An Innocent's Adventures in the Wicked World. (with apologies to Voltaire, Thomas Hughes, Homer and others who provided the inspiration and occasionally the words.)
In the village of Elmcombe, in the county of Gloucestershire lived a youth whose genes had endowed him with a most attractive disposition. He was also both handsome and amenable. His name, given at baptism with all due rites of the church, was Colin which means (so they say) 'strong and virile' but ever since he had started to talk (at the age of eighteen months) he had called himself 'Candy', his surname, and Candy he had remained and would remain until the end of his life.
His parents were poor but deserving but when, in an horrendous accident involving a combine harvester and a quart of extra strong cider, they had both been killed, Candy was adopted by the owner of the neighbouring castle, Sir Henry Docklehurst-Brent who had taken a liking to the fair-haired, sweet-smiling youth and was thinking (let's be charitable) of making him his heir. The rumour that he actually wanted to get into Candy's underwear was undoubtedly a vile calumny.
It was actually suspected that Candy's putative dead 'father' was not his real one and that Sir Henry had been exercising his 'droit de seigneur' around the village and thus was in fact Candy's real father.
Sir Henry esteemed himself as one of the most important aristocrats of the area as half his castle was falling down (always a sign of respectability) and his nose was bent in truly autocratic, Roman style. Candy's nose was perfectly straight except for a slight uplift at the very end which added to his beguiling look.
The castle had extensive grounds which were looked after by a head gardener, two under gardeners and a boy whose name was Justin. This last was a cheerful lad, brown as a berry (from being in the open air all day) and cheeky as a young bantam cock. In spite of the fact that this characteristic often earned him a box round the ears from the head gardener and the two under gardeners, he bore it all with good humour and always bounced back as soon as the ringing in his head stopped.
Candy and Justin formed quite a friendship, Candy admiring Justin's resilience, and Justin admiring Candy's tip-tilted nose. They were often in each other's company and Candy liked to watch as Justin, shirt discarded so that his bronzed body was displayed to its full advantage, weeded the borders or dug up the potatoes in the vegetable garden.
One hot summer's day, when it really was too hot to do much else but loll in the shade, they both retired to the shadows of the asparagus bed where, in a hollow which hid them from sight, and accompanied by the cackling of the magpies, they explored (as young boys often do) each other's bodies, finding more about the other than they knew about themselves.
"Oh look," said Justin, with a grin and a giggle, which included a minor wrestle, a fumble and a grope. Then, after a subsequent mutual opening of trousers and an exploration of what lay, or rather stood therein, he said, "Look how your thingie stands up from between your legs."
"That's called a penis," said Candy, who had received an elementary education in philosophy and anatomy at the hands of his tutor, a Mr Albright, who believed in the comforting theory that 'everything is probably for the best in this the best of all possible worlds' (though occasionally the word 'probably' did plant a suspicion of doubt into his mind).
"It feels nice when you do that," said Justin.
"And even better when you do it to me at the same time."
They were so occupied with what they were doing that they failed to notice the approach of the head gardener who was looking for Justin to pick some raspberries for the Castle. The first they heard was his outraged shriek, the shout of someone who had forgotten what it was to be young, inquisitive and always sexually excited. "You pair of disgusting young degenerates. Just you wait until Sir Henry hears about this."
He took hold of them by the scruffs of their respective necks and dragged them, protesting, into the castle where he proceeded to give a highly-coloured account of what he had seen.
"We never," said Justin after a particularly exaggerated description of their activities.
"No, we didn't," said Candy, though thinking about it later, he decided that it might have been fun if they had done so.
But, of course, it was the present rather than the future that was occupying the two lads and the adults at the moment. Justin was given his immediate dismissal and Sir Henry announced that Candy would be despatched to a boarding school where 'manhood' would be beaten into him and there would be no opportunity for such abominable practices for which he was showing such a predilection.
It can be revealed that Justin, later in his life, in spite of being dismissed so ignominiously, had a highly successful career at first as a model, then as a movie porn star and high-class hustler, and finally, through judicious investment of the 'wages of sin' on the stock exchange, becoming rich and powerful. So much so that, in the great depression when Sir Henry went bankrupt and had to sell his castle, Justin bought it, retaining Sir Henry as his estate agent.
But this is all in the future.
