Simon Says

by Rafael Henry

Chapter 1

The year is nineteen ninety two

'What's your name?' asks the slightly taller boy, with an assertive edge to his tone.

'William…..but they call me Will….usually. What's yours?'

'Ryan……and I'm never called anything else…..apart from what my sister calls me.'

'What does she call you then?'

'Bumhole…..creep arse…..that sort of thing.'

Wills laughs, and Ryan smiles back at Will.

'Is she older than you?' Will enquires with that rather cute and disarming expression.

'No. She's nearly two years younger. She's………'

'What?'

'She's a little shit, if you must know.'

'Do you love her?'

'Yes of course I do. Do you have a brother or sister?'

'Yes. An older sister.'

'Do you love her ?'

'Yes. I don't see much of her really. She's four years older than me. How old are you?'

'Thirteen. You?'

'Twelve…just.'

'When were you?'

'Last Wednesday. You must really like football Ryan.'

'Umm. You're clever then.'

'Why?'

'You're just like my sister.'

'Ok, Shall I bugger off then?'

Will goes red…..out of annoyance at Ryan's sarcasm rather than being likened to an irritating little girl, although that grated too. To be fair, Will can see Ryan's holding a soccer ball, so it's not exactly unlikely that Ryan likes to kick it about from time to time, if not all the time. Will is a sensitive boy, and not confident about all sorts of things, so he tends to question everything in his boyish rather endearing way of his, just to be sure he's got it right. He's cautious…doesn't want to put his foot in it, so to speak. But that approach can have its downside. He can annoy other boys…….irritate them with his questions, which are only born out of a fear that he will upset a potential friend, who then won't want to be friends with him. It's a fine line. He's just offered to get out of Ryan's space, but that was really just to guage Ryan's reaction to him…..get him to say, hopefully, 'No, don't go.' But Ryan's reaction isn't negative.

'It's ok. Don't you like football then?'

'Yeah.'

'No you don't. You're crap at it. I saw you this morning.'

When they picked sides, he was the last to be chosen. That's always a sure sign is it not? It's that sort of a holiday….activities for the kids, most of which are the more physical kind. Improving your skills on the piano are not usually one of them. Will is grade five on the piano, and by all accounts will be good at it in time……very good in fact. He knows he would rather be sitting at a piano stool than getting seven bells kicked out of him on the football pitch. It's not that he doesn't like the idea of it…..kicking a ball about……but he just can't do it anywhere near as well as he would like. It's not his thing. He's an artistic boy who already at his tender age, appreciates fine things…….fine sounds and all things visual. Last term, he found a book in the Art Library about Greek and Roman sculpture. There were images in it that excited him……that made him want to make one himself. He put the book back, but noticed another next to it. It was about the life of Michelangelo. He asked if he could borrow it. Answer, yes you may. He read it all in bed over a week. When he put the book down and turned off the bedside light, he lay on his side and thought about what he had read and seen. He thought about the male nude. He thought it was wonderful….liberating……beautiful…..and exciting. He imagined that he was Michelangelo's model. He imagined how Michelangelo would talk to him…….setting the various poses….moving his body this way and that until it was just as he wanted him…..touching him….gently. There were other models in the Master's studio. Boys. They were all friends. There was a special one. He was like him……a dark haired boy, and quiet and sensitive…….and beautiful in a way that Will likes. They would rest when Michelangelo didn't need or want them. They would touch and explore each other in the warmth of the bed. There would be physical encounters, and afterwards they would sleep…….close…….touching and breathing in soft breaths together.

He had learnt what masturbation was. He'd heard the word, and knew it had to do with his penis….when it got hard. His friend had invited him to his birthday party, and he had slept over. They both knew why. At last they had an opportunity to explore their ideas and feelings together. They showed each other their bodies, and felt them…..everywhere. Will's heart was beating fast when their bedtime was announced. Was it wrong……..what they did? Of course it wasn't.

Will smiles at Ryan. Ryan doesn't smile back.

'I know I'm no good at football, but they say practice makes perfect don't they?'

'Not in your case.'

'Ok. We could go to the beach? I saw you there yesterday.'

'You're queer aren't you.'

That was a statement rather than a question. It hurt Will. So much so that he felt his face go red. Any mention of that word made him go red. He had never sat down and asked himself if he actually was 'queer', as Ryan put it. He had read that lots of boys experiment sexually with one another, and that was 'normal'. He'd done it with his friend. They thought they would do it together, but in the end both boys had satisfied the other in turn. They had used their hands and fingers. They had watched and waited. Will had taken much longer, but it had happened. Afterwards they had talked about it, and how good it had felt. They were even better friends because of it. They had even discussed kissing, but of course not done it. Well, not that night.

There was a pause before Will responded to Ryan's accusation.

'Why did you say that Ryan?' Will asks, fearing that tears might suddenly overwhelm him.

'Because you fucking are . Go on….are you?'

'No.' is Will's answer.

