DORIAN BYRNE, first of his name, received many appraising glances as he followed his mother through the vastness of the main hall. The boys of St. Nicholas could have been assessing his mother, who despite her years did not look a day beyond thirty. One who had not yet laid eyes on Dorian would have thought so, perhaps.
Their acidic smiles left no imprint on his features. Perfect, as he was intructed to be, his ears were open to their thoughts. Someone so beautiful, so seemingly vain, so soft to the senses could be nothing but easy prey for cruel jest and ruthless pranks. It was almost reason enough to allow a small indication of amusement, but Dorian voted against it. He knew well enough that cruelty was an aphrodisiac for boys his age. In St. Nicholas, oppression lingered above them like golden head crushers.
They were left to stare at the School of Athens by Raphael. Dorian could tell the faces apart. Plato and Aristotle walking side by side, Archimedes teaching the younger boys and Plotinus gazing upon the scene. If he were to position himself amongst some of the greatest minds the world had ever known, it would be in the middle of it all. In the eye of the hurricane, so to speak. Not for superior knowledge, but because he was constantly gazed upon. A phenomena amongst men, eternally under surveillance.
Even now, the young secretary of Professor Mulligan lowered her eyes when he caught her gaze. She was common looking. Like a doe trapped in a zoo, with hollow eyes and slender limbs. The kind of animal his mother would deem unworthy of his attention. I made you beautiful so you can be great, Dorian. And in that greatness he was offered to any boy or girl who had the means to ensure his reputation as a beautiful genius.
The door to the Professor's office was yanked open by a livid student. A boy of Dorian's age, wearing the St. Nicholas uniform on his tall body. He looked at Dorian, appearing immune to his charm in the beginning, but soon his hazel eyes were soft and enamored. "Welcome to hell," he breathed, and Dorian blinked once before he disappeared down the hall.
"Silvia!" The secretary was looking at Dorian again, deaf to the Professor's shrieks. "Silvia, come here this instant!"
Dorian's mother, Donna Byrne Rosenthal, uncrossed her legs and stood, as tall as 5 foot 8 inches in her Chanel pigalles. All she had to do was look at poor Silvia, who plummeted back into her chair, too intimidated to look at Dorian again.
First impressions are everything. There was a creed by which Dorian was expected to live. Rules for business, love, family and friendship. Professor Muligan had no such creed, for he appeared disheveled, bloated and red. His neck was sweating, no doubt. Whatever the boy did or said, it was enough to rattle the headmaster of a school such as St. Nicholas. A school whose motto contained the words discipline and success. The man staring at Dorian as if he were a human sized lily flower appeared to be the most frivolous of the school's headmasters, prone to fail in discipline and too weak for success.
"Welcome, Mrs. Byrne. I apologise for the extended wait." To which Mrs. Byrne said nothing. Her son could tell she deemed the man unworthy of her pleasantries. Somehow, he felt pity for him. "This must be Dorian. It is very nice to meet you, young man! What do you think of our school?"
Were he not seated, Dorian would have slouched just a tiny bit. Did it matter what he thought? "I'm impressed." His voice held the softest sounds as well, round vowels and the smallest hint of a German accent for which his mother was to blame.
A conversation began between Mrs. Byrne and the Professor, who grew overmoist with every question. Dorian took no part in it, listening to bits and pieces while his eyes found a large window. The garden was a pleasant sight, greenery and trees so dense you could hide inside. A small pond on the far corner being tended by the staff. He preferred fountains.
On a small marble bench sat a boy with raven hair and round glasses. He was reading, proping the silver skeleton higher on the bridge of his nose before turning the page. He lifted his head towards the sky, thick with clouds and prepared to weep. The first drop met his ivory skin.
"Mr. Byrne, Silvia will fetch a student to show you to your room," the Professor said. "Silvia!"
Dorian could not sigh in the presence of his mother, so he smiled instead. He smiled to the mirror on the far corner; to the boy with the blond hair and the pink lips who felt like a soldier preparing for battle, knowing he was expected to win or die trying.