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by Jolyon Lewes

Chapter 4

Those days at the hotel near Lewes were three of the happiest of my life. During our morning showers Frederic gave me marvellous head massages which enhanced even further the joy of sharing our time together under the jets of hot water. Our days were spent enjoying the richest companionship, the evenings sitting side by side in our smart dinner suits eating picnics and watching the opera. We even found tears running down our cheeks during The Queen of Spades , just as Dad had predicted would happen to loving couples. Were Frederic and I now a loving couple?

Certainly our love-making in bed would qualify us as the most amorous of loving couples, and these were fantastic sessions, each of us improvising and having to use our imagination, neither of us having slept with anyone else. Indeed, it was probably our lack of experience that made the whole thing so marvellous, because we knew it was spontaneous and novel. Even without all the physical activity, it was wonderful just to lie with Frederic, while gazing lovingly into his eyes and stroking his smooth, firm body. And he seemed to derive just as much joy as I did. He no longer seemed so tired. I lost count of the number of times he said I was beautiful - or in our own special language - 'Mmmm, so tasty!'

When we left Lewes and returned to Surrey there was just one more day before Frederic and his parents departed for Paris. He didn't want to play tennis so we just hung around the garden. It was a rather melancholy last evening at home, with a quiet supper, after which the two fathers disappeared into the study for cigars and brandy, leaving two mothers and two boys in the drawing room, my sister having gone to bed. At my request, Frederic went to the piano and played that slow, dreamy jazz number again, Peace Piece . My mother asked me to sit beside her for a cuddle. There was something strange in the atmosphere. Frederic's mother was again reduced to tears by the beauty of her son's musicianship.

When Frederic had finished Mum said "That was absolutely beautiful. Now, listen, boys. The housekeeper's made up the spare bed in your room, Richard, so if Frederic wants to he could sleep there as it's the last night."

I tried to mask my glee but probably failed and Frederic said "Oooh, thank you! I would very much like that!"

The atmosphere lightened at once and Frederic began to play Percy Grainger's Country Gardens, very jauntily. Then the two fathers came in, looking rather pleased with themselves. The merger of their two companies would take months of hard work and there'd be no cruise in Mistral this autumn but to compensate, she'd be sailed to the Caribbean in November and our two families would fly to Barbados and spend three weeks on board over Christmas, cruising the Windward Islands!

"And no posh parties, so no need for smart clothes, boys," said Dad. "You have my promise!"

My joy was tempered with worry about the hot sun and Frederic's apparent allergy. "But won't it be too hot for Frederic? He'll have to spend all the time under cover!"

"I'll be alright, Richard," said Frederic. "Christmas in the Caribbean is kinder to me than summer in the Med. I know from experience. But thank you for your concern."

"Yes, thank you, mon petit ," said Frederic's mother. "What a thoughtful boy you are!"

That night, our last night together for months, we spent in cosy togetherness, cuddled up in my bed. We chatted in whispers about Christmas and I mentioned the possibility - in a generation's time - of our being joint chairmen of the company. Frederic said we'd better wait and see. I asked him if he'd meant what he'd said about the Caribbean sunshine.

"The Trade Winds make you feel less hot but the sun is still fierce. However, wearing long trousers in the Caribbean is preferable to shorts in Paris in mid-winter!"

There was only one answer to that and I felt round Frederic's waist, unbuttoned his pyjama trousers and pulled them down. I needed to feel his gorgeous flesh now - I couldn't wait till Christmas. We lay awake, kissing and cuddling and whispering sweet nothings. In the past three nights we'd had enough sex to fill a lifetime but tonight we couldn't make a noise so we were content to hold each other and let our love pass between our two bodies in a spiritual way rather than a physical one.

Frederic tried so hard to stay awake but at about one he slipped into sleep, his last words being after he'd kissed the hollow of my neck, where he'd licked the honey that night in Monte Carlo. "Mmmm, so tasty!" he murmured.

The rest of the school holidays passed without anything much of note happening. I played some tennis, we had family days out and I didn't have to wear that awful tweed suit again, with its infernal short trousers that itched so horribly. Frederic and I exchanged postcards or e mails every week or so, always ending our messages with 'MST' – the abbreviation for 'Mmmm, so tasty!' It seemed he missed me as much as I missed him. We couldn't wait for our three weeks together in Mistral at Christmas.

