The Bull Singer
Seconds after the phone smashed against the wall, and fell to the floor in pieces, I wished I hadn't done it. I dived to pick them up, and seeing the damage made me feel so wretched, I fell to my knees and curled into a foetal ball and sobbed, and didn't hear the door open. The first I knew anyone was in the room was when a hand touched my shoulder. Thinking it was Mags, I jerked away and whimpered, "I'm sorry Mags, I didn't mean to break it. I'll buy you a new one. Please, don't hurt me."
"Hey! What is all this?" a strange voice said above me. I looked up through my tears and saw an older version of myself but with wavier hair, crouching by my side and offering a comforting embrace. I let him hold me close as I fought to control my tears. Then I showed him the broken phone. "Well, that isn't going to be much use now is it." He spoke with a chuckle in his voice. "Never mind, I don't think Mags will be too worried about that right now. It's you he's worried about. I'm Pete, by the way. Why don't we go downstairs and have some tea. I don't know about you but I'm starved."
"I can't." I tried to move out of his embrace. "I can't face him or his dad, or anyone; I just want to…I just want to die."
Despite my resistance, Pete lifted me to my feet and sat me on the bed, holding me close. "I think you're just making a mountain out of nothing. Mags and Edward explained everything to me, and they just want to help you sort things out. Look at it this way; you just have an extra granddad who loves you just as much as the other one does. I would be happy just to have one never mind two."
"That's not what's wrong. It's Mags."
"What about him?"
"I love him and I can't have him."
"Why not? Oh, because he's your uncle? Well, he's only a half uncle, and who cares about that these days? And as for the legal side of your love, it won't matter in a couple more months will it?"
"But he'll still be my uncle."
"So? I'll bet there are thousands of guys living quite happily with their uncles once they're sixteen; they just don't shout it from the top of Nelson's Column every day. Edward and I realise you and Magsy are having the same thoughts, so I've been asked to come and talk to you while Edward chews Magsy's ear. If you don't want to go downstairs, why don't you slip back into bed and I'll bring you some tea up. I'm sure Mags will come up to see you in a bit."
Too upset to argue, I allowed Peter to help me undress down to my briefs, and as I reached down to lift the duvet away, I heard Pete say, "Wow! Nice bod little Bro. Just like Billy Junior!" I turned round quickly, ready to land him one and saw the grin on Pete's face as the guy moved to embrace me once more. "Mags is one lucky guy. If ever you need a swap let me know. Mind you, I have my hands full with his dad at the moment. What a guy for an old man! Now, into bed with you; I'll bring you up some tea later." I had to admit to myself that I was feeling pretty tired after all that had happened, and the sleepless night I had after Mags had walked out on me. No, I thought as I crawled into bed, he hadn't walked out on me, I realised now he wanted to protect us both. Pete tucked the duvet round me and dropped a box of tissues beside me. "Here are some tissues in case you still feel like soaking the pillow. See you later." So much for me trying to be the macho guy and treating everybody so bad. I was nothing more than a stupid kid. As Pete left the room, I turned my face into the pillow and let the tears flow.
I tried my best to rehearse with the band but got nowhere fast, my mind being two floors up, and when my dad poked his head into the barn, Daley signalled to me, and pointed to Dad. I followed Dad out into the kitchen where I found Pete setting up a tray using the remains of the afternoon tea the band had enjoyed. We sat down at the table and Pete pushed two mugs of tea at us, and then sat down opposite us.
"Well?" I asked.
"Well, first of all he broke your phone, and he's convinced you'll punish him for it. I don't know anything about him, like you two do, but I see one scared kid obviously used to getting hammered just for putting a finger out of place. As for this recent problem, he's more concerned about the incest angle. He thinks he can't have you anymore; I think he means as a lover. I tried to reassure him the age problem was a minor issue as he's so close to his next birthday as you say, but I don't think I convinced him. One thing I do know about him, he's very insecure. I waited outside the door until he stopped crying and peeked in to see if he was okay. He'd fallen asleep with his thumb in his mouth. At the moment it's the only comfort and security he knows that won't lead him into a dead end or smack him in the face. To me it's the sure sign of a very unhappy boy wishing he was a lot younger and somewhere else in happier times; if there were happier times which I doubt."
"Oh, so you're a psychologist all of a sudden."
Pete smiled, dismissing my obvious sarcasm. "I was studying that subject at Manchester Uni. before the drumming bug bit me too hard."
"Sorry. I wonder what Elias said to him, to make him lose his temper and break my phone?"
