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by Rafael Henry

Chapter 13

All change.

Life gets considerably better once the weather gets warmer in this neck of the world's woods. England in the spring. All green shoots, new growth and flowers everywhere. Time to break out into the great outdoors once more. Christmas is long gone, and those tedious seemingly interminable weeks and months of penetrating cold and dark evenings and mornings. Our rooms are barely heated in winter, no doubt to save money. We all get a couple of colds along the way so there's always the sounds of sneezing in corridors, coughing in cold rooms, and the odd emergency on the rugger pitch resulting in one of our hero hearty sports types walking proudly around the place on crutches being generally admired by staring little boys, still with their bottoms squeezed into their neat grey short trousers despite the chill, cold thighs and knees, fiddling fingers in pockets for warmth, all for this boy's heroic yet painful exploits, and all on our behalf. He has suffered for us indeed, as our paragon of physical virtue looks down at us worms with such a faint patronizing smile. But here is the ethos, the gold standard, the shining example of emerging manhood, to which we must aspire. Oh, that one day we shall all be like him . Bollocks. Still, we shall carry on fiddling in our pockets, idly, inducing that tempting stiffening, And the prospect of a nice feeling if we carry on long enough. If there's a trace of wetness at the end of it, literally, who cares?

Robbie has been ill. Very ill in fact with rheumatic fever poor boy.

It started with impetigo, a highly contagious bacterial and very unsightly skin condition around the mouth; usually. It's the kind of thing you can get when you're in close proximity to lots of other people, like this place. All boys together, lavatory and changing room miasmas, showering very close and often touching, accidentally of course, humidity and sweat, with plenty of other bodily contact going on, such as contact sports like rugger and so on, plus any other illicit activities boys get up to. Sounds ideal for a guy like me you might think, and definitely perfect for the transfer of nasty things like impetigo. Both Robbie and I got it, and I can tell you, there were a few rumours going around. Not amusing. The bottom line is that Robbie ended up with rheumatic fever, a less common consequence of impetigo apparently, but I escaped. He went home mid-November and only returned to the fold two weeks ago in early April. It was that bad. He's lost weight, has difficulty running around, can't play games either, speaks in whispers, and needs a whole lot of loving right now. On the plus side, he's grown, generally, and has started having involuntary nocturnal ejaculations due he says to a lack of energy to masturbate, and which he says are, and I quote; 'absolutely fantastic'. He sweats at night, so what with the semen on the sheets and sweat too, he gets his sheets changed every other day now, unlike the rest of us who have to go a week. He says he can't do it himself and I'm not allowed to touch him, more's the pity. But, he's as beautiful as ever, if not more so with his sexy husky and slightly deepened voice, albeit weaker than it was.

Some other things have changed too. We no longer have exclusive use of the Hut. In a way that's bad news, but in another, not at all bad.

I had lost my best mate for weeks, and the Reverend Roger Manning, our Chaplain, Protector of our Faith, such as it is, has been kind to me. I think he took to me very early on for some reason best known to himself. We've had long chats about loss, and renewal. I did some crying, as boys should if they'll allow themselves, and Roger was a comfort. In passing one evening, he mentioned Otta; again. It's not the first time he has. It turns out that Otta has made friends with Roger's adopted son, Tim who is about Otta's age. While Rob and I had no use for the Hut, Otta and Tim have made use of it as a play house and just like us, a refuge. We can still use the Hut as we did before Rob's illness, but we no longer have sole use. First come, first served seems like a good way to describe the new situation!

Roger had one other very creative suggestion too; gentle exercise for Robbie Madrigal in the form of very short jogging sessions around the perimeter path. Our school doctor approves, so I am to accompany Robbie on his twice daily jaunts, one before breakfast and the other between the end of school and Tea. I would never describe myself as an athlete, although if you looked at me when I'm down to my shorts, I might be able to convince you. They say I have nice legs, now almost bereft of last summer's colour, sadly.

The day after Rob got carted off to hospital leaving me in shock I might add, Otta and I spoke for the first time. Brushing past him at showers is one thing, and a nice thing too, but a conversation?

'I'm sorry about your friend Jon.' Says Otta, drying his hair. I wasn't expecting to hear a word from the boy I had seen any number of times, naked beside me drying himself. You just don't engage any boy in polite conversation at showers. You're there to get a particular thing done and nothing else.

'Oh, thanks. Who are you?' As if I didn't know.

'Otta Jenkins. I know you were friends. I've seen you together lots of times.'

'Have you now.'

'Yes. Is he ok now?'

'He's better thank you. He's been prescribed some exercise to strengthen his system. Been lying down too long I'm afraid. It's left him weakened unfortunately.'

