by Andrew Foote
Slowly we came back down to earth. For me, it had been a revelation, an almost mind-altering occurrence and as Justin told me later, yes he'd been there in the past but he and I together, as opposed to his casual relationship at school, had made it an equally intense and special moment.
We were both of us too young to produce anything that would draw attention to our illicit and illegal activities so once we'd regained composure, we made our way back to Mapledurham.
During the walk through the wood, if the track was undulating we'd hold hands, where it broadened out we'd have our arm around each other's waists.
If anyone saw us and we'd been of opposite sex, we would be perceived as 'loves young dream' but as it was, we would be seen as a couple of young perverts fit only for therapy and a period in an institution so with that in mind, we kept a close eye-out for other people walking the path.
On reaching Mapledurham Mill we again set the dogs loose and sat on the bank by the millpond while they worked off what energy they had left.
Justin was the first to break the silence.
"So what d'you think?"
"Us. What happened back there."
"I wanted you. I needed to kiss you again and….. that was the right place, not only for that but, you know, what we did."
"No. None whatsoever. Should there be?"
"Paul. You know, at school, well he'd turn off afterwards like he'd had his fun and needed me to leave. You don't feel like that do you?"
"You are kidding me right? I want it again and again and again! He must've been a pretty strange kid not to want you. Ahh…… Sorry. I forgot about his sis."
"No problem Alex. I didn't want him either!!
Hey what's with calling me Jus then?""
"When? I never did, did I?"
"Yes you did, like when you were, cumming?"
"Yeah. When I touched you dick and you, you got that amazing feeling. You called me Jus!"
"Oh God did I? I'm sorry!"
"Don't be. I like the way you said it, what with what was going down between us at the time. It was so special. Will you call me it again?"
"I'm frightened. I'll be heartbroken if we get separated…… Jus."
"Sweet. Just call me that like forever?"
I gave Jus as I now called him a quick hug.
"One other thing? What's with the tree, the 'family tree' then?"
I needed to take you there. I wanted our first…………. you know, really special moment to be there. It was the only place to be."
"Okay. Nice and secluded but why that particular tree?"
"I told you I came as a bit of a surprise to my Mum and Dad?
Well when they were both at university here in Reading, they kinda fell in love with each other and what with both of them lodging with different families in town and not allowed to fraternise outside of public places, they'd find somewhere quiet to…. get together.
My Mum lost her virginity to my Dad making love under that tree and I came along nine months later as a consequence, hence 'family tree'.
I've just lost my innocence in the same place I was conceived. I took you there deliberately. Seemed fitting."
All the time I'd been relating this to Jus, I'd sort of been staring out into space but now I turned to look at him and he had tears streaming down his face, silently crying.
Without caring who might see us, I reached out to him and pulled him to me kissing the tears from his face.
"Look I never meant to upset you? It just seemed right at the time. If I made a mistake, I'm really sorry."
"You took me? You took me there so…… I mean you took……. Oh God! That is just the most beautiful thing anyone has ever done for me!
I mean you didn't like exactly lose your virginity…………."
"No but it was the same, you know, similar, special, the first time I've ever been touched like 'down there' and the first time I've…….. What did you say it was? Oh yeah, cummed."
"Oh wow. I feel really privileged."
I thought for a couple of minutes, knowing what I wanted to say but unsure how to phrase it without Jus taking it the wrong way.
"Umm, there's just one other thing. That was a complete one-off, not that we can't go there whenever we want because we can but, oh shit. Please don't misunderstand me but no matter where all this goes and by that I mean, well, we're young and things mightn't work out the way we plan but I need you to know that I can never take anybody else there, no matter if you get bored with me, we split up for whatever reason, I will never visit that spot with anyone other than you. It cannot and will not ever happen."
"It's hard for me to even contemplate us breaking up?"
