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

by David Neph


April gave way to May, the weather got hotter - much hotter. Then June arrived: June with its blessing and its curse for the high school teacher. The blessing: school is out for more than two months on the 20th. The curse: matriculation exams. I was up to my eyes in it: preparing students for their exams, preparing the computer department for accepting grades and churning out report cards, attending evaluation meetings, preparing exam schedules... it was exhausting. All I needed was one more problem...

And, of course, it came! Murphey's law: "if something can go wrong, it will!" Late one afternoon in late June (regular school had finished several days earlier) I was grading the "mock" matriculation exams for my homeroom class when I turned up one that was really bad. This surprised me because my class was a good class and there should have been no "really bad" exams returned from these students. I have a habit of not looking to see who wrote the exam until after I have graded it. This time, when I checked for the name, I was completely astounded: Nir Arazi! One of the most gifted students in the class. One of my two lovebirds. Since school had finished for the year a few days previously I had forgotten about them. In fact I had hardly spoken to them since our meeting with Rabbi Moshe several weeks previously. But now they had a matriculation exam in four days' time. Nir couldn't do this to me! Nir couldn't do this to himself! I flipped through the computer records until I found his personal information, hit 9 for an outside line and rather aggressively punched out his phone number. It was Nir who answered the phone.

"Nir, this is David. I have just finished grading your mock exam. Do you have any idea what grade you got?"

"No, but I bet it wasn't good." His voice sounded kind of hollow, lifeless, listless.

"You can say that again! Get over here right away and we'll see what we can do to salvage the situation." I slammed the phone down, taking out my frustration on the innocent instrument. I suppose slamming phones is better than slamming people.

About fifteen minutes later Nir arrived and sat down on the same chair he had occupied back in April with Oren by his side.

"Nir, what happened?'

"Dunno." There was something in the tone of his voice that make me look at his face carefully. Again he sounded listless, almost resigned to failure. This was definitely not like Nir Arazi who, if he had inherited nothing else from his parents, had certainly inherited the Polish fetish that he must be among the best at everything.

"What do you mean, you don't know?" I was getting cross and using my heart instead of my head. I began talking like your 'common or garden' teacher. "Don't you realize that your whole future may depend on this exam?"

"Yes, I suppose so."

"Don't your realize that your grade on this exam is 30% of your final grade? Did you prepare for the exam?"


"Why on earth not?! Are you prepared to throw your whole future down the drain?"

"Yes." The response was almost toneless, lifeless.

"Come on, Nir, you're talking nonsense!"

Suddenly a small fire lit in his eyes. "I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to take the exam. I don't want to do anything. I don't want to live. If you continue bullying me I shall probably cry but I shan't change my mind."

Down the tunnel at the far end I began to espy a thin beam of light. It didn't need too much intuition. "Nir, has something happened between you and Oren?'

No answer, but a shallow nod of the head.

"What has happened?"

No answer. Head bowed very low. Shoulders hunched up. Hands gripping the sides of the chair defiantly. The picture of abject misery.

"Nir," I said, softer now, "What has happened between you and Oren?" A defiant shrug of the shoulders but no answer. "Nir, look at me please."

"Don't want to."

"Nir, look at me!" Sharply.

He raised his face. Silent tears were streaming down his cheeks. He tried to brush them away with his fists. I melted completely and utterly. I got up from my chair, walked round to the other side of the desk, took him by the shoulders and forced him to stand. Then I pushed his face onto my shoulder and took him in my arms.

"It's alright, Nir. It's OK to cry. Let it out. Life's a bitch to be sure."

His body was suddenly wracked with sobbing, uncontrolled sobbing. I caressed his shoulders, hugging him to me. God, it felt good! How long was it since I had hugged someone like this? Twelve years!

Gradually the sobs gave way to sniffles. He pulled himself away from me and looked up at me.

"I am so sorry. I didn't mean to, it's just that..." And it started all over again. He was fighting the macho image that our boys are tough and our boys don't cry. But they do: they have so much to cry about more often than not.

"It's OK, Nir. I sometimes cry too."

He looked up at me again. His tear-stained face wrenched at my heart-strings.

"Come on, tell me what has happened."

"Oren ... refuses ... to ... talk ... to ... me." This was gasped out through the sobs which were slowly subsiding.

"Since when?"

