Loneliness - Moving On
by Andrew Foote
That night we ate alone on 'Spook' and once we'd cleared the washing up we headed to bed.
Our talk that morning had lifted me so high that all I wanted was to feel Jus in my arms, naked as the day he was born, I needed him to make love to me and he didn't disappoint. It was almost as if it were the first time but without the pain or discomfort. He was built for me down stairs. Uncut and about six-plus inches with a nice girth made him my ideal lover but the best was I DID LOVE HIM!! He was everything I needed, everything I wanted.
We woke the following morning, we hadn't hardly moved. I managed to disentangle myself from Jus's arms and legs, hurriedly got dressed, put a light under the kettle and resurrected the stove so the boat would be sort of warm for when Jus surfaced. I pulled back one of the curtains and noticed it had snowed overnight, a good three or four inches covered the ground. My first thought was 'Bugger! That means the fencing won't be finished today' but that was followed by the realisation that as we only worked a half day on Sundays, we could go tobogganing on Balmore Hill, take the dogs and see if we could train them to pull us along.
I made the tea and took the mugs through into the bedroom.
"Shake your arse lazy bones. The sun is up and the sky's blue and I've made us some tea."
"Doesn't look very sunny."
"So I lied. Actually it's snowed overnight."
"Oh brilliant! I love snow. It always brings out the little kid in me! Pity we have to work today."
"Yes but its Sunday and we only work through until one so how about we go tobogganing this afternoon? Maybe the guys will come as well."
"Oh cool! I'd forgotten it was Sunday. Good plan. We'll have to ask if any of the others have a toboggan. There's one in the boathouse but then that's it unless you've got one."
"There was one but I'll have to check with my Mum as to where they put it. I've not seen it in a while. Last I saw it, it was on 'Casio's' roof but it's not there anymore."
"Hardly likely someone stole it. I hope it doesn't melt during the morning."
"Toboggan's don't melt you tit!"
"Oh dear. You don't improve do you! THE SNOW! I hope THE SNOW doesn't melt!"
"Sorry. I think it's too cold. Pissing freezing outside. C'mon. Drink your tea and I'll get us some breakfast."
We arrived early at the Mill noticing that the water wheel wasn't turning at its usual speed. Icicles hanging from the paddles making it run slower. I thought about chipping them away but Jus thought this wasn't a good idea given the water temperature.
"You miss your footing and fall in, you won't last too long. Leave it and for now switch over to the grid, wait until Tim gets here and see what he says. I know all about 'cold' and I don't want to go losing you for the sake of a few quid's worth of electricity."
"No, your right I suppose. I just thought it's such a shame to buy power when normally it's us selling it!"
We walked through the Mill turning on the lights as we went but then I spotted something.
"Hey Jus? What the hell? Someone's been here overnight. Look, all the packaging has been done. Nothing missing that I can see but all the excess units have been done, boxed and sorted into individual orders ready for shipping out. Who would've done that do you think?"
"We did you dummy!"
Jus and I spun around to see Joe, Matt, Gill, Kirstin together with Ali and Kate standing in the doorway.
"Call it an early Christmas present. Matthew was so bothered about the backlog, we came up here last evening and cleared it and before you go mentioning payment? None required. A gesture of good faith. Our way of thanking you."
I was on the verge of tears. I walked over and gave Kirstin a big hug which surprisingly she accepted without flinching.
"I'm not sure what to say. Why didn't you say something? We would've come up and helped."
"That was the whole point Alexis! You blokes have enough to think about without the extra work. It didn't take very long given Alison and Katie were helping. It gave you a chance to relax, chill out and have some time together."
Matt looked at Kirstin and I swore I saw adoration in his eyes.
'No chance of bagging her mate!' passed through my head but then she reached over and taking his hand, kissed him on the cheek.
"Okay, okay! I know what you're thinking and perhaps I do bat for both teams but Matt is really sweet and so he and I are going to give it a go. Satisfied??"
