Love - Existentially

by John Teller

Part 25

Book Seven - Love and Lust and Chaos.

Archie Whittingham.

Nine until four. Those are the hours Alain is at the Art School. I'm taking him there and Colette is accompanying us on his first day. Wrapped up carefully is a project I set him during the first week he was here: an oblong, approximately six inch tall by three inches wide vase with four different scenes of Cornwall on it. I refused to help him. Everything is his own work. It has to be that way. The vase will be representing what he is and what he's capable of. The only input I had was to occasionally say: That sea needs a bit more work; those fields are not quite right; try this colour, or that colour. And plenty of praise.

It took him a whole day to perfect the blank vase. Twice he crushed the malleable clay and started again before he was satisfied. I saw a different Alain when he was doing it; one I rarely saw, but one his father summed up well: He also has my singular determination.

Singular determination. Sometimes it was not pretty. He displayed moments of anger; of childish disappointment; petulance; even the sulks. Some I put down to his age. He's a teenager and his hormones will be going crazy, and knowing that and often making allowances for it, I let him get on with it. I'm his tutor, not his social worker when it comes to his art career. After he was satisfied with the construction of the vase and it had dried without any major defects, and afterwards - with pouting lips - he commented that it had shrunk during the drying stage, which he had not accounted for, he watched me applying glaze to some of my blanks, and then, holding his breath for long periods, copied what I'd done. I didn't let him know how nervous I was. But I was. Really nervous! But he did it, and we both grinned at each other when his efforts were successful. We then had to fire it in the kiln. I've lost count of the number of my creations that have gone wrong in the firing stage, so after we filled the kiln with my work and Alain's vase to create an even firing process, to take his mind off things I sort of hinted we shut up shop for an hour and did something else? He laughed that beautiful laugh of his and dragged me to the bedroom. I protested that we needed to clean up first, but he was having none of it. So we had a clay-covered session of our special loving, and then laughed because the bed sheets needed washing. That's when I discovered how rude he could be. He started giggling, and for ages he wouldn't tell me what he was giggling about. Finally, I got it out of him: he smothered my mouth with his lips while he gurgled, "I should have made a phallus to take to Art School. A massive one. They would have known more about me then." We chuckled all afternoon about it.

It was after it had been fired and was intact and in good condition and was cool when he could begin painting the vase; after he'd spent the night with Colette at Rose Cottage. (We'd arrived at an unspoken agreement on his sleeping arrangements: he would spend one night in three with me. That's not to say we didn't share a bed together between those nights. He's a growing boy, so the studio was sometimes closed during the day.) Because he had four separate scenes to paint, decorating it took three long days of almost undisturbed concentration. Two are scenes of Cornish landscapes, and two are seascapes - alternating landscape/seascape - and on both of the latter he painted his hidden periscope. Then the final act: his signature. Afterwards, I could have cried when we were admiring it as it sat beside the first vase he made... the one I wouldn't sell. I was standing behind him with my arms around his shoulders, holding him to me as we looked at it. He looked up at me with those fabulous green eyes of his, and said, "When it's served its purpose, that one is for Papa. You don't mind, do you?"

"Not at all. I think it's a wonderful gesture. Fabian will treasure it. Your father loves you."

Alain nodded. "I know he does, and I love Papa."

Only after Alain had replied did I realise I'd been familiar with his father's first name, and I was reminded I was not supposed to be familiar with him. So I told myself to take more care in the future.

I'm at Rose Cottage at seven-thirty, and they're ready. We all three pile into my Morris Traveller, and because we have a ten minute delay in Bodmin, it takes us an hour and twenty minutes to get to the Art School at Plymouth. We sort Alain out; making sure he's being taken care of, and then I drive back to Port Isaac with Colette. Only on the drive back do I realise this is the first time we've been alone, without anyone with us.

Colette d'Evreux.

After we've travelled for about a quarter of an hour, making only small talk, I ask Archie, "How are you two getting on?"

Archie looks at me, no doubt wondering why I've asked him the question, and I can see he's uncomfortable with it. Why would he not be? He's sleeping with my fourteen year old son and they have sex together. The situation is not a normal one. Neither is my question. It has so many implications that he could answer me in one of many ways. But I decided last evening there were questions that needed to be asked. In less than three weeks I will be returning to Paris and leaving my son in the care of this man. Returning to Paris does not sit well with me, but I have to go to be with the girls. Archie seems to sense what I'm thinking, and smiles when he says, "We're doing fine. When you come to Rose Cottage he will be with you, and as we've arranged, he will be with you for three weeks of the school holidays, and then there's half-term and the Christmas holidays. So he will be spending quite some time with you. You're going to miss him, aren't you?"

I nod. "Yes."

Archie takes his left hand from the steering wheel and presses my hands, which are in my lap, and says, "Alain loves you. Every time you have difficulties dealing with this delicate situation, you should always remember that. And just so you know, I'll do everything I can to make sure he spends as much time with you as I can." He chuckles. "Sometimes he can be rather single-minded, though. Sometimes he can wrap me around his little finger."

His comment makes me chuckle, too. I smile at Archie. "It seems that he can wrap us both around his little finger. What are we going to do with him?"

Archie releases my hand, and then replies, "Help him to grow up? I think our real troubles may begin when he's a proper adult. We'll have absolutely no say then in what he chooses to do. I may not even be around by then."

I'm puzzled by what's he's said, and ask, "What do you mean?"

Archie shrugs his shoulders. "He's fourteen; impressionable; single-minded, and I may not be what he wants when he's older. That's where you've got the upper hand on me. You're his mama, and will always be his mama. I will probably be a transient part of his life." He looks at me, and there's sadness in his eyes when he adds, "So forgive me if I'm a bit possessive with him at times. I try not to be, but always in the back of my mind is the thought that I need to make the most of having him around."