He feels the heat in face begin to subside, but that awful sense of guilt remains. Guilt. Guilty as charged….maybe? Will feels angry now, but Ryan isn't finished with him.

'Why were you looking then? I saw you looking at me. Did you see me then?'

'See what?'

'You know what. Did you?'

He had looked. He was watching as Ryan changed on the beach. He was with his parents and sister, just as he was. Ryan's towel had slipped and Will had seen everything, and tried to look away, but couldn't. It's true, Ryan had seen him looking. Ryan knew that Will was there, and had hoped that Will would look at him. Will was lying on his tummy and it had become uncomfortable.

Will had liked what he had seen. He had seen Ryan's penis…..and the rest of it. It all looked big to him…..bigger than his. He remembered being with his friend in his bed that night……..what they did together. They had almost kissed that night. In the morning it all happened again…..and then again. This time they did kiss……just for a few moments before his friend pulled away. The following week his friend didn't want to be his friend any more. Queer Will?

'I wasn't looking.' insists Will.

'You fucking were. Did you like it then?'

'What?'

'My dick, you……. dickhead !

Wills laughs, and a moment later, so does Ryan. Ice broken……..just a bit? Maybe Will can turn the tables here?

'It was ok I suppose……for a kid…….you know…….a kid's willy.'

'What's that supposed to mean? Have you seen other ones then?'

'Yeah.'

'Where?'

'At swimming club.'

'What were they like?'

The two boys are close to talking about sex. Both of them want to, because boys of that age always want to, and in their case, for reasons not so different as we might think.

'Do want a kick-around then? We could go on the beach?' enquires Ryan, with an almost conciliatory tone of voice.

The beach is a short distance from the chalets that their parents have taken for the fortnight in August. It was one of the cheaper holidays. Money is tight for both families, but the children would enjoy the safe and guarded beach and the other facilities on offer, and be amused and occupied, leaving a few hours of freedom each day for their respective parents.

'Not really.' replies Will, feeling more confident now that he can influence matters just a little.

Ryan drops the ball, and traps it neatly with his bare right foot. Will smiles. It's time to pay Ryan a compliment.

'That's clever. I couldn't do that.'

'That's because you're crap at football.' Ryan reposts, almost smiling. No, he's not going to smile for Will…..the handsome beast. Handsome? Oh yes…..Ryan knows he is. But Ryan also knows that he's physically strong, good at games, and probably very attractive to girls……and quite imaginative when it comes to bragging about what he's done with them. Ryan's parents have been good role models, and as a result, he takes a kindly look upon his fellow human beings….usually. Deep down, he knows he has been unkind towards Will, and deep down, he is regretful. But there's anger lurking deep inside him, formed from doubts that he has about himself.

The football stays more or less put, where it lay, stilled by Ryan's deft footwork. Ryan, leaving the ball to sit where it is, moves over to the window and gazes out, both hands on the sill, holding his body clear of the intervening bicycle propped against the wall. It's an awkward stance, but then again, he feels awkward……..uncomfortable. Is it Will who has unsettled him, disturbed his equilibrium, or is it something deep within him?

Ryan sees figures on the distant beach…….the place where his towel fell loose and he became the victim of another boy's eyes, and seen for what he is. He has let a queer boy see his nakedness. He has allowed a queer boy to see his nakedness. Such a handsome boy is queer Will. How little Ryan knows of himself. How fearful he is of himself, and how angry that strange jumble of feelings make him.

Will takes the few steps towards the window where Ryan stands awkwardly. Like Ryan, his hands rest on the window sill, as he looks out into the light. The few inches between them close. It wasn't intentional on Will's part. He never intended his arm to touch Ryan's. He never intended to make such as gesture.

Have you ever seen red? I know I have, just once or twice. Tripped by another boy on the stairs was one occasion. Mocked on the field of play. That was another.

The blow from Ryan's arm was swift and sure. It was the outside of his forearm that did the damage. It was no glancing blow either. The full force of it caught Will on the side of his head….around the area of the cheek bone to be precise. Fortunately, Ryan was not wearing his watch which normally, but unusually for boys, sat on his right wrist. If he had been, there's little doubt that the damage would have been far worse than it was.

For a moment he had thought he had lost consciousness. He had been knocked into the corner of the room, and was sitting on his bottom with his left hand on the side of his throbbing head. It had hurt him, and the pain was increasing. It was a splitting pain….a mystery pain…..inexplicable in the short term. Soon Will was weeping, head lowered and frightened at the intensity of everything. The pain was not just a physical one. Gradually, as the pain subsided, another kind took over. He was weeping not just for himself, but for others he would never know, never see, but knew were there. They were with him now, hands on his shoulder….gentle and loving hands that will give him the strength to endure the almost unendurable. To endure the difference……the darkness of being different, until the light of understanding should prevail, and bring him peace.

