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The Natural Couple

Chapter 9

By Richard Campbell

True to his word, Billy posted Jon's letter, avoiding the box near the prison gates in case he was being watched. It was on Brian's desk when he reached his office and he recognised Jon's familiar handwriting instantly. Wondering why Jon had been permitted to write to him so soon and worried about it, he opened it immediately, and was even more surprised to see the enclosed envelope with Jimmy's name on it. He unfolded the letter and after a brief glance at the date began to read.

Dear Brian, Tim and Michael

This is being posted for me by someone who was released today and should reach you tomorrow. Please forgive me if this is brief and formal, I don't have much paper. Thank you for everything all of you have done for me. I can't write to Tim and Michael separately so please pass this on to them. You will know by now what I have done and I want you to know that I don't regret it. There is no life for me here and there would be none when I am released. For the rest of my life I would be hounded by the police, the law and the media. There would never be a moment when I could feel safe and I don't think it's worth it. Also something has happened here that has made me think seriously about myself. I can't say more than that.

What I want to ask you is to look after Jimmy for me. I don't know if his parents have forgiven him and love him again but I have a feeling they might not. You have my power of attorney and are also my executors so please do what you can for him but above all, and I am hoping so much that all three of you will help with this, please, please don't let him feel guilty. What I did and what I'm going to do was and is my own choice. If anything, I am the one who should feel guilty because in a way I'm deserting him.

Please give my best love to Marion, and love to you and Tim and Michael, I won't say God Bless because I don't have much feeling for God at the moment, but will just say thank you again. With much love to you all


The telephone on his desk had begun to ring as he reached the end of the letter and he sat for a moment, his eyes wet, knowing who it would be and mentally listing the things that would have to be done. He was curt with the prison governor and as soon as he was off the line asked his secretary to check the newspapers. He didn't want Jimmy to hear the news from anyone other than himself. Fortunately, there was nothing and he rang Michael and Tim respectively and told them. Michael was due in court that morning but promised to come and see him as soon as he was free and Tim said he would collect Jimmy and bring him to the office straight away. Then he spoke to Mrs Evans, who reluctantly called Jimmy to the phone. Brian told him only that Tim was coming to pick him up.

He had expected Jimmy to question him closely, but the boy was still in a mood of such black depression that he listlessly accepted Brian's instructions without thinking about them, and after greeting Tim, was silent during the journey, staring out of the window but seeing nothing.

Since he had returned home after staying with Tim and Marion, his moods had fluctuated between black anger at the judge and prosecutor, he had knew from Brian and Michael's conversations that Martha Jackson had gone all out to get a long sentence and had not needed to push the case so hard, and a no less black mood of depression that was quite alien to his sunny nature. Tim, noting that he had lost more weight, determined to give him a complete physical check up, and wondered if he should suggest that Jimmy see a psychiatrist.

The scene when Brian gently told him that Jon was dead, brought both he and Tim to the brink of tears themselves as Jimmy collapsed completely, and sobbed his heart out in huge gut-wrenching spasms of grief. They let him cry himself out then Brian gave him Jon's letter and and waited while he read it, not sure what Jon had said or what Jimmy's reaction would be. At first it seemed to have a calming effect and Jimmy began to recover his composure but it wasn't long before his grief turned to anger and by the time he had finished reading his eyes were blazing.

"Is it alright if I don't show you this?" he asked in a tight voice.

"Not only is that all right Jimmy, but I would prefer not to see it at all. In fact ,as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't exist. I don't want to have to produce it to the coroner," Brian told him.

Jimmy nodded, mechanically refolded the letter, returned it to the envelope and put it into his pocket. "No-one like that is ever going to see it," he said in a hard and very adult voice.

"Jimmy," Brian said, "There are some things that we need to sort out. You knew didn't you that Jon had no relatives?"

Jimmy dragged his eyes back from the window where he had been gazing unseeingly and nodded. "Yes, he told me."

"It will be up to us to arrange his funeral. Did he ever say anything to you about what he would like?"

