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by c m

Chapter 4

I wake up early on the Thursday. I'm on my own; Luke and I couldn't think of a decent excuse for him to be sharing my bed once the two days of 'every four hours' was up. But that doesn't mean I don't think about him. As usual when I wake up, I've got a full-on stiffy – which thinking about Luke does nothing to diminish. I give up the unequal struggle and stroke myself to a thoroughly enjoyable climax. By the time I've showered and dressed it's nearly 9 o'clock; the time my results will be released. I make my way downstairs. My mother is on reception.

'What are you doing down here?'

'Mum…it's been three days and I need to call the school to get my results.'

'You could do that from the apartment.'

'I'm going stir crazy up there.'

'You'll be no good to anyone if you have a relapse. Once you've made the call, I want you back upstairs.'

I don't have the energy to argue – so maybe she's right. But I put the call into the school from the back office.

When I emerge, I think my mother can tell from the silly grin on my face that the news is good.

'Well?' she asks.

'I passed all ten…eight of them with a grade 9 and two with a grade 8.'

She can't help herself. She just throws her arms round me and kisses me.

'That's amazing, darling! Well done…well done you. Well, you deserved it, you worked very hard. We must do something to celebrate.' She catches herself. 'Well, once you're recovered.' And then. 'But with grades like that, darling, are you sure you don't want to do As and then go to Uni?'

'Yes, I'm sure mum. And thanks. I hope Chris got the results he's hoping for too – he's coming round a bit later.'

'Is he? Oh good, that'll be nice for him – and you.'

'I'm going to introduce him to Luke.'

'I'm sure Luke will be very impressed with your grades as well.'

'Is it OK if I sit here until he and his grandmother come down to breakfast – so that I can tell him?'

'I don't see why not – but back upstairs afterwards.'

It feels good to be back behind reception – even if all I have to do is put some keys back on hooks when the room occupants leave them with me to go out for the day. On the dot of 9.30, Luke and his grandmother cross the hall from the stairs into the dining room. Luke looks across.

'Charlie! What are you doing down here?'

'Just got my results.'

'Oh! Of course…and…?'

'I did OK.'


'Eight grade 9s and two grade 8s.'

'That's bloody amazing!.'

He bounds across and gives me a huge hug.

'Forgive me, 'says his grandmother, 'but I'm not familiar with what that means.'

'It means he's a bloody genius, gran, that's what it means. Bloody AND intelligent – it's not fair. Oops…sorry.'

He puts his hand to his mouth as he realises what's he's said – but fortunately there's no-one else in the hall to hear.

'What time is your friend coming?'

'Chris will be here at 10.30. Is it still OK for you to spend the day with me?'

'It's absolutely fine,' says his grandmother, 'I know he's looking forward to meeting your friend. But now, if you'll excuse us, we need to have breakfast.'

She turns away to go into the dining room, and Luke uses the moment to kiss me.

'You are fucking amazing,' he whispers, 'see you in a bit.'

'Just come on up. Ping me and I'll be at the door.'

'Will do.'

Instead of going upstairs, I go to the kitchen. With the anxiety about my results out of the way, I suddenly feel ravenous. As I go through the doors, it is evident that my mother has told chef and all the waiting staff about my results.

'Well done, Charlie,' says Max, 'sit down over there and I'll do you a fry up.'

'Yes, well done,' add Julie and Naomi – who's one of the part-time staff.

I blush.


Max produces a plate of food that challenges even the serious appetite I've got, but I do it full justice. Through the swing doors I can see that Luke and his grandmother are still enjoying their breakfast, so, after putting the plate in the washer and thanking Max, I make my way up the back stairs to my room.

Twenty minutes later, my phone pings and I go and let Luke in through the upstairs door. As it closes behind me he just pulls me to him and kisses me. I snatch my face away.

'Oh god,' I say,' have you just had kippers for breakfast?'


'Right. My bathroom – now! and clean your teeth. Then a mouthwash – it's on the side. You taste vile.'

He emerges a minute or so later.

'Open wide,' I say.

He does and I give his mouth a cautious sniff.


'So is it OK if….'

I just grab him and stick my tongue in his mouth.

