Encounters

by Rafael Henry

The Tudor House

The sixth and last in the series of short stories by Raphael Henry.

'Do you mind not breathing on me Emmy?'

'Sorry.' says Emmy, gently, which is perfectly in character because Emmy is a gentle boy, and Otta knows that.

Emmy moves his head a couple of inches further away from Otta's face, which is as it happens, full of concentration. He's cutting shapes, pre-drawn by him, from a sheet of thick white card. He's making a model of a Tudor house……half timbered. His main concern is how to do the roof. It should be thatched, but how to achieve that on such a small scale? The problem stimulates a discussion between the model maker and the curious boy.

'You could use straw couldn't you…like the real thing?'

'Too big. It would look ridiculous.'

'Dried grass maybe?' suggests Emmet in that lovely soft voice of his. Otta turns sideways to look at the curious boy, to find Emmy looking straight back at him.

'You're not just a pretty face are you?'

Emmy looks down and smiles rather coyly as his face turns a pleasant shade of pink. Otta has embarrassed him, but he's secretly pleased about the older boy's comment.

'Ok, you're not then.' says Otta, realising his possible mistake.

Emmy looks back at Otta. There's no expression there now. Otta examines Emmy's eyes. There's no doubt about it, they are unusual…….a kind of greyish blue, and very distinctive.

'Why are you looking at me like that Otta?'

'Like what?'

Emmy doesn't answer, he's standing, but with his chin resting on the palm of his hand, elbow on table top, he has more questions.

'Can I sit next to you for a bit?'

'Haven't you got anything better to do? No home to go to?' says Otta, rather dismissively. Otta knows that Emmy, unlike him, doesn't board.

'I've got piano at half four. Can I stay here until then?'

Emmy finds another chair and places it close to Otta's. There's nothing between them. Otta's right arm is touching Emmy's left one. That's ok because Otta is a lefty, so he can hold the card down firmly with his right hand and manipulate the craft knife with his left. The almost imperceptible pressure of Emmy's arm against his excites him to the point whereby he has forgotten what he wants to do next.

'Why have you stopped Otta?'

'I haven't stopped. I'm thinking.'

'Can I do some then?'

And so on, and so on, but Otta can't get cross with him because……well……let's just say he can't, and leave it at that. Otta very rarely gets cross with anyone. After three years here, there's no point in falling out with anyone. No point at all.

Emmy took his hand away from the table when Otta rebuffed him. Both his hands are in the pockets of his shorts now. He's accepted that he shouldn't interfere with Otta's delicate task, or his sensitivity. He watches as Otta carefully carves the shapes that will form the lower walls of the Tudor house. Otta doesn't mind Emmy breathing on him, or his closeness to his body, legs touching now, arms touching. Any other boy would of course be different, but not this one.

'Can you keep still please…..and stop fiddling.'

'I'm not.' insists Emmy.

'Yes you are. I can see you are.'

Emmy looks rather put out now, simply because Otta has rumbled him. He was fiddling. Boys his age are always doing it thinking no one is noticing. They are not even aware of what they're doing most of the time. It feels nice so they do it. At fourteen, Otta has grown out of that little habit, but slipped quietly and unseen, into other ones.

'Can I come back tomorrow? Will you be here in Tech after school?'

'Probably. You're going to be late for your lesson.'

The model was going to take him roughly ten hours to finish he thought. That's about five after-school sessions in the Tech department where they had all the equipment he needed. Things like very sharp knives and cutting boards and steel rulers, and different sorts of glue.

Otta looks at Emmy when he gets up from his chair to go to his piano lesson. He looks first at the boy's legs……bare above and below the knees, and then upwards to his bottom, half covered by grey jumper, and then to the boy's head, brown hair neatly trimmed above grey shirt collae. Such a practical colour for the younger brethren, but not for him. Fresh white for Otta, fresh each morning. Everything fresh each morning, post shower, post nocturnal thoughts, post sinfulness.


You have to cross the busy High Road to get to Otta's House……the place where fourteen boys sleep……thirteen Fourth Formers, and him. He's Middle Fifth but the Senior House was full so he's the odd one out. Otta volunteered to be billeted with the more junior boys. He would enjoy the smaller space where he could get on in relative peace. The younger boys would leave him alone, but Otta could join them in the evenings if he chose to. He liked the occasional game of table tennis in the hurly burly of the boys' games room. There are three beds in his room, but at this moment only his is occupied. It wasn't always this way because there were from time to time, temporary boarders……boys who needed accommodation at the school for any number of reasons. Tonight, Otta has been given some news by his Housemaster.

'Got Emmet Young coming next week. Got to billet him with you. Hope that's alright? Think you're just the chap to deal with the situation. Parents off to Dubai for a fortnight. All the other Houses full to the brim. Do you know the boy? Nice chap apparently. Be nice to him. Not used to boarding life. Might get a bit upset at first. Parents a bit anxious about it. You're just the chap to get him sorted. I'll tell the boys to make him welcome. You'll have to see to all the domestic stuff….you know…..sort clothing out and all that. Oh, and make sure he's not walking around the place in a filthy state. You'll have to be mum for a while. Know I can rely on you.' says Mr Austen, in staccato phrases with a disarming matter-of-factness.

'That's fine Sir. Does he know yet Sir?'

'No. Parents telling him tonight. Bit of a surprise for him. Short notice and all that.'

'How long Sir?'

'Three weeks. Probably.'

'When Sir?'

'Sunday night.'

The next afternoon, aprés school, Elly is at Otta's side observing his progress on the model of the Tudor house, and as per yesterday, breathing lustily in Otta's ear, and arm against arm, and leg against leg. Emmy has been told of his fate, but not exactly where he will be for three weeks solid, come next Sunday evening.

'What's it like Otta?'

'Bit like home really…..but different. You'll like it.'

'Where will I be?'

'In one of the Houses. Anywhere where there's a spare bed probably. Haven't they told you?'

'No, but they said to go to the office at four thirty. Someone will collect me there. Will you come with me please?'

'Yes, ok, but don't stand there with your hands in your pockets.'

Emmy has one hand in his pocket right now, as opposed to the usual two, fiddling no doubt.

The woman in the office knows how to deal with the boys. She's had years of practice.

'I think that's everything. Now, Otta will show you where you will be Emmet.'

Slightly shell shocked, Emmy doesn't pick up from the desk the list of things he needs to bring with him on Sunday evening.

'Don't forget the list Emmet!' she says with a large encouraging smile. The list is a mile long.

The two boys, black blazer clad, head for the zebra crossing over the busy road, and after a short wait for a few cars, they cross safely. The front door to the House is not locked, and soon they are up the flight of stairs to the landing, off which are doors to the various rooms and facilities. It's all new to Emmet.

