Love - Existentially

by John Teller

Part 22

Book Six - When Englishmen were boys

Michael Johnson.

I've taken the short run tonight – the six mile route – and not the normal eight mile run I usually do. That's for two reasons; I want to get back to Stuart as soon as I can, and our loving has taken its toll on my stamina. Throughout the run, I've done nothing but think about us, and I'm still finding it difficult to take in all that is happening. In just over a week, Stuart and I will be living together. But, strangely, as wonderful as that sounds, I don't think our relationship is ready for that yet. Alex has been talking to me, and deep down I know he's right. Mature as he is, Stuart is still too young to be cohabiting with me. Of course I want to be with him every second of the day and night, same as Stuart wants to be with me, but I know it's wrong, and I can't shake the fact that it's wrong out of my head.

Firstly, a boy of fourteen should be living with his parents and – if he is lucky enough to have one – be seeing his lover, not living with his lover and seeing his parents. I'd rather not think about exactly how Stuart managed to get his parents into agreeing with it and setting it up for us. He's such a wilful boy! I shall have to watch my step with him!

Secondly, a boy and a man living together but having different surnames is, sooner or later, bound to raise questions locally. We'd need a 'cover story' of some kind. Yes, lies, which in time will need to be backed-up by even more lies.

Thirdly, a boy needs friends his own age. School chums, local buddies, their friends, and so on. Friends to do homework with; to spend time with; to go out with, and sometimes to bring home. What would he tell them? How would he explain my presence? Yet more lies?

I'm torn apart. Stuart seems determined it will happen and if I say that we shouldn't, I know it will hurt him terribly, and I can't do that either. He's gone through enough shit being away from me for a month as it is. When we first went to bed and he came twice without me hardly touching him, it made me aware of how much he's missed me sexually. He's amazing! It's as if his love for me and his sexuality are so deeply integrated that to unbalance one would shatter both. And I daren't take that chance. I might take that chance if he wasn't so highly sexed, but he has the libido of a rabbit. I smile at the thought of the demure young man whose cap blew off, and the real Lover Boy who climaxes so many times while we're making love that I've stopped counting them now.

The noisy, sexy little sod! After we'd had dinner and gone back to bed, he was at it again! And we're sleeping together tonight! I'll have to make sure he never spends another month away from me or I'll finish up in hospital.

I'm giggling to myself when I run up the back yard and into the house. Stuart and Alex are sitting in the two easy chairs, and Stuart grins at me when I come in and he asks, "Did you have a good run?"

I give him a dirty look. "I was knackered!"

Stuart gurgles with laughter at my remark. He knows exactly what I mean. "I'll get you some glucose tomorrow."

Alex is grinning. "You'd better get a wash, and then me and Stuart have got something to talk about with you."

Immediately, I see Stuart's face change, and I know that whatever it is we have to talk about, it's a serious subject. I leave them and go into the kitchen, take the galvanized tin bath off the wall, and fill the sink with cold water. After I've had a strip wash, I fasten a towel around my waist and walk into the living room while I'm drying my hair with another towel. "What have we got to talk about then?"

Stuart gets up and makes me sit in the chair he was in, stands behind me and starts to dry my hair, and then he says, "If I said we weren't going to live together after all we've planned, what would you say, Michael?"

I'm not sure what to say. I decide not to answer. "Explain what you mean."

Alex butts in. "He means that he thinks he's not old enough to live with you yet. He wants to, but he knows it's not right. So, he wants to ring his Dada up and cancel... I mean postpone... you two living together."

The sound of Stuart crying behind me, alarms me. I turn and see tears are flooding from his eyes, so I drag him around the chair and haul him into my lap and hug him. When the tears have stopped, I ask him, "Is it really what you want?"

He looks into my eyes and nods. "I want to live with you, but it really isn't the right thing to do. I want to see you every weekend instead. Alex and I have been talking, and you can come here to us."

"Here to us? How do you know your mother and father will let you stay here? They might not let you."

