The Bull Singer
I had a good idea what was going through Pete's mind. He was sitting there, wondering what he was letting himself in for, with these two old goats grinning into his face. On one side he had the father figure he had always wanted, the man he had grown fond of and would do anything for, and on the other side he had the man who had been the instigator of his coming out, and who knew the way he had gone through what Joey was going through now, just as he knew the hang ups and sexual problems of all the band members. How could Pete not guess what they were planning? He looked across at me and I tried to convey in my eyes and my facial expression that I sympathised with him and would try to help him make the right decision because I also needed to think about the situation that was beginning to surface. Could I allow this to happen? Would adding Pete to my relationship with Joey backfire on us and end up with three broken hearts?
Edward gave Pete a hug. "Why don't you and Mags take a walk for a few minutes? Whatever you decide to do it'll be all right with me."
Trilby slapped the lad on the shoulder. "Go for it, kid. If anyone knows what Joey is going through it's you."
They thought their plan would be so simple but what neither of them had considered were Pete's feelings. To save him any more embarrassment, I stood up and beckoned for him to follow me out of the room.
As we left, I heard Trilby say, "Edward, I have to go and make sure the band are fed and ready to leave. Why don't you go and have a chat with your grandson. He's probably feeling a bit lonely and needing someone to talk to."
Pete followed me out to the front hall where we donned warm coats and scarves, and stepped outside to stroll down the lane towards Lower Farm. The weather had brightened and there was plenty of blue in the sky, even though it was cold. I sniffed the air and studied the gathering clouds. "We're in for a white Christmas, I think. "I said to break the uncomfortable silence."
Pete pulled the collar of his coat up round his ears. "Yea, the place has that particular smell to it doesn't it? Trilby is certainly a wise old owl, isn't he?"
"That man has a heart of gold. He seems to know the right thing to say, no matter who needs his counselling."
"Yeah; pity I didn't listen to him two years ago." Pete gazed around at the fields and the sky as if trying to pick out of the surrounding atmosphere the right words to say. "Remember the time I was acting like a nympho out of control? I thought what guys were giving me back was the love I had never had from my dad. There was always some guy in the audience willing to take me home or just somewhere out of prying eyes, and I just couldn't get enough of being used. Well, it wasn't until Trilby made me see that it wasn't love at all that made those men use me and it was just that they saw me as an easy one night catch, that I had to face the harsh reality of where my life was leading. It was the final crunch when Daley decided I was upsetting the band and had to let me go. I realised I had to review my life and learn to control myself a lot better. The following months were the hardest time of my life, as I drifted around until I ended up on the streets. It was a bad attack of Gonorrhoea that brought me to my senses."
"Really? I didn't know about that, Pete. You must have suffered."
"Maybe it did some good. Honestly there is nothing better than a dose of the STDs back and front to stop a stud in full flight. Once that went away, I found myself so scared of getting it again I went the other way, and became celibate for a long time until Mr Faring offered what, again, I thought was love."
"What about your family? Couldn't they have helped?"
Pete let out a harsh laugh. "What family? Do you mean the father who disowned me when he found out I was gay? I was tossed out on my ear and told not to go back ever again. It's no loss to me; the last time I saw him he took great delight in telling me I was adopted and that I was the son of an Italian whore desperate to find a home for her bastard son before she died of cancer. My parents were living in Rome at the time, and Mum thought it would be nice to have a baby without going through the hassle and pain of pregnancy and birth."
"What do you know about your birth parents?"
"Nothing; I don't even know their name. The first time I ever saw the adoption certificate was the day Dad threw me out." Pete stopped and turned to me, halting our slow progress down the lane. "Look, why don't we stop messing about and say what we have to say. Forget what Eddie and Trilby' are scheming. What is it YOU want me to do for Joey?"
I stared at him, my mouth open, ready to speak, but words failing me. This victim of society's bigotry had grasped the problem with both hands, and was already several jumps ahead of me. At last I said, "I'm not really sure, Pete. I mean it's a rather delicate matter. I mean – umm."
Pete smiled at me, and said, "It's okay, mate, I'm not going to ravish your little lover while you're away. Those days are over for me; but Trilby's right, the kid needs something, but not what the kid is thinking."
I guessed Pete was right. "I want someone to love and care for Joey while I'm on the road."
Pete smiled and started walking again. "And what does Joey want?"
"Sex," I said as I fell in step with him.
"Is that what he told you?" When I nodded, he said, "Going on my own experience, Joey thinks it's sex he needs, but it isn't."
