English schools have a six week break from late July to early September. The first two weeks of the holidays, I spent them with Archie, but Mama insisted I spend a month with her in Paris, and I've been here since the 10th of this month. I will be returning to England on September 7th, a week later than I should, and that's because Mama has insisted I celebrate my 15th birthday with her on September 4th even though I will be missing the first week of the autumn term at the Art School. Papa has arranged special dispensation for me to do so.
Archie and I discussed these things, and although he knew I wanted to spend my holidays with him, he insisted the right and proper thing to do was spend them with my family in Paris. He has made me a gift and instructed me not to open it until my birthday. I had to swear an oath on The Power of Gadriel the Cornish Piskey that I would not do so. I couldn't stop laughing while I swore the oath, but I have not broken it. He has wrapped it well in a cardboard box with birthday gift-wrap around it so I cannot tell what it is, but I kiss it and smile a number of times each day when I pick it up from my dressing table, where it sits alongside The Snowman. I have tried to feel at the contents, and even sniffed it, but I'm no wiser now than when he first gave it to me with a big grin on his face. So his gift remains a mystery, but I know it will be my favourite gift when I do open it.
Although I am enjoying being back in Paris, and have met a couple of my old friends, and I've been to see Papa three times, I am bored some of the time... not to mention I am missing an important part of what I am: an Adventurer. If fact, not since M. Griffiths attended to me in the sports room have I been fulfilled that way. I had plans to repeat the experience, but they were thwarted by events.
Events. One day M. Griffiths was there; the next day he was not. No reasons were given. However, English schools have no secrets that cannot be cracked by the pupils. In two days it was out that he had been dismissed for extra-curricular activities with a twelve-year-old pupil from Devon; a cute little fellow who was in the second year at Art School. I say `was', because he, too, is no longer at the school. He seemed a jolly little fellow when we exchanged glances during lunch. If I include M. Griffiths, he was, I think, if I dismiss the silly girls who are always looking at me, my fourth admirer. My friend, Gerald Prosser, has become openly affectionate towards me. He is always beside me when we take a shower after Physical Education lessons, and I have rewarded him for his affections by not hiding from him, but I won't allow any touching, not as an act of deliberate cruelty, but because I do not desire boys. Well, not my peers. But there is one other who could make me change my mind if he is persistent enough.
Maximus Carsington will be eighteen years old early next term. Strangely, in my mind I have associated that age with no longer being a boy, and therefore, my twisted logic has affected me not to dismiss him as a future conquest.
Maximus is the school football team goalkeeper. His nickname is `Banksy', after the legendary English goalkeeper, Gordon Banks. Because I have been at the school when football is not in season, I have not seen him play, but I hear he is very good. He looks good! He is tall and well-built, and extremely handsome. That was enough for me to take notice of him, but it is not the reason why I consider him a future conquest. The reason I do is because we have exchanged looks.
It began when we passed one another in the school corridor. I smiled at him: he smiled at me. And when I had walked on a few metres, I turned to look at him. He had done the same. I smiled at him: he smiled at me, and since then, we exchange smiles often. But we have not spoken. I have decided what to do. I will continue to smile at him, but I am determined not to be the first to break the silence. If he wants me, he must come and get me. That way I will be in control if I decide to broaden our friendship.
But that is for the next school year, and right now I am more concerned that neither Roger nor Pierre has answered my calls. I have telephoned both three times. Sometimes, when I am desperate, I have considered going to the library again, but have not done so. Well, not yet I haven't, but how long my fortitude will last is questionable. At the moment, I am just about scraping through without becoming a whore again. Part of the reason I have not done so is because I no longer spend most of my life thinking about that. Much of my time I think about the times I have spent with Archie.
From the moment Mama left, life with Archie has been wonderful, and the bigger part is not that.
We have done so many things together. He has even taken me to meet his family again, three times, and has not hidden the fact that I am living with him. He passes me off as his pupil who is attending Art School in Plymouth because he thinks I am going to be a genius one day, and between us, because I often talk about the things I have in my bedroom, I think we are managing to present ourselves as tutor and pupil, and I am his Lodger whose father pays rent to Archie to house me while I'm at college.
His papa is a lovely man with his weather-worn face and grey beard and ever-lit pipe, but is quiet and reserved for much of the time. Occasionally, he will puff on his pipe and a twinkle will come into his eyes when he's telling a tale. Because Archie's brother was lost in tragic circumstances, I never push him to talk about his fishing, but, occasionally, when he's had a few beers before and after dinner, he will open up and tell me about the old Cornish smugglers. He tells a good tale, and I'm enthralled by his descriptions of the people of the county and their resourcefulness. I also know when he's mixing truth with fiction. I only have to look at him, and ask, "Really?", and if he giggles, I know he's overdoing the description. But he likes me. I know he does. Sometimes, when he passes my chair, he will pinch the back of my neck and giggle. That's what Archie does sometimes.
