Special Friendships - English Fashion Part 3
by N Fourbois
A few days later Seb and Marc's family were safely ensconced on a campsite on France's south-western coast. The weather had been hot and dry, but it was a bearable heat which made camping a pleasure. Marc's father and mother had hired a caravan minus its wheels, an immobile mobile home, with Jessica and Ben, while Marc and Seb shared a two room tent. The advantages of the system were such that all the gear for a camping holiday was provided, which cut down on luggage, and also the tented area was some hundred yards away from the caravan site, which meant that Marc and Seb were not only nearer the shower block, but they were to a certain extent on their own, for which Marc's mother profusely, but unnecessarily apologised.
It had been an odd day. At least Marc had found it so. They had been visiting a theme park and had spent a thoroughly enjoyable time, but something was wrong. Was Marc the only one to notice? Seb was definitely out of sorts. He confirmed that there was nothing physically wrong with him, but he was quiet and withdrawn whereas normally he would be one of the instigators of any fun or mischief among the children. Marc's parents just put it down to tiredness, the journey had caught up with him and they had been going to bed late and getting up early with the long days of July.
Marc could not get to the bottom of it, but felt that whatever was occupying Seb's mind it would be better to keep busy rather than mope around in an atmosphere of self-pity and so with his agreement Marc said they would organise a barbecue for the family and had indeed gone off to the campsite supermarket to buy provisions. The campsite had its own barbecues and it was just a question of 'putting your towel' on one before the Germans did.
Both Seb and Marc enjoyed preparing food. At boarding school they had little opportunity, but would make up for that in the holidays. To cut a long story short the barbecue was a great success, both in the culinary sense and in so far that it achieved its purpose of taking Seb out of himself. There threatened to be a hiatus when Jessica enquired about one of the steaks she had eaten, for it had possessed a flavour of its own. Marc had the foresight to ask her if she'd enjoyed it before Seb informed her that the pre-pack had been labelled cheval. Ben failed miserably to make any capital out of it.
It was elevenish with a glow still in the sky out to sea before the party finally broke up and the family divided to go to bed. A full moon was rising and a cooling, salty breeze was blowing in from the sea, making the temperature comfortable and keeping the mosquitoes at bay. Marc and Seb undressed for bed. Seb had kept his promise and brought his sleeping bag despite Marc's mother's protests that they were provided and so he didn't need it, but then she did not know that it was a double one and in any case he said it was made of cotton as he could not sleep in a nylon sleeping bag. Marc fell asleep immediately, only to wake up an hour later. At first he blamed the full moon which was shining straight in through the plastic window of the tent, but when he found that Seb was not only awake, but had not slept a wink he immediately sympathised with him.
"Whats the matter, Seb? Are you homesick?", an odd question to put to someone who had spent six years at boarding school.
"No," he replied. "Do you feel sleepy?"
"Not now, I feel completely refreshed."
"Do you want to go for a walk?"
"Ill tell you what. Id love to go for a swim."
The boys sprang out of their sleeping bag, slipped on shorts and a tee shirt each. Marc put on his sandals, Seb his trainers, they grabbed their towels and wandered along the path towards the beach. In the bright moonlight Marc could not help staring at Seb who had selected his (Marc's) favourite long-legged, thigh-hugging, elasticated-topped gym shorts. As they walked along he slipped the fingers of his right hand inside the back while resting his thumb outside on the elastic. Seb reciprocated.
"You know why I cant sleep?"
"Well, it's the same reason Ive been in an odd mood all day. It's the first anniversary of the day Guy and I split up, the day we left prep school."
"So thats whats got you down?"
"Not exactly down. Its just made me thoughtful. And what Ive been thinking about is not so much leaving Guy - that was inevitable anyway - but about us and what you mean to me. Mind you, we parted in style. At the End of Term Assembly the leavers had to go up onto the stage and shake hands with the Headmaster. I went second to last, Guy still nominally head boy last. They'd decided it would cause too much embarrassing explanation to sack him. After we'd both shaken hands we walked down the steps together with our arms round each other's waist. It didn't go down terribly well, but there was little they could do, especially as they had hushed everything up. In a way I've got a bit of a conscience, not about that."
"What do you mean?" In the meantime they had reached the beach. As the tide was going out, they put their towels on the sand just above high water mark. There was no one else around, so they lay down and put their arms round each other's shoulders. Marc knew better than to break the spell and go straightaway splashing into the sea. He was a good judge of atmosphere and he had realised that Seb finally wanted to talk and consequently needed someone to listen.
"Well, you probably think that your meeting me and us getting on so well were completely fortuitous." Marc made a nondescript noise to show he was listening. "You remember our chat back in Maurach? I was determined to tell you the truth, which I did, but I didn't tell you the whole truth because I didn't know how you would take it. It could have turned you off completely and that would have hurt us both. Now, four months later, I know I can tell you anything and everything." Marc felt privileged. What he could not tie up, though, was the robust extrovert Seb at school with this tender and sensitive Seb lying beside him on holiday.
"Let me explain. When I started at Buckton, I was determined to fill the gap left by Guy. To a certain extent it was pre-planned on my part, but I didn't know how to carry out the plan. Guy and me, we just grew up together, and you can't just go up to someone like at a disco. You could get yourself a good slapping very quickly and despite my defiance the previous term I was determined to fit in. It wasn't very long before I spotted that monster Jackman, either. I'd been encouraged to respect Buckton, with father being an old boy, and after a year there I really do. Yet on the very first night there you were. By the way you were staring at me I knew you were interested - that's experience - and the moment I saw you I was smitten."
"Thats more than I did," Marc thought to himself.
"You were, you are so handsome and you've got that sparkle in you and when I saw how clever you were - remember the GCSE results? - that clinched it and I made it a personal challenge to win you over. Next day at Chapel I couldn't believe my luck sitting opposite you, and you were staring again. On that first day I found you so hot that I couldn't bring myself to look at you. Then it all happened. I couldn't have planned it better myself. You were a mentor, I was in your mentoring group, and once we had been formally introduced there was not only the basis for a relationship, but you smiled at me next day in Chapel. After that ruffling your hair, leaving something behind in your room each time, they were part of my devious plot."
"Not so devious, looking back," said Marc, "it was all so obvious with hindsight, and I was so slow because I didn't even fully understand my own feelings till our chat in Maurach," Marc sighed.
They lay there in silence. However, all kinds of thoughts were racing through Marc's head. While he had always found Seb a considerate boy, he hadn't realised he was so deep and sensitive. He could ignore his scheming nature. Seb was now emotionally exhausted. He lay there just staring into the moonlit sky. The tide had now receded noticeably. Marc spoke first. "Are you ready?"
"Im ready," at which they stripped off their clothes and ran naked into the sea. They swam and chased, ducking and diving until their physical exhaustion matched their emotional exhaustion, left the sea, dried each other and out of a fit of sheer caprice put the other's shorts and tee shirt on. Marc was surprised Seb's clothes fitted and came to the sudden realisation how much his adolescent growth spurt had progressed. He was nearly as tall as him. Seb said "I can now see why you like me in those shorts so much," quite a compliment considering the effect the sea had had on them.
They walked briskly back to their tent, undressed and climbed into their sleeping bag. The sun was unusually high in the sky when they eventually woke the following morning.
The years have now passed. How many I shall leave you to calculate, dear Reader, but sufficient. This was never to be a sad tale and if offbeat the ending is nonetheless happy and of good fortune. Marc we saw as someone caught up in the circumstances of his own nature and nothing was to alter there. Seb on the other hand had shown that he knew what he wanted and having received one blow to his fortune at prep school was determined never to preside over another in his life and such was the combination of Seb's (self-) determination and Marc's overall reliance on the vagaries of fortune that their destinies remained entwined in a most logical manner, but where to begin? '"Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop," as the King of Hearts said very gravely to the White Rabbit.'
The meeting of Marc's and Seb's families in The Old Spot was fairly near the beginning. The friendship between the two families flourished enormously and in such a way that forces the actual beginning back to the first skiing holiday in Maurach. However, more of that in a moment.
After France Marc and Seb returned to Buckton College for a very happy year. For Marc it meant hard work, but boarding school also meant that they could spend time together. Seb blossomed in his studies to his later advantage. During Marc's upper sixth year both families went skiing in Maurach during the February half term and while Marc and Seb were billeted in the annexe again, in the main hotel a deep friendship, which had originated from the previous summer's meeting in The Old Spot, was not only developing between Adam and Jessica, but, aided by a little connivance with the two elder brothers, consummated by these two thirteen year olds in the same room where Marc and Seb had first consummated to their passion the previous year.
At the end of that school year Marc and Seb parted, physically but not spiritually. Marc left with three A-levels at grade A and went up to Cambridge on a four year modern languages course. In the same autumn Seb entered the fifth form at Buckton, accompanied by Adam and Ben in the third year. Seb could not deny that he missed Marc. He had prepared himself for the event and compensated by concentrating on his work and sport. Ever the schemer he worked at his modern languages and eventually gained entrance to Cambridge just as Marc was about to return for his finals after the gap year in Germany. To celebrate Seb flew out to Greece in September to meet him for a fortnight's holiday which they spent together on the island of Mykonos.
After graduating Marc had been appointed as a junior lecturer and not uninfluenced by his reading of Thomas Mann in both his academic and personal life he worked on his doctorate in twentieth century German literature.
Time went on and during that time the families maintained their close links and over the years Jessica's and Adam's friendship had developed into romance and finally into marriage. Thus Marc and Seb became brothers-in-law.
But we must not forget Elly who was the very feminine incarnation of her elder brother, particularly in her determination. In due course she came of such an age as to go up to Cambridge in her own right, although law was her interest.
All this was a convenient arrangement. Elly had now been fully aware for some years of the relationship between her brother and her brother-in-law / future fiancé, but did not find that a barrier to espousing the one she had continued to love from a very early age.
