Love - Existentially

by John Teller

Part 8

Book Six - When Englishmen were boys


Jerusalem. By William Blake.

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England's mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England's pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England's green & pleasant Land.

Stirring words to an Englishman, and yet the England I speak of in the 1950's was also a place of great fear for some, none more so than those of a homosexual persuasion. The younger generation of homosexuals in the Western World think they are downtrodden in their various societies but compared to those not-so-far-off-days, the synonym and the antonym of then and now, really is chalk and cheese.

This story, hopefully, will give the readers an insight of how 'they' coped then: it required great cunning and courage, and also the help of non-bigots. So, perhaps the fight against sexual discrimination can be loosely applied to the final verse of Blake's splendid work where 'Jerusalem' represents the final victory over bigotry, not only in England, but throughout the world.

Michael Johnson.

This is Friday 3rd of February 1956. I'm in my final year at Denbridge High School: in the sixth form and I'm seventeen coming on eighteen in March.

It's cold the first time I notice him: a clear-blue-sky-and-a-keen-Northerly-wind type of cold day: the type of February day where the sun warms one side of you and the other half of you is frozen to the marrow if, like me, you don't have warm clothes to keep out the cold. It's during the morning break at school and I'm sitting alone on a low wall, reading through some notes I'd taken during the last lesson (English Literature), when I look up and see him. He is with a group of boys his own age: year three. I know most of them, because I know most of the boys in the school. Well, in a knowing-them-because-I'd-seen-them-before kind of way. He will be thirteen or fourteen, which is the age range for the third form. But I can't recall seeing him before.

He is laughing; a bubbling, carefree, open mouthed, show-your-beautiful-white-teeth laugh, because he is on the receiving end of trying to retrieve his school cap, which is being tossed from boy to boy. The cap goes high in the air, and the Northerly wind catches it. The wall I'm sitting on is to the South of them, and the cap lands at my feet. The boys go quiet. I'm a senior, and a prefect in this school, and seniors and prefects, when they're studying, should not be disturbed by silly junior games.

I pick up the cap. It's a good quality one, with a lining. (Unlike my own, which I was required to wear at his age, which had none.) There's a name in it. I read it. Stuart Begbie.

Stuart Begbie is walking towards me now. The laugh has gone, but beneath the wind-swept and tousled blond hair, he's smiling. "Sorry," he says with a twinkle in his beautiful blue eyes.

One glance. That's all I have time for. I drop my own eyes. Nothing new there. I'm shy. I always have been. I mumble, "It's not a problem, Stuart." So I hand it back to him and sneak another quick glance at him.

Rosy cheeks; a nice nose; full lips; slim; small-for-his-age. Almost too beautiful to be a boy.

His leather gloved hand takes the cap from me, and his partly broken voice is soft and warm and friendly. "Thank you Michael."

And he's gone, and the boys begin their boisterous game again.

Friday 10th February.

The County Schools Cross-Country Run. A cold wind is in my face. The top of the steep hill is just a hundred yards away, and then another half mile, and then the finish line. Two other boys have kept up with me to this point, but now is my chance to win this race. I dig deep into my reserves and put in a quick fifty yards. One boy drops away. Just two of us now. I can hear his heavy breathing slightly to my right and behind me. I know exactly what he's doing: using me as a pacemaker. Well, tough shit; let's see if you can match this sprint?! I put on a quick burst and top the hill at speed. Number Two is now ten yards behind me. I thought he would be. I've done this course before and I know the last hill is a killer. A half-mile of level dirt road ahead of me. I can piss this now. Anxious schoolteachers; pupils from the host school; they all watch me break the tape, and a loud cheer goes up.

My own teacher, Mr Bourne, comes to me. He's sporting a huge grin. "Well done Michael. You're the County Champion now."

I grin at him and nod breathlessly, and then hug him while I get my breath back.

Monday 13th February.

Alex, my elder brother, has already gone to work. Dada is sitting in his armchair in front of the coal fire, his one leg stretched out in front of him, and Judy, my Wire-Haired Terrier is lying in his lap, one eye closed and one eye on me to see if I've brought her any scraps. I give Dada his cup of tea and two pieces of toast, and he puts them on the small table by the side of the chair. He smiles at me, and I ruffle his thinning hair and then give Judy a loving pat on the head. "Do you want anything else Dada?"

