Introduction -- The story is set in the early 1960's. It starts slowly, but bear with it and absorb the peace and love.... It's there most of the time.
There's no one person who was a model for anybody in the book. But thanks to my father who took me sailing. And thanks too, to Stephen, Gerry, John, JP, Lawrence, Geoff, Jon, Mark, and so many others in my life. All straight as dies, but what good friends. I wish one of you could have fallen for me.....
"What, dear? I thought you'd be pleased we're going to get a holiday this year, and back to Amberdale, too. I thought you liked it there?"
"But I've put my name down for school camp. We're going to the new activity centre down near Southampton somewhere."
"But you never told us about it."
"But you'd not said anything about a holiday. Dad can never get the time off work to go away. He said so. So I've put my name down."
"You'd not said anything to us about it, or asked for any money."
"You'd not said anything about going away!"
"Well, your father decided we could afford a fortnight off at this time of year, even if everywhere is more expensive in the school holidays. And anyway, we've paid for Amberdale now, for three people. And although you father's business is taking off at last we can't afford to lose the deposit, which is what would happen if you don't go."
"It's no good, darling. We can't afford to lose the deposit and to pay for school camp. And we can't leave you at home, before you ask. It's not right. So I'm afraid you're going to have to come with us. It'll be fun -- you enjoyed it last time, didn't you?"
"Yes, but all my friends are going to camp. I'm going to share a tent with Alex and Nick, and Charlie's going to be there, too."
"Well, I'm sorry, but you're not. So they'll have to manage without you."
And that was that. I tried bringing up the argument from time to time, but I knew my parents and once they had made a decision that was it, especially when there was the possibility of wasting money. We'd spent so many years scraping by while my father qualified as a solicitor that it had become almost a religion. And now he had started his own firm we had a reasonable income, I assumed, but things never eased up on the money front. But I had to break the news to my three best school friends, and inevitably got the comments about being a mummy's boy and having to behave myself on holiday with them. It was even suggested that I'd be sharing their room, and that I'd have to wear a blindfold and earplugs at my age, so I wouldn't see them when they had `you know, nookey'. When I told them my parents didn't do that sort of thing they asked my how I came to be here, then?
I couldn't think of a response. We went on holiday.
I was still seething, as much because of the boredom of the long journey and the overcast weather as with not going to camp, when we arrived at the hotel. Although it was good to see the place as I remembered it I still wouldn't let my mood lighten: obstinacy had set in. I was known for it. But the thought that I wouldn't be with the three people in my school whose presence made it bearable was still depressing me. And it wasn't just that I liked them as friends, they were easy on the eye, too.
But still, there was the hotel, that big, rambling Victorian house which looked both well kept and ramshackle at the same time. It was probably the way the windows were on half a dozen different levels, few were the same size, and many were different styles. Inside, there were changes in level every few feet, it seemed. I had become certain its architect had been drunk. As a place from my past, at that moment I didn't know whether I loved it for being familiar or hated it for not having my friends in it. A thought struck me: why hadn't I told them they'd have to come with me? Surely their parents would have paid? We could share a room, anyway, and then perhaps I'd be able to see a bit more of them than the little extra skin visible as we changed for PE. I almost brightened at the thought. But then, they weren't here, were they?
We learnt which rooms we were in, and I was relieved that I wasn't included in my parents' double room (as I had been up to the age of eleven, but I didn't let on about that at school). I bore with fortitude the `my goodness, hasn't he grown' from the owner, who smiled at me thinking he was being complimentary. In fact, I hadn't much. But I never admitted that to anyone, not even myself. I was small for my age, what they call a late developer, although I had begun to notice that the almost daily measurements I was taking of my erection were slowly increasing, and the bits underneath it had started to get a life of their own too, so to speak. The rest of me was fairly average. You know -- hair (fairish to brown), eyes (never look at them so I don't know what colour), nose (yes, one: rather like my father's), mouth (wide, usually cheerful) and so on, mounted on top of a 5'2" body. By which I mean the whole thing was 5'2" -- oh, you know. Fortunately my parents always thought of me as being sensible, not a fly-by-night and able to be trusted far more than most of my friends seemed to be.
I accepted the room key off the owner and looked at it in some puzzlement. It was old, different completely from the key he'd given my parents. I followed them upstairs, carrying a suitcase I'd inherited from my mother's youth, and wishing I could have something a bit more masculine and modern. Like a rucsac. The owner paused at my parents' door and showed them inside: as old clients they had a good sized room, looking out to the bay and its islands.
Oh yes, the bay. The islands. The sailing. The swimming. The fishing (not that I ever did. Well, just the twice, because everybody else was that year.) And certainly I'd been told that if we ever came back again I could have my own little dinghy for the week, and go off on my own within the inner ring of islands. I had learnt so quickly and well how to sail..... I started to feel better, and thought I'd perhaps have something to tell my friends when I got back, after all.
But what was this? The owner was telling me that I had a bit of a walk before I got to my room, and would Mr and Mrs Finch like to see where I was? They would, they decided.
Now, their room was at the south side of the hotel. So we walked along corridors, up steps, along, down, up again, along.....and eventually came to a door in what looked like a large hexagonal pillar. Suddenly my downward mood vanished: they'd finally opened up the old tower, and my bedroom was in it!
From previous visits I knew that the old tower was one of the old building's main features. It was quite wide, and had a smaller hexagonal tower stuck to one side. That, we had been told, housed the spiral staircase which gave access to two rooms on the topmost floor and below it. The first few years it had been derelict, nearly, but now....wow! I dropped my suitcase and scurried like a startled rabbit right up the stairs, beating the owner and my parents to it. Surely they'd have given me the room at the top? I reached it and tried the handle. Locked. Voices called me downstairs, and with a little disappointment I realised that mine was the downstairs one. Still, it was nice: a fair size, if a bit low, windows to east and west, and, oh yeah! A double bed! Now I knew I'd grown up. For no particular reason I felt a swelling in my Y-fronts at the thought. Against the east wall where the rest of the hotel joined on there was even a shower room, with a toilet! The staircase was at the north side.
I thought I'd try my luck. "I suppose the room upstairs is taken?" I asked.
"Yes," said the owner. "It's been booked specifically for ages. The son of some other regular clients of ours has it. You'll probably meet him soon."
I hoped not. Not if he had `my' room. But this room was great, anyway. And it was a long way from my parents. Not that I didn't get on with them, but it'd be nice to have my own private place. I brightened up a bit. The adults left. I remembered my suitcase and retrieved it. As I climbed up to my room I thought I heard a scrambling sound ahead of me and hurried to see what it was. I almost thought I saw a shadow flit across a wall on the stairs above my room, but I couldn't be sure. I put it down to imagination or hunger.
The next half hour was spent unpacking, and I just lay on the bed, daydreaming, probably enjoying myself, but still not really admitting it. I wondered whether to have a shower -- we only had a bath at home -- but thought my parents would get suspicious if I washed voluntarily. I went to the controls, though, and found out how they worked -- carefully, because things sometimes have a tendency to come to bits in my hands. I'm sure they're not built robustly enough. But this one didn't. I fiddled with the taps and looked at the shower rose, and was just thinking how like an old fashioned microphone it looked when the water finally bubbled through it and hit me full in the face.
That was enough experimenting for the moment, but I'd sorted the shower. I dried off myself and the wall behind me with my recently unpacked towel and looked round the room again. Not bad. Then I heard the door slam above me. Huh! My room thief. Should I go outside and wait for him on the stairs and confront him? Or do I just wander nonchalantly out and pretend it was an accident? What if he was 18 and built like a brick outhouse? What if he was my age? What if he was somebody who I'd like to get to know?
My dithering coincided with the sound of scampering feet down the spiral staircase. I knew from their speed and lightness that this was no 18 year old, and I think my own footfalls would have been heavier. It must be a little kid. My heart sank. Was I going to have a brat as a neighbour for the next fortnight? Did I want to see him now? No, not really. I couldn't be bothered. I went back and lay on the bed.
I listened from my prone position for the footsteps to recede. They didn't. If it had been a cartoon there would have been a question mark hanging over my head. My brow wrinkled. Had I missed hearing him as I lay down? Had he fallen? Struck with this possibility I pushed myself back onto my feet and crossed, ever more anxiously, to the door. As I reached it I heard a noise outside. As I turned the lock I heard an indrawn breath, and the footsteps started their pattering again. The lock stuck. I struggled. All the time the steps receded and by the time I wrestled open the door their owner was well out of sight. The door leading to the rest of the hotel banged shut. He had gone. Cheeky sod, I thought, listening at my door like that. I'll have him.
Hunger soon overtook me and I revisited my parents' room to find it empty. Tea? Perhaps. It wasn't dinner time. I went downstairs and into the hotel's amazing lounge. I say amazing because it was furnished with a bewildering variety of armchairs and tables, all of different styles, and even to my inexperienced eye it looked more like a tidy secondhand furniture shop than a hotel lounge. My parents were sitting in a mixture of armchairs, and as I appeared in the door a slight figure got up from a seat opposite and vanished, hurriedly, I thought, through the french windows. Before I could follow I was collared and introduced to the couple, and forced to have that sort of edwardian afternoon tea that my parents had been brought up with. It was extremely boring, but I was hungry and thirsty, and my full mouth avoided too much polite conversation. It was only when I had stuffed myself that the subject of the son was brought up.
"He's got the room in the tower, you know. Didn't I hear you were up there too?"
"Yes, sir, I am. It's a nice room."
"Yes, very nice indeed, and private, too, well away from everyone else. Have you seen James yet?"
"Not quite, no. I think I came out of my room just after he had passed, but I didn't see him."
"He's a bit shy. I think he has rather a hard time of it at school with the older boys. He's quick, and good in class, and that doesn't always make for easy relationships."
Oh, no, I thought. Not a swot as well. Probably fat and ugly.
"....But I'm sure you'll look out for him, Martin, won't you?"
"Of course he will. He's very good like that."
Damn them. Why couldn't they just ignore me like other parents did their kids?
The conversation turned to schools and how well James was doing, and what I was doing, and how well they expected me to do in the exams....you know, the sort of talk that makes you sound more like a half trained dog than a boy. I almost expected to be told to sit up and beg like I'd been taught..... well, not really, but you know what I mean..... when suddenly, just below the armrest of Mr Evans's armchair I saw the most evil looking, widest grin I'd ever seen in my life. It was set on a face that was unremarkable in most other respects except for the eyes, which were set far apart, and this amazingly wide expanse of mouth. When the owner saw that I'd spotted him, he quickly shuffled back and slid out of sight. I thought he'd gone behind the chair. Then I saw a shadow on the window as he scurried outside again.
This was just too much. I broke into the scholastic conversation about me and as politely as I could excused myself. I went out of the room's main door as if to visit the toilet, but doubled back to the main garden door where I peered round the frame, trying to locate my quarry.
Along by the french windows there were bushes. They were close enough, in windy conditions, to scratch at the glass alarmingly. Now they provided cover for a diminutive figure on all fours, watching the windows avidly. I wondered if he'd see me if I sauntered out into the garden, and decided he would. But just then an elderly couple excused themselves past me: I saw the face look up and then back. As they left the building, I slipped out after them, keeping them between me and my quarry, taking a different course. Once the bush hid him from my sight I doubled back and crossed as quietly as I could to the opposite side of it.
Why was I, at the age of fourteen, taking so much trouble to encounter, on my terms, a kid who was about half my age? I didn't have the faintest idea. Probably because he had got the room that I would have coveted, run away as I came upstairs with my suitcase, listened outside my door and run away as I opened it; but most certainly because he had made cheeky contact with me by grinning at me in my discomfiture. I was going to get even.
Behind the bush I lowered myself to the ground so I could see under its roots. There was a pair of feet sticking backwards towards me.
Do I grab them? Do I kick them? I couldn't bring myself to do either -- after all, I didn't know him. How do I go from here?
I cleared my throat loudly, just behind him.
He jumped, tried to sit up, and hit his head on the sheltering twigs above him. His thrashings around succeeded in lodging him further in the foliage, and he eventually sat there, jammed by his impatience, glaring at me.
"Hallo," I said, as if I'd just discovered his existence. "Is anything wrong?"
Half a minute more of struggling and thrashing around freed him from the bush's clutches, and a small boy stood looking at me furiously. He was about 18" shorter than me, slim to the point of thinness, mousy and ordinary looking, apart from the amazingly wide set eyes and wide mouth, the more noticeable because his face wasn't fat to compensate. He was currently modelling the `hedge backwards' look. Very aptly, as it happened.
"You startled me." It was a very treble voice, but firm and articulate sounding.
"Well, you were laughing at me in there."
"No I wasn't."
"Well, you looked like you were going to explode."
"I would if I'd stayed there."
"How d'you get away?"
I put my finger to my lips and jerked my head away from the french window. He followed me a safe distance away where we could talk.
"Said I had to go for a pee."
"Well, sort of. Have you got the top room in the tower?"
"I'm underneath you."
"Why did you run off when I came to the door?"
"I didn't know you."
"I wondered who it was, listening."
He had the grace to blush at this, then countered with: "well, you rattled my door handle!"
"I thought I'd got the top room. I tried it, but it was locked."
"Yes. I was in it."
"I know that now. Is it the same as mine?"
"Don't know. 'Spose so."
"Double bed? Toilet? Shower?"
"What's a double bed?"
"You know, a wide one, like mums and Dads have."
"No, it's the same as mine at home. You've got a shower?"
"I haven't. I have to go down to the hotel and use the one along the corridor."
I was glad I'd got the downstairs room.
"James!" A voice called from the french windows. My companion looked up.
"Ah, there you are, and you've found Martin. Good. But don't bore him, dear, I'm sure he's got better things to do than play with you."
His face dropped. I don't know why, but I called back. "It's all right, Mrs...um....Evans. I'm not bored. To my annoyance my voice failed to reach the slightly lower register that it had achieved only recently, and which I was trying to cultivate. I sounded as treble as her son. Damn.
"That's kind of you, Martin, but anyway we're going to walk round the town now. He'll see you later, no doubt. Come on, James."
He looked back at me. The face that had been so serious as we got the important bits out of the way suddenly livened up again, and the extraordinarily wide, cheeky grin appeared at full brilliance. I swear that if he laughed out loud it'd meet at the back.
"Bye," he said, and was gone.
I rejoined my parents, and was soon wheedling the promised sailing dinghy out of Dad. He was a bit cautious, and we had what they call a meaningful discussion about it. I think I'd won him over, but to make certain I reminded him once again that he had promised me that I should have one to myself next time we came. "You always tell me I have to keep my promises," I finished off.
He looked at me in exasperation. "That was two years ago. You've not sailed since. How do I know how much you've forgotten?"
How could I explain to him the nights -- and days -- dreaming, of feeling the tiller kick in one hand while the sheet pulled the other; of feeling the wind on my cheek to tell me its direction; of that rare and wonderful sense of freedom and independence that I'd learnt from being in control of my own boat?
"But Dad, I'm fourteen now. I know what I'm doing, and anyway you promised."
They looked at teach other. Then Mum's eyes lifted resignedly and I knew the battle was won.
"All right," said the keeper of the purse strings, "but I'm going to spend an hour out with you first so I can make sure you're safe."
I was fairly happy to accept that, although it would have been nicer if they'd trusted my judgement of my own ability and common sense. I dragged them down to the village, to the waterfront where I knew we had hired sailing dinghies before. Half an hour and the exchange of a cheque for a piece of paper later, I had my own boat for a fortnight. Nothing flash, just an old fashioned, conventional little dinghy, two sails -- which I knew I could handle -- and strict instructions not to go outside the outer ring of islands. I asked if I could try her then and there, but was told I had to wait until the morning. Dad wouldn't be so tired then, and could take me out for my trial.
When we returned I went to my room, thinking I'd have a shower. Although I'd only recently had a large tea, I was beginning to wonder when dinner was. I'd forgotten to ask my parents what time they'd be going down. I grabbed a book, and read for a while.
There was a bang as the door to the stairs closed, then the scampering of feet that I now knew. They paused outside my door, and I hoped he wasn't going to come in and annoy me. I really didn't want to get involved with a kid his age, even if he did have the most engaging smile I'd ever seen outside a crocodile. I kept quiet, and he carried on up the stairs. I heard the door of his room bang. Noisy little sod!
I nearly nodded off over the book, and then thought about my shower. I stripped off, tickled myself until I was hard and measured my erection as I'd been doing about this time every day. But if there was much of an increase I couldn't tell. It always came to about the same figure -- 3-1/4" -- give or take. Sometimes it even seemed to have shrunk by 1/16" and I would get really depressed. I wondered if I'd make medical history by being the only teenager who had reached nearly 3-1/2" and then gone backwards for the rest of his life, ending up as a woman. But I decided it'd be far too embarrassing to seek medical help if that happened. I'd just keep quiet and look for men to have sex with. I'd never really seen much future in the girls I'd met so far anyway; most of them hadn't got two brains to rub together -- at least, if you tried to talk to them it seemed that way. It didn't help that my school was a boys only school so I hardly ever got to talk to the opposite sex. On the other hand some of the boys in the place were really quite good to look at. And in the gym I played this game trying to see who had the biggest bulge -- or even any bulge -- in his shorts. I didn't count. Yet.
I flung the ruler and notebook back in my suitcase and went over to the shower. I'd found out how it worked, so here goes.... And a gasp and a curse as a heavy spray of freezing water hit me in the chest. I climbed out again, and juggled with the tap settings until the water felt warm to my hand. Then in again, only to discover that my rapidly cooled body now found it far hotter than my hand did. More juggling. More gasping as first too hot, then too cold water hit me. At last I'd got there and stood enjoying the unusual sensations on my body. It was odd how the nearer the spray came to my crotch, the harder everything became. I nearly got out again to get the ruler, but was enjoying it too much for that. I started fiddling with myself in the spray, and before long there was that feeling as my heart raced, my breathing struggled and my hips and back seemed intent on trying to form a right angles with each other, with the rest of me naturally trying to stop them. My eyes closed, and I sat down rather heavily in the bath, leaning up against its sloping back.
After recovering, I washed myself -- after cursing myself for not checking for whiteness around the affected part before the water washed it away. None left now, that's for sure. Damn. Well, it might have started that time, who knows? I shut off the shower and climbed out, dried roughly, and then lay on the bed to air dry.
There was a knock on the door. My eyes flipped open and I noticed it had gone dark. How long had I been there? I was also cold. No clothes!
"Wait a minute," I called, and found my way in braille to the door where my dressing gown hung. With it safely round my shoulders I unlocked the door, expecting to find a parent.
