In 1959 Roland fell gravely ill. The doctors diagnosed a kind of leukaemia. In spite of all the care, his decline, slow but unstoppable, soon forced him to keep to the bed. Serge nursed him with all his love and even though he tried not to show it, he was more and more sad and dejected.
"Serge... my love... go and have some rest. I'm all right..."
"I don't feel tired, Roland. And I like being here with you..."
"All the weight of the Charterhouse is on your shoulders... you can't get so tired because of me. The doctor and the nurse come here often... and if I needed something I can ring the bell, can't I? You cannot neglect the Charterhouse so... The boys need you, you know it..."
"My love, the Charterhouse is well organised, there is the president, the counsel, there are the ministers, the mayors... and if they needed me, they would come to call on me. You don't have to worry. Ah, by the way, do you know that we finally reached to have five hundred and nineteen boys? All the family-houses are full and are running well. Each year about twenty-five of our boys go out so we can receive the same number..."
"Someone proposed to build more family-houses to receive more boys, but the idea that it isn't appropriate prevailed, as the bigger the Charterhouse becomes, the more it risks to become anonymous. What do you think?"
"Yes, we decided to stop to five hundred and twenty boys, I think it is right. We are doing a good job, aren't we, Serge?"
"Yes, we are doing our best... and I feel satisfied."
"Your dad, from up there... Hervé will be happy. He assisted us up to now. And in a while I will go to meet him... and I too will assist you, from up there..."
"Don't talk about such things, my love..."
"Why not? Death is part of life; a living being is by definition one that sooner or later dies. Death doesn't scare me. I tried to live well, I think I succeeded. And when I present myself up there, to the Eternal Father, I am sure he will tell me - you did plenty of crap during your life, but all summed up you are a good boy; come in!"
"You are just sixty-two, who knows how many years you will still live. The Eternal Father is not in hurry, don't you know? He is patient, he will wait for you..."
"No, my love... in these conditions... the sooner I go and the sooner we stop suffering, both you and I... It's not that I suffer so much, physically... but being all day long here, on this bed, without being able to do anything, without being able to be useful... this is a real suffering. I'm awaiting my death serenely... You too have to wait for my death with the same serenity. Please..."
"I know, my love, that you don't like to hear me saying such things... but I think that on the contrary it's important saying them. What did we always teach to our boys? That we have to face life, in each of its aspects, with serenity and bravery, didn't we? So, then... try to be serene and brave."
"Roland, I love you..."
"I know. Your love and that of your father are the most beautiful things that life gave to me. I have been very lucky..."
"You are everything to me..."
"And I will stay with you even after my body totally ceases to work, I promise you."
"But before leaving... I have something to tell you..."
"What, my love?"
"When you were a kid, do you remember? I told you that you resembled Hervé very much both physically and in your character..."
"Yes, I remember."
"But it is not because of that that I love you, in you I didn't look for a substitute for your father, do you know? I loved you for yourself... And by the way it is not true that you resemble Hervé so much, be it physically or for the character, now that you are an adult... and yet I like you and love you even more than before..."
"I wanted you to know that... And... another thing... When Hervé married, I felt a little bit betrayed... because at that time I didn't know that doing so he would give birth to you... for me..."
"You are so sweet, my love..."
In 1961, in the afternoon of September 19th, Roland serenely passed away. He was reduced to the shadow of himself.
When the news of Roland death was spread, many of the Charterhouse boys cried. At his funeral there was a real crowd - it was estimated that more than twenty thousand people marched in front of his coffin.
The ancestors decided to open a subscription to remember Roland and with the money they gathered they gave to the Charterhouse eight bells that were placed in the ancient belfry on the top floor of the Abbott's Tower, one in each arch.
Since then the time of day and the signals for the Charterhouse activities were announced by the tolling of the bells. Each bell had a different note, from A7 to A8, so that in the celebrations some simple and beautiful tunes could be played.
