Home Again, Jiggety-Jig

Silence held sway in the car as we drove home after spending the Christmas festivities at Leo’s place. I suppose we were all tired in our way, worn out with a glut of rich food, company and, in Dick and Shane’s case, kinky shenanigans. Boxing Day had been Bondage Day at Leo’s with a big BDSM party. Dick and Shane had indulged in full, but I had been more observer than participant. As I’ve said before, public play isn’t really my thing. I’m too self-conscious, too insecure. I’m not into dangling my dick in front of all and sundry. I prefer privacy when it comes to sex play, just the men folk and me.

Slouched in the back of the car, seated behind Dick, I stared out of the window, watching the scenery slip by without seeing it. I was picturing the den at home, and the bed where I’d dumped the snowflake-patterned box my mother had gifted me for Christmas. A memory box she called it, something to remember her by when she was gone. Gone of course being a euphemism for death.

I shivered, shifting in my seat, folding my arms tight across my chest. Leaning my head against the car window I closed my eyes. I hadn’t expected a Christmas gift from my mother. She didn’t have a lot of money to spare, and, as she’d observed, there was nothing she could give that I didn’t already have. On reflection I would have preferred a token gift of man smellies, or some cheerful sweet treats, rather than a box filled with paraphernalia from my past.

Memory box. I grimaced at the thought. Whose memories though? Not mine, not really. The memories it held were her memories, alluding to aspects of our relationship she had cherished and wished to remember, the board book and Lego brick years when I was small. I had other memories, less cosy ones. The thought made me uneasy, as it always did. I felt disloyal and mean minded. My mother was never a bad person, far from it, and yet, without doubt, I had issues with her.

The box held more than memories. It held a request. Mum had enclosed a CD of Scottish folk songs. One of the songs it contained had been her father’s favourite. Prior to my pre-Christmas visit she had never mentioned her father, my grandfather. She had always been a closed book when it came to her past. She gave nothing away.
Anyway, she wanted me to learn and sing ‘her dad’s’ song at her funeral. Tears pricked at my closed eyelids. I didn’t want to hear the song, let alone learn and sing it. To do so meant accepting her death as imminent. Her request felt more like a burden.

Dick’s voice broke the silence in the car. “You okay back there, hun?”
 “Fine.” I opened my eyes, blinking away moisture.
The silence returned, as if none of us knew how to fill it.

Dick leaned forward and turned the radio on. The poignant sound of ‘Bronski Beat’s’ ‘Smalltown Boy’ filled the car interior. Shane, not generally a fan of pop music, drummed his fingers on the steering wheel in time to the beat.  Of course, I smiled to myself. Bronski Beat had been big on the landscape of his youth when synth-pop had ruled the airwaves. The song lyrics brought a lump to my throat. Decades on they were still starkly relevant for so many gay men and women. And why? Because archaic organised religion still influences social attitudes. Its malevolent canker has eroded the heart and soul of humanity, encouraging and justifying hate, exclusion and intolerance. Yes, yes, I know. I’m ranting again. It’s what I do. Get over it.

I cast my mind back to the day I’d left my own small town for good. I didn’t have a little black case for my belongings. All I owned was shoved in a shabby backpack and two yellow Netto carrier bags. I posted the door key through the letterbox of my sordid little bedsit, on which I owed rent arrears, and headed for the railway station.

I boarded the train I hoped would carry me to a new life, working a job with live in facilities. I didn’t actually have the job. All I had was an artfully procured interview. In my mind though I had determined the job was mine. I had to have it. I had to get away from my small town before it, or rather some of the people in it, killed me.

You see, I was a wanted man at that point, wanted primarily by a bloke who went by the nickname of Spud. He was so named for the odd shape of his head, which looked like a large potato, not that anyone ever called him Spud to his face, not unless they were suicidal and fancied certain death. Most people addressed him as ‘Mr Quinn’ in a tone of fear induced respect.