"No, he never said anything. I don't suppose that he thought it would happen so soon. I know that he was Catholic, but I don't think he believed much. Like me."

"He said in his will that he wanted to be cremated. We could arrange a simple ceremony without a priest if you would like that, just you, his friends and some music. How do you feel about it?"

Jimmy thought for a minute. "Is it up to me?" he asked doubtfully, "Shouldn't you decide what ..." he broke off.

"We were his friends Jimmy," Tim said quietly, "But you were the one he loved. I think he would have liked it if you decided. You were closer to him than any of us."

Jimmy sat absolutely still for a moment, his jaw clenched. Tim's words had almost caused him to break down again. When he was able to speak he said with decision, "Yes. That's what I want please. No prayers or priests. Could we play the 'Four Last Songs' by Richard Strauss? He loved them, and so do I."

Brian made a note on his pad. "That should be fine, they last about twenty minutes don't they?"

"Yes I think so."

"Right," Brian said, "I'll arrange it."

"When will it be?"

"We have to wait until the coroner releases his body ... " he saw Jimmy wince, and broke off for a moment, looking rather helplessly at Tim.

"I'm sorry Jimmy, but there is always an inquest in a case of suicide," Tim told him. "I don't like the thought of it any more than you do, but it is the law."

"They just can't leave him alone can they," Jimmy said in a bitter voice, "Even after he's dead!"

Although privately agreeing with him, Brian changed the subject.

"There's another thing I need to tell you, Jimmy. Jon made a will a few weeks ago and he left everything he had to you. You don't actually inherit it outright until you turn eighteen but Tim and I are his executors and we can let you have any money that you need until then. He also wanted you to go to College or University, and had made provision for it."

"College? " Jimmy said, looking rather surprised.

"He was very proud of you Jimmy," Tim said, "And he wanted you to have every opportunity to do whatever you want to do. Have you thought about college at all?"

For a moment Jimmy said nothing, tears had come into his eyes again.

"I haven't really thought," he said when he had got himself under control again, "And I'm finding it too hard at the moment. Just the thought of never seeing him again has made me go sort of brain dead," he said in a thickened voice.

"Yes, I understand that, I feel that way myself," Brian told him. "There's plenty of time for you to make up your mind what you want to do. Is there anything that you particularly need at the moment? As I told you we can let you have some money now even though we won't get probate for some time."

"I don't know. I just ... " he choked back a sob. "I'm sorry. It's just that I never knew how much I really loved him until ... and all this is my fault. He would never have done it if it hadn't been for me."

"Don't ever say that Jimmy," Tim interrupted in such an angry tone that Jimmy stared at him. "Don't even think it. It is not your fault, none of it. Jon was an adult and he knew what he was doing. He went into it with his eyes wide open and he did what he wanted to do. Do you seriously think that you would have been able to get so close to him if he hadn't wanted you to? You're talking nonsense and deep down you know it," he said forcefully. "He loved you very much and nothing would have made him regret that."

"Then why did he kill himself?" Jimmy yelled through his sobs. "Tell me that. Why did he do it? What happened in there to make him do it?"

Tim stood up came behind his chair and put his hands on his shoulders soothingly. After a tense minute, Jimmy relaxed.

"Oh Christ Tim," he said more quietly, his tears falling into his lap, and sounding like a small child asking for reassurance, "Can't you tell me. Why did he do it, what happened in there? What did they do to him?"

"I don't know, Jimmy," Tim said sadly, "And I don't suppose we'll ever know the real reason. I think myself that he just felt that he'd had enough. He didn't do it on the spur of the moment you know, he must have thought about it and planned it for some time, otherwise he wouldn't have been able to write to us as he did. Whatever his reasons, they were good ones you can be sure, and we have to respect them, even if we don't know what they were."

Jimmy nodded but was not convinced. He felt awful because in spite of what Tim said, he knew that basically he was to blame. If he hadn't seduced Jon this wouldn't have happened. He would not have gone to prison and would be alive now. Twelve years he thought miserably, maybe that was it. It was such a long time, only four years less than he had lived. He tried to think back to when he had been four, but it was too long ago. He'd been a child, not much more than a baby.

