Love - Existentially

by John Teller

Part 30

Book Eleven - Hamzah's Dream, and a new life.

Hamzah Bousaid.

Two months have passed since Michael was buried. I still miss him all the time, but things have happened that I never thought possible. The nightmares have gone. I still have dreams, but they're beautiful dreams and that's because something amazing has happened to me. I've fallen in love again.

Once Michael and me overcame the hurdles that were keeping us apart in bed, we often talked about what we had, and Michael, because when he was serious he always treated me like a grown-up, he told me that you can't plan for love. He told me that love was existential and it could happen at any time. He told me all about how he met Stuart and fell in love with him, and he told me that Stuart falling in love with the woman he's with was the same thing. Then he told me that the very first time he saw me he fell in love with me. He said he thought at first it was because he was feeling sorry for me, but after a while he began to discover that it was something else... that it was real love... the type of love that doesn't happen just because you meet someone who needs help. And now it's happened to me just like Michael described it. I'm in love with his nephew, Alexander, just as I was with Raji all those years ago, and then my beautiful Michael. And they all have one thing in common... all have come about because those who I have loved and do love have taken me under their wing and cared for me.

Alexander. He's been like a rock to me. It began as soon as Alex brought me back to England. When I was crying my eyes out on the sofa I had Alex one side of me and Alexander the other side with their arms around my shoulders, and when Alex got up to do something, Alexander stayed with me and hugged me and let me cry on his shoulder. Then, when I was having nightmares it was Alexander who suggested that I sleep in his room, and it was he who pushed our two beds together and made me get in his bed with him so he could wrap his arms around me until I felt safe and could go to sleep after I'd had a nightmare. Then, after about a month, things began to happen.

When I'd had a nightmare and after Alexander had made me get in bed with him and after he'd cuddled me until it was all over, he made me turn onto my side and he snuggled up behind me and wrapped his arm around me, and when I was lying quietly in his arms and still thinking about things, Alexander must have thought I'd gone to sleep and I felt him doing things. It began with him pushing himself against me as if he was having sex with me. Because we were close together and my bum was nestled into him, I felt his hardness against me when he was doing it. A couple of nights later he did it again, but this time I knew he'd got his penis out of his pyjamas because he was using the hand that was not around me to rub himself against me, and while he was doing it he was kissing the back of my head. Then it got really exciting.

The next night I pretended to have a nightmare, and after we'd settled in his bed, I pretended to fall asleep and waited for him to do it again. But this time the hand that was over me gently worked itself inside my pyjamas and he was feeling at my body, especially at my lower belly, and only because my hardness was trapped between my legs could I hide the fact that I was excited. But then he did something that almost made me open my legs so he could feel how aroused I was... he pushed the back of my pyjama trousers down and rubbed his penis up and down my bum until I felt the warmth of him flood out and fill just inside my bum cheeks, and I almost started giggling because he had to struggle to clean me up with a cloth that he'd smuggled into bed. Then he did something beautiful... after he'd cleaned me up and after he'd pulled the back of my pyjamas up, he still had his hand inside the front of my pyjamas and he hugged me close and kissed the back of my head and I heard him whisper, "I love you Hamzah."

So, for a whole week I made sure I had a few nightmares, and things continued to progress. After the third night I decided not to hide my penis away and I made sure it was not trapped between my legs, and when Alexander put his hand inside the front of my pyjamas, I'm not sure who was most excited... him or me when he began to masturbate me. I know who would have been most surprised. What Alexander took hold of was fully aroused and throbbing! He did it very gently at first, afraid to wake me up, and I even managed to do a dream-like Nnnnggghhhh when I climaxed. Then again I almost started giggling when Alexander had to clean up what I had done! But before he went to sleep and kissed my hair and whispered to me that he loved me, he made sure He was really inside my bum cheeks when I felt his warmth spill out of him.

But at the end of the week, something happened that was completely out of my control. After I'd had a proper nightmare, I was so exhausted that I really did fall asleep when I got into bed with Alexander, and that's when I had The Dream that was to change my life forever. But it was only after I'd shouted Raji! Raji! Raji! that Alexander woke me up and asked me what on earth was wrong because my heart was breaking and I was sobbing while I was shouting it and he asked who on earth was Raji!

But, dear readers, for you to understand this part of the story it's necessary for me to try and explain what the dream was about. But words can't do it justice, so here is a video to describe the dream in every detail. Hamzah's Dream. And just so you know and because it's important to me, all the credit for the video of this wonderful 'dream' goes to my dear friend and editor, L – FB – WDM. But to describe the events following Hamzah's Dream, only Alexander can do that.

