It's almost 3 o' clock and I'm pacing about like a cat on hot bricks. Although dinner is for 6 o' clock, the invitation to Michael and the Bourne's was for them to arrive at three so we could have an informal afternoon together before dinner, and Mother is preparing a few hors d'oeuvres to tide us over before the main meal.
"For goodness sake, Stuart, will you please stop doing that and give me a hand. Stop worrying. They will be here! It's all arranged. Mr Bourne would have telephoned us if there was a problem, and Michael accepted the invitation, didn't he?"
"Sorry, Mother. Can I have one of those sausage rolls? They look delicious."
"No-you-can-not! Keep your fingers off! I'll tell you what you can do... go to your room and play some music on that infernal machine you have up there so you're not under my feet! And keep the noise down! You know how it upsets your father. Just go!"
I giggle, and go up to my room and put some records on the Dansette, and then make sure my bedroom is especially tidy. From my collection I pick up the Corgi Talbot Lago racing car that Michael gave me as a birthday present, and kiss it. I smile at the thought that I'd already got one, but I would never tell Michael that. The other one is in my school satchel, waiting to be swapped for something else with one of the other boys at school. I place the one Michael gave me at the front of the collection – the place of honour.
I thought Michael would have been angry at me with all the scheming I'd done when we walked down the hill on Monday evening. But he hadn't been. Instead, there was an unusual air to his demeanour; a sort of pride in who he was, and he carried himself with a confidence that I liked. We talked about what had happened during the day and he even told me that he was really looking forward to visiting my home, and when I told him I'd been fretting all day about the situation, his response was to put his hand on my shoulder, look me directly in the eyes, and tell me that he loved me. And just before I got on the bus, he handed me a note.
When I read it, I had to turn my face to the window so the other passengers wouldn't see the tears running down my cheeks.
Butterflies are swarming in my tummy when I hear the crunch of tyres on the gravel drive and I dash to the front bedroom to catch a glimpse of them. Its Mr Bourne's car: a blue and silver Armstrong Siddeley Saphire. Father will be impressed. He loves his cars. I dash downstairs to greet them.
Father has beaten me to it and I have to stand back to allow them to enter the hall. Mother joins me. Mrs Bourne is first. She's beautiful, with lovely, styled, blonde hair. She's most polite to Mother, and when she takes my hand, the smile she gives me is a genuinely warm one.
Mr Bourne is next, and after he's greeted Mother and Father, instead of shaking my hand, he clips me around the ear and grins like a Cheshire Cat, and then he winks at me when he says, "Hello young Master Begbie. It's good to see you again."
I give him a conspiratorial grin. "It's good to see you too, Sir."
When I look at Michael, I'm astounded. Gone is the schoolboy I'm used to, and instead, dressed superbly, I see a most handsome young man. I thought Michael would make an effort for me, but 'an effort' is Michael wearing highly polished mid-brown shoes, light-brown trousers with a crease that would cut you to the quick, a mixture of various tans in his tweed sports jacket, and a white shirt with a brown tie that matches his jacket, and all this matches perfectly with his brown hair and fantastic hazel eyes. He looks a million dollars, and inside I congratulate the tailor who has suited him out. He's so beautiful that I have to fight desperately to stop flinging myself into his arms and kissing the living daylights out of him. So instead, I grin at him and shake his hand.
We spend an hour familiarising ourselves, and it goes superbly. I don't understand what's happened, but my shy Michael is nowhere to be found! The confident young man who has replaced him charms the ladies and is on a par with the men. I feel almost abandoned, except, occasionally, Michael looks into my eyes, smiles, and I rediscover his love every time he does it. It's Mother who, inadvertently, rescues me from my torment.
"Stuart, why don't you show Michael that infernal machine you had for your birthday? That record player thing."
Michael butts in. "Ah! The Dansette that plays four records consecutively, and has legs, and cost twenty-three guineas. I've heard about this famous machine. Yes, I would like to see it, if only to put myself out of my misery wondering how beautiful it is. You never stop boasting about it, Stuart."
Although I'm laughing, as is everyone else at Michael's comment, I feel I need to match Michael in this small battle. "It's better than the one you've got."
Michael grins. "Indeed it is. Actually, I haven't even got a wind up one, but I have got a wireless, which works if Alex remembers to have the battery charged. There's nothing worse than listening to Ray's a Laugh, and halfway through, it goes... He's lovely, Mrs Hoskins; he's lovely." Whilst he's speaking, Michael's voice changes from his normal pitch to a deep one that eventually, fades out.
