Andrew

by The Composer

Chapter 12

As it happened, I did see Trevor from that care home once again. We had been over in Portsmouth – Charles discovered that I'd never been to see the wreck of the Mary Rose or HMS Victory, and insisted on taking me over. It was actually better than I had expected. To get from Gosport to Portsmouth there is this little green ferry which runs back and forward. We were getting off at the Gosport end when I felt a tap on the shoulder, and turned round, and there was Trevor.

"Well, young man, it's some time since I've seen you." He looked me up and down. "And you do look smart. And different. More confident. Happier."

"Was I that miserable before?"

He shrugged. "You never looked at that happy."

"What you expect, in those places?"

Charles had stopped a careful ten yards ahead, but Trevor had clocked him. "Is that the sugar daddy?"

Charles went slightly red, then put on his best bland expression.

"Charles? Can you give us a couple of minutes?"

He nodded and walked on a little. I turned back to Trevor.

"It's not what you think," I told him. He looked at me slightly sceptically. "I've never been happier. Charles means everything to me."

Trevor looked at me very closely. "How long has it been?"

"A year?"

"And he's been good to you?"

I could see him looking at my clothes. "You know one thing I really hate?" I told him. He looked at me inquiringly. "When he buys me stuff." That got his attention. "I'm not a whore. I don't live with him because he buys me stuff. I hate it when he buys me stuff. I know I need decent clothing and the rest of it, and I know I can't pay for it. He has to pay for it. There's such a thing as self-respect, and that's why I really hate it when he pays."

I could see Trevor working that out. "You really mean that, don't you?"

"I do."

He looked over to where Charles was standing. "He treats you well?"

"He's like a daddy and a lover rolled into one."

Trevor looked at me slightly sceptically. "A lover?"

"I don't expect you to believe me, but the sex is fantastic."

"Yuck. Too much information. But really?"

"Really."

Trevor looked back to Charles. "There's no accounting for taste."

I grinned. "And before you think that it's a case of a dirty old man molesting a poor innocent little boy –"

"Innocent?" queried Trevor.

"– It was me who molested him."

Trevor shook his head. "There's no accounting for taste," he said again. "So, what are you doing now?"

"I'm at school, where we live. I'm doing A levels."

"A levels? I thought you only had one or two dodgy GCSE results."

"Charles sweet talked the school into taking me."

"Really? What's he going to do next? Sell fridges to Eskimos?"

"I'm coping."

"I remember," he said slowly, "you always had your nose in a book. You used to sit there in a corner reading, or watching people. You were never one of the bullies, but you always used to stand up for yourself."

"You had to in those places, or you were done for."

"And how do the neighbours take it when this bloke arrives back with this young toy boy?"

"As far as they are concerned, I'm his nephew."

"That's a good one." He paused. "Look," he said awkwardly, "I know blokes like that. They like boys. But when those boys grow up …"

"It was his idea that I became his nephew. Then I told him, if you are my uncle, you can't throw me out. What with the school say if Uncle Charles threw his nephew out onto the streets? So he can't get rid of me, even if he wanted to – at least, while I'm still at school. And he said, that's fine."

Trevor looked from Charles to me and back again. "It must be love."

"It is, at least as far as I'm concerned. And I told you the sex …"

"Yeah, yeah."

He began talking to Charles, and I followed him. Again, Charles was showing his blandest expression.

"I've been talking to Jason. He says you're being good to him. I don't like sugar daddies. They usually end up hurting kids. If you hurt him, I'll cut you off at the knees and make sure you never walk again."

Charles looked startled for a moment. Then: "The last thing I would ever want to do is to hurt him. As far as I am concerned, he is the best thing that has happened to me in my life." He looked across to me, and I could see the love in his eyes.

Trevor looked him straight in the eye, then put out a hand. Again Charles was surprised, but shook it.

