Luke saw me out of sleep too. The next thing I was aware of was a stinging slap on the bum – I must have been sleeping on my side – and flipped protestingly onto my back. That was instinctive but unwise, because I never wore PJs, and in this heat I was covered by nothing but a sheet.

My tormentor was wearing only a short pair of shorts, and his hair was wild again. "Wake up, sluggard! It’s nine o’clock and it’s a glorious day. Mum and your dad have already gone, and he gave me permission to raise the dead. So up, you sloth, up! Oh, hmmmm, you are up, I see. Already. Or was it me who raised the dead? Hmmmm."

I blushed, and he saw it. "Sorry, Joe. But mountains are difficult things to miss. Specially high ones. Alps on Alps arise. Well, hmmmm, Himalayas in your case. OK, I’ll tactfully disappear if you promise to get down quick. Not that down. Downstairs down. I’ll make your coffee. You brush your teeth. Have a pee, if you can in that state. And a shit if you have to. That’s all you’re allowed. Skip the shower. And" – he felt my face – "yes, you can skip the shave. Hurry!"

Having my face stroked did nothing to reduce the height of the Himalayas but, by applying some force, I peed, and crapped, and did my teeth, and splashed some water on my face, and dressed just like him. I’m in love, I thought wuzzily. I’m such a novice that I’ve no idea how to play this game. So the only tactic is to play it slowly. The mountain finally lost interest.

Downstairs, Luke was waiting with my coffee and dragged me onto the lawn, where he’d set the scene with two of our adjustable sun-beds and a bottle of sun-tan lotion.

"We’re going to have a nice lazy day, talking and … talking. Come on, Joe, drink your coffee – you’re still zomboid!"

I obeyed, and felt the caffeine kick in. "That looks better," he said, surveying my face. "And it looks like you slept better than the night before, too."

"Yes, I did. Looks like you did too."

"Yup. Last night reduced the pressure. Let out stuff that had been bottled up. So I slept well."

I looked at him dubiously. "That another of your famous double meanings, you squirt?"

"What d’you … Oh, shit!" He was surprised and amused. "Missed that one. Heehee! No, for once it wasn’t." Then his face fell. "Joe, I can’t. Not yet. I know I’m … backward for my age. I do have, um, dry orgasms. But I can’t squirt."

"Don’t worry, Luke. It’ll – "

"Don’t say it! That’s too dire, even for you!"

"OK." I smiled. "But, you know, I can’t help hoping it’ll wait for a while."

"Why on earth? The sooner the better."

"I understand that. But I was thinking of your voice. That’s the tragedy for boys with good voices. It’s not till quite late that they get enough control and sensitivity to do justice to the music or the words. They may be at their peak for just a few months before – crack – the voice breaks, and it’s all over."

"Yes, I see what you mean. But I’d rather have the other. Anyway, I think it’ll be some time yet. I haven’t even got any hairs yet. Well, maybe there’s one."

Remembering the embarrassments of this phase, though I’d been younger than him, I thought it best to steer the subject away. "The sun’s getting hot. I’m going to put some lotion on," and I picked up the bottle. But he swung the subject back again.

"Put it on me, yes. Then I’ll do you."

I knew exactly what would happen if we did, and was sure that he knew too. It seemed the time to lay down some ground-rules, but sugaring the pill in a palatable coating. "Luke, listen. Do you know anything about geology?"

"What’s that got to do with it?" He leant over to look at me. "No, not much."

"Well, I do. I did it for GCSE, and you’re in for a lecture. You were talking about mountains just now. One of the ways real mountains are formed is when the plates of the earth’s crust bump into each other and get pushed up. A process called orogenesis. The period it happens is called an orogeny – the Himalayas, for example, were formed in an older orogeny, the Alps in a younger. Areas where it happens are called orogenous zones." I emphasised the first letter, and he giggled. "Right, you can see what’s coming. There are various ways that we get erections. One of them’s our sensitive areas. Erogenous zones. Rather similar, in a way. Activity there generates our mountains. Get the point? No touching or feeling, please."

He almost pouted. "Why not? I’ve seen yours already. And look." He moved his arm, which had been in the way, to reveal an unmistakable mountain in his shorts. Which made my own shorts grow one too. As, inevitably, he saw.