Another smile. "No thanks Mike. Go and enjoy your school day."

"Ok. I'll be home at 12.30. You've got coal in the bucket and I've fed your pigeons. Mrs Hamnett will be round at eleven to make sure you're ok."

I pick up my school satchel and go out, pulling the heavy door closed, and hear the latch catch. Dada will be fine now until lunchtime.

My father. My lovely Dada. Although he has only one leg and one lung and seven fingers – and is ill most of the time – he's my rock, and has been since he was discharged from the army in 1945. I knew him for one week; well, 'knew him', meaning he was only with me for one week when I was born in 1939, when he was called up to fight in France and to escape from there at Dunkirk. Three months at home he had, and then he went to North Africa, and then with Wingate's Chindits in Burma, fighting the Japanese, and then he was discharged: Unfit for Military Service. I'm not surprised. The mortar shell had killed his two best pals and wounded him severely. Eight months in hospital, and then he came 'home' to two small boys who had been taken into care because his wife and their mother had deserted the old warrior... and his boys. She was Down South... living with the fucking lodger who had been occupying dada's place in our home while he was away at war.

Grandfather had died and his small terraced house was empty. A two-rooms-upstairs and two-rooms-downstairs terraced house in the North Midlands, with no hot water, no bathroom, and an outside lavatory. We went to live in grandfather's house and paid rent to Dada's two brothers. Only two thirds of the value; mind. Dada owned one third of the inheritance.

Five years older than me, Brother Alex is the worker. I'm the scholar; I go to high school. Dada has his meagre pensions. We're still poor, but not quite as poor as we have been.

When I passed my exams to go to high school, I needed a school uniform. Dada couldn't afford one. I was lucky. A boy in the next street was one year older than me. I had his hand-me-downs. Some of the clothes didn't quite fit, so it was make-do-and-mend. We managed it: me and Alex and Dada with his seven fingers.

The High School was a new world to me: Middle Class – Mortars and Gowns; bright new uniforms of royal-blue and a gold crest on the blazer breast pocket; and sparkling white gym-wear. Because of my second-hand clothes, I was the Ugly Duckling. I wasn't ugly really. In fact, I was a good looking boy. Well, so the many neighbours often told my Dada. But, because I was poor and poorly dressed, it didn't stop many of the old-school masters from treating me like something they'd found on their shoes. Not all of them, but some did. Not Mr Bourne, though. He was my physical education teacher – my mentor. He was the one who understood that I couldn't keep clean at home and gave me unfettered access to the showers at school. He was the one who made sure I had a new house jersey each year because the hand-me-down-boy was in a different school-house to me. He was the reason I came first and was now County Champion. The fist I raised as I crossed the line was to him, and the tears that slipped from my eyes as he hugged me as I was getting my breath back, were for him. And he knew it. But he didn't say anything. He didn't need to. He knew I loved him like a surrogate father.

Still a chill wind as I walk the mile-long steep hill to the school. It's a modern school. For 1956 that is. Two long, double-deck tiers of classrooms that are all windows. One side looks out over the disused airfield. The other side looks out over the rugby fields. It has an up-to-date gym and a fifty-yard long swimming pool: the crème de la crème of schools in our city.

Assembly. In the Great Hall. Prayers. Then the school song, Jerusalem, sung only on Mondays, and stirring when eight hundred healthy young voices blast it out.

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountain green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark satanic mills?

The headmaster, Cecil Walkden, ambles to the lectern and looks over his pince-nez. "This morning, boys, we need to congratulate one of our own for a tremendous effort, which has brought more glory to our illustrious school."

My best friend, Arthur Brookfield, pinches my arm. He's been my best friend since day one at this school. His father is a well-to-do company director. I look at Arthur. He's grinning at me and he asks sarcastically, "Are you shitting yourself yet?"

I mutter a "Fuck off" under my breath, and he giggles.

