The Lottery of Ears and Necks

by It's Only Me from Across the Sea

This story contains a difficult topic. I will not add any spoilers, like all stories you are responsible for your reading. However, if you wish for a spoiler you may find it in the notes about this tale, along with notes about all my stories.

There are resources in the footnotes in the story which anyone affected adversely by the topic described may find useful.

My surname begins with a Y and I am a thus ticket holder in the lottery of backs of ears and necks.


"Peter, are your shoes clean?"

"Yes, mum!"

"Check them, please. I don't want you going to your new school with dirty shoes."

"I did them last night."

"Check them, Peter."

I grumped.

"Don't give me that, young man."

"Hmmph. I'm a teenager now, mum. That's what we do. Derek does it all the time!"

"Only just! And your brother gets told off too, seventeen or not, so check those shoes, please." She was smiling, though. "And have you got all your games kit in your games bag?"

So I checked them and told her I had, and then checked the games kit, too. It's a big thing, this move to a new school. Truth to tell I'm bricking it, almost literally. I've been about five times already this morning and it's not even eight o'clock. I know two boys and one girl who are going there from my old school. They're all a bit older than me. My birthday's in the middle of August so I've always been the youngest in my year. I sort of mind, sometimes.


Dad took me by car and dropped me at the top of the driveway. It didn't look like he was meant to drive in, so I refused to let him kiss me goodbye, and grabbed my games kit out of the back and lugged it down the drive to a totally alien world.

I was now a Public Schoolboy.i

There were also Public Schoolgirls.

To be fair there always had been, well for a long time anyway, but when dad was my age they had their own schools and we were moulded, he'd said, into mediocre middle managers for the British Empire that hadn't existed for decades anyway. He's not cynical at all, isn't dad.

Like I'm not sarcastic.

That first day was a bewildering welter of faces, rules, a plate of strangeness called lunch, prefects, lessons, homework.

And it wasn't the tiniest bit enjoyable.

Still, school is school. I don't suppose it's meant to be fun.

I wonder if it's meant to be this tiring? My Prep School wasn't.ii


I'm starting to have time to breathe at school now. It's only taken a week. No real friends yet. I suppose I knew this already, but I was surprised how many girls and boys board. A few stay weekends, most spend the week at school. The ones who stay seem to be from abroad, or far flung places that mean you have to turn around and come back to school as soon as you've gone home. That would have been even worse when dad was here. He had school on Saturdays, too.iii

We have to shower after PE and Games sessions. Some boys seem to find it a big deal, but most of us did all that being naked and showering together stuff at Prep School. It's interesting to see that sex education was right about how boys develop. Dad told me about how it was way back in his day when he got given a book about banana fruit flies.iv

Most lessons we sit in alphabetical order. That means I never get to sit at the front. I'm rather pleased about that.


At my last school the teachers used to come to us and we stayed in the same classroom. Here we go to their classrooms with our books. We do a lot of walking about between lessons, and I like it. It gives us a gap to get over the boredom of double maths. At least I get to sit behind different boys and girls. Some of the subjects are in sets, and some classrooms have different numbers of desks across them, so we're arranged slightly differently.

Mind you, there's only so much distraction you can get by staring at the back of the kid in front of you!

Mostly I cycle to school. We only live a couple of miles away and the roads are safe enough. We do an hour of homework at school too. That's great. It means I can ask for help with stuff I can't do.


I have officially settled in, well, probably. Dad said it would take about three weeks but he was wrong. It took about four. I feel comfortable here. I still break stupid rules the prefects never tell us about until we break them, but I think they just want to pretend they're important. One's nasty, most of the others are ok, one's nice.

I'm trying to work girls out. Hmm, that's not what I mean. At my last school we had lunch where we were told, and sat with the people we were told to sit with after we'd got our food. It was about fifty/fifty, girls and boys, and we all talked to each other at lunch and in breaks, and we played together. Here's different.

At lunch we can sit wherever we want after we've got our food. What's really odd is that, with a few exceptions, the girls form tight little groups at tables, and the boys... I was going to say 'don't', but it's more like the boys are together by default.

I'm not daft. Puberty's started, you know. I even have three hairs, and I know about banana fruit flies thanks to dad. He found the booklet! He'd kept it! So I know that boys and girls must find each other attractive, pretty much by definition. So what's with the separation?

We don't play at break. We're obviously too grown up now, so we all go back to our houses and mess around indoors. We used to spend breaks outside unless it was pissing down; not here, though.

I think I just answered my own question about lunch. There aren't any mixed houses! So it's sort of fake co-ed schooling! I expect they want to stop shagging. Ha! That's not right. The boys want to start shagging. It's the school that wants to stop it.

So, either 'Good luck with that!' or 'Seems to be working!'. Not that folk my age are likely to be part of that. There are some cute girls, though. I sit beside Chloë Watson in lessons, the ones we have together. Well, no-one begins with an X and I'm Yarrold. Dad often tells me they wanted to call me Harold.

Anyway, Chloë's got gorgeous glossy brown hair, and freckles across her nose, and eyes that sparkle. I have to cover my lap sometimes in class.

Of course, since she's in another house, our conversations are very limited, and she walks with Mia Johnson from class to class. They're in the same house.

I walk with a bunch of boys.

I know about more than banana fruit flies. I know I find Chloë interesting, or my dick does. But it found Latin interesting earlier today, too, which I most assuredly did not. Or I did, because it appeals to me, dead language or not, but it doesn't appeal enough to make me want to shag it, which my dick seemed to.

