[Dedicated in the centenary year of her birth, to the memory of Barbara Pym (1913-1980), the greatest English woman novelist since Jane Austen. Forget Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf. There is not a lot of sex in this installment, but I hope that you will read and enjoy it as a story rather than as wank literature.]
Chapter XXII Dom: Christmas at Getheringthwaite
The weeks before Christmas saw me making numerous phone calls and job applications. But about December 20, I received a phone called from my old tutor, Dr Fraser who suggested that immediately after New Year, I should ring a friend of his in the HR department of a large IT service provider, as there might be an interesting job on offer.
We stayed at Getheringthwaite for Christmas. That year was the first time that my parents and brothers had plucked up courage to come to the Ovenden family home since Lord Wakefield and Robert had come out of the closet. My father told my mother that it was time she had a rest from the hassle of Christmas catering. Mrs Harrison was delighted to cook for a large party and temporary kitchen and serving help was hired in the village. One evening we had a very entertaining time with Michael and Richard recalling the first time that Sandro had come home with me and my assertion that I had too much work to do to date girls, when all the time Sandro and I were having it off together. Sandro told them that if they had asked him if he was dating, he would have told them that he was dating me!
In accordance with custom, the family party was joined by the Vicar and his wife. So it was a large and merry formally dressed party that sat down to Christmas dinner after the service in the hall chapel. My grandfather had been delighted when he heard of our engagement, and he asked the Vicar if he would like to assist in the blessing service that we were planning. We assured him that there would be no breaches of church or civil law, but to be on the safe side, we wanted Professor Bairstow the preside, as he was independent of episcopal rule. The meal was simple and straightforward. We had roast pheasant followed by Christmas pudding. Mrs Harrison was not into Michelin-style cuisine!
The party did not stay for New Year, they returned home on December 30, but the point was established that Robert was now a member of the Ovenden family, albeit an unofficial one. Sandro’s status was essentially the same. However, I was determined that when we became civil partners, it would be mentioned in the newspapers. I did not want a closet existence. I was proud of Sandro and wanted him to go down in history as my mate.
The Hall had modern efficient gas-fired central heating, installed a number of years ago at great expense. I explained to Sandro the source of our family wealth. In the early nineteenth century, coal was discovered in land owned by the Ovendens a few kilometres away from Getheringthwaite. The mining revenues vastly increased the wealth of the family, but instead of dissipating it in high living, or investing in further collieries, they invested the cash in city-centre land, particularly in London. Leasehold development of this land brought in a large rental income, which was invested in a trust and used to purchase more land and pay the family a very substantial income. By the time that the coalmining industry was nationalized in 1947, the collieries had ceased to contribute to the family income.
The complicated management of this fortune was in the safe hands of Tim Ingledown, who also managed the affairs of Jon and David. This hands-off arrangement suited not only the Marquess and his son, but also my brothers and myself. Like Luke and Cathy, we had been brought up with the idea that wealth was a resource to be used for the benefit of society as a whole, and that individual fulfilment should come from work, not from spending money. As you can imagine, this put an additional pressure on me to find a job.
On January 2, I rang the number given to me by Dr Fraser, and had an interesting conversation about an attractive sounding job at Yeohampton Tech Solutions. The outcome was my dispatch of my CV by E-mail that day and shortly afterwards a summons to interview at the firm’s head office in Cheltenham. In the morning I met the head of the unit and we had a discussion about the nature of the work at which I asked several questions. In the afternoon was a formal interview at the end of which I was offered the job. The firm had an office in Sheffield, and it was agreed that I should go there for my first six months. I was delighted because Sheffield was only fifty minutes drive from Getheringthwaite. Accordingly, by mid-February, Sandro and I were sleeping each night together before leaving next morning on our daily commute to our respective jobs. It meant that we had to buy an additional car, so I got a medium-sized second hand vehicle with about 30000 km on the clock.
