In my small pottery studio on the North Coast of Cornwall in England, I'm at a critical point of forming a clay pot when I hear the old bell above the door make its familiar clatter to tell me someone has come in. The situation isn't an unusual one. The studio attached to the side of my cottage is open to visitors and quite often people will walk in and browse whilst I'm working, and being able to see me at work is part of the experience I offer my clients. Seeing an artist at work can be rewarding to them... and to me. They get to see how a pot or a plaque or a figurine is made, and I get to take their money if they're suitably impressed with me and what I produce. But even though I'm at a critical point of forming the pot on my potter's wheel, I'm also thinking laterally and am surprised that someone has called at the studio on this day. It's a cold November late morning and most tourists who visit our beautiful county are already back at home. Cornwall in November is not what one would call 'suitable holiday time'. So maybe it's a local... or a trade client trying to buy from me when they know I don't sell to the trade, or it may even be a friend who has called for a chat and a cup of tea by the wood-burning stove? All of them will be aware that I am NOT to be disturbed when I'm at my potter's wheel. They can chat away all they like during the preliminaries, or after the pot is made, but NEVER when I'm in the middle of creating my objet d'art. The sign hanging from the old-fashioned dolly peg that says: DO NOT DISTURB WHILE I AM AT THE POTTER'S WHEEL! puts off all but the dimmest of those who enter.
So... only when I've finished the pot do I look up.
I'm a lover of beauty in all its forms, but never have I seen a more beautiful thing upon this earth than the creature who is looking at me, nor have I heard a sweeter sound than the half-broken voice of the boy, when, with a lovely smile adorning his face, he says, "I wish I could do that."
If ever a voice matched an appearance, then it's this one. His words have a French accent to them and his attire is unmistakably French – aristocratic even. He's dressed sensibly for the weather: a heavy tweed-twill overcoat buttoned almost to his chin, and a woollen scarf wrapped around his neck to keep out the cold blasts of a Cornish wind. Beneath his overcoat he's wearing heavy corduroy dark-green trousers over sturdy black shoes, and on his hands are black woollen gloves. But the item of clothing that sets him off as particularly French is the black beret he's wearing, cocked at an angle to reveal a goodly hint of combed brown hair to the right side of his forehead, but the part that really attracts me is a face that is superb in its munificence. Even though his cheeks are rosy because he's been out in the wind, there's no doubting the softness of his skin, and when God created his lips, he could not have chosen a better match for his sweet countenance. They are ruby and full. But even those qualities of beauty are not what really catch my attention. Oh, no, the parts of him that stir my soul are his green eyes. In fact, when I look into them, that's the moment when the sickly-sweet, almost nauseous emotions of affection within me create havoc with my senses... when he fixes mine with a stare that comes from deep within from whatever he is.
I need time to collect my thoughts, so I wash my hands in the enamel bowl beside me, wipe them on a towel that has seen better days, and then look at him with a smile on my face. "Good morning. It's rather cold outside to be taking a walk. I've not seen you before."
He moves his weight from one foot to the other, smiles back at me, and replies, "Mama has gone to Plymouth with my sisters. How long have you been a potter?"
"Twelve years. Eight years in this studio. Do you live around here?"
He shakes his head. "I live in Paris when Papa is not at the embassy, but we sometimes stay in London while he's working."
"Your father works at the French Embassy?"
"Yes. He's an attaché there at the moment. And you are Archie Whittingham?"
"I am indeed. Archibald Charles Macintosh Whittingham to be precise, and I'm named after my great uncle who was a Scottish piper, but I've discarded the two middle names because I can't play the bagpipes and can only make pots and plates and figurines, so I use just Archie to my friends." I flash him a warm smile. "My full name is too much of a mouthful, don't you think?"
The most beautiful smile comes to his face when he replies, "It would be difficult to remember all those names."
I smile back at him. "You speak excellent English."
Again he moves from one foot to the other. "Thank you. It's my second language. Papa insisted I speak your tongue." Then he gives me a naughty grin. "I think he wants me to follow in his footsteps."
"And will you?"
He shakes his head. "I think not."
"Then what will you do?"
He chuckles gorgeously. "I'll be a train driver."
His comment makes me laugh, and it gives me the opportunity to greet him properly. So I go to him and hold out a hand. "It's good to make your acquaintance young sir?"