I call Archie's mama, Mama, and his papa, Papa. I think they both like that. Mama is one of those large bustling ladies who are forever busy. She's always fussing over me and will not let us return to the studio without she packs some things for us. She has even knitted me a black woollen bobble hat, which she insists will keep me warm in winter when the weather turns. When she put it on my head, she smiled right into my eyes and said I was the most handsome young Frenchman she had ever seen. When Archie said, sarcastically, that I was the only one she had ever seen, she winked at me and said I was better looking at my age than Archie was when he was as old as me. And to confirm her words, she brought out a photo album and showed me some of the photos in it. I didn't tell her that I think Archie is better looking now he's thirty-two than he was when he was twelve. In the album were some photographs of the son she lost. He looked a little like Archie, but I was not attracted to him in any way. And all the while Mama and I were looking at the album, Papa and Archie sat drinking ale and grinning. When we got back to the studio, I asked Archie why he and Papa had been grinning. He said it was because Mama was happy she'd found a new son. I really liked that, because I am beginning to love all this family that have come into my life. Unlike my own, they are unpretentious, and Mama, unlike my real Mama, is not possessive.
My real Mama. Since returning to Paris, twice I have had to accompany her to morning tea with her ladies, where she fawns over me and basks in the many compliments of how handsome I am. I would much prefer Archie's papa's description of me when I was served a large dish of his sea-bass with lemon and vegetables: Ull put some meat on yo boooones, that'll Booooy. Looks though yo could do wi' a good feed. Yo wouldna laaaaast foive minutes in a force eight blow, e'en wi yo baaaabble `aaaat on. I had to get Archie to translate, and then I giggled at what he said. When I'd eaten dinner and a large portion of apple pie and Cornish Clotted Cream for dessert, and when I grinned at him and said, "That be good, that be. That be puttin' some meat on me boooones," Papa howled with laughter.
Part of what Archie told his mama and papa are the truth. I am Archie's pupil. Besides the books I bring `home' from the Art School and the many he has in his bookcase that I often use for study, Archie has bought me a lot of art materials at various times. I got `home' one day and discovered the most wonderful Winsor and Newton artist's set. Two sets actually: watercolour and oil. And an easel. But the most beautiful thing he presented me with was a mahogany carrying chest with drawers and a drawing shelf that slides out at the bottom. My eyes misted over when I saw it. Even more so when I saw he'd had my name engraved on the lid exactly as I sign my pottery work. A local cabinet maker made it for him. I asked him how much it had all cost, and he told me he had only paid for the mahogany chest. I was puzzled and asked where the rest of the stuff had come from. When he told me, I realised that I should have known, and I even telephoned Papa right away to thank him. Between his giggles, Papa told me I now had an account at Winsor and Newton, and anything I needed, I should order, and he would pay for it.
The first time I used it was the following Sunday. Archie surprised me. He got me up early and said it was a lovely day and we were going to Bedruthan Steps, a place on the coast about twenty miles south, to do some work. Goodness knows what time he was up, but he'd prepared a picnic hamper and loaded everything in the car before he woke me up. I protested that he would lose one of his best selling days, but he said he was entitled to a day off every now and again.
At Bedruthan Steps, we set up on the high cliffs overlooking the craggy bay that has massive rocks protruding from the sands, and set to work. But before we did start, Archie said to me, "Don't paint what you see... paint what your mind sees." I was puzzled, and asked him what he meant. He told me, "You have a scene before you. That scene has remained unchanged for centuries. There are many thousands of photographs and paintings done of it... in every weather imaginable. But this is Kernow; land of legend and piskey folk. So use your imagination and paint like a fourteen year old adventurer." So I did, in watercolours, and Archie refused to look at it until we got `home'. In fact, he wouldn't even discuss it with me at all during the day. He spent the day sketching, and I spent the day letting my imagination run riot. We packed up when it was still daylight, called at a pub for some dinner, and then went `home'. Only then would Archie look at what I'd done, while we were sat on the sofa and the sun was setting.
He kept shaking his head, and I asked him, "Don't you like it?"
He shook his head again and said, "I adore it. It's exactly what I wanted from you. Nobody else has ever done Bedruthan Steps like this before." He pointed at the picture. "I take it that's King Arthur's Castle at Tintagel?"
I giggled. "No, it's Camelot."
He giggled, and pointed again at the painting. "You're right. I can see Sir Galahad putting his sword to that fierce-looking piskey there. But why have you got the Round Table on the sands?"
I grinned at him. "It was a nice day. I thought they'd have lunch out."
Archie roared with laughter, and when he'd stopped laughing, he pointed to a small boat bobbing about in the waves with someone sitting in it and holding an out-of-proportion brandy barrel, and asked, "What's that? That's a modern fishing dinghy?"
"That's Papa. Mama has told him not to come home empty handed, so, because he's had a bad day fishing, he's popped over to France to get her a nice drop of brandy so she doesn't moan at him like she usually does. You know how she likes a drop of brandy before she goes to bed."
More laughter, and tears were running from both our eyes as he explored more of the painting: the old sailing vessel that is shipwrecked; the piskeys trying to salvage what they can; the Knights of the Round Table battling with them for the booty, and lines of ordinary folk carrying the booty away while the knights and the piskeys are fighting over it. I even put myself in it. I'm sitting on one of the abutting rocks, painting away with my woollen bobble hat on. When Archie asked if he was in it, I couldn't stop laughing, and pointed to a man sitting in the crow's nest of the shipwrecked vessel with his head in his hands, and said, "That's you."
Archie giggled. "Why have I got my head in my hands?"
I laughed. "You're wondering what you've let yourself in for having me as a pupil."
Archie laughed, and then hugged me before he said, "I wouldn't have missed having you for all the tea in China. And what are you going to do with it now you've painted this wonderful craziness?"
I placed the painting on the table, wrapped myself into Archie, kissed him gently on the lips, and said, "I want our mama and papa to have it. They lost your brother. I know I can never replace him, but I really would like it if they could pretend I belonged to them."