"I'm pleased for both of you. I think it's wonderful that you feel that way about each other. It makes our business more of a family thing."
"All we have to do now is pair off Joe and Gill, we'll really be rocking!"
Joe looked at Jus quizzically.
"I'm not into blokes so that rules me out. You guys aren't into girls so Gillian is side-lined! TAKE ON MORE STAFF!!! One tasty lady for me and a hunky bloke for Gill. Problem solved!"
There was a pregnant pause in the conversation, both Jus and I realising they were right, we did need more staff but then Jus defused he situation.
"Anyone up for tobogganing after work? Balmore Hill at one-thirty? C'mon? Let's lighten up here!"
The morning went well. The telephone didn't ring, no tedious paperwork to sort out so Jus and I, Kirstin and Matt packed the balls while Ali and Kate, with Joe on the moulder did some general tidying up and so by one thirty we were on the hill.
Matt had left early to grab two toboggans he had, I left around the same time to get the hounds leaving the others to lock up.
It was busy up there!
The first snow of winter had brought people out in droves.
We had a blast but after a while of taking turns messing around I noticed Jus had disappeared along with two of the dogs.
I was a bit concerned but not frightened, I knew where he'd be so I made my excuses and walked up to the top of the hill.
It wasn't many minutes before I picked out the paw-prints of two dogs and the 'heel-to-toe' prints of Jus. His were easy to spot as he didn't walk with a gait, more one foot in front of the other and directly in line rather than splayed in any way.
They obviously weren't in any hurry, the snow unturned other than their footprints but it still bothered me as to why he'd not said anything.
I found them exactly where I'd expected them to be. The 'family tree'.
He had found a plastic bag which he was sitting on, his knees under his chin as he gave both the dogs an ear-scratch.
"You okay? I noticed you'd gone and was a bit concerned."
"Sorry Alex. I'm fine honestly I just needed to, I don't know, sort out something in my head, that's all."
"This is a wondrous place. Our first real encounter, the story about your Mum and Dad and then I ended up here after running away from school. Why did I do that? After all this is a place of good memories, a happy place, a special place to both us and your family so I needed to understand why I did what I did instead of coming back to 'Spook'. It would've been a much shorter walk, I would've been warm and safe with the person I love, getting the medical attention I needed so why here?"
"Did you find answers?"
"I think so."
"Oh c'mon Jus? Spill the beans!"
"Sorry but I was just teasing you! You've got to try and put yourself in my shoes."
"Too small for me but carry on."
"Arsehole! Look, I was scared, I hurt, exhausted even, so whilst I don't remember fully, I made my way to a place that was that happy place. I've always felt good here, you know that cos we always visit it when we run the dogs, I feel content and at one with the surroundings, at peace with myself if you will. I needed that feeling back then and revisiting it today? Well, I'm able to move on now."
"But you almost died here Jus? How do you square that then?"
"I don't recall that bit but thinking about it now, what a beautiful place to end your life! That's all history now. We've got each other, a life and friends so let's join them and see who's the fastest down that hill!"
An hour later, freezing cold and soaked through to the skin, we all made our farewell's and made for our respective homes, hot and relaxing showers for us, doubtless deep and equally hot baths for the others, lucky bastards! Ali and Kate won the race but I reckoned they cheated by Matt and Kirstin shoving them off but what the fuck? It was a real opportunity for all of us to relax and really get to know each other, 'Bonding' or 'Team-building' is the phrase of the moment but we were all of us teenagers, we just needed to have fun with a capital 'F'!!
Back on 'Spook', showered and changed we sat around reading before Jus put his book down and spoke.
"I need your advice about something."
I put my book down and turned to him.
"Okay. Fire away."
"Look there was another reason I went to the tree today and on this issue I didn't get an answer. Yesterday when I went up to the house there was a letter waiting for me, it was from the police."
"Oh so I was right. You are a mad axe-murderer then!"
"My little secret's out. Damn! No it was to do with what happened at school, those boys who kicked me around.
