by Rafael Henry

Chapter 6

I am back now, but it's not the same me any more. Perhaps wiser, perhaps not. I've had three days, mostly in my bedroom, to re-adjust my head. To clear it all out and desperately try to contemplate my future with some enthusiasm. I'm almost there. I think I've had quite a lot to deal with, one way and another, but I'm almost there. The good memories I'm saving. The bad ones I'm putting down to experience, probably to be repeated, knowing me and the way I'm thinking these days. This growing up process is not easy.

My father showed me the prospectus for my new school, the Senior School, an expensive looking production designed to persuade parents that this is a place that will be good for their boy, good for his mind and body, and ultimately the perfect preparation for a career in……something. It's full of persuasive and appropriately worded bollocks about well-being, creativity, academic excellence and all the opportunities on offer to the bright and energetic boys that we are, or our parents think we are, or hope we are. Quite a few of us, being a tad cynical, know we are nothing of the kind. Some of us will be quiet revolutionaries, preoccupied with sexual longings for one sex or the other, or both. The one saving grace of this glossy brochure is the visual element. There are lots of really rather attractive images in it. If all the boys look like these do, I'm going to be a very happy boy down there in Gloucestershire. A selection then, as I turn the pages, ignoring the printed word, and delighting in the visual content. Goodness me, this new experience might not be, on reflection, all that bad .

The school prospectus, is an important marketing tool indeed. And this one is a good one. Six boys, the younger end of the age scale are breaking the tape at the end of the 100 yards race at the Annual Sports Day, by the look of things. White tee shirts, white cotton mini-shorts and long bare legs and arms, all grimacing with the sheer effort of it all; the breaking of the tape, chests out to gain those vital inches and claim maximum points for their House and the cup . I had a good look at the boys, as one does. Interesting how the material of the boys' shorts clings under stress. The boy on the far left. Ooh yes. That's the one that escaped the red line through it. Another shows a group of swimmers, older boys this time, arms around shoulders clearly having done something heroic for the school, or alternatively, just being all happy boys together? Again, see how the swimming kit enhances the boys' sense of triumph. Again, there's one in particular, definitely half way there with the excitement of it all. Then there's the kid doing something dangerous with a test tube and a Bunsen burner, his brown eyes behind a pair of safety glasses. They picked the prettiest boy; I assume. Well done, someone with good taste. We have the art class of course, another good-looking earnest dark-haired lad trying his hand on the pottery wheel and making a right old mess of things by the look of the collapsing muddle of clay before it all spins off the wheel into your lap. It's a smaller photo this one to minimise the importance of art in the curriculum. Music next. Bigger photo. A spotty young man playing the cello, who you would hope not to have to endure his tedious conversation in the next bed to yours, not that I'm anti music. A bit of realism in this one. Let's face it, acne will strike. And then there's the bearded mathematics teacher in front of the blackboard and his super-attentive class in front of him, but not many of them which suggests very small class sizes, therefore better exam results. Another lie no doubt. We have the prize winner accepting the cup for creative writing from the Chair of the Governors. No names of course. Why no nude boy posing for the art class? Or a shot of the brand-new shower facility, fully populated by shiny nubile bodies, one boy handsomely perky, again fails to be included in this beauty pageant. Oh well. But have I missed the drama production. No, here it is. Macbeth possibly? Boys dressed up as witches. Yes it's the Scottish play. Finally we have the pastoral side of things, the well-being bit, the happy-boy-so-lucky-to-be-here-and-a-boarder-too. He's sitting up in bed in his striped pyjama top, reading, obviously posing. He looks like one of the new ones, smooth and acne free, at least for now. Then there's the section for the Prep Department. Cute snaps of smily had no sex yet and don't even know what it is boys, but I've been there, and done that. That's where I met Philip. My altar boy, or rather the queer Chaplain's altar boy, shining ash blond beauty bright in black and white, and naked underneath. Take all your clothes off boy, before you robe up. There's a good boy. Show me what stuff you're made of.

Ok, I stand rebuked for that, but we will never know. Philip could never tell.

I'm coming round to this whole idea now, the big school, looking at this particular boy as I lie in bed. The caption says he's in Mortimore House, one of the five boarding houses. What a coincidence. Gosh, that's my house! Very soon I could be living with this little jewel. As our vicar said to me one Sunday morning when I proclaimed that I had never actually seen the living spirit of boyhood…….'it's never too late'. I looked at the photo of the boy again. Perhaps he's there in those eyes, that pretty mouth shaped like a heart, or down there under that plaid blanket, all tucked up and warm, just waiting to be woken.

