Love from A to Z

by Charles Lacey

Chapter 4

In Charles Neville's office, the telephone rang. His secretary answered it, and said, "I'll see if he is available. Would you hold the line, please?"

She put her hand over the mouthpiece and said, "It's the Headmaster of Embleton..."

Neville said, irritably, "I suppose I'd better speak to him. Hello? Dr Erskine?

"Hello, Mr Neville," came the Headmaster's voice. "I'm afraid something rather unpleasant has happened. Would you be able to get over here today?"

"What the devil do you mean? Has Zak done something serious?"

"I'd rather not discuss it over the telephone. Can you get here today?"

"No, I have an important meeting this afternoon. Will tomorrow morning do?"

"I suppose it will have to. Make it as early as you can, please. When you arrive, come to Reception and they will bring you to my study immediately. And please be prepared to take Zacharias home with you."

"Is Zak all right? I mean, he isn't seriously ill or something?"

"No, it's nothing like that. Till tomorrow, then." And the Headmaster rang off before Neville could put any more questions to him.

That bloody boy, thought Neville, what has he done now. God, I hope he hasn't got a girl into trouble, or anything of that sort. Perhaps he was caught pinching another boy's stuff. Well, if he has, he'll get short shrift from me. He went through to the board room to start a directors' meeting.

The next morning, Neville arrived at Embleton just after ten o'clock. As instructed, he went to Reception and the girl there took him straight through to the Headmaster's office.

"Oh, good morning, Mr Neville. Thank you for coming so promptly." The Headmaster was bland. "Please take a seat. I don't think this will take long."

"Well, what's it about? Don't beat about the bush, man."

"Mr Neville, I am deeply sorry to have to tell you this. I know it will distress you even more than it has me and Mr Ovenden..."

"Zak's Housemaster? What's he got to do with it."

"Briefly, Mr Neville, your son was caught with another boy during the Games period. They were in the changing room. They were... well, they were masturbating one another."

"Good God. Who caught them?"

"Mr Bronson, the Games master. He reported them to Ovenden, who very properly came straight to me. I sent for them and I will say in their favour that they did at least admit it, and each of them claimed to have been to one to instigate the... misbehaviour. You will see, of course, that I have no option but to expel both of them. Yardley, the other boy concerned, left yesterday evening with his grandfather, as his father lives abroad. Your son has spent the night in isolation in the Sanatorium. Ovenden and the Matron have put his things together and I will ask you to remove him as soon as possible. I am deeply sorry, but I really have no alternative."

Neville was aghast. His son... a homo? One of those queers? Surely the other boy must have corrupted him. Oh God, this must be why his mother had sent him to Yorkshire – perhaps he had been..." He put his head in his hands.

"I'm very sorry," the Headmaster said again, more gently. "My secretary will give you coffee before you go." He steered Neville adroitly towards the door, through to the secretary's office. She rose as he came in, and offered him coffee and a plate of biscuits, then picked up the telephone.

"Mr Ovenden? It's Mrs Platt here. Mr Neville is with me and will be ready to take Zacharias home in a few minutes. Oh, Matron will bring him over? Thank you, that's very kind. Goodbye."

Neville sat, an untouched cup of coffee at his elbow, his head in his hands.

There was a knock at the door, and his son came in, accompanied by a stout, pleasant-looking woman whom he recognized as the Matron of his son's House. Zak came over to him, visibly trembling. "I'm sorry, father..." he began, but his father interrupted, abruptly. "The car's outside. Get your things and wait for me there." The boy started to speak, then went out hastily. Neville drank the coffee and looked out of the window. He could see Zak loading a couple of cases into the car, and then climbing into the passenger seat.

"Thank you for the coffee," he said to the Secretary, and then slowly left the room, through the hallway past the Reception desk and out to the waiting car. He got in and drove away silently.

"Father..." began the boy, after they had covered a few miles.

"I've nothing to say to you at the moment. We'll discuss your future when we get home." The rest of the three-hour drive took place in silence.

Neville's home was a substantial four-bedroom house standing in its own grounds to the West of Bradford. Zak's father told him to go to his room and unpack, and then come and talk to him in the sitting room. With great trepidation, Zak came into the room and saw his father sitting in a chair by the fireplace.

"Well," said Neville, "what have you got to say for yourself?"

"I'm sorry, father..."