So why did Mr Spud/Quinn want me? Not for love, that’s for sure. I owed him what I had none of, money, lots of it, most of it exorbitant interest accumulated on a few small loans. He wasn’t the charitable type and he didn’t have a better nature to appeal to, or any mercy to throw myself on. He was a cunning, cold-blooded, back street shark and he wanted what he considered his due, or he’d have one of his brutal lackeys teach me a lesson about money management and debt repayment.

To say I was scared would be an understatement. I was bricking it. There were people limping around with metal pins in their legs after a lesson taught by a Spud thug, and they were the lucky ones. Rumours abounded about allotments whose produce owed its prize-winning status to more than shop bought fertiliser. Most of the stories were probably urban myth, factoids, but still. Just as there’s a link between smoke and fire so there’s a link between myth and fact, no matter how tenuous. I didn’t want to be a factoid casualty.

In short, my life was out of control and I saw running away as my only option. A fresh start in a fresh place and everything would be okay. Such was my hope anyway.

I’d cried as the train pulled out of the station, huddled in my seat, sobbing into my coat sleeve. It was a mixture of relief at setting distance between me and the people I owed money to, fear about what lay ahead, and sadness as the gap between me and mum widened further. I’d not spoken to her since the day I’d left home at sixteen. I’d glimpsed her once or twice, out and about, but had always hurried away in the opposite direction before she could spot me. My seventeenth birthday passed without so much as a card from her never mind a box of chocs and an olive branch from Interflora. The omission confirmed the cutting of familial ties.

I was alone in the world. My mates were getting on with their lives in a normal teenage way. I felt distanced from them, especially Lee, to the point where I was avoiding him. I was envious. He had a supportive family, and a good apprenticeship. He didn’t like it much, but he had it and in time it would give him the skills to earn a living. I had nothing. I’d dropped out of college to take a fulltime job in the shop I’d previously worked in as a Saturday boy. It was a shit, low paid, dead-end job, but it helped me survive in the world after striking out on my own, until I got sacked that is, and all for an impulsive week in the sun.

So what was the big deal about taking a holiday? I wasn’t entitled, simple as that. Changing from carefree Saturday lad to reluctant fulltime shop slave meant signing a new contract. Under its terms I hadn’t worked long enough to accrue more than a few days paid leave and I’d had them. I took sick leave instead, citing a tummy bug of epic proportion, thinking no one would ever find out. It’s funny how things get around.

I arrived back from my deceitful jaunt to find I was jobless. Some fink had spragged on me. I’m not ashamed to admit I begged (tears included) for a second chance, to no avail. I was gutted. I’d made a mess of everything I’d touched, pitching from one calamity to another almost on a daily basis. The reckless holiday with a couple of my rainbow club mates was a blur punctuated with horrible hangovers, dodgy encounters and painful sunburn. It was meant to compensate for the holiday I’d missed with Lee and his family when my savings were rerouted to fund my survival as an independent entity after being chucked out of house and home.

If I was Frank Sinatra I’d burst into a chorus of ‘My Way’ at this point, giving special emphasis to the words: regrets, I’ve had a few. Yeah and the rest! My way was a fucking disaster. I’d been determined to get a stamp in my shiny passport and I had it, at a cost. I was up to my neck in debt with no means of repaying it.
On the car radio, ‘Bronski Beat’ gave way to ‘Kings Of Leon’ and ‘Sex On Fire,’ a song whose lyrics, though catchy, made absolutely no sense, not unless they were an oblique reference to some BDSM practice gone horribly wrong. Not even Dick, the King of Kink, would fancy his sex being set on fire. Genital conflagration suggested pain without any gain whatsoever, not unless months of skin grafts turned you on. It gave a whole new meaning to the term ‘bushfire.’ The song was not to Shane’s taste. He clicked the radio off. Silence resumed.

The quasi mansion loomed into view. I got out of the car to open the drive gates, pinning them back, hearing a nursery rhyme refrain in my head as I did so: ‘home again, home again, jiggety-jig.’ When I was little, my mother would always say those words when we got home after being out somewhere. ‘Here we are, Gilli, love, home again, home again, jiggety-jig.’ They’d made me feel safe and warm. Not today though, not in the here and now.

