by Rafael Henry

Chapter 4


I've mentioned the family photo of Lael, our young language student from Finland. There's a second one of Lael on his own. It must have been taken at the same time as the other one because he's wearing the same pair of shorts, the same tee shirt, flip flops on his feet. He's sitting back in a deck chair, hands to his sides slightly awkwardly, knees apart, and smiling sweetly. The person taking the photograph obviously wasn't looking too carefully and hadn't noticed. Using Rory's magnifying glass, I have noticed. It's as clear as day. Lovely…..and I'm harbouring some hope here; that what I'm studying here is going to be mine.

The two snaps had been included in my mother's last letter, which also informed me of the date of Lael's arrival at our home. When term ends here tomorrow, I shall go home and meet him for the first time, although he's been there for four weeks already, no doubt enjoying mum treating him like her own. I can just imagine it.

'Did you sleep well darling? How was school yesterday? Have you made any friends yet? Jonny is so looking forward to meeting you. I'm sure you'll get on well. You're such a nice boy. You'll love Jonny!'

I keep looking at those photos of Lael in odd moments, getting them out to make sure, and making quite sure there's no one around to see me staring at pictures of boys. Funny tummy time.

So, tonight we say goodbye to friends here; Simon, Robbie and the others, including the newly revealed Rory. Huh! Rory in all his glory. Now that was a surprise. We will return in September with our stories to tell; our holiday experiences, new friends made, promising to keep in touch for ever, and then forgotten. Perhaps a little romance here and there; you never know. Robbie's bound to find a girl somewhere along the time line, just as Simon will. The next term they'll be back with it all to tell. I can imagine it now; Robbie bragging away in the dorm. Mind you we all like a good story even if it's utter bullshit, especially if it's a sexy one. Food for the imagination.

'Did she let you then Robbie?' Asks Simon, who's girlfriend didn't let him.


'How many times?'

'Oh……every day. Most days.'

'Which then? Every day or just the once?'

'Every day. Twice a day in fact.'

'Was she good? Did you come?'

'She was fantastic.'

'You're a fucking liar Robbie. Do you know that? Well, did you?'

Silence from Robbie. No one will ask me how I got on with Lael, the boy they know nothing about, and never will. I'm as nervous as a kitten just thinking about it all.

Meanwhile Robbie carries on, and reluctantly agrees to some questioning by Simon [who is obviously fiddling] on the subject of his dubious relationship with the girl he purported to have met on holiday; Carrie.

'Did you sleep with her Robbie?'

'Yes, kind of. We used her bed; sometimes mine.'

'Not all night then?'

'No. Parents there.'

'Where did you put your dick then Robbie?'

'Where do you think.'

'Did she lick it for you?'

'Yeah, of course she did. All girls do that; usually.'

And boys, so I've heard, but I didn't chip in with that one. Here's hoping. And then the inevitable next question……

'Did you come?'

'Yeah. Loads.'

Then the silence. Simon's too busy with himself under the blanket to ask the next question. The question I had in mind. What happened next? Simon's preoccupied. But one thing was obvious; he did, if Robbie didn't.


'What?' Comes the voice, in a tone that suggested he didn't want to risk any further questioning, or any subsequent loss of street cred.

I did ask the question I had in mind but the answer wasn't convincing. Robbie's full of it, unlike his imaginary girlfriend Carrie. Meanwhile Simon invited all of us to view what had landed on his tummy. I'll give him that much, he's a clever boy in that regard. I wish.

First meeting.

I'm nervous about this. Lael was out walking our dog, Willo. As usual our dear whippet runs to me expecting the massive hug and kisses I always give her when we meet again after so long. Her love for us is constant and undying, until she dies of course, an event beyond our contemplation. Eleven now, or seventy-seven in dog years. She has a few problems, one of which is her age, bless her. Other dogs chase her, playfully, but never catch her, even now. She lets them get close, and then springs away and hares off into the distance leaving the chasing dog standing, looking bemused. They use their natural speed to very amusing effect.