Chapter XXIII Luke: Tom gets his doctorate
At this time in Trabizona, gaziantep escort Tom was finally putting the finishing touches to the dissertation for his Dottorato di Ricerca (Ph.D.). He had originally written it in English, and with a lot of help from Professor Arturo Sescandanto, his supervisor, had translated it into Italian. Basically, it consisted of seven published papers written in English and already published in international chemical journals, with an extended introduction and a long discussion written in Italian. It was not thought necessary to translate the published papers themselves, as their quality was testified by their publication in peer-reviewed journals. However, he still had to undergo the ordeal of interview by a committee of specialist chemists, and this had to be in Italian. Arturo gave him a lot of help and encouragement, saying that really no-one on the committee knew any more about the topic than he (Tom) did, and that Tom’s Italian could cope with anything challenging. I gave him a lot of encouragement too: his command of the language was now as good as my own, even though I had started speaking bits of Italian when I was under ten years old, and Tom had not started to learn till he was twenty-two. Also for two years now, Tom had been involved in teaching students in the laboratory, and had encountered no problems. The dissertation had been submitted and Tom was awaiting the day of his examination.
During the wait, the two of us, plus Arturo and Bastian, were invited to the wedding of Ben and Leonora in Leonora’s home village in Emilia-Romagna. It was a very happy occasion. There were more people from Trabizona and Bologna at the wedding than from the village itself. It was a tribute to the tenderness Leonora felt for Tom that he was invited to read the epistle at the nuptial mass. The villagers must have found his English accent a bit strange, but he read clearly and confidently. The reception was enjoyable without being lavish. The Prosecco flowed freely and the food was delicious. Both Tom and I kissed the bride and wished the happy couple joy. Already Leonora was unrecognizable from the shy quiet would-be nun of a couple of years ago. Whenever she looked at her new husband, she radiated happiness. As for Ben, he was over the moon. He was steadily getting Europeanized! I said to Tom as we were on the way home, “We need to pray for Ben and Leonora. Although they are very much in love, they don’t have a lot in common, and I wonder how they will settle down together. I would hate if if their marriage didn’t work out.”
“They are both stable and faithful people,” said Tom, “and I think they will grow together and make a go of it. As long as Ben can help her to conquer her fear of sex, I think they have a great future together.”
It looked as if Arturo was becoming quite fatherly towards Tom. Arturo, now in his middle forties, and settled with his gay partner Bastian, who had finally agreed to move in with him, was beginning to get the feeling that most men experience at some age or other, of needing to be a father, but being gay, this was biologically impossible. One day, at one of our regular monthly dinners, knowing my personal history, he asked me what it had been like to be adopted by two gays. I told him that I had had a very enjoyable childhood and adolescence, and had never regretted not having a mother until I actually met my mother when I was nineteen. Even then it took several years to realize that I might have been even happier with a mother. In fact Tom, who had lost his mother at fifteen, appreciated my mother even more than I did. Nonetheless, I assured Arturo that Tom and I were determined to adopt or have children by surrogate once we had become securely established in jobs.
Eventually, the day of Tom’s doctoral examination came. In spite of very untypical acute nervousness, he successfully passed the ordeal and earned the title of Dottore. Everyone in his lab, with wives and partners, including myself and Bastian, were invited to a party that evening, where once again the Prosecco flowed abundantly. “You are my first non-Italian Ph.D! said Arturo, “And we can tell the Young Leonardo committee that they have supported another promising scientist. Tom, it’s great to have you in my lab! By the way, you are also my first gay Ph.D. It’s very nice to have someone in the lab who’s not always ogling women. Oh, and you can now call me Arturo in the lab!”
Bastian and I grinned at one another. “You and I had better watch out!” I said to him, “or we might end up finding ourselves exchanging partners!”
“You’re a bit young for me!” said Bastian, “I prefer older men!”
“Congratulations, Tom!” said Ben to Tom. “Welcome to the Doctoral Club! A Ph.D. is the first step towards a Nobel prize!”
Leonora came up and kissed Tom. “Felicitazioni, Tomaso!” she said, “caro amico mio!” Tom was now assured of a job for another three years.
My job also was more secure after the success of Anna Veronica. Attendances for the new season were good, the new programme had been very well received, and we were thinking of renovating the backstage facilities, to make them more attractive to international artists. That however would require applications for grants.
