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Toby's Book

by Charles Lacey

Chapter 7

The new term started, and of course I was back at school. Now that I had John to take an interest, I found myself disliking it a good bit less, though I still dreaded Tuesday and Thursday afternoons with the football and the showers. I continued to visit John regularly as it gave me a quiet, stress-free place and time to do my homework, as well as the fact that I enjoyed his company.

But I was a little puzzled as to why he was happy for me to visit so often. I didn't think he could be homosexual as he had never tried anything with me, and I wasn't a bad-looking young chap. Eventually I thought I just had to ask him; the only problem was to find the right approach.

"John," I asked, "Can I ask you a personal question?"

"Mm. Fire away."

"Have you ever been married?"

He smiled gently. "Not only have been, Toby, I still am, in my heart. My wife died about five years ago, when the car she was driving was hit by an out of control lorry."

"Oh, John, I'm so sorry."

"That's why I like you coming here. I'm sure you have worked out by now that I'm not queer, but you probably don't realise just how good for me it has been, spending time with you. You're very good company, you know. And now you know why you are always welcome, which I presume is why you asked me the question in the first place."

I blushed. Of course, John was so shrewd; I should have known from the outset that he would know straight away why I asked if he were married.

"I will never re-marry; Sophie was and is the one and only. But I suppose in a way you are the son we might have had – or perhaps a younger brother. I was an only child."

And then couple of days later another disaster struck. Well, it was my own fault for being careless. John had warned me fairly, but I suppose I had just become so used to his being in my life that I was beginning to take him for granted; always a foolish thing to do.

23 Gant Street

Dear Leo,

I just had to write to you. The most awful thing has happened. You remember I told you about my friend John who helps me with my homework? I go to his flat two or three times a week after school and do it there, and he usually gives me a cup of tea and some biscuits or cake or something as well.

Well, yesterday evening Mother was asking me something about my school work and without thinking I said "John says…". Well of course I was cross-questioned about John, so I just said he's a friend who helps me with my homework. Then bloody Wayne joined in, and I had to tell them the truth.

So of course the old bat went completely insane. You know what she's like. So I'm not allowed to go to John's flat or even see him any more and if I miss the 'bus home I have to go to Wayne's office to do my homework. It's so unfair. We never did anything except chat and go through my homework together, but they are treating us as if we were criminals or something. Mother said she might report him to the police. Well if she does, and if they ask me, I will tell them the exact truth, which is that he is my friend, and he's been no end of help with my school work, and he's never even touched me, never mind anything else.

So Leo, now you are the only real friend I have left. I'd really love to come to you in the holidays, but I don't think Mother would allow me to. She hates me to have any friends. She says, What's wrong with your home? I wanted to say "Two things, you and Wayne" but I kept quiet as you can imagine!

Love from

Eliot's House
Embleton School

Dear Toby,

I'm so sorry to hear about you not being able to visit your friend John. Why shouldn't you? I reckon your mother hates him because you like him better than you do her. I expect she's just jealous.

If you wanted to come and stay with us in the holidays Mum says you'll be very welcome. I really hope you can.

Anyway, do write and let me know how you get on. I should think it will be awful, having to sit and do your homework in Wayne's office.

Lots of love,

By the autumn, Wayne Buckley had more or less moved in. He was there pretty well every night. Much later, I discovered that he had been married but had gone through a very acrimonious divorce; his ex-wife had custody of the children. His was not a character I could ever bring myself to like, though as a matter of ordinary good sense I was polite to him; to have shown my real feelings would have brought swift retribution from Mother. I disliked his efforts to get me to play ball games with him in the garden but what I found much more distasteful was the way in which he looked at me sideways; there was something calculating, even a bit creepy about it.

I worked as best I could at my school subjects, though without John's encouragement it was an uphill struggle. Once or twice I asked Wayne a question, but he clearly didn't know the answer or even how to find out. He was an ignorant man; he had made a good deal of money but had no real culture or knowledge of anything. My marks went steadily down as did my position in the form. One or two of the masters seemed sympathetic or at least concerned that something might have gone wrong; others just assumed I was idling. In reality, of course, I was grieving, just as I had for Matthew. It's not fair, I thought self-pityingly, every time I have a real friend he gets taken away from me.