Stuart shakes his head. "That will be part of the deal."

"What do you mean, part of the deal?"

"Part of the deal. I stay where I am with my parents, and weekends are mine to do as I please. If you agree, I'll ring them now and tell them what we've decided to do. I'm sure they'll agree to it if it means we're not living together. I don't think they want us to live together. They're doing it because I said I was going to, no matter what they said. This way, everybody will be happy. And when I'm eighteen, then we can go and live together. You'll have finished at University and we can make plans, depending on what you're going to be doing."

I lift Stuart's head and look into his eyes. "Are you sure this is what you want?"

Stuart nods, and then grins. "I think it would be for the best. You had a job coping with me for just one day."

Alex roars with laughter and says, "I'm going to sweep the bloody yard. Give me a shout when you two have sorted things." And still giggling, he goes out.

When he's gone, I start to giggle, too. "I think maybe you're right. When I was running, I was wondering how I was going to cope tonight."

Stuart grins. "You shouldn't be such a sexy sod then. You disturbed me down there when you came in wearing just a towel. Can we sneak upstairs while Alex is sweeping the yard?"

I laugh. Stuart laughs, and we share a long, loving kiss. Then I stare into his beautiful blue eyes. "Are you absolutely sure it's what you want?"

Stuart stares back at me... and his eyes are very serious. "Yes." Then he gives me a silly look. "After all, I am only fourteen. Do you think I'll grow out of it?"

I lift his chin and kiss his soft lips. "You may only be fourteen, but if you ever, ever leave me, I won't want to live without you." Then I kiss him again. "I can't imagine life without you... now, or any time in the future. So, the answer to your question is N.O. spells no. I'm as sure as I can be about anything that you won't grow out of it, and I'm just as sure that neither will I. So, does that answer your question?"

Stuart's radiant, tearful smile is my answer, and the seal to what he's thinking is applied as he locks our mouths together in a soft-lipped, saliva-exchanging kiss.

Stuart Begbie.

I'm nervous in the telephone box as I wait for the phone to ring after I've requested the reverse charge call. I hear the operator asking if they will accept the call, and when whoever is on the other end of the phone says 'yes', and I'm put through, I blurt out, "This is Stuart Begbie. Could I speak to my father, please?"

"Oh, hello Stuart. This is Peter here. Just hang on and I'll get him for you."

I wait for a short while, and then Father answers, "Hello Stuart. Is everything alright?"

"Hello Father. Yes, everything is fine. I just needed to talk to you. You might be angry with me though."

"Why is that son?"

"I don't want to live with Michael just now."

"You haven't fallen out!"

"No Father! Of course not! We've decided it's wrong. I'm not old enough yet. Providing I can see Michael most weekends, I want to stay with you until I'm old enough to do it and it won't look wrong. I'm really sorry for messing you around."

Father is quiet for a while, and then his voice is calm. "Of course I'm not angry, and Mother won't be either. Quite the opposite. I think you've both made a wise decision."

"Alex helped."

I hear father chuckle. "I thought he might have had some input into it. He's a wise man. Will you be okay with just seeing Michael at weekends?"

"Yes Father. You won't stop me staying with him at weekends, will you?"

"No. Of course we won't. We'll have you all week, and you and Michael can be together at weekends. Some weekends, we can spend them together and take a short break to Wales or the Peak District. We'd like to keep in touch with Michael, too, you know! And when it's holiday time, we can all go away together. Would you like that?"

I laugh. "Well, it will stop me from spoiling your holiday because I'm so miserable."

Father laughs. "Yes, there is that to it. If for no other reason than that, we'll pack Michael into one of our suitcases and take him with us."

Now we're both laughing, and the tension has evaporated completely. It seems as though things are working out fine, but I do need to clear Alex for fetching Michael. "It will be alright if Alex uses the works Land Rover to bring Michael home at weekends, won't it Father? Alex says he can do that, or Michael can catch the train."

