Thy Love to Me was Wonderful (2 Samuel 1:26)

by David Neph

ONE

This story contains explicit descriptions of sexual acts between the characters in it. Although the characters are teenagers who may be below the age of consent in the country or state where this is read, nothing written here should be taken as approval of, or encouragement for, sexual liaisons between people where such liaisons are either illegal, or objectionable for moral reasons. Although this story does not include safe sex practices, it is everyone's own responsibility to themselves and to each other to engage only in protected sex. It is a story. Any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental. Nothing represented here is based on any fact known to the author.

The story is copyright 2002 by "David Neph". If you copy the story, please leave the credits, and my host's web address of http://iomfats.org present, and also the email address of neph@iomfats.org. I'd love to receive feedback.

Thank goodness for the bell for the first break. I had already taught two classes that morning and was certainly ready for a break. It's not that my students were uncooperative; it's just that, as usual, I put too much emotional energy into the lessons. I hesitated where to spend the ten minute break. There was work to be done in the office. Apart from my teaching I was also the head of the administrative computer department - that behind-the-scenes department which are the wheels upon which a modern school runs. Everything goes into the computer: grades, attendance, demerits, teachers' salaries, time-tables. And everything comes out of the computer: report cards, discipline records, attendance sheets... Our school only has three grades, 10th 11th and 12th, but that accounts for about two thousand students.

So, there was work to be done in the office. But there was also something else in the office: my secretary, Miss tight-lipped Rikki (Rikki was her first name). Rikki nearly always had a chip on her shoulder and I was always expected to know intuitively what was bothering her. Often she would come into the office first thing in the morning - at 8 am on the dot, not one second earlier and not one second later - and she would greet me with a cold "Good morning", set down her bag at her side, settle herself in her chair and boot up her workstation. On such mornings her straight back, steadfast gaze at the monitor in front of her and her icy silence all shouted out wordlessly "I am cross with you!" And this morning was one of those mornings, and I am damned if I was ready to play that game this morning! I knew exactly how it would go:

"Good morning, Rikki." Tight-lipped silence. "What's wrong, Rikki?" And the oracle would speak.

"You know what's wrong!"

"Humour me: tell me what's bothering you this morning."

"You ought to know without being told..."

This could easily go on for ten minutes or more until she would finally deliver the answer, which would always be something like: Etti (another secretary) told her that she overheard Sonya (an English teacher) telling Michael (Geography) that she thought there was a mistake in the data concerning one pupil on a grades report that she had found in her mailbox. The implication was, of course, that the degenerate Sonya was maliciously accusing the innocent Rikki either of carelessness or falsification.

God, I just couldn't take that kind of thing this morning - so I opted to spend my break in the teachers' room. As soon as I opened the door I began to regret my decision. The spacious room - it had to serve some 150 teachers at one time or another - was full of cigarette smoke. I hate having to breathe in that stuff. It's not only the damage to my health, but it's also the fact that I hate the smell as such: it gets into my lungs, the stench attaches to my clothes... I gave up smoking about ten years ago immediately after I finished my army service, but the smell still repels me. There was, after all, a separate room for teachers who want to smoke. Why the hell couldn't they use it? Worse, to my mind, it set a very bad example. All over the school there were notices announcing that "smoking is prohibited throughout the school buildings and the grounds". We expected the students to observe that rule, so why were teachers an exception? What kind of education was the system "don't do as I do, do as I tell you"?

Trying to hold my breath as much as possible I made for the minibar that discharged hot or iced water. I needed a coffee. Badly. While putting the instant granules into the plastic cup and waiting my turn to get to the water several teachers came up to me with problems they had with the computer. Why do they always attribute their problems to the computer and not to their own ignorance or laziness? So I put on my broadest smile, commiserated profusely, explained (for the ten thousandth time) how the grade sheets should be prepared for scanning so that the computer would not "give the wrong grades", and gave them a pat on the back or a peck on the cheek - depending on their sex, of course. (The women were the ones who got the peck on the cheek; there wasn't one male teacher even worth a thought.)

At last I got to the minibar. I had just poured in the water when I was accosted by Emma - and she looked really haggard (and it was only 9 in the morning). Emma was in charge of scheduling.

