Blessed Be the Merciful

by Rafael Henry

Chapter 13

Becoming the Legal Guardian of a minor is not a straightforward business, but nothing seems to be beyond the resources of my splendid mama and the force and energy that has guided her life, and imperceptibly perhaps is beginning to influence mine. You have the local authority to deal with, Social Services, The Child Protection people, the Housing Department, and of course the school, all requiring forms to be filled in, signed, and several witnessed. We, and when I say 'we', I mean Our Side, had a meeting with the Headmaster at Truro, a man I have spoken to maybe once. He knew more about Leon than we did, unsurprisingly, but was not going in to any detail. There is a meeting of the School Governors in one week's time, and Leon's case will be discussed, so the Head promises. He was certainly very sympathetic, and my mama thought his attitude was informed by some reservations he had about secretive and sometimes repressive organizations that purported to care for children, mentioning no names of course. This kind man is on our side!

The whole process should take weeks rather than months, a minor miracle in itself, my mother proclaims.

Late in the evening of August the twenty sixth, the news came through about Leon's education. It was the Headmaster himself on the 'phone. The Governors had met that afternoon and decided, given the circumstances, that they would take a generous view of the boy's predicament, and waive the fees. Not only that, but they would make a grant towards his clothing, and extras such as trips and other activities. If we undertook to give the boy a stable home and all that goes with it, then they would do the rest. Great. Not only that, but my scholarship will be extended beyond Key Stage Three to the end of Key Stage Four so both Leon and I can complete a sixth form course of study if we choose to. Personally I'm not very keen to do that, but if Leon wants to stay on being a schoolboy for two more years then I will.

Leon and I were in bed when I heard the 'phone ring downstairs and the muffled conversation that followed. By my mother's exultant tone of voice, I knew it had to be some sort of news, possibly very good news. I heard the back door close noisily which usually meant that my mother needed to see my father immediately. He would be in his little office in the church vestry working most likely on next Sunday's sermon. We would be given the news tomorrow. Leon had already fallen asleep in my arms. I couldn't wait to know, good or bad.

When I re-joined my boy in our bed, he looked more beautiful than ever, as if in his sleep he had been told of his future that now may burn brighter, like a dying fire rekindled into the flames of life. I whispered into his ear as he slept, and told him that I loved him, that he was safe, and free to grow in every way. He didn't wake, but was there just a hint of a smile and in him, the presence of the unknown god?

I lay awake for at least an hour, rather strangely, thinking about Peter and the evolution of the cast sculpture I made from the image of his standing figure, poised to dive into the sunlit calm water. In June, work on the prestigious new art gallery in St Ives had begun, located right on the main Porthmeor beach. The bus takes about three hours from here, quite a long time to cover the forty odd miles to the famous artist's colony close to the tip of the peninsular that is Cornwall. Somehow my parents would always find the money for bus fares if it was necessary or significant, educationally. I had no idea at that moment, with Leon's soft breath caressing my face, just how important that journey was to be.

I don't know why, but I slipped a photo of the plaster cast figure of Peter into my pocket as we waited for the bus, a double-decker that calls at every village along the north Cornwall coastline, spectacularly rugged as it is. We pass through tiny hamlets and larger groups of houses as we go, with the white breakers occasionally visible rising and falling onto the deep turquoise Atlantic, and to our left, the expanses of moorland dotted with outcrops of huge boulders worn smooth by countless centuries of wind and rain. For Leon, this is a new landscape and quite different from the kinder, smoother southern coast with its coves and sandy beaches that he knows, accessible from Truro and school. One day we'll walk to Lanyon Quoit and Men-an-tol from the village of Morvah and see the Neolithic burial site, a table-like structure, touch it and transport ourselves back three thousand years, and lie in the grass and ponder the past and an unknown future for us mortals.

The bus is about half full, and we find space on the back seat of the top deck, a place where most boys would head for. I insist that Leon sits next to the window for the best views. He leans into the corner as I sneak one arm behind his back. His Oxford clothes quickly saw the inside of the bin when he first arrived at the Rectory, to be replaced by what I have spare, albeit a little baggy on his slight frame. Everything is loose on him, so slipping a hand inside his tee shirt to feel the exotic smoothness of the bare skin on his back is easy. As Leon watches the landscape slip by, his mouth opens and his breathing quickens. These 'flesh-on-flesh' gestures are important for Leon. They tell him again and again that he is now part of us, joined permanently and securely within our golden cloak of love. When he takes my other hand and places it on his thigh, he telling me he's ready for more. The last ten days have been emotionally fragile times for us both. Perhaps now we might break free from the shackles? Perhaps in bed one night, sweet smelling from the bath tub, Leon might turn towards me and ask me to make love to him. As my hand glides further along the boy's thigh, Leon repeats his invitation by opening his legs wider. Already there's a raised bump in his shorts, but I'm savouring these moments. I take my time, teasing Leon, but then I have more in my hand. His pants are loose enough to have skin to skin contact, but I'm preferring to leave the silky thin layer of material between my fingers and the hardening forms that rest neatly at the base of his wonderfully responsive and swelling penis. Leon's hand has slipped inside his shorts and he's gently massaging himself as he stares unblinking though the window. As far as I'm aware he's not had release since he's been with us at the Rectory. Ten days now. Nor have I.

As we approach the roundabout at Porthlowan, there's a queue of at least a dozen people, mostly children carrying buckets, spades and other beach impedimenta reminding me of our marvellous holiday in France. All the faces focus on the doors of the bus as it screeches and judders to a halt. The double doors open and they pile, with excited voices, in. There's the sound of feet as the first group of children make their way, buckets, nets, spades in hand, to the back of the bus to join Leon and I. Leon remains in another place, but suddenly the back seat of the bus, designed to seat maybe five bodies, now has six along it. Next to the opposite window sits an older girl, and between me and her sit three boys. As I turn my face towards the flaxen haired boy wedged in beside me, I see a face staring back at me. He looks about ten, maybe eleven, fresh faced and looking delightful in his blue and white striped tee shirt and minimal shorts. At the top of his bare thighs, the skin has remained pale in contrast to the rest of his limbs, tinted over the summer months by the Cornish wind and sun. His clear blue eyes, unblinking, look into mine momentarily, before he casts them down to my lap……..and then up again to my eyes which have not left his sweet face peering through curtains of blond hair. He looks down again, and then back up for the second time, and smiles. The boy looks away and quite unconsciously, he gently touches the little bump in his shorts, reminded no doubt that he too has one of those interesting things that tingle between his pretty legs.

Blessed be St Enodoc, blessed be the wave
Blessed be the springy turf, we pray, pray to thee,
Give to those children all the happy days you gave to us
To Peter, Leon, Henry and me.

As our opportunity passes, our guns spiked by the presence and curiosity of the boy next to me, so Leon turns to rest his head on my shoulder, and closes his eyes. The feel of his warm skin on the palm of my hand is painfully erotic.

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