I still need to take things quietly, and Luke and I are both watching back episodes of 'Game of Thrones' when Chris arrives. Chris' mother is Chinese, and he has delicately handsome Asian features and jet black hair. I'm sufficiently shallow to confess that I first started talking to him when we moved here because I found him beautiful (before I realised I was gay, though looking back maybe this was a clue), but our friendship is now based on much more solid ground – not least because he is firmly heterosexual and much fancied by more girls than you can shake a stick at. One of the reasons I like him is that most of my other friends at school are always boasting of what they (almost certainly haven't) done with their girlfriends. Chris never gives anything away when asked, and as a consequence has a reputation for having shagged all the best looking girls. But he is adamant - to me at least - that he's a virgin, and in no hurry to lose it just for the sake of it. He thinks he - and it - are worth more than that. He is funny, bright, and one of the kindest and most generous people I know. And he reads people like an open book. He's also six foot of lithe, rugby-playing muscle. And as he comes through the door he's smiling; I guess his results are OK too.

I jump up and give him our customary hug. We look at each other. Who's going to go first?

'Results OK?' he finally asks.

'Yeah. OK. And you?'

'OK too.'

'How OK?'

'Passed all nine. Six grade 9, three grade 8. You?'

'Passed all ten. Eight grade 9, two grade 8.'

'Fuck! You beat me.'

'Only just. But who cares?'

He gives me another hug which stops just short of breaking my ribs. And then we're both laughing. And then I realise that Luke is still sitting, watching us, a smile on his face.

'Sorry, Luke, where are my manners? Chris….this is Luke, one of our guests.'

Luke gets to his feet and extends a hand which Chris envelops in both of his.

'So what ghastly crime have you committed to have been condemned to spend all day with this poor excuse for a human?' Chris says.

This is typical.

'My appeal is being considered even as you speak,' says Luke.

And after that they get on like a house on fire. We talk about all sorts of things, but eventually Chris asks;

'So how come you two have got to spend so much time together? Isn't it unusual for guests to mix with staff? I don't mean that unkindly – I think it's great… you obviously get on wonderfully.'

'No, you're right Chris. It was Luke's grandmother who encouraged him to make friends while he's here on holiday - and he and I just seemed to hit it off.'

'But how did you get talking in the first place?'

I look at Luke.

'This probably sounds weird, but when I took him his early morning coffee tray, he was awake and we just…found we got on.'

'He just sort of…got under my skin,' says Luke.

Chris grins. 'He does that…like a tick.'

'No…in a good way.' Luke smiles at me and I smile back.

Chris looks at me. Then looks at Luke. Then back at me.

'You two are more than just friends, aren't you?'

I told you he could read people.

'Umm…well…we've kind of fallen for each other, yes.'

'Wow!. Well…that's fantastic, Charlie, I'm so pleased for you – and you Luke. Despite my joking, Charlie is absolutely one of the best guys around.'

'I certainly think so,' Luke says.

Chris looks at me.

'So….have you?'

'Have we what?' I say, innocently.

'Don't you pretend with me, Charlie Douglas; you and Luke have played hide the sausage, haven't you?'

'I'm sure I have no idea what you're talking about, Chris.'

'Oh, come on…and how was it?'

I break into a huge grin; I can't help it.

'Bloody amazing.'

'Good for you…I'm so pleased for you. And no wonder you haven't been in touch. Much better things to do – and things to play with.'

He says this last part with a grin that Luke returns.

And that's that. No more questions. He and Luke start talking about something completely different. My best friend – my best, very straight friend – has just learned that I'm having sex with a boy I met only a couple of days ago and is totally unfazed. He just accepts it and moves on. Which is one more reason why he is such a wonderful friend.

Good though it is to have the company of the two boys who now mean most to me in the world, the sun is streaming through the window and I feel guilty about stopping them both from enjoying it.

'Why don't you two go and use the pool…I'll be fine here for a bit.'

'I'd love to,' says Chris, 'but I don't have my swimmers with me.'

'Borrow mine,' I say.

Although Chris is a couple of inches taller than me and a lot more muscled, he's slim in the way that a cheetah or a leopard are both muscled and slim – and his waist size is virtually the same as mine.

'I'll need to go and get mine from my room,' says Luke, 'see you at the pool?'

'Sure thing.'

