The Observer

by Rafael Henry

Chapter 15

Right. A fair amount has happened since I last put pen to paper, as it were. A couple of nights ago, James and Mathew had the most enormous row. I'm not entirely sure what it was about exactly, but I have an idea. It all happened in James' room. That's weird……it's not James' room, it Mathews. So why did I say James' room?

You may remember that James takes the train to Ashford. When he started school there, there was one other boy who travelled with him. Now there are two apparently. James had never mentioned this one, but I saw them together a few weeks ago in the own. James needed some items from Adams the stationers. I asked James who this other boy was. He said he was the younger brother of the boy I had seen in the car park getting into his mother's car. He's in Year Eight, which would make him twelve or thirteen. Both this boy and James were in shorts, which always attracts my attention. Put it this way……this new kid on the block was well worth a second 'observation'. James told me his name…….Elliot. I can't track every movement that James makes in and around Rye, and most of the time he's with Jane, his mother, in Winchelsea.

That's the first thing. The second thing is that the morning after James' birthday sleep-in with me, which ended unsatisfactorily as far as I was concerned, Mathew phones. He has several days without any exam commitments, and could I fetch him from Canterbury tomorrow? Ok, I say. I have a car now which I keep in a rented garage on the edge of town. I was without one for a couple of years, but what with more out-of-hours fetching and carrying, I invested in a ten year old Mercedes sports. The top comes down and it's great fun. I duly set off for Canterbury the next day to get Mathew from the school. There's a great view from there looking down the hill to the cathedral below. Mathew is loaded with books for revision, and seems grumpy. It's decent weather so I ask him if he would like the 'lid' down on the car. He says he would. As we spin along the A28 towards Ashford, I look at him. His mood has lightened. The car is undoubtedly fun. He smiles that old smile of his, handsome boy, and says……

'Well done Dad……..I like it. It's good isn't it?'

I laughed, and told him I thought he'd like it. I know I do.

At home in Watchbell Street, all seemed fine to start with, but about four in the afternoon….

'When was James last here Dad?'


'No reason.'

My immediate thought is what has he found? My relationship with James is our business. It's obviously very personal and something I hold dear. Mathew isn't to know about it under any circumstances. As it happened, thank goodness, it was nothing to do with me. Mathew had made a discovery. The boys always did their school work at the kitchen table. Mathew had thrown a piece of paper into the waste paper bin in the kitchen…..decided he needed it after all, and in the process of retrieving it, noticed another little fragment of paper with writing on it he didn't recognize. It's a note from Luke's younger brother, Elliot, and addressed to James. Mathew showed it to me. His face was a mixture of anger and upset.

'Look at this Dad. Do you know anything about this…Elliot bloke?'

I looked at the crumpled fragment, now flattened out enough to read the blue ball point pen and rather immature handwriting.

Dear James, It was fun the other night. When can you come again? I love you helping the way you do. Please don't give up on me. You won't will you?


How would you feel? I looked at it and my heart sank. Oh bloody hell. The words of the note could easily be misunderstood. 'Come again?' 'I love you helping me?'……..and that last bit which presumably was some kind of a joke…….SWALK. Every kid knows what that stands for.

The standard invitation when I was a boy at school. If a boy asked you to 'help him', it meant one thing….find a corner somewhere private, and it's hands inside each other's pants and then……well, you know how it ends up.

'Dad, when is James back?'

'Err……the day after tomorrow I think….if that's Friday.'

'Does he have to come here Dad?'

We were in my bedroom at the time. Mathew sits down on the bed. I'm standing by the window, looking down at the river, and wondering how to handle this situation.

'Yes he does Mathew. That's a given, whatever happens. James has nowhere else to go when his mother is not at home. It's as simple as that. We are not going to leave him to fend for himself alone in Winchelsea, and that's final. Now, about that note. It could mean anything. Don't jump to conclusions.'

'Well you read it. It's fucking obvious isn't it?'

'Don't swear in this house please! I understand that you're upset. Why don't you phone him?'

He didn't want to, but in the end he did. It was a short conversation. I was standing next to Mathew when Jane answered…..I could hear her voice. James wasn't in. He's gone to a meeting at the church about some concert or other they were putting on there. James will phone back when he gets in.

He didn't. Jane took James to the bus stop and made sure he got on it. James has always been good like that. He would never run away from a responsibility or commitment. The message from this Elliot boy was indeed ambiguous. Who knows……he may have his hands in the boy's knickers for months, years even, as far as we knew. Mathew is away most of the time….all of the time apart from the holidays really. That's a long time for an active boy to go without. Keeping up a relationship at a distance is difficult at the best of times, but for a hormone struck kid……well, that's not at all easy. I've seen Elliot, albeit from a distance, but with his blond curls? There's no doubt that he and James have been meeting in situations other than travelling to school on the same train, but in exactly what circumstances? I'm guessing that it won't be long before we find out.

Mathew answered the door. He was nearest and got there first. The two boys stood looking at each other on the doorstep. Of course James didn't know what it was all about, but quickly realised there was a problem. I arrived on the scene twenty seconds or so later.

'Take James to your room please Mathew. James, Mathew needs to talk to you. Mathew?'

