The Start of Something New If You Know What I Mean
In which the New Boy is enlightened, the Head Boy and his Junior converse, a prefect is late and roommates meet
It was quite a surprise to the entire student body—or to those who noticed anyway—that Julian wasn’t at his usual place beside the student body president.
Duly noted ever since to be of impossible promptness to any school function or meeting, the student council’s vice-president seemed to have finally tainted his astonishingly presumptuous record. Kyle, Karl and some others mumbled throughout the ceremony about how maybe Julian had taken a trip to see someone the night before and ended up too tired to go to the assembly. But they knew him better. He would never be late for anything, especially something as important as the students’ assembly. He would be beside Daniel, religiously taking down notes of what the glorious headmaster would say (despite the fact that it was the same speech every year). So no, there was no way in the proper world that Julian would miss this. Except, of course, he already had.
It wasn’t a cause of great disturbance though. In fact, the students continued on with their incessant yells of insults and rowdiness. Now, if it was the president who had gone missing, that would be another deliriously long and different story. But he wasn’t. And all was well. Save for the fact that it was his loyal vice-president who had been absent on said occasion. So no, it wasn’t a cause of great disturbance. It was, on the other hand, a source of profound discomfort.
The answer to it was plain and simple, though.
Julian had a fever.
He had suppressed much of the coughs that wanted to escape his mouth and that did little to help contain his already feverish state. After humbly escorting Daniel to his dorm room the night before, Julian went straight to the room he shared with Stephen and went to bed. He did not change out of his clothes. He did not take a shower. And he forgot to drink his medicine, which was probably the reason why his already-weak body succumbed to the flu.
Though that was the case, the reason behind his fever was far more complex.
He had spent nights endlessly reading a book that was assigned for English class a year before. It wasn’t of much help that this particular book consisted of dreary chapters of self-loathing and unconventional love. Such thoughts only led Julian to think of Him, the root of all evil. And so, he spent the duration of the night silently bashing his personal dignity and awoke to a morning of sheer hot and dizzy feelings.
When Daniel dropped by in the morning, he had worked quickly, helping the boy change his clothes, preparing a cold compress and taking his temperature. Julian had tried to protest, but Daniel had insisted he and the other prefects were perfectly capable of handling the opening ceremony themselves. He was explicit that he stay in bed.
And so he did, clutching the book to his chest, trying to go to sleep but haunted with images of Him.
Welcome back, indeed.
Pierre had no intention of being alone. He had merely blinked, glanced briefly at his jewel-encrusted mirror for some minor abnormalities in his flaxen hair, and all of a sudden his camera-toting companion had scuttled off and now appeared to be animatedly comparing lens sizes with a scruffy looking boy from North Wing.
But he had no clear chance to actually notice what had happened because before he knew it, everything was pitch black. The gold chandeliers that previously illuminated the hall had suddenly dimmed, causing a murmur to ripple throughout the hall. Pierre lifted his head, a slight tremor erupting from his lips - his lean frame erect - and started to look around in alarm. A cold draft had started to creep surreptitiously around the hall. Pierre felt the fine blonde hairs at the back of his neck involuntarily stand. In the corner of his eye, he spotted a group of freshmen seated near the front howling and pointing towards a section of the linoleum of the upper stage.
He swiveled around towards the source of the noise and watched in awe as streams of colorful light shot out of floorboards and from the inexplicable depths ascended a heavily cloaked man. 70’s Disco music started blasting from speakers that were nowhere to be found and the hall erupted in cheers and yelps and hollers as the man started jittering around in a funny dance.
‘Bloody hell. It’s like the second coming of Christ or something,’ Pierre heard someone say from behind him.
“That’s our headmaster, Professor Reginos, if you haven’t figured it out yet.” Pierre turned his head and was met face to face with the warm gray eyes of his photographer friend. Patrick smiled, unceremoniously dropped his bag, casually loosened his tie, and regained his place on the chair beside the blonde boy.
“Oh.” Pierre said, his voice coming out a bit shakier than he expected. Helplessly, he felt a blush creep onto his face.
“Yup, ever since I’ve been here, it’s always something extravagant, something flamboyant - his entrances, I mean. I heard the best was a couple of years ago, a cabaret show, complete with male strippers jumping out of cakes. Barking mad, I swear.” The boy laughed and skillfully reached for an apple, his brown hair bouncing slightly as he did so. He offered the blonde boy one before biting off a chunk out of his. Pierre could feel his cheeks grow hot. ‘What the fuck,’ he thought.
“So it’s normal? I mean, no one thinks it’s….gay?” Pierre sputtered, pausing to think an appropriate word that wouldn’t offset the ebb and flow of conversation.
“Well actually, no.” Patrick furrowed his eyebrows, his gray eyes barely visible through his thick dark brown fringe. “You see. Pierre….how do I say this?” He scratched his head and took another bite from his apple. He gently unlaced the camera from the strap hanging on his neck and looked at the blushing boy straight in the eye.
“Say what exactly?” Pierre tilted his head innocently.
“Well, alright. You see...St. Paul’s is somewhat liberal in that sense.”
“…In what sense exactly?”
Patrick chuckled, looked away and started mindlessly tinkering with the controls and buttons on the camera. “I’m assuming your French grammar school or whatever you call it was non-gender-exclusive. Well, let me put it this way, if your boys there fancied girls, the boys here fancy boys-”
“-boys fancying boys? An Achilles and Patroclus?” Pierre’s voice quivered. His eyes lit up in exaggerated surprise.
Patrick laughed nervously, his eyes still on the camera. “If you want to put it that way, yes. In light of the lack of female companionship, most of the upperclassmen have boys. Most boys sleep around-”
“Sleep… around?” Pierre asked quizzically. A wrinkle on the forehead.