"Hi, Emma. You look awful. Bad day?"

"You could say that. There are fifteen teachers away today, for one reason or another, and it's almost impossible to fill all the gaps. David," and that haggard look took on a pleading appearance, "I hate to do this to you, but could you possibly do ground patrol in place of Ofer during the long break?"

Because of the enormous amount of administrative work that I had to do I was excused all "subbing" (filling in for absent teachers), and because teachers needed access to me particularly at break times I was excused patrol duty. But the look on Emma's face was heartbreaking. She took her job so seriously and really tried to fill all gaps. Besides, I thought to myself mischievously, if I'm subbing for Ofer on ground patrol I don't have to face Rikki again until after the long break!

"That's OK, Em. I'll do it. No problem. Where's his pitch?"

"It's the whole area between the main building and the cafeteria. There are two things to look out for in particular: no litter on the flower beds - you know how much the principal hates to see litter on the flower beds..."

"Yeah - as if that were the school's main problem," I said dryly. "What's the other thing to look for?"

"Go behind the cafeteria, the area between the cafeteria and the stands where the kids park their bicycles: it's a favourite haunt for smoking..."

"OK," I said, though I thought to myself that any student who really wanted to smoke would probably find somewhere to do so that neither Ofer or Emma had ever dreamed of. Why did she call them kids? They weren't kids - hell, some of them were taller than me and lots of the girls had "frontal development" that made Emma's 'poitrine' look almost non-existent! I decided that Emma wasn't in a mood that would be appreciative of a comment like that.

The bell went for the end of break - and I hadn't even started on my coffee. Well, it wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last. I chucked the liquid into the sink and dumped the plastic cup into the trash bin. I left the teachers' room with the main bulk of the teachers, leaving Emma to start rounding up the teachers who lingered. There were teachers who were just as loathe to go into class as their pupils!

For the next two periods I had a meeting scheduled with the computer freaks from the Min of Ed concerning dispatch and receipt of matriculation information over a secure line. If I took them to my office Rikki would be there and she would be bound to interrupt the conversation with her own unwanted comments. So I went back into the teachers' room, picked up the phone and punched out 36 for my own office.

"Rikki." Just one word - as if she were the most important personality in my office.

"Rikki, I'm taking the guys from the ministry into the small teachers' room - the one for smokers. Call me there if I'm needed." And I put the phone down before she could start arguing with me. I went out to the main entrance to greet my guests, and escorted them into the smokers teachers' room - because I could be pretty sure the air there would be as clean as a whistle. And it was.

I suppose you think that I'm a very cynical guy. Yeah, well I suppose I am. You can't spend six years in the education system of this midget of a country without being either a cynic or a saint. And I'm not a saint. But at least I am sort of resigned, which means that I keep my sense of humour. I don't try to change the system, just to flow with the stream as much as doing my job well will permit. At any rate, I get on well with my students, and it takes something slightly out of the ordinary to gain their approval, which is given only very grudgingly. Most teachers are either "the enemy" or "the bore". Trouble is most of the teachers know which they are, and seem powerless or gutless to do anything about it. After all, all you have to do is to treat your students like human beings with an intelligence of their own, to try to make your lessons as interesting as possible, and to keep the atmosphere "hanging loose" as much as minimal discipline will allow. Most of the time my students call me David, and only call me Sir when they intuitively sense that the circumstances demand it - usually circumstances that they have created! Anyway, all this seems to work for me and my students - and has done since I started teaching six years ago now.

The meeting with the guys from the ministry went well and got me back into a good mood. We finished up about five minutes before the bell for the long break - and no one had interrupted us even once! Those innocent guys thought that ours was a wonderful school where none of the teachers smoked! Why should I disillusion them? After shaking their hands and escorting them to the main entrance I popped into the library.

"Hi," I said to the duty librarian, "I just need to call my office. Can I use your phone?"

"Be my guest."

"Rikki? David. I won't be in until after the long break. I'm doing ground patrol for Ofer who's away today... Yes, I know that they shouldn't have asked me to do it... Gotta go now, the bell's ringing. What? Well how long do you expect to be away from the office? OK. Lock up and I'll get there as soon as the long break is over. Bye."

