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[Chapters 01 and 02 should be read first]
Dedicated to the memory of Alan Turing and all other gay men who ended their own lives as a result of torment by gossip, prejudice, rejection or repressive legislation. Alan Turing has just received a posthumous Royal pardon. Much good will it do him sixty years after his death.
[Literary Note: Willem Elsschot (1882-1960) was a Flemish poet and novelist. The quotation in Chapter XLIV is from his poem Het Huwelijk (The Marriage)].
Chapter XXXIV Dom: We move house
One night as I was travelling home on the train to Swindon, I started to think about our lives. We delighted in one another’s company, and yet we saw so little of one another. Most of the time I worked regular hours, but each day two or more hours on the train, although not wasted, as I could work with my laptop, was time away from my sweetheart. Sandro’s hours were sometimes regular, but often he had to work at night and at the weekends. I looked back on the last ten years of my life and thought about it. There had been four blissful years in Camford and many many hours in the company of my darling fag-boy, but the rest of the time had been rather routine work, satisfying without being rewarding.
In Swindon, we had not made a large circle of friends, because we rarely went out together except to the shops or a pub or restaurant. What we lacked was company. We needed children, and if we were both to continue working, we needed someone to look after them, a nanny, rather than institutional child care. That particular evening, I found myself longing much more strongly than usual, to hold my boy in my arms. I got home about 7 pm, and as soon as I got in at the door, Sandro was waiting with a bottle of White Shield. He poured two glasses and I dragged him off to our bedroom. “I’ve been wanting you all day!” I said.
We both took a swig of beer and I pushed him down on the bed and started to undress him. He grinned at me in submission and kissed me on the lips. His lips felt sweet and tender. “And I’ve been wanting you!” he said. “Ravish me, swive me, fuck the shit out of me! I want you!” He stood up to facilitate the removal of his lower garments, and he began to undress me. Soon, naked, I pushed him back on to the bed and he lay with a pillow behind him as I lubed him up and pulled a rubber onto my cock. However, before penetrating his treasure house, I started to run my lips over his arms, moving thence to his chest and bellybutton, before following his treasure trail down to his pubic bush. The hair on all parts of his sweet body felt soft and silky. I gave the tip of his still softish dick a kiss and then entered him gently. I began to fuck him slowly and he smiled at me in contented delight as my cock hit his prostate. I speeded up as I felt his hands caressing my chest , shoulder and nipples. I pushed my arms behind his shoulders as I drew near to my climax. When it came I shouted his name and pulled him towards me, enfolding him with my arms as my rapidly softening cock slipped out of his hole. We lay on our sides and I smothered him with kisses before whispering, “My darling boy, its time we thought about children. I’m twenty-eight, and you’re twenty-six, a good age to think about kids, particularly if we are going to go for adoption.
“Apparently, even if we find a surrogate mother willing to conceive via A.I.D, we will still have to apply to adopt the child. Then we have to decide which of us is to be the father. I wonder if we could use mixed semen, or if that is just creating unnecessary obscurity. We will also have to decide on a surname for the child. All we can do, I think, is to consult Tim Ingledown as soon as possible. Is he available on Saturdays? We could go next Saturday.”
We spent a lot of time discussing surrogate mothers, and also the problem of finding someone to look after the child when we were at work. Neither of us wanted to become a full-time house-father as Jon had been. We were not far enough advanced in our careers to go down that route. So Tim would have to find a suitable full-time Nanny for us. That might prove difficult, even with money no object. I did wonder if my mother knew anyone suitable.
A phone call or two established that Tim could see us for lunch the following Saturday. We were soon in London, Sandro having travelled free on the train. Tim welcomed us, but what he had to say was disappointing. “If you register to become adoptive parents, your local social services department will ask you a lot of intimate questions about your personal lives, and they will demand details about your finances. They may suggest that you are too young to adopt. You will have to undergo this questioning whatever route you decide to take.
