Love - Existentially

by John Teller

Part 3

Book One - The French Connection

Colette d'Evreux – mama of Alain d'Evreux.

Even though he's watching the television, I know Alain is not the least bit interested in what's on. He's hundreds of kilometres away, and I know exactly where he is: with Archie Whittingham in Cornwall.

I love my son. I love my girls, Édith and Dominique, but Alain is my Special One. I adore him more than anyone on earth and we have an almost telepathic understanding between us. I know before he knows when he's coming down with something, and I can tell what mood he's in by the way he walks and many other things he does subconsciously. Like now... he has his fingers entwined and he's scraping his thumb nails together. That means he's agitated but not angry. If he was agitated and angry, his jaw would be set, but he's running his tongue over his moist upper lip. He's thinking, and agitated, but whatever he's thinking is not unpleasant to his soul.

He's hidden it well, his infatuation with Archie Whittingham, and I'm proud my boy can be so good at what will be an important part of his life when he becomes an adult. Fabien intends Alain will follow in his footsteps and work for the diplomatic corps, but I'm not sure I want that for my boy. I don't want him to be like his father. Despite being married, we're strangers in the bedroom, and that's because I have no intention of being another of his many trollops. He knows I know about them and our marriage has now become one of convenience coupled with a shared desire to do what's best for the children. But it's ironic that bad things can be good things. Because I know about his many indiscretions, I have a powerful rod to beat him with. And even more ironic, because we French have a completely different attitude to indiscretions than other nationalities, his affairs are of little consequence. No, what would damage him is that if we were to separate; our children will become the subject of ridicule, and we French protect our children at all costs. Hence our marriage of convenience; hence my ability to do as I will; and Fabien pays the price of my silence and acquiescence.

The cottage in Cornwall, England, is all my doing. I purchased it on the spur of the moment when I was having one of my get-away-from-it-all retreats a year last early summer when I discovered Fabien had been with even another strumpet... an actress no less; more famous for the different beds she slept in than for her acting ability. (But that's the type Fabien likes... those of easy virtue.) We were staying in a beautiful guest house - myself and the girls and Alain - during our first time in Cornwall, and we all fell in love with the simplicity of it. Unlike the Riviera, it's remote and not overpopulated even at the height of summer, and even though it's a long train journey from London and requires quite a long drive in a taxi from the railway station at Plymouth, we can do it all in one day from our apartment in Paris, including the flight. In fact, arriving and breathing in the freshness of the place is one of the highlights of our trips to the cottage.

I recall our first visit to our new holiday home. It was three months after our first visit and the property had just been vacated. I bought it furnished, and even though I intended to fully refurbish it to our taste eventually, it was simply a case of arriving and sorting out the groceries and our personal belongings and getting used to the place to be at home. Alain was just twelve then, and as soon as the taxi stopped, he was off, running down to the picturesque harbour to reacquaint himself with the fishermen and those who worked in the crab shop he'd made friends with when we'd stayed at the guest house, and it was two hours later when he came back with a large crab and a lobster as his prizes... already cooked, and we all laughed because he was such a clever boy. But that's Alain... he's not only beautiful, he is charming and well-mannered and the sort of boy who can disarm most people when he flashes his gorgeous eyes at them.

But I was not prepared for the consequences of him doing so with a man who had taken my fancy also when I visited his studio.

Archie Whittingham. The children were out; down by the harbour, and I told them I was going to visit a pottery studio just the other side of Port Gaverne while they busied themselves with whatever. At the time I had not bought the Citroen DS 19 Cabriolet we now keep parked in the garage to use on our visits and I had to take a bus, and because that particular part of Cornwall is remote, when I paid the conductor, all I could do was point at the advertisement in the Cornish leaflet that showed Kernow Art Studio as a place to visit, and he duly stopped the bus right outside Archie's place. When I asked where I would catch the bus back, the old man gave me a lovely smile and told me to stand at the side of the road and put out my hand and the bus would pick me up. All so old-fashioned, and that's why I adore the place.

As soon as I saw Archie, I was attracted to him. He's a very handsome man; dark haired and bright eyed, especially when he smiles, and he has a lovely way with him. There were a couple in the shop and Archie was attending to them, but as soon as he saw me, he gave me a lovely smile and indicated that I could look around at my leisure. There was a nice earthy smell in the air; that of the clay he used and the paints he decorated with, and it all added up to an ambience that was appealing, even if Archie was the main attraction once I'd set eyes upon him.

