“There’s a famous artist who lives in a massive gated mansion on the edge of our town. He’s very rich and hugely successful, in his thirties, never married. He does a lot of charity work. A year ago a friend of mine, a single mother with a seven-year-old boy, met him at a fundraising event. He was judging the art contest. Her son’s favourite subject was art and he’d entered a drawing. She told me the artist, who we’ll call Trevor, was sweet and soft spoken, always smiling; he took a lot of interest in her and her son. Trevor gave her son first prize in the contest. He said he was very talented for one so young, knelt down so he was level with the kid and gave him a big hug. They talked for ages after that and really hit it off Trevor offered to have my friend and her son over to his mansion so the kid could use his art studio.
My friend told me this over coffee, she was so thrilled for her little boy, her eyes shone with delight, and she said the kid couldn’t stop smiling either. I was pleased for her; she’d had a rough time of it lately, separating from her husband and everything. A few weeks later she told me they’d been to Trevor’s house a lot. Trevor let her son use his pool and he had free reign of the art studio, they would often paint together. Trevor said he was just like him as a child, that he was the best friend he wasn’t allowed when he was growing up.
‘You’re just like I was,’ he said. ‘You remind me so much of me at your age.’
A month or so later I went round to their house and my friend showed me all the letters Trevor had written to her son, hundreds upon hundreds, enough to paper the walls. Bursting with pride, she showed me the easel, brushes and paints Trevor had given her little boy, all top range, far too much for a seven-year old, they must have cost thousands. Then she showed me the new car he’d bought her, a whole bunch of jewelry, a Rolex, some tiny gold and diamond rings made to fit little seven-year old fingers. She told me they both stayed overnight at Trevor’s mansion a lot, that Trevor and her son lay on the bed together and watched Disney films and ate popcorn.
‘They’re so cute together,’ she said.
Once or twice Trevor had asked that her son sleep in the bed with him alone all night. When she refused Trevor had cried.
‘It’s completely innocent,’ he sobbed. ‘There wouldn’t be anything inappropriate. My parents never let me have a childhood, they just made me paint. Your son is the friend I never had. I love him so much; I would never do anything to hurt him – or any child. You know how much I love children. It would just be movies and ice-cream.’
‘What do you think I should do?’ She asked. ‘He’s like a big kid. I think he’s completely asexual.’
I was tempted to call the police there and then, I told her she was nuts and we had a big argument. I didn’t see her again for many months. A few days ago I bumped into her at the supermarket. She looked incredibly ill, much thinner with dark patches under her eyes as if she’d been worrying constantly about something. My immediate thought was that Trevor had done something to her son. Over coffee she told me that she had let her only child share a bed with Trevor but I’d been so wrong, nothing bad had happened. Her son had continued to be friends with the artist. He always wanted to stay at the mansion, nagged her to let him whenever they had a break. He wasn’t scared of Trevor at all in fact they’d grown closer, she really did think that Trevor was just a child trapped in an adult body.
‘But, if you don’t mind me saying, you don’t look very well, what’s happened to you?’
She told me that her son hadn’t seen Trevor for many weeks, that there was a new boy in his life now. At first Trevor had the two of them over to his house together but eventually the visits and gifts and days out had tailed off and now he never calls.
‘I feel so sorry for my baby,’ she said. ‘He’s so withdrawn and cries himself to sleep at night. I know for a fact that this new boy stays over at the mansion. I’ve seen his mother in town, parking up her new car, her hair done beautifully, a big smile on her face.’
Tears fell from my friend’s cheeks. ‘I don’t know what to do,’ she said, ‘my son is so sad it breaks my heart.’
I comforted her as best I could but as soon as I left her I took out my phone and called the police. I mean, what would you have done?”