by Rafael Henry

Chapter 9

I hadn't heard from Bryn for five whole days until today. I'd texted him three times but he hadn't replied. Tonight around the usual time for him to get in touch, he texted me.

Hi. Sorry, been thinking alot. Had news today. Can I phone?

Within a minute I had replied.

Yes now wud be good

He sounded quiet on the phone. I'd left the games room and found my familiar corner in the changing room. I noticed the smell of the place, and the presence of rather disgusting unwashed kit hanging from the hook just inches from my face. I could see the name tag sewn into his shorts……James Dodson, the filthy little wretch. My heart was going like a train when Bryn told me.

'Look……they've offered me the job. I've got to tell them tomorrow. I had a letter. If I say yes you know what that means don't you Jon. I can't see you…..not like……you know…….the other day. It's a fantastic opportunity for me you see…….it's a great department. It would be brilliant. Do you see what I'm saying Jon? I'm really really sorry. You won't hate me will you? I couldn't bear that.'

How could I hate him? I could never get myself into that state of mind. Upset, yes, but hate , no, never anything near that. Painfully disappointed maybe. I couldn't get any words out after he'd finished telling me.

'Jon, are you there?'

I think I managed a sort of 'yes' sound, trying not to let him know how upset I was. I didn't say any more, and a few seconds later he broke the call with…..

'Look Jon, I'll phone again tomorrow, same time ok? Take care.'

Not, 'I love you' or anything like that…..just 'take care'.

Of course he's right. Obviously I can't talk about it with David, and anyway why should he want to know about the innermost workings of my life, such as they are. He doesn't, and shouldn't, and quite rightly too. It's my problem. At least I, or rather we, had our moment in the hotel the other day. I would imagine Bryn is regretting that by now, big time. I'm not. I think it will fuel my bedtime fantasies for quite some time thank you very much, or rather thank him very much. Oh my goodness how good that was! I can't say I contributed a lot to our little party, at least not physically, unlike Bryn. Wow. I'm not going to get that image out of my head for a while, believe me. I'm excited right now thinking about it.

You guessed it……..I had to go and do it, and a nice one it was too…..absolutely lovely, and tinged with the pain of knowing it probably won't ever happen again with Bryn. And something else too…..I had more cum. I hadn't realised it, but the first bit had gone right up onto my chest. It's never done that before. Sorry, I suppose that's a detail you could probably have done without, but there it is……literally. I looked at it for ages. Sorry, but I needed to tell you.

David keeps wanting to talk, and rather oddly, so does Arlo. I suspect that Arlo's friendship with the pretty Robert has cooled, and there are definitely fewer nocturnal goings on. You don't miss much being in the next bed. Nine times out of ten, Arlo faces away from me in bed, but this morning he was facing my way when I opened my eyes.

I had a bit of a shock yesterday because I had a poor monitoring sheet. That's an effort and attainment assessment we get every month which shows how well we are doing in each subject. I know I have to do something about it, and I know I'm letting my work slip a bit.

Yesterday was Mother's Day. We all send cards home for that, and I phoned Ma. She's always cheerful on the phone, but that doesn't mean she is necessarily. She said that Mrs Greatwood…..she's the woman at the language school in Brighton that organises the foreign student lodging placements for the summer…….had given us a French kid. He's coming in mid-July, so he'll have the front bedroom and I'll stay in mine, unless we get another student. If we do get another and it's a girl, she'll have my small room and I'll move in with the boy. She said his name was Evert and he's about my age. I hope he's not some sort of nerdy type that hates the beach and is scared of water. I love the summer holiday. The seafront on a sunny day in August never fails to amuse!

I'm starting an essay now. It's for the Doc who I'm pretty sure is the member of the English department who's leaving. I like the Doc because he's funny and different somehow…..not like many of the other teachers, although the vast majority of them are pretty good. He likes me too and I can tell he does, and I'll miss him when he's gone. I'm going to make this essay a good one, just for him.

Bryn has accepted the job. He told me yesterday, by text message would you believe, the bastard, but………there was something interesting at the end……… 'see you at Easter '.

It was the solar eclipse today, and a bit disappointing if you ask me. There was a bit of a build-up to it yesterday in the geography lesson, so we were all expecting the whole place to go dark, but it didn't. It was just a bit gloomier than usual. It happened as we were waiting to get the train down to London to see the Diebenkorn exhibition at the Royal Academy. The eclipse was a distant memory as soon as I looked at the first painting upstairs in the Sackler Gallery. My life will never be the same again. It was picture called 'Albuquerque No. 4'. At that very moment I decided that I have to be a painter. That's it, my life's path is decided. We saw the Rubens before that in the main galleries which I found unutterably boring. I couldn't wait to get out of there. I thought about our day in London for ages on the coach back, and about Bryn, and what if anything will happen at Easter assuming he comes back home. I don't think I'll write anymore until I'm back at school…hopefully I'll be far too busy to type anything, anyway Mum's laptop is rubbish, and I daren't use it much.

Easter. Death and Resurrection.

For me it had been mainly death…….the death of a relationship I had hoped would last forever. Some hope. I didn't go to church on Good Friday, although my mother wanted me to go with her. I did go on Easter Sunday morning, and felt glad that I did somehow. I've never really wanted to rationalize my feelings about religion. Perhaps I'm too scared of the consequences of doing so. I saw Bobby Philips in the choir. He always sits to the left and when Mum asks me where I would like to sit, I always choose two seats about six rows back and a little bit in from the aisle which gives me a perfect view of him. He would have to look sideways at a right angle to see me. I spend a good deal of the service looking at him because he is superlatively beautiful and makes the service more than tolerable. He socializes after the service as his parents do, and that's how I know what he looks like naked, not because he is of course, but because I can tell even though he's in his dinky grey school shorts and maroon jumper. Other details of his clothing and anatomy I have to leave to my imagination sadly. His brown eyes and dark neatly trimmed hair works perfectly with the colour of his jumper. Although a couple of years younger than me by the look of him, I guess he will not be as tall ultimately, and I'm jealous of the build of his legs. Mine are perhaps a little too slim….his, like David's, a perfect shape. Occasionally he does look in my direction, but I'm always quicker than he is and manage to avoid eye contact…….so far.

