A Boy Named James,

by Jolyon Lewes

Chapter 18

Summer 1965

The Summer Term was drawing to its conclusion. James and I were careful not to be seen alone together but we were able to exchange those longing looks and when we had the chance for a chat we spoke in a kind of code, so the amazing event in the summer house became the Day of the Summer House, which meant nothing to anyone but us. Other boys we would classify either as a Sam or a Runt, depending on how nice or horrible they were. Girls were not considered at all and I was forbidden to use the word Sarah.

As James had promised, we managed to do a bit of surreptitious groping for he spent most of the time in shorts and although these were of a marginally more sober cut than those he'd worn at home they still left his gorgeous thighs entirely bare. We managed a few bike rides and always found a shady glade in which to lie down for some groping.

I think both of us were frightened of talking about how we'd meet once the term had ended. For one thing we'd at first be in different countries and if I went to university in England I'd be many miles from school or James's home near Cambridge. I didn't like to admit to myself that university was a bit of a long shot as I'd done very little work for my A Levels. I couldn't get James out of my mind for a moment so concentrating on studies was impossible. What my father would say didn't bear thinking about. As for seeing James in the future I took my cue from Mr Micawber and hoped that something would turn up.

Something did turn up and it eased the dread I felt for the end of term and the goodbye to James. His sisters and their boyfriends had arranged to rent a six-berth narrow boat on the Shropshire Union Canal and expected James to join them and wondered if I might like to go as well. It was to be the first week of September, before James went back to school and long before any university term began. Needless to say, I was thrilled and eagerly accepted the invitation.

On the last night of term James came to my room. We decided that if he was caught with me there was nothing they could do to me as I was leaving school for good the next day and James would be the innocent party, having been coerced by me to visit me.

This time we didn't tempt fate by wearing our grey cord shorts, nor did James arrive in his PE shorts. We were both in school uniform. He came up at about 9 pm .

"Crikey, what a lot of booze! Is it all for us?"

"Yes," I said, "I hadn't thought of inviting anyone else."

It was highly convivial evening. I played no music so that we could hear anyone approaching. We took off our jackets and ties but kept our trousers on - for the first hour or so. James had a low alcohol threshold so it wasn't long before he began to slur his speech. Then came the inevitable invitation.

"Wanna grope, Jols?"

He kicked off his shoes and stood up to remove his trousers and shirt, giving me my first view of the day of those marvellous legs with that tantalising tan-line right at the top of his thighs. Then he took a large gulp from his glass and stood facing me as I sat on my bed. Moving closer to me he nearly lost his balance.

"How about an upright grope for a change? Have a good slurp then put your glass down and get both your hands on me. Oh Jols, you've got a hard-on already, you naughty boy!"

I put a hand on the outside of each of his knees and slowly drew them up his thighs until I reached the top. He put his hands on my shoulders to steady himself .

"That's lovely, Jols. Don't stop there."

I took my hands off his hips and put my palms together, as if in prayer. Then I put my hands between his legs right at the top and slowly drew my hands downwards, the upper surface of my fingers pressing gently on the exceptionally smooth skin of his inner thighs.

"Oooh, it tickles!" he said, with a little gasp. "Do it again!"

So I did, several times, noting that his briefs, merely six inches from my face, were tenting up nicely. With one hand he tousled my hair.

"You're dead cute, you know, Jols."

"And you're beautiful, my sweet boy."

"I think I'd better lie down, I feel a bit funny."

I put my hands on his waist and stood up to allow him to flop onto my bed where he lay on his back, head on my pillow and naked but for briefs and socks.

"That's better," he said, "can I have a kiss?"

He turned his face to the left, presumably expecting me to kiss his right cheek. This I did with great joy and tenderness. It was the first time I'd ever kissed him.

He turned his head to look at me with shining eyes. "More groping, please."

I knelt by the bed, my willy as hard as it had ever been, and ran one hand gently up and down each of James's thighs in turn, sometimes pausing to tickle the inner thigh with my forefinger and making him give a tiny giggle.

I was so intent on gazing at the impeccable form of his legs, at his unblemished skin, as smooth as polished marble, that it was some minutes before I noticed his eyes were closed.

"James, are you awake?"

No response. He was breathing steadily, his only movement being that of his chest, its skin as smooth and hairless as that on his legs. I stopped groping.

Should I wake him up? It was nearly midnight and his dorm-mates knew where he was so there was no alarm to raise. He might as well stay with me till morning.

I didn't sleep a wink that night. I remained kneeling by the bed, softly stroking James's wonderful body, exploring every square inch of it from his face to his toes but diligently avoiding what lay inside the front of his briefs. I didn't want to take advantage of his alcohol-fuelled slumber, I just wanted to adore him in silence.

When he awoke, at about 6 am, I made us some coffee. He had no memory of what had happened , for which I was rather glad as I thought it better if he didn't know about my obsession with his fabulous body. Luckily he didn't feel the worse for wear and at 7 am, when the bell went, he was dressed and ready to trot back to his dorm, leaving me with memories that have lasted my lifetime.

