still, we made it!’
Justin went in for the first shower, but Chris could not stand it, and went in to join him.
‘Chris, is this wise?’
‘I’ll only be five minutes. Surely you can wait that long?’
‘No: I’m all sweaty!’
And Chris stepped out of his shorts and climbed into the shower with Justin.
Justin looked crossly at Chris, and then, seeing Chris’s look of total, hopeless, love, he melted, reached up and touched his friend’s face.
‘Oh Chris! I can never refuse you anything!’
And Chris took some shower gel and slowly and sensuously massaged it into Justin’s hair, then rubbed it into his chest, his back, his groin and his behind, his legs, his arms……
Before long they were kissing passionately under the warm shower, both their bodies slick with soap, rubbing together, and exploring every one of each other’s body’s secrets.
‘Your balls feel totally different to mine; all silky and smooth.’
‘That’s because I shave them.’
‘Yeah; Tom showed me. His older brother showed him, and it feels really fantastic.’
‘Well yeah, it does, even to me. But don’t you cut your scrotum?’
‘Not if you’re careful. Here; I’ll shave you right now.’
Chris panicked; ‘No, no! Maybe some other time.’
‘Well, will you do me, then? It’s better if somebody else does it.’
‘Does Tom do this for you, then?’ Chris suddenly felt jealous.
‘Yeah, sometimes, but it’s no great deal. We’re just mates. I do him, too.’
What was unspoken was that Justin thought he and Chris were more than just mates.
‘Well, okay then. Where’s the razor?’
Chris soaped up Justin’s ball sac and drew the skin out sensuously. He passed the razor gently over the scrotum, taking off the small stubble and soap, and then proceeded to the hair that grew on Justin’s thighs on either side of his genitalia. He then shaved under his arms, then his forearms and his legs. He worshipped every inch of the lad’s body and revelled in the intimacy.
Their erections once more reached for the sky, and Chris reached down his hand to Justin’s cock and kissed it. Justin was at that moment ready to explode, and he let fly, covering Chris’s hair and body with his cum. Justin then lovingly washed it all off with shower gel, and then turned to Chris’s straining cock to give him release, but Chris suddenly turned off the water and headed out of the shower.
‘Chris; what’s wrong?’
‘It’s time for Mass!’
Oh fuck! thought Justin, but did not say it.
Chris had promised that Justin could wear the white suit, and this was the opportunity. Lovingly again, he dressed Justin in the whole costume, rubbing his hands sensuously over his friend’s body, smoothing the fabric, until Justin was again yearning for release. But this time it was not to be. Chris himself dressed in his white jeans and white polo shirt, pushed his feet into his trainers and was ready.
‘Is it all right to go to Mass dressed casually like that?’
‘Sure, on a weekday: why do you think I’m doing it?’
‘Won’t I be a bit overdressed, then?’
‘This is Knightsbridge, Justin. Trust me, you’ll be fine!’
Justin was really taking to these Masses. They were ceremonious, though simple, dignified and direct. There was no Latin, which made things easier from one point of view, but Justin would have preferred a little more mystery. But he still loved it.
Chris and he had talked about the fact that Chris, now a Catholic, could take Communion, and Justin, a Protestant, couldn’t, or at least couldn’t in a Catholic church. But Chris had also said that even a Catholic had to be fairly sinless to take communion; that was what the white clothes symbolized. Justin thought that what they had been up to could hardly be described as innocent fun!
But Chris very definitely went forward to take communion that morning without a blush. Justin’s mind whirred.
The two of them, handsome visions in white, walked around South Kensington that morning, poking into shops, running into museums (and out again when Justin got bored; about ten minutes later), and generally attracting envious and lustful stares, which they soaked up like sponges. Justin loved the feel of the white silk suit out of doors worn, of course, commando; the cool breeze blew the sensuous material around his body when he stood still, and every movement slid it across his smooth skinand more to the point, across his cock and shaved ballsgiving him the most delicious sexy sensations.
They ate an expensive lunch in a smart restaurant, which was Justin’s idea, simply because he wanted to wear the suit in an environment where it would be appreciated, and where his beauty wearing it would be appreciated. Though a wonderful young man in many ways, he was not immune to the charge of vanity! Chris had risen to the occasion, changing his jeans and polo shirt for his new glazed cotton trousers, and another tailored silk shirt, worn without jacket. They were not disappointed in their ambition to be noticed; an old woman bought the boys a bottle of wine for ‘giving her old eyes such a treat’, and an old queen, seeing their loving looks, paid for their meal, kissed them, told them to ‘be happy, darlings’, and made a dramatic sobbing exit.
That afternoon, Justin revealed his plan. He produced the adidas cropped trousers and muscle shirts he had bought, and showed them to Chris. Chris was touched, but refused to wear the trousers unless the silly lining was cut out.
‘Look, Jus, if I want long johns to wear under my trousers, I’ll buy long johns. This is too much like underwear!’
So they found a pair of nail scissors, and with their help removed the entire cotton lining from both the pairs of trousers.
Both of them liked the result.With the tight muscle shirts and necklaces, their cocks and balls swinging freely in their cropped, shin-length athletic trousers, they felt really cool and contemporary.
‘One more thing to do’ said Justin.
He took Chris into the bathroom, and produced the pot of hair gel he had bought. He took a great gob and smeared it through Chris’s hair, pulling it into spikes. Then Chris did the same to him. They looked together into the bathroom mirror:
‘Cool!’ they said in unison. They pushed their feet into trainers, and went out to meet the world.
They attracted stares everywhere they went. Both boys were extremely fit and handsome, and, as is the way with such people, they could have been wearing plastic bin liners and still have looked good. Instead, they were wearing designer sports gear, and looked outstanding.
Conservative young men in tweeds and lesbians in dungarees sneered at them, lecherous old men leered at them, young women lusted after them, older women wanted to mother them, but nobody was indifferent to them. Their clothes clung snugly to their fit bodies, they were stared at everywhere, and they were deliriously happy, in love with each other, and admired by all they wanted to be admired by.
Back at Piccadilly Circus, they leant against the railings and against each other, utterly smug and self-satisfied, and watched the world go by.
Two middle-aged men in denim jeans and jackets approached; they were well-built, but unsavoury. One said to Chris;
‘How much? You deaf?’
‘How much for what?’
‘You and your mate. What do you do?’
‘We’re students. Why?’
‘Don’t give me that! We want a fuck. Or at least a blow job. How much?’
It was slowly dawning on Justin that they had been mistaken for rent boys. This was terrible! But how to get rid of these pervs? Justin, suddenly inspired, pulled the puzzled Chris into a kiss, then said to their would-be suitors
‘We’d rather eat cold vomit!’
The ambulance came quite quickly, and this time it was Chris who was just about conscious, and Justin who lay dead to the world while paramedics tried to make them both comfortable as the van raced through the London streets.
The police had not been sympathetic. It had taken a doctor’s very intimate and embarrassing examination to convince them that Chris and Justin were not, despite their appearance, rent boys, and by the time this had been established, their assailants had long disappeared. Reports were filed, bruises were soothed, cuts were plastered, and the boys were released in the early evening. They had phoned Justin’s parents in the hotel, saying they were unavoidably delayed, but not giving details, and returned stealthily at about six, carrying another comforting bottle of whisky.
It was not a good evening. Justin’s parents had gone on to the theatre alone, and so the boys sat in their room, still in their rent-boy costumes, drinking on empty stomachs. They went over the events of what had happened, and argued the rights and wrongs of it while they tried to disguise the worst effects on their cut and hurt faces and sought to ease the aching of their tender bruised ribs and balls. Chris thought that Justin had behaved like a prick, and told him so.
‘Cold vomit? What the fuck were you thinking of, Jus?’
Justin, while privately agreeing with Chris, would rather have died than admit it, and so fought back. Their inebriated voices rose, and, perhaps, if they did not care for each other so deeply, would not have wounded each other so deeply.
Finally, Justin, with little ammunition left, returned to the subject of Mass that morning.
‘Chris, how could you take communion? After what we had done together!’
‘Pardon me; after what you had done. I seem to remember that you were the one pumping your cum over half South Kensington!’
‘And I seem to remember that you had more than a hand in that. Pun completely intended!’
‘I never came. That’s the point. I haven’t sinned. It’s your problem if you can’t control yourself, not mine.’
‘So according to you, even though I was the one to orgasm, okay, twice, you were entirely blameless in the whole procedure?’
‘Well yes, I suppose. You were the one who came, you were the one who had no self-control.’
‘So rubbing, sucking, soaking, kissing, frotting, perving and every other -ing you can think of is okay, but having the fucking weakness to cum as a result of it is suddenly an unforgiveable sin?’
‘Well, if you put it like that, yes.’
‘And is that what Catholicism teaches?
‘You fucking prig! Do you realise that I was actually interested in your fucking religion? Well, you’ve opened my eyes! Now I realise that you and they are just a bunch of fucking hypocritical prigs! You were every bit as much responsible as me for what happened, from our first touch to our getting beaten up today! I won’t accept the total blame for this! You were at least as much to blame! And probably more, since you claim to be so fucking white and pure. You are a hypocrite, Chris, and the worst possible advertisement for your religion, which a day ago, even an hour ago, I passionately wanted to share. You can now suck on the fact that I would, as I said earlier, rather eat cold vomit!’
Both lads were crying by this stage. Chris was deeply angry with Justin for being, he suspected, right, but he would never admit it. All his years battling with his mother had taught him never to admit weakness. But at the same time, he deeply loved Justin, and was self-aware enough to acknowledge that fact, at least internally. If they did not love, the quarrel would not be half so bitter. He had to get away, to get some distance on this!
Neither Chris nor Justin wanted to sleep in the same bed, so Chris took the spare blanket from the wardrobe and curled up in the armchair. Justin went out like a light and slept heavily; he had drunk more than Chris, who willed himself to stay awake until he was sure Justin was asleep. Then he quietly packed all his clothes, spitefully leaving behind only the cropped sports trousers and muscle t-shirt, and tiptoed out.
In the morning, Justin awoke with a headache. He wondered where Chris was; gone for his run, perhaps? But without him? The room looked suspiciously tidy. Had the cleaners been in? He looked in the wardrobe. It was only then that it struck him; Chris was gone. All that was left of Chris were the cropped trousers and t-shirt that Justin had given him. No note. Nothing.
It was as though the whole world came crashing down on Justin’s head; he yelled out loud in his grief and regret, sobbing his heart out. He took the trousers and t-shirt that Chris had discarded, and held them to his face, sucking in every last fading smell of his beloved, then crashed face-down upon the bed and sobbed into Chris’ abandoned clothing,
‘Chris, Chris, I’m so sorry, so, so, sorry! Please, God, I’m so, so, sorry. Oh Chris, come back! I’m so, so sorry!
The following morning Chris stormed into the house at Arundel carrying his bags, which he dumped in the hall. His nocturnal journey, which had taken hours, and involved hanging around for ages on chilly station platforms, had worsened his temper considerably. He looked everywhere for John, and eventually found him in one of the bedrooms, hanging curtains with Jules.
As soon as he saw the familiar figure of the young man who had taken him in and been the first and only steady rock in his life, as usual barechested and wearing his soccer shorts, something snapped, and his anger dissolved into tears.
‘Chris! What are you doing back so soon? Where’s Justin? My God! What happened to your face?.’
Jules withdrew discreetly to give them some privacy.
‘John, oh John…It’s been so horrible! We got beaten up yesterday, and… and… Justin’s been such a prick!’
John took Chris into his arms and hugged him tightly, then quickly let go as Chris yelped with pain from his bruised ribs.
‘Justin a prick? That doesn’t sound like the Justin I know. I have always thought him to be a really wonderful guy.’
Chris poured out the whole story to John, the two of them sitting cross-legged opposite each other on the carpet, because there was still no furniture in that room.
When it was over, John looked grim. He said coldly to Chris
‘Well, someone’s been a prick, but I’m not so sure it was Justin!’
Chris was deeply shocked. Never before had John been anything but loving and supportive to him. He said, his voice rising,
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘You want me to spell it out for you? You’re the prick, not Justin! You have just shat upon the wonderful guy who saved your life, let me remind you! You have manipulated and used him in your little sex games, and then let him carry all the blame. You threw yourself at him like a tart, and then heaped guilt upon his head simply because he reacted entirely naturally to what sounds like extremely erotic provocation. And then, to cap it all off, you smugly unload religious guilt on him; you use the faith into which you were baptized mere days ago as simply another stick to beat poor Justin with. No Chris, you’ve fucked up, big time, and I’m really angry with you.’
Chris felt as if the bottom had fallen out of his world. For the first time since he had come to live with John, he felt insecure and defensive. He was being criticized again, just like when he was with his mother, and he panicked. He stood up, his face white, and John did so too.
‘Is that all you can say, John? Do you hate me now? Have you gone off me? I’m not so pretty with all these bruises, am I? I suppose you want Justin to live with you now, and me to get out. Why don’t you just finish it off and call me F.B. again; you may as well! You and my mother will have lots to talk about, won’t you!’
Before he could think what he was doing, John drew back his hand and slapped Chris across the face, contacting with one of the boy’s worse bruises.
Chris cried out, then looked in horror at John, who was looking in even worse horror back at Chris. Chris turned and fled out of the room, nearly knocking over Jules, who had been standing guard in the corridor to prevent anyone else stumbling into the confrontation. Jules stood for a moment, uncertain as to whom he should go, then decided that Chris could run faster than he himself could mince in tight jeans, and so he went to John.
John was standing in the middle of the room, looking at his hands and shaking. The sound of Chris’s car starting up came in through the window, followed by the noise of churning gravel as the car sped off at dangerous speed down the drive. John dropped to his knees and bent over, gasping. Jules got down beside him and took the big young man in his arms, hugging him tightly.
‘Oh my God, Jules; what have I done?’
The dam broke, and John cried bitterly into Jules’s shoulder. Jules was reassuring and sensible. He let the storm have its way, and when it abated, he said,
‘Don’t worry, sweetheart. It’s only an adolescent tantrum, and he certainly didn’t mean it. He’s a good lad, and he’ll soon be back when he’s calmed down. All he needs is a bit of space to get some distance on things.’
‘Did you hear all that, Jules? Okay, I suppose half of West Sussex heard it. Oh, why did I overreact like that? Chris has had enough abuse in his life without hearing it from me too! I was so determined to be always calm and supportive for him, and suddenly I snapped. My father once did that to me, and it was one of the worst moments in my life. I hit Chris, Jules! Why? why? I’ve really messed up this time!’
‘Well, petal, I think there are probably two reasons, if you don’t think it’s cheeky of me to butt in. The first is that you are still only a lad yourself, really. You’ve been thrust into adult life very sharply, and you’ve always had to be severely self-reliant, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re still only twenty-one. The other reason is that I think you’re a bit jealous. I think you love Chris more than you’ll admit to yourself, and it isn’t only protective, family-love. I think you’re at least a little bit in love with the boy; you’d like him to do all those things with you that he did with the other ladJustin, is it? And so you overreacted. You both did. Not, by the way, that you weren’t right. He did behave badly, very badly, and I hope he’ll soon realise it. But for now, just give him some space. He’ll be back soon. You’ll see.’
