by Rafael Henry

Chapter 10

An appointment is made.

It's four twenty. The time of my appointment with the Chaplain. His door is ajar, but of course I still knock and wait. I hear the 'come' response, so I push the door open and see The Reverend Roger Manning sitting behind a large kneehole desk. I'm quite good on wood recognition and I'm sure it's mahogany. I've been in here before with my own problems and found him sympathetic and helpful. He always wears one of those clerical collars, I think they call them, a sort of white circle around the neck. From my experience, he's good on boy's issues; all that growing up angst we all get from time to time, or most of us. Robbie has a crisis but won't seek advice or help. I've practiced exactly what I'm going to say first.

'A friend of mine, Sir, has a problem. He doesn't want to ask for help. He's rather ashamed of his thoughts right now. He's very unsure of himself; and a bit upset about it. I'm trying to persuade him to come and talk to you Sir.'

'Unsure? What about Jonathon?'

'Do you remember my coming to see you Sir? When I had those doubts?'

'Yes of course I do. Are you sorted out?'

'Yes Sir. Well, I think I am; more or less.'

'With regard to this other individual you mention, are there problems with another boy? No trouble I hope?'

'No Sir.'

'Or in the general community? Unkindness? Bullying?'

'No Sir. It's just between him and me Sir. It's just that he's begun to think about himself; what he might be.'

'And he doesn't like these thoughts?'

'I'm not sure Sir. I'm trying to help him Sir. He's afraid that God won't love him any more. I was wondering if you might be able to help?'

'Right. Well done. I need to see him straight away. Go and find him and send him to me now please. Off you go.'

I found Robbie up in our room. He knows I was going to see the Chaplain. I march him off to the Chaplain's Office. We are both missing the prep session, not that that matters.

He was gone for an hour. I timed it. I stayed up in our room. Fuck the prep session. I'm lying on my bed when Rob comes in all smiles but obviously recently upset. You can always see it in a boy's eyes. Pink round the edges. As soon as I see him, I sit up and perch on the edge of my bed. Now I'm going to get the story.

'Are you ok Rob?'

No he's not ok. He sits beside me, his hands in his lap, and begins to cry. I don't think I've ever seen Rob cry before. It's not a painful crying, more relief I think, but it goes on, and on. He's turned towards me wanting me to hold him, so I do. He's heavy against me, and I can feel myself going backwards onto the bed with Robbie still in my arms. It's suddenly much more comfortable lying down with him like this. He's stopped crying now. It's a risk but I kiss him lightly on the cheek. I have never ever risked doing that with Robbie. It's just an instinctive reaction to Robbie's distress, and there's no sudden pulling away from me in disgust thank goodness. It tastes salty. Time for a few words.

'I think God still loves you Robert Harry Madrigal.'

He smiles, more tears form and roll quickly down over the bridge of his nose and into the other eye; and on towards his ear. I wipe the little trickle away with my fingertips as he blinks several times.

'Well; does he?'

I love Robbie's smile. It's infectious. I wonder if Lael is watching us. He'd be smiling too. I know that Roger, our chaplain, will have dealt with Robbie kindly. He genuinely likes boys. You can tell. In a good way? Oh yes, but in another way too. I just have a feeling about that.

The Beginners Guide to Gay Loving is not a publication you show to all and sundry, certainly not in this place. But; it has to be said that this is a pretty liberal institution where every effort is made to combat all kinds of prejudice and narrow-mindedness amongst the boys, and staff it should be said; all rather un-English boys' school, from what I've heard. There must be plenty of boys of all ages who would prefer a deeper friendship with a boy rather than a girl, but by and large we don't know who these boys are. There will be teachers too, but I've never heard of any scandal involving any one of them, although I can think of a couple who would make likely candidates. I think this is the strength of someone like our Chaplain, Roger. He campaigns on behalf of minorities, and let's face it, we are in the minority. So my interesting volume remains at the bottom of my tuck box, a sacred place where no man [or boy] shall go without my permission. The book in question remains underneath various other items in the padlocked wooden cuboid box, such as a packet of custard creams, a few family photo, photos of Lael with Willo, a half-eaten cake now inedible, a roll of wine gums, an old rough book, a deflated plastic football, and next to a tube of 'easing' gel my mother gave me, a quarter full by the feel of it when I last used it.

