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by Charles Lacey

Chapter 8

Dad's two-year exchange had come to an end and we had to return to England. Sanwar and I looked back together. We'd had a wonderful time and enjoyed, to be honest, a far better education than we would have got even in the Sixth Form at St Edmund's. We'd made lots of good friends, including Paul and Aiden, whom we had promised to visit when we got home, and Jan and Krzystof, who had invited us to stay at any time we wanted to visit Poland. We'd become fluent in Polish – and that made Sanwar trilingual! We were ready to move on to the next stage of our life. But what was that to be?

We were absolutely clear that we were not going to live separately; that wasn't negotiable. Of course, Sanwar's parents would expect him to return to them, and my parents would expect exactly the same of me. We loved them, of course we did, but we didn't want to be living in their pockets any more. The only solution would be for us to make a home for ourselves together. Now that we were old enough to be independent, that's exactly what we planned to do. And of course now that we were over eighteen we had no need for any other pretences.

Sanwar was busy applying to medical schools all over the country. I'd decided that I would wait until he had a place, and then I'd look for an apprenticeship in the same area. If the worst came to the worst, we thought, we'd go back to Poland; Sanwar could study medicine at Krakow where the faculty was excellent, though Polish qualifications would not be useable in Britain, so it would more or less commit us to living permanently in Poland.

I was sure Marek would take me on as an apprentice, or if he was not able to he would be able to find someone else who could. But of course there was the question of money. Grandad's gift would cover reasonable living expenses, but not the University fees as well. We costed it all out very carefully but couldn't make the figures add up. Besides, although we didn't want to live in the same house with our families, we didn't want to be that far away from them.

Several of the medical schools wouldn't accept the Baccalaureate instead of 'A'-levels, although the standard of the Baccalaureate was actually a good bit higher than the British examinations. However, he was called to interview at three medical schools: Guy's in London, Edinburgh and Bristol. We were delighted that Sanwar got offers from all three, but eventually decided upon Bristol as it would be cheaper to live there than London, and Edinburgh was further away than we wanted to live. We went flat-hunting, and found a little place in a reasonably priced area called Redland, not too far from the hospital. There was no way we could have afforded a car, but there was a good 'bus service. The flat had two bedrooms, the smaller of which we decided would be Sanwar's study as I had no wish to see anatomical textbooks or human body parts in our home!

We wrote to Grandad to let him know and I started looking around for a stonemason who would take me on as an apprentice. There were a couple of 'monumental masons' who mostly produced gravestones and the like; to my disappointment I found that their products were almost entirely machine-made. But there was a man who did stonework repairs around the Cathedral and various churches around the area, and was also called in from time to time for repairs to other buildings. His name was Arthur Wiseman, and though I didn't know it at the time, he was one of the foremost stonemasons in the country.

Arthur wasn't easy to work for. He had very exacting standards for himself and expected everyone else to live up to them. At first I found it quite difficult, until I realised that it was a matter of professional pride that everything that came from his workshop was as near perfect as human skill could make it. He did pay me a small stipend, which was increased once he realised that I was in earnest and prepared to work hard. With Grandad's money and a council grant for Sanwar's fees we were able to make ends meet quite comfortably.

We built up a good social life as well. It started with a fellow student from the Medical School: Jane Berrington. She'd carefully chosen Sanwar when the students were asked to work in pairs as she'd summed him up in one very shrewd glance and much preferred a gay man to work with as he wouldn't make a nuisance of himself. Jane – now Jane Montague – is still one of our closest friends and Sanwar is Godfather to her eldest son.

While working at a Cathedral in the Midlands – Arthur's reputation was such that he was asked to do work all over the Kingdom – I stayed at a bed-and-breakfast, but Sanwar came over whenever he could. While there I met a charming man called Mervyn Lamont, one of the vergers there. He introduced me to his partner, Charles Garbin, who was the assistant organist at the Cathedral. We enjoyed several excellent meals in their company at various restaurants around the city. They have also been to stay with us. And one way and another, we just seemed to meet all sorts of interesting and pleasant people, some but by no means all of them gay.

But if we'd thought we were working hard at the International School, it was nothing to what we were doing now. For Arthur, the day's work ended either when the daylight went, or when we were too tired to go on. And as I said earlier, stonemason's work needs both skill and delicacy, and sheer physical strength.

Sanwar was thrown straight in from the word go. The first part of his training was spent in learning Anatomy. Along with Jane, his study partner, he dissected corpses and discovered the structures that lie under the skin. As Sanwar related to me with some glee, the Professor of Anatomy had opened the course with the comment, "Before we let you loose on patients that are still alive, you'll learn the elements of your trade harmlessly on ones that are already dead."

