by Rafael Henry

Chapter 5

There was no note from Philip on his hols in sunny France, just the photos. Typical. There's one on the beach. They're holding spades, arms around each other. The shorter figure smiling broadly, and Philip doing his usual broody look, head turned slightly sideways like the boy equivalent of Brigitte Bardot. There's another of him in a plastic blow-up paddling pool with a girl with her arm around him. She's topless because she can be with decorum at her age, dark haired as opposed to Philip's almost white blond, so I'm sure it isn't his sister. Bastard. He's in his white underpants that have just been immersed in the reflective water and consequently alluringly transparent, the pristine white interrupted in just the right place with a nice length of pale skin tone with the bumpy ridge bit showing nicely at the end. He's grown, the dear boy. Presumably the person taking the snap hadn't noticed. The sexy little minx. The third shows him in on his own in the dinky little navy blue faded play shorts we had in Devon, and a plain white tee shirt. Very classic. He'd been told to try to smile, the handsome wretch, and just about managed it. Suffice it to say that these images now in my possession won't see the trash bin, ever. They'll keep me going into my dotage, for as long as I'm able to see them….and to feel them.

The third envelope was from Bobbie Elmer. I was half-expecting something from him. Although our parting was in many ways more than satisfactory, there seemed to be something not quite resolved, as if he was trying to tell me something which he couldn't quite bring himself to do at the time. I had a pretty good idea of what it might be, with a lump in my throat, even then, as the sweet sorrow built up to the final catharsis. It wasn't in every respect a good event, anti-climactic perhaps. Definitely numbing. Here's the letter.

Dear Tom. I am in Worthing for a few days from the 14 th . That's next Monday. Can you make it down to Brighton that day? It would be good to meet I think. The train is very quick from Haywards Heath? I've looked up the times. There's no need to contact me but my number is below just in case. I'll be under the clock at Brighton station at 10.10. Don't worry if you can't or don't want to come. I hope you will. I need to see you. Bobbie E.

No xxx's, or anything, not that I expected it. Hoped maybe. Not 'I hope to see you', but 'I need to see you'. I didn't like the sound of that. Various disastrous scenarios flew through my mind at terrifying speed.

'Oh you look smart for a walk along the seafront Tom.' Mum says in a faintly surprised tone.

I think I've got myself together rather nicely. Best pair of beige shorts [last years], and classic white polo shirt from the new Gap shop in town. I thought about my Devon play shorts, but heeding mum's advice to be careful, and not wanting to be dragged into the nearest public lavatory, I left them on the shelf for another more propitious moment. I turn around in front of the bathroom mirror to inspect the rear view. I've opted for brief but heavier weight undies [quite an expensive treat] and I'm satisfied with the impression they are making. I'm unlikely to be missed, I hope, but in the company of Bobbie's securing presence, left alone by the discerning observer of Brighton's youthfulness on holiday and nothing on their agenda than chat up boys in their swim wear, or other alluring getups. It's not hard to spot them. Boys looking for boys. Older ones looking for younger ones, younger ones looking to be spotted by older ones. Mostly it's a game that ends in harmless banter being traded, but I assume that sometimes proper friendships can be established. That's the romantic in me. I've never dared look too hard at the passers-by on the seafront, my mother's warning still ringing in my ears.

The train was on time and as I walk down the platform my tummy does a flip at the prospect of meeting Bobbie. It's like waking up from a pleasant dream and suddenly remembering you have an important exam that morning. Nerves I suppose. I look up at the clock, a square one with four faces which can be read from wherever you are in the station. Eleven minutes past ten. More tummy nerves.

He's here.

When he took my hand in his, I know. I just know.

'This is the last time isn't it?' I say quietly, looking up into his anxious face.

'Yes Tom. I couldn't; not down there; in that place. Not then.'

'But now you can?'

'Now I have to Tom and I want to get this over with quickly. If anyone is to blame it's me Tom. There's no blame attached to you, not now, not ever. You're an innocent. And lots of other things too; good things; wonderful things.'

He took me into a dim corner of Brighton Station and held me while I blubbed like a little vulnerable boy who has been told some awful news, suddenly and unexpectedly. News that couldn't wait until later. The sort of news that had to be told there and then with no painful and deceitful delay. It was bound to shock me, although half expected. At least he's told me straight away. That's typical of him. Always trying not to inflict pain. But he has.

