Harry Part IV.

I crawled back to the flat that night, for once blind drunk. I collapsed fully clothes on that bed we had once shared, only waking as the dawn greyed through the windows, the curtains undrawn. Groggily, I pulled off my clothes, took a quick shower, drank a lot of water, and collapsed back into bed - this time to sleep properly.

I think it was midday when I surfaced again. I sat on the side of the bed for a long quarter of an hour before showering again, then dressed and made a large pot of coffee. I could afford to miss the day's lectures. Mug in hand, I surveyed the room. I sighed. I would have to get some cardboard boxes.

No time like the present. Slowly and methodically I went through the flat, piling up Harry's things. I knew he wouldn't be back. Might as well get them out of the way while I could. And there would be more room for my own kit.

By late afternoon there was a pile of his things stacked neatly in a corner. I would get some boxes and put it all in that. Then he - or his parents - could come and collect it all.

Well, what was there now? Either mope, or - I reached for the laptop and a pile of papers. In some ways I was lucky. I found what I was studying fascinating. I didn't particularly want to study now, but it kept me busy, it kept my mind occupied. After a few hours pouring over papers, I made myself some toast - the hangover had almost disappeared - and prepared for bed. Back to the cold empty bed. Plenty of room in it now I was by myself. But I didn't want the room. I wanted the warmth of Harry.

Over the next few days, few weeks, I stayed at college as late as I could, putting off the time when I would have to go back to the empty flat. I had written a note to Harry asking him to collect his stuff. One evening I came back to find the corner with the boxes empty. Someone had come and taken all his things. Whether it had been Harry himself or his parents I didn't know, but it made the break that little bit more final. Then I wrote to arrange the transfer of the flat to me. Despite its memories, it suited me, was convenient for college.

The Fylers were good to me. With unspoken tact, they issued invitations to drinks, to dinner. I met a lot of other historians that way. A useful form of patronage. But many of those evenings I spent talking to Mrs Fyler - or Mary, as she had now become. She never asked after Harry. But his presence was often there between us. I think she too felt something of the loss. They had got on well.

Holidays were difficult too. I got on well enough with my parents, but although they were happy enough to see me, I think they were just as happy when I left. And I felt much the same way in reverse.

More than once I considered going out, finding a bar or a club, and seeing where things went from there. It was a superficially attractive idea, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Partly because I was too self conscious. Partly inertia. Partly because I didn't care for the 'gay scene'.

So I spent more and more time in those dusty files at Kew, reading the memos of long dead men. I could feel their civil service style of language creeping into my own. Now I probably knew more about long dead unfinished projects than anyone else alive. But who cared about them, anyway? And I was now at the end of my undergraduate course. Fyler summoned me one day.

"So," he said briskly, "I take it you're staying on after your degree? To do research?"

There was nothing else that I felt I was fitted to do. And I knew it was something I could do well. That in itself was some consolation. I nodded. "I'd like to, if it's possible."

"Of course. I was counting on that. I don't think you'll have any problem. In fact, I think the biggest problem will be getting around the University regulations so you won't have to spend a ludicrous amount of time on your thesis."

I smiled. "I've probably got enough material for a dozen PhDs. The only hardship will be writing sixty thousand words."

"Well," he said. "Up to a point. Any fool can assemble material and tell a story. To write a good PhD, you need a new slant of some kind. Original. But in the right sort of way."


"Meaning that too many historians look at something, and decide to made their name by being contrary. Making out that Churchill was a failure as a wartime leader. That sort of thing. Makes headlines, but doesn't get you much further. No, what you want is a new slant."

I pondered that. There was a lot in what he said. Then: "There is one thing that's struck me."


"All the books - they say the Prime Minister took the decision to do this, the Foreign Secretary did that, and so on. I don't think a lot of it works like that."

"Oh? Tell me more."

"I think a lot of the real decisions are made lower down, and then are pushed up."

"Really? Such as?"

