Like Waves On The Shore

by Drew Payne

At dusk, as I had done every evening since I came here, I walked down the narrow path, which runs through he few trees on the edge of the coast, and onto the strip of beach at the shore line. Even during day there were only ever a few people using the beach, often none, but at dusk it was always deserted. I walked quickly to the outcrop of rocks, were I always went, quickly shed my jeans, shirt and boots, then naked, I ran over the few yards of sand and dived into the sea. For a brief moment it felt like my heart stopped as the cold water hit my body, but it only lasted for a brief moment before I struck out and began to swim out to sea. This was my evening ritual, a naked swim in the cold seawater. I enjoyed it, the whole process of it. The cold water rushing over my skin, my arms and legs pulling me forward, the water washing over my head and into my eyes. Swimming for me was a purely physical process, especially in the cold sea, something I could become lost in, not having to think about what I was doing.

I had only been staying in that tiny stone cottage, on the Scottish coast, for a week and a half now, but every evening at dusk, I had gone swimming, something to chase away the dark moods of that day - even for only half an hour. I didn't do much with myself during the day. I would get up late in the morning, after dozing or reading in that big feather bed. Afternoons were spent with a book and a notepad out in the garden, drinking up the surprisingly hot sun, mostly only dressed in my underwear. In the evenings I would eat my single meal at the kitchen table, washed down by a few glasses of wine, then at dusk I would make my way down to the beach for my swim. Afterwards I would sit in the cottage's sitting room listening to the radio, there was no television, until the early hours of the morning. Listening to the radio I would sometimes read but mostly I would finish off writing the poems that had been running through my head all day. The poems were only about two subjects, Dean or Dean and me. I had been living like a hermit in that cottage, never changing my routine and hardly ever leaving it. I had only been into the nearby village three times, twice to buy food from the supermarket and once to drink a very quick pint of beer in the pub. I kept away from the outside world because I was afraid it would hurt me. It was irrational to feel like that but I couldn't stop myself, so I hid away in that cottage.

When I felt my arms and legs begin to tire from the strain of swimming into the waves I decided to turn back for the shore. Swimming back was always easier and quicker. The waves breaking onto the beach simply carried me along, washing my body towards the sand. Swimming with the waves gave me a rush of exhileration to end my swim. As soon as my hands struck the sand then I stood up, pulling my body out of the water, and strode up the beach towards my clothes. I quickly rubbed a towel over my body, drying my skin that now glowed bright red from the cold of the water, and then quickly pulled my clothes back on. Just as quickly I strode back along the narrow path towards the cottage. Dusk was now rapidly turning into darkness and with it the temperature was rapidly was falling. Though my skin was feeling cold I also was filled with a buzzing energy - but it would have worn off by the time I reached the cottage.

The cottage belongs to my cousin Kerry, a relative left it to her, and when she isn't using it, which is often, she rents it out. I was fortunate to find it was empty for a whole month; Kerry had had a cancellation at the last moment.

I had rung her up on the chance that the cottage was free and was relieved to find it was - I don't know what I would have done if it hadn't been. Kerry told me to stay there for the next month and look after the place. I had felt waves of relief washing over me as I listened to Kerry's voice on the telephone telling me the ins and outs of the cottage.

My work was happy to give me two weeks annual leave at such short notice. My manager told me it was about time I took a holiday and if I wanted to I could make it three weeks, all I had to do was give him plenty of notice.

The next day I'd packed together clothes, books and paper in my mismatched holdalls and caught the first of several trains up to Scotland. When I finally reached the cottage it had long since turned dark, empty, cold and forboding. The empty windows were dark blanks in the outside walls. It was so isolated, set back from a very quiet road by a long path through densely overgrown trees, that a strangely intimidating silence hung over it. As I opened the front door, a musty and stale smell greet me on the air. As I trailed through the few, empty rooms of the cottage I regretted what I'd done. Deeply regretted running away from London, hardly telling anyone where I'd gone, for an isolated cottage on the west coast of Scotland. When I reached the bedroom I dropped my bags on the floor, pulled my clothes off and climbed between the cold sheets of the bed. I don't remember falling asleep it happened so quickly.

When I awoke, late the next morning, the cottage was filled with bright and warm sunlight, the window cast a warm shadow over the bed. coming here now felt like a good idea, I would have some time to myself to think about the whole situation.