Archie gave me a massive hug, and told me how much he missed his brother. That made me cry. But we laughed again later when we were in bed, after You and Me, and Archie went to get the painting so he could study it some more, and he howled with laughter when he discovered the periscope far out at sea.
He had it framed, and the last time we went to see Mama and Papa, I gave it to them. When we left, Mama gave me the biggest hug, and Papa said I wasn't to leave it too long before we came to see them again. Archie told me later that Papa had taken down his favourite picture and replaced it with mine, and spends ages chuckling at it. He told me that Mama says Papa thinks more of my painting than he does of any of Archie's. When I asked him if he was jealous, he said parents always think more of their baby than they do of their elder siblings, and he was pleased our parents were no different.
Other times, we've taken walks along the headland. A mile can take us an hour. Archie is forever stopping to show me things I would have walked past. He opens flowers and shows me how each one is different, and because I always have my sketch pad with me, I make a quick drawing of each. He amazes me with his knowledge of birds. At a glance or by their song he knows each one by name, and because he always takes binoculars, I get a close-up of them all. Then, when we get `home', he gets out his large bird-book and we study them in detail. I'm beginning to love birds, especially those I've seen in Cornwall. As a sort of hobby, I've got a sketch book I use just to draw them, and then I tint them with watercolours. Archie loves it, and will spend half an hour with a smile on his face studying it while I watch TV.
Cornwall. I'm missing it. But my home city of Paris has some things that interest me. I adore the amazing art galleries and the daring new craze of street art and the café culture and the Beatniks. As soon as I hear of new graffiti, I can't wait to go and see the damage they have done to this fine city. When I look at the damage, I hope that one day I will be doing the same thing. One day I may paint You and Me in a prominent place in the dead of night and shock the Prudes-of-Paris. If Roger Peyrefitte is still alive, I will tell him what I've done, and he will be proud of me. I will be like him: an undesirable. I will call myself Bohemia. In fact, Mr Clarkson at the Art School says I am Bohemian. He worries about me sometimes and has made me promise not to do drugs. It was easy to assure him that I would not partake of the kind he was referring to. Psychedelics have no interest to me. My fix is the drug I get each night with Archie... or whoever. That is my turn-on!
Since I've been in Paris, I've been to four exhibitions. Papa went with me to one: 20th Century Contemporary art at Musee d'Art de la Ville de Paris. There were some wonderful works on display, including paintings by Metzinger and Kandinski and Mattisse and Macke. But one artist I really like is Edward Hopper. His work is more real than surreal, but it appeals to me. I don't know why, but I particularly like his Boy and Moon. Papa said his work was too melancholy, and I had to agree that some of the Hopper paintings fitted his description. I think Boy and Moon affected me because it's a boy looking out at sea, and a full moon is the main background. I've been there, at the studio, with Archie, after You and Me.
The birthday party is arranged. It's being held at a local restaurant. Mama has drawn up the guest list. My sisters have helped her. Once again I have become a commodity. Mama wants to show me off, and she has not been unforthcoming in acclaiming to all her morning-tea ladies that I am a future artist who will be famous one day. I am her cause célèbre; her future megastar... even a demigod. I want to tell them all that I am none of those things. I would much rather proclaim that I am a pervert and a philanderer and in love with the most wonderful man on the planet, and that I would rather be celebrating my birthday with him whilst in the You and Me position. But commodities have no say when possessive mamas are calling all the shots. If I want to return to Cornwall to be with my Archie again, then I have to play her game. At least Papa will be at the birthday party. I can count on him helping me out if it all becomes too much. We have already spoken about it. He made me laugh when I said I wanted to go but I didn't want to go. He used his John Wayne impersonation and spoke in English when he quoted from the film: The Alamo, and said, You gotta do one or the other. You do the one and you're living, you do the other and you may be walking around, but you're dead as a beaver hat.
There is one surprise amongst the guest list. Well, two actually. Isabelle Gatti and Stuart Begbie will be there!
The first thing I do when I wake is to open Archie's gift. It has to be done in secret because Archie has put our secret sign on the label. It's an inauspicious mark: a simple lower case double `t' with the cross-line going through both letters. It means that whatever is contained in a letter or a parcel is for our eyes only.
My wonderful Archie! Is there anything I say that he does not remember? We were sitting on the harbour wall at Port Gaverne, one Sunday lunchtime, eating sandwiches, and a beautiful little boy of about six years of age was on his hands and knees, trying to build sand-castles. He had a mass of golden curls upon his head and was wearing only tiny red swimming trunks, and I thought he was utterly cute with his perfect form and a little bottom that I wanted to kiss because it was so gorgeous. I studied him for a while, and the thought came into my mind that I was once like him, and eight years later I am a completely different human being. Archie saw me looking at him, and asked what I was thinking. I said the first words that came into my mind: The Age of Innocence.
Archie looked at the little boy, and he must have seared the memory of that moment into his mind, because what I have for a birthday gift from him is that little boy making sandcastles in the sand, created in porcelain, and on the square base he has painted the words in gold italic: The Age of Innocence. It makes me cry, and more than anything right then I want to be with the man I love. When I have dried my eyes, I open the sealed letter which is within the parcel, and I understand why he has used our secret mark.
More tears now; I kiss the letter over and over again, and then slip back into bed again and recreate in my mind what Archie said he craves, and when I reach the peak of You and Me, it is Archie's lips that provide the comfort of the fantastic moment.