“Yes, they sleep around. Like I said, it’s all very liberal, very promiscuous, very much testosterone influenced.” Patrick set the camera down and stared at Pierre with a pair of forceful grey eyes. A slight grin. ”For example – have you met Daniel Harker yet?”
“No.” Pierre blinked, his eyebrows scrunched with curiosity. “Should I have?”
“Well, probably, yes. He’s the greatest ponce of the lot. Attractive on a level, fit, and fiercely intelligent. He’s got hordes and hordes of boys after him, boys practically begging to sleep with him.” Patrick smirked. Another bite from the apple.
Pierre gazed in incredulity. He took a moment to look around the hall, a new perspective flooding him: boys feeding each other, sophomores flirtatiously playing with each other’s hair, a group of freshmen fixated with a table of tall, good-looking upperclassmen that appeared like they had just walked out of a photo shoot for a Burberry editorial ad.
Pierre locked his eyes on Patrick once again, mentally debating whether or not his companion was one of the people he had just described – a ‘ponce’. It was difficult to see how he could not be. ‘But you never know,’ he thought. He decided on simply asking. “And you? Do you have…boys?”
Pierre observed as a blush crept onto his friend’s face, a first since they met.
“W-well. They’re not mine. I mean. I have people who might have admired me in one way or another. But don’t take me w-wrong! I’ve never ever thought of actually entertaining them-“ Patrick stuttered nervously.
Pierre could not help but break out into a smile. A set of sparkling white teeth.
“Uh, do you see those two boys? The ones who look like they’re ready to kill – yeah them. That’s Janvier, the one in the left with the beret like yours, only in purple, and Fevrier is on the right, holding the demitasse cup with his pinky up.” Patrick motioned towards a table of sophomores.
Like he described, two boys appeared to have been watching the conversing pair intently - menacing looks directed at Pierre.
Pierre gulped and noticed for the first time how close Patrick actually was. He scooted away, leaving at least a quarter of a foot’s distance between them.
Patrick heaved a heavy sigh and gently grabbed Pierre by the cuff. “It’s alright. You shouldn’t mind them,” he said, pulling Pierre towards him.
Pierre blushed for what seemed like the thousandth time.
“Here, let’s eat.” Patrick placed his camera in its bag and grabbed 2 plates from a stack near the center. He gracefully shuffled through a wooden box containing utensils. His long fingers flicked swiftly through the pile, picked up a pair of spoons and handed one to Pierre who sat silently and accepted it awkwardly.
“May I have everyone’s attention?”
Pierre gently placed down his fork and swiveled around his seat. Patrick glumly dropped the treacle fudge he had been planning to dive into and followed suit.
“Shhhh- shh. Silence. Ahh, alright. Here we go.” The headmaster motioned for silence.
“Welcome to a new school year, dear students. It breaks my heart to announce that your summer break has ended and we must once again focus our attention to the ever eternal pursuit of knowledge. As of so far, the new academic term brings forth a season of renewed promise. According to the latest matriculation statistics, 20 Form 6 have successfully gained a place in Oxbridge.”
A round of applause. A few whoops from the upperclassmen.
“But before we delve into anything else, let me first introduce to you your Prefects and the Student Council. They have worked assiduously these past few months and have expressed the utmost exceptional excitement over the prospect of the new academic term. First, your house representatives.”
A octet of tall, good-looking seniors climbed the stairs and stood assertively beside the headmaster, each one in their respective house colors. The hall cheered.
“And now the student council!” said the headmaster theatrically.
“Your Treasurer, Dennis Davison,”
A slight-weary looking figure joined him on the stage, the crucifix dangling around his neck tinkling slightly as he did so. The hall broke into applause, coming the loudest from the blue of the North Wing.
“Your Secretary, the one and only Mal Maxwell, ”
A spry, skinny boy jumped up and practically sprinted onstage. He grinned at the crowd, and his friends in Gold blazers not too far from Pierre broke into noisy catcalls.
“Your Public Relations officer, Lars 'Larry' Von Modico,”
Boisterous noise broke out from the South Wing. Larry shot his wing a look and a quick pose, and the crowd grew wild.
“And finally, our President and Head Boy of all Head Boys -”
Violent whispering immediately filled the hall. A group of freshmen were clinging to each other, smiles from ear to ear abound.
A tall, lean, brown-haired boy ascended from one of the Form 6 tables – all eyes intently watching each move, each step signaling an increase in the volume of the whispering.
He was fairly tall and easily attractive. His eyes were brimming with a charming sort of conceitedness only a select few could pull off. Hands coolly in pocket and a quick run through the hair, the boy confidently took his place beside the headmaster, his smirk evident to everyone in the hall.
A squeal from one of the freshman tables.
Pierre could hardly believe what he was hearing. ‘Daniel Harker? Head Boy?’ He slumped down gradually into his seat. He turned his head towards Patrick, his eyes full of astonishment.
“He’s Head Boy? You’re telling me the fucker’s the president of the student council?”
Patrick chuckled. “Yes, he apparently is.”
“And no one minds?”
“I believe the horde of boys waiting outside his dorm room every night is telling enough.”
“Ehem.” The headmaster looked sternly at the hall and soon enough, each of the four house tables quieted down to a respectable level.
“I would also like to introduce to you this year’s foreign exchange students. As it has always been a forefront principle of the school to encourage a thinking and learning on a global level, it has been our tradition to invite intelligent, young men of all nationalities from various countries to join us for each term. This year, we have… Hiroki Natsuhiko, from Japan.”
A short but very composed young man donning the dark blue blazer stepped onto the stage next to the head master. He had black slicked black hair, small, sharp eyes and almost eerily pale skin. The sharp angles of his face gave him an almost entrancing androgyny, and the way he stood carried the discipline and austerity that he had probably grown up with. He gave a deep bow and left the stage.