"So it’s too late, Joe. It’s like that psalm at evensong yesterday. ‘The mountains skipped like rams and the little hills like young sheep.’ Putting on lotion won’t make them any bigger."

I couldn’t help laughing. I’d lost that round, and knew it. "God, you’re a randy imp. All right. But nothing more than lotion. No stripping off. No touching round there. You’re trying to tempt me, and I refuse to be tempted. I know you’re a flirt – I’ve already discovered that – and I go along with it, usually. It’s fun. But we’ve got important things on the agenda – much too important for that. You’re normally so clear in your thinking, but right now your head’s being ruled by your willy."

He saw I was serious, and for a moment almost sulked. "Oh, all right. You do me, then."

So I did him. It was a young body, emphatically not fat, but with no real muscle definition yet. The sort of body I remembered from my prep school days. As I rubbed the lotion on, he was rolling words round his tongue, almost purring them. He reminded me of a marmalade cat being stroked. "Orogeny. Orogenesis. Orogenous. Orogenital. Hey, Joe, is there a word ‘orogenital’? If there isn’t there ought to be. It ought to mean, well, hmmmm."

I worked it out and chuckled. "Haven’t heard it. But that doesn’t signify. Look it up when we go indoors. Right, you’re done."

Then he anointed me. I’m modestly proud of my body: not muscle-bound, but in reasonably athletic trim. I’m not shaggy, but I had hair in the appropriate places. It seemed to fascinate him. He lingered on my thighs, on the trail that led from my navel to my shorts, on my armpits, on the brave little wisps that were beginning to sprout round my nipples, and on the rather soft and patchy stubble he’d forbidden me to shave. He sensed my vague disquiet. "Sorry, Joe. I’m just … interested. I’ve never seen a grown-up close-to like this. All I’ve seen is porn pictures, but that’s not the same. You can’t touch them."

A reasonable explanation, simple and rather forlorn, which somehow moved me. "Don’t worry, Luke. So long as we know where we stand." He giggled at that. "You’ve looked at porn a lot, have you?"

"Yes. D’you think that’s bad?"

"Not necessarily, so long as you don’t get carried away. Were you?"

"No, I don’t think so. It was more like … research, I suppose. Look, Joe, may I tell you about me? About this … part of me? I want you to know."

"Course, Go ahead."

"Well, I knew what my father had done, of course, and I understood the brutality of it. But I didn’t understand what was behind it. Why people made such a song and dance about sex. Mum tried to explain, but it didn’t really mean anything. Not till a year or so ago, when I discovered, you know, jerking off. I began to understand then. About the same time, Mum saw my father in prison, and that evening she was crying her heart out. I asked her why, and in the end she said that she’d shown him a picture of me, and he’d drooled over it. She said how glad she was I’d been too young for him to … want me, before he was caught.

"Well, that set me wondering. I knew about straight sex, more or less, but I didn’t know exactly what gays did, and why some of them wanted boys. So I searched on the web. Porn sites first. They showed me what gays did. The how. Then I read stories. They told me more about the why, though none of them really explained it. I tried straight stuff too, but it didn’t appeal to me. I mean, I didn’t identify with it. I did identify with the gay stuff. You know … Joe, you know when you jerk off you get, um, images in your mind?"

I nodded. I did know, belatedly.

"Well, I was seeing images of boys, not girls. Not boys my own age, but older. So I knew I was gay."

"Did that worry you?"

"Yes. No. Yes. Look, if you’re gay you’re gay. It’s built into you. You can’t help it. So it’s no use worrying. I worked that out. I can’t push my gayness away – it’s always in the front of my mind. That’s why I flirt with you, Joe. So I’m half happy with it.

"But I’m half worried too. When I told Mum I was gay, she was horrified. She knew she couldn’t forbid it, or persuade me out of it. But she’s got this thing about gays, that they’re all paedophiles. Well, I’m sure she’s wrong there, but her worry rubs off on me. Nobody knows if gayness is hereditary, do they? What if I’ve inherited mine and turn into a paedophile? And because I’m gay, I’m more likely to be abused. She’d never forgive herself if that happened. I know it’s not my fault, but it all makes me feel dirty. Flirty and dirty at the same time." He was almost in tears.