Alexander Johnson, aged 14.

The boy I love is fast asleep beside me. Before tonight I was almost certain that he knew what I've been doing to him, and I thought that if he does know what I've been doing, then he must have been enjoying it for him to continue letting me do it.

But tonight was different. I could sense it in him when we went to bed. In fact, all day he's been acting strange and I've been fearful that what I've been doing to him has made him think that it's so wrong that he's hating me for it. Then he had one of his nightmares and I had to get him into bed with me. It took him a while to quieten down and stop crying, and because of everything that had gone on during the day, I thought it would be wise for me not to do anything tonight. But even though I wasn't going to do anything, once he was spooned into me and I thought he was asleep, I couldn't help slipping my hand inside his pyjamas to have a feel at him. That's how I knew he was really asleep. He was soft down there. So I decided to go to sleep and just hold him because I love him so much. And then he woke me up because he was dreaming and yelling Raji! Raji! Raji! I know about Raji, but only because he calls his Hindu prayer beads, his Raji Beads. But he's never told anybody why he calls them that.

Alex Johnson.

I've heard the racket and because it's different this time, I decide to get up and see if the boys need any help. When I get to their room, I listen at the door and hear them talking, and because they think we're all asleep, although they're not talking loud, they're talking loud enough so I can pretty much hear every word they're saying when I slump down onto the floor and put my ear against the door. I shouldn't be listening really, but I've always been a nosy bugger, and when you have to look after people especially because those people are important to you, you can't do that if you're ignorant. So I become an even nosier bugger.

Alexander Johnson aged 14.

I've put the bedside light on and we're both sitting up in bed and talking after Hamzah's had a drink of water and he's got his Raji Beads from under his pillow and is running them through his fingers like they do in India when they're praying. But Hamzah isn't a follower of the Hindu faith and I don't know why he's doing it. He keeps sniffling, and occasionally a deep sob happens inside him and he shakes when it's happening. I turn towards him and stroke his hair back from his forehead and stroke his cheek, and say to him, "Raji? You were dreaming about Raji. Do you want to tell me what the dream was about?"

Hamzah looks into my eyes and I see the same deep sadness I saw in them when Uncle Michael died. Hamzah is looking right into me, studying me as if he's working me out... trying to decide whether or not to say anything. Then, and talking almost ordinary because we know everybody is asleep, he says, "Alexander, will you promise not to hate me if I tell you about Raji and about the things I had to do to survive before Michael found me."

I'm puzzled... shocked at what he's said, and I tell him, "I could never hate you! And you don't have to tell me about the horrible things you probably went through. Uncle Michael told us that what you went through was probably worse than we could imagine."

Hamzah shudders again and then says, "It was worse than that. But I really do want to tell you about it. Can I?"

I nod at him. "Okay, but if you want to stop, then that's okay too."

Hamzah takes in a deep breath, and then says, "I was born In Palestine. My ancestors all came from Palestine. We had lands. We had our own fields and we were happy. Before I was born, that is. Then the Zionists came and took over our land and we had nothing. My family tried to survive in Palestine, but things got too difficult and we moved to Beirut in Lebanon. To the camps there. It was awful. But at least I had my mother and father and my brothers and sisters."

I interrupt him. "How many brothers and sisters did you have?"

He shrugs his shoulders. "We were a big family. But the camps were worse than living with the Zionists. Arabs killed Arabs there. Father killed two of them, so they shot him, and then came with guns in the night, firing them everywhere, killing two of my brothers, and we fled. We were like a disturbed nest of rats, fleeing in all directions to evade the bullets. That was the last I saw of my family: my mother and my four sisters and my five remaining brothers. I had nothing; not an identity card; not a passport; and that made me a nobody."

I'm shocked and appalled by what Hamzah has told me and I break down and cling to him, but now it's Hamzah trying to calm me down as he puts his arms around me and keeps saying, "Shhhh! Shhhh! It's okay Alexander. It's okay. Michael saved me. It's okay. And now I've got you and all your family. It's okay! Shhhh! Shhhh!"

It takes me ages to calm down, and then I say, "You don't need to tell me anything else. I'm sorry for bringing it all up."

Hamzah kisses my forehead. "No, it's time for me to tell someone. I told Raji, and now I'm telling you."

"You told Raji? Who was Raji?"

Hamzah kisses his beads. "Raji was my special friend. But I'll tell you about him in a minute or two. After all that happened with my family, I left Beirut and started trying to make my way north away from all of it. I'd heard that living in the north was better than where I was. So I walked and began my journey that didn't end until I met Michael."