1962 came and in March a motorbike came up to the square of the Charterhouse church. A young man about thirty years old, wearing very tight leather clothes, dismounted. He took off his helmet and the boy who ran to receive him looked at him with wide eyes - the newcomer had a really wonderful face, his eyes of an intense light blue, a big mane of light brown hair, waved as if moved by the wind, regular features, sensual lips with the corners lightly folding upwards as if they were perpetually lightened by a smile.
"Hi!" the young man merrily greeted the boy.
"Hi!" the boy answered going on to contemplate the newcomer.
"What's your name?"
"I'm Fabien Mercier of the Wheel."
"Of the Wheel? What does that mean?" the young man, curious, asked.
"That I live in the family-house W." the boy explained.
"How old are you?"
"Fifteen. May I help you? Are you looking for somebody?"
"I... I left here eleven years ago... Dean Roland is still here? Oh no, I remember, he left his place to Serge, right?"
"Roland died, last year. Didn't you know? Serge is still the dean. Do you want to talk with him?"
"Dead? He wasn't so old! From what did he die?"
"Leukaemia. If you are an Ancestor, how is it that you didn't know?"
"I lost contact, I lived far away, quite far..."
"So, then, would you like to meet Serge?"
"If I have to announce you, you have to tell me your name..."
"Just a moment, I'll go and see if he can receive you..." the boy said and ran to the first floor of the Abbott's Tower.
He was soon back and guided the young man upstairs, to Serge's studio.
"Philippe! I'm happy to see you... we lost track of you..."
"Hi Serge. My condolences for Roland's death. I heard it only now. It has to have been hard for you, losing him..."
"For me... and for everybody here. The boys are preparing a book about him, so that in the future everybody can remember him... Everybody really loved him..."
"Yes, you are right. Also in my time here, there was not one of us boy that didn't envy you for being with Roland..."
"But tell me, where did you end up? What did you do all long these years?"
"When I left here, I attended a course to become a model... in Paris. I sent my portfolio to the main stylists, with little success, until an Italian stylist called me... one Rinaldo Zorzi... not a very famous one. Anyway at least I started working. At first Florence, Milan, Rome... then also New York, London, Paris... In Milan I met an English Formula One driver... he wanted me with him... as a lover. So for five years I was a... kept boy. It was all right, he spoiled me. Then he... on the Monte Carlo circuit... an accident. After three days in a coma... he passed away. So I found myself a good for nothing and on the street.
"Three years ago at a party I met a theatre director, an Italian. He offered to let me join his troupe, he taught me to be an actor... in exchange... I had to fuck his wife while he fucked me... I got fed up, I was just a sexual object, a living vibrator for his wife and a hole for him... So two months ago I told them to go to hell... and I was again on the street, again a good for nothing... I am not able to do any work, do you see? I told myself - here I am, thirty years old, alone like a stray dog...
"The only really beautiful period of my life, so full of warmth, has been here, with you. This is my house, my family... it was... So I thought to... to try to come back here... And I wanted to ask you... if you want me again here, possibly to do the cleaning, the scullery-boy... anything... I could be a scullery-boy elsewhere... but I would like... I would like to be again back home!" Philippe concluded and a tear shone in his beautiful eyes.
"Philippe, you have a high school diploma; you know, I presume well, also Italian and English, and had interesting experiences, you lived abroad... what do you think if... After Roland's death, who for several years was taking care of our library, we don't have another full time librarian. If you were interested, I can ask the counsel if we can give you that job. What do you think?"
"I would accept it willingly, and with gratitude. But any thing, really any thing. Youth passes, beauty fades away, pleasure... often is nothing but illusion. You are my family, my only family... any thing Serge, but give me a hand, take me again here with you..."
So Philippe became the new librarian at the Charterhouse. He devoted himself to his work with seriousness, reliability and enthusiasm. As he got to know the problem of the "special books", that is of the books that was better to hide in case of inspections, he proposed to gather all of them, including their card index, in two rooms on the top floor, whose access was possible to hide behind a pivoting shelf. His idea was at once accepted and they made the needed changes.