“Our next boy is no stranger to the grounds of St. Paul’s. If you all remember, he was also an exchange student before. If I’m not mistaken he came twice – during one year in your primary school, and then again in your secondaries. Well it seems that he has come to stay, this time. Please welcome back, Keto Hasani – but as you all know him, Keith,”
A tall, dark, well-built young man of an astounding almost 6 feet 5’ appeared from the stage right. His face hinted of a far-flung African decent, his cheeks hollows, features dark, and eyes a piercing grey beneath his rectangular glasses. His dark, russet hair was kept in dreadlocks that cascaded to his mid-back. He took a curt bow of acknowledgement before talking a seat on one of the West Wing tables.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to announce the permanence of Esteban Villalobos’s stay in St. Paul’s Boarding School for Boys. With much delight has he told us of his enjoyment during his term on exchange and he has decided to join our school as a full-time student. Let us all welcome back, Esteban.”
Another polite round of applause.
“And with that I end all my announcements for this year’s pre-term feast. You may now enjoy the rest of your meal and for those who have filled themselves up already, the rest of your free day. Thank you and see you all again very soon.”
Pierre clapped mechanically along with the rest of students.
“Well, I’ve got a photography club briefing in a few minutes…”
Pierre turned around to face Patrick once again.
Patrick blinked and grinned. Before Pierre could realize what was going, Patrick placed a hand on top of his and retracted it just as quickly. Pierre blinked in confusion.
“Erm, see you around? I’d be thrilled if you’d let me take photos of you again.” He smiled, gathered all his stuff, placed them in his brown suede bag, and expertly swung his bag around his upper torso.
“Tell you what. Here’s my handphone number, in case it ever crosses your mind again.” Patrick shuffles through his pockets and pulls out a scrap piece of paper. He pulls a pen out of one of his blazer pockets and quickly scribbles a set of digits.
With a quick wave and a skip of the step, Patrick stands up and starts walking away, a grin from ear to ear. Pierre nods and smiles in return. He watches as the boy’s silhouette fades in with the crowd leaving the hall as well.
‘A number. 3 hours in this school and I have a boy’s number.’
Pierre slipped the piece of paper in his pocket, mentally gave up on trying to contain the sheepish smile that was attempting to consume his face and continued eating.
Well, that event proved to be more successful than I imagined. Daniel sighed heavily at the thought.
Rushing last-minute preparations for the opening ceremony certainly wasn’t how he pictured the start of his school year, and neither was having a panic attic in the bathroom – although he couldn’t say he didn’t expect it to happen. He knew, from the very moment he was declared student council president, he would face such predictable, tiresome, and stressful episodes. He didn’t ask for it, yet he didn’t turn the position down either. Now, he could throw a fit or curse whoever he deems responsible for his fate, but one thing would remain certain – Daniel Harker would not quit his position or any other things he did. Quitting was simply not part of his vocabulary.
He let out another sigh as he continued to walk along Caxton Hall. The opening ceremony ended a few hours ago, and the school gave the remaining hours of the day free for the students’ leisure. Daniel grimaced. Of course, while all the others were enjoying their day before classes officially start, he was fulfilling his duties and responsibilities to ensure the school’s orderly flow of activities for everyone’s benefit.
“At least today’s main agenda is done,” he said out loud, trying to calm himself down and letting his mind sift through what happened earlier that day. He knew he did what he could’ve done for the opening ceremony’s difficulties, and it turned out to be satisfactory. Even the headmaster, disregarding his punctuality, commended Daniel on his handling of the situation. His few words still rang in Daniel’s head: “Jolly good, Mr. Harker! I dare say you’re quite the man for this job. Do keep it up!” And while these words of encouragement could normally uplift one’s spirit, Daniel was too zonked out on everything that had occurred. It seemed that consecutive sleepless nights had led him to this raging peak of this stressful week –the first day of school. He wished to go up to his dorm room and relax but he still had a brief meeting with the other prefects later in the day – just some final reminders for their duties. Not to mention the only other boy who could fill in for him, Julian, was still feeling ill and he didn’t want to disturb him from his rest.
He stopped in his tracks, and found himself in one the school’s many small indoor gardens. Only a few students were located in the area, mostly new lowerclassmen gallivanting by the mossy trees. Once they saw Daniel’s exhausted, yet still poised, form, they limited their noise to a minimum, not wanting to get into any trouble. Daniel hadn’t really noticed them, but he was grateful for the silence. He sat on the bench near the small pond, and let the fresh air soothe his nerves. He breathed slowly, soon enough catching a pattern.
The cone of relaxation he was beginning to enter was suddenly shattered by an uncalled influx of memories. Himself, sulking in the bathroom. Himself, late for the ceremony. He just couldn’t get himself to calm down.
“Oh, get a grip!” he told himself, “This is pathetic”.
“Talking to yourself again, Daniel?” said a familiar voice.
Daniel looked up to see Julian standing a few feet away from him, smiling weakly. He got a full view of the boy, who surprisingly looked a lot better than his appearance earlier in the morning. Although his face still bore marks of illness and drowsiness, this young chap – wrapped in a huge maroon woolen sweater with a big ‘J’ at the center – seemed to be as fit as a fiddle.
“I told you to stay in bed and rest up,” said Daniel with a worried look on his face.
“I reckon you’re feeling better then?”
“Much. Thanks.” replied Julian, walking up to the bench and sitting next to him.
“How?” asked Daniel.
“An hour after you left for opening ceremony, I went to Madam Rosemary at the Hospital Wing,” Julian lied, “Figured she could help me get loads better with some medicine. It looks like it worked, yeah?”
“Remarkable transformation, if you ask me,” applauded Daniel, smirking, “I should thank her for her services. You should’ve seen yourself this morning; you looked bloody scary, like some damned zombie from hell. Of the brain-eating variety.”
“Oh, fine. A good-looking zombie then?” Daniel joked.
“Just know that you’re one too. A more daft one in fact,” said Julian, scoffing. “I pass by here and see you talking to yourself like some kind of mad man. What’s going on? I heard the opening ceremony was splendid thanks to you.”
