Thilo

by Andrew Foote

Chapter 4

Once at the hospital we had to go through security checks. Moses offered one of the guards a pass and was waved through, but I had to empty my pockets of small change, remove my watch and hand over Thilo's tablet before being ushered through a scanner then 'wanded' for suspicious items secreted about my person!

Moses had security clearance. He had a gun stuffed under his arm, but I was a fifteen-year-old newbie, dangerous and unpredictable!

Huh?

We took the lift to the third floor and walked down a corridor, deserted barring a couple of guys polishing the floor who acknowledged Moses as we passed them.

"Two of our blokes. Can't be too careful."

Coming to a door, Moses punched a code into an alpha-numeric pad then pushed it open.

Another corridor, another door and another access code saw us at the nurse's station where a Staff Nurse welcomed us.

"Nice to see you again Mr Kabundai, and you must be Stephen Broadhurst? Good to have you here. Our young charge is in his room but he's not long come back from physio and he's resting.

Can you wait?"

"Thanks, there's no rush, but if you could point me in the direction of the toilet please?

Well, it's been a long journey!"

"Over there. Please remember to wash your hands? Mr Roker isn't being barrier nursed, but best not to get complacent."

"No worries. My family are farmers, and believe me, the need for hygiene is something that's been banged into my head with a post drill!"

"Ha-ha! Carry on then!"


"If you like, you can go through now as he's just woken."

I stood up, but Moses remained seated.

"Aren't you coming in?"

"I'll let you get acquainted first. I can see him later."

I took a deep breath and went through to Thilo's room.

Holy shit!

Nothing could've prepared me for what I saw, as laying on the bed propped up by pillows, was the most exquisite-looking boy I'd ever laid my eyes on!

Wavy dark blond hair, wide set grey eyes, full red lips and a flawless complexion……

So, what do you want here? I'm about to have a heart attack and you expect me to paint a word-picture?

Get real! I'm sweating like a pig even though it's not exactly warm in here, I've lost the power of speech and want me to act all casual?

"Um, hi. I'm Stephen, Stephen Broadhurst."

"Hi back at you, Stephen Broadhurst!

Why don't you pull up a chair before you collapse?"

He cast his eyes over me; very embarrassing.

"Nice clothes. I half expected you to be in school uniform."

"Yes well, I thought it might be better this way rather than giving you a laugh over how not good I fit into a jacket and tie!"

"You look fit, so why shouldn't you look good?"

"Have you seen what we have to wear all day, every day? Makes us look like throwbacks to the nineteenth century.

I don't believe they've changed the design since King Harrold got his eye shot out."

"Uh-huh. That trendy then!"

"That trendy.

Oh yeah, before I forget? One tablet and two bags of sweets, delivered to you by your own personal courier."

"Thanks. How much do I owe you?"

"Not sure. The accountants are still working on it."

"Ha-ha-ha! I like that you can make me laugh! We're going to be fine!"

"I think so too.

By the way. How's your leg doing?"

"Yeah. Looking good.

Want to see?"

"I'll pass if it's all the same to you. I saw it before, and as I've not long eaten lunch……"

"I'm really sorry. I've been told how disgusting it was and how bad it smelled."

"Worry not.

Anyway, you'll be delighted to hear that your room at Keswick Priory, School for Spoilt Little Rich Brats, has undergone a total makeover."

"Looks good?"

"Very, - that is if you like vomit-coloured carpets and curtains that clash with everything?"

"Wah! Couldn't we swap rooms?"

"Piss off? I like the Down-at-Heel-and-Miserable, so you can forget that idea!"

"I'll cry?"

"You carry on, good-looking. My mind is made up. Call it penitence-paid for making me lose out on much-needed beauty sleep."

"Good-looking? Wow! We're definitely going to be okay!

Can you wait on a minute? I need to check out my tablet."

Thilo sat up in bed and powered up his machine. He scrolled down through stuff I couldn't see, then switched it off and collapsed back onto the pillows.