The couple left, clutching two items they'd bought, and Archie came to me. I knew the moment I looked into his eyes that it was not to be. There was no connection at all, and because I am, by all accounts, even though I'm forty years old, a good-looker, and I did flicker my eyes to try and arouse his interest, he didn't give me a second glance that way. It was not to be, and I thought it might be because he was happily married. But during our conversation, when I abstractly but deliberately brought up the subject, he grinned and said he loved beauty in all its forms, but the beauty and form of a suitable wife had not yet crossed his path. I knew immediately he said it that he was being disingenuous, but doing his best to be charming and polite whilst doing so, and I suspected then that I was the wrong sex for him. What I didn't know was that he had a disposition for young boys, and I may have fainted had I known that my own son would become one of his conquests in the not too distant future.

But maybe I am being unfair to Archie. Maybe it's the irresponsibility of my husband that is leading me to think that all men are the same, irrespective of which sex they prefer as lovers. Perhaps I should substitute a single word of what he said to me by replacing his words with: I love beauty in all its forms, but the beauty and form of a suitable boy has not yet crossed my path. Well, my lovely Archie, that's because you never came across a boy like my Alain, who can charm anything on two legs when he flashes those beautiful green eyes at you! You are not the first man who has been left in emotional disarray after meeting my boy. I am his mama, and because I am, I see things others would not see. So, my lovely Archie, you may, at last, have found that which you are seeking. Right now, my beautiful boy is locked in the same charms that have enchanted me... he has fallen for you.

But why should my boy fall for a man? I know why. Because he is that way inclined. I have known it for a while. His father has no idea, and his sisters are too wrapped up in their own disturbed emotions to notice that Alain has never shown the slightest inclination to be around girls. Even now I suspect that his boyish needs are being taken care of by another boy. He doesn't fool me when he goes out many evenings at almost the same time to meet one of my chums. The male of the species never did have any brains where matters pertaining to that between their legs are concerned. The throw-away cloths he has been using this last two years and more are never used these days when he's been out to visit one of my chums. But they are when he has not been out to visit one of my chums. But I am worried, more so than if he was with Archie. At least with Archie I will know where he is, but I don't know where he is when he is out to visit one of my chums.

Perhaps, if it continues, I should employ a private detective. It won't be the first time I've done it, but that was to find out what his father was up to, and it sits with more than a little unease that I would ever do it to the son I love.

Alain turns his head and we catch eyes. He smiles at me; I smile at him and pat the chaise beside me. Without hesitation, he comes to me and folds his legs beneath him and snuggles under my arm. He looks up at me; purses his lips, and I kiss him softly. He smiles at me, and snuggles even closer. I am in heaven.

Alain d'Evreux.

I am lost... completely lost now Roger (Monsieur Peyrefitte has asked me to call him that) has gone to Italy, and with him has gone the outlet to my deep, dark desires. We have come quite a way since first we shared a bed.

I have had to be careful, even alternating evenings to visit him so as not to raise suspicion. But it has worked so far, and I'm sure mama and papa trust me when I have told them that I'm visiting a school friend to revise various subjects, as well as enjoying his company. Having two sisters can be stifling. All they talk about is the latest clothes designs and The Beatles. Because of how they are, mama and papa together are not good company. Anyway, papa is always busy in his office or away on business to have much time for me. That's why I feel a little guilty. Mama and I are very close, and I know she enjoys my company enormously. Sometimes I wish they'd divorce and have done with it. Mama and I could then move to Cornwall and I would be near my Archie, who I am missing terribly. But it won't be long before I'm seeing him again. Another week and I will be in his arms, but I doubt he will be able to achieve with me that which Roger achieves. In fact, when I'm with Archie, I will not dare broach the things I like to do with Roger.

Roger is a genius. Slowly but surely he has teased out of me my darkest and deepest desires, even reintroducing me to things that were first planted within me by Giles Ravillous. Pain has always been a strange experience to me, but Roger has taught me that, in those moments when sensuality wracks every fibre of my being, it can be exquisite, taking me to heights that have caused me to almost faint with the wonder of what is happening to me, and I have been like a lap dog begging him to provide me with more. No longer is his body indifferent to me; it is part of the whole experience that raises me from earthy normality, especially that part of him which provides much of my satisfaction, and especially the sensuous pain, which I am now addicted to. But that can only happen when he is deep within me. For an old man, Roger is amazingly agile, and he has equipment to satisfy a man, which is more than enough to slake the sensual thirst of a boy as young as I.

But Archie surpasses him in one important aspect: he has the key to my heart, and whatever happens between us, will be beautiful. In fact, I have already compartmentalized the situation in my mind... Archie is my true love: Roger is my lover. I need not choose... I can have both. However, there will be times when I can have neither, and that's where I am now, and it sits uncomfortably with me. So I will catch up on my studies. I need to. My tutor has not been pleased with me of late. I've blamed it on tiredness, and he's blamed it on my age. Both are correct.