It was James, the grin preceding him. "Your mum and Dad think you've missed dinner. They asked me to come and dig you out."
"Oh," I said, rather bemused, having just woken up. "Wassertime?"
"Half past seven."
"Oh, blimey. Can you tell them I'll be down in a minute, please?"
"Can I stay?"
"No. You won't be able to tell them if you do."
And he was gone. I wasn't sure I wanted him standing there while I put on underwear and everything, anyway. I got dressed and hurried after him. My parents were at a table near to the Evanses, and as I entered the room to the exasperated stare of my father I looked quickly over to James who gave me a look, as I thought, of compassion. I was given a swift and quiet lecture about meal times, and ate in silence.
Afterwards we gravitated together, he and I. We were the only kids in the hotel. I didn't want the company of a young kid all the holiday through, but at least he was pleasant. We played cards, and he was sent to bed at 9.00. I'd forgotten just how early kids have to go to bed. I was sent up at 10.30.
He knocked on my door at some ungodly hour of the morning, but I didn't answer. He had woken me up, and I was in no mood for sociability. I dozed on, but suddenly remembered the dinghy. I looked at the clock and thought that I'd better get going as soon as I could -- I didn't want to annoy Dad when he was taking me out in her.
There were no parents anywhere to be found. The first few people were drifting down to breakfast, but not mine. Nor him, nor his parents. I was wondering whether it would be a good idea to wake them up when he came flying down the stairs and barged straight into me as I stood at the door.
I just looked at him, straight faced. The headlight smile faded as if its battery was running down.
"I said I was sorry."
"What's the matter?"
"I was woken up too early."
"Oh. Sorry. I thought you'd be awake. I wanted the toilet."
"What're you doing today?"
"Sailing? What, a boat?"
I wondered what else he imagined I'd be sailing, but just nodded.
"Can I come?"
Did I really want his company? Not to start with, that was certain.
"I'm going out with my father to start with, then I need some practice on my own. Then I'll see." Now when Dad said "I'll see", it meant no. When Mum said "I'll see", it usually meant yes. I wasn't sure what I meant by it. But I would see. It seemed to pacify him, though. His eyes lit up.
As good as Dad's word, my parents and I went to the boatyard again after breakfast and were introduced to my boat. I couldn't wait to sail her: she was the best thing that was going to happen to me for ages. In fact I think if it was a choice between sailing on my own for two weeks and waiting another six months for my penis to grow, I'd still have gone for the boat.
Dad and I found our way round her, then rowed out a bit and hoisted sail, all under the critical eye of the boatyard foreman. When he saw we really did know what we were doing he visibly relaxed and went back to work.
We sailed for about an hour. Dad, I could see, was really enjoying himself and relaxing, and I hoped he wasn't going to change his mind about letting me go out alone. Eventually he said regretfully: "I suppose we'd better head back and I'll pacify your mother. She's on her own, poor thing. But do you know...." He paused and looked down. It looked almost as if he was going to say something which embarrassed him.
He looked up again, and held my eyes. "Of all the things I looked forward to when you were born, sailing with my son as an equal partner in the boat was one of the greatest hopes I had. Take me out again?"
I was speechless. I just nodded. We each looked in opposite directions, suddenly embarrassed. I sailed on, back to the boatyard, and as skilfully as I knew how, manoeuvred the dinghy in so he could disembark. He crouched on the steps, hanging on to the gunwale. Once again his eyes bored into mine.
"Have fun, Martin. And don't do anything to get drowned -- I want to go sailing with you again, remember?"
And with that he was off. I set sail again, and bore away from the yard with a warm glow around me.
I didn't go far away, just enough to say that I'd gone out of sight of the village. For some reason apart from hunger I wanted to be back in time for lunch. Something to do with my father.....
It was a quiet meal. Afterwards I was about to go back to the boat when I saw James kicking a ball around on the back lawn. I was still full of goodwill to all, so I waited until it reached the corner of the building where I was, appeared suddenly and kicked it back to him. The grin unzipped, and I found myself smiling back at him, so infectious it was. He gave a "yeah!" of joy, and we kicked the ball to or at each other for the next ten minutes. Then he rushed over to the hotel's apology for a children's playground and sat on one of the swings.
Why did I have to go and join him?
For ages, it seemed, we swung and twisted and jumped and got higher and laughed. And all the thoughts about the school camp I was missing were wiped out. Then I looked at my watch.
"I'm wasting sailing time, James. I'll have to go. See you tonight."
Abruptly the grin zipped up again. I felt almost lost without it.
"M-Martin....." I waited. "Martin...can I come with you? Please?"
I looked at the pleading in his face. Something touched me inside. He was so young, and had the eyes of a half frightened young animal caught in the stare of a human for the first time. Why did I suddenly say "Yes, I suppose so, if your parents agree."?
He let off what I can only describe as a whoop, and rushed indoors at an incredible speed. Five minutes later I was wondering if he'd forgotten me and was almost on the point of going when he reappeared with his parents and my mother. I heard a last "PLEASE, Mum," as they came into the garden.
She came over to me, smiling, and I could see where James got his mouth from. "I'm told you're a safe sailor."
I was expected to say something.
"Yes, I certainly try to be. Dad seems to think I am."
"But I'm sure you don't really want to be followed around by a nine year old all day."
So that's how old he was. "I don't mind, Mrs Evans, really."
The grin was slowly unzipping again. I wondered if I could play with it.
"But...." I started. It zipped up a little. "It might be a good idea if he had a life jacket." It zipped a bit further shut.
"Oh....yes. I see what you mean. It's a sensible idea. Are they expensive?"
I hadn't the faintest idea. "Yes", I said, and watched the mouth zip up almost completely. "But the boatyard hires them out, I think."
The zipper reversed, slowly, and I thought I'd have another go. "There's another important thing...." Yes! It zipped up a bit. "He'll have to change into older clothes in case he gets wet."
This time the zip threatened to meet at the back again.
"All right," she said. There was another yell as he flung his arms round her and rushed off to the outside entrance to our tower to reach his room and get changed.
I knew what was coming once he had disappeared.
"You will be careful with him, Martin, won't you? Don't forget he's only young, and Mrs Evans wants him back in one piece. Don't take any chances, or show off, and think about safety all the time."
"And if you think he's getting cold, you must come back straight away. I'm sure it's cold on the water. You'd best make sure he's got something warm to wear, Mrs Evans."
How could I point out to my mother in front of someone else that it was early afternoon and about 80o in the shade?
"I'm sure he'll be fine, Mrs Finch. I've noticed your son and he strikes me as a very sensible fellow. I'm sure they'll both be careful."
She smiled at me, and I smiled politely back, suddenly wishing that I'd not agreed to have the kid along. But then `the kid' was haring back toward us, clad in a pair of white shorts, a T-shirt and a pair of canvas shoes.
"James, you'll be cold," said his mother.
"Not in a life jacket, Mum."
"Do get a coat, dear."
"Oh Mum, I'm boiling already. I suppose we've got to be back by dinner?"
"You certainly have. You will be back by seven, won't you, Martin?"
"Yes, Mrs Evans, I promise we will."
"Can we go, Martin?"
He sounded as if he was taking over.
"In a minute. Anything else, Mother?"
"No darling, just be careful, and enjoy yourselves."
There was another excited whoop from the kid, and I followed him to the garden's bottom gate which led down toward the village. I felt like a father as we walked along, trying to keep up with him. He got the message eventually, slowed down but started talking, non-stop.
"It's the first time I've been in a sailing boat. What's it like? How's it work? What d'you do if there's no wind? I put on as little as possible in case I get wet, so it doesn't matter. Have you got underwear on?"
"I haven't. I didn't' want it to get wet, so I didn't wear any. That's all right, isn't it?"
"For goodness sake, stop talking so loud. Better still stop talking. Let's just get sailing."
I carried on walking, James at my side like an anxious dog, and we reached the Hard where I'd moored the dinghy before lunch. I climbed straight down into her, but he stood on the edge of the Hard just looking down into the boat. I wondered why he wasn't following, and was about to say something impatient when I saw the look of silent, rapturous wonder on his face. I made my voice gentler.
"Come on, then. She doesn't bite. Step carefully onto that seat here -- that's a thwart -- and then sit on it."
Carefully -- to my relief -- he did as I said. When he had sat down I thought I'd better tell him a few things. His face was very serious, and the wondering look was still there too. It was like talking to a puppy who had just found something new that he didn't understand.
I told him about keeping the boat upright, that sometimes the boom would go over and he must make sure his head was out of the way, and that if we did capsize he must cling onto the boat at all times. Then I remembered.
"What's the matter?"
"The life jacket. We'll sail round to the boatyard to get one."
He stayed in the centre of the dinghy while I climbed round him, hoisting the sails, and his eyes never left me. They just got bigger. At last she was rigged, and we slipped back with the wind and tide until we were clear, then I swung the tiller and pulled in the sheets. The sails filled and we were off.
I looked at his face. Can you visualise that look of sheer joy that kids can give? The lips part, the eyes widen and sparkle, the body's held tense... and then he looked at me and the widest, most warming smile I'd seen yet on his mobile face was there for my sole benefit. He said nothing, but I could tell that this was one of the experiences of his life that he'd never forget, even if sailing became his living.
And that was all he said on the entire journey to the boatyard. I was sailing with as much technical skill as I could muster, firstly to impress him, and secondly because I was very aware that he had no life jacket, and I'd promised. We reached the yard safely, moored, and went ashore. Finding a small jacket was not a problem, although I got another lecture, this time from the yard owner. When he had spoken at length about safety to us both he drew me aside.
"Since you were last here there's been a club who've bought one of the bigger islands in the outer ring. It's the one with the tall trees on it. It doesn't look as if there's anybody on it, but there are. They're round the other side. It's a nudist club, so be careful."
I was silent on the way back to the boat. James said nothing, too, but he was busy looking inquisitively at what the workmen were doing. I was wrestling with the concept of a nudist club. For some reason my underwear seemed to be getting tighter again.
We set off again after we had wrestled with the fixings of the life jacket. It wasn't the simple thing that I had expected. Straps seemed to go everywhere. James couldn't sort it out at all. I had to figure it out, then pass straps round his back to tie at his side... I found myself close to him, and got a funny tingling feeling, being so close. Then there were the two wider straps that seemed to go under his legs. I told him so.
"Can you do them for me, please?"
I took a deep breath and carefully, to avoid touching where I shouldn't, pushed them through and out the other side. The buckles for them hung over his bottom. Fixing them without touching was impossible. I threw caution to the wind and fixed them against the soft flesh.
I felt shaky, and had to take a couple of deep breaths before we took off again. I'd got one of those annoying erections that seemed to be happening to me a lot lately, and hoped he wouldn't notice. But then perhaps if I kept getting them it'd make the thing grow.
We sailed out of the village's waterfront and over the half mile or so to the inner circle, as it were, of islands. James's eyes were everywhere: watching the receding coastline and the advancing islands, watching what I was doing, looking wherever my eyes went.... I decided to head for one of the nearest, smallest islands and land. But to do that I had to gybe.
"James, when I call gybe-o, you must get your head down. The boom will swing over quite fast to the other side of the boat. OK?"
He nodded, the eyes fixed on me wide open.
"Gybe-o." I hauled in the sheet, eased over the tiller: the wind caught the sail and flipped it over, I let out the sheet and adjusted the course, breathing a sigh of relief that he'd done exactly what I told him.
"Right now, you see that other rope, the one going to the jib?"
"What's a jib?"
"The sail in front. Untie it from that cleat -- that's the metal thing it's tied to -- and let it out slowly until the sail's on the same side of the boat as the mainsail.
Slowly, almost trembling with the excitement of actually helping to sail, he did so. The wind nearly pulled the foresheet from his hand, but he controlled it, and when he'd let it out enough I told him: "that'll do. Belay." He looked at me as if it was a foreign language. "Tie it up again."
"Put it round this end of the cleat, cross it over itself, then wedge it under the opposite end of the cleat."
He figured it out and did it, giving me his searchlight grin when it was done.
"Right, now go to the other side, untie that, and pull in just enough to stop it flapping around."
There was no problem with that, either. He sat back and looked at me like a puppy waiting for orders.
"That's it for the moment. We'll reach land with the sails as they are. But when I tell you, you'll need to untie them both, then get that other rope -- the one on the left of the mast -- and untie that. That lowers the jib, so it might be a bit heavy. OK? But not till I tell you."
He nodded eagerly and the grin widened. I began to like him.
We weren't too far from the island now, and I thought the best way of approaching it would be to swing right round into the wind, which was almost at right angles to the shore, and row in. The tide was coming in, so we'd be sheltered from what little current there was by the island. At the right time I swung right round so we almost faced the way we had come.
"Let go the foresheets!"
I busied myself with the mainsail and soon had the boom threatening to descend on his head. "Get out of its way, James, to the left....no, to the left! OK, now you can lower the jib. It'll come down the wire right at the front of the dinghy."
It wasn't the best stowing of sail that I'd ever done, but it was certainly quicker with two people, even if one of them didn't know what he was doing.
"Leave it clipped to the wire, and get between the mast and it. I've got to get the oars out and row to shore."
He did. I did. We landed.
"Can you find the anchor?"
"Yes. I've been kneeling on it. It hurt."
"Take it and chuck it onto the sand, then jump ashore and go up the beach with it."
He got the first bit right, but then a wave came just as he was doing the second bit. He got his feet wet, jumped back onto the beach, tripped over the anchor rope and fell on his back into the receding wave. I climbed into the front of the boat, got calmly out, grabbed the anchor and planted it about 10ft up the beach as he got to his feet.
"I'm wet," he said.
"Yes. Don't get back into the boat yet or you'll get it all over the sails."
Ignoring him, I pulled the dinghy up the sand as well as I could, got back in and tidied up. When I got out and looked at him he was hopping from one foot to the other.
"I need a pee. How do I get out of this life jacket?"
"Oh, come on." I crossed to him and released the straps over his bottom and untied those round his waist. He shrugged off the dripping article.
"Where shall I go?"
"Bloody hell, there's bushes all round you. Choose one and pee into it."
"Can I do that?"
"Yes! Where else d'you think you're going to go?"
He went over to the bushes and behind one, out of sight. Well, I needed a pee, too. I went to the same bush and found him climbing out of his shorts. The T-shirt clung to his bottom, and being thin it might as well not have been there.
"What are you doing?"
"Trousers are wet. I can't pee in them." He lifted up the hem of the T-shirt and stood pointing himself at the bushes. Well, I'm curious about how other people are built, so I looked.
It was longer than I remember mine being at nine, not that I could be certain what age I was when I started thinking about it. I went and stood by the side of him, unzipped my trousers and pointed parallel to him, looking sideways all the time.
When we had done, he bent to pick up his shorts, exposing more of his childish bottom to me. I thought it was rather sweet, in a way.
"How do I dry them?"
"Squeeze them out."
"What, like mum does with the washing?"
"Yes. And..." My brain raced, a rarity for me. "....do the same with your T-shirt and shoes."
He trusted me absolutely, that kid. He plonked himself down on the sand, the T-shirt riding up above danger level, and propped one leg on the other to take off his shoes. I needn't have bothered to look at him when he was relieving himself. Everything he was currently equipped with was visible. He stood up again and struggled out of the reluctant shirt, and stood there, a naked savage, looking at me.
I didn't know which way to look. Well, I did, but hell -- I'd known him less than two days. No matter how much I looked away I had to keep swinging my eyes back to him. Inadequately he pressed the shorts between his hands, and a little water dribbled out between them and fell on his middle, making him jump.
"Oh, come on; give them to me or we'll be here all day." I grabbed the still warm, wet shorts from him and wrung them out. Next the T-shirt. The shoes he'd already emptied on the beach. Now what? How do I prolong this? I couldn't really, without it being obvious to him.
"I'll hang the T-shirt on the branches. By the time we've gone round the island it'll be dry. You'd better put the shorts back on"
"What if someone takes it?"
"Nobody comes here, it's too small."
We wandered round the island. On the south side the sun was really hot, and he flopped down on the sand, in the sun.
"This is fun. Come and sunbathe too."
Well, I suppose I could. I took off my shirt and shoes and lay back on the beach.
"Aren't you going to get your legs brown?"
I looked at him. "What, take my trousers off?"
So I did, and lay beside him on the warm sand, dressed in only my Y-fronts. It certainly was nice to get the sun and breeze to my legs, but I wished the bit of me that I hoped would grow hadn't chosen that moment to do so. I closed my eyes, hoping it'd go away.
There was a sound beside me. I looked up. He was sitting up, looking at the outer ring of islands.
"Is that someone over there?"
"Where?" I said, propping myself up on my elbows.
"There -- look, on that island there."
I followed his outstretched finger but could see nothing.
"Try getting up, see if you can see them then."
Well, I got up and walked down to the water's edge to see better. He followed me and stood in front of me as I shaded my eyes and squinted. But I could see nothing.
For the next quarter of an hour we just sunbathed. I kept looking over at him, liking him more and more as I did so. Eventually we got hot.
"Can you swim?" he asked.
"'Course. I wouldn't go sailing if I couldn't." Then the point of the question hit me. "D'you mean you can't?"
"Why didn't you say?"
"Should I have?"
"Yes! If you can't swim, what happens if you fall in?"
"No you didn't. I mean, fall in where it's deeper."
"Well, apart from the jacket, you'd drown."
"Can't we go swimming here? You could teach me."
I hesitated. I didn't mind teaching him, 'cos it'd probably mean holding him afloat, and that was a nice idea. But...
"I've got no swimming trunks or towel, and neither have you."
"Can't we manage without?"
"I don't want to get my pants wet, and your clothes are nearly dry."
"Do we have to wear anything?"
"Yes! Somebody might see us." I wasn't going to mention the fact that my body was doing some growing practice again.
"You said there's nobody here."
"There isn't. Apart from me."
"Oh," he said matter of factly. "That doesn't matter."
"What if it does to me?"
"Why should it?"
"Well...I'm older than you."
"Well....it just does."
"Not to me."
"Well, you can go in if you want. But really we should be setting off back soon. We don't want to be late, otherwise they'll not let you out with me again."
"Oh! I'd forgotten that. All right. Do you want to start now?"
"I suppose we'd better." Odd. The idea of seeing him bathing naked, or lying next to me on the beach naked, was something that made my heartbeat speed up. I could really feel it kicking in as I thought about it. But the idea of taking my own clothes off in front of him was something that I shied away from. We crossed back over the island.
I felt his T-shirt and found it had dried well. "Are your shorts dry now?"
"What? Oh yes, I suppose so."
"Well are they?"