“I suppose so.”
There was a short silence. Daniel looked at Julian, expecting a reply, but dear Julian was merely staring, giving Daniel a look which said ‘go on’. Daniel picked up a small pebble, molding his hand around its smooth curved surface. He sighed, “I’m warning you, it could take a while.”
“We’ve got all day.”
“Well, technically, I have until five o’clock in the afternoon.”
“Just bloody start already, Harker.” Julian said with a sigh.
“What else could it be, Julian? It’s all this pressure . School hasn’t even officially started and I’m already hanging by a thread. I suppose I was caught off guard with those last minute changes, but I’m afraid I’m not meeting up with what the school expects from ‘Daniel Harker’. Hopefully… hopefully, I’m not losing my touch. After all, I still have to arrange orientations for the new students. It might sound like a piece of cake, but it’s a beastly task. Apparently there’s also a bit of trouble with room assignments in one or two of the wings. Bloody system’s wrecked again. And yeah, we add to that my usual obligations.” He paused, just staring across the pond. He threw the pebble in hand into the pond, making it skip lightly along the watery surface. It bounced thrice before disappearing into the water.
He went on. “Oh yes, mustn’t forget the new foreign exchange student from Japan. Hmm, he’s a good-looking fellow, wouldn’t you say so? … Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot... Well, the school administration requested me to accomplish arrangements for his stay here, such as classes, dorm assignments, etc. Oh, also the usual personal tour guide for the bloke –” Daniel suddenly paused, and a wide grin was plastered on his face.
Confused, Julian asked “What?”
“The personal tour guide for the Japanese boy,” Daniel started to reply. Despite his broken disposition, he broke into a smile, “I wouldn’t want to burden others with playing the role of nanny, especially since it’s just the start of the school year. I suppose I can fit this foreign exchange student into my busy schedule. After all, I am here to serve the student body, right?”
“Ah, now I see,” said Julian, smirking, “This must be a very dashing chap.”
Julian raised his eyebrows in amusement. “Well, well. If this bloke is as good-looking as I think he is, this might start a fuss in school. Imagine: two attractive young fellows walking side-by-side along the hallways of St. Paul’s. You know as well as I that that spells r-u-m-o-r-s.”
“Hah! That would be fun. Wouldn’t you think so?” Daniel said looking distantly into space, “And besides, I’m used to the gossip – half of it is true anyway. No use in denying facts.”
Julian shifted his crossed legs and tried to follow Daniel’s line of sight. After a minute of silence, he spoke up:
“Speaking of gossip, I heard you had a smashing time at the Hamptons over the summer. Care to share?”
“Gossip spreads that fast? Amazing! To think that school has just started,” said Daniel, “Well, my family and I spent our summer vacation at the splendid Hamptons. Fortunately, many lovely ladies also chose to spend their leisure time there. It wasn’t much. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I do always appreciate all the… offers, and the moments with them were breathtaking. But, really, the chase is much more fun here in school.”
He and Julian turned their heads to face each other at the same time. Daniel winked. Julian raised an eyebrow.
“Who’s to chase? Practically everyone’s lined up for your services.”
“That may be true… but there are usually a few exceptions to that. One is the new foreign exchange student,” another chuckle escaped Daniel’s lips, “I sure do think he would be something interesting for this year’s start.” He paused in thought and pursed his lips, “A very, very dashing fellow indeed. I say, Julian, you should seen him…. Anyway, other than that Asian chap, there aren’t any other new possibilities. I haven’t exactly been on the lookout yet but I’ve got the whole year for that… If there are none who seem favorable, I’ve always got Mikael to satisfy my needs,”
“Mikael,” echoed Julian, with a subtle tone of disapproval.
“He has always been such a dear friend,” Daniel said, “And he knows just how to … feel, shall we say, my superiority and power. It really is an invigorating feeling, Julian!” He exhaled deeply as he drifted away from his memories of such events.
Daniel looked at his friend who was listening to every word. Finding a blank, slight disapproving look on Julian’s face, he couldn’t help but laugh at what he just shared, although it was one of their usual topics. He felt rather thankful for having this conversation. It made him happier than he had been for the rest of that day, to be honest. He found it a great way to relieve the stress and find relaxation, even if it wasn’t much.
From the nearby open hallways, they heard giggling that broke the relative quiet of the garden. Daniel and Julian turned their heads to see two familiar boys looking in their direction. Julian gave his friend a knowing smile as the two students approached the bench until they stood directly in front of...
“Danieeeel!” the two squealed in delight. They gave no sign of noticing the one seated next to him.
“Good day, gentlemen,” greeted Daniel, smiling politely, “Of course, you know my dear friend, Julian.”
“Ah, yes of course,” one replied blankly, glancing at Julian for less than a second, and then turning his head back towards Daniel.
“You look exhausted, Daniel. You must be awfully tired from all that fuss over opening ceremony.”
“Though you did absolutely wonderful, Daniel! We sure are lucky to have you as president for this year’s student council.”
“Yes, we even heard the headmaster praising you for your smashing efforts for the ceremony. You should be awfully proud of yourself, Daniel!”
Julian and Daniel weren’t surprised with the way these two boys spoke fast. It had been so since their high school days. They’d grown accustomed to it.
“Well, thanks Janvier, Fevrier,” said Daniel slowly, nodding towards each as he mentioned their names, “But if you don’t mind, Julian and I are still discussing a few things.”
“Oh, sorry for bothering you, Daniel. See you around!” They said. They waved goodbye and gave another chorus of chuckle. As they began to amble away, Daniel suddenly called out, “Oh! I forgot to mention. I believe Patrick’s looking for you two. I think he’s in his dorm room.”
