The Observer

by Rafael Henry

Chapter 23

It took me a few moments to recover from the shock of coming face to face with Mr Sendall, the man who had accepted James into his bed on more than one occasion. Mild forms of consensual sex had taken place lasting more than one hour, according to James' description, between a young boy and a young man just a few yards from where I'm standing. There were complex reasons why it had happened. The man had been unable to resist the subtle advances, albeit unexpected, of the attractive boy that he had admired from a close distance, but hitherto never touched. They had made love to each other in the highest sense…..unforgettably, wonderfully, and completely. A young man is attracted to the beauty of a boy. The boy admires the young man for his kindness and enjoys the attention he receives from him. As the boy becomes sexually aware, a desire begins to surface. Curiosity and desire combine, as opportunities occur.

I remembered Simon's mother's request to me as she bid her son goodbye.

'Would you mind ringing this number……so that I know Simon has arrived safely?'

She had jotted her number on a scrap of paper and handed it to me. I have it in my hand now. Marion Weir 01373 572449. Mr Sendall has his hand on Simon's shoulder, with the heavy bag at their feet. Another boy appears, an older boy with an air of authority, detailed no doubt to help any new arrivals……. where to put his things, when tea is and where…….all those practical bits of information that the newcomer needs to know. This boy will help a new boy to pass from one state of mind to another…….and allay some of his fears concerning the new life that awaits him.

'Hello. What's your name?' says the older boy.

'Simon. Simon Weir…..sir.'

'Don't call me sir. You don't call prefects 'sir'…….only masters. By the way, I'm Justin. I'm the Neville House Prefect. I'll take your bag.' he announces brusquely, with an air of authority, and too young to really know what that means.

The older boy drags Simon's bag towards the old flint buildings. Simon follows. At the door, Simon turns towards me. There's no expression or wave of goodbye to this stranger. Just like a lamb to the slaughter Simon goes. The interior gloom envelopes the two boys, and the heavy bag. Recovered from my shock, I have a question for Mr Sendall…..

'Do you mind if I use your phone? Mrs Weir asked me to let her know Simon has arrived safely.'

'Of course. Use the phone in my office……just to the right as you go into that building.'

The young man gestures towards the doorway with a pointed arch, and dressed in pale sandstone. The young man is distracted by the secretary holding a list of names. I find the office door open. There's a phone placed towards the right hand corner of a large mahogany desk, an office chair is swung round towards me. I pick up the receiver and notice the slightly open drawer to my right. I'm alone in the room and I'm curious about any kind of detail of Mr Sendall's life. I'm not given to snooping on another person's life but I'm inclined not to miss any opportunity to glean any information concerning this gentleman. These are special circumstances in my view. I pull the drawer open several inches. There are various papers in there, and an old envelope which is open. Just visible is the corner of something I recognize. It's one of those dark brown card mounts….the kind that commercial photographers provide a school with when new pupils have their mu shots done about two weeks into the new year when they are still looking smart…ish. All schools do them. I put the receiver back, distracted by what I see, and I carefully extract the old envelope from the drawer and slide out the photographic mount. There's a portrait in it. I glance through the open doorway. No one in sight. The boy in the oval card mount is smiling at me. I know that smile. I turn the photograph over. There's nothing on the back. There are more photographs in the envelope……quite small ones of different boys……boys on a beach……smiling and laughing boys…..a boy, face half hidden, lying down. James is in every one. I glance towards the open doorway again. I see Mr Sendall talking to a deep pink blazer clad figure the other side of the quadrangle. There's ample time to look again at the photographs. I select the one of the boy who appears to be lying on some sort of bed. It looks like a camp bed…..the kind used in tents sometimes. The print has clearly been cropped crudely with scissors. The boy is bare chested, his arms and hands probably joined lower down, but that part of the print is missing. His eyes are closed, and he appears to be sleeping. Again, I know who it is. I feel my body go cold. I place the envelope carefully back approximately where it was, and I deliberately leave the drawer an inch or two more open than it was. My heart is beating fast now. I make the call to Simon's mother, who is relieved to hear of her son's safe arrival. She thanks me. Right, that's done. I didn't have time to think about any further strategy before Mr Sendall appears in the doorway…….

'Everything ok?'

'Yes thanks.' trying to sound convincing.