And John cried quietly into Jules’ shoulder.
After ten minutes or so, when things seemed to have stilled, Jules asked John,
‘Are you feeling better, heart-face?’
‘No, but I’ll live.’
‘Of course you’ll live. But it’s time for you to go to the station; aren’t your visitors coming on the midday train?’
‘Visitors? … Oh shit! Conor and Seán! I haven’t got rooms ready for them!’
‘Darling, that’s what you pay me for! I’ve prepared two rooms, so that they can either have a room each, or share, as they prefer.’
‘Jules, how long have we lived together?’
‘Oooh, cheeky! Is that a proposition?’
John grinned, his woes disappearing for the moment. ‘I don’t think Sandy would like that, and he’s a lot bigger than I am.’
‘Perhaps he’d join in… But the answer to your question is three days, lovey.’
‘Three days, and already I don’t know what I would do without you, Jules.’
And John kissed the little queen on the cheek, and ran to grab a shirt and some trousers.
As he left the room, Jules shed a few tears of his own; tears of gratitude and happiness. A mere month before, he had still been at his desk in the city, organizing company takeovers, and most frustrated and stressed. Now he truly felt he had come home.
The journey should have taken nearly two hours, but Chris pulled into the Oratory forecourt after only an hour and a quarter on the road. He was lucky not to have been in a crash, for his eyes spilled tears of self-pity most of the way. And he was also lucky not to have been trapped on a speed camera.
He got out of the car, and cleaned himself up as well as he could with his handkerchief. Then he went and rang the doorbell, and asked to speak to Father Smith.
The priest came down to see Chris, but when he saw the boy’s bruised face, puffy from his weeping, he took him not to the public parlours where they had met before, but for the first time upstairs to his own room. As they went, Fr Smith chatted gently and calmly to Chris, reassuring him, and putting him at his ease.
Chris was surprised to see that the Fathers of the Oratory each live in only one small room; it was simply but comfortably furnished, and was lined with books. There was a nice view over the suprisingly large garden at the back, and for central London, it was very quiet.
The priest poured Chris a large glass of port and another for himself, and they sat in comfortable leather chairs by the empty fireplace. The little kindnesses were restoring Chris to something resembling calm, and the quiet voice of the priest as he chatted about irrelevancies comforted him immeasurably.
As soon as Fr Smith thought that Chris was calm enough he said
‘I thought I might be seeing you soon. I had a visit from a very nice young man this morning who was most distressed about something.’
‘Exactly so. In the flesh.’
‘What did he say?’
‘Well, as to that, we’ll talk later. But now why don’t you tell me what you came to speak to me about.’
It all came pouring out; here and there the priest asked some questions gently, rising from time to time to refill Chris’ glass, and all the time looking steadily at the lad with his wise eyes that had seen so many distressed people through the years. Chris spoke of it all, and was far more honest than he had been with John; he knew that he could not deceive this priest who knew him well, and had heard confessions all his priestly life, so he did not try. When finally he finished, telling of his quarrel with John, the priest was looking at him with deep sympathy and a real affection.
‘You poor boy! How you’ve suffered over all this!’
‘Thank you, Father, for believing me. I couldn’t make John see what a pri… how wrong Justin was!’
‘Well, a little bit, perhaps. But honestly, I think there’s more to it than that.’
‘But it isn’t me who’s at fault, Father. I never came, er… ejaculated at all. I know that’s wrong. I swore that I would never do that again, the day I was baptized, and that’s why I always wear white now, to remind me.’
‘Chris, there are other sins besides sex, you know. And I know that I have said to you before that I do not think that the sexual sins are by any means the worst ones, and can at times even be understandable.’
Chris looked puzzled, so the priest continued
‘Look, Christopher. Let’s put this in the context of the oldest story of all, Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Now how many characters are in that story?’
Chris thought a minute, and said ‘Four: Adam, Eve, God, and the serpentthe devil.’
‘Good. Now, let’s say that the eating of the apple is the er… sexual ejaculation… that occurred between you and Justin.’
‘It was Justin who came, not me.’
‘Quite so. So Justin is Adam: Adam ate the apple; Justin ‘came’ as you so rightly say. Now, which character are you in the story?’
Chris hadn’t looked at it like this, and was intelligent enough to see the answer quickly. He went almost the colour of the port in his glass. He whispered, almost inaudibly,
‘Again, quite so. You acted, and caused Justin to, er, react. And God is still God in our story, and the Devil is still the Devil. But, Christopher, even poor old Eve didn’t rub the apple into Adam’s face until he had no alternative but to swallow! Nor did she reproach Adam afterwards for his weakness, nor did she walk out on him, nor did she claim to be more righteous than he, nor did she call God as a witness to her virtue and his vice.’
Chris was no longer red, but white. He realised now what he had done. But Fr Smith was remorseless.
‘Christopher, I’m sorry to tell you that your baptismal robe is no longer white, but is pretty filthy. The stain of what you call ‘cum’ is not among the stains, but there are far worse ones. I told you, when we had our talk about homosexuality, that there were far more horrible sins than the sexual ones. Sins of malice, spite, pride, arrogance, presumption, all are much worse, and you have scored pretty highly in some of these. Justin was merely not strong enough, when even the strongest would have found it difficult. You, on the other hand, were cruel and proud.’
Chris was sobbing again, but no longer in self-pity. It was true remorse, and the priest could see the difference.
‘Now, go down on your knees, Christopher. It’s time you made your first confession.’
And Chris poured it all out again, but this time in a different focus. He humbly accused himself of having led Justin on, of almost having driven him to orgasm, of having reproached him with the guilt of it, of being smug in his own supposed virtue, of pride, spiritual and natural, of having walked out without thought of Justin’s feelings, and of having upset John and, effectively, lied to him about Justin. When it was all out, the priest laid his hand on Chris’s head and absolved him with the power Christ gave to the apostles.
Then he drew Chris to his feet and embraced him.
‘Welcome home, Chris. Your baptismal robe is white as snow again!’
Chris felt that a load had been lifted off him, and his heart sang.
John jogged down the stairs to the station platform just as the train pulled in. The warm air was full with summer dust and the scent of diesel fumes. John scanned the alighting passengers, looking for the two boys he remembered. He grew a little worried, as the last of the children made their way towards the exit, with no probable candidates in sight. They must have missed the train.
A big shadow loomed against the light.
‘John?’ boomed a voice.
‘Pat?’ said John. ‘Where are the boys?’
Then he realized. If it was Pat, he was a good deal thinner than before, and where had the grey hair gone?
‘Conor? Is it you?’
‘Oh John, I can’t tell you how good it is to see you!’
The big young man flung his arms around John and hugged him tightly. For that frank and affectionate lad his troubles were gone as suddenly has they had appeared. Not so for his brother.
‘Where’s Seán?’ said John.
‘Right here’ said Conor, his arm still around John’s shoulder.
Behind him was a young man just a little short of Conor’s six foot with black, black hair and smouldering blue eyes under strong brows. Wow, what a stunner! thought John. He’s seriously going to be breaking a few hearts very soon. He had his mother’s looks, for sure. But Seán hung back shyly. John, with his free arm, pulled him into a hug, but felt the other’s body stiffen awkwardly in his embrace. There was no hostility, however, for Seán smiled a little and said.
‘Hi, John, it’s nice to see you.’
But that was all he said. Not that there was much opportunity, for Conor was into his old stride, talking nineteen to the dozen about anything and nothing as the three made their way to John’s car.
‘Wow, John. Still got this old banger?’ said Conor.
‘What do you mean, old banger? I’ll have you know this was my father’s car, and never a day of bother does she give me.’
But uneasily he began to wonder whether the time had come for a change. Shit! Conor always had this effect on him. Better not let Chris know, or else, if those two were to get their heads together, his life would be turned upside down in short order.
Both lads were very impressed with the new house.
‘Wow’ said Conor again. ‘I thought our new house at Whitefriars was cool. This is wicked!’
Conor elected for seperate rooms, but John intercepted a sudden panicked look from Seán, which made Conor relent.
‘But you know, John, I haven’t shared a room with anyone since you left, so little bro is seriously honoured.’
Fr Smith gave Chris his telephone, and told him to ring John before he did anything else, leaving the room to give him some privacy. When he returned, he could see that everything was now all right as far as that went.
‘Justin is still staying in the Rembrandt Hotel, Chris, so I suggest you go over now and make your peace with him. You can leave your car in our forecourt as long as you like, so I suggest you spend a few days together. And don’t be too downhearted, lad; somehow I think everything is going to be fine. Come and see me again, and tell me if I’m right.’
It was only after Chris had left the building that it occurred to him that he had never asked Fr Smith what Justin and he had talked about.
In great trepidation, Chris went up to the room he had shared with Justin. He didn’t even know whether Justin would be in or not, but he just prayed. He tapped on the door. A peevish voice answered
Chris tried the handle; it wasn’t locked, so he turned it silently and went in. The air in the room was stale, and the curtains were drawn. Justin lay face down on the bed in his shorts, shirtless, unmoving. Chris shut the door, and Justin turned to see who was in the room. His eyes were red and puffy from weeping, but when he saw who his visitor was, he leapt to his feet. Chris flinched, momentarily afraid of violence, and saw a look of pain suddenly in Justin’s eyes. They both looked at each other, tears running down their faces, and suddenly both said together
‘I’m so sorry!’
They rushed together in a tight hug, ignoring the protests from their bruised ribs, and simply held each other, crying hard down each other’s back. They must have been there a good twenty minutes, but neither of them noticed. The back of Chris’s shirt was wet with Justin’s tears and snot, and so he pulled the shirt off. The sight of his bare torso made Justin gasp again, and they returned to their hug, Chris feeling his own tears and snot on the skin of Justin’s back as he put his arms again around his lover.
Justin sobbed ‘I thought I must have hurt you so badly. I’m so sorry, Chris! I said some unforgiveable things.’
This made Chris cry all the harder. ‘No, Jus, it was all my fault. You were absolutely right about me, and I’m so sorry!’
Chris went down on his knees and hugged Justin about the waist, crying into his shorts. ‘I’m so sorry, Justin. I love you so, so much and I’ve hurt you so badly. I can’t bear to see you cry like this!’
They stayed a while like that, with Chris’s face buried in his beloved’s shorts. As their sobs subsided, Chris sensed a familiar swelling against his cheek; Justin was feeling better, clearly. Chris wanted to repay Justin so very badly, and he felt inside the leg of the shorts for Justin’s hardening cock, drawing it out gently, and massaging it to full size. He blew on it, ran his fingers up and down it, kissed it, let his tears fall upon it, while Justin gripped Chris’s head with both hands, moaning gently. Then, very, very carefully Chris took Justin’s cock into his mouth and sucked, running his tongue all over, and under the foreskin.
‘Oh Chris, I’m cumming!’ cried Justin, and pulled his cock out of Chris’s mouth. Cum fountained again and again all over Chris and his white jeans, and then Justin fell onto Chris with his whole weight, pinning him to the floor in an ecstatic embrace. They rolled around, almost wrestling in their passion, pleasure and pain indistinguishable as they sucked at each other’s lips and squeezed brutally at any part of each other’s muscular body they could reach, heedless of the bruises they both still bore.
When they finally lay still, filthy, sweating and panting, Chris asked Justin
‘That shave you promised me?’
‘The one in the shower?’
‘Yeah. Can I have it now?’
Chris kicked off his boat shoeshe wasn’t wearing socksand reached to unbutton his no-longer-white jeans. Justin stopped him; ‘No; let me.’ And he gently undid the button and zip, and inch by inch lowered the trousers to the floor, running his hands down Chris’s legs, and sensuously following their progress with his lips and his tongue. Then Chris did the same with Justin’s shorts. Hand in hand, they went into the shower, and stood embracing in its warm flow, soaping each other with shower gel and rubbing all over. Then Justin took the razor, and knelt before Chris, the water cascading over his head and shoulders. He took Chris’s sac in his hands and shaved away the hair gently, occasionally pushing away the cock that constantly tried to get attention. As Chris had done to him, he then tidied up Chris’s pubic hair, and all his other body hair slowly, sensuously. Finally, when Chris was nearly distracted with passion, he took Chris’s pole into his own mouth, and brought him to climax. Chris groaned in ecstasy, and warned Justin that he was about to cum. But instead of taking his mouth away, Justin pulled Chris’s slim hips tightly towards him, and Chris, unable to move, came into his mouth; weeks and weeks of accumulated semen spurted out, and Justin could not swallow fast enough, not could his mouth hold the sheer abundance. The boys sank to the bottom of the shower, spent and exhausted, and there fell asleep while the shower continued to pour its moist benediction over them.
A little later, Justin woke up. He couldn’t move to turn the shower off with the weight of Chris on him, so he reluctantly disturbed him. It was not an easy job, for Chris had had almost no sleep the night before on the station platform, waiting for the early train to Arundel, and then walking round the streets before it was a decent hour to go home. But Chris finally stirred, and painfully the two stood. Justin turned off the water, and then looked at the wrinkled body of his beloved, who started laughing at Justin’s prune-like skin. They wrestled and joshed a little, and then, taken with emotion, Justin picked Chris up bodily in his arms and carried him into the bedroom, laying him on the bed. He then knelt astride his friend’s hips, sitting back on his heels, and the two just devoured each other with their eyes.
Eventually, Chris said
‘What’s the time?’
‘Time for a kiss.’
There was a longish, but not inactive, pause before Justin looked at his alarm clock. ‘Er, about three in the afternoon.’
‘Jus, I must go and apologize to your parents. They must be really furious with the way I walked out last night, and I don’t blame them.’
‘It’s okay, Chris, they don’t even know! They went out early again this morning.’
‘Oh thank God!’
‘Amen! So nobody but us need know anything about it.’
‘Well, us, and Fr Smith, and John, and Jules, and now probably Tony and Sandy, plus anybody they tell!’
‘Well, it doesn’t matter, anyway.’
‘What did you and Fr Smith talk about?’
Justin climbed off Chris and went to his cupboard for a pair of shorts. He threw a pair to Chris, too, and Chris sensed that they were going to talk about something important, so he pulled the nylon garment on. Justin returned to the bed, and the two sat on the edge, their shoulders, hips, and thighs pressed together and their arms about each other’s waists.
‘Well, at first about you. I felt so bad about what I had said, about Catholicism and about you. Last night I wanted to hurt you really badly, and that really shocked me. When I had woken and found you gone, I was sure that I had badly overdone it and driven you away. But what was worse was that I thought I had probably offended God, too. I remember Fr Smith from your baptism, and I thought that he looked kind, and would talk to me. Actually, he was wonderful. He saw I’d been crying, and took me upstairs to his room, and gave me a cup of coffee.’
