The Observer

by Rafael Henry

Chapter 25

James said he would join us at ten. Hilary and I had both showered and we were in bed when a rather tentative knock on the door sounded. James appeared in a white towelling bath robe. Hilary and I are sitting up in bed, excited it has to be said at the thought of our boy entering like a player to walk upon this very particular stage. The script is ready, bound and wrapped waiting for the principal boy, lying as it is between us on the bed.

James stands a little way beyond the end of the bed. The drama of the situation is not lost on him as he loosens the wide towelling belt that holds the robe secure. Undone now, James casts off the garment which falls to the floor. He's almost naked. At five foot eight, and slim, he has the body of an adolescent boy, and what he's wearing would befit a boy, not a man. James looks down, and then directly at us and smiles…..

'Am I alright like this?'

I look at Hilary.

'Is he alright Hilary? He's a little different to how you remember him now isn't he?'

Hilary manages a faint smile but no words.

'Would you like your gift now James?'

'Will it be from both of you?'

'No. I think, if you don't mind, it should be from Hilary. I think that would be more fitting don't you?'

James smiles again. I'm going to let him work out, which I'm sure he will, the significance of my remark. I beckon him over to us, and he climbs over the end of the bed and settles himself between us, and leans back against the headboard. When he's settled I hand James the package. It's wrapped in brown paper, finished with pink tape, the kind solicitors use to secure bundles of documents. James pulls at the bow, and the tape undoes easily, and falls away. Next he removes the brown paper wrapping, which I take from him and neatly fold. The cover of the volume has a gold tooled title on the front…….. James. A book about a boy . He opens the cover…….. To James, with love from two friends .

The first page contains four school photos taken by Hilary. All the photographs in the book are by him. They show James on his own in pristine uniform…..grey shorts and jumper, and that distinctive reddish pink blazer. He looks fresh and new, smiling for the camera. Who knows what he's actually feeling. The other three show him more informally, and with one or two other boys, no doubt taken during some recreational event. One of the boys has his hand on James' shoulder. I'm interested.

Five beach studies

Five beach studies

'Who's that fellow James?'

'He was my foster brother. Every new boy gets someone to show you the ropes for the first half term. He was very sweet to me. I think he made it bearable that first term…..and later too.'

'Later?'

'Umm. We stayed friends until he left at the end of that year.'

'And?'

'Yes, and that too.'

'Are you going to tell?'

' No . It's private. He'd be upset if he knew that other people knew the in's and out's of his past.'

'But he's not here is he.'

'No, but that's not the point. He was three years older and I liked him. Sometimes we would meet in private. He was very kind to me. Can we leave it at that please?'

Yes of course we could, and we did.

Some of my drawings followed on the next few pages. They were informal poses around the house at Watchbell Street, mostly clothed, just, and several nude studies. James always enjoyed posing for me nude. Both of us found it a major turn-on. I would always pose him so we could see each other. That always enhanced the frisson between us. There's a strong streak of exhibitionism in James. I don't remember ever drawing him when he didn't become aroused to some degree, quite often fully, and the same went very definitely for me too. More often than not, James would choose the pose, and on occasions I would have to veto it.

'What's wrong with that one Otta? Don't you like it?'

'It's not that I don't like it James.'

'Well what then? Too rude I suppose.'

'I'm trying to make art, in my small way….not pornography. Can we try something else please?'

James knew exactly how he could disturb my equilibriam! That was then………this is now…….and Hilary has a question…….

'So, how did you feel about being drawn by Otta?'

'I liked it….in fact I loved it. I always looked forward to seeing the result. I considered it an expression of his feelings for me. It was like his hands were caressing my body. It was a wonderful feeling, and it made me feel wanted and treasured. They were special times for me.'

And me too. It was a kind of intellectual sex, if you can understand that……without actually touching. I knew I couldn't, and didn't want to do that. It would spoil how I felt about James. I had told him how I felt about his body, and him of course. I learnt about his outward appearance through my drawings of him…..back and front, and head to toe. James was always aware of my feelings for him. I made no secret of it. There were no lies, and I'm happy to say that nothing has changed, at least as far as I'm concerned. I think the test was when he entered puberty. That's when boys can lose their allure for some. I think I passed the test on that one. We discussed what would happen to him, and we made it into an exciting new phase. He was quite ready. It was a very peaceful and enjoyable transition.