Will couldn't see Ryan's tears, as he knelt over him. He wanted to touch his victim, but couldn't. He tried again to touch him, by way of making amends perhaps, but failed again. It was an act of violence…….unjustified, cruel, and shameful. He knew there was no excuse.

Ryan began to think about the consequences of his action. Parents would be involved, explanations demanded from all sides, and a suitable punishment devised. For you Ryan, the day of repentance is nigh…….oh remorseful day. But fortunate Ryan……..oh lucky handsome beast that you are……..that day of reckoning for your sins will not come. Not on Will's account. To err is human, but to forgive, divine. For Ryan, divine beauty is about to rain down upon him.

Unaided, Will gets to his feet, watched by a fearful and untouching Ryan. Will leans into the corner of the room, the side of his face pink and hot feeling, with remains of tears.

'What will you do?' Ryan asks, quietly.

'Nothing.' replies Will.

'You won't tell your parents?'

'No.'

'You know I'm sorry don't you?'

'Yes I know.'

'How will you explain…….that?'

'What?'

'The big red patch on your face?'

'I don't know. I fell over playing I suppose…….landed on the side of my head.'

Of course. It could easily be explained to others……what had happened. Boys often play roughly. It's not unusual for this sort of thing to happen. But it wasn't that sort of thing was it? No. It was another sort of thing.

'Does it hurt?'

'Yes…a bit. It's ok…..don't worry.'

Don't worry. Such sweet forgiveness.

'I'm sorry Will.'

'It's ok…… really .'

There will be no consequences. Don't worry , he said. Such blessed relief for Ryan.

It's strange how relief of that nature……expecting the worst, and then knowing it will not happen……..can manifest itself in odd ways.

Ryan looks into Will's face. He looks at him differently now. He sees him differently now…….knows him better, and knows himself better now. It's strange how things work. It's stranger still how a boy's body works.

The boys look at each other. It's been more than a few seconds now, but Ryan needs to tell Will something important. Something that needs to be said.

'I'm sorry about what I said to you.'

'What?'

'About…..being queer. All that stuff.'

'That's ok. There's nothing wrong with me…is there?'

'No, of course there isn't. I never said there was……did I?'

Will smiles, lowers his head, and says……..

'There's nothing wrong with you either.'

'Are you sure?' says Ryan.

'Yes, I'm sure. Quite sure.'

Ryan has never touched a boy. He has, however, thought about them like most boys do……at certain times. Sometimes he has been afraid of his thoughts. They have cast doubt in his mind. He knows when he sees a handsome boy. He has thought about them. He has been affected by his thoughts. He is affected by Will……at this moment.

'Should I turn the other cheek Ryan?'

Ryan is amused at Will's amusing biblical reference.

'You're funny Will.' Ryan says, half laughing. The atmosphere is fresher now….lighter……getting back to normal…….like it should be.

'Funny….as in queer?'

'No.'

'But people……one or two…..think I am. Do you think I am?' asks Will.

'I don't know.'

'Would it matter?'

'No…not now.' Says Ryan, looking down.

'I think I might be. Do you know any girls?'

Might be? That's what some of the boys at school think. They had some reason to think so. There had been a couple of incidents. He had been seen 'experimenting' with another boy in the corner of the school playing fields one lunchtimes. Engrossed in what they were doing, they hadn't noticed the boy approaching. Disaster. By the end of the afternoon, quite a few boys knew about it.

'Simmons was doing him.' explains Strang.

'Did he come?' asks Johnson.

'Yeah.'

That's what they always want to know. Was there any? How much? In those situations, it's what boys want to know……the precise details, usually elaborated. Trouble inevitably lay ahead for Will and his friend. The comments, gestures with hands and fingers…….all that sort of thing. Horrible things that should never happen.

Will's admission that he might be 'queer' was followed by a question about any possible interest Ryan might have in girls. Ryan didn't answer Will's question, but asked if Will wanted to walk on the beach. He said he would like that, but could they leave the soccer ball behind. That made them both laugh. Before they left the room, Ryan touched Will's wounded face, rather like a doctor would, feeling for heat and inflammation. It was a gesture of reconciliation, much appreciated by Will. He noticed, as he looked into Ryan's face, that he was upset. There were no tears but there were signs that they were not far away. Will feels a warmth in his body….all the way through it. He wonders if Ryan's gesture is causing his arousal. Ryan has never touched another boy in that way before. He feels the warm skin……and then again.

Dark eyes into dark eyes as they peer inside one another Soft dark hair on fingers through it, as Moving forwards, faces near, closer now, blood flows faster To places where love will show How we feel? Oh blessed be our bodies, oh blessed be the grass we lie on Oh blessed be the night! Oh blessed be that pure and perfect love That dare not speak its name*

This four chapter story is part of the 2017 writing challenge "In His Room" which is open for voting between 16 September and 17 October 2017. The voting is at the end of the fourth chapter, as are the details of the challenge and thus links to all the other stories in it. Please do remember to vote if you are within the voting period.

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