All the Queen's Men

by N Fourbois

Part 1


"So, Oscar, you want to be gay."

"No, Dom." A hint of frustration could be heard in Oscar Daintree's voice. "I am homosexual, and as nothing can be done to alter that, I want to make the best of my sexual orientation and enjoy it."

"Well, you've come to the right place. Are you a top or a bottom?"

"A what?"

"A top or a bottom?" Oscar still looked nonplussed. "Do you stick it in or does someone stick it in you?"

"What is 'it'?"

"OMG, Oscar, you are so naïve. Prick! Dick, tool, penis, John Thomas, willie, nob, todger, plonker, whatever."

"Okay, Dom, I get your drift. You should just make yourself clearer. You are, after all, supposed to be my mentor."

Dom was in Year 10, or the Fourth Form as it is still known at the Queen's School, Oscar a newbug in Year 9. Oscar had been allocated Dominic Dumbleby as his mentor; Dominic had selected Oscar as his 'mentoree'. But let's go back to the beginning.

Oscar Daintree lived in one of those counties that had 'middle schools', that is to say a school for nine to thirteen year olds or Years 5 to 8. At thirteen you moved on to a senior school and parents could declare a preference since there were several senior schools in the area of varying specialities and reputations.

However, for the Daintree family the decision had been complicated by the fact that Mr Daintree had accepted a promotion in his job which brought with it living and working abroad for the next five years. Also Oscar's older sister, Alison, had to be taken into consideration. The decision concerning her had proved to be simpler. Because of public examinations it would be advisable for her to remain at her present school, and easier since Mrs Daintree's parents lived in the same town and being 'young' grandparents they could cope with one grandchild, but the general opinion was that two might be a step too far.

The other consideration was Oscar's 'little problem'. "Mum! I wish you wouldn't call it a problem. It may be one for you and Dad, but it's not one for me. And anyway, like it or not, you and Dad made me what I am. Get over it. I have. And Alison has, too, and Gran and Gramps."

"Sorry, love, but it's hard to know how to talk about it."

"Why don't you start by calling it what it is? It's not an illness. It's not a condition or a syndrome. It's homosexuality or male to male sexual orientation and despite what you might think, I did not choose it. We call it being gay."

"And who are 'we'?"

"Alison, the kids at school, the media, and these days it's no big deal. It's even been legal since 1967."

"How do you know all this, Oscar?"

"We learn it in PHSE at school."

"It's a pity you don't learn some of your other lessons at school so well."

"That's not a very kind remark, Mum," protested Alison who had just walked into the room.

"Sorry, Oscar. It's just so frustrating when we don't know what to do for the best for you."

"Why don't you start talking to me, Mum, instead of about me?"

"Well, you're still so young."

"I'm thirteen, nearer fourteen than exactly thirteen, and sufficiently adult to make babies."

"Oscar! That's close to getting coarse. And that's something else your father will need to talk to you about."

"That'll be a change."

"No need to be cheeky, Oscar."

"But it's true."

"Okay, Mr Smartypants, what do you think?" Alison was sitting quietly on a stool in the corner of the kitchen.

"To begin with, why couldn't I go to boarding school?" His mother's jaw must have just missed banging itself on the floor. "What's wrong?"

"The cost to begin with. It would take up most of your father's rise in salary."

"No, it wouldn't. Dad told me the company would pay the fees and expenses. And the travel at the beginning and end of term."

"He didn't say anything about that to me." Oscar shrugged his shoulders.

"Perhaps he knew how you'd react."

"And you'll get bullied."

"How do you know that? Tom Brown's Schooldays happened nearly two hundred years ago for goodness' sake."

"And it wouldn't help your issue," she continued undaunted.

"OMG, Mum, now it's become an 'issue'!" Alison was doing her best not to giggle as she sat there.

"Don't blaspheme, dear. It's quite unnecessary." The admonishment was proof, if proof were needed, that Mrs Daintree was finally recognising that she had lost the argument.

"In fact, the Queen's School has a very good reputation for dealing with boys who have an issue, or a little problem, or who wear glasses, or a brace on their teeth or who are left-handed. Not so good with the normal and heterosexuals, though.

"Oscar, that's enough! You're being sarcastic now." With his hands in his pockets and a shrug of the shoulders Oscar slouched out of the kitchen and went up to his room to avoid digging himself into a bigger hole.

"You know, Mum, you deserved that. You are so old-fashioned and intolerant. Loosen up a bit." Mrs Daintree would take criticism from her daughter. "Put the kettle on and I'll take him up a cup of tea."