I'm leaning against the desk with my hand close to the open drawer. Mr Sendall looks down. There's silence for a few moments. I look at him and smile. I haven't thought this through at all. I'm acting on impulse here, and I don't want to waste time. I don't think I have any at all to lose…….

'Do you remember James?'

There's silence for a few seconds. Mr Sendall looks visibly shaken. He composes himself, and looks down at the open drawer, and then back at me. I continue………

'He remembers you ……and I'm sure you would remember him. It's a few years ago now. Surely you do remember him? A dark haired, quiet and sensitive lad…….nice boy? He was a good musician……came from Winchelsea in Sussex?'

To say that Mr Sendall was unnerved would be an understatement. Then the admission…..

'Yes, of course I remember him. Do you know him? Do you ever see him? Have you spoken to him? How is he?'

Our Mr Sendall is on the back foot, bigtime. He suspects I've seen the photographs. Not only that, but he'll be worried that I know James. That might mean that I may know more than he would like me to know. I don't normally do things like this, but there's a reason. He'll want to find out how much I know.

'I have actually. I'm quite friendly with his mother, so naturally I know James quite well.'

Oh dear. That's not altogether good news for Mr Sendall, and it shows on his face. All I have to do is wait. Then he quietly enquires……

'Are you here for long?'

I explained that my primary reason was my visit to the Sickert show at Lelant House , and how I came to escort Simon to the school. I told him that I had known James ever since he left Chichester. I told him that James and my son Mathew had formed a friendship, and as a result James had spent some time at our house in Rye. That's all I told him, but that was enough. He asked me where I was staying. I told him that my usual quarters were unavailable, and that I had booked a room at the Ship Hotel for two nights. He looks like a frightened rabbit, as well he might, but it's time to relieve pressure. I'm not sure what it is, but for some reason or reasons, I want to like this man.

'The hotel has a bar…….if you'd like to hear about James?'

'Yes…..yes I would.'

'Good. There's lots to tell, and James remembers you well.'

'Oh dear. Should I be worried?' he asks, with a nervous smile.

And so it was. Before I left his office, he asked me if he had good reason to be concerned. If I was in his shoes, I would be worried sick. I told him he had no reason to be worried, at least not as far as James is concerned. I told him that it was a good story, on the whole, and that the story may get even better. For the first time, I actually got a genuine smile out of our Mr Sendall……one of relief I imagine. It's hard to describe how I felt at that moment. It was like a surge of power…..something like that.

'I'm busy with the boys until nine I'm afraid. Say nine fifteen?'

'That's perfect………sorry, I don't know your name?'

'Hilary……..Hilary Sendall.'

'Mine's Otta.'

I don't drink after I've eaten, so I stuck to tea, but Hilary opted for a large scotch and water. He was clearly anxious, so his choice was an understandable one. He hadn't changed, but still looked neat and very trim. He's not a big man. I'd put him at about five eight, and quite lightly built. I imagine he could wear anything and look good in it. His pale brown chinos fit nicely, without giving too much away, but one fact became apparent while he stood with his back to at the bar, hands in pockets. I think that was deliberate. Suddenly I'm interested in our Mr Sendall for another reason. I mentally undress him. Oh yes, I'm definitely curious.

When I had finished telling James' story up to the present day, albeit a slightly abridged version, Hilary Sendall had a question……

'May I call you Otta?'

'Yes of course?'

'Did James ever mention me?'

'Yes he did. Boys can get very attached to a teacher….for lots of reasons. I have to say that he was very fond of you. You should be flattered. He said you were like a big brother to all of the boys. How did you feel about them…and James in particular?'

He didn't answer that question. With glass in hand, he looked down at the polished table. I wondered how he was going to handle this situation.

'Look……..I don't know how much you know. James was…….an able boy. He was……well liked…….good to have around the place.'

'That's not quite answering the question is it?'

'No. You're right, it's not.'

'James has told me about his life here……and about you.'

'Has he?'

'Yes, he has.'

'Oh. Does that mean….'

'No. You have no reason to be worried about that. You have to believe that. I'm the only other person in this world who knows anything about James' life here…..some particular aspects……..relationships……that sort of thing. No one else will ever know.'

'So you know then?'

'Yes. I know that your relationship with him……how can I put this…..went further than it might have done?'

'Further than it should have done.'

'Yes, perhaps that's right. I also know that James valued that relationship very highly…….and you. You were very special to him.'