I hardly liked to, but I crossed over to him and grabbed the cloth where his leg came out of it. It seemed dry, and the sensations as my hand brushed his thigh were surprising to me.
"Ok. They seem all right. How about the shoes?"
He tried them, but they were still a bit soggy. We put them on the rear thwart in the sun to dry as we readied the dinghy for her return journey. The wind had shifted a bit, so I had to sail in a combination of long reaches and short tacks. Once again his eyes followed my every move. We were about half way back when he piped up again.
"Can I steer?"
I could think of no good reason why not.
"Come into the stern with me -- no, on that side. Move slower. You make her more difficult to steer if you move so fast. It upsets the balance. Now then. The idea is to keep her in a straight line. At the moment I'm steering for that house there, with the sort of red roof. See it?"
"Then if the boat heads to the right of it, I push the tiller a little to the right. If it goes left, the tiller goes left. So if you want to steer right, the tiller goes to the left, and the other way round too. Got it?"
He looked a bit undecided, but nodded anyway.
"Put your hand on the tiller, I'll keep mine on it lower down as well to start with, and I'll talk you through it."
We were sailing straight, as I said. But it didn't take long for the waves to make her head swing.
"Look, the prow's gone to the left of that house. What do you do?"
"Put the tiller to the right." He started to do so. The prow moved even further to port. I pushed it back against his arm.
"No. Wrong. You wanted the prow to head further to the right, so the tiller goes to the.....?"
"Left. Oh, I see. It's opposites."
"Yes. And when it's pointing directly ahead again the tiller goes central again."
"No it's not, it's habit. You do it without thinking."
We pulled and pushed that tiller, the two of us, until he got the hang of it. It didn't take long. On the short tacks I sent him to the middle thwart out of the way and to look after the jib sheets as I changed sides, but the rest of the time he was steering, and as we neared the village he was doing quite well.
"Can I take her in, Martin?"
"Not this time. There's too much that has to happen at once. But you can go up for'ard and get the painter ready, then when I say so, jump ashore with it. And no falling in this time!"
It was a copybook docking, and I must say that having someone else to avoid my usual ungainly scramble the length of the boat to take the painter ashore was a pleasant change.
We were in good time to get back to the hotel and change for dinner. I suggested that he should wash the salt off as I was going to.
"Oh good," he said, "I'll come and use your shower."
I was so used to him by that stage that I couldn't see a reason why not. So I lay on the bed and watched surreptitiously as he came downstairs from his room with a towel and wash kit. He stood at the door to the shower and looked at me, the grin at full volume.
"Aren't you going to come and make sure I shower properly?"
Damn. Why did something feel as if it had just kicked me just under the heart? If this went on I'd have to see a doctor. "No, you can wash yourself, can't you? How old are you, anyway?"
Nine! I'd forgotten just how young he actually was. You get so used to someone that you think they're your age, or nearer it than they actually are. But -- hell, he was just a child.
"You don't really want me to shower you, do you?"
"Come and talk to me while I'm in there."
I really don't do as I'm told by every nine year old. But I crossed to the door as he went inside it and watched, totally surprised, as he stripped off his T-shirt again, then without a thought pulled off his shorts and stood in front of me, unashamed, without a stitch of clothing.
"How's it work?"
I crossed to the taps, having torn my eyes away from his thin pink body with the greatest difficulty. I was still amazed that he didn't seem to care less whether his bum was to me or his front. And to cap it all.....
His was nearly as long as mine! How could he? He was only nine! I was five years older! True, I had bigger balls than him -- he really didn't have any worth speaking of. But it just dangled and swung in front of him. Why? How long would it be when he was fourteen? How long did it get when he wanked? Then I remembered that he wouldn't know anything about that yet; probably wouldn't for another three or four years.
I recollected that I was meant to be sorting out the shower for him, something I found difficult as I would give myself away if I presented a view of the front of my shorts to him. I adjusted the mix of water, then pulled the curtain across half way, then directed the flow to the shower head. Gingerly he put his hand under the water, found it to his liking, and hopped into the bath.
"We don't have a shower at home."
"Nor do we."
"If you're going to wash me, won't you get wet?"
I couldn't. I really couldn't. There's no way I could take off my clothes at the moment, and I still cringed from exposing myself to him anyway.
"You wash yourself. I did, by the time I was ten."
"I'm not ten, I'm nine."
"Near as." With some relief I saw him pick up the soap. The message had got through.
All through his shower I stood in the doorway and watched, and we chatted about nothing very much. Conversation doesn't flow as easily as the water in a shower. It's difficult for the showerer to hear over the water, especially when he's got soap in his ears. And it's difficult for the watcher to talk when he's having to spend most of the time turning away from the showerer so the bulge in his trousers isn't obvious.
When he had finished I handed him his towel, imagining that he'd put it round himself straight away and then perhaps the cloth of my shorts could hang straight. But he didn't. He just towelled himself everywhere.
Now, when I towel myself briskly after a hot shower, one thing happens. It doesn't matter where I am, and that's why at school I'm glad we have no showers that we have to use after games. I wondered if it was going to happen to him.
Well, it did, but up to a point, if you'll pardon the expression. It grew a bit until it was the same length as mine, and it stuck out from him like a thin, round, pink spirit level.
I was going to have to see that doctor.
Eventually he declared himself dry, until I pointed out his hair was still wet. He vigorously towelled it dry. The spirit level, still doing its job, followed every oscillation of his body.
"Wonderful. I mean, yes: that'll do. You'd better go and change while I shower."
"Oh, I'll stay and talk to you."
"No. If you stand around you'll catch cold...." One of my mother's sayings saved the day. "You go and get dressed, and I'll see you downstairs. You can tell my parents I won't be long."
I will be long, I thought, just as soon as I can get these shorts and my pants off.
"Can't I come back when I'm dressed?"
"No. I'll be downstairs soon."
And he was gone. He did have some sense of decency - he listened for signs of anyone on the stairs before darting, still naked, out of the door. The last I saw was a pair of boyish buttocks disappearing up the stairs.
I crossed to the door and locked it. My clothes were off in five seconds flat. I got into the shower -- his shower -- and turned the water on. In my hurry I forgot to adjust the temperature and got alternately freezing and scalded. Once it was comfortable I started the actions that a scant two minutes later had me gasping and jerking my muscles uncontrollably. It was the most satisfying one I'd ever had in my life.
I remembered to check. There was still no white stuff.
"I hear you had a good afternoon, darling. That's nice."
"Eh? Oh, you mean James has been talking to you. Yes, he seemed to enjoy himself."
"He thinks the world of you."
That was a new one. They hadn't ever said that to me before. I wondered if she was laughing at me, and looked at her sharply. No, no trace of mockery, and I knew her well enough to know when..... Not that it happened often.
"Well, he's not to bad himself, for a kid."
"You mustn't let him run your life for you while you're here, dear. I'm sure the Evanses wouldn't want you to start getting fed up with him and then leave him stranded."
"What? Leave him on one of the islands? Mother, what do you think I am?"
"No dear, I didn't mean literally. I meant that if he gets to rely on you so much that you suddenly say you don't want to be with him any more, then it'd spoil his holiday."
That was another new one. I didn't have to worry about things like other people's feelings at school, or whether I was leaving them behind when they thought they should be with me. God knows they never worried about mine. And I had few friends to worry about. No, on balance I was happy to have James' friendship for a week or so. He may be small. But I'd started to think life wasn't quite so sparkly when he wasn't around. Like now.
"I don't think that'll happen," I said out loud. "He's quite mature for his age..." Another of my mother's sayings, usually about me, dammit. "...and not bad company at that. It's nice to have someone else to sail with. Someone smaller than Dad, that is," as I noticed the hurt look come over her. She was partly convinced.
The gong rang for dinner. I'd made it to the hotel lounge to talk to my mother with five minutes to spare.
The Evanses and my father were already in the dining room when we got there. James's grin unzipped again in my direction and I smiled back more sedately. All through the meal he talked to his parents, and wondered what he could find to tell them that couldn't have been said in two minutes. I hoped he wasn't giving a blow-by blow account, or he might tell them about taking off his shorts, and us having a pee together, and me feeling his shorts to see if they were dry, and him having a shower with me watching, and how this lump kept appearing in my shorts..... No! He wasn't that talkative, surely. I only half believed it, anyway. But I was still a bit anxious.
I cornered him afterwards, before he had time to follow his parents and mine into the lounge.
"What were you saying to them? You never stopped all through the meal."
"I just told them about what we did."
"What, all of it?"
"Yes. Why not?"
"And how you showered in my room?"
"Yes. Why, shouldn't I?"
"Well....." But then I thought that the Evanses hadn't complained, and I felt sure they'd have gone straight to my parents if they thought I'd done anything wrong. I hadn't touched him, after all. Well, only the once to see if his shorts were dry. But he was walking again, following them into the room.
"Well, Martin," said Mr Evans. I had stroke of panic. Was this it? "You had quite an afternoon with James, I hear. We've heard twice, in fact!" And he laughed, as did my parents. As did I, although I didn't know what he was talking about.
"You seem to have looked after him very well, and thank you." What? Was he praising me? I went almost weak with relief. "And even letting him use the shower in your room. That was kind. I hope you don't mind. I know he leaves our bathroom in a mess when he uses it...."
"Shut up, Jimmy. You do. Where was I ?..... Oh yes. I hope he didn't leave yours in a mess. And I hope you checked to see that he washed everywhere, too."
I didn't know what to say. Anxiety and relief are both strong emotions, and when evenly balanced the brain can't cope. All I could do was to grin at James' --I couldn't think of him as a Jimmy -- discomfiture.
"Oh....er...no," I stammered. "I had a shower afterwards...." Good. I got that one in. "....and it seemed just as I'd left it."
"That's not saying much," said my mother. It was my turn to get the grin from James.
Mr Evans laughed. "I'm surprised you didn't have a shower with him. That would have left a battlefield."
I couldn't believe my ears. Was he really suggesting it? But why? I realised with a shock that I must be a good actor, or that James' parents were as innocent as their son. The whole family seemed to trust me. I heard myself say: "Perhaps after tomorrow" and smile weakly.
Now at that moment I could no more have stood up than fly, not without my physical state being obvious to everybody. So it was just as well that James latched on to my last phrase.
"I can go in the boat again tomorrow, can't I? Please, Dad?"
"Well, if Martin doesn't mind. I can't blame him if he does. He wants some time to himself. And I know he wants to take his father out too."
The pleading face fell. Then brightened. "Why don't we all go? All six of us?"
"No thanks!" "I'm not going in a boat that small!" These from the Evanses, father and mother respectively.
"James, we'd never fit all six into her. It'd be bad enough with three if Dad comes with us sometime," I said.
"Are you coming, Mr Finch?"
"Not tomorrow, James. His Mum and I are going into the countryside. We're walking. Do you want to come with us, Martin?"
I looked at them, half wanting to be with them and half wanting to be sailing with James. No, in fact it was more 1/4 to 3/4.
"I'll sail, if you don't mind," I said.
"And me?" asked James.
"I suppose so," I said, mock reluctantly.
I escaped, eventually, and half expected James to follow. I would have been embarrassed and rather annoyed if he had: as he didn't I was disappointed. I went into the garden, and then wondered about walking down into the village. So I went back and half told, half asked, my parents if I could.
"Can I come?" It was inevitable, I suppose.
"No, darling. I think Martin's had his fill of you today, and besides, it's bed time soon."
"No, none of your `aw Mums'. And if you moan I'll take you up there now, and get Martin to come up and tuck you in like a good little boy when he returns."
Her son glared at her, not knowing whether she was serious or not. I stood up hastily. "Right, I'll be going then. Goodnight James. I'll come and tuck you up later."
All the adults laughed. I felt double faced. I'd just made him feel small like I'd been made to feel so many times in the past, and I could feel his eyes boring into my back as I walked away. I didn't dare look back.
I was unhappy as I walked down the hill. I had this nagging thought that I might just have lost a friend. I'd lost them before, but that was school and didn't count. Anyway, they probably weren't friends anyway. Really. But I'd started to like James....Jimmy? Could I ever call him that? No! Mind you, I might not have the choice by the time I got back.
I was about three-quarters of an hour, and feeling happier as time got on. I felt sure he'd not have taken it seriously. I looked in at the lounge and found the adults in deep conversation, so I just said "I'm back. Goodnight" as I passed. I got a chorus of good nights in return, then Mrs Evans called to me.
"Martin, thanks again for looking after him. Don't feel you've got to take him with you, you know. I mean that. He's used to being with us as we go round."
"No, it's OK, Mrs Evans. I like his company. Oh....." I swallowed, having just found the courage from what had been said earlier to say what I was about to. "Can I go up and say good night to him?"
"Yes, my dear, of course you can. That'd be kind and I know he'd appreciate it."
My heart leapt. "Goodnight," I said gleefully, and sauntered as casually as I could from the room. But once out of earshot I ran. All the way to the back of the hotel where our tower opened up.... I ran up the stairs all the way to his door.
And then paused, breathing hard. What was I doing here, outside the bedroom door of a kid? Being scared to go in. But why here at all? My brain refused to focus. I was about to tiptoe back downstairs when two things happened.
Firstly I realised that I'd asked his mother if I could come up. And the second...
"Martin? Martin, is that you?"
It sounded frightened, that voice. I couldn't just stay outside. So I pushed the door open and said "Yes" at the same time.
"You scared me. I just heard footsteps, then they stopped, and all I could hear was breathing. Phew!"
He laid back down on the bed again, the grin just starting to dazzle again. I'd been so worried that I'd been horrible to him that his ready acceptance of my being there warmed my heart. I had got to his bedside by now and just stood there, looking at him.
"Well, aren't you going to tuck me in, then?"
"Huh!" was all I could think to say.
"What you could have done was to wait outside the outside door for me, and I'd have gone to bed, then got up again and joined you."
"What, and have your parents worried sick if they came up to check on you?"
"Oh well, if you're going to be like that."
"I'm sorry I was horrible to you." There. I'd said it.
"Were you? When?"
"When I went out."
"Oh, that's OK. Are you really going to take me sailing again tomorrow?"
"Yes." No hesitation this time.
He bounced up and down in the bed. The springs creaked alarmingly.
"Shhh! You'll wake the bloke below!"
He stopped immediately. The double take took some time. "But that's you!"
And he started bouncing again, even harder.
"Good night, James." He stopped again.
"Good night. Can I use your shower again in the morning?"
I escaped. It took me very little time so get into bed, but thinking of his morning shower made me take some time in getting to sleep. Still no white stuff.
It was cold the next morning. I was woken early by a noisy milkman in his float as it crashed and rattled its way down the hill. My nose was cold and I pulled up the bedclothes to cover it, then tried to get to sleep again. I was just drifting off when I heard the quietest, politest knocking any door has ever received. I had already started imagining the forthcoming shower, and wondering if I had the balls (if you see what I mean) to strip off and get in it with him. So I was quite receptive to the idea of his coming into the room.
Only not at 5.30.
I took my hands away from between my legs where I had been sort of instinctively warming things up, and called "Yes?"
The door swung open and a voice shivered, rather miserably, I thought, "Can I come in?"
"Come on, then."
The door shut, and bare feet padded on the linoleum floor. The mat started just by the bed. I turned my head in his direction, thinking he was just anxious to get going, and saw just a bundle of misery, teeth chattering, red eyed, hugging a blanket round himself.
Now I may have been a hard-nut fourteen year old but this small bundle of misery really got to me. "What on earth's happened?"
"I've been awake ages," he sniffed. "My room's freezing and I can't get to sleep. Then the milk thing woke me even more and I don't know what to do."
I didn't either. Part of me was saying `get him into the bed, for goodness sake, and get him warm'. Another part was saying `no. You'll get into trouble, and you're not wearing anything anyway'. I looked at him in indecision, and as I did so and he shivered, a tear rolled down his face. That did it.
"You'd better come in here, then. But I've got no clothes on."
Did he worry? Did he heck. He'd pushed back the covers before I had a chance to make room for him. Damn, that other side of the bed was cold. He dropped the blanket, and I could see that he was wearing just a pair of briefs which slopped around his waist and didn't really seem to touch him anywhere. In his haste he dropped the blanket on the floor and was pushing against me so as to get in and covered as quickly as possible. He certainly was cold. His cold body was making me cold. My nice warm bed!
"I said so."
"Yes, but I mean really cold."
"Why didn't you come before?"
"I didn't want to be a nuisance."
And I gave in to myself and put an arm over him. He immediately pushed closer to me and nearly froze me solid. But I could feel he was more comfortable. The arm that was over him felt around for the bedclothes and pulled them over us properly, and right up to my chin. Any higher and he'd probably get suffocated. The arm that was still in front of me was a problem. It was very near to his middle, and I didn't want any accusations of fondling.... Mind you, his hand was near to my middle, and my middle was getting bigger.
"I'm going to put my pants on." I made to move.
"Don't go. It's nice and warm."
"I've got to wear something. It's not...right."
"It just isn't."
He was in no mood to argue. I turned away from him and wondered where I'd dumped my clothes. Damn: the floor, just near where he'd got in the bed. Well I couldn't ask him to pass me my underwear. I carefully got out, making sure my front was facing away from him. But how to get round the other side whilst still doing so? Fortunately the cold solved my problem for me, and although it meant he'd see me completely naked it was better than with a mast sticking up in front. I'd seen him naked the previous day, anyway.
As swiftly as I could I picked up my Y-fronts and clambered into them, then ran back to the other side of the bed. More at home this time, I arranged us so we were in a proper hug, his head just below my chin, and our arms more or less round each other. After a few minutes he sighed gustily, and I shivered as the draft from his nostrils chilled my chest.
"That's better," he mumbled. I could feel him wriggling, and soon he was in contact with my body for more or less his entire length. I hoped he was getting too sleepy to realise there was a bit more of me to rest against than there had been. But it least that bit was warmer than the rest of me.
I drifted off to sleep. He already had.
I woke up with a start -- unusual for me because I'm usually in a stupor for at least half an hour. I started grasping for the thistledown of my thoughts which, after the second knocking, became cotton wool and then suddenly the reinforced concrete of full awareness.
I was in bed with a boy. He was five years my junior. We were only wearing underwear. I had my arms round him. Somebody was about to come in.
"Just a moment!" My voice, in panic, had regained the high treble of childhood. My bedfellow woke with a start. Something about his eyes told me he was one of those appalling people like foxes, who are instantly fully awake. His wide eyes met mine.
"Someone's at the door!" I whispered.
"So what?" he said, and dropped his head back on the pillow.
"Get up. Go in the shower. Go ON!"
"Because you shouldn't be in here. It's...they wouldn't understand."
"Oh, for goodness sake, just GO! The shower. Start having one. We're probably late for breakfast."