Colette d'Evreux.

I can hardly contain my mirth when I order the taxi to stop outside Archie's studio and Alain is so eager to open the door that he is fumbling with the handle, and the taxi driver has to say, "Push it down and not up, young man." Alain does so, and a massive grin appears on his face when he gets out of the car and repeats, for the umpteenth time, that Archie will bring him home after they have had time for a long chat. A long chat indeed! But strangely, I am not the slightest bit worried.

I get out of the car and go to him, arrange his beret and his wrap-around scarf and tuck it deep into his overcoat. He puts on his gloves, and I kiss him softly on the cheek and whisper into his ear, "It's late. If Archie has room, you may stay the night if you wish. I know how anxious you are to spend some time with him. Only ring the cottage if you are coming home."

He pulls away from me and looks into my eyes. "Are you sure, Mama?"

I cup his face in my hands, kiss him on his soft lips, and whisper into his warm breath, "Of course I'm sure. You two get on very well together. Make the most of it while you have the chance! You'll be under our feet anyway while we're setting up at the cottage and you know how I dislike too many people telling me what I should do and what I should not." And without further ado, I get into the taxi and tell the driver to take us to Church Hill. When the car goes down the hill towards Port Gaverne harbour, I am overcome with the deep love I have for my boy and stare out the side window to hide the tears in my eyes. Very probably, he is now in the arms of the man he is emotionally involved with, and a man who feels exactly the same. The Christmas letter and the figurine spoke volumes to me.

Archie Whittingham

When the doorbell jingles, I'm sitting in my painting seat and putting the final touches to a wall plaque. Out of the corner of my eye I see him, and I'm upset. But I don't stop painting. I cannot. I'm overcome with emotion and I need to control myself before I can face him. He says nothing and comes slowly to me... hesitant in his walk and demeanour. I use my left hand to point across me, at the door he has entered by, and I command him, "Make sure the door is locked. Use the bolts, top and bottom, and turn the sign to Closed." He does as I ask.

Well before he arrived I have been preparing for this moment. Ordinarily, I would have been wearing my work clothes, and may even be covered in clay if I was working at the wheel. But I put all that away, bathed, and changed into non-working clothes two hours ago just in case he came early. Painting the plaque is not dirty work, and I can do it without soiling myself, so I've busied myself at the task to try and take my mind off things.

I finish what I'm doing, drop the brush in solvent and wash and wipe my hands, and only then do I turn and look at Alain. He smiles at me and fixes me with his wonderful green eyes, and I feel myself crumbling within. I get up, and he comes to me... and I look at all of him, from the tip of his toes to the beret he is wearing just for me. I know it's just for me, just as all the clothes he is wearing are just for me. He has presented himself to me as when I first saw him, and I know he has done it because of the figurine. But the boy before me is not a figurine; he is the reason for my existence since first I saw him, and I hold out both hands to take his. He removes both gloves, tucks them into his overcoat pockets, and comes slowly to me with his hands held out. We are both looking into each other's eyes, and then our fingers touch. Eager hands enclose our love, and I pull him to me. He looks up into my face, right into my misted eyes, and I whisper, "I love you, Alain."

He smiles through the tears that are forming in his own beautiful eyes. "Je t'aime, Archie."

I lower my head; he raises his; our lips touch and hold for a moment, and then we are in each other's arms and the kiss becomes one we both desire; the very beginning of our destiny as lovers. Whether our love will perish on the coldness of indifference, or whether it will become a raging furnace that will last all our lives, is of little consequence... all that matters is the here and now, and nothing can stop the most beautiful moment of my life.

Alain d'Evreux.

Only when we kiss do I understand what it is all about, and the guilt I have carried with me during our time apart disappears completely. I was right. Needs of the body are inconsequential when true love is requited, and in Archie's arms, with his lips pressing firmly against mine, I am a changed boy. But the most exciting thing is knowing that we are both powerless to stop the inevitable; the fusion of both spirit and body, and when Archie breaks our passions and guides me to his bedroom, I scramble eagerly to disrobe and present myself to his eyes. Again he holds out his hands for mine, and he grasps my fingers and lifts my hands to his lips and smothers them in kisses while his eyes absorb what I am, and then he says, "I was right."

I smile at him. "Am I beautiful to you?"

He smiles and nods slowly. "I already knew you were beautiful. Look behind you... on the bedside cupboard."

I turn my head to see where he's indicating, and I am shocked. In my absence he has recreated a thirty centimetre tall image of me again, but this time he has created me as I am now; standing before him in my complete nakedness. There is just one small difference. (Or maybe not so small, as Roger keeps telling me, when I am aroused.) But apart from that, I now have a porcelain dopplegänger. I grin broadly at him, and then look down at my arousal before looking at him again. "Not quite perfect," I say.

