by Jack Kendle
It happened for the first time a year ago. Exactly a year ago today, in fact. Do you remember, Buddy? I’ve written it down as I recall it.
You had just turned fourteen and were then, as now, the principal trumpet in the youth orchestra I founded and train. And a very good trumpet player you are indeed, Buddy.
Buddy. That’s everyone’s name for you. It was your idea, really. You wanted everyone to call you ‘Buddy’ instead of the name your parents had given you. I mean did they really give any thought to the feelings of their son as he grew up bearing the name Beowulf? (Both your parents are Anglo-Saxon scholars, and you were born rather late in their lives, but really! What planet did they come from?) There’s no accounting for taste, I suppose. So, ‘Buddy’ you were (and are).
No-one could possibly accuse me of favouritism when I made you first trumpet, Buddy. You have oodles of talent and your chances are certainly not hampered by your looks, my sweet youth! You are blond, blue-eyed, slim and adorably beautiful. I’ve known you since you were about ten or so, when you were in the junior department. Even then, you melted my heart.
So, two years ago, you came up into the senior orchestra, one of the youngest in the group. You were a bit shy at first, but as soon as you started playing, your shyness evaporated and the golden clear notes of your trumpet rang out.
I could hardly keep my eyes off you during rehearsals and I always managed to find something to say to you and not only that, I selected pieces for the orchestra to play that had good first trumpet parts, parts that would make you shine. And you never once let me down, my sweet youth. Every solo, every note absolutely bang on, clear as a bell.
You had no shortage of admirers either. I noticed most of the girls in the orchestra stealing glances at you from the ranks of the violins or cellos. You didn’t mind the attention, but I could tell it sometimes made you a little uneasy. You didn’t appear to have a favourite girl, despite all their contrivances to be close to you in the breaks, starting conversations, or just being tongue-tied in your golden presence.
You joked around with the other boys in the orchestra, all of whom played brass instruments as well and the percussion. Rough-housing, you seemed quite at ease with them, despite the fact they were older than you. I knew they thought a lot of your playing and one or two of the boys in the string section even had a crush on you. I could tell. As the saying goes, ‘it takes one to know one!’
I loved your enthusiasm. You always had a million questions about one thing or other to do with music and you would follow me around like my shadow during the breaks in rehearsals chatting nineteen to the dozen. I loved the way you trusted me like a big brother or favourite uncle or grandpa. You were always one of the first to turn up to rehearsals and pretty soon we had got to the stage where I would greet you with a chaste kiss, as if I really were a relative. I loved it that every time we met or parted, you would lean in towards me, expecting that kiss. I didn’t think you had the slightest notion that I was (and am) gay; but just after that time a year ago you told me you didn’t care about me being gay; that I’m a good friend to you, a friend who helped you out when you needed it – and still does.
Anyway, a year ago I had planned to take the orchestra on a trip out of town to play a concert. The town was that far away it would not be possible to drive there, hold a concert and then drive back home again in one day, so we were to be put up in the local school. It was a pretty basic arrangement: we would all have sleeping-bags with us and either inflatable airbeds or roll-up mattresses. As there were more of them, the girls would bed down in the school gym, whilst the boys divided up into smaller groups in three classrooms. I had a room to myself, of course, although part of my duties would be to check on my young charges a few times during the night. A colleague would look after the girls.
I noticed that when I announced the forthcoming trip to the orchestra, you looked apprehensive. Whilst all around you were excitedly chattering about the upcoming experience, you were silent and withdrawn, as if a cloud hung over you. I wondered why on earth you should be like this. I had thought it would be just the thing a fourteen-year-old would relish; a sleepover away from home, with his friends. After that rehearsal, you came up to me a troubled look on your usually sunny face.
“Jack, I can’t go on the trip.” You looked so downcast as you dully said those few words.
“Why on earth not Buddy?” I asked, feeling concern for the beautiful boy who looked suddenly so sad.
“I just can’t come.” Eyes fixed on the floor. No explanation, nothing. You turned and walked away without looking back.
I was shocked. What was the matter? Was there a problem between you and some of the other players that I hadn’t noticed? Were you being bullied? I couldn’t believe that. I knew all the kids in my orchestra very well and I knew they were incapable of that, although one or two might be a bit jealous of either your talent or your looks (or perhaps even both), they were certainly not vindictive; just the opposite, in fact. I knew the kids in the orchestra were all friends, even though they might have rivalries, there was nothing ever very seriously wrong between them.
