It had been a fortuitous meeting with Alain in the library. I'd arranged to meet fifteen year old Claude Marchand there, but, as usual, he was disingenuous when he said he would do so. He had accepted the gift of two hundred francs and made a promise to meet me at the designated hour when I returned from Italy. Later, he told me he'd got the dates mixed up, which did not trouble me. Had he not been deceitful then I would never have met the beautiful boy who reminded me so much of my precious Roro, who I had met and loved deeply in 1938... and later.
Roland – my Roro. He had been my complete happiness whilst my good acquaintance Henry de Montherland was bedding his troublesome brother, the delightfully beautiful but wayward Doudou. I had the best of the bargain, and Roro was my utter delight.
Like Alain d'Evreux, he was slight of frame, and like Alain, he was beyond beautiful. Only my dearest Alain-Phillipe is comparable. Roro was my tutee; my constant companion during those difficult years and our affair never ventured beyond platonic. Of all my boys in later life, he was the only one where our association was such. But I loved him so deeply that, at the tender age of eleven, I could never take him beyond his childhood. That state of mind was so precious that it would have been a great sin to have done so, and even though I am a constant sinner, some things are just too precious to fracture in the pursuit of bodily needs. So I spent many happy hours basking in the delight of his company, and because I did, the photographs of Roro and I in the Tuileries Garden adorn my mantelpiece. He is, in later life, singularly, my only conquest without consequences. But our affair has served me well. It was our platonic relationship that defines to me the true meaning of pederasty, and I am a better person for having discovered it.
But I cannot live without the earthly desires of what I am, and, fortuitously, Alain d'Evreux fell into my warm lap when I set eyes on the delightful creature reading my book; and everything that followed was designed to fulfil my needs.
Alain d'Evreux. I am not the type of person who will break the bond he has with his English lover to steal him for myself, but neither am I a man to stare good fortune in the eyes and dismiss it straightforwardly.
Life for a pederast - especially an old pederast – is about seizing the moment. Not to do so will leave me barren unless I am prepared to be a pawn of paid boys. And that is not the same as having an unpaid boy share one's bed. Yes, Alain was returning a favour, but he was not made to do so. It was he who snuggled closer as we talked after we had watched Les amitiés particulières together and I had soothed his emotions and wiped away his tears when the film ended. And it was he who, after we had composed his letter, whilst sitting on the sofa and I had been stroking his delicate thigh, had moved my hand to his pleasure. But that is the way of most boys when they are comfortable with the situation, and especially so when they are at that crucial age where experimenting with a confidante is a safe way to release their feelings. Neither did he struggle on the silk sheets of my bed when I disrobed him. He was more than a willing partner, and he drank of my loving gratefully after I had caressed those silken parts of him that I knew would leave him helpless to my caresses.
On the first occasion, I had not required my own ecstasy, for he had rewarded me enough – twice - with his own sweet pleasures. But on the second occasion, after he received good news that his love with his English lover was mutual, when we were sharing memories of my beautiful Roro and he had been moved to say the most beautiful words to me, he had been the one who led us into temptation and was unfaltering in his desires.
Twice, while he was on his lying on his back, he shuddered in boyish ecstasy, and afterwards, when we had had an amusing discussion about different boys' sexuality, as a special reward for his state of mind being joyful, he had rolled onto his front and allowed me to discover more of his boyish beauty, and while I was praising his exquisiteness, I did not mishear his soft moans of pleasure when I was caressing the precious parts of a boy that are most dear to the needs of a pederast: the lobes of his ears, his exquisite neck and armpits, and the meticulous line of beauty that is a boy's spine, which leads to his twin orbs of amorphous enchantment, all encompassed by the testosterone induced sweat of a young teenage boy in full heat, which is like an opiate to someone like me. And when he drew his legs under him and offered me the most joyful part of a boy that he had previously been shy about, I rewarded him for his bravery. That had been particularly satisfying to him because that time he did not try to disguise the moans of delight when he shuddered and shook with ecstasy.
But that was not the end of the matter. When he was lying on his front, recovering from his latest ordeal and was allowing me to caress his softness with my hardness, he did not object in any way when I took my release between but not inside him there. And he gave me a gorgeous smile after I had cleaned him up with a damp cloth and a warm towel. It was indeed a special reward!
And it was without wiles from my good self that he flashed his gorgeous green eyes and asked if he could return the following day in the evening. So I arranged to collect him again at six from the telephone box where he had phoned earlier.