He chuckles. "There's a difference between art and erotic art. If you want erotic art, you will have to look in the cupboard. But I suggest you do not... unless, that is, you want to look into my mind?"

We look into each other's eyes, sparring; challenging; and a thoughtful frown is upon us both. So, very slowly, I loosen my hold on Archie's fingers and point to the cupboard. "Do you want me to look at it?"

Archie's face becomes serious. "I may lose you if it is not to your liking."

We stare at each other for a long time, and then I make a decision based on what I am; on what I have become in the short while I have been the tutee of a pederast without equal, and whatever erotic art Archie has created, it cannot be beyond that I am familiar with. In fact, I am hoping he has created me as I want to be, but afraid we will never be. I go to my knees by the pine cupboard that is as tall as the level of the bed, and open the door.

Pure white porcelain and dark pleasures are my reward, and I am overcome with love and desire. Roger Peyrefitte has a fine erotic art collection, but nothing in it compares to Archie's creation. Man above and boy below; coupled; kissing; boy's arms wrapped around his man's neck; legs tightly encircling his waist. Everything is hidden except the intimacy of the act. But the most beautiful thing about the creation is that it is unmistakably... Archie and I.

I draw it out, holding it by both hands, bring it to my lips, and kiss it all over, especially the body of the man I love. Tears are streaming from my eyes when I look up at Archie, and ask in a whisper, "Does it have a name?"

Tears are also streaming from his eyes when he replies, "Yes. I call it... You and I."

I am in heaven as I lie in the arms of the man I love and have loved for two entire hours until the passions are drained from us both. It has been a coming together of unimaginable beauty; of deep desires fulfilled; unsurpassed by even the man I thought was a genius... even beyond the depths I thought imaginable, for my complete lover is more a man than my tutor; reaching depths within me that have not before felt the exquisite, sensual pain. And it all happened without fuss; without questions; without accusations; and that is because we have both accepted what is and what has been. No man could have done to me what my true love has done unless he had trodden this path before, and my true love knows I could not have accompanied him unless I had trodden a similar path. That's why it has been so beautiful. We have become one; selfishly and unselfishly: no questions asked. The inquest will come now it is over, but it will be purely to confirm that which I already know: my Archie has loved someone before. And he will already have worked out that the only one who could have taught me what I know; is our confidante: Monsieur Peyrefitte.

But Archie has done me a great honour. I already know his lover... the boy in the photograph that sits beside mine. He's quite beautiful in an English kind of way, and he has a delightful smile upon his countenance, unlike my tutor's Roro, who always looks studiously attractive. I point a finger at the photograph. "Did you love him?"

Archie kisses my forehead. "Yes. His name is Warren. Five years ago. It lasted ten days."

I lift my head and kiss his warm lips. "Ours will last much longer. Do you still love him?"

"He has a place in my heart, but five years is a long time. He is a memory. Are you angry with me that I did not hide him away?"

"No. I may have been angry with you if you had. I loved a boy five years older than me when I was nine. It was not fulfilled in the way we have just fulfilled our love. He didn't love me, but I still have feelings for him. He was my first love."

Archie kisses my forehead again. "And since?"

"Only you. Only you. But I have had a tutor in the erotic arts."

"Our confidante?"

"Yes. Are you angry with me?"


"Why not?"

Archie looks into my eyes, and then gently brushes back the hair from my forehead. "Have you enjoyed our first moments together?"

"Yes. Have you?"

"Of course, but would we have enjoyed it so much without what has gone before?"

I smile at him. "No. Warren did me a wonderful favour and I will always be grateful that he came into your life. Because of him, our loving has been beautiful. Do you mind if I take him as a friend into my heart?"

"I will leave your photographs together. That way you will never be apart. Do you have a photograph of our confidante?"

I chuckle loudly. "No. But I do have a photograph of Jean."


"My first love. When I am older and do not have to answer to anyone, I will place a photograph of you and Jean together. But no confidante. I will have only photographs where matters of the heart are concerned. Apart from our You and I, I have no interest in erotic art other than it serves a purpose; to lead us to what has just happened between us. Je t'aime, Archie."

"I love you, Alain."

Colette d'Evreux.

When my sweet boy talks into the phone after I have answered the urgent rings, his voice is like that of a blackbird greeting the morning; shrill and excited. "Mama... are you alright?"

I giggle into the phone. "Yes, of course I am. Did you think I would not be? When will you need a taxi, or are you going to take a bus?"

There is a short silence, and then, "Archie wants to present you with the gift he has made for you."