Introspective, much?


We all went away for Christmas. Mum found a bargain break in Vienna, and we stayed at the Hotel Sacher, the one famous for Sachertorte. I know that now, of course. When we booked I had no idea. We've always spent Christmas at home, but mum wanted to see the Christmas markets and Dad wanted to see where his grandfather's family had lived before the war.

I fell in love with the horses at the Spanish Riding School. I don't know why, but I had tears in my eyes. They're just beautiful...

Derek saw my tears and, for once, didn't tease me. We do get on well, but he does tease me a lot. I found he was gripping my hand. "Beautiful aren't they, Pete?"

"I almost want to be one," I told him. And I heard him sigh. I think he felt it, too.

I even enjoyed the Christmas markets after that, especially the mugs of steaming Gluhwein.


Hair's a funny thing. No, not that hair. I've got quite enough of that now, it arrived suddenly, all in a rush. I expect there's more to come, though. Dad's got a pelt, not just a hairy chest. I think I'm looking forward to that, probably.

No, the hair on top.

Pretty much every boy in the school's got short hair. Me? Not so much. I like mine over my ears and collar. I sit behind necks in class. And some boys I like from the front I don't like from the back.

I used just to think I didn't really like thick ears or duck's arse cowlicks. That's why I grow mine longer at the back. I've no idea what my hair does and I don't want anyone behind me to, well, I suppose, to not like what they see. I really don't like hairlines that just stop about an inch higher than the collar, either.

Ok, I'm hairist. We've all got something weird about us. Me? I don't like what I don't like.

What I like is backs of necks where the hair tapers in evenly if it has to be short.

Now look, I've known this for years, ever since I sat behind Will Timpson when I was eight. It's not new, this thing. It didn't help that Will had a snotty nose a lot of the time, and that I never liked him face to face either, but weird neck hair makes me cringe.

I needed to explain that because we have a new boy in our class. We've also got two new girls, but the boy, Jim Travis, sits in front of me in almost all the subjects we are in the main class for, and his hair is a bit special.

First it's the brightest blond I've ever seen, and it's luxurious, bouncy, even. And second it lies flat on his neck, and spreads out below his ears. It's not a mullet. Well, not exactly, but it's fascinating.

He's got neat ears, too, what you can see of them!

I don't really get to talk to him. He's in another house. Day boy, too, like me.


Three weeks in to the term and I'm, er, well, er... Oh fuck, I have no idea. I like Chloë, and I like her in that way or hope I do. Or we know my dick does, and we've spoken some and I like the girl behind the freckles.

So why did Jim Travis's neck and his hair arrive in my head just when I reached the inevitable climax tonight? He's not a girl. He's all boy. He plays rugby and is good at it! As if that actually means anything.

His face is sort of pretty, when I get to see it, but I see his neck and his hair and his ears and they're... fascinating. But why are they so fascinating that I saw his neck, not Chloë's freckles and smile?


I woke up after dreaming about passionate sex with Chloë. It was long, hot, steamy and...

Er, no. If I dreamed about anything at all I've completely forgotten it and I've no idea what real sex is like anyway. What I did was woke up and remembered Jim's neck. We've just been learning about the War of Jenkin's Earv in history, and here I am having the Inner Battle of Travis's Neck. I don't really want to think about his neck.

And there I was in Geography sitting one to the right of directly behind Jim, with a very awkward feeling in my trousers that will not go away and I keep sneaking looks at his right ear, a very ordinary ear, normal, twiddly in the middle and with a small, neat lobe. I can't look in front of me because that means looking at Mike Watson's duck's arse and his dandruff. And I can't concentrate on how urban planning is improving the quality of life for the urban poor.vi

I'm not sure any of us are concentrating. Jim turned round and grinned at me. I wonder what that means? Has he done that before and I never noticed? I grinned back. Then Chloë on my left nudged me just in time for me to look at Dr Briggs who was boring us to death, and to hear the question he was asking me.


Embarrassing! Jim hadn't been grinning at me, he was grinning at Chloë, I think. I'm not sure whether I'm happy about that or disappointed. I found out when I watched them both walking to the next lesson together after Geography, very close, almost but not quite hand in hand. Or I think that's what I saw, or what I think I saw.


"Are you two together?" I asked her, later, at the start of morning break.

"I may walk with Mia, and may like her a lot, but we are most certainly not together!" Her eyes flashed at me.

"Defensive, much? Anyway I wasn't talking about Mia." Hmm, I wasn't doing this very well, and I really shouldn't have started digging this hole. "I meant..."

"It's ok, Peter, I know what you meant. He's cute, though. Dreamy..." she tailed off.

"Don't know about cute and dreamy," I did, though. I've been starting to see him in my dreams more and more, "I just..."

"Can't keep your eyes off the back of his neck?"

I know I turned bright beetroot red. I could feel the heat, like a 10 megawatt electric fire. "It's hard when it's right between me and the teacher!" Oh shit, that fails on so many levels.

"That fails on so many levels!"

"Evil girl." I was trying to recover some sort of composure. "I thought the same thing just before you said it." Wow. I was talking to Chloë, and properly.

"We girls are evil. Speaking of which, are you doing anything right now?" She gave me no time to answer. "Come and join me in the tuck shop."vii Not just no time to answer, no time nor chance to say no. Anyway, who says no to a pretty girl who's grabbed your hand? "You can buy me a sticky confection."

"Why?"

"Ha! I think you mean 'What's in it for me?'?" She hadn't let go of my hand. "Anyway, they cost hardly anything, and I have a solution for you."

