I’d fucked up yet again. Just when I’d been trying so hard to impress Brandon with my good behaviour. He must have thought I was a selfish, thoughtless bastard. Well, what other conclusion could he come to when the rest of the guys were apparently complaining about my lack of team spirit? I wonder which one of them grassed me up. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover it was Ben Fanshawe. I don’t like him much and I think he was jealous of me.
Brandon gave me a right talking to after training. Don’t get me wrong; there was no shouting, no nagging, just a calm, straightforward explanation of what I’d been doing wrong and how I needed to improve. I suppose, in my heart of hearts, I knew it was good advice but I tried telling him it wasn’t fair to pick on me. I’m not the only one who drops his team mates when there’s an opportunity for personal advantage. Brandon wouldn’t even respond to that argument. He got up from behind his desk and came round to perch on the other side, right in front of where I was sitting. His tall, powerfully built frame seemed to block out the light. He waited until I felt obliged to look up into his steely grey eyes and then he told me kindly but very firmly that I was not just letting down my team mates, I was failing to make the most of my exceptional talent.
I don’t know whether it was surprise to hear Brandon describe my talent as exceptional or excitement at his close proximity but I found myself starting to breathe rather rapidly. I can’t think straight when he looks at me with that all consuming gaze, as though there’s nobody in the world more important than me at that moment. I suppose it’s a skill he’s developed in the course of his job, making everyone feel extra special, but it had a powerful effect on me. I tried to hide it though; I didn’t want him to laugh at me, or worse still, pity me for having a crush on him.
I'd only gradually become aware of my feelings for Brandon but this was no adolescent crush. It was true I’d been just a youth when I first met him and I hero worshipped the handsome, dark haired man who took charge of my training. He seemed so much more experienced and knowledgeable than me but he would only have been in his late twenties then. As I got older the age gap between us didn’t seem so great, for all that Brandon sometimes acts as though he's greatly my senior. He might be older than me but I was a man by then, a full grown adult. I knew that what I felt, what I’d been feeling for some considerable time, went far deeper than any passing infatuation.
I tried to focus on what Brandon was saying and put aside my feeling for him. He thought I really did stand a chance of winning a stage, even one of the big races, but I would never do it alone. If I could learn to operate as a team member then my colleagues would provide the support I needed when the time came. Indeed, Brandon suggested that I might already have been up with the winners if I'd learnt to discipline myself during a race and not throw away the advantage of my strength and endurance in an effort which I couldn't sustain. That was a revelation. Brandon was in effect saying that I could do a lot better than I had been doing; I just needed to follow his instructions. Something about the idea of following Brandon’s instructions without question gave me a little frisson of excitement while at the same time I doubted my ability to fall in line once I was up in contention for the lead in my next race.
After that lecture I did try to do better, I really did, but I got pissed off when Brandon didn’t seem to be appreciating my efforts. When we were out on the road and the speed of the peloton dropped I adjusted my speed accordingly. Brandon was correct; we can’t keep up speeds of forty miles an hour throughout a race. There are times when everyone needs to conserve their energy for the big push. I tried to restrain my impatience at those times and go with the flow. When my colleagues needed support, I showed myself willing to do the hard work, put my head down into the wind and pull the others along. The guys were grateful and I felt I'd recovered their good will. They certainly laughed at my jokes and appreciated the jibes I was able to fling at our rivals. When the peloton is moving at twenty miles an hour there is always time and breath for backchat.
It just seemed that Brandon hadn’t noticed how hard I was trying. In fact, he didn’t seem to notice me much at all. There was a certain distance between us, a formality in our dealings which I didn’t like. Actually, I suppose it’s not really fair to say that. Brandon did give me all the time I needed at a sporting level; it was just that some of the friendship, the playfulness and the intimacy had gone out of our working relationship and I interpreted that as a rejection of sorts.
I really don’t think it was a conscious decision on my part but somehow I felt that if I wasn’t going to get Brandon’s approval for my good behaviour I would have to grab his attention in a way which I knew always worked. I’d get myself into trouble. As I say, I didn’t think this through. At the time it just seemed to happen although I know things don’t happen without someone bringing them about. I’m not trying to shift the blame or deny liability. What took place was my fault.