Because I can feel a tear coming to my eyes, I turn away and look through the side window. Archie is a lovely man, and he's accepted Alain's indiscretions without judging him. Ideally, because I have now accepted that my son will always be a homosexual, I would like Archie to be around forever, but what he's said is true. And I'm frightened because of what he's said. Alain could very well turn out to be like his father even when he's older, and in the end, that state will not be kind to him.

His father: Fabian. He's surprised me. He may not be a very good husband, but he's a good father. He's been completely unselfish, and everything that's going on now is because he's arranged it. He left no stone unturned when he was doing the leg work, and even delegated some of his work to be able to give the matter his time. That's a first. Maybe he will change? I don't think so. He's dealing with the moment. That's what Archie is doing... dealing with the moment. Maybe I should do the same, so when I'm sure my eyes are dry, I turn to look at Archie, and say, "I've decided to return home on the eighth."

Archie looks puzzled. "Why?"

I smile at him. "We'll get Alain through this week to make sure he's settled, and then I'll give you two some space. But make sure he phones me every evening! Now can we stop for some breakfast in Bodmin?"

Archie grins. "A full English breakfast?"

I laugh. "Yuck! Not on your life! I would rather starve than eat one of those fat-laden monstrosities!"

Archie laughs, and then says, "How about we get some croissants instead, and eat at my place? You can spend the day with me. Alain has taught me how to make a good café au lait. Later, we'll have lunch down at the pub in the harbour and then we'll go together to pick up your boy." He giggles. "I don't know about you, but I can't wait to hear how he's gone on. I'm dying to hear how he's put up with the girls who will get a crush on him as soon as they see him."

I laugh again. "Do you think they will?"

Archie pulls a silly face. "Can you imagine them not doing so when they look into his gorgeous eyes? I only looked in them once and I was a lost soul."

We both laugh, and are still chuckling when we get to Bodmin and Archie buys croissants. When he gets in the car and places them in my lap, I ask him, "How many have you got?"

Archie giggles. "A dozen. Your Alain is a growing boy!"

The innuendo is not lost on me, and I can't stop laughing. But I'm really pleased Archie and I have spent some time together, and will spend more during the day. The fact that he can make innuendos with me is a sign of our growing familiarity. This is working out better than I thought it would. The one thing I am realising is that Archie is no threat to the relationship Alain and I have, and that is most comforting.

Alain d'Evreux.

I know as soon he looks at me that he desires me. My time in the library has taught me how to distinguish the men from the boys. His name is Mr Griffiths, and he's quite a handsome fellow. Perhaps a little older than Archie, but not as old as Saul? He's my 'form teacher'. That's a new one on me. I'm not used to schools that have so many pupils and so many classes. My former school consisted of a select group of youngsters; all the offspring of those employed at Papa's work environment.

The beginnings of the day are strange: some funny; some not so. It's funny when Mr Griffiths asks me if I want to attend French Language classes. I speak to him in rapid French, and those around me laugh.

Those around me. I'm in a class of twenty-one, all of a similar age to me, and I'm surprised only a few are girls. But I'm also pleased the makeup of the class is like that. By the time of the morning break, two of the girls have shown more than a passing interest in me, and it has not gone down well with a couple of the boys. One in particular has already called me a 'Frog'. But Papa has warned me about the English, and told me how to deal with them. I am to ignore them, and deal with them through words rather than trying to establish myself as an equal, physically. I can't do that, anyway. I've always been small for my age. In build, that is, but Archie says there's nothing small about me in the bed department. I know he's not lying, because Roger and Saul and Pierre complimented me that way, saying I was a Big Boy for my age. And they should know. Between them, they will have known enough young boys to make a comparison. So, knowing that, I ignore the insult and hope that one day, when we shower, I'll put those to shame who have insulted me. But I do make a friend.

Gerald Prosser comes to me during the morning break, and introduces himself. When he looks directly into my eyes, I know I have at least two male admirers. Gerald is taller than me, and more physical. He's good-looking, too, but I'm not attracted to boys. But making a friend so soon is comforting. So I accept his friendship, not least because he tells me to ignore Grainger, the boy who called me a 'Frog'. He tells me that if Grainger causes me any problems, "I sort him out for you Boy." I like the way he talks. It's much like Archie talks when he's having fun with me. But I don't mention Archie. To those in my class, that is. But his name does come up after we've taken lunch.

Mr Griffiths said I was to report to the headmaster's office immediately it was over. Fortunately, Gerald took me there, and then laughed when he said we pupils only went there if we were in trouble, and recommended I put a book down the back of my trousers. We both laughed when he explained the meaning of it: the headmaster - Mr Gregory – is, apparently, famous for the way he wields his cane.

Despite his reputation, Mr Gregory is an old and friendly sort of man. So is the art teacher; Mr Clarkson, who, when introductions have been made, takes a special interest in me after I've explained all my personal circumstances, including being a pupil of Archie. It's the name Archie Whittingham that makes them sit up and take notice, and when I explain that he and Mama are close friends, which is the reason why Archie is teaching me, and Archie recommended I should attend this school, they become enthusiastic. But it's only when I show them the vase I've made that I see how interested they really are.

Mr Clarkson takes it from me, sits in his chair turning it round and round, and then asks me, "How much of this work was done by Mr Whitingham?"

I feel three metres tall when he calls my Archie; Mr Whittingham, and I'm almost laughing when I reply, "He didn't do any of it, Sir. He insisted I do it all myself."

Mr Clarkson hands the vase to Mr Gregory, and says, "Take a look at that, Frank!"