I chuckle inwardly. "But he is shy that your situation may make it difficult?"

I feel the hesitancy in my boy before he answers. He is a clever boy and is considering that my words, your situation, have revealed that I know what is going on between him and Archie, and then he accepts the situation when he says, "Something like that, Mama."

"Then tell him he is perfectly welcome to visit us... without consequences. Your sisters are also aware of, the situation."

I receive a surprised, "Are they? How?"

I chuckle. "You should give them more credit than you do. They may be lost in their own small worlds at times, but they are the daughters of your mama, and as you know, I am perceptive where matters of my heart are involved, and they also love you. A word of advice, my precious boy; retain the secrets you may not wish to share, but where your happiness is concerned, then we have a right to know. That is our only worry. Now both of you come to dinner at seven o'clock. I expected you to call me this morning, not this late afternoon. Your friends at the harbour have provided us with a beautiful lobster. They are missing you. Wrap up well. It's cold outside. And tell Archie to dress informally."

"I will, Mama. We will be with you by six-thirty." And then I can feel the emotion in my boy's trembling voice when he continues, "I love you Mama, more than you will ever know."

Tears are in my eyes when I hear my boy say those words, and my voice is almost a whisper when I reply, "I know you do. Now don't be late! I can't wait to see what Archie has made for me. Is it nice?"

"It's beautiful, Mama, and Archie has asked me to tell you that it is a gift of compensation, created for a special person, he says. It seems that our secret is not only our secret." Alain chuckles the naughty giggle that warms my heart. "He is very perceptive."

I laugh. "Then it is maybe I who will be shy and reserved at dinner?"

An even naughtier chuckle. "It will be the first time ever."

We both laugh, and then end the conversation.

Archie Whittingham

I'm terribly nervous when Alain and I get in my small car and set out for Port Isaac. It has taken me an hour to get ready.

After I'd bathed, Alain helped me choose suitable dinner-wear, and he was chuckling when he adjusted the red tie he chose for me. I asked him why red, and he reminded me that Alexandre Motier always wore a red tie for his beau; Georges de Sarre. I reminded him he was with me now, and not his confidante, and he blushed and then kissed me to end the matter.

I know everything about him and Peyrefitte. Some things he volunteered, and some things I had to help him with. We didn't venture into the intimate details. There was no need. Our time in my bed told me everything there is to know in that regard. Alain is experienced, and his desires – which are my greatest pleasures – were easily fulfilled. The old pederast has taught him well, and I have been the benefactor of his tuition. Were I of a jealous disposition, then it could have been difficult. But I am not. Why should I be? Alain's honesty regarding putting only the photographs of me and his Jean together when he is older, told me all I needed to know: Alain treats bodily needs and matters of the heart as two entirely different things. Now, he has two well-beloveds (as he refers to Jean and myself), and one tutor. But I would be dishonest to myself if I were to deny that I hoped the ten days we are to spend together will make his tutor redundant. However, I wouldn't bet my studio on it. Not only is Alain superbly beautiful, he is an insatiable lover, as I discovered this morning, when we awoke. Despite the passions before we went to sleep in each other's arms, he was rejuvenated by his rest. It did not surprise me. Warren was just like him.

The fishing village is almost deserted as I take the Morris Minor Traveller down the steep incline to the harbour of Port Isaac. I have checked the timetables of the tides, and we are fortunate. The tide turned at late afternoon and the slipway is available to park until around 2am. Church Hill is so narrow that parking there is impossible. So I park the car and we walk to Rose Cottage, Madam d'Evreux's holiday home.

As I expected, Port Isaac is deserted, and the only sounds are the surf and a distant humming from the pub higher up the hill. Linking my arm, Alain and I tread the cobbleway as we pass quaint cottages... some of them dark because they are holiday homes and empty at this time of year, and those that are not have curtains drawn to preserve the intimacy within. So we talk almost in whispers because we both are nervous after Alain told me that his mother and his two sisters are aware of what is going on between us. Alain was shocked at his mother's revelation... and I felt almost nauseous when he told me. But then we talked about it and decided that it was better out than in. Providing I'm accepted, although embarrassing, things will be much easier now our secret is out.

After Alain's conversation with his mother, we discussed what we would do and say when we went to the cottage. After all, ours is a situation that can best be described as abnormal. A thirty two year old man and a fourteen year old boy in love and having spent a night together is not something one can pretend is normal. We talked about it, and decided, for propriety's sake, that it would be best to act as if we were friends only. No touching! That would be foolish, and it would place everyone ill at ease. So, he would adopt the beloved son role and I would be the invited guest who was his tutor in the ceramic arts and not someone partaking in the erotic ones.