James posing, and Elliot uninhibited

James posing, and Elliot uninhibited

I had included a full-length photographic study of James, made by Hilary. It was made in that period of their relationship that one might call an actual affaire . Let's not discuss again who was responsible for such a thing between a young man and a boy ever happening. Hilary couldn't bring himself to destroy the image which filled the entire page. James is nude and just a little moved by the occasion. He stands in classic pose, hands behind his back and facing the camera, head lifted very slightly, and almost expressionless. It's an image which epitomizes that stage of a boy's physical development, on the cusp of puberty. You can see it all about to happen, but it hasn't happened yet. It's a beautiful thing. The three of us ponder the image together, and I know that we are all moved by it. I break the silence…..

'Do you remember the occasion James?'

'I do, very well.'

Hilary says nothing. Nor do I. From my conversations with James some years ago now, I can remember him telling me about that event, and what happened subsequently. We are not even a third of the way through our book of memories when James turns his body towards Hilary. There's an urgency in his voice…….

'Can we save the rest for later please?'

Hilary answers in a low whispering voice……

'Of course. What can I do?'

'Can we celebrate a little? Do something nice? It's wonderful to see you again, and thank you for my present. It's a beautiful thing. I'm so grateful…….I really am.'

His hand feels Hilary's face, finger tips just gently touching. I'm close to tears watching them. These are highly charged moments, and I'm the observer once again.

It's unusual for James to take the initiative, but it was prompted by me. With his back towards me, I couldn't resist touching James' back. It's far more defined these days, as a consequence of regular exercise. I trace a line from our boy's neck, all the way to the base of his spine……that point where the two muscles enclose and protect such a sensitive place just an inch further away. I know James will enjoy this, and I know how he will react. I wait two minutes because Hilary and James are enjoying their natural foreplay.

As the minutes pass, the heat rises. My own body is reacting in that way it will when sex is expected soon. I look down, and there it is, reflective in the half light. It won't be enough of course for what Hilary will need, but it's a signal to James when I touch him with it. He's smooth and quick to respond. It's something I have done for him before. I'm teasing him….I'm knocking at the door without demanding entry. I listen for his reaction. He breaks the kiss he's enjoying with Hilary to grab more air as the sensation envelops him. I smile because I know exactly how this works for him. Apart from what I need to provide for James and Hilary, he's ready. Hilary turns our boy onto his back. James does the rest. Our couple are now ready to make love.

I'm the facilitator here. This is my role. These are hugely important moments for Hilary and James. Hilary's path to fulfilment is clear and open now, and James is gripping my hand as his time approaches……his time, and Hilary's time.

His discomfort is real, but over quickly. The act is slow and intensely loving, eye contact maintained until near the end. When the end comes, Hilary could wait no longer. I hold James' head, his eyes closed as he tenses, knowing. Hilary, with head suddenly thrust back, rides the waves of pleasure with the last and final pinning thrusts.

James is for both of us, but right now he is for Hilary. It's their night, not mine. That is what he's asked for. Mine is a different act.

Now is the time to hold and to love, and be loved. Now is the time for warmth, comforting, and air to breathe. Now is the time to gently subside into arms and mouths, our bodies and minds united.

James, and Elliot playing

James, and Elliot playing


I woke first at ten past six the following morning, swiftly followed by James, who I think would have slept on if I hadn't given in to temptation. I have succumbed, and he has woken. He turns over towards me and smiles……

'Morning old man.'

'Good morning beautiful boy.' I whisper.

I want to know how he's feeling.

'Are you ok this fine morning?'

'Yes, I think so.'

'You think so?'

'Yes, despite being molested by two hairy men last night.'

Actually, neither Hilary nor I are at all hairy, apart from a little controlled 'fluff' in the usual places. Personally I don't like it.

'I'm sorry James.'

James gives me a broad smile.

'No, it was lovely, but it feels like it's still happening.'

'Oh dear. So it's not the norm then….for you?'

'No. He doesn't like it, so……….'

I'm beginning to wonder about his relationship with Oliver, but I don't want him distracted. It's two hours before breakfast time. I don't want that time wasted. From the evidence, I don't think his orgasm, if that's what it was, was particularly complete last night, if indeed anything happened for him at all. It certainly did for Hilary. That I can vouch for.

There's a simple thing that I want to witness one more time, whether it be by James' own hand or mine.

I helped James, in the broadest sense, in the bathroom. I was partly responsible, and I didn't want him to be alone as we dealt with other matters. We shower as Hilary sleeps on. It's a good space big enough for both of us. It's not the first time of course we've done this, and the process is as erotic as ever it was for us. He was somewhat younger the first time we stood under flowing water together, and the effect of my hands on his body is the same this morning as……..as ever it was. We watch as the loving water cascades over us, absorbing the little splashes that join it, making their way……mingling, and then disappearing for ever.