A cool and rainy May had given way to a glorious and warm, but not over hot June which had suited Elly. Now she had graduated with a first in law she had for the next couple of months other things on her mind, for the first Saturday in July was to be her wedding day. It was not without trepidation that she had summoned up all her courage one February to use the woman's leap-day privilege to propose to her brother-in-law, Marc. He had remained her childhood sweetheart from the time they first met when he had joined her family for their annual skiing holiday. Their relationship had been odd, to say the least, but it had also stood the test of time and he was still the only man in her life. Conversely it could be said with some irony that she was the only woman in his.
When Elly had come up to Cambridge three years ago her intended was lecturing and writing his thesis. Although he occupied his own rooms in college, he had also been sharing a large house just outside Cambridge for some years with Seb now for some months his brother-in-law. Marc had bought Oddstones out of his share of a family inheritance. Elly also took up residence there when she came up and now Marc was set to become Seb's brother-in-law twice over.
Despite the fact she had full knowledge that Marc and Seb had been lovers from their schooldays Elly had continued to adore Marc and since those early days in Austria he had been constant in returning her affection. Indeed, through that holiday Marc had been made an honorary member of the family and consequently, mainly through their contacts at Buckton College, Marc's and Seb's families grew ever closer. Having grown up in supportive families they all accepted the relationship and Elly's love for her brother extended to viewing her fiancé as something shared in the way she had shared everything with her brothers. Adam, the younger one, had married Marc's sister Jessica some months earlier. Elly also knew that Seb would never marry and had been brought up in the expectation of lifelong care for him.
With ten days to go before the wedding Elly had temporarily moved out of the shared house. She would return after the honeymoon, while Seb had arranged to work abroad for a few months to allow the couple to settle in. All this had been negotiated with the tolerance and family love of their upbringing and any jealousy between them in this ménage à trois would have reared its head long ago. But now Elly was with her parents. It was the Tuesday before the wedding and Marc's stagnight, his last fling as a bachelor.
Seb's brother Adam had with a little help from Jessica not hesitated to organise the evening, as Marc and Seb had done for him before their wedding, and so during the late afternoon there was a gathering at Oddstones, the Cambridgeshire house, of Old Bucktonians with the addition of Guy, Seb's friend from his prep school days whom Marc had as it were known long before he actually met him. Among the party was Tom, Marc's closest contemporary at Buckton College, and Ben, Marc's brother and Adam's great mate from his schooldays.
Adam had booked a table at the Mayflower, a Chinese restaurant in Cambridge, for eight o'clock and so the six were using the time to settle in, have tea and pose for a photograph of this special gathering. Over the last few days Jessica had made a marvellous live-in housekeeper, which had not been easy with the rolling programme of change in the domestic arrangements, particularly with the decorators, to make it possible for Marc and Elly to live together while Seb kept his apartment. There was no shortage of bedrooms to accommodate the visitors and Jessica would disappear to let the lads have the run of the house that evening.
At half past seven they climbed into the family space-wagon, Adam at the wheel having pledged to avoid alcohol until their return to Oddstones. The journey into Cambridge only took twenty minutes at that time of day and Marc had his own reserved parking space in college. The choice of the Mayflower met with everyone's approval. They were shown to a large round table with a big lazy Sue set in the middle and with six they could order a wide variety of food so that they each could try everything. Such was Adam's organisation that each guest had made a generous contribution to the kitty to ensure Marc had a send-off into matrimony that none of them would forget.
Seated in the restaurant and with the first course in front of them they all started to feel more relaxed. The four members of the family were naturally used to one another's frequent company, but over the years since Buckton Marc and Tom had only met occasionally, Marc and Guy perhaps more so, but Guy was a newcomer to Ben. Naturally they all had news to catch up with. Marc, the one academic, now had the title Doctor in front of his name which led to some natural leg-pulling when he was asked to diagnose their imaginary ailments. Tom was something successful in the City.
The seating arrangements were not to prove insignificant, either. Marc was flanked by Tom and Seb. Seb's other neighbour was his old friend Guy who in turn had made sure he was sitting next to Ben, little able to disguise the instant attraction he had found for him, while Adam completed the circle between Ben and Tom.
First of all they caught up with what had happened to them over the past years since Marc's and Tom's departure from Buckton. They had all followed the natural trend and gone to university. All had graduated with creditable degrees and followed successful careers. As expected, Guy who on completing prep school parted from Seb after an intense relationship had achieved as much as expected and more at King Edward's and gained a place at Oxford where he not only took a first in natural sciences, but had gained a blue in rugby. He was now engaged in research with one of the pharmaceuticals. On the rebound from his affair with Seb at prep school he was proud to report that he had been deflowered within a month of starting his new school, not unexpectedly as he had manipulated an assignation one Saturday night with a member of the U16 rugby squad whose physique and reputation both on and off the field had already inspired him and having made it a personal challenge he had in the changing room after that morning's school matches made it clear to him that he would be available in one of the practice rooms in the music school that evening, at a time when most of the school population had drifted into the city. He was not disappointed for after only five minutes of vamping on the piano the door of the soundproofed practice room opened and his suitor had arrived. Not only had he enjoyed the experience, but he found he had won acceptance at various levels in schoolboy society and while he had gained the reputation of being a lush, with his attractive and desirable body he made sure he also played hard to get and was only got by the ones he had chosen. Seb listened intently even though he had heard the story before and Marc was not uninterested, but it was Ben who sat there open-mouthed, hanging on his every word, something which had not gone unnoticed by Guy.
Ben and Adam were able to bring the company up to date with Buckton. During their time Mr Dalton had given up the House and Mr Bell had duly become Housemaster of Paxford, an appointment universally approved. In the year after Marc's and Tom's departure the hideous Jackman (Marc gave an involuntary shudder at the mention of the name.) had been expelled not, surprisingly, for his usual obnoxious behaviour, but after a series of petty thefts had been laid at his door. Few lost any sleep over that. Such was the universal dislike of him that the community had combined to ensure he was caught.
The evening rolled on with obvious enjoyment by all those present with plenty of laughter and entertainment. Two things had gone unnoticed by the assembled crowd, the passing of time as it was now near to midnight when the bill was finally presented and paid and the ever increasing attention Guy paid to Ben with the quiet compliments of his appearance and the surreptitious physical contact unconsciously returned and encouraged by the younger. As the company left the Mayflower to walk back to Marc's college a cooling breeze had sprung up, welcomed after the warmth of the restaurant. They had unwittingly split into pairs, Adam with Tom, Seb with Marc and perhaps not so unwittingly Ben with Guy.
At college the night porter on his rounds recognised Marc and said "Good night, sir" and locked the barrier after the space-wagon had left. In the back seat Guy already had his arm round Ben who snuggled up closer, pretending it was the effect of drink. Safely back at Oddstones the space-wagon disgorged its contents into the house, the party could begin and Adam could have a drink. The CD was switched on and the Rolling Stones played. A sixpack was taken out of the fridge and as soon as Marc saw it he could not resist displaying his. The sedentary academic life had not even after all these years led him to neglect it. Seb, Guy and Ben then had to display theirs, which forced the hands of Tom and Adam who lost the competition.
The music and the beers flowed. They danced and suddenly there was a ring at the doorbell. Who could that be at this time? The house was set back in its own grounds and the nearest neighbours were two hundred yards away, so they couldn't be disturbing them.
"Ill go," shouted Adam above the music. At the front door were two burly policeman whom Adam ushered in. In the dimmed lights and their hyped-up state the others did not notice that there was something not quite right about them. The music stopped and the officers enquired who lived in the house. Marc and Seb sheepishly admitted they did and were informed about complaints received from the neighbours about a disturbance. Marc looked shame-faced and said it would not happen again, but before the party atmosphere was ruined Adam offered them a beer.
"Not on duty, sir," came the reply. They looked at their watches and said "But as we finished at twelve we'll join you." They turned round, took off their jackets, their caps and their moustaches and still not instantly recognisable it slowly dawned on Seb who they were. It was Daniel and Rob, contemporaries of his at Buckton and members of Marc's old mentoring-group. Seb ran towards them and shook their hands in a hug while Marc nearly fainted in surprise. Recovering he too greeted them heartily.
"Sorry we couldn't make it earlier. When Adam invited us we told him we work in London and wouldn't be able to get away until late. Anyway, we're both taking a duvet day tomorrow, so we thought we'd motor up and surprise you." It was indeed a surprise.
They all sat down. Adam fetched a couple more six-packs from the fridge. The beer flowed, the tongues got looser until someone suggested they played Spin the Bottle. Seb shouted "Strip Spin the Bottle" and in their enthusiasm they all agreed. An empty wine bottle was fetched from the kitchen and they were just settling down in a circle on the floor when Seb piped up again with "I want to play Dress Spin the Bottle" with which he got up, disappeared for a couple of minutes and returned completely naked carrying his clothes and sat down. He had not lost the beautiful physique he had honed since adolescence. His body was meatier, better proportioned, but still without an ounce of fat and he knew it. Marc could not ignore him as he craftily took his place at the opposite edge of the circle and his days at Buckton College flashed through his mind leading up to the present evening, for their relationship had not ceased with leaving school and it had not been a coincidence that they were sharing a house. The bottle was spun. There was bound to be a hidden agenda and as it was his stagnight Marc suspected it was him. He hadn't been far wrong, except that a new and unexpected factor had come into play. As if by coincidence the first spin pointed to him, Marc, and he was glad he still had his tie on as he casually discarded it. He spun the bottle and this time it stopped on Seb who got up, strolled over to his clothes purposely left at the far end of the room and put on a sock. The game proceeded pretty evenly until the bottle pointed to Guy. He took off his cardigan and threw it over his shoulder, but now every time he spun it, it would point at Ben without fail. Ben had been one of the most lightly dressed anyway and it was not long until he was down to his slip and it mysteriously ended there. Guy had gone as far as he wanted to and obviously did not wish to humiliate him. Seb was up to two socks and the others in various states of undress. Marc remained largely unscathed, his last garment discarded being a pocket handkerchief. The bottle pointed at Seb again. He put on a tee shirt. The bottle landed on Guy who removed his tee shirt, sent the bottle spinning to land on Seb. He got up, sauntered across the room picked up a jockstrap, a black jockstrap.