Mr Gregory adjusts his pince-nez and studies the vase for quite a while. Then he looks at me over the top of them, and says, "Alain. Are you sure Mr Whittingham didn't help you with it?"

I shake my head. "No Sir. Archie did tell me a few times when I was decorating it that I needed to pay more attention to certain detail, but he refused to have anything to do with it other than with the drying and firing process. He said you would be able to judge me better if it was all my own work."

Archie Whittingham.

Colette and I have just entered the studio after we've had lunch, when the telephone rings. I pick it up. "Kernow Art Studio. Archie Whittingham speaking."

"Archie. It's Dan Clarkson here. I'm with Frank in the office. We've just had a certain young man in here, Alain d'Evreux, and he tells us the pot he brought to school, apart from the firing process, he had no assistance from you at all in making it?"

I know Dan well. We went to art school together. He's a good artist in his own right, and because I wanted Alain to be a surprise for them, I've deliberately not been involved with the arrangements of Alain going to the Art School. I know how good he is, but I needed confirmation of what I already know: Alain is a natural, and destined for great things. So I decide to tease Dan. "Alain is the son of very good friends of mine. It's all his own work. Every bit of it. He made the pot, and he decorated it. The only input I had was the drying and firing. As you know, that skill takes years to perfect. But if he's too good for you, then send him back to me and I'll do the donkey work."

I hear Dan chuckle. "No chance. How are you?"

"I'm fine. Worked off my feet as usual, but I've got a spring in my step since I got to know the d'Evreux's. You'll have to watch that young man. He called in my studio last November when his mother was doing a bit of shopping, persuaded me to let him have a go, and before I knew it, he'd taken over the place. But I'm pleased he did. I discovered a budding potter who will be exceptional. Don't you think? Do you know anybody except me who could have made that pot? Out of porcelain? That's not the sludge you use!"

Dan laughs. "You always did have a high opinion of yourself."

I laugh. "That's because I'm good. Have you made any toadstools or piskeys lately?"

Dan roars with laughter, and when he's controlled himself, he gurgles into the phone, "Go away!"

I chuckle. "Come and see me sometime, Dan. We'll have a beer and talk old times. In the meantime, give Alain more perspective about different things. That's why his parents sent him to you. I deal with one aspect of what we are. I want you to broaden his mind about the art world. Give him his head, Dan, and see what happens."

"We will, Archie. I'll try and get to see you sometime. Take care."

"Take care Dan."

When I've ended the call, I turn to Colette, who is looking at the finished wares on display, and tell her, "That was the Art School telephoning me. They think your son is exceptional. How are you going to manage with him when he's famous?"

Colette shakes her head. "Goodness knows. But I suspect, just like his papa, he will take it in his stride. Very little upsets those two. The worst I've seen Alain is when he had to tell you about his naughtiness. He was distraught afterwards. May I ask you a question?"


"Stuart Begbie. I thought it was more than a coincidence when he arrived in Paris so soon after the trouble flared? Did you send him to see Alain?"

I shake my head. "No, I didn't send him. I hope you don't mind, but I had dinner with him one evening and explained things. He insisted on going. He and his partner, Michael, are very good friends of mine. But things have taken a strange turn since he went to Paris. Stuart met a girl there, an Isabelle Gatti?"

Colette looks puzzled. "I know of Isabelle. We've never met, but I've heard the girls mention her name. She's part of the in crowd from what I can gather. Her papa is a film producer?"

I nod. "That's the one. Well, Stuart and Isabelle have become an item. A serious one."

"And Michael? Does he know?"

"Yes. Apparently, he got drunk for three days when he heard the news. He's an officer in the military, and is based in Cyprus at the moment."

"So it's over between Michael and Stuart?"

"Apparently. They've been together for twelve years."

Again Colette looks puzzled. "Twelve years. I thought Stuart was only twenty-five."

"They met when Michael was eighteen almost, and Stuart was thirteen." I grin at her. "These things happen."

Colette smiles. Then she chuckles and changes the subject when she sees a car pull up in front of the studio. "Customers?"

I peer through the window. "Looks like it. Will you excuse me when they come in? I need to earn a few pennies to keep Alain in croissants. He's a growing boy, you know!"

She giggles, and then turns away when the brass doorbell tinkles as an elderly couple enter the place.

Alain d'Evreux.

His hand is on my shoulder as he looks over me at the work I'm doing, and I know by the pressure of his hand that the contact is a deliberate one. Immediately, I am aroused. It's something I've discovered about myself: being desired is part of the game to me. They take me, but I'm in control, and from now on, Mr Griffiths will do exactly as I want. I may reward him in the not too distant future, and it will not be unpleasant, but for now I need to cement the situation to my advantage, so I look up at him, into his eyes, and give him a special smile.

Michael Johnson.

Xylofagou, Cyprus.

The boy is watching me from across the small café. He's a typical Cypriot boy of about fifteen; black hair; pleasant features; wearing shorts that are displaying lovely tanned legs: cute. During my time in various places I've been in the forces, I've seen many like him, but I've never been tempted before. Well, not tempted enough to be unfaithful to Stuart. But Stuart is gone now, and I'm a free man. So why not? It's my day off; I've eaten and had a few beers; the hottest time of day is over, and there's a fifteen year old boy who has been giving me the eye for the last half hour. So I pay my bill and smile at him as I walk out of the café. The open-topped Land Rover is parked outside. I get in, reach for the half-bottle of Malt Whisky that's in the glove compartment, and take a large swig of the tepid firewater. It burns the back of my throat, but I find that comforting. These days, I'm becoming a masochist.

