There's nothing casual about Roger Peyrefitte. Wherever he is or whatever he's doing he could walk into dinner and not be out of place with his immaculate attire and hair that always looks as if he's just walked out of a hair grooming salon. He sees me enter the airport lounge, says something to the porter by his side, who then comes to me and takes my suitcases. After we've shaken hands, we exchange pleasantries, but it's only when we're in the taxi with the glass partition closed between us and the driver does he says something meaningful. "Alain has not telephoned me. Neither has his mama. I think I may have gone to Italy before the hounds were set upon him. Have you heard anything?"
I nod. "Yes. Archie says Alain thinks the same or he would have been confronted with evidence that he'd been seeing you. Your name was never mentioned when his mother confronted him. Archie and Alain have spoken a few times on the telephone since it all came out. I think the worst is over. I'll know better when I telephone the d'Evreux home and introduce myself as a friend of Archie's and he has asked me to call on them. I've got a wall plaque in my luggage to give to them. That should get me an introduction and an avenue to Alain. Archie says it's a small world."
Roger chuckles. "It is indeed. Will you be sharing my bed now Captain Marvel is off playing soldiers?"
I grin at him. "If I was as old as Alain and hadn't met Michael, I would probably jump at the chance, but I'm older and wiser now."
"Probably not the correct turn of phrase. I don't have fourteen year old hormones driving me crazy now."
Roger smiles at me. "A great pity. You will have to send me a photograph of yourself when you were fourteen. Or younger. I think I may have fallen in love with you."
I return the smile. "Have you always been a flirt?"
Roger taps the glass partition between us and the driver and says to me, "Since I was a little boy. Do you mind if we take a small detour?"
"No. Where are we going?"
When the driver slides the glass partition back, Roger tells him to go to Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. On the way, he tells the driver to stop at a flower stall, and gets out and purchases two individual pink carnations garnished with sprigs of green. When we get to the cemetery, he tells the driver to wait and asks me if I want to accompany him. Because he wouldn't explain why he wanted to call at the cemetery, I'm intrigued, so I go with him.
We walk through a maze of impressive marble tombs that line the cobbled paths of the cemetery and arrive at a flat tomb he obviously knows well, and which has two angels at one end of it; both holding hands and looking heavenwards. I read the inscription, which, because it's beginning to fade, tells me the occupants of the grave have been gone a while.
That's it. Just two names. Roger places the carnations by the two angels; brings his fingers to his lips; carries a kiss via his fingers to the two names, bows his head, and says a small prayer before making the sign of the cross. Then he takes my arm and leads me away, back along the cobbled paths. We're about halfway back when he says, "They were identical twins; creatures of great beauty; full of the joys of spring; wonderful boys."
When Roger takes my hand and holds it as we walk, I don't try to stop him. I'm thinking the visit to the grave has not been easy for him, and I ask, "Were they killed by the Germans? They were not quite seventeen."
Roger sighs deeply. "No. Their father shot them because he discovered they were like us. I had not seen them for two years. I was in Riom, in Vichy France. I was not like your Captain Marvel. He would have stayed in the Occupied Zone and joined The Resistance. I was a diplomat. Your man would have called me a coward. He may have been right. But I would not have shot my two sons because they were homosexuals. Their father was a baker... a proud Frenchman. He was also a bigot and no better than those who sent homosexuals to the concentration camps. Perhaps worse. Lucas and Pascal shared my bed from when they were twelve until they were fourteen. I taught them all they knew, and it was quite an experience. When the Germans overran my country, they both had the misfortune to meet a German Officer who was stationed in Paris. He loved them. They loved him and both shared his bed. Their father discovered what had been going on and shot them both. But before he killed them he told them that it wasn't because they'd been fraternizing with the enemy, it was because they were both a filthy pair of queers. Fortunately, my friend was not a bad man. After their father killed them, he had him executed and spared the rest of the family. It was he who paid for their burial and the tomb you have just visited. He writes to me occasionally. Those boys were two separate human beings, but were joined together by one spirit. They grew together in the womb; lived together in life; loved together, and died together."
I squeeze Roger's hand, and we walk on silently. Just before we get to the car, I ask him, "How did you and the German officer know one another?"
"Olaf is a homosexual and was my friend before the war. When he was stationed in Paris, it was I who asked him to make sure Lucas and Pascal were looked after. I didn't realise he would fall in love with the boys, and nor did I realise they would fall in love with him. But it happened, as these things do. Often, we don't choose our fate: fate decides what we are to do. Love is existential."
"And now you blame yourself for the boys' deaths?"