"I know that, but he's had so much done to him at a very young age."
"His mother's boyfriends, and the bitch herself. It's a wonder he's not come out at school in search of release."
Pete shook his head. "In that case he needs to be steered clear of that way of life before he lands himself in a load of trouble. Like I've said, I've been there."
"He needs a stable life with a family who cares, and he's got that now; like I think I have with your dad. It's funny how your mind changes when the thing you thought you wanted comes to you in a totally different way. I thought it was sex I needed but your dad showed me different, that I need a dad to love me. Joey needs a lot of love and hugs, and someone with him at night. I've spent enough nights on my own to know what that's like. I still suffer a lot from nightmares, and I wouldn't be surprised if Joey's suffering the same way." Pete stopped again, his eyes focusing somewhere far ahead. "I don't know if it will help, but…I…I…when I was with the band I… was jealous of you and Billy."
"Yeah, and you know why? You and Billy had what I never had; and it was great watching you together but I so wished it had been Billy and me. There was something about Billy that drew me to him and I couldn't put my finger on it. You two were very much in love and it showed. I never would have tried anything with either of you; I was too shit scared of losing your friendship. But I hung around Billy thinking what you two had would rub off on me. You and Billy treated me so well, like a brother. I want to pay you back Mags, if I can. I'll care for Joey because he's so like Billy, but if anything happens, well, some things do happen naturally, it can't be helped. But I promise I won't get between you and Joey. Like I'll never let Joey get between your dad and me. I've only known your dad for twenty-four hours, but I've fallen for the guy, even if it turns out to be a father and son relationship. I'm just thankful I have someone who doesn't want a lot of the physical stuff, even though he makes a joke of it and makes out he's as randy as a forty year old, so you needn't be afraid of me tiring him out. For me, he's the warm hearted father I've always wanted, and a companion all rolled into one. So there you have it; I can't offer anything more."
We strolled on for a few minutes in silence while I tried to digest Pete's offer and come up with a suitable answer. For all Dad's and Trilby's conniving, Pete had bested them and stripped the idea of anything that smacked of jumping into bed with Joey for the sake of sex. He had treated the idea in such a delicate and sensitive manner that I was sure it would work; not just for Joey but for Pete as well. His self-esteem had been dealt so many painful blows over the last few years, and I suspected his meeting with Dad and his willingness to help Joey would do a lot of healing for him. "I think you've offered plenty, Pete, and I accept your help. I can go on the road knowing that Joey is in safe hands with you and Dad. And if anything does happen, I'm easy with that as long there is no pressure on him to do something he'd rather not, and it's something all three of you agree on. Is that okay with you?"
Pete grinned up at me and stuck his hand out towards me. "It's a deal, mate. How long will you be gone?"
I shook his hand. "We're away until the third of January, but I'll be able to pop over from Hull the night before Christmas Eve. That's when Aunt Millie will be putting on her kids Christmas show. Joey is in it and I promised him I'd be there."
"In that case I'll make sure he gets to all the rehearsals. I wouldn't mind seeing it myself."
"It's a date then. You'd better get some tickets; I think Dad and my aunts would like to see it as well; but don't let Joey know."
"Well, we're near enough to Lower Farm, why don't we go and ask your aunts if they'd like to go, and we can let them know that your dad is okay? We can pick up some of your dad's stuff while we're there?"
"Good thinking, my man. Dad's economical way of expending energy must be rubbing off on you." We were in sight of Lower Farm and I warned him about Aunt Mabel's starchy and unsmiling disposition.
"Great, just like my grandmother; old man Crayel's mother. What a tarter she is!"
As I opened the front door, I was met by Major who barked his head off until he recognised me. I introduced him to Pete who made friends with him straight away, and remarked how like Jake he was. Major's barking caused Mabs to come marching out of the living room, already pushing her sleeves to her elbows to see the intruder off her property. "Oh, it's you."
I grinned at Pete and said, "That means hello, I'm pleased to meet you. Hi Aunt Mabel, have you got the kettle on?"
"I suppose so," was her cool reply as she turned to lead the way into the living room.
Cissy was at the stove, her face flushed with the heat of the open oven as she drew out a batch of scones. She smiled at me as she placed them on the side of the grate. "Ah! There you are! And who's this young man."
Pete stepped forward and shook her hand, "Hi, I'm Peter Crayel, your brother's boyfriend; pleased to meet you."
Mabel froze and stared at Pete with eyes that would have done the Incredible Hulk proud. Cissy gasped and brought a hand to her mouth, and I died in my shoes.
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