I glanced uneasily at the front door, making no effort to unlock it, though I had my keys. I waited for Shane to park up and for them both to get out.

As they came towards me, I pushed my hands in my pockets, saying casually. “I think I’ll pop over to see Eileen, say hello and ask if she had a good Christmas.”
“Not today. You’ve got things to do in the house and Frederick will be here soon. He’ll want tea.” Shane inserted his key in the lock of the front door.
“I won’t be long.”

Shane didn’t miss a beat. Unlocking the door he pushed it open, ordered Dick to disable the alarm, grabbed my elbow and propelled me into the hall. Leaning down to my level he fixed me with a look that sent an alpine chill rippling down my spine.
“Are you done flapping your mouth, boy?”

Bearing in mind the lesson he had taught on Boxing Day, I nodded by way of reply, fearful in case a verbal response would result in physical discipline for continuing to ‘flap’ my mouth. He delivered a familiar mantra.
“When I say no I mean no. When I tell you to do something, you do it, at the time I tell you to do it, and without comment. You remain under restriction. Step out of line and I’ll discipline you. Pleasing Daddy is still your number one priority. Are we clear or shall I strap the message on your bare backside?”

I shook my head. My bum was still tender after the negative attention it had received during the holiday period. I’d been punished several times for behaviour considered unbecoming to a Daddies’ boy. Shane had even spanked me in front of Leo, laying into my backside and demanding I make apology for my rudeness to him. The memory of it would continue to bring a flush of mortification to my skin for months hence. In a weird converse way it would also bring a flush of arousal, one I had not felt at the time. I guess it’s an illustration of my desire to be dominated and brought under control, even when resenting the reality of it. Kink is a many splendid and mighty confusing thing. It’s about time there was a proper in-depth study done into the nature of consensual kink. It’s not like its uncommon. It’s just not talked about much even in this day and age, and it should be, instead of being dismissed as no more than depravity.

Shane marked my forehead with an authoritative kiss and then straightened up. “Put the heating on, get this place warmed through and make a start. Dick and I will unpack the car. You make the bed and then sort out the cases.”

I turned the central heating on and headed upstairs, feeling more settled than I had prior to Shane’s intervention. Better to be under his authority than my own at that moment in time. Pleasing Daddy, both of them, meant I could put all else out of my mind, for a while anyway.

By the time I’d made the bed, Dick had brought the cases upstairs. He opened one and began to unpack, but I stopped him, saying I’d handle it myself. He looked more than a little fragile. The scene play he’d so enjoyed on Boxing Day had caught up with him. Eroticism had given way to discomfort as his body recovered from the heavy punishment it had taken. His marks and bruises no longer felt sexy, they just felt sore, his muscles stiff from strenuous bondage and suspension activity. Not that he complained. He wouldn’t. Such physical aftermath is an understood and accepted aspect of the lifestyle, a price proudly paid.

I told Dick to rest. He thanked me for my kind consideration, kissed me and left. Later, I knew, Shane would turn his discomfort to pleasure once again with sensual massage and the soft trace of fingers over tender flesh.

I unpacked the cases, put away what could go away and took our dirty clothes to the utility room, shoving them in the laundry basket. One item of my clothing would not be making it back into the closet, namely the jogger jeans Shane had made me wear on Christmas Eve. Their stretchy waistband had made it simple for him to rapidly bare my backside for punishment. Hateful things. I was sending them to a charity shop to be bought by someone in a nice safe vanilla relationship.

I opened the blinds in the lounge, admiring the Christmas tree in the window alcove. It hadn’t fared too badly in our absence, seeing as no central heating had been on. I topped up the water container and gave the branches a spray with water to perk it up before turning on the fairy lights. It was still Christmas. I wanted my tree to have its fair share of glitter glory before New Year came and went and Shane demanded I get rid of it. I had a quick tidy around, flicking a duster over the furniture and plumping up cushions.