The headmaster continues: "On Friday, Michael Johnson won The County Schools Cross Country Championship." He looks at me at the back of the room, and points to me. "Come on down, Michael, and allow the whole school to applaud your tremendous effort."

My legs are like jelly and I know my face is a red as a beetroot, but I have no option. Arthur gives me a push and I'm walking down the middle aisle towards the raised stage where the headmaster is and most of the teachers are sat in a semi-circle behind him. My head is down on the long walk and I'm so nervous that I want to retch as I walk through the loud clapping and shouts and whistles. Finally, I reach the row of steps that lead onto the stage. Miraculously, I manage it up the steep steps without falling, and walk to the centre of the stage. The headmaster raises his hands. Immediately, the Great Hall goes quiet.

Hand on my shoulder. "Michael, you've brought immense credit to our school, and it gives me great pride to present you with The County Shield." He turns, walks to the table in the middle of the stage, picks up the shield, walks back to me, and presents me with it. More loud applause. Again he raises his hands, and again, silence. "Well done Michael! Would you like to say a few words?"

This is the moment I've been dreading. I'd prefer to run a cross-country race in thick mud than make a speech. But I have to. It's expected of me. I begin to speak, but I'm too far away from the microphone attached to the lectern. I fiddle with it, and begin to mumble. And it's at that precise moment when the Dada in me takes over, and I feel the fear drop away.

I take a deep breath and lift the shield to the side of my face. "This is for the school. For Denbridge High. It belongs to all of you. It's what we're about: determination and success."

I lower the shield, and the room erupts. I look at the back of the room at Arthur, and I point a finger at him. He understands, and raises a clenched fist. I give him one back. And then, for no reason I can think of other than he had the most beautiful eyes and his voice was warm and kind and gentle, my eyes go to the 3rd year and to one boy in particular. Stuart Begbie is looking directly at me, and I'm amazed that he seems to be crying. I see him blow his nose and secretly wipe away his tears, and then he looks at me and smiles and puts his fingers to his lips and lets out a staccato of loud piercing whistles. I wince, and grin, and look away. It goes on for a while, the applause, and then I raise my own hand to stem the noise. All goes quiet. Still Dada's courage is within me. I turn to look at Mr Bourne amongst the teachers behind me. (I know where he is, to my left.) I look directly into his eyes, and then turn back to the microphone. The adrenaline pumping through my veins heightens my senses. It also gives me the courage to tell the truth... and a diplomatic white lie to lessen the fallout from something I've wanted to say for a long time.

(Dada had done that: been brave when he needed to be, and ducked and weaved when it was necessary. That's how he survived six years of war, when others around him had not.)

"I have something else to say. My time at Denbridge High has not all been plain sailing. (That one is for the teachers who have treated me like shit.) Everyone needs a lift-up at times, and, although all the teachers have been great to me and taught me all I know (that's the diplomatic white lie to lessen the fallout), there is one special person who has been my rock while I've been here. When I've been down, he's had a few gentle words in my ear; when I was being awkward, he's given my backside a kick, and when I was digging into my reserves to win this race, I dug even deeper for him. And now I want to reward him the only way I can; by dedicating my victory to Mr Bourne. (I turn and walk across the stage and hand the shield to him.) This is for you, Mr Bourne, and thank you for everything you've done for me."

He takes the shield from me, holds out his hand, and I shake it firmly. There. It's done. Again the room erupts in applause, but this time it's for my mentor; my second father; the only man, apart from my Dada and my brother, who I love. I walk from the stage and up the aisle, and back to the anonymity of being amongst my classmates.

Stuart Begbie. – aged 13.

Tears are slipping from my eyes as I watch Michael give his speech. I try hard not to let anyone see me, so I pretend to blow my nose and secretly wipe away the tears while I'm doing it.

When he lifts the shield – after he's raised a fist to someone at the back of the hall – he looks directly at me. The moment is a brief one, but as our eyes lock – his beautiful hazel ones with mine – my tummy turns over. I now know that I mean something to him. Why else would he have looked at me?