‘Ha! I got port!’
‘This was nine o’clock in the morning, buddy. But he listened to everything I had to say; he never interrupted once, unlike you.’
And Justin gave Chris a light punch in the gut. Chris kissed him on the forehead.
‘I wanted forgiveness, because I wanted you back so badly. I’d badmouthed the Church, and I suppose God, then, and I thought I ought to see a priest about it. And I felt guilty about us larking around, and about what I had said to you, and the way I had made you leave. When I had finished, he talked for a while. He talked about our relationship, and said that in his opinion whether or not somebody was responsible for a quarrel, (and he did say that he thought perhaps I wasn’t) they should humbly apologize anyway, if the relationship was worth preserving, and recommended that I do it. I was only too ready to do it, because I was sure I had driven you away, but he said he thought there was more to it than that, and that perhaps, sorry, Chris, you had to bear some of the blame, too.’
‘You said that last night, Jus, and you were right. Fr Smith helped me see that in fact nearly all the blame was mine.’
‘No, no, he never said that to me, and I don’t accept that!’
‘No, he said it to me, when I went to see him today. And I do accept it. I am so, so sorry.’
‘Look, let’s not go down there again. We’ve both said sorry, and that’s all there is to it. We’ll forget about it. But we talked some more about the Catholic Church, and beliefsI wanted to get straight that business we quarrelled over, and what he said was so sensible that he won me over. So I told him that I wanted to become a Catholic too. I’m going to do it like you did, coming down to London on our free weekends to see him, though I’m not sure where I’ll stay. Unlike you, I can’t afford to stay here all the time! Perhaps I’ll just come down on the Saturday, and do a few hours, then return home, or to school.’
‘Oh Jus, you have made me so happy! I just can’t tell you. What have I done to deserve this happiness? What have I done to deserve you? Let’s go out tonight and celebrate!’
‘We can’t; Mum and Dad are expecting us both to go to the opera with them tonight.’
‘Oh, wow! That’s a celebration! What are we seeing?’
‘It’s really cool; Domingo’s in Turandot at Covent Garden. We’ve got a box.’
‘Wicked! I didn’t know you were into opera. You hated the museums.’
‘There’s lots of things about me you don’t know! Okay; where are your things?’
Chris suddenly looked worried.
‘Oh shit: I left my bag with all my clothes in Arundel.’
‘Double shit! We’re expected to turn up for the opera in suits and ties. All you’ve got is a silk shirt covered in my snot and a pair of white jeans covered in my cum. And I haven’t got a suit at all, here; I was going to ask if I could borrow your black one!’
‘That’s not all I’ve got. You’re forgetting the rent-boy outfit I left here!’
‘Wow, can you imagine us both turning up to Covent Garden dressed like that? We’d have to spike our hair, too.’
‘Lets get piercings!’
‘And tattoos! Won’t do, though. I’ve been spending the best part of eight hours crying into your rent boy gear. I don’t think you’ll want to put it on before it’s had a wash.’
‘Oh Jus!’ Chris began to get tearful again at the thought of what Justin had gone through. Then he pulled himself together; ‘ Come on, I’m going to make it up to you.’
‘How? A kiss?’
‘Oh yes! But until then we’ve still got about an hour and a half before the shops shut: I’m going to buy us each a suit!’
‘Oh no, no, there’s no need for that!’
‘There’s every need for that! It will make me feel a whole lot better. And it’s going to be a good suit; Armani is just along the road, and that’s where we’re heading.’
‘Armani? Oh Chris, are you sure?’
Chris loved the Saville Row suits that John had bought him, but Tony was right: secretly Chris yearned for the more flamboyant Italian style, and had coveted the suits every time he had walked along the Brompton Road past their windows. He thought they would flatter his athletic figure, and the light shiny fabrics and close cut appealed to him strongly. And now he had the perfect excuse to indulge his dream, and to see an Armani suit on Justin, too, the thought of which began to make him hard.
But first there was the problem that Chris had literally no clean clothes in which he could appear in public.
‘You’ll have to wear some of mine: I suppose you’ll want the white stuff.’
‘Absolutely not!’ Chris shuddered. ‘I think that the more coloured, the better, right now!’
So Chris pulled on Justin’s khaki chinos and a blue polo shirt, while Justin wore the shiny white tight cotton trousers that Chris had bought him, with a plain white shirt, over which he wore a leather waistcoat. Chris was impressed.
‘Wow! You look just right for a visit to Armani! And where did the waistcoat spring from? It’s really cool!’
They headed out together into the afternoon sunshine. They had got about half way to Armani, when Chris noticed something.
‘Jus, I don’t want to have to tell you this, but I think the tails of your shirt are too short. I can clearly see your cock!’
‘Oh no! Oh shit! Now what do I do? Oh God, I wish you’d never talked me into going commando. I knew it was a mistake!’
Justin looked around him wildly, imagining that every passer-by could see his family jewels on display. He scuttled into the shade, and that helped somewhat.
‘Look, we’ll just go into Uniqlo and buy some white boxers. Uniqlo is dead cheap, but I warn you, so is the quality. After we’ve paid for them, you can pretend to try on something else, and put the boxers on in the fitting room. In fact, I’ll get a pair, too. You never know, with trying on suits, whether the staff will be watching.’
And that is what they did. Justin felt much happier once he had the boxers on, though he had come to like the feel of going commando. He felt visually secure, but also curiously restrained, hot and sweaty, and he realised that he was not going to want to go back to wearing underwear again. Quite apart from the grief that Chris would give him if he ever were to!
The boys thought that the staff in Armani looked like models, and that that was what they probably were. They hoped and prayed that they would not be watched changing, despite the boxers, because the men were so beautiful that they might spring an embarrassing boner. However, the men never left the boys alone; it didn’t take long to figure our that several of the assitants were gay as well as beautiful, and they had spotted the same qualities in Chris and Justin. Consequently, nothing was too much trouble, and the boys were helped to choose suits that really brought out their good looks. Both suits were as lightweight as it was possible to be, Justin’s was double-breasted in a glistening silvery-grey, with broad shoulders tapering sharply to fit closely around the hips, and close-fitting trousers, while Chris’ was a shining charcoal grey, but single-breasted and in the same tapering style. Since the suits were not cheap, they were given a couple of shirts each and a tie, chosen carefully by the assistants. Chris also asked for some long-tailed white shirts for Justin, for him to wear with the white trousers. Just in time, Chris remembered that he would also need some socks, so he bought half a dozen pairs for himself, and the same for Justin, and some gold cuff links each, and some linen handkerchiefs. Chris asked if he could share Justin’s clothes for ordinary wear for the few days remaining of their London residence. The shopping took about an hour, all told, and afterwards there was a staff change, so the assistants finishing their shift invited Justin and Chris upstairs to the restaurant for some tea.
The boys gathered that they were being deliberately charmed by these beautiful young men for some deeper purposeafter their experiences at Piccadilly Circus, they were a little suspicious that everyone was after what remained of their virtueand this proved to be the case. It was their bodies that were wanted; not for sex, though, but for modelling. The assistants, who worked also as models for the company always were supposed to keep an eye out for new talent. Apparently modelling was something that they could do in their spare time, and need not necessarily interfere with their school or college work.
‘So, for the record, how old are you, boys?’
‘Seventeen,’ said Chris.
‘Eighteen’ said Justin.
Chris was shocked. ‘Since when, Jus?’
‘Since today. I’m eighteen today, and that’s why we’re going to the opera tonight.’
‘God, Jus, I’m so embarrassed! I didn’t even know; I’d have got you something!’
‘You did:’ and Justin lifted the bag with his new suit. ‘And I love it!’
The beautiful young men lifted their teacups in a toast to Justin, and Chris joined them. They had been watching this exchange, and had completely worked out the relationship between the two lads. Gently one of them brought the subject round to modelling again, saying that both Chris and Justin could go far, particularly together, since men’s affection on camera had proved to be a big seller since Abercrombie and Fitch,
‘and you two wouldn’t even need to fake it!’
Flattered, the lads promised to think about it, took some forms away and left with their purchases safe in bags, plus a couple more shirts that the manager had thrown in for Justin’s birthday. They had genuinely liked the models/shop assistants; there was an easy camaraderie about them, and there was no doubt that the young men were very easy on the eye. Chris and Justin decided that they would think about the modelling offer very seriously.
There was a quick visit to the shoe shop, where Chris bought himself and Justin a good pair of black shoes each, and they went back to the hotel in time to change into the new suits and leave to meet Justin’s parents for an early supper.
In the room, they quickly stripped naked. The cheap boxers went into the bin with sighs of relief from both lads. As once before, they laid their new clothes on the bed, and carefully dressed each other. When finished, they stepped back and looked at each other. Chris said
‘Well, I was wrong!’
‘What do you mean?’ Anxiously.
‘I thought you were already as handsome as it was possible to be. Jus, you’re simply stunning. I’m falling in love with you all over again!’
He stepped close to adjust Justin’s handkerchief in his top pocket; it was just an excuse to kiss his beloved, and Justin returned the favour enthusiastically. They both sprung hard erections immediately, and the advantage of a double-breasted suit was straight away apparent; nothing could be seen by another person. Very handy.
‘Oh Justin, happy birthday, my love. I’m so sorry that I brought you so much grief today!’
‘It’s been a wonderful day for me, too. The best thing about a quarrel is the making up, and that happened today as well. And I’ve started seeing Fr Smith, you gave me the most beautiful suit, we’re about to go to the opera to see Domingo, and I’m already hard thinking about what we are going to do when we get back here tonight! And above all, you’re holding me now, and I’m just so happy!’
Down in Arundel Conor and John rebuilt their relationship faster than John could have thought possible. Conor was a remarkable young man; if he felt something strongly, he felt it from the tip of his head to the soles of his feet; he was utterly unable to dissimulate or disguise whatever he was going through. Thus, when John left all those years ago, he had been completely devastated, and it affected every single aspect of his life. Now they were reunited, he was immediately the happy-go-lucky affectionate, physically intrepid lad again that John had so loved, only better, because he was older.
Seán was a quite different matter. He seemed to have developed a cool detachment, and an independence of spirit utterly unlike his older sibling. He was not a hugger, nor did he ever clamour for attention or affection the way Conor did. He never chattered or romped, but remained self-contained and somewhat aloof from John and Tony. He was clearly pleased that Conor was happy again; indeed he rang Pat and Bernadette to tell them all about it. He seemed very strong and silent around the house, but it was a dark sort of strength and silence; he strangely clung close to Conor all the time, as if nervous, but at the same time he gave no obvious indication at all that he was in the slightest afraid of anything. In fact, he seemed a tough little customer. Tony watched the two brothers, baffled. Unlike the less perceptive John, he could see that something was scaring Seán badlyhis cool and confident behaviour was a façadeand wondered what the problem might be.
Conor was aware that his brother was acting strangely, but this was nothing new. Its intensity had grown in recent months, and Seán had stopped talking much even to Conor. So the older lad was pleasantly surprised when Conor wanted to share his room, and that meant sharing a bed, too, since not all the new furniture had arrived yet. What was that all about?
After the two boys had gone to bed a night or two later, John and Tony were sharing a bottle of wine by the kitchen fire and talking.
‘You know,’ said Tony, ‘I’ve already seen a completely different side to you since these lads came.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, you relate to them a lot differently to the way you relate to Chris, and certainly to me.’
‘What do you mean?’ John said again.
‘With Chris, you’re morewhat’s the word?masterly, perhaps, or paternal, whereas with these two, there’s a sort of natural easy affection. It’s easy to see what you and Conor mean to each other.’
‘They are the nearest thing I have to family, really. You and Chris are my closest friends, but the Henrys are family. We share something very deep which is completely different from the love I have for you and Chris. My estrangement from themmostly my own fault, in honestyled me to suppress all that, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back with them. Seán worries me, though. He’s brooding on something. He never used to be like this. He used to be such a happy little boy.’
‘But he was very much younger when you last knew him, only a kiddie, really. People, especially kids, change as they get older, and Seán’s fast becoming a man now, in some ways he’s maturing more rapidly than Conor, I think. I get the impression that he’s sorting things out in his head and, don’t get me wrong, I think that while he loves youthat’s obvioushe’s nervous around you; you’re freaking him out in some way.’
‘Do you think he’s afraid I’ll run away again? Is he afraid to trust me again?’
‘Hmm: not bad, John. Your perception is getting better. I think that’s right; he loves you, but is unsure whether to trust you or not. But whether it’s about your running away, I don’t know. I think you’re going to have to talk to him, to gain his trust, and perhaps you’ll find out.’
‘How will we arrange that?’
‘Leave it to me.’
At breakfast the following day, Tony chattered away to Conorthey were alike in many waysand discovered that the lad was knowledgable about computers.
‘Look, Conor,’ he said. ‘I need to get a new machine; my present one is too much out of date. Would you come with me into Brighton and see if we can find something?’
‘Yeah; I’ve never been to Brighton; I’d love to go.’
And so the two of them left shortly afterwards, Seán shooting furious and panicked glances after his brother. Needless to say, Tony and Conor didn’t look in a single computer shop, but spent the whole day larking around in the funfair on the pier and on the beach, entirely at Tony’s urging.
‘So it’s just us two,’ John remarked to Seán. ‘What would you like to do?’
Seán shifted uneasily in his seat, his eyes darting around uncomfortably. ‘Um, can we go out somewhere? I mean, I love your house, it’s really cool, but I’m not really an indoors sort of guy.’
‘Of course! I’m the same. Well, we could go and look at some nice towns around here; perhaps do a bit of fun shopping. Or there’s some really good walks around here in the countryside. Or the Saucy Mrs Trusspott has just arrived, so we could even go for a sail if that tickles your fancy.’
There was a pause; Seán was clearly screwing up his courage; ‘Look, I really want to chat to you, if that’s all right. On our own.’
‘Of course, soldier. Then let’s go for a hike. I’ll ask Jules if he’d make us up some packed lunches, and we’ll take a picnic.’
John and Seán strode into the hills. It was a beautiful day in early spring; the leaves and some blossom were starting to appear on the trees, and early flowers like daffodils and some brave primroses blew around in the warm sunshine. They climbed swiftly away from the house, and soon both pulled off their shirts, tucking them into their backpacks. For an hour or so they said barely a word; John was anxious not to force himself into Seán’s confidence, but gently to earn his trust.
They hiked across the South Downs, with the amazing views which stretched for miles across the Weald towards the North Downs and then London, and sometimes the view would suddenly reveal views out to sea towards France. Slowly Seán opened up, and John found himself warming more and more to the shy sensitive boy that lurked inside the tough exterior. They sat down for lunch by a small lake with great oak and beech trees growing beside the water.
‘Shall we have a swim first?’ said John. ‘Best not to swim just after lunch.’
‘Sure’, said Seán. ‘But I didn’t bring my trunks.’