Meanwhile Philippe, besides being well settled in the Charterhouse life, became friends with Fabien Mercier of the Wheel, the boy who received him at his arrival. And Fabien lost his head for him. Therefore, for all one year, he became a frequent visitor to the library, to have a pretext to see Philippe and be near him. The young man soon became aware of what the boy was feeling for him, therefore one day he went to talk about it with Serge.
"Serge, you have to give me a hand..."
"Yes and no. You know who Fabien Mercier of the Wheel is, don't you?"
"Of course, he is our receptionist."
"Yes, that one. I've a strong feeling that the boy lost his head for me... and he is courting me in a very discrete but close way..."
"It doesn't amaze me, you are a really beautiful man, you are likeable, sexy..."
"I don't know how to behave with him. On one hand I wouldn't give him a rejection, refusing him. But on the other hand..."
"But you, what do you feel for him?"
"Friendship... affection... even some attraction. But he is just sixteen, I am thirty-one..."
"You know that we neither encourage nor discourage this kind of thing, don't you?"
"Of course, I know, it was so the same in my times... But what can I offer him? Moreover, in three years he has to quit the Charterhouse, and for five years he cannot come back here... the rules are always the same, aren't they?"
"Yes... But if you lived and worked out of here, and if you met him out of here... let's say, if he was a neighbourhood boy, or the son of friends... what would you do?"
Philippe smiled, "Sincerely? I like that boy a lot, but... he is too young... Moreover here it is different, we are family..."
"A very peculiar family, anyway. Would you try to discourage him? Or would you encourage him? Or would you let him do and see how it ends?"
"I'm not a log... he is very handsome, and well developed... I saw him in the gym... If he wasn't interested in me, I would have no problem, I would certainly not chase him... On one side I would regret disappointing him, but on the other side I don't feel like encouraging him... I really don't know how to behave with him."
"Why don't you tell him all this clearly? Isn't truth the best of things? Tell him everything and discuss with him, and reach a decision together. Whichever it could be, I know that you would not take advantage of him, and even less you would harm him..."
"Of course not. But I can harm him unwillingly, if I behaved in a heedless way..."
"The fact that you are here to talk of it with me, tells me that you will not be heedless..."
So Philippe invited Fabien to a stroll up in the wood. The boy was radiant and incredibly excited.
"You have a crush on me, don't you?"
The boy brightened in a wide smile, "Yes... I hoped you would notice..."
"I like you, I like you very much... But there are some things I have to tell you. First of all, you are too young for me... or possibly it is me who is too old for you. No, wait, let me finish. Second, in three years you will have to leave here and for five years you can't come back. Therefore, even if I accepted your court, it would be a relationship doomed to end... or at least to break off. Third one, I like you very much, I'm fond of you, but I'm not yet in love with you. In my life, I had too many experiences where I accepted a relationship without love... for convenience, for pleasure, for... other reasons, and all of them failed, leaving me each time with my arse on the ground. I don't want do it any more. If I start a relationship, it will be for love... It could perhaps fail all the same, but at least I will come out of it without remorse or regrets..."
"But you could... possibly a little at a time... fall in love with me. You can't rule out it..."
"You are right, and eventually we will talk again about it, if it happens. But now this is how things are. I have a great liking for you, and friendship... and I have to admit it, also some attraction. But this is not enough, at least on my side, to start a relationship. But at the same time it is too much to do just a merry fuck. Can you understand me?"
"And then? What should I do now?" Fabien asked, somewhat crestfallen.
"Let's be friends, if it's all right with you. But stop courting me. Let's simply see how it will evolve. You've got a crush on me, and this flatters me... but a crush is not yet... love, is it? They still give you the lessons about sexuality and about sentiments, don't they? Think about what you were taught - they are not just theoretical things, try to see them in relation with your life, with this situation... If I tell you so, is because I like you and care for you, because I desire you to understand, and to mature, and to feel all right with yourself... besides than with the others."