Well before the incident with my cap blowing by his feet and our first words, I'd noticed the tall, handsome, sixth-former with the beautiful auburn hair. In fact, the first day I attended this school in January, after we'd moved into the area, I'd noticed him organizing the young boys in the first year. His ready smile and quiet voice as he organised the eleven-year-olds to line up properly before he escorted them to their classrooms was exactly what they needed. Since then I'd gone out of my way to see more of him, and discover more about him. What I discovered was mixed. Some of the crueller pupils called him Scarecrow. Others were more sympathetic and spoke highly of him as a person from a poor family. Some said his father was a cripple from the war and that he hadn't got a mother, and that he lived in the poorest part of the city. My own thoughts were that he was poor, but it hadn't stopped him from being here, and it hadn't made him a dunce.

Thinking on, he's far better than me. I'm not sure I could have achieved what he has considering his background

My own passage into higher education has been easy compared to his. I'm from a wealthy, middle-class background; from parents whose life revolves around making money... and their only son's success and suitability to inherit it. Father is majority owner and Managing Director of a flourishing, large, civil-engineering business, and Mother is a lady-of-the-town whose role in life (apart from making sure I'm well educated) is to cultivate the friendships needed to maintain our status. I love them both. They adore me, in a Victorian, hands-off kind of way. I'm not sure whether they would adore me if my parents discover that I'm a homosexual. Oh yes, I'm almost fourteen and I know exactly where my sexual preferences lie. I have since I was old enough to understand sexuality – about eleven years old. While the other boys were talking about girls, although I joined in with them and pretended that I was just as they were, I ogled boys older than myself. Instead of vaginas, I loved penises. Instead of breasts, I loved muscular male bodies. And the older I've got the more certain I am that my sexual path in life will revolve around the male body and not the female one, which has no interest to me. But I'm clever. My sexual preferences are well hidden. There isn't another soul on earth who knows my secret. Well, maybe... not until now? Michael Johnson has seen something in me; something he recognizes. A shared something? With all my heart, I'm hoping so.

From the top of the school drive, I watch the packed school bus leave. I've deliberately missed the bus. I have a secret assignation with someone special, but he doesn't know yet. Within twenty minutes the road outside the school is empty of pupils. Just below the school, about a hundred yards down the steep hill is a Catholic church. Because it's cold and almost dark, I pull my heavy overcoat tighter and my cap firmly onto my head, and then I sit and wait on the low, blue-brick wall in front of the church. Thankfully, I don't have long to wait. I see Michael exit the school gates and start his way towards me. I'm nervous. He's within a few yards of me when he smiles and says, "Hello, young Begbie. Have you missed the bus?"

I shake my head. "I was waiting for you."

"Waiting for me?"

I nod. "I wanted to tell you how pleased I was for you this morning. I hope you don't mind. Do you think I'm silly?"

Michael is standing in front of me now. Our eyes meet again. He shakes his head. "No, I don't think you're silly." Then his face widens into a lovely grin. "Where did you learn to whistle like that? It deafened me on the stage."

I laugh and get off the wall and put my fingers to my lips and give him my best example.

He puts his fingers to his ears and begins to laugh. Still chuckling, he says, "You should train sheepdogs." Then he becomes serious. "How are you going to get home? Where do you live?"

I answer his second question first. "Brooklands. My bus pass is valid until six, so I'll be okay. I'll need to catch the bus at the bottom of the hill though. Is it alright if I walk with you?"

Michael smiles again. "Sure. I'll wait with you until your bus arrives."

I get off the wall, and we begin to saunter down the hill. I've already discovered that Michael is shy. That was part of my investigations, and I know it's up to me to break the awkward silence. "Michael..."

He interrupts me. "Call me Mike."

For some reason, 'Mike' doesn't sit well with me, and I look up at him and ask, "Do you mind if I call you Michael? I'd prefer to."

He looks down at me and seems slightly amused. "Whatever turns you on."

(My God! Is he aware of the innuendo, or has his comment not been filtered properly? Whatever, his whole name is part of the turn-on for me. I don't want to do sexy stuff to a 'Mike'.)

"Michael, if I tell you something, will you promise you won't laugh at me?"

