Steven had met Joe at a time when he was on the rebound from an affair with an older man. Their very incompatibility, the attraction of opposites that had drawn them together was after less than a year, to make the man so impatient with him that one day he simply packed Steven's clothes into a suitcase, gave him twenty pounds and told him to leave. Steven, incredibly hurt, hurled the money in his face, got on a bus at random and found himself a furnished room at the end of the route near the bus garage, then went out to the nearest pub and got drunk.
This was to become a regular thing at weekends. During the week he signed up at a building sight and worked himself half to death as a labourer, in an effort to tire himself out enough to be able to sleep at night. It took time, but gradually he got over it and began to take up occasional offers of casual gratification, though he was careful not to let anyone get close to him. He was only twenty three and appealed to many, who thought of him as rough trade because of his job.
In reality he was a gentle, caring person, fond of children and would have made a first class father had nature directed him towards women instead of men. His favourite fantasy was to meet a divorced bisexual man who had children, with whom he would set up house. He knew that this would never happen but it comforted him, and eased the pain of his loneliness.
He met Joe one Saturday evening when he was feeling particularly down. Work had gone badly, he was lonely, upset and unhappy, so he turned to his customary cure and started to drink himself into a stupor with no regard for the consequences. He was a quiet drinker, who apart from a tendency to sing Irish songs in a soft, attractive tenor voice, never got aggressive or obnoxious, and was tolerated by the bar staff on those occasions. When they felt he'd had enough, they would call a minicab and pay the driver to take him home. He always turned up, shamefaced, as soon as he had recovered, to pay them back, and gratefully stand a round of drinks.
This particular evening seemed to be following the same pattern as the bar staff, who liked him, regretfully supplied him with new drinks as fast as he called for them. When Joe came in, he zeroed in on Steven straight away, and gradually moved closer until he was sitting beside him at the counter. Both of them being of Irish extraction, it didn't take long before they were buying each other drinks, and were soon boon companions in the age old manner of drinkers everywhere.
Joe, liked the looks of the muscular young labourer, drew him out and quickly discovered his predilections. He was just in the mood for him, having been turned down as usual by Martha the night before, and then failed to connect with a handsome lad a couple of pubs back. Biding his time he waited until Steven could barely walk, then assuring the staff that he would see him home, called a cab. The barmen, aware of his intentions, smiled cynically and hoped that the two of them would enjoy themselves.
As it turned out, by the time they got to his room and Joe had manhandled him eagerly into bed, Steven was too comatose to do anything at all and Joe had to content himself with falling asleep next to him on the narrow bed. It was the first time that he had stayed out all night, a sign of his growing frustration and estrangement from his wife, but he had his reward when they woke in the morning. Steven was an unselfish lover who gave himself completely, held nothing back in marked contrast to Martha, and Joe responded gratefully to his generosity. They saw the best of each other that morning and stayed in bed until midday, before reluctantly going their separate ways.
What had started as casual sex gradually developed into something more serious. To Joe, frustrated and unwelcome in his wife's life and bed, it was at first purely a physical release never withheld by his partner, while to Steven, Joe was old enough to be attractively dominating and young enough to be sufficiently sexually enthusiastic for him to quite literally have his hands full. Learning something of Joe's marriage, though nothing about the existence of his son, he was careful never to refuse his sexual favours, not that he found this at all difficult. They were sexually compatible, and Steven's refreshingly generous nature gradually led them into a deeper relationship, and later, to genuine love for each other.
Steven knew all about Joe's dual nature but never allowed it to worry him. He was a sensible as well as an attractive young man, and he worked on the theory that if he didn't want Joe chasing after other people, it was up to him to keep him so drained that he would have neither the need, time nor the energy to do so. Martha was a salutary example and he was not going to make the same mistake.
On the whole, he was ready to put up with Joe's occasional flings with women if they assuaged a need that he himself couldn't satisfy, provided that he was the one and only man in Joe's life. And generally this worked well. There were incidents, especially early on in the relationship, but Joe was honest about them and Steven was able to hide his inevitable hurt by telling himself that if he loved Joe, which he did, he would have to accept him as he was.
For himself, only once did he ever go with anyone else and that was when he realised that if he didn't, Joe was going to feel even more guilty about his own lapses. That he enjoyed the sex went without saying, but it was not the same, and he was careful to limit it to mutual masturbation, to the disappointment of his partner who had wanted rather more from him. Steven was a very sensible young man.
As Joe began to spend more of his time with Steven he started getting careless, and was on the point of suggesting that he move in with him permanently when the affair was discovered by Martha.
It came about when they happened to be passing the house one afternoon and Joe decided to collect some clean clothes. Steven was to ask himself afterwards whether Joe had unconsciously wanted to be caught, as a way of forcing himself to break free of a marriage that had been intolerable for years. Whatever the reason, Steven was curious to see the home Joe had shared with Martha for so long and went inside with him, was hurried up to the bedroom, pounced on and stripped before he even had time to take anything in. Not that there was much to see. Martha was not sentimental and there were no pictures of Martin on display as she kept the obligatory school photos in a drawer with other unimportant papers.