There was a soft thud on Oscar's bedroom door and he hurriedly closed a window on his computer, zipped up his flies and pulled his tee shirt out of his moleskins so that it covered his crotch. "Come in."

"I can't. I've got my hands full." He opened the door to find Alison there holding a tray with two mugs of tea and a plate of biscuits on it.

"Oh, it's you, sis. I thought it might be Mum come to give me some more grief."

"It's all right, Oscar. She only wants the best for you. In fact, I think you've finally got her thinking now."

"I can always talk to you. You understand."

"You'll be calling me your fag hag in a minute."

"That's another thing. How do you know all this sort of stuff?"

"Did you ever think that Jimmy Butterfield and me were an item?" Alison and Jimmy had been in the same class since the year dot.

"Mmm, not really, sis. Just good friends. Admittedly I've never seen you two smooch."

"Think it through, baby brother."

"That's incredible. What you're saying is Jimmy's gay and you're his fag hag?"

"Something like that."

"But I mean, first team rugby and all that. He's not exactly your typical gayboy."

"Now who's being prejudiced?"

"Wow! Who'd have thought?"

"What? Me being someone's fag hag?"

"No, Jimmy Butterfield being gay."

"You know how to build a girl up and knock her down, don't you?"

"Only doing my job."

And that was the first step on a thousand mile journey that brought Oscar to the Queen's School as a boarder, but there was a lot of water to flow under the bridge yet.

It was while the family were sitting round the table having dinner that the subject of boarding school was raised again, and this time by Mrs Daintree. "Have you been reading that Harry Potter again, Oscar?" said his father, but soon realised that his humour was misplaced and he was prepared to listen to what was being said.

"No, Dad, it was just that we had a problem – and not my sexuality before you get the wrong impression." Oscar's mother gave him a filthy look. He had obviously touched a nerve. Oscar was undaunted. "It was just that we had a little problem and so I thought it through quite logically. If Gran and Gramps couldn't cope with me, the options were going to school in Canada with you or going to a boarding school. I remembered what you'd said about the company paying. Alison was staying here, making a precedent, and we could look after one another. So I pulled a few boarding schools up on the net. Queen's was not only the nearest, but the only one I'd heard anything about. This afternoon when I went out, I cycled over to see my mate Gerry because his elder brother went there."

"Because he was gay?" asked Mrs Daintree. Oscar didn't know whether she was being sarcastic or not and so he played a straight bat.

"No, because he had special needs."

"ESN?"* said his mother. Now she was being sarky.

"No! He was a gifted pupil, very intelligent, and he won a scholarship to go there. After Queen's he went on to Cambridge." He omitted to tell her that he was gay as well. He didn't feel that would advance his argument. Anyway, I went back to Queen's website. They've got an Open Day Saturday week and they're sending me a prospectus."

"Well, I'll give you your due, Oscar, you've proved your motivation. Your mother and I will talk it over and see whether we can go to it."

It had been a fruitful Open Day. Oscar and parents arrived shortly after the beginning where they were entertained to coffee and biscuits while listening to music being played live in the background. Parents and sons were separated, the former to receive a presentation from the Headmaster and his staff and the latter to be taken on a guided tour in small groups. Queen's was one of those schools that did not take pupils until Year 9 and therefore Oscar was not surprised that the majority of aspiring pupils were his age with a number of boys who looked about sixteen years old. What did surprise him was that his guide was a Year 9 boy, just one year older than himself.

At first Oscar just looked around. He might have been looking at the blend of old and new architecture, the layout of the dining hall where they were congregating, but no, he was boywatching with two objectives: first, were there any boys he liked the look of, and second, of those boys, were there any that he would really like to go to school with.

"My name is Dominic Dumbleby…" The loud clear announcement quickly brought Oscar back to what he was supposed to be thinking about. 'What a sexy voice,' thought Oscar. 'He looks really athletic despite the school uniform. Wouldn't mind putting my hand up between his legs. OMG, I think he's busted me looking at his package.' "… and I'm your guide. I'll do my best to let you know what it's like being a boarder at Queen's. Don't be afraid to ask me any questions." It was a sign of trust that the Headmaster selected junior boys to be guides and by and large his policy was successful.

The tour was the normal thing, classrooms, labs, games facilities and boarding houses inside and out. Dominic stopped outside one particular house and drew his audience close to him. "This is Tippett House, my house. You will notice two things. Each boarding house is named after a famous English statesman, author, musician, artist or scientist. I have no need to tell you that Sir Michael Tippett was a composer. The other thing is you will have noticed is that Tippett is a comparatively modern house. It was designed and built as a boarding house whereas the other houses are ones which were bought up as the school grew, and converted.