Just before the school term began, I received a gift from Frederic. It was a CD: Everybody Digs Bill Evans and he'd written a little note inside, which said 'Play Track 7 and think of me. MST.' The track in question was, of course, Peace Piece , the music he'd played so beautifully in our drawing room. I played that CD countless times, mostly at school but often at home. It was as tangible a link to him as I possessed.

Photos were tangible links of a kind and I had quite a collection of colour slides of Frederic standing and looking at the camera. One night, when I was alone in our house, I set up Dad's projector so that it threw the image onto the far wall of the hall, which was plain white. By adjustment I found I could get a life-size image of Frederic on the wall. I then poured two drinks and wandered into the hall, pretending it was really my beloved friend standing there. Offering him a glass I began to chat to him. It was a bit of a one-sided conversation and to anyone listening it would sound as if I was on the phone but it meant I could say nice things to him and look at his sweet face and lovely body. He was a bit static, it's true but I could project different slides and in some of them he wore a short-trousered suit and I could stand gazing at the beautiful image before me and getting a hard-on.

This process had its shortcomings but for me it worked and it was less crude than employing, for example, a blow-up, life-size dummy!

Then I returned to school and to the friends I had there. My future with Frederic seemed so certain that I didn't bother to develop any serious friendships. There were naturally some boys there who were good chums and some who were decidedly interesting from a sexual point of view. Obviously, I told nobody of what I'd been doing with Frederic in the hotel near Lewes and I listened patiently to other boys telling of their conquests with girls - and very occasionally, boys - without saying anything much in return. I was able to have some fine, solitary wanks while fantasising about some of the prettier boys at the school.

I began to think that Frederic was now far too important to wank over. It seemed to soil our friendship if all I did was lie in bed, with my head stuffed in the pillow, shagging the mattress, fuelled by thoughts of Frederic's gorgeous body. It was cheap and nasty. Far better to reserve my quiet hours for thinking about him, about his gentleness, his humour, his musicianship and his looks, and when I wanted to discharge semen, to think instead of a cute boy I'd seen in the changing room or, for that matter, who was sleeping across the dorm from me.

Half term was soon upon us; a week in late October when I'd be at home. It was nice to be at home but it also meant we were halfway to Christmas and seeing Frederic again. E mails between us showed we were both counting the days to our flight to Barbados, the start of three weeks of guaranteed bliss. It hadn't escaped my notice that I'd also be seeing Serge again, the sexiest steward on the planet.

One evening I telephoned Frederic. I must have caught him at a bad time because he sounded exhausted but he was the same wonderful boy I knew more intimately and loved more deeply than anyone else in the world. Something was wrong with the phone line because the line went dead just as he was about to utter 'Mmmm, so tasty!' I knew he was going to say that because even on the phone I could recognise that uniquely musical drawing-in of breath he always made before intoning our catch-phrase. I tried to reconnect but the line had obviously failed so I had to give up.

Thankfully, I didn't have to wear my concert suit at half term. My parents evidently thought my normal school uniform was sufficient for most excursions and for the smartest dinners I now had my dinner jacket. Oh, I did like my smart DJ! I'd worn it for my sixteenth birthday dinner earlier in October and had felt (and looked) the bee's knees. There were now just six weeks before I'd be with my best friend again, zooming across the Atlantic to Barbados, en-route for Mistral and all the luxury (and the sex) she could offer.

In early December my mother telephoned me at school to say I'd be coming home for the weekend because on Saturday we'd be going to Oxford to see what they called a 'difficult' opera but one that I would 'gain from.' My sister wouldn't be coming as she'd be in Wales with friends and in any case the opera wasn't 'for little girls.' We'd be having an early supper with important friends, who'd be joining us for the opera and we'd all be coming home afterwards. Oh and I'd have to wear my concert suit.

I argued and argued but Mum told me I would be wearing my concert suit and that was that. In the dorm that night I thought not of other boys but of myself. How could I get out of this one? Wearing that horrible suit would not only be uncomfortable but hideously humiliating. I was bound to be spotted by someone I knew.