Candy was almost immediately despatched to Lowbridge Academy, an establishment which was run on almost Gradgrind principles and where caning was still accepted as the proper punishment for even minor infringements of the rules. Fagging was also part of the curriculum.
Candy fitted in perfectly. At the start he was bullied unmercifully by his peers, one of their favourite activities being to hold him upside down over the toilet bowl and then flush it. The fact that, while holding him by the legs and body, fingers were investigating his groin did much to mitigate the unpleasantness of the episodes.
He put up with all this, of course, because of the beliefs of his former tutor, Mr Albright, which had been instilled into him. 'Everything is probably for the best in this the best of all possible worlds' echoing in his mind. After all what was a wet head compared to tickled genitalia?
More was to come though.
"FAG!" The cry echoed down the corridors issuing from the elevated (both literally and metaphorically) study dorms of the sixth year. Instantly first formers, of whom Candy was one, raced up the stairs and stood panting in a line waiting to see which one would be picked. A study door opened. Tall, powerful, broad-shouldered, dark of hair, handsome of features though possibly slightly too prognathous, Duncan Sterling, Head of School, Captain of the Rugby 15 stood there.
Candy almost fainted.
Sterling looked along the line. It was almost as if you could read his thoughts, too tall, too short, too spotty, ears too big, knees too knobbly, wears spectacles, prominent adam's apple, bowlegged until he stopped in front of Candy.
"What's your name?" he asked and his voice was deep and masculine.
"Candy, sir." It came out almost as a squeak.
"You'll do. Come in and toast my crumpets."
From head down in the toilet to being picked by the Head of School (to toast his crumpets whatever that might mean) Candy could scarcely believe his change of fortune.
"Yes, sir." And this time he was pleased that his voice came out almost normal. He followed the 'great man' into his study where a huge roaring fire filled the room with warmth. Two other 'men' were also there, lounging in easy chairs. Candy recognised them as prefects but did not know their names. They surveyed Candy with interest and almost, it seemed to him, with appreciation.
"You've got a pretty one from the plebs this time," said one of the 'men' at last.
"He's certainly better looking than the last one," said the other.
"If he's any good with crumpets," said Sterling, "we'll keep him."
"I'm s..sorry, s..sir," stammered Candy. "I'm not sure what you mean."
Sterling pointed to a pile of pale, circular objects with holes on one side. He handed Candy a long-handled fork told him to toast them in the fire. "If you burn them, you're in trouble," he said, though he might have had a twinkle in his eye.
"Then plaster them with butter and we'll eat 'em."
Candy was extra specially careful, checking every few minutes to see they did not burn. Then he spread butter on them until it ran off the edges and finally presented them to the three prefects.
"Not bad," said one of them.
"Not bad?" said Sterling. "They're marvellous. Here, Candy or whatever your name is. Have one for yourself as a reward."
The butter ran down his chin but for a moment he felt in seventh heaven. Truly this was indeed the best of all possible worlds.
"Right you are, young Candy," said Sterling. "Do you want to be my fag?"
"Oh yes, sir, please, sir."
"Right. I'll require my cup of tea at seven o'clock in the morning. Can you make tea?"
"Oh yes, sir." He had no idea but he would find out.
"By my bed side with a cup of steaming hot tea at seven o'clock on the dot. And woe betide you if you're a minute late."
"And you don't have to call me 'sir'. Call me Sterling." He put out his hand and his finger touched Candy's chin where the dribble of butter had run down. The touch gave Candy a shock of excitement. To his surprise, instead of wiping his hand, Sterling put his finger up to his own mouth and licked it clean.
Candy blushed and the other two laughed.
"Cut along then, Candy."
"Yes, sir, I mean yes, Sterling."
So started the best days of Candy's life at school. After a few disasters in tea making (like not bringing the water to the boil, forgetting to put in the tea leaves, failing to realise that milk and sugar were a necessary part of the procedure) all of which Sterling forgave, Candy looked forward to getting up at the crack of dawn, brewing tea (just how Sterling liked it) and then standing by the side of his bed looking down at the sleeping Head of School. Asleep Sterling looked much younger though still, Candy thought, the most handsome person he had ever met. Sometimes Sterling had thrown back the covers and Candy gazed in awe at his bare chest which the pyjama jacket failed to cover. Often Sterling didn't respond to Candy's soft greeting, "Sterling, here's your tea," and on those occasions, greatly daring, Candy would touch his bare shoulder, feeling the warmth of his body and then gently shaking him. Once, with his hand on Sterling's body, Candy failed to notice that Sterling's eyes were half open and that he was lying quietly there, peering up from under his eyelashes. How long he had been doing that Candy didn't know and it was only when he noticed and snatched his hand away, that he saw Sterling's smile, wistful and perhaps longing. But they never went further.
