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The path towards the lockers was a labyrinth tainted with gray, where everything seemed the same and yet all had irreparably changed. Rows and rows and rows of the same, and thus he walked amongst people, amongst a thousand different faces but none he cared to recognize, none to distinguish. It all looked the same, and yet all had irreparably changed. A year before, he’d seen a thousand colors amidst the rows of lockers, a thousand different smells, he could hear music as he made his way through people, people he longed to meet, people that seemed like millions of different universes and galaxies and supernovas. Now it was all plain, boring, dull, gray. All the same, but irreparably changed. Life had lost its color, its music, even its own solar system and the other systems beyond that had gotten lost, covered by a layer of grey, absorbing, lightless gray. He used to see planets behind people’s eyes. Now he only saw black holes, threatening to swallow him whole, threatening to absorb the last bits of sunlight he was able to summon, the last bits of sunlight he had left to fight with.
He never liked the first days at school, but this one in particular…sucked. August had been a long month for him, almost endless, one of those moments when he’d felt like time wouldn’t pass but at the same time life passed him by and he was unable to stop it. Summer had brought with it a cold, lonely winter. Plain, boring, dull, winter. Winter amidst the sunshine and the heat and the cloudless sky, winter amidst the joy, winter amidst the smiles and the sweat and the ease, winter against light.
Damen would never admit it, but that day, his first day as a senior, his first day at school without Kastor and Jokaste, his first day in one of the most defining years of his life, he felt lonely. He stood still in the middle of the hallway, feeling the cold capturing him, claiming him under its claws, he saw the last leaf falling dead to the ground, he saw gray, not white, not like those pretty winters that seemed taken out of postcards made from galaxies far far away, but one of those days of winter when the sky was cloudy, when rain patterned against the windows and amidst the cold and the darkness life seemed slightly less unbearable. It had been like those dreadful days of winter for the past month. Gray. All the same, yet irreparably different.
“Damen!”, a voice behind him said.
He turned to find Nikandros, giving him a wide smile, one he tried to reciprocate, but couldn’t, he was certain he couldn’t.
“Hey, Nik”, Damen replied.
Nikandros frowned. “What’s wrong?”, he asked. He knew Damen so well, they’d been friends since they were four years old and this was the longest he’d been without talking to him, but he hadn’t felt like talking to anybody during the Summer, and lest of all Nik, because he was able to look through Damen’s walls.
Damen shook his head. “Nothing, it’s just- it’s been a long summer”, he said with a sigh.
“Is everything alright?”, Nik asked him.
Damen couldn’t reply, so he just shook his head again.
Nikandros sighed, placing his arm around Damen’s shoulders playfully. “Relax. It’ll be a good year, our last year in here. We have to make it amazing. Plus, you’ve got a single now asshole, you have no right at all to complain”.
Oh. Damen had forgotten about that. Actually, he’d just left his bags on the room and closed it immediately, not wanting to face the unpacking process yet. He used to share rooms with Kastor, but now he’d graduated -and even if he hadn’t, Damen would have requested another room-, Damen had the room all for himself. Which was good, of course, great, except for the fact he felt lonely and so goddamned angry towards his brother and towards Jokaste and he felt like punching a wall. He shook his head and ruffled his hair. “Right, a single”, Damen attempted to smile.
“Someone is missing Jokaste, isn’t he?”, Nik asked, not knowing that he’d hit a nerve. “Stop goading, you’ll see her next weekend”.
Damen shook his head. “Don’t think I will”, and he smiled, a smile that looked like anything but a smile. It was filled with rage and with pain and Nik couldn’t help but frown.
“Why?, what happened?”, Nik asked, warily.
“We- broke up”, Damen whispered.
“What?, why?”
Damen looked down, his nostrils flared. He tried to keep himself under control. He struggled with it. “Because…she cheated on me”, he whispered.
“WHAT?”, Nik asked in surprise.
“…with Kastor”.
“WHAT THE FUCK?”, Nik told him, unable to lower his voice, everyone around the hallway turned to look at them. Damen rolled his eyes and fixed his attention back on the locker, giving Nik some time to process the story.
After a long silence, Nik spoke up first.
“Was that why you didn’t text me over the Summer?”
Damen shrugged and nodded. “Yeah. It was an ugly summer”.
Nik slapped him on the arm.
“Ouch!, what the hell is wrong with you?”, Damen asked him, holding his arm and grimacing.
“Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“Too busy loathing myself”.
Nik rolled his eyes. “That’s it. This Friday we’re going to inaugurate the school year and we won't finish until you're drunk out of your mind. It’s the least I can do”.
