Blessed Be the Merciful

by Rafael Henry

Chapter 18

It's true, I have been losing weight steadily whilst at Alex's flat in the studio. Preparing nutritious food for one is a bore, as anyone who does that will tell you. I have no funds to go out for carbohydrate stuffed bar meals at the Sloop. When I do go, someone will buy me a small glass of beer which I can make last for an hour or so.

And so it is that I no longer need Alex's flat. When I told my mother she was thrilled that I would be in a 'proper' home and be catered for in exchange for modelling duties. If truth be told, it's also an act of charity from Francesca, and I will be company for Day into the bargain. I imagined that Leon, in Truro, would have become aware by telepathy, and be pleased to know that I have a young companion here in St Ives, secure in a stable home and more, albeit far less complicated, love to give. I just want someone to care for. Day is pure in heart and a ray of sunshine on dismal dark and dreary days of a Cornish winter. With Francesca so busy in the evenings, I've effectively become the au pair here, cooking simple meals for Day and I after his school day, talking to him at his bath time, helping with his homework, and settling him down to sleep, and in the morning, helping him get organized for school and walking with him the short distance to the Victorian building with two entrances……boys on the left side, and girls and infants on the right. After school Day will walk round to the studio and hang out with me there.

He has persuaded me to lie down in the bed with him when I read to him. Then, after our chapter, he wants a cuddle of course. He's at that curious stage when his body has started to interest him, and what it wants to do. He has lots of questions and he demands the answers from me. I'm saving Francesca an awkward job frankly, but I think I'm well enough qualified to walk with Day along that tricky path towards and into puberty. Perhaps tonight sleep will overtake his mind and body before it's my time to leave him.

Another Cornish winter is here, with its low grey skies and drizzle. That's when it's not blowing a howling gale from the south west and chucking it down. While the furnace that I tend by day, melting metal, warms me, the little electric fire warms me too as I stand naked for Alex and Francesca. Day might warm me by night if sleep evades him. You can fit two beds into our little bedroom at Francesca's two up and two down terraced house, the larger single for me and the narrow one a few feet away for the smaller body of Day. In the evenings, what I do, Day does. We don't need any sort of privacy which I find refreshing and a delight, even for the most mundane and necessary functions. Day has his bed of course, and I have mine. But when he pleads with those green eyes set in a pale grey sea and tells me that he can't sleep, I'm not going to say he can't. Gently, his bed covers fall away as he moves the few feet between our beds. I make room for him as he works his way across my bed so that our bodies are touching. I stroke his head and feel his mouth pressed against my chest. I feel his hands held together, too soon to touch me. Minutes pass as I run my hands down the cool skin of his back, across his shoulders and into his pale brown hair again, until permission is granted and Day is now free to roam. With Leon in my deepest thoughts, there is room for Day too. I have no requirements as most sixteen-year-old boy's do, but Day is here, and pleased to comfort me with unerring sensitivity. Such gentle pleasure he gives me, so delicate the touching, so sweet the little kisses we share as another love takes hold. Now my little beauty will sleep in my arms. Another love, but not one that will blunt and blur and diminish that other one, darling Leon, that will have no end. These are the gentlest of pleasures.

Another year, another August Thursday…….the publication day of Leon's exam results……the big ones……the ones that really matter. The old postman on his bicycle has gone now, retired to a stone cottage with a garden surrounded by stone walls with wild flowers embedded in them, past their best now, as he is.

A van calls now, pillar-box red still, with the dreaded news in a white envelope.

'Darling, the postman has been. Shall I go?'

No, Leon goes, slowly towards the shape on the mat on the floor in front of the heavy mahogany door with its glazed lights filled with coloured glass. There's silence throughout the house, even the walls are waiting for the news. Alone, he gently eases the paper flap apart and takes the sheet from within, and reads it. Seconds pass. The boy, taller now, straight-backed and noble, raises his head and looks towards the kitchen where the woman who has been his surrogate mother this last five years waits, her hands held together in her lap.