I start the engine, drive thirty yards, and stop. The boy is leaving the café. He has two choices. I see him look at me, so I wait and watch him through the rear view mirror. He looks up and down the dusty street, and then walks towards me. When he gets level with the Land Rover, he stops and looks at me. I smile at him and nod to indicate he can get in if he wants to. Again he looks up and down the street, and then gets in and settles in the seat beside me. I crash the gears, put my hand on his thigh, slide it along the inner suppleness to his crutch, squeeze his hardness, and when he smiles at me, I drive away. Twenty minutes later, in a barren part of Cyprus, on my greatcoat and under the shade of a large wild olive tree, for the first time in ten years, I'm having crazy, uninhibited sex with a cute fifteen year old boy.

Later, when I am in bed and half drunk, I pay a high price for my infidelity. Zivania may be able to cure boils on one's arse, but it cannot soothe a broken heart and an intense feeling of betrayal.

Stuart Begbie.

The Grange. Saturday June 15th 1968.

Isabelle arrived yesterday afternoon; we spent the night together; have spent a lovely day at The Grange - me showing her around the place - and at almost seven in the evening, she's with me on the front portico when Archie and Alain arrive to have dinner with us.

We're halfway through dinner when I look at Archie, and grin. He grins back at me. The reason for our amusement is how well Isabelle and Alain are getting on. Sometimes they forget they're in English company and talk to one another in their own tongue, and so fast that I only pick up parts of what they're saying. Poor Archie is not the best French speaker in the world, so, occasionally, I translate the odd snippet. Isabelle knows Alain's oldest sister, Édith. She wants to know your sleeping arrangements. Alain hears me translate that snippet, and looks at me. We both grin when we see Archie blush. Archie knows by the look on Alain's face and Isabelle's conspiratorial giggle that his secret is out. At that point, he gives up bothering and continues to eat with a permanent grin on his face.

Archie is taking it easy on the wine. He's driving back home later. Normally, he would drink a reasonable amount, but having Alain with him, he's being careful not to be under the influence when they go home. Alain is drinking wine and water, which is what most French teenagers do when they're dining.

The dinner is over; Isabelle collars Alain and demands he helps her wash the dishes and clean up the table, so Archie and I retire to the conservatory that overlooks the grounds at the back of The Grange. While we're seated in the wicker and cushioned chairs, Archie asks me, "Have you heard from Michael?"

The question hurts me. I shake my head. "No. Not since the letter I told you about. He's spoken to Alex, but not to me."

"What's he said to Alex?"

"He's considering leaving the army."

"To do what?"

I shrug my shoulders. "I have no idea. But I don't feel good about it."

Archie sighs. "I'm sorry. Would you like me to write to him?"

I shake my head. "I don't think it would help. I know him too well. He's been hurt, and despite what he's put in the letter, there will be a backlash."

Archie looks inquisitively at me. "At you?"

I half smile, and shake my head again. "No. Not at me. He'll do what he normally does; punish himself. That's why I'm worried about him. I'd probably feel better if he did have a blazing row with me, but it's not the way he works. I think he may go off the rails for a while, until he finds something to get him back on track again."

"Something? Someone?"

I sigh deeply, and look at Archie. "It would probably break my heart, but if he did find someone, I think it might be better than not knowing how things are going to turn out."

"Another young man? Another boy? How would you deal with that?"

Archie's questions hurt me deep inside and I think for a while before I answer him. "It's no more than I deserve if he did. I'm the one who's broken things off. I would have to deal with it."

"And could you deal with it?"

I take a deep breath, look around the conservatory at the various pottery Michael has collected, and don't answer Archie's question. Instead, I say, "Father's head office is at Pangbourne. Near Reading. I may move up there in the not too distant future. Or I may move to Paris. A completely new beginning with Isabelle. I haven't decided yet."

"And this place?"

I shrug my shoulders. "I have no idea. If Michael gets in touch, then I could maybe work something out that he takes it over. Father owns the place, so I could wangle it."

Just as I've said that, Isabelle and Alain come into the conservatory, and because they're in such a good mood together, I let go of the Michael and Me, and deal with the here and now.

Isabelle is asleep by my side; two Little Owls are calling to one another in the coppice outside, and tears slip from my eyes. I told Archie only half a story. Rather than thinking about it, Alex informed me that Michael has tendered his resignation from the army. In two months he will be a civilian. Had he done this before I met Isabelle, then we would still be together. But that isn't the way it works. Much like life, love is existential and will take its own course. But there's more to it than that. We can choose to follow or reject that course. Sometimes we refuse to tell ourselves the truth and make excuses for why we did this or that. The talk I had with Archie over dinner when I first met Isabelle revealed some of that truth. He said he would love to have had a child; a boy of his own to mentor him. I'm the same, and the brutal truth is that part of the reason I'm with Isabelle now is because I want to have a child of my own. And now I feel even worse about myself. Part of the reason I've betrayed Michael is because I want to be 'normal'. Judas Begbie! Michael is better off without you!

Alain d'Evreux.

Archie is quiet on the drive back to Port Gaverne, and he's not his normal self when we go to bed either. Our loving is not as spontaneous as it usually is, so I break it off, wrap my arms around him, and ask him, "What's bothering you?"

For an answer, Archie gathers me in his arms and holds me tightly before he whispers to me, "I want you to remember that whatever happens, I will always be here for you."

I don't need to ask him anything else. I know why this has happened. Isabelle has told me all about Stuart and Michael. I was shocked when she told me. I thought something might be wrong when Archie said we were going to dinner with Stuart and Isabelle. I didn't push the matter because I thought Stuart may be one of those people who have two affairs going at the same time, even having affairs with men and women. But Stuart has dumped Michael for Isabelle. Having spent some time with him in Paris, I would never have thought he could do that. And then I do some self-introspection of the boy; Alain d'Evreux, who can be far worse than Stuart Begbie.