Luke leaves and Chris strips off completely unselfconsciously. We've seen each other naked dozens of times. His cock is a lot smaller than mine when it's limp. But then I'm a shower and he's grower. His nakedness doesn't arouse me, but he has a good body and I can't pretend I don't enjoy seeing it.

He pulls my swimmers on. They suit him.

'I like Luke, Charlie, but is this just a nice holiday romance or something more?'

'I hope it's something more. Luke says it is. But we both know that a long-distance relationship won't be easy. But we want to try at least.'

'I'm surprised he doesn't have a boyf already – he's very good-looking.'

'He has a girlfriend.'

Luke stares at me.

'He WHAT?!'

'He's bi Chris.'

'I don't get this 'bi' thing…surely you either like one or the other?'

'I think we're probably all on a spectrum, Chris. Some boys who consider themselves totally straight are suddenly OK with getting a bj from a guy. I guess they are 95% straight. And there are gay guys who find themselves with a girl and they get and stay hard. I guess they're 90% gay. So why not anything in between?'

'I don't think I'm even 1% gay, Charlie.'

'Maybe not.'

'That doesn't mean I'm not totally comfortable with being with you – you know that.'

'Of course, Chris. Only morons allow their own sexuality to colour their views of other people's.'

'But if he has a girlfriend, Charlie….'

'He says they're not going anywhere. He's never shagged her and he's going to tell her it's over.'

'I don't want to see you get hurt, Charlie.'

'I trust Luke. He's a really nice guy. It's not just sex – though that's been amazing.'

'Have you really gone…all the way?'

'Yes…yes, we have.'

'For both of you?'

I nod.

'Though I think I prefer having him in me than the other way round.'

'I think that might be too much information….'

'You're the one who asked,' I say with a smile.

'I'm just glad that you're happy.'

'I am. Now…let's get down to the pool before he wonders where we are. And try to keep your hands off him.'

'I'm not going to touch him.'

'Hah!...'very good looking' was the phrase you used, I think.'

He just sticks his tongue out at me.

As we walk downstairs, the conversation about bi and straight is still in my head.

'Chris, does the idea of Luke and me having sex disgust you?'

'Not in the slightest.'

'Now…this is never going to happen – and it's certainly not an offer – but does the idea of me giving you a blow job disgust you?'

He stops dead.

'That's just plain weird, Charlie.'

'I know. But does it disgust you?'

'Umm….disgust me? I guess not. You're too nice for me to feel disgust but…it would be very odd. Where's this convo going, Charlie?'

'I don't know, Chris – truly. The question just popped into my head.'

'OK. If you say so.'

We walk a bit further and then Chris puts his arm round my shoulder.

'You may be weird, but it's always fun being with you…and nothing you could ever do would disgust me.'

Luke is waiting by the pool when we arrive. Chris and he both dive in and swim around a bit before the seemingly irresistible urge we boys have to splash each other kicks in. Then they're grabbing each other and pushing each other under – and laughing. A pang of envy strikes me; I wish I could be in there with them – and I wish it was me with my hands all over Luke.

When they eventually climb out, they both come over to me, lean down and shake their heads. It's like being caught in a sudden shower of rain. This provokes more laughter.

'Well thanks, guys,' I say

'Our pleasure.'

We all make our way back to my room.

'Mind if hop in the shower to rinse off the chlorine?' asks Chris.

'Help yourself.'

'I'll follow you,' says Luke.

Chris kicks off my swimmers and walks, naked, into the shower room. I see Luke checking him out.

'Like what you see?' I ask.

'I prefer yours,' he says with a grin.

When Chris emerges from the shower room, Luke pulls down his swimmers and flicks them up into his hand with a kick. The fact that this makes his cock jump about is, I am sure, entirely deliberate. He then throws them at me and strolls into the shower. Chris may be straight but, like all of us, he's curious about what everyone else has – and Luke has certainly given him an eyeful.

'No pubes,' he says to me.

'Me neither any more.'

'Really? Why?'

'It feels nice.'

'And circumcised.'

'Not much escapes you,' I say with a smile.

'Sorry. Just don't see that very often. Almost all the guys at school are like us.'

He's right. Apart from the boys who've been circumcised on religious grounds – and there aren't many of them in our year – I actually can't think of any.

'It doesn't make any difference,' I say, '…if you were wondering.'

'I wasn't,' he says.