The kitchen was next on my domestic agenda. I got milk and bread out of the freezer, blasting the prior in the microwave on a defrost setting to re-liquefy it. I filled the kettle with water and switched it on to make a cuppa. I’d just popped the lid on the teapot when the doorbell rang. I waited for the usual roar of: ‘Gilli! DOOR!’ It didn’t come. Shane answered it, evidence, if evidence were needed, that it was indeed Christmas and the season of miracles.

A few moments later he entered the kitchen to tell me that Frederick, his solicitor, had arrived and they would take tea and Christmas cake in the lounge prior to sojourning to the study to go over whatever papers needed going over.

Legal eagle Fred likes a little ceremony when it comes to taking tea. With that in mind I put the best cups and saucers and matching tea plates on a tray along with the teapot, milk jug and a trio of luxury paper napkins printed with vibrant holly and ivy motifs. They’d cost a mint and I was determined to use them. Christmas demands a bit of observable glamour.

It seemed a shame to cut into the pretty pristine Christmas cake, thus spoiling the winter dressing I had so carefully applied, but I suppose it had to be eaten at some point. The knife sliced with ease through the soft white icing and marzipan layers into the dark, rich fruitcake, releasing a glorious spice aroma. Penny, Shane’s evil older sister, could certainly bake a delicious Christmas cake, not that she was going to get any credit for it this year. I, you see, had cake-knapped her cake and claimed it for my own, after the one I made had betrayed me by growing a spectacular mould during storage. The back stabbing fruity bastard! Overcome by jealous piqué I swapped my rotten cake with hers and sought to personalise it by adorning it with icing. My cake lay mouldering in her tin yet to be discovered. At odd moments I practised looks of shock in preps for its unveiling. I know. I’m a bad lad.

I arranged generous slices of the lush cake on a serving plate. Despite the tantalising smell I didn’t eat so much as a crumb, much as I was tempted. I knew it had brandy in it, and a moment on my lips would lead to agony in the vicinity of my hips when Shane sussed the cake was booze laden and I had partaken. His vow to lash a cane across my naked backside if ever I imbibed alcohol again would be fulfilled. The thought made my mouth tighten with resentment. So many simple pleasures had gone from my life, thanks to my bossy, alpha boyfriends. A voice in my head issued a small reminder. You wanted them, Gilli. Yeah. Well. A boy can always change his mind.

Girding my loins, I took a deep breath and hefted the heavy tray through to the lounge, fighting a ludicrous impulse to do so in the style of Roddy McDowall in one of his Planet of the Apes manifestations. I’d watched a series of the films over the Crimbo period and I guess they had stayed with me. It’s Frederick. He brings out the worst in me. The minute I clap eyes on his stuffy, fussy, prudish, unsmiling face, I want to do something outrageous just to get a reaction. He makes me want to pull faces, make rude noises and generally behave like a naughty five-year-old being visited by a disliked relative. 

I put the tray on the coffee table in the lounge, uttering a polite greeting to Frederic, as I set out the cups, saucers and tea plates. He was dressed as always in a formal suit and tie. The man never took a holiday. He had probably shot out of his mother’s womb wearing a suit and tie and carrying a briefcase filled with his afterbirth. He’d have then made his mother sign an affidavit declaring she was fit to bring him up.

He gave me a cool nod and a mistrustful look, as if afraid I was about to whip out my dick and use it to stir sugar into his tea. I might have considered it, had I not been conscious of Shane’s surveillance. I gave him a honeyed smile and an eyelash flutter. They registered zilch on his approval scale. He’s so resistant to houseboy wiles and charm, or cheek as he calls it.

Dick invited me to join them for tea, but I’d rather have plucked out my pubic hairs with my teeth than take tea with fuddy-duddy Freddy and his brilliantine hair. I doubt he’d relish supping tea with me either. He doesn’t approve of me. He said so to Shane the moment he twigged I’d become a bedmate. I’d overheard him with my own ears, well, one of my ears, the one pressed up against the study door when the pair were in conference there. I was unpredictable, he said, dangerously indiscreet, and much too young. Sooner or later too much disparity in age led to trouble and strife. As a solicitor, he had seen it a thousand times. It never ended well.