"We last were together after school on June 20th. We went back to his house to look at our report cards before we gave them to our parents. I said that I had to get home because my Mum would not rest until she had seen my report card and accepted its findings. He kissed me and we hugged. Just then his Dad came in. He must have seen us hugging but he didn't say anything. I'm pretty sure he didn't see us kissing. I just left with our usual goodbyes. The following day, when I phoned, he wouldn't talk to me and put the phone down on me. I went round to his apartment but he wouldn't open the door. Since then I have tried to speak to him but he won't make contact. He keeps shouting at me to go away and get out of his life. I can't get out of his life, David. I love him. He is my whole life. Without him I don't want to live. I want to die."

"Hush, don't say things like that." I hugged him closer.

I didn't want to get involved in what seemed to me to be a lovers' quarrel, but I had to do something in order to save Nir's future and his career - whatever it might be.

"Let me look and see what Oren's exam was like," I said.

"He didn't take the exam."

"What?" Oh my God. If he didn't take the exam at all there was nothing I could do. Zero. I frantically searched through the exam papers on my desk, but it was true: there was no exam bearing the name of Oren Suissa. Both of these kids were throwing their lives away. Now I had a justifiable reason for intruding in this matter.

"Nir, stop crying, honey. I will go and visit Oren to find out what is going on."

Instant bliss! Nir pushed his blond hair away from his brow. A new light seemed to dawn in his blue eyes and a wan smile at last played on those thick, sumptuous lips. "Thank you, David, thank you! Can I come with you?"

"No, son. Go home now. Your parents will be worried. As soon as I have anything to tell you I will call. I promise. Scout's honour. Cross my heart and hope to die..."

At last he smiled a full smile. What a beautiful face he had when he smiled. I hugged him again. It felt so good.

"Off you go now. I'll be in touch with you very soon."

I left the office and found my car in the parking lot. In about five minutes I was at the Suissas' apartment. I climbed the stairs to the third floor and rang at the doorbell. Oren opened the door. One look at his face told me that something really bad had happened to him. His handsome face was drawn; the light in his eyes was extinguished; his eyes were red from weeping; the way he stood, holding the door open, seemed to declare that for him life was just not worth living.

"Oren," I said, "can I come in?"

"I suppose so," he said, letting me through the door.

There was no one else at home. I knew his mother would not be there - she was hiding from her husband in a home for battered women. I was a bit disappointed that his father was not at home: I had a duty to inform him of his son's educational predicament. I was surprised that none of Oren's brothers were at home.

He led me into his bedroom. It was minimally furnished with three beds - the one he sat down on was his and the others were for two of his brothers. He motioned for me to sit down on a bed next to him. "What do you want?" he asked feebly. "I suppose you've come about the exam."

"Yes, Oren, I have come to talk to you about the exam. Why didn't you write the exam?"

"Leave me alone - please." That was almost pleading. "I don't want to talk about it. There was no way I could go and take the exam and there is still nothing that can be done about it."

I looked at him. I was astonished at the change that had come over him. The Oren I had known for more than two years was vibrant, assertive, self-confident. The Oren who now sat opposite me was a shadow of that teenager. It was almost as if his body was just biologically functioning but the soul of Oren Suissa was no longer in it. If the flame of life was still burning inside his soul it was burning very feebly indeed.

"OK," I said, "if you don't want to talk about the exam let's talk about something else. What has happened between you and Nir Arazi?"

"I don't want to talk about that either!" he snapped.

"Oren, I'm not going to sit here and watch you throw away your whole life."

Suddenly he burst into flame, almost savagely. "What the hell has this got to do with you? Get out of my life! Let me solve my problems in my own way! You have no idea what problems I have and yet you push your way in here and ...and ..." And just as suddenly the flame gutted and died. "I'm sorry, sir. Please leave me alone. Please. And please keep Nir as far from me as possible. I don't want him anywhere near me!"

"Did he do something wrong?" I asked, ignoring his outburst.

"No. It's not him, it's me."

"You don't love him any more?" I whispered.

There was a moment's silence and then I saw Oren's face crumple. His shoulders heaved and tears streamed down his face in a paroxysm of sobbing. I sat next to him and pulled him close to me, hugging him. This was the second time in twelve years that I got to hug a boy, and both times in the same day, I thought to myself. It does feel good, I added to myself. Oren buried his face in my shoulder as he cried from the depths of his despair. He was so distraught that I was almost in tears myself. I stroked his heaving shoulders, pulling him to me in a gesture of comfort and security.

