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Toby's Book

by Charles Lacey

Chapter 10

But of course life had to go on. I beavered away at the refurbishment of the flat, and by the time I had finished doing that Mr Keene had retired and I made a start on the shop. It had been a very old-fashioned sort of shop, and a local museum took a good many of the original fittings which I dismantled as carefully as possible.

I wasn't celibate, of course. I avoided hookups in a town where I was known, though. I'd been well and truly scared off using any of the local cruising grounds. And I was never attracted by the idea of cottaging. I mean, how sordid can it be, having sex in a grimy, tiled lavatory reeking of stale urine and disinfectant? To say nothing about the risk from nosey parkers. No, if I had sex I'd rather it was in a comfortable bed with someone I liked and was at least on Christian name terms with.

Wednesday was early closing day in Mouseborough (it was an old-fashioned enough town to still have an early closing day!) and if I could spare the time I used to get on the train to Birmingham or Manchester and visit the "gay village" as it was starting to become known. I was young and good-looking enough usually to make contact with someone. There was an older man I used to meet sometimes in Birmingham, a chap called David Peters who had a flat nearby. I wasn't really into older men, but he was a nice man and very experienced. I learned a great deal about male-to-male sex from him. In fact it was he who introduced me to anal intercourse. We started with my topping him but before long I was wanting to experience the other role. David wasn't all that big down there, and he was very careful and gentle with a beginner, so it was a good introduction. Since then I've been what is called "versatile", i.e. happy to be in either position.

David and I weren't close, but I regarded him as a friend and always enjoyed his company. And occasionally I had to get the return train early in the next morning because he was quite happy for me to stay overnight. So sometimes the shop didn't open until ten o'clock on Thursdays! I avoided doing that, though, as after all it was John's business and I felt a duty to be there working for him during opening hours.

I got the shop cleared, and John found a signwriter to paint a new signboard. After some discussion we decided to call it just "Toby's Models". I set up a workshop in the room at the back of the shop. John insisted that it was properly equipped, so I found a six-inch pillar drill and a second-hand watchmaker's lathe which I installed. Then we started to go through wholesalers' catalogues and decided what to order. It made sense to order from one or two wholesalers in order to get the best discounts rather than getting stuff in piecemeal, so we worked out what would be the best overall deal and sent our orders in. It took just a week to get everything in place. We'd put advertisements in the local press as well as in the hobby magazines. Monday morning came, and I opened the doors.

One by one, customers started to come in. Many of them were young boys wanting either parts for their model railways or Airfix kits. We did a good line in paints and adhesives, kits of all kinds. What really took off, though, was the "Finish or repair" service which I was offering. Every week two or three people would come in with unfinished models that they had got stuck on. Sometimes all they needed was a little advice, sometimes they had set themselves a task which was beyond their skills and I would finish the job they had started, charging, of course, for my time and any materials used. It had been my idea and I was very pleased that it had taken off so well. I have to admit that some of the older boys who came in were very attractive, but I had to tell myself that they probably had girl-friends. Indeed, they probably brought in their work for me to finish so that they could pretend to their young women that it was all their own work. I even had a small number of elderly ladies who brought in things that their husbands had made and which had got damaged. There was one dear old lady who brought in a very fine model of a ship (it was called H.M.S. Pinafore, which made me chuckle!) which she had knocked over and broken when she was dusting. She needed it repaired before he noticed! I did it there and then and charged her just two shillings. That was a good move because she came back the next weekend with three grandsons who between them spent a lot of money.

I turned eighteen, and John took me out to dinner at the Golden Lion Hotel in Mouseborough, which was noted for its cuisine. We had an excellent dinner and a bottle of Beaujolais to go with it.

The following morning John said to me, "I wonder if you might like a bit more independence. The flat above your shop is still empty. What do you think about moving into it?"