When I got back to the cottage, my body warmed up from my brisk walk, I turned on the radio, got the half empty bottle of wine out of the fridge and settled down with some paper and pens at the table in front of the window. I decided to change radio stations after I'd only taken a few sips of wine. I wasn't a very loyal listener to any one radio station. I thumbed the tuning dial, skipping through different stations, until I found a classical concert being played. The concert had already begun so I had missed the announcement introducing it and I didn't recognize it but the music caught my interest. It was emotional and almost romantic in places but had a dark sadness to it.

I didn't attempt to write any poems about Dean or our relationship. I simply sat at the table, stared at the darkness beyond the window and let myself be carried away by the music. The sadness of those notes only made me think about Dean.

I remembered how Dean had looked. His black, thick hair, which only recently he'd, had cut into a bristling crew cut that I loved to run my fingers over. The cleft right in the centre of his chin, which looked unnaturally accurate. The way he'd look up at someone, almost looking up at you through his eyebrows, and smile his shy but winning smile. The baggy and mismatched clothes he always wore which hide the lean body he kept so through miles and miles of running. The way he'd grab me in an almost rib crushing embrace and at the same moment whisper something silly in my ear. Most especially the way he made love. Sex with Dean was always full of passion; it was like it was the first and last time he'd ever do it. Afterwards he'd just lie there watching me with his large brown eyes, deep brown flexed through with tiny strands of gold. Is it any wonder I fell so much in love with him.

I've never caused a scandal before in my life, never wanted to be the cause of a sensation. When everything blew up about my relationship with Dean I was first afraid and then horrified.

I've always gone to church. Since childhood, Christianity has played an important part in my life, so as an adult I didn't want to give up on it. It has always been a source of comfort and reassurance to me and I don't want to loose that, especially now. I don't agree with what some of the more vocal and prejudiced Christians have to say about homosexuality, that's not the God I want. Over the years I have learnt it's easy to keep my head down as a gay man at church. Generally I like to sit at the back of the church and not really get noticed. I join in some things but I'm not one of those people who want to run the church. I simply go there as a way into God.

I met Dean at church. He and his wife, Anne, started coming along because they were new to the area and one of Anne's sisters was churchwarden there. It wasn't love or even lust at first sight when I meet Dean. I simply thought he was a nice and friendly guy. For some reason, I never know why, Dean took to coming up to me after each service and chatting. Everybody else in church did it except me. After each service, I would quietly slip away, avoiding speaking to anyone. That changed after Dean befriended me. My circle of acquaintances didn't open to include the whole church, the only people I spoke to were Dean, his friend Kay and Graham the church's curate, but I didn't slip away quite so quickly after each service.

Things changed though when I ran into Dean early one Friday evening. I was trudging home, weighed down by several bags full of shopping when I heard a voice call out my name. Dean came running towards me. He was dressed in a small pair of shorts and a short vest. Suddenly I saw how beautiful his body was and it was breath-taking. Chatting with me he helped to carry my shopping home and then stayed in my flat for a coffee. All the time I found it very difficult to keep my eyes off him. I felt like my eyes were being constantly pulled back to him. The next day, Saturday, we played a game of squash together at our local sports centre. It was Dean's idea. I enjoyed the adrienaline rush from chasing around the squash court. I enjoyed watching the quick and agile way Dean moved to strike the ball. Most of all I enjoyed showering with Dean afterwards. He was even more attractive when naked. His body ran in smooth lines, the lean muscles stretching beneath his skin. It was tanned a light brown but naturally so, no sunbeds for him. There was only a light dusting of hair on his body, at his goin and in his armpits, but otherwise he was smooth and hairless, no razor had grazed his body. Even naked Dean seemed almost fully unselfconcous about his body. In that shower I couldn't take my eyes off him, he caught me watching him at one point and all he did was smile shyly back at me. I don't know what stopped me from being embarrased in that shower, though very aroused thankfully i didn't become erect.

Over the following week Dean and I spent a lot of time together. I took Dean weight training. Dean took me swimming and playing squash. Always we'd end up shovering together. I enjoyed those showers but also found them nerve tightening experiences of frustration. The more I saw him the more attractive I found him.