Three days was all it took. Mr Griffiths caught me in the corridor and asked if I would help him with something in the sports hall. We didn't go to the sports hall; we went to the room where all the sports equipment is stored. I realised immediately what was going to happen, and I could have walked away. But I didn't, and I leaned against a wall while Mr Griffiths locked the door from the inside and left the key in the lock so nobody could get in. Nor did I protest when he came and stood in front of me and ran his hands and fingers all over my body. That's when he got a surprise, and when he saw my state, he couldn't wait to get my trousers down. I didn't help him, but neither did I stop him when he went to his knees and took what he wanted. I let him have it, and clenched my teeth to stop any signs of emotional turmoil when he completed me. Afterwards, with his eyes full of lust, he revealed himself, and told me to do it to him. I stared into his eyes and shook my head. So he took my hands and placed them on him. He looked down, and then into my eyes again. His eyes were triumphant. I knew why they were: I was still in a state. The reason I was like that was because of the size of him. He had wrapped both my hands around himself, but there was still enough room for another one before he would be completely enclosed. When he looked down and saw what was happening to me, with wide, mad eyes, he looked around the room.

Apart from my socks, I was completely naked while he slobbered all over me as I was bent over a mahogany desk. Using saliva as a lubricant, he took me as a man takes a boy, and the pain and the sensations were so intoxicating that I had to disguise my cries as those of rebellion rather than delight. But the drops of my being on the floor after he had taken me gave away any pretence I had not enjoyed it. He then told me to get dressed and use the toilets.

But everything serves a purpose. Mr Griffiths has taken me, but he is not in control. I am. After Mama left for Paris, I have had three days off from school, and each time I do, Mr Griffiths marks me down as having time off for extra-curriculum tuition with Archie. What has surprised me is that he has not attempted to do it again. I think I know why that is. One afternoon with Roger Peyrefitte, after we had been to bed, he spent a half hour explaining the types of men who enjoy creatures like me. Amongst them are men who consider us boys as conquests. Once they've achieved their conquest, the satisfaction is no longer there. Roger described them as the worst sort, and advised me to steer clear of them. That's all well and good to men like Roger, but to a boy like me, it presents a challenge. One day, in the not too distant future, Mr Griffiths will do my bidding! And I will enjoy my conquest! I may be a Frog, but some Frogs are capable of very loud croaks, and I am quite capable of threatening him with a croak so loud that it will reverberate in Paris if he does not do my bidding.

Archie has his own unique smell. He rarely uses deodorants or aftershave, but he always keeps himself perfectly clean when he's not working. I'm a quick bather, and when I get up in the morning to go to the Art School, I can be in and out of the bathroom in ten minutes, and that includes having a shower and brushing my teeth. I take longer when we're going to bed, but that's because I need to prepare myself. But Archie can take half an hour to bathe. I've never seen anyone like him. He scrubs and scrubs away at himself until his skin is almost glowing, and then he's fastidious when he's drying himself, even spending at least a minute drying between his toes. But despite that, there's always a slight background odour of his workplace upon him. I love it. It's Archie.

And as I lie in his arms after he's told me I must remember that he will always be here for me, I wrap my arms around him and lay my head on his chest and inhale the odour of my man.

My man. Yes, that's what Archie is. I somehow sensed he would be when I first saw his photograph in his business leaflet. And I'm his boy. That's why the hand behind me is caressing every part of me he can reach. He doesn't intrude: that's for a different time, when he knows I desire him. Now, he knows I just want his loving. I want to be caressed by my man; I want him to kiss my hair as he is doing; I want to be loved.

To be loved. Only during times like this do I fully appreciate how wonderful it is to be loved by someone who I love deeply. Archie has told me that Stuart Begbie loves Michael and Isabelle. I can't understand that. I can understand how you can be with another person and still love your man, but not loving two people at the same time. Or perhaps it's just me who thinks that way? No it's not. Papa is like me. When we talked in his office, he told me that he loved Mama, and she would always be the only woman he would ever love. I understand him perfectly. That's how I know, no matter what happens in the future, I will only ever have one true love, and that true love is the man whose arms I'm in now. I may only be fourteen years old, but I understand myself where matters of the heart are concerned. I'm like Papa... exactly like him.

Papa, I will send him the vase I made to take to the Art School. Archie said I could.

Fabian d'Evreux.

I love Alain's neat handwriting. He's like me in that regard. I was always being complimented on my own skills with the pen. But handwriting is a good clue to someone's personality. We have an expert here at work who can tell the character of the person who wrote whatever is presented to him, so I'll photocopy parts of the letter I've received from Alain which don't reveal he's my son, and ask him to judge the character of the person who wrote it. That way I'll get an honest opinion. I read the letter again.

Dear Papa,

I hope you like the gift in this parcel. It is a vase Archie said I should make to present to the Art School so they could assess my abilities. I worked extremely hard making it, and Archie says it is very good. After I had made it, I said I wanted you to have it. Archie was enthusiastic that I was giving it to you. I know you have never met him, but I think you will like him when you do. He really is a very lovely person.

The Art School is so different than the lycée-collège. There are many more pupils here, and the curriculum is entirely different, but I am getting used to it. I have made a good friend: Gerald Prosser. He lives in Liskeard near Plymouth, is my age, bigger than me, and has become my 'protector'. Hah hah. Another boy, Grainger, called me a 'Frog', so Gerald threatened to beat him up if he did it again. It didn't bother me that I was called a 'Frog'. I pretended I didn't know what he was talking about, and replied in our own tongue. I can't repeat to you what I called him, and then I smiled at him. My form teacher, M. Griffiths, has excused me from French lessons. He asked if I wanted to do them. I replied to him fluently in French, and it made the other kids in the class laugh. So I've been excused from taking French, and instead, I have extra lessons in English. Although I can speak it well, I still have difficulty with the many idiosyncrasies of their crazy language. And I have problems when some of the pupils speak to me with a colloquial Cornish accent. When Gerald said to me - Oi be goin' for a cack, boy - I had no idea what he meant. It turned out that it was his way of saying he was going to use the toilet for a Number Two. But when I said it to Archie, he said I wasn't to use the expression again. Apparently, it's a rude way of saying it. But I didn't know that. Hah hah. But it's fun learning all these strange words. When I come home, I'll be the only boy in Paris who speaks French with a Cornish accent. Hah hah.

