Kings Blue

by Rafael Henry

Chapter 1

Late July, 1995.

The vision.

My mother had mentioned it in a letter, but I'd not given her casual allusion to goings on next door any thought since consigning the single sheet of pale blue 'Basildon Bond' note paper to a nearby waste paper bin. We all wrote home on a Sunday morning, and most of us duly received a reply by the end of that week. It was always my mother that wrote back……always cheerful, always upbeat and chatty. It was just what one needed I suppose. News from home was just something to take one's mind away from the smell of the place……the routine, the endless sameness. There were compensations of course. I enjoyed being amongst people almost all the time, playing games of an evening, wandering the town after school, and no tedious travelling to and from one's place of work. Overall, it was an ok life. Mother's letter had mentioned 'new people' next door, but hadn't provided any further detail. That bit of her news barely impinged on my consciousness.

I think if I had been a dreadful scholar, things might have been pretty miserable, but I was a good average. I could keep my head well above water, and I had particular interests which broadened my enjoyment, if that was what it was. Sport I enjoyed, and was reasonably good at it, particularly cricket and swimming. I was good at drawing, which was a social asset. I would draw other boys and give them the results. There was just enough of a likeness to be convincing…….not perfect by any means, but enough.

'Do me now Leo! You said you would!'

Did I? Well actually, yes I did. He's nice enough. Don't disappoint the boy.

Now that thought leads me on to another matter, and to not beat about the bush, we're talking romance here. It is an issue in these places. Most of the inmates do not get afflicted, if that's the right word, but some do. We all know that…….it's a given. I had a bit of a head start with my cousin, before I arrived in this place. Between us we had caught on to the rudiments of private indecency, through the normal channels of comparisons and experimentation. I don't think he was as keen on the idea as I was, with hindsight. I was very keen indeed, and a reliable performer to boot, but not so silly as to expect anything at all when I was chucked in at the deep end, and found myself sharing a bedroom with seven other prepubescent lads. The idea gradually dawned on me it has to be said, or rather the possibility, that something might come to pass. There were idle comments about one's appearance…..a little innuendo here and there…….a throw-away remark from an older boy as he passes me in a corridor.

'Nice bum Leo.' The boy remarks with a smirk.

'What?' I reply, looking up at the boy. A rather handsome boy too.

'Nice bottom Leo. Yours matey.' He reinforces his point.

'Oh, thanks.'

He goes his way and I go mine. I start thinking. Why did he say that? The mere possibility begins to dawn on me.

Of course small boys in shorts, and very short ones to make matters worse, can attract the eye of interested folk, as they stand waiting in the breakfast queue with their hands idly, or not so idly, resting in their pockets. But romance didn't really come into it at that early stage. Excited loins need to be placated and brought back into line. Given that another boy's hand was infinitely preferable to one's own, and stimulated pseudo friendships, which were encouraged by sharing a study or occupying adjacent beds. You get the idea of course. Needs must. But with the onset of puberty, it all gets a bit more serious. The fun stops for the vast majority as issues of morality gradually, or rapidly surface. For a minority, it doesn't stop, because that's what you want and need, and you want it with a boy and not a girl. About the age of twelve I realised that simple fact. I didn't rule out the opposite sex, but I had a fair idea that boys would be more fun, certainly in the short term, but probably in the long term too, and not just fun, but more interesting . I realised that there was a lot more to life than 'a bit of fun'. I needed far more than that. What I needed was romance, but how might that come my way? Who was out there for me?

Not boys my own age. There was nothing. Those convenient and casual liaisons were to be forgotten, as their thoughts turned towards the norm and the acceptable. It was difficult to join in the banter and sound convincing. I even wondered if I should even attempt to convince my peers that I was in their camp, and not in the one I really sought. Reading was a comfort, as I explored poetry for the first time. Art too, as I gazed upon the magical images created by the likes of Caravaggio and Murillo. I needed a boy to love, and be loved back in return. There were boys who would look up to you, literally, and there were those boys so far ahead of you in every respect, that you admired. Clever boys…….boys good at games……and a few very handsome boys.

The former category would be problematic in lots of ways. Tempting of course by their immature ways which I found endearing, but I knew that going down that route lay trouble for all concerned. I had one or two admirers, one of whom I would have happily spent the rest of my life with on a desert island, making love all day on a warm sandy beach. What a complete beauty he was then, and still is no doubt. Dark haired, and of a spare frame, perfectly formed, and finished off with a smile to die for. Maybe he still has those sketches I made of him. I hope so. There must have been twenty of them. Precious moments as I felt his warm sweet breath on my face as he leant on me to see what I had made of him.

