Love - Existentially

by John Teller

Part 13

Book Six - When Englishmen were boys

Michael Johnson.

My dearest, dearest Michael,

I love you with every breath I take. I'm in my bed writing this and I've just made love to you twice in the way I told you was special to me. I hope you did the same when you went to bed last night, and I hope you did it thinking of the way you did it, because that's the way I want you to love me. It was the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced, feeling you inside me.

Now we've done that, I can now fully accept that I'm a homosexual. I hope you do too, because only when we both accept that fact can we get on with the rest of our lives. Am I worried about the future? Of course I am! Will our love last? With all my heart and soul I'm hoping it does. Being in love with someone who loves you just as much as you do him is the most beautiful feeling in the world. So, let us now plan our future on that basis alone and let the devil take the hindmost. Alea iacta est. (I know you don't like Latin, but just in case you have forgotten, those words were what were said to Julius Caesar when he led his armies across the Rubicon River in Italy. It means... The die is cast.) Our die is cast and we must be careful not to allow anyone to break it. Nor should we be careless with it ourselves. My die is cast... I love you Michael.

I've played our song lots of times tonight. It makes me cry.

I wanted to try and see you next weekend, but my parents have arranged a party for some special guests and they've insisted I'm there. They're coming Saturday and staying over. I'd rather be eating pig's trotters with you and Alex.

Tell Alex I think he's special. I think I love him, but not in the same way I love you. You know what I mean. I wish he was my older brother.

I also wish I'd met your Dada. I'm so sorry you've lost him. I know how much he meant to you. There are a lot of things I want to say about that, but I won't. I know it's hard enough for you without me going on. But if ever you're really feeling down, remember that I'm always here for you. If I have to lie my way to get to you, I will, and I don't care if I get into trouble. Your hurt is my hurt.

I can't see you tomorrow, but I'll be waiting on the church wall for you on Tuesday. I'll tell my parents that I've got extra rugby practice after school.

Goodnight my love, and sleep tight my love. May tomorrow be sunny and bright, and bring you closer to me. (Not my words. They're from our song, but I mean them.)

All my love,

Stuart. XXX

Ps. I've got a two man tent. Do you think we could arrange to go camping when the weather gets warmer? I think I can swing it this end. We could join a cycling club and do it that way. Father has said I should join a cycling club. He used to do a lot of cycling and he thinks it's good for the character.

Pps. French kissing is lovely. It's the first time I've ever had one. I want to suck your tongue again, as well as... hah hah. I love you.

I'm in bed, reading Stuart's letter, and it's about the 20th time I've read it today. He dropped his cap in front of me before we went into school in the morning. It had been easy taking out the tightly folded piece of paper, before handing his cap back to him. When I had, our eyes met and we exchanged loving glances. Then he was gone and I only saw him twice after that, and then he was with his pals and we couldn't communicate.

The letter has moved me deeply. It had been brave for Stuart to admit, so soon, that he is a homosexual. I haven't really admitted it to myself yet. But I'm almost sure I am. When Stuart turned over and I saw his perfect, rounded, inviting bum, the only thing I could think of was being inside him. And when I was inside him, it was so sexy knowing that we were coupled like a man and a woman do. Stuart acts the girl part, but I want him to be my boy and not my girl. The reason I love him is because he's a boy, and I'm so pleased he made the matter clear to me when he told me that he wanted me to think of him that way.

It had been hard going to school for the first time since Dada died. It was even harder when a number of my friends offered their condolences. My best friend, Arthur Brookfield, just squeezed my shoulder once and said nothing. Mr Bourne did exactly the same, but I could see that he was pleased I was back at school.

I'm really tired. I put Stuart's letter under my pillow, pull the blankets tightly over me, and relax. Stuart is in my arms. His glorious eyes are staring into mine. Slowly, our lips come together and...

Stuart is waiting on the church wall. When he sees me coming, he gets off it and grins and squeezes my arm, and asks, "Are you okay?"

I touch his gloved hand; a small sign of my deep affection for him. "I am now. Thank you for the letter. It was beautiful."

Stuart looks up at me and I can see he's pleased with my compliment. "Thank you. It took me ages to write it. Were you alright with all of it?"