I'd asked Mother several times about going to stay with Leo but she just said, "You're not going to stay with that snooty lot. Public school!" It was really ironic, because the Dobbs were far less snobbish than she was. But there was nothing to be done about it. "And you can stop writing to him – yes, I know all about that – and if any more letters come from him I'll burn them. I know what you and that dirty little boy were getting up to when you thought we weren't looking."

Well, she couldn't have known what Leo and I were 'getting up to' as we had got together only in our bedroom which was the opposite side of the hotel (thank goodness!) from Mother and Wayne's room. But I knew my mother well enough to know that it was no use producing facts when she had made up her mind about something; if anything it generally made matters worse. She couldn't bear to be corrected, especially if she knew she was in the wrong.

I persevered with school work as best I could, though without John's help if was very difficult to keep up. He'd never done my work for me, but he had a knack of answering a question by asking another one, which helped me to understand the work properly.

So I was on my own. Matthew was in New Zealand. I wasn't allowed to see John. Leo was at Embleton (and at home with his parents near Warwick in the holidays) and I wasn't allowed even to write to him. I'd had to write him a brief letter to explain why he wouldn't be hearing any more from me. I did have a couple of friends at school but they weren't close.

And so things went on, for some time. My life felt very flat and lonely without John. If I didn't catch the earlier 'bus and get home by four-thirty Mother wanted to know where I'd been. If I missed the 'bus I had to go and do my work in Wayne's office. Actually his secretary was quite nice and usually gave me a cup of tea and a biscuit, but it wasn't the same. I had to sit at a little side table in her office and work with no help, except that occasionally I asked her how to spell a word.

Then one evening came the most horrible experience I have ever undergone. Mother had gone out and I was left at home with Wayne. Annabel had already gone to bed and was presumably asleep. I was sitting in my room finishing some homework, and Wayne came in, rather unsteadily. There seemed to be something strange about him; in those days I was still too innocent to realize that he was considerably the worse for drink, though I could smell the whisky on his breath, along with stale cigarettes. He came over to me and put his hand on my shoulder. I flinched away and half stood, whereupon he put his hand on my backside and squeezed it. I moved away from him but he followed me, pawing at my chest and legs.

"Come on," he said, rather thickly, "you know you want it." He put his hand to his trousers and undid them, pulling out a penis that was already half hard. "Come on," he said again, "suck my dick for me, the way you did your little friend at Torquay."

For a moment I was completely at sea until suddenly, as the meaning of what he had said sank in, I was furiously angry. How dare this vile creature besmirch the sweet friendship Leo and I had enjoyed, and the physical closeness between us which had been so innocent and loving? I thought of Leo, his gentleness and his beauty, and compared him with this loathsome lout. He was leering at me and waggling his penis, presumably trying to get it to a full erection. He was probably too drunk to be able to get fully hard, which may have saved me from worse. But I was beside myself with rage.

"I didn't do anything of the kind," I said furiously. "We were just friends, nothing more."

He started to speak again, but I thrust him hard to one side – I heard him fall heavily - and ran out of the room, down the stairs and out of the house. I could hear him lumbering after me, swearing luridly, so I took a zig-zag route along various side streets. But I knew where I was going. Thank God I hadn't actually told them exactly where John lived.

There were no 'buses at that time of night, of course, so I had to go on foot. I ran as far as I could, then slowed to a walk, and then alternately walked and jog-trotted. I arrived at John's flat at about ten o'clock and hammered on the door. He took one look at me, pulled me in through the door and held me in his arms while I shook and gibbered. When I had become a little calmer he sat me down and asked me to tell him exactly what had happened.

"Oh, Toby", he said when I had done, and the gentleness and the care in his voice nearly reduced me to tears again, "my dear chap, what an appalling thing to happen to you. I'll put the kettle on and we'll have a nightcap, and then when you're ready you can go to bed. I'll just go and make up a bed in the spare room. We'll decide what to do in the morning."

He made some cocoa which we drank together (I think he'd put a drop of brandy in it to help me sleep), and we talked for an hour or so as I gradually unwound. Then I went through to John's spare room – like the rest of the flat it was furnished simply but comfortably and with good taste – undressed down to my underwear and got into bed. I woke very early the next morning, still feeling frazzled and, yes, disgusted, even ashamed that Wayne should have thought me capable of anything so gross. I thought of the loathsome Wayne, overweight and greasy, then of John, so very different. I got up and went to the lavatory, then to John's room. He looked at me, blinking.