"How are things at home Jimmy?" Tim asked gently, "Any better now?"

"No," he replied. "They're both sure I'm going to end up in hell and if only I'd go to confession and communion everything would be alright again. As if hell could be as bad as what's happening now. I don't think they even like me any more," he continued after a pause. "It's funny. They seem to think I've changed, but I haven't really. I haven't changed at all. I've always been like this only they didn't know, or maybe they didn't want to know. I haven't really changed," he said again as if he needed to convince them. "They're the ones who've changed, ever since they found out about me. But they don't see it that way. I don't understand it."

Both Tim and Brian were relieved that he seemed to be thinking again. He was a continual surprise and they could understand what had attracted Jon to him so strongly.

"Would you like to come and stay with Marion and me for a bit?" Tim asked, thinking that it would give both sides a rest from each other.

Jimmy looked up and gave him a watery smile.

"I'd like to very much if I wouldn't be in the way," he said gratefully. "There's no-one to talk to at home."

"Good. You won't be in the way and we will both be glad to have you. Brian, will you phone his mother and fix it? Meanwhile, I'm going to take Jimmy out for some breakfast. He needs it."

"Yes I'll do that," Brian said. "You can pick up some clothes for him on your way home. Leave it to me."

After they left he phoned Jimmy's mother and gave her the news. While seeming to be shocked on the surface, he could tell that underneath it she was glad. He was firm with her about Jimmy staying with the Marion and Tim again. She was not at all happy about it, for no particular reason that he could discover, and he wondered again about both parent's feelings for their son. Their change in a matter of minutes from idolatry to what appeared to be active dislike, seemed irrational. It was quite obvious that they were not giving him any love or support whatsoever, and he suspected that the family relationship had been damaged past repair.

Mrs Evans seemed to feel that now that Jon was out of the way 'for good' as she put it, it would only be a matter of time before Jimmy would be the same person he was before. Unfortunately for her and her husband, Jimmy had never been the boy they thought he was, and there was not the remotest possibility that he was going to conform to their old fashioned standards and ideas any longer. Not after what he had been through. He had tasted a fair amount of independence with Jon, and there was no way that he was going to give any of it up. If it hadn't been for their treatment of the him, Brian might have felt sorry for them, but given their attitude he found it hard to feel any sympathy at all. Jimmy would, in all probability, be better away from them. Permanently.

He put the thought aside to pursue later and asked her whether she and her husband would be coming with Jimmy to the funeral. She bristled immediately. There was no reason to and Jimmy wouldn’t be there either she told him. It was over and done with and the sooner he forgot about that man, the better.

"I think you'll find that Jimmy wants to be there Mrs Evans," he said quietly, suppressing his anger. "In fact he and I have just been arranging the details."

"Well I don't know what gave you the right to involve him at all," she snapped. "That man has a lot to answer for. He's ruined Jimmy's life completely. He hasn't been the same boy since he got mixed up with him. I'm glad that it's finished now and it's time Jimmy came to his senses and forgot all about it. Hasn't there been enough trouble already?"

"Mrs Evans," Brian tried to speak calmly, "Jonathan had no relatives and he left everything he had to Jimmy. I think that gives him the right to be involved, and he also needs to take some responsibility for what happened. After all," he went on, his annoyance overcoming his caution, "Jimmy was far closer to Jon than anyone else."

There was an icy silence at the other end of the line for a moment, then she said furiously, "How dare you say that to me!"

"It's the simple truth. It came out very clearly in court. as you would know if you had been there. Jimmy and Jonathan loved each other, whether you accept that or not. And if you love Jimmy, you need to show him that you do, and not oppose him over this just because you didn't like the relationship. He needs you, both of you. You're his parents. He's going through a dreadful time, and he needs all the love you can give him, if he's not to be even more deeply hurt than he is at present. Surely you don't want to make things harder for him than they are already?"