"I should think you are. I've never heard anything so foul. I've had to tell your mother, and she told me why she sent you back here at the end of the holidays. Well, you are past the school leaving age, and there's no question of your going to University, God knows how many temptations there would be. You'll come and work in the office where I can keep an eye on you. Starting tomorrow. You'll live here and you'll travel to work and back in my car. Honestly, my son … a bloody homo. Well, we'll be putting a stop to that. Don't you dare ever let it out in the office, or anywhere else for that matter."

"No, father," said Zak. This was so far not as bad as he had feared.

"Now, as for your disgusting behaviour – who started it? Was it this other boy who led you into bad habits? Or was it you who took the lead? Having heard about the filth your mother found, I assume you were the ringleader."

"Yes, it was my fault." It seemed to Zak that the only possible course was to go along with whatever the old man said.

"Very well. At least you have been honest. Take off your jacket and bend over that chair. When I have finished, go to your room. Your behaviour has been abominable and I have no option but to punish you severely."

For a moment Zak did not comprehend what was going to happen, although his father had beaten him when he was younger, but he obeyed. The beating was ruthless and painful. When it was over he grabbed his jacket and ran from the room.

In his own room, Zak flung himself face down on the bed and wept. He wept for the pain in his backside, for the fact that he was attracted to other boys, for loneliness and, most of all, for Ash. Ash's handsome face, his slender beauty, his kind hands and his warm and friendly personality came to Zak's mind over and over again.

Ten minutes later, his father came in. "Don't lie there blubbering, boy, you are nearly a man – or you are supposed to be. If you can't behave like a man, at least behave like a boy, not a snivelling girl."

Zak got up from the bed, blew his nose and looked his father in the face for the first time. An altogether unexpected emotion came to his aid. It was anger. He looked at the old man and thought how ugly he was, with his red nose, broken veins and bald head. Again he thought of Ash and his beauty. How dare the old man treat me like this? Well, though Zak, I'll do what he wants until I can get away. Then we'll see....

Rather to his surprise, Ash found that he missed Zak rather a lot. Oh well, he thought, plenty more fish in the sea. Keep an eye open.

Ash found a weekend job working at a car valeting centre, and his parents' friends and neighbours sometimes asked him to help out with various outdoor tasks, for which he was paid.

And he became increasingly busy with school work. St Aidan's was not an academic school; most of its pupils left as soon as they had taken their GCSEs. But the Sixth Form was different. It was housed in a separate building which had been added in the 1950s, and the small number of pupils who stayed on were prepared to take their work seriously. The staff, who spent most of their time keeping order in lower forms, clearly enjoyed working with this small group and as a result the atmosphere was much more relaxed.

Apart from this, he swam regularly and, from time to time, competitively. He was rather proud of his versatility. He could do a rapid and stylish breast stroke, a vigorous crawl and an energetic butterfly. He was also an accomplished diver, entering the water with barely a splash.

But there was no sign of the Right Boy coming along. Sometimes Ash thought of Zak and wondered how he was getting on. He wished he'd had the chance to get to know him better. There was no-one at school - or, to be more honest, there was no-one at school who was known to be gay.

Zak worked hard in the office, grasping the routines easily, and earning his father's grudging approval.

But he felt emotionally starved. Often he thought about Ash, and wished things had worked out differently. The other office staff were slightly wary of him, as the boss's son, and while they treated him courteously, there was always a little distance between him and them.

But he did find one recreation: moorland walking. When not in the office, rather than go to his father's house, which he could not honestly feel was really home, he went on long solitary walks, enjoying the scenery and even the weather. He joined a walking club and most weekends found him in hiking boots, striding along with his companions across the moors. His father had accepted this, and even hoped that Zak might eventually find a girl friend.

They were a friendly group, most of them a good bit older than Zak but welcoming to a new recruit. For Zak, anything which got him out of the office and away from his father was to be welcomed, but he found that once he had got used to it, the exercise of walking was enjoyable for its own sake, quite apart from the companionship. Little by little, he found himself becoming fitter. Once he realised this, he also started to take more care over his diet. The slight pudginess he had had as a boy came off and he slimmed down.

One of the group, a young man named Nolan, made a point of walking at least a part of each walk with Zak. He was in his mid-twenties, quite good looking in a rugged, outdoors sort of way. On the first few walks he contented himself with pointing out features of interest in the landscape, but as time went on he began to probe gently into Zak's background.

Zak was in a quandary. He didn't want to seem unfriendly, but neither did he want to reveal anything of his past, as he never knew what might get back to his father. In the end, he admitted that he had been expelled from school, without explaining further, and that he was now working in his Dad's mill in Bradford.