‘Just wear your shorts; they’re nylon, aren’t they? They’ll dry in no time.’
‘What about my boxers?’
‘Well, I wouldn’t swim in them. Take them off.’
John had already kicked off his trainers, and was wading into the water.
‘What about you? Won’t you get yours wet?’
‘Boxers? I never bother with ’em!’
John let himself down into the water and gasped. It was freezing. But he struck out bravely and soon was tingling all over, feeling energized.
Seán, meanwhile, had shyly removed his boxers and replaced his shorts, and was now eyeing the water suspiciously. John called over
‘You can swim, can’t you?’
‘Like a fish! But it looks bloody cold.’
‘Not at all; it’s lovely and warm; the sun has been shining on it all morning.’
Seán jumped. A moment later he was yelling blue murder and calling John all the names he could think of. They splashed, dunked, swam and jumped for the next half an hour or so, laughing and shouting until finally they crawled out on to the bank, to dry out in the still none-too-strong spring sunshine. Finally the ice between them had been broken, and the love between them was stronger than it had ever been.
The sunshine grew a little warmer, and so they stayed shirtless, each sitting and leaning against a tree opposite the other, eating their sandwiches which had been made by Jules. John looked at the boy-turning-man whom he had long thought of as his littlest brotherRory had only been a very small boy, and Brendan a babe in arms when he left. What was it with these Henrys? He utterly felt at home with them when he had only livedwhat?a little over a year and a half with them. And clearly they felt the same way. Was that what it meant to be family?
He looked at Seán; the fourteen-year-old lad, as he had seen earlier, was devastatingly good-looking, in a family of very good-looking people. His piercing deep blue eyes smouldered under his heavy black brows, his complexion being pale and very slightly freckled. He had well-cut deep black hair with a hint of blue in it. There was not a hint yet of acne or other adolescent misery, but the man was already more evident in his physiognomy than the boy. In the spring sunshine, his still-wet torso showed developing musculature under the pale skin; already there were pecs and the shadowy hint of an eight-pack stomach, and even a little hair under the arms.
John admired Seán in a detached fashion; he was relieved to find no corresponding movement in his groin, but was a little alarmed to see that Seán’s slowly drying nylon shorts concealed none too well a substantial bulge. John wanted to risk the old Mae West line (Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you pleased to see me?) but something (his guardian angel?) told him that it would be just the wrong thing to say.
John suddenly noticed Seán’s distress. The lad was obviously trying to nerve himself up to saying something. That was what this whole trip was about.
‘Look, soldier, spit it out,’ he said.
‘Seán, you’ve been trying to screw yourself up to say something. Even I can see it, and I’m pretty dense.’
Tears came into the lad’s eyes. ‘No…’
‘Look, have you got some lass pregnant?’
‘No!’ came the indignant response, a little too quickly. Okay, try again, thought John. He looked at the lad wrestling with himself. Conor would just have come out with it, no matter what it was; his younger brother was obviously finding this really hard. He remembered something his school chaplain (now in prison) had said to him when in confession John had been tortured by having to admit his first masturbations. So he said to Seán,
‘I know; you’ve been having sex with dead animals!’
‘Bloody hell, no!!!’ said Seán, horrified.
‘Well then it can’t be so terrible as I thought, can it? Tell me, Seán; what’s biting you?’
‘You’re going to hate me…’
‘Somehow I don’t think so.’
Seán suddenly changed tack. ‘Does your cock get hard sometimes?’
Shades of Conor.
‘At your age you know bloody well it does, Seán; what’s the point of this?’ Even John had worked out where this was going, but Seán had to say it for himself.
‘When does your cock get hard. When you look at women, or what?’
‘Subtle, soldier! You know very well…… Oh fuck it. Seán, I’ll have to say it for you. Are you trying to tell me that you think you might be gay?’
‘No! No!, of course not! Fuck, no!’
‘All right, all right. I know where you’re going. I am, okay?’
‘Gay, Seán. I’m gay: a poof, a shirt-lifter, a turd burglar, a fudge packer, a left-handed brickie……’
‘Okay, okay, I get the picture……’
The boy was trembling now. The spring sunshine was weak, but John could see his pectoral muscles trembling and glistening drops of water falling irregularly off his stiff nipples onto his uneaten sandwiches. The trembling was not due to the cold. The reply came like a whisper,
‘I think I might be, too.’
John crossed to Seán’s tree, and put his arms around the lad’s shoulder. ‘Well done, Seán. Go on.’
‘All my mates; they’ve all got girls now. And all they talk about is their girls. All they think about is their girls; their tits, their bums, their willingness to do… whatever. But all I can think about is my mates; their chests, their legs, their… their cocks! And it’s getting stronger; when you told me you don’t wear boxers, I nearly came in mine, and you’re my brother!’
Seán collapsed in sobs, and John pulled him into a strong embrace, touched. Seán continued,
‘I know that I’m… probably gay, but I can’t be that way! My whole family are so fucking macho! Look at my dad, look at ConorI’m fighting constantly to be as tough as I can to win their approval, but some day it’s going to be too much, I won’t be able to do it any more!’
And Seán cried again into John’s shoulder. ‘How can I ever tell them, John? They’re going to hate me so mucheven I hate me so muchand I love them so much!’
John just held Seán as he cried himself out, then he finally spoke.
‘Seán, just listen for a bit, and don’t say anything. Firstly, you mustn’t hate yourself; that would be an insult to God, who made you, and God doesn’t make rubbish. And you’re certainly not rubbish; in fact, I love you to bits. All being gay means is that life is going to be a bit more complicated, and it’s unlikely you’re going to have kids. My advice to you is not to fight it; you’ve been trying to turn yourself into the kind of person you’re not; all this hanging round with a bad lot and getting into trouble. Have you been trying to turn yourself straight?’
Seán nodded. John hugged him hard. He thought for a little while about this boy in his arms. John had been nineteennineteen, for pete’s sakewhen he had finally admitted to himself that he was gay. Seán was only fourteen. Well, that’s the Henrys for you; open, decent, frank people.
‘Are you really sure about it, sure that you’re gay, I mean? You’re very young to be absolutely certain.’
‘There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind whatever. Can you change when you get older? I want to change; I really don’t want to be g…gay.’
Seán began to cry again.
John said sadly ‘No, soldier. If you’re so certain now, then I think there is no doubt. Do girls do nothing for you at all? Most guys have at least elements of gay and straight in them.’
‘No, not even the slightest bit: I even went to bed with Elizabeth Harrisonshe’s in my classand tried!’
‘You what? How old were you?’
‘It was a couple of months ago, a bit before my fourteenth birthday.’
‘Well, I hope you used protection!’ John was shocked. Clearly Seán had inherited more of his family’s directness than he had thought.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Contraception; a condom, something. She’s almost certainly old enough to get pregnant!’
Now Seán was shocked. ‘Of course not; we’re both Catholics! Anyway nothing happened.’
‘A bit of kissing, but it all did absolutely nothing for my friend down there. Not even slightly. She tried rubbing it to get it to go hard, the way I do, and it was only by thinking of Sam, her brother, that I could get any sort of a reaction at all. But it wasn’t enough; one sight of Liz, even her smell, was all it took to make it soft again.’
‘So she knows, or at least suspects.’
‘Maybe. I told her that I’d just had measles and that er… affected my performance. Perhaps she believed it. I don’t think it matters, though; she’s my closest friend, and I think she only went to bed with me because she could see how important it was to me.’
‘Seán, I have to tell you that that was a really stupid thing to have done. The whole thing; the attempt at sex at your age, not using protectionyou could really have messed up your own life, let alone Elizabeth’s.’
‘I know. I’m really sorry; I just had to be sure. And now I am sure, I don’t know what to do!’
Tears again; he really was only a little boy, John reflected, for all his maturity in some ways. John ruffled Seán’s dark damp hair affectionately.
‘Well, soldier, it won’t be as bad as all that. As far as your set of undesireable friends go, you’ve just moved home, so you can start again with new friends. Your old friends don’t have to know anything; Elizabeth can tell whom she likes now, if she wants to, and it doesn’t matter, because you never have to go back there if you don’t want to. However, I strongly recommend you don’t tell anyone at all at Whitefriars until you’re really ready for it. If you need to talk to someone, I know some really good guys who would be sympathetic, I think, though, they’re all in the sixth form, 17 and 18 years old. They’d look out for you, though, especially Chris and Justin, and they’re all built like the proverbial brick shithouses, so there’d be no trouble.’
Seán smiled wanly. ‘Thanks. But what do I tell our family?’
John was touched that he said ‘our’ instead of ‘my’.
‘Well, I suggest you don’t tell them at all, not yet anyway.’
Seán just gave him a ‘don’t be stupid’ look. John sighed; the lad was obviously a Henry, all right.
‘Okay, okay. I should have known, really. If you’ve got to tell them, I think this will make it easier. Think about it; you know Uncle Matty and Great Uncle Séamus?
‘Has it never occurred to you to ask why they never got married.’
‘Come on, John; that could be for any number of reasons.’
‘Sure, but in this case it isn’t.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Dad told me?’
‘Hang on; you mean our Dad, Patrick Joseph Henry, told you that his brother and his uncle were gay? Why? How? When?’
‘When I told him about myself. He was totally cool with it, and explained about Matty and Séamus. He also said that he fully expected at least one of his own children to be gay too. He told your mother as well, before they even married. So, even if being confronted with the actual reality of a gay son is not going to be all roses, at least they’ve both dealt with the concept already; I don’t think you’ll have much of a problem. But I still think you should wait a few years.’
Seán was crying again, but now with relief. John pulled him close again and kissed his forehead gently. Suddenly, with no warning, Seán was like a wild thing in his arms, his hands all over John’s body, kissing him fiercely and passionately. It was all too sudden for John to think what he was doing, and so he kissed back as he felt the boy’s iron erection through the shorts pressed against his thigh. In moments it was over, and Seán gasped and subsided panting into John’s arms, his shorts a sticky mess.
‘Oh, oh, oh God…Oh, oh, I’m sorry, John’
John had forgotten the hair trigger response of the young. He knew that any moment Seán was going to worry and fret about what had happened, so he hugged the lad yet again and kissed him gently on the lips.
‘Don’t worry, Seán. But it musn’t happen again, soldier. To all intents and purposes, we’re brothers, and too far apart in age.’
‘I know; I just couldn’t stop myself.’
‘Sure, I understand. Come on; let’s swim and clean up, and then we ought to be getting along; it’s getting late.
That night, in the double bed they were sharing, Seán nervously came out to Conor, his brother. The older lad thought for a little while and just shrugged and said
‘Cool. I guess that explains a few things.’
‘You don’t hate me?’
‘Hate you? Why on earth would I hate you? You’re my kid brother and I love you to bits. And this is the happiest I’ve seen you for ages. Positively gay, in fact.’
‘Ha bloody ha! Seriously, though, what about you, Con?’
‘Am I gay, you mean? I don’t think I amI like girls bestbut I can sort of see what the gay thing is about. I mean I find some guys pretty sexy at times.’
‘John. Nick Santos at school.’ There was a pause, and then, in a small voice, ‘you.’
‘Wow! Have you ever done anything with anyone?’
‘A little bit, with John, back at home.’
‘No, not wow, really. I mean, it was nice, very nice actually, but it really freaked John out. It was why he left.’
Seán reflected ruefully on the powerful impact sex can have on others; he had been contemplating a bit of romping with Conor up to that point.
‘But look, Seán, John’s our big brother, and we all love him to bits, but he isn’t actually related to us at all, except that we all love him as if he was. He isn’t a Henry; he’s a lot less… oh I don’t know, direct than we all are. Things bother him which wouldn’t really bother us, and vice versa.’
‘Well, John would rather be secretive about things, but we hate secretiveness. He’s freaked out by our openness. We just get on and do things, almost without thinking about it, and we don’t worry.’
‘Well, this for instance.’
And Conor rolled across the bed and pulled his brother into a deep kiss.
A few days later, when Conor and Seán had returned home, Chris drove Justin and his parents down to Arundel to stay a couple of days with John and Tony. It had been arranged that Justin was to stay on with them until the start of term, when he would travel back to the school with Chris.
John and Jules, with the help of Conor and Seán, had worked flat out to get the house as ready as could be for the visitors. Tony was working on his computer most of the time, though he was occasionally called upon to do some lifting, and even Sandy was occasionally lured in from the garden to help out. Everything was still rather make-do, but there was enough to make a comfortable few days for the visitors. The vast kitchen had now been cleared of most of the stuff from Chichester (in particular, the bed), but had remained the main living-room of the house. There was room for everything there, and the huge fireplace was now graced with two enormous four-seater leather sofas facing each other, both long enough to sleep on, a large oak rough refectory table and eight chairs, plus all the normal appurtenances of a kitchen.
It was there that on the first evening, John, wearing a shirt and trousers for the first time in several days, lit the fire, more for atmosphere than warmth, then cooked and served a wonderful meal for the family and their visitors. Afterwards they all sat talking by the fire and drinking wine until late into the night.
The following day, Justin’s parents asked if they could speak to John privately. The three of them wandered into the garden and the visitors sat on a bench by the river in the sunshine, while John sat on the grass in front of them. His chest and back were itching from the unfamiliar feel of the shirt, and he finally gave in to his longing, pulling it off, apologizing to the visitors.
‘I’m sorry; it’s just that I so rarely wear a shirt these days!’
They waved away his apologies, and Justin’s father took the opportunity to remove his own shirt. John noted appreciatively that for a man in his mid forties, he was in very good shape. No doubt that is where Justin got his build from. Justin’s father, David, got to the point straight away.
‘John, Mary and I have come to like Chris enormously. He’s been very good for Justin, and extremely generous. Do you know, he bought Justin a suit the other day? No, no, we’ve no objections at all, if you haven’t! Rather the contrary. We could never get Justin to wear anything smart until he got to know Chris, and now it’s quite the reverse; he hates getting scruffy or dirty, and he even combs his hair. And we recognize that a large part of Chris’s goodness comes from you. It clearly runs in the family.
‘Kind of you, but actually, Chris and I are not related at all. I suppose that I’m a sort of foster-elder-brother-cum-foster-father to him, but nothing more.’
‘Is that so? Well, the resemblance between you is truly remarkable, then.’
‘So we’ve been told, often.’ John smiled, and even the smile reminded them of Chris.
‘Look, the school have told us what a difference you made to that boy’s life when he came to live with you, and we want you to know that we really respect that.’
‘Thank you.’ John wondered where this conversation was going.
‘I want to ask you a very personal question, and it is with great trepidation and diffidence I ask, and also for a very good reason. So, I beg your tolerance of our seeming prurience.’
David sounded just like the barrister he was.
‘Look, John’ and here David coloured red ‘I won’t beat about the bush; are you gay?’
John gasped at the direct question. Mary gripped her husband’s arm;
‘Oh David; that was hardly subtle! We are John’s guests here! Look John, I apologize for David; it’s just that the question is important.’