'Through this door.' commands Otta.

The boys go through what looks like a common work space with a couple of desks, several chairs and a piano. The door at the far end opens and the boys enter a moderately sized room with three single beds in it, plus two chests of drawers, and another door that leads into a small bathroom. Only one of the beds looks like it's used, with a plaid blanket neatly spread over it. The other two are covered in drab grey blankets.

'This is it Emmy. Which bed would you like?'

Emmy looks confused and just a little frightened as he stares back at Otta. He's just eleven years old, so he's entitled to be a little scared poor lad. The reality of being without his people for at least three weeks is beginning to dawn upon his rather fragile psyche.

'Who's in that one Otta?' he asks in a weak voice, pointing at the made-up iron framed bed. Otta smiles……

'I am.'

The reaction is instantaneous. Emmy hurls himself into Otta's arms. You might imagine the boy's relief as he realises that his friend, as he perceives Otta, will be near him in the dark hours should he need him.

He can feel the boy's tears on his own face……tears of joyful relief, as he holds the smaller body close and tightly to own. The nurturer and the nurtured, together now on Otta's bed. Neither boy knew quite how they got there, but got there they did. The wriggling smaller body lies atop of the larger one….Otta's.

'You're squashing me……..and stop wriggling about…….please Emmy!'

'Why?'

'Well, why do you think?'

'Am I hurting you?'

'No. But……..'

'But what?'

'Oh, nothing.'

It had all come about, like it did, because of Emmy's joyous relief that the frightening scenario he had first envisaged would not in fact happen at all. He had the ultimate protector in the boy he loves…….Otta. But what kind of love is this? Not the same kind that he had kindled in Otta's older and more mature mind, for kindled it he had…….just now on the bed as the two boys had fallen on it, arms around each other in playful embrace. Such contrasting emotions, but so powerful. Still now, with strong arms holding him, his body has reacted. Of course Emmy thinks nothing of it…….it's the consequence of nothing. What matters is his safety. He feels safe now. Safe in his lovers arms, as the tears turn to smiles.

'Can I kiss you please?'

'Really?'

'Yes really. You're kind and I want to kiss you. Would you mind if I did?'

'No, not if you really want to.'

Otta receives Emmy's lips full on his cheek. He imagined what it must feel like on his mouth, or rather what it might have felt like. He wipes the saliva away with the back of his fingers.

'Can I wriggle again? I need to.'

Emmy doesn't wait for Otta's answer. After a minute or so of that dubious activity, he stops, but still held tightly by his friend. Lifting his head, Emmy looks down at his expressionless victim whose mind has been elsewhere……on another planet perhaps……another universe…….another life…….a place of ultimate pleasure.

'Shall I get off you now?'

'I think you better had Emmy. You've squished me flat.'

Emmy helps Otta straighten the bedclothes after their unplanned celebration. Otta has noticed the enduring consequence of Emmy's assault on him, but Emmy, physically demonstrative, is unaware. Otta thinks how lovely he looks…..bare flesh on legs and arms and hands and a perfect face that shines towards him. Tears form as the younger boy thinks the words he cannot say……

'I love you Otta. Kind sweet boy that you are. You are the one who stopped when I fell. You are the one who staunched the blood on my knees. It was your arms that supported my body. It was your face I saw through my tears…..through my pain. Only you. I love you just for that.'


The next time Emmy goes into the Tech department to check on Otta's progress with the Tudor house, it's Friday…….the last school day before his arrival on the Sunday evening, six o'clock sharp please, as a temporary boarder. When Emmy tries to put his arm around Otta's shoulder……

'Emmy!'

'What?'

'Not here. Someone will see.'

Emmy doesn't understand Otta's rebuke. Looking at Emmy's face, Otta realises the effect he has had on his younger friend.

'Sorry Emmy. It's just that…….if anyone saw us. Sorry.'

He touches Emmy's hand. Emmy looks down to see. Otta doesn't move his hand, and watches as the larger hand of the two encloses the smaller one, tightly.

'By the way Otta, I've found out how you could make the thatched roof.'

'Really? How?'

'With coconut matting.'

Of course! So simple.


It's exactly six o'clock when Emmy's mother arrives with the boy hauling a moderately sized suitcase.

'I think everything is there Mr Austen. You'll be alright won't you darling?' his mother asks, somewhat doubtfully.

'Yes mum…….don't fuss….please.'

Otta is there too, as Emmy's temporary mentor.

There's the sound of activities…….a table tennis ball being hit hard and then softly, and shouts from boys. A piano is being played, muffled sounds of tinkling far away. A lavatory flushes somewhere. There are faint smells of nothing you can quite identify. Old clothes maybe……games kit. Soap. More shouting. Another different smell. Cold air, then warm air. Shrill voices and then someone whistles a tune. There are dark blazers with white badges on them hanging from a row of hooks on the wall near the door, and outdoor shoes in rows beneath them. There are confident sounds…..sounds of belonging to something…….belonging to a particular place.

Emmy is suddenly frightened as Mr Austen, the Housemaster, shows his mother out of the front door. He looks at Otta, who smiles back at him, because Otta knows how this small boy, just eleven years old, is feeling at this moment.

'Come on, give me that. Let's go and get everything sorted out shall we?' his older friend says, cheerily.

Their stockinged feet make no sound, that you could hear anyway, on the deep yellow ochre linoleum that covers the stairs. Through this door and then another door leads to the room where Emmy will talk and sleep, dream perhaps, and be with Otta……safe from danger……safe from injustices of the world…….safe from wounding words…..cared for with loving kindness.

Reality.

'Socks and pants in there….shirts and vests in there. Spare trousers can go on that shelf……..here, let me take those. Have you found your wash kit yet Emmy? How many hankies have you brought? What did you do with that other jumper? What about pyjamas? You haven't forgotten them surely?'

He has forgotten them. Never mind, spares could be found, probably.

'You'll just have to sleep in the nude……and go down for showers naked. You don't mind do you? The other boys won't even notice.'

Oh no! Horror of horrors! But it's Otta's little joke, and not a particularly apposite jest considering the situation. Emmy is not amused.

'It's just a joke sweetheart. Cheer up. And we do have spare kit. Anyway you can borrow mine.'

'Then you won't have any?'

'No, but I don't wear them in bed.'

'What do you wear then?'

'Nothing….not in the summer. It's too hot. Maybe a tee shirt…..sometimes.'

'Can I sleep like that?'

'Yes of course you can. Wear these when you go to the wash room or the loos. The boys will think you're very cool.'