"Oh yes?" pursued Nolan. "And do you have a girl-friend?"

"Not at the moment. I'm keeping my options open."

"Ah. So am I."

They walked on for some time in silence. Then Nolan spoke again. "What sort of options might you have in mind?"

"Well, nothing in particular at present."

"Forgive my saying this, and tell me to mind my own business if you like, but might one of your options be male?"

Zak froze. Nolan was really rather nice, and Zak could have fallen for him, but he was still terrified of being openly gay for fear of his father's probable reaction. As he saw it, his only option, given that he had no qualifications, was to continue working for Hargreaves and Neville, in the hope that he might earn some sort of promotion in time, and be able to be more independent.

But Nolan was walking at his side, with an air of being sympathetic but expecting an answer.

"Look... Nolan... can I trust you? Really trust you, I mean?"

"Yes, of course. I'd never repeat anything you tell me in confidence. But I think I am ahead of you..."

"I was sacked from Embleton because I was having an affair with another boy. And my father is trying to make me get into a relationship with a girl, and get married, and all that. But I may as well tell you the truth. I'm gay. But please, please don't tell anyone else."

"I won't say a word. But I can understand where you are coming from. I'm gay too."

Zak was initially surprised, but then realised he shouldn't be. Nolan had no wife or girl-friend that he knew of, but he had made a point of being friendly, without overdoing it. Their walk had taken them onto a hillside where there were large outcrops of rock. Nolan led Zak – or did they just walk together? - to where one such outcrop hid them from the rest of the group. Nolan held out his arms, and Zak came into them with a sense of – well, it was relief more than anything else. He felt Nolan's lips kiss his cheek. It just felt so right, being in a man's arms. He wanted to kiss Nolan on the lips, but compromised with a peck on the cheek. Oh God, thought Zak, this is what I want. But I don't dare risk everything.

They heard voices, and moved apart, walking naturally as if they had been admiring the view. Soon, they were with the rest of the club, moving steadily towards their destination, a village called Applefold, where the Crown and Anchor inn kept particularly good ale.

As they left the pub and started on the return leg of their journey, Nolan said to Zak, "Don't worry, I truly won't say a word. But I really hope we can get together again soon. I won't force the pace, but let me know if you want to take things a stage further."

Zak was in a huge quandary. More than anything else in the world, he wanted to get to know Nolan, even to have sex with him. But he knew what the result would be if his father found out. Eventually he decided to explain things frankly to Nolan next time they met, and see if he had any thoughts.

Nolan was reassuring. "We couldn't live together anyway as I am still living at my mother's house. But there's no reason why we shouldn't meet and enjoy each other's company. Can you ever get away of an evening?"

"Yes, I could manage that. Tuesday or Thursday are the best ones, Dad usually works late in the office and then takes his girl friend out to dinner. "

"OK, that sounds great. Let's meet at the Drovers' Arms at Shipholme – seven o'clock suit you?"

Zak arrived ten minutes early, but Nolan was already there. They had a drink, then made their way out of the pub and along the lanes to a barn. Nolan explained that the farmer was away and no-one would come in. They went in, carefully closing the door behind them, and made their way up a wooden ladder to the hayloft.

There was a wonderful smell of fresh hay, and Nolan scooped out a nest for them. They took off their outer clothes and lay down together in the hay. Zak soon found that Nolan was as excited as he was. As they kissed and stroked each other both were instantly rock hard. Gradually, Nolan's wandering hands came down to Zak's midriff and eased their way into his underpants. Suddenly, unable to stop himself, Zak shot his load. Nolan just put his arms around Zak again and held him for a few minutes. Then Zak bent himself around so as to be able to get Nolan's cock in his mouth.

To his surprise, Nolan was circumcised. Zak had seen cut cocks before, in the showers at school where there were several Jewish boys. He ran his tongue around the head, and even into the little slit. It tasted faintly of soap. Before long, Nolan stiffened and spurted into Zak's mouth. Zak swallowed it, with a feeling of satisfaction. Then Zak lay in Nolan's arms for some minutes, until he got up and said, "We'd better be getting back. It'll be dark before too long. I'll run you back to Bradford in the car."

Zak hadn't realised that Nolan had a car. It was a fairly old Ford, whose upholstery had seen better days. But it was a lot better than catching the bus back, and it gave him a few more minutes in Nolan's company.

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