A Blush of Boys

by Jolyon Lewes

Chapter 7

Next morning, Malcolm was trying to get used to his new briefs. They were rather tight and he found the way the elasticised hems were clasping his bottom to be strangely erotic. He wondered if anyone could see the knicker-line that he was sure traversed diagonally across each of his buttocks. He remembered some very skimpy Speedos he'd had years before and recalled how he'd pull the rear away from his bottom then release it and let it twang back, making a pleasingly sharp noise as it struck the flesh of his buttocks, especially if they were wet. Those Speedos had long gone and these thoughts he found slightly arousing but as the morning ticked by he knew it wouldn't be long before he'd have to change for the concert and he felt lead in his belly. The concert was due to begin at 2.30 pm and his slot with Bruno would be about an hour later. All performers had to meet for a briefing at 2.00 pm.

The day was bitingly cold and the sight of Bruno's exposed, frozen legs when the two boys met after lunch did strange things to Malcolm's hormones. He led his friend quickly into the warm music room.

"Have you got 'em?" asked Malcolm, hoping Bruno would say no. But Bruno produced from his bag a pair of grey, woollen knee-socks and the dreaded pair of grey shorts, with braces attached.

Bruno watched Malcolm taking off his shoes. "D'you want to put 'em on now?" he asked.

"No, just the socks. I'll swap my trousers for the shorts just before we go on stage."

"Well, don't cut it too fine," said Bruno. "You'll need time to adjust the braces and make sure your shirt-tail isn't pokin' out the legs."

"OK," said Malcolm, pulling on the long socks. "Fifteen minutes before, then. Oh God - these bloody socks are so prickly! Come on, we'd better get to the briefing."

Half an hour later, Malcolm and Bruno were in the music room, not practising - it was too late for that - but preparing themselves for what could be the most humiliating moment of their lives. They'd watched the first few items in the concert, performed by boys much younger than either of them, all in long trousers and full of self confidence. A boy of almost unfeasible beauty had recited in a clear treble voice and to huge applause Blake's poem The Tiger . At least, thought Malcolm, it showed that the audience appreciated something serious and weren't just waiting for the karaoke numbers. He wondered if he and Bruno could get through the Elgar without being howled down for their infantile appearance.

With Bruno watching respectfully, he took off his blazer and removed his long trousers. He picked up the tiny pair of shorts, just like the ones he'd last worn at the King's Theatre over six months before.

"Did you say these are the longest ones?" he asked. "They don't look any longer than what you're wearing!"

Bruno nodded his head. "Yeah, they're the longest ones. Seven centimetre legs. I like your briefs - just like mine. Not too big."

Malcolm donned the grey shorts and Bruno helped him adjust the braces. "Not too tight, for obvious reasons but not too loose or the skin between your legs will be scraped off when you walk."

"Oh, thanks a million," grumbled Malcolm. "They feel bloody horrible - how do I look?"

"Fantastic," breathed Bruno, making Malcolm blush. "I mean you look great. Fit to bring the house down."

As Malcolm walked with Bruno over to the assembly hall, he felt the icy wind blowing up the tiny shorts and freezing the package inside his blue briefs and he felt the grey material rasping like rough sandpaper when it moved against his skin. 'How can poor Bruno cope with this?' he wondered.

The two boys hid backstage clutching their sheet music and listened to the din coming from the stage; it was a comedy sketch and the audience seemed to be jeering at it. Our boys felt terribly nervous, Bruno nursing his violin and Malcolm feeling ready to be sick. 'Why on earth am I doing this?' he asked himself. Before they knew it the stage manager - a boy in Malcolm's year - found them and beckoned them into the wings.

"Jesus Christ!" he said, getting an instant erection. "They're gonna scream when they see you , Malcolm, baby!"

And he was right. The screams, cat-calls and wolf-whistles that greeted the boys were mega. Bruno's father, waiting to introduce the act, saw nothing unusual in the grey shorts the boys were wearing and was actually quite chuffed that Malcolm had decided to dress like Bruno.

"Right, settle down, boys!" he yelled at the audience, waving his arms. "QUIET, please! QUIET!"

Blushing scarlet, Malcolm and Bruno stood behind him, staring at the floor.

Mr Perry began. "Now then, ladies and gentlemen, senior boys and junior boys, I'd like to introduce my son Bruno and his stalwart friend Malcolm to play you some real - I mean - classical music. They're going to start with a short work by Elgar, Chanson du Matin , or Song of the Morning. It's written for violin and piano and I'd like you to imagine two young people, eighty years ago, dressed elegantly in the Edwardian style and going for a gentle country walk in high summer. Perhaps they've just met and the young man is wooing the pretty young girl ..."