“As far as surrogacy is concerned, you have to remember that the mother has absolute rights over the baby’s future. She can change her mind at any time until the adoption order is finalized, and her decision overrules any contract or agreement previously made and however much has been spent gaziantep escort on her expenses. If you decide to let her feed the baby and only adopt after weaning, the chances are even greater that she will decide to keep the child! And as far as child care is concerned, we are not an employment agency. We could go to such an agency on your behalf, but with no guarantee of success. You could of course try looking abroad for a baby, but I do not recommend that route, as there is no way to be sure that a child so obtained could become legally yours.
“In the matter of child care, there is no substitute for personal recommendation. Maybe your mother could help in that, Dom. It is, I know, a far-fetched suggestion, but the best surrogate would be someone that you know and trust, though that would not in any way guarantee that she would not decide to keep the baby.
“If you go to Social Services and get put on their adoption list, you might have to wait for years, unless you are prepared to adopt a non-white or handicapped child. And many local authorities are against cross-racial adoption. Another method that might work, but would be difficult in the long term, is the ménage à trois route. You persuade a woman you know to move in as housekeeper, and if the arrangement works, you either fuck her or inseminate her with a syringe, depending on how willing she is to have sexual relations. You would then have built-in child care, but your housekeeper would have to be lesbian for that to work, and then there is the risk that she might run off with a woman and maybe even take your child with her!”
We went home feeling quite depressed at this discouraging meeting. But we did make one important decision. Our cosy rented house in Swindon was too small for a family, especially if we had a resident nanny. With a single bathroom, we had barely managed when my parents were visiting. So we decided to look around for something bigger, with help from family money. The countryside between Swindon and Cheltenham is very beautiful, consisting of sandstone hills called the Cotswolds. It is a highly desirable residential area, and house prices are sky-high.
Several weekends we drove around looking for a house for sale near a railway station. After weeks of searching, we eventually found what we wanted in the village of Womble. It was a beautiful yellow sandstone house a few hundred yards from the station. It was three metres back from the street, with a minute front garden and a double frontage, with the front door in the middle. It was on three floors and had four bedrooms (one in the attic, where there was also a study), and three bathrooms, and had been recently modernized, with polished hardwood floors. Downstairs were a kitchen, dining room, family room, utility room and a large living room. It was very expensive and we felt that we could not ask David or my family for more than £500K. We would take a mortgage out for the balance. We reckoned that our joint incomes and my trust income would be enough to pay a mortgage, feed and clothe us and pay a nanny and still leave us money for travel. David had become relatively wealthy from his artistic career. He had never had to buy a house: Jon had always done that, and he had reached an age when he had to think about inheritance tax planning. David would have to give a similar amount to his own children when they decided to buy houses. As far as furnishing the new house was concerned, our parents were happy to give us the money that we had refused at the time of our civil partnership ceremony. Also we each had some savings from our early days at work. One of our furnishing priorities was of course silk sheets in our bedroom
Womble was only about 15 minutes by train from Swindon and and 50 minutes from Cheltenham. Sandro of course got free train travel, and my travel costs to Cheltenham would be less than those for the journey from Swindon. As the house needed relatively little doing to it, we were able to move in by the summer of that year. We loved it. It was not as handy for shops and amenities, and indeed several kilometres from the nearest swimming pool, but it was warm, comfortable and spacious. There was off-street parking for both our cars and a patio and small garden at the back, as well as the pocket-handkerchief garden at the front.
Chapter XXXV Luke: Life in Trabizona
My life seemed a bit flat after we got back from Dom and Sandro’s partnership celebrations. Tom had progressed as a pianist so far that he occasionally was called to accompany singers rehearsing at the opera house when Pauline needed an extra pair of hands in the evening or at weekend rehearsals. His application for a European Collaborative Grant with a group from the Camford Chemical Laboratory was successful, which meant that he would be making short but frequent visits back to his old lab. Arturo told him that he would support him when there was a vacancy for a permanent academic job in Trabizona, as his list of publications was now impressively long, but that Ben was next in line. While not giving lectures regularly, Tom was popular with the students as a demonstrator in the lab. He managed to combine his first trip to Camford with a short visit to Newcastle, where he served as godfather at the baptism of his new niece, Anne Elizabeth Satterthwaite.