The less said about my summer holiday the better. I missed James dreadfully and was so grateful for the letters he sent, telling me what he'd been doing, which was mostly tennis, sometimes with 'that girl' and sometimes with Sam and often with his mother and sisters. He said he couldn't wait for our week on the narrow boat. Nor could I. Another thing he wrote was that he had to wear the Continental suit again. He didn't say why or where but it got my willy throbbing again, just as it does as I type these words.

My exam results were abysmal and my father was livid, again. With no prospect of further education I was told I'd have to return to England and find a job and somewhere to live. I wrote to the nice man I'd met at the Ellis's, Dr Leahy, the man big in pharmaceuticals. I also wrote to Mr Ellis, asking him if he could please write a reference for me if I managed to find a vacancy.

He replied by return, saying it would be his pleasure. He added that he was grateful to me for 'directing James to the paths of righteousness.'

Things then happened quickly. Dr Leahy's secretary wrote to say that if I wanted to, I could join the firm as a research assistant, no interview necessary, at the laboratory in Wolverhampton. The salary would be £485 per annum and I could start as soon as possible.

"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth," said my father. "Accept the offer and I'll pay your fare back to England and to Wolverhampton."

There was, however, a major snag. If I started work before the first week in September I wouldn't be able to go on the narrow boat holiday and it was essential to see James again. One good point was that Wolverhampton is very close to the Shropshire Union Canal so maybe I could at least have a weekend with him. I was grasping at straws but two things were essential: employment and time with James.

As it happened, I left Germany on Saturday 28 August with a gift from my parents of £20, travelled to Coventry to spend two nights at the home of my trusted friend from school, Pete, and on Monday took the early train to Wolverhampton to start work. The company had even found me digs near the laboratory so I had somewhere to live.

It's difficult to think nowadays that all these arrangements were effected by using only the postal service. No telephone calls, let alone emails, texting and so on. I sensed the kindness of Mr Ellis and Dr Leahy had much to do with my good fortune and resolved to make sure I did not let them down.

My first day at work was surprisingly pleasant. I met the people I'd be working with, was presented with two nice white lab coats and was told that I could take Friday afternoon off as a welcome gift from the firm. So I could have two nights on the narrow boat, getting back to Wolverhampton late on Sunday night. I was invited to telephone Mr Ellis who'd tell me where and when to meet the boat.

"Hello, Jolyon, congratulations on finding gainful employment," he said.

I thanked him for his part in arranging it for me. Then he gave me instructions.

"The boat set off today and James tells me that on Friday it will reach a village called Wheaton Aston. Your task is to travel there by bus or buses, in order to be there about six o'clock to meet James and the others in a pub named The Coach and Horses. On Sunday they will moor at Penkridge, from where there are trains to Wolverhampton. By the way, the boat's called Doris. I do hope you'll enjoy yourself."

Carrying my grip, I left my digs on Friday afternoon and travelled by bus to Wheaton Aston, through which runs the Shropshire Union Canal. I arrived at about 4.30 pm, found the pub and, it being a lovely afternoon, sat on a bench beside the canal and waited. I had butterflies in my tummy, so pent up was I about seeing James again. Would he be wearing shorts? I did hope so.

Narrow boats were coming and going and I saw a dark green one with a name that looked like Doris but when it got closer I saw it was Diana so I sat down again and waited.

Another dark green narrow boat was approaching. I didn't need to read the name because on the bow was a pair of bare thighs I recognised with a quickening of my heartbeat even before I saw the face of the young owner of those thighs. James looked very dashing in his pale blue polo shirt and white tennis shorts. They weren't the shortest tennis shorts I'd ever seen him in but having been expertly altered by his sisters they were far shorter than anything you could buy in the shops. I ran to where the boat was being moored. James saw me and waved. He leapt ashore and ran to meet me. We shook hands, for a long time, and stared into each other's eyes.

"It's so good to see you, Jols"

I wanted to say something affectionate but others might have heard and my courage deserted me.

"Anyone for tennis?" I quipped, indicating his shorts.

"Very funny, Jols, I managed to wreck my trousers in the canal on Tuesday. You didn't bring a spare pair of long trousers, did you?"

"No, sorry, I've only got the ones I'm wearing."

"I was stupid not to bring spares. It's so good to see you, it'll be nice to have someone my own age for the weekend. Come and meet the others."

James's sisters' boyfriends were perfectly nice but it was clear to me they regarded James as a boy and as I was his friend, I also fell into the category of boy. For all the time I was on the narrow boat James and I referred to the boyfriends as 'the men' and to ourselves as 'the boys.' The grown-ups slept in double cabins at the forward end of the boat and James and I had a tiny cabin in the stern, just aft of the galley.