"I didn't know I had a problem? But ok, I'll buy you something nice." We'd got to the counter. There wasn't a huge choice. "Two Chelsea Bunsviii please?"

We went and sat in a quietish corner. I like Chelsea buns. I nibble them and unwrap them all the way to the core. Chloë chomped hers. She's pretty. She's also very direct, I was finding.

Then I found she wasn't quite so direct. Or I mean not quite so sure of herself. "I'm not sure how to start." She was hesitating.

"Start in the middle! Its what my dad always says."

"Maybe you're right. Only..."

"Are you trying to ask me to go out with you?"

"Actually, that's not it. I like you and I'd go out with you like a shot if only..." A long pause. "I'm not getting this right." She looked down. "I seem to have finished my bun. Right, here goes. It's about Jim Travis. He's asked me for some help."

"Jim..."

"Hear me out, please. Jim was at my prep school and I've known him for ever. This is so much harder than I expected. Look, I know you like him, or I think I do."

"I think I do, too, not that we get any real chances to talk to each other."

"I mean a bit more than just liking him. I know you can't take your eyes of him when he's in front of you..."

"I'm not gay!"

"I'm not saying you are. It's not that. I don't mind if you are or aren't. It's not that at all. It's the effect Jim seems to have on other people, and without doing anything except being himself."

"You're not making much sense."

"True. Look, when he was 11 he had a really difficult time. No, it was more than that."

"Meaning?"

"There was a court case. He was in the scouts. His scoutmaster... Jim... Everything went horrible for him"

"No! Well, obviously... Oh lord. Poor Jim."

"I care about him," Chloë said. "I've known him for ever, and... I'm making a huge mess of this..."

"I'm thinking," I was quiet when I spoke. "I'm thinking this isn't something he wants the world to know about..."

"Not like an advert, no. The thing is, he asked me to tell you." I gasped as she said that. "Only I think I'm making a mess of this."

"Why would he ask..."

"That's the thing. Look, I told you I don't care if you're gay or not, but I do know you can't take your eyes off Jim. No, don't interrupt. I've got this now. Jim thinks, maybe hopes, you might want to be his friend. So he asked me to talk to you..."

"You interview his potential friends?"

"No. Yes. No. I've not done it before." She paused, looked down, blushed. "I feel stupid now. I'm sorry."

"And the 'I don't care if you're gay' thing? What's that about?" I was trying to sound indignant. Truth was I was intrigued. I was having a long serious talk with Chloë whom I'd rather fancied, but it wasn't at all about me and her. Better yet I wasn't tongue tied! And I was half sure I found Jim at least interesting! But I find Chloë at least interesting too. Amazing what you can think while waiting for a reply.

"Well, it's the truth, Peter. I don't. I'd quite like you not to be because I think you're really nice, and I kind of hope... No. Not going there. Jim asked me first, and he's weirdly shy about even approaching you."

"He sits in front of me, us, for heavens sake!"

"Yeah. And you want to talk to him, too, and you haven't either. What's with that, clever clogs?"

That hot red face thing came back. I'd thought I was past that. I told her about necks and hair and how Jim's was pools of blond hair on his neck and so delightful... "Ah, I see what you mean. About him, yes, but talk to him? That's oddly hard."

"Will you?"

"I think so, but I'm nervous. This scout thing... I don't want to put my foot in it."

We'd left the tuck shop a few minutes ago and we heading for History in room 7A. Talking had to stop when the bell rang to start lessons and Psycho Morris came in on the first R of the bell's RRRRRRING to start the lesson.


Straight to lunch after the two remaining morning lessons, so no chance to talk to anyone at all, and I don't count the scrambled en masse walk from room 7A to 16. I was still thinking, though. Jim's ears and neck didn't help. Chloë's right. I can't take my eyes off him. But she's made me think hard about him too; I mean not about me, but about him.

So we have to talk. It's just where and when. And is Chloë part of the talk? And why's she doing this? There was something missing. I wondered if it even mattered.

He's very good looking, not angular, but soft features. Not that I see his face except coming into and leaving class. I think we're pretty much the same height. He's quiet in class, never puts his hand up, only answers the teachers when they ask him directly.

Odd thing is I've not seen his eyes.

I told Chloë I'm not gay. So why am I thinking about Jim so much? And why not about Chloë? And why not about other girls, or other boys?


"Hi Jim?" I know, a cautious opening. I'd made a point of bumping into him after lunch.

"Oh!" He didn't jump exactly, nor recoil, but it looked as if he did internally. "Peter. You sit behind me, right?" And he sounded nervous.

" Chloë said..."

"Oh!" Again with the 'Oh!' "Er, yes. I'd like, I mean has she? No, not now." That last was almost to himself. "Please can we meet up after games?"

Every afternoon we have an exercise regime. Some schools call it sport. The USA seems to call it 'sports'. We call it games. We play rugby in the winter, not in the same side, I hasten to add, since he's good and I'm, well, not.

"What time?"

"Tuck shop steps around half three?"


I'm not sure if you can be late or early for 'around half three', so I was early. Our muddy excuse for keeping fit finished at three and I was back, showered and dressed by twenty past and hanging around by the tuck shop. We're in different houses, live there, change there, shower there, keep our books and stuff there. Meeting actually in a house is frowned on for no reasons anyone understands, so he'd chosen a sensible place. Folk met there all the time, but inside, usually.

"Um, hi?" A small voice just behind me. "Can we go for a wander around?"

"Sure thing."