The smile on the face of the librarian was one of sympathetic understanding. Good woman. Why can't she be my secretary? I bade her a good day and left the library.

The corridor was now swarming with youngsters all jostling each other out of the way: common politeness is not one of our stronger national characteristics. Neither is patience. Nor is humility. Oh why bother to go on? I pushed my way forward with the best of them finally reaching the main entrance. I stepped out into the warm April sunshine. Inevitably I was accosted by some of my students asking questions about homework that had been given, begging for an extension on assignments that had to be handed in... the usual. I was in a good mood, so I joked with them all. Dutifully I remarked to students who were littering the flower-beds with the wrappers of their sandwiches that their carelessness would cause the principal a great deal of pain. Of course, inevitably someone had to remark that that was only fair since he was always causing them pain - in the most posterior part of their anatomy! "Yeah, Motti, you should know how it's done - you're the expert as far as I'm concerned."

"Oh, David, that's not fair! I haven't had one demerit all term."

"Motti, pull the other leg, it's got bells on it. Who better than I know how many demerits you've got. You make me work overtime just putting them into the computer. Sometimes I don't get home until late because of your demerits."

General good humoured laughter in which Motti himself joined in. He isn't a bad kid. It's just that he he has no idea of time and has an irrepressible sense of humour. These two traits combine to create demerits, because he is constantly late for everything and he makes jokes when most teachers don't want them. Because he's such a good kid at heart, in my capacity as his homeroom teacher, I usually justify them out of existence - and pay merry hell from the rest of the teachers for doing so. Did I just call him a kid? Shame on me! But I love him, so he's a kid. My kid. I love all my students. If you don't love 'em you can't teach 'em, you can only instruct. That's what I think, anyway.

"Come on, guys, let's get this litter off the flower-beds." I bent down and started picking up the litter. Immediately, all the students around me started doing the same and in no time it was done. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the principal watching from his window. I was sure to hear him remark next time we met: "David, you're a teacher not a pupil. I saw you picking up the litter. It's not good for discipline. You must show them who's boss and that they have to take orders. After all" - here it comes - "they'll have to take orders when they get into the army immediately after twelfth grade."

Politeness, and a healthy regard for the security of my job, always prompt me on such occasions not to answer him. Everything in his philosophy is fallacious. First of all, what do you want, Mr Principal? A never-ending argument with students who don't want to be bullied, or do you want a litterless flower-bed? I give you a litterless flower-bed with minimum trouble and lots of good humour. I call that discipline. As for the army: yes, they'll have to learn to take orders. But two things: firstly, let them have their fling first: all too soon they will have to put their life on the line. Secondly, the tradition of our army is that when the commanding officer gives the order to advance it is always "Follow me". The person in charge must set the example. That's all that I'm doing. Isn't that pre-conscription education, Mr Principal? Go and shove your discipline up your... One day, I swear it, I shall let him have my philosophy of education. Probably the day I retire. OK, so I'm a coward. What's new?

I moved on away from the now neat flower-beds, wending my way towards the cafeteria, the source of all that litter. As usual, it was complete chaos. About a hundred students all clamouring to be served by just two assistants. I am always amazed that they all manage to get served before the bell for the end of break. That's one of the reasons why, when I have a class immediately after the break, I permit the odd student here and there to munch on his or her sandwich: it doesn't bother me or anyone else (except Principal Discipline) and in all probability it's not their fault that they didn't have time to eat it before the bell went.

Mindful of Em's caution that I must also check for smokers behind the cafeteria, I quietly edged towards the path that gave access to the plot behind the cafeteria, between it and the bicycle stands. When I was almost there Arik looked up from the bench where he was eating his cheese sandwich, with an impish grin on his face. "Ho-Ho, David. Going behind the cafeteria for a quick smoke?" Although I was standing right next to him he almost shouted his question, as if I was deaf. But both of us knew that it was not because I was deaf that Arik spoke so loudly. OK, I thought, I'll humour him for fifteen seconds; that should give any smoker behind the cafeteria enough time to stub out their cigarette and scarper.