I know what he means. He's referring to the homosexual part. I nod. "All of it. I'm the same as you, but it's taken you to make me realise it. I love you the same way."

The relief in Stuart is obvious. He wraps his arms around mine and hugs it tightly, and with his head pressing on my shoulder we walk like that for a short way before he releases me and walks alongside me, holding my fingertips. He looks up at me. "What do you think about the camping idea?"

"I thought it was good. But I'm not so sure about the cycling club. I have to work Saturday mornings, and I may have to start working Saturday afternoons now, so we would have to pick one that went on Sundays, and then it would depend on how much it cost to join."

"I've got plenty of savings. I could pay for us both."

Stuart's words cut deep. "I'm sure you could, but you're not!"

We walk in silence for a while, and Stuart's head is down. Then he looks up at me and I can see that he's upset. "I'm sorry Michael. That was crass of me. I won't do it again."

Because British Summer Time had been invoked on Sunday and the clocks have gone forward one hour, unlike the last time we'd met to walk down the hill, its light now. I stop. Stuart stops. I look at him and see the sadness in his face. "I'm sorry. It was good of you to offer. I'm a bit touchy that way. It wouldn't be right taking from you, and I won't. Are you okay with that?"

Stuart's face mellows. He nods. "Can't I give you anything?"

"Only yourself... and a birthday and Christmas present."

"Is Alex at home?"

"No. He's on the noon shift and won't be home until ten. Why?"

Stuart grins. "Then I can give you something that won't cost a penny."

I laugh. "You're already late now!"

Stuart shrugs his shoulders. "An extra half-hour won't make any difference. I can always say we practiced late."

And we're still giggling when I turn the key in the latch and open the door. Judy comes rushing to us and we both give her a fuss. I open the back door and she rushes off down the back garden. Stuart and I throw our schoolbags on the table and dash upstairs to the bedroom.

The first kiss as we lie naked on my bed is an explosion of desperation, and our lips and tongues fight a battle to give the other the love we both need, and then, as our love becomes gentler, I push Stuart onto his back and get on top of him, supporting myself on my elbows as I stare down into his eyes. He strokes my hair and fondles my face. I kiss his lips again, and then his nose, and then each eye, rubbing my lips softly across the long eyelashes. I kiss his forehead, and then move down so I can get at his long, slender neck. He moves his head to one side to give me access, and I suck gently at it; not hard enough to leave a mark, but just enough to suck his soft skin into my mouth. He rolls his head over so I can get to the other side, and I do the same there. I kiss his shoulders, moving my lips along the length of his collar bones, and then I go lower to nuzzle his armpits. His gorgeous nipples are erect and inviting, and I take his left one first, slowly sucking it in and out of my mouth. Stuart moans as I nibble and lick it. His hands press me onto him, and then he pushes me to the other nipple, and I spend some time on that one too, and all the while he is moaning and pushing his lower body up at me to tell me how it's affecting him, and I know I have discovered one of his most erogenous zones, and the thought that my boy is feeling such deep pleasures, also gives me pleasure.

Then he pushes me lower, and I wipe my lips and nose across his firm, slim stomach. His hips thrust up at me in regular movements, and then he pushes me down to where he needs me. His hands leave me now, and I watch him push them up behind his head; a sign that he has completely surrendered to me.

His surrender is my conquest, and I shower him with gifts that drive him almost to desperation until I strike the final blow to put him out of his misery.

When I go back up to him, his eyes are glazed and misty with tears and he grabs my head with both hands and crushes me to him. And now I'm crying the love I have for my beautiful boy, and the kiss is filled with wild, unadulterated emotions, both sexual and spiritual, because this is what we are: lovers.

It's a while before we are relieved of our passions enough to kiss gently and smile at each other, and I ask him, "Was that nice?"

Stuart nods. "Mmmmm. It was fantastic. I've been thinking about it all day, but I didn't think it would be that nice.

I grin at him. "No wonder your school work is slipping, you naughty boy!"

Stuart giggles. "It's not slipping! So I can concentrate, I just keep putting as many sexy words into my composition as often as I can. Joules said my composition is getting better. It's a good job he doesn't know what I'm thinking."