"John… can I get in with you? Just for a few minutes?"

He moved over and lifted the covers with one hand. I slid in beside him and his arm went around me. "Turn over," he said, "so that your back is towards me." I did that, and he fitted his body around mine, holding me closely. I went to sleep again and didn't wake until John shook me gently and said, "time to get up, Toby."

Over breakfast we talked over the previous night and what Wayne had done, or at least tried to do. The problem was, it was his word against mine, and I knew who Mother would believe. Well, when I was eighteen, which would be in less than two years, I could leave home and leave school, and I knew exactly where I would want to be. But when you are sixteen, two years seems like for ever.

In the end we made our plan. Though I should have been at school, we made our way to Buckley's Garage. I knew where Wayne's office was, of course, so we walked straight up there. His secretary said, "you can't go in there," but John just pushed the door open and went in with me behind him.

Wayne was sitting behind his desk and didn't see me for a moment. He started to say, "Who the devil are you?" as John hadn't an appointment. Then he saw me and went white. John was icily calm and repeated what I had told him last night. Wayne tried to bluster his way out of it, making me out to be a deliberate liar. He also implied that John and I were having an affair. John just stared him down, then said, "Shall we see what Social Services have to say about it? Or shall we just ask Toby to repeat his story to his mother?"

So then Wayne said, "What do you want? Money, I suppose." He is the sort of person that thinks anyone or anything can be bought. "No," said John, in a dry, stern manner which I had never seen before from him. "I want first of all a sincere apology to Toby for your disgraceful behaviour, and then your assurance that neither Toby nor any other young man, or woman for that matter, will ever again be molested by you. And finally, I give you my solemn word that if ever you try to harm Toby again, or any other boy, in whatever way, we will go straight to the authorities. And I rather think that Toby will be coming to me rather than here when he wants to, or if he needs some help with his homework, and he will tell me if you ever try anything on again."

I could see that John's austere and uncompromising manner was having the desired effect. Eventually Wayne had to give in, though in as surly a manner as possible. I got an apology of sorts; it wasn't sincere but at least it was spoken. And so, thank God, I was once again able to visit John two or three afternoons each week. How he sorted it out with Mother I never troubled to find out, but from then on Wayne was very wary of me and kept well out of my way.

But School wasn't easy either. During the time I had been unable to see John my work had gone downhill badly and even with his help it was proving difficult to catch up. I was having to face the fact that I really wasn't the academic type. I was much better at practical things. I had got into the habit of going round to Mr Hobbs's on Saturdays and Sundays and he was passing on to me the skills that he had learned and refined over a lifetime. I wasn't ever going to be anywhere near as good as he was, but I could at least do basic joinery work to a good standard. I continued making models as well. I didn't build them from kits any more, but Mr Hobbs had an almost inexhaustible supply of offcuts of wood, some of them really good hardwoods such as mahogany and elm which he was prepared to let me have for nothing as a thank you for occasionally helping him in his workshop or his garden, and I was now making wooden model ships from scratch, using my own designs which I took from pictures in books. I'd also made a puppet theatre for Annabel's twelfth birthday, together with two marionette puppets, which she and her friends Jane and Lisa had endless fun with.

Then came another very unpleasant episode.

A new boy, Peter Watkins, had joined my form at school. He'd been going to a school in another town to the south of Mouseborough, but had, for some mysterious reason, been moved to Abbey Grange. He endeared himself immediately to me by saying how much he hated football. After that he and I were definitely going to be friends. So we spent most break times together, played card games and chatted. Peter was not a boy I found particularly attractive in the physical sense; he was a bit floppy and slightly overweight. He also suffered from a permanent outbreak of spots, mainly on his neck and chin.

But one lunchtime we came out of the dining room having been chatting and we both needed a pee. So we went in and stood side by side, and there was – unusually – no-one else in the lavatory block. I could see him quite openly looking at my penis, so I thought, OK, I'll look at his. Of course the inevitable happened: we both promptly got hard-ons. Some other boys came in then, and we had to zip up and leave, but Peter then told me that he had been expelled from his previous school when he'd been discovered wanking off another boy, which was why he was now at Abbey Grange.