I remember very clearly the night that Sanwar came home to our little flat, having started upon the dissection of the human brain. It had brought home to him both how close he had been to death or at least severe disability, and just how skilled Mr Hartley, the neurosurgeon, had been and how much Sanwar owed to him. "You can't discharge your debt to him," I said, "but your patients can stand in for him in the future." Sanwar nodded gravely, and then broke down in tears. I remembered all too clearly that dreadful day when I had found him unconscious at the foot of the stairs. I. too, owed my life to Mr Hartley and his team, for without Sanwar it would not have been a life, merely an existence.

From anatomy he moved on to clinical training, lectures and tutorials (in many ways the medical course was similar to most university courses, differing only in that it was much more technical and also much more highly pressured), and then 'walking the wards' along with a senior member of the medical staff, absorbing the skills of diagnosis and treatment.

We kept in touch with Grandad and Papaji by letter. We would write a joint letter to them, and usually got a joint letter back. They were very happy together, as were we. They told us of the things they had done and the places they visited together, and we kept them abreast of our progress. And so it was with no sense of foreboding that I opened a letter from Papaji during the fourth year that we were in Bristol. But this letter brought the sad news that Grandad had died. He'd had increasing heart problems and Papaji had urged him to return to England for treatment, but he had refused. In the end, his heart just gave out and he died in Papaji's arms. But they had had seven wonderful years together, wrote Papaji, and in according with Grandad's instructions he had been cremated and Papaji had his ashes in an urn; when Papaji died they would be mixed with his ashes and scattered upon the River Ganges. By then I knew that Grandad's heart had always been in India, where he grew up and where he met his first and greatest love. Yes, he would have wanted an Indian funeral and his ashes to remain there, with Papaji's when the time came.

We had a Memorial Service for Grandad at the Parish Church near where my parents lived. I went back to their house for that; Sanwar stayed with us as they had even less room than before at his parents' flat due to the birth of another child. Sanwar was delighted to see his brother and sister again. Muhajid was just starting at St Edmund's and looked like being just as good a scholar as Sanwar had been.

We were changing – or do I mean evolving? – from boys of eighteen to young men of twenty-five. Our love, too, evolved, becoming deeper and more settled with each year that passed. And of course we changed physically as well. I did much less gymnasium training now as my work was physically demanding. Sanwar, on the other hand, did more. We kept, both of us, very busy, but we had made it a rule that Sundays were our own. We took it in turns to cook our Sunday breakfast, which we usually ate in bed, following it with a prolonged and gentle session of love-making. Not that we didn't take the opportunity to make love at plenty of other times as well, but our Sundays were special.

And it was in that flat that we first had full intercourse. We'd promised each other that we would keep that for when we had our own place. Now we had, and nothing was going to hold us back. As neither of had ever had sex with anyone else, condoms were unnecessary and Sanwar had quietly relieved the Medical School of a tube of KY jelly. We tossed a coin to see who would go first, and I lost – or do I mean I won?

"How do you want me?" I asked Sanwar.

"On your back, legs up. Jack… dear Jack, you will say if I hurt you?"

"Yes, of course, but I'm sure you won't."

He started with one finger, then two, well lubricated. Then his head came up and we kissed, deeply and for a long time. I could feel the tip of his penis pushing against my opening, and then he put down a hand and guided it in. It didn't really hurt, though there was a slight discomfort. That soon diminished, and I began to enjoy it.

But 'enjoy it' isn't the right word. It was an amazing feeling, having Sanwar inside me at last. He tells me that the anus is surrounded by sensitive nerves. I can well believe that. What I didn't know – then – was about the prostate gland. I was already leaking when Sanwar came. To my astonishment and delight, I could actually feel him spurting inside me. He was always pretty copious and this gave me such a thrill that it took precisely one stroke of my own cock to bring me off.

Rather than pull out straight away, Sanwar stayed put for a minute or two, giving time for his cock to soften a bit. We lay on our sides, face to face, kissing and murmuring.

"Tomorrow, you'll take me," said Sanwar, very quietly and tenderly. We lapsed into sleep. Since that was one of the occasions when I'd forgotten a towel, we did wake in the small hours needing to peel ourselves apart and then take a shower.

And on the following evening we reversed positions. We put a spare pillow, covered with a towel, in the centre of the bed, and Sanwar lay face down on it. It was lovely. Being actually physically coupled brought a new dimension to our closeness. But we discovered by experiment that I generally preferred to be the 'bottom' and, indeed that Sanwar could sometimes bring me to a shattering orgasm without either of us needing to touch my penis.