When we got home that night, I was not in the slightest surprised when Tom began to make love to me. “My darling Luke, I owe everything that has happened today to you,” he said. “Without you, I might, thanks to Mr Silverdale, have been a good chemist, if I had survived a lonely first year at Buckingham. But without you, I would probably have packed in my course and left Camford. You rescued me from loneliness and despair and gave me a sense of self-worth. I can still scarcely believe that you let me make you mine. I would still relinquish everything I have achieved if you asked me to. You are the light of my life. I know that you belong to God first, as do all believers, but He was willing to share you with me, so I am grateful to Him as well. My precious boy, you are so sweet, you have transformed my life!” He started to smother me with kisses, as he slowly undressed me. I assisted by removing my shoes and socks.
“Are you sure that you don’t want to swap me for Arturo?” I asked him. “He was coming on at you tonight! I hope he doesn’t fancy you. I don’t want to share your cock with another man, particularly when he’s your boss!”
“Don’t be silly, fag-boy, he was just feeling fatherly. I know how he feels. I want to be a father. I wish we could have adopted little Tommy.”
“We’re too young to adopt a child of eleven. But if we want to adopt, we’ll probably have to go back to England. Bastian told me that Italian law does not allow gay couples to adopt.”
“I will do whatever you want, my lover boy,” Tom replied. He began to kiss my bellybutton and moved his lips slowly down my treasure trail till he reached the ultimate goal of lovemaking, which was sticking up out of its black undergrowth. He took it into his mouth and began to blow me. As usual I was overwhelmed by a sensation of loving surrender as his tongue and lips worked their magic on my tool. All the time his hands were stroking my belly and nipples. The amatory skills of this man once again amazed me. I felt once more how amazingly fortunate I was to be loved by such a man. I smiled at him with happiness as he did his best to swallow my cock. “Caro dolce uomo mio!” (my darling sweet man) I whispered, “Sei un’ amante perfetto!” (you’re a perfect lover). I wiggled my manhood around in his mouth and he rubbed his tongue against it and after several minutes of wonderful pleasure, I shot my load into his mouth. He removed my dick from his mouth and swallowed my ejaculate with a happy smile, before pushing me backwards on to the bed and lifting my already wide open legs on to his shoulders. He kissed me passionately on the lips, and I could taste my own come on his lips. He reached for lube and rubber, and in no time at all he was in me, up to the hilt. He bent forward and kept on kissing me before starting to work his dick in my hole.
“Tuo culo mi piace!” he whispered as he had his way with me. He did what a man needs to do and after more blissful minutes, he came inside me with whoop of delight. A few times he hit my prostate gland and convulsed me with shivers of pleasure. As his rapidly softening cock slipped out of my rear hole, he rolled over beside me and lay there kissing my shoulders, neck and chest. As he pulled the condom off his prick and knotted it, he said to me: “This is perishable seed, mere body cells that go to waste; but when I squirt it, I know that God is pouring the imperishable seed of His love into you, and into all humanity. God gives us love so that in loving others, we come to love Him.”
“You’re getting like my Dad!” I replied, “preaching in bed!” I turned on my side and laid my head on his chest and kissed his bellybutton.
Chapter XXIV David: Tommy’s schooldays
I was determined that I should see more of my new son than I had seen of Luke and Cathy at that age. Tommy had had some difficulties settling in at Winton College School. Part of the problem had been the uniform. All boys up to year 11 (from age ten to sixteen) had to wear a white Tudor-style ruff, fastened at the back of the neck by a button or press-stud, over which was worn a collarless black shirt or black T-shirt with long sleeves. This clothing had been traditional for centuries, and really looked no stranger than the striped ties and blazers worn by boys at other schools. Luke had worn it without protest when he was at WCS. But it took Tommy some weeks to get used to having his throat surrounded by a polyester frill, and he felt self-conscious wearing it on the bus to school, in spite of the fact that there were other boys on the bus wearing the same outfit. The ruff got grimy and sweaty and had to be changed every day. Fortunately polyester ruffs would dry overnight when washed. The younger boys looked sweet in their ruffs, but pubescent sixteen-year-olds tended just to look scruffy.
