by Rafael Henry

Chapter 14


Roger, our Chaplain, had indeed mentioned Otta as one of the younger boys for whom he had concerns. The other boys had not taken to him for some reason he couldn't fathom out. Maybe there had been some sort of minor incident that had turned the others off him. It can easily happen in these sorts of situations. It only takes one thing. But what was it? There's something that the other boys notice, and then someone makes a comment and before you know where you are, the dye is cast for that individual. Conformity is the thing in these places. Everyone must conform rigidly to what is considered to be the norm. If you behave differently, look different, dress differently [almost impossible here], speak differently, any of those things can trigger comment which in turn can snowball into something more worrying for the boy concerned. It all happens in the dormitories, often when the lights go out and faces can't be seen but hurtful words can be spoken. That's where the rumours spread, that's where the others decide to send a boy to Coventry, not to be friends with him, to make fun of him. There's a reason for this kind of behaviour amongst the savages, or no reason at all. Just a whim, just the sniff of a weakness in the boy, easy to exploit. The key is to know it's happening, and to know who is fuelling the fire.

'I think they've got him down as a little different Jon.' Says the Reverend Roger Manning to me as I sit in the chair to the side of his large mahogany knee hole desk with the light with the green shade, casting a cool pallor over his face.

'In what way Sir?'

'In my day we might think a boy a little girly , Jonathon. What do you think?'

'Not really Sir. I wouldn't say he was at all effeminate Sir? Not at all.'

'So what is it then?'

'It's very hard to know Sir. He's very smart isn't he.'

'What; clever?'

'No, I mean the way he looks. Very neat and tidy. The way he's dressed Sir.'

'What exactly Jon?'

'I mean……..all of it. I know uniforms are getting……more modern Sir; and he has quite long legs. It's fashionable these days Sir, you know, all this……brevity. Do you think boys are being sexualized Sir? His clothes show him off a bit Sir. Maybe it's that.'

It's very noticeable with Otta.

'Now that's something I hadn't considered Jon,' Our Reverend lies.

Everybody notices the New Boys when they first appear, short trousers are even shorter this year. All that thigh on show. A boy's new blazer jacket, bought too big for him so he'll grow into it, almost hides a boy's trousers now. And naturally, all this brevity requires the same treatment underneath. Ninety nine percent of us endure the old-fashioned passion killers that are provided for us because that's what we all wear. It takes a little courage to strut about the place looking all modern and trendy, unless you are older and have a strong personality that will carry everyone else with you, with the others wanting what you've got as soon as ever they can lay their hands on it, or persuade their mothers. Otta looks fabulous to me as we see him every day in our little world, every bit the modern boy. He stands out a mile.

'Jealousy is a powerful thing is it not Sir?'

'I quite understand Jon. You may well be right. But the bottom line is that he needs some reassurance. I think he's losing his confidence here. We can't let that happen. Did you know he's made friends with my son Tim? That's fine but Tim's not even in Upper School yet. By the way, I've let them use the Hut. I hope that doesn't step on your toes too much. Always good to know what's going on. I'm going to ask you Jon, to consider Otta a little. You know, under a protecting wing; that sort of thing? Rather necessary I think; and Robbie too, as and when he's fully fit. Do you think you might be helpful? I know there's an age disparity, but not too much. That shouldn't excite comment if you're reasonable discrete. Try to find something you might have in common with the boy. A potential athlete I heard; like you.'

Oh yes, those long legs and not an ounce of fat anywhere, and I'm talking about Otta now, not me. And just follow those legs up to the crossroads and observe. It's true; Otta makes the most of himself. He's very self-aware without being self-conscious. I've noticed other boys looking at him and taking note. Just line him up with the competition, as they do here, and notice the difference. Put him between George Oliver and Michael Highbury, all nude and lined up, backs to the chilly yellow shiny Showers Waiting Area wall and see the difference. We boys are the ones that see everything here, and know most things about each other too. This is an intimate environment, and no secrets can be easily hidden.

But one comment from our esteemed Chaplain had me puzzled. It was about allowing Otta and Tim to use the Hut. 'Always good to know what's going on' , he said. But how would he know what's going on? He's not there; is he?

Life with Robbie is different, still. His progress, health wise, has been painfully slow this term and with the weather warming up and so much more going on outdoors, that's such a shame. But the major bonus this term, the third in the academic year, is our continued use of the Hut, where we can do our thing in undisturbed peace and quiet. He knows I care for him deeply. I will do anything for him, so I'm pleased to say, that hasn't changed although our plans to explore, in full, the last phases of A Beginners Guide to Gay Loving, have had to held back due to Robbie's health setbacks. Shame. We were all set, at least I was if not Robbie. However, he no longer suffers the indignity of having his sheets changed more often than anyone else. I have seen to that problem. Every couple of days we sneak off to the hut and I can relieve Robbie of his increasing burden; and mine too. We are a good match, and needs must. Far better this way than getting very worked up and doing something silly and regretful with someone you shouldn't. One must not go around upsetting boys just because they gave you the eye. Sex seems to be rearing its ugly head younger and younger these days. Boys are, so the media tells us, maturing so much earlier now. Boys in the Chapel choir are being retired younger I'm told as their voices change from that lovely bell-like pitch to a strange hybrid crackly mixture of high and low. Every new term there seems to be a couple of pretty new faces in the choir stalls. Mind you, I'm not objecting.

I think Otta must have been following us, which was naughty of him. Robbie and I had been in the Hut for a while. Although we can leave blazers behind after school hours, we are still in uniform. We don't have anything else. It must have looked very suspicious as he looked through the window at two boys concentrating on each other. Two boys still fully dressed, trousers down, doing something very odd to the uninitiated. He must have stood on one of the iron wheels to see in through the window that doesn't have a curtain. Robbie sees him but says nothing. He just turns his head away. We are both too far gone to care.

At one end I can feel Robbie's muscle contract sharply, intimately, several times. At the other end I'm dealing with the event as I usually do, and in my own way. I like this way of doing things for Robbie, my best mate. Every time I'm getting a small part of him [sorry Robbie] but a rich reward for my trouble. I make no bones about it; I like it. Oh Lael, I do miss you dear boy. We learnt together, Lael and I. We learnt all we thought there was to learn. He might be back in his native Finland, but he's still here in my heart. But we both know that distance changes everything and we have to move on, but never forget. Lael is in my heart forever. I can still smell my boy, especially after a long tasty snogging session, always followed by something more. I remember vividly his perfume, such an odd odour really. He said mine was uniquely me. Odd that when you think it should all be the same. It isn't. It seemed to vary from day to day.

I can see the face now. I have my back to the window through which Otta can see us, so his view is limited thankfully, but he couldn't mistake the gist of what's going on. Now he knows for certain, but he's not the only other person who knows. I have seen something on the wall, high up in the corner. I'm not sure what it is but I'll find out.

I'm in the Chaplain's office for the third time this week, mainly due to the current emergency with Otta.

'It seems a good time for us all Sir. Robbie loves the gentle exercise, and it's so quiet at that time of the morning. I've managed to persuade Otta to come with us too.'

'So I've heard Jon.'

'Have you Sir?'

His son Tim saw us from his bathroom window. He told Roger he had seen three boys in running togs enter the walled garden through the small green door in the corner, but you can't see the hut from the house, so Roger says.

We can't tell Otta everything we know, obviously, but we can invite him to be our friend. I honestly feel that he needs us right now. I've seen light in a boy's face a few times, but nothing like the light that shone from Otta's face that morning as he accepted our invitation.

'Robbie and I want you as our friend Otta. Would you like that?'

If there was ever meaning in a boy's face, then here it is.

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