"Arik, the day you catch me smoking anywhere will be the day I shall give you permission to smoke."

"No need, David. I don't want to smoke. Honest."

"Keep it that way." I playfully ruffled his hair. Why do I always do that to cute students?

"Oh, David! Have you got the hots for Arik?" squealed Ofra, his girlfriend.

That was too near the mark. "Don't worry, Ofra, I'm not going to steal him from you." Best make light of it.

"Aw, David," said Arik with mock coyness, "Don't you love me any more?"

"Not if you take up smoking, dearie," I said with a grin on my face. "Bye, guys. Enjoy your break."

"Bye, David."

With that I slipped behind the cafeteria.

There were no smokers behind the cafeteria, but what was going on there took my breath away, pulled my heart into my mouth as it were and sent such an electric shock through my system that I involuntarily withdrew back behind the corner of the cafeteria. I had seen two guys kissing. Not just two guys and not just kissing. They were Nir and Oren, two of the brightest kids in my homeroom class and they were not just giving each other a peck on the cheek. They were into a deep French kiss, lips locked together, bodies slightly swaying and hands groping, clutching. Nir had his arms clasped behind Oren's back, pulling him towards him; and Oren's hands were resting on Nir's backside, stroking, caressing. For the first time I noticed what a shapely behind Nir had. It curved out provocatively, just begging to be caressed - which is what Oren was doing with some animal passion. There was a cold sweat forming on my brow; memories - bitter sweet - suddenly crowding back unbidden, memories that I had suppressed for the past twelve years.

I was paralysed. Nir and Oren! Had I been blind? Why had I not seen this before? Had there been any signs? Maybe I'd hallucinated. No, I knew what I had seen. Maybe they were just goofing around. No, although I had only had a fleeting glance I know that the body language I had seen was indicative of passion, deep, smouldering, hungry passion. Passion? What can two sixteen year-olds know of passion? What can two guys in 11th grade know of love? "Come on, David, you idiot," I scolded myself, "you of all people know that a sixteen year-old can almost die of love and feel a burning passion that will not be quenched - that even continues to smoulder unquenchable twelve years after you poured cold water on the flames." All this ran through my mind in what must have been no more than a split second. Before I could rouse myself to look around the corner once again I was rudely woken from my reverie - and so were the love birds.

"Ho ho! What have we here?" O God no, I thought to myself in panic. Not Charlie and his gang! They must have come behind the cafeteria for a smoke and stumbled on Nir and Oren unawares. Charlie and his cronies would make mince meat of them. The whole episode would be the talk of the class - of the school! - in next to no time. Oren and Nir would be finished, as good as dead, in this macho society of ours. Without thinking I acted on a teacher's instinct. I came round the corner and stood there so that all five of them could see that I was there. Charlie was accompanied by his two permanent cronies, Snir and Beber. They had the broadest of grins upon their faces. Like animals of prey they had already smelled the blood of the victims. Oren and Nir had been so engrossed in themselves that they were completely dumfounded. Perhaps not more than ten seconds had elapsed from Charlie's gloating remark. Both Nir and Oren still had visible erections tenting out their trousers. (So it had been passion, I though to myself.)

"Nir, Oren! My room! Right now!" I tried to bark out the order, as if I were shocked beyond belief. Nir and Oren looked at me unbelievingly: if there was one teacher in the school they had not expected to react this way it was me. I could see the sense of betrayal in their eyes. I felt terrible about this, but I had to get them out of the way right now. Their momentary hesitation prompted me to add, "Straight to my room! Do not pass Go and do not collect $200!" Oren and Nir decamped hastily while Charlie and his goons roared with artificial laughter.