"The black jockstrap," gasped Marc half aloud and felt his heart pounding.
The bottle fell on Adam and then Rob who sent it gyrating to point at Seb who simply said "Im out now," got up and minced across the room well aware how his black jockstrap contrasted with his pale skin and white tee shirt. The game was over. Ben put on his shirt and trousers, sat on the sofa with Guy while everyone else flopped out in chairs. It was nearing three. Outside there was a glimmer in the east heralding the early dawn. Everyone was exhausted. The party had come to its natural conclusion.
"Time for bed," said Marc. With Tom, Seb, Rob and Daniel there he was immediately whisked in his mind back to Buckton and the end of the Friday evening mentoring sessions. Adam, ever mindful of his responsibilities as the organiser, helped Rob and Daniel to bring their things in from their car and showed them to their rooms. The party broke up and everyone said good night.
It was not long before complete silence reigned over Oddstones. Complete silence? Not quite. For those who had not fallen into an immediate slumber might have heard the movement of Seb as he made for Marc's room. His idea of getting undressed for bed was to take off the two socks he was wearing while keeping on the tee shirt and jockstrap. This was Marc's night and he was determined they should both enjoy it. Moving in the other direction was Guy on his way to Ben's room. He had invested a lot of effort in this evening and was about to reap the dividend.
It was seven o'clock and Marc was sitting in the kitchen over a cup of coffee and the Daily Telegraph crossword. He always got up at much the same time even after a heavy night and the bright sun in a clear blue sky was reflected in his mood. He had left Seb in bed asleep, put on his step-ins and come downstairs. It still was not unusual for them to sleep together still. Marc enjoyed feeling Seb's naked body next to his and found it no way at odds with sleeping with Elly, just different. At that moment Ben came in dressed in a pair of shorts and a tee shirt looking equally bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Now that they were both full grown the casual observer might have mistaken them for twins despite the five years difference in age. Closer observation would have revealed a difference in the colour of their eyes.
"You look cheerful," remarked Marc.
"What a night. Normally you would say you couldn't remember what had happened. It's quite the opposite with me. I remember everything in detail."
"What did you think of Guy?" Marc had not missed much the previous evening, he never did, and now he was probing.
"What a hot boy! He showed me a thing or two I'd never dreamt of." The two brothers had always been candid with one another.
"I was just dozing off when there was a knock at my door. Before I could get out of bed or even say anything it opened and in came Guy. 'I thought you might want this.' he said. It was my pen. 'You left it in the restaurant.' He came and sat on my bed and at first just talked. I was fascinated. I hardly noticed what he was doing with his hands until finally he lifted the duvet and climbed under with me. And after that it was like magic."
"Is that your first time?"
"With another lad? Yes. I'd never even thought of it before and now I feel great this morning."
"You? I'd never have thought it, either. Welcome to the club," and Marc took his brother in his arms and hugged him. "What do you want for breakfast?"
"A full fry-up, okay? And by the way, I didn't take a pen to the restaurant!"
The others appeared in dribs and drabs. Marc had appointed himself cook and provided whatever they wanted. Despite the previous night they all had hearty appetites even if they were themselves a little jaded. About ten Jessica turned up and after a cup of tea took Adam off. Slowly the party broke up until Marc and Seb were left on their own. In a secluded corner of the garden they sat swinging together on the sun lounger and with odd murmurs of conversation enjoyed the warmth of the sun.
They were both in nostalgic mood. A combination of sun and gin and tonic made them talkative. "Its odd," started Marc, "how our lives have become inextricably involved. All right, I know you worked your butt off to get to Cambridge."
"That was because of you, Marc, because I wanted to be with you and also at school you taught me to work."
"So you ended up at my college just as I came back from my year abroad, taking the same course as me!"
"You know you had made such a good impression there that they encouraged applications from Buckton."
"I do now, but I wouldn't have known that as an undergrad. I'd bought Oddstones, so it seemed the obvious thing for you to come and share with me."
"Then Elly came up when I returned from the year abroad," continued Seb, "and we all got organised when she moved in. Anyway, I wouldn't have been without her for the world."
"Ill drink to that," said Marc casually lifting his glass of G&T to his lips, "and look what its led to."
"Do you remember that first week in Maurach, Marc?"
"How could I forget?"
"Over the years I've come to realise what a little schemer I was. It probably all seemed to have happened by chance to you. The only part that fortune played was joining in with my plan."
"How many years have we known each other?" interjected Marc, "and I still underestimate you." Seb continued. "If I'm honest, I suppose after the Guy experience I came to Buckton looking for a continued sex life, but among my contemporaries. However, I became so infatuated with you that sex came second to love. Even so I did spend most of that first autumn term at Buckton working out how I could seduce you. After prep school I didn't dare try it on at Buckton. I don't think Dad would have been quite so supportive a second time, particularly because of his love of the place."
"That didnt worry you that summer term on the last night." Marc giggled at the thought.
"That was different."
"How?" Marcs question remained unanswered.
"Then there was the House Christmas party, you know, the fancy dress one when I came dressed as a ballerina. I was sitting on your lap and you didn't know what to do with your hands. So that was a huge failure." He gave a stage sigh. "I nearly got to the point of shoving your hand up my tutu, but at that moment we had to go and eat. Then over Christmas Mum and Dad made the suggestion I took a friend on holiday with us. The rest was easy. From then on I had it worked out to the last detail, but one, and how could I know we would be sent off to the annexe to sleep? I knew the annexe was there because we'd used the pool and the sauna, but before that I'd always stayed in the family suite with the others. Anyway, it all fell into place. I'd given myself certain objectives. As I've already told you I was scared of frightening you off, but even that worked out amazingly smoothly."
Marc put his arm round Seb and pulled him closer to him. They both took a sip from their G&Ts. Marc thought back to how naïve he had been in those days. Even after three years of boarding school he still hadn't had a physical relationship with anyone and in the lower sixth he slowly realised how experienced Seb was by contrast despite being over two years younger. He had never regretted falling in love and giving himself to Seb. He felt that the experience had only ever enriched his life. In the ensuing silence Marc recalled the week in Maurach and went over it in detail in his mind. For Seb it had hinged on the Sunday night, for Marc, however, on their intimate talk together in the Goldener Apostel, but even he had not realised the extraordinarily willing victim of Seb's charm and scheming he had become. As they sat there together on the sun lounger with their eyes closed Seb's voice spoke as if from another world as he took up the narrative.
"You remember we got there on a Saturday. Well, the first night youre always knackered from the journey, so we went to bed early, slept through till morning and there was no point trying anything on. You see, I remember I had three aims: to see you without any clothes on. Despite my efforts at school, like the late shower, you had never taken the hint. The sauna was the fail-safe method. Secondly I needed to sleep with you in order to reach my third objective to seduce you. One was simple, two was make or break, and fortunately it was make, and three then followed on from there and our heart to heart in the pub.
"The sauna was amazing. Stripped off you were even hunkier than me. How I controlled myself and didn't get an instant stiffy I'll never know to this day. Throughout the previous six months I just had to think of you in a certain way to harden up. I knew the risk, but it made it even more worthwhile going on to the next stage."
"Then Sunday night you climbed into bed with me. You know, that was the first time I'd ever slept with anyone? It was just nice holding your body. I felt ever so possessive. And as you said on the Monday night when we were having a drink, it was a try-on and I hadn't kicked you out."
"In the morning you kissed me on the forehead and if that wasnt a come-on signal I don't know what is, which meant that Monday night I would get my wicked way."
"And I made it easier by rolling back the duvet and inviting you to climb into my bed. How marvellous hindsight is."
"And I nearly ruined it by drinking too much beer!"
As Marc had got to know Seb better over that year he realised that he took his clothes off at the slightest excuse and would sleep in the buff unless convention demanded otherwise - school fire-drill, company. He now knew that on the Saturday night Seb had given in to wearing shorts and a tee shirt in bed, but after the sauna on the Sunday afternoon they (or perhaps more precisely Marc) realised that they had nothing to hide and plenty to gain if neither of them wore anything in bed for the rest of the week. So on that Sunday evening two naked bodies lay under the duvet. Seb had built into his plan the fact that he would have to take the lead.
Meanwhile the sun had slipped round farther to the west as they had been reminiscing on the sun lounger. Seb was stretched out across Marc who was still sitting upright. Neither could be bothered to cook. So Seb fetched another long G&T each before they went in, showered and wandered along the lane to the village inn for dinner. Over dinner they continued their conversation about their first experiences together, in Maurach, at Buckton College and on holiday in France. The day was savoured, as over the remaining two Marc's time would be taken up in the final preparations. With Ben as his best man he knew that he was in capable hands.
The wedding day arrived and was a great success, fully supported by Old Bucktonians. In time the first born arrived, identical twin boys. What better opportunity than to invite Mr Bell, who had keenly followed both Marc's and Seb's careers through Cambridge, to be godfather to the one and, however incestuous it might sound, Seb to be godfather to the other.
And so life continued in happiness and good fortune. What had started as a schoolboy friendship between the sons of two sets of parents originally unknown to each other had grown into marriage between their sons and the daughters and a sharing of the grandchildren.
The first week in July had simply flown past. After Ben had left Oddstones on that Wednesday morning he fully focused his thoughts and actions on the coming weekend when his brother's wedding would take place and at which he was to be the best man. His mind had no time to consider the confusion it had been plunged into at the stagnight. It was simply stored for the time being.
On Saturday Marc's and Elly's wedding proceeded smoothly and Ben could justly feel proud of the efforts he had made on his brother's behalf. While the bride and groom left on their honeymoon late in the afternoon it was midnight before the party broke up and he shared a taxi back to Oddstones with Seb. They needed to relax before they went to bed and with those two alone in the house it was inevitable where the conversation between these brothers-in-law twice over should lead, to the one thing they now had in common besides the family, sport and their long friendship.