On the Saturday morning we went running together, a circuit starting at my flat, along some of the quieter local streets and back to my flat. Though I weight-train regularly I had never been running before and afterwards I found my muscles ached and pulled into knots from the strain of it all. Without any prompting Dean gave me a shoulder massage, telling me it would help to relax me. His fingers dug deeply into my muscles, pulling and easing the tension there. His fingers were also very gentle as they moved over my shoulders, so I simply closed my eyes and enjoyed it. When he finished Dean told me to go and have a shower. I hadn't been in the shower long, only enough time to soap my body under the hot water, when the shower curtain was pulled back and a naked Dean stepped into the shower with me. That was the first time we had sex together. Though it was over relatively quickly, it was full passion and urgency, Dean seemed to be all over my body as he pushed me up against the shower's wall. Afterwards, as we dried ourselfs in the bathroom, Dean laughted and joked with me, stroking his hand over my hair and back, even patting my buttocks. He certainly didn't behave like a straight man who had been accidently seduced into something.

Dean and I would see each other two or three times a week and always we would end up back at my flat and in bed together. After each time we had sex I told myself that would be the last time that we would do it. Dean was married and this made me feel uncomfortable, slightly guilty even, but every time I was drawn back by the passion and affection of it all. All Dean had to do was look at me with that shy smile of his and I'd become aroused.

Away from Dean I felt a whole mixture of emotions. I was confused and even guilty because Dean was married, though I never mentioned Anne in front of Dean. I was also falling in love with Dean and found myself drifting away with thoughts of Dean at the strangest of moments.

With a sudden abrutness the concert ended and the radio was full of two male voices discussing what I had just heard. I stood up and quickly switched off the radio, the music had so carried me away that I didn't want to hear two cold voices discetting it. I hadn't written a line of poetry the whole evening, instead I had let my mind wander. I had used my imagination instead of a pen and paper to pour over my feelings. Switching off the lights as I went along, slowly slipping the cottage into the dark and silence that surrounded it, I made my way to bed

I dreamt about Dean that night, like I dreamt about him every other night. They were strange and darkly erotic dreams. Dreams filled with different and changing images. Images of Dean and I making love, images of Dean naked under the shower and slowly soaping up his body, Dean crying out in orgasm as he came, Dean laying naked on the bed in that glow after sex, Dean jogging down a street and away from me, myself alone on the beach and desperately looking around myself.

I woke up, as dawn streamed into the bedroom window, with a start, jolting myself out of that strange dream. It took a moment to realise what happenned to me. I felt a damp patch on the bedsheets under my bottocks and the top sheet had begun to stick to my grion. With an embarrassing realisation it came to me, I'd had a wet dream that night. The last time I'd had one of these I'd been a frustrated teenager. Even though I was alone I felt accutely embarrassed

Instead of lying in bed, letting the morning slip away by reading or dozing, I quickly got up. I took a hurried bath, washing away the strains of the night before from my skin. Afterwards I bundled up the stained bedsheets and left them soaking in a bath full of water.

Dressed in my old jeans and an over sized tee-shirt I set off towards the nearby village. I took the footpath to the village that ran across the local fields, though a longer route then walking along the narrow and hedge lined road, it was a far more pleasent walk. I needed food and milk, I only had enough to last out the day, and this gave me an excuse to use my restless mood.

There was neither a breath of wind or a cloud in the sky to ease the bright heat of the mid-day sun. I felt it beating down on me as I walked beck to the cottage, weighed down by two shopping bags, again along the footpath. I could feel the skin of my face and arms begin to prickle and to thighten over my flesh as it started to burn under the sun's heat.

Even without the heat and my heavy shopping bags I would have still walked back along the footpath slowly. My mood had been slipping down and down ever since I had left the cottage several hours before. I had hardly spoken to anyone in the village as I did my shopping, only speaking the few words I needed to pay for my purchases. As I walked back to the cottage, ignoring the changing view from the footpath, my mood sank down into a dark depression. I felt such a fool and a failure. It felt like everything I touched fell to pieces.

Everything with Dean blow up suddenly and explosivily. The only thing I could think of that caused it was a simple hair cut - though I could be totally wrong. Dean had his mis-matched short back and sides style shaved into a neat number three crew cut. It opened up his face, showing off his deep brown eyes and franning his smile when it broke out across his face.It was a sudden change and I found Dean even more attractive afterwards. I know then that I was truly in love with him.