At the eavesdropping time I resented the stodgy solicitor’s remarks, but now they presented in a new light. I experienced another of the uncomfortable thoughts plaguing me of late. Maybe he’d made a fair point? Shane and Dick had lost touch with their youth, outgrown it, that’s if Shane had ever been in touch with his. I suspect he was young for about two minutes shortly after being born, and then grew up. He’d probably opened a bank account, applied for a college place and set up a pension plan before his umbilical cord had even been tied off. I, on the other hand, was far from being grown up.

Dick’s voice broke into my thoughts. I realised I hadn’t answered his invitation to join them for tea.  
“I’ve got things to do, Dick.” I smiled, and then, prompted by mischief, leaned to kiss him on the lips, knowing such displays made Frederick uncomfortable. Adopting a corny French accent I wished them all bon appetite and walked sedately from the room, closing the door behind me.

With no cool green eyes to observe me, I gave full vent to my urges, dropping into monkey boy mode and pulling faces at the door. Feeling oddly satisfied I lurched back to the kitchen, ape style, bowing my legs and swinging my arms, chimp chattering under my breath. Had there been a chandelier in the hall I’d have made a good attempt to dangle from it while peeling a banana with my feet. Insane? Me? Probably.

I put the corrupted Christmas cake back in its tin and packed it away in a cupboard. I compensated for cake deprivation by helping myself to a handful of booze free chocolate digestives. I forsook drinking tea from delicate china in favour of drinking it from a large earthenware mug emblazoned with Homer Simpson’s mug. Call it rebellion, a nod back to my plebeian roots. Fetching a book, I parked my arse on a chair and my feet on the kitchen table.
The book remained unread. My mind wandered back to the thoughts interrupted by Dick in the lounge, as I set out the tea things. Was some of the conflict I was feeling of late due to the age difference between the three of us? Was the disparity finally beginning to tell from my end? Never mind me being too young for them. Were they too old for me?

Feeling suddenly light-headed I swung my feet onto the floor, trying to ground myself. A light sweat dampened the back of my top. I’d tucked the age difference away at the back of my mind, never giving it a thought. Like so many other things it was slipping forward, demanding acknowledgment.

Dick again interrupted my thoughts, walking into the kitchen.
“I need more hot water for the pot. Frederick fancies another cup of tea, and,” he smiled, “another slice of your delicious cake. He’s most impressed with it. We all are. Your praises have been sung. It seems Penny has a worthy rival in the Christmas cake department.”

Guilt should have rendered the compliment null and void from my end, but sod it, I needed an ego stroke. I had iced the cake after all. It had made all the difference. It had been naked before.
“Thanks.” I sucked up the compliment. “I did a good job, even if I do say so myself.”

