by Rafael Henry
Somehow, Jon had managed to lose his phone out of his jeans pocket that morning. It must have just fallen out. He'd left about lunchtime because he felt he was intruding on Jem and Elly's space and privacy. About four that afternoon and at home, he decided to phone Elly's landline to see if he'd lost it at her place. It was too expensive to phone on his pay as you go
She said she had it. Relieved, Jon went round to pick it up. He was only round there a couple of minutes. I'm going to let Jon tell you in his own words from now on……..
When I looked at the screen I saw I had a text. I opened it and didn't recognize the sender. It said……
Hi Jon. Yes I would. When and where? Bryn
I didn't suspect anything immediately, but texted a reply…….
Sorry, who are you? Jon
I got the reply a few seconds later.
I'm Elly's brother
Right. I put brain into gear and had a think. I looked back at my sent messages, and there it was.
Hi Bryn. I saw your photo. Elly said you might want to meet me? I like the photo of u. Jon
When I saw what I had sent, my whole body went cold…..and then hot. At first I felt angry with Elly and Jem because they had played a mean trick on me. Then my phone rang with the familiar O2 ringtone. I answered it.
'Hi, is that Jon? Oh hi Jon, I'm sorry about this………Elly has just admitted what she did, the stupid little arse. I'm really sorry. Anyway, she's told me about you. You can say no of course, but would you like to meet? I have a car……..we could drive out somewhere and chat……just for a while? What do you think?'
There was a long silence. I was so taken aback, I couldn't think of anything at all to say. Then a few seconds later, he said….
'Well, have a think about it for a few minutes. I thought you might like to, that's all…..and don't worry, I'm perfectly safe. Can I phone you again in ten minutes?'
'What…..yes you want to meet?'
'No………I mean yes, phone again. Thanks.'
I pressed the red do da to end the call. My heart was going like anything. I remembered his photo…….he was sitting on the edge of a pool smiling at the camera……bright sun on his face……blue trunks…….wet hair. He looked quite like my friend from school, Olaf, but a bit older.
When I had asked Elly about the photo she had said his name was Bryn and the picture had been taken ages ago when he was about twelve I think she said. She said he was twenty one now and a student at university…….English I think it was. I waited for my phone to ring. It went exactly ten minutes later…..
'So…….what do you think then? I'm prepared to take a chance on you being a complete numbskull. We could look at the sea from the top of the Downs if you like?'
I can't remember exactly what I said but essentially it was a ' yes ok' . Then I realised I hadn't told him where I lived, so I texted him my address. He texted straight back saying he already knew my address, ending with the words…..' Fifteen minutes ok?'
I had no time to change into anything else, not that I had much of an alternative. In holiday time, it's jeans in the cool, and my trusty pare of beige shorts in the warm, plus a tee or polo shirt. That's it really. My mother's job at the shop uptown just about got her financially by day to day, and I had an allowance paid monthly into my kids ISA instant access by my great uncle who had saved our bacon frankly. With my father gone to prison, he had paid off the mortgage on our house and taken on my school fees and general maintenance right down to my school uniform and pocket money, train fares home and the rest of it………even my haircuts. He did all that because he felt very sorry for my mother and I, and because he loves me. He's a retired academic and had made money doing whatever he did. He has a flat in London where I go sometimes, and a lovely but very old fashioned house with a housekeeper on the edge of a village with a massive garden and a view down to the river.
My sister had bought me my supermarket phone on one of her trips back from Australia. It's not exactly an iphone but it's ok for what I want.
I saw his car arrive outside the house. Mum was at work until about six, so I was there on my own as usual plus our retriever cross. It was a grey VW Polo. I went round to the passenger side and he leaned over and pulled the handle of the door. I got in and turned to look at Bryn for the first time. My impression was how kind his face looked.
'Hi, I'm Bryn.'
I knew from the very first moment I was going to like him.
As we drove up and out of the town towards the road that led to the top of the hill, past the windmill and up the steep hill onto the top, he asked me loads of questions about myself. Every now and then I got one in too. He was so easy to get on with. I felt excited but I had no idea why.
We parked in one of the designated spaces with a great view over the valley.
'Fancy a hike Jon?'