Why did she ever worry? Why did she ever think he couldn't or wouldn't? Why did she ever doubt him? But in Leon's dark and brooding eyes that morning, she did see that elusive and unknown god.

Alex has had an offer of a studio in London. It's to share space with three other artists. The complicated bronze we worked on for six months was finished and accepted by the prestigious art dealers, Darby's in Cork Street. It's a massive breakthrough for Alex, but the end of the road for me in St Ives, unless I could somehow establish something more permanent with Francesca, but I can't see that working somehow. I shall miss my cuddly boy dreadfully.

Alex had sat me down to give me the news not long after the triple figure sculpture he had entitled 'The Rescued' had been cast by the foundry I was apprenticed to. The figure of the emaciated boy, Day, is flanked by the two taller figures of Leon and I. Leon leads the boy by the hand and my arm is over the boy's shoulder. That piece only exists thanks to myself, Leon and Day, as we were the models for the piece. It's ironic that as a result of that huge effort, I find myself in this position of homelessness! Francesca is primarily a painter and I'm dedicated to casting in metal. Big problem. There's no real future for me any longer in St Ives now. I can see that.

I decided to talk to Henry on the 'phone that Thursday evening about my situation. He once asked me to marry him, as a joke. If he asked me today I think I would say yes. But he's a wealthy man and has friends and influence all over the place, and may be able to help me.

Henry came straight down to St Ives the next day, the Friday evening in November. He took me to the pub by the harbour, the Sloop, for a long talk. As soon as we sat down, I felt safe and secure in his company. I hadn't seen him for quite a while, and just his physical presence began to arouse me. It was about nine and there were several other artists in the noisy pub on a Friday night, a couple of whom I knew to be homosexual men. Henry and I were on the receiving end of a few glances, met with smiles from me. Do we look like a queer couple? Perhaps we do.

My conversation with Henry was an urgent one. Basically, I'm in trouble. Alex's life is moving forward fast and I can't blame him for quitting St Ives, effectively leaving me bereft.

'Do you see my problem Henry?'

'I do Jamie. Would you consider moving to London? I have some good contacts there who might be useful. You've got all these new skills, but not the broad conceptual knowledge, if I may say so?'

He's right.

'There's a guy at Goldsmiths I know…..quite high up. I can have a word? In the meantime a friend of mine has a studio in Tite Street. It's in the Chelsea area close to the river Thames. Lots of inspiration. You could make ends meet modelling?'

Henry and I picked up the train at Bodmin Parkway, bound for the London terminus at Paddington Station, a four hour journey via Exeter St David's. I had stayed with him the night before, or should I say, slept with him. I had a shrewd idea what I was in for, and hoping for, as he suggested we go to bed early. I was up for the challenge as much as he was, and he didn't disappoint.

I had forgotten! Sitting in his lap, lying back against his chest, I ejaculate onto my chest. By ten o'clock, we were both fast asleep in each other's arms. I love the boys more that I can tell you, but experience takes one to quite another level of pleasure. The next morning I awoke quite unable, when he suggested a reprise of the night before, to satisfy Henry. But there are other ways.

The Thames looked cold and a peculiar shade of greeny-grey, flecked with tiny breakers whipped up by the wind racing down from the east as we strolled along the Embankment on that Saturday morning. James was expecting us at twelve. When Henry knocked on the shiny mahogany door, we waited a few moments before the door opened with creaks and groans.

'Sorry, It's quite a long way down the stairs.' Explains James, a tall Mediterranean looking man of around thirty that some men, even boys, would look at twice. I have to admit I did look twice, not just at his face, but elsewhere too. He's wearing loose lightweight shorts and very obviously nothing underneath to restrict or conceal the movement and character of a heavy sex. With his long dark hair, deep voice and a few days growth of beard, he cuts an imposing figure. I'm very happy to accommodate Henry whenever and as often as he chooses, but I'm sorry for anyone who has to endure that thing.

