by Rafael Henry
The Run…..and afterwards.
It was a couple of days later. I'd seen Linda and Max that afternoon. I rather liked the view up the footpath across the marsh and you can see the National Trust hut with the pointed roof in the far distance which makes a nice geometric shape in contrast to the winding naples yellow of the path and the orange green of the vegetation either side of it. Not a very saleable image, but a nice thing all the same. It's not all about money is it? No, of course it isn't, but it's a consideration, put it that way. I have enough for the year…..just…….but a bit more from time to time wouldn't come amiss. I've had 'on the spot' sales on occasions……..someone really takes a fancy to what you're doing and offers you something for it. Sometimes I give them away. I've made a present of a small painting many times, usually to younger people. There's some quiet little girl, or boy, who's been standing there watching you work for ages with mum and dad somewhere in the background. You look down at him, or her, and smile, and they look up at you. You know that you've caught their imagination with what you're doing…..it's struck a chord in them. Then mum comes back for another look………
'That's nice isn't it Nathan…….very atmospheric.'
Atmospheric? Hmm, there's some insight here I think. Nathan is still looking at me with his beautiful enquiring eyes searching for a reason to be interested…….maybe the precursor to his own involvement one day.
He goes off with the small oil sketch, holding it carefully at the edges so he doesn't smudge the wet oil paint…….and I'm probably happier than they are.
Max is still in his grey jumper I see. Good, because he looks perfect…….and he's talking to me with his eyes. What's he saying? I'm not sure what it is, and he's probably not sure either. His face has some colour now………just enough to bring up a trace of freckles either side of his nose……hands in pockets…..weight on one leg…….other knee slightly forward. He knows I'm studying him. He wants me to paint him. Yes, that's it. That's exactly what he's saying with his eyes………please paint me. I'd love to, believe me. Actually I think his mother would like that, and probably the way I'd like to paint him too…….a standing nude…….not smiling in a cheesy way, but just standing there in front of me…….perfect, and utterly and compellingly beautiful. Before I leave this place next July, I'm going to do it……….I promise you, I am.
I continue to grapple with the colour green. Why is green always such a problem? I rather think it might be my nemesis. I know I will never know the answer to that one. Then quite out of the blue, Max asks…….
'Are we still going tomorrow? What time should I be ready?'
'I don't know Max……I mean I do know I'm going, but I'm not totally sure when. It depends on when I wake up.'
'How will I know?'
'Say, between six thirty and seven. How's that?'
'Ok. Should I be ready at six thirty then?'
'No, just wait until I get to you ok. Don't set your alarm or anything. I'll just come and find you.'
That's always an interesting time at Waylands………getting up time. Mike does the 'getting the boys up' process usually, but if he's away for some reason, I do it, and I can see why Mike keeps that privilege for himself when he could easily delegate that job to me from time to time. After all, my room is just a few feet from the boys' dormitory. No, that is definitely his job…….oh yes. There are rules of course……a specific order of events that the boys know must be followed. First…..get out of bed when told to do so after the initial two minute warning, and fold back the covers. Second……remove pyjamas and fold neatly and place on pillow. Third……don underpants which sit on top of shirt and pullover combined….yes on top of and not scrunched up please…..…. and proceed to wash basins [not enough of them sadly] for a pretend wash under arms and around the neck and a bit of a splash on the face. They all showered last night so it's not critical. Yes…….that'll do…… he's not watching……well, not now he's not.
Yes, it's the removal of the pyjamas………that's the amusing bit. The boys with one if you know what I mean, and there's no way they can help it, do that bit sitting down if they're on the shy side. The boys without one usually do that bit standing up. At one time or another I've seen them all in that interesting state. Oddly enough, they don't vary much………nothing like as much as they do when they're not hard. Then they can vary quite a bit.
I don't know what Max is like in that department, not yet anyway. One thing I'm very sure about is that he wants me to know. He was trying to tell me, subconsciously perhaps……..or consciously maybe, yesterday morning when he came into bed with us and pretended to fall asleep. I don't think he was actually asleep. Anyway, tomorrow morning I shall find out and tell you, not that it will be that interesting…….probably.