The next Sunday, after a rather subdued church service, Anne came charging up towards me. Her face was flushed red with anger and her blonde, permed hair was straggling out of place. She screamed at me, so loud that everyone us could hear, demanding to know if I was having an affair with her husband. I didn't reply, the shock of her sudden attack had silenced me, but I did take a few steps backwards and away from her. She continued to shout and scream at me. She accused me of seducing Dean, of trying to steal him away from her, of trying to break up her home, of being a pervert and lier. When she accused me of chasing after Dean, from the moment I saw him, like a "bitch in heat." I had turned away and quickly fled out of the church. As I ran out of the building I heard Anne's shrill voice screaming at me. No one came to stop her.

I hid away in my flat after that, only leaving it to go to work or for one trip to the supermarket. I didn't go near church and avoided any of my usual church activities, the few that there were. I certainly didn't hear from Dean. Dean's silence wasn't matched by other members of the church. I didn't answer my phone, I came to dread it whenever it rang, instead I used my answerphone to screen all my calls. Anne rang me everyday to scream her hate at me, I had become the focus of all her anger and, in her eyes, the cause for all the faults in her marriage. Other members of the church rang me up to tell me how wrong they thought I was. Some quoted the bible at me, obsecure verses and always out of context, others told me how disguising and low they thought I was. Unlike Anne they never rang more then once. After they had finished all I did was erase their voice from my answerphone. The message that drove me away came on the Thursday evening. I was watching television when my telephone started ringing. I didn't move becauuse I know the answerpphone would click in after the fourth ring, which it did. The church's vicar, Patrick's apologetic voice came onto the line. Patrick started by saying that he didn't believe homosexuality as a sexuality was wrong, but he couldn't agree about its expression. He then went on to tell me that what I'd done, by seducing Dean, was very wrong. He went on at length talking about the sanctity of Christian marriage and the sin of adultary. It was plain he was blaming me for what had happened, in his black and white view I was guilty of trying to break up Dean and Anne's marriage. Without talking to me or even knowing my side of the story Patrick had made his discision and found me guilty. It felt like my last hope of someone hearing my side of the events had gone. By Patrick, the church's vicar, condemning me I felt the whole church was against me. I decided then I had to get away from it all to even give myself a chance to think about I should do next.

The next day I asked for annual leave from work and rang Kerry about her cottage.

I stopped walking, put my shopping bags down on the footpath and dropped down onto the grass. I sat there for a moment, then I lay back on the grass and closed my eyes. A sudden wave of tiredness swept over me. I supposed the strange dreams of the night before hadn't allowed me a restful sleep. The tiredness on top of my depressed mood made me feel even more frustrated.

As I walked around the final bend in the road the cottage came into sight, from behind the screen of trees. Seeing the small blue car parked in front of the cottage made me catch my breath, somewhere at the back of my throat, in surprise. No one knew I was here so who was visiting me, who had found me, what was happenning? With my heart beating loud in my eyes, adrienalin and fear raising my pulse rate, I walked the remaining short distance up to the cottage. Part of me wanted to turn on my heels and walk away from it all but I also know that at some point I'd have to finally return and the car and whoever it had bourght would still probably be there.

As I opened the cottage's door I heard the sound of dance music coming from the radio, then a voice called out:

"Joe? Is that you, Joe?"

"Yes," I answered as I put my shopping bags down on the table.

"Hey, you've been ages," Kay said as she stood up from the sofa.

"I've been shopping, in the village down coast. Milk and bread and that sort of stuff."

"Sure, mate," Kay stuffed her hands in the pockets of her combate trousers and watched me.

"What brings you here?" I asked her, though it was an obvous question.

"You. We came looking for you."

"Oh... I guess you would have."

"Joe we were worried about you. You disappeared and we were worried. No one know what had happenned to you."

"It's all right, I'm fine and alive. There's no need to worry."

"I don't believe you Joe, sorry."

I turned away from her and started to unpack my shopping bags, I didn't want to look at her, to have to see the strong concern in her eyes.

"When are you going back?" I asked her.

"That's nice. We drive all day to get here and don't even get a drink or anything before you want rid of me!"