Bryn phoned and asked me to go for a walk with him on Easter Monday. I agreed to meet him at the Floral Clock which is not far from the seafront in Hove. I'd helped my mother in the garden earlier in the morning. When I got there about two, he was waiting for me. I knew there was something wrong. I could tell from the regret in his eyes. Of course I'd been thinking about it for days and I knew already. I was horribly afraid that I would start crying. On the walk down I'd wiped away tears as I considered the possibility. It wasn't until we were sitting with our backs against the unforgiving flint wall of the Banjo groyne close to the Palace Pier, listening to sound of the waves on the shingle, that I gave in to how I felt. Bryn did his best to comfort me which in a way made my pain all the more intense.

He'd explained it all carefully as I listened, head down, his arm around my back, uncomfortable pebbles underneath us, and of course he was right. I'd never known a pain quite like it…….dull…….insidious……..looming darkly in its intensity and its inevitability……the pain of loss. We must have sat there for twenty minutes without words.

I wanted to walk. We got as far as Blackrock before we turned back, but I felt better. He's worked his magic and the future seemed just a little brighter now. Perhaps one day…….some far away day.

Bryn and I walked together four more times that holiday, and always along the promenade, long distances to the east and the west……from one end to the other. We had reached an equilibrium……a plateau with far reaching views into the future…….of mists and half seen shapes, of strange feelings deep within, and edges touching, found and then lost again.


I'm back now and it all seems rather odd as if it's all new to me….as if I have never been here……the red vinyl floor coverings everywhere, the softly closing fire doors in the dorms, the smell of the blankets and freshly cleaned bathrooms. It's as if I have been somewhere else for a long time. I'm looking at my English essay exercise book, and the last comment from the Doc written in the familiar scarlet ink he always uses. He's an old fashioned fountain pen man, a rarity in this day and age.

My essay was about a boy who went to sea, fishing with his father and brother off the coast of Norfolk. They lived in a small village on the north coast of Norfolk called Salthouse. When David stayed with me at Uncle's that weekend, we went there…..the three of us, and Pointer, Uncle's chauffeur. The far point of our drive all along the coast was Blakeney, where we always had tea at the hotel. On our way back a little distance beyond Cley village, we turned up a narrow lane and stopped about a quarter of a mile up the gentle hill where a small sign said 'Church'. Uncle said we might want to go and look at it. It stands on the top of a little hill with a fantastic view of the coast beyond the marshes below us. It's a beautifully light and airy space in there and David and I wandered around for a few minutes before David called me over.

'Jon, come and look at this.'

David was standing in the choir stalls staring at something quite low down.

'Aren't they amazing Jon?'

They were. My first thought as I looked at the graffiti images of ships carved crudely into the wooden panels was…..who did them? That question was the basis of my essay for the Doc.

I've managed to keep Bryn out of my head for the last couple of weeks, more or less, and got my school work back on some sort of track. The Doc liked my essay and gave me a good mark for it, in fact he paid me rather a nice compliment.

The first weekend after marking it, he drove out to Salthouse to see for himself. He said what he had seen would make a great idea for a story, but he couldn't write it as I had had the idea first, and he laughed. He said that if one day I ever wrote seriously, I should write a book based on my ideas in the essay, and he'd be the first person to buy a copy. I smiled and said 'thank you sir' and he gave me one of his 'looks'. You never know quite what one of his 'looks' actually means. It may mean lots of things.

'What sir?'

'Oh nothing Jon. Just remember to read English when you get to the sixth form, assuming you make it that far that is. Promise?'

'I promise sir.'

'Good. There's something else Jon. You've probably heard the rumour that I'm leaving here.'

'Yes sir, I have heard something like that.'

'Well it's true, I am.'

'I'm sorry sir. Quite a few of us will miss you sir.'

'Oh. Well that's irrelevant really, but thank you.'

'Will you miss us sir?'

'Yes of course. You're a bunch of blackguards but, yes, I shall miss you.'

He smiled, and I picked up my exercise book, turned to leave his presence knowing that he had meant what he had just said. As I reached the door of the classroom I stopped and thanked him. He was standing shuffling papers with his back to me. He didn't say anything.

I couldn't resist a last question…….

'Do you know who we're getting sir…….your replacement?'

Now he turned to face me.

'Yes I do, and I've met him of course. He seems very suitable, well qualified, and I think you'll like him. I think he's very right for a place like this.'

'What does that mean sir?'

'Well, I think he's an explorer…..not just a 'think like this' merchant. He's someone who will encourage independent learning…..make the boys think for themselves…..point them in the right direction and they'll find their own way…….and he'll show you how to find pleasure in learning and how to deal with the pain too. But he'll need your encouragement. Teaching and learning is not a one way street Jon.'

'Oh dear, I'm not sure we've done that for you sir.'

'Yes you have Jon.'

It was only a short conversation with the Doc, but a good one which taught me something I was not about to forget.

'Oh, and one other thing before you go Jon……if ever you need any advice in the future, even twenty years from now……you can write to me at this address. It's my parents' house. When they no longer need it, I will most probably live there myself.'

He handed me a card with an address in Suffolk written on it. He told me not to lose it.

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