06.15, the next morning……………..
I was awake early………ten to five I think it was, and it was just about light outside. The first thing I do is make tea. That's essential. Other things done, I set off to get Max, dressed in running shorts and a sleeveless tee shirt………a school one extracted from lost property at the end of last term… and the shorts come to that. They belonged to one Roger Bryen, yes, with an 'e', according to the Cash's name tape sewn into the waistband. He's a nice lad, but careless with his belongings. I wonder what Max will wear?
I'm early……earlier than I said I would be, but there's a reason for that. I don't want him ready and waiting for me. The back door is open, just as Linda said it would be, and I go in and quietly shut the door behind me. The stairs creak slightly, but once I'm upstairs in the hallway, the floorboards are silent. The door to Linda's room is ajar and I look in to see her fast asleep and if she wakes it's not a problem because I'm expected. Max's door is also ajar and I push it and look in. He's asleep with just a sheet over him, and he's facing away from the door towards the window, and on his side. His shoulders are uncovered. I go around the foot of the bed, a nice retro iron one painted black, and then along the far side, and plonk myself down on the edge......my hands together in my lap. I look at the sleeping boy………there's a bit of dried saliva in the corner of his mouth………a white residue…….his mouth slightly open. What long eyelashes he has….and there's a similar white residue in the corner of both eyes. I wait, because I'm perfectly content to just look at him. He stirs……..
'Hello sleepy head.'
Max needs a few seconds to register, but when he does, it's with his smile…….yes, his smile. He speaks to me quietly, in that breathy preteen voice that has given so much service. I am intensely moved just at the sight of him, but I cannot show it.
'Are we going?'
'Yes…….but not yet, and there's no hurry. You need to wake up first. It's a nice morning……..perfect for a run to the Point. Did you think about it last night then?'
'Umm…..I couldn't get to sleep. Shall I get up now? I've got my things ready.'
'Shall I come back in a minute………when you've got sorted out?'
Sitting up now, he shook his head. He was out of bed in one movement…..legs on the floor and standing in front of me for a moment before moving towards the chest of drawers upon which were his neatly arranged kit. I tried not to look……but of course I did, very briefly. He picked up the white shorts…standard PE kit by the look of them, and bent down to put them on. I looked again, unseen by him, as he pulled the garment up his legs and covered the white flesh. He turned towards me, slipping the sleeveless tee over his head…….hair disturbed interestingly……..attractively. I have an inkling, just a little more than mere suggestion.
Do you remember that sequence in the movie 'IF'……when Bobby Phillips puts on his pullover and looks down from the balcony in the school gymnasium, watching his hero Wallace practicing on the bars? There was a moment just then……..with Max……when eyes meet for a moment, but nothing is said?
At the end of the lane we turn left towards Cley village, then on past the Mill and next left on the tarmac road that leads to the car park at Cley beach…..over the shingle bank, and down on to the wet sand revealed by the receding tide. He's good this boy. He can go at a fair pace and he has an economical running technique ideal for distance work. I let him go in front for a while on the pretext of getting him to set a pace that suited him……….I can admire him this way for a while. My guess is that he'll have a figure like his mother's……...little or no fat, and quite long legged with narrowish hips, and generally well formed.
Max had put his shorts on with nothing underneath. He'd filled them nicely, and although he's still a 'little boy' down there, he'd made a decent impression in them. From the back he looks well too, and again, little room for growth…..well, no room for growth actually. He'll need new for next term.
It's not the first time I've done this course. I did it the very first morning I was here. It's a beautiful place. It took us twenty one minutes to reach the Point and we needed to rest. We recovered sitting amongst the marram looking at several grey seals with their pups playing by the water's edge, giving us a watchful eye. The holiday makers pay good money to see this scene from the discomfort of a Bean's boat tour. We watched them for a while keeping well away….they don't like any sort of disturbance.
'I fancy a bathe Max…….just for a few minutes. You can go the other side of the dunes if you want to. I don't suppose you'll want to see my bare bottom.'