"So, Charlie, what brings you here behind the cafeteria?" I asked, my a slight menace in my voice. Snir and Beber were already backing off. "Empty your pockets!" Charlie pulled out the packet of cigarettes: there was no point in prevarication; both he and I knew what he had there. "Anything else?" He grinned and then pulled out a packet of condoms. "So, Charlie, which of these items were you going to use here behind the cafeteria? Were you going to share your cigarettes with Snir and Beber? or perhaps you were going to shove something covered with a condom up Snir's backside..." Charlie was taken aback. He was the class "desirable male" that every second girl had the hots for - and that was no doubt the destined purpose of the condom. But Charlie suddenly realized that mud can stick... "Shall I take one of these cigarettes in order to see whether it contains anything apart from tobacco?" I asked, making as if to open the packet. Charlie and the other two visibly blanched, the swarthy hue of their faces being replaced by an acute paleness. I took one of the cigarettes and then handed back both the cigarettes and the condoms. "Right. One word from any of you about what went on here just now before I have had a chance to investigate, and your names will be mud throughout the school. Who will everyone believe, you or me? But also, I suspect that if you just so much as utter one syllable about this you'll have the police onto you. I shall only pass this cigarette on for examination if you force me to do so."

In the distance and almost as if coming from another world or another time I heard the bell ring to signal the end of break. "Off you go - and remember what I just said."

"Yes, sir."

"Now get back to your classes."

"Yes, sir." And off they went with their tails between their legs as it were. It's a cruel world.

I started making my slow way back to the main building and my office. As I walked I began asking myself questions and I wasn't certain that I had ready answers. Why was I so concerned for Nir and Oren? Why was I being so protective?

You know perfectly well why you are being protective, I said to myself. And memories came flooding back; memories of an impossible love; memories blocked, suppressed for how long now? - twelve long years ago. Damn Nir! Damn Oren! Why did they have to make these memories return - memories of a sweet love and a bitter impossibility. Jonathan, my Yoni, how my heart still aches and yearns after all these years. Well, memories once they surface can't be put back neatly in their pigeon-holes, so I'll just have to make the best of it. I have a job to do.

When I got to the office they were standing there outside the door. I saw them as I entered the building a long way down the corridor - long before they saw me. They were standing holding hands. So sweet. Obviously they were giving each other comfort and courage. They looked so vulnerable, so defenceless. How were they going to be able to face a world that could sometimes be much more cruel that Charlie and his gang could ever dream of being. Charlie, Snir and Beber would grow up, mature, have all the "anti" taken out of them by the realities of army life, and would end up decent responsible citizens. But there were people out there in the real world who were bigoted, self-righteous, pseudo-religious, self-appointed guardians of the morals of the universe, unable to imagine that there might be a morality other than the one that their little closed minds could conceive of. These people were a greater danger than all the Charlies of this world: these people were capable of destroying youngsters like Oren and Nir, socially, emotionally or, God forbid, physically. Which part of the education system was going to prepare the Nirs and Orens of our society for the struggle of their lives? - the struggle just to be themselves.

They finally saw me coming and sprang apart. I unlocked the door. Thank goodness Rikki wasn't back yet: I had no idea how I would handle this situation with her sitting there at her workstation pretending not to hear what was being said. I sat down at my desk, settled myself in my very comfortable computer chair, and indicated two spare upright chairs along the wall. "Bring up a chair and sit down." I tried to keep my voice as neutral as possible, neither sternly disciplinarian nor over-friendly. They sat down opposite me. My desk was long and deep. It housed a monitor at one end (I like my monitors as far from me as possible) and all the papers, sheets and general rubbish that a school seems capable of generating spread all over the table. I looked at them. They were holding hands again: they thought I could not see over the table. I didn't have to see, I just knew from the way their arms hung down that they were holding hands. How long does one have to teach students before one really looks at them - individually, as people? Too long, I thought. If I had been as attentive as I should have been I would have seen this coming. They sat together in every class, they were inseparable, they were quiet - too quiet - they blushed easily and could never look you straight in the eye. I was their homeroom teacher: I should have known this long ago.

And then what would I have done? Had I known earlier, before this romance developed, would I have interfered? By what right would I have interfered? Would I have encouraged it? I would have done nothing. But I would have kept my eye on the situation. And what good would that have done? Nothing. I would not have interfered, so the situation would have developed as it did anyway. So why would I have watched out for them? David, David, be honest at least with yourself. You would have kept an eye on the situation in order to allow it to develop. And that would have been wrong. You can't live out your own disappointments through somebody else's life. Oren and Nir cannot enjoy for you the life that you and Yoni never had.