"To mature... is painful."
"At times it is so. But it is somewhat like labour pains - they are unavoidable if a child has to be born..."
"And if... if I mature... could possibly one day the things between you and I change? Change for better?"
"I am quite sure, Fabien. I'm sorry that what I just said to you, Fabien, now makes you feel bad... but I have to tell you so, because you are not a stranger to me, not just any boy, not someone that I don't care for."
"I understand, Philippe... What you say is all right, I will stop courting you... to deceive myself... I'll try to mature... and I am certain that one day we will talk again about all this."
"Yes, it is quite likely, Fabien."
On may 13th 1964, the family-head of the Moon family, noticed that Alain Raffert, a seventeen year old boy, was missing from home. He sent the other boys to look for him in the surroundings - they called him, but couldn't find him. He then went to see Serge to inform him that they couldn't find Alain. Serge lit the microphone and tried to call him with the loudspeakers - anywhere he could be in the wide area of the Charterhouse, he should hear the call. But one hour later, Alain was still missing.
They tried to ask around if somebody saw him or could have an idea about where he went, without any result. Now Serge was really worried, it was the first time, in the Charterhouse history, that a boy disappeared so, without leaving any trace. All his belongings were in the house, in their place, in good order. In the end Serge, although reluctantly, decided to go downtown to the police station to report the disappearance of the boy. He was not happy having to do it, however if something serious had happened to the boy, that was the only means not to have problems with the law.
The chief constable took note and said that, if in the mean time the boy didn't came back home, the day after he would start the search. Serge, quite troubled, went back to the Charterhouse. That night neither Serge nor the family-head closed their eyes.
In that late afternoon, Alain had stealthily slipped out of the fencing of the Charterhouse, being very careful not to be seen. Cutting across the fields, he reached the town just after dusk, as he wanted. Then, always very cautious not to be noticed, he reached the house where Théodore's apartment was. He climbed the stairway to the fourth floor, and singled out the door where was glued a small cardboard rectangle on which it had been typed "Théodore Savigny - decorator" and turned the knob of the doorbell.
Nobody answered. He turned it some two, three times more, uselessly. He then sat down on the floor, in front of that door, and waited. Time was flowing slowly. The stairway light went out automatically and Alain was in the dark. At times from one of the apartments came a muffled voice or blasts of food smells. Alain was starting to feel hungry.
He heard ten strokes toll from the bell tower of the nearby church. He asked himself if by chance Théo was out of the city... what could he do if this was the case? At this time they would surely have discovered his disappearance and were looking for him... and he would get a solemn telling-off and a punishment. He knew he deserved it... but he couldn't do differently than he had done.
The toll of ten thirty hadn't yet rung when the stairway light went on with a sharp click, then Alain heard the noise of paces coming upstairs. His heart jumped in his chest - he recognised Théo's step, he was certain. He stood up and looked towards the point where the stairs coming from the lower floor ended. A shadow appeared on the wall, projected by the bare lamp of the middle landing and soon saw Theo's head appear.
The young man was looking at something he had in his hands, therefore didn't see Alain. He was choosing a key from a bunch, his house key. When he reached the landing he looked towards the door of his apartment and saw Alain. He stopped, nonplussed.
"Alain! What the hell are you doing here, at this time?"
"I wanted to see you..." answered the boy, now suddenly feeling awkward.
He had hoped that Théo would smile at him, that he would be happy seeing him, and on the contrary the young man had a frowning expression.
"But what... did you run away from the Charterhouse?"
"No... I asked permission..."
"Don't tell me bullshit! Do you think I don't know that they wouldn't give it at this time? So, then?"
"Yes... I wanted to see you..." the boy repeated lowering his eyes, ashamed for his lie.
"But couldn't you wait for Sunday? They would let you come, wouldn't they?"
"But on Sundays you are never at home... Won't you let me in? Do we have to talk here on the landing?"