"That will be fine. I'll sort that. Hey, I've got a better idea! Michael is eighteen now. How about we put him through his driving test and then he can have his own vehicle. We can get him a company car, or we could even get him one for his Christmas present. What do you think about that?"

I laugh. "I was thinking of getting him a Dansette record player with legs for twenty three guineas for his Christmas present."

Again father laughs. "You're spending too much time with that wastrel, Alex. I'll need to watch you two while Michael is at University. You two and that dog, that is! Right, is that it? Do you want me to tell your Mother all this?"

"Yes please, Father. Will she be pleased?"

"I'm not sure. She was going to do some house hunting tomorrow because she likes it here. You and I will have to do some scheming to make sure we stay put. I don't want to leave where we are, do you?"

"No! That would mess up all our plans! Tell Mother I need to stay here because of my schooling. That should do the trick."

"I'll do that. You get off back to Michael and Alex and that dog now, and we'll see you Sunday. It's another week before you go back to school and Michael goes to Oxford. We'll make plans on Sunday so you two can spend a lot of the week together."

I pluck up courage to ask, "Can I spend the following Saturday night here with Michael. You don't mind, do you? I won't be seeing him for a week."

Father's voice is warm when he answers. "Of course you can. I'll sort it with your mother."

"Thank you Father. We're going to see Mr Bourne tomorrow. They need to sort things for when Michael leaves for Oxford. Goodnight Father."

"Goodnight my boy. I love you."

"I love you too Father. Give my love to Mother."

"Will do. Goodnight."

I hear the phone go dead, and I'm elated. Everything is working out fine.

Michael Johnson.

Its eleven o'clock and dark outside with just the dim streetlamps lighting up the room. Stuart's small body is naked in my arms and we're kissing... long, passionate, silent kisses of pure love. He has his arms around my neck and I have my arms around his slim body.

Alex has not long come home from having a couple of pints at the pub, and he and Trotter have only just settled into bed. We were in bed when he came home, so he came quietly up the stairs. Only when Stuart shouted 'Goodnight' to him, did he say anything, and that was, 'Don't you two do anything I wouldn't do!' accompanied by a guffaw fit to rattle the rafters.

Stuart whispers in my ear. "Are we going to do it again?"

I whisper back. "I daren't. You make too much noise."

Stuart giggles. "I won't, I promise. Just let me do what I want to you. We'll just do that tonight. Please? I won't be able to go to sleep unless we do. I've put Vaseline on. Have a feel. I'm going to turn over," he whispers.

Stuart turns over and backs into me, and then I put my arms around him and hold him tight. He's got his own way, as he always does, and I'm just hoping he keeps his promise and doesn't start howling when he reaches the peak of his passions. So I let him get on with it.

Getting on with it. It's beautiful, and because he's learned many ways to get the best of the situation, his delights become my delights, but he does outlast me... as usual. Well, he is just fourteen and his hormones are kicking in big style. When it's over, he turns his head back and kisses me softly, snuggles back further onto the seat my legs are providing for him, wraps his arms around mine, and rests his head on the pillow. I kiss his soft hair and settle down with him. "Goodnight, Sweetheart."

He giggles. "Goodnight. I'll wake you up at six for more."

And we fall asleep only after we've stopped chuckling.

It's 8.30'ish when I wake. The sun has lit up the room through the flimsy curtains and I can clearly see Stuart by my side. He's sleeping on his back. What a fantastic experience it is to wake up with my lover by my side. My God! He's gorgeous, and I desperately want to kiss him and fondle the soft curves of his supple body, but I know he's tired after his long journey back from France and the inordinate amount of sex we've had. So, instead, I slip quietly out of bed, dress as quietly as I can, and make my way downstairs.

Life in the Johnson household means I have to go outside to relieve myself. Alex is already up and about. He's working in the garden with Trotter. She sees me and comes bounding to me. I give her a fuss and she goes back to digging in the garden alongside Alex, who is cussing her and trying to fend her away from the vegetable patch he's working on. But she ignores him and continues making deep ruts with her paws.