Ben would be twenty-three years of age later that year. He had been out of university for twelve months during which he took a post teaching maths in an East Anglian prep-school that had also provided him with a bachelor flat. He had enjoyed his year there where he could also pursue his sporting interests. He was even better generally at games than his elder brother and had decided to take a teaching qualification specialising in sport to add to his maths degree. He therefore had three months of leisure in front of him and a pied-à-terre until the end of August. It had been his good fortune that school had broken up on the last Friday of June as that enabled him to apply himself fully to the task of giving his brother a good send-off into married life.
Ben had passed through school unscathed. He had loved his five years at Buckton College where he developed both academically and on the gamesfield. No way did he feel in the shadow of his elder brother whose reputation had, however, smoothed the path for him and he had finished his career there as Head of School. During that time he had enjoyed the company of his best friend Adam, destined from as early an age as thirteen to marry Ben's sister Jessica, which had happened earlier in the year.
After school Ben spent three years reading maths at Durham and while to assert his independence he did not maintain the family tradition of Cambridge, he had followed the other family tradition of gaining a first. The most extrovert of the three children he enjoyed a full social life and broke many women undergraduates' heart for he rivalled Marc as a handsome young man and was the object of many a girl's desire. Unsure on graduating about any career he was offered a post at short notice at the East Anglian prep school which brought him to the area where his brother and sister and future in-laws lived. He had taken to teaching and this made him decide he would seek a professional qualification at the university in Cambridge.
Also, being such an extrovert, he did not think much about his own existence and consequently it ran without a hitch; that is until the stagnight when he met Guy and with a complete absence of any resistance, physical, mental or emotional, was seduced by him. Because of the business of the impending wedding he had had little time to talk to Marc whose experience he would have valued, indeed little time to think any more about it until now, after the celebrations, and being driven back to Oddstones had so vividly switched his mind back to the previous Tuesday night. At last in the small hours of Sunday morning he could finally chill out and furthermore in the company of his brother's boyfriend.
As soon as he had arrived indoors Seb went off to his apartment to discard the morning suit and cravat and when he re-appeared he had slipped into a tee shirt and shorts. Ben raided the fridge and returned to the living room with two glasses and a couple of cans, one of which he offered to Seb. He slumped into an armchair, kicked off his shoes, loosened his cravat and poured himself beer.
At first the conversation was about the wedding - the funny hats, the in-laws who were already in-laws, about who had got drunk and who was flirting with whom until Ben plucked up the courage to say, "Seb, can I ask you about Guy?"
"What do you want know?"
"Marc told me a bit, you know, how he was a good friend of yours." He hesitated. "Well, I slept with him after the stagnight, or rather he slept with me." Seb raised his eyebrows and a broad grin spread across his face.
"Didn't you know?"
"He kept that quiet. He's not usually so reticent about his conquests, as you might have gathered over dinner on Tuesday." There was a silence as Seb continued grinning to himself, his mind obviously running riot. "You know, I still cant quite believe it. You, the one who can twist every adoring girl round his little finger."
"But that's the odd thing. I enjoyed it - my first time with a bloke and I enjoyed it and now I come to think of it, I never really enjoyed my time with girls at university. I did it because it was the thing to do."
Seb could see that Ben was wrestling for some explanation of his own behaviour. "And now, are you going to come out?"
"Not at the moment. I'm still a bit confused and I want to be certain. I'll need to talk to Marc, too."
Ben slumped back into the armchair and the conversation lapsed. Both young men savoured their beer. Only, Ben's eyes were looking at Seb, looking at him in a way they had never looked at him before. Fully aware Seb pretended to take no notice. However, he slowly shifted on the sofa, using his years of experience to recline there in a most provocative way. He was testing Ben, or was he teasing him?
Ben's mood was mellowing as he relaxed. He said he was going to change and came back in a pair of step-ins. Seb sat there immobile as Ben came and sat beside him on the sofa. For Seb it was a reversal of rôles after his first House Christmas party at Buckton College when he had sat himself on Marc's lap. He reminisced, telling Ben stories from his schooldays. Ben knew most of the characters involved and giggled as he listened to them. Some he had heard before, some he hadn't.
"Didn't you have any experiences at school?" enquired Seb. "I remember you were considered a bit of a lush. Quite a few lads had a crush on you."
Ben thought. "Not really." He took another sip of beer. "I remember one boy called Jackman - all body odour. He wanted to play me at snooker. That was during my first week there. He was in the sixth form. When we got to the snooker room it was empty and the first thing he did was to get up me against the wall and try and unzip my flies. I belted him and had no trouble from him after that. We had quite a discussion about that at our mentor meeting. I can remember that."
"Yes, and I can remember he had a black eye round about then. I didnt realise it was you, though." They both laughed and Seb told him about the time he had tried something similar on him and how he had ended up by locking Jackman in the snooker room.
"There was one other time," Ben recollected. "It was in the fourth form in the queue for lunch. There was quite a crowd in the corridor and I suddenly felt this hand between my legs touching me up. It was a third former, I'm sure, and oddly I liked it."
"And more significantly you still remember it," interjected Seb.
"Mmm, thats true," pondered Ben, "but before I could do anything the queue had moved on and I never did find out who did it. But there's the difference. Unlike that occasion with Jackman this time I didn't mind. As I say I quite enjoyed it really. Now I wish I had known. With hindsight I might have followed it up."
They continued talking about school and the family holidays they had spent together, laughing and giggling at some of the jolly japes they had got up to until exhaustion suddenly took over. Ben's heart started pounding as he plucked up his courage. "Seb, can I sleep with you tonight?" There was no hesitation in the reply.
"I think not. Theres only one person I want to sleep with and sister Elly's got priority tonight." Ben blushed. "Dont worry. Im flattered really, but you'll find this out in time. If you are gay, it's not the cheap thrill you're after. It's a loving relationship. It took Marc and me almost six months before we slept together. And nothing else happened on the first night, either. Guy's a different kettle of fish. He's promiscuous, or to put it another way a randy old goat, not to mention a smooth operator. If it's there, he'll get it one way or the other. But were not all like him."
They parted amicably and said good night with a hug. But that just left Ben feeling even more frustrated.
Next morning they both got up late, unusual for Ben who was normally keen to get on with the God-given day, but the past week had exhausted him, emotionally more than physically. A sociable creature by nature, he appreciated having the family there, and that included the in-laws who seemed more like blood brothers and sister to him and so with both families around he had been in his element. Over a spartan breakfast he challenged Seb to a gentle jog round the lanes. Their talk in the early hours of the morning had sparked off the wicked side of Seb's sense of humour and brought back how he had teased Marc during their 'courtship'. He accepted the challenge without a second thought and went to get changed. And what was he wearing on his return to the kitchen? A snug singlet over those very same white knee-length, body-hugging, see-through shorts under which his packet, supported in a black jockstrap with the straps visibly crossing his buttocks, was obvious to the world in general and Ben in particular. He pretended to ignore Ben's sharp intake of breath and as they proceeded on their chosen route he would stop from time to time to perform erotic and provocative body-stretching exercises, all the while paying no heed to his jogging-partner's obvious delight and by the time they returned to Oddstones even Ben's more modest sportskit could not disguise the overall effect Seb had had.
After a quick shower and change they wandered down to the village pub to meet the remaining members of the family for Sunday lunch. After that everyone came back to Oddstones for a relaxing afternoon before splitting up to go and carry on with their normal lives, conducting their own affairs from Monday morning. Jessica and the two mothers worked particularly hard providing tea and in the meantime putting Oddstones back into reasonable shape, for until Elly and Marc came back from their honeymoon it would still have a particular bachelor atmosphere about it. Seb had another two weeks' leave until he went off to Berlin on five months' secondment from his firm. Meanwhile Elly and Marc would be able to settle down to their routine. Elly would start her new job on the 1 August and Seb would return to his apartment in December in time for Christmas. So come Monday morning Ben was on his way back to his accommodation at the prep school where technically he was employed until the end of August.
The first week of October arrived. Ben had spent an interesting summer. Through a contact of Seb's he had gained some freelance work as a photographic model. He had been taken on by the agency for his very lack of experience in the modelling world and naturally for his extremely well honed physique. He did of course meet a number of entertaining people who were only to ready to help him develop his newly discovered sexuality, but he had taken his brother-in-law's advice and while enjoying their company socially he had no further contact. He was now getting used to seeing pictures of himself in fashion magazines and even in one instance his appearance on the back of buses. Most of September he spent walking in the Alps with friends from university, then returned to Cambridge afterwards to take up residence for his year in college.
The term started with the usual confusion of getting to know new people, going back to lectures after eighteen months' freedom from them and a return to the discipline of having to write essays, although compared to his undergraduate studies this course proceeded at a leisurely pace. He quickly fitted into a small circle socially and was to some extent relieved to find that he was not surrounded by a group of PE hearties as the course encompassed all teaching disciplines and the college accommodated undergraduates on various courses. For a change he would occasionally dine in with his brother Marc at his college. The usual student social life was available, but after a year out he found that he had really outgrown it. Within his own social circle he was surrounded by adoring women and always managed to act courteously towards them and occasionally go out with them without getting involved. The fact that he had been a model just added to his kudos. He did not join any of the sports clubs for he knew that the sporting commitment at school would make him unavailable for most of the season. It would not be long till the end of schools' half term when he would start seven weeks of teaching practice. Indeed what had attracted him to the course was the two periods of TP with the theory sandwiched in the middle term.
Ben had been allocated to the Mythe School, a local boys' independent day school. A year in a prep school had convinced him he wanted to teach seniors. Some of his fellow students had been sent much farther afield to boarding schools where they were expected to live in. He would not be alone for one other student had been sent to the same school, a chemist that he had yet to meet, but whom he would hunt out at the earliest opportunity. After the final briefing he found out who he was. He was a young Scotsman named Lewis who had been living out, but with one or two rooms becoming vacant over TP he had applied to move into the spare accommodation in college. The college course finished Thursday lunchtime to permit a long weekend for those who had to travel. On the following Monday things began in earnest.