John began to get angry. He said tersely
‘Since you ask, then yes I am. But let me finish. If you fear that I will in some way interfere with Justin, then let me assure……’
‘No, no, no! Nothing could have been further from our minds. That’s not what we mean at all!’ David was frantic with embarrassment.
‘Well then what do you mean? If you don’t, as you say, have these homophobic fears for Justin’s virtue, I don’t see that it is any business of yours……’
‘John, please listen a minute! Don’t misunderstand us. We had to know where you stood before we told you what we are about to tell you, and in a moment you will understand all. You see, we have suspicions…’
Mary broke in, ‘No, David, we know for certain.’
David continued, a sad note in his voice, ‘All right, Mary, we know for certain that Justin is gay too. I won’t go into all the details of how we know, we just do. Although there are a lot of improvements in people’s perceptions of gay people these days, the world is still a minefield. No doubt a lot of our worries are unnecessary, but we think of Aids, gay-bashing, prejudice, and so much else that we would spare Justin from.
‘We just would deeply appreciate it if you would take an interest in our boy; be a sort of role model for him, that sort of thing. Mary and I can’t provide what he needs; his elder brother Martin, who is away at University, though excellent in many ways, is just the sort of young man that would make life very difficult for Justin if he found out. And no doubt, his gayness is just why Justin is so very reluctant to make friends, although he is such a loving, athletic and talented boy.’
‘He certainly is that.’ John said quietly. ‘And under the circumstances, perhaps you ought to know that Chris, too, is gay. I feel very reluctant saying that to you; it’s Chris’s business, after all, but I think you should know that I think that he and Justin have reached, shall we say, an understanding. I hope this doesn’t worry you; in fact I surmise that it’s probably very good for them both, but you should know that if you want me to take more of an interest.’
Mary said ‘We’d noticed a sort of electricity between them, and we had wondered whether it might be something like this. If you’re happy, then we’re happy. Aren’t we, David?’
‘Oh yes. We discovered about Justin a couple of years agothough he doesn’t know that we know and we have been terrified that the instability of the lifestyle would capture him. We’re only too pleased if he can find one person to be with in a loving environment. I suppose it’s what we all want for ourselves and our loved ones really.’
‘Mary, David, I once made Justin a promise. He had saved Chris’s life, as you know……
‘No, what’s this?’
John’s heart swelled with affection for the modest lad once more. He hadn’t even boasted to his own loving parents of his accomplishment. So John briefly retold the story, and he could see David and Mary’s pride in their son bursting.
‘So, when I met him, I made him a promise that I would always do whatever I could to look after his interests, since he had restored Chris to me, and that is a promise I intend to keep. In other words, you can rely completely on me. As to the details, we can work it out between us, but perhaps if he spends plenty of time with us, then things should sort themselves out naturally. Will that do?’
David and Mary were delighted. They talked about details, then. John said,
‘Look, Justin is eighteen, and about to take his A-levels; I suppose he’ll be thinking of University. Chris is seventeen and has another year to go at school; why not let Justin come and live here next year; I’ll find things for him to do. Then perhaps he and Chris can go to University together.’
‘As to next year, that would be wonderful. But I’m not sure about University. From all that I can see, and from what Justin tells us, Chris is a very intelligent young man, and will probably want to go to Oxford or Cambridge. Justin is not nearly in that league, I’m afraid. In our family, Martin got all the brains, and Justin got the looks and lovely personality.’
‘Well, he can come here anyway, and we’ll see how things work out.’
The following day David and Mary returned home, leaving Justin in John’s care until the start of term.
The summer term at Whitefriars began splendidly. The news of Justin and Tom’s rescue of the four boys had spread through the school, and the two lads found themselves heroes. Their names had been entered in gold paint on a list in the great hall of those who had rendered special service to the school. Most of the names were famous old boys who had built this or that extension to the school, or who had been extraordinary benefactors. Never had pupils made the list before. Part of this, no doubt, was due to the headmaster’s and governors’ relief that the school was not going to be sued.
There was more news at the assembly that night. The first item was the appointment of a new Deputy Headmaster, who would also teach Physical Education and History; none other than one Mr Patrick Henry. The second item of news was more sensational; the local Chief Constable of the police had recommended to the government that Justin and Tom have their act officially recognized, and two days ago a letter had arrived at the school from Buckingham Palace to say that both boys had been awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery, the investiture, at the hands of the Queen herself, to take place during the summer. When he heard this, Chris was crying with happiness; Justin and Tom were simply stunned and embarrassed.
After the assembly, the Headmaster saw the two boys in his study. He gave each of them a glass of sherryan unheard of privilegeand was fulsome in his congratulations. Not only had disaster been avoided in that the school was not going to be prosecuted by the four boys’ parents, but lustre and glory was being reflected on it by this award, and he was suitably grateful.
‘I have taken the liberty of telephoning your parents to give them the good news’ he said. ‘I think that they are very anxious to speak to you, and so I suggest you phone them at your earliest convenience.’
The Henrys had settled well into their new home; Conor and Seán had a large room each, the twins shared a room, and Rory and Brendan shared another, so they all had a great deal more space than they had in Lancashire. As soon as the two oldest boys arrived back from Arundel, Seán casually came out to the whole family at supper.
‘By the way, you guys might like to know that I’m gay.’
Conor kicked his brother under the table and hissed ‘Really subtle, bro!’ There was a moment of shock, and then everyone started talking together at once about other things. Seán began to panic, when Bernadette, seeing his tearful alarm, got up from her place and went to him, putting her arms around him from behind.
‘It’s okay, Seánín mho críadh, it’s absolutely okay. We’ll chat about it later, love.’
Pat gave his second born a friendly wink from the top of the table, and Seán relaxed.
Later on, when the younger children had been sent to bed, and Conor sent protesting to get his things ready for school, Pat and Bernadette sat down to talk to Seán. They had, of course, partly been expecting that at least one of their children might be gay, but they did not expect it so soon, nor so young. It took Seán some long explaining to convince his parents that he really knew about himself, but finally they accepted it.
‘However,’ said Pat, ‘All the same rules apply to boyfriends that would apply to girlfriends if you weren’t gay. Absolutely no sex until you’re sixteen, and frankly we’d prefer you to wait until you’re in a serious committed relationship. Do you understand, son?’
‘Yes, Dad.’ Seán was glad of the ambiguity in his father’s question. Sure, he understood the words and what they meant, but his father had not asked him to obey him, simply asked whether he understood him. Seán was not a liar, but he was not above making use of the literal sense of the words to his advantage if it suited him.
‘And Seán,’ Pat went on, ‘I know we’ve always made a virtue of being frank and open in this family, and I’m really glad you told us, but I think you need to exercise a little discretion outside our little circle.’
‘You mean don’t tell anyone? That’s what John said; I don’t like it. I hate keeping secrets.’
‘Yeah, normally I’d agree with you, but there are an awful lot of nasty people out there, Seán, and many of them can be found in schools. You’re pretty junior in the school here; that means that most people are going to be bigger than you, even though you’re pretty big for your age. Don’t piss them off, is what I’m saying.’
‘Pat!’ protested Bernadette. ‘Language!’
This time Seán kept his thoughts to himself.
School began the following day, so Conor and Seán, resplendent in their new uniforms, made their way nervously to their first lessons. From the first moment they loved Whitefriars; the facilities were so much better than at the St Thomas More School, and the smaller classes meant that they learnt much faster, and the subjects were somehow more enjoyable and interesting. There was a great variety of sports for them to do also, at which both excelled, and so, though they had joined their classes two thirds of the way through the academic year, they quickly became popular with the other boys. The younger Henry children were not old enough for senior school, so they went to the little Catholic primary school in the village nearby.
Two or three nights into the term there was a ring at the Henrys’ door just as they were eating dinner. Pat groaned.
‘Well that’s one disadvantage of boarding school; at least at Thomas More’s we could get our evenings to ourselves. I wonder what disaster awaits me now.
On the doorstep was a well-built, good-looking lad of about seventeen with light brown hair. Pat eyed him with disfavour; his pudding was getting cold.
‘Yes, soldier? This’d better be good!’
The boy looked disconcerted.
‘Good evening, Sir, I, er… I’m Sanders.’
Pat gave him a blank look.
‘Er, Chris Sanders. Look, if it’s inconvenient, I can make an appointment or something, it’s just that John asked me to look in.’
Chris was getting distressed now.
‘John Scott; I live with him.’
The penny dropped.
‘Chris! I’m so sorry soldier, I didn’t recognize you in the uniform; I’d completely forgotten you came to this school. Oh forgive me; I’ve been seeing so many new faces that I’ve been getting them confused. And last time I saw you, you were in a hospital bed, looking like death warmed up. Come in, lad and have something to eat. Bernie; can you get another plate, love?’
All the Henrys were anxious to meet Chris, and they all took to him with their customary enthusiasm. Rory and Brendan, in particular, who had been a little jealous hearing of Conor’s and Seán’s relationship with John were particularly affectionate, and refused to go to bed until Chris had read them a story. This was Chris’ first contact with a proper family, and when Brendan, in pyjamas and smelling sweet from his bath, fell asleep in his arms, in his heart he felt a great upwelling of love. Pat picked up Rory, who was beginning to nod, and the two carried the boys up to bed together, then stood watching them sleep innocently. Pat put his arms around Chris’ shoulder companionably, then the two of them went downstairs.
‘I’d better get going, sir’ said Chris, a little anxious about the time, and whether he would get into trouble for staying out so late.
‘I’m only ‘sir’ outside this front door’ said Pat. ‘Inside my home, I’m Pat to you. And it doesn’t matter if you’re late; there are some uses to being a deputy headmaster, after all. I’ll give you a note for your housemaster. Stay and drink a glass of wine with Bernie and me, soldier.’
That was the beginning of a close friendship between Chris and the Henry family.
Since he was in his final year, and also a prefect, Justin had a study room all to himself, to enable him to prepare for his A-level exams. He knew that he was not the most academically gifted boy in the school, and up until this point, he had studied quite hard to compensate. But he had done no work at all over the holidays, by reason of the upheaval that had occurred in his personal life, and he needed to catch up now. Chris, however, refused to understand Justin’s need to study. He had never really needed to work much himself; his intelligence was substantial, and neither did he need particularly to study now, as his A-levels were another year away. But he missed Justin terribly, even when he was away from him only for a few minutes, and as far as he could see it, the whole point of having one’s own study room was that one could meet to do unspeakable things without anyone else being the wiser.
Chris nagged and bullied Justin, and eventually, to keep him quiet, Justin had a copy of his key cut, and gave it to Chris. It was a big mistake. Chris was never out of Justin’s study from that point at any time when the two of them were free of classes. It was nothing short of miraculous that nobody in the school suspected anything but that the boys were good friends. And once the door was shut, revision was out of the question; the two of them shed their clothes and got on with another sort of investigation. One one occasion, Justin returned to find the room in darkness. He breathed a sigh of relief and went to get his books, putting them on the desk, and sitting down. He got the shock of his life when he felt fingers undoing the zip of his fly. It was Chris, of course, stark naked, under the desk, where he had been hiding.
In the end, they had another row.
‘Look Chris, if I don’t get these grades, I’m never going to be able to pull myself up to the point where I can come to Oxford or Cambridge with you next year.’
‘That’s okay, I’ll just come to the University of Bog End with you!’
‘Thanks for the vote of confidence! I’m not that stupid, but unless you let me get some work done, I won’t even be able to go there!’
Seán decided he was in love. He had completely fallen for Matthew Todd, an athletic lad of about sixteen. And judging by the thoughtful glances that Matthew gave him, Seán hoped that his ardour was not unreturned. But it took several weeks before Seán plucked up the courage to do more than masturbate secretly and when they met, he kept the subject of conversation to the shortcomings of the staff, or the seasonal sport of cricket. But in both boys the urge was getting stronger and finally, when they were both involved in a cricket game against another school, they at last made contact. Their side was batting, and so while two batsmen were doing battle on the pitch, the other nine sat on the pavilion verandah and steps in their pristine white trousers and shirts, watching.
Seán and Matthew sat side by side on the steps, their thighs tight against each other’s, Seán’s nearly as long as Matthew’s, though not yet as muscular. Both were strongly erect, but since they were wearing tough plastic groin protectors, nothing showed on the outside. Inside, however, the ‘cricket boxes’ gave them no comfort as their bulging cocks were squashed painfully inside the tight plastic space. They shifted uncomfortably against each other, but the rubbing of their legs together only made things worse. Seán felt a tug on his shirt sleeve, and saw Matthew looking right into his eyes, nodding in the direction of the trees behind the pavilion. The older lad went off first, then Seán followed, a couple of discreet minutes later, walking uncomfortably because of the pressure in his groin. He found Matthew almost straight away; he had already removed his cricket box from his trousers, and had his erect cock red and throbbing in his hand. Seán nearly came there and then when he saw the size of it. He went and reverently took Matthew’s engorged member in his hand, cherishing its bluish veins and its searing heat. He had never touched another cock before.
‘That’s enough’, said Matthew, after a moment or two, ‘Use your mouth now.’
Seán suddenly felt sick. ‘Ew! That’s gross!’
‘No it isn’t; it’s great. Go on.’
The older boy was insistent, and Seán reckoned he could do with the experience, so he knelt down, careless of grass stains on the knees of his pristine white trousers. He gave the cock head a tentative lick with his tongue, trying to hold down his gorge. It tasted of not very much actually, soap, salty sweat and not much else, so he carefully put his mouth around the head. It actually felt rather good.
Matthew gasped and jerked; Seán jumped, and his teeth scraped at the penis in his mouth.
‘Watch your bloody teeth!’
‘Sorry,’ Seán tried to say, but his mouth was otherwise occupied. He sucked and licked experimentally; Matthew gasped again, then grabbed Seán’s head and pulled it hard towards his crotch. Seán gagged and retchedthis was turning into a nightmareand found it hard to breathe. He fought to keep his teeth off the engorged glans that was threatening to choke him, but just when he thought he could bear it no more, Matthew withdrew, and Seán relaxed. Then he pulled Seán’s head in again, and finally the younger boy began to get the idea, and began almost to enjoy the experience. In, and out, pushed Matthew, while Seán fought to accomodate his partner, veering between panic and ecstasy and back again in seconds. His own erection, which had subsided, quickly became unbearably hard again and despite the constriction of the cricket box he came and came into the plastic, groaning aloud. The buzzing sensation of the groans on the head of his cock pushed Matthew over the edge, and he too cried out and came in Seán’s mouth. The younger boy, unused to the strange experience, pulled away and spat the slimy seed out onto the grass, coughing and overcome by his own orgasm. But he was deeply excited by the experience, and after a moment’s recovery, pulled himself to his feet. He looked at Matthew with deep desire, and suddenly pulled him into a steel-like embrace, pushing his lips hard down on the older boy’s.
