Boy on the Towpath

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 22

Back on board the conversation returned to the subject of Maeori as already it seemed strange not to have him around.

I won't deny that it was nice there just being the two of us again but none the less it felt as if something was missing almost. Tom was unusually quiet so I broke the silence.

"You're very quiet mate? Is everything alright?"

Tom looked up from his book. "I'm fine. Why do you ask?"

"Okay I'll put it another way. How are you really feeling, you know, deep-down?"

Tom put the book down and gave a moment's thought to the question. "I dunno? Odd maybe, like there's something not quite right. Your paranoia might just be catching 'cos I come back to what you said earlier about Mae and the more I think about things, the more I also wonder about him."

"In what way exactly?"

"Okay you're absolutely right, he's stunning looking and not only that, I really like him. We enjoy doing the same things, we have the stupid sense of humour and so I can't get my head around why I don't fancy him. It just doesn't add up somehow."

"That's interesting because while I feel an attraction, it isn't because I fancy him either. It's more like I can't keep my eyes off him, like he's a 'Stu-magnet' or something but never have I thought about him sexually.

I mean how come he's so bloody pretty? No boy should ever be so pretty. Good looking, cute even but if you were to put a dress on him he would become perhaps the best looking girl I have ever seen."

"Maybe that's why neither of us are fighting over his virginity!"

I had to laugh at this last comment of Toms. Maybe he had a point. Too girly for a couple of gay guys to handle but never the less it was good to know that I wasn't alone with my thinking. We shared the remains of a bottle of wine, something unusual for Tom being the night before a new school day but I judged we both deserved it.

In bed, rather than me keeping a bit of a distance, I cuddled into Tom, my bits safely tucked away in a very tight pair of briefs. "I love you mate?"

"I know it Stu and I love you too. Just be sure that never changes. I'm not sixteen for another two years!"

The following morning the usual panic stations getting everything sorted ready for Tom to catch the bus to school and me trying to get the boat tidy ready for Hiro's visit.

"Right, I'm off now Stu but I wish I could stay around to find out what the big secret is?"

"Well you can't and anyway there's probably nothing much but rest assured, I'll fill you in tonight."

A brief kiss and Tom chased up the dock leaving me on my own to speculate about the day ahead.

It was odd but I felt nervous! Not much fazes me but I was starting to feel very apprehensive and no matter how much I tried to convince myself that it was all going to be very straight forward, the more I came to the belief that it wasn't and that something pretty mega was about to hit. I tried to tell myself that whatever I could always back out, refuse to be a part of anything but deep down I knew I'd been boxed in, manipulated by a very astute man and that actually my options were limited. Fortunately I wasn't kept waiting for very long.

"May I come aboard Stuart?"

"Hello Hiro, come on in. Can I get you some coffee?"

As he entered the boat, he was overshadowed by the enormous man I'd seen getting out of the car the first day I met him. Hiro said something to him in Japanese and man-mountain placed a couple of large boxes on the after deck before giving both Hiro and myself a swift nod of his head before disappearing.

"He's one big fellah Hiro!"

"Ah-so! Toshi is my driver and my body guard. A good man if a little uneducated. A coffee would be very welcome at least for now. Later we try some Japanese whiskey. I have brought twenty-four bottles for you to enjoy, all of them different and I would appreciate your honest opinion once you've sampled them."

We chatted over coffee and it was very obvious that Hiro was if anything, even more apprehensive than me. That alone didn't do much by way of settling my nerves.

He glanced at his watch.

"Eleven o'clock. I think whiskey would be good now. In truth I need it, not that I'm an alcoholic you understand but I need it for how do you say? Dutch courage?

You see what I have to say to you is very difficult for me as it concerns the true reason for my bringing my child to England and I have to insist on your absolute discretion."

"Naturally whatever you tell me will remain a confidence but I cannot and will not keep a secret from Tom. I have never lied to him and I do not expect to start now."

I poured two hefty measures of whiskey and handed one to Hiro who took a large mouthful before composing himself.

"You were right before when you pointed out that my child could receive a very fine education in Japan but there is one thing that the Japanese system cannot provide, this I will come to later but first I would like you to tell me what you think of Maeori?"

"I like him very much and what's more, so does Tom. Tom tells me that Maeori is his best friend. He is obviously very intelligent, he's very polite and courteous so yes, he's a really nice kid."

"Thank you but your observations. How do you see him?"

"In what respect?"

"You look at him. What do you see? It is important that you tell me honestly Stuart."

My turn to pull a large mouthful of whiskey.