"I'm late for work," Trevor said. And then he leaned forward, and whispered to Charles, "Jason tells me that the sex is fantastic." And he walked away.

Trevor wasn't the only person from my past who I bumped into in Gosport. We had come down to the boat for the weekend, but there was some problem with the engine. Getting a mechanic on a Saturday was not easy, but we found someone Charles knew. The snag was he wouldn't be able to come down until the afternoon.

Charles decided he wanted to go into Gosport while the banks were still open. The High Street was fairly crowded, and as I was pushing past some people, a woman caught my eye. I knew her. I couldn't remember her name, but she had been one of those social workers in the care home. There was a flash of recognition in her eye, and she seized my elbow as I tried to get past.

"Jason Jones. It's a long time since I've seen you."

I did my best to imitate Charles at his blandest. I looked at her. "I beg your pardon?" I said with as much confidence as I could muster.

Her confidence flickered for a moment, and then she looked at me again. "Jason Jones." She looked me up and down. I was far better dressed than I had ever been in that care home. "You're looking smart. Where did you get that lot from?"

Charles had stopped a few paces ahead of us, and turned round. She saw him.

"Ah, I see," she said, looking at Charles. "Is this where the fancy clothes come from?" Neither Charles nor I said anything. She turned back to me. "I hope they are worth whatever he does with you. Or to you." Her tone was like honey laced with acid. "I know what men like that want from boys like you." She looked me up and down again. "Still, he buys you some nice clothes. Tell me – what does he say to the neighbours? Let me guess. Hmm. He's your uncle?"

Suddenly I lost it. "You've got it all wrong, you know. I'm not with him because I want fancy clothes. I hate it when he has to pay for things. I'm with him because I want to be with him." She looked at me sceptically. "I knew you wouldn't believe me. But it's true." I reached out for Charles's hand. "I'm with him because I want to be with him." She stared at me disbelievingly. "Look, even if I hadn't met him, I wouldn't have stayed in that place for much longer. It was a dump. It was full of thieves and druggies. And social workers. You know what I hated about you social workers? One day I will be living somewhere and going to school somewhere, and some social worker with a degree in sociology would come along and tell me that I was going to go and live somewhere else. Somewhere I have never been before in my life. Like Gosport. Never mind if I made any friends which I would leave behind. Never mind if I had to change schools. If I ever tried arguing, I was told" – I made air quotes with my fingers – "it was for my own good. Social workers? I wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire."

I could see the expression on her face. She looked gobsmacked. "At least …" I was going to say his name, but thought better of it. "At least he has had the decency to get me into a respectable school. I'm doing A levels now. I wouldn't be doing that if I had stuck with you lot. You can sneer all you like, but he's done more for me in the past few months than you lot ever did in ten years. So don't come all high and mighty with me, or with him."

I stared her down. I could see her looking up at me, her mouth opening and closing.

"Like I said, I wouldn't piss on you if you were on fire."

Charles was pulling hard at my sleeve now. We had gathered a small audience, and I heard someone mutter, "What a pair of poofters." I turned round, and there was a runt of a man, with a sneer on his face. He wasn't that old – maybe in his twenties.

I took a step forward, and somehow the crowd around us pulled back, just like a crowd of kids in the playground at school. I walked up to the man. I did my bad boy act, sneering at him. "I suppose you think poofters can't fight?"

I could see from his eyes that he wasn't prepared to take me on. I could see them flickering from side to side, not meeting mine. I knew at times like this that I had to let him save face, give him a way out. "Fuck off and die," I snarled at him. And then I turned to Mrs Social Worker. I jabbed a finger at her. "And you can fuck off and die too." The look on her face was worth it. "And give my regards to Trevor. He's the only one among you who has any humanity."

I turned, and without bothering to see whether Charles was following, I pushed my way through the crowd, and then began walking as fast as I could, anger hazing my vision. It was only at the marina entrance that I paused for a moment, and Charles opened the gate, and I led the way down to the boat. I scrambled down the steps, Charles following. I turned to face him, but he didn't return my gaze, averting his eyes.