Suddenly he was on his back with a pain in his stomach and jaw. Matthew was standing over him screaming something incoherent; he drew back his right foot in its spiked cricket boot and kicked hard into Seán’s ribs. Seán cried out with pain and rolled himself up tightly trying to protect his stomach and grointhank God for the cricket boxbut Matthew had lost control and was kicking and punching his back and kidneys. Seán, still with the taste of Matthew’s seed in his mouth, was profoundly shocked. Never had he experienced anything but love from other people; that someone could do this to him rocked him to his core, and hurt even more than the vicious kicks to his kidneys and legs. But those hurt quite enough; Seán willed himself just to endure; resistance was impossible.
A new voice came upon the scene:
‘What’s all the yelling about? And what the fuck’s going on here?’
Matthew paused, out of breath, to answer the authoritative interlocutor, whom Seán could not see.
‘This fucking little cocksucker just tried to kiss me, so I’m teaching him a lesson.’
‘Some lesson! And as for cock sucking, I suppose your cock found its own way out of your cricket box and trousers, did it?’
Matthew looked down, mortified. His flaccid and sticky cock still hung out of his flies. He tucked himself away, and spoke in a quieter tone.
‘Yeah, well that was just about sex. I was horny. But kissing someone is queer. He’s a poofter: as I say, he deserves a lesson.’
‘So you thought you’d beat ten types of shite out of him, O wise pedagogue.’
‘What the fuck are you calling me? I’m not the fucking homo here.’
‘Pedagogue, I said; go and look it up, you ignoramus.’ Seán heard footsteps come across to him, and a gentle hand on his shoulder. With an effort, Seán uncurled himself, and looked up at his saviour. He gasped; the most unbelievably handsome young man was looking down concernedly at him, his hair a blond halo shining with sunlight from immediately behind his head, and his white cricket gear gleaming blindingly. The vision spoke to Matthew again,
‘Let me tell you that you’ve really fucked up here, Todd. Do you know who this kid is?’
‘Just a kid from the second form.’
‘No, not ‘just’ a kid from the second form, not any kid. This is Seán Henry.’
Matthew shrugged unconcernedly. ‘They’re all the same to me.’
‘Does the name mean nothing to you?’
‘In case you hadn’t noticed, our new deputy head is Mr Henry. The man who is now umpiring the cricket match you’re supposed to be playing in right now. This is his son, you fuck-wit!’
‘Oh shit!’ Matthew had now gone as white as his shirt and trousers.
‘As you so rightly say, Oh shit. You’d better pray that none of Seán’s bruises show, and that he’ll keep quiet. In fact you’d better be extremely nice to him in the future, or your future at this school will be very brief. Now get back to the match, and don’t ever get in my way again.’
When Matthew had fled, the handsome young man turned to Seán and squatted down beside him.
‘How do you feel, lad?’
Seán tried to reply, but suddenly found himself crying. The stranger put his arms around him until the sobs petered out, and then helped him to stand up.
‘There’s no way you can go back to the match, Henry, your whites are covered with mud and grass, and you look as if you hurt like hell. I’m finished now, just been run out, so why don’t we go back inside and I’ll try and clean you up.’
‘Th… thanks.’ Seán took his arm from around the other’s shoulder and tried an experimental step. He collapsed to the ground.
‘I think I’d better carry you, mate.’
It didn’t work terribly well. Seán’s back was very bruised, and hurt when he was picked up, so in the end his saviour had to carry him piggy-back style. Indoors, Seán knew for sure what he had already guessedthat his rescuer was a prefectbecause he had his own study, which is where he was taken. Inside, he was helped to strip off his shirt, for the young man to examine his wounds. He had to know more about this wonderful guy. So he asked him
‘How did you know who I was?’
‘Not difficult, really. Whitefriars isn’t really that big a school. But you know Chris Sanders, don’t you?’
‘Yes, he comes often to our house. We know him through his sort of guardian, a guy called John Scott who’s kind of my big brother.’
‘I know John, too; a wonderful guy. But I know Chris best. He’s my boyfriend.’
‘Yeah, my boyfriend. It’s okay, Seán, I’m gay too.’
‘Yeah, and John asked me to keep an eye out for you. I’ve kept my distance a bit, because I didn’t want to cramp your style. But when I saw you weren’t with the others at the pavilion, I came looking for you; Todd’s a bit of an arsehole, I thought something like this might have happened.’
Seán’s wounds were not serious; his face seemed free of any harm at all, and though his back was going to show some nasty bruising, it could all be covered up. His ankle was twisted, however, and so walking was very painful. Justin got a bandage from Matron and strapped up the ankle well; Seán found that he could then just about bear to stand on it, but walking was still too much, so Justin helped him on with his shirt, hauled him on his back again and took him home. Since he was in his cricket whites, there was no need to explain to Bernadette how the accident had happened; she approved the bandaging and thanked Justin warmly. The big young man then carried Seán up to his room, where the lad lay down miserably on his front, then Justin returned to see the end of the cricket match.
When Conor came home from school a couple of hours later, he went into Seán’s room to see how his brother was. He found him still lying face down on the bed, miserable. His hurts had all stiffened in the meantime and it was very painful even to move.
‘Aren’t you going to change out of your cricket gear, Seán?’
‘I can’t; I hurt too much.’
‘You only twisted your bloody ankle, Mum says.’
‘No; there’s more. She doesn’t know. I got beaten up.’
‘What? I’ll fucking kill the bastards. What happened?’
Seán tearfully filled Conor in, and only cheered up when he thought about Justin again. He was beginning to get a crush on the young man, remembering how that muscular back had felt against his chest.
‘He’s a real hunk, Con; I think I’m in love.’
‘Yeah, yeah. Come on, bro, let’s get you changed.’
Painfully, and with a lot of help from Conor, Seán managed to move to sit on the edge of the bed. Conor unbuttoned his brother’s shirt and gently eased it off. When he saw Seán’s back, he groaned,
‘Oh shit, Seán, Mum’s got to see this. You’re fucking black and blue.’
‘No! She mustn’t know! It’d cause all sorts of shit.’
‘Seán, that’s not the way we behave. We’ve always told each other everything in this family.’
‘Not this time! I’ve told you, and that’s as far as it’s going. If you tell anyone, I’ll fucking kill you.’
Conor was not happy, but agreed. He knelt down and removed Seán’s one remaining cricket shoe and sock.
‘Okay, Seán; can you stand, and I’ll get your trousers off.’
Painfully, and leaning on his brother’s shoulder, Seán stood. It wasn’t just his back that hurt; there was a strange sharp pulling sensation in his groin. What the fuck was wrong now?
Conor unfastened and unzipped the trousers and lowered them to the floor. Then he stood back, looked in amazement for a moment, and began helplessly laughing.
‘What’s so funny, you wanker? I’m hurting here’
‘Look for yourself!’
And Seán looked down at his groin; there, stuck somehow to his skin was the cricket box. Conor was still helpless with laughter.
‘You fucking came in your cricket box, didn’t you. You’ve glued it to yourself with spunk!’
‘Ha bloody ha! Just get it off me, will you.’
‘Ow! no way, bro. That’s really gonna hurt; it’s in your hairs and everything……’
Conor collapsed in giggles again.
In the end, the two of them hobbled to the shower, towels around their waists. Conor realised that there was no way Seán was going to be able to shower on his own, since he could barely stand, and therefore he was going to have to wash his younger brother. They wrapped a plastic bag around Seán’s bandaged foot and sealed it as well as they could, then eased into the shower cabinet. It was a tight fit, but they managed it. Under the water, while Seán clung onto Conor for support, Conor eased off his brother’s cricket box as gently as he could, little splutters of giggles escaping him all the time, and little squeaks of pain coming from Seán. When it was finally off, Conor washed his brother tenderly. Reaching his groin, Conor saw that Seán was hard, and was surprised to find that he was as well. Seán leant in against Conor and kissed him tenderly, taking Conor’s solid penis into his left handthe other one was clinging on to Conor’s shoulder for support. Conor shook his head at Seán, and returned the favour.
‘My brother, you’re just too bloody horny for your own good.’
‘Do you want me to stop?’
Between watching over Seán and accomodating Chris’ demands for intimacy, Justin had to burn quite a bit of midnight oil to prepare for his A-level exams. But in the end, it was all irrelevant. On the morning of the first exam, a nervous Justin was summoned to the Headmaster’s study to be sat down and told that his parents had both died in a car crash the previous night.
Justin was devastated; he had enjoyed a very good relationship with his parents and loved them dearly, as they had loved him and understood him better than he did himself. Oddly, it was not Chris to whom he turned for comfort, though Chris was frantic with worry and grief, but John.
John was already at Nice with Tony, getting their new boat, the Douglas Smith ready for her first customers in a fortnight’s time. The two of them wanted to sail her around a little themselves in order to get fully used to her before they took any passengers. They were sailing off the coast at Antibes, and Tony was at the wheel, when the call came on John’s mobile from a distraught Justin.
Within eight hours, John was at the school, holding the sobbing lad in his arms, and very near tears himself. He had liked David and Mary, but the sight of Justin’s anguish was more than he could bear. He had to be strong for the young man, and he waited patiently until the storms had abated. Chris was in the room, too, wanting comforting. He was beside himself because he seemed unable to reach Justin who was suffering so badly. John said
‘Justin; go and pack a few things; we’ll get you away from here for a few days: I think it’s best.’
When Justin had gone, John hugged Chris tightly as that boy now sobbed into John’s shirt.
‘Chris, I don’t think Justin has got room for your grief, too. He can barely manage his own! He needs you to be supportive right now; you can cry on your own, but you’ve really got to be strong when he’s around. Look, I’m going to take him away for a few days; he needs his family now, what remains of it. I’ll come back to pick you up for the funeral. Be strong, soldier. I love you.’
And John kissed Chris on the forehead.
Worse was to come. John drove Justin to his family home where his brother Martin had already arrived from Edinburgh University. Martin, too, had been weeping, but he was also angry. He had found letters from John to his parents, and, on the computer, copies of letters that they had sent to John. He had, in short, found out all about the fact that Justin was gay. Martin was not a bad young man, but he knew that he had never had Justin’s looks or charm. He was quite bright; having graduated recently with a good degree, but he had always felt jealous of his younger brother ever since the day Justin was born, Martin then being four. It seemed to him then that Justin craved and got all the attention, and that impression never changed. And his bullying of his younger brother only made his parents more protective and loving towards Justin.
Now at last, he had a handle on little brother that nobody could question. His perfect little brother was a shirt-lifter. A turd-burgler. A fudge-packer. A left-handed brickie. A queer. A faggot. A mo. A fruit. And there were no parents any more to defend him. So when John and Justin arrived, Martin’s first act was to order John out of the house. When Justin protested, Martin threatened to call the police. John, not wanting to cause a scene, told Justin that he would be waiting in the hired car. Once John was gone, Martin let fly with the full bile and bitterness of eighteen years, and yelled at Justin all the grief that he was feeling for the loss of his parents.
Justin was too shocked even to cry, though Martin was doing enough of that for both of them. The coup de grace came when Martin produced their parents’ will, which he had obtained immediately from the solicitors. The will was dated from before Justin was born, and left everything ‘in the event of our decease, to our beloved son Martin’.
‘Everything, Justin. You don’t get a penny; not the house, not the car, nothing!’
Martin was yelling in his grief.
‘You’re eighteen now, so you’re on your own! I want you out of this house in one hour. You’ve one hour to get all your stuff out. I want your queer arse out of my house, and I want you never to set foot in it again. Do you understand me, you little poof?’
Justin was white with shock.
‘But Martin, where am I going to live?’
‘That’s your problem. You can live on the streets for all I care. Perhaps your queer friends will take you in. It’s none of my business. You can come to the funeral……
‘…Gee, thanks…’ muttered Justin
‘…but after that I never want to see you little faggoty face again. Ever. Do you understand me?’
‘Oh yes, I understand all right. I understand you very well indeed, Martin, my brother. I always have.’
‘Fuck you! You’re no brother of mine. Well get on with it then. You’ve only got fifty-five minutes left. And don’t think you can come back when I’m not in, because I’m changing the locks.’
Martin stood at the door and checked every armload of Justin’s stuff that he carried to the car, to make sure that his brother was not removing anything he considered his own property now, and also to make sure that John did not enter the house to help Justin.
There was one further fight, when Martin removed from Justin’s arms a photograph of their parents.
‘I don’t want you defiling their memory. Your queer ways are a disgrace to them! And your hour’s up. Fuck off for ever!’
The door was slammed shut, and that was that.
Back in the car, John, who had arranged everything neatly in the boot and on the back seat, drove the two of them to a nearby hotel. Justin was curiously calm; John had expected him to be frantic.
‘Justin; do you want your own room, or would you rather not be alone?’
‘Can I share with you? Would that be all right?’
John asked for a large room with two beds, and they were pleased to discover that the room they got was not the usual identikit hotel room that one finds everywhere, but had furniture of character, including two large single beds, and a nice view from the window. Obviously this hotel was not part of a chain. It all helped.
Justin remained calm, and John awaited the storm, but it never came. Over dinner, they talked. Justin, who just picked at his food, told John everything that Martin had said to him.
John was shocked. Justin continued,
‘John, I suppose my school fees have already been paid until the end of term, so I can stay on there till then. But then I’m homeless. University is out of the question now, since I’ve missed my exams, so I’m at a bit of a loss. I know I’ve no right to ask this, but do you think you could put me up for a bit, just until I get a job and find myself somewhere to live?’
‘Justin; you have every right to ask this. I have told you this before; I owe you Chris’s life, and would do anything I could to help you. But even if that were not the case, I would do it for you, yourself, because I have grown very fond indeed of you in your own right. I would be delighted if you would permanently make your home with me. In fact, your parents and I had a conversation about you; they knew you were gay…’
‘Was that how Martin knew?’
‘…Yes, Justin. Mothers particularly are not stupid in this regard. We’d been corresponding; your parents were worried, not about you, but for you, and asked me to keep an eye out, since I'm gay myself.’
‘Yes, you twit! And all of that is why I invited you to spend time with us next year; not so much for Chris’ sake, but for your own. And also because we all love you!’
They went on to speak of Martin.
‘Justin, you know that you can contest that will in court. It was obviously written before you were born. I can testify how much your parents loved you, because they told me as much. No judge or jury would let Martin take the whole lot!’
Justin said quietly
‘But that would make him hate me even more. At least now he feels he’s finally got back at me, and that will give him some peace, I hope. What do I want with houses and money? Let him have it, if it’s important to him. Though I think it isn’t that; I think it’s that he’s finally got even. And he’s grieving, too. I think it’s true that Mum and Dad treated me better than they did him, so perhaps this is just after all.’
John was lost in admiration at his cool detachment.
That night, John woke to hear Justin crying quietly; his face was buried into his pillow, trying not to disturb the sleeper. Clearly the shock had now worn off.
‘Justin, are you all right.’
‘I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to wake you.’