'Can I swim too?'
We didn't have much to take off. I'm about to see him nude, and very soon he'll see me. Boys are usually fascinated to see what other boy's nether regions look like, and I gave Max ample opportunity while I pretended to adjust the laces in my trainers. There's nothing unusual about him…….he's uncircumcised unlike myself, and just about what one would expect in an almost thirteen year old boy. This morning in his room, just out of bed, I glimpsed him a little larger……..just for a moment.
There's no one here…….just the two of us. We ran up and down the sand amongst the razor fish shells and the abandoned homes of a myriad sea creatures, whilst trying to avoid treading on the occasional large pebble which does hurt. Dry now, we take stock, standing with hands on hips, looking seaward. I'm sure I saw a pair of terns.
'That was fun wasn't it Raf?'
'Uhuh…….yes it was.'
We laughed in our appreciation. Looking at Max, I asked……
'What now then? Home James? It's about three miles back you know.'
'I'm not James …….I'm Max. Would you rather I was James then? Do you wish I wasn't here or something?'
He was standing, maybe four feet away from me. He looked hurt. He wanted reassurance.
'No of course I don't silly! It's a figure of speech, that's all…….James isn't a person…….but you are….a very important person as it happens.'
'Why? Why am I?'
'To me you are……and to your mum of course……..and to lots of other people too.'
'Why am I to you Raf? Why you Raf? Tell me why I am to you ?'
How do I answer that? There's only one way in my book.
It was the first really physical thing we'd done….there in the middle of nowhere…….on the sand at a quarter past seven in the morning in a bright light reflected off the North Sea. The early morning warm light does strange things to the colour of our skin.
It was the first time I had touched him, and the first time he had felt me touch him. It was just a reassuring arm around his shoulder, that's all, but it worked.
He turned towards me and leant against my chest….both my hands on him now….on firm shoulders…….now the palm of one hand gently rubbing the boy's back for comfort……..then the lower back. I had an intense desire to go lower, but I resisted because that would have a sexual gesture, and forbidden. Thoughts are one thing, but actions are quite another.
He didn't move, but pressed the side of his face harder against me, his palms flat on my chest now. The gestures towards each other were about friendship and caring, not sex……but surely sex lurks in our heads all the time, waiting to slip onto the stage almost unseen and then alarm us?
We walked part of the way back, and Max told me about his friends from school. A boy called Henry seemed quite significant.
Linda was up and dressed when we returned to Blue Cottage soon after eight. She made tea and slices of thick toast, and offered me the shower. I declined, saying I was only five minutes from the village, and anyway I had nothing to change into. Max used it, with strict instructions to wash his hair properly this time. He looked as if he had when he came out, putting the finishing touches to the drying of it and standing before me, unclothed and relaxed, smiling broadly with an air of triumph. He stepped over to where I was sitting, affording me the best possible view of his developing body….well, one of them shall we say. He knew perfectly well what he was doing. I smiled and looked at him. He smiled back, eyes dropping. Linda had momentarily stopped spreading butter on a piece of toast. I looked at her and smiled. She smiled back, aware of the moment.
'Darling, go and get dressed please.'
'Do I have to? '
Max had turned sideways. I can hardly believe what I'm seeing. I needed to reinforce what his mother had asked him to do.
'Max……please do what your mother says.'
Max turned his head back to me. His answer was one of those languid ok's of reluctant acceptance. I watched him walk to the stairs and disappear.
'Is he ok Raf?'
I chuckled, before saying…..
'Yes of course he is……in every way. Why. Were you worried?'
'No, not really. It's just that you've seen a lot more than I have.'
'I can assure you he's fine. Perfect in fact.'
It was a long time since I'd been to the City's Museum. I wanted to see the Cotman watercolours again. They had inspired me as a boy, and although I had never pursued watercolour myself to any degree they remained an inspiration. I'd mentioned that I was going to see the Cotman watercolours at breakfast at Blue Cottage, and Max seemed interested.
'You can come with me if you want. You could show me your new school too…….I wouldn't mind a bit of a tour. Do you need anything there…….a new pencil case or anything?'
