In form the next morning, the tutor group was sent into a mild state of perturbation when Ed Cornish came in breezily and sat next to Henry Atwood; even more so when it was observed that the two boys were laughing and joking together. The outsider and the Under 16s First XI hero had apparently made friends. Henry was astonished at how easily he slid into intimacy with the bigger lad. To begin with it turned out that Ed also was a strategy games addict, even more so than Henry, because he had a sheaf of games magazines in his locker. Ed was also no brainless jock. He was serious about his studies and from a distance he had admired Henry’s articulacy in his favourite subjects, which were the same as Henry’s.
There was a knock-on effect, as others sidled up and very soon Henry was in the middle of a social group in a way he never had been since he had left his previous school. He was not in fact a shy boy, and there was nothing wrong with his sense of humour. A few witty sallies got the rest of the group guffawing, and in the way peculiar to teenage boys, he was soon socialised into the pack. No longer Atwood the outcast, he was laughingly re-christened as ‘Outfield’; his humiliation becoming his badge of honour. But he noticed that Ed continued to call him Henry.
School was transformed. Now Henry looked forward to the minibus. The Midwich gang greeted him with grins and ‘Hey! Outfield!’ They included him in the gossip, while Halliwell from Year 9 adopted the submissive posture towards Henry that was owed to a Year 11 boy. Ed Cornish always sat next to him when they had the same subjects, and in form groups and over lunch, they often formed the core of a Year 11 social group. Happiness made Henry funnier and more outrageous in his comments. Outfield was on his way to becoming a school character.
That last Friday before the exeat, he was walking the bottom corridor when there was the sound of running feet behind him, a big arm bronzed with sunlight and feathered with golden hair caught him round the shoulder and stayed there.
‘Henry! Glad I caught you.’ It was Cornish, panting from the exertion.
‘Hi Ed, whassup?’
‘Only that I’ll be seeing you round next week,’ he said, with a grin.
‘I’m staying over the exeat with Peters in Huntercombe, as my people are in Barbados. So I thought I’d come over to Trewern to see you, my mate!’
Henry was really delighted, and his eyes showed it. Cornish was flattered. ‘That’s brilliant, Ed. You got my mobile number?’
‘Sure have. I’ll ring you Sunday, okay? I’m taking my mountain bike over to Peters’ place, so I can pedal it over. Bye Henry!’ He ruffled Henry’s hair as he took off back to the boarding house. Henry looked fondly after his athletic form loping down the corridor, admiring the grace and power of the bigger boy.
Dad was doing the eucharist again that Sunday at Trewern and Henry was in his usual post on the empty choir benches. He found an indexed bible and went looking for Jehoiadah. It didn’t take long. He was the righteous priest of Judah, who put down Baal worship and saved the royal line. Henry thought he could see why Edgar Scudamore, an earnest clergyman of the eighteenth century, would call his son Jehoiadah — he planned that the boy would be a priest after his father’s image, an orthodox and upright member of the national church. But it clearly hadn’t worked out, oh no.
Henry’s mobile chirped as he switched it on after the service, while he was clearing up.
‘Hi! ’S Henry.’
‘Hey, Henry. Ed. I can be over in an hour or so. Are we good?’
‘We’re great. You know how to find the place?’
‘Sure. Peters told me.’
‘Do you want lunch? We have a sit down.’
‘That’ll be great. Are your parents nice?’
‘They’re the best. You know Dad’s a vicar?’
‘Yep. It was mentioned as yet another reason not to have anything to do with you.’
‘Fraid so. Y’know what people are like.’
Mum and Dad were charmed at last to have evidence that Henry had a friend in his new school, and threatened to be almost too effusive in their greeting to Ed, as he pulled up in the yard, and doffed his riding helmet. Mum whispered to Henry, ‘Bit of a hunk, isn’t he?’
‘How would I know, Mum?’ But deep inside, something in him agreed that Ed Cornish was just that, a total hunk.
Dad was very funny over the roast lamb, and Ed was very charming.
‘Mrs Atwood, this is the best meal I’ve had since the beginning of term,’ he said over the apple pie. ‘The school does its best, but mass catering takes something out of the food. Veg gets watery, sausages get wrinkled, potatoes dissolve. But this … this is fantastic. Will you adopt me?’ He looked convincingly plaintive.
