by Rafael Henry

Chapter 5

Monday morning

Mum does the washing on Monday mornings. I have to help her.

'Can you peg out all yours and Lael's things please Jon.' She says handing me the wicker basket of wet things. I've nothing much to do this morning. Lael has gone off to his Language School as usual. Today he's taken a packed lunch because they going on a visit to a castle somewhere in a coach; probably more than one coach. I think it's Bodiam again. They all go there because it's a typical English castle; moat and all. They'll be back later than usual; at six. I'll walk our whippet, Willo-the-Wisp to give her full name, down to the school and meet him hen the coach returns. It's not that far. Lael always walks back here after his day with those raucous foreign kids. We suit each other as be both enjoy being quiet. We don't need constant stimulation; at least not the kind most kids yearn for.

Lael came with one of those new suitcases that have wheels on them, full to the brim with beautiful clothes. I thing the family must be quite well-off. Everything he has in in the best of taste, in our opinion. Mum knows these things, and she said what good quality everything he has, is. It's actually a pleasure to peg it all out on the line. He changes his things every day; clean tee shirt and all, socks too, unless he's chosen sandals for that day, then it's bare feet; of course. He has a lovely pair of deck shoes and again, bare feet. Never socks. I've pegged up his other items, several pairs, all exactly the same and perfect on him. Just right. Lael as a complete package looks expensive, and his body looks the colour of white porcelain. I don't think the sun features that much in the northern Finnish climate I suspect. How do I know? We now share the bathroom. Mum has her own. Lael said one morning that it was silly that I had to wait for him to wash or shower before I could get in there. This morning he was in there in just his underpants, brushing his teeth before breakfast. Me in my pyjama bottoms had to comment on his pleasantly brief attire.

'They're nice Lael. They look very comfortable, you lucky boy.' I say with an appreciative smile. He spits out.

'They're English. My mother got them. She said I should look like an English boy when I'm here.'

'Quite right. Are they then?'


'Comfortable. They look like they are……soft……and nice.'

'Yes. Do you want to feel?'

I couldn't believe what I had just heard Lael say. It was an invitation, probably perfectly innocent, but still an invitation to touch him. But which bit? The front, the back, the side; where?

I put out my hand just as he pulls the waistband away from his tummy, forwards, taking the decision away from me. About five seconds in all, but in that five seconds I had been shown. There's no doubt in my mind now. Neither he nor I had word, but I had made a quick decision

'Do you mind if I use the shower Lael?

I've just seen him, which I'm convinced is what he wanted, so now he's going to see me, which is what I want. In the last few days we have got to know one another which is the essential beginning of a true friendship. Now this can take us further.

Lael watches as my pyjama bottoms hit the deck and I'm standing there naked. I look at him and smile, and he's looking at me. Not at my face. A couple of seconds later he looks up into my eyes. There's a faint smile there. I hope he approves. Completely deflated, if I may use that word, I think I'm a bit pathetic. Fortunately I'm not right now. Neither am I the opposite when I can stand my ground with most boys.

'I won't be long I promise. Will you wait?'

I didn't close the door, and Lael's there holding a towel for me when I've finished. I'm on the mat, dripping. We're staring at each other. He begins to gently dry my face, then my hair, shoulders, down my legs, and then lastly, my back. I take the towel from him and do the other places as he stands in front of me. These are precious moments. Both of us are experiencing a degree of in flation now. I'm relieved that it's not just me. He is too, and rather putting me to shame.

He's at the front door of the school waiting when Willo and I arrive bang on six. Willo is thrilled to see him, wagging her whippy tail ten to the dozen. Lael, trim rucksack on his back, bends to grab the sides of her little head and plants a firm kiss on the pale grey brown fur. So sweet.

We are about ten minutes from home now. He's told me all about Bodiam and the ducks. Where he sat on the coach; and everything else. Then the conversation stops. We're both feeling warm and oddly excited but neither of us are saying why. I don't quite know how it happened, accidentally I'm sure, but he must have felt my hand touch his. A moment later we found our hands firmly in each other's. I think we both went into some sort of shock, but neither of us were letting go. I start to laugh. We both stop. Willo is on her lead so she had to stop.

'Do they do this in Finland Lael?' I ask, looking at him.

'Yes, all the time. Boyfriends and girlfriends always do.'

So there you are. It's perfectly normal in Finland. I had heard that it was a liberally minded country, unlike this place.

'Do you mind Jon?'

'No. I love it.' I say, still inwardly hysterically happy that he wanted my hand in his. Robbie would be horrified. He's perfectly happy for me to get hold of his body when he wants me too, and the all rest of it, but to hold his hand? Absolutely not. Unacceptably sissy.

But Lael's hand feels warm and firm as I grip it harder. Willo trots along beside us. She's happy too.

We must have been no more than five minutes away from home when I felt his hand slip from mine. We'd been walking along in some sort of daze, at least I had, a kind of suspended animation, cloud nine as the cliche goes, so when I felt the warmth of his hand suddenly disappear, I momentarily panicked. Had he realized his mistake; made an embarrassing error of judgement?

I quickly turned towards him. He was smiling that serene smile of his that draws you into him. He takes a short step towards me and places two hands, not one, on my shoulders; and then behind my shoulders as the gap between us closes to nothing. I put my arms around his back. I can feel his breath on my cheek. I think it's about to happen.

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