Otta holds up an immaculate pair of white cotton games shorts, ironed by mum, with creases. But Emmy is thinking about what Otta had said just now. It was nothing to do with clothes. It was what he had called him just a few seconds ago. He had called him sweetheart. Did he mean what he had said? Oh yes, surely he meant it? Otta has never held a boy in that way before, and certainly not this one. No, it was something quite new to him. He had never felt the weight of another boy's body on his before…..a moving body that excited him like that. It was like lighting a fire in his mind……hot flames that seemed to spread all over him. His hands had felt the boy…..real flesh and blood in his hands…….muscles that moved……hair that smelled of boy………warm breath……sweet breath of boy…….the breath of life.

Emmy wanted the bed in the corner where two walls met. With Otta's bed in the other corner, that meant that the third bed was between them. Five minutes later, Otta had moved to the middle bed because Emmy seemed unsure of the other arrangement and wanted Otta closer so they could talk quietly if they wanted to. It was reassuring for Emmy to have his friend close like that. Lights out for the Fourth Formers is nine o'clock. As Emmy is in the Third Form, it seemed fair that he should disappear from view by eight forty five. Otta, a Middle Fifth Former could effectively choose his own time to retire. The time rather depended on how much homework had been left undone. But this Sunday evening was a little different.

'Will you stay with me please Otta?'

'Of course. I'm pretty knackered Emmy. I could do with an early night. We'll do it all together shall we?'

The other boys knew of him, but not being in the same year, had no real knowledge of the newcomer in their midst. By and large, the group of twelve and thirteen year olds in the House had been very welcoming, and as Emmy sat patiently watching games of table tennis begin and end, he was finally invited to participate. From that moment on, our 'new boy' became one of the gang. Alleluia! Otta had kept out of this process telling Emmy that it was something he had to be brave about, and that it really had to be his initiative. It was sound advice.

When it was time to change into night clothes, things could have been awkward for Emmy, because undressing in front of another boy in a room on their own could be an embarrassment. Not for Otta of course, who is well used to social nudity.

'Do you mind if I change at the same time as you Emmy?'

'No. What should I do with my uniform?'

'I'll show you how to fold everything, then make a neat pile and put it all over here with mine. Have you done everything? If you need to go later, you can use the little bathroom through that door. I can lend you pyjamas if you want? Might be a bit big for you though.'

Otta sleeps in a tee shirt, and tonight, so shall Emmy. Otta tried not to look as Emmy undressed with his back to the older boy. However, the temptation to make a visual examination of the smaller boy's body was far too strong to resist. Just looking at another boy's body is quite acceptable to his moral code. He had seen small parts of it before, but not what Emmy presented him with now as the younger boy, far less mature, finally plucks up the courage to turn and face his mentor. It was all quite matter-of-fact in the end with no awkwardness, as Otta takes Emmy's uniform from him.

'Ok, do it like this. Trousers first……over the back of the chair like this, and then the shirt on top like this. All the other stuff you fold like this, pants on top, and then they go here. Get it?' The jumper has to be folded like they do in shops. Otta is funny about tidiness….and keeping his emotions under control. There have been problems, but nothing drastic, here at school in the past.

The boys are both naked and very aware of each other's nakedness. They are of course, with three years between then, at rather different stages of their physical development. For Emmet, puberty is definitely on the horizon, hence the constant attention his private parts are demanding these days, putting the pockets of his shorts under constant stress it seemed.

When Emmy approaches Otta as he arranges the boys' clothes on the chair, he stands some six inches shorter than the older boy, but not such a difference which will prevent him from putting the palms of both his hands on Otta's chest, raising his head, grey blue eyes glazed in a sudden wave of gratitude. Emmy has survived his first evening……triumphed even, and in no small way due to Otta's intervention and sound advice. Otta is surprised and delighted by this unexpected gesture.

'What's this for Emmy?' he says, putting his hands over those of his young friend.

'For you.'

Otta continues to look down, almost smiling, as Emmy places one hand behind the taller boy's head and as Otta's head succumbs to the pressure put upon it, Emmy plants his mouth upon Otta's. neither boy's mouth opens, not even slightly, so the meeting of lips is a gesture of friendship and gratitude on Emmy's part rather than anything more…..at least to Emmy it's not. But the more experienced boy instantly senses the danger, because he knows so much more about himself……..what makes him tick if you like……in that way.

'That's very nice, thanks.' he says, as he separates himself from the younger boy. Emmy is smiling, because his gesture has been accepted and enjoyed even, by a boy he loves.

Otta takes a tee shirt off the shelf. It's black, albeit rather faded, and has 'Metallica' printed on the front

'This one ok?' he asks, smiling.

'Yeah!'

Otta slips the garment over Emmy's head. Arms through now, Emmy pulls it down as far as it will go, and notices that it does not go far enough.

'Too small?'

'No.' is Emmet's firm reply. Otta is trying hard not to think about anything…….or even look. The boy in front of him is too beautiful…….too lovely……unbearably so.

Otta turned their light out at nine fifteen, pulled the curtains tightly shut to keep out the remains of the light penetrating the room, and knelt on the floor beside Emmet, his head laid on the fresh and crisp pale blue pillow, one hand over his ear. Otta had been reading, or rather trying to, but found his thoughts kept wandering into the shadows of his mind. Emmet had looked relaxed as he watched him, but he needed settling down now.

'Sleepy boy?' he asks quietly.

There's no answer, save a nod of the boy's head, and a weak smile. He lowers his head until his lips gently press on Emmet's forehead, just for a second or two, before there is nothing, and eyes close. Sleep well my love.

And in the morning.

He's been watching him now for minutes……..yes, minutes, not seconds. Watching him breathe in and out, mouth open and traces of white dried saliva in the corner of his mouth. The morning sun is not completely shut out by the patterned curtains, too thin to form a total barrier. Golden hairs on the boy's top lip promise of new beginnings, and hands with veins…..long fingers with neatly trimmed nails at a mother's insistence. There's one narrow shoulder uncovered, and an arm with undeveloped bicep. Now an eyelid flutters briefly suggesting imminent consciousness, and then relaxes again. He's a boy on the edge of consciousness….perhaps in a waking reverie. Otta runs fingers through his hair, disrupted pattern of hair, further altered by a soothing hand.

'Wake up sleepy head.' The older boys says gently, as eyelids flutter once more.

'Time to wake up Emmy.' he continues, trying to coax the younger boy from sleep.

Two eyes are open now, as recollection forms, and then the realisation of where he is and why.

'Were you dreaming?'

The sleepy head nods, and a smile forms at last.

'What about?'

'Nothing. Can't remember. You were in my dream.'

'Really?'

The sleepy head nods again as the smile broadens.

'Was it a nice dream?'

'Umm. It's still there……a bit. There's blood in my willy.'