I do the business and then go back inside and have a wash under the cold tap, including washing myself thoroughly 'down there'. After I've dried myself, I go back to the bedroom, select some shorts and a vest from the chest of drawers, and dress quietly. Stuart is still fast asleep. I smile as I leave the room and go downstairs again. I go to Alex.

He grins at me. "Is Lover Boy still asleep?"

"He's out to the world. He must be knackered after his long journey. I'll let him sleep it off. Do you want a cup of tea? I'm going to have one, and then go for a quick run."

"Good idea. Take Trotter with you."

I laugh. "No bloody chance! She gets under my feet."

Its 9.30 and Stuart is still asleep when I set off to do a five mile run. I warn Alex not to do any daft stuff with him, and then I set off. The route I take is up the hill, past our school, and once I've topped the rise, I'm well into my second wind and really enjoying it. The rest of the run is level and I reach the two and a half mile point where I should turn back, but I'm in the sort of mood where I feel I could run forever, so I ignore it and take the route through the countryside that I know is a ten mile one, and all the while I'm running... I'm thinking. It's what I do; reflect on things while I run.

I'd arranged accommodation in Oxford with a lady and her two children a while back. Her husband is in the forces, and the last student she had has now moved on. We'd done it by letter at first, and then I telephoned her to finalize things. When Stuart had first mooted the idea that we were going to live together at Abingdon, I felt a little guilty that I would be breaking the arrangements we'd made, but now we won't be going to live in Abingdon, that's one worry off my mind. While Stuart was away, I'd also sorted out my curriculum. Mr Bourne had helped me enormously with that. Stuart and I are going to see him today. Mr Bourne doesn't know that. He's expecting just me. That will be fun when Stuart and I turn up together.

Stuart's parents are picking him up tomorrow, he said. I wonder what they will think of the Johnson household. It's far different than theirs. Stuart's clothes: I hope he's brought a few changes of underpants with him. If not, I'll have to wash the ones he's got. I've reached the stretch of road down past the school and I increase my speed. I'm on my way back to my lover now, and I want to be with him.

Stuart Begbie.

"Oi, you idle bugger! It's time to get up! It's turned ten o'clock! Get your arse out of bed and get washed before Kiddo gets back. Go get him Trotter!"

I was fast asleep, but Alex' shouting wakes me. And then Trotter jumps onto the bed and goes mad washing my face with her little tongue. Her body is wriggling with excitement, and I don't think I've ever experienced a more wonderful awakening in my life: from fast asleep to wide awake and giggling in less than twenty seconds. Alex pops his head around the door and grins at me.

I grin back at him. "You swine, Alex! Gerroff Trotter! Gerroff, I can't breathe!"

Alex laughs. "Come on Trotter, lass. Well done girl. We woke him up in record time, didn't we? Shake your arse, Lover Boy!"

And I hear him going down the stairs, laughing.

Alex said 'before he comes back'. So Michael must have gone for a run. I'm dying for a pee and I need to empty my bowels. And I need a bath. How on earth am I going to manage this? The toilet is outside, and the only way to get a bath is by using the tin bath in the kitchen. But there's no privacy. I'd be ok if it was just Michael, but Alex is around. As much as I love him, I can't bathe in front of him. But maybe I can. He's seen me before when I was wet through and he dried me off. I'll just have to do it. I'll go downstairs in just my underpants. That should be okay.

The tiny toilet is whitewashed, but clean. I've used it before, but never to empty my bowels. Thank goodness I know the knack of giving the chain a good yank to make it flush properly, and I'm relieved to see my bowel movements disappear, along with the two torn up sheets of newspaper, which are what poor people use for toilet paper. And now for the bath.

Alex was in the parlour when I came down, but now he's sitting at the dining table eating toast when I go in and tell him, "I need a bath, Alex."