Well, I'd actually been thinking the same thing, but hadn't been able to think how to put the idea to John without hurting his feelings. Of course, when he said I 'might like a bit more independence' I knew exactly what he meant, and he knew that I knew. It wouldn't have been possible to bring anyone to John's flat for sex, but if I had my own place then there would be no problem. Except that it was still illegal, of course, for men under twenty-one, but in general if you didn't make an exhibition of yourself only a few dirty-minded snoopers would do anything about it.

So John and I worked out a financial plan. He would take two-thirds of the profits from the shop, from which he would deduct the rent of both the shop and the flat. It was characteristically generous, because it meant that I would still get a third of my profits for myself, and the rent would be covered come what may. But John was like that. I furnished the flat with the basics, including a double bed for which I was sure I would find a use. I made a dining table and a couple of chairs which John admired. And I must admit it was fun doing some more advanced woodwork, though when I look at them now I realise how much better I could have done it.

Running a business, even just a shop, is a surprisingly time-consuming occupation. Stock needs to be kept up to date and new stock ordered; there are accounts to be done and bills to be paid. And just keeping the place spick and span and the window display clean and inviting takes time each day.

I was very keen to make a success of it, not just for my own sake but for John's. And so I gave each customer the best service I could, even if it did not make an immediate profit. I worked on the assumption that a happy customer is one who will come back, and may well recommend others to come in, an assumption I found entirely justified in practice.

Then one day two people came in, one a tall, thin boy perhaps a little younger than I was, the other an older man who I later discovered to be his father. He brought in a model steam engine. He'd made it precisely to the instructions as far as he could tell but it just wouldn't run. I connected it to my compressed air supply (much safer than steam!) and could immediately see what the problem was: one of the valves had been fitted back to front. I stripped down the valve chest while they watched, refitted the valve correctly and re-assembled the mechanism. As I'd expected, when I connected it to the compressed air supply again it ran quite happily.

Well! You'd have thought I'd worked a miracle. But when I said, no charge, they bought a couple of quite expensive model kits. I'd often found that if I didn't charge for small repairs customers would buy things instead and the profit on the sales would probably be a good bit more than I could have charged for my time. And of course there was the goodwill as well. I can't say the boy was particularly good-looking; he was tall, like his father, but looked as if he had grown up too fast and his physique hadn't kept up with his height.

It was a busy day so I didn't have much time to talk, but the next Saturday he came in again, this time on his own. He brought in one of the kits he'd bought the previous week, part built, and asked me some questions about it. He put it on the counter between us and we looked over it. He'd made a very good job of it, but I was able to offer a couple of helpful suggestions as to the order in which to assemble the parts.

His hand brushed over mine two or three times. He had very nice hands, square and capable-looking but with lovely soft skin. Hmm, I thought, not really my type but I wouldn't push him out of bed on a cold night. Then he suddenly said, "My name's Benn, by the way, B-E-double-N. I was named after my Granddad."

"Hi, Benn," I replied, "My name's Toby."

He looked at me in some astonishment. "Wow! Do you actually own this shop? Toby's Models?"

"No, a friend of mine owns the business, but I am the manager."

He looked me straight in the eye, and I thought, I'm sure he's one of us. But I'm quite certain he's under-age, and I'm not going to take the risk of starting anything. I didn't need to. He leaned over the counter and said, "can I…"

"Can you what?"


And he looked around to make sure there was no-one else in the shop, then leaned right over and kissed me on the lips.

I smiled. "That was nice. But, Benn, how old are you?"

"Eighteen. But don't worry, I'm not going to tell tales."

A couple of young boys came in then, wanting Airfix kits and some Humbrol paints, and then the shop got quite busy. It usually did by about ten o'clock on a Saturday. Benn hung about for a while, and then when I was free asked, "what time do you close?"

"Five o'clock."

"Oh. Can I come back then? I'd love to see your workshop."

My heart gave a lurch. I mean, he wasn't what you'd call a pretty boy, but he wasn't bad looking, and I hadn't hooked up with anyone for a while, so I said, "yes, certainly."

"OK," he replied, "See you then."