'What?'

'There's blood in my willy. Can I show you?'

I think he better had. Blood in his penis? That does not sound good.

The boy lifts the bed covers off his body…….just a plain white sheet and one blanket. When a young boy notices for the first time, he needs an explanation from a parent, but that question as to how and why his penis got like that was asked a long time ago.

With Emmet, there is often no reason why it happens. It can happen anywhere and at any time, often when he quite unconsciously, or absent-mindedly stimulates himself in that way he likes to.

Otta looks at what Emmy wants him to see, and then replaces the covers. He gets it now.

'It was a nice dream then?' Otta responds, almost laughing.

'Umm…..lovely. Will you kiss my face please? It's the only thing that will wake me up.' the sleepy boy says, smiling.

Otta takes the boy's head in his hands and slowly touches every part of Emmy's face with his lips……every texture, every form, every little bump, every little hollow, every part of him. It's an exquisite sensation as he tastes the willing lips of the sleepy boy, and in his turn, engorgement follows.

The boys smile at each other.

'Do you get blood in your willy Otta?' he says, almost in a whisper.

'Yes, sometimes.'

'Have you now?'


'If you don't get out of bed now Emmy, you'll miss showers.'

'I can't. It's embarrassing.'

'Yes you can. No one's going to notice, let alone comment. They're used to seeing it. It's not exactly unusual around here.'

As Emmy pulls up the pair of white shorts Otta had held for him to get into, they are greatly amused at the sight of the boy and his 'inconvenience' that shows no sign of going away.

'Just get on with it Emmy……..and don't forget the towel. There's soap down there.'

'Can't I use your bathroom?'

'No, it wouldn't look right. You should join in with the others.'

'Why wouldn't it look right?'

'Never mind. It's complicated. Don't think about it ok?'

He's right. The other boys are super-sensitive to something that even vaguely suggests scandal. So Emmet sets off for the showers downstairs as instructed with his towel held firmly against him. Soon he joins the other boys, and realises that he's not the only one with an inconvenience. He's a cute and rather immature little boy who wanted to play with Emmet that first evening.

'You can share with me if you want?'

Without the protection of his towel now, hung up on one of the hooks on the wall, Emmy's inconvenience is there for sweet dark haired and lithe Tolly Jenkins to see and admire.

If you must play with private parts, play with your own, not someone else's.

The boys have been told, and Tolly knows the rule. But Tolly can't help how he feels. Without the love and comfort of a family around him, he yearns for the love of a friend……..the kind of loving he is too young to understand, but which he knows is there.

As for Otta, an older boy, he knows the rule…….the cardinal sin……..the pleasures denied to the boy aged fourteen, but freely offered by one of eleven.

Tolly smooths the soap around his body. Don't forget those bits Tolly. Emmy watches, and when the two boys leave the shower, no one notices.

When Emmy returns to the room, he holds the towel tied around his loins and he's holding the pair of white shorts in his other hand.

'How did that go Emmy?' Otta enquires.

'Fine thanks.'

'Did you talk to anybody down there?'

'Yes, a bit.'

'Who was that then?'

'Tolly.'

'Oh, good. He's nice. More your age.'

That comment, meant positively by Otta, hit a nerve in Emmet. He looks at Otta.

'What's that face for Emmy? Did I say something wrong?'

Yes Otta, you certainly did.

The two boys dress in silence. Breakfast in the Hall starts in ten minutes. Otta, always immaculate, carefully checks Emmy's appearance. He's enjoying his responsibilities with regard to Emmet. The younger boy, his long legs contradicted by his short trouser, hair brushed forward, blue grey eyed, and full of a certain energy as yet unleashed.

Otta smiles as he holds the boy's shoulders.

'I suppose you'll do.'

At that moment, Emmet remembers the kisses the two boys shared. Now is not the time for more. There is so much they could say at this moment, but now is not the time. A bell tolls slowly far away as one boy regards the other, his stare returned. Emmet swallows, and notices that his lips feel dry. He moistens them with his tongue, and finally looks away.

They meet Tolly at the front door who has held himself back, busy with nothing in particular.

'Can I walk over with you please?'

Otta looks at Emmy, and Emmy looks at Otta before answering Tolly's question.

'Ok then.' he says, in an unconvincing tone. Such a friendly soul is Tolly.


Three days later, we are model making again.

'How many more hours will it be Otta…..'til it's finished?'

'Dunno. Five or six probably……and you're doing it again.'

'Doing what again?' he says with some indignation.

'Breathing on me. It's tickling my ear.'

'Sorry.'

'And why did you move your arm like that?'

'I didn't think you liked it.'

'Well I do. Put it back please.'

'What if someone saw?'

'I don't care if they do. In fact I hope they do see.'

'Why?'

Silly question?

The Tudor house has progressed well. The 'jettied' walls are all fixed together, and much of the stud work, cut from a sheet of balsa wood with a single edged razor blade, has been painted grey ready to be stuck on the ochre painted walls. It will be the doors and windows next, and then the vexed question of the roofing material. It was a good idea Emmet had about the coconut matting.

'Mr Masters said he might have an old door mat we could take apart.'

'Who is he?'

'The Junior School caretaker.'

'Oh.'

The next day, Emmet acquires from Mr Masters, a decent fragment of coconut matting, and while Otta works on the model of the Tudor house with due diligence, he dissembles it into a pile of ginger coloured fibres, neatly separated, all ready to be applied with glue to the roof of the model to look exactly like thatch…..at least that's the idea. That done, he resumes his position next to Otta with his arm around his shoulder, and feeling proud that he has contributed to the project through his own initiative, and some bravery in negotiating with the grumpy caretaker.

'That was very kind of you Emmy…….getting that stuff for me.' Otta says, turning his body sideways to look into Emmy's face.

'That's ok.'

'Why are you looking at me like that?'

'I'm not.'

'Yes you are. Do you want something?'

'Yes.'


Emmet has adapted nicely to boarding life, knowing it is only a temporary separation from his people due to both of his parents going to Dubai. Had it been permanent, he might well have thought differently. Anyway, he had Otta to look out for him. If anything, his feelings for the older boy by three years has grown even stronger, or so he thinks. There was something Otta had never done, or rather never let him do. They had kissed each other a few times which had been rather exciting, and Otta had told him how lovely he looked too. But it is all much deeper than that, at least for Otta. It was his loving kindness in all things that made tears come to Emmet's eyes when he thought about Otta in his bed at night, waiting for the older boy to appear in the dim light and undress himself until he was naked. He was sure that Otta knew he was looking, as he feigned sleep. He knew that he would soon feel his friend's lips touch his forehead and hear his words whispered into his ear………beautiful words……..words of love, unheard by a sleeping boy……..or perhaps not.


