After the Easter holiday which we had spent apart from each other – Sebastian with his family, me in Ravenna with Collins – we were glad to return to the still new but familiar routine of evenings together. Sebastian came to my rooms as often as possible, as we had to be aware of a constant throng of visitors dropping in in his own rooms. Mine were much more exposed than his, but Anthony Blanche hadn‘t discovered them yet, and Boy Mulcaster was too lazy to walk all the way to Hertford college. So we felt safe and cosy there.
Sebastian had presented me with a bunch of lilacs for my skull – the sight of him with Aloysius in one arm and a huge bunch of fragrant blossoms in the other was more than delightful. He cut and arranged heads of lilacs in a bowl, all the while talking to the skull and telling him he could expect real Arcadia now when resting on a bed of lilacs, while I searched for a vase large enough to hold the remaining branches. Everything was arranged neatly on the table next to my sofa and lulled us with a delicious, sweet frangrance. Tipsy of the white wine we had enjoyed, we had gotten much closer than usual: Sebastian simply had asked if he could rest his head in my lap. I was delighted and astonished at the same time. Among his set, it was not unusual for men to have close physical contact. I had seen his friends sitting on each other‘s laps, kissing, rolling around on sofas together. For me, everything here was a first. I had never seen men behave like that and still didn‘t know what to make of it. The only thing I could say with certainty was that I felt a strange tickle of attraction to this bohemian lifestyle and all it encompassed. And to Sebastian especially. So I moved a bit, all too eagerly, to allow him to stretch out on the sofa comfortably and put his head on my thighs.
„Mmh, much better.“
He beamed up at me. Once again, I was struck by his epicene beauty and his shining eyes.
„No need to be afraid, Charles. We don‘t do anything forbidden, you know?“
I smiled timidly and tried to relax. The fragrance of the lilacs was intoxicating, and when Sebastian started to play with my fingers, I simply gave in to being lulled and dazed by the beauty of the evening.
„Tell me about Ravenna, will you?“ He looked at me affectionately, putting me more at ease.
Responding to his lightly moving fingers in mine, I told him about the strange glare of the Adriatic this early in the year, the bare, plane landscape which made it difficult to discern sea or land, the overwhelming golden splendour of the mosaics suffusing everything with warmth and light, Collins making every visit complicated with his obviously antiquated Italian and behaving all in all rather tiring. He chuckled more than once, sending the sofa into tiny waves of movement.
„Well, I am sorry you opted for Collins as a companion. Why didn‘t you ask me?“
I froze. This had been my most fervent wish. I would have abandoned Collins and all his gear right there on the platform had Sebastian offered an alternative. But of course I hadn‘t told him. I looked at him, flooded with affection for him and anger about my awkwardness:
„I – I didn‘t -“
„Hm? Lost your speech?“
I cleared my throat.
„No. It‘s just – I would have loved to travel with you.“
He raised an eyebrow, but we let it rest at that. He pursed his lips and looked so adorable that I couldn‘t but stroke his cheek very gently. His smile was encouraging, so I moved on to his forehead and tenderly followed strands of his golden hair, brushed them away from his face and, when he groaned contentedly, started to stroke his hair. He closed his eyes.
„Don‘t stop, please.“
I didn‘t. I gently touched his hair, let my fingers play on his scalp, moved on to outline one of his pretty, small ears and his neck. I had never done that, never been that intimate with anybody, and I was amazed at how wonderful it felt. Just those light, tiny touches. But I registered a surprising longing for more and was afraid he might notice my growing pleasure.
I don‘t know how long we rested in this delicious, tingling and still satisfying intimacy. Night had long since fallen outside, the room was suffused with the fragrance of the lilacs more than ever, and I started to feel drowsy. I noticed that the candle had burned down considerably when Sebastian stiffled a yawn.
„Time for bed?“, I asked.
„Yes, I think so“, he muttered, stretching a bit in my lap. „Would you mind if I sleep here?“
„Here, on the sofa?“, I asked surprised.