Then Linda, thinking about a comment I had made about Max's wardrobe a day or so earlier………….
'You couldn't do something for me could you Raf…….while you're there?'
'Yes of course, what is it?'
She explained, and I had to agree. When it comes to the more personal items of clothing, it's important to look like the other boys, and from I'd seen, Max's wardrobe needed adjusting.
'Fine. We'll nip into Marks and sort that out. No problem Linda.'
I parked the 'B' a little way up a steep hill, having turned the wheels towards the kerb. My father had told me about that place……..just east of the Wensum, and not far from where the old football ground had been before it was deemed unfit for human habitation, let alone playing League football there. Max had enjoyed the drive in with the hood down, looking resplendent as ever in grey and pale khaki, and trainers that resembled canoes. He does have big feet, this boy.
The Museum was as good as I imagined it would be, everything well displayed albeit a bit dated. Later, we found Marks easily and not far away in a new development of well-known High Street names. Up the escalator, we headed for the section in the far corner which was reserved for all the things that boys need. Max and I looked around the relevant section.
'I like these ones Raf.'
I wasn't so sure……too much the other way.
'What about these Max? They're something between what you had and those ones you pointed out………they're still very fashionable. Almost all our boys wear this kind of thing.'
I thought Max's first choice was both interesting and surprising. Anyway, we settled for a major update on what he had. Now he would fit in nicely. I had checked the sizes carefully……boys, age 11 to 12……and boys age 13 to 14……four of each…..and in what felt like good quality white cotton. As soon as we were back at Blue Cottage Linda and I were treated to a fashion show. It was a case of off with the old and on with the new……..right there in the kitchen. After his revelation, Max disappeared upstairs. Linda looked at me, boiling a kettle for tea…..
'Crikey, I was privileged. I haven't seen him so relaxed a while……not since the French campsite.'
'He did look nice didn't you think? Good choice?'
'Yes, an excellent choice, thanks.'
I'd picked up Linda reference to a campsite.
'And what was that French campsite then Linda?'
'Oh that was an experiment really……quite good though, especially for Max. He had a great time.'
'Oh, tell me more.'
'It was a nudist holiday believe it or not. I was hoping to meet someone…..you know, as you do when you're on your own and a bit lonely. A friend said she'd been to one and met someone there, that's all. It was near Dinard on the north coast….sort of Brittany way I think. Yes, right opposite S. Malo. I thought I would give it a try.'
'So did you then…….meet any one?'
'Yes I did actually. There were some quite nice men, but with families….and this girl, but she was way too young for me really. She was very keen, but I had to be a bit careful. You know how it is. You do know how it is don't you? So that was it really.'
'What about Max then? You said he enjoyed it.'
'Yes he did. He teamed up with a girl about his age, and they played every day together apart from one when we went on a tour. We spent most of our time with this family. It was the elder of the two girls that was there.'
'Ah, I see. How old was she then?'
'She was only fourteen unfortunately…….but incredibly beautiful. Oh my goodness……thinking about her now and where she might be. I've thought about her on and off ever since. Her family became a bit concerned eventually…..after the first week probably. I think they'd sussed it out, although Francoise never said anything. I'm sure she didn't say anything.'
'So what happened?'
'Oh……nothing too dreadful. I'll tell you sometime. I think it was more in my head than it was in hers. Anyway Max had fun with his friend, and it was lovely watching them play on the sands…..wonderfully natural, and just as they should be. The little sister, Max's friend, was stunning too, although a little disarming shall we say when you see them both kneeling on the sand, and their arms half way down a hole they're digging, with their backs to you. Emily, that was her name. Ask Max about her. It's a bit like that with you and him isn't it? I know it is Raf, and I don't mind at all so long as you are prepared to admit it. Are you? I've told you that before.'
'Yes, you're right. I do admit it. I think it is a bit like that.'
'And for Max too……….I can see that. I don't mind if anything happens so long as it's good for him, and I know you'll be kind to him. I trust you Raf, that's what I'm saying. I know you would never hurt him…..or me for that matter. That's true isn't it? I haven't misjudged you have I?'