"How did you survive?"

Hamzah looks into my eyes again. "It's not a fairy story, and it's all true. But please be strong... for me?"

I stroke the hair on his forehead again. "I will."

Hamzah nods. "It's as well. I can't really tell you about Raji unless I tell you what it was like. While I was going north, I tried begging, but that was useless. Everybody hates beggars and you'll die if you just beg. So sometimes you have to steal, and you sometimes have to do other things." Hamzah takes my hand and clutches it tightly. "Sometimes you have to sell yourself. You know... your body... if somebody will buy it. Does that disgust you?"

I shake my head. "No. But those who did things to you disgust me."

Hamzah shrugs his shoulders. "That's life where I came from. It doesn't just happen to beggars. It happens in palaces. Men do it all the time with boys. Lots of Arab men love boys as much as they do women. It's a way of life. So I had a choice. I could have had a better life, but that would have meant me joining a gang. They have special boy dancers over there, but then you have to take opium so they own you and you can't run away. So I begged and stole and sometimes let the odd lorry driver from the north have me. Most of the lorry drivers were gentle with me. Some weren't, but most were. And they gave me a lift so I could go north. Then I got to a place in Turkey called Akasaray, where I met Raji. It's about a third of the way through Turkey from Syria on the way to Istanbul."

Hamzah shudders, and I ask him, "Are you okay?"

He sniffles and continues, "I was picked up by a fat Turk and he offered to take me to Ankara. We got about two miles out of Akasaray when he raped me. He was the worst brute I ever met. He was vile. He was a sadist. He beat me black and blue and then raped me and threw me out on the side of the road. I was bleeding from everywhere. I lay at the side of the road for a whole day, and then Raji found me." I break down in tears and cling to Hamzah, and he hugs me tight and says, "It's okay. I'm okay." So when I've finally stopped crying, Hamzah asks, "Now do you want me to tell you about Raji?"

I nod and stroke his hair again and look into his beautiful blue eyes. "Yes... I really do."

Hamzah takes my hand and kisses my fingers, then he smiles at me and says, "He was two years older than me and came from Bombay in India. He was an orphan there. He tried begging to survive, but then a gang got hold of him. He overheard them saying what they were going to do with him. They were going to chop off his legs so he could earn more money as a beggar boy because they earn more money than kids that are normal. He managed to escape and he ran away, and he never stopped until he met me. He walked all the way through India and Pakistan and Iran and Iraq and Syria and was in Turkey when he found me. Raji saved my life. He found me, and then he sold himself to a doctor in exchange for some Penicillin. He could do anything, Raji could. It was a month before I could walk, and he stole and begged for both of us." Hamzah chuckles. "He was the best thief ever. He could walk into a market and come away with loads of stuff, and he could kill a baby goat and skin it and roast it and make a fantastic stew with the vegetables he stole. The area around Akasaray is filled with lots of caves and there's plenty of water. That's where we hid out." Again Hamzah chuckles, but now there are tears coming from his eyes. "We had our very own five star cave. And Raji was always laughing. He'd pretend I was a sultan and he was my slave. He'd serve me up a meal of goat and vegetables and bow to me."

I stroke Hamzah's face. "You must have loved him."

No chuckles now and Hamzah clings to me and sobs and sobs, and when he's controlled himself, he says, "I did. I still do, more than I've ever loved anybody on this earth. And there's something I need to tell you Alexander, I loved him as a boy loves a boy, and I'm not ashamed of it. The others took me, but I gave myself to Raji... willingly. We were lovers. Does that disgust you?"

We lay our heads back so we can see into each other's eyes and the feelings inside me are in turmoil because I want to tell him that I love him the same way that he loved his Raji, but I daren't just in case it turns him against me, so I just smile at him and press his hand, and say, "No, it doesn't disgust me one bit." Then I tickle the end of his nose and tell him, "You're forgetting that I had a brilliant uncle who loved exactly that way. I know about these things. I may not have gone through what you did, but some things here are like those where you were."

Hamzah grins. "I know they are, but just so you know, your Uncle Michael and me were never like that. We had friends who thought we were, but they were wrong. Michael used to make fun of me and smack my bottom and sometimes he used to make me blush when he said I was getting too old to sleep with him because if I got any bigger down there then he wouldn't be able to help himself. Then it turned into lots of fun and we used to tease one another. I never told him about Raji. I think that if I had he might have changed his mind and stopped treating me like a baby. But I never told him about Raji and me, so he always thought I was just fooling."

