About Max

by Rafael Henry

Chapter 5

Max is excited about getting his new uniform.

It was an amazing little shop with these two funny old men in there. It's called Ramsey Hunt…….and they supply the school uniform which is really nice! Gran took me and we parked where Raf suggested we go…….up on Gas Hill which is a street just the other side of the river and up from the King's Arms pub he said……the name of the river is the Ware I think……or something like that anyway. It looked pretty filthy to me. We went over this little bridge and then alongside what I think is the playing fields of the school and then round the end of the cathedral. That made me shiver and I felt nervous. I could see the end of a huge building that looked like the boarding house we were shown when we visited ages ago. It's right next to the cathedral…..scary! The spire looked so tall, with a shiny thing right at the very top which looks like a chicken or something. Why would they put a chicken on top? Weird. Then Gran asked……..

'Would you like a look in Max? It's a long time since I went in here. I'd quite like to. We'll have bags of stuff with us when we come back won't we……probably best to go in on the way.'

It's lovely and light in there with huge pillars everywhere, and what I think is the organ right in the middle and high up, and all the golden pipes shining. We walked slowly up the left hand side and on one of the pillars next to the rows of wooden seats was a plaque thing with a picture of a man standing up that looked a bit like a picture of Shakespeare I once saw. I read his name…..it was Osbert Parsley which made me smile. Fancy being called something Parsley!

Someone was playing on the organ very quietly. Every now and again he stopped, and then started the same bit again. It made me shiver all over. I looked up at the organ thing and I could just see the head of a person and a light shining on his head. A man was walking towards us in a long purple robe and he stopped to speak to us.

'Hello, are you visiting?'

'Yes, kind of. My grandson here is coming to the school next term. We're here to collect his uniform.'

'Are you now………excellent…….and haven't I seen you before young man?'

'Yes sir. I think it was my singing test sir?'

I recognized the man. It was definitely him, although it was ages ago.

We stayed about a quarter of an hour listening to the person playing while we wandered about. When we came out of the door right at the far end I could see the school playground on the right all empty and hot looking. The dust and ground smelt warm. I heard some people talking loudly near us…….in German maybe……..or Dutch…..it wasn't French anyway because I would recognize that. I like it here, but I am nervous. Only three weeks to go too……..but I'm excited too at the same time. I feel a bit funny. I looked back at the huge boarding place. There are massive black gates across the road towards it and big patches of grass inside. I wanted to go in and look but Gran said we didn't have time.

The nice old man in the uniform shop put everything in big paper bags with handles on them. He took ages to fold the blue blazer which he said is a special blue colour with red letters on top of each other on the badge, and it went in a separate bag. I love the grey jumper with the red and blue stripes around the 'V' neck. I felt it……it was really thick and soft and came halfway down my bottom when I tried it on……..lovely! Grey is my favourite colour by miles. My tie is nice too……green and blue stripes. Apparently everyone has the same one whatever House you're in…….I'm going to be in School House. The man said I was very lucky because that's the best one. It's the one that all the boarders are in so it's special. I believe him. When I'm there, I'm going to try really hard at everything. I kept thinking of Raf……….I don't know why really although I know I love him. Perhaps that's it. I can't wait to get home and see his face when he sees me. I'm going to put it all on and show him. I can't wait…………..and it's my birthday on Friday too!

I've got new trousers as well because Gran said there was no point in making another special trip in just to get those……and the grey shirts too……..and some white ones for Chapel and stuff. Gran wrote out a cheque at the end………she didn't seem to mind though. It must have been a lot.

About five that afternoon………….Raf is at Blue Cottage.

'Well…………are you going to show us then?'

His Gran had gone home after dropping Max off so it was just the three of us. Linda had all the new purchases on the kitchen table, not trusting Max to leave it alone if it were kept in his bedroom. Max stripped off down to his underpants, the nice new ones, and stood waiting for his mother to hand him the various parts of the ensemble starting with a grey shirt and ending with the resplendent royal blue blazer. Linda looked at me………

'What do think then Raf? Will he do?'