And then I started. All those files had given me a feel for what I thought were the workings of government. And I started explaining them. He sat and listened for a half hour, then nodded.

"You may well have something there. Put an outline on paper and let me have it."

So began the next stage of my academic career. I was given a little undergraduate teaching, but other than that my time was my own. I took away the desk from the flat and replaced it with two tables. On one side were piles of A3 photocopies from the files of the Public Record Office, on the other the laptop, scanner, printer. I had the skeleton of the thesis ready. It had now to be fleshed out with references, with quotes. I prided myself on my ability to pull out plums, as I called it - phrases from those old memos that summed up the state of mind of the author. I could spend an entire day reading photocopy after photocopy, transcribing relevant parts, putting muscles and skin on that skeleton.

But one day in Kew was different from the others. I had my routine now, like the middle aged researchers that the building was filled with. My thermos of coffee, my bag with a few goodies to keep me going. And on that day I had picked up some fairly useless files, had been slow ordering their replacements. With time to kill before they arrived, I went downstairs for break and a cup of coffee.

It was midday, a time I normally avoided, as the restaurant was filled with families or groups of people. Not a free table to be seen. There was one by the plate glass windows, with someone by themselves. I made my way over and put the Thermos down, with a "Do you mind?"

Whoever it was looked up. It was Harry.

I suppose that initially we were both too stunned to say anything. Then, rather incoherently, I began to stammer: "I'll ..."

"No, no," he said, pulling out a chair.

I sat down, my Thermos forgotten. We looked at each other.

Harry had changed - subtly, but changed. Some of his features had faded, others now more prominent. Indefinably, he was no longer a young man. Yet he was - only twenty four? He stared back. Then I felt I had to say something, no matter how banal.

"What are you here for?"

He shrugged, the moment broken. "Looking up something for my grandfather. He used to work in the Cabinet Office, on a project called Chevaline. He wants to know more about it."

"Ah. Too early for much material on that. And quite a bit is still held back."

"So I found out," he said ruefully.

In front of him was a tray, the plate empty, the knife and fork neatly tidied together. He toyed with an empty piece of cellophane wrapping.

"And you?" he asked.


"What are you doing here?"

"Oh, right. Research. For my PhD."

"Of course." He was silent again, then: "How are the Fylers?"

I began to tell him. For a moment there was a flash of that old intimacy, then he lowered his eyes again. He began fiddling with the knife and fork on the cleared plate. I was fascinated by how he was now a stranger, and yet I was able to read him of old. I knew there was something he wanted to say.

Then, still looking at the plate: "I'm getting married next month."

Again, I was thunderstruck. Married? Then I felt a flash of guilt. Had I - corrupted him, as his mother might say - all those years ago? Those afternoons in Hawke House when he threw himself across me. Perhaps I had - or was it that he was now determined to be 'normal', after all? There were so many things that I wanted to ask, yet couldn't. Yet perhaps I was misjudging him after all - having one gay relationship didn't mean that you couldn't fancy girls either.

"Congratulations," I said - but after too long a pause.


What else could I say to him after that? In many ways I knew little about him, despite being at the same school together, having lived together, having been that once to his home.

"I'm sorry," he said finally. I raised an eyebrow. "For ... well, running out like that."

I shrugged. "It was a bad time all round."


He fiddled with his knife and fork again, then suddenly rose to his feet. "I'd better be off."

"Sure And - good luck for the future."

He nodded. "You too."

I watched him as he took his tray away. Still the same movement in the way he walked. I felt a rush of - what? Not affection. Desire, maybe. But he walked away without looking back. Slowly I poured out my coffee. One little bit of me wished that the marriage would be a disaster - but then, whatever made him happy. If that was really what he wanted, then I wanted it for him too, despite the residue of emotion, of feeling for him.