We found ourselves relying more and more on Costanza’s cooking for our evening meal, as Tom’s commitments got bigger and bigger. He had recently been appointed churchwarden at the English church in Bologna. When he had been approached by the Chaplain, he had refused. He said that the church council would never appoint an openly gay man to a position of authority, as it would set a bad example. He was a man who according to many, he said, indulged in the practice condemned by Saint Paul, men with men working that which is unseemly (Romans 1:27 KJV). Moreover, he lived in Trabizona, which was a long way from Bologna. However, the Chaplain insisted on putting his name forward to the council, and they agreed unanimously to invite him to take on the job. The other churchwarden could deal with business that needed to be dealt with in person in Bologna, and Tom was always contactable by phone. The council said that Tom was a man of prayer and a faithful and humble believer, devoted to his partner, and what they did together was no concern of the church.
Cornelio and Pauline asked me whether I would like to try my hand at directing a new production of Weber’s Oberon. After a lot of hesitation I agreed, but because it has an absurd and chaotic plot, much spoken dialogue and an English libretto, it would not be exactly prime box office material in Italy! Only after I had consulted Signora Bruschetti, on whose wise advice both Tom and I were coming to depend, did I agree. With hindsight, I was really putting my career to the test. If we could make a success before a provincial audience of such a difficult work, my career was assured. But if it turned out to be a flop, our financial future at the Teatro Musicale was very shaky and my future in the business very problematic! It was the Anna Veronica scenario all over again. But Cornelio was a great believer in taking risks, and he was convinced that I could make a success of it. “If you can make a success out of a new opera, you should be able, with a bit of imagination and careful casting, to succeed with an old opera, particularly one as important in operatic history as Oberon,” he said. He also said that it would open up a whole new door to job opportunities world-wide. Dad refused to offer advice, because he said he was open to blame if Oberon was a flop. However, he did advise us to get a good English tenor for the title role. However, Maestro Lindorini, our resident conductor said he was too old to take such risks, and that we should find a guest conductor, preferably a Weber expert.
Finally however, in the hope of increasing its attractiveness, we opted for an Italian translation of the libretto. Unlike Anna Veronica, this production was to be directed by me. The absurd nature of the plot meant that shifting the time frame and using modern dress would not work: it would have to be presented as a fantasy without any regard to period authenticity. But that meant a huge expenditure on costumes, which could not be reused for any other production. However, I did secure a grant of €200K from the International Carl Maria von Weber Trust, which we thought might cover scenery and costumes. Pauline knew a scenery designer who would do the scenery and costumes for us for a modest sum. Like me he was still trying to make his career. I got a promising young English tenor, who like David had won the Llandewi Mawr Singing Competition, and a German soprano, both of whom were prepared to stick their necks out and learn what were nearly certain to be one-off roles, never to be repeated. I also found a German conductor, who had conducted a good deal of Weber’s works who was enthusiastic at beng invited to be guest conductor. The production was scheduled for two years time, and in the meantime, I plodded along with revamped revivals of the standard operatic works that the public of Trabizona knew and loved, and which Lindorini and the orchestra could perform almost with their eyes shut. It struck me that both Tom and I were rapidly becoming professional seekers of grant money. Both scientific research and opera production were so dependent on what the Dutch call geldschieters that we both spent huge amounts of time writing proposals to enable us to raise funding, instead of getting on and actually doing what we were good at.
One night we invited Ben and Leonora round for a meal. Costanza had done the cooking. It was some time since we had seen Leonora, and even though we were men with no experience of such matters, the large bump in her profile made it immediately apparent that she was pregnant! “Ben, why didn’t you tell me?” said Tom.
“Because so many things can go wrong, and it would be terrible to go round telling everyone if things did go wrong. So we decided not to tell anyone at the lab! Please, Tom and Luke, don’t say anything to anyone.”