"And what are you thinking, my sexy little diving expert?"

Stuart's tongue comes out and he bites it between his lips. Then he pushes me off him, rolls onto his front, opens his legs, and points to his bum. "This... mostly." And then he giggles some more.

I get off the bed and go to the chest of drawers and take out the Vaseline.

He's still lying on his belly when he smiles and asks, "Was that nice?"

I stroke his cheek. "It was wonderful. Did I hurt you?"

Stuart grins, and then withdraws his hand from underneath him. "You made me do this. Do you want it?"

When I've licked his hand clean, Stuart strokes my cheek and says, "I need to make the house rugby team, so I'm going to be practicing late all week."

I grin at him. "Never mind rugby, we'd better get you on that bus."

Stuart grins. "Not before I have another French kiss, please?"

Stuart Begbie.

Saturday. The special dinner that Mother has arranged; the one that has stopped me from lying my way to spend another day with Michael is, indeed, special. Our guests are no lesser beings than the Lord-Lieutenant of the County and his wife and their two children, Mark who is twenty-two, and Eileen who is seventeen. Not only are they coming to dinner, they're also staying overnight. Normally, because we have five bedrooms, it wouldn't be a problem to have so many people staying, but, unfortunately, one of the bedrooms is being fully renovated, so alternative arrangements have been made.

I heard them on the phone – Mother and Mrs Lord-Lieutenant. 'It won't be a problem, Lady Reeves-Jenkins. Stuart has a three-quarter bed... and they are boys together. They'll manage. If it's alright with you, that is?'

I'm angry. I've met them before. Mark has just graduated from university and he thinks the sun shines out of his backside. His parents do too. Me? I think he's just an arsehole. Eileen is okay. She seems to have her feet on the ground; and we get on well. Maybe it would be better if she was sleeping with me.

Because I've been ordered to keep out the way until the guests arrive, I have the afternoon to myself. It suits me fine. I clean my model racing car collection and play some music on my record player, and read, for about the 100th time, the letter Michael slipped to me before I left him on Friday evening. Apart from Thursday, we'd managed to have sex every day after school. It's been great, and I'm learning and enjoying how to accommodate Michael even better. On Friday, I managed to accommodate him so well that his pubic hairs were against my bum. I reckon another week and I'll be able to accommodate him completely without too much pain. But Alex is on the night shift next week and on the day shift the following week, so we won't be able to share Michael's bed for another two weeks.

But I have accomplished one thing that has pleased me more than anything.

On Friday when we went to bed and before Michael could roll me onto my tummy so we could do it that way, after Michael had kissed his way down me and brought me to my first climax, and after we had waited a short while for me to recover, I insisted he lie on his back and got on top of him! We kissed, and then I did the same to him as he had done to me. It was fantastic! Michael was trembling all the way down, and when I finally got to my destination and kissed the fully aroused Michael that was oozing his desires, I spent a full ten minutes making crazy love to him that way. It was beautiful and sensual and so sexy that I was salivating like a hungry dog until he gave me what I wanted... what I had desired for so long, and when my lover was writhing in the supreme passions, I was so overcome with lust that I drank greedily at my well of desire and I spilled not a drop of my lover. And when I went back up to kiss him, I was still shaking at the excitement of the moment.

That was the first time that way, but we are learning. That can only happen if I can get to him that way before he takes me the way he loves the most; when I am on my tummy or on my hands and knees. Being a homosexual requires that we do things properly and in the right order at Michael's house because we do not have bathing facilities to do otherwise. But Michael had his own way afterwards. I insisted he did. I also wanted what he wanted. Being coupled with the one you love is more than precious... it is spiritual when two bodies become as one.

My dearest Stuart.

I treasure our friendship more than anything in the world, and I love you so much that I can't imagine what life was like before I met you. It's not just what we do - my love goes far deeper than that. When I wake in the morning, I see your face. When I go to school, I need to see you before I can get on with my day. Just a glimpse of you suffices. During the day, I often walk past your classroom and see you sitting in your desk, chewing your pencil and thinking. You seem far away when you're doing it and I like to think you're thinking about us, like I do for most of the day.