I really wanted you to come on that trip, Buddy, it would be hard for the second trumpet player to cope with the music, for one thing. It was an opportunity I didn’t want you to miss and then perhaps regret it afterwards. I decided to speak to your father, whom I knew quite well as he was on the parents’ committee of the orchestra.
I called him up that evening.
‘Professor Goodbody? This is Jack Kendle speaking, the director of Bud… er Beowulf’s youth orchestra.’
Ah Good evening Mr. Kendle. What can I do for you?
‘It’s about the trip I am proposing to make with the orchestra in a fortnight’s time, Mr Goodbody. Bud…Beowulf tells me he’s unable to go and didn’t give me a reason. Are you all planning to be out of town then or something?’
Not as far as I know, Mr Kendle. Beowulf didn’t mention anything about a trip when he came home today. Does this trip involve sleeping away from home?
‘Well, actually it does. Is that a problem?’
Well, Beowulf suffers from acute somnambulism, Mr Kendle; sleepwalking. In fact sometimes it’s quite serious. He was once found half a mile away, on the platform of a railway station,dressed only in his pyjamas at five in the morning about to get on a train. He’s having professional treatment for it, counselling etcetera. He’s a lot better now; in fact he hasn’t walked in his sleep in three months, but he’s still worried that it will happen again. Being in a strange place is a bit traumatic for him; it got so bad we couldn’t have family holidays away together. As I say, it’s improving a lot, but he still doesn’t trust himself to be away from home overnight. Unless of course…
We talked a good while longer and worked out a plan together.
As usual you were one of the first to arrive at the rehearsal a few days later. After our customary kiss you stood back and surveyed me with your amethyst-blue eyes under those absurdly long lashes of yours. You were still a little subdued, but not as down in the dumps as you had been at our last meeting.
“So you spoke to Dad, then?” Not an accusation, but I had the distinct feeling you felt as if I had gone behind your back.
I nodded. “Is that alright, Buddy? Did your father explain what we had worked out?”
“Yeees,” you sounded a little hesitant.
“It’s no big deal, Buddy. I’ll do whatever I can to help you sort this problem out.” I paused before continuing with what, to me was the most important
question. “You do trust me, don’t you?”
“Of course I do,” came the immediate response. I must admit I felt a pang of guilt as I recalled some of the fantasies I had had involving myself and this gorgeous specimen of young boyhood.
“So what did you and Dad work out, then?” You still sounded a little apprehensive.
“It’s no big deal,” I replied. “All it is basically, is that you and I will have to share a room and I have to ensure you stay put!” I grinned at you as I said this. However, you still looked doubtful. I grew a little worried. Would this be too much for you? Had your father and I misjudged the situation? I found myself holding my breath.
“But what … what if I don’t stay put? What if …?”
I cut you short, with a hand on your shoulder. Looking into your impossibly blue eyes, I said, “Buddy. I will regard this as my sacred duty to look after you and help you through this. Your parents have asked me to do this and if you are ready to let me help, then I will not let you down. That is my promise to you, my dear friend.” I swear, I almost felt as if I would burst into tears as I spoke. Your eyes also became moist I noticed and without any warning, you gave me an enormous hug.
“Because it’s you, Jack, I’ll go.”
I’ll never forget those words you said softly as you held me, Buddy. As I held you tight, I thought my heart would burst with love for you.
So, to cut a long story short, the trip was planned and at the end of the fortnight we were on our way by coach.
You and your friends were of course at the back of the coach, being rather rowdy as only young teen boys can be. I and the other supervisors turned a blind eye just as long as the noise didn’t become too deafening; the kids had to let off steam.
I had explained to the other supervisors (a couple of my colleagues, two women to look after the girls) what the situation was with you and the sleepwalking and how your parents and I had arranged matters to try and resolve the situation. They understood completely. I had even spoken privately to the other boys in the orchestra, after clearing it with you and your parents’ of course, about this ‘problem’ explaining why you would be with me. This had to be explained carefully and concisely so that there would be no harmful rumours flying about the community as to why I was sharing sleeping accommodation with a teen boy.
Normally, one or other of your parents would have come on the trip, so that the situation would not arise that you would sleep with me, but during our telephone conversation, your father had told me that he and his wife were due to be out of town, presenting lectures at a congress that weekend and that there had been problems about what to do with you meanwhile, so in a way, we were killing two birds with one stone, as it were. I was helping them out of a problem, enabling them both to attend the congress and possibly helping you deal with his sleepwalking. Your father even said to me that he knew that his son looked up to me and regarded me as a friend.
