William Chapter – 1
Paul Jamison

This story begins in late August the last week of the school summer holidays...

“Goodness! That boy is growing so fast!”

I turned to my better-half Rick. “He must have put on a good three inches these school holidays?”

The boy in question was cleaning his bicycle in his back garden which was clearly visible from the upper floor of our own home next door. I had been idly passing the time with my first cup of tea and the Saturday newspaper whilst Rick prepared our Saturday brunch of boiled eggs, tea for me, coffee for him, with toast and my own home-made marmalade. We had just crawled out of bed after a satisfying lovemaking session. The thought of which still stirred me somewhat.

Rick put down the tray he had brought through from the kitchen and joined me by the window.

“Yes, it certainly seems like it, he is such a polite lad, helped me in with the groceries last evening as he saw me struggling with five bags. I should've made two trips but it was wet and I thought I could just manage it all in one.” Rick continued to watch him cleaning down the bike. “He's going to be a real stunner isn't he?” He said, looking towards me.

“He’s going to be a stunner.” I giggled. “He's past that. He's one right now, if you ask me!”

We both looked through the window taking in the sight of the teen next door.

“Five bags?” I said, coming out of my gazing mood. “What's all that for.”  

“The get together on Sunday, we've Steve and Paul and Adrian and James over for dinner.  You've a head like a sieve sometimes.” Rick laughed.

“No! I hadn't forgotten at all ...well only a bit, I was thinking of other stuff just now.”

 As we watched, William's father came out of the house and came over to him. William turned round to face his dad, carried on wiping down the bike frame while having some sort of conversation with him. The discussion seemed to get a little heated and the two disappeared back into the house. We resumed our Saturday morning brunch, thinking no more of the incident.

Rick looked over and said “William was round here last week asking about computers. He knows you build them and it seems he is after something for his fifteenth birthday. It's in two weeks time, just after they're all back at school.”

“Yes he is, William spoke about it while I was putting more ram in that old thing of his dad's that he's making do with, until dad okay's the dosh for something new. He's after something with all the bells and whistles. He doesn't know it yet but,”  I grinned widely at Rick, “His dad's agreed to me building one with William's assistance, so he can learn a bit while we do it, well, that's the plan anyway.”

Rick looked up from his toast and marmalade. “That will be good for him. He gets a good machine and finds out more about how it all goes together too.”

“Yes, I think he will. He's certainly not daft and seems to enjoy the mechanics of things like computers, not just using them for his homework. His old one crashes, he's loosing course work and getting close to trouble at school. I told his Dad Win98 wasn’t up to much these days!”

Rick looked up again and said “How much is his dad stumping up for one then?”

“Up to 500 quid.” I replied. “I've to get a new monitor out of that too.  I'm sure we'll get what he wants for that.”

“I should think so too!” Rick said. “That's more than you spent on ours!”

“I know.” I replied. “But don't forget I had quite a few bits and re-used our old case when I did ours, not quite the same really.”

“I guess.” He said, grinning at me. “I can't believe how good you are at these things. You only opened one a few months ago for the first time”

“I know that.” I said. “But it's all going okay so far. So what are we doing today?”

Rick looked up, “Well I know what I'm doing. I'm going down to the garden centre for bulbs for the new bed out the front, where the tree is. I want a host of daffodils to come up in clumps all round that in the spring,” He said.

I thought to myself that would look just right and was musing further on it when the lines of Wordsworth's poem came into mind. Yes, that's the one ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud.’ So much had happened in the last three years. We had both left college together as a definite committed couple. As soon as the Civil Partnership Act had come into force in the December, two and a half years ago now, we had gone to the registry office with family ( well my sister Charlotte and Ricks mother ), and friends just six months after we had bought the house we currently shared together.