Benn was back at about ten to five, and the shop was quiet, but I said, "Hang on until I close, and we'll go through to the workshop."

I always closed a few minutes late on a Saturday because there was quite often a last-moment customer or two, but on this occasion there wasn't. I locked the shop door and led Benn through to the workroom behind the main shop.

So I showed him my workbench with all its little tools, the watchmaker's lathe, the drill pillar, the miniature forge and all the rest of it. He was clearly interested and asked some intelligent questions. Then he turned to me and I thought he was going to ask another question, but this time he put his arms around my neck (he was tall enough to do that) and glued his lips to mine. It didn't take long before I felt his cock stiffening against the growing bulge in my own jeans. When that kiss was ended he said, "Where do you live?"

"Upstairs," I replied.

"So what are we waiting for? Unless you live with someone else, I mean," he added hurriedly.

I took his hand and led him upstairs. "Would you like a cup of tea?" I asked him, "or a beer?"

"Perhaps later…"

Well, young Benn was seriously BIG down below. I mean, seven inches plus, and thick in proportion. He stripped better than I expected, too, with good skin and some nicely defined muscles. He was very thin which was probably one reason for his cock being so huge; a part of most men's penises is concealed within the fat layer around the groin area. He looked half-starved, but I think he was just one of those lucky people who can eat any amount and never put on weight.

But there was no way I was going to take a cock that size. I'd had a few inside me by then, including David's, but I didn't want to risk painful and embarrassing damage. I mean, how do you explain to a hospital doctor how that happened? Fortunately, he was happy to be topped by me, and then I finished him off with my hands. It took both of them. And not only was he an outsize, his ejaculation was too. When we finished, I was lying on my back, my upper half propped on a pillow with him astride my legs as I brought him to orgasm. The first five or six shots hit the wall, then two narrowly missed my face, and then a few more reached my chest. He told me that he usually wanked each day, sometimes twice, but he had not done so for a week in the hope that we would end up in bed together.

Once we had cleaned up, I took him through, still naked, to the sitting room, and made a scratch meal for us: pasta with a sauce, and fruit. We chatted for a while, and then I noticed his cock growing again. Of course that got mine going too, and before long we adjourned to the bedroom. This time I lay flat on my back and rubbed cold cream between my legs and over his cock. I'm still pretty smooth down there, so he pushed himself between my thighs, rubbing me with one hand at the same time.

I came first, but he wasn't far behind, and he still produced a hefty amount of fluid. After that we had another slow and gentle snog, until he said he'd better be going as his parents would be expecting him. He was still at school – coincidentally he went to the Abbey Grange – and working for A-levels. His parents knew he was gay and while they weren't totally happy with it they had at least accepted that there was nothing they could do about it. They also took the sensible view that if he was going to have sex with boys it was best for him to find discreet partners of around his own age.

After that Benn called at least twice a week, and I found myself becoming very fond of him. I'd really have liked him to come and live with me, but he was still at school as well as being under-age, so it wouldn't have done. I saw a good bit more of him during the summer, though, as I'd offered him a holiday job helping out in the workshop. He was very neat-handed and had the great advantage of knowing his limitations. But I'd started marketing my own "Nutting's No 1 polishing paste" (in reality it was a mixture of cold cream and pumice powder, but the buyers didn't know that, and it was a good profit maker) and Benn was helpful with the tedious business of sticking labels onto pots and then filling them. And he gave the place a good clean and tidy, and sorted out the stock which was getting in a bit of a muddle.

And there was plenty of sex, too. He was a randy boy – most boys his age are! – and I was not much older and happy to co-operate. So it was a sad day for me when he went off to University. He'd promised to write, though I was pretty sure he'd not find time for that. And he also said that he would come round to see me each time he was at home, which I hoped might happen. As indeed it did, at the half term break and during the Christmas holidays, and we had some good times together, many of them including bedroom games.

Then, not long before Easter, I had a letter from him:

Dear Toby,

I'm truly sorry to tell you this, but I won't be coming to see you again. The truth is, I've met someone at University and we've fallen in love. His name's David and we are going to live together when we leave here.