I speak to Mama every evening. I think she's getting used to me not being around. I reverse the charges, so you will be paying for the calls. Hah hah.

How are you progressing with the other matter I asked you to do for me? I hope you sort things so that P is reunited with S. It was so sad what happened to them. If they had parents like mine, everything would have been fine and things would have taken a natural course. The world can be very cruel at times. Please let me know if you discover anything. I have not written to P again. I have considered the matter, and have come to the conclusion it would serve no purpose if I did. Hopefully, your enquiries will resolve the matter one way or another.

I have had high praise regarding my artistic ability. When I presented the gift you have to the art teacher and the headmaster after lunch on the first day, they could not believe I had made it. M. Clarkson, the art teacher, told me later he had telephoned Archie to confirm it was all my own work. He's about the same age as Archie, and they went to art school together. He's a lovely man, and has suggested I spend much of my time learning the art of painting. He says Archie will teach me more than he can about making pottery. But I am discovering there is much more to painting than just using a brush and applying colours. There is so much to learn, and I am enjoying every moment of it. Archie can't stop laughing when I talk about art all the time on the way home. He takes me each morning, and picks me up each afternoon. Because of the time involved in making two journeys each day, I suggested I get a taxi to take me and bring me home. I even suggested doing it for just one of the journeys, but Archie insists on doing it. He's changed his routine to accommodate the time he is losing. He does an hour's work before he takes me, and we both work in the studio in the evenings most days during the week.

And now, my dear Papa, I am going to tell you something which will make you proud of me. Archie has set up a small area to display only my work. Although I was excited, I also was worried that alongside Archie's work my efforts would not sell. But they have, and Archie and I cannot stop laughing because they have sold so well. In fact, at the time of writing this letter to you, I have only two items left unsold. So, Archie has had to put some of his work alongside mine because he says my work will get lonely if he didn't. Hah hah. I said I needed to work faster, but Archie says I must take my time and produce quality rather than quantity. He said the more I do it, the faster I will become at it. But I am having difficulty learning the firing process. Archie said it took him years to perfect the skill, so he allows me to do certain things. Even so, approximately 1 in 10 items he makes has to be broken up. When two of my efforts came out of the kiln with cracks right down them, I wanted to cry. Archie said I would learn more from my failures than my successes, and we spent an entire evening reading about the reasons why pots crack during firing. It's very complicated. The firing process is a skill on its own. But one of the reasons I am telling you this is because I want you to look in my bank account. You have access to it, and if you haven't already looked, you will see that you can lower my allowance whenever you please. Another funny thing is that Archie will never let me near him when he is selling one of my pieces. I can hear what he's saying, and I giggle all the time he is describing the piece and telling the customers all about me. If they see me and ask who I am, he tells them I am just a helper. In fact, if a customer comes in, he often makes me sweep up. Hah hah. We have so much fun that we laugh all the time after the customer has left. Then Archie shows me the currency he has taken from them. Did I tell you that Archie is a crook? Hah hah. Every piece of mine he sells, he will not take a bank cheque for it, and insists the customer pays cash. The excuse he uses is that it saves him transferring money to my account in France, which incurs charges. The real reason is so he avoids paying taxes on the things I make. He says he has to pay enough tax on the stuff of his own he sells, without paying tax on mine, for which he gets no reward. Hah hah. I have offered to give him some money to help with the costs of production, but he will not take anything. He says I am to save my money for when I open my own studio.

So, Papa, as you will see from this letter, I am very happy here. Thank you for everything. I think I have the best Papa in the world. I will see you in August.

All my love,

Your son, Alain. xxx

I am not usually an emotional person, but Alain's letter has moved me to tears. I can feel the happiness in his words, and that makes me happy. I was right to follow my instincts after Peyrefitte had been to see me. I remember his exact words: Alain is an exceptional young man, and you must not judge him as a child. Treat him as you would an adult, and be there if ever he falls back into childish ways. He will, at times, especially because he is going through puberty and his hormonal balance will make life difficult for him. That's when he will need you the most. And study the history of such liaisons. Pederasty is God's work, and not of the devil as some would have you believe True pederasty, that is, and not abusive relationships.

So I did study the history of pederasty, and I'm surprised at the number of examples from the past which are like that of Alain and Archie. If one leaves aside the sexual aspect of the liaisons, they are very much a mentor/pupil type of relationship. But very few do not have a sexual concept within the relationship, and most are mutual. That's the difficulty I have as a parent, knowing my son at fourteen years of age can be so taken with a man that he wants to sleep with him. But my son is a homosexual, and I am not. That makes all the difference. When I think of sex, I am always thinking of heterosexual relationships. But I am learning. One thing which has struck me when I was studying the history of such relationships is the quality of the older person involved. Very few are not intellectuals or poets, or have talents in other ways. Alexander the Great; Socrates; Leonardo de Vinci; Oscar Wilde, and others of similar ilk. Is there a link between pederasty and intellectuality? Peyrefitte, as much as I dislike him as a person, is more than a match for those intellectuals I know. Archie is not an intellectual, but he is very artistic.