Not easy to offer reassurance. "Luke, you shouldn’t worry about gayness. Only about the misuse of gayness. It’s the same with straightness. Most people are straight. That’s built-in too – has to be, for the species to survive. But you get straight paedophiles who’re only interested in little girls, just as you get gay ones like your father who’re only interested in little boys. Both sorts misuse their sexuality. I can’t see you misusing yours that way."

"Christ no. Never. I detest my father." He might have been the marmalade cat again, back arched this time, fur bristling, spitting the words out. "I detest the thought of what he did. Joe, I feel as badly about those boys he abused as if he’d abused me. Anyway it’s only older boys who … turn me on. Like you."

"There you are, then. You haven’t inherited that sort of thing from him. You’re just an ordinary gay. Well, I’m not sure you’re ordinary. Say, a decent gay."

He laughed shortly. "Well, thanks. But being ordinary was what mattered most. That’s where the stories helped so much. They showed me I wasn’t a freak. And sometimes, not very often, they showed the difference between sex and proper love. One story in particular. It put me on to an ancient Greek book. Plato."

"Yes, I know. The Symposium. About the two halves meeting up again and becoming a whole."

"Then you do know it! But …"

"Yes, I’m sorry. I was slow in the uptake."

"Well, I knew that I wanted sex. I think I must be highly-sexed. I’m always getting a hard-on. But I knew from that story that I wanted love too. But I had nobody to love. OK, there was Mum, but that’s different. I wanted a boy to love. But I hardly knew any – I didn’t go to school. I knew boys in the choir and orchestra, of course. Sort of. But not well, and none of them, er, appealed. I didn’t think of them when I jerked off. I thought of my favourite porn pictures. But Joe, the last two nights I’ve thought of you." He was deadly serious. "Because the moment we met, I wanted to love you, and you to love me. I wanted to have sex with you. I saw that you were my other half."

"How could you tell, Luke?"

"I’m not sure. You were friendly, you were funny, you cared, you helped, you didn’t talk down to me, even though it turned out you were almost God at school. You just … clicked. And you haven’t un-clicked. We’ve so much in common – Yarborough, music, what makes us laugh. I know I’m bright. So are you. You understand me, somehow. We’re on the same wavelength. And you’re good-looking, and you’re gay too … oh my God, Joe – you are gay, aren’t you?"

I had to smile. "Yes, Luke, I’m gay."

"Have you ever had … ?"

"No, never."

"How do you know you’re gay, then?"

"Exactly the same way as you."

"How long have you known?"

I looked at my watch. "About thirty-six hours."

He instantly saw what that meant, and was flabbergasted. "Then it was me … But I don’t understand. Were you straight before I appeared?"

"No. I was in limbo. Look. People develop, physically and mentally, at very different rates. Physically, you’re a late developer. I was about average. Mentally – in discovering your sexuality – you’re an early developer. I was very late indeed. Luke, I’ve known plenty of people, boys and girls, but none of them’s ever appealed to me that way. I wasn’t gay, I wasn’t straight, I wasn’t anything. I’d looked at porn, a bit, out of sheer curiosity, and read a few of those stories, but they didn’t do anything for me. I couldn’t for the life of me see why people got so excited about it all. I never thought sexually about anyone, boys or girls."

"You mean you didn’t even jerk off?"

"Oh yes. Regularly. But just for the physical pleasure."

"Well, when you did, who did you picture?"

"Nobody. No pictures in my mind. Only music."


"I’d play it in my head. Anything wild or stirring, ending in a climax. Bolero. Radetzky March. Praetorius’ Terpsichore. That sort of thing."

"Blimey. And that was until … the day before yesterday, then?"

"That’s right. And the last two nights I’ve jerked off to an image of …"

"Me!" He was jubilant. "Joe, I knew we were two halves. A whole. That proves it."

"No, Luke it doesn’t, not by itself. It shows we’re both gay, and that we’re sexually attracted to each other. But it doesn’t prove anything about love, does it?"

"Well, I know I love you … Oh, I see what you mean. So you don’t love me?" His expression had slumped from the jubilant to the woebegone.

Diffident though I was, I had to reassure him. "I didn’t say that. If you’d asked me yesterday if I loved you, I’d have said ‘Maybe. Even probably.’ For all the same reasons you gave for loving me. But last night made me sure."