I am in turmoil as I lie in bed after receiving Archie's reassurance that we are amitiés particulières. I feel I am betraying the man who really loves me, but am helpless not do so. Monsieur Peyrefitte's skilful way of doing things have become irresistible, and I am in so much need of them that I know I cannot wait to be fulfilled with Archie.
I do not blame Monsieur Peyrefitte for what happened. The first time it was I who had been overcome with desire, so much so that when he was stroking my thigh, I was so lost in the emotions that I could not resist moving his hand to places that are private to me. I thought it may have been a simple affair, but it was not to be, and I was glad of it, even if at the beginning I was shy when my confidante ushered me to his bedroom with whispered words that a soft bed and silk sheets is the only place for a boy to enjoy the real beauty of release.
He was right, and I was utterly delighted afterwards that he had removed all my clothing. Once he had done that and put me at my ease with effusive praise for my body, unlike the way the brutal Giles Ravillous had ravaged me, Monsieur Peyrefitte's gentle fingers were like feather down as they traced the contours of my nakedness, and his soft lips nibbling and sucking and plucking on parts of my body had me moaning with desire before the warmth of his mouth enclosed me to bring me to a shuddering climax that was without equal in my life. And then more words of praise and smiles and feather-down-fingers while I was recovering from the amazing first-time experience of a mutual relationship.
I thought then that it was all over... but it was not. When Monsieur Peyrefitte saw what his words of praise and smiles and feather-down-fingers were doing to me again, he repeated the sensations, but this time whilst he was lying between my legs, which he had raised onto my chest to allow him access to parts of me that no one has ever had access to before. I had no time to feel ashamed or guilty or timid, so beautiful and sensual were the feelings he aroused in me that I was lost in a sea of lust that eventually drove me to another climax, but this experience, while I was writhing and shaking and biting the soft pillow I had wrapped around my face to stifle the moans of carnal desire, was created by vibrating fingers while his tongue and lips played havoc below me.
Afterwards, more words of praise and feather-down fingers and smiles and gentle affection until he gently tweaked my nose and said I should get dressed.
Then I sat on the sofa and drank tea with someone who I knew was not just an expert, but a true master in the art of loving boys. I should have known that he would be so. During the open discussions we had, he insisted he was not really a homosexual, but a pederast – a lover of boys. But I would have known that anyway. He had only one photograph of a woman in his apartment; none of men; but many of different boys.
One in particular is his favourite; the beautiful boy in three silver photograph frames that adorn his mantelpiece; a boy he calls Roro, but who is really named Roland.
It was the second time we met, after he picked me up from the telephone box and after he had soothed my emotions that were disturbed by knowing Archie loved me as I loved him, while we were drinking tea, that I asked him who the boy was. He had taken down a photograph and shown it to me, and while we both studied it together on his large sofa filled with luscious, soft cushions, I sensed his deep affection for the boy who dressed much like me in a black beret and a heavy woollen overcoat. He pointed out the similarities in us, and I felt much complimented by his comparison, so much so that I leaned into him, pressed my head against his shoulder, and told him he had excellent taste and that Roro was indeed a very beautiful boy. He thanked me for my kind comments, put an arm around my shoulders, and kissed my hair. Then he said something that moved me deeply, "As one gets older, love becomes more difficult to find. I am not young and handsome as I once was, and those I love no longer find me attractive."
I looked up at him and smiled with my eyes. "You're still a beautiful person. I think you're very attractive. Would you like to take me to bed again?"
He smiled, wistfully, and then kissed my forehead. "My reward?"
I grinned at him and shook my head. "No sir... my reward."
And I was rewarded much more than I thought possible.
This time we were both naked and I was quite pleased that the body of the man who was about to pleasure me was not displeasing to look at. As a matter of fact I was surprised that Monsieur Peyrefitte was as fastidious with his body as he is with his general presentation. Where I expected hair; there was none. He had done a fine job with the clippers, which, for some reason I found pleasing and it made me think he was younger than he is.
And this time the shock element of our shared togetherness was absent. That's why I took the liberty, at times, to lead him to temptation. Not his, but mine. On the first occasion I had discovered some things were nicer than others, and it was to those places that I led him. He did not object, and even complimented me that I was so clever. Then he spent a few minutes teaching me things I was not aware of. He explained that all boys are different and all have places on their bodies which they prefer to be more stimulated than others. Then we had an amusing few minutes when he made me point to the various places on my body that pleased me most. But out of shyness I did not point to the place where his sensuous tongue had pleased me most on the last occasion. He gave me a puzzled stare and put his finger there and asked if that place was not to my liking. That's when I giggled like a five year old and told him it was actually the nicest place but I had been too shy to tell him.