Roger squeezes my hand again. "No. Recent events should teach you that it is a very small world and we have little sway over the consequences of it being so. I meet a homosexual Englishman; that homosexual Englishman has a business partner who has a beautiful homosexual son - You; that beautiful homosexual son meets the homosexual Captain Marvel; Captain Marvel meets a homosexual artistic potter and they become firm friends; that homosexual potter meets a homosexual French boy who he falls in love with; in a library in Paris I meet the homosexual French boy who loves the homosexual English potter and we become special friends; the homosexual boy gets himself in trouble because he is just a boy; and now the beautiful homosexual boy who met the homosexual Captain Marvel is here with me helping to get the homosexual potter and the homosexual French boy back together again, and all this began with me meeting the homosexual business partner of an Englishman who has a beautiful homosexual son and a nice villa in Italy, which is where you and I first met." Roger lifts my hand and kisses it. "You are my destiny."
I chuckle. "Paul Anka sang that. I played it for Michael not long after we met... in my bedroom at home. It made him cry."
Roger smiles. "I can't imagine Captain Marvel crying. Are you sure you're not telling me lies?"
I laugh. "You two are so alike. You both have massive chips on your shoulders. That's why you don't like each other."
Roger winks at me. "I dislike him most because he has the heart of a young man who won't share my bed. I can think of no better reason." Then he grins at me. "But I might begin to like him if you change your mind tonight."
I'm chuckling like a lunatic when we get in the car, and Roger is sharing my humour.
"You didn't come here on a business trip, did you?" I ask the handsome young man sitting beside me near the Corinthian Colonnade in the Parc Monceau.
Stuart Begbie shields his eyes from the mid-April brightness of a late afternoon sun reflecting on the water in front of us, and then turns to me, and smiles. "This is a beautiful place. So peaceful and quiet. Do you come here often?"
I look around at the beauty he's referring to. He is right, but I have not looked at it before through eyes that are sad. I shake my head. "Not now. My family used to come here quite often when I was a small boy. We would have picnics here in summer time." I recall the memories in my thoughts, and add, "They were good times."
"And now? Times are bad now?"
"I am not happy right now. You didn't answer my question. You didn't come here on a business trip, did you?"
"No. You are very perceptive. I'm very good friends with Archie, and I'm a very cunning fellow when my friends need help. My father owns the villa in Italy, which Roger rents from him for a few months of the year. That's how I got to know him. My boyfriend, Michael, who is an officer in the British Army, became great friends with Archie because they share a passion about pottery. Archie told us about you earlier this year."
"What did he say about me?"
"He's madly in love with you. He bored us to tears over dinner telling us about you."
His comment makes me grin, and I ask, "Why was it boring?"
"Because all we heard for three hours was Alain this; Alain that; Alain the other. I could have painted a picture of you even if he hadn't shown us a photograph of you. Anyway, when all this lot blew up, because Michael is away and I was the one who Archie could unload everything about him not caring about your indiscretions and all he wanted to do was hold you and take away your hurt, to help Archie get his message across to you, I telephoned Roger and invited myself to stay with him, and I telephoned your mother and told her I was a good friend of Archie's and that I was to introduce myself while I was in Paris and give her the wall plaque that Archie had asked me to give to her because he knew I was going to Paris, and after your mother had been kind and asked me to dinner, while I was eating with you, you accepted my request to show me a little of your wonderful Paris. So, I'm now sitting in this beautiful place with the boy Archie loves. I came because he's hurting badly."
My eyes mist up. "That's my fault."
Stuart's arm is on the back of the wooden bench on which we are sitting, and he moves his hand and places it on my shoulder, and squeezes it. "It's not your fault. Well, some of it is, but you can't help being fourteen years old."
I look at his face. "What do you mean?"
He grins. "I'm twenty four now, but I was once like you." He giggles naughtily. "I met my Michael when I was thirteen and he was almost eighteen. He was useless. It took me ages to get in his pants. When I think back, I'm amazed I didn't get us both locked up. I loved Michael. Oh yes! I loved my Michael more than anything on this earth. I still do, but I'm not thirteen now, and I've learned how to pace myself when he's away, playing soldiers in his damned army. But back then I had no idea how to pace myself when Puck was disturbed and needed to be out and about. Almost every time Michael and I met, once I'd got into his pants, I made sure young Puck got his own way. And his jolly companion, Bottom, got his fair share of attention, too." He grins at me. "You do know your Shakespeare, do you?"
I grin back at him. "I know Bottom was an ass."
Stuart giggles just like I do when I find something funny that amuses me. "You've got it in one. Clever lad! I think we're on the same wavelength? Are you like me?"
I look into his eyes, and for the first time, I notice how beautiful they are. He's got beautiful English eyes, and I can see why his Michael would fall in love with him, but more important than his eyes is his honesty. He's opened himself completely to me; declaring that we are kindred spirits, especially in the matter of how we love. And that is why I smile and nod to him. "Yes. I think either of us could get a part in A Midsummer Night's Dream... as Bottom."