The memory of our meeting lingered. I got no more work done that afternoon - instead I left early and headed off to Kew station, trying not to think of him. More than once I had had fantasies of a knock on the door, of opening it to find Harry standing there. And what might have followed. But this was perhaps some sort of closure.

I didn't get an invitation to the wedding and I didn't expect one. I could imagine that Mrs Collins senior would have vetoed that one. And I don't think that Harry would have liked me around as a reminder of that particular episode from his past.

But still I couldn't settle back to work. Eventually I took a couple of days of to go and stay with a friend, another bachelor. Whether he was gay or not I didn't know, and didn't want to find out. We had a fairly uncomplicated relationship, meeting for the occasional drink from time to time. We had been undergraduates together, and he had gone off to work for English Heritage. His interest was in Cold War sites. As he put it: "In all those lumps of concrete left lying around the countryside." We spent a day on the Isle of Wight, looking at the old rocket test site by the Needles. I needed the fresh air and sunshine after London. We drank beer in the pubs in Yarmouth. We walked along the long shingle bank to Hurst Castle, and watched the sun set over the Purbeck Hills.

And back in London, the next stage of my academic career began to take shape. The PhD was nearing its end, and Fyler had plans for publication, for a long paper based on it. But this time it would be my name leading the credits. Through a long winter I worked at getting it into shape. It seemed as though that would be straightforward enough, but it turned out to be a frustrating process. Getting the big ideas right had been relatively easy; chasing up all the details was a nightmare. In desperation I dug out all the photocopies again, and began going through the entire stack once more.

I was taking a break in the late afternoon when the bell rang downstairs. I wasn't expecting anyone. Indeed, very few people had crossed the threshold in the past three years. It might be a parcel, or someone lost, or a Jehovah's Witness. The bell rang again. I went down to answer it.

Standing on the doorstep was a rather attractive young woman. I smiled, expecting an apology for having rug the wrong bell. But instead she stood there, looking at me carefully. As if she knew me. And I was sure I'd never seen her before. For several seconds we looked at each other before I asked: "Can I help you?"

"You're Charles Hampson?" she asked.

"Yes," I told her, still more intrigued rather than irritated.

Still she stood there examining me. What was this all about?

"You have the advantage of me," I told her.

That old fashioned phrase made her smile slightly. "Sorry," she said. "I'm Camilla."

Camilla? Should I know a Camilla? "Sorry?"

"Camilla. Camilla Collins."

It took a long long time before the penny dropped. Play dumb, I thought. "Yes?"

Her expression changed slightly. "Harry's wife."

Oh dear. Oh dear me. This wasn't a social call. "Harry's wife. How do you do."

I stuck out a hand. She ignored it.

"Can I talk to you?"

Oh Lord. "Of course. Sorry, come on in."

I took her upstairs and started babbling about the state of the desk, the papers strewn on the floor. She ignored me and gazed around at the flat.

Then: "I need to talk to you."

And I could guess what about. The sun had set in its wintry fashion, and I knew that I couldn't get through what was coming without something to help.

"I'm going to open a bottle of wine," I told her. "Do you want a glass?"

She nodded. "Please."

I went through the ritual of finding a bottle and opening it, finding two glasses, pouring out the wine, giving her a glass, postponing the inevitable.

"Sit down, please." I waved her to a seat.

She sat down, but still looking around at the flat, not at me.

I decided to try to take the initiative. "What can I do for you?"

Her attention switched back to me. She took a sip of her wine, then: "You've known Harry for some time." It was a statement, not a question.

I nodded. "On and off for some years."

"At school." Another statement.

"That's right."

"You left the school in something of a hurry."

"Personal reasons."

"So Oliver told me."


"Oliver Cartwright."

Ollie! Ah. "Ollie. Haven't seen him for some time."

"I imagine not."

She was pretty - no, that's wrong. That sounded too vapid. She was attractive, and in a very feminine way. Even I appreciated her attractiveness. And she wasn't at all boyish, but very feminine indeed. And no airhead either. She was laying her groundwork carefully.