We stand together and his lips on mine feel gentle and calm……and then from the deep…..

'Thank you for loving me Otta.'

'Thank you for loving me back.'

No more words now……..no more words.


I make tea. James has brought a cup from his room. It's last night repeated as he removes the white towelling bathrobe, and joins us in bed to work our way through the rest of the bound volume which is our gift to him. There's a page of photographs, quite small prints, of small groups and individual boys on a beach. I recognize it as Studland, owned by the National Trust and where nudism is allowed on a certain part of that glorious stretch of sand in Dorset. Needless to say, none of the boys are making use of swimming kit. In one example, five smiling boys are standing facing the camera, with arms around each other's shoulders. A very nice looking dark haired lad is next to James who is in the middle. James looks a little older than when I first met him…..probably his second summer at the school. The photo below it is larger, and shows two figures, and James with the same boy. The other boy has his arm around James' waist, and James' arm is hidden behind his friend. It looks like it's taken in the dunes that I'm familiar with. They form a higher bank behind the beach. I'm curious.

'Who is that James?'

There's a little delay before he answers………

'That's Robin. He was a friend.'

'Another nice friend?' I continue.

'Yes, another…….and yes…….very nice thanks. He was kind to me.'

'And were you kind to him?'

'Yes I was actually.'

'Would you like to share?'

We had ten minutes of detail concerning Robin. James was happy to tell us all about his friendship with the young and rather beautiful Robin……twelve year old James with thirteen year old Robin. The story was rather touching. Typical James……an attractive younger boy rather keen to nestle under the kindly wing of a caring mentor willing to give his charge advice and comfort, and be comforted in return. James wanted to dwell on those memories, so it all seemed a good moment.

I believe in the power of memories, as opposed to history.

Our hands are Robin's at this moment. Soft breath on soft skin is Robin's breath. James invites our attentions, as finger tips excite every part of him. The memories begins to flow……the little smile as Robin leads our boy to the secluded place behind the door. The hand that felt in forbidden places…….the reaction that Robin was desperately hoping for……the delving and pressing……..and the almost painful pleasure when it came. There were the walks by the river, the lying in the grass, and joy of just being at that moment, in the certain knowledge that Robin is my friend. There was talk of family and places they had been, people they had known and would know no more, and sometimes even tears formed when they spoke about their own and shared loving kindnesses. Then hands would feel inside undone trousers searching and finding. Of course it would all end the same way…..with good feelings, almost instantly forgotten to be replaced by talk of the next cricket match, but remembered later no doubt in the privacy of their beds……..remembered and repeated in dark and private thought. Oh, the hard rubbing we did. We rub it until we are sore. Such wonderfully simple sex devoid of perversion, to be enjoyed and savoured each time afresh with hands and touching tongues and lips and saliva even…….. all poured over by that delicious and sinful sauce. It was good sex, for that's what it is, rinsed in the afternoon breeze, drenched in the odour of a boy's skin still pink and warm from Games, and grey jumper clad, and odourless armpits……with hot and damp feelings.

'Are you ok James?'

I feel his forehead with the palm of my hand. It's moist and warm. His breathing is slowing, mouth still open, and tiny beads of perspiration on his upper lip.

'Where did you go James….just now?'

'He's was leaving in four days. It was probably our last chance.'

'That's nice. Was it a good occasion?'

'Oh yes. It was so sad that he had to leave.'

'That's the way it is, isn't it? So parting was sweet sorrow?'

'Yes. He asked if he could love me. I didn't know what he meant….not really. He said it was all about kissing someone. Silly really. We'd never done that before. I thought it was wrong and I wouldn't go to heaven. He said that to love someone wasn't a sin, but something good, and that I shouldn't worry about not going to heaven. He said I was too nice not to go to heaven. We kissed. I felt his tongue against mine. It made me want him more.

'That's very touching James.'

'Yes, I suppose it was. It had its funny side too. He made my mouth sore. It felt hot for ages afterwards. I felt myself going red in Tea…….every time I thought about it. That was the last time. I missed him terribly.'

James laughs now, knowing how silly he's been, through his tears…..and mine.