We are told in advance which House we will be in. Mine's Mortimore. Fathers might insist that their sons are in the same House as they were, back in the day, and perhaps their fathers before them. It goes like that. Tradition they call it.

Summer holidays shouldn't drag on, ever, but this one is. The holiday weeks go by, slowly, as we march along the footpaths of the Yorkshire Dales relentlessly, punctuated by a daytrip to Scarborough. That was a nice little diversion on a warm day. I love beaches, and what is to be observed on them. People watching. How fortuitous that those two decided to sit just below us on the sandy beach.

We went fishing several times on the narrow but pretty River Nidd. I used a small Hardy brook rod my father had brought with us and caught two small grayling on a wet fly and a slow-sinker line. That's what they told me it was. I had no idea. You put all the fish you catch back in this river. It's sport, not a nature killing exercise. Death in the Nile, or the Yorkshire equivalent, is quite unnecessary in our book.

But every so often my heart sinks at the thought of the fateful car journey down to deepest Gloucestershire, with no conversation, just that sinking feeling anticipating the horror to come. Impending doom would be another way to put it. Just three hours of looking out of a car window from the back seat in brand new very grown-up uniform, fully equipped trunk of clothing and other items such as a couple of paperbacks, and tuck box full of edible emergency supplies in the boot. Those thoughts of a new much larger school are never far from my mind as we tramp yet another footpath. Next term at the big school. Over one thousand boys there. No more short trousers with grazed knees, each and every day, winter and summer, and nice views up the innocents' legs as we sit cross legged on the grass. It will be all deep voices, embryonic beards, or even real beards, the beginnings of moustaches, spots forming, or at their most mature stage, pustulating wildly and busting with joy, and the futile attempt of boys who were once delicate and pretty flowers, to deal with those unwelcome eruptions. The place will smell of course, the cleaners unable to keep up with misdirected jets of urine in the 'bogs' that dry into the crazed porcelain and on the now old and slightly absorbent floor screed, all disguised with Dettol disinfectant to little effect. The smell of wet leather and wet clothes. Games kit in the changing rooms, hanging there for days. Jock straps will replace nice white cotton underwear worn under games shorts. They look vile objects, jock straps, but they are in the compulsory clothing list. We had to go and buy two of them at the local sports shop. When I got home I tried one on. Junior size. Disgusting.

There will be the scent of overcooked cabbage, or worse, sprouts, no doubt, and boys' beds, the smell of sheets that have to wait until Fridays to be rid of what boys have left on them, unprepared as they were for emergencies, overtaken by fantasies of sexual misdeeds like fucking the young Matron's Assistant, that would certainly get them sacked. All that's allowed in bed and in the privacy they afford us. But above and beyond all this horror, the chance of romance is always there; ever present. My only hope. Roll on romance, but not, Heaven forbid, with the Assistant Matron, should there be one. I'll leave her to someone else. Something, or rather someone will turn up, or I'll be forced to actually work.

September the 18th, and the shock of the New. The new school. The reception for all New Boys, is actually taking place in the New Buildings. Apparently they couldn't give it a name.

New life chapter, new person. Now, a month on and all is not quite that bad, as it turns out. Yes the place does smell. It smells of boys and everything those that know these places would find vaguely familiar. But; I have made a friend already. Ro, short for Roland. Roland Halfpenny. Pronounced as it's spelt, or should be, but boys being what they are, it inevitable ends up abbreviated like the old coin used to be…..Hay……penny. Run those sounds together and you've got it. Ha'penny. Roland Ha'penny. He's nice, and conveniently in the year above me so I get the benefit of his experience, but still very close to me in age as he's young for his year, and I'm an oldie in mine. September the 5 th . So we are just two months apart. He's not the boy sitting up in bed that I saw in the glossy brochure. I've looked out for him but not seen him. They might have got him in just for the photo.

Still, this one will do nicely. We met in the library one evening, as you do, with nothing to do. No major nightly prep burden yet. He wants to be friends with me which is good. I know he does. I'm experienced in these matters by now. You look at each other, and then again. And then again because he fancies you and you fancy him for………something. Just good company, perhaps a little more than that. Time will tell.