We headed in no particular direction through the quad and onto the big triangle that made up the main drive. I had no idea what to talk about, nor did he seem able to start. "I'm sorry, this is stupid." But there was a question in his voice, something that made me want to answer him without knowing how.

"So what?" Well, that was a pretty poor 'best I could think of' response. "Jim, Chloë told me you'd had a rotten time, and also that you'd like to be friends?" Well, at least that was direct.

"I like Chloë," he said. "Sorry. I'm trying to say things and doing it all wrong." A long silence.

"Chloë sort of asked me if I'm gay while she was talking to me."

"Ah."

"And she said it didn't matter if I was or not, but I get the feeling it matters."

"Er..."

"Jim, does it matter to you if I am or not?"

"I don't know," and I could see slightly moist eyes.

"Well, I've no idea if I am or not, so, if you don't know if it matters and I've no idea then that could work as a place to start?" All the while I was wondering why he was so scared, no, apprehensive, why so serious, why what I might be actually mattered.

"I've been trying to get brave enough to talk to you all term, Peter."

"Don't know why you need to be brave. I'm pretty ordinary, you know."

"Chloë knew, and knows why I needed to be brave. It's not you that makes me feel like that, it's me. That's why she offered to talk to you, to find out of you were safe for me..." Now his eyes were leaking, small tracks down his face. No sobs, just wet cheeks. I felt really weird. I wanted to hug his fear away. He always looked so confident, and suddenly, with the mask stripped away, he was vulnerable, like a very small child. "You must think I'm really weird."

"Actually I think you're really beautiful." Wow. That was unexpected. I'd opened my mouth to say something and that fell out. I hadn't known I was going to say that, not at all. "Er, I mean not weird. Well, perhaps a little." I was embarrassed suddenly. "No." I'd thought hard. "No, you're hurting over something."

"Are you kind, Peter? I think you are, Chloë thinks you are."

"Not ever thought about it. I hope so. I'm not mean, if that's what you mean. I've been bullied and I hated it and hate bullies. I don't like hurting people, even by accident. But I've no idea if that makes me kind. Don't you think you should tell me why you need me to be?" Then I thought. "Actually, not if you don't want to."

"I do want to tell you. I'm just a bit afraid to."

"You know what, school's a lousy place to do whatever this is that we're doing."

"Yeah."

"Where d'you live Jim? I'm in Ewell."

"Cheam, near Nonsuch Park."ix

"I'm in Castlemaine Avenue."

"We could meet..."

"In the park, or at my place or at yours."

"Yeah, I live in Anne Boleyn's Walk"

"Bloody cold in the park."

"I..."

I made a decision. "My place, Saturday, cycle over. Invite Chloë if you want to or need to."

"Your parents?"

"Will be in, or out, No idea. Will they mind? Not a chance. They keep saying I should bring a friend home. If we get on stay for supper? Heck, stay for supper anyway."

"I'm so... I don't know what to say..."

"If it helps, I like you." Does one say that to another boy? Was any of this weird conversation really happening? I felt as if I was in the middle of one of those dreams where we end up walking across chocolate icing and fall through into a raging river beneath the ice, and wake up on the floor beside the bed. "We're friends, aren't we?"

Now his eyes were wet again. "I hope so" he said in such a small voice I could hardly hear him. I felt an overpowering impulse to hug him, something I managed to resist because we were on the school driveway and I got the feeling that was just not done.

"What I think we plan for Saturday is nothing at all. Bring homework if you want, talk if you want, watch TV, sit staring at each other in silence."

"You said I was beautiful?" He was hesitant.

"I thought I'd got away with that! You are."

"I've been told I'm pretty before, never beautiful."

"Ok, I'm getting into blushing areas here. It wasn't a compliment, you know. It's just what I see, or feel. I don't mean pretty. That's skin deep. I don't even mean I'm attracted to you. Those words came out of my mouth and I hadn't known they were in there. I just know you, the whole you, is beautiful, but I don't even know what I mean."

"Are you?"

"What?"

"Attracted to me?"

"I don't know. I'd have to be gay? I don't think I am, but I'm a little bit in love with the back of your neck. Should I be?"

"I was born pretty, Peter. People seem to fall for me based on what they see. It's rotten being the pretty boy. I don't ever know how to trust people." This was deep stuff.

"Ok, James Travis, here's the thing. We're friends. You happen to be pretty. I happen to be pretty, too, pretty ordinary. I don't know why I said you're beautiful, but it's something apart from the way you look, and you are. Well, except the back of your neck, which I rather like. I know that that's beautiful" I told him about my weird backs of necks thing.

"You're nuts Peter Yarrold, but that'll do until Saturday."

"Any time after two? Don't dress smart. Come as you normally dress on Saturdays."

"I'll cycle through the park."


"Mum. It's ok if a friend comes round on Saturday?"

"You mean 'is it ok?'."

"Yeah, that."

"Will he be staying to supper?"

"Not sure. It might be two of them."

"You have two friends?"

"Mum, you are a total brat!"

"Goes with the job description. Do any parents need to speak to me?"

"I'll give Jim and Chloë your number for them in case."

"One's a girl? My little boy is growing up."

"I officially hate you now."

"Yes, dear. I refer you to the answer I gave earlier. And don't split infinitives. If they stay for supper would you like anything special?"

"Usual stuff, please, mum. Seriously, don't go to town over it. Neither might want to stay and there might only be one anyway."

"At least find out if there's anything they don't eat."