Toby, please forgive me for this. I've really loved the times we had together. I hope you meet someone special too.

Love from Benn.

Well, I thought, if you go falling for an eighteen-year-old, that's only to be expected. And I knew it wouldn't have worked long term, if only for physical reasons. I was both very sad and very angry. But I was still only in my early twenties, with plenty of time to find that special someone. So I resumed my occasional visits to Birmingham and Manchester. A new Sauna had recently opened in Manchester, and I never failed to find a few playmates there. But although I had a lot of fun I never seemed to meet anyone that I could see as a long term partner.

The next spring, I decided I'd go to the Pride festival in Birmingham. I'd never been before, and I thought it would be enjoyable, and you never knew, I might find someone there to have some fun with.

I didn't care for clubbing as I found the noise level really painful, and of course it prevented any sort of conversation. I was mature enough by then to want to get to know someone rather than just have sex. So I was sitting outside a pub with a glass of beer, when who should come along but David Peters. He joined me, and we sat looking at the boys and men going past – some of them in totally outrageous costumes! – and chatting. Suddenly he said, "who's that looking at you?"

He was right. There was a lad about my own age who was looking at me quizzically. He was mostly noticeable for his lovely golden hair but when I looked a second time I noticed a trim figure and very attractive face. I was sure I'd seen him before, but couldn't think where. Then he spoke to his companion, and came over. "Hello…" he said, uncertainly, "Its Toby, isn't it?"

"Yes," I said, and then I realised who it was.

"Leo! How wonderful to see you again."

And it was, though I didn't think he looked well. Nothing you could put your finger on, but he seemed lacklustre and not the cheerful, energetic boy I remembered. But I got a hug and a kiss, and when he introduced me to his other half, Simon Bennett, I got a limp handshake and a dirty look. Well, I thought, I've no intention of muscling in on an established relationship, so you've nothing to worry about. But we agreed to keep in touch, very much to Simon's obvious disapproval, and we exchanged addresses.

Well, the parade was everything I had expected and more, and I spent the night with David Peters at his flat – well, in his bed, where we had a lot of fun – and made my slightly bleary way back to Mouseborough on the Sunday morning.

For the next few weeks I was very busy with work. I'd started stocking some new lines, and for some reason the mail order side of the business suddenly took off. So I really didn't have much time to think about personal stuff. From time to time I thought about Leo and wondered how he was. He'd been a bit cagey when I asked what he was doing. I presumed he'd been to University; presumably, as a public-school boy it would have been to one of the older universities, probably Oxford or Cambridge. But he hadn't told me much, and his friend Simon had seemed to want to get him away from me.

I didn't neglect John, of course. I still went to his flat a couple of times a week for a meal, or a cup of tea and a chat. And he came to my flat once a week for a meal. I was learning how to cook; John had given me some cookery books and I enjoyed making new dishes. And he'd look in at the shop occasionally as well, and help with the mail order business if I were getting behind. Our relationship had matured. At first he'd been almost a kind of father, or at least older brother, figure. Then he'd become a refuge and a counsellor for a troubled teenager. Now he was both a business partner and a close friend who treated me as a fellow adult. We loved each other dearly, not in a sexual way, for he was completely uninterested in boys or men from that point of view, but as – well, I suppose the closest I can get is to say that it was as older and younger brothers. I owed him everything, for he had rescued me when I was most in need, given me paid work that I really enjoyed doing, and started me up in business when I was old enough. I was very glad that the business was now making a profit, for then at least I could begin to repay the financial help he'd given me.

But apart from my visits to and from John, and the occasional spree in Manchester or, more usually, Birmingham, I was kept busy full time with work. It was getting to the point where I was wondering if I shouldn't look for a part time assistant. And then one afternoon, fairly late on when I was beginning to think about closing up and going upstairs for a cup of tea, a young man stumbled into the shop. It took a moment or two to realize that it was Leo. But he was unkempt and unshaven, with sallow skin and bloodshot eyes.