Gradually his sobs subsided, first into gentle weeping and then into silence. Even after he stopped crying he clung to me for several minutes, seeming to find in my embrace an anchor of some kind. Then he gently separated himself from me.

"Please don't say that, David," he said, answering the question I had asked more than five minutes previously. I love Nir so deeply, so much, that I don't have the words to express it. Anything I might say would sound trite. He is everything for me. It is only for him that I go on living."

I looked at him sharply. Did I hear in those words the implication that I thought I heard? I made my voice more soft and gentle as I said, "I don't understand, son. You say you love him and yet you refuse to see him, and you ask me to keep him far from you. It doesn't make sense. You are heartbroken, that I can see; but I want you to know that Nir is heartbroken too. He is as sad as you are. Even if you won't tell me what the problem is you should tell him. You owe him that much."

"I can't. I just can't. Please tell him that I love him and I always will, but we cannot meet again. It would not be good for him. Please don't ask me to explain."

I thought for a moment and then said, "Oren, tell me this: what is the connection between what you are doing to Nir and your not turning up for the exam?"

Oren studied the tiles of the stone floor as if they held some deep secret. He was obviously anxious to avoid looking at me. "I cannot leave the apartment."

"Why?" Very gently. Perhaps the secrets were about to be spilled.

"It is too embarrassing. Everyone would know. I can't face that."

"What would everyone know?" Even more gently.

"That I am no longer nearly a man. I am a little boy."

"Oren, son, what has happened to make you a little boy?" Almost a whisper. I put my arms around his shoulders again. "You can tell me. You know that I can keep a secret. You'll feel better if someone else knows as well. Trust me." I hugged him close.

He looked steadfastly at the floor. Then in an almost inaudible whisper he said, "My father spanked me."

I was stunned. I was speechless. Oren had turned seventeen a couple of months ago. It was a physical impossibility. Armand Suissa was a big hulk of a man, sometimes possessed of uncontrollable violence - as his wife's savage bruises silently testify - but this?! Was it possible?

"Tell me more," I whispered.

"There's nothing more to tell. He stripped me naked, put me over his knee and spanked the hell out of me - just as he did when I was seven years old."

"And you let him do this?" I asked, still very softly.

"Yes. I had to."

Again, my intuition was beginning to come into play. "Rennie," I said, using his familiar name, "does this have anything to do with Nir?"

"Yes." A whisper, just breathed.

"You suffered this humiliation to save Nir from something?" I was guessing.


"Oren, I am going to tell you what I think happened. You don't have to tell the story. All you have to do is to listen to me and then tell me if I am right or wrong. OK?"


"Your Dad saw you hugging Nir on the day school finished."

"Yes and no. He also saw us kissing."

"Your Dad threatened Nir in some way or other unless you complied with his demands."

"He threatened to strip Nir naked, capture the scene on video and publish the film on the Internet in order to humiliate him."

I was astounded. But even more I was overtaken by a fury that I could barely contain. It was the fury that almost brought me to tears. How can anyone do something like that to a youngster? And when that youngster is their son's friend? And when that youngster is their own son? I felt tears coming to my eyes, tears of acute frustration. A father was doing this to his son and I could do nothing about it. I knew that Mr Suissa was an unsavoury person. I also suspected that he had some very unsavoury friends. But I would never have believed that he would stoop so low.

Why would I not have believed? I could accept with cool equanimity that this same Suissa had bullied and battered his wife until she had run away to take shelter in a refuge for battered women. But that this same man should strip his son naked and thrash him made my blood boil in a frenzy of frustration. Why?

Because you love him.

I don't love him!

Of course you do! You love Nir as well. You see Oren and Nir as you and Yoni were. You want their love for each other to come to fruition and not be cut off as yours was.

Suddenly Oren's quiet sobbing brought me back out of my reverie. Here was a human being who was hurting and I was talking to myself about my own feelings! Shame on me!

"And that is why you let him do to you this humiliating thing." I returned to Oren.


"It is done. What more do you have to fear now?"