"And would you have done it with Uncle Michael?"

Hamzah's face is serious when he replies, "It never happened... so can we leave it at that?!"

I nod. "Okay, but tell me about Raji."

Hamzah nods. "When I was better, we left Akasaray and began walking towards Istanbul. We had lots of fun on the way, stealing and begging, and that's when we discovered that we loved each other and when we began to do things. We planned to make it to the north and always be together when we were grown up. Five months we were together... and then it happened."

"What happened?"

Hamzah's face drops and he rests his chin on his chest and tears begin to flow, so I wrap my arms around him again and hold him until he turns his head and kisses my cheek, and then with eyes that are filled with tears, he says, "Raji got killed."

More tears; more deep sobs coming from inside him; more hugs from me, and then I tell him, "You don't have to tell me anything else. I'm so sorry Hamzah. I'm so sorry."

But Hamzah takes in a number of deep breaths and he adopts a firm face when he looks at me and says, "No, I don't have to tell you, but I want to. If I don't tell somebody, then I think I'll never get better." And his eyes are pleading when he looks into my eyes and asks, "Can I tell you, Alexander? You're the only person in the world who I can tell it to."

I wipe away his tears with the bedclothes and tell him, "Yes. I'm here for you. That's why I'm here. I want to help you."

Hamzah looks up at the ceiling, and then back at me, and then he says, "Raji. He was always being silly. There was a really bad sandstorm. It was blowing from the north, right into our faces. He insisted we walk on the road because it was so difficult walking in the sand at the side of the road. I told him that we should stop and wait for the sandstorm to blow over and he said we would as soon as we got to somewhere where we could stop, and that it was so bad that it was as dangerous to stop as to go forward, and sometimes the sandstorms would last for a couple of days. The wind was howling. Raji was in front and I was holding onto his dishdasha so I wouldn't lose him. We'd both had our keffiyahs fastened around our faces to keep out the sand, and then a truck came out of the sandstorm and hit Raji. I heard this horrible thud and his body hit me and knocked me off the road as he flew into the air right past me and landed a long way away."

I'm appalled at what Hamzah has told me, and I ask, "Did the lorry stop?"

Hamzah shakes his head. "No. He probably thought he'd hit a goat or something. They're everywhere there. I don't blame the lorry driver. For all I know it might even have been Michael. I didn't even see it and I'm sure the driver didn't see us. It was just one of those things. Then I had to find Raji. It took me ages to find him. I nearly got killed myself looking for him. I had to keep running into the road to see if he was there and another lorry came past and nearly hit me. I didn't understand then, but after being with Michael and travelling that same road lots of times and having been in a sandstorm when you're in a lorry, you just try to look at the tarmac and keep going and hope you don't hit anything. And you're high up and you don't see everything. Me and Michael have killed quite a few goats. Well, I hope they were goats. You just don't know."

"Where did you eventually find Raji?" I ask.

"He was about thirty yards away and the lorry knocked him about ten yards away from the road. He was covered in blood. He was dead. I couldn't help him. So I just sat with him crying my eyes out until the sandstorm had gone, and then I took all his special things off him and found enough wood to build a pyre so I could burn him. That's what Hindus do... they burn the bodies of their dead. I made sure it was massive and then I set fire to it. It worked. All that was left were a few small parts of his bones. But I had to wait a whole day before I could do that. The ashes were too hot. Then I buried his bones and went on my way. But I was never alone. When we were together in real life we would talk about what we would do if anything happened to one of us and we both promised that our spirits would always stay with the one that was left." Hamzah's tearful eyes stare into me. "Raji is with me now. He's in this bed with us. He'll always be with me. I'm as much Raji as I am me. My full name is Hamzah Raji Khan Bousaid." I can't believe it when Hamzah smiles and says, "My Raji was beautiful. He had the most beautiful eyes on earth. They were big and brown and they melted me every time he looked at me. That's why I really loved him. It was his big beautiful eyes that I fell in love with. And I will always love him." He fondles his Raji Beads. "And that's why these prayer beads are so precious to me. I would rather lose my sight than be parted from them. Raji is within me, spiritually, and every time I touch these beads, because he always wore them, I'm actually touching my beautiful friend. They're my last link to the reality of what he was."

I try to smile at him. "That's nice. But the dream... is that what you were dreaming about... the accident?"

Hamzah looks at me with his beautiful blue eyes, and he says, "No... Not the accident. It was something else. I'm not sure I should tell you."

"Why not?"

"Because you'll think I'm mad."