It was while he was in his last year as a student that he had a curious encounter. I knew as soon as Sanwar got home that something had happened to upset him. It was a Saturday evening. He came in around the usual time, kissed me and gave me a hug, again as usual, but there was something indefinable in the quality of his body that told me there was something wrong. I sat him down, poured us both a drink, and said, "What's happened, love?"

He sat for a while holding his drink and staring into space. Then he said, "I was in the Casualty Department today. We had a patient in who had been in a fight and got pretty badly cut and bruised."

He paused, and I had the impression he was trying to find the words to tell me the next bit.

"The thing was, I recognized him. Do you remember, the first time we ever met, the boy who was shouting at me?"

"Yes, I do. As I remember I fell on top of him."

"Yes, you did. Well, I remembered him, too. But it wasn't from then."


"No. I saw his face again, in my mind's eye, at the top of the stairs in the flats in Wilton Street. He was the one who pushed me downstairs. His name is Nick Green."

I got up, crossed over to where Sanwar was sitting, knelt in front of him and took his hands between mine.

"What did you do?"

"I treated his injuries. I am going to be a doctor; that's what I will have to do, no matter who the patient is. But…"

I waited for him to continue.

"It's a strange business. If you hadn't found me that day, and called the ambulance, I would probably have died. But if he hadn't pushed me downstairs, we might never have met again. Isn't there something in the Bible about doing evil in order that good may come?"

"I'm afraid I don't know the Bible that well."

"Oh, Jack, my dearest love, if that man hadn't tried to harm me that day, all the happiness we've had together, all the good things that we will have in the future, might never have happened."

"No. I suppose, in a strange sort of way, we owe him that. Though you never know, we might well have met at school anyway. But what will you do? Will you tell the police?"

"No, there's no point now. Jack… just hold me, please."

We stood up and I put my arms around him, holding him closely. We must have been like that for four or five minutes, until the timer sounded from the kitchen and I had to go through and turn off the oven. I wondered what, if anything, was to be done. That man had tried to kill another human being, probably out of revenge for what I had done to prevent him from tormenting Sanwar. He ought to pay the price for that, I thought. But I was sure that even if Sanwar went to the police they would do nothing. Perhaps it was best to let it go and just accept that for whatever reason Sanwar and I had each other, in a close and loving partnership. But it rankled. And, inevitably, I wondered what Nick Green was doing in Bristol. People of his type tend to stay in the area they are familiar with.

A few days later we found out more about Nick Green. He had been brought back into the hospital by a couple of policemen, greatly the worse for drink and very much bloodied and battered. Sanwar was not on duty as it happened, but Pam Hunter, the charge nurse who treated him, later told Sanwar his story, as she had heard it from him and from a policeman.

It seemed that he had become involved with a woman in Birmingham, who had a child by him. But his constant drinking and his bad temper and violence led her to throw him out, and he had retaliated in his usual fashion by beating her up. He spent some months in prison, and when he came out he was not allowed to live in Birmingham any longer and had therefore moved to Bristol where there was a council flat available. But he had got drunk and crudely propositioned a young woman, whose boy-friend had intervened. Green, however, would not take no for an answer and attempted to assault her, whereupon the boy-friend gave him a thorough pasting. I greatly hoped that the authorities had not caught up with him as he had only given the lout what he deserved.

Being in a big, busy hospital is a demanding occupation, though full of interest, opportunity and, quite frequently, surprises. Students in their last two years helped with staffing the casualty department. There was the general run of broken limbs and road traffic accidents. There were heart attacks and other medical emergencies. And, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, there were drunks and fights, the two often related. Sanwar had already attracted some favourable notice from the casualty consultant and, what probably counted for more, the nurses. And so one Friday evening he was called for from the staff room when someone was brought in, unconscious and covered in blood. It was a young woman, scarcely more than a girl. And she appeared to have received a severe beating. Fortunately, most of the blood seemed to have come from her nose; though her face was badly bruised and cut. Sanwar and the nurse began to clean the blood and dirt from her head and could not suppress a feeling of real anger as well as pity, for she was very pretty. Who could have done such a thing? She began to stir and mutter, and Sanwar said, "Lie still, you are in hospital. What is your name? Do you know who did this to you?"

Her name was Victoria and she said she was nineteen. It seemed that three men had set upon her for no apparent reason. But when Sanwar and the nurse indicated that they needed to check her over for further injuries, she clutched her arms around her and refused to be examined.

"It's alright," said Sanwar, "if you are worried about being examined by a man, I will leave the nurse to do it and come back later. Or if you prefer I can ask a woman doctor to see you." He turned and left, but only a minute or so later the nurse called him back in. The nurse had removed Victoria's top, revealing a chest which was smooth and hairless, but with tiny nipples and not a vestige of breasts. Suddenly understanding, Sanwar took Victoria by the hand and said very gently, "It's alright. Don't be afraid. You are completely safe here. If I tell you that I am gay, does that help?"