The police want to know if I want them prosecuted. Apparently there's a case for grievous bodily harm and at a push, attempted murder, all pretty serious stuff."
"I'd all but forgotten about that possibility. How do you feel about it?"
"Mixed feelings. There's a part of me that thinks they shouldn't be allowed to get away scot-free, well okay they were expelled which I suppose is a sort of punishment but then if it went to court I'd have to give evidence and everything would be out in the open. Me, you, Paul…… everything would be up for public scrutiny and I'm not so sure I'm ready for that yet."
"Would it all come out do you think? What if they put in a guilty plea? Very little evidence is heard if that were to happen."
"Yes, I understand that but there's no guaranteeing that would be the case. I know if the situation was turned on its head, I'd fight the charges and knowing those boys as I do, my take on it is that their parents would employ the services of a top-notch barrister and take it to the wire. The other thing to think about is what we are, what we do is illegal and so would we be open to prosecution?"
"Oh God Jus. I hadn't thought about that, us getting into trouble that is. Maybe we could deny our involvement with each other."
"Oh yeah! I know neither of us are particularly religious but you swear on the Bible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and if we were found to be lying then we could be done for perjury or something and anyhow, I'm too much in love to deny my feelings for you."
"So it looks as if they win no matter what you decide. You've been boxed into a corner."
"You mean we've been boxed into a corner. You'd have to give evidence too remember? You found me and they would ask how and why you knew where I'd be. All rather embarrassing don't you think?"
"There must be somebody we could talk to, get advice or something?"
"There must be but who?"
"What if we had a word with that copper, you know, the one who caught me night swimming and also took me to the hospital."
"But would he know Alex? Not wishing to sound in any way disrespectful but he's just a beat-bobby. He mightn't know about those sort of things."
"No but he might know someone sympathetic who does."
"But we're still admitting a criminal act and he might feel obligated to report it. I'm so bloody confused!"
"Ever thought of being magnanimous and forgiving them?"
"I don't believe they'd appreciate a magnanimous gesture. They'd see it as a sign of weakness. They probably already think they've got us by the balls without us more or less confirming it."
"Can I see this letter?"
"Yes of course you can but I hid it away in my school trunk up at the house. Do you want me to go and get it?"
"No don't go up there specially. It's cold out there apart from anything else. Grab it on our way up to the Mill in the morning."
"Okay. I must admit I didn't fancy going out there this time of night!"
The following morning we sat in the office where Jus handed me the letter from the police. It pretty much said what Jus had implied, that there were grounds for prosecution. Certainly a good case for a charge of Grievous Bodily Harm could be brought against Jus's assailants, the possibility of a charge of attempted murder could be considered but nowhere could I see anything that referred to the cowardly tub of lard who'd organised it all, just the boys who'd carried out the attack.
"You've gotta phone this guy Jus. He makes no mention of the kid who was the ringleader."
"I noticed that. He's the one I'd really like to see hung out to dry as well. Gillian? Could you make yourself scarce for half an hour? Private phone call to make."
"Oh sure. I'll nip into Caversham. We need some milk anyway."
"Great! Thanks love."
With Gill gone, Jus lifted the phone and rang Newbury Police station.
"Oh yes. Good morning. I wonder if it's possible to have a word with Detective Chief Inspector Locksbrook please. My name is Justin Armstrong…… Yes I can hold the line. Thank you."
"For Christ's sake put it on speaker Jus!! I want to hear this too!"
"Hello young man. I'm Bob Locksbrook, how can I help you?"
"Hello Sir. Thanks for your letter, I've got it in front of me and I've a couple of questions."
"Okay. Fire away."
"Well firstly a charge of attempted murder seems a bit harsh. I mean I don't believe they intended to try and kill me."
"Quite possibly not but we don't have to prove intent. Consider what would have happened if your friend hadn't found you and indeed you had died. That would have been a straight forward case of murder and a prosecution would have been automatic. As things stand, you're alive and well having made a full recovery also given the ages of those involved, we are giving you the option to agree or otherwise to us bringing charges against them."