Tears are streaming down my face at Michael's joke, and the adults are greatly amused by it, too, and we're still laughing as I lead Michael out of the room and up the stairs to my bedroom, the place I've wanted to get him into since I first saw him at the doorway when he arrived.
When the boys leave the room, Stuart's father pours drinks and we sit on the brown leather sofas and chat. I smile to myself as I hear music coming from upstairs. I'm in little doubt that the music will be some sort of cover for them to share their occasional passions in some way, and I determine to make sure nobody disturbs them while they're up there. My role as Michael's adopted father and protector has many facets.
Stuart's father addresses me first. "They get on well, those two, don't you think, Leslie?"
I look at Stuart's father, and nod. "Yes Cameron, indeed they do. Young Stuart is a fine young man, and you and Anne should be proud of him. Did he tell you how they met?"
Anne smiles. "Yes he did. Fighting... wasn't it?"
I laugh. "Yes, and he took on a boy older and bigger than himself, and he beat him. I really wanted to hug him, but I had to give him detention instead."
My wife, Angela, interrupts. "You're cruel, Leslie. Considering your affection for Michael, I'm surprised that you didn't have the other boy expelled."
I shrug my shoulders. "I would have had to have half the school expelled had I punished every boy who has no respect for Michael simply because of his background. It's a cruel world."
Anne speaks again. "You're very fond of Michael then, Leslie?"
"Ever since I first saw the poor waif as an eleven year old. I've done my best for him, and, thankfully, he's survived. Now, he's like the son Angela and I could never have. Well, to me he is. This is the first time Angela has met him."
Cameron looks surprised. "Is it indeed? Well, Angela, now you've seen your husband's 'adopted' son, what do you think of him?"
Angela puts her hand on my arm. "I think he's a splendid young man, and I'm not too happy that Leslie has not introduced us before. He's certainly a handsome young man. I reckon with a bit of help from a few people, he can be directed into a far better life than he has now, and then we can sort out a suitable young lady who will finish the job off nicely." She smiles at Anne. "Behind every good man; etcetera. What do you think, Anne?"
Mrs Begbie smiles. "I think you might just be right, Angela. At the moment it looks as though there are five of us of the same mind. Certainly Stuart thinks well enough of him to use his crafty wiles to get him noticed. He's like his father, is Stuart."
I laugh. "Yes, Stuart came to me like a poor waif in distress, manipulating me to have a word with Michael to accept the invitation. He knew he wouldn't be able to do it, so he used me. That boy of yours is wise beyond his years, and he'll go far in life. It wasn't easy getting Michael to come here. I had to spell out a few hard facts about life before he got the message. He's so stubbornly proud that it gets in the way of his progress. However, now I've got him here, I hope we can all agree to help him?"
Cameron picks up his whisky, and looks at me. "We've already got Sir Clarence hooked on the task. The small matter of Michael's father being a former Chindit, and holder of the VC, and he was in Sir Clarence's unit in Burma was all the bait Stuart needed to catch him. Stuart thinks I'm ignorant of what he's doing, but he has a way to go before he's as crafty as his father."
I'm serious when I look at Cameron. "I hope you're in it for the long haul, Cameron. Those two are very close, and I reckon we're watching the budding of one of those special life-long friendships that are sometimes born of shared adversity. In this case, I think it's one, bless him, of deep compassion from Stuart, and adversity from Michael. And as well as the qualities of grit and determination when his back is to the wall, Michael is one of the most loyal young men I've ever known. Stuart's reward will be a friend who will never let him down."
Cameron raises his glass. "I'll drink to that. To friendship that will never let you down."
We all clink our glasses and then settle back to talk about other personal issues, rather than the boys. After a very short while, I hear the music stop, and soon afterwards I hear howls of laughter echoing from above. I can relax slightly now.
Stuart's mother smiles. "They seem to be having a good time up there."
I smile an innocent smile back at her. "Now you know what Angela and I have to put up with at our two schools. Boys will be boys."
We're in my room. I close the door and push the sliding lock across - which I'd had to grease up with Vaseline during the week because it had never been used - and I've got my arms locked around Michael's neck, and we're kissing passionately. If I had any doubts that Michael had changed, he dispels them with the manner he kisses me and the strength of his embrace, and especially the way he's got his hands on my buttocks and is pulling me into him.
