Johnny the Gardener

by Rafael Henry

I don't think I have consciously tried to be friends with him…..well, not totally unconsciously I suppose. After all you can't be friends with a teacher can you…..or can you? I'm having a pretty good try I suppose. I can't help it, I just like him…and he seems to like me I think. Well I would think that wouldn't I? That's the silly thing about it isn't it. You bend everything around to what you want it to be, don't you.

My mum said I should expect to have some 'hormone troubles' as she called it…..…it was part of her birds and the bees 'talk' we had recently. I thought it was rather brave of her to do it actually, I mean why didn't my father do it? She did us both together……..my brother and I, so she wouldn't have to do it twice which we all agreed made sense. Kill two birds with one stone sort of thing. I thought it was all going to be acutely embarrassing but it wasn't at all. I knew most of it anyway. I've practiced getting that lovely feeling enough times………I'd learnt how to do that a couple of years ago with a friend. You know the story………up in his bedroom for the afternoon when we knew his mother wouldn't disturb us. Then one of us mentions the word 'willy' or something like that, and then it's a case of checking out what the other one's got and who has the bigger one. The next thing is how big is it when it's properly stiff, and before you know it, you're playing with the thing…….your own thing of course, not each other's. That comes a week or so later. Anyway, Mum has us both sitting on my bed and she's obviously decided that today is the day to get the whole thing over with. I'm sure it's harder for her than us, so I try to make it easier…….

'That's right mum, and probably better with the two of us together. Are we allowed to laugh now and again…..you know……if it sounds funny?'

She made quite a good job of it actually, although Andrew looked slightly shocked at some of it, especially the sperm bit. He had an idea about that aspect of it, but not the full story by any means. I don't know why because he's seen me doing it and I get some now…..well, just a little, but enough to know it's there. She went on about not being frightened when it first happens and that it's perfectly natural and is going to happen sooner or later. When she said that, Andrew looked at me smiling, so I said

'It has happened mum.'

'Oh has it darling….you never said?'

Well why would I? I ask you…….mothers. I mean, what is one supposed to say then…..announce it at the breakfast table one morning like……'morning everyone and, oh yes, I thought I had better let you know that I had this amazing feeling in bed this morning and made tons of sperm for the first time. JustI thought you'd all like to know.'

Andrew's well off that stage….he's still wee willy winkie that one…….it's exactly like mine which isn't surprising I suppose, same shape and with a skinny bit at the end, but just a bit smaller. I love him though…… I love him massively. Sometimes if he's a bit down about something, he comes in my bed with me and we cuddle up together, and then I tell him that I love him. I get tears when I say that to him….every time. Then he holds me really tightly. He always gets a stiff willy when we do that and starts poking me with it….in my tummy, usually. He thinks it's funny. Then we start laughing and play sword fights, me with my trusty broadsword and him with…….his sword. Of course he stands no chance against my mighty weapon!

Anyway, I want to get back to thinking about him . I do his garden, well help him with it really, a couple of times a month on Saturdays. One parents' evening he got talking about his garden with Mum and Dad and a day or so after that I had my idea …….would he like any help, as I was looking for a Saturday job anyway and I don't live that far away from him? My parents were fine with it……they thought it a nice healthy way to earn a bit of cash, but they did ask me a few questions, but that was ok, although I don't think Dad was too sure about it.

I knew where he lived from art club at school in the lunch hour. He'd left an envelope addressed to him on his desk and I saw it and made a mental note. He would sit at his desk most of lunch time while us keen ones got on with something, or nothing really, and every now and again I'd go up and show him what I had done. That's when I get to touch him………yes, seriously, I do. He's sitting and I stand and kind of lean into his desk…….and him……..just a tiny bit…….against his leg or shoulder…..just really lightly so he won't notice. Just a bit before I go up I make myself a bit bigger than normal too. That's easy enough even without fiddling….and when he marks homework he calls boys one by one up to his desk….at random……not in alphabetical order. I think that amuses him……..to surprise us, and every lesson there's one at least…..with one on if you know what I mean. The kid says 'can I come up in a minute please sir?' and he says 'no……..now.' Then the boy has to stand up and walk over to his desk. It's so funny. You can see it pushing the front of his trousers out. It's so obvious. We all look sideways at him….well some of us…..and make sure we don't giggle or anything. It is funny, it really is. He never seems to notice though, but I'm pretty sure he does…...I can tell. I watch exactly where he's looking, and I just know he's noticed. He arrived at the school when I was starting Year 8, so this is his second year. I've heard the girls talking about him. Some of them really fancy him, but I overheard one of them say that she thought he was gay. When I heard her say that, I had to walk off down the corridor. I remember feeling cross and my face feeling all hot.

I noticed him on the first day of term……his first day. He was up on the stage with the other teachers for assembly. I was sitting cross legged about two rows back. He looked at me a couple of times. I think it's his first job because he looks quite young…….early twenties I'd say, not that I'm any judge. I think he's very handsome.

That was over a year ago now. He's my art teacher this year…..boy, am I pleased about that!

I love my bicycle, a sports model, and most weekends I go off somewhere or other, usually on my own, so getting to his house was no big deal at all. It's about eight miles from Thorney where I live which I can do in no more than twenty minutes or quite a lot less if the wind is behind me which it usually is on the way there because his house is more or less due east of mine and the wind is mostly westerly. Got it? Sorry to get technical but these things matter when on a bike. I go sailing with the school at a place called Graffham Water in Rutland, and the wind and weather is even more important then, but that's another story. Cycling is great round here because it's so flat. I live right on the edge of the fens and he lives actually in the Fens towards Kings Lynn in Norfolk, and the whole thing is as near to a billiard table as you're going to see anywhere in England I can tell you. On a really windy day which is not uncommon in these parts, you barely need to pedal if it's behind you. The problem is going back again in reverse. If it's really horrible, he won't let me cycle and he puts the bike in the back of his old dark blue Morris Traveller and takes me home. My mum likes him…..makes him tea and stuff. He's very good with mothers……and me. I get five shillings an hour which he gives me in cash so I don't have worry the tax man with it……as if I would! At the end of the day after gardening we go in to the house and he makes a pot of tea, or orange squash or something and we sit in his sitting room place, and then when I am about to leave he gives me the cash and says 'You've worked hard today…well done.' Have I? Not really. I look up at him, just a little as he's not massively taller than me now, and I smile and say 'thank you.' Not thank you sir, as I would at school, but just 'thank you.' On Saturdays we have a different relationship…………..since a fortnight ago.