'That's very kind of him, but it still makes me very vulnerable doesn't it? So what will you do with me? What will happen now?'

'Nothing…….or only what you want to happen. I'd like to share something, or rather someone with you.'

'Who?'

'James. You and I have him in common. Don't you see? Look, there's a few things that you should know too. When he left you , he came to me.'

There are several more people in the bar now. Hilary looks uncomfortable. He suggests that if our conversation is to remain private, we should go elsewhere.

'I can make you some tea in my room?'

Hilary used an easy chair while I sat on the bed, my back propped up against the headboard. He gave me a fascinating insight into the workings of his school, and particularly how his boarding house functioned. I enjoyed listening to the in's and out's of their life and how it all affected James and the other boys. It brought back all sorts of memories. I was deeply impressed by his dedication to his job, and his admirably caring attitude to his young charges. Ok, he might have made mistakes, but no wonder James had responded so positively to him. I wanted him to talk about himself…….

'So, don't you find it difficult…socially, in a place like this? The chances of a relationship are limited surely….if you wanted one. Perhaps you don't?'

'I do, but as you say, there's no one here to realistically socialize with. It's just the boys. I love them, but they're just boys. Sometimes it's very difficult. I've told you how I feel. You have children. You're different.'

'No I'm not Hilary.'

He asked me to explain my last remark. I told him the way it is for me. Nothing about us is black and white. We are seldom all or nothing.

Our conversation continued with a more relaxed Hilary Sendall. I had made my admissions, so what we had to say to each other began to follow paths of mutual interest. I joined him with a large whisky. It was his third. It was probably the relief of it all……to know that I was there to share with him, and not to judge. I'm excited, and I think he is too.

To talk about James inevitably involves the subject of human sexuality. I'm not afraid of that. Our discussion was frank and informative on both sides. I'm finding myself drawn in to his life, which out of teaching hours, is centred around the fifteen boys he has direct responsibility for. That thought put Simon in mind……the second boy in the deep pink blazer……..the second boy on the train. I want to check on his welfare….

'So has Simon survived his first few hours?'

'Yes, I think so.'

'So……he's coping alright…..no traumas?'

'No traumas, but he was a little reticent to take his clothes off when I put them all through the showers tonight.'

'But he did.'

'Yes. All fifteen went through. It's not a bad idea for the new ones to see the others in their routine as soon as possible. It helps to relax them. It makes them feel that they're all in it together. Anyway, a nine year old wants to see what thirteen year olds looks like. They're naturally curious.'

'Indeed so. You're curious too, no doubt, just as I am.'

'About what?'

'About you Hilary.'

He looks down, and tells me that there's not a lot to know about him. I disagree.

'So your new lot……much of a muchness?'

'I don't know yet. We'll see. They're all roughly the same…..underneath……..with a few subtle variations.'

'In size and shape?'

'Yes, I suppose you could say that.' He agrees, with a smile.

Not half. I remember some remarkable variations, although in my experience, when excited, they all end up more or less the same. That thought rather put me in mind of someone.

'What about that dark, and dare I say it, rather handsome boy who carried Simon's bag?'

'Ah, Justin. He's in one of the doubles. He has a particular friend, so I put them in the same room. Sometimes it's best if you put them together from the outset. Then no one's bothered by…….well, you know.'

'Do you provide a double bed?' I said, attempting a poor joke.

'Err, no. Two beds in a small room. So long as they're quiet, they don't get disturbed. If Michael wants some attention from his friend, he's welcome as far as I'm concerned. That's a much better arrangement than driving it all underground. Just put them together. If they fall out, I can move them.'

'And do they?'

'Sometimes. Usually they get over it. Not always. You have to keep a close eye on what's going on. It's very interesting.'

'Do you think they're aware of your observation , if I may put it that way?'

'No, not really. I am careful about that Otta. I was indiscreet with James. I have learnt from that. He told me…..brought me down to earth. I was younger then, and I just couldn't see it. I was young and inexperienced….naive if you like. I was in love with everybody and everything then.'

'Including him ?'

'Yes, I suppose so. Yes…..I mean yes, I was. I loved him.'

'Still?'

'I don't think about it….not now, but yes, if he was here….yes I am. Well, you know yourself. He was just so beautiful in every way. I'd look at his face on my pillow and weep. I'm so relieved Otta, I can't tell you. I thought it was the end when I realised that you knew.'