Damen shrugged. “I’m not sure that will work”.
“I don’t give a fuck. We’re going. Period”.
Damen knew it was pointless to argue with Nik. “Fine”, he said with a sigh.
The bell rang and they both looked up. “Shit”, Nik said, “what class do you have now?”, he asked.
Damen fidgeted with his schedule for a moment before clearing this throat. “Um… Biology. You?”
Nik shook his head. “English. See you at the break, then. And you have to tell me everything”, he pointed an accusatory finger at Damen. “No! I don’t give a fuck if you want to talk about it or not. You’re telling me”.
Damen sighed. “Fine! I’ll see you at the break!”. Nik walked away and Damen took a deep breath, steeling himself for the day ahead.
When he was a little kid, he looked forward to first days at school. He remembered his parents driving him and Kastor, leaving them with a big kiss and Damen grabbing his brother’s hand excitedly as they walked in, the world suddenly seeming far too big, unreachable, infinite, just like the school, and he looked around, amused, feeling like just a tiny dot amidst a universe of possibilities. And every first day was just the same: the possibilities were endless, and he was ready to eat the world raw. And the next day he had forgotten about it and fallen into routine again, but those first minutes in which he put a step on the school again, when he walked into their bedroom again, when everything seemed so familiar and yet so new and exciting, those minutes were fascinating.
Now his parents were gone, Kastor had graduated and moved in with his ex-girlfriend and Damen felt old and trapped in the middle of a world that apparently was comprising, because he now felt too big and the universe far too small. No possibilities, no excitement, nothing to look forward to, actually. It was truly depressing.
Was this how growing up felt like? This feeling of somehow being trapped in between and unable to run away? To feel like life is sliding through your hands and you’re unable to get a grasp of it? Unable to stop the time? Would it be like this always? Would it only get worse as he grew older? That thought terrified him, so he shook his head and rushed to the first class, before he got all thoughtful and existential.
Biology bored him. It certainly was an interesting topic, but not one he was looking forward to pursuing again the future, so he couldn’t care less about the class, not at all.
Their teacher -Mr. Guion- was a cranky old man that was far too familiar with all of them, for he’d taught them biology for the past couple of years, and he didn’t seem quite thrilled to see them again, so the general atmosphere of the place wasn’t all that nice, either.
He started talking and introducing himself, as if no one knew who he was, and just as he was about to start explaining the class syllabus, a knock on the door stopped him. Damen hadn’t even noticed that Guion had stopped talking, he was far too immersed in his own thoughts. But when he heard a different voice, he did look up.
The principal was there in their classroom, saying… something, something that Damen couldn’t understand, couldn’t even begin to comprehend, could barely even listen to, for all of his attention had been struck with a touch of gold.
He blinked.
And he was- speechless.
“So I’ll leave you with professor Guion. Do enjoy your school year”.
Guion nodded and the boy standing next to the principal walked towards him. His arms were crossed and he looked completely…detached of reality, as if he couldn’t care less about the school nor about the fact the attention of the whole class was focused on him. His eyes seemed just as bored as his stance made him look, but… but he was beautiful. His straight, long blond hair seemed to shine along with the sun and it felt like all the light in the room had been absorbed by him, as if he was the only source of light amidst such a dreary, dark place, and yet, his blue eyes reflected a kind of coldness that made him untouchable, impenetrable, unreachable. Winter against Summer.
“Introduce yourself, young man”, Guion said. “What’s your name?”
“Laurent deVere”, he replied.
Guion nodded. “Welcome, Laurent, please grab a seat”.
Laurent passed by Damen and sat a couple of seats away from him. Damen was still transfixed by his looks. He shook his head to get rid of the thoughts and tried as hard as he could to focus on the class.
He barely managed to.
As soon as the bell rang, Laurent stood up and left in a rush, and Damen stood there, in the middle of the classroom, staring like an idiot to the point where Laurent had been sitting just a couple of seconds ago.
It used to happen to him that whenever he met someone for the first time, he’d usually forget about how they looked mere minutes after seeing them, and wouldn’t remember them just until he saw them again. He hated that, for images of people turned into a blurry and hazy memory in his mind, as if they weren’t important, as if they were disposable, as if his brain wasn’t ready yet to allow them into his mind.
He didn’t want that to be the case with Laurent.
And so he spent the next couple of minutes desperately trying to imprint that image into his mind, to remember the way his stone cold eyes gave nothing away despite the fact his hair seemed to reflect the light of sun itself. He didn’t want to forget that image, he didn’t want to wait until he saw him again, he wanted to remember the way Laurent looked.