My main interest in life is art, swiftly followed by creative writing, and then games of various sorts……and swimming of course. I asked Bryn loads of questions about his course at Exeter University, and he politely reciprocated with his own questions to do with my interests. Then quite out of the context of our conversation……..
'Did Elly say anything about me to you?'
'No, not really…apart from……'
'From what Jon? Apart from what?'
'Oh, she just said you were…….a bit cheesed off for some reason, that's all.'
'Right. Well, I am a bit.'
'I've been in a relationship for a while and…….well, it's over.'
'No, don't be. It's fine now….at least I think it is…..or might be.'
We walked on along the flat pathway deep in the valley. For December the 30 th , it was relatively mild and the grass was dry. It's a stunning walk once you've got down the steep hill lines with the little paths that the sheep make. Nothing was said for a bit until……..
'Did Elly tell you anything else about me………and the person I was going out with?'
'Ok. I need to tell you something and I hope you won't think anything bad.'
'Ok. What is it?'
'The other person was another guy.'
We kept walking. He let me absorb that information for a minute or so. He must have been wondering how I would take it. I knew there was a chance that he knew about me and Jem. The thought had already crossed my mind that he might want to be friends, but that might be difficult due the difference in our ages. I can't imagine what my mother would think. There had been a bit of concern about three years ago when the boy over the road got interested in me as a ten year old…he was about sixteen, but his motives were perfectly innocent. He just liked me. Soon after that the whole family moved to New Zealand so it never became a major issue. I think my father was getting a bit worked up over it, so just as well that he went I suppose.
'Oh. I'm sorry that it didn't work out. Are you really sad about it?'
He looked like it was more than a 'bit'.
Then I told him about Gerald. I told him everything about Gerald…..apart from certain very personal details. When I'd finished the story, he turned to me…..
'Well I suppose that puts us in the same boat in a way, but you're thirteen and I'm twenty one. You have loads of time to make your choices and tons of things will influence that. Don't think you're anything yet will you?'
'No, no I won't, but…..'
'But right now I……'
He quickly interrupted what I think I was going to say…..
'Right now you are just you. Don't decide anything about yourself too soon, ok?'
'But I have decided about something.'
I looked straight at him. We both laughed.
'So have I.'
It took another hour to get back to the car, and then just ten minutes or so to get back to mine. I asked him if he wanted to come in. He said he did, and I made tea for us. We took it up to my room. I showed him loads of my drawings and stuff like that which he said he liked, especially the ones of figures. Most of them were friends who agreed to sit still for me, or stand, while I drew them. I showed him the ones I had done of Olaf, nude. He looked at them for ages.
'They're good Jon…….really nice. I love the faces…….the way he's looking straight at you. He's beautiful. Do you really like him?'
'Yes, I liked him a lot actually. Unfortunately he's gone now.'
'He stole money from another boy…..or boys…..from their blazer pockets, and got caught. Then he just ran away, literally……down to the station and got on a train home. That was it. We never saw him again.'
I didn't really want to think about Olaf because I always get a bit upset. I had to turn away from Bryn while he kept looking at the drawings. He noticed.
'Are you upset Jon? Sorry. It's ok though……to show how you're feeling. What are doing tomorrow?'
'New Year's Eve, that's what's tomorrow. Haven't you heard of that?'
'Oh wow, I'd forgotten about that. Sometimes I go to Jon's but I don't think I'm doing that this year. He'll want to be at Elly's place probably.'
'So you can come as my guest then? Will your mother be ok with you being out late?'
'She'll be fine as long as she knows where I am. If I do, will you bring me home afterwards?'
He didn't answer that question……well he did actually in what he said next.
'I'm really sorry about what's happened to your family Jon, I really am……your dad and everything. I know you're upset about everything and that's perfectly natural…..and with Jem on top of all that….and your friend at school. I just want you to know that if I can help, I really want to ok?'
I didn't cry…….not properly. I could feel tears rolling down my cheeks, and I wiped them off my face with the back of my hand like kids do when they can't control their feelings.
It wasn't a sadness about the things that have happened so much as the kindness he was showing to me at that very moment. That's what was really getting to me. Christmas had been difficult although my mother had done her best to make it nice as I hope I had done too, but we both knew the reality of it all. I'm sure at that moment Bryn would have taken me into his arms and that is exactly what I wanted him to do too, but it didn't happen then. It did happen the next day. This time I really did let go.