Mum giggled and Dad guffawed. Ed was a favourite by the time Henry brought in the coffee. He seemed to be really enjoying himself. They went up laughing to Henry’s room, and spent the afternoon gaming, swopping hints and strategies. Henry couldn’t remember a better afternoon. They seemed to read each other’s minds. It was after six that Ed disappeared into the darkening evening, promising to be back the next morning around eleven, and stay the day.
Henry sat with his mother that evening, watching a film. Richard, his brother, made his weekly call at nine, and had good news about the progress of his first year finals. He would be back home next month for the summer. There was a new girlfriend who would be appearing for a week at the end of June.
‘That’s serious,’ said Mum, when she’d hung up, ‘when they bring the girl home, it’s serious.’
‘You think they’re … y’know, having it off?’
‘Well you gotta wonder.’
‘Only if you’re salaciously over-curious, Henry. But I imagine they are. Richard’s a good looking boy and if he’s anything like your father …’
‘I did not need to know that. I will forget you said that,’ Henry put his fingers in his ears.
As he went up to his room, the idea of sex with girls was preoccupying Henry. He had for some time been coming to the conclusion that girls were a mystery he had no interest in unravelling. He went to an all boys school, and he lived in the depths of the country. He did not much come into contact with any of the female sex apart from his mother.
He was not in the best position to assess future relations with the other half of the human race, as he admitted, so he had decided to put things on hold. His masturbation fantasies were autoerotic rather than erotic, about himself in strange situations, they did not always involve others, although recently … well, those dreams he was having were decidedly erotic, and involved an attractive boy.
Maybe Henry was gay; it was an idea he had to consider. But if he was, he didn’t seem to get off on boys in general. Just … he flushed, remembering the feel of Ed Cornish’s strong arm thrown casually around him and, yes, his penis stirred.
Damn. A real complication, just as he thought he had a friend, it turns out his libido wants him to be more than a friend.
Maybe it was the disturbance in his mind caused by that speculation, or maybe not, but the dream returned that night. He was again on the path, and it was a while before he realised that there had been a change. He was no longer naked, but dressed in a blue coat with broadcloth covered buttons. In the manner of these strange dreams, he was unable to hold up his sleeve and examine it. The dark boy was walking alongside him, chatting away. The day was fair and bright and the green leaves stirred in a slight breeze.
Again they stopped, and again the boy took him by the waist, but this time Henry did not resist. He reached out and embraced him too. They pulled each other close and Henry heard the boy sigh in his ear. A wetness on his cheek told him he was being kissed, and he moved his head to engage fearlessly with the other boy’s mouth. Their tongues flickered against each other … what do they call it, a frenchie? He felt the boy’s erection pressed against his belly, and his own penis responded. He also felt the other boy reaching inside his clothes, which were strangely difficult to penetrate, but eventually, with much struggling, a warm hand closed around his cock and Henry felt himself being slowly masturbated.
He stood there, strange, new sensations spasming out from his groin. This was so much better than doing it yourself. He was groaning and the other boy laughed lightly in his ear. ‘Oh Nathaniel’ he said. And Henry jerked awake, sitting up in bed.
Henry slept nude and he was aware of something new in his situation. There was an ominously damp feeling in his bed. He flicked the light on. Oh my God! He’d come catastrophically in his sleep. His first wet dream, and it was all over the duvet cover, dark with the wetness of his seminal fluid and slimy with his sperm. Urgh. His mother was bound to notice and would ostentatiously say nothing. He stripped the duvet cover and threw it in a corner. He found yesterday’s boxers and put them on, and he tried to get back to sleep again, but the dawn was lightening the sky before he succeeded.
His mother and father had gone out before he awoke. He checked his digital alarm. It was ten and Ed would be here in an hour. He got out from under the duvet, balled up the discarded cover, which stank of decaying sperm, and chucked it out the door. He raided the airing cupboard and found a new set of bedclothes, which he put on. He showered and dressed, and took the stained bedclothes to the laundry where he set them going in the washing machine. He would dare his mother to say anything about it.