At this the rowdier element in the audience began to go "Aaaahh," in an exaggerated way and Malcolm blushed even more deeply. But it got worse.

"Is Bruno the girl, sir?" shouted a voice from the back of the hall.

"Can't be - Malcolm doesn't like girls!" said another boy, much closer to the stage. It was Jake.

"Don't be stupid!" said Mr Perry. "Now, boys - just listen to this lovely piece of music."

The Headmaster stood up and with a thunderous expression on his grim face slowly turned to face the rows of boys, all of whom knew his gimlet eye could fall on any boy not looking suitably serious and that this boy would be summoned for an interview next day. A hush fell and four hundred boys sat in quiet anticipation of the next item on the programme. The Headmaster turned back to face the stage and sat down, beside the school governors and assorted bigwigs in the front row.

By now Malcolm had moved to the piano stool, his nerves in a terrible state. As he took his seat he saw the long, pale bars that were his naked thighs and wondered again what madness had induced him to dress like Bruno. Then he looked across at Bruno, who stood with his violin tucked under his chin ready to start. The boys exchanged glances and at that moment professionalism kicked in and each knew he was ready to play. A nod from Malcolm and Bruno stood ready with his bow poised. Malcolm began the work and after four bars Bruno joined in with his violin and from then on the magical interplay between violin and piano captivated at least some of the audience until just under three minutes later when the boys brought the piece to its gentle close. The applause began in the front rows and spread rapidly backwards. Boys who'd never heard Chanson du Matin before were clapping like crazy, some because they'd genuinely liked the music and some because they genuinely liked the sight of the two bare-legged performers. Even Jake was clapping, if only to try to disguise the fact that he'd nearly ejaculated into his underwear.

Malcolm stood and moved over to join Bruno and both boys bowed solemnly to the audience. Never having performed in public before, at least not like this, they were uncertain what to do next so stood looking vaguely confused but seconds later Mr Perry was on the stage and facing the audience.

"Right, settle down again, boys. There's much more to come."

Jake privately agreed that if the boys were to play more music there'd certainly be more of something to come and most of it would be into his underwear.

"Malcolm and Bruno are now going to play a piano duet, music by Malcolm Arnold. It's his first four English Dances , transcribed for piano by Franz Reizenstein. The first dance is quite slow, with a beautiful melody, the second is much faster and so is the fourth, guaranteed to get your feet tapping. The third dance, the longest at just over two and a half minutes is a slow one, with a simple but lovely melody played first on the low notes - Malcolm and then on the high notes - Bruno. Towards the end, the tune is shared by both players. It's a truly beautiful piece. Now then, enjoy the music but please keep your applause till the end of the fourth dance."

Bruno gave his violin to his father and joined Malcolm at the piano, perching daintily on the right hand side of the duet stool. He was therefore nearer to the audience, an arrangement which suited boys like Jake very well as it gave them a splendid view of Bruno's entirely bare right thigh.

For once, Malcolm wasn't aware of the closeness of Bruno's body as all his concentration was directed at playing the piano. The same went for Bruno. As they played the music it seemed to go better than at any of their practices and their nerves were soon under control. The audience was quiet throughout, except for an audible gasp, presumably of pleasure, after the third Dance. Jake didn't have a musical bone in his body but he found himself captivated by the piano accompaniment to the sight of Bruno's shorts riding higher and higher until they revealed an inch or two of bare buttock. Jake was so captivated that he shot his load as the fourth Dance began.

The applause was for the music and not for Jake's disgusting activity and again, boys who'd never before noticed classical music found themselves clapping and cheering. Malcolm and Bruno walked to the front of the stage and again bowed solemnly, noting the row of fat men seated near the Headmaster, governors all, and an even fatter man whom they didn't recognise who wasn't clapping but appeared to be glaring at them. Then the boys lifted their eyes to the hordes of clapping boys and managed to break into smiles. Mr Perry appeared beside them and hushed the audience.

"Right, settle down again, boys. I'm glad you all enjoyed that. Malcolm and Bruno will come on later for a little finale but now we have a change of mood. I will accompany the History Sixth in a specially-written sketch about Oliver Cromwell!"

Malcolm and Bruno walked into the wings, still smiling. The stage manager grabbed them with both hands and gave them a hug. "Bleedin' brilliant , guys! That slow bit - you had a couple of us in tears! See you back here in half an hour, Don't be late!"

In the music room Malcolm and Bruno debriefed their performance but not before giving each other a nice little hug. "You were bloody brilliant!" each said to the other.