He throws a cushion at me.

'I really don't know why I like you, sometimes.'

At this point Luke comes back into the room, towelling his hair and with the rest of him on full display. It's just like the first time I saw him that morning.

'How long have you been shaving your pubes?' ask Chris.

'Oh, for about three years I think. You should try it. It feels nice – and makes you look bigger too. Shit…my clothes are in my room.'

'I'll go and get them,' I say

When I get back, Chris and Luke are deep in conversation. It's about the bi thing, I realise.

'Chris has been asking me how much homo and how much hetero I am.'

'OK,' I say, 'and what's the answer?'

'The answer is that I never really thought about it that way until a few days ago - when we did what we did. I'd always assumed that I just was capable of liking both equally – you know, 50/50. But I realise it isn't like that. I have much stronger feelings for you than I've ever had for Donna. The prospect of sleeping with you excited me far more than I ever felt about Donna. The feelings I experience when we're having sex are a million times more intense than with Donna.'

He pauses before continuing;

'I think we get brought up to expect to be hetero. Some people realise they are gay and it's then kind of presented as a binary choice. And the only thing that is a halfway house is bi…but 'halfway' house is exactly how I thought of it; the meeting point between two opposites, neither of which was me, surely had to be in the middle? But it isn't and I'm not. I think it's a sliding scale. You, Chris, are one end and you, Charlie are at the other. But I'm not in the middle. I'm beginning to think I'm at least 70 or 80% Charlie...maybe more. And even you two may not be at the ends. I think by the time you get to 95:5, the 5 becomes invisible and unrecognisable to the person themselves. They think and act as if they are 100% and they describe themselves that way – unless and until something comes along that exposes that 5% to the light.'

'That's just what I was trying to say, Chris.'

'So you're saying that although I think of myself as 100% straight, there might be a anything up to 5% of me that isn't – but that I won't know that, and I won't behave any differently from a 100% hetero guy unless something happens to make me see myself differently?'

'You got it. Of course, I could be wrong.'

'OK. But if you are still 20-30%% hetero, does that mean you'll still fancy girls even when you're with Charlie?'

'It means that I'll probably give both attractive boys and girls that we pass in the street a second glance, whereas Charlie will probably only take a second glance at the good-looking boys. But it doesn't mean that there will be a hole in my sexual satisfaction that can only be filled by a girl.'

'OK. I think I get what you're saying. I don't know if I agree, but you've given me something to think about for sure.'

He looks at his watch.

'I need to get back, Charlie. Good to see you - and take care of that head. When do you go home, Luke?'

'Few days time.'

'OK…then I'll leave you two to enjoy your time together just the two of you. Maybe we can get together again once you're on your own again, Charlie?'

'That would be great, Chris. Actually, there is one thing you could do before you go. Could you take a pic of me and Luke together?'

'Sure. Full length or head and shoulders?'

'Could you do both?'

Luke is still standing there with just a towel round his waist.

'Umm, I'm no photographer, but I think it would be a better pic if you two were dressed sort of to the same extent. Maybe Luke puts on some shorts and you take off your shirt, Charlie. You've both got nice tans. Might as well see them.'

I look at Luke, who nods. He drops his towel and pulls on his shorts, and I slip my shirt off over my head. We stand beside one another.

'Nice,' says Chris, 'but better if you actually look as though you like each other.'

Luke and I grin, and then he puts an arm round my shoulder and I put one round his waist.

'Much better.'

Chris takes a couple of full-length shots and shows us the results. They're good.

'OK, now for the close up.'

He takes a couple of us in the same pose as the full-length ones, but just closer. Then he says;

'Why don't you face each other, looking into each other's eyes?'

We turn to face each other. Our noses are almost touching.


'Want one of you kissing?' he asks.

We both turn our heads fractionally, then lean into one another until our lips touch.

Click. Click.

I feel Luke press more firmly against my lips.


I press back.


Then his tongue flicks my lips. I let him inside.

Click. Click.

His hands come up to my face, holding me.

Click. Click. Click.

My arms go round his shoulders, pulling him into me.

Click. Click. Click. Click.

Finally we part.

Chris has lowered the phone he's used to take the pics and is just looking at us.

'Fuck…I may be straight but that's one of the most erotic things I've ever seen.'