"Thank fuck for that!

Can you do me another favour Stephen?"

"Courier and now chief provider of The Kind and Thoughtful.

Sure I can.

Ask away."

"Take this back to school with you, then hide it some place where even a ferret couldn't get at it?"

"I know just the place."

"Cheers.

Fancy a sweet? Only I get to eat all the green ones."

"Green sweets and an icky-coloured carpet.

You are going to soo lurve your room!"


I was accosted on the stairs by Mr Amos.

"So, how did your meeting go?"

"Very well. I liked him enormously!"

"How did he seem? Angry or upset?"

"Neither of the above, unless laughing your head off is something you do when you're angry or upset."

"You had him laughing? After all he's been through?"

"Constantly. We've both got the same quirky sense of humour, like we bounced off each other like a comedy duo. He was laughing, I was in near hysterics. All good!"

"Nice to hear.

You better find a good Jokesmith to help expand your repertoire!

When are you going to see him next?"

"Friday and again on Monday, then with luck and a fair wind, we should be able to bring him back here next Wednesday, Sir."

"Let us hope so.

I think it might be a good idea if you penned an email to Mr Roker, let him know how things went. From what Mr King told me, I think he'll be anxious to find out."

"Just as soon as I've changed, I'll sort it out.

There was one other thing that had crossed my mind?"

"Go on?"

"Today we were laughing and fooling around, and I hope that'll continue, but being realistic, there are bound to be times when he feels low, and the most likely time will be at night when there's nothing to take his mind off stuff."

"And your point is?"

"Our rooms. The only thing separating them is a studding partition. I just wondered if it might be something to think about. Open up the rooms into one big one. I don't mind sharing with him, and if he needs to talk in the middle of the night, he wouldn't need to knock my door, I'd already be there."

"Are you sure? I mean, you've worked hard to gain the privilege of having your own room."

"I don't care. I just want to be there for him. We've made a fantastic start, so let's not wreck his chances of getting over what happened for the sake of some plasterboard?"

"Have to talked this over with Thilo?"

"No. I thought it better to run it past you first Sir."

"Then so long as you don't have a change of heart, talk about your idea to him, and if he's in agreement, then I'll have one of the maintenance crew take it down. But then, you do understand that we might have to re-carpet and curtain your room so it matches, don't you?"

"No way! I like Manky and Old!"

"One of these days, young man, that barbed tongue of yours will get you into hot water; that, or a clip around the ear!"

"Bring it on Sir!"

"Go away Stephen! Go now before I do something you could take me to court over!

See you at supper and, nice idea!"

I left him chuckling to himself.

I never realised that Mr Amos was so cool!"


Showered and changed into my rudest tee shirt and a pair of jeans, I went to fire up my laptop. I didn't get that far as my phone farted into life.

"Stephen Broadhurst speaking."

"Stephen! Hans-Peter here!

Such wonderful news and I needed to thank you!

I had Thilo bending my ear for over an hour after you left the hospital, lavishing praise at your feet and saying how excited he was at the prospect of getting back to Keswick.

This is a complete turn-around from the furiously angry and bitter kid I was talking to not three days ago, to someone I recognise as the loving boy he used to be, and all down to you.

How on earth did you manage it?"

"I didn't do anything. We just clicked. It was surreal really, we were laughing and joking after only a couple of minutes. Same sense of stupidity I guess."

"Whatever.

There's perhaps another factor to be taken into account, but let's not pursue that now.

What is your schedule for the coming week?"

"Mornings spent in classes, then all afternoons are taken up by wading my way through my prep, or free time.

Why do you ask?"

"What might you miss if you were out of school all day on Tuesday?"

"Biology. Nothing I can't catch up with really."

"Good.

Thilo is going to be discharged on Monday afternoon and as he needs so much kit, I'll book you rooms at the Carlisle Park Hotel, then Tuesday you can both go to the shops and get whatever he needs before Moses takes you back to Keswick later the same afternoon.