Stuart laughs. "Good. Now back to me and my stupid man. I was never satisfied unless he was giving me everything I wanted. That's what being a boy who is turning into a man does to you. I think it's the craziest time of our lives. Don't you?"
"Yes, but how much do you know?"
Stuart sighs. "Everything. When you telephoned Archie, he telephoned me. He was so distraught that I even had to pick him up from his studio because he didn't trust himself to drive. Then it all came out over coffee in my conservatory. I made sure he kept nothing from me. I would be absolutely no use to you both unless I did... would I?" Then he chuckles. "Mind you, I could have dropped through the floor when he told me about you and the old reprobate I'm staying with. How did that come about?"
I chuckle. "Much like the others... in the library, but Roger seduced me in a different way. He managed to get me to seduce him."
Stuart roars with laughter, and then says, "I can imagine exactly how he did it. I sometimes, even now, wish I was sharing his bed. Is he very good?"
I laugh. "As my papa would say: No comment."
Stuart grins and squeezes my shoulder again. "Bugger! There goes one of my fantasies! Now let us get back to you and Archie. Now where were we? Oh, yes... he was in my conservatory, extolling your non-virtues and telling me he didn't give a damn about what a fourteen year old gets up to as long as you knew that he loved you. He was in deep despair that he couldn't hold you in his arms and tell you that you had no need for forgiveness. He doesn't think you've committed a major crime in the first place. In fact, he was distraught that you didn't realise how much he loved you."
I look at the water in front of us, and my eyes mist over. "I do know how much he loves me, but I didn't think anyone could love someone enough to forgive what I've done. I don't think I could have forgiven Archie if he'd done to me what I've done to him."
"That's because you love like a fourteen year old, and Archie loves like an old man." Stuart grins. "I'm speaking emotionally, of course, but I suppose my remark could also be applied to when we're in bed with them. My Michael used to say I was like a bitch on heat when I was fourteen."
Despite being upset, Stuart's comment makes me chuckle. I look into his beautiful, laughing eyes, and smile when I say, "A few months ago I was a virgin, and now I'm like a prostitute on the Champs Élysees. Is that how it affected you?"
Stuart squeezes my shoulder again. "Almost. But it was different back then, and I was in a different situation. One day I'll tell you all about Michael and I, and how I seduced him. It began when I was thirteen and took him to the swimming baths and showed off my cute body. That hooked him. Then I made him take me to the cinema and tried to get him inside my pants. He was too shy, so I did it myself while he was feeling me up. It took me ages to get him admit that he loved me, but once I'd got him over that psychological barrier, he had to admit defeat. Then it was just getting the timing right to finish off the job. And we've never looked back since. Now what we need to do is get you and Archie together. From what I can gather, your mother won't be a major obstacle. What about your father?"
For an answer, I take out from my wallet the letter papa wrote to me and give it to Stuart to read. When he's read it and given it back to me, I add, "I went to see papa. We had a long talk in his office. He says he'll help me if I really want to be with Archie and become a potter like he is."
"And do you?"
I nod. "I love it. I've always been very good at art, but working with clay is just wonderful. It starts with a ball of clay and you finish up with a beautiful object that is lovely to touch and handle." I chuckle. "Archie says it's the nearest thing to having sex."
Stuart looks surprised. "And is that how you think?"
Our eyes meet, we both grin, and I shake my head. "No."
I'm at Roger's place and I've spoken to mother and father on the telephone, and then I ring Michael's brother, Alex, and we chat for a while. He wants to know why I'm not at home in Plymouth, and I tell him to mind his own business. That gets me the splendid retort of, "You're up to no bloody good if I know you! Have you got yourself another fella?"
I laugh. "No Alex. You'll be the first to know if I do. I'm on an errand of mercy, and it's none of your business. The only reason I'm ringing you is just in case Michael rings you. If he phones home a few times and I'm not there, the next place he rings will be to you to find out where I am. I've not told anyone at the office that I was going to Paris. All I've told them after I got father's permission to slip off for a week is that I'll be away a few days on personal business. Jack Breen is filling in for me. If Michael does phone you, will you please tell him that I'm staying with his arch enemy in Paris and that it's to do with Archie and his boyfriend? You can slip in that I'm sleeping with his arch enemy if you really want to get his back up."
Alex giggles. "You little toe rag! Any pigs trotters over there?"
"Pied de cochon, Alex, but they don't make them like Mrs Friar used to do. They do them in breadcrumbs and serve them with Béarnaise sauce here."
"Yuck!" says Alex, and adds, "Them frogs'll bloody ruin anythin'. Anyway, give me that telephone number you're callin' from, an' if Kiddo rings 'ere I'll tell him you're with your new boyfriend in Gay Paree."