"Can you help me?" he asked. "Simon's thrown me out and I've nowhere else to go."

"Of course I can," I replied. "Come upstairs."

We sat down and I looked at him. This was not the trim, happy Leo of my memories. He was painfully thin, and there were bruises on his face and arms.

I made some tea and we sat down together. Leo began to tell me his story.

"Simon was terribly jealous. He was always suspicious that I was not being faithful to him, though actually I was. Eventually we had a terrible row. He accused me of shagging behind his back, and then he started to knock me about. He pushed me so hard that I fell over and then he kicked me, then he said I could fuck off, he didn't want to see me again. He said, "you can go and shag with your mate Toby if that's what you want."

"Oh, Leo, I'm so sorry. Why didn't you go to your parents?"

"They'd never really liked Simon. Though they didn't know what he was like. But I couldn't go to them and admit how badly I'd failed."

"Hmm. I wouldn't say it was you that had failed. Anyway, you're welcome to stay here for as long as you want to. How long ago did this all happen?"

"I think it was four or five weeks. I've been living rough since then, and drinking heavily."

"I'll get some food on. Do you want a bath while I'm cooking? And have you got any clothes with you?"

Leo had nothing with him but the clothes he was wearing. I found some cotton trousers and a T-shirt for him, and showed him the way to the bathroom. I was glad he was going to have a bath because he really was a bit smelly. Inevitable, I suppose, if you've been on the booze and sleeping rough for several weeks. While the meal was cooking I went round to John's flat and asked him to join us later. I knew he would have good advice for both of us. Leo ate ravenously. He later told me that he had eaten nothing but a packet of potato crisps for the last two days.

"So," said John, "tell us the whole story."

"Well… I went straight from school to Cambridge. I suppose I went a bit wild, having sex with other students and that kind of thing. I didn't do too badly until my third year when I met Simon and really went over the deep end for him. I neglected my work and everything else and started drinking. What I didn't know was that Simon was incredibly jealous. If he couldn't actually see me he assumed I was in bed with someone else, and so I had to hang around where he was most of the time. I got more and more bored, and drank more to try and overcome that, and in consequence I failed my finals and came down without a degree. I suppose I was lucky I didn't actually get sent down.

"It wasn't too bad to start with, but it gradually got worse. But in the end Simon's jealousy went over the top and he started hitting me when he suspected I'd been with someone else. I started to drink more heavily to cope with it. I didn't want to leave Simon because I really did love him, so I put up with it for quite a while. And then one day I couldn't take any more. I went to the public toilets on Jesus Green – they were well known as a place for casual sex – and sucked off a couple of men. When I got home I told Simon where I'd been and he beat me up and threw me out of his flat.

"So then I went on the booze. I'd a few friends of my own that I stayed with for a few days each, but I could see them all getting fed up with me and my drinking. I didn't go to my parents as I couldn't bear them to see me like that. And then I suddenly remembered Toby's address. It took me three days to get here, hitching lifts where I could. So here I am, and you're my last hope."

"Well," said John after a pause, "The first thing is, you have got to get your drinking under control. There are places you can go to do that. When you are better, come back here – Toby, how would you feel about Leo staying here in your spare room?..."

"He'll be very welcome,"

"… good. Then come back here and look for a job. Your degree is probably past praying for now, as I doubt very much whether the college would let you repeat your last year. But there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to start a new life here and do very well."

John gave the gentle, encouraging smile which I remembered so well from the times when he had helped and supported me.

"I'll pop back home and see if I can track down a clinic for you. Some of them are Council run which means that you won't have any fees to pay. I don't know what private ones would cost but I can find out. And what about your parents? Would you like me or Toby to ring them and let them know you are safe?"

"Oh, God. Yes, please."

