A Boy Named James,

by Jolyon Lewes

Chapter 9

June 1964

A month after Summer Term 1964 began, James celebrated his sixteenth birthday. Celebrate isn't perhaps the most appropriate verb because the day was marked by two events, the first being an illicit cigarette in the bike shed with the hard boys and the second being caught in possession of smoking materials and then being caned for it. As ever, the hard boys made sure it was James who carried the cigarettes and matches, while they sucked Polo mints to disguise the smell on their breath, yet failed to give any of them to James.

I heard about this, of course, and felt disappointed. I'd hoped James would spend less time with the hard boys but clearly they still wielded their malign influence. Naturally, I felt sorry for James and asked him up to my room after prep to give him a drink to wish him happy birthday. To my surprise and great delight, he turned up not in school uniform but in PE kit.

"I didn't know you were going for a run," I said, my eyes feasting on his wondrous thighs.

"I wasn't, but as you're giving me a treat I thought you deserve one too, you naughty prefect. It'll be too painful to sit so I'll stay standing, if you don't mind. "

I got to my feet. "Well, I'll stand too, so I can toast you properly. Vodka and lime?"

"Thank you, Jols. May I call you Jols, now that I'm nearly as old as you?"

Nobody had ever before shortened my name like that. Some people had called me Jolly but Jols was a new one.

"I'd love it!" I said, passing James a vodka and lime. "Sorry there's no ice. Happy birthday!"

"Thanks, Jols. This is my second crime of the day. First I get caught smoking, now I'm under-age drinking."

"But I'm the one in possession of alcohol, " I said, "and it's not easy to smell vodka on the breath. Here's to our friendship."

I was hoping he'd say something about our friendship but he looked down at the floor. He told me he'd have to attend a funeral on the Friday of half term.

"I bet I'll have to wear my dark-grey suit," he said, gloomily.

"D'you mean the one that's beyond belief?"

"Yes, that bloody one," said James, standing up and turning away from me. "Will you do me a favour? Sit down, please."

He hitched up his shorts to reveal the lower three inches of his delicious bottom.. There were three cane marks, one right on the crease and the other two slightly higher. Did he expect me to do something? Was I expected to touch him? Twelve inches from my eyes was a sight I would not forget, utterly glorious were it not for the cruel, pinkish weals marching across his marble-smooth flesh.

He spoke: "D'you think my cane marks will show?"

"Depends on how short the shorts are," I said.

"With the braces tight, they're about as short as these."

"Crikey, how awful! You might get away with it but let's hope the marks have faded away by Friday.

"I just hope there are no little kids there," said James. "The stupid shorts are really wide in the leg and the littlest kids can look right up them."

"That's bloody appalling!" said I, wondering how to change the subject. The thought of little kids looking up my shorts made me shudder but the thought of little kids looking up James's shorts made my hard-on even stiffer.

James let the legs of his shorts drop back to their usual position but I could still see that cane mark on his crease. Then he turned to face me, a look of resignation on his face.

"I'll ask my mother if I can wear school uniform for the funeral but I don't fancy my chances. Any more of that vodka, Jols?"

"Yeah, time for a quick one before lights-out," I said, pointing at the bottle and inviting James to help himself.

"A quick one?" he looked quizzical. "Oh, I get it, another drink. Thanks."

"What on earth did you think I meant?" I made to stand up.

"Better not stand up in your state, Jols!" said James, now grinning cheekily. "I can see you're enjoying your treat. I'll pour you one."

My state? He'd seen my raging hard-on. I remained seated.

He took a good swig of vodka and lime and patted the front of his PE shorts. "If I ever got a hard-on in these shorts all hell would break loose! I wouldn't know what to do with it, especially with no underwear, but luckily I've got good self-control."

His obvious implication was that I lacked self-control. He wasn't wrong - he must have noticed many occasions when I'd been physically aroused in his company. And he'd said that by turning up in PE kit he'd be giving me a treat. And had he thought 'a quick one before lights-out' was nothing to do with a drink of vodka?

Was James tempting me to do something we both might regret? Or was he teasing me? I thought about him every hour of every day but I'd never got anywhere near saying I loved him, or fancied him. The truth was, of course, that I was totally infatuated with him. He was a very bright boy so he must have known this, without any words needed.

In bed that night I went through all the things he'd said over the past few months that might have had a touch of innuendo. Was he less naive than I'd thought? On those occasions when he'd touched my thigh was he hoping I'd want to touch his? Well, of course I wanted to but was too nervous to try. Next time he saw me with an erection would he resort to less subtle language and instead of calling me a 'naughty prefect' would he cry out 'cor, what a whopper!' or 'that's a massive hard-on, Jols'?

James was full of enigmas, his timid behaviour in front of his parents contrasted so strongly with his yobbish behaviour in front of the hard boys, his beautiful face looked even more beautiful when he was alone with me but so sullen when he was with other boys. What had made him like this? I had to find out so had to keep his confidence and not risk ruining everything by an unwanted advance. And I just had to discover why his shorts were so much shorter than anyone else's.