He shows us the pictures They're very good. Something for us to treasure once we're apart.

'Great job, Chris,' says Luke, 'you're good.'


He drops a hand to his waist. He thinks I haven't noticed him adjusting the lump in his shorts.

'It's been lovely to meet you Luke. Take care of Charlie...he means the world to me. And I truly hope things work out for you both. You seem really good together.'

'Thanks, Chris, it's been good to meet you too. Hope we'll see a lot more of each other – and it's nice to know Charlie has such a good friend.'

The two of them embrace, genuinely affectionately.

'Look after yourselves,' Chris says as he goes out through the door, 'and don't do anything I wouldn't do.'

'Well, we're either going to ignore you – or else you're going to have get into gay sex as well!'

Chris gives us a cheery one-finger salute accompanied by a big grin and shuts the door behind him.

'Wow. He's really nice, Charlie,' says Luke as the sound of Chris' footsteps disappear down the corridor.

'He's been a good friend to me. And he looks out for me.'

'Quite sexy in his own way too.'

I give him a look.

'Not in your class', though, Luke adds.

After two more days, I'm showing no signs of relapse, which is great. What is absolutely not great is that tomorrow Luke goes home.

I persuade my mother that I'm well enough to take on at least some of my duties and she reluctantly agrees. But getting up early to do tea and coffee is not on the list of things she'll allow me to do.

'You still need a proper night's sleep,' she insists.

'Can I at least do a bit on reception and help serve meals?'

'I suppose so.'

'And can I go to the beach with Luke?'

'No diving.'


At two o'clock, with my stint on reception finished, Luke and I head for the beach. We are both experiencing an odd mixture of joy at being in each other's company, pleasure at being back out in the sun, and gut-wrenching despair at the knowledge that these are the last few hours we'll have together – at least until Christmas. But we do enjoy ourselves digging a huge sand-castle before cooling off with an extended swim in the sea. But after an hour or so I know that what I really want is to be alone with Luke in my room.

'Would it be a terrible waste of a lovely day if I was to say that I'd really, really like to be alone with you for a bit?'

'Thank God you said that…that's what I want too.'

We leave the beach and go back to the hotel. We shower together and I make sure I'm ready for Luke. Nothing is going to stop me from having him inside me at least once before he leaves. But there is one question to be resolved.

'Can you spend the night with me, Luke?'

'Just let anyone try and stop me.'

'OK. That's wonderful. But it also means I don't want us to be so climaxed out that there's nothing left for later.'


'So…just a couple of times now?'

'Sounds good to me.'

We lie on the bed and take our time. There's not an inch of his body that I don't know intimately by now, and I spend time visiting every bit of it, stroking, nuzzling, licking, pinching. By the time I've finished I'm in a state of seriously heightened arousal – and so is Luke. And it's time to tell him what I want.

'I want you inside me, Luke. Right now, please.'

'Is that a good idea?'

'I'm fully-recovered Luke, honest, and I want you so much. Please, just do it.'

He enters me slowly. Feeling his cock sliding into me again is wonderful beyond words. My legs are over his shoulders as he starts to thrust in and out of me. I am hard as a rock, and Luke strokes me to a climax that coincides with his own. He bends down and kisses me.

'Umm…Charlie…if we can only do it one more time before tonight…well… please…that is…I'd really like…would you do it me, Charlie?'

'Are you sure, Luke? I thought…'

'I want to try it again. I want to feel you inside me.'

He pulls out of me and lies on his back beside me.

'And I want to see you as you do it, Charlie.'

'Then I think you should ride me, Luke. It will give you more control as well that way. But promise me you'll say if you want to stop.'

'I promise.'

We kiss and cuddle for a few minutes and then he uses his mouth on me to get me hard. I do my best to prepare him with my fingers and lots of lube, and then he's straddling me and lowering himself onto me. He just gives two short gasps on the way to taking me all the way inside. What follows is amazing. He doesn't hold back and clearly enjoys it as much as I do. He stays erect all the way and after I've exploded inside him, it only takes a couple of strokes from me before he's pumping his seed all over my chest. I ask him to feed it to me and he does, scooping it up with his fingers.

'That felt so good, Charlie…I had no idea…'

'I suppose you're going to want to do that all the time now?'

He smiles.

