by Rafael Henry

Chapter 12

Pleasurable sights and wooing.

The weather has got cooler of late and we are six weeks into the Autumn Term, Michaelmas Term they call it. Most boys refer to it as the Christmas term for fairly obvious reasons, as that's the next holiday for us. We count the days off. Some boys even make a date chart and cross out each day as it passes. Some schools have half-term holidays but not here. No, we go all the way through to three days before Christmas Day. Meanwhile the daily routine continues, the beginning of each one and its very end being some of the best parts. The whole thing begins with the morning shower, with everyone in lines, and all timed to the minute. It has to be, otherwise there would be chaos. Each of the boys' rooms has its own time slot, and although a few boys go missing for whatever reason, an urgent need to sit on the loo maybe, the vast majority of us are out of bed, out of our pj's and naked under our dressing gowns, and marching down with towel in hand. When we get into the bowels of the old Victorian pile that we live in, we line up against the wall having hung up our towels, with our hands behind us to keep our bodies from touching the cold condensation covered and glossy yellow painted walls of the 'waiting area'. We are waiting for the previous lot to exit the showers making room for us, and as we go in, so another lot arrive to take our place against the wall. If seeing naked boys' bodies, some unsatisfied that morning and excited and fully and beautifully on show, is your thing, you will love this event as I do. It's not just the soothing warmth of the cascading water, but everything that goes with it. Robbie and I always stand together, our naked bodies warmed by the steamy atmosphere, waiting for the last group to emerge, their bodies shining and wet as they reach behind us to grab their towels. We make way and look. That dark haired boy, Otta, is well worthy of our notice, as his arm reaches between me and Robbie. He has very pretty and expressive eyes that boy. Dark. Every morning there are glances between him and us. His summer tan is fading fast now, but the parts that barely saw the sun, or never, gleam porcelain white; and this morning, one part just a little swollen. It wasn't when he went into the shower. The warm cascading water often has that effect on me too.

I think Otta has an inkling about us. He saw Robbie and I in the field the other day. The average boy is not stupid. Most of them even at his age, like us, will recognize the signs in other boys, and know something is going on. Something else too of interest; I saw him walking towards the Chaplain's house yesterday. We looked at each other as we passed, smiled, and walked on. The long legs, the nicely fitting shorts. Just what the doctor ordered I would say. Dare I mention him to the Chaplain when I next see him? I'm sure Roger would never discuss with me the reason why Otta was visiting him; if indeed he needed a reason. I would still like to know.

So what are these signs that boys of a certain persuasion notice when they encounter and another boy of similar persuasion? Answer. The glances; eyes meeting and staying met for just a little longer than you would expect. That's the first sign. You look away, and then you look back and he's looking too. That indicates the first spark of possible interest. Then there's the quick look below the belt for a check on any progress down there. We are not here just to learn. We are here to live the fullest life possible. That's what they tell us we should be doing. How we interpret that aspiration is our business it seems to me. A little romance is the spice of life in this place, and why not? I'm certain that Roger Manning, our Chaplain, is aware that the boys develop quite deep feeling for each other and will sometimes need to express them physically. He has offered the shepherds hut in his garden as a refuge. He has also told me as I left his office the last time we spoke, where to find the key.

I have told Roger about Lael. I told him that we fell in love last summer, that I am bereft, and that Robbie and I have found each other. He's not just a consolation prize for me. He's just different, the selfish little cove. Roger smiled. I think he approves. That's when he told me how to find the key to the hut. Then Roger has a question which surprises me. I had told him about Lael, and some information about our friendship. He nods as my hints sink in. I want him to know.

'He sounds delightful Jonny. I'd love to see one of those photographs……if I may?'

I have a whole collection of photos of Lael. I have the two of his that he sent prior to his arrival at our house, and I have plenty more I took of him during his stay. They sit, like The Beginners Guide does, at the bottom of my tuck box, that sacred private place which I can lock up nice and safe. It's just a matter of how many I dare to show Roger. He knows things went on between Lael and I, but I trust him completely, so what's the harm? He seems genuinely interested and I'm just as interested to share, because that way I can relive; up to a point. I need to talk about it all. Roger will listen. Robbie's not really interested, and why should he be.

On my way out of the Chaplain's garden, I found the key to the hut exactly where Roger had told me it would be. It's on top of the massive left-hand iron wheel, one of four wheels it has of course, to enable it to be moved from place to place, pulled by a tractor. There are four wide wooden steps up to the entrance door. The key fits perfectly as I turn it clockwise. There's a click. I turn the handle and it opens. The arrangement inside is sparse, but there's one easy chair, quite deep, a table and at one end is a raised mattress, uncovered. There's a tiny stove near the door with a cardboard box of small logs in it, a box of matches and some newspapers. There's a war on with Argentina at the moment. It's not going well for us. The image below the headline on the top newspaper shows one of our ships on fire. Her Majesty's Ship, the Sheffield. I stare at the image of smoke billowing from the burning hull in disbelief. Why can't we love rather than hate? It's just a tiny island in the middle of nowhere. Is it really worth all those lives lost?

I'm looking at my photos of Lael which are in such total and tragic contrast to the image I saw in the hut; beauty as opposed to the sheer horror of human conflict. I want Roger to see them; at least some of them. My camera is a real beauty, given to me to experiment with by my father; a German made Rollieflex twin lens reflex, dating from the nineteen fifties he once told me as we worked in our makeshift darkroom at home, processing the photos he had taken on his latest climbing expedition to Switzerland. That's how I know how to make my own photographic prints. He taught me how. The images of Lael against the slanting light of my bedroom window worked well for me, but I don't think Boots the Chemists would be impressed if I had sent them the rolls of two and a quarter by two and a quarter inch negatives to be printed. Lael would not be Lael if his body was obscured by even the smallest article of clothing! I would use the time delay device on the camera, sitting on the sand, to photograph us both together. That gave us ten seconds to get into position before that small box made all those enduring memories of Lael. All that beautiful flesh on a white sheet of paper now, topped off by that lovely thing that makes him a boy, standing as proud as punch, warm, then hot, and then………

We thank you for the lives of those that have, and still bring us joy.

That's the tiny prayer Roger, our Chaplain said just before I left his office. He took both of my hands in his as he said it, with the photos of Lael and I, together.

I had taken a dozen photos to show Roger, mostly of Lael, but some of us together on a beach my mother took us to. She still drives the family Sunbeam, the roof of which retracts to make it quite a breezy and exhilarating ride. Fun! Roger looks at all of them carefully, and then a few of them again before putting them down on the round table next to his chair. I'm standing close by wondering what his reaction will be. There's one print of Lael in front of my bedroom window, a very personal one. Although the boy is in silhouette, there's no mistaking the reason why I took it. I know there are risks involved, but I trust him. His reaction is calm and measured.

'These are lovely Jon. You ought to develop your photography; if you pardon the pun. But one or two, this one in particular, might get you into a little trouble if it ever comes to light in this place Jon; or anywhere else for that matter. In fact these two . Where do keep these?'

He shows me the one image of Lael on his own, contre jour, as my father would have said; and in the other one we are facing each other, our mouths joined. I realize at this moment that in my enthusiasm to be honest, completely honest and forthcoming with Roger, I had made a mistake in showing him.

'Would you like me to look after these for you; for safe keeping?'

'If you would Sir.' I reply.

I have the negatives at home. My mother needless to say, has no idea of their existence.

Leaving the Chaplain's garden I realize that he and I are now sharing a secret, he mine, and me, his secret too. Suddenly I feel a sense of power. How odd. Why would I suddenly get that kind of feeling? Oh well.

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