"I'm sorry, I just meant..." My voice trailed away as I failed to even know what I wanted to say let alone how to say it.

"Joe, how about a cup of tea, two sugars?" Kay said.

"All right," I nodded.

As I made the tea, in the cottage's tiny kitchen, Kay stood in the doorway and watched me. She was as casually dressed as ever, relaxed in her clothes. Her brown hair, in its loose curls, hung down past her shoulders. It looked like two haphazard curtains on either side of her face. She was wearing a bright purple tee-shirt, with one flash of white lightning printed across it, over a very baggy pair of green combat pants. As always her choice of clothes was designed to draw attention away from her mis-shaped figure, large and full hips underneath an almost flat chest and narrow shoulders. Kay always looked casual in her appearence, and once you knew her you would realise it was her normal way.

When we had a drink of tea each, Kay and I returned to the sitting room and sat down, her back upon and me nervously sitting in one of the armchairs. After a few mouthfuls of tea, Kay asked me:

"How are you feeling?"

"Fine."

"Hidden away here?"

"I needed to get away from everything that was happening."

"I know but we couldn't abandon you. We care about you."

"How did you find me?" I wanted to change the subject, to get her away from her subject, it was making me feel embarrassed.

"It wasn't that hard. Graham spoke to your cousin Kerry and she told him."

"Kerry's a terrible gossip."

"We had to see you. We needed to know you're okay."

"We? Who's we?"

"I brought Dean along with me."

"Oh God, no."

"He needs to see you."

"Then where is he?"

"I sent him down to the beach to sunbathe."

"Why?"

"I need to talk to you first."

"What about?"

"About what has all happenned. You've been put through shit."

"I know that and I just want to forget about it all. I came here to think, to get away from everything, and I've decided to put it behind me and forget it all."

I'm sorry you've got so hurt in all this."

"Kay the whole church turned against me just because of Dean and I, and I didn't start it."

"Not the whole church."

"You didn't hear those messages on my answerphone. They were all blaming me. They had all found me guilty as a home-wrecker and they didn't even know half of the story."

"Not everyone Joe."

"What?"

"What happenned over you and Dean has split the church down the middle!"

"What?"

"Okay half the church did condemn you out of hand. The other half doesn't. Some people say they shoudn't comment because it's between you and Dean and Anne. Others say you shouldn't condemn someone, it isn't Christian. Others are siding with you, condemning the homophobia of it all. I'm with them. You didn't seduce Dean and you shouldn't be used as an escapegoat for a marriage failure or some people's homophobia."

"What about Patrick? He accused me of sinning and condemned me as an adultarier, he was one of those who left messages on my answerphone."

"He did, did he?"

"Yes."

"Well him and Graham are at loggerheads. I mean he's backing down over it all especially after Graham accused him of homophobia."

"What?"

"Yeah. He even had the nerve to tell Graham he couldn't be homophobic because good friends of his were 'homosexual' and agreed with him. Then he couldn't name any of them to Graham. I ask you."

"You're joking."

"No. You and Dean have split the church and people are arguing, but people are also talking about it all. You'e opened up a whole floodgate on something we need to talk about. People can ignore things if it's only a theory but you give them someone they know and it makes everything somehow real."

"I don't know."

"I'm sorry you got hurt, you shouldn't have done. Prejudice shouldn't be a Christian value but people can get scared when faced with something different. I hate it but sometimes it happens. You've been a victim of that. But Joe, not everyone believes it. You're not on your own."

"I don't know."

"Look, Joe I'm telling all this to let you know that you're not on your own when you come back home. Okay some noisy buggers condemned you but they're not everyone at church. Others will support you when come back."

"Why are you telling me all this?"

"Because it was Dean who was the one who wanted to come up here in the first place."

"Dean? Why?"

"I've been telling you what I had to to make it easier for what Dean wants to say to you. I promised him I'd ease the way for him with you."

"Kay, you're not making sense."

"Go down to the beach and talk to him please, before he looks like an oven-ready chicken."

"I don't know if I want to," I said as my mouth suddenly ran dry at the idea of meeting Dean once again.

"Have all those feelings you had for him died over the last week?" Her gaze didn't leave me, not even for a moment.

"No," I quietly siad.

