A Place of Safety ~ Chapter 7: A Mother's Love


Jude could tell by the hesitant tone that his young lover had something on his mind. He pointedly put down the book he’d been reading to make clear that Dominic had his full attention. It was all a bit embarrassing and Dominic wasn’t sure he really wanted to be the focus of Jude’s undivided attention. The intensity of his lover’s gaze could be unnerving and the issue he wanted to discuss still had some unfortunate associations in his mind. But Jude was looking at him questioningly and smiling encouragement.

“You know my Mum’s birthday,” he began tentatively.

“Yes, it was a couple of weeks ago, wasn’t it? I seem to remember that buying her a card caused you something of a problem.” Jude decided that getting the unmentionable out in the open would make things easier for Dominic, and the grin with which he accompanied his outrageous understatement took all the sting out of the memory for his partner.

“I thought I’d paid the penalty for that misjudgement and it wouldn’t be mentioned again,” Dominic complained with mock petulance which didn’t deceive Jude in the slightest.

However, Jude stopped grinning and replied seriously. “You did pay the penalty, love, so there’s no need to feel embarrassed. As far as I’m concerned the whole thing is forgiven and forgotten.”

“I know that Jude. Don’t worry. I’m just feeling a bit fragile after the disciplinary hearing at work.”

“The Divisional Director gave you a hard time, did he?”

“He could teach you a thing or two when it comes to making me squirm!”

“Hey, I thought I’d patented my method for getting you to squirm. But seriously, he let you off with just a verbal warning. You must have been suitably apologetic.”

“Well, you’d coached me in what to say and, to be honest, the test result did a lot to placate him.”

“It’s a wonder that your one hundred percent score didn’t trigger another enquiry by the examination board. I understand no one has ever achieved that before.”

“Really? I didn’t know that. Mum will be pleased when I tell her.”

“I bet she will. What did you want to say earlier? You know, about her birthday.”

“Oh, I was going to ask about going to see her. I couldn’t get down on her birthday, as you know, but I’d like to go and see what she bought for her present.”

“You can go and see your Mum whenever you want; you know that, love. I know you’re very close to her and I would never want to come between the two of you. When do you want to go?”

“This weekend… but… but I was wondering… Would you like to come too?”  Dominic blurted out the question quickly, then added, “It doesn’t matter if you’re too busy this weekend… or if you’d rather not..”

“I’d love to come with you and meet your mother.” Jude interrupted Dominic’s stumbling offer in order to accept with grave sincerity. “She sounds such fun when I answer the phone to her and it’s about time you introduced me properly.”

“Well, that may be a bit of a problem actually…”

Dominic ground to an embarrassed halt. Deciding his partner was clearly uncomfortable about the proposed meeting, Jude tried making a bit of a joke of it. “Are you ashamed to introduce me your mother then?”

“No, of course not,” said Dominic hastily. “It’s just that she may not have realised… I mean… I don’t think she knows that we’re a couple.”

“She knows we’re living together,” said Jude firmly. “Remember, I’m usually the one to answer when she rings you up.”

“Yes,” agreed Dominic. “It’s just that I think she may have assumed I’ve moved in with a new flatmate. You see, I’ve never told her… I’ve never explained…”

“That you’re gay,” supplied Jude with sudden comprehension.

“Well, she has rather traditional views and there never seemed a need to upset her. You see, I’ve never lived with anyone before,” Dominic finished rather lamely.

Jude did see. He knew how close Dominic was to his mother and, although they’d never discussed religion, Jude had assumed that, with a name like Dominic McAvinchey, his partner must come from an Irish Catholic background. That assumption was borne out when he first heard Mrs McAvinchey’s singsong accent and frequent invocations to Our Lady. He understood more about Dominic’s background than the young man realised and he’d also taken an immediate liking to Dominic’s mother who was unfailingly charming to him on the telephone. What he found difficult to gauge was the extent to which she had worked out the nature of Dominic’s new relationship, but he found it difficult to believe that she had no inkling of her son’s sexual orientation.

“If she doesn’t know what to expect, don’t you think it might come as a bit of a shock to her if we turn up as a couple?” he asked gently.  Dominic didn’t know the answer to that; he just shrugged. Jude had the feeling it was an issue he’d been avoiding and was now handing over to his partner to sort out. “Wouldn’t it be easier all round to talk to her about us on the phone before you turn up on her doorstep with me in tow?” he pressed.

“Oh, don’t make me do that. I wouldn’t know how to begin. I’m sure it’ll be fine if we just go and see her. She’s always telling me I can bring friends back with me. It’s just… well, there’s never been anyone I could take home before now.”

Jude winced at the unconscious revelation of the lonely life Dominic had led before they met. He understood only too well Dominic’s reservations about speaking to his mother. Having lived alone with his father throughout his teenage years, Jude too remembered the confusion and isolation of coming to terms with being gay and the disappointment which his father had bravely tried to hide when Jude had finally come out, just before leaving home to go to university. Although he and his father remained good friends, there was always a slight tension which Jude put down to his own guilt that he would never provide his father with grandchildren, something which seemed an additional loss for a man who had been widowed when his only son was just twelve years old. In the light of his own experience, Jude decided not to push Dominic into making any announcement about his sexuality. However, he wasn’t sure that he’d made the right decision and he prayed that things would work out when they arrived at Dominic’s childhood home in Salisbury.  His partner clearly had faith that handing the whole problem over to him would resolve the matter and, although the trust was touching, Jude did fear that he might be in for a rather fraught weekend.