At last the reinforced concrete had discovered its foundations and coping stone. I looked at the clock. We were.
"Late for breakfast. It's ten to nine." Breakfast was at 8.30.
He flung himself out of the bed and across the room to the shower. I covered myself up again.
It was my mother. "What are you doing? It's breakfast. We've almost finished ours, and you know we want to go out today."
"Sorry Mum. Overslept. Couldn't let you in earlier `cos James was just undressing for a shower."
"Ah yes, James. He's in there. Of course. Does that mean you're both going to be late?"
"Not very. But can you tell his Mum and Dad not to wait? We won't be long."
"I think you'd better get in there with him to save time."
Not with you standing there, I'm not.
"All right, I'll tell them. They won't be pleased. Hurry up."
And she went off again.
Now here's a cleft stick. I've just been told to have a shower with James. Half of me wants to, but the other half doesn't want to be seen naked by him. I know I'd just had my arms round him, but.... And what happens if I have an erection?
I was having one.
I got out of the bed and walked to the cold linoleum. I dropped my pants. I was very worried. Do I just brazen it out? Do I climb back into bed? What will he say and think?
In desperation I went over to the door of the shower, wrenched it open and walked in. The small pink seal looked at me, wide eyed. Then grinned.
"You've got a stiffie!"
"Yes. Men often have them in the mornings."
"I don't know. Are you going to make room for me under there or do I have to push?"
"What, with your stiffie?"
"Just move, will you?"
I kept my back to him as much as possible. It was a bit late, admittedly, but I had to keep some show of good taste going.
We made the breakfast table by a quarter past nine. The bacon was very stiff.
"Just like you," he said, and giggled. I ignored him.
I managed to meet up with my parents before they went, and he did the same with his. After apologising for the oversleep they seemed happier, and I asked if I could take a packed lunch. They told me to arrange it with the hotel, or buy something in the village if I couldn't.
"How about James? Are you getting one for him?"
"Yes. I'm going to see his parents in a minute."
"All right. Have a good day, and be careful!"
"Yes Mum. You too."
I ran the Evanses to earth in the lounge. There seemed to be a discussion going on. I heard the tail end of a sentence. "...but you've got to understand that he doesn't want you with him all the time." James' grin was buttoned right up. I stopped, blinking, not wanting to interrupt.
"Oh, hallo, Martin." Mrs Evans' voice sounded a bit strained. "I hear James was cold this morning and burdened you with his problem. You should have sent him to us."
Oh God. Was I being found out? I stammered, suddenly feeling weak. "Er...well...it was very cold, and it seemed the best thing to do. Perhaps I shouldn't have.....I'm sorry." I'm sure I was blushing furiously.
Mrs Evans looked at me curiously. "No, no; you did exactly the right thing. I'm just sorry he woke you and lumbered you with himself."
Just a minute...that wasn't furious accusation. Was she being sarcastic?
"Well....er....I didn't mind, really."
"It's kind of you. But we've told James he mustn't bother other people."
"He's no bother, Mrs Evans. In fact I was cold too, and it was like a hot water bottle."
I don't know why I thought of that, but she laughed suddenly. "Well, he mustn't get into the habit of it. It's not fair. Now darling, are you ready?"
"Oh!" I said, my heart suddenly sinking a little. "Is he going with you?"
"Yes. We've been talking, and it's very nice of you to think of him, but you don't really want him with you. It's wonderful to find someone who'll put themselves out like you have for him, and perhaps if he could go with you now and again that would be nice. But you need your freedom. No, it's best if he comes with us today. 'Bye"
She was just ushering James and her husband out of the door when I thought of my trump card.
"But Mrs Evans...I've just ordered a packed lunch for us, so we can spend all day sailing and going round the islands."
She paused. I still wasn't sure if she thought I was `after' James, or even if she thought I was the sort of boy who would go `after' other boys. But she looked at me, then at her son's unhappy face, then at her husband. And she sighed.
"Well, I tried to give you your freedom, Martin, but if you're really sure and you're not just being kind, then so be it. Go on then, you. Go and get changed, but mind you're back in time for dinner. Showered first, if you're salty.
Once again the whoop of unexpected joy, and the hug for each parent, and I think he'd have hugged me, too. They laughed and said their farewells, and we were alone. He just looked at me. I raised my eyebrows.
"Come on then. We've got some lunches to order." The eyes went big.
"D'you mean you haven't got them yet?"
"I never had a chance."
"But you said..."
"Look, do you want to go sailing or not? And bring a towel this time, will you? We might go swimming."
It was another perfect summer day, quite a change for England in August. We visited another island after we'd sailed around a bit to give him the hang of using the tiller, and he wondered about lunch. I had the feeling that it wasn't lunch time yet (I never wore a watch on the water) and said we'd better wait a bit. He eyed the lunch bags hungrily.
"Look, we've moored in the shelter. Let's walk across the middle of the island and see if it's OK to swim on the other side. Then we can have lunch afterwards. It' safer that way, too. You know you mustn't swim after eating. You get cramp."
"Don't know, but it hurts and stops you moving."
So we set off into the woods. I thought he'd crash about like any young kid, but he was surprisingly light on his feet and attentive. He pointed out some red squirrels which I'd have missed. I was glad to see them because we only got grey ones where I lived. Eventually the southern beach opened up in front of us.
Luckily all that coast is sand, except near streams where it's mud. This island had sand, I'm glad to say, which made life a lot more pleasant. I flopped down onto it, having spread my towel out first. He did the same, then started taking off his shoes.
"What? Just rest a bit will you?"
"I want you to teach me to swim."
"Teach you....? But I thought you could swim a bit."
"Not very well. I only started learning last term, and we only got two lessons."
He shouldn't have been sailing at all.
"For goodness sake, why didn't you tell me? I should never have brought you with me. Even with a life jacket."
He was straight faced again.
"Oh, come on then. I hope you've got some swimming things this time."
"No. Why, should I? It's only us."
"We've been through this before. What if somebody else comes here?"
"I rush up the beach and get my towel while they're looking the other way."
I didn't answer. Something was nagging at my mind....Yes. I knew where my towel and swimming trunks were.
On my bed in the hotel bedroom.
I looked at him. "I can't teach you today."
"'Cos I haven't got my trunks."
"Good. You can swim in the nude."
"No I can't."
"Yes you can. Look, it's easy." And without a care he pulled off his shirt and threw it onto the sand, then pushed down his shorts and stepped out of them, standing deliberately just in front of me. I gave a sort of short whimper.
"I can't do that."
"Yes you can. Look. I'll show you. Stand up."
"I'll do it for you."
"I will!" He danced round behind me, and I had to bend to see what he was doing. He did a sort of war dance behind my back, dodging first one side then the other so I had to keep bending one way then the other. I got fed up with this, and stood up so as to face him. With one swoop he had his hands on my shorts waistband and had pulled them to the ground.
I bent immediately to pull them up again, but he had rushed round the back of me again and had pulled my underwear unceremoniously off my bum. I tried to grip them with my thighs, but he just pushed me. I went sprawling; the shorts round my ankles saw to that. While I was off balance on the ground he somehow got my shorts completely off my feet, and stood there laughing while I lay panting on the sand with my bare bum in the air.
"Give me my shorts!"
"Come and get them! If you don't get undressed and come and teach me to swim I'll throw them out to sea."
He walked down to the water and waded in, holding aloft the only piece of clothing I had with me that wouldn't get me laughed at or worse as I walked up the hill and into the hotel. Any erection I had when he was wobbling his way round me was long gone with the anticipation of the shame of that.
I called him some choice names which I'm sure he'd heard before, and then made up my mind. He'd seen me naked before. There was nobody else around. It wasn't a big deal, was it? It felt like it. His nakedness was hidden by water and mine wouldn't be.
"All right," I called. "Come back and put my shorts on the beach and I'll come in with you."
"Yeahhhhh!" Like a line from the Beatles. He waded ashore, but stopped at the edge of the water.
"Come on then."
"Take 'em off."
I called him some more names and stripped off my underpants. He crossed to my towel and carefully dropped my shorts on the beach.
"You rotten little sod," I called him, as the breeze blew at parts of me it had never done before. " I've a good mind to drown you."
There was a silence at that. I looked at him. He was very serious.
"You won't duck me, will you." It was a statement, not a question.
He sat down with a bump.
"I don't like getting my head wet."
"But you have to when you're swimming."
"Well you weren't very nice to me."
"Well....you wouldn't play."
I realised that I was standing in full view, nude, holding a conversation. "Come on. I won't duck you, but let's just get in the water."
I made him show me what he could do. Doggy paddle, that was it. I took charge again. I was still a bit sore about the ease with which he managed to get my clothes off. I mean, I'm not a fighting type at school, never have been. But I should be able to control the activity of a 9 year old. But I'd said that I wouldn't duck him, and I'd stick to that. But he was going to work hard.
Remembering when I was taught, I got him to hold his arms in front of him, bring his legs up behind, and kick. This put his head in the water, and he collapsed, spluttering.
"Don't be a baby. It's only water. Look, bend down and just put your face under water."
He did. It stayed there for half a second.
"No, longer. Count to ten."
He looked at me and took a deep breath, the blurted out "You're not going to hold my head under, are you?"
"I promised that I won't. I want you to be able to swim, remember? Come on."
Another breath. The body bent, the face went in. I counted to ten and he still didn't come up. I let him stay there, and at last there was a gurgle and up he came, breath and water blowing in my face as if he had been drowning.
"That's twenty," he shouted when he'd recovered.
"Good. Now you can do that, give me your arms, I'll support them, get your feet behind you and gently kick."
I swam a few strokes away from him, hopeful there was nobody else around to see my bare bum sticking up out of the water.
"OK." I took his hands again, and his bum came to the surface. I thought again how trusting he was. Nice.
He made a good show of the leg movements, but I made him keep going until he collapsed spluttering again.
"Every few moments you have to bring your head to the side and breathe. Try and breathe out one side, then a second later breathe in on the other."
He mastered it eventually.
"Ok, not bad. Next, you've got to lean forward in the water and I'll support you on my right arm, then I'll put the left one under your waist. Just hang in the water with your face under it again."
I held the arm out, just under the water, and he leant against it. My left one went under his middle, and I slowly took his weight on it, lifting him onto his feet. I had him totally at my mercy, and the knowledge sent a thrill through me. If the water had been less cold I'm sure I'd have reacted. He still had complete trust that I wouldn't duck him, and I didn't have the heart to.
The next step was the obvious one of doing the same, but having him do the movements of the crawl. I told him he'd have to go on doing this for a long time, and as his co-ordination improved I felt it more and more difficult to stop him from moving in the water. At last he stopped, panting.
"How'm I doing?"
"Swimming, more or less. Get your breath, and we'll have another go."
It took him no time at all to resume, and he was now pulling so strongly that I lowered my arm slowly into the water. He started to move, and I felt his willy push over my arm......wow......and hurriedly put my right arm under his middle to keep him upright. He stopped.
"What did you do that for?"
"I didn't. You swam off."
"You were swimming."
"You were. Look. Do it again. This time I'm going to lower my arm, but it'll still be under you. OK?"
We got to the same stage as before, and I lowered the arm as I said I would, after letting him trail his willy over it again. Well, I had to have some perks. To my surprise he just kept going! I launched myself after him, catching up easily. On one of his breaths he saw me by his side and immediately stopped.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm trying to keep up with you."
"D'you mean I was SWIMMING?"
"Yes! What else?"
We decided to quit while he was ahead and have lunch.
I was so excited that I'd taught him to swim so easily. He was excited, too. I led us out of the water, and it wasn't until I turned round to make sure he was following me that I remembered we were both naked. I rushed up the beach to my towel and wrapped it round me. He laughed when he saw.
"Why're you doing that? It's only me!"
"It just feels...wrong."
"You keep saying that. It doesn't to me, it's nice and free. And you don't mind me being naked and I don't mind you being naked. So that's enough."
I could see his point. The towel stayed firmly round me.
He dropped onto his and lay on his back in the sun, shielding his eyes.
"Are we going to eat?" I asked.
"Hmmm, yes! What is there?" He sat up.
As we ate, and I kept my eyes sweeping over his thin little body and its accoutrements (I thought of the word at the time, and was proud of it.), I slowly came round to the idea that perhaps it was all right not to hide myself away. Here. Just here. Nowhere else. The shower in my hotel room didn't count. As it was the towel was damp from being wrapped round me, and was hot and uncomfortable anyway. In an unsought fit of abandon I unwrapped it, laid it on the sand and lay back down on it. It was still uncomfortable so I moved to one side -- his side -- and lay just on the sand. I expected some comment.
"That's better," he said.
We rested afterwards, for about half an hour. It was very hot and we were both drowsy. Eventually I thought of sunburn, and told him either to turn over or we could go back into the sea. Immediately he jumped up.
I had to start him off again by supporting his body with my hand, but strangely I didn't mind that. As he did more and more starts he was managing increasingly on his own, and was soon managing to swim a reasonable distance unaided. I had to be careful not to let him get out of his depth, because I remembered getting into a panic once myself when something went wrong and I couldn't touch bottom. I gave him strict orders about that, but showed him what to do if he was in a panic.
"Look. If you fill your lungs with air..." we both did, "...and then just let your body lie on the water, arms and legs apart, you'll float." I suited the action to the word and he nearly drowned laughing. I stood up indignantly.
"Your willy sticks up like a periscope!" he laughed.
"Huh. Well, it's time for you to play submarines, then. I'll support your weight to start with."
It took a few goes, but he got it. In fact he very quickly found he could stay afloat as long as me. I warned him not to do it too long, or the current might wash him away. But he was right about one thing.
It did look like a periscope.
I found I liked watching him play submarines.
The drawback with leaving your watch safely on land is that you don't know the time. We were once again soaking up the sun when I realised that I had no idea at all how the day was going. We hadn't checked on the boat since we anchored her, and I was so absorbed with having someone else to play alongside, someone who enjoyed my company and treated me as an equal despite being so much younger, that thoughts of anything else had been driven from my mind.
"Bloody Hell." In the '60's that was fairly strong, especially if you were 14 and had an Edwardian upbringing.
"I think it's getting late, but I don't know the time. If we're late....."
"Well, they won't let us sail together again, that's certain."
"Had we better start back?"
"Yes, we jolly well had." I'd caught some of the Edwardian exclamations from Dad as well.
"I dare you to cross the island with no clothes."
"Well, we're wet now, we want to be dry, and we will be by the time we get to the boat."
It was certainly common sense. But it had taken me an hour or more to get comfortable with the idea of exposing everything I'd got (Everything! Me! I must be mad!) for an entire afternoon. It had taken me another 30 minutes to stop myself raising my head every few moments to check there was no one else around. I did actually feel at ease now, though, but the idea of walking through the woods to the side of the island that faced the village was daunting. It was a long way off being out of the question, though, and was a bit of a dare. And he was right, we would be dry by the time we got there.
Once again feeling exposed, I gathered up my clothes and towel, as did he, and I walked smartly to the wood's cover. He followed more casually. We made good progress, and once the open northern shore was in sight I stopped to get dressed, although I didn't put on my underpants. My body was still salt-sticky. I was glad he did the same.
It felt very odd to be covered again.
When we got within sight of the village church and its clock we saw that we were actually a bit early. It was only 5.00. A I'd insisted on doing all the boat handling on the way back I decided to give him some more practice, and then we berthed in the usual place and climbed the iron ladder up to the quay. Hard ground underfoot was also strange. We climbed the hill, feeling tireder and tireder as we went, reported in to my parents who were sitting at the bar and told them we were going to shower. At least, I did: I assumed he was going to do the same.
He followed me to my room as if it was his right. I was strangely excited. He just seemed to assume that we were `together' somehow. He went straight to the bed - my bed! - and flopped down on it, closing his eyes.
"Come on. You can't go to sleep. We've got to shower and get down to bed...I mean dinner."
"Come on!" What do I have to do, shower him?
He stayed motionless.
"Do you want to go sailing tomorrow?"
"Look, if you don't get downstairs on time they'll come up here and find you. And....they'll find you naked." Why did I think of that?
"What?" He sat up.
"They'll find you naked because I'll strip you and hide your clothes."
"You wouldn't dare...."
He never really finished the sentence. And yes, I did. He was so tired he hardly resisted. I almost carried him naked over to the shower and dumped him in there. About to turn on the water I realised that I was still in shoes, T-shirt, shorts and underwear, so I hastily stripped off, this time with no thought or embarrassment at all.
I got it wrong. It was freezing on our still-hot bodies. I shouted and he just burst into tears. I pushed him out of the way of the spray and held him there, still in tears, while I carefully adjusted the taps until the temperature was better.
"Let me go."
"Look, you've got to shower. It's all right now."
"It is. Try it, put your hand in."
Cautiously he did so, then stepped into the water without a further comment. He reached without enthusiasm for the soap and just rubbed it on his chest, but didn't seem very anxious to do anything else. As he was emotional already I felt I couldn't hurry him up as I would normally, so I wondered if I do something that I really wanted to do but just didn't really dare...
"If you're tired, d'you want me to wash you?"
Without hesitation he nodded.
I don't know if you've ever showered another human body which attracts you. Did you feel, as I did then, that you hardly dared touch, even though you'd been told you could? I stood behind him for ages, soap in hand, water dripping into my eyes, indecisive. Eventually he looked round to me.
Doing his back was a treat, his muscles hardly formed but still present, the skin both soft and yet firm. No....not the bottom.... His legs the same, and he lifted his feet one at a time, only jerking away once as I washed the sensitive soles. Still kneeling behind, I washed up his calves and thighs.....and once again stopped. I went round the front and soaped the chest, under the arms and neck, and then wondered about the belly. Tentatively I put a soapy palm against it and washed....then round the sides, to the back.....and realised that I was actually feeling the top of his cleft. No, that would never do. So I stopped.
"You'd better do the rest." I was almost gruff about it. I didn't want him to think it had affected me. Strangely I wasn't physically affected in the usual way.
But I was trembling like a badly set sail.
I watched as he soaped his hands and rubbed it around his front and back, and wished I'd had the courage to do it for him. It was over in a second or two. If only he wasn't so tired and we'd had more time....
He rinsed off, slightly more awake by now, and climbed out to dry himself. My towel again! Damn, I'd forgotten. But I didn't send him upstairs to get his own, I didn't have the heart.
But now I had to shower, and quickly. No time to do what my body was starting to press me to do. Firstly he was standing there and secondly we had to get downstairs. I was soon after the towel, but found he was just slowly dabbing himself with it, still wet.
"Come on, you. You'll be here for ages. Let me."