I've been planning this moment since Michael first said he would come to dinner, and after the first crushing passions, I prise him away from me and start the record player that has already been loaded with four records as part of my plan. The music begins, and I get the Vaseline and my trusty cloth from the drawer.
We can't use the bed; it will be too noisy, so, instead, I lead Michael to the wall by the door, give him the cloth and the Vaseline, drop my trousers and underpants to my ankles, and bend over and lean against the wall. Within a few seconds Michael has dropped his own trousers and underpants, and I feel his fullness completely within me. Meanwhile, his hand holding the cloth comes under me and I feel it wrap around my aroused state. Michael's presence is causing havoc within me and my entire body shudders at the seismic intensity of the sensations. Michael knows my sexuality well by now, and after some gentle, loving words, and some of our new-found experience at doing what we both love doing, I feel the wonder of my lover releasing himself deep within me, and at the same time my own release is caught in the cloth in his hand.
We clean up and dress; the music stops, and I unlock the door. Now I can feast on the company of my man, who, once he's provided me with my release, is as important to me as the lust we've just shared. We're both grinning at the risk we've just taken as we kiss and cuddle. There's a devilish look in Michael's hazel eyes. I ask him what he's thinking, and again I see the shy side of my lover. So I have to ask him again before he answers me, and when he does, although he's greatly amused, he's embarrassed when he says, "Is that what you'd call a 'record shag'?" I just can't help it, I howl with laughter, and soon, both of us are in stitches at his remark. When we've stopped laughing, Michael takes my hand and asks, "May I look around?"
I look at him, slightly puzzled. "Of course you can. What a strange request."
Michael gives me that warm smile I love so much. "No, I meant, can I really look around? I want to go everywhere in this room."
Now I understand. "Yes. There's nothing private I want to keep from you. Do what you want."
So, still holding my hand, Michael is into everything. He opens drawers and takes out clothes and kisses them, and wafts his fingers over my collection of model racing cars. He opens the wardrobe and strokes the clothes hanging in there. I notice that he's shielding his eyes from me, and I manoeuvre myself to see why. His eyes are misty, so I take his arm and hug it to me and lean my head against his shoulder and rub my cheek over the fabric covering the man I love. He loosens his arm and places it around my shoulder, and hugs me, and then he holds my hand again before continuing his inspection. Finally, he looks at the bed, and then looks at me. I nod. He pulls back the covers and lies in it, and kisses my pillows. When he gets out, he takes me in his arms and looks deep into my eyes. "When you go to bed tonight, I'll be with you."
I smile up at him. "I know. You're with me every night." We kiss long, and slowly. A loving kiss; a kiss to reaffirm what we both know... our love is so deep that even when we're apart, we're still together in spirit. We share the most beautiful of all loves. Michael scuffs me on the chin, and there's amusement in his eyes. "We'd better go back down to them now or they might think we're up to something."
I giggle. "Yes, I think we'd better. Just tell me one more time that you love me."
Michael is serious when his eyes stare into mine. "I love you, Stuart Begbie of the Magic Cap, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to make sure we're together as often as possible." Then his eyes twinkle. "But I'm not joining the bloody army for you or anybody else!" He winks. "But they won't know that."
For an answer, I grin and stick my tongue out at him.
Stuart and I walk back down the stairs, and when we walk into the lounge, all heads turn to look at us. Stuart's father speaks first. "Well, Michael, did you like the Dansette that cost twenty-three guineas?"
I grin at him. "I reckon it was the legs that put the price up, Sir. You should have come to me. I could have got you a nice wind up one for a quarter of the price."
He laughs, and I see that he likes my sense of humour, and I file that away for future use. I reckon, when they meet, Alex will have him rolling on the floor.
There are three large leather sofas in the room, and Stuart and I sit on the vacant one... not close together, of course. I look at Mr Bourne and I can tell by the look in his eyes that he's amused at what's going on, and I'm pretty sure he knows Stuart and I haven't just been listening to music while we were in his bedroom.
We spend the time before dinner chatting about various things, and I do my damndest to act as grown up as possible. I need to do that to create a barrier between Stuart and I. The bigger the barrier, the less they will suspect there are no barriers between us. I can tell by Stuart's face that he knows full well what I'm doing, and I don't get any fallback from him if any of my comments are slightly demeaning.
Stuart's mother and Mrs Bourne seem to have built up a rapport, and as they're sorting dinner, I hear them in the background chatting away as if they've known each other for years. Our friendship seems to be creating more friendships, because Mr Bourne and Stuart's father seem to be getting on very well, too.