This week has been so special. I'm glad it has, because it will have to last us another two weeks until Alex is on the noon shift again.

There's something I haven't told you. Mr Bourne told me on Wednesday that I've been selected to run for the County in the All-England Schools Cross-Country Race, next Saturday, April 7th, your birthday, at Chichester. Mr Bourne is taking me on Friday and we're staying in a bed and breakfast so that I'm fresh for the race on Saturday. I haven't told you before because I knew the news would cheer you up while we're apart. I'll do my best to win it as a birthday present for you. But I'm up against some super runners, so I may not be able to do it. But I will do my best.

I'll see you on Monday and I will try and get another letter to you before I go to Chichester. It's going to be difficult for me to see you after school because Mr Bourne says I need to train every evening, but if you can wait for me by the church on Thursday, I'll make an excuse that I have to be home and meet you there and do my training later.

Have a good weekend, my precious friend – my sweet love. I will be thinking of you eating your pig's trotters with the Lord-Lieutenant.

All my love, and a special French kiss. (I love them, too.)

Michael. XXX

I want to dance and sing for joy at Michael's selection to race for The County, and his reference to the pig's trotters and the French kiss makes me grin every time I read it. Although his is not as rough as Alex's, Michael has his own unique sense of humour, and it's one of the reasons why I adore him. I check my watch: just turned five. I need to start getting ready. The guests are arriving at seven and dinner is at eight. Mother had already arranged my wear – a tuxedo and all the trimmings. I do so hate formal!

I hear the Bentley crunch its way up the long gravel drive, and then the doorbell ring, and then the exaggerated greetings downstairs, like long-lost friends. They're no such thing. This is business – you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours. Father and the Lord-Lieutenant are both Freemasons and both belong to the same Lodge. No doubt Arsehole Mark will soon be initiated. It will be my turn one day.

I await my cue. It comes when I hear Mother call. "Stuart, our guests are here. Would you like to come and join us?"

When I get downstairs they're all in the lounge and father has already sorted the aperitifs. I'm too young to drink, so no need to wait for me. Respectfully, I accept the handshakes from all our visitors and give Eileen a genuine smile. She returns it and we pair off and chat about things. I don't know what it is with her, but we seem to have a rapport, and talking is easy. I compliment her on her lovely dress, and she smiles and thanks me. We chat about her education, and in a low voice she tells me that she's worried about her exam results, which, this year, will be her passport to a university education. I listen attentively to what she's saying and instead of the normal condescending spiel that everything will be okay; I tell her that I'm struggling in some subjects, too. Before we have a chance to expand on our conversation, mother calls that dinner is served.

For this occasion, my parents have hired the full works: a high-class chef and waitresses. 'I hope you don't mind, Darling,' I heard mother tell Mrs Lord-Lieutenant over the phone, 'but I do so want to spend time with you and Sir Clarence and your children rather than slaving in a kitchen. You know how it is.'

I'm not sure Mrs Lord-Lieutenant does know how it is. She didn't rise so high in the social scale by slaving in a kitchen.

I like the seating arrangements. Father and Lord-Lieutenant have the high chairs (at each end of the Georgian, rosewood table that sports a five-branch silver candelabra and settings for a five-course meal), and Mother to Father's right, and Mrs Lord-Lieutenant to her husband's right. I'm seated next to Mother, and directly opposite me is Arsehole Mark, and seated next to me is Eileen. The arrangements are as they should be: male-female all around the table, except for Arsehole Mark, who is between his Mother and my Father.

The meal goes well, of course, and when it's over, Chef and his staff are called and congratulated. I can tell by their smiles that they're not really pleased. This is their job and the smiles and gratuitous doffing of ladies' heads are par for the course. They won't make a fortune out of the evening – it's not the done thing to overly reward the 'servants'.

We retire to the lounge. This is the part I hate with a passion. Arsehole Mark, who has been getting progressively louder with each glass of wine he drinks, now decides to show his manliness by making me the brunt of most of his stupid, condescending jokes about how much I have to learn before I become a man. I take it all, of course, which is another par for the course. But we're on about the seventeenth green when I decide that enough is enough.