It's always a problem….what to wear. If the weather is at all decent I wear shorts and a tee shirt. I carry a rucksack on my back in which I put spare stuff so I'm more or less covered for weather changes and so on, and for coming back in cooler evening temperatures. I always take a spare pair of pants and socks, but never spare shorts. I always wear my PE shorts which we also use for rugby. He, and a friend of his from the French department, run the rugby in the school which so far only goes up to the third year as they had to start in the first year and then carry it on year by year, upwards if you can see that. We wear white shorts for rugby, and proper navy blue shirts and navy blue socks. We look very smart all turned out nicely…….we look better than we play usually. He does the cricket too, but just for the third years. I'm useless at cricket unfortunately, but I go as the scorer and as 'twelth man' but luckily for the team I am very rarely called upon to actually do anything. Rugby I'm reasonably good at, but nowhere near as good as Andrew. His tackling is totally fearless, and I mean fearless. It doesn't matter how big they are, he just dives in and gets them…..every time. He's in the year below me but he's more than a year younger. He doesn't look that much like me really, although you can see he's my brother. His hair is lighter than mine….really blond, whereas mine is darker…still blondish but darker than Andrew's. He's thicker set than me…….I'm quite slim, especially my hips which are narrow…and my bottom sticks out a bit. My nose is just ……well not pointed exactly….and my face is slightly narrow too. My hair just comes forward and isn't long or anything. My eyes are blue blue blue! I know I'm nice looking…….one gets told these things…….and I am. So is Andrew, but more in a little boy way….a bit prettier somehow. My mother says my best feature are my eyes. She says I will always get anything I want with 'those eyes'. Hmm…I'm doing my best but it hasn't worked.…..well not yet anyway. I'm pretty sure he likes me because he often stops me to talk about something that never seemed very important at all and he sort of looks really hard at me like talking to me is just an excuse to look at me? Does that make sense? He sort of studies me. I look at him in class all the time when I think he's not going to look at me. He looks at us a lot, especially a couple of boys in particular. Sometimes I catch him looking at me and he looks away really quickly, but I know he was…and so does he. He and I both know it.

Some of us bend the school uniform rules a little. Only a little. My mum bought me some Levi trousers, like the ones Sir wears. They're not exactly the regulation grey, but they fit nicely, and far better than ordinary grey school trousers. They're not loose around your middle……they're nice and tight around there. I can't quite describe it…….they sort of hold you forward at the front if you can imagine that. I feel really sexy in them. Andrew has some too, and a couple of other boys in my class. All of us have the kind of shirts that don't tuck in much, or not at all in my case. I like them too because you can see the lower part of boys' actual backs when they lean forward on the art tables because their shirts ride up, and quite often the top of their pants too. I do that in art……lean right forward on the stool as he comes round to see what we're doing. I make sure he can see. I look at him as he leans over someone's work. He's just…….well, just lovely.

Where was I? Oh yes….the problem of what to wear when I go gardening. The white shorts are great because they are ideal to cycle in, and to do weeding and stuff or whatever he wants done. It's almost always light work because he won't risk anything heavy……health and safety and all that. Occasionally there's a bit of lifting involved but not anything drastic…a few big stones or dragging branches…..that sort of thing. Now it's summer, the work is mainly keeping seed beds clean or a bit of hoeing round lettuces or the usual rows of strawberries. Everybody grows strawberries round here. Most of them are the big watery and generally tasteless 'Cambridge favourite' variety. He doesn't though….he grows some other type which taste lovely. He has a mat for me to kneel on so I can get right down to it, literally. He doesn't do much apart from overseeing and generally being encouraging, and making sure I don't work too hard! He joins me for regular breaks when he makes a cold drink and we sit and have it with a biscuit or something. He spreads out a rug on the grass which I sit on and he gets himself a fold up garden chair thing. If it's nice and sunny we take our tee shirts off and let the sun get to us….but not before we've done the sun cream. I like that bit as I always ask him to 'do' me. He always has a little laugh when I ask him to 'do' me and put it on my back which I can't reach of course, using the 'do me' words, and he just says 'ok'. I love it when he puts it on my back because he does it so gently and slowly. It makes me shiver sometimes from the sheer pleasure of it, and I giggle a bit. I pull my shorts down a bit so he gets to the bottom bit of my back without getting the stuff on my clothes. I always ask him to do my front but he says ' you have to do that bit sunshine.' We spend ages over our morning drinks as we chat away about this and that, and he sits back in his chair while I sit facing him. I put myself so that he can 'see' me nicely. I know that's naughty but I still do it. I make sure that my knees are pointing towards him with my legs a bit apart. I've practised that in the mirror at home and I know exactly how to give him the very best view, which of course is up my inner thigh so that my pants are visible. He must know what I'm doing as he sits there holding his glass, smiling. I can't help my shorts……they don't hide much I know, but I always wear pants underneath so that ensures that I'm 'decent'…..just about. He likes watching me work, and I always make sure that he sees me at my best, so to speak, as I kneel down so I can reach the weeds and keep my back to him. He was, to my continued disappointment, always very careful to keep our relationship strictly professional, and he never said anything, let alone did anything that might encourage me to wonder…but wonder I certainly do, mainly in my dreams. I never did any early morning 'wondering' after Wednesdays……just in case. Then one lunchtime at school one of the boys said he had heard a rumour about him. The rumour was that he was leaving the school to go abroad. I felt sick for the rest of the day and I had to know for sure, so I made the usual arrangement to work the next Saturday determined to find out for certain, because I had to know if it was actually true. He said the weather forecast was bad for Saturday and it might not be the best idea for me to come over, but I insisted saying it was my brother's birthday soon and I needed money to buy him something nice. He of course accepted that immediately and we agreed that I would be there about nine as usual. I woke on the Saturday morning in a state of 'wonderment' but managed to think about something else enough to avoid the inevitable….but only just….especially as Andrew seemed to be in a playful mood! It was a very close thing I can tell you because I had a really nice surprise thought…..it just floated into my mind…..and I started to have a little play and it very nearly happened. It took a bit of willpower for it not to happen….well more than a bit actually as you can imagine. Andrew asked me to 'help' him which I did. He likes being 'helped'. He starts off gently rubbing his little stiffy with two fingers and his thumb while I very gently tickle his pants underneath and round his little ball things, always assuming I can find them, and of course round his bottom and pressing the tip of my finger into it a bit. Then near the end he says 'you do it now' so I have to take over, very slowly which amuses me knowing he's close to getting it but not there yet. When I think I've teased him enough, I let him have his feeling and his whole body shakes because his feeling is so strong. The next bit's fun too. We wait about ten minutes, always assuming we have the time, then I do him again, but this time really fast with the middle finger of my other hand under his bottom and pushing inside him as far as I can get it. He gets it again in double quick time that way……he's such a sexy little brother and I love him madly….I really do. He's never bothered by that time about doing me which is just as well because……well, I need to keep fresh for the day ahead, just in case. Anyway, if the rumour is true about Mr Kelly I didn't have a vast amount of time left before the long summer holiday began and then he'd be gone……end of story more than likely.