Lessons, though, were another matter. The elementary essentials of mathematics, English grammar and Latin construction were beaten into him.
"Genitive plural of first declension 'mensa', Candy. Quick boy or you get a tanning."
"Mensorum, sir, of the tables," managed Candy.
"Well done. Just escaped a punishment."
"Thank you, sir."
"No need for sycophancy, Candy."
"Are you being cheeky?"
"Me, sir. No, sir. Absolutely not."
"I think I'll give you a couple of taps anyway."
Candy sighed as he went to the front of the class, bent over and the 'couple of taps' were administered onto his rounded bottom. This, he thought, must be part of the 'probably' that Mr Albright had wisely included in his philosophy.
But good things, as well as bad things, eventually run their courses. As Candy proceeded up the school, he stopped being a fag, Sterling left for a glittering career first at Oxford and then in the military. Candy himself became a prefect and had his own fag to toast his crumpets and make his tea, a boy with dark hair and olive skin who obviously worshipped him and would, Candy was sure, have done with him what Justin, the gardener's boy had almost done and more, but Candy held himself in check.
His release was solitary though just as forbidden by the school rules.
So Candy finished his schooling and emerged, still ostensibly a virgin. Following Sterling's example, he decided to join the Royal Air Force, a decision which Sir Henry, still in loco parentis in spite of the episode with the gardener's boy, approved.
Initial military training (square bashing) was very like being back at school again. Instead of teachers shouting at him, though, it was sergeants, corporals and lance corporals. Admittedly these used rather different language than the pedagogues of Lowbridge Academy and Candy's vocabulary was very soon broadened and 'enriched'.
However, as soon as he learned to march in time with the others, shoulder, order and present arms, stick a bayonet into a straw filled dummy with a horrifying roar, and polish his brasses and boots to a reflective brilliance, circumstances became easier.
He decided he'd like to be a pilot but a couple of trips in a jet plane showed him that his stomach was not suited for this sort of locomotion and he opted for ground crew.
Soon he became an RTO/DF, which was a radio telephonist operator/direction finder and was granted the exalted rank of LAC (Leading Aircraftsman) which was one step up from the common 'oiks'. He got on well with his fellows, joining in with their games, and they seemed to accept him in spite of his 'toffish' accent.
One game Candy particularly liked was 'shaking hands'. Someone would suddenly whisper, "Let's shake hands with . . . . ."
Everyone would advance on whoever was the victim, peacefully lying on his bed listening to Radio Luxembourg. He would be held down arms and legs, and then two guys would do the 'shaking'. This involved each one putting his hand up the trouser leg of the victim until it reached the top. Trousers in those days were comparatively full and there was space at the crotch for fumbling around. Then having touched the hand of the other one coming up the other side, they would withdraw. Well, that was the idea.
There were various ways of prolonging the agony (or pleasure). One Candy found particularly effective was to bend one of his knees so that, though one person's hand was able to go straight up, the other one was delayed at the knee area. The groping hand at the top, waiting for the hand to touch would encounter various other parts of anatomy and there would be shouts of protest and roars of laughter as the victim's genitals were groped.
The only problem Candy had when he was the chosen victim, and more often than not he seemed to be the favourite, was that he always got an immediate hard which was considered bad form though it never stopped them picking on him. Perhaps indeed it increased the occasions. One lad, a Royal Artillery Lance Bombardier called Rod would unashamedly grab hold of Candy's rapidly hardening cock and squeeze it. But it never went further than that.
There must be a reason that I'm still a virgin, Candy decided. It was after all probably for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds. Perhaps he was being saved for the 'one and only'. It wasn't much consolation though.
He wondered what Sterling was doing. He'd probably be a Squadron Leader or Wing Commander by now or even higher. Then one day he found out.
Orders were that there'd be a special parade and the inspection would be made by Group Captain Sir Duncan Sterling. Candy had never realised that his late fag master was in the ranks of the titled. Perhaps he hadn't been at school and his father had died. This was thrilling news.
