by Andrew Foote
My thoughts were interrupted as Aruno stood and walked to the edge of the sea wall. The tide was in, and the full moon was playing on the surface of the water making it shimmer with silver.
Sometimes, living here brings with it these very unique moments. The air is relatively unpolluted as just about all industry took a hike up the M5 Motorway some years back and that, together with the predominant South-westerly winds blowing directly off the Atlantic, there's nothing to hide the heavens and I suppose this is where or how interest in astronomy came about.
As a small boy, I grew up with the sound of foghorns which echoed off the cliffs, even though some of these were some distance out to sea but now they've been replaced by buoys with satellite GPS so ships or boats can pick them up on plotters and other navigation aids, but I miss that sound. I miss a lot of how things used to be here.
I watched Aruno as he looked out over the water and tried to imagine how he must be feeling. Despite my love/hate relationship with this place, to be dragged away from it and made to resettle in Manchester, London, Glasgow or even Exeter would have me in panic mode so how must he be feeling?
I watched as his gaze followed something I couldn't see from where I sat but then he leaped up and jumped clear over the wall and onto the sand.
This had to be at least a ten-foot drop and he could've hurt himself but then I saw him running, following the surf until he reached a point where an old winch chain emerged from the water then knelt down and picked something up. Whatever it was he'd found, he held aloft then sprinted up the slipway and back to where I was sitting.
"A crab Simeon, a big crab! Big enough to eat perhaps?"
"Definitely big enough but it wouldn't be right."
"Because crabs only come ashore to lay their eggs. This is a female and she ought to be allowed to bury herself in the sand and lay her eggs before returning to the sea. If we kill it now we would be losing out on the next generation, so maybe we should put her back where you found her."
Aruno looked thoughtful then smiled.
"Yes. We must put her back.
Will you come with me?"
We walked down onto the beach and Aruno set the crab back down next to the chain then we watched as it scuttled off making a beeline for a rock pool where it dug its way beneath the sand.
"Come the morning she should be safely back at sea. At high tides, the water will keep her eggs damp then at low tide, the sun will keep them warm like an incubator."
I pointed to the edge of the water.
"Look Aruno? Many more are coming. Tonight is a special night and one I've never witnessed before!
They say that it's caused by the lunar cycle and the position of the moon in the sky that triggers this phenomenon. A little piece of magic!"
"I think that all nature is magic. There is an order to everything even if we can't understand it."
He shared my bed that night. I didn't feel guilty; I think that having been up for a straight twenty hours made sleep top of my priority list.
Again I woke to the sound of gulls at some ridiculous hour. I had turned onto my left side with Aruno laying on his front with his right arm draped over my waist and it felt good. I placed my right arm in parallel and with my hand laying on top of his, I closed my eyes in an attempt to get some more sleep.
The next time I woke, I was acutely aware of Aruno's fingers intertwined with mine. – He was awake.
"How was sleep?"
"Good thanks but not enough of it. And yours?"
"Also good. I could stay here all day."
"Me too but we have a pub to open in a couple of hours."
I went to release our hands but he stopped me.
"Maybe a few more minutes?"
"Okay. Just a few more."
I turned over onto my back to look at him and my heart raced.
"What is the matter?"
"Nothing…… nothing except making choices in life can be difficult."
"Why is it difficult?"
"Because sometimes there are two voices in your head. The first is telling you to do something but then, the second voice is telling you not to."
Aruno looked at our hands, our finger still locked together.
"Two voices yes, but Simeon? Only one voice is able to speak from deep inside your soul, from your heart.
What does that voice say?"
"It's telling me to do what I really want to do."
"What is it you really want?"
"I, I really want to kiss you."
"Then you should do it…… do it now."
I turned over so I was facing him and put my free hand around his shoulders, leaned in and placed my lips on his.
No open mouths, not a tongues-down-throat kiss but it had changed my life. I was no longer a kiss-virgin and that virginity had been lost to the most beautiful boy that had and will ever walk God's earth.
Aruno looked into my eyes and smiled broadly. "Now, was that such a difficult thing to do?"
"No. It was wonderful!"
"No it wasn't Simeon. It was perfect but we have a pub to open or had you forgotten?"
"Completely lost to the moment. Can I have one more later?"
"Only one? You are a disappointment to me!"
We opened on time and it was good to see a steady flow of customers. Most were our regulars but the nice weather had obviously persuaded day trippers to take to the lanes.
Cath appeared just as we opened saying she wouldn't stay long but then we started being asked for food and normally we don't do it on Fridays but Cath took over asking them if they'd settle for sandwiches or burger and chips because then she'd do the kitchen thing.
We had a pretty good morning but by two o'clock things tapered off so I decided to shut up shop until the evening session by which time, my Mum should be back.
Nothing ever goes to plan and just as we'd finished bottling up, the phone rang.
"Admiral Nelson at Tresgillith? How may I help you?"
"Hello Simeon. Uncle Paul here. How's things?"
"Hi Uncle. Yes, all good thanks, and you?"
"Me? Oh I'm fine which is more than can be said for most who were at the party last night I'm afraid.
Everybody who was there with the exception of my brother Pete and I are down with a serious dose of Delhi-belly, your dear Mother being one of the worst cases. Sickness, a serious dose of not being able to vacate bathrooms, I even had to go to the Supermarket to buy more loo-rolls!