"Not if you don't want me to."

I look up at him, and he's smiling. "Well... when you were on the stage this morning, it made me cry."

"I know that. I saw you."

I give him a puzzled look. "You couldn't possibly have done!"

"I did. You blew your nose and I saw you wipe your eyes. And then you called the sheep home. Then I couldn't not look at you. I think everyone on the stage looked at you then."

I laugh. "Was I that obvious?"

Michael laughs. "Yes. You need to be careful or people will be getting the wrong idea."

I'm devastated by his words. So, he doesn't understand yet! I'm just another boy to him. I'll change the subject. "I hear your father was wounded in the war. Was he badly wounded?"

Michael is silent for a while and I'm wondering if I've touched on a nerve. I'm relieved when he answers my question.

"Yes. Dada was wounded in Burma. He lost a leg and some fingers, and a piece of shrapnel took half his lung away. He wants to get a job as a night watchman on some road-works somewhere, but Alex won't let him."


"He's my brother. He's a collier. He works down Brailsford Deep Mine. He's the one who keeps the wolf from the door."

I smile at him. "Dada. That's a nice term for your father. I've not heard that before."

Michael smiles at me. "That's my fault. It's what I called him when I was a baby, and I've never dropped it. I suppose it's my way of clinging onto what we had."

"What you had?"

I detect a hint of sadness in Michael's voice now. "There's just me and Alex and Dada. We three against the world. It's nearly always been that way and I don't want to lose it. The Three Musketeers."

"Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno."

Michael laughs. "Old Perry is teaching you well. I've always hated Latin."

I'm relieved that the sadness is gone from his voice, and I laugh. "One for all, and all for one, then. Is that better?"

"Much better. Thank you Young Master Begbie."

Now we're giggling, and a weight has lifted from our conversation. I need to retain this theme of light-hearted banter when I begin another piece of scheming I've given some thought to. "Can you swim?"

Michael looks at me as if I'm stupid. "Of course I can swim. Can you?"

I lick my tongue out at him. "Of course I can. I was just testing you."

"What for?"

"To see if you'd like to go swimming with me at Brooklands swimming baths on Saturday morning."

Michael looks at me as if I'm daft. "Why would you want to go with me? Don't any of your chums want to go with you?"

This isn't going very well. I decide to tell a lie. "No. I asked a few of my pals, but they're all doing something else this weekend, and because I love swimming and I didn't want to go on my own, I just thought I'd ask you. I'm sorry."

Michael is thinking, and he's a while before he answers. "I can't do Saturday morning. I work in the butcher's until twelve. I can make it in the afternoon. Is that any good?"

Now it's my turn to think. Saturday morning is my free time. Saturday afternoon I go shopping with my parents. I'll need to wangle things to change it this week. I think I can do it. I have to or my scheming is finished, and I don't know when I will have the chance again. I look up at Michael. "Can I tell you later in the week?"

"Okay. But don't make it too obvious at school. You know what they're like."

"You know what they're like?"

Michael isn't looking at me now. "Yes. You're not silly. You know what I mean. I'm eighteen in March and you're what, fourteen; thirteen?"

"Thirteen, actually, but I'm fourteen soon."

"Fourteen soon?"

"April 7th."

Michael giggles. "Six days earlier and you would have been born on April Fool's Day."

I thump him gently in the ribs. We've reached the crossroads at the bottom of the hill. On our left is an Art Deco cinema. My bus stop is adjacent to it. As we turn left, I ask Michael where he lives.

He points to the road opposite the hill we walked down. "Up there. About half a mile. We have a terraced house in the middle of the shops."

We're at the bus stop now and there's an awkward silence again. I'm not sure whether it's because we're parting or because of the conversation we've had. Thankfully, my bus pulls out of the road Michael lives on and comes to a halt. Michael steps back.

I look into his eyes. "Can I wait for you again tomorrow?"

Michael shakes his head. "Best not. Make it Thursday. You can let me know then whether we can see each other at the baths."

I have to hurry and get on the bus before it leaves. I don't even have time to say goodbye before it's off, and when I look around, Michael has vanished into the darkness of the February evening.