If Beowulf is comfortable with this arrangement, then it’s more than alright with his mother and me, he had said.
The other boys in the orchestra took the news mostly in an adult fashion, though I did notice the odd wink and smirk … it was just the way their teenage minds were wired. I am completely sure I had never ever given them any reason to suspect me of being gay; as I said before, I made absolutely sure that no person, male or female in the orchestra was an obvious favourite. I treated everyone equally. I like to think there was a mutual respect between me and the kids. I, being their instructor, had to lead by example. I had to exercise scrupulous fairness and never let my own personal feelings for the indivudual cloud my judgement or colour my decisions. Everyone knew that you deserved to be principal trumpet, there was never any doubt that you had heaps more talent and musicality than the other guys, yet had another player come along who was better, then you and I both know the better player would be entrusted with the position.
Over the years I have had many boys in the orchestra whom I have delighted in being with. You included, Buddy, although with you, I felt as if there were always something deeper. You weren’t just another pretty boy whom I lusted after in secret. (Yes, Buddy, you are beautiful. There I’ve said it!) There was an added dimension, which is why, I think, we both didn’t even think twice about our greeting and farewell kisses – even the other kids in the orchestra didn’t look twice. I think they, as I, felt that it was completely genuine, natural and – and this I do mean – innocent. I know that sounds odd coming from a self-confessed gay man, but those chaste kisses were truly innocent expressions of my genuine liking for you, not for my own perverted pleasure, but ‘tell that to the cavalry’ as they say. To you and I’m sure, to many other kids, I was almost like a relative. Many of the kids talked to me in confidence about their worries, or if they had problems; I guess I’m a good listener. It’s just a knack I have, I suppose; kids feel at ease with me, both boys and girls.
Anyway, while I spoke to the kids about your sleepwalking and the solution for you on the trip I decided to ignore the slight grins one or two of the boys gave each other. I explained about the problems facing a sleepwalker and how potentially dangerous it could be for the sufferer. They became serious when they really thought about your problem and seemed very sympathetic to your plight. They agreed it was a ‘bummer’ (their expression) if you should be excluded from the trip on account of your condition and understood why you needed to be in the same room as me. I was glad to get that out of the way, I certainly didn’t need the suspicion of pederast hanging over me – even though I am gay and sexually attracted to you, Buddy, but you knew that even then, didn’t you my darling Golden Boy? As they say, hindsight is 20-20.
I can with all honesty say the youth orchestra then was better than it had ever been! We had a great programme allowing each section of the orchestra to shine and you, Buddy, had a few solos to play which you managed with real panache! At this rate, we would easily win the Youth Orchestra Category in the upcoming regional competition, but that was to come later. This concert out of town would be excellent practice for that.
It was going to be a busy couple of days. We arrived at our destination in the late afternoon after having spent six hours on the road. We would have a brief rest and refreshments before going straight to a rehearsal. We would practice until dinner then after we had eaten, have another hour’s rehearsing then it was strict orders that everyone turn in and try and get as much rest as possible; we had to wake early the next morning. Although very tired after the trip, the rehearsal went reasonably well. I only hoped that the temptation to stay awake most of the night chatting or rough-housing would be avoided. I had thought that if I worked the kids hard enough they would be only too grateful for a good night’s sleep! I recalled my own teenage years, when I was in the same situation as these kids, we always managed to spend most of the night awake, telling jokes and generally making our supervisors’ lives hell! I guessed things hadn’t really changed much since my day. It was always exciting for a teenage kid to spend the night away from home with his friends. The girls mostly gossipped before drifting off to sleep, but the boys often got up to all sorts of pranks, which could be very tiresome. I knew, that with the added responsibilites on my shoulders, what with checking on the boys regularly and looking out for you, Buddy, I wouldn’t be getting a good night’s sleep that night.
How right I was, but not for those reasons!
We finished our final rehearsal for the day. I made sure we all had hot cocoa in the vain hope it would help the kids to relax and sleep and then we were ferried over to our sleeping accomodation. The girls, being so many, had the school gym. Everyone had a sleeping-bag and either an airbed or a roll-up mattress.
The boys were evenly distributed in three classrooms on the second floor and I was in what was obviously the sixth-form sitting-room, located further down the corridor. At least our room had a carpet and even a couple of sofas, somewhat battered, and a couple of table-lamps as well as curtains. Slightly more comfortable than the classrooms the boys were sharing. We even had a small washbasin in the corner of the room, so we didn’t have to traipse down the hall to the lavatories to brush our teeth.