"Why don't you phone Elias and find out?" Pete reached into his jeans pocket for his own mobile and slid it across the table. Dad grabbed it and punched in the Marble House number and waited. Ben put him through so fast I guessed Elias had been waiting for the return call. Dad didn't even have to ask what had been said. After Elias knew who was ringing him, Dad just sat and listened quietly while Elias did the talking, apart from the occasional "yes" and "no" and "I see". In the end he said "Okay Ly. He had to know some time, I suppose. Thanks. I'll ring you back." Dad placed the phone on the table and shrugged at the two of us. "It wasn't anything Ly said. He just verified what we said and let the kid now about the reason for my affair with Marian." Pete prudently took the tray out into the lounge while Dad turned to me and told me the whole story; that Dad was Marian's knight in shining armour in her need to have a baby. I had to laugh, and Dad wondered why.
"Sorry, Dad, it's just my weird sense of humour. I was just thinking it would have made a terrific Hollywood tearjerker fifty years ago. Pity it hasn't turned out so well for the new generation. So what do I do, Dad?"
"Simple. Ignore what other people think and follow your instincts. You love Joey, don't you?"
"Yes, Dad, I really do."
"Well, then! Get up those stairs and to hell with who's who. I'm going to be going up those stairs myself in a minute." His grin was wide and dirty as he rubbed his hand together.
With a happier heart, I made a fresh pot of tea, retrieved the tray from where Pete had put it in the lounge, and took it upstairs to Joey's attic bedroom. I wished I had a camera with me, when I gazed down at Joey, curled up under the duvet, his thumb firmly jammed between those lovely lips. I set the tray down on the far bedside cabinet and stripped off as quickly as I could and slipped into bed, careful not to wake him, and I lay there for a few minutes while the tea brewed, watching him sleep. At last I moved closer and kissed his forehead, and I gently took hold of his hand and drew his thumb out of his mouth. In his sleep, his lips hunted for the comforter, just like a baby seeking his mother's teat or a dummy. He tried to move his hand to his mouth but I held it away from him. Slowly his brain told him it wasn't there and he frowned, stirred, and opened his eyes. I lifted his hand to my face and kissed each finger before I turned it and kissed the palm. Feeling his fingertips caress my cheek, I glanced down at him and saw the tearful longing in his eyes. "I don't care who you are," he whispered. "I need you, Mags."
"And I need you, babe, but not as a lover." I reached for him and he came into my arms, clinging to me with the grip of a wrestler as he buried his face against my neck. "It's okay, Joey, we'll work things out. Let's just take things slow and easy." I hugged him for a minute then drew him away from me. "I don't know about you but I'm pretty hungry. Let's have some tea and we'll talk."
"I don't want to talk; I want you to love me."
"Sorry, kid, but I can only offer an uncle's love, but tea first." I sat up and lifted the tray onto my thighs, and he moved until he was resting on one elbow. He sniffled a lot and I grabbed the box of tissues that threatened to slide off the bed. I handed it to him and he pulled out a few and blew his nose. I poured the tea and handed him a mug. He took it and sipped at it. There were still tears in evidence and the sense of him feeling sorry for himself. I offered him a sandwich. He took one and nibbled at it, but he wasn't really in the mood to eat. He was doing it to please me, and I didn't want that. "When did you last eat?"
Joey sniffed and wiped his nose again. "I don't remember; early this morning, I think."
"In that case, you need to eat now. Come on, I can't eat all these sandwiches by myself." As I looked down at him, I realised it was the wrong thing to say. His face crumpled and I managed to rescue his mug of tea before he collapsed and buried his face in the pillow. I put the tray back on the cabinet and leaned over him to stroke his back and shoulders. "Come on, babe. No matter what happens, no matter how you feel, I'll always love you and care for you. I know you're feeling down and depressed right now, but things will get better, I promise." He didn't resist as I gathered him against me and began to shower him with kisses. "I love you, Joey, and I want to help, but I can't do that if you won't tell me what happened to you. I think it's about time you got it off your chest and let me do something about it"
"There'll be trouble if I do, I told you that."
"There'll be trouble any way if I'm accused of molesting you."
"Well, you'd have to be examined; they'll see the evidence of abuse and they'll demand that you tell them everything; and believe me, you won't have an easy time. I'll be there for you, but you'll have to tell me first so I can be forewarned what to expect."
Joey was silent for a few minutes, and then he said quietly, "She did it." He had just confirmed what I had suspected but it was still a shock to hear it. After a while, he said, "It started when I was about six. Her boyfriends didn't last long because she wanted sex all the time and she wore them out. When she didn't have a boyfriend she used me instead."
"What did she use, for heaven's sake?" I asked him. "You're damaged pretty badly down there."
"A dildo, a large double one; the bitch put one end in her and the other in me. She said it was my duty to please her; it was the only thing I was fit for. It was awful but I grew up thinking it was normal, that all boys went through the same thing, so I never said anything to anyone. Every time she did it I bled; but she wouldn't do anything about it, except make excuses to every school I went to that I was sick and she always took me to quack doctors."
"What were their names?"