She took another sip of her wine. "Oliver didn't really want to talk about it. About you, and school, and Harry, I mean."


"No. I had to work quite hard on him." I said nothing, returned her steady gaze. "And I gather you and Harry met again at University."

"That's right."

"And he used to live here for some time. Before his car accident."

I was thrown momentarily. "Car accident?" I blurted. I could have bitten my tongue.

She looked interested. "You didn't know about it?"

"No - must have been after ..."


"Well, he dropped out, you know."

"I thought he dropped out because of the accident."

So that was the story he'd given her. "Really? I wondered why at the time."

"Didn't you try to find out?"

I shrugged. "People come, people go."

"But you took this flat over from him."


She sighed. "Look. I'd better explain things properly." Another sip of the wine. "You know we were married some months ago?" I nodded. She looked surprised again.

"I bumped into Harry one day at the Public Record Office in Kew, some months ago. He was looking something up for his grandfather. He told me then."

"Ah. Well." She looked down into her glass for a moment. "This is going to get personal, I'm afraid. You see, when we were first married, Harry was very enthusiastic about sex. But I think I was the first girl he'd ever had. He was ... a little na´ve." I kept my face as neutral as I could. "I'm telling you all this because there's a problem.

"You see, it wore off. And he became less and less enthusiastic. And now - we haven't had sex for weeks. More than that." She paused. "I began to wonder whether it was me. Was I losing my appeal?"

"No," I told her, "you haven't."

She smiled, slightly sadly, and inclined her head. "Thank you for that." She paused, then carried on. "So. Harry - he's very careless in some ways, you know. He uses the same password for everything on his computer. I searched it one day. A password protected folder. But ..." I could guess. "Well. I discovered why he'd lost his ... enthusiasm. He had a lot of pictures in that folder. All quite graphic. But not of women." She finished her glass of wine. Now was not the time to offer a refill. "And some other pictures. Not graphic at all. But taken in this flat," she said looking around. "And entitled Charles1, Charles2, that sort of thing."

I remembered - Harry had got a digital camera for his birthday, from his parents. Not long before .... and he'd tried it out in here.

"So I began to put two and two together. I didn't think I was getting five. And I rummaged through the house. A cardboard box, with some notes and letters. About changing the lease back into your name."

I remembered those too.

"And I tried talking to his mother. That didn't get me very far." The expression on my face when she mentioned his mother must have amused me. "Bit protective, isn't she?"

"You might say that," I agreed.

"So. Am I getting the picture right?"

"What picture?"

She sighed. "Do I have to spell it out?" mixing her metaphors.

I stood up, poured us more wine, and went to the window. One of the reasons why I liked the flat was that it faced south, got what winter sun there was. But the sun was down; instead I looked out across rooftops lit by the orange glare of London's streetlights.

I turned round and sat down again, uncomfortably aware of her gaze.

"Look, anything that happened in the past is history. It doesn't apply to the Harry of today."

She looked sceptical. Then she asked: "And you? You're not married?" I shook my head. "And no girlfriend?"

"What you're getting at," I said wearily, " is: Am I gay? Well, yes. That's been no secret for some time. But I live here by myself. And no, I don't go around picking up strange men in bars, or anything like that."

She nodded. "Fair enough. But ..."


"What about Harry?"

"Have you talked to him?"

She hesitated. "No. I wanted to be sure first."

"And are you?"

"I think so. And ..."


"Did you and he ...?"

I sighed again. "In the old phrase, anything from here, I'll neither confirm nor deny."

"That's an answer in itself."

"Take it any way you like."

She shrugged. "I suppose. But come on - you and him - here - together."

"You'll have to talk to him about that."

She nodded slowly. "I think you're right. The way we're going on now - it can't last. Night after night - we get into bed, and he turns over and goes to sleep. And it's not as if he's that tired. And I've tried weekends too. The usual things - candlelit dinners ..." She smiled ruefully. "Sounds silly, doesn't it? Trying to seduce your own husband. And it was so good at the beginning."