Would that be alright?"

"Mr King would have to sanction my absence, but yes. Fine by me."

"He's my next call.

I'll email you later tonight.

Thank you, Stephen. Thank you!"


Our meeting on Friday and Monday followed the same pattern of joking and laughter.

I was in serious trouble as my feeling towards Thilo changed slowly from liking him immensely and attracted to him sexually, to those of adoring him.

This was happening too fast, damn it. I hadn't got as far as shaking his hand, yet I'm wanting him in a manner that had become obsessive.

I don't cry, in truth, the last time I can remember my emotions getting the better of me was at the funeral of a local boy, son of one of my father's farm hands.

During school holidays, he and I would ride our bikes up and down the Malvern Hills, go fishing or just mess around on the farm.

He contracted Bone Cancer and died whilst I was away at school.

I was allowed home for the service, after which I cried my eyes out.

I missed him then. I miss him still, and we were only eight or nine?

Now I cry myself to sleep at nights!

Come back to school with me, share my room, share my bed and let's help each other fight our ghosts.

But then, like wind blowing the leaves away, I would wake feeling alive and full of hope.

My selfishness bothered me, but I countered this by telling myself that it was another sign of my desire to do anything in my power to help Thilo recover from his ordeal, and if that meant me losing my mind for a day or so, then sod it. It's worth it!


Monday afternoon, and Thilo said his good-byes to the doctors and nursing staff. He asked where the ward orderlies were; they were on tea-break so we had to wait. He wasn't leaving until he'd said a personal Thank you to everyone.

It was today I saw him on his feet for the first time.

He looked stiff and walked with a noticeable limp.

"Leg hurting?"

"Only the fucking dressing getting in the way of the back of my knee. I'll be okay, but if I could hang on to your arm when we go down the stairs?"

He hung onto my arm alright, but stairs be damned. He hung on right until Moses opened the rear door of the Rangerover so we could get in!

Nice!

Next was the drive to the hotel where Moses stayed in the car while Thilo and I checked in.

"Aren't you staying here?"

"Five Star joint? Me?

Yes, but I checked in first thing this morning.

Don't worry, I won't be shadowing you. I'll just be on hand if you need anything."

Two rooms directly opposite each other. Nicely appointed, but then for two hundred and eighty pounds a night each , they needed to be.

We rested for an hour, then I heard a knock on my door.

"I'm hungry Stephen. Fancy checking out the dining room?"

"Come on in. It's not locked."

Thilo looked amazing!

Light grey trousers, a cream dress shirt and light grey leather shoes and a smile that told me he was feeling positive!

"Shit, Thilo? Where did you get the wardrobe? You look incredible!"

"Hey thanks!

Moses had the nurses get my sizes and he got them for me. We'll need to get to the shops tomorrow as this is about the extent of my smart gear."

"Sorted.

Let me throw something on."

"Take your time, I'll just take in the vista!"

"Fuck you!"

"What? And with me just out of hospital?

Have a care?"


It was over an hour before we saw the restaurant.

One wisecrack after another lead to me choking with laughter in the bathroom as I was brushing my teeth.

Toothpaste all over my clean shirt.

Not a good way to impress the Head Waiter.

Anyway, I managed to clean most of it off, then grudging wearing a tie, we eventually found ourselves in the hotel lounge where moments later, we were approached by the Main Man.

"Will you be dining with us tonight gentlemen?"

"Please.

Table for two."

"An aperitif perhaps?"

Now despite the enormous urge to order a pint of bitter……

"Red wine, Merlot is fine thanks."

Then looking at Thilo,

"And for you sir?"

"White. Muscadet over ice please."

"I'm afraid we only serve that by the bottle sir."

"Okay. Same order then have what remains sent to our table, and make sure it's kept ice cold please."


"You're a cheeky bastard aren't you!"

"Why? Because I told the waiter to get what I asked for?"