"He had a crony with him, and the crony caught the whole thing on video. From start to finish. Everything. He threatens that if I so much as speak to Nir ever again he will publish the video on the Internet 'and everyone will see how my queer son gets a bareassed spanking for being a fag'."

I was fuming again. I could barely contain my rage. I was not going to let this apology for a parent get away with this. I was going to do something. I stood up and pulled Oren up with me.

"Come on, Rennie! We're going to the police!"

"No!" he howled.

"Yes," I insisted. "Don't you see that it's the only road to a permanent solution to your problem? He bullied your mother. Now he's bullying you. He must be put away."

"No!" he said, less forcefully. The possibility of his salvation was beginning to take shape in his mind.

"It's also the surest way that you and Nir can get back together again," I said slyly.

He hesitated for one moment more and then he capitulated. "Let's go," he said.

I heaved a sigh of relief as we left his apartment, climbed into my car and headed for the police station.

* * * * * * * * *

Our visit to the police station was shorter than I expected. I went straight up to the officer on duty and told him that I wanted to lodge a formal complaint. I gave him the particulars. He looked at Oren and said, "Are you the son of Armand Suissa?"

Oren told him that he was. The officer looked pleased and called in a superior. "Hey," he said to him, "It looks as if we finally have something concrete to nail on Armand Suissa!"

The superior officer looked very interested and showed us into an interview room. He was a detective and listened very carefully to Oren's story, tactfully forgetting to ask what it had been that had so angered Oren's father.

"Did you know," he asked me, "that it is illegal for a parent to strike a child in this country?"

"No, I did not know."

"Well, it is." Then he turned to Oren. "Oren," he asked, "do you know where this video of you is now?"

"Yes. It's locked in a safe in Dad's bedroom. I think he has other tapes in there too."

The detective could not prevent the grin on his face from showing his delight. Then he became serious again. "I want to try to prevent you having to give evidence in court against your father."

Oren showed physical signs of relief.

"But it may well be that there is no way to identify you on the clip. Possibly they were careful not to show your face. I don't know. But I want to find a foolproof way of proving that the youngster shown in the video is you. Only then will your own evidence not be necessary - I hope."

"How can that be done?" I asked.

"I want Oren to describe what happened in the greatest detail - details that could be known only to someone who was present at the time the video was made."

I wasn't sure that Oren would be prepared to do this. It could be very embarrassing, and I said so, to give Oren a way out if he wanted it.

"I know," replied the detective, "but the only alternative will be for Oren to identify himself in court."

"I'll do it," said Oren with determination. "What do you want to know?'

Slowly, stage by stage, Oren told the officer what had happened. He related how his father had threatened him. Then he related how he had forced him over his knee. Oren had been far too humiliated to be able to tell how many strokes his father had landed on him. "Lots." Then he related how his father had yanked him up and told him to take off his trousers. "I did what he told me to do and stood there in my underwear waiting for his next command."

"Stop!" cried the detective, triumphantly. "Describe the underwear you were wearing."

I could see that Oren was now really embarrassed, but I could also see why the detective wanted this piece of information: it was something that only someone who had been present could know. "Tell him, Rennie," I said, "It's probably the last thing he'll need to know."

Oren looked steadfastly at the floor and said softly, "Leopard-spot bikini briefs."

The detective noted down his response and said, "That's it. Thank you very much for being so cooperative." Now he turned to me. "We are probably going to arrest Armand Suissa later today. I shall get social welfare first to make arrangements for the children until their mother gets back home from her place of refuge."

"Thank you, officer," I said. "If it is all right with you, I think that Oren will be better off at my place, at least until his father is permanently out of his life."

Oren looked at me with incredulous delight showing on his face which lit up with a broad smile for the first time in days. "Oh, David, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

"OK," said the detective, "I would imagine that the social welfare people will go along with that since Oren so obviously wants it. I think that about wraps it up. Now, if you will be so kind - we have work to do. Good work"

I took Oren into town where I bought him a "Chimidan" - the kind of large zipped holdall that soldiers use for everything they need in base. I gave it to Oren. "What's it for?" he asked.

"We'll go to your apartment as quickly as possible and you will pack up all your clothes and any personal effects that you want with you. That way you won't have to go back there later when it might be unpleasant."

And that was what we did. And that was how Oren Suissa came to live in my apartment.