'Oh , I think he'll do nicely. You look fantastic Max……really really good. Pity about the socks and shoes though.' We laughed……….he did look slightly odd without them.

Later, in the Red Lion…………

'He couldn't wait to show you Raf could he? How was he when you went up with him? He seemed a bit quiet. Was he ok?'

'Yes, he was fine, but I think the reality is hitting him slightly…….the going away bit.'

'You seemed to be up there a long time. Was he upset?'

'A little bit, but he's fine……really he is.'

'He's terribly fond of you. You know that don't you? As a matter of fact he's not the only one. '

'That's nice, thanks, and I think you must know that's it's mutual. Now…..how do you feel about Max going away? Tell me the truth please.'

'A bit sad, but it'll be good for him won't it?'

'Yes I'm sure it will. He'll miss his mum to start with, but he'll make friends easily I'm sure. They have to in those situations. Anyway, we've got the party tomorrow. Can I get some stuff for it?

'A bottle of wine maybe…..for us?

The party was fun, and nicely low key. It was just us three and Henry, with the usual party food for the boys and plenty of fizzy lemonade and ginger beer……all very Enid Blyton. I put the booking form for his sailing course in a sealed envelope so I had the pleasure of seeing his face when he opened it. It was a picture when he did, and I'm certain he'll really enjoy it all, bless him.

The boys played in the garden afterwards while Linda and I made a plan to slope off to the pub for a while. Max had made a couple of moves towards me during the tea…….trying to touch my hand surreptitiously, but not quite making it. I'm beginning to find it very difficult. I can't allow my fantasies to become a reality can I? No, I can't.

I like Henry. He struck me as a sensitive boy mindful of others which is nice……a lovely smile under his mop of light brown hair. I found myself studying him quite intensely at times hoping he wouldn't notice. I don't think he did. Artists do tend to do that I think……look rather harder at people they find interesting visually, which sometimes gets noticed. Like Max, Henry is quite slim, thinner in fact than Max so his pocketless short shorts made him look younger than the eleven he actually is. He looked very cute in his tee shirt…..wide horizontal black stripes across the white. I noticed his hands too…….long fingers and clean finger nails too. That's good. I'm not at all surprised that Max chose him for a friend. It's not relevant really, but he's a very drawable boy. I couldn't help imagining him nude of course which I know is a bad habit…….before you tell me.

We had an hour in the Red Lion which is my choice of the local pubs. Linda seemed in a wistful mood. I looked at her and found myself feeling very protective towards her and Max. She's courageous……..no doubt about that. I hope one day she'll find someone. She noticed me looking at her so I had something ready to say…….

'Henry's a nice lad isn't he………very nicely mannered I thought. I think he's been Max's best mate at school hasn't he?'

'Yes, they've known each other since……well, forever really……since they were toddlers. He comes and stays over sometimes, but not so much recently. So are you ready for him tonight? How are you going to play it………wait until he's asleep or what? Don't forget he has choir tonight. Would you like to collect him from the church Raf?'

'Yes, why not, that would be really good. I'll sit at the back for the last quarter of an hour or so. I'd enjoy that…..and am I ready for bedtime? Yes, I'm ready I think, but are you sure about this? You're his mother and there will be contact won't there………I mean……..there's bound to be isn't there?'

'Yes I know, but that's fine isn't it……so long as nothing is imposed on your part, and I know you…..well I know that you care very much for him.'

'What about his part Linda? He's a growing boy in all sorts of ways now. He's at that stage when he may make impulsive decisions that he later regrets…….emotional ones. I think you both need to be careful, for all our sakes?'

'I see what you're saying Raf……..I do……..and I've talked to Max and we both understand. He knows all that stuff, and he just wants you with him tonight. Please Raf……just let him love you in his own way…..he really wants to………he really does. I know it will be a physical thing with him because that's what he needs. He can't get that from me, but he can from you. I know it's the other side of the wire Raf, but we don't accept those boundaries. Please keep him in check Raf of course…….but you won't deny him completely will you?'