I'm puzzled when I look at him. "I won't, I promise. Tell me."

Hamzah looks into my eyes. "Raji loves you Alexander."

"Raji loves me?"

Hamzah nods. "Yes. That's what the dream was about. But it was Raji inside me that was seeing things. I was Raji. Raji saw this house and then he saw you. You were dressed in the same clothes you were wearing when your dad brought me here... those lovely grey slacks and grey coat and that lovely white shirt you were wearing. But then you weren't here... you were in the jungle in India, by the water and still wearing the same clothes but you didn't have a jacket on. It was if you'd been taken from here and sent back to the past to meet Raji." Tears are rolling down Hamzah's face now. "You were sitting on a tree trunk wondering why you were there. Then Raji came out of the jungle and sat near to you. It was like two spirits meeting up for the first time... you and Raji. Then Raji told you about what a horrible life he had and what he was running away from. You were horrified and you sat beside him and put an arm around his shoulder and told him you would help him find a home where he would be safe and have a good life. That's when Raji fell in love with you, but he couldn't tell you there and he took you to dreamland to tell you. Then you and Raji set out on a long journey together. Finally, you saw what you'd both been searching for and you were both yelling because you were so excited at what you saw. I don't know where you were both going, but I think it was supposed to be this house, but when you got there, it was an old temple. Raji thought that was as far as you wanted to go with him and you were going to leave him there and he was very sad. But you put your hand on his shoulder and told him that you loved him and that you would never leave him because you loved him so much. Then you were you again and you were here and it was the same you when your dad brought me here. Then the dream ended and that's when you held me and I thought I was Raji and you loved me. Then Raji went away and I was on my own. That's why I was screaming his name. I was frightened that when Raji went away, you wouldn't want me. I'm sorry."

I think about what Hamzah has told me and I say, "Dreams are crazy things, but sometimes they tell us stuff. Shall I tell you what I think the dream was saying to you?" Hamzah looks at me and nods, so I continue, "Raji loved you, and now he's not here he wants you to be happy. He's never let you down. He found Uncle Michael for you, but now Uncle Michael has gone, he needs someone else to take care of you. So he's brought you here. He's brought you to me. That's what the temple bit was about. A temple is a place where a spirit can rest. Raji needs to rest but he can't do that until you're in your temple. That's why this house was in the dream. This house is your temple." Then I decide to go a roundabout way to tell Hamzah how I really feel about him, so when we've both had a drink of water and got down in bed properly, and while Hamzah is lying on his back and looking up at the ceiling and I'm lying on my side facing him, I say to him, "Hamzah... if I tell you something, will you promise not to tell anyone?"

Hamzah reaches for my hand and holds it tight and then he looks at me and says, "I promise. I never break a secret."

I snuggle closer to him. "You know Uncle Michael was queer. He's not the only one in the family. I've never told anybody, but I'm like Uncle Michael. I don't like girls... I like boys."

Hamzah turns his head and stares into my eyes, and asks, "Have you got a boyfriend?"

I shake my head. "No. I've liked a few boys but I've never done anything about it. I've never been with a boy. But I've met someone who I want to be my boyfriend."

Hamzah looks puzzled. "Then why don't you ask him to be your boyfriend? The worst that can happen is that he says 'No'. You won't get very far if you mess about. Sometimes you just have to take a chance and go for it."

"I'm scared of hurting him."

"Scared of hurting him? Why should you be scared of hurting him? If he's got any balls then he'll say yes or no, and if he says that he's not interested, then you'll be the one that gets hurt and not him."

"It's not that simple. The boy I've fallen for is part of the family."

"Part of the family? What do you mean?"

"He's in bed with me now. But I'm not sure what his name is. I'm not sure if the boy I've fallen for is Hamzah Bousaid or Raji Khan now you've told me about that dream."

Hamzah starts giggling, and then he grins at me. "Who was it you've been playing with in bed when you thought I was asleep?"

I think I'm blushing now, but I can't stop giggling when I tell him, "It was you, you daft bugger! Are you mad at me? I couldn't help it. You shouldn't have such a nice bum."

Hamzah pulls a funny face, and grins. "Michael always said I'd got a nice bum and some silly bugger would fall in love with it one day. But he didn't know it would be his daft nephew."

I giggle. "I'm not bloody daft! And it's not just your bloody arse that I love!"

Hamzah's eyes are wickedly naughty now when he says, "And what else about me do you love? I know you've been playing with that as well."