“Not exactly the Ritz,” I joked, “but it’ll do.”
You looked a little apprehensive, Buddy. I know you weren’t looking forward to sleeping away from your familiar surroundings. I tried to reassure you. “Don’t worry, Buddy. I’m here. I’ll be looking out for you. Everything will be fine.” I squeezed his shoulder. I hoped I sounded more confident than I felt.
I looked at the two overstuffed sofas. “I don’t think they’re going to be very comfortable for a whole night,” I said, testing the ancient furniture, bringing up clouds of dust. We both had inflatable airbeds and set about filling them with air. I noticed you were glancing in my direction every now and again, still with that uneasy air. “What is it, Bud?” I asked.
You paused, uncertain as to how to continue, then, in a rush said, “Can I put my mattress next to yours, Jack?” You looked so panic-stricken in that moment, my heart went out to you.
“Of course you can,” I replied. “Any way you want it, okay?”
You looked so grateful as you placed the inflated mattress alongside mine. I had put mine along a wall, away from the window, which didn’t keep the draught out and so I was effectively sandwiched between you and the wall for the whole night, something a little awkard, particularly if I was to be checking on the other boys.
The solution was obvious.
“Hey, Buddy,” I said. “You sleep between me and the wall, so I can easily go and check on the other guys.” I didn’t need to add that it was also to help prevent you from getting out of your bed in your sleep without waking me up. We sorted out the sleeping arrangements, each shaking down our sleeping-bag onto the mattresses.
“Need to pee.”
Off you went. I sat in a sofa, contemplating the night ahead. I was not particularly looking forward to it, if truth be told. I knew I would have you close by me, but that sort of thing was furthest from my mind – honestly. I suddenly realised how much responsibility rested on my shoulders. I had about a dozen lively boys to control as well as keeping you safe, Buddy. I found myself wishing I hadn’t taken this trip on. Well, it was too late for that. The deed was done and now I’d have to get on with it. After all, it was only about eight hours or so. So, what if I missed a night’s sleep? I’d managed to survive that before. No big deal.
But inside, I was apprehensive.
You came back into the room and immediately sensed that I was feeling uneasy, you are such an intuitive boy, Buddy.
“Are you OK with this, Jack? I’m sorry to be such a nuisance. I knew I shouldn’t have come here…” your eyes began to water.
I took you in my arms, remember? I held you close, feeling your slim body press against mine, your golden head just reaching my chin. I couldn’t help myself, I kissed your blond head. You held me even tighter then. By now, of course, I was fully erect and you had to be aware of my hardness pressing against your tummy, but you didn’t move. We must have stood there embracing for several minutes before the moment passed and we slowly released each other’s hold on the other, as if by some silent, mutual agreement. You took a pace back, holding my gaze with yours.
“My dearest Buddy,” I managed to croak, “I promised I would be here for you and be here for you I will be. Don’t be upset, my dearest boy.”
Then you did something so sweet, remember, Buddy? You took one of my hands in yours and up to your lips, and planted a kiss in the palm of my hand, before closing the fingers over it.
“That’s for you to keep,” you said. There followed a moment of silence before the spell was broken by a soft knock on the door. Instinctively I jumped back a pace, being more than a little conscious of my hardon and hoping it was not too visible in the dimly lit room.
It was Liam, one of the few boys in the string section, a ‘cellist. He was aged sixteen and one of the boys my ‘gaydar’ had spotted as having the hots for Buddy. He was a good-looking boy, with wild, curly black hair, piercingly blue eyes and a sweet turned-up nose. There was definitely a bit of the leprechaun about the boy and his soft Irish brogue sounded so sexy. But, in my view, compared to Buddy, he was just good-looking. In fact, he was very good-looking indeed, but I was biased, eh Buddy?
Liam looked a little hesitantly towards us. Had he guessed that only moments before, you had been in my arms and I had kissed your head, eh Buddy?
“Er, Mr Kendle, sir,” began the boy in his sexy teen voice, almost a baritone, but not quite.
“Yes, Liam, what is it?”
“To be sure, the other guys are asking if you would come over to the classrooms and give them a hand with the window, sir. It seems to be stuck and the draught is something perishing. I’ll stay here with Buddy ‘til you get back, and make sure he’s OK, sir. I brought my cards, Bud. We can play a couple of hands of ‘snitch the bitch’ while you’re gone, Mr Kendle.”
I sighed. But I did have my responsibilities. “OK, boys. I’ll be back in five minutes.”