"It's not a question of making things hard for him. What he did, what that man encouraged him to do was wrong, and he knows it. Neither his father nor I will let him to have anything more to do with it and get himself even deeper into sin. We brought him up to know right from wrong and if the reason for his appalling behaviour has been taken away," and not before time her tone implied, "We are not going to let him make a spectacle of himself by attending a Godless ceremony. The man committed suicide which is a sin in itself, and he can't be buried in sanctified ground. As for Jimmy, he is our son and he will do what he's told."

Brian gave it up. Having got her to agree to Jimmy staying with the Lakes was probably as much as he was going to achieve at the moment. Apparently she didn't understand that legally, Jimmy could do almost anything he liked now, and there was no way she could keep him at home, or even stop him attending the funeral. It was unlikely, even in his peculiar circumstances that any judge (with the possible exception of Mr Justice Hard-on!), would make an order forcing him to remain in his parent's custody if he was adamant that he didn't want to. As he was financially independent of them, any such order would be virtually impossible to enforce.

Cynically, he wondered if Jimmy's parents would change their tune when they realised just how much money he'd inherited.

Jimmy's stay with Marion and Tim for the ten days before the funeral did both he and his parents good. Marion insisted that he spoke to his mother every couple of days and took him home several times to collect clothes and other things that he needed. It wrung her heart to see him so desperately unhappy, and made it easier for her to be patient on the occasions when he was short tempered. This was due, as she knew, to his misery. There were times when he simply had to lash out at something, and she was usually the handiest object. Because she was becoming very attached of him, she took it in her stride and would give him a hug and a cuddle when he came to apologise, with eyes red from weeping.

She encouraged him to talk about anything he wanted to, and did a far better job with him than his parents could have done. She was not all that far away from him in age anyway. She, her husband, Brian and Michael had started doing what they could for him for Jonathan's sake, but as they got to know him better, became fond of him on his own account.

Tim, true to his promise to himself, gave him a thorough physical check up, forced him to take a tonic and generally refused to let him mope. Under his and Marion’s affectionate care, he slowly began to recover his equilibrium, but it was sad to see him so changed from the happy, radiant boy they'd met that first evening.

There was also an underlying sense of suppressed anger about him that worried Tim and Brian, particularly as Jimmy denied that it existed, and refused to talk about it under any circumstances.

Marion gradually drew him out and got him to talk about Jon, and as she gained a better understanding of the depth of feeling involved, Jimmy's sore heart was eased by simply having a sympathetic ear to listen to him. His talks with her clarified a lot of the confusion in his mind and without going into details of their sex life, one day poured out his heart in a sort of cathartic rush. She was hard put not to cry openly herself and comforted him as best she could with sensible and non-patronising advice. Jimmy who had liked her from the start, began to look on her almost as an older sister which was good for him, cut off as he was from his contemporaries.

He made only one attempt to speak to a classmate, a boy with whom he'd had an early sexual liaison. It was the day that the funeral arrangements had been finalised and he was feeling particularly low.

It didn't cross his mind that it might be awkward for the boy. He had always remained on good terms with his ex-partners and it was only afterwards that he realised that the boy was probably terrified that his parents might suspect something. Their conversation was stilted, awkward, and cut short by the boy's father, who wrested the receiver from his son and informed Jimmy that he had better not speak to his son again if he didn't want to find himself in trouble with the police. The implication was plain and a scarlet faced Jimmy slammed the receiver down almost hard enough to break it, then to his chagrin burst into tears. On the way to his temporary bedroom, he was intercepted by Marion who got the story out of him, and was so angry herself that he had to calm her down, forgetting his own anger and embarrassment in the process. Which was exactly her intention.

The funeral went as Jimmy had planned it, with one exception. His parents attended the crematorium reluctantly and obviously expected him to sit with them at the back. Jimmy having informed them that as Jon's closest relative 'we were almost married you know', at which both parents glowered, sat in the front row between Tim and Marion with Jon's closest friends.

There were very few people there as Jon had no relatives, but the press having got news of it in spite of Brian's attempts to keep the details quiet, were there in force though keeping their distance. Brian, Tim and Michael did their best to shield Jimmy from their view while they waited outside the building for the hearse, but there was little that they could do although Brian had taken certain precautions.