'Not all the time….maybe not even half the time…but from time to time for sure.'

'Better or worse than oral?'

'I don't think 'worse' is the right word. Both are wonderful – with you. But if I could only have one…then I think I'd still have to choose oral. There's something about the feel…'

'…of doing it to each other at the same time?' I finish.

'Hah! Yes! Exactly. It's funny, isn't it…I mean, all the emphasis is on how wonderful it feels to be blown – and it does of course - but the feel of you in my mouth….the sensation of you bucking before coming…while waves of pleasure are rushing up through your own groin….it's like they almost meet in the middle. Every little bit of you is alive with sensation.'

'I think I know what we'll be doing later,' I say.

'You say the nicest things.'

And that is indeed what we do later. First, though, Luke rejoins his grandmother for dinner and she asks me to join them in the lounge for coffee. Mum says that's fine.

'I just wanted to thank you, Charlie, for helping Luke to have a such a wonderful time here. I've never seen him so happy and so relaxed. Even if he does seem to be a little tired sometimes.' She smiles conspiratorially at both of us. 'I hope that things work out for you in whatever way you both want them to; how that is is none of my business and I have no intention of asking. But should you ever need somewhere to spend time together away from your families, then you will always be welcome to come and stay with me. I hope that those circumstances don't arise but if they do then my offer stands. May I also wish you success with your course, Charlie. This hotel has been a most pleasant experience - and certainly one that I will recommend to my friends – and I have no doubt that when the time comes it will be passing into very capable hands.'

She turns to Luke.

'We have to check out at 11 tomorrow, Luke. Until then, I suggest that you enjoy your time together.'

'I still have some duties, Mrs. Marshall,' I say, 'but I should be through in about an hour. I'm also on duty at reception from 10 tomorrow, so I'll be there to check you out.'

I stand up and shake Mrs. Marshall's hand.

'Thank you for all your kindness to me, Mrs. Marshall, and your…understanding. And for letting Luke spend so much time with me.'

'The thanks are all mine, Charlie. And Luke's.'

'See you in an hour?' says Luke

'Yes. Top floor door.'

Mrs. Marshall is much too well-bred to ask. And she is doing her best to conceal the half-smile on her lips.

In the kitchen, Julie says that she'll do the tea and coffee trays in the morning.

'You may be able to hide it from your mother and most of the others, but I know, Charlie.'

I start to protest but she cuts me off.

'I think it's great, Charlie. You're a lovely boy and you deserve to find some happiness. Enjoy yourselves tonight. I'll do the trays.'

I kiss her.

Our love-making that night starts off slow, but becomes increasingly urgent as the reality that we won't be seeing each other for at least three months kicks in. We keep going until our balls protest; their dull ache announcing that they have been completely drained. We've sucked one another dry – except that final time when I wanted – needed – Luke inside me one last time.

Afterwards I lie with my head on his tummy, his achy balls cupped in one hand and the tip of his cock lying against my lips. I know he has nothing more to give, but I cannot get enough of him. I stroke the silky skin of the shaft, and give the greyish-purple tip the occasional lick. I feel his hands running through my hair.

'I think you only love me for my cock,' he says.

'Yah…probably,' I say.

He cuffs me gently on the side of the head. We both giggle, but I scooch up the bed to put my face beside his.

'You know that's not true, Luke. But I don't know what I'm going to do without it.'

I roll over onto my back and gather my thoughts.

'It's like…the whole of you is a wonderful train that's taking me on the best ride of my life….but your cock is the concentrated focus of what makes the energy flow from you into me.'

'It's certainly the part that makes something flow from me into you…'

I look at him and we both burst out laughing.

'And I know that this is just vanity and ego,' I continue, '…but when I see you getting hard, it sends a little thrill through me that I'm having that effect on you. Is that very wrong?'

'No, Charlie….it's lovely. And I get the same feelings too.'

He kisses me.

'Actually,' I say, 'I'd love you even if you didn't have a cock – but I'm so pleased that you do.'

'Me too,' he says, '…and I'm going to miss yours every bit as much.'

In the morning – amazingly enough – we find that we have recovered just enough to stroke each other to one final climax before we shower and dress.

'Go and join your grandmother for breakfast,' I say, 'if you're feeling anything like me, you're bloody ravenous.'