They should name this restaurant Les Tables Circulaires. I have not been here before, but every table in the room is circular. No doubt it was agreed at Mama's ladies' tea mornings that I should celebrate my fifteenth birthday in style: style being circular tables and a guest list of sixty persons. But thank God for circular tables. Papa, being estranged from Mama, has been placed directly opposite me and not beside me at this table, which seats fourteen. Mama is to my right; Édith to her right; Dominique on my left, and the rest of `our side' of the table are Mama's immediate family. Opposite us is Papa and his family. If Papa was English, this could be a re-enactment of Agincourt. If I had a choice, I would be a traitor to my country and join him, especially because I would be defending my true love, Archie. Because it has a French slant to it, we studied Shakespeare's Henry V as part of our English lessons. We had to learn his Saint Crispin's Day Speech off by heart to pass an exam on Henry V when I was twelve years old.
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.
I get one of those silly moments in life when I am so tickled by events and silly lateral thoughts that I cannot stop giggling. And gentlemen in England now-a-bed. That's Archie waiting for me to dive onto him. Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here. Archie will be doing just that. But the line that really breaks me up is And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks. When I think of that line, I get a fit of the giggles, and cannot stop them. Papa, being directly opposite, sees me, and he, too, begins to giggle, so much so that he lifts his serviette to hide his mouth. I do the same, and Papa and I share a magical moment of comedy that has tears running from our eyes. Eventually, after a few digs in my ribs from Mama, I manage to control myself, and so does Papa, but throughout the rest of the meal we share glances that have us smiling into each other's eyes. Then something clicks inside my head when I look into Papa's eyes. I have his eyes. They are beautiful and sparkling. Archie says the eyes are a window to the soul. I can see inside Papa, and I can see myself. Strip away the restrictions that being a Conseiller des affaires étrangères requires him to be, let loose his nature, and we are identical.
Champagne. Speeches. Although estranged, Papa does the honour. He stands and tells a few tales about my boyhood and how well I am doing in life and how proud his parents are of him, and then he proposes a toast to a wonderful son with wishes for happiness and a long life. Then it is my turn.
I wrote about ten drafts of a speech, but in each one there was something that made reference to my parents as if they were still together. Only then did I realise the social consequences of my family breaking apart. I was finding it impossible to say anything that would not offend one or the other. So I threw them in the bin and tried to think of something which would not offend either. Eventually, I knew what to say.
"Thank you everyone for the pleasure of your company on my special day." I look at Édith and Dominique. "Thanks to my two sisters for helping arrange everything. Considering I don't make their life bearable at times, they have done me proud." That gets a few laughs, and pretend snarls from my sisters. "But most of all I want to thank Mama and Papa for everything they have done for me. It is they who have provided a firm base on which to build my life, and I love them both very dearly. When I was small, I wanted to be a train driver, but despite my protestations that they could have cheap rail travel all their life, they refused to allow me to follow my passion." More laughs. "So I decided to study The Arts, which is what I'm doing now, at an art school in England. I'm there because my passion is art and making pottery, and my mentor is a famous potter from that area. Under his tutorship, I will, hopefully, be as good as he is; I will make my parents proud of me, and reward them for being wonderful parents. Thank you, and please enjoy the rest of the evening."
A round of applause when I sit down, and I do not miss the secret nod of approval from Papa. And later, he makes me smile when he says I have missed my calling in life, and that I would have made an excellent Conseiller des affaires étrangères.
The celebration dinner over; small circular tables arranged around the edge of the room, and the band that my sisters booked have set up for the evening. As I suspected, they are a rip-off of The Beatles, and soon the place begins to fill with guests who were invited for the dance only. Thankfully, most are youngsters, which brings down the mean age of all those at the party to less than half that of Mama's morning tea ladies.
It's almost nine in the evening when I decide to do it. I noticed the public telephone when we were arriving. It's situated not thirty metres from the restaurant, so, after I've cornered Papa and explained what I'm going to do, and he agrees to cover for my absence, I slip out to telephone Archie. Four rings; I hear the familiar voice, and I'm chuckling when I hear him tell the operator he will accept a reverse charge call from Monsieur Alain d'Evreux in Paris.
"Yes. I hope you don't mind me reversing the charges to call you. I haven't been on my own all day to telephone you, so I've slipped out of the party to speak to you from a public telephone. How are you?"
"I'm fine. And it's no problem you reversing the charges." Archie giggles. "I'll deduct the cost of the call from the four pots of yours I've sold while you were away. So happy birthday!"
I giggle. "Thank you, and thank you for the wonderful gift."
"Do you like it?"
"I love it. After I'd stopped kissing it, I put it by the snowman. They're best friends now. And the letter was beautiful. Opening your parcel was the best time of the day. I got up early to do it. After I'd read your letter, I went back to bed to think of you. You shouldn't say such things when I'm not with you. It's difficult enough without you reminding me what I'm missing."
Archie laughs. "I'll get two dozen croissants in for this weekend. I think you might need them."
I laugh. "It will be you who needs them, so get four tubs of Cornish Clotted Cream in, too. And make it four dozen croissants."
More laughs from Archie. "You sound in one of your naughty, happy moods. Is the party going well?"
I chuckle. "It's a Mama party. She's showing me off. I've allowed her to. In fact, everything I've done since I've been here is to show her that me being with you is positive. She's even told her morning-tea lady friends that I've matured since I went to Art School. I think that may also have been a sly dig at Papa for making me go to his lycée-collège. She's presented the situation as if it's all her doing."