"No, it was more the way you phrased it."

"We're underage remember? A bit of bluster and confidence doesn't hurt or else we might not have been taken seriously.

We got our drinks didn't we?"

"This is a hotel. I don't believe they can refuse us, age notwithstanding.

What are you going to order?"

"Roast pheasant. You?"

"I like lamb, so I'm going to go with the Slow Braised Lamb Shank I think."

"I'd thought about having that, but I'm going to stick with pheasant as it's very difficult to get hold of at home.

Talking of lamb? What do you farm and where 'bout's is it?"

"Worcestershire, near to its county border with Gloucestershire, and if you were to stray west by thirty miles, you'd trip over the border with Wales.

The farm is a mixed operation. Beef cattle, sheep, pigs, but then we grow a lot of cereal crops such as barley and wheat together with oil seed rape, corn and sun flower.

Most of our land is in the Severn valley, but there's also around three hundred acres of what can only be described as unproductive land, very difficult to farm as it's part of the Malvern Hills proper, and rather steep.

Dad had this idea to plant grape vines given that area is south facing, but whether he's done anything other than talk about it, I'm not sure."

"No dairy operation?"

"There used to be, but then the bottom dropped out of the market so we diversified into beef, or rather we knocked dairy on the head and expanded our beef herd."

"Poultry?"

"Specialist venture, best left to those who know more about it then we do.

We keep a few chickens, geese and Guinee Fowl, but they're for our own personal consumption rather than it being a commercial concern."

"What sort of acreage do you cover?"

"Twenty-five thousand give or take."

"That's a big farm by English standards isn't it?"

"I think we're the second largest privately owned farm in Britain. There are larger operations, but they're like, corporation-owned factory farms whereas we use traditional methods."

"It sounds wonderful. I'd love to visit it sometime?"

"I've already suggested to Mr King that you might like to come down with me during the holidays rather than sitting around here.

Anyway, I'd love to take you there!

Um…… I was going to ask about your place, but it might be too painful for you."

"I have to face up to it sometime Stephen?

Like yours, ours is a mixed operation. Some cattle, no sheep, but what we major on is Buffalo and Bison.

Crops include maze, rice, sweetcorn, olives and where it's possible to maintain good soil conditions, we grow a range of brassicas.

The biggest headache is water. Namibia is very arid and most water is sourced from wells or boreholes, which is okay so far as it goes, but it's an expensive way to get hold of enough to sustain such a large acreage."

"Which is how much?"

"Close on a quarter of a million."

"Shit!"

"Not when you look at it in context!

Consider the size of the country for one, and then you have to remember that much of what we have is bush and relatively unproductive.

You probably make far more from your twenty-five thousand than we do from two-hundred-and-fifty thousand."

"Possibly, but then, how come you can grow rice given it's so dry?"

Thilo laughed.

"I wondered how long it would take before you asked about that!

We looked at the methods used by the Japanese, then with our own modifications to something that was already an ingenious idea, we adopted it."

"I still don't understand?"

"It's complicated. Come back to Africa with me sometime and all will become clear. Okay?

Just a word of caution though?

You might not want to ever eat rice again!"


The entire meal was taken over by our conversation. It was so good to talk to someone close to my own age who shared my passion for the land and farming.

Thilo was very knowledgeable and it helped to bond our friendship together more than I could have imagined.

Anyone eavesdropping would be wondering why two teenage boys weren't talking soccer or video gaming, but ours was farming, faming, farm equipment, land management and animal husbandry, but then with the meal finished, we made our way up to our rooms.

"I'm going to leave my door on the latch, so if you wake during the night and need to talk, there'll be no need to knock."

"Thank you, but having had a nice meal and a bottle of plonk, I don't think I'll take much rocking."

"That's a shame!"

"Good at boy-rocking then?"

"It's one of my aims in life!"

"You'll probably be getting plenty of practice in the future, I mean, I can't drink a bottle of wine every night!"

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