I have a seat to myself, and I stare out at the busy city life. My head is full of mixed emotions. Michael's last words are ringing in my ears and I'm not sure how to interpret them. 'You can let me know then whether we can see each other at the baths.' He hadn't used, 'go swimming'. No, he'd said 'we can see each other'. I'm searching for ambiguity, but I can't find any in 'see each other'. It means what it says on the tin: we-are-seeing-each-other. Even the bus conductor doesn't disturb my thoughts as he takes a cursory glance at my bus pass and ignores me. Yes, I'm in no doubt now that Michael wants to be my friend or he would have refused outright the offer of him joining me at the swimming baths. What sort of friend, I'll have to wait and find out. I know what sort of friend I want him to be; the sort of friend who wants my body as much as I want his, and that brings me to my feelings about him. Am I in love with him? Well, every time I look at him, I think I am, and when I go to bed at night and I'm in his arms and kissing his lips and he's running his hands over my body, I am. Is it just sexual? Well, he has got beautiful, sexy, hazel eyes. But there's something else about him that's more than sex. I like being with him. In fact I'm crazy about him.

Michael Johnson.

I turn the key in the lock and go in and close the door behind me. Immediately, the sound of traffic lessens and I smell the familiar warmth of my home. Through the front room (the parlour) with the three piece suite and the upright piano that Dada can play brilliantly with his seven fingers, and into the living room. Dada, with Alex, is sitting at the small dining table set against the wall on my right (between the exit door from the parlour and the doorway leading to the steep stairs that lead to the two bedrooms), and there are just three old-fashioned dining chairs at the table. Judy, my dog, jumps into my arms and I give her a fuss. She rewards me by washing my face. I put my school satchel on the sideboard and sit opposite Alex.

"You're late Kiddo?" That from Alex. He looks like Rudolph Valentino with his coal-blackened eyes.

I nod. "I had a shower. Is dinner ready? I'm starving."

Dada, sitting between us, gives me a warm smile over the top of his glasses, that completely envelops his wrinkled face. "I'm not surprised. You only ate two sandwiches at lunchtime. Perhaps heroes don't have time to eat."


Alex is grinning now, and he turns the local paper over to the back: to the Sports Page. I see the headlines - 'City Boy Wins County Championship.'

I grin, and look at the paper. There's a photograph of me breasting the tape, and a quite detailed account of my victory.

Dada takes a sip of his tea. "The Johnson family are famous at last."

I look at him, and wink. "We already were, Dada. I'm just carrying on where you left off. That was for us three. I hope you don't mind, but I also dedicated the win to Mr Bourne. I had to make a speech. It was awful. In front of all the school. Arthur was laughing his head off at the back. He's been giving me stick all day about it."

Now we're all laughing and there's a lot of love echoing around the walls of the small room. Alex gets up and goes into the whitewashed kitchen, and returns with my dinner on a tin enamel plate, which has been kept warm in the oven. He places it in front of me and sits down again. I lift the lid from the plate and evaporated water droplets fall into the gravy that covers the pork chops and vegetables. Judy is sitting by my side, staring unblinking at me. Alex is a good cook. The pork chops are tender – done in the oven – and I enjoy the meal. I like it when Alex is on the day shift. He gets home at three and dinner is always ready when I get home. It's not so good when he's on the noon shift and gets home at eleven; or nights, when he gets home just before I go to school. Then, he has his meals in the pit canteen and Dada and I have to look after ourselves.

Alex has already gone to bed when I help Dada up the steep stairs. His wooden leg is always left downstairs. 'Gets in the bloody way' he says. So, holding onto the banisters each side, he sort of hops up each step. (And he'll hop down them again in the morning.) His room is to the right, at the top of the stairs, above the living room, and mine and Alex's is to the left, above the parlour, facing the street. I say goodnight to Dada, and he disappears with Judy, who sleeps on his bed. That's it. Despite his injuries, Dada retains some dignity. His bedroom is sacrosanct and we're not allowed in it. He has his chamber pot if he needs a pee in the night, and he'll manage come hell or high water.