'Just a few more days to go then Emmy.' Otta says as he glues a few more strands of coconut fibre onto the roof of the Tudor house.

'Do you think it works Otta…….the coconut fibre idea?'

'Yes, thanks to you. Will you miss us when you go home? The boys will miss you, especially Tolly. I think they like having a younger boy to make a fuss of.'

There is no response from Emmet, who feels his face warming at the mention of his new best friend, Tolly, short for Ptolemy, brother to Antonia and Artemis, believe it or not. He just watches Otta select a few more strands of coconut fibre, and carefully add them to the neat row already in place, and then trims up the untidy ends with a pair of sharp scissors. It really is beginning to look like a thatched roof.

Otta continues to tease Emmet.

'So, will you miss him then?' he asks with an inward smile.

What does Emmy really know about love? Not half as much as Otta does. But a young boy's feelings for another are fickle. They think they feel something, but not long after, they find they no longer harbour the same thoughts about him. Of course it's how it should be. When Otta looks into Emmy's eyes as he kneels by his bed and delivers his usual 'goodnights and sleep wells', he doesn't see his own image reflected back, but the image of another boy. He remembers what he had said to Emmet two weeks ago now, and how it had upset him.

'He wants to be friends Emmy. He's lovely, gentle and kind. Don't reject him like that.'

'So are you. You're gentle and kind.'

'But he's your age Emmy. He wants to be friends with you.'

That's true, he does want to be friends with Emmet. Like Emmet, he's at the beginning of things. Although Tolly is a little older, both boys are at a similar stage shall we say. Tolly is one of those boys who seems to have a smile on his face most of the time, and there's no doubt he's taken a shine to the newcomer in the House. With his dark hair and nicely formed and quite delicate features, he's a boy that turns heads amongst those that notice such things. He was the boy who invited Emmy to play table tennis that first evening when Emmy felt so awkward amongst a dozen noisy characters he didn't really know at all. He was the boy who shared the shower cubicle with him that first morning and noticed with interest Emmy's little 'inconvenience'. He was the boy who waited for Emmy to appear at showers each morning so they could share.

'How was your piano lesson Emmy?'

'Ok thanks. I've got my Grade Four exam next week.'

'That's pretty good isn't it?'

'Dunno. I suppose so…….maybe. Allan is way better than me. How much longer until the house is finished?'

Emmet is referring to the Tudor house, a project that seems to go on for ever.

'Just got to finish the thatching with this blasted coconut fibre, and then finish the doors and windows. Another two sessions maybe.'

Otta had got used to Emmy's warm breath on him, and to the boy's arm occasionally around his shoulder……..and to a bare thigh against his.

'So where were you yesterday then? I thought you were coming here?'

'I met Tolly after games.'

'Oh that's nice. You didn't tell me?'

'Didn't think to say anything.'

Otta stops working momentarily, to think about what Emmy has just said.

'He's nice isn't he? Did you get on well together?'

'Yes. He's my friend now.'

Two boys arranged to meet after school and went unnoticed to one of the rooms in the House to talk. How sweet. Neither boy had used the shower in the Games changing area after their athletics session, but had chosen to walk back to the House and change there. It made more sense to do it that way around. They had both showered quickly, with much giggling, towelled off and slipped back into their uniforms before making their way upstairs. There was no one else in the House as far as they could tell, so they were on their own. Emmet is sitting on the side of his bed, and Tolly sits opposite him on Otta's, with a couple of feet between them, their knees just touching. Tolly looks at Emmy's legs, at least that part of them that his short trousers don't cover, which is a good percentage of the boy's thighs. It's just a matter of weeks before the end of the year when he will move into long trousers, and frankly, not before time. lately, Emmy has become a little self-conscious about his body, and how it looks in short trousers. A few boys have begun to make comments, some of which pleased him, and some did not.

'Is it comfy………your bed?' asks Tolly.

'Do you want to try it?' replies Emmet.

Tolly smiles.

'Do you want to?'

Both boys are aware of the double-entendre. There's no doubt about why there are here. The ice had been broken, to some extent, in the shower that first morning. Tolly had looked at the excited boy's body, as of course he would do. As if to send a signal of approval to Emmet, he had become excited himself as he continued to observe the other boy so close to him that their bodies touched from time to time. No one noticed them when they left the shower cubicle together in a dash to grab towels and hide themselves. But the messages between the two boys had definitely been sent and received. Here in the privacy of this room, both boys' desires upon the other could be realised in private and with no risk of discovery.

Tolly has made space on the bed for Emmet. They lie on their sides looking into each other's faces. Emmet waits, his mouth open and his breathing imperceptibly quicker. Moments later he feels Tolly's hand on his. Emmet, in an instant of unthinking spontaneity, he moves closer to his new friend. His hand feels Tolly's back. Where there was an untucked shirt and jumper, there's bare skin now. There is boys' breath on boys' faces as a gentle intimacy begins. This is no place for our prying eyes and ears…….not any more. This is a private matter.


'Just one more day then Emmy?' Otta observers to his younger friend.

'And two more nights.' asserts Emmet.

True. Tonight and then Friday school, another night, and then home on the Saturday morning.

'Are your parents already home?'

'Maybe. Don't know really.'

Such is the boy's apparent indifference. He puts his arm around Otta's neck, which makes the grateful recipient of such innocent affection smile. He feels a warm glow rise up in his body…….enough to stop him from his task for a moment.

'It must be finished now…….isn't it? It looks like it is.'

'Yes, more or less. The thatch is still a bit ragged though.'

Otta sits upright on the stool to survey for the umpteenth time the model of the Tudor house, and tending to agree with Emmet. It is, finally, a done thing. The boy takes his arm from where it was, places his hand back in his pocket, adjusts his sitting position on the stool next to Otta, and leans into the shoulder of the older boy.

'Where will it go now?' asks Emmet.

'Nowhere until tomorrow. I'll take it to Pongo tomorrow lunchtime before History.'

'Do you have him?'

'Yes. He's not bad actually. Quite strict.'

'Do you think he'll like it?'

'Dunno. Maybe………probably.'

'Are you sad it's done now?'

'No, not really,'

'What will you do next?'

'I don't know. Any suggestions?'

The two boys look at each other, two bare knees pressing against the side of one trousered knee. It was a rhetorical question from Otta. He wasn't expecting a specific answer. But on another tack……..

'You'll wear those pockets out Emmy.' he says, looking at Emmet's rather obvious activity. The boy smiles, adjusting the position of both hands in his pockets.

'I have.' The boy admits, his smile broadening.

'Have you no shame Emmet?'

'What's that mean?'