Candy hoped he'd be picked for the parade, though, when he was, he was terrified that he'd make a fool of himself in front of his idol. Would Sterling recognise him? If he did would he speak to him? And finally would Candy be able to reply in a properly military manner or would any answer come out in a juvenile squeak, as it had done years before in the line-up for fag choosing?
"Parade, ATTENTION," shouted the Sergeant Major.
There was a consolidated thump as a hundred and three left boots crashed to the ground in perfect synchronisation.
"Parade will advance in column of three. By the left, quick MARCH."
In perfect formation they marched, accompanied by martial music, halted, ordered and presented arms, then stood in open order waiting for the great man to inspect. Not daring to do anything but face front, Candy could see Sterling out of the corner of his eye, in full dress uniform and the wide bands of his rank on his sleeves. He was every bit as attractive as he had been at school though his jaw was if anything even firmer, a few lines round his eyes and beside his mouth, perhaps a hint of grey hair showed amongst the blackness beneath his cap. He stopped from time to time to say a few words to airmen who caught his fancy and then he was in front of Candy, within inches and past. He hadn't even noticed him and Candy experienced a feeling of profound and bitter disappointment.
Then Sterling stopped and turned. His escort, surprised, almost bumped into him but managed to achieve some sort of military full stop. Sterling looked Candy in the eyes. "I know you," he said.
"Leading Aircraftsman Candy, sir." And then quietly. "I was your fag at Lowbridge."
"Of course you were," said Sterling. "And an excellent one indeed. Well, good luck in your career, Candy." And was gone.
What Candy had expected he wasn't sure. Perhaps he secretly hoped that Sterling would make an opportunity to see him privately just to talk of course, though Candy with wild imaginings envisaged much more. Of course nothing like this happened.
Group Captain Sir Duncan Sterling finished his inspection, presumably was entertained in the Officers' Mess and left the camp to be seen no more. All was as it should be; Candy, though, felt immeasurably disappointed. He had followed his 'idol' (for that was whom he realised he was) into the forces and now was completely disillusioned.
Whilst before he had enjoyed the life, even the discipline, and the fellowship of his comrades, now all seemed pointless. Even 'shaking hands', an activity which never reached any sort of fulfilment became tedious. Candy wanted out and when his term of engagement was completed, he refused to sign on again, in spite of predictions of a brilliant career, and became a civilian again.
Candy's first thought was to go back to Elmcombe. Sir Henry, though, was having none of it. Admittedly he has having financial problems of his own. It was rumoured that the Castle would have to be sold. He couldn't be putting up with a dependent 'son' whom, he felt, had let himself down by deserting the armed forces. Candy couldn't really explain his reasons for doing so and Sir Henry told him that he'd have to manage on his own, find a job and support himself. He'd give him a reference saying he was honest and reliable but that was all he could do, circumstances being what they were.
Mr Albright wrote him a letter saying that when Candy looked back on this time, he'd see that all was probably for the best in this the best of all possible worlds. Candy was slightly comforted by his and set out to earn his living.
He found though that he had few qualifications for anything professional and filling shelves in the local Supermarket was an easy stopgap which provided him a small wage, just enough to rent a tiny one-room bed sit in Belsize Park and feed himself, as long as he bought only the cheapest of foods and took advantage of the staff discount which his employers offered.
One morning, in the confines of the supermarket where they squandered their souls to tins of beans and Kellogg's corn flakes, a new shelf-filler arrived. This one was about Candy's age. His name was Tristram.
He had a shock of brown hair which stood up in all directions, an open face and a smile so wide as to encompass the world. He had a broad Cockney accent and a cheerful comment for everyone.
"Wotcher, mate," he said to Candy. "You've gotta big 'un today," as he plumped down a pile of orders to fill.
Candy felt myself blushing. Did he understand the double entendre? His smile could have indicated compliance or just well-wishing.
Feeling bold, Candy said, "You've been looking."
Tristram laughed, clapped Candy on the shoulder and went on whistling.
Candy's immediate boss, Mr Porter, standing at the tinned fish counter opposite him frowned. "He should take life more seriously," he said.
No he shouldn't, Candy felt like answering. He should laugh and make dirty jokes and whistle and enjoy life and, he might have added, go to bed with me and have marvellous sex - or he'll grow old and grey like you and have a permanent frown and probably an ulcer.