"Then go down to the beach and talk to him, please Joe. On the way up here all Dean kept talking about was what he'd say to you. Over and over again. I can't go through all that again on the way back, I'd end up crashing the car or something."

"You win, you win."

I stood up and Kay did as well, almost mirroring my movements. Without warning she throw her arms around me in a tight hug. For a moment, as embarracement washed over me, I didn't move, my arms hung at my sides, because I didn't know what to do. Then I hugged her back, not quite as tightly. Gently Kay whispered in my ear:

"You're okay Joe, honest you're okay."

I saw him before I reached the beach itself, long before I actually reached him. As I left the shade of the trees I saw a square of bright red laying out on the sand above the tide mark (He had taken the tartan blanket off the back of the sofa in the cottage) and the outline of Dean's lean body lying ontop of it. I didn't run across the sand towards him, like some finally reunited lovers in an old romanic film, instead I walked slowly across the open sand to were he lay, aware again of the hot sun beating down on my head and body. As I walked I went over my openning lines in my head, how I would attrack his attention and break the ice, but each one I rejected as more cliched then the prevous one. When I finally reached him I didn't know what to say.

He was lying on his back, his skin tanned a rich goldern colour, and his hair was showing signs of beginning to grow out again, though not evenly. He was only wearing a pair of very short, faded cut off shorts, the fringe of the demin seemly indecently high up his tigh, and a silver chain around his neck, one I couldn't remember seeing before. He looked as beautiful and handsome as ever, breathing-takingly so.

I quietly walked around him, keeping my feet on the sand and not treading on the banket, until my body cast a shaddow over his face. For a moment he didn't move and then, as my shadow cooled his face, he opened his eyes. In a quick and almost starkled movement he sat up.

"Joe!" His voice seemed to overflow with pleasure. "Sit down mate," he patted the blanket next to him.

I sat down awkwardly next to him.

"How you doin'?" Dean asked as he reached up and slowly began to massage the back of my neck. His warm fingers moved slowly and gently over the knots and tensions held in my neck and shoulder muscles. For a long moment I didn't answer him, I stared straight ahead of myself at the calm sea and enjoyed the feeling his hand was creating on my neck and shoulders.

Finally I said:

"I'm all right."

"You don't feel it."

"What?"

"Your neck. You're full of tension, wound up a cat with fleas."

"it's not been easy."

"I know. Shit I know."

We fell silent again as Dean turned around and started massaging my shoulders with both hands. Soon his fingers were digging deeply into my skin with a slow strength but also a surprising tenderness. I know I should have stopped him, the erection pushing at the front of my jeans would soon be doubting my judgement, but it was the first moment of tenderness and physical affection I'd experienced in over two weeks. I was a very thirsty man.

Again it was me who broke the silence over us.

"Dean, why did you come here?"

Dean's figers stopped moving and then his hands fell off my shoulders. I took this chance to quickly spin around so that we finally faced each other. I looked fully into his face, the pupils of his eyes had almost disappeared into tiny black dots.

"I came to see you, didn't I," Dean said.

"Why? Why did you want to see me?"

"'Cause you're the one I want to be with," his face twisted up with the seriousness his voice was trying to get into his words.

"What about Anne? I asked.

"We're over. I left her last week. I'm kipping in Kay's spare room for the time being and driving her mental. She's not good at sharing."

"You've left her?" I couldn't hide the surprise in my voice.

"Yeah. We've been over for ages. It was only everything that happened with you that gave me the kick up the arse to do something."

"Am I the first man... first man you've been in this situation with before?"

"What? Leave Anne for?"

"Been in a relationship with."

"You aren't the first guy I've had sex with."

""I gathered that from your... well your technique."

"I'm good at the old shagging, am I?" He smiled his shy smile at me but this time turned his head away.

"Yes you are, very good," I said as I felt my face begin to flush with a creeping embarracement.

"I used to cottage or go cruising down the canal bank. I started almost straight after we'd married, well not long after anyway. I did have this afair with a guy I met at work, Jim. He only wanted regular sex. He didn't want anything else. He was married as well but I finished it all in the end."

"Why did you marry Anne?" I finally had the chance and courage to ask him that question.

"I thought I loved her, she said she loved me enough and I thought it would stop me being queer. We were only twenty, both of us, and we didn't know what we were doing... Wish I'd never done it but I did."