A handful of Jonathan's school friends had come and surprisingly, the sports master from Jimmy's ex school. They were all touched at his attendance and while waiting outside the building for the coffin to arrive, Jimmy detached himself from Marion who had put her arm around his waist, and rather diffidently went across to thank him for coming. To his surprise he was greeted with a rather piercing look and a firm handshake.

"You don't look well, lad," he rumbled, "Not surprised. I'm very sorry about this, he was a very good teacher and a good man as well. That's why I came. I also wanted to tell you that I think he was shamefully treated. You too," he added gruffly, as Jimmy felt tears come to his eyes. It was so completely unexpected.

"Thank you sir," he said with difficulty, "I really appreciate it. Could I take you to meet friends of his?"

The teacher looked at him for a moment.

"Your friends too I think? Ay lad, I'd like that."

Jimmy took him over and introduced him. He had never thought that this particular teacher had even noticed him, and found himself so moved that he nerved himself to ask him something.

"Sir," he said quietly, "We are just going to have some music, no ceremony or anything. But I've been wondering would you, would you like to say a few words? I was going to do it but I think I'll start crying, and I thought, if you don't mind that is," he said quickly, "That, as you knew him too, maybe, if you, you'd like to, that is ..." he broke off, in hopeless confusion.

The master looked down at him. The coffin had just arrived and he saw how Jimmy braced himself, his fists clenched, tears beginning to fill his eyes as it was taken out of the hearse.

"Bear up lad," he said gruffly, "I'll say something for you." He turned Jimmy to face him and looked into his eyes, "Gladly."

"Thank you," Jimmy said with real gratitude, then resolutely followed the coffin into the building.

Brian had arranged a translation of the words of one of Richard Strauss's final works and he and Marion handed copies out to the mourners. The first three songs were played then Jimmy turned a tearful face to his ex sports master, who left his seat and went to stand by the coffin. He spoke in a quiet voice that carried clearly to the back of the small building.

"I did not expect to speak here today," he began, "So I have prepared nothing and I will just say what I think. Jonathan was a fine teacher. He was liked and will be remembered gratefully by all his pupils because of it. But more important, he was a good man. He was kind and caring, and this is more important because it means that however his life ended, he did good in the world while he was in it. There are not many of us who can say that with truth at the end of our lives. We know what led up to this tragedy but I don't suppose that he regretted it and I don't think that any of us are in any position to judge him. The people who loved him are here and those who liked him are also here. And," here he looked challengingly at the reporters at the back of the building, "Here today are also those who sold a lot of newspapers and thereby had their salaries paid by him. Those people should be grateful to him. I would like to think that their presence here was a token of gratitude and sorrow, but I know that they are here for what they can get out of it and as a means of selling even more newspapers. To you people, I can say nothing more. But to you who loved him," and here he looked directly at Jimmy, "I say this, remember him. Remember him in life, remember him happy, and remember him with love. He is gone now, and you have to accept this and build a life without him, but never forget him. You could not have a better example to model yourself on."

He walked to the back of the building and said to the reporters, "Out. This is a private thing and not for you." And such was his presence that after only slight hesitation they left, to cluster outside and wonder if they could get away with printing the pictures they had taken of Jimmy. But Brian had already taken this into account and had obtained an injunction forbidding publication, which was even then being served on their editors.

In the crematorium, the teacher had seated himself behind Jimmy again, squeezed his shoulder and given him a nod. Jimmy whispered his thanks, his eyes blurred and as the final song, 'On Going to Sleep' started, stood up and went to the coffin. Jon's face, with it's closed eyes looked calm and peaceful. He bent over and gently kissed the cold lips, was about to wipe away the tears that had dropped onto Jon's face then changed his mind and left them. He placed a small spray of flowers on Jon's chest then stood back. As the soprano sang the final words 'can this perhaps, be death?' he put his hand on the coffin and kept it there until it slid away from him.

At that moment, he knew that Jon was really gone.

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