That was Wednesday. Jim and Chloë decided together she wasn't needed, though she was welcome, so I left it to him to invite her or not if minds changed. I've never felt protective before, Derek always protected me if there was something to protect me from. Feeling protective of Jim was a new thing. I knew I didn't want to wrap him in warm towels, but I felt there was something I ought to do. He and I hardly interacted the rest of the school week.

It's not as if I've got any responsibility for him or anything, but he's picked me as if I'm somehow special. I do like him. He's easy to like. And in four hours time I may get closer to whatever it is he needs to talk to me about.


He arrived on the dot. We got the 'Hello Mrs Yarrold' stuff out of the way without mum embarrassing me, and went up to my room.

"I'm nervous," he said.

"Not of me, I hope?" I hoped that was the right thing to say. "Actually I am, too."

"Why?"

I hadn't expected that. If I'd been thinking then I would have. "Hard to put into words. See, I think you're about to tell me something important, or difficult, or both. And I don't want to let you down, or laugh in the wrong places, or upset you..."

"I was right. You're kind." There was a pause. "I may shock you. I don't mean to."

"Can't promise not to be shocked, but I'll try to be shocked with you, not about you?"

"First, I think I must be gay."

"If that was the shock, it failed. So you're gay, maybe. Ok, so what?" I was looking at him, but he wasn't making eye contact. I hoped he would.

"Well, that was easier than I expected. There's more though."

"Am I meant to ask you questions or do you just want to tell me stuff?"

"You can ask, if you like. It might help. You promise not to tell anyone what I'm telling you?"

"It's your property, whatever it is. Including being gay." Something was nagging at me. "You said 'I think I must be gay' and that was an interesting choice of words?" I left it hanging as a question.

"You remember I told you that people fall for me because I'm pretty?"

"I do. That was when I was trying to describe beauty instead of prettiness."

"I think I make people fall for me and it's because I must be gay because it's always men and boys girls just seem to want to take care of me but men and boys seem to want me so I must be gay" He spoke with no punctuation, all in a rush.

"I don't think of you like that, you know."

"At first I was worried that you might, but no, I can see you don't. But I'm not sure how I can see it."

"Let me ask a question. Chloë mentioned that you'd had a rotten time, and a scoutmaster. Actually that's not a question exactly, but will it do?"

"I asked her to talk to you, and gave her permission to drop some hints. This part is hard for me."

"Shall we put coats on and go for a walk, and talk in private in public?"


A hundred metres or so into the park he started talking about it. "I joined the scouts. Well, I suppose that's obvious. I was a pretty innocent little boy, and I loved the attention Giles was giving me."

"He was the scoutmaster?"

"Yes. He made me feel really special. Teaching me how to be a scout, the things I'd missed because I was never cub, knots, all sorts of things. Oh, there's something you don't know. My dad had died a year before. There was just me and mum then. Mum's new bloke's great, but she only met him a while after dad died, and they're putting off getting married for a bit. So there was just me and her."

I made one of those conversational grunts that meant 'go on'.

"Giles use to cuddle me, and I felt really safe with him. He told me I was special. Maybe I am, I dunno, though I doubt it. But I believed him." Jim went on to describe how he'd fallen under the spell of this Giles person. "He wasn't a man, exactly, he was only 20 or so, and it felt really special being his chosen scout. I mean I really thought it was all about scouting and stuff..."

"I think I know what's coming?"

"Probably, but I need to tell you." And he described touches that were safe, good touches, and then ones not so safe, not so good, then touches to massage hurt leg muscles, hurt arm muscles. I was starting to get the creeps about Giles, even though I sort of knew what was coming.

"He made me love him, Peter! He made me love him so much! I adored him and he was just using me..." He was crying, and standing still.

To heck with convention. I put my arms around him and held him gently, face to face, heads on each other's shoulders. "Just tell me what you need to," I whispered.

It took a while for the sobs to ease. "You must think I'm a wimp."

"Why? This bloke fooled you. I'm upset and I've not been through anything like that."

"There's more, loads more. He taught me sex things, made me want to know about them. Taught me about orgasms, and he... he... heeeeee... fucked me with his cock right up inside me."

"Oww!"

"Kind of, at first, but Peter, I loved it! I loved him and I loved it!" He was almost shouting. Then, "You don't seem shocked or disgusted?"

"I'm sad, truth to tell."

"Sad?"

"Sad. I don't think sex should be like that, heterosexual or homosexual. I think sex should be about real returned love, and no-one in power over anyone else. The rest? It's just mechanical stuff. Doesn't matter unless it hurts. I'm not sure I'm saying this well. I hope you know how I feel rather than what I'm saying?"

"But he raped me!"x

"Yes. I mean I know rape's serious stuff, but so what?"

"But I'm dirty."

"Says who?"

"They made me feel dirty when they found out. I loved Giles. I think I still love him deep down, but they spoiled it, with police and statements and hospitals and social workers and psychiatrists. They made something I thought was special feel horrible..." He tailed off. "I think he made me gay, because I loved it, all of it!"

"Let me get my head right. I have very basic questions."

"Ok"

"Did Giles ever hurt you?"

"Never, well, a little, but that wasn't real hurting."

"Ok. Did he force you in any way at all?"

"They said he groomed me, and that forced me, but I don't think so, no."

"Not sure how you can answer this, but do you think he loved you?"

"I hope so, but I don't know."

"I need a bit of thinking time. This is all a bit adult for me." We'd reached the mansion in the park. We walked on in silence for a short while. "First, no-one can make you gay. Are you gay? I mean really gay? I'm not even fourteen, I don't know what I am yet."