The moment the words left Daniel’s lips, the boys’ faces took a beaming quality, as if they’d just heard the Good News direct from God’s blessed angels. Janvier’s and Fevrier’s faces immediately lit up, eyes suddenly getting wider and rounder. They quickly nodded as replies, then jumped up and ran off towards the hall leading back to the dormitories, at a speed that would have had them recruited into the Olympic Athlete’s Village. A few seconds later, Daniel and Julian heard their unmistakable squeals, faint in the distance.
Daniel took another pebble and threw it into the pond while Julian stared with his lips pursed, somehow dumbfounded by what just happened.
“Has Patrick lost his bloody mind for looking for those two?!” Julian suddenly blurted out, finally free from the trance.
Daniel furrowed his brows for a split second, and then doubled over, laughing his heart out. Julian’s face passed from confusion to realization.
“Imagine Patrick’s reaction once he sees eager Janvier and Fevrier at his doorstep without having a single clue to why they’re there,” Daniel managed to say amidst his guffaws.
“You’re daft,” Julian muttered, a slight chuckle creeping into his voice.
“I consider that a welcome present to Patrick, from yours truly,” Daniel said, as he straightened his back on the bench, regaining posture. “He can thank me later.”
“Those two are insanely in love with you and Patrick. Did you notice they couldn’t even say a sentence without mentioning your name,” Julian emphasized. Daniel simply laughed.
“But really,” said Julian, “What put you in a good mood that you actually talked to your beloved fans? You usually ignore their existence whenever they’re around.”
“That was last year,” said Daniel, “It’s different now. I’ve been talking to them since I arrived here at the start of the week. I find it entertaining; by simply and politely responding to them, it triggers an amusing conversation … smiles and giggles on their faces, uncontrollable fidgeting. There’s a hilarious charm here I’ve never noticed before. Besides, I’m not sure how long this will last, but I’ll enjoy the moment as it is still present,” Daniel replied as he stretched out his arms upward.
“That’s something new, and quite interesting. For the new school year, I suppose?” said Julian.
“I guess you could say that. You could say a lot of things are interesting for this school year. Other than those I already mentioned, some other things stand out. For example, an encounter with this new student in the lavatory…”
Julian gave him a look and replied with “Ah, I see.”
“No, no. Not that kind of encounter, Julian. There wasn’t anything going on in that bathroom, like what you’re thinking. Get your mind out of the gutter,”
Julian simply nodded. Daniel went on.
“You may say I was having one of my ‘episodes’ in one of the cubicles. I didn’t notice a student come in – an interesting young fellow, if you ask me. I had never seen him before, so I assumed he was new to the school … On second thought, he was definitely new. He dared to talk back to me, as if he didn’t know who I was. That writes “new student” all over his damn forehead,”
“So what happened?” said Julian.
“I fixed his tie, that’s what happened,” mumbled Daniel, “The devil should be thankful that I helped him fix his monstrous attire. It could hardly be called a uniform. He even had this garish pink scarf and this stupid beret thing on his head. Seriously. And quite a shame actually. He was something to look at,”
Daniel gave his companion a small grin. “He could be another one of my ‘challenges’ for this school year. What do you think?”
Julian sighed, “Seems like there’s a lot in store for this year. This should be fun.” He lifted his wrist and looked at the time, “You were right by the way, this was rather long. It’s already five minutes to five o’clock.”
Daniel jumped up from his seat and quickly began running his hands through his hair, trying to make it more presentable. “It’s nearly five already?” he exclaimed, “Time flies. Well, I called up a meeting for the prefects just some last minute reminders. That’s all. It shouldn’t be much. Would you like to tag along?”
Julian got up slowly and brushed himself off. “Yes, all right,”
“Are you sure? I could take you back to your room –“
“For the last time. I’m fine. Somehow, I don’t think my illness will be coming back anytime soon. Let’s go.”
Pierre was already getting frustrated when he passed by that same spot in the Basil Gardens for the second time. He wanted to get back to his dorm before dinner. He had gone to the library after the Opening Ceremony and was, as always, greatly comforted by the sight of so many books. That trip to the library ended thirty minutes ago, and spending that thirty minutes trying to get back to the East Wing left him drained and slightly embarrassed. He really needed to finish fixing his side of the dorm room, start studying (the map at least), and read the amazing book he managed to borrow from the library, which was why he felt like tearing something when he saw that particular hedge again.
Now, he was sure that schools like St. Paul’s have vast English gardens with massive identical hedges and the like, but he was sure that not all hedges in St. Paul’s serve as a background for two boys in violet sitting on a bench doing things St. Paul would certainly not approve of. Although he was sure that the jackets the two boys were taking off of each other were crimson (an unwanted image permanently seared into his brain).
Pierre stopped on his tracks and rubbed his eyes, a crime he always used to commit in front of his Elle editors. It must be the lack of sleep, he reasoned. Either that or the Basil Gardens was just a popular rendezvous area, giving him a total of five different displays of St. Paul’s extracurricular activities for this day alone.
At that moment, a few feet away, a boy in blue stepped out of a broom closet. His hair was mussed, his jacket was crumpled and his tie… was worn by the boy who exited the broom closet after him, his hands frantically smoothing his red jacket. Pierre turned away and shuddered at the implications of what just happened.
It wasn’t that he was a homophobe. His Uncle Albert was gay and was happily settled with his partner Louis somewhere in Florence with their five dogs. He liked his Uncle Albert—Uncle Albert taught him how to fish and gave him the Dolphin Daydream, the first book he ever treasured. He also liked Louis, quiet and always smiling, and he appreciated the way his uncle always smiled as Louis poured his uncle coffee every morning. So really, he was okay with gay, or so he thought.
The only problem for Pierre was the student body’s blatant display of this. Snogging in the gardens, boys with unbuttoned shirts and crumpled jackets coming out of the broom closet together—it was dizzying. He wasn’t a prude or anything—he hasn’t gone all the way yet, yes, but he had his fair share of snogging and traipsing off. Having everyone else’s promiscuity continuously shoved at his face was another thing, however. It brought unpleasant feelings in his stomach, like mutated butterflies ramming their heads nonstop to the walls of his stomach.