He takes off his right glove and places his hand in mine. "Alain d'Evreux. Pleased to meet you sir."
I smile at him. "Archie would be better than 'sir'. Would you like a cup of tea and sit by the stove for a moment to warm up?" Then I look questioningly at him. "That's if you have the time to stay for a while?"
"Am I disturbing you? I don't want to stop you from working."
I shake my head. "You won't be disturbing me. I'm due a rest, and I get bored being on my own sometimes, so pleasant company is often welcome." I point to the vase I've just made. "I'll just cut that from the wheel and place it on a board, and then I'll make us a cup of tea. Would you like that?"
Words are not necessary. Those green eyes again look right into me, and it's they who answer with a bright glint when he nods.
I point to an old coat stand by the entrance door. "Then take off your coat and scarf and gloves. You'll need those for when you venture into the cold again."
Some things make a boy even more beautiful, and nothing can delight me more than seeing a boy with fantastic green eyes in an olive green woollen jumper with a roll-neck collar if the head that sits exposed is as beautiful as Alain's is, especially when, after he's removed his beret, his brown hair is revealed as being immaculately groomed despite having been compressed within the fabric of the headwear. His parting on the left is razor sharp, and the rest of his locks are brushed favourably to the right, creating a perfect symmetry to harmonise with his wonderful features. In fact, the more of this Boy God that's exposed to me, the more I become besotted with him, and I know that behind the chunky pullover and shapeless corduroy trousers there will be a boy body as glorious as his facial features. And that's important to me. I'm an artist... and I think as an artist, and one of my special skills is the way I create works of art that have form and grace, and in my mind I'm already envisioning the gracious curves of this boy who sits across from me in one of two well-worn vintage wheelback chairs placed each side of the cast iron, wood-burning stove. But thoughts and real life need to be kept in perspective, and at this moment all I want to do is put Alain at his ease. We've made a good start, but unless I'm prepared to end our association when he walks out of my studio, then it's important I built up a rapport that will make him want to return. So, accompanied by a warm smile, I ask him if his tea is to his liking.
He takes a sip, grins, and says, "It's lovely. Thank you. I didn't know whether you'd be open or not."
I'm a little puzzled by his remark, and ask him, "You came here deliberately?"
He nods his beautiful head and replies, "Yes. Mama has taken my sisters shopping, so I asked her to drop me off at Port Gaverne and I told her that after I'd looked at the boats in the harbour, I'd take a walk up the hill to look at your pottery. She already owns two pieces of yours."
I'm intrigued. "Does she indeed? Did she buy them directly from me?"
He nods. "Yes. Earlier this year." He frowns a thought. "The last one she bought from you would have been during our last visit here... I think. Yes, it was... mid August. It was the third time we stayed at the cottage this year."
"Yes. We own a cottage in Port Isaac. On Church Hill. Mama loves it here." Alain chuckles. "Mama says she has more in common with this part of the world than she does with Paris."
I smile at Alain. "Your Mama has good taste. We ruffians here are a clan of our own. This is not England... this is Kernow, home of legend and smugglers and highwaymen." I grin at him. "And potters who sell fine artefacts."
Alain's eyes look directly into mine again. "That's what I came to see."
"To see me toiling away?"
"I was hoping to. I like your work."
I tilt my head to one side. "Do you indeed? That's nice to know. It's not often that one so young appreciates my endeavours. And what would you have done had I been a grumpy old man who didn't appreciate young people coming unaccompanied to my studio?"
The look he gives me is pure boyish fun. "I knew you were not a grumpy old man."
"And how did you know that?"
Triumphantly, he grins, and replies, "Because I have one of your leaflets. I knew exactly what you looked like before I came... and it says on the leaflet that all callers are welcome."
I shake my head. "Not all callers."
He looks puzzled. "Am I welcome?"
Our eyes meet again, and for the first time I recognise in his something more than acquaintance. It's happened to me before, when I first met Warren, the first true love of my life... my first boy love, five years ago. It had been brief, but nevertheless, it had been wonderful while it lasted. And it began with this same look, which is indefinable and yet unmistakable. It's the look when two souls meet and share a secret: the secret that I consider the most beautiful of things; the attraction between a boy and a man. But a look is just a look, and as I was aware with Warren, circumstances have to be just right before that shared secret is a secret no longer and the affair can be consummated. But one has to begin at some point, and that's why I say the kindest thing to Alain that I can think of without being obvious, "You're more than welcome, and I hope the visit will not be a singular one."