The end of the day

The end of the day


We drop James off at the entrance to the Cathedral Choir School, an ugly red brick building behind the church in Ambrosden Avenue. He has a rehearsal to accompany at ten o'clock sharp. Saying goodbyes from a cab can never be very satisfactory, but for us it is not goodbye, but au revoir as they say . I cannot imagine losing him forever, our very dear and sweet boy.

Hilary is due back in Chichester by lunchtime, or soon after, when his cover goes off duty. There's no way I can stay with him down there for extended periods as the 'authorities' would never wear that sort of arrangement. It means our separation for what is often weeks on end, but that's considerably better than nothing at all. It just makes what we do when we are together that much more intense and meaningful. What a strange journey it has been. Still, there it is.

I have found a kind of love, and a form of lovemaking I never expected to happen, but it has. My children have accepted it for what it is. Hilary is younger than me by some way, so he may not want it to last. Who knows?

So this is where my story ends, with its little twists and turns of fate. All our players have their lives, and will make of them what they will, or can. So be it.

With the customary screech of brakes, my train grinds to a halt at Rye. It's a five minute walk to up the hill from the station to Watchbell Street, which is dark and deserted. There are lights on in S. Mary's as I pass through Church Square. A little breath of guilt touches my cheek, and gently disappears. I haven't been for ages.

I'm sitting on the bench at the look-out point at the very end of Watchbell Street, overlooking the marsh towards Winchelsea……Camber Castle with it squat round towers lurks abandoned in the rising autumn mist.

There was just one last conversation with James. Hilary had made an excuse to leave us for a few minutes. Our bags are packed, and waiting. It's our last chance. Our cab is due in fifteen minutes. I knock on the door of James' room just down the deeply carpeted corridor. There's no reply when I knock, so I put my weight against the resistant fire door and it grudgingly opens. I find him dressed to leave the hotel, lying on his side on the roughly made bed. I look at James's face…..who knows, maybe for the last time? Nothing can be taken for granted. Nothing can be assumed. He pats the ruffled covers in front of his face. I move over to the bed. He sees me check the time on my watch……

'How long?'

'A quarter of an hour……no more.'

I settle down next to him. James looks thoughtful. I smile across the two feet or so between us.

'Do you love me Otta?'

'You know I do.'

'What if I got married or something…..or went to Australia? Would you still love me then?'

'Married?'

'Yes. I might marry one day.'

'Oh. That boy of yours? That's a very novel idea.'

'Yes it is. What would you think if I did…….if I ever could…….if we ever could?'

'I would wish you every happiness. That's all I want for you.'

'That's sweet. Why do you love me?'

'You know why. Don't be awkward.'

'I'm not. What do you love most about me?'

'What you are.'

'My body or my mind?'

'Both.'

We look at each other. I can see so much love in his eyes. My beautiful boy.

'Tell me then…….tell me you always will.'

'I always will……and for what you are, not what you can do.'

'Ok, but I can do things well can't I?'

'Yes, you can do some things exceedingly well.'

'Have I satisfied you Otta? I have tried.'

'More than you will ever know James.'

'But it wasn't just my mind was it?'

'No of course it wasn't.'

'Did you love my body first?'

'Yes, if I'm honest.'

'Which bits? Tell me. I need you to tell me.'

'Why?'

'I just do. I want to understand all the reasons why you love me. It's important. I want you to tell me again.'

'It's was the way you stood…the way your clothes hung on your body. You had such….poise. It was just the way you looked……every detail of you…..those lovely eyes…….and your sweet mouth.'

I could have elaborated.

'Was I a sexy little boy?'

'Oh yes….very. I couldn't wait to….'

'What? See me naked?'

'Yes.'

'Do you remember the first time you saw all of me?'

'Indeed I do.'

'I wanted you to see……all of me……everywhere…….every bit of me. I thought if you did, one day you would love me.'

'Yes, I saw all of you……all the outside and then the inside of you too.'

'What was it like?'

'The inside was as beautiful as the outside. I saw the real person there. Then I began to love you.'

'And?'

'And……I haven't stopped. You are my life blood…..the rhythm of my days……the melody in my ear…….my music…….my…..toccata?'

'Toccata? You don't know what one is?'

'I might.'

'Toccata and fugue…….or just tocatta?'

'Both ……you are my toccata and fugue.'

That brought a wry smile to James' face. Then, another question……

'So, old man, old clever clogs, who is Buxtehude then?'

I didn't have an answer. We lay still for a few moments. Then, finally he asks……..

'You won't ever stop loving me?'

I smiled.

'No. I never will.'

Two boys on a beach

Two boys on a beach

The End

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