At home on Friday I looked at my naked self in the bedroom mirror. Embarrassingly, I got a hard-on looking at my legs, at the acres of bare flesh I'd be forced to display the following evening. Oh, how people would stare! Could I pretend to be thirteen, maybe a French thirteen-year-old? No English boy my age had worn clothes like that for years but Frederic, now seventeen , still wore the briefest of short trousers on formal occasions, as evidenced by the photo on his family's latest Christmas card. With characteristically knitted brow, he was standing behind his seated mother and his partly visible right thigh was bare almost to the very top. Yes, I'd have to pretend to be French.

I sat on my bed and put my hands on my knees, drawing them slowly up my thighs. But what was this? Hairs! I had little fair hairs on my legs! How come I'd never noticed before? They must have grown very recently. I looked closely at my legs. Hairs on my shins, too. Well, those would be hidden by the long socks Mum wanted me to wear but the ones on my thighs would really stand out. How could I possibly look thirteen with hairy legs? I'd have to shave them!

I'd been given an old-fashioned razor for my birthday which I hadn't yet used as my face never needed shaving but when I had my bath I carefully shaved my legs from just below the top of my thighs, where the hairs started, down to my knees. On emptying the bath I saw the sides coated with hundreds of tiny hairs so had to clean it properly in case I aroused suspicion. My thighs now felt quite sore but I convinced myself that with legs as smooth as a baby's bottom, I'd pass off to the general public as a thirteen-year-old French schoolboy, a thought that gave me a hearty erection.

On Saturday, when it was time to get ready to go, all bravado had deserted me. I was deeply ashamed of my shaven thighs and terrified of the prospect of having them on display all night. Last-minute pleadings with my parents to wear my school suit failed so off came the boxers, on went the tiny briefs and then the hated concert suit. The tweed shorts hadn't magically grown any longer and, being unlined, felt horribly itchy. When I'd pulled up the zip I was aware of a vast length of bare thigh. I let go and the damned shorts began to slip down over my hips. I could hardly spend all evening holding them up myself so the braces had to go on. They held the shorts frighteningly high but would at least stop them falling down. I remembered what Frederic had said about having the braces as tight as possible but I just couldn't bring myself to follow his example. I wished I could use a belt rather than braces but there were no loops for a belt to pass through.

I caught my reflection in the full-length mirror. An unmistakeable tan-line showed, four inches below the hems of my shorts! That damned tan-line, produced during the summer by my tennis shorts, accentuated the frightening brevity of my tweed shorts. Nobody mentioned tan-lines at school, probably because in our tiny PE shorts most of us had visible tan-lines, the result of wearing longer shorts in high summer than we were obliged to wear for PE or cross country in a freezing English winter. I tied my tie, put on my jacket and went downstairs, only to receive a kiss from my mother for looking 'so sweet.'

"Can you guess who might be the important friends we're meeting later, darling?"

"Is it anyone I know, Mum?" I asked, morosely, not really caring.

"Well, it's Frederic and his parents! We wanted to keep it secret but I can't wait to tell you! They're flying over for the opera - and an important meeting on Monday, of course. So they're all coming back here afterwards and Frederic and his mother will fly home to Paris tomorrow! He can sleep in your room, if you don't mind."

"Oh!" was all I could say but inside I was suddenly alive with joy. I'd be seeing my darling boy that very evening! And he'd be staying the night! Oh! I couldn't wait! I could bear any embarrassment if Frederic was there to share it with me. I was incredibly happy!

"Why didn't you tell me before, Mum?"

"Didn't want you to get too excited, darling, in case it put you off concentrating on your schoolwork. Now you know why we want you to wear your concert suit."

Oh, how well do mothers know their sons. If Dad had said that, I'd have been really embarrassed but coming from Mum, well, I just went up and gave her a big hug.

I hadn't time to recover from this news when Dad came out of his study. "Time to go! You know what Friday traffic's like. Mustn't be late at The Randolph!"

Sitting in the eight-seater Peugeot on our way towards the M25, all I could think about was seeing my Frederic again, sitting next to him, watching this 'difficult ' opera and then, best of all, spending the night with him in my bedroom. It was all so exciting. I asked the name of the opera we were going to see.

"It's Billy Budd ," said Dad, "by Benjamin Britten. It's a bit serious but Welsh National Opera are fantastic so it'll be worth watching."

Having seen the film, with Terence Stamp playing Billy, I knew the plot involved cruelty, whippings, murder and then Billy gets hanged. Just the sort of thing to watch with my boyfriend! I felt my cock hardening. This was going to be a great evening.