I decide to turn the tables on the cocky bugger and I glare at him when I tell him, "They're two a penny they are! Every boy has got one of them. But Arabs with blue eyes are as rare as rocking horse muck, especially when that bloody Arab boy with blue eyes is two people and not one and I've always fancied three in a bed. That's what really turns me on."

Hamzah giggles. "Michael used to say my great grandmother was probably an Anglo-Saxon slave. And because he'd got beautiful brown eyes like yours, I used to tell him that his great-grandmother was probably an Arab slave. He used to call me his mongrel dog at times, so I called him a mongrel truck driver." Then tears fill Hamzah's eyes and he says, "I miss Michael. Hold me please, Alexander."

Alex Johnson.

Three in a bed! I've heard enough! Too much if I'm honest. Fathers shouldn't listen into their son's intimate conversations, but this time I reckon it's just as well that I have. At least now I know how the land lies, I can plan for the future. It looks as if I'm going to have to start all over again. At least this one hasn't got a Dansette record player that cost twenty-three guineas. But my Alex is right... the bloody Arab Mongrel has got beautiful blue eyes.

I get gently into bed so as not to wake Carol and stare up into the blackness. I can see Michael's grinning face. It's a funny old world, Michael. You go and find yourself the most beautiful boy in the school who's so clever and cunning that he gets you a bursary to go to one of the top two universities in England; then you bugger off and join the army and you're away so long that he goes and finds himself a woman because he's lonely; then you get so pissed up that you get a job as a bloody lorry driver and meet a bloody waif and stray mongrel Arab with blue eyes in a faraway place; then you go and get yourself killed; then the mongrel Arab boy comes to live here and your bloody nephew falls in love with the daft little bugger who thinks he's also half Indian, and now, no doubt, they'll be doing stuff in this lovely house that I was only able to afford because I got a job with the father of the boy you fell in love with in the first place! Dada would have had a blue fit if he knew all this was going on. Or maybe not. He'd probably have done what I'm doing now... be having a little chuckle and hoping it will all come right in the wash. But one thing has happened tonight that pleases me and I can now put my mind completely to rest. I'm glad you weren't having it off with Hamzah. I don't think I would have liked that.

Poor little Hamzah! He's just fourteen years old and has gone through purgatory. God... I thought the little boy Michael loved and cared for was made of stern stuff, but now I've heard what I have, this little kid is a bloody Superboy! If it lasts between them, then my boy is lucky to have found somebody like him. One thing I am sure of... if ever my Alex wants the three in-a-bed stuff then he'll get his arse kicked from here to Timbuktu by Hamzah... or that bloody Raji... or whoever he is. And if this house is now a bloody temple, I'd better watch my language.

Alexander Johnson Jnr. – aged fourteen

The Midlands, England. Monday September 6th 1971.

It's almost the end of the lunchtime break and I'm amazed how well Hamzah has coped on his first day at school. But maybe I shouldn't be. Hamzah is not an ordinary boy. He's seen more in his fourteen years of life than any of the pupils here will probably experience in a lifetime. Not that any of them will ever know about his previous life. We've made a pact that his past will be kept a secret from everyone at the school. Our only doubt that it will remain a secret is if my brother Michael lets the cat out of the bag now he's twelve years old. He goes to Denbridge High School, too.

Denbridge High School. This is the school where Uncle Michael and 'Uncle' Stuart went to. But it's different now. Back in their day it was an all-boys school. Now it's Co-ed, with an equal number of girls as boys here. In fact I'm chuckling to myself now because three of those who have joined our small group of seven are girls who are interested in him. Hamzah throws an amused glance in my direction, and I giggle. I warned him what would happen. I knew it would happen. Compared to most of the boys his age here, he's far and away the most handsome with his gorgeous blue eyes that can melt your heart. They've melted mine. Lots of times. That's why I love him.

Hamzah Bousaid.

I glance at Alexander and see the grin on his face, and it makes me chuckle. Then his grin fades and I get that look which gives me butterflies in my tummy, and I have to look away so as not to give away my feelings to the others.

Alexander Johnson Jnr.

Hamzah has just given me that look. It says so many things. Especially it's reminding me of our first time, which we often talk about when we're in bed now. The night of The Dream.

Our first time was inevitable. Well, that's the way I think about it now. I've always believed in things happening for a reason ever since me and Uncle Michael spent a day together before he met Hamzah.