Well, it wasn’t five minures was it Buddy? I must say you were very clever in planning it all. And in fact, what you did probably saved me from doing something very, very foolish indeed. Something I would have regretted for the rest of my life, probably. So, we each did other a favour didn’t we, my sweet golden boy.
I went to the classroom Liam had indicated. It all seemed quiet as I went in. One of the boys piped up: “It’s this window here, sir. It’s stuck and there’s a bloody great draught. We can’t sleep, sir.”
I went over to the window to see what I could do.
I took a matter of seconds for the ten or so boys to overpower me, tie me up with ropes and seat me on a chair. Giles, aged nineteen, was the oldest boy in the orchestra and looked up to by the other lads, not least for his size, well over six foot tall and his strength and stature (he was a rugby player as well as a trombonist). Now he stood in front of me, his strong fists on my shoulders, keeping me firmly in my place.
“Sorry about that sir, but it was the only way we knew to get Buddy and Liam some peace.”
I didn’t understand what he meant and my look must have shown on my face. Giles continued:
“Well you must know that Buddy and Liam are an item, sir. They have been since Christmas!”
I was dumbfounded. I hadn’t clue. Buddy! I thought you might have told me!
Giles, as if reading my thoughts carried on, “he knew you would be upset, sir. He loves you a lot, he really does, but not … well you know, not in that way. And he knows you love him sir, well, we all do, don’t we?” The other boys, gathered around, nodded. I had had no idea that I had been ‘outed’ by this group of kids and that however careful I thought I had been, they all knew. The all, every single one of them knew that I was gay. I felt mortified.
“Oh, don’t worry, sir. We knew you were gay ages ago. We don’t mind. In fact, a few of us are and even you’d be surprised at some of the boys who are!”
“Are you going to keep me tied up here all night?” I asked. I was bewildered, shocked and by now, more than a little angry. “I made a promise to Buddy’s parents,” I started, beginning to struggle in my chair. Giles’ strong hands held me firmly in place. He leaned down over me and brought his face close to mine.
“As I said sir, it’s sorted. Liam knows how to cope with Buddy and his sleepwalking. In fact in the three months since they have been boyfriends, Buddy hasn’t sleepwalked once. So, you see, you don’t have to worry. Poor Buddy and Liam have had such a difficult time getting any time together, this seemed a great opportunity and the guys all agreed that they should have this night together without any interruption. So you see, sir, that’s why we had to resort to this bit of subterfuge. It’ll be fine, I promise, sir. I guarantee it. No-one need know and Buddy and Liam get to spend the night together. You can’t deny them that, can you sir?”
I looked into the green irises of the large handsome redhaired boy who was pinioning me in my chair. I really didn’t have a choice and if what Giles had said was true, that Buddy hadn’t had a sleepwalking episode since he and Liam had become boyfriends, then I suppose no harm would be done. Giles must have sensed my assent. He relaxed his hold on me and straightened up. “Besides, sir, we have a contingency plan.” I looked confused. “I’ve made a rota of boys to keep watch outside their door during the night, just to make sure.”
“You’ve really thought this through, haven’t you Giles?” I replied.
“Yes, sir and not just for Buddy and Liam’s sakes either.” He turned to the other boys. “OK you lot. Scoot! And if I hear as much as a peep out of you, there’ll be hell to pay. Scarper!”
“Yes, Giles,” chorused the other boys and left the room, leaving Giles and me alone.
“Is it safe to untie you sir?” asked Giles. “You won’t go and butt in on Buddy and Liam, will you? I’ve got an extra mattress and sleeping-bag here. Don’t worry about Buddy. He’ll be fine. I don’t think he and Liam will sleep that much anyway, so there won’t be that much danger of him sleepwalking will there?” He grinned.
“Oh, I suppose not,” I said, realising that I’d been ‘had’ and that you, God bless you, Buddy, had played me good and proper. “Untie me, would you, Giles. I won’t try and escape!” I added with a smile.
“Now, sir, about the fact that there are other gay boys in your orchestra you had no idea about…”
Later, much later that night, as he turned to go to sleep, Giles murmured, “Good night, sir.”
Kissing him gently for the thousandth time, I whispered into his ear, “it’s Jack to you Giles, remember? Jack!”
“Mmmm, sir … I mean Jack.”
Thank you Buddy, for everything. I’m glad you and Liam are so happy. Giles and I are so happy as well. If it hadn’t been for you, my dear boy, he and I would have never got together – and that’s not something I want to think about!
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