Ben could walk from college to his school. He did own a car, but because of the restrictions on parking he kept it at Oddstones under Marc's care. If he needed it, it was easy enough to beg a lift from his brother or sister-in-law, or at worst catch a bus to the local village and hoof it to Oddstones from there.
Finally teaching practice was here. For Ben it had not come soon enough. Specialising in sport he spent most lessons either in the sportshall or on the gamesfield, but he did teach a little maths and he sat in on the theory lessons for GCSE sports studies. He was pleased to have Lewis as company. Lewis spent most of his time in the labs, but had indicated a willingness to help out with games. Therefore they had something in common from the start. By coincidence they had also recently become neighbours in college as Lewis had moved into an adjacent room on his floor.
Ben threw himself into school life heart and soul. He found it refreshing to be tackling a new subject, namely physical education as opposed to his degree subject of maths. He knew straightaway he had made the right choice in changing from prep to senior school. He got on well with the pupils and found them a friendly bunch, but no self-respecting PE master ever has trouble anyway. He always has the whip hand. Again it did not take long before he was recognised for having a 'face like the back of a bus' from his modelling days which made the boys believe they had a celebrity amongst them. Even so he was a little surprised to find himself the object of hero-worship, and in one case perhaps a crush, for it was not as if he had been a county or England star as two of the PE staff had been. Saturdays were in theory school-free days, but he always found himself involved somehow with a rugby team, often the dizzy heights of the 4th XV, either refereeing or looking after it. Strangely he did discover that he had one thing in common with his brother Marc. He enjoyed the smell of a boys' changing-room, liniment and all. It went no further than that. It did not worry him, to the extent that he unhesitatingly told Lewis during a chat one evening over a beer. Lewis said nothing, but his face indicated he was neither shocked nor surprised and the conversation continued its natural flow.
Over the second half of that term Ben and Lewis were fast becoming firm friends. They would go to the cinema or theatre, jog, visit the gym, even occasionally be invited out to Oddstones together for dinner or Sunday lunch.
The Education Department students naturally had to stay behind after everyone else had gone down in order to complete the school term. By the end of seven weeks at the worst time of the year the two lads were exhausted. Ben had managed to gain an alpha minus for his teaching practice, and those were not given out lightly. He enjoyed the end of term celebrations at school and was summoned by the Headmaster to be thanked personally for the contribution he had made. However, the greatest surprise was to be told that a junior maths post would become available in the following September and that he might like to consider making an application. It would be advertised at the beginning of February, but he should not be too disappointed if he did not get it. That gave Ben something to think about. After all, teaching practice was a time of making mistakes and being able to walk away from them, but jobs in a school where you knew you fitted in were few and far between.
So Lewis returned to Glasgow for New Year and Ben returned to his parents, initially in the west country, for Christmas, but with the majority of the family now living in Cambridgeshire there was a lot of travelling during the festive season. Seb was back from his spell of work in Berlin which meant that the family was once again re-united. Ben also had gained himself a breathing space to think about his own future, but that would depend really on where he ended up teaching.
A new year, a new eight-week term and back to college for the theory of education. Ben had spent a full holiday socially, that is to say after collapsing for the first few days from the strain and tiredness of teaching. However, he soon bounced back and joined in the festivities fully. Now for the difficult part. He was, though, pleased that the theory would be tested right at the beginning of the summer term so that he did not have to worry about TP and theory examinations, as well as simultaneously searching for a post.
He found the course quite concentrated, but not so time-consuming as TP. He was a disciplined worker and provided he worked conscientiously during the week he could use Saturday morning or afternoon for catching up and have the rest of the weekend free. After all, hadn't they been told at the beginning of the course that the PGCE was a form of relaxation after their undergraduate years? During TP Ben had been pretty single-minded, but this term he had widened his activities and begun enjoying himself. It was already February, one of those weekends when there is a hint of Spring in the air, but also one when coincidentally most people disappear for a long weekend. He and Lewis were the only students left on their landing. They were used to doing things together and had fixed up to go off for a game of squash at ten o'clock. The courts were equally abandoned and they had no reason to keep strictly to their hour.
The weather had definitely put Ben in high spirits and a spring in his step. Everything appeared lighter, cleaner and more interesting under a blue sky and bright sunshine. And for some reason that applied to Lewis who looked sharp in his white squash kit. Lewis did not live up to the Flanders and Swann image of a hairy Scotsman. Under jet black hair he had bright blue eyes and fair skin. Slightly shorter than Ben he had a neat, slim, well-proportioned body. He always dressed in smart, well-fitting clothes of noticeable quality. Ben admired his physique and often gave more than a casual glance at the cut of his trousers, or today his white shorts. And Lewis knew it. It was almost as if he dressed to please Ben and over the few months they had known each other he had unconsciously started to adopt Lewis' sense of fashion.
Today something happened to Ben, inside, in the pit of his stomach, in the area of his heart. Their games of squash were always competitive, usually with Ben finally gaining a hard fought victory. But this morning he could not concentrate, or rather he could not concentrate on his game, for his singlemindedness was forcing him to concentrate on Lewis, the way he moved about the court, his various body positions and the teasing smile he gave when he realised he was the centre of attention. Thus there came a time when Ben realised he was truly beaten and that there was no chance of hauling a game back. They shook hands and went off to shower and then it happened. Ben was washing his hair when he suddenly had to turn to the wall and turn the cold water on. He had finally lost control of the attraction he felt for Lewis. Lewis pretended not notice at first and blithely continued to soap himself up with shower gel, but then he unhooked the showerhead and started spraying Ben. His passion had started to subside, but he still couldn't hide the fact he had been aroused, and to cover his erstwhile embarrassment joined in the horseplay until he got Lewis in a wrestling hold that forced them both to stop, look each other in the eyes and realise that Ben was not alone in his excitement. He released Lewis, they smiled at one another and continued their ablutions as if nothing had happened. They dried themselves off, dressed, wandered back to their rooms, confirmed their arrangements for the rest of the day and went off to do their own thing.
Ben walked into the city to do some shopping, still on a high under the influence of bright sun, blue sky and crisp refreshing air. If it had been dull he might have sulked at losing his squash match, but he had long forgotten the game and was exhilarated by what had been awakened within him. Was this love? Although twenty-three years of age he had never experienced such a feeling, but at the back of his mind were conversations he had had with Marc who had experienced similar feelings within himself all those years ago. He wanted to catch the bus and go and see him, but then he remembered. He and Elly were down in the west country with his parents for the weekend. What about Seb? He took his mobile out of its holster and dialled Oddstones. Voicemail! He didn't feel he could leave a message like that. Adam and Jessica? They wouldn't understand. (Little did he know! After all they had grown up with their elder brothers in full knowledge of their propensities.) He crossed the road and went into the botanical gardens, found a bench by the hardy geranium beds and sat down.
By nature he was not introspective. Marc was. That's why Marc had become a man of letters and he'd become a mathematician. He applied the cold logic of mathematics and it worked. One, for years his interest in girls had not exceeded beyond the social. He had never had a fulfilling relationship with a girl. Two, back in the previous summer, to no greater surprise than his own, he had been seduced by Guy and enjoyed it to such an extent he then wanted to try it on with his brother-in-law. Three, he consequently thought back to Seb's advice. If you are gay, you want a relationship as much as heterosexual people and you don't climb into bed with the first person that comes along. Four, his mind advanced to thinking about Lewis, the odd things he said, the odd way he sometimes behaved. As mentioned, he had not got to know Lewis until half way through the first term at Cambridge. He had been one of the crowd. They had shared the general lectures and gone to different subject lectures. Of course there had been no point of contact. Then it was almost as if fate had intervened to bring them together. They had been allocated to the same school. At the same time Lewis had moved into a room on the same landing in college. They had been fellow students, then colleagues as it were and as they got to know one another in school they became friends with interests in common, and as friends had started to have more intimate conversations.
It had come out casually that neither of them had much interest in girls - no more than that, no insinuations on either side. Lewis was a stylish dresser, not trendy, but stylish, and he had started to influence Ben in the way he dressed, too, even to the comparative merits of various kinds of underwear, a refinement of the briefs versus boxers argument, a subject that they found they had little disagreement about. In their conversations they would unobtrusively touch one another on the arm, on the shoulder, on the knee and as they became more familiar on the buttocks, and Ben was not a great one for physical contact outside sport or the family, either. And only just that moment had this occurred to him. They had both talked about pupils they taught while on TP, and furthermore it had been the same pupils they had become interested in and finally it dawned on Ben that it was not their intellects which had made them topics of conversation, but their physiques, their appearances, or dare he say it, their attractiveness. Ben had never thought deeply about why he had taken his PGCE in physical education rather than maths, but sat there on a park bench he traced his thoughts back a year to the time when, while teaching at the prep school, he had made his application.
He had enjoyed his year at the prep school, but knew there and then it was not fulfilling. He put it down to the enclosed world of a typical prep school. He enjoyed teaching boys of all ages. There had been some rather sharp minds there, even among the eight year olds, but it was the thirteen year olds he liked teaching most. They were clever and competitive, out to give him a run for his money. He met them on the gamesfield and in their boarding house. They had reached that age when they change from being small boys into lusty youths and it was in their company he felt most at home. He took an interest in their breaking voices, their growth spurts and, he realised now though not at the time, their developing sexuality. He had never wanted more than just to be in their company. He had acted professionally and with all propriety, but now he knew what had made him feel so at home in a school. Returning to his teaching practice it became clear to him that he had unwittingly given extra attention to boys of a certain type, the handsome, the well-developed and particularly when combined with a lively wit or a lively mind.