He sighed and walked away from the classroom.
The rest of the day went by in a haze. Damen’s mood hadn’t improved at all since the morning and he already felt the pull of the day. He felt exhausted, like life was proving to be too much. He met with Nikandros during the break and lunch and they went to grab dinner together, and Damen had to go through the whole story of how he found out about Jokaste and Kastor and how he found them together at his and Kastor’s house and about the ugly fight that had followed, first with Jokaste and then with his brother and how he’d had to spend the rest of the summer vacations around the house and having to face his stupid brother all the time and even sometimes, with his ex-girlfriend. The whole experience had been hell.
Surprisingly, telling Nik proved to give him some kind of relief. He hadn’t realized how much he needed to talk about it, to tell someone about it, to let anyone know how he was feeling, how much he needed someone to tell him that his brother and his then girlfriend had fucked up and that they were a couple of assholes, and Nik told him all of that, had made him feel like maybe it wasn’t his fault at all, with the added bonus of promising to kick their asses if he ever saw their faces again, the mere idea bringing a smile to Damen’s face, a smile he hadn’t had in god knew how long.
It had truly been a long summer, and just now, when Damen was finally able to not feel disgusted of himself, now that he was able to remember her and not feel his heart shattering into a million pieces, now that he didn’t feel the ache of the absence of his brother, now that all that pain was slowly being replaced by anger, and by oblivion, now Damen felt that isolation had taken a toll on him. Pallas and Erasmus joined them a while later and shared their funny stories from their Summers and Damen felt that maybe, just maybe, he didn’t have to be alone this time. Maybe, not being alone would be the only therapy to stop himself from going mad, or doing something mad.
But by the end of the day he was absolutely exhausted, physically, mentally and emotionally, and it was only Monday, and it was only the beginning of the school year and Damen was already done with all of it. He ached to get to his bed as soon as possible, so as soon as dinner finished he said goodbye to his friends and left for his room.
Just as he was about to open the door, he remembered he hadn’t unpacked any of his stuff and he’d find all of his suitcases scattered around. He couldn’t help but groan loudly, mentally preparing himself for what he was about to find. After a moment, he opened the door.
And he certainly wasn’t prepared for what he found in his bedroom.
He stopped dead in his tracks. Blinking for a couple of seconds, he took some steps back and out of the room, checking if the inscription on his dorm actually said his name and he hadn’t taken the wrong room, but it was right.
He walked inside but was unable to move. There was a touch of gold painting the light blue of the walls.
What the hell was Laurent deVere doing in his bed?, and most of all, why the hell was Laurent deVere acting as if was completely normal for him to be laying -yes, laying- in Damen’s bed?
“Um…hello?”, was all Damen could say.
Laurent, who was looking fixedly at his phone, only looked up and met Damen’s eyes for a second, before fixing his attention back on his phone, without replying.
Damen blinked, unable to shake the surprised expression from his face. “Erm- what are you doing here?”
Laurent still didn’t look up. “This is my room”, was all he replied.
“No, it isn’t”.
“Yes, it is”, Laurent said.
“No. This is my room”.
Laurent sighed and put his phone down on the bed, before rolling his eyes and looking annoyed. “Did biology class burn the last neurons in your brain?”
Damen was taken aback. “What?”
“Yes. It’s the only valid reason to justify the fact you haven’t reached the conclusion that I will have to share the room with you. Don’t worry, though, didn’t expect much from a giant like you, anyway”.
“Wha-”, and Damen blinked. So Laurent had seen him in biology class and was able to recognize him right then, interesting. He shook his head, he had to focus. “But I was getting a single this year”.
Laurent stood up from the bed. “But now you’re not”, he said calmly, before walking towards the bathroom.
“Surely you can get to the answer by yourself-”, Laurent replied, looking rather bored with the conversation they were holding, “-or you’re more disappointing than I imagined”.
Damen stood still for a moment, following Laurent’s path with his eyes. Of course he could get to the reply by himself, all the other rooms were occupied and his was the only single left, but it still didn’t make sense, he was still far too shocked to actually form coherent phrases in his mind. “And you took my bed why- ?”, he asked after a moment.
Laurent replied from the bathroom. “Didn’t know was yours. Just saw a bunch of garbage scattered around the room”.
“Those are my bags!”, Damen replied, offended.
“Yes, I figured”, Laurent said.
Damen looked around, but saw none of his bags around. Laurent had already unpacked and his side -which was definitely not his side- was completely in order. “Where the hell did you put them?”, he asked, angrily.
