by Rafael Henry

Chapter 32

A story told

Amelia Harris had never married, because in those days, a primary school teacher didn't. That was one of the terms of her employment. Today that would not be the case, fairly obviously, in this day and age. To us that seems like an unreasonable demand. But in those days, things were very different when it came to women's rights. Amelia worked in the same village school for forty years with just a few days off for one reason or another. A life of service you might say, and for her, a labour of love for the young folk in her village and beyond. She had heard the stories about the young men from the farms go off to war in the 14/18 conflict, and not come back, or not many, and if they did, they weren't the same men. The horrors they'd seen. Their friends cut down in a hail of lead, falling in the mud like ninepins.

Her class was full of children some of whom now had no father, and a mother with little or no money. Most of the boys she knew left school as soon as they could go to work on the land, desperately needed there to fill the gaps left by the war to end all wars. Then a little more than twenty years later came another war.

There's history on Amelia's walls; photographs. Rows of them. Boys and girls, some sitting, some standing, some cross-legged on the ground. Some smiling, some looking a bit forlorn, or something in between, a bit gormless if I'm honest, but ordinary people, and just one or two others that stood out for one reason or another. Something in their expression perhaps, or just their inviting good looks. And there was Amelia Harris, smiling and sitting upright in the middle of all of them, their inspiration, and the woman they knew beyond all other knowledge, that they were loved by her. Roger, our school chaplain once said to me that to teach is to love, and all love comes from God. That truth shines out from every last one of those images on Amelia's walls. I'm looking at one now. Back row, three and four from the left. Two boys, two handsome faces smiling out, and everything to live for, until Herr Hitler changed everything.

Mum has been talking to Amelia at the table in the dining room. Otta has been upstairs gathering up a few things he wants to take back to school. Personal stuff that will remind him of a normal world, not that strange school world where the word love means something quite different. Mum is to collect some papers to do with Otta's future which hopefully Amelia has signed. Both of them have met several times now, so that they both fully understand the implications of the paperwork, and how a possible new arrangement will work for everybody. It has to. That's the way I see it. It just has to. Then the whole thing goes to a family court. Apparently the hearing is held very informally in a room that doesn't look like a normal courtroom. Those are places that could be frightening for youngsters in that situation. Amelia has said herself that she can no longer cope with the responsibility for Otta. She has not been well. It's going to be an upheaval for all of us, if, and it's a big if, my plan actually happens.

When my mother and Amelia came back into the room, we had a history lesson from Granny.

'I think it's time you all heard the story, especially you my dear boy.' Amelia says, with her hand on Otta's shoulder. He still hasn't had that haircut, and I'm sure his eyes are darker. But listen now.

'I've spent my life in this village, apart from my training. After that there was luckily, a vacancy at the school here. There were just two us who taught here. It made sense to me. By then the war had just ended. We had all lost a friend and for some, a loved one, or more.'

Amelia moves over to the faded grey photo; two rows of children seated, smiling for the camera. She points to the boy I had noticed.

'We had been friends throughout our lives. That's me just there.'

She points to the fair-haired girl sitting in front, directly below the boy.

'And there's Harry. We'd play in the fields after school, and in the summer heat we'd swim in the little lake behind the big barn on his parents' farm. We never bothered with bathing suits. I thought he was wonderful; so handsome with his long fair hair and nut-brown body. We'd walk for miles, hand in hand, and talk about what we would do with our lives. He would look up at the sky and talk about the different birds we could see and hear, and tell me that soon he would be up there too, with those skylarks, and the lone buzzard circling above us. With the angels. He always wanted to fly. As we grew up, our friendship changed. We began to think about more serious things. He told me that one day he would marry me. We found ourselves in love. He was such a beautiful boy and I was so excited to be in love with the most beautiful creature I could imagine. Then one day, a lovely warm afternoon, something happened. We had suddenly grown up and wanted to do things that we had never thought possible before. We had feelings that had to be expressed. The very next day it happened. We were naïve and in love. Of course everybody knew. A girl can't be hidden away in that state. Your mother went to kind people; people with money who could afford to take a baby on. I was considered a bright girl who might have a future so I was offered the chance of a good career which I took. There were so few men who wanted to teach the young. I was offered the job right here in the village. I'm sure they didn't really want me but they had little choice. There were whispers in the village. There goes that girl.

I knew where your mother went, but I was never allowed to see her. But I knew. When you were born Otta, I found out quite by chance where you were. Eventually we did meet, but by that time things were already out of control with your mother. You came to me so young. You were such a pretty baby. I couldn't possibly turn you away.'

There was more. Much more. Some quiet tears.