"There is something else I have to tell you about Tippett House," and he drew his little group of followers in towards himself in a conspiratorial manner. He lowered his voice to a whisper. "The members of this house are all gay." The boys all looked at each other. Some blushed, some tittered immaturely, one extrovert stood there pouting, one hand on his hip and the other held up with his wrist bent, doing an impression of a teapot and uttering 'ooh, ducky', another had his hand in his pocket fiddling with his balls while licking his lips. "Clifton College has a house set aside for Jews and Queen's has one set aside for… er, well, for queens." The reaction ranged from a reluctant giggle to a loud guffaw. Oscar pricked his ears up and he stood his ground.

"Excuse me, Dominic, how do you get allocated to this house?" From that moment he was a marked man. The extrovert continued in his outrageous manner, which at least achieved its purpose of disguising the big eyes he had continually been making at him. A couple of boys blatantly moved away from Oscar as if he had Ebola, but their places were filled by two others who said they wanted to ask the same question.

"You have to mention the fact, either on the application form or at your interview or it should appear in the references from your present school. The least embarrassing way is simply to make a request for Tippett House." Dominic Dumbleby came across as quite authoritative and knowledgeable and had gained the confidence of most of his group. "Now those who would like to, can take a tour inside." The two who had rapidly moved away from Oscar said

"Do you mind if we wait outside?"

"Please yourselves," said Dominic. "We'll be about five or ten minutes." Oscar made a mental note of their name badges. A couple of those that had blushed sidled up to Oscar and said in his ear

"We're with you, Oscar." He wrote their names down in his notebook.

From the front door they went straight to the common room where Mr Forrester and his wife were waiting for them. "Hallo, Dominic. Have you explained to your charges the special atmosphere in our house?"

"Yes, sir. I'm afraid a couple of them preferred to remain outside."

"Not to worry, Dominic. They probably wouldn't have fitted in anyway," said Mrs Forrester.

The party moved on through the facilities on the ground floor and up to the bedrooms on the first floor. "This is my dormitory," said Dominic. "The third formers share, six to a room." Oscar saw six 'stations' spread out in a large room. They consisted of a bed, a desktop with internet and storage facilities. A heavy curtain could be drawn to give the sleeper some privacy. Oscar said he thought the beds were rather hard. Dominic explained that the fact there were no springs in either the beds or the mattresses was ultimately viewed by the inhabitants as a plus point. "Know what I mean?" he grinned. All the accompanying group did appear to know what he meant.

Up a floor the party arrived at the private study rooms. "When you go into the fourth form, you are given your own study. Again the standard station, but one to a room. "The bogs and the showers are at the east end of the corridors on floors one and two. Oscar noticed that instead of numbers the rooms had names. Some he recognised, some he didn't.

"Do these names mean anything?" he asked.

"They are the names of known gay people in history. My dormitory is called Turing after Alan Turing, the famous code breaker who worked on the Enigma project at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. You are expected to know something about the name on your door."

Dominic Dumbleby had obviously captured the interest of his group, even of the Teapot, a nickname that stuck with him when he joined the school in the following September. He looked at his watch. "A quick look at the top floor. The Head of House occupies a special room with en suite facilities and extra space. There's a television room, a library with computers, though most people bring their own, and the medical room where Matron can isolate the sick and treat minor ailments. She has a flat here, as well. There isn't time to show you the basement. A lot of it is storage, trunks and stuff, there's a photographic room which isn't used very much in the digital photography era. The Forresters and their children live on the ground floor and the house tutors' room is there. We've got to move on or the following party will catch up with us. I'll take questions as we walk." The group said goodbye to the Housemaster and his wife and walked off towards the playing fields.

"How many of you will definitely be coming here next term?" asked Dominic.

"I will be," said one of the two that befriended Oscar after he 'came out'.

"So will I," said the Teapot.

"I will be," said one of the dissidents, "but I won't be in Tippett House. I shall ask for the house that's farthest away." A high pitched whoop of 'Ooooh!' went up; he showed them the finger.

"I want to," said the other of Oscar's new friends, "but it depends whether I get a scholarship or not." Another said he would as his father and uncle had come to Queen's.

"What about you, Oscar?" Dominic asked.

"I'd like to, but it depends on whether my mother likes the school or not. My parents are going to Canada to work for five years and I either go to boarding school or to school over there. My mother thinks that I'll get bullied at boarding school because I'm gay."

"We'll watch your back," cried the others.

"That's one thing that won't happen to you," said Dominic. "We have a very effective support team. Things might happen. You have over seven hundred boys together, they are bound to, but you won't be bullied, not even by the dork that wants the house farthest away. Things will only happen if you want them to happen."