And like all good guests, I have come prepared with not only two bottles of fine wine, but also bearing gifts. Yes, gifts plural. I was aware that Alain's sisters would be accompanying him and his mama at the cottage, so I have prepared for them not to be left out when I try to obtain the hand of their brother. I need allies and not enemies if our affair de cœur, as Alain calls it, is to be successful.

Colette d'Evreux.

Édith and Dominique have behaved impeccably and I am proud of them. But we have had more than an entire night and day to prepare.

It had been difficult explaining to them while we were at home in Paris what was going on in the family. Because Édith is almost eighteen and Dominique will be seventeen in March, I decided they were old enough to know everything after they broached the subject.

It was late in the evening and Alain had gone to bed, saying he was tired after being out to meet one of my chums. Fabien was in Germany, which made things much easier.

It was Édith who brought up the matter. The girls were sitting together, watching TV when Édith got up, switched it off, returned to her seat, and whilst I was crocheting and pondering over many things, said, "Mama, Dominique and I have been discussing things."

I glanced up and looked at them both. "Discussing things?"

"Yes Mama. We love you and are worried about you. I think we know everything."


"Papa. It must be difficult for you."

I smiled at them. "Has it affected the way I care for you and your brother?"

"No Mama. In spite of everything, we could not have a more loving mama. And the situation with Alain is not making things easier for you."

"Alain? The situation? Would you like to explain?" I asked.

Dominique, who has always been the easiest of my two girls to succumb to emotions, got up and came to sit beside me. She clung to my arm and laid her head upon my shoulder. "Yes Mama. Alain. Don't you understand him?"

I kissed my precious daughter on the head. "I understand all my children. If you are referring to the matter that he is not attracted to girls, then yes, I do understand him. As a matter of fact, I am very much aware that he is attracted to the studio potter in Cornwall: Archibald Macintosh. And it's not just a one way attraction." When they both looked astonished, I chuckled, and continued, "So, you see, your mama is aware of everything where her precious children are concerned." I looked at Édith. "Including the fact that you are associating with that undesirable who plays bass guitar in that awful rock band you follow around!"

She drew back her head to study my face, not sure if I was angry or just being a protective mama. When she saw the glint of amusement in my eyes, she smiled bashfully, and replied, "He is not an undesirable, Mama." She giggled. "Well, to me he is not."

"He drinks too much!" giggled Dominique.

Édith gave her a sisterly stare. "He does not! You drink more than he does when you're with that Pierre Martin!"

I chuckled, and held up a hand. "Girls! I know all your little secrets. It's a good job for you that none of them have caused me, yet, to take a firm hand to your affairs. But we are discussing your brother. Tell me what you think... or know?"

We talked, but the matter of whom he is visiting when he is out to visit one of my chums remained unknown. So we ended the conversation on a conspiratorial note: we would make it our business to discover just who is: out to visit one of my chums.

Archie Whittingham

The space between us at the large, circular table is perfect. I have been placed next to Alain, but we are too far apart to be intimate. To his right is his mama, and to my left is Édith, with Dominique between her sister and her mama. The meal is delightful and the company excellent and jolly and all Alain's family speak in English so that I'm put at my ease. (Foreigners never fail to amaze me. We Brits are so parochial that we place no emphasis on learning foreign languages, but other nationalities see it as par for the course to be bi-lingual or multilingual.) Not the slightest hint of anything about Alain and I, and certainly no references to our situation. The conversation is, for the largest part, about me, and what I was and what I am. Bouts of laughter accompany my narrative of when I was a small boy and the escapades I got up to, including having the coastguard out looking for me when I'd been drunk at fourteen and had slept in one the dinghies in the harbour in Truro. The furore was caused because one of my pals had been an idiot and slipped the moorings of another dingy, which had drifted out to sea and been found empty. I was presumed dead until I presented at my parent's cottage in a state of hangover late in the morning. When I tell them that my derriere had been sore for a week afterwards, Madam d'Evreux points a stern finger at me, and says, "And so it should have been! It would have been a month if I was your mama!"

So I hang my head in shame and giggle with Alain and his sisters. I'm making friends, and I'm pleased that I am.

Colette. She has a nice way about her; unmistakable class, and she is very beautiful. She is also a wonderful mother. I have not missed the affection her three children have for her. Their love for her is so obvious that you could cut it with a knife, and she also adores her brood. I was thinking that Alain probably inherited his intellectuality from his father, but after having had this meal with her and having given a lot of thought to what she has done for her son regarding the unusual situation between Alain and myself, I am now thinking that he gets it from both parents. She's an amazing woman.