So he punished me for being so shy by leaving that place until the final climax. He had brought me to my peak twice while I was lying on my back, but then he rolled me over and punished me in the other way when I was on my knees and his scandalous tongue was doing great harm to my senses while his busy fingers were at work on the object of my release.
Then, afterwards, I decided that, as my Papa often says, it take two to tango, I thought it very unfair to leave the man who had provided me with so much pleasure not also sharing in those pleasures, so when he was stroking me with his manhood on the softness of my posterior, I moved my body to indicate that he had my permission to venture within to relieve himself, and when he had, I was quite shocked that I felt pleasure at what he had done. Indeed, I was thinking things I should not think: that what he was doing between me would be so much more desirable if he were to do it inside me.
Monsieur Peyrefitte. I know nothing about him. He is a writer of high regard in my country. Those were Alain's words in his letter. Why would he be our confidante? How did Alain know him? Peyrefitte was willing to be a go-between for a liaison that is not only illegal, but highly immoral. Therefore he has to be immoral himself.
All these things are in my mind when I call at the library in Launceston to see what I can discover about him. But I am cautious. I'm a person of high regard and it will seem improper if I were to enquire about someone who is decadent. I search through the card index for his name, and there is just one entry for Peyrefitte, Roger: Special Friendships, translation by Edward Hyams and published by Secker & Warburg in 1958.
I'm familiar with the system and go to the aisle where the authors' names begin with a 'P', and search for Peyrefitte. Triumph! There it is, a singular copy in paperback, and when I take it from the shelf, because the pages are dog-eared and soiled, I am more than aware that it is a well-read book.
Even though it's cold and a westerly is blowing and white horses are prancing as far as the eye can see on the dark green of the Atlantic Ocean, the brisk air is refreshing after the emotions of reading Special Friendships has moved me deeply. But it isn't just the story that has made me take a stroll along the high cliffs of my county that are disturbing me; it's the thought that a man who has written such a story is a friend of Alain's that's bothering me. Peyrefitte is a pederast. That much is obvious. Only one who understands the feelings of boy-man love could have written such a novel. Although there was only a couple of years age difference between the two main characters – the boy Alexandre and the older of the two lovers, George de Sarre – it was obvious that the intellectual disparity between them was little different than that between two people of a much wider age gap. Peyrefitte had spoken in tongues, which only those of the disposition will understand.
The way he had portrayed Alexandre's childishness and George's more adult attitude could not be analogised to what has happened between Alain and I. No, in the book, Peyrefitte described an affair between two boys of unequal intellect, hence it became a tragedy. But the same cannot be said of Alain and I. Despite our age difference being eighteen years, Alain's superior intellect against my non-intellectual provenance makes us equals. Yes, I have eighteen years more life experience, but when it comes to pure thought processes, Alain is at least my equal, and if our affair becomes fulfilled, then it will happen between a man and a boy who knows full well what he is getting into. In fact, in truth, compared to life as I know it, apart from my brief fling with Warren, I am being drawn into a world of which I have little knowledge. Perhaps in Alain's world it's different? Perhaps it's of no consequence in France? After all, apart from Soho in London, we English are quite reserved, whereas in France, the Follies Bergeres is feted as culturally acceptable, and in France, unlike England, homosexuality is not a crime.
When I return from my walk, I am forced to think about the letter Alain has sent to me, where he has declared his love for me, and which Peyrefitte had helped him write. He would not have done that if his affections were elsewhere. His affections elsewhere! That's the root cause of my predicament. Alain has a good friend who is a pederast: therefore I'm assuming it's more than a friendship?
On the following day, after I've had lunch with my good friend Stuart Begbie, whose home is The Grange – a rambling Georgian ivy covered house near Plymouth, who is the beloved homosexual partner of Captain Michael Johnson who happens to be serving abroad in Cyprus, and after we've discussed a number of mutual interests, I go to the library in Plymouth because it is much larger than the small library at Launceston, and which has an extensive range of reading material, and this time I spend two hours looking through various non-fiction books to find what I'm looking for: more about the mysterious Monsieur Peyrefitte, and when I drive my green Morris Traveller back home to Port Gaverne, I'm in a happy mood thinking about what I've discovered.
