Blessed Be the Merciful

by Rafael Henry

Chapter 2

'It's nearly finished isn't it?' Observes Peter, as he leans over the table to get a closer look at the clay model of the standing figure.

'Not quite. Do you think he needs swimming trunks?'

'No. Leave him like that.' Insists Peter. 'But make him more lifelike.'

'Like you?'

'Yes, like me. It is me after all.'

'I've forgotten what you look like. You'll have to remind me.'

'What, here?' exclaims Peter, pretending to be outraged. 'Someone might see.'

Peter has one hand in the pocket of his trousers. Jamie's comment has reminded him of when their touching had begun. He remembers how it had felt that first time Jamie had touched him in that way, and how Jamie's hand had slipped inside his shorts and fondled him gently while their mouths touched. And what happened a little later.

'I'll ask Mr Drew.' Jamie says, referring to his teacher who may well have a view as to whether the figure should be clothed or nude. 'And I had another idea. Next weekend is an Exeat. Are you going home?'

Peter thought very quickly. What if his parents were away that weekend and he had to stay at school? Some boys never went home on the compulsory Exeat weekends as their people lived too far away. Like those Thai boys. They never went anywhere apart from the main holidays so they relied on other boys taking them to their homes. It was worth a try at least. The answer he gave Jamie opened the door……

'No, my parents are away. I think James Pitcher might ask me to go home with him.'

'Well tell James you are going home. I'm sure my parents will be fine with having you for a couple of nights. I'll let you know later this evening.'

It was a risky strategy for Jamie, as there was no guarantee that his parents would want another boy for the whole weekend. He would need a good reason……an act of charity in fact. Yes, that's how he would play it. But there's another problem.

Parents know only too well that it's unusual for a boy of twelve to be befriended by a boy two years older than he. It often indicates a certain kind of attraction. It's a matter of whether you allow it, or not. If the friendship has already developed beyond a critical point, breaking it up will usually create more problems than it solves. There may be anger and bitterness, disappointment, frustration, and some nasty rows and at worst, a probable but only temporary breakdown of the boy's relationship with his people. Anyway, an unpleasant thing all round, and of course avoidable.

When Jamie's mother collected the boys in the family car, and had her first sight of Jamie's new friend, it was her first thought. Having had no time to change from his summer games kit, mini white cotton shorts and tee shirt with navy school blazer over the top, bright ankle socks and white trainers, lightly tanned legs and arms, unruly flaxen hair, he looked 'all-boy' to her. Jamie, flushed for no apparent reason she thought, introduced Peter.

'This is Peter.' Jamie announces, almost apologetically, as if there was a tiny reason for guilt on his part.

'So I see darling. Hello Peter. In you hop. Your father will be late back tonight. Jamie, sit in the back with Peter.'

Driving along, Sally caught glimpses of the two boys in the rear-view mirror and thought what a handsome pair they made. She couldn't quite work out which boy was the luckier. In her mind she hadn't thought through the possible significance of Jamie bringing home a new friend and this situation had caught her on the hop somewhat. Jamie had brought a couple of boys home before but this seemed different. Maybe it was her, and there was nothing in it. Maybe.

There is no spare bed in Jamie's bedroom, right at the top of the pretty and symmetrical old Georgian Rectory built in the second half of the eighteenth century for a gentlemen of private means and his large family, all of whom ended up in the churchyard next door, and no less than five of which succumbed to disease very early in their lives. The furniture in Jamie's room consists of a single iron bedstead with a sprung base which tended to squeak with the movements of the occupant, a chest of drawers, and a set of pine bookshelves. On the bare pine floor boards by the bed lies a good quality wool rug, worn by decades of children's bare feet on it. Unplugged against the far wall sits a two-bar electric fire, for essential winter use only. Luxuries are few in this household. The Rector's income does not stretch to anything other than the bare necessities for the maintenance of life and health. Jamie's scholarship was both deserved but hard won by the Grace of God. Children are expensive, thus Jamie was the first and the last. With a man who wanted to give his wife everything, and a woman who was frequently in need of what her husband was reticent to provide, their decision to have just one child was not a difficult one. Too often she had looked at her husband's back when she had asked for his affections, and resorted to gently caressing her sex instead, bringing herself slowly but surely to yet another climax. She wanted to cry out, but knew she couldn't allow herself that that pleasure. In the morning he might ask her , but what he wanted had nothing to do with procreation.

Then the theft of a large area of lead from the roof and two artifacts of considerable value from the chancel led to the installation of a camera, secretly installed, and a system for recording images set up with a monitor in the vestry, paid for by the Friends of Rural Churches. For Sally, Parish life was a constant round of meetings with parishioners, some of whom she didn't much like but pretended she did, keeping the accounts up to date, organizing the flower rota, and countless other tasks for which thanks were never offered, all in unconditional service of, first and foremost, The Lord God Almighty, and then her over-worked and often exhausted husband.

Sally looks at the boys finishing their plates of baked beans on toast. They are still in the clothes they arrived in, still with the dust and perspiration accumulated from classrooms, corridors, sunny playing fields and the excitement they felt at just being together. Later she will heat the water for the boys to bathe in the large bath with the embarrassingly worn enamel. They should go to bed feeling clean and refreshed. Then the painful thoughts returned……..there would never be a grandchild. But they look so very beautiful together, so at home with one another, so peaceful in their young minds, so full of loving. But what kind of loving?