„No, in your bed. With you.“
He looked at me innocently.
„Just sharing a bed, spending time together. Nothing more.“
I looked out of the window. Forbidden dreams seemed to become true before I was ready for them.
„Well, I see I put you into an uncomfortable situation. Forgive me for asking.“, he said, struggling to sit up.
„No, no! Wait! I was just surprised!“
I put a hand on his shoulder. His face was suddenly awfully close at mine.
„I would love to have you here“, I whispered, amazed at my own courage. „It‘s just – you know my bed, it isn‘t large at all. I was worried about Aloysius. Will he be comfortable?“
„Aloysius isn‘t allowed into my bed every night, what did you think? This bear is spoiled enough as it is. He can very well sleep here on the sofa all alone and will be fine.“
„Are you sure?“
He smirked and nodded. He was so charming I almost couldn‘t bear it. I leaned in to kiss him lightly on the cheek – a first for both of us.
„It would be lovely to spend the night with you. Stay, please.“
Sebastian refused my offer to lend him a pyjama and said he preferred to sleep in his underthings. I undressed and changed clumsily, being all too aware of his eyes on my back. But when I joined him in my narrow, monastic bed, he made it easy for me to relax and treat the situation as a completely normal, casual occasion as he was so at ease. He smiled at me and lightly brushed my hair out of my face:
„Would you mind holding me in your arms? Your bed really is small. Guess we would fit in better if we got a bit closer. You don‘t mind, do you?“
He looked adorable. I never could deny him any of his wishes, however crazy, when he looked at me like this. And so I invited him into my arms, twisting a bit to reach the bedside lamp and pressing a chaste kiss on his forehead. He kissed my neck and made himself comfortable on my shoulder. We didn‘t talk. I was afraid he might hear my racing heart, I was even afraid it might burst anytime soon. But his even breathing calmed me, and soon I felt a serene, deep happiness spread deep inside me.
We slept wonderfully and peacefully, all through the morning bells of the various towers and the first signs of my fellow students moving about and getting ready for the day. Indeed, it was Lunt who woke us by opening the curtains:
„Good morning, Sir, any intention of getting up soon? Oh, Lord Sebastian, I didn‘t expect you that early. Good morning. I will be right back with another cup of tea.“
He put the tea he had brought for me on the dresser and vanished inaudibly.
„I wish my scout were as sweet as your‘s“, Sebastian mumbled sleepily, raising his tousled head from where he had buried it to face me on the pillow. „Good morning, darling.“ He pressed a warm, lazy kiss onto my cheek. I stared at him in horror:
„Do you think he will report us?“
„Lunt? No. I bet he has seen worse than this. Besides, what is wrong with studying long and hard with a friend and falling asleep in his quarters?“
His ease calmed me. I even managed to grin a bit. When he leaned in to kiss my neck, I wondered if it was the first time he got caught in a similar situation. The casual way he took it made me think he was somewhat used to it.
„So, my sleeping beauty, how about I go to my rooms, shave“ - he traced my scratchy chin gently - „have a bath and change – after we had some nice tea in here, that is – and then we have breakfast together somewhere nice?“
„That sounds wonderful“, I replied, letting my hand wander down his side under the cover and resting it on his slim hip. It fit perfectly there. I never wanted to remove it.
„And then, the Botanical Garden. What do you think?“
„But - what about lectures?“, I wondered.
„Lectures? Charles, don‘t be a bore.“ He moved nearer, drew me a bit closer to him. „You can go to your lectures all day tomorrow, if you feel inclined. Today is for pleasure. Just look at the sky!“
And so, I was drawn inevitably down this broad, comfortable path to utter irresponsibility and pure hedonism. I followed Sebastian into a world I hadn‘t known existed, full of beauty, light and love. I should meet greater joy and greater pain there than ever again in my life, and the experience would alter me forever. However, I wouldn‘t want to miss one second of these Arcadian days.