'It's not the end. Maybe it's the beginning. It's extraordinary isn't it? If it wasn't for one bag too heavy for a boy to handle on a train, I wouldn't be here. Can you imagine how surprised I was to meet you in this place?'

Indeed so. A thousand to one chance?

Hilary told me he had to be back at school. He had arranged cover for an hour and a half. He moved from the chair to window. I joined him to look at the lovely view over the chimneys and rooftops of Chichester towards the cathedral spire. I turned to look at his face. There were tears running down his cheeks. It's true, he'd had a narrow escape, and his sense of relief was boiling over. I found myself becoming aroused by his plight. I put a hand on the boy's shoulder. To me he is a boy right now. He turns towards me. I have my hands resting on both shoulders now. We face each other.

'You silly boy. There's no need to cry.'

Hilary smiles through his tears, his eyes shining brightly. He says nothing. He doesn't need to. I wipe the moisture away with my fingers.

'Go back and look after those boys. Why shouldn't you love them? Why shouldn't they love you back, in their own way?'

Why not indeed. There was just one more question from Hilary……

'Look Otta…….can we meet again? I want to if you didn't mind.'

'Yes I'd like that. I want to know more about you. Can you get away for a while tomorrow? I know it's Sunday.'

'Yes, for an hour after service and before lunch. The boys have letter writing in the hall. There's a bench just inside the archway into the Bishop's Garden. Twelve o'clock?'


I met Hilary at the agreed time. I'd arrived a bit early, and strolled through those lovely gardens enjoying the warm September air. I felt reassured by our meeting the previous evening, if that's the right word. I know that it wasn't going to be enough. It's strange. I know I want to see more of him…much more. I knew it from the moment I first met him.

I saw Hilary walk through the flint and stone archway that leads into the garden. He saw the empty bench and perhaps thought I had changed my mind. I shouted to him. He looked relieved…….

'I thought you'd……'

'No I haven't, but I thought you might.'

'No! Of course not!'

We sat for a few minutes making small talk, both wondering when one of us would start a proper conversation.

'I'm booked in for one more night Hilary. Is there any chance?'

'No. I'm on duty from five thirty for the rest of the day….and night actually.'

'This afternoon…at the Ship?'

'No, I can't. It's House Walk all afternoon. We have to keep them busy and active. Why don't you come? I can meet you at my office at two? Use the red door opposite the cathedral. That's not locked. The office door will be unlocked too. Wait for us in there.'

I arrived at Hilary's office early. I wanted another look at the collection of photographs he kept hidden in the desk drawer. I wondered if he removed them for safer keeping. There were three more sets in paper folders at the back of the drawer. Unless you knew they were there, you would not find them. Most of them looked like they were taken on school trips. I recognized the sandy beach and dunes at West Wittering. One set featured James on his own. They had obviously found somewhere where they would not be disturbed. I found the images both sensitive and moving. James looked relaxed and happy in every single photograph.

There's a pathway along the river which leads out into open fields if you go far enough. Hilary had all fifteen boys with him. He has a playful attitude which the boys obviously respond to very positively, some wanting to stay near him throwing out the odd remark as we progressed away from the city. Others were more independent, going ahead and threatening to climb trees. Our House Prefect, Justin, resembling something out of Lord of the Flies, acts out his role as the self-appointed leader. Simon, of the Heavy Bag, walked near me, offering the occasional smile. He seems a very sweet boy, all dressed up in the standard school outdoors uniform of pale grey shorts, alarmingly bright red polo shirt, and the good old middle class essential but expensive Clarks sandals. As the afternoon warmed up in the September sunshine, shirts were removed to reveal fading summer holiday tans, myself and Hilary accepting the burden of the boys' shirts.

At a guess, we are a mile or so out of the city.

'This is as far as we go Otta.' says Hilary, dropping several of the red shirts onto the grass. I do likewise.

The boys have gone ahead, Simon trailing slightly behind. I've kept my eye on him and he's enjoying himself, diligently following the other boys and learning from them. In front of us was a slight bend in the river with what looked like a gravel beach on our side. The boys had obviously been here before. They stood in a group looking at 'sir'. I get it now……they want to paddle. The situation is perfect….gently shelving beach and clear water beyond.

'Ok boys, but usual drill please.'