They left work early on Friday, having already packed the car so they could beat the weekend rush out of London down the M3. It was a journey Dominic made frequently but this time Jude was driving and, had the issue of their unannounced relationship not been preying on his mind, Jude would have been looking forward to taking a short break in an area he hadn’t visited since childhood and could barely remember. He tried mentally to frame a few opening sentences, should Mrs McAvinchey be in total ignorance of the nature of her son’s new relationship, but without any clues as to how she might react he found it an impossible task. In order to distract himself from pointless reflection, he asked Dominic about his home town and its attractions. It proved a fruitful topic. Dominic responded with enthusiasm, putting to the back of his mind the nagging worry about how his mother would react to Jude’s visit. He mentioned the proximity of Stonehenge, which Jude vaguely remembered from a school trip, as well as the lions at Longleat and the gardens at Stourhead.

“Hang on a minute,” Jude finally remonstrated when Dominic was urging visits to all these attractions. “We’ve only got a couple of days and we’ve come to see your mother, haven’t we? We can’t treat her house like a hotel.”

“She won’t mind.”

“But I will. I’m trying to make a good impression, remember.”

That observation cast a bit of a dampener over them both, reminding them that Jude was visiting as Dominic’s new partner and his mother might find that a bit of a shock.  To put an end to an awkward silence, Jude changed the subject. “What did you get for your mother’s birthday?” he asked.

“That’s what I’m going to see.” Jude was puzzled by Dominic’s response and he briefly took his eyes off the road to glance questioningly at the young man sitting beside him. “I told you. I’m going to see what she bought and I’ll give her the money when we get there,” Dominic elaborated. “She always buys her own presents. I wouldn’t know what to get,” he added lamely.

For Jude, who enjoyed shopping and especially liked choosing presents for others, that was an almost incomprehensible problem. However, he was immediately overcome with sympathy for his socially inept partner who, he now realised, had never progressed beyond the little boy’s solution of letting his Mum buy her own presents. If all worked out well during the forthcoming weekend, he resolved to help Dominic change his habits when it came to buying gifts.

When they drew up outside a smart, semi-detached house on the outskirts of Salisbury, Jude let Dominic rush up the path, hammer on the door and fall into his mother’s arms. He followed more slowly carrying the one large bag which contained all they would need for the weekend. Jude suddenly realised that the single bag proclaimed more clearly than anything else that they were a couple but Mrs McAvinchey didn’t give it a second glance when Jude put it down in the hallway.

“Come in, come in. Haven’t I just been dying to meet you,” she exclaimed in her lilting Irish accent.

“Mum, this is Jude,” said Dominic quietly, moving to stand very close to his partner.

Jude slipped an arm discreetly round Dominic’s waist as he uttered a polite response to her greeting. “I feel we know one another already, Mrs McAvinchey, after all those conversations we’ve had on the phone.”

“To be sure my boy was never a one for picking up the phone. He’d be day dreaming and never hear it ring. I’m glad you’re there to take my calls,” she laughed.

“Mum,” said Dominic repressively, well used to his mother’s tendency to witter on about his shortcomings.  She appeared to take no notice of his appeal but did move towards the door into the living room. “Come through, the both of you. You must be in fair want of a drop of tea after that drive. Dominic always says the traffic is bad on a Friday night.”

When they were all settled with tea, served in the best cups which Dominic knew were never in use when it was just the two of them, Jude struck up a polite conversation with Mrs McAvinchey while Dominic got increasingly nervous. He’d managed to blot out the fear of any misunderstandings during the journey home, filled as he was with excitement at the prospect of showing Jude round some of his childhood haunts. Faced with the reality of his partner sitting opposite his mother over a cup of tea, he began to wonder, with some trepidation, how the evening would pan out. Eventually Mrs McAvinchey stood up to gather the empty cups onto a tray. “I’ve got a little something ready for supper,” she announced, “and I expect you’d like to go upstairs and get yourselves settled before we eat.”

“I told you not to bother, Mum,” said Dominic. “We could easily have rung up for a takeaway.”

“Sure to God, I can cook for a guest in my own home now,” she replied with some asperity before turning to Jude to ask, “Have you a bag to take upstairs?”

Jude went to collect his coat and their overnight bag and all three of them went upstairs, Mrs McAvinchey clearly intent on making her guest welcome and ensuring that he had all he needed. When they reached the landing she stopped and turned to the two men, seemingly at a loss. She looked to Dominic who was surprised to see his mother blushing and appearing more uncertain than he’d ever known her to be. “I didn’t… I wasn’t sure…” she began. “Well, I’ve given you both the choice and I hope you’ll do as you would at home.” She turned, walked past the open door of Dominic’s single room, all prepared for his occupancy, and ushered them into the guest bedroom where she’d made up the double bed and laid out a set of matching towels on each side of the quilt. “I thought… well, maybe… I think you’ll want to be together.”

“Oh, Mum,” said Dominic, walking straight into her arms which opened to enfold him.