None of this Candy said, of course, but at lunch time in the staff canteen, carrying his tray of shepherd's pie made with some dubious minced meat and reconstituted potato, and tinned pears for pudding, Candy located Tristram sitting with some others, went over feeling scared that he'd be snubbed and asked if they'd mind him joining them.
Tristram looked at him, winking as if they shared some tremendous joke and said, "Course not. 'Ere, shove up your fat arses, let my mate in." And they moved so that Candy could sit next to him and feel his thigh against his while he laughed and made fun of all the bosses, and the job, and the supermarket, and the world - and Candy fell in love with him straight away.
He loved the way his dark hair fell over his forehead to be brushed aside impatiently when it got in his way. He loved his grey eyes and his dark eyebrows which thickly overshadowed them. He loved his voice, light and firm, with its slight cockney accent. Most of all he loved his body, the slim tapering waist, his muscular legs, which could be seen in his tightish jeans and, to top it all, he liked the bulge which was so provocatively apparent in the fork at the top of his legs.
Sometimes Candy wondered whether Tristram was gay - that bulge from time to time seemed more pronounced when the two of them sat together in the summer months in the park during the half hour they had for lunch, where the kids played 'footie' and some people walked their dogs and he and Tristram ate their sandwiches together, elbows and upper arms occasionally touching. It seemed that Tristram preferred his company to the other shelf-fillers.
But it appeared that Tristram was straight or at least his conversation was practically always concerned with 'birds', which one he rather fancied when the check-out girls, pert-breasted, strutted past them, chatting and giggling knowing they were being observed by the guys on the grass, which one he had taken out the previous Saturday to the club where they had both got high on beer shandies and finished up dancing the night away before crashing out into bed together.
Nevertheless Candy was ever optimistic, thanks to Mr Albright, and often wondered whether, after a 'lads' night out, Tristram could be persuaded to come back to Candy's little bed-sit where literally anything could happen.
And one night it did. The evening hadn't been much of a success on the 'pulling' front, well, not at least as far as Tristram was concerned. There hadn't been much 'talent' around though of course Candy was quite happy in the company of Tristram's laughing face and merry chatter. They'd perhaps had rather too much to drink, halves of bitter giving way to whisky chasers and when my not-so-genial host called 'Time' Tristram staggered as he got up and Candy had to steady him by clasping him around the waist so that their two bodies were, for a second, moulded together.
"Whoops," said Tristram.
Hip to hip, thigh to thigh, arms round each other, as if they were doing a three-legged race, they exited.
"Coffee?" suggested Candy, momentarily sobered by the cool air outside.
"Don't fancy that frothy cappuccino stuff," said Tristram. "Reminds me of shaving cream." He laughed immoderately.
"Come back to my place," said Candy, greatly daring. "I've got some real stuff." And indeed he had recently bought himself a coffee maker and, feeling it the height of sophistication, some ground coffee beans.
They got in, shushing each other noisily as they went upstairs to avoid rousing the landlady who lived on the ground floor and Tristram collapsed on the bed which, apart from a rather uncomfortable wooden chair, was the only place to sit.
Candy made the coffee, not sure how successful it would be, but Tristram appeared to approve. He lolled on the bed, giggling and occasionally talking loudly. After a while Candy sat beside him whispering that his landlady didn't approve of 'guests' after dark and that they must be quiet. He took Tristram's mug and put them both out of the way.
"Daft old cow," said Tristram into Candy's ear. His breath tickled and Candy backed away. "You don't want to bovver about daft old cows like that."
"Shush," said Candy and put his hand over Tristram's mouth.
Tristram laughed. Candy could feel the pulses of breath against his palm. Then Tristram grabbed hold of his arm and freed himself, pulled Candy down beside him and they were wrestling together.
To stop Tristram's laughter, Candy launched himself on top of him, lying across his body, trying to stop him. For a moment they wrestled together and Candy could feel Tristram's body under him. Their faces were close, Tristram's mouth open, the laughter bubbling out. Both his hands were held and all Candy could do to stop him was to cover his mouth with his. It was as near a kiss as it could possibly be.
For a moment they both were silent, immobile. Candy felt Tristram's body under him, the softness of his groin against his rapidly hardening, the warmth of his chest against his and the panting of breath into his own open mouth. For a single moment their tongues met.