'I like this one best Leo.'


I want him to stay close for as long as possible. I can hardly breath as his hand rests on my shoulder. I can smell his closeness……feel the heat of his body resting on mine……..intolerably erotic. Don't leave me. Stay for just a few more moments.

'I just like it. Do you like it Leo?'

I smile and look at him. He smiles back. I feel like crying. He notices and looks embarrassed. I've gone too far. He knows, and it's over now. There's such a fine line. He's become a fantasy now…….what might have been……..what should never happen does happen in my waking dreams, awash in my shame. The boy remains an enigma…….a continuing everyday figure of the beauty of innocence, and that shall rightly remain so until such time as he sees fit. Days and months pass as we exchange smiles and 'hullo's' as our paths cross, indoor shoe footsteps deadened on worn deep red linoleum. Desire smoulders, and so his sweet face with undying smile persists in the memory, and all dressed so perfectly!

Then there were the others…….the older boys……and one in particular. Of course I had noticed him as soon as I arrived in the place just two years before. He was one of those ……..noticeable by their appearance and demeanour. I got to know him quite by accident. It was about the time I had accepted the inevitability of the situation with my little dark-haired beauty. I needed to move on. Physically, I had also moved on. My body, at last, was showing definite signs of progress. My voice had deepened by a couple of notches, and other things had started to happen. I felt that my intellect was ripening too, if that's a reasonable way of putting it. I was at that stage when I was in danger of taking myself too seriously. Things like having arguments over an Isherwood novel, and joining conversations between older boys when clearly my input was not really welcome. The result of this new-found confidence was that I became of interest, at least that was what I was hoping. It worked. I was the youngest member of the Literary Society, and a founder member of the Film Society. Then I found myself in regular conversation with a boy called Tim. I quickly realised that he found me interesting. One thing lead to another and once or twice we sneaked off to see a film at the local arthouse cinema, a small and very comfortable place and virtually empty on a weekday afternoon. Tim had featured in my private thoughts for a while, further stimulated by sharing a changing cubicle with him at the local outdoor swimming baths. There, it was inevitable that we would see each other naked. I had a sneaky look at him, as boys do in those situations, and Tim knew I was. I looked up at him and he was smiling. He extracted his swimming pants from the rolled-up towel and put them on while I looked on in admiration. With everything packed in neatly he looked back at me……

'Well go on then.' He said grinning.

I was standing in the last item of clothing on my body, which I duly removed in front of him. He picked up my swimming pants and held them open for to step into.

'You can put your hands on my shoulders if you want.'

I accepted his offer. He did the rest. I felt I was wrapped in a warm blanket. Such was the intensity of his gesture towards me. It was pure romance.

We went to see 'Witness'. You may remember it. It featured a young Amish boy who is a witness to a murder. The film was irrelevant. I just wanted to be with Tim. Ten minutes into the film, I was willing him to put his arm around me…….or do something . Nothing happened. Finally, I moved a little closer to him. Surely he'll notice? His head turns towards me and he smiles. That's it. I can't wait any longer. I move a little closer and rest my head against his shoulder. Then I feel his hand pass behind my neck and come to rest on my shoulder. I feel his fingers move against me, pressing and squeezing. I'm breathless with joy. Neither he nor I are looking at the screen. I glance down towards his lap, and he must see in me, painfully restricted, what I am seeing in him.

The following day was a Saturday. No school after one fifteen. Tim found me in the Games Room.

'Fancy a walk Leo?'

'Yeah. When?'

'Now if you can. Up to Chapelfields?'

It's very pleasant up there, with it's spacious lawns and rose borders. There was a small group of youngsters larking about rather aimlessly with a ball. We watched from our bench. Neither of us felt the need to keep a conversation going. After another long pause, Tim spoke.

'You know the cinema yesterday?'

I was half expecting him to mention it.


'Well……I was wrong Leo. I'm sorry.'

'Why? Was it wrong for us to go?'

'No…not really. It was what happened Leo. I was wrong. I shouldn't have.'

'But it was me Tim. It was because of me. Why was it wrong?'

Romance in a cinema seat. Such brief moments of joy are precious, and to be savoured. To my great sadness, there were no more of those moments for Tim and I.

I think Tim was frightened by what had happened…scared that it would all come out, and everyone would be talking about us. An older boy involved in 'that' way with a younger one is not the done thing. They would be serious repercussions if it became known to the authorities…… doubt about it. I told Tim that he could rely on me not to mention it to anyone. As if I would! I consider myself to be trustworthy and loyal, and I also told him that I was disappointed and that I hoped we could still be friends. In fact I was devastated. There were four weeks left of the summer term to get through, seeing him every day, being reminded every day of what might have been that was never going to be. Never mind….worse things happen.