Lael watches, smiling. When Willo finally calms down, I dare to glance at Lael as I pick up the one 'holdall' style of bag I brought back with me from school. My trunk containing all my clothes and books will have been sent separately; Passenger Luggage in Advance, or PLA as it's known. That cumbersome object comes home just once a year. I smile and say hello to Lael, without much eye contact. He says hello back. It's awkward. Neither of us know what to do, but mum intervenes. I'm in a minor state of shock. He's lovely. I can see that instantly.

'Lael, could you help Jon with his things please?'

Perfect. Well done mum. That gets us upstairs together and into my room. My bed is made with the corner of the bedclothes neatly turned back. Everything is exactly how I left it. It's always like this when I come home. I don't know why but it makes me tearful. Stupid really. Lael sits on the edge of the bed watching as I extract the contents of the holdall and put everything on the bed beside me; apart from one thing. The book. It's far too soon to give Lael a sight of 'The Beginners Guide to Gay Loving' isn't it? Probably frighten him to death. I have no idea what he would think of me possessing such a thing. I have to devise a plan whereby he might just stumble across it; when the time is right. Certainly not now.

We exchange very few words, but there's plenty of looking going on. Every time I glance in his direction, making sure it's not too often, he's looking back at me. The feeling I'm getting is that he's wanting to make a good impression on me. That's positive. Very. The other thing is that he doesn't look the age stated on his details. He looks younger. Everything else matches the photo perfectly, and it being a Saturday today, he's dressed very casually in, if I'm not mistaken, very expensive clothes. He's in sports shorts similar to the ones he wore in the photo with his brother and parents. A simple plain tee shirt above, and nothing on his quite large feet. He has large hands too, and long fingers as he fidgets, hands on his knees as he sits here with me watching me unload the holdall. Out comes my school report in its brown envelope, a dark blue school jumper, a clean pair of underpants and sport shorts, a wash kit, and a small purse for loose change and train tickets; and the two photos of Lael. I have to remember that Lael has been here for a month now. He's established here, and in an odd way, I'm the newcomer. I don't, if I'm honest, know what to do.

'Can we take Willo for a walk?' Asks Lael in remarkably good English; soft voice, but with no hesitation. His skin is pale; blue eyes needless to say. All Finns must have blue eyes. No prizes for guessing what colour his hair is. Almost silver and growing over his ears and down his neck. Between a beautifully shaped but not large mouth lie two rows of very white teeth and the tip of a very pink tongue.

Walking is a great way to begin the process of getting to know someone, and that's precisely what I have to do. Get to know Lael. It will all come quite quickly so mum says, the finding out; him about me, and me about him; her words, not mine.

Lael and Willo appear to be best mates. It's not me that she naturally stands next to, waiting for the ball to be thrown again, it's Lael. Of course I'm not offended that they have bonded so dramatically, something that mum didn't mention in her letters. It's lovely to see the two of them playing together.

We went to the park which is a ten-minute walk away. We kept Willo on her lead whilst on pavements but she doesn't need one. She will walk perfectly at our heels, looking up every few steps with those dark intelligent eyes of hers, springing along with that graceful loping stride that whippets have. She is such fun to be with. I love her.

Lael throws the ball again, nicely as it happens. There's rhythm there. I think I might have to teach him how to play cricket!

When Willo brings the ball back and drops it at Lael's feet, she stands back a couple of paces and waits in anticipation of Lael's next graceful delivery of the tennis ball. When Lael stretches forward and picks up the tennis ball, my tummy turns over with nerves. The long legs stretch as he bends his back to pick up the ball. Everything taut and interesting. Whatever happens in the next six weeks, I'm know I'm lucky to have him here. To be with him. When Willo wanted to rest, to lie down on the grass, Lael lay down next to her, gently stroking her smooth grey coat. Then the boy picks up the dog and lays her on his chest, his legs apart, knees raised and on his back. It's my first intimate sight of Lael. I'm perfectly aligned. White under white. I've seen it many times because I'm a boy who looks. I can't believe that this is a signal, although I'd love to think it is.