Simon prefers to watch, as he sits crossed legged on the grass staying close us. He's facing me. What I didn't see of him on the train, I can see now. It's standard, but as usual, very beautifully formed.

The boys are well acquainted with the 'drill'. Neatly folded shorts are placed on the grass by us, as a dozen or so nine to twelve year olds head for the shingle beach, clad just in varying cuts of brief underwear. The colour white, thankfully, is prescribed for these boys. Justin of course leads the way. We, Simon, and a couple of the less adventurous lads watch as paddling leads to splashing which leads to tumbles and general horse play amid the laughter. It doesn't matter of course. It's just water. Sunday morning is for attending Service, singing for a very few, but Sunday afternoon is for something different. Sunday afternoon is for play and exercise when most of the rules are set aside. It's the boys' time. I look at Hilary…..

'It's rather a fine sight is it not?'

'Yes it is. And there's more to come.'

Indeed there is. Water has an engaging effect on white cotton. It becomes transparent. All shapes and sizes I think I said? Ten minutes later, it's time to call a halt.

'Oh not yet Sir!' Says Justin, who is in the process of wrestling a boy into the water.

' Now Justin!

Justin accepts Hilary's emphatic judgement. The boys collect their respective pairs of shorts, and with wet underpants duly removed they wander the grassy landscape for five minutes to allow the sun to dry their bodies. Neither Hilary nor I are looking the other way. Justin attempts to slap the bottom of his friend with a wet garment. Two of the boys sit near us on the grass. Another earnest looking boy with an interest in entomology, sits cross-legged and naked in an attempt to capture an insect. Simon looks on with a faintly bemused expression. Hilary has a job for him.

'Go round and collect all the wet things please Simon.'

He takes a plastic carrier bag out of his pocket and hands it to Simon. Holding the bag open, the boys drop wet underpants into it. I offer to take charge of it. We begin the walk back to the city, back to stone and flint, tea and compline. It gives Hilary and I another chance to talk……..

'So you haven't seen the Sickert show yet?' he asks.

'No. Other matters seem to have overtaken me rather.'

'You can go on Monday morning can't you?'

'No. Galleries are traditionally closed on Mondays, apart from major collections, and tonight is my last night at the Ship.'

'Right. So we need another plan then? Do you have commitments next week?'

'No I don't…..not until two meetings in London on Thursday.'

'Well then, you can stay on a couple more days?'

'I could, yes. I'll have to find somewhere else, that's all.'

'No you won't.'

Hilary's idea interested me, but we would have to be discreet. I would leave my bag with him tonight, apart from one or two essentials that I would keep with me. Neville House is on the edge of the tiny school campus, right next to the red door opposite the cathedral entrance, and my minimal coming and going would not be noticed. If it was, and questioned, I would announce myself as a visiting friend of Mr Sendall's. It would mean one night on Hilary's sofa, followed by the exhibition visit, and then a train back to Rye. I am rather relishing a brush with educational system once again, albeit a privileged one that I don't entirely agree with.

'It seems to me that you have a nice job Hilary?'

'Yes, I think it is, apart from all this domestic stuff. The boarding houses are so small, we have to do everything.'

'Everything?'

'Yes, all the day to day tasks in addition to the teaching. The boys have to be got up in the morning otherwise they never would, and all their clothes to organize….laundry and so on, keeping their bodies clean, and dealing with all their little difficulties.'

'Such as?'

'Oh, any number of things. Relationship problems, very occasional bullying thank goodness, academic problems, music rotas, home troubles…..and personal issues of course.'

'Like what?'

'Oh, health things usually. They are approaching puberty Otta. One or two might be starting. Parents have a habit of leaving it to me, so I have to deal with it. Actually I like doing it. You know what I'm talking about don't you? They have questions about their bodies....what's going on, and what to expect. One or two get very priapic, and it worries them. Justin wakes up with an erection that persists embarrassingly. He may behave like Jack-the-lad, but underneath he's not particularly confident. I can't tell the boy to masturbate can I? I just reassure him that it's quite normal, and he should be jolly proud of what he's got. They all have access to the books, but they don't want to be seen reading them. It's easier to talk about it in a small group. They like that.'

'Do they all know what it is?'

'Yes, most of them do know, and practise it. If they didn't when they get here, they do soon after.'

'How do you know?'

'Obviously, I have to check on them at night. Don't worry, I don't go in. I just peek through the door. There are five rooms to check on. It can be very revealing.'