We were heading northwest along the M40 when the car-phone rang. Dad answered it.

"Oh, hello, François - yes - no - the wretched thing probably didn't have a signal - oh - yes - oh no, I'm so sorry...."

On he went for a while longer. François was Frederic's Dad. They weren't coming. I went from ecstasy to misery in two seconds flat. When Dad had finished he explained.

"Something really important's cropped up and they can't come. He tried us earlier but couldn't get through. He's phoned the theatre to cancel and we'll be coming home without them. What a pity! I'm sorry Richard; you must have been looking forward to seeing Frederic again. But it can't be helped."

I could tell Dad was now in a bad mood. Sitting sullenly in the car I felt the itching increasing in intensity. I'd thought the long socks would be uncomfortable enough but that was nothing compared to the way the tweed material of the shorts was chafing my skin. I was constantly scratching the uppermost parts of my thighs. No wonder Frederic hated his tweed suit more than all his others.

Pre-theatre supper at The Randolph was a rather morose affair. Dad was grumpy because his important meeting with Frederic's father had been postponed and I was grumpy because I was in my concert suit for no good reason. More than anything, of course, I was mortified that my unexpected meeting with Frederic was no longer to happen; I was so miserable I almost forgot to feel self-conscious in that bloody concert suit.

"You look lovely, darling," said Mum, reminding me of my ridiculous appearance. "And just think: a fortnight from now and we'll be in Mistral , cruising the Caribbean!" As if the thought had ever left my head!

I had my long raincoat with me and although the weather was dry and mild, I wore it for the brisk walk to the Apollo Theatre to give me a few minutes of modesty. We arrived with less than ten minutes to curtain-up, which at least meant we could go straight to our seats and I wouldn't have to hang around the foyer for everyone to point and snigger at.

The next part of this chapter is narrated by Mike Beresford, a young theatre-goer

In early December 1992 my dearest aunt had lent me her cottage in Oxfordshire for a long weekend while she was away in New Zealand. "Treat the place as your own, Mike darling," she'd said. "I'll see the cellar is well-stocked."

On the Friday I'd discovered that the opera Billy Budd was playing in Oxford and the following evening I arrived at the theatre and managed to get a last-minute ticket as somebody had cancelled. It was the first time I'd seen anything by Benjamin Britten and this theatre was far from home so I didn't expect to see anyone I knew.

I didn't want to be identified showing interest in music by a gay composer and I especially didn't want to be seen at an opera with such a blatant homoerotic theme. In my intended profession it was important to project a squeaky-clean image. The story of Billy Budd, the young sailor bullied by his Master at Arms and then hanged for killing him, had enthralled me since I'd seen the film as a teenager at boarding school. Billy was loved by the rest of the crew, not least by the ship's captain, who was nearly destroyed by the weight of the decision he was forced to make to execute poor Billy.

I was only a first-year Cambridge undergraduate so why the sensitivity? Well, my ambition was to join the Foreign Office and I'd already made contacts there. I was told that my career prospects would be enhanced if I 'kept my nose clean' and wasn't 'one of those shirtlifters.' As I'd never been interested in girls – at least, not sexually – I resolved to be asexual. And in my manner I was.

Yet I knew I had to see Billy Budd , if I could get a ticket but I'd have to keep the news to myself. That wouldn't be difficult, as I had no really close friends with whom to discuss these things. I'd turned eighteen in October and had a small car, a Peugeot 105 called Doris. So, there I was, looking forward to seeing what Britten's opera might do for me. I took my seat and buried my head in the programme, making myself as inconspicuous as possible. It seems silly now but I imagined there to be spies everywhere. At five minutes to go my row was full but for the three seats immediately to my left.

Then the occupants of the seats arrived: a smartly-dressed man and woman of about forty, with their son, a tall, fair-haired teenager in a long raincoat. As I stood to let them pass in front they thanked me, the boy saying 'Merci' in a strangely husky whisper. They sat down, the son in the seat next to mine. I felt a little frisson of excitement.

The theatre was very warm. I heard the mother hiss to her son "Take your coat off!"

" I don't want to," he said, in a very English accent.

" You will take your coat off! Stand up and take it off, before the lights go down."

"But Mum...."

"Do as your mother tells you!" This was the father, leaning to his right and speaking quietly but emphatically.