Ben had exhausted that train of thought and went on to think about the way Marc had grown up. Not having been at Buckton College at the same time he could not know all the details, but eventually he did come to learn how Marc pined in the holidays and as he got to know Seb some of the mental turmoil which Marc had suffered, but which Seb had escaped. And the difference? Seb knew he was gay; Marc had to make the painful discovery. However, once each had come to terms with the fact the way forward seemed easier, life simpler. Was there a clue here? "Tonight I am going out with Lewis. It could be make or break."
Despite the Spring sun in the clear blue sky sitting on the park bench had chilled him and he needed to get going. He was starving. Wasn't this a good sign as lovers were meant to lose their appetite? He walked towards the city centre, spurned MacDonald's and took a snack in the one of the department store restaurants. He felt there was still a reserve of adrenalin in his body, ready for action later that day, a leftover from the shower that morning. You know, if conditions were right this evening he was going to go for it. After all, he was no longer a virgin. Guy had seen to that. "QED" said the sporty mathematician, or was it the mathematically inclined sportsman?
Ben did what he had to do in town which included a browse round the clothes shops and having his hair cut. On a whim he had it cut shorter than usual which made him look more boyish. He was pleased with the effect. Then he wandered back to his college. He had planned to finish off a health education essay that afternoon. Afterwards he would meet Lewis at seven. They would go out to dinner and then on to the cinema for a late showing of Billy Elliot.
The essay finished he went and soaked in the bath for an hour, luxuriating in a heady solution of bath oils and using an advanced conditioner on his hair. He was determined to look his best that evening. Before dressing he stood in front of the mirror, not to admire himself, something which had not been unknown in the past, but to trim any excess body hair, really a figment of his imagination for he could never be described as particularly hirsute. He anointed himself with body oils and subtly scented potions - all Christmas presents of course - and chose each article of clothing from his undergear outwards with the utmost care. There only remained his hair which was subjected to the styling mousse. The experience gained as a photographic model had not been wasted and when the knock on his door came at seven he stepped out with style. Ben could see straightaway that Lewis was impressed and the reason for this extra effort was not lost on him after the morning's events. Indeed, Lewis too had made that extra effort and the new trousers he wore fitted precisely in all the right places. They put on their long flowing cashmere winter overcoats and left.
They went to one of Lewis' favourite restaurants hidden away in the backstreets of Cambridge. Downstairs it was a normal pub used more by town than gown. However, upstairs was a cosy restaurant. Ben had not been there before. He had left the choice to Lewis knowing he could depend on his impeccable taste to make the right one. The restaurant was dominated by a huge open grate in which burnt a large log fire, welcome on an evening where the still blue skies of the day had brought with it a typical fen-country frost. The tables were arranged between large winged wooden pew-like seats amply provided with cushions and each with an intimacy of its own. Lewis had obviously been here before and on booking had made a deliberate selection of the table to be reserved. The tables were candle lit, but instead of being on the tables the holders were mounted on the walls. In the middle of the table stood a narrow vase containing a single red rose. At first its significance escaped Ben until it dawned on him it was the fourteenth day of the month and knowing the symbolism of the said flower he tortured himself in deciding whether it was sheer coincidence and only by looking round at the other tables did he realise how naïve he had been. It made the evening that more exciting for him, gave him palpitations, that feeling in the pit of his stomach and a heaviness in his loins. He plucked the rose from its vase, savoured its perfume in appreciation and handed it to Lewis that he might follow suit.
The conversation flowed freely. In fact they talked about themselves and Ben learnt more about Lewis that evening than he had ever found out over the last two months. He discovered how cultured he was. He talked about music, literature, art. He mentioned names such as Tippett, Britten, Isherwood, Spender, Wilde, Gide, O'Neill and Michelangelo. Thomas Mann he knew from his brother's academic work and it was not long before he discovered what these artists had in common. Lewis' thesis described how only the frustrations of the male could produce great art and not uncultured himself, even if not familiar with some of the names he heard, Ben appreciated the discourse and discovered an intellectual depth in his dining partner as yet unfathomed as he sat there listening enraptured. Yet the conversation was not all one way for as the alcohol coursed through their veins Ben felt he could open up about himself. The food, traditional English fare, was ordered, served and consumed. He talked first about his family and their intermarriage with the shared in-laws. Lewis led him on to talk about himself, his feelings, his passions and so skilled was Lewis' art of getting Ben to talk that he could induce him to bring up the one topic he was burning to know about, his physical show of passion after squash that morning. Time passed without their noticing until they sat back intellectually and gastronomically replete over a brandy. Ben had opened his heart, talked about Marc's stagnight, was even more amazed when he heard that Lewis had actually come across Guy when he spent a fortnight on an exchange at King Edward's from his school in Scotland, though he divulged little more. By now they were leaning over the table, their faces less than six inches apart, talking, when Ben unobtrusively held Lewis' hand. The hand slowly twisted and opened up maintaining the grip and eventually Ben felt his palm being stroked. In full recognition he returned the signal.
Ben had already booked the seats for the cinema earlier in the day so that there would be no need to queue, but finally it was time to pay the bill and make their way. They might just miss the adverts and the trailers. The high of the morning had continued into the evening.
They reached their seats in the back row of the circle with a couple of minutes to spare. They divested themselves of their winter coats and settled down to watch the film. Surprisingly neither of them had seen it immediately after its release and they were pleased to catch it on a re-run. It was not long until Ben felt an arm round his shoulder and pushing up the arm rest between them he snuggled closer to Lewis and eventually took hold of his other hand as it rested in his lap. Ben had not felt so relaxed in ages which aided his full enjoyment of the film. Once it was over they donned their overcoats again and walked briskly back to college to be let in by the night porter.
On the landing Lewis said "Ive got a special malt whisky that you won't get in England. Would you like a wee dram?" This made Ben's alternative offer of coffee and biscuits appear rather uninteresting and he readily accepted. Inside Lewis' room Ben sat down on the sofa. Lewis produced two glasses of the precious liquid and joined him. He took a sip and it went down like burning nectar. In his relaxed mood he slipped off his shoes and lay across the sofa with his head cradled in Lewis' lap. The external throbbing he felt in the back of his neck sent the right message.
Ben was the first to wake in the morning. Completely bare himself he felt Lewis' naked body stretched out over him. He reached down the bed and stroked his buttocks. His head was clear and it gave him pleasure to remember the past twenty-four hours in detail. After last night he would never have to turn away from Lewis again in the shower. Now there could be no secrets between them. As Lewis lay asleep still Ben carefully got out of bed, pulled on his slip and peering round the door to see if the coast was clear padded across to his own room, took off his slip, put on his dressing gown, returned to Lewis' room with a tray of coffee and biscuits and woke him with a kiss. He slipped off his dressing gown and climbed back into bed. His body felt cold against Lewis's. They drank their coffee in silence before going off to shower and then down to a buffet breakfast. Ben had not felt so great since the morning after Marc's stagnight.
Ben was now in a quandary. He was due out at Oddstones for Sunday lunch and his parents were also there. When he accepted the invitation he could not have foreseen how the weekend might turn out. He could cancel, but he knew better than that. There was nothing else for it. A quick telephone call. Elly answered.
"Yes, of course you can bring Lewis." He was known to the family anyway. He leapt across to Lewis' room. The outer door was open. He knocked.
"How about lunch with the family at Oddstones?"
"Love to." And that was it. Problem solved. They would have to catch the bus, then walk, but there was one at twelve which meant they would arrive by quarter to one at the latest.
On the way to the bus station they had some serious talking to do. What would they say about their newly established relationship?
"Nothing," said Lewis rather masterfully. "They know we're friends. We don't have to tell them we jumped into bed together last night. You said you don't want to come out yet. Fair enough."
"But what about you, Lewis?"
"I haven't said a lot. We're still getting to know each other, but I came out at the age of fourteen." Ben's jaw dropped and then he smiled.
"Youre a dark horse."
Meanwhile they had reached the bus station and climbed onto the bus. They sat together on the back seat. There were few other passengers.
"It was no big deal," continued Lewis. "The hard part is knowing for certain and even these days you need to be discreet, especially in our profession. They can conveniently forget our 'human rights', even though we have committed no crime. You just have to remember the Woolworth's rule - you can look, but you're not allowed to touch - and we still have freedom of thought, just, despite the PC crowd."
"Tell me how you did it," rejoined Ben.
"I will, but not now. When we're both in the right mood some time." If it hadn't before it was just dawning on Ben that he was dealing with a past master. Despite the experiences within the family he was just the new kid on the block.
During this conversation they had arrived at the village and were wandering along the lanes to Oddstones. Yesterday's crisp high pressure had given way to a damp and overcast, though warmer day. A breeze had sprung up and occasionally they could feel rain in the wind. The door was opened by Elly and they were greeted in the hall by Marc and Seb. A curious electricity sparked between them, an odd form of recognition. Marc and Seb had met Lewis before, but today a kind of sixth sense or telepathy was at work which seemed to increase the warmth of the welcome. Having taken off their outer garments they were led into the large sitting room and Ben could introduce Lewis to his parents.
For lunch seven of them sat round a large dining table. The roast pork was a Marc & Elly co-production. The parents had been banned from the kitchen, though Seb seemed to have free access. In fact he was a very good factotum, opening wine bottles, pouring beer, laying the table. Until the meal was served Lewis and Ben could talk to the parents over sherry. Marc carved the joint, symbolically master in his own house. It was three before they left the table when coffee was served. Time was getting short for Marc's and Ben's parents as they had to drive back to the west country and wanted to leave while it was still light until they reached the main roads. As they were collecting their things together, Ben and Lewis took over the washing-up and when the parents finally left the whole family plus Lewis were gathered to wave them goodbye. The wind had increased and now the rain had started with a vengeance.
The time passed so congenially that it was rather late when they thought of having tea. Usually on these occasions Marc would give his brother a lift back into town. When Elly went to get the tea, Seb took Lewis off to show him his apartment. Marc and Ben were left alone in the sitting-room. It was Ben who started the conversation. He told his brother about the previous evening.
