A Blush of Boys
by Jolyon Lewes
Now back in their own clothes, Malcolm and Bruno left the star dressing room and made for the stage door but after just a few seconds Malcolm came to a halt. He looked very worried.
"I don't want to go out just yet," he said, looking at his watch. "My dad won't be here to pick me up yet and I don't want to be recognised by anyone who was in the audience."
"Yeah, I can understand why," said Bruno, pausing beside Malcolm in the deserted corridor. "My dad'll be another half hour, tidying up. I liked wearing your jeans. A bit long in the leg for me but so comfortable, so smooth. I wish they were mine."
"I don't know how you can bear those shorts," said Malcolm, turning to look at Bruno. "Itch like hell, as well as being so ..."
"So bloody short. Yeah, I know. Mum says I've got to stick with 'em till they've worn out. And there's two more pairs like this - more or less the same size and everything. They're so tough they'll never bloody wear out! I'll be in 'em for years!" Bruno's pained expression portrayed his opinion of his shorts. "Look, Dad'll be on stage, looking after the piano. We could sit in the auditorium so he'll know where we are."
Resplendent in red polo shirt and blue jeans, Malcolm sat in the front row with Bruno beside him, rather less resplendent in his school uniform. Now it was not Malcolm's but Bruno's bare thighs that shone brightly in the stage lights.
"Mind if I call you Malcolm?" asked Bruno.
"No, course not. Did you see any boys from school in the audience?"
"Nope," said Bruno. "There might've been some but I didn't notice any."
"Thank God for that!" said Malcolm, his bottom throbbing mildly as it rested on the padded theatre seat.
"It's OK, Malcolm, I won't tell anyone you had to wear my clothes."
"What about the other thing? In Sir Crispin's dressing room?"
"You mean when he spanked you? Why would I want to tell anyone? I felt incredibly sorry for you."
"Yeah, but, well, most kids would love to hear about a Fifth-former getting a bare-bottom spanking! I've never heard of it happening before." Malcolm fumbled in his jeans for his wallet.
"Well I ain't telling no-one," said Bruno. "And if you're thinking of giving me some of your fee don't bother. Your secret is safe with me but it won't stop me thinking about it."
"Hmm," said Malcolm, "I don't s'pose you'll forget it either. I'll be in your debt forever if you don't tell anyone."
To Malcolm the spanking was nearly as demeaning as having to wear Bruno's shorts and he wasn't sure he could trust Bruno not to spill the beans at school on Monday. If that happened, Malcolm would be the laughing stock of the whole school. He was wondering how to get Bruno to make a solemn promise when he was made an offer he could hardly refuse.
"Malcolm," said Bruno, "I promise to keep your spanking to myself but will you do something for me? I'm looking for someone to take me seriously. D'you know what I mean?"
Malcolm turned towards Bruno and caught himself staring at the boy's glistening thighs. In common with most of his schoolmates, he'd only ever observed Bruno from the waist down. No other boy in the school - even when in sports shorts - showed quite so much bare leg, unless dressed for swimming. Malcolm drew his eyes up until he was looking at Bruno's earnest face. He'd never properly looked at his face before and found himself gazing into a pair of brown eyes with pupils so large as to be mesmerising.
"Um, no, I don't think I know what you mean."
"Look," said Bruno, "I know I'm famous all over the school for these bloody shorts. I really hate 'em. They're the only thing I'm known for and I want someone to think of me for what I do and not for what I have to wear. I'm into music and so are you - I've heard you playing. I'm going for Grade Six on violin next term and I play the piano, too. I was hoping we could sort of compare notes. There's no-one else I can ask - most boys just laugh at my bare legs. Some even try to get their fingers inside my shorts for a feel, if you know what I mean."
"That's horrible! But why do you stand for it? The shorts, I mean?"
"It's Mum, she's Dutch. She wants me to look like Dutch boys do - or used to. Her brother had to wear things like this till he was seventeen! I've seen the photos. It was in the nineteen-sixties - but I don't suppose many boys in Utrecht wear shorts like this any more. At least, not for school."
"Oh hell, I'm sorry, Bruno. I'd no idea. D'you get hassle on the school bus?"
"Yeah, that's why I always try to go with Dad in his car, even if it means staying late sometimes, after school. I use the time to get a bit of practice in but it can get lonely."
"So that's why I've never seen you in the bus queue. Look, I'll definitely take you seriously, Bruno. We can get together and talk music whenever you want. We could practise together after school. It'd be cool."