Peyrefitte is a bit of a pain in the proverbial backside to many people and institutions in France; and beyond. He's a self-confessed 'homosexual', but his associates and some of his friendships suggest he is more a lover of boys than men. He's an intellectual and has used his position in society to ridicule the hypocrisy of many leading figures, many of whom are against homosexuality (and pederasty in particular), including the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, he is scathing of the latter. But the thing I've discovered which pleases me most is that he is sixty years old. Alain doesn't seem to have any problems with me being thirty two, but I cannot see a situation where a fourteen year old boy would even contemplate doing anything with a man of that age, which means that Peyrefitte is exactly what he told me he was: "I'm a confidante for both of you. Your affections will founder on the rocks of propriety without one. You can trust me completely."
At seven o'clock in the evening, at the third time of ringing, Monsieur Peyrefitte answers the telephone. As soon as I hear his soft, cultured voice answer the call in French, I say, "Hello Monsieur. This is Archie Whittingham speaking. I was hoping we could have a chat. Is this a convenient time for you?"
"Excusez-moi mais le moment est mal choisi. Pouvez-vous me rappeler dans environ une heure?"
"Yes. It's inconvenient at the moment. You'll call me back in an hour. I'll await your call. Au revoir."
And when Peyrefitte has ended the call, I wonder why he has spoken to me in French and not in English, and I think that perhaps my basic education in the French language has not been in vain after all. Now I've met Alain, he will, no doubt, help me polish up on it. That will be novel. I can learn to say Je t'aime, je t'adore as it should be spoken.
I replace the receiver back on the cradle of the bedside telephone and turn over to admire the beauty of the soft curves of the boy beside me. Those green eyes fix me, and then he rolls over. Alain and I are beginning to understand each other better. He has taken his pleasures twice in the other way, and now he requires me to give him more, but in the new way he has come to enjoy, and which I introduced him to two days ago. He is a natural, one of those boys who can be stimulated without and within. He is a very lucky boy. Not everyone can find ecstasy within, and as he has already discovered, the joys that way can be more wonderful than any other. But first he requires to be lubricated, and that is my greatest pleasure.
When the telephone rings, I answer it. It's Peyrefitte. We exchange pleasantries for a short while, and then I ask him, "Have you seen Alain recently?"
His voice is firm and reassuring when he replies, "Unfortunately not. I wish I did see more of him. But I have spoken to him. He's anxious for a letter from you. Will you write one?"
"It would not be a problem to send it to your address?"
"Of course not. I understand your hesitancy, but I can assure you that your secret is perfectly safe with me. I hope my being a conduit between you will be the same?"
"Of course. I will write to him tonight and post it tomorrow. In the meantime, if he contacts you again, please tell him a letter is on the way. I don't want him to think I've abandoned him." I chuckle. "He may think that, and then find someone else."
Peyrefitte chuckles. "You're wise to think that way. In your particular case, I think you have little to worry about, but I have known these beautiful creatures we love to change at the click of a hormone. It's happened to me. Quite a few times."
I'm about to tell him that I'm aware of his character, but then decide to keep my counsel. Instead, I ask him, "Do you travel a lot?"
"Oh yes. In fact I'm going to Italy again on the tenth of February... for two months. I write much better when I'm in Italy. There's an ambience about the place that gets the creative juices flowing. Have you ever been to Italy?"
"I'm afraid not. I'm just a country boy."
Peyrefitte laughs. "I like country boys, especially Italian ones. They come a very close second to French boys."
"You think French boys are more beautiful?"
Again he chuckles. "Don't you? Is there a more beautiful creature upon this earth than your Alain? Not only is he beautiful, he has delightful manners, and a certain way about him that will turn any head except those without spirit. You should guard him well."
"Do you think I have a need to?"
"Have you loved before?"
"I may have done."
"Then you will be familiar with their wonderful disposition. To love a boy can be both heaven and hell. Many of us don't understand them. As an old and experienced lover of our beautiful creatures, may I give you some sound advice? I am more than skilled in the ways of their behavior, which can be both agreeable and disagreeable, depending on how you look at it. We adults tend to have closed minds, whereas boys are like fresh flowers in springtime, bursting at the seams to open their petals to the warmth of the sun, and they will even turn their heads during the daylight hours to gather the warmth they need. Do you understand me?"