I had lost a relative, an aunt, and had had a substantial amount left to me, as well as half the proceeds of my aunt’s house. I also got cash whilst my sister Charlotte got the grand piano! Well she was a professional musician, teacher and arranger for youth choirs! I thought that was fair. Rick and I met during our second-year University in Lincoln. I did media studies and he accountancy.  Yes, he was the definite financial wizard for our relationship. We discovered our fondness for Jazz and through that we slowly developed a relationship based on being good friends to begin with. That as they say was the seed. The rest followed rather more slowly but we confessed to our being gay very early on in the friendship and more and more slowly falling in love as the weeks and months passed. As we approached graduation we became a fully committed couple looking for suitable careers where we could share our lives. Rick landed a job first. It was with a large accountancy practice in the town. It had an excellent salary with substantial benefits and leave allowance. I then looked more earnestly myself and got a job with the local broadcaster in program research and production for the weekday afternoon shows. It was all beginning to come together so well.

Just after we had bought and moved into our home, the house next door went up for sale. Within weeks it was bought and occupied by Frank Barnes, a Royal Naval Diver with his teenage son William. There seemed to be no Mrs. Barnes and we didn’t enquire. We had invited quite a few of the neighbours to a Civil Partnership party to round off our special day. Rick had dropped an invitation through the Barnes' letterbox the day after they moved in and waited. Two days later an acceptance and well wishes card came through our letterbox. Shortly after that we chatted 'over the fence' on a Sunday afternoon and were introduced to Frank's son, William.

William quickly started asking for help with his computer; an old one of his father's and it was fast becoming unreliable. I did what I could by way of re-formatting and reloading. I found an old strip of ram suitable for it and got it going a bit quicker than before. William was suitably impressed and grateful. He often sought help with his I.T. studies and maths homework from Rick or me. We didn't mind and his father was always saying that if he became a nuisance, to send him back home again. Frank seemed to have no difficulty in allowing William to come round, or his seeking help from two early 20's gay males.

Rick set off for the garden centre and I began on the household chores, a Saturday routine developed after nearly three years of sharing a home. I had just set the washing machine off on a towel wash when I heard the front door bell. I went to answer it, wondering as I walked down the hallway, who it could be calling round on a Saturday lunchtime. On the doorstep was Frank Barnes, William's dad from next door.

“Hi Paul, may I have a word with you both?”

“Yes, sure thing,” I replied. “Rick's not here though, he's gone shopping for bulbs to plant out round the tree.”

Frank's face took on a worried look. “Well let me tell you what it's all about and perhaps you could talk it through with Rick and ...” Frank was looking so worried at this point... almost frazzled and at wit's end.”

“Come right in.” I said. “What's the problem? You look really worried?”

“Paul, my father and mother have both been involved in a car accident on holiday in Scotland. Mum's died, Dad’s in a bad way. I've got to go up there and take care of things. I don't know how long it'll take and there's no saying what the outcome will be. I've to get off within the hour really.”

Oh, goodness! I'm so sorry to hear that. What can we do to help?”

“Well I'm hoping rather a lot, I know it's imposing, but I'm out of options. It's William. I can't take him up there with me. It's too close to his going back to school. I don't know what's in store up there and how long it's all going to take either. I've a months leave before my next voyage. What happens then I don't know. You probably know my parents come here while I'm away at sea to supervise William. I've no other family to ask and I've not been here long enough to know people here. I know you've been in youth work and scouts too, I've no-one else to turn to and......”  Frank's voiced tailed off.

“You'd like us to keep an eye out for William while you're away?” I said.

“Rather more than that.” He replied. “Could he come and stay with you until things are settled? He’s not old enough to leave overnight yet.” He paused and looked at me. “I've really no one else to ask. I've been phoning what few relatives I've got left all morning. I've just had a set to with William over this, as I thought I might have to take him up to Scotland with me and then he'll miss the beginning of the school year.” He paused, and then continued, “William suggested you two. He doesn't want to spend the rest of the holidays with me in a hotel, while I sort out my parents’ affairs. He's obviously very sad that my Dad's so ill and that my Mum, his Gran has died. But, he really doesn't want to come up and trail around with me. To be honest, I agree with him, hospitals no place for fit and active teens are they?”
As Frank was speaking the back door opened and Rick came into the kitchen carrying a couple of cloth bags of bulbs. Seeing Frank and I in the living room he came right through with an enquiring look on his face.

“Hi Frank! What's doing?”

Frank said Hi back and then opened his mouth to say more when I cut in...