He was still chewing on his morning toast when the doorbell went.
Henry looked up at Ed with new eyes. What did he really feel about this laughing-eyed handsome boy? Now he was in front of him in the flesh, the idea of sex with him was just too intimidating to be tolerated. He could no more make a pass at Ed than he could play cricket. Henry throttled his libido into unconsciousness.
‘Fancy a look around?’ Henry asked, after two hours’ intense gaming.
‘Good idea, I need to stretch my legs.’
They walked out the back door and crossed the backyard and through the side gate to the churchyard. Henry explained his little project to Ed, who listened seriously as Henry explained funerary symbolism and showed him the more unusual and interesting monuments.
‘So have you finished Trewern?’ Ed asked.
‘Hm. I think I might widen the database by looking at East Hamme next.’
‘Then let’s do it tomorrow,’ Ed said cheerfully.
‘Really? You’d like that?’
‘Henry … when you talk with enthusiasm, you shouldn’t underestimate how fascin … I mean, inspirational you can be. I’m very happy to come and sharpen your pencil and carry your notebook. Have you got a bike?’
‘My brother Richard left his in the shed.’
‘You have a brother?’
‘Yes. He’s very sporty … you’d like him.’
‘Henry, it’s you I like,’ Ed came back quickly, and then flushed scarlet. Henry wasn’t quite sure what he had heard, but he was beginning to suspect that there was more to Ed’s friendship for him than might appear on the surface. His libido escaped his control once more and his heart began to pulse.
They were silent as they crossed the churchyard, each secretly grappling with some difficult emotions.
As they got to the old yew, Henry perked up. ‘Ed, look at this one. This is Jehoiadah Scudamore, who went to our school in the eighteenth century.’ And Henry told Ed all he had found out about this long-dead boy, and the odd attraction he had for him. But he did not mention the manifestation in the church and the dreams he was having, which he was slowly beginning to associate in his mind with Jehoiadah, hard though it was to accept.
‘So how do you think he died?’ Ed asked.
‘They put suicides in this part of the graveyard, so I have a nasty suspicion that the boy topped himself. Tragic.’
‘I wonder what would have driven the boy to do such a terrible thing, in those days when they thought that suicide sent you to eternal damnation.’
‘I don’t think that we’ll ever find that out, Ed. There were no local newspapers in this neck of the woods in the eighteenth century. Maybe somewhere there are coroner’s papers, but I’ve got no idea where to find them. I could check the parish records, I suppose. I could ask the warden where they are.’
‘Yeah, let’s do it.’
‘Us …? You’re serious?’
Ed gave a half grin, ‘Why not? It’s interesting. And I like doing things with you.’ He flushed again at those leading words, but this time he did not look embarrassed; Henry sensed that Ed had made a decision about something in his head, and that he would soon be being asked to make some difficult decisions himself about their relationship. Henry blushed too at the thought, and Ed caught his colour change and smiled. He may have been very young and inexperienced, but he was beginning to read Henry.
Henry rallied, ‘Okay then, Dr Mac lives at Beech Cottage, and he’ll be doing his garden around now. So let’s go bother him.’
Dr Mac was very happy to be bothered. He cordially shook Ed’s hand and invited them in for a drink. Mrs Mac brought them in tea and biscuits on the best china. There were napkins. Their sitting room was a vision in chintz and oak.
‘Still in pursuit of the Scudamores, Henry? I’m not sure there’s much that we have which will help. We still have the original registers in the parish. I’ve always refused to send them to the record office in Shrewsbury. The Mormons came and photographed them, and sent copies to the record office. Other than that most of the records we have are to to do with the charities and the glebe, which was sold anyway in 1952. When you’ve finished with the tea, we’ll go over and root out the safe.’
The safe was of Victorian vintage, massive and painted black. It opened smoothly on well-oiled hinges however, and a large stack of volumes was revealed inside. Dr Mac heaved out the blue-bound registers and placed two on the vestry table. ‘These are the registers for the turn of the eighteenth century, boys. This is births and marriages, and this is deaths. I’ll leave you to get on with them. There is also this,’ he presented a small calf-bound volume, ‘It’s the churchwardens’ accounts for George III’s reign. Just call in and tell me when you’ve finished. You’ve got your keys, Henry? Good. Then I’ll lock you in.’