I decided that I would cycle in my usual gear which wasn't much, because if it rained on the way there wouldn't be time to dry out anyway, so I packed the usual spare pants and tee shirt in the rucksack, put it on my back, and set off about eight thirty under a threatening sky. Skies are big in East Anglia, so you can see the weather coming…..and believe me it was! To the west the sky was a nice shade of slate grey whereas to the east where I was going was nice and bright. It was just a matter of how long the weather took to reach me really, before the inevitable happened. I hadn't thought through any strategy for the day but subconsciously I must have, because I wasn't in any hurry that morning. The whole journey is over totally flat ground and by taking a series of 'droves' which run parallel to the main A47 I can avoid that dangerous road with its very long straights sections and fast traffic. Early on a Saturday morning, these narrow lanes, running dead straight for miles, make for effortless and very pleasant cycling, and very safe too as there is less traffic at eight. I loved those rides in the quiet with just the butterflies and insects to keep me company….and of course the lone sky lark singing away. There was always one that seemed to follow me. One field was full of plovers, a common sight in this part of the world, and little further on, a heron observed me from a water filled ditch with his icy cold stare, one leg raised and partially hidden by Norfolk reed. I stopped to return the bird's stare. I turned to see how close the rainstorm was now and I guessed I had about ten minutes at the most, so I stood up in the saddle to get maximum purchase on the pedals on take-off and then there's a sort of 'clunk'. I know exactly what that noise is. My chain has just snapped. I have no alternative but to walk the bike the rest of the way. I looked up and back at the fast approaching black cloud. I had got some two hundred yards before the heavens opened and I was totally drenched in seconds as the rain pounded down……and it was obvious that the storm was going to be a long one judging by the sky which was an interesting shade of slate grey as far as I could see to the west. Twenty minutes later I saw a figure on the road in front of me. It was him , walking towards me. I kept my eyes on the approaching figure and he must have recognized me from quite a distance away, and he began running towards me. He was out of breath when he reached me. He took my bike and wheeled it on his left side, chain dragging along the road surface, and put his right arm around my shoulder. He had never touched me before that moment. It was a lovely feeling when he did that. I remember this sudden churning feeling in my tummy. Fifteen minutes later we were in his house……the small two up and two down brick and slate cottage so common in the Fens, all built as smallholders' houses, cheaply built in their hundreds by local builders after the draining of the land for agriculture. This one had a stone tablet set into the brickwork at the front which read J F, and underneath a date….1910. He had told me it stood for one Joseph Fisher, the builder. We were of course both completely soaked. We looked at each other and laughed. I couldn't take my eyes off his face. His smile had gone and he looked serious. I suddenly felt very nervous.

'You look cold John. How about a warm bath…..I afraid I don't have a shower, sorry.'

He was right…..I had got cold in the rain despite it being the end of June.

'If you get your clothes off down here I can rinse it all through. I've loads of spare things you can use. I'm afraid we're not going to get much gardening done today, sorry, but I will still pay you ok. I don't want to see your dear brother go without a present from you. I'll get you a towel. Just chuck your stuff in the sink ok?'

He went out of the tiny kitchen, across the floor of the central living room and up the stairs. I got my tee shirt off with difficulty as it was sticking to my damp skin. My shorts and pants were completely soaked so they came off in one piece followed by my white socks. By the time he had got back…no more than a minute I think…..I was standing with nothing at all on by the sink, my hands held together under my chin, and a bit shivery. I looked down to see what my penis looked like, as one does in those circumstances, and it was sticking out just a bit with the skin on the end at a very odd angle where it had been squashed sideways by my wet pants. He was holding a medium sized blue towel in one hand when he stopped a few yards from where I was standing. I knew he had looked at all of me….I saw him. It wasn't the first time he'd seen me with nothing on anyway, because at rugby matches he'd be in the changing room with us and then he'd see me, and all the rest of us as well. He just shook his head slowly from side to side and smiled……I'm not sure quite what that meant.

'Come on….I'll show you where the bathroom is……you can start running the water.' I had to ask him…

'What about you…you're soaked as well….and I know where the bathroom is.'

'Yes, sorry of course you do. I'll get myself sorted out down here in a minute John…..when we've got you organized. Unless…..'

'Will you come up and talk to me please…..check the water and stuff?'