"And for me with knobs on. You see, that's why it had to be there, it could only have happened there. Call it superstition, call it what you will but see my parents? Not what you'd call an auspicious start to adult life was it? My Mum getting banged up at the age of eighteen, giving birth to me right slap in the middle of her university course and outside of wedlock and in 1960? Shit man? To make a life together given those circumstances, well let's just say their chances of making it were very slim. Thing was, they were and still are devoted to each other. Mum could've had me aborted and carried on, no one the wiser, no one talking behind their backs and pointing but she didn't. They both parried the insults, determined to make the most of their life together so now do you see? We are going to have it rough if we're going to make it. We need all the luck and strength we can get. If there's magic there at that tree, we now have some of it. They made it and so can we if that's what we both want."
A silence that was deafening seemed to envelope the little village of Mapledurham. The world had stopped turning, time was taking a break from its relentless progress and it was as if all life had paused momentarily then Justin sprang up, scaring the crap out of the dogs, ripped off his shorts and dived into the millpond.
"Come on? What are you waiting for? The water's fantastic!!"
Seeing his enthusiasm, I followed his lead, tearing off my clothes and diving in after him, the dogs following on sensing our sudden burst of energy.
We messed about, throwing each other around and chasing the dogs around the pond until Jus cornered me up by the waterwheel.
Naked, he wrapped his arms around me and drew me into an embrace.
"You thinking about a career in politics?"
"You jest, right? Bunch of arseholes if you ask me! What made you say that?"
"It's just that after your speech, you know, about the tree? I'd vote for you no matter what my political leanings!"
"Whoa man?? Maybe I could campaign on behalf of human rights but politics? Hahaha!! You have to be yanking my chain, right?"
"No. You really can be persuasive you know? I really feel positive about everything for the first time in years and……. Oh God! Here comes a little old lady!!"
"No really! Look over there!"
To my horror, he was right. Coming down the street was a lady 'of a certain age' who was on completely on the wrong side of the road namely, 'our side of the road'!
Naked and with no place to hide, we trod water hoping she wouldn't see us but it wasn't to be.
"Hello boys! Lovely day for it! You know, if I was fifty years younger I'd join you! Enjoy yourselves! Bye-bye."
The shock of seeing her brought us down to ground pretty rapidly. We were thinking how lucky we'd been not to have been sussed but life just isn't fair sometimes but it was only much later we learned that our activities had been reported.
We dressed and headed home, four very tired and very wet dogs in rather less than hot pursuit.
Once back at the house we dried the dogs off then went outside and lay on the lawn.
My Dad who had greeted us as we walked down the drive, now reappeared from around the side of the house in the company of another man whose face seemed vaguely familiar.
As they walked past, this other guy nodded at me before speaking.
"Hello Alexis? Been a while since last we met? Everything cool?"
"Err, yeah I guess so thanks."
"That's nice. Good to see you again. Bye." And with that they strolled off towards the boat.
"Who was that Alex?"
I pulled my best 'haven't got the foggiest' look before replying.
"Search me! He looked familiar but that's about it!"
They seemed to be fairly animated, pointing at our boat, the stern fender and the mooring posts then Dad disappeared below decks, reappearing with a pad of graph paper and a pencil.
He knelt down on the pontoon and sketched something on the pad before resuming their conversation, gesticulating like he was about to hug someone before returning to his sketch.
Obviously happy with it, there was a bit more conversation before the pair of them turned and looked at us, Dad grinning like an idiot, waggling his eyebrows at us.
"I think we're being talked about Jus."
"Oh shit! You don't think that lady………"
"Nah, I don't think that's it but something's baking well enough."
The two of them had obviously decided that any business at the boat had been concluded and walked up in the direction of the boathouse, my Father, tape measure in hand.
As they strolled past us, he again gave me that silly smile and so now, I was seriously intrigued.
"He's acting weird!"
"Shall we go up there and eavesdrop?"