After I've ended the call to Alex, I spend a half hour speaking to Archie; reassuring him that I've spent quite a lot of time with Alain, have explained many things to him, and that he's coping alright now even if he is missing Archie like mad. When I've ended the call, Roger tells me he's booked a table at Maxim's. I'm impressed, and I ask him how he managed to get a table at such short notice. He smiles coyly, and asks me to dress appropriately.
Maxims. A table for two; situated by one of the sumptuous mahogany panelled walls: a select table, and Roger is dressed in white again, with a white bow tie this time and a carnation boutonniere in his buttonhole. When I phoned to ask if I could stay with him, he asked me to bring a dinner suit, and it must not be white. So I'm wearing what Michael calls my James Bond outfit: black with white ruffed shirt and black bow tie. The aperitif is almost James Bond, too: a lovely Lillet, but without the Martini, and not shaken nor stirred. All directed by maître d' after a hearty Bienvenue! Bienvenue! from him when we entered.
Quite a few people know Roger, and he acknowledges them with a smile and a nod of the head and a gentle finger wave. Our eyes meet, and I chuckle to him, "You're a show off."
He beams at me. "Why not? I'm sitting here with a beautiful young man and half those in this room are jealous of me."
I laugh. "If Michael was here, you'd be in trouble."
He raises both hands. "Alors! Alors! We are blessed with his absence! I can now flirt with you all evening knowing world war three will not break out."
I grin at him. "You're incorrigible. Is that James Mason over there?"
Without looking, Roger nods. "Yes. I believe he's making a film here. One gets all sorts of odd characters in here."
His comment makes me giggle. "And I'm sitting with one."
Roger pretends to look aghast. "Moi! Moi! Sacre bleu!" Then he smiles. "You are correct, of course. Many of my fellow citizens think I'm the oddest character in France. But it's only because I'm honest. Some would send me to the guillotine if they could. But I have friends in high places, and friends of friends in high places, and I use them mercilessly to protect me. And to arrange meetings for special friends of mine."
I'm puzzled, and I ask, "Arrange meetings for special friends?"
Roger chuckles. "I'll tell you about it while we're eating." His eyes do a quick scan of the room. "Providing, that is, we don't get too many interruptions."
"Too many interruptions?"
"Uhuh. I said some of them would be jealous of me. Henry has just arrived with his entourage. Humour him. He's seventy three now, but he can still be an atrocious flirt with beautiful young boys like you."
"Henry de Montherlant. He's one of us, and he will be intrigued by you in my presence. Expect him now actually. He's on his way over. Because you look similar, he'll begin by saying you remind him of Doudou; Roro's brother. The naughty Doudou."
And I begin to chuckle when an old gentleman arrives by our table and gives Roger cheek kisses before turning to me and begins to talk in rapid French. I can speak French, but am not fully conversant in it to conduct an open conversation with a master of the language, and especially in a room where it's noisy, so I say to him, "Bonsoir monsieur. Parlez vous Anglais?"
He smiles and cocks his head to one side. "Est-tu Anglais?"
I smile back at him. "Oui m'sieur. Je m'appelle Stuart Begbie. Je suis un ami de m'sieur Peyrefitte."
He grins broadly, gives me cheek kisses, and says in English to Roger, "You cunning old man!"
I laugh. "Two crafty old devils together methinks?"
Roger looks at Henry. "Who does he resemble?"
Henry lifts my chin, studies my face, and sighs, "Doudou?"
Roger laughs, and says in French the equivalent of "Now go away before you get carried away. He's all mine, and we have things to discuss. Important things that are not for your ears."
Henry pretends to be disappointed, leans down and kisses my hair, holds out his hands as a sign of defeat, shrugs his shoulders, and says, "If he is too boring, call me." Then he walks off to join the large group he is with.
Her table companion is a little like my Michael, and the age difference between them is similar to that between Michael and I. She has caught my eye on a number of occasions, and that's because I have looked at her many times. After dessert, Roger wipes his mouth delicately with his serviette, and says, "Her name is Isabelle Gatti. She is the daughter of a French mother and an Italian count." He grins. "And she is not married and she fancies you."
I pretend to not know what he is talking about. "Who? What?"
Roger chuckles. "She is twenty one, slim and shapely, and almost as fanciful as you. Were I a little younger, then I most certainly would be pleased if she was attracted to me."
I smile at him. "You? Attracted to a woman?"
He takes a nibble of his wine, places the glass carefully and deliberately on the table, and says, "It has happened before. But the woman in question has to have all the qualities of a fine young boy: grace; charm; shapeliness; softness, and if one is exceeding lucky, enjoys part of the coupling as boys do."
I know very little about women, and Roger's comment intrigues me. "They enjoy that?"
Roger nods. "Some do. But it is not a subject for the dinner table. I will buy you a copy of the Kama Sutra. Vatsyayana says, that as variety is necessary in love, so love is to be produced by means of variety. Obviously, it would not be good manners to intrude on the current situation, but before the evening is out, I will introduce you to her."