Archie. I was really impressed when I met him. He seems to be a very kind and gentle man: patient; caring. My son has become his protégé, and I don't feel bad about it. I am concerned. What parent wouldn't be concerned given the extraordinary circumstances of their liaison? But supposing Alain was normal. What would that mean? Instead of being with Archie, he would now be bothering his mama and I with silly little girls who were only interested in his gorgeous green eyes and whatever he has in his pants rather than what he really is: a very intelligent and grown up boy. Not so with Archie, although I am sure Alain's eyes and what he has in his pants have played a part in his attraction. But Archie is more interested in the entirety of what Alain is, and not only those other things. I have labelled him as a pederast. But am I right to do so? Because he has met Alain when he is just fourteen years old does not mean he is a pederast. How would the pederast label fit if they are still together in ten years? If they are, then I would have to say their affair has very little to do with age, but is a mutual attraction between two human beings, and the age difference is irrelevant. I know of relationships between married heterosexuals where the age difference is twenty years, and no one cares.

The vase. I turn it around and study the seascapes. It takes me a while, but I discover the hidden periscope in each one, and giggle when I do. In years to come, if Alain becomes as famous as Archie thinks he will, others will do as I'm doing, and when they see the hidden periscope, they will chuckle, just as I have done. But, unlike me, they will not know of the wonderful sense of humour I know so well. Alain has always been the same since he was a small boy. Many is the time when he has done things, even when he was six years old, which have made Colette and I laugh. We have a name for his silliness: Alainisms. Like the time when he was seven years old and insisted for weeks that a marionette with a red hat came to his bedroom each night and danced for him. At first we dismissed it as his imagination, but the longer it went on, the less sure we were that it was his imagination, especially when, with a serious face, he described it in fine detail and could describe each dance it was performing. It even got to a point where we would sneak into his bedroom to see if we could see it. Then, one day, when Colette mentioned the marionette, Alain burst out laughing and was immensely pleased he had fooled us for so long.

All my love,

Your son, Alain. xxx

Those words have so much meaning to me. He is my son: he has sent me all his love. My Alain. I love him deeply, and I never want to hurt him. But he is going to be hurt if I tell him what I know. I have discovered what happened to Sébastian Meriard: last known place of abode - Bourges. The affair with Pierre Roux was broken up in 1955, and in August of that year, Sébastian Meriard, aged twelve, was found hanged in his bedroom. The verdict was suicide. I have not informed Roux of my findings, and I may not tell Alain what I know. Some things are best left a mystery. (Music link to remind my readers of Sébastian.)

Alain's mention of his mama in the letter was very brief. Why is that? Because he knows the plans I told him about of me returning to the family home have failed? He will be torn emotionally that his mama did not agree to it in the end. He was enthusiastic when I told him what I wanted to do, so is he blaming Colette for it not happening? I will need to speak to him in that regard. The last thing I want is for him to be less attached to his mama. If Colette senses that is happening, she may change her mind about Alain's situation and insist he returns to Paris. If that happens, there will be no winners. So I need to have a word with him as soon as possible. In fact, I will break the rule I have set myself of keeping a distance between us while he is in England. I made the rule to prevent conflict between Colette and I. I want her to think she is in complete command of the situation, and that's because she can be very possessive at times. I will telephone Alain from the apartment this evening.

Alain d'Evreux.

We're in the studio, both sitting at the painting desk when the telephone rings. There are three telephones in the property, and one is between where Archie and I are working. He picks it up and says the usual, "Kernow Art Studio. Archie Whittingham speaking." And then I hear him delightedly say, "Hello Mr d'Evreux. Yes, he's here by my side, painting a pot he's made. Would you like to speak to him?" After a short moment, he hands the phone to me, and says, "It's your father on the phone. He would like a word with you."

I take the phone from Archie and speak to Papa in our own language, "Hello Papa. How are you? There's nothing wrong, is there?"

Papa chuckles. "No. I just wanted to thank you for the wonderful vase you sent me."

I chuckle. "Do you like it?"

"Of course I do! It's beautiful! It took me a long time to find those damned periscopes, but I did find them!"

I gurgle with laughter, and ask him, "How did you know about those?"

"Your mama told me. How are you two getting on?"

"Me and Archie, you mean?"

"No. I meant you and Mama."

"We're fine. I told you in the letter that I speak to her every evening. In fact, I've not long since been speaking to her. She was telling me about Dominique and her new boyfriend. I was laughing because she seems to have a new one every week."

Papa laughs. "These girls are all the same. Apparently, this new boyfriend she's found has hair down his back. I think he's a hippy. He spends half his time involved with the student demonstrations against De Gaulle. I will have to have a word with her to make sure she doesn't get involved. I can't have your sister put in jail, can I? I would have to use my influence to get her out; and then your mama would go crazy at her for being so silly."

We both laugh, and then I ask him, "Do you really like the vase I made?"

"Of course! The staff in the office can't believe you made it. I told a little white lie. I said you'd made it at the art school. My secretary, Charlotte, is amazed. She says you are to make her one. I managed to put her off by saying mine was a special dispensation and that your work has to remain at the school. If I didn't do that, you would have a full time job making pots for all those here. So many people have commented on it, and it has a place of honour by your photograph on my desk. Charlotte sent out for a small posy of colourful flowers and they really set it off. You are becoming famous, young man!"

I laugh, and then ask, "Did you like my letter?"

"Yes. Of course I did! I missed a very important telephone call because I was so taken with it. You sound really happy there, Alain."

I feel warm inside when I tell him, "I am, Papa. I've decided not to be a train driver now."

Papa laughs. "And not a Conseiller des affaires étrangères either?"

"No Papa. You don't mind, do you?"