Archie interrupts me, "How is your papa?"
"He's fine. Because of their situation, Mama wouldn't sit with him, and arranged for him to be on the opposite side of the table to me, so he and I spent most of the meal exchanging secret giggles. Before the meal, I told him he'd been ostracised because he's been a naughty boy. He couldn't stop laughing. He's become my agent provocateur. Mama doesn't know half of what he and I get up to together. If she ever finds out, she'll lock us both up in the Bastille."
Archie laughs. "Be careful, you two! I don't want my boy with his head chopped off! Or anything else either!"
When we've both stopped laughing, I tell him to give his parents my love, and we arrange for him to be at the railway station when I arrive. Then je t'aime from both of us, and I feel lonely and sad when I place the receiver on its hook.
But my melancholy doesn't last long. As I'm approaching the restaurant, I see a commotion going on by the entrance. The two concierges are restraining a man, who is protesting loudly that he wants to go in. It's a private party by invitation only, so they're only doing their job, but I'm intrigued who it is that wants to gate-crash my party.
I'm astounded when I realise who it is! The memory of the man in the photograph who disturbed me is swaying slightly when he's arguing, and I get a large kick of adrenaline to be meeting a semi-inebriated Michael Johnson for the very first time in my life. So this is Stuart Begbie's boyfriend!
"This is my party. May I help you?"
Michael Johnson looks at me, and I can see that he's puzzled. But at least he's stopped arguing with the concierges. Then I see a flicker of a smile on his face when he says, "Alain?"
I grin at him. "Michael Johnson?"
He's even more puzzled now, and his smile broadens when he says, "So you're Archie's boy!" He holds out a hand. "Happy birthday young man!"
I take his hand and greet him with a firm handshake. "Thank you." Then I stare into his eyes when I add, "I don't think it would be a good idea for you to go in there."
"And why not?"
I take hold of Michael's sleeve and pull him away from the entrance. "May I speak with you privately?" When he's allowed me to take him out of earshot of the concierges and we're walking slowly together, I say, "If you go in there, it may ruin my entire life. I take it you've come to see Stuart?"
He nods. "Yes, but why would my presence ruin your life?"
I stare into his eyes and point to the restaurant. "Nearly all the guests in there know nothing about you and Stuart, and neither do they know about me and Archie. If you go in there, it will create problems. I just know it will. Please, meet Stuart somewhere else. Where are you staying? I'll pass a message onto him to meet you. How did you know where he would be?"
Michael taps the side of his nose and drawls like Sean Connery, "I'm James Bond. I know everything!"
I chuckle. "James Bond is always cool. You're not acting like him, even if you do look like him." I've surprised myself at what I've said, but the excitement building inside me is overcoming my ability to be prudent. I have fantasised about meeting this man, and his presence is disturbing me far more than when I saw his photograph.
He is beautiful! He speaks beautifully, too. He acts not like a boy. There is something about him that is magnetic. His beautiful green eyes are wide and enchanting, and he oozes sensuality. So this is Archie's boy... Alain d'Evreux! Now I know why Archie is so possessed by him! I may be half drunk, but it's not the alcohol loosening my inhibitions that makes me think all this. In fact, meeting him has sobered me up! Or maybe it's the look that's sobered me up. I've seen it many times. The boy in Xylofagou gave off the same vibes, and we ended up under the wild olive tree. I don't need to be a soothsayer to know he wants me, and I sure as hell want him! He's fucking delicious!
He's let go of my sleeve and we're walking side by side. I hear all he's saying, and I know I will not be gate crashing his party now. Stuart will come later. There are no wild olive trees here, but there is a dark alley, and I don't give a damn for consequences or anything or anybody when I grab his sleeve and pull him into it... into the darkness. As I expected, he doesn't protest. I push him against a wall and lift his chin and look into his eyes. He stares into mine, and I can see the desire. I was not wrong, so I hold his head with both hands and brush his lips with mine. He is not resisting. I increase the pressure and feel his lips opening; inviting; wanting what I want. Hot breath; tongues; saliva. I break the kiss and stare into his eyes again. Then I tell him where I'm staying.
He looks puzzled, and, breathlessly, he asks, "Roger's house?"
"You know him?"
He nods. "Yes."
I glare into Alain's eyes. "He's away in Italy. If you want me, I'll be waiting for you."
"And what about Stuart?"
Again I crush our lips together, and when our mouths part, I tell him, "Everything in its own time. Tomorrow is for you. Well?"
For an answer, Alain wraps his hands around my neck, draws my head down to him, kisses me as I have him, and then, with his chest heaving, he says, "I'll be with you at ten in the morning. Now go to Roger's apartment and sober up." He puts his hands on my chest, pushes me roughly away, and walks out of the alley.
I lean against the wall, take out the silver flask of Lagavulin from my inside pocket, and take a massive swig to try and stem the emotions that are filling me up. My boy is in the restaurant with his girlfriend. I need to tell him that I love him and that all I care about is his happiness. But I know I will be telling a lie. Without him, I will never be truly happy again. But being jilted has benefits. At ten in the morning I will be enjoying one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever seen in my life: a boy whose kisses ooze sensuality the likes of which I have not known for many years.
More Lagavulin. Back to the entrance to the restaurant. My legs are still trembling from the shock of what has happened with Young Master Sex when I tell one of the concierges to order me a taxi. He is so relieved that I will be no more trouble to him; he does my bidding with a polite smile. The taxi arrives. I get in and go back to Roger's apartment.
