Fingers trembling, shuddering breath caught in his throat, and tawny eyes cast firmly on the outside world, Alexandre huddled himself into his father’s battered car and attempted for perhaps the first time, a false smile. He knew he had to be the luckiest boy alive, but he just didn’t feel like it. Just five days ago could have been on the brink of breaking down if it weren’t for the letter in his pocket. Just five days ago he thought of suicide, the greatest sin of all… He didn’t fit into society as everybody wished he could, and he knew it so well.
‘Are you sure you really know this boy, Alexandre?’ His father, the physician, asked concernedly. ‘I was under the impression that elder boys had to keep out of the youngsters’ ways. Is that not so?’
‘Of course not, father,’ he said, crossing his fingers behind his back. ‘Where on earth did you hear that?’
‘Oh never mind that, son. Just the way things were at the time I attended school… Times change.’
Alexandre’s faux smile brightened at his convincing dishonesty. His father had always been easy to fool, so easy in fact, that it very nearly made Alexandre feel sorry for him. Alexandre’s lies were getting bigger and bigger each day.
‘Yes, I suppose they do.’
Two hours of silence had settled between the two, giving the boy time to read his letter over and over again. Each time, his cheeks flushed with delight at those sweet, calming words. In that painful hour where he knew he couldn’t bear to live, the discovery of that letter had given him a boost of euphoria like he had never felt before. Reading it now was like being gently lulled to sleep, a soft light in a long period of darkness. The boy never knew somebody that could be so enigmatic; to make him feel loved, hated, beautiful, and worthless, all at the same time. He felt dizzy just trying to fathom whether he was worth Georges’ time.
Another hour and a half passed with Alexandre’s face pressed against the glass of the old Hotchkiss 1922, the endless fields of lavender and French countryside slowly passing by his window. Shadows rose then fell as the sun slid behind the sea. A bat swooping down from a nearby holm oak caught his attention, but only for a second, as his eyes were back down on his letter to reassure him this wasn’t a dream after all.
When the Hotchkiss rumbled onto the gravel of the château’s grand driveway, Alexandre’s eyes flew open in surprise. Darkness was now a navy blanket in the night’s sky, and the warm yellow shapes of the château’s crystal windows were the only source of light. Two vague shadows towered in the doorway, one arm stretching out in a friendly greeting.
‘Aristocrats of all people,’ his father grumbled under his breath, but was ignored as Alexandre had already gathered his bags from the passenger seat and escaped from the vehicle.
A boyish grin spread across Alexandre’s features as he slammed the car door shut and raced his way over to the porch. Even that insult to his friend couldn’t hurt him now, as he was already clinging to Georges in the first embrace they had shared since the end of term. Carefully he looked up to meet Georges’ eye and beamed, who in turn grinned back. One cold hand fell on his shoulder, causing him to flinch a little.
‘I am so glad you have made it,’ an elegantly-dressed lady said, her tight-lipped smile appearing forced. ‘Welcome to our home. I am Georges’ mother,’ at her final words she smiled admirably at her son, then turned frigidly back to Alexandre.
‘Thank you, Madame De Sarre,’ Alexandre chirruped, trying his best to appear cheerful, even at eleven o’clock at night. It had taken a long time to arrive at Georges’ residence (an even longer time than originally planned, as they kept getting lost for hours at a time) and his head was still whirling with travel sickness.
When Madame De Sarre turned to leave, Georges’ eyes glistened with excitement. He pulled the youngest boy closer, letting his hands slide down to his waist. Now that his mother was gone, he tugged the crisp shirt that Alexandre had neatly tucked into his short waistband out, did the same to himself, loosened his tie, then unbuttoned the first few buttons of his designer shirt.
‘I told you we’d meet this summer. I told you!’ he said when he had finished, taking Alexandre’s hand and leading him to the first living room he could find. ‘I’m so happy you’re here. Truly I am.’
Alexandre squeezed his hand as he was pushed into a chair opposite the fireplace. ‘I missed you.’
‘But it’s only been a week, Alexandre,’ Georges laughed, but his voice broke slightly and the laugh sounded tense. ‘I missed you, too,’ he added, noticing his friend’s worried expression.
‘Just think, a week without those nosey priests,’ the youngest joked, ‘a week without confession or punishment, nor terrible food and bedtimes at nine o’clock. We can do whatever we please, whenever we please. No secrets, and no interruptions from anybody.’
Despite the serene manner he spoke, by the look on his face, the boy was still mulling over his months at school; Georges could tell by the way his chocolate orbs darkened, and the ever so slight change in atmosphere.
‘That is all smashing, but are you not forgetting something, Alexandre?’
‘What is that?’
‘What is the date today?’
‘The 16th July?’ He answered, brows furrowing a little before the recollection hit him. ‘Ah, yes! Happy birthday!’
Alexandre leapt from his seat to perch on the arm of Georges’ chair. Gently gathering both Georges’ hands in his own, he squeezed, then averted his eyes regretfully.
A smirk curved the eldest boy’s lips. ‘And what did you get me for my birthday?’
‘Nothing. Nothing at all.’
‘But that’s just what I asked of you, don’t you remember?’ Georges said with a grin. ‘”Alexandre gave him nothing.”’
‘That is terrible though… It feels wrong. I wish I could have gotten you something.’
‘There is something I want for my birthday, though,’ he said, caressing Alexandre’s small hands in his own. ‘Something from you.’
‘I’ll give you anything, Georges,’ he said solemnly.
The youngest boy leaned over to peck Georges on the cheek, but was refused. Pouting slightly, he asked whether he was being teased. With his hands still grasping Alexandre’s within his own, the aristocrat placed his mouth against the rose pink of the boy’s softer, voluptuous lips and let them brush across, gaining a little gasp of surprise. Scarlet dusted his cheeks, just like the first time they kissed in the greenhouse, yet Alexandre closed his eyes and let his friend press his lips on his own again and again.
‘Happy birthday, Georges,’ Alexandre beamed when they had broken apart, ‘I really love you.’
‘And I love you, too,’ he replied, brushing the stray hairs away from his face.
Alexandre pushed the subject further, ‘We will always be together, won’t we?’
It seemed like more of a statement than a question to Georges, so naturally, he agreed. The last time he hurt Motier’s feelings was when he mentioned Lucien was his friend… It had taken a seemingly expensive bottle of lavender water and a poem to win him over, and Alexandre was back to blowing kisses from across the dining hall and passing romantic letters again.
‘Do you think I’ll go to Hell?’
Georges studied him seriously, a slight frown on his face. ‘Gracious, I think not. Who on earth planted that idea into your head?’ He knew the answer already and regretted asking. Father Lauzon.
‘The man I confessed to… He said Satan wants me. I am becoming a rebel, and there is no saving my soul.’ The last sentence he said was spoken with a sheepish grin, yet there was no mistaking the tremor in his voice. ‘I don’t want to go to Hell.’