Poor Leo was obviously desperate for a drink, but unfortunately – or, rather, fortunately – I had nothing stronger at home than a couple of bottles of ale. I made up a bed for Leo in the spare room. Not surprisingly, after three days of travel, much of it walking, he was exhausted, and went off to sleep.

It nearly broke my heart, seeing Leo like this. I remembered him as a golden-haired, laughing boy of fourteen and now he was a shambling wreck. Could he be helped? Could I help him? I didn't know, but I knew that if there were anyone who could help Leo, John would be able to find them. I spent a long time looking at the photograph of him that was in my bedroom, and thinking about the lovely times we had had together in Torquay.

The next morning, John came round at about ten o'clock. "I've found a place for Leo," he said. "It's privately run, but the fees aren't excessive. I'll cover them for now, and Leo can pay me back a little at a time when he's found a job."

I went and roused Leo, who was still in bed, very bleary-eyed. I told him that we'd found a clinic for him. By now he was very uncertain, but I said, "Look, Leo, you've got a chance now to turn your life around. If you won't do it for your own sake, or for your parents', do it for mine."

I got him out of bed and dressed, and then took him through to talk to John. I went down to the shop and left them to it. When I went back up at lunchtime they were still together and Leo did look a good bit brighter. After lunch John rang for a taxi and took Leo to the Clinic. Leo and I hugged each other for a long time before he went. He was desperately thin and emaciated; I could feel his bony shoulders. But at least he now knew he had friends who genuinely cared and would support him through whatever he had to do, and a chance to turn his life around.

Leo spent about six weeks in the Clinic. John and I visited him a couple of times each week, and we could see the improvement, just a little bit each time we were there. Fortunately he had started by being young and strong, and he'd only been drinking heavily for a relatively short time, so it wasn't too difficult to wean him off the booze. By the time he was discharged he was beginning to look something like the old Leo again.

I'd talked to his parents on the telephone, and I rang them every couple of weeks to give them an account of his progress. Almost the first thing his father said was, "When the bill comes in, send it straight to me. And, Toby, thank you. And please thank your friend as well."

So Leo came back to my flat, and started job-hunting. In those far-off days there were plenty of jobs going, if you weren't too particular. Leo worked as a petrol pump attendant, as assistant to a man who cleaned drains, and then as what was then called a 'shop-walker'. When he came home he was careful to be bright and cheerful, but I sensed something about him which was not like the old Leo, as if there were something he was keeping hidden. I talked to John about it; his advice was not to push Leo to talk but let things take their course. In the meantime I was spending far too much time in the bathroom or in my own bed, an old towel to hand, pumping my cock. Because, now that he had managed to kick the alcohol habit and was eating properly and taking a reasonable amount of exercise, he was undoubtedly a very good looking young man. And I'd seen him naked several times when we were teenagers together and knew exactly what was concealed under his clothing.

Leo had been with me about five weeks, not counting the time he spent at the clinic. He'd not been to visit his parents, though he did have the excuse that he was very fully occupied with work. Then one evening he asked if he might use the telephone. I didn't have one in the flat, but of course there was one in the shop, and it got a fair bit of use with incoming orders. So he went down there, and he took about half an hour. I assumed, correctly as it turned out, that he was ringing his parents. He came back with rather a "thank goodness that's over" air about him.

That night, at about two o'clock in the morning, I was awakened by some strange sounds. I listened for a few moments, then tracked them down to Leo's room. I got up and put on a dressing gown and went and knocked on his door. There was no answer, but he was clearly in distress, so I went in. He was lying, face down, racked with sobs. I put a hand on his shoulder and he turned his head towards me and said brokenly, "go away."

"Leo," I said, firmly, "what is troubling you? Let me share it."

He turned on his side and said, "I'm worthless. I ought to be dead. If I'd had the courage, I would be." He turned his face away again.

"Come on, Leo," I persisted, "get up and come with me." I put out a hand which he took and let me lead him into the sitting room. I got us each a mug of hot chocolate and then said, "Leo, you are far from worthless. You've been through a really bad patch, but you're coming out of it. Please, tell me what's happened."