There, it's done. With those words I've planted a seed. Whether it will wither on the barren soils of difficult circumstances that are ever-present in a man/boy relationship, or whether it will die immediately because I'm mistaken, I'm not sure, but I've taken the first step, and as it has ever been in these types of relationships, the only way the fruit will grow is if the boy desires it to do so, and only then if circumstances allow. And then comes an answer from Alain that opens the door wide. "I'd like to return, if I may? You could teach me how to become a potter?"
It's almost three-thirty and the late afternoon is fading towards dusk when a quick sideways glance towards the three people who have come into the studio make me think that they're Alain's mother and two sisters. Alain is clad in white coveralls, sitting at my potter's wheel, creating his third vase of the day. Like the two before he's made (after the half dozen or so first attempts failed miserably), I'm behind him, holding his hands and guiding his fingers to keep the shape and form of what he wants to create, and even though I think it's his family that have come in, we're at that critical moment when we cannot stop without spoiling it. Lateral thought, and while I'm helping Alain, I'm thinking how clever his family are that they immediately recognise what is going on, and in silence they watch until the pot is completed and Alain, when he turns around and looks at the people who entered the studio, throws them a look of absolute joy that his creation has not been a journey of misadventure and says, "Look, Mama! Look what I've done"
I, too, look at his family, and am greatly amused at the surprise on his mother's face. She's almost speechless, holding a hand to her ample bosom. Then she looks at me and says, "Oh, I'm so sorry! I hope my son is not disturbing you!"
I smile at her. "Not at all. I've not had such fun for years."
She will never know how truthful that comment is, for it is five years since I was close to Warren and held his hands as I've done Alain's, and it was five years ago since I was close enough to smell the essence of a boy and to hear the delightful boyish laughter that is music to my soul. But the most important part to me, today, is that I've looked into a boy's eyes and seen the magic of a shared togetherness, and experiencing it again has been magical.
My hand is trembling slightly as I hold Archie's leaflet advertising his business. I know the contents off by heart. However, the photograph of him is never boring to look at. But the photograph of the studious man with dark hair that is staring at me doesn't do justice to the person who I felt attracted to even before I met him. In reality, he is so different. Rather than being studious, he is witty and funny and exciting and sexy.
It was strange how it all began.
Mama had brought to our cottage in Church Hill, the second piece of pottery she'd bought from Archie, and after placing it in the front window and after we'd admired it, she left the room and went into the kitchen to make lunch. Then a ray of bright sunshine settled on the leaflet she'd brought home, and particularly on the monochrome picture of Archie. I picked it up and looked at it, and immediately felt a strange attraction to the man staring back at me. It puzzled me why I found him so attractive, and I was shocked that I could do so. He was a man! So I cast it casually back onto the table and went to join Mama and my sisters, but even when I was eating lunch, the picture of him kept creeping into my thoughts, and after the meal was over, I looked at it again. Then I went and looked at the two pieces of pottery that Mama had bought.
Both were vases, about fifteen centimetres tall, and both were lovely to hold. There was a tactile beauty in the soft curves of the sea-green containers, and the pink flowers that Mama had placed in them added to their beauty. Mama came into the room while I was looking at one of them, and asked, "Do you like it?"
I turned and smiled at her. "Yes. I like the colours and the shape, and you've made it even more beautiful with your choice of flowers."
Mama came behind me and wrapped her arms around my shoulders to hold me close. "Thank you. They are pleasing to the eye. He's a lovely man to speak to. He loves his work, and every piece is individual. He doesn't do mass production."
Why the following comment passed my lips, I have no idea, but I was urged from within to ask, "Is he married?"
Mama's hold on me increased slightly. "Apparently not. I did venture to ask him while we were chatting, and he said that he loved beauty in all its forms, but the beauty and form of a suitable wife had not yet crossed his path." Mama chuckled. "He would be a good catch. He has the most amazing brown eyes."
I turned my head up to look at Mama, and grinned at her. "You mustn't tell Papa that you fancy him."
She bit my ear while she was chuckling. "Naughty boy! I do not fancy him! I just think he's rather attractive, that's all."
We both giggled when I said, "Your secret is safe with me, Mama."