When I walked through a small door into James 'studio' up the long flight of stairs, it looked more like a room in a mansion than an artist's place of work. There's a huge pedimented doorway affair looking like it has been removed from an Italian palazzo, beautifully gilded, against the left-hand wall opposite an equally huge window on the road side. On the far wall is an elaborate fireplace with an equally elaborate marble surround. All over the deep red walls are paintings and drawings, some abstract and very colourful, some traditional landscapes, lots of nude figures posed, and some drawings in various tones of black and grey. In one corner with no rug on the wooden floor stands an enormous easel with a winding handle, with several large canvases stacked against the wall nearby, and a couple of tables covered in paint tubes and jars of brushes, palette knives and other impedimenta I would associate with an artist. In the middle of the room is a low platform which I know well because it's where the model is posed. James clearly has had prior information about me.

'Henry tells me you have been modelling for artists. Is that right?'

'Yes. I did it to stay alive in St Ives while I worked for my City and Guilds.'

'Did you enjoy that…..the modelling I mean?'

'Yes I did…….thanks.'

'Would you be prepared to show me? I can put the heater on for you. Ten minutes worth? Might be worth your while?'

Beggars can't be choosers. When I looked at Henry, it was pretty clear what he thought I should do.

I know what all this means. James wants to see my unclothed body. Fine. I've done this before enough times.

James directs me to the dais in the middle of the room and switches on the electric fire nearby.

'Do you mind undressing on the box please Jamie? It helps me see you properly.'

Degas liked to make drawings of his models as they undressed. It's a rather sexy little process I think, if you do it with the artists observing the process, but then I'm probably a bit weird. I don't mind doing that. Models usually undress behind a screen and then emerge in a dressing gown which they remove at the last moment. Getting naked in front of your employer is far better. I think it gives them a good start to the job. They feel more personally involved from the beginning.

Day loved to be undressed by me before his bath. I loved doing that for him. He was well aware of the effect it had on me. When we got down to the last bit of clothing, his pants, he would look down to the unveiling of his smooth creamy penis, usually on the rise by this time. Then he stands to admire his little toy, upstanding now, the bell-shaped head hidden by the protective glove of skin, wrinkled at the very tip. He's teasing the excess skin down over the head to reveal the shiny glans, and then gently squeezes the meatus slit so it becomes a deep red and circular opening, and then lets it all go. With his hands on the edge of the bath he glances at me and lifts one leg to show me his semi-parted buttocks, and over the edge of the bath and into the warm water I had prepared for him. It's not a sexual thing, not really, it can't be, but it's the complete beauty of his body as he evolves from boy to a more knowing, more self-conscious being, and into youthfulness. I've witnessed that process with Peter, Henry's son, and with the brave tyranny refugee Leon too, and my last love, Day Knight, all of whom are objects of desire for me, just as I still am for Henry…….for I am dish best served hot.

The session lasted about a half hour, with James putting me through my paces on that box, with multiple sitting, standing, and reclining poses, none lasting for more than a few minutes before he barks out the next move. I think that a good model can communicate his or her enthusiasm, or disinterest. I think I have done well, or well enough to interest James. His response when we had finished rather summed things up nicely.

'Do you want to work for me then?' he asks rather curtly, and my answer is equally economical.

'Yes please.'

'Good. I know your situation Jamie. By the way, I've seen your work. You have a lot to learn creatively, but that's how we like our students. We don't like clever sods who think they know everything when they actually know less than they could stuff up their own arse. Your casting knowledge and experience will be very useful at the College. Modelling for me and others here for three or four evenings a week will buy you a room here in Tite Street. We have a vacancy for a sculpture technician at the College. You might be interested. I see no reason why we can't educate you at the same time. It's a three-year degree course. We could fit you into the next cohort starting next September.'

Guess what? James is a Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Goldsmiths. Thanks Henry. You've come up trumps again. I love you!

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