Ma was fine about me going out 'til late, in fact I'm sure she thought it would be good for me. When I got to Elly's, Bryn's car was outside. He beckoned me towards him, so I went over and got in.
'Do you really want to spend the evening in there Jon?'
'No, not really.'
'Well, why don't we drive somewhere then……down to coast or somewhere. We could watch the fireworks on the beach?'
'Oh wow, that's a great idea. Are you sure they're doing it tonight?'
'Yes they are. I'm sure they are. What if we go up on the downs first?'
We parked at the southern end of the same large carpark where we were the day before. From that position you get a view right over Brighton and Hove to the left, and over to Shoreham and Worthing on the right, way out in the distance miles away. People were arriving for some sort of a party at the Hotel. I hadn't brought a coat but Bryn had one on the back seat. He also had some kind of a blanket too, very similar to the one I had on my bed at school, some kind of tartan pattern. After half an hour, with no heating, the car was getting cold.
'Do you want the blanket over you Jon?'
'Umm, yes please. What about you though?'
'We could share?'
The only way we could do that was to get into the back seat. We put both of the front seats as far forward as they would go, which left a reasonable space for us in the back. Bryn got himself into the corner, and I leant into him. He arranged the heavy woollen blanket carefully around us, tucking it neatly around my left arm. I had a strange feeling of deja vue. We sat like that for a while before Bryn asked…….
'You ok like this?'
'Yes thanks. You feel warm. It's nice.'
'Good. What are you thinking about? Do you mind if I ask you?'
'Nothing much……just that this feels a bit like it was with Gerald, that's all.'
'He always made me feel safe.'
'Well, you're safe now, but I'm not sure I am.'
'It sounded like Gerald stood no chance when you decided to……you know……be proper friends with him?'
'It was him too, not just me. Anyway, it was the pool's fault, having to share like that.'
Bryn found that idea amusing. I like his laugh. It's very immediate and open.
'Oh was it. Maybe I should take you swimming then?'
'You can if you want, but I'd better not share a changing cubicle with you. Anyway, my trunks are at school.'
'You could borrow Jem's?'
We didn't talk for a few minutes. Bryn hadn't pressed me for any detail of that event at the pool, but I had a feeling that he might. Two minutes later, his patience ran out……
'So how did it come about then?'
I turned towards him and grinned…..
'You know what I'm referring to…..the downfall of poor Gerald……aren't you going to tell me? It is New Year's Eve you know. We don't have secrets on New Year's Eve.'
'No, we don't.'
'It's embarrassing…….I can't.'
'Yes you can. Go on, try.'
Of course I was dying to tell him. I told the whole story, but without most of the precise details. I knew he would want to know.
I just told him the truth, just as it happened, and everything that happened after that, right up until the end…….when we were seen on the School Field, and after that….and how odd it felt sleeping in the same building but expressly forbidden to communicate with Gerald.
I hadn't noticed that Bryn had put his arm around my shoulder.
'Look, the fireworks have started!'
We could see them way over to the east, lighting up the beach and the sea.
'Does that mean it's 2015 then?'
'Yes……Happy New Year sunshine.'
'Sunshine? It's the middle of the night, silly.'
'Not in here it's not……the sun's shining in here right now.'
'Really? I like the imagery. So what do we do then?'
'Shall we dance?'
We got out of the car with the blanket around us still. There was no wind to speak of, and we could hear the people celebrating in the hotel a hundred yards away. We danced to an imagined tune, held tightly, safe, and happy. I could scarcely believe what was happening. Five beautiful minutes later, and chilled somewhat……
'No, not yet. Can we stay here for a while longer please?'
'In the back or the front?'
'In the back.'
We must have talked for another half hour at least, secure and bound physically and metaphorically in our blanket. Bryn talked about his writing, which was as important to him as my artwork was to me. He didn't say much about the content however. He already knew I enjoyed writing too. He liked my comment 'I like the imagery' so we talked about John Betjeman's work for a while. I know amongst the highbrow he may not be thought serious enough, but I really like his poetry……..Miss Joan Hunter Dunn and all that.