'No, of course you haven't.'
'And I'm a bit worried about him Raf………when he goes off in September? Will you talk to him please about what to expect? You know all about the boarding stuff and we don't. It's completely new to us, and I don't think he's got a clue what to expect.'
'Yes of course I will. There are a few things that he should know which will keep him away from potential problems and so on. Yes, I'll talk to him on one of his visits. I'm painting the creek tomorrow. I'm going early to get a good contre jour view for a new picture looking up towards the church, so no running. I did mention it to him. How about dinner at mine tomorrow night?'
'No Raf, come here please, but bring something if you want ok? Can you stay? I'd like you to.'
Being with Linda moves me. I can't help it….she just does. I think she's incredibly courageous. After dinner Max sat between us on the ample sofa Linda had in the sitting room. The television was rarely put on which I thought refreshing. Max enjoyed being with us, and became quite tearful at one stage. I don't know what he's been thinking about, but I could hazard a guess. Having a man around must have made him think a bit about what he might have missed out on. Poor Max……..he'll be fine in the long run, but life will be hard for him at times emotionally. He'd had a good cuddle with mum and then it was my turn. I felt very honoured that he wanted me like that. I'm terribly fond of him, and I had considerable difficulty in not weeping for him. He knows it now, and so does Linda. I feel very privileged to be part of this.
'It's bedtime sweetie………grandma's taking you into the City tomorrow. Then you can give us a fashion parade when you get back.'
'Will you come up and see me please Raf…….in a while?'
Of course I will.
'So you never thought about having a second child then Linda…….or was one enough!'
'Max was a handful on my own, that's for sure, but my mother would always help out if I needed her. She's a good person, and a good friend too……good to talk over things with……and yes, I did wonder about it. What would be the difference……..just another one, and company for Max later in life.'
'So why didn't you?'
'No one suitable I suppose, not that I knew anybody really. The ones I did know were all spoken for anyway. You don't meet many people teaching in a village primary school Raf……..it's mainly women…….like Louise. Why? Are you offering then?'
'Offering what Linda?'
'A few of those sperms you've got swimming around inside you?'
'Oh, those things! Actually, I don't know how many I have. None perhaps, but you're more than welcome to what I've got if you decide you want them? Apart from the thing with Eric, have there been any other men?'
'Yes……one other, but I knew from the start my heart wasn't in it if you know what I mean. There was no point. It wasn't just a sexual thing……I mean I quite liked having a penis in me which might surprise you, although I never experienced an orgasm that way, like quite a few women I suppose. I just decided I liked women, or girls, better. If I was a man, I'm sure I would have tons of sex….all the time probably. It's different for a woman. I think I'm quite a randy person like you probably. Are you?'
'Yes, pretty much…….especially when you talk about it.'
'Which bit exactly?'
'The holiday in France………when you became fond of Emily's sister…….Francoise was it? Can you tell me about that?'
She did tell me, in some detail. She enjoyed telling me as I thought she would, in fact it was as if she was reliving it. The story was turning me on sexually, and I could tell it was having the same effect on her. She was asking me, in her own way, for sex of some sort. I wanted it too. I began to imagine penetrating her and I became hard quite quickly. I made no attempt to hide it. She noticed, but didn't smile. This was the beginning of sex.
A little way into her story I began to undress her, until we were both bare chested. She was right. Her breasts are practically non-existent, but her nipples definitely are not……nor are they unresponsive. From there we both progressed as her story continued to its, and our mutual satisfaction. I had not been to Max, who had thankfully not come downstairs to see where I was. I think we were both surprised at what had happened to us, rather taken aback at the ferocity of our feelings. For me, it had been almost painful in its intensity. We had had sex with our hands. It was the story telling for both of us. I was overwhelmed when Linda came. I was convinced I wasn't going to, but when she did so beautifully, I did too, rather carelessly, straight after her. That's weird isn't it?