"I think so. Their age can make them stray?"
"Exactly. But unfaithfulness is not a crime in itself. Well, not where a boy's earthly needs are concerned. But matters of the heart are an entirely different thing. Never confuse the two. If a boy truly loves a man, then we who care for them deeply should not shed tears of anger if their sweet petals require a little more warmth that we can give them. If ever a tempestuous storm of difficult circumstances arises, then they will always seek shelter with the one they love. That's the really special part of being loved by a boy."
I chuckle. "Now I understand why Alain says you're a gifted writer. But what happens if the warmth they seek elsewhere also steals their affection?"
Peyrefitte's voice is filled with amusement when he replies, "Then you shed a few tears and try to recreate the situation again. After all, are we not important, too? Now then... the flower you once had... was its affection stolen from you?"
"The circumstances of the relationship meant that we had to part and we did so with the intent that it would be rekindled. But after a while, for whatever reason I'm not sure, it must have lost its affection for me."
"But you didn't lose your affection for it?"
"No. I still treasure the memories of it."
"Good! That is the way of things. It tells me a lot about you, not least that you love our beautiful boys for all the right reasons. Alain is blessed to have found you. He says he will be in England, in their cottage near you at the end of February. He seems to be rather excited by the adventure. He also tells me that his dear mama is an admirer of yours."
"Yes, she does like my pottery. I'm making her a special vase for when they arrive."
Peyrefitte laughs. "You Englishmen! You miss what is under your nose. Alain's mama likes you for more than the beautiful pottery you make. You should use that knowledge to your advantage. Those of us of our persuasion need to know how to go to dinner; dress in our finest clothes to create an impression; praise each course of the meal, especially the main course; and afterwards, dessert will be served. Alain is that dessert. You can start by making that piece of pottery for his mama one of the finest things you have ever produced, and present it properly. That work of art will be you. You will be judged on it and the way you present it to his mama, who is the only person you have to win over. If his mama trusts you completely, then anything is possible. Trust me... I know how these things work. Mamas have only one dread in life: of the woman who will take her precious son away to replace her. She knows a man can never do that, and that's why she will see you as an ally and not a threat."
"And what about his father?"
"You will have to work that one out. Each is different, but none are easy. You may be lucky. He spends a lot of time abroad. As a matter of fact, I know quite a lot about him. I make it my business to do so. One never knows if a juicy bit of scandal can come in handy if the worst was to happen."
"The worst was to happen?"
"Yes. It's worse in your country than it is in mine. Not only will it be a scandal, your whole life will be ruined. Are you prepared for those sacrifices?"
I think about his wise words. "Whatever will be, will be, but I can't turn love off like a tap."
"No you can't, but there are two sides to our love. I know from experience that platonic love can be beautiful... perhaps even more beautiful than the other kind. But the other kind is powerful. Most boys have no problems with it and don't care about the consequences, but we have to care about them. That's why I make it my business to know everything there is to know about their parents before I venture into that kind of loving. My devotion to doing that has saved me a number of times."
"And Alain's father?"
Peyrefitte chuckles. "A man abroad requires earthly pleasures. He's not particularly a friend of mine. As a matter of fact, he dislikes me. I've instructed Alain not to mention my name in family company. And now our beautiful young man has discovered the truest love, I will have no scruples reminding Fabien d'Evreux of the consequences of me revealing the names of his mistresses in faraway places."
"You would do that?"
"I would indeed. We thieves have a code of honour... to protect our own. Providing, that is, we thieves are honourable with our boys. I cannot do with those of a forceful disposition. To me, those pseudo-pederasts are not like us. They are monsters and bring our name into disrepute, and I am not disreputable. I take no boy. He first has to give himself to me, just as Alain has done with you. He adores you."
"Thank you. I would sooner throw myself off the highest cliffs of my county than force myself upon him. So, with your permission, may I join your den of thieves?"
Peyrefitte laughs. "You are already amongst us. I know enough about you now to cast you to the devil."
"You would do that?"
Peyrefitte sighs into the telephone. "It will never happen. I have seen the glint in the beautiful green eyes of the boy you love to know that. I'm not sure how English boys are because I have not enough knowledge of them, but I do know how French boys work. You had best be on your toes when next Alain visits. He is the perfect age." Peyrefitte chuckles. "They like red sheets on the bed... preferably silk ones."