"Of course not. In fact, when I looked at the vase, I thought it would be a complete waste of an exceptional talent if you were to become a boring Conseiller like me. My son is destined for more exciting things. How is Archie treating you?"

I look at Archie, who, because he can understand some of what I'm saying, has a grin on his face while he's painting, and I decide to tease him by speaking in English when I say, "Oh, all right. But he can be boring at times. That's because he's always working."

Archie widens his eyes, and glares at me. "Tell your father I have to work twenty four hours a day to keep you in bloody croissants! You eat like a pig. Or in your case, a French cochon!"

I lick my tongue out at Archie, and giggle when I ask papa, "Did you hear that, Papa? You can be a witness to the way he treats me."

Papa laughs, and speaks to me in our own language again, "We'll take him to court for neglect. Right, now I've spoken to you and I know you're fine and happy, I'll let you get on with whatever you're doing. If you need anything, ring me at the office. Reverse the call. Mind you, having looked at your bank account, you can afford your own telephone calls now. You earn more than me!"

I laugh. "When I'm really famous, Papa, I'll buy you a villa on the Côte d'Azur. Did you have any luck with the other matter?"

"Not yet. I'm working on it. I'll let you know as soon as I find out anything. These things can take a while. I don't want to place a high priority on it. People might begin to wonder what I'm up to if I do."

"I understand, Papa. I'll telephone you soon."

"Good boy. Say goodbye to Archie for me. Good night son. I love you."

"Good night Papa. Love you."

When the call is ended and I'm sitting back in my chair thinking about what Papa and I have talked about, Archie looks at me, and asks, "Are you alright? You look a little upset."

I reach out my hand for contact. Archie takes my hand, squeezes it, and holds it. I look him in the eyes when I say, "It's strange. Before he and Mama had the big fallout, I always looked on Papa as a piece of the furniture. But I'm discovering the real Papa, and I'm also discovering affections within me for him that I hadn't realised were there. What I do find odd is that I feel as if I'm becoming his protector. Can you understand that?"

Archie squeezes my hand again, and smiles. "Yes I can. You're starting a little early, but I feel the same way about my own father. Sometimes, when I see the sea is rough, I worry about him. Things get difficult out at sea when the weather changes quickly. Your father is going through similar circumstances with his personal life, and you're doing what I do. My father and I have never been very close or tactile, but there's an unspoken bond between us. He rarely shows it, but I know he's proud of me. So, you worry about your father, and he's proud of you. Shall we clean up now? Have you done what you can for tonight?"

I smile at Archie. He smiles at me. I grin at him. "I thought you were never going to ask."

You and Me. Tonight is special. I knew as soon as Archie looked at me and asked if I was done for the night, that he wanted me. I could see it in his eyes. It's in all their eyes. I am the attraction who creates lust within them. They look into my eyes and desire me, and then take what I give to them. Only Archie can turn the tables. He has something I desire; something more powerful than lust. Only he can give me the love I desperately need, and while we are You and Me, I drink of the love that dare not speak its name, and when the sensations and excitement and sensual pain are wracking my entire being, they are heightened tenfold because of the love we share.

Afterwards, as we usually do, we lie in each other's arms... talking about things. The conversation turns to Stuart Begbie and Michael Johnson. Archie has spoken to Stuart Begbie today, and, apparently, Michael has tendered his resignation from the military, and instead of taking leave on September 1st, that's when he will be leaving the army. Michael Johnson has often popped up in our conversations, but I realise I have never seen him, so I ask Archie what he is really like. He looks down at me, and says, "You must have seen his photographs when we were at The Grange! There are lots about."

I shake my head. "I didn't see any. I actually looked for one of him. Perhaps Stuart removed them while Isabelle was there?"

Archie looks puzzled. "That's strange, but perhaps I didn't notice because I'm familiar with them and didn't look to see if they'd been removed. I've got a photograph of me and him down by the harbour. Do you want to see it?" When I nod, Archie gets the photograph, brings it to the bed, and gives it to me. When I've studied it and we're settled again, He continues, "He was a fine athlete in his youth, and when he was at Oxford University he was in the crew that beat Cambridge in the annual boat race along the River Thames. He's not quite six feet tall, but he's an immensely powerful chap. He's one of those people who you would not think is physically able to achieve what he has. We were down in the harbour one day: myself and Stuart and Michael, and Michael suddenly stripped to his underpants and walked into the sea. I was amazed at what he did, but Stuart laughed and said it was typical of him. Stuart said we wouldn't see him for almost an hour. I didn't believe him, but Michael swam so far out that we couldn't see him, and I was worried that he'd drowned. Stuart just laughed at me. And sure enough, after about an hour, there he was, swimming powerfully back to the harbour. When he came up to us, he was breathing normally. I told him I thought he'd drowned. He laughed and said he'd thought about swimming to Ireland to get a Guinness."

"What's a Guinness?"

Archie grins. "It's famous Irish stout ale that is supposed to make that thing between your legs grow twice as long as it normally is."

I know he's fooling me, so I chuckle and thump his chest when I say, "You should get me some then."

Archie giggles. "I no need to Boy. Them English croissants seem be doin' a foin job, and you had an 'ed start afore you get here to England. Goodness knows what your mama feed you on afore you get 'ere, but whatever it was, you'm a Big Boy without no Irish stout."

When we've stopped laughing, I look at Archie, and he pulls a silly face. He knows he's made a fatal error by mentioning that part of me.

I close my eyes while Archie is attending to me, and when I reach Nirvana for the fourth time this night, at the very peak of my noisy climax, I recall the photograph of the athletic, powerful, good-looking Michael Johnson, and he is the one who is taking me, and I know if ever we do meet, he will become another of my conquests. I understand why Stuart Begbie was so in love with him. He's a boy's man.

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