I did go up and see Max, who was sleeping on his back with an arm laying on his pillow beside his turned head……the other under the sheet, and appearing to be resting on his lower abdomen. I left him, peaceful, some ten minutes later, but not before satisfying my curiosity. Forearmed is forewarned as they say, and as I was due to 'talk' to him about his future boarding life, I thought it would be useful to know what he got up to, if anything. He had been handling his penis. That was obvious. He had more than likely been masturbating just as sleep overtook him. I suspected the latter as there was no other physical evidence. Good boy. I mentioned it to Linda because she had told me that she suspected he had begun to masturbate. She wanted to know. At breakfast the next morning, when Max appeared, I did something very stupid.
'Hi Max……oh……..you look a little tired this morning…….what did you get up too last night then?'
He didn't take my ill-judged and pathetic attempt at humour well. Linda seemed faintly amused, but I don't think she had cottoned on to the innuendo in my very unwise and unkind remark.
'Max………you've gone very pink. What's the matter darling?'
Max responded by running out of the room, rushing upstairs and shutting his door loudly. I felt very bad and an apology to Linda was in order.
'Oh dear, I think that was me. Sorry.'
'Were you referring to what I think you were Raf?'
'Err……….yes. Well, at least you know now…..if you needed to.'
'So is that bad then?'
'No, not at all. Once they've discovered how, and how nice it is, there's usually no stopping them. It's all entirely normal. Don't worry. He's not going to go blind!'
Later that afternoon……………..
I caught up with Max on our favourite bench…….you might know it. It's the one at the far end of the quay at right angles to the road, so you can look right along the quay to the east. All the walkers that are on their way along the coast path have to pass you, so it's quite social too. There were plenty of children happily occupied hauling up yet another green crab that had no doubt seen daylight yesterday too. He was sitting arms folded, looking up the creek at the blue and white crabber boats moored there, tide half way down, their hulls grounded now on the drying pale sand, and there's Max in the same grey pullover….same pale khaki shorts……same bare feet in Clarks sandals…….same boy……same beautiful Max. Cross Max. I know he'd seen me, and I was expecting the worst when I tried to talk to him.
'Go away! Just go away please……just piss off……..'
There was no one else on the bench, generous slats of wood painted green, which was just as well. I sat down next to him but leaving a tactful gap between us.
'I'm sorry Max……it was a really thoughtless thing to say this morning and I am sorry………..I really am.'
To make a joke out of a situation that almost all boys confront most by the age of twelve, or younger, much younger sometimes, was wrong. Boys will inevitably be hyper-sensitive to something so personal, and now I'm paying for it. Everything that Max chucks at me, I deserve.
There was silence for a minute or so, but Max was unmoved. I looked at him…..his dark hair in the sunlight reflected a hint of red. I had noticed that before. Despite his dark hair, falling forwards naturally and slightly unkempt…a little over his ears……..the fine hairs on his forearms shone with a golden burnish, going this way and that. He has beautiful hands too, and I think he'll be quite muscular in time……but stay as you are please…..just as you are……..please don't change too soon. That time will come soon enough. Now I know I need to be firm with him.
'Max. I'm not going to go away………I'm going to stay here until we can start talking again.'
'Go away…….please go away.'
There wasn't the same intensity this time……almost a resignation in his tone.
'No…I'm not going to go away. I know I've hurt you, and I'm sorry. There's something wrong isn't there……it's not just what I said is it. There's something else isn't there. I know there is.'
It was about a minute before he turned towards me. He looked straight at me, his eyes filling. The tears dropped one by one making little blobs of dark on the material of his shorts as they fell……one by one.
I put my arm on his shoulder and his head went down. I moved closer and held him, no real pressure, but quite lightly to myself as his body shook with his sorrow. I notice how firm his shoulders are, and I spread my fingers wider to gain more sensation and increase the pressure. I want to flow into him.
He told me…………..things aren't working well………………..and yes I was right about last night…….and how could I embarrass him like that in front of his mother. We talked about it for a few minutes, playing it all down nicely, after all it's no big deal is it? He agreed. No big deal.
