The Bench

by William King

The Bench, by William King


It was just one of those idle moments, I had time to kill and decided to stroll along the front. The warm breeze off the sea rustled the palm leaves making a symphonic cacophony as background to the occasional screeching of the parrots. Looking up to the majestic tops of those trees I could hear, but not see those allusive birds, only an occasional glimpse, a flash of barely perceived colour.

There was practically nobody about, unsurprising for three in the afternoon, people would be eating, and most definitely indoors, out of the sun. Even if this was not the scorching heat of summer, it was nevertheless intense.

When the parrots stayed silent and the breeze abated the only sound was the gentle rolling waves touching the sandy beach. 'How many hours had I spent on that beach and the other one further along the coast? Too many to count, a lifetime, my entire youth.'

My gaze returned from the trees to look out across the sand towards the glistening water. That was the moment I saw him. At first a distant blurred shape as he emerged from the sea, the only person on the beach. Looking around I noticed his pile of clothes not a hundred meters from where I was sitting on the bench.

His lithe, sun kissed body was silhouetted by the bright sunshine as he strolled toward me. It was not polite to stare, especially in such an obvious fashion when no one else was there, and one could not disguise the obvious. He was not of course heading towards me, that was simply my imagination. He bent down to pick up a towel from his belongings, wiped his face, then swirled the towel around and over his shoulders like a cape.

It was as he did so that to my embarrassment he caught me watching, but he did not react as one might dread, but rather as one might dream. He looked directly at me and smiled. A smile that was enough to almost stop my heart beating as it struck like an arrow launched by Eros. The moment lasted an eternity, as if time had stopped and the only existence was that connection between us.

He turned away then, leaving me dumb struck, unable to fathom what had happened. And as he turned he began to quickly dry himself. Every movement was like a ballet of intricate sensuality, I could no more avert my gaze than I could stop my heart from beating. The way his body turned and manoeuvred as he covered himself and dressed.

The parrots had long since ceased to screech, or their shrill calling had simply faded away. I felt the delicate breeze on my face, which was almost like a caress despatched from nature, but its gentleness only accentuated a long buried emotion. I knew that I should get up and leave, seek the shade and shelter of the narrow streets leading up hill to the town, but I could not.

At last I thought he is leaving as I watched him gather his things, the towel which he shook the sand from, his small knapsack. I would remember our encounter although it must be as nothing to him, it was a moment to treasure for myself. Then it happened. He was approaching me, an air of panic began to intrude on the peacefulness.

He was standing directly in front of me, his tall body blocked the sunlight and cast a shadow on the bench. My eyes involuntarily roamed across his bronzed chest, he had put a shirt on, but left it unbuttoned. The thin white cotton flapped in the breeze and contrasted starkly with his deep brown skin. 'He must be on the beach a lot,' I reflected, else he would never have so deep a tan. My mind once more drifted to my youth as if this boy who stood before me was a mirror.

That smile cast an emotion too huge to embrace, it simply overflowed. "May I?" His voice was soft and almost hesitant, not at all self assured. 'Why was that?' I wondered. It had seemed up until now that this youth had all the power, but perhaps it was not so. Perhaps I had by my own nature endowed him with a power he did not possess, which was simply my projection.

"Of course," I smiled looking to the empty place on my right. "I am Matthew," I introduced myself as he took a seat close enough to me to allow space on his far side for his belongings.

"Eldon," he replied and extended his hand.

I followed his hand with my eyes and reached out to take hold. His skin was soft and damp, his grip was ever so gentle. His touch as light as the caress of the breeze on my cheeks.

A parrot screeched above us, reminding me to let go of his hand, I hoped I had not lingered too long.

"That is an interesting name," I looked up into his deep dark eyes.

"It means old or elder. Some say it also means from the valley of the Elves." He smiled, his white teeth shining brightly, a mischievous glint in his eyes.

"And do you believe that?"

"Believe what?"

"That your name comes from the valley of the Elves."

"Oh that," he was smiling again. "No not really, but it sounds good don't you think?"

"Well yes, but I wonder does the name match your personality."

"Ah, perhaps. I don't know. Sometimes I think I am old for my age."

"How old are you?"

"Seventeen next Friday."

"And the Elves part, are you an Elf?"

"Maybe," he paused a moment. "Do I look like an Elf?"

"Haha, you could do, except I think elves have pointed ears."

He placed both hands behind his ears and flicked them. "Aren't these pointed enough?"

"I think they are just fine," I told him smiling.

"What are you doing here all alone?" He asked changing the subject.

"I have an appointment at four, I'm just waiting."

He looked at his watch, an old watch with black Roman numerals on a yellowed face that resembled parchment. The strap was black leather, worn thin at places around the edge.

"We have half an hour then."

"That's an old watch," I said admiringly.

He moved his arm across in front of me and turned his wrist to show me. "It was my grandfather's."

I could not stop myself from taking hold of his wrist under the pretence of examining his grandfather's watch. The touch was another caress more intense, more exciting, than the breeze. I felt he knew too that the touch was more than simple appearances might show. There was, I was almost certain, that connection.

"My grandfather was a wonderful man. He was the one person I could talk to about anything. I miss that."

This was sharing something intimate, personal, our relationship had suddenly moved onto another level. I at once felt at ease in the company of this youth, but at the same time my inner voice was trying desperately to decipher the code of hidden meaning. I knew only too well from experience that no one spoke clearly, one had always to feel a way through the labyrinth.

"He was your confidant?"

"Yes, in a way. I think I am too close to my parents to talk about some things, but knowing how my grandfather thought, I could share those feelings with him that I could not with my parents."

"What about a best friend? Do you not have someone close?"

"Yes, yes. I have a very good best friend and we talk about lots of things together, but it's not the same."

"How so?"

"Because he's my own age, he doesn't know more than me. With my grandfather it was different. He was a man like you, he had lived much longer, he had all those experiences that are accumulated through life."

"Yes I see. And what did you talk about?"

He smiled with that same mischievous look I had seen earlier. "Now you are trying to find out about me."

"Yes, of course I am and I think you know why that is."

He laughed and at the same time threw his head backwards. "I have to go soon," he glanced at his watch. "I have lessons at four..." He paused. "And you have your appointment."

"This has been a pleasure," I told him. "Perhaps I will see my elf boy again," I smiled and stood up.

"Perhaps," he chuckled, doing up the buttons of his shirt and tucking it in.

I reached out and took a grip on his wrist, gently squeezing. "I hope so." I moved and walked away to cross the road and go up hill towards the town centre. From the other side of the road I turned to look back and saw him gathering his belongings.

The leaves were still moving in the breeze and the parrots fluttering hidden in the foliage. The wind was not strong enough to penetrate the town and no longer caressed my face. I forced myself towards the town, my muscles complained as I walked, I'd left my youth behind on that bench.

The End.

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