But Mama's almost confessional that she found Archie attractive did stir something in me, and, perversely, it was a feeling of jealousy that she found my man attractive. That was the moment when I realised what was happening. I did find him attractive - in that way; and it had taken Mama to make me realise it. That's why the leaflet went missing. It became my property; my secret; and I kept it in my wallet by my heart. And it was in my wallet when Papa said he'd to go to the Middle East for a week during November. And when Mama asked us children if we'd like to go to the cottage while Papa was away, I was clearly on her side when my sisters protested that Cornwall in wintertime was not a suitable place to be. Being seventeen and eighteen, they much prefer the delights of Bohemian Paris or a swinging 1960's Chelsea to a windswept coast. But Mama has always been clever, and she tempted them with visits to the wool shops of Launceston and the dress shops of Plymouth, where Papa's excellent income made purchases of chic country clothes, money well spent. Something different, Mama said, that will turn the eyes of the boys who are fed up to the back teeth of Mary Quant. Mama won; I chuckled, and after studying the leaflet again, I safely tucked it away in my trousers pocket before we caught the train to the South West of England. But something strange was happening to me this time. The presence of Archie's leaflet in my trousers pocket affected me. That's when I really began to think... when I began to plan to try and meet the man who was disturbing my emotions... the same dark emotions that were first awakened by the vile Giles Ravillous.
My plans were fruitful. I did meet Archie, and for many days after we returned to Paris from our short break in November, I recalled the intimate moments we shared when he was assisting me at the potter's wheel; the touch of his cheek against mine as he was behind me while he guided my hands to form the shape of the vases I was making; and at one point our lips almost touched when I turned my head up to see if he was pleased with my efforts, and he looked right into my eyes as I did so. That was the precise moment when I knew he was attracted to me, and I felt an overwhelming sense of success that my plans were taking fruition. So, with Archie's insistence and Mama's permission, I spent the final three days of our break working with Archie, helping him with whatever needed to be done in his studio, including menial tasks, but mostly at the potter's wheel creating my own pieces. I became quite good at it, and got to a point where Archie could leave me on my own to create whatever. But that I did not like, because his presence at my side was what I desired most... those intimate moments that became less frequent the more I improved in the art of creating beauty from clay.
But it was not only about those intimate moments. While we were together we got to learn about each other, and I discovered in Archie a wonderful sense of humour, as well as an affection that was obvious. I knew by the way he looked at me and touched me that he found me attractive, but to my disappointment, he never allowed it to spill over into real intimacy, which was what I really wanted. It was almost there on a number of occasions, but at each critical moment, either he or I would break the salacious juncture. That's why I felt no anger towards him: I was as much to blame as he. To blame for what? For not taking that momentous step from friends to lovers? Yes, I knew it could happen, and so did Archie. Or he should have!
But then, after a couple days in London, I had to go back to our home in Paris. And it was while I was there that I felt completely empty. It was bad enough being away from him in London, but being away from England really upset me. Until, that is, a small package arrived two days before Christmas Day.
I miss Alain terribly when he's gone home, and the only comforts I have are the vases he made and the photographs he allowed me to take of him when he arrived one morning. I insisted he keep on his warm clothes and snapped him just outside the studio with the sea as a background. I'd taken a number to ensure I got one right, and when they'd been developed, I chose the nicest one and put it in a ceramic frame made for the purpose of enhancing his beauty, alongside the other love of my life: my boy Warren.
Unlike Alain, he was not shy and reserved. We met down by the harbour in summertime in 1961 in Port Gaverne. He was fourteen years old, and just like Alain, had a body that was more delicate than brawny. I knew that, because the first time I saw him he was almost naked... clad only in brief swimwear.
I'd closed the studio and taken a packed lunch to make the most of a beautiful warm day, and I sat on the harbour wall to eat. As I discovered later, he'd noticed me probably at the same time I saw him, and as he told me later, he desired me from the moment he saw me. That's why his play brought him ever closer until he was just below me, and he looked up at me with the most wonderful smile and asked what I was eating. I told him that it was fish-paste sandwiches, and it made him laugh. That's when I fell in love with him. Not only was he beautiful to look at, but his particular sense of humour was infectious... so much so that I was afflicted by his gorgeous laughter.