'Nothing. Will you miss us then……when you've gone home?'

'No.' he lies, teasing Otta.

Otta looks back at the model of the Tudor house, but he's not thinking about that. He's thinking about what Emmet has just said. It's upset him visibly, and Emmet quickly regrets his rather thoughtless and unkind reply.

'Sorry.'

There's an awkward silence for a minute as Otta pretends to be concerned about a detail on the ridge of the roof over the Tudor house. Recovered now, Otta has another question for the self-admonished and beautiful boy that sits so close to him.

'You'll miss Tolly won't you?'

'Yes. He's nice.'

Otta's next question is rather pointed…….

'So did you manage to find some time together?'

Emmet doesn't really want to answer that question.

'Well? Did you?'

'Yes, a bit.'

'That's nice. Where did you go?'

'Our room…..after school……..before tea.'

Another silence.

'Do you want to tell me about it?'

'No.'

'Why not? Is it private?'

'Yes.'

'Was it nice?'

'Yes.' is Emmy's answer, which genuinely pleases Otta.

'You're a lucky boy, and so is Tolly. I'm glad you've had nice time with us. No regrets?'

Careful Otta. Don't mess the whole thing up at this stage. Remember the rules? Meanwhile Emmet considers Otta's last question…….

'Yes.' the boys answers, smiling in that way of his.

'But you had Tolly to play with didn't you?' Otta says, still hoping for a properly detailed account.

'Yes, but…….if?'

'If……what?'

'You know.' the boy answers, with a grin, and he's not about to give up.

'Can we go back to the House for a while?'

'No, not now. It's twenty minutes before tea.'

'Then can I come in with you……tonight. I want to say thank you. You've been kind to me, and……..'

And what? Come on, you know the rules. Don't fall for the charms of a sweet boy like Emmet. It is so easily done, and then there may be consequences to face…….unpleasant repercussions.

Otta picks up his model of the Tudor house and places it carefully on the shelf to the left of the door, alongside the others. Next door to his, there's a medieval castle, badly made by one of the very junior boys, and falling gently apart, the flag pole leaning at an alarming angle, and a very lopsided portcullis, with the base signed in spidery writing….Adam Fall. Form 2. He thought it an odd surname which he couldn't fit a face to, but imagined an unkempt and ink stained Second Former with glasses held together with sticky tape. His imagined assessment was quite close to the truth.

'You can say 'thank you' now can't you?'

'No.'


Emmet had asked Otta if, on this occasion, his last night but one as a temporary boarder, if he would come to bed when his light is put out at nine fifteen, so they could talk. He agreed.

Emmet watched as Otta changed from his uniform of unremitting greyness, apart from striped House tie, into plain tee shirt and nothing else. Feeling himself at the same time, he was fascinated by the older boy's, albeit sparse, pubic hair and to him what seemed like a scarily large curved tube with a rounded end on it, with balls that hung down underneath, one slightly lower than the other. He knew that sperms were made in those things, but had no idea what it all looked like when it came out. His felt like oversized acorns, and hurt if he squeezed them too hard, or if a boy grabbed them in a fight, or 'kneed' in a game of rugger. He watched as Otta folded his clothes neatly in the prescribed manner, regulation brief underpants on top of the pile. Hidden under the covers as he was, throughout this ritual process he had fiddled with himself to the extent that his own penis had become quite stiff, and not for the first time that day either.

He had decided that he wouldn't ask Otta the same question again, but he would just do it…….give him no choice…….a fait accompli if you like. If he asked him nicely, as he had done already, he would only say no. He would wait for the right moment. Otta would kneel down by his bed, as if to pray, next to his head. He would gently kiss him goodnight while he lay still with closed eyes. Once, when he called him 'sweetheart' and 'my darling boy', he had wept unseen and unheard, hidden by the bedclothes. He knew he loved his family, even his bossy sister Tanya, but didn't really know what it could be with another person like Otta. The possibility that Otta loved him had occurred to him, because certain things, little gestures, kind things that only people that loved other people did. At least he thought so. Whatever it was, Otta made him feel content and happy when he was near him. The little kisses Otta planted around his face excited him. It was all so different, so new.

'I'm going for a shower now Emmy. I'll be back in ten minutes. I'm putting your light out now.'

Otta's bed felt chilly when Emmet climbed into it. He thought he would get it nice and warm with his own body heat by the time Otta returned from his ablutions. He smelled the pillow…….just one, not two that he had been provided with. Yes, it was definitely him he could smell. He felt himself warming at the thought of his skin being next to his friend's. He looked towards the window. The curtains, large patterned ones, kept out most of the light, but there was enough to illuminate the back of Otta's naked form as he hung up the towel on one of the hooks on the wall to the side of the door. Emmet is at an age when he is just beginning to appreciate the human form and all its beauty, particularly in Otta's case. It is a figure of a fourteen-year-old boy that many would be proud of. The boy has become youth and all that entails. As he turns about, Emmet's eyes drift up and then down to the feet of the dimly lit figure…….and up again where they come to rest.

Walking forwards, Otta notices the disturbance in his own bed, and glances at Emmet's just to prove his suspicions. The little rascal! Kneeling by the almost invisible Emmy……..

'That's naughty isn't it?' he whispers to just that which is visible, mostly unkempt hair. No response is the firm reply. No movement, nothing. Oh, the boy must be asleep. I don't think so. Emmet's breathing is audible as Otta gently touches the falling hair, exerting the slightest pressure on the younger boy's head. The body stirs as if to say actual words to him, and now the face appears, eyes closed, mouth open slightly. Another body stirs as he touches the cheek, the nose and then lips. His silent thoughts about the invisible body, all against the rules of play, make his stirring complete.


'You had better hurry Emmet.' The older boy says, standing by his own bed, shaking Emmet's shoulder.

Gradually, the boy gains consciousness, pulls the covers off the top half of his body, and turns his head away. Otta looks at the naked chest, rising and falling with such assuring evenness. His eyes follow the line down the neck and along to the tip of the boy's breastbone, thence downwards over the delicate cliff edge onto his stomach. It is truly a journey of devotion. Onwards he goes with a brief examination of Emmet's navel. It's a nice one that dips in gently, rather like his own rather prominent 'reservoir'. Otta smiles as that particular thought surfaces. Too soon for Emmy though. Below the navel lies the lower triangle…..the place where soft hair will one day be replaced with coarser, and then surround the focus of the boy's sexual forces, which are already shouting their demands.

Emmet's two hands are holding the covers a few inches below his navel, preventing it seemed, the lid of the box from being opened to reveal the slim and hairless beast within.

'Come on, get out of bed, lazy bones!' demands Otta.

No response from Emmy. Is he teasing his friend?