"I loved the sex, Peter. I must be gay. Or I must be gay now!"

"Giles never hurt you, we've been taught about grooming, so it does look as if he groomed you, especially since you were innocent. Legally he raped you, yes, even if you asked him to do it, but what do you feel about it?" I was surprised at myself. I wasn't shocked, wasn't horrified, I expected to be disgusted, but wasn't.

"I think I was raped afterwards when one of the other scouts found out and reported us. It all turned to shit then, and his life's ruined now. He was so special..."

"You do know I'm way out of my depth?"

"Yeah..."

"If you know you weren't raped, then you weren't raped. Screw the law. And I don't think you're dirty. No. I know you're not dirty. I still know you're beautiful, Jim. And dirty people aren't beautiful, not inside, not outside. Who made you feel dirty?"

"The shrink. He went over and over how I 'might' be feeling until he almost made me feel it."

"Well, he's a shit. I guess you might feel a bit off about the whole thing now, after the whole shitstorm, but I believe you when you say how much it meant to you."

"You really feel like that?"

"Why wouldn't I? You've told me what you went through and I heard it in your voice. I hurt for the way you've been made to feel. I'd take it off you if I could. We can't help Giles. I think he made a big mistake. He's the grownup. He's meant to be able to do everything right for boys, not... Well, that's not important. I'm cross about that, cross with him, but I'm not judging you. Does that make sense?"

"A bit. I wish he'd waited until I was old enough, but he made me gay."

"Did not! This I need to read about, but I seriously do not think that you can be made to be gay."

"But I look at boys... Men, too..."

"And who says you wouldn't have anyway? I do too, to check my bits against theirs. Does that make me gay?" No answer. I thought a moment. "How about girls?"

"I've never seen a naked girl!"

"No, silly, nor have I. Online!"

"I've found Pornhub and Xhamster."

"Those I want to see, now!"

"I like the youngish men. The girls are, well, their faces are weird when they're having sex, as if they don't like it much."

"What about the bodies?"

"The men, almost every time. And they look as if they're having fun, like I did with Giles."

The sun was setting fast. I thought we'd probably best be getting home. "Jim, let's head home. It's freezing. There's loads more to talk about, but lets be warm while we talk."

"I'm glad we met, you know," he said.

"Me, too. Me too." I had a lot to process. One thing I knew for sure was that no-one could make you gay. Halfway home, "I've had a thought. If you had been with a girl, would that have made you heterosexual?"

"I'd always have been heterosexual anyway."

"Why?"

"Oh. Well, what about you?"

"Still 100% virgin except by my own hand, but I find boys interesting and girls cute, but a bit of a mystery."

"Which one would you choose to have sex with?"

"I'd shag a sofa if it would have me!" I was laughing. So was he. "But I think it's more than that. I hope it is. You described love. I want love. Mum and dad and I've talked about sex and love and how they're all mixed up and sometimes aren't, sometimes they're separate. I want love, love first. Sex will happen when I love, when I'm loved. Mum and dad said it would be somehow more than the physical stuff."

"That's deep."

"Yeah. I hope they're right. Until then I'm happy having a wank!"

"My time with Giles tells me they're right."

"Oh shit, I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking..."

"No, it's fine, really. What I mean is that I felt loved. And the rest was the way he showed me even more... And I've never captured that while wanking."

"When did it all blow up?"

"The trial was six months ago. He pleaded guilty. I think it was to save me from having to go to court. I didn't want to, though. And nine months before that the shit hit the fan, and that was awful."

"I can't even start to imagine..."

"No-one should. No-one. I can't undo it. I had to grow up too fast. It wasn't Giles. They stole that time from me, the social workers. There was even a time I thought they'd take me away from my mum."

We got home as the light was failing completely. "You're staying to supper? Please? I really want you to? No, not want. Like, I'd like you to stay, very much, if you will, please."

"I'd better" He laughed. "I forgot to put the lights on my bike!"


During the run up to supper I learned where Chloë fitted into his life. She lived directly across the road from him, and they'd both lived there for ever, and had been friends since each could remember. She knew enough, he'd told me, but not the details. The thing was she'd supported him as well as she could when it went to shit and, as she'd grown older had taken him on, almost like a project, but without being stupid about it. And he trusted her.

After supper we opened the sites he'd mentioned on my laptop. We used a private browser window. I'm not daft! There were some areas for, er, private research, but I saw enough to know that I like lithe male bodies better than lithe female bodies, but it was a close thing. I did decide I do not ever want to watch someone lick someone else's arsehole! Watching a rather larger todger than mine vanishing inside another lad was more interesting that watching one slipping inside a young lady. I need to consider this some more.

"Which do you think you like better?" Jim asked me, sounding a little tense!

"It's close. The lads look as if they're having more fun." I was a little 'tense', too. "I think I'd like to try both."

"I'm only interested in the boys," Jim said. "I've looked at the regular stuff a lot and the girls do nothing for me."

"No-one can make you only interested in boys, you know. I think I may be bi. I'm not too sure about having a dick inside me though..."

"It took my breath away the first time."

"After that?"

"Impossible to describe and absolutely amazing."

"That I need to think about. And I need to turn this off before I explode."

"You're probably right. I'm not here to try to seduce you, you know?" He sounded unsure. "I think I'd like to, one day, but not right now..."

"One day I might let you, but not now, no. I agree." I closed the laptop lid.

"If he didn't make me gay, did he choose me because I look gay?"

"And what does that look like? You look like a boy to me. I'm guessing you did at 11, too."