"I don't know. The bitch never said. I don't know where they lived either. She blindfolded me and made me lie down on the back seat of her car. Each time people started asking questions we moved; then she blamed me for the move and hurt me more. I was about ten years old when I learned about sex abuse at school and realised that what she was doing was wrong. It stopped last year when I got too strong for her and was able to fight her off. So she started beating me instead. I couldn't tell anyone because she said she could always make me disappear, and I knew exactly what that meant."
"Well, it looks like we've got her where we want her. We'll go home and Dad and I will confront her with what we know. We'll warn her to lay off you or we'll report her to Child Protection and Social Services. At least she won't beat you up in a hurry. Dad wants to change the rental of Home Farm to you then you can kick her out whenever you want to. I'm sure Elias will back you up and provide you with an excellent legal man. Meanwhile, I have a friend who is looking for your dad's family. He doesn't have much to go on at the moment but he's keen on Family History Research. If he can find your entry of birth in the records in London, he'll order a copy and send it to you, so you'll have your own birth certificate. It might take a while but I'm confident he'll find something of interest. What you need to do is to remember as much as you can. Did you ever see your mother's marriage certificate or anything like that?"
Joey shook his head and sniffled a bit. "She has a metal box that she keeps papers in. It's always locked and she doesn't let me see what's in it. I caught her with it open once and saw some papers in it, but she slammed it closed when she realised I was in the room, and she accused me of spying on her and beat the hell out of me. I was eleven then."
"Well, all that's going to stop. From now on, Dad and I, and Pete are going to look after you. Once Dad changes the lease to your name, she can't stop any of us entering the house or staying there with you, especially when her friends come to visit. In fact, we can put a stop to their visits if you want. The only way up to Home Farm is the lane past the cottage, so no one can go up there without Dad and me knowing. Dad is going to move into the cottage with Pete, so you'll be safe enough while I travel with the band. If they need reinforcements, Elias will be happy to send in the heavies. So, my sweet little angel, you've nothing to worry about, have you?"
"Yes I have." Joey turned in my embrace and gazed up at me. "What am I going to do for lessons while you're away with the band?"
I frowned at him. "What lessons?"
"The lessons we started at Marble House."
I shook my head at him. "No, Joey; I think we need to think hard about our situation here. You're sixteen in two months and still have your youth ahead of you. Like I said, I will love you and look after you as an uncle should and we can get to know each other better and make sure all the trouble with Angela is well and truly got rid of before we take the next step. I want you to enjoy the rest of your schooldays and see you through college."
"No buts, Joey. Sex between us isn't necessary for us to be together and enjoy what we have. So Lesson number one; we can't live on love, we need to eat." Before he could protest I made sure he couldn't speak, by giving him a quick kiss.
Between us, we demolished the sandwiches and a fresh pot of tea I made, using the modern style teas-maid Billy had installed in each of the bedrooms. Satisfied, I lay back with Joey nestling in my arms, his head resting on my shoulder. We talked about this and that, his hopes to go back to school and to Aunt Millie's. I asked about the Christmas show they were rehearsing for, and he said, "It's a bit of a mixed bag really. There are some dance routines from the different age groups; even the tinies are doing something. Then there is a mini pantomime called Cinderella Had Two Brothers. I can't tell you too much; I want it to be a surprise if I can. I'll just say there are three characters, a bit like the Three Stooges; the third one being a real dumb cluck. He gets put upon by the other two and they provide the laughs throughout the panto, but they love Cinderella and help her find her prince and all that stuff, but I can't tell you how it ends as that's when the twist comes in, and it would spoil things if I told you."
"Sounds good; are you doing anything special?"
"I do a bit of hoofing, if that's what you mean."
Okay, so Mags was right in a way; I had to step back a bit and look at life in a sensible manner. As he was my uncle I didn't want anything to happen that would get him into trouble with the law no matter how much I wanted him. I might have grown up fast because of what the Bitch had done, but I was still a kid as far as the world was concerned. Looking back over my time at Lower Farm and Marble House I had thrown myself at him. I knew he loved the feel of my skin and before leaving Lower Farm, I had found some of Magsy's toiletries and had a good long soak in the bath, and used his soap and a loofer to scrub away any dead skin. Then I had rubbed his favourite body lotion all over me until my skin felt smooth and soft; doing anything to make myself attractive to him; but I was dreaming. Mags was a handsome man, ripe for marriage; what would he want with a damaged kid like me when he could pick any pretty woman he chose. After what the bitch had done, as I grew older I wondered if I was gay. If the bitch had not hurt me so much, I think I might have enjoyed having that dildo of hers rammed up my bum; but I had never asked Mags if he was gay, I had just assumed that he was. If Angela had held me, caressed me, and shown me any love at all, things might have been different. I longed for her to be nice and gentle with me just like a mother should; now here was a man who was offering exactly what I needed, a substitute mother in male form. But would that be enough for me?
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