by Rafael Henry

Chapter 9

story retold and a story beginning

It's a mild evening, still warm and sunny, so between Tea and Prep, Robbie Madrigal and I go for a walk on the path around the perimeter of the school grounds. There are boys playing tennis in neat white shorts and the rest of it, exactly according to the games dress code, of course. A boy I don't recognize passes us in running kit with a nice bottom. Two Junior boys sit in the grass talking and playing with long dry stalks of grass. One of them is poking the straw up the other boy's short trouser leg. He's a pretty example of the species sitting cross legged, knees consequently wide apart and showing his regulation knickers. Perhaps there's a new relationship forming there? Let's hope so. There are so few interesting things to do here. A little romance is a necessary diversion from the mundane, at least some of us think so. We all crave love. Some of these critters, so I've heard, don't even get any at home. That's why they're here. Sent away. Unwanted. So; dear Loving God, if you do exist like Roger tells he does, let them find some love in this place please. And not just from you.

'What did you say his name was Jon?' Asks Robbie after quite a long silence.

'Lael. He's from Finland. I told you about him last night. Remember?'

'Not really. You……..' The sentence tails off. I was telling Robbie a little story whilst doing something else for him. I had just got to a good bit as he evidently stopped listening to my whispering tale, his mind elsewhere in the beauty of his feverish imagination.

'Oh yes. Some weird foreign name.'

'Lael. And it's not weird. It's lovely.'

'Like him?'

'Yes, exactly like him.'

'You are aren't you?'



A statement of fact from Robbie. He pretty much knows now. He's suggested it before that I might be , and I've not denied it. There's a tacit admission when you don't actually deny something. But here comes something of a surprise……

'I'm worried Jon. God won't love me any more.'

I know Robbie's family are quite religious. He's going to Confirmation classes. I've already been done. Actually I quite enjoyed it. The Chaplain's a nice bloke. Kind. A lot of the boys talk to him; probably about sex. They get to our age, do a couple of things with another boy because they're desperate for attention from somebody,[apart from the sheer pleasure of it] and then go on some massive guilt trip which they feel they have to share with the Chaplain. He's got three kids of his own, but not by him, the story goes. I feel sorry for him with all those boys trooping in covered in spots unloading their grief to him while he sits there listening to yet another tale of woe; or a failed love story, or an ongoing love story hopefully. I certainly haven't been to see him. My mother knows who and what I am. She only had to listen at my bedroom door to know. Me and Lael. She told me that she had worked it out ages ago. There were little tell-tale signs in what I did and what I said. Then later there were other signs, the kind of clothes that interested me, preferred choice of the intimate of garments, the friends I hankered after but didn't get. No interest in girls. The books I read. Lots of things, evidence, that began to make perfect sense. And then Lael turns up. She spots The Book has disappears off her bookshelf. No coincidence there. The time Lael and I spent together up in my bedroom. Just talking? I don't think so. We studied the book together, made a few decisions, and did it according to the advice; and the illustration, and bloody good it was too. We did it on the floor so we didn't make a noise. We did it on the bed which did make a noise but by that time we didn't care. Mum knew. We made messes we couldn't hide. I read somewhere what Woody Allen had said at a party recently. 'If it ain't messy, you're not doing it right'. It got on the sheets, in our pants; even on my bedroom carpet. Indeed, a very joyful chaos.

When Lael had gone home, just a couple of weeks ago now, we both cried together, mum and I. She wept for me in my distress at losing my beautiful boy, for the pain in my heart, and I cried about everything and anything; even for our dog Willo, who had lost her soulmate. I kept it up for a whole day, and then I recovered my equilibrium and became half-way normal again. But the memories linger on, even the sensations we shared in those last two weeks. I can still feel it all now. Honestly, I can. But now I have a different priority; Robert Harry Madrigal. He needs my help, and not the usual kind. Well, not right now he doesn't. Poor boy. I think he's just beginning to accept what his brain has been telling him for a while now. For many, my mum says, it's a difficult time; accepting that you're just slightly different from most other boys. I kept it a secret from myself for a long time. I see no reason why I should keep it from Robbie. I'm sure I know what Robbie is trying to tell me in his own way. He needs time. When he does, I'm there for him no matter what. He's my friend. One has a solemn duty to one's friends. But I need an active love, if I can put it that way. Lael I did love as a young boy loves another, no doubt very differently than two grownups would love each other. I imagine it to be like sticking plaster that you can peel off and stick on someone else; love. Lael is gone but of course I shall always love him in some way or other. We get over things quickly, mum says. I will try not to. It seems too easy and disrespectful to do that. Lael would approve I'm sure; the transfer of a boy's love to another, like borrowing a cricket bat. Handing over the baton? Anyway, he's here, in our here and now, and in trouble. Robbie. He thinks that his God won't love him anymore. I'm with Roger on this one. I disagree.

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