“I wasn’t sure, love,” she whispered, “not until I actually saw the two of you together. I hope I haven’t embarrassed you,” she added, glancing shyly at Jude. “I didn’t like to ask and I wasn’t sure what to do for the best.”

Dominic’s arms tightened around his mother and her head sank onto his chest beneath his chin. His eyes were wet but he answered her firmly, “You’ve done everything right, Mum. Thank you. Thank you so much. I’m so sorry you were worried. It was my fault. I should have told you that Jude is my partner. I just didn’t know how to broach the subject. I was so afraid you wouldn’t like it… wouldn’t like him.”

“Dominic, how could I not like the man who loves my son?”

Jude slipped away with a muttered word about going to collect the rest of the stuff from the car, leaving mother and son to exchange some very private thoughts and emotions. When he returned he found them sitting side by side on the bed, laughing and smiling.

Picking up on the mood, he swung an elongated case off his shoulder and enquired challengingly, “And where do you want me to put this thing?”

Before Dominic could reply, his mother cut in, “Oh, you’ve brought your violin back with you. That’s grand. We can have a bit of a hooley after supper!”

Supper turned out to be a more substantial meal than its title suggested. After a hearty Irish stew, Mrs McAvinchey served a generous slice of fruit cake with a flavour Jude couldn’t quite place. His enthusiastic praise delighted the cook who hastened to reveal the secret ingredient: Guinness. The Celtic theme continued after the meal when Mrs McAvinchey sat down at the piano and invited her son to get out his violin. Jude sat and listened to a lyrical rendering of a few well known classical pieces before he got up and wandered over to flick through some of the song books on top of the piano. When he found a collection of Irish folk songs he turned to one of his favourites and then offered the book to Mrs McAvinchey, standing behind her as she and her son played the introduction to The Fields of Athenry. Then he began singing the first verse, in a rich, mellow tenor. Dominic stopped playing for a few bars, overcome by sheer amazement, but Mrs McAvinchey kept up, delighted to have such a welcome addition to her musical evening. When the final strains of the haunting ballad about English oppression died away Dominic looked questioningly at his lover. “You never told me you could sing!”

“I don’t sing very often but that was one of my mother’s favourites. I just felt I wanted to sing it tonight, here, with you two.” Dominic, who so often missed the emotional nuances in everyday conversation, picked up at once on the significance of Jude’s desire to sing one of his own mother’s favourites, with another loving son and his mother providing the accompaniment. Jude had been so matter of fact in telling Dominic about his own family history but there was clearly a deep and abiding sadness there.

“Does your mother sing too?” enquired Mrs McAvinchey innocently. Her son flinched. There was so much he hadn’t had the courage to share with her. He’d just begun to relax in the knowledge that she’d worked out the precise nature of his relationship with Jude and now he realised that his cowardice had led to a further misunderstanding which was likely to be hurtful to the two people he loved most in the world.

“I think she had a lovely voice,” Jude replied at once. “My father says so but I don’t remember myself. She died from cancer when I was twelve,” he explained with his customary calm objectivity.

“Oh, my dear,” said Mrs McAvinchey, quite unabashed by her mistake and full of compassion for a motherless boy, albeit one who was now a grown man. “I’m so sorry. You’ve grown into such a fine man. What a shame your poor mother didn’t live to see the day. She’d have been so proud of you.” To the astonishment of both men, she got up from the piano stool and reached up to put both arms round Jude’s neck. “You’ve got me now, though… I know it’s no substitute but my son’s partner will always be a son to me.”

Jude returned the embrace, wrapping his long arms around the small woman and briefly dropping his cheek on her curly hair which still glinted with tawny strands despite the presence of grey hairs. “Thank you, Mrs McAvinchey. I couldn’t have wished for a kinder or more generous welcome into your family.”

“Call me Maeve, my dear; you’re family now. What was your mother’s name?”


“Sure, with a name like that she must have been Irish.”

“She was but my Dad is English.”

“So I guessed, with that cut glass accent of yours. But I bet it was your Mum who named you after the patron saint of lost causes!”

“You’re right, Maeve. And there’ve been times when I’ve wished she hadn’t saddled me with such an unusual name. Mind you, there’ve been times when I’ve felt very close to my saintly namesake. I seem to have an enduring attraction to lost causes.”

They both laughed and Dominic didn’t quite know what to make of it. He wondered if Jude included him in his list of lost causes. He suddenly felt left out as his mother and his lover laughed about something he didn’t quite understand. The sense of exclusion and alienation was familiar to him and it raised the customary resentment which he found distressing. He had so wanted the two of them to like one another and now they seemed to be hitting it off so well he was upset and confused by his own conflicting emotions.

“Do you have any other Irish songs in your repertoire?” Mrs McAvinchey asked as she resumed her seat at the piano.

Jude flicked through the song book. “Let’s go for something a bit more cheerful. How about The Mountains of Mourne?”

Mrs McAvinchey sat with her hands poised to play the opening chord as Dominic lifted his violin and adjusted it for comfort under his chin. He lightly touched the bow to the strings, just to check the tuning, and then they all launched into a spirited rendering of the classic Irish love song.

“Well, I’ve learnt a thing or two about you tonight which I didn’t know before,” remarked Dominic quietly when they both finally got to bed.

“About my musical talents?” enquired Jude with a grin.