Mathew closed his bedroom door loudly. I went to my room next door and lay on my bed. With my head close to the dividing wall, I will hear the gist of what's going on between the boys. It's obviously a critical situation, but they need to get it out in the open and resolved one way or another. One thing is certain though. James is not leaving here.

There is a lot of shouting. Mathew is in accusatory mood calling James 'a fucking bitch' amongst other insults. I can hear James crying. I want to go in there to stop it but I know it's something they have to sort out on their own. Then I hear James trying to explain, but Mathew just keeps shouting over James' attempts to tell him the truth. The two boys sound hysterical. I'm afraid that Mathew will be violent. I can't bear that thought. I have tears in my eyes. I'm desperately upset but I know I can't intervene. They have to sort it out. Once affection bound them together. That bond seems shattered now. That's so sad. The noise continues. I hear James' voice again……then an angry Mathew……then quiet. Now I can hear James crying, poor boy. I'm crying too. I love them both in vastly different ways and for different reasons. I simply can't bear it.

The crying stops. There are no sounds now. I lie on my back waiting for any sound that will tell me it's over. Then a new sound begins. It's James. There are no words, just sounds. I know those sounds that he makes. They are familiar sounds to anyone who has heard two people making love. They are the sounds of pain perhaps….the sounds of giving and taking……the sounds of conciliation……..the sounds of weight upon weight……the sounds of the bed…….the noise now of the exercising of power, of domination, and the sounds of a pleasure being mutually taken. The sounds grow louder. James cries out, under a swaddling blanket of Mathew's thumping shouts. A pattern is emerging……the rhythm of a body rising and falling hard on another. I find myself shockingly moved by what I'm hearing. I wait for the catharsis…the last and final thrusts of anger and retribution before remorse sets in. My mind is in a whirl of emotion as my own crisis approaches, and in a wave of supreme pleasure and guilt, that too comes…….and slowly passes. All is quiet now.

Lying in the stillness, I think of my wife Amy and wonder where she is now. I remember the night, both young and desperate for each other as I penetrated her that first time, as she cried out in both pain and pleasure. I remember the shock at what we had done…..and passion fulfilled. I remember the aftermath….the quiet reflection…..the holding and the tears…..the sheer love of it all. The joy of sex.

It's still quiet now in the room next door. It's over.

That's how it stayed, for ten minutes or so. Then I hear some movement and what sounds like James' voice in some distress. I'm worried by that. It's obvious what they've been up to, and there's a chance that there's a problem as a result. In the heat of it all, I've made a mess on myself, and the means to clean myself up is out of my reach. I would rather the boys didn't realise that I have heard them. I don't want them embarrassed, but it's too late. I hear the bedroom door open and Mathew's voice outside my door. It sounds urgent which worries me even more.

'Dad! Dad! Where are you? There's something wrong with James!'

I get up off the bed with my trousers and pants down below my waist, trying with the palm of my hand to prevent my ejaculate trickling down my tummy. It was a strong one. I get to the door and open it slightly, keeping my body out of sight. By the sound of his voice, Mathew has gone downstairs to find me. I shout out…….

'Just a minute! Hang on, I'll be with you in a moment Mathew.'

I'm wet but I don't bother to see to it, but pull up my pants and trousers, tuck in my shirt and secure everything. Mathew and I arrive at the bedroom door together. It's open and James is lying in the middle of the bed on his tummy. He's obviously been crying, my poor baby. I instantly wonder what Mathew has done to him. My emotions are a mixture of panic and anger.

'Mathew, get out! Leave this to me.'

He leaves and shuts the door. James is dressed in just a tee shirt. I see his penis and balls hanging below the hem of the shirt, jammed between his thighs. A tiny part of my brain appreciates what I am seeing…….so beautiful in his distress. Poor James. I sit on the bed as close as I can get to him. His face is tear stained. I rest my hand on his back. The cheeks of his buttocks look red and raw. It's obvious what has happened.

'I need to look at you properly James, ok?'

He nods his head. I part his buttocks with both of my hands which gives me a good sight of his anus. The whole area looks pink and uncomfortable probably, but that's all, if that wasn't enough. Mathew should have known better. He's probably been rough with James, but there's no visible damage.

'It's going to feel a bit sore for a while James, but you look fine. Can you turn over please?'

I help him roll over towards me. His erection, despite the harsh treatment at the hands of my son, has not completely subsided. There is a significant wet patch revealed on the sheet where he's been lying. It's just possible that James has involuntarily experienced something that I never have and would dearly like to. That is quite extraordinary. James looks sideways at the darker area of the white cotton material.

'What's that Otta? Did I do that?'

'It looks like it. If it's what it I think it is, you might be the lucky one. Do you remember having a feeling?'

'Sort of….maybe…..I'm not sure.'

I lower my head and kiss my sweet boy on the cheek. He smiles.

'You need some cream on your bottom James. I can do it, or perhaps Mathew should? What do you think?'

'Mathew. But will you stay please?'

I call Mathew into the room. I'm not smiling.

'Go and get that pot of cream from the medicine cupboard in the bathroom please. It's a white tub with a green label.'