'I am,' he concedes ruefully, 'despite your best efforts to fill me up.'

'Guess we must have worked it all off.'

He grins.

'Yeah…we did, didn't we?'

We hug each other - and I don't want to let go. And neither, it seems, does he. But eventually we do. And I can see that his eyes are as moist with tears as mine.

'Go,' I say, 'breakfast is waiting.'

He nods and wipes a hand across his eyes. I take his hand in mine and lead him out of my room, up to the door into the corridor and open it for him.

'See you downstairs, I say.'

'See you downstairs.'

A kiss, and he's gone.

At 10.55, Luke appears carrying his grandmother's bags.

'Luke – you should have called down, I could have brought those down for you.'

'Don't be daft; they're not heavy,' and then he continues in a whisper, 'and anyway, I thought you might be tired.'

He flicks his eyebrows up and down.

'You're impossible,' I say.

'But you love me anyway…I'll be back down in a mo.'

Two minutes later he's back in front of me with his own bag and with Mrs. Marshall bringing up the rear.

'I hope you've both enjoyed your stay,' I say in my best receptionist manner.

'I most certainly have, Charlie. Now, is my bill ready?'

'Right here, Mrs. Marshall.'

She scans it quickly but thoroughly.

'Thank you, that looks fine. And can I say that I've enjoyed all the little extras that you and your mother provide so thoughtfully. How about you, Luke?'

'Yes, Gran. I can certainly say that I've enjoyed all the little extras that this hotel has provided.'

He's looking all innocently at me and I do my best to contain myself.

I put the amount into the card machine and hand it to Mrs. Marshall. One of the options is to add a tip - and I can see that she is doing so. She hands the machine back to me. I can't believe what I see. The original bill was for a little over £6000. Most guests – if they add anything at all – add somewhere between 5% and 10% depending on how long they've been staying.

'I think you might have made a mistake, Mrs. Marshall. You've added £6000 – I assume you meant to add £600.'

'I know precisely what I've added, young man. I expect it to be shared out amongst all the staff – including you. Especially you. Experiences like this don't come along very often – especially at my time of life. It is not only Luke whom you have made very happy. And it might help with some of the costs of your course. Now, if you'll give me back my card, we'll be on our way.'

'I can't thank you enough,' I say.

'There's no need.'

I step out from behind the desk and she shakes my hand. And then it is time to say goodbye to Luke. I can't find any words. But I don't need to; he just holds out his arms and we embrace. Our cheeks touch as we hold each other so tightly I fear my ribs will break. And then he kisses me. Right there. Just once. In front of his grandmother - who simply smiles. I've no idea what the other two guests who are just on their way out are thinking.

'Thank you,' is all he says.

I can only nod. If I try to say anything I'll cry.

'Look after yourself, Charlie…and see you again soon I hope.'

'See you again soon,' I croak.

He hugs me one final time, and as our faces touch he whispers in my ear.

'Love you.'

'Love you too.'

The last words before we part.

My mother appears just as they turn to leave. I show her the credit card receipt and she gasps in shock.

'Mrs. Marshall! Mrs. Marshall!' she says, running past me to take hold of her elbow. 'I think there's been some mistake…'

'No mistake I assure you, Mrs. Douglas.'

'But what on earth can we have done to….?'

'I'm sure Charlie will fill you in. I believe that he has something to talk to you about anyway. It has been a most enjoyable stay and both of us are most grateful to your son for his role in making it so.'

'Well, of course, that's our pleasure… and if you're sure…?'

'Quite sure. I shall look forward to returning here at some point in the future - if spared.'

Mum sees them down the steps to the car that is waiting to take them home. I stand at the door and wave. Luke waves back.

Once we're both back inside the hotel, my mother says;

'What was that all about Charlie? And what did she mean when she said you have something to talk to me about? '

'Could we go somewhere private, Mum?'

We go into the little office that's behind reception. My mother looks at me expectantly.

'Mum…you know I'm gay, right?'

'Yes…but what's that got to do with anything?'

'It's just…over the last two weeks…' I take a deep breath. 'Luke and I became more than just friends.'

Mum's hand flies to her mouth. 'You mean?'

'We've become…pretty much…boyfriends.'

'But they were guests!'

