The Observer

by Rafael Henry

Chapter 1

A note from the writer: I have use real locations in most of my stories because it adds authenticity as far as I am concerned, and it's more engaging for me as the writer. It requires a little research, but I hope the settings in interesting places adds to the stories a little. Please note that I have no personal connections with any of the places or institutions mentioned, or implied, nor have any of the events that I describe ever taken place in them, and all the characters are from my imagination. There's a risk that a reader associated with one of those institutions mentioned may be offended as a result. For that I apologize, and I repeat that the whole thing is a fiction, and is intended to be just an entertainment.

'Nothing is so bad that it can't be put on paper…..nothing so shameful……'

So said Alan Bennett, playwright and diarist.

Well, I suppose that is debatable, depending on one's moral stance I suppose.

Anyway, let's not worry too much about it shall we?

I've called this piece 'The Observer' which in some ways describes me. I observe for a living because I'm an artist, as in writer, film maker, photographer, painter, musician, actor, and so on. I might be any, or just one of these. And so it is that I've always observed the world about me in sometimes minute detail. Some things in the world attract my attention more than others it has to be said. One animate object above all others does just that. It's the human form in general, both inside and out. Certain categories are of particular passing interest…….and one in particular. My observation of this delectable and charming creature is regarded as shameful by the majority. I do realise that. How this taste arrived in my psyche I have no idea. Perhaps it was a quirk of nature, a rogue gene, a couple of wires crossed, or maybe it was acquired somehow through my environment. Who knows, but it is there……this very particular taste for this very particular creature. I don't suppose it's just me either. I imagine there are quite a few others just like me, keeping that particular taste well hidden under the surface of normal life. I happen to be a married man, with no burning desire to engage physically with another man, and do the things that one might do together. Actually, I should qualify that statement…..I am married man not cohabiting with his wife. Fifteen years, and three children later, I find myself separated and living on my own. By some irony, my wife decided that a girlfriend of hers was more than just a girlfriend. Subsequently, and after much honest discussion, it was amicably agreed that we would no longer live under the same roof. The children….two girls and the oldest, a boy, were involved with the later arrangements, and were forgiving of both of us. Their understanding is of course limited still, as is ours I suppose, to a degree. Amy has the girls, but Mathew lives with me. Beyond these basic details we need not go I think. Suffice it to say that everything we could have done to ensure their stability and well-being, we have done. It is all so unfortunate, but it has happened, so there it is.

You might be thinking that I was inadequate in bed. No, it wasn't that. I was perfectly happy to make love to Amy whenever she wanted, which, considering we had three children, wasn't anywhere near an every night thing, but more like a couple of times week, if that. She didn't have to work. I did, despite family circumstances giving us an undeserved and partly unearned comfortable life. My work in the creative field has been rewarding, and continues to reward, to the extent that I can usually please myself when I work, but that's another story. Amy was social, as well as being a good mother, doing all the things that good mothers do. Amy is an emotional little bird, and the mouth on mouth stuff with tongues entwined has always been a sexual hair trigger for her. I have to admit that that was one thing I fell short on. Sex, the 'straight' way was always the order of the day with Amy. Occasionally I would suggest something a bit different, particularly front onto back, but Amy always considered the thought a little deviant. Strange then that she should finally opt for the love of a woman rather than a man. I'm quite certain that we still love each other in our own ways…..IMOW, as she always called it…….'I love you IMOW' she would tell me…….. 'in my own way' ……and of course I love Amy…..I still do… my own way . I do have this theory that women can enjoy the body of another woman more readily than a man will enjoy the body of another man. I think that many women find the 'mess' adult males produce, a little distasteful. I personally rather like it. I wish I made more of it. I have to say that I have orgasmed probably three times more by my own hand than with the aid of Amy's vagina. What I have produced with her consent, and placed it enthusiastically inside her, has done the job efficiently. The children that have resulted, will be loved as much as is humanly possible, unconditionally, and for as long as we all shall live.

Amy's affair with Sandra started well before we finally separated. I knew about it of course, because Amy couldn't make a secret of it, even if she was capable of it, which she wasn't. Like me, it was almost impossible to keep anything from her. She would know, and so would I. Things were going on. She would get emotional in bed, and refuse to explain. She would look at me in tears. Eventually she told me what I had long suspected. She had fallen in love with one of her girl friends, Sandra. She told me one night just after we had gone up to bed. I immediately wanted to hold her. She wanted that, and we kissed deeply….deeper perhaps than we had ever done before. How ironic. We made love immediately after her announcement. She even came before I did, which was unheard of. I think it was the joy, for her, of the unburdening…..the relief of it. She had finally 'come out' to me, and I had been sympathetic.