I was uncomfortable. "Look ...."

"It's all right. It's just that - I haven't been able to tell anyone up to now."

I was being cast in the role of agony aunt - and it was a role I wasn't very good at. Again I was uncomfortable.

"I'm sorry," I said awkwardly. "All I can suggest is to talk it over with Harry himself."

I could see her face cloud over. "What a wonderful conversation that's going to be."

"I can't really tell you anymore - it's not fair to him."

She stood up. "OK, OK, I get the message. Thanks anyway, for your time."

"No problem."

I showed her out, then made my way back upstairs, and poured out the last of the wine, slumping in my chair. I thought I knew what might happen next.

It took a week. I knew when I heard the doorbell. Down I went, and on the doorstep was ... Harry. He looked flushed and angry. "I need to talk to you," he said curtly.


We went back up. He flopped straight into a chair and stared and me. "So - what's this you've been telling Camilla?"

I sighed inwardly. "Not much."

"Not much?" His voice rose. "Not much?"

"No, Harry, You see, she'd worked it out already. Why do you think she came here in the first place?"

He faltered. "You asked her to come!"

"No, Harry. She turned up on the doorstep."

"I don't believe you!" I shrugged. I looked over the room to him. Superficially the same, even in this foul mood. But there were changes too; changes due to time, due to circumstances.

"Well, what did happen then?" he went on.

"She'd worked most of it out before she came here. Harry - do you use the same password for all the folders on your computer?"

He stared at me. "Yes - well, I suppose I do."

"And there's one folder with some rather revealing pictures - including some of me."

He went white. Then I could see the implications sinking in. He seemed to shrink back into the chair.

"Camilla's seen ... those?" I nodded. He continued to stare at me, but now the anger had gone. "Oh, my God." Then he looked down at his hands, unable to meet my eye any more.

I said nothing, but stood up and went out to the kitchen to make coffee. When I came back some minutes later Harry was still sitting there. I handed him a mug. "Thanks," he said mechanically.

I sat down and let him think things through. Eventually. "What am I going to do, Charles?"

I sighed inwardly once more. Agony aunt time again. Or agony uncle. Whichever. Not my favourite role.

"You've got to talk to her."

"How? I mean, what would I say?"

"The truth."

He didn't like that - I could see by his face. "But I do love her."

"Fair enough. But love - some people want the physical side too."

His face screwed up. "She told you that?" I nodded. "It was so good at first," he said, miserably. "But then ... it got more and more difficult. I needed those pictures to ... get going. And now - even those don't work."

"And she might well want a family in the future."

"There are ways ..." then his voice trailed off as he realised the absurdity of what he had just said.

"Look, it's for the two of you to sort out. I'm not the best person to be giving advice."

"But there's no one else I can talk to," he said plaintively. I imagined him trying to have a heart to heart on the subject with his mother, and smiled inwardly.

"Maybe, Harry. But it's Camilla you have to talk to first."

"I suppose so." His voice was becoming sulky. Looking at him, I could feel some of that long suppressed hurt welling back to the surface. He had run out on me, and that had hurt. True enough, he'd been badly injured, and damaged, and I could see how it had happened, but logic does not always triumph over emotion.

"Come on." I stood up. "You need to go home and sort things out with Camilla. Properly. And the sooner the better."

With a hangdog air he went down the stairs. I knew it wouldn't be the last I'd be seeing of him.

And of course it wasn't. A phone call a week later.

"Charles? It's Harry."


"Yeah. Look, could we meet up for a talk?"

At least he hadn't suggested coming here. "A talk?"

"Yeah. Just a talk. The Star?" The Star was a pub about a mile away.

"If you'd like to."

"Please. Tomorrow? About eight?"

"OK. Tomorrow at eight, the Star."


And he hung up.

I wasn't sure what to expect. I arrived a little late: Harry was already there.