This time it was a command rather than a request. He just looked at me and handed over the towel. I smiled at him, and got a smile back. Thank goodness. I stood in front of him and told him to put his hands against my shoulders. The towel went round his back and I pulled it briskly to and fro.
"Owwoowwoooww...." He moaned as the towel scrubbed his back, his bottom, the back of his legs and, once I had knelt again, behind his calves. I looked back up at him and caught, once my eyes had struggled round his midriff area, the start of a grin on his face. Swiftly I went round his back and dried his front in the same way. I made sure I released some tension on the towel as it passed over the sensitive bits....
"Thanks," he said when I'd finished. "S'pose I'd better go and get dressed."
"Yes. And quickly, too. No going to sleep up there or I'll take you down to dinner naked." I swear he was going to say `you wouldn't dare', but he thought better of it and rushed upstairs. Did I have time for one? With all that nakedness and touching I needed to more than I'd ever done before. But no....later. He'd not be visiting me tonight if he was that tired.
He was vary quiet at the table, and kept getting asked if he was all right. Once it was over he just dumped himself in an armchair and curled up. His father beckoned to me.
"What have you done to him? He's never been this quiet!"
I reddened, then realised what he meant.
"Oh. We spent all day sailing and then I taught him to swim, and then we sunbathed, then I was letting him sail the boat."
He stared at me. "You...taught him to swim? But how...what...I....Doreen!" this last was almost a shout. Several people turned their heads sharply and one man spluttered his coffee onto the saucer, I was intrigued to notice.
She came over, almost at a run.
"Martin, tell Doreen what you've just told me, will you?"
"Er...well...yes....But what have I done wrong, please?"
"Wrong? You've done nothing wrong. We've been trying to get him to learn properly for ages. He's always said he hated getting his face wet."
"What?" said his wife, "you don't mean he's been teaching him to swim?"
"Er...well...yes. I mean, it was so hot, and he should be able to if he's on the water, and it was a safe beach, so ...well, yes."
"But that's marvellous! Thank you so much. How many lessons do you think he'll need when we get home?"
"Well none, really. I mean he was swimming on his own this afternoon."
"Well, we started off the way I was taught, you know, getting your face wet and that, and then I held him up while he did the movements, them he swam off my hand."
He just looked at me. Then I got his hand. To shake. And a slap on the back that made me lurch.
"Martin, you're a marvel. Thank you. Can we come and see him swim, please? Tomorrow?"
I thought hard. We'd better take some trunks..... "Yes, I...er...yes. We could go to the island, I suppose, and swim there. Why don't we all go? Could you and Mum and Dad hire a motor boat, or Dad could hire a sailing dinghy? And we could meet up there."
Doreen -- what a name! -- looked a bit doubtful, but he was all for it. And so, over the head of their by now sleeping son the adults plotted. I said that it would be best if they gave us some practice time in the morning, and they said they'd bring a picnic lunch over, enough for six.
So that was our day planned.
They noticed that James was out of it by now, and his father lifted him gently and carried him off. He woke up just as the man turned his back, looked startled, realised what was happening and smiled lazily at me, then closed his eyes again.
I didn't stay long myself. I found that I was getting increasingly impatient with their small talk. It seemed so small that I just couldn't see it. I excused myself, and amidst a chorus of `good night's and `thanks for what you did today', all of which rang round the quiet hotel lounge and embarrassed me, I went to bed. My brain wasn't really with it -- probably too much food, or the hotel was too hot.
I slowly climbed the stairs in our tower to my room. I paused outside my bedroom door and listened. Could he be there? No. I went in and checked, half expecting to find only half a bed available. I was really disappointed when he wasn't. Should I go up to his room? No. He'd be asleep. Pointless.
So I climbed quietly up the stairs and listened outside his door.
Softly: "James?" No answer.
I slowly turned the handle and gently pushed. It opened. In the dim light I could see the bed was immediately above mine. Silently I crossed to his sleeping form and stood there, looking, wondering at my daring, heart thumping against discovery.
Even to my inexperienced eyes he looked like an angel asleep. The smooth forehead, the untroubled expression, and familiar features. Familiar! I'd only known him just over two days! And he had slept with me for three hours this morning! What was I doing?
Common sense was tearing me away, lest he wake or his parents come to check on him. The touch that this little angel who I loved was giving my heart just by being there was the stronger, and kept me watching.
Was that it?
No, of course not. I was a boy. I didn't love other boys. I found their bodies fascinating, and his too, and he'd become a good friend very quickly and I wanted to be with him, and I wanted to keep him as a friend after the holiday..... But I would soon get to grips with girls. Literally, I hoped. The sooner the better. It was just a question of finding one who attracted me. No, if I loved him, it was as the son I'd one day have. Nothing else.
I resisted the temptation to stroke his hair, or to get really close to him as I had been in bed this morning, turned, and tore myself from the room.
In bed I was conscious that he was immediately above me. I tried projecting what I regarded as my spirit upwards, to be with him, to watch over him, like a father should.
When I woke, someone was hammering at the door. I didn't remember going to sleep, or having my usual nightly fiddle, or measuring, or inspecting to see if there was any flour paste coming from me. I was totally awake, and it was light.
"Hallo? Come in."
It was Dad. He came in. "Martin, it's nine o'clock. What on earth's the matter with you?"
I looked at my watch. He wasn't wrong.
"You're usually good at getting up. Well, at waking up. And here it would be nice if we could all have breakfast at the same time.
"I'm sorry, Dad. I just slept right through. I only woke when you knocked."
He looked a bit less annoyed. "You must have been very tired."
"I s'pose we spent a long time in the water yesterday, and I'm not used to the fresh air after so much school."
"Hmmm. Well, we've got them to keep some breakfast for you, but an apology to them won't come amiss. And before you do anything, go and wake that young friend of yours, will you, and drag him down to his parents. He was well away last night, so I suppose you're as bad as each other."
He ruffled my hair and smiled. Funny, I didn't mind him doing that.
I pulled myself from the bed and threw on a pair of underpants. The door downstairs closed, so I knew he'd gone. I was at James' room in a moment. Knocking. Nothing. Knocking. Opening. And he was still asleep. Once again I just watched him, and felt the same as the previous night. So innocent. I smiled, and knelt by his head.
He was there, instantly. A look of fear for an instant, it seemed, and then recognition and relief and The Grin. I felt warm inside. He was a nice kid.
"Breakfast," I said.
"Twenty minutes ago."
"You could have brought mine up."
I stared at him. "James, it may surprise you to know that I don't usually go to eat dressed like this."
"Just as well if they're serving sausages."
I just looked at him.
"Can I use your bog?"
The bedclothes were thrown off. He wasn't wearing anything.
"Thought you wore pyjamas?"
He had worn them before he knew that I didn't. I felt quite proud.
It was a strange, almost triumphant, feeling, following him down the stairs and into my bedroom, with myself wearing underpants and him completely naked. It was even more so when he came out of the toilet, still bare of clothes, as I was by then fully dressed.
I had to be. I needed to hide my triumph lest he saw and made even more rude comments.
When we arrived in the dining room we found our usual tables had been cleared. Looking round we noticed a small table, set just for two, in the alcove overlooking the bay, and moved uncertainly to it. Two of the hotel's friendly staff appeared as if from nowhere...
"Gentlemen! How nice! Please sit at our best table..... Cereal? Coffee? Tea? Fruit juice? No, no....we shall wait on you this morning....completely. Bacon? How would you like your eggs done?....." And so it went on. They may have been trying to embarrass us for being late, but by the huge grins on their faces I think they were enjoying themselves too. James entered into the spirit of the thing immediately and asked for all sorts of things that he knew he'd never get, and I found myself at ease soon after. Before long we were all laughing and joking about it, and we were being treated like kings, spoilt rotten, and loving it. They played by the rules, though, and gave us a really good, big, cooked breakfast.
When we had finished we thought it only right to pile all the crockery up and take it through to the kitchen to say our thank you's, and got a rapturous welcome from the cook and his staff.
"But you'll forgive me if we don't offer to do the same every morning, lads, won't you?"
"We'll be on time tomorrow, promise," said James solemnly.
It was very late when we arrived at the boat, and almost eleven when we had dragged her up the sand of the island.
"Well?" said James.
"Do we do what we did yesterday?
"What? Walk through the woods naked?"
"You wouldn't dare."
"I know you would."
"Well, there's no one here."
"There's no reason to."
"No. But it's fun."
"I've got my bathing things."
"So've I. So what?"
"Well you can."
"Oh, come on."
"The parents'll be here in a minute."
"I don't let mine see me naked!"
"I just don't."
"Mine do me. I see them, too. We all wear nothing when we get up."
That explained a lot. My parents never did -- at least, not in front of me. A corner of my brain was wondering why the difference.
"Come on. I dared you."
"I know, but...."
Why did I give in to him? It was going to be more awkward to carry our clothes than to wear them, particularly as we were already carrying bathers wrapped in towels. But for him, self-consciously, I stripped off. But I made sure he was ahead of me.
Once my bottom was out of any possible viewing from the empty bay behind us I felt happier, and began once more to enjoy the breeze against me. The fact that I wasn't alone, playing dares with myself, but was with a real live boy who was affecting me more and more as the days went on, was one of the reasons I felt totally at ease within a few minutes. It also helped that he was ahead of me on our walk, and I was following the babyish cheeks of his bottom through the trees. I was getting this odd electrical tingling in my chest.
When we reached the south of the island he just flung down his clothes and towel and dived straight into the water. I was certainly not going to stay out, exposed to all the world.
He swam. I helped. He spluttered. I encouraged. And eventually, WE swam.
And eventually, there was a chugging, and a motor boat appeared round the edge of the island, containing four people. Parents. I panicked immediately. I was naked in the water with a nine year old and his and my parents had come and must now discover everything. My voice was very shrilly childish as I answered their greeting.
Calm returned enough for me to suggest that they moor on the northern, sheltered side of the island and walk through the wood to join us. I think I mentioned something about tide and wind and not wanting the boat to be dragged away. At last the motor pulled them away from us, giving us the chance to get ashore and get into our swimming trunks.
"Phew!" I said, once our midriffs were hidden. "That was a bit close."
"What d'you mean?"
"Them coming so soon. Are they early?"
"Dunno. You don't like being nude, do you?"
A long pause followed that.
"Yeees, I think so, but not in front of parents."
"I don't know. I suppose ever since Mum stopped bathing me and let me do it myself I've not wanted either of them to see...you know."
I couldn't go on. I knew what I meant and couldn't tell him.
"So you don't like it?" he persisted.
"It's OK with you, when there's no one else around or looking."
"Oh, that's all right then."
And then we were interrupted by Their appearance, laden with food and drink.
"You were skinny dipping just now, weren't you?"
"Skinny dipping. You know, swimming without wearing trunks."
So there was a name for it, was there? "No. Why, should we have been?"
"Well," said my father, "I wouldn't blame you if you were. It's a super place for it with no one around. You're young, it doesn't matter, so I should if I were you. It's a lovely, free feeling."
He hadn't, had he?
"Have you been, er...skinny dipping, Dad?"
"In the Navy, yes. We all did. But then you come home and get old and respectable, and...well, it never really crops up.
The subject changed to food, fortunately. They spread a really good meal on the sand for us all, and James and I made pigs of ourselves, forgetting the embargo on swimming after a meal. Eventually I had finished, and as I was in trunks and not allowed in the sea I excused myself on the grounds that I needed to find a bush.
"Just thinking the same," said my father. "I'll find one nearby."
We walked off. Once we were out of hearing range he cleared his throat in that way he had of announcing that he was going to say something slightly embarrassing.
"You know, Martin, there's not many things you'll do throughout your childhood and adolescence that I haven't done. Very few indeed. In fact as I've been in the Forces I think it's likely I'll have done more than you by the time you're my age. So when something you believe is wrong or that you're nervous about comes up, there's only one way to find out if it is wrong, and that's by asking. Now, I'm a man like you'll be soon, and I know things that women don't about my own body, and therefore about yours too. So there's no need to tell me a lie when I ask you about something like swimming naked, although I can't blame you, I suppose, as the question was asked in public and you didn't know if it was OK or not."
He paused for breath.
"Usually, if something feels right, it is right. If you're not sure, ask me. I promise I won't bite your head off if it's wrong, but I'll tell you whether it is, and why. And skinny dipping, if you can do it in private like this, is absolutely fine. In fact I'm jealous."
This was another long speech, the second this holiday. I wondered if he thought I was growing up.
"Yes, Dad." Then as I thought that that was a pretty short answer when he'd gone to so much trouble: "It's nice, isn't it?"
"Mmm. One day I might....but then, your mother wouldn't understand, and you probably wouldn't want me to ."
Every now and again a parent says something that makes you feel sorry for them. I felt sorry for him. It was a risky thing we'd be doing, and the more so, for some reason I didn't understand, for him. But if we did, James couldn't come with us, could he? I didn't ask the question.
"We will, if you like, Dad, but I'd better finish teaching James to swim first."
He laughed as he shook the drops from his willy. I did the same. We walked back in companionship, somehow closer than we had been during all the time he was working hard studying for his wretched exams.
It was a lazy afternoon. I think both James and I were still a bit short changed on sleep from the previous day, so we were both quite happy to lie side by side and sunbathe. He slept. I kept looking at him, fascinated once again at how vulnerable he looked.
At last we were allowed in the sea.
"Are you two going in in the nude again?" asked my mother.
"Certainly not!" I said before James had a chance to say anything.
"It doesn't matter to us, you know, does it Doreen?"
"No. If you want to, you just go ahead."
"Not likely," I said with feeling. "Not with you lot here."
"It's up to you, darling," said my mother. "I mean, it's not indecent for you, yet. After all, you haven't started puberty."
I stared at her, completely flabbergasted, speechless. A heavy weight sank to the bottom of my stomach, and my throat constricted. How could she say such a thing? And in front of strangers, too! I felt humiliated beyond words, although nobody sniggered or laughed or said anything or even looked at me and smiled. My father looked sharply at her and seemed about to say something, but didn't, and failed to meet my eyes when I looked at him for help.
"That's a horrible thing to say," I said at last, hotly. "I would never say anything like that to you!"
She just laughed, lightly, but had the grace to look embarrassed. At that moment I hated her -- at least, not her, but the shadow she'd made to fall on my mood. I didn't want to get up or to co-operate in any way. James helped a bit with the clearing up, but I lay on the sand and sulked, fuelling my own fury. It faded a bit, eventually, but I was unhappy about talking to my Mother. At that moment she was beneath contempt.
"Now," said James' father. "How about this swimming, then?"
That was the reason they were all here, but at the time my wound was still smarting. I wanted to get back at her, but couldn't some how with everybody around. I supposed I'd better make the best of it.
My mood had rather put away from my mind the feelings I had for James, but as he wandered around as if there was nothing amiss I lightened a bit. He was quite ready to exhibit his new skills, and so I rushed into the water after him, as quickly as I could lest any of them was busy looking at me to see if my mother was right.
He did well, I must say, and really impressed both sets of parents. He swam alone, he swam with me, and once, to see if he could still do it, I told him to turn onto his back and lie flat on the water. With his arms and legs forming a sort of cross, he floated.
"Well, I did it!" he said when he'd recovered, "but how's it work?"
"You've got enough air in you normally to make your body lighter than water. So you float," I said. "Simple."
He floated again, then a second and third time. In fact he floated for so long, his ears under water, that he didn't hear us shouting to him to come in. I had to go and get him.
They left eventually, having congratulated him for his swimming and me for my teaching. I made no sarky comments about not being into puberty but still being old enough to teach swimming, although I felt like it.
Once they had gone he turned to me, grinned that ear to ear grin, and said "we shan't need these any more, shall we?" And without hesitation he untied his trunks and pushed them down his legs.
My mood had reached equilibrium, more or less, although I was still a bit down. My mind couldn't decide whether to do things `by the book', in other words stay covered, or whether to rebel against the adult world and join him. I still felt angry. "Fuck it," I said, but so that he couldn't hear, and violently tore off my trunks. I felt that if an army had marched round the corner at that moment I would brazen it out in the nude, just to show the adult world how horrible they'd been to me.
We swam some more.
When we got back to the hotel that evening I told him to go ahead and have a shower, and I'd join him later. He wasn't very happy about that, but walked on obediently. I had an assignment with my mother. I was determined to let her know how she'd hurt me and get an apology.
They were both in the room.
"Mother, You were horrible to me this afternoon."
She looked nonplussed. My father looked embarrassed.
"When you said what you did about me."
She still looked as though she hadn't an idea.
"When we were talking about swimming without trunks."
"What," she said at last, "When I told you it didn't matter as you've got nothing that'd cause embarrassment yet?"
"YES," I shouted, more to try and stop her saying any more than in anger. "That was horrible. And in front of other people, too."
"Well, you haven't, have you, darling? You will, and soon I should think. But you haven't entered puberty yet."
"HOW DO YOU KNOW?
"Well....you haven't.....I'd know."
"Well.....er.....there are signs."
"I KNOW IT IS," I shouted again, "and it's me it's happening to. Remember?"
"I think what Martin is saying, darling," started my level-headed father, "is that just as you find it embarrassing to talk about the size of his body and the appearance of hair and a breaking voice, he found it embarrassing that you should talk about it in front of his friends."
She looked at me, her mouth open.
But I'd made my point and didn't see why I should stay for more. So I just left the room and stalked up to mine. I felt the point had been made, but sorry not to get an apology. I felt better about things, anyway. And Dad understood. That helped.
I found him, inevitably, in my room. He was sitting on the bed dressed in just a pair of underpants. My sole thought as I entered the room was that I was satisfied with having won with my mother, but that changed rapidly and, for me confusingly, to one of marvelling that he was `here for me'. I'd started regarding him as my property, almost. When he had taken them off his only item of clothing I noticed for the first time as I was ripping off my own, just how small his pants were. I could hardly understand how anybody could get into them. Yet they were quite loose on him. Once again I realised just how small and vulnerable he was.
"Come on then, hurry up," said the small and vulnerable one. "I'm hungry. I don't want to be late."
I know I've said a lot about sharing a shower with him. But after being interested in other boys' bodies at school I felt it a real privilege to be able to be really close to one, and to help bath it. And to like the owner, too.
Once again we both went to our rooms quite early that night, him before me. I was very tired, though, and slept like a log. But at least I had time to measure myself and check on the liquidity situation.
It was very good indeed, that check. But there was no change in the outcome.
The first thing I remember in the morning was a perfunctory knock on the door, bounding footsteps, and the bedclothes being thrown back.
"It's time to get up."
"Come on, or I'll tickle you."