Walking briskly, they shot past students as they made their way towards the office. On their way, Daniel couldn’t help but notice Julian looking around the halls as they walked. Rounding the corner, they arrived at the hall where the prefects’ office could be found. Dennis and Larry were standing by the door, also having just arrived. The other prefects were standing or sitting, chatting quietly. They were all waiting for Mal, Track and Field captain as he was and Secretary to the council, to get the keys.
Julian took the moment to nonchalantly ask, “Would you happen to know if Professor Rivers has arrived?”
So that’s why he was being a bit snoopy along the halls, Daniel thought. “No, I don’t think so. His name has not yet appeared on the attendance sheet,” he replied simply, he didn’t want to continue the topic. He was actually well-aware of a phone call Professor Rivers had with a certain student a few days back, but he thought it’d be best if he didn’t mention it – especially not with Julian’s health being on the fritz.
Finally, the rapid sound of feet resounded from up the hall. Everyone turned to see Mal sprinting up the hall.
“Mal,” said Daniel, holding out his hand.
“Hey, Daniel!” the boy cheerfully panted. He placed the key in Daniel’s small hands.
“All right! Everyone, get inside, this will just be quick,” Daniel called out, and everyone obediently followed as they walked into the office in an orderly fashion.
Kyle woke up with a yawn and stretched his arms lazily. He looked around and realized that he had slept on his desk, his textbook on Latin that he brought out for advanced reading serving as a pillow instead. No longer interested in trying to get ready for the next day, he reached for his cell phone to check on one of his minions and saw that he received a message from Daniel.
Good afternoon. This is to remind you that there will be a meeting for all members of the Student Council later at 5pm in the Student Council’s Office. Do not be late.
Kyle looked at his wristwatch. It was already 5:30.
Oh bloody hell.
Sorry mate, he started as he punched the keys on his mobile. I only saw your text a few seconds ago. Is the meeting over? Will be there in a few. He made a quick sign of the cross, hoping that Daniel started the meeting in a good mood, and bolted out of the door.
Kyle stopped running to check his watch for the fifteenth time. He sighed when a New Message alert still didn’t appear on his screen—the time 5:45 did, however. This is good, he told himself. That would mean Daniel was still conducting the meeting and therefore Julian would be too busy taking down notes to reply to him. Julian wasn’t the type to ignore his texts even if the former was pissed at him. Yes, that must be it, he reasoned. Although it was now 5:45 and that would mean the meeting would have at least been halfway through the first agenda. He thought he should try asking one of the other wing representatives and settled on asking Erik, since despite being a student council member he was an expert at texting during class hours.
Hey dude, he began typing. I know I’m late and yeah sorry XD Is Daniel pissed off? What’s—
Something hit Kyle hard enough to make him drop his cell phone. He shut his eyes in exasperation, muttered a curse under his breath and then decided to just grab his cell phone and let it go—and that’s what he did. He bent down and focused his eyes on the floor, looking for his cell phone and saw something else: a pair of shiny black leather shoes.
Up his eyes travelled, skimming through the grey slacks and past the scarlet jacket before his view was obscured by a hand too close (to his face) holding his cell phone out to him.
“I’m really sorry,” a voice said, making Kyle’s eyes snap up to its owner’s face. He finally got a good look at the boy who made him dropped his cell phone—the boy was blond and admittedly good-looking. His eyes, Kyle was amused to note, were almost tightly shut.
“S’all right,” Kyle replied as he took his phone from the boy’s long fingers. He inspected the phone and found no crack on the LCD screen. He also jabbed his finger at different places on the screen and it seemed like his touch screen was still functioning too.
“I can have it repaired if you want,” the boy nervously said as he slowly opened his eyes.
“No, really. It’s fine. Nothing’s wrong with it. No cracks whatsoever,” Kyle replied as he waved his phone in front of the boy. “Anyway, I best be going.” And with what seemed to be a final nod, Kyle turned and continued on his way.
He checked his watch. 5:50. Well that little encounter cost him another five minutes. With any luck, he’d be able to reach the meeting as they’re finishing up. He had to come up with a good excuse now.
Kyle turned around and saw the blond boy, still standing on the same spot where Kyle left him, staring at his shoes. “What is it?”
“Uhm, well you see…” the boy began slowly. “I just came from the library and uh…”
“From the library? Isn’t that a bit too far from here?” Kyle asked, and then mentally kicked himself for doing so. He realized he shouldn’t be asking questions since that would only delay what the boy wanted to say, and that would mean being tardier in the meeting than what he actually was. “And where are you headed to?”
“Uh… well, I’ve been trying to go back to the East Wing.” Kyle couldn’t help but laugh after hearing this.
“You’re obviously new here, right?” The boy nodded. “And you’re lost. Hmm. Your wing representative was supposed to give you tour or something,” The boy blushed but said nothing. “…but I’m guessing you weren’t listening,” Kyle chuckled. The boy’s eyes flashed and he looked indignant.
“S’okay. I reckon I would’ve ignored Alphonse too. I mean, spaghetti’s more attractive.” Kyle said, trying to make the blond boy more comfortable, but only succeeded in drawing a blank look. “Not that you’d actually get that, since you’re new and all. Anyway, I’m Kyle Fitz, the North Wing Representative,” he said as he offered his hand.
“Er… Pierre Laurent.”
“Okay, great. So Pierre, I suppose you need directions to your dormitory then?”
“That would be really helpful,” the boy replied.
“I’ll remember to remind Alphonse later to bully your roommate into acting as your tour guide.” Kyle said with a huge grin, but he might not be able to talk to Alphonse tonight if he won’t make it to the meeting. “Well you go straight past the portrait of Isaac Newton and then you take a left when you reach the Ming vase—white with intricate blue patterns, the size of your head, you won’t miss it—and that will lead you to a… Why don’t you just give me a pen and piece of paper?” He barked at the boy.