We all went for drinks in the pub and James's sisters, Susannah and Joan, said how nice it was to see me again. James was his usual polite, reserved self in their company and in those little tennis shorts looked not seventeen but fourteen. I asked him how he'd managed to wreck his trousers.

"The prop got caught up with weed and I leant over the stern to clear it but fell overboard and the trousers ended up ripped and filthy. So it's shorts from now on, unless we go anywhere near a shop where I can buy something."

I wondered if the men had spare trousers but quickly dismissed the thought they might lend a pair to James as they'd have always seen him in shorts at the family home and probably thought, like his father did, that he far preferred shorts to longs.

"Wait till you see what I'll have to wear this evening," whispered James. "Son of micro-shorts."

"Why do you have to wear something? You're seventeen, for God's sake. You should wear want you want to wear."

"It's the same for you - your Dad makes you wear embarrassing shorts on your family camping holidays and you're two years older than me. Joan bought me some new shorts specially for this trip so I have to wear 'em and, of course, she shortened them and sewed up the back pocket. She also bought me some swimmers, so tiny that I think she must have bought them at Mothercare. I'm sure she thinks I'm still only about twelve."

We all walked back to the boat and while the men were making ready to cast off James showed me to our quarters. His narrow little bunk was on the starboard side and on it lay his sleeping bag. He put my grip on top of it.

"I'm James, sir, your cabin boy, at your service."

"Very good, James," I said, putting on a pompous voice. "But where do I sleep? Do we have to share this bunk?"

James smiled and tapped on the port side of the tiny compartment. "A bunk pulls down from here but we have to keep it up till bedtime or nobody can walk through the boat cos the gap's only about three inches. Behind your bunk is the shower. That's why it's so cramped in here."

I could hear the grown-ups chatting and asked James when we'd get the chance for a private chat.

"Walls have ears," he said, quietly. "We'll get a chance later, after supper. We'll have a walk on the towpath, just us two."

The engine started and the boat began gently to come alive. James pushed open the door and there in the stern was one of the men, holding the tiller. "Cast off," he cried.

There was room for about six people in the stern and James and I went to watch as the boat began to move slowly away from the bank and slide gracefully along the canal. Standing in the bow were the two sisters and the other man. It wasn't long before Susannah called down to the stern.

"James, would you be a darling and put the kettle on and make a pot of tea?"

James darted forward to the galley and did as he was told and I stood chatting to the man on the tiller, who explained where we were going. A mile or so from here was a canal basin where we'd moor for the night and have a meal made by the sisters. On Saturday we'd motor round a big loop in the canal system and moor near a pub where we'd have supper. On Sunday we'd travel about fourteen miles, via a flight of locks, to Penkridge.

"Working those locks will give you and James a bit of exercise," said the man.

So now I knew I was not a guest but a junior member of the crew. But not as junior as James - he was there to undertake the duties of cabin boy, waiter, washer-up, cleaner, deck-hand and general dogsbody. He seemed happy to take orders. Admittedly, the orders his sisters gave him were invariably prefixed with 'darling' or 'sweetie-pie,' which made them sound more like requests than commands.

Although we were in the heart of the English West Midlands we saw no towns and the canal passed through pleasant rural scenery. We saw more cows than cars. By 8.00 pm we were moored for the night and the sisters began to prepare the meal. James was employed in laying the table in the saloon and mixing a gin and tonic for everyone. I wasn't sure what to do so joined the men on the canal bank. They sat on folding chairs and I sat on a stout bollard. James appeared with four G & Ts on a tray.

He didn't have much chance to enjoy his drink because one of the men asked him to climb onto the roof of the boat and make neat coils of rope. When he'd finished his hands were filthy and there were muddy marks on his thighs so he said he was going to have a shower.

"You might as well finish James's gin, Jolyon," said one of the men. "He won't want it now."

When I held James's glass I looked to see where his lips had been and I put my mouth to that precise spot. I'd never do that with anyone else's glass and it made James seem very close. I didn't like the way he was being treated as a servant and I wished I could do something to boost his ego. Should I deliberately fall into the canal so he could rescue me? No, that would be silly as I didn't have any spare trousers.

Twenty minutes later we gathered in the saloon for supper. James emerged from our tiny cabin and I saw what he meant when he'd said 'son of micro-shorts.' He hadn't tucked his shirt in and only the lowest four inches of his shorts were visible. At first I thought they were leather shorts and my pulse quickened but they were actually of mid-brown moleskin and were even shorter than his tennis shorts.

"Oh, you do look a treat, darling!" said Joan. "Don't you agree, Jolyon?"

"Yes, Joan," I said, blushing.

James was also blushing. The men looked at him and smiled and one asked where the wine was. James turned and went to the fridge in the galley, tugging down on the hems of his shorts, something I'd seen him do so often. I saw that at the rear his shorts didn't quite reach his thighs. There still wasn't even the tiniest hair on the backs of those fine legs of his. They really were legs to die for. He looked nothing like seventeen. That feeling of Schadenfreude hit me again, hard.

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