You just need one good mate at a boarding school. It's the thing we most worry about going to an entirely new environment, finding someone compatible, and quickly. You have to take what's available in these places. You don't get a lot of choice, but once it's done, it's quite likely to last for years. Unless of course you suddenly find yourselves incompatible. You think he wants to share with you, and when you finally have the courage to broach the subject, he's horrified. Not this one. He knows and I know. The ice has already been broken.

We were changing for PE. That as every boy knows, involves some looking about. As we removed everything, he was glancing in my direction, just as I was shooting him the occasional glance. You just know . When I accidentally found him on his own in the playground the next day, he was glad I wanted to talk to him. That's all it took. I wouldn't call him pretty. No, not at all. Attractive? Yes. I've no preferences when it comes to looks. I'll know it when I see it, and I've seen it. I'll see others too, but time will tell. He's nothing that special, rather immature for his age I'd say, but then so am I. Intellectually nicely suited too. Neither of us are that clever, and both of us are quite sporty. He swims as I do, and well. Let's see how things go shall we? There are extra-curricular clubs and societies to join. Ro's a member of a couple that I shall have to join.

We sit, two chairs together at a table, his leg innocently resting against mine, but I've noticed this subtle sexual contact, as we read the morning paper together before breakfast. Just a slight pressure, not enough to think anything of it, but enough to feel a presence there. He sleeps in a different room to me, but there are plenty of other opportunities to meet and talk, and share experiences. And there's one event we did share; the annual MI. The dreaded Medical Inspection. All the newbies have to undergo this ordeal.

We were divided into pairs. As it transpired, I was paired up with Ro. We waited in line outside one of the reception rooms near the offices. No blazers or shoes. Gradually the line got shorter and our turn was imminent. Then we were next to go in. The door opens and Matron says….

'Next two.'

Oh bugger. Here we go.

I stood back while Ro had to undo and lower his trousers, leaving his pants on. Nice ones too, like mine. It's the first time I've seen what he wears. This is indeed a good sign. Then he has to take off all his top stuff, and be looked at, felt for a few moments under his arms, have his chest listened to by a young looking doctor, and then he has to lower his pants and gets felt in the groin area for a few seconds and asked to cough. Standing behind him prevented me from getting a good look at Ro. Then a few measurements are taken, his chest and around his hips, still embarrassingly exposed to Matron standing a few feet away, and then wait with folded arms. It is the first time I've seen Ro's body, albeit the back of it. I'd had sight of his bottom for a couple of minutes, and where the sun doesn't reach and paler than the rest. A wonderfully sexy contrast. The grey trousers are on the chair with the boy's socks and underpants on top. Ro turns towards me, nervously struggling to get his pants and trousers back up. That's my first sight of what I've been wondering about ever since we met.

'You can get dressed now.' Goes the female voice in that matter-of-fact way she has. Ro turns towards me, nervously struggling to get his pants and trousers back up. That's my first sight of what I've been wondering about ever since we met. She'll see all the boys' private parts this morning. I've seen Ro's now. A handsome little cocklet, pale and smooth as a baby's bottom. While he dresses, he'll see mine and recognize the similarity. We have that in common.

Then the hand gesture invites me to step forward. Trousers down. I'm anxious that my penis has not shrunk to nothing with all the anxiety involved with this awful process, but it certainly feels like it has. A sort of mini walnut whip thing. I look down as I feel the doctor's finger trace a line down my spine checking, I was told later, for signs of scoliosis. I looked to confirm my shrunken condition. I shot Roland a sideways glance. I could see him smiling as the second sock goes on. When we left, we passed the queue of boys waiting. They all looked suitably anxious. No wonder. Blond boys, dark haired and brown haired boy all in a line, all wishing they were somewhere else. Anywhere else, but not there, awaiting the dreaded medical Inspection. There's kind of euphoria that swamps one when you get out of that room and into the air once more.

'That was super-scary wasn't it? Meet me in the House Reading Room after lunch Tom?' Says Ro.

This place is now our 'go to' if we want to talk. Quiet conversation is allowed in there. We sat at our usual table in the corner, Ro to my left, and close. Oddly, I felt that our recent experience in the MR, the Medical Room, had brought us closer together. I felt his right leg press on my left as I pretended to read the Telegraph sports section. If I'm not very much mistaken? It's close to end of the County Cricket season, and Sussex are threatening to win it for the first time in their history. I don't know why I did it, but I let my left hand drop onto my knee and drift sideways next to Ro's thigh. I can hear his breathing as no doubt he can hear mine now. I looked around the room quickly. There's no one near us to see.

