Prefects are chosen from the senior boys, and they are supposed to be there to help keep order, maintain discipline, make sure the House runs smoothly, and so on. I was a prefect. Except I wasn't very good at it. I knew I wasn't very good at it. But I tried. I worked at it. Which, in my case, meant dishing out punishments. Punishments are, in a sense, an admission of defeat. Martin, the Head of House, didn't give out punishments. He just told people what to do, and they did it. The power of command. Or being a natural leader. Eddie, another of the prefects, never gave out any punishments either, but that was because he was both idle and useless. Me, I try. But I don't have that power of command that Martin has. So that means that I have to threaten people to make them do things. Then give out the punishments when they don't. If I was going to be a prefect then I was going to make the best job of it I could, even if it meant giving out all that extra labour as punishment.
Don't get the idea that prefects can do what they like. The punishment book is strictly regulated, and we can't just hand out what we want in the way of punishments. Punishments are supposed to involve doing something useful, like litter picking, or tidying up the books in the House library, or some other task. Burton, our Housemaster, checks up on it all. He occasionally says something to me about the number of times I put people in the book, but I think he knows I give the punishments out not because I want to, but because I have to. Which is why Jack was in my study that particular evening, when I was the duty prefect.
"So what were you doing wandering around at this time of night? Half an hour after lights out?"
"Just been for a shower." And he was damp, a towelling robe over his shoulder, towel wrapped round his waist. He slipped on the robe and tugged at the cord.
"I was working earlier."
I shrugged. "So?"
"So I didn't have time for a shower."
"Eddie let me have a shower, last night."
"You shouldn't be so keen. People like Eddie don't mind."
"But I do." He looked at me, wet hair slicked back, tugging again at that cord. I looked back. Now, I have a confession to make here. I could have just sent him packing. I could have been mean, and given him a quarter hour of labour. But I was keeping him here because I was enjoying looking at him.
You're not supposed to do things like that. Not if you're a prefect. It's abusing the privilege. But, from time to time, I indulged in little luxuries. For, to make a confession, I did find boys like Jack - well, attractive. I suppose I used to try to rationalise it to myself from time to time - no girls around, so what did you expect? And it wasn't just that they were - well, attractive: they had an aesthetic appeal too. Like Jack. Tall, slim. Fair, blue eyed. Yes, all the cliches. He had a lopsided smile too, and a certain natural charm which came easily to him. And here was I, trying to be severe as I could with him.
I supposed I must have looked at him for that second too long, for he suddenly fidgeted, and dropped his eyes.
"Oh, go on," I said, exasperated. "Next time what happens?"
He feigned innocence. "What?"
"Labour. Now piss off."
He smiled. He know he had got away with it. The trouble with charm such as his is that it worked even on people less susceptible than me. It wasn't good for people to have too much charm. They began to think they could get away with things. Just like Jack.
He gave me that lopsided smile, and slipped out. I watched him go. I knew that my evening fantasy was going to involve him slipping back in once more. Dream on, Steve.
Needless to say, when I was on duty next, a few days later, Jack was up late again. This time he was in his study, working away at his desk. He turned round as I came in, then saw who it was. He put on that smile, hoping to win me over yet again.
"English coursework, Steve. It's due in tomorrow."
"Typical. Leaving it to the last moment, then staying up late." And it was late.
He looked down to his papers, then back at me.
"I've almost finished," he said.
I came up to the desk, and looked over his shoulder. Several sheets of paper were covered with blue ink, in his neat handwriting. That part of his story was true, at any rate.
"I've heard that one before."
"Yeah. And last time I said labour if there was a next time."
"But it's my coursework. I've got to get it done."
"Yeah. But not now."
"How am I going to finish it then?"
I shrugged. "You tell me."
"You can't mean that."
"Want to bet?"
He looked at me, not sure whether I was serious.
"So what do I say to Rees in the morning?"
"Tell him some bastard of a prefect stopped you working after lights out."
Reluctantly, he put the top on his pen and stood up.
"So can I go for a shower?"
I laughed. "Hey, look, you're up late already, and you want to go for a shower?"
He stood there, looking forlorn. It was a good pose.
"Lights out, Jack. And I'll be back to check."
"Oh, all right then. Can I go to brush my teeth?"
"Should have done all that earlier. No. Bed."
Sulkily he tidied his papers away and turned back his duvet.
"Night," I said as I left. I didn't expect a response.
And as I was getting ready for bed myself, much later, I heard someone outside. Who the hell? I stuck my head out. Jack was disappearing down the corridor.
Reluctantly, he stopped, turned, saw that I'd seen him, made his way back.
"Come in," I said.
He closed the door behind him. "I was only going for a pee."
"Yeah? With your wash bag and towel?"
"I had to finish that work. And clean my teeth."
"Yeah. And I'm going to have to put you down for a half hour's labour."
He came closer. Now he was trying the trembling lower lip routine.
"Don't bother, Jack."
"The 'I'm going to start crying in a moment' routine."
"Yeah, well." He came a bit closer and looked at me. "You're not really going to give me that half hour, are you?"
"Yeah. Why not?"