We have to head somewhere to talk. At least he's prepared to talk to me about all this. Explain. The beach is the obvious place, but with good weather today it'll be crowded everywhere between the two grand piers.

'I had an idea Tom. We could go somewhere quieter? I'd like to get out of the town. There are buses.'

He'd planned it. We caught the 77 double decker just outside the station. It's a forty-minute ride up to the Devil's Dyke, a fantastic spot up on the South Downs. He paid for my ticket. There's a pub there, but if you get off before that, you're in open downland with a view right down to the sea, the town, and all around, some six hundred feet above sea level. Mum and dad bring us here in September to pick blackberries. What a fantastic idea of Rob's. That's what I'm calling him now. Perfect! I know I've lost him, but our parting could yet be sweet sorrow. Why would he want to go somewhere quiet? I've known all along that it has to happen, and I'm ok with it. Everything has to move on. I am ok with it really. Well no, not really.

We sat right at the front of the bus, upstairs with the perfect view ahead, me next to the window, Rob against my right shoulder, his arm around me, moving the palm of his hand all the time. Such sweet comfort. Everything feels tight; and warm, and full of…….energy? Wrong word maybe, like we're compressed springs about to be let go. With all his gentle touching, I began to think about sex and felt itchy in my groin. I put my left hand into my pocket. It's tight but I can feel myself. I pushed it sideways for comfort. He could see me fiddling. I made sure he could see it. You could hardly miss the thing, the way I had it organised. It's so easy in these shorts to make it show. I'm a growing boy alright, playing catchup. I keep thinking about that photo of Philip, the one where his cock's showing through his pants. It's giving me a weird feeling in my tummy.

The posh houses up Dyke Road pass by in a blur and the dry late summer landscape takes over as the bus gains height, the white clouds scudding by, the distant English Channel reflecting the morning sun, twinkling away down there. I feel like crying again. I've no idea why. Some odd psycho strategy to get round Rob I suppose. Rob holds me while I stare out of the widow and mops my eyes with his hanky. It's a short lived minor emotional episode not at all uncommon with me. He runs a consoling hand along my bare leg, stops at my knee and then back up again, a little pat pat, very high up, and then gone. Poo. I look at him as the bus lurches at a corner and I smile. I get one back too. Love is going to die hard.

'Here?' I say, looking out and pointing. I can see the hotel in the distance and we don't want to go that far.

'Yes ok. Ding the bell.'

The bus stops. There's a golf course over to the right but the landscape is high and open and clear of everything we don't want.

We walk down through tall grasses and down the hill a short way, some hundred yards from the road. We're completely alone. There's nothing man-made in sight. A skylark, unmistakably, hovering above us is singing away; two in fact. We look up, lying on our backs in the tall dry silver green grass, spiky with seed. It's the time of year for seed. Fecundity and fertility. Sperm will out. If I was a girl, I'd let him have me as much and in any way, and as many times as he wanted me. I would exhaust him, drain him dry.

I turn towards Robbie. I'm crying again with a good dose of pretence. He holds me and we kiss. It's a sexy kiss, as opposed to just a kiss, and things immediately stir inside my knickers. Now that was quick, even for me. I climb on top of him and he doesn't stop me, and we kiss again deeper than before. Then he lets me go.

'Shall we talk now?'

'Yes. What about?'

'What to do now?'


'How did it end with Philip?'

A question I wasn't expecting but because it involves erotic things, I told him. I told him what he was like, physically; and what we did together. How we felt. Everything. The intensity of it, the deep spasms, his bursting of dryness, the sticky stuff I had, the calling out when the feelings came, the joyfulness, the playfulness that typifies the kind of sex boys start to have together. All fun and games before things get a bit more serious. The smiles, the laughing, his silliness, a charming stupidity really, the beautiful body, buttocks bare and firm and white, the little tight balls, and the longing eyes that pleaded for my attention. The mouth. The mouth and tongue, the muscles of the mouth and lips, so effective. Mine on him. His on mine. That was the last thing I described to Robbie. Mine on him.

On top of him, there's undoing going on, with him not helping either himself or me. My passive partner; or non-partner. Our patch of grass flattened now, we are face to face.

'Hey, what are you doing Tom? We were talking.'

There's an attempt to stop me, but I'm partially successful. There's an examination in progress, in detail, opening for business, a fingertip search, warm fingers against warm skin, tangled minds undoing as well as his summer short trousers, any sound judgement I might have had, discarded and laid aside, rejection forgotten, but all sadness to return all too soon amidst a cloud of new guilt.