With a deep sigh, the boy stood up to remove his coat, to reveal a dark blue, tweed suit - with short trousers! Short trousers of truly thrilling brevity! I noticed he was wearing knee-socks of dark blue wool, thick with little bristles. I suspected he'd rather keep the coat folded on his lap but his mother hissed "Put it underneath!" and with a sigh of disapproval he stuffed it under his seat before preparing to sit, tugging at the hems of his shorts to try to stop them from rising as he sat down. That little gesture was pointless as by the time he was seated, the shorts had risen to expose almost the entire length of his long thighs. He sat rigidly, his hands clasping his knees.

" Don't get stroppy, Richard," said his mother. "Make the best of it. Just enjoy the show."

" But you know how I hate this concert suit!" said the boy, in a deeper voice. I'd misjudged his age; to be wearing shorts he must surely be at most thirteen and yet his voice gave him another year or two. So he might have been as old as fifteen. I found it all very exciting.

" New suit next autumn, Richard, when you're seventeen," said the mother. "Now be quiet, it's starting."

" But it's so embarrassing," muttered Richard, almost to himself. So he was only two years younger than me!

I tried to concentrate on the opera but was captivated by the pale thighs to my left. They seemed to be smooth and hairless. Richard kept forgetting to keep his hands on his knees and each time he shifted in his seat his shorts rode even higher. His socks must have been itchy because he kept leaning forward to scratch his calves and to run his finger around the inside of the tops of the socks, which were biting into his flesh. He was also scratching under the hems of his shorts. Richard was not a boy entirely at ease with what he was wearing.

Towards the end of Act 1 Scene 1 the Novice was to be flogged. The atmosphere in the theatre was electric. Like Richard and every other member of the audience, I concentrated on the action. Richard was leaning forward, enthralled. The flogging took place off stage but then, to my amazement, the young Novice staggered on stage, wailing (in perfect tune) and entirely naked. He carried his clothes in a bundle before him, which gave him a little modesty in front but when he turned to stumble upstage we were faced with his back and his bare bottom criss-crossed with livid, red whip marks. It was terrifically dramatic.

Slight movement to my left alerted me to Richard's left hand. He was rubbing his groin. He was clearly highly aroused and was doing what all healthy boys do when aroused. I was embarrassed for him and leant forward to try to stop myself staring at him. Scene 1 closed and Richard took control of himself but now his shorts had climbed even further up his thighs. He leant back in his seat, raised his bottom and yanked the hems of his shorts down as far as he could, which wasn't far. He shot me a glance laden with self-consciousness. I gave him a benign smile.

For the next two scenes Richard managed to resist rubbing his groin but kept putting his fingers inside the legs of his shorts to scratch where the tweed cloth must have been irritating his skin. He sometimes let his right leg move in my direction and for a few minutes our knees were so close they were almost touching. With two beautiful, bare, male thighs beside me I was struggling to concentrate on the opera and when the interval began I had a seriously firm erection.

I'd intended to go for an interval drink but sat tight, for two reasons: I wanted to be close to Richard's shimmering thighs for a while longer and if I'd stood up, my erection would have been plain to see. Two girls selling ice cream stood at the front of the stalls and a queue quickly formed. Richard's father leant over and passed his son a fiver.

"Would you nip down there and buy three ice creams?"

I could feel Richard tensing up. "Do I have to?"

" Yes, dear," said his mother."It's really very warm in here. Go on, now."

Richard stood up, turned about and passed in front of me, tugging down the legs of his shorts and giving me what I can only describe as a look of desperation. His cast his eyes down, reached the aisle and hastened to join the queue. He was standing by the stage, tall, slim and blushing, with what looked like a yard of bare leg showing. His socks had slipped down, so the top half of his lower legs had joined his upper legs to present an eye-catching display of pale flesh. And eye-catching it jolly well was. People were looking at him and didn't he know it. He kept tugging pointlessly on the meagre two inches of his short trousers that showed below his jacket. Much lower down on each thigh was an obvious tan-line, about four inches above the knee.

Richard's mother turned to me to ask if I was enjoying the opera. Startled, I took my lustful gaze off Richard and said I thought the production intriguing and beautifully performed. She smiled in agreement.

"We've come from Surrey to see it," she said."Have you come far?"

" Well, yes, I live miles away," I said truthfully but without giving anything away. "But I'm staying at my aunt's and she lives not far from here."