"Can you say that to my mother?"

"I'll look out for her. My next group should be all your parents if the plan works out."

While they were walking and talking on their way back to the dining hall, Oscar hadn't noticed that Dominic had put his arm round his shoulder. He did, however, when it slipped down to his waist. He didn't resist; he just felt himself getting hard in his trousers.

Back in the dining hall the boys were briefly re-united with their parents and the change-over took place. Oscar was able to indicate his thoughts to his mother and father and emphasised to his father how much he would like to come here and would he do his best to persuade Mum. "I don't think you need worry too much on that score, Oscar." His father was about to say something else when Mrs Daintree with Alison came up to them and said

"Come along, Arthur, or we'll miss the tour." The parents were taken on the tour; the boys received the presentation from the Headmaster.

The Headmaster, with help from the staff, finished his presentation and received a hearty, as opposed to a polite round of applause, an achievement in itself from well over a hundred adolescent boys, not to mention the sixth form applicants. The ethos of the school appeared to be freedom with responsibility. There were the usual questions about sports, holidays and exeats, what happened at weekends. One thirteen year old, one who hadn't been in Oscar's group, stood up and said "Sir, I'm gay. Will I be accepted and safe here?" There was a shuffling of feet from the audience, but no other reaction. Several boys were relieved that he had asked the question that they wanted to put, but hadn't dared. The Headmaster fielded the question himself rather than delegating it.

"We have built up this school on a spirit of tolerance and diversity. If you join us and find that you are being bullied in any way, you are to come to me, or in my absence my Deputy, immediately and I will take a personal interest. That's not sneaking. That's maintaining the collective security and ethos of the school. I can't guarantee that it won't happen among seven hundred and fifty boys. I can guarantee that it will dealt with without fear or favour."

At the end of the question and answer session the Deputy Head took over. "Young gentlemen, while you were taking your tour, certain things were happening here. Some of you have come here today knowing that you will, hopefully, be joining us in September. For others it was a 'look-see' exercise and you will have things that you want discuss at home. For yet others you may be surprised to learn that your parents made a formal application this morning. Don't think that you have been sold into slavery because we would not accept any boy against his will. Now I must ask you to be patient while we conduct interviews. I shall read out the names of the interviewees and the time they are expected to report here. Meanwhile feel free to use the school facilities, including the buffet lunch. Watch the school matches and talk to the present pupils. You are free to leave when your parents say so." He proceeded to read out a list of names and times. Meanwhile the secretarial staff were putting copies on the notice board. Imagine Oscar's surprise when he heard his name called out for an interview at 2.15. He could not wait for the parents' tours to return and when they did, he immediately caught his dad. His mother and Alison were engaged in earnest conversations with other mothers.

"Hi, Dad, you put my name down then?"

"Yes, son. Strike while the iron's hot as they say. Your mother was in favour. She's been impressed with all she's seen and heard. You can thank Alison for encouraging her. We were certain that you wanted to come here and if you didn't, you wouldn't have to sign the form, and finally, if you didn't come here, we'd have to go through this rigmarole all over again at another school. Admittedly, I don't think Alison exactly relished the idea of being left alone here in England, if you went to school in Canada, but we'll say no more about that."

"Thanks, Dad, that's wicked, and if the guys I met this morning come here as well, I am going to have a great time."

"And presumably you're going to put yourself down for Tippett House?"

"What do you know about that?" asked Oscar, eyes and mouth wide open.

"Trust your mother to winkle these things out. She got talking to Mrs Forrester."

Finally Mrs Daintree with Alison joined her husband and son. "Are you pleased, Oscar?"

"Couldn't be happier, Mum. Thanks." He whispered his thanks to Alison too.

"Don't thank me. Thank Dominic Dumbleby," she replied softly. "I think he fancies you," she whispered. "He certainly used all his charm on Mum to win her over.

"Let's go and get something to eat," said Mr Daintree "and we can swap notes."

Oscar was becoming quite excited about his interview. "Remember," said his dad, "they're not just interviewing you. You're interviewing them. It's a tough market for independent schools these days and they don't want you to go elsewhere. Unless it's Eton or Winchester, gone are the days when you have to have your name put down at birth."

Oscar was interviewed by the Director of Studies. He didn't really know what a Director of Studies did. Directed studies, he supposed. However, he got Oscar to open up and talk about himself, what he was interested in at school, what games he played, what he read, what he did in his spare time and when Oscar was thoroughly relaxed, he slipped in the question why he wanted to come to Queen's. The master was impressed that he had researched it himself and come to a decision. "Oscar, we have a couple of formalities. First we get you to sign a contract and the most important part is that you want to attend this school. The rest deals with your commitment to schoolwork and good behaviour. Before you sign it, I want you to read it out loud to me so that I know you've read it and hopefully understood it. Then you may sign it." When he had signed it, the master said "Naturally we need to obtain reports from your present school before we confirm your place and up till then you may withdraw, of course." Oscar smiled. He felt as if he was really being treated as a grown up. "Now one last question from me. From anything you have seen today, or heard, is there any particular house you would like to be allocated to?"