With his mouth full, he points to the kitchen, and mumbles, "Get the tin bath down and fill it half full. I've put the towels out for you."

"Shall I boil a kettle?"

"Boil a kettle! On a lovely warm day like this! Cold water, Lover Boy! It will wake you up, you bloody nancy boy. Get it done or I'll put the bloody hose pipe on you!"

I'm grinning at him as I pass him to go upstairs, and as I pass him, I hit him on the back of the head, and before he has time to react, I'm bolting up the stairs to get my clothes. It's a lovely day, so I decide to wear the clothes Michael loves to see me in; and even though they are soiled inside with what I did when Michael was kissing me down there, they're dry now, so I collect the green shorts and a fresh pair of underpants and the green short-sleeved cotton shirt and a clean pair of the white socks that I brought with me in the saddlebag. I'm prepared for Alex to hit me when I go down the stairs, but he's gone out. I can see him down the garden. I know why he's done it; to give me some privacy.

Despite the warmth of the day, the cold water is freezing and I'm shivering when I wash myself all over with the only soap available. I thought it would be carbolic, but Alex seems to have gone upmarket in the soap department. This is Fairy Soap; a block almost too big to grasp in my hands. I finish washing and then dry myself; dress, and go into the living room and comb my hair in front of the mirror. I need to look my best for Michael when he gets back. Alex is still outside, so I go to him. Trotter comes to me and I pick her up into my arms.

Alex stares at me. "You're done then? You do look pretty. You look like a new pin. I don't suppose you've emptied the bath?"

"No. Sorry, Alex. It's too heavy for me. Can you give me a hand to empty it?"

"I'll do it in a minute. Let me just do this row of carrots."

"What are you doing?"

"Just a bit of weeding. Hey up, Kiddo is back!"

Michael comes through the back gate and he's breathing heavily, but he grins when he sees me. "So, you're up then," he says as he comes by my side and puts his hand on my shoulder. "I expected you to still be asleep."

I point at Alex. "I would have been, but he set Trotter onto me and got me up."

Alex is grinning as Michael gives him a dirty look. "I told you to let him get his sleep in!"

"He'd still be asleep at four o' clock if me and Trotter hadn't woke him up. The idle sod!" Alex growls.

Michael looks at me. "Are you okay?"

I smile at him. "Of course I am. It was time to get up anyway. And I've had a bath. It needs emptying though."

"Have you had anything to eat?"

"No... not yet."

Michael turns away. "I'll empty the bath and get one myself. And then I'll make us some breakfast."

Half an hour later, Michael and I are sitting at the dining table. He's grinning at me as he chews on his toast.

I grin back at him. "What are you grinning at?"

"I was thinking about last night."

"And what about last night?"

"You didn't yell your head off. You were so quiet that I thought you'd gone to sleep."

I laugh, and then give him a sexy look. "We're going to do the same tonight."

Michael ignores me and continues to eat his toast, but I don't miss the wide-eyed amused look on his face.

I want to hold Michael's hand as we walk towards his old school; the one he went to as a junior. It's empty now because everybody is on holiday, but Michael is sort of melancholy as he looks through the iron railings at all his yesterdays.

I take his hand, and ask him, "A penny for your thoughts?"

Michael doesn't answer for a while, and when he does look at me, his eyes are misty. "I had a silly crush on a couple of boys while I was here, but I didn't realize then that I would meet a special one so many years after I left."

Even though he's melancholy, I grin at him. "Were there lots of them?"

Now he smiles. "Just a couple. What about you? How many have you had a crush on?"

I pull him away from the railings. "Come on! Let's talk while we're walking to Mr Bourne's."

We walk a short way and come to an old brick railway bridge, and we stop and look over the parapet. Michael points to the steep sandstone embankment sides and to some trees growing there and says, "I kissed a boy in those bushes, one day. He ran off and never spoke to me again."

Now I'm laughing. "How old were you?"