When dinner is over, I ask Alain if it's a suitable time for me to present the gifts he has helped me wrap. (He's very good at that. Is he not very good at everything?) He grins at me and nods effusively.

Alain d'Evreux.

Whilst trying not to show that I am doing so, I have been studying Archie all evening, and also mama and my sisters. Rather than shyness, the ambience between them is first class. Knowing Archie as I do, especially after the night we have shared together, I know he has traits of character that can only be discovered when he is familiar with whomever he is associating. Mama has certainly been observing him closely, and a number of times I have seen in her eyes an affection that she would normally keep to herself. She likes him a lot. But I already knew that, after we had talked about her visit to his studio. While we are dining, I don't feel the jealousy I experienced when I first knew she was attracted to him. I know why that is. I have no need to be jealous now. Archie belongs to me and his affection is for me only. The salty tears of his love that I drank last night, and he mine, have sealed our love so that nothing or no one can come between us.

Dinner is over and I am chuckling inwardly at Archie's shyness because he has to give out the gifts he has created, but I sit back in my dining chair and will not help him after he has enquired if it's the right time to do it. I know what they are, and I know they will be well received. But he doesn't, and that's why he says to my two sisters, "Alain told me that you are fans of The Beatles?"

He gives Édith a small figurine he has made of Paul McCartney, and Dominique one of John Lennon. Because they aren't expecting anything, the surprise is even greater, especially when they marvel at the quality. (When I first saw them, I had been amazed at the fine detail of their form, and their features that Archie has captured perfectly.) The jaws of both my sisters drop when they look at the gifts, and I know the looks of incredulity will please Archie. Those looks speak louder than words. For his troubles, he has to endure hugs and kisses on his cheeks from my sisters, and I am greatly amused at his bashfulness. But what follows is really funny. I know my sisters, and I have deliberately told Archie an untruth. So I do an, "Ahem! Do you want to tell him, or shall I?"

Dominique looks daggers at me, and growls, "Don't you dare!"

Archie is puzzled, and he asks me, "Tell him what?"

I roar with laughter, and mama has to cover her mouth to try and hide her amusement. When my mirth has receded, I look at Archie; our eyes meet, and I tell him, "Édith has been in love with John Lennon for ages, and Dominique is crazy about Paul McCartney."

Still Archie is puzzled. "But it was you who said which one they liked."

I grin at him. "I must have made a mistake."

Archie stares at me, and for the first time during the evening, he touches me. Well, it's not a touch. His strong arm darts out and he grabs me by the scruff of the neck and shakes me and growls in his deep, Cornish dialect, which I adore hearing when he speaks it, "You lil French monkey, you. I a good mind take you down the 'arbour an' take you out sea an' drop you in it an' you never be foun' again, boy!" When everyone has stopped laughing, he looks at my sisters. "You can exchange them if you like, ladies." So they giggle and exchange figurines.

Then it's mama's turn, and instead of laughter, I prepare myself for tears.

The room is almost silent when she opens the large gift box and withdraws her special gift, which is thirty centimetres tall.

Archie has told me that he spent almost a week creating the decorated bulbous shaped vase from start to finish, and I found myself almost speechless that anyone could paint the scenery of the Cornish coast against a backdrop of green sea and irregular clouded skies that looks almost photographic in its production. The scene is panoramic, wrapping around the entire vase and ending in a single, vertical gilt line at the back of the vase, and even that line has been decorated by entwining sea pinks along its length.

Mama is speechless, and I am right. She loves beautiful things, and I knew before she received it that it would bring tears to her eyes. They begin to form as she revolves the vase in her hands, and she is wide-eyed as she shakes her head slowly in disbelief. When she has digested enough of the beautiful object to be able to tear her eyes away from it, she looks at Archie, and she is in tears when she says, "Archie, this is the most beautiful thing anyone has ever given to me." She shakes her head in disbelief again. "You are a genius!"

I expect Archie to drop his head and adopt one of his shy modes, but he surprises me. He smiles at mama, and says, "Beauty belongs with beauty. It's been my privilege, and I enjoyed every minute of the time I spent creating it for you." Then he makes us all laugh when he says, "I'm normally mad, but I exceeded my madness this time. If anyone had seen me while I was making it, they would have locked me away in a lunatic asylum." And we laugh even more when he continues in his broad, Cornish accent that is only just decipherable, "Even 'arry the Postman say I be mad for a week."

And it's with tears still streaming from her eyes and with a wide grin on her face that mama gets up from her chair and goes to Archie and plants a long kiss on his blushing cheeks before she says, "Thank you. I will always treasure it."

And again we laugh, when, still using his Cornish accent, he says, "Now you gone an' made me blush, Madam."

