When we got back from France there were only three weeks left before I had to go back to boarding school. I did not want to talk to John about it because I knew the moment we started to think about what was going to happen then our whole relationship would change, and it might just fall apart. Yes, we might be able to make plans to meet at half term and Christmas but my experience with other kids at boarding school was that those relationships don't work out very well.
John's mum Marie, who now called me Michel as my special family name, invited us over for a picnic the day after we got back from Montpelier. John's Dad was busy getting ready to go to some conference in Brussels to discuss the economic impact of Brexit, so John's Mum and my Dad sat outside drinking wine while us kids played in the garden.
We had a great lunch. John's brothers and sisters were funny, and we messed around screaming away in this bizarre mixture of English and French. I got on fine with John's brothers and sister, and was pretty much able to keep up with the bilingual stuff – when his Dad spoke it was English, when his Mum spoke it was French, and the kids spoke this sort of mixed language using the words they liked best for whatever they wanted to say.
John and I both noticed that his Mum and my Dad were having a really intense conversation and kept looking at us. (This is dangerous. Kids should never let their parents discuss them. All sorts of terrible things might happen.) So we decided to go and break them up.
"So, Mum, what's up?" asked John.
"Oh, nothing, Jean, Michels' father and I were just thinking what a beautiful couple you made."
"Mike, I think the wrinklies have drunk too much wine. Let's get out of here."
And we got away as fast as possible, although we did hear some sniggers as we left.
So I just kept quiet and lived each day for itself. I noticed my Dad giving me a few odd looks from time to time but I ignored him. I still went swimming pretty much every day and had become quite good friends with some of John's schoolmates. John came over almost every afternoon, and stayed a few times for dinner. But although everyone knew were having sex together John was not able to get permission to sleep overnight. I'm not sure why. Maybe the parents thought we got lots of sex in the afternoon and needed a good night's sleep to recover. I don't think so. My libido was way up there.
The following Monday my Dad said he needed me home by six as we needed to sort some things out together. He was working at home that day and asked me not to disturb him till then. I asked him
"What's this all about? Am I in trouble or something?"
"No, you're not in trouble. It's just there are a few things we need to talk over. See you at six"
"OK, I'll be back before then."
I went over to John's house I didn't bother disturb. When it got to about four o'clock I was starting to think about going home. But before l could leave, John's mother called me.
"Michel, please came and talk to me for a few minutes before you go home. Jean, you don't need to come. This is just between the two of us."
I told you she had started to call me Michel after we got back from France – I really liked it as it was my special name just for her and it made it easier to get on with her. In return I had to call her Marie, which I found a bit awkward at first but was getting used to it. But I felt very uncomfortable about talking to her without John around.
We went into her study, which was full of French books. It looked like she was getting ready for the next school year.
"Sit down, Michel. There are just a couple of things I want to say to you, and then there's something I want to ask you. No, don't worry, you are not in trouble."
"First, I want to tell you I am very impressed by your French. None of the girls of your age that I teach are anything like as good. Of course, if you were my student we would find all sorts of ways to improve it, but really you are excellent. But today I'm going to talk to you in English because what I want to say is really important to me, and I don't want any accidental misunderstandings because of language. Is that alright?"
"Yes, Marie. And thank you for the compliment"
"You're welcome and you deserve it. Now I want to talk about Jean. And everything I say is completely in confidence. Please don't talk to him about this, at least for a little while. Is that clear."
"When the two of you became boyfriends I was not sure if this was a good thing or not. Boys of your age are not fully mature and nobody knows if it will last or not. But I've watched you two grow together over the past several weeks, and I can tell you that I have never seen Jean so happy. He has a sparkle in his eyes every time he sees you or mentions your name, and I know he can't wait for the next time you get together. He is completely in love with you, and would do anything for you."
I was so embarrassed I didn't really know what to say. My blushing cheeks would have lit up half the town. But I managed to blurt something out.
"It's the same for me, Marie. I live for him and I hate whenever we have to say goodbye to each other even if it only for a few hours."
She gave me a huge smile and nodded.
"Yes, I know. You are so lucky to have found each other."
Then a serious look came over her face, and she bent forward and looked straight at me.
"But there is a dark cloud on the horizon, isn't there. You have to go back to school soon and I worry about what's going to happen."
I started to tear up and sniffled.
"Yes, and I don't know what to do. I can't talk to John about it because it will make us so unhappy to think about, and yet there is nothing we can do."
"Ah, the elephant in the room."
"I don't understand, what do you mean?"