In holiday time I used the computer my mother had been given by one of the church people that had the Word programme on it. What I wrote I kept saved on a memory stick. I didn't want anyone else reading it. I hid it in the waste paper basket so that it would be thrown away if I suddenly wasn't there anymore, and not be discovered, published, and put in the public library! The arrogance of youth I suppose……thinking that someone might actually want to read what I had written.
I wrote reams about what was happening in my life and it was very personal, always in story form.
'I'll have to write about you now I've met you. Do you mind?'
'In that case I shall have to put you in one of my stories then……that's only fair isn't it?'
'What do you write about Bryn? I've told you about Gerald……now tell me what you write about.'
'All sorts, but like you, I like writing stories……..and reading them too……things that people have written and posted online.'
'Umm……..there's some amazing stuff out there if you know where to look. Have you written about Gerald?'
'Yes….not a huge amount though, but I have, yes.'
'Well that would get read I'm sure if you posted it.'
'I'll show you if you want. It's just the written word….don't worry, it's not pictures or anything like that…..I don't like that stuff. Do you look at that stuff?'
I knew what he was referring to. Lots of the boys had seen it on their own device of one sort or another which are allowed at school, and so had I in a limited way, but I hadn't found it that interesting……..informative yes, but not interesting…..and always concerning adults, never children. I never saw anything that had to do with children, or heard of anyone else who had. But I was curious to find out how gay people made love. I found out, but I also found it a bit scary at the same time. But what Elly was doing to herself the other day was not a mystery to me. It was lovely watching her doing it, and what I hoped would happen for her, did. It was a beautiful moment. She squeezed my hand really hard when it happened. I know she's Jem's friend, but that doesn't stop me liking her.
I told Jem that I didn't look at pornography, although I admitted that I had seen some like just about every other boy on the planet probably had.
I loved being next to him…….and it isn't just the physical warmth of him either. It's all of him.
He took me home about one o'clock. Ma had left a light on in the house for me but the place was quiet. I went to see our dog to wish him a Happy New Year. He's getting quite old now, but managed to get to his feet and greet me in his usual affectionate way, before going back on his bean bag, rather compressed as we had bought it ages ago.
The next morning I get a text from Bryn. I was still in bed when the message tone went. I'd been thinking about what happened last night. I think it was…..well I don't really know what it was. Maybe all the emotion of Christmas and trying to get through it as best we could, and being effectively dumped by Jem, and meeting Bryn. Anyway I howled my eyes out in the back seat of the car for at least fifteen minutes. Bryn held me the whole time. He didn't say anything while I just carried on. I thought I might as well…….in for a penny, in for a pound I guess! I know I felt a whole lot better afterwards.
'Don't see it as a weakness Jon. I feel privileged that you felt you could let all that out in my company. Thank you.'
That was last night. As soon as the beep beep went I read the text……
Hi Jon, thanks for last night. Swim 2morow?! I dare u!
I texted back…….
Yes please, but have no trunks
Within seconds, I had a reply……
We're sopposed to wear them in public plac es……
What about private places then? and u cant spell!
We can get some in sports shop on way
Ten tomorrow at yours. Be reddy ha ha
I put the phone back on my bedside table. I was wearing my pyjama top….no bottoms. Thinking about last night, I'd been having a little play. I looked at my erection and wondered what to do about it. I had the image of Bryn's face in my mind. I wondered if it had been a wise move to sign off my text with 'xj'. Probably not, but I meant it. I got up and went over to the chest of drawers in the corner of my bedroom, opened one of the small top drawers and took a fresh pair of underpants from the top of the neat pile. I stooped to put them on, stood up, and pulled them up my legs into a comfortable position, carefully managing my erection to one side….always to the right. Back in bed, I lay back to have a ponder over things. I wanted to think about Bryn in an intimate way, but I had insufficient evidence for that to work, and anyway I mustn't spoil it now. I ruled out Jem, and remembered Olaf. I wondered about his present welfare…where he was and what he was doing, and hoped he was happy.
Moments later I was in a steamy bathroom that I was so familiar with at school. Little brown eyes had just dragged himself out of the large communal bathtub as I stood naked and waiting to use it myself. Sweet little brown eyes who had been playing in the bath moments before, now so innocently unaware as he stood before me.
'Jon….can you get my towel please?'
He asked me to dry him. Sweet little brown eyes.