"Maybe I give off gay vibes..."

"At 11? Maybe he just liked boys with no hair and small bits?"

"Whenever I think that I get disgusted, Peter. At me for falling for it..."

"So don't think that. Tell me, no, look at my eyes and tell me, tell me why it matters why it happened?"

"It kind of just does? Ok, lame. I want there to be a reason that means that I matter. I thought he loved me. I know I loved him."

"I know several people you matter to. There's Chloë, there's your mum, your dad, too, come to that, there's me. That's for starters."

"Oh. Yes. I'm sorry. I get, they said 'depressed', but that's not right. I overanalyse. I think it's more obsessed than depressed."

A voice came up the stairs, "Boys, coming up to nine o'clock!"

"We'll be down in a minute, mum."

He turned to me. "I trust you. Thank you. I asked if you were kind. I think it's the wrong word. I think you're impressive. Yes, that's the word. You, Peter Yarrold, are impressive"

I found my eyes started to leak at that. I couldn't speak, so I just grabbed and gripped his hand. Then we went downstairs to the complex logistics of his bike having no lights, and the weather having turned to rain. Dad solved it by driving him home. We'd sort out his bike tomorrow.

I did take my laptop to bed with me. Wow!


Sunday I woke early. I decided I needed to find out more before talking to Jim again. I needed to try to work out if the adults are right or if Jim had a real point that it was good, all of it. My instincts said not, but I didn't know. Searches for various combinations of words like 'man', 'boy', and 'sex' produced things that were interesting but had no use in what I wanted to find out. And I'd forgotten to use a private window, so I had to clear my browser history. And, hiding behind my browser, I found a pop up window with enormous breasts.


"Dad, I need to ask you something difficult."

"That sounds ominous." He was smiling, though.

"Is it always bad if a man has sex with someone under age?"

"Do you want to know about the law or real life?"

"I think I know about the law. There's been enough about Rotherhamxi in the news. No, I want to know more useful things. Like is the child a real victim, that sort of stuff?"

"You know I'm going to ask you how this affects you before I answer you, don't you?"

"I can see that. I'd ask, too. I can tell you this isn't about me, and that it is no longer happening with the person it was happening with. The man involved is in prison."

"Ok, so you want an intellectual answer? Sort of hypothetical?"

We had a long chat about what type of behaviour was really unwanted. Dad told me that a child really doesn't need to be aware of sex before they're ready emotionally, and we discussed the physical stuff, especially size differences and danger of injury. I learned things I didn't know about the power an adult like a teacher has, and how it's different from an ordinary one.

"Is this helping?" dad asked me.

"Almost. What if the child enjoys it, wants it, feels loved because of it?"xii

"Sex feels great. Why wouldn't anyone enjoy it, of whatever age? That's not the point, and this is where society comes in. We've chosen to enact laws that restrict interactions of adults and children, and for the most part there's good reason. Sometimes the child is mature enough to handle things. How would you have reacted if, say, a teacher had started stroking you?"

"Been disgusted. I'd be upset today. Younger I'd not have known what to do."

"So you might have felt pressured into doing things you felt upset about. That's why the age of consent was invented. Can you tell me what this is about?"

I told him the basic facts. He remembered the case in the local news. We had a long discussion about what being a victim might be like. I like what he told me about victims. It was something like 'They are only victims if they've been made to feel like victims.' And the intrusion of the press into people's lives made him think that they created more problems for the child than their abuser. "Unless," he said, "Unless the child has been harmed by force or with drugs or blackmail or other unpleasant stuff."

He was clear on one thing, to. I got this message very clearly. He said "Even if the child likes it, even starts it, it's the adult's job to say no. But they must do that well and kindly. By the way, Peter, thank you for asking me about all this. I'd never have thought to talk to you about it myself. Do you mind if I tell mum what we've talked about? And will you keep asking me about things like this?"

"If you can tell her without making her worry, because there is nothing at all to worry about. I was a bit odd about asking you, but I think I can ask you about pretty much anything now." I wondered, suddenly. "Actually...?"

"Go for it. In for a penny." He smiled.

"How will I know if I'm heterosexual or gay?"

"I think we just develop a sense for who we are. Me? I always knew I wanted girls. Boys were just boys, even naked in the showers. I never even considered them. You asking for a reason? Whatever you turn out to be is just fine by me, you know."

"I think I may like both?" I was blushing.

"I expect it'll settle over time. You can bring both home to meet us whenever you like. At the same time if you want!"

"Dad!" But, even though I didn't have an answer I knew I had his love.

"While I've got you here, how do we re-associate Jim with his bike?"

"I was going to cycle it over and walk back. I'll go through the park."


I'd not noticed Anne Boleyn's Walkxiii before, though I'd cut through it often enough. Today it had become significant in my life. Nice houses, much like ours, the only difference was a yellow no parking line everywhere. It's odd riding someone else's bike. Nothing was quite in the right place.

It was about ten thirty when I got there. Yesterday's rain had gone. It was cold and crisp. No doorbell, just a knocker shaped like a fish, so I knocked.

"You must be Peter," the man who answered the door said. "We knew it'd be you, Jim just called your home and your dad said you were coming over. The bike lives in the garage." he came out to open it, turned back and called inside "Jim! Peter's here!" followed by a light thunder of feet down the staircase.

"Oh good," he said.

"You're just saying that because I brought your bike back!" And then I found teasing was the wrong thing to do. His face crumpled and he looked as if I'd killed his pet hamster in front of him. "Ok, that was the wrong thing to say. I wanted to come over earlier, but I had things I had to do first, and ten thirty seemed like a civilised time and, oh dammit, I wanted to come and I'm sorry..." I'd run out of words and breath. "And teasing you was a mistake. I'm really sorry."