Michael grins. "About ten, and he was eight. Alan Reeves. He was beautiful. He had dark hair and we used to hold hands. It was platonic, of course. He was the first boy I ever kissed. You still haven't answered my question."

"What question?"

Michael thumps my shoulder. "You know what question. I'm intrigued how many others have fallen in love with you."

I thump him back. "Hundreds. I'm beautiful. A super catch. And I've had sex with dozens of them."

Michael shakes his head. "Like my arse you have. Tell me the truth."

I'm giggling now as we walk along the main highway by the lower end of the airfield. And then I become serious as I answer his question. "Just one that I did things with. Tom Malkin. I didn't love him or anything like that. I was eleven and he was fifteen. He used me. I didn't mind. I enjoyed it. I learnt a lot. But I've never loved anybody except you." I look Michael in the eyes. "And that's the truth. Not even a proper crush. I don't give my heart away easily. Did you ever do things with those boys you had a crush on?"

"No. I was always too shy. You were my first. Couldn't you tell?"

I look at him, and nod. "I'm glad you were. It's special knowing I'm the only boy you've ever been with. Does it upset you that I did things with another boy?"

Michael grabs my hand and presses it hard. "A little bit... but not enough to bother me. Knowing I'm the only other boy you've ever loved is good enough for me. How much do you love me?"

Stuart looks up at me. "So much that it hurts every second I'm away from you. I live my whole life around loving you. And you?"

Michael smiles at me. "The same. Whatever I'm doing, it's always the next part of making my way to seeing you again. That's how I get through life; coping with the times we're not together. Each one is a challenge, and my reward is you at the end of them. The others were boy-crushes. Real love is what I feel for you. I can't live without you. I really can't."

We walk in silence for a while, each digesting what the other has said, and it's only when we get past the airfield that I realize we're still holding hands. After the airfield, there's a tall hedge that separates the main road from a meadow, and when we come to a gate in the hedge, I drag Michael towards it. He doesn't resist. After our deep talk, he needs what I need.

We go through the five-bar gate and head into the tall grass, and then lie down together. As soon as we do, we're in each other's arms and kissing passionately. Now there are tears as we kiss: tears of deep love and murmurings of great affection for each other, and when the kiss is broken, I snuggle into Michael and surrender my entire being into his strong arms. No sex. It isn't necessary. This is what we really are... two people so in love that the only place where we can be truly happy is when we're in each other's arms. This feeling is why I was prepared to die rather than not be with my beautiful Michael. (Music.)

Michael Johnson.

Lunch with Mr and Mrs Bourne on the terrace of their home is lovely, and I realize how fortunate I am that I haven't got to tell them that Stuart and I were going to live together. That would have been awkward. But it's of no concern now, and we chat about Oxford and what I'm going to do there, and how my finances are arranged. Mr Bourne, in consultation with Sir Clarence, has already sorted all that, and he gives me all the bank details I need... plus a new cheque book. I tell Mr Bourne that I wrote Sir Clarence a long letter thanking him for his help, and that I had received a lovely letter in return, and when I tell Mr Bourne that I've decided to take up Politics, he beams at me. When we had last discussed it (when Stuart was away), he had suggested I take that subject. It had been partly heated, but also a thorough discussion. The deciding factor was when Mr Bourne said I'd experienced enough about life to have strong opinions about things.

Stuart grins. "You'll make a good Prime Minister one day."

I laugh. "You can be my Foreign Affairs Minister. I'll send you overseas all the time so you won't be in my hair."

Stuart gives me a sour look. "You've got no chance. It's number eleven or nothing!"

We leave late afternoon. I give Mrs Bourne a kiss on the cheek, and Mr Bourne a long, powerful man-hug. This will be the last time I see them before I go to Oxford. I'm surprised that Stuart also gets a hug from Mr and Mrs Bourne, but I'm also very pleased that he does.

On the way back, when there's nobody around, Stuart takes my hand as we walk beside the tall wooden fence along the bottom side of the airfield. "Why have you decided to go into politics, Michael? Are you sure that's what you want to do?"