Then Tristram went rigid. He wrenched his head aside. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"
Candy felt his mistake was all too obvious but he attempted to justify himself. "I was just trying to stop you laughing." It sounded weak even to himself.
"You're a fucking queer," said Tristram, his expression twisted into a mask of disgust. He aimed a fist at Candy's face. Luckily he was still drunk and the punch didn't land fully. Even so it caught the side of his jaw and Candy fell heavily onto the floor.
"Fucking queer," said Tristram, getting up from the bed and aiming a kick at Candy's ribs as he made for the door. He was out and Candy could hear his footsteps as he thumped downstairs. A door opened and the landlady's voice echoed up the stair well. "Who are you? What are you doing?"
Then a final shout. "He's a fucking queer." and the slam of the front door.
Candy was ejected, not for being a 'fucking queer' but for having guests after dark. Ironic that his landlady was not homophobic but just a stickler for the rules. He also didn't go back to the supermarket, otherwise he would have discovered that Tristram hadn't either.
Another job, another bed-sit and still no companion of the heart. Mr Albright's dictum had a hollow ring to it.
Real world (Gay life)
London was swinging. It was after all the late sixties. The Wolfenden Report had been out for ten years and at last homosexuality was legal at least within certain parameters. You still had to exercise certain care in cottaging and overt queer behaviour was not sensible.
But and it was a big 'but' clubs were springing up all over the metropolis (in fact of course they had been going for years but now they were advertised). It would be twenty years before the scourge of AIDS took hold and Candy, like so many other who admitted to themselves (if not to their families) that they were attracted to members of their own sex, joined clubs like the Neptune, 101, the Rockingham, A & B which were comparatively civilised, and others which were much more uninhibited. This was the best of all possible worlds, thought Candy. His new job as a barman brought him in money.
Lights flashed beating in time to music. Harsh pounding rhythms with the bass notes on drums and bass guitar, the melody sharper, more intense, weaving in and out of the throbbing pulse. Coloured beams of light which lit up sweat-slicked bodies. Maleness and sex. Contorted limbs sharpened by the rampant rhythms, dancing to the strident disharmonies of the lights. The persistent, insistent thump gave Candy an erection.
That and the whirling, athletic body of the guy with the golden hair.
"Who is he?" Candy asked his friend.
"That's Edward Kemble."
The words were out before he could stop them but perhaps lost in the music - or perhaps he didn't even say them for his friend didn't comment. Perhaps he too was spellbound for Edward Kemble was indeed beautiful. And 'Edward' was such an appropriate name for one with such Saxon blond hair and looks . . . though clichés like 'Apollo' ran through Candy's mind as he watched. There were many blonds in the Gay Club strawberry blonds straight from the bottle, blonds bleached almost white, dirty blonds, blonds with hair the colour of old gold, gilded youths back from expensive holidays in the tropics or expensive sessions at the hair stylists but none matched the rich sunshine gold that caught and reflected the laser lights in a way which Candy had never seen before. The man had taken his shirt off and his chest gleamed in the disco lights with a faint sheen of sweat. His skin was the colour of burnished copper and he had obviously spent a lot of expensive time out in the sun. His regular features, straight nose, eyes of surely the most rain-washed, heavenly blue, lips so perfectly formed that they demanded to be kissed, white teeth exposed in a smile of such seductive attractiveness that Candy was immediately entranced, besotted, infatuated.
"Is he free?"
"You mean available?" His friend obviously heard him this time for he answered. "What do you think looking like that? No that's his lover." He pointed to a dark, misshapen thing which hovered in the background, a monster in comparison, Candy thought. "That's Fergus Linford."
"Must have money," Candy said.
"Or a stupendous cock . . . "
Edward's dark jeans hung low just hooked on the jut of his hip bones to show off his compact body with the white waistband of his underpants showing seductively above the top of his trousers as he moved his pelvis in time to the music. Candy felt an almost irresistible urge to throw him down to the floor even here in the Gay Club and kiss him from head to toe pausing at strategic locations. He didn't think he had ever seen such a truly beautiful male before yes attractive ones, even handsome but Edward Kemble was something so special, so extraordinarily exceptional that, almost without thinking, certainly without pondering on the consequences. Candy stepped forward into the throng, the sweating cacophony of sound and seduction . . .