I was ready by five to ten and feeling nervous. This was the second time he had 'asked me out' as it were. I was nervous, but excited at the same time. I have worried that he's twenty one and I'm fourteen…almost. In the end, nothing had happened in bed this morning. Somehow it didn't seem right to use Brown Eyes in that way, so I imagined him in a new story. I always have fun inventing new scenarios for stories that no one will ever read, hopefully. Maybe I will find someone one day who will enjoy reading them. I hope so.
I wonder if Brown Eyes will be like me in some ways. He's quiet and sensitive….not outstandingly bright…..and hopefully a loving individual. I knew that because nothing had happened in bed, it was more likely to happen later in the day because that's how my body works. I had often taken myself upstairs in the afternoon to 'lie down' for a while. According to those teenager forums, it's ok and normal to do it three or even four times a day, and I'm not as bad as some of those boys who post their feelings and experiences, usually badly misspelt. I imagine their teachers can't spell either, so what hope have they got? I never have the time at school anyway, but holiday time is different.
Mum was out as usual. She left the house on working days about eight, so I invited Bryn in. He had brought round a redundant PC, plus a monitor, mouse etcetera.
'Would you like this….it's Windows seven so it's ok……not ancient junk. We got a new one for Elly the other day so it's surplus. You're welcome to it if you want it. There's nothing wrong with it. You could use it for your writing.'
Perfect! I can tap away now to my heart's content, day or night……or even day and night. We are all computer literate these days, but I had to work harder at it than most to keep up. That doesn't necessarily mean that I'm interested in ICT……I'm not as it happens, but needs must.
'I can put some writing on a storage device for you too if you want……some interesting stuff from that site I mentioned……see what you think of it. Have you got broadband here?'
Answer, no, but I do have a library card, so if I need to email friends I can do it there.
'Ok, I'll organise some stuff so you can read it in Word.'
I made him a drink in the kitchen and took it up to him.
'Is this your school kit then? Very smart blazer.'
'Yes. It's a nice blue isn't it.'
'Umm……..I'm trying to imagine you in it.'
'Would you like me to show you?'
'Yes, that would be fun, but you'll have to call me Sir.'
'That's ok, I'm used to doing that….well not to you. I am to rest of them, and the Prefects too.'
'Ooh……that sounds very boarding school.'
'Yes….it is . Do you have a problem with those places then?'
'No, not at all. When I qualify, I wouldn't mind being in one of those places myself. I went to Corton College but as a day boy obviously, so I do have some knowledge of the genre…..so to speak.'
'Oh, I didn't realise that.'
'No reason why you should have done. That was almost four years ago. I'm in my post grad teacher training year at Exeter. We start applying for jobs as soon as I get back next week, and then next September reality will hit, always assuming I can get a job.'
I didn't say so at the time but I'm sure he'll be good. He has that sort of personality that boys, and girls presumably, warm to. I can just see him in that role.
'Go on then……I might as well get used to seeing boys in their blazers. Did they make you wear short trousers then…and caps?'
'Yes, shorts up to the end of last year……in years seven and eight in ordinary language. The caps went a long time ago, but I've seen House photos of boys in them. They look pretty ridiculous.'
'What happened to them then?'
'What…….my old shorts?'
I still had them. They had been overlooked in one of the usual throwing out sessions. The last pair I bought not long before the end of the summer term as my other three pairs had become an embarrassment. When I say I bought them, I bought all my clothes as they went on the bill for Uncle, poor chap. We all used the official school outfitters in the city who forwarded the account to the school, and then it got sent on to the parents by the school, or in my case dear old Uncle P. They hadn't had more than a month's wear. I thought they would probably still fit me some four months after their last wearing. I thought it a bit weird to put them on again but quite fun to see what I looked like in them. I was rather agreeably surprised. It took me back in time somewhat……but all that's in another of my stories……the one called 'NEW'.
Bryn sat on my bed while I got ready to change. I could see he was quite interested in the whole process of my transition from casual holiday boy into smart[ish] schoolboy. I asked Bryn……..
'Would you prefer to go out of the room for a couple of minutes while I change?'
'No, I'd like to stay if that's ok?'
'So you don't mind seeing me in my underpants then?' I looked at him and laughed.