Henry opened the deaths register. ‘He was alive in 1795, we know, but not I think for much longer. Let’s scan the entries.’ And sure enough, on ‘Saturday ye 7th November 1795’ was the following entry: “Buried this day my son, Jehoiadah Scudamore, aged sixteen years. Found dead in ye Great Wood.” The entry was written in as firm a hand as those which preceded and succeeded it. The Rev’d Edgar Scudamore certainly did not lack fortitude. He had done another funeral only two days later. Henry took up the births register.
‘What’s that going to tell us, Henry?’ Ed asked curiously.
‘There’s another name I want to check on, Nathaniel Corner.’
‘Who’s he?’ Henry explained the linked names carved in the panel at school. ‘What, you think they were friends?’
‘More than friends, I think.’
‘How in God’s name do you know that?’ Ed was looking at him oddly.
‘I’ll explain later.’ A search of the birth registers for 1779 to 1781 turned up no Nathaniel Corner, however. He was obviously not a local boy. Henry then leafed through the accounts, looking for November 1795. Henry’s heartbeat increased, there was an assortment of relevant entries. One was sombre.
‘5 November. Paid Matt. Spencer. A hurdle and two men for the conveying of ye bodie of young Mr Scudamor. 3d.’ But one was frankly puzzling.
‘6 November. To Jas. Cooper, parish constable, for the attachment of Nath’l Corner, gent. in ye matter of the decease of Jed Scudamor. 3s 4d. His carriage to Medwardine. 1s.’
Henry looked at Ed, ‘What’s this “attachment” business?’
‘I think it means that he was arrested and bailed.’
‘I’m impressed, how do you know that?’
‘My sad childhood. My father and mother are both solicitors. I was bored enough as a boy to pick up legal reference works to amuse myself.’
‘My,’ said Henry, ‘that is sad. You’re right.’
‘Thank you, Henry, scholar of the Bible. How sad is that?’ They laughed, but again Henry saw that new look in Ed’s face which made him feel apprehensive about something.
‘Then if Nathaniel was arrested, it looks like it was not so much suicide as murder. Wow! Poor Jed.’
‘Looks like that was what he called himself. How can we go further than this? There must be records of murder trials.’
‘Check the web.’
‘We don’t have a connection. It’s a nuisance sometimes. Richard had a row with Dad about it last year, but it didn’t do any good. You can’t shift Dad once he’s made up his mind. OK. We’ve done all we can do here, I suppose. Let’s put this stuff away and get back home.’
When they got back to the rectory, Henry showed Ed the tracing he’d made of the graffiti in the library. Ed was intrigued. ‘Y’know, Henry, there’s something odd about all this, as if there was some force focussing in on you. It’s like a cheap horror franchise. Here’s you, a sixteen year old boy, being sort of stalked by this sixteen year old from the past who just happened to live in the same house and go to the same school as you. I don’t think we need too much imagination to guess how it’ll all end.’
‘What? Exorcism? Strange disappearance? Possession? Horrible death?’
‘One or all of them. Bad innit. If I was you, I’d be packing.’ But Ed noticed that Henry was not at all amused, indeed seemed very troubled. Then he looked straight in Henry’s eyes and said, ‘What aren’t you telling me Henry?’
Henry slumped. This was all getting too much for him. But how could he tell Ed about the secret night-time seductions that Jed Scudamore was practising on him. But he had to unburden himself somehow. ‘OK. Ed, you’re going to think me mad, but here goes …’ And Henry told his friend about the incident in the church the Sunday before last. He told it well, so well that he could see that Ed not only believed him but was a little frightened by what he was saying.
‘Jeez, the little git really is stalking you! If he had a butt, I’d give him a real good kicking. He’d deserve it, unlike you, poor Henry.’ Then Ed crossed a line. They were sitting on Henry’s bed, and almost unconsciously, Ed took the smaller boy round the shoulder and pulled him into him meaning perhaps to indicate reassurance and protection, but it didn’t work like that. Henry was so shaken by now that he responded, snaked an arm round Ed’s waist and snuggled into his chest. Both boys froze. Henry’s heart raced, and he could hear the pounding of Ed’s through the rough fabric of his polo shirt against which he was nestled.