Robbie knows of the existence of the book and has just announced he'd like a sight of it. I've been seeing to his nightly needs for ages now, always the same way, and with the same result I'm happy to report, slightly larger results this term as it happens. When I say larger, I mean that in two ways, both the thing itself and what it can do now. That makes our night time activities just a little more complicated. I have to do everything for Robbie. He has me to provide him with his pleasure, and he has me to deal with the consequences. No problem there. I'm a natural nurturer, a tidier upper, a seeker of the orderly, a calmer of the frazzled if you like. Robbie's lovely. He has the most sexy voice too; just beginning to deepen, and with that velvety huskiness boys develop at a certain age. Something else too, he now needs to be more thorough in the shower.

Just as Lael did, Robbie skips the Girls section but there are long pauses when he gets to the Boy's bits. Nice bits too all the boys have, not discouragingly exaggerated by any means. They could belong to any one of us. Thank goodness the illustrator couldn't be bothered to add more than a mere suggestion of pubic hair. Page by page Robbie turns them. He's lying on his bed and with me kneeling on the floor adjacent, he's very vulnerably. He has no objection to my wandering hand on his thigh as I watch him scan the and really study the illustrations. Carefully does it now, as Matron, loaded down with freshly laundered clothing, underpants on top, might appear at any moment……and see us.

There's a Perimeter Walk that goes in a complete circle around the school within which, as the name implies, are all the various buildings, Victorian we are told but none of us would have known; playing fields, swimming pool, tennis courts and so on. Genuine countryside is just the other side, but that's all off-limits to us, thus the Walk is where one goes to talk to a friend privately, or to recite lines of a poem to be learnt, [unusual] or just to wander like a cloud, all alone with one's thoughts. There are many points along the way where one might slip away from the path into much more private places too. Well-known locations oft used by boys who want to indulge their habits; smoking being a popular and to my mind, an objectionable habit. Sex is cheaper, free in fact, producing no noxious bi-product, and much more fun, and good for you as it produces endorphins and releases tension. If a boy approached me asking for a quick snog in the bushes, I would very likely agree, provided he was a non-smoker. So far this has not happened.

It's late September, but it's been dry for weeks, so sitting in the long grass is a viable prospect for book perusal. I'm watching Robbie's latest reaction to page 11 in the Guide. It concerns what I've been doing for my best mate, under the bed covers for months, but in a very different way. Without benefit of one's hands, at least not there . I'm propped up on an elbow looking over Rob's shoulder. The boy in the illustration is giving his friend a treat. Robbie examines the page for some time.

'Pretty disgusting don't you think Rob?' I ask, looking somewhat askance.

'Do you think so?'

'What do you think Rob; honestly?'

He smiles.

'What do you do with it? It doesn't tell you.'

'One of two things I suppose.'

'Which would you do?'

'If I didn't like the first option, I'd do the second.'

'What if it was me?'

'Definitely the first. At least once anyway. You wouldn't want to be spat out onto the grass would you?'

'I'm serious Jon. You said your friend Lael saw this?'

'Yes Robbie, he did. Remember what Caesar said? I saw, I conquered, I came.'

'Err, that's the wrong way round isn't it. Didn't he say 'I came, I saw, I conquered?'

'Blow me down Jeeves, I think you're right! Would you like me try it on you? As in……'

Robbie is unmoved by my generous and humorous offer and turns more pages; more advice for beginners, more illustrations, more inspiration. Then he turns back to page 11. He wants to hear more about Lael, so I'm going to tell him; in due course. Right now there are other things to see to.

'Let the dog see the rabbit then Rob. Are you ok with this?'

No answer. We look around us and there's no one in sight, in fact we are tucked away nicely. Safe. I help Robbie with the extraction of the rabbit, by this time quite a larger rabbit. Such a cute little number. All Robbie Madrigal has to do is lie back, watch and enjoy. I'm counting this as a major victory, and at the end of it all, God will still love him, and possibly me too. Right now this little rabbit is mine to play with, in my teasy way, but I can assure you, very effective. I've really refined my technique these days, with practice, and what I want to achieve, will be.

I'm sure Robbie feels loved in some small way by me. Us boys would never use the word; a rather soft soppy expression to bandy about, I love you. Shame really, because I do. Boys do earnestly love one another although they would never say so in so many words. I told Lael, and I quote, 'Parting is such sweet sorrow' when he left us, which is the same to us boys as saying 'I love you.' Isn't it?

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