The boy, looking a little too dazed, dug into his pockets and managed to bring out a fuchsia fountain pen. “I don’t have any paper with me.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Kyle said as he snatched the pen from the blond boy’s hand. “I’ll draw on your hand instead,” he snapped, and proceeded to grab Pierre’s hand without the other boy’s permission.
Only, when the tips of his fingers barely touched the other boy’s right hand, Kyle felt a sudden jolt—like one of those nasty shocks whenever he tried to plug in his laptop barefoot. On impulse, Kyle quickly withdrew his hand from the Pierre’s.
“Are you okay?” Pierre looked at him weirdly.
”Mmm yeah.” Kyle replied as he stared at the other boy who seemed oblivious to what happened. “Anyway, as I was saying,” Kyle began as he once again grabbed the other boy’s hand and started scribbling the directions. “You take the left and then you…” He struggled to remember if the painting of Felicitas and Perpetua appeared first before the one of the St Jude the Desperate, and he might have been carving the blue lines onto the other boy’s palm a bit too forcefully, judging from the hiss that he heard. “There. All done,” Kyle said as he removed his hand.
It was a mishmash of crudely darkened lines and chicken scratches, and he doubted that the blond boy would be able to understand it even with the little arrows that he put in. “Err… thanks.”
“No problem,” he said, fighting the urge to laugh at Pierre’s expression. “Can you understand it?”
“I’m sure I’ll manage.” Pierre smiled.
Kyle looked at his watch. 6:00. Great. “Well, seems like my duty’s already done. I should really go now. Good luck.” With a final nod he turned on his heel, and continued on his way. He really needed to make a good excuse now; no doubt he’d get a tongue-lashing from Daniel. Kyle snickered. Then again, he can always bring up how inept Alphonse was at touring the new boy.
Patrick was whistling as he walked to his dorm. He had just gotten his beloved DSLR back from that git he paid to take pictures during the opening ceremony, and was happy to note that nothing got broken, cracked, or deleted. His camera was still in excellent shape.
Patrick took the other DSLR (the one he kept safe at all times) from his neck and checked the pictures. He stopped at the picture of a boy eating a breadstick: the light bounced his hair giving him some sort of a halo (and highlighted his dimples—it was all about the shadows and stuff)and a content smile tugged at his lips. Perfect, he mused. Perfect lighting, perfect angling, perfect everything. This is how pictures are meant to look like. But other than those technical gauges of perfection, it clearly had something, something he couldn’t recognize. Yet.
He tried to look for that quality in the other pictures that he took. The North Wing table—none. The headmaster speaking—none. A picture of that annoying South Wing boy he forgot to delete—definitely none.
“Ooh it’s Patrick!”
“For real? Quick, fix your tie—Patrick! We’ve been looking for you for ages!”
Patrick looked up from his DSLR screen to look for the source of those shrill screams. A few feet away stood two boys in powder blue jackets, waving frantically at him.
Patrick gave them a small wave, and with this the two boys came running. They were, apparently, Janvier and Fevrier, self-proclaimed presidents of his fan club. Patrick groaned.
“It’s really lucky we ran into you here, Patrick!” Janvier began, his face inching closer. “We’re not sure if they’d let us inside your dorm after the stunt Niko and Karl pulled last year.” Patrick took a step back and gripped his camera tightly with both his hands, readying himself in case he needed to use it either as a weapon or as a shield.
“Yeah, although I think whatever we need to discuss would be very pressing, since you asked us to meet you in your dorm room.” Fevrier continued. “So, what do you need us for?” What?
“Do you need us to fix your things and your room for you?”
“Polish your camera?”
“Write your homework?”
“Take your picture?”
“Sort your fan mail?”
“I know now!” Fevrier exclaimed. “ You want us to protect you from your stalkers, right? I knew it! Just say the word and we swear we—“
“Wait.” Patrick’s head hurt with all their high-pitched babbling. “Who told you this?”
“Daniel, of course,” Janvier piped up, his eyes going glassy. “He was ever so kind, you know, to deliver your message despite his busy schedule.”
So this was Daniel’s sick joke. “No, it’s fine.” He began as he plastered on a fake smile. “It’s all been taken care of. Thanks for your concern, really.” The two boys looked obviously put out by that.
“Are you sure you don’t need any help with anything?” Janvier asked.
“Yeah. I think that camera’s been on your neck for too long. You look tired. Why don’t you let us carry it for you?” Fevrier suggested, fluttering his eyelashes a little too rapidly.
“Yeah, and how ‘bout a massage too?” Janvier followed up, rubbing his hands together. “I bet your—“
“NO!” Patrick shouted as visions of his precious DSLR abused flashed through his eyes. He cleared his throat. “I mean, it’s really fine. And I have to see the Headmaster anyway, newspaper stuff, it’ll take me hours.”
“Ooohhhh,” both boys said, like he said something absolutely amazing, like saving a forest or something. “Sorry for keeping you, Patrick.” Janvier said.
“Best be on your way now, wouldn’t want to keep the headmaster waiting.” Fevrier added. “Although, you know, if you’re really tired, we wouldn’t mind—“
“No really, I’m fine.” Patrick gritted through his teeth. “See you around, then,” and quickly put on his earphones. Patrick then continued on his way to the East Wing. Where was he again? A boy with blond hair smiled at him through the LCD screen of his camera.
It was nearly around 6:30 when Pierre finally found himself in front of his dorm room. Although the map on his handwas indeed helpful, he still took a few wrong turns because the writing was nearly undecipherable, and as such he turned right on the wrong paintings.