Henry looked up wide-eyed, as Ed looked down. Henry didn’t want to move, scary though this was, he was liking it too much. Then Ed moved and Henry moved too … after all, he said to himself as their lips met, this isn’t the first time I’ve done this.
Henry climbed up Ed’s chest, and throwing his whole life to the four winds, he took Ed round the neck and began making serious inroads into his warm and wet mouth. And he was being kissed just as passionately back. Henry squatted up, one leg on either side of Ed’s thighs. He pressed his lips hard against the other boy’s. The taste of Ed’s mouth was minty and fresh, and his tongue took possession of Henry’s.
At last they broke away and stared at each other. Henry sat back on Ed’s knees, facing towards him, still holding his flanks. Ed was visibly trembling. Henry licked his lips, ‘So if you felt this way about me, why did you kick me up the arse, Ed?’
Ed laughed nervously, ‘Henry, I … What I mean to say is that, when you came to the school last October, at first I thought you were just a geek, a loser, but these past few months I just kept staring at you, all the time. There’s something about your face, your pretty little bum. You’ve been giving me erections for months now. And on those rare occasions when you spoke up, you were so cool and clever. All I could think about was, y’know, doing stuff with you. But I just didn’t want it to be true. Me, sort of … gay? Gays were the people that get laughed at, like Worsman in the sixth. But then I … every time I saw you, I just couldn’t look away. That day on the field when you dropped the catch, you poor Henry, I snapped. I was furious with you for being such a geek and yet so adorable. I kicked you cos I was furious with myself. I had to lash out, and it was you I lashed out at. Then of course I was so, so sorry. I was an animal, a complete shit and I felt so terrible, hurting a boy I cared for. I went looking for Worsman …’
‘Yes. Who else could I talk to? I know him because we bowl in the nets together. He was so nice to me. He made me tell him everything, and he told me that so far as he could see I was as gay as he was, and the best thing to do was to face up to it, and learn to live with it.’
‘A bit stern that. How did he know that this wasn’t just a one-off. I am, after all, exceptionally attractive and seductive. You hang round naked with so many other boys. Do you feel like this about any others?’
Ed relaxed a little and laughed, ‘You are so funny, y’know. Not just a pretty bum. But the answer is that yes, I do get … stirred by the odd lad, slim and dark ones usually. So it isn’t a one off, despite your undeniable charms, Henry.’
‘That’s a disappointment. But I’ll live with it. So what else did Worsman say?’
‘He said that I wasn’t to get my hopes up about you, that though I fancied you, I would have to get to know you to find out whether it was ever likely you could have feelings about me. But he did say that there was a chance, that he’d heard that you had said some passionately pro-gay things in year 11 RS. Oh … and he told me I was an arsehole who should humbly apologise on my knees to you for what I’d done to you.’
‘I like this guy. I may end up liking him more than you. He is a bit dishy y’know. I’ve fancied him at a distance for so long now …’
Ed’s mouth dropped, and Henry couldn’t help laughing. ‘Wind up!’ he said cheerily, ‘You really are a sucker, Ed.’
Ed first looked discomposed, then a bit wicked, ‘I bet I am a sucker, if you give me a chance …’
‘You mean what I think you mean?’
‘I’m gay, and it seems you’re gay, or at least gayish, I fancy you rotten and you seem fine about being fancied by me. So what do we do about it? Cos I want to do things to you that would make my father’s hair go white … and that’s another problem, my father is the world’s greatest homophobe and I am his golden boy. I’ll bet your dad is going to be cool about it. He seems very liberal and tolerant.’
‘Hmm. Time alone will tell about that. But I think you should rein yourself in, Ed. No I mean it. Fact is this is all a bit too much. Let’s take a deep breath. I don’t think I want to go farther with this yet.’ Ed looked devastated, ‘And don’t look at me as though I’d just shot your puppy! It’s all very well us deciding that we are attracted to each other, but it doesn’t follow that we should immediately lose our clothes and do the things that gays do … er, incidentally what are they?’