Although they'd practised the whole of Fauré's Dolly Suite they were only to play the Berceuse for their finale, which lasts less than three minutes. The powers that be had decreed that the young audience probably couldn't take the whole work without fidgeting and as the concert was reaching its close, would be anxious to get out and get home. Malcolm and Bruno felt flattered to be asked to play the finale and didn't mind in the least that their second and last slot would last scarcely three minutes. Malcolm was extremely keen to get back into long trousers and although his self-consciousness had dissipated a little the moment he began the Elgar, he was now wondering what on earth had possessed him to borrow Bruno's shorts. Would there be more catcalls when he made his return to the stage? His tummy began to ache as the nerves made themselves felt and he felt Bruno's shorts rasping painfully on the skin of his inner thighs, in the region where his legs joined.

"What sadistic bastard decided these bloody shorts could do without any kind of lining?" he grumbled. He sat on a piano stool.

"Dunno, Mum had them made specially," said Bruno. "It makes it worse if you scratch."

"But you're always scratching!"

"Can't help it," said Bruno. "But it honestly doesn't make it any better. Are you sorry you borrowed them?"

"No," said Malcolm. "I wanted to show solidarity with you and I don't regret that."

Bruno moved over and looked closely at Malcolm's right thigh. "I can see where you hurt yourself coming off your bike. It's nearly healed but I can still see the mark." He put the back of his hand on the faint scar right at the top of Malcolm's thigh. "Feels very cool now. D'you mind me touching?"

"No, it's nice.... except it's given me a bloody hard-on! " Malcolm stood up and pressed down on the tent in his shorts. "Can't go back on stage with a bloody hard-on!"

"Sorry," said Bruno, pressing on his own substantial tent.

"Let's be professional for a bit longer," said Malcolm. "And afterwards we can come back here and celebrate - in privacy!"

Bruno wondered what Malcolm meant by 'celebrate' but it sounded good to him and he smiled winsomely. Soon it was time for our brave duo to expose their faces, hands and thighs to the biting wind as they returned to the school concert hall. The stage manager hustled them to the wings and whispered to Malcolm "Bloody brave of you to dress like Bruno - some of us'll never forget it! You're on in five."

The penultimate act was a bunch of juniors singing Christmas carols and well wrapped-up in coats, scarves, wellie boots and bobble hats. So when Malcolm and Bruno came on stage with bare thighs pink with the cold, one or two in the audience found themselves shivering in sympathy. Others couldn't resist giving cat-calls and wolf-whistles. The Headmaster once again stood and glared in the direction of the Fifth-formers.

Mr Perry introduced the finale. "Right, settle down, boys! Last of all is our finale. Malcolm and Bruno are going to play the Berceuse from Gabriel Fauré's Dolly Suite . Many of us old ones will remember this as the music that ended a radio programme for very young children many years ago. It was called Listen with Mother and the music is a sort of lullaby. So relax, all of you!"

As usual, Bruno sat on the right and had the high notes while Malcolm sat on the left and had the low notes. Technically, Bruno was primo and Malcolm secondo and Malcolm had stopped calling Bruno his 'Little B,' instead calling him 'Primo.' But Bruno always called Malcolm Malcolm.

The music was gentle and as befits a lullaby, slightly soporific but played so beautifully it was received very well and when the boys had finished, Mr Perry ushered them to the edge of the stage to receive their applause, which was not without some enthusiastic whistles, mainly from the Fifth-form contingent. Mr Perry stood between the boys and took their hands, raising them high. What had happened at The King's Theatre repeated itself as the boys' braces raised their shorts another inch or two, enough for the front rows to see that each boy was wearing tight little briefs in a fetching royal blue.

Malcolm looked down to the Headmaster immediately below him and saw that instead of applauding he was in earnest conversation with the furious-looking, enormously fat man beside him who wasn't applauding either but staring hard at Malcolm's crotch.

At last the boys were free to leave the stage and they ran back to the music room. Although the sky was now dark and snow was falling they didn't feel the icy wind. They were on a high.

"Well, my Primo," said Malcolm, "nobody booed us but you got a few admiring whistles!"

"I think they were aimed more at you , not me. And thanks for showing solidarity with me in these stupid shorts!"

"You deserve a medal for putting up with the bloody things day after day. I couldn't, not even for good money. I s'pose I could swap 'em for my trousers now." At this, Malcolm noticed Bruno's face fall. "Oh hell, that wasn't very tactful. Sorry, Bruno. Look, come 'ere and give me a hug. We deserve to feel pleased with ourselves."

Malcolm opened his arms and the boys embraced in a manly hug, then their cheeks touched and Malcolm tightened his grip on his young friend. Each boy would like to have progressed until their mouths were touching but neither had the courage to initiate their first proper kiss. Which was just as well for the door crashed open and in came the young stage-manager.