They could not have been more different, really. Oren was tall (about 185 cms I guessed). He had a more swarthy complexion than Nir, the genetic inheritance of his family which hailed from North Africa originally (Morocco, I think). Dark brown hair, wiry, unruly. He had a handsome face, such as so many of his community had: deep-set eyes which smouldered, heavy eyebrows, a straight, noble nose, a mouth surrounded by thin lips, and a very masculine, forward projecting chin.

Nir was about five cms shorter. His grandparents had come from Eastern Europe as I recall, and he looked very different from Oren. The most striking difference was that Nir had silky blond hair that swept forward and down across his brow. He had open, honest blue eyes with eyebrows so light-coloured that they could hardly be seen. His nose turned up slightly, his cheeks were lifted high and his mouth was surrounded by thick, sumptuous lips. If it was Oren's eyes that smouldered it was Nir's lips that burned, demanding to be kissed, promising heaven.

I must have been silent too long. Oren spoke up. "Sir, just get our punishment over with." There was just the hint of the flame of defiance in the tone of his voice. He was polite, deferential, but unyielding. So the boy had spunk.

"Why?" I asked, ingenuously. "What have you done wrong?"

They looked at me incredulously. The scowl on Oren's face was of downright anger that I was playing with them. Nir scanned my face to see whether I was serious or not.

"I don't think we have done anything wrong," said Oren.

"I do not know whether you have done anything wrong," I said. "Why don't you tell me."

"If we haven't done anything wrong why are we here?" asked Nir, deftly interposing before Oren exploded.

"To save you from a fate worse than death," I replied, evenly-voiced.

Suddenly the light of understanding dawned. It was Oren who first understood what I had done; it took Nir a few seconds longer. Once he had gained understanding Oren's face broke into a broad smile. The smile completely wiped away his scowl and lit up his face miraculously. In that split second I understood what attracted Nir to Oren.

"We're not afraid of anybody," said Oren defiantly.

"Then you should be," I gently corrected. "How do you know that Charlie's story, served up with spicy sauce, isn't half-way through the school by now?"

Sheer panic crossed their faces. "How can you be sure that he and Snir haven't painted all across the back wall of the main building 'Nir Arazi loves Oren Suissa'?" Oren's swarthy face drained into white paleness. When he spoke Nir's voice was trembling: "Charlie wouldn't do that. Would he?" But as he asked the rhetorical question he knew that Charlie was quite capable of doing that - and worse: kids can be so cruel to each other.

"Don't worry. I've shut his mouth for a little while," I said, "but the magic spell won't last very long. What are you going to do when the fear of me departs from Charlie?"

The blank way that they looked at me spoke volumes: in all their romantic day-dreaming they had never thought of such a situation.

"I think you had better tell me, here and now, what kind of relationship exists between you."

Nir dropped his face and stared steadfastly at the floor. The paleness in Oren's face was replaced by a russet blush.

"Nir. I'm waiting for an explanation."

"I can't tell you," he mumbled almost inaudibly.

"Oren?"

An awkward silence. I was going to have to shock them into reality.

"Nir! I want your answer and I want it now! What kind of relationship exists between you and Oren?" I was as harsh and brutal as I could make myself sound under the circumstances.

Nir looked up at me, tears welling into his eyes. "I love Oren," he said with a tremble in his voice.

"Oren?"

"I am in love with Nir," he said steadfastly.

"How do you know what you feel for each other is love?"

"What else could it be?" asked Nir.

"Friendship."

Oren exploded. "Friendship? I've got lots of friends both in and out of school. But I don't feel an uncontrollable urge to hug them, to kiss them, to merge my very being into theirs! Is that ordinary friendship or is it love?" He was flushed with righteous indignation.

"If you feel that way towards Nir," I said evenly, "I grant that that is not ordinary friendship. But how do you know that what you feel is love and not lust?"

There was a moment's silence. They were not ignoring my question, but considering it. At last Nir spoke up.

"I think that love is a pure expression of intense affection that can exist without an intense desire to have sex, sort of. Lust is just a base desire to possess someone else, probably to use them sexually and then to throw them away, sort of."