“In lost and found”, Laurent said, simply.
Damen took deep breaths and tried to calm himself but he was far too angry at the moment. What the actual fuck? Who did this idiot think he was? With his perfect hair and his blue eyes? How dare he?
He shook his head and put his hands into fists before walking out of the room, closing the door with as much force as he could.
He walked into the campus and stood in the middle of the grass, needing the air the wind brought to fill his lungs and actually clear his brain because all he could think about at the moment was of murdering that idiot.
Oh fuck. Lost and Found was already closed for the day. That fucking asshole. Damen wouldn’t get his stuff back until the next day, he didn’t have pjs nor clothes for the next day. Oh, he was definitely going to murder him. He looked up and fixed his eyes on the stars, forcing his mind to calm down, otherwise things would get ugly once he returned and-
The keys.
The fucking keys to his bedroom.
He groaned.
He’d left them there. And this asshole would certainly lock him out.
He walked into the rooms again and stood outside the door. He tried opening it, but it was locked. Damen was definitely going to kill him.
He knocked once. Waited. No response.
He knocked again. No response.
Once more. No response.
He was starting to get mad.
He knocked louder. “Laurent!”
No response.
“Laurent! Open the door! God damnit! Are you going to leave me here all night?”
No response.
“What the fuck is your problem, asshole?”, Damen couldn’t help but shout through the door. “Did I actually do something to you?”
No response.
“Fuck you!”, he yelled, because he couldn’t not do it.
He sighed and took out his phone.
Can I stay over?, he texted Nik.
????, was Nik’s response.
Long story. Please.
Sure, but I don’t know if Jord will like that.
Damen couldn’t care less, he knocked on Nik’s room and Jord opened the door. He was Nik’s new roommate and even though they’d known each other for a very long time, nor Damen nor Nik were very good friends with him and Nik didn’t seem too excited to be sharing the room with him. “Hey Jord, listen, my new roommate, who is an asshole, locked me out, can I please stay over with you guys?”
Jord frowned. “I-”
Nik arrived to the door. “Hey man, you look like shit”, he said to Damen, before turning to Jord, “I promise he won’t be a bother”, he said with pleasing eyes.
Jord considered it for a moment but then nodded and let Damen in.
Damen sighed and sat on Nikandros’ bed, rubbing his temple, starting to feel the beginnings of a migraine.
“What happened?”, Nik asked him, sitting next to him.
“Apparently I have a roommate now”, Damen said with a sigh, sounding more exhausted than furious.
“But you’d been given a single”, Nik said the obvious.
Damen rolled his eyes. “Yes, I know that, Nik, but there was a new bed when I arrived from dinner”.
“And my roommate sent all my bags to lost and found and locked me out of the room”.
“He did what?, Nik asked, surprised.
Damen nodded, “yeap”.
“Who the fuck is your roommate? Satan?”
“If it were Satan, it surely wouldn’t be this evil”, Damen replied.
“No but seriously, who’s the asshole?”
“This new guy, Laurent, I think it’s his name”, Damen said, aiming for nonchalance, but of course he remembered his name and he’d engraved that face into his mind but in the last half hour that face had been replaced by a feeling of utter…hatred, or something like that.
“He sounds like an asshole”, Nik said.
“He is, apparently”.
“So what are you going to do now?”
Damen shrugged. “Wait until tomorrow to claim my bags and…sleep naked for now, I guess”.
Jord was just coming out of the bathroom and stood still, his eyes widening and his face contorted.
Nik laughed. “Calm it, Jord, he won’t actually sleep naked. I can borrow you one of my pjs, but just for tonight though, you’d stretch all of my shirts, I can’t allow that to happen”.
Damen hit Nik with a pillow, “I’m not that much bigger than you, asshole”, he said, offended.
Jord rubbed the back of his head, “are you two… well, you know-”, he asked, awkwardly.
Nik broke out in laughter. “Ha! He wishes! No, he’s not up to my level”, he replied.
Damen kicked him on the shin. “Yeah, I’m not in that level of stupidity!”
Jord seemed relieved. “Alright. I’ll go to sleep. Damen, get some pjs and Nikandros, please don’t do anything… sexual with Damen tonight. Good night!”
Nik grimaced, “you can rest assured, Jord”.
Nik handed Damen a sleeping bag and some pjs and they didn’t talk for the rest of the night, Damen falling asleep from exertion faster than he expected to. The last thought in his mind, however, was that he was going to kill his roommate once he saw him again, how he’d found Laurent attractive earlier that day was way beyond him.