"Hi, Charles. A pint?"

I nodded and he went off to the bar. I sat down and waited, then he came back, putting the glass down in front of me.

We chatted inconsequentially for some time. In one way, it was easy to slip back into the mode of easy intimacy, of conversational shorthand, although there was always a small voice in the back of my head reminding me that all this was superficial. Intimate in conversation, perhaps, but in nothing else.

But after half an hour of this, I began to get a little tired of it.

"Well, Harry, what can I do for you?" He looked a little hurt at the bluntness of this. "This isn't a drink for old times' sake."

Uncomfortable, he swirled his glass in another of those displacement gestures I remembered so well. But now it was as though I was looking at them through frosted glass.

Finally: "I spoke to Camilla." This in a new tone of voice, much quieter. I said nothing. Another long pause. "I told her I loved her, but ...."

Cruelly I remained silent. That would pull much more out of him. He sighed. "She said that wasn't enough." He swirled the glass again. "That a marriage needed more." Finally: "She's asked for a divorce."

"I'm sorry."


"So why this meeting?"

"I needed .... I needed someone to talk to. There's nothing left to say to Camilla. I can't talk to my parents. There's no one really."

"As I told you before, I'm not the best choice," I said quietly. He glanced up at me. "Look, Harry. When you left, it was painful. Very painful. You gave in to your mother. And now this idea of marriage - did you really think it was going to work?"

"I thought I could make it work," he said miserably.

"And it was an experiment that was very unfair on Camilla."

"I know."

"So why the call to me?"

"As I said, you're the only one I can talk to. Besides ..."

"Besides what?" I said, almost harshly. Because I had this horrible feeling that Harry had some notion of taking up again where we had left off. And I couldn't face the prospect of that. You don't put your hand in the fire twice. Love is intoxicating enough, but intoxication can gave you a hang over too. Did I want to through all that again? Or had I become too used to life at an even tenor? Damping down the emotions to give a pain free life. And a love free life.

"I don't know. Charles?"


"Don't badger me. Please. You're the one person left in my life I can talk to in honesty." Now that I could appreciate. Harry had never deceived me, never held back. He tried again: "Can't we just talk? One to one?"

I was glad he didn't add: "Like we used to."

I gave a small crooked smile. "Talking never hurts."

He looked at me gratefully. And we went back to our idle inconsequential conversation.

Harry rang again a week or two later. Another drink?

I had given the matter a lot of thought. Did he just want someone to talk to? Did he want to get involved again? And if so, did I? And even if he didn't, we might end up drifting that way. I knew when I looked at him, memories were evoked. The hot flushed Harry back in Hawke House after his cross country runs, sprawling himself across me. That boyish attraction had long since faded. The smile was still there from time to time, flashing out, but rarely these days. The more mature Harry of university days, with a slim body that could excite me. The physical intimacy as well as the sexual intimacy. But the new Harry, beaten down by his battle with his own nature - was that still attractive? The Harry that had run out on me. Did I want to go through that again? And was I misreading his signals anyway? Actually, I don't think Harry himself knew what he wanted.

Well, in one way, I did. He wanted to be a respectable pillar of society. One with a wife and family, to show how normal he was. And that had failed. The alternative was far less attractive. To be living openly with another man - that had its perils, as he had found out to his cost. And such people were treated differently - partly because they were different. I didn't want a label either - but like Harry, I didn't have much of an alternative - other than a solitary existence in a closet of my own.

In the end, I said yes to the drink, and it turned out to be a relatively painless evening. Harry had obviously decided that it would be a purely social event, and we chatted away more as old friends than anything. Once or twice a slightly more personal tone intruded, and I skated away from that. He said nothing about Camilla or his family.

And again, a fortnight later. This time, he mentioned briefly that he and Camilla were going to separate, prior to their divorce. I murmured something about how sorry I was. Then he said he wasn't sure where he was going to live, if they split up. He couldn't go home to his parents. But I didn't let that one go any further.