He gave me the towel which I held in one hand and I headed for the stairs. I knew perfectly well where the bathroom was because I had used the loo in there several times before. I could hear him just behind me following me up the stairs. There was no carpet on them. When we got into the room at the back of the house which must have been a bedroom before, he asked me if I needed the loo. I said I thought I did. He left me alone in the room saying he'd be back in five minutes or to shout if I needed longer. I told him that I would only be a minute or so because it was just a pee. When he came back he put his head round the door…

'You ok there?' I nodded still sitting on the seat, elbows on my knees and hands supporting my chin. He ran the water, testing the temperature, and then placed the black plastic plug in the hole. It didn't have any chain attached to it.

'Sorry…..I thought it was just a wee…….do you mind?'

'That's fine…carry on…….no hurry, take as long as you need John.'

That was more than slightly embarrassing. I sat there for ages while he filled the bath from both taps testing the temperature occasionally with his fingers. I got off the loo seat and did my bottom carefully and pushed the lever thing down to flush it. It did rather noisily. He still tactfully had his back to me, and I stood just to the side of him for a few seconds, and then he said to get in and try it. It was good in there…….a bit hot to start with, but then lovely as I leaned back and stretched out with my knees slightly bent as I am a bit longer than the bath. He got a chair and sat on it at the tap end resting his elbow on the edge of the bath. I let most of my head go below the level of the water, then lifted up so I could see him. He smiled at me in that way of his…..I felt I belonged to him at that moment.

'How's that…..nice?'

'Umm, lovely thanks. Can I have a bit more hot now please?'

I put my head back to rinse my hair again and had to move myself down the bath a bit, bending my knees more which caused a slight surge in the water which made my penis float up and it stayed lying upwards on my tummy. I don't think it had got any bigger……maybe slightly because of the warm water probably. I looked down at it as he handed me a bar of soap…..it was oval and smelled nice. Then I asked him…….

'Will you do my feet please. I can't reach them.'

'Ok bigfoot.'

'Bigfoot?'

'Well they're a nice size. You know what they say about boys with big feet don't you?'

'No, what?'

'Oh nothing. It is true in your case though.'

I think I know what he meant. I went very red. I heard that before and hoped it was true.

After he had done my feet……….

'Legs?'

'Yes, and my back too please.'

I thought I may as well.

He did it just like he did the sun cream. I sat up so he could reach all of my back. He wouldn't do my front of course……but he did do my legs up to my knees, and as I felt the soap moving over my skin I hoped that he would go a little higher. I imagined what it would feel like if he put soap around my penis…….how nice that would feel. I put my hand on it as I felt it getting bigger. Weirdly I wasn't in the least embarrassed and of course he didn't say anything. I think he was trying not to look….I know because I kept looking at him to see if he did and he didn't…..not really. I had to take my hands away to finish off my front with the soap. The tip was sticking out of the water.

'All done? You must be feeling warmer now?'

When I got out he held the towel for me and then put it around my shoulders. I looked down, and then up into his face….

'Sorry.' and then I giggled a bit.

'Why be sorry, silly,…….it's perfectly normal you know….' And then laughing he says

'I was right about boys with big feet then?'

'Do you think so?'

'How old are you again?'

'Thirteen.'

'Nearly fourteen?'

'No. My birthday is in December.'

As he dried me with the bath towel, I asked him jokingly…..

'Can I stay like this all day then?'

'Like what…….like that ? Fine….it won't bother me.'

I held the towel around me as we went along the narrow corridor into the front bedroom which overlooked the small front garden, the road and the fields beyond. I stood in front of the window looking out. I had nothing to put on. He went to a small chest of drawers and pulled out a white tee shirt.

'Try this.'

I handed him the towel and pulled it over my head. It nearly covered my middle but not quite. I stood facing him. Neither of us were smiling. I saw a picture on the wall above the large bed. I leant against the end of the bed, my hands on the rail. Looking at the picture in a metal frame. It was about two feet by one and a half of a standing figure…….a young boy.

'Who's that?'

'Guess who.'

'Who did it?'

'A friend of mine. A guy called Gerald. He was a very good artist. He wanted to draw me. He did it at my uncle's house one weekend. It would have been a bit awkward to do it at school as you can imagine.'

'Why?'

'Because we were both boarders. He was a bit older than me and……well, just not possible really.'

'How old were you then?'

'About your age…..a bit younger probably. Twelve I think. He was seventeen.'

'Oh.'

'Do you like it?'

'Yes. You look……..I don't know really………you look a bit like my brother.'

'Andrew?'

'Yes. Your feet look big too.'

'Yes, but there are exceptions to that rule. I think I must be one of them.'

I waited a few seconds……….

'When do boys have that done?'

'When they're days old I assume.'

He sat on the edge of the bed while I went on looking at the picture.

'What happened to him…….the boy who drew you?'

'He left a year or so after that. He went to the Royal College of Art.'

'To learn painting?'

'No, to study furniture design. I've never heard from him since.'

'Do you wish you had?'

'Yes. I'm a bit sad about it all actually. They told us that we couldn't be friends anymore, so that was it.'

'But you've got the picture.'

'Yes, I do have the picture.'

'I'm sorry you're sad.'

'Thanks, that's very kind of you.'

I went and sat down next to him.

'What was he like?'

'Oh…..different to anyone else I knew, that's for sure. I admired him……I thought he was kind and interesting…….and very handsome. I was very flattered that he wanted to be friends with me I suppose, but the difference in our ages made it difficult.'

'Why?'

'Because it does, but not for us. The adults think that it's not good for the younger boy to be big pals with a much more mature one. I personally think that's unfair. I learnt a lot from Gerald. I suppose it was one of those puberty things that some boys go through.'

'What, liking an older boy?'

'Umm. It happens……..and girls too. But they're right, it can lead to things that the younger boys doesn't understand properly.'

'Was that you then?'

'Not really. When I sat things , do you understand what I'm talking about?'

