Andrew

by The Composer

Chapter 14

The school had had to revise its policy on mobile phones. Any phone which rang during lessons was liable to immediate confiscation, and I don't really think anyone thought that was unfair, but the outright ban had been rescinded. Normally, I didn't bother with my phone that much. To be honest, there were not that many people who I swapped numbers with. More out of boredom than anything else, I checked my phone at lunchtime. There was a text from Charles.

'Letter came from Oxford. Opened it. You have place given A level results. Congrats.'

I really didn't believe it. I sat staring at it for what seemed like minutes. Eventually Helen nudged me. I passed the phone over to her, and she read the message, and looked at me with wide eyes.

"Well done," she whispered.

"You remember two years ago?"

She smiled at me. "I remember this boy walking into the school looking for someone to pick an argument with."

"I always enjoy a good argument."

"No, you don't."

"Yes, I do," I replied automatically.

Mind you, I still had to get the grades. I thought I was secure with History, but English and Media Studies would not be a walk over. It meant an Easter holiday reading and reading again all my textbooks. But even knowing the text was no guarantee – you were supposed to be able to think as well.

But once the exams were over, there was the opportunity to relax. Charles took an extended break, and we took the boat over to France and the Channel Islands. We could take our time, and on the days when it poured with rain or blew half a gale, we could spend our time in that back cabin.

The results came: History was a top grade; English and Media Studies were not as good, but were adequate. My place was confirmed. At the beginning of October, Charles drove me to Oxford, and we carried my bags up to my room. It was difficult saying goodbye. We would be apart for over eight weeks. Apart from the times when he was away overnight on business, we had slept together every night for the past two years, and I was used to waking in the middle of the night, and feeling his reassuring presence next to me, or his hand reaching out in his sleep to touch me. I hugged him hard. It would be difficult without him.

He left me there, in that empty room, and I began the task of unpacking my bags. There would be a formal Hall that evening, with jacket and tie and gown. I didn't even know how to tie a tie properly until Charles showed me a few weeks ago. We even had to have a suit, and Charles had taken me to an expensive tailor in Southampton, and had one made. I told him that would be a waste of time and money, since it wouldn't fit in a year or two's time. I was as tall as Charles now, if not taller, and that work in the gym had broadened my shoulders. Well, that suit had been paid for, and so I might as well wear it. My one little act of rebellion was the tie, with a rainbow stripe, sending out a message as to who I really was. I had never come out at school, but now I was away from school, and it no longer mattered.

On my way in to Hall, I saw that boy from Charterhouse who I had met at interview. I struggled with a name for a moment. Philip someone. Well, that would do for the moment. We gave each other slightly wary glances, and then nodded to each other. As we went in to Hall, I didn't quite believe it. From the pits of Gosport to Hogwarts in not much more than two years.

One of the problems with Oxford is that there is so much to do. There are clubs, societies, organisations, and all the rest of it. I was pressurised to join a GBLT group, but politely, said no thanks. I didn't think I had anything to prove. On the other hand, I did find myself getting some discreet approaches from some fairly unlikely people, and having to turn them down, telling them that I was already spoken for. I grumbled about this to Charles one day in the Easter holidays.

"Perhaps you should wear a ring," he suggested.

"What, try persuading everyone I'm married?"

"Or just get married."

"Who would want to marry me?"

"I might."

"Charles – is this a proposal?"

"Perhaps it is."

"Down on one knee," I told him, "and do it properly."

He knelt in front of me, and took my hand. "Will you marry me?"

I still wasn't sure whether he was joking. "Seriously?"

"Why not?"

"Uncle. It would be incest."

"I think we can drop that fiction. Will you marry me?"

"Of course."

He stood up and pulled me to my feet. We hugged very hard. "I'm going to ravish you," he whispered in my ear.

"You're supposed to do that after we get married," I whispered back.

Much later, we were lying in bed together. "How about the college chapel?" he said.

I didn't take his meaning for a moment or two. Then: "Do you think they would do that?"

"I can always write to the Master and ask. We could pick a date in the Long Vac."

A thought occurred to me. "Charles?"

"Yes?"

"Isn't there a line in the marriage ceremony about 'all my worldly goods on thee I endow'?"

"Yes."

"I haven't got any worldly goods."

"Then it's not a problem then, is it?"

"But you've got lots."

"And?"

I raised myself up on one elbow and looked across at him. "So if I decide to divorce you, what would I be entitled to?"

"Often things are split fifty fifty."

"Then the answer is no."

It was Charles' turn to roll over and stare at me. "What?"

"The answer's no."

"Is this some sort of extension of that idea of yours – what was the phrase you used? I am not a whore?"

"It's not right," I said stubbornly.

"Only you would come up with an objection like that," he said wearily.

"Do you really want to marry me?"

"Don't be such a damn fool," and he rolled over on top of me. He stared down into my face. "Can you really ask a question like that?"

I stared up at him. "I don't want your money. I hate taking your money. You buy all these things for me, and I can buy you nothing. I hate it."

"Andrew, Andrew." He was using that old name of mine, from when we had first met, before I became someone else. "I do it out of love. Love for you."

I wriggled underneath him. "All you want is my body," I said, half joking.

"You bloody fool." I was startled. "Yes, your body is fantastic, the sex is out of the world, but it's you I want. I want to wake up next to you every morning. Not to make love, but just knowing that you are there, that I put out a hand and touch you, that we can go down to breakfast together, that we can spend the day together in each other's company. Can you understand that?"

I pulled his head down to mine. "I'm sorry," I whispered in his ear.

"So will you marry me?"

"Yes." I closed my eyes, and felt those butterfly kisses on my face.

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