He wanted to walk so we took the coast path. I'd painted it a day or so before…..that damned green again…..my nemesis. By the time we reached the car park there, he was fine and back to his old self. It's amazing how boys can recover themselves in such a short time. They are naturally resilient and optimistic creatures that need to love, and be loved back.
'That's a good view Raf……..with the two boats……the white ones lying on the mud there. Do you think it's better at low water or does it look better when the tide's up do you think?'
That's better Max. Thank goodness.
Now Max tells us……..
When we got back to the Quay, Raf took me into the hotel. It's nice in there…..quite posh……. and they said at the desk that it wasn't too late for tea. We had scones and really thick cornish cream with them….and jam on top . Lovely! I asked him…..
'Can I see where you paint please? Can I see your studio place? Is that where you keep all the things that you've done?'
He smiled at me. I looked at him for ages. Eventually he said I would be allowed to see his studio.
After tea, we walked along the Quay and then up the High Street to his flat above the Deli shop. Mum often goes in there for things……a lovely pork pie or something….or some nice salad dressing. You go round the back of the shop and then up some steps to get in to the flat. There's a big kitchen and a sitting room beyond with a big leather sofa in it……big enough for a least three people by the look of it. Then to the right is a big bedroom with a large bed in in the centre. Then just after that room, there's a smaller one where he keeps all his painting gear. There's an easel set up with a picture on it of the Quay. I think it must be evening because…..well I think it is anyway.
He asked me on the bench before our walk if I had forgiven him. Of course I said I had. I think I'd over reacted anyway and I think in the end he was upset as much as I was. An old couple went by when Raf was holding me tight and I was crying and they stopped for a moment. I thought the woman was going to say something, but they just mumbled something and walked on. People are nice aren't they?
Raf knew there was something else……something else that was upsetting me, so I told him which was hard because it's very personal, but he made me tell him. I think deep down I really wanted to tell him because it was really about him anyway. When he came in the other night I heard him but I wasn't asleep. I had been playing in bed but it wouldn't come……..you know…..the feeling you get at the end. The harder I tried the worse it got so in the end I gave up. That's when he came in…..just a bit after actually. That's why I was so angry the next morning……something that he might think a joke really got to me. Then after I had told him about it we went on our walk and started to talk. He asked me what I thought about when I was doing it. I didn't want to tell him because……..well who wants to tell another person things like that? I do think about things….sometimes I think about Henry who was in my class last term because we've done some things together and I like him and he's…….nice! Anyway I told him…..eventually. He promised never to say anything to anybody, ever. It was him…….. I was thinking about him ….in my imagination….. I was thinking about Raf . When I started to rub it, or actually before I started, I thought about Raf and me on the beach at the end of our run the other morning…….only this time he did do something. I was lying on my back on some grass and he started to touch my legs……..the inside parts which feel lovely when I touch them. I watched him doing it and then he said did I like it………..what he was doing? I said I did, and that I wanted him to do more….to go right up my leg and inside my shorts. He said he wanted to and then I felt him go higher…….and higher. It felt fantastic. Then I put my hand in and it was stiff, and I began to rub it like Henry does to me sometimes when he comes round after school. It was feeling good…….better and better…….and then I suddenly heard him say that I shouldn't think about things this way…….he's a man and I'm just a boy. I kept hearing his voice in my head…………and then it all just went………the nice feeling I was getting………and everything . So I tried harder, but that just made it worse. Then we just walked on for ages with his arm around my shoulder. He just kept saying……….
'It'll be fine Max……..there's absolutely nothing to worry about………….it'll be fine, believe me.'
I think I'm wrong and bad……a bad person. I won't go to Heaven when I die. I might die son and it'll all be too late…to make everything right again.
I like his studio. He keeps all his old sketchbooks and stuff like that on the shelf, and there's a table like the one in our kitchen in the middle with tubes of paint and brushes, jars of liquid, and rolls of kitchen towel…….all sorts of stuff that artists need I suppose……and loads of brown cardboard stuff stacked up. Some of them are painted a sort of white colour. He said they were his primed boards…….the ones that were ready to be painted on. It smelt nice in there.
'Can I look at these please?'