"Thanks," said Bruno, looking at Malcolm with those dark and soulful eyes of his.
"By the way," said Malcolm, "d'you know what Gordon whatsisname meant when he said 'blush of boys'?"
"It's the collective noun for boys," said Bruno. "We covered it in English last month: a blush of boys; like a charm of goldfinches or a school of whales."
"Hmm," was all Malcolm offered in reply.
That night, Malcolm lay in bed, rubbing his bottom and thinking about his ordeal. He wondered if Sir Crispin was a shirt-lifter. Then he thought about Bruno; yes, it would fun to play music with him and it might be nice to get to know him. Four miles away, Bruno was abed, reliving the spectacle of poor Malcolm doing his page-turning and then getting his beautiful, bare bottom spanked by Sir Crispin. Bruno savoured his third arousal of the evening and brought it to a most satisfactory conclusion. Wiping himself dry with a fistful of tissues he thought that maybe Malcolm could be a good friend, in more ways than one.
To Malcolm's enormous relief, it seemed Bruno had been the only one of his schoolmates at the concert so the expected teasing at school the next week didn't happen. Bruno, to his great credit, never said anything about having to lend his clothes to Malcolm for the page-turning, nor did he tell anyone about Malcolm's bare-bottom spanking from Sir Crispin Strange. In turn, Malcolm was as good as his word and the two boys spent time talking music and practising together. A tentative friendship began to develop and as far as Malcolm was concerned, it was entirely platonic. Although he found Bruno pleasing to look at he was careful never to show it and made certain never to touch Bruno's bare legs, unlike the despicable, abusive boys who distressed Bruno by trying to grope inside his shorts.
For his part, Bruno found himself highly aroused by Malcolm's peerless body and beautiful face and thought about him in bed every night, in a manner that invariably resulted in full satisfaction. As the junior partner, however, he dared not make Malcolm aware of his feelings. At fourteen and three quarters, Bruno was sixteen months younger than Malcolm but thanks to his October birthday was in the Third Form, two years behind Malcolm. He was Malcolm's equal in sexual development and feelings of frustration were building, heightened by the self-consciousness he felt at being a lot older than any of the few boys at school still in grey shorts and his weren't like those boys' shorts - they were so very much shorter than anyone else's and made of coarse material that constantly itched and tickled.
Malcolm was innocently waiting for a girlfriend to come along (not that he was doing much to engineer a meeting) but Bruno had no desire for a girlfriend - he'd known for a couple of years he was gay and that there was nothing he could do about it. This made his grey shorts even more of a liability: if his schoolmates knew he was gay they might assume he deliberately flaunted his bare thighs and that would make his life hell. But he could hardly go to his parents, tell them he was gay and then demand long trousers. No, he couldn't tell anyone and he'd just have to get on with his studies and try to ignore the jibes about his bare legs and to keep alert for the groping fingers. He was never groped by the few boys he fancied - it was always the ugly brutes. Bruno just had to put on a brave face and cope.
Malcolm seemed such a nice, sensitive boy; Bruno hoped it would be to Malcolm that he'd come out, when the time was right. First, he'd have to earn Malcolm's friendship, through music. Music gave both boys a sense of purpose. For Bruno it was to involve himself in something he'd always loved and could indulge in without seeming to be a nerd and Malcolm's presence deterred boys who would seek to corner him and feel inside his shorts. Malcolm's proximity made Bruno feel safe; it kept him out of harm's way. Malcolm was a gifted pianist and Bruno's encouragement fired his enthusiasm to hitherto unequalled heights. Malcolm began to realise he couldn't think of anything he'd rather do than immerse himself in music. On balance though, he'd rather not be a page-turner again.
The summer holidays came and Malcolm and Bruno had no chance to see each other, let alone practise together because Malcolm's parents took him abroad, touring Northern France and the Low Countries. In September the new school year commenced, with Malcolm in the Sixth Form. Bruno was now in the Fourth Form and still in those spectacularly short grey shorts. He looked more conspicuous than ever as only about a dozen other boys now came to school in shorts and all were First or Second-formers and their shorts were much longer. Bruno and Malcolm were glad to see each other again and would meet in the music department five or six times a week, practising singly or together and chatting about the pieces they were learning. Malcolm always played the piano, Bruno usually played the violin but at least once a week he'd play the piano and sometimes the boys practised a duet, always with Malcolm on the left side of the keyboard and Bruno on the right. They wondered whether they could get a few pieces acceptable enough to perform at the school Christmas concert. Their friendship was blooming. They tolerated their tutors but far preferred to be in the rehearsal room without adults present, not because they wanted to do anything improper - although Bruno wouldn't have objected - but because they could be uninhibited in what they said and could experiment with their instruments without fear of disapproving looks.