I bet it can. Lucky old Hilary.

After tea, the boys disperse to various social areas available to the three boarding houses…about forty five boys in all. Hilary shows me his quarters which consist of a sitting room rather sparsely furnished, a tiny kitchen, and his bedroom which is off the narrow corridor along from the boys' rooms. While we talk, twelve pairs of underpants go into the washing machine. Watching the bundle of white cotton disappear, I remark……..

'I should think it's a job to keep up with all that isn't it?'

'Yes, they never seem to have enough. I don't know what they do with them. Well actually, I do know what they do with them. By the way, Simon is very short on one or two things. His mother has miscalculated unfortunately. We say ten and he's come with four. You couldn't nip into town tomorrow and get him sorted could you…….the sort of thing that you saw on the boys today?'

Of course I can. It will be a pleasure.


I spent a chunk of Monday in Bosham. After breakfast at the Ship, and checking out, I wandered down to the bus station with a view to spending the first half of the day in that most charming of villages on the edge of the vast Chichester harbour. A salad at the local pub went down nicely, followed by the bus back to the city, and a little essential shopping. I need a couple of items from Boots the Chemist. Things might develop between me and Hilary, and I don't want to be unprepared. I'm excited at the possibility. Yes, I am, definitely. What was good for James, is good for me. I have no idea how active Hilary has been sexually, or with what gender. There's nothing overtly gay about him, but there again I'm not the best judge. If there was, I doubt if he would be doing the job he is doing. By mutual admission, he enjoys all things 'boy', but that doesn't mean he's itching to have sex with another man, least of all me, at least I don't think so.

After finding what I might need at the chemists, I head for Marks and Spencer. Probably two thirds of English schoolboys spend their schooldays clad in their clothes. I know exactly what I'm looking for, which will match what I saw yesterday on the boys prancing around the river bank….except Simon. His cute little penis was on view, unbeknownst to him. Sitting cross-legged in voluminous shorts and no knickers? One could hardly not see. Those items come in packets of five, so I take two from the chrome hook, marked with the appropriate age range, take them to the till, and pay by cheque. Job done. It's now just after five….time to re-enter that other world.

Neville House is locked at ten thirty at night, so once through the red door in the wall, and around the corner, I'm there. It's all very 'compact and bijou' as they say, and right now I have the place to myself. The boys are elsewhere doing what they do according to the thing on the wall that rules their lives…..the clock. I would like a look around if no one objects…..and there's no one here to object, but there's a note on the kitchen table.

If you have a moment, would you distribute these please? Did you get Simon's things? Don't forget to fold! See you soon, Hilary

The note sits on top of a pile of the boys' things that went through the washer and drier yesterday.

I have to say that the boys' rooms are singularly pleasant, with walls painted with neutral but attractive and homely colours, nice curtains, and divan beds as opposed to the metal tubular ones we had at school. On the inside of each door is a list of the occupants, and the boys' clothes are in separate compartments of a built-in cupboard, all with hand printed name, neatly arranged according to the item, and all folded with great care. I've never seen underpants folded like that. How very curious. I'm in Justin's room. He appears to share with Michael. I'm looking at Justin's clothes……grey jumper with red and black stripes around the 'V' neck…..short grey socks, gym shorts [2], white vests and tee shirts, grey and white school shirts, and of course the other essentials. I extract a pair from the horizontal arrangement, to see how they are folded. It's very simple, and forms a compact square shape, as opposed to lying flat, one on top of the other. I find Justin's from the pile, and fold according to the template. Perfect. Apart from the familiar Cash's name tape in the waistband, there's a makers label. It's in French, and includes the words…… 'garcon age 12-13'. Such quality and style…….very nice too. I count ten identical pairs. Not so Michael. His collection is more diverse, in terms of colour and brevity. I would have insisted on a standard and practical style, and its brevity…..just enough, but not too much.