"Last night?"

"What you said about your life. How you said it. How you hugged me. How you kissed me. After that, I was sure. Yes, I do love you, Luke."

The smile was back all over his face. "Oh God, Joe, you had me worried then. So what’s stopping us …!" He was getting off his sun-bed and moving towards me.

It was so natural and obvious to progress to a hug and a kiss, if nothing else, that it went against all my instincts to refuse him. But I had to. "No, Luke, we shouldn’t. We can’t, not yet."

He stopped as if I’d slapped him in the face. Which, in a sense, I had. "Why ever not? Don’t you want to?"

"Yes, I do, desperately. Oh God, Luke, I want to hug you, I want to kiss you. But I daren’t even touch you. Because one thing will lead to another. It’s bound to. If we do kiss, we’ll end up doing Lord knows what. And I promised not to."

"Promised who?"

"Your mum."

"You talked to Mum about it? When?"

"After you’d gone to bed last night. Or more accurately she talked to me."

"What did she say?"

"Hang on. Didn’t she say anything to you before she left this morning?"

"Not much. Only something like ‘Have a good day with Joe. But don’t go too far. You’ve plenty of time.’ Oh, I see … I think. I thought she just meant relax in the garden."

"I wish she’d put it more clearly. You see, she knows we love each other, and she’s no objection to us talking about love and sex. Exploring the ground. But nothing beyond that. She’s got two problems, Luke. Because she knows how foul paedophilia is, her heart tells her that all gay sex is foul, though her head tells her it isn’t. And then you’re so young. If you were older, she wouldn’t mind, or not so much. But it wouldn’t be legal till you were sixteen. I’m not very bothered about that. But I wouldn’t be happy about us doing anything without her blessing. Without full consent. It would make me feel, well, frankly, like a paedophile."

"But that’s totally different. My father raped those boys. He used force. You wouldn’t. You’d do it in love. And I want it. No. Hold on." He paused, gazing at me as he thought it out. "Well, all that’s true. But I do see what you mean. If you had sex with me you’d feel like a paedophile, because one consent was missing. Which would make me feel the victim. Specially as I’ve got this dirty feeling already."

"That’s just it, Luke. I know you want it. You’d consent. But we need consent all round. We’ve got to play this slowly. I’m not going into it surreptitiously. Honesty almost always pays. Your mum has to know. And unless she consents, we’d lose all her trust, and maybe you’d lose her love too. We can’t risk that, can we?"

The thought appalled him. "No, no way. That would be the end of the world. My world."

"But it’s not the end of the world for us right now. Thing is, your mum said that if we’d chewed it over between ourselves and really were in love, then come and talk to her. Very likely she’d still say no. Look, if a boy like me asked a hundred mothers if I could have sex with their thirteen-year-old son, ninety nine would say no, straight off, wouldn’t they? Of course she’s dubious. But at least her mind’s not closed. She said so. She might say yes. We’ve just got to try to persuade her."

"Right! Then we must work out tactics." His optimism was back, and he seemed to relish the challenge. But he was also thoughtful about it. "It’s OK, Joe. I do understand now. I’m sorry. My impulses were running away with me. We’ve got to play it gently for Mum. We can’t possibly let her down. She’s been my lifeline, you know. She’s taught me so much – far more than I’d ever have learnt at school. Of course I love her. And need her love. But what about your dad? Was he in on this talk?"

"Yes. But no problem there. He won’t forbid me. He’s leaving it to me, knowing that I won’t go against your mum’s verdict. He’s been marvellously supportive all the way through. We’re lucky in our parents, you know."

"Yes, we are. Except my father, of course. Joe, you haven’t told me about your mum."

"Not much to tell. She died when I was four. Breast cancer. Dad brought me up single-handedly."

"Oh, Joe." He started to hold out his hand to me, but remembered. "Did you miss her terribly?"

"I suppose so. But I don’t really remember her, or how I felt when she died."

"Poor old Joe." He brooded, and evidently decided it was time for a light interlude in our heavy talk "Hey – that’s a thought! With your voice, you’d be a good Paul Robeson. Sing me Poor old Joe."