I thought the organist cum choir master did well considering the depleted numbers. He had five girls and three boys, the others being women apart from one bass singer. Henry was there. I would imagine that Max's treble voice will last another six months tops, but Henry has longer. A cute boy indeed. Oh dear. Don't worry, I am well aware of my failings.

It's Max's bedtime.

'Will you come and talk to me while I have my bath please Raf?'

Of course I did. It's a pleasant time listening to boys' random ideas while they relax in the warm water. It was something I always enjoyed at Waylands. The boys would witter on about this and that while I sat on the edge of the bath listening to all their random thoughts about other masters usually.

Max still just about fits into the bath lengthways with his head propped up and cushioned by his pale green flannel neatly folded to afford maximum padding……arms to his sides.

'Can I do my hair in the bath please……just this once?'

I helped him. After that, he soaped himself rather inefficiently but it would do.

'What about your back Max? And that could do with a bit of attention couldn't it?'

'Will you do it please?'

'I'll do your back, but you better attend to other bits I think.'

He looked up and smiled sideways at me as I tackled the first job.

'Why can't you do all of me?'

Max smiles up at me in that way of his.

He did all the other important bits himself, and properly at my insistence. The skin down there is no longer resistant so the job got done with the appropriate care taken.

'Should I keep it back like this Raf do you think?'

'No, not really….unless you want to, but not all the time, and certainly not when you're dressed. Maybe in bed, but not if you're wearing anything.'

'Shall I tonight then……wear anything?'

'That's up to you Max…….a pair of pants maybe?'

'Will you be?'

'I will be, yes.'

'Ok. I will too. You will come in before I'm asleep won't you?'

'Yes Max, I will……..I promise.'

Washed now, everywhere, Max stood up in the bath and I was ready with his towel. He'd obviously allowed his thoughts to wander a bit…….probably to the time when would be sharing space together……or possibly the sensation of being washed with the soapy palms of my hands. Boys, and girls too no doubt, love being washed by another. I was not unaffected either as my hands worked their way around Max's neck, shoulders and back, and unprompted by me, he leaned forwards and lifted himself onto his knees allowing me to reach lower and around and between his buttocks. I carefully attended to him, and job done, I gave him a gentle slap on that lighter area of pearl coloured skin.

'You're done sunshine……uppy uppy.'

By the time I had dried him, starting with his hair and ending with feet, he would prefer not to be seen by his mother I'm sure…..or perhaps she wouldn't mind? I'm sure she wouldn't have minded. Some boys are funny like that………erections can be sensitive issues for some, yet others don't turn a hair, so to speak………they think nothing of it, or who sees them like that. Max is in the latter category surely, which is good. Max is looking for reassurance from me as, with hands on hips, he looks down.

'Is it ok Raf?'

'It certainly is Max……..absolutely fine I can assure you.'

'Have you seen lots of them?'

'Yes I have, and never one that wasn't right for that person.'

'Look Raf…….see……..it comes right back now easily…….see…….like this?'

Indeed it does. This is going to be difficult.

Max scampered upstairs for his pyjamas which he wore downstairs before he went up…….tartan ones with a cord, which he toyed with, trying to make the bow in it, as he descended the stairs to join us in the sitting room and calmed now……more or less, his now mostly softened penis making a nice impression on the loose fabric. Linda looked up smiling at the new entrant……

'How was your bath Max?'

'Lovely thanks mum. When do I have to go up?'

'Whenever you want to today Max……..have you had a nice birthday?'

'Is it over then?'

We laughed………Max can be very funny when he's in the mood .

He tucked himself into his mother's side on the sofa and she held him to her, her hand pulling him in tight around his shoulder, his hands in her lap. I could actually palpably feel the love between them. The love I have for him, and her come to that, is very different, but love it surely is. I know that now.

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