I laugh. "Unlike you aristocrats, I am a common artiste, and I have only linen ones, and they are white."
Peyrefitte laughs at my comment before saying, "You remind me that you are an artiste. Would you do me a very great favour?"
"If I can. What would you like me to do for you?"
"There was a very special boy in my life from long ago. Before the war. I would like you to recreate him for me just as you have recreated Alain."
"You have seen the gift I sent him?"
"Oh yes. Alain treasures it. He brought it along to show it to me. I was amazed at what you achieved. I love works of art, and your creation would grace any fine collection. I will ask Alain to put a photograph of my Roro with his next letter to you."
"Is the photograph decent?"
"Oh yes! He is fully clothed. I wish he was not. I never saw him fully disrobed. It was enough that he loved me. And now I will say au revoir and allow you time to write your letter to Alain. A word of advice. End it with kisses. French boys treasure kisses. Soft lips can say more than a thousand words. But before I let you get on with your busy life, may I ask that if Alain asks if we have been in contact that you will answer as I do, that we chatted about things in general and none of the fine details of our conversation will be disclosed?"
"You have my word. But in my letter I will mention that I have spoken to you. About things in general. We English never talk about anything but the weather, anyway."
Peyrefitte laughs and we end the conversation.
While I'm in my bed, for the umpteenth time I read Archie's letter he has sent to me via Monsieur Peyrefitte's residence.
Monsieur Peyrefitte gave me the letter earlier this evening. It was after we had been to his bed. I was not best pleased he kept the letter a secret until we were sitting on the sofa drinking tea. He said he had a surprise for me, and then went to the mantelpiece and took the letter from behind a photograph of Roro. After I had read it and was in tears because it was so beautiful, I could not keep the tone of my voice civil when I asked him, "Why did you not give me this before?"
The tone of my voice did not seem to disturb him unduly, and he actually smiled at me when he asked, "Before we went to bed, you mean?"
He took a sip of his tea, placed his cup on the table in front of us and leaned back to contemplate me. After a short while, he stroked my hair and said, "My beautiful boy... would you have enjoyed our bed time had you read the letter previously?"
"I may not have gone to bed with you!"
Again he smiled. "I'm absolutely sure you would not have gone to bed with me, but think what you would have missed! Did you not have pleasure in my bed?"
I could not look at him when I replied, "Yes."
He sighed. "Everything in its time; and everything in its place. You must learn to differentiate between matters of the heart and matters of bodily needs. You are a young boy, and as such, you require both. I provided the latter while your heart was free of the attachment you feel towards your Archie, and now you have received his letter, you can enjoy the fruits of your emotional love." He wagged his finger at me. "Never, ever, let one get in the way of the other. There will be times in your life when you can combine the two, and that is nirvana. It will come if you so desire it, when you meet Archie again. May I be privileged to read the letter?"
I looked at him, unsure whether I should allow him to read the beautiful words Archie had written, but then reminded myself that without the man beside me there would have been no letter. I was also thinking that Archie and Monsieur Peyrefitte were two different entities in my life. The latter had professed his love to me, but he accepted I could not feel the same way about him as I did about Archie. To a man like Peyrefitte, that must have been difficult, but he had reconciled himself to the situation and accepted what I could give him; that which I also wanted. Ours is a marriage of convenience, but nevertheless, not a disagreeable one... to either of us. So I gave him the letter in his hand. "Yes, you may read it. I may need your help to reply to it."
I drank my cup of tea while he was reading it, and only when he gave it back to me and placed a hand on my arm did I look at him. I was quite moved when he wiped his eyes with a serviette from the table. Then he looked me right in the eyes. "My beautiful boy, I'm even more pleased now that I did not give you the letter earlier. I most certainly would not have had the wonderful time I have just had, and I would not blame you for a moment had you refused me. Your friend not only is an artiste, he has a way with words that surprises me for an Englishman. Before reading that, I was of the opinion they were all uncouth."
His words amused me, and I could not help but smile. "But what do I tell him?"
He smiled at me. "You tell him the truth, but only when you are sure of that truth yourself. So what is it to be... a George and an Alexandre, or a Lucien and an André Ferron? The former affair remained platonic, but dear Lucien had no quibbles about his relationship with André. Ironically, they both ended disastrously, but at least Lucien and André survived to continue their affair. Maybe there is a lesson to be had there? But I cannot tell you what to do. The choice has to be yours. Now may I ask you something?"