Otta continues to dry himself, the towel now concentrated around his lower parts, and the principal and vert pretty player, as smooth as silk and creamy white. He looks away for a few moments before returning his rather blank gaze towards me. He's not finished yet.

'What sort of exercise?' He says, wrinkling up his nose as I study the face; those browny green eyes are rather fetching, and the darker freckles either side of his nose. I've not had him this close up before. Probably just as well.

'A bit of jogging Otta. Nothing too strenuous, at least to start with.'

'Can I come?'

He's still fiddling with his towel, mind in absentia. The younger boys, as weall know, often fiddle like that. Quite endearing really. So when he finally removes the towel, I get to see the result. Very nice; so nice indeed I forget myself and almost agree to his request.

'Too early for you Otta. You should still be snoozing at six thirty. You need your beauty sleep.'

'Come and wake me up then? Dorm six.'

'Are you serious?'

'Yes. Can I come? I want to.'

'Tomorrow then?'

I'm actually quite excited. When I admit to myself that I am excited, I'm slightly shocked. Surprised at myself. You had better be careful Jon.'

None of the other boys in the room, I counted ten, turned a hair when I gently shook Otta's shoulder the next morning at six twenty. All still safely asleep just as they should be. Otta came to quickly, swinging his legs out of the bed within seconds, naked from the waist down. Of course I looked. So sweet. Pulling his pyjama top over his head, he had his kit ready folded under his pillow, the usual white cotton shorts and tee shirt and opting for nothing underneath to exercise control. Robbie had already made his way down to the side door of our building and we met him there. Six thirty already.

Robbie is struggling with his fitness which is alarming poor. I doubt if he managed any more than a half mile at a very moderate pace, poor chap. But at least he was doing it, and he's a determined sod. Otta looked very much at ease, with his light frame, long legs and arms and almost permanent smile. Otta set the pace running just ahead of me and Robbie who was breathing heavily from the get-go. He does worry me. At the end of our first circuit, Rob decides enough is enough and peels off for the school gym under which are some changing rooms. Otta wants to continue and I agree to follow. It's been fun thus far and I'm not ready to stop.

Rob turns to me, hands on kness and puffing hard. Sweaty too.

'Go on Jon. Go with Otta. I'm fine. See you at Breakfast.'

Rob was still breathing hard when we left him. We ran four circuits of the Perimeter Path, passing the entrance to the Chaplain's garden; the small green door in the wall. Otta stops, hands on hips.

'Can we go in there Jon?' He asks, still smiling. He knows what's the other side of the door well enough.

'Yes; if you want.'

Otta grabs the key balanced as usual on the top of one of the iron wheels , unlocks the door, leaves it open for me, by which time he has thrown himself on the bed, hands behind his head, and guess what……still smiling. I stand there just looking.

He's patting the thin mattress beside him. The bed is arranged longways, that's to say that the head is under the end window, so I'm looking at his feet right now, knees raised high and wide apart. As I move forwards, I get the full picture. Well, this is something of him I've seen before, so no surprises. Otta pats the bed again.

'I'm not sure that's a good idea Otta.' I'm sure it isn't. He's looking at me, just a half-smile there now.

'Why not?'

'I'm not sure I want to tell you why not.'

'Are you ticklish Jon.'

'Yes, very.'

He keeps moving his knees left and right, and I keep looking. He's a naughty boy.

'Robbie's really handsome isn't he.' The boy says, waving his legs this way and that, creamy flesh everywhere.

'That's what he wants to be told, yes. He's always been a bit self-centred I'm afraid. But yes, he is. Very handsome.'

'Do you love him?'

'Yes, up to a point, but don't spread that around please or I'll have to……'

'Have to what?' Otta says with a smile.

'I'll have to do something about it. Take steps.'

'Like what? What steps? Anyway I know now. You've told me.'

'Yes, and you're not going to tell anyone…….are you.'

'No. Did Roger say anything about me to you?'

'No, not really.'

'I asked him to. Did he?'

'Why did you ask him? Is there some kind of problem then?'

'A bit. I have trouble making friends.'

'I'm surprised. Roger didn't say that.'

'Can I be friends with you Jon?'

He's put his knees together now, and they're still, finally. I'm looking at his rather serious expression; one that I suspect he's put on to win me over. His face is so nicely delineated , if that's the right word. Everything is very definite about this face that looks back at me, unsmiling now. The dark eyebrows, the precisely defined mouth and lips, the nose, and the eyes of course, with those long dark lashes. Goodness, what do I say now?

Too late Jon.

He's turned onto his tummy now, his head resting on his folded arms. Another ploy no doubt to win my sympathy. If he has no friends, which I doubt very much, then I am sympathetic. Of course I am.

So I'm looking at him now lying there. So what's the harm?

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