The next minute I had doubled up, gasping, as two surprisingly strong arms had dug into me half way down my sides. He was tickling me unmercifully and my semi-comatose brain couldn't cope with getting free. Eventually I managed it, and held the marauding hands away from me while I recovered, panting. That wake-up was the quickest that had happened to me for years. I released his hands.
Big mistake. He was on me again in a flash, and was pinning me down on the bed by lying on top of me. But for the nerves which were telling me that he was attacking my sensitive sides again, having his body lying on mine was.....so wonderfully friendly. It was really the closest I'd been to him. I couldn't get much closer. His pants clad body was pushed against mine, his face just inches from mine, and his laughter rang in my ears until I was dizzy. Or was that the tickling?
I felt the result before I could do anything about it. Fortunately we were both quite sweaty after the warmth of the night and a little more humidity around our nether regions went unnoticed. By him. I realised what had happened and it made me act. I pulled myself together and grasped his arms again, this time holding them, then transferring both to one hand, holding his wrists down in front of him. Too bad if the back of my hand was resting against his rather damp pants.... The free hand wondered what to do. But it soon discovered he was even more ticklish than me, so the lightest touch on his chest and stomach caused severe giggling from the other end.
I was as unmerciful to him as he had been to me. Under arms, stomach, sides...I was trying for his feet, but obviously couldn't get near without rearranging my grip.
Eventually I went for broke.
"Are you going to give up, or do I have to tickle your willy?"
He was still gasping, giggling, half crying with laughter, from my last onslaught.
"You wouldn't dare....."
It wasn't actually very pleasant, as he, too, had lost control for a moment. But he wriggled and bucked and tried to break free as I found it and traced its length under the damp clothing, then put my finger lightly on his balls. The eyes widened and he drew in his breath. I released hurriedly, fearing a scream. But he just lay still on top of me, breathing as heavily as I was.
"Are you awake now?"
I just looked at him. There is a moment when you just can't stop what you're about to do, and this was mine. I released the wrists from my hands, put both arms round him and squeezed gently. Yes, a hug, I didn't kiss him. Kissing was something you did to girls, wasn't it? But I held him in a gentle embrace, his head face down on my left shoulder, his breath blowing gustily still on me, and the length of his body still on top of mine.
I could have stayed there all day. But he would move soon, I knew.
"I think we'd better have a shower, don't you?"
"That's two in one day."
"Well? Do you want to go round smelling all day?"
He stood up. I was naked, of course. I put my hands on the waistband of his pants and pulled down. He stepped out of them, and I threw the rather unpleasant things towards the door.
"Not clean on, were they?"
We had another leisurely shower, washing each other without shame. I even soaped over his waist in the front and for the first time washed over his little willy and half-formed balls. He didn't bat an eyelid, just accepted it as if I'd been a parent. Which is how I viewed myself: as a part-time parent or an elder brother. I certainly felt the love of a brother for him, even though I'd never experienced it, being an only child myself. But that must be what it was. It couldn't be anything else -- he was a boy, after all.
The day was the hottest so far. We sailed to a different island this time, in case the parents thought to follow us, and although it was smaller it was better. Opposite the village, but far enough away to be private, was a small inlet which gave even more shelter than the main bay did. As it curved sideways from its mouth the privacy was greater too. But we explored it fully clothed first so we shouldn't be surprised. I had wondered if he'd go naked immediately out of devilment, but he made no move to. The south side, when we got there, had the remains of a small stream which had flowed into the sea. It was muddy, and the mud had caked and split. We put down our towels some way from it, as it looked as if it smelt.
As usual we stripped off. We didn't even discuss it by this time, it just happened. I didn't even check to make sure he was naked before me.
We swam for ages. Then we had lunch and lay in the sun, sweating. At last I couldn't stand it any more and thought I'd go and have a look at the dry stream bed.
Actually it didn't smell too bad. Earthy, yes, but not revolting. Carefully I put a foot onto the cracked almost black surface and pushed. No problem. I thought I'd walk over it to the other side, took two steps and was immediately up to my knees in soft goo.
After the initial panic I decided to wade further: the next step had me on my face in it. It was wet, very sticky, and clung on, as my uncle used to say, `like shit to a blanket'. It was also cool. I wallowed, which, in the nude, was absolutely glorious. It was one of those things that mothers would hate on the grounds that it was unhealthy, dangerous and above all dirty. Which means to their sons that it's tremendous fun and an expression of freedom. To do the thing properly I made sure it was in my hair, round my mouth, just inside the cheeks of my arse, and certainly all over my willy and balls and under my legs.
I must have looked like a pygmy. At least I hoped so. I climbed out and walked the hundred yards or so to the sleeping, skin-reddened James.
He opened his eyes in my direction. Quicker than it takes to describe it, they opened so wide I thought he'd lose them, he gave a sort of wail and scrambled to his feet as if he'd just seen a raging tiger. He backed away fast, and when he saw that the raging tiger wasn't following he turned and ran. And, which I thought was sweet, yelled my name.
The effect was a bit too good. I yelled after him.
"It's me, you fool! Come back!"
He slowed, then stopped and looked back, still very unsure. I raised an arm. Rather, I tried to raise an arm, but the heat of my body and the almost oppressive warmth of the day had all but set the mud, so it was a feeble effort and a bit painful.
"It's ME, James. I'm covered in mud. Come back, do. It's great."
Slowly he walked toward me, completely straight faced. As he neared me he paused and looked hard, and gave a sheepish grin.
"You scared me." He sounded very shaky.
"I saw. It's good, isn't it?"
"I was really scared. What is it? Where did you get it?"
"Come over here. It's mud from a dried up stream."
Almost reluctantly he followed me to my wallow, and I showed him where I'd been. Tentatively he put a foot on the solid bit, as I had done, then tried walking over it. He broke through the crust and sank in to his thighs.
"Ugh! It's horrible!"
"Come over here, and splash about a bit."
"No. It's horrible."
"Oh, come on James, it's only mud. Look."
I picked some up and plastered it on my already black chest.
"I just want to get out."
"It's lovely. Just give it a try."
He tried to walk toward me, but was in too deep to make any headway. He looked a bit worried. I thought I'd better intervene. I crossed over to him, and yes, the mud was thicker there. I put two black arms round his waist and pulled upwards, over balanced backwards and fell into it with him on top of me. Fortunately he rolled off immediately, otherwise I think I'd have vanished under it. As it was my face was almost covered. We got up, he found he could stand, and gave me a shaky smile.
"You look awful."
"Yeah. Good. You don't look so clean, either."
He was heavily smudged. Not covered like me, but quite filthy.
"Come on, get it all over you."
I don't know why I wanted him to get covered. It just seemed like a good idea. To give him credit he started picking at the mud and smearing it on, but I wanted him to wallow like I had. I encouraged him over to where I'd rolled around, and did it again.
"Like this. Come on!"
He came over and sat in it, still smearing his legs. I grabbed some handfuls of mud and rubbed them over his back and neck. After much coaxing he got his face dirty, and I told him where the uncovered bits of skin were, so he could cover them. When he was done we both looked like pygmies, and I led the way back over the beach at a run. I no longer felt naked. The mud was my clothing. We went into the thin woods and played tracking games, although we never found anything apart from our own boat, so I made up a sort of Robinson Crusoe story for us and we tracked on...
When we got back to our towels we were both uncomfortable because the mud was really hard and flaky, and the edges of the flakes were inclined to stick in a bit. So we looked at each other and said, almost at the same time: "Swim?"
It melted off eventually, but getting it out of our hair took some doing, and I swear his looked a bit darker than it had started. It was good to get back into the cool water. The afternoon seemed to be heating up, and mud or no mud it was quite uncomfortably hot. I climbed out of the water and looked at my watch which I'd made myself wear for a change. It wasn't really time to go, but I thought we were both getting a bit red because of the sun.
We walked back to the boat, still naked, drying off as we went. Pulling her down to the water was a hot, sticky affair. She wasn't built to be hauled about by a 14 and a 9 year old. We were so exhausted by it that I waded into the water again to cool off. He followed suit, of course.
The voyage home was spent in just our shorts. It was too hot for anything else and we were both wet from that last dip. I was beginning to long for a cool drink and a shower. We moored, and the haul up to the hotel was hard work for us both.
"I don't blame you for coming back early," said one of our waiter friends from the previous morning's breakfast. "It's hot enough to boil the bay and make tea. And there's going to be storm. It's forecast for tonight."
I felt more than saw James stiffen and looked at him. He appeared uncomfortable. The grin was zipped right up. We left the man, got our drinks and headed off to the tower and my room.
"I hate storms."
"That why you looked like you did?. What don't you like about them?"
"I love 'em. They're exciting."
He looked at me as if I was mad. "Well I don't."
It was too hot in the room to do anything active, even with the windows open. I lay on the bed, the drink at my side. Of course he did the same. And there we stayed, sweating, taking an occasional swig, until I thought it must be getting on for dinner time.
Cautiously I stood up, as slowly as possible to avoid strenuous movement.
"I'm going to have a shower."
He looked at me. "Can't be bothered."
"Come on. It'll be great."
"Don't want to move,"
Well, he had got me that morning, and despite the mud incident I thought it was time I got one up. I climbed onto the bed and grabbed his ankles, and lifted straight up until he was just holding himself up by his hands and head -- a sort of involuntary handstand. I ignored the calls of `stoppit....stoppit....' and put my right arm round his calves to hold him up. The other hand descended to his shorts. How to do this? It was a bit daring, but by now I was getting careless with intimacy. After all, it was him who started going over the island without clothes. I carefully gripped the leg of his shorts by his thigh and worked my hand underneath, making sure not to touch anything. When I had a good grip I let go with the other hand. He saw what I was doing and flailed about, trying to support himself on the bed and hold his shorts up at the same time.
I won. I had the satisfaction of watching his rude bits and his legs sliding away from me, and he lay panting on the bed. I was left with a pair of shorts that I could no more get into than fly, so I dropped them on the floor and stood there looking down at his naked body. He had a sort of half smile, so it was all right.
He could move quickly when he wanted to, even if too hot. And before I knew it his hands were grasping at the front of my shorts. He wasn't as circumspect as I had been and grabbed a lot more than he should. I bent over, trying to get the delicate bits he was holding away out of his grasp, and eventually succeeded, although he didn't let go cleanly.
"Well you did it to me."
"I didn't touch anything."
"Nor did I."
"You flaming well did. You nearly wrenched it off!"
"I didn't touch it, though. All I got was cloth."
"You know what I mean."
"Well, are you going for this shower?"
"Yes, and I'd better make sure you've not damaged anything."
Unselfconsciously I dropped my shorts, sat on the bed and looked at it, and checked the other bits all round. It looked all right, and it didn't hurt now, but I wasn't about to tell him that.
"Just as well."
"Why's it bigger than mine?"
"'Cos I'm older than you."
"Yeah, but it's thicker, and your balls are bigger. And why's it get stiff sometimes?"
"It all gets bigger when you get older. And it gets stiff on its own. I don't make it." I didn't say that was often a lie."
"Yeah but why?"
"So you can get it into a girl."
"When you have a girl, you stick it in to her pussy."
"What's a pussy?"
"It's the hole girls have under their legs. Where we've got balls."
"'Cos that's what makes them girls."
"I mean why d'you put your willy in there?"
"When you love her and want to start a baby."
Biology, human relations and morality, all care of Martin. I felt proud of myself answering his questions. I must have known the answers myself for all of three months. And I wasn't embarrassed at all: quite an achievement for me. It must have given him something to think about. He was silent after that.
"Are we going to shower, or are you going down to dinner like that?" I asked him when I realised we'd finished off that bit of conversation.
"It's so hot, I just might."
"You wouldn't dare!" I said, and I knew he wouldn't. I'm glad he didn't dare me back, 'cos I wouldn't either.
We showered, same as before, and felt better for it. I was growing quite bold, and washed him everywhere, even telling him to separate his legs so I could do under there. I think the only place I didn't do was between the cheeks of his bottom. He started work on me and did the same. I reacted when he washed my willy, and he giggled as it grew in his hand and stood up. He washed it carefully, realising it was as tender as his, but without any special attention or overdue regard for it.
It was just nice knowing that we trusted each other, were happy with each other naked, and neither of us was scared of touching the other's body. Anywhere. It was real friendship.
Although the shower was cool, by the time we reached the dining room we were both hot. I had decided that I couldn't face the normal long grey trousers I was meant to wear to dinner, and put on as smart a pair of shorts as I could manage. My parents weren't too happy about it, but as I had coincided with the dinner gong there was no time to make me go back and change.
We all had salads, and I don't think any of the guests had anything afterwards except ice cream. We certainly didn't. The heat was still almost overpowering, although the evening was drawing on.
The lounge, for both our families, was out of the question. We sat in the garden, the adults talking in a desultory way and James and me just lying on the grass trying to keep cool as the haze seemed to gather round us all and make it feel even hotter.
He fell asleep first, and was woken up to be told to go to bed. What a silly thing to do! If you're asleep, sleep, especially when there's no way you're going to get cold. And in that temperature....
I lasted about another hour or so, and then they woke me too. I'm fourteen! If I want to sleep on the grass I'm entitled to! But there was no way round it, and at least if I was on my own I could check for signs of physical progress.
Which I did. There was none. But it was always very good trying.
I lay on the bed by the open window, trying without success to catch any slight breeze. Bedclothes were out of the question, as were any other sort of clothes, but then I never did.
I woke in the pitch black of night. All the street lights were out as it was past midnight. There was no moon. But in my disorientated state I had no idea what had woken me. My stomach was cold, and I felt it. Wet. My brain raced on. I'd heard of wet dreams, but never had one. Was this a first? Had my constant exercises finally persuaded my body that it was time I was enabled to start a family?
Then another raindrop came through the window and landed coldly on me.
This was not pleasant. I pulled myself together enough to get to my feet and pull the window up a bit, even if that did mean even less chance of a breeze. I turned away from the window.
The flash lit the room with a blue, flicker which tricked the imagination into seeing things move. The suddenness brought a gasp from me as my senses overloaded and my heart beat faster. The thunder, about ten seconds later, was less of a shock. I love storms, and turned again to the window to watch. The long gap eventually persuaded me to get back to bed, although the raindrops weren't so much falling as plopping, they were so big. I lay back and wondered If it was going to be as exciting a storm as the day had been hot.
The next flash startled me less, and the one after. Thunder rolled across the bay. Gradually nature built up her forces and the artillery gained strength. The noise was rumbling around, with the occasional louder crash as it all hotted up.
Suddenly there was what I could only describe as a near miss. The lightning seemed to be in the room itself and the noise was instant and mind-bogglingly loud. It scared even me, who knew and liked storms.
I heard a noise from above, a treble sound, just as another flash and crash shook our tower. This time the sound was recognisable as a wail, almost a scream, of terror. James.
Ignoring the need for clothes I flung myself across the room and bounded up the stairs. As I neared his door I could hear him crying like a young child. I knew I was right to be there and I knew I had to do something. I went in and switched on the light. He was under the bedclothes, shaking with the sobs off terror which had engulfed him.
"James....James...." I called. There was another crash from outside as if in answer and another wail came from under the sheet. I crossed to the bed and put my hands on his shoulders. He tensed for a moment, then went limp.
"It's all right, I'm here now. It's safe."
"Can I come down to your room?"
I thought. He'd been in with me before, and this was a better reason.
"Won't your parents mind?"
"I go in with them if there's a storm."
I had a mental picture of a four year old in bed with his parents, and then a nine year old doing the same. Well, if they did it I supposed it was all right.
"Come on then."
We were about halfway down the staircase when the door from the main part of the hotel opened. He was in front, and froze. Quite understandably, as we were both naked. Steps started up the stairway toward us. We turned as one and scrambled upwards again.
No sooner than our bare footfalls restarted than a voice called.
"Who's there? Is that you, James?"
It was his father. Thank goodness. Or should I? Here I was with his son, late at night, both stark naked. The thunderclap shook the hotel. James squeaked again.
"James, it's all right. You can come in with us. The steps came upwards again. He turned. His father's expression when he saw his son naked on the stair was quite a picture, but before he could say anything James spoke in a scared voice.
"I'm Ok, Dad. Martin came up to be with me and we're going down to his room."
"Oh....er....is he there?"
"Yes, he's just behind me."
"Thank you Martin....um....do I understand you've got nothing on, either?"
I gulped. All he had to do was come up a few more stairs or follow us into his son's room which he had every right to do and he'd see for himself.
"Oh. Right. In that case I won't come up and embarrass you. But thanks for going to him and being with him. I wouldn't dream of lumbering you with him all night. We're used to it and he can come with me now."
"But Dad, I want to be with Martin.....ahhhh!" as yet another crash echoed round the tower.
"It's not fair on him, James. Now come on."
"But Mr Evans, I really don't mind. And.....and he can't go round the hotel now or in the morning with no clothes."
"Martin, you're a great guy...." Here it comes, I thought. ".....but it's just not fair on you. You need your sleep too."
"I can't sleep with all this going on. But when it ends I shall, and so will James. I'm all right with him, really. It's....company for me, too." Well, that was true, although not in the way he thought I meant.
"Well....if you're sure."
"Yes, I don't mind a bit."
"All right then, and thank you once again. James, you behave yourself, and if you wake early you're not to wake Martin. I don't mind what time you're down in the morning, and I'll suggest to your parents, Martin, that you probably need to catch up some sleep too. Good night, the pair of you."
"Good night, and thanks," from both of us.
I waited for him to go and then came back down the stairs to James who was by then looking really scared to be left on the staircase on his own, even with me so near. Quickly I pushed him into my room where we were welcomed by another tremendous flash and clap. The boy just turned round, flung his arms round me and buried his face in my chest, sobbing. What could I do but hug him back?
"It's all right. There's no danger. You're with me now, and your parents know you're safe."
The last bit was for me, really. I was so relieved that the Evanses were happy that we were naked together and were about to share my bed together. Between thunderclaps I guided him over to my bed and put him by the wall. I climbed up on the bed, leant over him and shut the window completely to keep both rain and noise out.
"That's better," I was saying, when right outside the window there was the most amazing flash I have ever seen in my life. It lit the garden and, according to James later, the interior of the room as if by full summer sun, but blue. But the thing that stayed in my mind for days afterwards was the sight of a mature tree, just at the far side of the hotel's tree lined garden, exploding. There's no other word for it. It just shattered into shivers of wood and bits of branch. There was a strong smell of burning and another smell which I couldn't recognise.
I made a strange sound and supported myself on the window ledge. The violence of the bolt had scared even me rigid, and my instinct was to get down and lie in bed, shaking. But the incredible sight of the tree just glued me to the scene.