I mentioned the name of the village and Richard's mother said "Oh, I have a good friend who lives there: Daphne Beresford."

"That's my aunt!" I said, before I'd had time to think.

Oh hell: now my trip to see Billy Budd could be all round the family within weeks.

When Richard got back with the ice creams his mother, having first scolded him for having let his socks fall down, introduced me. "This is Mike Beresford, darling. Would you believe it - he's a friend of the family! Pop down and buy him an ice cream, please."

When I saw the expression on Richard's sweet face I instantly said thanks but I really didn't want an ice cream. With obvious relief, Richard sat down beside me and ate his ice cream. I'd been hoping to have a conversation with him and now I could, because we'd been properly introduced. It seemed incredible that he wasn't much younger than me. We spoke about the opera but I could tell he was as cagey as I was to say too much about the theme so we discussed the music and the very impressive set, depicting the man-of-war HMS Indomitable . Then, as he disdainfully pulled up his socks on a reminder from his mother, I asked him about school and told him what I was doing at Cambridge.

When it was time for Act 2 to begin Richard had relaxed considerably and I think he liked my company. He was a thoroughly nice boy and I'd loved to have got to know him better but we'd be going our separate ways after the show so I'd just have to make the best of the close proximity of him and his pale, twinkling thighs while I could. I knew I'd be thinking hard of Richard as I lay in bed that night.

As the opera progressed there was so much drama that Richard forgot to scratch his legs. It really was a fantastic performance and one you just couldn't describe to anyone who wasn't there. It was inevitable but disappointing that Richard and his parents left straight after the curtain calls were over as they had to drive all the way to Guildford. I watched as Richard's bare legs became the focus of many people's attention as he hastened out of the theatre. I swear I wasn't the only man with an erection.

Doris was a mile away but it was a dry, clear December night and I enjoyed the walk, my brain buzzing with thoughts both musical and carnal. Richard was the boy I'd dreamed of for ages and now we'd never meet again.

Once in Doris, I made my way out of the city, aiming for the A40 eastbound. Traffic was unusually quiet and I was soon on the dual carriageway, making good speed. I'd hardly gone a mile, however, before blue flashing lights ahead suggested an accident. As I got closer I saw the road wasn't blocked but traffic was being allowed through on the outer lane only and by the time I passed the overturned white van on the hard shoulder I was moving at a crawl. Then I passed two ambulances, a police car and a fire-engine. Obviously quite a serious accident. The second vehicle in the crash was one of those people carrier things and it was on its four wheels but with its side crunched in and firemen were using cutting gear to get access to the driver's seat.

I was now free to accelerate but I saw an astonishing sight. Sitting on the grass verge, attended by someone in dayglo orange, was a boy with a silvery space blanket wrapped loosely around his shoulders. It was Richard! How could I tell? Well, how many young men were there in Oxfordshire that night in jacket and tie and with shorts that left their legs entirely bare?

What could I do? A policeman was waving me on. What if I was mistaken? How could I help? The emergency services had it all under control. If it was Richard he didn't seem to be injured but they'd be treating him for shock. I wouldn't be allowed near him. They'd think I was just some ghoul, hoping for a closer look. On second thoughts, I hadn't seen his face properly, so it could be anyone ; some late-night reveller who'd lost his trousers, probably. I had to drive on.

Thirty minutes later I was in my aunt's cottage. That accident had disturbed me and I poured myself a glass of water. Could it have been Richard and his parents? He'd said they had a big car, for the friends they'd planned to meet but who hadn't been able to make it. It was a big car. They would have used the A40 eastbound. It was all beginning to add up. My heart was pounding. There was no way I could just go to bed; I had to find out.

By midnight I was at the hospital. My head was spinning when I'd been introduced to Richard and I couldn't remember his surname but I could ask at A & E if any road casualties had arrived in the last hour. I made for the reception desk. Seated in rows were people who'd come to grief during the evening and were waiting to be patched up, or despatched. Some were plainly very drunk. It was very hot in there. Then, in a seat right at the back, I saw him.

He was hunched forward, hugging his knees and staring at the floor, like a nervous schoolboy waiting outside the Headmaster's study. His tie was loosened and his socks were down at his ankles. His bare thighs were shining whitely in the hard light of the waiting room. As I walked towards him a man with bucket and mop approached him from the other side, leering horribly.

