by Rafael Henry

Chapter 20

An act of generosity?

Roger, our Chaplain, and I meet every other day now, usually in his office in the main school building, and sometimes in his private office in his large rambling Victorian house that sits some distance from the principal school buildings, set in its own large unkempt garden with the Hut placed towards the high brick wall that encircles it, and close to the green door that leads from it into the playing fields beyond, and beyond that is the Perimeter Path that runs all around the Estate; a total of a mile and a half in length. The path makes the perfect distance course for longer distance running training, well used by myself, our friend Otta, and until a few days ago, my lovely friend Robert Harry Madrigal, and a few others. With the academic year almost done now, our minds, the curious minds of boys and all their workings, are focused on what lies beyond these walls; the long stretch of time that is the summer holidays. None of us care to consider what lies beyond those halcyon days of high summer, because that means a return to this place for yet another round of extended tedium only relieved it seems to me, by playful and deeply satisfying friendships with another boy to whom one is attracted, assuming there is one to be had in that way.

I've been lucky. I managed to enthuse Robbie with what enthuses me, and together we made things work very nicely, thanks in large part to the Beginners Guide to Gay Loving. And I've had the joy of my friendship with Lael. Rob and I managed to act on the advice given in the book, and tried everything that was suggested to further our extra-curricular education, and make this place a whole lot more bearable. I've told Roger that we are in his debt for making the Hut a place of solace and pleasure for Robbie and I, and a nice little playground for his son Tim and Otta too, so we are told, but I have never got close to being a witness to Otta's friendship with Tim; whatever sort that is. No doubt deeply platonic. As for our early morning runs, they are done for now, apart from my pre-breakfast jogs, suitably and scantily attired in these warm early mornings, which involve more walking than running. Things like the Annual Sports Day and the County Athletics Championships are in the past, so we can all relax and do very little in the runup to End of Term Pranks. Both Otta and Robbie acquitted themselves very well in terms of their athletic achievements, particularly Otta. He won the both the Mile and the Half Mile races at the Athletic Sports, each in their respective age groups, and third in the Counties. With his dark broody good-looks, he's come on well this summer. He even did moderately well in his end-of-year exams. Robbie did badly as usual, and I shall have some explaining to do when I hand my Report to mum on my return home in ten days time. I can see it now, moments after she has read the dreaded document and had time to absorb its implications.

'Darling, I'm sure you can do better than this; can't you? Twenty three percent in your mathematics darling?'

'Yes mum. I'll see to it next year, I promise.'

'Oh good darling. You have so much potential. Everyone says so.'

So who is everyone exactly?

As I suspected he would, Robbie is turning to the girls now. He's started talking about how he's going to meet one in the hols. His family are going to the south of France. There will be plenty of girls to choose from on the beach he reckons. His ambition is to return to school next September having experienced at least one of them. No doubt he will win over some giggly female who is also hell-bent on enclosing a young boy's secret weapon in her warm pocket of girl-flesh, frontwards, or even backwards. Probably the latter as she has started her periods now. The Book goes into that little detail. Yuk. The south of France sounds good to me too, and I'm sure amongst the girls, there would be one or two boys that might be persuaded to abandon a rock pool in favour of a quick foray into the dunes for a while, or as long as it takes. Shame I won't be there. Something a little more humdrum for me I'm afraid as we have no spare funds for expensive foreign travel. It will be an uncomfortable pebble beach on the south east coast of England for a few days if I'm lucky, plus the usual disappointing weather. But you never know. I had Lael last summer. I can lie in bed and reminisce can't I? Anyway, Robbie's pretentions re. the girls still hasn't stopped him asking for a little help in the early mornings, which I'm still enjoying providing for him, defying Woody Allen's dire predictions that sex has to be messy if it's any good. Robbie's moments are as good as ever, as are my capabilities for avoiding the very limited mess that Rob tends to create. But he's now capable of getting a girl into trouble presumably, as well as himself, and will need to exercise some self-control. I've given him a few of my 'finds' left by careless boys from our litter picking excursions which he will be well advised to use if he gets the opportunity. Robbie is coming on nicely, if you get my drift.

In the meantime, my conversations with Roger have got ever more deep and ever more meaningful, dare I say, almost to the point of embarrassment to both of us. As he says, it's very unusual for someone in his position to have conversations like we are having with someone in my lowly station in life. But it is happening.