When we got home I showed him into the guest room, which was now his room. "Make yourself at home, Rennie," I said. "In a while you can sort your things out, have a shower and come and eat something. But first," I said with a broad grin on my face, "first you have an urgent phone call to make."

He understood immediately. "Oh, yes please!"

* * * * * * * * *

How this account came to be written will become clear as we go along. In the meantime let me just say that this is Nir writing now, writing about things that David could not know because he did not participate in them. That's why he has asked me to write about them.

When I answered the phone I just could not believe it. "Hello," I said.

"Nir, hi! It's me!"

"Is that really you, Rennie?"

"Yeah, it's me. You're never gonna believe where I am."

"Where are you?"


"I dunno where you are, Rennie and I don't care. Just tell me where you are and that I can come there. Please, Rennie, Please. Please let me in. Stop shutting me out. I want to be with you." And I burst into tears.

"If you would turn off the waterworks for one minute I'll tell you. Write down this address and get here as fast as a rocket. Are you ready?"

"Just a sec," I sniffed, looking for a scrap of paper and a pen. "OK, go ahead."

He gave me an address which I wrote down. I knew where the street was. It was some way from our neighbourhood, but on my bike it only took about five minutes.

It was a small 'villa' set back from the road. It must have been built many decades ago as a kind of farm house when there were orchards and vineyards where the town has since encroached on the agricultural land that made our town famous for its wines. I could not imagine what Oren was doing in such a place. I propped my bike against the porch and rang the bell. I was absolutely dumbfounded when our teacher David opened the door, but there was Oren right behind him grinning from ear to ear and almost jumping up and down in his excitement as if he needed urgently to go and piss.

"Hi, Nir. Welcome," said David, grinning. "What can I do for you?"

"Er... Er... I came to see Oren..."

David was laughing his head off. "Well, then, you'd better come in then. He's here somewhere. I'm sure he'd be delighted to see you..."

He was laughing! I pushed past him in impatience. I wanted to run up to Rennie and crush him in my arms and shower him with kisses. But I couldn't because there was my teacher standing there! David must have realised my discomfort, because he said, "OK boys, I have work to do. If you need me I'll be in my den. In the meantime, Rennie, why don't you take Nir and show him your room?"

Oren grabbed me by the hand and dragged me into a room and shut the door behind him.

"Your room, Rennie? I don't understand. What's happened?"

"I'll tell you in a minute. But there is something that we must do first."

Do you remember the first time you made love to someone? I mean made love, showed them your love for them in a sexual way. Two naked bodies uniting in a supreme expression of love. I am no longer the youngster of seventeen years who was a complete tyro in the arts and mechanics of the making of love, but as long as I live and as many times as I shall do it in love and in savage tenderness I shall never forget that first time. Maybe it was because it came so unexpectedly after a prolonged period of enforced celibacy that was a monstrous emotional drain on both of us. At any rate, almost every detail of that first time is indelibly imprinted on my memory - the excitement, the apprehension, the outflowing of sheer joyous love.

Oren took me in his arms and crushed me to him, savagely pressing his lips against mine. He crushed me to him as his tongue pushed itself into my mouth and our tongues locked in a fierce duel, each searching out the other's mouth hungrily. An electric current surged through my whole body. Coloured lights flashed behind my eyes. Oren's body was pressed against mine. My hands clasped him to me scraping, clawing at his back, while I could feel his hands kneading my ass. I had an erection that was painful and I could feel Rennie's dick pushing against mine through the cloth of our jeans. Our hips began gyrating, and the friction of our two bodies oscillating with that circular, spiral motion began to generate somewhere deep inside me that old familiar feeling. I pulled away from him as we came up for air.

"Rennie, I'm so hard I'm gonna shoot in my pants if we don't stop."

"So take 'em off."

"Don't be silly; David could walk in at any moment."

"No he won't. He told me that this is my room and that he would never come in here without asking permission if the door was closed."

"Your room? I don't understand."

"I promise to explain everything. But first I want us to do something that I have dreamed of doing for ever and ever. Don't you understand, Nir? This is my room. I have privacy at last. We have privacy. We can do what we've always wanted to do..."

His eyes were two pools of burning desire. He stroked my cheek gently with his hand. "Nir, please, honey. Let's make love."