“Of course not!” we both promised. “But we must celebrate, though I think that we shouldn’t be offering Leonora Prosecco, though I guess we can still drink it ourselves! You are lucky, Ben, to be going to become a father. We both want that for ourselves, but if we wanted to adopt, we would have leave Italy, as gay couples here are not allowed to adopt.”
“Leonora,” said Tom, “we are so happy for you. I hope that you do not have any problems during pregnancy or labour. If there is anything that either of us can do to help at any stage, please ring us at once. We will pray for you.” With that he put his arm round Leonora and kissed her. I felt my usual pang of totally stupid jealousy. I often wondered how Ben felt when Tom kissed his wife, or when she kissed Tom, I just hoped that he was not so prone as I was to stupid and irrational feelings.
Chapter XXXVI Sandro: The Getheringthwaite twins
Later that year, we went to Getheringthwaite for a week. Dom’s grandfather and Robert his chauffeur and lover always ate with Mrs Harrison, their housekeeper. The Marquess was not class conscious. He preferred to spend his time with the only two people who were close to him. One evening when Robert had done the cooking, and Mrs Harrison was eating with us, she mentioned a friend of hers in the village who was permanently tied up looking after her twin great nieces, aged three, so that her niece could go out to work. The children had no father: their mother refused to reveal his identity, so there was no income from the Child Support Agency. She was obsessively keen on her job, and regarded her children as an obstacle to her career.
The children’s great aunt loved the two girls, but they were always short of money and she found it difficult to make ends meet. Both Dom and I immediately reacted. Dom said, “What would your friend think of moving to the south with the two girls? If she liked the idea, all three of them could come and live with us. We want to adopt children, and would love to be fathers to two little girls. They could come for a few months with no commitment, and if they all liked it in Gloucestershire, and we liked them and the mother gave her consent, we could make arrangements to adopt them, with your friend as their house mother.”
The idea seemed too good to be realistic. We had not met the children or the mother and great aunt, so we did not know what they were like. We did not know whether the girls would settle in the south, nor whether the mother would let them go. But the idea seemed worth pursuing, and the next morning we went with Mrs Harrison to meet Mrs Hambleton and her two little great nieces. The two girls were absolutely sweet. They could walk and talk reasonably well, and were just at the sort of age when they needed close family love and support. We found Mrs Hambleton also to be sweet. She was not at all shocked or hostile at the idea of two gay men wanting to give a home to her and her great nieces, nor did she dislike the idea of moving to the south. “I will be glad to get away from my niece!” she said.
We said to her, “If you and the twins come to live with us, there are one or two things that we need your reassurance about. We need to know that you will not feel uncomfortable or unhappy about us men showing certain signs of affection with one another within our own home, things like kissing or holding hands. There are things that we will try to avoid doing, like letting off wind in front of you and the girls, but we must feel able to kiss and cuddle and hold hands! Some people, especially men, find things like that very offensive. If this upsets you, tell us now, and we will call the whole thing off. In return, we both promise that we will never touch you or give you any signs of intimacy, unless you want for example to kiss us or be kissed by us. Even though we will be paying you a salary, we will not regard our relationship with you as employment, but as partners in bringing up the twins in a happy and secure home. Are you able to give us assurance about this?”
“Yes, of course I am!” she said. “I understand how much you love one another, and I know that you will be good fathers to Jane and Anne. As far as kissing me is concerned, I have no strong feelings one way or the other. Let’s just wait and see how things work out.” Both Dom and I breathed sighs of relief.
However, we knew that we had to get to know the little girls before we could consider taking them away from Getheringthwaite. So every weekend for several months we drove to Getheringthwaite. Lord Wakefield and Robert must have got fed up of our frequent visits, but they both understood what fatherhood meant to us. Jane and Anne were non-identical twins. Jane had dark hair, whereas Anne was a redhead. We used to take them out for walks and feed the ducks on the lake in Getheringthwaite park. They had been toilet-trained, and Mrs Hambleton had taught them good table manners. They were delightful company, and the more we saw of them, the sweeter they became to us.
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