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The unsafe sexual practices portrayed in this story are not to be taken as a recommendation.
Chapter 6 – Decisions
Owen walked into the drawing room to meet his new footman, and was stopped in his tracks: Even the haggard expression and painfully slim figure did not prevent him from seeing the resemblance; it was unmistakable, from the radiant brown eyes to the sensual mouth: Owen was certain that if Douglas had had a son, this was what his son would have looked like.
He felt old stirrings in his loins.
And guiltily suppressed them.
He invited the teenager to sit while he reread the dossier the employment agency had sent. “Do people call you Christopher, or Chris?”
“My parents call me Christopher. Everyone else calls me Chris.” He turned away and sneezed. “Excuse me sir.”
“Bless you. Do you have a cold?”
“No sir, allergies. I forgot to take my antihistamine this morning.”
Owen walked over to the boy, who immediately rose from his chair and looked up at his six-foot master as Owen placed a hand lightly on his arm and said: “I know how it feels to be away from home for the first time. We’ll do our best to help you settle in. I hope you will begin to think of us as family.”
“Thank you sir.”
Owen walked to the wall and pulled the bell cord. “Mr. Grayson, the Butler, is in charge of the staff. He can be strict but he is a kind man, and he is also wise; don’t hesitate to go to him with any problem. And if there is ever anything you feel that you cannot bring to Mr. Grayson, you can come to me. By the way, you speak well; have you been to school?”
“Yes sir, I graduated from high school.”
After introducing Chris to Grayson, Owen said: “On your way to have him measured for his uniform, please stop at the kitchen for a glass of water; he needs to take an antihistamine.”
When Grayson arrived that evening to give the daily report, Owen asked whether he was finding Chris satisfactory.
“Yes. He is conscientious and eager to learn. My only concern is that he is very timid. He does not speak unless spoken to, and although he tells Mrs. Emerson that he has never had such good food, he takes only small portions, as if he does not feel entitled to take more. If I may be candid?”
“When have I ever asked you to be less than candid?”
“He reminds me…” Grayson hesitated.
“Of me when I first came here.”
“Yes sir, he does.”
“I had that impression too. And have you noticed how much he looks like a young version of our master?”
“Like Mr. Hathaway? No sir, I see no such resemblance.”
Owen was taken aback. “It seems to me that he’s a close likeness.”
“At the risk of being presumptuous, I suggest that the seeming resemblance may be wishful thinking. The loss of Mr. Hathaway still weighs heavily upon you.”
Owen was distressed by the idea that his eyes were deceiving him, yet he could not deny that Grayson was probably right. He wondered how long his perception would be distorted by grief.
That evening, vividly remembering his initial wretchedness in this house he went to check on Chris.
He knocked softly and went in.
Chris was in bed. Seeing Owen enter, he hastily got up and stood with his hands at his sides.
“You don’t have to stand every time I enter a room” Owen told him. “Get back into bed. Were you asleep when I knocked?”
“Yes sir. Almost.”
“I’m sorry I disturbed you. This is your first day, and I wanted to make sure you were alright. Goodnight.”
As Owen was leaving, Chris called out: “Sir? Thank you.”
On Chris’s third day at Brentwood, a letter arrived from his home. It was addressed not to Chris but to Owen, who read it and then had Chris sent to the sitting room. He motioned the boy to a chair and once Chris was seated, he said: “Your father has written to me.”
Chris turned pale.
Owen picked up the letter from his desk. “He warns me ? and warn is his word ? that you have ? again his term ? a lust for other boys. He says you are an abomination.”
Chris had trouble keeping his voice from failing as he asked: “Am I dismissed?”
“No, absolutely not. All this letter has done is show me that your father is both bigoted and hardhearted. Does your mother share his opinion?”
“The letter is despicable” Owen said, dropping it into the wastebasket. “That’s where it belongs.”
He waited until the color had returned to Chris’s face before asking: “How did they learn about you?”
“They found a note from another boy.”
“Will you tell me what it said? Unless you’d rather not.”
Chris looked with awe at this man who had just learned the most awful thing about him, and accepted him anyway; even defended him! Of course he would tell! “Devon wrote how good it was when we would sneak behind a tree and kiss. He said he wished we could … do other things.”
“But you only kissed.”
“There was no place to go. All we could do was talk about the things we would do if we ever got the chance.”
“Your father said casino şirketleri in the letter that you are not to come home even to visit.”