'I know, Mum…and that's the only reason I didn't tell you before. I knew you'd be upset.'

'But what if Mrs. Marshall had found out? It could have ruined us!'

'Mrs. Marshall knew, Mum. She encouraged us. Why do you think she added that enormous tip?'

'Did Luke seduce you? Is that what you mean…Mrs. Marshall gave us that extra money to keep us quiet?'

'No, Mum. Nothing like that. And he didn't seduce me. It just happened.'

'What happened?. Oh my lord…are you saying the two of you slept together?'

'Yes, mum…that's what boyfriends do.'

'But you're only sixteen!'

'It's not illegal, mum. What was it you said? 'doubtless you'll start having sex soon enough'? But the sex isn't what's important. We really like each other, mum. Maybe we even love each other.'

'So what was that huge tip about?'

'She was grateful, mum. That I'd made Luke happy. That it meant he'd had a good time.'

'Did you and Luke tell her you were sleeping together?'

'No, mum. She just knew. From the way we looked at each we were with each other. I don't know exactly how, but she just did…she was smart, mum. And she had a brother who was gay. Of course, it was illegal back then. But she knew about him and wanted him to be happy and knew that he wasn't because he'd had to hide who and what he was. She was pleased that Luke and I didn't have to do that. It made her happy that Luke was happy.'

'How could I have been so blind? I actually believed what you told me when I saw the two of you coming out of the shower together…'

'Actually that was the truth, mum – but not the whole truth, I admit. I'm sorry I didn't tell you then, but it would have been awful. You know what you'd have said and done. And mum…more important than anything…it's not just that I made Luke happy…Luke makes me happy. The happiest I have ever been in my life.'

Mum just looks at me. And then she flings her arms round me.

'My precious, precious boy…of course that's all that matters. And I'm sorry for what I've just said. And Luke is the lucky one. No wonder Mrs. Marshall liked you so much. But…what will you do now he's gone?'

'We're going to try and make it work…we know it will be hard.' I decide to seize the moment. 'But… there is one way you could help.'


'You know we always hire extra staff at Christmas? Just for a few weeks, to help out?'

My mother nods.

'Could…that is, would it be possible for Luke to be one of those this year? He'd need to clear it with his parents but if they said yes…?'

'Does he have any training?'

'No…but how much training do you need to help in the kitchen, serve, help with bags and so on? I could show him the ropes and…he wouldn't need any accommodation.'

I can see my mother working out what I've just said.

'Charles Douglas! Are you asking me to assist my sixteen year old son to have sex?'

'Well…that wouldn't be the main reason for him coming, but….'

She briefly closes her eyes, then ruffles my hair.

'You're your grandfather's grandson all right. OK, here's what we'll do. If you and he are still…an that the word? two months' time, and if his parents say 'yes', then he can come and work here. But he will have to work; he gets cut no slack and he does what he's told – and does it with a smile.'

'I promise I'll do everything I can to keep a smile on his face,' I say, looking at her all innocently.

'Good, well in that case…OH!' My mother suddenly realises what I mean. 'Charles Douglas, you are incorrigible! Off with you! And now I suppose I'll have to work out who gets what from this incredibly generous tip.'

We have a procedure for this. The first rule is that my mother refuses to take any of it; she says that tips are for the staff and not the management. That was my grandfather's way and it is her way too. And I will do the same if and when I run the hotel. Face to face staff get more than backroom staff and full-time employees get more than part-timers. We don't have many staff and the bottom line is that I'll probably do very nicely out of it.

The keen sense of loss I feel when Luke leaves is helped, for a while, by the fact that he'd said he loved me as we parted. But my emotions rapidly spiral downwards as the Luke-shaped hole in my day gets progressively bigger and bigger. I know that I'm getting snappy and my mother eventually loses patience and tells me to leave reception before I upset a guest.

I storm off to my room and fling myself on the bed. I try as hard as I can to focus on the wonderful, happy times we've spent together, and the fact that, God willing, he'll be back in a few months, but the more I think about him, the more choked-up I get until I suddenly find myself crying my eyes out. I open up the picture of us on my phone that Chris had taken…the one of us where we're kissing, our lips just touching, and hold it to my chest as the tears course down my cheeks. I find myself repeating his name over and over like some sort of mantra until - eventually - I fall asleep.

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