"Since your stagnight I have had to rethink my whole life and now this confirms the conclusion I came to. Still, while he's been a close friend for over three months now, that was the first time that Lewis and I had any sexual relationship. I was, I still am very fond of him simply as a friend and if I hadn't been so naïve I should have seen it coming. I've no regrets apart from being so blind before. I thought that up to yesterday I had been taking the initiative, but if I had, I lost it when I lost that squash match."
"Well, you know what happened to me. I fretted about it for months, then suddenly I felt overwhelmed and I accepted my destiny."
"How do you think Mum and Dad will take it?"
"I don't think it will be a surprise. They gradually found out about Seb and me. Not that I hid anything. It was just that I was finding out about myself gradually. They were very understanding and they know of course how similar we are in many ways. The other thing that will help, as it helped with me, is that you have been a good son and made a success of your life. After this afternoon they will be prepared. Your body language will have given something away."
"Oh, I didn't think of that."
"And a good thing too," said Marc "or you could have appeared to be acting in a very strange way."
With a clatter of cups on a tray Elly came in with the tea things. "Where are Seb and Lewis?" "They'll be down in a minute. Seb's showing him his apartment," and at that they were to be heard coming down the stairs, laughing and chatting all the way.
As the evening went on the wind had become even higher and the rain lashed against the windows. Elly said "Marc, I don't like the idea of you driving through this. That wind's strong enough to bring a tree down. What about if Ben and Lewis stayed for the night?"
"What time's your first lecture tomorrow?"
"Not till ten."
"Then I recommend you do what Elly suggests."
"You will have to share the spare room in the attic," she said. "I havent had time to get any of the other rooms ready, but if you don't mind you're welcome to stay." Lewis made the usual polite protestations. Ben knew that it was useless to fight his sister-in-law's determination and thanked her for her kindness. Elly took them upstairs while Marc and Seb cleared away the tea things. They were amazed at the size of the room which had been built into the loft and despite the wind outside it was warm and snug. It had an ensuite bathroom with shower and towels were laid out on the twin beds. When they returned to the sitting room Marc had the malt whisky and glasses ready. No one was going anywhere any more that night. Towards eleven o'clock it seemed a natural time to retire. The two boys (boys! Well they were the youngest of the menfolk there.) said their goodnights and in a mellow mood climbed the stairs to the attic. They knew Seb had his own wing which separated them from Marc's and Elly's part of the house. They even noticed the room had a telephone and Elly had put a tray ready for coffee in the morning. They realised without speaking how lucky they were to be spending a second night together. Ben put his arms round Lewis' waist and kissed his lips. Nothing else needed to be said. They undressed and climbed into the same bed.
At half past seven the next morning they were woken by the telephone. Lewis tumbled out of bed to answer it. Breakfast would be at eight. They showered and dressed and before going downstairs Lewis took Ben in an embrace and gave him a long kiss. They separated, Ben ruffled the other bed and swapped over the pillows and they went downstairs.
After breakfast Marc drove Elly, Lewis and Ben into Cambridge in the family space-wagon. Looking around at the state of the roads strewn with the odd debris from trees Elly repeated her conviction it had been better for the lads to stay the night. As he sat in the back with Lewis Ben could not help but think back to the stagnight when instead of Lewis Guy had sat in that same vehicle with him. That was the beginning of an adventure which this weekend had only just begun to unfold.
The two lads arrived back at their rooms in time to change and reach their ten o'clock lectures in good time. They briefly saw one another at lunchtime. With the pressure of work they decided to meet in the college bar for a beer at ten that evening. They needed to take stock. Also, on the following Thursday Ben had been summoned for interview at his teaching practice school. The letter from the Mythe was waiting for him on his return from Oddstones. So now something else had crept into the equation, something which also required some preparation. They dined in Hall but disappeared to their rooms as soon as dinner was over. At the appointed hour they went down to the bar. As it was a Monday they expected it to be fairly quiet, but sod's law dictated all their mates were there and of course they wanted to chat. Ben and Lewis ordered their pints and after five minutes of banter with the lads and a couple of ladettes took their drinks up to Ben's room.
Ben didn't know how to start, but Lewis helped him out. They both agreed on the marvellous weekend and the fact that they could not have predicted such a fortuitous outcome.
"How did we ever become so attracted to each other?" Ben enquired. Despite his family background in these matters he still possessed a certain amount of naïvety. Lewis was ready to offer an answer.
"You know I told you I came out when I was fourteen? Well, I'll tell you a little more about that in a minute, but anyway I had a few relationships while I was still at school, nothing serious, just as young lads do at that age. After the sixth form we parted and at university I got into the same sort of company. It's not difficult with a little experience and if you keep your eyes and ears open. But it was casual and no one stole my heart exactly.
"I decided to come south on graduating and was lucky enough to get a place at Cambridge. After all, it has got a certain reputation. As you know I had lodgings in town, which I didn't particularly like, especially as I didn't get to meet people, but then I had the chance of rooms in college which is what I'm used to. We were allocated the same school for TP, as well as the same landing in college. When we first met I was immediately taken by your appearance. All right, I fancied you. No more than that. I'm not in the business of conversion. That's a sure way to get a good slapping. It was only gradually that you gave away clues. You had been a photographic model. In itself that says nothing about you except that you were bound to have worked with gays and you never said anything anti. I fed in odd remarks or we discussed certain topics and you reacted in the right way. Then I got to know your family and its history, both personally when we went out to Oddstones. Of course I only actually met Seb for the first time this weekend and we took to one another immediately. We had great fun when he took me to his study. We talked about his photographs and that's when I spotted Guy. Well, that gave us something to talk about. You remember on Saturday night the coincidence that I had met him on that school exchange and I said little more? Yes, you've guessed it. He was the first person to seduce me. I won't say rape, either, because it was with full consent. He certainly knows his job well. We had a thoroughly good time and I learnt things I could only previously have dreamt of. After that, although he had had no intention previously, he wangled his way onto the return visit when one boy went down with appendicitis. So at fourteen I realised my true sexuality and came out. I was surprised how well my parents took it. I was expecting a row. And by the way Guy and I had a jolly good time during that fortnight in Glasgow as well. So now we have something else in common. We both lost our virginity to Guy.
"Then on TP we got to know one another better and better. I enjoyed working with you in those two sessions a week on the gamesfield where we had the interest in our own physiques in common, not mention those of some very pretty boys. I cherished your company and assumed you liked mine, but did not want to push it. Then this weekend it all came together. During squash you lost the match, and I must admit to some sneakiness there, then in the shower control. The rest we both know."
"Where do we go from here?" asked Ben.
"Its early days yet," Lewis replied. "Weve got each other definitely until the end of teaching practice next term. Then we could end up anywhere and that will be a test. The important thing will be to act discreetly. If we sleep together it will be a happy coincidence as it was this weekend. Otherwise we just share each others company." They looked at the clock and finished their pints. Time for bed. They embraced tightly and kissed. Lewis left and Ben took the glasses back down to the bar. He didn't want to wake up to the smell of stale beer in the morning. He was soon in bed asleep.
During the rest of the week Ben had plenty to occupy his mind. With Lewis' advice accepted their relationship in public was no different from what it had been before the weekend. They might have been in and out of each other's rooms slightly more frequently, but who would notice that? Thursday was ever in the forefront of Bens mind, not only in preparing himself, but also making sure he could take a day out and still keep up with his work. For the evening Marc had invited him to dine as his guest in his college.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday at last. Ben got up, showered and took an early breakfast. He had to report to the school at 10 o'clock. Lewis popped in to say good luck just as he was changing into a sharp navy blue suit. His black shoes gleamed and Lewis waited to adjust the silk tie under the collar of Ben's pale blue shirt. Lewis gave his suit a final brush, kissed him on the cheek and took his leave. His hair was immaculate.
Ben reported at the school's reception at ten on the dot and then went to the Common Room to be greeted by colleagues whom he knew from TP and who were pleased to see him again. As he was no stranger to the school he was down for the first interview while the other candidates were given the guided tour. At lunch he had the chance to meet the others over sherry and was relieved to discover that only future NQTs had been called. It was a policy of the school to give young men a chance to enter the profession, not out of cheapness, but from a form of idealism which had been found to work. All the interviewees had gained firsts in maths at various universities and appeared quite high-powered. In fact Ben thought his only advantage was the fact that he had already taught there and perhaps, even though he thought so himself, because he was the smartest dresser (and the only ex-model!). Lunch was taken at a separate table presided over by the Second Master. Each candidate was given a chance to talk about himself informally and Ben was interested to hear the various things they all offered over and above the maths. He certainly felt at a psychological advantage having finished his formal interviews. Unlike the others he had no need to give a demonstration lesson, and he pressed this advantage home. After lunch he was free to leave, but decided to talk to staff in the Common Room and then wander down to the gamesfield to meet his TP mentor. Finally he walked back to college. He didn't even have any expenses to claim and even if he had not got the job he had spent a thoroughly enjoyable day.
Once in his room he removed his suit and shirt carefully, slipped on a pair of tracksuit bottoms and a tee shirt and went for a run which cleared the cobwebs. On his return he lay on his bed and imperceptibly fell into a deep sleep.
He was woken by a bang on the door. He had forgotten to sport his oak. It was Lewis and a couple of other mates dying to know how he had got on. He was grateful really for such a rude awakening for he only had an hour before he was due to meet Marc. After satisfying their curiosity he took a shower, climbed into his dinner suit, grabbed a gown and went off to Marc's college.
Marc ushered Ben into the Senior Common Room and offered him a glass of sherry. As a don Marc was smartly turned out in white tie. Since it was not Ben's first time there, he was no stranger, but there was one face he recognised immediately and which recognised him. He came across and said "Good evening, Ben. I hope youve survived the ordeal today." It was Professor Johnston, chairman of the school's board of governors. "I cant say too much at the moment as it were, but we were all very impressed with you. Of course you had the advantage of already having a foot in the door. Better the devil you know, so they say." At that he patted Ben's bottom with one hand and Marc's with the other and to avoid any questions he might not be allowed to answer passed on discreetly to where the drinks were being served. For Ben it was not a life or death decision for he had other irons in the fire.