"You bin to a fancy-dress party, ducks? Jus' for gay boys, wuz it? Cor, let's 'ave a look at yer!"

Richard looked up with a pitiful expression on his lovely face and several people turned to stare at him. An old man muttered 'bloody queers' and another spat viciously on the floor. My heart on fire, I stopped beside Richard and put my hand on his shoulder.

"Richard, it's Mike Beresford. What's been going on? I saw the crash. Are you injured? And your parents...."

Richard took two seconds to recognise me and then said his parents were being treated for cuts and bruises and needed monitoring following mild concussion. He thought they'd probably be released the next afternoon. As for himself, he'd escaped injury but had to wait in the hospital until his parents were free to go. There wasn't a bed for him - he'd just have to sit in the waiting room. I asked if I could do anything to help. His answer thrilled me beyond measure.

"Oh, Mike, please take me away from this place! I'm dying of shame!"

Later, in my aunt's cottage, I was making cheese on toast and Richard and I were drinking tea. We'd been to see his parents who were more than happy for me to take Richard back to the cottage. They hoped to drive home in a courtesy car on Sunday evening and would pick up Richard on their way. He'd have to spend Sunday night at home and go back to school on Monday.

"Thank you, Mike," Richard's mother had said. "You're a real Godsend. Richard couldn't have coped with spending all night and most of tomorrow hanging about in the waiting room, poor lamb."

Richard was ravenous and ate two helpings of cheese on toast, followed by some cake I'd bought as a treat for Sunday afternoon. When he wasn't eating he was scratching inside his ridiculous little shorts. The colour had returned to his pretty face. And pretty it certainly was! He began to talk about the accident, which wasn't as serious as it had looked. The car was a write-off but nobody was seriously injured, not even the van driver.

"Well, it's past two o'clock," I said. "I should think you need some sleep. There's only one bed but you can have it and I'll crash out downstairs."

"You know what I'd like most of all, Mike? I'm not sleepy but I'm dying to get out of this bloody suit. These stupid shorts are torturing me! You haven't got a dressing gown, have you?" He stood up to remove his jacket and I saw the braces attached to his shorts.

"Sorry," I said, "I've only got my overnight bag here but my aunt's bound to have one. I'll nip up and have a look."

In the bathroom I found a flimsy little cotton dressing gown and the thought of it clothing an otherwise naked Richard gave me an instant erection. I took it downstairs and gave it to him.

"I don't mean to be a wimp," he said, taking off his tweed shorts and handing them to me, "but how would you like to have to dress like this? It's bloody humiliating and the cloth itches like hell."

For such a tiny garment, the shorts were remarkably heavy and the tweed cloth thick and very hairy. I was amazed to see no lining at all. "Christ! I'd hate to wear anything like this!" I said. "Why do your parents make you?"

Richard, comfortable at last, began to explain but I interrupted. "Look, we don't have to surface until midday, earliest. I haven't any beer but do you like wine?" He nodded enthusiastically.

We sat in the warm kitchen, drinking my aunt's wine, while Richard told me about his friend Frederic, the yacht in the Mediterranean, the imminent merger of the two businesses and that my seat in the theatre had originally been Frederic's but for the French family's need to cancel at very short notice. I learnt that Frederic, now seventeen, always wore short trousers when dressing formally and that was why Richard had to follow suit, out of respect to Frederic, his elder by one year.

"So, were you pretending to be French?" I asked. "You said ' merci ' when you moved past me to your seat. "

"Oh God, yes," said Richard, blushing. "No English boys wear clothes like that so I tried to pretend to be French. It didn't fool you for long!"

He was clearly embarrassed so I changed the subject. "So what did you think of the opera?" I asked, pouring Richard his third glass of wine.

"Oh, poor Billy! Why did he have to die?"

"Yes and poor Captain Vere, too," I said. "Making that decision to hang Billy wrecked him."

We chatted about Billy's friends on board Indomitable and how Billy seemed to forgive Captain Vere for sentencing him to death. This conversation led Richard back to Frederic and he said how disappointed he was that Frederic hadn't made it to Oxford. I kept private the selfish thought that had Frederic made it I wouldn't have found myself seated next to Richard in the theatre. I was rapidly becoming obsessed with Richard.