I got the cake tin out of the cupboard, while Dick put the kettle on to boil fresh water.
“Are you glad to be home, hun?” He arranged his elegant frame against the counter top, watching me.
“Yeah. Leo was getting on my nips.”
“Oh hush. I thought you got along very well with him, on the whole.”
“I had no choice, did I, not with big Daddy on my case. I didn’t want my hide blistering again.”
“Leo is a good sort, for all his teasing. It’s time you left childish jealousy behind and embraced the friendship that’s always been on offer.”
“Leo has enough friends, he doesn’t need me.” Getting the cake out of its wrapping again, I set about cutting a slice. “Do you want another bit?”
“Later, after dinner with some Stilton and Port. It will make a nice finish.” He gave me a keen look. “I thought you’d be happier once we got home. You still seem,” he paused, “distracted.”
I shrugged. “I’m fine, Dick, really. Just got things on my mind.”
“The same things that were on your mind when you kicked off on Christmas Eve? What was that all about? I’m still puzzled. What triggered such an angry outburst? Was it to do with our disagreement the day before? Do you feel I punished you unjustly for your behaviour?”
Without waiting for an answer he folded his arms and put on a stern face.
“I don’t. You deliberately baited me because you were angry about the no alcohol rule. I won’t put up with it, Gil. You deserved what you got, but if you disagree then it’s fine to say so. You know that. Saying what you really feel, instead of what you think you ‘ought’ to feel, helps prevent resentment building up. It might not change the outcome, but it means we all know where we stand.”
“I know, Dick, you keep saying.”
“Then talk. What was going on?”
“Seeing mum upset me.”
I released a small portion of the truth. Seeing her the day before Christmas Eve had indeed upset me, but for reasons more than I was able, or willing to explain.
“She looks frail. The weight is falling off her. She’s on food supplements now. It scared me, especially when all she wanted to do was talk about her funeral. I hated it, Dick, hated it! I mean who talks about planning their funeral?”
“She’s come to terms with dying, Gilli. It’s brave.”
“Its unnatural.”
Dick didn’t argue. He touched a hand to my face. “I’m so sorry. Why didn’t you tell us instead of denying anything was wrong, and then acting and lashing out the way you did? You left us nowhere to go but down the discipline route. Why didn’t you confide in us?”
I shrugged again. “Dunno really.”
“Because talking about it would make it seem more real?”
“I suppose.”
“You know what Shane would say, don’t you, sweetheart?”
“He’d probably tell me to grow up. It’s what he usually says when I get overemotional.”
 “You do him a disservice. He’d point out that head in the sand philosophy doesn’t work. You know from hard experience it doesn’t. You have to face what needs to be faced, heartbreaking though it is.”
I held out the plate of fruitcake. “Better take this to law ledger Fred, before he dies of starvation. We don’t want a legal cadaver cluttering up the lounge gathering dust. I’ll have to have him varnished and stuck in the hall as a novelty hat stand.”
“You’re so cheeky.” A reluctant smile touched Dick’s lips, as he allowed me to distract him.
He took the cake and I followed with the kettle of hot water to top up the teapot.

The cake might have gone down well, but not, it seemed, the robes I had dressed it with. The white fondant icing lay abandoned on the plates, like ermine yanked from the cloak of a convert to fundamental veganism. Not one of them had eaten it, or the marzipan undercoat. I was most put out and as such felt obliged to question. I can never keep my gob shut.
“What’s wrong with the icing, why has no one eaten it? Does it taste bad?”
Dick sought to soothe. “Don’t be offended, Gilli. I’m not fond of marzipan, never have been I’m afraid. Love the cake though. You should be proud. It really is a match for Penny’s Christmas cake, isn’t it, Shane?”
“It is, remarkably so, could be the same recipe, except for the icing. Penny never ices her Christmas cake. A cake this rich doesn’t need any sweet sticky additions.”
Frederick agreed. “Quite right too. It’s over egging the pudding, and,” he took the plate from Dick, “this, if I may say so, is a magnificent pudding. Exceptional.” His thin lips made a shape that might almost be called a smile.  
“Thank you.” I graciously accepted the compliment while resisting an urge to remind him it was a cake not a fucking pudding. I was gutted. They’d spurned the only bit of the cake I had any real claim to. I felt insulted. Everyone adored Penny’s cake, but not my icing. She always bettered me one way or another. Excuse me while I grab my cheerleader pom-poms to indulge in a chant. B-I-T-C-H!

The sense of insult gave way to another emotion, as Shane turned his attention on me. His tone was cordial, soft even, but there was a hard forbidding look in his eyes, one I knew well. It made my stomach roll and my buttocks clench.
“By the way, Gilli, while you’re here and we’re talking cake. I hope you haven’t partaken. If I’m not mistaken there’s brandy in it.”
The brandy obviously hadn’t registered on Dick’s taste buds, because he gave a shocked exclamation.
“Of course. Oh, Gil. Why use alcohol when you know it triggers your epilepsy?”
I scowled at this brutal reminder of my affliction in front of Freddy the lawman.
“There’s no hard evidence it does and anyway it’s part of the recipe,” I snapped. “It adds flavour and preserves the cake. Of course I haven’t eaten any.”  
Shane removed the teapot lid so I could freshen the tealeaves with the hot water, saying a subtle, “keep it that way.”
I walked out of the room without saying another word. Returning to the kitchen I attempted to read again, but couldn’t get away with it. The words remained hunched on the page instead of strolling through my mind creating pictures. Chucking the book aside I went for a wander around the garden, tidying the decayed borders here and there while planning what to make for dinner.