Victoria (so Sanwar told me) blushed, but said, "Yes, Doctor. Thank you. Can you examine me now?"

Sanwar did so, with the greatest gentleness and understanding. Then he asked her where she lived and what she did. It seemed that Victoria's original given name was Vincent, and she was the child of a stern and prejudiced father. She had gone out, taking her girl's clothes, and changed in the back room of the Phoenix, a pub which was much frequented by gay people. She had met up with her boy-friend, and they had gone out together. But three men had suddenly turned up and started shouting at them, and when their shouting turned to violence the boy-friend had run away. She did not dare to go home, not in girls' clothes, but had nowhere else. She was adamant that the police should not be involved.

And this was where I came into the picture. Sanwar asked the nurse to telephone me. I walked round to the hospital and when they had finished treating her injuries which, thank goodness, were alarming to look at but not too serious, I took her back to our flat. Sanwar arranged a hospital volunteer car so we didn't have to walk.

Victoria was a perfect sweetie. She flirted gently with both of us, knowing that it was quite safe to do so. She was very helpful around the flat, too, and gave it a thorough, and much needed, cleaning. And she ironed Sanwar's shirts with considerably greater skill than I could muster. But the day came when she needed to return to her father's house, if only to collect her belongings.

I went with her when that day came. She had lost her keys when she was attacked, and so we had to ring the doorbell. Her father came to the door, a burly, red-faced man with the straight back of a sometime soldier but the pot belly and broken veins of a heavy drinker. Victoria had borrowed some men's casual clothes from Sanwar, who was much the same size.

"Where the hell have you been?" was the man's question.

"I rang you, Father, to explain. I was injured in an accident and this gentleman has been looking after me."

"Well, you'd better come in, both of you," was the ungracious reply. "And where did you get those clothes?"

"Father, this is Mr Hemming. He's been very kind. His partner is the doctor who looked after me at the hospital."

"Partner? What do you mean, partner?"

I spoke up for the first time, keeping my voice as neutral as possible.

"He is my partner in life. We have been lovers for more than ten years now."

The older man worked this out. "Do you mean you're one of those… those bloody homos?"

"I do indeed."

He flushed even redder than he had been before.

"You ought to be bloody well castrated."

He turned to face Victoria.

"And what do you think you're doing, getting mixed up with a pack of Nancy boys?"

There was a silence for a few moments, and then Victoria replied.

"Just this, Father. I've come to collect my things. I'm moving out."

"Rubbish. Don't give me that stuff. I never had much opinion of you but now it's hit rock bottom. Go upstairs and change, and give this… this person the things you are wearing. And then," – he turned to me – "And then you can bugger off."

Victoria went upstairs briskly, while her father glowered at me, breathing heavily. Presently she came downstairs, still wearing Sanwar's clothes, but carrying two suitcases.

"What do you think you're doing? I told you to change."

"I don't need to change. I told you, I'm moving out."

"Moving out? Where will you go?"

"I'll be staying with Mr Hemming and Dr Khurana."

"Khurana? What sort of name is that?"

I cut in.

"It is an Indian name. My partner comes from India."

The old man went even redder.

"What! You mean you're not only a pair of Nancy boys, but one of you's a bloody foreigner?"

"Yes. He comes from a very old and greatly respected Indian family."

This flummoxed him for a moment, and then he turned back to Victoria.

"I told you, put those bloody cases down and go and change."

Victoria stood still, and then, very quietly, said, "No. I told you, I'm leaving."

It was then that he lost his temper. He aimed an open-handed blow at the back of Victoria's head. But I'd seen this coming, and fortunately my gym training, for all I was a bit rusty, held good. I grabbed his other arm and pulled sharply. He staggered, but stayed on his feet, then aimed a heavy punch at me. I dodged it – but only just! – and got his other arm behind his back. He was strong, I'll give him that. But once you've got someone in that kind of an arm lock, there's not much they can do about it; the more they struggle the more it hurts. I grabbed his other arm with my free hand, and I didn't much care how hard I gripped it. I nodded to Victoria and said, "Go on out to the car; I'll be there in a minute."

Having deposited Victoria's father, none too gently, upon his own hall carpet, I followed her to the car and drove away briskly, leaving him swearing upon the doorstep.

It did not greatly surprise us that Victoria fairly quickly acquired a new boy-friend. To be honest, we were quite glad about it as we were planning a move in the not too distant future. But we did keep in touch and she knew that if she needed a friend or a bolt-hole we were still there.

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