He's back in less than one minute. I make a space for him on the bed. James turns onto his tummy again.

'Mathew, just use a little to start with, and be very gentle. You'll need to put a fair amount just around the opening, and a little way inside. Make sure you treat every bit that looks irritated…..for about five minutes. James, put your legs wider apart please…….so Mathew can see to you properly.'

James is visibly leaking. I fold more tissue to form a neat absorbent pad.

'Mathew, just hold these for a couple of minutes. Perhaps it's about time you thought about taking a bit more care of your friend?'

Mathew doesn't cry easily, but on this occasion he could see the result of his anger all too clearly. I know I need to make sure this was a consensual matter. James will not lie to me. Neither will Mathew.

I watched the gentle progress of James' 'treatment'. They were truly tender moments, so much so that it would have been improper to have stayed in the room any longer than I did.

The boys were inseparable all that weekend. Although Jane was in Winchelsea, James asked her if he could stay as Mathew was at home. She said he could. She asked if everything was ok between the boys now. I told her that there had been a minor glitch, but everything was fine. She seemed perfectly happy.

The ambiguous note that Mathew found was also explained. James' friend from school, Elliot, the Year Eight boy, was struggling with his maths. James being the kind boy that he is, offered to go round to his home to give him some private tuition as and when Elliot needed it. Being a musician, maths comes quite easily to James, despite one or two difficulties with that subject at school. His knowledge and patience proved more than useful as far as Elliot, and his parents, were concerned.

It all happened in Elliot's bedroom. James doesn't lie. He admitted to Mathew that a little bit more went on between the two boys, but it was all quite innocent really. Nothing much happened, and anyway, surely it wasn't possible that Mathew never had any thoughts of that nature while he was away at school? Of course he had plenty of those thoughts. Who wouldn't? No sordid details needed to be gone over, no ages or sexes revealed, no descriptions of sexual acts admitted to, but just the tacit agreement that, left to their own devices and desires, boys will be boys…….with each other.

One other thing to come out of the boys' bust-up was a new and rather refreshing openness in their relationship. Mathew was much more circumspect about the physical side of his friendship with James. He didn't want his father knowing the ins and outs of what they did together. I don't blame him. It's a private matter. James wouldn't mind either way. With me now, James is uninhibited, and perfectly willing for me to share in his emotional and physical development.

When the boys are together here, there is no attempt to keep anything from me now. I have conceded the sofa to them when it comes to TV watching before bedtime, and they are ready for bed in their preferred oversize tee shirts that serve nicely as pyjama tops. As for pyjama bottoms, loose fitting white slips seem to be their preference. Mathew has claimed the corner so James can fold into him enclosed by his friend's arms. Very cosy. More often than not, I leave them to it, but with the door to the room left ajar. If Mathew wants to keep his hand inside James' knickers, he can as far as I'm concerned. If it becomes obvious that they are building up to sex, then that's different. I ask them to go to their room. Then I go to mine. The thin wall which is all that separates my bed head from theirs is a late medieval wattle and daub wall, which is an entirely insufficient barrier to sound.

Mathew has to be back at school on Sunday night. He has several exams next week. James had gone back to his home in Winchelsea seemingly recovered both emotionally and physically from his recent trauma. He wanted to revise at home. It gave me the chance to talk frankly to Mathew.

'I need to be sure about something Mathew.'

'I know what you're going to say Dad.'

'Do you?'

'Yes. You want to know about me and James the other night. That's right isn't it?'

'Yes, in a word. I just need to be sure that you didn't force yourself on James. That's all.'

'No of course I didn't! It just happened. James wanted it too, as a matter of fact. We had a bit of an argument earlier. Then James started crying hoping I'd let him off the hook. Then……..we sort of…….got into it. Honestly Dad, that's how it happened. Ask him. When I realised that I'd got the wrong end of the stick about that stupid note I found from his friend Elliot, I realised that I had taken him for granted a bit. He was really good about it. We just sort of…….went on from there. We had never done it before. It seemed like a good time to try. He's so honest Dad. It was sort of love hate I suppose. I wanted to love him…..and punish him I think. It's weird. I know I hurt him. I'm sorry.'

I just had to be sure that Mathew hadn't……..nasty word….raped my little friend. That more or less sums it up. I had to smile.

Some of the best sex happens after a row.

I walk down to the station with Mathew, buy his ticket, and wave him off, then back slowly through the streets of Rye which are still quite busy with visitors to the ancient town, through Church Square and back along Watchbell Street to sit on the bench and look out across what was once the sea. Camber Castle rises above the shingle beach in the distance. Just a few years after the castle was built by Henry the Eighth, the sea decided to retreat making the castle redundant. What a waste of money that was. More was to come. William Pitt orders the digging of the Royal Military Canal from Hythe to somewhere miles away towards Hastings to hold up Napoleon's possible invasion. Bony's threatened invasion never happened. So now we have a very nice waterway to wander along.

Something is missing as I sit in my office thinking about the week to come. I walk into Mathew's bedroom. The bed is turned back. The sheets are clean and fresh…..pillows plumped up and smooth. My stomach turns over for no reason that I can think of.

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