Half term began the following Thursday and while James went home to Cambridgeshire my brothers and I went to our aunt and uncle's place in Kent. The next day I thought of James at the funeral and hoped there wouldn't be any little kids looking up his shorts. I felt I should support him from a distance by wearing shorts myself but I had no grey shorts and anyway, in such a snooty place I didn't think many boys of eighteen would be seen dead in shorts.

My uncle asked me how my A Level revision was going and I lied, by saying it was going very well. He was a stockbroker and spent a lot of time reading The Financial Times . He had a slight sense of humour but was generally very serious and it wasn't a fun-filled half term but at least the house wasn't run on nearly such formal lines as James's.

Back at school on Tuesday evening I was anxious to see James and ask him how things had gone.

"The funeral was even more humiliating than I thought it'd be. As if I didn't look conspicuous enough already, my mother had me take off my jacket outside the church so she could give the braces an extra tighten before we went in. I felt like a kid of eight. In the church I knew all eyes were on me and not the coffin. It was just awful."

I offered words of sympathy but they must have sounded very hollow. Then James surprised me by smiling.

"One good thing came from that funeral - one of my mother's friends told her she thought it was disrespectful for a boy of seventeen to turn up for a funeral in shorts, especially such wickedly short ones. My mother said I was 'only sixteen' and I saw people looking surprised, probably because they thought I was only about thirteen . Anyway, my mother's friend said a bit more and the upshot is that I'm to have a new dark-grey suit with long trousers!"

"And about time, too!" I said.

"But there's a snag," said James. "My mother said it would only be for church services, so I'll wait till I've got it and then work on her."

"Good luck," I said, thinking that as James had never yet got his own way with his mother I couldn't see it happening for at least a year, or more.

Meanwhile, the Summer Term wore on, exams were taken and there was a slow run down to the summer holidays and my leaving school for ever.

For ever? Ouch! Just as I was at last beginning to enjoy school I'd have to leave it and not only that - I'd have to leave the boy who'd become the closest friend I'd ever had. I'd be spending the holidays in Germany and had a couple of provisional places at university, one in Birmingham and the other in London, both many miles from school and from James's home. Would we ever be able to meet again?

Our exams over, we had a couple of weeks when we could do more or less what we wanted. There were lessons but only of a light-hearted nature. James and other sports-mad boys had more time to play their various games, to run, jump and swim, to throw, catch or hit balls and generally to get fit for the summer holidays. James played lots of tennis, with me usually as spectator-in-chief. He was now too old to play cricket for the Under -15s, although he looked hardly fourteen.

At the last weekend of term the school play was to be staged. Rehearsal time had been limited until the exams were over and now the learning of lines and rehearsal of scenes took over a large part of some boys' lives. James had been recruited to play one of the female parts in the play. It had taken a lot of persuading but the master running the play assured him that there weren't too many lines to learn and that mainly he'd just have to stand on stage 'looking decorative.'

As you might imagine, this delighted the hard boys. I heard one suggest that James could wear a mini skirt to show off any fresh cane marks he might have. I was going to say he should wear a diaphanous robe like the one he wore as a Roman emperor but held my tongue as I didn't think he'd like my suggestion. In the end, he had a voluminous costume of heavy velvet material so you couldn't see his fantastic legs. With all the make-up, his face looked decidedly feminine and afterwards he had to use half a pound of lard to make himself look boyish again.

There were now only three days left of Summer Term. I suggested an all-night escapade and James liked the idea. I got hold of some snack food and four cans of beer and we met in the bike shed at midnight on a cloudless night. It was two days before full moon so the few hours of darkness weren't dark at all and we didn't need to use our lights as we pedalled a couple of miles along a deserted lane to a hill on which we could sit, admire the scenery and talk. Even at half past midnight the moonlight was strong enough to give us a superb view, albeit in monochrome.

We were warm from cycling up the hill and sat on the wooden bench thoughtfully placed there by persons unknown many years before. I unpacked our picnic and we chatted easily. We'd both had the sense to wear long-sleeved sweaters but it wasn't long before we wished we'd brought something to keep our legs warm. My tennis shorts gave a little protection but James's woefully inadequate PE shorts covered only a few square inches and he must have been freezing. Of course, he didn't say he was cold but he pulled the cuffs of his sweater over his hands and I heard his teeth chattering.

"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea," I said. "We don't want to die of exposure. D'you want to go back?"

"No!" said James with emphasis. "We'll never get the chance to do this again! Maybe a beer will warm us up." He began to rub his bare thighs.

The beer did nothing to warm us physically but it gradually mellowed us in a different way and we sat in companionable silence or chatted about school. Then we spoke about things we'd like to do in the future. I said one day I'd drive us to the Black Forest for a little holiday. James said he hoped I'd go to his house again as his guest.

"Remember you promised to swear shorts next time so I wouldn't be the odd one out?"