It's obvious which bed is Justin's. He's put a little sign on the bedhead…….'Justin's bed'. It didn't say 'Justin's bed….keep out!' Anyway, I daresay Michael knows where it is by now. I'm wondering what, if anything, Justin keeps under his pillow. When I lift it up, all is revealed. You've guessed it. I pick up the little ball of cloth. The first thing I notice is the name tape. In italic typeface reads the words 'Michael White'. One might wonder why Michael's hanky is under Justin's pillow. By gently tugging on the corners, I flatten out the slightly off-white piece of material. Whatever is binding the cloth together didn't come from Justin's nose. Beds are not just for sleeping in. The very plain and very pre-pubescent Michael, if Sunday afternoon's show was anything to go by, will no doubt jump to attention when Justin demands, even to the extent of sacrificing his own hanky to the cause. Cleanliness and righteousness go together…….and stuck-together hankies apparently. I do hope Justin is kind to him in return. I must say they do make their beds nicely, with plaid blankets tucked in neatly with the traditional 'hospital' corners….just like we did them.

Simons clothing 'compartment' was indeed lacking in at least one essential, but not now. Typical of that mother of his……generally disorganized. Socks look in short supply, but he's fine now in the pants department, following my shopping spree. The only problem I can see is that they are not marked . That is a sin in boarding circles. Bizarrely, Simon is over supplied, in my view, with short trousers. I count three pairs here, and presumably he's wearing a fourth pair now. I'm cheered too, by the current fashion for ever shorter shorts for boys. This trend has led to ever briefer knickers to go underneath them, lest the grey worsted material won't complete hide their pants. One day, I suppose, they'll all be down over their knees. Still, sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. In the meantime, we can enjoy what these beautiful creatures can offer us on a daily basis. Outdoor shoes are replaced by softer 'House' shoes, or under certain circumstances, slippers.

Boys begin to fill Neville House, but there is no sign of Hilary. I can't resist it. I make myself visible. The boys more or less ignore me. They've seen me with Hilary, so it's ok and normal. It wouldn't occur to them to wonder why I'm there. I love the sound of them. Perhaps I've missed my vocation? When I wander back to the kitchen, Hilary is there.

'Oh, by the way, you are official now. You are my guest…….. officially . That's good isn't it? You're my long lost cousin if anyone asks. I told them you are quite high up in the publishing world, and keen to give talks to interested students. Was that alright?'

He's a funny lad! Well, I suppose there's an element of truth in all that, and indeed I would welcome the chance to be useful to young and interested parties on a subject I know something about. Hilary actually said I was a friend of the family. I don't think cousins should really have sex together, at least not over the age of twelve. I had some very interesting sex with more than one cousin up to that age, both girl and boy. I guess that rather sums me up. Perhaps the die is cast very young?

We ate our evening meal at the small kitchen table. Hilary was not on 'prep' duty. All forty five boarders did their prep in one place, supervised by one member of staff….presumably a rather strict one for all those boys. The rest were free.

'So what happens if they don't have any prep?'

'They still sit there for an hour and a half. They all have a reading book with them. We have it all worked out. Then there's Evening Prayer. That's another twenty five minutes. Then it's Social or Club, and after that they're back here and it's pyjamas on.'

'So how long before you're free?'

'About nine thirty. Obviously the older ones are the last to go to sleep. The lights go out officially at nine, eight thirty, or eight for the babies.'

'And then you have to go around and kiss them all goodnight I presume?'

'Not exactly. I go round each room and check that they're ok, no one is missing, and say goodnight of course. We all try our best to be like a family. I'll spend more time with the new ones. It can be challenging for them. Simon for example. He had a cry last night. He was fine the first night, but the second can be an ordeal I'm afraid.'

'He's cute isn't he?'

'Yes, if you want to put it that way. Yes, I suppose he is. He's a sweet boy. Thanks for getting him kitted out by the way. He was very chuffed. I told him he could go around like the big boys now. Why don't you come with me on my rounds tonight?'

'Before I head for the sofa?'

Hilary smiles, gets to his feet, walks behind me and puts his hands on my shoulders. I can feel the warmth from his palms on my skin. His hands move towards my neck. No one has done this for me for a long time. It is a truly erotic sensation. I like what he's doing.

'Sorry. That was a bit forward of me.'

'Not at all. I'll take any amount of that treatment.'

'Maybe we can talk about James tonight? I imagine there's much more you could tell me? Am I right Otta?'

'Oh yes. And you too? It would be good to compare notes.'

'Notes?'

'You know what I mean don't you?'

The gentle massage of my shoulders and neck continues. I can feel his breath on my neck. I'm wondering what will happen when I turn round and face him. I can feel myself falling into a soft white cloud. I open my mouth and run my tongue along my lips……

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