"When there is something bad or embarrassing or really important that needs to get sorted out, and everyone knows about it but is in denial and nobody talks about it because maybe it will just go away. We call that the elephant in the room, it is huge, and it is completely obvious, and everyone is pretending it isn't there."
"That's exactly what I feel. Are you telling me I need to talk to John about this."
"No, no, absolutely not. That would be the worst possible thing for both of you. It will break his heart. The timing is all wrong. I know it has to get discussed at some point in time, but please, not now. You must wait. This is really important for me. Ignore the elephant. Go on enjoying yourselves for as long as you can. And please trust me because I know what I'm doing."
"OK, Marie, I won't say anything but I fear he may say something soon."
"I don't think so. He doesn't think ahead as well as you do, which is why I wanted to talk to you first."
"Thanks, Marie. I'll keep quiet for the time being. I better start going home. I'll go and say goodbye to John and the others. I hope I'll see you again soon."
"Oh, you will, sooner than you think. And listen very carefully to your Dad tonight."
As soon as I was out of the room John was there asking me what happened.
"Nothing really. She wanted to thank me for putting up with you in Montpelier, and she didn't want to embarrass you. Also she told me I spoke pretty good French for my age. Better than yours."
"That's bullshit and you know it."
"Yes, you're right. Look, my Dad wants me home for something, and I better run. I'll call you tonight and we can make plans for tomorrow. I love you."
"I love you more."
"That's not possible."
We managed a goodbye kiss and then I was off on my way to see my Dad.
"Good, just in time, Mike. Get your self something to drink and we'll sit in the living room."
I got a drink and sat down.
"What's up, Dad?"
"What are your plans for tomorrow? It's your birthday." (My birthday isn't a big deal in my house. It's only my Dad and me, and I don't have friends in Oakbridge, well I didn't until this year and whatever I did tomorrow would be with John.)
"Yes, I'm glad you remembered. We haven't decided yet. I'm going to call John and we'll find out what we want to do, and then I'll let you know.."
"No. I'm going to tell you what you are going to do. You are going to come with me to my office tomorrow to meet someone at 10:00. We'll drive in together. Then someone is going to talk to you and ask you a lot of questions, and you are going to answer as best you can. Then you and me and Marie and John are going to have lunch at Antoine's. And there will be a special guest, so you have to be on your best behaviour. Khaki trousers and a long sleeve shirt, please. It's dress up time. The afternoon and evening are yours, and John can stay over if you like."
"YES! Well, the bit about John staying over. But what on earth is this all about? Have I done something wrong?"
"No, quite the opposite. But I'm under an oath of secrecy not to tell you anything more. If I did it might ruin everything."
"I don't like this, Dad, you've never kept secrets from me before. Am I going to like all of this? Are you sure you can't tell me more?
"I know you must be frustrated and I'm sorry to keep it all so secret. But please just trust me. It's in your best interest. And, no, you will not like it at first and again I'm sorry about that but it is out of my hands. But afterwards I think you will be very happy."
I looked at my Dad and shrugged.
"OK, whatever you say. But something is very odd. And its not often grownups ask their kids to trust them, and that's twice in two hours."
"Take that as a compliment. Us adults don't normally trust spotty adolescents like you."
"I'm not spotty. I have perfect skin!"
"Yes, I know. Just teasing. Order a pizza because I'm going to work some more, and please go to sleep fairly early. Tomorrow is going to be a long day for you."
I went upstairs and got my phone out. There was a text message from John.
"CALL ME NOW!"
So I did.
"Mike, the weirdest thing. My Mom is taking you and me and your Dad for lunch at Antoine's because it is your birthday, so I have to dress up. And, she says there is going to be a special guest at lunch but she refuses to tell me who it is, merely that I have to be on my best behavior.
"But then she says I can sleep over at yours tomorrow night."
"Yes, that's great. The rents have finally accepted that we are together. Bring your brown shorts!"
"You dirty old man! I'll give you your birthday present in private."
"But John, it's even weirder. My Dad talked to me and I have to go to his office and talk to someone, and he won't tell me what it's about. It's really scary when parents start talking to each other and plotting stuff behind our backs. I don't like it. It's all very fishy."
We talked for a long time trying to think who the mystery people were, the one I had to meet in the morning, and the one coming to my birthday lunch. We just couldn't make sense of it.
Then we had phone sex, and I did go to bed at a reasonable time, although going to sleep with something unanswered like that isn't easy. And I had that weird dream again of being chased all over the place by large elephants.
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