"No, I am. Look, let me put the bike away and we'll go up to my room." He looked almost back to normal. As we finished and headed upstairs. "I'm sorry. I was stressed after yesterday. I thought you might hate me, or that I'm somehow defective, or..."

"We're friends. We may fall out at some point in the future, but never over your past. And you're not defective and hating you is the last thing on my mind. Not going to happen."

"I get down quite often. It was really tough telling you things yesterday. Mum told me I might get a big low after the huge high of being able to talk to someone about it. No, not tough telling you; tough deciding to tell you, getting brave enough."

"I'm not very scary, you know."

"Chloë told me that, and I believed her, and I found out for myself yesterday. I get really deep ever since... I miss him, Peter."

We sat for a while, on his bed, quiet. He seemed to need quiet.

"Not about you, I talked to dad about children and adults and sex. Truly not about you. I think he was worried at first I was talking about me!" And we talked about what dad had talked to me about. "For what it's worth, you've come though a rotten time and, oh balls, things never come out of my mouth right! What I mean is, I still think you, James Travis, are a beautiful person." I felt a hand slip under mine. I gripped it.

"Thank you. I don't know why your opinion means so much to me, but it does." And at last he was smiling.

"I went online again after you left; looked at some of those sites you showed me again. They made me feel squirmy inside. I don't know if I'm ready to get up close and personal with someone else yet, but they gave me a lot to think about."

"I suppose you know I'm a little bit in awe of you?"

"Why on earth?"

"Your eyes. They show me so much about you." He paused. "I'm not sure that even makes any sense." He was holding my gaze.

"That's my eyes and the back of your neck." I found I was still holding his hand. I broke eye contact, really hard to do; I lifted it up, looked down at it and examined it minutely without seeing it at all. "I was wondering..." I dithered off into silence. Give Jim his due, he let the silence stand. It stood for what seemed to be a lifetime. "I don't know how to ask this..."

His hand gave mine a squeeze. "Just ask. I won't break."

"Jim, it's not the sex stuff... I feel very close to you. Do you feel up to trying to be, maybe, boyfriends?" I turned bright red. "There. For good or ill I've said it." Oh. That last part was meant to be silent.

"As long as you can cope with my bleak times, I'm willing to try. And yes, you said it."

"I'm terrified!" I was. I could feel my body vibrating.

"Of me?"

"No. I'm afraid of hurting you by accident. And I'm not sure I'm gay. Will you accept me if I'm bi?"

"I'll take you on any terms. You know I said I was in awe of you? I meant I'm falling for you."

"Does it feel scary to you?"

"Very."

"What do boyfriends do?"

"What good friends do, but closer."

"At some point there's sex... I'm nervous, excited... actually a bit worried about sex..."

"At some point we'll learn how to love each other, yes."

"Did I ever tell you that I am a ticket holder in the lottery of backs of ears and necks?"

"You told me a bit about weird neck hairstyles." he was smiling at me.

"Well, I think I hold the winning ticket. You're totally, unexpectedly, gloriously wonderful."

"I'd like to tell Chloë. What do you think?"

"I'd like to tell the world! But we'll settle for telling Chloë for now. Shall we each kiss her?"


We went across the road, hand in hand, and rang the doorbell.

Footnotes

Click the footnote number to return to its place in the text

i The British Public School is, ironically, private, though the title harks back to the days when schooling at all was a privilege, and the schools were supposedly for the public. If we take away the capital letter, a school in the public sector is provided by the state. The broad difference in education is that the Public School has smaller classes than the public school, thus the teachers have a better chance of educating the kids.

ii The British Prep School, or Preparatory School, is a private school that prepares pupils for Public School, though quite how it does that is a mystery.

iii Typical school week from a random Public School.

iv The Facts of Life – A Family Doctor Booklet by Roger Pilkington MD.

v The War of Jenkins' Ear (known as >Guerra del Asiento in Spain) was a conflict between Britain and Spain lasting from 1739 to 1748, with major operations largely ended by 1742. Never let anyone tell you that Teenage Gay Romantic Fiction is not educational as well as a grand romp!

vi GCSE Syllabus

vii A 'Tuck Shop' is a small school store where things like crisps (that would be chips for those in the USA), chocolate, snacks, drinks and so forth are sold at pretty much cost price to pupils. Some, like this one, have tables and chairs, others are just a counter.

viii What a glorious sticky comestible is the Chelsea Bun!

ix This tale is based on real geography. It's up to you to guess which houses they live in, because the characters don't exist in real life, but use of Streetview shows you the housing stock and lets you learn about what their lives might be like.

x Rape is a fact of life, but it is never trivial. How we all react to it has a great bearing on how the person raped feels and how well they process the experience and return to a feeling of wellbeing. Iomfats.org has rape resources which have some practical courses of action to take.

xi There has been a great deal of reporting of a child sexual abuse scandal in Rotherham in the UK. This was the precursor to many revelations of child sexual abuse here.

xii Sexual abuse is a harmful thing. There are many resources online to help those who have been abused. Myths and Facts About Male Sexual Abuse and Assault is a useful one. So are good therapists, but choose your therapist wisely. Online, Peter found a lot of rubbish, some of which glorified that act, some of which was just deeply unpleasant.

xiii On a historical note, here is more about Anne Boleyn's Walk. See! I told you it was educational!

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