"Did I? I don't remember that. Maybe you could wear your new long trousers and we could go to a pub."

" Long trousers?" said James. "I can't see me being allowed to wear long trousers - unless it's at a funeral!"

"Well, next year I'll come to school in my car and take you out for the day and you could wear your school long trousers."

"Yeah, that would be good, Jols. Hey, this easterly wind is freezing my legs. Why don't you pull up the legs of those weird shorts of yours and you'll see what I mean."

Obligingly, I stood up and yanked at the hems of my shorts before sitting down again. "That better, O master?"

"Yeah, much better," said James, with a sexy little chuckle. "It might be a bit warmer if we sat closer together."

He slid along the bench towards me until our shoulders were touching. Then he moved his right thigh until it was pressed firmly to my left one. A frisson of electricity coursed through my body. I put down my can of beer and waited to see what would happen next. James was in charge of me and I knew I must obey him.

"Just look at that moon," said James. "Is that dark bit in the middle the Sea of Tranquillity?"

"I think so," said I, "and the Sea of Serenity is next to it."

"What lovely names. I wonder who named them?"

I was ready to launch into a bit of astronomy but felt James' hand on my right shoulder. It felt nice.

"Just warming my hand on your woolly sweater. Do you mind?"

"Course not," I said. What would he do next?

The answer was - nothing, at least not physically. My mind was frantically buzzing and there must have been something going on in his head. He kept his hand on my shoulder, I kept my hands on my knees but the left hand could feel James's knee because our legs were in such close contact. Did I have a hard-on? You bet I did!

"Do you want to ask me anything, Jols? You've seen more of my home life than any boy in the school. One day you might let me see your home life and then I'm sure I'll have questions."

You can probably guess what my question was.

"Well, there is something that's puzzled me for ages. Your shorts - why are they all so bloody short?"

"It's a long story, Jols. You know I'm a bit sports-mad, well I haven't always been. As a little kid I wasn't allowed to get dirty or play rough games. I suppose I was kept in cotton wool, I suppose I always have been, at home anyway. I had a mystery illness when I was seven and lost nearly a year's schooling. The doctor recommended lots of exercise so from about nine I began to play lots of tennis and cricket and at prep school lots of rugby and football. I got well and fit and enjoyed all this sport and got quite good at it.

"When I was twelve I was given a lovely new tennis racquet with its own press and some Fred Perry shorts. Up till then I'd played in PE shorts or swimming trunks but now I had shorts that grown-ups wore. I should have been grateful but according to Joan I threw a tantrum and said the new shorts were far too long and I wanted them much shorter, to give me freedom of movement. My sisters got to work and drastically shortened the shorts but I still wasn't satisfied. Apparently I wanted them even shorter and I also wanted the grey shorts I wore at school to be much shorter. I said I wanted them all to be as short as possible. So my sisters obliged and every pair of shorts I owned - and have ever owned since - were savagely altered. As you have noticed."

"Wow," I said. James had taken his hand off my shoulder by now. "But are you happy with it now?"

"Of course not! I started asking for longer shorts last year but it was too late. I'd already got the suit that's beyond belief and all the other shorts, like these ones, will see out my schooldays. You've seen how thrifty my mother is. No need to buy new clothes if the old ones still fit. Those horrid little prep school shorts won't get thrown away till they collapse! I'll probably be sent to college i n shorts!"

I tried to think of something useful to say but could only manage "Well, it certainly makes you interesting to look at."

"Someone for dirty old men to ogle, you mean."

"Maybe," I said, "but your mother thinks your legs are your best features so can you really blame people for admiring them?"

"Yes, they're good legs." Then James began to laugh. "Hey, Jols, why don't you be a dirty old man for a couple of minutes. Go on, have a grope!"

He rammed his bare thigh hard into my bare thigh and, not for the first time, I obeyed his instruction.

I placed my hand halfway up his right thigh and folded my fingers over its sumptuous contours. His skin was icy cold and I wondered if any snowflakes would melt after landing on it. I moved my hand slowly towards his knee then reversed direction, drawing it gently up towards the hem of his shorts but I never reached it as by then I'd run out of thigh, so I politely moved back to mid-thigh.

"Is that enough? " I said.

"No, not nearly enough. At the dining table they go on for ages. But tell me, Jols, as I can't see in the dark, have you got a naughty little hard-on?"

"I admit that I have."

"Well, that makes two of us. So have I! More groping, please."

Eventually the cold won its battle and we cycled back to school but now daylight was approaching and if we'd delayed much longer we could easily have been spotted. It had been a magical adventure and a couple of times James had done something which was for him very rare - to show emotion.

I don't really want to remember the last day of term. I was slightly sad to leave school for the last time and a lot sadder to say goodbye to James. He had a seven-week holiday at home to face. Lots of tennis and squash but also there would be drinks parties and dinner parties which he wouldn't enjoy and with them the threat of his bare thighs being groped by horrible old men.

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