There must have been a lot of papers to go through, because Frederick stayed late, closeted in the study with the men folk. I suspected the papers had something to do with the venture Shane and Dick had discussed with Leo over the holiday. They were hoping to buy some prime redevelopment land on which to build luxury apartments. I didn’t ask though and they didn’t tell. As Mike, Leo’s bestie, had pointed out, the men folk liked to compartmentalize their lives, work was work and nothing to do with me. I belonged strictly in the domestic camp. Houseboys are purveyors of comforts, a nice house, clean clothes, good food, and sex. I like it, most of the time.

By the time the three of them emerged from the study, it was almost dinnertime. I felt obliged to issue a polite invitation for Frederick to join us, but he just as politely declined. His wife, he said, would be expecting him home for supper. I raised a brow. He had a wife? Who knew! I’d had him marked as a bachelor. My imagination tried and failed to put him in a courting context. He was neither an Adonis nor a Chuckle Brother, so looks and humour could hardly have played a part in his seduction technique. Maybe he’d bought her from a bridal catalogue, discreetly indexed under partners suitable for stuffy solicitors, three easy payments and a free leather briefcase with every order.

Frederick shook hands with Shane and Dick, harrumphed at me and set off for home to join his surprising wife for dinner. Were there any offshoot Freddie and Fredettes I wondered? I asked Shane, who said he didn’t know, as he had never asked. It was none of his business, or mine.  I was to keep my snoopy little snout out of Frederick’s private life or he’d tan my arse. Honestly, he hasn’t got one curious bone in his body. He’d be useless at my job. Gossip, speculation and rumour mongering are an integral part of the Houseboy Code of Conduct. You can get struck off if you don’t spread at least one piece of steamy gossip per calendar month.

Dinner was a simple affair of canned soup followed by plain omelettes, but no one complained. It made a nice change from all the foodie indulgence we’d enjoyed at Leo’s over Christmas. I offered, rather sulkily, portions of Christmas cake, stripped free of icing, along with Stilton cheese by way of dessert. Shane declined, on Dick’s behalf as well as his own. Dick protested, or tried to. He was soon silenced when Shane put on his Daddy hat.
“You’ve had more than enough, Richard. It’s time to start cutting back.” He wiped his mouth on his napkin, pushed back his chair and stood up, addressing me. “That was pleasant, thank you, Gilli. Dick will clear up this evening, and make the coffee. I want a talk with you in the lounge.”

I swallowed, casting a look at Dick, who gave me a reassuring little wink. I gave him a faint smile in return and followed Shane through to the lounge. At least a talk in the lounge was marginally better than a talk in the study. Talks in the study tended to end with physical discipline being administered. A talk in the lounge had the potential to go either way - with or without injury to my bottom.

Shane sat on the couch and then pointed at the floor. The inference was clear. Kneeling on the rug at his feet I adopted a submissive position with my hands on my knees, head bent. I knew what was coming. Unfinished business. He got straight to the point.

“It was a hard holiday for you, Gilli. I’d say without need, but I realise you often need conflict before you can find resolution. If it’s the last thing I do, I’ll cure you of your fists up and fight first mentality. You’ve had time enough to think things through and to formulate whatever emotions were in play on Christmas Eve. I want to hear them. If you refuse, I will paddle you until you comply, as many times as it takes, until your bottom blisters if necessary. Start talking or go upstairs to fetch a paddle. It’s your choice.”

The threat of a harsh paddling loosened my lips, to an extent. Despite what he said, I could not formulate my emotions. They were too complex, and still in flux. It would be like trying to explain black hole theory. I was no Stephen Hawking. How could I explain to Shane what I didn’t understand myself?