It all came out then, he sitting in one of my easy chairs, I in the other one facing him. He'd made a mess of everything and hurt his parents badly. They'd not been happy when he set up with Simon, not because he was gay but because they didn't trust him. He'd wrecked his academic career at Cambridge, and finally hadn't even been able to face his own failure without resorting to the bottle.

"What did your parents say when you rang them?" I asked.

"That's what's so awful. They were really kind, and said I could come home at any time and start again. It made me feel so rotten, knowing what I'd done to them. And now you're being kind and helping me too."

I was silent for some minutes, but held his hand in both of mine.

"Leo, do you remember when we were fourteen, in that hotel in Torquay? One night I had a bad dream, and you woke up and let me come into your bed."

"Mmm… I'd forgotten that. But I do remember we promised always to be friends."

"We did, and we still are. Well, you've been through a nightmare. Perhaps it's time for me to return the favour. I won't make a nuisance of myself if you just want to sleep, or if you want to talk, but there's plenty of room in my bed for two."

He nodded, and we went hand in hand to my room and got into bed. I put out the light and we turned over and I was just drifting off to sleep. Curiously, I had no sexual excitement at all, but I put out a hand to touch Leo's shoulder. Suddenly, he moved towards me and began to weep. I put my arms around him and held him closely. He cried his eyes out that night, and I admit I wept too, for the damage done to a young life by a selfish neurotic, for my dear friend, and for the sorrow of it all. But no-one, man, woman or child, can weep indefinitely; once the emotion is spent a kind of quiet comes in its place. That night Leo slept in my arms. There was something about him that haunted me. It was very elusive, but I suddenly realised that it was his smell. Every human body has its own odour, faint and usually not unpleasant. But this particular odour took me back all those years to when we'd been teenagers and he'd been so sympathetic when my mother was unkind to me.

In the morning Leo seemed slightly shamefaced. I asked him, "Are you OK to go to work this morning?"

"Yes," he replied. "You must be shattered, after me keeping you up half the night."

"That doesn't matter in the least. I'm fine. And I can always have forty winks at lunchtime if I want to. But get home early if you can and we'll have an early night."

Leo never slept in the spare room again. That night we were both pretty tired and went to sleep almost as soon as we were in bed. But on the third night we were both sitting up in bed reading, and several times I was aware of Leo turning his head to look at me. Eventually I put down my book. "Leo… all those years ago, when we said we'd always be friends… I meant what I said. Or rather, I meant a good bit more than I said."

There was a pause. I looked at Leo, his lovely face, with the fair hair and green eyes, the slender figure, still very smooth skinned. He looked at me, leaning towards me. I could bear it no longer. "Come here, Leo Dobbs."

This time, I did get an erection. So did Leo. His hand slid down to my crotch and began its work. I did the same for him, rubbing and circling very gently. After a while he pushed back the covers and dipped his head down… his body still felt as good as it had when we were fourteen. I climaxed explosively in his mouth, and moments later he came all over my hand.

We lay back, arms around each other. Leo's eyes closed. "Toby," he mumbled.


"I hope it's not too soon to say this, but… I love you."

"So do I. Love you, I mean."

That weekend, we got on a train to a village near Warwick, where his parents lived. Leo was obviously very nervous of meeting them again, but he said that as long as I was with him he would be alright.

It was his father who answered the door. Moments later, Leo was in his arms. Mrs Dobbs came out of the kitchen with floury hands. She looked at Leo, still in his father's embrace, then at me. "I know you…" she said, hesitantly.

"Yes. Toby Nutting. Do you remember, that holiday in Torquay?"

"Toby, it's lovely to see you again, but how do you come to be here with Leo? Have you been looking after him all this time?"

"Mum," said Leo, "Toby…"

Well, never mind exactly what Leo said about me. But the result was that I got hugged by both Mr and Mrs Dobbs.

"Mum… one more thing you need to know. Toby is my boyfriend. We love each other."