"Oh God! Um, okay I see an unbelievably pretty young boy and if you're looking for honesty, almost too pretty for a boy to look. I mean if he were a girl he would be perhaps one of the prettiest girls I'd ever set eyes on."

"You are right and this is the problem. Maeori is indeed a boy but he shouldn't be."

"I'm……..not sure I understand?"

"You have an expression in the west. 'Comfortable in the skin you're in' I think. Is that correct?"

"Yes that's correct."

"Maeori is not and never has been. You see he is how do you say, a mirror image of my late wife even down to his mannerisms. He knows how he feels and I know how he feels. The only part of him that is truly 'boy' are how you say, genitals."

"Sweet Jesus! Poor kid."

"Yes absolutely. Poor child maybe but not so that something can happen to make the situation more tolerable?"

"I'm guessing here but I assume you're talking of gender reassignment?"

"Indeed. Simply put I'm talking of a sex change.

I know that this sounds very business-like to you, uncaring even but you must understand Stuart, I love Maeori and I only want the best life for however he wants to be.

Yes I wish things were different but they are not and so I have to make a difficult choice, either for Maeori to continue as a very unhappy person living his life as a male or to acquiesce for the sake of his happiness and fulfilment."

"You chose the latter."

"Yes. It was the only real choice to be made."

Now I don't know why I was so taken aback by this. After all Mae did seem kind of out of place what with his stunning looks but none the less I was still very confused. He played with Tom with all the normal boyish energy I would expect of another lad, their friendship was very apparent to the point of closeness and affection but not in any way sexual.

"I understand Hiro but I'm not sure how we fit in to this.

Mae is going to have a fairly rough ride at school I would have thought and with you 8000 miles away isn't going to make life much easier for him. Isn't it possible for him to undergo this procedure in Japan?"

"I answer you in reverse order Stuart. It is not possible in my country at this time. People go to Singapore, Malaysia or Thailand for such things and I'm not prepared to allow this. Here you have the finest medical practitioners, physiological help and above all, the privacy of your system here means that it will not get into the media which elsewhere it might.

So far as schooling is concerned, I intend that Maeori will be privately educated when the time comes he can no longer continue at Rugby but more of this at another time. Your position and also that of your boy Tom is essential. Maeori will need help and guidance beyond what the professionals can offer and with your credentials and background I can think of none better to provide this. The icing on the cake is that Maeori has a true friend in Tom and this will give the stability and normality that Maeori will need as his life changes.

I know I am asking a very great deal from both of you which is why I am prepared to offer you a financial reward should you agree to help us."

I refilled our glasses not caring that we would be wrecked come lunchtime. This wasn't anything like what I'd expected to hear and my mind was doing cartwheels so I considered my response carefully.

"This isn't anything to do with money Hiro. I'm not a rich man but I'm comfortable so financial enticements are not necessary. My concern has to be with my current situation and by that I mean Tom and his well-being and education so you must understand that I must tell him everything. We've never had any secrets and I don't intend to start now. If he's happy then I must also talk with Maeori in order to make absolutely sure that he is also happy with the situation. Do we have an understanding?"

"Yes. Yes we do Stuart.

I have to tell you that my offer of financial help was only to recompense you for any how do you say, out of pocket expenses and also that if Maeori needs anything and I mean ANYTHING, you can provide and not feel an empty wallet!

You must also tell Thomas and I agree that he must also be fully aware of the circumstances before you commit to this. His part in this is very important too as Maeori will need someone of his own age that he likes and can talk to."

"I'll talk to him tonight once he's back but also I will need something like an itinerary as to what Mae is going to have to go through."

"I have done this already and it will be emailed to you tomorrow but let me just say, it is not a fast process. There are many things before the final transition. We are looking on years not months Stuart. We all need to learn patience."

"Okay. I've a lot to think about Hiro so unless you have something else to tell me, please I must ask for some time alone so I can talk to Tom with all the facts squared away in my head and also before I get too pissed!"

"Hi, so des Stuart! We say 'red faced' but I also like 'pissed'!

I will leave now but please call me if you have questions as I'm sure you will and when you have made your decision then we must talk again."

Once Hiro left I considered our conversation.

One thing was certain. The mystery surrounding Maeori's obvious if not overt femininity had been cleared up but now I was having to seriously consider the possibility of having not only having to raise my gay teenage stepson but also having to take care of, mentor or whatever a Japanese boy who is wanting to undergo a sex change!

This bizarre set of circumstances actually had me giggling just contemplating them but then again it was more than likely caused by the God awful whiskey that Hiro had brought along.

I studied the bottle and opted for another stiff shot before heading for a couple of hours on my bunk hoping that my subconscious would come to the rescue and provide some clarity.

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