Well, Peter, bless him, was as queer as a nine-bob note. So was I, come to that, though I hadn't yet got as far as admitting it to myself. But it wasn't long before we were having a quick feel of each other, and then one thing led to another, and about twice a week we'd meet somewhere quiet and either suck one another off or have a session of mutual masturbation. There were several possible places for this. One was the Stage Store, where all the lighting equipment was kept, along with a load of old stage props and so forth. No-one ever went in there except when a production was being put on. Another was the old bookroom, which was crammed with dusty boxes and stacks of ancient mouldering textbooks.

I certainly didn't love Peter, not the way I loved Leo, but we were quite good friends and, to put it bluntly, wank-buddies. He was quite well endowed, too, certainly both longer and fatter than I was in that department. What we didn't know was that some of the school nosey-parkers had somehow found out Peter's secret, and were following him around in the hope of catching him out. And so one lunchtime we were in the bookroom. I was sitting on a rickety wooden chair that had somehow found its way in there; Peter was standing in front of me, his trousers and underpants round his ankles and his cock in my mouth. I could tell from the feel of it that he was getting ready to come, when the door burst open and three of the said nosey-parkers were standing looking at us, closely followed by Dickie Griggs, the maths master.

I will say for Dickie, he didn't make a fuss. He sent the three boys on their way, warning them not to say anything. By now poor Peter was as soft as a fishcake and was hauling up his trousers. Dickie just said, "Nutting, Watkins, go and wait outside the Headmaster's study."

Well, we'd been caught fair and square. We stood outside the study, pale and trembling, though I was touched that Peter held my hand for a few moments. Then the door opened and Dickie peered out and said, "come in, both of you."

The Headmaster looked at us for a long time over the tops of his spectacles, and then said, "Mr Griggs has told me what he found you doing in the bookroom. Have you anything to say?"

Well, there wasn't anything we could say, except, "Sorry, sir."

"Unfortunately," returned the Headmaster, "'Sorry, sir' won't really cover the case. Can I just be clear: were you engaged… in a sex act?"

In the face of what Dickie Griggs had found us doing, there was no point in denying it. We shuffled our feet and said, "Yes, sir."

"Well, at least you have admitted it. Which one of you started it?"

Simultaneously, we both said, "I did, sir."

The Headmaster looked at us keenly, Peter first, then me. Then he spoke again.

"Watkins, I understand you were expelled from your last school for exactly the same thing. Is that so?"

"Yes, sir," said Peter.

"Very well. If I hear that you have done anything of the kind here again, you will be expelled forthwith. Nutting, the same goes for you. And, Watkins, you will also be moved, as of tomorrow morning, to another form. See to that, Mr Griggs, if you will, please. Now, I am going to cane you both."

I'd never been caned by the Headmaster before, though I'd had a good many beatings from my mother at home. But nothing had prepared me for the agony of that flogging. The Headmaster was known to use the cane seldom, but when he did he was a professional. We each received six strokes. I was caned first, I think so that Peter would be forced to watch and anticipate his own beating. When he had finished, he said, "I will be writing to your parents, both of you. Collect the letters from the office on the way home. And I shall be asking your parents to acknowledge the letters, so don't think about hiding or losing them. Now go back to your classes. And remember, if there is even the suspicion of a repetition of this foul and disgusting behaviour from either of you, you will be expelled forthwith."

My heart sank. I knew all too well what my mother's reaction would be. The caning at school had been excruciatingly painful, but it was at least a measured and finite punishment. I picked up the letter, and this time I managed to catch the five past four 'bus. I got home and handed Mother the letter, then stood and waited. She read the letter through two or three times, and then said, "I don't believe it. My own son. You disgusting little bastard. Thank God your father isn't alive to see this… this disgrace. What have you got to say for yourself?"

There was a long pause, while I thought what to say. There was nothing, really, that would not make it worse.

Suddenly she sprang forward and hit me round the face, twice, very hard; so hard, indeed, that she knocked me off balance and I fell, fortunately into a chair.

"You're sick. That's what it is. You're sick. You'll come with me to the doctor's, tomorrow morning. Now go to your room."

Our family doctor, Dr Crowe, was a middle-aged, uncompromising man of the old school. He said he would refer me to a Psychiatrist. "There's a new treatment," he said, "which uses electric shocks to put… well, perverted people back on the right track. It may well be that Toby could be helped by something like that. I will refer him to the Psychiatric Clinic as soon as possible."

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