My legs are weak from what has just happened: a sharing of spontaneous lust. I'm also angry with myself. All I needed to do was push Michael to his knees to fulfil the moment, but I chose not to do so. I think I was wise, or I may now be on my way to Roger's apartment with him. I look at my watch. Just over twelve hours to the rendezvous. I am in a state and have to adjust myself. I don't want to wait twelve hours. The Conseiller des affaires étrangères within me comes to the fore. Even as I'm walking up the steps into the restaurant, I am plotting. I am fifteen years old. I am not a child now. I have conformed throughout the day, but a fifteen year old celebrating his birthday should be afforded some licence to celebrate with his peers. Mama has had a little more alcohol than usual, and will not object too much if I am clever and persuasive enough. Papa will shrug his shoulders and tell me to be careful. My friend Jean-Claude is a streetwise boy and is two years older than me. I can do it!
At eleven I am leaving the restaurant with my young friends: Jean-Claude, Saul, Antoine, David, Gilbert, Josette, and Martine. We are going to La Java at Belleville. To party! Or so they think! I will not be there long!
Breaking Mama's apron string had been difficult. I had to plead; put on one of my famous sulks; conspire with Édith and Dominique to assist me; get Papa to give me some money and confirm that I was an intelligent young man who could be trusted not to get into trouble and would be perfectly safe staying with friends when the partying is over and be home sometime in the morning.
Midnight. I have conspired with Jean-Claude. I told him I needed to get away because I have arranged to meet a girl at Pl. Léon Blum. My first time; her parents are away for the night, and I am nervous. He is impressed with me and slips me a condom. He will also cover for me. I am staying with him. He winks at me when I slip out into the night.
The taxi stops by Roger's apartment. I pay the driver and step out. It's cold. I have not dressed for a cold night and am shivering when I ring the doorbell, but most of the trembles are not because of the cold. I am shaking with nerves because of what I am doing. The door remains closed, and I am anxious that Michael has not done as I told him... go directly to the apartment to sober up. I ring the bell again. And again. Then I hear the lock in the door being turned. The door opens. Michael, wrapped in a dressing gown, is looking dazed. I understand. He is half drunk and half awake. I was expecting it. I push past him into the large hall. He closes the door and stares at me. I turn and go to the guest bedroom. I was right to do so. The light is on and the bedsheets are crumpled. Without a word, and shaking like a leaf, I strip and lie on the bed on my back. Michael stares at me, and then turns away and goes into the bathroom. I hear the shower running and water splashing. I am trembling again, but these trembles are a mixture of fear and lust. Fear because Michael is not like the others. I knew he was not like them when I first looked at his photograph. I can control the others, but I know I will never be able to control Michael. That is why I am here. That is why I am overflowing with lust and desire. I want to be taken.
Michael is naked when he returns to the bedroom. I am slightly disappointed. Unlike me, he is not fully aroused. But neither is he dormant. But he is beautiful. His hair is still wet and brushed sleekly back. I like hairy men, but he is not that. I am pleased he is not. Body hair would hide the muscularity of his fantastic, tanned body. He turns away from me and goes to the dressing table. He is perfection from this side, too. Broad shoulders tapering to a slim waist and fantastic buttocks; muscular thighs and calves. He picks up a silver flask and drinks from it, and then half turns with a smile on his face and offers it to me. I shake my head. He screws the top back on and places the flask on the dressing table. Then he walks to the edge of the bed and looks down at me, studying the entirety of what I am. His body reveals his disposition, and I am pleased he finds me attractive. I am also pleased that he has more than enough to give me what I desperately need.
He indicates with his finger than I am to sit on the edge of the bed, so I do as commanded. He is not close enough, and I have to reach out to get what I want. I draw him to me. He comes closer, but refuses to come close enough. He is humiliating me. But I want to be humiliated. That is why I desire Michael. He is too much of a man to be dominated by silly little boys. That is why I slip to my knees beside the bed and allow myself to be used. That is why, when Michael considers he has used me enough, I allow him to lift me up and welcome his alcoholic, brutal kiss with zeal and passion. That is why, when he pushes me back onto the bed and takes me, I am lost in the ecstasy of the sensations and the pain and the overwhelming commotions within me, so much so that I am delivered twice before Michael is pleasured. And then Michael seals the moment when he towers above me, and whilst staring into my eyes, he says: "You are sensational."
How beautiful! How wonderful! How utterly thrilling are those three words to me! I gave myself: surrendered to this beautiful man; and he has rewarded me with the most apposite compliment he could possibly pay me. All the plotting and scheming I have done to arrive at this moment has been worth the risk. But his words are also an aphrodisiac to me. Those three words have released my spirit; unleashed the part I keep hidden, even from Archie and the others. I stare into his eyes; he stares into mine. He is searching within me. I am searching within Michael. This has become a duel of desire. I break first, reach up, wrap my hands around his strong neck, entwine my fingers, open my mouth wide, and pull. At first, he resists, but then he allows me pull him down to me. He turns his head so I have access, and I sink my teeth into the flesh of his neck. I am rewarded. His strength within me grows stronger; filling me with his presence. Immediately and involuntarily, my own body responds likewise. We begin again, and do not stop until cries of despair from Michael echo around the chamber, and only then do I stop biting him and crush my lips to his to comfort him.