"Do you enjoy what we do in bed?"
I was surprised by his question and gave him a hard stare when I replied, "Do you think I would go to bed with you if I did not?"
"Please do not be angry with me, Alain, I am trying to help you. There is more behind my question than a simple enquiry about your sensual delights. I am trying to understand you better so that I may advise you better. I have known many boys, and most of them have matured to become heterosexuals. But some I have met have been of a homosexual disposition from the off. That was the reason of my earlier enquiry of you... I need to know you better before I can help you. How long have you desired to be in a man's bed?"
It was all too much for me, and I fell into his arms and cried. Eventually, when he had eased me with soothing words and caresses, I answered him. "I have struggled with this same question myself." Then I told him everything from the moment I first saw Archie's photograph on his business leaflet, right up until the time I had to leave him to return to London.
He squeezed me tenderly. "And still I am no wiser, so I will have to dig deeper. With your permission, of course?"
I was aware of what he was about to say, but I knew it had to be asked, and I said, "You want to know of my feelings when I am in bed with you?"
He sighed. "You are a clever boy. Even so, I know how difficult this will be for you, so we will deal with it in a straightforward yes and no answer routine. That will be easier for you. I will ask you a question, and you will answer in the affirmative or negative. Shall we proceed?"
I wrapped my arm a little tighter around him. "Yes."
"Archie. Do you have those feelings for him?"
I had to chuckle then. "Possibly."
Monsieur Peyrefitte chuckled. "This is going to be difficult. Well, let me rephrase the question slightly. Have you ever been aroused when you think about him?"
I chuckled again. "Yes."
"A more difficult question now. When we've shared my bed, have you considered that it was Archie with you and not me?"
"Are you sure?"
"You do surprise me. May I enquire why he does not come into your mind if you do get aroused when you think about him?"
I chuckled again. "I can only think about the pleasures you are giving me. If you were not so good at what you do, then I probably would think about Archie."
We both laughed when Monsieur Peyrefitte said, "Then I will award myself the Légion d'Honneur for my prowess. I was not aware that I could have such an effect on boys. I knew I was good, but not that good! You have made an old man very happy. There is hope for me yet. I am going to Italy soon. You will write me a glowing reference I can show to the boys there. They will keep me happy while you are away."
When we'd stopped laughing, I lifted my head and pursed my lips. "You amuse me so much that you may kiss me."
He adopted a pretend surprised look. "My first kiss! You are too kind." Then he lowered his head and kissed me softly on the lips. "There, is that good enough for you?"
I giggled. "Not really. I was expecting it to disturb me."
He chuckled naughtily. "Ahhh. I could have given you one of those kisses, but this is not the time. We have business to conduct. Another question. If I were to go away tomorrow and never come back, and if you had not met Archie, then would you seek another lover? A male I mean."
I shook my head. "Not now I have been with you. Anything else would be second rate."
He chuckled so much that we shook, and then he said, "I think this line of questioning is getting us nowhere except raising my self-esteem to levels I never knew existed. I have made up my mind. You will go to England, and if you can get that uncouth Englishman into bed with you, then he will have to be prepared for some special French loving. I hope, sincerely, for you, that he is up to the task."
I giggled. "You echo my own thoughts."
"Good. Now I will take you back to your telephone box."
He looked quizzically at me. "Not yet? Why... not yet?"
"All this talking has disturbed me."
"Yes please. And this time you may do that which you have wanted to do since you met me. I have decided it is time to do it properly... completely!"
"Yes. But be gentle with me."
"Am I ever anything other than gentle with you?"
"No. That's why I want you to do it. It is not just you who has been impatient for it to happen."
And so we went to bed, and for the first time in my life since Giles Ravillous raped me, I truly understood myself. But it took an hour of, at first, gentle persuasion, and afterwards, uncomfortable but beautiful passions before I arrived at that state of mind.
When Alain's letter arrives, I wash my hands, make a pot of tea, and because it's a lovely morning, go and sit at the table in front of my studio that I've put there for clients to sit and enjoy the view from the front of my property. Two sugars, milk, and I stir the tea whilst looking at the envelope. Unlike my humble Basildon Bond stationary, his is quality parchment that puts mine to shame. Like the family, it's aristocratic. When Harry the Postman handed it to me, he laughed when he said in his broad Cornish accent, "Posh stuff this is boy. From the King of France be it? Be money there for you if you makes a pot or two for them."