I shake my head. "It's not necessary. I have Michael."
Roger sighs. "Yes you do, but life is a world of virtual flux. Nothing is fixed in stone, and only the foolish live on dreams. I will introduce you, and then you will never regret me not doing so. Now let us talk about Alain and his foolish boyishness. What are your plans? In what way can I help?"
The Belgian is in the library, at his usual table, like me, pretending to be studying. We are both aware of one another, but we have never spoken. It is the way of things with us perverts. Some libraries wouldn't tolerate us, but I suspect both male librarians are like us. The older one is certainly effeminate.
He is a small boy. A plain boy with spectacles, but he has a lovely mop of golden curls upon his head. How old? Eleven at the most. More probably ten. He's very young to be here unless he's not aware of this library being a den of iniquity. Unlike Alain, his dress is very ordinary, but he has lovely legs below the short pants he is wearing, and from my position I can see between them, along the smooth inner thighs to his crutch after he has taken a book and a place at a table midway between The Belgian and myself. I am looking for the signs. They are unmistakable to an experienced eye.
I see the first sign. When he has opened the book, he looks around. The second sign is the fingers of his left hand adjusting whatever he has in his pants when he leans over the book and pretends to read, and he leaves them there and gently strokes himself. He looks at me, but I pretend not to be looking at him. It's important that I show no signs of interest. Even if I was not doing my afternoon shift for Scarface Gendarme, I would have no interest in him. He's far too young for me. He's a baby. After a while, he gives up on me and diverts his attention to The Belgian, who is skilful, and sends out all the signals that he's interested. The boy is nervous, but I suspect that thing between his lovely thighs is overruling his head. He may be only ten or eleven, but I guess his hormones have kicked in early. Or maybe he has learned that he can earn easy money from men who desire his type?
After a few exchanged, hidden smiles, The Belgian strikes. Even though the boy is nervous, he doesn't move away or object when he has company by his side. Small talk; winning smiles from The Belgian. Fifteen minutes and they're bosom friends. And then they leave together.
I'm cursing. I've lost sight of the white Volvo in the traffic. I'm torn between getting to The Belgian's apartment as quickly as I can or telephoning Scarface Gendarme. I'm so flustered that I've forgotten my instructions. But the instructions didn't include me losing track of my quarry. I stop at a public phone. Damn and blast! It's damaged! What to do? I'm panicking. I'm by a pâtisserie. I have little choice. Thank God the old gentleman serving behind the counter is not a fool. He's old school... and can tell a freeloading spiv from a genuine man who needs to speak to the gendarmerie immediately to prevent a serious crime.
I dial the number and ask for extension 36. Five minutes later I'm following Scarface's instructions: Go to the apartment. If the Belgian's car is there, do nothing and sit in your car and wait until I come to you. Do not leave until I have spoken to you! If the Volvo is not there, telephone me immediately.
It's two kilometres and twenty-five minutes of heavy traffic to The Belgian's apartment, and chaos when I arrive. Three Citroen Gendarmerie cars are parked haphazardly; lights still flashing, and I pull over and sit shaking in my seat. They bring him out, handcuffed, put him in one of the Citroens, and whisk him away. Ten minutes later, the poor boy, in tears and wrapped in a blanket, is led to another car and driven away. I feel immensely sorry for him, and a sense of remorse that his fate is part my responsibility.
Scarface looks smug as he sits beside me in my car, and says, "Well done. We have enough evidence not to need input from you, so you're now relieved of your duties. Think yourself lucky it's the Belgian swine and not you who is going to gaol for a long time. Now fuck off and I don't want to see you again."
Tears are streaming from my eyes when I've read the letter that was waiting for me when I got back to my apartment after the Belgian Affair. I was right. There is a Sèbastian element to what we are. And now I know Alain's real name, I understand why things have happened. His father, Fabien d'Evreux, is known to me. I have heard him on the radio when they were discussing foreign affairs. I look at the photograph. Alain is smiling gorgeously, and is dressed immaculately as usual. He is spiritual.
His slim fingers have played chords on this electronic keyboard, and there is one song he liked to play. We had lots of laughs about it when he was trying to sing it. He even knew the words because he said his sisters never stopped playing it. More tears now when I play on Alain's Keyboard and sing the words of All You Need Is Love and recall the beautiful boy who has gone out of my life, and also stare at a photograph of the boy I loved a long time ago: Sébastian.
It is late when the children go to bed after giving me a kiss on the cheek. As I expected, Édith has been cool towards me, but Dominique, less so. It is natural that they would effuse sympathy towards their mama considering I am the guilty party in the breakdown of our marriage. Only Alain has treated me as he normally would during this meal I arranged with Colette to try and bring a measure of sanity to the chaos of what has happened, and that is because Alain and I have had our own clandestine meetings to discuss his future.