It's almost six when dinner is ready and the ladies call us into the dining room. When I see the rosewood table and the candelabra, a silly thought comes into my mind, and I have to work hard to control myself. I'm imagining Alex sitting at it, picking at his pig's trotters, and I determine to mention it to Stuart at some time. I'll have to do it in private though, because I know he will wet himself when I do. Or maybe he already knows what I'm thinking, because, as he sits by my side, he gives me an almighty grin. I return it, and we begin to giggle, and then it becomes stifled laughter, and when I see Stuart's shoulders shaking, I know I have to relieve this situation before it gets completely out of hand. I look at him. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
Tears are streaming from his eyes when he answers. "Alex and PT?"
I nod, and we out the laughter, and then get it under control.
Stuart's father, with a grin on his face, who is sitting at the head of the table, looks at his wife, who is sitting at the other end of the table, and then at Mr and Mrs Bourne, who are sitting opposite Stuart and I, and says, "Something has amused the boys. Now I know what you have to put up with Leslie and Angela." Then he looks at us both. "Behave! Both of you... before I put you on a Begbie detention!"
Dinner goes well, but I seem to be the recipient of most of the questions. It doesn't surprise me; after all, that's what this dinner is about; my welfare. I've had all week to prepare myself for what I thought might be asked, and by the time dinner is over and we retire to the lounge I reckon I've managed pretty well to make my case as a poor unfortunate young man whose friendship with Stuart is entirely platonic. In fact, at one point I manage to embarrass Stuart when I suggest to the others that he might have a fancy for the Lord-Lieutenant's daughter, Eileen, because he often speaks about her. My reward from my lover is a thump on the arm, and he tells me to keep my mouth shut.
Regarding me joining the army, I manage to parry the question by saying it's one of a number options I'm considering. Amongst the others is being a physical education teacher, and I'm pleased when Stuart's mother comes down on the side of being a PE teacher.
Then, Stuart, skilfully, turns the conversation to cycling. He looks at me with a straight face. "Have you got a bike, Michael?"
I tease him. "It's a good job you didn't say - have you got a cycle, Michael, or it's a good job you don't call me Mike."
Of course, as I knew it would do, my comment reduces him to tears, and everyone joins in the fun.
Mrs Bourne says, "Never mind going to university, you should be a comedian, Michael."
I laugh, and give her a smile. "You should meet my brother. Now, he is a comedian. Some of the things he comes out with kept my Dada chuckling for hours."
Stuart's mother puts her head back in her shoulders, something I notice she often does when she wants to ask a question. "Dada? Is that how you always refer to your father, Michael?"
Stuart comes to my rescue and relates the answer I gave him when he'd asked the same question: that I always used the term because I wanted to retain the closeness of my family ties. Mrs Begbie seems more than satisfied with the explanation, and I can even see some sympathy in her face. And when Stuart has explained, he turns to me with a smug grin on his face. "Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno."
I scuff him on the arm. "I know, Clever Clogs. You should join the Vatican."
He laughs. "Never mind the Vatican, you haven't answered my question."
"Oh yes; the question: does Michael have a cycle? Actually, no, I don't, but Alex has a racing bike, and I use that when I need to. Why do you ask?"
"Well, I've wanted to join a cycling club for a while, but Mother thinks I'm too young yet. I just thought that if you liked cycling, if you'd join with me, you could be my passport to joining one. I'm sure Mother wouldn't mind if you were with me."
I stare into his eyes. "Why do I get the feeling that I'm being used here?"
Stuarts bursts into one of his giggles. "Well? Will you?"
"Don't you think you should ask your parents first? If they say 'yes', then I'll consider it, providing I have the time."
Stuart turns to his parents in turn. "What do you think? Mother? Father?"
Stuart's mother looks blank, but his father has a grin on his face. "I think it's an excellent idea. I used to be in a cycling club when I was younger. I loved it. So, that's a 'yes' from me. What about you, Darling?"
Stuart's mother's face softens. "It's a 'yes' from me, too. All you have to do now is persuade Michael and his brother's cycle."
I roar with laughter at her witticism. I look at her, and she's beaming. "We should become a duo. We could make it to the top, you and I, Mrs Begbie." By the look on her face, I know I've scored top marks for my remark.
Stuart thumps me on the arm again. "Brilliant!"