Joe had not had sex for a couple of days and was so turned on by the thought of doing it to Steven in the bed where he had so seldom managed to do it to his wife, that he threw caution to the winds and climaxed inside his lover with a passion and depth of pleasure that he had not felt since he was a lot younger. When they talked it over afterwards, Steven admitted that it had been something of a turn on for him as well.
After they recovered, Joe collected the clothes he wanted which Steven packed neatly into a suitcase. As they were going downstairs Joe decided he wanted some of his music cassettes from the sitting room. Turning to hand them to Steven who was looking young and attractive, Joe was overcome with lust again and in spite of his laughing protests, had Steven's t-shirt off and was pulling down his jeans and kissing his stomach when Martha walked into the room.
Joe knew instantly that this was the end. All he could feel was relief as he stood up, kissed Steven on the lips, patted his rear, and told him to get dressed. Then he turned to his wife.
"So now you know Martha."
Those were the last words he spoke for some time until what Martha was saying about their marriage made him lose his temper.
Steven made one attempt to get Joe out of the house, but got such a snarl of rage from Martha that he retreated into a corner, leaned casually against the wall and prepared to wait it out, feeling that it was probably better for them both to get everything out of their systems once and for all. In any case, it was quite obvious that neither of them was going to take any notice of him. He was wondering if they would actually attack each other physically when they momentarily ran out of breath, and a small boy walked innocently into the room.
As soon as he realised who he was, Steven knew that he should have done anything, even dragged Joe out of the house by force, rather than allow the boy be subjected to this scene. He had a brief flash of resentment that Joe had never told him about having a son, but forgot it after taking in the look on Martin's face. His only thought then was to get the child out of the room as quickly as possible. As it was obvious that neither of his parents had even noticed the boy, it was up to him. One touch of the rigid body told him that Martin wouldn't be able to walk so he scooped him up in his arms and carried him out of the room.
When he and Joe finally left the house they stopped at the first pub they came to. Joe was still extremely angry but gradually calmed down after his first pint, and Steven felt able to ask what had happened after he had removed Martin from the scene. This produced another tirade, but eventually he was calm enough to give Steven a resume which had ended with Martha ordering him out of her house and never to come back. Steven, though he had never been jealous of Martha, was delighted that the final break seemed to have come at last. He knew Joe would be happier with him than he had ever been with her. The only thing to take the edge off his pleasure was the boy. He had been attracted to him and felt bad about leaving him alone with his mother in her present mood. From what he had seen, it didn't appear as if the kid was going to get much affection or love from her.
"Why didn't you tell me about Martin, Joe?" he asked.
Joe looked uncomfortable. "I wasn't sure how you'd take it," he said at length. "You know that most gay guys don't want that sort of responsibility and are put off if you tell them you have a kid. They don't like the idea that you've been sleeping with a woman, they want you to be one hundred percent gay all the time. I know it's different with you, at least I know that now. But we got along so well I didn't want to spoil things between us. So... " he shrugged and looked silently into his glass.
Steven shook his head slightly, smiling ruefully. Little do you know, he thought, it would have drawn me to you even faster.
"So what are we going to do about him?"
Joe gave him a puzzled look. "What do you mean, what are we going to do about him? We're not going to do anything about him."
"He's your son, Joe."
"Well of course he's my son. He's about the only thing that woman ever gave me. And I had to work bloody hard enough to put him into her."
"Joe," Steven said, put off a little by his crudity. "You're not just going to leave him with her are you?"
"Well of course I am. What else can I do?"
"Jesus Joe, she's going to treat him like hell after this. You didn't see her with him like I did. She was like a mad woman."
"There's nothing I can do about it however she decides to treat him. Whether he's my son or not doesn't make the slightest bit of difference. She's his mother. You can't get away from that and anyway, he's probably better off growing up with her than with me."
Steven was silent for a moment as he thought this over then said slowly, "Don't you love him?" The thought was intolerable to him.
Joe's voice and face softened. "Of course I love him, but you don't understand because you haven't thought about it. All you see at the moment is an upset kid whose gone through a bad experience. And yes, I'm sorry that between us, his mother and me, we put him through it. I wish it hadn't happened but now that it has, believe me there's nothing I can do about it. What is done is done. Use your brains Stevie and think about it. Do you seriously believe I could have him to live with me after this? His mother's a lawyer for Christ's sake. A public bloody prosecutor who knows the law inside out, upside down and backwards. And as well as that, and even more important, she's his mother. It doesn't matter if you or I or anyone else thinks she's a bad one. The fact is, she is his mother,and that's the only thing that counts. She's got all the rights and she knows it. Now look at the other side, look at me. I'm his father sure, but I'm also someone who screws men, who's been screwing you for Christ's sake! Do you think any court in this whole fucking country would give me custody of him, even if I swore blind to give you up? Come off it boyo, I'll never even see him again. I won't be allowed to visit him even if I ask. Forget it Stevie, this is Britain, not Holland or Scandinavia. It's liberal, tolerant Britain, unless you happen to be black or gay or different to everybody else. This is one case that no-one except Martha would win and that's all there is to it."