Arsehole (forgive me, dear readers, but I will abbreviate his name simply because this name, used in a coarse way, describes him perfectly. The paradox, of course, is that an arsehole is a thing of joy to us of 'that persuasion') tells the world that he's about to set up two companies. He's already in the process of 'buying big' into a company that grows mushrooms. It takes every ounce of my willpower not to burst out laughing at that one. The second one, which meets his father's approval, is in Father's line, civil-engineering. Ah, now I understand the reason for the meal. And then he asks me what I'm going to be when I 'grow up'.

I want to tell him to reproduce elsewhere and mind his own business, but then I decide to tease him with a subject that I'm slightly familiar with. "I think, after I've finished at University, I'm going apply to Sandhurst Royal Military Academy and do some time in the army before I go to work for Father." I look at Father. "With Father's permission, of course." I look back at Arsehole. "Father was in the army, and so was Grandfather. It did them the world of good, so I think it would be good for me too."

Lord-Lieutenant claps his hands. "Bravo, young chap. I was at Sandhurst. When the time comes, just give me a shout and I'll pull a few strings for you."

I give Lord-Lieutenant one of my best, deferential smiles. "Yes Sir, I know you were, and thank you. You had a distinguished career, I believe?"

"I did indeed. I was with Wingate in Burma, you know."

I look at him, astounded. "I didn't know that Sir! I have a close friend at school whose Father was with The Chindits. He won the Victoria Cross there."

Now it's Lord-Lieutenant's turn to look astounded. "Not... Johnson?"

"Yes Sir. He died recently. His son Michael attends our school, and because Michael is a good friend of mine, I was chosen to be the school representative at his father's funeral. It was all rather sad and upsetting. Actually, Michael wants to go to Sandhurst, but because of his background, he feels he won't be accepted."

Lord-Lieutenant slaps his hand on the table and sits back in his chair, looking pensively at me over his wine glass. "Yes, I knew Johnson had died. I arranged the Guard of Honour for the funeral, but, unfortunately, I was away on business when the funeral took place. I wanted to make it a proper do, but the family asked for no publicity. A shame really, very few people in the city know that Johnson was awarded the VC."

Now Father looks at me, and speaks. "Because of his background, Stuart?"

I'm now thinking on my feet and the cogs are turning faster than the gearbox in a Maserati, and my lying mode is in top gear too. "Yes, Father. They're a very poor family. After the funeral, I went with Mr Bourne to their home. They live in a hovel, which is a shame because Michael is very intelligent and he's also a superb sportsman. He won the County Schools Cross Country Championships recently, and he's been selected to represent The County in the All-England race next week at Chichester."

Now I have everyone's attention. Even Arsehole has shut his big mouth.

Mother is the next one to speak. "A hovel? That's not a nice way to describe someone's home, Stuart."

I look at her in feigned repentance. "You're right, Mother. That was crass of me. Actually, they live in a terraced house that's never been modernised. It's like being back in Victorian times in their home. They have no hot water and no bathroom and an outside lavatory. I suppose it's the cards that life dealt to them. Michael's father lost a leg and a lung, and he only had seven fingers, so he wasn't able to work, and when he was discharged from the army because he was medically unfit, he discovered that his wife had absconded with another man, and his two boys, Alex, the eldest, and Michael, had been placed in care. So he took them out of care and now they live in the house that belonged to Michael's grandfather before he died. They own one third of it. Michael's two uncles own the other two thirds and Michael's father pays rent to them. Now, Michael is desperately trying to pass his exams to go to university and the only source of income is the wage of his brother Alex, and a small pension from the army."

Mother, genuinely, is distraught, and she holds her hands to her bosom. "That's awful. Life can be cruel at times. I'm intrigued, Stuart. Obviously, there's an age difference between you and Michael, so how did you get to be so... close to know so much about them?"