It was two days later (after he had joined me on the sea wall for two consecutive days to eat lunch) when he presented at my studio, and that same day we were sharing a bed. Then we had ten days of the most beautiful time of my life. Like Alain had done, he used the pretext of me teaching him how to make pottery to be with me most of his stay, and he was such a clever boy that he managed to persuade his single mother that staying the night with me would be good for her. It was, as it happens. She met the man who became her second husband during those days and nights that Warren and I were together.
He swore to me that I was his first lover, but I was not too sure about that after we'd spent some time in bed. He was an insatiable young man, and I learned many things from him, not least that it is possible for a twenty-seven year old man and a boy of fourteen to share both love and intimacy.
But all good things come to an end, and when his holiday was over, we parted with the promise that we would remain lovers and renew our acquaintance as soon as possible. We wrote letters to each other, but from Warren, they eventually dried up. That's when I learned another valuable lesson in life: boys are wild creatures and their affections can be transient.
Not so mine. I loved him when I first met him, and even now I've met Alain, Warren still owns part of my heart. That's why I've placed the two photographs together... two boys – one heart. So, it's with knowledge foretold that I spend some time creating a gift to Alain, and just before Christmas, I send it to him, accompanied by a letter I hope he will not find disagreeable or too forthright.
When I left Cornwall, it was with a heavy heart, and although I wanted to be more intimate with Archie, I was too shy to ask if we could keep in touch by mail. I thought about the telephone, but that would have been wrong in many ways. I'd kept my cards close to my chest and not revealed just how much I was besotted with Archie, and using the telephone would have been silly, insomuch that I would not have been able to not reveal what was going on in my head and heart. Thankfully, time and duties at the embassy private school I attended tempered my ardour for a while, but it was never far from the surface, especially when my peers were talking about affaire de cœur... or otherwise.
My school chums discuss and know about such things, but unlike them, apart from a time when I was madly but platonically in love with an older boy named Jean when I was nine years old, I've never been predisposed to experimentation or otherwise with boys. Or, perhaps, the episode with Giles Ravillous has been a psychological barrier against me doing so? To me, those things are a private matter to perform only when I'm in the seclusion of my own bed. I fight it, but eventually I have to succumb to the feelings I know cannot be banished casually.
I'm attracted to a man, and he is in my bed thoughts frequently, and I cannot wait for the day that Mama will say we are going to the cottage. I dare not push the subject too much, but even so, I cannot help enquiring when will be our next visit. February, Mama says, when Papa is to go to America to talk about matters regarding the war in Vietnam. I'm not pleased. I want to spend Christmas in Cornwall so I can be close to the man who fills me with strange emotions. But it is not to be, and I resign myself that I will not be seeing Archie for a while. And that's why I'm overjoyed when a parcel and a letter from Archie arrive in the post.
Even though Mama is with me when I open the packet and read the letter, I'm unable to hide the tears in my eyes, nor my sense of joy at receiving what Archie has created: a perfect figurine made in like-image of me from one of the photographs he'd taken, even to the fine detail of my headwear and clothes. But most beautiful is the way he has captured my countenance. That's what catches Mama's eyes first, and she is absolutely pleased that he's done so well, especially when she exclaims, "He's recreated you! And your eyes! Oh, my goodness, he's got them perfect!" (She is right, but I think she cannot see what I see. My eyes are not bland green; they have a glow in them that I was hoping Archie would recognise for what it was when he took the picture: my deep affection for him.) Mama continues, "Wait until Papa sees this! He'll be delighted."
Although my eyes are misty, I smile at her when I ask, "Do you think so, Mama?"
She hugs me. "I'm sure he will. I'm enthralled with it. May we place it in a prominent place so we can all enjoy it?"
I grin at her. "When I've studied it."
She smiles at me. "Of course, and might I enquire what is in the letter?"
I don't want to give it to her, but I place it in her hand with the words, "He wants to know what colour you like best."
I watch Mama read it, and her face makes a broad smile when she sees what Archie has requested, and what he is to do for her. That's when I see her eyes are not quite dry either.
Our apartment is in a small, private boulevard, and as I stand at my bedroom window holding Archie's letter whilst staring out at the cold quietness of a Paris late evening, my thoughts go out to where I think Archie will be now. Will he be in one of his English pubs, chatting away to his friends, or will he, like me, be thinking of the growing affection between us. He'd been brave to send me the gift of the figurine, but he'd been even braver to have penned such a beautiful letter. My dear Alain. It was not Dear Alain... it was MY dear Alain. In that one word he'd declared the possessive person. I am HIS Alain, just as I look upon him as MY Archie. I have replied to him, but I determined to be more adventurous. It had to be so if our affaire de cœur is to progress. Yes, I have taken the first step, just as my friend Monsieur Peyrefitte had suggested I do.