The reason for Chris’s exile gushed from him all in one misery-laden breath: “They don’t want me near my brothers and sisters they said I’m possessed by the devil otherwise the beatings would have cured me they said I was named for Jesus Christ and I don’t deserve the name because Jesus hates me and I’ll go to Hell when I die and Devon will too!”
Hearing this account of cruelty, Owen longed to take Chris in his arms. It required all his willpower to remain where he was. “Do you believe that Jesus hates you?”
“Yes, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t help how I feel.”
In Chris’s fear and hopelessness, Owen heard an echo of his own early fears. He went to Chris and turned the boy’s chin upward until Chris was looking into his eyes. “I don’t subscribe to any organized religion, Chris, but I’ve read a great many religious books. That included the New Testament, and I can tell you that Jesus taught love, not hate.”
“But what about Hell? Jesus said that being gay is a sin and the preacher told us there’s fire and demons and I’ll be punished forever.”
“First of all, most of that description is from works by a 14th century Italian poet and a 15th century Dutch painter. Secondly, Jesus is quoted as saying ‘the wages of sin is death’, which means that unrepentant sinners would be denied the eternal life that he promised to the righteous. It does not mean they will undergo eternal torture. And most important, nowhere in the New Testament did I find any statement by Jesus that being gay is a sin.”
Chris struggled to understand all the things he had just been told. Maybe he wouldn’t be going to Hell after all.
Buoyed by Owen’s explanations, and away from the toxic influence of the fire-breathing preacher and his condemning parents, Chris blossomed: He began participating enthusiastically in the life of the manor house, striking up conversations with his coworkers and offering help wherever it was needed. He took full portions at meals, and within a month his slim body had filled out. Thanks to the labor that a footman was regularly called upon to do at Brentwood Hall, the additional bulk consisted primarily of muscle. He now had quite an imposing figure. Add to that his handsome face and lustrous auburn hair, and Chris was eye-catching. Owen felt a flash of desire every time he looked at the young Adonis. It made him feel disloyal to Douglas’s memory, but it was not within his control. He made excuses to pass slowly through areas where Chris was working so that he could catch a glimpse of the Footman. If Chris happened to look up and notice Owen gazing at him, both of them would hurriedly avert their eyes.
One thing was out of keeping with Chris’s new demeanor. Owen asked him about it: “You seem cheerful these days, but I never hear you laugh. Can you tell me why that is?”
“At home we were taught that humor is unrighteous. They scold us even if somebody says something funny in church and we smile.”
“Apparently your parents think that being righteous means being solemn. But humor is innocent unless it’s at someone else’s expense. Laughter can even be therapeutic. Keep that in mind.”
Over the next few months, life at Brentwood Hall settled into a smooth, uneventful pattern. Then one day Grayson informed Owen that a servant was missing his pocket watch, a timepiece that had come down to him through several generations. It was his most prized possession. Owen had Grayson assemble the staff in the grand ballroom and assigned Jespersen, his valet, to keep them there until he and Grayson could complete an investigation.
They began by searching the servants’ rooms. While digging through Chris’s dresser drawers, Grayson withdrew something and held it out to Owen. “Sir, this is of significantly higher quality than the rest of the Footman’s clothing.”
Owen glanced at what Grayson was holding. He reached for it. “I’ll take that.”
Shortly afterward, the Butler removed some sheets of paper from another drawer and said: “These might interest you as well.”
Owen came and looked at the papers. “Bring them with us.”
The stolen watch was found in someone else’s room.
On their way back to the assembled staff, with a stop at the sitting room to drop off the papers, Owen cautioned Grayson not to tell anyone about the unexpected discoveries.
He released everyone from the grand ballroom except for Jespersen. When the others had gone, he took something from behind his back and held it out. “Do you recognize this?”
“Yes, it’s yours, sir” Jespersen told him, confirming Owen’s suspicion. “I thought I had misplaced it, we’ve been short by one. May I ask where it was found?”
“In the Footman’s dresser. Send him to the sitting room but don’t tell him why, and say nothing about this to anyone else.”
Chris knew that an unexplained summons to the master is rarely a good sign. He walked to the chair that Owen indicated, but he remained standing.
Owen held up the sheets casino firmaları of paper. “You’re a very talented artist.”
On the sheets were drawings of Owen, drafted with meticulous care.
Owen smiled and said: “These are incredibly good. And quite flattering.”
Chris was relieved; his master liked the drawings.
Then Owen lifted a pair of briefs from his desk, and his smile vanished. “We also found this.”
