Boy on the Towpath

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 28

Monday morning and with the kids packed off to school, I waited for Hiro to arrive and by nine-thirty we were being whisked down the M1 toward London.

I had taken some photos of Mae wearing one of her favourite outfits and with her newly sculpted hair style. I showed them to Hiro.

I was really taken aback at his response. For such a bullish bloke he was visibly emotional.

"She, yes now I can say it Stuart. She is very beautiful! You have done a fine job! Is she happy?"

"Yes she is Hiro. Very happy."

"And what about Tom? Is he too happy?"

"Yes he most definitely is! There is a real bond between them, something unless I'm very much mistaken is the first signs of love."

"You are not so happy then. I thought you and Tom…….."

"So did I but the point is this Hiro. There has never been a physical relationship between us and this is for two reasons. Firstly it is illegal in England for the boy or girl for that matter, to have that sort of contact with an adult. Secondly I have always wondered if the love that Tom and I have for each other, for him at least something he just might grow out of and if I'd pushed past the boundaries, how might that have affected him in years to come. No I always wanted him only to be happy and well -adjusted and if I can keep his love as his step Dad then I'll be a very fortunate guy."

"Never the less this hurts you neh?"

"I can't deny it. Little point in that because I'd be lying to myself."

"I'm sorry Stu. I have upset your life with my interference."

"No you haven't, not really. Look at it this way. It was going to happen at some point, this situation might have accelerated it somewhat but actually that's no bad thing as it happens."

"How is this please?"

"Tom was getting impatient at our abstinence! I was seriously on the brink of giving in to him. In some strange way I'm pleased that this has occurred because now I can put my hand on my heart knowing that I've done the right thing by him. Can you understand Hiro?"

"Yes I fully understand."

"Can we change the subject please? I think we may have found a boat but it's not a done deal just yet. Here, I've some photos of her."

Hiro slowly thumbed through the pictures, his smile getting bigger by the minute."

"Very fine boat Stuart! Very fine indeed! So why is the deal not closed yet?"

"To put it simply? Price. She's well over budget but tomorrow I have a meeting with the owner and I hope to be able to get the price down to something nearer to what we have to spend."

"How overpriced is she?"

"She isn't overpriced exactly. She is worth the money but she IS over budget."

"Yes, yes but by how much?"

"£15.000 over budget."

"This isn't a problem? I have the money remember!"

"I know but we still have to reequip her. The present owner has taken all the bits and pieces away with him. It'll probably set us back another £5000 to get everything sorted. Look if I can swing just that £5000 off the asking price, I'll come and talk to you again. Is that okay?"

"Very well, you are the expert after all! Just be sure you do talk to me neh?!"

Harley Street, London. Home to the most expensive private clinics in England. You can almost smell the money! Hiro's very swish Lexus was probably the cheapest car in the road!

The doctor was nice enough and explained how the treatment would go and in what order. Mae was to immediately start HRT to supress his male hormones gradually replacing them with female ones. Physical changes would be fairly obvious within months. All body hair other than pubic hair and armpits would be curtailed, her breasts would start to develop, hips broaden, waist would slim down and her bum would retain the feminine curves that she already had. At that point and at the discretion of the doctor, she would undergo the final stage, that of reconstructive surgery.

This part would only be carried out after exhaustive counselling to make absolutely sure that Mae was ready and willing to undergo that change.

Hiro explained my part in all of it and I left the clinic armed with a mountain of literature I needed to read and fully understand. I was now the point of contact. Not Hiro.

I was back on board before Tom got back. It was a pity Mae wasn't with him because I felt some difficult questions were going to be asked, yes about the visit to Harley Street but also about Tom's obvious affection for Mae. I really wasn't looking forward to this and I just hoped that I could keep my emotions in check.

Tom came leaping onto the boat just as I was making a pot of tea. "Oh great! Tea I need big time! How did everything go?"

"Okay I guess. Pretty much as I expected actually. You want me to tell you about it?"

"No, not right now. I want to ask you something first if you don't mind."

"Okay, fire away mate."

"Stu this is REALLY difficult for me but I know that I upset you Saturday evening and I feel so bad about it but I don't know what I should do."

At this point Tom threw himself into my arms in floods of tears. It took an age for him to calm down but it allowed me to have little cry as well, safe in the knowledge that he wouldn't notice.

Eventually he came back to reality. I wanted this over very badly so I spoke first.