"Tippett House, sir."

"Who was your guide today?"

"Dominic Dumbleby."

"I thought it might be. A very astute and persuasive young man." The master wrote down the answer and left it at that. "Thank you, Oscar, for coming to see us. I hope we shall meet again in September."

"Thank you, sir," and Oscar said goodbye.

Within ten days Oscar's parents received confirmation from Queen's that reports had been received and that he had been allocated a place at the school, and furthermore one in Tippett House. A day later two well stuffed envelopes arrived, one addressed to Oscar and one to his parents with similar contents: details about joining the school, clothing and kit lists and general information. Oscar took his up to his room and started to read it before he got on with his homework.

'The School takes about seven hundred and fifty boys from the age of thirteen and eighteen (Years 9 to 13), although we prefer to keep to the old numbering – third form to upper sixth. The pupils are housed in ten boarding houses which are situated in the extensive school grounds. Apart from the oldest, School House, they are named after famous English men of the arts and sciences. They vary in size from sixty to ninety boarders, each under the care of a Housemaster who lives in with his family. He is assisted by house tutors.' Oscar stopped reading and thought. 'So it's true about one in ten being gay. Seventy-five in Tippett House out of a school of seven hundred and fifty.' He had not allowed for the statistical distortion owing to Queen's encouraging the care of gay pupils. 'It is a tradition that the houses develop their own atmosphere and ethos and so at the end of five years there is no such thing as a 'typical Queen's boy'. Each alumnus will have been allowed to develop his own skills, strengths and abilities, and therefore personality, within the framework of academic work and discipline, preferably self-discipline.' 'Mmm, 'within' emphasised. Work and behave yourself and you will do well.' He looked through the clothing and kit lists. 'Yes, school uniform for school and chapel, and own clothes for free time.' He remembered Dominic saying something about having to wear school uniform all the time as a punishment.

He read through the lists. Virtually two of everything, one in use and one in the laundry, even more shirts, socks and underclothes. 'Very detailed and precise. Good job Mum and Dad don't have to pay for all this.' He could hear his mother calling him down to tea.

After tea Oscar got on with his homework. He was diligent and well-organised by nature and ready to please. When he finished, he normally went downstairs and sat with the family watching television. However, tonight he was still feeling excited at the prospect of going to his new school, even though there were still over three months to go until his parents went to Canada and four until went to his new school. There was a whole summer to be enjoyed until then.

"You're fidgety tonight, Oscar," said his mother.

"I know. It was getting all that stuff through about my new school. I can't wait to start."

"You shouldn't be wishing your life away, my boy."

"I know that too, but this is different, especially after all the doubt about schools over the past few months. I just know that I am going to fit in there. I can't stand this stuff on TV. I'm going upstairs to read through all that bumf they sent through."

"I thought you read it before tea?"

"I did, but I want to read it again just to make sure it's true and I'm not dreaming."

In his room he took the papers out of the large envelope and went and lay on his bed to look through them. That's really all he did, thumb through them, for in his mind he had returned to that day, nearly two weeks ago now, when he was visiting the school. His thoughts turned to Dominic Dumbleby. 'Was Alison right? Did he really fancy me? He did put his arm round my shoulders, then slipped it down to my waist. It did give me a stiffie too and I did nothing to stop him.'

Despite knowing he was gay, Oscar had never been touched by another boy or even touched one himself. Well, not 'romantically'. It happened all the time in a rugby match, but that was different. That Saturday night after the Open Day, when he was lying in bed having a wank, wasn't it true that he couldn't get Dominic out of his head until he had shot his load, and that was only because he went to sleep right away? He always had masturbation fantasies about his friends, or boys at school, or even boys on television. How he'd like to get his hand inside the trousers of that Jake in Outnumbered . He'd had a wank with some of his friends, but they'd only done it to themselves, not each other, and officially they were straight anyway and just doing it because that is what all adolescent boys get up to.

His mind wandered onward. 'Then there was that card I found slipped into my pocket. I haven't done anything about that, either.' He went to his desk drawer, rummaged around and finally found it. He recognised the mug shot. 'He was quite cute, that kid. Toby Awnott. I'll send him a selfie.' He thought of the other boys he had met. So many he had found attractive, attractive in a way his own schoolmates weren't. Perhaps it was because he had grown up with them and now at Queen's he had discovered fresh talent.