Of course I wanted to know how far her affair had gone, physically speaking. She didn't need to explain much. I asked her if they had ever used our bed. She said they had, on many occasions.

'That was naughty wasn't it?'

'Yes. Sorry. Are you very angry about that?'

'No, not at all. What about hers? Did you go there much?'

'Yes. I'd go over for coffee a couple of times a week. I don't think we ever finished the coffee before…….well, you know. It was all very intense.'

In the days following her confessions, Amy was more accommodating of me than she had ever been. She agreed to describe the physical side of her relationship with Sandra. She was amused how her words and the pictures they painted, turned me on sexually. For the first time in our relationship, I orgasmed by her hand while I lay back entranced by her descriptions. One morning I came in her mouth for the very first time. It was all rather clumsy and experimental, but it worked. Amy recoiled in shock and horror as the presence of the warm and unfamiliar tasting semen made its presence known in her mouth. She wasn't amused, but I was thrilled. I remember laughing out loud just afterwards. It was the first time in my life that I'd come that way. It didn't, or rather hasn't happened again. Maybe it will one day with the right person.

It was a sad time of course, but we got through the whole transitional process amicably, with a few laughs thrown in, it has to be said. Whether she ever realised the extent of my own weaknesses, I don't know, not even now. She would comment on how I looked at a woman, or a girl, in the street. On occasions, a boy might pass. The figure would always attract a prolonged glance from me. I'm still not sure if she ever noticed. Perhaps she just didn't want to notice. At this point, I should make it very clear that one's own family are, and always have been, totally exempt from any such scrutiny. No, that would never do, not in a million years.

Mathew is fourteen now. He boards at a reasonably local school, and he loves the life that a boarding school offers him. He's outgoing, academically rather average, very sporty, and fun to be with. He's still at that stage of having boys as friends rather than girlfriends. Having said that, I strongly suspect that he has, or has had a boyfriend, which of course is a little different to having a boy as a friend. That's fine too, and thus far he's not a problem, and has taken the transition in our family life pretty well on the whole, knowing that whatever happens, he will always be loved. The girls, younger, are slightly more complex, but ok. Generally, I'm fine with the idea that they are living within a same sex and loving relationship. They'll be fine I'm sure. As far as my own early life goes, I too experienced life in a boarding school, and had more than one boyfriend in my time, so I'm in no position to judge on that issue. There was sex of course……but nothing beyond the usual fiddling with each other in discrete corners, always ending with a very satisfying result. That behaviour extended to University on a couple of occasions, until I met Amy in my last year. I doubt if rabbits did it more than we did. I was twenty and she was nineteen when I got her pregnant. We were married within a month, and then Mathew appeared…..our beautiful baby. My family helped hugely, and one way and another we got through, and had two more of the little beasts. In fifteen years of marriage, I never defaulted. Amy has, as you know, but that is somehow alright. I sincerely hope they are happy together, but I can admit to pangs of jealousy. I've thought of finding a male companion, with whom I wouldn't rule out sex. I've always had a secret ambition, that at least once in my life, I will experience anal intercourse. As boys, any such thoughts were taboo, apart from what you might do to yourself privately. Perhaps things have changed now. I'm determined that I will never marry again. I have promised Mathew and the girls that I wouldn't. I've seen sons and daughters denied their rightful inheritance that way.

Trains. I like trains. I find them endlessly interesting, not only from the travel point of view, but also for the people you meet. I suppose the whole concept is cliché ridden…….the girl on the train…….the man on the train……..the incident on the train…….the body on the train, and so on. Trains, like lots of things, can change lives occasionally for the better, and sometimes like all modes of transport, catastrophically for the worse. There are fast trains, slow trains, packed and almost empty ones. Long ones, short ones, new ones, old ones, and so on. This one was a two coach job, diesel powered on a single track along the south coast of England. It was the middle of the day when there would be fewer passengers, and one could pick and choose where one sits. I like to face the 'engine' as it were, with as unobstructed view of the landscape as possible. I don't sleep or read on the train, I just observe. I got into the habit, encouraged by a good art teacher I had as a boy, to keep a sketchbook with me wherever I go. Although I'm strictly a keen amateur, I have never got out of the habit of drawing. I find it an endlessly challenging way of keeping myself interested in the world, and learning more about it as I proceed through life. It's like a diary in many ways, but without words….usually. I do notate on occasions. I wouldn't be without my Moleskine and a short 4B pencil held in position along the open edge with an elastic band found outside the front door, dropped conveniently by the postman.