Monsieur Peyrefitte. It was quite by chance that I met him after I returned to Paris. On my first day back in France, I met my good friend Theo Bordelon, and while we were having coffee in a small café, he'd brought to my attention a book he'd read; Les amitiés particulières, which he said had moved him to tears.
Theo is a strange fellow... almost a sissy in his demeanour and attire, and he is without shame that he is so. Nevertheless, I find him companionable, and although he is four years older than me, intellectually, we are on a similar level... or he is slightly less so.
I listened to him with good heart and not a little sense of humour when he described the contents of the novel, and I was intrigued that the story involved two boys who fell in love. Theo made me chuckle when he put his hand on his heart and said how he wished he'd been the younger hero in the story - Alexandre Motier - and that he would have adored Georges de Sarre, the older boy, and I was almost helpless with laughter when he said Georges should have been more dominant and taken Alexandre to bed because he, Theo, considered that both young men were in love that way, and it was a crime they had not consummated their friendship. So I bought a hardback copy of the novel, and because I did not want my parents to know I was reading such material, I went to the Bibliothèque Mazarine on the 6th arrondissement and read it secretly.
Theo was right. Les amitiés particulières is a wonderful read, and I, too, was in tears when Alexandre took his own life because he considered Georges had betrayed him. But the story did something else to me; it echoed the sentiments of many of the feelings I have for Archie. So I read it again, and again, and it was while I was reading it on the third occasion in the library after I had received Archie's letter that a voice from behind startled me when I heard, "Are you enjoying my book?"
I was flustered when I turned and saw the old aristocratic gentleman standing behind me, and I must have sounded like a five year old when I stumbled out the words, "Your book... sir?"
The man smiled at me, and nodded. "Yes. I'm Roger Peyrefitte... the author of the book you are reading. Is the book a library copy or is it your own?"
"It's my own, sir. I bought it out of my allowance."
He smiled at me. "A wise purchase if I may say so. Would you like me to sign it for you?" Without invitation, he sat in the seat next to me, took out a fountain pen, took the book from me, and asked, "What is your name?"
He was a strange man, almost hypnotic with the scent of lavender upon him, and I could not refuse to give him my name and a "...thank you sir".
With a flourish of his pen, he wrote: To Alain, my best wishes and my congratulations for having good taste. Roger. Then he smiled at me and asked, "Do you see yourself as one of my characters?" He didn't give me chance to reply, and continued, "I see you as the beautiful Alexandre, but I suspect you have more old-headedness upon you than my beautiful young hero. He was a naïve boy, and that was his downfall."
"But, sir, surely Georges was to blame for Alexandre's death?" I asked.
Monsieur Peyrefitte's eyes never left mine when he replied, "He shares some of the blame, and I was displeased with the way he treated Alexandre at times, but my special young man was not like you. I think you would have made a better fist of it."
"Sir? You wrote the story. Why did you not make Alexandre like me, as you put it?"
He smiled broadly. "Would you have wept had I done so?"
"Did you not weep when our young hero died?"
I could not answer him, but I did nod.
He smiled broadly again. "You would have been the first boy not to have done so if you have an interest in what I write. Do you have your own Georges?" When I did not answer, he continued, "I'm a man of the world and I have seen many such affairs, and if you will allow me to be extremely honest, you are such a handsome young man that I cannot envisage anyone who looks upon you would not be smitten by your beauty."
I was embarrassed by his words, but, strangely, I was also relieved that I could talk to someone who understood the complications of my feelings. So I smiled at him and said, "Thank you sir. MyGeorges lives in England, and I'm missing him. He has sent me a letter and a beautiful Christmas gift."
He smiled triumphantly. "There! Well done! And well done to the boy who has such good taste. May I enquire of his name, and how old he is? Is he like my Georges de Sarre?" So I told him everything except Archie's entire name. When it was over, he placed his hand on mine and said, "You will need a confidante. I would be greatly honoured if you would allow me to adopt that role." Then he placed his fingers on his lips and said, "On pain of death I would not betray you, even to your father, who I'm already familiar with."