"It's just that I've got an hour's worth already this week, and I'll be gated if I get any more."
"So?" I shrugged.
"So ... is there any way I can be let off?" There was - but I wasn't going to suggest it. He must have read my mind though. "There must be something ..."
He was quite close now, and trying to look seductive and demure at the same time. With someone else I might have fallen for it. But with Jack I was sure it was just an act. I decided to push him.
"Yeah? Like what?"
He looked at me. "What would you like?"
I raised an eyebrow. This was getting too suggestive. "What have you got to offer?" I asked, rashly.
"Want to find out?" There was no doubt now what was on offer.
"So what makes you think I want to?" I really was pushing things.
He slipped the towel off his shoulder, and did it in such a way as to be deliberately provocative. He knew exactly what he was doing.
He was very very attractive. I had to swallow hard. And I could see that he knew what effect he was having on me. If I let this go on any further, I'd be getting into deep water.
He didn't say anything else, but just stood there looking at me. And now I knew that he wanted to anyway, irrespective of getting himself out of trouble. We stood a foot apart, looking at each other, each waiting for the other to make a move.
"Bed, Jack. In your own room," I whispered eventually.
Slowly he picked up his towel. That half hour of labour was by tacit consent forgotten. Without a word, he turned and slipped out.
I stayed leaning back against my desk. Half of me regretted his going. Half of me was thankful. It would have been taking advantage, I rationalised. Not fair. And, frankly, I was scared. Yes, I wanted what he had to offer - but where was it going to lead? What after that? I was better off keeping my hands to myself.
I switched my own light off and slid under the duvet. I didn't even dare let my mind go down that road. Down boy! I said to my body.
Of course, having gone as far as I had was a mistake. Next time I was on duty Jack gave me this smile, a smile which said: we've got a secret in common. I had undermined my own authority even further by going as far as I had. How could I expect to get him into line now?
Because, of course, he knew his advantage. Sure enough, his light was on when I went round. I put my head round the door. No further.
He looked at me, using that lopsided smile again, using the charm he know he projected. And not only charm.
"Five minutes, Steve."
"I've nearly finished."
"Whatever. Lights out now."
He stayed at his desk. Unguardedly I went further into his room.
"Look, Jack, I said now. Stop pissing about."
He looked hurt, and stood up. "I thought ..."
He was advancing on me. He stopped very close, but still with that air of feigned innocence. I knew it was a pose, he knew it was a pose, but he was enjoying doing it.
I suddenly realised I couldn't retreat. The door was at my back, closed behind me. To open it, I would have to push Jack away. I put up a hand to his chest, then stopped. He hadn't a tee shirt on. Just his shorts. He saw my hesitation and smiled. His eyes looked up at me from under those lashes. He knew my dilemma.
He wasn't going to move and I didn't see how I was going to move him. He was enjoying this, blast him. He leaned forward a little more. He was provoking me, daring me to touch him. I was damned if I was going to let him make me. I moved forward a little to push him back - at least I was in pyjamas.
He took the cloth of my pyjama jacket between his thumb and forefinger.
"Sexy pyjamas," he said.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, it's not the pyjamas that are sexy - it's what's inside."
I had no reply I could make. He looked at me once more and smiled. Slowly he began leaning into me, pushing me back against the door. His feet slid between mine, easing my legs apart, his knees pushing forward. My fantasies becoming realities - but not as I had intended, not as I had imagined. The heat of his groin against mine. His face inches from mine. I could see his eyes, misted, half closed. A long drawn out "mmm ..." from him.
I panicked, tried pushing him away. He giggled as we began a sort of wrestling match, and I found myself taking hold of his arms, his bare arms. We stumbled, fell onto his bed. I found myself half on top him. He lay underneath me, limp now, an invitation to me.
I sat up. He opened his eyes again, looked up at me.
"What's the matter?"
I swallowed convulsively. "We shouldn't ..."
He lay there, almost naked apart from those shorts, those tantalising shorts.
"Bit late for that, isn't it?" He reached up a hand, undid a button on my pyjama jacket. "You can switch the light off if you like." There was amusement in his voice.
I looked at him lying there, slim, relaxed, everything I had imagined lying in bed late at night.
"No, it's OK."
"You can touch me if you like. Anywhere you want." More amusement in his voice. "Anywhere you want," he repeated.
I put my hand on his shoulder, and slowly moved it down, feeling his skin trembling under my touch. I reached the waistband of his boxers.
"Yes - go on ..."
My fingers slid down over the thin cotton material, feeling the heat from below. His body arched upwards as I stroked him, his mouth open, a deep "aahhh ..." sound from deep in his throat.
Then I took my hand, away, leaned back, stood up. His eyes flickered open, looked at me in disbelief as I buttoned up my pyjama jacket once more. "Steve?"
I looked down at him, laid out across the bed. What I had dreamed of night after night. But where would this have ended? Heaven now and hell to pay later. I was not going to let him take charge of me.
I reached down, touched his shoulder. "Good night."
He sat up. "Steve!?"
I opened the door and looked back at him, staring at me open mouthed. I would never have a chance like this again.
I closed the door behind me and went back to a solitary, cold bed.
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