While he was talking his hands pulled my T-shirt from my jeans and pulled it over my head. He half-knelt in from of me and started sucking-kissing my nipples, which were as hard as I had ever imagined they could be. My hands were on his tousled head, sometimes clutching whole handfuls of his hair in my growing ardour. He kissed his way back up from my nipples via my throat to my lips and again began sucking the breath out of me.

This time, when we came up for air, I unbuttoned his shirt and pushed it off his shoulders. This was the first time I had ever felt his naked skin under my hands. His body was hot under my feel, as I brushed my hands across his back, feeling the hard leanness of his body underneath the soft, velvety skin. My hands moved lower and found his ass - so round, so firm. I could no longer wait. I looked into his eyes and croaked, "May I?"

"Go for it, Nir, go for it!"

I undid his belt and fumbled with the clasp of his jeans. I undid the holding button at the waist and then pulled down the zip. All this I was doing, somehow, at the same time as I was pressing my mouth onto his, fiercely, aggressively. I felt his jeans fall open and pushed at them so that they fell to the floor. He stepped out of them and kicked them away. I did not stop kissing him and he did not stop kissing me. We were both in such a state of delirium that we hardly knew where we were or what we were doing. Again my hands traveled down his back, and cupped his buttocks. This time I could feel them much more firmly and round under my hands with only the thin material of his briefs separating my hands from his skin.

I cautiously pushed the tips of my fingers underneath the elastic waistband of his briefs, my fingers stealing their way across his ass, feeling its round, firm shape and gently teasing their way to the rim of the crease. While I was doing this Oren's hands were at my waist pulling open my trousers and pushing them to the floor. Suddenly, his hand was inside the front of my underwear, groping and finding my erect dick. I pulled away.

He knelt down in front of me and pulled my briefs off of me. His hands clasped my butt and he looked up at me. "Nir, you are so beautiful. So much more beautiful than I ever imagined you could be. And I always imagined you as the most beautiful creature in the world."

He stood up and kissed me, slowly, tenderly, lovingly. It was a kiss that seemed to last for ever. Both of us were in a different world that we, and only we, shared together, locked in a kind of eternal embrace. We finally emerged from that state of bliss, tearing our lips apart in order to replenish our lungs with sweet air in deep gasps. I tugged at the elastic waistband of Rennie's briefs and pushed them down. He stepped out of them without taking his eyes away from mine. Our eyes were locked in a concentrated gaze that seemed to send an almost physical link between them.

Rennie took my hands in his and pulled me towards him as he stepped backwards towards the bed. He allowed himself to fall back onto it and pulled me after him onto the bed.

For what was the longest time we did nothing. Nothing. We just lay there on the bed, side by side, holding each other close, pressing our bodies together, feeling the physical presence of the other. My lips were stuck to Rennie's and I could feel his erection pressing against my abdomen. This was the culmination of months of frustrated longing. This was how I wanted to spend the rest of my life: lying naked on a bed in Rennie's embrace. Nothing else. No food, no drink, no life - just this, bliss for evermore.

We were brought back into the real world by hearing rather loud (deliberately loud, as it happened) footsteps outside and a raucous cough. Through the door David called us. "Boys, I'm not coming in, so don't worry. But it's time for you to come out of there. We really must sort out this matriculation business. Sorry guys." The footsteps went away.

Slowly, reluctantly, we separated our entangled bodies, caressing cheeks, backs, chests as if to recall forever the feel of those touches.

"Next time it'll be better," said Rennie as he finally disentangled himself and stood up.

I looked at him, searing the sight of his naked manhood onto my eyes. "It could never be better than this," I said.

He pulled me up off the bed and we pressed our bodies together yet again. "I know, Nir," he whispered in my ear. "I know; I feel the same. But next time we'll do more."

I nodded eagerly.

We got dressed.

That was it. My first time. No jerk-off. No suck. No fuck. Just the glorious feeling of your beloved's body next to yours. Never, never shall I forget that wonderful afternoon.

* * * * * * * * *

This is David resuming. Oren and Nir came to me in my den looking sheepishly radiant. I remember thinking to myself: love has been at work there. There was something about the way they looked, the way they held themselves, the way they stood. They were no more schoolboys; they were men in love.