It was at Winchelsea station that he got on the train. I saw him standing there on the short platform, his bag handles over his shoulder. You couldn't miss him dressed as he was. The train gradually slowed as it approached the platform, weed strewn, and generally rather unkempt. The train came to a halt with screeching of steel on steel about ten yards short of where he was standing. His was the only figure on the platform. I heard the guard open the door behind me and as I looked back, I saw him step onto the platform. The automatic doors quietly slid apart half way down the coach. A moment later the figure steps up, and back into view. He looks left and then right towards me. There are four other occupants in our coach, none of which are within five or so rows of seats of where I'm sitting on a seat for two, opposite two identical seats. I prefer opposite seats rather than having one's knees squashed against the back of the seat in front, and of course it presents an opportunity for conversation.

I wondered where he would sit. He stood looking around few a few seconds trying to arrive at a decision. I thought he was going to opt for the far end, but he didn't. He turned towards me and started to walk in my direction. He was about six feet away now. I smiled at him. He smiled back.

'Can I sit here please?'

He could have sat on his own easily. There were several empty seats nearby. I nodded enthusiastically.

'Of course! I'll move my bag.'

The boy hauls his bag onto the seat next to the window, and sits himself down next to the aisle. He looks straight ahead.

'Would you like to be next to the window? if I move this way, they'll be more room for you.'

He looks pleased with that idea. I move onto the aisle seat, and he moves his bag opposite me, and plonks himself down by the window. The diesel motor picks up revs, engages drive, and we move slowly off. I keep my eyes on the boy who avoids eye contact with me. If he looks at me, I will look away. I have to be quick or he'll notice. If he notices, it will embarrass him, and possibly make him suspicious. He's quite young…… more than twelve, possibly less. I'm wondering why he chose to sit where he did. I can't resist it.

'There are lots of spare seats. Wouldn't you prefer to sit on your own?'

'Shall I move then?'

'No of course not…….not if you feel comfortable where you are.'

'I'm fine thanks. I'd rather sit with someone if you don't mind. I don't like sitting on my own. Where are you going?'

Brilliant, on two counts. Firstly, he feels comfortable sitting opposite me, and secondly, we have the basis of a conversation. I want to know more about my travelling companion.

'I'm going to Chichester. Where might you be heading for?'

The boy seemed to be pleased with that. He gave me a very nice smile.

'Are you? That's where I'm going.'

He looks out of the window, turned sideways a little, chin in the palm of his hand. He bites tentatively at his bottom lip. He's thinking. I look at his figure as I've looked at hundreds of others. Inwardly, I nod a gesture of satisfaction, and I wonder how much more I will know about him by the time I get to my destination.

'Nice blazer.'

'It's a bit bright. They used to be grey. Now they're this colour. I think we all look like traffic lights.'

He's right, it's like a beacon……bright vermilion red, plus a red tie on grey shirt. That's a good combination. Nice jumper too…..grey with a red stripe around the 'V' neck. Everything is good quality. I appreciate that.

'So the badge then……..what does that tell us?'

'That I'm at the Priory School?'

'Right. And where is that? Let me guess. Close to the Cathedral?'

'Right next door.'

He laughs at my accurate judgement, and now I can see nicely spaced teeth inside a well-formed mouth. He's still smiling as chin meets palm of hand again. He's comfortable now about being 'observed'.

'Aren't you hot with all that lot on? It's pretty warm in here.'

He doesn't recoil at my rather crass question. The boy stands up and begins to take off his blazer.

'Do you want me to put it up in the overhead rack?' I volunteer.

'No, I can reach it, thanks.'

He folds the blazer roughly to avoid creasing it. It looks fairly new. Then he reaches up and just manages to reach high enough to carefully lay the garment along the rack. In doing so he has to stretch upwards. His grey shirt is tailless, and rides up with jumper and parts company with his trousers. A couple of inches of bare flesh are revealed. He tries to tuck his shirt in but he doesn't get it right, and he gives up. He looks slightly annoyed so I look away. I need an activity, so I extract my A5 Moleskine sketchbook from my jacket pocket and thumb through the pages of drawings. It's a signal to my friend opposite that I've lost interest in him. I look up and notice that he's watching what I'm doing.

Bexhill station has a very long platform. Legend has it that it was built to accommodate huge numbers of children returning to their boarding schools that are numerous in that area. That's ridiculous of course. Lord something or other, who developed the town in Edwardian times, just wanted to make a statement probably, about how wealthy he was. That's more likely. One person gets out of our coach, and moments later a woman gets on. I watch her. She notices me, and walks to the far end and sits down. The diesel motor revs up again and we move off amid the noise of the accelerating engine. I look towards the boy. He looking at the sketchbook I'm holding, trying not to look interested, but I know he is.

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