I can't recall ever being so happy as this evening in Rose Cottage. The man I adore has slipped easily into our company, and we are like a real family as we sit around the log fire, drinking wine and talking about many things. Archie tells us he will, if we wish, take us to places we have never been before in his beautiful county of Cornwall. When mama enquires whether he is able to close the studio, he tells us the only chance he gets to take a holiday is in the winter months. Throughout late spring and into summertime and autumn are when he does his business; when he makes his money, and the winter is usually spent stocking up to be ready for the following holiday season. Even my sisters are keen on the idea, and it's Édith, who, because Archie has painted a wonderful picture of them in our minds, asks if he will take us to meet his family in Truro. Because I'm not sure Archie is ready for this yet, her question makes me withdraw into myself. But he surprises me. He looks at mama and asks if he can use our telephone, which is in the cosy lounge we are sitting in. She tells him that he may, and points to it.

The room is silent when he dials a number and speaks into the telephone, using his own broad tongue whilst he's doing so. "Hi Mam. I got me some friends who I be 'scortin' roun' the county. They be wantin' to call on you. You be okay with that? They be posh people from France, so you get the best china out. That's right Mam. They be the Queen of France and her sprogs. Tuesday? That be fine. Tell dad to bring a sea bass home. They not had sea bass like my mam does it." He chuckles. "No frogs legs. They be 'avin' enough o' them back 'ome. Tuesday it be then Mam. We be with you 'bout 'leven then Mam." He chuckles even louder. "No beer Mam. I bin drinkin' wine tonight. 'Tis good stuff. No Mam. I not be drunk. I jus' merry an' be 'avin' good time with these nice folk. 'Night Mam. See you Tuesday 'bout 'leven."

When he puts the receiver down, I stare at him, and ask, "Sprogs?"

He grins and points to my sisters and I. "You be sprogs." He points to Mama. "You be Queen of France."

We all burst into laughter, and then mama, who is jus' merry, too, says to Archie, "Pour the wine for the Queen of France and her sprogs, Archie, please."

Alone in my bed, while what Archie describes as a Westerly blow makes howling noises through the slates, I begin to chuckle. Sprogs! These English have a unique sense of humour, and tonight we have been treated to so much of it that my sides were aching. Once the wine had taken hold, the real Archie was exposed, and that also applied to my family and I. It has been wonderful, and the only thing that could have capped off the evening was for Archie and I to be in bed together now. But it was not to be, and for propriety's sake, I did not make a fuss when Archie, eventually, said he had to be going home 'To sleep in my dinghy, so don't you royals be callin' the coastguard out after me if I be 'avin' a 'angover and a sleep-in'. Mama was concerned about his drinking and driving, but he dismissed that with the comment that, 'There be no car left if I leaves it in the 'arbour, an' Mr Blue he know me well enough not to lock me up for 'avin' a wee drinky. They only bother 'round 'ere if I drives over the cliffs, and my ole car he knows his way 'ome even if I falls asleep at the wheel.' We all laughed, and then he spoke in his perfect English when he said, "It's been a great pleasure. Thank you for a wonderful evening." Then an awkward moment. He looked at me, and asked, "Will you be coming to the studio tomorrow? I've got a special project mapped out for you."

I looked at Mama. She smiled and nodded, so I replied, "I'll be with you after we've had breakfast."

But I am missing Archie. Or, if I'm completely honest with myself, I am missing what has become an important part of what I am: the dark side of me. The You and I. My mind wanders to Roger and what he will be doing now. He told me that he has a houseboy when he is away, and then added that he wished his houseboy was my equal. When I enquired what he meant, he smiled and told me that I was exceptional. Although I blushed at his remark, inwardly, I was pleased that a boy lover of his standing could think that way about me. But I also know he is right. I am exceptional! Three months ago I was ordinary and ignorant, but not so now. Archie says that the quality of the clay is the most important thing, and only if it is fit for purpose can an artiste create the final, beautiful object. I am that clay, and the object Roger and Archie are creating is a boy who will want only to be bedded by men when he is older. Men. Boy. Both Archie and Roger are lovers of boys, so what will become of me when I am a man? They will still love me, but will they still want me?

The thought is depressing and I go into a deep sulk. I am not interested about anything now. But when I turn onto my side to go to sleep, I pull the pillow to my face, pretend it's Archie, and kiss it. My thoughts go back to last night, to the moment just before Archie and I went to sleep in each other's arms. The last thing I recall is Archie kissing my forehead, his warm breath on my face, and the song that was playing on the small radio at his bedside. The song was Elvis singing: Love Me Tender, and never have I slipped into dreamland in such a beautiful way.

And that's why I drift off to sleep with tears on my pillow and my heart bursting with love for the man who has come into my life.

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