'I'll take them off you if you won't get up.' threatens Otta.

Still no response.

Otta gently opens the lid of the box to reveal the rampant truth of the matter. Emmy stretches out his body, full length and uncovered, his arms behind his head. To see is to appreciate such beauty.

'Do I have to?' pleads the boy, as he turns his head towards his tormentor.

'Yes you do. Come on. You'll miss your shower.'

Emmet was back ten minutes later, his equilibrium restored, damp, lithe, and as lovely as ever. Otta, already dressed, hands Emmet each item of his uniform. He's pleased with the result as the boy stands before him with that 'just washed and combed hair' look.

'On more day Emmy.' he says, as he examines finger nails.

'And one more night Otta.'

'Yes, and in your own bed tonight please. I prefer mine to yours.'

'You can't stop me……not tonight.' the boy replies, looking up at Otta, who says nothing in reply to Emmet's rather definite statement. Anyway, there was the usual morning check to perform before the House went over to Main School for breakfast.

'Am I ok?' asks the boy, standing in front of Otta, hands by his sides, and hair glistening with recently splashed water over it. His mentor adjusts the knot in his dark blue Lower School tie which is quite different to his. Next term he'll be in longs and sporting a striped tie. Right now he's in regulation short ones that suit him perfectly, at least Otta thinks so.

'You look fine Emmy…….now.' he says as he holds him by his arms.

'Will you miss me?' the boy asks hoping and expecting the usual reaction.

'Possibly…….and I'm sure Tolly will.' he teases. Of course he will miss him.

The two boys continue to look hard into each other's faces, not knowing whether to laugh, smile or cry. Otta breaks the awkward moment.

'Go down now. The others will be waiting for you.'

As the boy reaches the door, he stops, turns around, and……..

'Tonight then. Do you promise?'

'Yes, I promise, but just for a few minutes.'

'Do you really mean that?'

Otta notices Emmy's hand twitch in the pocket of his shorts, and smiles…..

'Yes, I really mean it…….just for a few minutes.'

More twitching in pockets.


Pongo, the nickname of Otta's History master, holds up the model of the Tudor house.

'Well done Bayliss…..jolly fine job you've made of it too. Deserve congratulations.' he stutters, in his usual clipped manner.

There's a spontaneous outburst of applause when the class sees and duly appreciates the result of Otta's labours.

'Any help from other quarters?' Pongo asks.

'No Sir……only a little from Emmet Young Sir.'

A couple of the boys snigger, and Otta's face goes a delicate shade of pink.


A kind of loving.

'Do I need a shower tonight?'

'Yes you do. I can smell you from here. Did Tolly beat you again?'

'He always does…….mostly. It's not fair that I have to go to bed so early. We could have had another game.'

'Yes it is fair.'

'No it isn't.'

'Get undressed please.'

'No.'

Otta gives his young friend one of those looks he's quite good at.

'You better had Emmet, or…….'

'Or what?' Emmet enquires with that certain smile on his face.

'Or……I will do it myself.'

Otta is sitting on the edge of his bed patiently waiting for Emmy to comply. Emmet, sensing an adventure stands up and places himself in front of the older boy, arms raised above his head, inviting Otta to carry out his threat.

Finally, with an excited boy standing between the knees of another excited boy, he finishes the job.

'I did warn you. Now go and get washed you smelly oik.'

'I can't.'

'Yes you can. You'll be on your own down there. The others have another quarter of an hour. Hurry up!'

'Will you be here when I get back? You promised.'

'Yes I will be…..and I know I promised.'

With Emmet elsewhere, purging his body of what boys smell like after a day at school, and several games of table tennis played this evening in a jumper he couldn't find the time to take off when he got over heated. Otta sorts out Emmet's clothes….dirty stuff goes in the laundry basket in the hallway, and being Friday night, it's full of socks, pants, shirts and tee shirts from all the other boys in the House, plus the odd grubby grey jumper and one pair of grey trousers, and an assortment of squares of cotton material intended for nose wiping and other things…….everything duly marked. One feels for the poor soul who has to sort this lot out. When Emmy reappears, he has a towel around his waist, and he's smelling of roses.

'I've got all your stuff sorted out to go home with you tomorrow Emmy. You'll get the things in the wash back next week sometime. Do you want a clean tee shirt now?'

Emmet, naked and warmed by his shower approaches Otta, standing in just his underpants, and offering the boy the garment. Otta looks down at his unsmiling friend. Both know that promises must be kept, and that it's time. The curtains are closed to keep out the remains of the daylight, as Otta moves to turn out the light. They will share Emmets bed.

The boys lie side by side in the narrow iron framed single bed, naked and excited. It was never ever going to be any other way than this.

'Are you ok Emmy?'

'Yeah.' The boy answers quietly.

'Sorry. Can you feel me?'

'Yes. Can you feel me?'

'No. I wish I could.'

'Can you now?'

'Yes, I can now.'

'Do you like it?'

'I love it Emmy. All of you. I love all of you.'

'Is that really true? Do you?'

As if by way of an answer, Otta Bayliss, three years Emmet's senior, slides his right hand under the boy's shoulder and his left around the other slim and angular form. Emmet, whose breathing has taken him by surprise, knows what's coming. It's a tentative embrace at first, just by way of exploration……lips that move from here to there, and back again, and in the certain knowledge of where both boys need them to be. Soon they will meet, and as they do, an affirmation has been made which will last a lifetime. Such a commitment, albeit momentarily in the scheme of things, is one that can never be forgotten.

Grips on shoulder becomes almost painfully pleasurable as the boys force their bodies, mouths and lips into one. It is two minutes of almost unbearable intensity.

'Can I lie on top of you?' asks Emmet, quietly, eyes round and moist, expecting a refusal. 'I need to Otta.'

With his legs either side of the older boy's, he's helped into a comfortable place. Within half a minute the slightly smaller frame is at rest, both boys enjoying the warmth of the other. Emmet gains the required purchase using Otta's shoulders. It's an exploratory kind of movement at first, but as the sensation gradually becomes more intense and let's face it, more promising of something better to come, the instinctive gentle upwards motions on Otta's tummy become jerky, longer reaching, and more and more urgent.

Otta knows instinctively that his palms on Emmet's increasingly warm back, sweaty almost, and what he's doing with them, will help Emmet on his journey. Otta thinks about his promise to the boy he is loving at this moment. Was he right to indulge him in this way? Should he stop him now before it's too late? Will anyone ever know what they have done together? Will their parents be involved? Is it shameful to love another boy in this way? What kind of loving is this?

No words or thoughts now, just ambition and hotness and pressing flesh against flesh, all with the scent of perspiration and recently washed boy.