I was shocked. "You know my Papa, sir?"
He smiled. "Indeed I do, but unlike your father, my role in the diplomatic world is less, shall we say, important? Your father is highly regarded in social circles where I am not welcome."
"Not welcome, sir?"
Monsieur Peyrefitte pointed to Les amitiés particulières. "I do not just write about such affairs."
Although I'd already begun to suspect that Peyrefitte's interest in me was not entirely platonic, I was still taken aback when he revealed his disposition. But again, strangely, at no point did I feel threatened by him. So I smiled at him and put as much sympathy in my voice that I could muster when I said, "Then those you loved would have been blessed, sir."
I thought he would cry then, so much was he moved by my honest appraisal, but he recovered quickly and placed his hand directly upon mine. "You remind me so much of my beautiful Roro."
He leaned back in his chair and smiled. "Yes, Roro. Like you, he belonged on the Isle of Capri."
He smiled wistfully. "Yes, the island of beautiful boys." Then he looked right into my eyes when he said, "If I become more acquainted with your company, I will tell you some beautiful tales of the love that shall not speak its name." Then he gave me a naughty look. "I might even teach you about such things."
I knew he was flirting with me, but despite him being quite old, I could not resist the magical twinkle in his beautiful eyes, and there was devilment within me when I replied, "Would those things you speak of be suitable for a boy of my tender years, sir?"
He laughed. "They were made especially by God for boys of your age. Now I will give you my card and I will become your confidante, and my address will be a poste restante that your Archie can use to contact you about things you would not want your parents to know about. But first we must lure him into the trap of love. May I help you to compose a letter to him? I do know how to write, you know!"
We both laughed at that comment, and I accepted his generous offer, especially when he added that he would give me a private showing of the film that had been made of Les amitiés particulières.
And when first I visited his home, and after we had composed my special letter to Archie, I was treated to a private showing of Les amitiés particulières in Monsieur Peyrefitte's apartment using an 8mm projector and a fold-away large white screen, and where, afterwards, I first, willingly, tasted the delightful fruits of the love that dare not speak its name... on red silk sheets with an old man who treated me like a prince and left me feeling not a moment of guilt that I had allowed him to do so. As he said, "Ignorance is not bliss in matters of our love, and my experience of Englishmen is that very few understand the needs of a boy. So you will need to be his tutor in what delights you most. And if what you have told me about him is true, then your pleasures will be his greatest delights."
But I know things between Archie and I cannot be as it has been with the man who has taken me to bed. Although I was complicit, Monsieur Peyrefitte had seduced me. That had been his intention from the moment he sat beside me in the library. I am not angry with him. He is a lover of boys and at no time had he been abusive. In fact; quite the contrary. He has a certain way about him that made me want to do it, and I actually felt quite honoured that my first time has been with such a distinguished gentleman, and being introduced to the delights by one so skilled in the art of pleasing boys is probably good for me if I am to be successful with the man I really want to be with. As Monsieur Peyrefitte had intimated; if Archie is a novice in such matters, then my experience with the old pederast will help us. I certainly knew after he had seduced me, exactly what pleased me most. But he didn't do everything I desired. Perhaps those dark things will come later, when we meet again.
Christmas has been a dull affair. Everything has gone as normal, but the one thing I desire most is to be with Alain. I was hoping against all hopes that he would have telephoned me, but as each day comes and goes, I know he will not. New Year arrives and I am becoming despondent. I'm also very nervous. Was I brave or was I foolish to have sent him the figurine and the letter? I may even have destroyed any chance of seeing him again if his parents think I'm being too forward. He's a fourteen year old boy and I'm a thirty two year old man... and I'm writing letters to him and sending him gifts! I've tried my best not to make it look as though my affection is deep, but the use of My is a giveaway. It's a possessive My, as I meant it to be in the hope that Alain would understand how deep are my feelings for him, but, nevertheless, unless he's not revealed the contents of the letter to his parents, then it will be obvious to them that I look on Alain as more than an acquaintance; a pupil. In fact, I've declared what can be termed unhealthy interest in a boy with the words I've used. But there is not one word I wrote that had not been meticulously chosen for its ambiguity. That had been difficult when all I wanted to write was: I love you!