It wasn't only in school where the boys encouraged each other for Bruno had started to invite Malcolm round to his house at weekends to play his father's Bechstein Grand. The first occasion was a cold Saturday in September, a fortnight before Malcolm's Grade Seven exam. It came to Malcolm as no surprise to find Bruno in shorts but these were corduroy ones of more respectable length, reaching nearly halfway down his thighs and a decade earlier would have been quite fashionable for boys in their mid-teens. As Malcolm practised some pieces under the watchful eye of Mr Perry, Bruno sat and listened, his eyes fixed on Malcolm's skintight jeans. Possessing no jeans of his own, Bruno was envious of Malcolm and wished his friend would sometimes wear shorts. He was lusting after Malcolm more than ever. Unfortunately, the only time he'd seen him naked below the waist was three months earlier, at The King's Theatre. Those jeans emphasised every contour of Malcolm's bottom and the gently convex curves of his slender thighs. When Malcolm had finished playing, Mr Perry clapped him on the shoulder and said 'Well done' and Malcolm looked at Bruno and gave him the sweetest smile. In bed that night Bruno imagined running his fingers - and his tongue - over the contents of those jeans of Malcolm's.
Bruno spent an ecstatic night thinking of Malcolm, rejoicing that his request to Malcolm at The King's Theatre had borne fruit. Now Bruno was at last being taken seriously by one boy in the school and that boy was Malcolm, a brilliant pianist and the sexiest boy alive. Bruno knew Malcolm was becoming an essential part of his life and he felt he could confide in him. He didn't want to ruin everything by telling Malcolm he was gay but thought he'd gauge his reaction to something concerning his tutor. The following Tuesday, straight after a violin lesson with his tutor, he met Malcolm in the corridor and asked him a question.
"Does your tutor ever lose his temper with you?"
"Yeah, of course, but he never swears or anything. Does the mighty Peregrine get grumpy with you?"
Bruno's tutor was a member of a musical dynasty: Peregrine Strange, a cousin of Sir Crispin, who'd so enjoyed spanking Malcolm.
"He slaps my legs sometimes," said Bruno in a quiet little voice, looking earnestly at Malcolm.
"Bloody hell! It must run in the family! That's what Sir Crispin did to me - in full view of the audience!"
"Yes, I did happen to notice," said Bruno, with a half-smile. "It stings, doesn't it?"
"Yes, it bloody did! Hey - has Peregrine slapped you today?"
"Ten minutes ago."
Bruno moved into the bright sunshine coming through an adjacent window and pointed at the front of his right thigh. He pulled up what little there was of the leg of his shorts to show Malcolm the red marks.
"Christ!" muttered Malcolm. "That must've hurt!"
Bruno let go of the hem, the rough material descended barely an inch and Malcolm could still see most of the red patch on the top of Bruno's right thigh.
"He does it when I'm sitting with the violin and of course my right leg's easier for him to hit so he always goes for that one. Yes, it does hurt."
"It's horrible!" said Malcolm. "Can I do anything?"
"D'you want to feel how hot it is?" asked Bruno. He perched on the window-seat and as he sat, the hems of his shorts retreated upwards and the whole extent of the red patch on his well-bronzed thigh was revealed.
Malcolm didn't want to do anything improper but, having checked nobody was coming, he went to Bruno and put the back of his hand first on Bruno's left thigh and then the right. "Christ! This one's much hotter! That man's unspeakable! Have you told your Dad?"
"No, I'm scared to. And Mum would only say it's me trying to find another way to get long trousers."
Malcolm's first instinct was to rub Bruno's thigh to make it better but he knew he'd better not do that so he said "That material must make it a hundred times worse. I've never seen anything so rough!"
"That's the only advantage of them being so short," said Bruno, standing up again. "You've worn 'em. Imagine how they'd feel if they were longer! Apparently the material has sisal in it; Mum says it's to give it durability but sisal's what doormats are made of! No wonder it's so scratchy. I just can't win."