He's trying to explain things to me. Reasons for things, and why he's acted on the dubious thoughts he has never properly confronted before. He has invaded our privacy a few times now, he's admitted, and I've known about it and continued to enjoy my private time in the Hut with Robbie in the full knowledge that we are not alone. But sound is one thing; pictures are quite another. I realise too that knowing this is happening makes me an accomplice , which is why we are having these conversations; together and in very private situations.

Of late, I've been meeting Roger in the Hut, but not in the early mornings but in the afternoons twixt the end of school and Tea, a time when all the boys are free to do whatever takes their interest. I enjoy adult conversations, something I've developed as a result of spending time with my mother and her friends. Academically I'm lazy, but I'm very good at exchanging ideas with grown-ups it seems. Very oddly, it turns out that Roger and I share a common frustration.

'I never had the opportunities that boys get in a place like this. It must be easy to establish a relationship here. I would have loved that at your age. I was strictly brought up in a very religious home with my sister. There was never any room to experience life outside the very definite parameters imposed on us. I made myself fit that mould although I knew, somewhat later, some things about myself I wasn't at all sure about. But that was much later. I had a couple of friends, boys, whom I admired. Not for anything they could do, but for how they looked. I tried desperately to ignore the very strong feelings I had for those boys. I thought that God would punish me for those kind of thoughts. I know differently now. It was going on even in those early days. When I met Helen, more by my parents' design than anything I did, we got on well, but neither of us were interested in anything physical together. That became clear very quickly. We slept together as friends and she did the things for me I wanted, and I returned the favour as best I could manage. It worked quite well, and as we both needed a partner of the opposite sex for the sake of our careers, we married very young. We both wanted children and I tried, as did she, but we couldn't make it work. It just wouldn't happen. We couldn't make the sex work Jon. So we decided to adopt. The process, given my calling to ordination, was relatively simple. We were considered ideal parents. We got Tim first. He was four when he arrived, and very troubled. Then the others came soon after. Helen was dedicated to their wellbeing and progress, and I had to decide where my ministry lay. After a couple of years in an inner-city parish, I opted for the education field. I wanted to work with young people, and then this opportunity came along. That was six years ago. It just happened to be a boys' boarding school Jon. I loved the idea of it then, and I still do. The problem I had was being so close to situations I knew I would have difficulty with; shall we say; dealing with. An indiscretion would have been disastrous to my career, and to the person concerned if I ever let it happen. It could easily have happened. In my late twenties and very sporty, the older boys related very strongly to me and there were situations that might easily have developed in quite the wrong way. I would have given everything for the love of one of those boys Jon, and in some beautiful ways I got it. It would have made no difference to my relationship with Helen, and of course Tim and his brothers. Helen has had her friends Jon. When you and Robbie asked about the Hut, my heart missed a beat I can tell you. About two weeks later I rigged up that listening device. I have felt huge pangs of guilt ever since, but the feelings I had, have, are too strong Jon. It's been the nearest to…….I don't know how to put this…….the nearest I've been to a relationship I craved for years; second hand. All I can say is that I'm sorry. I've tried to do my best Jon. Robert Madrigal doesn't know does he?' 'No. I would never have told him. He will never know. He can't.'

'There's a word for people like me Jon. I suppose it's a dark corner of my emotional world that can never be satisfied. I have to accept that.' 'Perhaps there are certain circumstances whereby it is possible? In a situation of complete mutual trust, surely? Just not in this place. I don't think it's wrong, even in the sight of God? We can't help what we think can we?'

'But we can help what we do Jon.'

'You're not responsible for my actions Roger. Do you remember holding my hands? That time in your office? Can we now? I think we need to. I need to.'

So we do. Roger is in the chair by the window and I'm standing next to it with both my hands in his. It's the chair Robbie and have used to some effect in these past weeks. Page 42 in the book suggested it. Simply the best way we ever found. Now Roger is sitting there. It would be so easy. Now I can feel it beginning in my stomach, low down; and the feeling is spreading; a kind of tingling. That feeling of power again, and it's beginning to overwhelm me. Why should he be denied? It shouldn't be his sin, but mine. It won't be his sin but mine alone. The power and the glory.

The laying on of hands, and being close. The giver of what has been denied. He never asked for this. Never. But this is going to hurt no one. So draw nearer and lift your head and pray you sinful boy, and be forgiven.

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