by Rafael Henry

Chapter 45

Petroc. Love dawns.

Oh, such blind faith. I pull him tight against me, me in my corner, thinking how I might answer his questions, as I explore those blue eyes yet again. But has that boy ever left us? I know he will have to exit my consciousness and my unconsciousness one day, with a smile and a wave, a blown kiss even, but please, not yet. I do know that I shall have to let him go.

We have so much to thank Peter for, as the Administrator at Holland House, the residential Home for which Otta volunteers so much of his time now. Peter's word carries considerable weight in the local community and beyond. Our interview at the Embassy went well, with him in attendance, and Roger. A date was fixed for Petru's arrival. He's already in the country, and waiting. We've met him now. There's that look of another in his eyes, or is that just in my imagination? We looked at him for the first time, as he looked back at us. They were tiny little moments of assessment for all of us. He must be so full of fear, and hope at the same time. A migrant who knows he's coming to us. A wounded little bird who needs mending very badly. What a responsibility. We are both his fate and his future. Prickly eyes time, again. How we pay for feeling so deeply.

Into this mind and body, so bereft, love shall enter in .

Six months later. 07.15 am.

The two naked boys run from the bathroom across the hall to their bedroom, laughing and giggling. The younger of the two pushes the taller, older boy in the back playfully. The door closes and I can still hear laughter. To save water and power, the boys shower together, one body still small enough to fit alongside the other in the confined space. Outside, the mat will be soaked and they'll be water on the floor.

We need not have worried about how Wulff and Petru would get on together. Actually it's Petroc now. We've subtly altered his name. Our first trip away, the four of us, was to West Penwith in Cornwall. Rocks and cliffs everywhere, deep green seas, and the west wind whipping up the pounding waves creating a soft mist that seems to cover us, and the pink thrift that grows all along the cliff edges. Petroc points at a black bird seeking shelter high up in a rock. What graceful flyers they are.

'It's a chough Petroc. You're lucky to spot one of those.'

'He's gone.' He says in his heavy accent, looking away, and then smiling back.

The boy looks pleased, his deep brown hair pushed about in the wind as he looks back at where the black bird with the red legs and beak disappeared. Such elegance in his stance. Such beautiful hands and legs, his darker skin already a shade darker. Otta always supervises what the boys wear. He has a way of making a boy look his best; in consultation with the boys themselves of course! Sometimes I have to urge a little caution. I pull the boy close to me, feeling his arms tighten around my waist, tighten my grip on his skinny body and kiss the top of his head.

'Those shorts Otta. They're barely decent.'

'Why? Don't you like them?'

The trouble is that I do like them; very much. From the back he'd pass for a girl with those early snaky hips, but from the front it's a very different story, all pressed in and compact.

We need not have worried like we did, and my goodness we did worry about Petroc; how he would cope with a completely new life, going to school for the first time, different food too, and how he and Wulff would gel together. But it's remarkable how they can adapt, how broken wings can mend, just as the Agency said he could manage the change, and would. It's a matter of survival. As I thought, and hoped, Wulff took to our new boy and treated him like the little brother he never had. Within days he was supervising his coming and his going, checking his needs and anxieties, and teaching him our strange ways, and above all, opening our hearts and minds to him so that he may see a new world and learn to let our love in.

'Make sure Petroc wears that new jumper Wulff. Not the plain grey one darling, the one with the stripes round the neck.' I shout through the now open bedroom door. The boys are dressing for school. They travel the short distance down into the town with me, and we leave at eight, or just after. Petroc is such a slow dresser.

He looks tired this morning. Wulff too. But it's Monday and the weekend was busy with two musical events. How Wulff's playing has developed under Otta's direction. Not much credit due to the school, but the Youth Orchestra has brought him on as we knew it would. He's trying to get Petroc interested. So far, little progress, just a few random chords, but there's time. They said the best ways to mend a disturbed mind is to provide new things to do and learn. How straight that boy sits next to Wulff on the piano stool, long fingers spread over the keys. And then there's the language. There are other boys at the school with little English, but in a few months, just weeks with some, they will be fluent. Gone now are those dull 'fish' eyes, replaced with ones that sparkle; interest in life rekindled, or perhaps just begun?

The bedroom has two small double beds for the boys, but in the early days Wulff had Petroc in with him. Those early days. We watched nervously, wondering how we could make all this work. There was crying in the night, to be expected the Health Visitor said, so we put the boys together. It seemed cruel to keep them apart.