He was met by a large gold 513 on the mahogany door. Yep, 513 all right. His roommate would most probably be there, and that made Pierre scared. It would be another encounter with another one of the many illustrious princes of St. Paul’s, and after the people he had encountered, Pierre wasn’t sure how to act anymore. Would his roommate make fun of his being a scholar, pounce on him, or simply ignore him? Just a tiny part of him trusted God to give him someone decent, but he knew that it would be too much to hope for.
Pierre sighed as his right hand gingerly enclosed the brass doorknob. Be a man, one voice said. It’s better to get this done and over with, added another.
He closed his eyes. It’s now or never.
His hand slowly turned the doorknob.
When Patrick finally got inside the East Wing common room, he had already gone through all of the pictures he had taken during the opening ceremony and found none to have that certain quality that he was looking for. He went back to Pierre’s picture again and scrutinized it once more.
He wasn’t disappointed, however. It was more like…a challenge, yes that must be it. He was intrigued in all actuality and vowed to discover what exactly made that boy shine like no one else.
“Good evening,” Pierre called out. Hmm. Nothing answered him. “G-good evening?” Still nothing answered. Pierre sighed. So he was going to spend the rest of his year with someone who was going to ignore him then. He can live with that, right?
He opened his eyes and scanned the room. It was filled with things, yes, with opened luggage, books strewn all over the floor and on the bed, boxes taped shut, and then some. The other occupant of this room, however, was not in the room. Pierre blushed and chastised himself for quickly jumping to conclusions about his roommate. He went to his side of the room, sat on his bed and placed the book he got from the library (Crime and Punishment) on his bedside table.
He really shouldn’t be too paranoid, he thought to himself. Other than that snob of a president that he met inside the loo, the self-righteous Alphonse, the flambouyant headmaster, and all the other boys who paraded themselves and groped each other, there were nice people in this school too. There was Patrick; he was nice to talk to and he took great pictures. There was that wing representative who was also nice enough to tell him the directions even if Pierre did make the other boy drop his mobile. Yes, maybe there was hope after all.
Pierre stood up and made his way to his roommate’s things. He tried to learn what kind of a person his roommate was with the latter’s things. Framed posters of different indie techno pop acts, the kind only a select few know about, and foreign films, were strewn over the floor, waiting to be hanged. Pierre looked through all of them and recognized one: The Squid and the Whale. There was a Polaroid camera on the bed, lying next to a pristine white Mac laptop. A beautiful journal of red leather sat on the bedside table, and Pierre chuckled at the thought that he had one just like it, only his was black. What really caught Pierre’s attention, however, was the book that the journal half-covered. It was a book covered by a dark blue jacket—blue like the depths of the ocean—with a snow globe at the very center. He couldn’t be mistaken. It was a hardbound Are We There Yet?, one of the books he’d been looking (and longing) for in ages.
Pierre immediately went to the bedside table placed the journal beside the book. It was there in all its full glory, the Are We There Yet? he was looking for. Unable to control himself, he gently took the book with both his hands and lifted it up. With his right hand he felt how smooth the cover was, and with his fingertips he traced the grooves of each and every loop in the title. He opened the book and took care not to dislodge the bookmark—an old theatre ticket of the Phantom of the Opera. He marveled at how thick each page was and how easy the font was to read.
A flash of blinding light suddenly engulfed the whole room, and Pierre nearly dropped the book he was holding. He turned around and saw someone standing by the doorway, poised like an assassin ready to shoot him red-handed. Shit.
The boy, however, lowered his camera and revealed a familiar pair of square-framed spectacles. He inspected the picture before looking at Pierre. “Well, uh. I wanted to catch the sunset in my room but it seems that I caught you instead. Didn’t expect you here.” He asked, his eyebrows raised quizzically.
“Wait! It’s not what you think!” Pierre started as he frantically waved his hands. “I’m not here to steal anything, I swear!”
“Okay. I believe you, don’t worry.” Patrick said. “It’s just. Uhm. What are you doing with my stuff?”
“Y-your stuff?” Pierre spluttered. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Yeah. My stuff.” Patrick laughed. “This is my room, or at least, the half you’re standing on is.”
“Oh, sorry ‘bout that.” Pierre began, and he was a bit sorry for getting caught snooping through his roommate’s stuff. He wasn’t sorry though, for being roommates with Patrick. After all, Patrick was the first person he had a decent conversation with in this messed up school. “I’m sorry. I got curious. I just wanted to see what kind of a person my roommate was… and I’ve been looking for that book for ages.”
“You’re a fan of Levithan too?” Patrick asked, his eyes lighting up.
“Yeah, ever since his first one.” Pierre replied.
“I can’t believe it! This is just awesome.” Patrick exclaimed. “And wait, did I hear you correctly? Are you my new roommate?” Patrick asked, an amazed smile on his face. Pierre nodded. “Well, that’s even better. Us being roommates, I mean.” Patrick laughed. Without even bothering to close the door, he walked straight to Pierre and extended his right hand, stopping only when he was a foot away from Pierre. Literally. “Hi. I’m Patrick Theodore, sixth form student. “
“But I already know your name, and you know mine as well.” Pierre laughed.
“Well, while that is true, we didn’t know we were roommates back then. Come on, let’s pretend this is the first time we’ve met.” Patrick, if it was even possible, smiled wider and brandished the hand he was holding out to Pierre. “Hi, I’m Patrick Theodore, a sixth form student. Judging from your excellent taste in books, I feel we’ll be great friends.”
“Hi,” Pierre laughed. “I’m Pierre Laurent and I’ll be your roommate for the rest of the year. Thank God for you also excellent taste in books, I wouldn’t like being roommates with someone who’s allergic to reading.”
As they shook hands and laughed on their supposedly first awkward meeting, Pierre couldn’t help but feel the apprehension gnawing at him a while ago was now completely replaced with something he couldn’t name—not relief, nor was it euphoria, or shock, and definitely wasn’t disappointment. He was certain, however, that it was something novels were written about.
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