He'd left the army and came up to see us between one of his trips. It was obvious that he wasn't happy. Although mum and dad never said anything, I knew it was something to do with him and 'Uncle' Stuart parting. That subject was never discussed in our family. I was only eleven when they parted, but I'd worked it out myself that it was a homosexual thing. Not that I knew much about homosexuality, but I pretty much knew the basics that it was a love between two men or two women. It never bothered me, and because Uncle Michael and Stuart had always been a part of my life, I just got on with things and never questioned anything. They were both there for me and my brother Michael, and we always had fun with them, so what was there to worry about?

Then they parted, and Uncle Michael came up to see us. He'd been drinking, and he asked me if I would go for a walk with him up to Bluebell Wood. When we were walking, I asked him to tell me about his trips to Qatar. It was brilliant listening to him and hearing about his adventures with the convoy of trucks he went with. I hardly stopped laughing for an hour. Then we stopped by Pike Lake and sat down on the grass. Uncle Michael had brought a half-bottle of whisky with him, and he kept tipping it up and drinking it. He always got soppy when he was drinking, and after a bit I could see that he was sad, so I put my head on his arm and asked him if he was missing Stuart. He put an arm around me and kissed my hair. Then he told me he loved me. For some reason, that made me cry. Then Uncle Michael made me laugh. He offered me the whisky, and said, "This is what I use to stop me crying. Do you want some?"

We both laughed at his question. Then I asked him if he loved 'Uncle' Stuart.

That's when it all came out. He told me everything about how he had met Stuart and how they had loved each other from the day they first met. He asked if it bothered me, and when I told him it didn't, he gave me a massive hug and said that love comes in many forms, and that none are wrong. He told me to ignore bigots, and that if the love was mutual, then what harm was it doing anybody?

I will always remember his wise words about love and that you can't plan for it. That's why I don't feel bad about myself and Hamzah. Although it came about through sad circumstances, it's fate that's brought us together.

It was strange meeting Hamzah for the first time. I was expecting a boy dressed in Arab dress, but he was wearing jeans and a brown pullover. An even stranger thing was that, although I knew Hamzah was my age, I was expecting somebody much more grown up. Having had that talk with Uncle Michael and knowing that he was a homosexual, I was sort of expecting a big lad that Uncle Michael had found to replace Stuart. But he was tiny. Well, he was small. Smaller than me, and I found that very strange. Then I began to think that I'd been wrong and that Uncle Michael was just looking after Hamzah because he was a poor orphan boy that he'd just picked up on the road and wanted to make a better life for him. And after that, except occasionally when I began to get a bit jealous because I wasn't seeing enough of Hamzah, I never thought of them being like Uncle Michael and Stuart.

Hamzah gave me strange feelings the first time I saw him. His eyes are a lovely blue, which is a strange colour for an Arab boy, but once I'd looked into them, I couldn't take my eyes off him. In fact, I got a massive crush on him because his eyes attracted me so much! It was nothing to do with sex. That never entered my head. I was just smitten from the off. But over time my feelings for him began to change into something else, and by the time I was thirteen and well into puberty, I was imagining me and Hamzah in all sorts of those situations. Sometimes when he came, he would wear footy shorts that showed off his beautiful tanned legs, and I spent a lot of time trying to see up them. He's got lovely legs, and a bottom that's far nicer than mine. Mine is big and firm, but Hamzah's is pert and eye-catching, and I found it even more attractive because he's slim and his bottom sort of sticks out from the rest of his body. Then I began to think about his lovely bottom when I was doing it, and those thoughts included me using his gorgeous bottom. That's when I began to realise that I was like Uncle Michael and not my dad... I was attracted to boys and not girls, and especially I was attracted that way to Hamzah. That's why, despite the circumstances, I was really pleased when Hamzah came to live with us and dad gave me the responsibility of looking after him. I was sad because of what had happened to Uncle Michael, but my sadness was tempered by the knowledge that the boy I was mad about and wanted that way was going to be sleeping in the same bedroom as me. And then everything just fell into place as if it was meant to happen.

Hamzah Bousaid.

Although I'm talking to the others, I'm not really listening. Alexander looks even more beautiful in his school uniform than he normally does. He's the tallest boy in our group, and he's going to be an athlete, as Michael was. I know, intimately, every single part of him that's filling out his uniform. Those legs that fill his trousers are strong and powerful, and he has a bottom that is just as strong, and I adore holding it whenever we're doing things.

Doing things. That began after The Dream. We were at it all week, and the strange thing about it is that we are so compatible. Alexander is the man, which was what I wanted him to be. And nothing has changed since.