'Jamie, would you go and lock the church please.'

He'd often had this responsibility, and enjoyed the task as it gave him time to reflect inside the ancient thirteenth century building with it's granite walls and crudely carved ornamentation, and curved wooden barrel vaulting, painted by men long departed. Despite it's apparent hardness, the place gave him a softness of soul and spirit that he always felt when in there. Could God possibly smile on his love for a boy like Peter?

They were alone in there, sitting on a pew, bare legs bathed in shafts of coloured light from the tiny window between their bodies and the low evening sun, arms alight with gold, faces staring and wondering how they will begin, and how it will end.

Peter made the first move, touching Jamie's thigh and smiling. The boys instinctively move closer together, in a gesture of unspoken agreement. When Peter felt Jamie's arm around his back, slipped under his shirt and onto warm bare skin, his own hand gently pulls Jamie's head towards his. The boys feel their breath on each other's mouths, just before they engage.

Sally had fetched the sheets, a pillow and a blanket from the linen cupboard to make up the mattress the boys had dragged along the corridor to Jamie's room. She wondered once more what kind of relationship the boys had embarked on. Was it wrong, sinful, or something beautiful to behold and cherish? On the stairs, she remembers from her own experience from her schooldays. Albeit so many years ago, those memories still endure. Sally was such a pretty girl, and it was no wonder she had attracted the attention of older girls. There was one in particular who showed her such kindness, and when Sally responded so positively to the attention she was getting, they fell into a deeply loving and soon thereafter, a full sexual liaison. She knew she had to be as loving and understanding as she could possibly be towards her only child. There would be no awkward questions, no glances, nothing that might upset or unsettle him. It is his life to lead, not hers.

The kiss lasted longer than either boy expected, and when they disengaged, standing against one of the ten octagonal columns that held up the nave roof, a re-positioning of a certain body part was needed much to both boys' amusement. Churches were for acts of devotion were they not? Holding now behind the pillar, they imagined that they could not be observed by an all-seeing God.

'Are you glad you're here Peter?'

'Yes.' Answers Peter with that winning smile of his, as he feels Jamie's hands move lower. It's where Jamie always wants to be, with those golden globes warm against the palms of his hands. In response, Peter presses his body into Jamie's, his hands clasped around his neck, their heads together once again, as Jamie feels Peter's tongue force its way into his mouth. Jamie's hold on the boy's buttocks tightens, his palms smoothing their way around the clenched and hardened forms, finger ends probing, searching, questioning, and promising more. Breathless, they part. With his arms around Peter's neck……..

'We had better get back. Mum will be wondering. We don't have anything as sophisticated as a shower. It's a big bath. Is that ok?'

Peter looks down and laughs.

'We can't go back like this……can we?'

'We can walk round the churchyard a couple of times. Pick out your favourite name on a headstone. There are some good ones……Ebeneezer this and Josiah that. By the way, I love you.' Jamie announces quite out of context. The notion struck him in an instant and he just came out with it. How sweet boys can be. Peter looks back into Jamie's glazed eyes…….

'I love you too. I love you, I love you, I love you.' He says with a conviction that brought tears to their eyes, as hardness subsides.

Jamie hangs the large cast-iron key on the hook just inside the back door of the house. The wide pitch pine door, creaking as it went, has not seen paint for many years. Sally is busy in the kitchen arranging pots on the cooking range that works on solid fuel, winter and summer. There is no such luxury of an upstairs bathroom. Turning towards the boys she asks…….

'What do you sleep in Peter?'

'Err, just a tee shirt usually…… the summer…….Mrs……….I've…..'

'Just call me Sally please darling.' She says, not waiting for the rest of Peter's rather hesitant reply.

'Find Peter something after your bath Jamie.' She says, in that matter-of-fact way that busy people do.

The bath water was hot, comforting, and entirely what the boys needed as they lay in the largest cast-iron tub that Peter had ever seen. There was plenty of room for two very average sized boys' bodies, Jamie lying full length in the deep water with Peter's head resting just underneath his chin. It was another chance for Jamie to admire Peter's body and the small appurtenances, the cute little accessories amidships, as they lie relaxed upon the boy's tummy. Peter swishes the water to make it sway in the current, first this, then that way. The boys giggle, as Jamie smooths Peter chest and stomach. Then he feels Peter's nipples, and how hard they've become. Peter has said something. It's a quiet request. Jamie's hands slowly advance towards the soft subjects of Peter's request. How curious they feel, both soft and pliable, but complicated in their structure. The makers of human life. Peter lifts his legs until his ankles rest on the sides of the cream enamelled bath tub. Jamie, with his hands under Peter's bottom, hauls him high enough so that he can reach deep between the boy's buttocks. It's what both boys want……to feel and be felt, a sensation to be given and received. Jamie ponders for a few moments as he continues the circular motion. Should he risk upsetting Peter? He needn't have wondered…..

'Go on Jamie…….go on…….go on…..' Says the breathless Peter, as both boys imagine how much nicer that would feel if it was not half the length of a middle finger, but something else entirely.

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