. . . and the fever engulfed him, drew him in, spinning him into the vortex of whirling bodies with the smells of desire and the touches of naked flesh so that his senses whirled.
Whether it was alcohol or marijuana or just the proximity of this gorgeous man, Candy lost all sense of propriety, danced close and whispered into his ear. "I want to go to bed with you." It wasn't the best pickup line ever but at least it was honest.
Edward looked at him. "Whatever the consequences?" he asked.
"Whatever the consequences," said Candy rashly.
Candy opened his eyes. A nurse was sitting beside his bed. A drip from a plastic bag was going into the back of his hand. His head felt tight and throbbed a bit. Other parts of him hurt as well especially his chest. He couldn't remember what had happened to him
"Ah. You're awake at last, Andy," she said.
"My name isn't Andy," Candy said, or tried to say though the words came out slurred and even he could hardly understand them.
The nurse picked up a sort of bottle with a spout and held it to his lips supporting his back. The water was cool though tasted slightly of chemicals. But it was good and it felt marvellous on his tongue and going down his throat. She wouldn't let him have much though. "Not at the moment, Andy," she said.
"Why do you keep calling me Andy?" he asked.
It's the name you gave the ambulance man when he picked you up," she said. "Isn't that your name?"
"My name's Candy." But that exertion was too much for him and he sank back onto the pillows.
"You have a good sleep," said the nurse. "We'll sort everything out later."
The next time he woke he remembered some of what had happened.
When the doctor visited, he explained what injuries Candy had suffered. The carving knife (if that's what it was), long, slim and deadly, had slid through his stomach wall below the rib cage. It had managed through sheer luck to miss his spinal cord, the aorta, the inferior vena cava and ureters. It had nicked the loops of his large intestine which had needed to be surgically restored and caused soft tissue damage to his muscle which had also required surgery. He would be in hospital for probably a week and would need a lengthy period of convalescence afterwards.
"The police will want to interview you," he said, "When you feel stronger."
Someone was sitting beside his bed. A man, brown-haired, youngish, mid thirties, patiently staring in front of him. Waiting. Candy moved slightly and the man turned his head, focused on him.
"Andy," he said, his voice, slightly Cockney, the vowels flattened. "How are you feeling?"
"My name's Colin Candy," managed Candy.
"Detective Constable Peter Lippet," said the man, introducing himself. Candy felt a slight feeling of apprehension and then was not quite sure why - a policeman beside his bed but then the doctor had said he should expect an interview.
"I wondered if there was anything at all you remembered about the attack."
"Nothing," said Candy.
The policeman looked disappointed. "No names which might give us a clue as to who attacked you, sir?
Candy's head pounded. If he hadn't gone off with Edward, there wouldn't have been that dark figure standing staring through the darkness and the flashing lights at the Golden Boy. Then framed in a doorway, fists clenched, one holding a knife, shouting, face twisted in a rictus of anger.
Edward had warned him there might be 'consequences' and he had accepted them.
"No, nobody I can think of," he said to the policeman. "Could have been a mugging that went wrong."
Lippet looked at him closely, suspiciously. "If you remember anything, let us know," he said.
Candy blamed himself and, as soon as he was discharged from the hospital he took the train to Feltenham and then the bus to Elmcombe, as far as possible away from London and the gay life as he could.
Return to the Castle
He was home at last.
Sitting in the bar of the 'Fag and Fishmonger' sipping a half of beer, he looked around. The bar was just as he remembered it, still the oak beams across the ceiling, the walls stained brown with tobacco smoke. He even recognised some of the people in the bar but they obviously didn't recognise him for nobody came up to greet him. Had he changed that much? How long had it been since he had last been here?
He worked it out. Twenty years. Odysseus had been away from Ithaca for that long and no one had recognised him on his return, except his faithful hound. But Candy had never had a dog. He wondered about Sir Henry and eventually started to chat with the barman. After all they had jobs in common.
"It's a long time since I've been here," he said when the barman had a gap in serving customers. "What's happening up at the castle? Sir Henry still lording it over the village?"
The barman laughed. "You obviously haven't been in touch. He sold the castle, now he's just the estate manager and that I think was just a piece of charity."
"Who bought it?"
"A very nice man, Mr Palmer. He takes notice of us villagers, invites the kids onto the land to pick hazel nuts, or conkers and the women flock up to get the blackberries and sloes."