The dressing gown didn't meet at the front, so as Richard sat on the kitchen chair, his bare legs were fully exposed - much as they'd been all the previous evening. With his fair hair, grey eyes, beautiful face and a body to die for, he looked the picture of troubled perfection. Vulnerable and very, very sexy.

"Can I tell you a secret, Mike?" said Richard, putting his empty glass on the table. I assured him he could. "It's just that Frederic and I are more than just friends. I think about him all the time . Can't help it. It's the way I am. And he feels the same. Is it wrong, Mike?"

I reached over and took Richard's hand. "No, of course it's not wrong. It's actually rather beautiful. Friendship is the most valuable thing in the world."

"It's more than that," said Richard, tears welling. "We love each other." He began to cry, gently and silently.

I wanted to give him a big cuddle but managed to restrain myself. "Look, it's past four, why don't you go to bed and we can chat more when you get up. Even better - I think my jeans and sweater will fit you so you won't have to wear your concert suit tomorrow."

Richard went unsteadily upstairs and I made sure he was safely tucked in before I made to go downstairs. "Goodnight, sleepyhead," I said but he was already asleep. The most beautiful boy I'd seen in ages was asleep in my bed wearing nothing but a tiny pair of briefs. "Goodnight, darling," I added, under my breath.

Richard resumes the narrative

I awoke in a double bed wearing only the wretched little briefs that went with my concert suit. Downstairs a radio was playing and I heard a man's voice singing along to the music. Oh yes, it was Mike. He must have slept in a chair or something. Next thing I knew, he brought me a cup of tea, and sat on the bed to ask me how I felt. The events of the night before came flooding back. "I must see if my parents are OK."

"Don't worry, Richard; they've just phoned and they're fine. They're coming to pick you up at four. That's in two hours, after they've bought themselves some clothes. Your Dad's just off to the Oxford John Lewis in a bloodstained suit and he's half-expecting to be apprehended by Chief Inspector Morse!"

I smiled in relief and my smile broadened when he showed me the jeans, sweatshirt and pullover he wanted to lend me. Ten minutes later I was downstairs, eating toast and feeling normal at last, in normal clothes. He said I looked far nicer in his clothes than he ever did. I recalled our conversation about Frederic and Mike's sympathetic response to what I'd been saying. It struck me that he, too, might prefer boys to girls, especially when in an unguarded moment he said I looked 'absolutely scrumptious.' He wasn't bad-looking himself, as it happens.

He gave me his address in Cambridge so we knew where to send the clothes I was wearing. "If you ever need to talk, Richard, here's my number and e mail address. You never know - things might not always go right between you and Frederic and if that happens, I promise I'll always be ready to listen. And to understand."

He ruffled my hair and then, as if he'd realised it had made me feel like a little boy, took my hand and shook it firmly, not letting go until he'd looked long and deeply into my eyes. I had the impression he knew me better than I knew myself and it gave me a warm, bubbly feeling inside.

My parents, looking slightly battered and oddly modern in their new, casual clothes, collected me and we drove home to Guildford. Dad had already told my school I wouldn't be back before Monday lunchtime. Once at home, my horrible concert suit joined Mike's clothes in the laundry bin and I put on my own clothes. Dad spent a long time on the phone to Frederic's Dad and when I asked to speak to Frederic Dad said I couldn't because he wasn't there. So I sent him an e mail instead, signing off as usual with 'MST.'

As Dad's Monday morning meeting had been cancelled he drove me back to school himself. He was unusually quiet but I assumed he was still annoyed about the cancelled meeting. So much hung on the merger of his company with Frederic's father's. When he dropped me at school he called me 'old chap' instead of Richard. Was it because I was growing up?

On the penultimate morning of the school term my Housemaster took me aside and said that owing to unforeseen circumstances my father would be collecting me that lunchtime and taking me home. No details were available except that I'd need to have my passport. It was only five days to our flight to Barbados and I hoped nothing had happened to jeopardise those three wonderful weeks when Frederic and I would be together all the time, day and night.

Dad picked me up in the BMW and we headed east. "Look, old chap, we're not going home but to Heathrow. Mum's going to meet you there and you're both going to Paris, tonight. The thing is, old chap, Frederic isn't well. He's not well at all. He's asked to see you ... before ... before it's ..."

But I'd already broken down and was howling, howling like a baby.

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