'You mean sex don't you.'

'Yes. My relationship with Gerald wasn't just your normal friendship. It was more than that. That's why they stopped it.'

It took a few moments for that lot to sink in. Then he said……

'I shouldn't really tell you all this, but you never know, it might happen to you. It might?'

He looked at me, smiling, and said……

'So………you may as well be prepared…….just in case.'

'So is it bad then?'

'No……not really. Anyway, we can't help it. It's best I think to let it run its course…….let it burn, and then it will die away naturally without any big traumas.'

I let my head drop, and had an overwhelming desire to cry.

'There's nothing to be sad about Johnnie….really, there isn't. Shall I find you some pants, or are you ok like that?'

I looked back at the picture of the naked boy. Then he said……

'You like him don't you. Maybe you can see yourself in that drawing?'

I nodded and smiled. He pulled a tissue out of the box of Kleenex, and dabbed my eyes for me. I managed a smile.

'Are you ok now?'

'Umm. It is me isn't it.'

'Yes, it is you. Do understand a bit more now?'

'Yes.'

'So how do you feel now John? Different…..more or less?'

'Yes, a bit different, but not less…..more.'

'Ok.'

'Is it……I mean is it ok?'

'Yes, it is.'

I leant against him and he let me.

I wanted a closer look at the drawing.

'It looks real from a distance, but it's done really quickly isn't it. Is it done in pencil?'

'Yes, a very soft one……a 6B probably. I can't remember exactly what he used….something like that. If I was doing that now, that's what I would use.'

'Now? Can you?'

'Yes. That's part of what I'm doing with my life isn't it?'

'Yes I suppose so. Would you then?'

Gardening was obviously out of the question as it hadn't stopped raining which was pretty much as per the forecast. I suggested that we might try to mend the bike chain. Maybe we could go into Wisbech and get a new bike chain? No, because the Traveller was in the village garage 'having its valves ground' apparently, whatever they are. Well how was I going to get back home then? Good question.

We tried to solve that one by phoning home but then I remembered they were all going to my aunt's house for the day, and they wouldn't be back until the evening.

I phoned again at seven and they were home this time, but reluctant to come and get me as dad had had a couple of beers. My mother asked if she could speak to him directly as she had had an idea.

'Your mother wants to know if it's ok with you to stay here tonight and they'll collect you tomorrow? She needs to know now. What do you think? Do you want to John?'

The cloud had gradually lifted and the resultant warm hazy atmosphere that sometimes comes after a prolonged period of rain was dissolving into warm sunshine. We had already decided that gardening was something that wasn't going to happen that day. My clothes were out on the washing line now and making quite good progress towards being wearable once more. Every few minutes they got checked for dryness, but were still some way off.

'Would you like a walk down the Drove John……or ……..'

'Or what?'

'We could sit out in the garden….it's nice now.'

'Can I just stay here in the garden……can I lie out in the sun for a while please?'

'Of course…..you'll make a very nice addition to my garden…….a living sculpture……..like a live Greek statue or something from antiquity. If I don't employ you to garden I could employ you as that couldn't I?'

'What do they look like?'

I knew as soon as I had asked that question, I would get a fuller answer than I needed.

'I'll show you.'

We sat on the sofa in his living room where he kept most of his books. I was beginning to enjoy my nudity. He pulled off the shelf a large plastic covered book packed with full page illustrations. They were of Ancient Greek sculpture, almost all of nude figures……mostly young men. He handed it to me, and began to look through the images, page by page. Some five minutes later……..

'Any favourites?'

'I like him……the boy with the thorn in his foot.'

'Yes, it's nice isn't it. Any others?'

'I like this one too……..I like the way he's standing. It reminds me of the drawing Gerald did of you.'

'Umm. He got the idea from this book.'

'So did this belong to him then?'

'Yes. He gave it to me when…………..when he was told that he mustn't see me any more. A sort of final gesture I suppose.'

'Oh.'

I closed the book and gave it back to him.

He put the book down on the small table in front of us, and left it open at the 'Boy with a thorn in his foot'. The back door was open and I could feel the warm breeze starting to replace the cool air in the room, and shafts of sunlight coming through the narrow window were lighting the end of the sofa, and me. I felt the warmth of the sun on my bare legs. I watched as the shadow moved in minute increments across my skin and the reflection of the tiny fair hairs on it. I could see my clothes gently moving in the breeze outside on the makeshift washing line that ran from the house to the tree. It looked like an apple tree. I looked down at my penis. The sunlight was catching the downy fair hair around it, and the larger ones that had grown either side of it.

'Why do those boys have such small willies………and the men too?'

'It was considered crude if they were modelled life size. The boys are about right wouldn't you say, but the men are definitely smaller. They thought that only barbarians had large penises. Also, boys were very popular with men. They were used as sexual playthings, and they only wanted ones who were small. That's how it was. Your stuff might be dry by now. Do you want it if it is?'

'No…not unless you want me to……..I like being like this. Can I lie in the sun for a while?'

'Umm, I'll get you a rug to lie on…….and some suncream.'

I took off the tee shirt he had lent me. I could feel the June sun hot on my skin. I felt warm and comfortable. He looked at me and smiled.

'Can I join you? But don't worry, I will be wearing something. I don't want to frighten you.'

I had wondered about that. He carefully spread out the rug on the grass outside the kitchen door. I lay down on my front with my arms to my sides, and head turned towards him. He disappeared into the house to change I assumed. When he came back he was wearing what looked like navy blue swimming trunks but I don't think they were…..I think they were underpants because they looked quite thin…the material that is…..but brief like the trunks we wore for swimming at school. You could see him through them easily…….what he was like. I suddenly had butterflies in my tummy. He had a plastic container of sun cream. He knelt beside me so he could do my back. He applied the thick white liquid onto my skin in gentle circular movements with the whole of the palm of his hand. It felt lovely, and I closed my eyes as he did it rather wishing it would never stop. He did my neck first and along the tops of my shoulders….then down the outside of my arms…….then the insides….and then all over my back…..and the sides of my chest. It felt so nice….the feel of the stuff and his hands over my skin. Then he said

'You'd better have some round your bottom area John. The skin there will burn easily if you don't.'