"Oh, Leo. After that piece of rubbish you were shacked up with in Cambridge, we'd have been happy if you'd got together with a decent respectable dustman. Toby, Martin and I had a real soft spot for you when we first met. How is your mother? And that man friend of hers? We always thought they were very hard on you."

So I explained briefly about Mother and Wayne, which got me another hug.

"The next question is, how long can you stay?"

"Only till tomorrow, I'm afraid. We both have to be back at work on Monday morning. But perhaps we could come for a few days soon?"

The way Chloe and Martin Dobbs treated me, you'd have thought I, not Leo, was their long-lost son. They'd long been reconciled to his being gay, but had been very concerned as to some of the people he'd met along the way. When we left, Chloe turned to me and said, "Toby, you will look after Leo for us, won't you? And if there is every anything, anything at all, we can do for you, you have only to let us know."

A couple of weeks later Chloe came to stay with us at the flat for a few days. Now that Leo and I were sharing a room, of course the spare room was free again. We cleaned the flat before she came, but then she cleaned it again properly!

Well, that was forty years ago, and we are still together, and still as much in love. I often think how strange it is that Mother and Wayne should have been the means of my meeting my life-long love. We met for just two weeks when we were fourteen, and though we didn't then meet again for nearly ten years, by which time we were both grown men, we'd still kept a soft spot for each other in our hearts.

And haven't things changed in forty years! Nowadays there are openly gay men and women in every walk of life: even one or two politicians. Actually, I bet there are more, but they haven't yet had the courage to come out. We have several gay couples of around our own age as good friends. Leo didn't get the opportunity to return to Cambridge, but he got an excellent degree from the Open University and went into business, working his way up from the bottom. He's now a department manager at a well known manufacturer of aircraft engines, and is responsible for quality control of machines on which literally thousands of lives depend for their safety every day.

And John, our dearest friend, died quite recently. He'd had two or three minor heart attacks, and one night he rang me – I'd insisted we each had a telephone by our bed, just in case – and I went straight round. I rang for an ambulance, but he died in my arms before it arrived.

Dear John! Did anyone ever have a finer friend? He took an interest in me when I was a struggling teenager, and helped me with my school work. He took me in when my mother threw me out, and guided me into work which has been both the source of my income and a life-long pleasure. Through all my adult life he could be relied upon for wise advice and I am so very glad that Leo and I kept up our friendship with him. Leo and I spend an evening each week manning the local telephone helpline for young gay people, and time and time again we ask ourselves, What would John's advice have been?

With his usual quiet efficiency John had left all his affairs in order and his solicitor, a charming girl called Joan Trease, was his executor. She wrote to me to tell me that John had left the lease of the shop and the flat to me.

I don't know what happened to Mother and I never bothered to find out. I saw the notice of her death in the local paper about ten years ago but didn't bother to go to the funeral. She was a dead loss as a mother; she brought me into the world but then made me spend my childhood and youth being made to feel that I was worthless. It was my good fortune that I met John who was able to undo at least some of the harm she had caused. The one good thing she did was to take me to the doctor who referred me to Dr Broadhurst. It was he who enabled me to accept my sexuality.

I see Annabel about twice a year. She got pregnant at fifteen, but as was usual in those days she had the baby but was forced to give it up for adoption. Eventually she married, though I think she did so in order to get away from home, and it wasn't a happy marriage. They eventually divorced. But they had two children; I was touched when they named the second one after me.

I'm still running Toby's Models. I suppose I shall have to retire eventually, but I'm putting it off for as long as possible, because I still love the work and the shop. Plenty of boys and young men come into the shop, and I enjoy their company, though since that night when Leo and I first voiced our love for each other I've never had the slightest desire for sex with anyone else. But it's fun when some of the young boys get a bit flirty. I suppose they know it's quite safe for them to do so; everyone is aware that Leo and I are a couple.

So there we are. I hope you've enjoyed reading my reminiscences, and if you've shed a tear here and there I hope you've also had a few laughs.

'Bye for now.

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