I lie in my bed and listen to Alex snoring gently in his own bed across the other side of the room, and my thoughts turn to the day, which has nearly gone, or, more exactly, to the three and a half days since I noticed Stuart Begbie. Most of that time, including while I was competing in the cross-country race, he has been in my head. Am I becoming infatuated with him? I've been there before. Twice to be exact.

The first was with James Lally, when I was thirteen and he was eleven and a new pupil to the school. For two months I doted on him and followed him around like a skulking dog. He never knew that I worshipped the ground he walked on, and after two months he dropped out of my radar and became just another boy to me. And then there was Craig Thomas; when I was fifteen and he was twelve. He'd been at the school for almost two years when I became besotted with him. That one was sexual. I once did it in my underpants when he was taking part in the school swimming gala. I actually came when he was standing on the end of the swimming baths, waiting to dive in. He had a perfect little body, and there it was, revealed in all its glory when I fingered my foreskin through the hole in my trousers pocket and came in my pants. I think he liked me, but I was always too shy to make any sort of a move on him. In fact, I think I would have run away if he offered to do anything with me. It took the long summer break from school to relieve me of my feelings towards him.

But I've been around long enough to know that these sort of feelings mean nothing other than we're all highly sexed boys in an all-boy environment. I've seen loads of love affairs going on in the school, but I've never been bothered about joining in the group sex in the bogs. It just isn't me.

But now there's Stuart. He's different. Not only is he older than the others, but he actually likes me, and he wants to meet me away from the school. What does he want? Perhaps he's feeling sorry for me because I'm 'Scarecrow Johnson'. I hope not or I'll soon send him packing. Fuck that for a game of soldiers!

But would he have missed the school bus and waited in the cold for someone he was feeling sorry for? I wouldn't. Perhaps it's best to stand in his shoes. Perhaps he's got sexual feelings for me like I had for Craig Thomas. Some young boys like older boys, and some older boys like younger boys. It's the way it works; I know that. Do I like him? Yes, I do. He's nice. And he's super looking, but I've not masturbated whilst thinking about him, even though he has been in my mind a lot. I wonder if he saw the look in my eyes when I gave him his cap back, because I think I looked at him longer than I should. Perhaps he's misinterpreted my look. It was one of admiration and not lust. He's a good looking lad, of that there's no doubt. But am I fooling myself? I do feel something for him, but I'm not sure what it is. And why did I not turn him down flat when he asked me to go swimming with him? Well, perhaps that's a throw-back to the shit I've had at the school. If I'd refused outright, he would have been hurt. He had seemed a little disappointed when I suggested we don't be seen openly at school. Had he interpreted that as meaning I don't like him? This is intriguing. I wish now that I'd told him I would meet him outside school tomorrow.

And then there's the arrangement to go swimming on Saturday afternoon, if Stuart can wangle it. I finish at the butcher's at twelve and can catch a bus to Brooklands swimming baths and be there by two. I'll need a shower at school on Friday afternoon. That's not a problem. Mr Bourne always lets me shower on Friday afternoon, anyway. I'm clean for the weekend then.

That's enough thinking. I reach under the bed and pull out a copy of Health-and-Efficiency and turn to the well-worn page that I like most: a naked woman of about twenty-five, by the seaside, with lovely breasts. The candle is still flickering by my bedside, and I run my fingers over her breasts and down her body. Immediately, I am aroused. I blow out the candle, settle back in bed, and begin to satisfy myself. I'm halfway through when my mind begins to flicker like a light bulb that's failing. Large breasts – Stuart's face. Large breasts – Stuart's smile. Large breasts – Stuarts' slim fingers. Large breasts begin to fade and a slim, boyish body flits into my mind. It's Craig standing at the end of the swimming baths and he's about to dive in. More self relief. The face of the slim body changes from Craig, to rosy cheeks; a nice nose; full lips; slim; small-for-his-age... beautiful blue eyes: Stuart, and my release is all over his perfect little body and blue swimming trunks.

I lie back, exhausted by the marvellous experience. Wow! I think I am becoming infatuated with him, and maybe it is sexual. Well, that relief about him certainly was!

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