He has surprised me. It's strange how a son's qualities are there to see if one cares to look beneath the surface of his personality. Before the awful circumstances that shattered my family apart, I always considered him as a normal fourteen year old who was there to be moulded into the adult I wanted him to be. My mistake in that regard is what led to the current situation between us all. But, perversely, what has caused may also cure. That is why Colette agreed to me having dinner with the family in our former shared home: we have a mutual agenda... Alain's future is paramount to both Colette and I.
When I'm sure the children are settled and I've refilled our glasses with Port, I smile at Colette, and ask, "Will you forgive me for being so presumptuous with Alain? My excuse is that I wanted what I thought was best for him. But parents are often wrong. Fathers especially. We don't see, or understand, what mothers see. In fact, I will do everything I can to help him follow his passion... if that's what you want? Have you thought about how his future will evolve?"
Colette half smiles. "It's very difficult: so complicated that I don't know where to start. I could send him to live with Archie Whittingham, but then I would find myself in a similar situation to you: what I think is best for him is not what I want for myself. I want to see my boy growing up, but if he's away, I will miss him terribly. I've thought about moving to Cornwall to be near him, but then I won't see my girls. No matter which way I turn, I can't win."
I am prepared for this, and that's why I say to Colette, "There is a way forward, but it would require you and I to discuss our future. We would have to get back together again on the surface, and things would develop from there."
Colette looks puzzled. "What do you mean?"
"Although things seem insurmountable at the moment, dig a little deeper and we can sort things so that you and the girls and Alain are all taken care of. I'm not sure it would be right for Alain to live with Archie at his age. We need something different. I've made enquiries and can get Alain into an art school in Plymouth, but he will then need somewhere to stay. He could travel to you each day if you moved to the cottage in Cornwall, but you moving there would alienate you from the girls. What we need is for you to be able to travel backwards and forwards whenever you please. So that just needs me to reschedule my life while you are away in Cornwall. That way, all three of our children will be under parental control at all times. If it's vitally important that I have to be away, I can arrange for the girls to stay with my sister in Auteuil. They like being with her and as you know, she spoils them to death. What do you think?"
Paris at night. I love this city; its quirkiness; its history; its vibrancy; its sophistication. What's happening to my family is just a speck of intrigue in the greater scheme of things, even though, to me, it is all I've thought about this last two weeks. But one always looks at the personal aspects of life when things don't run smoothly. In two short weeks my life has turned upside down, and I have become a pawn in life's chess game. Me! Fabien d'Evreux: Conseiller des affaires étrangères is a pawn!
Peyrefitte. I have always detested the man, and yet I have had a meeting with him. The scented queer sat in my office and was almost dictating to me. Normally, I would never have entertained him, but when he telephoned for an appointment and my secretary put him through to me, I couldn't refuse to see him after he intimated he could play a key part in unravelling the complications that have arisen since Colette and I separated. I sat and listened in amazement of the goings on behind my back, and although Peyrefitte never intimated that he had been intimate with Alain, I was left with the feeling that my son is not innocent in that regard. My God! I am, in the heterosexual world, a philanderer and a charlatan, but in his world, my Alain, at the tender age of fourteen, makes me look like the angel Gabriel. NO, maybe I'm wrong. Perversely, after Peyrefitte passed on his sage advice, it is he who should be Gabriel. He was the one wearing a linen suit, and it was he who was interpreting the circumstances all around me, but they were unholy and not holy ones. And I have acted on his advice. Why? Because the cloth he carried can be cut to fit all sizes of difficulties.
Stuart Begbie. That part is done. He lives in Plymouth, and his home will be perfect accommodation for Alain if he goes to art school there. When Colette is back in France, that is. But on paper only. I'm in no doubt that Alain will be with Archie when my wife is away. But it's all about appearances: keeping up a semblance of propriety to an improper situation.
The driver of the limousine drops me off at the hotel and I take the lift to my room. I'm used to hotel rooms, but it's weird being in one in the city in which I live, and where I have brought up my family. This is not right, but it's not too late to right a few wrongs. Things can never be the same, but I can make a start on making life more bearable than it is at the moment. I may be a charlatan and a philanderer, but I love my children. Especially I love my boy, and I have taken a step tonight to try and make his life better. Colette will give me an answer to the situation I proposed when she's considered it. I already know what the answer will be: she will not accept my proposal for me to return to the family home. So I will proceed as if the situation is already resolved.
I pour a large brandy and take the handwritten letter from the occasional table where I left it before going to dinner at 'home', and re-read it whilst settling in an armchair.