Our meetings became fairly regular, but still only on this fairly superficial level. I think, to be fair, that Harry did need someone he could talk to fairly freely, even if we didn't touch very deeply on his problems. But he was beginning to look less strained that he had before, less anxious. The Harry that I had once known was beginning to come in closer focus. Or was it that I was simply becoming used the changes in him?

The Great Day arrived one Saturday in June. This was the morning when I stood in the centre of the room watching my laser printer churn out page after page. The thesis was written! I had poured over innumerable drafts, rewritten them, proof read them, taken them into to Fyler for review. He had torn apart one chapter - but then I knew it needed tearing apart, I just wasn't quite sure why.

The phone rang as I stood there, waiting for the last fifty pages to work their way through the computer. It was Harry.

"Are we on for tonight?" he asked?

"Sure. And it'll be a celebration."

"Why's that?"

"The thesis finished at last!"

"Hey! That will be something to celebrate! Congratulations. How do you feel?"

"Glad it's all over."

"Great. See you later, then."


I was stacking the sheets into a nice neat pile when the bell went downstairs. Who could that be? I gave the papers a final tap into place, and went down, opened the door.

There on the pavement was Harry. He waved a bottle of champagne at me.

"It can't wait until this evening. I brought along something for you."

"Thanks, Come on in."

We went up and I got two glasses. Harry twisted the wire off the cork and deftly twisted it out. He poured out the wine.

"Here's to the Great Work!" he said.

We touched glasses and took a sip. He turned to the table and looked at the pile of paper; went over and began carefully leafing his way through.

"How are the Fylers?" he asked, as he looked the thesis over.

"Fine. He'll probably be as glad as me that it's all over."

"So what now?"

I shrugged. "A research fellowship and some lecturing next year. We want to turn the thesis into a long article."

"Hampson and Fyler?"

I nodded. "That's right. My name first this time."

The champagne was soon finished, and I opened another bottle of wine. But the late afternoon we were both very tipsy. Harry disappeared off to the loo at one stage, and I stared out of the window across the familiar vista of south London rooftops. I heard him come back, and as I stared out to the blue sky, I felt arms going around my neck. I tensed.


"Is this a good idea, Harry?" I asked quietly.

"I don't know," he said, softly. "But I can't think of a better one."

Perhaps it was the wine that was my undoing. But after years of celibacy, resistance was difficult. Yet I cursed my own analytical mind when I found Harry and I going through the old rituals of lovemaking, each anticipating the other. Until at last we were sprawled across the bed in the late evening light.

And Harry was lying across me in a manner reminiscent of those afternoons in Hawke, his head tucked against my neck, until he last raised his head and looked into my eyes.

"Why did it take us so long, Charles?"

I said nothing.

"I'm sorry," he said finally. I pulled his head down again. Into my ear he whispered, "Do you remember those afternoons after cross country?"

So perhaps the pose was deliberate after all.

"Very well," I told him.

"I knew something then," he said. "But I wasn't sure what." He was silent for a minute or so. Then: "I have a confession to make."


"After one of those times, I went for a shower ... and met Ollie."


"We - well, you can guess what." Remembering Ollie, I could.

"I think I can."

"And, well, I was more than usually enthusiastic. And I didn't know why at the time. I did later. Am I forgiven?"

I smiled. "You are. How is Ollie these days?"

"Making a lot of money in the City. And living with a very attractive girl."

There was another pause, then he lifted his head again. "Charles?"


"Can you forgive me?"

"Of course," stroking the back of his neck.

"If only ..." and he stopped.

"Harry, you were beaten up. Badly. Let's face it, to be gay and to be out is very difficult."

"I know. I suppose I wanted the life that everyone else had." He hesitated again. "The life my mother wanted for me."

"You're not going to have it."

"I know, I know." Then he looked at me again. "But at least I've got you instead."

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