It's on Thursday the 19th of January 1967 that I receive a reply to my letter. Unlike most of my correspondence, this letter is unmistakably foreign. It has French stamps and a French postmark. I know where it's from, but from whom is not so clear. The handwriting on the envelope is small and precise and could have come from almost anyone who is well-educated. And then I notice something that makes me sure it's from Alain... the informality of my name: Archie Whittingham. Only Alain will have used that term of address. Either of his parents, especially if they are displeased with me, would have addressed it as Mr Archibald Whittingham. So I breathe a sigh of relief. But what will the contents reveal? They could quite easily tell me that correspondence between us is improper. So I open the precious letter with a paper knife, and read...
After reading the letter, I'm distraught, not for myself, but for Alain. My special boy has opened his heart to me, fully aware that if he is mistaken in his assessment of our situation then he will never be able to look me in the eyes again. I look at the calling card that has been put within the folded letter, and read it. On it is all the information I need, including the most important thing of all in the circumstances... a telephone number.
I hear the strange continental buzz on the phone rather the ringing tone we have on British phones when we ring out, and I'm wondering if the line is engaged, and I'm just about to break the call when I hear a click and a voice say, "Roger Peyrefitte."
Parlez vous Anglais?"
"Yes. And you are?"
"I'm a friend of Alain d'Evreux. He's written to me and enclosed your calling card to use if I wish to contact him. Is he right to do so?"
"Yes. You must be Archie. I've been expecting your call."
"And why is that?"
"I'm Alain's confidante. I know the contents of the letter he wrote to you. As a matter of fact, I helped compose it with him. Most of the words were his, but I corrected his grammar so it would not be ambiguous. May I ask if you dislike the contents of the letter? If so, then blame me rather than Alain."
"No, I'm not displeased with the contents of the letter. In fact I'm very pleased at what he had to say. That's why I'm telephoning you now. Alain will be in turmoil since he doesn't know how I will react to it. Would it be possible for you to contact him as soon as possible and tell him that we share the same feelings?"
"You're extremely fond of him?"
"Are you really his confidante?"
"I'm a confidante for both of you. Your affections will founder on the rocks of propriety without one. You can trust me completely. I have loved as you have, many times. I understand. May we talk again after I have passed on your message to Alain?"
"If you wish. If you have a pen I will give you my telephone number."
"I already have it. Alain keeps your business leaflet close to his heart, and I care for his well-being as much as do you, and if you had not telephoned within a reasonable time, I would have contacted you. We need to release the tensions he is feeling, and then he will be happy again."
"Thank you. I am in your debt. Please tell him that I feel exactly the same way about him as he does about me. Would you mind if I write to him using your address?"
"It will be my absolute pleasure to be your conduit. Good day."
"Good day, and thank you again."
The shrill sound of the telephone ringing catches my nerves and makes me shudder. Three times it rings, and then it stops. My heartbeat becomes rapid. It is the signal.
In the local public call box, I dial Roger's number. He answers almost immediately, and when he knows it is I calling, he says, "Archie says he loves you exactly as you love him. Now you can rest easy my beautiful, precious petal." Even though the news I receive is what I want to hear, I am still shocked by it, and I begin to cry. Then I hear Monsieur Peyrefitte ask, "Do you need warm arms to comfort you? I can come to get you in the car. Do you have time?"
The scent of lavender and warm arms do comfort me, and after my special confidante has brought me back down to earth with soothing words, and after he has kissed away my tears, on the silk sheets of his soft bed he also releases the other tensions that are plaguing me more, it seems, as I am getting older. Three times this evening, and then I apologise for being so greedy, which makes him smile, and he informs me that he has known boys of my age who have needed twice or even three times the number before they would allow him to rest. I very nearly tell him he should do it again, but then decide against it because I don't want him to think I am a hussy and a tart.
I am beginning to enjoy more and more the love that dare not speak its name, and when I go to my own bed, I am hoping Archie will be as gentle and loving as Monsieur Peyrefitte has been, and now he's telephoned Monsieur Peyrefitte with the words I wanted to hear, I know without doubt that when we met again, I will be sharing a bed with the man I truly love. In Monsieur Peyrefitte's bed, he'd concentrated on my releases, and then took his own release on my body without my assistance. I am not attracted to him enough for it to be otherwise, but it will be different with Archie. Not only do I love him, it will be my greatest delight to pleasure him, and with God's blessing, he will become the person who I will allow to unlock the door to the dark secrets within me.
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]
* Some browsers may require a right click instead