“Frank's parents have been in a major accident. His mother's died and his father's in a very serious condition. Frank's to go immediately to deal with this up in Scotland, near Loch Lomond. He's asking us if we'll have William for a few days till he's got things sorted,”

“How's William feel about being with two gay guys for a while?” Rick said.

We both looked at Frank.

“He actually suggested it to me when all family possibilities had been exhausted. There's something he's asked that I tell you if you'll agree to him staying with you. It could be for three or four weeks. I just don't know at this stage,” Frank replied.

“What's he asked you to tell us?” Rick asked.

“He told me last night that he thinks...only thinks at the moment...that he's gay. I asked him if he's sure. He thinks he is, but not 100% sure just yet. I can't think of any better guys than you two to look after him whilst I am away.”

“Well, I'm amazed, we'd no idea. It only goes to show that my ‘Gaydar's’ totally rubbish.” Rick said. “What do you think Paul?” Rick asked me.

“I'm very flattered you'd ask us. I'm not sure we're qualified to be surrogate parents to a teen boy for a month. I feel honoured you've asked us though” I said.

“No, you've got that wrong.” Frank replied. “It's me that's honoured, if you'll accept. I can't think of two more decent guys than you two to look after the lad whilst I am away. I was privileged to attend your Civil Partnership celebrations and it’s obvious that you're a very committed couple. He's just at that 'difficult' stage of being a teen. I'm rather hoping you'll be good role-models for him.” He went on. “I'm sure he looks up to you two. He's just too shy to tell you his feelings about himself just yet.”

“Well, if you're really sure. May we have a few minutes just to mull over things ourselves? Let's get back to you in a quarter of an hour” Adding, “I mean, when'll he come to us? We've the room of course. There’re two spare rooms up on the top floor, with beds and dressers at the moment for occasional overnight guests.”

“Um, as soon as he can,” Frank said. “I’ll get back to you in a quarter of an hour then?”

We agreed, and Frank quickly left to get on with his preparations, leaving us both looking totally stunned.

Rick broke the silence. “Crikey! How on earth did we get into that?”

“I'm not at all sure,” I said.  “I mean he was so supportive at our Civil Partnership that I began to wonder about him. I'm sure he's not on our side of the fence though?”

“No, I don't think so either,” Rick said. “But, I've never seen a Mrs Frank Barnes or even heard of one, have you?”

“That's something I meant to ask just now.” I said. “Perhaps it doesn't matter for now. We can cope for a few weeks maybe a month okay.  We need to ask about money, contacting Frank in case of emergency, William's school routine. Can you think of anything else that I've missed?”

“Not off the top of my head. Let's make a list of things to ask Frank in...” Rick glanced at his watch. “...Ten minutes time.”

“Are the beds made up the top?” Rick asked as he sat at the table making some notes.

“One's ready, the other I was going to do today, in case the guys tomorrow have too much and don't feel up to driving home. Don't forget we'll have to cater for William now, as I guess we're going to say yes?” I said.”

“Well, I'm on the side of yes right now, he's such a pleasant lad, I can't see any problems unless you've a major no-no about it all?” Rick said.

“I'm thinking the same; I've no major no’s either. We're simply not attracted to youngsters so I see no sexual problem at all. It won't affect our relationship, but what about us having 'our fun' with a teen in the house?”

“Fair point, but he'll be a floor above us and not directly, so I don't see any problem, let’s just lay down some 'do not disturb' ground rules and play it by ear?” Rick replied.

“I agree, we'll chat to him about privacy matters, I don't have any qualms now. It's all quite exciting though, isn't it? I mean I've done Scout's for years and had lads away on camp and all that, but never played in loco parentis for more than a week. I could always hand them back at the end. This is a whole month and mostly school time too, which is just as well as you are off to work at eight fifteen and I am at work from eleven. Neither of us'll be here at schools out time?”

“I don't know what the law is. I'll go on-line and check now.” Rick said.

He got up from the table and moved across the room to our laptop on the sideboard, quickly got on-line and Googled for U.K. Advice.