He started to pull his clothes off and at each stage he stood in front of the full length mirror and studied himself critically. In general he was content with his body, but as he stood there, he dismissed himself as average. He wasn't; he was far better than average, but he would need to be convinced of that. He slipped the bolt on the bedroom door before he let his boxers drop to the floor. He picked them up with his toe, threw them in the air, caught them in mid-air, spun them round on his finger and let them go to fly and land on top of the linen basket. He grinned to himself and started to wiggle his hips. His balls were always tight. He hadn't learnt how to loosen them, a hot bath would do it, but wiggling his hips he could make his dick flail around like a branch (he avoided the word 'twig') in a high wind with the advantage that it would lengthen without growing stiff. He was anyway a grower rather than a show-er. He picked up his phone and took a selfie.

That part of the cabaret over, he calmed down and took a critical look at his whole body. 'Now, would I want to date myself?' he asked. 'Feet fine, and legs. Quite muscular really. Not much of a bum. That's a plus, I think. Don't really go for bubble butts. They look a bit fem.' 'You'll change your mind one day, my lad,' said a little voice from a different part of his brain. 'Now, prick and bollocks. They really have grown over the last year, and as they've been growing, so has my interest in other boys. I wonder if that's a coincidence. I know. I'll take another selfie of them. I've got a 'before' shot somewhere on the 'puter. I'll compare. But it's a bit of disaster area all the same. I like the way my balls push my nob forward. Wait a minute.' He went to a drawer, pulled out his light blue speedo and put it on. 'Mmm, now that's not a bad bulge, even if I do say so myself.' He experimented with his dick down. His balls made it stick out forwards. 'Good profile.' Dick up. Nice outline, but it won't stay there. Dick left. Bit uncomfortable. Dick right. Ugly, inelegant and uncomfortable. 'So dick forward and / or down it is.'

He took his speedo off and put it back in the drawer. The wet spot where his clack valve had leaked precum would soon dry. 'Now what am I going to do about my pubic hair?' He had never cut his pubes, ever since they first appeared. His legs and body were hairless, which emphasised his bush, and bush was an apt word. But it hid his tackle and another thing that did annoy him was trapping pubic hairs under his foreskin when he was having a wank. 'Some kids at school think I belong in a freak show. Only one thing for it, they'll have to go. Job for the weekend when Mum and Dad go shopping, but I'll need to buy a razor and shave gel first. I daren't use Dad's. He'll find out.'

Oscar turned his attention to his belly button and abdomen. "Nothing wrong there. Nice innie, flat upper and lower stomach, no flab, just a bit soft.' He'd never paid any attention to his nipples till now. 'Dark red against white skin, round like a ten pence coin. Well formed. Some kids have flabby ones, oval shaped.' His eyes continued the journey upwards. 'Thin neck. I can never get a shirt to fit properly. Always looks like a horse collar on me. Face, yes, I like my face, especially when I grin or smile. Snub nose – looks cute and sexy. Voice – yeah, like it.' It still had that rasping tone of the newly broken voice before it settled down. 'Hair. Mmm, now I know why I began with my feet. Mousy, straggly, limp. No body. That's really why I keep it short. Might have to ask Alison what to do about that. But meanwhile… Yes, got it. Could have a bit of a fight on my hands with Mum, but if I can get Alison on my side… How much time did I say I've got? Three months until Mum and Dad go to Canada, four until I go to Queen's. I can let it grow for six, maybe eight weeks until the nagging starts, then just a month of nagging, but Mum should have too much on her mind to worry about my hair. Another month so that the hairdresser has something to work on, then a week before term begins, I'll get it dyed blond and permed into curls. Then when I turn up at school, they'll think that's my natural colour and style and I won't get myself into trouble.'

Oscar stood back from the mirror, admired his whole body, imagined himself with blond curls and was overcome by the temptation to wank himself off. He was already so worked up that it turned out to be a quickie – a quiche he called it – and he quickly cleaned his spunk off the mirror with a couple of tissues before his mother came up to say good night, and before it dripped down onto the carpet. His balls felt quite a bit looser now.

He slipped into his pyjamas and went downstairs. "Where's Alison?"

"In her room, I think," said his mother.

"Weugh!" (**adolescent boy grunt**) "Didn't think to look there," and Oscar disappeared back upstairs.

He knocked at her door. "Just a minute." He heard the bolt on the inside being slid back. The door opened. "Oh, it's you."

"You sound disappointed, sis. Expecting someone else?"