‘You are not going to Hell,’ Georges said sternly. ‘Alexandre Motier is the purest boy I know — sure to go to Heaven.’
‘Do you really think so?’ Alexandre enquired excitedly, his hands gripping the arm of the chair.
‘Of course I do. Now, no more morbid talk, we get enough of that at school...’ He shook his head, certain he would never set foot in Saint Claude again, even if it would save his own soul.
It was at that moment that a maid bustled in, struggling with Alexandre’s trunk and a heap of fresh linen almost as big as her. Both boys flinched although they had been caught doing something wrong, but the maid paid them no attention and simply told them it was time to retire for the night, Madame De Sarre’s orders. Reluctantly, Alexandre paused, smiled sadly in Georges’ direction, then dragged himself to his guest bedroom where the servant made his bed. Despite the irritation of being interrupted, Motier was bubbling with happiness. This was going to be the best summer by far.
Young Motier poked his head around the guest bedroom door. Disorientation forced his features into an uneasy smile. He had no idea where all the other occupants of this household were residing… Not to mention, where Georges was. This house was big. Big enough to get lost in. His own home was large, by all means, but this chateau was something else altogether! Never before had he been somewhere so posh and refined. There was this one time he visited Versailles with his family in the summer, two years ago, but even then he wasn’t sure it could possibly be as regal as Georges’ house. Nothing could beat Georges’ home, Alexandre decided there and then.
Fingering the door frame, and feeling a little overwhelmed, Alexandre cast his eyes over to the far end of the corridor; a flash of white fur shot out from an adjacent door way. Shuffling his feet into slippers, he made his way over to the Persian cat and scooped her up into his arms. She was a rare specimen with one eye like a sapphire, and another like an emerald. There, they would be lost and confused together. With the reluctant cat held hostage in his cradled arms, the perplexed boy ambled down the red-carpeted hallway big enough to house a family of five, his wide eyes scanning the room for any sign of life. Portraits of long-forgotten De Sarre aristocrats lined the walls with watchful eyes. His face broke into a broad grin as a familiar, yet sleepy face peeked around the door and met his gaze.
‘Good morning,’ Georges said, very formally, yet even he couldn’t keep his face straight to mask the joy he was feeling. ‘This is the earliest time I’ve ever seen you.’
Alexandre checked his wrist watch. ‘Seven-thirty,’ he beamed, ‘Another memory for us to share.’
Georges gave Alexandre a full-body scan. He blushed all over when he realised he was wearing the rose-coloured pyjamas he had kissed in a stolen moment in Alexandre’s dormitory. Instead, he focused on the disheveled golden blonde locks, and brushed them into place, no matter how cute he initially thought it made Alexandre look. It would make his mother irritable to see a hair out of place — especially on another boy.
‘Before we get dressed, I have somewhere to show you,’ Georges said, linking his hand with his friend’s. Now they were perfectly alone (save for the cat) he had no reason to hide the affection he felt for the youngster. It was blissfully open and honest, a quality Georges felt he had lost at Saint Claude.
Pausing, he added: ‘In fact, I have many things to show you, before we leave for the seaside.’
His friend could barely suppress his happiness at the idea. It was very exciting for Alexandre to stay at Georges’ home for the summer, and he wanted to see everything there was to see, and do everything there was to do. Typically he’d be spending his dog days cooped up in a bedroom along with Maurice, his elder brother, who made it obvious he wasn’t exactly desired there (he’d much rather be off doing the unmentionable with his mother’s silly chambermaid, and Alexandre just got in his way). Either that, or deliberately forgetting about the list of wholesome activities to do in the summer, handed to him by the Rector from Saint Claude — all at the same time as desperately dodging Father Lauzon’s attempts at “saving him from the Devil”.
The eldest boy cheerfully led his companion to the award-winning garden, smiling happily to himself at the memories of Easter, where he imagined a pyjama-clad Alexandre playing in his garden. His flight of imagination would become a reality, he was sure of it. In his fantasies, Alexandre had been many things; the Pope, a young Roman soldier, a nymph, but this Easter memory was his favourite of all.
Alexandre opened his eyes. He was in the most beautiful garden he’d ever visited in his life. Almost every flower he could think of was there, giving off a delicate aroma and jewelling the striped velvet lawn with clusters of exotic, traditional, rare, and common flora. His favourite of all flowers were the white lilies by the greenhouse.
Almost although reading his mind, Georges strode over to the lily bed and plucked three of the largest, finest lilies. As he handed the posy to Alexandre, he said: ‘These flowers have always reminded me of you, you see. I asked mother to get the gardener to plant some, and so I dedicated them to you.’
‘Thank you,’ Alexandre said, blushing bright red. ‘Your garden is simply wonderful.’
Placing a gentle hand on his guest’s shoulder, Georges brought him to the place he spent many lonely days at home fantasising of, the Baroque water fountain. Soft pattering noises were made as the purified water jetted into the main basin, surrounded by little cherubs and bewitching women from long ago, all wearing ethereal garments spun of stone. Whilst clasping his lilies to his chest, Alexandre rolled his pyjama pants up to his mid-thigh and carefully stepped into the first ring of the fountain. Childishly, he willed for Georges to join him, and began to splash him with chilled spray, giggling although he were five years old again. First Georges’ expression was one of complete surprise — how did this work out exactly as he imagined? — but it quickly grew to one of competitive, frivolous glee.
Before they knew it, the family butler was making his way towards them, his strides brisk and stealthy.
‘Master Georges, your parents have requested that you and your young friend get dressed, for breakfast is in fifteen minutes. I trust you have already packed your bags for today’s trip?’
‘Yes, Edgar,’ a stunned Georges replied hastily, his cheeks flushing a rosy pink with embarrassment.
Besides him, Alexandre’s expression was as serious as a Philosophy professor’s, just as it had been that time in March where he had to explain himself to his confessor. He didn’t look ashamed in the slightest, in fact, he looked disappointed that the butler had to spoil their fun.
‘Could you tell them we’ll be there shortly? I just have to show Alexandre something quickly,’ Georges said, the colour in his face fading to it’s typical lacklustre complexion.
‘As you wish, sir,’ the butler responded, bowing slightly and taking his leave.
When he was gone, Georges breathed a sigh of relief. ‘And I thought we were perfectly alone!’
‘That butler is as sneaky as Father Lauzon,’ Alexandre agreed, pursing his lips. ‘What is the other thing you want to show me? Is it more flowers?’
‘No, not flowers. It’s an item in my father’s collection, dating from around the Roman era.’
‘You have a keen interest in history, Georges,’ Alexandre commented. ‘Are you sure I should be on familiar terms with such an intellectual?’