Comfort him? I am not a fool. The reason Michael is with me is because his heart is broken. Hopefully, in some small way, I will have eased his pain. But I have more comforts to give him before the night is out. I am not being unselfish. What comforts I provide will be what I desire most: to be used by a real man who has no affection in his heart for me. That affection belongs to another, someone he has lost forever. What he needs is my body; a body that will stir lost memories within him; memories of the boy he once violated in shared passions, but a body which has now gone forever. That body is gone, Michael, but in its place is Me. And I am beautiful and desirable and sensual and willing. Take me Michael, with all my blessings, and if you want to pretend I am the boy who was once yours in entirety, then do so. I don't care as long as you fulfil my desires.
Much like a thief in the night, thinking I'm still asleep, after he'd bathed and dressed and returned to the bed to kiss me softly on the forehead, he is gone by nine in the morning. He has left a note on the dressing table.
I pick up the whisky flask and return to the bed. What kills also cures, and because I have a throbbing headache, I take a deep swig of Lagavulin to ease the pain. I am both sad and elated. What a wise boy Alain is! I read his note again. It and the whisky soothe my mood, and it reminds me of a few verses from one of my favourite poems that have the same affect on me...
Then read to me some poem;
Some simple and heartfelt lay
That will soothe these restless feelings,
And banish the thoughts of day.
Come read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently, steal away.
The taxi drops me off directly by the restaurant vestibule. When I enter, maître d' enquires if I have a reservation. I tell him I am a guest of Stuart Begbie and Isabelle Gatti. He smiles, takes my overcoat, and tells me they have already arrived. After hanging up my overcoat, he takes me to their table. When he sees me, Stuart moves to stand up. I point a finger at him and indicate he should remain seated. Maître d' seats me, and leaves. I am smiling when I look at Stuart and Isabelle. Stuart is fighting back the tears. I shake my head at him. He understands, and breathes in deeply to constrain himself. I look at Isabelle. She is beautiful. I nod at her, and say, "I'm very pleased to meet you. I hope he is treating you well!"
She smiles. "Hello Michael. Thank you for joining us."
I nod again. "It's my pleasure. Now you two tell me all about your plans." I stare at Stuart. "I want to know everything if I am to become a mentor for both of you!"
Stuart giggles nervously. "You're too late. Alex has already declared that is his role."
I give him a disarming smile. "That damned brother of mine! But maybe it's for the best. He's the only one who can control you."
Stuart can control himself no longer, and tears stream from his eyes. I am the same, and we both end up giggling while we dry our eyes with serviettes. When it's over, Isabelle reaches out to both of us, and holds both our hands. Stuart's other hand comes across the table. I take it, and squeeze it tightly. He squeezes mine. Then, quietly, Isabelle asks, "Would you like me to use the ladies' room?"
I look into her eyes, and smile. "No. It's not necessary. I will say what I have come here to say. You have my full blessing for whatever will make you both happy. I would like to be a small part of your happiness?"
She smiles at me. "Thank you. I suspect if anything or anyone tried to come between you and Stuart, they would be very silly. I also suspect you will play a large part in our happiness. I am beginning to like you already."
I grin at her. "I can be quite a likeable chap if someone feeds me. I am hungry!"
She laughs, and then looks at Stuart. "Shall we eat before he becomes despondent?"
Stuart looks at me. "Pied de cochon?"
I grin at him. "With plenty of salt and vinegar?"
"Wrapped in newspaper?"
"Served with music playing on a Dansette record player that cost twenty-three guineas?"
I nod. "Yes. And any leftovers are put in a doggy-box so we can send them to Alex to give to Trotter?"
Stuart stares into my eyes. "What do you think he would say if we telephone him now?"
I chuckle. "Shall we?"
Stuart looks at Isabelle. "Would you mind?"
Although she isn't aware of the particulars of our fun, she knows we've been speaking about happy times together, and laughs when she says, "Why not? I might as well get used to this madhouse before I marry into it."
After maître d' has left a telephone on the table, I look at Stuart, and say, "You do it."
He giggles. "He's your mad bro. You do it."
I point a stern finger at him. "You're the one whose backside he thinks the sun shines from. You do it!"
So Stuart telephones Alex, and we're both chuckling like demented fools when he asks the operator to reverse the charges. I laugh even more when Stuart says into the receiver when the call is put through to Alex, "It wasn't my idea to reverse the charges. Your crazy brother will reimburse you. How's Trotter?" After a short silence, he says, "He's with me now. We're having dinner together with Isabelle at a posh restaurant. Pig's trotters to be precise." Stuart laughs. "I'll hand you over."
I take the telephone from him, and say, "Hiya bro. How are you?"
I hear my brother's wonderful, comforting voice reply, "More to the point... how are you?"
"I'm fine. We're having dinner together, and making plans."
"You've sobered up then!"
"Just about. I'll come to see you when I'm back in England."
"You'd better! Now bugger off! We're watching Coronation Street."
I laugh. "Okay. I'll speak to you later."
"Sod off! The pair of you! And don't reverse the bloody charges again! I'm not a bloody Rothschild!"
When I cut the call, I begin to laugh. Stuart grins, and asks me, "What are you laughing about?"
I point to the telephone. "He's told me to sod off because he's watching Coronation Street."
I replace the receiver on the telephone cradle and return to the lounge. Carol looks up, and asks, "Who was that?"