I felt in need of a break too, so I summoned up my best basso profondo. I knew the first line would be good for a giggle, and it got it. "Gone are the days when my heart was young and gay." But, my mind not being as twisted as Luke’s, I didn’t see the next pitfall until I was well and truly in it. "I hear their gentle voices calling ‘Poor old Joe.’ I’m coming, I’m coming, for my head …"

Luke was creasing himself with laughter. "Gotcha. No sex allowed, so poor old Joe’s not coming today. Well, not until tonight." He turned serious again. I was getting used to his sudden mood swings. "Joe, no sex, OK, not yet anyway. But that doesn’t stop us jerking off, does it? By ourselves?"

"No, course not."

"Well, when I picture you, I’d like to picture all of you. See what I mean? I know I saw your um, willy yesterday morning, but not properly. I won’t touch, promise. I’m not trying to seduce you." None the less he was enticing, insinuating, like a cat rubbing itself against one’s legs.

My doubts returned, and I hesitated. He nodded understandingly and glanced round, but we were overlooked only by the windows of my empty house. "I need a pee," he announced. "You don’t have to watch." His tactic was clearly ‘I show you mine and you show me yours.’

Needless to say, I did watch. He stood about six feet away, half-turned towards me, and dropped his shorts to his ankles. He folded his arms and let fly without holding his willy, which was semi-hard. The little hill was skipping like a young sheep. Definitely not Himalayan, but he was young. To be charitable, call it Alpine by comparison, let’s say the Matterhorn. When he was done, he bent down to hoist his shorts, turning his back on me for the sole purpose, apparently, of letting me see into his crack.

I felt I had to say something, but another bit of Kubla Khan was all that sprang to mind. "The deep romantic chasm!" Fatuous, and it played into his hands again.

"Hmmmm. What do we know about that chasm? Yes. ‘With ceaseless turmoil seething.’ Sounds like the trots. Gross. ‘As though this earth in fast thick pants were breathing.’ OK, it was wearing winter underwear. ‘A mighty fountain momently was forced.’ A sudden squirt in a deep romantic chasm? Hmmmm. No comment." A learned and ingenious youth, this, as well as filthy-minded and giggly, and his trademark hum was in full play today.

He looked at me expectantly. It was my turn for exposure, and I hesitated again. But I knew that a complete and authentic image of Luke would be with me that night. Fair was fair. So I did exactly the same as him, under his observant eye. As the stream died down, I felt my willy stirring and, still reluctant to display my Himalayan peak, I turned away to pull up my shorts, unintentionally showing him what he’d shown me. All my attempts at evasion with this gadfly were doomed to misfire.

"Ha! ‘A savage place, as hairy and enchanted …’ Hmmmm!" He giggled again. He seemed to have a fixation on both body hair and willies, possibly because he was well off in neither department.

"That reminds me …" we said simultaneously. "Snap!"

"After you," I said.

"Well, you were just like that limerick, about the old man of Australia. Know it? Who painted his bum like a dahlia. A penny a smell was all very well, but tuppence a look was a failure. Haha. What were you going to say?"

"A joke it reminded me of. Twelve trainee monks were being given their final test for spiritual purity. They were lined up in the nude, each with a little bell tied to his willy, while a beautiful girl danced naked. Well, she performed in front of the first monk, and nothing happened. Nor with the second. Nor with any of them until the last. And to his embarrassment his bell rang so loudly it fell off. So he stepped forward and bent down to pick it up. And all the eleven other bells rang."

Luke hooted with laughter. "Hoooo, that was good. Thinking about bells ringing, isn’t it time for some lunch? I had breakfast about three hours before you, you sluggard. You could come round to our place, but we haven’t stocked up the fridge yet."

"Oh no, eat here. We’ve plenty. Same sort of thing as Saturday do you?"

We collected the needful and took it into the garden, including a can of Boddy’s apiece. Luke’s, which I justified as part of his gradual education, caused him to utter a belch which could surely be heard at the end of the street. We ended up with melon, and somnolently flicked the pips at each other. It was very hot. Luke lay back and closed his eyes and I studied him.