The King of France. It's from Alain, and in my eyes he's The Prince of France. So Harry had not been far off the mark.
I take a sip of my tea, replace the cup in its saucer, take in a deep breath of the cool, bracing Cornish air, and look at the beauty before me and reflect on what I am.
My father is a fisherman from Truro... my mother a fisherman's wife. I am one of three children. My younger brother joined my father in the fishing until he fell overboard and perished in one of the worst Atlantic gales to hit our coast for decades. He was just nineteen. My sister, who is older than me, married a Tallack from St. Austell who works in the china clay industry that produces the materials I work with. It's a material I love. Most studio potters in Cornwall use other types of clays because they are easier to work with, and the bulk of the clay my county produces goes to the factories up north: The Potteries; made famous by such greats as Wedgwood and Spode and companies like Shelley and Doulton who produce the most wonderful decorative and dinner ware out of fine bone china. I have visited Stoke-on-Trent, many times, and even taken some of my inspiration from great potters of the past. I never see it as poaching their designs. Copying is the greatest form of flattery, and at first glance much of my work has been attributed to great artists from that area... until, that is, they look underneath my creations and see the unique backstamp and signature of authenticity I use.
Before I became famous, I was an ordinary boy with a proclivity for the arts. That is not to say I was a dunce in the sciences and the English language and mathematics. I passed my O Levels and then discarded those achievements to go to art college. I was a star pupil, and when I left, I worked at Lake Pottery in Truro.
But I am not cut out to be an employee, and with my family's help, I bought my property when I was twenty four years old, after it had stood empty for twelve months. The previous owners had tried to make a living selling concrete Cornish Piskeys, Fly Agaric toadstools and other Cornish souvenirs to the holiday trade. They were bound to fail. The house/studio sits astride the northern road out of Port Gaverne, right at the top of the hill, on the land side of the country road, and directly opposite is a steep drop to the Atlantic Ocean some two hundred feet below.
In summertime it's beautiful, but in wintertime it's stark and can be a difficult place to live. The Atlantic storms raging in from the west can be devastating, but still it's beautiful to me. As an artiste, I can see beauty in all its forms, including gigantic winter waves dashing against the shores of the county I was born and bred in; a place I love with a deep passion. Whatever the weather, unless shrouded in mist, I can take inspiration from it. Most of the vases and plaques I make are created from visions of my inner mind. From what others see as negative scenarios, I create beauty. At the time of meeting my beautiful Alain, I have invested eight years of hard work, and it has paid off. My studio is one of those places featured in the county brochure as Places to visit, and my order book is always full, so much so that I refuse trade requests for my pottery. That creates two very important aspects to my work. The first is that I have to spend less time doing the part of my job that I dislike most: sales. The second is that I can command high prices for my ware.
So, I am a country boy made good, and I have just received a letter from The Prince of France, which I'm afraid to open. I asked Alain some very personal questions in my letter to him, and he might have found them to be offensive.
But I do open it, using my long Celtic silver paper knife that my mother gave to me as a gift one Christmas; cutting very carefully along the top edge so as not to damage this precious memoir.
I'm stunned by the contents of the letter, and if anyone called at the studio right then, I would have been unable to deal with them. So, Alain is not so different than my Warren after all. It had taken Warren two days to make his determinations known to me, and Alain has done it in three letters. There's another common denominator... both fourteen years-olds. Dangerous years? I hope so. Monsieur Peyrefitte had hinted at it.
I stare at the black and white photograph enclosed with the letter, which is obviously a copy of the original. How strange! The boy could almost be Alain's brother, but younger. There's some neat writing on the back. Roro – aged 11. He's beautiful and dressed almost identical to Alain when I first saw him, even his beret sitting at the same jaunty angle. I will enjoy recreating him. And then an amusing thought comes into my mind. Monsieur Peyrefitte said he had never seen him disrobed. It would be fun to create two figurines of him... one as is, and the other artistically naked. But that's for later. Right now I have more important matters to deal with; not least Alain's none too ambiguous comments that he wants to go to bed with me. I do have one thing going for me in that regard: I've been in that situation before. If Alain is like my Warren, then I know what to expect. So I smile and look out at the sea before me, thinking that boys are much like the ocean. At times they can be serene, but they can be like a raging storm when their desires are in full flow, and having read Alain's letter, I'm impatient for February twenty-third to arrive. French kisses. Naughty boy!
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