Was this a sixteen year-old speaking? Well, yes, because every sentence had to include the inevitable "sort of" somewhere. But my God, I could not have done better myself. We teachers should listen to our students more than we do. They may be wiser than we think; they may be wiser than we are.

Oren agreed. "When I say that I love Nir I mean that I know him, sort of know his soul; at every moment I am sort of aware of all of him, not just his body. His wishes and his needs are sort of paramount for me. If I merely lusted for him," and here there was a tone of repressed disgust, "I would just find him overwhelmingly attractive and desire to possess his body with no thought for him or his wishes and needs - sort of."

"Does that mean," I asked, playing the devil's advocate, "that you do not want sex with each other?"

"No!" exclaimed Oren with more than just a hint of desperation at my obtuseness. I wondered why he just didn't tell me to mind my own business. But then I was his teacher, and I think that both he and Nir could appreciate almost subconsciously that I was trying to help. "Of course I would like to er have er sex sort of with Nir. Wouldn't that be a natural expression of the love I feel for him, sort of?"

"Why did you say 'would like'? Does that mean that you haven't yet had sex?"

There was an awkward silence. This was getting too personal and too emotional for them.

Nir spoke in a very quiet voice. "Yes. We have done nothing."

"Nir, credit me with a little more intelligence than that," I said gently. I was tip-toeing here barefoot through shattered glass; I was walking on eggshells. One false move, one tone wrong and I'd lose them; but worse, they'd lose me - the only adult in the world in whom they could confide, from whom they could get advice and support. "Not half an hour ago I saw you both kissing passionately behind the cafeteria."

Oren now spoke. I think that he had already realized that I was a godsend for them, that I could be their lifeboat in this stormy sea. I don't think he realized yet that I could be their friend.

"It's true, David. Kissing's all we've done. Oh, and we've er sort of er felt each other up as well, if you know what I mean - but always through clothes. It's not because we want it that way; it's because we sort of have no choice."

"Why do you have no choice?"

"The only privacy we've got in the world is behind the cafeteria. There is nowhere else for us to go. Should we do a striptease there?" he added dryly.

I knew immediately that he was right. They both lived in apartments, not houses. Nir's apartment only had two bedrooms. One was taken up by his parents and the other by his two sisters. Nir had a pullout bed in a corner of the living room with a small closet in his sisters' room. Oren's situation was no better. He shared a bedroom with his two brothers who lived at home. (It was his elder brother who slept in the living room when he came home on leave from the army.)

A thought now struck me. Not only were they afraid of being outed; they were also frustrated, having no way in which they could give expression to their love. (By now I had no doubt whatsoever that the emotional link between them was affectionate love.) The only expressions of love that they could enjoy were kissing and holding hands. This was an emotional powder-keg feeding on acute frustration. What was I to do?

"Who else knows about your relationship apart from me?"

They looked at me blankly.

"Do your parents know?" Almost before I had finished the question I knew how futile it was. Nir's mother was a rather dominating personality. She ran her home with a firm and, I guessed, not so loving hand. Her husband was completely under her thumb, and always agreed with everything she said. They would dutifully appear at all the parents' meetings, but it was always Mrs Arazi who did the talking, occasionally remembering to ask her husband for his corroborating assent - which was always given with a "Yes, dear" that bespoke years of training into submission. On one occasion I had been bold enough to ask him a direct question; his wife answered for him and then required his agreement. I gave up after that, not wishing to put the poor fellow to shame. At sixteen Nir was their eldest; he had two sisters aged fourteen and twelve respectively, so I had not yet had the pleasure of their acquaintance. A colleague who taught in the neighbouring Junior High told me that they were moulded in the image of their mother. Mrs Arazi was of the opinion that her son was the brightest kid in the school and judged all the teachers accordingly. Since her son could do no wrong it followed that there was no way in which she could be brought to understand that he had formed a homosexual attachment to a schoolfriend.

Oren's home was a broken home. Mrs Suissa was sheltering in a home for battered women and three of her seven children were there with her - the youngest. Mr Suissa was, of course, a violent man who spent most of his time either at work or with his cronies at drink. I had met him on two occasions when, despairing of seeing either of Oren's parents at school meetings, I went on a house call. His preferred language of intercourse was French, which made an intelligent conversation between us rather difficult. Oren's elder brother was already in the army, happily away from home. He had two younger brothers, one aged fifteen and the other fourteen (Mrs Suissa had, it would seem, spent most of her married life either pregnant or nursing.) The fifteen year old was in our school, but I did not teach him and had no contact with him.