That night, after The Dream, after we'd talked and I'd told him everything and I was crying because I was missing Michael, Alexander hugged me to him and kissed my forehead and hair. I lifted my head so he could see my tears, and he kissed them away. Then he kissed them off my cheeks, and that's when it happened. I wanted it so badly that my reaction was unstoppable. I closed my eyes and tilted my head right up, hoping and praying that he'd give me what I wanted but thought might never happen because I thought the only reason he wanted me was because he wanted sex with me. I wanted more than just sex... I wanted love. And that's what I got when his hot lips settled on mine and we both gave in to our feelings; and the harder we kissed, the more passionate it became. We were both trembling because of what was happening, and then Alexander took over completely, which is exactly what I wanted.

He pushed me onto my back and he was the bossy one, kissing my lips and my face and then my neck. That's when I whispered to him that I loved him. That's why we spent the next fifteen minutes letting our feelings spill out, and once we were both sure that we loved each other, there was no stopping us.

While I lay passively on my back, Alexander undid my pyjamas and began to kiss my chest. He went lower and lower and lower and all the way there. It was fantastic, and he didn't pull away when it happened. But I knew it wasn't over. So when I'd recovered and we'd done some silent kissing, I turned over, pulled my PJ bottoms right off, and pushed myself firmly against his hardness. Alexander realised that there was no need to say anything, and within five minutes he'd done what he'd been trying to do for ages. He wasn't aware that I could have taken all of him, but I had a reputation to protect. Nobody in the world will ever know that Michael has made love to me... not even Alexander. That's why I pretended that just half of him was enough for me that night. But it was enough for Alexander, and I allowed him to release his feelings in such a way that I knew he'd enjoyed it tremendously. During the week following our first time, little by little I allowed him to achieve his goal of being fully complete with me, and since then, I've taught him that mutuality can be a shared experience, and as Michael used to say when we were doing it in different ways: 'There's more than one way of skinning a cat.' Now, Alexander's favourite position is when we're face to face and able to kiss whilst being fully complete. It's mine, too. Alexander has Michael's eyes; and I never tire of looking into them.

The school bell has just rung. It's time to go back to class. That suits me fine. We sit next to each other. Alexander calls me his Pussy Cat sometimes when he's in one of his silly moods and he wants to get inside my pants. LOL. Oh yeah! Music for this bit.

Stuart Begbie

Tuesday October 19th 1971. Paris, France.

I'm with Isabelle, in a private suite at The American Hospital on the Boulevard Victor Hugo, and after four hours of labour, she gives birth to our first child. I hear its first cry and I'm welling up with emotion. Now the pain is gone, Isabelle's tears are like those of mine... relief that the worst is over. She grips my hand tightly while the nurses do what they have to, and then, wrapped in swaddling clothes, they present the baby to Isabelle. I look at the nurse who has handed over the baby, and ask, "Garçon ou une fille?"

She smiles. "Il est un petit garçon." Then, in English to make sure I understand, she adds, "Or as you English like to put it... a naughty little boy."

And I well up with emotion as I stroke the forehead and touch for the first time in my life, my Alexandre Michael, and I'm reminded that those two names have never carried such meaning. When I look at Isabelle, I know immediately that she's disappointed. I know why that is. She always said she wanted her first child to be a girl.

Now both my parents and those of Isabelle have gone to see our baby, I'm alone in the waiting room. I deliberately didn't tell both sets of parents the sex of our child so as not to spoil their surprise. But there's someone else very important who is waiting to hear the news, and after I've telephoned Roger and introduced myself, his first word is, "Well?"

I grin. "Alexandre Michael has arrived, and he's as fit as a fiddle." I know Roger will be smiling when I add, "Thank God you'll be seventy-five when he's eleven years old. You'll be past it then."

Roger laughs wickedly, and then says, "Don't put your house on it, young man!"

And we're both still laughing when I hang up.

But I'm not laughing a couple of minutes later. I'm in tears because Michael is not here with me to share in the joy of the birth of our son. Music.

On the 23rd of November 1971, in a formal ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London, England, Sheik Ahmed bin Ali An Thani presents Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2nd with a golden tiara encrusted with diamonds and rubies and pearls as a gift to commemorate the handover of the State of Qatar from British rule, which was finalized on 3rd of September 1971. The centrepiece of this tiara is a most wonderful pearl measuring some ten centimetres in diameter. It has been given the name of The Pearl of Arabia. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 2nd is not aware of its provenance. That single precious jewel has cost the lives of twenty three people before it was given to the craftsmen who made the tiara. Amongst those who died was Captain Michael Johnson (retired) of The Royal Engineers. He would have been mortified had he known he would give his life for a trinket destined for those he despised: The Establishment!

C'est la vie.

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