I thump him back. "Hold on, Young Master Begbie! I said I'd consider it. I'll give it some thought and let you know."
Stuart grins. "That means 'yes'. I know you won't let me down."
Now I'm serious. I look him in the eyes. "No, you know I would never do that. You're a special young man, and I'm glad I met you. I can't tell you how proud I am to be your friend."
The room goes quiet. My words have hit home to everyone. Even Mr Bourne knows that my words are sincere and have nothing to do with the sexual side of our relationship.
We stand at the door and watch the car go down the drive, and then we return to the lounge. Father pours himself another whisky, and a gin and tonic for Mother. When we're settled, I look at them both. "Well?"
Mother answers first. "He's a lovely young man. He has so much character, and a wonderful sense of humour." Perhaps it's the few drinks she's had, or maybe she really is moved to say, "I can't imagine anyone looking down on Michael. I actually felt it was a privilege to be in his company." She looks at Father. "What do you think, Cameron?"
Father takes a sip of his whisky. Then he shakes his head. "I'm thinking like you, Darling. I've been in the company of a lot of men in my time, and some, very few, have a certain aura about them. It's indefinable, but it exists. Michael has it. I don't think I've ever been so moved as when he said that he was proud to be Stuart's friend. It came from the heart, and he wasn't ashamed to say it." He looks at me. "I think Leslie Bourne was right. When you two were upstairs, he said that he hoped we were in it for the long haul, because we were watching the budding of a special life-long friendship. The important thing to your mother and I is, how do you feel about Michael? I don't want you getting involved in something so deep that you can't get out of it."
Mother and father are seated together on one sofa and I'm adjacent to them on another. I go to them and push them apart, and sit between them. It's the first time for a long time that we've been so close. I link both their arms. I look up at Father. "I'm like you, Father, I don't rush into anything. I've thought about everything you've just said, many, many times. I know there's a huge class gap between us, as well as an age gap, but the friendship we have spans those gaps, easily. I don't know why, but it does. I can't really say that I would like him as my brother, because from what I've seen of other families, brothers don't seem to be too close, but in the literary sense, I'd love to have him as my brother. But that isn't going to happen, so the next best thing is to have him as a friend. And I want to help him get the best out of himself. He'll need that help, and I intend to do everything I can to make sure he gets it. He needs a leg up in life, and we can do that. If you want to, that is? I think he's more than worthy of the effort."
Mother's arm comes around me. "I think I gave birth to a saint."
I grin at her, but I'm thinking to myself, you wouldn't think so if you'd seen me in the bedroom earlier, Mother!
I'm extremely happy as I lie in my bed in the darkness, staring into visions of the events of the day. It's gone far better than I expected. I'd been worried that Michael would have been out of place here, but the opposite has happened. I'm having difficulty comprehending the metamorphosis of the shy person I know Michael is, to the confident young man who has presented himself so well today. I can tell that Mother and father have both taken to him, and he to them. All this is important if my plans are to come to fruition. I'm not sure even Michael understands what I intend for us: a life together filled with the same love we now share; a love that is growing so fast and deep that, even I'm having difficulty comprehending it.
Before I met Michael, I was a cocksure boy. I now understand how utterly ignorant I was. Love was a wispish dreamworld; an ignorant fantasy, but now, the reality of the passion is an all-consuming emotion that is taking me to new levels within myself. My schoolwork has improved tremendously because of it, and that's because I know that my education will play a major part in whatever Michael and I will become. Where, before, I was a truthful child, I am now becoming an artisan at lying and scheming and plotting, even to the point that my parents are an irrelevance. Yes, I love them, but they now come a long way behind in the affection stakes where Michael is concerned.
And then there is the other emotion that is driving me, at times, to distraction: lust. I've tasted the forbidden fruit, and the satisfaction I get from it is beyond anything I could have dreamed. Today, in my schoolboy room, in my parents' home, I locked them out and offered myself to Michael like a nymphomaniac hussy. Why? Because once I experienced Michael's presence within me, nothing is ever going to stop me wanting that again and again and again. There's no logic to lust. Well, there's no logic to my lust, and I'm fully aware of it, and I love the illogical desires.
I'm tired now. It's been a long day; a wonderful day, and I'm in bed in our room. Yes, it's 'our room' now, because, as Michael said: 'When you go to bed tonight, I'll be with you.' You are, Michael, and it was you who has just brought me to two peaks of sexual passion. I love you Michael. I can't imagine my life without you anymore.
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