Of course their parents didn't know. Mrs Arazi would never believe, Mr Arazi would therefore also not believe, Mrs Suissa was beyond knowing (and had other more pressing problems) and Mr Suissa, had he known, would have beaten the living daylights out of his son as a preliminary to asking vulgar questions. In fact, the look of sheer horror on Oren's face was enough and no answer was necessary.

"Look, guys, someone's got to know."

"You know. Isn't that enough?" asked Nir, hopefully.

"No. Look, guys, I'm going to mention this to a counsellor, just in order to cover my own behind."

"No, David, please don't. Please." There were both fear and pleading in Oren's eyes.

"Don't worry, guys. I won't mention names. But I must alert the counsellor to a possible future problem. I promise that she won't know that it's you."

The look of relief on their faces was a picture.

"Nevertheless, you've got to realize that this can't be kept a secret for ever. There's just so much leverage that I have on Charlie and Snir and Beber. When that leverage goes, what happens?"

"Sir, David, help us. Please help us. David."

They were floundering in waters that were too deep for them. Being out of their depth they were drowning in the sea of life - and it was far too early in their lives for them yet to know how to negotiate those dangerous waters.

"I want to help you..."

"Why do you want to help us?" asked Oren suddenly. I was completely unprepared for that question.

"Let's just say that I know how you both feel, that I know what you are going through right now. Let's leave it at that."

There was a flicker of understanding in Oren's eyes. There was no such flicker in Nir's eyes. No doubt that Oren would explain to him later.

"So, said Nir, "will you help us?"

"If you want me to. But you will have to trust me and be completely honest with me. Sometimes I may have to ask personal questions which you may not want to answer."

"Such as?" asked Nir. I saw Oren's hand immediately rest on Nir's knee with a warning, but it was too late; the question had already been asked and was hanging in the air. There was no doubt which of the two was the more shrewd, the more worldly-wise.

I ignored Nir's second question and chose to answer his earlier one. "Yes, guys, I will help you. But you must give me some time to think this through. Let's meet again after class tomorrow." They nodded their assent.

Bang on time Rikki returned. "Ok, guys, I'll give you a note so that the teacher will let you back in class." I checked on the timetable on my desk, noted the name of the teacher and scribbled her a note: 'Esti, please accept Nir and Oren into class; I was having a talk with them. Thanks, David (homeroom teacher)'. I handed the note to Oren. "Right, guys, from now on be good," I said in the sternest voice I could muster: this was for Rikki's benefit. Then I added in a whisper that must have infuriated Rikki, "And if you can't be good - be careful."

The boys giggled and chorused dutifully as they left the room, "Yes, sir". I comforted myself with the self-congratulatory thought that they had left my office feeling a good deal better than they had when they had come in. I was a good boy scout and had done my good deed for the day.

Now to do myself a good deed. I turned to Rikki. "If anyone wants me I shall be with Varda, the counsellor." And I left before she could protest. Wow! Maybe this was going to be a Rikki-less day. Yippee!

I told Varda the story, leaving out all names. She heard me out and then said, "David, you're a good soul, but be careful you don't get out of your depth. You've got to cover your ass. Write out a full report, including names, seal it in an envelope and let me have it. I shall file it away unopened. If you should ever get into trouble I can produce the report in order to exculpate you."

Varda was a woman that I could trust. "OK, I said, I'll deliver it to you personally tomorrow morning." I gave her a peck on the cheek and said "Bye" as I left.

"Bye, David."

I went back to the office. Rikki was already putting on her coat, making ready to go home. This really was my day!

"Bye, Rikki," I said, ushering her unceremoniously out of the door. "See you tomorrow." She was too dumfounded to argue and left with exaggerated dignity.

I sat down at my desk with my head in my hands. How was I going to create a soft landing for my two love birds? I started preparing my lessons for tomorrow.

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