‘That’s all right, soldier. How do you feel?’
‘Terrible. It’s been such a horrible day!’ And he sobbed again.
John got out of his bed and padded over to Justin. The lad reached out his arms, and John lay down on the bed beside him, and hugged him. Justin eventually fell asleep, and John gently untangled himself to return to his own bed, but Justin woke again, and said ‘Don’t go!’ So John turned back the covers and got into the bed with Justin. They wrapped arms around each other, and, bare chest to bare chest, fell asleep.
The day of the funeral dawned; it had been arranged at speedJohn and Justin had some trouble finding out when and where it was to be, for Martin would not tell themand under the circumstances, John had not gone to get Chris, for fear that his presence would further inflame Martin. Chris was disappointed, but relieved at the same time, and he and Justin had spent some time talking on the phone.
The crematorium chapel was full with mourners; David and Mary had been popular with a lot of people. Justin and John, in hired suits,
‘I’d buy you one, Justin, but somehow I suspect that you’d always associate it with the funeral’,
turned up in good time. John sat discreetly at the back, and Justin made his way disconsolately to the front family pew, where an aunt greeted him warmly with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
The twin coffins entered, followed by Martin and his fiancée, arm in arm. Justin gave a sob, and his aunt put her arm round him. When the coffins had been settled at the front, Martin turned to go to the family pew. He darkened when he saw Justin there.
‘What are you doing here?’ he said. He had clearly been drinking, though it was only mid-morning. ‘You’re disinherited! You’re no longer a part of this family. Get back with the others, pervert!’ And, to everyone’s shock, he took Justin’s arm and dragged him to the back of the chapel, where he saw John. ‘And you, get out! I don’t want perverts here.’
‘I want him here, Martin.’ said Justin.
‘What you want is of no concern. I told you, you’re no longer family.’ He spun on his heel and went back to the front, where he sat next to the aunt. She moved away from him, shaking her head, but he did not notice.
‘Well, get on with it, then!’ he shouted at the shocked clergyman, who until this point had not realised that Martin had a brother.
The clergyman did his best with the horrible chapel, the horrible service and the terrible atmosphere, and at least it all finished. Justin and John (who had remained, despite Martin’s behaviour) slipped out without seeing anyone, and drove away.
‘Are you okay, Justin?’
‘Yeah. I’m relieved it’s all over, to be honest.’
‘Me too. Let’s go and have a really good lunch, and stay the night somewhere really nice. I think we both deserve it; you particularly.’
As they lay together in bed that night, Justin suddenly said
‘You know, at least one wonderful thing has come out of all this?’
‘You!’ And Justin kissed John on the cheek.
‘I was just thinking the same thing about you.’ said John, and kissed Justin back.
Back at the school, it was agreed that there was not much point in Justin finishing the term. He could not be expected now to do himself justice in his A-levels, so it was better to put his case for a compassionate grant of the qualifications. The only one who would not understand was Chris, understandably distressed that his lover was not going to be around for a while. Justin’s other friends, like Tom and Tim, understood, but were sorry not to have Justin around for the last few weeks. Seán was disappointed too, but he had already found other people to fall in love with.
‘Look Chris,’ said John. ‘The end of term is only six weeks away. There’s three or four weeks then that I haven’t got a booking for on the Douglas Smith. Why don’t you, Justin, Tom and Tim all come sailing with me then. We’ll have a blast!’
And Chris cheered up. Tom and Tim agreed with delight, and so it was settled.
And thus Justin left school.
Arriving at Arundel, as they pulled up in front of the house, John pulled Justin into a hug.
‘Welcome home, Justin! You’re home; this is now your home as long as you want it to be.’
They took as much as they could carry upstairs and dumped it in a corridor until Justin had had a chance to pick his new room. Once he had made his choice, Jules and Sandy came along to help bring things in; there wasn’t a lot, really, just clothes, a few books and his beloved computer.
John encouraged Justin to ring his aunt and tell her where he was, since she, at any rate, had seemed friendly. And so it proved; as they chatted, the aunt was crying, and saying that she wished she had walked from the family pew at the crematorium to join Justin at the back, but the whole situation was just too tense, and she was afraid to inflame Martin further. Most, if not all, of the other members of the family thought the same way, and some had said so to Martin at the reception afterwards. There had been a terrible scene in which Martin’s fiancée had also taken the family’s side, and Martin had broken off their engagement and walked out, blaming Justin loudly for everything.
‘But, dear’, said his aunt, ‘I want you to know that you are always welcome here; we have always loved you since you were a little boy, and especially now that you have had all this sadness, and I’m sure that all the family thinks the same way. Please don’t be a stranger to us, or think that any of us side with Martin. And as for the will, we know that your parents would not have wanted you to be left with nothing, and I want you to know that we are prepared to say so in court, if Martin doesn’t see sense soon.’
Justin thanked his aunt, and reassured her that he was happy and well cared for, and that she should not worry about him. He spoke briefly with his uncle and his cousins and then hung up.
Jules had cooked a wonderful meal to welcome Justin to his new home, and John pressed him and Sandy to join them for the evening. The four of them talked long into the night; Justin feeling more and more at home in his new family. As they went up to bed, John showed Justin where his own room was.
‘If you get lonely in the night, come and join me. Don’t be shy; Chris often does.’
But that night, the first he had slept on his own for several days, he slept soundly, and without tears.
The following day, John took him shopping.
‘It’s a sort of tradition, Justin, really. Meaning I've done it once before! And, to be honest, Chris has got a lot of nice things now, and I would be embarrassed if you had any less.’
Justin protested that there was no need, of course, but soon he had a wardrobe full of beautiful clothes.
‘Not that you’ll be wearing them very much, I suppose; we tend to dress very casually at home, but it’s nice to look good when the time is right.’
John then enquired whether Justin had a bank account, and found out that he hadn’t. That was put right, and twenty-five thousand pounds was immediately transferred, plus a standing order for another three hundred a month.
‘That’s exceptionally generous; and, more to the point, more than you give Chris, John!’
John was pleased that there were no protestations or refusals; Justin was clearly grateful, but he wasn’t going to be difficult about it. What a mature and good young man!
‘Yes, but there’s a difference. Chris is seventeen, and still at school with not much opportunity for spending. You are eighteen and have now officially left; believe me, you will find that three hundred pounds will not go that far! We’ll see how we go. And you’ll have expenses, too.’
‘Well, your car, for instance.’
‘I haven’t got a car!’
‘No, but you will have by this afternoon.’
And so it proved. And since they went to the showroom together, Justin was even able to choose the model and colour.
‘John, you’ve been wonderfully generous. You have given me so much already. But believe me, the money and the things are the least part of it. Your love and kindness ever since we first metis it really only four months ago?have been extraordinary, and above all in these last few days. I will never forget it as long as I live, and I will always bless Chrisand perhaps even the Pervfor bringing us together. Even if you were a pauperand I’m very glad you aren’tI would still feel the same way.’
That evening, over a glass or two of brandy by the fire in the kitchen, Justin told John about the interest that Armani had showed in him and Chris modelling for them.
‘Do you really think you might be interested, Justin?’
‘Well it’s something I could do for now. What do you think?’
‘You’ve certainly got the looks; you’re very handsome, and have excellent build and muscle definition. Chris, too, though I’m concerned that he should finish his education.’
‘Look who’s talking! You never did!’
‘True. And to be honest, although it felt like a good idea at the time, I’m not sure it was wise in the long run. But anyway, it’s his decision, and I think that he will want to finish and go on to University. He’s brighter than either of usperhaps than both of us put togetherand will surely want to get a degree. I’m not going to interfere if modelling is what he wants to do, I’m not his father, but I would want him to be sensible about it. You, on the other hand, are another matter. Unless another career is knocking at your door, you might find that a few years of modelling, while you still have your looks, may be just the thing you need.
‘But all that aside, I can tell you now, Justin, that you will never want for money. I have more than enough for all three of us to live in comfort for the rest of our lives. The modelling can be a hobby for you, in the same way that boating is a hobby for me, something that brings in a little capital, but is not necessary to live on. I mean it when I say that I consider you as family. I know that you and Chris have, shall we say, an understanding, and I think we need to make it clear that your relationship to this family is not dependent on that. In other words, if you and he split up, this is still your home, and you will still have an investment in it. We must make that clear to Chris, too, so that you both feel entirely free in your love. ‘
Justin quietly crossed the room to the other sofa and sat next to John. He pulled the older young man into a hug, then kissed him on the cheek. There was no need for words. After a while they fell asleep; the fire died down and finally smouldered and went out; it was unnecessary in the warmth of late spring, so neither John nor Justin, wrapped in each other’s arms felt the cold until early morning when they woke, still holding each other and never wanting to let go.
Justin and John flew out to Nice the following day, to join Tony on the Douglas Smith.
‘What shall I bring?’ said Justin in a panic.
‘Wear nylon shorts, polo shirt, boat shoes. Bring one more pair of nylon shorts, toothbrush, passport, wallet. You won’t need anything else: I’ll get you something for occasional smart wear when we’re in Nice, and you can keep it on the boat.’
‘Wow! travel light, eh?’
While John was away looking after Justin, Tony had worked hard, and the boat was now completely equipped and ready to take on clients. And there was still a week before the first were due to arrive, so this was the perfect opportunity to teach Justin to sail.
Justin was somewhat apprehensive; unlike Chris and John, he had never fantasized about sailing, and knew absolutely nothing about it, apart from the one or two occasions after Easter when he and Chris had taken the Saucy Mrs Truspott out on the river Arun. But even she was too big to sail properly in the river, and they had used the engine. However, Justin was strong, co-ordinated, practical, and a quick learner, and, once over his initial sea-sickness, soon grew to love sailing as much as the others. As soon as he arrived on the boat, he stripped off his shirt and rolled up the legs of his shorts to get as tanned as possiblehe was still bearing in mind that modelling might lie ahead of him, and he wanted to look as good as he could.
The Douglas Smith was a very much superior boat to the Saucy Mrs Trusspot, and simply flew over the waves; on the first day, after a before-dawn start, they made it to Sardinia, and spent the rest of the week sailing around the stupendous coastline of the island until Justin could handle the boat as well as John and Tony. They had a wonderful week; Justin and Tony both loved horsing around and were fooling most of the time. Tony had been studying navigation, and prided himself on working everything out without recourse to the new computer which came with the Douglas Smith. So he plotted all the day’s sailing, and one evening steered the boat into a little harbour overshadowed by huge cliffs. The little town had a faintly neglected air, but with a little work could be extraordinarily picturesque.
‘Wow’ said John. ‘I’ve never seen this place before. What’s it called?’
‘Bugger you’ said Tony, smiling.
‘I only asked; and anyway, I already told you no,’ said John, seeing the smile. ‘And certainly not in public. Justin, you’ve got the chart; what’s this place called?’
Justin bent his head for a minute, then gave a yelp of laughter.
‘Give me that chart…… well, fuck me!’
There was a three-way tussle for a while which amused some Sardinian fishermen on the quay, and ended with all three in the water, shouting with laughter.
The place really was called Buggerru; a former coastal mining town, it had built a little harbour, and clearly all it needed was an injection of capital to turn it into a most beautiful holiday place. It was in a steep-sided valley, with a little sandy beach and picturesque streets; the old mining sheds still stood derelict near the harbour; something would need to be done with those, but Tony’s eyes were shining as the three friends walked the streets looking for a restuarant.
‘A gay hotel, John…’
John laughed. ‘You could call it The Queens Inn.’
‘You really could; The Queens Inn, Bugger you.’
‘I think it’s really pronounced Boo-jerr-oo.’
‘Of course, but sod that; ‘Bugger you’ is much better for our purposes.’
‘Our purposes? You mean you really mean it about a gay hotel?’
‘John; it’d be a howling success. All the bags from the English speaking world with a sense of humour would love it.’
‘But it’s incredibly remote; the nearest airport is more than two hours away by road; there’s probably only a once-a-week bus service.’
‘We could pick people up from the airport for a fee.’
‘Oh, come on, John. It’s a brilliant idea!’
‘Somehow I never quite saw myself running a gay version of Fawlty Towers.’
‘We could run it in tandem with the yacht. You do the yacht, I’ll do the hotel.’
‘What about the locals? Somehow I suspect that they might not want hordes of screaming queens descending on them every summer, leaving condoms on the beach and rouge on the napkins. They might refuse to supply us, or make life difficult in all sorts of ways.’
‘Look at this place, John; it’s really run down. We would certainly supply jobs here, and it looks as if that is exactly what they lack.’
The three found a shabby-looking little restaurant where the food and wine were absolutely delicious. They rounded off the amazing meal with glasses of the Sardinian liqueur, Mirto, made from blueberries and served in chilled glasses. John was warming to the place in an extraordinary way. But Tony deserved honesty.
‘Tony, I’ll admit your scheme has sound business sense, and I really love this place. I’m just afraid of pigeon-holing myself; I really don’t want to deal only with gay people. I’m a human being; I’m not ready to live in a ghetto, even in my own mind. Couldn’t we just buy a little house here for holidays for ourselves?’
‘Well, let’s drop the gay bit, then, and make it an ordinary hotel, simply gay-friendly. This place is still stunningly beautiful, or could be, and I’m sure we’ll get custom. And somehow, I think that the very name of Buggerru will suggest itself to gay people, even if the hotel itself were called something anodyne.’
‘Well, if you’re prepared to do most of the work……’ John was weakening.
‘Bless you,’ said Tony, leaning over the table and kissing John on the cheek, to the amazement of the restaurant owner.
The week flew by, and sadly the three of them tidied up the boat and then headed back to Nice to pick up their first customers.
John and Tony had had a quiet talk one night in the cockpit after Justin had turned in early; Tony admitted that he would prefer to head back to Arundel in order to sort out his finances and talk to his bank manager about how much it would cost to build a hotel in a remote part of Sardinia, but he was reluctant to leave John to handle the boat on his own. Now it seemed, with Justin’s arrival, there was a heaven-sent opportunity for him to go, and also for John to have some necessary ‘quality time’ with the lad.
‘There really isn’t room for more than two crew, if you’ve got a boatful of clients, John, and poor Justin would just brood on his own at Arundel. He’s just lost his parents and effectively his brother Martin; he needs plenty of stimulation right now. So take him instead of me; he’s every bit as good; in fact, better; he’s going to be almost as good a sailor as you and Chris.’
John smiled gratefully at his friend. ‘Thanks, Tony, I think you’re right. That’s exactly what he needs.’
The following morning, John hired a car for the day and took Tony to the airport. Then he took Justin shopping; both of them bought a simple crease-resistant suit, shirt and tie, and filled the cupboards of the boat with fresh food and other supplies.
The new clients were to be a honeymoon couple, who had been married that same morning,
‘Which means, Justin, that we stay out of the way as much as possible. We need to be sensitive to atmosphere, to realise when the two of them need some privacy. Oh, and prepare for some rocky nights!’