It's time for feigned repentance, and some more lies. I drop my head, and then I look up at Mother and Father. "I'm sorry, but I told you a lie a while ago. When I got that detention? You probably remember; the one for fooling around in class and you were both angry at me? Well, actually, I got it for fighting. I overheard one of the boys in the year above me calling Michael a scarecrow because he doesn't have decent school clothes. So I hit the boy who said it. I couldn't help myself. I thought it was cruel and unwarranted. Michael found out about it and he came and thanked me. Then he told me not to do it again because it didn't bother him and he was used to it, and my getting into trouble would serve no useful purpose for either of us, and although nobody would say it again to my face, they would still say it behind my back... and his. Despite some silly comments from some of the boys (I look at Father and Lord-Lieutenant in a knowing sort of way), you know what I mean, since then, he and I have become good friends."

I feel a hand on my arm, and I turn to Eileen. She's giving me a beautiful smile. "Stuart, I think that was very gallant of you." And she gives me a peck on the cheek.

Father is staring at me with one of his serious stares. "But you did tell a lie! I'm not pleased with you for that." Then his face mellows. "However, on this occasion I will let it pass because I agree with Eileen. Shall we get to meet this Michael?"

Lord-Lieutenant interrupts. "Indeed we will. How about we arrange a meal at my place and invite Michael to join us?"

Still the cogs are whirring. I look at Lord-Lieutenant. "It would have to be informal. His dress is errr..."

Lord-Lieutenant winks at me. "Of course! Informal wear and an afternoon buffet on the lawn. I'll invite a lot of people. Only the people in this room will know the real intentions of our extended tête-à-tête... to meet your friend, and the son of a real hero." He looks at Mother and Father. "That's with your Mother and Father's permission, of course?"

Mother smiles.

Father laughs. "I think it's an excellent idea. Nos mos veneratio a vir.

I give him a delicious smile. "Translate, Father, please."

Father wags a finger at me. "Your Latin needs to improve! I said; We will honour a hero." Then he laughs. "But I've forgotten how to say 'and his sons'."

Very quietly, Eileen says, "...quod suus sons? Does that mean his brother will be invited, too?"

Lord-Lieutenant looks pleased and smiles at Eileen. "Yes. Both sons of a hero." Then he looks at me. "What does his brother do for a living?"

I grin. "He's a collier, and he looks like Rudolph Valentino with his black eyes. But he's a lovely man."

Lord-Lieutenant laughs and points at Eileen. "Then I shall have to keep an eye on you, young lady!"

The whole room erupts in laughter, and Eileen blushes, and I award myself five gold stars for being a crafty sod. The meal has been a success for me, and the icing on the cake arrives when Arsehole's face turns to a pale white and he rushes to the bathroom to be sick because he's overdone it with the wine and strong Port, and I get to sleep on the sofa because I don't want to sleep with the drunken sod.

Michael Johnson.

The mud. The terrible mud is taking its toll. There's just a small group of us now, all bunched together, all waiting for someone to make a move to break it up. This course is seven miles long but thankfully, the organisers have placed markers every half-mile to give us an idea how much pain we have left to go through. We've just passed the five-and-a-half-mile marker. I try to negate the pain by thinking about Thursday night when I last saw Stuart.

He was waiting for me on the church wall, and when I went to him he gripped my hand tightly and told me he loved me. On the walk down the hill he was mischievous in his talk, and told me he had something important to tell me, but he wouldn't tell me until after I got back from Chichester. While we were waiting for his bus, we leaned against the cinema wall and chatted. I was almost moved to tears when he said that if I didn't win the race he would still be enormously proud of me. Then, when the bus came, Stuart looked into my eyes and I could see the tears beginning to appear in his, and then he took my hand and placed something in it. I looked at what he'd given me. It was his gold neckchain. "Wear it during the race, Michael, and think of me. All my love is in that chain, and all my love will be with you throughout the race. Good luck on my birthday."

And with that, and with the small, gift-wrapped birthday present of a Corgi Talbot Lago racing car to add to his collection, and a birthday card from me and Alex and Judy clutched in his hand, he turned and boarded the bus.

Mr Bourne had been wonderful. He had managed to get us two first-class train tickets to our destination, and the accommodation we had was lovely and homely. He was, truly, like a father to me, and this morning, as we were on our way to join the group at the rendezvous, he gave me a bottle of water dosed well with glucose to drink. He smiled. "It won't do you any harm, and it might just do you some good."