In a short time the assembly moved to the college hall and they took their places for dinner. It was one of those occasions when the whole college was summoned and expected. At last Marc could ask his brother about his day. Ben felt reasonably content with the way he had acquitted himself, he said, but realised he was up against strong competition. He thought that taking his PGCE in physical education with subsidiary maths had given him an advantage over the pure mathematicians, especially as it was a junior post. He was more puzzled than anything else by Professor Johnston's remark, but he put it out of his mind. Obviously the decision had already been made and lay in the Headmaster's secretary's in-tray ready for typing up.
"Which question put you on the spot most?"
"'Why do you want to teach?' was easy because I had already done it for a year. 'What special contribution to teaching here could you make?' would have been more difficult if I hadn't done TP there. I don't know really." The dinner proceeded and for Ben it was a relaxing end to a strenuous day.
"By the way I wanted to ask you. Next week Elly is off to a five day conference in Luxembourg over the weekend. She suggested to Seb and me we might like to have a bachelor weekend and wondered whether you and Lewis would be interested. Elly thought it would be quite a good idea. Would you like to come along?"
"I'm up for it. I'll ask Lewis and let you know."
"I suggest you both come back with me on the Friday evening and stop over. Then I can bring you back on Monday morning. That'll give us two complete days."
"I look forward to it."
"Well, I haven't got anything planned yet."
By now it was time for the toasts and speeches. Marc and Ben just sat back and relaxed. "One day youll be on your feet up there," Ben told his brother.
"I'll worry about that when it happens." Afterwards it was back to the SCR for informal postprandial drinks and Ben finally reached his rooms just before midnight. He stripped off his clothes and fell into bed and asleep.
Friday at last, Poets' Day. All lectures in the Education faculty were over by lunchtime. Ben caught up with Lewis who could not contain his keenness to attend Marc's bachelor weekend at Oddstones and readily accepted the invitation. Ben was keen to use Friday to catch up the day he had missed and was only to be seen briefly at dinner before he disappeared back to his room. By ten o'clock he felt he could have a relaxing weekend without a bad conscience. After a late night the day before he decided to turn in early.
He woke at his normal time, dressed and went down to breakfast. He was keen, but did not want to appear so, to see if the morning's post had brought anything. There it was. A white DL envelope with his name and address neatly typed and postmarked Cambridge. His heart skipped a beat, but his face betrayed nothing. He took it up to his room, slit it open carefully with a paper knife and removed the contents. Sitting on his bed he read 'We are delighted to offer you an opportunity to attend our careers advice service on ' What a let-down! Still he had other fish to fry. His duel with Lewis - squash rackets at ten. After last week he had a score to settle and nothing was going to prevent him from being single-minded today.
At a quarter to ten there was a knock on the door. Ben picked up the bag with his kit and accompanied Lewis to the courts. They quickly changed and started warming up the ball. Try as he might Lewis could not distract Ben's attention as he proceeded in a clinical manner to give him a thrashing. At the end of the match they shook hands in a way that re-affirmed their relationship and went off to change. Even in the shower Ben maintained his normal cool. They parted with the arrangement to meet for a drink later that evening. Ben telephoned his brother to confirm acceptance of the invitation, then his parents and finally Jessica and Adam, after which he applied himself to his work till lunchtime. He was now up to date. In the afternoon he went into town in search of some light reading and came back to college by the scenic route in time for high tea.
At the appointed hour he picked up Lewis and they wandered into the city to find a quiet watering hole. They talked about the job situation. Lewis had spent the afternoon trawling through the Times Ed. There were plenty of posts available in the maintained sector, but he really wanted to teach in an independent school. He had been particularly annoyed at the picture of one fat, smarmy headmaster who claimed that NQTs were queuing up to teach at his tin pot little school for two thousand pounds a year less than the going rate. It was already difficult enough for those leaving university with loans to pay back. He had ignored an over the top ad for a chemist at that school and anyway he had found three posts he was interested in and would get down to making applications on the Sunday.
"You know, we used to play that place at rugby and cricket when I was at school."
"Ill show you the picture and the article when we get back to college. What are you doing over the Easter vac, Ben?"
"You can't do that the whole time. You'll need a break."
"And there's the final dissertation to write."
"How about coming up to Glasgow and spending a few days with me?"
"Sounds good. Ive never been to Glasgow before, but I don't want one of your Glasgow kisses, okay?" Lewis had his own flat in Scotland passed down when first his father and then within a year his mother died. He also had a small legacy which helped with the upkeep and kept him out of the grasping hands of the banks while he was at college. But that would not last for ever if he could get no job.
"We could go up in my car. That'll save you the railway journey. But I can't stop up there the whole time. I'll have to go back down to the west country." They drank up and wandered back to college, had another in the bar with their mates and then called it a day.
Sunday passed as Sunday does when there are no special arrangements, then Monday morning. At breakfast Ben had to summon up all his patience to remain there until the mail might have reasonably arrived and been sorted. He approached the Porters' Lodge and enquired. Nothing. He made his way upstairs, hands in pockets, head bowed and shoulders sloping. He buried his nose in a book on the philosophy of education until it was time to move off for his ten o'clock lecture. Once he was back in the mainstream his normal high spirits returned.
That afternoon he was due to visit a local comprehensive school to observe some maths lessons. He caught Lewis briefly at lunch and then went off across Cambridge with the other mathematicians. The teacher they observed was obviously gifted and provided his audience with one or two ideas. He was young and lively. Ben could not help but notice how the girls had packed themselves at the front of the class and were hanging on his every word, while the boys at the back of this year nine set represented some kind of attentive normality. Two bright eyed youths particularly caught his attention. In their faces was not only a spark of intelligence which made them stand out, but they were also separated by their neat and clean appearance in their school uniforms - shirts tucked in, ties neatly knotted - and in the end his attention wandered from observing this lesson in good practice, for he was completely taken by the lithesome and supple movements of their bodies to the extent he could not keep his eyes off them. When he realised he told himself he was after all a physical education student, but without any conviction. He tried to concentrate on observing the teaching methods, but his eyes kept straying back to the two adolescents he found so attractive to the point where one of them had noticed and he immediately communicated this to his neighbour. Ben looked at his watch. Ten minutes to go. In the background of his mind he heard the lesson being summed up, but his attention was still held by these two boys who were now looking across and, he was sure, smiling at him. He didn't even look away, but smiled back and winked.
"For the last five minutes," he heard the maths master say and Ben immediately returned to the real world, "perhaps our visitors would like to look at the class' work and talk to the pupils." With a little bit of a conscience that his private thoughts might have been unprofessional he was about to move to the front of the class where the girls were when to his devastation he saw the two attractive boys bringing their exercise books across to him. He gulped and talked to them about what they had been doing, but could not fail to notice that as they stood either side of him they had him trapped as it were. They were leaning against him in a most innocent and friendly manner. He was savouring the warmth and smell of their bodies and was sure from the way they were acting that they were enjoying his. The bell went for the end of the lesson. Ben was relieved. As the class streamed out of the room, the boys told him their names, hoped that he had spent a pleasant afternoon with them and said goodbye, all in a cultured accent one rarely associates with fourteen year olds en masse. On hearing their names he realised that they must be twins, though obviously not identical.
Ben felt hot and was glad to get into the corridor with his fellow students. They had a meeting with their tutor and the maths teacher which would occupy the time until their next period of observation. During it he was restored to his normal balance and extroversion and he asked in full knowledge why the girls sat at the front and the boys at the back of the class. They were unconvincingly informed that was simply the way the class arranged itself. The second lesson ran smoothly for Ben and he felt he had gained a lot from it. School was out and as the local population re-enacted the Bash Street Kids from the Beano the students gathered in the canteen for tea and a final summing up of the afternoon from their tutor and the teachers they had observed.
Eventually the party left and they made their ways back to their various colleges. As Ben passed the Porters' Lodge he noticed a large white envelope addressed to him in the mail rack. It had obviously been hand delivered for it bore neither postmark nor stamp. "Another personal invitation to a careers agency or financial seminar," he thought to himself and secured it to his clipboard as he went upstairs to see if Lewis was in his room. He was and he told him over a mug of coffee about the afternoon he had spent, especially the incident with the two boys. Lewis listened intently. As he got up to go across to his own room the letter fell out of the clipboard.
"Careful. You'd better read that before you lose it."
"I expect it's another load of junk mail," Ben replied as he casually stuck his thumb under the flap and ripped it open. To his astonishment it was a letterhead from the Mythe School. Open-mouthed he skimmed it until to his greater astonishment he read " I therefore have pleasure in offering you the post of junior master in the mathematics department from the 1 September under the conditions of the enclosed contract and the proviso that you successfully complete your PGCE course. Please let me know at your earliest convenience, etc, etc. I look forward to working with you. Yours sincerely Headmaster."
Ben could suppress his feelings no longer. "Ive got the job," he shouted at the top of his voice and immediately took Lewis in a bearhug. He dropped his arms and pressed his hands so tightly against Lewis' buttocks that they could feel the throb of the other's body.
"We must celebrate this," said Lewis.
"That's exactly what we'll do this weekend," replied Ben and in their excitement they tripped and fell onto Lewis' bed still in an embrace. When they eventually released each other they just lay there for five minutes emotionally exhausted. Then Ben went back to his own room. He took out his mobile. He had a few calls to make. Finally he got round to changing into something more casual. As he went to empty his jacket pockets he pulled out a piece of paper from an exercise book. 'We were so surprised to see you today. We spotted you from that Lynx advert in Stud. Jack and Ted Batty' with an address and telephone number. Ben would send them each an autographed photo from his modelling portfolio.