I was taking care to be a good team player in the peloton but I was getting more and more pissed off with the behaviour of a few other riders who would take any opportunity to flick me. Flicking is a term used in cycling; it comes from the German word meaning to fuck and basically it means using any method to screw with a competitor. I would find myself cut off from my team mates and forced to ride slower than the group or suddenly the pace would hot up when I wasn’t expecting it and I would be forced to work harder than I wanted to at that point. To be fair, my tormentors were probably reacting to my aggressive riding style but I wasn’t prepared to debate the point. I took them on and played them at their own game.
Then there came the day when I overplayed my hand and, as bad luck would have it, James McSteen was amongst the group I tangled with. We were competing in France where the route took us across the cobbled streets of a market square. There is nothing worse than cycling on cobbles and all the riders were standing up on their pedals to try and minimise the effect of the juddering. I decided to slow the group in order to extend the time spent on this uncomfortable section of the race, to the discomfort of my rivals, but I pulled too heavily on the brakes and caused a pile up.
James McSteen was just behind me and his momentum carried his bike into mine. We both went down in a tangle of twisted metal, bringing several other riders down with us. A few got up and continued but most were either too shaken to continue or their bikes were not fit to be ridden. There was no concrete evidence to prove that I had intended that unfortunate outcome; indeed, the fact that I was out of the race myself was the best proof that it was all an accident. But Jimbo had seen me deliberately brake when there was no call to slow down so abruptly. He made a protest to the stewards but it failed to result in an official enquiry. Jimbo’s coach made an unofficial and strongly worded protest to Brandon and that had far greater effect.
As soon as we got home I found myself back in Brandon’s office facing an irate coach who this time did not invite me to sit down. If I’d wanted Brandon’s undivided attention I’d certainly gone the right way about getting it and I found it a most unsettling experience. I was confused and struggling to understand the nature of our relationship. There had been a time when we were totally relaxed in one another’s company and I’d regarded Brandon as one of my closest friends. Indeed, my feelings for him went way beyond mere friendship. He, on the other hand, was becoming more distant and strictly professional in his approach towards me. Nothing in his manner, however, had prepared me for the stern and unrelenting disciplinarian I now faced. If I’d had the wit to prepare a defence it would have been useless in the face of the inquisition I endured. As it was, I could only admit responsibility for the accident and surrender to my fate.
The trouble was, Brandon did not make it that easy. I said he was irate but if you didn’t know him as well as I do you would never have guessed it. He didn’t raise his voice and he didn’t even lecture me. He was angry, though, angry and disappointed. I think it was his disappointment which I found hardest to bear. We had done so much preparation for that race, all for nothing when I knocked myself out of contention. Not only was my racing bike damaged beyond repair but Brandon had undertaken to persuade our sponsors to foot the bill for repairs to Jimbo’s bike as well.
The whole sorry mess was made worse by the fact that I had once offered my apologies to James McSteen for unprofessional conduct and promised that I would never behave badly towards him again. In Brandon’s book the latest incident just showed that my word was not to be trusted and I appeared incapable of competing in an honest and sportsmanlike manner. It cut no ice to argue that I didn’t know Jimbo was right behind me when I braked so suddenly. I had admitted doing it deliberately to inconvenience my rivals, one of whom was James McSteen, and that meant that I was responsible for his crash.
I couldn’t meet Brandon’s eye. There was nothing I could say in my defence. If I had indeed taken to retaliating in the peloton in order to gain Brandon’s full attention the strategy had backfired. I felt as though I'd forfeited his good opinion forever. I didn’t care much about James McSteen but I couldn’t cope with the guilt of letting my coach down yet again. I hung my head in an attempt to disguise the fact that my eyes were brimming and a tear had overflowed down my cheek. The next thing I knew Brandon was standing right in front of me.
“What am I going to do with you?” he asked.
I could tell he was still displeased and the question seemed to stem from exasperation. I lifted my head to look at him and the movement caused more tears to spill, some of them splashing on my hand as I lifted it to scrub my wet face. He caught my wrist in one hand and reached into his pocket with the other to extract a clean white handkerchief which he used to mop my hand and then gently wipe the tears from my cheeks and eyelashes. He handed me the handkerchief to finish the job myself but he didn’t step away. I dried my eyes and blew my nose as quietly as possible and then, after a moment’s hesitation, I decided to pocket the wet handkerchief rather than return it.
“What am I going to do with you?” he asked again.
The exasperation was gone from his voice and this time I heard only reassurance and a certain wry affection. It made me feel even more guilty for the trouble I’d caused. I think Brandon was asking a rhetorical question but the obvious answer sprang to mind and without thinking of the consequences I voiced my thought.
“You spanked me the last time I behaved badly towards James McSteen.”
“And it would serve you right if I bent you over my desk right now and taught you a lesson you wouldn’t forget in a hurry,” came the immediate response.
I don’t think Brandon had given any more thought to his response than I had to my original suggestion but our eyes met and we both immediately realised that we were discussing a serious possibility. We skirted round it for a while, both trying to come to terms with the unthinkable.
“You’re going to punish me for this anyway, aren’t you? What are you intending to do to me?”
“I haven’t made up my mind, Alfie. I’m really at a loss how to deal with this. I suppose I will impose a fine… a substantial fine. You’ve cost the club a lot of money, not all of which can be recovered on insurance.”
“It’s not just about money though, is it?” I said miserably. “I’ve let the club down and I’ve let you down. I’m so sorry. I feel dreadful about it. Sometimes I just don’t think about the possible outcome when I plan one of my stunts.”
“You’ve hit the nail on the head there, Alfie. You just don’t think, even though I’ve told you again and again that unsporting behaviour in the peloton will only make you enemies. This isn’t a case of letting me down; you’re letting yourself down every time you pull a stunt like this.”
“It just seemed too tempting to get back at the guys who’d been flicking me. I didn’t think I had anything to lose.”
“So, you only behave well when you fear the consequences of misbehaviour. Is that what you’re saying?”
“No… it’s just… I do what I feel like… I don’t…”
“What you’re saying, Alfie, is that you need a strong incentive to modify your behaviour: something to make you think twice before you do anything like this again… something to remind you that misbehaviour can prove painful.”
I winced. He was obviously still toying with the idea of a spanking. Reluctantly I dragged my own thoughts back to the possibility of accepting corporal punishment. I think Brandon knew I was considering my options and he waited quietly while I mulled over what he’d just said.
“Honestly, Brandon, a fine doesn’t touch me. I’m getting quite an income now from sponsorship. My Dad, as my business manager, will pay a financial penalty without comment. I’ll just be left feeling guilty that I’ve made your job difficult yet again. Perhaps I need something which is going to make me feel I’ve paid the price personally.”
“This seems to be a very personal thing for you, Alfie, doesn’t it? You seem more upset at offending me than harming James McSteen.”
“I’m sorry I knocked Jimbo out of the race, Brandon, really I am. But you’re right; what keeps me awake at night is knowing that you’re angry with me. I want to put things right between us. I want a bit of help to keep on track with my career. Perhaps a spanking is the solution. I don’t fancy it. I’m scared, Brandon, but perhaps it is the right thing for me.”
Suddenly Brandon seemed to come to a decision and I immediately regretted my words.
“Well,” he said, “we can always give it a try. This will be strictly between the two of us. If you’re willing to accept physical discipline it could be the making of you. I’ve known it work before now. What do you say?”
“How… how does it work?” I couldn’t imagine how the punishment would be carried out.
Brandon understood my concerns.
“You’ll bend over my desk and hold onto the edge. I know it’s an embarrassing position to place yourself in but that’s part and parcel of the punishment. I have a paddle in the filing cabinet and this latest misconduct has earned you a dozen swats across the seat of your pants. I warn you, I spank hard. This will hurt… it’ll hurt you a lot. You won’t have to keep quiet but I’ll expect you to remain in position until I tell you to get up. Are you ready to take that?”
I wanted to say I’d never be ready to take that but I found myself nodding agreement. I couldn’t bring myself to actually state my acceptance out loud and I think Brandon understood that because he didn’t press me. Instead he gave me one last way out.
“Take your time, Alfie. It’s a big decision and I don’t want to put any pressure on you. The more I think about it the more sure I am that this will be for the best, but it has to be done with your consent. It will take courage, I don’t deny that. But when it’s done the matter will be dealt with, over and done with. Nothing more will be said. You’ll be forgiven and your misbehaviour forgotten. How about you go home and think it over and come and see me tomorrow with your decision?”
It was a tempting offer but I didn’t trust myself to maintain my resolution overnight. Added to that, I didn’t want to lie awake all night worrying about this anymore. I took a deep breath and tried to speak with confidence and finality.
“I’ve made up my mind, Brandon. I know I deserve this. Do it now. Please.”
I was grateful that he didn’t see the need for further debate. Not only that, he took over so completely that I didn’t have to think about how to manage the unpleasant business. Indeed, I stopped thinking altogether, just did as Brandon told me, went where he said, and steeled myself for what was to come.
Bent awkwardly over Brandon’s office desk, I had to reach out to get a grip on the opposite edge with hands which suddenly felt clammy. Brandon took his time checking that I was in exactly the position he wanted. He asked me to spread my legs further apart which had the effect of bringing me onto my toes. I felt very vulnerable hanging on by my fingers on one side of the desk and balancing on my toes at the other. I didn’t think I’d be able to get up quickly from that position even if I wanted to, which was probably the idea.
Brandon hitched up my waistband and smoothed the fabric of my jeans across my bottom. Then he plunged his hand without hesitation into my back pocket to withdraw the mobile phone which I’d forgotten about. I heard the sound it made as he placed it on the desk beside me. As he walked over to the filing cabinet to collect his paddle I reflected that jeans probably provided as good a protection as anyone in my position could hope to get from a layer of fabric. It was just unfortunate that I hadn’t changed out of my athletic support and so there was no second layer across my bottom to help absorb the sting.
I wondered if the paddle did actually sting or whether the pain was of a different order. I had no idea what to expect. I’d never been paddled at school. No one my age has been. I didn’t know what Brandon was doing in possession of a paddle. A paddle had once been an essential piece of kit in the coach’s office but not in Brandon’s day. Maybe he'd inherited this one from his predecessor. As Brandon turned away from the filing cabinet I caught sight of the fearsome implement out of the corner of my eye and was conscious that my whole body was slightly trembling. I tried to convince myself that the reaction was caused by holding the prone and outstretched position but a little voice in my head told me it was the result of cowardice.
I hoped Brandon hadn’t noticed I was shaking. I had agreed to accept this punishment. Hell, I’d put the idea of a spanking into his head in the first place. I wanted to take it with dignity and I didn’t want Brandon to see how afraid I was. I wanted to impress him, to restore his faith in me and to wipe out the guilt I was feeling for letting him down. I tried to slow my breathing and calm down as I waited for Brandon to take up position behind me. However, I couldn’t restrain a gasp as I felt the paddle press lightly across the very centre of my bottom as Brandon lined up his first stroke. I clenched my buttocks convulsively as I felt the wooden implement lift away from my body. I held my breath in readiness for the first swat and squeezed my eyes tight shut.
A moment later I was shocked by the sound of an almighty crack just as my body registered an intense pain for which the word sting is a total misnomer. I had resolved to take my punishment in silence but the yell which escaped my lips sprang as much from surprise as from pain. My eyes opened wide with astonishment and hurt. It felt like my buttocks had been set alight and I knew at once that I couldn't stand eleven more of those searing, agonising blows. However, I was given no time to dwell on that thought. Brandon paddled efficiently and with determination. He swung without pause to land a second swat just above the first. I hadn’t had time to take enough breath to let out another yell but the force of the impact tore an agonised groan from my lips.
Brandon had warned me. He spanked hard. The pain built until my eyes swam with unshed tears, my breath was coming in ragged gasps and I was fighting to remain in position over his desk. When he moved his attentions downward to mete out the remaining blows across the top of my thighs I could bear it no more and I began to push myself up off the desk. Brandon did stop at that point and placed a restraining hand between my shoulder blades but he exerted no downward pressure. It was the quietly spoken words which got me back into position.
“Don’t move, Alfie. You’re doing well. Just four more. Hold still.”
I don’t know how I managed it but I fell back across the desk and kept still as that wicked paddle cracked down four more times, searing an agonising swathe across my thighs. Then I heard the sound of the implement landing on the desk and Brandon’s calm voice announcing that he had finished.
“All over. Well done. You took that well.”
I couldn’t move to start with and Brandon made no attempt to hurry me. His hand rubbed comforting circles on my back and he continued to murmur words of reassurance and praise until I started to breathe normally again and began to think about standing up. As soon as I tried to lever myself upright, Brandon’s strong arms slipped beneath my shoulders and I was more or less lifted bodily to my feet. For a moment or two I just leaned for comfort against his broad chest before I realised what I was doing and hastily pulled away. I scrabbled in my pocket for Brandon’s handkerchief and used it to dab my eyes and cheeks which were still suspiciously wet. It gave me a moment or two to pull myself together before I had to make eye contact and say something.
“Sorry… I… sorry…”
“Hey. You’ve said sorry. You’ve taken your punishment. It’s over and done with. I’ve forgiven you. Now you need to forgive yourself and move on.”
Brandon spoke with sincerity and he reached out to tilt my chin upwards so I had to look into his smiling eyes. My heart missed a beat. When Brandon smiled and looked at me like that I was lost. Certainly I had lost all sense of guilt. I was beginning to think I hadn’t acquitted myself too badly during the spanking and Brandon seemed to be saying I’d been brave. His words of reassurance and forgiveness made me feel a little better. I cupped my hands and rubbed them experimentally over my bottom. I could feel the heat even through the denim fabric. The intensity of the burn was giving way to a deep soreness which I feared would make the fifty mile practice ride I had scheduled for the afternoon something of a penance. Brandon must have picked up on my thoughts.
“We were planning that you might do some stamina work in the pool at some point, weren’t we? That might be a good training option for this afternoon. I fancy you might prefer a swim rather than an outing on the bike.”
“I’m not sure…” I hesitated. “I don’t want anyone to see.”
“Don’t worry. The redness will have died down by this afternoon and you can always keep your towel round your waist until you get into the pool if it bothers you. I think you’ll find a workout in the water will take the rest of the heat out of your backside. That wasn’t a heavy punishment.”
I could only think that if I’d just had a taste of Brandon going easy on me, there was no way I’d ever be doing anything in future to seriously piss him off. I readily agreed to his suggestion that my afternoon session be used for fitness training in the pool and I excused myself to go and get some lunch in the refectory. In the event I bought a sandwich and a fruit juice in the coffee shop and I took my frugal meal to eat outside. I didn’t fancy sitting on the hard chairs of the refectory and I was in no mood to make conversation with anyone who might walk in and join me. I found a deserted corner of the athletics field and lay face down to recover my composure before rolling onto my side and propping myself on one elbow to eat my sandwich.
Now that the pain in my butt seemed to be settling into a deep, dull ache I reflected on how I felt about my first and, with any luck, my last proper spanking. The embarrassment I’d experienced at having to bend over Brandon’s desk seemed to have been replaced by an odd sense of pride that I’d had the courage to take what he’d handed out, if not in silence at least with some degree of dignity. My heart seemed lighter and I realised that I no longer felt guilty. I really believed Brandon when he said he’d forgiven me and, more importantly perhaps, I’d forgiven myself. I’d paid my dues and I could move on.
Except there were aspects of the spanking which left me feeling puzzled and confused. I’d long since acknowledged to myself the nature of my feelings towards Brandon and being on the receiving end of his paddle had in no way diminished my affection for him. If anything, I’d felt a closer connection to him when I was squirming over his desk than ever before. I’d hated the punishment but there was no denying that surrendering so totally to his discipline had had a powerful effect on me. When it was over I was totally wrung out; leaning against him had felt the most natural and comforting thing in the world. I'd laid my head on his chest without a second thought. It had taken me a moment or two to come to my senses and realise how inappropriately I was behaving. Brandon was kind about it, though. He pretended nothing untoward had happened and he gave me time to recover myself. He deserved better from me than bad behaviour in races and I resolved to do my best to make him proud of me in future.
When I entered the pool changing rooms they were deserted but I made sure I got into my swimming trunks quickly, keeping my back to the lockers. I draped a towel around my waist and went out into the pool area. There were no school or club groups there that afternoon, just one or two individuals swimming lengths. I walked over to switch on the wall mounted pace clock and then dropped my towel before diving in at the deep end. I set myself to swim fifty lengths against the clock, trying not to slow up towards the end. When I finished I was panting with exertion and my body was humming with the invigorating effects of the workout. I noted the excellent time I’d clocked and hoped that Brandon would ask me about my performance. Swimming isn’t my favourite form of exercise but I’d given it my all that afternoon, and I’d done it for him.
I pulled myself out of the pool in one smooth movement and bent to retrieve my towel, taking care to keep my scantily clad bottom facing away from the lifeguard. When I got back to the changing rooms I had a quick look at my bare buttocks and thighs in the long mirror and decided I could risk using the communal shower without being embarrassed if anyone walked in. In the event, I had the changing rooms to myself until I was fully dressed. I was just lacing up my trainers when the inner door swung open and my coach walked in.
“So… what was your time, then?”
Brandon knew I’d always compete against the clock. I told him my time for fifty lengths, the best I’d ever achieved.
“Wow. That’s brilliant, especially if you were swimming on your own… and in some discomfort.”
I couldn’t prevent my face breaking into a grin of delight at his praise. “Well, I should have been doing road work this afternoon so I tried to make up for… for everything by giving this my best shot.”
“I’m pleased with you Alfie. You’ve had a rotten day and you’ve bounced back. You deserve a better evening. I don’t like to think of you going back to that flat on your own. How about coming over to mine for the evening and I’ll cook dinner.”
I must have looked a trifle uncertain. Although Brandon and I had worked together for some years I’d never been back to his house.
“I’m a good cook,” he said encouragingly. “And you can have a thick cushion to sit on at the dinner table, if that’s what worrying you.”
“What time?” I asked, the decision taken.
“Come round for seven and we’ll aim to eat about half past. Bring an overnight bag as well if you like, Alfie, and then you can have a drink. The spare room is all made up.”
I went back to my flat and took my time choosing just the right casual outfit for the evening. Somehow it seemed to matter that I make a good impression. I wanted to look smart without appearing to have made a huge effort. In the end I settled for a light blue shirt, open at the neck, with a snugly fitting pair of lightweight grey trousers. I dug around in my untidy chest of drawers until I found a matching pair of socks and then completed the outfit with my best leather jacket. I grabbed a sports bag off the bed into which I’d flung my overnight things, just in case, and I made a final check on my appearance in the hall mirror as I heeled into my loafers. My hair could really have done with a trim but at least it was gleaming and bouncy after my shower. I brushed my fingers through the curls to try and achieve a more sophisticated look but decided it was a lost cause. Brandon knew what I looked like; I don’t know why I was behaving like a kid on a first date.
I was more affected by paddling Alfie than I'd thought possible. When he himself suggested a spanking as a way of dealing with his juvenile antics in his last race I quickly took him up on the suggestion. I was running out of ways to try and teach him the importance of sportsmanlike conduct and tactical race planning. If he continued behaving in such a thoughtless and aggressive manner on the bike he could kiss goodbye to any hope of becoming a champion. I thought a spanking might be just the punishment to make him think twice the next time he was tempted to engage in dangerous or thoughtless conduct during a race.
I knew what I was doing with a paddle and I was confident that this unorthodox punishment could be the making of a young man of Alfie’s temperament. I was quite unprepared, however, for his reaction once he decided to accept a spanking. His grim determination to proceed was heart wrenching to behold. He was clearly terrified. His whole body was shaking but he held onto my desk for dear life and he never once asked me to stop. I didn’t go easy on him but I paddled him faster than I might otherwise have done just to get it over with. I’m not sure it was much of a kindness. I didn’t give him time to catch his breath between swats and he was gasping by the end and trying valiantly not to cry.
The moment of revelation came for me when I lifted him back onto his feet. He leant against me and I heard him give a deep sigh as his whole body relaxed against mine and his head sank down onto my chest. It was such a natural and unaffected gesture and it spoke of his total faith and trust in me. My heart went out to him and it took all my self control not to sweep him up in my arms. I could no longer fool myself that I didn’t love Alfie and I'd punished him in a way I would only ever punish a lover. In the circumstances, I felt it would be taking unfair advantage of him to respond as he snuggled against me so I held myself still until he recovered enough to step back, hoping that he couldn’t feel the pounding of my heart.
When he bravely squared his shoulders and left my office to face the world, I was left feeling broken by the experience. The more I thought about it, the more I began to think I was missing the obvious. I’d been so wrapped up with the importance of behaving professionally, with not abusing my position of trust, that I was failing to read the signals Alfie was giving out. It was true that I’d been celibate since Tony’s death but I was hardly inexperienced and, for all his youthful appearance, Alfie was no shy youth. He’d been trying to get my attention for months but I’d resolutely kept my distance. I even wondered whether this latest fiasco with James McSteen had been an attention seeking exercise. I thought it unlikely but I couldn’t be sure. Alfie was not so easy to read as many of the other young men I coached. Perhaps that elusive quality was part of his attraction. There was just one moment where he had totally dropped his guard and I felt I'd seen into his soul. That moment had been when he rested his head and shoulders against me and I felt his tense muscles relax totally into the contours of my body. He had come to rest in his rightful place and perhaps I needed to tell him that.
In the course of the afternoon I walked over to the viewing gallery where I could watch Alfie push himself up and down the pool. He was swimming with a drive and efficiency which caused his body to cut cleanly through the water, although from my vantage point I couldn’t see the clock to time his lengths. It was a phenomenal effort, given that he had no competition and no coaching from the poolside. It was evidence of the determination with which he approaches any sporting challenge and also testimony to his physical prowess. He has an extraordinary ability to take in and use oxygen, and tests show that his body produces less lactic acid than normal. These physical attributes enable him to perform well in any endurance sport and make him such an exciting talent to coach. I left him to complete his workout in the pool, leaving a message for one of the life guards to ring me when Alfie got out of the water so I could catch him in the changing room before he went home.
When I got home I decided to make chicken chasseur with a couple of fresh chicken breasts I'd bought the day before. It would be quick to prepare, nutritious and low in fat. The dish would need about an hour and a half in the oven but I reckoned it would be nearly ready by the time Alfie arrived. While I was waiting for him I laid the table and then, remembering my promise, tested my cushions to find the plumpest and placed it on one of the dining chairs. When I opened the door to him on the dot of seven I couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw Alfie most days in sports clothing but I'd never seen him dressed in what I would describe as a smart casual outfit and he looked stunning. He was wearing the most gorgeous leather jacket which felt as soft as butter as I took it from him to hang on the coat stand. His trousers fitted perfectly and hugged his hips and thighs in a way which accentuated his powerful leg muscles. His hair curled in a delightful way over brown eyes which sparkled with pleasure as I welcomed him to my home and took the proffered bottle of wine.
By the time we were sitting opposite one another at the dining table we were laughing and joking as we used to do in the old days before I decided to be more circumspect in my dealings with Alfie. He had begun the evening sitting on the cushion I’d provided but, sometime after we finished our meal and were lingering at the table over coffee, the cushion got thrown at me in the course of a friendly disagreement. The accuracy of the throw meant that my plates and glasses were never at risk but the force of the throw took my breath away when the cushion hit my face. As I stood up and walked over to him, threatening retribution, I saw the flare of excitement in his eyes and I decided to show him what I thought of young men who hurl soft furnishings at me in my own home.
I grabbed him by his shoulders, pulled him to his feet and frog marched him over to the sofa where I threw him down on his back and proceeded to tickle him. He squirmed delightfully beneath my fingers and his giggle was infectious. I stopped before he became totally hysterical and sat down beside him, placing my hands on either side of his head. He stopped wriggling and looked up at me expectantly, his eyes dark with longing. The message was unmistakable and I finally surrendered to the promptings of my own heart. I bent slowly to kiss dear Alfie. It was a rather chaste kiss but I felt his lips melt beneath mine and his body relax in total surrender. I knew that he was giving himself to me completely but I wasn’t planning to engage in sex. I’d been celibate for so long, I could wait a bit longer and everything had to be perfect for the first time with Alfie. Perhaps I’m a bit out of step with today’s values but I wanted to take my time, give our relationship time to become established, before we finished up in bed together.
I lifted Alfie’s head into my lap and began to run my fingers gently and rhythmically through his wayward curls. He sighed and settled back to enjoy my soft caresses. After a while I saw his eyelids flutter and I realised that he must be feeling very tired after all the upset and stress of the day.
“Did you bring your overnight things?” I asked him quietly.
“Mmmm,” came the sleepy reply. “In the car.”
There was no point asking why he hadn’t brought his bag in with him. I guessed he hadn’t wanted to presume he’d be staying the night. I went out into the hall and rummaged in the pocket of his leather jacket for his keys before retrieving his bag from the back seat of his car. When I returned he was already asleep on the sofa so I laid out his things on the bed in the spare room and then went to gently shake him awake. He let me support him up the stairs to the bathroom and I went to turn down the cover on his bed while he speedily completed his bedtime routine.
Once Alfie was curled up under the duvet I cleared the table, loaded the dishwasher and set places for breakfast. I reckoned that while I concentrated on mundane tasks I could get one or two things clear in my mind but I finished up moving on autopilot, lost in a haze of happiness. Alfie was asleep in my spare room and it felt so right to have him in the house with me. We hadn’t really discussed it but we both knew we were on the verge of a new relationship. There would be details to talk through and explanations to be given but for the moment the one big step had been taken and things had changed between us for all time. I looked forward to the journey of discovery we would make together.