Alain was honest with me about Pierre Roux. Although he never went into the fine details, it was obvious they had been intimate. But Alain actually has a thing going with Roux. So I've been asked – which was really an instruction – by Alain to try and assist Roux to find a former boyfriend from years ago. I have all the details. They are in the polite letter Roux has written to me. I could have been angry that Alain gave away personal details, but I have begun to trust my boy more this last two weeks that I have previously. He's like me in that he can sense the personality of an individual. I often do it when I'm at work. One gets to know the character of a person as soon as one meets them. Usually, for me, I can look into their eyes and work them out. Alain has decided that Roux is trustworthy, and more than that, he has made up his mind to help him now he has stopped the silliness that has been affecting him of late. So early next week I will get my staff to investigate the whereabouts and situation of one Sébastian Meriard: last known place of abode – Bourges. Or maybe I should use Godard Masson: Private Investigator. He did a fine job of unearthing my not-so-private life. I have no axe to grind with him. If it hadn't been him, it could have been one of many who ply that particular trade when they leave the Gendarmerie. In fact, I'm pleased Colette chose him. He has a fine record for being discrete.
It's been a long day. I have achieved much during it, but I have more to do when the new week begins. On Monday, when I am in England, I have an appointment to meet Stuart Begbie who owns the property which Alain will be using as a cover home. And later, when I'm back in Paris, with Colette's agreement, I am taking Alain out for dinner. That should be interesting! I think it will also be fun. I am beginning to admire my son more each day. That state of mind also applies to the world he is moving into: the homosexual world. I am not ignorant of homosexual affairs, but I have to give them more credit than previously for the closeness of their community when someone is in need of help. My boy is just fourteen years old and has already enlisted the help of the notorious Peyrefitte, as well as the son of a wealthy man in England, not to mention his father: Fabien d'Evreux - Conseiller des affaires étrangères! If he continues to use his wiles as he is doing, I may be able to use his situation as a famous potter to do a bit of spying for me when he exhibits his wares abroad. By that time, he will owe his papa a few favours.
I finish my brandy and go to bed with a smile on my face.
I'm nervous as I wait for Pierre Roux to answer the door. I know his telephone number, but I decided not to phone him just in case he refused to see me. He has every right to. I've been the cause of many troubles to him. But I'm not here because I want to apologise: I'm here because I need to see him. The door opens and Pierre has a shocked look upon his face, so I don't give him time to slam it in my face, and walk right past him.
"You shouldn't be here, Alain! You'll get in trouble again!"
Because my arms are locked around his neck, he can't get away, and I look up into his eyes for a while before I say, "I've made sure nobody has followed me. If you don't want me here, then all you have to do is tell me to go away, and I promise I'll never bother you again."
His arms are hanging by his sides as I cling to him while he looks deep into what I am, and then I watch him surrender to his desires. His arms encircle me, and he crushes his lips to mine.
"Why did you come here?"
I stroke Pierre's nakedness and kiss his nipple before looking up at him and giving him a peck on the lips. ""You know why. I needed you. I needed what we've just had, and you're the only person who I could go to who I trust completely."
Pierre pushes me off him and onto my back so my head is resting on a pillow, turns onto his side, props himself up on an elbow, and brushes the hair from my forehead as he looks down at me when he says, "You're beautiful." His right hand explores and caresses my nakedness for a long time, and then he puts a finger to his lips, kisses it, and plants the finger onto mine. I smile at him and kiss his finger, taking it between my lips to suckle on it. He grins. "You're also very sexy." I suck hard on his finger until every bit is inside my mouth, and then play with it with my tongue. He withdraws his finger, and then allows me to suck it back in again, and all the time we are looking into each other's eyes. Eventually, I push him onto his back, and he surrenders to me again.
I kiss the snowman and lay it on the pillow in front of me. Archie has You and Me. In his last letter to me he told me that he takes it out and sleeps with it facing him. These two inanimate objects bind us together until the day we can become reality again. I love him so much. During my time with Pierre, when I closed my eyes, I was with Archie. It was he who penetrated me; his pain that heightened my senses; his fullness; his lips; his saliva; his body that drove me to the wonderful extremes of sensuality I desire so much that I cannot live without them. It is the only way I can survive. That is why I am using Pierre. I will explain all this to Archie when we are together. He will understand. Two more weeks, Archie, and I will have no need for fantasies. Two more weeks and we will be together for as long as we want. I am happy.
Her name is Isabelle Gatti. She is the daughter of a French mother and an Italian count. And she is very beautiful. Especially her dark eyes that sparkled when she smiled at me while we chatted as we ate dinner at a fashionable restaurant, Le Bristol Paris, on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
Roger's choice! It was he who arranged everything after he invited Isabelle to coffee at lunchtime the day after we had been to Maxim's. It had been pleasant meeting her, and it turned out that she was a nice girl and not just a beautiful showboat, as well as being another of these Parisians whose grasp of my difficult language seemed not to be difficult. She is a pleasant girl with a good sense of humour, and could even be described as gregarious, as well as intelligent and companionable.