Perfectly aligned. my movements could be best described as frantic as I self-stimulated myself against him, my hips held. What a sensation as my body ground against his unyielding and unwilling central hard mass. I held his shoulders down, my mouth against his. He won't be to blame for what happens and there's no tangible wrong-doing on his part. But such exciting punishment I shall exact, and punish him I shall. And did.

We've been lying on our backs in the flattened grass for a while in a cooling breeze. As I turn to look at him, he turns too and smiles. I put out my hand to touch him. I touch his hand.

'Silly boy.' He says, placing his hand positively on mine.


'You know. Anyway you saved my bacon. All I had to do was lie here. Was that a form of revenge by any chance? Thank you anyway. I deserved it. I feel suitably chastened. You've got far too much energy. Are you alright?'

'Yes thanks. Sorry.'

'That's ok. Are you sure you're ok? You got rather animated. Rather nice.'

'I'm ok if you are?'

'Trousers off?'

The small mess I had made was contained and poor Bobbie had been slightly sullied unfortunately. I did apologize much to his amusement. I reminded him; that's boys for you.

'Do you realise something Tom? That's a first.'

'For me? And a last.' I said ruefully.

'It was nearly a lot worse. It was a close thing.'

'So where are you now?'

'Not quite so close, but too close for comfort. Not that this is uncomfortable.' He says pointing downwards. 'Shall we call it a little present from a good boy? I never intended all this to happen Tom, really I didn't. This whole thing. I just wanted to tell you, face to face. It was only fair. It's the only thing I could do. I'm so sorry.'

'It was the running club. That was my fault.'

'And your unfortunate trip. The pulled muscle. Remember? I'm not going to forget you Tom. Not ever.' He says, pulling my head towards his bare tummy.

I lay my head there with his hands on me still. Such comfort. So near and yet so far. I think he was leaving it all to fate, whether it was finally to be or not to be. There's an open door in front of me right now. A new and unexpected chance to get everything I have ever wanted from him. But surely I already have the biggest prize I could ever want? His love. Or have I?

We waved down the bus back into town. A white open topped bus they use on some routes in the summer months. We sat on the top deck with the warm afternoon wind blowing our hair about. But we didn't talk. Suddenly there seemed nothing worth saying. We both got off at the railway station not knowing quite what to do.

It's ten past three.

'I would wait with you until your train Tom? Mine's in five minutes, but there are others later.'

No. The long station platform and no looking back. He's gone. The bitter feelings, the deep feelings, the deepest of them all. A lifetime ahead of me now to remember this ending.

Better this way he said. A clean break. Love was not spoken of any more. Love must be left now, like on a beach, wrapped up and left for the tide to take away, like sins committed, to be washed away for ever. Love washed away, melted into the mist, under the waves of life, a fleeting bright light and then just a shadow in my past. We had never ended things. I never told him how I'd spied on him. What I had found in his room. The pictures of boys. We'd made it work in our particular way, and the shocking reality of its ending will stay with me, wonderfully, I know.

Home now, and I was going straight up to my bedroom, or was about to. Mum was there.

'Tom? Just a moment darling, don't go upstairs. Have you seen him?'

'Who mum?' I stopped, a heartbeat missed, and turned towards her. A sudden sickness in my tummy. I tried to smile, and to hang on. This was going to be difficult. I nodded.

'It's alright mum. I'm ok…..really I am.'

'Bobbie? I've seen the letter from him Tom. You left it out. I had to read it. I'm so sorry.'

I remember now. I left it on my bed. Oh fuck it! So stupid. I turned away quickly before she could see my face, and ran for the stairs.

I lay down on my side, staring at the pinboard on the bedroom wall opposite. The photos of Philip. Mum knows about him. Now she knows about Bobbie too.

They know what kind of boy I am. There's no need to hide. No need at all. Why should I?

The bedroom door opens slowly. For the past two weeks I haven't been here, not me. Not the real me. I've been in another place. A mother will always know. I'm her boy. A mother's boy indeed.

I feel her hands on my shoulder, a soothing hand, as she sits beside me, warm, loving hands. The hands that know the truth. The hands that have known the truth for ages. Then the question which I can barely hear.

'You will come back to us darling; won't you? We want you back very badly.'

How love hurts.

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