"Dean, all this is a surprise. I never expected you to leave Anne. When she attracked me after church I thought it was all over. I thought I was just a bit of fun to you, a diversion from your marriage."

"You were never that, never. You got right to me soon as I saw you."

"Why? I'm not handsome or anything."

"But you are. You've got these beautiful, soulful, blue eyes. I could drown in those eyes, honest. And you make me want to protect you, look after you. There's something sad and lost about you that I want to touch, to make happy. It took me ages to get even near you, you got more defences then Fort Knox on a bad day. Then I saw you checking me out in the showers, after we played squash, and then I know I only had to wait and pick my moment."

"You seduced me?"

"Too right. You weren't doing anything about it."

"True."

"But as things went on I knew it was different with you 'cause you're special."

"What?"

"For someone who's been to university you can be bloody thick. I love you."

"Oh... I..."

"You're going to say you don't love me."

"No! I love you very much."

"Good. That's why I left Anne. I don't feel for her half the things I feel for you. I know the longer I left it the more people would get hurt. I didn't think she'd go off the deep end the way she did. I was sure she know about me cottaging and that but was turning a blind eye to it. Well she was but you were something else, a real threat. I'm real sorry you got hurt the way you did. I handled it all really bad. I know. Then you vanished and I nearly went mental with worry. If Graham hadn't stepped in I don't know what I'd have done."

"Graham, the curate?"

"Yeah, he's been a real help. I've talked it over so much with him the last week. He's really helped me clear my head and see what the important things are."

"But why Graham?"

"'Cause he's gay?"

"Graham's gay?"

"Yeah. Didn't you realise that?

"No."

"God Joe, you have got your head up your backside."

"Guess I have."

"Anyway Graham and I talked over lots of things especially around church and God. Okay, Vicky could make things difficult for us, she's Anne's sister and all."

"But we can't go back to church."

"Rubbish. There's nothing wrong with being gay, it's not a sin or something wrong. What was wrong was me marrying Anne, I used her to try to be something I'm not. I was living a lie, especially with all the cottaging I did. I hope sometime she'll be able to forgive me. I hope but I don't know. Anyway things are different with you. What I'm doing is honest, the real me. God made me this way, like God made you this way as well. I do believe God sent me you to give me a good kick up the arse, to tell me to get my act together, to give me a chance. I believe God's love and love ain't wrong and I love you so much."

His face hung close in such an expression of honestly that I know what he'd been telling me was the truth. There had been no guile or deception to be seen in him. Those deep brown eyes were still full on me and seemed to be overflowing with such a keen love. I wanted to close those eyes, it frieghtened me so much.

"Dean," I said as looked down towards my hands. I wanted to break the spell I felt his eyes were casting over me.

"Yeah?"

"There's something you should know."

"What?"

"I'm twenty-seven."

"And I'm twenty-eight."

"Dean, I only came out two years ago. I was twenty-five when I had my first relationship. He was very... well dominering, he liked to hit me a lot during sex and at other times. I put up with it until I couldn't take it anyway."

"I'm sorry. I'd never do that."

"I know. What I'm trying to say is that I'm very new to all this. You're only the third man I've had sex with, and one of those was a one-night-stand."

"I hear you."

I looked up at him. He was still smiling at me, but a gentle and small smile, a warm smile that seemed to want to reassure me. his eyes were so full of love.

"Dean I don't know what we should do, I've never been in this situation before."

"We play it by ear, like everyone else."

Before I could say anything else, voice anyore of the millions of concerns rushing through my mind, Dean lent forward and kissed me. A slow and very measured kiss, the only parts of our bodies touching were our lips, a kiss that seemed to speak more for emotions then passion. As Dean broke the kiss, drawing his mouth back for a moment, a bead of spittle hung between our lips before breaking and landing back on my top lip.

"There isn't time to go home today so i guess we get to spend our first night together in your cousin's cottage. I'm sure Kay won't mind the sofa for tonight. In the mornin' we'll take you home," Dean said as he began to stroke my shaggy brown hair. It was the thing he'd always done in that glow after sex. He would run one hand through my hair, again and again and agian, his fingers caressing and smoothing over my skull as his eyes slowly wondered over me. Doing this he had seemed to change the whole mood hanging over us into a tenderly sexual one.