Academically Tommy got on well. He was particularly good at maths, music, swimming and football (soccer, for the benefit of American readers. WCS was not a Rugby-playing school). He surprised us all by choosing to learn Latin. After he came to live with us, he soon got used to our comfortable family habit of everyone relieving himself in the home from flatulence whenever necessary. He was a bit startled the first time he heard Jon fart without apologizing, but after he heard Sandro and Dom letting off wind noisily, he soon began to join in, and thought nothing of it. We were happy when we heard him fart, because we knew that he felt secure. For several years Jon and I worried that his infant ill-treatment might have left permanent scars on his personality, but we never found any evidence of mental trauma. He had been rescued just in time.
The first summer after he had started at WCS, he went with Jon and me to Italy. It was August, and Tom and Luke joined us for a week at Milapoli, an Adriatic seaside resort where Jon and I had spent a happy holiday many years before. We would have preferred to stay in our house in Montecatini Terme, but it was bringing in a good income from holiday lets, and in spite of a visit with us to Nice the previous summer, Tommy had never had a beach holiday. So each day the five of us would set out with bathing trunks and beach towels and spend a morning or afternoon playing with a ball on the beach. Although he was getting rather beyond the age of bathing and sandcastles, Tommy enjoyed himself on the beach. We just wished that he had a special friend of his own age to play with. Even so, he enjoyed visiting ancient churches and ruins and eating at the local trattoria. It was amazing how easily he adapted to adult company without any signs of boredom. Tom and Luke would take charge of him most days, leaving Jon and me to relive our youth, recalling the fact that Milapoli had been the place where my singing talent had first been recognized. By the time we returned to Camford and Luke and Tom to Trabizona, young Tommy was as brown as a berry, and we adults also had significant suntans.
Tommy formed lots of friendships at school, and there were always eight or nine boys at his birthday party. This was the numerical limit that we could manage in Camford. When he became twelve however, we took the birthday guests to Rockwell’s Barn and had the party in and around the pool. It was a great success, and a dozen noisy teenage boys had a wonderful time. Although he got on well with his friends, he never had one particular friend whom he wanted to come on holiday with us.
Each year the boys had tests at the end of the school year in July, and Tommy came top in all his favourite subjects. We were amazingly lucky to have acquired such a bright boy after such a Dickensian birth and infancy. He was also a very affectionate boy. Even in adolescence, he never hesitated to kiss Jon and me goodnight when he went to bed, and kissed Dom and Sandro when they were home with us, and of course he always kissed Caterina. He often asked when Dom and Sandro were next coming home. I told him that in a few months Dom would be working in Cheltenham, which was much nearer Camford than Getheringthwaite, and he would be home at weekends more often, and that when Sandro started to write his thesis, he would be home with us for several months, using the Science Library.
Chapter XXV David: The end of an era at Fountain Street
After Marcello’s death, I used to visit Caterina Fabioni twice a week. She adapted very quickly to life on her own, and had a very active social life with the elderly ladies whom she had known for years. But she said that she missed cooking for Marcello, and got lonely in the evenings. So we agreed that every Wednesday evening Jon, Tommy and I would go to her house for dinner. Tommy took an instant liking to her, he would even sometimes walk round to her house after school and talk to her. We realized that he was missing having a mother figure. One day, she said “Davide, Tomaso needs a good piano to practise on. That upright piano in your flat is not very good. Why doesn’t he come here to practise? Not necessarily every day, but at least three times a week. He could stay and do his homework and eat with me as well, if he wanted to.” So it was arranged, and Tommy was very happy. He soon loved the old lady like a mother.
This arrangement went on for some months until one evening when the three of us were enjoying Caterina’s superb cooking, she said, “Questa casa è troppo grande (this house is too big). I think I will put it on the market.”
Both Jon and I had the same idea. “Sell it to us,” said Jon. “We will convert the side wing into a self-contained apartment, where you can live for a modest rent, and you can cook for us whenever you feel like it, but with no commitment. In the evenings you can watch television in your own apartment, or stay and talk to us. In that way you can make better use of the money you get by selling the house without having to move into a new house. We have been looking for a bigger house for some months.”