Nothing below the waist is the rule…….nothing below the waist! Thank God I didn't break the rule. I know it's over now, and we didn't break the rule. Thank God for that.

The boy is breathing hard into an ear now, as Otta runs his fingers through his sweet friend's hair, short and fine as it is. What a mixture of perfumes the boy exudes at this moment of his triumph. Such innocent passion! Thank goodness no one was listening at the door.

Side by side they are now in their narrow confines, as thoughts turn to sleep, at least for Emmet. No need for a square of cotton under the pillow for him. It will soon be time to leave him, asleep and alone with his dreams.

As for Otta, in his own cooling sheets now, he searches, and finds what he will need in a just a very few minutes time. Needs must.

The morning came early for both boys, their beds separated by four feet or so. Emmet is the first to make eye contact, with a little waggle of his fingers. He's been awake for a while now, worried about his indiscretion the night before, and how things would be with his friend when he woke up and remembered how his body had been violated by an eleven-year-old boy. He need not be worried, because that episode will live long in the older boy's memory when the last trace of Emmet has disappeared.

There has not been a morning thus far, when Otta hasn't had to shake and cajole the boy out of the privacy of his bed. So, to see Emmy with his eyes actually open this fine morning is a surprise.

'Crikey! Did you have a bad dream or something?'

'No…..a nice one.'

'Do you want to tell me about it?' he says, almost laughing.

'Can I come in?' pleads Emmy.

'Yes of course, but rules are rules…….remember?'

The naked boy stands in front of Otta.

'Am I ok like this?' he asks wistfully, hands to his sides, with his 'inconvenience' to the fore.

The two boys lie side by side, hands under chins, open mouthed and breath mingling. Otta has some advice, in what will be their last proper conversation before Emmet's departure homewards.

'Don't let it get the better of you Emmy.'

'It?'

'Yes…it…….the thing between your legs. He'll try to dominate you if you're not careful.'

'But you are too aren't you? I can feel it.'

'Yes. I can't lie here with you and not be. It's how I react to you……when we're like this.'

'Are you cross then……about last night?'

'No of course I'm not! It was beautiful…….you being a boy and all that. You're finding out about lots of things now. Was that the first time it's ever happened?'

There's a long pause before Emmet slowly nods his head.

Otta takes the younger boy's head in his hands and gently kisses his forehead, before laying his head gently back on the pillow, and telling Emmet……

'I'm glad you chose me.'

'I didn't think I had a choice. It just happened. You told me you loved me.' the boy whispers.

'I do love you Emmy, but I don't want anything back. It's just mine to give. I want nothing in return. You have to go home now. It was just a beautiful three weeks. Can you accept that?'

Emmet nods his head, and is now close to tears. They both are as Otta's arms encircle the smaller boy and pull him ever harder towards him, dangerously entangled now.

'Don't do that Emmy!'

'Why not?'

'Just don't, ok?'

'What can I do then?'

'Just lie still please. Lie still.'


'Don't go down yet Emmy. I need to check you.' Otta shouts from their room into the room next door where the boys have work tables and where the piano sits against the wall with one leg perilously close to a hole in a floor board. The House, originally built in the seventeen hundreds, needs extensive repairs. Emmet has been tinkling a tune on the well-worn instrument. Although not the brightest star in the music department, he is none the less, a talented pianist……Grade Four now, which is not bad for an eleven-year-old.

Today, for going home, the boy is resplendent in a white shirt rather than the everyday grey you would normally see him in. Everything he stands up in is fresh and pristine and he is a tribute to care that Otta has given him these last three weeks.

'Don't get anything on that jumper this morning will you.' says Otta, concerned that the effect might be short lived.

Emmet thinks about saying 'no' in a tired sort of voice, but he has other things on his mind. This morning, by way of a distraction away from the physical, they talked in bed about how it felt to be happy, and if they were indeed happy people. They decided that, as of that exact moment, they were, which made both of them smile until they felt tears forming. Emmet asked if he could be kissed one more time on the lips, and as he did so he touched Otta's mouth with tips of his fingers. The ensuing kiss was as deep and as meaningful as any they had shared, and lasted longer. Soon to be dressed for morning school, he had wanted to play something on the piano for his friend by way of a musical 'thank you.'

He thought of a moody Chopin piece, but rejected the idea as too emotional. No, something to set the tone…….something fun to end things nicely. Having passed the sartorial test, he headed for the piano next door. Five minutes playing would take up the time nicely before assembling downstairs with the other boys. He had learnt the Scott Joplin ragtime piece, Felicity Rag, just last week, and enjoyed it. It seemed appropriate somehow, at least to him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2wKlFtifJE

Of course he didn't get it all right, but by the time a few of the more curious boys had heard the playing along the hallway and gathered round to watch and listen to the boy sitting on the piano stool, all bare thighs, they had got Joplin's message……be happy.

Tolly Jenkins could hear Emmet's playing from his dormitory, as he sat on his bed, always the last to get dressed, and alone with his thoughts. It had to be Emmet playing that tune. He reaches for the other grey sock, pauses for a moment, and pulls it onto his bare foot. In a few moments the playing had stopped.

Otta had told Emmet he would come over to breakfast a few minutes later. He wanted……no, needed a couple of minutes to himself, just as Tolly had done.

Mr Austen, the Housemaster, stopped Emmet at the door as the other boys filed past, out onto the pavement on their way up to the zebra crossing, and over the busy road to Main School the other side, and their first meal of the day.

'So……what do you think of boarding life then Emmet?' the man in the dull green suits asks.

'Not bad Sir.' The boy answers with as much enthusiasm as he can muster at that time of the day, still excited by the boys' reaction to his playing.

'Bayliss do a decent job then?'

'Yessir. Very good Sir.'

'Good. Decent chap that boy. Glad things worked out.'

The smiling Emmet thought the man was going to follow that with……. 'Good show…..carry on', but he didn't.

One month later.

'Emmet darling, I need to have a talk with you.' says Emmet's unsmiling mother.

The boy looks up from the table, and the shepherd's pie with peas on the side that his mother has prepared for his 'tea'. He never likes it when his mother uses his proper name like that. He knows there's something coming which he may not like.

'The thing is darling…….Daddy has had an offer of another job…….a better job.'

Emmet had an inkling of what was to come. He was about to put a forkful of mashed potato into his mouth, but the immediacy of his mother's tone of voice prevented it. The forkful hung in mid-air.

'The thing is darling, it means that we shall be moving away for a year……..back to Dubai. Now you did enjoy boarding…….didn't you?'

Emmet felt his entire body go cold…..before a subtle warmth began to flow back into his face, and into his mind. Do we detect just a hint of a smile?

The End.

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