I was aware that James was really crying loudly beneath me now.
"Come and look at this, James, you'll never believe it."
I don't think my weak, scared and annoyingly high-pitched voice gave him much confidence, because he just continued wailing and sobbing so much that I decided that his needs were greater than my curiosity. A last glance round the scene showed me there was no fire, just a smoking, shattered stump which was being very effectively damped down by the torrential rain. So I dropped down to the bed, joined him under the sheet and put an arm protectively over him. Immediately he turned towards me and once again buried his head against me, the free arm round my waist. Another crash outside, but not quite as violent as the first. I felt him tense, and the keening increased a bit.
I rearranged us so I had an arm round underneath his, so we were in a sort of joint bear hug. If it had been an ordinary night I think it may have been embarrassing for me and puzzling for him, for I should have been so affected by his nearness and dependence on me that I should have.....grown. But as it was, he was scared and I was, well, not unaffected by what I'd just witnessed that it was for mutual comfort we were together.
Every time the storm spoke our hug tightened. He did everything he could to get as close to me as he could. But about five minutes later there was a knock on the door.
"Damn," I said, and made to release the hug, although we had just had another major crash. The door opened anyway, and the light went on. I looked over my shoulder. Dad.
"Martin. Thank God you're....Oh, and James too. Good. Are you both all right? We've just had a near miss and your mother and I were worried. Are you sure you don't want to come into our room? We don't mind, you know. I know you're too old really, but if you're worried..... What the....?"
Another figure had appeared behind him. Mr Evans. Great.
Now I had a nine year old boy in my arms, we were both naked and our bodies were pressed together, and the fathers of each of us were at the door, watching. Apart from the thin sheet which covered us and the lack of the audience of the rest of the hotel's guests and staff it was just about the most embarrassing thing that could have happened.
"I had to come back. That was such an awful crash that I thought the hotel had been hit. Are they OK?"
"Yes, Pete. I think they're looking after each other."
I could see my father's face soften, with a smile that I'd not seen for years. I used to notice it every time he took me on his knee when I was really small, and we used to talk: he would talk and I would come out with some words and some baby stuff as if we were having a conversation. Then I outgrew that, and he was away a lot, and I missed him. But I still remember that smile and love it.
Now I knew that I was really all right.
"You know, I think they're OK together, don't you?"
James' father came over to us, just as another flash and almost immediate thunderclap rent the night. He looked at his son, whose face was still buried in my shoulder.
"James? Do you want to come in to our room?"
The head shook, wiping his nose on my chest. I don't think he even looked up.
"Well, if you're sure. I think the worst's over now, anyway, although it's still bad. But if you do want to come, just come in. Perhaps Martin could go with you, although I hardly like to ask him to do anything else for us. But if you need....well, it's up to you both."
They turned the light off and left us. I heaved a sigh of relief.
As he had said, the storm was dying down a bit, and as time passed our grip on each other eased, we found comfortable positions and drifted off to sleep.
We were still in a comforting, close embrace though. Comforting to him, that is. I didn't need it of course.
I woke up first to find the sun streaming into the room. In front of me, his back to me and pressed firmly against my front, was James. We were rather intimately touching, and as I awoke I found that my body was intent on pressing against him even harder. As I was in contact with him everywhere, any movement was bound to wake him, so I just let the pressure against a particular spot on his thigh grow.
I had never woken feeling as good as this, as warm, as right, as aware of someone else, before. This must be what it's like when you wake up with your wife, I thought. But now, at fourteen, it was James who was my most intimate friend, not a girl, and I smiled happily to myself. I felt like kissing his sleeping head. But that was between man and woman, wasn't it? Not between boys. But he was so much younger than me, and I did look on him as a young brother.
Very gently I drew near to his head and softly kissed against his hair. It seemed a bit impersonal, when I was feeling so close to him in mind, so I bent my head and kissed his neck too. Then I settled back and happily closed my eyes again.
He was next to wake, and his wriggling woke me up too. To my disappointment he moved away from me, then seemed to come to a bit, and turned over. He looked at me with no expression on his face.
"Hallo," I said, tenderly.
The grin unzipped a bit, tiredly. The eyes closed again. I remembered the night and how he'd needed that cuddle, how nothing else seemed to matter except physical comfort. I felt like that now. Timidly I put out an arm to go round his shoulders, and wriggled towards him. He looked at me as if surprised.
"Nothing," I said, wondering whether to withdraw. "I'm feeling a bit cold, that's all."
I left the hand there.
"Mmm. Warm. Comfortable. Nice."
It certainly was. I'd have liked him closer though.
"Going back to sleep?"
"Rest your head on me, then."
He looked at me, puzzled once again. I wondered if I'd gone too far.
"You don't have to."
The smile returned. He wriggled again, toward me and we got our arms out of each others way by putting them round the back of each other. His breath blew on my chest. My damn body played up immediately.
"Your stiffie's touching my leg."
And there we lay, dozing. For the first time ever I just felt....complete. Based on a few days' acquaintance he had accepted me without reservation. I had accepted him the same way. If this was what being a father to a son was all about I couldn't wait for my body to register more than 3-1/4 inches on the ruler, to start getting wet dreams, whatever they were, and start making a mess when I exercised it so I knew I could start a son of my own. Perhaps then girls would start to notice me and attract me.
Steps on the stairs. Knock knock. "Can I come in?" My father.
I rolled over, squashing James' arm so he squeaked. "Hang on!"
I hastily got out of bed and put on my dressing gown over my naked body, hoping the tie would hold and not allow my protuberance to peep out.
"Hallo, you two. You've woken up then? I didn't think you'd want to sleep the morning out. I checked earlier, but there was no reply and when I looked in you were both dead to the world."
So he'd seen us cuddled up together, had he? He didn't seem to mind or think it wrong. But then....he was my real father, whereas I was just James' honorary, part time father. Had he felt the same about me when I was nine as I did toward James now? But then he hadn't been fourteen when I was nine, so perhaps it was different. But he must have felt something along the same lines. My heart warmed to him at the thought, and unusually for me, I went up and gave him a hug. He kissed the top of my head.
"Recovered from last night, have you?" His voice sounded a bit choky, like mine used to before I started to cry. I looked at him sharply, but he was looking out of the window at something. Hmm. If a hug had that effect on him perhaps I'd better do it more often, especially when I wanted something.
We'd missed breakfast by over an hour, but there was coffee and biscuits in the lounge and we made do with that.
"The tree!" I exclaimed, remembering.
"The tree in the garden. It exploded last night."
He looked at me, wide eyed, as if I was mad. Then the remembrance of the storm returned, along with how frightened he'd been. I saw it in his face. He shivered.
I led the way out of doors. The day was fresh and cool and the air smelt clean and washed. It had an effect even on James. The remains of the tree made a sorry sight. The trunk was about six feet high, but ended in shards as if it had been made of glass and I'd knocked it off the mantelpiece. But the shards were blackened and smelt of a doused wood fire, like I knew at camp. There were the remains of branches all around -- for some distance all around -- and smashed twigs covered the ground. We were impressed.
"It could have been the tower." He was right, of course, and the thought silenced me too. What would I have done if he'd got killed by lightning? What if he'd not come down to me, or I'd refused him entry to my room and he'd got killed by lightning? I shook my head and got rid of the if's.
Fortunately the packed lunches were ready for us, and, very late, we started off to the jetty.
He'd got quite good at steering the dinghy over the last three days. I wondered if he'd be strong enough to hold the mainsheet and do the whole job. I looked at him, sitting on the centre thwart and staring ahead, trying to feel the wind on his cheek like I'd told him, so he could judge where exactly it was coming from.
"James." He looked round sharply, thinking I was going to let him steer again.
Eagerly he made his way to the stern and I swapped sides. We'd got used to doing this, so the boat's trim was undisturbed. He took the tiller like an old hand.
"Here you are. Take this too." I held the sheet so he could reach it. He looked at me wide eyed.
"You mean....sail properly?"
"Yes. So long as you can handle her. Keep her like that. I'll take her if there's a problem."
He'd been watching every move I'd made since we started together like a hawk. It wasn't surprising that he knew what to do. All he needed was to be able to join up the messages the wind gave him with the amount of sheet to pay out, and keep steering straight as well. He latched on quickly. I had to take her once when a squall hit us, but all the rest of the time he sailed like a veteran. I even trusted him to tack the four times we needed to in order to get to our island. I can't say they were the best manoeuvres the dinghy had ever done, but we got there. He turned her into the wind when I said: I lowered the mainsail and he went to attend to the jib.
I rowed ashore. He had been straight faced with concentration all the time he was sailing, but now the grin had unzipped as far as it could without causing physical damage. We anchored. Immediately he was out, had planted the anchor, had ripped off his clothes and was running up and down the beach like a spring lamb.
"I did it! I did it! I can sail!" he kept shouting. I was caught up in his excitement, ridiculously pleased for him -- even if he'd still got a lot to learn -- and laughing at his antics. As well as his sense of achievement I think now it was also a reaction against his imagined horrors of the night. I stood and watched, until his spring had unwound a little and he ran up to me He stopped about two yards off, and suddenly the face was serious.
"Did I do all right?"
Well, what could I say? "You did very well."
He looked gravely up at me, straight into my eyes.
"Thank you for letting me."
It wasn't the words, but the contrast between how he'd just been flying round the beach with nothing on, like some pale savage, and now was standing in front of me while I was still fully dressed: that and the tone of his voice.
Things suddenly got misty and I felt as if I was starting a sore throat. I looked away toward the village. Damn. It was blurry still. Next thing, I felt his arms round me in a quick hug, then he stepped away, embarrassed.
"Are we going to swim?" he asked, in a tone which was quiet for him.
I nodded, and started stripping off. We gathered up our clothes and packed lunches and crossed through the woods. Soon my sight had returned. I seemed to have fought off the cold, too.
We were walking in companionable silence, as books describe it. It was as we were nearing the shore with its thick belt of trees and undergrowth that we both stopped. He looked at me, shocked. Was it voices we could hear? On our island?
We both reacted at the same moment. We were naked. There was a crowd of people on the beach ahead of us. We could hear children's and adults' voices. As one we dropped our bundles and feverishly searched for our shorts and shirts and shoes, the minimum that would render us decent.
"Leave the lunches here," I whispered. "By that tree stump. We'll find them again later. Come on."
He said nothing, but did as I asked and followed after me wide eyed with excitement. It was fortunate that we both knew how to move fairly quietly through undergrowth. We wormed and crawled our way to the open beach and then slowly lifted our heads above the convenient ridge of jetsam that marked the storm tide's limits. What we saw made him gasp but rendered me silent.
Four dinghies, two like ours and two with motors, lay drawn up to the shore. On rugs nearby were two sets of adults, sitting with their backs to us, watching along the beach. And there, running toward them in what looked like a game of tag, were six children, two girls and four boys, whose ages ranged from about eight to sixteen. Nothing spectacular? No. Except for one thing.
None of them had anything on.
I watched, conscious of my heart thumping, as the oldest one reached the adults, his accoutrements swinging freely, what I could see of them through the bush of dark hair that lay in a triangle above and around them. Two other boys and a girl got there next, and I just had time to register that one was about my build whilst the other might be a bit older and had sparse hair round his thing, more than mine but nowhere near the forest of the first boy. The girl was well endowed, and pretty, and was bobbing fascinatingly.
Some way behind came a much younger boy and girl, laughing and pushing at each other as they ran. He was the eight year old and she looked about James' size.
They all flopped down on the sand, but to my annoyance facing out to sea. To sit and watch any further was pointless. All we could see were backs.
I started worming backwards, and James took the hint too. Suddenly he gave a sharp yelp of pain.
"Aahh.....something's cut my leg."
"Damn. Can't you wriggle back and I'll look at it when we're out of range?"
"No. It hurts." He rolled over and sat up. "Look!"
There was blood dribbling down his leg. A large piece of broken glass had scratched his thigh just under the paler line of his shorts. It had fallen out and I could see none left in. I was looking at it carefully, wondering what to do about it when there was a rustle from behind us. We both looked up in alarm.
"Hallo," said a pleasant, deep but young sounding voice. "You are here then."
"Er....um.....er...." My hesitation wasn't due to the fact that we had been discovered, but to the lack of clothes of the voice's owner. I tried hard to keep my eyes on his face. It was the sixteen year old from the group we had seen. He must have realised my predicament.
"Sorry. I wouldn't normally come over like this, but I heard your friend cry out and I thought there might have been an accident. I'm a Senior Scout, my Dad's a doctor, so I thought we might be able to help."
"I've cut myself on some glass."
"Have you? Badly?"
"No, not very," I said. "It's come out, and it's not deep. But I've got nothing to put on it." It was his matter of fact, down to earth tone that had given me back my power of speech, despite the effect the proximity of his unclothed body was having on me. If he was in the Scouts and his father was a doctor he couldn't be that bad. Despite wearing nothing in front of girls and his mother.
He looked carefully at James' leg. I was just glad it wasn't mine he was supporting and brushing the dirt off. If it had been I know there's no way I could have avoided him noticing a reaction.
"You'd better come back and let Dad have a look," he said. "I don't think there's anything left in it, but it's best to be sure."
"I'll wait here," I said quickly. Although I longed to look at the others I had a foreboding that the next requirement would be that we both strip off so we'd all be alike.
"You don't need to," he said. "We're naturists, not dangerous. So long as you and you're friend don't mind it's OK by us."
"Can you come, please?" This from James, who didn't want to be on his own with strangers. At least he's used to seeing adults naked, I thought. I'm not. I never realised it could grow that long. What's his father's like?
Reluctantly I got up and followed the theatrically hobbling James and his saviour. I felt a bit foolish not being able to help him on my own, but we had no first aid kit. My eyes followed the older boys bottom as it walked muscularly through the undergrowth.
We got to the open beach and the other nine pairs of eyes swivelled our way. My head felt hot, I knew I was blushing, and didn't know where to look. If it had been just one other naked person there, preferably male, I think I'd have been all right. But to be presented with so much new visual human biological information at once put my mind into overload. In fact it probably fused one circuit, because my body started to behave itself again. Which was fortunate, because I had no underwear on.
Swiftly the older boy explained to his father what had happened. The man looked at us and grinned, a bit sheepishly I thought. The other younger ones had by this time wandered off down the beach, having seen, I thought, that we were neither of us of interest or attractive. The story of my life. Mind you, I was very interested in them, particularly the older ones, whether male or female, because I hadn't ever seen another completely naked body at close quarters. At least, not often enough to be bored. And certainly never adults.
"Better have a look then, hadn't I? I hope you don't object to the naked body, boys. We're naturists, we're staying on the island over there...." He pointed. "......and we just wanted to get away for a day. So as this is the nearest one, and as some kids had been seen here recently who were also naturists, we thought it was OK. If you'd rather just go then I'll understand, but you should have that thigh looked at just in case, and before you move it too much."
He waited, looking at us. I should explain that all the adults were face down on the sand at this point, so all we could see was bums.
James looked at me, then at the man, the doctor. "Could you make it better, please sir?"
The man smiled at him, and sat up. To my surprise his was about as long as his son's. But his body was generally hairier, because there was hair on his chest and stomach, a little down his thighs, and a lot on his lower legs. More than his son, although his lower legs were quite hairy too. I felt very inadequate.
James' thigh was examined minutely while I stood and stared over the bare bottoms in front of me to the happy scene further down the beach where the two girls, the endowed elder and the thin younger, were playing quite unconcernedly with the two boys about my age and the little boy. I wondered if I could ever do that. It looked like fun.
But the doctor was talking to James. "It's clean. But it needs washing. The best thing you can do, rather than have me put TCP on it, is to go and swim. It'll sting to start with, but I'm sure you could put up with that if you really try, and it'll stop hurting and get better much quicker if you do."
"It's kind of you, sir," I put in. "But we've got no swimming things." Even as I said it I was realising how damn stupid I was being.
He laughed. "You really don't need to worry about that, do you? There are two lads here your own age, and girls, all running round as we do, so two more aren't going to make a difference. You don't need to worry about us at all. We're just two normal families who are all friends, who enjoy the freedom of not having to wear clothes. We believe that the human body, like most animals' bodies, are things of beauty. Look at the sleek elegance of -- what -- a panther. Can you imagine an animal as pleasing to the eye as that in a suit of clothes? Well, the human body, properly looked after, is a beautiful thing and certainly nothing to be ashamed about, or dirty. It's just that society....." he tailed off.
"Sorry. My soapbox. In fact it's probably just as well that most people do keep their clothes on, because they've let their bodies get so ugly that what I said isn't true for them. But that's beside the point here. Your bodies will hold no surprises for us and attract no comment either. Even if yours, young man," this was to me, "reacts in the way that most boys of your age react by having an erection. It's entirely normal, all males have them, and those two down there are no exceptions. So don't worry, especially as you're not used to others being naked round you. But if you'd rather sit there clothed while your friend swims, that's fine."
"We've bathed naked here before," burst out James. "In fact we do it every day." I looked at him with annoyance. I still hadn't made up my mind what I was going to do.
"So it was you two we saw the other day. We were looking through the glasses and we saw some boys playing in the mud, and they had no clothes on."
"Weren't you on the next island along on Monday?" asked his son's deep voice. "Tim and I saw two boys playing there then."
I admitted that it was.
"It's really your fault we're here, then. Because we saw you playing and swimming here the last few days, naturist style, you made us think that some others from the island were using it."
"Well, yes, we were," I burst out at last. "But we're not naturists. The first day I forgot my swimming things, and it just went on from there."
"So quite naturally you see no problem in swimming together with no clothes?"
"Well.....er.....no. It was a bit odd at first, but I got used to it. He doesn't mind at all!"
"Well, just as you don't mind between yourselves, we don't mind with our friends either. These are our family and friends. Because we think the same way as you two swimming and playing with no clothes is natural to us. There's no hidden problem with it, just as you do, we find it natural."
"But.....er....you've got girls with you....er..."
"And that makes it wrong? Not really. You see, Alice and I are married, and have been for long enough to have two children we love and respect. We know each other well, as married couples do, and we know each others' bodies so they hold no surprises for us. As our daughter and two sons were born, we said: `gosh, they're naked! Just like us when we walk around the house.' So we continued doing just that, and they saw us, and grew up, and we all got used to each other's bodies. Then we said that if we did this at home, and were very comfortable doing it -- so much so that it was completely natural for us -- why didn't we do it on holiday too.
"So we did. It took a bit of getting used to because we'd never been able to go without clothes out of doors before, or in the company of others. But everybody was the same, we met lots of normal, happy people, and some very good friends, and...well, here we are."