"No... Move aside, let me open the door. Good Lord how much you are a... aren't you aware that..." the young man muttered in a low voice, turning the key in the door keyhole.
He opened it and pushed it ajar, "Come on, go in, dumbass!"
He followed him inside and pushed him towards the kitchen-living room.
"I bet you haven't had your supper."
"I ate out, with friends. Wait, here, I'll fix you something..."
"On Sundays you are never at home... I came to look for you a lot of times..."
"I go around with my friends. What would I have to do at home alone? Get mouldy?"
"Do you have a girlfriend?" Alain asked him, sitting at the table, looking up at him from below.
"A girlfriend? Come on, dumbass! You should know better!"
"So what? The majority, when they get out, find a girlfriend and marry. We all know this is so..."
"Not I... I like boys too much."
"Then you have a boyfriend..."
"First, here outside, it is not so easy. Second, for the moment I don't want one."
"It's already two years you have been out... do you mean that in two years... nothing?"
"Right so, in two years nothing! At times I feel horny, yes, but... I give vent to my urges with my hand. Believe me, there in the family it was a piece of cake. They told us that out here it's different, but I didn't think it was... so much different. Possibly if one likes doing it with girls, out here life can be easier, but for the ones like me, it is anything but easy... at least talking of sex."
"But for the rest?"
"Ah, for the rest it's all OK. Yes, OK. This apartment is tiny, but not expensive and with what I'm earning... possibly next year I can even buy a small second-hand car, who knows?"
"And do you like being a decorator?"
"Yes... we don't just paint walls... we also put on beautiful wallpaper, at times we have to paint multi-colour friezes with rollers or even with brushes... well not really a job like a painter, an artist, but anyway interesting... And you?"
"Here, start eating this, then I'll prepare you a couple scrambled eggs."
"Have you done it with another boy?"
"No... You have been the first one... and the only one..."
"The only one? How come, there were many handsome boys in our family!"
"What's the matter with handsome or not... You were special..."
"Come on, special!"
"Yes, Théo... you were special... And I want only you. This is why I'm here, now... I'm in love with you, I can't stand being far from you..."
The young man became still, stopped scrambling the eggs and turned to look at him, studying his expression and noticed that the boy was desperately trying not to start crying.
"Alain... come on! We were together just one year..."
"No! We have been together for sixteen years! I went in when I was just one year old and you already were there. We grew up together... and it has been for ages that I am in love with you... this is why when I finally was fifteen I asked you to do it with me... And we did it just for one year, but I was already in love with you!" Alain yelled, not out of anger but for the intensity of the emotions he was feeling.
"I didn't know... you never told me..."
"I thought I didn't need to, I thought I was showing it enough... I thought! And you, while we were fucking, at times you said it. I love you! And I believed you. I needed to believe you. And now... now you tell me that they were just words..."
"Alain... I didn't say that..."
"No... and then, what did you say?"
"Alain, to me... you are the most important of all the boys who were there, in our house, in our family..."
"But you told me you loved me!" the boy said in a reproaching tone.
Théodore turned off the gas, dished up the scrambled eggs in front of the boy, then sat in front of him, at the other side of the small table.
"Alain... after you... I didn't have any other boy... and do you know why? Because none was like you..."
"No. You said that it is because out here it isn't so easy to... Don't confuse the issue, now. If you don't give a shit for me, just plainly tell me, can't you? At least I can know... can know..."
The young man slowly shook his head, looking at him, and asked himself how the boy could hold back the tears that clearly were pushing behind his eyes. He felt an infinite tenderness towards the boy, a deep affection... and yes, he missed him when he had to quit the Charterhouse.
"Stop repeating Alain, Alain..." the boy said in a low voice, rather upset, and started to eat the scrambled eggs with big forkfuls and bites of bread, biting it almost with rage.
"Nobody was like you, Alain, I swear." he then added, in a low voice, "Nobody is like you."
"Because you liked to fuck me?" Alain asked, still upset.