'Will you do it please…I can't reach properly.'

I lifted up my head which had been facing away from him and turned and laid my face on the rug so I was facing his body. I felt the wool of the blanket tickle my skin. It seemed like an age before he began. I shut my eyes waiting to feel the first touch of his hands on my skin. Then I felt the cool blobs of the cream drop onto my lower back, and the squishing sound of the plastic bottle being squeezed. It felt so wonderful as his hand worked its way around my back…….right up to my shoulders. Then he gently touched me lower down…..

'You'll need some around here John…….is that ok?'

I nodded, almost too excited to speak. I put my feet much further apart to make it easier for him to reach me in there. It was an invitation. He was so close……I just hoped he would but he didn't. Perhaps he did…..I can't remember……..no I'm sure he didn't…..almost but not quite………it was so close. He finishes my legs……right down to my feet and I can see his middle…….his trunks or whatever they are, as he turns his body to lie next to me. I can see him……he's like me now.

I stayed like that for ages, wanting to lie on my back now but I can't.

'Do you want to turn over John?'

'Not yet.'

I looked up at him. He smiled down at me. I felt so good.

I think I must have dozed off later, just for a minute or two because his voice came as a surprise. I turned over and as I did so I suddenly remembered but it was ok. He made me do my own sun cream this time. He watched me do it rather clumsily I'm afraid…especially my penis which at one point had little white blobs on it. We laughed…

'Well I suppose you didn't do too bad a job. ……it should survive underneath all that lot.'

He said I should rinse off the sun cream after he had made us something to eat…that must have been about seven. He ran a shallow bath, and helped me wash all over, and then dried me with the big towel. He asked me if I wanted to put on my own dry clothes but I said I'd rather stay in his big tee shirt. It was loose and comfortable and felt nice in the warm evening……the rain seemed a long way off now. He'd changed into what looked like patterned pyjama bottoms with a string tied in a bow at the front, and a pale tee shirt which he said he wore in the evenings because they were very comfy. I liked my baggy tee shirt, well his baggy tee shirt, and I was sticking with that. I wanted him to see me. He sat down at the end of the sofa in the living room. It was for two, and I sat in the middle with my feet against the far end of it to keep them off the quarry tiled floor.

'May I lean back on you please?'

'Umm, of course. Push with your legs so you come right back onto my lap……that's it….rest your head here….like that…….now turn a bit towards me……hang on, your tee shirts all rucked up……..lift your bottom up a minute……that's better….now down……comfy? Sure?'

I was…..very. I felt his hand round my shoulder and the other arm came around my side, just above my hip….his elbow resting on my tummy. I had one hand underneath my face and the other resting against his tummy. I was happy. The borrowed tee shirt covered me, just, but as I wriggled to adjust my position in the subsequent minutes…..it didn't cover me. He didn't mention it and nor did I, but we were both obviously aware and I for one was enjoying my exposure. I wanted him to see me, and I didn't care what happened. I shut my eyes and began to imagine…to picture me with him…as I am now. I felt his hand inside my shirt and on my skin, moving it gently, and then as I began to breathe more deeply as the sensations became stronger……. I began to lose control. I pulled the material down to try and cover myself there but it didn't work. Denying myself this morning was taking its toll and there was no way I could avoid the inevitable. I just let it happen.

'Shhhh……..shhhhhh…..it's ok…….its ok….you're fine as you are. You don't need to do that….really you don't!'

I buried my head in his chest and mumbled a muffled apology………and a little diminutive 'please'.

'I knew the answer to that as soon as I had asked him.

'You know I can't………even if I want to……..you know I can't. Come on…sit up now. Would you like to go up to bed now? Perhaps you should. Come on, I'll take you.'

'No, not yet please……..not yet. I want to stay like this for a while longer.'

I had to ask him.

Is it true?'

'Is what true?'

He kept his arm around my shoulder….his head angled down towards my face.

'That you're going soon……..leaving our school?'

It was true. I didn't move or speak for some minutes as he kept me tight to him……my face buried in his chest. It must have been about nine thirty when he led me to his bedroom. I wanted to sleep unencumbered by any form of clothing, so as I lifted up my arms, he slipped the tee shirt up and over my head. I stood watching as he pulled the covers away in the near corner of his bed. I felt physically warm but upset at his confirmation of what I already knew to be true. I lay down on my back with my hands crossed over my tummy and my knees up. He pulled just the sheet up and over my legs and my middle, just far enough to cover my hands.

'Sleep well.'

He placed his hand on my forehead as I managed a weak smile. 'Would you like the curtains closed or open? It's still quite light.'

'Can I have them open please……I like to see the day when I wake up…….to know what the weather is like and stuff. Will we work in the garden tomorrow do you think?'

'Yes, if it's nice enough. Looks good at the moment…..there's a patch near the front that needs digging over. I can dig it while you rake out the rubbish….how's that for a plan?' I smiled and said

'Good plan.' I looked at him. He was looking at me with just the faintest smile as his hand left my forehead and took my hand and squeezed it. I suddenly felt safe…….really safe as if it was all ok now…..even though it wasn't.

'Do you want me to wake you up in the morning? I can if you want.'

I couldn't see him properly. His face was blurred, but I smiled and nodded.

When he had gone, I closed my eyes and began to wonder what might have been. I felt myself and I felt good.

And in the morning……….

I didn't hear him come in, in the morning. He was kneeling by the bed and I was on my side and when I sensed a presence near me and when I opened my eyes, I was facing him. He was close to me. I don't know how long he'd been there. Then he spoke sofly……..

'Hello sleepy head. Did you sleep ok?'

I smiled at him, nodded and closed my eyes again.

'Sure? Good. Can I get you something….tea…..drink of juice, or something else?'

'Something else please.' I smiled.