‘You really don’t know?’
‘Educate me, Edward.’
‘Well, there’s sucking off your dick …’
‘I could live with that. Doesn’t sound too bad, but does that mean when I come, I come in your …’
‘I wouldn’t mind, honest. Would you let me …?’
‘Dunno. Sperm doesn’t taste too bad.’
‘How do you know?’
Henry blushed, ‘I don’t always have tissues at hand when I wank.’
Ed looked suspicious, but then continued, ‘But the big decision is whether to go to the next level, bottom-related stuff. Whether to put our cocks in each other’s arses. I think there’s a few issues to explore there, alright. But I’d be willing.’
‘To give or take?’
‘Anything,’ Ed said firmly.
‘I think you mean it.’
‘So if I asked you to strip off here and now …’ Ed immediately pulled his polo shirt off over his head, shook his blond hair and exposed his broad chest, with its firm pectoral muscles, erect brown nipples and developing abs.
‘Wow! Whoa … I mean, stop. It was just a question, not a demand. God, you’re so hunky. And you’d let me put my thing up your bum?’ Looking coolly down at Henry, Ed stood up and put him to one side. He pushed down his jeans and pants and ripped off his socks with them. He stood totally naked and his cock was thickening as Henry looked at it. ‘Jesus, you don’t muck around do you, Ed. By the way, you’re totally beautiful.’
Ed grinned, as he adjusted his cock, flicking it away from his ball sac. ‘Come on, Henry. Time to get undressed.’
‘I’m shy, Ed. I’ve got nothing to be proud of, like you.’
‘There’s your little bum, Henry; it’s the object of all my fantasies.’
Henry sighed, ‘Okay then.’ He stripped off his tee-shirt and then pushed down his cargo pants. He was already barefoot. Ed came closer, and Henry trembled. Ed made him turn his back to him, and he felt his hands grasp the waistband of his boxers. He slowly pulled them down, and they fell to his ankles. Henry stepped out of them. He heard the other boy give a sharp intake of breath, and kneel behind him. He felt him put a warm hand on either of his hips. The next thing he felt was the mindblowing sensation of lips and a tongue exploring his buttocks. ‘Oh my God,’ he sighed.
‘Bend over a bit, Henry,’ Ed asked.
‘I’ve got to apologise to you properly,’
Henry complied, and he gasped as Ed’s tongue licked into and down his crack. ‘Jesus! You’ve licked my hole!’ Strong thumbs had separated his cheeks and Ed’s tongue was probing him intimately. His lips were sucking at his anal entry. The sensations were awesome, and Henry was barely stifling his moans. He sighed with disappointment as Ed disengaged, and stood behind him, turning him in his arms. He looked up at the smiling face looking down on him.
‘There,’ said Ed, ‘I’ve kissed it better.’
‘I think I love you, Ed.’
Edward smiled at Henry’s now full erection, he bent down and kissed the exposed cock head. Henry arched in surprise and delight.
Ed sat back. ‘I know I love you, Henry. Here, clasp your legs round my waist when I lift you.’ With effortless power Ed lifted Henry under his armpits so their faces were on a level. Henry did as he was told and scissored his thin legs above Ed’s buttocks, sitting there comfortably as Ed clasped him tight, cradling his bum.
They began a delirium of kissing, that seemed just to go on and on. Eventually, Ed fell back on the bed, and Henry fell on top of him. Their erect dicks and pubic hair meshed, and Henry automatically began moving against Ed as their mouths met again. Soon they were frantically humping each other. The familiar orgasm boiled up in Henry’s groin and his cock pulsed a generous quantity of cum between them. As the pungent smell of Henry’s sperm reached their nostrils, Ed groaned, tensed and spurted his own contribution to the sticky mess sliming their bellies.
They lay together, clasped. Henry was still moving his groin gently against the boy he could now call his lover. He sat up abruptly, and looked down at Ed. He grinned. His head bobbed down and he began licking up their joint ejaculations from Ed’s stomach and chest.
He looked up along his lover’s body and Ed grinned down, ‘You are a sexy little beast, Henry Atwood. Just as I always thought you would be.’