This slip of a lad, bundle of mental energy, sensitive and creative thinker, impish humourist, fount of bawdy innuendo, exquisite singer, stalwart spirit, well read, well spoken, precocious yet with a youngster’s zest, deeply wronged yet deeply trusting, restrained yet impulsive, innocently yet rampantly inquisitive about sex. And knowledgeable about it – far more so than me. If and when it came to it, he’d be leading me, not me him. And I loved him. I yearned to touch him, feel him, hold him, kiss him, and plenty beyond. But I couldn’t. Call me a wimp for not letting my red-blooded instincts rip. But I knew that if I succumbed I could wreck the whole show. Frustrated but resigned, all I could do was study him.

His eyes opened, and he grinned. "What are you staring at? My flashing eyes and floating hair again?"

"Not your eyes. They were shut."

"My hair, then. It is floating today. Always is when I’ve just washed it."

"Reminds me of the rabbit."


"Who washed his thing and couldn’t do a hare with it."

He chortled. "But what were you staring at?"

"Partly what’s underneath that hair. I was thinking what a complex character you are. You are, you know."

"Yes. I know. Lots of sides to me, like a polyhedron. But most of them aren’t usually visible. I hide them even from Mum. OK, I had to tell her I was gay. That was too important to hide. But otherwise I show her only the comfortable bits she wants to see. I make them up sometimes, if they don’t exist. It saves her fretting."

"She knows you do that. She said so."

"Yes, but she doesn’t know how much. She hasn’t a clue how much."

Sue clearly gave him a safe environment to experiment in, to learn the skills of survival. "She thinks it’s the child in you. The immature. The learner."

He considered. "Yes. It probably is. Or was. But all my sides are open to you, Joe, all the real ones. I don’t have to pretend with you. Not on serious things – that would be immature. I’ve learnt that much. I want you to see the whole Luke, the real Luke. Do you like the real Luke?"

"I don’t like him, I love him. That’s the other thing I was thinking. How much I want to hug you and kiss you, and all the rest. And it hurts that I can’t. "

"Same here. But Joe. About hurting. If we’re open, and we don’t pretend, we run the risk of hurting each other. Not deliberately, just by being honest. D’you want us to be honest?"

"Yes. Definitely yes. Trying to please, trying not to hurt, is one thing. But if it means pretending, being less than honest, then I don’t want any of it. Doesn’t seem to be a proper part of love."

"No, it doesn’t. Joe, I read a sentence in a story on the net which struck a real chord. "Love comes from knowledge, truth and trust."

I thought about it. "That’s good. That’s spot-on, as I see it. Our motto?"

"Our motto."

"Luke, suppose, just suppose, your mum agrees to everything we want. How do you see things developing? How do we organise our lives?"

"Much like we do at the moment, I’d guess. But together, often, instead of separate. Singing, playing, fooling, talking, reading, loving. Anything else you like doing."

"But that could only be in the holidays. At school, we’ll have to do our own thing. OK, we’ll see each other and talk. But not that much. It’s not possible. And we wouldn’t be able to have sex. That’s right out. Anyone caught doing that is out on his ear. And in my position I couldn’t contemplate it."

Luke smiled. "I like it when you’re all serious and responsible. No, really. You wouldn’t be honest if you weren’t. But you obey the rules at school, yet you’re ready to break the law of the land. What’s the difference?"

"Oh, at school I’m police chief and judge in one, and have to keep my nose clean. Part of my job’s to enforce and uphold the law. Outside school, it’s not my job, I don’t have the same obligation to keep my nose clean. I’m just one of umpteen million citizens who exercise their judgement over how far to sidestep minor laws. If I were caught driving at 70 on a 60 mph road, I’d be upset, but only at being caught, so long as I hadn’t been endangering anyone else. If I’d been doing 120 and liable to injure other road users, it’d be a different matter. This law seems rather comparable. In our case, we’d not be harming anyone, even ourselves."

"You should become a lawyer like your dad."

"Well, quite likely I will. I’m hoping to read law at university. What about you? What might you end up doing?"

"Dunno. It all depends. Joe, I know I’m bright, and I want to make use of it. But this bloody business has kept me penned up. I’ve no way of shining, except at home with Mum. My voice isn’t bad, nor’s my oboe, but they’re not public things. In the orchestra or the choir you’re part of a team. I’ve had no ambitions, because I’ve had no confidence. And no opportunity."

"Hold on, Luke. No confidence? You seem to be brimming with that."

He smiled at me. "Now, yes, maybe. Till you turned up, no."