'What's that then?' He smiled back at me.

'Just something else……that's all.'

'I can hold your hand if you like……..will that do?'

'I suppose so. I feel a bit weird.'

'Oh dear. What sort of weird ?'

' That sort of weird.'

'So, do you know what to do then…….to feel ok again?'

'Can I? Now? Will you stay with me please?'

'Yes of course I will, if you don't mind?'

'I want you to. Will you hold my hand again please?'

I turned to lie on my back and I put my hand out again for him to take it in his. He took it. With my other hand, I took the sheet back down over my tummy and middle. I did take my time…..as long as I could manage, enjoying every moment as my thoughts, and consequently my feelings became focused on my chosen image. I remembered what I had glimpsed yesterday afternoon in the garden. I don't know how long it was……..I gripped his hand hard to tell him, and he knew. Breathless now, I was gripping both his shoulders when it happened.

He didn't let go of my hand for ages afterwards, as my breathing and heart gradually slowed down. I was looking away at the drawing on the wall. The image of him, at the last, had faded into reality.

'You're a very clever boy, John.'

I turned my head towards him and said…smiling……

'Am I? Am I really?'

'Umm…….yes, you are. How do you feel now?'

'Ok thanks…just a bit sad, that's all.'

'I know. I'm sorry.'

I drew the covers up over me so all you could see was my face. He had dried my tummy. I felt warm in one way, but cold in another. I looked away from the drawing.

I lay there for…I don't know how long it was, and felt his hand in mine. There was no need for words.

'It's a lovely bed. am I…….?'

'What were you going to say? Are you the first boy in my bed? Yes……if that was your question. I don't make a habit of it. These are exceptional circumstances.'

'What about girls? Have girls been in here then?'

'One or two……yes……one or two.'

'One……. or two?'

'Well…..one in particular.'

'Does she still come here?'

'Yes she does actually………you'd like her, she's very nice.'

'Will you marry her one day?'

'I might, but it's a bit early to say at the moment really.'

'If you did, would you have children?'

'I think so because…….well yes….I probably would I think, always assuming she wanted them too.'

'If one of them was a boy….would he be like me do you think?'

'Yes, I hope so…….just like you. Why?'

He smiled and squeezed my hand quite hard. His face changed.

'Sorry……..I didn't mean to upset you….sorry.'

I handed him the hanky, thought about it for a moment…… and apologized again. He laughed and said it was an easy mistake to make, and rather an endearing one at that. He held the hanky in his hand…now a small compact package of moisture and linen held tightly within his fist. I didn't see it again. It had a large 'R K' in red embroidery in the corner…..a sort of script design. I thought it might have been a Christmas present from someone.

'Would you like to sleep a bit more…..there's no hurry.'

'Will you come in with me…just for a bit….please?'

'And if you told your mother….what do think she would say? I'm not sure would approve John.'

'She wouldn't get it would she?'

'No….you're right……..she wouldn't.…….but can we talk some more if you want?'

We did talk some more….lots more…..about thoughts and feelings and people.

At one point in the conversation I asked him what he thought of us lot at school. He said he loved us all equally. Then I asked him what he meant by the word 'love'. He said it meant all kinds of different things to do with people. He said that teaching others, especially the young, was an expression of charity in the broadest sense, and that another word for charity is love. I asked him if he had been loving towards me. He said he had tried to be and he hoped he had been. I said that I was sure he had been.

During that time with him I felt the closest I have ever been to anyone……..apart from my immediate family that is, and my beloved brother Andrew……..and I have never forgotten what I learnt from him that morning. But there was one thing he hadn't done that I wanted him to do, and that was to draw me just like the one of him on the wall I had admired. I wanted to know more about his friendship with Gerald too. I had to ask him.

'Will you draw me please….like that one your friend Gerald did?'

He set me up by the window of his bedroom. I can't imagine what anybody would have thought if they were passing by and happened to look up, but as virtually no one ever passed by that I can remember it didn't matter. I stood leaning against the frame of the window with my hands to my sides, one leg slightly in front of the other and my head turned a little to the right so I could look at the flat fields, golden from the ripening wheat, stretching away into the distance. I felt my eyes filling as my body warmed in the morning sunshine which created a pattern of shadows on my body. I imagined I was a sculpture in a museum, being admired by a group of art lovers. I could feel his eyes examining every line and form in my body…..every little detail, as his pencil moved its living way across me. It was as if he was actually touching me…..it was so intimate a feeling. I was aware that my body was responding. It never took much.

'Sorry.'

'Don't be. You're very beautiful like that.'

Very beautiful. I'm sure that made it worse.

In half an hour he'd finished. He wouldn't give me the drawing.

'You will have it one day John, I promise. I don't know how, but you'll have it, ok?'

I think that excited me more than anything…the thought that one day we would meet again.

He gave in to one demand I made of him….to get me washed and dressed, including the lavatory bit, bless him. It was a wonderfully intimate and physically exciting process. My dear brother Andrew and I have pIayed dressing and undressing games many times. With him, in a way it compensated for my disappointment of the bedroom……only a bit though, sadly, as far as I was concerned. As you may have gathered I was desperate to make love to him despite my tender age, but of course that is impossible even if he had wanted it which I am absolutely sure he didn't?

That morning we finally got into the garden. It's why I was there at all, although that's not quite true is it?

He had ironed my shorts which put nice creases in them just like mum does. He looked at them prior to me putting them on this morning and decided they needed it, and I didn't argue. I just stood there in my underpants while he did it. When he was satisfied with the result, he held them open for me to step into, my hands on his shoulders, remarking on how smart I looked…..apart from a little bit of peach colour showing above the waist band of my shorts. I told him I rather liked it showing……..he just laughed and said he thought them a nice colour so why not. There was some lovely warm morning sunshine so we went topless not forgetting some, albeit cursory, sun protection around my shoulders. I stood there in the garden while he did it. The feel of his hands on my body had exactly the same effect as it did yesterday afternoon. I can't help it….he just does it so wonderfully….so lovingly. He stood behind me to do my tummy. I could feel him behind me, just pressing against me lightly. It was happening again. I can't help it.