“Amongst other things,” replied Dominic a trifle grimly.

“What’s the matter?” Jude asked, immediately picking up on Dominic’s resentful mood.

“Nothing. Go to sleep and don’t disturb Mum,” hissed Dominic, reaching to switch off the light which was at his side of the bed.

Jude wouldn’t normally have accepted being shut out like that but he sighed and resigned himself to a later investigation of whatever issue had disturbed Dominic.  Instead he reached out for his partner whose back was turned to him and when Dominic didn’t immediately roll over into his arms he just spooned up behind him, wrapped one arm around his body and kissed his neck until he felt some of the tension drain away. Eventually, and with a grunt which was meant to convey unwilling acquiescence, Dominic turned to face Jude and snuggled up to his chest in a way which fully disclosed his need for comfort and reassurance.

Saturday morning was spent wandering around Salisbury town centre. They began with the obligatory visit to the cathedral which Dominic saw in a new light as he listened to Jude’s appreciative comments. Having bought the guide book and sat in the nave to plan the visit systematically, Jude was able to introduce Dominic to aspects of the cathedral’s history he knew little about. In particular, Jude insisted on visiting the chapter house to see the finest surviving copy of Magna Carta which Dominic had forgotten was housed in his home town.

Afterwards they wandered through the narrow streets leading from the cathedral down to the market square. “What did your birthday present for your mother turn out to be?” Jude enquired at one point.

“Oh, Mum bought some clothes from Marks and Spencer.”

“Something nice? Did she put it on to show you?”

“No. I think she just got some new underwear and a jumper. She usually gets something like that for birthdays and Christmas. I’ll get some cash out of an ATM and pay her back before we leave.”

“Why don’t we try and get some ideas for a Christmas present while we’re here. Give her a surprise, eh?”

“I wouldn’t know what to get. I’d probably buy something she didn’t like.”

“Most shops will give you a gift receipt. She could always swap it if it didn’t suit. If clothes are difficult, what about a little piece of jewellery?”

“She does like brooches,” Dominic offered uncertainly. “She usually has one on her jacket. But I think they were her mother’s; they came from Ireland.”

“There we are then,” said Jude encouragingly. “A brooch with a Celtic design.”

“I’ve never bought any jewellery,” said Dominic anxiously. “I wouldn’t feel very comfortable going into a shop to choose anything.”

“I wasn’t suggesting that you did,” Jude hastened to reassure his partner. “I just thought we could have a little look. Get some idea on prices.”  When Jude saw that Dominic was actively considering the prospect of window shopping he added encouragingly, “I think your mother would be delighted with anything you chose yourself. I think she’d treasure it just because it was from you.”

“Do you really think so?”

“I know so,” Jude responded firmly, “and I’d love to help you choose something.”

“But you like shopping, don’t you?”

“I like choosing presents, yes; trying to find something that a friend or relative will like.”

“And my Mum’s now been added to your present list, has she?” he asked a trifle spitefully.

“Of course not,” replied Jude, resolutely not rising to the bait. “It would give me pleasure to help you find something you think your mother would like, that’s all.”

“I’m sorry,” said Dominic at once, regretting his momentary pique as he recalled that Jude had no mother to buy presents for and the very last gift he’d chosen for his mother had been broken to pieces by Dominic himself in a fit of temper.

“There’s something upsetting you, love. What is it?”

Dominic didn’t try to deny that he was upset. “I can’t tell you, Jude. Not yet, not here. Maybe later. I’m just mixed up in my mind about a few things. I’ll be okay.”

Jude didn’t want to press the issue while they were in town so the two men walked on, stopping at all the jewellers to examine brooches. It soon became apparent that there were some suitable pieces in silver and Dominic began to feel confident that he might be able to break with the habit of a lifetime and choose a present as a surprise for his mother. He was therefore in a better mood when they stopped off in a city centre pub for a light lunch.

“I presume your Mum is cooking something substantial for this evening,” said Jude. “We’d better just have a snack now.”

“I’m afraid she loves cooking and she will have been planning this all week. Sorry!”

“Don’t apologise. It’s great to enjoy home cooking you haven’t had to prepare yourself.” Jude scanned the pub menu written up on a chalk board. “How do you fancy some homemade leek and potato soup with crusty bread for lunch? Will that keep the wolf from the door until dinner time?”

“Sounds perfect. How about a pint of real ale to go with it?”

“Are you getting them in?” Jude asked hopefully. Dominic just grinned and went over to the bar to buy the drinks.

It was getting on for two o’clock by the time they emerged from the pub and Dominic suggested a walk around the water meadows to work off their lunch. Having chosen the soup, which turned out to be a huge bowl of thick, creamy broth served with a doorstep sized slice of crusty bread, they had succumbed to the lure of the puddings and eaten freshly baked crème caramel.

The view of Salisbury cathedral they got from the meadows made the exertion worthwhile. The glorious spire towered over the gothic building, its stone gleaming white in the sunlight. The uninterrupted view across the meadow was just as Constable had painted it and Jude stopped to admire the vista and comment on its importance in the history of British painting. Dominic, who had frequently cycled round the water meadows on his bike, was less impressed. “What shall we do tomorrow?” he asked.

“Well, you said Stonehenge isn’t far from here. I hardly remember what it looks like and it is a World Heritage Site. How about we go there?”

“I like Stonehenge. Did you know that it’s aligned so that the sun strikes the heel stone at the summer solstice? And they now know that the bluestones were transported all the way from Wales.”

“Trust you to know all the details. I bet you’re going to tell me it was designed as a prehistoric computer.”

Dominic was unfazed by the teasing, “Some certainly believe it enabled early man to do astronomical calculations and by that I mean the prediction of solstices and lunar eclipses.”

“You can explain it all to me tomorrow. How about we invite your Mum to join us?”

“Oh, no. She won’t want to come.”

“Why not? She was looking forward to seeing you. I’m sure she’d enjoy the outing and the company. It’s not fair to leave her behind, especially as we’ve had today to ourselves.”

“And now you’d prefer to spend tomorrow chatting to my Mum instead of sharing the day with me,” responded Dominic, spitefully.

Jude stopped walking, bringing Dominic to a standstill. The older man said nothing but just looked at his partner until Dominic began to blush with embarrassment. Only then did Jude pose the question. “What’s going on Dominic? I know how close you are to your mother. I’ve envied you that relationship but now, when we’re here together, it seems you want to exclude her.”

“There’s nothing going on,” protested Dominic vehemently. “I just want us to have a good time tomorrow. I’ve been looking forward to showing you around. We don’t need company.”

“Don’t give me that, my boy. You’ve been upset about something since last night. It’s something to do with us being here, about your mother and me. I want to know what’s bothering you, and I want to know now.” Dominic turned away and made to walk on. “Stand still,” Jude ordered. “You’re not going anywhere until I’ve had a proper answer.” Dominic considered disobeying; in fact, he more or less decided to keep walking but his legs wouldn’t respond. There was something about Jude’s tone and his confident expectation of obedience which prevented Dominic making such an outright gesture of defiance. The closest he could come to disobedience was to stand still whilst remaining with his back to his partner. And that was all it took for Jude to intervene. He grasped Dominic firmly by the shoulders, turned him round and bent him forward, supporting him firmly with an arm around his hip. It all happened so fast that Dominic was looking at the grass and frantically scrabbling for a handhold on Jude’s jeans before he grasped the full extent of the threat. The reality of the situation only hit home when Jude’s hand landed forcefully on his upturned bottom.

The young man squirmed and protested, “No, no, not here. Someone might see. Please, Jude. I can’t. No. Let me go.”

“If I see anyone coming, I’ll let you go, I promise. But I can see for miles around and there’s not a soul in sight so you’re staying right where you are until I’m done with you.” And with that Jude resumed the fast and very effective spanking which left Dominic gasping and writhing. When he was finally helped upright he was struggling to breathe evenly and reaching back to rub the sting out of his abused backside. The spanking had been brief but remarkably painful, given that it was administered with the palm of the hand on Dominic’s fully clothed posterior. “You don’t turn away when I ask for a response. Is that clear, young man?” Jude asked.

“Yes, sir,” replied Dominic who was now subdued but by no means ready to submit.

“I’m still waiting for a response to my question.”

“What question was that?” Dominic ventured.

Jude refused to be goaded. He answered calmly but with the clearest expectation that he would be receiving an honest answer. “I asked what’s bothering you, what has been bothering you all weekend. What’s the problem with me being here at your mother’s house?”

“There’s no problem, Jude. I invited you down here, remember?”

“I remember very well,” Jude refused to be fobbed off either. “And you worried about it all the way here. I thought the issue of how your mother would view our relationship was happily resolved but then something else upset you last night. I want to know what’s wrong and I want to know now.”

Dominic started walking slowly. This time it was an unconscious movement, not designed to evade a difficult question, so Jude moved to his side and let him walk on in silence. “I’d been looking forward to Mum meeting you. I was so sure you two would get on. I didn’t realise how it would be,” he finally murmured.

“And how is it?” Jude prompted.

“It’s me. I can’t cope with it. It was always been just Mum and me. I didn’t realise I’d find it so difficult.”

“What are you finding difficult? It doesn’t matter what it is, Dominic. I can help. I can sort this out for you but you’ve got to tell me what’s causing you a problem.”

“I can’t. It’s awful. I’m so mixed up. I’m not even sure myself.”

“Then you can take some time to think it through and then you can tell me.”

“Alright. I promise I’ll think it through.”

“Now, Dominic. You’re going to do your thinking now and we’re going to have this conversation before we go back to your mother’s.”

“Oh, please, Jude. I need some time. I’ll talk to you when we get home. Just let it go now, please.”

“Come over here.” They had walked across the meadow and they were reaching a wooded section beside the river. Jude sat down on a fallen tree trunk and pointed to a spot beside him. “Kneel there. I think that spot will be very conducive to productive thought.” Dominic looked at him uncomprehendingly. “You heard what I said, Dominic. Kneel down, put your hands behind your back and lower your eyes.”

Dominic finally woke up to what was being asked of him. “You can’t be serious. I’m not kneeling there. What if someone comes? And before you say anything, I’d like to point out that you can’t see for miles from here. Someone could come along the riverside path at any moment.”

“If that happens I’ll tell them you’re a bug hunter,” responded Jude with admirable speed and perfect aplomb. “I’m waiting for you to do as you’ve been asked, Dominic.”

There seemed no way out, short of outright refusal so, with bad grace, Dominic dropped to his knees and looked challengingly up at his top. Jude patiently repeated the instructions. “Hands behind your back, eyes down, if you please.” Dominic slowly complied but, even with his head bowed, he could see Jude’s feet and legs out of the corner of his eye. He watched for some time to see how long it would be before his partner got fed up and began to fidget but it seemed that Jude was totally relaxed, comfortable and set for the long haul. Dominic adjusted his shoulders. It took some effort to remain kneeling upright with his hands clasped behind his back. His backside still stung and his knees were not only sore, they were getting wet; his weight on the leaf litter was drawing dampness into the fabric of his jeans. He shifted uncomfortably only to feel a warning hand on his shoulder. The touch was brief but it steadied him. He started to block out the physical discomfort and focus instead on his own submissive posture which began to affect him in subtle ways and at a subconscious level.

He knew he wasn’t going to be moving from that spot until he’d unburdened himself to Jude. The thought of disclosing the cause of his shame was alarming but, at a deeper level, he felt relieved that he was being given no choice in the matter. He’d been so shocked by the extent of his jealousy that he’d hardly acknowledged the emotion, even to himself, only allowing it to surface in the form of bad temper directed at Jude.  Now Jude had challenged him on it and he was going to have to explain how he was feeling. He thought back to the previous evening, remembering the moment when he felt excluded from the repartee and without even thinking he looked up and asked, “Were you laughing at me?”

Jude knew at once that this wasn’t another attempt to stall. Dominic was looking so bereft that it was clear he must be focusing very intently on the immediate cause of his distress. “No,” replied Jude firmly, “I’ve never laughed at you… only with you. What occasion are you thinking about, love?”

“Last night. You and Mum. I didn’t understand.” Dominic leaned forward and rested his forehead on Jude’s knee. It relieved the strain on his back but, more importantly, it hid his face from Jude’s intent gaze. Jude ran his fingers through Dominic’s neatly cropped hair, desperately trying to recall the incident his partner was alluding to.  Understanding only dawned when he heard the whispered question, “Am I one of your lost causes?”

“Of course not; no. Oh, Dominic, is that what’s been upsetting you? Do you really think that I chose to share my life with you only out of pity?”

“No. It’s not that. Really, it’s not. I know we’re good together. It was just when you and Mum were getting on so well, laughing at something I didn’t understand, I… I… felt left out.” Dominic drew a shuddering breath and Jude reached to take him into his arms but the young man pulled away. “Don’t, I’m such a shit, a total shit. I’ve been feeling jealous ever since last night. Isn’t that vile. I’d been looking forward to you meeting Mum and now I’m jealous that she’s taken such a fancy to you.”

This time Jude wouldn’t be rebuffed. He bent and lifted Dominic bodily onto his lap. The young man was shaking and gasping with the effort of suppressing the tears which he always hated to shed. He was beyond responding to words of reassurance so Jude just held him tight and rocked him slightly until he calmed down.  “I don’t like hearing you use such unpleasant words about yourself, love,” he finally said when he thought Dominic was ready to listen.  “I think I understand how you’re feeling and there’s nothing wrong with your emotions. They’re perfectly natural, under the circumstances.”

“What circumstances?” asked Dominic tentatively, torn between hope that there might be a logical explanation for his feelings and fear that Jude was just being kind to him.

“You have a very close relationship with your mother. I’ve always known that and been grateful for the support and companionship that she’s given you. I certainly don’t want that to change and I’ll never come between the two of you. But now you and I have a very close relationship too. It’s only natural for there to be a few readjustments.”

Dominic was listening carefully and thinking through what Jude was saying. He often found the intricacies of personal relationships baffling but he had the intelligence to work through his difficulties once the basics were explained to him. “What sort of readjustments?” he asked.

“Well, I like your mother and we seem to have hit it off. That doesn’t mean that you’re excluded. It means that we’re all part of a new threesome and it’s only natural for us to have to feel our way in that new relationship. I’m having to readjust to sharing you with your mother while we’re staying here. She has a lot to come to terms with, knowing that you and I are a couple. It’s the same for all of us. Change is a bit scary but this change is going well.”

“Do you think so? It’s made me feel awful… and I know I’ve behaved badly as a result.”

“You’ve been a bit snappy with me, that’s all, and we now know why that was, don’t we?”

“I’m sorry, Jude. I just felt jealous of the way Mum seemed to be enjoying your company and I wanted to get back at you. And I wanted you to fix things and make me feel better all at the same time. I was so confused.”

“I could have fixed this for you, Dominic. I would have explained things to you last night if you’d just told me how you were feeling. I’m not a mind reader. I knew you were upset but you wouldn’t talk to me. If you shut me out I can’t help.”

“You usually make me tell you what’s wrong when I’m upset.”

“I usually put you over my knee when you treat me like you did last night but I didn’t think it was the best way to make a good impression on my first visit to your mother’s house.”

Dominic took the point and grinned a trifle shakily. “So am I due a spanking when we get home?” he asked.

“How about we say the spanking you’ve already had and the time spent kneeling here has cleared the account?” Jude knew how Dominic worried if he thought he’d done something wrong and he wanted to be sure the young man wouldn’t eat away at himself if the issue was dropped.

“You keep having to remind me to talk to you when I’ve got a problem,” he said regretfully. That was enough to warn Jude that Dominic wasn’t yet ready to put the matter behind him.

“In which case I’ll need to give you a crash course in obedience as soon as possible.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’ll let you know at the appropriate time. Now, up you get and let’s start walking back.  I bet your Mum has dinner in the oven already.”

“When are you going to give me this crash course?” Dominic persisted.

“When I’m good and ready. Now, don’t push me, Dominic. You know I take a dim view of you pressing for an answer.”

“I’m sorry. It’s just…”

“Dominic.” The tone was enough to let the young man know that further inquiries were out of the question. He got to his feet and walked in silence beside his partner, mentally reviewing what Jude had explained about the complexity of the three way relationship between himself, his mother and his lover.

“Are we going to invite Mum to come with us to Stonehenge tomorrow?” he asked eventually.

“Would you like her to come?”

“Yes, Jude, I think I would. I think I’d like a day out with the two people I love most. I want to get used to the three of us being together.”

“Bravely spoken, my love. I’m sure we’ll have a lovely time tomorrow. Now let’s try and enjoy a family evening together.”

Jude watched his partner carefully throughout dinner, ensuring that he was included in the conversation. He was gratified to see Dominic relax and become animated as he responded to leading questions. When the young man began to speak about moving in with Jude and about his latest project at work Mrs McAvinchey was delighted. Jude suspected that her son wasn’t normally in the habit of providing as much information as he had that evening.

As they began to clear the table Jude was amused, as well as impressed, to realise that Dominic was starting to employ the same questioning tactics to encourage Jude himself to open up.  Jude obliged by telling Mrs McAvinchey about his upbringing and schooling and Dominic sat back, happy to listen to Jude and his mother chatting happily. At one point Jude lifted a questioning eyebrow at Dominic who, for once, had no difficulty in understanding the unspoken concern. With a smile and a barely perceptible nod he encouraged Jude to continue before standing up to take the plates into the kitchen where he stayed to load the dishwasher. When he returned he was carrying three small glasses and a bottle of Cointreau.

“I thought we might have a liqueur tonight,” he announced, setting the bottle down on the table and glancing towards Jude for approval.

“What a good idea,” Jude acknowledged. “We’ve dined so well tonight, the meal is deserving of a bit of luxury to round it off.”

Mrs McAvinchey glowed with pleasure. “Let me get the after dinner mints. I’ve been saving a box for a special occasion and I think this is it.”

They moved to the sitting room to get comfortable and in the end it was Jude who was the first to announce that he was ready for bed. That came as a surprise to Dominic who was so used to being the one sent upstairs first. He looked anxiously to Jude for an explanation of this reversal in the natural order of things and was speedily reassured. “I’m happy to go and have the first shower. I’m sure you’d like a bit of time on your own with Mum.” When Dominic started to get up to follow him, he held up a restraining hand. “No,” he insisted, “it’s not late. Stay and talk to your mother. I’m sure she’d love to have you to herself for a bit.”

When Dominic came upstairs Jude was showered and in his pyjamas, relaxed and reading in bed. Dominic glanced at the alarm clock on the bedside table and saw that it was well past midnight.

“I’m sorry. I should have come up sooner but Mum and I were talking.”

“Don’t apologise. I told you to take some time with your mother.  I’m sure there were things she wanted to talk to you about.”

“Actually, there was something special she wanted to tell me.”

“Something nice?”

Oh, yes, very nice… but Jude?”

“Yes,” Jude prompted when it became clear that Dominic was nerving himself to ask a question.

“Is it okay if I don’t tell you what it is? I know I’m not supposed to have secrets from you. I am trying to remember that. But I want this to be a surprise.”

Jude treated the question very seriously. “I don’t believe I have to spell out the rules for what you have to tell me and what you can keep to yourself, Dominic.  You’re quite intelligent enough to know the difference between saving something as a surprise and concealing from me a problem or a worry.”

Dominic blushed, “Like not telling you I was feeling left out when you and Mum hit it off so well.”

“Precisely.  If you’d just done as I ask and shared your worries with me, you wouldn’t have been fretting over something so easily remedied. Not only that, I wouldn’t have had to adopt such extreme measures to get the truth out of you.”

“I know. I’m sorry Jude.”

“It’s dealt with; forgiven and forgotten. But I think I promised you a course in obedience training and we might as well get started.”


“Yes, now. Go and take a shower and then come back here naked.”


“You’re really not impressing me with your willingness to obey, Dominic.”

“But… but… Mum…”

“Your mother will be in bed by the time you’ve finished in the shower. I hardly think you’ll bump into her on the landing. Would it be such a problem if she did happen to see you?”

“Well, no… it’s just…”

“What are you waiting for?” Jude picked up the book he’d placed face down on the quilt and began reading again, supremely confident that he would hear no further argument. That left Dominic with no choice but to grab his toilet bag and head along the corridor to the bathroom. He undressed resentfully, convincing himself that he could much more conveniently have taken a shower in the morning. However, standing under the powerful jet he began to relax as the pleasurable pounding of hot water on his scalp and shoulders calmed him down. He reflected on the conversation that had just taken place, on Jude’s calm authority and his own whining prevarication. He felt ashamed when he knew, in his heart of hearts, that Jude was merely seeking to help him and he resolved to go back into the bedroom and try his hardest to cooperate with whatever Jude had in store. He didn’t expect to enjoy it but that wasn’t the point. He knew Jude would be acting in his best interests and it was up to him to honour his part of their bargain, to play his part in the partnership which they had both discussed and agreed upon.

He carefully rinsed the shampoo out of his hair, sluiced down his body and stepped out of the shower. When he was dry he hung the bath towel over the shower rail, combed his damp hair and folded his discarded clothes into a neat pile which he could easily carry back to the bedroom. Then he took a deep breath, unlocked the bathroom door and walked naked across the landing to the guest bedroom. As soon as he entered the room he put his clothes down on the chair and stood waiting in silence for further instructions.

Jude knew at once that Dominic had returned in a very different frame of mind. There was something about his downcast eyes and relaxed stance which signalled more clearly than words that he was ready to follow his partner’s orders without question. Jude flung the quilt to the bottom of the bed. “Come here and lie down on your back,” he ordered.

Dominic climbed onto the bed and lay back beside Jude. Jude looked down at the young man’s naked body which glowed golden in the light from the bedside lamp. Clothed, Dominic’s lithe form was often camouflaged by the ill fitting clothes he tended to wear but naked his powerful shoulders, narrow hips and long muscular legs were displayed to perfection. Jude knew that his partner had no idea about his own raw sex appeal and was probably feeling uncomfortably exposed under his partner’s intense scrutiny. He ran a hand over Dominic’s hairless chest and down to his belly where fine dark hair traced a thin line from his navel down to his pubic region. Dominic shivered at the touch but didn’t move away.

“Put your hands above your head,” Jude ordered. Dominic did so immediately. “I want you to imagine that I’ve tied your hands to the bed head. Whatever happens, you’re not to move. Understood?”

“Understood, sir.” The flare of arousal in Dominic’s eyes showed Jude that he’d touched a nerve and he watched with unwavering attention as Dominic reached up to grasp the brass bars of the headboard.

“You’re bound and you’re to remain silent, no matter what happens,” Jude elaborated.

Dominic reacted by gripping the bars even more tightly and gazing into Jude’s eyes with unquestioning faith and love which elicited a powerful response from his top. Jude was quite unprepared for the intensity of his own emotion as his partner silently signalled his total submission. His heart pounded with excitement at the control he asserted, even as he was overwhelmed by humility in the face of trust so freely bestowed. He recognised at once that he’d tapped into a powerful dynamic between the two of them; a dynamic which they could explore more fully at home. For the time being, he focused on his immediate plans for Dominic.

He bent to lick and then kiss his lover’s nipple, teasing the nub with his teeth as it became erect against his lips and then biting down just hard enough to make Dominic’s body arch off the bed. When he released the tiny piece of flesh, Dominic sank back on the bed with a sigh of relief. That relief stemmed as much from satisfaction that he’d managed to curb his instinct to cry out as from any sense of respite from the pain.  He’d started out worrying that he might disturb his mother next door but, by this stage, all his effort was focused on doing what Jude wanted.

Jude settled him down again by slowly rubbing circles across his chest and taut belly with the flat of his hand. Then, without warning, he slid his hand lower to grasp Dominic’s penis which lay in a flaccid state across his belly. He rubbed it lightly and shook it gently, noting the speed with which the young man’s blood supply responded to his touch. Sliding down the bed, he took Dominic’s hardening penis into his mouth, coating it liberally with spittle before pulling back so that he could continue to manipulate the shaft while sucking the head.

When he propped himself up on his elbows for a breather, Jude stopped to admire his lover’s blush of arousal which extended from his face down to his throat and upper torso. It was more intense than usual because of the effort Dominic was making to restrain his natural tendency to vocalise during sexual activity. His bottom lip was clenched between his teeth, his knuckles were showing white where they gripped the bed head and his legs were stretched rigidly towards the footboard, with his toes tightly curled. Jude let him wait, concluding from the evidence of his unfocused eyes and the occasional twitch of his penis that he was on the brink of orgasm. Then he bent to take the whole of Dominic’s penis into his mouth, controlling his gag reflex as the glans hit the back of his throat. He used his lips, tongue and cheeks to maximise the stimulation whilst slipping one finger into Dominic’s anus and using his other hand to gently massage his balls. The sensory overload caused Dominic to emit an involuntary groan and Jude saw his stomach muscles flutter just before his body convulsed and he pumped helplessly into his partner’s mouth. Through it all, though, his hands never lost their grip on the bars of the headboard.

When Dominic’s breathing became more regular, Jude put his hands around his lover’s wrists and guided his arms down to his side. “Well done, my love. You never broke your invisible bonds. But I can see that more training in obedience is going to be needed. You were told to remain silent.”

“Didn’t speak,” murmured Dominic tiredly.

“You groaned and that’s enough to count as disobedience.”

“Bastard. I’d like to see you take that in silence!”

“And I may have to introduce penalties for verbally abusing me.”

“I can live with that… so long as you let me go down on you next time.”

“You can do that any time you like,” Jude assured him but Dominic’s eyes were already closing.