And there were certainly no flies on her when we were having dinner the following day at Le Bristol Paris, which Roger had arranged without even telling me he was doing so.
It was when the main course arrived that she brazenly asked, "How long has Michael been your boyfriend?" I was taken aback, and she chuckled when she added, "Roger has filled me in on everything about you."
I grinned. "Has he indeed? And what else has he been telling you about me?"
She smiled and fluttered her eyelids. "That you find me attractive."
I had to stop eating then because I was so amused, and after I'd wiped my mouth with a serviette, I asked her, "Doesn't it bother you that someone like me finds you attractive?"
"Someone like you?"
I nodded. "I have a boyfriend, as you already know."
"Do you love him?"
"Does he love you?"
"Yes. But he's away in the army much of the time."
She stopped eating, took a drink from her wine glass, replaced the glass on the table, sat back in her chair, and looked directly at me when she asked, "Do you see other men while he's away?"
I shook my head. "No. I wouldn't dream of doing that. We've been together for over ten years."
She looked surprised. "Ten years! How old were you when you met Michael?"
I grinned at her. "I was thirteen."
She giggled. "Naughty boy! But you're also very nice."
"Thank you. But in what way am I nice?"
She shrugged her shoulders. "Because Michael is away for so long, you have every reason to be promiscuous, but you are not. In my book, that is nice. It tells me a lot about you." Then she surprised me when she said, "Would you be upset if we left here? I'm not really hungry."
Her question took me back a bit, and I had to ask, "Is it the company?"
She looked surprised. "My goodness... no! I'm so sorry. I didn't mean it to come out like that. I thought we could get a taxi down to the river and have a walk in the fresh air. It's not raining, and I'm an outdoor girl."
I smiled at her, and said, "Super. I'm not really hungry either. I'd much rather take a walk with a beautiful girl by the river than get drunk in here."
She laughed, and in no time we were laughing together as a taxi dropped us off at Bateaux Mouches, where the night lights of the city reflected on the river and well-lit tourist boats traversed the calm waters. And hand in hand we strolled along the river bank and talked about many things before I hailed a taxi to take us back to our respective abodes. It took us to Isabelle's house first, and when it stopped, I got out and opened the door for her. We stood for a moment, together. It was past midnight and an awkward moment for me, but the extrovert Isabelle took my hand, came close, and asked with a grin on her face, "Do I get a goodnight kiss?"
I pulled a silly grin, and replied, "I've never kissed a girl before."
She smiled and came close, and then held my head in her hands while she brought our lips together. I'm not a dummy at kissing, so I gave her one that was loving rather than sexy, and she seemed to enjoy it. When she broke the kiss, she giggled, and said, "Not bad for the first time. How about dinner here tonight? I'll see if you've improved."
Dinner here tonight. It was delightful, but something happened that was even more special. For the first time in my life I had sex with a woman.
Roger had a constant smirk on his face when I got back to his place and, with a grin on my face, I refused to answer any of his questions. But I wasn't grinning when I went to bed. I was deeply troubled. For the first time since I met Michael, I was attracted to someone else and had been unfaithful to him, and I didn't know what the hell to do about it.
When I stop the car in front of the portico of The Grange, I get out and go into the house. It's cold inside, and it isn't because the heating isn't on. I'm cold inside as well as out. I've been thinking about it all the way home: the irony of what has just happened. I'd gone to France to sort out someone else's problems, and I've now returned home with an even bigger problem. I need to speak to someone. There's only one person, so I pick up the telephone and ring Michael's brother, Alex.
The house is warm; there's a lovely log fire blazing, and the third large Johnnie Walker is burning my throat when the tears start. Through my tears I look around at all Michael's collection of pottery and feel utterly miserable despite Alex's words echoing in my head: If it had been another man, Kiddo, then I wouldn't know where to start, but with it being a girl, everything will come right in the wash once he's got used to it. Not that I've got much sympathy with him. I've told him often enough that he shouldn't have joined the bloody army and left you alone for so long. Stupid sod! And don't you forget that your Alex is always here for you. In fact I'll have next Friday off and bring the family down to see you if you warm that bloody rambling place up. We'll stop the weekend and I'll bring Trotter down with us. Your little dog will be pleased to see you again.
Trotter. My little dog that Alex gave me when me and Michael first got together and I recall the day he was drunk and walked up the back yard with her. Ten years ago. Was it really ten years ago when my Magic Cap landed by Michael's feet and it all began?
End of The French Connection et al, the primary books of Love - Existentially. To be continued as When Englishmen were boys... a flashback to 1956 when Michael Johnson and Stuart Begbie first met; a story that was first published on Nifty about four or five years ago but at my request has now been deleted, and was the called: The Magic Cap. And after When Englishmen were boys is completed, this entire tale will continue with the remaining books of the story of Alain and Archie et al, where they existentially merge with each other.
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