Home again for the long holiday was in one way a relief. I was free to think my own thoughts and rebuild my state of mind and relax into the discipline needed to cope with weeks of nothing in particular to do. There was no summer family holiday to somewhere exotic, or even a B and B in Devon for a week, no dog any more to share my thoughts with and go walking into the Kent landscape……loving creature that he was.

And so I lie here, the new day before me.

There are sounds of voices in the distance…..a woman's voice…..and then a girl's voice maybe, replying to the first. I strain to hear words, but the sounds do not translate into meaning. I leave my bedroom and walk into my mothers' room that overlooks the garden to the rear of the house. Then I see the figure that surely owned the voice I heard.

First of all, it's not a girl…'s a boy. My first thought is his age. I'm hoping we are compatible on that score. I think we are, more or less…probably less in his case, but not by much. That disappoints me. Appearance? Now that doesn't disappoint me, indeed my first impressions are encouraging. He's wandering rather aimlessly around the garden, as if his mother, or whoever it is, has told him to make himself scarce for a few minutes, and he doesn't quite know what to do with himself. I hardly dare blink in case I miss a detail of him. It's a warm late July morning and he's out there just in his shorts…….no tee shirt or socks even. His shorts are……interesting shall we say. They look like loose cotton ones with a pattern of stars and diagonal blue lines, and not the sort that you expect boys to wear…almost like ill-fitting underpants. Decidedly odd. He's about twenty yards away from me, and unless he looks upwards and over this way, he won't see me. Suddenly he turns towards me and now I can see his face. The impression I'm getting is that he's not English. It's not just the shorts he's decided in a moment of madness to wear this morning, but his whole demeanour. There's something about him that makes him…..German maybe….or Scandinavian? Somewhere like that. He wanders over to the low fence that divides his garden from ours. I'm getting a better view of him now. My stomach does a head-over-heels. His hair is a very light brown colour…..blond almost, and a little long around the ears, and falls naturally forwards over the forehead with no hint of a parting……..just a little separation off-centre. He looks about five feet tall, and slimly built. He turns, and picks up a stick from the mown grass. My stomach turns over again. To say I'm excited is an understatement. Somehow, in some way, and soon, I have to meet him.

I've been standing watching him for a while. He looks bored and at a loose end. I also get the slight impression that he's expecting me. That's really a strange thought, but not so unreasonable. My mother may well have mentioned to the newcomers next door that her son would be home from school soon.

As that thought drifts through my mind, the boy looks up at the window I'm standing at, almost as if he's expecting someone to be there. My stomach flips over once more. The glance is only momentary. Seconds pass and then he looks up again, this time for a little longer. The boy looks down and continues swishing the stick he's holding in his right hand at the mown grass beneath his feet. He looks up again. He's seen me, but he's not telling me he has.

It was an instinctive reaction. I lift my hand in recognition. I'm looking straight at him now. The boy turns to face me. I lift my hand once more and offer a faint smile. The boy smiles back. My smile broadens. Contact!

I point at my chest and then point a finger towards the boy. It's a message. The boy smiles again and nods his head. Message most gloriously understood.

Our houses are identical….semis with a shared drive between them, so it's two houses, drive, then two more houses, and so on all the way down the road of nineteen thirties chalet type buildings. My upstairs bedroom looks sideways above the drive straight at its exact counterpart opposite, with about twenty feet between the two windows. It's the one single room in the house. Encouraged by the boy's reaction to my signal just now, I hurry into my room to pull off my pyjama bottoms and top, and replace them with shorts and a tee shirt. My school trunk lies on the floor opposite my single bed. The lid is open, and on the top of the now untidy jumble of clothes that have just arrived back in a van from the station lies my games kit. Perfect. Naked in seconds, I pick up a pair of white sports shorts and pull them up. I'm aware that with nothing on underneath them I might be a bit 'visible', but frankly I'm not that far into puberty. I take a quick look at the mirror to check. Just right. Noticeable, but not embarrassingly so. I know I'm queer, and I'm fairly sure I will always be. I know it's a queer thing to do that I'm contemplating here……wearing close fitting shorts that show off what I've got, such as it is. Maybe my friend next door is queer too? He may be, or at least happy to play a few games. You never know.