And then we'd discussed tactics. If I was to have any chance of getting anywhere in the race, it was important that I make a good start. That part had gone well, and I found myself among the leading group of a race that had well over two hundred participants: five from each county in England. Team orders? There were none. Mr Drew, our county leader had told us to, 'Just go for it and we'll tot up the points at the end.'

The arithmetic is simple. The team with the lowest number of points, depending on what position each member of that team finishes, wins the team race. The first to finish will get 1 point, and the last, 248 points. It's the aggregate that matters.

I'm wondering how the others are feeling as the muscles in my legs begin to scream at me as we are halfway up a steep, muddy incline. There are just six in front of me now. And then there are two when one of the competitors slips on the treacherous mud and brings down three runners nearest to him. I'm fortunate and just manage to avoid their twisted torsos and flailing legs. The two leading runners are ten yards ahead of me and I know that if I don't catch them before we reach the top of this hill, all will be lost because once over the summit, they will have the advantage of level ground to leave me further behind.

I dig deeper and watch the gold chain bouncing off my breast as far up as my nose. My sweet, beautiful lover is with me on his fourteenth birthday, and he spurs me on, and when we top the hill, and as we pass the half-mile marker, I'm alongside the leading runner. Psychologically, I'm winning. I know what they'll be thinking - how the hell has he caught us up on that hill unless he has plenty left in the tank?

My love is still dancing in front of my face; Dada, with his seven fingers and with a big grin on his face is playing Danny Boy on the piano; Alex is cuddling Judy and teasing her with pig's trotter's titbits, and Mr Bourne's warm hand is on my shoulder and he's wishing me well before he walked away to let me get on with what I am.

So I make my move. The track is wide now, and each side, behind ropes, are hundreds of spectators. I can see the finishing tape. Maybe it's Mr Bourne's magic potion of glucose drink, or maybe it's the love I have in my heart that releases me from all pain, and I feel a new lease of life and energy that amazes me, and I begin to sprint. I glance behind me. Five yards clear. More love and more power into the magic legs. Another glance behind me. Ten yards now, and then I know I've won when the third time I look behind me, the others are stragglers. I breast the tape with a clenched fist and a scream that would match Stuart's best sheepdog call, and I clutch the golden chain to my lips and kiss it repeatedly. I love you Stuart Begbie and I've given you the best birthday present I could ever give you.

Mr Bourne comes to me. Like me, there are tears in his eyes, and we hug an unspoken love. The adrenaline is still racing through my veins when I look around at the milling crowd, and it takes every ounce of my willpower not to shout, There you go! A fucking homo is the Champion of All England!

Alex grins at me across the table and then puts his plate on the floor for Judy to lick clean. He hasn't stopped grinning since I got back home at lunchtime and Mr Bourne gave him the news that I'd won. Before I left to go to Chichester, I said I would ring Mrs Weaver - three doors down, who lives over the wool shop and who has a telephone – and tell him how I'd gone on. But he would have none of it. 'Tell me when you get home. That will do me. Anyway, I'll be down the pub having a pint or two while you're messing about down there playing silly buggers.'

Alex picks up the clean plate and then takes mine and gives that to Judy. He looks down at her. "Good girl. That will save me washing up." He looks at me, and grins again.

"For God's sake, Alex, take that daft grin off your face!"

The grin widens. "Ok... Champ."

He gets up and goes into the parlour. I hear the sound of the piano lid opening and the stool being shifted into position. A few tuning notes, and then he plays the piano, and the perfect notes he's playing are accompanied by his deep, non-too-perfect, bass voice, and Danny Boy, Dada's favourite song, bellows out. The melancholy tune echoes around our small home, and Judy sits between the living room and the parlour and lifts her head and howls along with him, and I dissolve into tears. I know Alex is crying, too. We all three are... for our lovely Dada.

Strangely, despite my tears, I'm not sad. Instead, there's elation in my heart that I've done Dada proud, and also my brother and Mr Bourne. But another reason for me not being sad is that I know that Stuart, my true-love, when he knows that beside the Corgi Talbot Lago racing car I gave him, the birthday gift of him being the boyfriend of the All-England Schools Cross Country Champion will fill his heart with joy.

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