The bottom line is, I've had the doctor in and he's recommended that the only thing that can be done is for all afflicted go on a water-only diet until they stop chucking up and only then can they progress to a boiled rice-only thing.
She's in no fit state to drive and probably won't be for a couple of days but she's worried you won't be able to cope."
"Oh dear. She should take more water with it I guess! Joke only.
Just tell her we'll be fine. I really don't need a case of Plymouth-Ebola on the premises and just so long as you're happy to hang on to her, that's fine by me."
"So long as you're sure, she can camp here for as long as necessary."
"It's cool. I've got my friend Cathy and her brother here and I know they'll be happy to pitch in so nothing to worry about.
Tell Mum I love her and I hope she feels better soon."
"I'll pass it on and I'll call tomorrow and give you an update."
I walked through to the bar where Cath and Aruno were relaxing with a drink.
"How's it hanging for tonight Cath?"
"Now let me see.
Tresgillith on a Friday night?
Either I hang around the bus stop and hope romance comes my way or…… I help out here!
No competition, the bus-stop wins!!
Sod-off Simeon! What time do you want me here?"
"Thanks! Around seven or there-abouts?"
"Cool. I'll be here."
Aruno looked sideways at me.
"Me? Do you need me here as well?"
"You? You're a part of the furniture so of course I need you here. Never think otherwise okay? Cathy might have had a hot date so I had to check."
"Oh yeah right!
I have a poem for you.
'A handsome young merman appeared from the sea.
He beckoned and said, "will you go out with me?"
I looked then replied, "Go home and we'll see."
"Tonight's at the 'Nelson', not for you, but for me."'
I laughed fit to break ribs but Aruno looked puzzled.
We left it alone but then Cath looked at him. "Are you going to come back with me tonight once the pub is closed or would you rather stay here?"
"I'll come back if that is what you want me to do but…… I would like to be here.
I don't want you to think that I don't want to be with you but……"
Cath cut him short. "I know that but I do understand, I really, really do understand! You stay here with Simeon alright?"
She looked at me and grinned.
"More power to you!
Thank you, my Mr Special Guy!"
A busy lunch session generally means a quiet evening so with only a handful of people ordering food, it meant I had time to chat to the locals and an opportunity to introduce Aruno.
He was quiet but friendly, obviously unsure of his ground so I left him to do most of the serving so he wasn't constantly being bombarded with questions.
Cathy was circulating from table to table. The old boys liked her company and I reckon they felt flattered that she'd spend time with them, but then, that's where knowledge comes from.
I know that my understanding of the sea, my boat and all things Cornish life was directly attributable to these people. These are things that would be lost come their passing so I used to listen intently.
Getting them to leave could be challenging but we had honed a well tried and tested method that would see them out of the door quick enough.
We would count heads and pour a measure of rum for each of them and then we'd tell them that if they followed me out, they could have this nightcap on the house; either that or they'd be removed forcefully.
It's funny really, someone told me that I looked like the Pied Piper of Hamelin with yours truly, tray of drinks in hand and with eight or ten old men trouping along behind me but then, once they had settled, we'd lock up for the night.
Tonight was no different but this time I had Aruno play the Piper – Play not pay!
Hilarious doesn't do it justice!
He's so agile, his movements so fluid and graceful, he almost danced out of the door with these elderly guys hot on his heels.
It didn't end there.
As they gathered by the table, he danced amongst them with the tray of drinks held aloft, he then wagged his finger at them and said "First you must sit otherwise no drinks. Now enjoy please and be careful as you go back home."
We took turns under the shower with both of us anxious to wash away the grime of a hard-work day. I used it first then while Aruno was using it, I swapped the duvet for a cotton sheet as the heat was oppressive, unusual in mid-June but then settled in to reading through a document that had arrived in the post.
He joined me in bed some ten minutes later, propped himself up on his elbow to see what I was studying.
"What are you looking at?"
"What this? It's just updates I need to do to the Lowrance plotter on the boat. Not particularly interesting."
"Will you read it to me?"
"I could but I'm not sure what it all means!
Do you like being read to?"
"Yes, very much.
Back in my village, the elders took turns in telling stories to us. They were mostly about how they caught wild animals, how brave they were in battle – things like that. I think they made them up but I enjoyed them."
"I'll find something interesting and next time you stay with me, I'll read to you okay?"
"I would like that very much!"
"So talking of your village? Do you have any photographs of it?"
"I don't but Mother has. Why do you ask?"
"Because I want to get some idea about what it was like."
"I will tell you what I know then.
We lived on the second biggest island in an…… what was the word Mother used...... oh yes, an archipelago of twenty-one islands that were about two hundred miles from the mainland.
The biggest island was called Fernando de Noronha and that is where all our supplies came from and where we would take things to trade, our island didn't have a name.
Mostly it was forest with rivers and lakes, high mountains and deep gorges.
We had much rain but not every day.
Our village was right on the beach near where the river joined the sea. It was beautiful and one day I'll return and never come back to England."
His voice was so full of love for this place, the way he'd pause as if picturing it in his head, but it was sending me into that twilight zone and although I fought the temptation, I was beginning to drift off to sleep, that was until I felt his lips on mine.
This time though, the kiss lingered and I was aware of his tongue trying to find mine. Had I been fully awake, I might've resisted entry but my body was telling me to open up to him and so it was, right at that moment, as our tongues danced, my life was changed forever.
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