"I liked it, yes... at least as much as you liked it. But it was not just that. I liked also to fuck Lucien... but you were different, you were special. With you it wasn't just a fuck."
"And what was it, then?"
"It was... it was... My God, Alain, it was feeling well, inside me, as I never felt. Do you think I wasn't sorry to leave, when I was nineteen? Do you think I didn't miss you? Do you think that even now, I'm not dying for the desire to have you in my arms, to make love with you? To be able to say again... those words?"
"So then... why don't you do it?" Alain asked standing up, and finally two large tears ran down his cheeks.
Théodore also stood up, took him in his arms, hugging him, and kissed him.
"Take me into the other room... Théo... Please, take me there..."
In silence, always keeping him in his arms, almost stumbling as they were so tightly close, the young man brought the boy into his bedroom. Kissing and caressing him, he undressed him, while Alain, full of emotion and with trembling hands, undressed the young man. Then he gently pushed the boy onto his bed and lay on top of him. And they finally started making love.
While Théodore was penetrating him, he whispered, "I love you, Alain."
"Say it again. Think about it well and, if it is true, repeat it..." the boy whispered.
"I love you, Alain, I love you!" the young man murmured and finally started to move up and down inside his boy.
When they finally relaxed, appeased for the moment, tenderly embraced each other and going on to kiss, a smile bloomed again on Alain's face. A very sweet smile, full of light.
"Keep me here with you, Théo..." the boy beseeched him.
"You know that it is not possible... my love. But I promise you - I will wait for you..."
"Two more years..."
"Yes, and they will be long, but... you know that we have to do so, don't you?"
"I don't want to know it, Théo!" the boy said in a sad tone.
"I too wouldn't... Now it is too late, the Charterhouse doors are shut and I don't have a telephone... What's done is done. But tomorrow morning I will go to see my boss and ask him for a half-day free then I will see you up... Do you promise me you will wait for me?"
"But... at least on Sundays... will you be at home?"
"Surely, I promise."
They fell asleep, feeling a mix of sadness and joy - sadness as they had to part again, joy because they found each other again...
The following morning Théodore accompanied Alain to the Charterhouse and asked to talk with Serge. The man, seeing that Alain was with him, first of all called the police telling that the boy was back... that it had just been a prank, and apologized. Then sent Alain to his family-house.
Finally Théodore explained to him what happened and why. And told him that he persuaded Alain to never again do such things, and to wait the two years like all the others, and that he, on Sundays, would wait for Alain in his home, downtown... to make his waiting less hard.
Serge thanked him for what he did, "You behaved very well, Théo. You behaved in the best of ways..."
"Serge... do you promise me that you will not punish him?"
"You know I have to, but you also know that it will be Alain to choose his punishment... But now, Théo, tell me honestly, do you really love him?"
"Yes, Serge... I really love him."
"Therefore for you also these two years will be hard, I guess."
"Now that we declared love to each other, things will be on one side harder than before, but on the other side, possibly, a little less..."
"I think that at this point here at the Charterhouse we should possibly slightly modify our rules... at least for cases like yours..."
"Modify? And how?"
"For instance... It's not up to me to decide, I can just make a proposal... we could allow you to come here to the Charterhouse, possibly even every day, or when you can, in the evening, and that you could be allowed to stay together, even if just an hour or some more... in intimacy..."
"It would be wonderful, Serge... and it would make the wait much easier, to overcome these two years..."
"Because of his age, Alain now has a small bedroom all for himself, at the house... you could meet there, in peace... if our rules changed."
"I hope you can make this change, we both would be really grateful, and possibly also other boys... But even if it proved not to be possible, we will do our best to pass these two years even with the old rules, I promise."
"You are a smart boy, Théodore."
"Well, the thanks is all to you, for how you reared us, isn't it?" the young man answered with a wide smile.
The modification of the rule that Serge proposed was discussed by the boys and the adults separately, then jointly, and after one more discussion, was put to a vote. It was accepted unanimously.
With great joy of Alain and Théodore.