I think carefully about my words before I answer Stuart's question. I need to be able to explain things without making him feeling guilty in any way. "What would you say if I said I don't like many people on your side of the fence?"

Stuart looks puzzled. "My side of the fence? What do you mean?"

I squeeze his hand. "They're not all like you. You're a beautiful person, and you understand. You don't look down on me because I come from a disadvantaged background. Many of the so-called Middle-Classes think they're above such creatures as me and Alex... and my Dada. I don't want to speak out of turn, but I reckon most of the Middle-Class bastards aren't fit to polish Dada and Alex's shoes. Think about it. My Dada died in almost abject poverty compared to many people. It wasn't that he wasn't a damned good worker; it was because he sacrificed his life for this society. He didn't die when he was wounded in Burma, but that lot led to his death, and to be absolutely honest, nobody except a few gave a shit when he died. I was treated like shit when I was at High School. That was because nobody knew that my Dada was awarded the VC. Did you see the very same bastards flocking around me when I left because they were impressed at what Dada had achieved?"

Stuart pulls us to a grinding halt and stares into my eyes. "I don't want you because Dada won the VC."

Our eyes lock, and I stroke his blond hair. "No, I know you don't. That's why I said you're a beautiful person. But you also know that what I'm saying is the truth. Those same people aren't fit to lace your boots either. Or your parents' boots. Or Mr Bourne's. Or Sir Clarence's for that matter, and he comes from the real Upper-Classes. No, the problem is with those who think they're better than the Working Classes, even though some of them once were Working Class. Many of them have forgotten their roots and turned into snobs above their station. I want to be in a position where I can represent who and what I am: Working-Class. I don't need a new television or a posh car that isn't even paid for, as a status symbol; I'd rather spend the money on caring for the soldiers, or the families of soldiers who are finding themselves in difficulty because they sacrificed their health fighting for this country. I want to spend my life fighting for a decent standard of living for those who are not intellectually gifted, and for those who, through no fault of their own, aren't fit to work as hard as Alex does. To me, the man who sweeps the streets or the blokes who empty the bins are as important as a bank manager; the man or woman who works on a mundane job in a factory is as important as a high-flying executive. We live in a society, and every member of that society, no matter how small a part they play, is part of a well-oiled machine. You take out the street cleaners and the blokes who empty the bins and everybody lives in shit."

Stuart strokes my arm; then he looks along the road and begins to drag me along. I'm puzzled until we come to a break in the fence and he drags me through it. Then, roughly, he pushes me back against the fence and his arms come around my neck and he pulls my head down enough that he can lock his lips onto mine, and he gives me a delicious, loving kiss. And then, afterwards, he drags me back through the gap in the fence, locks both his arms around mine, and walks alongside me holding me tightly. I decide to say nothing. More words would be superfluous.

We cross the railway bridge and Stuart stares over the parapet at the bushes. Then he leads me to my junior school, stares through the railings for a long time, and then, still staring at my old school, he tells me, "Michael, I want to spend the rest of my life with you, and I promise I'll support you in everything you do. Is that good enough for you?"

I'm standing slightly behind him with my hand on his shoulder as he stares through the railings, and I bend down and kiss his golden locks. "I wouldn't have it any other way, and I wouldn't be able to do what I want without you by my side. I need you, and I love you."

Stuart turns his head up; and he's wearing a strange, satisfied grin on his face as he stares into my eyes. "I know you do. Let's go home."

And as we walk up the hill past the Victorian terraced houses, Stuart still has his arms locked around mine, and even when we pass other people in the street, he doesn't loosen his hold. Occasionally, we grin at each other. Occasionally, we giggle. There's a meaning to our grins and our giggles. We're both aware that we have just betrothed ourselves to one another. We're now, in our eyes, officially engaged. No fuss; no ceremony; just a mutual understanding that we're meant for each other, and no-one else. The boy with the Magic Cap and I are to be partners for the rest of our lives.

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