Justin was a little taken aback when he saw the quarters that he and John were to share. They had been sleeping in bunks in the main cabin, but now they had to move to the sail locker. They would have to sleep on top of the rough sails, and there wasn’t a lot of room. Justin realised that he and John would be pressed together all night, and he worried whether he would find the whole experience more erotic than he could cope with, and would disgrace himself. But there was no getting away from it, so they hung up their suits on a beam, and each put his shirt, spare shorts and shoes in a small corner.
‘Ready for the fray, Justin?’
‘Bring on the first victims!’
The couple, whom they met at the airport, could not have been more delightful, nor could they have been more in love. It was clear, too, that they had no intention of excluding John and Justin from their fun, for the four of them hit it off terrifically. Patricia and Mike said right away that they had no objections at all to John and Justin having the bed cabin, while they would cheerfully use the put-up double bed in the main cabin, but although Justin looked pleadingly at John, John was adamant.
‘Company policy! Besides, you’ve paid for the whole boat, the double bunk is not very comfortable, and I’m sure you’d prefer to put a couple of mattresses in the middle of the floor of the bed cabin and really enjoy your honeymoon. Justin and I will be just fine. In fact, we’d prefer it that way.’
There was no way Justin was going to contradict John, and so he determined to go to sleep thinking of dead puppies, or harbour sewage or something unpleasant. John was too uncomfortably like Chris for Justin to trust himself in such close proximity.
Together they cooked the first mealanother steep learning curve for Justinwhile Patricia and Mike drank champagne in the cockpit, gazing entranced at each other.
‘How long do you give them till their first quarrel?’ John whispered to Justin, as he fried onions and garlic in the pan.
Justin punched him on the arm; ‘you’re terrible!’
John had sensed something of Justin’s nervousness about the sleeping arrangements, and so he determined to make sure the boy got a good night’s sleep. So he gave Justin a strong gin and tonic before dinner as they cooked. They both took their dinners through to the cockpit to eat, leaving the newlyweds some privacy, despite their protests.
‘Eat quickly, Justin, we’ve a little job to do. We can relax later.’
After they had bolted their foodJustin with regret, for it was delicious, and the first meal he had had a hand in makingthe two of them ran lightly over the cabin roof to the forehatch. They let themselves down on strong arms and went into the bed cabin. Together, silently, they took two mattresses off the bunks and laid them on the floor, side by side. Then they made it up into a double bed. John set by the side of the bed another bottle of cold champagne and a couple of glasses, then, as a final touch, sprinkled the bed with flowers that he had bought earlier in the day.
Justin looked on, a sad expression in his eyes.
‘What’s wrong, Justin?’ said John.
‘Oh, nothing. I was just thinking that nobody would ever do that for me! The penaltyno, one of the penaltiesof being a gay man, I suppose.’
‘Oh Justin!’ said John, embracing the boy’s bare chest strongly. ‘Somehow, I think that you are never going to be without love in your life. And that, really, is all you need. The Beatles weren’t wrong.’
They pulled themselves up by the forehatch againno need of ladders when you are as fit as those twoand returned to the cockpit, where they sat drinking wine and chatting until they heard no more noise from below. Then, quietly, they went down and found that Patricia and Mike had already cleared away the dishes and washed up.
‘I think we’ve some really special clients this time’ said John, surprised. He took a bottle of Irish whiskey and poured a large glass for Justin and another for himself. They returned to the cockpit and tried to ignore the way the boat was rocking in the water, but smiled at each other warmly in the silent harbour as they sipped. Love was all around.
Night time didn’t go nearly as badly as Justin had feared. For one thing, John kept his shorts on, so Justin did as well. And then, Justin had had, as John planned, so much to drink that, although not drunk, he slipped straight to sleep, despite the rough and hard sails he was lying on, and the handsome man whose bare skin was pressed so closely to his, and whose arm was wrapped protectively around him.
Justin was shaken awake by John early. John had debated whether to grab Justin by his erection for fun, but given the boy’s shyness, it might well have upset him.
‘Come on, Justin: crew wakes early on board. Lots to do!’
They went up on the foredeck, and let themselves gently down into the water, swimming for a while. Then they did their exercises on the quay, and went for their showers. They prepared breakfast together, and took it to a sleepy Patricia and Mike in bed. Patricia was sleepily effusive in her thanks for the way their bed had been prepared for them last night
‘You made it all so special for us both. And if it wasn’t that I haven’t a stitch on, I’d come and give you both a big hug, right now!’
And so Mike, who also hadn’t a stitch on, got out of bed and did just that. Fortunately he didn’t notice that both John and Justin were registering appreciatively how well built he was in all departments!
‘Seriously, guys, we really appreciated it.’
Exactly nine months later, Patricia and Mike had a baby boy. He was christened Justin John Douglas, and Justin was the godfather.
The newlyweds had taken the Douglas Smith for three weeks, and over coffee that first morning, had discussed possible destinations with John and Justin. In the end it was decided to head for Malta and the North African coast; being still May, it ought not to be unbearably hot,
‘And I need sunshine, boys, lots of sunshine’ said Patricia.
So after John made a quick check to assess whether everyone had the necessary visas, they started the engine and headed out of harbour.
As might have been predicted, the four quickly became close friends; both Patricia and Mike proved to be competent sailors, and John often let them sail the Douglas Smith while he and Justin had their heads together over a catechism; Father Smith had agreed, under the circumstances, to let John finish instructing Justin for his reception, since he would be unable to get to London for a while.
Malta was a revelation to Justin; he thought it was like the Oratory spread over a whole island. They were there for the feast of the Ascension, and the island came alive in the evening with fireworks. The four friends started the engine and moved out of Valetta harbour a short way, letting the anchor down away from the shipping channel. Then they sat together in the cockpit and drank champagne cocktails, as they watched the sky bursting with lights and colour. Patricia and Mike had their arms around each other, the most natural thing in the world; after a while the strong cocktails went to Justin’s head and his hand sneaked around John’s waist, pulling him close; he let his head fall onto John’s shoulder. John tensed. They had not told Patricia and Mike that they were gay.
But Mike spoke up: ‘It’s okay, guys, you don’t have to pretend around us; we worked it out for ourselves!’
Patricia added, looking at their bronzed and muscular bodies, ‘It’s just such a waste! You two are so gorgeous.’ and smiled.
Mike pretended to get all hurt at this. ‘Hearing that, perhaps it’s just as well you are gay, or my marriage might have been over almost before it had begun!’
Patricia hit him, and then turned seriously to Justin and John. ‘Just look at you two! You look so wonderful together; it’s clear you’re just made for each other; even the way you work together, it’s as though you were reading each other’s minds!’
Justin and John panicked, and scooted apart.
‘No, no, we’re not a couple, not at all!’
That night, in the sail locker, it was difficult, but Justin and John managed to squeeze themselves in such a way that they did not touch at all; until, that is they fell asleep. They woke, however, tight in each other’s arms.
The next few days were very difficult for them both. They both found excuses to wear their shirts all the time, and had even bought more at a souq in Tunis, their next stop. Chris was uppermost in their minds, and while they tried to put a bold face on their distress, it could not be entirely hidden from Patricia and Mike, who discussed it quietly between themselves. They could both see that John and Justin were falling deeply in love with each other, but those two young men were both remarkably unobservant and could not see it in each other. They only knew about their own feelings, and about what any liaison between them would do to Chris.
So a few days later, while Patricia and Mike were ashore exploring, Justin and John stayed behind on the boat, making the excuse, not without truth, that they had housekeeping to do.
‘Look that silly thing that Patricia said…’ John began nervously,
‘Yeah, daft!’ Justin said, too quickly.
‘I mean, don’t get me wrong, Justin, I’m really very fond of you indeed, it’s just…’
‘Yeah, yeah, quite. I understand.’
‘Look, to be blunt, this is really spoiling our friendship. We’re tiptoeing around each other as if we’re made of glass. It’s making me miserable, it’s making you miserable, and it’s probably spoiling Patricia and Mike’s honeymoon. Can’t we just go back to the way it was before that silly cow stuck her bloody great hoof in it?’
‘Yeah, let’s do that.’
‘No more shirts!’
‘No more shirts!.’
And they took their shirts off and hugged with genuine warmth, though each of them was aware of the sacrifice he was making for the sake of Chris; they were, however, unaware that the other was making exactly the same sacrifice.
Patricia and Mike returned, arms full of brass ornaments, and arguing about how they were going to get it all on the plane back to the UK, to find a much happier atmosphere on board. They breathed a sigh of relief, and the rest of the holiday was a blast.
After the honeymoon couple were dropped off at Nice, swearing to return the following year, John and Justin sailed the Douglas Smith down to Sicily to meet a nice family who wanted to sail around the island for a week. They returned to Nice afterwards, and moored their boat; it was time to return for a visit to England.
It was a beautiful June morning when Justin woke alone in his room at the Rembrandt Hotel at the call of his alarm, set for five in the morning. Pulling on his shorts, t-shirt and trainers, he met Chris and John in the lobby, and the three of them set off for their morning run and exercise, a bit shorter this morning, and a lot earlier, for there was something to be done.
The three of them showered and then assembled in Justin’s room. John and Chris were in their best suits, looking even more alike than usual, and Justin simply wore a bathrobe. John and Chris each kissed him, then took off the bathrobe, and dressed Justin in a brand new suit of the lightest navy blue silk. He looked, and felt, amazing.
Down in the lobby, they met Tom Phillips and Tim Johnson from the school, also smart in suits, who whistled appreciatively when they saw Justin and clapped him companionably on the back.
They all went together over the road to the Oratory, and there, in a side chapel, Justin professed his belief in the Catholic faith, and was received into the Church by Fr Smith, was confirmed, taking the name Christopher, and made his first communion. Justin had been disappointed at first that he was not to have the great public baptism that Chris had had, and which had made such an impression on him, but this could not be done since he was already baptized in the Church of England, and baptism cannot be repeated. But the intimate Mass, celebrated quietly in Latin, surrounded by people he lovedeven his aunt and uncle had comemade him change his mind. He wouldn’t have had it any other way. There were tears afterwards, especially from Chris, who had been his sponsor, but they were very happy tears.
Everyone went then for a large breakfast at the Patisserie Valerie; Father Smith came too, and regaled the company with hilarious stories until they had all finished. And then it was time to change again.
Back in Justin’s bedroom, Justin reluctantly removed the luxurious silk suit and allowed himself to be dressed in striped trousers, stiff shirt and a tail coat.
‘I feel like I’m off to my wedding!’
‘You wish!’ said Chris, giving him a kiss. ‘One day, my love, we’ll do it.’
John and Justin both looked at each other suddenly, and were surprised to catch the other’s glance, though each did not know how to interpret it. Chris was busy with Justin’s tie and fortunately missed the exchange.
Again they went down to the lobby, all dressed in faultless morning dress and carrying their top hats, and there met Tom and his parents, similarly attired. Together, accompanied by all their friends, they walked to Buckingham Palace, for this was the morning that Tom and Justin were to be invested with the Queen’s Commendation for Bravery.
At the gates, only Tom and his parents, Justin, with John and Chris, his two permitted guests, were allowed through. As they entered the Palace, Justin suddenly got weepy, as he remembered that by rights it should have been his parents with him, and how proud they had been that their son was to be decorated by the Queen. They managed to find a cloakroom, where Chris and John were able to wipe Justin’s face, and hug him until his distress ceased and he got control of himself again.
‘Thanks, guys, I’ll be fine now. I’m really sorry for cracking up like that. It was just suddenly a bit much.’
John said ‘Don’t worry, Justin, it’s an emotional day for you, and for us, too, because we love you!’
The ceremony began exactly on time, and there were about forty others to receive decorations at the same time. So there was music played by a military band as one by one the recipients went forward to meet the Queen and other members of the royal family, the boys being the last to go forward. Tom went before Justin, and Justin noticed that the Queen spent some length of time talking with him. Tom received his award, stepped back, and bowed, returning, very red-faced, to his seat after shaking hands with the other royals present. Now it was Justin’s turn. With everyone’s eyes on him, he walked up the aisle between the seats, the longest walk he had ever made. He felt as though his ears were on fire. Then he looked up and saw the Queen smiling encouragingly up at him.
‘How small she is!’ he thought.
‘I’ve been looking forward to meeting you’ said the Queen, surprising him.
Justin had no idea what to say to that, so he just blurted out
‘It’s very nice to meet you too, your Majesty!’ and the Queen laughed.
‘You know, I think what you did was very remarkable.’
‘Thank you, Ma’am, but I can’t see why it deserves all this fuss. It just had to be done, and there was only Tom and me to do it. It isn’t as if we were in any danger ourselves.’
‘That’s not what I gather. The police report said that you had both been very courageous and resourceful, and I’m very pleased to be able to reward that. Now, isn’t one of the young men you rescued here today?’
‘Yes, Ma’am, and another is waiting outside.’
‘Oh, what a shame! I’m sure we could have squeezed him in somewhere. Too bad. Anyway, your friend Thomas tells me that really the organization of your adventure was largely your idea.’
‘I think he’s just being modest.’
‘So do I, but I think you are being modest, too. Which does you both credit. On another matter, Justin, I am so very sorry not to be able to meet your parents and tell them what a fine son they have.’ Her voice dropped sympathetically. ‘I heard that they both died tragically recently, and I want to say how very sorry I am. It must be so very difficult for you; I wasn’t so very much older than you when I lost my father, and I remember vividly how it felt.’
Justin started to thank the Queen, but his shoulders started shaking, and tears sprang again to his eyes. Quick as a flash, an equerry appeared, to hustle Justin away before he disgraced himself, but the Queen waved him away irritably.
‘Don’t worry, Justin. I’m sure they are here today, and as proud as can be.’
She gave Justin his medal, a spray of laurel leaves in silver, and shook his hand.
‘Congratulations, Justin. Goodbye, and I do hope we meet again.’
Justin, unable to speak, remembered to step back and bow, then moved to one side to shake hands with the tall Duke of Edinburgh, who looked rather disapproving of Justin’ tears, and said nothing. Prince William was next in line, and he, as he shook hands with Justin, said quietly ‘Pay no attention to him, mate. I know what it’s like to lose parents, too. But it gets better, eventually; keep your chin up! Oh, and congratulations; I think what you did was really cool.’ He grinned at Justin, who managed a weak smile back, and just about managed to find his way back to his seat through his teary eyes. In his seat, Chris took Justin’s hand for a moment and squeezed it.
Outside afterwards, there were photographs galore, and even an interview with a journalist from the Daily Telegraph. Then Justin and Tom went with all their friends and family to a champagne reception in a nearby hotel. Directly afterwards, Justin’s aunt and uncle and Tom’s parents had to leave, but John took Justin, Tom, Tony, Chris and Tim for a huge and very expensive celebratory meal in the Ritz. As they walked through Green Park in their morning dress and top hats, people turned and stared at the group of six such handsome young men.