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Solitary

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The second incarceration was worse.

Having failed in another attempt hit Tom very hard. Not only the disappointment but the fact that he had failed others made him very low. He could hear the tongue-lashing his father would have given him.

He slumped in the opposite corner he had used as his latrine and allowed himself to fall into a deep misery. What had it all been for? He was the scion of a very old family, a small fortune had been spent on his education and he had tried his hardest to live up to expectations …but he had failed.

Tears of shame and rage filled his eyes and he dashed them away. Bloody cry-baby, he thought, shivering with the thought of what the Brigadier would say if he could see him now.

7 years old, time to go to prep school. The years in the schoolroom with Guvvy, the beloved governess were over. Tom was in his bed, hugging his teddy bear and sobbing. He didn’t want to go; he didn’t want to leave his adored hounds or his pony. Richard wouldn’t be joining him for another year, he’d be all alone. The Estate staff, he’d miss them too, and Cook …suddenly the Brigadier was looming over him, in a towering rage. He grabbed the teddy bear and shouted, his face purple

“What is this? Crying like a girl? Are you a son of mine, Thomas? Are you a man? What kind of soldier are you going to be? What kind of little pansy have I produced here?” He grabbed Tom by the arm and dragged him to the bathroom along the landing where he filled the bath with cold water and threw his son in.

“Stand up, Sir. Stand there and stay there until you learn to be a proper man.” Tom stood shivering while his father took a pair of scissors and systematically cut up the teddy bear. “I will not have my son behaving like a lily livered little weakling. You will be a man, my son, not a cry-baby, do you hear me?”

Shivering with cold and fear, Tom could hardly speak but he said “Yes, Sir. I’m sorry, Sir.”

Sir Thomas looked at his son, cold and naked but doing his best to stand to attention.

“Good man, taking your punishment like a soldier. Good man.” He held out a towel and watched Tom dry himself, then he handed him a dressing gown and led him down the stairs to the study where he poured him a tot of whisky in a large cut-glass tumbler.

“Get it down you, Thomas. Put hairs on your chest, what? You understand, Thomas, I am responsible for making sure you are a fit man to take up the burden when I am gone. You do understand that, don’t you?”

Tom shivered and sipped at the horrible liquid which burned his mouth and tasted foul.

“Very important you see, having a proper man to take over the reins. Can’t have a fairy boy in the chair, can we now, hmm? Sure your mother wouldn’t have wanted to see you a cry-baby. Hmm?”

“No, Sir”

“Good chap, now finish your drink, down in one and off you go back to bed and no more blubbing eh?”

Tom knocked back the whisky and staggered up to bed with his stomach heaving and his head spinning but at least the Brigadier had called him a “good chap”, the highest accolade. He wouldn’t think about Mr. Bruin. He couldn’t, or he would start blubbing again.

In his prison, Tom shook his head hard, banging it against the wall, repeating over and over “I won’t be a cry-baby, I won’t be a cry-baby, I won’t be a cry-baby.”

Desperate to find a happy memory, something bright to hold onto he allowed himself to think about Harry, just for once, just for a moment.

Riding to hounds with Harry, racing across the open country, nearly boot to boot, racing each other, matched perfectly in their riding skills and laughing like loons.

Fishing at the end of the day with Harry, the red sunlight glinting off their rods, glancing across at the face under the slouch hat, concentration personified, as the cast was made. Usually a perfect cast, flick, flick, draw ... there wasn’t much that Harry wasn’t good at.

Sitting at the long dining table, listening to one of the Brigadier’s endless stories of his days in the First World War, catching Harry’s eye and having to bite the inside of his cheek to stop giggling.

Oh Harry, why didn’t I do it? Why did I turn your offer down? Why am I sitting here in shit and filth with no memory of your lovely body to take out and examine like a precious jewel. I could have held a memory of loving you, could have had that in my heart forever. One kiss, that’s all I have in my heart, my darling Harry. You presented me with everything you have, with yourself and I, like the prig I am, turned it down. I walked away from real love.

Oh Harry, I miss you so fucking much, so fucking much, so fucking much. Tom Willis was crying again.