As Bruno spoke, he put his fingers inside his shorts to give the top of his right thigh a good scratching. He said "Sometimes this cloth makes my skin feel like it's burning."
Malcolm watched Bruno trying to soothe the irritation and saw sticking out of the thick material of his shorts stiff little bristles that must have been the sisal Bruno had mentioned. Malcolm wondered why the poor boy had to suffer shorts that were not only humiliatingly short but painfully - well - painful. For the first time, he found looking at Bruno to be sexually arousing.
"I wish I could do something to help," said Malcolm, thinking it would be better if he sat down without delay. "You're my mate and I don't like to see you hurting. Shall we play a little duet to take your mind off it?"
Bruno followed Malcolm eagerly back to the rehearsal room and sitting side by side at the grand piano, the boys practised a bit of the Dolly Suite by Fauré. They were beginning to develop a sort of telepathy when playing together and the little session pleased them both. Afterwards, Bruno went home with grateful thoughts for Sir Crispin's usual page-turner, whose absence due to sickness had been the inadvertent cause of Malcolm's entry into Bruno's life. 'Malcolm's bloody gorgeous! He's so kind and sweet and now he's touched me! I want him to be the first person I have sex with.'
Malcolm had often seen Bruno scratching inside his shorts and wondered how he could make life better for him. 'Maybe I could have a word with his dad. Bruno obviously hates those shorts and if he had long trousers old Strange probably wouldn't want to slap his thigh. Maybe I could even lend Bruno a pair of my long trousers.'
By the time he'd got home, however, Malcolm had changed his mind. He'd realised he liked seeing Bruno's bare legs and would miss them if they were covered. His arousal returned, making him feel guilty for harbouring impure thoughts. Bruno's legs were firm, with skin as smooth as glass. 'Hell!' thought Malcolm. 'I wanted to stroke his leg today. I'm turning gay!' He quickly went down to watch TV with his parents, hoping to get over that unexpected aberration. But later, in bed, those feelings returned. Conscious that his Grade 7 exam was imminent, he tried to put Bruno out of his mind and to think about music but knew that the two topics had become inextricably linked. He realised he could no longer think about music without thinking of Bruno.
Three days later Malcolm's Grade 7 piano exam would take place. He'd chosen as a test piece the first movement, Allegro, from Mozart's Sonata in G, K. 283 and had been practising it endlessly to his tutor, who offered helpful comments. He'd also played it several times to Bruno, who didn't just sit back and listen but offered a few hints that Malcolm would not forget. These were more subtle comments and related not so much to the technical aspects of playing the piano but to Malcolm's body language.
"I love it when you frown when you're playing but it sometimes looks as though you're unsure of what you're doing. Couldn't you raise your eyebrows instead of screwing them up? And keep your mouth closed!"
Malcolm played a few more pieces to Bruno and tried to make it look as if he was enjoying himself (which he was) and Bruno said it looked much better. Malcolm was reasonably confident about the sight-reading tests but asked Bruno to play some chords for him to try to recognise, in preparation for the aural tests. They spent some time on diminished sevenths of different keys. Hearing one after the other, Malcolm found it easy to name each one but Bruno stopped and talked about something else and then with no warning played a chord.
"What's that, then?"
Malcolm offered an answer but it was wrong. So was his next one.
"It's the diminished seventh of B," said Bruno. "And I'll be a very diminished little B if you don't pass on Friday!"
Malcolm was terribly nervous before the exam commenced but his test piece seemed to go moderately well and he remembered to keep his mouth closed while playing. The sight-reading, however, gave him a few problems and dented his confidence somewhat and then it was time for the aural tests. The examiner sat at the piano and played a chord. It was the diminished seventh of B. Malcolm answered correctly and felt the spirit of Bruno within him, urging him on. From then on it was plain sailing and at the end, the examiner beamed at Malcolm as he said "We'll be letting you know."
Bruno was waiting outside, sitting on a window seat and Malcolm wanted to gather him in his arms and hug him but instead he put his hand on Bruno's shoulder and said "I think it's OK and if it is, it'll be thanks to you, my little B!"
Bruno grinned and stood up. His eyes were almost level with Malcolm's. "Not so little now, Malcolm. I'm nearly as tall as you!"
"But you're on tiptoes!" Malcolm looked down and saw, below what seemed like a yard of bare thigh, the heels of Bruno's shoes hovering an inch above the floor. But Bruno had a point - he was undergoing a spurt of growth.
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