"Look at me," I told him. He still wouldn't meet my eyes. "Look at me," louder, and with a touch of anger in my voice. He looked more stricken than I had ever seen him. I took the front of his jacket and pulled him towards me. "Forget everything that old cow said."

"I can't," he whispered.

"Do you still seriously believe that this is wrong?" I touched my lips to his. "Is this wrong?" I asked again. "Are you still going to try and tell me that I was some innocent boy who you seduced? Seriously?" I put my arms around him. Now it was my turn to comfort him. Holding him like that made things better. Him and I. That's what mattered.

"That woman and the world can think what they like," I told him. "I'm with you because I want to be with you, and I can think of nothing better in all the world."

Charles was silent for a long time. Then: "You know what people think?"

"I know what people think. And they are wrong."

"Are they?"

"Charles, you are a bloody fool. I am with you because I love you, and what I said to her was true. I'm not with you because you buy me fancy clothes or whatever. What do I have to do to persuade you that I love you?"

Neither of us said anything for quite some time. Then Charles pulled away, and looked at me. "It might be a good idea if we didn't come down to Gosport again. There are too many people here who know who you really are. We really do not want that to happen again."

"But the boat is here."

He shrugged. "We can find somewhere else to keep it."

"Really?"

"There are lots of places. There's a place up the river. When the mechanic gets here, we can go and investigate."

One of the things about Charles is that once he's made up his mind about something, he does it. Whilst the mechanic got to work, Charles drove us out of Gosport, further up the river. He pulled into a boatyard which was very different from that fancy marina where we normally kept the boat. There weren't any of those floating pontoons – well, there were, in a way, but they were out in the middle of the river. I could see people in little inflatable boats making their way out.

"Is that how you get out to them? By rowing?"

"The exercise will do you good."

"You need the exercise more than me. I know – you can row us out, and I'll row us back."

"Why that way round?"

"By the time we will have finished in that back cabin, you won't have any energy left."

He went off to find the person who ran the yard, whilst I wandered down to the water's edge. I watched all these people sorting out their boats. After a time, I walked back up to the harbour office. Charles was there, waiting for me.

"They've got a place for us. We can move up any time we like. And there's a water taxi at the weekend, so we won't have to row out." He smiled at me again. "Come over here, and sit down. I want to talk to you." We sat, and he was silent for a minute or two, not looking at me. Then he lifted his eyes. "First thing, I should apologise to you." I looked at him, surprised. He looked down at his hands again, and then back to me. "I should never have doubted you."

I reached out a hand to him. "Never apologise to me."

"Anyway," and he looked down at his hands again. "Do you think anyone outside Gosport would recognise you?"

"I've been in all sorts of places, but years ago. But as far as they are concerned, they pushed me on to someone else. That woman only stopped because I'd just walked out. As far as they were concerned, it just wasn't tidy enough."

Charles smiled slightly at that. "We need some more paperwork to back up your new identity. You know, being here will save me a lot of money. What we need to do is to get you a bank account, and I can give you an allowance. A monthly allowance. You can have a debit card – not a credit card – which means you won't have to keep on relying on me to give you cash. The money I'm saving my coming here can be your allowance."

An allowance. Up to now, he'd given me cash from time to time for pocket money. I never needed much. And I had plenty of clothes now.

"Do you mean that? An allowance? A bank account?"

"Why not? The other thing we need to do is to get you a provisional driving licence. It would be something else with your new name and your photograph. With that behind us, it would be a brave social worker who tried challenging us."

"A driving licence? Seriously?"

He nodded. "Why not? And I know this place – it's a few miles from home, an old airfield, and people can drive around it without a licence. Would you like to learn to drive?"

"Are you going to teach me?"

He smiled. "To begin with. You would like to learn to drive?"

"Is that for real?"

" For real."

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