I followed the logic of this completely. It seemed so right, explained like that. But to take off all my clothes in front of them.....? But they were naked, and here was I, clothed in front of them. A corner of my mind started to think that I was the odd one out.
"I'm going for a swim," James announced. "I want to get my cut clean."
I looked at him, desperately undecided. But he took the initiative, as usual, and just peeled off his few clothes. There was no way I was going to let him swim on his own. He was still very much a learner. So I gulped hard and followed his lead, hoping that I was keeping the important bits out of sight. At this stage there was nothing extra to worry about, at least.
"Good lads," said the doctor. "Help your friend get his cut clean, and then see if you have the courage to go and talk to the rest of them down there. We'll make sure nothing happens to your clothes."
It took a lot of doing, turning my exposed bum toward them but I made myself casually follow James into the water. He did so slowly, and gave a cry as the cold salt water lapped against the cut. He backed out of the water in a hurry, jumping to avoid the wavelets as they lapped against him.
"Come on, James. It doesn't hurt that much. He said it'd sting, and that's all it is."
"No, it's worse. It really hurts."
"It'll only hurt for a moment, really. And think of the good it's doing."
"Don't care. It hurts."
"Quick, get under the water. The girls are coming."
He looked back swiftly. By the time he had seen I was wading out to deeper water as quickly as I could. He started to follow me and then stopped with a loud "Aahhhh." There was a splash behind him as the girls waded in. That was more than he was bargaining for. Determinedly he strode out towards me, and I could see him gritting his teeth and screwing his face up as he came. As soon as he got to me it was obvious that the cold salt water had done its trick, because his expression was one of astonishment.
"....And so did the doctor."
This was from the smaller of the girls. She looked like an undeveloped mermaid, half girl and half boy. With her short hair wet and her undeveloped bust she looked boyish and rather sweet. Her friend was definitely the mermaid, though, and I felt embarrassed at being so near something so sought after. I wondered if this could be my opportunity. She was attractive, certainly, and was looking at me in a friendly way. But I had nothing to offer her. Only 3-1/4 inches, anyway. And with the cold water it was going to stay that way.
"Hallo," we both said back.
"How's your leg?" said the older one.
"Stopped hurting, thanks. Just like your Dad said it would."
She laughed. "That's not my Dad. Mine's the other one. I'm Hannah, and this is Rose."
"I'm James, and this is Martin," echoed James.
This was getting a bit monotonous, I thought, and I was wondering how to make small talk when Hannah started again.
"Are you really not naturists?"
"Not really," I started. "The first time we landed here I'd forgotten my swimming things. So James kept me company and we did without. After that, it just didn't seem to matter, and as it was hot and we were going to swim anyway we just carried on."
"I had to take his clothes off the first time," James smirked. "He wasn't going to strip off on his own."
"Shut up," I said furiously, blushing.
Rose laughed. "I like it. It's nice and free. It's funny putting on a costume when we swim at school."
"It's funny putting clothes back on when we get ready to go," said James.
"D'you swim well?" I asked, anxious to change the subject. He'll be telling them he's slept in my bed next.
"I swim quite well," answered Hannah. "Rose only learnt last term."
"Like me," said James. "I only had two lessons, then Martin taught me the rest this week."
"Did he? Let's see, then."
Hannah was quite positive about it, and my suddenly shy little friend forgot all about his body and the fact that his bottom would be visible above the waves as he swam. He just launched himself straight into the crawl and swam splashily away from them. Unfortunately he didn't check his direction and went straight away from the shore.
As soon as I realised, I swam after him anxiously. When I was abreast of him I called out.
"Swim in a curve, will you, and head back to shore."
"Why?" he asked between gasps.
"'Cos you're heading out to sea."
There was a squeak and all the mechanism of swimming left him. His feet went down and touched nothing, and there was immediately a thrashing about in the water. I couldn't get near or I'd have been hit by a flailing arm.
"Lie on your back," I shouted over the splashing. "FLOAT!"
Desperation made him do it. I could see he was scared, but as soon as he had turned onto his back and was lying still on the water he calmed down quickly.
The trouble was that he was playing submarines again, without meaning to. The cold had made the periscope contract, but it was still a visible periscope. I swam round him safely on my front and hung in the water with a doggy-paddle
"Come on, you can swim to the shore. It's just the same as swimming nearer in." I knew he was out of his depth but I wasn't going to say the words.
"'Course you can. You got here. I don't want to have to tow you in, in front of the others."
"Please, Martin.....? I'm scared. I can't turn over again. Please?"
He was getting worked up again. I don't know why but I had to help. With a sigh of resignation I put my hand under his chin, Kicked up my feet and propelled us both towards the shore. The side of his body was alongside mine. It felt good. He was still being a submarine, and it was then I realised that I was too. I was just hastily letting myself go down in the water again when Hannah's voice sounded by my left ear and made me jump.
"That looks like fun! Will you do it for me?"
What?! A girl asking me to tow her? Was this luck?
"All right," I said graciously, and left James there. Fortunately he was in his depth. I followed her out, and she lay as James had done, floating on her back. The wavelets lapping over her breasts fascinated me, as did the mysterious dark triangle of hair......
As I had done with James I swum up beside her, but then hesitated. If I swam on my back my body would be parallel with hers and everything would float to the surface. I'd be a submarine. But alongside a....a what? I could only think of `mother ship'. But then, she was naked and unconcerned; why shouldn't I be. I took a deep mental breath, floated alongside and gently put my hand under her chin in the approved life saving manner. My body floated up, touched her side and, periscope up, I towed her to the shore. The periscope was not as far up as it might be, despite the unusual partnership, but I put that down to the water temperature.
"That's fun," she laughed when I deposited her in shallower water.
"What is?" asked a light tenor voice from behind me. I swivelled round. It was the older of the two boys of my age. My eyes were held by his. They were dark, so dark as to be almost black, and they fascinated me. The face was pleasing too. I thought I could like this boy.
"Being towed," she answered.
"Yes. Rescued if you like. He does it well."
"D'you do lifesaving, then?"
"Yes," I answered truthfully. "We did a course at school. I got my bronze."
"How's it work?"
"Well, like I just towed Hannah in. You put your palm under the chin and just swim with one hand and your feet. You have to tell them what you're doing first, though, or they might think you're going to duck them."
"Will you show me?"
So once again I swam out to sea with a stranger. He was alongside me, and I kept glancing at this slim, quite tall body at my side with the rounded, muscular bottom....fascinating. Another vision to add to the collection I'd started in school.
"I float, do I?"
"Yes. If you didn't I'd have to try and persuade you to."
He floated. Up periscope.
It wasn't so much the size, but the shape. Actually more torpedo than periscope, and with no perceptible bulge at the end. But what was at the end was the extension of the skin which came together there, and went on for another 1/4 inch or so -- not that I measured. It just looked right. And below, despite the water, was a deep hanging -- floating at the moment -- sack with two smallish but beautiful oval shapes clearly visible. Up from it the hair was just growing enough to be there, and further up still was his neat belly button, flat belly, and the signs of good muscles to come.
Trembling, I put my hand under the chin, floated up and broke the water.
The periscope could have seen all the shipping from there to France.
There was nothing I could do about it. I just had to tow him in, our bodies touching, mine offering greater resistance to the water than his, until we swam alongside Hannah and James. Hurriedly I let go and stood in the water which was just high enough to cover my embarrassment. He stood too.
"That's good. I'd like to learn to do that. Perhaps our school does it."
"I'll teach you, if you like." Now why did I say that?
"Would you? I'm Mark, by the way."
"Martin. This is James."
"Don't I get to learn too?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
Introductions over, I had to take little Rose a bit further out and `rescue' her too. The captain had finished looking for other shipping by this time and had ordered the periscope down.
It ended, of course, with my having to take Ralph, the other boy of my age, and Billy, the young one to an appropriate depth and rescue them too. None had the same effect on me as Mark, although I could really get to like Ralph as a friend, I thought. But his body was - well -- not as interesting as Mark's.
Eventually we decided we were hungry. I wondered what the time was. As we followed the others out of the water I watched Mark's good looking bum muscles helping him to force his way through the water. So intent was I in the sight that it wasn't until I was walking on the sand that I remembered I wasn't wearing anything and was in the company of strangers. Well, not exactly strangers. I'd towed them all in from the sea. We'd talked. We'd swapped experiences. James had been rabbitting on to Rose and Billy. They'd been playing in the shallows as if they'd known each other for ages.
And nobody was taking the slightest bit of notice of the fact that anyone else was naked, not even we two new boys.
Something clicked with me. With that and a bit of bravado I told myself I was going to be very happy wandering around nude with them all, even the adults. We were all in the same boat, anyway. So I found myself with Mark on one side and James on the other, about to eat our packed lunches as the others were starting on their picnic. A thought crossed my mind, apart from the fact that I was ravenous.
"Excuse me", I asked no one in particular, "but what's the time, please?"
There was some fumbling to my right. "Ten past two", said the doctor.
"WHAT? I mean, I beg your pardon....." I remembered my manners. The man laughed.
"You've been in the water for two hours. You didn't get here until about midday."
"I thought I was hungry. No wonder."
"I could eat a horse," said James. "No, a rhinoceros."
They all laughed. He grinned. We fetched our packed lunches from where we had dropped them and ate.
Afterwards we lay in the sun. I was tired by my frequent trips towing people, James was tired because he'd had an interrupted night. I kept comparing my feeling for James with my attraction to the boy lying next to me. Physically he was the better looking; more muscular, more....mature? Was that the word? Well, he would be -- he was older. But James was.....my little Jimmy, who had shared my shower and my bed, who liked to cuddle up to me when he was cold or scared. I wondered if Mark would ever let me do that with him. And wouldn't it be fun if we could help each other get that feeling. I couldn't with James, he was too young. But Mark was older than me. In fact he would probably produce white stuff. I looked at the instrument he'd use for doing so......
Well, my front was getting sunburnt anyway. I rearranged things to get more comfortable.
When I woke I was hot. The afternoon was getting stuffy again, I decided. Then there was a giggle from down beyond my feet, and why was there a heavy weight on my legs and back? I puzzled for a good few seconds, and then came to properly.
They'd piled sand on my legs and over my back. Deep sand. Only my bum was cool. I nearly twisted my head off trying to see the culprits. Mark was lying facing me, grinning in a friendly way at me. James had gone from the other side, and I was sure it was his laugh I'd heard. Not being a contortionist I couldn't see him or the others.
With some difficulty, but with a strength that came from the desire not to hide my bottom but to have it on the same basis of exposure as the rest of me, I pushed myself up. As I did so I thought how strange it was. It was bare, and the rest of me wasn't. And an exposed bum is less embarrassing than an exposed willy. And all I wanted to do was get everything exposed at once. Odd.
As I got up, the conspirators came into view. James, Rose and Billy. I might have guessed. I looked back at Mark -- the others were in the sea again. He raised his eyebrows and inclined his head to the kids. Cottoning on, I nodded. The next minute we were both in hot pursuit of three childish bottoms which had got a scant fifty feet advantage. They dodged us and ran into the wood. We slowed. A quick start from immobility had left us both breathless and we wondered about following them into the gloom.
"I've got an idea," I said. "We could really give them a shock. James has seen it before, but the others haven't."
So we went back down to the stream with its muddy banks, and really wallowed hard. By the time we'd finished we were both black.
"You've got a thin spot on your lower back," I said, suddenly having an idea. I took a handful of mud and rubbed it on him, just above the start of his cleft.
"And how about your face?" he asked. "Shut your eyes."
I could feel his nearness, even through the mud. Things reacted. I was effectively a captive; if I'd moved he'd not be able to do my face. What the doctor had said about having an erection sprang to mind. Well..... do I trust him? Do I have a choice?
"There you are. That should do. Is it OK?"
The mud was starting to stiffen already. I opened my eyes with some difficulty. My mouth wasn't keen to move either, especially when I laughed.
"I'd better do yours," I said, and grabbed another handful of mud.
Why did being so near him, and gently rubbing the mud over his face, make me tremble? With the shakes came the knowledge that my body was returning to normal. I looked down.
His was starting to react.
It beat me. By about two inches. I was jealous as hell.
"That's OK," I said. "Can you open your eyes?"
It wasn't easy for him, either. We waded out. He rubbed some mud over his nether regions, so I did the same. It would have been nice to.....no. don't think about it.
The youngsters hadn't returned to the shore, so we went into the woods where they had and stood listening. Nothing, only birdsong.
"Where would they have gone?" He whispered.
"Could be anywhere. Would he have taken them to your boat?"
"That's a thought. We'll try there."
He followed me most of the way. It was peculiar to have someone who I really wanted to look at at close quarters following my bare but mud-caked bum. But I put up with the thought, and hoped it wasn't too unmuscular and wobbly.
As we neared the north shore I could hear voices. By this time we were both highly uncomfortable. The layer of rapidly drying mud was acting as an insulator, and the day was already hot. Patches of our covering were starting to flake off, and my forehead felt as if it was already washing itself off, so heavily was I sweating. He came up beside me, having heard the shouts and laughter. His disguise was also falling off in places, and there were rivulets of sweat, pink in black, down his face. With the dark eyes he looked positively demonic.
We indianed our way along toward the shouts, keeping just inside the shelter of the trees. He had overtaken by now. We were in single file, and every now and again I caught a glimpse of up and down pink as his buttocks separated.
It was too hot for my body to react. I had this odd urge to touch, but resisted.
He stopped at last, shortly before the hard mud wore through our skin, and we watched. Tag again? It was rather sweet, two small boys and a small girl playing naked and unashamed so happily. I was on the verge of suggesting that we should leave them, or just watch, when he turned round, grinned, beckoned with his head, and with one bound charged along the beach. I followed, but rather less eagerly.
The sight of two jet black figures running towards you, when you are young and not expecting it, is quite daunting. One of the tag players screamed, the other started, then just stood there as he recognised the make up. But the third, young Billy, amazed me.
He quickly pushed his sister behind him and stood there, fists at the ready, like a guardian. We skidded to a halt about six feet from him.
"What d'you want? You're scaring my sister." The voice was only a little quavery, but the expression in the eyes was what they call in the old books `steadfast'. I was impressed. So, I think, was Mark. Rose was sniffing in the background.
The guardian looked closer at us, and something struck a chord. "Mark? It is you isn't it? I can tell you by the eyes."
"Yes, it is."
"I knew that!" James shouted. "Martin did the same to me the other day. It's scary, but you can see who it is once you know."
I just about followed the logic.
Mark crossed to Rose, who was still sniffing. "Don't be silly, Rose. It's only me. It's only a joke."
"You scared me."
"It was only fun. Don't be silly. Look, it's mud. It'll wash off. In fact it's getting so uncomfortable I'm going to wash it off now. Coming, Martin?"
"I certainly am. The edges start digging into you after a bit and it hurts."
"Serves you right."
"Sorry, Rose. But didn't Billy defend you well?"
Mark gave his brother a squeeze on his shoulder. The smaller boy grinned up at him.
We got the mud off with the same difficulty as last time. Helping each other was fun, but the force needed to remove the hard-set gunge was not exactly conducive to interesting reactions. The only reaction either of us gave was the frequent `OW, that HURTS!' as one of us rubbed harder than comfortable at a particularly sticky bit. As a way of getting to know somebody well, though, it's beyond compare.
We returned companionably across the island to where the others were now once again in the water. This time both sets of parents were swimming too. We joined them, and by this time all thoughts of being embarrassed by my nudity had vanished.
When at last we were once again drying in the sun which was once again almost too hot for comfort, Ralph spoke to me, for almost the first time.
"You know what you said about life saving?"
"Will you teach us?"
I thought. "Well, I want to spend some time sailing, and I said I'd take James with me......"
"I'd like to learn too."
"You need to learn to swim better before you can do that. You need to be able to keep afloat out of your depth."
He looked downcast. Then:
"I could be the rescued one."
"True, I suppose. And it's quite tiring, so we'd only be able to do a couple of hours a day. I could show you, then you could practise together."
"Yeah....we could end up teaching Hannah, and Mum and Dad."
They laughed. "I think you'd find us a bit difficult to tow," his mother said. "We're quite a bit heavier than you people."
"Oh no," I said seriously. "We were taught to rescue anybody. Once they're in the water weight hardly matters. It's just a question of getting them to lie still and getting them moving. After that it's all the same."
The doctor looked at me thoughtfully. "You know what you're about, don't you?"
"I was taught well...sir."
He laughed. "Then this is what we'll do, if it's all right with you. If you come here tomorrow, say about ten o'clock, we'll bring Ralph and Mark over, and you can spend a couple of hours teaching them and using James as the casualty, if he agrees."
The casualty nodded vigorously.
"Then you can sail over to the main island and spend the afternoon with us. They've got all sorts of things there -- table tennis, volleyball, archery, swimming of course, and snorkelling. We'll book you in as guests and you'll be fine. You've settled down well with us without needing clothes, so a few more people in the same condition won't make a difference, will it? Will you come?"
I wasn't sure about the `few extra people' bit. But it sounded good. I liked table tennis, and snorkelling sounded fun.
"I'll have to ask my parents. But we'll come here at ten tomorrow anyway."
"That's good. I don't know what view your parents have about naturists, of course. But if they want to meet us -- with clothes on! -- then you just tell me tomorrow and we'll rearrange it for Saturday. It might be better then, actually, 'cos the people are changing over and it's not so busy. And the newcomers are a bit less used to having nothing on, so if you're still a bit shy you'll not be alone."
I wasn't sure if that was a good idea or not. But I nodded anyway.
The afternoon got hotter, if that was possible. We were in and out of the sea like fiddlers' elbows.
At last I could stand it no longer, and asked the time.
"I think we'd better go, if you don't mind. I feel as if I'm sunburnt all over."
"You probably are a bit," said the doctor. "I should cover your shoulders at least when you get back. It's been good to see you both, and do meet them here tomorrow unless it's raining."
"Thank you for doing my cut," piped up James.
"And thanks for making us welcome," I added.
They laughed and made polite noises. We turned. "See you tomorrow!"
"I'm coming across the island with you," said Mark. My heart gave a leap. I wanted to see more of him.
"Me too," said Rose, and she looked up at James and made him blush.
We chatted about nothing much as we crossed through the wood. As we got onto the beach I stopped and got my clothes out.
"Sorry. We've got to get them on now, 'cos dressing in a sailing dinghy doesn't work."
"That's OK. We don't mind."
They watched with interest as we made ready, then helped us push her down to the water. I poled off with an oar and, drifting slowly away from them, we set sail. They stood at the water's edge, waving: a male naked savage and his small mate, and only turned away as we got too far away to hear their shouts.