"Are you going to carry on staying at Kay's?" I asked.

"I was hopin' I would move in with you, if there's no probem"

"No, there isn't," I said as I pushed down my worries.

"Then lets go back to the cottage. I bet Kay can be talked into going for a walk or somethin', then we can test out that bed. It's ages since we last had sex and lookin' at you makes me horny."

"All right," I said.

We stood up, Dean pulled up the blanket after him and draped it over his right shoulder. Then he took hold of my hand and we began to walk back to the cottage. It was the first time I'd walked hand in hand with him, with anyone, and I was surprised at how dry and warm his hand felt held in mine.

At dusk Dean and I walked hand in hand down to the beach. We couldn't walk next to each other along the path through the trees, because it was too narrow, but Dean walked ahead of me and trailed his hand behind his back for me to hold. We must have looked like a sighted guide leading a blind man, except there was no one around to watch us. We left Kay behind at the cottage, dozing on the sofa. We walked along in silence, but a comfortable silence. It was a silence that came from us saying all we had to for that moment and rest in the comfot of being with the other. It was not an awkward silence, only a gentle silence.

It seemed a long time ago since I last came to this beach at dusk to go swimming, much longer then the twenty-hours it actually was. so much had happened, so much had passed since I was last here. I felt I had been on a fast moving journey, covering many places and ending in a whole new place. Physically I had not left this place, but things had hanged. The next day I would leave with Dean and Kay for London. Once home we would move Dean's belongings from Kay's spare room into my flat and then... what I didn't know. Dean was moving in with me but after that I didn't know what would happen, I couldn't even begin to imagine it. Into my very ordered life had fallen a large element of chaos. I loved Dean, though, I kept reminding myself, he was the first person I could say I actually loved.

We walked in silence across the beach, as if we had always done this together, and over to the rock where I always left my clothes.

"Here," was all I said when we reached the rock.

Dean looked around the deserted beach and then out at the still and calm sea.

"Yeah, good spot," he said.

We then undressed together. We were relaxed and in the same way I felt able to watch Dean as he undressed. Dean smiled his shy and welcoming smile as he watched me. We slipped off the few clothes we had on and I marvelled at the beauty of Dean's body, especially beautiful when he was naked.

I walked slowly out into the slow waves that were breaking onto the shore. With a shout of excitement Dean ran past me, leaping and splashing into the waves as he went, until the water was up to his thighs then he dived head first into the sea water and swam away. I stared after him for a moment. The sight of Dean's naked legs and buttocks pounding away, the muscles stretching and moving just under his skin, had almost been breath-taking, it certainly had been very erotic. As I felt a tingling of excitement in my groin I did the same, running into the waves until it was deep enough to dive into a swim.

As my head broke the surface and I began to swim out to sea I was relieved by how warm the sea felt on my skin. It wasn't hot but the heat of the day had taken away the chill it usually had away. After a few strokes I found the sea was deep enough to tread water, I couldn't feel the bottom under my feet anyway. It was then I looked around for Dean. It took me a moment to find him. He was swimming in a large arc out to sea and had just begun to swim back to shore. As I watched his head moving through the water a terrible panic rose up in me. What was I doing? To allow my relationship with Dean to begin had been crazy enough, he was a married man, and if I was totally honest part of me had exspected it to blow up the way it did, playing with fire always has dangers. This new twist had thrown me more then I at first realised. Dean had chosen me over Anne and marriage and secure respectablity. What did I have that they didn't? and could I match up to whatever it was. Not only had Dean chosen me but wanted to live with me, as a couple. I didn't know how to do any of that and there certainly wasn't a map or guide book to help me. I was terrified, there was so many what if's to it all, and deep down I was afraid I would let Dean down by not being good enough for him. We would have one night of honeymoon, curled up together in the cottage's old double bed, before we had to face the real world.

I also know I couldn't tell Dean any of the things I felt. All that evening he had been looking at me with so much love and happiness that to tell him I had any negative thougts felt like a deep betrayal. I didn't want to be anything less then perfect for him. So I knew I would keep any doults or fears firmly bitten down and silent.

I stayed were I was, treading water, and waited for Dean to reach me. He had now changed direction and was headed towards me. I treaded water and waited.

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