I told him what I’d told Dick, a version of the truth. I told him about my mother’s switch from an ongoing treatment plan to a terrifying end of life plan complete with funeral arrangements. I told him about her weight loss and how the Macmillan nurse had referred to it as common in ‘final stage’ patients.
“What does she know?” My hands curled into tight fists. “The stupid fucking bitch! She isn’t a doctor. How dare she say something like that? It’s like she wants mum to die. She’s probably told to encourage people to die quicker to save money on nursing care!”

No one was more shocked than I was by my vitriolic outburst against a nice woman. I hadn’t realised how much anger and fear her words had instilled in me.

Ushering me up from the floor and onto his lap, Shane held me. Once I got my tears under control, he went on to say pretty much what Dick said he would say. I had to stop burying my head in the sand and accept reality, no matter how difficult. Anger and denial would only cause more distress. He echoed Dick, expressing admiration for my mother’s courage and asking me to try and be brave too. Keep a stiff upper lip in other words. I didn’t want to be brave. Fuck bravery, fuck courage and fuck stiff upper lips. They’re just modes of control, another way in which society shames lesser mortals into keeping things emotionally tidy.

Shane gave me a final hug and then manoeuvred me back onto the floor, so I was kneeling between his legs. He tilted my chin up with his hand, making me look at him.

“Speaking of distress. There’s the question of the distress you cause when life is taxing you. It would have been a more harmonious Christmas if you’d talked to us about this. It’s disrespectful as well as unfair to withhold information, no matter how trivial, and then vent your anger on us like a frustrated teenager. We’ll accept being used as sounding boards, but not punch bags. You left me no choice but to apply the rules of our relationship.”
“You and Dick don’t tell me everything.”
His voice sharpened. “Because you’re the submissive in this relationship. You don’t need to know everything. We need to know what’s going on with you to keep you safe. I thought you understood that?”
“I do. I’m sorry, Daddy.”
“Is that everything?” His vivid eyes searched my face. “Is your mind unloaded?”
 I nodded.
He flicked a finger through the front of my hair. “Stay where you are for the rest of the evening. Focus on the duty you owe to me and to Dick. Think of it as a calming exercise rather than discipline.”
“Yes, Daddy.”
I settled on the floor, glad the talk was over. It had been far milder than I’d expected. Maybe there was such a thing as Christmas Spirit after all.
Dick came into the lounge bearing a tray of coffees. It was much like his tea, strong enough to seal the underside of an ocean-going liner. Even Shane, Mr Caffeine, made a wry comment on its ferocious strength.

I said nothing, sipping at the treacly brew, hoping the caffeine would help clarify my thought processes. I should have told my Daddies about the memory box, and the song request, and how much they were troubling me. Why hadn’t I? I felt guilty and uncomfortable. I was their boy. It was, as Shane said, my duty to confide in them, to entrust my deepest feelings to them and not so they could indulge me. Feelings drive actions, especially in my case, and in a discipline relationship actions can bring consequences, as had been the case on Christmas Eve.

Dick turned on the television set, tousled my hair and then settled next to Shane on the couch, murmuring about it being good to be home again.

‘Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.’ The nursery refrain danced through my head, bringing hazy picture memories of my mother and the childhood home I had shared with her, before she married twat face Frank. Tears blurred my vision. I could never go back there. If only I could then her death would be years in the future; instead of lurking like a thug on a towpath ready to fell her at any moment. 

I made a conscious effort to clear my mind. It’s an impossible task. Something has to fill the void. In this instance it was a song, the one I’d heard earlier in the car. ‘Bronski Beat’s’ ‘Smalltown Boy.’ The plaintive lyrics swirled around my brain in a melodic loop.

Leaning my head against Shane’s legs, I closed my eyes, stoppering tears, determined not to be a cry boy. It didn’t silence my mind guest. Jimmy Somerville carried on singing his anthem of loneliness, making my heart hurt.

Copyright - Gillibran Brown 2020


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