The eldest turned to look at him with such amusement in his eyes, that Alexandre himself burst into a laugh. After drying themselves off and dressing with haste, Georges in his blue shirt that was Alexandre’s favourite, and Alexandre dressed in short pants and a navy blue sailor shirt under Georges’ instruction; both of them sporting the red cravats that had brought them together in the first place. Side by side, they admired themselves, and each other, in the Baroque mirror in Georges’ bedroom.
Through the mirror’s reflection, Alexandre watched as Georges stretched out his hand to his and entwined their fingers. Their eyes met, and both mouths stretched into a knowing smile as the eldest boy’s hand travelled down to touch the youngest boy’s bare legs. He gave Alexandre’s slender, sun-kissed legs a soft pinch before placing both hands on his shoulders and pushing him to the front. Naturally, Alexandre closed his eyes, for he knew without a doubt that Georges would tell him to close them. The youngest was led, once again, to the family study where Georges’ most coveted possession was kept.
On the way to the study (which took quite a few minutes to get to, as it was on the other side of the chateau to Georges’ bedroom), Georges had time to become nervous about his decision to show Alexandre his father’s coin. What if Alexandre laughed? What if he thought he was strange or creepy, to be so obsessed with Alexandre that he would become enamoured with such a thing? Georges knew he would devote himself to collecting all kinds of items that reminded him of Alexandre; once he left home, of course. He also knew that he would bankrupt himself in the process, and would be absolutely happy to just as long as he was surrounded with reminders of this enchanting child.
When they both had their faces close to the glass, Georges explained himself:
‘The boy on this coin was so beautiful, that it reminded me of you. He kind of reassembles you, don’t you see?’
‘Oh, yes,’ a flattered Alexandre blushingly replied, gazing intently at the piece of bronze.
‘When it was the holidays and I couldn’t see you, I would visit this coin. Unfortunately, it’s all the way over in the study… I’d really like it in my bedroom, so I can see it all the time, but father would think it strange of me to ask him to move it into there.’
‘I suppose he would. But it truly is a wonderful collector’s item,’ Alexandre said. ‘Did you sa—’
‘Georges, Alexandre?’ Came the butler’s voice from outside the door. ‘Your parents are fearing you’ve forgotten to eat breakfast, and they request that you come down immediately.’
Georges dropped Alexandre’s hand although it were scalding hot. ‘Coming,’ he answered, wondering how on earth Edgar knew they were in the study. He didn’t like the stern tone of the butler’s voice, for it told him he would be in trouble for being late.
Usually his parents weren’t so strict (sometimes verging on doting), but whenever there was a guest to the family — even a young guest — they would clamp down on discipline with an iron fist. Apparently it was what caring parents did, but Georges would rather be left to his own routine and rituals.
Of course, when they arrived to the dining hall, both their eyes filled with guilt, and Georges’ mouth ready to launch into a convincing excuse, the parents simply told them to hurry up, for their food was going cold. Inwardly, they both sighed of relief; they weren’t suspected of any wrong doing. Georges knew it was paranoid, but recently he came to fear that his parents knew about his relationship with Alexandre. He was usually the most careful and organised man on the planet, but one time he was going to write to Alexandre, he had left his previous correspondent’s letter out in order to answer it. Whilst nipping onto the terrace for a breath of fresh air, he came back to find his letters scattered wildly on the floor. His rational mind told him he had left the window open, and that there must have been a particularly strong gust of wind whilst he was gone. The other part of his mind, however, suggested that either one of his parents, or one of the servants, had been into his room and read his most private and precious letters. They had been acting rather cold towards Alexandre recently…
Daring to lift his eyes from his hot chocolate and grapefruit, he cast his gaze on his mother, who was simply gazing out the windows. His father was watching alongside her, drumming his fingers against the tabletop and humming impatiently when a servant accidentally dropped one of his wife’s hat boxes onto the gravel. Yes, he decided he was definitely being paranoid. It was hard to maintain and nourish such a friendship, when it had to be a secret friendship full of rendezvous and stolen kisses.
After they had wolfed down their meals, the two boys told Monsieur and Madame De Sarre that they were ready to depart for the Basque Coast. Luckily, they had changed the destination once again, from the Pyrenees to the Basque coast, for there were no rooms available there. Georges found it quite fortunate, because he knew Lucien and his special friend André were staying at Pyrenees. He liked Lucien a lot, he really did, but he knew Lucien would rather spend all his time alone with André, without having to worry about leaving Georges out. On the other hand, he also wanted to spend as much time as he could with his own particular friend.
The Basque Coast was by all means beautiful to Georges, yet the place he really dreamt of, the location where many a reverie would take place, was Greece. Greece would be the perfect backdrop for Alexandre Motier, where he could envision the boy clothed in fine traditional robes of the purest cotton, a crown of vines sat atop his head as the smoldering sunshine played with his golden tresses and highlighted tawny eyes. As Father De Trennes once said, Greece was perfection; where the sea met the sky in genuine harmony.
After getting to their luxury hotel on par with the Ritz, checking in, and unpacking, the boys decided that they would visit the beach right away for the weather was at its hottest all summer. It was so sultry that on the long drive down to the seaside resort, both boys watched as the road ahead appeared to ripple behind a shimmery mirage. Whenever they got within a few metres of what appeared to be a watery surface, the mirage effect vanished beneath the car completely. Sweat beaded on Alexandre’s forehead as soon as he stepped out into the sweltering summer sunshine, and it was he who suggested they visit the beach. As they had only just arrived an hour ago, the De Sarre parents had to decline the offer, for they had to introduce themselves to the other ladies and gentlemen in the resort club, otherwise they would be seen for the next week as antisocial and introverted. Yet after thinking about it, allowed the two boys to set off alone, just as long as Georges was in charge of the duo. Naturally, the boys were thrilled.
In the room that the two shared, they both stripped off their sober, solemn apparel and emerged from the hotel lobby sporting swimming trunks; Georges’ red with embroidered initials, Alexandre’s navy blue and cut off mid-thigh. Memories of the stream that Saint Claude often visited was fresh in both minds. The flush on Alexandre’s cheeks at the sight of Georges watching him from afar was endearing, and the sparkle of daylight on the golden crucifix around his slender neck made his heart skip a beat. Despite being close, Georges and Alexandre often stayed apart on the days where the school would go to bathe in the pure waters. Apart from the day where Alexandre tossed a flower over his shoulder to his peer on the way back to school (talking to him directly would be too risky), they had never bathed together in the stream nor the sea, and the impish grin on Alexandre’s face was enough for the eldest boy to know he had been looking forward to it all summer.
Wading eagerly into the aquamarine waters, the two splashed about and frolicked into the sea as far as they dared to go. Not too far out to sea, and not too close to the shore either. The spot of sea that they had chosen was warmed directly from the sun and fell up to about the middle of Georges’ chest. Surprisingly, not many people were about on the fine day to enjoy the private beach, so in total there were only about fifteen people there, including Georges and Alexandre. Georges knew where they were hiding alright. They were in the ladies and gentleman’s club, smoking, playing snooker, socialising, flirting, and listening to the swing music that was so popular this summer with the De Sarres.
‘Do you remember when I asked you if we could exchange swimming trunks this summer?’ Alexandre said out of the blue, causing Georges to start and give him his complete attention.
‘Yes,’ he answered, sounding cautious. ‘Do you still want to do that?’ There was a slight tremor in his voice that he wished he had disguised better.
Alexandre smiled innocently and reached out to touch Georges’ arm, ‘No. Not today.’
The eldest boy relaxed visibly. ‘Ah, very well.’
Instead of splashing each other and playing like they planned, the youngest continued to gaze at Georges with a sentimental look across his face. Carefully he paddled closer to his friend until they were less than a couple of feet away. Wrapping his arms amorously around his neck, Alexandre waded closer still until they were chest to chest. Georges could feel his heart drumming fast just next to his own, and swung his arm around his waist. Closing his eyes, the youngest boy placed a single kiss onto Georges’ cheek, lingering slightly to smell the sea salt and sea breeze that clung to his skin, and feel the warmth of the sun on his companion’s face. Pulling away and fluttering his eyes open, a smile that wouldn’t look amiss on an angel graced his features, before turning to an expression of coyness as Georges kissed him in return.
Together they surfaced from the body of water and stepped out onto the golden sand. By now, most of the couples on the beach had gone inside for their luncheon, yet the boys would rather not take any chances. Deciding on a desolate corner of the resort hidden by several palms, rocks and small pools of sea life to hide them from the prying eye, the two sat down in the sand together on top of their towels. As the sun blazed down on their bodies, they sat in reserved, peaceful silence, listening to the seagulls cry overhead, and the faint music in the background.
All of a sudden, Alexandre rose from his spot and came to sit in the space between Georges’ legs, resting his back against his friend’s torso; he cast his brown eyes up at him, as if to ask ‘is this alright?’. Although it was a surprise (yet not an unpleasant one at that) Georges didn’t even flinch. Instead he grinned and let Alexandre relax against his body. Alexandre leaned his head against his friend’s shoulder, and closed his eyes happily as Georges began to trace small circles on his own shoulders. The circles grew bigger and bigger, then fell to his chest where they changed into something that felt like a heart shape to the boy. A soft sigh escaped his lips as the eldest boy’s fingers tested his whole chest, stroking the more sensitive areas and holding his palm against him to feel his rapid heartbeat. The pads of his fingers fell down to Alexandre’s stomach where they tickled gently, causing a hoot of laughter to burst from him. He knew he shouldn’t, but with flaming cheeks that fortunately Georges couldn’t see, Alexandre dared the teasing fingers to go lower and lower. To make this a little more obvious, he cocked his head slightly more to the left in order to place a smooth kiss on Georges’ neck, and brazenly spread his legs a little, capturing Georges’ exploring hand in his own and lowering it.
Georges froze. He had limits, and he stuck to them. Still, he smirked at the boy’s boldness, and calmly withdrew his hand, shaking his head at the look in Alexandre’s eyes. The boy was pre-pubescent, and Georges himself was only fourteen (yet appeared a lot older — maybe seventeen — to many others). Regardless, he recognised that it would be wrong to touch somebody like that when they were both so young and inexperienced.
Ignoring that Alexandre appeared pouty, he said, ‘Why don’t we take some photographs with my Kodak? It’s in the hotel room, so I could run and get it now so we’ll have memories of this first day we spent together.’
Slightly put out, Alexandre answered with a brief, sullen, ‘why not?’
He hugged his knees to his chest and waited patiently for Georges to come back. Five minutes later, he returned, Kodak camera in hand. The chunky black metal contraption had a fair weight to it, and had leather billows forming a tight seal between lens and film. Brightened by the nickel plated parts of the camera glinting harshly in the sunshine, the Kodak appeared wildly new and advanced to Alexandre. He hoped his friend wouldn’t ask him to take photos with it, for he had never operated a camera before, especially one as modern and state-of-the-art as this one!
Thankfully, he simply was directed to sit as still and as naturally as possible, watching the waves in the distance as he had his picture taken. Next, he was told to hug his knees to his chest and smile towards the camera. After the second, third, and forth photograph was snapped up, he was told to lie against the towel although he were sunbathing. A broad grin spread across his face as this shot was taken, immortalising his cheerful features in grainy black and white.
Georges promised himself that he would purchase a photo album as soon as he got home, and vowed that he would fill it to the brim with a collection of Alexandre Motier’s angel face and seraphic smile.
He rose his head from the towel, noticing that somebody new was entering the beach. Quickly, he shot up like a jack-in-the-box, and pointed the man out to Georges.
‘Somebody’s coming,’ he whispered quietly, appearing apprehensive. ‘You should stop taking photos of me, it may arouse his suspicions…’
The man walked past with his beach towel under his arm, and paused when he noticed that Georges held a camera.
‘Oh, I say. You have a Kodak?’ he said, surprised. ‘They’re rather great for taking photos of the family, aren’t they? Would you like me to take a picture of you and your brother?’
He didn’t seem to suspect the two of anything unsavoury or peculiar in the slightest, and appeared happy to help. By the sounds of it, he was an English tourist to the Basque Coast, as his accent had a strong British clang to it.
‘Oh, yes. Why, thank you,’ Georges said, the sinking feeling in his stomach vanishing.
He stood closer to his friend — as close as he would dare — and rested an amiable hand on his shoulder. The two beamed into the camera and the photo was taken.
As usual, Georges was expected to be sociable and engaging with all the ladies and gentlemen his parents introduced him to at the clubs. Most of the people there were noblemen and noblewomen, just like the De Sarres, but that still didn’t ease the tension that he felt when walking into a full, smoky, crowded room full of strangers; these strangers all had beautiful women on their arms, hanging onto their every word and doting on them like a mother does with her child. Somewhat, he felt detached from all these people. They were nothing like himself. They were nothing like Alexandre, and to compare someone like Georges’ sweetheart to all these people was a disgusting thought for the boy.
His parents were constantly dragging him away from the beach, away from the blazing sunshine and tropical climates, to be placed in a room consisting of tipsy, disorderly men who smoked far too much. In the club, he was forbidden to be close to his secret lover for fear of revealing their secret, and this was unbearable. Far too often he would see Alexandre perched on the end of his arm chair although he felt he didn’t belong there, clutching the lion’s paws on his seat with a sullen, pouty expression on his full lips — and typically, he would be absentmindedly mixing the dregs of his wine glass with a pencil that a particularly drunk man had thrown at him earlier. He was bored, Georges knew this with a certain amount of dissatisfaction...
Georges had promised that this week would be spent with his attention and affections trained entirely on Alexandre, with nobody to interrupt their solitude. However, it was rather hard to sneak off onto the oceanfront when they were constantly shaking hands with some marquis or count.
This evening, they were to dine with somebody Georges’ parents were particularly dying for him to meet. To be honest, this holiday he was absolutely sick and tired of being paired up with some friend of a friend’s pretty young daughter. When would his parents understand that he’s not interested in the slightest?
Currently he was getting dressed into the finest black velvet dinner jacket and bow tie his wardrobe held, all under his mother’s critical instruction. She hastily gave up on letting him prepare himself long ago, and grabbed his comb and pomade to have a go at attacking his hair herself. After being scrubbed until his skin gleamed red raw and he was starting to grumble in protest, his mother let him wait with Alexandre and his father by the front door until she was dressed. Anybody could tell that she still wasn’t satisfied with her son’s appearance, no matter how handsome he initially was, but she was willing to let it go for now.
All the other young ladies Madame De Sarre had introduced him to in hopes of them becoming betrothed all ended in failure, so she wasn’t pinning her hopes on this particular young lady; she was the daughter of her husband’s old school friend — a sweet girl, but rather dull-witted and giddy, features she couldn’t help but feel were all wrong for her son.
Together, they made their way down the glistening marble staircase and into the adjoining chain of brasseries, deciding on a simple but delicate and traditional French restaurant for the evening. A sense of foreboding crept into Georges’ chest as he was ushered in front of his mother and reluctantly pushed to a table holding an elderly gentleman, an elegant-looking lady, and a young woman around Georges’ age.
The three strangers all arose when the De Sarres and Motier arrived, the man rushing forward to greet Monsieur De Sarre with a friendly kiss on each cheek and a firm shake of the hand.
‘De Sarre, I’m so very pleased to see you again!’ he cried in a big, booming voice; so big that it drew everybody’s attention towards their table. ‘And your beautiful family, too!’
The woman nodded enthusiastically and exchanged a similar greeting with Georges’ mother. Both Georges and Alexandre stood there awkwardly with the unknown teenage girl, smiling politely but still not quite knowing how to make conversation. They didn’t even know her name!
The girl grinned back in a dozy, sleepy kind of way, looking like someone who would rather be in bed at this hour. She was equally dressed to the nines in a formal grey tartan skirt and blazer, her lacy white blouse poking above her jacket, and her long, slim legs covered in silken nylon stockings. Her hair was a beautiful torrent of ebony that ended just below her collar bone in small, starlet-like waves. Georges supposed he would have thought her rather attractive if he was ever interested in girls, but as he had seldom found himself enamoured by the female sex, he regarded her coolly, although she would seek to separate him from Alexandre.
Alexandre himself wasn’t looking pleased. In fact, behind his friendly, boyish smile, Georges could almost hear his angry thoughts buzzing around in his head, and the coldness of his eyes assured him of that fact.
‘I didn’t know you had two sons, De Sarre,’ the man boomed, pointing a finger at Alexandre. ‘What’s your name, young man?’
‘Oh, he’s not our son, Monsieur Clemency,’ Madame De Sarre explained, giving Alexandre her usual frosty smile. ‘Alexandre is a friend of Georges’, a guest, staying with us for the week.’
‘Ah, nice to meet you, Alexandre,’ the amiable man said, shaking the boy’s hand vigorously. Looking around at all the other diners, he added, ‘Say, why don’t you all sit down.’
After seating themselves at the rose-strewn table and having their chairs pushed in by Clemency, the adults made idle chatter whilst waiting for the waiter to arrive; talking of past school days — omitting the scandalous things they did to prank several teachers — distant relatives, religion and economy. At one point they surprised Alexandre and Georges by commenting on how cute their matching suits were: Alexandre’s entirely in white and Georges’ mainly a luxury black velvet.
Again, the boys and the young lady were left to a pregnant silence, each studying their menus although it was the most interesting thing they’d seen in their life.
Just after the waiter had taken their orders, for Georges, the room seemed to become heavy with an atmosphere he didn’t like. The tense feeling in his chest from before returned, telling him that there was no escape. His parents were getting down to business...
‘Georges, this is Jeanette Clemency, the girl I was telling you of,’ his mother began, smiling maternally and placing a loving hand on top of Clemency’s although she already considered the girl her daughter-in-law. ‘She’s fourteen years old, the same as you.’
‘It’s very nice to meet you, Jeanette,’ Georges said as politely as he could manage, completely aware of the girls big blue eyes staring him fixedly up and down. Subconsciously, he stood his desert menu up in front of his face and folded his arms as a manner of defence.
‘Nice to meet you, too,’ she replied sweetly, catching her mother’s eye and flashing her a toothy smile.
The conversation lagged for a while after that, but thankfully the first and second courses arrived, busying them for the time being. However, that didn’t stop them from picking up from where they left off earlier, putting the boy right off his food whenever Jeanette was mentioned.
‘We’ve heard a lot about you, Georges, from your mother, haven’t we, Jeanette?’ the girl’s mother said, her eyes alight as she considered Georges. ‘Such a handsome young man you are, and very intelligent, too. I’ve been told you attend Saint Claude and are top of almost every class!’
‘After dinner, why don’t you and Jeanette go out for a walk and get to know each other better?’ Madame De Sarre suggested in her typically cold, instructive voice.
Before anybody could get a word in, Alexandre quickly interjected with a pouty, ‘I’ll come too!’
Under the table, Georges’ fingers gently slipped between Alexandre’s fingertips and squeezed, stroking his friend’s much smaller, softer palm with his left hand. Still, the younger boy’s face remained a moody mask. His distrust of Georges just about made his teeth clench with annoyance.
‘Oh, no, sorry, sweetheart…’ Madame Clemency said, shaking her head. ‘I was wanting it to just be your friend and my daughter, you see…’
Madame De Sarre was about to agree and Alexandre about to protest, but Georges was too fast for them both: ‘Actually, I’d like for Alexandre to come along; it will be much more fun that way.’
‘Well, I suppose that would be fine…’ she said reluctantly, drumming her fingernails against the mahogany of the tabletop. ‘Why don’t you three go along now, while us adults talk things through. There is a lot to arrange for the future.’
‘Goodbye, boys, Jeanette. We’ll be at the Ladies and Gentleman’s club all evening until quite late at night, so go back to your rooms when you’re done talking and get an early night.’
That last sentence from Jeanette’s mother made both Alexandre and Georges freeze with horror, but instead of waiting for the former to double-take and show the woman what he thought of that idea, the eldest dragged Alexandre away by his wrist, his strides long and fast, his movements slightly jerky with nerves; Jeanette trailed behind, equally looking like she didn’t exactly want to be with them, as she twiddled with the fabric of her skirt.
Together, they made their way out of the brightly-lit lobby and out onto the beach. All signs of the deep blue sky seen earlier had vanished as the ghost imprints of the moon and stars gemmed the soft waves, and the sky was cast warm oranges and reds. Outside there were no hints of loud, drunken men in the social clubs, and for once there was a deep, calm silence. Strings of fairy lights were strung high above the sand and water, linking one palm tree to another and creating more sparkles onto the water’s surface.
As there were no adults around to tell them what to do, after a few minutes of forced small talk such as “what part of France do you come from?” and “what school do you go to?”, the girl and two young men decided to go their separate ways. Jeanette made her solitary way east, her knee-length skirt and dark hair fluttering in the slight breeze as she dragged her heels through the sand, caking them in seaweed and crushed shells, as Georges and Alexandre went west, all signs of formality vanished.
‘Thank goodness we’re away from that!’ Georges said, almost sighing with relief. ‘My parents are so intent on arranging me to become betrothed with some girl, and there’s nothing I can do to persuade them otherwise.’
‘You can’t get married, though! What about me?’ Alexandre demanded, ignoring the fact that he was trying his best to escape the arrangement. Usually he was a sweet, friendly boy, but whenever he felt that his particular friendship with Georges was under threat, he would become irate and irritable for days.
‘I will do everything in my power to get out of it, Alexandre — I promise.’
‘I’m not going to marry the girl. I’ll run away… We’ll run away. Besides, we have plenty of time… Perhaps my parents will have a disagreement with Jeanette’s parents and the whole thing will be called off.’
‘We’re only talking of about four years! That isn’t a long time at all, and by then you will have probably completely forgotten about me,’ Alexandre whined, stopping in his tracks to draw himself up to his full height and stare hatefully at his friend’s black silk bow tie.
Georges stopped also. ‘There’s no chance I’d ever forget about you, Alexandre. You’re both my best friend and first love, and despite being so naive about matters of the heart, I would give anything to spend the rest of my life with you although we were man and wife. If I can get away with it, I shall never marry, even if it means being chastised by my family.’
All hints of being annoyed had disappeared from Alexandre’s face and had been replaced by a deep flush and gentle smile.
In a quiet voice, he said, ‘I’m sorry for being short-tempered with you, Georges, I was simply irritated at the idea that you might be attracted to that girl, Jeanette. Someday, I would love to be with you, too. Maybe we could live together in Greece, where you will be a writer — or a diplomat, as you once mentioned. Oh, wouldn’t it be wonderful if one of us were a girl and we could get married and be in love without any lies or secrets!’
This last sentence he said sounded deeply sad and regretful.
‘Perhaps some day two men will be able to wed,’ Georges suggested hopefully, although there was a fragment of doubt within his facial expression. Mainly he was saying this to get the youngster to smile again.
‘I doubt that,’ said Alexandre glumly, brushing his hair out of his eyes. ‘Everybody seems to hate homosexuals.’
Somewhat, Georges was surprised. In all the time he and Alexandre had been together, they had never referred to themselves as homosexuals even once. In fact, he had barely even thought of it that way. Alexandre and himself were simply two people in love, just like he had always thought of Lucien and Andre as two people in love.
‘Why is it so wrong?’ the youngest questioned, thoughtfully tracing his finger along the lush baby pink of his lips. ‘Why is everyone so against us?’
‘Because it’s not only against the law, it’s against the Lord’s wishes.’
‘Why? We’re not serial killers.’
‘God created one man and one woman, not two men or two women,’ he answered, gazing deeply at Alexandre’s hurt expression. His own eyes were dark and brooding, and his heart was beginning to ache at the memories of Father De Trennes and Father Lauzon’s reactions to their relationship. ‘Plus, we can’t reproduce,’ he added, cheering up slightly to give a quick smirk.
Alexandre snorted. ‘I suppose that’s true, even if it is old-fashioned.’
He looked although he were about to fall into a melancholy again, so Georges gave him a gentle, playful push in the chest so that he tumbled backwards, perhaps a little bit too dramatically for the force of the push. Usually Georges would find it childish to roughhouse (with an exception to that one time in the hay at Saint Claude), but today he felt that the situation called for it... The blonde boy stumbled backwards until he fell on his behind onto the carpet of sand. At first he appeared hurtfully surprised, although he had thought that Georges had done it to be malicious, but his face soon broke into a broad grin and his eyes lit up with boyish excitement.
‘Ow,’ he said as he landed on a particularly sharp, jagged seashell. ‘You’re mean, Georges!’ He picked up the broken scallop and chucked it at him, letting out a giddy yell of laughter as it hit him square in the chest.
Alexandre leapt to his feet as it appeared his friend was getting ready to attack him back; he was about to dodge and run, when all of a sudden the eldest collided with him, grabbing him around the waist and swinging him around as easy as a rag-doll caught in the wind. As the weight of the both of them plus the element of surprise was too much to bear, the eldest one of the two toppled over, Alexandre tripping over him and following suit.
From the other end of the beach they could feel the girl’s penetrating glare (after all, she had been told by her mother that Georges loved her, and despite being painfully slow she could understand quite well that this wasn’t the case; his affections were anywhere but with her) but chose to ignore it as they rolled over and over on the sand, giggling and roaring with contagious laughter.
Their legs entwined together, tangled, as Motier attempted to go one way as De Sarre seized him from the other, catching him in a vice-like trap with his own legs. Spluttering, gasping for breath, Alexandre finally found enough brute force to kick him off, swinging his hips upwards so that he flew to his feet, gaining advantage over his friend. However, his victory didn’t last long, as his ankle was grabbed by Georges like the monster from under the bed. He was flung down on top of Georges, almost banging their heads together and biting his tongue as he landed. Despite wanting to yell out in pain, he let out a raucous scream of mirth, his eyes reddening and welling with repressed tears of both elation and hurt.
Georges smirked wildly, writhing under him although he knew very well that he could gain advantage and escape any time he wanted to; it was simply more fun to pretend to be endangered by this little boy. Their screams and cries and howls could be heard all the way over at the social club, yet nobody stirred from their drunken stupor to investigate the mischief and mayhem.
Sand had gotten into Alexandre’s mouth, mixing with the metallic tang of his own blood. His stomach churned from the taste, plus the amount of laughing he had been doing, and his throat was aching dreadfully. Slowly, they calmed down, guffawing dying down and hearts becoming a steadier pace. A heavily panting Alexandre straddled Georges’ waist, gazing down into his companion’s almost-fuchsia face. As well as having sand in his mouth, he also had it mingled into his blonde hair, prickling at his golden eyes, and rubbed deeply into his once-pristine alabaster suit…Peering down at De Sarre, he was exactly the same. Their play had been far too rough, and both boys showed the signs…
‘I think we should go back to the hotel room before mother finds us in this state…’ Georges panted, swiping the sheen of sand from his forehead with a shaky hand. ‘She will be irate if that girl tells her what we’ve been doing.’
After agreeing mournfully Alexandre allowed himself to be led away to their room. Inside, the stench of salt and sea was much less pronounced and instead was replaced by the welcoming scent of air conditioning and rich perfume. Covered in filth and gaining a number of stares from the few sober people that were there, they walked the palm tree-flanked lobby and ascended the pristine marble staircase, granules of evidence from the beach leaving a narrow trail behind them, just like Hansel and Gretel from Grimm’s Fairytales.
Georges slotted the key into the family quarters they shared and a narrow strip of light from the hallway revealed a spic-and-span parlour, everything in its place. He flicked the light switch on to dim, sent the fans and air conditioning into action, then wrestled his way through his mother’s house plants until he found the bedrooms.
‘Let us get changed quickly,’ he said, padding his way across the plush carpet, barefooted. ‘We’ll have to throw our dirty clothes into the laundrette as soon as possible, to make certain that mother never finds them.’
He made his way to the open window, the billowing curtains sending a refreshing breeze across the room. Alexandre was close behind him, his head gently resting against Georges’ upper arm as he opened the curtains to reveal the crystal-like stars twinkling above. Peering down, he was surprised to find Alexandre clad in only his undershorts.
‘How long have we got until your parents get back?’ he asked, gazing shyly at his feet. Anybody could tell that he was feeling self-conscious; out of his comfort zone.
‘Alexandre,’ he said softly, moving away. A dusty pink lit up his cheeks. ‘I don’t suppose we have long, and besides, there is plenty of time for that in the future…’
It was true that Georges did want to make love to him — for the intimacy of their friendship rather than for the sake of blind lust and gaining forbidden experience that only a married couple should share… The boys had to keep their purity intact. What they were doing already was sinful and disturbing in the eyes of the Church and in the eyes of the Lord, they knew as much from the priests at their school. They were unclean. Devil children. Evil and immoral. Dirty, disgusting creatures that should be dealt with before they infected the rest… Black sheep among pure white sheep. And most of all, it was driven into Georges mind that that was what they were: poisonous.
He did want to love him. He did want to comply with Alexandre’s wishes, for they were exactly the same as his own… But what if they were caught? What would happen then? They would be separated and forced to go to different schools. Perhaps even a different kind of school — a tougher, more ferocious school full of insanity and coldness; let it be driven into the boys that what they were doing was wrong!
The young boy stroked his finger across his cherubic lips. ‘Just one kiss?’
Georges bent his head down slightly, cocking it to one side as Alexandre wrapped his hands around his neck and leaned in to the embrace. The kiss was somewhat deeper than usual, a new experience for the both of them. Panting slightly, they separated at the sound of a banging at the front door.
The blood ran cold in Georges’ veins as he went to go investigate. Alexandre threw on some clothes in the bedroom they shared. Thankfully it was nothing but some drunkard aristocrat thrashing about the corridor and singing a dirty song.
‘Ah, you’re dressed,’ said a surprised Georges as he returned to the bedroom.
Alexandre was stood stock still in the centre of the floor, his arms rigidly by his side and his face deadly serious. The clothes he was wearing were exactly the same as the ones they had discarded in the closet, except beautifully clean and smelling of lavender and fresh cotton.
‘Who was it?’ he asked anxiously.
‘No one,’ Georges reassured. ‘Run this comb through your hair, you’ve got so much sand in your beautiful locks!’ he added with a slight chuckle.
Willing to please, Alexandre did as he was told. Once again he stood to attention.
‘I will get changed now, so why don’t you sit in the parlour and see to the piano we have in there.’
When he returned as equally debonair as Alexandre — dabbing his father’s cologne onto his neck to disguise the unmistakable aroma of the beach — the boy was already sat at the piano, moodily stabbing at the keys.
‘What is the matter?’
‘Oh, nothing, Georges.’
‘Are you certain? You look so sad.’
‘Really it’s nothing. Please sit down, will you.’ He replied hastily, the melancholy brooding still in his eyes. Georges knew he was still thinking over Jeanette and future plans for marriage; no doubt his own parents would be trying to find him a suitable partner in a little under two years…
Georges complied. He sat directly next to Alexandre on the piano bench.
‘Are you going to play me a song?’ he asked hopefully, taking the boy’s petite hands into his own and rubbing them.
‘Not today. Sorry. I’m just not in the right frame of mind.’
After a few minutes of pure silence, feeling the cooler night breeze flutter in and wrap around them like an icy blanket, Alexandre rose from his seat and opened the patio window. The eldest could only see his back, but from the dark aura that was coming his way in huge inky waves, he knew that Alexandre wasn’t content at all. Sadness pricked Georges’ chest. It didn’t matter how much they loved each other, how much they wanted to be together forever, it always came down to this. Nowhere, not in one place — not in Saint Claude, Georges’ own home, this exotic French paradise, or probably even in Greece — would they feel their hearts could belong in unison.
He selected a vinyl record from his mother’s collection and sent it spinning onto the gramophone. Upbeat swing music blared from the room and into Alexandre’s range of hearing. The boy turned around just as Georges approached him.
‘Would you care for a cigarette?’ he asked, taking a puff of the one he had already lit. The light from the stars plus the red glow of the tobacco end was the only source of light on this side of the building, casting both boys in shades of navy and deep marine blue.
‘Thank you,’ said Alexandre, perhaps a little colder than he had originally intended. He accepted the match from his friend and began to smoke, this time without choking on the fumes. Still, it tasted disgusting and made his head spin, but it was slowly but surely getting better.
‘Are you sad?’ Georges asked over the music.
‘…Yes.’ Alexandre replied, reluctantly.
He let out a deep, heaving sigh. ‘We have so many secrets that sometimes it gets rather complicated. I have nobody to talk to but you,’ and realising that what he had said had hurt Georges somewhat, he added, ‘well, I mean about our love, not just in general. Sometimes I think that we are lonely despite having each other, as we would never be accepted by society… These feelings we share… People think we’re mad.’
Even though he had often found himself along the same line of thought, Georges said: ‘You think too much, Alexandre. It’s not healthy to brood on this dark subject — you’ll find yourself getting depressed and miserable.’
‘That’s true,’ the youngest perked up, or at least pretended to. ‘Let’s forget about all this. We’re meant to be having fun!’
Georges’ favourite song came on: a jazz song written by the Englishman, Charlie Barnet, but rather popular with the French this year. It was called “Skyliner” and had a cheerful, romantic tune. He thought of asking Alexandre to dance with him, but before he could so much as manage the first syllable, the muffled sound of a key clicking in the lock was detected from behind a musical mask. Quickly, the duo sprinted as fast as they could to the bedroom, climbing into bed fully clothed and cocooning themselves inside the silken blankets. They feigned sleep as the dainty adult footsteps of his mother echoed on the tiles, followed by the graceless elephant that was his father. Soon enough, they found themselves drifting off, their final thoughts before they were plunged into a dream exactly on par; hopefully tomorrow would be a better day.
Georges knew it was a family holiday, yet desperately wanted to be alone with Alexandre. Compared with this get-away in the Basque coast, those furtive moments in the greenhouse at Saint Claude’s were pure heaven… It was although his parents knew about his relationship with Alexandre, all the ins and outs of their secret love, and this did absolutely nothing to relax him. He was on edge. Secretive despite his typically intelligent and calculating personality.
On the other hand, Motier was having the time of his life. As he had never been to the South of France before — most of his summer holidays were spent in or around Paris — it was new and exciting for the boy. Besides, anywhere would be perfect as long as he was with Georges… As much as he adored and admired him, he couldn’t pick up on the fact that he was terrified behind that handsome poker face.
The apprehension of Georges grew worse and worse, particularly on those days where his little friend would insist on walking behind his parents so that they could hold hands in private. It wasn’t although he didn’t want to be romantic, he simply didn’t want people around to know that he was a romantic with boys… People would think he was mad; a pervert, or an eccentric. He didn’t want that in the slightest! Especially where his parents were concerned. If he were to be disowned, he would be worth nothing at all. The De Sarre family had a lot of wealth and he wanted to stay on their good side from a inheritance point of view… Besides, it wasn’t worth the humiliation.
Their brief visit was coming to an end. It had only been a short stay, but short and sweet is always best… To be honest, Georges would find himself lying if he said that he was sad that it was soon ending. Most of the trip had been filled with apprehension, and an emotion not exactly foreign from one that a hare being hunted down by a hungry fox would feel. The pressure of keeping forbidden secrets hidden was overwhelming.
He knew that Alexandre would be disappointed — or even depressed — to leave, so he would make the best of their last two days together.
Today the De Sarres, plus Motier, would be travelling up towards Paris en route to their country chateau. Of course they had been to Paris, the “city of romance”, many times, but today they would be going rollerskating. Georges wasn’t entirely keen on his mother’s idea, but complied anyway, feeling Alexandre’s excitement besides him on the back seat.
He was already wearing his alabaster roller-skates, along with the sailor suit and corduroy shorts that he had arrived at the Basque Coast in. Throughout the few hours it had taken to get to Paris, he had plenty of time to admire the boy’s tanned, hairless legs, soft and supple across his lap as the car wound its way up country lanes. At times when his parents were distracted, bending over a map, he would give those legs tender strokes and playful pinches, getting higher up his leg every time. What he really wanted to do was kiss them, leave burning trails up and down his thighs; yet he wouldn’t dare with his parents and butler so close at hand… There was plenty of time for that in the future, as he was sure he had once told Alexandre himself.
Finally, the last day had arrived. The previous evening had been spent almost entirely together, if it weren’t for the silly, annoying maid that had been sent by Georges’ mother to separate them for the night. They had come so close to making love. So close that it hurt to think of what could have been if it weren’t for the maid…
‘We’ve still got two hours before my father comes to collect me,’ Alexandre chirruped as they made their way into the garden. ‘Let’s go for a walk.’
Georges took him by the hand and led him down the path that he had taken every day since he could toddle. This path was where he went for privacy, when the bedroom just didn’t seem to be secret enough, and spying servants were everywhere…
The countryside surrounding the chateau was a lush velvet green at this time of year, fields of rape seed to the left, endless acres of lavender to the right, and nothing but a deep, luscious forest ahead. And Alexandre was leading Georges straight ahead, with no thought to what might happen there in the dark.
Within minutes of walking, the pale azure of the morning had almost completely vanished as the trees grew denser and denser. They were walking barefoot through groups of clovers, dewy from the droplets of rain that would never dry in the sunless solitude. Their faces appeared almost ghostly white in the darkness cloaking them, and yet neither boy showed any fear or indication that they wanted to go back.
Eventually they came to a clearing. Trees twisted and twined outward, giving an almost magical atmosphere to the place. Small patches of golden light were revealed through the thicker trees, surrounding a huge circle of the sky shown overhead, where tiny shadows of the trembling leaves danced. Only a couple of doves could be heard, along with the wind whistling through the forest like a hauntingly beautiful song.
Alexandre sighed softly, basking in the peaceful atmosphere. In only a couple of hours he would be on his way home, where his brother could tease and pummel him into a crying pulp… He lay down on the dewy field of grass and clovers, turned on his side and expected his friend to do the same. Closing his eyes, he smiled in bliss as Georges did exactly what he wanted him to do.
‘It’s so beautiful here. Do you come here often?’ he asked, entwining his fingers in Georges’.
‘I do, but never this far into the forest. Today is the first time I have seen this place.’
For the next couple of minutes there was silence, Alexandre lying still on his tummy, rummaging through the clovers in a distant kind of manner.
‘I don’t want to go home,’ he whispered, looking up at Georges through his lashes.
‘Ah!’ he cried, spotting something in the grass.
He pulled up a four-leaved clover triumphantly. Then he stared at it in marvel.
‘Look! I’m so lucky!’ he laughed, turning back over onto his back and staring up at the clover, holding it up against the sunshine. ‘But… you can have it, Georges. It’s for you, really.’
Georges muttered his amazement at how he could have found it so fast. Suddenly he felt guilty at having to send Alexandre home; if it weren’t for his parents, he would have liked to have Alexandre stay with him for the whole length of the summer holidays.
‘Thank you,’ he said finally, taking the clover delicately into his fingers and admiring it, just as Alexandre had done beforehand.
Again, the silence started, yet less moody than before. Alexandre was staring at his friend with an uncertain look in his eyes, yet determined, until he was straddled across Georges lap, just like the position they were in last night, before the interruption. His breath came out in moans and sighs as Georges pulled him closer, until he was almost melting against him, their hearts beating wildly like a birds’ and lips pressed together in their close embrace. Tiny fingers ran through Georges’ neatly waxed and styled hair as they kissed, moving to his neck as they had done on the beach at the Basque Coast.
Alexandre had no idea where he got these funny, almost thrillingly adult ideas from, yet took pleasure in experimenting anyway. Sometimes he thought it was his older brother’s influence — Maurice was almost pressuring him into thinking about making love with girls — and yet, at the same time, he knew it was because of Georges. Georges had once become innocent because of Alexandre’s childlike demeanour, and Alexandre became sinful under Georges’ influence, and now, they were both sinners in the Fathers’ eyes... Yet how could sin feel so good, so right, so natural? It was alien to the boy. Really, it was alien to everyone.
An hour and a half later, they were back at the chateau, Alexandre still trembling slightly and Georges in a daze. Those kisses and touches had strengthened their bond “as one flesh”, making it almost impossible to want to say goodbye for another four weeks. And as Georges sadly waved Alexandre farewell, he knew that nobody would get between them in the new term of Saint Claude’s, even if he had to sell his soul to the Devil.