Chris half sat, half collapsed, onto the chair.
Owen looked fixedly at him, awaiting an explanation.
Unable to bear his master’s silent regard, Chris said shakily: “I only borrowed the one pair. I didn’t think you’d miss it.”
“Why did you take it?”
Chris said nothing. He appeared about to cry.
“What were you doing with my underpants?”
Chris’s answer, after a long pause, was almost inaudible: “I sleep in them.”
This was not among the replies Owen had envisioned. He stared at Chris, who sat silently awaiting Owen’s verdict. Then he walked over and held out the briefs. “From now on, if you want to borrow a pair of my briefs, ask Mr. Jespersen for them. And be sure to put them in the wash before you take a fresh pair.”
After sending an astonished Chris back to work, Owen sat at his desk, deep in thought. The discoveries in Chris’s room had disturbing implications. He decided that it would be best to avoid all contact with his footman for a while.
‘A while’ turned out to be not very long, because one evening a week later as Owen was on his way to the master bedroom, he saw Chris standing in the middle of the hall, looking lost. He stopped. “Is there a problem?”
Chris stood with a vague expression, trying to place the person who had just spoken to him. Then he registered recognition. “Oh, hhello sssir” he said, his words slurred. “Can’t ffind my rroom.”
“You’re standing in front of it” Owen told him, putting a hand out to feel Chris’s forehead. “Do you feel as if you have a fever?”
“Don’t know … ffeel ffunny.”
Owen took him inside and helped him change into pajamas, suffering a pang of guilt for the tingle produced by the sight of Chris’s well-formed body. He got Chris into bed and covered him. “Don’t go to sleep yet” he said as he left the room.
He returned holding a fever thermometer. He uncovered Chris. “Turn over and pull your pajama pants down.”
Chris turned over and tried to do as he was told, but he was so poorly coordinated that Owen had to reach over and pull down the back of the pajama pants.
Minutes earlier, Owen had seen only the front of Chris’s naked body. The beautifully rounded cheeks that were now exposed to his eyes made him gulp. He could hardly tear his attention away to lubricate the instrument.
After spreading the cheeks and sliding the thermometer in, he asked as he covered Chris: “When did you begin feeling this way?”
“Did any of the food taste unusual?”
“Um … nno.”
“What about liquids? What did you drink?”
“Tea annd … ” he stopped.
“Don’t wwant (unintelligible) in throuble.”
“What did you have to drink besides tea?”
“You have to tell me.”
“Eddie hadda … fflask. Gave me ssome, said … mmake me ffeel good. Be… ok ’cause … bed ssoon.”
“And Mr. Grayson didn’t object?”
“Wasn’t … there.”
“How much did you drink?”
“Don’t knnow. Didn’t … llike it. … Eddie ssaid … drink anyway, mmake me … ffeel good.” Chris was having increasing difficulty speaking.
Owen withdrew the thermometer, wiped between those seductive cheeks, and pulled up the pajama pants. He covered Chris again and read the instrument. “Your temperature is normal, you’re just intoxicated. You’ll feel better in the morning.” He walked to the door, adding: “though not at first” and shut off the light.
He was nearly asleep half an hour later when he felt the mattress tilt. He opened his eyes and saw Chris awkwardly trying to climb onto the bed. He sat up. “What are you doing?”
“Mmy rroom … keepss mmoving” Chris whined. “I gotup, ffell.” He swayed precariously with one knee on the bed and one foot still on the floor. “You ssaid could… come to you iff ?”
Not wanting to risk starting something he shouldn’t pursue, Owen abruptly reminded him: “I said you could come to me and talk, not get into bed with me.”
He was about to send Chris back to his own room when he pictured the boy lying alone, frightened and confused. Owen had once lain alone, longing for a comforting presence by his side. Douglas had taken him in. How could he now refuse Chris? “Are you sick to your stomach?”
“Alright you can stay. If you start to feel nauseated” he pointed to a door, “go in there right away.”
“Okhay” Chris mumbled, clambering onto the bed and getting under the covers.
Owen found that for Chris, “come to you” meant putting an around Owen and cuddling up. He was annoyed by Chris’s presumptuousness, but he reflexively put an accepting arm güvenilir casino around the boy, who took that as leave to tuck his head under Owen’s chin.
Owen couldn’t help noticing how well Chris’s smaller body fit against his own.
Chris nuzzled him. “You ssmell nnice.”
That was gratifying; Owen didn’t use anything scented.
For a minute, Chris was quiet. Then he kissed Owen’s neck and said: “Bess massr … ever. Evvryone ssez.”
Another period of silence. Then: “You’re wwarm. Why do … th’maids say … you’re hhot?”
“The maids say I’m hot?” Owen asked with a smirk.
“Hhot. … wish you … wweren’t bent.”
“They wish what?”
Owen was baffled until the likely meaning dawned on him: “You mean they wish I were straight?”
“Thass right. Ssame thing.”
Owen’s rumbling laugh made the mattress vibrate. “No, Chris. It isn’t.”
Chris kissed Owen’s shoulder. “I love you. Oopss. Mussn’t… tell. Did… anyway. I’m … intox … iated.”
“You are very drunk.”
Another kiss on the shoulder. “Drunk’ss good.”
“I imagine you’ll have second thoughts about that in the morning.”
Chris didn’t respond. Owen felt soft, even breath on his neck.
“Did you just pass out?”
“I guess you did. Oh Chris, you’re going to have one colossal hangover tomorrow.”
Owen wondered at the strangeness of this situation: It was not simply another echo of his own experience, it was as if he had become Douglas: He was master of an estate, and his young footman was in love with him. However, there was one major difference here, a difference that made him profoundly sad for the youth who lay nestled in his warmth. “You poor, blameless boy; you’ve fallen in love with a man whose heart belongs to someone else.”
When Owen awoke in the morning, Chris was still asleep. He cautiously took the teenager’s arm away and got out of bed. The disturbance woke Chris, who opened his eyes – and winced at the bright daylight that blazed in the large windows. He clamped his eyes shut and put his hand to his head.
“Not feeling so good?” Owen asked with a sympathetic smile.
Chris opened his eyes partway. “How did I?” then suddenly he threw back the covers and bolted from the bed, his hand over his mouth.
“Right in there” Owen advised, pointing to the bathroom door he had indicated the previous night.
Chris barely got the door closed before Owen heard the telltale sounds of Chris’s dinner making a return appearance.
Somewhat later Chris emerged, walking gingerly and holding his head, squinting in the sunlight that was now streaming into the room. “I cleaned up the mess and opened a window. Oh sir, I’m so sorry. Last night is hazy but I remember getting into bed with you. I’m so sorry.”
“It was pretty audacious but you weren’t responsible for your actions. You were extremely drunk, and not by choice.”
“So that’s what it’s like to be drunk. … Oh my god, I kissed you didn’t I?”
“We’ll talk later. Go back to your room now and wait for Mr. Grayson. I’ll have him give you something for your stomach and something for your head. Go right to bed after you take them. Don’t get up until you feel better.”
Chris gasped as he remembered more about the previous night: “Oh god, I told you that I… oh god. Are you going to dismiss me?”
“No. Go to bed.”
“Did I do anything else? Please tell me.”
“You passed out.”
“Nothing else, that’s good.” He turned to leave, but then he turned back and asked: “I got Eddie in trouble, didn’t I?”
“He got himself in trouble. No more questions. Go. NOW!”
The shouted word caused Chris’s head to throb. He made his way out of the room, trying with both hands to still the pain.
Owen rang for the Butler. When Grayson arrived, Owen told him about Eddie’s largesse with the flask, and of its effect on Chris. “I found him in the hall, completely disoriented. I put him to bed but he came in here later, dazed and frightened. He’s never been drunk. I let him stay until morning.”
“Oh dear. I shall discipline that purveyor of unauthorized spirits.”
“No, I’ll handle this myself.”
“If that is your preference. How is our young Footman?”
“He’s badly hung over. I told him to wait for you in his room. Give him a tablespoon of ante-emetic syrup and if he keeps that down give him four buffered aspirin.”
“I will attend to it forthwith.”
Owen went to where Eddie was working. “Getting the new footman drunk yesterday, was that your idea of an initiation?”
“Drunk? No! He’s always so serious I gave him a couple swallows of whiskey to loosen him up a little, that’s all. It wasn’t enough to get him drunk.”
“It might not have been enough if he weren’t taking an antihistamine. That increases the effect of alcohol. You must have left before you saw what it did to him; he could barely stay on his feet. And for your information, he’s always serious because he grew up in a house where any display of lightheartedness brings a sharp reprimand. You put him in grave danger, he could have fallen down a stairway or gotten injured in any number of other ways. He’s young and naïve, he trusted you. You betrayed that trust by playing a prank that could have cost him his life.”
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