"Only the boy of my dreams. Come in, Oscar. You'll have to do instead." He went in and saw a pack of tampons and an opened box of tablets on her dressing table.

"Headache, sis?"

"No, just Eve's curse." He feared that this might not be the right time for a 'big sister little brother' talk.

"I thought from the paracetamol…" he continued, digging the hole deeper.

"They're not paracetamol. They're to ease period pains, if you must know." But he did know, and knew differently, for from the way they were packed and the brand name they were contraceptive pills. One of the things he and his sister had in common was that they both liked boys. One advantage of having an older sister, he thought, was that she would bring some pretty lush boys home, and Jimmy Butterfield.

"What I wanted to ask," said Oscar, determined to improve the mood of the conversation, "is what can I do about my hair?"

"What do you want to do with it?"

"Well, I don't want to turn up at Queen's with it like this."

"What's wrong with it?"

"The mousy colour, the natural untidiness, the straggly hair. Your hair has body and it shines. Mine… well, it does nothing."

"Do you use hair conditioner?"

"Air conditioning?" Alison giggled. He had succeeded in changing her mood.

"No, hair conditioner, cloth ears. How do you wash your hair? You do wash your hair, don't you?"

"Of course. Every day in the shower."

"And what do you use?"

"Soap, of course."

"What? Ordinary soap in a bar?"


"I think we can start there. What are you doing after school tomorrow?"

"Not a lot."

"Okay, I'll meet you in town and we'll go shopping. A quarter past four by the statue in the Square and bring some money. Ten pounds should be enough. I'll lend you some, if we go over the limit."

"Ten pounds?"

"Oscar, we have got major reconstruction work on our hands."

"Gee, thanks, sis. I've also got to get a razor and some shave gel."

"It should still be enough."

"And there's something else, bit of a favour, actually."

"A bit of a favour? Heavens, you boys are sooo inarticulate."

"Okay, clever clogs, a favour." He lowered his voice as if there were someone outside the door eavesdropping. "I want to grow my hair until about a week before I go to my new school, then get it dyed blond, cut and permed into curls." Alison was silent for a moment,

"Actually, that would quite suit you. Would Queen's allow you to go there with permed and dyed hair?"

"That's the point. If I turn up like that, they won't know. They'll think it's natural and if I don't like it and let it grow out, they can't blame me for my natural hair, can they?"

"Oscar Daintree, you are one devious boy. But what's that got to do with me?"

"I want you to keep Mum off my back. She listens to you. You can explain what I'm trying to do. It'll be for just under three months and I think Gran and Gramps will be pretty laid back about it for the final month." Alison thought.

"Okay, I'll do my best. And I'll help you with your hair care, but I suggest you get your hair cut while you're in town tomorrow, trimmed rather than cut, so that you start off in a tidy state and delay the day when Mum thinks your hair's too long."

"Good thinking, Alison."

"Before you go to bed I'll wash your hair for you and show you how to use the conditioner. Oh, by the way those pills you keep staring at are for period pains, not what you think. Understood?"

"Who's being devious now? And is that bribery or blackmail?"

"Bribery, unfortunately. Blackmail's far more effective and usually cheaper."

"Understood, but who's your boyfriend?"

"Mind your own business. I don't ask about your lovelife."

"Only because I haven't got one."

"And that's another thing. You might seduce him. In fact, I've just thought. I may be able to call in the return favour sooner than I thought. I'll be in touch."

Next day Oscar left his middle school as soon as his class was dismissed. It was four o'clock when he reached the Square. He looked at his watch. 'Aah, a quarter of an hour's boywatching.' He looked around. 'Not much talent around today. S'pose it's a bit early really. Why do I find boys so attractive? Apart from the ones I go to school with. There is not one in my year I'd want to date. Yet at that Open Day nearly every boy I noticed was hot for one reason or another.'

Alison arrived five minutes early. "Hi, Oscar."

"Hi, Allie."

"Not much talent around today."

"Tell me about it. I've been bored stiff waiting… well, bored." That was one interest brother and sister did share, boywatching, even though there was a marked difference of opinion on what constituted a 'hot' or a 'cute' boy. "Where are we going?"

"I think Wilkinson's is as good a place as anywhere. We are after basics, not the sophisticated stuff I use."

"Oh, get you, sis. You're wasting your money, dear." She gave him a friendly hit over the head with her schoolbag. "You've just killed a million brain cells."

"Sorry, Oscar. You can't afford to lose them. Are you going to get your hair cut?"

"Yeah, Mum gave me the money."

"When I was talking to Jimmy, he recommended a hairdresser in the alleyway by the cinema. He specialises in gay clients and you can talk to him about what you want to do with your hair."