"No, best not. I don't think he'd take kindly to us being sneaky. I'll get it out of him tonight, never fear!"
"Shame but I take your point. Anyway I really should be heading back. That's the one thing Grandmother insists on, punctuality at meal times!"
"Will you be able to come out later?"
"I can't see that would be a problem. Do you want me too?"
"Are you kidding me? I want to be with you all the time!"
"Ditto. When will you be finished with supper?"
"I always do the washing up after that meal, so say about 7.30?"
"I could always come earlier and help you?"
"Really? Oh cool! Okay make it for about ten or a quarter past then!"
"Yeah man, it ROCKS!!" and with that he punched the air, turned and started to walk back to the house but after about half a dozen paces he stopped and turned back towards me.
"Alex? I……. umm……. You know?"
I ran up to him and flung my arms around his neck.
"Yeah me too. Now go before you get your arse chewed!"
We turned and went our separate ways and it was only then I saw my Mum leaning against the stern rail, my blatant display of affection had to have been so very obvious and I wanted a big hole to open up under me and swallow me up. It didn't so I reluctantly walked back to the boat, hardly daring to look he in the eye.
I stepped onto the deck and avoiding her face, went below, Mum following on behind me.
She must have noticed I was on the verge of tears so she sat down and beckoned for me to join her.
"Look Alexis. It's okay, really okay, you know?"
"But you saw."
"Yes I saw, I'd have to be blind not to."
"Look I'm really sorry, okay?"
"Sorry for what? Showing an outward display of affection for someone you love?"
"Okay. If you choose to deny it then fine but think carefully before you do.
If it is you do think of him the way I know you do?" Mum tilted her head to one side before continuing "Then you would be betraying him, you do know that? Could you look him in the eye? Could you live with yourself? No. I know you too well but you see, there is another way. Do you know what that is?"
I shook my head, unable to speak.
"Tell the truth. Stand up and declare it to the world. Be proud of him. Demonstrate to him just how much you treasure him by simply coming out and admitting your true feelings.
I'm not going to tell you everything will be all fine and dandy 'cos it won't but at the very least you will feel good inside, good about yourself.
In life we all have choices, some of them, very difficult ones to make but if you go with your feelings, your conscience and your heart, you will find a way! Never deny what you know inside to be right."
I was falling apart inside. I knew she was right and I had this overwhelming desire to let it all out but my brain refused to co-operate and let me speak. All I could do was look into her face, the tears running down my cheeks like a waterfall.
"Okay son. You go and have a rest on the bed and get it together. No rush, I'm going up to the house for a bit and I'll make sure Dad stays away. Cool?"
All I could do was nod my head and make my way forward crashing face first onto my pillow, the tears refusing to go away.
I must have slept for a while because when I came too I could hear voices, one of them Justin's.
I panicked a bit thinking I'd overslept but on looking at my watch, it said only 6.30.
The sleep had done me a power of good, my eyes were seriously bloodshot but other than that, I felt okay and strangely calm.
I got up and walked through into the dining area, not even wondering why Jus was there or why I couldn't smell a meal on the go.
Jus was chatting away to my Dad, Mum just looked at me and raised her eyebrows.
I smiled at her and nodded my head in the affirmative bringing a broad smile to her face.
"Hey……… God you look like crap! Are you feeling alright?"
"Been better I guess. Look will you come over here and sit opposite me for a minute?"
"Err….. Yes sure I can. Wassup?"
"Quite a bit actually but please, if you never do anything else for me ever again, do this one thing and come and sit down with me?"
Dad looked at me and indicated towards the stern hatch,
"Son? Do you want us to……."
"No Dad. I'd like it if you guys joined us please."
Once we were all seated, Jus and I opposite each other, Mum and Dad likewise, I swallowed hard before beginning my completely unprepared speech.
"Jus, will you put your hands on the table please?"
He looked at me with questions in his eyes but then did as I'd asked.