"OK," I said. We must now get to work fast in order to save your matriculation from disaster. Nir, what is your telephone number?" Before he could open his mouth Oren told me Nir's telephone number. "Will your mother be at home at this time?" Again Nir didn't even get a chance to answer.

"What time is it. Six-thirty? Yeah, she'll be home by now," said Oren with a grin.

"Is there anything about the domestic arrangements of the Arazi household that you don't know, Oren?" I asked dryly.

"Not much," he quipped back.

I punched the number into the phone.

"Mrs Arazi? How do you do. This is David, Nir's homeroom teacher. Fine thanks, and how are you and Mr Arazi? That's good. I'm afraid that I must report something to you. I have marked Nir's mock exam and it is very bad indeed. Yes, Mrs Arazi, i am quite sure. Yes, I have checked it more than once. No, there is no need to get a second opinion. Of course we can't leave the matter there. Nir is one of the brightest kids in the class and we must do everything to improve that result. I'm glad that you agree. So here is what I'm going to do. I am going to give both Nir and his friend Oren another chance. What? Yes, Oren failed as well. Yes, his grade was even worse that Nir's. As I said, I am going to give them another chance. Tomorrow morning they will both do another exam. Now that means that they will both be with me until very late tonight because I want to coach them both intensively. Mrs Arazi, there is no need to thank me. It's my job and it's my pleasure to help your son. The thing is we shall finish very late and I don't want Nir going home so late at night. True, you can't be too careful at these times, I agree. Will you and your husband agree that after we have finished our study session that Nir spends the night here with me? Tomorrow morning he will do his exam and I shall mark it immediately, and he will then be able to bring you his result directly when he leaves school for home. I'm so glad you agree. Thank you so much, Mrs Arazi. It's been a pleasure talking to you. Goodbye."

Oren and Nir were doing a jig and hugging each other at the same time. "Oren, we're going to be able to spend the night together," said Nir, his eyes shining.

"I don't want to dampen your obvious enthusiasm," I said, "but there is a price to pay for that privilege. You will both go to Oren's room and get cramming. No monkey business, no hanky-panky - just sheer, hard swatting. I shall look in from time to time unannounced. If I am not satisfied that you are studying properly Nir will spend the night on the sofa in my den and Oren in his room. If I am satisfied that you have worked really hard, then Nir, and only then, you can spend the night on the floor in Oren's room."

They rushed off like a rocket to Oren's room and most sensibly left the door open. I could hear them studying and helping each other in their cramming.

Around eight o'clock there was a knock at the front door. I opened it and found the detective we had seen earlier in the day at the police station. I showed him into the den and shut the door. Until I knew what he had to say I didn't want Oren to even know that he had come.

"I have good news and I have bad news," he said. "The good news is that we found a safe full of pornographic tapes, diskettes and cd's in the Suissa apartment. Armand Suissa has been arrested and I think we shall be able to pin on him not only this, but several other things as well, some of them crimes that carry quite a long sentence. He has already implicated some of his friends and cronies, so we are hoping that we shall be able to round up a whole gang. The bad new is that everything that we found were copies. The originals are somewhere out there - probably already making their wretched way across the highways and byways of cyberspace. "

He anticipated my next question: "No, I'm afraid that there is nothing that we can do about that. The pictures will probably go the rounds until Oren is old enough for there to be no more resemblance."

He even anticipated my next question too: "We thoroughly checked the video in which Oren is involved. It answers exactly to Oren's description, including the detail that Oren gave us. However, we would have been able to charge Suissa in any case, because when we confronted him with the video he admitted that it was him and his son. He claimed the right of parental discipline. The idiot didn't even know that it was now illegal in this country for a parent to strike even their own offspring."

"Thank you, officer, for all your trouble. I'm glad it has worked out this way. Now I must think of a way to prevent Oren and Nir coming across those pictures. Thank you again, and good night."

A couple of days later I told Oren that I had blocked access to porn sites via my computer. He accepted that without comment. My impression was that he didn't need those sites: he had enough sex of his own at hand.

Nir and Oren spent a lot of time together in my house and Nir stayed over quite often. I was so happy for them. At least they had some enjoyment from each other before they went into the army. The army! The army was going to separate them.

Nir and Oren reminded me a lot of another couple: Dudu and Yoni. Yoni, My Yoni, where are you? Why have you left me all alone? Fucking hell. Fuck all.

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