I sit next to her on the sofa. Young Alex, who is now eleven years old, is lying on the hearth rug in front of us. I kick him on the bottom. He turns to look at me, and asks, "What did you do that for Dada?"
I wink at him. "I just wanted to see your face. You look more like your Uncle Michael by the day."
He grins, and then looks away and concentrates on Coronation Street. He does look like Michael. Every time I see him I am reminded of my brother. Carol senses something is bothering me, and snuggles close. I lift my arm and pull her to me. She looks up at me. "Which one was it?"
"Both of them."
She looks puzzled. "They're together?"
I nod. "They're in a posh café in Paris somewhere. Eating bloody pigs trotters. Stuart's wench is with them."
I look at our youngest, Michael, who is sprawled in an easy chair, falling asleep, cuddling Stuart's little dog Trotter in his arms. She is aging. Getting slower now she's twelve. I recall the day I was drunk and gave her to Stuart. Like Stuart, she was bright eyed and new. Give her a couple of years and I'll be burying her in the back garden. But she's outlasted Michael and Stuart. That's all over now. What they're doing now is pretence. Maybe in years to come they'll be okay. But not yet. I kiss Carol on the top of her head. "It's a start. But Kiddo will go off the rails as sure as God made little apples."
"What makes you say that?"
"I remember what Dada said. Kiddo came home one day with a black eye. An older boy had beaten him up. I was going to dust whoever had done it. Dada told me not to bother. He said Kiddo wasn't bothered about being physically hurt. He said the only way you can hurt Kiddo is by hurting him inside. He's been crucified inside, and there will be a backlash. All we can do is wait `till the hurt has subsided. Just be here for him when he needs us. There's nothing else we can do. It will all come right in the wash. It always does." Then I think for a moment, and add, "Well they say it does, but in this instance, I'm not sure they're right."
I'm in my bedroom, packing things for my return to England tomorrow. I hear the telephone ring, and then Mama calls to me, "Alain! It's for you! It's Michael Johnson, Stuart Begbie's friend."
Immediately, I am apprehensive. Why would Michael be telephoning me? How does he know our telephone number? It's a private one.
The receiver is off the hook... waiting. I pick it up. "Hello. Alain d'Evreux speaking."
"Hello Alain. I have had dinner with Stuart and Isabelle. Things have been sorted. Thank you for the note. The words you wrote are the reason I decided to meet them and sort things out properly. He will be moving to Paris permanently in the near future. I will be living at The Grange when I am in England."
I take a deep breath. "I am happy for you."
"Thank you. Au revoir."
Au revoir. Michael is fluent in my language, and I am sure he understands the difference between au revoir and adieu. He did not use the finality of adieu. He has told me he will be living at The Grange when he is in England. What does he mean... when he is in England? Does he have plans not to live in England? I sincerely hope not! I do not want what we had to be singular!
The powerful diesel train slows to a halt. With a struggle, I pull my heavy suitcase from the overhead luggage rack and make my way onto the platform. Archie has bought a platform ticket as he said he would, and is waiting for me. He comes to me, picks up the suitcase, and points to the exit. "Let's go." When we get to the car, he hauls my suitcase onto the rear seats, and then closes the door. He grins at me. "Get in then!"
I get in the passenger seat, and Archie gets in the driver's seat. He's still grinning, so, grinning myself, I ask him, "What are you grinning at?"
He shrugs his shoulders. "Just grinning."
I chuckle. "You're mad, you are! Well... are you going to take me home, or do you want me to go back to Paris?"
He chuckles. "Sup to you boy. I be goin' Port Gaverne. I got me two dozen croissants to eat."
I grin at him. "With clotted cream?"
He nods. "With clotted cream and a jar of Mam's best strawberry jam. She make it just for you. You be wantin' some?"
I laugh. "If Mama has made it, I'll eat it."
It's two in the morning; there's a force six gale blowing outside; rain is lashing against the bedroom window; the side window is rattling as it usually does when it blows hard, and I'm loving every moment of it. I'm in the place I want to be, in the arms of the man I love, my head on his chest, and I can smell my Archie. He smells of soap and paint and clay. And sweat from his exertions. He also smells of Me. During one of my crazier moments, when first we had completed You and Me, I sat on his groin and anointed his upper body and face with the essence I had produced after two days of abstention, and declared that he was now loved by a fifteen year old and not a fourteen year old. I then asked him if he still loved me. He looked into my eyes, and then studied the rest of me. When he looked into my eyes again, he said, "I will always love you. You are my destiny."
And it is those words that are my deepest comfort as I snuggle closer to Archie. Also in my mind is the thought that I would not exchange this moment for the entire time I have been away, nor anything that happened when I was there. In two months I will have loved this man for a year, and in that time, the love I have for him has grown. But that love has also changed. I have changed. When first we met, I was naïve, but I am not so now. I have discovered my true self; I have matured. Papa says I have the disposition of an adult. He is right. That is why I am what I am. Little boys do not seduce men; little boys do not plot and scheme to be lecherous; little boys do not know real love, and little boys do not anoint the man they love with two days of essence because they can think of no other way to become part of the man they love. From me, it was an act of primeval desire; to become part of the creature I love. Right now, my essence will have been absorbed into Archie, and part of me will grow within him. It is so beautiful what has happened between us. I have possessed him in body and soul. But it's not just a one way thing. I am Archie. His love stimulates my existence; he has impregnated me with his essence, which will now be absorbed into my own flesh and blood.
We are one.
Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]
* Some browsers may require a right click instead