"Joe, almost the moment I saw you, I was in awe of you."

"Awe?" I was almost angry. "I don’t live on a pedestal, for God’s sake. I’m not awesome. I hope. Or awe-inspiring. Awful, maybe. Why awe?"

"Not that sort of awe, Joe. Not the sort that makes you close your eyes in holy dread. Good awe. Respect. With love. I don’t put you on a pedestal, do I? Haven’t you noticed? No, I knock you off. Hmmmm, well.

"Look, Joe. My self-esteem wasn’t very high. Apart from Mum, I was alone. I was scared of the big world out there. I was a nobody, who looked like getting nowhere. Then along you came, the big man at school. Captain of this and that. You shouldn’t have taken any notice of me. But you did. You were friendly and caring. You went out of your way to calm my fears about Yarborough. You gave me love. Cross fingers, you’ll give me … fulfilment. You’ve encouraged me, repackaged me, brought me out of my shell. Given me confidence, straight off. You didn’t even know you were doing it. But you were.

"So now I’m suddenly champing at the bit. I want to storm the world. Do something good, I don’t know what. Music, maybe – anything. That’s why I was so sad I had to turn down your idea of a concert. Because we couldn’t risk the publicity. An opportunity lost."

"If that’s the case, Luke, you must storm the world. Other opportunities will crop up at Yarborough."

"Yes. Yes, they will. Have you read Philip Pullman, Joe? His Dark Materials?" I nodded. "Remember Lyra says, ‘If you must and you can, there’s no excuse’?"

"I’d forgotten that. How true. How very true. So don’t let that foul business hold you back."

"I’ll try not to, but it’s such a … a dampener. Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?"

We’d been intense for long enough. I pretended to peer at his shorts. "Don’t think so, but it’s difficult to tell."

"What …? Oh, Joe, I can’t help it if it’s … Oh, JOE! You’re a total arsehole!" He flung the melon skins and empty beer cans at my head and collapsed into peals of laughter. "Molehill!" he finally spluttered, his wide mouth in a wide grin. "You wait. One day …"

Sobering , we both pondered. "D’you know," I said at last, "I think we’ve already covered a lot of what we need to say to your mum." We chewed it over, added in a few more thoughts, put it in order, and reckoned we were as prepared as we could be.

"Luke, you’re turning red – not your hair, you twit." He had that faintly translucent skin which seems to go with red hair, and it was looking overdone. "Suggest we go in. Would you like me," I asked in my best mock-seductive voice, "to show you my CDs?"

On the way in I remembered something. "Hey, we wanted to look up a word, didn’t we? What was it again?"

"Oh yes. Orogenital."

I found Dad’s big dictionary and he leafed through it. "Yes! It does exist! ‘Stimulating the genitals with the mouth.’ Hmmmm!" He’d worked out, from scratch, that it should exist, and what it ought to mean. At the age of thirteen. Good grief.

We repaired to my room, where Luke hadn’t been before. No seduction here either. He prowled around like an inquisitive cat, looking at my books, browsing through my CDs. He tooted inexpertly on my trumpet and strummed delicately on my clavichord. Finding that he didn’t know Purcell’s secular music and was curious about it, I put some on for him. "Luke, this is a love song that fits you. ‘If music be the food of love’."

"Oh, right. From Twelfth Night."

"Actually no. Same first line, but these words are by a friend of Purcell’s. I ought to sing it myself, because I love you, but it’s for tenor."

If music be the food of love,
Sing on till I am filled with joy;
For then my listening soul you move
With pleasures that can never cloy.
Your eyes, your mien, your tongue declare
That you are music everywhere.

"That’s lovely. And I liked the grace notes. Wish you could sing it. Or I could."

"Well, let’s find some Purcell we can sing." I got out the score of Come, ye sons of art, the ode for the birthday of Queen Mary. We tried out the last three numbers, for solo treble, solo bass, and duo, while I accompanied on the clavichord. That was great fun, but there was nothing else in the ode for our voices, so I played the CD of it from the beginning to introduce him to the countertenors sounding the trumpet there. We hadn’t got far when the phone rang.

It was Sue, speaking from Dad’s office, wanting Luke. I put him on and returned to the score. A few minutes later he came flying in, taut with an emotion I couldn’t identify.