Steven winced. "If you really love him couldn't you at least have come up and said goodbye to him?"
"It's because I love him that I didn't Stevie. I can guess what she was like when she found you up there with him. What do you think would've happened if I'd followed her up? Would you have liked him to be put through the sort of scene she'd have created? Again? He'd had enough with what he heard downstairs and he didn't need any more." He paused for a moment before continuing. "You know I'm right about that because that's the reason you got him out of the sitting room so quickly. And Stevie," he reached over and took both of Steven's hands in his, "I don't know what you did for the kid once you got him upstairs, but thank you. And thank you for taking him out in the first place."
Steven shook his head at him sadly, "All I did was hold him Joe, and talk to him a bit, it was all I could do. But I felt so helpless. He's a lovely boy and the sight of his poor little face ... "
"Whatever you did would have been right. I know you Steven my boy, and you will have done the right thing by him. But you must be a realist and face the facts. The kid is on his own now whether he wants to be or not, and whether you and I want him to be or not. There's nothing we can do for him and if I even tried, Martha and her legal pals would have me tied up in knots in five minutes flat and probably in jail as well. And as that's the way things are, it's better that Martin doesn't think that I'll be there if he needs me, because I won't be. He's got to stand on his own two feet from now on. I don't like it anymore than you do, but do you really think I find it easy just to walk out on him like this?"
Steven looked at him, then looked down at their joined hands and thought, you're finding it hard, now this minute, I can surely see that. But how long though will it be before you start forgetting about him? He was very clear sighted as far as Joe's character was concerned. But at the same time, what Joe had said did make sense. Maybe it would be worse for Martin to have hopes, than to make a clean break with him once and for all. But, Oh God it's hard he thought, as he remembered the boy's face and the way he'd clung to him. But Joe is right and I have to take him as he is, not as I'd like him to be. He gave Joe's hands a squeeze then picked up his glass.
"The last thing she said before she went upstairs was that she will get a court order forbidding me to see him if I try. Think of the publicity. The papers would have a field day. None of us need that in our lives Stevie, and especially not Martin."
As Joe took their empty glasses to the counter for a refill Steven admitted to himself the truth of what Joe had been saying. It didn't make it any better though, or any easier.
For the next few weeks, he thought about the boy often and once he even left work early and stood outside the school hoping to catch a glimpse of him. What he would have done had he seen him and whether he would have spoken to him or not, he had no idea. But as it turned out, the decision was taken out of his hands. Martha having finished work early that day drove via the school to pick Martin up and Steven walked away so that she wouldn't recognise him.
As the months went by the boy and his problems gradually passed out of his mind, especially as Joe seemed unaffected by it all, and in any case, the deepening of their relationship now that Martha was out of the way, absorbed more and more of his attention. They found a small flat and decorating and furnishing it gave him an outlet for his frustrated domestic feelings. He was also encouraged by Joe to take evening classes and found to his surprise that he had a real talent for cooking, and eventually became good enough to quit labouring and get a job as an assistant in a small hotel.
Joe was promoted at work, and although his new job as a salesman involved a certain amount of travelling and nights away from home, their relationship was by that time secure enough to stand the strains imposed by this. Steven though, always took care to be extra loving and seductive for a couple of days before he left on a trip.
One day a few years after the break-up of Joe's marriage, headlines in the papers about a man sentenced to prison for twelve years for having an affair with a boy of sixteen caught his eye. But, apart from thinking sympathetically, you poor sod, and wondering what it would be like to be locked up for as long as that, the name of the man, Jonathan Melton, meant nothing to him, and of course the name of the boy wasn't published.
The papers made much of the fact that the boy had stood up in court and claimed that he loved Melton and that it was he who had done the seducing and not the other way round. But the judge had very properly ignored this and imposed the longest sentence in his power as an example to others, and the press unanimously agreed with him. At the same they published every salacious detail they could lay their hands on in order satisfy an at first horrified, then after the sentence had been imposed, an extremely self righteous British public who avidly and pruriently read and speculated on every word. He wasn't surprised to learn that the prosecutor had been a certain Martha Jackson.
He soon forgot about it and even the name had passed out of his mind when he watched the news one evening to hear that a certain Jonathan Melton had committed suicide in his cell. If there was an official inquiry into the matter, it was carried out quietly and with no publicity whatsoever. The public, the press and the incumbent government (ruled with a rod of iron by their female prime minister) were staunch upholders, one and all, of marriage and family values. Provided of course, that those same values didn't apply to themselves. No one had any sympathy for child molesters who did away with themselves.
The general feeling, expressed by the media rehashing all the sexually explicit bits of the Melton trial for the delectation of their readers, and loudly enunciated by unelected religious leaders and those equally unelected self proclaimed upholders of public morals, was that it was a pity they didn't all commit suicide.
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