Rick read the screen, “It appears there's no actual statute, no minimum age exists in U.K. Law. But, the NSPCC recommend 14 for a child on their own and 15 if that child is also looking out for another younger sibling. They say that the child should have a 'responsible attitude' and it says here that a parent or guardian is fully responsible for the child's welfare until he or she reaches sixteen years of age. They can't be left overnight under sixteen without supervision of some sort.” He said.

 As William wasn't going to be left on his own in the house overnight, then we felt okay about it. It was something to mention to Frank when he came back. Rick added it to his list of points to raise. Just at that moment the doorbell went once again. The quarter of an hour was up.

“Frank's right on time, I'll let him in,” Rick said.

He wandered down the hallway to do just that. I remained seated at our table and as they entered the room I stood to greet Frank again.

Rick smiled at Frank and said, “Well the answer's Yes?” after we have cleared up a few questions.”

“Oh! Thank you both so very, very much.” Frank replied. I simply didn’t know who to turn to at such short notice.”

“We've some queries though.” Rick said.

“Oh I'm prepared for what I think you need.” said Frank quickly.

He opened a file wallet he had brought with him.

“Here's Williams birth certificate, my hotel details in Scotland, mobile phone number and keys for next door. William’ll want stuff from his room, I'm sure. Also a power of attorney to act on my behalf while I'm away in the unlikely event he needs doctor or hospital treatment. I've these made out because when I'm away on work, I've to make my parents the responsible adults. I've just done a new one with your names jointly, that okay?” he asked.

“You seem to have covered most of what I've got here. Oh there's a question of money. What's the situation? Also about William's birthday in a few days time too?”

“Yes, I know' Here's a cheque for a thousand. That's five hundred for a computer for his birthday. Get the best kit you can for him won't you?” Frank said turning to me.

“Oh! Yes, goes without saying really.” I replied. It'll have as much on as we can do for the money. We'll begin choosing components this weekend.”

“And the other five hundred towards his living expenses while he's here. Teens eat an awful lot you know!” Frank said noticing our amazed faces.

“Yes but five hundred quid's a lot of food for one teen for a month!” I replied.

“Don't you believe it!  He'll want other stuff too, travel fares, films, DVD's... all the usual teen junk.”

“Is there a bed time or curfew? I asked Frank.

“No. Common sense applies. He gets quite a bit of homework nowadays, in bed by 11 and not out after ten unless it’s the weekend and you know where he's gone and who with.” Frank said.

“Well, we seem to have covered it all. When do you want us to begin?” I said.

“Um, Right now actually.” Frank replied quickly looking at the pair of us. “I need to get on the road as soon as I can or I'll be too late to see my father tonight. William's ready and waiting in our living room.” Frank finished.

“Oh there’s just one other point.” Rick said. “It's the matter of us being still at work when William gets out of school. What should we do there?”

“Well since he has been fourteen he's been fine by himself for an hour or so. He's lots of after school activities that often mean he's not home till five or six some nights.  He knows his schedule, get him to do you a copy?” Frank said.

With that Frank got up and made for the door. He turned towards us both and grasping our hands together said, “Thank you both so very much. I just don't know what I would have done if I could not have sorted this today.”

“Frank, don’t worry. He's going to be just fine here. Paul will get him a computer built in a few days and we'll see he gets a good birthday, school will just be the 'back to normality' he needs. You get going and sorted out for your mother and father. I do hope all goes as well as can be hoped for up there.”

We both followed Frank to his front door. He unlocked it and entered indicating us both to follow. We followed him through into the living room to find William seated on the sofa with two bags of stuff on the floor next to him.

“It's all sorted son,” Frank said to William. “You'll be staying next door with Paul and Rick till I get everything sorted in Scotland.” Now grab your stuff and get off next door with them and remember what we talked about just now.”

“Yes dad.” William replied. He turned to us both and smiled.

“We'll leave you to get started” Rick said bending as he spoke to pick up William's  bags, “Say your goodbyes, then come and ring our bell, we'll show you round and get you settled in.”

With that we both left Frank and William to say their goodbyes and made our way back to our house.

End Chapter 1

Paul Jamison

Slightly revised and edited since I got an editor, so a little bit cleaner than before... Paul