'I think we should try Petroc in his own bed tonight.' I suggest to Wulff as the boys make ready for their shower. I'm not even sure that they should shower together. Petroc should be independent from the start, but Wulff wants to do so much for him. Too much. And how Petroc is responding to all the attention he receives from Wulff. The signs are beginning to appear.

We planned Petroc's arrival for high summer. Late July. Far better then than in busy school term time. There were trips to Viking Bay, and of course, Roger's alternative timber residence close to the beach at Point Cottage. There the boys were free to roam the almost deserted beach, practice the new language, look at books, and tinkle on Roger's piano. It was a chance to study our new boy, his little ways, nuances of his character, what makes him smile, laugh sometimes, where he looks, What attracts his interest that he might one day be consumed with. His body too. Things seemed to be in the right place alright, formed properly and functioning. Petroc is not afraid of a hand on his skin, a hand on his shoulder perhaps, to sit with Wulff, together. The boy has grown up with communal nudity, so a very limited summer wardrobe is quite a normal thing. It's Otta's choice of summer shorts, a tee shirt, open sandals, and only those things when absolutely necessary.

We wondered if Petroc is sexually aware, in any way. After all, sharing a bed with Wulff might be problematic. It was an issue we had to raise with Wulff. Touching, albeit inadvertent touching, of the accidental type? In bed together, things will touch surely? We'd left it a week before I spoke to Wulff. The previous night I had gone into the room to look. Both boys were asleep, Petroc lying next to Wulff, his front to Wulff's back, an arm around the older boy's shoulder. He looked relaxed in his sleep, breathing barely audible. There were no other signs, the signs you might have expected.

Wulff's answers to my tentative enquiries were brief and factual rather than informative. Yes, everything was fine. Yes, Petroc goes to sleep quite easily. And so on. But Wulff is forging his own relationship with our new boy. That's what he wants to do, and should do. Leave the kids alone Jon. Let them work it out.

It was during breakfast at Point Cottage. Two things. Wulff was sitting in one of the wicker armchairs on the veranda with a bowl of cereal. Petroc appears, nude, and approaches the back of the chair and places his arms around Wulff's chest, sides of faces pressed together. They stayed like that for some time. That's what a boy might do with a best friend, and I'm instantly excited for areem. When Petroc finally moves away from the chair, there are signs. Something I had not seen thus far. Have we missed something?

Wulff's a bigger boy now. What used to point the way forward, is now pendulous and pointing at the ground. There's some weight there, what you would expect now at his age. That first hurdle of important exams is not so far away. He's read a couple of books about life as a teenager and we've discussed all the implications, all the new things going on, new feelings, changes, pitfalls too. He knows the nature of my relationship with Otta and what we enjoy together, and how we express our love with one another and enjoy it. He wanted to know so we told him. We were very frank about it all. It's his choice. Whatever we do cannot suggest in any way what he does. That's the deal. We are what we are, and he will be what he will be, regardless.

Wulff gets up from the wicker armchairs holding the empty bowl, spoon clanking. None of us wear clothes by choice here. Petroc too, just as he wants to be. There are signs. Signs between the two boys.

As much as they would prefer to, the boys can't swim or use the beach unclothed, but they look the part now, taking one large towel down the tricky steps to the beach dressed appropriately in hardly anything, boys matching in style and colour if not in size, another of Otta's directed purchases.

Their swim was brief, and soon they are sharing the towel some fifty yards in front of us. Before they lie together, the wet and uncomfortable 'hardly anythings' become nothings. There's no sign of anyone else on the beach, so that's fine. They lie on their tummies, and when Petroc looks up to see if anyone is looking, like kids do, I smile and wave. He smiles, and then turns his face towards his friend's. Then he does something, a simple gesture towards his friend, that takes the smile, the feeling I have been enjoying, away from me. It's not alarm, far from it, but it's new, this development . A sudden and quite unexpected sensation has run through my body. What do I think? I think what will be, will be, both brought from the darkness into the light, we earnestly hope. I think life will be good for those brothers, joined together quite by chance. Unseen bonds that join us together. Nameless people joined together with threads of words, a long trail like the trail of footsteps in the sand.

Two hands are held together now, and both boys look up at us, to see if we've noticed. We have. So this is the way to tell us is it?

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