"I see but you make no mention of the boy who was the ringleader. He wasn't involved in the actual attack and so does that mean he can just walk away from it all?"
"Absolutely not. In his case we aren't giving you options. He is under notice that he may well face charges of inciting violence, procuring an act of Grievous Bodily Harm and / or Attempted Murder. We will decide what to do once we see the weight of evidence."
"What happens if he puts in a plea of Not Guilty? Will I have to give evidence as well?"
"Yes. Also your friend Alexis. Does that worry you?"
"Rather a lot actually. Can I speak absolutely off the record?"
"You have my word that whatever you say during this conversation is completely confidential so tell me what's worrying you."
"Completely confidential? Even if I admit to a criminal act?"
"How old are you Justin?"
"Then you've nothing to worry about. You are under the age of criminal responsibility until you're sixteen. If you admitted to something really serious you might receive a police caution but that doesn't appear on you records so relax. Now you don't have to go into specifics if you'd rather not but you'd be helping me if I had some understanding of what's bothering you. Do you want to tell me?"
"I rather think I should but it's sort of difficult."
"I understand. Try anyway."
"Okay. To put it simply, Alexis and I are rather more than just friends. Do you get what I'm trying to tell you?"
"Yes. Your relationship with each other is very close, loving maybe?"
"In a nutshell, yes."
"Please don't be concerned. I fully understand. Many, many boys and some girls experiment with each other sexually and if say you were eighteen or twenty and Alexis fourteen and you were in a relationship like you've just alluded to then it may well be you'd find yourself in hot water but there is such a thing we call age appropriate meaning that given your differences in age is so very small, we turn a blind eye to it. It's consensual so why bother about it. It's hardly abuse in the accepted sense after all!"
"Thanks. You're being very kind but what if anything came out in court?"
"What came out Justin? Revelations to do with yours and Alexis' relationship?"
"Yes. I mean I understand we mightn't be prosecuted but what reputations we have would be trashed for ever."
"Couldn't happen for a number of reasons. First off we aren't interested in why you were attacked. There's little point in trying to use that as a defence. Any Judge worth his salt would see straight through it in an instant and would insist that any mention of your umm, activities were removed from the records. All we need to do is prove without any shadow of doubt that you were attacked and by the defendants."
"But the press. What about them? They'd surely report on it?"
"Again not. They are not allowed to name you for legal reasons, you're both too young and anyway, in that instance the Judge would ban them for reporting such evidence.
Please be assured that neither you Justin, nor your friend Alexis need fear the judicial process. You will both be guided through your evidence by the prosecuting barrister and I can only assume the Judge will be very sympathetic so as not to allow for aggressive cross examination."
"Thank you Sir. I'm really pleased I've spoken to you."
"You're more than welcome Justin. Will you pass on our conversation to Alexis?"
"He's here with me now Sir. We've got the call on speaker."
"Good. Hello Alexis. Are you happy with what's been said?"
"Hello Sir. Yes I'm very comfortable with that."
"Fine. Now all that is needed is for you Justin to tell us how you wish us to proceed."
"I think I should talk to my Father and Grandfather so if you could give me a few days?"
"Of course. There's no rush but once you've come to a decision, call me and let me know, won't you."
"I will. Thank you Sir. Goodbye."
Jus put the phone down and looked at me.
"Well? What do you think I should do?"
"I've never met these boys but they almost took you away from me so my instinctive reaction is to agree to their prosecution but is that anger talking? It isn't right to make decisions based purely on emotions. I think a chat with your Dad and Sir George is the best way to approach this. See what they have to say, then go with your heart."
"Plan. You're right. I hate all of them but I'm not going to jump the gun and do something I might regret later. Thanks Alex!"
Just then Joe poked his head around the door.
"Delivery guy's here. We've got our P2R3 just as I'd convinced myself we'd run out!"
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