I pull on the tee shirt as I make my way quickly downstairs. I reach the kitchen door that leads outside, with a gate to the left. I look at the opposite gate and the boy isn't there. I go further down the narrow concrete path that leads to the lower section of our garden. Past the wall of the garage now, I can see our neighbour's garden over the low fence. Half way down, with his hands on top of the dark stained vertical fencing boards, is the boy. I stand about six feet away from him, and offer him a broad smile. I'm going to watch his eyes…….exactly where they go. A boy at school told me that…….look where their eyes go. The boy smiles back at me. His head moves slightly to one side, and he places his hands behind his back as if he's a posed model. I'm instantly smitten.

I introduce myself, and then he tells me his name. It's Per.

'That's a nice name. Where's it from?' I quietly enquire.

'It's Norwegian. Yours is nice too. Leo. I like that name.'

So far, so good.

'Thanks, but I'm not so sure. I get called Lenny at school sometimes. I hate that. So, you're Norwegian then?' I ask, and am instantly aware of what a stupid question that is.

'No…….I'm from the Nederlands, but my mother is from Norway. She wanted that name for me.'

'Well, it's very nice……Per. How do you spell it?'

'P…E..R, but you pronounce it like the fruit…..pear.' Ok, got it.

'Would you like to see our garden?' suggests my new friend.

Indeed I would.

I go back to the gate, open it, and walk across the drive to Per's gate opposite. He's standing there holding it open. I can see more of him now. He's wearing a pair of fairly tatty white trainers, no socks, and those shorts he's wearing are decidedly strange. There's no fat on him. His arms are lean and attractively un-muscled. His legs are slim, with a slight roll of fat just above the knee when he puts weight on one leg. Age? Twelve is my guess.

I follow him down the garden, almost to the end where there is an open patch of roughly mown grass. I wouldn't describe the garden as unkempt, but not manicured. Per sits on the grass and I do likewise. He sits with his left knee pointing towards me, and the other leg at a wider angle. His shorts are woefully inadequate. Whether that's deliberate or not, I do not know. I can't believe he's done that……but he has. I'm sure he's noticed my prolonged gaze up his thigh right up to his nether regions. I keep looking. It all looks quite compact up there. I look at his face, and he's smiling, and I can feel my face warming to a nice rosy shade of red. I'm enormously impressed. So much so that I'm struggling to make conversation. The nice thing is that I think he likes me. Why do I think that? Let's just say I do. Intuition. The one thing I need to do now is to formulate some kind of a plan. Maybe he has a bike, or likes walking?

Our conversation develops. He asks me about my school life, and why I was sent away. I think Europeans regard sending their children away as very odd. I know my father was sent to board at the age of four, which we all thought totally outrageous……cruel even. I ask him why he's in the house next door……and for how long. The answer I get is perfectly reasonable, but his stay there is only temporary. 'So when will you leave here Per?'

'In September when my father has finished his work in London. Then we go back to Amsterdam.'

He plays with strands of grass, then looks up and asks me a very direct question……

'Can I be your friend please……while I'm here?'

My answer was immediate and unashamedly enthusiastic.

'Of course Per! But you'll have to tell me what things you like to do. Do you like walking, or bike rides? Do you like the beach? Do you like swimming? Do you like books? Do you have any hobbies?'

He gives me a catalogue of his interests. On the whole, he likes what I like. Surprisingly he announced that he likes clothes. Looking at his shorts, I'm frankly amazed at that revelation, but I didn't comment.

'So does your bike work ok? Round here, it needs to be in decent condition.'

We went to inspect it. It looked quite new, and certainly up to the job of dealing with a moderate hill downwards to the coast at Hythe, and back up again towards Saltwood.

'It looks a bit big for you Per.'

'No, it's fine. Look.'

Per mounts his bike, one leg on the ground, and hands gripping the handlebars. Oh dear……those shorts will not do. Anyway, he fits the bike ok, and I check the brakes. I don't want an accident. I know my bike is ok, at least it was the last time I rode it.

Per's mother appears from the kitchen door. She's all smiles, and introduces herself. She tells me that she and my mother are on friendly terms and that she's 'heard all about me', and 'isn't it nice that Per has a friend next door', or words to that effect. I can't remember exactly how the conversation went, but it went well enough. That's all that matters isn't it? She certainly looked Norwegian, and dressed in white tee shirt with nothing underneath it, and very brief cut-off jean shorts. A pair of flip flops completed her ensemble. She made us a glass of fruit squash each, which we drank in silence, softened by smiles all round. There was an openness about her which I found instantly refreshing. Glasses empty, I asked her if I might show Per our garden…….and as an afterthought, our house. Per looks at his mother, anxious that she should agree. Of course she does.

'Go put on a shirt first Per……and some other shorts.'

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