I reached out and taking his hands in mine, I looked into his eyes. The look of complete horror on his face I will never forget!
"Hey Alex what the f……?" his eyes darting from mine top those of my parents.
"Relax will you? I need to, no I want to, have to do this so chill out man?"
"Listen Jus, Mum and Dad are my witnesses. I didn't scheme this thing up, I never planned it but this is something I need, no I want to tell you.
Damn it Jus, I'm in love with you, do you understand? I love you, I cannot bear the thought of being away from you, not for one second, I need you, get it?"
"You….. you…… I mean your……."
"Yes. Mum and Dad had me figured out. I won't, can't lie to you, my self-preservation instincts told me to run but then, oh DAMN IT, Mum talked to me, made me see sense. Look I'm sorry if I've upset you but I couldn't live a lie. If you go then I'll be devastated but at the very least I will have been true to my feelings for you and true to myself."
"I'm not sure what to say."
Dad spoke up at this point.
"Justin? Look we know about all the shit that went down at Down House, okay?
We both, Kaz and I, sympathise with you and if we are able, will try and make things better.
Look. It was Sir George that let the cat out of the bag. He'd seen a complete transformation in you, going as you were, from a spoilt brat with problems, to a nice, polite and sensitive kid, well ordered and caring.
He put two and two together and the only answer he could come up with was four, you and Alexis or should that be Alex, whatever.
Now for the clincher.
We went for a walk this afternoon."
"Oh God." I groaned
"Yeah we went up Balmore Hill.
We sort of do a passing visit there now and again and we saw you there.
I'd told Alexis about what happened, how he was conceived, a year or so ago and, I'll be honest, I was a bit angry at what we saw but……… hang on to this one, it didn't last more than a few seconds.
I can recognise love when I see it and I know Alexis wouldn't have taken you there, to that same spot unless he was absolutely sure of his feelings towards you. It meant too much to him to sully that place on some casual encounter. Be honest. There are loads of places with better cover to like, get it on? No. I knew that he knew exactly what he was doing was something very special for him and meant so much to him and you know what? We really couldn't be happier.
Then, as if we needed more proof, your antics this afternoon at the mill were spotted by Miss Milligan, spinster of this parish. There's no need to get all hot and bothered over this, she wasn't upset about it, actually she thought it was rather sweet and told us she was really touched by your fondness for each other."
"How much does my Grandfather know about all of this?"
"Everything but again, you've nothing to be concerned about. Everything's cool okay?"
Silence? Bewilderment? Shock maybe?
Mum broke the impasse.
"Jus, you must be starving. You Alexis? Get a decent pair of trousers on yourself and a polo shirt. We're eating out tonight by way of a celebration and before I forget. Jus? You're staying with Alexis tonight on the boat. We're going to the commune for the night so that way you lads can have a bit of space."
"Thanks Mum. I'll go get changed."
I went to stand up but Justin held onto my hands.
"It's my turn now Alex. Please hear me out?
What I want to say isn't so much for your benefit, I've told you already. This more for your Mum and Dad.
Tim? Kaz? That time I was so horrible to Alex, well you see I'd seen him around for a few days before that and it sort of turned me upside down. I knew I was looking at someone really, really special and inside myself, I wanted to rush out and well, you know, get to know him better and stuff but with everything that had gone on at Down House, I was petrified. So scared of rejection and more than that, frightened of whatever the consequences might be so I put up a front. I was deliberately nasty and mean to him it an attempt to get him to leave me alone, to get him to hate me, like it was my way of protecting myself from myself if you can understand that.
Well he couldn't or should that read 'wouldn't' take the hint and………. We are where we are and I just love him so very much."
"We both know you do!
Look Justin, we're going to try and help you. Not just us, but your Grandparents as well. We will help both of you come to that so please try not to labour your head about what's gone down in the past, try and focus on the future, okay? You've both of you found love, don't fight it, go with it."
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