'Oh, they're just old sketchbooks Max…………not very interesting.'
They were to me. I opened the first one and it was full of drawings of people………mainly boys about my age or younger by the look of them. Most of them were wearing underpants or shorts, but some of them had nothing on at all and you could see everything…..their front bits and in some of them, their bottom bits too. Some of the pages had more than one drawing of them, maybe six on one page. They were beautiful. I spent ages looking at them.
'Who's this person Raf?'
'Oh, that's Robert……see, I've written his name down here……right at the bottom of the page. I always do that. These are my old school sketchbooks. We had to draw people all the time so we used other boys to model for us. Robert broke his arm so he couldn't do Games so he came up to the art room and sat for us.'
'Or lay down for you, you mean!'
'Yes, or laid down for us. Robert was good. He'd usually decide on the pose himself, just to irritate us I think. He was what the teacher called 'an independent thinker', and a bit naughty with it. He was in my dormitory too. He was put there because of his bad attitude I think, but the others pulled him round eventually. He ended up being a really good kid. It was Olaf mainly…….he made him his project for the term…….to get him to be a bit more positive about life, like you are.'
'Yes you……..I think one day you'll do well.'
'Oh, just a feeling in my bones.'
'A feeling? Oh, I don't get those!'
We both laughed. That lovely gentle disposition had returned. I felt joyful….nothing less then that.
'I like Tim………..he's nice too. What's that line across his tummy?'
'That's a scar from an operation he had…….appendicitis. It's when the appendix gets inflamed and they have to remove it with surgery. There was a big drama one night and he had to go to hospital a bit pronto. He was a good kid too….a really lovely boy.'
'A lovely boy?'
'Yes, a lovely boy, like you.'
I felt really weird when he said that……like really pleased……relieved almost.
I took another sketch book from the shelf………these were later ones judging by the size of them, and they were more detailed too. These were all of one boy…..the whole book. I almost cried when I looked at them.
'Do you like those? That's Richard. I did tons of him. He was a very good model. I was a sixth-former by that time.'
'How old is he in this one?'
'About fourteen…….or fifteen maybe? The first ones are when he was thirteen or so. He was very good to draw. You remind me of him a bit.'
'Why? He's got light hair and mine's dark…..his willy looks like mine though……kind of. Why does it look different in this one?'
'Oh………..don't you know why Max?'
'Oh yes, I know……we were told to do that.'
'And do you?'
'Will you draw me please……sometime?'
'Uhuh, but we'll need to ask mum about that though…..but yes, if it's ok with her. I don't just draw anyone you know……only special people.'
We both laughed again. I looked at him for ages after that.
'Yes, like you.'
'What are these……all these exercise books tied together?'
'They're essays I've written….ages ago. I always keep them with me.'
'Because they're personal. I don't want anyone reading them…….they're about feelings, about people and my own history I suppose. I like writing about people.'
'Will you ever write about me do you think?'
'I think so…….I probably will…….eventually……..when I'm a long way from here. Yes, I think I may well write about you.'
There was another long silence while we pretended to look at things, but I know we were both thinking about what he had just said.
'Then are they about people you've known? What's it called? Is it all one book?'
'Yes, it's all one piece……like a story told over a period of time…….it's about my life when I was your age…….and a bit older.'
'Will you let me read it please?'
'Because it's about you and……..'
'Nothing. It doesn't matter.'
'I can't Max……..it's not suitable for you…….it has things in there you shouldn't read about.'
'What things Raf? Why can't I read them?'
'Because you can't ok? Just accept it……no arguing please.'
Two days later, I was in his flat on my own. Raf had gone out to see someone………..someone in the village I think, and he'd left me to play with some paper and coloured pens. I was going to copy one of his paintings of the marshes. I saw the exercise books on the shelf, but they weren't tied up with string this time. He'd obviously undone them to read them I suppose. I took one of them down from the shelf and sat on a chairs at the table with it. I know I shouldn't have done it, but I was so curious, and anyway, it's only some writing isn't it? On the front of the book he had written 'Schooldays. Chapter Two'.
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