21. RAVEN

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Statue of David, Michelangelo, 1504
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At the age of eleven, Josiah Beckett knew from the minute he experienced his first crush that there was something terribly wrong with him. A defect, that's what he'd call himself.

     Blossoming feelings, like a rose born in the winter. Too early to have sprouted, it'd die in a blizzard before being granted the chance to become something beautiful.Its death was inevitable, because flowers aren't meant to bloom when it's cold outside. Because flowers were delicate things.

     His name was Theodore. Josiah liked to call him Teddy, since it shortened his name and Josiah liked to give him more hugs than his own stuffed bears. He didn't think his way of showing affection was strange. People told him he was simply adorable.

     It wasn't strange when they kissed each other on the cheek. His mother did that to him when she tucked him in every night. What was wrong with doing the same to his dear friend?

     Josiah started to feel strange when Teddy brought over a stash of his older brother's secret Playboy magazines, and instead of ogling at pictures of half naked women, he stared at his friend's long eyelashes fluttering above his amber eyes. He stared at his partially exposed stomach, because his pajama shirt was loose and obeyed the laws of gravity.

     A defect, he realized that day, crying into his pillow because his pants grew tight for the first time. Thinking of a boy.

     After Theodore moved away, Josiah convinced himself it was all a lapse in judgement. There was nothing wrong with him. He was the perfect child. Everyone told him that too.

He started distancing himself from others, focusing less on friends and more on himself. In his world, people were only to be used as steps towards success—nothing else—and he refused to slip.

When he was fifteen, his father had called him into his office for the first time, and all he could focus on was the fact that his father has found him worthy of his work.

"I have a problem," his father said.

Josiah nodded, eager to hear his task. Ready to prove he was forever a golden child.

"I haven't received money from a man I generously gave loan to, and now he's missing. What do you think that means?"

"I-" Josiah's eyes widened, scared to admit he didn't know what he was talking about, because he was too young to understand the adult world, and his father looked angry.

"It means the coward ran away, taking my money with him like a thief. Pathetic."

Josiah continued to nod in agreement. He couldn't believe a man could be so foolish.

"So I want his son instead. Apparently he's popular with my clients, and I think he can bring me more."

He was so naive to not understand his father's intentions. So blind.

"I've managed to find the man he lives with. He'll be sent to Eton soon. Find a way to bring him here without force, otherwise he won't come."

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