"Okay mate? Everything is fine. No need to get all upset, honest!"

But Stu? I think I love Mae. There is something that has really got to me since she started looking like a girl and her haircut just did it for me. I'm sooooo sorry?? I've betrayed you haven't I!"

"No Tom, you haven't done anything of the sort. You know why I didn't want for use to get really physical now, don't you? There was always this possibility and I wanted you to grow up safe in the knowledge that if it was that you were gay, things might have progressed but if you weren't, then you were free to go your own way unspoilt by my interference either mentally or physically. Alright I was upset at the time because it came like out of the blue. Remember it was only a few days ago that you wanted to go further. That's all mate?"

"I know Stu. That was very wrong of me. Do you know why I said those things to you?"

"Go on?"

"It was because I thought that if we were to have sex together, my feelings for Mae would go away and everything would be alright again. I was wrong wasn't I?"

I had to smile! Tom never changes! Simplistic to the end!

"I wouldn't say wrong, maybe misguided! You see it wouldn't have worked Tom, you would still have those feelings for Mae and the only thing that would've changed would be that it would have hurt me so much more so be happy!"

"Do you really mean that? You don't hate me or anything?"

"Hate you? God no! If you're happy then so am I and I'm REALLY pleased that we didn't do anything together because I can be happy that you've found your true self. Now it seems you've got yourself a girlfriend, I think you should read through some of this lot so you know what to expect but don't go tiring yourself out, you've got some negotiating to do tomorrow or had you forgotten?!"

Well I should be happy, shouldn't I? I had not one but two wonderful teenagers to look after plus I had a clear conscience! The more I concentrated on the positive aspects of the situation, the happier I became to the point where Tom gave me a sharp rebuke about my tuneless humming!

Bed time and Tom really didn't know what to do. Give up my bed for the guest bed or stay put with me. I helped him out. "Look mate, it's entirely up to you. You feel the need to go and sleep in the guest bed? Then go ahead but if you want to stay with me then that's okay too. Your choice."

"So it wouldn't be wrong for me to stay with you? I mean after what I've told you?"

"No it wouldn't be wrong or rather it would ONLY be wrong if you didn't want to but did anyway. Got it?!"

Tom grinned at me.

"Easy choice to make then. I stay put right here with you!"

"Sweet! Just one point though. How does Mae feel about you?"

"She told me she loves me like ages ago. We never done anything Stu? Honest?"

"That doesn't matter. It's just that if we bought 'Calypso Queen' you might want to think of moving on to her as well and especially if you both felt the same way about each other?"

"But then you'd be lonely and I'd hate to think of you like that?"

"Thanks mate but I wouldn't be alone, not really. You guys would be right next door and I know that you still love me even if that love has changed a little like you don't want me to bonk you anymore but a pure and special love. You're still very special to me and so is Mae and look, I'm happy for both of you so don't even think I'd be lonely, alright?"

"Okay. If you're really sure."

"I am!"

The following morning I had Tom take the boat down to the service quay for a pump-out and diesel while I went shopping.

Passing by the brokerage dock I could see people eyeing up 'Calypso Queen' and my stomach instantly tied itself into a knot. 'PLEASE don't go offering the asking price??' was my only thought until I got back and went in to talk to the broker.

"No you're alright Stu. They had a top whack of £45.000 to spend. They just looked at her out of interest! A little bird tells me you're meeting up with Maggie and the Doc later? Am I right?"

"Word gets about fast on the cut still then? Yes you're right. We're meeting over the pub later on."

"Hope your negotiating skills are up to the mark then? You will have your work cut out methinks!"

"I'm not doing the negotiating, - Tom is."

"You're kidding me! Tom's a really bright kid and a fantastic helmsman but surely you draw the line at something like this, don't you?"

"I was out-argued. Little sod boxed me into a corner. I had little option but to go along with it!"

"Well good luck to him. He might just pull it off. You never know!"

"To be honest, he never fails to surprise me! I once thought of sending him to do an RYA Helmsman's course but then seeing him at work, I thought that given his natural ability, he would probably teach the instructor a thing or three! He's just a bloody natural!"

"Natural negotiator as well?"

"I'll tell you tomorrow! Win or lose, here we go!"

"Indeed! Can I make an aside comment Stu? They do make a nice couple, your two step kids?"

"Yeah you're right! They are also quite a responsibility as well! Teenage kids and their mood swings! I'm SURE I never had them!?"

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