'No, not at all. I'm going to see you in your swimming trunks later aren't I? What's the difference……unless you'd rather I didn't see?'
I smiled and recalled the goings on with Elly and Jem.
'Oh……so they told you about that then?'
'Umm. Now that would have been something to behold.'
My poor school jumpers get a lot of wear. I'm wearing one of them now, over a grey tee shirt which I always wear, every single day. I have no shoes on.
'Can I fold your clothes up for you?'
I hand Bryn my jumper, grey of course with the two thin blue stripes all around the V neck, and he folds it neatly. I'm enjoying the ritual of it all and I hope Bryn is too. I'm almost certain he's interested in boys my age, and that's a thought I've had in my head ever since I met him, and it's in my head right now. Next comes my tee shirt. He can see my exposed chest now, not deep, and very ordinary really, just like any slim thirteen year old boy. My tummy is flat, and my tummy button is a neat depression. My forearms are covered in fine fair hairs, but apart from the hair on my head, that's all I have….oh, and some more quite fine ones on my legs.
'Can I turn round now?'
'Yes, of course.'
I turn away from Bryn and undo the belt that holds up my jeans….and then the middle fastening, and I slide the zip down sarefully, open the top, slide them down my legs, bend right down, and get the things off my feet, turn round and give them to Bryn who folds them neatly and places them on the bed. I sit on the bed to take my socks off, and replace them with the familiar long grey ones. There's a small hole in both heels. They cover my calf muscles. I wish I had larger calf muscles. I place my hands on my thighs….
'Do you think I'm too thin?'
'No…….I'd say very slim….just right for your age. You'll fill out later.'
'No, in a few years, silly boy.'
He said 'silly boy' in that sort of old fashioned schoolmasterly voice. He's funny. I like being with him.
I stand up and pick up the shorts and put them on loosely, but they fall down to my feet as I put my arms in my grey shirt, and do up the buttons. Then I pull up my shorts, stuff everything into them, and fasten the clip. Tie next, dark blue with narrow stripes of red diagonals, which I do in the mirror, not Windsor style….twice round, up and through, and then under and pulled loosely to a knot. Two hands required now to slide the knot upwards into a comfy position, and finally collar down and neatly arranged. My trusty grey jumper next, and then my royal blue blazer completes the ensemble. I take a couple of steps and stand so that my knees are almost touching his, almost between his which are spread apart. I hold my hands behind my back and quite deliberately put my weight on one leg, the other slightly forward, and bent ever so slightly backwards. It's a classic pose.
'You look like a Degas dancer.'
I smiled because I knew exactly what he meant. I had seen them and admired them. It wasn't an accidental pose on my part…….quite the opposite.
'Well, I think you were right to move into long trousers Jon. I think if I was teaching you sitting in the front row looking like that, it might have given me problems……like my ability to concentrating on the text we're reading!'
'So, do you like me like this…….sir?'
'I think you'll do nicely. You'd better get changed back again before I get any other ideas.'
I take everything off except for my pants, hang my blazer up and put the rest away.
'It's a pity you have to cover that up.'
'What……..these?' I said pointing at the only item of clothing I had on.
'Umm…..very nice too. Are they all like that?'
I tell him that they are because I like them…….I don't like any of the other styles…..or colours come to that.
'I know they're a bit out of fashion, but I don't care really. They're comfortable and I can feel them…….there, if you know what I mean.'
'I do know what you mean, and anyway, according to the radio the other day, they're making a comeback. You'll be the height of fashion again before you know it. Do you mind coming here…….just for a few moments?'
As I moved towards him, he turned me around with both of his hands on my hips. I felt him pull the waistband out a bit, or more than a bit actually, and twist it…………..I guessed he was looking at the label at the back. He let the elastic go with a gentle 'thwack'. I was well aware that they need pulling up properly.
'That didn't hurt……naughty boy.'
'It might have done.'
I turned round to face him, smiling. I thought there was a chance with me in this position. He put both his hands on my hips and held me still. I knew I had swollen a little, but still in the 'normal' range if you know what I mean . Another minute or so and I would be embarrassed. As he pulled up the waistband unnecessarily high he said in a matter of fact way…..
'Come on, they'll be no point in going if we don't go soon. I've got two towels and your trunks in the car.'
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