"Does Jimmy go there?"

"Of course."

"He does a good job on him. I'll try it. He's not überexpensive, is he?"

"No, he does an introductory rate, and an under sixteens' rate. He's trying to build up his customer base among the gay community and he offers a loyalty card."

The purchases in Wilkinson's were easily done and Oscar had some change from his ten pounds. "I'll wash and condition it again for you tonight. Then after that I think you can do it for yourself. If you've got time, do it in the morning when you shower. You can borrow my hair dryer. You'll need it if you're going off to school." They found the hairdresser in Bull Lane. Instead of a red and white barber's pole outside, it was painted in the gay rainbow colours. Oscar and Alison walked in. Afterwards she said it felt strange that everyone in there was ogling him and not her. Finally it was his turn and he climbed up into the chair.

"What can I do for you, young sir?" Oscar explained his long term plan and the barber got down to doing the initial trim. While they were talking, the barber asked several questions. "So what brought you into my salon?"

"My sister's gay friend recommended it." He didn't add that he was gay himself; he thought that was either obvious or too much information for a first visit. The barber went on to explain his loyalty card scheme.

"If you decide to join, you get ten percent off the list prices." He omitted to mention that the ten percent had already been added onto the list prices.

"And when I'm finally ready to have my hair dyed and permed, are you able to do it?"

"Certainly, but what I do suggest is that a week before you want it done, you ring up or come in and make an appointment because it will take at least an hour and I shall need to bring my husband in to look after the other customers."

"How much will it cost?"

"If you sign up to my loyalty card, you'll get a price list and before you go I'll work out a special price and write it on the list for you and that's what you'll pay. Also, do get it trimmed every so often. It's not compulsory for long hair to be scruffy. By the way, I don't expect a tip from my clients who are still in full-time education, which I take it you are, young man, since you're wearing school uniform."

Luckily the barber had no more customers that afternoon and he could take his time. Since it was nearing closing time, he locked the door and put up the 'Closed' sign. When he had finished and Oscar had paid him, they set about pricing the final cut and when Oscar had joined the loyalty card scheme, the job and price were written down on a business card. "Be sure to bring that along with you." The barber unlocked the door and let Oscar and Alison out.

"Hey, that was good," said Oscar. "I liked him, even though he was rubbing his crotch against my elbows as he worked round the chair,"

"So you tucked them in, Oscar?"

"Oh, no. That was my first real gay experience… ever." When they got home, Mrs Daintree said "Now that's tidied you up, Oscar. I like that." 'Mmm,' thought Oscar, 'Mum's onside. At least for the moment.'

It was ten days later that Alison called in the return favour. "What are you doing next Saturday evening, Oscar?"

"Nothing really."

"Okay, this is for your ears only. There's this rather dishy guy at school, I'm trying to pull. His name's Rich, but everybody calls him Rock. Oh, and he doesn't know it yet, either. So it's all a bit hush hush. Now this is the plan. Jimmy and I are going to see Warhorse at the cinema. I'm going to ask Rock if he'd like to make up a foursome. If he says no, then it's just Jimmy and me watching Warhorse , but should he say yes, two's company, three's a crowd and this is where you come in. You in fact make up the foursome and your reward is a date with Jimmy Butterfield."

"Alison! And you have the cheek to call me devious. Yes, of course I'll do it. I've never been on a date before."

"Oh, and if all goes well, don't worry if Rock and me get separated from you and Jimmy in the crowd afterwards when we come out."

The atmosphere at home changed as Mr and Mrs Daintree started making the arrangements for their move to Canada. The children had been sorted out, which was the most important thing, but the house still had to be let, bank accounts arranged, furniture stored. What were they going to do with the car? Mr Daintree had to fly to Vancouver for an induction course and to set up arrangements there, as well as finding a somewhere to live. The net result was that Mrs Daintree had plenty to occupy her mind and consequently was no longer on Oscar's case all the time. The time flew by, Oscar's hair grew with little comment from the 'rents and Alison never did get her date with Rock. Oscar wondered 'Am I going to remain a virgin all my life?'

The upshot of all this was that the new school year at Queen's started a month after Mr and Mrs Daintree flew out to Canada to begin their five year tour. Alison returned to her school the day after Oscar. She took some pictures which she said she would e-mail to their mother and father. With 4700 miles between them and over three months till he saw them, if Mum didn't like the hair, it scarcely mattered, said Oscar. He turned up outside his boarding house with grandparents, sister, trunk and tuck box to be greeted by the Housemaster and the staff.

* ESN – educationally subnormal, an outdated term now usually euphemised as 'statemented'.

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