"Bit of a ladies' man, is he?" asked Candy.
"Never to my knowledge made a move on one of them, though there's plenty as wouldn't have minded."
"Handsome is he?"
"Not something I could say personally, but they seem to think so. Why don't you go up and call. He's very pleasant to visitors, so it's said. And someone from way back, he'd be interested in meeting. He used to work at the castle himself in the old days."
"Did he? What did he do?"
"Justin Palmer? He was the gardener's boy. Got the sack so it's said, though I don't know the details. Kind of a turnaround, now he's the 'squire' and Sir Henry's just the estate manager."
Candy was amazed. So Justin, the friend he'd played with amongst the asparagus ferns was now lord of the manor. He remembered with affection the last time they'd met, been caught playing games and both, in their own separate ways, been 'evicted' from the castle.
He wondered what reception he'd get. If no one here had recognised him, why would Justin. All the same he put on a pair of dark glasses and limped up the hill to the castle. The wound in his stomach had made walking difficult though the doctors assured him that he'd recover completely in due course.
The drive seemed longer than it had done in the past when he'd skipped along it as a kid. The castle itself was much as he remembered it though he noticed that there'd been repairs done to some of the parts that had been crumbling. Clearly Justin was a man of some substance and Candy, thinking of his own comparative poverty, almost turned back before he reached the heavy wooden doors decorated with their nail studs.
However, he fortified himself with a reminder that 'everything was probably for the best in this the best of all possible worlds' (even though his experiences in his life so far had often made him doubt this).
The bell pull seemed to ring hollowly and he almost turned back when the door creaked open and an elderly man, dressed in butler's uniform stood there.
"I wonder if I could speak to Mr Palmer," said Candy. "I used to know him in years gone by."
The man stepped back and allowed Candy to enter. "If you'll just wait here, I'll inform Mr Palmer." The man's voice was familiar and Candy stared at him through his dark glasses. Surely it was his old tutor, Mr Albright, though no flash of recognition crossed those wizened features.
If Albright hadn't recognised him then Candy doubted whether Justin would.
A door opened and a man came out. He was tall and bronzed from the sun. His face was clear and his eyes were grey and honest. Candy could make out the features of the young boy Justin had been all those years ago. The smile was the same.
"I've just returned to Elmcombe after a long time," said Candy. "I thought I'd pay a visit to the castle which I remember well. If I'm intruding though, I'll leave."
"Nonsense," said Justin. "I'm only too pleased to meet strangers from the past. Tell me, did you know the castle well?"
"Fairly well," said Candy cautiously. "As a boy I used to trespass over the ground, I'm afraid." The lie came easily to him.
"You're welcome to roam where you wish to. But first, have some refreshment. My friend, Mr Albright who insists that he will act as my butler, will no doubt get us something."
They sat in the sunshine and drank coffe while Candy tried to make polite conversation without revealing who he was.
But, as Justin passed him a plate of biscuits, he said, "I'm sorry that it isn't asparagus time. It would be fitting for us to eat them together."
Candy looked at him in amazement. "You recognised me?"
"Of course," said Justin, "right from the start, in spite of the dark glasses and the limp. Your nose gave you away immediately. Oh Candy, how pleased I am to see you after all these years."
He came over and sat beside Candy and they held hands.
"There's so much to tell," said Candy.
"And so much time to tell it in. Have you anywhere to stay?"
"Not at the moment."
"You will stay here then. There's plenty of room."
No, dear reader, they did not take up where they had left off on not immediately anyway. It takes time to form a relationship and Candy's wound needed tender care rather than over-enthusiastic sexual activity. But Justin was only too pleased to give him what he needed until eventually what they both wanted occurred.
Last time I visited the castle, the two of them, obviously very much in love had formed a stable partnership and Candy, learning from the Justin's horticultural experience, was carrying on a flourishing market gardening business in the grounds of the castle.
I picture them both, Candy, fully recovered, with the sweetest of smiles and the tip-titled nose, Justin, as handsome a man as you could expect to find, as I last saw them.
"Il faut cultiver notre jardin," Candy was saying and went out to do just that.
Justin sighed. At least they'd not suffer from lack of vegetables, he probably thought.
Date started: Friday, August 3, 2007
Date finished: Wednesday, August 22, 2007
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