We sat on a bench and talked about Lael's life in Finland, his family, school, and everything else it seemed. I answer all his question about my life away from my home, and what I might do during the long summer holiday I am to share with him. I look at him and he looks at me. I'm still dressed for school, unlike him, so there's not much to see. No bare legs like him. No bare arms like him. There's plenty to see of Lael. He tells me that they don't have uniform to wear to school in Finland.

'I love English boys dressed like you.' He says, feeling my jumper. Funny tummy time. Was that another hint?

Gradually our conversation becomes more personal. This is what we both need if we are to develop a friendship. I'm desperately anxious that he wants to be friends with me. He asks more question about my life at school, what the other boys are like and what we do. Gradually I become more confident that my truthful answers will interest him and not bore him. Things seem to be going well. We have only known each other for two hours but it's worth the risk.

'Do you think we could be friends Lael?'

'Of course. I want it like that. I do Jon. I want very badly to be your friend.'

So do I.

We talk more about Finland, and what his friends are like. Girls are not mentioned. Perhaps he's too young for that. He mentions one boy in particular. Tero.

'What's he like Lael?'

'Like me; fair hair and quite tall. We are mostly all like that in Finland. He's funny and kind. I like him. He comes and stays sometimes.'

'Do you have a big house then?'

'No. We have three bedrooms. My brother Teemu and I share a room. We live near the sea near Yyteri. There's a long sandy beach not too far from our house. We can bicycle to it easily.'

'Does Tero come with you?'

'Yes. We walk and play together. Who is your best friend at school?'

'Robbie. He's funny and we get on well. He makes me laugh with all the silly things he does. He sleeps next to me.'

'Next to you? In the same bed? Do they allow you to do that in English schools?'

'No! Not in the same bed silly. In the bed next to mine. It's very close so we can talk quietly if we want to. We're not supposed to though. They get cross with us if we talk when we should be going to sleep.'

'How close is his bed to yours?'

'About this much.' I answer, gesturing with my hands.

'That's very close together. Can you touch him?'

'Oh yes, easily.'

'Do you want to?'

'Yes, sometimes, if he wants me to. It's a nice thing to do, if he's sad about something. We're often a bit sad. Being away from home for so long can be hard. We have to be kind to one another. Well, those of us who want to be.'

'Are you one of those that want to be Jon?'

'Oh yes. Much more fun. It's not really love; just being kind.'

'Is it ever?'

'Yes, it could be I suppose.'

Silence. I've left him to think about my deliberately open-ended answer. I've cast out the bait, and now I simply have to wait. Willo sits and waits too, her unblinking grey eyes watching for the slightest movement. Lael obliges with a long throw towards some children play fighting. The ball rolls towards the two boys and stops next to them. Willo stands, not willing to pick up the ball with the boys she doesn't know. One of the boys throws the ball for her. She picks it up and brings it back to our bench.

'What were those boys doing?'

'Oh, pretending to fight each other. They were just playing. They are probably best friends. Do you do that Lael? Fight with Tero?'

'Sometimes, when he wants to play. He teases me, and then I poke him and tell him off. He knows I don't mean it. Then he grabs me and we wrestle each other. Soon we get tired and stop. He's stronger than me so I give in quickly. Do you do it with Robbie?'

Do I? Yes I do. But I don't think Lael meant that . It was just one wrong word…… it , instead of that . A funny linguistic error that meant something entirely different. I think I'll split the difference.

'Oh yes. Robbie is quite physical. He's always grabbing me. I like it. I think boys like being……..'

'Being……..what Jonathan?'

'Well, bonding like that. I don't think we should be afraid to be physical Lael. Sometimes Robbie puts his arm around me. I like that. We like each other. There's nothing wrong in that is there?'

'No; nothing. Nothing at all.'

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead