Because the hostel is the opposite direction from where I live, I suggest Doug comes home with me after work. Brenda will be able to give him a lift home. It won’t be far out of her way.
In the car on the way home, Doug and I exchange some idle chit-chat about how his first day had gone, but, like the fly in the room that you can’t swat, buzzing in my head there is an idea that I need to ask him about something important. It will probably come to me after he has gone home.
Doug sits in the kitchen, keeping me company as I prepare dinner. He offers to help, so I suggest he takes his jacket off and give him an apron. Telling him where he can hang the jacket gives me the chance to tell him I was impressed with his turnout today and to ask about the suit.
“Mr. Wen found it for me. He said it was a second because the pattern on the lining isn’t properly aligned. Apparently the staff can get seconds at a knock down price. I feel a bit embarrassed about it because he wouldn’t let me pay for it. He said I needed a suit to come and see you and not to argue. He would deal with paying for it.
“You don’t think he fancies me do you?” Doug’s worried tone is belied by the amused look on his face. I smile back.
“I don’t think so,” I say. “Somehow I cannot imagine Mr. Wen ever having carnal thoughts about anyone.”
We both laugh and our conversation pauses briefly.
“How old is Colin?”
Doug’s question seems at first to come from out of the blue until I realise that, unlike Mr. Wen, he is not immune to carnal thoughts.
“He may look younger,” I reply, “but he is fresh out of college. He is coming up to twenty two.”
“Oh. A bit too old then.” There is a wistful tone to the comment.
“Interested, were we?” His blush gives me the expected answer. With the benefit of my conversation with Colin earlier in the day, I continue.
“Doug, with the experiences you have had in the last year or so, I think you are emotionally more mature than most kids your age. The age difference should be less of a problem than might otherwise be the case, and by the time you are his age now, it won’t be an issue. As long as you get to know each other first and take things slowly, I think you two should be all right together. You’re over sixteen so you won’t be doing anything illegal.”
I think they could be a good match if they are genuinely interested in each other.
Any further thoughts on the matter are cut short by the ringing of the doorbell. Before I can get there I hear the door open and close. It will be Brenda; she knows I leave the door on the latch when I am expecting visitors. I meet her in the hallway.
“Hi, Patrick. Is your boyfriend here yet?” Her voice is needlessly loud as we do our air-kiss thing.
“Not yet. Doug is though,” I grouch back at her, adding, “anyway he is not my boyfriend.”
“No?” she says, smiling anything but innocently.
“You’d better come and meet Doug.”
I take her coat to hang up and steer her through into the kitchen. Any hope I might have that Doug had not heard Brenda’s outburst is dispelled by the look on his face. I can see the exchange has been noted for future reference.
The doorbell rings again announcing the arrival of Mike. He is not privy to the arrangements with the latch so I go and let him in.
I open the door and Mike is standing there studying the front of the house, a bottle of wine in one hand.
“Good evening, Mike,” I say. It attracts his attention.
“Oh, hi Patrick,” he says. “I am in the right place. It’s bigger than I was expecting.”
The house I have inherited would be described by an estate agent as a modest Victorian villa. Not a form of words I would choose myself, although it is smaller than some in the area. However, arranged over three floors, four if you include the cellar, and with five bedrooms, it is more than big enough for my needs, which is one of the reasons Mother thinks she should be able to move back in. I should have sold it to stymie that idea but it hasn’t felt the right thing to do. The property market hasn’t been very good for the last few years either, although things have picked up a bit lately.
“Come in. You can have the grand tour later.” I almost have to drag him into the house to shut the door.
Mike gifts me the bottle for us to have with dinner and follows me into the kitchen to meet the others.
Over dinner, Mike gives his side of the break with his partner so that Doug knows and sees how it fits with his own story when he tells it to Brenda.
“Would you recognise the man again if you saw him?” Brenda asks Doug when he has finished his tale.
“Yes,” he replies without hesitation. “He was pretty scary. I had nightmares for a few days after.”
Brenda picks up her mobile phone and flicks through until she finds the picture she wants.
“Is this him in this picture?” she asks when she has found what she was looking for.
Doug’s eyes open wide. “Yes, definitely.”
Brenda flicks to another shot.
“And this one?”
“Yes. That’s him.” Doug pauses looking at the photo. “Who’s the girl he is with?”
“Mike can answer that,” Brenda says as she shows the picture to Mike.
“It’s her, my ex,” he says “And I think he is the one that made sure I got out when she chucked me out. Who is he?” He takes a drink of his wine, obviously upset be seeing his ex with the man.
“As he said to Doug, he is the boyfriend. Not a particularly pleasant individual by all accounts,” says Brenda. “Done time for GBH, apparently.”
“Mm. Grievous Bodily Harm. Looks like you were wise not to say any more to him, Doug.” My musing is as much to relieve the blank look on Mike’s face as to console Doug.
I ask Brenda if I can see the photos.
Although she looks a mess, Mike’s ex seems considerably younger than him, possibly by as much as fifteen years. The guy is probably a couple of years older than her. I decide not to comment on the obvious in front of the others. Instead it is my turn to file something for future reference.
“What about Sam,” Mike asks.
“I haven’t seen him out on his own,” Brenda replies, “but he should go back to school next week; so I might be able to find out more then.”
“Will the boyfriend’s GBH conviction make it easier for Mike to get access or custody?” I ask her.
“Contact and residency,” she corrects. “Unless he is hitting Sam, probably not. If he is, and we can prove it, then Mike should be able to get a court decision in his favour.
“That reminds me. Mike, you did say that there was nothing written down about your having contact with Sam, or who he should live with? No solicitors or the court involved?”
“That’s right,” he says in confirmation.
The conversation moves on and we talk about other things, but it is not long before Brenda decides it is time she went home.
“Would you run Doug home please?” I ask. “It’s not far out of your way.”
“It shouldn’t be a problem.” She turns to Doug. “Where do you live?”
Doug tells her he is living at the hostel.
It is only now that I am able to swat that idea that has been buzzing unseen in my head all evening. I have been meaning to ask if he has heard from Social Services about alternative accommodation. But I don’t want to ask him in front of the others. I hope I remember to ask him tomorrow morning.
We leave Doug to talk to Mike while Brenda and I go to fetch her coat.
“Doug seems a nice young man,” she says. “You do know the hostel is closing at the end of the month? That’s next weekend.”
“Yes. He told me and I am worried that he won’t have anywhere to go.”
“Why don’t you take him in as a lodger? If he is earning, he can pay you some rent. It would be some company for you and it might stop your mother asking to move back in.”
Put like that it sounds very tempting.
“You would approve?” I ask. “You don’t think I would be taking a risk do you?”
“More like him taking a risk moving in with you!” She knows me well enough not to mean it. I hope.
“Changing the subject,” her mood has changed too. “Don’t let Mike drive home. He has had too much to drink.”
I have to agree with her. He has started slurring his words. The wine has all gone. I was watching Doug and he had been careful not to have more than a small glass, I only had one glass, so Mike must have had the rest as Brenda will not drink if she is going to be driving. I will admit to having had a brandy after dinner, and judging by the amount the bottle has gone down Mike has definitely had more than one. Totting up, I think I might have to drive him to work in the morning, too.
“Do you think he might have a drink problem?” I ask. “I wouldn’t want him as a boyfriend if he’s a drunk.”
Damn. The look on Brenda’s face tells me I said that last bit out loud and didn’t just think it. Maybe that brandy of mine was larger than I thought.
“Oh, I don’t think he’s a regular drinker, so he’s not used to it.” she says. “He wouldn’t be so obviously drunk if he was. He would hide it better.”
I am not sure that I would agree with that analysis.
I go and get Doug so Brenda can give him a lift back to the hostel. Then I have to face a drunken Mike.
Even in the few minutes it has taken to get Brenda’s coat and for Doug and her to leave, Mike’s state has worsened as more of the alcohol has been getting into his system. At least he is a placid drunk, not one of those looking for a fight.
I decide to put Mike in the bedroom next to mine, so that I can hear if he starts getting into difficulties. Preparing for the worst, I find a bucket and take it upstairs to put by the bed in case he wants to be sick. Then I have to get him upstairs. I tell him what is going to happen, then I pull him up out of his chair and put one of his arms around my neck and grab him by the waist. He seems to understand the objective but his balance and coordination have been compromised by the booze.
We stagger to the bottom of the stairs. These old Victorian houses must have been designed for dealing with the drunken master of the house, as the stairs are wide enough for both of us. We are about half way up when he starts.
“You’re a good pal, you are Patrick.” His words are slurred. “You really are.”
We reach the top of the stairs.
“You are you know.” He pauses again. “A goood pal.”
I steer him towards the bathroom and push him in.
“Go in there and have a piss.” I stay outside but leave the door ajar.
There is silence, no sound of a stream of water.
“Paterr.hic,” he calls. “Yu’ll have to help me.”
I go in. He has both hands on the wall behind the loo and his legs are apart. He looks as though he is about to be frisked by a cop.
“I can’t let go,” he says.
“I should hope not,” I reply. “You haven’t got yourself out of your pants yet.”
Mike takes a deep breath, the way some drunks do to make themselves feel sober for a few seconds.
“I can’t let go of the wall, I’ll fall over.”
To demonstrate he takes one hand off the wall and lurches alarmingly, before putting his hand back on the wall. He takes another breath.
“You’ll have to do it for me.”
It is my turn to take a deep breath.
“Okay,” I say slowly.
I step behind him, reach round in front to unzip, then put my hand in and pull him out. Foreskin back, I move closer so that I can see round him to aim.
“Let go now,” I say and I can feel him struggle to release the flow. It is then I realise I have a different struggle of my own.
It is a long time since I have had the tactile pleasure of another man’s penis in my hands, or the sensual feel of his buttocks in my crotch. I am rising to the occasion.
At last Mike’s stream commences, but only he is getting relief. I must press closer to keep the jet on target. He must be able to feel my hardness on his cheeks. I can only hope he is so drunk that he will not remember in the morning.
Mike’s flow dwindles to a halt and I milk and shake off the last drops. My action causes a reflex shiver forcing him back against me.
“That were nice,” he says. He sounds to be in a bit of a dream. Does he mean the relief of having a piss? Maybe not for I can feel the contents of my hand now stirring to my touch. I hastily put it away in his trousers and zip him up.
I gather him from his position leaning on the wall and as we stagger to the bedroom, he starts his monologue again.
“You’re a good pal.
“You’ll do anything for me.”
Each phrase punctuates our walk as he turns to look at me.
“You even held mi cock for me.
“There’s not many pals ‘ud do that for you.”
There is one phrase he hasn’t said yet but it will be coming. I can tell he is that sort of drunk.
I manoeuvre him so he is standing facing me, ready for me to push him onto the bed.
“I love you, Patr.hic. You’re me best mate.”
There, he has said it. I know better than to read any meaning into it.
He leans towards me and pulls me into a hug. He needs to, to maintain his balance.
“I love you.” He gives a little hiccup, then gives me a kiss. But this is no ordinary drunkard’s kiss, this is tongues and all. That is not what I expected.
He breaks the kiss and I push him so he falls backwards onto the bed.
My next step is to remove his shoes, then lift his feet and use his legs to turn him so he is lying along the bed. I think it is a good idea to remove his belt and start to undo it.
“Are yoush goin’ to take me troushersh off?” He is looking up at me with a silly grin on his face.
“No,” I reply. “Just your belt.”
“Sshame, I shought yoush wood take advanshegsh of me.” He blows me a kiss. And a hiccup.
I have had his tackle in my hands already tonight. That is enough for a first encounter with him in the state he is in.
I don’t want him on his back in case he vomits; he could drown. I pull him into the recovery position, making sure his head is near the edge of the bed, and put the bucket in a strategic location.
“There’s the bucket if you need to puke.” I pick it up and put it back down so that I can be sure he knows where it is.
“Ahm not going to be shick. I don’t needsh that.” Famous last words.
There is a clock on the nightstand that has a nursery nightlight function. I turn it on. I know from personal experience that if I leave him in total darkness, his compromised balance will induce nausea and the bucket will be both needed and missed.
I walk to the door, tell him I shall be in the next room if he needs anything and turn out the room light. I go to the bathroom to attend to my own ablutions.
As I refill the glass of water I always have by my bed, I realise Mike will need to drink water to counter the diuretic effects of the booze. I fetch another glass, fill it and go into Mike’s room and set it on the nightstand.
Mike is making eerie groans interspersed with ominous volcanic rumblings from his guts.
“Ooh, I don’t feel well,” he manages say before the eruption occurs.
I hold the bucket for him with mixed emotions. I’m totally unsympathetic to his self-induced torment but pleased that he is getting rid of any remaining alcohol in his stomach, limiting the effects of his indulgence. If he gets rid of enough, early enough, he might avoid a stonking hangover in the morning. Standing there holding the bucket, I am not sure he is deserving of such absolution.
Eventually Mike’s retching ceases and I can get him and the bucket cleaned up. I make sure he drinks some water, I put the bucket back in position — just in case — and retire to my own bed, hoping the next time I am disturbed will be by my alarm clock.