Harry was flying from Hawkinge, 610 Squadron Fighter Command, not so far from here. He was seen over the English Channel being chased by a ME109. Another RAF pilot saw it all happen. The whole thing. They never found him. They never found any of it. No trace.

Otta went to over my mother, upset. I knew at that moment that he is ours. He's ours to love and to cherish; to protect from harm. To make love to. To make love with .

On our last night at home before the rackety drive back to school in the Morris Traveller, packed up to the gunnels, I asked my mother if Otta could be allowed to share my bed. Otta was embarrassed, but it was he who suggested it. I'd thought it, but had not said it. We were both in our pyjamas. She gave in and agreed, lightly laying her fingers on the boy's shoulder.

'Just this once.'

Alone now, we stood facing each other knowing that this would be the last time; for a long time. I wanted to really look at him, to study the boy I love, as he did me; perhaps to take in an indelible memory to keep for those long weeks ahead. To touch skin, to feel fingers move along flesh, fingers through soft fine hair, here and then there, so gently, with such care and loving kindness. To look into his eyes, a blink and then a smile. I look down the boy's body to see and to marvel at what will be ours to share. It's all so wonderfully external, whereas the rest of our us is all so inside . Where the outside and the inside meet perhaps.

The boy sees and looks down too; and then looks back into me. Not at me, but right into me. He smiles again, as do I. I tell him I want to kiss him; if I may, just for a moment. Always ask please, even here and now, like this. Like the way we are. He looks down again. There's already a change. Yes, how beautifully external his feelings are; and mine too. It's not just a moment, for that first kiss; it's longer than that, and then as he releases me, the changes in us are complete. Oh, how wondrous is the human body.

'Are we going to do it Jon? I want to.' He asks with a pleading eye, and a faint smile.

'I hope so. Do you think you can? It's back to school tomorrow.'

'And then we can't?'

'No, not really. The hut's gone now too. Well?'

'I think I could, if you could? Will you tell me a story? Something nice?'

'Of course. Something for the occasion?' I say, leading my boy into the bed.


'When I met that boy in the playground? When I asked him what his name was? You looked up and told me your name. The boy with the long brown legs?'

I'm holding his head in my hands as we lie here, pressing on his cheeks making his mouth and lips protrude invitingly.

'What did I do?'

'Well, you didn't run away. That was a start. You had such a sweet smile. I was terrified you'd just walk off.'

'But I didn't did I.'

'No you didn't. You just stood there looking at me. We made an arrangement to meet again if you remember.'

'Yes we did.' He says, nodding his agreement.

'Will that story do? Do you remember?'

'Where you took me?'

'Those first few minutes.'

'Tell me please. Tell me everything, slowly. Just as it happened.'

'And nothing left out? Every detail?'

'Everything Jon. Right from the beginning.'

The boy is in my arms, open mouthed, shining eyes and lips in the light from the bedroom door which is just ajar. I put my arm under his shoulders as he lies back, eyes closed. I touch his cheek gently with my mouth.

'Are you ready? Shall I begin?'

He gave in gracefully, well before I had finished my story. I always know when he's having a good one , or about to have. It's the resistance he gives you, pushing back. One force against another. And then our reward that nature bestows upon us. The gift of love; received.

My story. I had described to him our lying in the grass on our first 'date'; a walk around the Perimeter Path, as usual. We were through the preliminaries. To be loved means you have to love back. Otta is a giver; all the time, always making judgements about how he can contribute, whatever it is. Boys don't always want to be kissed, in fact very few ever want to be. Robbie would be horrified. With Lael, who never seems to be far away, it was an essential part of life, as it is for me. Making love starts and ends with kisses; at least it does for me. In this sense, Otta and I are compatible. We work together. Back then, there's one thing that Otta is not much good at. Something he can't do. Something that Lael and I could almost bathe in. But in due time, it has come. Beautiful bountiful brown boy.

It's a good end to Otta's last day of freedom, and mine, as I watch him drift off to sleep, his breathing becoming slower and deeper. There's something very special about all this, and what a day it's been.

In the morning, Otta woke first, which is unusual. There's very little space between us, his body warm against my back, so his movement woke me too. As I turn towards him, he's smiling.

'Hello.' I say quietly. Then there's silence as we look at each other. Dark eyes just released from sleep look back at me, his mouth widens almost to a smile.

'That tickled. Your breath in my ear. It woke me up.'

'What breath? I was asleep Otta. I couldn't have.'

'You did Jon, just now. You said you loved me. I heard you whispering. In my ear, softly. Just here.' The boy gestures towards his face.

Dark eyes filled. My eyes filling now.

'I do Otta. I really do.'

Where is he now, my first love? I remember those first words of love whispered in my ear.

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead