The Antique Dealer and The Beggar Boy
“Please, Ezra,” Simon’s anguished voice reverberated around the bedroom, “it hurts, please stop, please, you’re killing me, you’re really killing me this time. I’m dying!”
Ezra continued with the act of murder, wielding the chosen weapon with unwavering determination. When he was certain that Simon was thoroughly dead he helped him from his lap and put him into bed, tucking the sheets around his nakedness. Placing the hairbrush back on the dresser, he picked up the damp towel from the bedroom floor and quietly left the room shutting the door behind him. He stood for a moment listening as muffled sniffles gave way to silence.
Putting the towel back in the bathroom, Ezra mopped up the mess that Simon had left. He could never have a bath or a shower without leaving small puddles on the floor. He then began to clear away some of the bigger pieces of attic and ceiling debris from the landing. There were several books lying among the dust and plaster, obviously ones that Simon had dragged from the mouldering boxes up there. He gathered them up. Taking them downstairs he stacked them on the coffee table, a cursory glance telling him they were nothing of great antiquity or value. Deciding to leave the vacuuming of the landing until later he went into the kitchen to make a coffee, mentally preparing himself to wait for the inevitable.
Back in the lounge he settled down on the sofa and picked up one of the attic books, a turgid romance set in sixteenth century Cornwall. Propping his feet on the coffee table he began to read. Ezra was one of those people who once they started a book would not even contemplate not finishing it. No matter how achingly dull it was he would go on to the bitter end, while indulging in what Simon termed critical muttering.
As he read, and muttered, Ezra was conscious of the sun touching his shoulder and the side of his face, as it streamed in through the window. It was deceptive. Outside there was little warmth in its brightness, but the glass filtered out the chill giving the impression of a much warmer day. He turned the page and then started as something flashed at the peripheral edge of his vision, near the window. It was like the whirl of soft material in movement, but when he looked there nothing there. The deep green and gold drapes were tied stiffly back, motionless. He returned to his book, listening to the clock’s musical ticking.
An hour or so later the door was pushed open and he glanced up, saying mildly. “Who gave you permission to come downstairs?”
“I did.” Simon, still naked, stood in the doorway, neither in nor out of the room.
“What do you want?”
Ezra made an offer he knew would be refused. “I have some rather charming twenty-first century cuddles on offer. They’re in excellent condition and completely free of charge, would you care for one?”
Simon scowled, wrapping his arms tightly about himself. “No,” his voice was petulant. “I don’t like cuddles, free or otherwise. Anyway, why would you want to cuddle someone you don’t like? Its dishonest.”
Ezra gave his head a little shake. “I’m not in the mood for that particular game of proof and denial, Simon. I’m tired so let’s stop right here. If you’re intent on annoying me then consider it done. Go back to bed and stay there until you’re in a better mood.”
“But I’m bored up there on my own.”
“You wouldn’t say that if you really liked me.” Simon fell silent, waiting for a reaction that didn’t come. Ezra had turned his attentions back to the book in his hands. Simon changed tack. “I’m hungry. I missed lunch.”
Ezra knew from experience that there was no point offering to get him food. None of it would be the right food. It would be rejected or flung across the floor. “You know where the kitchen is. Go and make yourself a sandwich if you want one and then go back to bed.”
Ezra turned the page as the sitting room door closed with a loud thump. Having read the second paragraph of chapter six three times, making no more sense of it the third time than he had the first, he laid the book aside with a sigh. “Brat block,” he muttered, “can’t concentrate with a brat block. Best to clear it.” Metaphorically picking up the ball that had been dropped into his part of the court, Ezra got up and headed for the kitchen, giving no indication that he’d noticed the goose pimpled figure sitting in the middle of the stairs.
Simon watched as Ezra disappeared into the kitchen without so much as a glance at him. He wondered what would happen if he poked his foot through the stair spindles and sent the vase on the hall table crashing to the floor. He sighed; he knew just fine what would happen. He’d get killed all over again. Ezra was strict about wanton destruction. His bottom was all too tender from the earlier slaughter and he kept his foot where it was. He sat shivering and feeling tragically and rather pleasurably sorry for himself. Sunlight streamed through the stained glass panel of the front door and he admired the shards of rich colour, blue, green and red that it sent dancing across the black and white tiled floor.
The kitchen door opened again and Ezra reappeared carrying a tray bearing a sandwich and a big mug of creamy hot chocolate. Simon watched him out of the corner of his eye, wondering if the hot chocolate had chocolate flake crumbled into it.
Ezra set the tray on the coffee table and then placed a few more coals in the grate. It was almost June but still cold enough to justify use of a fire. That done he headed into the hall and up the stairs, ignoring the figure huddled there. He collected a clean set of pyjamas and the hairbrush from the bedroom. On the way back down he collected Simon. Taking a firm hold of his hand he pulled him to his feet and marched him into the sitting room. “Put those on,” he ordered, thrusting the shorts and t-shirt into Simon’s hands. “I want no more bloody nonsense.”
Simon, conscious of the hairbrush that Ezra had clasped in his hand, did as he was told. He felt better as soon as he was clothed.
Ezra seated himself on the couch. “Come to me.”
Covering his bottom with both hands Simon shook his head.
Ezra smiled slightly, “don’t worry, your rump is safe. I just want to brush your hair. It’s sticking up all over the place.”
Ezra gave a nod of assurance.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Simon closed his eyes as the brush was drawn through his hair restoring it to order. He gave a tiny sigh. It was like Ezra he suddenly thought, double sided, a source of comfort and chastisement, both gentle and harsh. The chastisement was over and tension flowed from Simon as he gave way to the comfort he knew was always waiting for him, and which he resisted, rejected and fought every inch of the way.
Ezra pulled the ebony brush gently through the fine, yet abundant corn coloured hair. He knew what Simon had wanted since coming downstairs. He wouldn’t ask for it. He denied and resisted his own needs, perhaps because he wasn’t certain where his exact needs lay, or whether he deserved to have them met. Ezra’s open offer of comfort had been rejected, as it always was, no matter how he formulated the words, command or request. Practical acts, Ezra had discovered, were often the way to bridge the no-man’s land between punishment and comfort that existed for Simon. Laying the heavy brush aside, he reached over Simon’s head, took the mug from the tray and placed it in his hands. “Drink up, honey bunch, while it’s still hot.”
Simon smiled. There was crumbled flake on top and it was all melted in, just the way he liked it. He drank greedily. A voice commanded him to eat and he ate, leaning against Ezra’s legs enjoying feeling his fingers stroke his hair and the nape of his neck. Draining the mug he set it on the tray and then brushed crumbs from his front and got up. Straddling Ezra’s lap he hugged him tightly, savouring the combination of muted aftershave, coffee and the musky sexy sweetness of sweat breaking the grip of deodorant applied much earlier in the day. “I’m sorry about the ceiling, Ez. It was a stupid trick, dangerous and mean minded. I deserved to be punished.”
“That’s true,” Ezra gazed at him solemnly, “you did. What about the appointment?”
Simon dropped his gaze. “I’m not going. Everything is fine as it is.”
“You’re a naughty boy,” Ezra shook his head sadly. “I ought to spank you again and send you straight back to bed.”
Simon settled himself more comfortably on Ezra’s lap, saying confidently, “but you won’t.”
“You’re keeping that appointment, end of story, even if I have to drag you there kicking, crying and screaming.”
“You wouldn’t do that would you, Ez, you know how embarrassed I get when you behave like that in public?”
“I’m not joking, Simon.”
“When have you rearranged the appointment for?” Simon’s voice sounded distinctly sulky and he made to pull out of the embrace that held him, but the arms remained fast.
“I’ll go on my own, there’s no need...”
“There’s every need,” interrupted Ezra sharply. “For one thing I want to make sure you get there. I’m warning you, my lad, any more nonsense and I’ll make sure you can’t sit down for a good long time.”
Simon abruptly changed the subject. “May I help out at the shop tomorrow?”
Ezra nodded. “Yes I’d like that, as long as you behave yourself. Don’t forget that my parents are coming through for Sunday lunch this weekend, so you’ll have to nip out and do some shopping. I think we’ll have lamb for a change. Dad’s partial to a bit of lamb.”
“Oh God, I’d blocked that out, can’t you find a way of putting them off?” Simon scowled ferociously. “Your mother will reel off a list of all her friends and relations that have died recently, along with gruesome details of what they died from. She’s like a combined pathology report and obituary column and your father always looks at me as if he’d like to strangle me.”
“That’s because he would like to strangle you,” said Ezra crisply, “and for good reason most of the time. I’m not putting them off. I don’t see them often enough as it is and neither of them is getting any younger. Incidentally if you’re rude to either one of them this time I’ll kill you right in front of them. I mean it, Simon. I swear I’ll bare your bottom and put you over my knee.”
Simon blanched “I’ll be good, Ez, I promise.”
“Delighted to hear it, and to think educationalists say the threat of CP doesn’t act as a deterrent.” Ezra pecked a kiss on Simon’s lips. “So, my beggar boy, what shall we do this evening?”
copyright Cat/Fabian Black 2010