'What are you missing most in this place Tom?' He asks.

An unexpected question, but I had the answer quick enough.

'A friend Ro. You know; a proper friend. One you can really trust. I'm a bit lonely Ro.'

'You poor thing. You haven't been here long. You'll find one. You might have already. Me.'

I shivered. I felt it. I let my mouth open and I looked him straight in the eye. They are an odd colour; a greeny grey colour I thought unusual. And then his shapely mouth. He saw me looking. His tongue wet his lips as he smiled again. Good straight and very white teeth. I've always responded to either very dark or very light hair. He's more or less between the two, an arrangement sans any kind of styling, very natural, quite straight and creeping over his ears. I had the urge to run my fingers through it, as I did Philip's golden locks. Ro is quick to smile, another good habit. I'm getting to like him more, and of course with that comes the fear of rejection. But keep the conversation broad.

'What did you think…….in the Medical Room this morning?'

'Pretty weird wasn't it?'

'Yes, but what did you think?'

'I thought you handled it well Tom. What did you think of me?'

'I'm surprised you let him handle your bits like that. How did it feel?'

'Great, if it hadn't been him.'

'Oh. Who would you have preferred then? That shopkeeper girl at the sweet shop in Town?' I ask.

'Really Tom. Don't you know any better than that?'

'I might do.'

'Oh that's interesting. Is that…. I might do it? Or are you asking me the question? As a matter of fact, you might very well do; if that was your question.'

Come on Tom, don't beat about the bush here. Ro likes you. It's very very obvious. Tell him. A bit of romance goes a long way in this place. All work and no play makes Tom and Ro very dull boys.

'Either way Ro. Both ways are good. In fact any way you would prefer. Will I do for you?'

'Yes Tom.' He says with a smile. You will certainly do for me.

Great. Thank goodness that's over.

We sat there eyeballing each other with questions in our minds. About each other. It was a kind of re-examination after a hurdle had been jumped. It all started with the MI, so I suppose I should be grateful for that event with hindsight. Ro is not like Philip. Not alarmingly beautiful at all, but just another boy like me. Just a very ordinary boy really. Brown hair that needs a trim, nice eyes I've already described, neat body, and nicely bumpy in the right place. He has an air of cleanliness about him too. Rather an odd observation I agree, but it's there.

We sat at the table for a while longer, not talking but pretending to read the Telegraph sports section, our legs firmly together. When I moved my knee, he moved his. When I pushed my leg against his, he pushed back. Then I felt his shoulder against mine and I pushed mine back against it. No, not it, him.



'At your last school, did you board?' Ro asks.


'Did you like it?'

'Yes, I did quite.' I said.

'Did you make some good friends there?'

'Yes. What about you?'

'One or two.'

'Any one in particular, like a very best friend?'

'Yes. There was one.'

'Are you sad that you don't see him any more?'

'Yes. He was…………very nice.'

'How nice Ro?' I persist.

'Pretty special really.'

'That's nice. I had one too. He was special.'

'Did you? What was he like?' Ro goes on. This is getting interesting.

'Like everything you could want in a friend really.'

'What did you want Tom?'

'The same thing that he did. He needed a bit of looking after so that's what I did. You do that for a friend don't you?'

'You cared about him then?'

'Yes I suppose you could put it like that. I like caring for people. I think I'm made that way. I think it's good to get involved with things, especially in places like this. We need to look after each other. You know, take care of each other.'

Then the conversation pauses for a couple of minutes. I'm excited. I think we're on the brink of something. Roland is the next to speak.

'What you said Tom. Did you mean that?'

'Yes of course I did. Every word, and more probably. If you can find the right person. The right person for you.'

'Do you mean me?'

'Yes. I think you are.'

'I think you are too. Can I ask you something Tom? You won't mind will you? It's a bit personal.'

'No of course I won't mind!' I say, hoping he was going to ask me a question I wanted to hear.

'Have you ever had a girlfriend?'

'No. Have you?'


'Would you like one? You won't find one here apparently.' I said flippantly.

'That's true enough. And no, I'm not looking for a girl friend.'

'Neither am I.'

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