"Oooh, can I join in?" he cried. "Sorry to interrupt but the Headmaster wants to see you both - now! In his study - come on!"

Five minutes later Malcolm and Bruno had been commanded to sit and wait on a wooden bench in the lobby outside the Headmaster's study. The bench was for boys awaiting a caning so in the old days had supported many a bottom nervously awaiting punishment. It was a very small bench so Malcolm and Bruno had to sit with their bare thighs touching, which would normally guarantee pleasurable tingling feelings but this time the nerves were tingling for different reasons as each boy wondered what he'd done that was bad enough to incur the wrath of the Headmaster. Malcolm was beginning to shake; he kept reliving that moment when his arm was being held high by Mr Perry and that enormous man with a thunderous expression was staring right up inside those wretched little shorts. Had something popped out of his blue briefs? He slipped a hand up the leg of his shorts and everything seemed to be in order. Nonetheless, Malcolm wondered what exactly the man had seen and he sat silently beside an equally worried Bruno, rapidly convincing himself he'd be accused of indecent exposure and found guilty as charged.

The door to the Headmaster's study opened and Malcolm and Bruno were ushered into the hallowed presence by the secretary, who then departed.

"Come in, boys and sit down, please," said the Headmaster, not looking at all threatening but beside him sat the enormous man who'd been pointedly staring up Malcolm's shorts at the end of the concert. The man didn't look very happy at all. The boys sat on the two chairs indicated and waited for their telling off. Malcolm thought his briefs might be showing so as a precaution jammed his knees tightly together.

"Don't look so worried, Malcolm," continued the Headmaster. "I'm sorry to have kept you both waiting but I had to say goodbye to our other VIP guests. This is Sir Edward Plantagenet-Wilson, our local Conservative MP. Have you met?" The blank expressions on the boys' faces came as no surprise to the Headmaster. "Well, he was here this afternoon as our principal guest and he liked your performances. So did I. You both have the makings of superb musicians and I congratulate you."

The boys' eyes widened as the Headmaster went on. "I hope you didn't think I'd called you here for a telling off - I wanted to say to you - in person - that your playing was for me the highlight of our concert. Now Sir Edward has something to say to you."

The enormous man shuffled in his seat and seemed to reassemble his jowls and then he spoke and when he spoke it was with a voice so deep, so gravelly that it reminded Malcolm of something from a horror film.

"I liked your performance today. How long have you been playing together?"

As Bruno's senior, Malcolm felt he should be the one to reply so he stammered "S-since June, sir. Six months."

"And I take it your repertoire extends beyond what you played today?"

"Y-yes, sir, we can do some other things." Malcolm shot a glance to Bruno who nodded, almost imperceptibly.

"Well," said Sir Edward, "I'd like you to come to my country house next month. I'm holding a reception and you two could give a recital of about half an hour, say."

The boys could only gulp in surprise so the Headmaster broke in: "I'll speak to your father, Bruno and give him details. Sir Edward would like you to keep the third of January free. So, boys, if you've nothing to add, you may go."

Sir Edward seemed to be scowling but his little piggy eyes were twinkling. Maybe that was his way of looking happy. He wished the boys a Merry Christmas and having reciprocated they hurried out of the study and ran back to the music room for Malcolm to change into his long trousers.

"Jesus! Looks like we've got a booking!" said Bruno.

"Yeah," said Malcolm. "Looks like it. I thought we were in trouble but obviously not. Hey - this means we'll have to get lots of practice over Christmas!"

"Sounds good to me!"

The interview had shaken the boys out of their romantic mood so there were no more hugs, let alone a first kiss on the lips. Malcolm had been expecting a fierce telling off - or worse - and was glad the day was over and he could go home.

"Thanks for letting me wear your shorts," said Malcolm, "but you'll understand if I say I don't want to make a habit of it! Catch you tomorrow, after term ends. Look, your dad'll be waiting to take you home. I've gotta fly - bus goes in five. Seeya tomorrow!" And he was gone.

Bruno felt terribly let down. He'd so wanted to have a cosy chat to Malcolm and indulge in a bit of mutual admiration and perhaps in another hug, only a proper one this time. But Malcolm had been all businesslike and once safely back in long trousers had shot off to get his bus. Bruno gathered his violin, music scores and the shorts and socks he'd lent to Malcolm. He held the shorts to his face and sniffed them in vain for any scent of Malcolm. Then he stuffed them in his bag and sadly went off to find his father. The snow was still falling and his poor legs were soon freezing. He had a long wait.

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