TO BECOME member of the St. Nicholas Fencing Club one would have to fill out certain qualifications. None of them contained any fencing skills whatsoever. The current members were striving to ensure that the candidates were equally rich and equally reckless. Dorian believed himself to be both, the latter only in circumstances where the outcome of any deed would be in his favor, rather than a jail sentence or an accidental death.

The picture of the current members resembled a scene from film noir. Six boys dressed in suits, along with ties and dress shoes. One of them held a pipe between his lips while the rest stared at the photographer with an eerie longing, as if they expected to be deceased by the time their picture would meet the eye of a strange passerby as was Dorian.

Dorian disregarded the picture and focussed on his reflection instead. Surely, he looked as spoiled as them, just as rich and twice as handsome. However, his surname alone would do much damage to the possibility of being accepted into the club. Whoever did not know about the Byrne Bankruptcy lived under a rock. It was, of course, one of the reasons his father would have his head if he failed to infiltrate the ranks of boys who could become potential vouchers.

A few boys laughed in the background. Loud, obnoxious laughs; St.Nicholas laughs. They thought themselves invincible and the whole world seemed to agree. Only Dorian knew how easily one's downfall ensued after a few missteps. Money, as hard as it was to gain, could leave you in the blink of an eye.

"That one's a fag, I'm tellin' you," piped a snarky looking young man.

Dorian made a display of fixing his jacket. The crest of St.Nicholas, two lacrosse sticks and an owl, as if that made sense, adorned his right breast. He had equiped himself with a handkerchief of a subtle bordeaux, barely noticeable to him after years of vacation in Italy, yet which the rest of the alumni had many remarks for. Fag was just another word for well-dressed, he decided.

Ironically, he also decided to visit the garden he observed from the headmaster's office to smoke. It was a nasty habit transfered to him like an illness that would not leave him by a girlfriend or a boyfriend of his mother's choosing. Dorian could no longer recall their faces. He fished out his Marlboro's from the pocket of his woolen pants, too hot for September, and lit one, leaning against the brick wall of the monastery-turned high school. The pond was clean, he noticed.

During the three days since his mother's departure, after a brief goodbye, Dorian swore to have glimpsed at freedom. No man possessed the right to claim complete freedom, not while the world continued enslaving itself, but some had more than Dorian. Freedom he could only describe as the ability to overcome your destiny, choose what is forbidden to you by others, achieve what they say you cannot. He was groomed for greatness since childhood. For once, he was tempted to lower himself and see the real world for what it is.

Smoke travelled towards the sky in swirls of white. The air was thick with humidity, curling the hairs at the nape of his neck. There was no bird to be heard in the evening during the leisure hours, only distant voices from the common room, where friends chatted and books opened. Dorian's nostrils flared at the smell of lunch being thrown into the dumpster nearby. Somehow it wasn't terrible, but being a vegan since the age of thirteen he expressed his distate by obstaining.

Locks of straight raven hair appeared in the greenery of the garden. Large puffs of cigarette smoke followed, swift to evaporate. Dorian approached out of sheer curiosity. His small space right under the headmaster's office was the safest for smoking without drawing the attention of small, indimidated Silvia. It took a certain kind of arrogance to smoke without fear of detention, however meaningless it was in an all boys boarding school for priviledged members of society.

He recognised the glasses first. Silver lined and thick, the air was dense enough to make them appear foggy at the corners. Having never worn glasses, Dorian could not relate to the irritation of wiping them over and over with the hem of one's sweater. The boy pressed a burning cigarette to his thin lips which was balanced between his index and thumb. His other hand held a pocket sized novel on whose cover a man with long luscious hair embraced a damsel in a red dress. The man was shirtless for no particular reason.

Dorian dug his hands into the pockets of his trousers, dissinterested until he was able to discern his features and associate them with one of the boys in the picture he scrutinized earlier. The bar was set as low as money alone, he thought.

"Are we allowed to smoke here?" Dorian asked, faigning ignorance. A trick his mother taught him that worked particularly well on men.

The boy placed the cigarette in between his lips and tried his best to hide the book behind his back. He squinted as if seeing light after hours of seclusion inside his dorm. The cigarette dangled for a second and fell to the ground.

"No," he stammered. "Formally not. Since you are a new student you can claim ignorance if caught, but after one warning you get an hour with Silvia to do chores."

"He makes his secretary do chores?"

The boy laughed and Dorian felt Nike extending her arm for a high five. "She's someone's niece so he doesn't really care."

Dorian could see Silvia then, gazing at him from her window. A wink sent her backwards. He wondered if she had falled off her desk chair.

"Your name is Dorian, am I correct?" Dorian nodded, satisfied as a cat in sight of a fat mouse. "I'm Haruki. Haruki... Nevermind."

There was no time for extension to their almost discussions as the bell rang, indicating the beginning of afternoon classes. Haruki stood up in a hurry, nodding once before disappearing as he had sprung from the bushes. The flame of his cigarette had now diminished. Nike was no longer expecting a high five as Dorian had the taste of failure in his mouth.






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