We'd found plenty of fragments of white clay pipes in the past, broken and then discarded by the men tending the field over the years. They are fragile things and would easily get snapped in two as they dug potatoes or whatever they did, and we found them more or less where they originally fell probably. He had resumed the digging project near the front boundary of the garden just by the house side of a ditch which had long since stopped draining the field of water. They call them 'dykes' round here. A dyke can be a small thing like this was, basically a ditch, or it can be something quite substantial and some yards across so he said. My job was to rake up any weeds and loose grass and pile it up ready for the compost heap. We'd been going nicely for a half hour or so when I spotted something odd. I have no idea how or why I noticed it, but notice it I did. It was a small dark circular disc like object sticking out of a lump of dried mud. I dropped to my knees and picked it out of the clod of earth that was partially covering it. It was about half an inch wide and dark brown in colour. It looked interesting. When I began to pick at it with a finger nail, the colour changed subtly to a deep yellow. Then I realised what it was. It was a coin.

The museum in Peterborough confirmed that the gold coin was dated around 400 AD, which was about the time the Roman army and administration were pulling out of Britain……the exact date they gave was 406 AD. There was known to be a garrison in that area, and the name of the emperor at the time, Honorious, was stamped on one side of the coin, plus his rather crude portrait showing the right side of his face. I was allowed to keep it as it was such a tiny find. Not to me it wasn't. I thought it a fitting summary to my time spent at his house, and I had no intention of turning the coin into cash. Of course I still have it…in a little green baize pocket my mother made for it shortly after we received confirmation of what it actually was. I take it out and look at it occasionally. You can imagine what effect that has on me. It always takes me back to that garden……..and him of course.

That was the last weekend, or rather the last Saturday I spent at the house in the Fens. Two weeks later it was all history. His departure was a quiet affair with the usual announcements and short speeches thanking the staff that were leaving, and so on in assembly, and that was it. I didn't see him at all after that, although I had walked all around the school after the last bell had gone. He wasn't there. In a corner I saw a girl crying……….her friend was sitting next to her with an arm around her. I don't remember cycling home.

One year later

His house was on my cycle route for that day, not for the first time. I was always curious, and when I approached his house on a dull and misty Saturday morning in October I saw a figure in the garden. For a fleeting moment I thought it might be him, but it wasn't of course. I stopped and got off the bike by the wooden five bar gate unconsciously I think, wanting to be noticed by the woman standing in the garden putting clothes on a line strung from a nearby tree to the house. I must have a little noise because she did notice me, and seeing me there taking an interest in her garden, she called out……

'Hello…can I help?'

Encouraged now to make contact, I propped my bike up against the gate post and went in to see her. She looked quite young, perhaps in her twenties, had longish blond hair, and quite tall. I could see why he might like her. I walked up to her……

'Hi. I used to come here on Saturdays.'

Thinking back, it was ridiculous thing to say, but she knew immediately who I was.

'It's you isn't it. You're John aren't you? Yes….you're the boy who helped him in the garden. It is you isn't it?'

We went inside and she made me us both some tea. I looked around remembering how it had looked, and I noticed that some of the furniture was the same. There was a photo of him above the fireplace in a thin wooden frame. She was a friend of his who was renting the house while he was abroad.

'He never said that that much about you, but he did mention you quite regularly. You were the boy that found the coin weren't you? Yes……come to think of it, he often talked about you…..but…….whenever I started asking more questions about you he would say 'oh, he was just someone who helped in the garden' and then he would change the subject, but it was rather obvious that you weren't just the boy who came to do the garden. Did you fall out or something? I know you made quite an impression on him….you must have. I think it was a bit of a private thing with him so I never enquired too deeply. I think he was very fond of you. Did you realise that?' There was a an awkward silence, then I asked her

'Were you his girlfriend then?'

'Err…well sort of I suppose…..and still am I think….a good friend at least. He's slightly mercurial in that way…..you can never quite tell for sure….but it's not a permanent thing I'm sure, at least with me it's not, but I enjoy his company when I go down and see him, always assuming he's not running round Epping Forest with those boys of his. I don't go down to Essex if it's one of those weekends when the boys have to stay at school. Usually they go home for the weekends but every fourth one they have to stay at school. I did go down then once….they're terribly sweet….all like brothers, including Raf.'

'Essex?'

'Yes. He came back from the States last year and got a job at an independent school in outer London. Would you like his address? I'm sure he'd love to hear from you…..it's……. Waylands House……..

Two months later

It was the first Saturday of the Christmas holiday. I went into the 'front room' as we call it which looks out into fields with the Fenlands stretching out beyond to a far horizon where I knew he would no longer be. I was dressed in my usual cycling shorts as if I were still going, although I knew I wasn't. As I looked out I felt sad. My mother must have come into the room, but I hadn't heard her. I was far away. I imagine she had sensed something in the atmosphere, I don't know, but I felt her arm close around my shoulder in that way that mother's do when they know you need them. She waited a few seconds before she said…

'Do you want to tell me darling?'

I couldn't speak, but I put my arms around her middle and shook my head as I put my head sideways against her chest. She knows, and I'm so glad that she does.

'I'm so sorry darling. You're going to miss him aren't you.'

I looked up at her, my eyes telling her everything I couldn't tell her in words. She held me close to her with both arms now, enclosing me with her loving arms that I know so well, and I'm sure that she is feeling my pain as much as I am.

I hadn't heard Andrew come into the room. I felt him press against my arm, his hand gently laid on my back.

'Why is John crying mummy?'

'It's alright darling. John's been away for a while, but he's back with us now. Growing up can be very painful sometimes.'

I was gently rocked in my mother's arms, as I felt Andrew's presence with me.

Andrew broke the silence.

'Where's John been mummy? Peterborough or somewhere?'

I feel my brother's hand on mine.

THE END

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